Entries Tagged as 'politics'

Abstinence Only Government

It happens every time. I’ll be standing at Target needing toothpaste, wondering which to buy. Ideally, I’d want something that offered a great intersection of price and “tooth protection”. What “tooth protection” means, exactly, I’m not sure. I think we brush our teeth to prevent cavities, but I’m not really sure how that works. But I really don’t know what metrics to use to evaluate toothpaste, and there are so many options. I assume that if one were particularly good, or particularly bad, we’d know about it. So I assume they’re basically all the same and make my decision based on “which one tastes better”.

Thing is, everyone I’ve talked with about this does the same.

Too many options

Now, take this confusion and multiply it by everything on your grocery list. Think of all the healthy eating fads America has seen come and go. Eat carbs, don’t eat carbs, drink wine, eat only grapefruit… These are the basic tools by which Americans transmit information about product choices. That’s a lot of information, and most of it is either bad or misinformed or half transmitted. But researching every item that goes into your grocery basket is time consuming and boring. The FDA would yank anything harmful from the shelves, so the hippocratic oath we make to ourselves won’t be violated.

I can’t even imagine researching the factory of every product I put into my body, and then suing if the company is lying about what they’re producing. It sounds like a boring sort of job I’m more than willing to pay someone else to do.

There is a political philosophy that holds life I’ve just described as the highest, freest, ideal. They have a child-like belief that the market’s ability to perfectly transmit information is so stupendous that simply by lifting all government oversight, producers wouldn’t dare lie to, cheat, or steal from their customers. After all– Firestone tires was destroyed after they (knowingly!) killed scores of people. They certainly didn’t change their name and move on.

Of course– of course!– government oversight isn’t perfect. Regulatory capture happens, sometimes government regulators simply aren’t up to doing their jobs, etc. That’s why we have other forms of protection, like the aforementioned lawsuits. Libertarianism is the only political philosophy I’ve ever heard of to agree with Hobbes that life is “Nasty, Brutish, and Short”, but then turn around and say that we should keep fighting anyway. Cooperation for mutual benefit is a sucker’s game.

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Quick thought

I’ve heard a lot about “ofa2.0″, the transformation of the community activists into local organizers to help Obama get his agenda passed. It sure would be helpful if, say, Mitch McConnell were to get a thousand calls from his constituents letting him know that they couldn’t possibly vote for somone who voted against the stimulus…

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Where do we go from here?

Last week I attended California’s Equality Summit, a post-campaign review where organizations evaluated next steps for gay rights in our state. The GLBT community was full of anger and grief, which was apparent as screaming, anger, and defensiveness summed up the first few hours of the conference. The No on 8 campaign hasn’t fully taken responsibility for the loss, and have barely identified the areas for improvement in the next campaign. In comparison, the grassroots movement has such energy and vitality and is quick to point to the deficits of the No on 8 campaign.

The California GLBT movement is waiting. The California Supreme Court should hear oral arguments in late February sometime. Because they identified gay and lesbians as a “suspect class”, they need to look very closely at laws that concern this group of people and to make sure that they are above and beyond fair. This idea came from the civil rights era, and it will be interesting how the California Supreme Court sees the case.

In the meantime, I’m compiling a list of gay-friendly religious organizations and doing some work with them in the next few months. In the bay area alone, there are over 300 GLBT-friendly places of worship. While this makes my work significantly harder (you try individually addressing over 300 different religious leaders), I am thankful that my community is so welcoming. Even our local Catholic church marches in the gay pride parade.

Estimates vary, but between 13-17% of Californian Jews voted in favor of Proposition 8. The Jewish community is very largely in favor of GLBT rights, and I think that they will be a great resource and tool for fight that has already begun. Ironically, though, there is no marriage equality curriculum with a Jewish perspective. There is an “interfaith” training, but that really means it’s an educational curriculum with a Christian perspective, as many “interfaith” documents are.

Equality California is holding a Lobby Day on Tuesday, February 17. Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) have both proposed bills to overturn Proposition 8, SR 7 and HR 5 respectively. No matter what happens at the Supreme Court level, we need to maintain a civil rights movement. Discrimination is wrong, and discrimination can happen in other places than a courthouse. There are many laws that need to still come, and there are many laws that must be kept in place.

(P.S. The title of this is indeed a Buffy reference.)

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If reading is too hard for you…

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Legal. Personal. Political.

Poor IL Governor Rod Blagojevich. His money situation is so dire he’s trying to sell President-Elect Obama’s Senate seat. He’ll take a bit of everything – from a corporate board membership for his wife, to $500,000. Whatever spare change you have lying around.

I’m curious to how much this will effect Obama, and how much Obama knew about it. There are definitely references to the President-Elect, but does that mean that he was in communication with Blagojevich? They talk about White House influence more than once, but often in terms of sending indirect signals that don’t lead back to Blagojevich.

Below are some of the transcripts from the Affidavit. Tons of fun reading. Warning: explicit language below.

[The Illinois Governor has sole discretion in appointing someone to the Senate seat.]

“I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.” [referring to the open Senate seat]

ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: “our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation.

In particular, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has been intercepted conspiring to trade the senate seat for particular positions that the President-elect has the power to appoint (e.g. the Secretary of Health and Human Services). ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for his wife’s placement on paid corporate boards or ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s placement at a private foundation in a significant position with a substantial salary. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also
been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for millions of dollars in funding for a non-profit organization that he would start and that would employ him at a substantial salary after he left the governorship.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Deputy Governor A that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open Senate seat, then ROD BLAGOJEVICH will take the Senate seat himself: “if . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.”

[Senate Candidate 1 is an adviser to President-Elect] During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated, “unless I get something real good for [Senate Candidate 1], shit, I’ll just send myself, you know what I’m saying.”
[Later he says] “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the Senate seat “is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

On November 5, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with Deputy Governor A regarding positions that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might be able to obtain in exchange for the soon-to-be vacated Senate seat. Among the potential positions discussed were Secretary of Health and Human Services and various ambassadorships. Deputy Governor A noted that the cabinet position of Secretary of the Energy is “the one that makes the most money.” Deputy Governor A stated that it is hard not to give the Secretary of Energy position to a Texan, but with ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s coal background it might be a possibility.

On November 4, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with JOHN HARRIS regarding the potential vacant Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the “trick . . . is how do you conduct indirectly . . . a negotiation” for the Senate seat. Thereafter, ROD BLAGOJEVICH analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to various teams, stating “how much are you offering, [President-elect]? What are you offering, [Senate Candidate 2]? . . . Can always go to. . . [Senate Candidate 3].” Later ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he will make a decision on the Senate seat “in good faith . . . but it is not coming for free. . . .It’s got to be good stuff for the people of Illinois and good for me.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states “[President-elect], you want it? Fine. But, its got to be
good or I could always take [the Senate seat].”

On November 5, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with JOHN HARRIS regarding what ROD BLAGOJEVICH could obtain for the Senate seat. After discussing various federal governmental positions that ROD BLAGOJEVICH would trade the Senate seat for, ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked about “the private sector” and whether the Presidentelect could “put something together there. . . .Something big.” Thereafter, HARRIS suggested that the President-elect could make ROD BLAGOJEVICH the head of a private
foundation. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told HARRIS that he should do “homework” on private foundations “right away.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked whether he could get a high-ranking position at the Red Cross. HARRIS stated that “it’s got to be a group that is dependent on [the President-elect],” and that a President probably could not influence the Red Cross. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told HARRIS to “look into all of those.”

On November 5, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with JOHN HARRIS and Deputy Governor A. They discussed potential private foundations with which ROD BLAGOJEVICH might be able to get a position in exchange for filling the Senate seat and, in particular, those foundations that are “heavily dependent on federal aid” and which, therefore, the White House would have the most “influence” on. ROD BLAGOJEVICH wanted to know how much the positions being discussed pay.

On November 6, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Spokesman. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Spokesman to leak to a particular columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, that Senate Candidate 2 is in the running for the vacant Senate seat. According to ROD BLAGOJEVICH, by doing this, he wanted “to send a message to the [President-elect’s] people,” but did not want it known that the message was from ROD BLAGOJEVICH.

On November 7, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor A about the Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is willing to “trade” the Senate seat to Open source information indicates that 22 Change to Win is an organization affiliated with seven unions, including SEIU, and appears to be focused on having the affiliated unions work together on matters of common interest. SEIU Official is affiliated with SEIU. Senate Candidate 1 in exchange for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the President-elect’s cabinet.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH indicated in the call that if he was appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services by the President-elect, then ROD BLAGOJEVICH would appoint Senate Candidate 1 to the open Senate seat. HARRIS stated “we wanted our ask to be reasonable and rather than. . .make it look like some sort of selfish grab for a quid pro quo.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he needs to consider his family and that he is “financially” hurting. HARRIS said that they are considering what will help the “financial security” of the Blagojevich family and what will keep ROD BLAGOJEVICH “politically
viable.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated, “I want to make money.” During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH, HARRIS, and Advisor B discussed the prospect of working a three-way deal for the open Senate seat. HARRIS noted that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is interested in taking a high-paying position with an organization called “Change to Win,” which is connected to Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”).22 HARRIS suggested that SEIU Official make ROD BLAGOJEVICH the head of Change to Win and, in exchange, the President-elect could help Change to Win with its legislative agenda on a national level. [this is a fascinating conversation that you can read more of on page 61 of the affidavit]

ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that Governor General Counsel believes the President-elect can get ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife on paid corporate boards in exchange for naming the President-elect’s pick to the Senate.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is “struggling” financially and does “not want to be Governor for the next two years.”

ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “motherfucker [the President-elect] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will put “[Senate Candidate 4]” in the Senate “before I just give fucking [Senate Candidate 1] a fucking Senate seat and I don’t get anything.” (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he needs to find a way to take the “financial stress” off of his family and that his wife is as qualified or more qualified than
another specifically named individual to sit on corporate boards.

Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife on “paid corporate boards right now.” Advisor A responded that he “think[s] they could” and that a “Presidentelect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint “[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I’ll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and “picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever” it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as
Governor.

Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.”

[conversations about Warren Buffet beginning a non-profit organization – $10 to $20 million – for Blagojevich to run, or] ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “[Senate Candidate 6]” (Senate Candidate 6, based on other intercepted conversations, is believed to be a wealthy person from Illinois) “could raise me money like that for a Senate seat.”

Also on December 5, 2008, after publication of the Tribune article described above, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and three others discussed whether to move money out of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund to avoid having the money frozen and also considered the possibility of prepaying the money to ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s criminal defense attorney with an understanding that the attorney would donate the money back at a later time if it was not needed.

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These are my friends now…

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

I know I’ve not put up much of substance since I’ve been back; I’ve been busy looking for work. Looking for work is almost as much fun as actually working, but the pay is a lot worse. If you’re interested in hiring me, I’m an HR/Sales sort looking for work in the SF Bay Area or the DC metro area. I got myself a taste of politics and it’s the best drug ever.*

To keep myself from stabbing myself in the eye out of shear boredom, I’ve been playing games. Specifically Civ4 and Fallout3. Fallout 3 was designed, I think, to remind me how bad I am at FPSs. Thank the gods for the VATS system; otherwise I’d never hit a damned thing. So far the quests are much more than the usual sort of “kill kill kill” grind typical of RPGs, and I’m rather enjoying that I can get XP for _failing_ to blow up a city.

Speaking of grinding, I’m off to apply for more work. But if you drop me a line, I could be up for a bit of Left 4 Dead…

*I’m comparing this to the zero other drugs I’ve used.

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Because the balance of Power’s maintained that way…

This rather good article in the Politico about Pelosi gives me a good excuse to mention a few thoughts about what the Rahm Emmanuel pick means for the Obama Whitehouse

Until a few months ago, there were basically 2 centers of power within the Democratic Party. Howard Dean’s office and Pelosi’s Office. Reid, near as I can tell, was a non-player. Rahm Emmanuel was Pelosi’s Chief rival. Near as I can tell, he was trying to take credit for the 2006 election since roughly 5 minutes before any results came in.

Now: Obama wins the Whitehouse. Suddenly there are 3 people who can claim to be the power in the Democratic party. This is going to be trouble for everyone. Dean announces that he is going to step down– as he had always intended to do. And Obama takes Pelosi’s biggest rival and makes him Whitehouse Chief of Staff. This removes a sore spot in Pelosi’s leadership team, and puts a major power player on the Obama Staff.

What does this tell us about an Obama administration? He’s a shrewd, shrewd man who will do what it takes to get his agenda passed…

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You heard about the VP?

He’s just Biden his time until he’s president.

That was the pun I came up with at 1am when the Obama team sent its pick to my cell. Seriously, guys, your choice was good but the timing sucks.

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It’s time to Moveon…

The last 7 years have been a disaster. When Bush came into office, the right was trying to gin up a new Cold War with China, Bush increased the allowable content of lead in drinking water in his first week, hopped into bed with Enron while they shut down the power in California, and began ignoring the looming threat of terrorism.

Then 9/11 happened and it got really bad.

For 7 years we have systematically alienated the rest of the planet, poisoned our world, and redistributed wealth away from workers to gamblers investors. It would have been easy for a left-wing hate monger to rise up and promise retribution. With righteous fury we would have marched on the ballot boxes and seized back the reigns of power.

Instead a man came and said he wanted us to wake up from the nightmare. Sometimes I have a hard time believing, but I’ve allowed myself hope:

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Why disemvoweling was invented

McCain’s campaign is encouraging trolls. They’re literally giving trolls “points” for leaving pro-McCain talking points in the comments section of various blogs. Their view of the blogworld is fairly skewed, they list Glen Reynolds (Instapundit) as neither right, nor left, nor moderate, but “other” (he’s a fairly doctrinaire conservative).

This isn’t the worst idea in the world– many large companies employ trolls to get their own word out. Its just so transparent and icky that I can’t think it will do much good. Yes, this blog is a bit annoyed not to be included on the hit list.

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