Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I believe the economy will continue to improve and even the most dedicated GOP voter must concede that most economic indicators are pretty much going in a positive direction. Unemployment is going down, housing starts are going up, GDP growth is stable or slightly improving and even the usually pro GOP investment community sees things trending positively (http://www.fa-mag.com/fa-news/12548-investment-managers-see-positive-economic-indicators.html) Could it be better? Sure. Could the Republican economic model work faster? Maybe. I don't think so, I think there's very little empirical proof that 'supply-side' or 'trickle-down' economic policy creates jobs or reduces debt. It heavily benefits the wealthy and promotes unprecedented income inequality, but I'm not an economist and there's so much partisanship in Washington I don't think either sides theories can get fully implemented. I think Americans are tough, savvy and resourceful so regardless of which party gains control of our government I believe we will rebound economically and both sides claims of economic ruin if the other gains control are so much sound and fury. All that being said, for me it wouldn't matter if one side had a distinct advantage on the economic front, it's not about the economy.
I support the Democratic Party because of their stands on social and moral issues. The 'Liberal' view of the future for these United States is simply better, more tolerant, more inclusive and I do not want to live in this GOP's America. The Republican vision for this country is unacceptable to my sense of fairness and counter intuitive to my obligation to my children as citizens of the planet earth.
It's very simple for me. Although there are many tenets of the Republican Platform that I find reprehensible I will mention just a few that make me, as a sane, rational, compassionate person run screaming from the Conservative party. They are the indisputable, entrenched positions of the Republican Party in this country and I believe an embarrassment to this nation.
1) The GOP wants to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. They want to permanently add to the defining document of this country a religious definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. I am not interested in living in a country that imposes restrictions on whom a person can love, that treats certain members of its citizenry as 'less than' just because of some archaic notion. It is absolutely unacceptable to me to discriminate against a group of people or an individual based on who they share their bed with, period. There is a separation of church and state in this country and banning gay marriage is 100% driven by religious edict and doctrine. There is absolutely no economic, security or any other reason to ban gay marriage aside from religious zealotry. Americans are better than that, my children deserve better than to live in a country that discriminates against its own because of some ridiculous idea that we are a Christian nation and need to adhere to Christian moral principals. It's discrimination pure and simple and this country is based on the concept of fairness and tolerance.
2) The GOP wants to overturn Roe vs Wade and ban abortion in this country. They have proposed personhood amendments, believe life begins at conception and want to eliminate Planned Parenthood. We've heard their members say there are 'legitimate rapes' and as recently as yesterday 'pregnancy caused by rape is God's will', well not any God I am interested in following. For a party that promotes 'individualism' and wants smaller government to propose over 300 pieces of legislation, by far more than any other issue on their docket, legislating a woman's body is not only hypocritical it's another demonstration of discrimination. Add the fact that the majority of the GOP, including VP candidate Paul Ryan, opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Act guaranteeing fair pay for women and you simply cannot argue that the Republican Party doesn't view women as something other than equal.
3) One of the more disturbing things to me about the Conservative agenda and something that I absolutely view as treason against this country are their efforts at voter suppression. No less than 29 laws have been proposed in 19 states by conservatives restricting access to the voting booth. They have been struck down by the judiciary, including the US Supreme Court, time after time as being discriminatory to minorities, seniors, students and the poor. Study after study has shown that voter fraud does not exist in this country in more than an infinitesimal amount (http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/allegations_of_voter_fraud) All of the GOP efforts to restrict voting impact traditionally Democratic voting blocks from redistricting to restrictions on early voting. Since there is no evidence of voter fraud the only motivation for limiting voter rights is stop people that might vote for the other guys from voting. The GOP is undeniably trying to ensure that fewer Democratic leaning people get to vote and any attempt to deny that fact is quite simply a lie. This country is based on voting rights, on the right of its people, ALL of it's people, to elect people that represent them and on our ability to dictate to our government how we will be governed. Making it harder for people to vote is not anything our founding fathers would support and it's certainly not patriotic. When the motives are so obviously political, designed purely to grab or maintain political power by discriminating against other Americans I believe voter suppression to be a crime against the state.
I could add Republican obstructionism, environmental positions and other conservative tenets that make it impossible for me to support them but these top my list. They top my list because they demonstrate a platform of intolerance and discrimination separating us rather than uniting us. What happens to my money? That is the least of my worries if the Republicans are setting the moral compass for this country. That is why I will continue to do everything in my power to see that the current Republican vision of America remains just that, a vision it's not the economy. Because if the Republican vision of this country is reality, then this is no longer my America and it's certainly not our America-it's theirs and I don't want any part of it.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Tipping Point wants us to build their next show for an amount of money that wouldn't remodel kitchen cabinets. I'm not disparaging this great up and coming company, EVERY theatre we work for wants us to build and install shows for ridiculously small amounts of money. We make it work, we barter, we use our own stock materials and then get some back, I donate my own time or borrow from another show we've built. It's a growing business model and part of the reason this 'arm' of our business exists; to share resources, to help theatre's that are struggling financially and do not have the ability to maintain a scene shop or carpenters or tech staff. Since we started doing this type of work 10 months ago we've built eight shows and been involved in at least five others and we've broken even or lost money on every single one. Next season we'll break even more if we're lucky and after that who knows hopefully we'll continue to grow. We've stayed open because I've been able to invest my own money and the only reason I've had that money is the film work I have done since the Tax Incentive Plan was in place, without that income we close our doors it's that simple.
Brian, Ben, Phill, Lindsey, Maria, Alex, Craig, Andy, Nan, Bob, Karen, Brent, Brett, Ron, Andrew, Sarah-these are the names of people that have drawn a paycheck from work with us (not including the 20 or so actor types) If I were not fortunate enough to book the film work that I have none of these people get paid, none of these jobs exist, and that fact is not showing up on any of Governor Snyder's spreadsheets. I get my health insurance through my SAG work, that means I don't buy my own; money back into the business and more people employed in the theatre. I was on location for almost 4 weeks last summer, someone had to run my shop, build my shows; more people employed in the theatre-no film work and those theatre jobs are gone. There are at least four of my employees that I know for a fact would have left the state if not for the work we generated for them last summer-without the ability for me to invest in my business more of our young and talented folks leave this state. I am able to invest because I am able to make money from the Film Incentive program and a 6% flat business tax is not going to accomplish that Mr. Governor.
I don't know, maybe that won't be the case this year, maybe I won't book as many films and we'll close our doors after all, but I am shooting three days on "Ides of March" with George Clooney next week and three guys will be working in my shop building a show for Tipping Point THEATRE while I am gone. What I do know is, it's a guarantee that if the Film Incentive program goes away so will my company and so will all those jobs in the theatre.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
As the blinded King Oedipus, Laurence Olivier uttered a terrible, desolate scream of pain which is a thing of legend and often chronicled. He is quoted as saying that to ‘find’ that scream he thought of how they catch ermine.
“In the Arctic they put down salt and the ermine comes to lick it. It's caught when it's tongue freezes to the ice. I thought about that sudden pain when I screamed as Oedipus.”
I think about my back after getting out of my car and the 70 minute drive to Williamston.
I wake up every morning between 4 and 5am hoping that it won’t hurt. At this point that’s like hoping my bulldog Bella won’t snore like Fred Flintstone, but you can’t blame a guy for trying. If bi-weekly epidural blocks and three hours of icing a day haven’t fixed the problem, it’s probably a good bet that the back fairy isn’t going to visit me in the night. Simply put, my body is way older than the mileage would indicate-I wish there was “cash for clunkers” or “lemon laws” for the human body.
Unless you’ve had chronic back pain or the unfortunate circumstance to live with someone that does (like my incredible wife Kate) it’s hard to describe. Imagine never being able to be in a comfortable position or that sleeping hurts. Imagine the fear of sneezing being only outweighed by seeing a flight of stairs. It’s kind of like that.
There are only two instances in my life when I forget about the pain in my back and although both actually increase the discomfort when they are over, those are some good times while they’re happening. Both allow my brain to compartmentalize the ache to a non-immediate state temporarily. One, I cannot talk about in a family friendly forum and the other one is a child’s pastime- I play pretend a few times a week at Williamston Theatre in a new production of “Oedipus”.
Sir Laurence Olivier called playing Oedipus the ‘Lear’ of Greek drama and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a great and challenging role but to paraphrase another great Sir- Ian McKellen -‘I’m not really King Oedipus I am pretending to be King Oedipus.’ Now, I know a lot of my fellow artists will take umbrage with my simplification of our ‘craft’ but I’m an old school guy and what I do may be a lofty pursuit to some, to me it’s my job-it’s how I earn a living and it has it’s difficulties sure but it’s not brain surgery, sorry folks.
As fortunate as I am to be a part of this innovative moving piece of theatre, it flat kicks my butt, it’s all I can do to fold myself back into my car and make the drive home to my ice packs every night. I have done more physically demanding roles for sure and even a few that have called for a similar level of emotional ‘pretending’ but that was before I rolled the odometer over on this body. If you come and see us and I strongly suggest you do, you’ll see that we hit the deck running and don’t stop for the next 80ish minutes. It’s done in the round, it’s emotionally charged, there’s no intermission and the stakes are high from first word to final curtain.
All that being said, when I am on stage, I am pain free. The level of concentration necessary and the intensity of the work short circuit or distract the pain receptors, I guess. And when you are fortunate enough to be working with other actors that have that same level of commitment and honesty you can be transported into the life of the play. Oedipus is physically pain free (until the end of course) and although he is an emotionally tortured character, John the actor is joyous. The incredible folks I am on stage with every day are my ‘back fairy’ and I love them for it. All in all, it’s quite a ride and whether you think you like Greek drama or not, I can promise you won’t be bored for a single second.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I have yet to meet one single person, not one, that doesn’t think that the health insurance system in this country needs to be changed. I read a minimum of four newspapers every single day from all over the country and not a week goes by that I don’t read multiple articles or editorials that address the issue. It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a Democrat, Republican or an Independent, it’s in the news, it’s on our minds and according to
A puts support for some type of government involvement [not necessarily the public option also including system reforms] at a whopping 77%.
Well, it’s a complicated issue for sure and I am not going to tell you that I have an answer or that I even know all of the problems but I feel confident in saying that the vast majority of Americans feel the need to change the current system in some way. My own main support for believing that something needs to be done is found in the following uncomplicated statistical facts. Average wages have fallen 1.4% this year through September, and overall since 1999 wages have only gone up 2% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . In the exact same time frame health insurance premiums rose 131%, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. That’s pretty clear cut in my mind; we’re in the hole 129% over the past decade in our ability to provide health care for our families. I don’t care what business you’re in or what activity you equate it to if over ten years you were down 129% you’d be stupid not to change the way you operate. I don’t believe Americans are stupid. I don’t even believe our politicians are stupid but they are ridiculously selfish, they lack the courage of their convictions and are not accurately supporting the will of the American people that they are sworn to represent.
I make no secret as to my political leanings, I am a liberal. I don’t say I am a Democrat anymore because to me the Democratic Party is too centrist but I support the Democrats overall because they are more closely aligned with my core personal values. However, in this case there are enough Democrats screwing this up for me to lump all politicians together. There were 39 Democrats that voted against a watered down House health reform bill-39! Why?- because they are more concerned about being re-elected than they are about accomplishing a task that 77% of Americans are in favor of. You want proof? 31 of the 39 Representatives voting against the House bill were from districts won by John McCain in 2008 including all 13 that hold seats that switched from Republican to Democrat in the last election and are in for tough re-election fights. Republicans are in lock step about opposing any Democratic sponsored health care reform and these Democrats are afraid that if they stand up for what they believe in, that which is a main plank of the Democratic platform, the Republicans will beat them in November. Well good, if the people in their district think that the Republican platform of non-government involvement and opposition is more in line with what they want then they should be voted out because they don’t represent their constituents. They were elected as Democrats; health care reform was a huge part of their and President Obama’s campaigns and they happily road his coat tails into office. Yet now because of the threat of losing their seats they are caving in. That’s not leadership that’s cowardice and selfishness. In the Senate there are three Democrats on record as opposing the proposed reforms. They are from
As for the Republicans, they are the most culpable to me, all of them. They all agree that the system needs reform just like the rest of us yet they have opposed health care reform at every turn. Their alternative was a four page outline that basically said ‘we oppose government run health care’. It didn’t say how many people theirs would cover, how much it would cost or how it would cover them. So you don’t like this plan? Fine, come up with an alternative instead of spending every waking hour bashing the one that’s actually out there. They can’t do that though because if this plan passes, it would be a significant victory for President Obama and that is the thing that Republicans really oppose more than anything. It is widely accepted that if President Obama manages to accomplish the main social reform promised throughout his campaign that he will be even harder to unseat in 2012. In 2002, the
released a report which estimated that 18,000 American adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. The Urban Institute estimated that 22,000 adults died in 2006 because they did not have health insurance. According to iCasualties.org 5,285 Americans have died in Institute of Medicine Iraq and since 2001. Yet, despite those facts Republicans continue to shout that the President is moving too fast on health care reform and too slow on troop deployment in Afghanistan . The overriding majority of Americans want health care reform, we’ve demonstrated that and it is unacceptable to the Republicans that a Democrat will accomplish it. They call it Obamacare which is ridiculous because the White House has been unbelievably hands off on the whole deal. In fact, President Obama has been far too hands-off for me and most of us in support of sweeping changes. They use phrases like socialized medicine and scare tactics about deteriorating service and losing your own doctor. You know the last time those phrases were used? 1969, about Medicare, and now one of the main arguments Republicans use against the plan are the proposed cuts and reforms to the sacred untouchable Medicare system. It’s a joke, except nobody is laughing. Afghanistan
I don’t know if the plan being offered in the Senate will work. But I do know it is the best available option out there and that not doing anything is not a viable option to most Americans. I’m hopeful, there’s a lot in it that all sides agree on if other people would actually read it. I’ve included a link to a very readable synopsis below. I’d give you a link to the Republican plan but there isn’t one. Regardless of where you fall on the issue, get involved, check out how the people representing you are voting and why and let them know how you feel. Our elected officials are playing politics with our lives, more concerned about keeping themselves in power than enacting the will of the people and that is unacceptable but unless we do something about it we are as culpable as they are.