Category Archives: Politics

My Six Election Heroes of 2012 (with videos)

  1. Nate Silver, who demonstrated the power of statistics and taught us to base our predictions on more data and less talk.
     
  2. ” You can’t have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can’t get on the train.” – Bruce Springsteen
     
  3. Chris Christie, a Republican (yes, a Republican!) who showed everyone that it’s possible to put constituents ahead of politics.
     
  4. Chris Kluwe, who outspokenly and eloquently advocates for equal rights in a challenging place — the NFL.
     
  5. Joe Biden, who restarted his campaign’s momentum by taking Eddie Munster to the woodshed.
     
  6. Barack Obama – coolest president ever?
     

Blood On Their Hands

Last night, Rebecca Mansour, one of Sarah Palin’s top aides, had this to say about her boss’ role in yesterday’s tragic shooting in Tucson:

I don’t understand how anyone can be held responsible for someone who is completely mentally unstable like this,” Ms. Mansour said. “Where I come from the person who is actually shooting is culpable. We had nothing whatsoever to do with this. (source)

As Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote in Breakfast of Champions: “Bad chemicals and bad ideas are the Yin and Yang of madness.” Yes, the shooter was probably mentally unstable, which may account for “bad chemicals” in his brain, but where do you think the bad ideas came from?

The social context in which this horrific event took place was one of hatred and intolerance, promulgated by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sharon Angle and so many supposed leaders who irresponsibly and subtly (sometimes, not so subtly) fanned the flames of violence.

Then, Ms. Mansour, went a step further with this unbelievable quote about the shooter:

She added: “People who knew him said that he is left wing and very liberal. But that is not to say that I am blaming the left for him either.”

Instead of taking this time to rethink the wisdom of gunsight maps and quotes like “don’t retreat, reload”, Sarah Palin’s focus is on deflecting blame.

Words have power. They can galvanize people to work together for a better future, as they did when so many of us rallied around the words “Yes we can”. But they can also be used to tear us apart. Yesterday, we all received a frightfully vivid demonstration of the destructive power of words.

It’s true, Sarah Palin didn’t pull the trigger. And yes, the shooter was probably a very disturbed individual. But to all of those people who promoted, with a wink and a nod, target maps and “second amendment remedies”: today you have blood on your hands.

What Just Happened?

Are you walking around in a daze today, like me, wondering what just happened? It seems like just yesterday we were basking in the joy that our fellow citizens had finally taken hold of their senses. The very same country that voted this guy:


into office (twice!) had, at long last, chosen hope over fear and substance over sound bytes.

It was a nice fantasy, wasn’t it. But that’s all it was. The harsh reality we’ve just learned is that many Americans don’t really care how and under whose watch the economic crisis started – it’s just too much fun to blame the people in power, whether they deserve it or not. We’ve learned that many Americans love to spew nonsense, like “Socialism”, and “taking away our freedom”, and “death panels”, because it’s fun to say those things, even if they don’t make any sense. And despite the fact that for the first time in our history everyone will have access to affordable health care, many Americans still don’t understand, and don’t want to understand, the implications of this far-reaching accomplishment.

Of course, the economy was problem #1 for the Democrats, but I think President Obama and the Dems also paid a huge political price for passing health care reform. Think about the irony there: Barack Obama is elected on a platform of change, and in his first two years, he and the Democrats in Congress pass the most sweeping reform of our ailing health care system in our nation’s history, something presidents have been promising to do for generations. In other words, the Democrats are guilty of this unspeakable offense: they did what we asked them to do. For following through on their promises, they got voted out of office.

And people wonder why nothing gets done in Washington, D.C.

Remember This Date

[Cross-posted at DailyKos]

March 21, 2010. Remember that date because it’s going to be an important one. If everything goes according to plan, tomorrow the US House of Representatives will approve H.R. 4872 (“The Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010″). A section-by-section summary of the bill is provided here.

After President Obama signs this bill into law…

  • by 2014 it will no longer be possible for insurance companies to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions (and for children, that rule goes into effect six months after the bill is signed).
  • within six months, insurance companies will be prohibited from rescission – dropping people simply because they represent too great a risk.
  • annual limits will be restricted within six months and done away with entirely by 2014.
  • the federal government will fund community health centers, providing basic health and dental care to needy people, to the tune of $11 billion over the next five years.
  • perhaps most importantly, this law will help make health care affordable by subsidizing premiums and other costs for millions of Americans with incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

This has been a long, hard struggle lasting over a year. Public approval of Congress is at an all time low. Many people, including some of his strongest supporters, have written off President Obama as ineffective, out of touch, or worse. A less principled leader might have cashed in his chips by now and moved on to another battle. But President Obama hasn’t given up. And isn’t that why we put him there? Didn’t we want someone who would fight for us and fix our broken health care system?

If this bill passes tomorrow, the entire narrative about Obama and this congress is going to change. The resulting political gamesmanship is going to be interesting to watch, but underneath it all, there’s a more important story: in 2009, we the people, did something which led directly to the most sweeping health care reform in the history of our nation. When this bill is passed and subsequently signed into law, we will have accomplished precisely what we set out to do last year — we will have improved the lives of all Americans.

I think it’s going to be a pretty good day.

Movie Review: Who Killed The Electric Car?

Good documentaries make you feel something. This film will make you feel angry. Very angry.

The story begins in California, which has both the nation’s worst air pollution problem and one of our most progressive state governments. That combination should lead to dramatic change and for a while in the late 90s it did. The CA state agency in charge of air quality imposed strong new requirements on auto makers to sell a minimum percentage of “zero emission vehicles”. This led General Motors to introduce the EV1, which was a convenient, powerful, fuel efficient electric vehicle. And it was cool looking to boot.

Other auto makers followed suit and, for a while, it seemed like California was on the brink of a genuine automotive and energy revolution, which just might sweep the country. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. “Who Killed The Electric Car?” explains why and who’s to blame.

In addition to telling a good story, this film will teach you a few things about the air pollution problem in CA, the auto and oil industries, battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies and some cars you probably didn’t hear about, which were sold just a few years ago. Along the way, you’ll meet an interesting assortment of heroes and villains.

A popular bumper sticker of our time reads: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. This movie helps you pay attention. Fortunately, “Who Killed The Electric Car?” ends on an optimistic note, which is nice, because it takes a little edge off the outrage.

Here’s the Rotten Tomatoes page for “Who Killed The Electric Car?”, where it enjoys an 88% score (93% among top critics).

Five Myths of Health Care Reform

[cross-posted at DailyKos]

I’m seeing a lot of blog articles trying to spread blame for the prematurely declared failure of health care reform. People like to point their finger at a particular person or group because it gives them an outlet for their rage. But our failure to pass comprehensive health care reform is not the fault of any one individual or group; it’s due to this simple fact: We live in a sharply divided country (much more closely divided than one might think given the current composition of Congress), and the depth of that division is manifested in the incredibly close fight we are seeing over the health care debate. In this article I will present what I consider to be five myths about the fight for health care reform.

Myth #1 – We have a supermajority in the Senate.

On many of the progressive issues we care about most, Joe LIEberman is about as Democratic as Dick Cheney. So we’re really stuck at 59. Moreover, we have a handful of “centrist Democrats” who simply do not share our progressive agenda. On any given issue, there are several Dems who will not side with the majority. So that takes us down from 59 to the mid-fifties. Sure, there are going to be some slam dunks where we’ll get the payoff from that supermajority but for the thorny problems, we’ve really got 50-something senators on our side.

Myth #2 – Obama has not provided sufficient leadership.

Remember that Obama does not write the laws. It’s up to Congress to get this bill passed. The president is like a coach and the senators and representatives are the players on the field. Given that fact, it seems to me the President has shown pretty decent leadership…he addressed the nation on this issue specifically and told us, and Congress, his criteria for success. In the same speech, he sketched, in broad terms, his outline of a detailed reform plan. On numerous occasions he’s met with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to try to smooth roadblocks and keep things moving forward.

Myth #3 – If only Harry Reid had a backbone we would get what we want.

I’m not a fan of Harry Reid but, I have to say, he has impressed me lately. Insisting on including a public option in this bill when it seemed clear that doing so would sacrifice nabbing 60 votes was a bold gambit and one that showed real leadership. I think he’s doing the best he can to get something valuable for all of us out of this process but the filibuster proof numbers are simply not there without some major compromises.

Myth #4 – Democrats are dithering, two-faced, spineless losers who can’t get their act together.

I believe there are good and bad elected officials on both sides of the aisle. I happen to believe in the agenda of the folks on the left but our opponents are not all stupid or evil. They just see things differently. But one thing I like about our side is we are more diverse in every way, and that includes our range of thought on various issues. So, with more diversity of opinions on our side, it’s harder to get all of our elected officials to vote the same way. With a few notable exceptions, the Repubs seem to march more in lock-step. This diversity of thought is both a strength and a weakness. At the moment, it really sucks. :)

Myth #5 – We will send the Dems a valuable lesson by not voting in the next election.

No you won’t. You’ll just make it harder for us to move our country forward. Change happens incrementally. And it can also be reversed. This health care bill will undoubtedly be insufficient and unsatisfying in many ways to many people, but if it passes it will be the first time in my life that Congress actually did something to improve our broken system. And if you don’t give up, we’ll have additional chances in 2010 and 2012 to advance our majority even further, maybe to the point of having a *real* supermajority. OR…you can stay home and hand the leadership of our country back to the likes of Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin. It’s your choice.

My Encounter With A Bona-Fide Wingnut

[Cross-posted here: Daily Kos]

As Shakespeare once wrote “Facebook maketh for strange bedfellows”. OK, he probably didn’t say that, but I’m sure he thought it. Anyway, I have a friend who posted a facebook update bemoaning a new “war tax” proposal. My reaction to the latter caught the attention (and the ire) of my friend’s ultra-wingnut buddy. Below the fold is my annotated transcript of the ensuing bizarre conversation, which would be funny if it weren’t so scary.
My friend, whom I’ll call “Indy” due to his political non-affiliation, started the conversation with this facebook post:

Indy: What’s on my mind? Yet another tax being imposed on Americans, that’s what!
Rep. McCollum co-sponsors war tax

My immediate reaction was here’s a guy who is a) gainfully employed, b) makes a very comfortable living and c) has top notch health insurance and his biggest problem is that the Government *might* take an additional 1% of his pay. I responded thusly…

Me: What’s on my mind? You and I are in the top 1% of the wealthiest people on earth. How incredibly fortunate we are. See Global Rich List.

Hint, hint, stop whining. I think he got my point (sorta) but he doesn’t really like thinking of himself as rich…

Indy: I agree we’re very fortunate. However, I’m not so sure I believe those statistics, as I surely don’t feel like I’m in the top 1% of the wealthiest people on earth.

I pushed a little harder…

Me: The glass is half empty or half full. You can focus on the fact that you have good health insurance, a high paying job, lots of marketable skills that will leave you in good stead if you ever lose your job, and you live in a country where you have freedom, opportunities and a standard of living unmatched anywhere in the world…OR…you can focus on how overtaxed we are.

It was at this point that my friend’s buddy, whom I’ll call “Wingnut”, jumped into the fray with this barrage of BS…

Wingnut: I think we do need to focus on how overtaxed we are, because our government is slowly chipping away at the freedom we have. It seems like the current administration is hellbent on creating an entitlement society, and with each passing tax increase, we have our freedom decreased. Ben Franklin said it best: “The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.”

As far as good health insurance goes, you can say goodbye to that when healthcare is rationed, and if you look at the job market, the constant barage of governmental regulation and taxation is forcing companies to do more with less, which will inevitably shift jobs overseas.

Being a half full kind of person is all well and good, but you can’t look past what is happening in this country. If you do, freedom and liberty will disappear right before your eyes, and you’ll wonder what happened.

Wow. Where do I start? After the Bush Cheney administration, do you really want to have a conversation about not trading freedom for security? “As far as health insurance goes”…was I talking about health insurance?

How do you argue with someone like this. I could go in a thousand directions but I decided to focus on this comment: “our government is slowly chipping away at the freedom we have”. Compared to the rest of his mini-rant, it’s fairly clear so I decided to challenge that statement. I started with a little dig of my own at the previous administration…

Me: The current administration is picking up the pieces of the mess left behind by the worst administration in US history. You state that the government is chipping away at your freedoms. What specific freedoms have you lost since Obama was elected?

This threw him into overdrive…

Wingnut: Bush’s was the worst administration in history? That is just utter liberal nonsense. You want to talk worst, you need look no further than Jimmy Carter. What you are getting with Obama is Carter 2.0. In regards to our freedoms, you just don’t get it. It is a slow chipping away of freedom that comes over time. Read Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules For Radicals. It is Obama’s bible. There is not going to be any point in continuing this line of converstation. I cannot argue with brainwashing.

Apparently I just don’t get it. Lucky for me, I have this guy to straighten me out. By the way, is “liberal nonsense” somehow different from other forms of nonsense? The Carter comments are amusing – it’s like he’s saying “I know Bush sucked but your guy was worse!”. Then I hear his refrain again “It is a slow chipping away of freedom that comes over time”. And he’s already giving up because I’m too brainwashed. Could he be throwing in the towel so soon because he has no chance of answering my question and he knows it? I persisted…

Me: I don’t mind the name calling. I am a liberal and proud of it. However, I noticed you didn’t answer my question – can you name one specific freedom you’ve lost since Obama was elected?

He responds with a big bowl of crazy…

Wingnut: Liberalism is brainwashing plain and simple.

Well, for starters, creating unconstitutional czars takes away from my freedom. Reviving the so-called “fairness doctrine” is another, and let us not forget the organization that Obama used to work for, ACORN, disenfranchising the American people by stealing elections (that dope Al Franken).

Obama sold the masses of sheep a bill of goods, promising hope and change. Socialism is not the kind of change those voters counted on, and each time Obama bows to another foreign leader, he eats away at the very heart of what made this country great. I find him utterly sickening, as do millions of us out here in America.

Unconsitutional czars? Obama used to work for Acorn? Socialism? This guy’s amazing – he hit all the Fox News cliches in two paragraphs, even managing to squeeze in something about bowing in Japan. And he’s calling me brainwashed. :) Love the part about “as do millions of us out here in America”. Like where do you think I’m writing from? It smacks of Palin’s “real Americans” comment. Not fully satisfied, he unburdens himself with this gem…

Wingnut: The thing I haven’t been able to figure out about liberals is if they are fully aware of the destruction they cause, or if they are just unaware of it. I hope it’s the latter…

Isn’t it nice the way he gives us the benefit of the doubt? At this point, an unknown confusenick pipes in with this perplexing remark:

Confused Guy: Worst president in my lifetime…Carter, next likely candidate, Obama. Twice in my lifetime, before a presidential election, I told all my friends that if elected these candidates would be abysmal: Carter, Obama. I’m a democrat.

Yeah, right, you’re a Democrat and I’m Amelia Earhart. With Democrats like you, who needs Republicans? But I digress. Once again, I try to focus on one simple question…

Me: I think you do yourself a disservice when you assume everyone who disagrees with you is dumb, evil, or brainwashed. BTW, I am still waiting for an answer – what *specific* freedoms have you personally had taken away from you by the Obama “regime”?

The tirade continues…

Wingnut: I listed 3.

Besides, my goal is to stop Obama from destroying my freedom BEFORE he does it, not after it’s too late. Answers like this are not always simple and concrete. This is the difficult thing about arguing with liberals.

Confused Guy: I empathize with you as well. I know plenty of decent, hard working democrats who are disturbed by the takeover of your party by the radical leftists.

Yes, I am passionate about this, but it is not merely politics to me. This is a struggle against tyrrany, and it is a battle for our way of life, and I am not going to sit on the sidelines and watch Obama, Pelosi, and Reid trample all over our Constitution. I can’t let that happen to my children.

Now if you’ll excuse me, but this capitalist has to get ready for work. There are millions of people and politicians out there who think they are entitled to a portion of my earnings, and I cannot let them down.

Love the “Besides, my goal is to stop Obama from destroying my freedom BEFORE…”. Also love “answers like this are not always simple and concrete”. In other words, OK, he hasn’t taken away ANY of my freedoms so far but I’M SURE HE’S ABOUT TO ANY DAY NOW! Here’s me again, trying to keep calm and giving it one more try…

Me: you’re right, you “listed three” right wing talking points but you never answered my question. In response to a request for one *specific* freedom Obama has taken away from you, you cited:

1. unnamed czars who took away unnamed freedoms
2. ACORN (?!)
3. the fairness doctrine

Yup, that’s a list of three things, all right. :) But it has nothing to do with my question.

I’ll help you out here – the answer is “none”. There are no specific freedoms you can cite which Pres. Obama took away from you and I think you know it. But that answer is very unsatisfying because it undermines the right wings caricature of Obama as a stealth socialist intent on ruining the world as we know it.

You’ve cited standard right wing talking points like “chipping away at our freedoms”, “struggle against tyranny” and “trampling on our constitution” but when challenged to cite an example you can’t name a single one. So who’s brainwashed? :)

Again I get no answer but something akin to Bluto’s rousing call to action at the climax of Animal House…

Wingnut: I will agree that both sides use talking points, and I realize that I am never going to convince you that the liberal philospohy is absolutely destructive to our nation. The only thing I can do is cancel out your vote, and do my damndest to talk to as many people as I can , and work to cancel out as many liberal votes as possible. You can count on me doing that for as long as it takes.

If Obama has done one successful thing in his 11 months, it has been to awaken the quiet masses of Americans who are sick of big government, sick of massive spending, and sick of our leader going around the world apologizing for our way of life. Obama’s election will eventually lead to the left’s downfall, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Can you hear the John Phillip Sousa music playing in the background? “When the tough get going…uh…”. I made one final comment…

Me: Let me translate your response into plain english:

“I can’t cite a single concrete freedom that Obama has taken away from me but I still hate him because of…all those other talking points”. :) Let’s agree to disagree. I’m fine with you having different opinions and even though I don’t think you can justify some of your statements, I respect your right to disagree with me and to reach different conclusions.

And it’s great that you’re going to work hard to support your views but I’ll be working just as hard to support mine. :)

And then I heard no more. Perhaps he is back in front of the TV, reloading his impressive stockpile of right wing talking points.

Why Are Jews Democrats?

It’s a stereotype but one that happens to be true – Jews in America disproportionately support the Democratic party. In 2008, despite concerns about whether the huge bloc of elderly Jewish voters in Florida would vote for an African American candidate (see Sarah Silverman’s hilarious Great Schlep video), Barack Obama won 75% of the Jewish vote.

Jews represent a mere 2% of the US population. Consequently, of the 535 members of Congress, it would be reasonable to expect roughly 10 Jewish congresspeople. Amazingly, there are 44 Jewish members of Congress (13 Senators and 31 Representatives). Anyone care to guess how many of those 44 members are Republican? Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is the sole attendee at the annual Republican Hanukkah party.

But why are Jews so overwhelmingly blue? Why isn’t the Jewish population split as evenly as the rest of our deeply divided nation? My theory is education.

As an ethnic group, Jews are one of the best educated in America. Educated people ask hard questions and see through simple explanations. Educated people realize that we are all connected – we all succeed when everyone succeeds. Educated people are more inclined to cast their votes on the basis of substance and policy, rather than personality and charm. Educated people realize that our government can be a force for positive change in our lives.

In short, education is the Republican Party’s worst enemy because it’s hard to trick educated people into voting against their self-interest. That’s why I think so many Jews are Democrats.
While we’re on the subject of Jewish demographics, everyone knows that New York has the largest Jewish population in the US (as a percentage of total population) but can you guess which five US states have the next highest percentages?

Answer:
  1. New Jersey (5.5%)
  2. Massachusetts (4.3%)
  3. Maryland (4.2%)
  4. Florida (3.7%)
  5. California (3.3%)

Traitor Joe: Obama’s Chess Move With Lieberman

[cross posted at dailykos]
Remember when everyone was clamoring for Joe Lieberman’s head? After doing everything in his power to defeat Obama, including firing up the crowd at the Republican (!) National Convention, a lot of people wanted Senator Joe stripped of his prize Homeland Security Chairmanship, or worse. As you can see here, I was part of the “Kick Joe to the Curb” campaign myself.

You may also recall that one big reason why Lieberman was shown compassion, rather than the door, was because Obama publicly stated his recommendation to cut Joe some slack. At the time, I was disappointed in this response but here we are nearly a year later and we could really use Joe’s vote to pass health care reform. I know what you’re thinking: What good did leniency do us? He’s up to the same old tricks again, threatening to support a filibuster with his fellow Republicans. But here’s why things are different this time around…

Because we didn’t force Joe out of his leadership role, we still have leverage. It may not seem like much, but imagine what kind of bargaining position we’d be in if last November we had exiled Lieberman to the Senatorial equivalent of Siberia? Instead, today Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic Caucus still have control over something Lieberman wants to keep. If push comes to shove, Reid can say “stand with us or kiss your chairmanship (and any future leadership role in a Democratically controlled Senate) goodbye, once and for all”.

Let’s face it – Lieberman is a stealth Republican. He may not care whether the Dems expel him, but I think we’re talking about a guy with some serious ego who’s not going to be happy spending the rest of his term with the standing of a Congressional intern. And exiling him from the Dem caucus would pretty much force him to officially become a Republican. As Rachel Maddow once observed, how do you think Lieberman will fare running for re-election as a Republican? In New England. :)

Win or lose, this situation suggests to me the wisdom of Obama’s decision last November. He realized he was going to need Lieberman’s vote on an important issue and when that time came, he’d need all the leverage he could get. He showed us that strategic planning beats retribution and revenge. Once again, Obama has shown himself to be not just a great politician, but a consummate chess player. Like all good chess players, he thinks several moves ahead and makes sure every move has a purpose.

Mormon Church – Epic Hypocrisy In Their Own Words

[Cross-posted on dailykos]

This morning I read Spud1′s diary about how the Mormon church is up to their usual tricks (this time in Maine) of backing anti-gay rights groups while publicly distancing themselves from such contributions. I got curious about something: given their obvious aversion to publicity in this area, I wondered how the Mormon Church itself portrays its views on gay rights. So instead of consulting an anti-Mormon web site, I went straight to the source, the official LDS web site to see what they have to say about their position gay rights. Here’s what I found…

The first thing you’ll notice is that (surprise!) it’s not easy to find any material on this site about gay rights, gay marriage, etc. I looked under the “Home and Family” and “Marriage, Family and Individual Counseling” subject areas but found no relevant content. Next I tried a site search on the term “gay” and found a short article titled “Homosexuality” in their alphabetical index of “Gospel Topics”. So, without further ado, here’s an annotated copy of the Mormon Church’s official policy on homosexuality:

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians.

The “those who consider themselves” clause is a way of not so subtly denying the existence and identity of some 5-10% of our population.

My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God.

Which is why they want to deny them the same basic rights everyone else enjoys.

They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times.

Yup, they do have certain inclinations. The inclination to live their lives they way they choose free of harassment and discrimination. The inclination to fall in love and marry the person of their choosing. The inclination to have a family of their own. You can call these inclinations but I call them basic human rights.

If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).

In other words, “it’s our way or the highway”. I would actually have much less of a problem with them if that was their real position. If they, as a private group, choose to discourage or disallow free choice amongst their own members, I wouldn’t agree with it but that’s their choice. But the truth is that by actively supporting anti-gay groups and legislation they go way beyond the position stated above – they’ve set out to curtail the rights of free people everywhere, all around this country, whether they belong to the Mormon Church or not.

I happen to be a straight guy but I’ve been around long enough to know that when one group’s rights are denied, we all suffer. It’s time to stand up not just for gay people but for people everywhere and show groups like the Mormon Church that they cannot say one thing publicly and then privately try to force their religious views on all Americans. If you agree, whether you’re straight or gay, take a stand. Make your voice heard. Let people know how you feel. Progress is made when enough people care strongly enough to do something about it.

I Have a Scream

Those of you who followed the 2004 Presidential campaign will remember this moment when Howard Dean’s candidacy was damaged by an over the top display of exuberance:

Fast forward to a few days ago – I was cleaning up some old files on my computer and I stumbled across an audio recording I had made in January of 2004 and all but forgotten about. Here is my then five year old daughter Maya’s impression of that fateful moment in American politics:

Reflections on Marriage Equality (w/ video)

I was recently discussing the quest for marriage equality in the US with a buddy of mine, who happens to come from Pennsylvania (the significance of which will become apparent below). My friend asked “why do gay people need to be married? With many states recognizing civil unions and many companies providing domestic partnership benefits, don’t they already have the equivalent of marriage?”.

Here’s how I answered:

How would you feel if the government said you can’t get married because you’re from Pennsylvania? We’ll let you do something that’s kind of like being married (but isn’t really) and it has most of the rights and privileges of marriage (but not entirely) and when your kids ask why you’re not married you’ll have to tell them it’s because you’re from Pennsylvania and they’ll go “huh?”.

The point being it’s easy to think of civil unions as being “good enough” when you’re not one of the people being told who you can or can’t marry.

This lighthearted video from Ireland makes the point eloquently:

Those of you living outside of Washington state may not know about our Referendum 71 – it asks voters to reaffirm or deny various domestic partnership rights already approved by our state legislature. Similar to California’s infamous Proposition 6, it’s an attempt to circumvent the established law by taking the question directly to voters. I just filled in my WA state ballot, and I voted “Approved” to affirm our state domestic partnership laws . If you live in WA state, I hope you do the same thing.

If Referendum 71 passes, I’ll be happy. But it will be just one more step toward the real goal, which is a time when civil unions are unnecessary, when everyone in America enjoys the right to marry the person they love. I’m not sure when that will happen but I think it’s coming soon. As Barack Obama once said: “Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.” If you agree with me, please make your voice heard.

“Nous Sommes Tous Américains”

On September 12, 2001, the day after the most egregious terrorist attack in US history, the French newspaper Le Monde published a front page editorial under the headline “Nous Somme Tous Americains” (“We Are All Americans”). The message was poignant – the rest of the world stood by our side in condemning and opposing the evil that was visited upon our nation. But the article concluded with a prophetic warning:

Beyond their obvious murderous madness, these latest attacks nonetheless follow a certain logic. Obviously it is a barbarous logic, marked by a new nihilism that is repugnant to the great majority of those who believe in Islam, which, as a religion, does not condone suicide any more than Christianity does, and certainly not suicide coupled with the massacre of innocent people. But it is a political logic, which, by going to extremes, seeks to force Muslim opinion to “choose sides” against those who are currently designated as “the Great Satan.” By doing this, their objective might well be to spread and deepen an unprecedented crisis in the Arab world.

In the long term, this attitude is obviously suicidal, because it attracts lightning. And it might attract a bolt of lightning that does not discriminate. This situation requires our leaders to rise to the occasion. They must act so that the peoples whom these warmongers are seeking to win over and are counting on will not fall in step behind them in their suicidal logic. This we can say with some dread: Modern technology allows them to go even further. Madness, even under the pretext of despair, is never a force that can regenerate the world. That is why today we are all Americans.

We did not heed that warning. In a few short years we descended into a collective madness fueled by fear and arrogance. We stopped worrying about what our friends and allies thought and we stopped caring about some of the basic rights embedded in our Constitution.

But all that changed in 2008. It took great sacrifice in the form of millions of hours of volunteer work and millions of dollars in small donations. It took an army of people organizing and knocking on doors and making phone calls and talking with friends and registering voters and getting out the vote. And most of all, it took a candidate with a vision and a laser like focus. It took a man who could inspire enough of us to believe that, once again, we could be the people we were meant to be.

And now we’re beginning to see the fruits of that labor: the speech in Cairo expressing our solidarity with the Muslim world, the re-engagement with the United Nations and our allies around the world, the troop reductions in Iraq, the strategic reduction of a missile defense program in Eastern Europe and its impact on our relationship with Russia. For the first time in nearly a decade, we are once again admired and respected around the world.

Many people feel that the Nobel Prize awarded to our President this week is premature, that in his short time in office he has yet to prove his worthiness. But to me this award is an affirmation of the power of our democracy – it’s a recognition that one of the most powerful nations on earth has drastically changed it’s policies for the better. It is the rest of the world saying to us, once again, “We are all Americans”. But this time around, we are humble, not arrogant. This time around our response is “We are all world citizens”.

Peeance Freeance

Dear loyal readers, or should I say loyal reader (Hi Mom!),

Let me begin by apologizing for the long delay in posting to this blog. I’ve been a little busy since my last post in (ahem) January. Or, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been a little lazy since then. At any rate, sometimes you stumble onto something so beautiful or so terrible that you just have to share it with the rest of the world and that’s exactly why I’m getting back to work here.

So I’m visiting the British Library in London and there’s this wonderful computer based exhibition on historical audio clips. They’ve got clips of all sorts of famous figures in history, from all around the world. I notice there’s a little section on famous American political icons, featuring audio from the likes of FDR, JFK and Harry Truman. Oh, and I notice they’ve got a clip of George W. Bush. I can’t resist clicking that one, wondering what he could have possibly said in his eight years of incoherence, which would have been worth capturing in this august collection. And what I hear is…

The “Peeance Freeance” speech set to a kind of rap/vocal backing. I thought I had heard all the famous Bushisms by now but this one was new to me. To experience the full joy of this gaffe, check out this youtube video (the music is by the George W. Bush Singers from their CD “Songs in the Key of W”):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QnCZRlizMo

So the curators of the British Library decided the most noteworthy audio clip representing our last president was a blunder set to music. How appropriate.