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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Another Train 

Listening to my daughter Sarah’s CD while flying today brought me back in memory to the September night in 2001 when her Wesleyan University a cappella group, the Cardinal Sinners, made a trip into Brooklyn to sing at an outdoor café under the el, while trains occasionally drowned every note out. I remember that warm evening, that Linda and I were there early to hear them rehearse, and that I got my parents on the cellphone from Massachusetts to listen for a bit too. It was touching and lovely.

Of course the experience was draped in the background of the attacks of the 11th and laden with the sadness we all felt then. Someone, we still don’t know who, was then mailing “weaponized” anthrax to Democratic legislators, and a woman in the Bronx had died of anthrax poisoning. Newscasters were talking about the possibility it had been spread on the subways, adding to the feeling that the world as we had known it was coming to an end. To me, the mere fact that these kids were picking themselves up off the ground and coming to New York to sing to us felt like a gift, like they cared and were brave to come in from safe Connecticut in the midst of our troubles.

There was one song they sang that spoke to me so directly, that to this day, I tear up when I hear it. It’s called “Another Train,” and it was a solo of Sarah’s. The lyrics felt like a balm on our sad soul, on the grief we all felt and a ray of light saying, “You’ll get up off this floor and dream and work for a better future.” It still makes me cry to remember hearing it and how grateful I felt to be a part of whatever we would make of our future together.

The lyrics of “Another Train,” go like this:

The beginning is now, and will always be.
You say you lost your way, that fate brought you defeat, but that means nothing.
You look so sad.
You’ve been listening to those who say you’ve missed your chance.

CHORUS:
There’s another train, there always is,
Maybe the next one is yours, get up and climb aboard-
Another train.

You say you’re done, there’s no such thing.
Although you’re standing on your own, your own breath is king.
The beginning is now; don’t turn around.
Regrets of bad mistakes will only drain you.

CHORUS:
There’s another train, there always is,
Maybe the next one is yours, get up and climb aboard-
Another train.

You crawl in the dark sometimes and you think too much.
Then you fill your head with crazy things that only break your heart
And I know you see what the Earth can do,
When it’s dragging down another load of worrisome fools.

CHORUS:
There’s another train, there always is,
Maybe the next one is yours, get up and climb aboard-
Another train.

And I know it’s hard, when you feel confused.
You can crown yourself with fear and you feel you cannot move.
You’re building worlds that don’t exist.
Imagination plays the worst tricks.

CHORUS:
There’s another train, there always is,
Maybe the next one is yours, get up and climb aboard-
Another train.

There’s another train, there always is,
maybe the next one is yours, get up and climb aboard.


I guess the connection I remember making to my emotions that night was that we had a responsibility, not only to ourselves and our families to pull ourselves together (and that seemed difficult enough), but a responsibility to keep focused on the beacon of the things we believed in, for our country and our world. To let the attacks and the hysteria that followed them turn us into a people living in fear, defensively letting go of our freedoms and beliefs in justice for others would be the worst and most cowardly legacy we could give to those who perished.

Thanks Sarah- and thanks Sinners. I’ll never forget.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Go Sox! 

As half a world away, the Red Sox stand in to face down the other Evil Empire, George Steinbrenner's band of merry millionares, I recommend Allan Wood's blog, "The Joy of Sox." For anyone who appreciates good writing and the game of baseball, especially for those of us who carry the torch for the Hub team, this is a good stop. It's in the links to the right.

Finally Focusing 

Is it just that I'm so far away-- or does it finally begin to look like Kerry has got himself up off the mat and begun landing body blows to the lie that Iraq policy would be the same, no matter who wins? He's now saying he'll work to acheive some stability and to avoid the creation of a failed state, while refocusing American attention on Al Qaeda. The Bush concept that the war in Iraq will be won with a post-election push by American forces and probably an escalation of troop levels there is the same kind of fantasy we've heard continually from this administration and Kerry finally seems to be scoring some hits on that.

The best that can be hoped for is some stability in postwar Iraq, aided by the greater participation of international organizations like the UN and the grudging cooperation of other nations. International participation will be hard to come by so long as this Administration abuses every potential partner on a regular basis, so we need to hope for better from a Kerry Presidency, focused on our attackers, not on making Iraq an object lesson. Seeing Kerry speaking clearly about this and seemingly getting through is a sign that he's focusing his campaign on the real issue for the undecided public, that's nervously wondering which candidate can handle the Presidency better in a time of insecurity.

If Kerry continues to offer a positive vison of what he'll do to create an alternative future, it's hard to believe the American people will hold onto the failure this Administration has already proven is its offering.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Prom Date From Hell 

Maureen Dowd is right on the money as usual when she quotes her girlfriend to describe Bush as like, "the guy who reserves a hotel room, then invites you to the prom."

If America wants a future, instead of waiting to get an inevitable screwing, we might have to turn down the administration's invitation.

Now you people get to work back home. I gotta go out and see Singapore.

Clinton Remembered 

For a project here in Singapore, I was asking a Hong Kong banker about his personal heroes. He instantly brought up Bill Clinton. I was surprised, given where he’s from. He said, “The US was peaceful and in harmony with the world for eight years while Bill Clinton was President. He was attentive to people everywhere, trying to end conflicts.”

Another banker fondly recalled Maggie Thatcher. She liked Maggie's moniker, "The Iron Maiden."-- What does any of this tell you? I really couldn't say.

***
A local US expat member of my TV crew told me, “For years I would be asked where I was from and when people heard I was an American, they’d have something pleasant to say, if not about the government, then about the American people. Not now. I never get a good reaction.”

This was my experience in Europe earlier this year too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Countdown 

...don't forget, only six wins for Sox to clinch playoff spot. Yankee fans needn't gloat too soon.

Martha Jo McCarthy 

...whose husband is in the National Guard, stationed in Iraq, has today's comment, better put than I can:

"Everyone supports the troops, and I know they're doing a phenomenal job over there, not only fighting but building schools and digging wells. But supporting the troops has to mean something more than putting yellow-ribbon magnets on your car and praying they come home safely."

UN and Chewing Gum 

Guess I’m not ready to turn into a speechwriter yet, but that last entry just had to get out of me.

The political situation back home is intolerable and seems worse every time you pick up the paper. Not pretty to pick up the International Herald Trib and read that Bush gave a hometown political speech to the UN. Brazil’s Lula, Spain’s Zapatero, Kofi Annan himself, Germany’s J. Fischer, and even Britain’s Ambassador to Italy are all giving the lie to the concept that there’s much of a coalition over Iraq intact. The only coalition seems to be of countries letting us know they think the US is going down the road to disaster in Iraq.

Ivor Roberts, in remarks Tony Blair’s government takes pains to disavow as "not reflecting government policy," said the other day that Bush is “the best recruiting sergeant” for Al Qaeda.

**
Back in Singapore news, a little matter I need to clear up about the chewing gum thing. Friends warned me not to bring any, or heavens don’t spit mine out. The cabbie (my best source on law and culture here) clarifies this point. There was a big splash about the the laws banning gum after the mass transit opened in 1990’s and “vandals” left theirs on doors of the subway, as I mentioned. Government had to do something… of course you see that...

Rest easy, its OK to chew in Singapore, you just can’t buy it here. They get it in Malaysia and bring it back I’m told. Not a problem, “just don’t get caught.” The fine is $400.

OK, not such a big deal, right? OK, I'm not chewing. Just clarifying, alright?

Singapore Journal 

Well, here in Singapore, I’m still thinking about home, but I'm very impressed with cabbies here. One tells me that Singapore is known as Lee, Inc. by foreigners, who note it’s one-family government. Another tells me not to worry about chewing gum, it's actually legal. You just can’t buy it here, because vandals left wads of it on the modern subway (try enforcing something like that in NYC!). I got a great history lesson from another cabbie on the independence of this city-state since the 60’s and on the competitiveness among the countries of the region for investment money. This all comes with cab fare in Singapore.

***
On the flight over, I thought about what things the US might accomplish if we weren’t looking at the world and ourselves through the lens of Iraq and the primacy of fear in our national life. While we’re bogged down in a national debate over the tragedy of Iraq and on how best to end the debacle there, we aren’t finding solutions to some of the most crucial long term questions before the country and the world.

To find the important problems needing attention, we can look beyond the obvious national security question of how best to defeat Al Qaeda and secure the US “homeland,” as the Administration so quaintly describes our country. We are confronted with energy questions, which should by all rights be dominating our discussions, as I’ll discuss in a moment. We have environmental problems from the neglect of air and water pollution and toxic sites cleanup, which have been pushed aside and worsened during the last four years; we also face the monumental issue of global warming and climate change, on which the clock ticks ever louder. Our children face a future continually diminished by our inaction.

We have an educational system that, if left the way it is, ensures that another generation of children currently left behind in poor schools, mostly in districts where their parents were badly served by the same schools, will grow up uneducated. With the US economy hinging ever more on a trained and educated workforce, it’s not just a moral crisis to leave these children underserved. It’s hurting our competitiveness in the world economy. Travel here or elsewhere if you think there aren’t well educated and hardworking people around the world ready to eat our lunch if we aren’t the best trained workforce.

We have a nation still mired in segregation, no longer by law, merely in fact. Even, and perhaps especially in and around cities which long ago stopped discussing civil rights as a major issue, we still have neighborhoods which are segregated by race and poverty, with dilapidated housing stock and those terrible schools. We have become accustomed to describing these neighborhoods as “bad” areas, where the middle class of whatever color avoid going or even considering living. As a country, we must get past a history of inequality and wasted time. People living in the poorer areas often no longer expect any positive movement in addressing their lives and needs. We lose people to despair and cynicism by making no effort to achieve real equality for all.

Our energy needs are bound up in larger problems. As America once confronted the challenge of space travel and of putting men on the Moon to win the Cold War, America could now rise to the occasion and dedicate ourselves to ending our dependence on the internal combustion engine and on inefficient, dirty, dangerous power sources by galvanizing our educational system and research facilities to find and refine new and existing efficient and renewable power sources. We can ask more of ourselves in the way we use power to minimize wasteful energy misuse as part of a national effort to build a safer and better world for the future. We can dedicate jobs to lift people up while they help us build a more efficient national infrastructure, with modern mass transit that conserves energy, instead of more roads for more gas guzzlers.

In short, we need to build toward a better future together as a people instead of turning into a people permanently poised in a cowering attitude of defense and fear. We can do so much better if America remembers the democratic ideal it was founded on.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Not-So-Immortal Words of George H. W. Bush 

I was sent the following and need to verify... I don't want to end up like Dan Rather.

George H. W. Bush said in 1999, in a speech to Gulf War Veterans "Had we gone into Baghdad -- we could have done it, you guys could have done it, you could have been there in 48 hours -- and then what? Which sergeant, which private, whose life would be at stake...? Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power -- America in an Arab land -- with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous."

Do you think it would be interesting if Kerry hit Dubya smack in the middle of his oedipus complex?

Boring/ Exciting Stories 

In a sure-to-be considered boring article, Sara Rimer reports in the NYTimes that George W. Bush did not complete his National Guard duty in 1972, but had one of his Daddy's cronies whitewash his record.

But by the time you read this, you'll be agast that one of the documents in CBS's 60 Minutes story, which came to the same conclusion, might well be forged.

Which is more germane? Maybe neither, but I'll bet the 60 minutes story takes top billing on the Evening News.

I only hope Bush has to answer the questions about the Times story as well as gloat about the forged document that distracts from his actual autobiography. ... and by the way, his autobiography has several totally false statements in it about his Guard years.
***

Well, I'll be heading to Singapore tonight, so you might not hear too much political ranting here for a few days. Then again, I'll be in a very repressive country, so who knows? Maybe you'll hear more...

Sunday, September 19, 2004

As Early as November... 

The NY Times today confirms the cynical post-election plan to ramp up the war in Iraq. It won't happen for a couple of months and you know why, but the White House offensive on Fallujah, stopped earlier this year because the casualty figures might turn an election year electorate against the war will be renewed, "as early as November or December."

Why not now if it is so necessary? Hmm... maybe there'd be too many soldier's mothers on the campaign trail to drag off in handcuffs.

"Red is Blue" 

“Red is Blue.”

My friend Bill Brugger said the other night that the Bush Administration has been going way past spin, onto the big lie. What bugs him is that it seems to be working for them.

“Hey, what’s the matter with you, don’t you know Red is Blue?”

The big lie has become a major staple of the Bush/Cheney campaign and Maureen Dowd points out today the extent to which the campaign will go to make sure no one questions the big lie. Now they’re dragging off Gold Star mothers while they talk to reporters about how Bush sent their sons off to die. Read the story about Sue Niederer of Hopewell, NJ. She lost her son, now she's losing her freedom to speak out.

“Don’t you know Red is Blue?”

Bush Calls Out CBS- "Let the Truth Come Out" 

Remember Gary Hart? Faced with what many in the press considered seamy and unimportant accusations about the 1988 Presidential candidate’s sex life, Hart dared the press to follow him around the clock. They did; what else would they do when encouraged? Gary Hart’s campaign was history when they found his mistress.

Remember Gary Hart again when you look back on the Bush campaign of 2004. Yesterday, on the phone with the Manchester Union Leader President Bush got the question. He was asked whether the charges in the 60 Minutes II story about his National Guard service were true.

First, he didn’t exactly answer the charges. “I did everything they asked me to do and met my requirements and was honorably discharged. I’m proud of my service in the Guard.

“But as for the documents, there are clearly unanswered questions that need to be answered,” Bush said.

Here’s the beauty part- and this invitation won’t fall on deaf ears. Bush said, “There are a lot of questions about the documents and they need to be answered.”

Bush added, “I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out.”

Can you hear Andrew Heyward, Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and CBS News rounding up a posse right now, along with anyone else who likes a challenge?

Let the truth come out.

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