Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bike Paths

How much better the US would be if we had more bike paths. There should be a law that if you build a new road you have to allow 3 extra feet for a bike lane. The lane would be designated for bikes. This would cut down on gasoline usage, green house gases and obesity. I was recently in Munich and there were bike paths throughout the city. No body was overweight. Of course I can't be sure it is from biking. Maybe it is from smoking. It seemed everyone in Munich smokes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health Care Speach 9-9-09

President Obama was stunning in his speech tonight on Health Care Reform. He stated emphatically that although the plan would cost 900 billion dollars, the deficit would not go up one penny. He didn't use the words read my lips, but the thought was implied. And he looked into the camera right at me and ensured me that if I didn't want to be a part of a government option, I would not have to change my insurance option. He said he understood the Republicans desire for reforming the legal system so that doctors would not endure frivolous law suites and push up health care costs. He said it with flare and confidence, and he believes every word of it.

However the CBO says it will cost 1.6 trillion. A closer read of the bill with the public option allows employers to pay an 8 percent penalty and dump their employees to fend for themselves. And the small study he is going to conduct on law suit abuse appears to be nothing more than a make believe effort to make it seem like he is going to try to get real tort reform.

So in a few years I could find my self in a country with an ever exploding federal deficit, having been forced into the public option against my will with a more expensive health care system than we have now.

He is often in error, but never in doubt.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Audacity of Hope - Chapter 7 Race

Unlike many of the other chapters in the book, then Senator Obama allows us to see some of his real core values in this chapter. This should come as no surprise. If anything, Barack Obama is defined by race. As a biracial man with an immigrant father, he seems superbly qualified to comment on the race and immigration issues in America. And while I disagree with many of his beliefs, I believe he is sincere in his desire to promote a more equal America. And unlike his presidential campaign he pretty much lays out how he would like to do this in this chapter. You have to read between the lines to get at it, but it is all there.

First of all he believes that race relations are getting better in America. He believes that great strides have been made with black Americans breaking through the glass ceiling and in many cases becoming very wealthy. He believes that better is not good enough, due to the many poor blacks and Latinos still struggling.

Right off the bat I find some ideas that I would like to argue with him on. He like many African Americans believes that there is still a dominant white culture in America. Due to this, to use a word George Bush coined, the deciders compare people against this culture and make hiring and promoting decisions based on it. Blacks, Mr. Obama believes, don't fare well when this happens. In reality, there is not a dominant white culture. There is a dominant culture that is an average of all of us. It is created by our history, TV culture, the English we speak at home, our manners, mores and Judeo-Christian traditions. In this culture if you speak back woods hick, or Ebonics, you are at a disadvantage. If you wear baggy pants or overalls, you'll be passed over by the guy in a suit. That said, I don't know what it would be like to be pulled over for driving while black. I am sure it exists, and I condemn it.

Obama does seem to be distancing himself from the old school black psychology of,

“If I were white I'd be further along”.

He stresses that the new generation of blacks don't want to have the best black firm, they want the top firm period. But every time I think he is different from Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton, he regresses. For example, he singles out black parents who worked all their lives in jobs that were too small for them, without complaining, scrimping and saving to buy a small home. Parents who did without so that there kids could do better. He says this as if it was unique to minority families. The thing is, just like many other Americans of all colors, my mother did this for me too.

He believes that there is a wage equality gap between blacks and Latinos, and their white counterparts. In fact the statistics back him up on this. And he is committed to taking action. But what role should the government play?

A word of caution President Obama. Sometimes when you do social engineering experiments, they have unintended consequences. Like when we decided it would help close the gap if we relaxed our lending rules to allow people who could not afford to pay a mortgage to get a loan any way. That did not work out very well.

Although he makes a half hearted statement that he is for affirmative action, I think in his heart he does not believe in it. He knows how unpopular it would be for him in the African American community and his liberal base, to come out against it. So he says, "I'm for it, but I understand the argument against it. He then goes on to say that it is counter productive for the government to target races and try to help one race over the other. Instead he believes in universal programs like improving education and health care. Anything that helps the poor and middle class will also help blacks and Latinos.

His views on immigration and illegal immigrants are pretty main stream. He does not feel our culture should have to adapt to the immigrants rather than them having to adapt to us. He is angry when illegal Mexicans are waving their flag in our country to protest our immigration policy.

"American citizenship is a privilege not a right." he says.

His main contribution to the immigration legislation battle was to include a bill making it tougher for employers to hire illegal immigrants. He was for the more liberal compromise legislation that allowed amnesty for people already here after a certain period of time.

Since this book was written of course Senator Obama has become President Obama. Had we all paid attention to this chapter, somebody may have predicted what happened the other day with

Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley, and Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates Jr. As anyone watching the news knows, a neighbor called the cops when Professor Lewis was breaking into his own house. The police asked for identification, and an indigent Lewis began shouting at the officer. He was arrested. Without knowing all the facts the president weighed in that it was a stupid decision. Later he had to patch things up by having them both to the White House for a beer.

But this shows a tendency in President Obama to have a quick trigger finger when it comes to race. This racial chip on the shoulder tendency appeared during the campaign when Michelle Obama said,

"For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country."

I think President Obama will look for another more clear-cut racial profiling example and make a big deal of it again. We'll all have another country wide conversation about it. People will get excited and say things they regret. After all the dust has settled however, it is a conversation we need to have. We are like a big dysfunctional family in some ways. Let's hope president Obama can use his unusual background to bring us a little further toward racial harmony.

Or maybe we just need to wait until the next generation comes of age. They don't seem to have any issues with all this.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A look at Audacity of Hope - Chapter Two

Chapter two of Audacity of Hope is entitled "Values". The point of the chapter is that while politicians and people involved in politics may disagree with each other, we should respect each other's motives. In fact then Senator Obama says he does not consider George Bush a bad man. There is very little talk of values in this chapter. Nothing that shows you what Barack Obama really values deep down. The only value this chapter may reveal, since the point is really the same as chapter one, is that he values a civil political playing field and hates the way we tend to demonize the other side.

At one point he gave a speech in which he said there was too much sex on TV. Although he never said he wanted to regulate it, he did scold the networks and suggest they sensor themselves. He was criticized severely by people on the left. He feels a leader should be able to be against something and still not be for government intervention. For example he believes conservative leaders should rail against corporate executive pay, even though he knows they would be against the government getting involved in stopping it.

Perhaps now that he is the Dad in chief he can show leadership and create a national discussion about what the slowly eroding values on TV are doing to the generations coming up.

So chapter two is about seeing things through the other persons point of view, but not about values at all.

Perhaps the title of the chapter should have been "Empathy".

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A look at Audacity of Hope - Chapter One

Like "Dreams of my Father" Barack Obama's first book, "Audacity of Hope" is very well written. However, since it was written while then Senator Obama was running for president, I was afraid it would simply be a long campaign speach. While it no doubt is that, it is also a refreshing look at our entire political landscape and is a book every american should read, reguardless of whether you agree with President Obama's policies and decisions.

The first chapter is titled "Republicans and Democrats". His basic premise is that he is not really all that dedicated to the left, and is basically just trying to solve the big issues that our nation faces, especially health care and our educational system. In order to show that he is above politics he lays the blame of our current hyper polarized political situation at the door step of both parties. Both sides, he argues have created a conspiracy theory against the other.

His two political role models appear to be Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton. After offering several Regan put downs to ballance his favorable opinion of Regan, he admits that he understands the appeal of Ronald Regan. He like most americans admires Regans philosophy of having a country characterized by order, the ability to control our destiny and make things happen with traditional values like hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism and faith.

What he liked about Bill Clinton was his ability to govern from the middle. If the people on the right who worry about Obama being an ultra liberal who will take us down a road to socialism would read this book, they might find a reason for hope here. His only real beef with Clinton was his inability to pass universal health care and strengthen education. But he admires his ability to steal conservative causes and make political hay with them.

Ultimately his claim in the first chapter is that he is against exagerating, demonizing, oversimplifying or overstating. You get the impression that he is the one who wants to lead us out of political grid lock and hyper political venomous campaings. In fact after he said toward the end of the chapter, " we are locked into "either or thinking: the notion that we can have only big government, or no government, I began to shake my head in agreement.

"Yes," I thought to my self. " He is a democrat and thus believes that government has a bigger role to play than republicans. But he's not going to overstate his case against the republicans. He knows that they feel that government should have a smaller role, but won't exagerate his case against them." That is refreshing I thought. But alas. He dashed my hopes to the ground. In the very next paragraph he contradicts everything he claimed to be against.

"It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that have turned Americans off to politics. He says. "This is not a problem for the right; a polorized electorate... works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government."

Oh well. It sounded good on paper.