Friday, October 24, 2008

Hip Hop The Vote

Just when I'm feeling all cynical about the craziness on the campaign trail, a friend sent me this. Niiiice.

Angry McCain 911 call

OK - John McCain did not (as far as I know) call 911 to complain about traffic. But his brother did (read it here)

Really, that's the story. McCain's brother was stuck in traffic outside of DC and called 911 to complain. The 911 operator asked him if he was calling to complain about traffic, and McCain cursed him out and hung up (what a punk move).

But the really interesting thing to me is this comment posted below the article:
Forget all the crap I'm been spreading about Obama, I've always meant to vote for him, but it was a job. The GOP offered me money to blog pro-McCain, I never thought they would stiff me.

Does this mean the McCain campaign is so broke it's not even gonna pay its blog trolls (those who, for money, post incendiary comments negative to the other side)? Wow. This really is gonna be a landslide.

Yet another made up accusation

Can we just get this damn election over already? Between black cameramen at McCain/Palin rallies being called nasty names, to Obama being accused of being a Muslim with a crazy radical pastor (I love that one), to Obama being hung from a tree in effigy, this has already gotten absurd.

Now it's getting dangerous. The latest thing is the return of the big bad scary black man. You better lock up your vulnerable little white girls (especially your fat ugly ones) cause there's nothing that we scary angry black men want to do more than rob them and mutilate them.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a snippet: (here's the whole story)
According to WTAE's news exchange partners at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Ashley Todd, of College Station, Texas, was using an ATM at Liberty Avenue and Pearl Street just before 9 p.m. Wednesday when a man approached her and put a knife to her throat.

and of course you know the description of the attacker (but say it in your head before you read it next, just to see if you can predict what it will be):
The robber is described as a dark-skinned black man, 6 feet 4 inches tall, 200 pounds with a medium build, short black hair and brown eyes.
This shit would be funny if it weren't so damn dangerous. This shit is what gets us lynched. This is the kinda shit that cause police forces to detain anyone who matches "the description." WTF.

Kudos in advance to the Pittsburgh police for knowing this sounds fishy. Kudos to some on the right (Michelle Malkin for one) who said this don't sound right. And to the morons at Fox and the Drudge Report who have been making this a nationwide story - I quote John Stewart - Fuck all y'all.

She admits (here), under questioning from the Pittsburgh police, that she made it up. Thank you Pittsburgh police.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We're voting for the n***er

I really don't know how to react to this. I guess it's progress. I guess we need every vote we can get. But damn...

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Presidential Debate Preview: McCain Says He'll "Whip" Obama's "You-Know-What"

* I posted this in HufPo in response to a comment that took as its premise that Rev Wright is anti-American. I got tired of ceeding that point because quite frankly, it total crap. *

I don't know much about Ayers. I do know that while Rev Wright did say a bunch of stuff that was provacative, I would ask you this: what is the obligation of a person who loves their country and sees that it is doing wrong in the world and at home? Is it to blindly pledge allegiance to the king (I mean president), or is it his or her obligation (not right mind you) to speak up and demand justice?

You may not like the way he did it. (some times I didn't either). But I challenge you to find me an in context quote or example of where Rev Wright did anything against our country. Also, find me an example of where he preached race hatred. He spoke of differences for sure. But not hatred, not supremacy.

You want to see hatred and treasonous intention, look no further than the Alaska Independence Party, it's former president Vogler, and recent member Todd Palin and a recent speaker at its convention, Sarah Palin. Or ask the "witch" that Palin's pastor drove from her home under threat of violence. Violence, not Christian love and forgiveness, violence.

You want to see crazy things that are against the ideals upon which this country was founded, and against the constitution that our forefathers have built over the last 230 years, look no further than the lunatics that McCain and Palin are pallin' around with right now.

About Video On HuffPost
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Phone Banking to New Mexico

I went into the satellite Obama HQ for Northern California today to do some phone banking. (I had to go to the satellite location because the main location and it's overflow locations were too full of volunteers). They trained me on what to say, gave me a list of 65 people to call in the Albuquerque area, and sent me off armed with my cell phone.

First thing to note is that phone banking is not a bad way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon, as long as you get to do it while sitting outside on the patio. Second thing was that very few people were home - or at least very few were answering the phone. The third thing is that New Mexico is not like Oakland - about half the people that I talked to were McCain supporters.

The weird thing was that judging from the names and the voices, I talked to a pretty broad cross section of folks. There were older white voters (judging by voice), Latinos of various age (name and voice) and a few young white folks (again judging purely by voice). I was not able to deduce any patterns about who was supporting whom. I had strong supporters of either candidate meeting all of the above demographic criteria.

The one thing that did stick out though was that the McCain supporters seemed angry and weren't really interested in saying why they were supporting him. The most memorable call was with a woman who seemed to be elderly who almost screamed at me that "I'm voting for McCain because that other guy hates our country!" And then she hung up on me.

I laughed, but really it just makes me sad. How filled with fear and hate do you have to be to believe such drivel. I guess some people really are scared that Obama is going to implement Sharia or something. Maybe he's going to send in the storm troopers to make sure that churches are closed down and everyone has to honor the Friday call to prayer? Maybe they think he's gonna really get even for slavery. Who knows.

Fortunately for my spirit, the next person that I reached rushed me off the phone because she was already an Obama volunteer. And the one after that explained that he didn't have time to volunteer for Obama because he was spending so much time volunteering for the Democratic senate hopeful - Tom Udall.

In any case, I'll be going back next Saturday. And maybe even sometime during the week. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Prop 8 Madness

I really don't understand some people. Why on earth would social conservatives think that the government (who they frequently call the keeper of all things bad) should be required, or even allowed, to regulate who gets to marry whom. It's crazy.

So now the Connecticut Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriage there. To which I say it's about time. But check out this little nugget in the dissenting opinion from Justice Peter T. Zarella :

"there is no fundamental right to same sex marriage." "The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry," and "If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court."

Let me rewrite that in English. The state has an interest in the regulation of procreation, and since the purpose of marriage is procreation, it has an interest in regulating marriage. In other words, since same sex couples cannot procreate (as a couple) they should not be allowed to marry.

WTF!?! The state regulates procreation? The purpose of marriage is procreation? Did I miss the memo or something. Is that in the constitution? What happened to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

I've actually heard this argument before, from a somewhat nutty Catholic college student (one of my frat brothers, sad to say). He said that people who won't or can't have children shouldn't be allowed to get married. So according to him, senior citizens shouldn't be allowed to marry each other. Individuals that knew they were infertile shouldn't be allowed to marry. In fact, couples who found they were infertile should be allowed (required) to annul their marriages. He told me all this stuff and I was just dumb founded. He said it was his religion. To which I say "that's nice for you, but I'll marry whoever I want for whatever she and I come up with."

But what about other marriages that the majority can be convinced shouldn't be allowed. Should there be a maximum age difference for marrying couples? How about an attractiveness difference? Since the state is regulating procreation (!) then maybe people should be required to meet certain IQ criteria. Or income criteria. The possibilities are endless.

So there's the real argument against Prop 8: a vote for prop 8 is a vote for the government getting to decide who you are allowed to marry. And that's just plain un-American.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

West F*&king Virginia!

Damn! In the days after the McCain - Palin campaign have launched their most racist campaigns lines yet ("he's pallin' around with terrorists", "he doesn't see the country the way we see the country"), two huge polls have come out.

The first one I noticed was that Virginia had gone from "toss up" to "leaning Obama." This puts Obama over the magic 270 mark according to Real Clear Politics. That is just amazing because that means that Obama has only to keep the states where he is significantly ahead now, and does not need to get any new ones. In other words, even if McCain wins every "toss - up" state, he still loses.

But then I saw that West Virginia, a state that is almost designed to be vulnerable to the kinds of race baiting that McCain - Palin have launched, has moved into the toss - up category. And that's because the latest poll has Obama UP by 8 points. Wow!

And almost all of that movement has come in the last 2 weeks, the period in time when McCain Palin have been trying their best to make white, working class and poor people fear elitist, black, scary Obama. I guess the good people of West Virginia are smarter than McCain Palin think they are.

Friday, October 3, 2008

VP Debate: McCain's Big Gamble Comes Up Snake Eyes

I'm not sure which debate you were watching. But the one I saw showed two candidates who wanted to lead, two candidates with deep heart-felt ambition. But I only saw one candidate with command of the information and intellect to back up that ambition. Only one who will be able to participate honestly in the process. And only one candidate who would be able to, heaven forbid, lead a country in the extraordinarily turbulent period immediately after the loss of a president.

Remember that taking over the presidency after the elected president dies is NOT like taking over after an election and a transition period. It would be chaos. It would be emergency. It would require complete and total understanding of what needs to happen. Like him or not, Cheney was a perfect VP for Bush because he was an insider who was already working the levers of power. So if Bush did croak, the transition would have been seamless.

Palin would be a disaster as VP if she were needed to take the reins of power from McCain. She doesn't understand the essential functions of the federal government, and is certainly not able to reassure the country and the rest of the world that we are in good shape. On the other hand, Biden would be a perfect Cheney-like VP to Obama. He's knowledgeable, well known and respected by the movers and shakers in the government and completely dedicated to the Obama agenda. The rest of the world would see a smooth transition of power.

Both McCain and Obama have higher than normal risks of needing their VP (I cringe even while I type that). Their choice of running mates speak volumes of how much respect for the country they each have.

About Vice Presidential Debate
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Charles Krauthammer - Obama booster

Charles Krauthammer, a right wing pundit if ever there was one, has come full circle. Way back in 2006 he wrote this piece strongly urging Obama to run, but lose.

Now he writes this new piece basically saying the McCain is done and needs to step aside. OK, maybe he didn't go that far, but if you squint a little, and read between the lines on both pieces, you'll see that Krauthammer is gonna vote for Obama in November. For goodness sakes, he even compares Barack to Reagan, and for a conservative, that's a big deal!

While I usually don't agree with Charlie, I will say that I always agree that his positions are well thought out, interesting, and even quite thought provoking. In other words, he's a smart guy who tells the truth as he sees it. A thinking Conservative.

And if the thinking Conservatives have come over to our side, that means that we have the thinking Liberals, the thinking Conservatives and the non-thinking Liberals. I think that should be enough for a win.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO

He says it better than I ever could. The campaign should be promoting this speech with everything it's got, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and hell even West Virginia. Watch the whole thing, but really pay special attention starting at 4:25 or so.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Treasonous Republican Behavior - Part 2

Naive little me. While I knew that Gore won the 2000 election, I thought that Kerry narrowly lost. I figured that voter suppression efforts had something to do with it, but I didn't really believe that there was actual, complete, Third World style fraud.

The short answer is that I was wrong. 2004 was stolen. Read this post on Huffington for a little more info. Then check out this article by RFK Jr. for the real vein popping details.

I wish I could say exactly what we can do about it. I don't know the answer to that. I will say that the more we expect there to be a fight for this election, for our Democracy, the better able Obama will be to make that fight. In other words, tell your friends, your family, everyone who will listen, to pay attention to what happens at the polls. To pay attention to what happens after the election. And if things don't make sense, be prepared to make some noise about it.

Gore fought to the Supreme Court. I don't particularly think he fought well, but he fought. Kerry gave up right away. We need to make sure, in advance, that Obama knows that we want him to fight to count every vote.

Remember this - we send out children overseas to fight, kill and die for Democracy. We owe it to ourselves, those who came before us, and those who will come after us to defend the Democracy that we are supposed to have right here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Debate: Obama's missed opportunity

I watched the debate last night hoping to see Obama be his normal intelligent thoughtful self and really hoping that McCain would lose it and get angry or forget stuff. I got what I hoped for with Obama - he was good. McCain was also fine, but did not totally lose it as I had hoped.

But there is one thing that really worried me - Israel. McCain mentioned Israel 3 times. Noe of these times was in response to a question about Israel. Each time was an opportunity for Obama to strongly state support for the state of Israel, his support for the idea that Israel has the right and responsibility to defend herself, and that as president, Obama will support Israel because Israel is a critical ally.

It's not that I think Obama doesn't think those things - he's already said he does. But in this tight a race, you just can't let an issue like Israel go by without making your position clear. And there are those, who will see Obama, with his funny Muslim sounding name, as being a weak supporter of Israel unless he does something to correct that perception.

Specifically, if Obama is going to try to win Florida, he will need very strong Jewish support there. And he missed his chance in the debate to show his support for Israel. I hope that mistake did not cost him Florida. Because while he can win without Florida, McCain can't, and last night could have sealed the deal.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Truth about Taxes and Rich People

I don't have anything against rich people. Really. I just think that since we are talking about tax cuts in this election season, and commentators are throwing around terms like "class warfare" and "socialism" we should all have a better sense of what we are talking about.

So check out this little graph from the Washington Post. It describes reasonably well the impact of the tax proposals that McCain and Obama have.

The most obvious interesting fact that I come away from this with is that McCain wants to give the top 1% (from approx $700,000 per year income to $3M) a tax decrease that is roughly equal to the average family income. And he's selling this as a middle class tax cut!

The next thing that I notice is that I can't tell how much money rich people make. I'm going to guess that the income bracket that is between 37,596 and 66, 354 is pretty evenly distributed. There are lots of people throughout that income bracket, so that assumption makes some sense. But the top 1% (really the top 1% without the top .1%) make between roughly 700k and 3M. That's a lot of range and not a lot of people, so I can't guess what the distribution is. So that means that I can't guess what the tax impact is. I mean a $115k tax increase might be a big deal for someone making 700k. But it should be barely noticeable for someone making $3M.

And then there's the bit about the people who make more than $3m. We know how many there are, about 0.1% of the people in the country. But how much do they make? We know that the bottom of that group makes $3M per year, but what about the middle, the average or even the high end? The short answer is that the government will not tell us that information. But a better answer is that their income is enormous. (Check out this site for more info on the income distribution. It's a little old school and difficult to read, but read it.)

Then think about this: who benefits from the the roads that get people to work? The people who are going to work, or the people who make money from other people's work? Both benefit. So if I benefit from you (and your 1,000 co workers) going to work in my factory, should I pay the same as you? Or should I pay 1,000 times as much?

The point is that people with more money, by definition benefit more from our government (and that's before considering the $700B injection of government money into the financial system) than do people with less money. Recently, that's gotten way out of whack, with the middle class being asked to shoulder more and more of the burden. Obama's plan is a small step in making things start to make a little more sense.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wall Street Fat Cats

It's funny how the McCain campaign is not railing about the Wall Street fat cats and their insufferable greed and how he's gonna ride into town and take care of em. It sorta reminds me of that Gil Scott Heron song about Ronald Ray-Gun riding in on a white horse...

But I digress.

Let's talk about how ridiculous it is that the guy who brought us (or was at least involved in) the S&L scandal, who even now admits to being "fundamentally a deregulator" is talking about how he's going to propose smart regulation to prevent these problems in the future. That's insane. He has absolutely no record of even understanding the mess. And his history is of being bought and paid for by folks he has been trusted to regulate. And his self described fundamental reaction to this is to put the foxes in charge of the hen house. Again.

And the media implies that both Obama and McCain are equally in the pocket of "Wall Street" because they've both taken lots of money from employees of Wall Street firms. WTF?!? Last time I checked, everyone is allowed to contribute to either or both candidates. And doing so does not on its face prove anything one way or the other. Just because you work for a company does not mean you are a lobbyist for that company. Ask the Obama donors who work for Walmart.

What is clear is that Obama has a record of being right on the two biggest mistakes of recent history: the Iraq war and the regulation of the economy. In both cases, he said we need to take a cautionary approach. In the middle east that means defend ourselves from our actual enemies and don't go starting wars for specious reasons. In the economy it means making sure that our regulations keep pace with the times. No surprise there, he's smart. These are difficult problems. Smart people understand difficult problems. They also know enough to know when they need people even smarter then them to deal with specific issues. I bet Obama has some really smart people who know the financial markets pretty well.

It's also equally clear that McCain has been wrong on these two issues. On the economy, he's been wrong for a very long time.

I also have some really smart friends who know the financial markets well. They are definitely gonna see their taxes go up under an Obama administration. But, like other people with lots of money, they understand that the merely wealthy or high income folks, those that make over the magical 250k that everyone is talking this year, but less than I-couldn't-spend-that-much-money-in-my-whole-life amounts like some CEOs (even piss poor ones like Carly Fiorino) will actually do better even with higher taxes.

Huh? How is that possible? How can they do better if the government is taking a larger portion of their paycheck?

Simple - the sorta rich (think annual incomes between $250k and $2.5M) can only do well when the upper middle class are doing well. And those folks can only do well when the middle class are doing well. And so forth.

In other words, keeping 75% of $300k is better than keeping 80% of $200k.

Put another way, trickle down economics is bullshit. That's not the way our economy works. You can't make poor people richer by giving more money to rich people. That's just stupid.

You can, on the other hand, make rich people richer by making sure that poor and middle class people have more money. That's because one way rich people get rich because they figure out ways to get poor and middle class folks to spend their money - to trade it for something of value that the rich person sells. And if those poor and working class folks don't have any money, those rich and sorta rich people can't sell them anything, and their big incomes get small, quickly.

The other way rich people get and stay rich it to get the gubment to carve out a special niche for them. But that's another post for another day.

The problem is that capitalism relies on people with money being greedy. If you own a company that employs people, you want to charge the most for what you sell and pay the least. In other words, you want to keep your workers as poor as possible, but you want your customer to be as rich as possible. Obviously, that is a tricky balance.

And when it gets out of balance, it almost never goes the way of the employees getting richer. And that's because the natural flow of things is for owners to buy better machines so that they need fewer workers (think fax machines instead of messengers). And to create more interesting financial instruments so that they can pay their workers less (think 401k instead of pensions). And to lobby lawmakers to let them pay less (think of how the minimum wage didn't get indexed to inflation).

So, over time, you have a situation where more and more money flows up the food chain, away from the people who spend it, and towards the people who just use it to hoard more of it.

And that is why we need a government that fundamentally has the little guy in mind. That means real regulation. That means smart, tough government that holds businesses accountable for the damage they does when they go overboard. That means folks who do not say "OK" when the fox shows up (dressed as a duck) and wants to be put in charge of the company that has the contract to hire the dog that guards the hen house. (The fox never shows up and asks "where the chickens?)

And who is it that has always worked for the little guy? Who is it that wanted keep strong regulation to prevent the current mess? Which 2 of our 4 presidential and VP candidates are smart, tough, honest and fundamentally oriented to helping normal working people?

If I need to answer that, you're reading the wrong blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My new favorite T Shirt

In case you can't read the text is says: Attention Sarah Palin, Jesus was a Community Organizer, Pontius Pilate was a Governor.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Treasonous Republican Behavior

Thousands of our soldiers are, right now as I write this, overseas trying to bring the sacred right to vote to citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 4,000 have already given their lives in that effort. Tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans have, in the course of our history, ade the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us could live in a Democracy. And yet, right here, right now, in the US of A, the Republicans are trying take that right away from a specific group of particularly vulnerable Americans.

Voter suppression is un-American. Trying to find ways to keep citizens from participating in our Democracy is beyond politics, it should be called what it is: treason!

It was evil when it was done in Florida in 2000. It was evil when it was done in Ohio in 2004. Republicans do it because the voters easiest to suppress are also very likely to be Democrats. They are working people. They are minorities. The are poor. They are busy.

So now we see it in action in Michigan. Are you fucking kidding me?!? Trying to keep people who have been foreclosed on from voting?!? We need to make sure that everyone sees this. It is disgusting.

Read more:


I haven't posted in a while. Mostly because I've been busy. But also because I have been gob smacked by the stupidity and smallness of the debate - if you want to call it debate.

So here's Obama fighting back. Fighting for the smart people who want to make this country better. Watch. Learn. Repeat. Forward to people.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Last Conversation with my Dad

My father died in 1995. I didn't hear about his death for at least a week after it happened. My oldest brother - half brother actually, his first son - found my mom's phone number, called her, and she called me with the news.

A week after he died, I learned that he had succumbed to TB. This was his second battle with TB in a few years. He was 68.

At that point, I hadn't talked to him for at least 2 years. So I guess the extra week that it took for me to find out that I would never actually be able to hear his voice again, didn't really matter. I mean it was just a week, right.

That voice. My dad was a singer. He never really made a living at it, but that was what he was. Anything else he did, was just to pay the bills. He sounded almost exactly like Billy Eckstine, but he always maintained that it was Eckstine who sounded like him. I'm not sure why he said that, since Eckstine was born in 1914 and my dad was born in 1927. But that's what he said, and I think he was serious about that. He was a very serious guy.

After my parents split up, he'd call and ask to talk to me. My mom would hand me the phone, and he'd say "Brian, it's me . . . your father." Every time he said that, I'd think how clueless he must have been, how could I not recognize him and that voice.

He was little, 5'6" and no more than 150 lbs. But he had this intensity that was genuinely scary. He didn't smile often, and he wasn't quick to give praise. He was liable to explode at you for some infraction that seemed pretty minor, but which he took very seriously. He was not an easy person to live with. Looking back, I'd guess that he was very hard on himself about not feeling that he had reached his potential.

Three months after he died, I was sitting in a restaurant in Johannesburg. It was kind of an odd restaurant - a bohemian hangout that served Thai food and played American Blues records - loudly. The owner seemed to be enjoying himself, but he clearly had no patience for anyone telling him how to "improve" the place. If you didn't like to food, or the music, or the waitresses or the service, well you could just go eat somewhere else. That is exactly how my dad ran his restaurant. And the rest of his life as well.

I was sitting there at that restaurant by myself, eating my dinner and enjoying the music, and all of a sudden he was there. Sitting across from me, with his legs crossed, enjoying one of his signature unfiltered Pall Malls. He didn't say anything, so I couldn't hear his voice. But I felt it. He was smiling. He was proud of me. He was at peace. Finally.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No Country For Old Man

I LOVE this video. And all of the others from PSA.

But before you watch - know that the worst word in the ENTIRE english language is said repeatedly. But it's bleeped. Still - not really safe for work. Or for kids who are gonna say to you in public - "mommy, what's a ..."


The truest moment starts at 1:44.

The not safe for work version is here

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Raising Money

It seems that first thing that the Obama campaign did well was to raise money. But that won't stop me from piling on and trying to raise more. So to my massive readership, I'd ask you both to go to my personal Obama campaign fundraising site, and give a little more.

I'm also putting it into the headline of the blog as well, just in case you forget :-)


Monday, June 16, 2008

It's Going to Be Cold This Winter!

The price of Diesel and the price of home heating oil (HHO) track very closely to each other. The reason is that home heating oil and Diesel are very similar products, such that to make more of one means making less of the other (from a given barrel of oil).

The price of Diesel has risen significantly faster than the price of gasoline, most likely due to the increase in Diesel cars being built and sold around the world.

In the winters of 2005 - 2006, and 2006 - 2007, Diesel and HHO cost about $2.50 per gallon. Last winter, they cost about $3.50 per gallon. Diesel is currently going for about $4.75 and rising.

This is going to be a big deal this winter. If Diesel hits $5.00 per gallon and stays there over the winter, there are going to be people freezing to death all over the Northeast and Midwest (where HHO is commonly used).

I don't have any answers to this problem. But I will say that if I lived in a home that used HHO, I'd spend my summer insulating. If I ran a local government in an area with lots of HHO heated homes, I'd be scrambling to find funds to do whatever could be done to mitigate this problem NOW.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Makes you go hmmm...

Reading right wing blog postings usually makes me scream at my computer. Reading the comments, usually makes me sad that there are so many people in this country who are just so ... wrong.

But the other day, when reading one of Bay Buchanan's columns, I saw this comment (posted here in its entirety):

You have hit the Democracy problem on the head. We no longer live in a Democratic Republic. The liberal MSM and hardcore liberal politicians and their backers like Soros are trying to turn this country into a Democracy. Now that the citizenry knows they can vote themselves freebies from the government they will always vote for the candidate that promises them the most. This results in the country being dependent upon the government for everything. Liberals are tearing the fabric of this nation apart. It is now OK to be irresponsible and unaccountable. Responsibility and accountability are what made this nation strong. Now we have a bunch of spineless wonders running things. They do what works for them not what is right for the country. Democracies always fail and always follow the same pattern:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependency back into bondage

We are currently in the apathy to dependence stage of the cycle. Without true conservatives in elected office we may soon fall into the final stage. If Obama is elected we will surely open that door. As others have said a vote for McCain is a vote against Obama. We are truly in trouble.

There are two thing about this that I find really intriguing. First is the question of whether we live in a Democracy or a Republic. The answer is pretty straight forward from the perspective of the constitution - we live in a Republic. But I would bet that if you ask 100 Americans, no more than would 10 would be able to answer correctly.

I agree with the constitution in that states should have as much power as possible. States should not be able to restrict the constitutional rights of any citizen, but other than that, they should be able to do what they want to do. Legalize drugs - sure. Allow people to drive 100 mph on certain highways - why not? Legalize marriage between two men - sure. Tax gas so that it costs $10 per gallon - hell yeah! I don't even think that the federal government should be able to tax individuals - the state should collect the taxes and submit a payment for federal services to the federal government. (but that's just another one of my nutty ideas)

And then again, I live in California, and I think that we left coasters will get it right if the feds get off of our backs.

The other point that the comment makes is that people will always vote themselves benefits but will not usually vote to pay for em. I agree that this is the case. I disagree that this is a liberal thing. There's not a whole lot of liberals who are getting farm subsidies, or oil company subsidies, or any other type of corporate welfare for that matter.

It seems to me that what is really happening is that people are voting for benefits first, and then arguing over who has to pay for em. And as long as big money controls the political process, the people will big money will always come out on the sweet smelling side of that argument. The rest of us will be left in the shit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Are you the mother?

I've been thinking lately about how I wanted to get some of my thoughts on race and racism out of my head and onto the page. My problem is that every time something comes up, I feel like I have to tell the whole story or it won't make sense.

And since I'm 42, it's a pretty long story.

So I'm gonna take a different path, I'll just talk about stuff as it comes up. Here's what's come up recently.

I live in Piedmont, a little town of about 15,000 people. Our little town has just a handful of black folks, so even though the Oakland (which is five minutes away by foot) is the most diverse big city in the country, Piedmont is very white and pretty darn wealthy.

Yesterday, one of my daughter's school friends and her father dropped by unannounced to see if my daughter was available for a play date. My wife (who is medium brown) and daughter (who is my complexion - uh... almost transparent) were outside in the yard. The girls excitedly agreed that they wanted to have their play together, so the dad looks at my wife and says:

"Are you the mother?"

Really?!? Not "hi, I'm Susie's dad," or "are you Ella's mom?"

"Are you the mother?"

My wife was, understandably, offended by this, as she has spent the last eight years being assumed, by white people, to be our children's nanny.

On the other hand, how do you politely ask an adult you have never met if they are the responsible guardian?

I wonder if white parents every experience this sorta thing? If so, under what circumstances. I know other black women get it. I was reminded of this by the title of a blog that I saw the other day - "Not the nanny."

Because we won..

Watch Sen Obama thank his HQ staffers, then turn the conversation and get em ready for what's next.

What I love about this is that he makes this OUR victory, not his. Obama turns this primary victory from a self congratulatory party celebrating how wonderful and smart we all are, into a moment of reflection. A moment that says now that voters have trusted us, we cannot fail. We MUST win the Presidency. That thing we just did, that was unimportant. But this thing, this general election, this is critical, this is must win.

This is a warm up for his inauguration speech, where he will tell all of us "now that WE have won back the white house, it's time for US to get to work. I am but your humble servant, sent here to help you take your country back, sent here to help YOU make YOUR country great again."

He's right of course. His job as president will not be to have all of the answers or to be able to fix all of the problems. His job will be to motivate US to put our shoulders to the grindstone and work hard to fix things. His job will be to lead the effort to make sure that we all benefit from our shared citizenship and residency. his job will be to lead us.

And we all know that he's extremely well qualified to do that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Gas Price Fix That (maybe) Makes Some Sense

I've said that I want gas prices to stay high to give us motivation to change our habits. The problem with the current situation is that we are sending lots of extra money to oil producing countries via the high price of oil, rather than keeping it here via an increased gas tax.

Here's an idea that I'm not sure is a good one: eliminate the tariff on ethanol imports. Currently, we impose a tariff of 54 cents per gallon and 2.5% on imported ethanol. Unlike domestic ethanol, the stuff from overseas, especially Brazil, is made from sugar and its byproducts. The difference is critical, because ethanol made in Brazil is both economically and environmentally sustainable. (well at least more environmentally sustainable than corn ethanol or crude oil)

By contrast, ethanol made here gets a 51 cent per gallon subsidy. In other words, all things being equal, imported ethanol costs about $1 per gallon less than domestic ethanol. And since ethanol makes up about 10% of our gasoline, that is significant.

On the other hand, that would likely lower the price of gas at the pump, which, as you know, I think is a bad idea.

So here's an idea, kill the tariff, but enact a tax increase on gas that will be phased in. The idea would be to temporarily reduce the price of gas by doing away with a stupid tariff, but increase the price at the pump more gradually and predictably.

Gas Price Blues

As gas has topped $4 per gallon around the country, it seems that we have reached a tipping point - a point where the price is really starting to be be meaningful to normal people. The Times has an article about how the effect is being felt disproportionately by rural working class people.

The article talks a lot about how the high price of gas has caused lots of pain for people who are in the situation of being far from work and driving older larger vehicles. The article implies that the best thing for those folks would be if gas were to drop in price.

I couldn't disagree more. The best thing for all of us, including the rural folks mentioned in the article is for them to have both the incentive and the means to use less gas. It's not that they are paying too much for gas, but rather that they are paying too much to get to work, to church and to do all of the things that they want and need to do.

Some will decide to work longer hours over fewer days. Some may move. Some will decide to car pool. Some will decide to ride bicycles, motorcycles or even to work from home. Some will use their resourcefulness to come up with ideas that I haven't thought of. Some of those folks will find ways to make this economic change become a money maker. That's the American way. And it's good.

The problem for those with few resources is that they don't have the ready means to make the necessary changes. So, let's fix that. Send out more stimulus checks. Change the way social security taxes are collected so that working people keep more of their income. Do anything EXCEPT artificially reduce the price of gas at the pump.

We are at an inflection point in our economy. We understand that we are addicted to oil and we need to fix it. Making oil (gasoline) cheaper will not fix the problem. It will prolong the addiction and make the recovery harder.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bay Buchanan - yuck

It is important to know what the enemy is thinking. Otherwise, you don't know where they are going to attack you. That the reason why it's important to read what some of the right wing nut jobs have to say.

To that end, I read an piece by Bay Buchanan that was pretty instructive. To save you some pain, I'll paste some of it here:

John McCain is relevant only in so far as he is not Barack Obama. The Senator from Arizona is incapable of energizing his party, brings no new people to the polls, and has a personality that is best kept under wraps. And while his strong suite is experience, especially on military matters, it was gained almost entirely in Washington, a city that 80% of Americans now believe has miserably misled and mismanaged the nation.

Since McCain has become the presumptive nominee, I have spoken at more than two dozen Republican gatherings. The sentiment everywhere can best be summarized in the words of one of the activists, “No matter who wins in November, we lose.”

That's nice. Let's have another:

As for the Reagan Democrats they tend to be socially conservative, economically nationalist, working class white voters. McCain, on the other hand, continues to defend the very trade policies that have sent their jobs overseas. And he further alienated these Americans with his open border immigration policies that depressed their wages with cheap labor and ignored their plight while catering to the 20 million living here illegally. So if he isn’t going to attract these voters with the issues and we know it won’t be with his charm, how does he do it? He doesn’t. Obama does.

And one more please:

As a candidate Obama is bigger than life. Die-hard liberals are euphoric over his nomination. He is seen as the real thing -- a man who believes what he says and says what he believes. His candidacy has mobilized millions of new voters, held massive rallies, and raised money faster than Federal Reserve can print it. Obama is a gifted candidate who has that intangible quality most candidates only dream about -- he moves voters -- which gives his campaign enormous energy and excitement.

So, according to Bay Buchanan, McCain sucks and Obama is great. Wow. How cool is that, even the opposition thinks that our guy is "the real thing." So what's the bad news? How are they gonna fight that, when even they think their candidate "has a personality that is best kept under wraps?" Bay let's the cat out of the bag in the last few paragraphs of her commentary:

But can he unite the Democrats? Hillary’s women are furious; they shared their candidate’s sense of entitlement and believe she was cheated out of the nomination. Also within the party there is so much tension between the blacks and the Hispanics that there is a rising concern the Hispanics may not vote for Obama because of the color of his skin.


The most serious of these (problems) is the issue of Obama’s patriotism. Middle America will not vote -- nor should they -- for anyone who is not deeply and unequivocally proud to be an American. And the evidence needed to make this case against Obama keeps getting stronger -- whether it is the video of his minister trashing this country; or the faces in the congregation clapping their approval; or the photo of Obama’s hand at his side during the national anthem; or his weak and foolish explanation for not wearing the flag pin. Presented together it is not an unfair jump to conclude Obama has a problem with patriotism. Then add that middle name. Point-Set-Match.

By November there will be two Obamas. The articulate, attractive, dynamic candidate who inspired the nation with his message of hope and would be the first African American President and the anti-war, left-wing, inexperienced black candidate with a patriotism problem.

It’s all up to Obama now -- and a few 527s.

Are you fucking kidding me? Flag pins? His middle name. Really?

So there it is, the Republican strategy. Make Obama look like a sexist, anti-Hispanic racist who hate America. But since McCain has promised to run a clean campaign, how is he going to do those things, which, after all will require that he be dishonest and negative.

He won't.

He'll have his 527's do it for him.

More Healing

It is always difficult for me to listen to what the right wing media has to say about anything. I find their commentary to be full of such ridiculous nonsense, that I get angry and change the channel.

Ditto for reading comments in response to articles or YouTube vids. If the comment it too racist or too negative, I just ignore it.

But after Hillary's concession speech, I noticed that lots of Barack supports were still arguing the logic of HRC supporters who don't yet want to support our guy. So I posted the following in the middle of one of those exchanges:

I'm an Obama supporter. But I need to say, thank you Senator Clinton. You fought a hard fight. You did so with grit and determination and at significant personal financial cost. You brought millions of people to the party who did not previously care about politics.

I am very happy to see you support our party's nominee. It shows that your love of country trumps personal ambition. That is the mark of being a true patriot.

And you ma'am, are a true patriot.

Thank You!

Yeah, it's a little mushy. It ignores alot of the bad things that came from the campaign. But if we want to see Barack in the White House, we need those 18 million people who voted for Hillary to come back out in November and vote for Obama. We already know all he reasons why we think that they should, but some of them don't. It's our job to teach em.

As the old saying goes, it's easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar. So be nice to Hillary and her supporters. Explain, gently, why Obama is so much better than whatever the Republicans can come up with (and certainly better than McCain). Together, we're gonna make history.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Infinite Possibilities

This morning my son was cuddling next to me while I ate my cereal and listened to NPR. The radio mentioned something about Senator Obama, and I just smiled and shook my head. I keep having these little moments where his win in the primary just makes me smile.

My eight year old son asked me why I was smiling.

I told him that I was just so happy that he and his sister would grow up in a world where it was completely reasonable that they could be whatever they wanted to be, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, President of the United States.

He looked at me like what I was saying didn't make any sense.

I explained that when I was a kid, it didn't feel that way.

He still didn't understand.

And that made me smile even more.

Let the Healing Begin


I admit that a large portion of the news that I get comes from The Daily Show. I'll pause for a minute while you laugh at me for that. But at least I know that my fake news is fake.

Even though the news is fake, and the interviews are edited for comedy rather than enlightenment, I saw one yesterday that really hit the nail on the head. There was a Hillary supporter who self described as "gay as the day is long." He looked to be under 30 and said he is New York City resident. He claimed that if Hillary didn't get the nomination he'd vote for McCain. He even pointed out the issues where that was against his personal bet interest (gay marriage for one).

Now that's just silly. But it's easy for me to say that because my candidate won. So even though I think that the other candidate used dirty tricks and did things contrary to the rules, my candidate won. So I'm not bitter.

If the shoe where on the other foot though, how would I feel? If, inside the bubble of my own beliefs, it seemed that Hillary had stolen the election, how would I react. Would I, just hours after Hillary had claimed her stolen prize, be able to walk away from my anger and say, OK, now I'll support her?


In fact, Hell NO! I'd be up in arms. If it felt to me that the election had been stolen, that rules had been broken or changed after the contest began, that my candidate had been unfairly denied his rights and my vote hadn't been counted, I'd be hopping mad. I'd be ready to start a 3rd party and say "to hell with the Democrats."

But that didn't happen. So far, it seems to me that in spite of some efforts to the contrary, my candidate won fair and square, and is going to get the nomination. My only point is that I understand that anger. I understand that when you're inside the echo chamber of supporters, your views get amplified, and information contrary to your view getrs minimized.

So give Hillary's supporters a little time. Give them a few days to grieve the fact that all of the work that they did, and the money that they contribute, went to an end result that is not the one that they had wanted. That effort and energy was not in vain mind you, but the outcome was not what had originally been desired.

So Hillary supporters, take some time. Have a break from the media. Take a deep breath.

But know this, the Democratic party needs you. We need your energy. We need votes. We need your

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Money Shot

This is crude. But it was too funny to pass up.

I was watching CNN this afternoon and saw something really weird. I looked for it on YouTube and didn't find it, so I'll just describe it instead.

One of the commentators, Gloria Borger, in a conversation about campaign fundraising, suggested that what we all want is to see "the money shot" with Obama and Clinton.

Jack McCafferty (who fits the description "grizzled reporter") looked over at Jeffrey Toobin in amazement, suppressed a laugh for a few beats while Borger kept talking. When she paused, he asked: "did you just say 'the money shot'?"

Borger looked puzzled and said - "yeah, you know, where they hold up their hands together in victory."

McCafferty: "ooohhhhhhh"

I don't know what's funnier, her comment, or McCafferty acting like a 2nd grader who heard is teacher say "nuts."

If you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up in the urban dictionary.


I can't improve on this with my words

Obama McCain 10 City Tour

I am following my future president's lead and pivoting to the general election. No more talk about Hillary, at least for now.

In that light, I want to address McCain's latest proposal for debates.

The McCain camp has proposed that he and Obama go on a 10 city tour and do town hall events in front of 200 to 400 people in each city. These 200 to 400 people would be picked by a neutral party. He even proposed that he and Obama travel on the same plane to save expenses.

His proposal plays to his strengths and away from his weaknesses. In other words, it would be a stupid proposal for Obama to accept. of course, Obama would need a counter proposal or it would look like he's "afraid" of such a tour. Here's my suggestion for a counter proposal:

The candidates do a 10 city tour stopping at each city and speaking in an arena. The attendees would be whoever pays to attend (I propose $25 ticket price, with tickets sold via the candidates web sites, and each campaign keeping the proceeds from their ticket sales). The candidates share the expenses of the tour equally. The structure of each event will be the same - each candidate gets 20 minutes to speak. The order of the speeches will be preset, each candidate gets 5 cities where they are first.

Both proposals are silly in how skewed they are to the candidates strengths. Can you imagine how many more Obama supporters there will be at each event? Can you imagine having to sit through 20 minutes of McCain after hearing 20 minutes of Obama? With the structure that I proposed, McCain might even have to come out of pocket to participate in such a tour, while Obama's campaign would almost certainly make money on the deal.

Getting the candidates together to debate is of course a good idea. IMHO, Obama comes out well in such a contest. The trick is to make sure to not agree to something that hands the opponent an unreasonable advantage. Letting McCain get loads of free media and the advantage of limited and handpicked audiences seems to be giving away too much. Since McCain is has more to gain from face to face debates, all that has to be done at this point is to make a reasonable (e.g. not the one above) proposal and wait for him to agree to it.

This is gonna be good.

Obama Wins Nomination, Clinton Concedes?

I watched the Obama victory speech last night with tears in my eyes. I am finally going to have a president that I can be proud of. My children will grow up in a world where there is nothing to which they can't aspire.

I'm still geeking out about it!

But before Obama's acceptance speech, I, we, had to sit through the non-concession speech from Clinton.

But since Obama was so gracious in his acceptance, and did not trash HRC, or her campaign, I feel that I should follow his lead. At least for today.

So I'll say something nice - she ran a campaign that got lots of people very energized. She raised a huge amount of money. She demonstrated that she is tireless and pitbull-like in her tenacity. If it had been her instead of Al Gore in 2000, I have no doubt that she would have fought harder, longer and more ferociously to get the Presidency.

See. I could find nice things to say about her.

But then I got to listen to Barack's speech. It was worth the wait! I feel that my description is not good enough to describe it, so you're gonna have to watch it here yourself. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Women Count PAC Ad

A friend of mine hipped me to this ad in the New York Times the other day. (I'll wait while you go check it out.)

My friend was pissed - here's what she had to say:

I don't know how many of you saw the "It's Not Personal" ad run by the WomenCountPAC in the NYT yesterday but I am just beside myself. How dare they tell me that HRC represents my "voice... hopes, dreams and aspirations"? I'm sorry but assuming that I will vote for her because she is female is as misguided and ignorant as assuming that I am voting for Barack because he is black.

My mother raised me to be respected and loved, and neither could exist without the other. If I had a man that disrespected me the way Bill Clinton did (on multiple occasions, with multiple partners!), his behind and his belongings would be out on the curb. And I'm supposed to look to Hillary as an example? Why exactly did she stick around?

Assigning sexism as an excuse for not voting for Hillary is a sad, sorry, delusional excuse for loyalty. I want someone in the White House who is good and kind, strong and fearless, intelligent and able to solve crises by critical thought and action. Oh, and then there's the finances.... I'm sorry but she is in D-E-B-T. The contributions she receives from here on out will go partly to paying the interest that she must charge for having loaned herself money in the first place. And the poor vendors who provided services are still waiting to get paid. It's so convoluted I can't stand it. If she can't manage her campaign and her staff now, how will she manage in the White House?

The tone of the "It's Not Personal" ad suggests that I need Hillary to make my "values and votes count". I am an intelligent, motivated, inspired and strong woman who makes choices independent of some collective wave whose intent is to mandate my choices based solely on my sex. I make my own damn vote count by virtue of being here and speaking up.

So, with all of that said and done, please go out and vote your heart and your intelligence, not your race or your sex.


Oh No She Di-int!

I have been trying to wrap my head around Hillary's RFK comment since she made it the first time. But since I read that one, and didn't actually hear it, I kinda ignored it. It just didn't seem real.

But then I actually saw it.

I still don't have any words. But fortunately, Keith Olberman does.

What he said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Voting for a Black President

Now that the math is almost entirely conclusive it is starting to hit me. I am going to have the chance to vote for a Black person to be the President of the United States.


And there's a really good chance that he's going to win.

Double wow.

But before I talk about that, a friend asked me why I supported Senator Obama. She's a black woman, (I'm not gonna guess age, but let's just say she looks younger than me), and an Obama supporter. She too has been offended by the way Hillary has used race in this election.

So I told her that as a bi-racial guy born in the 60's raised by a single white mom (after my parents split when I was 10) who valued education and books over most everything else, voting for Obama felt like voting for myself. My friend was surprised, it seemed that she thought I would mention specific policy issues, leadership or any other non-racial things.

But I didn't.

It's not that those things don't matter. Of course they do. Those things are a given. If Alan Keyes shared my specific demographics, I'd wouldn't vote for him. Hell, if he were my identical twin I wouldn't vote for him to be dog catcher. In fact, there are a great deal of black politicians that I don't support or wouldn't vote for. And that's because their positions on issues differ from mine, or their behavior as public officials has caused me to question their judgment, or because the non-black person running against em was a better match for my political views.

But Obama gives voice to most of the political positions that I hold dear. He explains my positions better than I do. He inspires me to action in a way that no other elected official ever has. And his very candidacy is forcing people - black, white, latino, asian and everything else - to evaluate their biases like nothing else can.

So no, I don't just support him because he's black. That would be idiotic. But I do support him with greater fervor than I would an identical (which isn't possible by the way) white politician.

And that's OK. That's to be expected.

Supporting someone who is like you is not the same as being against someone who is not like you. Loving your family members is not the same as hating the people not related to you.

And in November I'm going to get a chance to vote for a black man to be President of the United States of America. I still can't believe it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama is Right, McClinton is Wrong

Funny title, but really the same old post from me.

Americans are not the complete morons that most of our politicians think we are. We know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We have the ability to understand that you can't just put a cap on prices and not expect that there will be other unintended consequences. We even know that if you cut a tax now, you are going to pay for it in the future with a higher tax or a lower level of services.

So then, how do you explain both McCain and Clinton advocating this idiocy about suspending the gas tax? McCain is easy - he wants to starve government to death by depriving it of tax revenue. He and his ilk do not believe in the protections (other than military) that the government provides. He is like Grover Norquist, a designer of the Bush economic "plan" who said
My goal is to cut government in half in twenty five years to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub

If you believe that government is bad, useless, provides nothing that working people need, then cutting a key tax makes some sense. But NOT for the reason of helping the working person. Specifically for the reason of killing the government. I wish our media would ask McCain how he expects that the white working class voters who he is counting on to abandon the Democratic party are going to sends their kids to college with no government assistance. Or how they will individually protect their food supply, or their air and water quality, or the safety of their cities and towns, or the stability of their banking system, or, or, or... So much for Straight Talk!

But Clinton? She has always respected the value of government. Why is she advocating this nonsense?

Let's take a short detour here and talk about why reducing the price of gas is bad. Supply and Demand works. If we reduce the price of gas now, then we send the signal to consumers that there is nothing to be gained by making the changes necessary to use less gas. That means that those who can buy more fuel efficient cars won't; that those who can take public transportation won't, and those who need to make even more drastic life changes so that they use less gas, really won't. All because our government will be saying "we'll fix the problem for you, so hold on." On the other hand, if we provide relief in a different way (say sending cash) but KEEP THE PRICE HIGH, consumers will have BOTH the incentive (high prices) and the ability (a little cash) to make some long needed changes to use less gas.

Back to Hillary. The reason she is spouting this nonsense is because she will say whatever she needs to say to get elected. She thinks we're stupid, and rather than do the hard work of educating people on why the gas tax should actually be higher, she takes the easy way out of lying to us.

Barack - stay strong! So far you have said that temporarily repealing the gas tax is a gimmick. Please keep telling the truth. Killing the gas tax means poorly maintained roads (even worse than now), higher gas consumption, more imported oil, greater need to be in Iraq and all sorts of other bad things. Find a way to put more money in people's pockets (a gas stimulus check would be the easiest thing, especially if it were explicitly funded by an increase future gas tax).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gas Prices v.2

In my last post about gas prices, I may have been a little harsh. I basically said that people who are complaining about the price of gas are whining. That was maybe a tad hardcore.

Prices at the pump are very high. They are going to go higher. This is a good thing, and our government should act now to make sure that people understand this. Here's why:

People don't actually want to consume gasoline (or diesel), they want to be able to go from place to place. This is different than consumption of some other commodities, like bread or milk, where the amount of the commodity is actually what you want. In other words, if you could travel the same way that you travel now but use half the gas, all other things being equal, you'd use half the gas. But you want to use exactly as much milk as you actually use.

Many people do not have much choice - in the short term - over how much gas they consume. They may not be able to sell their gas guzzler and buy a more fuel efficient car, they may not be able to take the bus, they may not be able to properly inflate their tires (OK - everyone can do that). But other people do have the ability to immediately make some of those changes. If we remove their incentive (e.g. the high prices) they won't make those changes, and we'll continue to consume more gas the is necessary, which drives prices higher. In other words, high gas prices encourage lower gas consumption, and that is a good thing.

If we know that gas prices are going to stay at least as high as they are now, then our economy will adjust to that new reality. Car companies will bring their fuel efficient cars here and domestic car companies will design more of them. People will plan elements of their lives to take into account of these prices. On the other hand, if prices fluctuate and come down for a while, many will assume that the $4.00 gas was an aberration, and will not make the long term changes necessary.

As an aside, everything that I've said for consumers goes double for businesses. Lots of businesses are very energy inefficient. But since savings go straight to the bottom line, investments in energy savings are especially effective, BUT ONLY IF PRICES STAY HIGH!

So what do we do for the people who are hurting RIGHT NOW. That's a real problem, but the solution is NOT to reduce the price, but rather to provide immediate, but temporary, assistance to those folks. We could do this in several ways. One idea would be to send all Americans some money to help. Wait, we're already doing that. OK, we could send more. Or we could tweak the social security taxes to TEMPORARILY exempt the first 10 or 15 thousand of income (this would put about $100 per month into the pocket of every working person).

Of course, at some point we would need to pay for this subsidy. The best way to do that would be with an INCREASE in the gas tax to take place in the near future. The point would be to use this $4.00 gas as a turning point. We should look a this as an opportunity to never let gas drop below $4.00 per gallon again. If our government (in other words us) makes this clear, then the economy will adjust, more fuel efficient vehicles and mechanisms of personal transportation will appear almost as if by magic.

And by the way, gas is actually not really that expensive. It's just that is has been getting less expensive (in inflation adjusted dollars) over the past several years. Check out these sites (1 , 2) for a better explanation.

(and I thought I was a nerd - the guy who did the first chart has kept records of every tank of gas he has bought for the last 30 years - wow)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

More Stupidity from Sacramento and DC

This posting has nothing to do with Obama or any campaign. It's about something that annoys me on a nearly constant basis.

Our representatives are either stupid or dishonest when it comes to energy policy. Here's the latest example.

The state legislature (Sacramento) is talking about raising the annual registration fees of cars that get poor gas mileage. The alleged purpose of this is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. It's a ridiculous idea.

To explain why it's so stupid, I'll first ask a very simple question: which vehicle uses more gas, my 1991 Suburban (with 35 inch tires no less) or my neighbor's Prius?

Sounds like a trick question doesn't it? No, it's not an electric Suburban or a Prius Monster Truck. So, either you know me, or you're going to guess (wrong probably), because I haven't given you enough information to answer the question.

That specific Prius uses many times more gas that specific Suburban. Because I drive the Suburban maybe 200 miles per month. The Prius gets driven every day, probably 18k to 20k miles per year. Raising the taxes on the Suburban would not cause a reduction of greenhouse gases. Raising the taxes on the Prius would also NOT cause a reduction in greenhouse gases.

Nothing that penalizes ownership of the car will reduce gas usage. People will just suck it up, pay the extra tax, and keep on using their cars because they have to have a car.

There is ONE simple way to reduce gasoline usage in this or any country. We all know what it is. Raise the price of gasoline! Tax the hell out of it. Make it cost $5.00 per gallon. At least!

We know this works because every time gas prices go way up, gas sales go down (slightly at first).

The biggest problem is that simply raising the price of gas will immediately hurt the working poor the most. The easiest and simplest way to fix that would be to reduce general sales taxes. An offsetting reduction in sales tax is as progressive as an increase in gas tax is regressive. And since sales tax in California is already pretty high, there should be enough room to reduce it and offset the increased as tax. But if there isn't enough room in the sales tax, simply mail rebate checks (equal amounts to every resident).

Of course, there will be whining, I mean objections:

"But Brian", you say, "what's the point of raising one tax just to lower a different tax, netting the no increase in state tax revenue?" The point of this proposal is not to increase the amount of money to the state, but to reduce gas usage. We all know how upset people get about putting $50 in their gas tank. What happens when that turns into $100? $150? I'll tell you - I put $100 into my Suburban a few months ago, it almost made me cry - why do you think I drive the damn thing so infrequently?

"But, I only have one car, and it gets 13 miles per gallon and I live 70 miles from my job. What will I do?" I don't know. Maybe you'll move. Maybe you'll sell your gas guzzler and buy a 91 Geo Metro (45 miles per gallon - 50+ on the highway). Maybe you'll get a job closer to home. Whatever you do, I bet you'll use less gas (and therefore put less CO2 into the atmosphere).

"But Brian, that Berkeley weirdo who rides his bike to work and doesn't even have a car will get the sales tax cut without having to pay any extra gas tax." Yup. And maybe more people will take his example and simultaneously get in shape while NOT using gas. Or maybe they'll just drive less, or car pool, or telecommute, or do what they need to do to make due.

"But Brian, rich people will still drive gas guzzlers while the rest of us have to ride our bikes and walk." Yup. Rich people will always have it better than the rest of us. I wish I were rich. And if I were, I'd probably drive a Porsche 911 Turbo, which gets really shitty gas mileage. And I'd drive it for the hell of it because if I were rich, I wouldn't have a job. But so what, there are only but so many rich people, and what they do has a much smaller impact than what the other 99% of us do.

I almost want to scream at the TV when some talking head spews on and on about how much CO2 this or that car generates. It's crap. Say it with me people: cars do NOT generate CO2, burning gasoline does.

Our politicians know this, but they are too damn spineless to tell us what we need to hear. To sooner we make it clear to everyone in this country that energy that releases CO2 is expensive and is going quickly get much more expensive, the sooner we will stop using so damn much of it. It's not rocket science. It's actually very simple. Make it expensive and two very cool things happen.

1 - we use less of it.
2 - we develop substitutes for it.

Since it's so damn simple, why aren't are leaders saying it? Barack, are you listening?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Race, Volume 1

One of the things that I didn't think was a big deal in my support for Barack is his biracialness. I too am the son of a Black man and a white woman, and I too was born during the civil rights movement (just a few years after Barack). I just figured that the fact that he and I share many political ideas and convictions was just coincidence (or evidence of his good sense).

But after his speech on race, I have a new appreciation of how our shared biracial heritage has shaped our world views. Most Black folk have to be bi-cultural. We have to understand the ways of white folk so that we can navigate in their world. And even in our little hamlets and ghettos, it's still their world.

But biracial folks are put in a situation where we actually have to be able to see the world from both perspectives. For some, it's just too damned difficult to be forced to have multiple perspectives - it robs us of the easy, absolute, no-gray-area decision. It can create a situation where every sentence ends with "on the other hand."

But for the fortunate among us, that multi perspective vision creates an ability to see solutions based on common ground where others see only problems and division. I had believed that Barack has the 'good' version of that vision, but his speech on race in Philadelphia (coincidentially, my home town) proved it.

There's a lot in that speech, and I'll get to more of it later. But to me, the absolute biggest thing in the speech came after several paragraphs explaining in gentle but quite powerful terms, exactly how the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow affect modern Black folk. The most important part of his speech, the part that shows he has an understanding of the situation that is far riccher than that of most people was this:
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

In that short paragraph, he showed working class white people (and those who have been working class, or who have working class family or friends) that he understands their issue. He demonstrated a link between the effects of slavery, Jim Crow and institutional racism and the frustration that comes from thinking that someone else is getting an unfair advantage.

But note that he didn't say it was the same thing. Or that being white and feeling put upon by Affirmative Action was justified. He just said that he understood it. In fact, he didn't even say that Blacks were even benefiting from Affirmative Action, just that when a working class white person hears that Blacks are getting a benefit for something that that white person never did wrong, he understands that "resentment builds."

The reason why this is so brilliant is that he has pointed out a tiny bit of common ground for people who want to talk to each other to stand on. In the short term, that little bit of ground is not going to be big enough for the really angry on either side, but it is enough to get us started. And if we can listen to each other, and try very hard to understand where the other is coming from, maybe we can learn enough to understand that we are in this together. And by this, I mean this country, which is at war, in a recession (or worse), has inadequate schools, crumbling infrastructure and a divide between the haves and the have-nots that is threatening the very concept of the American Dream.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What We Almost Didn't Have

In addition to being a fairly rabid Obama fan, I'm also a fan of the HBO series "The Wire." Without going into all of the reasons for my obsession with Omar, Snoop, Dukie, Marlo, Bunk, McNulty, Bubbles (ok, I'll stop now, but it makes me smile, sadly, just thinking about em all, even the bad ones), I will just say that "The Wire" has a great deal to say about the state of our country.

One of the main things that is says is that the war on drugs is a horrifically criminal destruction of human lives, and that we are literally killing ourselves by continuing it. I agree.

But I'm not going to try to convince you yy talking about the macro stuff. Like the at least six billion dollar cost of imprisoning people on non-violent drug offenses. Or the almost 2000% increase in the Federal prison budget since mandatory minimum sentences were enacted for non-violent drug offences. Or, or, or.

Instead, I'd like to make a page from the writers of The Wire, and make up a story: think back to the 80's or early 90's. A young man, a college student (race is irrelevant to this, but imagine him to be Black), buys some weed, with the plan of taking it home to share with some of his friends.

On his way home, he is stopped for speeding (or making an illegal left turn, or weaving in his lane, or just for being Black). The police find this small amount or recreational drugs in his car, and arrest him for possession. Let's assume that this young man is also honest and naive, so he admits to his plan of partying with his friends. The police now have enough evidence to charge him with possession with intent to distribute. And they do.

Let's imagine that our young man comes from a family with enough money to hire a good and well connected lawyer. This lawyer convinces the DA to reduce the charges to simple possession and to let our guy off with a guilty plea and a fine, but no jail time. And our guy is now smart enough to not tell anyone, so his college does not find out and he is not expelled. So now, our "lucky" middle class college student is out just several thousand dollars and is stuck with only a permanent criminal record for drug possession (and yes I did say our guy is lucky, because it could have been much, much worse).

Now, let's take a break from this fiction for minute and consider a few actual facts. Almost 30 million Americans have admitted to using marijuana in their lives. Almost 3 million have admitted to using it within the last 30 days. In other words, 10% of the population has admitted to committing a crime that could, in many places, get them locked up, or at least have them classified as a criminal. And we all know that once someone is classified as a criminal, the possibilities for their life are severely diminished. Forever.

Back to our college student. This young man realizes that his chosen career of the law is now no longer open to him, as you cannot be an officer of the court with a criminal conviction. He closes that door, and being a talented and intelligent man, picks a different path. He goes on to own a small business and lives a successful, but private, life.

So what, you say. He made a mistake and he paid for it, and it didn't even cost him that much. After all, he was still "successful." Now make the obvious leap - Barack was that college student, and but for dumb luck, we would have been deprived of the leader that he has become.

Wait, let me correct that: because of dumb luck and stupid laws, we have been deprived of great leaders, productive employees, good parents, wonderful children, loving spouses, etc., etc. etc. Hundreds of thousands of them, our fellow countrymen and woman. Deprived of their rights, segregated from society, labeled as criminal, simply for doing something that at least 10% of us have also admitted doing. And we are all paying for this idiocy. Some of us are paying with our freedom, some with our taxes. All of us are being deprived of the contribution that these people would have made. And all because of this short sighted, morally bankrupt and ultimately futile war on drugs.

So here's the call to action: if you are arrested for a non-violent drug offense, admit nothing and demand a trial by jury (but don't take my advice, talk to your lawyer, and educate yourself on your rights). If you find yourself on the jury for one of these trials, regardless of the actual red handed guilt of the person being charged, find him or her not-guilty. This is called jury nullification and it has been used to good effect in the past (it's one of the ways that Prohibition was ultimately shown to be impossible). It is a simple thing that we can do right now to bring this stupid "war" to an end.

I wish that this was something that Barack could run on, but it ain't. We'll just have to trust that he has the compassion (he does), the political will (I think he does), the intelligence (I KNOW he does) and the mandate (that's up to us) to put an end to this idiocy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pennsylvania Here We Come!

So this latest super Tuesday has not resolved the nomination. I guess this should be really no surprise, as Hillary has much more experience in a negative down and dirty campaign. In a way, I guess this is a validation of her point that the Democratic nominee must be ready for the opposition to go very negative. She's right of course. We know that the Republican machine will do pretty much anything legal (and much that is not) in order to gain the spoils of electoral victory.

Hillary's "3:00 AM" ad is pretty mild stuff compared to the this
ad against Harold Ford's run for senate. (Harold is young, Black and single, and was running for office in the South, so the visual of the white woman with no visible clothing, saying "Harold, call me" was pretty inflammatory). And in any case, the "3:00 am" ad is just a preview of what McCain will run against Obama in the general. So maybe Hillary has done Obama a favor by running this ad.

What saddens me, is that in many voter's minds, Obama's unwillingness to be more negative than Hillary equates with a weakness on foreign policy. Specifically, they see the willingness to negatively campaign as being tough. And they see toughness as being the required trait to keep us safe from "the terrorists." The problem is that in order to defend against this sort of attack, Obama has to go negative. In going negative, he kills some of the goodwill that he has built, and makes himself seem like the lying, duplicitous politician he's said he ain't.

Maybe they are on to something. Maybe the desire to campaign in a positive manner correlates to a desire to NOT use the military to solve every problem. Perhaps being tough means not engaging in "shoot first, ask questions later" diplomacy. The Obama campaign needs to figure out how to make that point in a pithy 30 second ad. And they need to do it quick!

On the other hand, maybe that's a good reason for an Obama - Clinton ticket. Obama gets to be the good guy, the inspirational front man, and Clinton gets to be the viscous attack dog of a VP candidate. That could work! It would allows a rapid unification of the Democratic party, it would play to both candidate's strengths. The only downside is that Clinton would bring out the hard-core republican base. But maybe if she's the VP candidate and not the Presidential candidate, they won't be so excited.

Interesting stuff.

In the mean time, I am going to start calling people in my home state of Pennsylvania. We need em to vote, and in big numbers. PA isgoing to be tough to win, but it is critically important.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is Nader Right?

First, let me say to my vast readership: I apologize to both of you for not writing for the past few weeks. I've been having some personal difficulties, and seem to have lost my muse. But I'll give it a try without the muse and see what happens.

I was listening to Ralph Nader talk about why he’s running again for president. And after I restrained myself from kicking the s#$% out of my radio for bringing me such insane news when there is so much at stake in this election, I had to admit something: he’s right.

Then later I watched the debate and heard Obama and Clinton argue about a tiny point of difference in their respective health care plans. What a waste of time. The fact is that both candidates would, as president, sign either plan if it passed congress. And they both should have said that.

But back to why they are wrong and Nader is right (and Clinton is closer to being right on this than Obama is). We need universal health care to be universal. If it’s not, then you don’t get the savings from covering everyone. Furthermore, if an individual can lose their coverage, for ANY reason, then none (except the very rich) can sleep easy knowing that they are, and forever will be, covered.

The simple (and possibly expensive, but I doubt it) expedient is to expand Medicare to cover everyone. Anyone could opt out by proving that they have other coverage, in which case their outside coverage premium would be subsidized by Medicare. Rich folk could opt out by self insuring (and keeping huge assets in their Health Care Reimbursement Accounts). Lots of folk would buy supplemental coverage to pay for additional stuff that isn’t covered under the basic plan. But everyone would be covered. This would provide all of the advantages of single payer (including all of the administrative cost savings) AND the advantages of private delivery (e.g. doctors would not be the employees of the government).

Obama’s point that people will buy health care if they can afford it is flat wrong. Some people will buy it. Others won’t. Some will think that they have, but will miss an important piece of mail, or forget to pay a bill, or get fired, or, or, or. Or worse yet, their life will fall apart due to an illness, and then they’ll make some paperwork mistake that causes loss of coverage. The point is that every crack in universal coverage is expensive in dollars and piece of mind. It is actually less expensive to cover everyone then not to.

But the absolute biggest reason to cover everyone under the same plan is to force the issue of what is covered into the public sphere. As a country, we currently ration health care by who can afford it, and by who is lucky to accurately predict exactly which illness they will be afflicted with when they pick their insurance. That’s insane. What needs to happen is that we decide what the basic level of health care that everyone gets by dint of being a citizen (or legal resident). That allows us to decide, as a society, that we will pay for aggressive pre-natal care, but will not pay for organ transplants for 90 year olds. If 90 year old want organ transplants, they can spend their grandchildrens' inheritance and pay for it themselves (that’s just a for instance).

There are lots more reasons to have single payer. Obama could bring it home if he chose to get us motivated to make it happen. I wish I knew why he didn’t push for it.

If you have contrary thoughts on this, please leave a comment. I will try to reply or incorporate your thoughts into later posts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Why Not Hillary, asks a 6 year old girl

Last night, while driving around with a big ole "Obama 08" sign on top of my car (that's a big deal for a car guy like me, really), my 6 year-old daughter looked me dead in the face with her big beautiful brown eyes and asked: "why don't you want Hillary to be president?"

Now a little personal disclosure is due. I'm a feminist. A rabid feminist. An "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" feminist. I was raised by my mom, and I read what she read - The New Yorker, Psychology Today and Ms. Magazine. (And the book "Our Bodies, Ourselves" but that's a totally different discussion.)

The idea of a woman as president has never seemed odd or weird to me at all. What seems strange is that it's taken this long to even get close to considering it. I mean Pakistan had a woman president for crissakes! What the hell is taking us so long.

So when my little girl, who is seeing me push hard for the candidate who is not a woman, asks me why, this is a big moment. And in all big teaching moments in my life, I look for an analogy.

I said that this election is like picking what you want to eat. And that Obama and Clinton are like ice cream. I said that Hillary is like her second favorite ice cream (strawberry) but Obama is like her first (vanilla - and no, the irony that I compared the chocolate candidate to vanilla ice cream is not lost on me). I asked her if she was happy to have strawberry ice cream, she said uh-huh. I asked if she would rather have vanilla, she smiled and said an enthusiastic YES. Then I asked her if she wanted cabbage instead of ice cream - of course she wrinkled up her face and said "ewwww." How about brussel sprouts? - "yuck!" Cauliflower? - "gross!"

So there you go, Obama is your favorite ice cream, and Hillary is your second favorite. McCain is cabbage, Huckabee is brussel sprouts and Romney is cauliflower. So if the choice is vanilla or stawberry, she picks vanilla. If the choice is ice cream or a vegtable, she goes with ice cream. Especially if it isn't even a good vegetable like broccoli (I don't know which Republican makes it up to broccoli status, but it sure ain't any of the three that are in the race now. Maybe Maria Shriver's husband, but he's not allowed to run, and that's a different blog).

Latinos hating on Obama?

I watched the California returns with a heavy heart last night. The enthusiasm that we felt here in Alameda county (home of Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont etc) was enormous and tangible. And Alameda County seems like a diverse little microcosm of the rest of the state. We have lots of everyone here, and if we love Obama, that must mean that all Californians do, right?

Well, apparently not. Or at least that's what the initial election returns seem to say.

The enthusiasm that I saw from inside the bubble was real. Obama won Alameda County with 55% of the vote. What I keep forgetting about Oakland and Alameda County diversity, is that it is more than just living in the same jurisdiction. Here, diversity is about living together. Race is just less of a big deal here than it is elsewhere. People still recognize it, but we seem to get less excited about it, and certainly less negative.

Still, when you look at the exit polling from across the state, you see that Latinos split 2 for 1 for Clinton. It's easy to see that as evidence of a strong anti-Black bias among Latinos. I mean, how could those numbers be so different than the numbers among the rest of the population in general (Blacks make up something like 5% of the voting population of Cali, and therefore do not swing the vote as in Georgia or Alabama).

I see this as more a lack familiarity. Obama's momentum strong momentum has been recent. And while it has been fueled by a very strong ground operation, it has been turbo charged by lots of positive attention in the media. I mean if you are a political junkie and you watched CNN (or read my blog) all day in the moments leading up to the election, you'd have thought that Obama was going to win running away.

But I would hazard a guess that the attention wasn't so great in the Latino and Spanish language media. And LA, where Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. So it doesn't really surprise me that our man didn't carry the Latino vote there. And since the LA area has the bulk of the Latino population in the state, if he didn't carry the Latino vote there, he wasn't going to carry it anywhere.

So, where's the bright spot? Where's the evidence that this is lack of exposure, rather than nasty old prejudice? The one bright spot that I saw in the Latino vote is that Latino Independents broke for Obama 51% vs 43% for Clinton. And my assumption here is that Latino Independents are just like other Independents, in that they actively seek out more than the average amount information about the candidates before they vote.

Also, let's not forget that the Clintons have done a lot of work for poor people in theirs years in politics. Bill's presidency was 8 good years for Democrats, Latinos, Black and everyone else. And the last 8 years have been hell. So, when faced with some new guy on the scene, running against someone who looks like an incumbent that I like, I too might need to see a whole lot of amazing stuff before I went with the new guy. We Black folk had adopted Bill as the first Black president a while ago. And if Barack weren’t in the race, we’d be working our black asses off get Hillary elected. I never really thought about whether Latinos had also adopted the Clintons. Think of it this way, if Obama hadn’t entered this race, and instead it were down to Hillary and Bill Richardson, or to a another more obviously Latino candidate like Villaraigosa, what would that candidate have needed to do to get Black support? I would guess he would have needed to part the Red Sea, get to the other side, then turn around and walk back on top of the water!

As a small aside, there is precedent in Latin America for a wife taking over the Presidency (and other powerful positions) vacated by the husband, so the woman issue in some ways might not be the big deal for Latino voters that it is for many other Americans.

(As another aside, this one perhaps not so small, Asian voters in California split 3 to 1 for Clinton. That's almost as lopsided as the Black vote for Obama. And I really have no idea how to think positively about that one.)

So, to my Latino and Asian brothers and sisters, I say to you: let's talk. I'd like to introduce to you my candidate. I’d like to listen to your concerns. I think that after you've heard a little more, you'll like him a whole lot. Maybe not as much as I do, but more than Mrs. Clinton, and a whole lot more than whatever the other side has to offer.

source note: all polling date comes from the exit polls at CNN's election center