Things Obama Could Have Said

Saturday September 27, 2008

I’m biased, but after watching last night’s debate, I felt Obama clearly came out ahead. My big reservation about him throughout the campaign for the Democratic nomination was all the poetry and hopemongering; last night impressed me because it was all prose and policy specifics. Obama drew some criticism for sounding like a technocrat, but I (as, admittedly, a voter who is going to vote for Obama no matter what) wanted to hear him exhibit that Clinton-esque mastery of the details; to me, it was the one qualification for presidential readiness I wasn’t sure about, and now I’m beyond sure.

And while it may be true that Obama played too much defense, there were a few counterpunches that stood out for me. One was Obama’s direct, unequivocal statement to McCain that “you were wrong” on Iraq. There were smaller ones too, like his response to McCain’s comments on the business tax. And, while some commenters have suggested that Obama sounded petulant and childish when he responded to McCain’s continued cynical exploitation of that Iraq veteran’s bracelet by saying, “John, I have a bracelet too,” my response was, “About time he pointed that out.” And I also thought he scored points by looking directly into the camera, and, even more importantly, by addressing McCain directly when McCain was focused entirely on the people in the room and seemed loathe to acknowledge that his opponent was even on stage with him.

Those who felt Obama wasn’t aggressive enough have done some Monday-morning quarterbacking by suggesting things he could have said. Here are a couple of things I wish he’d said. On taxes:

“John McCain keeps telling you I’m going to raise your taxes. Let me be absolutely clear: If you make less than a quarter of a million dollars a year, you will get a tax cut under my administration; if you make more than that, I will ask you shoulder a little more of the burden, because you can afford to. What John McCain really means is that I’m going to raise taxes for people like John McCain—people who can’t keep track of how many houses they own. If you’re doing so well that you’re not even sure how many houses you have, isn’t it fair to ask for a greater contribution when we’re facing the worst financial crisis since Great Depression?”

And, on McCain’s distortions and misrepresentations:

“When John opposed George Bush eight years ago, I saw a principled fighter done in by smear tactics. I didn’t agree with his positions, but I admired his integrity. I don’t see that John McCain on stage with me tonight. What happened to the straight talk, John? Did you decide that you’d rather lose your principles than lose an election? After eight years of the most unprincipled administration we’ve ever seen, we need a president who will never abandon his principles, not four more years of lies.”

Welcome to the American Health Care System

Thursday July 17, 2008

Emergency Room Bill

For further details, read previous post.

I Went to the Emergency Room and All I Got Was This Lousy Bracelet

Sunday July 6, 2008

Hit and Run Hit and Run
Hit and Run Hit and Run
Hit and Run Hit and Run

I had my worst bike accident in the five years I’ve been riding in the City on Thursday night—actually, at about 12:30 in the morning on the Fourth of July. I wish I could describe it, but I have no memory of the incident. The last thing I remember is riding off the Brooklyn end of the Williamsburg Bridge, and then I have a hazy recollection of talking to two other bikers about halfway up South Fifth Place, the short block between South Fourth and South Fifth Streets where bikers come off the bridge. I don’t remember giving them my phone, but they called Chi, twice, and she showed up after a bit to take me to the emergency room. They told her they’d found me crumpled against a parked car, and that I’d been saying the same things over and over again. When I became a bit more coherent, I know I said that there was no evidence I’d been hit by a car. Who knew, perhaps I could have done this to myself somehow. There was a lot of loose gravel on the road, which is part of the reason my face looks as bad as it does, and maybe I’d lost control and gone over the handlebars. The guys were sure I’d been hit—the back fork of my frame was bent badly enough that the wheel had locked, suggesting direct impact. (The bike is history.) They must have been right. The next day when Chi and I went to retrieve my bike, we found a pair of skid marks that began right beside a scattering of blue plastic fragments from my helmet, so the driver must have slammed the brakes after hitting me. Which means there is someone driving around the City wondering whether they killed someone on Thursday night. On the other hand, there’s the comfort of the city’s fraternity of bicycle riders. Thank you, Jimmy and Andre, for finding me, calling my girlfriend, and staying with me until she arrived.

We took a cab to an emergency room in South Williamsburg, which was, predictably, pointless. The main reason for going, in my mind, was to make sure I didn’t have a concussion—after all, I’d taken the fall off my head and face and been knocked unconscious. In two hours there, the only medical attention I received was being given a hospital bracelet and having an attendant dab my face for about five seconds with a dry pad. The orderly who processed me told me it looked real bad, and that he could “see flesh” (well, presumably, since I’m made of it). The doctor, who finally arrived sometime after three, was also dire, telling me that I had a lot of injuries and was going to have to have a blood test, a chest X-ray, and a battery of other procedures in addition to a CT scan. Stupidly, I haven’t continued COBRA from my last job and health insurance from my new one hasn’t begun yet, so I was concerned about how much everything was going to cost. The doctor informed me that she was a physician, not an accountant. Thanks. Chi went around the hospital and got similar responses. Time passed. It was getting very late. Finally, the attendant came back with a padded X-ray vest. After he walked out, Chi asked if I wanted to leave, and I said yes. I felt like I was in a bad TV hospital drama stomping through the miserable fluorescent corridors, shirt unbuttoned, face looking like raw hamburger, Chi and my brother Philip (who’d met us there) trailing behind, passing the doctor in her white coat as she rose from a little glassed-in workstation to ask indignantly, “What’s going on here!?”

I haven’t had any headaches or vision problems or cognitive issues, just a little neck stiffness, which isn’t really out of the ordinary for me, so I think I’m all right. I only started wearing a helmet about six months ago (after being hit a previous time), and I’m glad I did. Like the bike, it’s a loss, but I suspect it’s the reason I’m basically all right. I’ll never ride in the city without one again. I’ll wait for wounds to heal before I replace the bike, but I’ll go back to riding as soon as I can. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

No Beef with Ralph

Sunday April 6, 2008

At first, I was amused by the massive jerking of knees which greeted Ralph Nader’s announcement that he would run for president in 2008. It was almost as if all the Hillary and Barack fans out there had been preprogrammed to start noisily “hating Nader” the moment he decided to get into the fray, and seeing all these human windup dolls simultaneously go into motion, acting out their identical episodes of righteous indignation, struck me as a comic case of much ado about nothing. Didn’t we just do this in ‘04, and wasn’t Nader a complete non-factor? I don’t care what Zogby and Nader’s campaign say, I don’t think he’ll get on the ballot in all 50 states, and I have a very difficult time believing his candidacy is going to have any impact on this election. And if anyone has earned the right to keep mounting quixotic bids for the White House every four years, it’s Ralph Nader—John McCain may be a war hero, but Nader has done more for you and me than anyone else running. Besides, he’s been tilting at windmills his entire career. What do you expect? It’s all he knows how to do.

After a few weeks went by though, I started to feel a little bit depressed. See, I voted for Nader in 2000, something I’ll never be ashamed of having done (though I do always take care to mention that I voted in a safe state, California, which Gore was sure to win). I did so for two reasons: 1) I went to a Nader rally at a high school gymnasium in San Francisco, and it was the one and only time I’ve ever heard an American presidential candidate outline a set of policy positions that actually represented how I think and what I believe is important; and 2) I really believed—and still do, regardless of the atrocities committed by the Bush administration—that the two-party system was bad for our democracy, and I wanted Nader to get that 5% so the Green Party could get federal matching funds. Thinking back on my enthusiasm then—spawned not by any illusion that Nader could win, or that he would even make a great President, but only that he might help change the way politics works in America—it’s disheartening to see him transformed into a political pariah. And this, I think, is where you actually can take issue with Nader’s choice to run again: he’s become the face of third-party candidacies in this country, and it’s a face of failure, of irrelevance. If there’s a reason to hate Nader, it isn’t for the impact he might have on Hillary or Barack—it’s for the threat he poses to our chances of ever seeing an election map not colored in exclusively with red and blue.

The Headline for Spitzer's Obit

Wednesday March 12, 2008

On Monday afternoon, the bloggers at New York mused about what headline the Post would splash across its cover the next day to describe the Spitzer prostitution scandal—”Screwed” and “Nailed” were a few of the obvious guesses. The Post wound up surprising them by going goofy with the brilliantly concise “Ho No!” (While the Daily News went with the more verbose “Pay for Luv Guv.”) What I’m wondering is why no one has trotted out “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” It’s obviously too wordy and pretentious for the tabloids, but it describes the situation on so many levels! Maybe it’ll be the title of the tell-all book? Or the movie?