Dear Governor Paterson,

I strongly urge you to veto the bill that was delivered to you yesterday, that, if passed, will enable the collection of taxes from sovereign nations that lie within our state.

As a life-long New York State resident and tax payer, I fully recognize the hardships that our state is under with budgetary shortfalls and the rising costs of infrastructure. I am already feeling the economic pinch, and certainly expect financial hardships to worsen for myself and my fellow New Yorkers.

I also work for a nonprofit organization focused on improving healthcare for all Americans; I recognize that raising cigarette prices will discourage smoking, thereby improving public health.

That said, I believe there is no end — financial salvation and improved public health included — that justifies a means which expressly violates our treaties with sovereign nations and places unjust taxation on those without representation.

Nothing is more important than the sovereignty of free people. Nothing.

I know that as a servant leader, you have a responsibility to the people of this state, those with voting rights and those without, to do what is right.

Sincerely,
Melissa Ann Lee

One of those times when I disagree with my employer. And most of the other people I know, I’m sure.

One of the great things about my friends is that they read things that are printed in ink on paper, and make note of them, and send me copies. Since I get most of my news and information about the world online, there are wonderful things that I would absolutely miss were it not for the lovely people who send me gifts wrapped in torn out magazine articles or newspaper clippings.

A couple of weeks ago, after my visit to NYC/Connecticut, Clay sent my forgotten blackberry charger back to me wrapped up in an article from the New Yorker. The Dr. Maddow Show: The secret to the success of a wonky lesbian pundit with no TV experience? A Ph.D. from Oxford, a dry sense of humor, and the ability to be nice to Pat Buchanan. Somehow, I’ve just now unfolded the paper and gotten around to reading it.

First of all, I disagree that the words “nice” and “kind” are interchangable, as Jessica Pressler seems to posit in the article. In all of her interactions with Buchanan, Rachel is kind and cordial, professional in the old-school, gentlemen’s-white-gloves sense of the word. She is not “nice” – she is neither gentle nor self-effacing in order to make Pat Buchanan (or any of her other guests) feel good about being less than exceptional or right or “nice” themselves. But she is kind and open and welcoming, as befits a true host, to every guest.

That said, the rest of Jessica’s article is delightful – the Rachel whom we meet in these brief pages is sweeter, more eclectic, and just as genuine as the Rachel we see in fade-away gray suits each night at 9. And, the two quotes that carry my mind well away from the article and off into the “what could be” of possibilities and dreams and plannings and evaluations of what happens in a well-lived life when one has a well-suited career, are a skillful journalist’s terrific use of source material — the words belong to Rachel herself:

“I have been a suicidal, stretched-too-thin, overcommitted, frenetic, sleepless mess for the entire time she [Rachel’s partner, Susan Mikula] has known me,” she says. “And I don’t always have a job that justifies my being so intense about it. I think the reason I worked hard is because it makes me feel like my life has meaning.

I’ve been the same way since I was 18. It’s nice to have one’s tendency to workaholism validated – by an idol, no less.

“There is something in here [a book she was referencing in an author interview] about how having an outsider’s perspective on things – a cut-across-the-grain, I-am-not-of-this-Establishment, I-hate-the-man kind of thing even when you are respected and being put on television – that is the way that you change the world.” It was clear that she was talking about herself as much as the book. “I do worry if being a pundit is a worthwhile thing to be,” she says. “Yeah, I’m the unlikely cable news host. But before that I was the unlikely Rhodes scholar. And before that I was the unlikely kid who got into Stanford. And then I was the unlikely lifeguard. You can always cast yourself as unlikely when you’re fundamentally alienated in your worldview. It’s a healthy approach for a commentator.

In other words, second-guessing the value of one’s contributions, demanding honesty of purpose with one’s self, and being troubled with how we get to where we’ve gotten to be — those are valid, positive steps that keep us aware of what’s real. I think that cognizance of self-doubt is incredibly healthy, but possibly wouldn’t have realized the positivity of it without this article.

Thanks, Clay.

My Christmas wish is to host a dinner party with Rachel and Susan as guests, along with some brilliant people I’m actually acquainted with. I would be far too tongue-tied to say a word, I’m sure, but just being able to witness the conversation would be exceptional.

 

Emphasis on both quotations was mine.