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.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Open letter to The New Yorker

Dear Editor:

Congratulations. The caricatures of Michelle and Barack Obama on the cover of your magazine have certainly drawn plenty of attention. Of the tens of millions of Obama supporters across the country, many are well educated, socially conscious citizens -- exactly the type of people who may well be inclined to subscribe to The New Yorker. I can personally guarantee that having seen this cover, I will never subscribe. If I had been a subscriber, I would have cancelled before even reading the headline. This is the kind of messaging we've come to expect from Fox News, and I would never have imagined that The New Yorker would lower itself to compete on that plane. The sad irony here is that most of the people who will be impacted by an image of the candidate and his wife burning an American flag in the Oval Office will never get past the front cover. Many of them don't even know the meaning of the word 'satire'. And you know as well as I do that they won't need to get anywhere near a copy of this publication. This abominable denigration of two of the most important public figures in our lifetime will be cheerfully paraded about by every second-rate media outlet around the world. You've led the pack.

Both campaigns have indicated that they view this as tasteless and offensive. I agree, and I'm sure the vast majority of Obama supporters do as well. Maybe you were hoping to deliver a damaging blow to the Obama campaign. Maybe you simply hoped to increase your circulation. In either case, I suspect you'll be unpleasantly surprised. Need I remind you that Barack Obama has inspired the most potently activated Democratic base the party has seen in over 40 years?


Dorian Cheah

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blue Plate Specials!

Well I did it again. I participated in WaPo's "Gene Pool Forum". The first time I identified Fox News Headquarters as the "Armpit of America" (see below). Political soapboxing was not what Gene had in mind, of course, but apparently I wasn't the only one up to the task. This time, the host of the forum challenged us to politicize our favorite dish or kind of food. Hah! Here goes:


I love Blue-Plate Specials. I go to Fromin's which is an elderly hangout. As a young taxpaying worker, I love to watch the beneficiaries of Social Security spend my hard-earned cash on matzo ball soup and beef stroganoff.

I know, John McCain is looking out for me and wants to end this disgraceful practice of actually funding Social Security. Thank god somebody finally got to the bottom of how this Social Security thing actually works.

"Paging Dr. Kevorkian...paging Dr. Kevorkian...we need to end the mental recession in John McCain's head."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Armpit of America

I just participated in the Washington Post "Gene Pool" forum. The host invited readers to nominate a place to win the title of "Armpit of America".

I nominated Fox News.

The site of the Fox News broadcast is most certainly the most vile, putrid, and rotten place in the country, if not the world. It is the place where the most toxic elements of American ignorance congregate and fester. Remember BAN Deodorant? We need a BAN on Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Karl Rove and the rest of those stinkoids. We need to give them the AXE. Their rancid diarrhea-of-the-mouth spewage needs to be kept a SECRET. Raise your hand if you're SURE.

...Okay I feel better now :)