Archive | Politics RSS feed for this section

Thinking About Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich

21 Aug
Ron Paul

Ron Paul


I have seen the posts of friends on Facebook bemoaning the fact that Ron Paul is not getting much media attention, given his fervent fan base. And while I agree with those who say that he is not being covered because he doesn’t have a chance of winning the Republican nomination, I also believe that Ron Paul brings a perspective to the national conversation that is worth hearing. I think he and left-wing firebrand Dennis Kucinich are very similar. They both speak their minds consistently, with no regard to how it will play in the national media. And neither man has the slightest chance of winning national office.

Dennis Kucinich was one of the last Democratic Representatives to sign on to the healthcare reform bill. He was unwilling until the last moment to support the signature legislative achievement of the Democratic President because the plan was not what he wanted- single payer health care. I know that many on the left applaud him for his deep convictions, but he is someone who always proposes the noble idea and yet has very few legislative achievements to his name. I looked into it, and while I have found examples of his convictions in his dissenting votes against the Patriot Act and the Iraq War resolution, he has achieved very little.

Interestingly, he and Ron Paul were the only Congressmen to vote no on the Rothman-Kirk resolution, which called on the UN to condemn Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his statements. So the two mavericks coincide in some areas. Ron Paul has a similar track record of infuriating his Republican colleagues by frequently voting against his party. He has presented a host of bills, most of which do not make it out of committee, such as abolishing the income tax or the Federal Reserve; this year he has co-sponsored a bill with Barney Frank to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.  Paul garners much affection among his admirers for voicing opposition to a muscular foreign policy and promoting a smaller government. Yet I cannot help but look at the records of these two men and see two mouthpieces who have accomplished little.

Perhaps my resistance to posturing that leads nowhere is one reason why I am still a strong Obama supporter. I know that he has been criticized vocally on both the left and the right for not doing things as they would like. But he has an incredibly strong record of achievement for just two, almost three years into his presidency. The website What the Fuck Has Obama Done So Far provides a handy shortcut to listing all of his accomplishments to date. Healthcare reform, financial regulation, troop withdrawals from Iraq, and many more achievements which mostly required, yes, COMPROMISE. The ugly leadup to passage of the healthcare reform bill was ugly, but at least the President left things in the hands of Congress. I admire politicians who are savvy enough to do what it takes to achieve a track record of accomplishment, leaving the system in better shape and improving the lives of ordinary people, even in just small ways. So Congressmen Paul and Kucinich can lead their followers as much as they’d like. I’ll take a doer, thank you very much.

Intactivists, MGM and Happy Meal Toys in San Francisco

8 Jun
Crying Baby

Crying Baby

Don’t get me wrong, I love San Francisco. I am fortunate enough to live in a picturesque city teeming with art,music, culture, and positive people. But the positive people who inhabit this city often propose- sometimes adopt- well-meaning but over-reaching social engineering measures. Last year, Supervisor Eric Mar did his part to combat childhood obesity by banning the sale of toys with Happy Meals. No other chain restaurant was targeted- so, presumably, while McDonald’s serves up French fries to little ones with no free toy, Mom can take her kids to 7-11, Walgreen’s, or any other place where sticky, sweet food can be bought with a toy, and cheap. Residents of the city can only look at legislative “accomplishments” like this and sigh. The buses are creaky, old and run late; the streets are dirty; and the cost of living is skyrocketing.  And yet, the Board of Supervisors can get together and agree on one thing: Happy Meal toys.

Well, no need to worry, this time it is not the Board of Supervisors but a group of intactivists who are against MGM that have successfully managed to put a measure on the November 2011 ballot to BAN circumcision. I’ll help decipher the lingo for you: intactivists are those who are trying to keep young boys’ foreskins from getting snipped, and MGM is not just a movie studio- those who see male circumcision as a serious offense consider it to be male genital mutilation. Yikes.

Reasonable may agree to disagree as to the health and hygiene benefits of circumcising an infant boy, but to make the act illegal is an astonishing act of overreaching. Forget nightclub scuffles in North Beach or gang activity in the Mission- no, the police will be devoting their resources to fining the performers of circumcisions up to $1,000. and yes, circumcision is not just a hygienic practice, it is kind of a respected cultural tradition in the Jewish faith. Would the supporters of this measuere really want to single out this community for a practice it has performed for centuries? If you suspected anti-semitism behind this effort, clearly you’ve seen the comic produced by its supporters, featuring a blond anti-circumcision hereo and, yikes, Monster Mohel.

I sincerely hope that San Francisco voters will defeat this proposal at the ballot box in November. And if this happens, I hope it will send the message that dictating what parents buy their children and what they decide to do to the bodies of their infant sons does not fall under the purview of City Hall. Call me naive, but perhaps we could focus on affordable housing and Muni first?

Happy Meal[/caption]

Support the IAVA

27 May


This weekend is Memorial Day, the unofficial start to the summer, a three-day weekend to enjoy the nice weather, and maybe enjoy some grilled meats. But the Monday we have off from work also is meant to honor those who have died in military service to the country.

Unfortunately, my generation has been indelibly touched by war. I know some who have served, and I can’t even begin to imagine what they saw while serving abroad.  Admittedly, I have a friend who described his mission as being mostly boring- sitting around watching DVDs and playing video games during long stretches of not having much to do.

So on this holiday weekend when we observe those who have passed, let’s also remember the veterans who came home (hey, it’s a long time until Veteran’s Day). The I.A.V.A., the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, is a great non-profit started by  Paul Rieckhoff, an Amherst grad who still serves as the Executive Director.  I.A.V.A. advocates for better access to mental health, expanded G.I. bills, and career services for vets, among many other services.  Most of all, the organization provides a community for returned vets. Maybe this Memorial Day, take a moment to learn about what they do, and maybe donate a few bucks.

The Next Few Days in U.S. Israel Relations

23 May


Tomorrow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address both houses of the U.S. Congress in a rare joint session. This honor is not granted to many foreign heads of state, and Netanyahu is speaking to Congress at a critical juncture in Middle Eastern history. The popular uprisings in the Arab world began in Tunisia, moved west of Israel to Egypt, and are now roiling that other large player in the region, Syria, among others (one could argue that the uprisings really began in Iran in 2009, but let’s focus on the most recent uprisings).

Israel faces the prospect of no longer being the only democracy in the region when Egypt holds elections later this year.  Hopefully, Bashar Assad, the Michael Corleone of the Arab World, will step aside soon and Syria will also begin the process of holding truly democratic elections. When the Palestinian territories held elections in 2006, Fatah won control of the West Bank, and a majority of Gazan voters elected…Hamas. The recent alliance between the two parties simply adds to the momentous occurrences in the Middle East this year, paving the way for a peace agreement between Israel and a united Palestinian leadership.

And yet. President Obama’s statement last week that any peace process must include Hamas’ recognition of Israel’s right to exist received little fanfare. His admonition of Palestine’s efforts to receive recognition as a state at the U.N., thus sparing Israel global embarrassment, went similarly unnoticed.  It was the President’s suggestion that negotiations be based on borders based on the land seized in the 1967 war- with “mutually agreed land swaps”- that proved so contentious.  Never mind that this was the policy of the previous two administrations, as well as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

So what is Netanyahu’s goal as he addresses Congress? I will be watching with interest.  And I have to say that I agree with the writer Jeffrey Goldberg when he wrote, “Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please Don’t Speak to My President That Way”.  Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he “expected” the President to walk back the 1967 remarks. These are strong words coming from an ally that relies heavily on the U.S. for aid. I will be curious what tone the Israeli Prime Minister takes with Congress.  Hopefully a more respectful one.

A Singular Woman

11 May
Ann Dunham and Barack Obama

Ann Dunham and Barack Obama

Tonight I attended an author event at Book Passage at the Ferry Building featuring Janny Scott, who spoke about her new biography of the President’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. A Singular Woman is an examination of the woman who was frequently reduced to the “white woman from Kansas” on the campaign trail.

Scott applies a journalist’s rigorous research skills and objectivity to the life of a woman who is very difficult to define.  I couldn’t help but think of the value of this biography to future biographers of President Obama.  Scott has spoken with the man who was the house servant in the home of the Soetoro family in Jakarta.When that man dies, his first person knowledge of the President’s childhood will be lost.  In compiling all of these accounts, she provides a useful resource for better understanding the woman who had the most influence on shaping her son’s outlook and character.

I’ll admit that I often found it hard to understand how a woman could separate herself from her young son and choose finishing her PHD over raising her son. But I’m not a mother, and I can’t even begin to fathom what it took for her to choose a stable environment and quality education for her son over being with him.  Sacrificing is what mothers do.  I am eager to read this book and read of what other qualities this singular woman possessed.