Definition of Pro-Israel

June 15, 2009

I don’t have the energy tonight to comment extensively on this Wash Post article from a few days ago.  It talks about how President Obama’s views on Israel (particularly settlements) are not new, but rather formed in large part from the opinions of his Jewish supporters and connections in Chicago.

If you’re interested in this sort of stuff go ahead and check out the article.  For my part, I need to note how important it is that being pro-Israel is no longer being defined as pro-Likud.  Unless people want to start claiming that Rahm Emanual and Abner Mikva somehow aren’t pro-Israel.

So, so refreshing.


Weird nature of the American Presidency

June 15, 2009

Matt Yglesias has become one of my favorite bloggers, partially because he’s really smart, and partially because he makes simple yet ingenious observations like this frequently (speaking about difficulty of passing health care reform):

The American presidency is a weird institution. If Barack Obama wants to start a war with North Korea and jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, it’s not clear that anyone could stop him. If he wants to let cold-blooded murderers out of prison, it’s completely clear that nobody can stop him. But if he wants to implement the agenda he was elected on just a few months ago, he needs to obtain a supermajority in the United States Senate.

Yeah, that is freakin weird.  Go figure.

Bad day

May 17, 2009

I spent the better portion of today watching various sporting events, none of which turned out well.  The Lakers game was an incredibly boring blowout.  Celtics lost, and it wasn’t even close.  And worst of all, the Mets lost to the Giants, managing to score a grand total of 0 runs despite loading the bases twice, once with 1 out, once with 0 out.

Like I said, bad day.  At least there was a pretty sweet earthquake to liven things up!

On a a non-sports note, this upcoming week is my last of my Coro Fellowship.  We have a retreat tomorrow, big fundraising gala/dinner Thursday night, and then graduation Friday morning.  I can’t believe its over already- nine months really went by in a flash.

Michael Steele is still an idiot

May 16, 2009

The newest idea from the RNC Chairman?  Make opposition to gay rights into a financial issue, arguing it will be bad for small businesses to have to give health insurance to their workers new same-sex spouses, as they do now for opposite-sex spouses.

Two thoughts:

Isn’t highlighting the fact that same-sex couples get screwed by not being able to be insured by their spouse just remind everyone why same-sex marriage rights are so important?  And how remarkable it is that we discriminate against these couples because of their sexual orientation?

And two- if it’s so important that small businesses not have to pay for spouses health insurance, why not just relieve them from this obligation for straight couples?  Since they account for oh, I dunno, at least 90% of couples anyways, that would seem like a slightly bigger financial impact?  Ohhh, or is it only OK for businesses/health insurers to screw over gay couples?  Of course… cause they’re gay.

I’d rather he just carried on with the good old “the bible says so” argument.  I think I actually find that less offensive.

(via Political Wire)

Morning laugh

May 14, 2009

Some of you may remember George Allen, the former US Senator from Virginia who lost to Jim Webb in no small part cause he was stupid/racist enough to call an Indian dude “Macaca” and tell him “Welcome to America.”  You may also remember he was seriously talked about as a leading 2008 Presidential candidate before crashing and burning in his 2006 Senate race.  He was supposed to be the future of the GOP.

In that context, this 60 second video is pretty hilarious.  He is SO EXCITED about destroying the environment.  SO EXCITED.  How the mighty have fallen… kinda sad, actually.

And for old times sake… enjoy this walk down memory lane as well.

(via Ben Smith, of course.)

Life update

May 12, 2009

The last few weeks have been quite eventful in the “wtf am I doing for the next few years” arena of my life, so I thought I should use this space to share a little bit bout that.  I did some public agonizing on Twitter about the decision, so its only right to update y’all on the resolution.

For the last 2+ years, Vi and I have been dating while being 400 mi apart (her in the Bay, me in LA).  Obviously, that gets old after a while, and the goal was to find a way to live in the same or adjacent cities sometime after Coro ended for me in May (crazy concept, I know).  In addition, I was very interested in doing Teach for America.  I was accepted last year into the Connecticut program, only to turn it down because while a 400mi relationship is possible, while a 3000mi one would not have been.

This year, I got a little smarter, and explicitly and strongly prefed SF and LA on my TFA app.  To no avail- I was accepted, but into the NYC corps.  At this point, I had less than two weeks to figure out if a) Vi could/would move to NY w/ me, b) we could make it work that far away, or c) I was willing to take a huge chance on a) or b) and accept TFA not knowing if either was true.  In addition, I had neither job prospects nor any professional network to speak of up in the Bay, which made turning down TFA even harder.

In the end, I finally realized (again) that I wasn’t willing to risk my entire relationship with Vi for a job, even TFA.  It was clearly impossible for her to make plans to move to NYC w/in 2 weeks, especially considering the job market in NYC right now is, uhhh, not good.

The other factor in the decision was discovering it was possible that my current Coro placement at the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU) wanted to keep me on full time after Coro ended.  I’ve been loving my work there- it’s an org with a great mission, and feel like I’m able actually contribute in a meaningful way.  They have made no secret about wanting me to stick around, but of course like any non-profit, finding money for a new position is never a guarantee.

So the plan/hope is now to stay in LA for the next year, working with the LAPU, and then do TFA next year (I actually deferred for a year rather than outright rejecting).  Vi is currently trying to get transfered to her firm’s LA office.  If all works out (with a capital IF), I could be in a sweet job, stay in LA, and have my significant other within 10 miles of me.  Life would be good.

I should find out by the end of this week whether the job with LAPU works out.  Vi should figure out her situation in the next few weeks.  If either or both of those fall apart, it will probably be back to the job hunt for me, something I’m not looking forward to.  I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed, and of course I’ll let y’all know what happens.

Making Google obsolete

May 12, 2009

OK, so that headline was needlessly provacative.  Nonetheless, wanted to recommend this piece about a new search engine being developed at Harvard called WolframAlpha.

The pioneering search technology is based on “semantic search,” which I learned a little about at the Milken Global Conference this year (ridic event, btw).  Anyways, the idea is that the search engine actually understands what you’re asking when you search.  So if you type in “where can i buy a cheap blue sweater?” it doesn’t just run a random algorithm that matches those words to words in cached web pages along with a bunch of other variables and spit some links out. Rather, it actually “knows” or “understands” what you want- a cheap blue sweater- and can actual answer your question.  Thats my understanding of semantic search.

Example from the article: If you ask it what the weather was in London on the day JFK was assassinated, it will search the internet, compare what it finds, figure it out, and just tell you the answer.  Crazy stuff yeah?

A great reminder that no matter how technologically advanced we think we are, we are SO far away from what our potential is.  And still moving so fast towards it.  The internet is not static, and in 30 years its quite plausible OUR kids will be laughing at us for not understanding their version of the internet.

Update: Google, not to be outdone, is of course working on their own really cool shit.  Can’t say it enough- I love the internet.

Jack Kemp

May 11, 2009

I know I’m a little late in discussing the late Jack Kemp, the former Republican Congressman and 1996 GOP VP candidate who passed away a week ago.  If you didn’t read any of his obituaries, I highly recommend this NYT obit, as well as this letter he wrote to his grandkids a few months ago, which I will discuss more below.

Kemp is being remembered in the media first and foremost for his contribution to conservative economic thought- he was a key player in convincing Ronald Reagan and the rest of the GOP to embrace tax cuts as a driver of economic growth.  While I disagree, broadly speaking, with the supply-side economic theory he fought for, it is worth noting that his principles made a lot more sense in the time he developed them, given that marginal tax rates on some brackets were over 70% (the top rate is only 36% right now).

But much more profoundly, in my opinion, is his legacy in regards to race relations.  At a time when the Republican party was gladly embracing implicit (and often explicit) racism and race-baiting as an electoral strategy, Kemp stood firmly and unapologetically in favor of equal rights for all Americans.  He was particularly critical of his party’s stance on civil rights and their treatment of the African-American community, at a time when this certainly made him a distant outlier within his party.

If you want to get a sense of the man, I highly recommend that letter he wrote to this grandkids.  A good reminder that while people may disagree over Keynsian theory or supply-side tax cuts, there shouldn’t be anything stopping us from coming together around basic issues of human dignity and fairness.

Dear Kemp grandchildren — all 17 of you, spread out from the East Coast to the West Coast, and from Wheaton College in Illinois, to Wake Forest University in North Carolina:

My first thought last week upon learning that a 47-year-old African-American Democrat had won the presidency was, “Is this a great country or not?”

You may have expected your grandfather to be disappointed that his friend John McCain lost (and I was), but there’s a difference between disappointment over a lost election and the historical perspective of a monumental event in the life of our nation.

Read the rest here.

A few Sunday night links

May 10, 2009

If you’re a baseball fan, this is a great letter by my roommate’s favorite philospher (John Rawles) making a very convincing case for why baseball, is objectively, the best sport there is.

The NY State Senate has a pretty sick new website up (via Daily Kos)- impressive for a governmental organization.  As I’ve working to design and improve this website for work, I’ve been doing a lot of research on non-profit/govt websites, and its shocking to see how many huge, legitimate organizations have  poorly designed, user-unfriendly sites. (ex: NGLTF)

Great New Yorker profile of Green Dot charter schools, and Steve Barr, the guy that founded the org. (I’m working with Green Dot a lot at my current placement with the LA Parents Union).

And my friend Billy posted this article in the comments section a while ago, but I just found it now- hilarious NYT story about Italian school kids taking “walking buses” to get to school- aka buses with no bus.  Cuts down on carbon emissions, gets the kids more exercise, all good stuff… but guys, its not a bus if there’s no bus.

Happy start to the week- hope its a great one!

Idiots in Congress

May 1, 2009

It’s always amazing to me how people so stupid often make it to position so high.  There are only 535 people who have the privledge to serve at any one time in the United States Congress (House + Senate).  Yet somehow, instead of the best of the best, you still wind up with people like this:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she has no words for Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who earlier Wednesday called it “a hoax” that Matthew Shepard was murdered because of his homosexuality.

Foxx made the remarks on the House floor during the debate on a hate-crimes bill that bears Shepard’s name.

“The hate-crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that the young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay,” Foxx said during Wednesday’s House debate of hate-crimes legislation.

Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming who was murdered in 1998, is often linked to hate-crimes legislation since his widely publicized killing was viewed as an anti-gay attack.

But Foxx said it is “a hoax” to use Shepard’s name for today’s hate-crimes bill, which includes new protections for gays and lesbians. She argued Democrats are only using it “as an excuse for passing these bills.”

Like Speaker Pelosi, I am speechless.  And don’t even get me started on Michelle Bachman, who appears to be literally the stupidest person in the world.  That needs its entire own post though.

These people, again, represent hundreds of thousands of people in the United States Congress.  Just in case you forgot.