Reluctant Spring

Dark clouds pass quickly overhead, rolling and spreading as if angry.  Invisible strings pull the air and suck the energy out of small human plans, charging life with dark cold winds.  They have surprise on their side because just two days before it was bright and sticky hot, a lazy weekend that now seems like nothing more than a set-up for a sick joke.

Yet in those moments of sun there has been time to get together with friends in a casual summer wander.  Most have come with a shared secret. “I have this project I’m working on, don’t tell anyone.”  Bright eyes push ahead a little stutter, a speech being practiced for when the real pitch-day comes.  In front of us is something new, a craft moving through the art of being perfected.  We talk about plans, possibilities, work and energy.  Then, eventually, a few clouds roll into the conversation – Europe, stalling employment, huge banks losing tons of money, and the rigged stock market.  They suck the energy out of the moment and set aside the craft and plans.

This is the reluctant Spring that arrived early but can’t stay with us.

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Union

Memorial Day started as a commemoration of the hundreds of thousands killed in our Civil War.  It was a war that started because the nation could not tolerate being half free and half slave-owning any longer.  What won the day was one nation, once assembled, which could never pull apart.  Perpetual Union is now sanctified in blood and taken as a given.

While we pause to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us, Europe is deep into their own process for understanding what Union means to them.  It has been in the works for perhaps 200 years, or 2,000 if you want to start with Rome.  The bloodshed has been grave and terrible.

Does it really come down to stark choices like this for Europe?

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Memorial Day in Oakland Cemetery

The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground.  The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.

This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.

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IPO – I’m Pissed Off

MF Global, while crashing and burning, lost $1.6 billion – at least that’s what appears to be missing.  JP Morgan, for reasons they don’t quite understand, lost $3 billion – by the most recent estimate.  And now Morgan Stanley has lost at least $18 billion – but this doesn’t count because it was Other People’s Money (OPM).

There has been no bigger joke on Wall Street than the Facebook initial public offering (IPO).  From the beginning up through the sorry slide it’s on today, nothing has worked.  There is even a likely Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into revised earnings information that somehow wasn’t shared with the public – but a few insiders had a peak at.

If you ever needed proof that big investment banks are nothing but leeches sucking the life out of our economy, Facebook’s IPO is it.

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Greek Drama, New Act?

I admit it, I’ve been slow to write about Greece again.  There is news on the Greek crisis every day that is worth writing about, and yet somehow it all seems the same as two years ago.

But then along came Alexis Tsipras, who at 37 is likely to be the next leader in this odyssey of debt.  Outside of Greece he and his “Coalition of the Radical Left” are not well known, which is only reasonable.  They aren’t that well known in Greece, either.  What matters is that he is playing his hand perfectly and may well stand up to the big banks of Europe after June 17th.

Will this former youth organizer for the Communist Party be successful, not just in winning power but leading his nation away from disaster?  It seems unlikely, but if it happens it will be one Hell of a story.

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Next Generation’s Struggle

This is a dialogue with my daughter Thryn Hare (Kathryn).  Thryn has been named one of OutFront’s “25 leaders under 25”, a strong activist for Gay / Lesbian / Transgender rights at only 15 years old.  I couldn’t be more proud.

I should start by asking what it was like to talk to me about who you felt you were and how difficult it was.  I know it took you some time.  Did you think I might reject you for it?  What was going through your mind?

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Merkel, Alone

European news has been roughly the same for three years.  An agreement is reached between a group of bland looking national leaders, and then one of them disappears from the scene.  There’s been an election or a series of protests that led to a resignation, nevermind the reason why.  When the cast changes, the old agreement is tossed aside and negotiations begin again.

Why can’t Europe get its act together?  Why is it so dependent on personalities?

That gets us to the chief personality of them all, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She has been the one who, with her conservative Christian Democratic Party, has insisted on “austerity”, the tightening of budgets and paying of bills even as the economy crashes.  And now Merkel stands completely alone.  Does this mark the end of austerity for Europe?

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