Wednesday, November 3, 2004


Today, I am embarrassed to be an American, and doubly embarrassed to be an Ohioan.

Monday, November 1, 2004

One More Day

Went to the Kerry rally in downtown Cleveland this evening. The crowd was huge and motivated. I only hope that the voters will be equally motivated tomorrow.

There were several speakers as the evening progressed: Mayor Jane Campbell, Congressmembers Sherrod Brown, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, and my Congressman Dennis Kucinich. John Glenn gave an eloquent speech about Bush's bungled war planning--unfortunately, some jerk behind me was talking on his cell phone, so I missed some of his points. Then, Glenn introduced Bruce Springsteen, who played three songs and spoke with dignity and wisdom about what's at stake tomorrow. The Boss introduced John and Theresa Kerry. The crown went wild. Mrs. Kerry made some pointed remarks, promising that President Kerry would know the difference between "pride and arrogance." Then Kerry gave a rousing stump speech, his fatigue showing only briefly when he stumbled over his words. But he recovered and gave a strong finish.

Tomorrow, I vote. Historically, high voter turnout has tended to help Democrats. In this election, things seem to be too close to call, so all bets are off.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Papers & Politics

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's gutless wonder of a newspaper, has declined to endorse either Bush or Kerry in the upcoming election. Here's what led to this nonevent: The PD's editorial board voted 5-2 to endorse Kerry. But the PD's publisher, Alex "the Snake" Makashee overrode the board and demanded a Bush endorsement. Word leaked out, negative publicity ensued, and now the PD has had to save face by wimping out. Typical in this one paper town, where even the very Plain Dealer can't afford to lose any more subscribers.

The numbers in the race are such a confused muddle, all bets are off. My gut tightens whenever I think about it.

Bill Clinton was on the trail yesterday. He looked pale and thin--I wonder if he's on his daughter's Vegan diet. But his speech proved he's still the master. Damn that 22nd Amendment! Even with his recent health troubles, Bill Clinton would be a better President than Dubya on his healthiest day.

Speaking of politics, my father has been inundating me with chain emails, mostly political--and definitely politically incorrect! One recent whopper involved HIV tainted ketchup containers in fast food restaurants--warning to use ketchup from packets only. So, you can imagine what he has to say about Kerry!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Christopher Reeve: 1952-2004

Like most people, I first saw Christopher Reeve in Superman. My grandmother remembered him playing a bigamist in Love of Life back in the mid-1970s.

What made Christopher Reeve's version of Superman definitive was the delineation between his Superman and Clark Kent. Unlike some others who've taken on the role, his Superman was noble but not pompous--Reeve essentially let the uniform do the acting. Clark was a bumbling/stumbler with a different voice and mannerisms. Want to see a great bit of acting? Watch the scene in the first movie in Lois' apartment. Just after her ride with Superman, Clark appears to take Lois on a date. Lois leaves the room for a moment, Reeve takes off his glasses, grows about three inches in height, and BECOMES Superman. Reeve's voice lowers and he says "Lois, there's something I have to tell you, I'm really...". Then Lois appears, the glasses go back on, his height drops, and his voice rises about an octave, suddenly, he's Clark again.

Christopher Reeve was in a number of other movies which I encourage you to see: The Bostonians, the Remains of the Day, Somewhere in Time are but a few.

He was also a talented pianist. I remember an interview with Dana Reeve where she said she missed hearing him play even more than seeing him walk.

He suffered tragedy in 1995. Like Franklin Roosevelt, he used his misfortune to do a lot of good for many people. That's an example we can all try to emulate.

Rest in Peace.

Monday, September 6, 2004

Why I'm supporting Kerry


Gay Republicans, those sad, deluded studies in futility, contend that gay Democrats are "one issue voters." In reality, they are the one issue voters--their one issue is whether the candidate’s name is followed by an "R" or a "D". Gay Republicans are willing--perhaps eager--to disregard their candidate’s stand on gay issues. They are also willing--perhaps desperate--to paper over the vast inconsistencies in their party’s own ideology, particularly the profligate spending habits of their current leader, George Walker Bush. Those spending habits are putting America’s fiscal house out of order and jeopardizing not only our economic future, but our standing and credibility in the world. As is well known, the outsourcing of American jobs to China has hurt countless American workers. Less publicized, and perhaps more ominous, is the fact that Chinese banks are financing much of our federal government’s deficit. Now, I have nothing against the people of China, but shouldn’t America’s future be in our hands?

Mr. Bush likes to state that he’s making America stronger. But a nation’s strength this not measured by how many countries we invade, how many weapons systems the government buys, or how much money we funnel into the military-industrial complex.

A nation’s strength rests on a firm foundation, rooted in fiscal responsibility. Today, the stability of that foundation is in grave danger. Mr. Bush has been telling the supporters who attend his campaign’s rigorously screened events that America’s economy is "turning the corner" on prosperity, which sounds disturbingly like Herbert Hoover’s "prosperity is just around the corner" uttered during the depths of the Great Depression. America’s economy may well turn the corner into prosperity in 2005, but only if new leadership is elected to the White House. But if George W. Bush is handed another term in office, our economy will continue on the same start-and-stall cycle we’ve had for the last four years--and that will only benefit America’s enemies.

Let us review some recent history: On September 10, 2001, George W. Bush was an unpopular president, not accepted as legitimate by a sizeable percentage of the American public. With the exception of his tax cuts, his domestic agenda was stalled in the Congress--and most pundits had already pegged him as a one term president.

The events of September 11 changed all that. As in past times when our country was threatened from the outside, Americans rallied behind their president.

On September 12, the civilized world stood in solidarity with America. But instead of using that opportunity to build a safer, more secure world, Mr. Bush squandered it. The Bush Administration left the job unfinished in Afghanistan--leaving the Taliban in control of much of the Afghan countryside, and Osama bin Laden uncaptured. Indeed, fewer American troops were committed to the Afghanistan conflict than the number of police in Manhattan. On one occasion, Mr. Bush said he didn’t particularly care where the man responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans was, or whether he was even alive. Already, Mr. Bush’s thoughts were elsewhere.

From the day he was inaugurated--indeed, before--Mr. Bush and his cronies were hell-bent on an armed incursion into Iraq. Even after it was conclusively proved that Saddam Hussein was not involved in 9/11, Mr. Bush continued to bang the drums of war, reverting to the argument that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction--chemical, biological, maybe even nuclear. The WMD argument has not produced any evidence, even a year and a half into the American occupation of Iraq. Indeed, during the course of Mr. Bush’s Iraq war, Saddam’s "elite" military was unable to get one plane into the air, or to launch one scud missile. Now, Mr. Bush says the invasion of Iraq was a war of liberation. Let no one doubt that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. The question is whether his removal was worth the cost paid in American blood--more American soldiers killed in action than at any time since Richard Nixon was in office.

The world is full of evil dictatorships which oppress innocent people, from North Korea, to Iran, to Sudan. Given Mr. Bush’s justification for the Iraq war, we are compelled to ask: Where do we invade next?

In reality, Mr. Bush is in possession of weapons of mass destruction--ordinary American’s call them LIES.

Lies are nothing new to the Bush political dynasty--neither is mudslinging. His family has been using these tactics to keep opponents from power since Mr. Bush’s grandfather was in the United States Senate. They are well documented elsewhere.

Mr. Bush likes to deride Senator Kerry as a flip-flopper. But his own actions in office do not jibe with his 2000 campaign pledge to be a "Compassionate Conservative."

What is compassionate about refusing to raise the minimum wage?

What is conservative about deficits spiraling out of control?

What is compassionate about an economy stuck in the ditch?

What is conservative about unprecedented government intrusion into our lives?

What is compassionate about gutting overtime pay?

What is conservative about the rape of America’s environment?

What is compassionate about 44 million Americans lacking health insurance?

Finally, what is compassionate or conservative about recklessly sending our troops into harm’s way?

Since I am a gay American, I should spend a moment on gay issues. Mr. Bush has been spending some time on gay issues--in opposition to them. Since he has no record of accomplishment to run on, he needs to find a scapegoat. He can’t scapegoat the Democrats, since Republicans hold power in the White House, both houses of Congress, and the majority of Governorships. So, he has been portraying gay Americans as a threat to America’s families. One would be hard pressed to find a President with a record more hostile to gay Americans. As Governor of Texas, Mr. Bush opposed every hate crimes law that came his way, opposed an end to employment discrimination against gay Texans, and defended his state’s Sodomy law. He has continued that trend as President. Even the conservative’s icon Ronald Reagan opposed the homophobic Briggs Initiative in the 1970s, and voiced his opposition to it before then President Jimmy Carter. President Reagan’s later discomfort with gay issues can at least be understood--if not condoned--when one recalls the fact that he was born in 1911. But Mr. Bush’s antipathy to the gay community is unforgivable in a man of the post World War II generation, who came of age in the ‘60s, and whose immediate subordinate has a daughter who is a lesbian.

In 1988, I cast my first vote for Mike Dukakis, partly because he had signed Massachusetts’ non-discrimination law into effect--only the second such statewide law in the nation. I was also appalled by the whispering campaign aimed at Governor Dukakis, questioning his mental health and even accusing his wife of burning an American flag in protest. But that’s the kind of campaign the Bushes run.

In 1992, I supported Bill Clinton because of his early embracing of the gay community--and also to revive an economy which had gone into recession under the elder George Bush. And in 1996, despite some disappointments in his handling of gay issues, I again supported President Clinton because his policies had restored America’s economy, reduced the federal deficit, and improved our relations with the world.

Thus, it was logical in 2000 that this American wanted to stay the course with Al Gore. So did the plurality of America’s voters, but the Electoral College--and five members of the Supreme Court--thought otherwise.

In 2004, I am voting for Senator John Kerry for President. But as can be gathered from what I’ve written, his stand on gay issues (which I mostly applaud) is the LEAST of many reasons I’m supporting him.

It is no exxageration to state that this is the most important election this nation has faced since 1940. We stand at the edge of a precipice: between financial responsibility or a descent into insolvency, between international cooperation or looming isolationism, between liberty or oppression. The "rendezvous with destiny" Franklin Roosevelt prohesied is fast approaching. The time has come for decision. Vote for John Kerry.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

We are Impatient

Here's my recent letter to the Plain Dealer, which I doubt they will print:

To the Editor:

Apparently, Bush supporters in the Southland of Ohio have been referring to the Kerry supporters as the Impatient People.

We are impatient, but not for the reasons they believe.

We have grown impatient because in the summer of 2001, George W. Bush ignored repeated warnings of an impending Al-Queda attack, refused to inform the American people, and left the country defenseless. We are impatient because in the face of those attacks, the American people were offered no leadership beyond "go about your business." We are also impatient because that same administration now insists on crying terrorist "wolf" whenever it suits their political needs. We are impatient--and angry--that Bush didn't have the patience, or wisdom, to let the weapons inspectors finish their job or to build a real international coalition before preemptively striking Iraq, a policy which has left America alone in the world and left our soldiers in harm's way. We are impatient because Bush's war in Iraq took focus away from our real enemy, Osama bin Laden, who remains at large. We are impatient because Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy come in the face of skyrocketing government spending, and that the costs will be passed onto our grandchildren. We are impatient because this administration insists on clinging to a failed economic theory, despite all the evidence that Trickle Down Economics doesn't work. In this election year, we are doubly impatient with Bush's smear campaign against John Kerry, with the lies, and with the Administration's gallingly high sleaze factor.

In short, we are impatient with the arrogance of this Administration, the sheer tonnage of which would stun a team of oxen in its tracks. This Administration has the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover held office. The stock market remains lackluster, and the economic recovery has not taken hold. Worst of all, under George W. Bush, more American soldiers have died in combat than under any President since Richard Nixon.

So, are we impatient? You bet we are. The relevant question is, why aren't you?

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Playing politics with American soldiers...

The erroneous notion that Clinton did nothing to combat terrorism needs to be refuted.

In fact, Clinton's people stopped so many terror attacks just listing them would take most of my day--but let's not forget the Millenium attack, where Al-Queda planned to take out Los Angeles International Airport. Of course, that airport is frequented by Hollywood Liberals, so it probably wasn't worth saving.

Sure Iraq HAD weapons of mass destruction. Most of them had been destroyed during the first Gulf War and it's aftermath. Those that remained were in disrepair, or otherwise useless. Some conservative whackos have been sending out an email about Iraqi jets found buried in the desert--pretty pathetic, since most of them had their innards jammed with sand and were unuseable.

The FACT is that during the second Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was unable to launch ONE PLANE, or ONE SCUD MISSLE. The other FACT is that nearly all the resistance U.S. troops are now encountering are not Bathists loyal to Saddam, but Shiites and Islamic fundamentalists that Saddam kept under his thumb--indeed, many of these terrorists entered through Iraq's porous borders AFTER Bush's ill-advised aircraft carrier photo-op.

A little refresher for those who forget:

Bush tried to justify the war by sending Colin Powell to the UN with a bunch of bogus photos, claiming they were proof of WMD when they could have been anything. Then, when no WMD were found, Bush tried to play the Iraq/Al-Queda link card. Again, only the ignorant bought it--and they don't vote. Finally, Bush said it was a war of liberation.

So that's the policy: We sacrificed 900+ American soldiers (so far) so some Iraqi can visit Disneyland.

Lessons from 1948

The 1948 Truman campaign was the last time a President with low approval ratings was able to get back on track and win the election. But, there are critical differences between 1948 and 2004. Part of the reason Truman was unpopular was that his legislative program was stymied by the Republican controlled 80th Congress (both houses went Republican in 1946). In the 1948 Republican platform, they called for a laundry list of popular legislation which they knew would be popular with moderates and burned-out Democrats--of couse, they had no intention of actually enacting this legislation.

So, at the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Truman called their bluff and announced he was calling the "good for nothing 80th Congress" back into session on July 25. He did. The legislation didn't go anywhere, and Truman ran for reelection by running against the Congress. It didn't hurt Truman that the economy was also doing pretty well.

Bush, with a Republican controlled House and Senate, doesn't have that luxury. So, he essentially doesn't have anything to run against, and no excuses for his utter lack of accomplishments.

The economy is mired in a jobless "recovery" that threatens to turn into another recession. Skyrocketing oil prices threaten a return to inflation. The Dow is under 10,000 again. Bush has been in office three years. He's no longer in a position to blame Clinton for the economy, especially after the record boom while Clinton was in office. Like it or not, Clintonomics worked, Dubyanomics doesn't.

It's still the economy.
We're mired in an unpopular war.
Don't forget healthcare.

Friday, August 6, 2004

Bush the Flip-Flopper

Flip-flopped on spending Social Security surplus
Flip-flopped on patient's right to sue
Flip-flopped on tobacco buy-out
Flip-flopped on North Korea
Flip-flopped on abortion
Flip-flopped on OPEC
Flip-flopped on Iraq Funding
Flip-flopped on Condeleeza Rice testimony
Flip-flopped on regulations based on science
Flip-flopped on Ahmed Chalabi
Flip-flopped on the Department of Homeland Security
Flip-flopped on WMD's
Flip-flopped on Free Trade
Flip-flopped on mandatory caps on carbon dioxide
Flip-flopped on WMD commission
Flip-flopped on creation of 9-11 commission
Flip-flopped on the time extension of 9-11 commision
Flip-flopped on the hour limit for 9-11 commision testimony
Flip-flopped on gay marriage
Flip-flopped on UN Resolution
Flip-flopped on involvement in Palestinian Conflict
Flip-flopped on Campaign Finance

and my favorite: Flip-flopped on Osama Bin Laden.

"I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01

"I don't know where he is.You know, I just don't spend that much time on him... I truly am not that concerned about him."[President Bush, Press Conference, 3/13/02

All are cited here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

One issue voters

Gay Republicans will distort issues like the above article to accuse the Democrats of taking gays for "granted." They like to refer to gay Democrats as one issue voters, claiming that we only vote democratic because the Democrats, generally, support gay rights.

However, it's really gay Republicans who tend to be one issue voters. Their issue: whether there's an "R" or a "D" after a candidate's name.

There is a historical parallel for gays supporting Democrats, even when individual candidates' records on our issues aren't perfect. In the 1930s, African-Americans en masse abandoned the party of Lincoln to support Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic New Deal. Although at the time, the Democratic party was awash with Southerners who opposed civil rights legislation, New Deal programs helped minorities--and I think they sensed that FDR's heart was in the right place, even though he was hamstrung from pushing for a 1960s style Civil Rights Act. But in 1942, he signed an executive order barring racial discrimination in defense industries.

On gay issues, Kerry's heart is in the right place, as evidenced by his opposition to DOMA in 1996. He is not supporting outright gay marriage because he knows it would doom him in the general election--but he's doing nothing to fight gay marriage either. He will appoint judges who support our issues.

No matter how the Uncle Tom LCR's try to paint it, Kerry/Edwards is clearly the superior ticket for Gay Americans.

To put it bluntly and paraphrase Harry Truman on Richard Nixon: George W. Bush is a blundering, God-damned liar. His lies have cost the lives of hundreds of our soldiers. If he had to stick to the truth, he'd have very little to stick to. If you vote for Bush, you should go to Hell.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Why Ohio is important in this election

Outsiders often think of Ohio as a conservative entity. In reality, Ohio is a swing state, which - with one exception - has swung the same way as the country in every 20th Century Presidential election. Ohio, just barely, went for Bush in 2000 – and then only after Gore’s campaign essentially gave the state to Bush by withdrawing in the weeks before the race.

Take a look at the map in the above link. There are five Ohios, not one. Northeast Ohio is mostly industrial, urban/suburban, reliably liberal and votes solidly Democratic. Northwest Ohio is Republican and mostly rural. Southwest Ohio is also conservative, but has been hurt more economically since Bush took office than the rest of the state. Appalachia swings with the general election, went strongly for Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and Bush in 2000.

That leaves Central Ohio. The Columbus area is being rocked by changing demographics, and an influx of younger, non-white people. What was once a Republican stronghold is becoming increasingly Democratic.

Here are two options: Northeast and Central Ohio have a combined population of 6 million. The other three regions add up to 5.36 million. If Democrats concentrate their funds toward "swinging" Central Ohio and Appalachia, combined with “get out the vote” activity in Northeast Ohio, they could win Ohio Big Time (as Cheney would say). Or, if they create an all out push for Northeast and Central Ohio, they can still win with an acceptable margin.

But the most important thing is for the Democratic party not to blow off the state as they did in 2000. The message is clear: lose Ohio, lose the country.

Whether Ohio goes red or blue this year will depend entirely on turnout – just like most of the country.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Letter to the PD: July 12, 2004

My Letter to the Editor was printed in this morning's Plain Dealer:

To the Editor:

I find it amusing that the Bush adminstration's talking heads are going after Senator John Edward's supposed lack of experience in foreign policy issues. Edwards has served in the Senate Intelligence Committee, and has more experience at this point, than George W. Bush did in 2000. There is certainly some experience Edwards lacks, such as stacking up a half trillion dollars in debt, misleading the American people about a phony Iraq/Al Queda connection, and leaking the name of a CIA operative.

George Bush has stated that Dick Cheney, unlike Edwards, "can be President," presumably based on his experience. But the key factor in this election will be the "experience" the American people have had with Bush/Cheney, and it hasn't been pretty.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

A Response to Larry Kramer

"It is remarkable that two of the so-called 'greatest presidents' have also allowed the greatest perpetrations and perpetuations of mass murder. Franklin D. Roosevelt was shamefully inept in dealing with 'the Jewish question,' (see my play The Normal Heart), most ironically since so many Jews were his most loyal supporters, the Jerry Zipkins of their day. No one really writes about this. Roosevelt is one of history’s great gods. Just as no one really writes about Reagan and 'the gay question.' These two major murderers so far have gotten away with helping to cause the two major holocausts of modern history. Just as Jews are asked to never forget their Holocaust, I implore all gay people never to forget our holocaust and who caused it and why."
- Larry Kramer, in a 2004 article for the Advocate.

I've heard Kramer make his charge against FDR since the 1990s, when he compared Bill Clinton's treatment of gays to FDR's treatment of the Jews: Say the right things, then stab them in the back. More recently he's "demoted" his opinion of FDR to compare it with Reagan's lack of response to the early AIDS crisis (which was criminal) - as if Kramer's opinion on American history carries any weight. Remember, Kramer is the guy who claims that nearly all the Founding Fathers were gay. He has also claimed for the past two decades to have been writing an American history book to that effect.

Kramer needs to be reminded that in 1940, when FDR was running for a 3rd term, isolationist Republicans and others like Charles Lindbergh (who was regaded as an American hero) were charging that Roosevelt was a tool of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the United States. Many claimed that Roosevelt himself was secretly Jewish - buying the Nazi propaganda that his family name was actually Rosenfeldt.

A popular slogan at the time had FDR telling Eleanor:
"You kiss the N!ggers, I'll kiss the Jews, and we'll stay in the White House as long as we choose."
FDR had an unprecedented number of Jews in his administration, and he spoke out against anti-Semitism. He also addressed the 1936 National Conference of Christian and Jews - which was unusual for a president of any party at the time.

FDR didn't dictate Immigration policy - he had to move in relation to Congress and public opinion. FDR was no more able to stop the Holocaust as any leader at the time - and there were many who knew more about what was going on in Europe who didn't lift a finger.  In fact, FDR did more than any other world leader to help the Jews of Europe, creating the War Refugee Board, which saved the lives of as many as 200,000 Jews.

Kramer fails to see the events of the time in the context of the era. Sure, FDR might have been more forceful on the "Jewish Question" - and he would have been voted out of office. Does Kramer think the people of the world (Jew and non-Jew) would have been better off with Wendell Wilkie or Tom Dewey in the White House?

As for comparing FDR's handling of any issue with Reagan's response to AIDS: Let's not forget also that under FDR, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (then called Venereal Diseases) were, for the first time in America, treated as a public health problem, not as a moral problem. Does anyone in his right mind believe that FDR would have joked about the Holocaust the way Reagan's advisors joked about AIDS?

Thursday, July 1, 2004

A mess

This country is in a hell of a mess, and it didn't start with Iraq. It started with FLORIDA.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The One and Only FDR

Rating the Presidents:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President: 1933-1945

Economy: When Roosevelt was elected in 1932, the economy was on the verge of total collapse. Although statistics weren’t as prevalent in those days as now, modern economists estimate unemployment was between 25% and 33% in late 1932. During the long interregnum between election and inauguration (FDR’s inauguration in 1933 was the last time a President had to wait until March 4th to be sworn into office), bad became worse as the banking system began to collapse. Lack of confidence in an already shaky system compounded the problem, and by March 1, banks in 38 of the 48 states were either closed or insolvent. Several municipalities had gone into default. Upon taking office, Roosevelt swung into immediate action and ordered all the nation’s banks closed. Government auditors were sent to the banks to determine their solvency and correct the situation. Then FDR addressed the nation on the radio (rarely done at that time) to calm the nation’s fears and explain how the crisis was being managed. The address was a great success, and when the banks reopened, deposits far exceeded withdrawals. Part of FDR’s campaign platform was a cut in government spending, and soon after taking office, he cut all government salaries and pensions by 15% (this is not as draconian as it seems, since deflation had already reduced the cost of living by about that much). But the bulk of the New Deal was built around relief (work for the unemployed), recovery (a restoration of the private economy) and reform (so another Great Depression would never happen). Despite the contentions in the recently published "FDR's Folly," Roosevelt’s policies did indeed revive the domestic economy, reducing unemployment to about 7% by 1939. In doing so, Roosevelt reinvented the Federal Government's relationship to the people, rescuing capitalism without resorting to the Fascistic and Socialistic extremes of other countries. Not all of the New Deal’s programs worked, and the centerpiece of FDR’s recovery efforts, the National Recovery Act, was found unconstitutional. Worse, in 1937 FDR became antsy about the budget deficit, cut spending, and the economy briefly dipped into another recession. But many of the New Deal programs - including Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and federal insurance on bank deposits – are now taken for granted as part of American life. Following American entry into World War II, Roosevelt switched gears, revving up wartime production to an extent that it hastened Allied victory. FDR didn’t hesitate to use federal authority to control prices, wages, and consumption (numerous items such as food, gasoline, and textiles were rationed during the war) to keep war profiteering at bay. FDR’s policies ensured that circumstances were in place after the war for economic expansion – rather than the usual postwar bust.

Civil Rights: Roosevelt cautiously pushed for a broadening Civil Rights agenda, but saw himself as hampered by Southern Democrats. Early in World War II, he signed an executive order forbidding racial discrimination in defense industries. For the first time in American history, women of color were earning substantial money. At a time when anti-Semitic feeling ran high, FDR had a great number of Jewish officials in his administration, and spoke about building ties between Christians and Jews. However, in 1939, FDR refused to grant asylum to a group of Jewish refugees who had docked at an American port. FDR was willing to compromise on principles for political expedience: the worst example of this was allowing the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942, partly to calm war hysteria, and partly on the questionable grounds that they were safer in camps than among the general population.

Domestic Affairs: On top of the economic improvements, FDR's "workfare" programs resulted in the creation of an infrastructure in use to this day: The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority - which brought electricity to millions of rural citizens - and countless smaller projects. Roosevelt also followed in the footsteps of his cousin, in promoting policies which safeguarded the environment without hurting business (an example later followed by William Jefferson Clinton). FDR generally took labor’s side in disputes with management, but was willing to put down strikes during the war.

Foreign Affairs: During his first term, the bulk of FDR’s foreign policy was devoted to improving ties with Central and South America – the Good Neighbor Policy - which was a welcome change from the “Big Stick” policy promoted since Theodore Roosevelt’s Administration. Roosevelt was willing to look past foreign human rights abuses if American interests were involved (he once famously said of Anastasio Somoza, “He’s an S.O.B., but he’s OUR S.O.B.”). Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor days before FDR’s first inauguration. Although FDR privately mused that Hitler was “mad” and surrounded by men “even madder,” he did not rock the boat with regard to European relations. During his second term, FDR began warning the American people about the dangers of fascism, but his efforts to rebuild the military were hamstrung by an isolationist Congress. FDR’s attempts to engage with Europe against the fascists were generally rebuffed by Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement government. After war broke out in 1939, FDR successfully walked a political tightrope between the isolationists (who were largely dupes of fascistic and anti-Semitic elements), and the interventionists, who favored immediate American entry into the war. Roosevelt’s inspired response was the Lend-Lease plan, which provided the Allies with ships, planes, tanks, and guns in exchange for 99-year leases on strategic bases. (This also helped FDR, an anti-colonialist since his school days, in his hidden agenda of breaking up the British Empire.) The attack on Pearl Harbor essentially ended the isolation debate. Almost immediately after American entry into the war, Roosevelt began to conceive of the United Nations, which would end American isolation and permanently engage America in Europe and the Far East. FDR was prescient with regard to future trends in world affairs. Decades before the fact, he foresaw China's emergence as a major power, and the Middle East as a potential source of trouble. Contrary to the McCarthyist myth that Roosevelt was a communist appeaser, duped at Yalta, FDR created the circumstances which allowed his predecessors--from Truman through Clinton--to complete the Wilsonian objective and make the world truly safe for democracy. Indeed, Europe as it exists in 2004 is very much as Roosevelt envisioned it. Sadly, if Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson had studied his views on the Far East, the Vietnam War would have likely been avoided. The use of the United Nations to prosecute the First Gulf War in 1990-91 and to harmlessly vent tensions between nations--as in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis--was again as FDR envisioned. But FDR would doubtlessly be appalled at the recent degeneration of the UN into a forum for America bashing (which could be the response to contemporary American leadership).

Honesty/Integrity: Roosevelt was more than capable of being devious, cunning, and manipulative – almost always with laudable objectives in mind. He once told an aide “I never let my right hand know what my left hand is doing. I’m perfectly willing to mislead and tell untruths if it will help win the war.” Yet, when push came to shove, FDR could level with the American people as no other President except Truman, grimly telling them of Allied defeats and bucking them up to soldier on to victory. What neither his domestic nor foreign enemies appreciated was FDR's absolute faith in the American people, a trait shared by his successor, Ronald Reagan. It should also be pointed out that, despite serving more than twelve years, there were remarkably few scandals during FDR’s tenure – the few that there were generally involved lower administration officials.

Average Rating: 7.8

Summary: Franklin Roosevelt was undoubtedly the greatest President of the 20th Century. The actions he took as President rescued Capitalism while smoothing out its rough edges. His command during the war hastened Allied victory and established America as the pre-eminent superpower. The American people, even if they didn’t agree with all his policies, held him in such high regard that they elected him President four times. Unmatched in his sheer political brilliance and mastery of the varied moods of the American electorate, FDR knew when to push forward, when to pull back, and when to assert or slacken the reigns of power. His genius was being able to determine in which direction the winds of history were blowing, and then push history forward ahead of itself – and this was done before the age of modern polling. Unique among America’s Presidents, Roosevelt was able to comprehend both his country’s changing place in world affairs, and the impact of his policies on ordinary Americans. In other words, he simultaneously saw both the forest and the trees - in much the way Arturo Toscanini saw an orchestral score. Not least, by his triumph over Polio (although a recent theory has surfaced that he actually may have been stricken with Guillian-Barre) Franklin Roosevelt was then, and remains today, a symbol of inspiration for all those faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. It has the stuff of myth: A disabled man who lifted a prostrate nation to its feet--not once, but twice. A relatively young, vigorous (despite his paralyzed legs) President who transferred his energy and optimism to a defeated, bankrupt country with a military the size of Sweden's--who became exhausted after twelve years of leadership, but with the country restored and greatly enhanced, with a military second to none, ready to take leadership of the world.

Rating the Presidents

Economy 9

Civil Rights 6

Domestic Affairs 8

Foreign Affairs 9

Honesty/Integrity 7

Average: 7.8

Friday, June 11, 2004

Let Reason Prevail

In some of the more scathing anti-Reagan rants that have been posted over the last several days, I've been reminded of something FDR's grandson said about how--in the 15 years or so after his grandfather died--people would approach him and express their vitriolic HATE of FDR.

Reagan has been out of the public eye for ten years. During his time in office, and the five years before he went public with his Alzheimer's, there were numerous critical books written about him. After 1994, those books ceased, partly out of respect, but mostly because publishers thought negative books on Reagan would not sell.

Just as there was an anti-FDR backlash after he died (hence the 22nd Amendment) so too there was an anti-Reagan backlash after he left office (even Bush Sr. had a small hand in that, when he spoke of a "kinder and gentler" America, Nancy Reagan was said to have asked, "Kinder and gentler than who?").

It takes time to look back in history with real perspective. FDR is still a controversial figure in some circles, but most historians consider him the greatest President of the 20th Century. I don't think Reagan deserves to be ranked with FDR, but I do believe he was better than average--and certainly better than the alternatives in 1980 and '84.

Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

Rating the Presidents

Ronald Reagan, 40th President: 1981-1989

Economy: When Reagan was elected in 1980, the economy had nowhere to go but up. High inflation (13%), high interest rates, and slow economic growth had combined to create the dreaded term “stagflation.” Reagan pushed through a broad series of tax cuts in the summer of 1981, which initially provoked an even deeper recession in early 1982, but which in turn tamed inflation and brought about lower interest rates. The taming of inflation and lower interest rates sparked an economic recovery beginning in 1983. By 1984, reelection year, the economy was smoking, but genuine prosperity was mostly confined to those in the higher income brackets. Additionally, despite his promise to reduce the size of the Federal government, spending skyrocketed during the Reagan Era, producing unprecedented deficits. While it was convenient to blame the Democratic controlled Congress for the high deficits, in fact the budgets Congress approved invariably had lower debt/asset ratios than those proposed by the White House. Anxiety over deficits and the savings and loan crisis provoked the Stock Market crash of 1987, but the economy generally continued functioning well. By 1989, however, the near tripling of the national debt had taken its toll and the country headed into another, milder, recession.

Civil Rights: In 1964, Reagan initially opposed the Civil Rights Act as an intrusion of the Federal government into State authority. During his tenure as President, Reagan opposed an expansion of existing civil rights laws, and opposed the creation of new civil rights laws to cover homosexuals. However, he did not roll back existing laws. His appointments to the Supreme Court, particularly Antonin Scalia, generally favored a strict-constructionalist philosophy, which held the Constitution should be interpreted within 18th Century parameters. Two of his appointments, Justices O’Connor and Kennedy, turned out to be more moderate than conservative.

Domestic Affairs: Reagan was painfully slow to respond to the looming AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Money for research into GRID, as it was then known, was painfully scant. Indeed, the Federal Government made no attempt to inform the public about ways to protect themselves from AIDS until 1986, when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, acting on his own initiative, sent informational pamphlets to every household in the United States. Far right conservatives were up in arms about Koop’s advocacy of the use of condoms to prevent transmission and demanded Koop’s dismissal. Reagan, despite his own reservations about the mailing, refused to fire Koop. During the 1980s, much of the country’s infrastructure was neglected, which put a greater strain on local and state governments. Despite his philosophy calling for a retreat of Federal power in favor of more local control, Reagan strong armed state governments on several issues. During his second term, he threatened to hold back Federal highway funding to states unless they raised the drinking age to 21, which they promptly did. Reagan ran on an anti-welfare platform, but was unable to work out a deal with Democrats to reform the Welfare system. Welfare would go unreformed until the Clinton Era. Reagan also ran on a platform calling for a return to prayer in public schools and an end to abortion, neither of which happened.

Foreign Affairs: Reagan’s principle goal on taking office was to triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Soviets made the critical mistake of underestimating Reagan as a B-movie actor who would be ineffective in the White House. But Reagan put into place a duel policy of arms buildup (which he called Peace through Strength) and diplomatic pressure, at a time when the older generation of Soviet leaders were dropping like flies. With younger, reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan signed the first ever treaty reducing nuclear arms. His policies were effective, and the Berlin Wall fell eleven months after Reagan left office, with the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union coming two years later. Although the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union was inevitable given their financial woes, Reagan deserves some credit for accelerating the process and moving history along ahead of itself. Reagan’s Cold War focus tended to push aside other foreign affair priorities, resulting in long term consequences, particularly in the Middle East. The 1982 bombing of marine headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, caused the deaths of 241 marines. Reagan condemned the attacks, but made little effort to bring the bombers to justice or retaliate against their organization. This inaction left the door open for further terrorist actions, culminating in the Al Queda attack on September 11, 2001. He also cozied up to Saddam Hussein in a short sighted attempt to balance influence from Iran. Reagan, despite his image as a trigger happy cowboy, was reluctant to use military force if avoidable. Both the 1984 incursion into Grenada and the 1986 bombing of Libian intelligence headquarters were restrained, small scale operations.

Honesty/Integrity: Although personally an honest man, Reagan’s “hands-off” management style resulted in senior and junior staffers not being adequately monitored. Edwin Meese provided illegal assistance while he was Counselor to the President to the Wedtech Corporation. Interior Secretary James Watt was convicted in a 1980s influence-peddling scandal at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These scandals were overshadowed by the Iran-Contra affair, which for a time threatened to bring down Reagan’s Presidency. It has never been conclusively proven that Reagan had direct knowledge of the diversion of funds to the Contras. (Reagan’s apparent confusion about which conversations he had at what time have led some to believe that he may have been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease during his second term.) Reagan cooperated fully with the investigation, and accepted full responsibility for the affair. Just as with the Captain of a ship, the President is ultimately responsible for the actions of those in his administration.

Summary: Ronald Reagan, returned a measure of prestige to the Presidency, which had been battered by corruption (Nixon) and incompetence (Carter). Through the force of his personality, he brought confidence back to an American public which had been demoralized by defeat in Vietnam, Watergate, gas lines, and runaway inflation. Beyond question, the country as a whole was better off in 1989 than it had been in 1981. These achievements were not without cost or compromise, and it will take generations for the American people to pay down the debt created during his presidency. Despite these shortcomings, Reagan ranks as a better than average President and a true leader who was unafraid to take unpopular stands. He deserves neither the deification dished out by uncritical sycophants, nor the vitriolic condemnation that has been leveled at him by others. During the five years he was in the public eye after leaving office, Reagan was willing to take on his own party over several issues, including the Brady gun control bill. Alzheimer’s Disease robbed Reagan of ten years of elder statesmanship, and it is interesting to speculate how the former President would have reacted to the issues of the time.

Economy 8

Civil Rights 4

Domestic Affairs 3

Foreign Affairs 8

Honesty/Integrity 6

Average: 5.8

Friday, June 4, 2004

How Bush and Hitler are alike

My readers at this point must be thinking, "Bush, like Hitler? Drake must have gone mad. How can Bush be anything like Hitler?"

But bear with me. I am not saying Bush is another Hitler. Hitler was evil. President Bush is merely corrupt. And for the record, everyone has something in common with someone nefarious in human history. For example, I share a common characteristic with Hitler: Good taste in music.

Bush and Hitler's commonality is a tendency to take complex issues and boil them down to simple solutions.

Hitler underestimated America because he was ignorant of its complexity. His prime source of knowkedge on America was a series of Western he had read (ironically, written by a German author), combined with his racial beliefs. He was astonished when an African-American won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics. In 1942, when President Roosevelt announced sky-high goals for war production, Hitler laughed the numbers off (he actually belived FDR was insane). There was no way America--a nation of Negroes, Jews, and mongrels--could produce war materiel in anywhere near the numbers FDR proposed (actually, FDR's projections were ultimately exceeded). People have had the mistaken notion that Hitler was some kind of diabolical "genius" because he was a fair painter, had good taste in music, and was a dynamic public speaker. In reality, he was a second rate intellect who couldn't handle ambiguity or inconsistency.

Bush's main criticism of Kerry thus far has been the Senator's inconsistency on various issues. But most great politicians have contradicted themselves at one time or another. Bush, like Hitler, prefers to boil down complex problems to simple formulas. "You're either with us or against us...dead or alive" etc. Bush is a prisoner of his own simple mind. Pray that America is not mentally imprisoned by Bush another four years.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Church & State

Despite what religious fundamentalists and the misinformed will tell you, the United States was not founded on Christianity. The founding fathers were largely DEISTS--the closest equivalent today would be Unitarian Universalists. The US Constitution does not mention God once, and there is only a fleeting reference to divine providence in the Declaration of Independence.

The bedrock principle of the federal government has been one of NEUTRALITY with respect to religion, which is precisely what the First Amendment was written to ensure. That neutrality has been chipped away since 1954 when "In God We Trust" was put on the money and "Under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Bush's faith based initiatives have further eroded the First Amendment.

In am of the Chrisitian faith. However, I have no desire to see that faith forced upon anyone. I am also cognizant that the separation of church and state has part of its basis in the New Testament ("Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's"). That seems to escape some of the more fundamentalist Christians.

I have no desire to see the United States morph into a Christian Iran, and I suspect the vast majority of Americans agree with me, whatever their personal religious beliefs.

“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” - Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams (giving it full power of law - read the Constitution)

“Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’” - John Adams

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” - Thomas Jefferson

“ amendment was proposed by inserting the words, ‘Jesus Christ...the holy author of our religion,’ which was rejected ‘By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.’” - Thomas Jefferson

“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry. . . .” - Thomas Jefferson

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. . . .” - Thomas Jefferson

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” - Thomas Jefferson

“Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” - James Madison

“My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself.” - Benjamin Franklin

“It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible.” - Thomas Paine

Saturday, May 15, 2004


There's a bunch of em, but trust me, this list can go on and on and on:

"Just remember it's the birds that's supposed to suffer, not the hunter."—Advising quail hunter and New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, Roswell, N.M., Jan. 22, 2004

"So thank you for reminding me about the importance of being a good mom and a great volunteer as well."—St. Louis, Jan. 5, 2004

"The best way to find these terrorists who hide in holes is to get people coming forth to describe the location of the hole, is to give clues and data."

"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the—the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice."—Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2003

"I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2003

"I'm the master of low expectations."—Aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003

"First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill."—Washington, D.C., May 19, 2003

"I think the American people—I hope the American–I don't think, let me—I hope the American people trust me."—Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2002

"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption."—Trenton, N.J., Sept. 23, 2002

"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

"Do you have blacks, too?"—To Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2001

"Our nation must come together to unite."—Tampa, Fla., June 4, 2001

"Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods."
Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2000

"The great thing about America is everybody should vote."
Austin, Texas, Dec. 8, 2000

"They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program."
St. Charles, Mo., Nov. 2, 2000

"There's not going to be enough people in the system to take advantage of people like me."
-On the coming Social Security crisis; Wilton, Conn.; June 9, 2000

"The fact that he relies on facts...says things that are not factual...are going to undermine his campaign."
-New York Times, March 4, 2000

"I think we agree, the past is over."
-On his meeting with John McCain, Dallas Morning News, May 10, 2000

"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." -Reuters, May 5, 2000

"I was raised in the West. The west of Texas. It's pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, D.C., is close to California."
-In Los Angeles as quoted by the Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2000

"It is not Reaganesque to support a tax plan that is Clinton in nature."
-Los Angeles, Feb. 23, 2000

"Will the highways on the Internet become more few?"
-Concord, N.H., Jan. 29, 2000

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"
-Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

"I think anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating."
-U.S. News & World Report, April 3, 2000

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Bush, not destined for Mount Rushmore

Given the recent performance of the stock market, the likely rise in interest rates, and the skyrocketing oil prices, I think we're headed for a third dip into a recessionary pattern.

Bush's lack of leadership is shown better nowhere than in that stupid speech he gave to Congress days after 9/11. Instead of asking Americans to sacrifice for the common good (as FDR did in his 1942 State of the Union), he essentially told citizens to "go about your business," i.e., spend the country out of the recession. He should have told people to stop driving their SUVs, then pushed Congress into passing legislation to make hybrid or alternative fuel cars mandatory by 2010. Going into Afghanistan was justified. Too bad he didn't stay there & finish the job.

Iraq has been a disaster: 700+ American lives and counting. Nick Berg was not killed by Saddam loyalists, he was killed by Al Queda terrorists who would not be in Iraq if Bush had not gotten us into this mess.

Gays like myself have not been this pissed off at the government since the 1980s. Many in the community would have been more than content to accept a compromise like Civil Unions, or would have at least been gratified to hear Bush say something like "let's have a reasoned national discussion on this issue." He did not. Rather, he kowtowed to the far right of his party by calling for a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Many in the gay community are becoming entrenched in their views--Bush's actions this winter amount to a gay Pearl Harbor. And I'm sorry to put it so bluntly, but any gay/lesbian voter who supports Bush is a deluded fool and a traitor to our community.

As far as education goes, here in Ohio things have never been so bad. The religious right has taken over numerous school boards and state agencies, and is now pushing a right wing agenda including abstinence only education and creationism. Things here have gotten so bad that, had I children, I would send them to a private school where they could get decent education in the arts and sciences.

Bush is no leader. Leadership by definition means influencing public opinion THROUGH THE FORCE OF ONE'S IDEAS. Bush has no ideas, only misinformation about WMDs and Iraq/An Queda links. He's also terrified of contradicting public opinion. Has this guy ever even vetoed anything?

Bush's presidency is the worst failure in American politics since the demise of Herbert Hoover. Hopefully, come November, the Bush dynasty will be relegated to the ash-heap of American politics--forever.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Stephen Scores

Saturday night, I went to Severance Hall to see Stephen Hough perform Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra. Ivan Fischer was the guest conductor.

The program at Severance was all Russian. The brief excepts from Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges were played with bite and pungency. Then Stephen Hough came onstage for the Rachmaninoff.

Immediately, I knew we were in for a commanding performance. The pianist did not linger over the opening chords as is customary, but played them strictly in time. The tempo for the first movement was a bit faster then usual, and was expunged of all the “traditional” ritardandos and accellerandos that pervade all too many performances of this piece. Conversely, the second movement was a bit slower than usual. Not dragged like Pogorelich has done, but there were blessed moments of suspended animation. My only complaint was that in the slow movement’s wrap-up, the strings were too loud, so that the woodwind triplets were obscured. The finale went at a great clip, with liberal mixing of inner voices on Hough’s part. There was a brief lapse (a mis-struck bass note), which Hough acknowledged with a sheepish grin toward the conductor.

The rest of the concert went well, a rousing Stravinsky Petrouchka suite (the 1947 version) was followed by a searing performance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. I must admit, after hearing how the orchestra played their hearts out under Ivan Fischer, that my first thought was that Cleveland’s powers that be should vigorously recruit him and ditch Franz Welser-Most—-who has been dubbed Frankly Worse that Most by more than one critic.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

"No fingers!"

That was a remark pianist Moritz Rosenthal is alleged to have made upon hearing that fellow pianist Artur Schnabel had been rejected from military service.

Last night my friend I went to see the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra with Conductor Carl Topilow at Severance Hall. It’s always a treat to hear them at Severance, since their usual locale, Kulas Hall, tends to be a bit dry acoustically.

The CIM played the first half of the program superbly. Carl Topilow hadn’t even waited for the applause to finish before he lanched into a rollicking Maskarade Overture by Nielsen. The orchestra brought sustained pianissimo playing in the Britten Passacaglia from Peter Grimes, and superb ensemble work in one of my favorites, Prokofiev’s suite from Lieutenant Kije. The trumpet soloist contributed some fine work, discreetly darting on and off stage for his more distant solos. It is no exaggeration to say that the CIM’s kids play at a level that many professional orchestras would envy.

After intermission came the Beethoven Concerto in G Major, my favorite Beethoven Concerto and one of my favorite Concertos in the entire repertoire. The soloist was Jerome Lowenthal, who was greeted with a big publicity splash in Sunday’s Plain Dealer. Again, the orchestral contribution was fine. The same can’t be said for Lowenthal’s playing. The performance was a mis-mash of dropped (not played) notes, wrong notes, awkward phrasing, poor balance between piano and orchestra (entirely the fault of the soloist) and overpedalling to the extent that Beethoven’s piano writing was at times incomprehensible. This is a professional pianist? Half the students at CIM could play it better than he did. Indeed, at the 1997 competition several contestants played this very same concerto, and they all did a better job. I’ve heard about 40 different performances of this concerto, from legendary interpreters such as Kempff and Rubinstein, all the way down to students, but I have never heard the piece sloppily molested as it was last night. What a disappointment!

About the only point of interest in Lowenthal’s performance was the fact that he played a new Cadenza by Rzewski in the first movement and one by Medtner in the last. Rumor has it he’s to record the concerto with several different cadenzas, which the listener may choose from, but that would be the only reason to buy this disc.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Daley on same-sex marriage

"I have no problems with that issue [same-sex marriage] at all. Marriage has been undermined by divorce. So don't tell me about marriage. People should look at their own life and look in their own mirror. I think marriage has been undermined for a number of years, if you look at the facts and figures on it. So don't blame the gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual community, please don't blame them for it."

-- Chicago Mayor Richard Daley at a Feb. 18 press conference.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Flash: Bush proposes Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage

On Tuesday, George W. Bush officially endorsed a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. It seems unlikely that this amendment will pass, as already several Republicans have indicated their opposition, and Democratic opposition is solid.

Here is an Amendment which SHOULD be passed with all haste:

The Electoral College, as described in Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2-4, is hereby abolished.

The President shall forthwith be chosen by direct election of the People.

* * *

America is now a grown-up nation and a proven democracy. The few times the electoral process has failed has been when the Electoral college was not in accord with the majority vote--as in the election of Bush 43 and Rutherford B. Hayes, IIRC

Friday, January 23, 2004

Quote of the Day

"Whatever else this president is, he is no believer in individuals' running their own lives without government regulation, control or aid. If you're a fiscal conservative or a social liberal, this was a speech that succeeded in making you take a second look at the Democrats. I sure am."

- conservative author Andrew Sullivan, on the State of the Union address.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Iowa Caucus Wrap-up

John Kerry won the Iowa caucus last night. Although I’ve been officially supporting Howard Dean, I found myself more relieved at Kerry’s victory.

Earlier in the season, it was my initial instinct to support Kerry. Having lived in Massachusetts for nine years, I was already familiar with his record. I was persuaded by a friend of Mark’s to support Dean, based on the populist/grass-roots nature of his campaign. But during the week leading up to the primary, I began to feel that Dean—admirable as his stances are and motivated as his supporters are—is not electable on the national stage. Meanwhile, there was a compelling interview with Kerry on This Week with George Stephanopolous, which confirmed to me that my initial instinct was correct.

True, Kerry voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which I’ve had very mixed feelings about. But, frankly, I have to ask what difference that would make now. We’re there. And if this were 1968, I would still favor Bobby Kennedy even though he was an early proponent of the Vietnam War. Dean, if he were elected, wouldn’t be able to jump in a time machine and undo all that has gone on in Iraq. And Kerry, I feel, would be more able to build a coalition and come up with an exit strategy than either Dean or Bush—so, I’m seriously considering switching my support to Kerry.

It goes without saying that Kerry is just as strong on gay issues as Dean.

As for the other candidates:

Edwards has managed to score a come from behind surge to get 2nd place in Iowa. Yet he still rubs me the wrong way. He strikes me as a weaker version of Clinton, and not the kind of man to take an unpopular stand if needed—a poll driven politician. On a more personal note, I am sick of Southerners in the White House. The last Northern President we’ve had is Ford, the last true Northeasterner—JFK. (Yes, Bush Sr. was originally from the Northeast, but his more recent residency and political stances marked him as a true Texan. And I know Reagan was born in Illinois, but he was a Californian through & through.)

Kucinich is my congressman and he’s doing an excellent job there—that’s where I want him to stay. I do NOT want him as my President.

Sharpton is playing the same role Jesse Jackson played in 1988, keeping the other candidates on their toes from the left.

Clark is basically a Republican, and his record in Kosovo will leave him open to criticism in the campaign.

Lieberman is so conservative on social issues, if he were nominated, I would probably decline to vote in the Presidential race and hope for a strong anti-Republican backlash in 2008.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

What would TR think of our times?

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American people." - Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Write your Reps!

HR 272, Ohio's Defense of Marriage Act, is coming up for a vote in the State Senate Wednesday.

This is a letter I dashed off to my state Senator:

Dear Senator Brady,

I am writing to urge you to OPPOSE HR 272, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

The purpose of our great Republic, and of the states, is to extend Liberty wherever possible, not restrict it unnecessarily. HR 272 not only runs counter to that, it is counter to the trend in our country toward recognizing same-sex relationships.

Businesses throughout our country—from smaller companies like Ben & Jerry’s to the Big Three automakers—are recognizing same-sex relationships. States and municipalities, such as Vermont and Cleveland Heights, are creating domestic partner registries. Several European countries have also recognized same-sex relationships. Despite this, there is no evidence that any of these steps have “threatened” traditional marriage. HR 272 does nothing to defend marriage.

HR 272’s passage will mean a regress in civil rights, which is almost unprecedented in our history. Rather than being at the forefront of the American struggle for equal justice for all, Ohio will be seen as backwards. Our state does not need to become the next Alabama.

The effect of HR 272’s passage on Ohio’s image and its already faltering economy could be devastating. If members of the gay community, such as ourselves, perceive Ohio as an unfriendly place to live, gays and their supporters will be encouraged to vote with our pocketbooks by avoiding the purchase of items from Ohio’s retailers. Prospective residents from out of state may decide to remain out of Ohio, and existing Ohio residents may choose to live elsewhere. It is certain that Ohio’s gay community will also register their outrage at the ballot box—regardless of party affiliation.

It is in the best interests of all Ohio’s citizens, gay and straight, that HR 272 be defeated.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Not So Boldly Going Where We've Gone Before...

Lost of controversy regarding President Bush's space plans. Here are my thoughts:

Space exploration is worth the cost, just as it was worth the cost for Columbus to journey to the New World. But Bush's proposal, which will end American participation in the International Space Station, and end maintenance of the Hubble Telescope, is reactive, unimaginative, and driven by election year pandering.