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Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Behind me is Barrister’s, and an old Masonic Building that now houses some sort of woman’s clothing store. They’re having a “polka dot” sale. Looks cute. If you’re one of the hundreds walking behind me in downtown Southampton this July 4th, stop by.

Me? I’m just sitting on a wooden bench, donated by Old Town Lodge No. 908. Come to think of it, that’s tied to the Masons. That will be my homework tonight. On this Independence Day, there’s nothing wrong with a little American history lesson, and on eastern Long Island, there’s plenty of it to learn. I won’t forget. None of us should.

I’m not a patriotic sort. Most journalists, wired to be cynics at heart, aren’t. While the rest of my family will wear some combination of red, white and blue, and my little girl, at least, will wave her American flag, the most American I’ll be is my baseball hat. If I’m feeling especially proud of the USA, I’ll wear a Philadelphia Eagles hat. Come on, it’s the Eagle, the American symbol of freedom.

You can stop rolling your eyes now.

Fine, how is this for being positively American: The iPhone is pumping only U.S. artists into me as I write this. Bruce Springsteen is a 4th of July tradition, and as I contemplate ruining dinner by buying a scoop of ice cream at 4 p.m, Green Day, Lou Reed, Eva Cassidy, Keith Jarrett, John Mellencamp and the New Pornographers also play on. Come to think of it, the last of those artists is a Canadian band. That’s alright, I love that country’s ability to keep guns off streets. I’ll let “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” continue.

It’s a great song. We are a great country. Seems reasonable.

Have a great holiday. Be safe. I’m going to go see a friend’s artwork at a local gallery.

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filephoto-obama-11It seemed innocent enough. In a basement room of a Queens apartment complex, we celebrated the first birthday of a cute little boy with more hair than me. There was plenty of food, including vegetables and water, which is pretty much my diet. I felt right at home.

Elmo was there … as were the seven people who thought George W. Bush did a good job as president. My mistake? Questioning their sanity. It took a great escape in the 2003 VW Golf to get out alive. Here’s what I learned:

1) We in the media are God-damn socialists.

2) We’re about to become a welfare state

3) How dare we take money from people just because they make, say, $50 million a year. Socialist!

4) This economy wasn’t nearly as bad when Bush was president.

5) Mega-dittos, y’all.

6) We won the war in Iraq back in 2003.

To a bystander it must have looked like one of those old-time World Wrestling Federation matches where three bad guys take turns slamming the steel chair against the good guy’s skull. Where was Hillbilly Jim when you need him?

Anyway, the RNC meeting I stumbled into aside, it was a great time. A real pleasure. But I leave them tonight with some comfortable bed-time reading.

First, here’s the New York Times story today that reports most AIG bonus recipients have given back the extra check. Look at what a little shame will do.

And this from CNBC, where the latest Geithner/Obama plan seemed to go over well on Wall Street, home of the finest Americans. It looks like our president has some street cred, though to be fair the plan to buy up bad assets was also floated by some Republicans.

Let freedom ring.

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goodbyeIt was 1996 and my father-in-law to be introduced me to Joseph Gibbons very simply: “David, Joe, one liberal to another. You guys can talk.”

I still remember that conversation, both of us immediately waxing poetic about presidents he remembered and that I, well, read about. Harry Truman? The common man’s president. FDR? Brilliant. Ushered in a new American era. Jimmy Carter? He had his heart in the right place, even if the administration fell short.

We moved beyond the presidents and their accomplishments to the 1,000 page biography by David McCullough about Truman and the great Edmund Morris books about Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps this country’s first  great environmentalist and monopoly buster.

Over the next few years, whenever I met Gibbons at family gatherings – Gibbons, you see, was my wife’s uncle – we would seek each other out, mainly to confirm our viewpoint, but also to fire off a few  trivia questions and discuss recent Gail Collins columns or New York Times editorials.

But the discussions became brief over time, and though he hated President Bush, his fury wouldn’t last very long. I would help finish his thoughts, and he would nod in agreement. It was the best he could do, as Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll.

Then came President Obama’s victory. That weekend we headed to Connecticut to celebrate his son’s 40th birthday party. When he walked in, I smiled and there was a quick celebratory hug and nothing more. The rest of the day was full of political debate, but he hardly participated.

Gibbons finally lost his battle with Parkinson’s on Feb. 27. But his family has asked people to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Times are tough, so if you can’t, I understand.

And though it seems bittersweet, President Obama lifted the strict limits on stem cell research earlier this week. The executive order could help find cures for ailments such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease.

It’s too late for Joe Gibbons and for the 280 people who die from the disease each week. But for the 500,000 Americans who currently have it, time has not run out.

As for you, Joe, I’ll just have to pull for Obama twice as hard.

NOTE: Two relatives say the quote at the top should read “one Democrat to another,” not “one Liberal to another.” Either way, donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation if you can.

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tentThe New York Times just posted a depressing story about the growing number of people who are  moving into motels.

The story details a California family of five forced into a California hotel after the father’s real estate and mortgage finance business crashed. The Hayworth’s now live in a cramped room and sleep on two beds. They eat in shifts and on borrowed plates.

One of his neighbors dragged a half-naked woman out of a room next door while he beat her.

Meanwhile in Sacramento, Calif., a big tent city has popped up as more people are forced into homelessness. Check out this MSNBC gallery of today’s tent city, which look eerily similar to Depression era pictures.

There’s also a tent city in Pinellas Park, Fla.

The New York Times story did offer some hope:

The hope is the recently passed stimulus package stems the tide of people who end up homeless. The stimulus included $1.5 billion for homeless prevention, including help with rent and security deposits. Schools have made special efforts to help children in displaced families stay in class, and some send social workers to connect families with counseling services and food aid.

It’s money well spent, though at least one financial reporter, CNBC’s Rick Santelli hated the idea, calling the people who failed to pay their mortgages, “losers.” There’s compassionate conservatism for you.

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11-16-2008ngd_16fdr1gf82h0gvc1Stock prices keep sliding, unemployment continues to rise and at least one newspaper – the Daily News in New York – asked in an online headline today if we’re close to a depression.

It’s taking billions and billions in taxpayer money to keep the banking industry afloat. All those ridiculous mortgages brokers pushed and banks approved are going bust and real estate prices continue to slide. Health care, a right in many countries, is still only a privilege here, so as unemployment rises, so will the number of people without health care.

The news is enough to shock me out of reading literature, for now.

In the last year I’ve finished eight  Kurt Vonnegut books, two Phillip Roth novels, another Tolstoy book and even James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” (Gosh, I’m going to have to read that again, I think it went over my head). Roberto Bolano’s 800 page 2666 took less than a month, two Ian McEwan pieces went down in a week, as did Khaled Hosseini’s brilliant “A Thousand Spledid Suns.”

But I passed on the Lit section at Borders in Commack earlier this week and picked up H.W. Brands’ latest, “Traitor to His Class,” a new biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was the last president to deal with an economy this horrific and he, like our current president, faced plenty of resistance to government intervention. But he was able to push through the New Deal. His Social Security system remains alive today and as older Americans watch their 401(k) plans dwindle, they’re thankful for that government check.

Anyway, I’m 84 pages in and FDR just landed a job with the Navy Department.

As for the Great Depression, it’s still hundreds of pages away. But I’m guessing there will be a lesson or two waiting for me.

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