Friday, October 3, 2008


OK. I've been away from my blog for a bit, so I am going to briefly address a few different issues.

First, last night's Biden/Pailn debate. She was incredible. Literally, as in not-credible. She looked and sounded like a candidate for president...of the student council. I expected her to start handing out candy bars with "Vote for Sarah" on the label. Honestly, I can't wait for her to go home to Alaska, ya know? (Wink, wink, you betcha.)

Second, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is now LOWER than when Bush took office. As I've written before, if historical averages applied over the past eight years, the DJIA would be about 19,000 right now. Last week, as the market anticipated the huge bailout/rescue bill the market surged. When it failed in House the Dow dropped 777 points. So, you'd think today, when the House finally did pass the bill, the market would go up, right? Nope. Down about 200 points. Go figure.

Third, John McCain. This guy has spent the last two weeks like Robin Williams on speed. He's so erratic he makes a pinball machine look like a linear accelerator. I don't know what that means, but you get the drift. There hasn't been a temperament this unpresidential since George W. Bush. Uh-oh.

Fourth, the electoral map is looking better and better for Obama. Good thing. I don't want to have to sell my house in this market. Maybe I won't have to move to Canada after all.

Finally, Sarah Palin again. Why is it that so many people want a president just like them: not too smart, not too well educated, parochial, and, based on her interview with Katie Couric, not very well read? If people think someone just like them -- your average hockey mom, for example -- can run the United States of America, then maybe they don't have a grip on what the job requires. Me? I want the wisest, smartest, best educated, worldly, thoughtful person I can find. We tried dumb and dumber for the past eight years. It doesn't work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is This the Campaign We Deserve?

If you were following the news on Tuesday, September 10, you might be forgiven if you thought the two biggest issues facing the nation were use of a phrase involving a pig and lipstick and Barack Obama’s alleged support for “comprehensive” sex education for kindergarteners (false). Why? Because these were the two main prongs of the McCain campaign’s Swiftboat style attacks on Obama the day before the seventh anniversary of 9/11.

While these trivial issues were being vigorously inserted into the public debate by the McCain campaign and dissected by the media, far less attention was being paid to two other stories that broke on September 10, stories we might want to spend a little more time discussing before we resume the lipstick debates and choose a president.

First, the bi-partisan, congressionally appointed Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction heard chilling testimony from a range of national security experts that the U.S. is more vulnerable to a catastrophic terrorist attack than it was on 9/11. What? We’ve been moving backwards for seven years? We haven’t made any progress? That’s exactly what former Senator Sam Nunn, widely respected chairman of the non-profit Nuclear Threat Initiative, told the Commission. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, a city that knows a thing or two about terror attacks, testified that the federal program to install radiation detection equipment around major U.S. cities is under-funded by $10 million. We are spending 1,000 times that amount every month in Iraq, yet Americans give Republicans an edge on national security issues. Go figure.

The second story that largely got lost in the McCain campaign’s efforts to talk about anything except the worst economy since the Great Depression, was testimony to the House Armed Services Committee by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen. He told Congress, “I am not convinced that we are winning it in Afghanistan,” and “we are running out of time.” Our Afghan strategy, he said, was failing.

John McCain would like any discussion about Iraq to start with the surge and ignore the faulty decision to go to war and the disastrous first five years of that war. But it is now painfully clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Bush Administration and its war champions, such as McCain, grossly underestimated the challenge in Afghanistan, where the people who attacked us on 9/11 were based, when they bit off another major war against a country that did not. With the military vastly overstretched, and nearly 150,000 troops and $10 billion a month committed to Iraq, it’s no wonder the slog in Afghanistan continues and victory remains elusive.

If we keep talking about lipstick and pigs and sex education while ominous threats continue to build around us, we will continue to court serious trouble. But what ought to appall every American is a presidential campaign that seems determined to shift our focus to trivialities, and which won’t even let one of its candidates, a person who may called upon to defend us from the very threats we have dangerously ignored for seven years, speak to the press.

After the one-day campaign hiatus to mark the worst attack ever on U.S. soil, we will be right back to lipstick and pigs from the campaign whose motto is “Country First.” But if we are attacked again, we will look back and wonder how in the world we could have cared about lipstick on pigs, and how ill-served we were by a campaign that demeaned both the American people and the once-honorable war hero who ran such a dishonorable campaign.

Lipstick and Pigs

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Barack Obama, September 2008, referring to President Bush’s policies.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” John McCain, October 2007, referring to Hillary Clinton’s health care policy.

Memo to the Presidential Campaigns from the Committee on the Use of Politically Correct Language in the Presidential Campaigns.

Since candidate Palin mentioned that she wears lipstick (after unflatteringly comparing herself to a vicious breed of dog), any use of the word “lipstick” by the Obama campaign is hereby decreed to be a sexist attack against the candidate, regardless of context and regardless of the exact same use of said unmentionable word by John McCain referring to policies of Hillary Clinton.

Similarly, the Obama campaign is hereby warned against using the word “bitch” to refer to (a) female dogs or (b) as a substitute for the word “complain,” as in “stop bitching about the food.” Any use of this word will be now be taken to be a direct attack against candidate Palin.

Also now off-limits is the use of the word “cosmetics” since said word could be used to suggest lipstick. Even in other contexts this word is forbidden. For example, the Obama campaign may not say, “the differences between McCain’s policies and Bush’s are purely cosmetic” because the clear implication is that Sarah Palin is a pig.

It is further ordered that the Obama campaign refrain from use of the words “lip” and “stick” since either could be interpreted as code for a secret attack on candidate Palin. For example, the Obama campaign may not say to candidate Palin, “bite your lip,” or “we should stick to discussing issues that really matter to the American people such as the $10 billion we are spending a month in Iraq while the economy goes down the tubes.” Nor should the Obama campaign suggest that when it comes to the $400 billion budget deficit rung up by the Bush administration that we are “going to stick future generations with the bill.” Clearly, such statements are way outside the bounds of proper political discourse.

Now, as for the McCain campaign, we would like to point out that Barack Obama is African-American. To be more precise, he is half African-American and half Caucasian. Therefore, we are making the following rules for the McCain campaign.

The word “shade” is hereby forbidden since it can be used in a derogatory way to describe an African-American. Thus, the McCain campaign cannot accuse anyone of “shading the truth” since that would be a direct reference to candidate Obama’s heritage. We also suggest that candidates McCain and Palin refrain, while traveling on their airplanes, for example, from saying “will you shut the shades so I can sleep.” That would be racist.

And any reference to the popular dairy product known as “Half and Half” is similarly off-limits for reasons so obvious we don’t need to explain it here.

All references to primates of any kind are forbidden because there was a time when African-Americans were compared by some racists to some of those primates. Accordingly, candidates McCain and Palin may not say, “I was just monkeying around when I said that I have foreign policy experience because Russia is near Alaska.” Also to be avoided are phrases such as “I have to get that monkey off my back” (even if in reference to said $400 billion Bush budget deficit) or “Trooper Wooten went ape-shit when I tried to get him fired.” Those will be seen as direct insults to candidate Obama.

The McCain campaign also may not use the word “black” in any way, shape or form. Thus, they may not refer to their own senior campaign advisor and one-time lobbyist for some of the world’s most repressive dictators as “Charlie Black,” or “Mr. Black,” even though that is his name. To avoid confusion he must always be referred to as “Mr. Senior Campaign Advisor and One-time Lobbyist for Some of the World’s Most Repressive Dictators.” To avoid any possible insult to candidate Obama, no one in the McCain campaign may use phrases such as “dark night,” “black cat,” or “in the black,” even if referring to a moonless evening, a household pet, or a budget surplus (try finding one of those these days!) It is also recommended that no one in the McCain campaign listen to the rock classic “Whiter Shade of Pale.”

Thank you and may the best “man” win.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The World According to the GOP

John McCain, said Sarah Palin in her acceptance speech at the RNC, is the only man in the race who has actually fought for his country, implying that the only way to ‘fight” for your country is with a gun. But, in 2004 the only man in the race to see combat was John Kerry. “W” was AWOL from the Texas National Guard and Cheney had “other priorities.” So, in 2004 the GOP smeared Kerry with outright lies about his service.

Mega-millionaire Mitt Romney, he of vast inherited wealth, railed against “elites.” McCain, of course, owns seven houses and wears $500 shoes and married into great wealth. Nevertheless, Barack Obama, son of a single mother who was once on food stamps works his way through college and Harvard Law School, thereby making him an elitist. In what other country in the world would attending Harvard be a bad thing? His story sounds like the American Dream to me.

Ask millions of ordinary folks and they will tell you that they have a “community organizer” to thank for heating oil in winter, a roof over their heads, and access to health care and job training. But to the GOP the very term “community organizer” is an epithet. Real experience is raising taxes in Wasilla, Alaska to build a new hockey rink.

Mitt Romney, again, he of the 180 flip flop on abortion, guns and about everything else you can think of since he was governor of Massachusetts (another epithet – “Governor of Massachusetts” – once used against Michael Dukakis as if Massachusetts were a Soviet republic) rails against “liberal Washington,” apparently forgetting that for the last eight years his party has controlled the White House and, for six of those years, Congress, too.

The Democrats are the party of “tax and spend.” (How many times can they repeat that?) The GOP of course is simply the party of spend and spend. Clinton left office with a massive budget surplus. In eight short years Bush turned it into a half trillion-dollar deficit. The GOP: the party of fiscal responsibility.

Now, I for one do not think Bristol Palin’s pregnancy says anything about her mother’s fitness as a parent or a politician. Bad things happen in good families. But Sarah Palin opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. She rails against government intrusion into our lives, but would have government force on every pregnant teen the same “choice” her daughter made. Now, Bristol and her boyfriend are celebrated by the GOP as paragons of “family values” for “deciding” to marry and have the child. Imagine for a minute what would have happened if Barack Obama had a pregnant teenage daughter. OH MY GOD! It would be vicious.

George Bush praised John McCain in his convention “speech”(he’s so toxic he stayed away and Cheney’s name hasn’t even been mentioned) by saying McCain was tough enough to stand up to North Vietnamese torture, so he certainly wouldn’t cave in to the “angry left.” No, after the evangelicals threatened a convention floor fight over his first two veep choices, Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, McCain caved in to the extreme right. The left is angry? Though the GOP has been in control for the last eight years, that was one angry crowd of Republicans at the convention. What are they so angry about? Eight years after Bush promised to “change the tone in Washington,” the GOP unleashed a barrage of ugly attacks at “liberals.” And one night after the caustic, sarcastic blistering attacks, John McCain called for an end to partisan rancor. Did he watch the previous night's proceedings?

For nearly two years, Barack Obama was been “vetted” by the public and the press in a series of grueling primaries and countless debates. Joe Biden has a thirty-plus year record of public service that has also been vetted in numerous campaigns. Along comes Sarah Palin on a Friday, and by the following Wednesday the McCain campaign is accusing everyone in sight of sexism and trying to destroy her for trying to find out who she is, what she’s done, and, importantly, how carefully the McCain campaign vetted her, given some early surprise disclosures. Excuse us for trying to learn something about the PTA president, small town mayor and first term governor of Alaska who could soon be in command of our nuclear arsenal. Video showing her saying that the war in Iraq is essentially a mission from God wasn’t very reassuring.

And now we learn from the McCain campaign, that Sarah Palin, who most Americans had never heard of ten days ago, won't be doing any unscripted press interview (she will, I predict, show up on FOX with Hannity or O'Reilly and answer questions she's been fed in advance). The press was too mean the first go 'round, they say, so they won't get another chance. Ha! Please. If she can't face the press, is she ready to be president of the United States? They are buying time so they can stuff her head with briefing book material as if the presidency is a job you can prepare for in eight weeks.

Finally, today's Anchorage Daily News accuses Palin of "stonewalling" the Troopergate investigation. And Republicans in the Alaska legislature are trying to replace the head of the legislative panel doing the investigation. Guess what? The person they are trying to replace is a Democrat. Yup. This is the ticket for "change."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin again

You can see comments on the net already blaming Barack Obama for the Trig Palin rumor. These people obviously haven't seen the hatchet jobs from the right that accuse Obama of being a Muslim, for example. The new book by Swift Boater Jim Corsi is nothing but a pack of vicious innuendo and outright lies. Has John McCain disavowed it? There are nuts at every end of the political spectrum.

More striking is watching GOP members of Congress and other GOP talking heads duck questions about whether Sarah Palin is the most qualified person McCain could have selected for the vice presidency. They simply will not say "yes." They hem, they haw, they attack Obama's experience and tout her "executive" experience. Hey, the manager of my local McDonald's has "executive" experience, too. So does every mayor of every tiny town in America. It doesn't make them qualified to be president. And while I am sure being governor of Alaska is tougher than running a McDonald's, it's nothing compared to running a decent sized American city.

You can already see the "resignation" letter to come. "Rather than be a distraction to the campaign, I am today announcing my withdrawal from the 2008 presidential race."

One other quick point: if the Palins knew of their daughter's pregnancy, and knew, as they surely did, the merciless scrutiny they were about to undergo, why would anyone put a young girl through this? And they said the news was released today to put the Trig Palin rumors to rest. If these rumors hadn't surfaced, when exactly were they planning to share this news?

The Palin Drama

The McCain campaign put a quick stop to the speculation about Sarah Palin's fifth pregnancy today with another stunner: that Trig Palin cannot be be the child of Palin's 17-year old daughter, Bristol, because Bristol, who had supposedly missed several months of school with a case of mono, is now five months pregnant.

The McCain campaign immediately rushed to assure us McCain knew this when he selected Palin (a dubious claim to me), as if that excuses his selection of a patently unqualified running mate. Cindy McCain assures us Sarah Palin knows a lot about Russia because of its proximity to Alaska. I have personally been to Russia ten times and have read widely about Russia for 20 years and I wouldn't pretend to have the knowledge needed to deal with Russia as a potential president.

The McCain campaign, and right wing zealots also quickly denounced liberal bloggers for what they see as unseemly rumor mongering. And the Palin's believe the subject of their daughter's pregnancy is more of private than public matter. But just imagine if Barack Obama had a 17 year old daughter who was pregnant. What would those same zealots be saying now? It would be merciless.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin in the Blogosphere

The web is crackling with rumors and speculation this evening about the circumstances surrounding the birth of Trig Palin, the fifth child of Alaska governor Sarah Palin, named on Friday to be John McCain’s running mate.

Some of the speculation is based on news stories published in the Alaska press around the time of Trig’s birth. This much is not rumor: Governor Palin’s pregnancy came as a complete surprise when she announced it because she was already seven months pregnant and did not appear to be pregnant (Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2008). In April, when she was eight months pregnant, Palin was at an energy conference in Texas where she was scheduled to speak. According to her own account, reported in Alaska newspapers, at about 4 am on the morning she was scheduled to speak she began to leak amniotic fluid. Nevertheless, she gave the speech several hours later then headed for the airport after consulting her Alaska physician who told her it was safe to fly. The flight from Dallas to Anchorage required a change of planes and she arrived approximately 8 hours later in Anchorage (Fairbanks News-Miner, April 22, 2008). According to Palin, one reason she flew home was her desire that the baby be born in Alaska. Upon arriving in Anchorage she traveled about 45 minutes to a hospital near Wasilla where the 6 pound, 2 ounce baby boy was born early on the morning following the Governor’s departure from Texas.

The medical advice Palin received, that it was safe to fly home, is highly questionable. Almost any OB/GYN will tell you that once fluid starts to leak, a pregnant mother needs to get to a hospital as soon as possible. There is a risk of infection and delay can place mother and baby in danger. While the judgment of the doctor, and Palin herself, has been called into question, what’s buzzing around the Internet is far more bizarre. It’s the rumor that the child is not Palin’s, but her 16 year old daughter’s. The reason Palin had to get back to Alaska, according to this speculation, was that Palin needed to be near or with her daughter for the alleged cover-up to work.

The circumstantial evidence is hardly enough to come to a conclusion, but it is curious that a 44 year old mother of four would delay seeking medical attention, board a long flight to Alaska, put herself and her baby at risk for the vanity of having the child born in Alaska. Typically, the time that elapses from the leaking or breaking of amniotic fluid (Palin’s story about whether her water “broke” was revised after the event) to birth is shorter for women who have had previous children. Indeed, many airlines have policies against women flying in such a condition, though Alaska Airlines, on which Palin appears to have flown, leaves it up to the judgment of the passenger.

It has also been floating in the blogosphere that Palin’s 16 year old daughter had, in the four to five months prior to Trig’s birth, been on leave from her Anchorage high school with mononucleosis. I have not seen a contemporaneous Alaska newspaper report to this effect, however.

The story would seem to be too bizarre to be true, but for the very odd, and undisputed accounts of the Governor’s travel back to Alaska from Texas, and her ability to keep news of her pregnancy a complete secret into the seventh month. But, again, this could all be wild speculation. If that’s the case, I am sorry for repeating it. But at the very least, a legitimate question is Governor Palin’s judgment in risking her own health and that of her unborn baby by delaying medical attention once she noticed, in Dallas, that she was leaking amniotic fluid. But this would have no bearing on her candidacy.

If this story is true, however, and that’s big “if,” look, obviously, for Palin to be dropped from the ticket. If it is true, and it breaks before the convention, McCain will not be the nominee since the blow to his claims of judgment will be destroyed. The convention would be thrown wide open. Who would want to accept the GOP nomination under this scenario? Probably no one except Mitt Romney. He’s so desperate to be noticed he’d throw himself under the bus for the party.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Who?

All over America today, from Presque Isle, Maine to Elko, Nevada, from Cozad, Nebraska to Raton, New Mexico you could hear the sound of small town mayors and city managers weighing their vice-presidential and even presidential prospects. Yes, those chief executives who deploy the snow plows and sanders, command legions of sewer workers, hire and fire park and rec directors, and preside over pancake breakfasts at the old Grange now know they are just 18 months of experience running a state of 650,000 people from being serious presidential timber. At least according to John McCain.

Each of our would-be Commanders in Chief just made their first crucial national security decision. Barack Obama concluded that should he be unable to serve, or were to die in office, he would put the country and the US military in the hands of a six-term Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a man widely respected on both sides of the aisle. McCain, who is after all 72 and a four time cancer survivor which makes his choice more than academic, chose a person who before her year and a half as governor of the tiny state of Alaska (pop. 650,000) was mayor of a town of 6,000 people.

In his acceptance speech in Denver last night, Obama said if John McCain wants to debate who has the judgment and temperament to be Commander in Chief he would welcome that debate. Incredibly, he won it and he didn't even have to fire a shot. He just let John McCain shoot himself in the foot. Goodness, even Dick Cheney has better aim than that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A World Gone Mad

The other day, in the wake of the war that erupted between Russia and Georgia, both President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said something rather astonishing. They said that in the 21st century it was simply unacceptable that one country would invade another sovereign nation and occupy it.

Wow. Somehow the invasion and bloody occupation of Iraq must have slipped their minds.

Honestly, can you believe these people? Do they have no sense or shame at all?

Now, this isn’t a justification for Russia’s actions in Georgia (hopefully the President realized this was a country south of Russia and not a state south of South Carolina), but it really does make you wonder if Bush and Rice (a) think anyone is listening to them anymore or (b) think people are too stupid to see the obvious flaws in the logic. At the very least, couldn’t they phrase their comments in such a way so that they don’t look so stupid? At least the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had the sense to say that such invasions have no place in the 21st century….in Europe.

More doublespeak came from our new attorney general who, in deciding no one would be prosecuted for the blatant use of political litmus tests in the hiring and firing of U.S, attorneys (i.e. only right wing ideologues faithful to the GOP need apply and, by the way, no lesbians), actually said, conveniently for the Administration, that not every violation of the law is a crime. Glad we’re clear on that. And torture isn’t torture if we redefine torture either.

If you watched Bush interviewed during the Olympics by Bob Costas what you saw was a man so smug and cocksure of himself, you had to wonder whether his arrogance is inversely proportional to his poll numbers. By now the litany of Bush’s grotesque and stupendous failings is so long it can make you crazy just to think about it.

One that somehow vanished in the news cycle last week is contained in a new book by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Ron Suskind. The Bush Administration, and Suskind makes it clear it had to have been Bush or his boss, Dick Cheney, ordered, in writing, that the CIA forge a document that turned up in Iraq, a document over the signature of a former Iraqi intelligence chief now comfortably retired with $5 million of CIA money, that links Saddam Hussein to Al Queda. They were so desperate to prove the case for war when no WMD were found, they stooped to this. I'm sorry, but if you;re going to send thousands of young men and woman to die in combat, then you ought to at least have the decency to make an honest case.

So, let us now remember why it was that the Republican-controlled Congress impeached Bill Clinton and we had a Senate trial, the first since Andrew Johnson’s. You mean to tell me that lying about...well, you the type of high crime or misdemeanor the framers considered an impeachable offense and sending thousands to die on the basis of lies and misinformation is not? I wouldn't put that question to Bush's attorney general.

The world has been turned inside out. In Bush World black is white, up is down, and two plus two equals five. It makes me sick.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bush in China

There’s no doubt that China’s human rights record is abysmal. But isn’t there more than a little irony in President Bush of all people going to the Olympic Games in Beijing and taking China to task on human rights?

I am sure the President doesn’t get it: that secret prisons, torture of terror suspects, and images of Iraqi prisoners with hoods over their heads and wired to batteries, or being stripped naked and sexually humiliated, doesn’t exactly enhance his moral authority on the issue. You see, this is one of the real costs the United States is paying for eight years of madness. We’ve lost any moral high ground we once held.

Yet, when an American politician (Barack Obama) is welcomed in Europe by enormous, enthusiastic crowds, the Republicans see this as a negative. Being loathed by Europeans is turned into a positive because those Europeans they’re so…so..well, un-American. There was a time when the image of an American leader being revered by foreigners was a source of pride and patriotism. It meant the world held us in high regard, that our values were both desirable and desired, and that we inspired hope in others. Somehow that’s all been turned on its head. Now, to be adored or celebrated abroad is to be Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.

How low can we go? Ask President Bush.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Only Six Months To Go

In six long months, the most disastrous presidency in American history will come to a close, though the damage will last for decades, perhaps generations.

As George W. Bush rides off into the sunset on his high horse, leaving behind a country drained by six years of war, an economy in shambles, and a Constitution put through the shredder, I thought I’d offer him some unsolicited advice on what he can do with his free time. By his own account he expects to make a ton of dough giving speeches, but maybe first he should, in some small way, atone for his many sins.

First, I suggest he grab a shovel, a hammer and some nails and go to New Orleans’s Ninth Ward and help clean up the mess his incompetent, indifferent leadership in the wake of Katrina helped to create, or at least helped to prolong for years after the event.

Then, I suggest he and former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other members of the administration tour carnivals around the country and do a water boarding act so we can see for ourselves what they’ve been telling us all along: that water boarding isn’t torture.

After the tour, the president should take a metal detector and spend a few months in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. Like our troops, he should ride in an unprotected Humvee and inadequate body armor. When he comes back he should spend an hour with every family who has lost a child in Iraq, and another with every soldier suffering grievous wounds, physical or psychological, fighting the war over those weapons of mass destruction. To each of them he should say, simply, “I’m sorry. I ask for your forgiveness.”

After he apologizes to those soldiers and families, it will be time for his trans-arctic swim, now possible because of the melting of the polar ice cap. From the top of the world he can explain why his administration silenced the government’s own scientists on global warming, spent seven years denying the problem even existed, and the next year proposing woefully inadequate solutions that were music to the ears of the big energy companies.

When he dries off, it will time for the president to don all that fighter-pilot gear he wore on the USS Lincoln when he declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, and scour the mountains near Tora Bora for Osama bin Laden who slipped from our grasp because Bush tried to sub-contract out his killing or capture, then took his eye off the ball and blustered and lied his way into Iraq.

When the ex-president returns from Afghanistan, he should pump gas at a Texas service station for a spell and explain to average Americans why the price of a barrel of oil went from about $30 when he became president to more than $130 today. Does it have anything to do with his energy policy?

When he recovers from the wounds suffered at the hands of angry motorists, he can visit a senior center and explain why people (not just seniors) who invested their retirement savings in the stock market (an idea he touted in his failed plan to privatize social security) have seen the Dow Jones Industrial Average rise about 8% (that’s a total, not an annual return) over the eight years of his presidency when historical averages would have brought a total return of nearly 100%. He can also explain how his tax cuts, a third of which went to the top 1% of taxpayers, have led us to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from Japan and China to keep our government, and our wars, running. While he’s at it maybe he can explain why the U.S. dollar is worth less than a Canadian dollar. Does any of this have anything to with his economic policies?

And finally, Mr. Bush should go duck hunting with Dick Cheney so he knows what it’s been like to be an average American during his reign.

Friday, July 18, 2008

That Man is Half Naked!

For the past few years, as I've followed my usual cycling route through the backroads of Boston's more rural surroundings, I've often seen a trim, bald, elderly man on an old bicycle taking a leisurely ride. What makes him especially noticable is that he wears only large glasses, red shorts, sandals and a countenance that suggests a man very much at peace with himself. Every time I see him I vow to stop and talk with him: surely, I think, there must be a story here.

Well, yesterday was my day. I saw the gentleman stopped by the side of the road for a drink of water. So, I glided over, removed my helmet and told him what I've just told you. His name is Dan Kan and he lived most of his life in Holland before moving to Israel and the United States. He's a mathemetician by profession, a good profession, he notes, because you can do it for as long as you live and, he confided, with some cardiovascular disease and borderline diabetes, he didn't expect to be alive at 80. He will soon turn 81. He rides every day in the good weather, usually 20-25 miles.

"Your cardiologist must be very happy that you're getting all that exercise," I said. I often have a hunch that a conversation is going to lead to some unexpected connection, usually one that is less than the proverbial six degrees of separation. "Who is your cardiologist?" I asked.

"Brian Bilchik," he replied, "but it used to be Tom Graboys." Voila!

I had just helped Tom Graboys publish a memoir of the Parkinson's disease and dementia that forced his early retirement from medicine (the book is "Life in the Balance: A Physician's Memoir or Life, Love and Loss with Parkinson's Disease and Dementia" from Union Square Press), an event that led Dan Kan to start seeing Tom's partner, Brian Bilchik at Boston's famed Lown Cardiovascular Center. Coincidentally, from 1998-2000 I worked at the Lown Center as Executive Director of the research foundation that is based there. I've known both Tom and Brian for many years.

What are the chances?

I was always struck by the elegant simplicity of Dan on his bike. No fancy wheels, no fancy bike clothes. Just a half naked man enjoying the outdoors unencumbered, so it seemed, in every way. To be able to do that when I'm his age... I always thought.

But I asked Dan about the danger of riding helmetless. He shrugged it off. Perhaps when you are nearly 81 and living days that you see as a bonus anyway you can take your chances.

Then Dan gave me the once over in my lycra bike shorts, clip-in shoes, and colorful biking jersey. In his heavily accented English he said with a smile, "you look rather generic." It was a wonderful choice of words: I guess I looked like every other suburban Lance Armstrong wannabe who had passed him over the years. I explained the practical benefits: more comfort in the saddle, greater visibility to passing cars, but he was not persuaded. And truth be told, I sometimes wish I could throw caution to the wind and ride as he does: half naked. Just me, my glasses, and a pair of shorts. Oh yes, don't forget the bike.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm Back

OK, I'm back. Every year since 1990 my wife, my kids and I have gone to the beach for a week in early July. We live within an hour's drive of a lot of beautiful beaches so naturally we fly 3,000 miles to the coast of Oregon and spend a week there.

I'll be brief today. In a post a couple of week's ago I pointed out that if historical averages had held during the Bush presidency, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was about 10,500 when Bush was sworn into office in January 2001, would now be closing in on 19,000 or so. A couple of weeks ago it was just below 12,000, meaning that it had risen a paltry 2% a year or less while Bush was busy making a mess of everything he touched. Well, the Dow is now just under 11,000.

Think about this. There have been single days, rare and extraordinary to be sure, when the Dow has risen 400 points in a day. Yet, after eight years of Bush economic policies, it now sits about 400 points above where it was when he took office nearly eight years ago! Of course it's not his fault. Nothing ever is.

With John McCain all but declaring we have won in Iraq because the violence is down, but with no end to the U.S. occupation in sight, things in Afghanistan have detriorated and McCain (and Obama) is calling for more troops to be sent there. It's endless, folks. So many people to fight, so few armies to fight them with.

When I collect my thoughts on some subject or other I will be back with a more fulsome new post.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

From the Files

Shortly after George W. Bush was sworn into office in January of 2001, beginning what can now aptly be described as his "reign of terror," I wrote a piece that went unpublished. In truth, there weren't many outlets for a piece like this; I tried the "Shouts and Murmurs" section of The New Yorker and got a nice handwritten note saying they liked it and I should try again in the future. I rather liked this piece, too, which imagined a "conversation" by instant messaging between the newly inaugurated president and then Russian president Vladimir Putin. It's a bit dated, but as the Alfred E. Neuman presidency comes to a close, it's nice to think back to those early days when there was something funny about the idea of a goofball from Crawford, Texas assuming the role of leader of the free world. Of course, as you survey the wreckage of the USS United States he isn't so funny anymore.

In the event, here is the column that never ran:

The advent of Instant Messaging (IM) promises to improve the Moscow/Washington "hot-line," established originally as a telex link to help avert nuclear war, as evidenced by this exchange on the evening of January 20, 2001.

vputin007: privyet, mr president. i see i am not only one who cannot sleep. let me be first, on behalf of soviet people, to say congratulations on soviet-style election victory :-)

dubbya2: and let me be the first to say there have to be con-se-quences.

vputin007: what is dubbya2? some kind of tax form? :-)

dubbya2: very cute. i thought i read somewhere that the soviet union doesn't exist.

vputin007: my mistake. u r correct. ussr not on map, but lives in hearts and minds of countrymen. like florida.

dubbya2: thank u for clarification. there still have to be con-se-quences.

vputin007: foreign minister eager to know where next russian ambassador should be posted, washington or tallahassee.

dubbya2: i will check with secretary of state katherine harris™.

vputin007: what happened to colin powell. he sang at republican national convention, no?

dubbya2: my mistake. will check with powell.

vputin007: we have much to discuss. pls. visit moscow at first opportunity.

dubbya2: can u send directions?

vputin007: yes, but easy to find. look for golden arches. ( ) when can u come?

dubbya2: will check with laura in a.m. what do we need to have a con-ver-sation about?

vputin007: russian government very concerned about many things. especially school voucher program.

dubbya2: school voucher program!?

vputin007: just kidding! :-)

dubbya2: you had me there for a minute vladimir.

vputin007: please, call me mr president, mr president. is what I call u. :-)

dubbya2: ok, you don't have to get snippy about it. texas is an informal place.

vputin007: yes, but we r not in texas anymore r we, toto?

dubbya2: who is toto?

vputin007: little dog in favorite movie, wizard of odds, about jimmy the greek.

dubbya2: wizard of odds?

vputin007: just kidding again mr president! :-) is little dog in big american movie about people who hide from tornado in bomb shelter which brings me to big upset.

dubbya2: what's that?

vputin007: u know. big upset. major concern. large worry :-(

dubbya2: yes, yes. i know what an upset is. don't un-der-esti-mate me. what is your big worry?

vputin007: missile shield to protect states with 271 electoral votes.

dubbya2: u have nothing to fear from a missile shield. all the best scientists say it won't work.>>>(>>>=ΩΩΩ

vputin007: then why u.s. of a. prepared to spend 100 billion on it? is a lot of caviar.

dubbya2: good question. will ask rumsfeld. he is my wizard of odds.

vputin007: if u.s. of a. builds missile shield russia will have no choice but build many more missiles. ∆∆∆∆∆∆∆. look like hershey kisses, no? how would u like to have big hershey kiss planted on Austin? :-)

dubbya2: don't mess with texas :-x

vputin007: conversation not leading anywhere. seriousness of situation not appreciated. :-(

dubbya2: what situation?

vputin007: situation between russia and u.s. of a. russia going down proverbial toilet. needs help of u.s. of a. to avoid plunger.

dubbya2: i can have agriculture secretary send vouchers redeemable at golden arches ( )

vputin007: there will be consequences.

dubbya2: r u threatening me, mr president?

vputin007: maybe instant messaging not best way to communicate.

dubbya2: what else is on your mind?

vputin007: baseball.

dubbya2: what about it?

vputin007: u big baseball man. russia would like expansion franchise in irkutsk. lots of baseball fans in irkutsk. short season though. ground thawed only two weeks in august.

dubbya2: so u r talking about some kind of, what do they call it, cul-tur-al ex-change pro-gram?

vputin007: nyet. am talking about moving milwaukee brewers to irkutsk. players can freeze baseballs off there :-)

dubbya2: i'm afraid i can't help you there, mr president.

vputin007: call me, vladimir, george. moscow very informal place.

dubbya2: i will put u in touch with bud selig.

vputin007: is he dog in beer commercials?

dubbya2: no he's the commissioner of baseball. like czar.

vputin007: what does he think of missile shield? :-)

dubbya2: i never asked him.

vputin007: just think for cost of missile shield you could have alex rodriguez play secretary of treasury. hah! :-)

dubbya2: it's been a long day, vladimir, and tomorrow I have to start my new job :-)

vputin007: what is new job? mr cheney's valet? hah! :-)

dubbya2: very funny. job of being president of all the people. so far only american league fans r on board.

vputin007: well, sleep well, mr president. russia sleeping very well at moment but don't wake bear.

dubbya2: i won't. i always sleep in pajamas. g2g.

vputin007: me, too. have meeting of top military brass in one hour to discuss putting IM in missile silos! good idea, huh? like r u 486. ttyl :-)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Load Your Guns!

As every first year law student learns (I know, I was a first year law student once), a basic rule of statutory construction is always to interpret the language of a law or regulation so as to give meaning to all its words. Or, to put it another way, if a particular interpretation would render some of the language meaningless, go back and try again. Only if you’ve exhausted the possibilities and the words still can’t be made to make sense can you conclude that the “meaningless words” were slipped in as a practical joke by some guy named Biff down in the printing room.

The Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 landmark decision striking down a District of Columbia hand gun ban made a mockery of this basic rule of statutory construction. If, as the majority ruled, the framers intended there to be a private run to gun ownership the second amendment would simply have read: “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But, that is NOT what it says. It says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Apparently, that guy named Biff in his wire-framed glasses and ink-stained smock who was charged with printing the Bill of Rights pulled a fast one by inserting that first part because the Supreme Court just ruled that, for all practical purposes, those words were never written and are not a part of the Bill of Rights. But those words place a clear qualification on the right of citizens to keep and bear arms: that they be part of a "well-regulated Militia," and this doesn't mean a bunch of extremists in Montana because those guys aren't well-regulated at all.

Writing for the Court, Justice Scalia, the same justice who wrote that giving detainees at Guantanamo the right to challenge their detentions in federal court would cost American lives, claimed that the Court did not have the power to render the second amendment extinct. What he meant to say, I’m sure, is that the Court only had the power to render PART of the second amendment extinct. And if he thinks giving detainees access to the courts will cost American lives, wait ‘till he sees how much more carnage there will be now that he’s virtually declared the entire country a free fire zone. What next? If this Court is asked to define "arms" hold on to your hat because five justices might just conclude that "arms" could include your own cruise missile, Bradley armored fighting vehicle, and suitcase nuke. After all, the founding fathers couldn't conceive of some of the modern weapons that are, apparently, part of the right to bear arms. So, where do we draw the line?

Which brings me to another point. All you Hillary supporters who are thinking of voting for John McCain? Get over it. How long do you think it will be until this Court overrules Roe v. Wade? Are you really prepared to bite your nose to spite your face and extend the Bush legacy for four more years? OK, John McCain would have to really put his mind to it to f__k things up as badly as Bush, but are you willing to give him the chance?

This is what it has come to. A large swath of Americans, including some who were actually viable presidential candidates (i.e. Mike Huckabee) don’t believe in evolution despite overwhelming scientific evidence. They believe, instead, in Intelligent Design, which is supported by exactly zero scientific evidence. (By the way, if there were an Intelligent Design to the Universe would George Bush be president?) Republicans in Congress bring a halt to the nation’s business and the President flies to Washington all the way from Texas to try and keep one brain dead woman, Terry Schiavo, on life support (it’s the “culture of life”) even as they fight to put more guns on the street, guns we know are being used by Americans to kill Americans in horrifying numbers. How, exactly, do they square this "culture of life" with the gun violence that accompanies easy access to guns in this country? Did you know there are politicians who think the answer to gun violence is more guns? Seriously. I saw some of them on TV. They argue that if students and faculty on college campuses were armed they could have prevented the Virginia Tech shootings, for example. These people apparently don't know much about college life which is a combustible mix of drugs, alcohol, testosterone, and the occasional philosophy course. Great idea. Let's throw a bunch of guns in there and see what happens! And, this is what it's come to in this country: we can’t have life-saving stem-cell research because we need to protect the life of an embryo, but we think nothing of sending young men and women, many who have actual children, not to mention embryos of their own, to their deaths in a wrong-headed, unnecessary war. Those embryos we're saving from stem-cell research apparently have more value than the 35,000 actual people who will die gun-related deaths this year. Go figure.

But, you know, George Bush says he sleeps well at night. Good for him. But I wish he would, just once before he rides off into his multi-million dollar retirement sunset, show one brief moment of self-doubt; just one tiny glimpse of remorse. I wish he’d just get up there and say, “I’m sorry.” I mean, it’s no small feat to bring a country to its knees, especially your own.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George W. Bush: A True American Hero (Not)

Every week for the past two years or so I have obsessively watched George Bush’s poll numbers at, which provides regular updates of all the major polls. I noticed a couple of things. First, typically the poll taken by FOX news showed Bush’s favorability rating a few points higher than most other polls. That’s probably because they polled 1,200 people of whom 1,150 were Sean Hannity who would defend Bush even if he were caught mugging Hannity’s own mother. And we all know what a reputable, fair and balanced news organization FOX is. It speaks volumes about FOX that you can get more reliable information about the world from watching “Family Guy” on FOX than you can by watching any of their so-called newscasts. Second, I noticed no matter how hard FOX tried to give Bush a little nudge up, for the past two years he rarely even hit a 40% favorability rating.

Bush hasn’t been higher than 29%-30% in any poll in recent weeks, and in the most recent L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll his approval rating is at an astonishing 23%, with 73% disapproving of his performance. But to me it isn't astonishing that his poll numbers are so low; it’s astonishing that they're so high! The Bush legacy of incompetence, ignorance and arrogance is by now well–documented, even by his own former press secretary. So what do these 29% (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on the L.A. Times/Bloomberg numbers) see in Bush?

If you are old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s first campaign, against the peanut farmer from Georgia, you will recall that Reagan made a lot of hay by asking Americans a simple, if arrestingly self-absorbed question: “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” If the answer was “no,” and it will be recalled that the Carter years were marked by soaring interest rates and high inflation, the suggestion was that you should vote for Reagan.

So, let’s start by asking ourselves the same question: are we better off than we were eight years ago? And let’s look at it the way Republicans look at it, which is to say, from a purely selfish, financial point of view.

The day Bush was sworn in for the first time, after the Supreme Court handed him a presidency he lost fair and square, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) stood at 10,587. Historically, the market gains about 8% a year on average, meaning it doubles, again on average, every nine years or so. Which means that had historical averages prevailed, the Dow today would be somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000. It would be up by nearly 100%. Where is it really? Somewhere south of 11,500. In other words, it is up under George Bush by about 10%, or a pathetic 1-2% a year. Consumer confidence is at or near an all time low. Millions are losing their homes. Job growth is nil. Our huge budget deficits are being financed by the Japanese and the Chinese who own many hundreds of billions of dollars worth of U.S. treasuries. A U.S. dollar is now worth less than a Canadian dollar. If you are breathing you know the economy is in the tank, literally. Goodness, when oilman Bush came into office the price of oil was about $20 a barrel. Today? Try $135. Oh, and have you checked the value of your home lately?

Now, I understand the president can't control all economic events, but if Reagan asked the question in 1980, it's fair to ask it again in 2008. And by any measure, the economic life of the average American has suffered mightily under Bush and his master, Dick “Shoot Straight” Cheney. (Hedge fund managers are not, by the way, average Americans.) Remember that for the first six years of the Bush presidency he had a GOP controlled Congress. And what did they do with the budget surplus racked up under Clinton? It’s now a massive deficit to be paid for by our children and grandchildren. They spent like drunken sailors. And this is the party of fiscal discipline? While they were throwing billions at Iraq, most of which went to well-connected private contractors, they told you you could have you cake and eat it, too. They cut taxes to the tune of about $270 billion, of which the richest 1% of Americans got $90 billion, the next 9% got $90 billion, and the rest of us, the bottom 90% got $90 billion. That’s called tax equity.

But, you know, when I ask myself the “are you better off” question, I think of it not just as a money question (I know this is hard for Republicans to wrap their heads around). I think about it in terms of the country my kids are growing up in. Here’s where Bush really shines.

Thousands of young Americans have died in Iraq, not to mention countless Iraqis. It’s now beyond debate that the Bush crowd built a phony case for war. I don’t care how many American flag lapel pins Bush and Cheney wear on their suits, it is unpatriotic and un-American to send kids to die and be maimed in a war you ginned up. It’s even worse to send them to war without the equipment they need and to have them return without adequate health care and other supports they will need, many for the rest of their lives. I don’t care how many American flag lapel pins they pin on their chests, but it is unpatriotic and un-American to expose an undercover CIA agent because her husband presented evidence, now proved correct, that undercut your case for war. I don’t care how many American flag lapel pins they glue to their foreheads, but it is unpatriotic and un-American to sanction torture. Goodness, what kind of America is this? It is an America that is no longer respected in the world, a weakened America that has no moral authority anymore.

Let’s talk about the environment for a minute. Bush/Cheney spent the first seven years of their reign dismissing all the accumulating scientific evidence on climate change, even going so far as to silence some of the government's top climate scientists. (These people have no faith in science, only in their own divine wisdom.) They have spent the last year proposing utterly inadequate measures to deal with what is unquestionably a looming planetary crisis. Modern day Neros, they have fiddled while the planet burned. What a colossal waste of time. The argument always seems to be, we can’t cap carbon emissions because the economy will suffer. Wow. How much worse can it get?

Finally (one could go on for seven or eight years like this because it’s hard to imagine a day that Bush hasn’t inflicted some additional harm on the body politic), there are Bush’s famous signing statements, the ones he attaches to every piece of legislation he intends to ignore – many hundreds of them, far, far surpassing any previous president. Apparently, Bush mistook a 5-4 Supreme Court decision handing him the presidency as a coronation.

If you were to make a list of ways to inflict lasting, grievous damage on the United States of America and its citizens, you would pretty much have a list of what Bush has done with his presidency. And to think a Republican Congress impeached Bill Clinton for...well, you know.

January 20, 2009. It ought to be a day of national celebration – the day the dark cloud that has blotted out the sun that used to shine on America finally moved out to sea. Bush is a national grace and a stain on this good country. Goodbye and good riddance!

Monday, June 23, 2008

John McCain and Me

I spent a lot of sleepless nights as a kid wondering whether I would be able to serve as President of the United States. I’m not kidding. Not even out of junior high school, I feared I had already been eliminated from contention, not because I was Jewish and no U.S. president had been a Jew, and not because I hadn’t yet reached 35 years of age, the Constitutional minimum: time would cure that. No, I worried I might be ineligible for the simple reason that I happened to be born in Puerto Rico.

You see, the Constitution says the president must be “a natural-born citizen,” though precisely what that means has never been settled in U.S. law. Which brings me to John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

John McCain and I don’t have a lot in common. He served in Viet Nam when I was a college student protesting the war. He’s from Arizona and I live in Massachusetts. He’s a Republican and I am a Democrat. He’s running for president. I am not. Rush Limbaugh hates his guts. Rush Limbaugh has never even heard of me. But McCain and I have a common problem about our eligibility to be president. He was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Oops!

Now, it surely seems counter-intuitive that a person who has served our country as John McCain has, even enduring years in a North Vietnamese prison, might be ineligible for the presidency because his parents happened to be living in the Canal Zone. And I’m especially sympathetic to McCain on that score because I was born on a U.S. Air Force base in Puerto Rico when my father was stationed there as an Air Force officer. But my sympathies don’t resolve the question: just what did the Founding Fathers mean by “natural-born citizen,” especially since none of them had ever given birth, naturally or otherwise?

The question has arisen before. Barry Goldwater, the 1964 GOP nominee, was born in Arizona before it became state. George Romney, father of former candidate Mitt, ran for president in 1968 and he was born in Mexico. (Mitt was so busy trying to stake out ground as the toughest hombre on the immigration block he failed to mention that his father came to this country, literally, from Mexico.)

Did the Founding Fathers really intend to eliminate from contention patriots like John McCain and me just because of the fortuitous circumstances of our birth? After all, we were born, unlike California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, to U.S. citizens on U.S. territories. (Ah-nold, by the way, probably cannot be president and not because he once appeared in a movie as Danny DeVito’s twin.) In my own self-interest, and John McCain’s, I would say that what the Founders were really trying to prevent was the prospect of, say, Prince Charles, running in the New Hampshire primary.

Thus, the real issue here must revolve around the meaning of “natural-born.” The founders, I submit, weren’t referring to a person’s place of birth, but to the method of their birth.

Accordingly, each candidate for president should henceforth be required to submit evidence that he or she (a) is not a test tube baby, (b) was not conceived using anything but the most tried and true methods, and (c) was not delivered by Caesarian section. I can’t speak for John McCain, but I am still in the running. Now I just have to vet my running mate.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The World on Two Wheels

Between April and October, when the weather is good, I take my bike out three or four times a week for a spin through the western suburbs of Boston. Usually it’s a 20 to 30 mile ride that begins in my home town, winds through Dover and Sherborn and then, depending on my mood, continues through either Medfield or Millis and Holliston, before turning back for home.

I keep up a pretty decent pace for a guy my age, but it isn’t about the speed. I stop every 10 miles or so, usually in the same spots, to admire the hay fields and the tree line, to listen to the crickets, watch the hawks, and just generally enjoy the natural beauty that still exists not far from the big city. There are places around here that look every bit as rustic as Vermont – old stone walls and sheep filled pastures -- it’s just that they don’t go on and on the way they do further north. Sometimes, regrettably, just around a bend that looks like a picture postcard of New England is a new subdivision that looks like it belongs in a calendar called “New Jersey Life.” But, all in all, there’s some very pretty riding in these parts.

Every February my wife and I have our annual “why do we live here” discussion. As we peer out at the dull gray sky and the dirty snow along the roads, I try and remember the ride I took on the first 70 degree day in spring, or the unseasonably warm and brilliant day in late October when I rode through canopies of golden leaves and inhaled the unique woody scent of fall. On more than one occasion I’ve said to my sometime riding buddy, Bill, that people pay good money to visit places that look like this.

I don’t think about much when I ride, and that’s part of the pleasure. I ride for the physical exercise, and because I enjoy the rural roads, but I also ride for my mental health. Riding, for me, is a chance to erase the hard drive for a little while. And, every once in a while, I find inspiration while I’m out on the bike.

While riding on a hot day a few years back, a couple of cyclists hailed me down. They were trying to give directions to a truck driver but were unfamiliar with the roads. As I slowed down, I noticed that both riders were a good deal older than me, and after the truck driver drove away (still lost) we chatted for a few minutes.

One of the riders was 73 and the other 78. One of them had recently had quadruple bypass surgery. They were about 13 miles out on a 26-mile ride. They weren’t on fancy bikes – indeed, one of them didn’t even have toe-clips, let alone the more modern clip-in biking shoes, on his pedals – and they weren’t in a hurry. They were clearly having the time of their lives.They told me they ride regularly, choosing different routes in the area. And, when they’re not riding, they’re hiking in the White Mountains. These two men, with more than 150 years between them, had not surrendered, mentally or physically, to their advancing years and as I rode away I wondered whether I would still be out here when I am their age; indeed, whether I'd ever even be their age. For now, I'm counting on it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blogging for Dummies

OK, after procrastinating too long, I decided to give blogging a try. I'm an author and everyone has been telling me to start a blog. I thought my web site was enough, but no. And since there are so few blogs out there, fewer than a billion I am told, this should be an easy way to get a lot of attention -- easier than, say, scaling the Chrysler Building with my bare hands.

So, who am I, and why would anyone want to read my blog? For about 20 years I've been a freelance journalist and writer. I've written for dozens of newspapers and magazines in the US and abroad, including the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Bicycling Magazine, and many others. Why read my blog? I'm too modest to tell you. Just follow along for a while and perhaps you'll answer the question for yourself.

Lately, I've turned my attention to writing books. Since I am able to write in my head while cycling it works out pretty well. (Though I do eventually have to download everything that's in my head onto my computer because I have yet to find a publisher willing to take my word for it.)

My first book, "Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary Ride," was published in late 2007. It's the story of a young Boston mother (who happens to be my great-grandaunt) who became the world's first international female sports star when she circled the world by bicycle in 1894-5. There's an entire web site devoted to her story: In addition to English (my native tongue), the book is being published in German and Korean, neither of which I can read or speak. My goal for the Korean edition is to ride my bike from Seoul to Pyongyang and hand deliver a copy to Kim Jong Il. The cycling in North Korea should be excellent because you don't have to share the roads with any cars.

My second book, published in April 2007 was a collaboration with Dr. Tom Graboys, a distinguished Boston cardiologist now battling Parkinson's disease and dementia. The book is a memoir of his illness: " Life in the Balance: A Physician's Memoir of Life, Love and Loss with Parkinson's Disease and Dementia."

My third book, also a collaboration, was written with Robert P. Smith. It will be published in early 2009: "Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy." Ironically, I met Robert while researching my first book: he's a distant cousin whom I'd never met, but I wanted to know if he recalled any family stories about our common ancestor, Annie Londonderry.

So, what can you expect to find on this blog? Well, for one, I am going to reprise a few of my more popular columns and stories from the Boston Globe and a few other newspapers. How do I know they were popular? Because my kids liked them. I am also going to share some musings on the events of the day, on the ups and downs of the writer's life, and whatever else happens to pop into my mind. In short, at the beginning at least, I'm going to wing it and see what happens. Please bear with me while I figure out the ins and outs of blogging.