Thursday, January 14, 2010

A vote for Martha Coakley is a vote for decency and security.


Okay it's been almost a year and I apologize to my readers (all two of you).


I'm back to remind everyone who lives in Massachusetts to vote during the U.S. Senate special election on Tuesday, January 19, 2010. And please choose Martha Coakley. Here's why.


The Republican candidate, Scott Brown, is certainly handsome and seemingly moderate. His victory, however, would be put the nail in the coffin of health care reform, the same all Democrat-driven health care reform that we've been hearing about for the past nine months, the same reform that Republicans have been opposing and obstructing in near lock-step.* This just cannot stand for Massachusetts, a state leader in health reform and compassion. We are in the final two laps of health care reform and House and Senate leaders are merging the two bills. Here are the definites to come out of negotiations before another last round of voting by each chamber:


---- Americans cannot be denied health-care insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

---- The estimates for subsidies to the American people will be in the ballpark of $800 billion to $900 billion, less generous than the House but more generous than the Senate version.

---- According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, those without health care coverage will be reduced BY 31 million people by 2019. As of right now, there are about 45 million people who are uninsured in the U.S.


If we let Scott Brown win in Mass., the Democratic job stimulus focus of 2010 will be lost. And forget about gay rights in a Senate that doesn't have dems strong at 60. What's even more worrisome in the short term is that if dems don't pass health care (again), we would see a repeat of 1994 when Republicans took over Congress.


As a cancer survivor, I can tell you that disease is never something that you suspect. Without Massachusetts' own health care reform drafted in 2006 with the help of Teddy, and believe it or not, Mitt Romney, I would have died or have gone bankrupt. The economy is still shaky and anyone could lose his job and his health insurance too. Vote for decency, vote for compassion for the average person.


Please vote for Martha Coakley on Tuesday, January 19. Do it for Teddy who worked his whole life on universal health care coverage.


* Exceptions over the string of votes so far have been Olympia Snowe (Republican Senator from Maine) and Anh Cao (Republican rep. from Louisiana).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Rise in Do-Goodism in 2009?

Will Do-Goodism make a comeback?

Hello readers.
Yes it has been a while. 2008 found us in foreclosure but we remain in Jamaica Plain, actually living in a cooler neighborhood. At the local dogpark the other day, I met a man named Joseph who told me about Neighbors for Neighbors, a JP-created template of neighborhood groups that the rest of the country would be wise to emulate. N4N is all about starting your own groups with your neighbors and keeping up on the local news. It's a great way to foster goodwill and fits in nicely with Obama's call for us to be one people: Americans. Guess I just wanted to throw this out as my first post for 2009.
One way I'm volunteering this year is through a student run organization at M.I.T. that invites local residents to teach whatever interests them to a number of local high school students who are willing to learn on Saturdays. I'm designing the curriculum for "The Short Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.," an eight-week class that will investigate some of his writing techniques and prominent themes. As an avowed humanist, Vonnegut thought that kindness was the one thing that would benefit us all in this thing called life. Now the hard part is teaching that to my students without being too square or didactic.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bless you Teddy

My prayers go out to Ted Kennedy and his family.

Cancer sucks!

Maybe the liberal lion's brain tumor will compel this country to clean its environment and give its people quality affordable health care - two things Teddy worked so hard for.

What is Massachusetts going to do without him? He's probably the most famous senator ever and embodies what it means to be a successful Irish-American and to be a citizen of Massachusetts.

-Will this help Obama, a John Kennedyesqe figure for my generation?
-Will Massachusetts lose its clout?

I feel a light is dimming on Capitol Hill.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Nun Theory




The Wall Street Journal has a new name for Hillary's strong performance among Catholics. They christened it 'the nun theory.'

The theory holds that Hill is doing so well with Catholics because we are familiar with strong female authority figures who can be both tough in their approach and specific in their remedy of social injustice. This fits in with my own feelings of Hillary that I shared here last summer.

In recent weeks I've actually attended mass a few times: both Roman Catholic and American Catholic. The latter is a liberal and gay-friendly Catholic denomination that is under no authority of Rome. The American Catholic community meets in an Episcopalian church in my hometown right across the street from the Roman Catholic parish where I was brought up and had my first communion and my confirmation. I'm not too religious, but you have to admit this is a pretty strange coincidence, especially in light of the fact that the first American Catholic mass I attended was at Northeastern University, not in the South Shore.

But back to HRC:

In a separate "Financial Times" article, Clive Crook had this to say about our own Iron Lady:

"If Mr Obama surges back in Pennsylvania, all this will be moot. If Mrs Clinton wins comfortably there, as the polls say she will, I would hesitate to bet against a Clinton-Obama ticket.

More than anything, this is a tribute to her titanic will to win. Here is the oddest thing about this peculiar race. Totting up the arithmetic, almost every political commentator in the US regards Mr Obama as the favourite to get the nomination – while harbouring, it seems to me, an inner conviction that Mrs Clinton will somehow find a way to steal it. You cannot imagine her giving up, short of being bound, gagged and sedated." [It's such a dark line, I couldn't help but laugh!]

I do hope Sister Hillary comes through. I just hope she doesn't rap Obama's knuckles in the process.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Discipline and flow

Gosh, it's been a while.

First things first, I'm cancer-free and have been since late October 2007. Four and a half months later I find myself a full time secretary and part time gym bunny. Recently I've enrolled in a beginner's creative writing class at the BCAE (Boston Center for Adult Education) called "Getting Started." It's the perfect antidote to a late winter malaise. My professor, an old, Southie retired firefighter named Jack Canavan, is having us do homework inspired by Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way." Namely:

1.) Write morning pages (3 pages of stream of consciousness a day).
2.) 30 minutes of "artist walking a day" (seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing the world around you).
3.) One date per week with your artist within (nice way to treat yourself).
4.) Read and become familiar with a little poetry.

It's good advice. A little 'discipline' applied each day doesn't make the word so crotchety. I'm not averse to 'discipline' but I do fancy the word 'flow.' Like a stream you have to let your creativity flow wherever it may wander. A flow is a stream's own discipline, an innate sense of its' own ways. Having 'discipline' however is having the humility to accept outside advice. I want both.

Friday, October 12, 2007

'Socialism,' the lackluster boogeyman

I could not have written a better diatribe. This was reprinted from Real Clear Politics.

October 11, 2007

Why 'Socialism' Evokes No Fear

By Joe Conason

Once among the most frightening epithets in American political culture, "socialized medicine" seems to have lost its juju. Today that phrase sounds awfully dated, like a song on a gramophone or a mother-in-law joke or a John Birch Society rant against fluoridated water.
Yet despite that antique quality, the old buzzwords appear regularly in columns, press releases and speeches. Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican presidential pack run around squawking about socialism whenever anyone proposes health care reform. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak warns that the federally financed, state-run Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is essentially a socialist conspiracy. So does President Bush, who has threatened to veto a modest increase in that program's funding because he doesn't want to "federalize health care."

Although the red threat still triggers an autonomic reaction among GOP true believers, the rest of the country no longer twitches to that high-pitched, far-right whistle. Most polls not only show enormous majorities favoring extension of coverage to every child, but substantial support for a radical change in how we pay and administer health insurance -- including the possibility of a single-payer system.

Why doesn't the traditional propaganda work any more? Perhaps the demise of the Soviet Union and the withering of Communism in China have had a delayed effect on public attitudes here. Both the Russians and the Chinese have turned more capitalist than the West, abandoning their former systems without substituting modern protections. The ex-Communists are more of a threat to the health of their own societies than to us. Most Americans may also have noticed that corporate bureaucracy and corruption, which figure largely in the present health care system, are not preferable to government bureaucracy. Doctors who used to wail about the dangers of Medicare have learned how unpleasant it is to deal with dozens of insurance companies, each creating different rules to cut costs and deny care. So have their patients.
This corporate model is more expensive and less efficient than the government plans that provide care in every other industrialized nation.

And most Americans may have learned by now that such systems prevail in Western countries that aren't normally categorized as "socialist," including the United Kingdom, Japan, Spain, Canada, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. All these nations manage to provide their citizens with high living standards, industrial and technological innovation, and broad political and economic freedom, even after 50 years of national health insurance.
Meanwhile, the credibility of conservatives has diminished steadily. These days they cannot even achieve clarity on the meaning of their favorite cliches. For instance, the president hates "federalized health care," but sponsors a Medicare prescription drug program that wastes hundreds of billions on drug companies and private insurers. Right-wing definitions no longer seem so clear, either. When the government awards a billion dollars in sweetheart mercenary contracts to a wealthy Republican family in Michigan, that's "private enterprise." But when the government helps a struggling middle-class family in Maryland send its children to the doctor, that's creeping socialism.

Conservative ideology's declining relevance is again encouraging the politics of personal destruction. That must be why right-wing voices on the Internet, talk radio and the Fox News Channel have launched a nasty attack on the family of Graeme Frost, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who appeared in a Democratic radio commercial endorsing the SCHIP program. He and his younger sister, both victims of a terrible car accident that left the little girl with permanent brain damage, have both needed federal assistance because their parents were unable to afford private insurance. Certain conservative bloggers and pundits, seeking to prove that the Frost family is too affluent to qualify for SCHIP assistance, have harassed them, their neighbors and their co-workers. They have spread myths and lies about the family, their house and the schools that their children attend. And they have made repeated telephone calls to the Frost home, demanding answers to questions about their personal finances.

It doesn't seem to occur to any of these strict Christian moralists that the Frosts have enough trouble trying to care for their disabled daughter, or that the state of Maryland, under the SCHIP regulations, has determined that the Frost children are fully eligible for the help they obviously need. Let us not hear again from these mean-spirited people about "family values" or "compassionate conservatism."

Such is the devolution of conservatism in our time -- from a philosophy concerned with overweening state authority to a movement that bullies children in the name of freedom.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Book Review: Boston Boys Club by Johnny Diaz

This is the anti-freeze of queer Beantown lit and I mean that in the most generous way possible. Boston Globe Living/Arts writer, Johnny Diaz, came to Boston from Miami a few years ago and with open Cuban arms embraced this city and its quirky ways. His first book, Boston Boys Club, maybe is not a love letter to Boston, as other book reviews have chanted, but definitely a loving, friendly post card from Columbus Avenue. It’s light summer reading but gratefully so.

It centers on four characters who patronize Club Café in the South End: friendly Tommy, horny Rico, opportunist Kyle and messy Mikey. By the end of the book each has been granted a second lease on life. There’s a light spirit of redemption and renewal that (I have a feeling) is part-autobiographical for Diaz, as character, Tommy Perez, explains to a “cutie pie” he meets at Club Café:

“I love Boston, Mikey,” I say as I break his stare by taking sips of my DCV (Diet Coke and Vodka.) “It’s one of the prettiest cities I have ever seen. Big but not too big, or overwhelming like New York City. And the seasons make time fly and make me appreciate the moments in life. I love Miami, and it will always be a part of me, but sometimes, you need change to grow.”

Diaz, at one point, alludes to the (paraphrasing) “sometimes icy nature of this city” and any gay Bostonian will instantly know what he means. In this way, he recasts the city’s image into something more approachable once you get to know some of her citizens.

There is also a sub-theme of recovery which is always welcome even in works of fiction. Some people think that Alcoholics Anonymous is a place where the bottom of the barrel end up, but as my many friends in AA can attest, this program of recovery has changed people’s lives for the better. And at Club Café, there are probably many candidates for AA who have no clue about the program’s own openness and inclusion.

I once heard a quote that the real Americans are not the ones born within its borders, but the ones that arrive here from other lands: hardworking immigrants with a dream. Is the same true of Boston? Having grown up on the South Shore, I would’ve thought that seniority comes with permanent residence. Diaz shatters that myth as he brings fresh insight and gratitude to the “Athens of America.” We, Bostonians, contrary to popular belief, are happy to open our homes to people with staying power. The city is not as icy as we sometimes believe and Diaz supports that latent openness with “Boston Boys Club.” Best to be read before summer’s end!