Friday, October 31, 2008

Forum Panelist Studs Terkel Passes

Friday saw the passing of one of America's great authors, activists and chroniclers of true life in the United States, Studs Terkel. Studs was a fondly remembered panelist in the 1998 Forum, "Wisdom of Sages," where he shared the stage with Gloria Steinem, Gordon Parks, and William F. Buckley. His no-nonsense approach coupled with an indefatigable willingness to stand up for what he believed in and for the people he cared about, the common man, will surely be missed. The Connecticut Forum mourns the loss of this extraordinary man.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Forum Panelist Honored as New York Public Theater's First "Master Writer"

Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright, MacArthur Genius and our very own Storytellers panelist Suzan-Lori Parks has another impressive title to add to her collection: Master Writer Chair at New York's Public Theater.

"Suzan-Lori Parks is one of our greatest artists, and this chair will allow her the freedom to follow her unique vision wherever it might lead her. We at The Public are honored to have her as part of our family," said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis yesterday in a press release.

From today's New York Times:

The residency, which Ms. Parks assumes on Nov. 1, is a salaried three-year position that “affords writers the flexibility and freedom to pursue their artistic goals and endeavors,” according to the Public Theater. As part of the appointment, Ms. Parks will also become a visiting arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in its dramatic writing program.

Kudos to Ms. Parks! See you at The Forum!

Suzan-Lori Parks will be a featured panelist at The Connecticut Forum's "Storytellers & the Stories They Tell" on Friday, November 21. More info available at!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gay Marriage: Yes, no and maybe...

Connecticut YOUTH Forum Member Justin has something to say about the recent decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage in the state.

I am extremely thrilled that CT made this decision. For the first time in my memory, I am genuinely proud to be a resident of this state. I never really saw CT as being all that progressive, but this proved that we could be. We are ahead of the rest of the country with same-sex rights, being the third state to grant marriage privileges and one of the first to enforce civil unions.

But, however ahead we may be I am still worried. It is only a matter of time before rallies and protests occur, and people start to fight against this new-found freedom. There has already been a proposal to create a constitutional convention that would undoubtedly reform and reverse the same-sex marriage bill. I hope that it does not come into creation, but even if it doesn't there will be something else. And if that doesn't work, there will be something else. While this may be a huge success, there is still a lot of fighting to do, and quite frankly I am tired. Tired of fighting for my rights, tired of discrimination, tired of having to actually prove that I am equal. I feel like I should not have to use all this energy, and that this fight should have never existed in the first place. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is what this country was modeled after, yet the latter just isn't being fully embraced.

I am happy for Connecticut, but ashamed that the rest of the country has not come to same conclusion. 3/50 is far from good enough.

From another YOUTH Forum Member David from Granby

Have anything to say about the topic? Do I ever! ^^ And awaaaay we go.

Before anything else, the distinction needs to be made between civil union and marriage. My personal belief is that civil union should be what's recognized by the government (on any level), and marriage should be upheld by churches, communities, what have you. With this distinction made, I don't see any reason why federal or state governments should fail to give gay and straight relationships equal weight. Our government is a secular institution, no matter how hard religious or anti-religious groups might try to hijack it, and moral/religious beliefs aside, I've seen no convincing reason why a gay couple is inherently less functional than a straight one. Thus, the government should recognize civil unions for both straight and gay couples, and not get involved with what is or is not a "marriage".

That said, I also don't believe that the government has the right to interfere with churches to force acceptance of gay marriage. If religious authorities on either a parochial or higher level decide that their faith or denomination does not support or sanction gay marriage, or consider same-sex couples married, then that's their right.

As a caveat: if there is a type of relationship (e.g. between an adult and a child) with the potential for serious inherent difficulty, it *may* be appropriate for the government to deny the same rights and benefits granted to most couples. I shouldn't be able to wed a three-year-old and expect to be treated as a "married" couple. This is the point where libertarianism becomes a bit fuzzy, though, and I'm extremely hesitant to take a stand here. I believe that if there is a valid argument against legal recognition for gay couples, it likely falls into the "slippery slope" category.

I'm obviously pulling my anti-gay-marriage punches pretty hard, because I don't actually know the extent to which it would be difficult to draw the line, as many opponents of gay marriage believe it would be. It definitely bears consideration by policy makers.

Best of luck with the blog, and I hope to see you at the next Youth Forum event. (It's at my school! W00ts!)

Not everyone is so thrilled. Juliet from Madison writes:

Marriage is and always has been a union between and man and a woman. To allow gays or anyone else to appropriate marriage as an institution is not only an insult to my marriage but a dangerous slippery slope. If two men or women are allowed to marry, what is stopping anyone from marrying a beloved pet or sibling? Further, marriages are the foundation upon which families are built and children should ALWAYS be raised in a family with a mother and father.

I have nothing in particular against gays. As far as I’m concerned they are free to do what ever they want in the bedroom. That does not give them the right to threaten my or any other normal couple’s marriage.

What do you have to say? Are we at the start of a golden age of tolerance, or on the precipice of the end of civilization?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Recession Confessions

This month, NPR is airing a series of Kitchen Table Conversations, sharing the stories of everyday Americans and how they are coping with the current economic crisis.

We want to know how you are handling it. Are you spending less? What are you cutting down on? What is the one thing you will not sacrifice or skimp on despite these tough times?

Here's what a few folks had to say...

I try to buy things I'll like and keep for a while (high quality and interesting). I'd rather buy a lot less and do that, than buy things I don't like. Drew, Lexington, MA

I am spending less. I’ve stopped going to restaurants and movie theaters. I have also been cutting down on clothing purchases. I haven’t been to the mall in weeks …quite shocking frankly! I am also really nervous about the holiday season and being able to afford quality presents for friends and family. I will never give up ordering pizza. Sarah, Hartford, CT

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I haven’t actually changed my lifestyle at all. I know people are hurting right now and that our economy is probably only going to get worse, but the reality for me is that I still consume the same amount of “stuff.” I still fill my cart at the grocery store and go out to eat a few times a week. I still buy clothes and other consumer goods. I haven’t been compelled to trade in my SUV for a Prius or turn my thermostat down to 58 degrees. Sure I’m frustrated with the increased costs of daily living, but not enough to change the way I live my life. Susan, Avon, CT

Yes, I am spending less, but not so much because of the economy. I’m cutting down on going out to bars and eating out at restaurants, but I will never give up my my DVR/HD on my TV. Chris, Burlington MA

I am spending less but this is really a function of paying for two kids in college more than the economy....even though assets we were counting on to pay for tuition have lost alot of value so we are using our savings and cutting back on vacations, going out to eat, home improvements, new cars etc......I will not cut out my wine with dinner. Vince, Hartford, CT

I almost never drive my car anymore, but this is easier for me since I live in a city. I give more money to homeless people. I see so many on the streets, and it's heartbreaking. Jerome, New Haven, CT

What about you?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Isn't Anyone Talking About This?

While it’s great that we’ve been seeing reduced numbers at the pumps these days, it’s troubling that gas prices are not being reduced at the same plummeting rate as crude oil per barrel. After all, when oil prices were rising this summer, gas prices rose steadily and accordingly.

The price of crude oil per gallon is down over 50% since July...

but the price of gas has gone from a national average of $4.11 per gallon on July 17th to a still-too-high price of $3.04. This is only a 26% decrease in price.

Someone is making money here, and it sure isn’t us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Forget About the Debates - Just Take Me Out To the Ballgame.

By Jamie Daniel, Advancement Associate at The Forum

When I want to know where my October went, I ask that you remind me of these two things: baseball and politics. They have more in common than you might realize at first. Both can as easily excite and rejuvenate you as break your heart. Both have the power to bring us together, but can just as easily be the wedge that drives us apart. Politicians and ballplayers both leave it all on the field in October. And both force us to ask the difficult questions: Which candidate can better handle these economic problems? Whose character qualifies them to be President? How will we raise the kids - Red Sox or Yankees?

As a baseball fan, the excitement of my team making the playoffs is accompanied by the expectation that I won't be getting much sleep as long as they keep winning. Add that to the sleepless nights brought on by the troubled economy, and October promises no rest for the weary.

I wonder: how does the disappointment of a political party's loss compare to the anguish of, say, a Cubs fan? After all, no major political party has been out of power for one hundred years.

It seems to me that most of America must have their political minds made up by now; I, for one, am just waiting to vote. We've been inundated with messaging from both campaigns for so long that the MLB playoffs provide more authentic, juicy conflict than the recycled storylines of the campaigns. Baseball fans this October are asking: Will Manny come back to Boston to prove himself as a Dodger? How will the perennial power of the Red Sox fare against a young, upstart team of energetic rookies like the Rays? Would anyone watch a Tampa Bay-Philadelphia World Series, or is that only the stuff of a Fox executive's worst nightmare?

I'm tired of the long campaign, and everything I hear from the candidates these days just sounds repetitive - so repetitive, that throughout the debate last night, I found myself wishing there was a game 5 somewhere to take the edge off. In comparison to this political season, baseball feels like the more pure contest, and I'm finding the crack of the bat more alluring than the twittering of pundits during these long, October nights.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Making Sense of the Bailout

By Ruth Cullen, Forum Staff

I don't know about you, but all this bailout talk is making my head spin.

It's hard enough to sift through the non-stop blather about "illiquid" this and "troubled assets" that without the added complication of spin and bias from just about everyone - and namely, politicians and pundits.

Who to trust? Where to find credible, unbiased straight talk about what the bailout is and why it's both important and urgent?

Barring the discovery of a Cliff Notes version of the 451-page Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, here's an interesting round-up of voices chiming in about the proposed bailout bill, politics, and the current state of our U.S. economy to help all of us get a clue.

From Ian Ayres' article in The New York Times...
At the end of the day, it may be necessary to get the at-risk incumbents and their challengers to agree to take this issue off the table. If McCain and Obama jointly reached out to both sides in these close races, it might be possible for both contenders for a House seat to simultaneously agree to support the package. This will not be easy. Adversaries in tight races are loathe to cooperate when there is political advantage to be had in clinging to the popular position. But the alternative is to ask some incumbent members to engage in probabilistic political suicide. Read more...
From Senator John McCain as quoted in the Los Angeles Times...
"Crises often have a way of revealing our better selves, of showing what we're made of and how much we can achieve when we're put to the test," the Arizona senator said, speaking to about 100 supporters in a cozy wood-paneled auditorium at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. "It should not require extreme emergencies, when the future of our entire economy is on the line, to bring out the best of us. . . . We are supposed to do that even in the calmest of times." Read more...
From Senator Barack Obama as quoted on Politico...
“This is not just a Wall Street crisis – it’s an American crisis, and it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan,” Obama said in a floor speech. And behind the scenes he is making phone calls to House Democrats helping to shore up that vote Friday." Read more...
From Thomas Friedman in The New York Times...
I totally understand the resentment against Wall Street titans bringing home $60 million bonuses. But when the credit system is imperiled, as it is now, you have to focus on saving the system, even if it means bailing out people who don’t deserve it. Otherwise, you’re saying: I’m going to hold my breath until that Wall Street fat cat turns blue. But he’s not going to turn blue; you are, or we all are. We have to get this right. Read more...
From George Soros in The Guardian...
"The fact that the plan was rejected in Congress provides an opportunity to amend it to make it more effective," Soros told Reuters in an interview. "The way to do it is to focus on recapitalizing the banks by injecting equity and actually encouraging existing shareholders to provide that equity." Read more...
From James Klurfeld in Newsday...
Over the years, I've always believed that no matter how cumbersome our form of government, no matter how deeply felt were our differences, in a crisis, serious people can come together and solve problems.

When I heard that the House had voted against the bailout Monday, it shook the very foundation of that belief.

It looks like the House will have another chance. For all our sakes, I hope that the serious people can prevail. Read more...

From a speech made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, as quoted in BusinessWeek...
The "mirage" of American economic invulnerability has vanished, along with "much of the savings of thrifty and prudent men and women...We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer," he said. Read more...