Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Dog and Immigration

I am worried that my dog and I have different views on immigration.

I believe that America's strength has always been in our immigrants. They come to America to fulfill the American dream. They have brought a strong work ethic which has been the backbone of the miraculous productivity of America. With each wave of immigration they have also revitalized our culture.

My dog, on the other hand, believes in protecting the perimeter.

I was sitting in our backyard the other morning having coffee. We have a relatively new neighbor behind us. There is a privacy fence between us, so until some other neighbor introduces us I am not sure when or how we will meet. This neighbor has a dog, and the dog came to the other side of that privacy fence, and the two dogs started barking up a storm.

This is a regular event. I call Teddy, our border collie, and he obediently stops barking and comes to my side. But it is obvious that he is serious about protecting our border. I have started referring to him as our furry minuteman.

Teddy's views are based on pure instinct. A xenophobic instinct has served pack animals well in their effort to survive. Its hard to hold his views against him.

Humans are the ultimate social animals. So why do the minutemen's instincts not serve us well in our fight for survival?

A society's strength depends on renewal from the outside...renewal of ideas, culture, and even gene pool. Isolationism has never served America, or any empire, well. Successful empires find unique ways of exporting the empire's vision to the outer reaches of the empire, while embracing the best that those cultures have to offer. The "Pax Romana" or Roman Peace was a 200 year period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. During that time Rome built roads and cities that helped the provinces flourish. Military might alone could not have successfully held such large holdings for so long with such relative peace. It was the mutually beneficial arrangement of local rule, military protection, economic expansion, and cultural exchange that made it work.

America is an empire. We established the empire through an incredible industrial growth, which led to an economic imperialism. The current administration has led America to unilateralism in foreign policy. American corporations, with blessings from the government have changed the underpinning of our economy from production-based to finance-based. Both can have disastrous consequences, and we are seeing the beginnings of those consequences now.

In the past, much of the rest of the world wanted to be like America. Now many people around the world hate us. If we wish to retain our standing in the world we have to regain our position of respect. We will only get there by opening our arms to the world, not shutting them out. Much of America is aghast at how prevalent the spanish language has become in our country. I embrace it. This is exactly the type of cultural infusion that will make our country stronger. In the pack analogy, this is akin to the need to breed outside of the pack to ensure genetic diversity.

I should point out that my dog is an incredibly friendly animal. Three-year-old children can pull his tail or stick their fingers in his mouth without fear. And though he barks at the approach of anyone to our front door, he is incredibly friendly once they have been admitted.

Perhaps our views are not so disparate. He just wants an easy path to legal entry. I can live with that.

But I still wish he wouldn't bark every time the neighbor's dog was on the other side of the fence. And I don't think building a taller fence is the answer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How are Hillary and Howard Alike?

I've got several blog posts in the works, but recent news stories inspire me to get this one out quickly...

How ARE Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean alike?

  • They are both Democrats.
  • They both ran for President of the United States of America.
  • They both lost in the primaries.

How are Hillary and Howard's supporters alike?

  • Ya got me.

I was a Howard Dean supporter. More than supporter, I had invested hopes, dreams, and money into his campaign. I had visions of the first same-sex sleepover in the Lincoln bedroom after he moved into the White House. I was elected a Howard Dean delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. It was incredibly exciting. In spite of the popular story that it was "the scream" that destroyed his candidacy it remains my belief that the old guard of the democratic party had more to do with his downfall.

And I was not a particularly happy camper about a John Kerry presidency. John Kerry did not just beat Howard Dean. He had undermined the candidacy. Oh, the Dean campaign made some mistakes (that the Obama camp learned from), but the "politics-as-usual" group worked behind the scenes to ensure Howard's defeat.

By the time I got to the convention I had come around to John Kerry. It is part of the party process that folks win and folks lose. And it is imperative that losers get on board with the winners. I could write paragraphs about how much better John Kerry would be as President than George Bush. He was not just the lesser of two evils. John Kerry would have been a multilateralist in international relations. He would have stood for regulation of the financial industry. Those are positive things that would make America a different country today. And I could take solace in the fact that he had courageously voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

And now Hillary's supporters are lukewarm about Barack. I have some harsh words for any Hillary supporters who are equivocating about supporting Obama:

Get over it.

And get over it quickly.

And if you are believe that it is adding insult to injury that Hillary was not seriously considered for the vice-presidential spot, I can only say that winning the White House is more important than hurt feelings. I cannot read Barack's mind, but I am sure there are many reasons she was not seriously considered. But I bet at the top of the list is this:
One of the most important rules in selecting a VP is "Do not pick someone who will take the spotlight away from you".
And if Hillary would not take the limelight, her husband would. Though I was a fan of Bill's presidency, he proved during his wife's campaign that he cannot stay out of the limelight, and he was, for whatever reason, not effective.

If I can get over what the party brokers did to Howard, then Hillary's supporters can get over the fact that Barack ran a better campaign. Please folks, get a grip and realize that Obama would be a brilliant leader. John McCain would be a disaster for all of the things that Hillary stands for. He would continue America's militaristic adventures around the world. He would be beholden to a plethora of special interests. His campaign staff is littered with lobbyists. Not to mention he is horrible on LGBT rights.

I understand the disappointment after investing hopes and dreams in Hillary. Its not easy. Let me share what helped me get over my crushed dreams...Howard got over it. He had said from the beginning that the campaign was not about him. He was running because he thought he was the best candidate to get George Bush out of the White House. As soon as his campaign was over he proved that he meant his words. The campaign was not about him. He started fighting for Kerry immediately. I figured if he could get over it, then dammit, so could I.

For my sake, for America's sake, for Hillary's sake, and especially for your sake, I say to every Hillary supporter that it is time to move on. I don't want to hear any more whining. Whining will lose us votes, and we are going to need every one of them on November 4th.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


In May of 1978 I turned 21. This was not as auspicious a birthday as it would be today. At the time the Michigan drinking age was 18. I did NOT drink multiple shots of tequila and countless beers. I had already done that on my 18th birthday. There is probably a blog entry that could be written about that occasion.

The interesting part is that the voters of Michigan approved a constitutional amendment just a few months later that raised the drinking age to 21. Having recently been an 18-21 year-old, and feeling my peers deserved the constitutional right to party, I voted against that amendment. Nevertheless, it passed and the 18-21 age group was forced to resort to subterfuge to imbibe in spirits.

Even more interesting, if the 18-21 year-old population had turned out to vote in the same proportion as the rest of the population, and had voted against the amendment in the same proportion as the 18-21 year-olds that DID bother to vote, the amendment would have been rejected, and they would have still been able to drink.

Moral of the story: People do not always using the voting booth to protect their own self-interest, even when there is nothing BUT their self-interest at stake.

This Tuesday, August 5th is the Ann Arbor Primary election for City Council, Mayor, Sheriff, 15th District Judge and more. While the general election will be very important this year, the primary is going to decide who wins in November. And there are many local issues that will affect us more directly than the national election.

Historically, very few people show up for the August Primary. Your vote WILL make a difference. Anyone who knows me knows I have plenty of political opinions. As a result we have endorsed Sandi Smith in Ward One, Carsten Hohnke in Ward Five, and John Hieftje for Mayor, among others. But more important than voting for who I want you to vote for, I encourage all readers to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for the candidate of your choice.

If you are not registered to vote, it is too late for the primary. But it is NOT too late to register for the general election. We will be hosting voter registration drives on Saturday, August 9th and Saturday, August 23rd at the \aut\ BAR. You can also check with your City Clerk’s office to find out how to register, how to get absentee ballots, and much more.

Eighteen years earlier, in November of 1960, my mother stepped into the voting booth and pulled the lever for Richard Nixon. She vividly described the experience to me many years later. She did not particularly like Nixon, but she bought into the fear that JFK, a catholic, might owe his first allegiance to Rome, and not to the United States. Within moments of leaving the booth she regretted what she had done. She has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1960.

Moral of the Story: People often make different decisions once they are in the voting booth, even decisions that they did not know they were considering.

The two biggest enemies of a healthy democracy are apathy and fear.

The danger in November is fear. The republican noise machine has already started the subliminal campaign to remind voters that Obama is black, and black people want to steal from you, rape your daughter, and take your job.

And many good people will buy into this subliminal fear. Pollsters have not figured out how to get past what people say and figure out what they are actually going to do when they get in the voting booth. So all of the polls showing Obama in the lead could be meaningless. I would not be surprised if up to 5% of voters will vote their irrational fear over their enlightened self-interest.

If you are gay, a woman, African-American, or anything other than a rich white guy a McCain presidency is going to represent another four years of the same policies we've been experiencing for the last eight years. We MUST move beyond our fears, and vote for hopes, dreams, and aspirations.