Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't Call it a Comeback

Gordon Brown and the Labour party are skyrocketing in the polls and look poinsed to possibly pull off an upset and win the elctions. The real question is does Gordon ride the wave of momentum and call for an early election or does he wait things out in hopes that his poll numbers solidfy in advance the expected election date?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So You Want to be a Rox and Roll Star

On Saturday 10 hearty souls braved the winter cold and a forecast of 5-8 inches of snow(that never materialized) to hear the frontrunner for the Democratic senate nomination. Roxanne Conlin was once a rising star in the Iowa Democratic Party; she was a U.S. attorney during the Carter administration and she was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1982("I was first runner up," she said). After her gubernatorial bid, Conlin retired from frontline politics. Conlin said that Sen. Chuck Grassley's(R-IA) antics during the debate over healthcare drove her to run against him.

Conlin came off as a typical Democratic candidate. She favors the healthcare reform and even appeared to endorse the idea of "medicare for all." All of the questions were related to domestic issues. Every participant asked about, or voiced support for, healthcare. There were also questions about further stimulus, jobs, and immigration. It also appeared that everyone is sick with American political culture. Most specifically attendees were distressed by the corporate role in American politics and the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case. Strikingly, there were no questions about foreign policy or national security. Nobody asked about Iran, Afghanistan, Iran, terrorism or any other foreign policy issue. It is clear that the 2010 election will be focused on domestic issues.

I am glad Roxanne Conlin came to Southwest Iowa, which is the part of Iowa most ignored by the Democratic establishment. I do think her run speaks to the difficult conditions for Democrats this year. The most effective possible challenger is off in D.C. working as the Secretary of Agriculture and the other big names in Iowa Democratic politics all passed on the race when their names were floated as possible challengers. Even though Sen. Grassley disgraced himself with his conduct over the healthcare debate, it seems clear that no major Democrat wants to risk anything to hold him accountable and that is sad.

Even though it is an uphill climb to defeat Grassley, all Iowa Democrats should commend Conlin and the other candidates in the Democratic primary. They have shown a willingness to risk all and hold an incumbent Senator accountable. That deserves our respect and support.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Review

From my days in seminary, I have been interested in English soccer. My roommate was a fan of Arsenal and I often went with him to an English pub in Atlanta to watch the games on satellite. I read, and enjoyed, Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch and I now like to watch Premier League games on ESPN.

I thought I was ready to take my enjoyment of English soccer to the next level and it turns out that I was not quite the connoisseur I thought I was. My attempt came in the form of reading David Peace's tale of soccer legend Brian Clough's disastrous managerial tenure of Leed's United titled The Damned Utd. Peace's book is considered a modern classic and for good reason. The probing of the inner workings of Clough's mind is brillant.

The problem is I lacked the requisite understanding of 1970's English soccer. I felt like I was adrift in a world that I knew little about. It just seemed like I knew very little about he inner workings of a soccer team and the writer wrote with what appeared to be an assumption that his readers would be die-hard soccer fans. An American writer would probably have similar assumptions about baseball or football.

Perhaps in another few years, if my understanding of English soccer grows, then I might return The Damned Utd. and enjoy it more.

Mardis Gras and the Preacher

A friend of mine from the same young minister's group where Liturgygeek and I met recently became the pastor of a Baptist Church in New Orleans and experienced his first Mardi Gras. He wrote a column and the Times-Picayune published it.

I am taking this Lent off because dealing with a winter that has seen 50 inches of snow is penance enough.

The Play's the Thing

I have not been posting lately because I have been busy exploring my theatrical side. Our local community theatre put on Alfred Uhry's play The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Liturgygeek and I had roles.

Ballyhoo tells the story of a family of Jews(the Freitags) living in Atlanta in 1939. The start of World War 2 and the Premiere of Gone With the Wind serve as the background historical events of the play. The play, however, centers around a Jewish cotillion called Ballyhoo. In the Feitag family are two cousins; Liturgygeek played the cousin named Lala Levy. I played one of the cousins suitors named Peachy Weil, and I had the red hair to match.

Ballyhoo is a marvelously written play and I had the opportunity to work with a fine director and a talented cast. This was the first play I had been in since I played a watermelon farmer in an elementary school play(a fact that was in the playbill and commented on by at least one audience member after every performance).

I enjoyed every moment of this experience; from the rehearsals in a empty theatre to the performance night; I had a great time. Being in the play was like discovering a hidden treasure. I never thought I would enjoy performing and yet I discovered that I did. This, I believe, is one of the joys of growing older. I discover more things that I like, I try new activities, and my horizons broaden. Liturgygeek has a bacground in theatre and one of the great things about being married(both in general and in specifics) is having a spouse introduce you to their loves and you discovering that you share that love and enjoyment.

Now that I have discovered this enjoyment of theatre, I am learning the other side of being in a play. While Liturgygeek directs a performance of The Hobbit, I will be learning the ropes as the assistant stage manager.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why the Healthcare Bill Needs to be Passed

I work at a hospital, and lately I have noticed flyers around my office advertising a benefit for a fellow employee. The benefit is to help with medical costs for the employee and the employee's family. I do not know this person and do not know any details about the illness.

I think that what the hospital employees are doing is admirable and deserves to be commended. However, it points to the biggest weakness in out healthcare system. A hospital employee with good benefits is still in financial straits due to a major medical problem. In the richest and most powerful country in the world. this is unacceptable and needs to change. Yet the U.S. system of employer based private insurance is no longer sustainable.

The House of Representatives could change this tomorrow if would pass the Senate healthcare bill. The Senate could help if it would produce a reconciliation bill. The President could help if he would signal what he wants done.

The bill is not perfect and it is not what I would dream of having but it is a good bill. It makes sure that people will always have insurance. It makes sure that the government will help people who have have trouble affording insurance buy insurance, and it sets the groundwork for controlling medical costs. The healthcare bill will do a lot of good for a lot of people and a little bit of good for a lot more.

Pass the Damn Bill.

Beagle Blogging

From fellow beagle lover Andrew Sullivan comes this headline from the New York Post, Savage beagles terrorize East End. The story itself is sad and infuriating; wild beagles are loose on Long Island because hunters realease them in the woods when they are no longer good for hunting. However, it must be said that the headline is great.

Here is a photo of our dogs, named Leroy Brown and Rory, practicing their savageness by playing a little game called frogger.