Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So Much To Say ...

Earlier this month, someone unfriended me on Facebook.

Someone I've known since I was four.

She identifies herself as a conservative.

Given my recent spate of Facebook postings, I suspect she got tired of reading my liberal political bias.

That's fine. I had hid her in my news feed for the very same reason, conservatively speaking.

We will never agree politically. Such is the legacy of George W. Bush. When he famously said, "You are either with us or against us," he removed the possibility of middle ground, not only in the war against terror but in relationships of all stripes.

Politics in the United States has never been more black and white, and I'm not talking about race. Not at the moment, anyway.

I believe that those who voted for Bush the first time truly believed in what he had to say.

I also believe that those who voted for Bush the second time were misguided. But I also believe they were afraid.

And that fear has grown into dread.

I understand that politics has always been a touchy subject, but I clearly remember a time when those who identified with different parties could talk to one another. Politely. Rationally.

But there is no possibility of debate in this climate. When a Representative of Congress called the President of the United States a liar during an address to the joint session, we reached the political nadir. We reached the civil discourse nadir, too.

I understand that people will have differing ideas. That's a good thing. If we can come together and discuss things, we can understand an issue from many angles and form good policy.

But painting swastikas on the signage of an elected official? Shouting down anyone who tries to voice an opposing view? Shouting down those we elected? Openly displaying guns at political events? Hanging effigies? Suggesting that a military coup might be necessary to deal with the "Obama problem"?

There is no way any reasonable person can defend that behavior.

Yes, people marched on Washington during Bush's reign, most notably to protest a war based lies.

Then, folks were ejected from events for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts. Now, protesters are showing up at Obama events carrying automatic weapons.

Yesterday, someone on Facebook posted a poll asking whether Obama should be killed.

Killed.

I'm not saying that everyone who is a conservative is so extreme, but what we've seen escalate in these recent months is beyond the pale. There are blatant lies and distortions that do nothing to advance finding a solution that will help all of us, and all of us need help.

Rush Limbaugh recently called Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, "a hemorrhoid."

Classy.

And it was recently revealed that 35 percent of New Jersey conservatives think the President might be the anti-Christ.

Hemorrhoids and Obama the anti-Christ.

Just two topics that the Right has added to our political discourse in recent weeks.

I will not – I cannot – stand idly by while this insanity rages on. I will call it out, on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, because Fox News and Rush and all the other right-wing pundits and even elected Republican officials are so busy offering up if not outright lies then distortions and half-truths.

Obama's speech to schoolchildren was not "indoctrination." It was, for all intents and purposes, a pep talk. Yet from the moment it was announced, never mind that no one had yet seen the speech, hysterical talking heads immediately started comparing Obama to North Korea and China's Chairman Mao.

For those who will accuse me of extreme bias in the other direction, let me assure you that my primary source of news (and spare me the citation of the "Obama lovefest" – a report out last week points out that the media has become markedly more negative toward Obama) is ABC, specifically World News with Charles Gibson and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I also watch MSNBC.

I know that many consider MSNBC to be the other side of the Fox News coin. It is not. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow spend a lot of time combating the inaccuracies being spouted by the talking heads on Fox. I mean, somebody has to, right?

I read the New York Times as well as the Washington Post, Newsweek, and local newspapers.

My point is: I read and watch a number of sources.

Why?

Because I want to gather a number of points of view, I want to read assorted analysis and reportage.

And then – here's the key – come to my own conclusions, understand the issues of the day in context.

Blindly following the radical Right, absorbing everything it spews at face value without taking the time to understand whether it is in fact news or, as it is in so many cases, propaganda, is the height of irresponsibility, now more than ever.

As part of the health-care debate, many are revisiting a recording Ronald Reagan made in the early '60s. In it, he warns of impending socialism if the country begins down the slippery slope of Medicare. (You can listen to it here.)

This August, in town-hall meetings, nearly 50 years after Reagan's dire warnings, many shouted "Keep your hands off my Medicare!"

Of course, the shouters don't understand that Medicare is government-run health care, the very thing of which they're so afraid. They also don't understand that Medicare has not led to socialism, as Reagan warned.

Mind you, people should indeed be angry.

They should be angry that more than 44,000 people will die in the next year because they don't have health insurance.

They should be angry that health-insurance premiums have continued to rise at the same time as health-insurance companies continue to deny more and more care.

They should be angry that even if they pay their premiums, they are not guaranteed coverage when they need it.

They should be angry that the plan set forth by Senator Max Baucus requires every American to buy health insurance but does not provide a public option. Baucus's plan is nothing more than a gift to the insurance companies, the insurance companies that have brought us to this harrowing and deadly place.

Health care should be a right, not a privilege.

Consider flu shots: You can get one just about anywhere. For $25. But what if you don't have $25? Do you think it's fair that you should be more susceptible to the flu this season because you don't have the money to spare while those who have the money should be protected?

It is absurd that health care in this country is a for-profit business.

It is absurd that families are forced into bankruptcy in the wake of an unexpected illness.

It is absurd that we spend more money on health care than any other industrialized nation yet nearly one-sixth of our population has no insurance and among those who do have care, we have worse outcomes than countries in which all citizens are covered.

It is absurd that last year, a member of my family was in the hospital for fewer than 36 hours for nothing but tests and observation, and received a bill for more than $10,000.

Health care is the issue of our time. It has been an issue for more than a century, but the crisis is at hand.

It saddens me that our nation has become so divided that rational conversations are no longer possible, that neighbors are shouting down neighbors, that friends are defriending friends.

But I also believe that the day will come when we will have moved beyond this.

I look forward to the day when this national schism will be healed.

Until then, I will continue to find my voice.

Because I cannot stay silent. Too much is at stake.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Everything I Have To Say ...

... is being said on Facebook these days, apparently.

And almost all of it is about politics.

Which you fine folks don't want to read about anyway. Or so some of you have said.

But I'm sure the day will come when my brain will once again be able to process other thoughts.

Or when I finish the blog post about politics that I've been noodling with for a while now ...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remembering L.A. Dave ...

Today would have been his 39th birthday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce! September 2009 ...

I was shut out of tix when The Boss was here in May.

But I scored two for the floor for his return, just three days before his birthday.

Bruce and L.A. Dave were born on the same date. L.A. Dave was always sure to remind me that it was not only his birthday, it was Bruce's, too.

My camera phone would not have done the man justice tonight, and I wasn't quite this close to the stage, but this shot by Scott Strazzante for the Chicago Tribune is an accurate rendering of my vantage point.

I'm too tired to write much about the show other than that it was another stunner. The man might be gaining steam with age.

And it was cool as hell to hear "Born to Run" from start to finish.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Primal Evolution ...

It all started with an apple.

I don't remember how I first happened upon the Fuming Fuji, but I was instantly enchanted by the adorable artwork of an angry apple, even if he looks more like a Granny Smith.

I came for the Fuji but I stayed for the philosophy.

Where was I?

Mark's Daily Apple, the home of Mark Sisson's guide to primal living in the modern world.

Primal? As in early evolution?

Yep.

For nearly as many years as I've been alive, I've been on and off of diets. You name it, I've probably tried it. From the seemingly sane to the absolutely ridiculous, I've bought the books and the products and weighed and measured, and every time, I've failed.

My closet contains a continuum of sizes. Or rather, it did. I finally went through it about a year ago and purged most of what I owned, vowing to never fit into the larger sizes again.

Which, of course, means that these days, I don't have much to wear.

I've been vegetarian (for a few months of my life). I've been vegan (for a few weeks). Low-fat, low-carb, high fiber, raw, you name it, I've tried it.

But it wasn't until I found Mark that food made sense.

Mind you, his philosophy of food is difficult for many to follow, because Conventional Wisdom, as he likes to capitalize it, pushes – hard – exactly what we should avoid.

In a word: grains.

That's right, the base of the food pyramid, that thing we're told of to eat every day, and plenty of 'em, is exactly what we should avoid.

Why, you ask?

Because, from an evolutionary perspective, we're not meant to eat grains. Our bodies aren't designed to properly digest them. Early man lived off whatever he could find. He didn't cultivate his food. Our ancestors ate whatever animals we could kill, whatever vegetation and fruits didn't kill us, nuts, seeds, and, however unpalatable they may seem today, insects.

Our caveman ancestors weren't tending crops. Agriculture, evolutionarily speaking, is a toddler at best.

Yet most of us, looking for answers, have done what we've been told: eat lots of grains, whole grains!

In terms of feeding a lot of people, grains make sense.

But in terms of optimally fueling our bodies, grains make no sense at all.

Take a mental stroll through the grocery store. Or wander into the kitchen and take note of the contents of your pantry.

Bread, buns, cookies, crackers, pasta, flour, rice, tortilla chips, tortillas, taco shells, pretzels, oatmeal, Pop-Tarts, granola bars, Ramen noodles, mac 'n' cheese ... . Getting the drift?

Pretty much anything that can be found in the aisles of the grocery stores. Almost nothing that is found on the rim.

There's more to Mark's philosophy than "avoid grains," of course. Among his precepts: Eat plenty of fat!

See what I mean?

For years and years and years, we've been told to shun fat, to fear fat.

But fat does not make us fat.

Our bodies need fat. And protein. And some carbohydrates, true, but not like we've been told.

Happily, Mark has consolidated all he's learned (to date, anyway) into The Primal Blueprint, a book I mention of my own free will.

It's a fun read. It's well-organized, the chapters chunked up into sections ripe for skimming. Read it from cover to cover or glean the high points now and fill in the rest of the it later.

Or get started on the site with Mark's definitive guide to grains.

And the next time you go shopping, buy one fewer box or bag or otherwise packaged grain-based something.

Wean yourself slowly – or quit cold turkey if you have a superhuman stash of willpower; I sure don't.

Begin to live a more primal life. You'll feel better. I know I do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

...

Eight years ago today, after ... , my mom and I and my then-4-year-old niece sat outside, having lunch, and she looked at me and said, "That man thought the building was the sky and he flew into it."

I was so grateful, then, that she didn't understand that it had happened on purpose. But remembering her little voice, saying those words, makes me cry.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Disgusted ...

No matter your politics, you should be disgusted at Rep. Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson, Sr.'s (R-S.C.) outburst of "It's a lie!" (or "You lie!") tonight during the President's address.

Surely, in those two or three words, the GOP reached its nadir of this debate.

Rep. Wilson's outburst was not only disrespectful, it was in itself a lie. There is a very clear section in a HOUSE bill from which Obama based his statement tonight: H.R. 3200: Sec 246 — NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.

Tonight on "Larry King Live," Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) called on Rep. Wilson to apologize to the president immediately.

I'll be waiting.

Update: Well, that was quick. Wilson has issued an apology. But he disagrees with the President's comment? You mean, THE TRUTH?!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My Latest Favorite Tune ...

This weekend, I spent some time clearing out my DVR, which had become overrun with more TV than I ever would be inclined to watch.

Happily, though, I had saved an episode of Letterman featuring Dave Matthews Band. I'm not a hardcore DMB fan, but I find Dave's singing voice completely fascinating.

The band performed a cut from its latest album, "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King," the cover of which I find disturbing.

But the tune! It's my latest musical obsession. I'm sure I'll listen to it about 20 times in a row tomorrow, when I can crank the volume.

It's unlike anything I've heard in a long time. Actual musicians playing actual instruments and relying on their actual voices, not thick blankets of studio production.

I'd embed it here, but YouTube has gone all widescreen on me, so when I plopped it in here earlier, the video barged into the sidebar. Humph.

So, instead, click here and watch Dave and the boys in all their 16:9 glory.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What Is And What Is Not ...

How do we know what happens?

In the realm of "Everything happens for a reason" – or its fraternal twin "Everything happens exactly the way it's suppose to" – is there such a thing as free will? Are all outcomes predetermined? Do our choices simply dictate how many moves it will take to get us to the end of the game, not the end of the game itself?

Can we conjure people and things? If so, can we also unwittingly drive them away? And if they leave, was it really as a result of something we did or said or was it simply time? Had the relationship merely run its course?

We want answers. We want reasons.

But sometimes, explanations never come. Sometimes, life is a question mark. Sometimes, the only person who knows what happened is the person who isn't talking.

And there is nothing to be done but move on.

Some relationships are fleeting, some connections superficial, nothing, in the end, more than passers-by in a lifetime of interactions.

Some relationships, though, feel like fixtures, our connections so sure, so enmeshed, that we believe we surely could not bear their severance.

Yet we do.

Memories remain. Twinges of sadness. But many more moments of gratitude for having known them.

A focus not on the loss, but on the time together, on the gifts they both freely and unwittingly gave.