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

Monday, February 4, 2008

Last Conference Call

We had our final conference call before the primary tonight as well. Our leader, Buffy Wicks, the California Field Director, got a little emotional at the tail end of the call. She was awed and humbled by the level of energy and enthusiasm displayed by the volunteers, and we could hear it in her voice.

The California field operation has been amazing, with just the right mix of guidance and support to allow us volunteers to work our magic. This has been a true grass roots movement, in the great democratic spirit of all that that means. People are striking up conversations in the street with each other about The Issues! People are talking, but more importantly, they are listening. I frequently hear of high school students who can't yet vote, asking for how they can volunteer.

That's something to be proud of, and definitely something worth getting emotional over!

If this hasn't been done yet in other states, it will be. And it will be the reason why Obama will be President in January!

Predictions from the Center of the Bubble

My brother, who lives a few blocks away from me in Oakland, often says that we live in a bubble in a bubble in a bubble. By that he means that the Berkeley/Oakland/Piedmont area, which is in the Bay Area, which is in California, is not like the rest of the country.

Of course, he's right. Oakland is the most diverse city in the country. Our congressional rep, Barbara Lee, is the most liberal in all of congress. Mixed race and same sex couples are so common place that they warrant nary a second glance, much less any discussion. The major city in the area (San Fran) pays for the sex change operations of it employees for goodness sakes. And we think all of this is "normal."

Still, it's hard to ignore that the support for Obama borders on ecstatic, while the support for Clinton seems tepid at best. At Obama visibility events (where a small group of supporters stand around waving signs), passers-by honk and wave with wild enthusiasm. By contrast, the one visibility event for Clinton that I have seen was greeted with polite indifference. I almost felt bad for the guy and his two young children who were waving Clinton '08 signs. They seemed earnest in their support, but everyone around them pretended that they weren't there. I almost felt bad enough for them to honk. Almost.

Against that backdrop, I give you my predictions. Obama is going to carry the Barbara Lee's district (the East Bay) overwhelmingly. He's going to carry California convincingly (the only fly in that ointment might be the early absentee votes, which may have swung Hillary’s way). He's going to get win the popular vote on Super Tuesday by enough of a margin that the super delegates, many of whom had been supporting Clinton, are going to swing the nomination his way.

On the Republican side, McCain will also take it.

By Wednesday, it is going to be pretty clear that the general election will be Obama-McCain

Friday, February 1, 2008

Bill as First Spouse

Let me first say that I have always been a big fan of Bill Clinton. I've always thought of him, affectionaltely, as our first Black President.

Until recently, my biggest beef with Bill Clinton is that he didn't tell the Supreme Court to go, ummm..., enjoy themselves, when they commanded him to give depositions in the Paula Jones case. I would have loved to hear him say "this is a civil case that can be heard after I am finished being President of the United States of America, and if you have a problem with that, you can lock me up for being in contempt of court." But that's a whole nuther blog.

I'm also a realist in that I understand that when an amazingly talented individual like Bill Clinton, goes into Public Service, they are going to get rich. That's supposed to happen AFTER the public service is over. And that's OK.

So Bill Clinton presents a unique problem. His career as an elected official is over. And by all accounts, he is working his former presidency pretty well, and getting very wealthy in the process. Nothing to be ashamed of really. So he makes a few calls, he connects some people and facilitates some deals, he gets paid. That's how it works.

But what happens when the deals that he facilitates are not so good for the country? What happens if, for his personal gain, he cozies up to the head of state of a country that is such an abuser of human rights and that even our current government has qualms about it?

Now I hear you saying, "our Bill wouldn't do such a thing, he's a man of the people." Read this article in the New York Times (which endorsed Hillary by the way) that details how Bill Clinton bestowed some of his positive PR on the government of Kazakhstan to help a friend land a very lucrative Uranium mining deal. And yes, that friend later gave Bill's foundation over $30 million.

Scarier still is that Bill maintains that he will continue to raise money for his foundation if Hillary is elected president.

There's a reason why we have a two term limit, and this is it. Entrenched power is a corrupting influence. It always has been and always will be. And you can't give money to one spouse without also giving it to the other. Bill Clinton as First Spouse would be a very bad idea. It gives the 'vast right wing conspiracy' more ability to continue their shenangins. It gives shadowy special interests a huge, but secret, back door to the white house. It means more gridlock creating scandal.

It's time for change. You can't create change with more of the same old politics, the same old politicians, and more of the same old 'wink and nudge behind closed doors' games.

We need new leadership. And we need it now. Please vote on Tuesday!