Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama's South Carolina Victory Speech

I'm not ashamed to say I choked up a bit toward the end. This guy has charisma coming out of his ears. Also worth mentioning: Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of JFK, said this in her NY Times endorsement of Obama:

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals. ...

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960. ...

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Indeed, Caroline. Indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Morning's Minion has a heartbreaking post up at Vox Nova concerning the plight of Palestinians in sealed-off Gaza.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Short Little Parable About Immigration

There was once a rich man - let’s call him “Dives” just for fun - who feasted every night, and wore fine clothes and lived on a large estate. On an adjacent estate there lived a poor beggar - just for fun, let’s call him “Juan Lazarus” - whose master was having a rough time, due to a combination of bad luck, some bad business decisions, and the fact that his wealthy neighbor got preferential treatment at the markets where he sold his estate’s goods.

Because Juan’s family was suffering greatly, he decided to go to Dives’ estate and seek work there. Some of Dives’ guards turned him away at the gate, saying that Juan would take work away from workers who were already there. Juan was confused by this, because he could see that everyone on the estate was busily working, and still there were plenty of plows sitting idle, and a millstone was sitting unused while grain piled up around it, and the outbuildings needed new roofs which no one had time to attend to. Juan also noticed that there were workers from some other estates in the area, doing more skilled work around the estate.

“But there is plenty of work, and my family needs clothing and shelter. Please, can’t you be merciful to me, and let me provide for my family?” begged Juan, hat in hand.

Some of the workers from the fields, at the urging of some of the princes of the estate, came and threatened Juan, and told him in no uncertain terms that they would treat him as a criminal if he trespassed onto Dive’s estate and sought work. The princes sought to distract them from the fact that their low wages were due far more to the greed of the princes, and had very little to do with the competition from any workers from Juan’s estate.

“Can’t you all forgive me my trespasses?” begged Juan. “I seek only bread for my family, as do all of you for your families. Surely you can underst-”

But the workers shouted him down, saying “Criminal! You are coming to take our jobs, as the princes say!”

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Social Progress and the Tax System

I’m for a progressive income tax: Those who have more ought to pay more - not just in terms of absolute dollars paid, but in terms of percentage of income.

More progressive taxes makes for less of a gap in income between rich and poor, resulting in more social stability.

An asset tax also seems like a good idea. One proposal I’ve come across: A 15% tax on personal assets over 2 million dollars (with certain exemptions for things like farms and small businesses) would erase not just the current-year deficit, but the entire national debt in a single year. This (at least, this rate) would be unsustainable over the long term, but is an attractive way to quickly rebalance the relative positions of rich and poor, and also erase one of the largest drains on the federal budget, interest on the national debt.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What is a "Liberal", Anyway?

I would call myself a liberal - but rather than using Blackadder’s somewhat loaded definitions here, I’ll supply my own list

1. I think large corporations have too much power, and our government ought to be a counterbalance to this.

2. I think the wealthy are under-taxed, and that this goes a long way in explaining the widening disparity between the wealthiest few percent and everyone else.

3. I think strong unions are a good idea, as another way of balancing out the inordinate influence of “malefactors of great wealth.” I think “right to work” (that is, anti-union) laws ought to be abolished, and strong card-check legislation is needed at the national level. (Side note: I’d love to see legislation that specifically forces Walmart to accept full unionization - just shove it down the Walton family’s throat…)

4. I think US foreign policy has gone way, way too far down the road to imperialism (a highly placed Bush administration official, who is rumored to have been either Cheney or Rumsfeld, went so far as to say “We’re an empire now…”). I think the US as the world’s policeman/babysitter/emperor is arrogant and undemocratic, and will lead eventually to despotism here at home. I favor an international order built on consensus and cooperation.

5. I think a too-cozy relationship between church and state lends itself to horrendous abuse, and thus I favor separation of church and state as outlined in the US Constitution.

6. I believe that diversity, racial and otherwise, makes a nation stronger. It’s worth pointing out that most of what is considered “pop culture” (music and youth fashions) in the world is, or is derived directly from, African-American culture. Problems in our ghettos are complex, and have to do with, among other things, racism and the legacy thereof, poverty and the effects thereof, and with a breakdown of black families and the effects thereof.

7. I think the appalling situation in which 1 percent of the US population is in prison is a grave injustice, and an indication of a massive failure of our society to care for its members.

8. Generally speaking, I’d like my government to help people through social programs and wealth-redistribution; I’d like to minimize the government’s use of power along coercive lines (militarism, various police powers…the guys-with-rifles things)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Obama's Concession Speech

Via Gerald Campbell at First Things First:

Very classy, and very inspiring. This guy has something I've not seen in a candidate in a long, long time.

Quick Story

Threre was a girl named Deenah and when I was about 15 years old, she was the gawky, awkward, 5-years-younger girl who lived across the street from my best friend. We would take breaks from rebuilding his mustang motor to lob an occasional (mostly good-natured) insult across the way about the silly games she and her friends were playing.

Flash forward 10 years. I go to the local drugstore, and there behind the counter is the most stunning young woman I've ever seen - Deenah.

The most heartbreaking thing was, she remembered me...and was really sweet and nice! I felt the size of a sub-atomic particle that day, and fully deserved it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Note to Campaign Managers

There are things you can do to persuade me to support your candidate in the upcoming primaries, and there are things you can do that will make it less likely that I will support him or her.

I'll start with the things I find most persuasive.

1. Tell me where your candidate wants to take the country: what Bush senior called "the vision thing." What kind of America do they want to make? What challenges do they see facing the country in the coming years, and how do they propose to meet those challenges? What will their priority list look like if they win the presidency?

Tell me with whom your candidate stands. "Who" is more important to me than "what" s/he stands for, because successful politics, in a democracy, is about building the biggest coalition. I remember 30 years ago, a sports reporter asked Terry Bradshaw what strategy he would deploy to win the Super Bowl. His response? "We're going to try and out-score the other team." Well, exactly. The Democratic nominee's only job is to Get more people to vote for our guy than the Republicans can get to vote for theirs.

Tell me how your candidate will help the people named in point two. Specific policy proposals are best here. Just saying your candidate will help working class folks because he or she has gotten an endorsement from this or that union is that old logic fallacy, begging the question. Give me specifics: Is he or she for card check legislation? A living wage? What concrete porposal have they made about univesal health care?

What skills does your candidate have in terms of getting citizens on board with an agenda? How persuasive is s/he? Has he or she demonstrated an ability to galvanize people, get them supporting his/her agenda? Are they raising lots of small donor dollars? Are large crowds coming to his/her events?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Gerald Campbell on Obama

In this article at Vox Nova, Gerald Campbell gets it right, I think:

It is the corrosive influence of Lee Atwater and his protege Karl Rove that Senator Barack Obama is attempting to efface from America’s political scene. He has vowed never to use such techniques in his presidential campaign. Whether he wins or loses this contest, one can hope that he succeeds in inspiring other political aspirants to take the same stance against negative politics.

I think Obama is a once-in-a-generation (at most) political figure - able to inspire and motivate people to think beyond themselves. There hasn’t been someone with his inspirational qualities in almost 40 years.

I don’t like his stands on every issue, and wonder especially how progressive he’ll be on national health care, but I look forward to the potential for a conversation about these and other issues that moves beyond the dueling caricatures that currently dominate the discussions now: “Baby killer!” “Theocrat!”

Friday, January 04, 2008


It's always struck me a little strange, the way Fox "News" talks about "hippies" as if they are still around.

I mean, it is not that far from half a century ago when the word "hippie" described any actual group of people in American society. I live in Berkeley, and the last time I was on Telegraph Avenue, there were street merchants selling tie-dye tee young, liberal college kids who had crew cuts. They regarded the tee shirts with the same detached curiosity that the hippies regarded their grandmothers' 1920s-era flapper outfits - interesting relics from another era.