Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cody Lyon's View of NYC...well a photo at least....

View from 51st Street and 10th Avenue in the "Hell's Kitchen" section of Midtown Manhattan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Choosing Kennedy would Send Wrong Message



As is often the case in the empire state, New York is under the spotlight as a bit of drama builds over who Governor David Patterson might pick, if, as planned, current Senator Hillary Clinton resigns some time next year to assume the Secretary of State position. As it stands, a number of worthy names have been whispered here and there, but only a couple of them have made their way to the main stages of discussion, debate and that sometimes annoying media glare from the rest of the country that has always seen New York as a national soap opera.

Among the whispers beyond Cuomo, several women have been floated, women who’ve served New York already, a couple who happen to be Latina and another from Up-State.

Of course, there’s no denying that the biggest name in the bunch, Kennedy, evokes a sense of political reverence, respect and legacy. But in spite of tremendous political accomplishment, the family through no fault of its own, has also come to represent an American dynasty, the oft clich├ęd version of our royalty.' And while there's nothing wrong with Americans expressing affection for the tradition that comes with royalty, there is reason to question, show concern or perhaps raise flags when one's family genes potentially provide an untested individual with what could be a potentially simple coronation into national political office where the power is more than symbolic.

History books teach us the United States is a free and open Democracy that consists of government by and for the people. So, considering that 'by' essentially equals election, it might seem more fair, that in choosing New York's next Senator, the one set to succeed Hillary Clinton, the Governor might consider appointing an individual who has at least gotten votes for public office, or consider tapping a public official who has earned more tangible political wings beyond being the daughter of one of the nation's most revered presidents and a high profile member of our nation's often romanticized but powerful political dynasties.

Picking Caroline Kennedy to succeed Hillary Clinton as Senator from New York might actually send a contradictory message to Americans, the world, but perhaps more importantly, to the children of New York state. It could, inadvertently impact the spirit of the message the election of Barack Obama reaffirmed, that hopeful and idealistic seed our parents plant when they tell us while we’re still young and naive, that anyone, regardless of race, income and yes, name, can be elected to high office in the United States.

Choosing Caroline Kennedy as the Senator from New York, based on nothing more than her familial association, dilutes that message, and at least on the surface, seems to say that like Royalty, position is indeed an attribute, even a card of entitlement in American politics.

Monday, December 08, 2008

CBS NEWS '60 Minutes: Saudi Arabia Bullish On Oil's Future

CBS) The good news is that the price of oil is falling - a lot; it's also the bad news if you're determined that the U.S. should kick its addiction to foreign oil. President-elect Barack Obama says now is the time to do that, even with the economy in recession.

But Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil supplier - with the U.S. as its number one customer - is pulling all the levers and spending billions to keep the oil age going.

60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl went to Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago to meet one of the most powerful men in the world, Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister and de facto head of the OPEC oil cartel.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

7 WTC Lands German Bank on top 3 Floors

Against a backdrop of artist’s renderings of the future World Trade Center complex, Mayor Bloomberg offered praise for Silverstein and his commitment to Downtown, congratulating him on the buildings now reporting 85% occupancy. Financial terms of the lease were not available and neither Silverstein nor WestLB managing director, Connie Kain would comment on the amount the bank will be paying.

WestLB, in New York City since 1975, is moving from its current headquarters at 1211 Avenue of the Americas to floors 50 through 52 of the 1.7-million square-foot building.

Link to my full story at

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An under-discussed potential tragedy if Detroit fails

For some, thoughts of a massive financial bailout for the American Automobile industry strike chords of unease that some might say, reward the lack of innovation and enterprise that has been exhibited by some foreign auto manufacturing competitors. Futher, the auto industry, at least on the surface, has appeared to be in bed with 'big oil' by continuously producing oversized automobiles, ala SUV's and the like, cars that only encouraged a glutinous collective consumption of oil, as if that fossil fuel were pouring from spigots of plenty throughout the world. And, to top things off, executives flew in private jets to plea with leaders in Washington, furthering the epidemic of anger at what many see as a nation where greed and excess rule the day. And, its easy to understand why people subscribe to that image, thus, for vast swaths of America, it's become increasing hard to have sympathy for the legends of American industry and capital.

But there is another side that must be addressed with some sort of legislative mandate because if the auto world of Detroit is allowed to fail and sink behind the veil of protection that bankruptcy provides, the potential for great human tragedy becomes increasingly real for large groups of vulnerable Americans.

Last week, I entered had a conversation with a woman in Alabama, who's husband worked for many years in a union job at a public utility in that state. While she had misgivings about bailing a large industry like automakers, worrying that perhaps, it would lead to a rash of bailouts for other companies in trouble, or at least, calls for more, she also expressed deep worry about people in the same position she's in. She said, who's to say other companies might seek bankruptcy protection and legally do away with 'obligations' to its former employees.

Being the wife of a union retiree, she and her husband are able to survive in tough economic times thanks to a small pension and company healthcare benefits. This Alabama couple's drug costs would bankrupt many, and the struggle to pay bills, simply get by, is cushioned by the benefits negotiated and fought for years ago. Her husband and thousands of other's paid union dues, labor negotiations and more than a few days on picket lines which allowed them to earn a decent living and retire with a sense of security. While there's little chance a public utility will ever be in the same boat as automakers, there is still the fear among those people, those older union family Americans who thought contracts between the union and company was sacred and would always be there once they reached the golden years. The point is, in bankruptcy, the fear is that almost anything is possible, in this case, there is a chance that if the automakers of Detroit are allowed to fail, thousands, if not millions could see their pensions, health insurance and other benefits greatly diminished or simply go away because a judge or arbiter might rule the company can no longer afford to pay for them. That the company's survival is more important than the older people no longer producing product for profit.

It could be that this is the under-discussed potential tragedy of an auto-industry failure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Taliban Mosaic (REUTERS)

The Taliban mosiac
(01:57) Report
Nov 19 - Increasing talk about talking to the Taliban comes at a time when some members claim responsibility for killing French soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
When the US first went into Afghanistan, it was to rid the country of the Taliban and prevent al Qaeda from forming a safe haven there.
Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

NATO urges African Lead on Pirates (REUTERS)

NATO urges African lead on piracy REUTERS
(01:53) Report
Nov 20 - Alliance chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says NATO is committed to helping improve security but expects African states to take the lead in fighting high seas piracy.
There's no shortage of unilateral proposals being made to fight the pirates. But nothing on a coordinated global basis as yet.
The Somalia-based pirates have become increasingly active, now holding at least 13 vessels with more than 270 crew.
Susan Flory reports

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Mobile Press Register" New Emails Surface in Siegelman Appeal Case

aturday, November 15, 2008
Capital Bureau
MONTGOMERY — Attorneys for former Gov. Don Siegelman said Friday new allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during his 2006 trial will factor into his upcoming appeal.

An employee in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Alabama has handed the Department of Justice e-mails suggesting that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary discussed the case with prosecutors in 2005, three years after recusing herself over a potential conflict of interest.

The e-mails also suggest improper contact between prosecutors and jurors — including romantic interest expressed by one juror toward a member of the prosecution team — that was not disclosed during the trial.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Tyranny of a Straight Majority?

by CODY LYON-Opinion

On the day after the historic election of Barack Obama as President of the United States and once the tears of joy had stopped flowing from eyes across the nation, a dose of sadness and disillusionment settled upon many members of the country's LGBT community.

Proposition 8 had passed in California. The amendment essentially overturns an earlier California State Supreme court decision that had extended the rights provided by legal marriage to same sex couples.

Leading up to the election, the hopes for an Obama victory were enhanced by the belief that another high profile pothole might be filled on the highway to true equality for gay and lesbian people. Publicly, blame for Prop 8 passage is being directed at a number of entities like the Mormon Church, well organized and moneyed efforts by conservative and right wing organizations from outside California while some have engaged in unfortunate knee-jerk tactics , laying blame on the heavy African American turnout and the tremendous influence of the Black church has in that community.

Before the vote, disturbing whispers of infighting among LGBT organizations who were attempting to lay blame for worrisome poll numbers on various interests, organizations and individuals for not staying focused, careful and on point so as to sway public opinion.

But, after some pause and reflection, one could in fact argue, that despite some truths in the above, most of these charges are simplistic, maybe even lazy but motivated by understandable, justifiable and reactionary anger at what the voters themselves wrought.

The massive No on 8 public relations campaign that sought to impact the California majority's attitudes about same sex marriage was somewhat hasty, perhaps idealistic and maybe even too hopeful. That despite the newfound sense of activism bubbling throughout the LGBT nation, the gay community was set up for disappointment especially since the battleground was California, a state most see assumed to be more socially liberal, a place many assumed to be more tolerant and accepting.

In the end, despite the joy of Obama's landslide, millions of gay people found themselves feeling let down, left behind, it was as this vote was a referendum on all gay people, as if the inclusive mosaic the election seemed to paint along with the supposed more compassionate and progressive tidal wave the election signaled, did not fully include them.

Truth be told, deep inside the souls of countless gay people, little voices were whispering, you, gay person, are still a second class citizen. And, the voices doing the talking were the people, at least the majority so far, who have shown in state after state, they are unwilling to accept the idea of same sex marriage.

The fact is, what happened in California was a reality check. California, the west coast trend setting home of Hollywood and the gay promised land of San Francisco, proved that despite how far the gay rights movement has come and attitudes changed, the majority is, at least now, not willing to extend the legal rights conveyed by marriage to same sex couples. No matter how one spins it, no matter who one seeks to lay blame on, the facts are what they are.

True, the Right played dirty, and no doubt the hyperbole they spewed played a role in the outcome. Funded by millions of dollars from across the right wing stratosphere, all manner of insidious ads, pulpit pleas and viral campaign tactics attempted to spook, prejudice and misinform voters into doubt on Tuesday. There was even the always reliable Anita Bryantesque use of the children, as rumors and lies were spread that, if Prop was not passed, the state's schools would be teaching students about the joys of gay coupling.

But, does all of his beg a greater question about who and how equality is dispensed in America?

Most supporters and experts have said that the road to full marriage equality will be a years long process that travels a highway of state by state activism and struggle. The consensus being, that the courts will pass it off to an eventual federal solution, most likely the Supreme court, provided there is an evolution of public opinion in the ballot box.

But, as indicated by the sobering California vote on Proposition 8, the majority is not always willing to take the necessary steps towards full equality.

At the risk of sounding simplistic, imagine if it had been left up to the majority white population to dispense equality to African Americans in America.

While it would be wrong to equate efforts to secure full marriage equality and the tremendous years long struggle for individual equality, dignity and the ladders of opportunity that were built as a result of the 1960's civil rights movement, there are are clues from history that might be worth studying.

First, it took heroic efforts, foot soldiering and the activism of black leaders who along with thousands of individuals, bravely stood up through countless marches, beatings, demonstrations and tragedy which along the way forced America to look in the mirror and confront the cancer of racism and all it had wrought. Every square inch of the Southern United States region, was essentially segregated.

History shows, the majority of whites, stirred on by segregationist leaders coupled with a fundamental sense of denial that was cushioned by the false comforts of separate but equal, were unwilling to take it upon themselves and tear down the barriers the segregated South presented. It was not until the courts and judges took on cases and allowed morality to rule over what had become the tyranny of the majority in the South.

In 1956, at the time of the Montgomery bus boycott, there was no state wide vote, after then US District Court Judge for the Middle District of Alabama, Frank Johnson, ruled in the Browder v Gale case that Brown v Board decision applied to public transportation as well as public schools, effectively integrating the state capital's bus system.

Subsequent decisions by Judge Johnson led to the integration of Alabama's public accommodations, libraries and agricultural services.

But, it was a later decision that brought out the true rage of many white Alabamians at the time,

After the 1954 Brown v Board Supreme Court decision ruling that separate but equal public schools were un-constutional, throughout the South, individual school districts continued to take their time on full integration. In 1963, most districts in Alabama were still balking at the ruling. But, when faced with the Lee vs Macon County Board of Education case, Judge Johnson issued Alabama's first statewide desegregation order. Johnson bravely endured death threats and other insults as he went against the majority of his home state.

Had it not been for the sense of urgency and the thirst for equality and justice by activists and leaders of the movement coupled with the actions of courts and judges of that time, America may have taken a slower path to the moment we witnessed in this years election.

Interestingly, the very idea that Judge Johnson's decisions would have ever been put before voters is nothing short of laughable.

There are plenty of Southerners, who today, will seek to explain, why, in all the years preceding the Civil Rights movement, they simply believed this was the way we lived, we knew nothing else and sometimes, they will say in no uncertain terms, we were in a state of denial about how difficult it was for a black person to exist with any sense of dignity in the deep south much less to get ahead in a white world.

But, they will also share, that they were taken aback, when they had to be forced to accept that that this way of life, was no longer acceptable, that everything segregation in America stood for, was in fact, the antithesis of what this nation supposedly stood for, that it was in fact unconstitutional. Black people in the south were living in a society where the tyranny of the majority stood firm. If it had not been for the efforts of the movement's soldiers, but also what today might be called by certain politicians, activist judges and courts, the majority may have maintained that un-just status quo even longer.

It appears that most Americans support the injustice of denying same sex couples the almost 700 federal rights and privileges that marriage conveys. But, it also appears that vast portions of the lesbian and gay community have been slow to recognize what passage of amendments like Proposition 8 say about the nation we call home. Perhaps California was a wake up call. Perhaps too, the California decision offered evidence that this section of the fight for full equality may not be won in the public's courtroom of opinion. Instead, the Prop 8 decision might be a call for more intense activism that seeks to challenge the status quo through the courts with the goal being an eventual Supreme Court ruling.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hope, Fear and Race in America


On the sunny, crisp and final Monday of October 2008, three friends met at around 1 p.m., in Downtown Manhattan's financial district for lunch.

The three then headed to a pub located on a narrow cobblestone street deep within the cavernous patch of land where buildings inspired by finance touch the sky.

Inside, dim light, drab wood tables and a line of customers at a steam table that included Turkey and cranberry sauce, Cajun Strip Steak, vegetables and crusted macaroni and Cheese.

Sitting at the tables were business attired patrons on lunch breaks.

Being that it was a few days before Halloween, fake spider webs coated the ceiling.

And, since it was only eight days before a national election, much of the soft but steady conversation filling the room was punctuated by Obama, Palin and McCain and Biden.

After the three settled into one of the the worn wooden booths, they too joined the conversation between bites of the hearty food and syrupy flat soda.

Despite polls predicting otherwise, one of the three raised doubts about a Democratic win, a hope they all said they subscribed to.

The doubter worried that while the potential election of the African American candidate created the appearance that race no longer plays an active role in American politics, the worry remained, racism could rear its ugly head on election day.

At that point, one of the three teased the doubter about his Southern upbringing, while the other, a New York native laughed but with caution, chimed in, saying what goes on behind the curtain of a voting booth, often stays behind the curtain.

The doubter kept saying that this is America, a place where hypocrisy and secrets often reveal themselves in subtle fashions. He charged that America was still a place where inequity could be measured along racial and class lines and that it was on full display in policy and even in the most mundane activities of day to day life.

This was after all, a nation that would legitimize campaign questions based on rumors about one man's religion while failing to live by a "golden rule" that clearly calls for all people to be treated, as they themselves would want to be treated, with decency, compassion and respect.

Evidence of his charges could be found in countless news stories, statistics and facts. This was a nation where prejudice and discrimination were still tolerated, offering as an example, California, where the threat of Proposition 8 offered reaffirmation that we as a nation allowed the majority to pick and choose who was worthy of equality.

After more polite discussion, lunch was finished, and the three rejoined the day outside where despite the crisp weather, the mood on the sidewalks appeared as flat as the earlier soda, a place where worry infected the collective mindset as fears of financial upheaval, two major wars and a sense of lost direction dimmed the lights at the end of the tunnel.

The downtown streets surrounding the epicenter of business were filled with camera ready tourists and cigarette puffing traders who quietly strolled, all mingling together amidst security barriers, television crews and checkpoints manned by men with guns.

The three friends then made there way back to the original gathering point, and dropped off the one who worked in the area. The other two, hopped on bikes and headed out of the cavernous old New Amsterdam, and over to the open air of the Harbor where the statue of Liberty beckoned. Then, after texting friends and some small talk about the past weekend, the two headed uptown along the river.

Along the way, the two noticed a group of around four casually dressed people who were staring down at the ground. One of them was taking a picture of what appeared to be either a large grey bug. After a good bit of pointing, giggling and conversing in what sounded like Italian, the group, obviously tourists, lumbered along leaving the small creature on the concrete surface.

The two, still on their bikes decided to have a look.

As they made there way over to the little spot, one of the two exclaimed "it's a tarantula!"

"No, it's a sea crab," said the other.

It was in fact a small crab, obviously from the harbor. The crab was moving sideways at the pace of caterpillar, apparently trying to make its way around the concrete barrier into the nearby weeds.

The two stood there and watched the little grey creature, which suddenly began to scurry into the safety of bushes and tall grass.

The crab was then gone, at least, the two on the bikes could no longer see it. They had no desire to dig and find it either, so, they continued to bike north.

As they rode along, they spotted yet another small group of people. Among them this time, a little girl petting what appeared to be a tiny spotted leopard.

"It's a virtual zoo out here!" remarked one of the two friends to the other.

"What is that?" he asked?

In this new group of three, a middle aged looking woman with perfectly white hair, had a large spotted cat on a leash. The cat was eying a squirrel that seemed to be teasing the cat. The squirrel bobbed its head and nibbled on food it took from the ground. The cat, sat with its neck stretched, at full attention, transfixed on the squirrel. The little girl, continued to pet the cat with caution, keeping her distance, while the cat did not seem to notice she was even there. A short distance away, another woman manned an empty stroller.

After a few minutes of staring at this scene, the two on bikes continued uptown.

Finally, they stopped at the World Financial Center, a modern complex of buildings on the shore of the river that adjoins the World Trade Center Site, also known as Ground Zero.

In the small marina at the base of the complex, are several yachts, sail boats and other marine vessels.

The two on bikes bought some peaches and cream gelato at an ice cream store in the complex, then sat outside on a concrete bench and enjoyed the sun.

Here too, despite the sunny day, the mood appeared quiet, subtle, as if New York City was calm before a storm.

The afternoon marched on, the two spent more time taking, pondering their hopes for the future, discussing their belief that government can and should do great things for its people. But still, one of them worried, that on election day polls mean nothing, that in America, even among liberals, racism is like cancer, it whispers as it destroys.

On this Monday in 2008, beneath the ghost of a shadow cast by twin towers that are now gone, the two pondered their hopes for the future, a future they hopped would begin next Tuesday.

After a while, one of the two continued uptown and left the other alone. The doubter sat and thought for a moment. Soon, his worries began to evolve back into bright light of hope.

When hope is real, it usually trumps the the fear of the past.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Shameful Message of Hate and Lies


Barring a vision from the Lord himself,there is probably no way to alter the thinking of those who subscribe to the philosophy of fringe right wing groups like the Columbus Ohio based Mission America and its leader Linda Harvey.

And, if it weren't for the particularly nasty tone or incessantly misleading words contained in an October 20 opine by Linda Harvey in the conservative "World Net Daily", any response to Mission America's typically insecure, filth laced and fright filled hyperbole wouldn't be worthy of time or effort.

But, in this case, a word or two, perhaps even a counter attack are warranted because, in her latest poisonous diatribe, Harvey not only spews lies about one of the LGBT community's most respected organizations, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, but also attempts to link her lies to the candidacy of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama.

Understanding just how fringe Mission America is easy. This is a group that beckons visitors to its web page by advertising "learn the truth about homosexuality, witchcraft, changing Christian Church, Radical Feminism and the Youth Culture. Even more "mainstream" right wing groups may find this a bit outrageous.

Mission America calls itself a public policy analysis foundation. According to its 2007 tax returns, the private non operating foundation Mission America took in a meager $12,000 in contributions and donations. On its IRS Form 990 PF on a question where it asks did the foundation attempt to influence any national, state or local legislation or participate in any political campaigns, Harvey, or whoever filled out the returns, checked NO.

That said, there's no doubt Harvey and her writing is indeed attempting to influence this year's campaign. And, she's using a tired tactic, one long used by those on the far right that attempts to plant seeds of fear, be they racial, spook tactics on national security or in this case, the always reliable hot button homosexual agenda.

Currently featured in a prominent spot on the group's web page is a link to the article "Advocate of homosexual corruption of kids is leader in Obama's campaign.

That link then takes visitors to 'Gay" pedophilia and Obama', the "World Net Daily" piece where Linda Harvey asks if Obama agrees with his GLBT supporters.

Harvey's article charges that the LGBT organization GLSEN's mission "has been to plant 'gay' clubs and training programs in as many schools as possible" calling those groups a Trojan Horse into America's school children's minds.

She says that the "more closely one reads the GLSEN material, the worse it gets," implying that all manner of sexually suggestive material and pedophilia are acceptable behaviors. She says "just about every sexual practice imaginable is apparently acceptable and even worthy of celebration by any age student or teacher as far as GLSEN is concerned."

Then she asks "is this the kind of 'school reform' Obama has in mind?"

Harvey makes these charges because GLSEN's founder, Kevin Jennings, happens to be a prominent fundraiser in the LGBT community for the Obama campaign.

In the article, she says that Obama should remove Jennings from his 'position' and that voters need answers to a series of questions from Obama regarding his stance or beliefs about the origins, practice and acceptance of homosexuality especially when it comes to school aged children.

She then kicks her piece with "if we want a totalitarian, pansexual society, with its accompanying disease, dysfunction and abuse, and no room for nobility, goodness and tradition, then we need to make sure we vote for Obama with all his various revolutionary hangers-on, including Jennings." If, on the other hand, we envision another America, it's time to speak up now."

Well, Ms Harvey is correct, we do need to speak up.

It's nothing short of pathetic that Mission America would resort to such disgusting misleading smears that use vulnerable children in a Presidential campaign.

Perhaps her desperation arose out of the clear indication that If the "another America" Harvey envisions resembles the noble, good society where the 'tradition' of the past eight years are celebrated, according to a number of polls, most Americans plan to pass this go round.

Clearly, most voters are choosing to look beyond the political smokescreen of far right groups like Harvey's Mission America that have long sought to steer voters from the true issues affecting their lives, and their children's futures by raising false charges about candidates like Harvey does in her Obama/GLSEN piece. There are greater concerns occupying the minds of voters than an LGBT fundraiser at the Obama campaign.

But, besides that, if Americans look at the fine work of all the LGBT organizations in America, GLSEN has the distinction of perhaps being one of the more politically benign. It's mission is clear and it actually speaks to a fundament of who we are as a nation, the opportunity for all Americans to receive a quality education in a safe learning environment.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network narrows its mission 'to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.'

Exactly how does that mission mission cross over into pedophilia?

GLSEN's battles have been defined by its own research.

According to a recent GLSEN survey of almost seven thousand school children across the nation, 86.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. Around 74 percent heard derogatory remarks like "faggot" or "dyke" used often at school. According to the survey, more than 60 percent of students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

Linda Harvey and her friends at Mission America must not remember what goes on in the hallways or schoolyards of America's schools. The truth is, kids can be extremely cruel, often resorting to name calling and bullying, unfortunate behaviors usually directed at the most vulnerable, those perceived as different or weak, maybe the less than masculine male, or the masculine appearing female. Harvey fails to understand that those taunts, those abuses, that even the victims themselves are often ashamed of, have the ability to leave a child feeling isolated, alone and damaged. Those insults backed up by much of society's deep prejudices have the ability to cripple the self esteem and psychological health of children for years, if not lifetimes.

And, what good does it do the child issuing those taunts, or more importantly, the child on the receiving end of those taunts, when his or her parent, has read a piece like Linda Harvey's or any of the other vicious material on her website, where she has equated the mission of GLSEN and the candidacy of Barack Obama to pedophila or the "homosexual agenda?"

While GLSEN does indeed help in the establishment of what are called Gay Straight Alliances in schools across the nation, the fact is, they are more prominent in places that tend to be more tolerant, places with more socially open school districts, and rarely in the rural hamlets of Mississippi or Alabama, places where if a child who happens to be different, perhaps gay or lesbian, life can be hellish, perhaps destructive and very lonely.

If parents in those more conservative areas are subscribing to the hate filled vitriol of Linda Harvey and her crowd, a child may feel he or she has no place to turn.

Back in 1989, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its "Report on the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide," which found that "a majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people.

In 2001, the American Psychological Association said that suicide is the number one cause of death for gay teens.

Calling someone heterosexual or straight is not a common insult or perceived as hurtful. In most school yards, shopping malls, social functions or other gathering places the straight jock or pretty cheerleader has less to worry about when it comes to the prejudices facing them. But the prejudices, even disregard for humanity that gets reinforced by the rhetoric of ghoulish figures like Linda Harvey, individuals who spew poisonous rhetoric, reinforcing hate for political gain into the minds of concerned parents and voters is nothing short of shameful.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rolling the Dice?

This past week, as it became increasingly clear that an infusion of $700 billion in taxpayer capital might be necessary to stave off national economic "calamity", a number of Americans expressed increased feelings of doubt, confusion and frustration.

In fact, according to a "Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times" Sept 19-22 poll, by a margin of 55 to 31 percent, "Americans say it's not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayer dollars, even if their collapse could damage the economy."

Even in New York City, the home Wall Street of Wall Street Giants, talk on the streets, bars and boutiques beyond the cavernous streets downtown is mixed with worry and anger.

"I do not believe the American taxpayer should have to bail out another business like Bear Stearns" said Scott Woodward, CEO of Sewbranded, a marketing and branding firm in New York.

"My inclination is to let it play itself out naturally, and maybe the goings on of Wall Street as we knew it, will halt the greed and corruption of how CEO's run firms for short term personal gain will subside," said Woodward.

In his initial appearance before lawmakers in Washington, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson urged that the bailout plan, as it's commonly called, be passed "quickly and clearly" and that inaction could lead to a "recession."

President Bush used similar language during a number of television appearances.

Despite acknowledging the use of shrill language, a number of experts appear to believe that the doing nothing is simply not an option.

"The use of recession sounds to me like a scare tactic," said David Backus, Heinz Riehl Professor of International Economics and Finance at New York University's (NYU) Stern School of Business.

But Backus says that a "reasonably rapid response to problems in the financial sector are important."

"Japan is the obvious case of the opposite (inaction),"said Professor Backus.

From 1986 to 1990, Japan experienced what many call an asset price bubble where real estate and stock prices. When the bubble collapsed, gradually, the next 10 years became known in economic circles as the "lost decade."

"The government there ignored the onset of serious problems, and the economy stopped growing," Backus said.

"That's not a recession, it's much worse, that is ten to fifteen years of slow growth," he said.

According to, a nation's economic growth rate is measured by economic growth during a given interval. Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product are the fundaments used to measure those growth rates.

Still, understanding the evolution of, and accepting the severity of what a slowdown could mean, has at best, proven to be challenging.

The bailout plan would allow the Treasury Department to buy bad mortgages from banks, and if and when the market improves, then sell them, in the best case scenario, at a profit.

But, ultimately, the Government would pump billions of dollars into the economy by buying up bad debt and restoring credibility to firms like AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie, providing clean balance sheets, so banks can start lending to one another again.

In a recent broadcast of the PBS program "Newshour'" Paul Solmon explained that in this most recent and current era of "credit," the collapse of firms like Lehman Brothers was not a net loss of faith in stocks, but in bonds, basically, the debts of firms like Lehman, Fannie , Freddie and AIG.

Bonds are like official IOUs isued by governments and corporations.

Newshour's Solmon points out that credit is the most important ingredient in an economy. Futher, he says in the report that 'firms, from railways to high tech, pay for their equipment , offices, and workers as they try to grow or expand, on credit.

The availability of fast and easy credit via credit cards, loans, and mortgages has enabled American consumers to buy cars, homes, television sets and vacations basically with a bet that future income from work will allow them to cover debt, or at least allow them to keep up with monthly payments .

Still, many wonder why taxpayers should bail out an industry they view as profiteers of misfortune or bad financial decisions of average citizens...especially during the era of the perjorative term, predatory lender.

Of course, it isn't just sub-prime mortgage lenders who have the appearance of predators who capitalize off the inability of countless individuals who fail to to pay in full or on time.

Just look at the commercial banking industry's biggest arm of profit.

Back in 2004, the PBS documentary series Frontline in collaboration with the "New York Times" produced its "Secret History of the Credit Card" that revealed over 145 million Americans carried charge cards. Of those individuals, 55 million paid their full payments monthly. 90 million of them carried balances while 35 million paid only the minimum required amounts.

FRONTLINE pointed out that the average credit card amount owed by consumers was $8,000.

The documentary meticulously reported how around 25 years ago, 'the banking industry successfully eliminated a critical restriction: the limit on the interest rate a lender can charge a borrower' setting in motion what has proven to be one of the most profitable profit streams for the banking industry.

As most consumers know, a credit card might be issued at a low interest rate of perhaps, 6 percent. But, if the consumer misses or is late on a payment, hidden within the fine print of most charge card agreements are stipulations that allow the bank to raise the rate to as much as 29 or more percent.

According to the FRONTLINE report by Lowell Bergman, the industry's most profitable customers, the ones being sought by creative marketing tactics, are the "revolvers:" the estimated 115 million Americans who carry monthly credit card debt.
To the extent the current the current 'crisis' would affect credit card lending is not yet known.

But as Jocelyn Slovak, a former New York City Public School Teacher, said last week, she's worried that if some sort of plan doesn't save the sector, it's pretty clear that a good bit of the financial freedom that credit provides might be be taken away.

"We've always had the luxury to take risks, through credit and other means, and it looks like that's going to change rather quickly," said Slovak.

So how did America arrive at a place where luxury and now it appears, big houses on credit became the norm?

In a June, 2006 "New York Times Magazine" article titled "The American Way of Debt" Jackson Lears, editor of Raritan: A Quarterly Review wrote During the 1980's, while real income continued to stagnate for most Americans, the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan gave government sanction to unprecedented consumer spending. Reagan's rhetorical refusal of limits combined with the deregulation of the lending industry to detach dreams of luxury from previous constraints.

The lack of constraint and de-regulation apparently created an industry that led to the current bubble linked to credit, a bubble that now appears to be popping most loudly on Wall Street.

Back on street level in New York, Scott Woodward said while he worries that the pain of not bailing out Wall Street will be immediate and extreme, his adverse opinions to this plan's particulars were only strengthened when he heard Secretary Henry Paulson first detail and defend the initial bailout terms with "no attached conditions", conditions that Woodward and plenty of others saw as a gift to CEO's and other players.

"I'd love to know the headhunter that was able to devise the notion of million dollar severances for executives that get fired for running their firms into the ground and not performing," he said.

Headhunters aside, it's understandable why Woodward would blast one of the more high profile companies that will be receiving Washington, ahem, taxpayer money, the nation's largest insurer or AIG. (American International Group Inc.)

For consideration, AIG, whose $85 billion dollar bailout is in addition to the $700 billion figure being crafted in Washington, has what some would might call a less than stellar record in some of its past corporate dealings.

For example, according to Austin based non profit organization Texans for Public Justice, after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, AIG's former chair and CEO, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, led "a lobbying blitz to get taxpayers to bail out terrorism-related insurance losses.

TPJ also reported in a series called Bush donor profiles, that AIG had helped the now infamous Enron Corporation "cook its books" by investing in its LJM2 partnership along with Merril Lynch.

In 2003, AIG paid $10 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission fraud charges that it helped a struggling mobile phone company pad its earnings by selling it a phony, back-dated insurance policy. Further still, AIG paid $126 million in 2004 to settle criminal and civil charges that it similarly helped PNC Financial Services hid $762 million in poorly performing loans in 2001.

According to TPJ, former AIG CEO Greenberg, while sitting on the New York Stock Exchange , helped approve what became a publicly condemned $187 million retirement package leading to the ouster of NYSE Chairman Dick Grasso.

TPJ goes on to say that "around that time, Greenberg got Grasso to pressure NYSE buyers to prop up AIG's stock price.

And while such alleged mischief leaves a bad taste in the mouths of countless taxpayers, experts caution that AIG's assets must go someplace and the bailout of AIG and others is probably necessary.

"It's entirely legitimate for people to ask questions about why we're doing this and who benefits as long as this isn't used as an excuse to delay action," said New York University's David Backus.

"To the extent we might want to blame somone, there's more than enough evidence of bad judgement by both parties with Fannie and Freddie being the most obvious examples," he said.

But, there are some holdouts.

As Ari J. Officer and Lawrence J. Officer opined on September 29 in TIME Magazine, 'the $700 billion (ultimately $1 trillion or more) bailout is not predominantly for mortgages and homeowners. Instead, the bailout is for mortgage-backed securities. In fact, some versions of these instruments are imaginary derivatives. These claims overlap on the same types of mortgages.

The Time article said that many financial institutions wrote claims over the same mortgages, and these are the majority of claims that have "gone bad."

One solution that might provide some level of palatability to taxpayers who others who view the bailout as extreme is an "institutional risk insurance premium."

The idea was touted in a September 17, "New York Times" Op-Ed by Jonathan G S Koppell, Director of the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at Yale.

Koppell asked "why not make investment banks and other companies pay premiums for this catastrophic insurance." He argues further that the "goal should be to limit the contagion of failure rather than prevent the failure itself."
Later, in an email message, Professor Koppell wrote that the idea of 'failure tax' "could be used to emphasize that the public should not be providing insurance to these companies gratis."

"The American people don't get the profits so why should they be stuck with the losses," he said.

Such input from experts and others has only fueled the ongoing informal conversations, questions and nighttime arguments over who, what and how this will all play out in the end for those beyond the busy trading floors in the financial district and the halls of Government in Washington.

"In a nutshell, we are an over-inflated economy that has placed to much trust in synthetic trades," according to one New York stock analyst who asked to remain anonymous while sipping drinks with a friend who works for a major New York City bank.

The annonymous analyst said that Wall Street is all about leverage. He went on to say that leverage is like odds, you bet one, but if you lose, you lose a thousand.

During that same conversation at a downtown bar, the analyst said that Wall Streets assets are based on synthetic value, mere blips on a screen.

Whatever that means, it seems clear, that Wall Street has been and will continue to capitalize off of every day American's debt, and that debt, has allowed Americans to operate, often beyond their means.

Still, as the anaylist in New York pointed out, ordinary Americans don't really have a say here.

"Whether you think it's good, bad or you're indifferent, you have no control," he said to his banker friend.

He went on to say that taxpayers will be rolling the dice with the $700 billion dollar bailout. First, there is no way of knowing whether or not the market will buy back the distressed debt at any point in the future and whether or not, this will put the country back on the path to greater growth.

According to an August 2008 report from the Office of Macroeconomic Analysis, the United States economy has "remained on a path of slower growth since late 2007.

To this, many Americans are asking whether or not this plan that allegedly provides a shot in the arm of the market abyss will impact their own income streams.

"There is absolutely no guaruntee this $700 billion will do anything to stave off a catastrophe in the longterm," the anonymous analyst said wearily over a Grey Goose martini with olives.

FRONTLINE'S "Secret History of the Credit Card"

Perhaps an appropriate time to further educate oneself about the ongoing financial crisis:

In "Secret History of the Credit Card," FRONTLINE® and The New York Times join forces to investigate an industry few Americans fully understand. In this one-hour report, correspondent Lowell Bergman uncovers the techniques used by the industry to earn record profits and get consumers to take on more debt.

LINK TO PBS Webpage to view entire program online

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Once again, the Bob Perry Story (Re-post)

What Bob Perry's Politicking Says About Campaign Finance Rules In America
But, Ahmed says she thinks the busloads of elderly lobbyist were in fact brought in, fed breakfast as well as slanted information, educated, by Pro court reform coaches connected to the Texas homebuilder industry about the so-called frivolous lawsuits, in what Ahmed believes was a clear case of smoke and mirrors politics meant to promote tort reform specifically favorable to home builders and developers. Ahmed says the Austin tort reform blitz was organized by the group Texas For Lawsuit Reform (TLR), run by Richard Weekly. Richard Weekly is the brother of another Texas homebuilder/developer, David Weekly. Ahmed and others have also said that the Texas Tort reform efforts were bankrolled by Developer Perry and Weekly's generous financial support for homebuilder friendly legislative, gubernatorial and judicial candidates.


Monday, September 22, 2008

(REUTERS) Hadron Collider halted for months

Hadron Collider halted for months-FROM REUTERS
Sept. 21 - The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva may be shut down for at least two months after a serious malfunction, the European Organisation for Nuclear Reserach (CERN) says.
Engineers were forced to switch off the world's most powerful particle accelerator after a magnet failure, which led to tonnes of liquid helium leaking into the Collider's 27-km tunnel.
Earlier this month international scientists celebrated the successful start of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) machine located in a deeply-buried tunnel on the Swiss-French border.
The biggest and most complex machine ever made, the LHC aims to unlock the physical secrets of the universe by simulating the conditions of the "Big Bang" that created the universe.
Helen Long reports.SOUNDBITE: James Gillies, Cern's Head of Communications.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Trip to Ground Zero: Fourth in a Series (Re-post)

From Thursday, September 14, 2006

(photo courtesy Anthony German)


On a cool, clear September 11th 2006, at around one in the afternoon, two friends riding bicycles met at a fountain just off Christopher Street alongside the Hudson River in New York City. The fountain was the pre-chosen starting point for the two friend’s annual pilgrimage downtown to ground zero, a ritual they’ve repeated for the past four years. The two friends, both in New York during the attacks of 2001, experienced the immediate effects of the disaster in different ways. One witnessed United Flight 175’s crash into the South Tower from his fifth floor Soho apartment. Unbeknownst to him at the time, an old friend was on that plane. He later watched both buildings collapse from his building’s roof.

The other friend, at the time a resident of East 14th Street, was at first oblivious to the event’s magnitude. He was on his way to work at the World Financial Center finding himself underground for over two hours in a Subway tunnel when the towers fell. When he was finally evacuated at City Hall station, just a few blocks from the collapse, he emerged among dust and smoke in a changed world.

For the next few months, both friends, like millions of New York residents, inhaled the smell of death, experienced pain that still has the ability to overcome joy but all the while experiencing a new sense of connectivity with their city.

The two, one originally from Alabama, the other from Germany, had met through friends just a few months after 9/11. They first bonded that June at a large outdoor dance party on the Westside pier at 13th Street. As fireworks blasted and a disco version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” played, the two took in the new downtown skyline, discussed the event and shed tears as the one who lost his friend in the crash, began to talk about his lost friend’s zest for life.

“He was such a fun guy, he’d be here now, if he were around” he said, with an almost empty smile on his face.

The bond between the two new made friends was instant.

Over four years later, pedaling slowly to Ground Zero down the bike path along the Hudson, several persons, some with photographs of smiling faces, wedding pictures or individuals in other happy moments, passed by. One elderly couple dressed in sensible shoes and matching white top’s, each wearing a photograph of a smiling bright eyed woman, held hands as they walked on the path uptown. Men and women in uniform walked by, many with peaceful expressions that have long since dealt with the horror and loss this day represents. Motorcycles, many with POW flags, whizzed by on the highway, while honking horns blew in the distance from back at Christopher Street, an area now called Point Gratitude.

When the two reached the Hudson side of the former World Trade Center as bells rang in the distance, the two friends paused and separated.

As they stood among TV trucks, law enforcement officials and other observers, dust and dirt from the pit, one of Manhattan’s rare un-paved, plant free massive patches of earth, kicked up into the sky like a giant wave crashing against the sea wall. Interestingly, on the first anniversary of the horrors, dust had swirled from the freshly cleared site where the towers fell, in almost poetic cyclonic motion high into the sky.

This year it was different.

The two then rode a little further downtown, crossed the West Side Highway, hopped off the bikes and walked among the crowds past the Deutsche Bank building and around the corner headed towards the site itself. As they walked towards Liberty Street, now a giant observation area, they came upon Engine/Ladder Company 10, the firefighter’s station directly across from where the twin towers once stood.

On the side of the buildings wall, is the 56 foot bronze memorial structure that honors members of the New York City Fire department who died just across the street from the fire-station. The dramatic interactive memorial, designed by Martin V. Rambusch of the Rambusch Decorating Company, a gift from the Holland and Knight Law firm, was dedicated this past June 6, the four year anniversary of the conclusion of Fire Department recovery operations.

The top of the firefighter’s memorial reads “Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on- May we never forget.”

The wall was dotted with photographs of victims, mostly firefighters with names like Scott Larsen and Michael Kieffer.

Flowers and candles covered the base of the memorial and at one end of the structure, a large stuffed red heart that said in big gold letters, Angel.

All around, tears began their slow decent down countless faces forever marked by pain while the bells continued tolling in chaotic rhythms in the background.

While people of all shapes, shades and sizes stood quietly staring, reflecting or mourning, the two friends slipped into the huge shuffling crowds that moved at the steady pace of deceased head of state’s viewing.

Once past the site, the two crossed the street to find the bells they’d been hearing, four of them, all around the size of the famous one in Philadelphia, hanging at waist’s height with large ropes attached so that anyone could walk up and ring one in tribute to the fallen.

But, the earlier reverence was overshadowed by the piercing anger of protests competing for ears, cameras and notepads.

To some, the sadness of 9/11’s memory has been overshadowed by a tragic evolution of national and world events, politics and the selfish evidence of National division on vivid display at Ground Zero.

Clearly, the long extinguished flames of 9/11 continue to cast a pungent smell over a dvided nation and tumultuous world.

In the crowded blocks surrounding the 16 acres that changed the world, the smell was stronger than ever. The two friends inhaled the scene and mood around them in disoriented silence and sad awe.

Many in the crowd appeared to revel in the division, the conspiracy folks who claim “Bush knew” with their shrill condemnation of all that is mainstream to the “we support the President and our troops” crowd, brimming with self righteous certitude and shallow patriotic arrogance.

One wonders, if the angry people pointing, accusing, shouting and politically exploiting the deaths of nearly 3000 innocent souls had lost a loved one when the towers fell. In fact, one wonders if members of this circus were even in New York City on this day back in 2001.

According to a “New York Times” “CBS News” poll, around one third of New Yorker’s think about September 11th terrorist attacks every day.

As the two friends made their way through the newly formed town square, a police officer said she didn’t find the protesters offensive.

“They have a right to do and say what they want” she said.

Such is the beauty of a free society. But, had any of the shouting, pointing and exploiting people taken some time to go over to the memorial wall at Engine Company 10, and if they had, did they take a moment to digest and understand what it means to not forget?

The two friends had completed their annual ritual in less than two hours. It was time to get on their bikes, ride back uptown to the village, and contemplate all that has been lost.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Descent into political chaos

by Cody Lyon

On Wednesday, September 10, 2008, New York City saw puffy clouds, cool breezes and sunshine that gently bathed the city's tall buildings in crisp golden sunlight. The bike path along the Hudson was filled with cyclists and joggers while on the streets, tourists made their way to places like Times Square or the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty.

Outside towers near Wall Street, office workers took smoking breaks enjoying the hints of autumn while others lunched on benches tossing an occasional crumb to pigeons while traffic whizzed by on the West Side Highway. From an observation deck of an individual life in the city, the island of Manhattan was enjoying a beautiful day.

Still, there is no doubt, countless New Yorkers have been engrossed by the ongoing nonsense gripping the current contest for the land's most important political office a horse race that has recently been punctuated by references to dogs, swine and lipstick.

But with that captivation has come an increasing sense of worry and frustration, as many New Yorkers watch and listen to a political contest that has in many minds descended into a chaotic diversion and not a debate over party ideology, values and solutions.

Here it is, the second week of September and despite a Congressional Budget Office report saying the United States deficit is projected to rise to $407 billion, along with a continued rash of failing financial institutions, the nightmare of misled war in Iraq, a mere treading of water in the land of the Taliban, Afghanistan, despite the fact that 50 million un-insured, a disappearing middle class, the headlines are filled with talk of pitbulls, swine and lipstick, as if some sort of Animal Farm like fever had stolen the meat from the potato's of reality that politics is meant to address.

Even on this day before the anniversary of what is arguably the city's greatest tragedy, a crime of death, destruction and horror, a memory that still blips loudly on the radar screens of so many New Yorkers and Americans everywhere, text messages were being sent and phone calls made among political junkies who call themselves Democrat as they worried aloud that the party values they support were facing increasingly tremendous obstacles come November.

For many, some who call themselves transplants, those who originally come from places far away from the so called sophistication, the bustle and hustle, those who ran away to New York to exist in tolerance and acceptance, an added sense of urgency was setting in as polls showed increasing numbers for the party they held responsible for exploiting pain and tragedy for political gain.

They wondered why, in an election year where the baggage of the past administration would simply and dramatically sink the hopes of Republicans maintaining control of the executive branch, the Democrats were failing in their attempts to make victory, perhaps more appropriate, change, a "sure thing" in November

Since the days of September 11, 2001, New York City has moved on. Sure, the memories are still there, the pain, the hurt and the anger, but regardless, the busy lot that New Yorkers are, dictates staying on their toes, and that includes politics.

In one phone call, a CEO of a small marketing firm downtown said that whomever devised the coronation of Sarah Palin as a running mate for the 25 year veteran of Congress was "simply genius."

He went on to say that they, the Republican strategists, long ago mastered how to get into the psyche of America's heartland.

Just what is that psyche?

In a chapter tilted Persecuted, Powerless and blind from his book "What's the matter with Kansas", author Thomas Frank asserts that in what he calls 'red land' "both workers and their bosses are supposed to be united in disgust with those affected college boys at the next table, prattling on about French cheese and villas in Tuscany and the big ideas for running things that they read in books.

According to the transplant marketing exec in Manhattan, the people described in that book are his family, his family's friends and other people who see the antithesis of those college boys in Sarah Palin and John McCain.

"David Axelrod just got his head handed to him on a silver platter," he yelled into his phone.

Not that the marketing exec is happy about that. Rather, he says, the Democrats, i.e. Obama and his team must rise up, perhaps take a humble pill, and somehow figure out how to "inspire" the reportedly "more than half" of the nation's voters. He, his running mate and his surrogates must figure out a way to re-inject the hope that a better America is somehow attainable through the political process, a poisoned process that they can overcome, if they maintain their sincere message of opportunity for all.

To be fair, the marketing man on the phone was a Hillary supporter during the primary and as of just a few weeks ago, made no denials of his reluctance to grudgingly support the Obama-Biden ticket. But, with the new Alaska superstar stealing the thunder from everyone else in the campaign, he says he realized that his frustration was geared more towards the American people, and perhaps the media for not highlighting the crucial differences in the candidates and what it is they intend to do, or not do, once in power.

Plain and simple, how can Democrats spell out to the people that voting for the Republican candidate would most likely do little to change their lives from the current state it is in now?

Still, during the chat, he said some members of his own mostly politically moderate working class family had been energized by Palin simply because they can identify with her.

"They really don't care about her stand on issues, it's about a person that's like them, not some fancy pants elite politician like Obama," he said.

At that moment in the conversation, thinking back in political time to the Democratic Primaries, one can't help but recall the moment that Senator Hillary Clinton seemed to wake up and embrace the populism espoused by the now "disgraced" John Edwards. It was at that point Clinton appeared to whip her campaign out of an entitled, arrogant state of being and began to aggressively market herself as someone who passionately embraced the populist issues of all the people in a manner that was purely political, but somehow sincere. In the waning days of her campaign, Clinton was able to work that political formula, while guzzling whiskey shots and beer all the way to several victories, but alas, to little to late.

For some reason, despite being a Clinton, people began to believe, that this candidate would wake up every morning and fight for their interests. They saw someone who would seek to bridge the glaring economic inequity that had helped further foster the class divides of the states. Perhaps, they even began to believe that she was sincere.

It is imperative that the Obama campaign figure out its way in doing the same, perhaps not a carbon copy repeat of the Clinton awakening but certainly not the sad tit for tat insult show that the campaign has engaged in along with the Republicans. Otherwise, millions of Americans will continue on their quest to choose a candidate they can relate to.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the anniversary of that day that shook modern America to its very foundation, tested its resolve and for a brief shining moment, unified a nation so tightly, will come and go just like every other day.

McCain gains among women voters (REUTERS)

McCain gains among women voters (REUTERS)
(02:08) Report
Sep 9 - McCain's surge in the polls since the Republican Convention is attributable to a shift in support among white women, who now give McCain a 12 point lead.
According to a Washington Post/ABC poll, among all voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries-- nearly a quarter-- about 5 million voters-- say they plan to support John McCain in November.
Jon Decker reports.
SOUNDBITE:Brian Darling, senior fellow, Heritage Foundation

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Truth about Pit Bulls and Lipstick

by Cody Lyon

Pit bulls with lipstick aren't an especially pretty sight. In more harsh terms, they smell of oxymorons, sort of wolves in sheep's clothing.

At this week's Republican Convention in St Paul Minnesota, Senator John McCain's new running mate Sarah Palin said “the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull” was “lipstick.”

Now it's not that pit bulls themselves aren't lovely canines, when they are given love, and trained properly by caring owners. These pooches can be truly some of the most affectionate animals around

But with her lipstick on a terrier analogy, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin set the house on fire at the GOP Convention after pontificating her resume, revealing some of her private and public persona to a curious nation by charming the audience, even introducing her family in the more personal eagerly anticipated getting to know you portion of the speech heard round the country.

But then the lipstick came off and the ideological pit bull stepped up to bat as Palin tossed out some classic right wing red meat into the Republican "pound" by lashing out at the "elite" media, Washington insiders, her opponents record's and with an an almost deceitful fashion, utilizing her sisterhood to reach out to women voters by vaguely implying she had co-opted Senator Hillary Clinton's role as the new "woman candidate."

It was and is politics at its most clever. It is also politics at its most misleading at least as far as women's and other social issues are concerned.

Still, according to a number of Republican spokespeople and pundits, much of the vetting, curiosity, criticism and shock over Senator John McCain's politically crafty pick of Palin is simply media hype that has its roots in sexism.

But, that's when the Republicans walk right into the land of the ridiculous by participating in a political system gone awry that has seen an epidemic of kitchen table issues going on the back burner while image and pre-packaged selfish identity political sell tactics command the front and center of political discourse.

As for sexist media coverage, there is no valid comparison between the treatment dished out on Hillary Clinton and the miniscule reportage on Governor Sarah Palin. The media and the people of America practically just met the Alaska Governor. Clinton, on the other hand, has seen her record, rhetoric, other assorted baggage and even her pantsuits picked clean by the press, much of which, covertly expressed its disdain of anything Clinton with shrill tactics that called into question character and motive, thus, at least in part, contributing to one of the boldest political derailments in American history.

In Governor Palin's case, it might appear sexist when some question whether this Mother of five will have time for her children as vice President. True as well, some have made fun of her pistol packin, assault rife shootin NRA endorsement, echoes of the Democratic Primary Annie Oakley snip by Obama a few months ago when Hillary talked about going hunting, Yes, there will be unfair attention paid to Palin's children's private lives, an area that should be off limits since, in fact, it's really nobody's business but her and her family's and how the Palin's handle their affairs doesn't really affect most American's elderly parents social security checks or whether or not their child goes to a good school.

Of course, there will be those, like the many individuals who will not vote for Obama because of his race, or in fact those who didn't vote for Hillary because of her gender, who might avoid casting a ballot for a ticket that could potentially lead to a female President, a nugget of sad commentary on a still maturing nation. But, really, that's all irrelevant in the grand scope of potential tangible change considering the fact that one positive that will result from the outcome of this race will be, no matter what the narrow minded wish, a historic first will be seen in the White House in January.

Still, as we've seen throughout this election process, the power of self identity politics is alive and well and it is in part a reaction to our collective struggles with racial prejudices and a continuing culture of sexism. More unfortunate, is the power it possesses over an electorate that at times appears to lose site of what is truly at hand in this race to Pennsylvania Avenue.


Could it actually be a sign of pervasive sexism, that a woman candidate believes that in order to win her party's approval she must prove she's tough enough to run a nation by invoking analogous machismo by holding up a dog with a less than gentle reputation as an example of her strength? Is Palin and her party's attempt to elevate her into a tomboyish tough love Mom with conservative virtues a party that deep down, at least appears to be complacent with a woman knowing her place in the grand political game of the true powers that be in the western world? While it might be true, that the Republican party claims to be a party that endorses a stronger philosophy of individual responsibility, does the scent of hypocrisy not waif through the minds of millions of women who recognize it is also a party that would deny them the right to choose?

Perhaps on a more basic level it might be worth considering the pit bull and lipstick analogy. Like any dog, a pit bull depends on its owner and trainer for guidance. As most people know, there have been countless news reports over recent years detailing pit bull owners who have bred and trained the dogs for cruel and vicious fighting matches. Usually, the dogs in question were seen as mere objects used by cruel, self serving owners who engaged in inhumane treatment all for victory in the dog fight ring, regardless of the cost to the animal itself.

On the day after the speech, New York City tabloid headlines were screaming pit bull with lipstick. But, there is a more important story about Governor Palin's politically clever line and her party. Palin, like any other up and coming political figure has been trained, mentored and has let it be known that she subscribes to an Party ideology that has for the most part been responsible for one of saddest, most selfish economic, disastrous foreign policy reigns of our century. The results have led to one of the most destructive collective psychological downturns that this country has ever seen. Albeit hard to accurately measure, American's are not happy with the direction the nation is now heading. Gloom is in the air as an occasional news report or perhaps more revealing, a casual conversation at the grocery store details heartache and struggle, perhaps Americans witness a foreclosure sign on a neighbor's home, maybe the reality comes in the form of a knock on the door from a military officer with bad news regarding a loved one who bravely followed orders from a commander in chief who's administration now appears to have engaged in the most sinful form of deceit.

No matter how much lipstick one applies on the conditions and philosophy, facts bubble forth. And, once weaved together, those facts are very telling. And, it is imperative that voters do their homework and look beyond the makeup of both parties and understand what is at stake here.

Regardless of Sarah Palin's gender, her charisma or any questions on negatives and positives regarding her ability to lead, there are greater, more stark choices in this election. In the end, despite the historic change our nation will witness with the election of either of these tickets, sexism, racism and all the prejudicial and reactionary baggage that comes with it will continue to poison our society. But, putting "lipstick" on Party ideology that endorses policy that has led us to what could be called the miserable place so much of our nation finds itself in today, only threatens the realistic changes that government can indeed make in all American's lives.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Values verses Candidates

By Cody Lyon

In what was probably the most important speech of his political career thus far, Barack Obama used his acceptance speech at the Democratic party convention to light up the election season stratosphere in ways that both inspired and challenged voters to consider the stark choices being offered this fall.

In one of the speeches' more powerful moments, Obama said "America, we are better than these last eight years," and "we are a better country than this."

For anyone that calls themselves middle class, lower middle class, poor or whatever wonkish and impersonal term that gets applied by countless experts, politicians or pundit, the tea leaves seem to indicate a resounding... he's correct.

Basically, over the past eight years, we've witnessed actions by our executive branch that have further tested much of the nation's mantle of trust in government. We find ourselves in a what might be called a nationwide psychological malaise, an unfortunate sense of collective frustration, even depression. The litany of almost incomprehensible events administrated by the current White House, from misleading tactics that led to the invasion of Iraq to allegations of abuses of power in our Justice System to a tax code that rewards the country's most wealthy while cold shoulders are turned to struggling homeowners, those without healthcare and the longrunning continued fostering of cruel cultures of poverty, inequity and damaged ladders of opportunity.

In short, the sense of gloom in America is tangible.

An April 3 "CBS News" poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction.

Still, during the Democratic party primaries, many Americans became more engrossed by the petty, but typical political drama's of those days instead of debates and analysis of policy specifics.

At times, it seemed that many Democrats were more engaged by personalities, baggage and images.

As the convention approached, many pundits and others with platforms still appeared to be more focused on the drama's between the Hillary's and the Barack's rather than the real drama of reality on the ground that is America, a drama that was continuing its pronounced assent onto the stage of the nation's sad collective reality.

At the stadium acceptance speech, Senator Obama did his best at clearing up the mess by reaching out to those Democrats, who have expressed leeriness over his relative inexperience in foreign policy, his un-tested mettle in dealing with powerful big business lobbies or, more simply, what they see as a starry eyed idealist, who like many humans upon entering the shark infested political waters of Washington, often succumb to the molding of powers that be, forces that in the end, shape policy, policies that in the end, are the nuts and bolts of our economy, defense, education system, health care and in the end, how this has impacted our collective national psyche.

Most Democrats hope and feel he succeeded in alleviating those fears for now.

But there was something else that took place that night. If nothing else, Obama, if only for a moment, lifted the nation's psyche and in some ways succeeded in inspiring all Americans to believe that the dream is still alive in this land of freedom, where the bells of democracy occasionally ring with messages of hope, not the fear and gloom that has crippled the very essence of who and what we as a people stand for and strive to be.

Obama's uplifting moment followed an by his former opponent when she did her best to further bridge the divide between those Democrats who express leeriness about Obama.

Just two nights before the Obama moment, Senator Hillary Clinton stood before her supporters on the floor along with millions of viewers and voters who had long held to the belief that it was she, not Obama, who should have been chosen to lead the party to a November victory against the Republican party.

Television reports showed delegates in tears, but, even still, Clinton directed a laser eye at her supporters and made it clear, she is not their therapist or for that fact, their Mother.

Clinton was clear, a vote for either her, or for Senator Obama, was so much more than a vote for an individual candidate's image, personality, for that matter, race, gender or origin or rhetoric.

No matter what a delegate or voter's preferences between the two candidates, a more simple question of fundamental political party values is at stake.

In these modern times when a campaign song like "Happy Days are here again" seems silly, in these days of Presidential administrations filled with countless advisors, policy shapers and other insiders who pontificate from above to the 'chosen ones' occupying the oval office, it is imperative that voters take into account what are clearly package deals, they are the packages that each party embodies, and each is filled with stark differences and competing ideologies.

For anyone on the political fence, it might be especially important to remember some simple basics.

Both candidates Obama and Clinton embody the values of the party they love, the Democratic. At the heart of their political souls, they embody the political values of Ted Kennedy, for that matter his late brother, former President John Kennedy. They are the political offspring a a party who produced a President that saw the nation through the horrors of the second world war, the same President who created the "New Deal" and social programs that elevated America into a more humane existence.

The political policy values that Senator Obama embodies are the values of another President, ironically from a Southern State, a President who was the leader of a party that when the poisons of racism dripped from the lips of many of his former allies in the 1960's, chose morality over politics and signed the Voting rights Act into law. This is the party that subscribes to the values of a President who more recently, in the 1990's brilliantly reached across party lines and oversaw one of the greatest economic expansions this nation has ever witnessed, a President who bravely brought seemingly controversial issues and concerns to the political table, opening the door to a more tolerant and accepting society for LGBT Americans among others.

Democratic Party values are seen in the work of a Peanut Farmer from Plains Georgia, a former President in dire time who is now an international statesman and peacemaker who travels the world mediating disputes, risking his own legacy in the face of controversy and stands and speaks to what is right and fair and who still teaches a Sunday School class at least once a month back in Plains.

Barack Obama and his candidacy embody the values of what some conservatives like to call liberal, but are in truth, values based in compassion, values that encourage the hopes of the less fortunate, the rescue of a sadly disappearing middle class, the fair and decent rewards for hard work and life played by the rules . They are also the values of those who demand a solid ladder of economic and educational opportunity in every town, county and state in the country, ladders available for every American willing to climb.

They are the values of a political party that will hopefully seek out tangible solutions that perhaps must start with self examination and acceptance of the humbling reality that we as a nation have allowed our own arrogance threaten our true greatness.

That said, millions pray, that this chosen Democratic candidate, if he indeed wins, will embody the values and good sense that recognizes and respects the responsibilities of perhaps his most crucial role, commander in chief. They pray for a President who will not play upon the fears of a traumatized nation and will only call upon our military when it is essential to the preservation of our nation's security.

Never again should we as a people allow a military excursion into a land that has led our great military men and women, as well as their families, into what has become one of our longest running nightmares. And, never again should every member of the nation not be called upon in some way to share the pain and offer some form of sacrifice, like those military families either through some sort of mandatory public service or higher taxes for our most wealthy citizens and corporations.

Perhaps, at its very deepest core, the Democratic party embodies the values of a great nation.

Now, there are those who may say that this young, relatively inexperienced candidate is not ready, or they may secretly hold reservations over his ethnicity, his upbringing perhaps even his name. They may see a candidate that they could never possibly relate to on a more personal level. Perhaps they see a candidate who they feel they simply don't know enough about. But despite such tragic misgivings among the electorate, there is and are greater, quiet frankly, less selfish reasons to carefully consider jumping off the fence of indecision in November.

In the end, voters must make their decision based on what is clearly a choice of packages. And, they must remember, beneath the wrapping paper of campaign ads, rhetoric, assorted controversies and infighting, there are solid differences between these two Party ideologies. Whichever ideology succeeds in selling itself best, could determine the outcome of the election. Whichever candidate that voters ultimately choose, will place in power a party ideology that will perhaps shape the future of our nation, perhaps too, our world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

(REUTERS) Suicide Bomber Targets Banquet in Iraq

Iraq bomber targets banquet (REUTERS)
(01:03) Report
Aug 25 - A suicide bomber detonates a vest packed with explosives at a celebration feast in western Baghdad.

Police say 25 people have been killed in the blast at the home of a local sheikh who was holding the feast to celebrate the release of his son from U.S. detention.

Paul Chapman reports.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is America's Judicial System Antagonistic?

From my story at OMNI

The Central Park Jogger crime occurred in a time before the seeds of DNA evidence had taken root as tools of evidence in the United States judicial system. And some say New York Law Enforcement authorities needed a suspect to appease the public's outrage over the brutality of the incident that night in the park.

In the case of the Central Park Jogger, the original group of suspects easily fit the psyche of local tabloids and what was clearly a traumatized and apparently divided city.

But as history has shown, in the thirst to obtain a shut and close case, justice was in fact denied on three fronts.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alabama Rumor? An emerging story where money trails may lead to answers

FROM BIRMINGHAM BLUES (Kathy) (including reporting from "The Birmingham News")

The Birmingham News ran an article yesterday (the online version of which is in serious need of an editor's mouse) detailing the inflated salaries of some of AG Troy King's aides. King's chief of staff and spokesman, Chris Bence, apparently managed to keep a straight face while explaining how King had designated Bence a paralegal this spring -- despite his complete lack of legal education or experience -- in order to increase his salary from $94,000 to $104,400. He says Troy did it to make up for the three years he didn't get a raise. And, according to him, the AG has the authority to appoint five paralegals without regard to their qualifications.
Link at:


Monday, August 11, 2008

(REUTERS)Russia takes fight into Georgia

(02:23) Reuters Report

Aug 11 - The conflict in the Caucasus escalates as Russia moves to bolster the separtist region of South Ossetia which lies within Georgia's borders.

Andrew Potter reports.

Friday, August 08, 2008

From Whence I come

PHOTO CREDIT-JAY KIRKPATRICK-(*-Click on Photos for large size image*)
by Cody Lyon

Just south of Birmingham, Alabama situated on Hiway 25 lying on the banks of the Coosa River sits the one stop-light town Wilsonville. This pretty little hamlet is just down the road from another small town, a spitting image of television's Mayberry, a place that happens to be crowned by a stately southern court house, hence it is the County seat, Columbiana. A portion of the farm land area between Wilsonville, Columbiana and the area just north, the fast growing Hiway 280 suburban corridor leading to Birmingham, is called Four Mile. My parents, now retired from normal shift work, live there now, as they have existed in close proximity for most of their lives. Currently, they operate a small, casually run blueberry picking farm.

Here, one can come with family in tow, and you and your's pick a gallon bucket of berries for $7.

The berry bushes were planted on a whim years ago by my parents and sister, in neat rows, on a slope that catches the Alabama sunlight from all angles of the sky daily. A natural irrigation system keeps the plants moist, even in the face of drought conditions that nearly destroyed the crop just one year ago. The bushes have since grown into large tree like plants, filled with bountiful berries with deep hues of blue hidden inside their branches.

His business is brisk, in part due to the fact that blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients of the fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA.

Next year, he's hoping his new blackberry bushes will be ready for picking, as will his new fig trees, that is, if he can keep the birds from eating them.

Along with the berries, fresh tomatoes burst from vines in another patch, alongside fresh okra, turnip greens and what reportedly seems to be a favorite among many newcomers to his small operation, watermelons.

One day, during a phone conversation as I sat by the Hudson River in New York City's Manhattan, my Dad told me he's certain some of the people that visit him are first timers to a farm like his. He said that more than one visitor had told him they had never actually picked berries, watermelons or a tomato from a vine or bush.

He said he liked to share the story of his now deceased basset hound, who when the tomato's were ripe, could be seen strolling in the garden, stopping occasionally to inspect, then eat a couple off the vine. To this day, he finds his tomato loving basset hound a bit, unusual.

As cyclists and joggers passed me as I sat on a bench in the manicured Hudson River Park, from Alabama, my Dad spoke of guests who speak with accents unlike his, people originally from beyond these United State borders, who now made their way down to his blueberry patch in Shelby County.

My Dad has found joy in showing the first time visitors how to gently roll their fingers over the berries so the ripe ones fall into the bucket. He also loved taking them to the watermelon patch, a place where these giant pod like pieces of fruit grew from tiny seeds, where they'd tap and thump the melon to 'hear' if it was ripe. The watermelon patch was always almost magical, mysterious, a place to find those creations where he, like many a southerner, discovered the satisfaction of salt on the sweet juicy creation from the ground.

When the guests found find one they like, he tells them to "go on and get it" and they go and cut the curly pigtail lifeline that connects to the ground and hoisting the melon, load it into their car, maybe for a trip back to suburbia, another town, city, perhaps too, with a vivid memory tucked away, to be recalled at another place and time.

He said it just tickled him to death to see the fascination in these folks faces, the beauty of introducing something he'd always known as a simple part of seasonal and daily life.

Maybe too, they find him interesting, a relic of sorts, one who worked shift work at a power plant for years, but now finds peace and joy with the land, one who shares, albeit sells the fruits of that love with the world around him.

This past Spring, my Dad was thrilled when he went outside and found that one of his humming birds had made it back to Alabama for the summer season. During another phone conversation between my adopted home and Alabama, my Mother described an older man behaving like a small child on Christmas morning. One day, he rushed into the house and announced with smiles from ear to ear, "they come back, they're back!"

They, being tiny creatures with wings, who humm, devour nectar then build nests no larger than a walnut to raise there young.

He has five humming bird feeders and the customers who come to the farm reportedly marvel at the tiny creatures as they feed, dance and dart at lightning speed, often dodging each other in a sort of bird combat, sometimes in the quest for a mate. He had done research and found that the tiny birds spend part of their lives in this part of Central Bama but as Fall and Winter approach, they come together and flap their tiny wings and fly thousands of miles across the Gulf to Mexico. By the next spring and summer, the birds somehow find their way back to this newly established sanctuary of humming just south of Birmingham, near the Coosa River.

Of course it's not just the feeders , the birds love the berries as they will the new crop of figs, blackberries and pears too.

It goes without saying, that in this world where we are constantly bombarded with the pains of life's challenges and the news of world events that seem so far beyond our control, that all around us are unreported and under discussed simplicities that are in fact, capsules of the beauty, communication and the exchange of experiences that we as living beings truly are capable of. There is less than obvious beauty in this world, often times, right under our noses, perhaps far away from the banks of the Hudson, or yet again, right along those banks but lost in the shuffle of daily life. As our world grows smaller, we can be sure, that places like my Dad's blueberry farm, are helping in some small way to bring us all a little closer together, face to face, human to human, as people, as living beings of this earth we all share. And, as the bustle continues all around here in the Big Apple, there is comfort in knowing that this place from whence I come, it is the root of who I am.
Note: No one in this story is affiliated in any way with, or subscribes to in any way, the political opinions pontificated by this author in other parts of this blog-that being because I often speak my mind)