Fired Up. Ready to Go.

(I tweeted all this earlier, but I’m including it here too.)

The election broke me. Twitter made me more depressed, so I took a break. But I’m back. And I’m ready to fight. I’m fired up & ready to go.

Perhaps you, like me, are looking for ways to start dealing with the reality of what’s coming. Let’s stick together and help one another.

It’s symbolic, yes, but it’s a start: wearing a safety pin in support of those who are afraid and possibly harassed.

But a pin isn’t all we should do. If we see casual racism around us, let’s help stop it.

All of us showing up, stopping Trump, and taking care of each other is important right now.

And while we work for change at the local level, let’s also work for it at a more national level by supporting new leadership at the DNC.

I’m with Bernie Sanders in supporting Keith Ellison to be the next DNC chair. I encourage you to support him too.

ellisonForDncChair

Things will be rough, but we’re all in this together. So let’s not give up. America is already great. Let’s keep it that way.

False Equivalence

(I tweeted all this earlier, but I’m including it here too.)

I’m not particularly fond of Hillary Clinton, but I get angry hearing people say she and Donald Trump are equally bad. Not even close.

Don’t believe me? Let’s start with this from conservative writer Conor Friedersdorf:

To regard [Clinton & Trump] as equivalently bad candidates for the presidency isn’t just absurd, it is reckless.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s Jamelle Bouie on Trump undermining US democracy & possibly inciting racial violence:

Violence and intimidation” incited by Trump “will be against the chief targets of [his] campaign: people of color.

Still don’t believe me? How about this from conservative writer and former-George-W.-Bush speechwriter David Frum. Frum on voting Clinton:

You’re not doing it for her. The vote you cast is for the republic and the Constitution.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s Seth Meyers:

One candidate is bad at email. The other is a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, ignorant, serial-lying, swindling, narcissistic man-baby.

Is either candidate a great choice? No. But they are nowhere close to being equally bad. And only one—Hillary—is qualified to be president.

Shot and Killed

(I posted this on Twitter earlier and am cross-posting it here.)

In the last day and a half…

Two firefighters were shot and killed responding to a fire in West Webster, NY.

A 30-year-old man was shot and killed in a bar in Bellevue, WA.

A 48-year-old man was shot and killed in York, PA.

A man was shot and killed in Placentia, CA.

A man was found shot and killed in a car in Washington, DC.

An 18-year-old woman was shot and killed by her friend who was “recklessly playing” with a gun in West Dallas, TX.

A teenager was shot and killed after a restaurant fight in Poughkeepsie, NY.

The NRA would have you believe these people would all still be alive if they, too, were armed.

Because the only solution is more guns.

So more money flows to gun manufacturers.

And the NRA.

And more people are left dead.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Reporklicans

Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana was for defense spending cuts before he was against them while still remaining a “fiscal conservative.”

From a Politico article in June:

If we are going to put our fiscal house in order, everything has to be on the table. We have to be willing to look at domestic spending, we have to be able to look at entitlements, and we have to look at defense.

But in an interview last week, Pence said this:

HUNT: Everybody seems to be for most people say they’re for fiscal discipline, but it gets hard when it’s in your district. Let me give you one example for you. You went to the House floor to defend money for a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter … [which would have] a factory in your district. The Pentagon says it doesn’t want it. The other day a Tea Party group this is a Tea Party group said of this project, it’s an example of “opportunistic parasite feeding on the expansion of government.” Tough stuff.

PENCE: Well, sure. And everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but and not entitled to their own facts. The reality is, and the Heritage Foundation produced a very important study on this, is that it is believed that when you were talking about a military defense contract that will span decades of time, it is in the interest of taxpayers in the long run to have more than one source, more than one manufacturer of that engine.

The fact that one of those two engines in part is manufactured in Indiana, we certainly welcome. We’re proud of those jobs. But at the end of the day, I really do believe that it was in the interest of our national defense.

Dissenting opinions are healthy and necessary for debate.  Hypocritical dissenting opinions, however, aren’t healthy for anything except to get yourself off.  If you want to be a fiscal conservative, then BE a fiscal conservative.  Don’t be some narcissistic, bloviating, self-rightous, insensitive, pompous, truth-be-damned, hypocritical jackass.

Cuts in defense spending shouldn’t be off the table when asserting the federal budget needs slashing even when cuts mean sacrifices at home and making tough decisions. This is the same as if the person I know who complains that Apple celebrates and fosters consumerism and materialism would go buy an iPhone 4 because her friend works there.

A hypocrite is a hypocrite whatever way you try to spin it. Mike Pence is a hypocrite.

U.S.S.A.

ussa

With all the talk lately about socialism and socialized medicine, I started thinking.

Thanks to “socialism,” government pays for such horrifically evil things like law-enforcement from the police, fire protection from the fire department, K-12 education from public school systems, higher education from state universities and colleges, Medicare and Social Security, workplace safety standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), regulations and highways to drive on from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), GPS satellites from the Department of Defense, public health protections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), national parks and historical treasures from the National Park Service, aviation regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), weather forecasts from the National Weather Service, technological advancement from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), food safety regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), care and support for veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and a mail service from the U.S. Postal Service.   Oh, and I almost forgot: national defense courtesy of the U.S. Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

But according to detractors, the government paying for a societal improvement like health care would suddenly spiral this nation into socialism.

Voting for Disaster

Wired this week reported this interesting story:

Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, has patched a serious security weakness in its election tabulation software used in the majority of states, according to a lab that tested the new version and a federal commission that certified it.

The flaw in the tabulation software was discovered by Wired.com earlier this year, and involved the program’s auditing logs. The logs failed to record significant events occurring on a computer running the software, including the act of someone deleting votes during or after an election. The logs also failed to record who performed an action on the system, and listed some events with the wrong date and timestamps.

A new version of the software does record such events, and includes other security safeguards that would prevent the system from operating if the event log were somehow shut down, according to iBeta Quality Assurance, the Colorado testing lab that examined the software for the federal government.

I am continuously baffled as to why Direct Electronic Recording (DRE) machines aka electronic voting machines are permitted for use in elections.   Their track record is awful.   Read this nice Wikipedia summary of security issues regarding Diebold’s Premier Election Solutions’s machines.

If you’re really up for some reading, check out these reports that all clearly illustrate why electronic voting machines should not be used until overhauls can be made to these machines’ glaring security issues:

I guarantee you will be disgusted after reading those reports.   Manufacturers of these machines as well as the complicit federal government seem not to care that results of elections can be so easily hacked and stolen.

The idea of electronic voting machines is great.   We live in the digital age.   We live by digital devices every day, from cell phones, to computers, to ATMs.   Yet we can’t perfect a device that, if it fails, has the capacity to a) change the course of history, b) render the democratic process moot, and c) undermine citizenry trust of the entire system of government if indeed an election is hacked and stolen.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but the solution seems incredibly simple.   First, these machines should be built exactly to specifications defined by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), established in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act after the infamous Florida recount debacle, and a team of voting and IT security experts.   Much like the Pentagon orders Boeing or Lockheed Martin to build fighter jets to exact specifications, the EAC should dictate how machines are designed and built and how they function.

Second, testing should be paid for by the EAC, not the manufacturers of the devices.   Currently, the devices are sent to private testing labs, and the manufacturers foot the bill.   Does this not seem like a potential conflict of interest to anyone else?

Third, they must, must, must have a verifiable paper trail.   You use an ATM, you get a receipt.   You pay a bill online, you get a receipt.   You use an electronic voting machine, you likely don’t get anything to verify what just happened.   In the event of irregularities, without a verifiable paper trail, there is no mechanism to check the results of the election, so what happened happened.   Period.   End of story.

The flagrant disregard for adequate premier security standards is a punch in the gut and a stab in the back to the democratic process by private corporations more interested in making money and a federal government more interested in looking the other way.   Progress is being made, but not nearly as quickly and as comprehensively as it should.

Organized Riots Against Health Care Reform

The so-called “debate” about health care reform is not a debate, and is not anything like a debate.   A debate is:

a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints

What we’ve been seeing are no discussions.   Instead, what we’ve been seeing are near-riots incited by smear-and-fear politics aimed not at achieving a particular type of health care reform but instead absolutely no health care reform.

Let’s start with the video.   From CBS News:

Here’s Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) trying to hold a town hall forum in Tampa:

http://www.dailykostv.com/flv/player.swf

Another angle:

Here’s Rep. John Dingle (D-MI) trying to hold a town hall forum in Troy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeUVr1kNZLY

As Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) was trying to speak with constituents, a mob followed him around yelling “just say no”:

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) had to be escorted to his car by police after protesters got out of control.

Protesters hung an effigy of Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) outside his district office.

An attendee at a town hall of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ) dropped a gun and the police were called for safety concerns.

Some protesters have brought Nazi references to protests.

If left unchecked, this level of hatred brewing has the potential to boil over and produce despicable consequences.

Is this a true grassroots opposition to health care reform?   No.   Rachel Maddow explains:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl91YF1d3Kg

In the end, a few things seem clear to me:

There is no proposed “government takeover” of health care. There is merely a government-run public option being proposed to compete against the established health care insurance corporations.   You like your health care option you have now?   Great!   Keep it!   You want another option that may cost less and allow you to be covered even with pre-existing conditions?   Great!   There would be an option for that, too.   This is the debate: having options, having choices, saving money, saving lives.

Those who argue a government bureaucrat will stand between them and their doctor miss the point and the irony of their argument.   There already is a bureaucrat between them and their doctor: an insurance corporation. The difference between the two, though, is that the insurance corporation bureaucrat cares more about turning a profit than he does making sure you get the care you need at affordable prices.   Corporations are out for profit.   That’s what they do.

Government already runs health care. It’s called Medicare.   You don’t hear anyone demonizing Medicare.   Why?   Because it’s popular.   Seems to me, then, we have a working, satisfying government-run health care program already.

The health care problem is about three types of people: those without health care insurance, those with coverage but are under-insured, and those who cannot sustain the financial costs of their insurance plans.   Real health care reform must cover all three groups.

Those who argue people who have no health insurance still have access to health care via an emergency room overlook the cost and, again, the irony. The costs of emergency room visits are exorbitantly higher than the costs of long-term preventative care through regular visits to doctors.   The irony comes in because this, like Medicare, is also socialized medicine because the public foots the bill for those who can’t afford to pay for their emergency room visits (fact sheet from the National Coalition on Health Care).

People in states that are net beneficiaries of the federal government and receive more federal money than what they pay should think twice about castigating the federal government for not being able to do something right.   If these people find so much fault with the federal government that they think it couldn’t run a health care insurance option, perhaps they should lobby their politicians to stop allowing their state to accept federal dollars.   According to the Tax Foundation in 2005 (most recent available data), Mississippi received $2.02 in federal spending for every $1.00 of federal taxes spent.   The liberal elite in Connecticut, though, received $0.69 for every $1.00 spent.   Curious that states with higher populations of people that argue for a smaller federal government are those that need the federal government more. (Thanks, Charlie, for pointing this out to me).

Finally, those who call themselves Christians should must believe providing health care for all is a moral imperative.   Jesus taught Christians to love their neighbors as themselves.   Isn’t ensuring everyone has adequate coverage doing what Jesus would have done?   Caring for the sick and the poor?   So if any of you protesters call yourselves Christians, think about what it means before you argue against health care for all.

My point is this: health care is a serious issue we face today.   Costs keep rising; people can’t afford coverage or are denied or dropped because of so-called pre-existing conditions.   What we need is real debate: how do we cover everyone, how do we pay for it, etc.   Instead of these intellectual conversations, the health care debate has devolved into a neanderthalistic competition on who can shout-down and disrupt the most number of democracy-serving town hall meetings that aim to spur information sharing and gathering.

These organized riots are as sick as the current unsustainable health care situation in this country.   We can do better.   And we must do better.

Stocked and Loaded

Listing to NPR on my drive home yesterday, I heard an interview with Johnny Durry, a gun shop owner in San Antonio.   In the interview, Durry talked about gun ammunition shortages since the election of President Obama last November.   People, he said, have been stocking up on half-lifetime- to lifetime-supplies of ammunition at one time.

The thing those anti-gun people don’t understand is the people are buying it to protect themselves.   They’re so scared of the socialist type of let’s take over the banks, let’s talk about take over the oil companies, let’s give all of this money to people without jobs, let’s reward all these people who are not working hard, and they said, “Well if the government is going that way, what are they going to try to take away from us now?”   And you know what the big concern is?   They’re worried about not being able to get any ammo and not being able to protect themselves.

This is only one shop owner’s story, but still, the message both frightened me and angered me.   What the hell do people need a lifetime-supply of ammunition for?   To protect themselves?   From whom or what?   Are they planning on a Canadian invasion?

Is it not reasonable to believe, if the government really were aiming to take away people’s guns as in coming to their homes and confiscating them, they’d take away the ammunition from them also?   So if an ATF agent knocks on their doors tomorrow, he’d be confiscating their ammo, too, no?   Unless they plan on using the lifetime-supply of bullets on the ATF agent?

Seriously, I fail to see the logic here.   This isn’t a decision by the Obama Administration.   Congress has to pass the law to ban guns, which seems unlikely, but Congress would first have to get around that pesky thing called the Constitution and repeal the Second Amendment.   Amending the Constitution would take 2/3 of both houses of Congress AND 3/4 of states.   Nearly impossible.   But for the sake of argument, let’s say Congress managed to outlaw personal possession of guns and had agents go door-to-door to seize them as these paranoid gun owners described in the NPR story seem to fear.   Why would they need a lifetime-supply of ammo?   First, they won’t have a gun to use the ammo with.   Second, the ammo would likely be seized along with the gun (unless they all formed a merry band of militia men and women and raised arms against the government then, of course, we have a bigger problem).

So I ask again, what the hell do people need a lifetime-supply of ammunition for?

Tropicana Squeezed by Consumers

Tropicana

I’m very late in commenting on this story, but Tropicana recently announced it was un-designing its juice cartons.   What a shame.   When I wrote about the redesign back in January, I said:

The cleaner designs of Tropicana and Pepsi and specifically the minimal design of the Pepsi containers are a very welcome change in beverage packaging, proving once again less really is more.

But now those new, beautiful juice cartons are being replaced with the old, uninspired designs that preceded them.   Were the new designs perfect?   No, probably not.   But completely scrapping them in favor of the original designs takes seventeen steps backward.

What set these new (I guess I should refer to them as the old designs now?) designs apart from other orange juice packages was that they were fresh and simple with their approach.   Some people have argued the redesign made the cartons look generic, but I think other orange juice cartons are generic-looking because they all are variations on the same design with only slightly-modified elements lousy font for the logo, check; the logo maybe in an upward arc, check; illustrated orange, check; plastered-on pulp- or squeezed-type text, check;   multitude of extraneous other text, check.   Instead of harmoniously- and smartly-designed packages, other cartons have become exercises in how much the “designer” can fit onto the carton.   Take this Florida’s Natural carton (from Global Package Gallery), for instance.   Just on the front, how many times does the word “Florida” appear?

Florida's Natural

Matt Everson at Astuteo makes the case that the new Tropicana cartons failed and details eight reasons why.   The first reason he lists is labeling, writing:

ORIGINAL: Text labeling appears along the top sealed edge and across the front, all knocked out of a large, tactfully positioned block of color indicating the type of juice. Product variations are easily distinguished at a glance.

REDESIGN: Text labeling of the juice type along the top and across the front is inconsistent – one is reversed and one positive – and the thin colored stripe is far less noticeable requiring a greater investment of time and concentration on the part of the shopper.

I’ve seen this argument elsewhere also, and it really bothers me.   For people to complain that they now have to actually read the carton is befuddling.   Shouldn’t that be a prerequisite before buying something anyway?   Or do people prefer to close their eyes and just grab something off the shelf, whatever it might be.   Are we now in the business of advocating laziness?

So with the old designs, locating the correct carton maybe took two seconds, but with the new cartons, locating the correct juice now takes five seconds?   The new cartons clearly state in a specific color-coded fashion what type of Tropicana orange juice you’re looking at.   But this isn’t enough for the average, lazy, too-hurried-to-actually-read-what’s-in-front-of-them, always-complaining-they’re-soooo-busy American who prefers this text to be blazoned across the carton in a manner that screams, “hey you moron, I’m ‘no pulp.'”

Maybe, though, the distaste I have for undesigning the Tropicana cartons and the reasons people cite as failures of the redesigns invoke larger questions and complaints I have about modern American culture, a culture that advocates multi-tasking, rushing through the day, and spending less time and focus on our tasks.

But I suppose that discussion is for another day.   Today, though, I can say I switched to Tropicana orange juice because I appreciated the package design immensely.   Once the superior redesigns disappear, maybe I’ll keep a carton around and keep filling it up with juice from the sub-standard, generic undesigns.

From Sea to Shining Sea

flag

Today, Inauguration Day, is a celebration of the moment and the future.   For me, the day is summed up in one word: wow.

Wow in the sense the United States will inaugurate its first African-American president.   One-hundred forty-six years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and forty-six years after Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech, the work and dreams of two men and countless others have been realized.   Collectively, we as a nation can judge beyond the color of someone’s skin.   After all, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Wow in the sense of the peaceful transition of power.   No matter the disagreements between outgoing and incoming presidents, no matter the personal feelings of the two men, no matter any animosity that exists between the political factions of the two men and their supporters, the dream of the Founding Fathers lives on today.

Wow in the sense of a more personal reflection.   I was a supporter and admirer of soon-to-be-President Barack Obama since well before he was a candidate for president.   When I saw him speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I realized this man was going somewhere, and he would take the rest of us with him.   I wrote about him, I talked to friends and family about him, I attended a rally of his, and I donated to and volunteered for his campaign.   The magnificent journey that was the 2008 presidential campaign and that I and so many others participated in comes to a close tomorrow.

But with that closure comes a new chapter.   I don’t think anyone envies Obama and the enormous task he and we face.   I have no doubt, though, as he’s demonstrated in the weeks leading up to his assumption of power today, he has the patience, the intellect, and the ambition to work for and with us to rebuild.

Tomorrow, though, we celebrate, from sea to shining sea.

Wow.

Hillary Clinton and John McCain for America

Barack Obama has on countless occasions spoke of the need to heal the nation and bring divisiveness to an end.   He has on countless occasions spoke of there not being red states and a blue states, but a United States and has stressed the need to come together and work together to forge a more perfect Union.   If he truly believes what he says he believes, he will assemble not a team of yes-men and -women, not a team of people who agree with him, but, as Doris Kearns Goodwin put it, a team of rivals.   Not a team of homogeneous political makeup, but a team of varying and diverse political philosophies.   That team looks likely to include Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and it should include Senator John McCain as secretary of defense.

As former rivals to Obama, Clinton and McCain would do a great service for their country by serving in his cabinet.   Obama spent many months critiquing Clinton’s policy proposals and calling McCain an extension of President Bush.   Would his appointment of these two senators invalidate his campaign and mean he said these things simply to be elected?   No.   Having advisors who don’t necessarily share your opinion is necessary for healthy debate and should be encouraging for the rest of us that our leaders can set aside partisan and political differences.

Obama has spoken in the past about his interest in modeling President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, one consisting of a group of advisors who, previous to Lincoln’s election and subsequent nominations of them to their respective jobs, loathed him.   He chose them not because he wanted them to like and admire him, which they eventually did, but because Lincoln thought they were the best people he could enlist.

With Clinton and McCain, the question isn’t why Obama would put rivals, two people he spent months demonizing, in his cabinet.   It is a question of whether these former foes can place personal strife aside and serve the country.   It is a question of whether they are willing to set asides their specific differences with Obama should he ask them to enact policy contrary to theirs.   And can anyone argue neither Clinton nor McCain are qualified for their respective positions?   After all, the two came extremely close to being elected president.

But would Clinton or McCain shirk responsibilities of serving the president and create foreign policies or defense policies, respectively, on their own and perhaps divergent of Obama’s?   If they truly serve at the pleasure of the president, then no.   They would be asked to leave or would be passive-agressively forced out, no doubt severely damaging what’s left of their political careers if not their legacies.

Does it matter that the three may not like each other?   And again, does it matter the three have heavily disagreed on policies throughout the presidential campaign?   Absolutely not.   Because coming together, working together is putting country first.   And with two wars, an economic catastrophe, and environmental, health care, and education crises, that is what matters.

Why I Support Barack Obama

obama rally

When President Bush stood atop a pile of rubble at Ground Zero and told the rescue volunteers the rest of the world would soon hear us, he had me.   When he went before Congress and the American people and spoke of either being with us or against us, he had me.   He had me feeling so patriotic, so American, that as I walked around my college campus I had an American flag sticking out of my book bag for months.   I supported the president.   I was patriotic.   I was proud to be an American.

But then the president threw it all away.   He lost me.   He lost me with the Iraq war and the false reasons for fighting, the poor planning and execution, and the lack of a responsible exit strategy.   He lost me with his government-sponsored torture programs and the indefinite detentions and lack of indictments of “enemy combatants.”   He lost me with his disastrous lack of a response and coherent leadership after Hurricane Katrina.   He lost me with his countless assaults on the environment and what is essentially his war on science.   He lost me with his warrantless wiretappings, his signing statements, and his trashing of the separation of powers with his unitary executive doctrine and his stonewalling of Congress and ignoring of subpoenas and contempt citations.   He lost me with his farcical war on terror and his failure to capture Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.”   He lost me with threatening a war with Iran after he had severely weakened U.S. armed forces by stretching them thin and not sending them into battle fully supported, prepared, and supplied.   He lost me with the deterioration of America’s image abroad.   He lost me with Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney.   He lost me with Karl Rove and their tactics of divisive slash and burn politics.   President Bush lost me.   I lost my faith in the presidency, my faith in government, and my faith in America.

But then something changed that rather someone changed that.   On a cold February morning last year in Springfield, Illinois, a young, vivacious senator invited us to fight with him for change and to restore America’s greatness.   Barack Obama gave me hope, and he gave me inspiration, and that is why I support him to be the 44th President of the United States of America.

After so many years of disillusionment and cynicism toward government and politics, feeling inspired was a welcomed change for me.   Our leaders should inspire us.   They should inspire us to work for the common good of our country.   They should inspire us to see hope in ourselves and each other.   They should inspire us to fight for and work hard to achieve that good and that hope.   Our leaders should inspire us not to serve them but to serve each other.

Our leaders should inspire us to work for the much needed and much discussed change we need from securing our future by ridding our dependence on fossil fuels to investing in quality, affordable health care for all to strengthening our educational system and providing teachers and students with the tools and support they need for success to engaging in a responsible foreign policy that returns America to the respectable stature we once held.

And beyond the political issues to change our futures come the inspirational issues to alter generations for young African-American children to have a role model in Barack Obama who isn’t a Hollywood celebrity, hip-hop musician, or sports superstar; for citizens of the world to see in Barack Obama a new face on America; and for us to see in Barack Obama not the color of his skin but the content of his character.

His character is his experience the experience of strong judgment, the experience of intellectual curiosity, the experience of sound vision, and the experience of a ferocious calmness in the face of crisis.

What Barack Obama has taught me inspired in me is that we have the power to effect our future, to break free of the partisan shackles that have bound us to bitter divisiveness.   We have the ability to shout to those who clamor for status quo that we are tired of more-of-the-same, that we are ready for something bold and something new.   We are ready not to be blindly led and told what someone else can do for us, but instead we are ready for what someone else can do with us; we are ready for what we can do for each other by joining together with Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

We can move past that which divides us to form a more perfect Union.

We can create a new birth of freedom in America.

We can ask what we can do for America.

We can fix what is wrong in America with what is right in America.

We can heal this nation and repair this world.

Yes, we can.

Equality

Californians are in a battle over Proposition 8 on whether or not to add to the California Constitution this clause:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Voting “yes” on the proposition adds the language; voting “no” leaves the constitution as is.

I’m always extremely weary of direct citizen-driven changes to state constitutions.   Constitutions shouldn’t reflect torch-and-pitchfork-mob-like citizenry activism.   Instead, they should reflect well-thought-out, well-debated, well-researched, and broadly-supported ideas and statutes.   Using the U.S. Constitution as an example, there was a reason why in 1787 only 55 delegates debated and wrote the Constitution, and there is a reason why it takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of states to ratify an amendment to the Constitution.   Amending the U.S. Constitution is deliberately hard, as it should be, so as to not reflect immediate, transitory changes people might desire.   Otherwise, we end up with a document that becomes so ever-changing it ceases being a strong, tried, and honorable document and instead becomes weak and diluted.

Proposition 8 in California is a citizen-driven attempt at changing the California Constitution.   Immediately, therefore, I am skeptical of it.   But my skepticism doesn’t cease there.   What else about this proposition that makes me shiver is the thought of enshrining into a state constitution language that legally and directly casts one group of people as a sub-class to another group (California, of course, isn’t the first state to do this, though).

Shouldn’t this fundamentally be a question about civil rights?   Shouldn’t this be a conversation about are we willing to say to one group of people they’re second-class citizens?   That they’re less human than the rest of us?   That they’re less worthy of enjoying the same rights as the rest of us?   Same-sex couples deserve the same basic rights that opposite-sex couples enjoy: the rights to marry, the rights to have a family, the rights to share medical benefits, etc.

Furthermore, for anyone objecting to same-sex marriage on the grounds it will deteriorate the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, please explain to me how a loving gay couple is going to destroy your marriage.   Give me evidence of a same-sex marriage that has damaged your marriage or the marriage of any other heterosexual couple you know.   Can’t do it?   Then stop using this excuse as an excuse to deny rights to others.

As a reason for supporting Proposition 8, the vote yes website cites in 2000 61% of Californians supported Proposition 22 that used the same words Proposition 8 uses, except Proposition 22 didn’t change the California Constitution.   The measure was decided by the California Supreme Court to be unconstitutional:

The state Constitution’s guarantees of personal privacy and autonomy protect “the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one’s choice,” said Chief Justice Ronald George, who wrote the 121-page majority opinion. He said the Constitution “properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.”

It seems to me that people in opposition to same-sex marriage basic civil rights are going to look as foolish as those in decades ago who opposed civil rights for African-Americans.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Blame

After yesterday’s vote in the House of Representatives on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, there was a heavy, disgusting game of blame being played.   Republican leaders blamed a floor speech by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.   Democrats countered by (deservedly) mocking them.   And then there was this:

This is why people hate politics.   This is why people don’t care anymore and don’t pay attention.   And this is why people don’t vote.

Fine if lawmakers don’t like legislation.   Argue against it.   Suggest alternatives.   But don’t look for excuses to cover your asses.   Now if (when?) the economy tanks this week without Congress passing legislation to attempt a prevention, Democrats can blame Republicans for not acting sooner.   Ugh.   More blame.   Blaming each other, not getting anything done, and who’s left holding the short straw?   You and me.

After the failed vote, lawmakers as a whole have only themselves to blame.   Ben Pershing at the Washington Post offers several reasons why the vote failed (and why lawmakers as a hole are to blame):

1) Poor Salesmanship. Did you know that the general consensus is now that this bill will not cost $700 billion? If you didn’t, it’s because the bill’s proponents did a poor marketing job. From the start, the Bush administration did not do enough to emphasize the point that taxpayers would get at least some of the money back, and that gigantic price tag got stuck in the head of the public (and the media).

The administration was also too eager and ambitious with its initial proposal, alienating many lawmakers right from the start by seeming to ask for the moon — give us everything we want, with no oversight. This White House has long played political hardball, but this was not the time for hardball. This was the time for begging. The administration also let the “bailout” label stick to the package right from the start. By the time President Bush started calling it a “rescue” measure, it was too late.

3) No Center of Gravity. Who’s running Washington right now? Bush is the lamest of lame ducks, with a minuscule approval rating and no clout or political protection left to offer. Bush and Vice President Cheney were reportedly making calls to wavering Republicans right to the end; obviously that didn’t do the trick. Barack Obama and John McCain both supposedly support the bill, but neither of them has been exactly wholehearted in their backing, and there haven’t been any reports of either candidate calling members of their own party to lobby.

House leaders, meanwhile, did support the bill and did whip it. But this wasn’t a party-loyalty vote; lawmakers were asked to vote yes, but they weren’t threatened. They (probably) weren’t bribed. Add all that up, and you had a power vacuum. […]

It’s possible despite weeks of warnings, and a stock market that is cratering as we speak, that a lot of members still aren’t taking any of this seriously enough. And that, ultimately, may be the real reason for today’s vote.

Also, Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com says the many lawmakers in swing districts that voted against the bill doomed it:

ALL VULNERABLES = 8 YEAS, 30 NAYS (21%)
OTHERS = 197 YEAS, 198 NAYS (50%)

Members of Congress: instead of pointing fingers at each other, point them at yourselves.   Accept responsibility and do your job.   That’s what we elected you for, that’s what we pay you for, and that’s what we expect from you.

“Fully Prepared to be Vice President”

On Tuesday, Governor Sarah Palin met with world leaders in New York who were there for the UN General Assembly.   Yet another McCain campaign farce.   So her meeting with world leaders will make her better qualified to be one herself?   I’ve met Halle Berry.   Does that make me qualified to be a Hollywood actor?

Steve Biegun, a former staff member of President George W. Bush’s National Security  Council said of her meetings,

Her primary purpose was to develop a relationship and to listen. I think she’s already fully prepared to be vice  president.

Fully prepared to be vice president.   Since the job of the vice president is solely to be around if the 25th amendment need be invoked and to cast tie-breaking votes in the U.S. Senate, I find it hard to imagine how someone is NOT prepared to be vice president.   But on the former, can she effectively step in should she need to?   Is she fully prepared to be president?   Isn’t that a question we should be asking instead?

Or how about why, almost a full month after she was announced as McCain’s veep candidate, has she not only not held a press conference, she has taken but a few questions from reporters?   Do we not have the right to know how a potential president would think and act in the job?   Why does she need to be shielded from the press?   Or, for that matter, the American people?

From the Washington Post:

Mr. McCain’s selection of an inexperienced and relatively unknown figure was unsettling, and the campaign’s decision to keep her sequestered from serious interchanges with reporters and voters serves only to deepen the unease. Mr. McCain is entitled to choose the person he thinks would be best for the job. He is not entitled to keep the public from being able to make an informed assessment of that judgment. Ms. Palin’s speech-making skills are impressive, but the more she repeats the same stump speech lines, the queasier we get. Nor have her answers to the gentle questioning she has encountered provided any confidence that Ms. Palin has a grasp of the issues.

Disappointing

The Obama campaign should be running high-road advertisements, whether they be pushing Senator Obama’s plans or critiquing Senator McCain’s.   Like the McCain campaign, however, the Obama campaign has released ads that stretch the truth and distort quotes and past votes in Congress.

Ad one attempts to tie Senator McCain with Rush Limbaugh and out-of-context quotes Limbaugh in a manner that seemingly attempts to pit Hispanics against Senator McCain.   From Jake Tapper at ABC:

First of all, tying Sen. McCain – especially on the issue of immigration reform – to Limbaugh is unfair.

Limbaugh opposed McCain on that issue. Vociferously. And in a larger sense, it’s unfair to link McCain to Limbaugh on a host of issues since Limbaugh, as any even occasional listener of his knows, doesn’t particularly care for McCain.

Second, the quotes of Limbaugh’s are out of context. […]

The greater implication the ad makes, however, is that McCain is no friend to Latinos at all, beyond issues of funding the DREAM act or how NCLB money is distributed. By linking McCain to Limbaugh’s quotes, twisting Limbaugh’s quotes, and tying McCain to more extremist anti-immigration voices, the Obama campaign has crossed a line into misleading the viewers of its new TV ad. In Spanish, the word is erróneo.

In ad two,

Obama says that McCain voted three times to privatize Social Security, and that he is willing to risk the nation’s retirement program on the risky stock market. Now, it is true that McCain did support President Bush’s effort to privatize a portion of Social Security. But it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street.

Ad three (from the same article)

says McCain “voted against tax incentives for alternative energy against ethanol, against fuel cells, against hybrids, against electric cars, against wind and solar, against geothermal.” Then the ad says McCain wants to give $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies. This is all a nifty bit of misdirection. The oil company tax breaks the ad refers to are a corporate tax cut McCain favors, which would apply to almost all profitable companies, not just oil companies including those companies that work on wind, solar and biofuels.

I understand the necessity of the Obama campaign to make low-road hits after the onslaught of similar ads from the McCain campaign.   But surely there are enough critiques to be made of the McCain plan for America that don’t involve stooping to his level of dishonor.

I really don’t understand why someone in the Obama campaign thought this was a good idea.   What a disappointment, Barack.   You’re better than this.   Please remind us.

Hope and Truth

By now, you’ve probably heard of or most likely received the viral email claiming Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, and that we all should take heed at a possible Obama presidency. I received this email yesterday. Here it is:

Who is Barack Obama ? Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHIEST from Wichita, Kansas. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was! 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school. Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, “He was “once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.” Obama’s political handlers are attempting to make it appear that his introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary, at best. But,in reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son’s education. Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran. Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy. The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from “the inside out”. What better way to start than at the highest level – through the President of the United States being one of their own !!!! Please forward this to everyone you know. Do you want this man leading our country?…… Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice. If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts…this is very scarey to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States…better heed this and pray about it and share it.

Since most people when forwarding emails don’t put all their recipients’ address in the BCC field, I had several email addresses throughout the forwarded email chain. So, I decided to send an email to everyone on the list. Here was my response:

Most of you receiving this email do not know who I am. Who I am does not matter; what I have to say, however, does. If you do not know me and wonder where I obtained your email address from, I obtained it from a forwarded email-chain.

The scurrilous email in question purports that Senator Barack Obama is a Muslim intent on destroying the United States from “the inside out.” Interesting, though, that each one of the many fallacious claims are not supported by any evidence or citation, an obvious red flag.

The email is meant only to scare people, and in forwarding it to others and not verifying its contents, we have validated the intent and purpose of this email. If we have two minutes to forward these types of unverified and unsupported emails to our friends and family, surely we have two minutes to perform a simple Google search.

Performing a quick search on “Obama Muslim” is highly enlightening. The first search result, curiously, is a sponsored link (meaning the site it links to paid for the link to be there) from the Obama campaign website. It is ridiculous that the campaign has to spend time and resources refuting these inaccurate claims.

If the numerous quotes and facts on the campaign website are not enough to dispel the rumors, though, then the following two articles are. Snopes, a website dedicated to verifying and debunking urban legends and myths, debunks the original email.

The second article deals with the so-called “madrassa” Obama attended in Indonesia. A CNN reporter actually visited the school to prove this claim false. Watch the reporter’s story and read the article.

Finally, the claim that Obama was sworn into the U.S. Senate on the Koran is also unfounded. Obama was not sworn in on a Koran, but Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota was.

This Obama email smear is the same disgusting type of smear campaign that was waged against Senator Max Cleland in Georgia while running for reelection in 2002 and Senator John McCain in South Carolina while running for president in 2000. Cleland, a Vietnam veteran who lost two legs and one arm in the war, was accused of being anti-American; McCain, who has an adopted Bangladeshi daughter, was accused of fathering an illegitimate African-American child. In both of these previous cases and now, too, in the Obama case, the unidentified accusers are incapable of mounting a substantive issues-based campaign against their targets, so instead, the accusers resort to despicable and monumentally false character smears.

Perhaps we can write this off as “politics as usual.” Sure, this is what hardball politics has come to in the United States. But we owe it to ourselves and to each other to put an end to this type of politics and instead engage in a new kind of politics. Instead of politics of fear, let us embrace politics of hope.

Please, in the future, instead of spreading lies and validating shameless fear tactics, spread truth; spread hope. This country and this world could use a heavy dose of both.

Celebrate 2008 in Jail

Because we’re all crooks according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), our music overlords. In a brief dated 7 December 2007, a lawyer for the RIAA argues that copying music from a legally purchased CD to the purchaser’s personal computer amounts to a “unauthorized copy.”

Back in 2004, recording labels started placing the new FBI Anti-piracy warning on CDs:

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Interesting, though, that no one bothers to explicitly define what an “unauthorized reproduction” is. The RIAA website, the brief above, and one other specific site the RIAA FAQ section links to simply mentions “unauthorized” copying, but conveniently neglects to define it. RIAA Faq section:

11. How is downloading music different from copying a personal CD?Record companies have never objected to someone making a copy of a CD for their own personal use. We want fans to enjoy the music they bought legally. But both copying CDs to give to friends and downloading music illegally rob the people who created that music of compensation for their work. […]

For more on what the law says about copying CDs, click HERE

Clicking on “HERE” leads you to this site. From MusicUnited:

It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes. It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) but, again, not for commercial purposes.Beyond that, there’s no legal “right” to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:

  • The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own
  • The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use in fact, it’s illegal to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.

More covering-their-asses obfuscation: “won’t usually raise concerns.” But this statement from MusicUnited directly contradicts the December RIAA brief. Our copying-to-our-computer-for-personal-usage (like uploading music on an iPod) nonetheless amounts to “unauthorized” copying, thus apparently USUALLY raising a concern.

It seems to me that the RIAA’s crusade against personal usage amounts to ice sculpting with your fingernails. Illegal downloading is going to continue, but the RIAA should pursue legal action against the companies and websites that facilitate this and the heavy downloaders who engage in this (not those who shared 24 songs). To pretend that legal copying for personal use is “concerning” is just as dangerous as it is ridiculous.

Bottled Controversy

bottled water

Think that bottle of water you’re drinking is healthy for you? That depends on your definition of healthy. From Time Magazine:

The [National Resources Defense Council] estimates that 4,000 tons of CO2 is generated each year the equivalent of the emissions of 700 cars by importing bottled water from Fiji, France and Italy, three of the biggest suppliers to the U.S.The pollution of the skies is matched by the trash left underfoot. Fewer than a quarter of plastic bottles are recycled, leaving 2 billion lbs. (900 million kg) a year to clog landfills.

2 billion pounds of plastic bottles. 2 billion. How much does an empty plastic bottle weigh? Not much, so think about how many empty plastic bottles make up 2 billion pounds.

ABC News quotes Allen Hershkowitz of the NRDC:

It’s ironic that on some of the labels of the bottles, you see snow-capped mountains and glaciers when in fact the production of the bottle is contributing to global warming, which is melting those snowcaps and those glaciers.

The Pacific Institute, an environmental group, has more jaw-dropping statistics at their website. For instance, the price of a cubic meter of water of California tap water was $0.50 in 2003; the same amount of bottled water in California would have cost $995 in 2003.

But bottled water is healthier than tap water, right? Not according to the NRDC, quoted by National Geographic:

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which carried out a four-year review of the bottled water industry, concluded “there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle, it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap.”The New York City-based action group added that an estimated 25 percent of bottled water is “really just tap water in a bottle sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”

So how do you weigh the supposed health benefits of bottled water? The water inside the bottle may not be any different than straight tap water; the price you pay for a bottle of water is hundreds-of-times more expensive than tap water, forcing you to throw money away; the cost to the environment from the level of garbage amassed by bottled water is staggering what’s healthy about producing more garbage; and what’s healthy about using more and more oil in a world over-consuming this volatile and non-renewable natural resource? Bottled water has received tremendous hype for being healthier than regular tap water, but all the hype can’t match the reality.

What can we do, though, to help solve, or at least curb, the problem? A greater encouragement of consuming filtered tap water over bottled water would be a start. Another action: greater structured and incentivized municipal recycling programs. What better way to get people motivated to do something than offer them money in return. Several states already do this. More need to. And why can we only recycle plastics labeled with a 1 or a 2? How much plastic is thrown away each year labeled with a 3, 4, or 5?

If something isn’t done, and done quickly and smartly, we’re not only throwing away our bottles and our money, we’re throwing away our future.

(Photo: James Meyer / Stock.xchange)

Tiptoeing in the Right Direction

Michigan wants to move its Democratic primary to 15 Jan 2008, one day after the Iowa caucuses and before Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. In addition, the Florida primary is on the same day as South Carolina, 29 January. The DNC has decided to strip Florida of all its delegates, and is encouraging presidential candidates not to campaign in Michigan or any other state that holds a primary or caucus before “the four”: IA, NV, NH, and SC. Richardson, Biden, Dodd, and now Edwards and Obama have signed the pledge not to campaign in Michigan and any other like-state.

I wrote a while ago on the dangers of the primary schedule we face next year. It is encouraging to see some body with power fighting back against this system that has spiraled out of control. More, however, needs to be done.

Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign manager and member of the rules and bylaws committee of the Democratic National Committee, writes in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on why Florida was stripped of its delegates and that the system needs a massive overhaul for the future. Quote:

Our nominating process is supposed to yield the best possible candidates for the most powerful position in the world. Unfortunately for all of us, it is a deeply flawed system in desperate need of reform. Recent proposals to create a regional rotation system in 2012, or the “Delaware Plan” to allow smaller states to go first, should be on the table for discussion starting this fall.

As we begin to contemplate the calendar for 2012, and the rules that will govern that process, both major parties must craft a system that makes sense for voters and candidates. We can begin by setting a reasonable starting date I suggest the time when the snow gives way to tulips and daffodils. We can make sure the nominating schedule does not unfairly favor the rock stars of politics. And we must make sure the campaign finance laws allow more than just the candidates with deep pockets and ties to big donors to be competitive.

That last statement in her article is becoming more and more concerning. From the NYTimes blog:

[…] to campaign in large states like Michigan and Florida, while also stumping in the approved early states, would probably require significant ad buys in expensive media markets. The campaigns of Senators Obama and Clinton may be able to afford that the others can’t, regardless of strategic priorities for either retail politics or mass messaging.

Any overhaul of the primary schedule in the future MUST be met with overhauls in campaign finance. Not just reforms. Overhauls. So far in this election cycle, all the presidential candidates have raised a combined total of just under $300 million. There is absolutely no reason this amount of money needs to be collected, and certainly not this early into the cycle.

The Founding Fathers certainly didn’t envision nor want running for political office, and surely not running for president, to be about who can raise the most money. Running for office is supposed to be about the most qualified candidate, regardless of anything else.

Unfortunately, gone are the days when just anyone could decide to run for office. Now you need money, money, and more money. In today’s system, only those with money or those with connections to money can run and win. A very sad reality, one which will likely get worse, because money is power. Those with money have the power. Those without want it.

Until Congress and the major political parties can wake up and act on both the primary system and campaign finance, we’ll continue living in the same corrupted system, a system bankrolled by millionaires, corporations, and other wealthy, politically-inclined organizations.

Best Title Sequence Oscar

What makes a great film? Is it the director? The producers? The acting, the screenplay, or the music? No one thing can make a film great by itself. A great film is made from successes in every area, from behind the camera, in front of it, and beyond it. From the moment the film begins, the audience should be captivated, drawn-in, and thirsting for more. What in film is the first thing the audience sees — the first thing to capture the audience or the last thing before leaving the theater? The titles.

Most film title sequences are simply text over image or a colored background, but more and more films today are employing slick graphics, illustrations, and motion to move the audience through the list of names and titles. These elaborate pieces of art are highly capable of standing alone from their films, but placed in context with the film, the titles elevate the experience for the audience.

Film titling is an art form onto itself with a history to back it up. This art form, unfortunately, has gone largely unrecognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just as lighting, costumes, and sound provide integral components to a film, so do title sequences. While makeup artists, film editors, and song composers garner accolades for their artistry, creators of title sequences are overlooked. This travesty must be rectified by the Academy by inclusion of an Oscar for Best Title Sequence.

Since 1997, the Emmy Awards, given out by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, have included a similar category Outstanding Main Title Design. The work created for many of the television programs nominated in this category has been on par with title sequences created for films. The television academy has realized the importance of including this award. Why has the motion picture academy not done the same?

Historically, the Academy has been famously stubborn about adding new categories. In the last twenty-five years, only two categories have been added Best Makeup in 1981 and Best Animated Feature in 2000.

For whatever reason, the Academy shuts out film artists who positively contribute to films year after year and deserve its recognition.

Having an award for Best Title Sequence can only do great things for the industry and for films in general. Honor the past, recognize the present, inspire the future. The historical groundings of the title sequence and the industry’s pioneers, like Saul Bass, Pablo Ferro, and Maurice Binder, would finally be properly honored; current artists would garner the recognition they deserve; and an Oscar would also highlight this growing art form and inspire and give incentive to push the limits even more. What is more inspiring to push creativity and technical constraints than the potential at winning an Oscar and the recognition that comes with it?

Having an Oscar for Best Title Sequence is the right thing to do to honor the history and creative aspects of this art form. While films like “Psycho” and “Se7en” could have survived without their title sequences, both films would have lacked a crucial and creative way to set the films’ moods and entice the audiences while introducing the cast and crew of each film.

The Emmys have their act together. Now it’s time for the Oscars.

A Gap the Size of the Grand Canyon

The gap between how much CEOs of companies receive in compensation versus how much everyone else receives continues to grow to alarming and outright ridiculous proportions.

United for a Fair Economy has published their annual report entitled “Executive Excess 2007.” Quote:

Last year, CEOs of major U.S. companies collected as much money from one day on the job as average workers made over the entire year. These CEOs averaged $10.8 million in total compensation, according to an Associated Press survey of 386 Fortune 500 companies, the equivalent of over 364 times the pay of an average American worker.

ceo pay increase

I realize CEOs have very important and often tough jobs, but this is outrageous. Same thing with professional athletes. Why anyone deserves or needs this super exaggerated compensation is utterly beyond me.

This is especially true when the CEO receiving this gross compensation is head of a company that’s tanking. Take Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally, for example. For only FOUR MONTHS work, he received a grand total of $28 million. $28 MILLION! Quote:

Struggling Ford Motor Co., which posted a record $12.7 billion net loss in 2006, gave its new CEO Alan Mulally $28 million for four months on the job. […]

The details of the compensation packages and costs come as Ford moves ahead with plans to close plants and cut more than 30,000 hourly positions from the company in an effort to stem losses.

“Stem losses”? How about lose the CEO? There’s a start.

Let the Sunshine In

sun

Burning fossil fuels and coal to produce energy no doubt have an impact on global warming. Being dependent on foreign oil to produce gasoline for our vehicles no doubt has an impact on our national security. So why is there not a serious, all-out push for new power and fuel sources? I’m not too sure there really is a solid answer to that question.

What I don’t understand is that we have a huge, gaseous body beating energy down at us every day and we’re not seriously tapping into this free, clean, and uber-renewable source of energy. From The New York Times:

But for all the enthusiasm about harvesting sunlight, some of the most ardent experts and investors say that moving this energy source from niche to mainstream last year it provided less than 0.01 percent of the country’s electricity supply is unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon.

Even a quarter century from now, says the Energy Department official in charge of renewable energy, solar power might account for, at best, 2 or 3 percent of the grid electricity in the United States.

Within 8 years we made a pledge to put a man on the moon and fulfilled that pledge; in 5 years we made a commitment to building atomic weapons and we did it. The need for alternative energy is massively apparent. Why can’t we commit ourselves to a massive, Manhattan-Project-esque research venture to achieve this need? The sun has been shining; we’re just not letting it in.

The Dream Goes On

us flag

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

By changing only a handful of words throughout Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the address can still be relevant to modern times. By honoring those who have gone before us and those who have given the last full measure of devotion in support and defense of this nation, we can rise up to meet their sacrifices and restore hope in our mighty American Dream.

There are a great many problems facing this nation today. There are a great many people around the world who would wish ill on this nation today. And there are a great many reasons to feel all hope is lost.

But the most wonderful aspect about our nation is that the United States is more than tangible things. It’s more than bricks and mortar. It’s more than the computers, the corn fields, and the cars that all sustain the material world we know.

America is about people, about resiliency, about ideas. Yes, we are today experiencing rough times both at home and abroad. We look into the past and see golden times and then look at what we have today and see downtrodden times. But the beauty that is American is in the American Dream. The real bricks and mortar of America is an idea. The idea of equality; the idea of success; the idea of hope. Hope that one day things will get better.

When the nation gets lost in the woods, the idea returns us to a safe path. When we are wandering aimlessly looking for the light switch, the idea shows us the light. The idea reasons with us that no matter how bad things are or how bad we think things will become, the American Dream is bigger than any one person or any one problem.

Evil-doers may destroy buildings, cars, forests, markets, or houses, but they cannot destroy the American Dream. The dream goes on. And that’s what makes this country great.

Happy Independence Day.

(Photo: Andrea Church / MorgueFile)

Morally Opposed

I heard this story on NPR on the drive home today: the Bush Administration is manipulating science. While I was listening to the story, I thought to myself that I’ve heard this before about the administration. So when I got home, I decided to do some digging. Well, a quick search on The Internets came up with these stories:

Quote from the last article:

In my more than three decades in the government I’ve never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public.

James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2006

Why is the Bush Administration seemingly at war with science? Simply because they don’t believe in science? This not only is shockingly irresponsible but it’s alarmingly dangerous. We’re talking about the future of our planet and life on it.

This reminds me of other service professionals refusing to do their job because they have a moral objection to something: pharmacists who deny customers birth control. I understand that not everyone can agree with everything and everyone else’s opinions, but if you refuse to do your job, that’s stepping way over the line, as that Slate article rightfully illustrates. Quote:

But if a pharmacist doesn’t have to dispense birth control, or an EMT can refuse to drive someone to an abortion clinic, or a nurse can refuse a rape victim emergency contraception, none of us can really trust in the professionals around us at those moments when we need them the most.

So let me put this in perspective with myself. I abhor Internet Explorer because of its developers’ refusal to follow web standards. You might say I’m morally opposed to it. So as a web designer/developer, does that mean I can refuse to cater to viewers of my sites who are using IE? Does that mean I can embed some script that detects if my users are browsing with IE and instead of showing them my site show them some heinous personal message lecturing them on why they shouldn’t be using IE? Absolutely not.

Do I hate that people use IE? Yes. Do I still serve them with a begrudging smile? Of course. Do I wish they were using something other than IE? You bet. My job, like pharmacists and government officials, is to serve my customers. I may not like what they like or even believe in what they believe in, but that’s not what I’m here for, and it’s certainly not what service professionals and government officials are there for.