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Working Hard for You!

Working Hard for You!

One undeniable fact that history has always shown us without fail, is that every empire to ever see its moment of glory under the sun, no matter how breathtaking in scope and dimension, eventually crumbled.  The good news is that human history has been painstakingly recorded so future generations can learn from past mistakes and avoid the same pitfalls, the bad news is we don’t seem to be grasping the warnings.
Democracies of ancient times had the concept down pat, the voice of the people should reign supreme.  But then, because there was no way to effectively streamline the will of the masses into a manageable structure, legislators were born, a chosen few granted the honor and privilege to represent the voice of others.  But, with the birth of the legislator, came the inevitable afterbirth, corruption.  Just like in ancient days, it always seems to gravitate to those granted the power to speak for others.
We’ve never known a civilization that didn’t fall victim to this particular scourge in the end, and now at the dawn of the 21st century, the 535 bodies that make up our own Congress are rumbling down the very same road.  The one million dollar question is, are we going to just passively sit in the nosebleed section of the bleachers and watch it happen?
Barack Obama swept into the White House riding a wave fueled by America’s desire for change.  The Tea Party is trying to find steady legs by whistling the same tune, counting on the rampant frustration out there that is growing by the day.  But, we are treading on a trap door when we embrace change just for the sake of change without a clear rationale or direction.  It seems the common practice of picking the other party is the misguided concept that is all the rage these days.  The common thinking  is all we have to do is change the Ds to Rs, or vice versa, and things will change.  Unfortunately, the way our government is set up to run, the exact opposite becomes true. When it is too late to make a difference, we realize we embarked on another fool’s errand with more stagnation and corruption of the system becoming the ugly truth once again.
It should be an honor to be elected as a legislator.  It should be the spirit of service to the greater good, not ambition for self advancement that drives anyone’s decision to run for office.  Sadly, that has become the exception, not the rule.  To make things even harder to find a diamond in the rough, in today’s information age we are bombarded from all sides with celebrities. They are driven down our throats and engraved into our psyche which makes us comfortable with them, like our favorite old shoes.  And then our gravest weakness is preyed on, our desire to be represented by someone that is just like us, someone with our quirks and faults, someone that we hope can identify with us on a personal level.
It is time to take a step back and see how this completely defies logic.  I may be a wiz at “the Google”, but should I be the one diagnosing what ails a sick loved one? Of course not, I want someone better, I want the best.  I want Dr. House on steroids.  I want someone that makes me look like an elementary school drop out.  We should want the same in Washington.  I don’t want the person that wakes up needing to read the headlines to set their direction on any given day, I want the person that can write volumes about tomorrow that will make them seem clairvoyant when tomorrow comes to pass. 
The fact that Sarah Palin and the word President are even mentioned in the same sentence is an example of this dilemma, and it chills me to the core.  Has our mighty nation fallen so far?  Have we become such a celebrity addicted people that something like that is even in the realm of possibility? Are mainstream media outlets, corporations beholden to the bottom line, the best place to find the shoes we want to be wearing for the next decade and beyond? Will we be content with the next jack-of-all-trades that is a master of none? Shouldn’t we be moving mountains  instead to find the master of ONE?  It’s like wanting the creator of the Pet Rock to become the new Secretary of the Treasury because he managed to make millions selling something as simple and worthless as a rock.  But, I wouldn’t want the guy that happened to stumble over the leprechaun at the end of the rainbow and found his pot of gold, I want an economic Beethoven, that unique individual that I know is out there, the one that can taste numbers and has always had the gift that would allow them to just sit down and play that particular piano. 
Shouldn’t we want the same thing in a legislator?  I can’t speak for you, but that’s what I want. I want the wisdom and moral high ground of a grandparent, the heart of a teenage rebel, and the passion of an artist all rolled into one.  I want an unwavering hero to champion my causes, a knight of the modern world that still puts ethics, honor and integrity above even their own ambitions.  I want someone that feels blessed to be in such a prestigious position, but is still humbled by the power they wield each and every day.  I want someone that towers above mediocrity, not the poster child for it.  I want someone that thinks $155,000  a year is a lot of money and believes they should be working their tail off for us every single day to earn it.  I want someone that would vote against a pay raise for themselves when so many are in dire straits, not because it’s politically savvy, but because it’s right.
Barack Obama is president today because the majority of Americans saw these qualities in him.  There is no other feasible explanation that could account for a virtual unknown to ride the rocket from obscurity to leader of the most powerful nation on earth in just two short years.  He vocalized the change we have been seeking. He made sense and stirred that primal instinct we all share to leave the generations of tomorrow a better world.  We gave him the keys and told him to drive, but we seem to want to leave the boot on the car.  That boot is partisan gridlock in Congress and if we want any chance to arrive quickly and safely at our destination, we have to find a way to free up the wheels.  Swapping Ds for Rs, or Rs for Ds at the first opportunity is not going to remove the boot, it will simply put it on another wheel, but the car still won’t move.
The stench of congress is overwhelming a majority of Americans now.  Polls show it, pundits talk about it, and we are all starting to smell it ever more potently.  When so many people can smell something  this rotten, rest assured that opportunities will soon be seen on the horizon to change it, but it will be up to us all as individuals to seize the opportunities when they present themselves.  It is up to us to  and make the wise choice and scream with the power of a unified voice that we will not tolerate mediocrity any longer. 
We gave President Obama the keys because he had a map that most of us agreed with, otherwise he would not be in office today.  Don’t you think it’s time we took the boot off and let him start our journey forward?  If we find him veering off course in the next three years, we can snatch away his keys and give them to someone else that earns our trust under the hot lights of a presidential election campaign.  But, until Congress strives to find solutions instead of obstacles, we will find ourselves crawling along at a newborn’s pace, and while a baby crawls faster than a Lamborghini with a boot on it, is that the style in which America should be traveling? 
We are a nation that has always set the pace, blazed new trails and set an example for the world to follow.  If we don’t start getting that edge back, we will just become another glorious empire relegated to the footnotes of history.  The power is still in our hands, we just have to quit embracing mediocrity in Washington and look past celebrity and name recognition to find those few unique individuals that are the gifted prodigies, the ones that are not like most of us, but something more, the ones that feel honor and pride in being given the privilege to represent our voices and desires.  It is high time we start to do the back-breaking work of panning for gold again if we ever hope to find those precious nuggets that can change our stars from inside Washington. 
Time stops for no one, and wasting even one more second in the ridiculous quagmire that Congress has become is a poisonous fruit that we can’t afford another bite of.  So get in the ear of your legislators and let them know that you are not going to take it any more and may the will of the majority finally be done.
Partisanship today is serving no one, but somewhere out there are the right people with the right stuff.  We the people deserve nothing less as long as we are willing to part the party fog and turn over every stone to find them.  Until we do, Rome is burning.


Poll1The worm may be turning at long last.  President Obama finally found the conduit he has been lacking to have a conversation with a huge portion of the American public that has been rendered deaf and oblivious to his proposals and agenda ever since he won the White House on a wave of hope for change – the Super Bowl, and it paid off big.  The massive audience, the largest in television history, wasn’t tuned in to listen to him, they were ready for some football, and of course, the annual unveiling of the latest gems of advertising that have become just as much of a fun tradition as the game itself.  Tucked into the middle of a fantastic game, and coupled with the rare attention paid to the time slotted between the action, was an Obama sit down with Katie Couric.  What this ultimate bully pulpit afforded him was finally a chance to shine a huge spotlight on the crippling scourge of Washington politics, partisan gridlock.  He took the snap from Couric, slipped a few tackles and trotted the length of the field to score six.
Just one day before the game, the media’s attention had been focused farther north, on Nashville Tennessee, where Sarah Palin was keynote speaker at a Grand-Ol’-Opry-style convention of the Tea Party Movement, and let me tell you, it was not good news for the Grand Ol’ Party.  For almost an hour she took every imaginable opportunity to take shots at Barack Obama and she was all over the map in trying to do it.  She chided him for being a professor, not a Commander-in-Chief, she tried to reduce his eloquence and intelligence to some kind of a parlor trick that uses a teleprompter as the main prop.  She invoked the spirit of Ronald Reagan on what would have been his 99th birthday to rally the crowd and then she channeled Bill Clinton’s “there is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed by what is right in America” almost verbatim. She called Alaska, not America, the beacon of hope, then she continued down her erratic path and went on to channel Obama himself by rattling on about the ability of a grass roots movement to change the power structure of Washington. She talked about hope and change and then went on to ask, in folksy Palin’esque fashion, how that “hopey-changey” thing was working out for the millions that were moved by that very same notion just over a year ago.  The icing on the cake though, was the fact that she had crib notes written on her own hand to remind herself to talk about energy, the budget cuts… err, tax cuts and the cherry on top, a reminder to lift American spirits. Well Rush, Hannity and Sarah, start your engines because I am about to drop the R-word that sums that whole fiasco up, “Ridiculous!”  Her whole speech and Q&A session revealed not one single policy idea, no clear love for the Republican party and a call for Washington transparency that Obama would make the crux of his pitch to the American people the very next day.  No, I don’t think the GOP is going to enjoy the rants of Sarah Palin very much at all going forward, unless they are taking the whole “even bad publicity is good publicity” advertising mantra to a whole new level.
Thanks to the great American pastime that is the NFL, the gauntlet has been thrown.  Obama got his chance to give the American people a little professorial lesson on political obstructionism and pointed it right at the GOP with one of those big foam fingers.  And if you don’t think so, take these numbers from a Washington Post/ABC News poll done after what may just become known as the GOP’s Black Sunday.  The majority is now blaming the Republicans in congress as the problem by virtue of their unwillingness to compromise in order to move our country forward.  Even a whopping 42% of Republicans seem to want them to keep trying to pass a Health Care bill. 
President Barack Obama has shifted the conversation to American progress, not political gamesmanship, and put a bullet in the chamber to up the stakes considerably on the game the Republican party has been playing without the threat of consequence for over a year now.  All I can say is they better paint on their game faces and get themselves ready for one tough opponent.  On February 25th, they had better bring some real and tangible ideas to the table, because for a majority of Americans, at this defining moment, “just say no” simply won’t cut it anymore.
Barack Obama has put your tickets in the mail and you will all have sideline seats on the 50 yard line.  I hope I see you all there.  Bring on the Game!
Obama and sealPresident Obama’s State of the Union address was his most potent, well crafted and well delivered work of sheer eloquence that he has conveyed to the American people since his soaring prose moved a nation to elect him and caused the world to learn his name.  He did what Barack Obama has done since his very first days, he took the center lane and tore off the mirrors, because like in the classic racing movie, The Gumball Rally, “the first rule of Italian racing? What’s behind you doesn’t matter” and what possible good could ever come from following any curb too closely.
He started by acknowledging decades worth of long rooted anxieties and he swiftly pivoted to a theme he would hammer home later on, the fact that we can not afford to be a casualty of partisan gridlock, not now.  He reminded us of America’s proven stubborn resilience in the face of adversity and he framed it with his ever present hopefulness.  It would be the first time the audience would come to their feet in loud unison, but not the last.  He reminded us that fear and division will not break our sprit and then he came to the first course, the economy.
This is where we will hear the first calls of criticism, because any word of criticism for anything he said up to this point would be impossible for anyone that would even try to call themselves a patriot.  Here the boo-birds that are in a froth to find something to nitpick will say, how could he make a joke when he’s talking about the economy, doesn’t he know how much people are suffering, well I’d say that his roots in community organizing should make it a pretty fair bet that he knows exactly how people are suffering right now, so just to nip this in the bud, let me say that it was a perfect binding mechanism to show how we can unifiy to face a common threat, even if it was about being unified by hate over the bank bailout.  He didn’t like it, they didn’t like it, we didn’t like it, nobody liked it, and he rightfully likened it to a root canal.  Love a root canal?  Any takers?  But, I’d bet there were more than a few advertising magnates out there wondering how they could possibly harness that disarming smile.
Then he told America in no uncertain terms what his recovery bill did.  It saved a banking system teetering on the brink of collapse, it initiated 25 different tax cuts for the middle class, for home buyers, for teachers, for parents paying college tuitions … for people just like you and me.  He said point blank that not a single person pays a single dime more in income tax and that the recovery bill saved 2 million jobs from unemployment.  It also created 200,000 jobs in the clean energy sector, it hired 300,000 teachers and it is on track to add 1.5 million more jobs, all an impact from the recovery act, better known as the oft’ hated stimulus bill.
Then he touched the current of  America’s heated third rail, J-O-B-S.  With an ever present eye on the ideal we all hold on to as the American Dream, he made sure to let us know that he does listen, that for every success story the resolute steel of American ingenuity produces there are many more stories of anguish.  So tonight, he called for a new Jobs Bill that will start putting Americans back to work and try to rekindle the dreams and dignity that come from a descent job and a living wage.  He stressed the need to change tact in the modus operandi of our lending institutions, he stressed that their current practice of lending primarily only to big institutions is choking the great American engine that leads to most jobs, the small businesses that are bleeding themselves dry because they can’t get the credit they need to competitively expand their businesses and provide those new, much needed jobs.  I’m a victim myself, so I can certainly attest to the veracity of this particular problem.
Then he began hitting more than one note at a time and started with more complex chords.  He used a bass line of putting Americans to work by building the infrastructure of tomorrow and then added the mid range notes of asking how long we should put America’s future on hold, while reminding us that China’s not waiting, Gemany’s not waiting,  nobody else is waiting, why should we? The he artfully plucked the high tones of American pride, “I do not accept second place for America!” and neither should we or those responsible for governing.
And after his recent rollout of banking fees he made sure to make clear that his interest is not a partisan shot to punish banks, but a non-partisan attempt to protect the economy.  He also showed some long awaited moxie by drawing a clear line in the sand, if a bill made it to his desk that does not meet his test of serving the American people, he will send it back until they get it right. He sent a clear signal that rolling over would not be part of any equation.
He talked about creating new jobs building state-of-the-art clean nuclear power plants and as an olive branch for bipartisan support he talked about expanding to new offshore areas for oil and gas development, as well as biomass and clean coal,  and yes a comprehensive clean energy bill that will make clean energy the profitable kind of energy, all the while beating the drum we all want to hear, that America should lead the world in these fields of tomorrow, adding the needed emphasis with the hammer that the nation that leads the green energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.
Then he expanded on his plans for America in the global marketplace by setting a goal to double American exports in the next five years and add 2 million new jobs in the process.  On the note of maintaining our competitiveness in the global marketplace, he also talked about investing in the skills and education of our workforce and crystallized his ambition to do it by telling us that the best remedy for poverty is a world class education.  How do we get there?  We start by redistributing the money from those unnecessary fees imposed by banks on student loans and applying it to give a $10,000 tax credit for 4 years of college, because “no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”
Then he got to the crown of thorns that has been the talk of the chattering class for the last few months, Health Care Reform.  Knowing that this is the bully pulpit’s strongest hour by far, he started off by trying to finally clear the misconceptions about his agenda that have been stretched and skewed by everyone from the Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins of the far right to the Blue Dog democrats staking conservative ground in democrat’s clothing.  Howard Dean even had a lot of, let’s say imaginative, thingsto say from the left. So he started with this simplistic plea about his ambitions for Health Care Reform, “Let’s clear some things up.”  He fully accepted the blame for not explaining his case for Health Care Reform clearly enough to the American people and did his best to rectify that shortcoming.  He went on to say that he didn’t decide to take on this problem that has been lingering unfixed in our nation for decades for any kind of notch on his belt or because, as he jokingly said, that it was good politics, he is pursuing it because of the countless stories of desperation he has heard from all over the country.  He vowed to never walk away from this challenge and threw the gauntlet to the halls of congress for them not to walk away from the American people on this paramount issue either.  Then he opened the floor for partisan obstructionism to put its money where its mouth is, if anybody has a better idea on how to achieve a better health care system that will ensure quality care for every American, he’s all ears.  You have a better idea? He’s listening.  All he asks is just don’t walk away from reform, let’s find a way to come together and finally serve the will of the American people.
Then he got into the realities of the budget numbers that he is being so critically judged on by the media and the American public.  He started with the $200 billion surplus that was the legacy of the Clinton administration, then he talked about the multi-trillion dollar mess he had waiting for him before he even walked in the door.  He told us that he knows that many Americans are suffering and have tightened their belts to the limit to try to weather the storm.  He said government should be responding in kind and if anyone was thinking of testing his resolution on this, he vowed that if he has to enforce this discipline by the power of his veto, he will, and just for good measure he also vowed to overturn a recently failed bill by executive order, so if anyone is thinking about trying to strike this guy out, they better bring a pretty strong bull pen of pitchers with them because he wants to take a novel new concept for a spin on capitol hill, common sense.
Then we got to see President Obama in his natural element, that of a constitutional law professor.  Those were indeed some sour faces on the supreme court justices when they were getting publicly flogged by the President in the hottest spotlight that an address to the American public can offer, and getting admonished on that stage for changing a century of law by their decision to open the flood gates of limitless influence in American political elections by any deep pocketed special interest group, or even any foreign entity for that matter, must not have made for a pleasant evening for five of them.  I have a pretty strong feeling that he is going to own this ground before all is said and done on this catastrophic decision.
Then he finally did what I’ve been waiting for someone to finally do, loudly and publicly, he took to task the monstrosity that partisan politics has become.  He looked congress square in the eye and told them that legislation can not be reduced to things as meaningless as old grudges between senators, and that while blindly saying no may be good politics for self preservation, it is certainly not a wise path to choose to good leadership. 
Then he closed with in his patented Obama’esque fashion.  He talked about our connected destiny with those beyond our shores, he talked about doing the right things because we know that they are right by virtue of the long held values that forged our nation, the fundamental decency that is the core of the American people.  He rekindled that spark of enduring hope.
And if you were looking for a “read my lips”, or a “the buck stops here” moment for the history books, here is one from his closing sentence and an ample portion of American spirit that should fit the bill:
Ladies and gentleman, the state of our union is strong, but it will take something from all of us to make it even stronger.  I hope for all our sakes that everyone from Joe the plumber to the chosen few in the halls of power that have the opportunity to wield the power of change were listening.
we the people
The state of our union is strong. 
 Ever since George Washington declared the “favorable prospects of our public affairs” in 1790, every president since has taken great care in giving us comfort by expressing to the nation that all is well.  Even during some of our most miserable times, like the Great Depression, or the Vietnam War, the annual address to the nation has always been painted with the brush of optimism and I’m sure that legacy will continue tonight when Barack Obama makes his pitch to the American people about where we are and where we should be trying to go.  But, the sad truth is that our collective future is being held hostage by legislators that seem to have forgotten what their true duties really are, they have forgotten what their commitment and service to the American people should entail and I hope that tonight, somehow, they will be taken to task in a most public and embarrassing way, but it would only be just if this particular tongue lashing was a very bipartisan one because the fault does not lie squarely on any one side.
 Just one short year ago, Barack Obama rode into the White House with a clear mandate from the American people to bring change to the long broken culture of Washington and with our precious votes we hoped that we, at long last, found a man that would finally be able to start reining in the power of deep-pocketed special interests and any other obstructionists to our prosperity wherever they were found.  It pains me greatly to say it, but if we were a monarchy, or even worse, an iron-fisted dictatorship, one man may just have been able to do that job, but we are not.  We are a free thinking, free speaking and free living democratic society that have entrusted our future to a chosen few.  We embrace a democracy that was founded on the vision that the voice of the people would be heard above all else and that collectively we would lead our nation to great heights by choosing and voting only those into power that would represent our voice and that through that power of democracy we would choose and empower great individuals that would spend every breath striving to see the vision that we want as a people become realized.  What we seem to have instead is a bunch of selfish egomaniacs that only serve one ambition, self preservation.
 Sadly, at this crucial moment in our nation’s history, we are letting them get away with it by means of the far too prevalent flaw that is the bane of the modern era, complacency.  When did we become a nation so fixated on partisan politics that we forgot the true, noble  agendas that formed our parties to begin with?  When did our voices become so weak that we no longer follow the moral compass that allowed us to become the greatest and most advanced nation on earth?  I am disgusted with partisan politics that take into account nothing more than individual agendas, where scoring points for party instead of for country is an accepted mode of governing. 
 When Barack Obama exploded onto the national stage with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he did it by rekindling the patriotic fire that makes us proud Americans.  He did it by illuminating the dangerous mockery that the battle of red vs blue has become, he did it by speaking in grander terms than party lines, he did it by connecting to our mutual ambitions, he did it by making us remember that the future we want to create for the generations to follow will not be forged by endless bickering over comparatively small idealistic issues that have long divided us along a partisan line, but by finally stepping over that line to meet the common aspirations we all share, regardless of party affiliations. 
 Partisan politics is quickly becoming a grotesque abomination of the mechanism it was intended to be and it has and will continue to cost us all dearly if we keep sitting on the sidelines waiting for any of these Grand Poobas to risk their own political neck in even the most miniscule way.  How dare the Republican caucus approach our president with a preconceived idea to repel any legislation before it is even reasonably discussed for fear that it would show party weakness to do otherwise, even if it would benefit the American people that have done their fair share of suffering under the current unsustainable trajectory that we have been on for too long already.  To me, that borders on treason and should be dealt with by severe means in kind .  By the same token, how dare any Democrat tuck their tail on Health Care Reform because it is harder to pass without a filibuster proof majority, or to threaten to scrap the whole thing because even a single component is not to their liking. That is not how change happens people and it is time we hold them all accountable for their dereliction of their duty to us.  
 Barack Obama had a 70% approval rating from the American people when he was sworn into office and it was no mystery that Health Care Reform was one of his main priorities, so why should we be punished for the failure of congress to legislate our wishes? Why should the many Americans that pays for our future with their own blood, sweat, and tears expect any less from those in the halls of power?  If their seat is sacrificed because they stood on principle and not on the party line, they should sacrifice it gladly if they are truly worthy of their position. 
 I for one would not be saddened if we would finally remove the little Ds and Rs from everyone’s name on a ballot and make it more about the people’s wishes than the idealism of a particular party. I also would not be at all opposed to limiting congressional terms to the same 8 year limit imposed on our president, maybe then every decision would not be made through the lens of career-oriented, selfish political swordsmanship. 
 I know this, the majority of America will agree with Barack Obama tonight on a very personal level because he will rise to the occasion once again and vocalize our collective dreams and aspirations.  He will touch on the same hopes that made the whole world swoon during his historic election and forced even politicians in other countries to change tact because they saw how receptive their own people where to his global message of hope and they heard the grumbling from their own constituents about not having their own Obama-like leader to take the wheel.  But, when the speech is done and the lights are turned off, it will be up to us to hold accountable those that have the true power to make those dreams realities, those that have been granted the privilege to represent US, not themselves or their own best interests. 
 For any hope of progress, I think it is high time we realized that our country must be governed from the center, not the far left or far right.  To try to do it any other way will just propagate the stifling gridlock we have come to know all too well and we will never even catch a whiff of the change we so loudly clamored for in 2008.  Our failure to hold the House and Senate accountable for their inaction at this defining moment in our history will bring about nothing but more of the same in the end. 
 So tonight, listen with your heart as well as your head and if you agree in part, or in whole, with the direction and agenda that will be laid before you, make your voices heard to those that you put in position to represent you.  Make it your own mission to hold them accountable to get the American gravy train back onto the track it was always meant to be on.  “I must do something” always accomplishes more than “something must be done” and if our legislators in congress are not getting it done, it is up to each and every one of us to make their lives a miserable living hell until they do.  Silence can not be an option.
 The greatest thing about our nation is that even in the most dire times, even in the face of the greatest adversities, the one thing that we can always count on is the fact that the state of our “union” will always be strong.   It is only the state of our partisan “disunion” that could ever threaten to unravel it and that is something that no American should ever stand for. 
What's done, is done

What's done, is done



I’d like to kick this off by offering my sincere congratulations to Scott Brown for his smart and hard fought victory.  He deserves it.  He did things right.  He took the pulse of the people of Massachusetts, he did some blood tests, he took some x-rays, he looked in their eyes and he made them stick out their tongue and checked their tonsils.  He did the things you have to do to show due diligence in gaining the trust of a person before they are going to put their faith in your hands and allow you to suggest a treatment. Then he simply wrote a prescription, vote for Scott Brown – and just like that, noses were held and the magic elixir was swallowed. For all of you doctors out there, take this as a lesson in just how far the trust earned by a good bed side manner can take you.

Scott Brown was also wise enough to use the playbook that Big Pharma has been winning with for years, a playbook that helped him make the elixir he had planned to prescribe all along look familiar and inviting. It also didn’t hurt to have an ace up his sleeve by virtue of an attractive, vibrant and fun-loving family to make commercials that would connect with our desires on a very personal level.  You know the ones I’m talking about, like those anti-depressant commercials that show Miss-happy-go-lucky skipping through a field of flowers, all laughs and smiles. The ones that make you think, yes I’m depressed, I need to have that wonder drug so I can be all laughs and smiles too. I mean come on, who wouldn’t be somewhat touched by a fun snowball fight with dad and the thought of a chance to throw a big, fat snowball at Washington amidst the turmoil brought to life by past administrations that still spins all around us?  Who wouldn’t be just a little taken in by a masterful connection made to every day Americans using nothing more than the prop of a high mileage pickup truck?  But just like those proposed miracles of medicine, after we swallow and our life doesn’t become all laughs and smiles, we will find ourselves scurrying to find the insert that came in the box, only now do we want to read the fine print.
So now that it’s been swallowed, let’s finally take a look at the insert, shall we? 
Using this prescription may have unintended and dire consequences.  Make sure to take with plenty of patience for the status-quo because after it is imbibed, this particular course of treatment cannot be changed or altered until at least November 2010, but the effects will most likely continue until at least November 2012.  Use extreme caution when mixing with hope for change, as an interaction called partisan gridlock will most likely occur. While happiness and prosperity are advertised as possible outcomes of consumption, we make no claim that these things will actually come to pass and we bear no responsibility for the results you may actually experience.  This prescription is intended to serve as a vehicle to voice impatience and frustration with the slow wheels of government in trying to fix long rooted problems like unemployment, health care and economic stagnation and in no way is it meant to reflect the true and noble aspirations of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the greater American community at large.  If you find yourself experiencing any of these side effects, feel free to call us at 1-900-2HELL-WITHCHANGE.  You will be charged $2.99 a minute for your call and all proceeds will go directly to blocking needed reform at every possible turn.
I hope for all our sakes that Scott Brown turns out to be a phenomenal legislator that brings about new and great things, but I find myself leery when the crux of his campaign was to be the 41st vote against something, not for something to bring about the change that America so resoundingly voted yes to just over a year ago.  I also hope that Scott Brown stays true to his word of not being beholden to anybody except the people, including the Republican caucus, and makes real change his first priority, even if it comes from the other side of the aisle, because I have a feeling that before all is said and done, he too will be tasting the sharp blade of American impatience when the rain doesn’t stop for a few weeks or months.
I must say though, that after taking a little time to reflect on this outcome, one thing that refills me with hope again is that Barack Obama has always shown, with nary a detour, that in the face of defeat he is a phoenix. When he lost in New Hampshire? It was welcome to Yes We Can!  The insurmountable Reverend Wright? Let’s have that talk about race!  Hope is just words? Let’s fill stadiums with it!  And now I can’t wait to see him once again take a good long look at the big picture and pack yet another perfect bag of supplies for the hard, arduous climb he faces once again. But, I can honestly say that I have absolutely no doubt that he will again prove worthy of the faith we placed in him as our elected President by reaching the top of the mountain once more.

Sometimes, the direction born from adversity is the road we were always meant to travel in the first place. I think this may prove to be one of those times … and I for one can’t wait to see it unfold and help as best as I can along the way!

I think tomorrow’s history will prove today to be a good day for change after all.
The Lion of the SenateTo the good people of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
What an honor.  If you are a resident of Massachusetts, or have been one during the last half century, you are part of one of the greatest legacies that American politics has ever known.  On Tuesday, January 19th, you will get the chance to define that legacy with the power of your vote.
For almost 47 years the Lion of the Senate prowled the halls of power making your voice, our voice, heard.  He was a selfless servant of the people, an unyielding warrior fighting for the American ideals that define our nation, and while he was a stalwart Democrat and Liberal, you would often find him reaching across the partisan aisle to move the wheels of history forward.  He was at the forefront on fault-line issues like racial inequality and women’s rights.  He always stood tall for average Americans and made sure our voice was never silenced.  Until his last breath, he never stopped his relentless pursuit of what would be a fitting crowning jewel to a lifetime spent in service of others, health care for each and every American, regardless of our station in life. The world shed tears of respect and admiration as they watched the great Lion roar on in his final days, defying his doctor’s constant reminders that the strain born from his brand of battle could prove fatal, but like any great crusader of the people, his needs were always second to ours.  He touched us all in so many ways that we don’t even realize.  It is this grand legacy that now rests squarely in your hands.
The fact that the Lion did not get to witness the dawning of the new day that he dreamed of for decades, to see health care reform finally become a reality, pulls at the heart strings of any patriot, no matter what side of the issue you find yourself on.  It is in our genetic makeup to want to see dreams fulfilled, it is the spark that lights the fire of the American Dream. 
On Tuesday, the fate of much more than the political will of the state of Massachusetts is at stake.  On Tuesday you will likely be deciding the fate of health care in America, your health care, my health care and the health care of everyone that you love.  On Tuesday you will either bring the train of progress to a grinding halt, or you will be the ones that finally give the conductor a long awaited whistle, signaling him to give the “all aboard” for this mighty train to leave the station at long last. 
Martha Coakley is a fine and capable woman, and I’m sure she will do her level best to do right by you.  I’m also sure that Scott Brown is a fine and capable man that will do his level best to do what he believes to be right by you, but lets not kid ourselves, this election is about something much bigger than both of them put together. Precedent shows us that the chances that either one of these committed individuals will be remembered forever is slim at best.  But, reforming a broken health care system that is on a trajectory to bankrupt our nation and rob so many hard working Americans of their dignity, hope and will to continue WILL live on, making this YOUR chance to be remembered forever.
For 47 years you chose the indefatigable Senator Ted Kennedy to be your voice.  Now, he is roaring one more time from beyond for you to take up his greatest cause.  You know you can hear the roar, now you just have to answer the Lion’s call one last time and vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday.  Ted Kennedy used his life to serve you, it will only take moments of your life to repay that debt in full.  You will also be writing a wondrous new chapter in the history of tomorrow’s America, and for that, the rest of us will be forever in your debt too.
So get out there and vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday, January 19th … and hear the Lion roar … one last time.

iran-nuclear The Middle East has been a hotbed of instability since I, and everyone reading this today has been alive.  I say today, because I for one still harbor hopes that someone reading this in the future may know a time that finally sees the peace that has proven so elusive in the region for millenniums.


  How to deal with the Middle East has baffled America and our Western allies for an eternity.  I can’t think of a measurement adequate enough to describe the cost of lives, time, energy and treasure we’ve poured into the abyss, yet we still find ourselves mired in the conflicts raging in Afghanistan and Iraq, we still find ourselves targeted by a fanatical portion of the Muslim world that have labeled us as the Great Satan and will stop at nothing to see our way of life fall, and we still find ourselves hooked on the black gold that is at the heart of our attraction to the region to begin with.    


 So why do we keep trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole when it comes to dealing with our interests there when time has proven over and over again that it simply will not work?  How many times have peace talks stalled and failed?  How many times have we reached a cultural impasse on issues like human rights, democracy, religion, or even capitalism?  How many times have we tried to solve the same old problems with some variant form of the same old tactics – sanctions upon sanctions eventually followed by a military show of might, followed by more and more hatred of the West?  When are we going to finally break the chain?  


 America is the leading superpower in the world today, which is astonishing when you take into account that our country was established just over a meager 230 years ago, a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to the history of the world.  In that time we have assimilated countless cultures from all over the globe, not by force, but by the divine right of an individual’s choice and free will.  We have always been the open arms embracing the oppressed and the light of hope for those suffering from tyranny in far away lands.  It is through this glorious melting pot that we found the wisdom and strength born from tolerance and acceptance.  We have been unmatched in the technological breakthroughs that saw the face of humanity change during the last century. We have unparalleled military might, even if we don’t include the devastating arsenal at our disposal that could obliterate our entire planet many times over.  The mettle of our citizens has always proven to be of steeled resolve and we have never failed to rise to any challenge presented.  So why are we so insistent on using a 20th century mentality in a 21st century world when it comes to dealing with the constant and ancient ways of the Middle East?  


 For the purposes of this story, and because I think the history of tomorrow will prove it to be the lynchpin to either our eventual success, or our defeat in seeing real peace finally find a foothold in the Middle East, I am going to use the very real and pressing events playing out in Iran right now.  


 Let’s get this fact out of the way right out of the gate.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a thug.  He is throwback to the days of WWII style tyranny, a fanatical leader that has zero regard for the opinions or actions of anyone or anything outside of the scope of his immediate control.  He is a man that will lie with a straight face and say some things so ridiculous and defiant that all we can do here in the West is look on in disbelief and shake our heads.  He is the epitome of arrogance and false pride and nothing more than an extension of the hard-line Iranian clergy that is determined to keep a stranglehold on the people of Iran at all costs. The bad news is that we helped put him into his perch through a myriad of ill conceived ideas and actions that many of our previous administrations have made in the past.  The good news is that he is actually just a small cog when it comes to solving the enigma of Iran.  The real force in Iran is found in the same place it is always found, among the people, and if their is even a breath of hope to usher in a more moderate and level headed sea change in the political power structure of Iran, it is in giving the current moderate opposition the ammunition they will need to convince the rest of the masses that the road they are now is a dead end.


 The weekend saw Ahmadinejad once again proudly raise his head in defiance, actually going as far as putting the world on notice that his ultimatums must be met and that we have no recourse in altering his perceived reality.  He will stay bent on their current path which is leading them ever closer to the nightmare scenario of a nuclear armed Iran and he will continue lying to the world that it is about peaceful energy.  It is high time we find a way to yank off the sheep’s clothing that this particular wolf has been using to fool and subdue his own countrymen with his ridiculous lies and domineering propaganda.


 I had an idea that would not only oust him for the liar that he is, but also create some desperately needed jobs right here in America, lower the cost of oil on the world market, stem the gushing flow of military spending on far away wars that could be used to vastly improve things on our own home front, finally generate some good will towards the West, and take some wind out of the sails of the recruitment arm of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and their likes. It is also not a very big leap to say that if we can find a way to strike a real peace with Iran, a lasting peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis may not be too far off without Iran’s constant meddling.  Oh, and we may even be able to help fight global warming in the process for a little icing on the cake.


 It all starts with understanding the nature of our adversary.  The Iranians, like their Middle Eastern neighbors,  are a very proud people with a history that dates back over 5,000 years and these people have known war and conflict since the beginning of recorded time. They have been invaded and occupied by the Romans, Greeks, Mongols, Arabs, and Turks, just too name a few.  They are no strangers to the ravages brought by war and they are experts in biding their time and lying in wait for the resolve of their enemies to weaken or even for their mighty empires to eventually collapse completely, each time reasserting their Iranian identity like a phoenix out of the ashes. America’s very existence in time is like that of an adolescent by contrast and sometimes we fail to find the wisdom that the lessons of a longer history would have undoubtedly taught us.  We are also blessed that our own proud history has known relatively little conflict that was brought to our own soil by an outside force.  Couple that with our unquenchable thirst for progress and the do-it-now idealism that has propelled us to such great heights on so many fronts in such a short span of time, and you can see just how illogical it is for us to think we can outlast them in any kind of waiting game when so much of our collective future is on the line today.


 These are the realities we are facing today as I see them.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the current Iranian leadership say they want clean, peaceful energy.  They masterfully use that premise to disguise their ambitions of obtaining nuclear weapons which would solidify them as a force to be reckoned with, in the region and all over the world.  To meet that end, they constantly stir the pot of Western contempt among the Iranian people and the broader Muslim world by constantly going back to the to same unifying mantra that has been used since the very first human beings ever tasted the bridle of oppression – “the man is trying to keep us down” and they have relentlessly made the case that the West is now “the man”. So I say, let’s give them what they want.  Let’s help them attain the clean, peaceful energy they profess to want … just not the way they hoped.


 Iran today is floating on a sea of crude oil, but due to decades of sanctions, we and our Western Allies don’t buy it and today Iran finds themselves ill equipped to refine it for their own energy purposes. This forces them to import increasing quantities of the refined fuel they need, sapping their already dwindling coffers of more than they can really afford.  This makes energy unreliable, it causes other elements of their infrastructure to go unfunded and it makes the people suffer, and as we all know, suffering breeds hate, which is a tool the Iranian regime and the Al Qaeda’s of the world are is quite adept at using to their advantage.


 So here is what I propose.  Why not change the sanctions we have against Iran, not to buy their oil, but to trade for it, not to line their pockets with cold, hard cash that could be used for any number of evil and deadly purposes, but to provide the equipment they would need for a stable energy environment for the people of Iran, the same promise that Ahmadinejad is using as his best pitch to keep the population believing he only has their best interests in mind while keeping the moderates at bay and the volume turned on high against America and the West.   Although we should be desperately trying to get away from using oil for reasons that should be known to all of us by now, we are still going to need gobs of the stuff to keep the motors turning in our own country for at least another decade in even the most rosy of predictions.  We already have the technology to harness green solutions like wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal as alternatives to nuclear energy which has its own laundry list of problems, but we face the dilemma of a big oil industry that has such bottomless pockets that they have the ability to thwart most attempts we make to try to replace their usefulness. Iran would be a fairly clean slate to start with on that front with no good alternatives to speak of.


 Our government would take this oil in trade for the alternative energy equipment that we will manufacture right here, equipment that could never be turned into a weapon.  We will sell the oil to our own oil industries at a fair rate.  I’m sure we could also find a way to finally give big oil some hefty incentives to entice them to be hands-on involved in the transition to clean energy and by giving them at least a decade’s notice, they could seize the opportunity to stay in the loop by using some of their riches to help create and own some of the infrastructure we will need for the next generation of energy.  It would also go a long way towards alleviating their ever growing fear that they will end up going the way of the Dodo bird in the not to distant future.  If they choose not to participate, they will just buy the oil and continue doing what they’ve been doing, but all of the proceeds would then go to directly subsidize the millions of green jobs that America wants and needs through some robust start up grants for private businesses, it would go to funding production plants and manufacturing facilities, it would go to help finally renovate and upgrade to a smart energy grid that is essential for the overhaul we all see on the horizon and get the infrastructure in place to finally wean us from the demons of fossil and nuclear fuels that are sucking the life from our planet.


 On the other side of the coin it would create a ton of new jobs in Iran too, as they will need to install and maintain everything once we get it there.  It is a lot harder to keep hating the man when he is bringing jobs, prosperity and energy independence to your shores.  By putting a big dent in the desperation caused by utter poverty, we would also be putting a big dent in the idealism of anti-Western hatred and crippling the tools of recruitment for that fractional percentage of the Muslim world dedicated to doing us harm. 


 But here is where I see the real beauty and strength of a win-win scenario just by making this proposal.  We have a most powerful and dynamic weapon in Barack Obama. How hard would it really be for our president, one of the most gifted orators of our time with a proven knack for connecting with the spirit of hope common to people all of over the world regardless of their station in life, to eloquently deliver another masterpiece to the Iranian people and the Muslim world? He could play on their fierce pride and ask them why they are trying to evolve to the very technology that every advanced nation on earth is trying to break away from.  He would make the case that Iran would have the opportunity to be a model for the world to follow, not a second rate nation digging through a garbage dump looking for the treasures that others have discarded as useless.  He would make them see themselves as tomorrow’s news, not yesterday’s.  He knows better than any president we’ve had in ages how to push the right buttons and make even the most vehement opponents of his views at least take the time to listen to his words, and we all know that every big speech he makes is sure to be the top story in news rooms all over the globe. He would be setting a very public stage and he would be handing Ahmadinejad just enough rope to hang himself. 


 If Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership stay true to form, they will reject the idea as nonsense outright and in one fail swoop they will give the moderate opposition in Iran the firepower they need to make a bold stand at long last by vastly swelling their numbers as they could then easily convince more and more Iranians that they are being lied to by a regime that does not have their best interests at heart.  They will have fertilized the seeds of the revolution already rooted right at their own door step with no one to blame but themselves and their days in power will be severely numbered.  If by some miracle they says yes, we all win again because as part of the deal they would have to completely dismantle their nuclear program, and be willing to prove it.  As a nifty little byproduct, Hezbollah in Palestine would see their most ardent supporter crumble and they would find themselves alone and extremely weakened.  The endless stalemate could finally be broken and peace talks could be resumed with a newfound enthusiasm and vigor.  Israelis and Palestinians would both sleep much better at night, the rest of the West would sleep better at night, and we would have a model in place that would be easily repeatable with every oil rich nation in the Middle East, all the while creating jobs, prosperity and the infrastructure for our own energy needs of tomorrow right here at home. 


 It is imperative that we finally change our tactics and try something new.  As the president likes to say, doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.  I will leave it to the think tanks and the people actually getting paid to turn ideas into reality to mull this over, but as I see it, it’s a win-win scenario and a path to a new foundation of peace in the Middle East, all powered by their own oil … just imagine.

iran-revolution  Has the ruling government of Iran finally bitten off more than they can chew?   I think they have.     

For a regime that depends on fear and oppression as their governing tools of choice, they are about to learn the cold, hard lesson that destiny has been teaching since mankind first grappled with the concepts of society and governing so very long ago … vices will be punished and virtue will be rewarded, especially when it comes to leading others.  The most ironic twist of fate is that their complete undoing may just come by one of the most ancient catalysts of revolution that human history is littered with and their own culture reveres, the power of martyrs.  


 Peaceful opposition protests have been a common occurrence since the controversial Iranian elections saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retain his seat back in June.  While the power of peaceful protests cannot be overstated, they rely on an ingredient that has now been publicly and thoroughly proven lacking in today’s hard-liners that are in power in Iran, that a peaceful protest will be met in kind with a peaceful debate about the problem. With this one heinous act, they have opened the doors of vengeance and retribution that may break the chains of restraint their opposition has generally abided by.  They have set the stage for a revolution long in the making and I have a hunch they will soon be reaping what the sowed.  


 Our own history shows precedent of what kind of power a singular event like this can have in moving a nation from the ground up.  Remember the Kent State shootings in 1970 that left four of our students dead and nine others injured, one permanently paralyzed?  These were concerned young Americans protesting our invasion of Cambodia and calling attention to what they believed to be a misguided war in Vietnam.  In a span of just 13 seconds the actions of eight National Guardsmen galvanized a nation.  John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo of  Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller would go on to become one of the iconic images of the movement against the Vietnam War, forever seared into our American consciousness. In the aftermath, hundreds of campuses across the country were closed because of millions of striking students and just five days later a flood of protesters, over 100,000 strong, descended on Washington and helped grease the wheels of change.  Time may well find that the casualties of the Ashura Protests in Iran on December 27th rock the foundations of their iron-fisted government in the same, if not even a greater way.  


 Our priority now should be to make sure the Iranian people that are choosing to stand up for their freedom know they are not alone, to make sure that they understand the West is not their enemy in pursuing a transition to peace and tolerance, but a mighty ally that they can count on.  We must ensure that Ahmadinejad’s formidable Anti-Western propaganda machine is not the only voice the people hear.  Hitler’s own propaganda machine proved just how lethal fabricated truths can be and we can not let that kind of history repeat itself in any form or fashion ever again.    


 The future of Iran lies with its youth and they are the ones that we must compel ourselves to nurture right now while they find themselves looking for an identity to claim as their own.  They are the ones that will determine the trajectory of their country in the years to come and make or break any hope for lasting peace in the Middle East.  We in the West can beat our chest and stomp our feet all we want, but the only ones that have any realistic chance to defeat a regime born and raised on Anti-Western sentiment and affect the change we are collectively hoping for, is the generation that is forming its identity right now.  Is there a force more powerful than the innocence of youth asking why you are doing something that’s not good for you and forcing you to defend a position that is so obviously wrong?  I’ll bet more people quit smoking because their children forced them to question their reasoning and actions than any gum or patch ever did by a long shot.   


 From the smallest tribes to the mightiest empires, our common aspirations have always been to leave a better world for those that follow.  I don’t think any parent worthy of being a parent would willingly condemn their children to a harder life, or a worse world to live in than they had, do you?  That is the crux of the power the new generation in Iran wield.  Archimedes said if you give him a lever long enough and a fulcrum to place it on, he could move the world.  The youth of Iran are a lever long enough and this latest deadly protest may very well be the fulcrum on which to place it.  This is their chance to move the world.  


 We saw it happen on our own shores during Barack Obama’s historic election.  We saw our young people take unprecedented interest and action in the governing of our nation because they connected with someone that finally decided to publicly take on the demons of division and hate.  While he certainly didn’t solve all of the problems that have long ailed us, he did put one heck of a dent in them and helped start a new generation along a new path of tolerance and prosperity, not only here in America, but all over the world.  Their force did not only show up in their own actions, but in the countless stories we all heard of parents, friends and relatives being moved by their passion.  They made us take a long look at ourselves and focus on the things that are truly important today to move forward, not the things that drove us apart in a past that can never be changed.   


 There is a reason that we all have a rebellious streak early in our lives, the troubles of every day life haven’t beaten the hope out of us yet.  It is a time that we refuse to accept many things that seem  profoundly nonsensical to us in the grand scheme of things as we see it through the pristine lens of our innocence.  It is a time that we still have the energy to ride the wave of defiance against the absurd.  It is the same reason that the protesters in Iran are largely made up of the young, they are refusing to accept hate as a way of life they want to pursue, they are refusing to concede that oppression and being denied their human rights is the life they must lead.  They have seen with their own eyes the broken down, hopeless old souls left in the wake of the carnage that those ideals have brought to those that came before and they simply don’t want to turn out that way themselves.  They are finally tasting the power of a little American style “Yes We Can” and I have a hunch that this time they will.  


 Yes, I think Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rest of their flagrantly arrogant hard-line cronies have finally cracked the lid on their very own Pandora’s Box, infinitely strengthened by the names of at least eight martyrs of the Ashura Protests that it now bears.  They can try to steal the bodies in a desperately feeble attempt to quell the unrest sure to be focused on the funerals like a laser beam, but it is indeed too little, too late. They have stirred a force that isn’t going to come at them from outside their borders, they have ignited a nightmare right under their own noses that may finally see the fall of the Islamic Fundamentalists that have been perched in the seats of power for over three decades.  They should know that the Iranian people are not going to let themselves be their punching bags forever and like I said, the vices of a governing body will eventually be punished.  Now they are about to get a taste of something that we Americans are testament to and know a little something about, the power of a righteous revolution.  


 The tide has turned indeed … Godspeed.

invisible_manWhat’s the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning? Getting your kids ready for school? The big project you’ve been slaving over that is in its final stages? How you are going to ask for a raise to pay for Johnny’s braces? How you are going to pick up your dry cleaning, make it to the grocery store, attend that PTA meeting, prepare a meal for the family and still have time to talk to your spouse about something important, revolving it all around your work schedule of course?


These are indeed times of frantic multi-tasking and it can leave you exhausted, but if that sounds anything like a typical day to you, count yourself blessed, your world is moving forward.


Every day there are millions of Americans facing a very different wake up call, and keep in mind that what I am about to tell you is far from the mind boggling trauma of the worst case scenarios, it is simply an example of what it means to be one of the invisible unemployed.


Life used to be good. A steady paycheck was always coming in and you could stand tall against fate because the power over your future was largely in your own hands. You could actually make plans like getting that new car, or taking a family vacation, or hosting a dinner party for your friends. You knew just how many weeks it was going to take to get that flat screen TV, or new bedroom for the kiddies. You could make an occasional impulse buy, or splurge on a night out at a family restaurant. You could sock away a little money for retirement and you could fulfill your dream of owning your own home. Catching yourself humming a tune while you were working on your hobby or even singing in the shower were not out of the ordinary. You could smile. But for some, that world implodes.


You get to work one day and say good morning to your co-workers, like you have a thousand times. There is usually a smile and quick exchange about something or other as you head to your desk, but this morning just feels different. Mary is looking at you like she is going to cry and Steve avoids eye contact as he shuffles past. Something’s up but you can’t put your finger on it, so you just make your way to your little home-away-from-home and get ready to take on the tasks of the day. That’s when your extension rings. It’s your boss, “Could you come to my office for a minute?, we need to talk.” His tone was placid and you just know that it is some kind of bad news. Your stomach starts to tickle. You walk in, close the door and take a seat. The next few moments are a gut-wrenching experience that leaves you pale like a sheet with a seemingly unfocused stare, but it’s a stare that is actually focused squarely on the unknown. Your company lost one of its biggest contracts to an overseas competitor and they are left with no choice but to cut back. As swiftly as that, the executioner’s axe has fallen.


You don’t remember the drive home, you don’t know how you negotiated all the lights and traffic because you can’t recall seeing any. It was just one long “What am I going to do?” As you hit the driveway and turn off the car you find yourself not getting out. How are you going to tell your spouse, your kids? How are you going to find work? How are you going to survive? How long is that money in the bank going to keep us afloat? The stream of hows is endless.


Your wife had quit work a few years ago to stay home with the kids and take care of an ailing mother, she also had some medical concerns of her own, so it all made sense. You had made enough to afford that luxury and it felt good inside to be able to do the right thing. It was the traditional family setting that you had grown accustomed to in your own childhood, not everyone’s cup of tea of course, but it worked for you. Everything and everyone was taken care of. You were a provider.


As you sat at the dinner table unloading the day’s news to those you love, you found yourself choking up. You felt inadequate now, you felt like a failure. Even through all of the loving encouragement your family heaped on you after sensing your distress, you can’t shake that feeling. You tell them not to worry. You tell them everything is going to be OK. You tell them what you want to hear.


You finally manage to stop the spinning in your head and fall asleep in the early a.m. When you wake up, for one split second everything is normal, but then a shock goes through your body like an electric current and you are wide awake. You realize you had only been asleep for a couple of hours and you turn to find your cherished wife next you, still cloaked in the peacefulness of slumber. You sit silently, watching her, and pray that you won’t let her down. The whole house is quiet. You look out the window and see the paper being delivered, so you make your way to the door while making a mental note that you better cancel the paper for now.


You have one more paycheck still coming and you try to convince yourself that you will be able to secure a future in short order. You go straight to the classifieds, thankfully missing another front page story about unemployment hovering near 10%. It looks like one sales job after another. Telephone work, outside sales, inside sales, no experience necessary – those same jobs that you were circling when you came right out of high school, those jobs that are minimum wage at best, dressed in a fancy ad. But there is nothing about an experienced widget designer. Everything with a decent salary seems to require a degree that you don’t have.


It has now been a week. You have been to the only three interviews you could find. They all wanted new blood, someone younger, someone with a pedigree of higher learning, someone that you could never be no matter how hard you tried. Experience in life and work does not seem to be a valued commodity. Hopelessness is setting in and you can feel the vigor ebbing from your soul like the sands of the hourglass in your mind that is counting down the hours to catastrophe.


Today your last paycheck arrives, along with the next set of monthly bills. You panic and call a family meeting. They had all tightened their belts and stopped doing a lot of the things they used to enjoy to try to help and to save money, but today it doesn’t feel like enough. You find yourself shouting about buying a soda, about how the generic brands of everything are good enough, about things that used to seem so trivial and inconsequential.


Now you’re over a month in. You had already checked your ego at the door and filed for unemployment which has slowed the bleeding, but has come far short of stopping it. As the bills keep coming you see your bank account dwindling. The heater broke last week and needed to be replaced. Where there used to be five digits in your account balance there are now only four, soon to be three. Still no job.


Another month passes and every door you’ve tried has been firmly closed. You haven’t seen any of your friends in weeks. They keep calling to check on you, but you have long quit picking up the phone when you recognize the number out of shame. You skipped your niece’s birthday because you couldn’t afford to get her even a small gift. The disconnection notices have finally started rearing their ugly heads and your account is now so low that you can’t even take the eight dollars left out of an ATM machine, but you’ll use it at the grocery store for another bag of potatoes and some hamburger meat.


Your kids have made new friends at school, more out of necessity than desire. these new friends are part of families that are going through the same thing and are the only ones that don’t belittle and demean them. Their phones have been long confiscated, their game accounts long closed and every little perk that you could afford them in the past is now just a memory. Your wife wants to work again, but you only have one car and her chances are even smaller than yours at this point after having been out of the work force for awhile.


Right about now is when things start going exponentially bad. Your wife’s condition has flared up and you have been uninsured for awhile now. She suffers through it and every painful move she makes is a searing hot dagger thrust into your heart. You are wracked with worry about what will happen if it gets worse, or if one of your children should be stricken by an illness or injury. You had been driving out to an abandoned lot lately, where you used to see the near homeless and worse hopping into trucks. You knew those trucks were the last salvation for the hopeless and now you were among them. They would roll in, honk their horn and pick out able bodies from the tattered crowd to do some random daily labor job for minimum wage or less, but now the clutch that you had been meaning to have checked months ago finally gave out and you can’t even get there anymore.Your phone and Internet have been disconnected and the foreclosure notice has finally arrived along with the note that your power will be turned off next week.


After another near sleepless night you awaken again. How do I look for a job? How do I call to arrange an interview? How will I get there? How do I make myself presentable? How do I print up another resume? How will I move my family out of our home? How can I face them again today? The endless stream of hows just keep coming.


You can read the news about skyrocketing unemployment every day, but unless you are part of their ranks you can’t even begin to imagine that life. I would say the story I told ranks at about a 5 of 10 on the misery of unemployment scale and it is playing out in millions of homes every single day. I implore you to consider the plight of the stricken out there that find themselves caught in the sinister web of joblessness and shame, seeing Murphy’s Law materialize day after day. Because like me, none of us can know when fate will call our number.


The suffering and despair are staggering and that desperation will lead some to do things they could never even fathom in the past. There will be those that give up in the most ultimate way and there will be those that persevere and find a way through it, and there will be many shades in between, but until you are among them they will remain invisible to your eyes. Their shame will drive them to find comfort in that invisibility, but the numbers show that 1 in 10 now find themselves afflicted and most won’t have the more comfortable starting point of having at least some money in the bank, most will be sharing the pole position deep in the red because times have been tough for awhile now.


So, if you are one of the fortunate ones with the means and power to help, please do. If you are an employer that is about to drop the axe, please make sure you’ve thought through every possible alternative before you strike that lethal blow, you may find that thinking outside of the box doesn’t only save a soul from despondence, but you may just happen on to a venture that proves ultimately profitable. If you are neither wealthy nor connected, give of yourself and make your voice heard in the halls of power and make them understand the plight of so many that is ravaging the fabric of the American Dream. Unemployment is not a tale of the unwilling, it is a tale of the forgotten and invisible, it is a tale that will need something out of all of us to rewrite.

Photo by Danilo Rizzuti
Photo by Danilo Rizzuti

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  These are our inalienable rights, laid down in our founding documents.  That pursuit is what led to biggest movement for change seen in our lifetime. That pursuit is what led millions of individuals to get engaged in politics again for the first time in a long time or even for the very first time.  These are the ideals that Barack Obama so eloquently vocalized into our consciousness that inspired that all consuming thirst for change.  I know that’s what happened to me.  I was inspired enough to spend all of my free time for the better part of two years trying to lend my voice to the chorus of a nation that wanted a better future, opening one mind at a time to the possibilities of a more perfect union.  The peace of mind afforded by healthcare, the dignity of a job that pays a living wage and a rekindled moral conscience that the suffering of others makes each of our lives poorer were the cornerstones of that grand movement that I was so happy to be a part of. Now the debate that could finally see one of the central components of that vision realized is upon us, healthcare for all.  This is not the time for silence and complacency, it is a moment that cries for action.


I understand the pressures of life. I understand how easy it is to leave things in the hands of others, I too found myself guilty of inaction.  I had a death in the family at the beginning of the year that turned my life from calm into chaos and I laid down my pen, but after a lot of soul searching and contemplation on just how fickle the spark of life can be, I’ve been reinvigorated to add my two cents worth on what far too many people are overlooking in the health care debate before us, the true cost of sickness and death. 


Dollars and cents can be debated from now until the end of time, but in the long run it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  Sickness doesn’t play favorites.  Wealth doesn’t buy immunity.  Even health care for every man woman and child in our great land will not keep the reaper chained to the radiator forever.  Death will always be inevitable. 


The one thing that each of us has been blessed with, however, is life … sweet, sweet life.   From our very first days, the wonders of life unfold.  Experiencing all of the “firsts” during our childhood is a magical time.  From our first laugh to our first step to our first day of school, experiences pile up and turn us into who we eventually become.  From our first crush to finding the love of our life, from having that brand new baby to watching those babies have their own, the beautiful cycle continues.  At least that is how the cycle is supposed to continue, but for some of us, destiny has a different plan.  For some of us will have to bear the agony of sickness and pain, the anguish of lost love or the devastation of watching those closest to us suffer, struggling to do the everyday things that we take for granted when we are healthy and vibrant.  Some of us will have our very souls torn apart trying to find a way to close the gaping whole that is left when that special someone is ripped from our lives forever.  Some of us will be the ones saying goodbye to all of those that love us, seeing the helplessness in their eyes while clinging to that last hope that we will never be forgotten. 


 What we have to keep in the forefront of our minds is the exponential devastation that comes from every sickness, every tragic death. I have seen this wrecking ball first hand too many times in my life already, although compared to my wife I have led a charmed life on that front.  She lost her father to cancer when she was 17, a brother to illness before he was 40, another brother to cancer when he was 45 and her live-life-to-the-fullest mother succumbed to heart failure unexpectedly and out of the blue. I’ve seen just how far the gruesome tentacles of calamity can reach, twisting from the victim to every life they touched, from family to coworkers to total strangers.   


I can’t even count the hours, days, weeks, months and years these events have affected our lives.  The pain never goes away completely and regrets can be a formidable opponent to anyone’s psyche.  All of her loved ones had medical care, so the only shred of peace she can cling to is that everything that could be done was, I can’t imagine how much worse things would be if that were not the case.   Like I said before, health care does not guarantee life, but on the other side of the coin, without it I would have lost her and she would have lost me as well as another brother.  Both of my parents and brother would not be here today either if we had all not received important care at various points in our lives.  We were indeed the lucky ones. 


Now that you know a little bit about where I’m coming from, you must understand how pathetic I find it to see these Grand Poobahs and their constant party-line bickering stalling any kind of measure that will bring a peace of mind to those enduring ailments that are robbing them and those around them of their dignity and hope.  No one should be smacked down for trying to stay alive.  No one should be punished for trying to do everything in their power to hang on even one more day to teach their child that one more thing about life that they have to impart, or to tell their soulmate that they love them one more time, or to experience the simplest of things that make life so precious, just one more time.


So as the healthy try to debate the unacceptable cost of health care for every American, imagine the costs we pay by not having it.  How many small businesses close when the owner is stricken ill or dies, leaving all those that depend on that income for their livelihoods unemployed?  How many projects collapse when the most important cog is removed because they are sick or worse?  How many jobs are suffering when our minds wander with thoughts of a suffering spouse or child that is not being cared for?  How many hours are lost trying to play Internet doctor for things that a trained physician could diagnose and cure with ease?  How many self-helpers will get it wrong with dire consequences?  How many small correctable problems, left untreated,  will rob a family of a father or a mother, a brother or a sister. a son or a daughter, or even the wisdom of a grandparent?  How many countless things are affected in our everyday lives because of those lost temporarily or permanently to correctable ailments?  How many deadlines will go unmet?  How many promises will go unfulfilled?  How many deals will collapse? How many of us will get inferior service because the best person to do the job is avoidably lost?  How many times will that inferior service snowball and cost us dearly in ways we don’t even want to imagine? 

So does the cost of health care, even if it’s over a trillion dollars, cost more than not having it?  I don’t know of a wealthy person that would not give away all of their treasure for a cure when they are the ones facing the abyss.  I don’t know of a parent or a spouse that would not give away all of their worldly possessions to save the person they love. I think we’ve all heard the sickening foreclosure stories that health care related desperation has caused.


The real tragedy here is that opponents to health care are going to see to it that it is so watered down that it will once again amount to no more than a finger in the dam.  The bad news is that none of us can know if we will be the ones moved into the valley that this particular dam looms over.


If only we could take away healthcare from every legislator voting on it for just 6 months. No checkups, no dental cleanings, no eye check ups, no emergency room visits, no vaccinations, no cancer screenings, no prostate exams, no prenatal care, no nothing . If by chance something terrible were to happen, they could go to the hospital and be treated as the uninsured, wait 5 hours and cross their fingers. If they do receive care, them or anyone their family…any care during that stretch, it will cost them at least three quarters of their net worth, whatever that sum may be, and if something terrifying were to be uncovered during that time, they would have to look for a new policy with that pre-existing condition. Maybe that would help them along on the road to understanding what it is they are voting on. I fear that the posh lifestyle our politicians are afforded is blinding them to harsh realities that are faced daily by millions.


So fight with all your might, write your elected officials and tell them how you feel, flood them with calls, put the power of your voice to the challenge once again.  History has already shown us what the power of a unified voice can do, even while facing impossible odds. There are a billion bricks still to lay on the road to a perfect Union and we can not let the opposition steal even one or the road can never be completed.  Those yelling in your face and spitting in your eye today would be singing a much different tune if they were the ones with a cancer ravaging their body or if they were the ones left to ponder their fleeting existence and that of their families … with no one there to help.  We must succeed, even for them.


In essence this is a debate over humanity, it is a debate that we, and those to follow, cannot afford to lose. 

Just think about how you want to be remembered?