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Five Things I Expect From the Obama Administration

Some people think he will bring the Apocalypse. Some think he will save the world. Some think he will hardly change a thing. Me? I’m in the middle. This is what I expect from the Obama Administration.

bush1. Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

This should have happened a long time ago. Homophobia is one of the last forms of de juro discrimination in this country, and it needs to end. Three-quarters of Americans oppose it. More than one hundred veteran military leaders recently endorsed ending it. So why is it still in use? Especially at a time when the military is having such a difficult time recruiting- it can use all the soldiers it can get. There is zero evidence that allowing gays to serve openly in the military affects productivity, or safety, or anything- the policy is simply discriminatory and archaic.

2. Bring back science

Hey, remember science? That crazy thing with the test tubes and bottle rockets and stuff that was basically thrown out the window in 2001? Because when Bush took office, he immediately went around denying the human effects on climate change and refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol, promoting abstinence-only sex ed despite the fact that it has proven to be entirely ineffective, doing everything in his power to squash potentially life-saving stem cell research, and doing everything in his power to destroy the environment with off-shore drilling and by trying to weaken the Clean Air Act. Whatta guy. Anyway, Obama has already promised tons of funding for science programs and appointed cabinet members that would make Einstein swoon, so he is doing pretty well on this one.

3. Honesty, damnit. And integrity, too.

From Dick Cheney declaring himself above the law to faulty reasoning for the war in Iraq to illegal warantless wiretapping to unconstitutional torture policies to revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, this administration has repeatedly shown that it has no respect for the American legal system or the Constitution. Barack Obama has run on a platform of transforming the American political system into one that is more transparent, accessible, and honest than ever before. This shouldn’t be hard given many of his predecessors, but this will be a crucial part of his presidency and his legacy.

4. No dumb wars

This should be a pretty easy one. All he has to do is NOT start a war with Iran, or Pakistan, or North Korea, or whoever else might look at us the wrong way, and he succeeds. The last thing this (very indebted, globally despised) country needs is another war.

5. Make other countries BELIEVE

Regardless of whether or not Obama will drastically change American foreign policy (which I think he can and hopefully will do), the fact that other countries BELIEVE he willl might make a tangible difference. Obama has already appointed a UN ambassador who actually LIKES the UN (which is a fantastic start). He has rallied crowds in Germany and all over Europe. Other countries see him as different from Bush, which will allow them to start trusting the US and its policies again. This is crucial- like it or not, we simply cannot solve all the world’s problems unilaterally, no matter how much effort and money we put into it.

Barack Obama won’t singlehandedly end world hunger, bridge racial divides, or bring about absolute peace. But I don’t think “being better than the last guy” is too much too ask.

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People Who Should Stop Talking

The idea for this post comes shamelessly from this brilliant video by my friends and coworkers, James and Amy, located here: http://youthnoise.com/user/feedthem/blog/view/12928/ I highly recommend you watch it, preferrably not in a library or other “quiet” place. Learn from my mistakes.

There are some people who just shouldn’t talk. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have the right to talk- the First Amendment is sacred, etc, etc, etc, and I’m a big believer of the rights of people, even really, really, painfully stupid people, to open their unwashed mouths and  spew lies and ignorance, as difficult as it might be to accept/listen to. But I’m pretty sure I have every right to simply wish those people WOULDN’T talk. So here’s my list of people I wish would shut their filthy mouths (in no particular order), in addition to James and Amy’s choices (including O.J. Simpson, Sarah Palin,  and Amy), all of which I fully agree with.

1. Bill Kristol

Perhaps no one is more connected to the destructive neoconservative movement than William Kristol, New York Times columnist, Weekly Standard founder, and son of Irving Kristol, largely regarded as the founder of neoconservatism. Bill Kristol is perhaps one of the few people who refuses to admit just how damaging neoconservatism has been to the US’s image abroad.

It is, after all, neoconservatism that has gotten us into much of this mess. It is the neoconservative ideology that put a target on Iraq and decided it was the going to be the first war in a series that aimed to transform the Middle East in the American image of a 21st century country. It was the neoconservative policy of  “democracy through a barrel of a gun” that brought upon us mountains of debt, international disdain, and the tragic deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as thousands upon thousands of deaths of innocent civilians. But after of all these tragedies, what does he recommend in his most recent column? More military spending.

2. YES on 8 self-appointed “victims”

On November 4th, 2008 in California passed Proposition 8 and took away the right for loving gay and lesbian couples to have the same protections under the law as straight couples. Thousands of marriages were potentially dissolved (the issue of whether the proposition was retroactive or not has yet to be decided by the CA Supreme Court), and countless other couples who were waiting to get married lost that right. Parents lost legal protections over their kids, couples who had been together for decades lost the rights to visit each other in hospitals and inherit each other’s belongings, and gay and lesbian couples were told that their love didn’t matter as much as straight love.

But the real victims of this proposition, if you weren’t aware, were those that pushed for its passage. Yes, they targeted a group of people and took away rights they already had and cherished. Yes, they ran vicious attack ads in which they lied about the consequences of gay marriage. And yes, they repeatedly used Nazi imagery when describing gay marriage. But, as Jonah Goldberg writes, it is them who are under attack! How dare equal rights advocates describe them as “bigoted” or “homophobic” or suggest that they are esentially walking into people’s homes and tearing up their marriage certificates. Such vicious attacks, which of course don’t suggest taking away anyone’s rights or discriminate against any group (not even Mormons), reveal the true bigots! A good response to this  ridiculous and self-pitying idea is here.

3. Norm Coleman

Norm Coleman wants a recount! After the Minnesota State Canvassing Board declared Al Franken the victor in the Minnesota Senate race today, Norm Coleman declared that he would take the fight to court in order to ensure all votes were counted properly. This in itself is not a ridiculous request (other than the fact that ballots in question had already been counted multiple times in the first recount process). The problem is that when it was originally thought that he had won the race all the way back in November (2008!), Norm Coleman went around asking Franken to step aside. “It’s up to him whether such a step is worth the tax dollars it will take to conduct,” Coleman said, telling reporters he would “step back” if he were in Franken’s position.

Oh, also he is one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Or, you know, he was.

3.5. Ann Coulter/Bill O’Reilly, but they don’t deserve acknowledgement.

There are certainly more- anyone have any suggestions?

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Fired Up. Ready to Go.: The Aftermath of Proposition 8

I  spent quite a bit of my summer and a ton of this semester (August-November) organizing, phonebanking, visibility-ing, canvassing, rallying, and, perhaps most significantly, Facebooking, against Prop. 8.

For those of you who don’t know, Proposition 8 would take away the right for gays and lesbians to marry to ones they love. The literal text is that Prop. 8 “defines marriage in the state of California as between a man and a woman.” Gay marriage was legalized in June, which means that the passage of Proposition 8  actually ELIMINATES rights people already had. It passed. Regardless of what you think about marriage rights, there is no doubt that this was a civil rights disaster.

As an ever-vocal NO on 8 campaign co-organizer at my school, I had a lot of people coming up and asking me: what’s next? In a lot of ways I wish these people had asked me this question BEFORE November 4th, but either way, I’m glad to have them on board.

What’s Going On

First, what has been happening. As most of you are probably aware, last Saturday thousands of people came out in support of the marriage equality movement, in California and nationwide. As a Californian, it is really fascinating for me to see people around the nation coming together to fight a statewide ballot initiative. 12,000 showed up in Seattle. 1000 in St. Louis. 4000 in Denver. Thousands in NYC, DC, Chicago, and Boston. Dozens of smaller gatherings in places you wouldn’t expect it- Missoula, Montana; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Anchorage, Alaska; Fargo, North Dakota. Andrew Sullivan and Calitics have round ups from around the nation (and world). I highly recommend you read them, the accounts are inspiring and amazing.

A quote that struck me the most from this whole thing was a message that someone sent to Sullivan:

A week ago I wrote you just to vent and  express my sadness about the ban on gay marriage … but today after attending our rally in South Beach, I won’t be any more. I am not sad nor do I want to be angry any more. I just want to do what needs to be done.

Fired up. Ready to go.

I am so proud and so very excited to be involved in a movement like this. I am  absolutely positive that we will win sooner or later, hopefully sooner. The passage of Proposition 8 fired up the gay and lesbian community and their allies and told them they had to fight for their rights. So we will fight. And we will win. History will see Prop. 8 as not as the end but rather as just the beginning.

What’s Next

What is next for the movement? Proposition 8 was a Constitutional amendment, which makes it much harder to overturn than just a law banning gay marriage (which is what Prop. 22, the ban passed 2004 that was later struck down by the CA Supreme Court in May which then started this whole battle, was). California only requires a simple majority (50% +1 vote) in order to pass Constitutional amendments, which is why Prop. 8 passed to begin with. The problem, however, is that since the majority of voters in California voted to TAKE AWAY rights people ALREADY HAD, they are unlikely to want to give them those rights back. Gay marriage has seen a huge wave of support (Prop. 22 passed by over 20%, Prop. 8 only by 4%) in the last few years, but it will be hard to create such a huge electoral shift by 2010, when a new ballot initiative to overturn Prop. 8 could potentially happen.

Taking It To the Courts
Hopefully, that won’t have to happen. There are currently 3 lawsuits that challenge the legality of Proposition 8 up for review by the CA Supreme Court. They could decide which to take as early as Wednesday (SF Gate). The basic arguments behind these cases are:

1) Prop. 8 sets a dangerous precendent of the majority voting on the rights of the minority.

2) Prop. 8 was not an amendment but rather a “revision”- that is, a fundamental change to the CA Constitution, which has an Equal Proteciton Clause and therefore grants equal rights to all. Revisions require 2/3s vote in each house of the CA legislature, as well as a 2/3s vote by the people.

As well as other things that I don’t entirely understand. For better analysis, check out articles in Calitics or the San Francisco Chronicle.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, aka the one usually charged with enforcing things such as Constitutional amendments (as well as just normal laws) opposed Prop. 8 and is working to overturn it. As of today, he requested that the CA Supreme Court hear the cases, deny requests to hold off enforcing Prop. 8 until a decision is made, and to also hurry up please and make that decision. He is a good person to have on our side, and I trust that he will do a good job in handling this.

So a Court showdown is almost definite. If that fails, a new ballot measure will have to be the way to go.  Looking far into the future, the federal Supreme Court will probably have to tackle this issue eventually, although hopefully after Barack Obama has appointed a few more liberal, open-minded judges.

Ready to Go

As one sign said at the San Francisco rally I attended, “Civil Rights have never been advanced by popular vote.” It’s unfortunate that we continue to allow the majority to oppress the minority in this country, especially with issues of civil rights that should be guaranteed to all. But I am confident that I am on the right side of history: we will win this, and equality will be acheived.

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Done and Past

It’s over. The election, that is. I have spent the last 2 weeks “recovering,” by which I mean further putting off all of the things that I put off to do after November 4.

It was certainly an interesting ride. I spent my election day waking up at 6am and doing visibility in North Berkeley for NO on 8, the campaign to maintain the rights of same-sex couples in California, that unfortunately ultimately passed (more on that later).

I also was lucky enough to work for the Barack Obama campaign (spoiler: we won this one) in Reno, Nevada. I’m ashamed to say it was the first and last thing I did for the Obama campaign (which I should note that I fully and passionately support, regardless of my earlier work for Hillary), but I was glad to be a part of it nonetheless.

It has been said many times, most no doubt better than it will be here, but that Barack Obama will be president is an incredibly groundbreaking feat. In Europe, the United States is often thought to be a land still filled with racism and hatred (granted, much of this is probably true, but not to the extent believed). Great Britain, Ireland, Turkey, Finland, and others in Europe have all had women Heads of State, so having a woman president or vice president would not have been a huge deal for them (not to say that it wouldn’t have been a good thing). But a minority, a man who a little over 40 years ago may not have had the right to vote or marry a white woman? That is something that even Europe, in many ways proud of its progressive thinking, cannot claim to have had. For the first time in a long time, the United States is leading the world in a revolutionary and positive way, in overwhelmingly choosing to overlook racial divides to elect a black man as president. [Where is Europe’s Obama? this interesting BBC article asks] It’s a wake-up call for a part of the world that has gotten rather fond of hating and looking down upon us for the last 8-odd years.

Much is promised by Barack Obama, but he cannot, of course, perform miracles. He will not in his (hopefully) eight years, solve global warming. He will not untangle the US from the Middle East. He will not eliminate poverty, or world hunger, or racist tensions. He is one man who will direct American foreign and domestic policy, and many of his hands are tied up in the fact that much of what he will be doing is cleaning up after the Bush administration. He could not have come at a better time.

I went to a talk by a panel of polisci professors at my school answering the question “what will Obama change about American foreign policy.” The three of them differed on several things, namely, what to do about Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict, but what they could agree on is that the most important thing that Obama will bring to American foreign policy is not change itself but the concept and promise of change. That is, if foreign leaders and people think the United States is going to change dramatically, they will start treating it differently, and that is what actually could begin to facilitate the change necesary. They will begin to stop thinking of us as imperialists, bullies, etc, and even if we maintain many of the same policies (most of which are too old and embedded to be changed), good things will happen.

So I am excited, as you can probably tell. There are certainly still far too many racists in this country, as any visit to a white supremacist or conservative message board will tell you. But Obama’s election is a new American revolution, and I am incredibly excited to be a part of it.

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Not There Yet

I just returned from Reno, Nevada, a.k.a. where most San Francisco Bay Area Democrats (by which I mean, almost all Bay Areans) have been spending much of their time stumping for “That One” himself, Mr. Barack Obama. Over 1000 volunteers were at the Reno headquarters office, by which I mean warehouse, the vast majority of whom were from Sacramento or the Bay Area.  It’s really impressive to see so many people there, many of whom have devoted their lives/houses/money to the campaign for the last few months, weeks, and for some, over a year. I wish I could have stayed- there is so much to be done, so many people to be talked to, but there many, many things to be done at home here in California too, particularly the NO on 8 campaign (proposition 8 would amend the CA constitution to ban gay marriage), whose recent numbers have shown a frustrating amount of support for the proposition, particularly from youth. Anyway, I left knowing the campaign was in capable (and many) hands, and I look forward to Nevada going blue on November 4th.

Pretty much everyone not directly associated with the McCain campaign (and some who are) agree that Barack Obama will be hard to beat on election day. Fivethirtyeight.com currently gives him a 93.1 percent chance of becoming president-elect. He’s ahead by about 6 points in most national polls. Some in the media are reporting that this race is basically over. But we can’t believe that.

The fact is, complacency, presumption, and overconfidence on behalf of Democrats is helping Republicans right now. They have become the scrappy underdogs, determined to defeat those mean old Democrats who, according to their bizarre logic, are against real change. Sure, Obama is likely to win, but we want to make SURE. Republicans in many states are trying their darndest (Palinism, sorry) to steal votes, and we can’t let that happen. This election needs to be a landslide, a reaction to 8 years of neoconservative policies that domestically have put Americans in a worse place than they were in the 1990s and internationally have created a huge amount of anti-American sentiment.

So go volunteer: knock on doors, talk to people on the streets, call voters during the dinner hours, whatever. This is the most crucial election most of us have ever experienced, and we don’t want to leave it up to chance.

P.S. Voter registration in California (and many other states) ends TODAY. So if you are not registered, do it, or you may as well fall off the face of the earth- http://www.voteforchange.com.

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Tina Fey for Vice President

Surely by now you’ve heard about them- the videos that rocked the nation. Tina Fey IS Sarah Palin, except that she is probably smarter and a better role model for women, not to mention better at reading lines.

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton Give a PSA

Sarah Palin As Interviewed by Katie Couric (with actual dialogue)

Sarah Palin at the Vice Presidential Debate

As funny as these are (which is to say, REALLY funny), Sarah Palin as Vice President is no joke. Even if it sounds like a joke, as so many people have told me- even if it sounds like McCain could not have possibly chosen her because really, she is such a moron, have you heard some of the things she has said? But its not a joke. Sarah Palin wants to EXPAND the powers of the Vice Presidency, beyond where Cheney, the most powerful Vice President in American history has taken them. Even worse, she said that she would go to war with Russia– 40+ years of terrible Cold War diplomacy managed to avoid that, and now one woman with no foreign policy experience could destroy our peace with a non-threatening country that is in many cases an ally. She is the LAST thing this country needs right now, and everyone should be working their asses to make sure her and her elderly runningmate are denied on November 4th.

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The Consequential and The Conscientious

Shes making a difference

She's making a difference

A friend asked me the other day why I stay involved. I am just one person; a small cog in the internal combustion engine political machine.  So why bother? Why be so self-important as to assume that I can make a difference?
It’s a tough question, with a lot more philosophy involved than you might think. Being involved: with community service, in politics, in student government- means giving up your time and energy and not getting a whole lot back. So why bother?

Those who work in politics in particular can tell you how frustrating campaigns can be- months and indeed years spent in preparation, half of the time all for naught. Late night strategizing sessions, early morning canvassing, hours upon hours of phonebanking and confirmation calling and volunteer organizing- only to see your candidate lose because of a stupid word slip or semi-slanderous commericial or maybe just because people didn’t like your party that year. Why even try?

I guess the answer to these questions is that, if you don’t try, who will? One thing the Wall Street Meltdown Crisis of the Century taught is that people have to look out for themselves. The government won’t, your friendly local banks won’t, and Wall Street most definitely won’t.  If you want to make your neighborhood safer or cleaner or prettier or nicer, you have to do it. If you want a candidate to win, you have to help them yourself. If you want change to happen, you have to make it happen.

But it goes deeper than just doing things for your own good. Politics are about changing the world, changing history, profoundly affecting the lives of your future children. Think about a world without Bush- without the war in Iraq, without No Child Left Behind, without being so far on stopping global warming and environmental destruction, without such terrible debt, and probably without the aforementioned Wall Street crash. A few more people could have prevented all of these things- by ensuring enfranchisement for African-Americans in urban Ohio in 2004, or by educating a few more voters in Florida in 2000. These were elections that were quite literally decided by a relative handful of votes, and the impact they had is quite plainly devastating.

Not deep enough for you? How about this. Think about the time you spend watching TV, surfing the internet, playing video games, and whatever else you do in your free time. To avoid any unecessary preachiness, I’ll put myself in this position- I do these things, far more than I should. When I look back on my day every night, I think, what did I accomplish? If the answer is “watching the entire 5th season of America’s Next Top Model on VH1” or “napping and eating a lot,” then the day was probably a waste. Those are not the kind of things I want to think about when I lay on my deathbed. Those are not things that make the world the better place. Those are not even things that make me a better person. And while they may be relaxing or easy or even fun in small quantities, they are indeed wasteful and fruitful and, when repeated millions of times all across a listless nation, harmful.

John Kerry lost Ohio by just over a 100,000 votes. Bush won Florida, and the election, in 2000 by 537 votes. All of this could have been prevented. But it wasn’t. Who is going to stop it from happening next time?

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