Tag Archives: 2009

Deep Sheriff Thought

19 Aug

How much more proof does anyone need to conclude that Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard is horribly incompetent and in desperate need of a sacking?

Cheektowaga PD Capt John Glascott for Sheriff.

Netroots Nation Update

15 Aug

The volume and quality of information and discussion here at Netroots Nation is something I wasn’t really expecting, and am gratified to see.  Not a lot of rah-rah red meat preaching to the choir.  Instead, aside from networking, the attendees are figuring out ways to not just change policy, but the best process through which to bring it about.

A panel I attended yesterday discussed how to best make red districts blue.  First off, regardless of the size of your electoral disadvantage, it’s important to get out there and run – just running can, by itself, change the game. After all, even if you’re the longest of long shots, your opponent may screw up majorly. But it’s also important to run in every race, and to run to win.  One of the big problems I had when I ran was the fact that I just didn’t put in the time that was necessary to do that.  That’s a killer.

When you do run in a red district, you will inevitably come across people who are not initially receptive to your message.  One key is to listen to the voters and find that common ground and common value system that you probably both hold.  Also, you have to decide if you’re going to just be straight with voters about your dem/progressive positions or if you’re going to try and carve a 3rd way where you compromise a bit.  You can’t do both.  The key is to get out there and meet voters and get your ideas out into the political discussion.  Sooner or later, people might start to be convinced and you could do the impossible.

Finally, Darcy Burner noted something that every political activist should take to heart – we use too many sticks, and not enough carrots.  In other words, we’re too quick to scream and kick and yell when a politician betrays us, but we’re very stingy with praise and support when they do what we expect of them.  Positive reinforcement can be much more powerful and effective than negative reinforcement.  Ask any parent.

Among the more fascinating panels that I’ve attended here at Netroots Nation was the Change Congress presentation led by Professor Larry Lessig.  His Powerpoint presentation was incredibly compelling as he just came right out and called the current system a corrupt one.  It costs so much to run for congress that members are beholden to the lobbyists and special interest money they convey, and then the member will, in turn, take steps that are helpful to the lobbyist’s client interests.  The only way to break that triangle of failure and corruption is to break the money chain.

Lessig noted that the President doesn’t run the government, Congress does.  But Congress has become little more than a farm team for K Street; between 1998 – 2004, 50% of outgoing senators and 42% of outgoing house reps became lobbyists. (Hi, Tom Reynolds!)  He did not pull any punches, arguing that our system is the worst possible one for democracy, and that our corrupt system of influence and money affects everything and leads to bad law and cynicism in the electorate.

I sent a tweet to my Congressman, Chris Lee, to ask whether he supports the Change Congress agenda, and you should ask your representatives, too.  If you agree with the plan which can be described in shorthand as small individual contributions coupled with public financing of elections, pledge to go on a donation strike until they do.  If they send you an email asking for a contribution, just send them a link to this page. Both direct and indirect pressure for fundamental campaign finance reform is needed to make this change and return Congress to the people.

Each side snipes that the other side is corrupt, when in fact the whole underlying system is corrupt at its core.

More to come later.

It's About Discussion and Democracy

12 Aug

During its tenure, the Bush Administration ran roughshod over civil rights, wiretapping phone calls without a warrant, detaining people without charge, violated the Geneva Conventions repeatedly, he and Cheney systematically grew the power of the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency at the expense of the other two, constitutionally co-equal branches of government.  The power of the state was used repeatedly to trample constitutional rights in the name of national security.  Here’s a handy list of ways in which constitutional rights were eroded during Bush’s tenure. And yet, astonishingly, there were no tea parties.  No indignant people screaming to drown out Republicans at town hall meetings.  When Medicare Part D expanded drug coverage under the single payer plan we have for seniors, there were no angry Freepers screaming down anybody about euthanizing grandmas or socializing medicine.

There were no teaparties over the Bush Administration’s genuine infringement on constitutional liberties. Not. One.

Something must be different about Obama to bring out the lunatic fringe in this particular way.  The problem for the Republicans is that they have nurtured the ultra right for many, many years, and they’ve suddenly found that the Freepers have become the Republican activist base.  They were out and about during Clinton’s terms of office, blowing up federal buildings, setting off bombs at the Olympics.  Code Pink! you might say.  Yes, Code Pink made a lot of noise about being anti-war and stuff, but when they disrupted events, they got led away almost immediately.  This isn’t happening with the health care disruptions happening now, unless they turn physical.  To their credit, the Democratic legislators have been giving everyone a chance to speak, even if they’re yelling other people down.

But the rhetoric this time around is much more ominous.  They hated Clinton, alright.  But they really hate Obama. I mean, Clinton may have slept around and fired the people in the White House travel office, but Obama wasn’t born here, they say.  He’s an America-hater, they say.  He’s a communist muslim sleeper agent, they say.  That’s some crazy stuff, and if you dehumanize and demonize a guy like that, it can suddenly become ok to crazy people to do bad things.

Whereas Barry Goldwater had the balls to tell the Birchers to go to hell back in the 60s, recognizing that the JBS was a lunatic fringe, net liability to the conservative movement, contemporary conservatives are either actively encouraging, or else politically unwilling to do the same to the birthers, the deathers, and every other black helicopter weirdo who decides to say something stupid.

You know, if a guy who’s a little stupid and a little unhinged watched Glenn Beck enough and started believing that Obama was racist, and that a pretty benign health insurance reform plan would kill his grandma and make him go in front of a death panel, that guy might do something irreversibly illegal.  I’m genuinely afraid of that, and I’m also very concerned about the fact that the conservative movement and Republican Party are unable or unwilling to call out the lunatics among them.  John McCain tried, when some woman at a campaign event last year said that Obama was an Arab.  But that was the exception.  The big spokespeople for the conservative movement, Beck, Limbaugh – they’re deathers, which is dumber and more dangerous than being a birther.

How does any of this nonsense serve the people who are concerned or opposed to Obama’s health care plan and want to ask non-confrontational questions, read the bill, and debate it rationally with facts? How are they served by the disruption of town hall meetings?  I wish Obama and the Democrats would find a set of balls and do a much, much better job promoting this and tamping down the crazy. More choice, not less.  Health insurance access is improved.  You keep your current coverage.  If you change jobs, you can’t be denied due to pre-existing conditions.  Obama’s Communard death panel doesn’t exist and won’t kill your granny or your kid with Down Syndrome.

My only hope is that the silent, centrist majority of Americans are quietly watching all this and are appalled by it.  You know, the people who have shown up at the town hall meetings to learn about the health care bill and speak with their congressman about it – the ones who are undecided, and don’t believe the crazy shit, but don’t trust the promises.  Those are the people who are ill-served the most by all this, and it’s where most Americans find themselves.  It’s basic courtesy and a pillar of our democratic republic that patriotic people can disagree about a proposed legislation, and discuss it rationally.  One side in this battle has tactically decided not to do that.

I wonder why.

Happy Father’s Day

21 Jun

This is a photograph that I found by accident a few months ago, and have been saving for today. It’s a photo that I took when I was 13 years old at the top of the Neboder in Zagreb. It was March 1982 and my dad and I went over there during my Spring break because his dad had fallen ill. My dad is to the left, and his younger brother, who is a professor of Architecture at Zagreb University is in the middle. It’s probably one of the last pictures taken of all three of them together like this. My grandfather was a lawyer and judge.

Anyway, a very Happy Father’s Day to my dad, and to his brother far away. I hope you guys both have a relaxing and fun day.

dida-1

Revolution

15 Jun

Looks like the Iranian people are fed up with 30 years’ worth of clerically-induced pariah status.

Remembering the upheaval in the Eastern bloc in the late 80s, once the people stop fearing the police, the army, and the secret police and their enablers and collaborators, the regime’s days are numbered.

As for the United States and President Obama, we’re best off being quiet for the time being. We don’t want the hard-liners to be able to use us as a bogeyman against the protesters, and we can stay out of what is quite clearly an explosive internal political situation for Iran while expressing respect for the will of the people and the rule of law. Obama said quite a mouthful to the people of Iran at his speech earlier this month in Cairo:

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

We are prepared to move forward. It appears that the people of Iran are, too.

Monday

20 Apr

A huge thank you to Christina Abt, Paul Wolf, Evan Parker Pierce, Mamacrat, and Robert Harding, who all took turns contributing stuff here over the past week. I greatly appreciate it.

We were on Grand Bahama Island, a rather strange island that was built essentially from scratch beginning in the 50s – it’s run by a private corporation called the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The beaches are wonderful, and the island has a colorful history, but suffers from that 50s design plague of cul-de-sacs and sprawl. When visiting a foreign country, I love to explore a bit. In Freeport, apart from beach-hopping, exploring mostly means going from shopping plaza to shopping plaza. If you’re not in and around Lucaya Harbor, you need a car.

The first day we arrived, the hotel we had booked was pretty run-down, but we were willing to deal with it. After all, they promised to have the AC fixed within a couple of hours. At 9:40, just as I was putting the kids to bed, the fire alarm went off. We were on the 12th floor (the 13th floor, where Howard Hughes spent his final days, is closed), and made for the emergency stairwell.

It was pitch black for most of it, so at floor 6 we had to get out and take the elevator down the rest of the way. When we reached the “lobby”, we had to wade through scalding water pouring out of the ceiling and running down the hall. Interestingly, all day there had been well-dressed, not-touristy looking guys on laptops, using the free wifi, and yelling into headsets in either Spanish or some unidentifiable language. I have a feeling they were up to no good. Maybe I should learn Spanish and whatever the hell other language the guy with the leather flip-flops and oversized sunglasses was wearing.

We mustered in the main lobby and spoke with the other 4-5 rooms’ worth of people who had also evacuated. Every single room – the two Italian couples who had endured 14 hours’ worth of flights and connections to get there, the group of girls on vacation with their parents, and a few more couples in their 50s – none of us stayed in that hotel that night. Some waited around for the hotel to set them up with something different. I just got on the phone and found alternate accommodations that way. I wasn’t going to waste a moment of vacation I didn’t need to. Luckily, we had a car, so it only took 5 trips to get all 6 of us and our stuff completely out of the old room and into the new one. My Tripadvisor review is up and running.

Our alternate accommodation was the Westin at Our Lucaya – a beautiful facility that is well-kept and well-run, was completely relaxing, and across the street from the outdoor pedestrian mall/marina of Port Lucaya Marketplace. After checking in to that Westin, we only had to use our sad little Nissan Almera Classic (which is actually a Renault Samsung production) a couple more times.

One other interesting thing about Grand Bahama is that the car that can’t get sold on a used car lot in the States or Japan could easily end up there. It’s where old Nissans, Hondas, and Toyotas go to die – most of them RHD.

Also – would it kill US Airways to honor seat selections made months in advance, to offer ticket sleeves, pillows, and blankets? The last bunch of times we’ve flown, it’s been JetBlue or Southwest. Anyhow, back to reality.

NY-20: Murphy, for now, in a Nailbiter

1 Apr


The absentee ballots will matter in this race, but last night was not unlike watching a horse race at Aqueduct. Tedisco was leading by about 1,000 votes or so as the tally started coming in, but the gap narrowed as the last few precincts reported. Finally, at the last minute, Murphy eked out a miniscule lead. In the end, Murphy won but by less than 100 votes. Above are most of my Twitter updates from last night.

And I’d like to give a shout-out to #TCDOT today, who have produced this graphic. Because clearly, if a Democrat wins an election, it had to be ACORN-related voter fraud. Yeah. Up in the Adirondacks and along the Hudson Valley. Dishonest & ignorant assholes have a home in both parties, for sure. But this is award-winning.

Murphy came back from a double-digit deficit and zero name recognition to make it close with an established Albany hack who has been in office for a generation with little to show for it as far as results. Murphy was the successful businessman/fresh face/non-politician, yet the Republicans savaged him as if they were all a bunch of Jim Keane surrogates. I never understood the blind support for Tedisco, who deserves to go to Congress as much as Shelly Silver deserves to go to Congress. It was a fascinating race from that standpoint, and remains fascinating as the closeness of the race succumbs to the absentee count.

The “Going Galt” non-nomenon

11 Mar

Having never cursed myself with the task of attempting to read anything by Ayn Rand, I know only the Cliffs Notes version of Atlas Shrugged.

But when the alleged phenomenon of “Going Galt” became an internet meme this week, I felt it necessary to find out what the hell that meant. (Started here in October of last year, it refers to this one character, and a speech that literally goes on for 40 pages. Apparently, no other character in the book tells him to hurry up or get to the point. Sounds like staggering self-indulgence, to me.) In the book, the rich, creative people who produce everything get tired of paying taxes or something, so they all give up and move away somewhere, leaving the rest of mankind to fend for its uncreative, un-self-starting self. Or something. Seriously, who cares?

But this article, which was forwarded to me today, perfectly crystallizes not only the opinion of people whom I respect who have bothered to sit through Rand, but also my own opinion about this whole “going Galt” foolishness.

It begins:

I used to think Ayn Rand was the bomb but I outgrew it. You know, when I turned 12.

We all know that liberalism is for the (naive, inexperienced, foolish) young while conservatism is a natural byproduct of aging, maturing, and gaining experience with the world, right? Conventional wisdom gets it wrong yet again. The surge in popularity of objectivism and libertarianism on campus underscores how right wing ideology, not pie-in-sky liberalism, is the real fantasyland for kids who have absolutely no experience in the real world.

It goes on:

“Just this weekend,” said Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) on Wednesday in an interview with TWI, “I had a guy come up to me in my district and tell me that he was losing his interest in the business he’d run for years because the president wanted to punish him for his success.”

John, your constituent is a friggin’ idiot. He is exactly the kind of ex-fratboy MBA who thinks of himself as a linchpin of society, an “Atlas” upon whom the nation rests, but in reality could be replaced by any literate college grad or, in many cases, an unusually motivated ape. Think about this logic (or “logic”) for a second: this guy no longer wants to run his business because his taxes went up a few percent. The government wants to reduce his income by 10%, so his response is to reduce it by 100%. Sheer brilliance. Go ahead, Mr. Irreplaceable. Close your business. Go broke to “teach us a lesson” about how important you are. We’ll just have to struggle on without you. I am trying to be tactful here, but if this logic makes sense to you, I have to be emphatic: you are retarded. You’re far more likely to be in the bottom rung of society than among the “producers.”

The whole thing just made me smile.

Las Vegas

15 Feb

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A few things:

1. The Venetian was very nice indeed, but next time I’d definitely stay at the Wynn. The Wynn is to my mind the creme de la creme of Strip resorts.

2. I don’t gamble. It’s not my thing. I’d rather drop quarters in an arcade game. But I find Vegas fun for the walking, the shopping, and the dining. We didn’t get to any shows, but only because we didn’t have time.

3. In-N-Out Burger is not the best hamburger I’ve ever had. It is, however, the best fast food I’ve ever had.

4. The dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon was sublime. A dinner the next evening at B&B, owned by Lydia Bastianich’s son and Mario Batali, was salty and not that memorable. Dinner at Okada at the Wynn was excellent.

5. Despite what I said in #2, the shopping is also frustrating because if I can fit in it, I can’t afford it, and if I can afford it, I don’t fit in it. Also, the “our ceiling looks like a sky” meme started by Caesar’s and imitated by the Venetian and Planet Hollywood is a bit played out.

6. Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam were awesome.

7. I’d have liked to have seen the Beatles show at the Mirage, the Wayne Brady show at the Venetian, or the Penn & Teller show at the Rio. We didn’t have time for any of them. Next time.

8. Southwest Airlines is generally awesome.

I hadn’t been there in 10 years and it’s changed a lot. It’ll be interesting to go back and see the City Center project when it’s done.

In Memoriam

15 Feb

Courtesy of Hero Design