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November 12, 2008

Olbermann on Proposition 8

Earlier this week, Keith Olbermann delivered the best commentary I've ever heard from him, a passionate piece on the injustice of California's Proposition 8 (text available here). He seemed almost on the verge of tears at some points, even though, as he pointed out, he has no personal investment in the issue.

For me, the core of Olbermann's argument came here:

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

We've redefined marriage to allow minorities to marry. We've redefined marriage to allow minorities to marry white people. We've redefined marriage to allow divorce.

But let's not let the facts of history get in the way of human rights.

November 08, 2008

One Reason I'm Blogging Again

Recently I was looking for something in my blog archives and found this entry, from December 2003:

[...] Social networking isn't a fad, it's a huge trend, and we're just at the start of it.

When social networks reach a billion humans through their cell phones, when social networks form the open directories of the future, when we share our words, our sounds, and our images with our social networks on a continuous basis, when we leave behind trails of the experiences that form our lives, when these trails live in multiple networks and are interconnected, persistent, available, and malleable... then we'll begin to comprehend how social networking will change us, how it will change our perception of ourselves and those around us, how it will change the fundamental nature of how we create, sustain, and destroy relationships.

Oh, and this is all going to happen within five years or so. Get ready.

That was exactly four years and eleven months ago.

November 06, 2008

If I Could Make a Request

I've been thinking about what it is I hope President-elect Obama will do once he takes office. Obviously there's a long wish list out there. The jobless want him to address unemployment. Unions want him to make it easier to organize. College students want him to lower the cost of education. Retirees want him to strengthen Medicare. The list goes on.

All these concerns are understandable. If I lost my job, finding a new one would be my priority, and I would want the President to help -- not directly, of course, but by creating a climate favorable to job creation. If I were retired, health care would be a critical concern, and I would want the President to ensure that Medicare would continue to be around for me.

But I'm not jobless and I'm not retired. I'm not a union member or a student. There's nothing in my life driving me to look to the government for assistance. So what it is that I want?

If I could make a request of the new President, it would be this:

Look to the future.

Mr. President-elect, I know you face a daunting list of action items. You are about to inherit the most challenging environment for a new president in my lifetime (which is only slightly shorter than yours). Many of the issues you must address are acute and demand immediate attention before they metastasize into larger problems.

That said, please keep in mind that we have been borrowing from the future to finance prosperity today. Yes, of course, this includes the national debt, which is incomprehensibly large and which will consume an ever-larger share of our budget in service payments if we don't do something about it. But it goes beyond fiscal issues alone. We have been adding carbon to the atmosphere because it has been cheaper to pollute than not to do so. We have been creating and extending entitlement programs without a clear path to pay for them in the future because doing so makes our lives easier today.

The problem is that all these bills -- essentially, national credit card bills for purchases we as a society are making, enjoying, and consuming today -- will come due for our children and our grandchildren. And it's hard for me to imagine many things more unfair than that.

Simply put, we as a nation have been living beyond our means. In the 2000s, we have run up inexcusably large deficits. In the 1990s, we stood by and did little or nothing while our allies began to address climate change. This is not a failing of Republicans or Democrats. It's a failing of us all.

Mr. President-elect, you have talked about the need for sacrifice. I believe that many Americans are prepared to make sacrifices if they clearly understand the purpose behind them. And I believe that many Americans are beginning to realize that we cannot continue to damage the future in order to make our lives easier today. So if you ask me to sacrifice, and if you can explain to me that my sacrifice will be to help undo this damage, and to begin to pay the various monetary, environmental, and other debts I have accumulated as a citizen of this nation, then I will make such sacrifice not reluctantly, not begrudgingly, but enthusiastically, and will think even more of you for asking it of me.

November 04, 2008


With two hours' perspective on Barack Obama's victory, what I'm left with is this: we are better as a nation than I feared we had become.

I'm delighted beyond words to be proved wrong.

Breaking Radio Silence

I've been waiting -- for months now -- for the right time to start blogging again. I can't imagine a more important or historic day: we're about to elect either the first African-American President-elect or the first female Vice President-elect in the history of the US.

The campaign that ends today has gone on so long, and received so much attention in the media, that I can't think of anything I could say about it that would be novel. What I can say is purely personal: I made the decision to support Barack Obama about this time last year, and since then, I've had no reason to reconsider that decision. In fact, watching how Obama has handled himself over the course of the campaign has convinced me repeatedly that I made the right decision.

Whatever your political beliefs, if you're a US citizen, I hope you vote today, if you haven't done so already. If we're to solve the daunting problems that face us as a nation, it will be because millions of citizens demand change -- and that change starts with becoming involved in the political process and electing leaders who will bring about the transformation we want and need. So whatever your concerns -- war, the economy, the environment, the national debt, education, health care, human rights, or others -- identify the candidates you believe will do the best possible job and vote for them. Then, stay involved in the process by insisting that elected officials follow up on their commitments.