Friday, December 28, 2012


Who says our national leaders won’t act on global warming!

The Republican Party, still stinging from its major national rebuke way back in 2012, has announced a nationwide initiative to combat the economic impact of global warming. Unlike leaders from industrial nations that have created laws regulating the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the Republican Party has decided to attack the side effects of climate change head-on.

That’s why they’re asking the youth of America, and anyone whose job might be threatened by environmental disaster, to answer these three critical questions:

Are you ready for a ground-floor career in the world’s next major growth industry?

Are you fed up with gloomy scientists predicting climate change, melting ice caps, rising seas and sunken coastal cities while nobody seems to do anything about it?

More to the point, are you ready to do something about it yourself?

If you are, then the career specialists at the Grand Old Party can show you how to turn the planet’s continuing series of cataclysms to your profitable advantage.

No longer deniers of reality, we Republicans  now see there is much to be gained by reaping the winds of Climate Change, so to speak. Sign up with us today, by tomorrow you’ll be preparing for a rewarding job in one of the world’s hottest emerging employment specialties—Global Warming Cleanup.

As the polar ice caps melt, sending oceans to new heights and water temperatures soaring—spawning catastrophic hurricanes and tornadoes—you’ll be sitting pretty. While others scramble to survive, you’ll be enjoying the high paying rewards that come with providing disaster services everybody is screaming for.

Even as you read this, thousands of new careers are being fostered by America’s steadfast refusal to reduce its rampant and filthy consumption of the world’s finite energy resources.

Let America’s intransigence be your greatest opportunity. No other civilized nation can match the Good Old USA in creating the rising need for these hot emerging specialties:

• Flood Rescue
• Skyscraper Salvage and Demolition
• Underwater Funeral and Cremation Services
• Missing Persons Investigations
• Corpse Identification and Shipment Services
• Rooftop Residential Construction
• Extinct Species Cataloguing
• Displaced Persons Management and Control

In the Republican Party we believe Global Warming is a tragic occurrence of the highest order, but we also believe every depleted ozone layer has it silver lining. Take Rooftop Residential Construction, for example. Only developed after the City of Boston washed away in last year’s Great Storm, the Republican Party Career Institute is trying to inject a little more sanity and predictability into the work marketplace, even during time of Global Warning. One of the most promising technologies to come out of all the catastrophic storms—Katrina, Rita, Irene Sandy and The Great Storm, of course—Rooftop Residential Construction by itself has been responsible for creating thousands of new jobs in storm-ravaged communities.

Out Of Destruction,” our Republican motto says, “Comes Construction!”

Developed in joint participation with the Paul Steven Stone Career Institute, under the watchful eye of political appointees and the usual party hacks, our new GOP Global Warming Career Center just might be the fresh start you, and the rest of the country, has been waiting for.

So, sign up today, because…who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Please note, according to Republican preferences, these Global Warming career opportunities are not available to undocumented immigrants unless nobody else wants them.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On This Island In Space

I believe we have much to be hopeful about as we enter 2013, though on the surface of things it may appear otherwise.

I believe more and more of us are learning to look beyond the surface of things, however, and what we see is more meaningful to the life of our global community than today’s news, tonight’s sports scores or tomorrow’s weather.

I believe we have been brought here—to this lifetime, this moment in time, this island in space—to accomplish something. Each of us on our own separate mission that somehow relates, through the unfathomable meshing of the Universe’s gears, to the greater purposes of life.

I believe we are singers in a chorus whose combined song has the power to lift darkness from the face of the land, if we would only awaken to the true song within each of us.

I believe we are all journeying on the same road, leading up the same mountain, to the same summit. The only difference is some of us have been traveling longer and have learned to avoid obstacles that delay and ensnare travelers with less experience.

I believe suffering and pain have purpose in our lives, often forcing us to grow into stronger, better human beings and to explore horizons that would never have called to us otherwise. I have seen parents who have lost children find meaning in their lives by dedicating themselves to protecting and enriching the lives of other people’s children. I have seen victims use their victimhood to alert and save others from the same tragedies. Such is the serendipitous alchemy of disaster and despair.

I believe the greatest obstacles to happiness are those inner demons that keep us isolated from each other, whether they be hunger or avarice, fear of our neighbors, envy or rank malice. Once we allow ourselves to separate from the rest of mankind, we act like creatures deafened by the volume of own petty desires. No longer able to hear the cries of others. No longer affected by the tides of calamity or misery that uproot those around us.

I believe we live in a world where noise and movement too easily overwhelm thoughtfulness and purpose. From the earliest age we are taught to fill the spaces in our lives with sound, activity or moving images, as if a quiet home or a quiet mind were unwelcome oddities. As we progress on our life’s journey, I believe we will learn to welcome these spaces rather than fill them, to drink from them rather than run from them, to make room for them in our lives as we would any healing or sustaining nourishment.

I believe we are learning to overcome superficial differences between ourselves and others, no longer allowing diversity to automatically breed fear and distrust. I can’t say if we’ve become more tolerant because the global media web has shrunken our planet, or because fear, lies and ignorance inevitably shrivel under the constant glare of media attention. Whatever the reason, the veils and superstitions that have fueled intolerance across millennia, sending countless soldiers off to countless wars, are now being lifted. The arc of the universe, I believe, is bending towards justice and brotherhood as more and more travelers make their way up the mountain.

I believe we have been brought here—to this lifetime, this moment in time, this island in space—to accomplish something. Each of us on our own separate mission that somehow relates, through the unfathomable meshing of the Universe’s gears, to the greater purposes of life.

I believe one of the reasons I am here—in this lifetime, on this island in space—is to open my heart and reveal what I find there through my writing.

And I believe this was written for you.

I came across this essay written seven years ago and felt it’s message was not only timeless but somehow impeccably timed for today, given recent events. It’s message of hope, I felt, was no less strident or believable in light of those events, but perhaps more urgently needed. And so, after a few minor edits, I decided to share it with you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Tragedy comes in all sizes and weights. We who count ourselves lucky when we hear of someone else’s misfortune pretend the distance between their world and ours is far enough to keep us safe. But we are fooling ourselves. We can’t cut our boat adrift so easily. We can ignore the smaller ripples, but there are some of such magnitude we occasionally find ourselves holding onto the gunwales with feverish intensity.

Such a tragedy occurred days ago in a Connecticut town that could have easily been any of dozens here in Massachusetts. It was a tragedy that knocked on every door, and louder on those behind which a child could be found. A child thankfully alive, aware perhaps of the looming presence of the holidays but of little else. Behind those same doors you would also find parents stricken by their own form of grief; a grief ironically tied to treasures they still possessed, which now seemed so at risk. Parents now painfully attuned to the vagaries of Fate that could so cruelly—and so quickly—take precious children from their lives.

All of us share the grief of the families, witnesses and survivors, and of the broken lives left behind in the wreckage of one young man’s unfathomable expression of rage. And if there was anything we could do to lighten their burden, we would do it in a flash.

The Newtown shootings was a tragedy of boat rocking proportions. It reminded us—as Sandy did in a much less personal way—how vulnerable we are, and how dependent we are on one another to make this world a better place in which to live and raise our children. But ripples travel both ways on the surface of the pond. Who can say, but perhaps this tragedy might have been averted, had one human being scaled the shooter’s walls, touching his life with ripples of love and healing vibrations. Offering him a better role model than the kill-crazy heroes in video games. Offering him love and kindness to offset the hate.

All that we do—all that we are—send out ripples in the pond. Tragedies send out their own ripples; and there is no way we can avoid being touched by them, nor should we want to.  All we can do is steer a true course, and keep our eyes focused on those who rightfully share the waters in which we live. 

And, yes, keep sending out ripples of love and kindness.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Secret Life of the American Leaf

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Paul Steven Stone’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Occult Home Sciences.

Honored Dignitaries and Members of the Swedish Academy:

Much has been written about the drop pattern of the American Leaf (see Stern’s “Up To My Sternum in Autumn,” Windblown Press, 2003) but prior to my research it was firmly believed Leafus Americanus fell but once a season.

Tdoay of course, we know each leaf falls not once but on many occasions. Ironically, it was a casual remark by my lovely lab assistant and wife at the time that ultimately led to my breakthrough discovery. She was lying on the living room couch, if I recall rightly, examining oval blisters on both her lovely palms. Upon my suggestion that she return to our yard and continue raking leaves, she replied, “You should live so long. I’ll wait till after they refall.”

“Refall?” I said to myself. “Refall?” The word echoed and re-echoed through my mind. “Was it possible?” I asked myself. “Could leaves actually fall more than once?”

Within minutes I organized a press gang of laboratory assistants (my three children) and together we began the torturous process of marking all the remaining leaves in our yard with my name. Afterwards, leaving my assistants to dispose of the test specimens in the woods behind our house, I went inside to pursue a parallel investigation I’d been conducting on the National Football League.

The first returns on our efforts were quite dispiriting. Although a voluminous colony of leaves did reappear on my property, and the trees above remained as starkly bare of their leaves as before, none of the new arrivals bore any of our test markings. Chagrined, I went into the woods and measured the piles of our marked specimens, surprisingly discovering they had diminished quite dramatically in height.

Here then was a double mystery. Not only could I not account for the new leaves on my lawn, I was at a loss to explain the apparent disappearance of many of my test subjects.

A week later both mysteries were solved with a single phone call, the first of many I would later receive.

“You Paul S. Stone?” the caller asked; he appeared to be breathing heavily and short of breath at the same time, which produced a most ominous sounding intake and release of air. Assured that I was indeed Paul S. Stone, he began displaying a limited vocabulary of expletives, most of which he was forced to repeat once or twice in the length of that brief phone call. He ended the call with terse suggestions as to what I might do with all the leaves I had dumped upon his property.

At last the breakthrough I had been seeking! And it was more startling than I could ever have hoped. For not only had my leaves fallen again, as my wife suggested they might, but they had actually travelled two and a half miles to do so. Later phone calls confirmed the discovery, revealing migratory patterns that ranged as far away as six miles from the test site. The threats and foul language I endured from my callers, however, were far more limited in their range, a sad testimony I fear to the failings of our educational system.

You’ll be pleased to hear my research continues, and before long I expect to publish preliminary findings that will cause all of us to reassess our beliefs about the sex life of Leafus Americanus.

All I can say at present is that the little fellow is surprisingly promiscuous.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

They Do The Hokey-Pokey

Will somebody please show John Boehner how to negotiate in good faith! If I have to look at that flap-mouth crybaby accuse President Obama of not playing fairly one more time, I’m out of here. Perhaps to Russia or the Middle East where leaders really know how to kick ass and take names.

John, it’s just like that kid’s dance, The Hokey-Pokey; first you put your right hand in…but, what…? Yes, John, you snatch it back in the song, that’s true, but we’re negotiating here, not really dancing. Okay, now put that right hand back in again. And tell yourself, “I can do this. I can compromise.” Okay, John, now you shake it all about! Only instead of just shaking your right hand you shake someone else’s right hand. Come on, John, really shake it! As if you were out fundraising, rattling upside-down millionaires for the change in their pockets.

Almost there, John. All that’s left is to say, “Yes, I agree,” and look like you mean it.

And now you get to sing, “That’s what it’s all about!”

Enough with the shaking, John. Perhaps if you moved closer to the bargaining table you might actually be able to reach someone else’s hand. You just have to accept the fact Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan really did lose the election and that taxes will definitely have to go up for all your rich friends.

Sorry, John. Yes, the Koch Brothers may need to shut down one of their many soup kitchens, or reduce their annual contributions to the Sierra Club and PBS once they starting paying those additional few million in taxes.

Good thing this is finally happening, John. If we wait any longer we might have to start killing off the poor, the elderly, the infirm. Which I guess is just the Grand Old Party's way of doing the Hokey-Pokey. Now, instead, you get to reach out and grab yourself a chunk of responsibility for doing what’s right, John, and what’s obviously been right for a long time. Talk about turning yourself around!

If you don't mind my saying it, John—That’s what it’s all about!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We’ve just gone through an election where the discussion was centered exactly where the voices of greed and anger wanted it to be, on their crybaby need to shrink the size of American government. To methodically eviscerate, program-by-program, its power and its mission till ultimately our government would no longer be capable of caring for its people or governing responsibly.  And if it turned out it was also incapable of regulating and inhibiting bad behavior by predatory oil companies and billionaires, so much the better!

Who gave the rich and powerful, not to mention angry conservatives, the right to set both the agenda and the topic of discussion for America’s civil intercourse? And who decided they were allowed to purchase outright the entire American political process, as they attempted to do this last election? Happily, there were a lot of votes they couldn’t buy. And a lot of discerning voters they couldn’t instruct on what to believe. But they made such a racket clamoring for their negative agenda, the media seemed unable to hear or discern the quieter voices engaged in the process.

Well, as one of those quieter voices, let me give a rousing cheer for a government large enough to care for its citizens and maintain a safety net under their feet. A government that will help pick them up when they fall, and give them a hand when they need it—without resentment or harsh judgments. Obviously a government can’t do everything for its people, nor should it even try. But there’s so much it can accomplish—so much that needs to be accomplished—we never have to worry about running out of things for it to do. We could clean up our air, free students from lifelong debt, bring illegal aliens in from the cold, salvage more homes from the clutches of the banks, care for our seniors, fix our broken health care system, protect consumers, repair storm ravaged communities and make college more accessible. We could do all that if we didn’t have the Republican party, guided by the selfishness and obscene wealth of its prime supporters and fueled by the zealotry of its Tea Party fanatics, standing in front of progress like a brick wall straddling a train track.

Which government would you prefer?  One that Republicans and their wealthy backers would have us strip down to bare essentials, or one that is worthy of the ideals voiced by our founders and our greatest leaders?

Most of all, we need a government as big as our idea of America. If our vision is guided by those who are small-minded, petty and grasping, we will forge a government that reflects their mediocrity of spirit. If we see ourselves having a moral obligation to share our prosperity and watch over others, we become big enough to rescue Europe from the Nazis and powerful enough to rescue a single mother and her children from the spiraling grip of poverty.

America has always been bigger than the people who lead her, though there are many now who seek to dampen her grandiosity, reduce her generosity, and deny her moral obligation to care for those less fortunate. Any student of history knows a government so painfully insignificant and uninspired was never intended for an America as great as the one we were given as our birthright.

Not only does America need a big government, she needs a government strong enough to stand up to this raucous horde of complainers who deny anything they don’t agree with: global warming, the physical consequences of rape, the theory of evolution, the equality of women, the need for the wealthy to pay taxes. They deny everything except the dangers of living in a big scary world. Which is why we spend more than half the country’s wealth on our military machine, sucking the lifeblood from budgets that would otherwise go to educate our children, operate our trains, build our cities, run our parks, and care for our veterans.

The Republicans and the right-wing fanatics have kept us trapped in time like flies in amber. We’re fated to forever re-negotiate gains made fifty years ago. That’s why, today, we’re still fighting for racial equality, the right to vote, the separation of state and church, and a woman’s right to choose.  And, if we allow these self-righteous misanthropes to continue their obstruction, the same thing will happen with Obamacare, leaving us to spend the next fifty years fighting for its survival.

So, here’s my vote for an American government big enough to help create and protect opportunity for all, and to ensure no one segment of the population gets more than its fair share. A government unapologetically magnanimous in meeting the needs of its citizens. A government as well intentioned and self-sacrificing as those World War Two soldiers who made up the greatest generation.

Anything less…well, just wouldn’t be American.

Monday, November 19, 2012


It is a city comfortably settled, it is a city ripe for development, it is city in need of housing for families and those with low incomes, it is a city that hopes to lower rents and create housing by building towers for the wealthy, it is a city dedicated to improving the lives of its current residents, it is a city committed to bringing in new people and new revenue streams at the expense of current residents, it is a city whose roads and T-stations are already overcrowded, it is a city that wants to believe more capacity remains, it is a city that needs a citywide study to determine the city’s future, it is a city that wants to blindly step on the gas to keep things moving. It is a city still liveable, it is a city whose liveability is on the selling block.

Whatever you believe about the City of Cambridge: believe this…it is on the cusp of change. Big change. The kind of change that comes when you add over 18 million square feet of NEW development to a city already densely populated. That’s 18 million square feet of new labs, offices and residences, ADDITIONAL to what’s here today! Which will generate over 100,000 ADDITIONAL car and transit trips a day.

If the Community Development Department hadn’t spent most of its time and psychic energy trying to bring in more development, rather than helping us prepare for the future, we in the community who care about such things might actually be engaged in a sensible discussion on what the City of Cambridge should be doing to prepare for this virtual tsunami on the horizon. We might be studying possible impacts on our schools, on our air quality, on our city streets, on city services, and on dozens of other aspects of our lives.

But instead, rather than study and anticipate the impacts of all this developmental activity, our civic leaders appear to be caught up in a dance that has them pandering to it, inviting more in, treating developers as the solution rather than just more of the same problem. And the Community Development Department, our agents of change and preservation, often appears to be working more for the interests of development than the community, as if maximizing developer profits was the only way to gain concessions for the city.

There’s an interesting parallel you can draw between what’s happening here in Cambridge and the effort nationally of rich and powerful interests to control the debate as they maximize their profits (or tax advantages). Isn’t this the same as their trickle-down economic theory—that we’ll award some lucky millionaire the rights to build 15 story apartment towers with 130 apartments, and thus help him earn many extra millions of dollars, as long as he doles out 15-20 of those apartments for our poorer citizens? Isn’t that another way of saying we should live off the largess of our job creators, eating whatever crumbs trickle down to us, and in return we tax them less than we tax their secretaries?

But fear not! We’ll not spend a second of time pondering the fate of our schools or the congestion of our roads, rather we’ll argue and plead our case against the gradual diminishment of Cambridge one zoning petition at a time, one preliminary set of recommendations at a time, one City Council hearing at a time, one Oped at a time. All in the interest of the destiny and long-term well-being of this city we love.

There were two meetings last week that reflected this tale of two Cambridges in the flesh. Meeting Number One was held by the Central Square Advisory Committee, overseen and guided by the Community Development Department (CDD). In which the committee publically reviewed their final draft of recommendations for the rezoning of Central Square. Meeting Number Two, held by the Cambridge Residents Alliance, was a community-led forum on transportation.

In Meeting Number One, The Community Development Department offered a long involved presentation with slides, but the ugly truth could not be hidden. They were recommending building heights of 140 feet in a Central Square neighborhood that had long served as a buffer zone between the square and the neighborhood. Now they were zoning for 14 or 15 or 16-story apartment towers in an overlay district that essentially expanded the Central Square footprint to include the two streets that run parallel to Mass Ave. on either side. This overlay district was designed so that city-owned land, a series of parking lots and a two-story garage, could now be sold off to developers and, possibly, used for residential projects.

So what, you might ask, is the big deal? There must be tradeoffs for having such out-of-scale buildings casting shadows on our neighborhood… Of course there is, the community gets back a set percentage of the units, usually 11-15%, to be set aside for low- or middle-income folks.

What if the neighborhood doesn’t want the shadows, or the noise, or the congestion, or the added newcomers further crowding an already crowded T-ride?

And what if the neighbors actually do want the low- and middle-income units that come with the towers?

Let’s build them ourselves! Only not as towers. Once we let go of satisfying the gluttony of developers we can actually look at building structures appropriate to the site and to the neighborhood. We can be just as resourceful as the developers, since we'll be building small and efficient instead of big and expensive. “We” being the City of Cambridge, of course—with PCA funds, or by digging up all possible sources of funding before we’d ever think of defacing the neighborhood with sky-blocking towers. 

In the other meeting, Meeting Number two, late Saturday afternoon, men and women who not surprisingly support the city building its own small-scale affordable housing communities, were gathering to present a forum on the grim future realities of real estate and transportation in Cambridge. Hoping that by presenting the facts, they might also help shape the city’s future.  Right now, the millions of dollars that come with development are driving both the discussion and the city’s actions, they're certainly not driven by the needs of the city or its residents. 

In Meeting Number One, Cambridge was served up as a side of beef to be chopped up into its different cuts. 140 feet of height in one district, 160 feet of height in the next. Or should we call them Rib Cut and Pork Chop? 

In Meeting Number Two, Cambridge was seen as a gem whose facets can be easily scratched, and thus need protection. It's our very diversity and liveability, now at risk from over-development, that makes us so attractive to those who would come in to share our city, all the more reason for not allowing market realities to dominate our thinking or treat us roughly.

Meeting Number One continued to ignore the fact that 18 million new square feet of development is coming to Cambridge. Bringing more cars, bicyclists, T-riders and bus passengers than the present systems can handle.

Meeting Number Two attempted to thwart the misguided lurch towards weakening our zoning protections, that was coming out of Meeting Number One .

Meeting Number Two envisioned a Cambridge whose delicate intertwining of races, economic groups—blue collar and white—is a rare and beautiful thing that needs to be protected, while Meeting Number One saw a Cambridge whose liveability, liberality and academic propinquity were merely happy underpinnings of its highly sexy, and highly priced, real estate market. And too much of a good thing can't be all bad, can it? 

In the end, of course, one vision will win out. Whether it’s the Voice of Money finally convincing us to let the investors and big developers make more money off our city so that a few of us can eke out better lives. Or if it’s the Voice of Reason asking us to be good stewards of this city we have been handed down. A voice that believes the abiding principle in steering Cambridge towards the future must be borrowed from the Hippocratic oath, “First, Do No Harm!”

There were two meetings last week that were sharply focused on where we see Cambridge evolving. They were also sharply divided, one calling for expanding higher-rise development, the other calling for a temporary halt to all up-zoning, so we can study and prepare for what the future is sending our way.

Which meeting spoke to you?

Cambridge is Two Cities
It is a city comfortably settled, it is a city ripe for development, it is city in need of housing. It is a city that hopes to create housing by building towers for the wealthy, it is a city dedicated to improving the lives of its current residents, it is a city committed to bringing in new people and new revenue streams at the expense of current residents, it is a city whose roads and T-stations are already overcrowded, it is a city that wants to believe more capacity remains, it is a city that badly needs a citywide study, it is a city that wants to blindly keep things moving. It is a city still liveable, it is a city whose liveability is on the selling block. It is a city some of us love, it is a city some would love to develop.