Archive for the ‘ politics ’ Category

Answer key for the November 2016 ballot

OK, folks, time to prepare our crib sheets for the big test on November 8th–or to fill out our mail-in ballots.

This is my semi-regular voting guidance for people who want to vote like Bay Area lesbian musician tech nerd manager consultant progressive types. As you’ll see below, I’m puzzled in plenty of places—please advise.

img_4776First, let’s take stock of the challenge. Voting in California–as in Chicago–is not for wimps. This is advanced citizenship. Kaja shown for scale.

Now let’s talk voter disenfranchisement:

img_4777

WTH? Are they discriminating against fountain pen users?

No, probably not. Apparently, the real message is not “use ballpoints” but “use black or blue ink, but not a Sharpie,” because Sharpies can bleed through the paper and make the back side hard to scan, thus invalidating a whole ballot. In California, we have thick cardstock ballots, so it’s probably not an issue. I’m using my fountain pen. So there. A Visconti Homo Sapiens bronze extra fine filled with Visconti black ink, if anyone cares.

Ballot the first: party-nominated offices

President and Vice President

Have you not been paying attention? Hillary. She’s the adult in this race. She’s also wicked smart and progressive. She’s been working almost her entire life on civil rights, women and children’s issues, family issues, and all the other good progressive causes. Hillary starts with a capital H and that rhymes with H and that stands for Health care–which children have thanks to her good work as First Lady and policy advisor in the 1990s. As President she’ll work to fix some of the gaps in Obamacare, which does have some serious problems–Bernie was right about that, and Hillary agreed with him. They differed on how to fix it, but no sane adult would argue that any of the other candidates for Leader of the World on this ballot would be better for health care than Hillary.

She’s also better on all the other issues. She’s not perfect on lots of them, but she’s pragmatic and smart, she has a good track record of doing her homework, listening to all sides, and looking for common ground to write policies that will pass. She screws up sometimes. Maybe too often. But she also listens, learns, and adjusts. On that point, too, she is better than all the alternatives.

And: Hillary! Yeah. About damn time. Why? It’s 2016.

Senator

Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris are both good choices. Pick your favorite. When in doubt, go with the woman.

Oops! Both women.

When in doubt, go with the minority.

Oops! Both minorities. Sanchez is Latina. Harris is African American.

When in doubt, go with the one wh…

Ah, screw it. I like Kamala Harris. She did good work as District Attorney of San Francisco and as Attorney General of California. She’s smart and works hard. Her sister is one of Hillary’s policy advisors. Good enough for Governor Moonbeam is good enough for me. I’m voting for Kamala.

Loretta’s good, too. Kamala’s generally considered to be more progressive, Sanchez more moderate.

I’ll miss Barbara Boxer.

U.S. House, District 13

Barbara Lee! See above. And may I remind you, she was the one person who had the courage and the sense to vote against Dubya’s rush to war in Iraq? (Yeah, Hillary screwed that one up. She had a reasonable argument, not that anyone has paid attention to it, and she’s the first to agree that it turns out to have been a mistake.)

State Senator, District 9

Nancy Skinner vs Sandré Swanson. Tough one. Really close on all the issues; both are strong choices. White woman vs. African American man: see above, “when in doubt, go with the woman.” I’m going with her, but he’s a worthy choice. Robert Reich likes her. So does our awesome Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Works for me.

State Assembly, District 15

Tony Thurmond, male Democrat, vs. Claire Chiara, female Republican. Supposedly he’s a progressive, but he’s kind of meh. Meh.

Superior Court Judge, Office #1

These are hard. Scott Jackson gets a slight nod from the Green Party voter guide and DailyKos.

Peralta Board, Area 6

Oy. Trans-man vs. woman. Hard to tell apart. Greens say Weinstein mainly because Resnick did not return a questionnaire and because his Facebook page suggests leanings toward charter schools. Weinstein.

AC Transit, Director at Large

Geez. Why is this an elected office? Greens say Peeples has done a lot of good but they complain about his boongdoggle with a Van Hool bus purchase and give a nod to Dollene Jones “with reservations.” Oy. But when in doubt, women. And when in doubt, black over white. Three votes for Dollene.

AC Transit, Director, Ward 2

Oy again. Seriously, does anyone have advice on this mess?

BART Board, District 3

Rebecca Saltzman. Progressive who’s learning. Varun Paul is a Green that the Green party has issues with–among which, an infatuation with Uber and Lyft. Nuh-uh. Uber is evil, Lyft is close. And when in doubt, vote for the woman.

East Bay Regional Park District, Ward 2

First, can I just point out that I’m in District 13, District 9, District 15, Office #1, Area 6, District 2, District 3, and District 2 already, and I’m just finishing up my first ballot? I’m telling you, voting in California is not for wimps.

Take your choice of Rosario or Jones-Taylor.

I’m going with Jones-Taylor and the goats. She says,

“The risk of wildfires and the need to retain native plant diversity from the onslaught of nonnative plants is real. A great deal of this effort can be accomplished with hand crews from various Conservation Corp programs, volunteer work days like we did in the city of Oakland. I support non pesticide uses whenever possible, this includes a carefully managed goat grazing program, until we are able to come up with the proper means and funding to remove all the non native trees and plants. I do support limited pest/herbicide use as a spot effort on certain stumps to prevent sprouting of additional non native trees. One of the ideas I intend to really look into is the plan that phases the removal over time in an effective way to replaces nonnative plants like eucalyptus with native plant communities that existed before the eucalyptus sprouted, as what has already occurred in the Claremont Canyon. I have looked into this and at the present time it is cost prohibitive. I am interested in having a more in-depth looks at the overall cost and seeking outside funding to assist in the implementation and removal of the nonnative trees. What I am clear about is that we cannot afford to not take action.” [Green questionnaire responses]

Ballot the second: Measures submitted to the voters.

As I wrote in November 2010:

Fasten your seatbelts. The propositions are where democracy is at its most challenging in California. Holy crap, I hate our so-called voter initiative process. Let’s face it, most of the propositions are so poorly worded that it’s hard to figure out how to vote even after you’ve figured out how you feel about the issue. Most of them address things our Assembly is too wimpy to do, more badly than even the Assembly could manage to do them. Most of them are heavily funded by massive corporations who do not have the needs of California citizens in mind.

So, my first rule is always: when in doubt, not just no, but hell no.Now let’s struggle through each one of them.

No. I can’t even. Let’s start with some progressive voter guides. This one summarizes advice from all the left wing organizations: https://couragevoterguide.org, and the ones they make seem clear are:

51 yesimg_4779
52 yes
53 no
55 yes
56 yes
57 yes
58 yes
59 yes
60 no

But, wait–WTF?! How could there be so many yes propositions? Propositions suck. Do we have to dig in after all? Crap.

51. Greens say no. Gov Moonbeam says no. My rule says no. The yes people are backing Big Real Estate. No.

52. Yeah, no. The supposedly nonpartisan ballot.fyi says yes, reports that “Before we explain anything, you should know that the only group that opposed this measure withdrew its opposition and switched from ‘opposed’ to ‘neutral.’ So at this point, no group opposes the measure, and it is very widely supported,” and clinches the deal for me by mentioning “Note: we intentionally omit the official arguments/rebuttals found in the official voter guide. We believe they exaggerate claims, mislead through emotions, and use ALL CAPS irresponsibly.” I am not in favor of irresponsible caps. Yes.

53. Just no. Requires more voter involvement in spending money, and if there’s anything we know, it’s that people vote against taxes, which means nothing ever gets done because people are more worried about saving 50 cents a year in taxes than they have ever worried about how much they spend every day on cigarettes, coffee, and junk food. Not just no, hell no.

54. Sounds like BS to me. It’s a proposition. When in doubt, not just no, hell no.

55. Everyone says yes on taxing the rich to pay for education and healthcare, including the Greens. OK.

56. Cigarette tax to fund… well, who even cares what? As long as it’s not Donald Trump’s campaign fund, I’m in favor of taxing cigarettes, because higher taxes mean fewer kids start smoking. Been proven over and over again. Yes.

57. Parole on non-violent sentences. Everyone says yes, and we all know that the private prisons for profit situation has led to lots of stupid imprisonment and racially unbalanced sentencing. Yes.

58. English proficiency. Whoa! This one is tricky. That title suggests that it’s racist BS, but that’s to trick racists into voting yes. It’s really about bilingual education, which is good. Yes.

59. Repeal Citizens United. Not just yes, hell yes.

60. Adult films, condoms. First, let’s enjoy that the Greens advise, “Very strange, you decide.” Pause to enjoy. And then, “The porn industry and many outspoken performers have opposed stiffer standards at every turn.” Dunno. Seems like a good idea, but it also risks destroying the California porn film industry. Is that good? Dunno, you decide, very strange.

61. State prescription drug purchases. Uff da.

62. Repeal the death penalty? Well, duh. Yes. Are you pro life? Vote yes. Are you pro choice? Vote yes. Do you believe in science? Vote yes. Are you humane? Vote yes.

63. Firearms, ammunition sales. The hell? Seems good but exempts retired cops. Propositions create bad laws that are hard to clean up. Hell no.

64. Marijuana legalization. Dude!

65. Carryout bags. Greens say “Out-of-state manufacturers of flimsy single-use plastic bags are trying to confuse California voters.” California Porgressive gives it 3 red Xes. Remember rule one about propositions: Hell no.

66. Speed up the death penalty. Hell no.

67. Ban on single-use plastic bags. Yes. This one is opposed by Big Plastic. What more do you need to know?

Uff da.

Two ballots down. Two more to go.

There might not be enough Scotch in my house.

A1. Alameda affordable housing bond. Sounds good but looks dodgy. Rule 1. Hell no.

G1. Parcel tax for art, music, languages, blah blah. Yes.

HH. The soda tax or the grocery tax, depending on which propaganda you read. Yes. It’s only a start, but it’s a start.

II. Increase of maximum lease term. Oy AND uff da. Beats the spit out of me.

JJ. Something something rent control. Just yes.

KK. Fix potholes. Yeah.

LL. Police commission oversight. The Oakland police chief scandals one through ninety-eight have been a bit of an embarrassment. Our awesome Mayor Libby Schaaf is in favor. I’m with her.

C1. More frakking AC Transit yada yada. Uff da. Oy. Taxes for transit. OK, I guess.

RR. BART something something. Yeah, all right.

Ballot the fourth! And final!

Nonpartisan offices. My ass.

City Council, At Large

Ranked voting, thank god. Peggy, Rebecca, and Matt are the reasonable answers. Vote your conscience in deciding how to rank them.

img_4778img_4780Origami. Our ballots come with folding instructions. Which do not specify whether to tear off the stubs at the top. I’m assuming the perforation is there for a reason. The ballots themselves say to detach and keep in two languages. All righty, then.

Return address, stuff, lick, seal, sign, stamp.

Additional postage required. Is this a poll tax? How much? The county knows how much paper they sent me; why can’t they just provide the answer? It’s two stamps. I have a kitchen scale. I’m not afraid to use it.

Don’t forget to fill in a return address and sign the back.

In the land of the olive orchards

I’ve been visiting the cave of the Sun Goddess in the land of the Olive Orchards. Vikings do things like that. Spend time. Get to know the natives. Borrow their best recipes. Learn the language. But this time, it’s a language made up of throat-clearing. Hairballs, and microscopic curly squiggles where some tidy angles would do nicely, and the like. My phlegm can’t get organized around the language at all.

The cave is snug, and I feel like Leif Eriksson. Need to set my legs and head aside in order to get through openings intact. Everywhere I turn is a door-knocker waiting to take out my forehead, a low passageway ready to bang my skull, a stack of chairs ready to grab my long, ski-like feet. The wine glasses hold four tablespoons, and the mugs are colorful, delicate things that hold barely enough water for me to gargle.

Everything’s dark and red and layered. Textiles everywhere; on the floors, on the walls, piled on the furniture, under the other textiles; the doors wear tassles, and the table gets a rug, a schmatte, a placemat, and another placemat. Mediterranean eclectic or with a capital E as well. Humble, worn, and warm. Layers of paint, and blood. Even the leather is green, and purple. Speckled porcelain tin plates.

Vikings love such places. New lands to conquer, new peoples to seduce. Cultural identity on every surface. And in the fridge and freezer. The Sun Goddess knows who she is. She celebrates her identity. Maintains it in this Jewish Diaspora, and then goes and learns a few strains of Arabic besides—they’re all dark and warm and hairy and short, right? Even her tattoos speak to her identity. The alphabets on her divine hand. Her—well, her everything.

In this, she’s just like me.

But I’m a tall Nordic person. With sleek Scandinavian modern in my house. And beige Nordic foods. Like lefse (potato flatbread) and bockwurst (pork and veal sausage). Doesn’t get any paler than that.

We both eat gravet laks, however.

So. Here’s the deal. Vikings are committed for the long haul, despite the impossible throat-clearing. But what we want is to immerse in the other in her native ecosystem. That would be: delight in the warmth of the dark-haired, dark-eyed ones. Participant/colonization in the cave of the Olive Oil Peoples. I mean, how lucky can you get to have a gig like that? I myself am used to shoveling snow. Tall skiers. Not that dissimilar from me.

While we Vikings have long observed that there are no pure cultures (or not any more, at least) (and likely never were) (other seafarers, and all) (and trade) (etc etc) this comes as close to anywhere I’ve been to studying an intact culture.

And, miracle of miracles—she’s basically doing the same with me.

Mutual exotification.

She laughs when I call her exotic. She’s more used to hegemonic. Brunette and brown eyes and olive skin and olive oil and all that goes with it. Brass trays and ibriqs and gardening and harvesting. And long black sleeves and long black legs no matter how hot it gets. And Jewish of a certain persuasion. In my book, she’s a rare species of a fish.

I laugh when she calls me exotic. I feel more the snow-belt norm. Pale. And blonde. With good akevit. We Vikings ought to stick together, right? But no. I’m drawn to the Sun Goddess.

You know the old adage. It’s straight out of the sagas. Kristin Lavransdatter. Get the lilting tones right; they sound like your boat pitching and rolling and yawing in the wintry seas.

It’s a good thing when you don’t dare do something if you don’t think it’s right. But it’s not good when you think something’s not right because you don’t dare do it.

Because:

Good days can last a long time if one tends to things with care and caution.

We’re okay, if she’s the native and I’m the Viking. We’re okay, if the Sun Goddess’s making her yaprakas to bring along whither the tall Nordic adventuring goes.

But not build a home together?

Preserve and weaken pure systems?

The only way to even approach life is with an understated sense of humor. Wry, inscrutable grins, and a mischievous appreciation for the dramatic, exotic, differently-neurotic ones. Celebrate diversity and all that. Syncretism. Heterosis. Mix it up and depurify.

It’s the dream I had when I first learned about charoset and matzohbrei. College, as I recall.

All the people of the world would blend together. No more pure-blooded high foreheads. No more this-sea-is-my-sea/that-sea-is-your-sea. Hoist the sails, get rowing, mix it up. And we’d all be merely human.

But that would mean no more zaftig olive oil farmers with audacious noses, no more Sun Goddesses, and no more tall, pale, blue-eyed, blonde-haired Vikings.

I’ve never been able to figure it out. Have appreciated those who know their own identity. Who celebrate the intactness of their heritage, the chosen-ness of their people, the tribal identification of their spices. How wonderful, right? But I’ve admired more those who have the courage to set sail. Not the ones who misunderstand indigenous recipes and make everything beige and sweet. But those who bring together the best of multiple ways—and live it.

I’m balled up inside the argument. Patient at best. Syncretism leads to impossible conglomerations of furniture and way too many tchochkes. But pure systems lead to blandness and alcoholism.

optimism in the face of reason, or: another kaddish for new orleans

Mira wrote about having a grudge against optimism recently in an essay that has left me wandering lost in my own mind. See, I agree with just about everything she wrote. I largely agree with her worldview. But I am a persistent optimist.

I am an optimist in the face of considerable clear evidence that optimism is irrational.

I am the most rational person I know. I am a skeptic. I am an empiricist. I do numbers. I annoy people who ask me what my sign is by responding with a lecture they find humorless (I disagree). Do I do this because I’m a Virgo, or because I have a second-grader’s grasp of how gravity works and can therefore deduce that astrology is horseshit? Yeah, must be because I’m a Virgo.

I think Mira’s right when she lists five faiths driving optimism and abandons each of them as hopelessly fluffy, along with hope itself. I have my own issues with faith. We’ve already been over this (see “on playing kaddish“). Faith is a pretty big deal for Lutherans, but I’ve never had any.

Yet I am an optimist, even though I should know better. The biggest heartaches in my life have followed in the wake of my unshakable certainty that people will do good, choose well, act honorably. I keep managing to forget somehow that healthy people who grew up bathed in unconditional love in functional families are a scant minority, and the far more probable case is that any given individual is too broken to recognize a good choice let alone find the strength to act on it in the face of adversity.

Perhaps this optimism comes from pragmatism. On some level I do realize that many people will disappoint me, frequently, and usually without good reasons, but does it help for me to assume that they will? Does it hurt for me to assume that they will not?

In my management career, I’ve seen people trying hard to meet my expectations, which are high. Yes, they disappoint me frequently, but when they fall, they get back up. They try again. They get better. They surprise themselves—and me—with success.

So, Mira’s #1, faith in others: nope. She’s right; I assume incorrectly when I assume people will do the right thing. I get better results from communicating clearly what I think the right thing is.

In #2, Mira dismisses faith in self in favor of preparation. I think she’s right. Her devastating essay yesterday about the water going out in New Orleans has had me thinking about this:

Chicago, where I used to live, was routinely brought to its knees by less than an inch of snow.

Minneapolis, where I used to live, was routinely undisturbed by a foot of snow.

Jane Byrne famously unseated the incumbent to become Chicago’s mayor for basically one reason: the other guy couldn’t get the snow plowed. He talked about it, though. He’d get on radio and TV and go on and on about how he had all the snow plows out and working overtime, and nobody was quitting until the job was done. And it was true.

The difference? Minneapolis had a lot more snow plows than Chicago.

Preparation.

Which costs money. Taxes are the cost of infrastructure we expect. Disastrous failure of infrastructure we ignore is the price of tax cuts. Minneapolis had a big bridge collapse a few years back, and we’re lucky we haven’t seen a lot more headlines like that one, because not maintaining our interstate highway system is one way we’ve been paying for all those big tax cuts. But I’m getting ahead of myself—this is my lack of faith in society, Mira’s #3.

Back to faith in self, #2: not really. I have a surplus of self-confidence in most of what I do, but that’s only because I either see to it that I’m well prepared or I avoid having anything to do with it. I can walk out on stage and play horn because I’ve worked ridiculously hard at horn since I was nine. I’m not good at sports, so I won’t even watch other people play them. Right—preparation.

Which brings us to #4-5, faith in the planet and universe. Where do I even start? Let’s just say my nocturnal insomnial hours look a lot like Mira’s.

So why am I an optimist?

Let’s go back to Minnesota. And New Orleans.

Thomas Friedman has probably the most depressing beat in journalism, the Middle East, with side trips to economic globalism, and yet he describes himself as an optimist—a description that anyone who follows his column in the New York Times would be hard-pressed to refute. The guy even managed to find cause for hope in Dubya’s plan to get back at Osama bin Laden by bombing Saddam Hussein to kingdom come. I may be an optimist, but that plan had “insane” and “quagmire” written all over it.

Friedman’s explanation for his optimism? He says he grew up in Minneapolis. He describes Minneapolis as a city that works in a state that works, and he thinks that is the source of his enduring optimism that places can work, that politicians can lead, that policies can do good.

I think there might be something to this.

I grew up in the snow belt, too, and I went to college in Minnesota about an hour south of Minneapolis. I found Minnesota politics more interesting, but I always voted absentee in North Dakota, because North Dakota needed my liberal vote a lot more than Minnesota did. Mind you, North Dakota is practically a socialist state, with its own bank and its own mill and elevator (a farm thing—don’t worry about it). At the time it was also the world’s fourth largest nuclear power, or would have been had it seceded from the union, so don’t tell me Reagan wasn’t worried about us liver-lilied liberals up there. But compared to Minnesota? Republican enclave.

Perhaps you’ve forgotten. Reagan was reelected in a “landslide” with all but thirteen electoral votes. I’m not sure how a 59%-41% split of the popular vote could be described as a landslide, or how a candidate that almost half the population couldn’t stand could be considered universally popular, but this isn’t supposed to be an essay about why we need a third political party and ranked-choice voting, so never mind that.

But those thirteen electoral votes that Mondale got?

Minnesota.

The map in 1984 showed the entire United States in red except for Minnesota, wearing a lonely coat of blue up there in the frozen north.

Minnesota is the state that sent Paul Wellstone to the US Senate, may he rest in peace. He was a poli-sci prof at the college across the river from mine. A rumpled tweed sportcoat kind of guy—probably with the elbow patches, even—a thoughtful liberal who made sense, cared about doing good, and quietly stole the election from the shoo-in who paid for it fair and square.

What does all this have to do with optimism?

There is an essential optimism to this kind of consistent progressivism. Linguist George Lakoff argues that progressives lose a lot of elections because conservatives frame politics in selfish, fearful terms where a strict father protects his family against the evils of the outside world. By contrast, progressives frame politics in empathic, positive terms where a nurturing parent teaches children self-discipline so that they can realize their potential and be responsible for others. That second worldview is a whole lot more optimistic, and optimism just doesn’t play as well on TV. Fear sells. Nurturance is wimpy.

Minnesota was a place, though, where that optimism crowded fear out. Perhaps I’m an optimist because I, like Thomas Friedman, grew up in that place that worked.

I think long winters and all that snow had something to do with it, too. You don’t get through six months of below-zero temperatures on your own. As Mira knew to share water in the Sahara, I knew that “neighbor” is the person whose sidewalk also needs to be shoveled out before you go back inside to warm up, and whose car might start when yours needs a jump.

As for New Orleans—well, I almost moved there.

Eighteen years ago, I won the assistant principal horn audition in the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, which was the co-op struggling to rise from the ashes of the New Orleans Philharmonic’s bankruptcy. I was ecstatic. This was the first audition I’d won for a real job—the job I’d been preparing for since I was nine, playing horn full-time in a symphony orchestra. And it was in New Orleans, a city I’d spent the weekend exploring and falling in love with. Where I’d enjoyed staying with a role model-turned-friend, whose company I could now have regularly.

I didn’t expect this, but within a few minutes of winning the audition, I knew I had to turn the job down. I asked about details of the wage forecast the job announcement had left vague and got grim answers. I asked about the schedule and learned details that ruled out any hope I might have of continuing my software work on the side. I asked about teaching work and chamber music work and learned that there was little demand in town for either.

I asked about the LPO’s financial situation and the factors that had led to the previous orchestra’s collapse and didn’t hear anything that had changed. I thought about the city I’d been enjoying and how I hadn’t seen one speck of classical music. For that matter, I hadn’t seen any music that was being produced for anyone but tourists, and I knew that tourists aren’t known for keeping orchestras in business. I hadn’t seen much of a local population that could afford symphony tickets. I saw an awful lot of people who couldn’t afford lunch. I saw an awful lot of dilapidation.

I knew what all these things meant: New Orleans was not a city that worked.

So on the long flight home, I had a big argument with myself, trying desperately to find any reason whatsoever to believe that I should take the job. All I could come up with was a variety of story-lines that all ended with me too poor to buy a plane ticket to an audition for a better job. (I also got a bit hung up on knowing I’d never be able to afford air conditioning.) The next day I phoned and mailed my decision.

Thing is, I didn’t give up the job out of pessimism about the LPO or New Orleans. I kept my job in Chicago out of optimism that I was on my way to winning a better horn job somewhere else and appreciation that the situation I had in the meantime was a good one.

A few years later I moved to San Francisco with the optimistic plan of trading software for freelancing—a plan that lasted only a few weeks, until a Rottweiler bit me in the face and I couldn’t play horn for the next four years or, for all I knew, ever again. I made the optimistic—and pragmatic—decision to carry on with software. Which is how it came to be that I watched Katrina on a big TV in a house I own in the beautiful Oakland hills.

I was heartbroken along with everyone else. It took me a week to reach my friend. And I couldn’t figure out why anybody was surprised that a town that was known for tourists and poverty fell apart when a big storm blew through. The only surprise was that it didn’t happen sooner.

About New Orleans I have no optimism. I never never, as much as I loved what I experienced in 1992—as much as I’d like to visit again now. A city that makes its money by being a place for tourists to get drunk isn’t spending any of that money on its infrastructure. Nobody’s flying in and buying tickets to see levies. New Orleans’ news-making entrepreneur post-Katrina is a guy who dispatches big, shiny black trucks to the tourism centers every single night to pick up the garbage and hose the vomit out of the streets with a pleasant-smelling detergent, and anybody who doesn’t find that depressing is delusional.

Answer key for the Nov 2010 ballot

Here, for the benefit of my fellow left-leaning progressive egalitarian voters in the Montclair District of Oakland, is the answer key for Tuesday’s election. For the rest of y’all, this is an opportunity to learn why you should be glad you don’t have to vote here, where democracy is not a sport for amateurs.

If I’ve made any factual errors, please correct me in the comments. If you have any insights on the issues where I’m perplexed, please enlighten me. If you’re a right-leaning regressive bigot, don’t bother to comment, because we won’t persuade each other. If you have a reasoned disagreement and are interested in respectful debate, then by all means, comment away!

We have three freaking ballots!

Holy crap! Between state offices, state measures, and local ranked-choice questions, we have not one, not two, but three tests to fill out!

Ballot the first: from Jerry Brown to “Who the heck is Katy Foulkes?”

Governor: Jerry Brown.

C’mon, folks, this one’s easy.

Governor Moonbeam did a great job thirty-some years ago when California was the land of opportunity that drew Meg Whitman to come earn her ill-gotten fortune here. And he dated Linda Ronstadt. Who can argue with his taste? Linda Ronstadt is not, by the way, Rosanne Cash.

Mayor Moonbeam did wonders for Oakland, with most of the benefits of his sensible leadership only now becoming visible to people who didn’t pay attention and thought he was an evil pro-business Republican in disguise. He’s not; he’s a sensible guy who understood that if you want scary areas to get scarier, you make them unattractive for business, and if you want scary areas to become nice, you attract businesses and make them places people would want to live.

Attorney General Moonbeam had the dignity not to defend Prop H8. In fact, he saw to it that his office gave Prop H8 the discredit it deserved.

We need Governor Moonbeam again.

And he’s my neighbor! No kidding—he lives about a mile from here, along my jogging route. Every so often, I run into him and his wife while I’m walking Kjersti the chocolate lab in Redwood Park. We exchange nods and smiles, I pretend he’s just some ordinary guy, and he pretends I’m just some ordinary woman with a ridiculously cute dog.

As for Meg Whitman, she’s got hideous politics, she made a ton of money by doing a bad job as eBay’s CEO, and she treats her domestic help as disposables, not as people. I don’t even want to have a beer with her, and I love beer.

As for the others, I imagine the Green candidate is fine, but we need Jerry to win. Don’t waste your ballot; this one’s too close for comfort. Anything but a 99-point margin over Meg is too close for comfort.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

I wouldn’t have voted for him for Mayor of San Francisco, either, but once he took office, he turned on his wealthy supporters and started doing the right thing all over the place. He legalized gay and lesbian marriage in San Francisco, and the pictures of crowds of happy people in love changed the conversation. For that alone, Gavin deserves some more time in politics.

Yes, he appears to be a slime-ball, but he’s our slime-ball.

Et cetera: vote for the Democrats

Unless they have such a huge lead that you can safely vote for the Greens. I’m too lazy to figure out which ones those are.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

She’s the real thing, and she prosecutes crimes that matter instead of BS that’s good for headlines, and there are some cretins spending serious money to smear her. Don’t be fooled.

United States Senator: Barbara Boxer. Repeat, Barbara Boxer. Repeat, Barbara Boxer.

A lot of politicians who are on the right side nevertheless make a lot of weaselly votes, pander to idiots, and generally fall shockingly short of acting on even their own convictions. Not Babs. She’s one of the few who actually speak the truth and bring up the issues that matter.

Carly Fiorina has a lot in common with Meg Whitman: she was a lousy CEO, her politics are hideous, and she doesn’t treat her inferiors with respect. About all I can say in her favor is that she’s a lot better looking than Meg Whitman. I’m happy for her about the cancer thing. I wish her well, but she needs to pay a lot more taxes, and the idea of her replacing Barbara Boxer as my Senator scares the bejesus out of me.

I once performed at a Barbara Boxer benefit event, and not only did she give a great talk, but when the event was over, she and the headliner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, came right over to thank us musicians and stand with us for several pictures. That’s before either one of them shook a single wealthy hand, mind you. They said thank you. To the musicians. The hired help. The nobodies.

Class act, Barbara Boxer.

And she’s WAY shorter than you can possibly imagine, even when she’s standing in some high scary-ass heels, as she was. The mere fact that she can walk in those things should earn her your great respect.

US Representative: Barbara Lee. Barbara Lee speaks for me!

Barbara Lee was the only dissenting vote in the appalling, embarrassing, unworthy, unamerican rush to blow Iraq to hell and gone because a terrorist organization in Afghanistan attacked the United States again. She was the only person in all of Washington to say no to Dubya and Cheney’s blood lust. One person in Washington voted with integrity. It was Barbara Lee.

Member of the State Assembly: Sandré Swanson

Even though he robo-called me more than once. Haven’t we proven to ourselves enough times that not having a majority in the Assembly leads to absurd stalemates over basic things like passing budgets and writing reasonable laws?

Judicial Yes and No people: I have no clue

I have absolutely no idea how to vote on these justices. Never have. There are no reliable resources that I know of that are of any help whatsoever on figuring out who, why, or why not. The only voter guides that we pay attention to that say anything say yes for all of them. Okay, I guess.

Seriously, though, WTF? If intelligent people who are willing to put some work into this voting thing can’t figure it out, then isn’t something broken?

Update! NO on Ming Chin! NO on Ming Chin!

With a tip of the hat to Zoe for supplying this helpful link: http://www.calitics.com/diary/12705/november-2010-statewide-endorsements

Superior Court Judge, Office #9: Victoria S Kolakowski

Most of the leftie voter guides are split on this one. John Creighton appears to be decent enough. Here I go with the advice of Alice B Toklas
organization and the local Green Party Voter Guide, both of which prefer Victoria Kolakowski for a variety of reasons. She’s progressive and transgendered, and I’m all for some diversity on the court. About darned time.

Good thing she’s not a write-in candidate.

By the way, even if you’re not a Green (I’m not, although I wish I could be), their voter guides are considerably more helpful than most. They actually explain their endorsements and supply facts that are helpful for weighing the fuzzier matters.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Yech

Even the Greens can’t figure this one out. They’re both pretty lame. Torlakson seems slightly less awful; at least he doesn’t harp on and on about test scores.

AC Transit District Director, At-Large: Joel Young

Thanks, Greens.

EBMUD Director, Ward 3: Katy Foulkes

Thanks, Greens. She’s decent on ecology and lousy on labor. She’s also unopposed. I guess we might as well vote for her.

Ballot the second: from legalizing marijuana to funding for the Oakland Police Department

Fasten your seatbelts. The propositions are where democracy is at its most challenging in California. Holy crap, I hate our so-called voter initiative process. Let’s face it, most of the propositions are so poorly worded that it’s hard to figure out how to vote even after you’ve figured out how you feel about the issue. Most of them address things our Assembly is too wimpy to do, more badly than even the Assembly could manage to do them. Most of them are heavily funded by massive corporations who do not have the needs of California citizens in mind.

So, my first rule is always: when in doubt, not just no, but hell no.

Now let’s struggle through each one of them.

Proposition 19 Legalize marijuana: yes

No, I’ve never smoked it myself, and the way the smell makes me want to hurl, that’s unlikely to change any time soon. I know some people who’ve messed themselves up pretty badly with the stuff, too, and lots more who haven’t, but here’s why I’m voting yes: because it’s time to stop wasting resources on treating its personal use, cultivation, and purchase as a crime.

Prohibition was a lousy idea, and it didn’t work either.

Proposition 20 Redistricting: No

I know, it seems like a good idea when you read it, but look who’s supporting it: big business. Who’s opposed? Everyone from the ACLU on down. That’s all I need to know.

Proposition 21 State park vehicle fees: Yes

It’s a flat tax, which is generally regressive, but the Greens make a good argument for why to vote yes, anyway. Short answer: the parks need money, and it ain’t coming from the Assembly.

Proposition 22 Confusing jibber jabber about moving money around: No

As theballot.org puts it, “Complicated & suspicious way to prevent state borrowing from local agencies.” The good guys all say no, the bad guys all say yes. This is a great example of “When in doubt, no.” Lots of propositions are just plain bad ideas, written as badly as possible so as to confuse people into supporting something they’d never in their right minds agree with.

Proposition 23 Postponing planetary health: No

Why on earth would anyone in their right minds postpone enforcing the environmental protection laws that aren’t strong enough in the first place? Because big bidness told them it had something to do with why they don’t have jobs, of course! Bullshit. Not just no, hell no.

Proposition 24 Repeal some tax loopholes: Yes

This one is basically about getting big bidness to pay more taxes by ditching some ridiculous loopholes. A rare example of a proposition we need. Not just yes, hell yes.

Proposition 25 Drop the supermajority budget thing: Yes

California can’t pass anything to do with budgets without a two-thirds majority, which basically means it can’t get anything done. When do the good guys ever have a 2/3 majority? That’s right. It’s a stupid, stupid, stupid law, and it’s time for it to die. Not just yes, hell yes.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a great proposition, but it’s a start.

Proposition 26 Create a new supermajority budget thing: No

See above under Proposition 25. The supermajority budget thing we already have is a disaster. The last thing we need is yet another supermajority budget thing. Not just no, hell no.

Proposition 27 Undo bogus redistricting scheme: Yes

This one goes with Proposition 20 but gets it right. It’s not perfect, but the Governator’s bogus system is a pile of crap. As theballot.org puts it, “Eliminates that sketchy redistricting commission (see Prop 20).” Barbara Lee says yes, as do most but not all of the good guys.

Oh, boy! There’s more! It’s county, school, and city stuff!

Measure F Paying $10 more to improve Alameda transportation: Oh, OK, I guess so.

Measure L Paying $195 more to do something about the embarrassment that is the Oakland school system: Yes, unfortunately

Measure V Raising taxes on medical marijuana. Sure!

Raise almost a million bucks? Yeah, sounds good to me.

Measure W Paying $15 more a month to keep Oakland from breaking off and sliding into the Pacific Ocean. Well, okay.

This is another sucky flat tax that hurts poor people far more than wealthy people, but we do sort of need to keep the lights on somehow.

Measure X Paying $360 more to do something about crime or something. Uh-uh. No. Hell no.

Uh-uh. This is another bogus “scare the people into passing yet another regressive tax measure that hurts poor people and lets rich people off easy by reminding them that their city is full of black people and implying that somehow this will do something to pay for more police somehow without actually doing so” measure. No. Hell no. And, no.

Sandré Swanson says he’s for this one. Seems like a good reason to look forward to Rebecca Kaplan filling his seat in a few years to me.

Measure BB Something about police something something. Yes.

I can’t for the life of me figure out what this one means. I can’t even figure out what the Greens say it means. I’m tired after doing the first, third, and all but this question on the second test. I can’t take it anymore. The Greens say yes and I’m leaving it at that.

Ballot the third: from Don Perata to “Who the heck is Gary Yee?”

Oakland Mayor: not Don Perata

That’s the most important thing. Yes, he’s got lots of name recognition, because he’s under investigation for corruption and he’s been a famously lousy politician for freaking ever. Even by Chicago standards, he’s too corrupt to elect to anything else.

After that, this one’s hard for me. Ranked-choice voting is a good thing here, because it means we actually get to vote the way we want, not the way we feel we have to. So for me it’s the Green guy first, Don Macleay, because he’s actually a smart guy with good ideas. What a concept!

Second, I go with Jean Quan. She’s earnest and basically on the right side of most things, but I also think she’s prone to some wimpiness for the sake of gathering votes, and she does lots of smarmy crap that makes it embarrassing to support her. Still, she’s decent, she’s on the right side of most of the most important issues, she’s kept her staffers busy doing good stuff for Oakland and its citizens, and she’s a credible candidate. Second choice.

My reluctant third is Rebecca Kaplan. I want to like her a lot more than I do. She’s smart, Jewish, feminist, lesbian, left, progressive, and lots of other good stuff. But she’s gotten a lot of criticism for temperamental behavior, which isn’t generally a recipe for effective leadership, and she’s got her sights on higher office; this run for mayor is widely seen as a grab for attention just to up her name recognition for the Assembly position when Sandré Swanson terms out. I think she’d probably push more issues that I care about than Jean Quan, but I think Jean Quan would get more stuff done. Let’s go with Jean for the executive position that needs to get stuff done, and let’s look forward to voting in a few years for a scrappy rabble-rouser to join the Assembly that desperately needs them. Yes, here it is, my 2013 endorsement of Rebecca Kaplan for State Assembly. She’ll be awesome there. She’d probably be a pretty good mayor, too. I won’t be upset if she wins.

Either one of them would be fine and a heck of a lot better than Don Perata. Did I mention that he’s under investigation for corruption?

Update: You know, let’s switch 2 and 3. I like Kaplan better. I just do. And see the comments below.

Member of City Council, District 4

My wife did the work on this one, and here are the answers according to her survey of the endorsements.

First, Libby Schaaf, because she worked for Jerry Brown, he supports her, and all the good guys endorse her. Second, Jill Broadhurst, because she’s a mensch and has started lots of good stuff. Third, Clinton Killian, because he’s the smart black dude who went to Stanford and UC-B Law School and he walked Montclair.

Just writing down what she says here, folks. My wife’s smart; you best listen.

Uh-oh. We’ve got an update—she says maybe it should be Daniel Swafford instead of Clinton Killian. Swafford does look good.

City Auditor: Courtney Ruby

She’s the incumbent and has been doing a great job. No second or third choice.

School Director, District 4: Benjamin Visnick

Thanks, Greens. No second or third choice.

Putting disasters in perspective, or Our crappy economy isn’t so bad

[Note: I originally wrote this for my consultancy’s blog, where references to localization make more sense. You can read it here if you prefer: http://globalpragmatica.com/?p=62]

Many people are depressed these days, for many valid reasons. The economy is still a disaster. The localization industry is a mess in more ways than I can count. (I don’t think I’ll get much argument about that, but if anybody questions that, please leave a comment, and I’ll elucidate in a future blog post.) Many of us are out of work and have been for a frighteningly long time. Many of us are clinging to scaled-back jobs. Many of us are worried about how long the work we’re grateful to have will last.

When even the blue chip companies are slashing workforces and budgets and the banks themselves are declaring bankruptcy, we know our economy is a disaster.

Looking outside the devastated economy of the developed world, let’s consider the vastly greater struggles in the two-thirds world.

Terminology break! (T9Y break!) When people say “third world,” they mean “undeveloped or developing nations,” and these represent over two-thirds of the world’s population, so let’s stop saying that and say what we really mean: “two-thirds world.”

In the news today, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are believed dead after a major 7.0 earthquake hit, its epicenter right in the most populous part of an already fragile island. Most Haitians are black and live on less than US$1 a day. Putting this in perspective, fewer than 3000 people will killed in the horrifying 9/11 attacks. However, I fear that history will show the great failure of our humanity when the global public response to the crisis gets those metrics backwards.

Because I have spent several decades working in statistical software in various roles, I can’t help wanting to look at the desperation quantitatively. Here are some graphs that will probably startle most people—and I hope horrify many of you into taking some kind of action, today. Mind you, I’m expecting to startle and horrify even the well-educated, privileged, mostly white people in the developed world who have the means to read my blog.

First, let’s compare the death tolls from a handful of disasters that have filled our headlines in recent years. Before you look at the graph, which do you think was worse?

  • 9/11 terrorist attacks
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Indian Ocean tsunami
  • Haiti earthquake
  • 2008 Earthquakes in the People’s Republic of China

And how do you think the economies of these places compare?

First, the scale of the disasters. For my North American readers: remember how devastated you felt watching the TV coverage of 9/11 and of Hurricane Katrina, please.
deathToll

That’s right. The devastation of 9/11 and Katrina combined are trivial compared to any of the others.

Now let’s consider the economies of these places. Most of us know that USA’s wealth dwarfs that of most countries by most measures. A relevant measure for this situation would be the gross domestic product per capita–that is, the total economic output of each state or nation, divided by its number of people.

GDPs

We all know that New York is wealthier than Louisiana, but did you realize that the New York-Louisiana comparison is almost meaningless in the big picture? Even the difference between those two tall bars dwarfs the size of the bars in the two-thirds world nations!

So now let’s put those two ideas together: let’s look at the wealth in each place lined up with the scale of the disaster in each place, as measured by GDP per capita

abilityRecoverThis composition of the most massive bloodbaths in big red bars lining up directly with the meager economic means of each place in tiny green bars is the most devastating graph of all. The biggest disasters have taken place where people are least prepared to cope with them.

There are many ways to help, and of course there are many craven imbeciles who take this opportunity to scam the people of goodwill with fraudulent donation methods. Here are some ways that have been vetted and determined to be reliable: http://www.google.com/relief/haitiearthquake

Here are some flaws in my analysis that could distract nitpickers from the clarion call to our humanity:

  • My national and state GDP data are from different years and sources, and they’re probably inflation-adjusted differently.
  • I’m considering these events to have taken place in New York, Louisiana, Indonesia, China, and Haiti, where the most deaths occurred, although other states and nations were affected.
  • The costs of 9/11 and Katrina were borne nationally, but the victims were (mostly) local, so I considered the state economies instead of the national economy.
  • Estimates of the death tolls in the two-thirds world are always much fuzzier, because the poorer you are, the less likely you are to be accurately counted.
  • Estimates of the death toll in Haiti are wildly premature. Some sources say “hundreds of thousands,” and while they might mean “100,000 give or take a few 10,000,” a careful speaker would mean the far more frightening “100,000 or 200,000 or 300,000” by that description.
  • It’s a little weird to measure ability to recover by comparing the GDP per person to the number of persons dead. The dead people are dead, and no amount of money will help them. But the people left behind are living in economies that are more or less capable of recovering.
  • These data are confounded, if you consider that poorer nations have a lesser ability to build safety into their communities. Wealthier nations have higher survival rates in times of disaster because their buildings are sturdier, more of their citizens live in buildings in the first place, their bridges and roads and so on are more prevalent and higher quality, their emergency responders are more numerous and better-equipped and -funded, and on and on and on. The ways in which wealth mitigates disaster and the lack of wealth compounds disaster are numerous and heartbreaking.

My data sources:

The analysis was my own, and I prepared all the graphs using JMP’s Graph Builder.

A military perspective on Obama vs. McCain – the MAJORITY perspective

Here’s an email I got from a friend of mine, whose husband is in the Air Force. I think it’s worth reading.

Dear family and friends,

TO ME THIS ELECTION IS A LIFE OR DEATH ISSUE (no exaggeration).

Most of the public is completely disconnected from the wars on a personal level (which was my life before) so I want to try to personalize it for you:
My husband is in the Air Force and I have had the humble (& challenging) privilege of learning about the military world for almost 10 years now. I have seen first hand, the toll that this war has taken on countless families. When our daughter was a baby I took her to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in DC for checkups, where I saw soldiers with limbs and/or parts of their head missing from combat. When our close friends are in war zones, I pray for their safe return. My heart hurts when I see children suffering due to an absent parent (for 15 months!!) and spouses struggling to keep their families together. Due to frequent moves, we typically do not have the luxury of living near family and close friends, so we often bear the burdens on our own. Military members and spouses are some of the STRONGEST, most HONORABLE and IMPRESSIVE people I have ever met.

Regardless of your position on the war(s), if you appreciate the sacrifices that our MILITARY (over 4,000 dead, many with serious lifelong physical and mental issues, increased numbers of suicide) and their families are making to serve our country, I BEG you to THINK about THIS COMPELLING FACT (from the NON-partisan Center for Responsive Politics), and PLEASE pass the info along to as many people as possible:

DEPLOYED TROOPS ARE CONTRIBUTING TO OBAMA 6:1 OVER MCCAIN.

To me, this says everything. If so many of the troops don’t want McCain as their Commander in Chief (and Veterans groups support OBAMA far more than McCain), THE PUBLIC REALLY NEEDS TO TAKE NOTICE (particularly because this is supposed to be McCain’s strength).

I have joined a group called Blue Star Families for Obama (www.bsf4o.com). We are military families who are PRO-MILITARY and PRO OBAMA, and we are working hard to get the word out that many military families want Barack Obama to be our next President.

The deadline to register to vote is rapidly coming up (especially for people serving overseas) – please see voter registration info below. PLEASE participate in this historic election.

With love, ACTION and FAITH in our goodness,
Kimberley Taylor-Beer

—–

Kimberley –

Registration deadlines are coming up soon. Tell your friends, family, and neighbors to check out our new one-stop voter registration website.

Just forward this message.

VoteforChange.com makes it easier than ever to register. Instead of tracking down the right forms, all you need to do is answer a few basic questions and you’ll be ready to vote. You can also:

Confirm your existing registration
Apply to vote absentee
Find your polling place
If you don’t know your own registration status or you’d like to learn more, take a minute to visit the site right now.

This race is too close and too important to stay home on Election Day.

It’s people just like you who will transform this nation.

Thanks,

Barack

On Sarah Palin

All this excitement about Sarah Palin is bizarre. Sure, she’s funny and pretty, but her opinions about and track record on governance are scary! How is a funny, pretty scary politician any better than an ugly, boring scary politician?

My friend Alicia has taken to calling her “Caribou Barbie.”
I think Hillary Clinton got it right: 

I don’t think [Palin is] what this election is about. Anybody who believes that the Republicans, whoever they are, can fix the mess they created probably believes that the iceberg could have saved the Titanic.

Wow

That a Republican mayor is the one saying it is encouraging. What he has to say is great. How hard it is for him to say it has me puzzled a bit. I can make some guesses but can’t convince myself that one is better than another. http://cbs5.com/video/?id=26888@kpix.dayport.com

Iowa does good

A while back I posted on the subject of so-called “gay marriage.” Shortly after posting that, I got involved in an email conversation with fellow St. Olaf College alumni in which I expanded on my thoughts. Today upon receiving a news alert from a friend that Iowa has joined the ranks of sensible states who are choosing to protect economic and legal fairness for all its citizens, I am prompted to post my email here:

14 November 2006

I agree with almost everything said so far, in particular the fact that it’s heartening to be reading this conversation [on a St. Olaf College LISTSERV]. I found it especially heartening for it to have been started by Pastor Benson. The public perception of this issue seems to be far too slanted in the direction of “religious leaders object to gay marriage.” It doesn’t seem necessary rehearse the various reasons for that here; instead I’ll add my thanks to him and all who have replied.

I’m not sure whether to be optimistic or not. Sometimes I’m optimistic; I think the fact that so many people are talking about it–and so many people, so reasonably–is a sign of tremendous progress since, for example, when I was at St Olaf in the 1980s. The fledgling GLBT community’s hottest topic then was whether it was safe to be “out,” at St Olaf or elsewhere. This feels like progress.

Sometimes I view it historically in a different way: the institution of marriage has hardly been static for more than a few generations, let alone throughout history, and I’m not sure that its present definition is one that’s going to last much longer anyway. More than a few progressive thinkers have suggested that nontraditional couples are in fact privileged by lack of access to traditional marriage, because they are both free and obligated to explore for themselves what they mean by committing to each other. I’m not sure it’s a fair trade, but it seems like a valid point.

Sometimes I’m pessimistic and think we’re weaving our handbaskets with so much damage already done by the misguided fights going on at the constitutional level.

Most of the time, I take a pragmatic view, or maybe it’s denial: I think it’s an issue that’s getting way too much airtime relative to more serious problems in our country and world, and I resent the fact that conservative extremists (read “bigots”) are so happy to exploit this as a wedge issue, but I just don’t see it as being nearly as pressing as the lack of universal health care, decent education, and a zillion other things that our politicians SHOULD be spending their time on first.

I wrote at greater length on the subject recently in a blog post, which you can find here:
http://erinvang.blogspot.com/2006/08/im-sick-of-so-called-gay-marriage.html

The gist of that post was to propose that we separate marriage and civil union into two separate institutions. What I didn’t address is this: what are we all supposed to do in the meantime?

I have the great happiness of being “engaged” (or whatever) to a wonderful woman, and we plan to be “married” (or whatever) in January 2008, but I’ll be darned if I know how we’re going to do it.

We set a distant date in part so that we have time to talk to lawyers and financial planners and whoever else about how to go about creating a partnership with as many of the dimensions currently available to “married” couples as possible, given the patchwork of simple and domestic partnership options available to us. And then there’s all the questions around which laws will end up taking precedence over the others. Any legal experts out there want to help us? [Followup: we didn’t get any offers from lawyers, but I did receive an astonishing number of thoughtful, supportive replies from friends and strangers alike.]

We also have a pile of questions about what kind of ceremony to create with what kind of officiant(s), since the traditional options aren’t available to us, but none of that seems as important as figuring out how to protect each other and make ourselves accountable to each other financially and legally in all the myriad ways that straight couples get for the price of a marriage license.

Another brush with fame (among well-read news junkies, at least)

David Brooks was on my shuttle from Dulles to Raleigh on Monday morning, a few rows ahead of me. I saw him stand up to escape down the aisle and that’s about it. I attempted to catch up to him in the airport to say that, although I often disagree with much of his thinking, I respect it and appreciate his writing, and ever since he would seem to have turned on Bush, I have more respect for his thinking. Not that it would have meant much to him, of course.

He was wearing a pink oxford and his glasses (and other things), and it looked like he had shaven recently. Respectable, in other words.

I was wearing microfiber camping pants, a t-shirt, a denim shirt, sneakers, and my leather jacket, and I looked like I hadn’t shaven, eaten, slept, or had water nor a coherent thought for at least ten hours (because, of course, I hadn’t, having flown red-eye from SF). Like hell, in other words.

While trotting from baggage to the rental car bus, I pondered the cost of fame. If David Brooks had looked as beaten up and downtrodden as I did on that shuttle, at least a few people would have recognized and thought ill of him, and it probably would have made gossip columns or at least a few blogs. If I’d caught up to him and spoken to him and he’d received my comments with any kind of grace, despite my appearance and probable incoherence, it would have been to his great credit.

I looked like hell, and nobody cared.

My politics are better and I’m sure I make way less money, but his life might be harder, and I’m not sure I’d trade with him. Anonymity has its privileges.

David Brooks, if you should google yourself and land here: I enjoy your columns. I often disagree with you, but you don’t make it easy. Further quibbling with your recent writing is less interesting than the preceding points.

And you look better in pink than I ever will. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.