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Living in NYC

Stories for Friends. Advice for Strangers.

Monthly Archives: July 2010

There is a lot of press on the Zadroga Bill that failed to pass in the house yesterday. I’m not sure what the coverage is like elsewhere, but given the sensitive nature of any legislation related to 9/11, you can imagine it is all over the news in New York City.

For those unaware, the legislation would have provided more than $7 billion to compensate those adversely affected by the events of September 11, 2001. This is completely separate from the legal settlement of about $700 million that is to be distributed among the victims and survivors. I think the way Congress handled this is interesting (and infuriating). Summer recess starts today, so the vote was made a spectacle, and I think it’s exactly what house democrats wanted. The process guaranteed that the bill would fail, and it was designed to put even more tensions across party lines. They used a special rule that required a 2/3 majority vote to pass it – the rule also eliminated republican law makers’ opportunity to amend it. From what I’ve read, it appears that the bill would have had enough supporters to pass by simple majority. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Almost everything is political. In the office, on the playground. It never ends. Everyone is pandering to some kind of special interest. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with special interests. But when those interests take hold of a system, those who are truly suffering become its victims, even if they are the majority. In this case (and over the last 10 years), those victims are more and more becoming American citizens.

I think I’ve stopped asking questions as a U.S. citizen and voter. So let’s ask some. For starters – if the well-being of 9/11 victims was a priority for our federal government, why is this legislation still stalling in congress 9 years after the event? Second, if congress really wanted this done, why would the democrats not use their majority in the house to pass it? My ultimate question is this: is the scope of this bill the responsibility of the federal government? That’s a lot of money to add to the deficit over 10 years and a whole lot to add to the national debt. I guess one could legitimately ask at this point – what is an extra $7 or 8 billion going to do in the long run that hasn’t already been done? The war on terror, stimulus package, recovery spending bill and health care legislation really dwarf anything under $100 billion. I’ve often said that we’re squandering our children’s future, and I believe that we are starting to dig into our grandchildren’s credit. But no one wants to see victims of a national tragedy go untreated. The heroism of those men and women, and the bravery and sacrifice of their families, is not to be understated. But who should get the tab here? The money has to come from somewhere.

The bill’s funding was, at the very least, suspect. It would close a tax “loophole” that shelters companies who are incorporated elsewhere and requires them to pay corporate tax to the U.S. Are you surprised republicans voted against it? If you insist on tangling up conflicting interests into sweeping legislation, you are going to have problems. This is one of the biggest problems with the bill in my opinion, and it is prescriptive of a federal government operating on a nation’s false paradigm. If everything is the government’s responsibility and not ours, then we can’t be upset when things cut in to our civil liberties. If someone can find a way for legislation to be “budget neutral,” then it’s considered a success. As a result, law makers find convoluted ways to scrape up money, and in doing so they write legislation into bills that is completely unrelated. What do the tragedies of 9/11 and its aftermath have to do with corporate tax law? Absolutely nothing. So why is there legislation regarding both in the same bill? What did health care legislation have to do with student loans? I’m not really sure, but a federal overhaul of student loans was tacked on to the health care bill President Obama signed in March. I think this is beyond pork. And who knows what else made it into that one. How can we stand up under 1,000 page laws? How can they be enforced?

These are questions that we should all be asking, because we are all responsible for their consequences. How can we expect our law makers to do a good job when we ask them to do everything for us? These are our responsibilities. I hope that the victims of 9/11 get what they need, and I will even dare to say that I would help make sure it happens. But I am also ready to take a hard look at our legislature and what I am doing to empower a system that is clearly broken. Enjoy your recess.

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It’s Andrew Peterson. He is a songwriter, performer and writer who has been doing what I consider to be some of the finest work coming out of Nashville in the last 10 years. I’ve seen him a couple of times, once to hear him perform “Behold the Lamb of God,” a brilliant iteration of the story of Christmas, which is a small picture of the great story of redemption being written through the very lives of those who believe in Jesus. He blew me away.

Peterson released another album today, and it just wouldn’t be right to let the sun go down without telling you about it. You can preview it here. Give him a try if you haven’t already. I know he won’t let you down.

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Every once in a while, I imagine my little blog with a tag cloud on the homepage. Wouldn’t it be nice to lay out the topics of my posts in a concise, graphical way? I think it would. But then, each time I think of the tag cloud and how wonderful it would be, I get concerned that the biggest words in the cloud might end up being “bagel” or “bagels.” I just don’t think I could live with that.

The bagel shop across the street, which is more like a large gourmet deli, is my favorite place to grab one before work. It’s surprising to me, because it’s one of those places that has just about anything, including udon, which is delicious for lunch. For it to end up on my list of top-tier breakfast sources in this district is simply shocking. But the whole wheat bagel is that good. And now, when I walk in, the bagel guy starts making “the usual” for me before I ask for it.

That is the reason for this post. I’m officially a regular somewhere. If I’ve been looking for an indication of arrival, I very well may have found it at the corner of 28th Street and 5th Avenue. Cheers!

P.S. – If you’re reading please say hello. Many times I find I’m writing for myself. I would much rather write for you.

If there’s one thing I’m thankful for today, it’s music.
If there’s one musician I’m thankful for today, it’s Jay-Z.

And I am.

He pursed his lips, peering through dark, frustrated eyes directly into mine, and clicked. It was like being in a bad movie. Of all the times I have sat in Starbucks to work, no one has ever wanted my seat that much.

There is a symptom of a slowing economy that is exaggerated in the city. Idle hands, idle minds. Agitated people. Go to a public place, or a business that has become like one, and you will find an astonishing array of people. All different ages and eccentricities, sitting in the same spot waiting for something to change.

Dr. Dog released an album recently. Shame, Shame. If you’re thinking hip hop, you’re wrong. If you’re not thinking about anything, I can’t blame you.

Dr. Dog is pretty good.

There. If you hear about this album or this band in two years, listen to them and love it, it won’t be my fault that you wasted two years with good ears not listening to them. I’d risk not liking it now if I were you.

My beloved readers, I honor you. Hoorah!

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I saw Sandra McCracken and Derek Webb a few weeks ago in Williamsburg. She wrote some of my favorite new hymns, and this year they toured together in support of her most recent album, New Old Hymns. Derek produced it. They are married, although you wouldn’t suspect that if you saw them in Williamsburg. Maybe it was just that show.

My most powerful memory of them is from an RUF summer conference in the panhandle of Florida. It was 2004, I think. They played for us on the last night, and I was in the front row. After singing for a couple of hours┬áthat felt like seconds, they spoke to us. Their commitment to living by faith honestly grabbed a piece of my brain that night and has held on ever since. I remember Sandra talking about the sin we hide – we all do it. She said that the best thing that could happen to us is for our sins to be laid bare for everyone to see. If we had nothing to hide, we wouldn’t have anything to lose, and we would be much more powerful witnesses to a dying world.

This preface serves to illustrate my affection and unending bias for this couple. They have been monumental advocates of a faith I can relate to and strive for. With that said, I will reveal what I am listening to right now, and why you should, too.

In February of 2008, Derek and Sandra released Ampersand EP. It is 6 songs. Beautiful production. Seasoned song writing. Quintessentially Nashville. Honest and lovely. I am genuinely pleased every time this EP comes across on iTunes. My favorite is “When The Lights Go Out.”

Buy it, listen to it, and tell me what you think.

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