Thursday, January 1, 2009

Warren Shmorren

My friend John Ennis just wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about all the stink being made because of the Rick Warren inaugural appearance. I couldn't agree more. But let me clarify. Rick Warren bugs the crap outta me. I would be happy not to see him there or anywhere else. But I'm not mad at Obama for making the selection.

Could it be that maybe Obama has done the gay community a favor by picking Rick Warren? After all, you can't address the problem of homophobia without actually talking about homophobia, and it seems to me that there are millions more people talking about it now than several weeks ago. The passage of Prop 8 in CA is obviously a significant step backward for gay equality but Obama's selection, by provoking a heated debate, may actually be a catalyst to many more steps forward.

Now, I would never say that the guys who bombed the Birmingham church in the 60's did the civil rights movement a favor, nor would I say that the supporters of Prop 8 did the gay rights movement a favor, but come on... this guy's gonna talk for a few minutes. Turn off your TV if it bothers you so much. In the meantime, go ahead and rail against Warren and all the truly feeble-minded people who are so unable to tolerate diversity. That's more than a right, it's a responsibility. But let's wait and see where Obama takes us before castigating him for this. Sure, the invocation is a high-profile appearance and a symbolic event, but in the end it's purely superficial and substantively meaningless!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ACORN and voter fraud

There is virtually no evidence of actual voter fraud anywhere in the United States. The notion that people who are ineligible to vote are actually making it to the polls and illegally casting votes... it's completely made up.

But don't take my word for it. Do some research. And by that, I don't mean reading the headlines on Drudge or the New York Post. Look up David Iglesias, for instance. He is one of 9 U.S. Attorneys that was fired by the Bush Administration (read 'Karl Rove') for refusing to prosecute these bogus 'voter fraud' cases. Look up the recent Supreme Court decision in Indiana upholding that state's voter ID requirement, supposedly designed to prevent rampant voter fraud. Then try to find any record of actual voter fraud in the state of Indiana. You can't. It doesn't exist.

So then, what is all this noise about ACORN and thousands of bogus voter registrations? Why have ACORN volunteers allegedly registered everyone from Mickey Mouse to Mickey Mantle to Mick Jagger? Because they're all Democrats? Look, if Mickey Mouse is a Democrat, who cares? Elmer Fudd is almost certainly a Republican. You can just tell these things.

But my point is this. Huge numbers of new voters registered to vote in this year's presidential election. Everybody knows that the clear majority of these new voters are Obama supporters. People on both sides are increasingly certain that Obama is going to win big on November 4. So Republicans are making their quadrennial push to manufacture a big stink about voter fraud, but this time with a vengeance and some extra help from street-level operatives who are planning to claim Obama's probable victory as illegitimate.

What do I mean? Answer this question: Why would a Democratic partisan (if as Republicans are claiming, ACORN is a partisan organization supporting Obama) submit a false registration under the name "Mickey Mouse"? My answer is, he would not. A desperate McCain supporter hoping to de-legitimize the operation and cast doubt upon the outcome of the election would do that.

So that's my theory. Republicans see a huge defeat coming and are preparing to claim that they were victims of a massive scheme by domestic terrorists, led by Mickey Mouse, seeking to cheat all "good Americans" out of real leadership. Agghp. I just threw up in my mouth.

As U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said, "this voter fraud thing is the bogeyman. It doesn't exist."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gourmet Cheeseburger in Paradise

In 2006 if you had asked me who Warren Buffett is, I might have told you he's a folk rock singer that didn't much appeal to me. Today, two years and one small child later, I can tell you that he's the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. In 1962, he started buying into a small textile company at under $8 a share and has grown it into a vast holding company with a market capitalization of over $181 billion. A single Class A share of Berkshire Hathaway now trades at about $117,000. Okay, I had to look up the wonky details, but Warren Buffett is the world's most successful investor and the second richest man in the world. And he's a famously nice guy.

As a politician who wants to raise taxes considerably on the wealthiest Americans, you would not expect Barack Obama to receive this particular nice guy's support. After all, Warren Buffett answers to his shareholders, and steering a ship carrying gazillions of other people's dollars, you could say there's a lot riding on his judgment. With an average annual return to those shareholders of 21%, you could also say expectations are high. But Buffett has publicly endorsed Barack Obama. I want to quote a passage from the book "The Audacity of Hope", in which Buffett replies to the question of how many of his fellow billionaires share his views on taxation:

"I'll tell you, not very many. They have this idea that it's 'their money' and they deserve to keep every penny of it. What they don't factor in is all the public investment that lets us live the way we do. Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I'd been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can't run very fast. I'm not particularly strong. I'd probably end up as some wild animal's dinner.

"But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing -- and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that."

I, for one, wish there were a few more billionaires who were like Warren Buffett in this regard. For every Warren Buffett, there are probably about 10 Carl Icahns who have a very different opinion about taxes and social policy. I guess it's obvious that I don't agree with them, and reading my partisan rants, you'd think that I completely deny any validity in their arguments. I wish it was that simple. Strangely, it seems there are quite a few on the other side who, at least in some ways are intelligent, reasonable, even compassionate people. Take Larry Hunter for instance. His support of Obama aside (a subject for another day), here's a guy to whom a progressive tax code, universal health care, and even market-based regulatory controls like cap and trade are anathema, yet when you look at him and listen to him speak, you intuitively sense that he's not out to exploit the working class, send sickly seniors out onto the streets to die, and pollute our planet into oblivion. Just like his liberal counterpart, say a Paul Krugman, he's guided by a moral compass. Even though their respective approaches to our problems are often polar opposites, these two men share a common set of underlying values.

Like any parent, I want my kid to be healthy, have the advantage of a good education, and enjoy all the best things in life. I want to work hard to make that happen, and I'm willing to fight anybody who would stand in the way of that. I certainly don't want to stand in anybody else's way. I don't want a free ride, nor do I want to give anybody else a free ride. And at the end of the day, I hope to leave the world in better shape than when I found it. In other words, I'm just like everybody else. Not too particular, not too precise. You'd think all of us getting along would be easy as pie. Or a cheeseburger in paradise.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


You know, actually, I kinda wish that Congress would suspend the federal gas tax. Then everybody could see firsthand how much of that 18.4 cents per gallon would end up not in their pockets but in the pockets of the oil companies. Apparently this is still a wildly popular idea, with even Carly Fiorina touting the proposal. So Pelosi and Reid should do the only thing that can be done. Prove them wrong.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Latest Media Blind Spot: Viewing All Criticism of Obama Through a Right/Left Prism


Where are the examples of issues on which Obama has begun to disagree with himself? I have begun reading "The Audacity of Hope", and in the first 100 pages, I have found evidence that his "tacking to the center" (I welcome him here) actually occurred sometime before he wrote that book in 2006 -- not in the last month as many on both ends of the political spectrum have claimed.

The one true reversal, as far as I can tell, is his position on campaign finance. Had he not switched his strategy, I would have decided that indeed, he was much too naive to be president.

However smart, he is a politician after all and he is not infallible. I would have preferred if he had just come out to tell us that it'd be stupid to build the best fund-raising apparatus ever and then not use it. I would have preferred that he not suddenly switch his pronouns from "I" to "we" when discussing the folly of talking about an "undivided Jerusalem" at the AIPAC convention. I think he should have better qualified his criticism of NAFTA during the primary run. But I also think that those who claim he is shifting in the name of political expedience had misconceptions about who he is and has been from the start. I agree with Gail Collins when she wrote in her NY Times piece "The Audacity of Listening":

"You liked Barack because you thought he could get us past the old brain-dead politics, right? He talked -- and talked and talked -- about how there were going to be no more red states and blue states, how he was going to bring Americans together, including Republicans and Democrats.

Exactly where did everybody think this gathering was going to take place? Left field?
When an extremely intelligent politician tells you over and over and over that he is tired of the take-no-prisoners politics of the last several decades, that he is going to get things done and build a 'new consensus,' he is trying to explain that he is all about compromise."

Read the Article I'm responding to at HuffingtonPost

Kool-Aid, Whack-a-Mole, and... Viagra!

If what follows is what right-wingers call "Kool-Aid", then I have only two words: "OHHH YEAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!"

Obama's remarks on Iraq and Afghanistan

The surge worked! The surge worked! ....Isn't that right, Mr. Hegseth? Well, keep drinking THAT kool-aid while the game of Whack-a-mole goes on.

What nobody seems willing to say is that while a troop surge is a small factor in the reduction of violence in Iraq, experts agree that the far more influential factors in the outcome include the strenthening of the Iraqi army, Al Qaeda's alienation of Iraqi's Sunni population (they indiscriminately terrorize 'infidels' and Islamic moderates alike), and Muqtada al Sadr's cease-fire order to his militia.

Obama will never say this, of course, because it would be seen as a denial of recognition of the efforts of US troops. But it is the undeniable if impolitic truth.

And now, let's cleanse the palate with some lighter fare:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Taxes on small business owners

FACTCHECK.ORG debunks McCain's claim that Obama's tax proposal would raise taxes on 23 million small business owners

This is of particular interest to me since I am a small business owner -- though I don't have any employees and don't have immediate plans to hire anybody. So I guess I won't be helping to lift us out of this mental recession.