Category Archives: Thoughts on the U.S.

Opening Philosophy on Filmmaking

It has been a few years since finishing Considering Democracy. After the screening tour, for various reasons, it has taken a few years to recover from the process. The path that I’ve taken has been one that has allowed me to meet some fabulous creative people, along with the chance to see incredibly movingdocumentaries. I’m always struck by the irony of experiencing powerful stories on the screen in the theater, yet as I look around, I often find myself wishing that more people could experience such a story.

As the process of filmmaking has become more democratized with the advent of digital filmmaking, likewise, the internet’s functionality and reach has also been growing in rapid leaps and bounds.  I’m fascinated by and have gravitated toward Open Source web development platforms and communities. WordPress and Drupal are CMS communities that rely on a the work of developers that voluntarily give resources within the development of plugins and modules and as well as within its core. Because their source code is open, anybody can make modifications and contribute to its development.  While I feel that filmmaking and storytelling is a vital and important part in contributing toward our humanity, I have been wanting to make the leap into creating web-based frameworks that harness individual stories.  I’ve been watching interactive media online and have been watching different filmmakers trying to make the transition to the online world with some heartache and frustration.

The internet is an amplifier of information.  Information can quickly spread over social networks and articles and individual tweets and posts retweeted and posted to become viral.  Indeed, revolutions have been spurred by social media.

Yet filmmakers are often caught between the desire to tell stories and the desire to protect the story that has so often painstakingly created.  With the recent swell of creators of media fighting for money that can be gained from selling it, the filmmaker is in a dilemma.  On one hand, it is almost flattering to have others upload and spread one’s creative work.  On the other hand, it hurts to see your work that took years to create, be so easily and willingly copied and given to others.  (One does want to eat, have a place to live, and we do this within a capitalist society – which I’m fine with, but it does create some dichotomies.)  I’ve seen this happen over and over.  With a film, there is the marketing desire to create demand, yet protect it to go through the usual channels of distribution.  Typically, it has been film festivals, theaters, then to digital viewing like Netflix or iMovie.  Yet very often on the web, many of the technologies that we benefit from every day are iterations of open source code that many people have contributed toward, and very often without any pay.

I recently went to Mountain Film Festival in Telluride.  Besides being in a beautiful area, being exposed to truly inspirational stories and people,  I was also struck by how passionate individuals  telling a story.  Some, while passionate, are seemingly shouting into the wilderness.  A person wrote a book where she interviewed people to see how they have been affected by fracking.  She had left her books, signed, in a pile on a table that had other informational material associated with the festival.  I asked if it was okay to take them, as it was a book – something that obviously took a lot of time and work to compile, and the volunteer relayed that it was okay, and that she left them there on the table for people to take.  I was struck by a thought that has been echoing within my mind – that there are now more efficient ways of getting these important stories out to audiences.

Part of this is that I’ve shifted in my thinking and have moved toward openness for the sake of getting information out to a greater public.  Today I changed the copyright on the bottom of a web-based magazine Green Passive Solar from my copyright to one that utilizes the Creative Commons designation.  And I will do the same to Considering Democracy.  I do want to willfully designate creative works that have information that is important and has value to others.

I’ve been thinking of remaking Considering Democracy and updating the stats, but if I were to do so, I would do it in a way that was web-based.  I recently showed Considering Democracy to students.  One student said that if he had a copy of it, one of his friends would translate it into Spanish.  It made me think that it would be more efficient if it were online – then it would be shared and made into any translation – by anyone who wanted to make one.

That’s part of the thinking behind making Considering Democracy under the Creative Commons.  I do want to put more work into it and it will be on its way and will happen soon in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, if you want a copy of the DVD, I’ll send you one.


Great U.S. Social Services that benefit All the People – and Profiteering Private Health Insurance

The United States is currently the only first world, developed country that doesn’t have a health insurance policy for all its citizens. This actually goes against much of its existing policy and against the spirit of democracy. The United States does have other efficient social services that benefit all of its members. The existing social services have helped to build America’s economic status, because it is in healthy, safe, societies that commerce can thrive. One of these services is the the well developed road system. All people are able to use the roads to get around the community. Exceptions to this are toll roads and paid parking. Roads are a type of social infrastructure that have stimulated commerce and contributed toward the United States’ overall economic wealth.

Fire Departments are an example of a services that benefits all citizens - indeed, all people in society. It is a socialized service.

The United States also has a fairly sophisticated, efficient and appreciated local police departments. These departments tend to benefit all society, and indeed, most department squad cars have it written on them, “To Protect and Serve”. In addition, fire departments in the United States are also among the world’s best. They continue to have the best equipment and continue to operate for the general betterment of society. American citizens do not need a private insurance policy to receive police or fire department services. All citizens are also able to utilize a national 911 call number that efficiently dispatched the appropriate emergency service. These socialized services benefit all members of society and are amoung the world’s best in regard to efficiency.

The nice efficiency in United States starts to falter when the healthcare system and its statistics are looked at. Indeed, statistics for the United States in healthcare are in rapid decline, heading toward third world levels. A major contributor to this phenomena is the private health insurance policy. It is rumored that health insurance companies would like to offer police and fire insurance if they are victorious in keeping the archaic, inefficient, yet highly profitable private health insurance policies in place within the United States. What direction will America go in?

U.S. Social Services benefit all while U.S. Private Health Insurance only benefit some. (Private health insurance also have ridiculously high profit margins, only benefit some in society, and sets up a system for catastrophic destruction. They are fighting hard and are utilizing fear and other trickery to fool the U.S. population into keeping the system as it currently is.)

The United States should have a public or national plan of health insurance. Something to think about. This debate will be continued…

Moving Beyond Partisan Stupidity and Name Calling

We need to move beyond the partisan labels of Conservative, Liberal, Republican and Democrat.  We need to move past partisan stupidity so that we can start real discussion and move toward real solutions.  Pardon the wording, but stupidity seems to be the correct word.    We need to stop placing blame on the other political party and take a good look at what has happened to this country.  We are at a point in time where corruption within the political system is at an all time high, yet we can’t seem to have civil discussion in public places about it.

The last time this country experienced a revolution, it did so because the population in the United States didn’t feel that they had any representatives looking out for their interests, at a time when they were being taxed, the proceeds of taxation were going toward something that they had no control over.  “No taxation without representation!” Remember?

Let’s take a look at our current system.  The current political system is so intertwined with corporate interests that our representatives and policy makers seem to have forgotten that the U.S. Constitution was originally written to protect people.  Corporations currently have more rights than people to the extent that we no longer have the right to know where our taxes are being spent.  Usually, when governments are formed, taxes go toward society and toward a common good.  Examples of  things that developed countries allocate taxes toward are roads, schools, social services like 911, and in all cases except the United States – healthcare.

Instead of allocated American taxes toward things that benefit society, taxes and American wealth are seemingly vanishing behind odd accounting, business privacy rights, and with private government contractors situated  in various places across the world.  (Halliburton being one of them.)  The war/occupation/freedom fight in Iraq (whatever it is called, depending on which media you listen to) has billions of unaccounted American tax dollars that can’t seem to be found.   The bailout money for banks and other financial institutions or any other oddly connected corporations – insurance for example, also can’t seem to be wholly traced.  When they do tell us, we don’t learn of the full story.  AIG  (the American International Group, which along with having various holding companies, supplies insurance and other things) recently disclosed that some of its securities lending subsidiary – arm gave our bailout funds to Barclays PLC of Britain, Deutsche Bank of Germany and UBS of Switzerland.  While the U.S. financial giants of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch received their own bailout funds, they also received bailout funding through AIG.

How could such a thing happen?  If one looks at our political leaders who also received contributions from AIG, Barach Obama, former senator from Illinois tops the list at $120,582 closely followed by Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.  Those that hold stock in AIG are also interesting.  Former Republican senator from North Carolina Robin Hayes, held $2,750,004 to $11, 500,000, while Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts  with over 2 million dollars in assets.  The current system of corporate lobbying and political finance does not discriminate between Republican or Democrat, Independent, Conservative or Liberal.   Whoever is in a position of potential power will have large amounts of corporate money somehow given to him or her.  It’s not that our representatives are bad people, (perhaps weak or slightly lame) however, it does highlight a major problem within our representative democracy.

It seems that there has been a wide gap in reality between those in national politics and the People that policy makers are supposed to represent.  The United States is at a point in time when we must begin difficult, complicated, mature discussions upon the current state of our country and looking at realistic solutions.  In such a system, it no longer matter what party line a person aligns to.    Representation for the People continues to be a major issue in government.  It’s usually why people want democracy.  What entity is our policy ultimately benefiting?  The People or corporations?  Just something to think about.

Could you spare some Change?

I just returned from being a juror for the Big Muddy Film Festival.  It was like a slice of heaven – being in a dark room for hours, watching films, one after another, then deliberating about them.  I’d have to honestly admit that I’m a bit jealous of the other jurors’ backgrounds.  I didn’t go to film school and instead have a degree in U.S. History.  So when they talked about referencing films, I added them to my list of films to see.

The process also made me think about distribution – or the method and means of getting the film out to audiences.  It’s currently changing and many debates are raging as to what, and how to do it.  One of the other jurors made a film, Chameleon Street, that won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival in 1990, and was just recently honored again in 2009.  It, however, did not get a distributor.  If the film had been made last year, would the film have been able to get out to a larger audience using the internet?  While the internet has the ability to amplify voices, how successful is it really?

Considering Democracy also screened.  It was interesting-cool to have the film return to see how it had impacted people.  One audience member asked a question to the effect of, “If you could do it over again (since we have a new president) how would you or would you want to change it?”  This is an interesting question.  While the American People voted for change, the overarching political-corporate system has not changed.  It will resist change, and while the dominant party (of two) has changed, many of the political pay-to-play type scandals have not.  I still think that all 8 questions and sections of the film still have revelevant societal topics that could use some thought.

One high school teacher is using the film within the classroom as a teaching and discussion tool.  It’s really fabulous to hear that a film can have impact beyond its original screening.   As a filmmaker, we don’t really know what happens to the film, nor do we know where it goes, or how far its potential reach.  We could definitely use some solutions right now.  Could it possibly affect Change?

Congressional Committees and Power

There is a lot of work and activity happening in Washington DC as the nation prepares to change administrations.  After screening the film Considering Democracy across the nation, I found startling similarities in small and large communities across the United States.  It seems that People across the nation feel isolated and distanced from national policy matters.  As I drove and spent a lot of time thinking about things,  I found that it was odd that people felt isolated in the information age.  But I realized that something can be done.

I’m currently setting up a new website that will allow people to get basic political information, then respond in a way that will allow people to see each others views from across the country.  In the website’s construction – that’s going on right now, I feel the need to vent a little, both in some puzzlement and frustration.  There is a lack of systemic order in the delivery of political information that makes it difficult to get basic information.

The current political and informational systems are set up in a way that is rather confusing, polarizing and inherently partisan.  There are also interesting systemic patterns.  It’s interesting to note that while we just finished voting for our Congressional representatives, once they leave our states and go to DC, their respective party leaders choose their legislative committees for them.  As I visited Congressional websites I began to realize that the current system is rather easy to manipulate.  A few key people make major decisions, thus in theory the system is fairly easy to corrupt.   (In the process of gathering information, I’ve been to all the Congressional websites and have found them to be very predictable – the first page will have the Congress person reading books to children, smiling with military personnel, the Congress person actively listening to firemen, farmers or in a factory… )  Although I must also say that a source of my frustration is that there’s no organizational template for info on the web.  Some representatives from some states, (noticeably Texas) do not have their committee information on their website.  If the information is there, it could be anywhere.  It could be under their bio, work, views… and sometimes after going through each page, I realize that the information is not there.)   It’s also interesting that some people get into politics because they want to help to change the system and want to be on a certain committee (a MD who wants to be on the Energy and Commerce committee that creates healthcare legislation, but is consistently placed on other committees)  yet committee membership is ultimately chosen by either the Democratic or Republican leadership.  Rather easy to corrupt, no?

As I do web searches for committee membership, I’ve also found that industry lobbies are better organized than citizen organizations, in general.  Industry lobbies tend to have lists of Congressional contacts according to committees, while citizen organizations have phone numbers and contacts for local congressional representatives without any regard for the committee that the representative sits on.

Some Congressional committees are organized, but it is frustrating to try to get the membership and only find that only the Democrats have their membership ready, while the Republicans do not.  Why not work together in the first place?  It’s also interesting that the Republicans  have somehow managed to have their own page on their website, although in some cases the stated goals seem to be more neoconservative than Republican.  There’s also this fascinating Democrat – Republican party whip system.  I’ll get into that later.  I need to get back to work.

Wouldn’t it be cool to get information in one place – then be able to respond?

Happy New Year!

U.S. Policy and a Shift

This week has shown the effects of a 28 year shift in U.S. policy. The National Intelligence Council reported that in twenty years, the United States would no longer be the dominant power in the world. As a country, we have slipped precipitously in per capita GDP, in healthcare statistics, in our education standings, our economy is starting to plummet and our overall standing in the world has gone down. As the leaders of top economic countries met, this is how the world leaders reacted to George W. Bush.

While I think that the United States is a great country and has the ability to regain a higher standing, we need to rethink our foreign and domestic policy. The United States is very unique in its policy. The most stunning is our willingness to allow private corporations to dictate our policy. The United States is the only developed country to collect a Medicare tax and not cover its entire population. The United States remains unique in its allocation of public sources to private gain, now more than ever. It wasn’t always this way. Here’s a link to Bush defending another 20 Billion to Citigroup. (They previously received 25 Billion when the bailout was first past. Link to LATimes article) Does Treasury Secretary Paulson seem uncomfortable or is he always like this?

Let’s rethink what our government’s role should be. Should it be of and for the People as the Constitution of the United States proclaims? If so, then we need to re-plot this country’s course. Just something to think about.

Bailing Out the Private Automobile Industry?

I really question the theories driving our policy. Are other people out there doing the same thing? It seems that not so long ago, the manufacturing sectors shouted, “Let the free markets work! The strongest and best will survive! Do away with regulation. It only hampers us and holds us back.” So then our lawmakers and policy makers started deregulating industries. When the rest of the world worked to lower emissions standards, (the automobile industry really fights against these types of standards) the United States, under the Bush administration, succumbing to strong lobbying pressures snubbed the rest of the world and the Kyoto Protocols and backed out.

Largely ignoring logic, science, and the common good, U.S. auto manufacturing built large, inefficient cars, hired large marketing firms and sold inefficient vehicles first for battle – (which it’s debatable as to the merits of why the U.S. continues to have a large, economically draining presence in Iraq, but that debate is for a different day) then they sold the large vehicles to the U.S. public. They pushed for NAFTA, arguing that it would level the playing field, that it would stop illegal immigration into the U.S., that it would give jobs to those who need it the most… except those that lost their manufacturing jobs in Detroit… So then, my question – what entity is driving U.S. policy? Because the opposite of what they said and say seems to happen.

A lot of people voted for change in November. Perhaps we could start conversation about creating policy that benefits the American people. Does it seems as though no matter who gets into Congress or the White house, that something else, some other force, or thing, is behind the scenes and pushing policy? Why is it that Pelosi is advocating for a automobile bailout? Could it have something to do with corporate lobbying? Perhaps we could start a Peoples’ Party. We could start talking to one another and also start looking toward solutions.

I don’t think we should bail out the automobile industry. I think all Americans should have basic healthcare (remember, we’re the only ones that don’t have it. It’s just us, and the rest of the developing, third world) before we bailout any more of the private sector. Let’s also remember that we do pay into Medicare. Somehow they convinced consumers that it’s for the old and the poor. Now how could they have done a thing like that?

Should Corporations Have More Rights Than People?

If ever there has been a time to discuss corporate politics, that time is now. It is disgustingly appalling that our lawmakers largely did not know about certain changes that continue to be made and inserted into policy and law by the current Bush Administration. There was a recent change to tax code 382, that apparently most lawmakers and representatives did not know about. This has already had massive effects on our economy.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson does not seem to be creating policy for the  good of the American public. The Bush Administration is successfully continuing to break apart the U.S. economy because it has fallen prey to the desires of corporate profit and policy. Can this currently be denied? At a time when a large portions of the American public are facing very difficult economic times, Wells Fargo Bank has been allowed to take over Wachovia, and the Federal Reserve met on a Sunday to approve the transaction. What’s even more shocking is that Wells Fargo is being allowed huge, mammoth tax breaks, as the same time the American public paid the bill for a private corporate banking bailout. Let’s also remember that this comes at a time when news agencies have recently cut their investigative staff. This is partially why it is so very difficult to understanding what is going on. News agencies were allowed to buy up one another, and partially since they are still paying back interest on their (ridiculously large) acquisitions, (changes in government policy allowed the acquisitions to happen in the first place) and since the media CEOs and management are able to take ridiculously large salaries, there weren’t enough funds to keep the investigative journalists. These separate incidences have huge social consequences.

While I am outraged by the lack of awareness from our legislators, they are not the true cause of our problems. They are currently pawns in the system. We need to look at what entity is profiting the most from our socioeconomic and political crisis. We need to look at the system, because it has been engineered so that lawmakers have limited power and influence. Lawmakers are reacting to a system of strong, powerful corporate lobbies that have intertwined themselves with the financial, defense, insurance, healthcare and media corporations and enhanced movement from the corporate world into political administrations positions to create policy that seems to clearly not benefit the American people. We as people need to start talking about the phenomenon of corporate personhood and corporate rights versus Peoples’ rights and the common good. What would the framers of the U.S. Constitution think of our current situation? (Oh my, there so many things…)

We need to start educating ourselves and the American public needs to begin talking about these issues. Here are some links to information.

The U.S. Economy – The link will take you to This American Life and will enable you to listen to a radio broadcast on the economy from Chicago Public Radio. Oct 2008

A Quiet Windfall for U.S. Banks – This link will take you to a Washington Post article. Nov 2008

Fed Approves Wells Fargo’s Takeover of Wachovia – This link will take you to a Bloomberg article. Oct 2008

We as People need to start learning about and talking about these issues. The financial bailout is a symptom of the direction that we are headed in and unfortunately, our tax dollars will be offered as financial bailout candy unless we begin looking at causes in order to adequately address these complex financial, social and political issues. (Reaganomics is a good place to start. What are the underlying assumptions of Reaganomics? Learning this will start to untangle this very tangled web.) So then, should corporations have more rights than People? Who was the Constitutions written by and for? How does it start? What entity does currently policy seem to benefit most? Where are our tax dollars going? Why do we pay taxes? (Usually people pay taxes to toward things that benefit society like to build and maintain roads, schools, infrastructure, healthcare – well, not so much in the States… in other countries they do though.) What entity does our healthcare system currently benefit the most? People or profit? Ask the same question to all the other things that taxes go toward. For example – should school taxes go toward people or profit? Then move onto roads and all the other things that taxes are used for. And so on and so forth. Why is the United States so very different from all the other developed democracies? They all also have capitalism, but their policy is very different. Something to think about…

Veterans Day

Thank you to all the veterans out there, who have served the country in different capacities. It is my hope that we will have national and international policy that will benefit veterans in a more humanistic way. Whether that means protecting veterans in their overseas missions by creating policy that keeps them safe, giving them the tools they need to protect themselves, and equally important, having leadership that will engage in strong and intelligent diplomacy enabling a safer world and environment. I also  hope that veteran healthcare, after returning to the States, will also provide veterans with high quality, caring services. Thank you.

Oil’s Demise?

I recently saw a rather shocking documentary, “A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash”. It is a beautifully done documentary, yet brutal in the view of reality that it leaves in its wake. Its interviews, its recounting of history and formulated argument are are carried out like clockwork. It is the ticking sound that we can faintly hear, but is amazingly absent from the mainstream corporate media; it is a message that gets either buried or is drowned out by other sounds and distractions. Yet the oil crash, combined with other difficulties ,will soon impact our society, the world, and will affect us all in more ways than we would like it to.

Yet, and thank goodness, there are things that can be done. I also recently saw “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”. It recounts what happened in the island nation of Cuba when oil importation suddenly dropped after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. They did what needed to be done. When they did not have fuel to put in their tractors, they went back to using oxen. Since none of the younger people knew how to use oxen in the fields, they recruited the older guys to teach classes on the farms. They no longer had fertilizers, so they began growing worms in troughs to produce castings and used this organic fertilizer. They began using renewable energy because they had to. It is something that we in the United States need to take a serious look at.

The United States is very dependent on oil. Our cities have been developed with the car in mind as the main source of transportation. Our box stores get their products delivered by semi trucks. Our chain food stores get their deliveries also by trucks. Our grocery stores also get their food delivered, often by truck. Our mail arrives to us through a vast network of cars, trucks, planes, walking and perhaps more driving to pick it up, – or get it delivered. I’m thankful for what gasoline does for me, (I do like being able to move around and go places when I need to) but realistically, with population on the rise, with fewer large oil discoveries, because it is a finite source that takes millions of years to create, it probably would be really good and smart to start to anticipate this shift. It is starting to occur, although it will need to accelerate.

Slowly, things are happening. Local farmers’ markets are beginning to be more commonplace. There are more people opting to live without a car. (Most of the people I know who do this live in large cities. But some also live in large cities and only ride a bike or walk!) Houses that are close to the cities’ center are gaining in value as people try to avoid a long commute. People who see this oil and gas shortage coming are building houses that are more energy efficient. People are building houses with alternate sources (straw bale) or are building houses for solar gain and using passive solar techniques. People are starting to have gardens and grow their own vegetables. (I’m going to try to learn canning next fall.) All of this and more is needed. Smart energy co-ops are encouraging alternative sources of energy (and buying it back!) because they realize that soon they will not have the capacity to support a growing population. There are other shortages coming as well.

Natural gas, which has been rather plentiful and inexpensive will be more difficult to access. As I have been traveling across the nation and reading papers, it seems that the norm for increasing energy prices this winter is anticipated at 20 to 40 percent. We as humans also need to shift the way that we react to this information. We need to become empowered to act and help one another, as opposed to passively saying that things are depressing. It’s depressing only if you feel that you are powerless. Take power. Be smart and creative. Talk to people. The more people that do know, and act, the less the impact it will be. (Because it will be quite the impact.)

A New Administration!

Yes! Thank goodness.

Here’s a link to the reaction around the world.

Yet, there’s a lot of work ahead. Let’s start to define the change.  Let’s start bridging America’s polarization and start talking to one another. We as People need to communicate to one another, because the systems within the U.S. are still the same. For example, I saw this rather ridiculous thing this morning on television. One morning show was featuring a psychologist who recommended that people not talk politics with others who may think differently. This is quite silly, as we need to move forward together, as one nation. Here’s a link to yesterday’s historic vote by the BBC.

We need to start moving toward solutions, and we must do so together, as one nation. Be nice to others who may have voted differently than you.  Perhaps bake cookies for them and start talking about what the other developed countries do for healthcare. There are working solutions in the world and perhaps the U.S. can move in a similar direction that the other developed democracies have taken. (I did check U.S. based PBS for links, and they had some, but were limited in scope and the website was limited in functionality. Media issues are another topic to discuss! Why does this great country have not-so-good public TV?)

While changing the administration and the party of Congress is a good change and a step in the right direction, the system is still the same, and lobbyists will descend upon them. The spin machine will create its fear as they have done so throughout the election. We need to start open communication and talk and listen to People who may think differently. Be nice to them and listen and scrutinize your own sources of information. Is it coming from the perspective of People, of and for the People, or perhaps is it in the interest of multinational corporations? Just something to think about. And discuss!


Polarization of the United States

I’ve been driving across the United States screening the documentary Considering Democracy. Screenings were arranged, then I’ve been driving to them then do a Q&A session afterward. I figured it was the fastest way to get the film out. It has been a fantastic, odd, exhilarating and exhausting experience. There have been other emotions, for sure, but while it was fascinating to travel outside of the States to do the film, it has been a most fascinating experience to screen the film to American audiences.

In driving across the country and engaging with different audiences, there are amazing patterns of similarities. I find it an odd polarization when both sides of it (yes, there are other aspects, but they are more subtle) say that they will leave the country if the other guy gets into the presidency. This is a fascinating phenomena because it seems to illustrate a vastly different perception of reality. Yes. It’s oddly true. Obama supporters say that they will leave if McCain gets in. McCain voters say that they will leave if Obama gets in. Will each side choose similar countries or will one side go to the developing world, while others choose industrial developed countries? Where will they go? I think both sides should just start talking to one another. Nicely. Then perhaps we could get some stuff done.

It has been an odd experience because the filmmaking process is at times a very solitary experience. The post production and editing phase was the longest phase, and one that I spent thousands upon thousands of hours by myself with a computer. There were many times when hours would pass, the sun went down, meals went by, as I sat at the computer – editing. This is a huge contrast to the experience of driving sometimes 9 hours to a screening,  sometimes turning on my laptop to get directions to the screening on the way in – then I get up in front of people to do the Q&A for the film. So in this sense it’s a very extreme situation to be the filmmaker, then to work on distributing the film. Ah, the digital age. Gotta love it. But it’s also odd that it’s kinda working. Okay, must sleep soon. More later…

I Love America, yes, the United States

I do love America and I will explain why I feel this way. I’ve been driving to screenings of my documentary “Considering Democracy” across the United States. Really, across the United States.  It even takes me by surprise to think that I was as far up north as Maine, and as down south as Virginia, a mere few weeks ago.  I’m now in Oregon and will be heading down the coast soon.  The United States a beautiful country and I’ve seen tremendous beauty both in the landscape and in its People.  I love a lot of things about States and that is what motivates me.

I love the hard working Americans.  We do work hard.  We pay taxes, we often work more than one job, and when we compare ourselves to the rest of the developed countries, we take the least amount of vacations away from work.  We bail out private institutions, we pay into a Medicare tax, we pay for private cable companies to let us glimpse into our Congressional world by paying for access to see our legislative process while they use our public airwaves.

Because of this system, many Americans are spending tremendous amounts of energy and dedication to getting out truth and information out to others.  We see that certain types of news are not being talked about and we are motivated by a love of country.  Many Americans are working hard to maintain their lifestyles and ways of living and are indeed fighting the very corporations are are getting no-bid contracts.  In Colorado, ranchers who have been working hard for generations, are not able to continue to do so, because a company like Halliburton has the rights to access and extract the energy or natural gas that lies beneath the surface.  While there is some government regulation, the water that is used by the extraction company, often changes the chemical composition of the water after being used in the extraction process.   It is polluting the water that is needed for animals and humans to live.  I’ve seen this situation repeated again and again, across the U.S. and the globe.  I love America and that is why I ask questions.

I love America and that is why I think it’s important that people start talking, nicely and respectfully, to each other.  We need to begin looking at solutions.  Because I respect people and their families, their right to work, their right to live in a safe and clean environment, that is why I speak out and question what is happening.

I feel tremendous empathy and love for a working population that pays into a Medicare tax and is one of the only populations in the world that does so, and is not covered.  I am motivated by a love for humanity and the people that have given America the beauty and the strength that it has, because I can see that public resources are being squandered.

It is a love for America that motivates me to ask questions, because when I hear that a senior citizen, who has worked for over 50 years, giving his best years of work and of his life into a system that allows an insurance company to drop health coverage simply because it is not as profitable as the company would like, I question the system.  We, who question this are motivated by a love and concern for our country.

Many people are motivated by a love of country.  We come from different sides of the political spectrum.  We need to hear each other and respectfully start discussion.   We no longer can remain silent for fear of being called unpatriotic.  We need to start bypassing the major media networks and start talking to one another.  It is patriotic to look toward solutions.  Just something to think about.  Enjoy your day!

P.S.  I see that I’ve repeated myself a few times, but the time as come to, yes, drive again, and it’s probably also important to think about love, and why people question things.  It’s actually the most patriotic thing a person can do.  When we can’t freely question, that’s when there’s a really big problem.  Hmmmm.

The Importance of Supporting Independent Businesses

As I’ve been driving around the country screening my film “Considering Democracy”, I’ve been trying really hard to support independent businesses. Instead of going to fast food – chains or restaurants which I have done some in the past, I’m making an effort to seek out and support independent businesses. This is sometimes difficult to do, but it is almost always more rewarding in a lot of ways. I think independent businesses are a really important asset to any successful society, but it’s sometimes really difficult to find them while traveling. Most of the time, interstates are the quickest way to get from place to place, and clustered around the exit areas are a growth of the same exact corporate behemoth-type institutions. While they can and do serve a function to society, it also can negatively impact local economies and communities. Here are a few reasons behind my decision to support local independent businesses.

Independent businesses tend to develop, support and nurture stronger community ties that are beneficial for those who live in the community. Relationships are important in any community and if the restaurant owner knows and supports local produce growers, then funds can stay within the community. The food often tastes better: the bread for a sandwich is sometimes baked locally. The vegetables, fruits, and meat sometimes comes from local sources. The entrepreneur has the freedom to choose his or her own ingredients and spices. It usually is more fresh, and it also offered the opportunity to try different local specialties as I traveled. The workers often get to wear what they want. There’s often a more independent personality to the environment, which I also appreciated. (These are just some of the reasons, and I’m sure I’ll think of more.)

In contrast, a fast food chain often gets its ingredients at the lowest possible price, which sometimes doesn’t create the most clean or safe growing and working conditions. Sometimes the food source isn’t even from the United States. They don’t have the freedom to change food or production sources unless someone else in charge of purchasing in the corporate chain decides that it should be changed. They often can’t and are not able to support local food suppliers. In this way, they often bypass vital benefits to the local economy. It’s true that workers are hired from the local community, but they can advance from only advance from say, burger flipper – possibly to management. It can give a person good workplace skills, but salaries are often limited to what the main – “empiremothership” of the corporation and their decisions.

The U.S. was built upon individual intiative and ingenuity. I think this is something that is precious and should be supported. I try to support independents along the way (as well as in my own community). I can’t all the time, but when I can, I seek them out. I think that large multinational corporations have beneficial aspects to society, but all actions have consequences and it sometimes seems that words and intentions are twisted to sometimes ignore certain sides and opinions. Just something to think about. Ah yes, and discuss.

Driving Across America During Election Season

Touring with the film “Considering Democracy” has taken me through contrasting physical environments, yet there’s a striking similarity in what People in the United States are saying. In two days, I’ve gone from New England to New York City. It’s a lot of driving, which is difficult because I can’t get anything else done while I drive and stare at the road. There is little time to relax when someone is touring for the purpose of promoting a film. Two days ago I awoke at 5:45am in a Vermont farm house. I had a marvelous breakfast with farm eggs, then jumped in my car to try to make a NYC lunch meeting at 1pm. I stayed with super cool people after screening at the Big Picture Theater, which has both fabulous food (I was craving a burger, since I’m not eating in any chains and instead supporting independents – sorry vegetarians if I’m grossing you out; stop reading and skip down below, but I had the best, juicy, thick and local! hamburger I’ve ever eaten) and a great set up to host films and events. It’s in the middle of one of the most picturesque areas in the United States. Claudia rocks! I’ve crossed paths with incredible people. Vermont also seems to have more involved politics, as their elected officials seem to be more accessible. Maybe it’s a New England thing because a state representative also came to a screening in Maine. We’ve been inviting them to other screenings, but I don’t think that they have come.

In New York City, I’ve been pounding the pavement and handing out postcards to promote the screening this evening at the Riverside Theatre. As I walk around and talk to People in NYC, there is general puzzlement and outrage at the actions of our tax dollars going toward the federal bailout of private institutions. Many People sense that the economy is going in a bad direction, and also believe that it has been doing so for some time. People also sense the need to work together as People, in order to secure rights for People.

I’m staying with a friend in NYC, and as we watched the presidential debates, I heard clapping coming from other apartments while watching the debate. People are engaged in the United States as we approach the elections. We have the vice presidential debates next week, and a couple more presidential debates before a new, or maybe not so new, administration comes to power.

Regardless of who gets in, I think it’s important to remember that our elected representatives are supposed to be responsive to the will of the People. Even when both parties work together in bipartisan harmony (which McCain really likes to say that he leads) U.S. policy seems to benefit certain corporations (not all of them, not mom and pop corporations, but specific, huge multinational corporations) at the expense of smaller businesses, individuals and communities. Perhaps we could begin discussing and creating policy that benefits the American People.