Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Urban Umbrella Etiquette

The Following came to me while commuting in this morning. I hope you enjoyed it.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Tale Of Two MSNBCs


Do the ratings consider the fact that MSNBC is actually not available on a couple of cable providers? I moved over to Verizon FIOS and they said because of execlusivity agreements with Cablevision & Time Warner, MSNBC isn't available in our area

Fox also apparently (Not confirmed) has a policy of paying public places like bars, etc, to show programming. Do all networks do this?

I do think that despite the ratings bonanza for Fox, that doesn't reflect some kind of conservative ideological victory. If 25% of the population (estimates of the conservative right wing base) watches 1 channel while 75% of the rest of the population is spread across all the others - doesn't that just mean people get their information from multiple sources as opposed to depending on 1?

More telling are the surveys that show Fox viewers are woefully misinformed on confirmed factual issues, like the existance of WMD in iraq, Obama's Birth origin, etc. Fox may get a lot of eyeballs, but all they are doing is keeping that population in ignorance. I almost feel bad for them.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tonight

Tonight's big lesson

From the Daily Kos -

Tonight's big lesson
by kos

Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 09:32:52 PM PST
There will be much number-crunching tomorrow, but preliminary numbers (at least in Virginia) show that GOP turnout remained the same as last year, but Democratic turnout collapsed. This is a base problem, and this is what Democrats better take from tonight:

If you abandon Democratic principles in a bid for unnecessary "bipartisanship", you will lose votes.

If you water down reform in favor of Blue Dogs and their corporate benefactors, you will lose votes.

If you forget why you were elected -- health care, financial services, energy policy and immigration reform -- you will lose votes.

Tonight proved conclusively that we're not going to turn out just because you have a (D) next to your name, or because Obama tells us to. We'll turn out if we feel it's worth our time and effort to vote, and we'll work hard to make sure others turn out if you inspire us with bold and decisive action.

The choice is yours. Give us a reason to vote for you, or we sit home. And you aren't going to make up the margins with conservative voters. They already know exactly who they're voting for, and it ain't you.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Census and the GOP Latino Strategy: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Don't Count 'Em


Hi WilliamL Couple of Things:

The US Looses more tax revenue from tax shelters for the rich and corporations offshoring jobs than the few undocumented and the pittence they get paid. And YES they pay taxes. sales, property, tolls, etc, typically a greater % of their income then any income tax. Those taxes are helping to pay for the roads and services we all enjoy.

I'm all for insuring and licensing all drivers. You should advocate in your state for non-resident driver's licenses. That would solve your problem.

The idea that illegals make up large % or the violent crime in this country is a lie. Our jails are 95+% filled with US citizens. International gangs make for good TV and flashy headlines, but don't reflect the real drug or violence problem in this country among the citizenry.

No immigrant expects you to learn their language, but that skill can only be to your advantage. Most countries speak mulitple languages, including the G8. Also - I hope you don't assume that just because people don't speak English in your presence that they are not citizens or that they don't know English. People are free to communicate however they wish...they can speak "Klingon" if they wanted to.

Bottom line - there would be no reason to circumvent the immigration process if the process was fair, just, and worked. Reform is about trying to make it work for everyone in this great nation.
About GOP
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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Census & The GOP Latino Strategy: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Don't Count 'Em.


The amendment to the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill (HR 2847) being proposed in the senate right now to stop funding the 2010 Census until they change their survey to include questions about citizenship may be the final nail in the coffin of the GOP/Latino relationship.

Fresh from their successful assault on ACORN, who incurred the wrath of the GOP not because members gave bad advice to pretend pimps, but because of their ability to register millions of poor people ahead of the 2008 elections, the radical right now turns on the revered and a-political institution of the Census Bureau, in the hopes of intimidating future generations from the most basic of social participation - being counted.

Specifically, Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett of Utah have proposed to require all those who fill out the surveys to affirm their citizenship status, and then attempt to discount millions of people who peacefully live, work and contribute to America. The justification is that the undocumented should not be counted because they can't vote. However, there is no question of whether people are ex-cons, another population of people who do not have voting rights in many states, but are counted within the census numbers. The amendment gets even narrower as they consider making the choice "citizen" or "non-citizen" seeking to discount even further those who are "legal" residents or have visas but haven't yet become full citizens.

What they hope of course, is not only that this new requirement will "out" the undocumented, but that it will also intimidate Latinos nationally, including citizens and residents, from filling out the surveys for fear of having to out a family member, house guest, employee, or friend. They hope to not only push the undocumented further into the shadows, but erase from the rolls a whole community of people, immigrant or otherwise, who are shaping the largest population shift this country has ever seen.

Removing Acorn from the picture was essential to this strategy. The republicans knew that ACORN had the drive and motivation, and the thousands of workers who knew the streets better than any bureaucrat or well intentioned bourgeois volunteer, and could efficiently uncover previously undercounted households, especially in poor and of color communities.

The next step in their playbook to attempt to slow down the "The Great Progression" as author and journalist Geraldo Rivera calls it, would be to intimidate those who may be motivated to be counted by forcing the citizenship declaration. The proposed amendment to require resident affirmation seeks to subtly imply that the government wants to not only know where you are, but kick you or your loved ones out. The irony of the situation is that the undocumented rarely fill out the survey, mostly because of their mistrust on how the information will be used, and because the surveys are sent to households, not to individuals with no permanent address. It is one of the reasons to suspect that the target is not actually the undocumented, but a community commonly associated with them.

While sinister, the short term gain of this strategy has the bigger potential of being a long term loss for the Republican party, and those who support this measure. The Republicans are not seeing past the idea that these people are "other" or that they are "foriegners" because if they did, they would realize they have the potential for attracting scores of first generation immigrants, who typically have conservative, Christian ideals and come from center-right countries. For every immigrant with or without documentation that they intimidate or provide additional barriers for them to become integrated, positive members of American society, there are many more in the younger generations, citizens all, with the very clear memories of the experience of their families and communities, and how they are being treated. These current and future citizens are making choices as to where to place their money and their allegiances politically. A lack of representation in the census numbers will not hide the very real fact that the future of Latinos and the future of The United States of America are irreversibly connected. By continuing to use every opportunity to discount the fastest growing population of Americans, the GOP may be the ones counting themselves into oblivion.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rachel Maddow: I'd Be A Bad Senator (VIDEO)


Hello ddDinah. I guess what I meant by that is not that poorly educated people are more likely to use guns, but that a dumb populace - one that celebrates intellectual mediocrity over educated leadership (for example, a President you'd like to have a "beer with"), can be easily dupped into acting or voting against their own self interests. I find it amazing that poor people of any race or geography would support republican corporatist economics, but they do this because economics is hard to grasp, but "us vs. them" is easy to figure out. Wrap yourself in the flag, talk with a twang, and claim yourself a "Real American," identifiying all others as a threat to the status quo, and you can make the under-informed carry you into town to watch their own economic village burning.



The guns thing was simply referencing how many Americans value their guns, justifying it as a check against government hedgemony. But it does not mean they can't be controlled. Only education insures that a people will be free of tyrannical government. "The one who first resorts to violence shows that he has no more arguments." Sorry if I typed too much.
About Rachel Maddow
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Monday, September 14, 2009

A warning to the rest of us – You think this health care debate is bad? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Congressmen heckle the President of the United States. Thousands converge on Washington DC for organized hate-fests. Birthers, deathers, and conspiracy theorists feed rumor and misinformation via biased “news” channels.

Looking at the national health care debate, one may begin to think that the United States has lost its collective mind. As implausible as it may sound, this is jut the beginning. I fear that we have yet to see the worst of what the far right has in store for the rest of America.

What could possibly be more polarizing than the current health care debate? Immigration reform. Immigration will open the hornet’s nest that is the conservative right and their rabid minions like nothing we have seen before, save maybe after the 14th and 15th amendments.

In some fashion it’s already buzzing. Hate mongers like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh blame immigrants for almost every ill plaguing America. If you ask a protestor at one of these circus town halls or tea bag parties, you will hear the putrid regurgitation of lies as if they were psalms. To paraphrase one such child of God:

“…Illegals ... send on the first bus one way back to wherever they came from…send 'em home with a bullet in the head the second time.”

The template is clear. Conservatives will claim that America is going into chaos and that this President is the harbinger of death to liberty and democracy. While wrapping themselves in the flag representing freedom for all, they will dehumanize men, women and children whose only crime is not being able to wait on line while their families starved to death before trying and find work and a better life in America.

The right will focus on so-called “amnesty.” They will say the President is caving to criminals, that he is giving the country away. They will make people fear that “illegals” are at every turn, a danger to society. Those who don’t look like their version of “America” will be suspect, even if they have been here for generations. They will say they are doing this to “take their country back.” The question is again – take it back from whom?

The “moderate” voices will mask the same arguments under “fighting terrorism.” They will bring up 9/11, forgetting that many immigrants, some undocumented, died horribly in that tragedy, and many have died or are dying of health complications from participating in the subsequent clean up efforts.

Perhaps most disturbing, the rhetoric that will come from the right will begin a bonfire of violence against those perceived to be immigrants. Already, we are seeing such violence across the country.

How can the rest of America protect itself from this new wave of vitriol coming our way? Preparing ourselves will be crucial, for a nation unprepared for this tsunami will be too late to protect innocents who fall victim to its wrath.

We must strengthen the enforcement of hate crime laws, and make it clear that violence to others based on the victim’s supposed group will not be tolerated.

We must make sure that rumors and misinformation are confronted head on and early by the media, community groups and politicians.

The media must stop giving fringe elements “equal time” for debate in order to appear balanced.

We must strengthen the resolve of our representatives who we elected on a change and reform platform, and let them know they have the support of a majority of Americans, and that we will hold them accountable should they cower under the heavy hammer of the regressionist movement.

Above all, we must all prepare to support reform. Support by talking to friends, relatives, colleagues about why it is crucial to keep families united, to allow for a transition from undocumented to documented status, and allow families to come out of the shadows.

We changed the policy makers through the ballot box, but changing minds happens across the dinner table and at local public forums. This may mean squaring off against red-faced hecklers at a town meeting. If so, supporters should defend their rights to be heard with poise and dignity.

The good news is the right has played their hand early in the “change game.” By pulling out most of the stops against healthcare, we now have an idea of how they will attack immigration reform. The real grass roots movement must rise again and not only defend reform, but protect the people most affected. It will be hard, it will difficult, but change is always difficult, and those who would "conserve" the status quo are not going to give it up without waging the fight of their lives. Neither will we.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's Rookie Mistake - Negotiating Against Himself


The stakes for Obama's speech on health care reform could not be higher. It will determine if his promise of real change will actually happen, or if reform will be watered down to appease a population of people with an extraordinary inability to decipher misinformation from fact.
Obama, who came in with a mandate for change, now faces an unapproachable right, an insecure center, and an inconsolable left when it comes to the subject of health care. The reason? He made an easy rookie mistake - he negotiated against himself ahead of the deal.

I work in sales for a start up company. My clients are usually financial institutions, who use my company's research engine to find information from the web that enhances their qualitative research. Before that I worked for mid-market institutional sales for a major brokerage firm (or rather, formerly major...)

I've done a fair share of negotiations during my few years in the workforce, and one of the things you learn with negotiating trades or contracts is to not negotiate yourself into a hole. If you know you will have to negotiate, give yourself room for a counter offer. If you don't allow for that, your counterpart will force you to give up something anyway because that's his job, and you will end up loosing money on the deal, or loosing the deal completely.

Obama , like many sales rookies, began to negotiate before he even came to the table. Before the bill was in the various congressional chambers, his team was meeting with the key players; Republicans, drug companies, insurance companies, etc, with the assumption that if they showed them a plan that was fair from the start, they could be trusted to get this done quickly and without much opposition. They volunteered to give up the most liberal components of reform like single payer because they thought the good faith gesture would be rewarded. Sure, details would need to be worked out, but the principles were all there and all the players seemed reasonable enough.

This assumption that the smiling faces looking back from across the table would actually play ball can only be described as a major slap-yourself-on-the-forehead moment. The insurance companies played both sides, the Republicans played to their town hall crazies, and the lobbyists went out in force with a misinformation campaign so intense and brutal, people actually believe Obama is trying to kill their grandparents.

In sales, negotiations can be complicated, but are often very simple - once you get a client to agree to buy, you then have to negotiate price. Now, my clients are usually people who value things for a living, so negotiations happen often. I know of two approaches - One is to simply start with a high number, knowing it's ridiculous, and hope the client is not offended and comes back with a number close enough to your end target.

The other, which is what I usually subscribe to, is to come up with a highly defensible number, that considers cost, margin, service levels, usage, etc, and that also gives you some room to negotiate - for example a cheaper per user price for a higher number of users. If you go that route, you have to be ready to fight for that price tooth and nail, and you have to be willing to walk away.

Obama could have done either. He could have started out all the way on the left -universal health care for all, or a some type of single payer option. This would have of course angered the conservatives but it would have had lead to a more centrist final version. Alternatively, they could have come up with a concrete campaign to defend the prenegotiated plan by using the machine that got him elected to garner support for the measure.
His team did neither until way after it became evident the conversation was getting away from them, and the cable news networks were filled with death-panel and government take-over crazies and their congressional enablers.

To give another analogy, Obama "opened his Kimono" too early to show he had nothing to hide, thinking they'd open up too, and instead, the Right took that opportunity to kick him right up the middle.

The Republicans have a better idea of the game they are playing. They know they don't need to come up with a plan, just attack the one on the table. They aren't thinking of the merits of reform, but how much they can represent themselves as the anti-Obama in the hopes of votes in 2010 or 2012. Their motivations do not match the President's in the slightest.
This mismatch allows them to start negotiations from an extreme position, so that Obama and the Democrats would welcome a center/right compromise and think they got something done. Those town halls crazies weren't organized to shut the bill down, it was to push the conversation so far to the right that the left would feel they were negotiating from a position of weakness. Because of this, we may lose the centerpiece of reform, the "public option." Most analysis seem to indicate that a public option will never make it to the final bill.

Obama must now rely on his oratory skills to get him out of this hole. Even if he does so, there are still quite a few levels of negotiations left, and the right is expecting Obama and the Democrats to give up something at each turn in exchange for support. What's even more amazing is that after these negotiations, the majority of Republicans may vote against the bill anyway.

How do you get a deal done when the person who pretends to be negotiating continues to low ball their counteroffer or doesn't present one, who either doesn't understand or pretends to not understand your product, and who is trying to block your way towards close? You stop negotiating with them and get to a different decision maker and sell around them. Obama can do this by strengthening the Dems and getting this passed, even without Republican votes. His efforts are probably best used in getting the Dems what they want, than continueing to believe the Republicans are going to give anything up.
So Obama, rookie mistake learned. You tried to play nice, but you need to stop negotiating with those who are doing so in bad faith. Keep that kimono closed, with a protective cup underneath. It is time to show some teeth, and save this deal. Too many people's lives are in the balance.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Latin Music is Having a “Dixie Chicks” Moment

"Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." Those words by Natalie Maines at the Dixie Chicks’ 2003 London concert created a firestorm within the center of the country music world. The women were blacklisted on radio, their CDs were destroyed, and they became pariahs within Nashville and their own home state of Texas.

A similar situation is brewing within Latin music. Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez) is a Colombian multi-platinum selling artist considered by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential in the World.” His songs have themes of love and peace, from his early 2000 title “Fíjate Bien” which addressed the problem with land mines in his native country – to the most recent album which talks about change and peace globally.

Juanes’s problems began after his announcement this month of a second "Peace Without Borders" concert to be held at Havana's Plaza de la Revolución on September 20, 2009. His first concert was at the Colombian/Venezuelan border. This immediately was met with sharp criticism from the Cuban American anti-Castro establishment, especially in the exile epicenter of South Florida. Protests have been orchestrated where people destroyed copies of his CDs, and Juanes has had round the clock police presence at his Miami home where he lives with his wife and children because of numerous death threats. Critics are calling him a communist and an enabler of the Castro regime. A recent poll by the DC based Cuba Study Group found 47% of Cuban Americans opposed the concert, with just 27% in support.

Miami is the “Nashville” of Latin Music, and many of the powers that be want Juanes to denounce the Castro regime as a condition to getting community support. So far he has resisted making any political statements. The pressure has also spread to artists who have confirmed to perform with Juanes, including Latin music superstars Olga Tanon of Puerto Rico, Spain’s Alejandro Sanz and Dominican Republic’s Juan Luis Guerra. Cuban-Americans artists like singer Willy Chirino and actress María Conchita Alonso have come out to criticize the concert. The Cuban Government doesn’t help matters by not allowing Cuban-American artists to organize their own concerts on the Island.

While the initial backlash against Juanes is similar to the one The Dixie Chick’s experienced, Ms. Maines woes began because of a political statement about a current president while Juanes is simply holding a music concert. His situation is more like Bruce Springsteen’s 1988 concert at the Berlin Wall. Some have attributed that concert as one of the catalysts to the wall coming down. Springsteen’s goal for the event was not to make a statement but to play his music for people who did not have access to it before. According to Juanes, that is also his motivation for playing in Cuba.

There was no backlash against “The Boss” for his Berlin concert, so why are segments of the Cuban-American community so up in arms? One reason may be that hard-liners are struggling against a generational and political shift within South Florida and the rest of the country and are finding themselves on the loosing side of the long debate on US-Cuba relations.

This shift is palpable in the blogosphere and on the streets. Younger generations of Cuban Americans are more willing to discuss engagement with Cuba as a path toward Democracy. There is an understanding that the current isolation and embargo policies haven’t worked. Castro has seen 10 American Presidents during his 50+ year reign.

Additionally, the hard-line exile community has lost influence politically. They supported the Republicans during the 2008 presidential election because they opposed Obama’s engagement policies. Democrats owe little to this special interest group, and are focusing on things like healthcare and immigration which affect more segments of Latinos throughout the country.

This hasn’t stopped the hard-liners from engaging in their version of book burning. The death threats to Juanes are particularly disturbing, especially as it seems antithetical to the general argument that the Castro government shouldn’t be supported because of their treatment of political dissenters.

Despite the initial uproar, there is evidence that the Cuban/Miami “Cold War” is melting. Juanes has gotten support from prominent Miamians, like Latin music crossover pioneer and Cuban American Gloria Estefan. The artist himself talks about the support he’s gotten from fans on his twitter page.

After the concert, we will see how strong the backlash becomes. Will it be on the level of the Dixie Chicks, where sales began to plummet and they had to deal with bans on country radio? To date no major radio station has said they were banning Juanes from their play lists. Perhaps Juanes’ story will read less like “The Chicks” and more like Springsteen’s in the end. Let’s hope so.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Bronx group's battle with the Yankees reminds us about REAL community organizing

In an era where conservative lobby groups can muster dozens of misinformed citizens to disrupt congressional town halls and claim they are engaging in “grass roots” campaigns, we all need a reminder of what real community organizing is about.

Community activism is an important part of American culture. The ability to raise awareness and bring people together to right an injustice, or to have their voices heard by the rich and powerful is a right cherished by few countries. Community organizers provide a vehicle for real change. Unlike the current lobby-supported “astroturf” organizing, most community activists and organizers don’t stand to win millions of dollars, or stop legislation that would hurt an industry paying their salaries. Most are simply trying to give a voice to the voiceless.

One example is a little known non-partisan group made up of various local community groups and activists in the South Bronx, NY, where I grew up. They call themselves the “4DSBx Coalition.” The name sounds complicated (it stands for “For the South Bronx,”), but their mission is simple – to make sure the Yankees organization live up to promises they made while getting community support to build their new stadium in the Bronx.

According to the coalition, the Yankees are on record as having promised to:

  • Award 25% of construction contracts to local Bronx based business for the building of the new stadium and demolition of the old stadium
  • Demolish the old stadium by 2010
  • Construct a new public park to replace the one they took over to build the new stadium by 2010
  • Hire Bronx residents (at least 25%) to work in the construction and in the finished stadium.
  • Contribute $800,000.00 a year to local community organizations from the start date of construction.

Now that the stadium is up, the Coalition states very few of these promises have been kept.

The local political elite has been very quiet, mostly because many of them came out in early support of the stadium, or are tied themselves to Yankee management. The borough is also in a state of flux as the past borough president was called to D.C. by the Obama administration and his replacement was elected in a recent special election which drew less than 35,000 votes.

With a lack of political help, and having to go against a goliath of a corporate organization like the New York Yankees, the coalition has gone to the streets for support. They’ve gotten residents to attend city council meetings and have organized protests in front of Yankee stadium, which has gotten some media attention. They are forcing the Yankees to answer questions and defend their current position. They keep concerned people abreast of the situation via social networking sites likeFacebook and Twitter, and have gotten a modest online following, especially among college students and grads who currently live or come from the area.

To be fair, The Yankees participate in a whole host of community programs and no one is against the players themselves. The Coalition states they are loyal Yankee fans. But whether the Yankees organization will make good on their promises regarding the new stadium is yet to be seen. Under the Coalition, the community is holding the Yankees accountable. They are informed, and perhaps more importantly, they are an example of civil community empowerment. The protests, while small, are organized and professional, the meetings they attend are passionate but respectful, and those who speak for the organization are talking from factual points and concrete proposals for resolution. They have a long way to go, but are headed in the right direction toward real change.

So when we see red-faced zealots screaming at their representatives, or media types giving credence to rumor and speculation intended to muddy the debate, let’s remember that real community organizing is a civilized, noble calling. Often the work is local, and rarely makes the main story of the major news networks. The purpose is ultimately to serve as the last check on power of corporate interests and a weak or compromised political elite. It is not about stopping progress, or spreading lies and misinformation for political gain. We should continue to support legitimate community organizing as an important American tradition, and say no to "astroturfing." Good luck to the 4DSBx Coalition.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hey, Obamanation: WTH R U?? or Why Young People MUST Enter the HealthCare Debate

I'm 33. Wife, Kid, house, and (thank god) job. During the presidential election I was impressed with the level of activity of those my age and of those (just slightly) younger than me. The Obama Nation. A new generation of activists fighting for change. I dug it.

Now President Obama is in the fight of his life over health care reform, and the nay-sayers are drowning out reason. While these detractors seem to come from a very small percentage of American society, they are screaming their red-faced heads off while everyone else is trying to behave - thereby making YouTube and the major news networks, amplify their message. The conservative elite are stoking the fires, and our representatives are starting to doubt their own logic and conviction. The idea that Obama may remove the public option speaks to how the loud minority is having an impact over the majority.

So where are the masses of young folk that powered the Obama machine? Why was my town hall full of scared retirees and nut jobs, and not recent grads and young employees? The few rational comments i heard there came from a young teacher and a nurse. Everyone else sounded like they were reading Glenn Beck's talking points.

This health care issue affects young people too. Recent grads and college kids may be considered "immortals" but they still get sick. Accidents are common, and the cost of treating them is astronomical, especially when doctors engage in "defensive" care, screening for everything under the sun so they won't get sued.

But beyond the obvious, there are many reasons for young people to feel equal ownership of this debate. Unlike our parents, our generations (X, Y, Millennials, etc) are more likely to change jobs and careers multiple times. Because of this economy, we are more likely to experience a lay off or downsizing. Long gone is the time when you could count on staying with a company for 30 years through thick and thin. Most of the time, if you are laid off, you are offered a really expensive individual health care option (COBRA) that most people can't afford, especially if they no longer have a steady paycheck. If you quit, go back to school or move, you don't even get that.

These changes can happen just as young adults are in their most vulnerable positions financially: new marriages, first homes, young children, etc. The idea of health care portability is serious progress from what is currently available to young people starting out.

And let's be direct for a second here. Young people DO need to see doctors. Even if it's just for birth control, or check ups, or to treat carpal tunnel. The ailments may not be the same as our older compatriots, but nevertheless, many young people put themselves in more danger by not going if they think they can't afford the bill.

I know a colleague of mine who was laid off and had a chronic condition despite being in her 20s. I've seen young men get laid off whose wives are pregnant with their first babies.

I know a young mother who stays at a job she absolutely hates simply to have health care while her and her husband run a family business. As entrepreneurs, they are stuck because they can't commit fully to their dreams due to the need of being covered.

I know a freelance cameraman who doesn't qualify for company benefits or any government program, who must pay $45,000.00 for his wife's high risk pregnancy.

Having corporate coverage as the only way young people can get health care is as much an injustice as it is to deny coverage to older folks. but to change this injustice, they must make their voices to be heard.

From a different perspective, having young people enter the debate livens things up a bit. Right now both sides are all doom and gloom, and it's a contest of who can scare the other side into submission. One of the best things about having more young people in the debate is the level of creativity they bring, the energy and the boldness to confront ignorance without being confrontational. Rather than the dangerous gun-totting lunatics who are stealing focus, young people can lighten up the mood while making serious points. Best example I've seen is the gentleman in the picture .

Young people - you helped changed the course of history by electing President Obama. You have the power to also change this debate. Take ownership of your future and get involved.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why This Health Care Debate is So Personal

I am mentally exhausted. I am horrified by what I see on TV and by what I witnessed at my own Town hall meeting - rabid detractors of Health care reform who have been led to believe that covering 47 million people is somehow a threat to the American way of life.

To start, the information they have is just wrong. The "death panels," the "forced single payer" the "taxpayer money going to illegals," the "secret plot for socialism" are all farcical falsehoods introduced to muddy the debate so that our elected officials waiver in making perhaps the most meaningful civil rights advancement since the 14th amendment.

Reform of the health care system was a priority for me when deciding who to support in the US primaries, and during the national presidential elections. I supported Hillary not only for her "more realistic" view of Washington (sorry to say I told you so, Barack) but also because of her work on Universal Health care. When Obama won and I understood that he too would work toward closing the coverage gap, I supported his campaign as well.

This is a very personal issue for me because my mother, who is now 57 yrs old, doesn't have health care. She is too young for Medicare, and does not qualify for social programs like medicaid because she is self employed. She runs her own business caring for children of working parents, airmen, soldiers, and reservists stationed at the nearby bases in Homestead FL.

Her business is home based, and while it provides enough money to pay the bills, her clients are mostly low income, so she charges low fees despite providing high quality services and having excellent qualifications. The revenue from her business is not consistent, especially as parents lose their jobs, travel for vacation, move, or have other life changes. When she closes or goes on vacation or gets sick, she doesn't get paid. This is her passion, but in terms of money, very little is left over to pay the ever increasing price of private insurance for a single person.


While I am employed and have insurance, I cannot help her because A - I live in another state, B - I cannot claim her as a dependent since she files taxes herself and C - My insurance company doesn't cover parents. I also work for a start up company, which, while we are doing OK in this economy, means there is a very real risk of losing my insurance myself. We also struggle with our own costs of mortgage, childcare, insurance, etc.

My mother is a cancer survivor, and has arthritis. She requires regular screenings, and at times, pain medication. She must go into debt every time she needs to get a checkup. Should she need a major procedure, or treatment, the only option would be for her to go into serious debt to pay her medical bills. She could lose her business, her credit, her home. Often to avoid costs, she'll postpone checkups, or choose to live in pain rather than buy medication.

My mother is not illegal. She was born and bred in New York and has worked all her life helping others, first as a social worker, than caring for children. She put me through college, sometimes working two jobs to do so. She raised a half dozen of my cousins as her own.

There are others who have coverage with much less effort due to public assistance and medicaid, or because they claim federal benefits due to disability. My mother, despite her real physical ailments, has never stopped working because she believes in contributing to society and working for her money.

Yet these health care reform detractors would deny her the chance of getting affordable health care. They would include her in false statistics that those without care are either "immortals" or "illegals" or that her being able to see a doctor on a regular basis will somehow take away their freedoms. They callously claim to be Christians and concerned citizens while ignoring the real people who die everyday because they can't access what these detractors have and only want the choices most of America enjoys.

I understand the frustration with the recent happenings in this country. Specifically, I understand the frustration with the amount of money spent during the financial crisis, how the banks gave up nothing while getting our money to save their over-leveraged hides. I understand the frustration with the amount of money spent on the stimulus package which has been slow to be realized, let alone all the money already spent on two seemingly endless wars, one of which was totally unnecessary.

But what I also understand, is that this is not about health care. This is about a population of people who are still sore about losing the presidential election, of losing power in Congress, and of seeing "other people" rising to power. The statements I hear have little to do with details of health care reform but about their general displeasure of not being in power, of feeling "their way of life" is somehow under attack.

In venting their rabid frustration, they are hijacking the lives of people like my mother, for the selfish purpose of trying to snatch some shallow victory vs. the current President and Democratic congress. I am disgusted that there are people willing to do this, to deny life and the right to health to make their political points.

The ugly underbelly of this country shows itself again, but I have faith that change will come. Change is always hard, and what we are seeing is the quintessential example of the last throes of a dying animal. While still dangerous, it thrashes with vigor before taking it's final breath.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

HealthCare Town Halls - A Revolution of the Misinformed?

I had seen the images on TV, town halls being taken over by anti-health reform zealots shouting down their local representatives, and shouting a mix of personal scepticism, misinterpreted facts, and regurgitated lies.




So I decided I would go to my own Congressman's town hall, New Jersey Congressional Representative Steve Rothman. He's been holding a series of "Listening Tour" events throughout Bergen and Hudson Counties, and I figured I'd see for myself if there was really a groundswell of opposition as conservatives would have us believe...





The place was full, about 150+ people in Palisades Park. Rothman and his team organized the town hall well, getting questions on paper in advance and calling on individuals to ask their questions. For the most part the town hall was civil, and people were not very tolerant of people who spoke out of turn. There was a general consensus that everyone was going to behave. It lasted from 7pm till 9:30pm, afterwards Rothman met people in the street and listened to their questions. What I found there was really interesting.



The issues that came up were numerous, but the take aways from the people attending were such:



A deep distrust of politicians, and apparently, of the Obama administration. There were many times that people mentioned a distrust of Congress and that there was something that was being hidden in the bill, or that parts of the bill were being mis represented to appease the crowd. There was a mention of patient's personal information being abused by the government, despite the fact that the govt currently protects personal information from being abused by insurance companies now. One person's comment "The real problem is that there is one person up there who wants to take over the world..." Who might this be????

Continued anger over stimulus and TARP. Whenever these topics were brought up the detractors in the meeting would go ape. At one point Rothman tried to make the case that the stimulus was showing signs of working, and that was when there was very loud jeering and drowning him out. They did not want to hear that TARP was neccesary, or that the stimulus was anything but a waste of their money.

A belief that at some level, illegal immigration is behind this. There was a man who tried to make the case that up to 30 Million of the 47 million of uninsured were either illegals or families of illegals (and therefore apparently not deserving). The loudest applause came after a commenter demanded Rothman take a hard stance on immigration. To his credit, Rothman stated his stance was clear - prevention, enforcement, and a path to citizenship.


The impression that health care reform is a zero-sum game, that if other people get it, what they have will somehow disappear, or that their insurance companies will not be able to compete and eventually die out, leaving the only choice to be the government option.


That abortion will be paid for with government dollars


That doctors will be incentivized into talking people into having living wills (AKA the "kill your grandma/death panel theory")


I scanned the room and many of the people there had what looked like print outs of talking points from the internet. One man tried to read what he claimed was actual verbage from the bill illustrating his point that the bill was socialist "On page so-and-so it says..." but wasn't allowed to speak out of turn. When I looked at his paper from a few feet away, it wasn't the bill at all, it was a 3 page bullet pointed sheet of apparent "excerpts" from the bill with commentary.

When I hear descriptions of the other town halls, I hear the same questions, fears, and scenarios.
The fear of the people seemed real, the sceptism definitely did, but the information which seem to be fueling this fear and sceptism was suspect at least, and I couldn't shake the feeling that some it it was purposely misleading to incite the negative reaction from apparently normally rational and understanding people.


Those who were close to the front lines within healthcare also got to speak. A couple of nurses, a woman trying to get approval for her medical procedures, a young teacher who never had healthcare until recently. They all seemed to come to the meeting with personal stories, and personal questions, and basic support for the initiative. But those who seemed to spend their time fear mongering, all had the same points, the same type of disaster scenarios, even some of the same rebuttal arguments you've been hearing at other places, so much so it was very hard to believe that the info they were getting wasn't from the same place.


A bit disturbing was the lack of real voice from those who wanted healthcare reform. There were a few people there, some with shirts, buttons, a woman with a sign she printed from an Obama website. But for some reason they didn't get to the mike as much. Now I assume that this was an exercise in "squeaky wheel," but it seemed as though the supporters were quietly waiting their turn while the detractors spent a lot of time reiterating each other's points. The longest speeches were diatribes about government takeover, illegal aliens, and leaving "my coverage alone..." while those who were asking about clarification points, or showing support had short turns. Again, no overtalking, no booing (well except for at Rothman), but the loudest applause lines went to those who were making points that seemed to come from a set of "facts" they all had read beforehand.


Even more disturbing was a conversation I heard between two people after the town hall was over. They had both expressed their opinions earlier at the meeting. They were just outside when I was walking towards them and I stopped to wait and see what would happen when Rothman joined the crowd outside. They quickly stopped talking, though I never spoke in the meeting and no one knew my political affiliation. But before they did, the woman told this to her comrade:


"We need to take this country back....They made have had a coup, but this is a revolution..."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Being Truly Pro-Life

I find it incredibly ironic the conservative right's and their sanctimonious ownership of being, as they claim, "pro-life."

It is a label that (for them) is riddled with obvious irony. For if you ask a typical conservative regarding other issues pertaining to "life" you will easily find their answers contradictory.
  • Do you believe in the death penalty?
  • Are you a pacifist?
  • Do you believe in the right to own an automatic weapon?
  • Are you a vegetarian?
  • Do you believe in DNR?
  • Do you believe in neutering animals? What about euthanizing them?
I'll ask these questions of any self-proclaimed "right to lifer." I will respect the opinion of those who's answers show consistency with their position. If all life is sacred to you, than life of criminals, soldiers, strangers, and animals are also sacred.

No? Does your opinion on saving "lives" stop after feti and embryos? Than you are not pro-life. You are simply anti-choice.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for religion and for those who would not choose abortion for themselves, a position many have here in the US.

A TRUE right to life believe believes that all Life is sacred.

However, when a man who can claim a life with a gun proposes and does so in the name of saving lives, the argument goes the pieces. Hypocrisy at it's clearest.


Nuff said today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Separating individuals from the issues

Just to go on record saying that while I support healthy peaceful protest and satire, I do not support anyone singling out individuals and in any way threatening them or even remotely exposing them to harm.

For example I thought it hilarious that protesters placed a huge inflatable Bush in DC during the inaugural do people could throw shoes at it. I do not support the Iraqi guy who threw his shoe at the actual man. Would one have been meaningful without the link to the first, perhaps not, but my point is this, be loud, be heard, but be civil at all times.

The anarchists at the G20 and other protests are undermining the legitimate protests against our flawed underegulated system by destroying property and striking terror in persons. This is not protest it is a mad mob.

My good friend works at AIG and has nothing to do with the CDS crisis. He should not fear for his safety.

I support the healthy expression of general frustration and anger. That is only effective when people see the frustration displayed by rational law abiding people, not by those who try to hide their violent tendencies within the crowd.

Testing Mobile Blogging

Thought I'd try mobile blogging, since most of my thought come to me on the bus and pulling out my laptop is a bit much. Let's see if this works.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bancos = Ladrones, and the Latin way of showing public emotion




When I was working at Merrill my clients included some of the largest pension funds in Argentina. They didn’t produce much revenue as they could only trade a certain percentage of their holdings in the US, but they were important clients and it was a good experience for the junior sales guy within my middle markets international group.

I’d visit them about once a quarter, and at the time, the country was just recovering from a major default, a freezing of banks, and a peso devaluation. The government had instituted tight controls of foreign exchange, among other things, as they battled the global investment community who wanted to recoup their losses.

Whenever I went to Buenos Aires, I’d take in the beautiful architecture and scenery of one of the grandest cities of South America. I’d also notice the barely hidden hatred of the financial community by its population. There was nary a bank who didn’t have graffiti scrolled on its façade indicating some type of negative assessment; “Bancos = Ladrones” was the common slogan, indicating to all who understood that the impression of the local citizenry was that the financial industry robbed its people.

I’d have lunch with clients and hear in the streets below the roars of street protests. Lunch time protests were common place in Buenos Aires according to my client. Basically, people would stop work (those who worked), they’d join the students from the university, march down the streets with placards and whistles bemoaning the issue of the day, then quietly go back to work/school/home. I remember walking for 2 miles and getting to my last meeting two hours late due to a transit strike during the evening rush hour, which was over by the time we finished our after-meeting dinner. I was impressed with the efficiency and peacefulness of these displays of populism as I was taken aback by its passion and audibility.

I believe we may be headed in the same direction here in the states. I’ve always felt that US citizenry, despite our history of struggle for civil rights, the Vietnam & Iraq war protests, etc, are a relatively docile bunch. We are very content to assume that someone else is fighting our battles, be they politicians, university students, or bloggers over the web. We focus our attention on a handful of iconic “trouble makers” like Al Sharpton and Cindy Shehaan, watching them do most of the rabble rousing from the comfort of our couches. These days, most popular sentiment is expressed through editorials and national “polls” and people make good livings trying to pretend they speak for the “average Joe” on the 24 hour news networks. It’s very civilized, if perhaps a bit bland for a population writhing in suppressed frustration. I guess our puritan heritage shines through in these times, as we commonly think that passionate discourse is, while entertaining to watch, a disdainful practice for the average person.

The problem of course, is all that suppressed frustration manifests itself in less healthy ways. Gun sales are up, violent crimes seem to be making more headlines, and xenophobic sentiment is steadily increasing.



Compare our current sentiment versus 2006 in Puerto Rico in the midst of their fiscal crisis. Citizens took to the streets to protest their frustration with their government's mishandling of the situation and forced law makers from opposing parties to work together to get a solution.


Perhaps we should do some venting of all that suppressed American anger at the banks and our government in a cathartic and positive way. This may actually be very healthy for us as a nation. People need to feel that they are participating in change, a notion the Obama Campaign capitalized on well. We have proven that the people control the political climate and we feel secure in that power. But what about the corporate climate? The problem is that we see banks like Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, AIG, CitiGroup, etc, doing things with our money that in many minds amounts to stealing. Our politicians seem impotent, relegated to admonishing CEOs at hearings and bloviating on Sunday Morning talk shows. CEOs and GOP lawmakers often scoff at populist sentiment, as if unless you own majority shares or large donor cards, you should just stay shut and let them settle this mess.

Perhaps what’s needed is some old fashioned taking to the streets in peaceful venting, so that people feel they have made themselves heard in the ivory towers of these corporate boardrooms, and so these titans of industry understand that they answer to more than just their shareholders, especially when their adventures in “side street” investing has been financed for decades by the pensions and 401Ks of laymen investors, and these same people are now paying double by giving them their tax dollars with the intention of keeping these banks afloat and “loosen credit.” They must know that using this money to shore up balance sheets and pay for bonuses for top managers who either actively or passively created our current crisis, while legal, will not be taken lightly by the people. If that isn’t deserving of a “Bancos = Ladrones” sticker on the side of a building, I wonder what would?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Of Guns, Monkeys and Letters

Below is a letter to the editor I wrote to the New York Post today. I've been getting emails all day from friends about a cartoon by Sean Delonas in today's NY Post linking the recent killing of a pet Chimpanzee with the "writer of the stimulus bill." Any follower of History or someone with social sensitivity can see in the image too many disturbing references to violence and racial undertones. Anyway a lot of people have written to the editors over this. I won't recreate the picture, but if you do find it and want to write a letter yourself, send it to: letters@nypost.com

Dear Editor,

The cartoon where an artist connected the shooting of a troubled monkey with the economic stimulus plan, and specifically to the author of that plan (most commonly being attributed to Pres. Obama) is callous humor at best, violence inciting racism at worst, and a poor reflection of your newspaper, company, and management.

In a country where violence towards our political leaders is a common occurrence in our history (hopefully Lincoln's 200th birthday reminded us of that) , and where there has been a dehumanizing tradition of racist cartoonists making connections between African Americans and primates, I find it glaring that you would publish a cartoon which reflects both these shameful attributes.

It is bad enough that our President must endure the extra measures of security because of his race, and because of the times we live in. We do not need newspapers bringing up violent imagery in connection to our political leaders.

That being said, I understand the 1st amendment allows cartoonists to reflect their views via their art. But the 1st amendment does not force editors to publish such submissions.

Therefore it is more a reflection of the flaws in your decision making abilities that such a cartoon graced your pages and website.

Your cartoonist should apologize to the people and more specifically to the "writer of the stimulus package." Your editorial staff should also apologize for allowing this image to enter our common discourse.

Remove this stain from your paper and company.


Respectfully Submitted,
Miguel Guadalupe
New Jersey

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Plumber is dead, long live the Pilot

On the day Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III is to receive the keys to New York City, I think it appropriate to note that while His daring actions saved 155 people, one person was indeed left at the bottom of the Hudson river.

Well, not a person exactly, but an icon, horrifically thrust on the American stage by a desperate presidential campaign in its last throes. That icon now in a watery grave is “Joe the Plumber.” Yes that’s right. Sully killed Joe the plumber. The citizen who challenged Obama on a campaign stop name Joe, who isn’t really named Joe (it’s Samel), who said he was a plumber but really wasn’t (no license), who was going to buy a business but had neither the means, skills, nor opportunity to do so. “Joe” relished his position in the spotlight, so much so that he still clings to whatever will get him in front of a camera, from “reporting” in Gaza to showing up at Republican strategy meetings (really?).

This man, who offered nothing but his claim of being average, with no real skills or training, but with a willingness to be exploited for the sake of ratings and campaigns, was being presented as some sort of nightmarish symbolism for America. This image of mediocrity was somehow supposed to inspire some mythical “base” of people to a point where they would vote against their economic interests in favor a party who’s lead them astray. We all know the outcome of that gamble.

Thankfully, with a new year, a new image emerges to kill the era of “the plumber” and lift American iconography from the sewer to the sky. This all came about as a seasoned commercial pilot and his crew do the miraculous – land a plane full of passengers without engines, power, or even land. At the center of this is Captain Sullenberger, AKA “Sully the Pilot.” With over 30 years flight experience, safety expertise (he even coauthored papers with NASA), additional skills as a glider (which is what saved that plane), and a focus and professionalism that kept him in control during the most uncontrollable of situations, He represents everything Joe the Plumber does not; skill, education, focus, altruism, professionalism, and true leadership in crisis. He showed additional merit by taking a slow approach to addressing the throngs of media, of doing his job first, and of spreading credit to his passengers and crew members.

America has a new love. The reluctant hero is the ultimate icon, a man doing his job well under special circumstances resulting in extraordinary success, and avoiding unspeakable tragedy (unless you count the geese). But more than anything, this would not have been possible without his training, education, and his striving to be more than “just average.” That is the image that America needs, and the image that best represents our future.

Thank you “Captain Sully,” and long live the Pilot.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another picture worth a thousand words.



This is great. This image is amazing. Man-sized cue-cards of a curse-riddled quote of a corrupt governor attempting to sell the vacated senate seat formerly held by the President of these United States of America. You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sprint's Woes Are Well Deserved - Why I left after 10 yrs.

So the news of Sprints recents lay offs are being talked about far and wide. What's funny is that days before the rest of the world started talking about Sprint, I posted the below on a Sprint User's Forum. I think it's self explanatory, but explains why Sprint may never recover from its current situation without a major overhaul in innovation and customer service and retention.

Now, I've had problems with Sprint before, like not giving me proper phone rebates, over billing my account, fake "phone insurance" where you pay a ridiculously high deductables despite your monthly insurance premium. But I stayed, mostly because of their lock-in contracts.

I remember pitching to an asset manager just last week in his office and showing him my company's application on my former Sprint BBRY. He says "What service do you have?" I say "Sprint." "Wow, so you are the one guy who's still with Sprint, huh."

That gave me something to consider, because I honestly couldn't remember who of my friends were on Sprint. It used to be everyone I knew was on, and They had a great - in network feature where your calls didn't count towards minutes. Now, nobody is on the network so the cost of the in network feature wasn't worth it. Then I had the most aweful customer servicer experience of my life. Below is what I wrote days before Sprints Announcement.

Why Spint Lost me as a customer after 10 yrs, and why you may want to leave too.
posted on 01-21-2009

Dear Sprint Fans,

After 10 years, I decided to leave Sprint. Which is sad because I used to defend Sprint to those who use to ask why I haven't joined AT&T or Verizon, besides having better phones, and better customer service.

In September, I had 2 phone numbers but decided to split my account. Over the next 3 months, my overages went through the roof. Many of the calls were mine, but many of the calls were foriegn to me and I asked for an investigation.

Here is where it gets crazy.I got an alert that the fraud dept said they were valid calls. Really? I don't remember calling Jersey City 20 times in one day for a minute each. I wanted to speak to someone about the methodology of the review, or maybe simply reasess how I was using the phone...I was speaking to an Operator by the name of " LAKESHA." She then says that she can offer me 50% off the overage charges. I said, sounds good, but what other options are there? She responded that I could speak to a supervisor if I wanted more off. OK, sounds good, lets do that...

I am then forwarded to "Supervisor KENDRA." She says what I already heard, that the fraud dept said the calls were legit. I said, OK, now what?

Now nothing.

What about the 50% offer?

Supposedly it was now "OFF THE TABLE.

"What?"

She "explains" that because I "refused" LAKESHA's offer, that I was no longer offered the discount and I had to pay the full amount. I asked to be escalated to a manager.

Manager NICOLE gets on the phone. She says only 2 things. 1 - That the calls were deems legit (which I dispute) and 2 - that they are no longer offering the discount. I try to explain I was never told that if I escalated further that I'd be denied the discount. She doesn't care. She says operators are not obliged to explain that....WHAT? We go back and forth for 20 minutes and SHE HANGS UP ON ME!

I call again, and get Operator JOSHUA. I'm thinking, let me start from scratch. Again, Joshua offers to discount about $191 from my bill. Knowing the previous conversation, I say - OK, let's do it....

He then asks that I hold. I hold, for 10 minutes.

He gets back on - Says "I need to forward you to a manager." Great, should be resolved then.

NICOLE gets back on -Then says to me - NO OFFER.

WHY? Your operator just offered it to me - AGAIN!

She says that JOSHUA put in the notes that I refused the discount for a 2nd time...

THIS IS CRAZY! I tell her, in no way did I refuse a second time. I even challenge her to pull the voice recording tapes so we can check the conversation. She then slips that they all sit by each other, and that she even mentioned all their names.

OK, I say, please give me their operator numbers as well. She refuses, saying that the operators will only volunteer those #s when I speak to them directly.

I said - well, give me those operators again.

No.

OK, can you please ask them their numbers please.

I don't sit by them - She says.

Wait, you JUST SAID you sit by them, so you are lying. I ask her - so you are saying, that after offering me the discount, 2 times, you are reneging?

Manager NICOLE, # 45751 (I asked her this time) said that is correct, gave her "thank you for calling sprint" and hung up on me.

I signed on to Verizon's service within the hour, and got a great phone as well, the Blackberry Storm.

If this was my experience, as a 10 yr customer, multiple phone buyer, and former supporter, I can only imagine what other's have gone through. And for what? Dead zones, second rate phones, and bad phone applications? It is no wonder why AT&T and Verizon are poaching all their customers. They must move from a "how much can we get from our customers" to a more "how can we service our customers" mentality - and that whole service discount "deal or no deal" scheme...that has got to go.