Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Go Edwards!

Here's a short video I shot of Edwards supporters having fun outside the debate last night in Washington, DC.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Take Back America with Small Change for Big Change

Take Back America with Small Change for Big Change

On Tuesday, June 19th, I attended the Take Back America conference in Washington, DC to hear John Edwards speak. Later that same day, I attended one of his Small Change for Big Change low dollar fundraiser events. This is my event report for both.

John's speech at Take Back America went really well.

In it, he laid out a sweeping vision for what could happen if America gets off its dependence on oil and starts to lead the world in developing alternative energy. One of his ideas is that if we lead in developing alternative technology, we will have a new industry that creates a lot of jobs and money. It will also force the price down on oil, if we're no longer using as much. Then, without the crutch of oil (or, as Edwards referred to it, the drug) the Middle Eastern countries which currently make all their money from oil, and therefore don't have to worry too much about how the rest of the world perceives them, will have to compete in the global economy on something else, which just might, as Edwards suggests, force them to educate their people.

Similarly, he talked about how if America starts producing a lot of biofuels, other places like Europe and Japan that don't have a lot of land mass will have to turn to places that do have a lot of land mass for their fuel, and Africa is likely to be one of those places. Therefore, Edwards concludes that America developing alternative energy in the form of biofuels could lift Africa out of poverty. He may be right. In any case, I like his vision for this.

The rest of the speech was filled with the concrete, specific proposals for things like universal health care, ending the war in Iraq, lifting people out of poverty, and solving global warming that have earned him a reputation as the presidential candidate who is leading the ideas race. He got a very enthusiastic reception.

After he spoke, nearly everyone I talked to was leaning toward Edwards. My sampling may have been skewed by the fact that my friend and I were wearing Edwards T-shirts. Maybe we just attracted people who wanted to talk about him. A number of people told us they were very impressed by him, and he obviously gained some new supporters.

Obama also spoke and had a very enthusiastic crowd, but I heard a rumor that his campaign offered to all the interns in Washington that they would get in free if they would hold an Obama sign. All of his "supporters" seemed to be around the sameage: early 20s. Half of them left after Obama spoke, but of the ones that remained to hear John, some of them wanted signs and many seemed to be also enthusiastic about John, so I'm not sure how many of them were real Obama supporters.

I personally was disgusted by Obama's speech , which talked about his "universal" health care plan that isn't really universal, and professed his dedication to cleaning up corporate influence in Washington, even while he continued to sponsor a coal industry backed coal to liquid technology bill that would increase carbon emissions. I later found out that he and Clinton voted for liquid coal in the Senate that same day . Luckily, the amendment was defeated, along with an even worse one by Republican Jim Bunning.

Obama's speech also, predictably for him, "borrowed" a lot of phrases and ideas from Edwards's previous speeches. Sorry Obama, it only sounds good when it's coming out of the mouth of someone who actually stands behind what he says.

Earlier, while we were waiting for John to speak, a reporter from the Charlotte Observer asked if she could interview my friend and me about why we supported John. She asked us quite a few questions, and the next day she wrote an article. She didn't quote me, but what my friend said was really good.

After John's speech, we went to the rally for Employee Free Choice Act, which allows workers to join a union by signing a card. John Edwards had asked his supporters to go. There were also buses going to the rally from a conference.

We had a few mishaps on the way. The bus driver got going in the wrong direction, and ended up taking us all the way to the zoo before realizing that he was driving away from Capitol Hill. The poor guy also got into a fender bender with another bus and scraped the side of the bus on a construction barrier, so I don't think he was having a good day. We got to the rally pretty late, but it was still going on. Here is a picture of the rally.

Then, we went to the Small Change for Big Change event. My friend and I helped make sure the people standing outside in line had filled out a donor card before they got in the door. There was a big crowd, and quite a few of them had not prepaid, so this was a pretty big job. It was great to see that so many people attended, and I got the sense that quite a few of them had decided to attend only after seeing John speak at Take Back America and being impressed with him.

We met Tracy Russo, who works for the Edwards campaign on blogger outreach. She was very nice and made sure we got in the door when John started to speak, then later made sure we got a picture taken with him.

I went up on the stairs to try to shoot video of the event, and I did get a video, but the visual quality of it is not great. You can definitely hear the speech and see the audience reaction, though. The speech was a shortened version of the one he gave at the Take Back America conference, but it got an enthusiastic response from the audience, even though I think several of them had already heard most of it before that same day.

Afterwards, my friend and I made our way to the floor, and I took some good photos of John interacting with the crowd. When I got home, I was a bit puzzled because I notice that one of my photos included a man handing a rubber duck to John. I wondered what the story behind this was, but it turns out that the other man was Andrew Duck, who ran for Congress in western Maryland recently. The duck is more or less his calling card.

Now, I don't like to ask for money, but John Edwards is the candidate we need to get America back on track. Can you donate? Please help my One Corps group to meet our fundraising goal for John by the end of the quarter.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 22, 2007

New York Times sinks to new lows with hit piece on Edwards

Refuses to interview beneficiaries of his work

The New York Times published a hit piece on its front page today that tried to suggest through innuendo that there was something tainted about John Edwards's work to raise awareness about poverty. Closer analysis of the piece reveals that no serious allegations have been made.

The logical reaction to the New York Times's nontroversy was expressed by Jonathan Prince, Edwards's deputy campaign manager.

“One of the Center for Promise and Opportunity’s main goals was to raise awareness about poverty and engage people to fight it,” Jonathan Prince, deputy campaign manager, said yesterday. “Of course, it sent Senator Edwards around the country to do this. How else could we have engaged tens of thousands of college students or sent 700 young people to help rebuild New Orleans? It’s patently absurd to suggest there’s anything wrong with an organization designed to raise awareness about poverty actually working to raise awareness about poverty.”

“Of course, some of the people who worked for Senator Edwards in the government and on his campaign continued to work with him to fight poverty and send young people to college,” he added. “Perish the thought: people involved in politics actually trying to improve peoples’ lives.”

You'd think a paper with a reputation like the New York Times has would have more than innuendo before publishing allegations against a public figure on its front page. You would think that they might have done things like interview people who had benefited from Edwards's work before publishing such a piece. Apparently, if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

TPM Café is reporting that the New York Times refused to speak with any of the beneficiaries of Edwards's anti-poverty work.

But we've just learned something new and surprising about the story. The Edwards campaign has just told us on the record that The Times refused the chance to talk to any real, live beneficiaries of Edwards' programs.

So much for the "liberal" media.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, June 16, 2007

John Edwards: The Man with the Plans

Here's my latest video, which was inspired by such disparate influences as Steve Kirsch's analysis of who would make the best president and the Obama girl video. Mostly it was inspired by John Edwards' leadership on the issues.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Video Pick of the Day: Edwards Expands on His Health Care Plan

Speaking in Detroit yesterday, John Edwards expanded on his already excellent health care plan, detailing the cost savings.

Health care is an issue that really concerns me, and I don't think we should settle for less than universal health care. We spend so much money on health care in this country, we ought to be getting it already.

In this refinement of his health care plan, I particularly like Edwards's plans to force the insurance companies to put most of their money into patient care, manage chronic care, and bring costs down for breakthrough drugs. If you like what you see as much as I do, please kick in $5-$10 to help my One Corps group reach its goal of raising $5,000 for John Edwards. We're more than halfway there!

By the way, as an exclusive for the two people who read my blog, here's a recent photo of me with Elizabeth Edwards:

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, John Edwards!

Shhh! This is a surprise birthday present for the next president of the United States from his supporters. I'm posting it on my blog because no one will read it here. Tomorrow, I'll post it where he will see it. If you are one of my two readers, please don't tell him.

Today, we wish happy birthday to our next president, John Edwards!

We haven't been able to get you what you really want yet, but we're working on it. For this year's birthday, you'll have to settle for a birthday party in Chapel Hill with some of your friends, and this thrilling diary.

John, when you were born, your father had to borrow money to get you home from the hospital. We're pretty sure the guy who lent the money is wishing he'd asked for a percentage of your future success. You worked hard, and you earned it, and your life has been the embodiment of what used to be thought of as the American dream, a dream which you are working to restore.

You grew up in a small town in South Carolina, and it's a well-kept secret, but you are the son of a mill worker. I bet you made your parents proud when you were the first person in your family to go to college, but maybe they were even more proud of your football skills.

In law school, you met your future wife, beautiful Elizabeth, and I'm sure all of America will agree with me that there's nothing more sweet and charming than lawyers in love.

As the years passed, you raised a lovely family, helped many families who had suffered tragedies to have their day in court, built a successful law practice, ran for Senate and won on your first try, you know, normal stuff.

Not content to stop there, and seeing many of your fellow Americans suffering, you ran for president in 2004 to reunite the two Americas. You didn't quite make it, but that one guy who got the Democratic nomination, you know the guy I mean - tall guy, lanky, you know, what's his name - anyway, he picked you to be his running mate. That was probably the only time in history when the vice presidential candidate was more memorable than the guy on the top of the ticket. Some of us watched more of your speeches than the other guy's.

Now, you're running for president again, and this time, we know you're going to do it! Along the way, starting with your very first Senate campaign, you've fought for equality and a level playing field for all. This has made you a lot of friends, who see your compassion and your sense of fairness. We are with you every step of the way. We will make you our next president!

Right now, today, we hope you're enjoying yourself. Take some time to bask in the love and support of those around you, because there are a lot of us who love you and are reaching out to hold you up.

Enjoy the video, the photos, and all the good wishes from your supporters who will sign below. I feel certain that all of us will also want to give you a birthday gift, right here.

College for Everyone

Labels: ,

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stop Obama's dirty coal to liquid technology plan

Barack Obama claims to support stopping global warming, so why is he supporting dirty coal to liquid technology that would actually increase carbon emissions? According to MoveOn:

In the next few weeks, Congress could vote to DOUBLE the amount of greenhouse gases America produces from our cars and planes.1
It's the greatest single threat to solving the climate crisis in a decade.

It sounds crazy. But Congress is rushing through a package that could lock us into liquid coal as our country's new energy source for transportation. For every mile driven, coal-based fuels produce as much as twice as many greenhouse gases as petroleum.2 That means even a Prius would drive like a Hummer.

So why did Obama introduce this bill? Can you sign MoveOn's petition to stop it in its tracks?

Please also sign this petition from Chesapeake Climate Action Network on the same issue.


Here's a video of Al Gore talking about this issue:

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Edwards slams Republicans on the politics of terror

John Edwards gave a speech today about his plans to combat terrorism. Here's the full transcript:

Remarks by Senator John Edwards
New York, New York
June 7, 2007

For six years George Bush has used the language ‘war on terrorism’ to force through an ideological agenda that undermines our values and does nothing to undermine terrorism. The Bush ‘Global War on Terror Doctrine’ is a political slogan—a political slogan that the president has used to stifle opposition to the biggest uses and worst mistakes of his administration—Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, spying on Americans, torture. None of this has made us safer, and all of it has undermined American values and the perception of American values around the world.

In fact, by the Bush Administration’s own admission, we’re less safe today. Terrorism is on the rise, the Taliban is resurgent, and Al Qaeda is expanding across the Middle East and even into Europe. The Administration’s mismanagement of the war in Iraq and neglect of the situation in Afghanistan has turned both nations into breeding grounds for terrorists. There’s been a 29 percent increase in worldwide terrorism from 2005 to 2006 according to this Administration’s own State Department. And the number of deaths due to terrorism has climbed 40 percent. That’s an increase of 6,000 deaths for a terrible total of more than 20,000.

And this is actually the worst part of Bush’s ‘War on Terror Doctrine’: not only is it a distraction from the real war of stopping terrorists, it’s actually backfired. Today, we have more terrorists and fewer allies. And I want to say that again. Today, as a result of what George Bush has done, we have more terrorists and fewer allies. There was no group called "Al Qaeda in Iraq" before this president’s war in Iraq. But there was nearly global support for America in the period immediately following September the 11th.

The Bush Terror Doctrine actually misunderstands the problem and fails to offer an effective long term solution. This is not a war against a fixed enemy at specific locations that we can defeat just through a constant military operation. And because its origins are political and ideological, it leads to decisions imposed on the military that are sloppy, ill-defined and poorly focused, losing sight of the real mission, which is to protect Americans.

It is no wonder that so many generals and military experts and even leading Republicans have criticized this president’s ‘War on Terror’ approach. General Anthony Zinni has called it a counterproductive doctrine and Admiral William Fallon, the president’s Mideast commander, has instructed his staff to stop using the term ‘long war.’ And even former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has flatly told an interviewer -- this is a quote -- ‘It is not a war on terror,’ end quote, and said that the doctrine was one of his regrets.

We need a smart national security strategy to shut down terrorists, not a political strategy to shut down debate, which is what this president is engaged in. It actually doesn’t help, by the way, that the Republican presidential candidates seem intent on trying to one-up each other to try to be a bigger, badder George Bush. They want to become George Bush on steroids. I hope they, and all the candidates, both Democratic and Republican, will direct their attention to offering real plans to stopping terrorists instead of just political rhetoric.

I want to talk for just a minute about my plan, and what I think we need to do, and what I will do as commander in chief.

I’ll strengthen our military so that we can better address the threat that is posed by terrorist groups to the United States. We’re going to strengthen our force structure. I will hold regular conferences with my top military leadership so that they’re advice is not filtered through civilians—it comes directly to me, as president of the United States. And I will give back military professionals control over operational decisions, not have those operational decisions made by civilians.

Second, I recognize what our military commanders have already made clear. Military action is only one of the tools that should be used to fight terrorism. We have to supplant the lore of violent extremists with the hope of education, opportunity and prosperity. There are today thousands who are committed to violence. I fully recognize that. And they have to be stopped, wherever they are, using whatever means are available to us. But there are millions more who today are sitting on the fence. We have to offer them a hand to our side instead of a shove to the other side of that fence. I’ll launch a global—a sweeping global effort to provide education and fight poverty. Here in the United States we’ll create a 10,000-member-strong Marshall Corps, all to ensure that terrorism does not take root in weak and failing states, which is exactly what is happing in Iraq.

My strategy will actually put America on the offensive footing. We not only will go find terrorists where they are today, using every tool available to us -- military, intelligence, work and information gathered by our allies and alliances -- but also, we’re going to undermine the long term forces of terrorism. We’re going to fight terror—potential terrorists, those who are sitting on the fence, toward us, toward opportunity and hope. And the way we’re going to do it is America is going to lead an international effort that once again reestablishes America as a leader in the world.

I know that there are terrorists who mean us harm today, and they have to be stopped. To suggest otherwise is to do exactly what I have criticized the Bush Administration of doing: to reduce the fight against terrorists to a bumper sticker slogan and use it for political gains. Using fear as a wedge issue may help win elections, but it will not protect Americans. For more than 200 years we have defeated our enemies though strength, through ideas, with confidence and with honor. To win the struggle against terror and uphold the greatness of America, we have to do the same. We have to come together and we have to cast fear aside.

I got the transcript from Tracy Joan's diary on Daily Kos

I particularly love these lines:

And this is actually the worst part of Bush’s ‘War on Terror Doctrine’: not only is it a distraction from the real war of stopping terrorists, it’s actually backfired. Today, we have more terrorists and fewer allies. And I want to say that again. Today, as a result of what George Bush has done, we have more terrorists and fewer allies.

We need a smart national security strategy to shut down terrorists, not a political strategy to shut down debate, which is what this president is engaged in. It actually doesn’t help, by the way, that the Republican presidential candidates seem intent on trying to one-up each other to try to be a bigger, badder George Bush. They want to become George Bush on steroids. I hope they, and all the candidates, both Democratic and Republican, will direct their attention to offering real plans to stopping terrorists instead of just political rhetoric.

Here are some video excerpts:

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Faith, values, poverty, and politics

Like many Democrats, I'm a strong believer in separation of church and state. I'm not personally religious in an organized way, and too much mixing of religion and politics makes me very nervous. At the same time, I recognize that it is absolutely proper for people to act out of their own sense of values. What else are they supposed to do? I went to the Sojourners presidential forum on faith, values, and poverty, on Monday, with some trepidation and a little fascination.

I suppose if I were a different person, perhaps a less skeptical person, I might be a member of Sojourners. I certainly share at least some of their political values.

The leader of Sojourners, the Reverend Jim Wallis, and its members, are showing leadership on the issue of poverty. They are currently running a campaign called Vote out Poverty, and Monday's presidential forum, to which they invited presidential candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, was just one example of their positive activism on this issue.

Wary as I am of organized religion, I nevertheless have great respect for Sojourners. I get their e-mails, and I attended their presidential forum. In the interest of full disclosure, because of John Edwards's leadership on poverty, as well as his leadership on other issues, I am a dedicated Edwards supporter, so I went into this experience with a clear bias.

If I were to interpret my life the way I think many religious people do, if I were to believe, for instance, that "The hand of God today is in every step of what happens with me and every human being that exists on this planet," as John Edwards said at the presidential forum, I think I would have to say that God took very good care of me that day.

Everything that I needed that day was somehow provided. That includes everything from very minor things, like lunch, to finding the right people to give me an overflow ticket and get me into the forum, when I arrived a few minutes late and the doors were already locked. It even included a very nice seat neighbor whose conversation helped put me at ease in a crowd where I didn't feel totally at home.

This man sitting next to me, a Republican, boasted to me about his pride in his son, who would soon be attending George Washington University and was working with the Young Democrats there. He told me "Faith is interdenominational. So is politics." He also told me he was "sick and tired of a president who thinks God is talking to him, but answers to no one."

He pointed his son out to me. The son was sitting in the front row, in the center. We watched as Elizabeth Edwards, entering the room to an enthusiastic round of applause, paused to pose for a picture with his son.

On further reflection, it's not that I disagree with the Edwards quote about the hand of God, it's just that I'm wary of becoming too cozy in a belief system. I can't help but ask, if God gets involved in human affairs, what exactly is He or She thinking? The only answer I can come up with for that, for myself, at least the only one that allows me to have any faith at all, is that God must think it's time for us to grow up and handle our own affairs. So I figure it's my responsibility to take action to fight the wrongs I see in the world.

Soon, the forum began and Reverend Jim Wallis was introduced. He said that the theme of the evening was faith, values, and with a special focus on poverty. He said there would be no endorsements, and that "the people of God should never be in the pocket of any party or candidate." Sojourners will have a Republican forum in the fall.

My response to Reverend Wallis's quote about the people of God is that I don't think I know anymore if I'm a person of God, I'm confused on that subject, but in any case, a moral leader like John Edwards can certainly borrow me at a time in our history when our country and the world is in this much trouble, and he is the only one running for president who is ready to lead.

Getting on with the forum, Wallis introduced their campaign to "vote out poverty," the goal of which is to make sure "the least of these," who are always forgotten in politics, are not forgotten this time. Good. I like that approach. I know my candidate likes that approach. We are all on the same page on this issue.

I'm not going to talk about the questions each candidate was asked point for point. If you want to read the transcript, you can find it here.

Since I've already revealed my bias, I'm not going to pretend to be objective, either. I am going to tell you exactly what I think.

Keep in mind that these are my personal opinions, and also that I'm coming from a very different perspective than probably most of the people who attended the forum. Personally, I don't care if a candidate is religious. I don't equate religion with morality.

If they are religious, however, I care about their statements on faith. I want to avoid ever again having the president of the United States be a delusional paranoid with a messiah complex. Fortunately, I think all of the Democratic candidates pass that test. None of their comments on faith gave me reason to think that any of them are out of their minds. That's a relief.

While we are on the subject of the candidates answers on faith, let's talk about that some more. I'm also going to talk about my perceptions on the question of any possible pandering to a religious audience that is looking for a religious candidate.

Edwards didn't pander. If he were pandering, he might have said he believed in creationism, but he said he believed in evolution.


O'BRIEN: What do you say to all the people -- and there are millions of people who go to church every Sunday and who are told very clearly by their pastors that, in fact, the Earth was created in six days, that it's about creationism? Are those people wrong? Are their pastors wrong?

EDWARDS: No. First of all, I grew up in the church and I grew up as a Southern Baptist, was baptized in the Baptist Church when I was very young, a teenager at the time. And I was taught many of the same things. And I think it's perfectly possible to make our faith, my faith belief system consistent with a recognition that there is real science out there and scientific evidence of evolution. I don't think those things are inconsistent. I think a belief in God and a belief in Christ, in my case, is not in any way inconsistent with that.

If he were pandering, he might have said he didn't believe in separation of church and state.

But I think there's a difference between my belief system and what the responsibilities of the president of the United States are. It is the reason we have separation of church and state.

If he were pandering, he might have said that the United States is a Christian nation.

O'BRIEN: Do you think this is a Christian nation?

EDWARDS: No, I think this is a nation -- I mean I'm a Christian; there are lots of Christians in United States of America. I mean, I have a deep and abiding love for my Lord, Jesus Christ, but that doesn't mean that those who come from the Jewish faith, those who come from the Muslim faith, those who come from -- those who don't believe in the existence of God at all, that they don't -- that they're not entitled to have their beliefs respected. They're absolutely entitled to have their beliefs respected. It is one of the basis for which our democracy was founded.

I believe that Edwards said exactly what he thinks, and what he would say to anyone when asked the same questions. I am absolutely comfortable with his answers on his religious beliefs.

Did the others pander? Perhaps. I can't tell that for sure. Maybe what they said was their honest beliefs, but I will tell you my reaction to their comments.

When asked whether God take sides in a war, Obama opened by quoting the exact same Lincoln quote that Edwards quoted in 2004. It's a good quote, and I can't technically say he stole it, since it was Lincoln's quote, not Edwards's, but I thought considering that one of his chief rivals had effectively used it in the last campaign, it showed at the very least a lack of originality.

I thought Obama's comments on faith were mostly fine, and I'm not questioning his sincerity, but I did think he perhaps avoided saying anything that might have been risky in front of that audience, and there were times when I thought he was using nice religious platitudes to avoid getting specific about the issues.

Clinton seemed to spend about half her allotted 15 minutes trying to convince people that she has a faith. She went on and on about how much she relies on her faith and how often she prays. For someone who admitted that she doesn't like to wear her faith on her sleeve, it seemed a sudden transformation, and I thought it was over the top.

I also didn't like her answer on the abortion question she was asked, because I feel certain that she wouldn't give the same answer in front of a pro-choice feminist audience.


Abortion continues to be one of the most hurtful and divisive facts of our nation. I come from the part of the faith community that is very strongly pro-life. I know you're pro-choice, but you have indicated that you would like to reduce the number of abortions.

Could you see yourself, with millions of voters in a pro-life camp, creating a common ground, with the goal ultimately in mind of reducing the decisions for abortion to zero?

CLINTON: Yes. Yes.

And that is what I have tried to both talk about and reach out about over the last many years, going back, really, at least 15 years, in talking about abortion being safe, legal, and rare. And, by rare, I mean rare.

I can agree with the goal of abortion being safe, legal, and relatively rare. I think it's unrealistic, however, to have a goal of zero decisions for abortion, at least until a lot of other problems are solved. I'm talking about problems like imperfect birth-control, imperfect self-control, lack of care for unwanted or parentless children, rape, serious medical complications in pregnancy, and overpopulation. I think until all of those problems are solved, there will be some decisions for abortion, and I'm glad that women have the option to make that choice.

If Clinton thinks that zero decisions for abortion should be the "ultimate" goal, after all those questions are solved, that's one thing. My problem with her answer then becomes that it would've been courageous of her to say so more clearly, but she didn't. I just don't believe that she would say in front of a pro-choice feminist audience that she has a goal of zero decisions for abortion. In this case, I personally think she was pandering.

Let's move on to the special topic of the presidential forum, poverty.

Here are excerpts from all three candidates statements on poverty that were posted by Sojourners on YouTube:

Personally, it came as no surprise to me that Edwards was the only candidate who sounded like he knew what he was talking about on the issue of poverty. He's the only one who has been consistently talking about this issue, and he talks about it everywhere he goes. He has laid out a detailed plan for eliminating poverty in the United States in the next thirty years. He has done serious research and work on the issue. As he said in the forum:

EDWARDS: Well, let me first say thank you to you, Jim, and to Sojourners for its great leadership on this, what I think is a great moral issue facing this country today and I would add to that, this the is the cause of my life. It is the reason after the last election that I went back to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, started a poverty center. It is the reason I've traveled around the world doing humanitarian work.

It is the reason I helped lead minimum wage campaigns in six states. It's the reason I've helped organize thousands of workers into unions. And before we ever got into politics, it's the reason that I was involved with urban ministries, faith-based groups, doing work to help the poor and one of the reasons that Elizabeth and I did a lot of other things, starting after school centers for kids who need playgrounds, libraries, et cetera.

So I think there's a very long and consistent pattern of this being the cause of my life. And I might add everything I can do, everything in my power that I'm able to do, I will do to drive the issue of poverty in this presidential campaign so that everyone is required to talk about it. Because I think it is the great moral issue of our time. I've committed, actually, to an agenda of eliminating poverty over the next 30 years.

I think it's a completely achievable agenda. There are lots of components to that agenda. Making work pay, having a living wage, making sure that workers can organize themselves into unions, having decent housing for families that don't have it, having true universal health care, helping kids be able to go to college, which is why I started a college for everyone program for kids in a very poor section of eastern North Carolina. And I believe this is an agenda that should be the agenda -- one of the agendas -- part of the agenda of the president of the United States, so there's not much doubt about where I am on this issue.

I have respect for my colleagues who are running for the presidency, but I will say this is not an issue -- and I say this to everyone in the audience. This is not an issue that I just talk about when I come to you. This is an issue I talk about all over America in front of all kinds of audiences because it's part of who I am. It's who I am as a human being. And I will say this. This is such a part of my life that whatever happens in this presidential campaign, as long as I am alive and breathing, I will be out there fighting with everything I have to help the poor in this country. I can promise you that.

When Obama's turn to talk about poverty came up, Jim Wallis asked him the following question:

If you were the president, what kind of moral and political imagination would you bring to finding some real solutions? And try and give us some specifics.
Obama spent what seemed to be at least half of his 15 minutes on this question. For most of that time, he wove sweet rhetoric based on religious ideals, with no policy specifics at all. Toward the very end, he did mention a few semi-specific ideas on education, raising the minimum wage, and giving ex-offenders a second chance. I was glad he had at least a few ideas, but it was hardly impressive.

The last question he was asked, which he almost didn't have time to answer, because he had spent so much time on what seemed to me to be platitudes, was about outrageous executive salaries. Here is the question and answer in its entirety:

O'BRIEN: I know. I get it. But you have one minute left to answer this question. It's an online question from Sojourners, and we actually are obligated to ask this. They invited online support, and the question came from Reverend T. Randall Smith. He's a senior pastor at Deer Park United Methodist in Deer Park, Texas. He asked this: "Executive salaries are increasing by 300 percent in recent years. Ordinary workers' salaries remain stagnant."

Specific policies -- and you have one minute. How do you address that, haves and have-nots?"

OBAMA: Well, we've got a bill in right now that says at minimum, shareholders should take a look at these executive pay scales, and they should be able to vote on whether these are appropriate or not. That I think would provide some constraint.

I also would like to see executives recognize that when they're getting as much in one day as their average worker is getting in an entire year, that there is a moral element to that. That that's problematic.


OBAMA: But look, America is a land of success, and that's terrific. We just want to make sure that people are sharing in the burdens and benefits of this global economy.

Unbelievable. His answer on the problem of obscene executive salaries is that shareholders should vote on them, and that executives should just not be greedy. Yeah. That sounds like a viable solution. Since executives are often the largest shareholders, is voting on executive pay really going to be effective? And asking corporate executives just to decide not to be greedy is not a solution at all.

Clinton was not asked any direct question about poverty, so perhaps it's not fair to complain that she didn't talk about it. Knowing that it was of primary concern in that forum, however, she should have found a better way to work something in. In fact, the only poverty related issue that she spoke on was health care. This is the extent of her comments on that issue:

Take health care. I think we could get almost unanimous agreement that having more than 45 million uninsured people, nine million of whom are children, is a moral wrong in America. And I think...

O'BRIEN: One minute, Senator.


O'BRIEN: One minute, Senator.

CLINTON: I think we could reach that agreement, and then we would have to start doing the hard work of deciding what we were going to do to make sure that they were not uninsured, because an uninsured person who goes to the hospital is more likely to die than an insured person. I mean, that is a fact.

So, what do we do? We have to build a political consensus. And that requires people giving up a little bit of their own turf, in order to create this common ground.

Perhaps if Senator Clinton had not spent so long trying to prove that she was a good Christian, she might have found time to talk about poverty.

I can't tell how the Sojourners audience reacted to all of this, because I'm not sure I know. I know that they applauded very enthusiastically for all the candidates. They were an extremely appreciative audience. I hope that their questions about the candidates were answered.

I enjoyed the forum very much. The questions were different than the ones that are usually asked. The responses were interesting. I didn't expect it to change my mind, and it didn't. It was not surprising to me in any way that in a forum that was at least partially about poverty, John Edwards shone.

The nice man sitting next to me, the Republican, told me after the forum was over that he had seen a physical transformation in John Edwards over the past three to four months. He said that now John is looking much more presidential.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Edwards at the Sojourners forum on poverty

Last night, I went to the Sojourners forum on poverty in Washington, DC. I plan to write a much longer piece about this, because I know people love to hear me blather endlessly about politics, but for right now, I'm just going to share with you my favorite quote, a few pictures I took, and a video clip that Sojourners put up on YouTube.

Edwards on poverty:

This is an issue I talk about all over America in front of all kinds of audiences because it's part of who I am. It's who I am as a human being. And I will say this. This is such a part of my life that whatever happens in this presidential campaign, as long as I am alive and breathing, I will be out there fighting with everything I have to help the poor in this country. I can promise you that.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, June 04, 2007

Edwards denies Bush frame, leads on Iraq and UHC

John Edwards dominated the first half of the Democratic debate last night. In fact, it seemed like he did so well that they stopped asking him questions in the second half. The "liberal" media wouldn't want Edwards to get away with a clear win, I suppose.

Denying the Bush administration's frame, Edwards told the crowd there is no war on terror. It's nothing but a bumper sticker, said he.

I reject this bumper sticker, Wolf, and that's exactly what it is, it's a bumper sticker. As president of the United States, I will do absolutely everything to find terrorists where they are, to stop them before they can do harm to us, before they can do harm to America or its allies. Every tool available, military, alliances, intelligence, I will use. But what this global war on terror bumper sticker - political slogan (that's all it is. That's all it's ever been.) was intended to do, was for George Bush to use it to justify everything he does: the ongoing war in Iraq, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, spying on Americans, torture. None of those things are OK. They are not the United States of America.

In response, Hillary Clinton defended the bumper sticker and used Bush-like fear words to justify it. She also claimed that we're safer than we were before. Oh really?

When discussion came around to the Iraq war, Edwards continued to show the leadership he's been showing for months now, calling forcefully for an end to the war and for Congress to not back down to Bush. He pointed out that of the senators who are running, only Chris Dodd spoke out strongly against the funding bill that recently gave Bush everything he wants. Clinton and Obama voted against the bill, but they did so at the last moment and without speaking out or trying to rally other senators to the cause. As Edwards said, there's a difference between leading and legislating. Edwards is leading with his vocal opposition to the war.

On the issue of health care, Edwards rightly pointed out that he is the only candidate in the top tier who currently has a detailed universal health care plan. He drew the distinction between his plan and Obama's, which is not universal. Hillary, despite constantly trying to position herself as the leader on health care, has not yet come out with a plan, though she has made a speech or two.

I don't know about you, but it infuriates me that any Democratic candidate in this election would dare to propose a health-care plan that is not universal, particularly after promising to enact universal health care by the end of his first term, as Obama did in the previous debate. I was happy to see Edwards calling him out on this.

It also bothers me that Hillary Clinton, who failed to pass a health-care plan during the Clinton administration, tries to position herself as the leader on health care, in spite of not having a plan.

The issue of health care is personal to me. As an injured worker, and a friend of several other injured workers, I have seen firsthand how easy it is to fall through the cracks in our system. I have seen how easy it is to be forced to move from your home and become displaced, when the system doesn't work for you. As John Edwards often says, "we're better than this. The United States of America is better than this."

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Video picks of the day

I'm not sure why I'm calling this video picks of the day. It's not like I'm going to do it every day. I wouldn't want to raise expectations that I'm going to become an internationally famous YouTube critic, if such a thing exists. I just saw a couple of interesting videos recently that I'd like to share.

The first is an interview of John Edwards done by Matt Bai for the New York Times Magazine. It's about 40 minutes long, but I like this video, because I think John's decency and humanity really comes through in it. The interviewer is asking tough, but not hostile questions, and a lot of information is provided, particularly regarding John's dedication to fighting poverty.

I have to admit, I like long videos anyway. I think long videos of interviews and political speeches and things like that give a lot more information than short videos that are more like advertisements. I know short videos can be popular, because a lot of people don't feel they have the time to watch something longer. That's a valid concern. Sometimes I feel rushed too, but I really believe that as a voter, it's my responsibility to do some research.

The second video I've chosen is for anyone who needs a break from politics. If you're desperately looking for a break from politics, I'm not sure why you'd be reading my blog, but even I like to think about other things sometimes, and one of them is the Beatles. I guess you could say the common theme here is that guys named John are cool.

Hat tip to Benny for the Beatles video.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Democratic debate on Sunday

On Sunday, eight Democratic candidates will debate on CNN, starting at 7 p.m..

Let's hope the format of this debate is better than the last one. In the previous debate, on MSNBC, the short answer format favored candidates with soundbites and not real plans. Candidates were often asked about superficial things that the media seems to care about, rather than issues that affect voters. Even worse, the majority of the questions were directed to media appointed front runners Clinton and Obama, with fewer questions directed at the other candidates.

In just one example of this bias, moderator Brian Williams asked John Edwards a question about his vote on the Iraq war that was designed as an invitation for him to attack Hillary Clinton. When Edwards declined to attack Clinton, saying that everyone in Congress had to consult their own conscience on the issue, Williams awarded Clinton with time for a rebuttal anyway. It became clear that the question to Edwards had been designed as one with a built-in rebuttal for Hillary Clinton, no matter what answer Edwards gave.

We can only hope that CNN approaches the debate more equitably. Debates about real issues are important for voters in a democracy. It would be nice to see some substantive debate, rather than the sensational fluff that usually dominates our media.

In case you're in the mood for a bit of entertaining fluff, however, you can download these debate bingo cards to play with while you're watching. They were designed by a blogger named Jill. They contain phrases and issues that John Edwards often talks about, and were recently featured on CNN and the John Edwards campaign blog.

For those who will be in New Hampshire, there are several events before and during the debate that are listed on the John Edwards website.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bits of news

It's been a few days since I wrote a blog post. This one may be a little disjointed, because I don't really have a topic, just a bunch of separate bits of news.

Last week, John Edwards visited California and gave a talk at Google that was really interesting. I liked the format quite a bit. It was more like a conversation than an interview, and he stayed around to answer a lot of questions. The discussion was heavy on foreign policy, which I think was good, because those Silicon Valley firms tend to have a lot of international workers. The video is over an hour, but you can view it below:

In other recent news, Edwards unveiled his plan for relief from rising gas prices. You know this is on the minds of a lot of people!

Gasoline prices are now near an all-time record high. Edwards believes immediate action is necessary to offer families relief from rising gas prices. In order to help struggling families, Edwards will call for an immediate investigation into the causes of higher gasoline prices, including the anticompetitive structure of the oil industry, and for stronger enforcement of laws to ensure free and open competition.

Today, he will call on President Bush, Congress, and state leaders to:

  • Investigate the anticompetitive actions of the oil industry. Edwards will call for an independent Justice Department investigation into the consolidation of the oil industry, the causes of higher gas prices and remedies to the problem.
  • Reverse Enron-era deregulation of energy markets by restoring basic transparency and oversight, such as requiring public reporting of large trades, to help identify and deter market manipulation.
  • End taxpayer subsidies for oil companies and reinvest the savings in affordable, clean and renewable energy.
  • Require oil companies to invest in clean, reliable refineries. Edwards will call on states to enforce Clean Air Act standards to require oil companies to modernize their refineries, making them cleaner and more reliable.
Edwards believes the United States needs to break its addiction to oil. America's dependence on oil not only leaves families vulnerable, but it compromises our national security and contributes to the crisis of global warming. Edwards has proposed a plan to fundamentally transform our cars and trucks as part of his plan to cap global warming pollution and cut it by 80 percent by 2050. He believes that we can cut oil imports by 7.5 million barrels a day by 2025 – nearly a third of the oil projected to be used in 2025 – and get us on a path to be virtually petroleum-free within a generation.
Of course, the importance of all of this pales in comparisonto the earthshaking news that you can get John's mom Bobbie's pecan pie recipe, just by contributing $6.10 to the Edwards campaign! I think he just won the election right there! I know my mom will think so. Why $6.10? John's birthday is coming up, and it's on June 10.

Well, I'm excited, because on Monday I get to go see Edwards open a can of whoopin' on the alleged front runners. He will be participating in a presidential forum hosted by Sojourners, along with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Sojourners is a liberal Christian organization that focuses a lot on poverty, so I would think they are kindred spirits with John. The event will be broadcast on CNN.

My goal while attending this forum will be to not stick out like a sore thumb. I'm not a religious person. (My candidate is, but not in a scary right wing way.) It will be like visiting a whole different culture. How exciting!