Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Best of 2008

After much thought and deliberation, and a good deal of slacking off, here is my list of top ten albums of the year. These are the ones that never left the iPod, that never left the heavy rotation, the ones whose melodies played in my head before I fell asleep. I've tried to link streamable tracks or mp3s where I could find them.

1. Son Lux - At War with Walls and Mazes
This was an astonishing debut album. Son Lux - real name: Ryan Lott - is an classically trained electronic producer with soul. The songs on this album are all as simple as hymns - there's not much more than a sentence or two of lyrics in each song. But the songs are emotional symphonies, explosions of passion and despair and hopefulness. I played this one all year.

More about Son Lux here. Go get his record. Seriously. You will not be disappointed.

Sample: Raise

2. My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
You all know about my obsession with Shara Worden. She makes good on the promise of her first album with this deeper, more complex, and more layered album. From the crunch of Inside a Boy to the playful kalimba-fueled dance of Apples to the heartbreaking sweep of Ice and the Storm, this is a magnificent record.

Sample: Inside a Boy

3. Shearwater - Rook
A breathtaking album. Jonathan Meiburg's songwriting has never been better, the music never more effective. Wow.

Sample: Leviathan, Bound

4. Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)

I already knew I was going to love this when I read this review. Playful and creative songs and a constant theme of wonder and joy.

Sample (video): Everybody Here is a Cloud

5. Juana Molina - Un Día

Juana Molina sings cryptic dazzling songs in Spanish. I have no idea what she's saying. She's completely comfortable with me not knowing what she's saying. She creates her own music with stacks of keyboards, her own guitar, and her looped voice singing mad choruses over and over. This is great stuff.

Sample: Un Día

6. The Fireman - Electric Arguments

Paul McCartney - wow. This record is fuzzy, scuzzy, loud, danceable, and challenging. And beautiful. A great album by an artist I thought was done making great albums.

Sample: Nothing Too Much Out of Sight

7. She & Him - Volume One

If you haven't already caught this bug, I don't know where you've been. Catchy songs, multitracked girl-group vocals, tasteful music. Can't wait for Volume Two.

Sample: Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?

8. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals

This is my first real exposure to Girl Talk, and I was blown away. He takes the last thirty years of popular music, throws it in a blender, pours out the results, and makes it all danceable. Brilliant.

Sample: In Step

9. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

This is really all about David Byrne's soaring, inspirational vocals. The music is just a backdrop for his clever lyrics and amazing performance. Unexpectedly moving.

Sample: Strange Overtones

10. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

If you haven't heard this, brace yourself. It's quiet, introspective, and absolutely devastating. Listen to it on headphones, in a dark room, while thinking of your last conversation with the first person who broke your heart.

Sample: Flume

Honorable Mentions - Mercury Rev, Snowflake Midnight; Shelby Lynne, Just a Little Lovin', the Hold Steady, Stay Positive; Adele, 19; Esperanza Spaulding, Esperanza; Nine Inch Nails, The Slip; the Ting Tings, We Started Nothing, Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (this would have been higher probably, but I haven't heard the whole record yet).

Song of the Year

Tie: "Inside a Boy" by My Brightest Diamond. Both the original and the remix by Son Lux.

Both songs are amazing. The roaring song by MBD was one of the highlights of her new album. Son Lux' swirling, pulsing reconstruction of the song is one of the best remixes I've ever heard by any artist, and it made me want to hear more of his music.

Biggest Surprise of the Year

The Fireman - Electric Arguments. I thought about naming Son Lux' album here, too, but I can believe that there is a unknown yet brilliant twentysomething composer/producer out there. I did not believe that Paul McCartney would ever make an album this good and this challenging again.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges. I loved their performance on SNL, and I had such high hopes for this album. But it was just weird in all the wrong ways - an erratic, tragic misfire. I listen to four or five songs off the album and fast-forward the rest. And as for "Highly Suspicious?" I don't even know what to do with that song.

Let me know in the comments what albums I missed or what I got wrong. Have a happy new year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Big Boy

All non-parents will probably want to skip this post. This is about potty training, a subject that is of endless fascination to the parents of potty-training children and endless boredom to anyone else. It's okay. I get it.

Oliver's still doing the potty training thing. He wears a pullup at home and he does fine going potty by himself, although we often have to remind him. He doesn't have accidents per se - wet pants, puddles on the floor - because again, he's usually in a pullup.

He just got some very exciting big boy unders (his word) with bugs and dinosaurs and et al. on them. He loves them. That's not the big scoop.

The big scoop is that suddenly, he's been dashing off to go to the bathroom without mommy and daddy reminding him! This is a very big deal for us. It's a huge step toward him being completely independent. He's had two or three solid days of wearing underwear all day and not having a single accident.

A couple of days ago, he had just came back from a successful visit to the bathroom and we commended him for going all by himself. He got a huge grin on his face and pronounced, "I think I'm a big boy now!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


"This isn't New York. We generally have mild winters. It doesn't make sense to invest in infrastructure and equipment we rarely need. We are monitoring every source of information we have." - Greg Nickels, Mayor of Seattle
You got to love this snow. It is soooo beautiful! - from King County Executive Ron Sims' Twitter feed, sent

Our leaders have no idea what's going on in this city.

We have had snow on the ground for at least ten days, and it feels like an eternity. We have been experiencing a cold snap like Seattle hasn't seen for decades, so the snow's not melting. (To all you people in Chicago and Detroit and Boston and Minnesota - I know you cats are used to freezing temperatures. We're not. Snow usually falls and then melts the next day around here.)

People are sledding down main streets in downtown Seattle. The bus system has been running half of their usual buses, and several have gotten stuck in the snow and ice. Stores are sold out of chains and road salt, and now grocery stores are starting to run out of staples like milk and eggs. Gas stations, waiting for their tanker trucks to arrive, are running out of gasoline.

I drove to work last Tuesday, Dec. 16. And that is the last time I drove my car outside of my neighborhood. We haven't been to drive out of West Seattle for a week now. Our cars been parked a block away for over a week, because our own street is on a hill and has not been plowed since the first snow fell.

Seattle is not a town in the middle of nowhere. We are one of the largest cities on the West Coast, a major port and business center. We have 600,000 residents. And we do get snow, regardless of how often we get it. We own a "fleet" of 27 snowplows, sander and de-icers. There are probably small towns in Massachusetts that own more snow equipment than we do.

We don't own more snowplows because we never get snow like this - except when we do. We get a good snowstorm about once every three years. In 1996, we got tons of snow and a cold snap, and the city shut down. 1990 apparently also had a pretty memorable snowstorm. This is not a once-in-a-hundred-years occurrence.

Many people have started to attack the city and the county for their response to the snow. There's a debate breaking out about whether the city should be using salt. (They don't because of the environmental impact, opting instead for stuff called Geomelt C.) But it's more than that. Their entire response to snow is to assume that it will melt away in a day or two. They plow the main streets - not the smaller side streets liked ours - but don't remove the ice deliberately.

"We're trying to create a hard-packed surface," said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "It doesn't look like anything you'd find in Chicago or New York."

And of course, they don't plow the side streets at all, because they don't own enough plows. And they don't own enough plows because they never get snow like this.

Except when they do.

You will recall that I was furious two years ago, when the city couldn't restore our apartment's power for nearly four days after a powerful windstorm. I'm not any happier about their response to the current situation. This just isn't about not being able to get to the mall to buy Christmas presents, although I'm sure there's been a huge economic impact because of the city being immobilized. People are going to be losing their jobs because they can't get into their workplace. I'm certain there are people whose lives have been endangered because they can't get to the hospital, or their doctor, or their dialysis treatment. We'll start hearing about them in the next few weeks. We are suffering, and our elected leaders either don't realize it or don't want to admit that they've failed this test.

The problem is that they're responding as if we're getting the same old weather that we always (read: usually) get. You can't use the old responses when the weather isn't following the old pattern. I would think at least that Greg Nickels, a firm believer in climate change, would realize that. They should have had a plan in place for snow that didn't fit the usual pattern. Now, I don't know what that response should have been and it's not my job to make that decision. Maybe we need a few hundred tons of salt on hand, for just such an emergency like this. Maybe we need to invest in a hundred snowplows that can easily be mounted on city trucks on short notice. Or maybe we need to triple the use of GeoMelt C.

All I know is that right now, their strategy for responding to this snow has been an absolute failure. And a lot of us are starting to get angry about it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I'm brewing a morning pot of coffee. I can't believe we still have power.

Last night, we were battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst. The Weather Service was warning of hurricane-force winds (not exactly in Seattle, but it was supposed to get pretty gusty.) The city started opening emergency shelters for victims of power outages and they opened up their Emergency Response center.

And I was having flashbacks to the windstorm two years ago. I remembered how, outside our window, the wind was blowing like we were on the deck of a ship that had sailed into a hurricane. Transformers were exploding outside. Trees were crashing to the ground. It looked vaguely like that Stephen King story, the Mist, what with the apocalypse happening outside our windows. We lost our power around 1 in the morning and didn't get it back for nearly four days.

So this time, we gathered up our flashlights and our blankets. We stocked up on food and bought emergency water for drinking. We wrote down emergency phone numbers and brought up the cooler from downstairs in case our refrigerator went out. And we mentally prepared for a cold, bitter night.

And when the wind started picking up last night, I started getting a knot in the pit of my stomach. And then ... it never happened. The wind never got worse than a stiff breeze. The dangerous winds never materialized for us. The coffee pot's still brewing, the lights are on, the heat is on. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful. The end.

So it snowed on Saturday.

At first we were all excited. Yay snow! We watched it fall, we went outside to take pictures.

Oliver woke up in the morning and wanted to go run around in the snow! And throw snowballs! And make snowmen!

I decided to drive to the store to get coffee and provisions. I was in the car for fifteen minutes, and my front tires went about three inches. My back tires slid six feet, jutting the car right out into the road.

Then I spent twenty minutes trying to maneuver the car back over to the side of the road so it wouldn't get hit. Once it was safely on the curb, I walked to the store while Mrs. B and Oliver played in the snow.

This is what the entrance to the local supermarket looked like on Sunday.

Here's what happened. It snowed, it melted a bit, and then everything froze. Now, this is Seattle, so what usually happens is that it snows and then everything melts. Or it snows, and then it rains. Or it snows and then stops fifteen minutes later. This time, it seriously froze. It is 28º outside right now, and they're predicting freezing temperatures for the next two weeks.

So all the snow has turned into ice, and all of the side streets are frozen over. And that's where we get into trouble. You see, Seattle doesn't get snow so we're not exactly stocked up for it. Seattle has 44 trucks with snowplows and sanders for a city of nearly 600,000. So they've plowed and sanded the main roads, and they're trying to get to the side streets when they can. But right now, most of the side streets are beautiful glistening sheets of deadly ice.

We're a city of hills, which is also compounding the problem. We live on a small hill ourselves, and right now that hill is a death trap. Mrs. B and I both drove into work, but it was an ordeal getting both cars out of our driveway and onto the roads. I tried to drive up the hill, toward the main road, and it was almost laughable - I spun my tires, slid, skidded, and finally turned around and careened down the icy hill toward the paved cross street, hoping that I hit pavement instead of a patch of ice when I made my turn. Then I did the same thing for Mrs. B's car. It was a bit of a frightening ordeal.

Don't get me wrong - I've driven in snow before. I used to live and drive in Colorado and western Massachusetts. So snow doesn't scare me. But it's the combination of a) the hills, b) the lack of plows and sanders, and c) the crazy Seattle drivers that have me spooked. Driving on flat plowed roads is a whole different experience than driving on hilly icy streets.

It's going to snow again tonight. It might snow again next week. One local station said that we might see temperatures below freezing through the end of the year! For Seattle, this is culture shock. We're barely used to snow. Freezing temperatures are absolutely stunning. The news stations had to tell people to do things like unplug their garden hoses and cover their outside faucets so their pipes wouldn't freeze. It's fair to say that our city is in shock right now. And it's not going to get better anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


This was in his mouth until Monday morning. (The tooth, not the dime.)

It's a molar. The first tooth he has lost.

It doesn't look all that big, until you realize that it was inside his mouth, and his mouth is tiny.

It didn't get wobbly and come out, the way baby teeth do naturally. This tooth had a cavity, and the cavity got infected, and the infection got down to the nerve, and yesterday the dentist pulled it out.

His mouth has been bothering him for a couple of weeks. Mrs. B took him to the dentist once, and she thought it was a nasty bite on his cheek. But that healed up, and he was still complaining about his mouth. So went to the doctor, and she checked his cheek but couldn't find any wound. She didn't know what was bothering him. And that made the pain go away for a while.

But on and off, it's been bugging him. And then Sunday came. Sunday afternoon, his mouth was suddenly on fire. He was howling in pain. After he went to bed that night, he woke up keening miserably in pain. He was like that all night - restless, thrashing, and moaning in agony. Mrs. B gave him some ibuprofen and that finally helped him sleep for a few hours.

But Monday morning, he was screaming again. I can only describe it from a distance - I was at work, and the Mrs. was at home with him for the day. She called once. I heard him in the background, wailing in a way that I can't remember hearing him before. It was heart-breaking.

So they went to the dentist that morning, and they took x-rays, and they discovered the infection. And the tooth came out.

He feels better now. he's probing around the hole with his tongue, feeling his cheek with his finger. But he's not in pain anymore. He's sleeping now, and he's sleeping like a lamb. I should be relieved, but I'm just depressed.

The hole in his mouth is enormous. It's a giant gaping wound, a scar in his beautiful perfect little mouth.

He knows about the tooth fairy now. She left him a dollar. He's not supposed to know about the tooth fairy. He's only three. His teeth are all supposed to stay in his mouth for a couple more years. All of them.

When he was little - when he was just crawling - we were playing around one day in the kitchen. He was climbing between my legs, and I would squeee-e-e-e-eeze them together around him. He would squeal in delight, and I would let him go again. He'd crawl another step, and then I'd squeeze my legs against his ribs again.

Well, I did that one time and for some reason, I thought that he was holding himself up by his hands. I released my legs suddenly. He fell with a thud, and then he started screaming. He had fallen smack on his mouth and came up with a mouthful of blood.

I held towels to his mouth to soak up the blood, cursing myself for what I had done. I felt sick that I had caused this beautiful boy harm. He was hurt and it was my fault. Months later, at his first dental visit, I found out that he had chipped a tooth. And I knew the exact moment when it had happened.

And now, this tooth. Was it our fault that it had failed? Did we start him on fluoride toothpaste too late? Were we negligent in brushing his back molars? What had we done? I feel like it's my fault, this giant hole in his mouth.

I've had friends tell me that it's genetics, the undeniable hand of genetics. I know that my family has terrible teeth. I have a mouthful of fillings myself. The dentist even said that the tooth was new and could have been malformed. It's all probably true. I'll keep saying that, and eventually I'll probably start believing it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let Us Give Thanks

Anne Lamott reminds me that, besides being grateful for our friends and family and the people who love us, we should also be thankful for what has happened in this country in the last month. So let's pause and appreciate the moment.

This man is going to be our next president.

This man will not be our next president.

In two months, this man will no longer be our president.

He will not be replaced by this man.

Or this man.

Or this man.

Or this woman.
He will be replaced by a man named Barack Obama.

We will have a president who speaks in complete sentences and thinks about his words.

We will have a president whose press conferences are not causes for alarm.

We will have a president who restores dignity and honor to the White House, a president who is not a worldwide embarrassment, a president who truly listens to the people.

We will have a president of whom we can be proud.

Let us be thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Human Spam?

Dan Savage has never offended me with any of his columns describing all manner of lewd, perverse, weird, kinky, and occasionally extralegal behavior. But today he went and did it.

Dan Savage called street canvassers "human spam" on the Stranger's blog today.

Human Spam. Spam, as in the annoying and often fraudulent crap that fills your email inbox. He thinks that canvassers are no better than spammers.

It's an insult to everyone who's ever been held a clipboard and asked for money. I should know. I was a field canvasser for a month, going door-to-door and raising money for a local nonprofit. It was one of the hardest jobs I've ever done, and I don't think I'd have the guts to do it again. But I have enormous respect for anyone who does this job - and clearly I'm ahead of Savage in this way.

I still raise money today, and I learned a tremendous amount in my time as a canvasser. If you don't like them, don't respond to them. But they deserve respect, whether or not you agree with them.

He apparently said the same thing a couple of years ago. This was from his column back in 2007.

So I watched as the WashPIRG workers hit the office workers up for donations. And I thought, man, I hate those WashPIRG people. I know, I know—all for a good cause, blah blah blah. But I still fucking hate it when one of a WashPIRGer collars me on the street. According to their website, WashPIRG is a "non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group working on behalf of consumers, the environment, and good government," and the subtext to any interaction with a WashPIRGer is, basically, "Give me some money—unless you don't care about product safety, the environment, good government, and all that other stuff."

I don't want to pretend that Dan Savage's opinion is more influential than someone like Joel Connelly or Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd. He's a professional loudmouth, a middle-aged curmudgeon. He's Andy Rooney for the hip Seattle set.

What's more discouraging is the number of people who agree with him, or who offer their own nasty comments about canvassers. Here's one response:

i view this as social terrorism. it's one of my biggest pet peeves. i'm serious. if i was interested in your damn cause, i'd seek you out. if it only happened occasionally, i'd mind less but it's a never-ending stream of someone needing something from me. i'm just trying to go about my business. it's no different from panhandling as far as i'm concerned. and if i have my headphones on or AM on a phone call, please don't interrupt me -- it's rude!

Like it's not bad enough to have Sarah Palin talking smack about community organizers. It's not bad enough to have everyone from Rush Limbaugh to John McCain talking smack about voter registration drives by groups like ACORN. Now we've got to deal with Dan Savage acting all offended and righteous about canvassers.

I've had it. This act of aggression will not stand, man. I'm going to put my two cents on the blog. And I'll encourage you all to do the same, if you've ever been a field canvasser. Or if you've ever known anyone who did the job. We need to add some balance to the blog's comments. Someone has to point out that, no matter how much they may not like it, canvassing is a legal activity. It's an important activity. It's not panhandling. It's still the way many nonprofits pay their bills and find new members. If it didn't work, no one would be doing it.

(A friendly reminder - if you do respond to Savage, remember to be civil. Any profanity, name-calling, insults, etc. will just be taken as evidence of our less-than-worthiness. Speak truth to Power, don't just call Power an asshole and think you did something great.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making Mischief

We have this great shelving unit thing in Oliver's playroom that holds all of his miscellaneous toys that doesn't go anywhere else - the random puzzle pieces, dolls, tops, stuffed animals, cards, and so on. It's pretty simple - twelve plastic bins of various sizes and a nice shelf to hold them all.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw him carrying all of the empty bins, stacked together, down the hall.

"Daddy, I'm going to take these far, far away."

I stared at him, dumbfounded, not realizing at first what had happened. And then I went to look in his bedroom, and found his shelf stripped bare. Everything - toys, bins, the whole kit and kaboodle - was gone.

And then I asked: "But Oliver, where did all the stuff go that was in those bins?"

"It's in my basket."

Yes, it was. All of it. Twelve bins, emptied into one vessel. It wasn't a pretty sight.

The strata of his playroom, as it were.

He then dragged the entire overstuffed bin down the hall into our bedroom, where he had already laid out all the bins. He proceeded to start sorting all of the toys back into the bins.

This fun game lasted for about five seconds before he decided it was more fun to toss everything onto our bed.

The moral of the story: when your child is in another room, happily and quietly playing, this is not a time to relax. This is the time to imagine the worst thing he could possibly be doing. Because the chances are good that's exactly what he's doing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memo re: Hustler

To: the sketchy-looking dude in the pick-up who was driving in front of me this morning

I wish to inform you that the "Hustler" bumper sticker on the back of your truck is not sending the message you intended.

I am sure that you meant to announce to the world that you are a hustler - i.e. someone who hustles, a playa, someone with street smarts, a sharp businessman. A pimp, if you will.

However, the only signal you were sending was that you read Hustler magazine. And we already knew that.



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama Celebration at Hampshire College

This is my old college!

I never thought I'd see the day when a joyous screaming mob at Hampshire would break into the Star-Spangled Banner. Crazy times.

Obama Dance Party - in the streets of Seattle

Let's never forget how good it felt on Tuesday night, the moment we found out that Barack Obama was going to be our next president.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mutt Like Me

I didn't cry until this morning.

I've gotten emotional this week, of course. Tuesday night was amazing. I watched Obama's victory speech in awe and astonishment. But I never cried until today, watching his first post-election press conference.

Oddly enough, it was a question about dogs. He has promised his girls a dog if they move into the White House, and he was asked a light-hearted question about the kind of dog they were considering. And he said that he needed to consider getting a hypoallergenic dog because one of his girls is allergic.

But he then said that his preference was to get a dog from a shelter, and "most shelter dogs are mutts like me." I pumped my fist and cheered. And then I got misty-eyed.

Barack Obama is a mutt. He's a mixture, a hybrid, a biracial blend. He is both black and white, Kenyan and Hawaiian and Kansan, a swirl of cultures all at once.

I know something about this.

My father is 1st-generation Mexican-American, by which I mean that his parents were Mexican-born. He was born in Michigan, an American citizen although his father never became a naturalized citizen. He grew up speaking Spanish and English.

My mother was French-Canadian and English, from western Massachusetts. When they married and he came to New England to meet her family, he found them all staring anxiously out the window as he approached. They had never seen a Mexican person before, you see, and they couldn't wait to see what he looked like.

My childhood was a mixture of identities. I was never white, but never as dark as the pure Mexican kids in my neighborhood. I was in-between. I had a Spanish last name, but I couldn't speak Spanish beyond perro and gato. I was a typical American kid in most respects, I like to think: cable tv, video games, Sesame Street. And yet, there was that other thing that was so inconsequential and yet set me apart from the other kids on my block. I was different.

When I was thirteen, my family moved to a rural town in Colorado and I had to adjust to a whole new speed of living. I went from city life to a farm town. I adjusted well, learned to love country music and the Denver Broncos. I found many friends, graduated near the top of my class. I was in six plays in four years, played two years of high school baseball, won my first writing contest.

I believe today that because of my in-betweenness, I learned to drift and float between cultures and identities. Because I was always something in-between, I learned how to adapt to people who weren't exactly like me and assimilate myself to be just like them. As long as I needed to - until I needed to adapt to another group for an hour or a week or a year.

There were Mexican kids in my school who were low-riders, dropouts, drifters. There were also kids who were great students, cheerleaders, football stars. They weren't like each other, and none of them was like me, and I wasn't like any of them. I was someone who moved into town just in time to start 9th grade. I was an outsider as the new kid, the different kid. And then I was just me.

When I look at Barack Obama, I see a life story like mine. I was born in Michigan to a father whose parents were born in another country. He was born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya. I grew up a half-Mexican kid in Detroit and rural Colorado. He grew up a black kid in Honolulu and Indonesia.

I hear all these stories about how he crosses party lines, how well he works with political opponents, how he befriends his enemies. We do that. We see things from outside, always from outside, always sampling the other person's point of view. We wear different perspectives as a matter of course. We are always looking for the perspective that hasn't been expressed, for the point of view that isn't being noticed, the middle ground between the warring factions. We blend, and we try to bring together the seemingly irreconcilable as a matter of habit.

I have voted for presidents every year since 1988, and this is the first time I have been happy with my pick. No, more than that. I was overjoyed to select the name of Barack Hussein Obama to be my next president. He is of my generation - just eight years older than me. He is a parent of young children, like me. Like me, he married someone beautiful and intelligent and his equal, if not his better, in nearly every way. (Hi, sweetie.)

But it's deeper. Barack Obama has that complicated, hard-to-explain life story that I recognize all too well. He's several things all at once. He is at once African-American and white and neither of those things. He is a blend, multiracial, like me. He's a drifter between worlds, like me. He's a mutt, just like me, just like millions of Americans.

He's one of us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Star-Spangled Mob

In Portland, OR, a crowd of celebrants (Is that the right word?) broke out in a spontaneous rendition of the National Anthem.

I heard this morning of one family who hung their American flag for the first time in seven years.

It's a very good time to be an American.

That's all I can say now. More later. Much much more later.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Future

That's the only prediction I'm going to make. Look, nobody comes to this blog to get cutting-edge punditry. Go to TPM or Kos or the Group News Blog.

Go vote, if you haven't already. I voted for Obama, Chris Gregoire, and I voted yes on Initiative 1000. I would have voted for Darcy Burner, but I'm not in her district. That's as much as I'm going to share about my choices.

Stop reading. Go vote. Do it now. Get yer free coffee or your free ice cream or your free I have no idea what this thing does, but go vote.

I'm on pins and needles waiting for the results to come in, but I think it's going to be a very good night tonight.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ACORN: 1.3 Million New Voters?

Y'know, when people are watching everything that you say, you really need to get your facts straight.

I've seen Bertha Lewis on several news programs bragging that ACORN has registered 1.3 million new voters. Those are the words she used: "1.3 million new voters."

Here's the problem, though. When you're registering people to vote, of course you're looking for that person who has never been registered before. Those folks are like gold. But a lot of the time, you're also going to find people who have moved and forgot to change over their registration. You'll find people who might want to become permanent absentee voters (like in Washington State). So what do you do? You hand them the registration form. You turn it in. And it gets counted as a voter registration, even if it's not a brand-new voter.

Bertha Lewis is making a simple, but critical, mistake. She has been telling people over and over that they registered over a million new voters. Wrong. ACORN turned in 1.3 million voter registration forms.

30% of them - about 400.000 - were rejected by officials, which leaves 900,000. So they registered 900,000 new voters?

Well, no. About half were actually changes in address. That leaves only 400,000 new voters. Sadly, they collected as many bad registrations as they did legitimate registrations.

Never a good idea to get your facts wrong when you're in the national spotlight, especially when you're getting your facts wrong on the very issue - voter registration - for which you're being vilified . 400,000 new voters is an impressive number, but it sounds a lot less impressive than 1.3 million.

And before this post gets picked up by the ACORN haters, so let me state this for the umpty-millionth time: I don't agree with the people attacking ACORN right now. I don't believe in any way that ACORN is organizing some sort of systematic voter fraud.

But I do think that they're a target right now, and when you're being targeted, it is imperative that you don't say a word in public that you're not able to back up. The more mistakes they make in their public statements, the more that haters will be able to say that everything ACORN does is fraudulent. When they're shooting at you, do not give them ammunition!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sixty Seconds

Yesterday, Oliver and I went down to the toy store in Old Town Burien.  Great toy store, lots of selection.  We were buying a birthday present for a friend's little boy who was celebrating his first birthday.

As we were coming out of the store, he did what he often does - he went trotting down the sidewalk at a merry pace.  I stopped for a second to put my bags in the car and he just kept running.

"Stop, Oliver," I called.  He just kept running.

A second time:  "Stop, Oliver."  I heard laughter this time.  

It was then that I noticed the parking lot for the store next to the toy store.  All of the cars were parked head-first; all of them would be backing out, and it's almost impossible to see a little boy when you're backing up.

"OLIVER, STOP!"  I shouted as hard as I could. He didn't stop.  I went charging down the sidewalk, snatched him up by the front of his jacket just as he crossed over the threshold of the parking lot.   I probably picked him up too hard.  I pulled him back a few feet so we were standing on the sidewalk, and I began what must have been an old speech for him:  listen to us when we tell you to stop, we're trying to protect you, don't ignore us.  

And then I saw the first car in line in the parking lot begin to slowly back out of its spot.   And my heart stopped.  

If I had been a minute slower, Oliver would have been standing in that very spot as the car backed out.   Just sixty seconds between a stern lecture and a trip to the hospital.  

"Did you see that car come out?" I shouted at him, pointing furiously at the car.  "THAT'S why you need to listen.  That's exactly why I was telling you to stop."  I continued barking at him in the back seat as I buckled him into his seat, and I think he started to realize that daddy wasn't just mad, he was also frightened.
If only he weren't so small, and I wasn't so paranoid, and the world wasn't so dangerous.  

P.S.  I shared this with some of my online friends, and Invisible Posse member AK mentioned this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.  It seems like the perfect sentiment for all the dads out there (and moms, too) who know what it's like to protect someone who seems so perfect, so precious, and yet so hopelessly fragile. 


A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able 
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

ACORN - Demons and Smokescreens

Look, I don't like ACORN. But nobody deserves what's happening to them right now.

McCain and Palin have as much as accused them of running a criminal organization. The National Review called the organization "Obama’s wholly owned vote-fraud division." And guess what happens when you stigmatize an entire organization as criminals?

Death threats. That's what happens.

"You liberal idiots. Dumb shits. Welfare bums. You guys just fucking come to our country, consume every natural resource there is, and make a lot of babies. That's all you guys do. And then suck up the welfare and expect everyone else to pay for your hospital bills for your kids. I just say let your kids die. That's the best move. Just let your children die. Forget about paying for hospital bills for them. I'm not gonna do it. You guys are lowlifes. And I hope you all die."

Canvassers get assaulted. That's what happens.

“The next thing I know he’s telling us we’re not his people, we’re probably with ACORN, and he started screaming and raving. He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming. The man terrified me.”

ACORN offices get broken into. That's what happens.

When employees arrived at work Thursday morning they discovered that the office had been ransacked, desktop computers stolen and internet and phone lines ripped out of the wall. The group believes it has become a political target.

Now, here's the truth, children.

Point 1: ACORN is not going to steal this election. Know why? Because canvassers who turn in fake registrations are not registering people falsely. They're writing up fake names for people who do not exist. Mickey Mouse and John Smith and Strawberry Shortcake are not going to show up at the polls.

If John McCain loses - when John McCain loses - it will because Obama won fair and square. So STFU about ACORN stealing the election.

Point 2: ACORN is not committing fraud. Any people who submit fake registrations are defrauding ACORN. (Didn't we already talk about this?)

Point 3: The Republicans have an ulterior motive to attacking ACORN. ACORN has been fighting predatory lenders and crooked banks for over a decade now - the very same people who cozied up to losing horse McCain. They've been fighting for those dirty, rotten, terrible, poor people for over thirty years now, and they've had victory after victory. Republicans are using all the "voter fraud" hysteria to demonize ACORN, so they can't continue their work fighting for the rights of low-income people.

Allison Kilkenny connects the dots:

Getting rid of ACORN will be another feather in the Bush administration's cap. This grassroots community organizing machines runs in direct conflict with the Bush dream of a privatized planet. ACORN demands housing regulation at a time when the Bush administration is still trying to clean up the mess from years of market deregulation. ACORN demands representation for poor minorities (who overwhelmingly vote Democrat) during a time when McCain is desperately clawing for votes in states that are normally Republican strongholds. ACORN demands good public schooling at a time when McCain is hollowing out schools with his vouchers that will effectively rob poor children of a chance at public, secular education and stick them in private classrooms with religious agendas.

The "voter fraud scandal" isn't about voter fraud, people. Look deeper.

Monday, October 13, 2008

ACORN Haters Gotta Hate

ACORN is doing another massive voter registration drive this year. They have registered 1.3 million new voters for the 2008 election. And once again, there are a few people who are cheating the system by submitting false registrations. This has happened before, and not just with ACORN. But they're one of the largest organizations doing voter reg work, so of course, they're also going to be one of the biggest targets. That's the way it works. If you're successful, you become a target.

Republican haters are saying that ACORN is basically a voter fraud operation. One even called them a "quasi-criminal" organization and a "threat to public safety." This, to use a technical term, is horseshit.

I've got my beefs with ACORN, as has been well documented. But don't hate on them for registering new voters. They register low-income voters, disenfranchised voters, young voters, people of color. In other words, the people who are most likely to support Obama and progressive candidates. And look who's complaining about ACORN's work. This isn't brain surgery. Republicans hate anyone who empowers the powerless. That means community organizers. That means nonprofit organizations who do any social justice work. And that means groups who register people to vote.

ACORN is doing important work, work that supports and strengthens our democracy. And yeah, a few low-wage workers will find ways to cheat the system. How can ACORN stop it? Maybe they should pay their people more, so cheating isn't such a temptation. Maybe they should do more stringent background checks. There's ways to do it, and ACORN needs to start taking some serious steps to fight fraudulent registrations.

But think about this. Most of these workers have a certain amount of registrations they're supposed to collect. Either they have a quota or they're getting paid per registration. Every time one of these cheaters submits a false registration, ACORN is paying them as if they collected a valid registration. So when ACORN workers submit fraudulent registrations, they are cheating ACORN. ACORN isn't committing fraud - the cheaters are committing fraud against ACORN. (Thanks to Salon writer Alex Koppelmann for spelling this out in his excellent War Room post.) They are also damaging ACORN's public reputation - you think ACORN likes being called names in the media? No. They don't.

So now John McCain and his Republican thugs are trying to draw up a connection between Obama and ACORN. Ooh, scary - Obama spoke to them at a training! Oooh, scary - ACORN might have given Obama money at some point for doing sneaky lawyer stuff! Now they've got a commercial out, trying to make ACORN look like the mafia. "They even endorsed him for president," says the creepy voice. Ooh, scary!

Look, if you work in the progressive world, you're going to run across ACORN at some point. I've met ACORN organizers a bunch of times, as recently as this summer. I saw Wade Rathke speak once in Seattle, a few years ago. They're a player in the social justice world, and unless you're completely isolated, you'll run into them.

Obama is connected with ACORN only because he has connections with the social justice world. ACORN isn't a criminal enterprise - they're an organization dedicated to fighting injustice and poverty. They've got their problems, but that's not Obama's fault. Obama had nothing to do with the embezzlement. He has nothing to do with the mismanagement of the organization.

I want to be absolutely clear, since I've attacked ACORN before for their internal problems. An attack of ACORN's voter registration work is the same as the attack on community organizers. It's an attempt to take good, honest, patriotic work and turn it into something suspicious. Barack Obama has worked throughout his career with the people who make change happens, and that means that at some point, he crossed paths with ACORN. There is no shame in that.

Update: There is truly no shame in working with ACORN, and John McCain knows that. That must explain why he attended an immigration event that ACORN co-hosted back in 2006.

Ha, ha, ha.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Color is Heaven?

I need to tell you something, and some of you longtime readers know this already.

My brother died in 1995. He was murdered, by somebody who will be in jail for the rest of his life.

My mother died in 1980, when I was ten years old. She was manic depressive - today we call it bipolar disorder. She took her own life. I don't know if I want to say anything more about it. Someday I might.

I miss them every day. Some days more than others, but I miss them every day. I often talk about them, especially now that Oliver has come into our life.

My father-in-law - Mrs. B's father - passed away two years ago. Cancer. It was shockingly swift, like a car crash. I can tell you that Mrs. B misses him every day.

Oliver has seen pictures of these people - his uncle, his grandmother, his grandfather - and knows that they existed once. He met his grandfather, just once, before he died.

One day, we knew that we would have to explain that they were no longer here, no longer on this plane. So we decided that we would have to explain death. And one morning, the three of us were laying in bed and Oliver asked something about his uncle. And we started talking about death.

We chose to tell him that death is what happens when someone's body gets broken and stops working. We told him that usually, this happens when someone gets really, really old. (This way, he doesn't have to worry that his parents are going to keel over next week. Or that he will. I know that someday, he will learn math, and he will realize that his uncle was just 29 when he died, and that his grandmother was just 35. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.)

So we talked about death, and then we talked about heaven. I told him that heaven was the place where you go where you die, and everybody goes there. (There is no hell. The God in which I believe does not believe in eternal damnation. YMMV.) Frankly, he was much more interested in heaven. And wouldn't you be? Think about it - it's an invisible place up in the sky where everybody you ever loved goes to live, where you can get everything good that you ever wanted, where nothing bad ever happens. Heaven is way cool.

So the other day, I was putting him to bed, and he started asking about uncle Mike up in heaven. Apparently, he had some details he was trying to get straight.

What color is heaven?

Where is heaven?

Is it there all the time? (Logical question. The moon goes away during the day, the sun goes down at night. Yet heaven is always there.)

What is in heaven? (He wanted details: birds? Trees? Streets? Houses?)

What is Uncle Mike's house in heaven?
(Translation: describe it to me.)

What street does Uncle Mike live on in heaven?

What does he do in heaven?

Does he look down on me every day?

At night, too?
(It's dark at night, so this is understandably a pretty weird concept.)

Do they eat in heaven?

What food do they have in heaven?

Do they have beds in heaven?

And then he asked if he was going to go to heaven, and I answered him: you are absolutely, definitely going to go to heaven.

He asked why, and I told him that he just was, that this was just the way things worked. I didn't say what I was thinking: if there is no place for you in heaven, son, then it doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Two A-Holes Go to Vote

Note: if you're not familiar with the SNL sketch featuring Kristin Wiig and Jason Sudeikis, you can see videos here and here to see what we're working with. Thanks to Kdub, Mrs. Monsky, and JoshD for inspiration and brilliant lines.

Scene: A school gymnasium, festooned with red, white, and blue streamers. Four voting booths, curtains open, are arranged in a row. A lone man in his fifties is working behind a long folding table. In front of him: a stack of legal-size printed paper (voter rolls), pencils, markers, and a roll of "I Voted" stickers.

Two a-holes walk into gymnasium. He has hands stuffed in pockets and looks vaguely impatient. She is looking at a Blackberry and idly playing with a strand of her hair. Both are snapping gum loudly. A line of people stands behind them, irritated.

Poll worker: Hi, are you here to vote?

They both look around the room for a minute, getting their bearings.

Poll worker: Um, hello? Are you here to vote?
She: I want a hot dog.
He: You got hot dogs here? We want two.
PW: We don't sell hot dogs here.
He: Lotsa mustard.
She: And chips.
He: Yeah, you got them baked chips?
PW: We don't sell ... are you here to vote, or not?
He:Wanna vote, babe?
She: What?
He: Wanna vote?
She: Wanna what?
He: Vote.
She: The what?
He: Vote.
She (after a pause): Yeah.
He: Yep. We're gonna vote. Let's do this.
PW: Okay, great. Just let me check your registration. You are registered to vote, correct?
He: Nah. First Amendment. It's a free country.
PW: Well, you're correct, of course. But you do have to register to vote. The First Amendment doesn't have anything to do with voter registration.
He: Second amendment.
PW: That's the right to bear arms.
He: Fourth amendment.
PW: That protects against illegal search and seizure - again, not relevant.
He (grinning): I'll plead the fifth. (to her) I pleaded the fifth, babe.
PW (exasperated): Sir, none of the amendments to the Constitution have to do with your registering to vote. Do you know if you're registered?

He grabs the stack of voter rolls off the table.

PW: Hey!!
He: That's me right there. And, uh ...

(rifles through pages)

She: That's her.

She smiles for a fraction of a second, then the blank look on her face returns.

PW (flustered, struggles to regain composure): Okay. Well, all right, go ahead and sign there ... and there for you, ma'am...

They both sign.

And now you're ready to vote. So you can just, um, pick a booth...

He: Hah?
Poll worker: You'll have to step into the booth to vote.
He: (brandishes cell phone) Can't you just text your vote?
She: I want to vote for Sanjaya.
He: Yeah, we pick Sanjaya.
PW: (sputtering) This is not American Idol. You'll be voting for elected officials ... your members of Congress ... city council ... the President.
She: I want to vote for Obama.
He: Yeah, she loves that Obama cat. Babe, do Obama.

(She stares at him blankly.)

He: Babe, do your Obama.

She: (blank stare for a long time. When she speaks, her voice is no different than her normal speaking voice.)

Yes, we can.

He: See? Obama. Two votes.
PW: Well, I'm glad that you know your preferred candidate. But you don't have to tell me your vote. It's a secret vote.
She: (stage whispers) I'm voting for Obama.
He: (bad stage whisper) Yeah, mum's the word.
PW: Whoever it is that you would like to vote for, you need to place your own vote. Which you can do by stepping into a voting booth.
He: Babe, you gotta go into the thing.
PW: The booth.
He: Booth. Babe, go in the booth.

She doesn't move.

He: Booth? Babe? Booth, babe? Booth? Booth, babe- babe, booth?

She casts a long look at the electronic voting machine.

She: I want to pull the lever.
He: Yeah, where's the levers?
PW: We've replaced all of our booths with electronic voting machines.
She:Where do I put the quarters in?
He: Yeah, where's the coin slot?
PW: No ... wait ... no, there's no money needed.
She: What do I win?
He: Yeah, what's the jackpot?
PW: There's no prizes for voting. It's just ... it's your duty as an American citizen.
He: They gave away all the prizes, babe. Maybe they'll getcha a teddy bear or something.
She: I want a duck.
He: She wants a duck. You gotta duck?
PW: We don't have prizes.
He: You gotta penguin?
PW: There are no prizes.
He: How 'bout a kitty cat? You gotta a kitty cat?
PW: No.
He: Kitty cat? Kitty kitty kitty?
PW: For the last time, we have no prizes for voting. You can have a sticker that says you voted.

Both stare at the poll worker drolly.

She: I want rainbows.
He: Yeah, you gotta rainbow sticker?

PW overturns table, pushes past line, storms out of gymnasium.

They look confused for a moment. Then, they step into separate voting booth and draw the curtains.

She (inside booth): Where's the internet? I need to check my email.

He (inside booth): Babe, I think I got a winner.

Coins began spilling onto floor inside his booth.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah Palin Flowchart

Once you understand Sarah Palin's debate strategy, all of her answers make complete sense.

Thanks to Kossack adennak for the flow chart.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are you registered to vote?

I know, most of you are pretty politically aware. But seriously - is every single person reading this message registered to vote?

Are you sure?

Have you moved in the last year? Did you switch your voter registration to the new address?

Is your spouse or partner registered to vote? How about your parents? Your kids (if they're over 18)? How about the people you work with?

This is going to be one of the most important elections in our lifetime, and there is no justifiable reason not to vote. Get to it now.

If you live in Washington, the deadline is coming very soon. If you're mailing in your registration or your address change, it needs to be postmarked by October 4. That's next Saturday.

Get it done now. Go to this website and find out how to register. (If you don't live in Washington, go here to find out what your deadline is and how to register.)

Don't sit this election out - there's just too much at stake.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


He didn't suspend his campaign. McCain's lying again.

Suspend?! He didn't suspend shit. Since when you say you're going to quit work and then go do a live interview with Katie Couric?

Oh, and he also spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative after he, ahem, suspended his campaign. (So did Obama - but Obama isn't pulling this phony bullshit about suspending his campaign, so it doesn't matter. Obama knows how to run for president and also do his job as a Senator. McCain apparently forgot how.)

And he somehow found time to meet with her royal fucking highness Lady de Rothschild after he suspended his campaign.

He's throwing another Hail Mary pass. He's dodging the debates. He's trying to get Sarah Palin out of the debate with Biden. I don't know what his real game is, but he sure as hell didn't go rushing back to Washington D.C. to do the people's business. He had two stops first to do his own business. So don't let anyone try and say he suspended his campaign. It's a lie. Another lie by John McCain.

Congress didn't need his weaselly ass to get a plan put together. The real leaders in Congress actually worried that McCain's sudden appearance would slow down a deal, not speed it up.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard, he did blow off appearing on Letterman's show. And Letterman is deeply, seriously pissed about it.

He did not suspend his campaign. Pass it on. He did not act heroically - he claimed an emergency, cancelled a couple of things, offered a paperthin charade of bipartisanship, and then went about business as usual. He didn't suspend anything.

And by the way, the ultimate last word has to go to Barack Obama on this. He spoke shortly after McCain announced that the campaigns shouldn't try and both campaign and save Wall Street at the same time. Obama's responded this way:

"Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It is not necessary for us to think we can do only one thing and suspend everything else."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Obama says No Deal

Okay, someone has finally come to their senses. Obama's announced that he's not necessarily going along with the bailout/buyout plan that Paulsen proposed.

It reads a bit like a negotiation, not a statement of refusal. But at least he's not automatically going along with the plan, as he appeared to be doing on Friday.

See for yourself. Here's his response in its entirety.

The era of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has led to a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression.

But regardless of how we got here, the circumstances we face require decisive action because the jobs, savings, and economic security of millions of Americans are now at risk.

We must work quickly in a bipartisan fashion to resolve this crisis and restore our financial sector so capital is flowing again and we can avert an even broader economic catastrophe. We also should recognize that economic recovery requires that we act, not just to address the crisis on Wall Street, but also the crisis on Main Street and around kitchen tables across America.

But thus far, the Administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan.

Even if the Treasury recovers some or most of its investment over time, this initial outlay of up to $700 billion is sobering. And in return for their support, the American people must be assured that the deal reflects some basic principles.

• No blank check. If we grant the Treasury broad authority to address the immediate crisis, we must insist on independent accountability and oversight. Given the breach of trust we have seen and the magnitude of the taxpayer money involved, there can be no blank check.

• Rescue requires mutual responsibility. As taxpayers are asked to take extraordinary steps to protect our financial system, it is only appropriate to expect those institutions that benefit to help protect American homeowners and the American economy. We cannot underwrite continued irresponsibility, where CEOs cash in and our regulators look the other way. We cannot abet and reward the unconscionable practices that triggered this crisis. We have to end them.

• Taxpayers should be protected. This should not be a handout to Wall Street. It should be structured in a way that maximizes the ability of taxpayers to recoup their investment. Going forward, we need to make sure that the institutions that benefit from financial insurance also bear the cost of that insurance.

• Help homeowners stay in their homes. This crisis started with homeowners and they bear the brunt of the nearly unprecedented collapse in housing prices. We cannot have a plan for Wall Street banks that does not help homeowners stay in their homes and help distressed communities.

• A global response. As I said on Friday, this is a global financial crisis and it requires a global solution. The United States must lead, but we must also insist that other nations, who have a huge stake in the outcome, join us in helping to secure the financial markets.

• Main Street, not just Wall Street. The American people need to know that we feel as great a sense of urgency about the emergency on Main Street as we do the emergency on Wall Street. That is why I call on Senator McCain, President Bush, Republicans and Democrats to join me in supporting an emergency economic plan for working families – a plan that would help folks cope with rising gas and food prices, save one million jobs through rebuilding our schools and roads, help states and cities avoid painful budget cuts and tax increases, help homeowners stay in their homes, and provide retooling assistance to help ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built in America.

• Build a regulatory structure for the 21st Century. While there is not time in a week to remake our regulatory structure to prevent abuses in the future, we should commit ourselves to the kind of reforms I have been advocating for several years. We need new rules of the road for the 21st Century economy, together with the means and willingness to enforce them.

The bottom line is that we must change the economic policies that led us down this dangerous path in the first place. For the last eight years, we’ve had an “on your own-anything goes” philosophy in Washington and on Wall Street that lavished tax cuts on the wealthy and big corporations; that viewed even common-sense regulation and oversight as unwise and unnecessary; and that shredded consumer protections and loosened the rules of the road. Ordinary Americans are now paying the price. The events of this week have rendered a final verdict on that failed philosophy, and it is a philosophy I will end as President of the United States,” said Senator Barack Obama.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

No Deal

You might not be hearing about it yet, but there's an insurgency building against this bailout plan for the financial industry. People aren't just uncomfortable with the proposed $500 billion $700 billion buyout. They're deeply and righteously pissed.

Cenk Uygur
...when the American people find out what's been done here, they are going to be livid. Conservatives, liberals, moderates, everyone. Why should we have to pay a trillion dollars of our own money to save the asses of bankers who already made a killing from these loans? Now, they get to unload all of their "toxic assets," as Paulson is calling it, on us. Who in their right mind would support that?

Wall Street is ecstatic. The market is through the roof right now because they can't believe they got such a good deal. Understand this is not an isolated bailout here and there. The Treasury Secretary just said he is going to take ALL of their bad loans off their hands. Why wouldn't they be elated?

Glenn Greenwald
The way it works is that Bush officials decree how things will be, and then everyone -- from Congressional Democrats to the Serious Pundits -- jump uncritically and obediently on board, even if they were on board with the complete opposite approach just days earlier, and then all real dissent vanishes. That's how the country in general works. As Atrios says: "We've seen this game played before." I don't pretend to know anywhere near enough -- in terms of either raw information or expertise -- in order to opine on the necessity or lack thereof of The Latest Plan in terms of whether the alternatives are worse. But what I do know is that an injustice so grave and extreme that it defies words is taking place; that the greatest beneficiaries are those who are most culpable; and that the same hopelessly broken and deeply rotted institutions and elite class that gave rise to all of this (and so much more) are the very ones that are -- yet again -- being blindly entrusted to solve this.
Paul Krugman

I hate to say this, but looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal. Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets.

As I posted earlier today, it seems all too likely that a “fair price” for mortgage-related assets will still leave much of the financial sector in trouble. And there’s nothing at all in the draft that says what happens next; although I do notice that there’s nothing in the plan requiring Treasury to pay a fair market price. So is the plan to pay premium prices to the most troubled institutions? Or is the hope that restoring liquidity will magically make the problem go away?


But here's all you need to know. Hank Paulson is asking for $700,000,000,000. That's $2,333 from every man, woman, and child in the United States.

In exchange for that money, Paulson is unwilling to accept any demands to make markets more transparent, limit executive compensation, or assist homeowners fighting foreclosure. The sole purpose of that $700,000,000,000 is to bail out Wall Street and only Wall Street, but not to fix it, or our larger economy.

He is asking to be absolutely unbound by any law when he spends that money.

Something stinks. Obama's going along with the plan. McCain's going along with it. Intelligent Democrats and Republicans - people who should know better - are buying into the "this is the only thing we can do" panic talk. Something is very wrong here, and we should all be very nervous about an action this large happening this quickly.

I don't propose to know all the answers. But you don't need to be a weatherman to know when your roof blows off. If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Here's the questions to ask yourself: who does this help? Who does this relief plan leave out in the cold?

And if this doesn't work, what's the next move? Mark my words - this is not going to bring the economic crisis to a sudden stop. More steps will be needed. If this doesn't work, what's the next step?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adrian Belew-Oh Daddy

My friend Nancy is hurting today. It's the first birthday she's celebrated since her dad passed away.

I promised I'd post some stuff to make her smile, so here's my first try. It's also the goofiest song I know about being a dad. Hope it helps, Nancy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Musical Weekend

Sunday was the 10th Anniversary of the opening of Benaroya Hall. To celebrate, they had an entire day of musical performances all over downtown Seattle. We went down for a few hours.

These guys were the first performance we saw, and I think they were the highlight for Oliver. This video captures some of the energy of the group, but if you live in Seattle, go to a Seahawks game or find somewhere to see them live.

They had demonstrations of various instruments, so he got to play a violin and a cello. He was scared of the horns, though, so he watched his daddy try to play a trumpet and a trombone.

We also saw the Cascade Symphony perform in Benaroya Hall and caught a few other small performances. There was a band (the Raggedy Anns) playing inside the Seattle Art Museumn that got Oliver all revved up. He started running around and jumping around like a maniac. Clearly the boy knows good music when he hears it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ACORN in Chaos

“Why are they still negotiating with Wade Rathke? Why are the people on staff who knew about this embezzlement still on the staff?”- Coya Mobley, ACORN Board Member

Two members of ACORN's board just filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the organization, seeking to remove Wade Rathke completely from the organization and to have financial documents related to the organization released.

Apparently, after Rathke left his position as "chief organizer" of the organization, he went to work with ACORN International, which is a separate organization that just happens to share office space with ACORN. Mr. Rathke has allegedly been making a bit of a nuisance of himself, walking into the offices of the organization he left in pieces and attempting to talk to the employees. They've asked him to stop.

“Mr. Rathke stubbornly refuses to do that, so he sort of haunts that office, tries to talk to folks doing their work,” according to Bertha Lewis, the interim chief organizer.

Rathke's huffy response isn't going to win him any friends. “I was with the organization for 38 years, and there are many people I hired and supervised, and I have great relationships with them. I haven’t been involved in supervising them. Are they saying that simply because I breathe, I exist, they have a problem?”

No, stupid. It's because you can't let go. You utterly failed the organization you created, and they have asked you to leave. It's one of the fundamental rules of community organizing. When the community asks you to leave, you find the door. You don't whine, you don't complain, you don't pout. You don't keep dropping in to see how things are doing. You get the hell out. It's time for Wade Rathke to find the door.

ACORN's lack of transparency, and Rathke's inability to honor boundaries, are only going to prolong this disastrous scandal in the public eye. The lawsuit is a reaction to bad behavior. The best way to make this thing go away is to act honorably, openly, and swiftly, and they aren't doing any of that so far.