Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CHANGE I Could Believe In

John Podesta wrote to me today, asking that I give my advice to Carol Browner and the Obama transition team on energy and environment. Gosh, Mr. Podesta, I'd be honored.

Here's what I said:

Well, energy and environment team, brace yourselves for some basic truth: humans waste whatever is cheap and seemingly plentiful (and cook the planet in the process). And so I am alarmed to see the sudden recent decrease in gasoline prices, as millions will quickly revert to their old ways, thinking we can waste again and put off the future for months or years to come.

BUT cheap gas prices give the incoming administration a prime opportunity to raise the taxes on gasoline. This would bring in billions in revenue which could be put directly toward environmental clean-up and development of alternative energy sources. Fifty cents more a gallon seems about right. Twenty cents right away, especially if gasoline prices are still under $3 next spring. As long as gasoline is cheap, I feel there is very little reason to hope we can stave off the climate catastrophes caused by waste and pollution.

(And the even bigger picture: Population reduction is also key to our long-term quality of life, including that of the environment on which we depend, but that seems to be a topic off the political table for the time being. A reduction in population, through lower birth rates and attrition, would be a CHANGE I could really believe in.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

And what a thrill it was and still is: the countdown to victory

There's a nice little piece on today about all the videos made of the CNN countdown on election night, including mention of a blog at Blogger that is collecting as many videos as it can from around the country and even around the world. The CNN article is here, and the blog with all the inspiring videos, some of which still give me chills and a tear, is called countdowntovictory. (At the countdown blog site, I can especially recommend the video from Norman, Oklahoma -- talk about a RED state -- which starts out even rowdier than most but which leads to a poignant ending.)

CNN asked for comments, and here is mine:

That night, I was fortunate to be in a room of about 60-70 Obama fans just outside Kerrville, Texas, in a county whose voters went almost 80% for the straight GOP ticket. We shouted out the count down as well and went nuts, a bunch of old folks, old white folks, senior citizens mostly, with a few blacks and Hispanics and youngish people in the crowd. We all just went nuts, and seeing the videos still gives me chills.

In the tough times ahead, my hope is that President Obama will be able to help bring us together with his persistent message of inclusiveness and the power of his speaking. The CNN countdown and, an hour later, the introduction of the cheerfully smiling and waving Obama family and (as President-elect for the first time) Obama's masterful speech in Grant Park will live on as one of the greatest, proudest moments in American history -- even decades, perhaps centuries from now -- and we knew that and felt that the night of November 4th, 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2012 is (already) the new 2008

I swear there are more articles right now about who's running in 2012 than about the substance of the "CHANGE" 60-something million of us just sweated blood to promote and vote for.

Throngs are fascinated with the broken record that is Sarah Palin, so confused she's both bashing and fawning over a guy who is still more than two months away from even taking office.

And now we learn that Romney and Huckabee, sort of like Laurel and Hardy, are already heading to Iowa to stir things up for four years from now, which, as we know, is really, just about a year and a half from now, since the next horse race contenders are starting as soon as they take off their tuxes and ball gowns after the 2009 innaugural balls.

And this is the way the media want it: the horse race is more compelling to more people than the boilerplate, nuts and bolts of policy and governance.

We are a people who seem fairly willing to dumb ourselves down.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Secretary of State: Why not Gore?

I've said it before: why not Gore?

Okay, now maybe Al Gore really IS, as he likes to say, "a recovering politician," but if there is ANY chance he'd actually like a calling card to the world that's got some panache and power behind it (to go along with his Nobel Prize), that also in some notable ways goes above and beyond parochial and provincial politics, then State is Gore country.

It seems he's pretty much already been vetted not only by top level, super secret security (Mr. VP) but also by the popular vote. And Gore's got the experience and, frankly, the fame, to really make the job rock.

Eight years out, as with Colin Powell eight years ago, Al Gore's got transcendental stature.

I think most Americans would be quite proud to send Mr. Gore abroad, and I think the world would be not only proud but eager to receive him.

And so as before: why not Gore?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

W. doesn't stand for Wolves

Even as George W. and Laura Bush seemed to so graciously host the Obamas yesterday at the White House, the Bush administration is trying to wreak more havoc on the national lands and wildlife we own. Dick Cheney's just itching to get his gun out again as soon as the coast is clear and he can crawl out of his secret bunker, and I'm sure he wants his brave friends to be along for the hunt. For Bush and Co. 'til the last day, it's all risky business as usual. They smile as they stick the knife in.

The move is afoot (yes, again) to delist wolves in and around Yellowstone and elsewhere so that they can be not just controlled but aggressively hunted. It seems to me we humans have hunted wolves just about enough.

The NRDC is asking for citizens to respond. You can visit the NRDC to find out more and to send a customizable letter to Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

I threw out the standard, formal letter and wrote this:
Greetings Mr. Secretary,

I hope that the Bush administration and the Department of Interior under your guidance will not run out the clock with shameful setbacks for wolves and for the people of the United States. Sure, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of hunters in the Rockies who would love to hunt wolves, but there are MILLIONS of Americans who own the national parks and national lands of this country and who want to see those wolves prosper, multiply, and expand their natural ranges with the protections for which we have repeatedly and urgently and insistently asked.

Please do what is best for wolves and for millions of Americans.

Thank you, Lawrence Walker

Monday, November 10, 2008

As you may know, within 24 hours of winning the election last Tuesday, the Obama staff put up the new website, currently subtitles "office of the president-elect," but I am sure to be updated as Senator Obama and his savvy staff come online for real January 20th.
, there's never been anything like it. Especially in a transitional period by an incoming president-elect. The site gives links to Obama administration news, government jobs and a way to share your own thoughts and stories. Thus, this is already an important step, symbolically at least, in bringing the people back into government. We, the People, will have more of a voice than we've had in a long, long time.

Here's what I posted to the "tell us your story" link at today:

In 2008, I was the outreach coordinator for the Obama campaign in Kerr County Texas. I hosted and participated in Obama events in a half dozen counties, and a few of us die-hards helped WIN Kerr County for Obama in the Texas primary, one of only a few "rural" Texas counties that went for Obama. I am especially proud of that.

In 2003-2004, I volunteered for the Dean campaign in Texas, Iowa and New Hampshire, and as we now know, Dean's exciting model for a hip, modern, tech-savvy, internet-based appeal AND, more recently, Dean's 50 state strategy as chairman of the DNC really helped set the stage and the "ground game" for an Obama victory last Tuesday.

There are millions of us former "Deaniacs" who would LOVE to see Dr. Dean in the Obama cabinet, probably as the head of Human Health and Services. The doctor is IN again!

Thank you, Dr. Dean and the DNC. And thank you to Barack Obama. And thank you to the president-elect's entire campaign staff and administration for CHANGE to be!

Friday, November 07, 2008

These things we know

We know that unfettered capitalism is based on the desire for relentless growth, which is like suburban sprawl, which is like a cancer.

We know that we have a worldwide human population explosion and that most people lust for wanton affluence.

We know we have 100 million more Americans than we can possibly sustain.

We know that technology competes with the need for, stability and sustainability of human jobs and natural resources.

We know that we have many more people than we have truly valuable work to do (millions more have just been scraping by serving and selling stuff to the excessive population).

We know that nature rules. And that nature has so many checks and balances that it is never based on permanent growth or the need for permanent growth.

We live within a system. People seem to ignore and resist and resent the limits of nature, its delicacy and its richness and its value.

The greed and profligacy of human beings: costly.

The planet Earth: priceless.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Who understands capitalism?

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), it seems to me, I would say, may I ever so meekly suggest, when it comes to capitalism, there are no experts. Certainly no long-term experts.

Those who pass themselves off as "economists" and (gosh) "experts" and even those accepted as demi-gods of green (yes sir, you know who I am talking about, Mr. Greenspan), just know how to MAKE money for some specific sector of investors, often, by chance, friends and acquaintances within their own socio-economic group.

Beyond that, their theories and models are vague at best, naive and ruinous at worst. And we are seeing some of the middle-bad to worser about now.

Berny, the Fed Chairman, an expert on the Great Depression, is helping to bring on another one, and the Secretary of Treasury is scrambling, at best.

When it comes to capitalism, the "experts" are almost universally on the side of investors, the "trickle down" boys who toy with others' money.

Greenspan (he's back!) now says he was wrong and is now surprised at how things have gone. Secretary Paulson, attempting to be the architect of fixing things he helped break by being so blindsided, is flailing in the dark. You just watch: he'll scramble many times to come up with a "bail out" plan that actually flies past Congress (much less works).

So who really knows how all this greed can really work long-term for the people and the finite limits of the earth?

Nature rules, not the Fed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama owes much to these five people

As with anyone who achieves anything big, Barack Obama owes his success to many. Surely, from Frederick Douglas to Martin Luther King to his own farflung family, historical figures matter. But there are a few of Obama's contemporaries without whom his move to the White House could not have happened. I'll name five: George W. Bush, Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, and David Axelrod.

Let us realize that Obama might never have won this election without its coming on the heels of a stridently divisive and exceptionally destructive administration, and so, with deep irony, Obama owes his victory to the slovenly administration of the Bush league most of all.

Jesse Jackson twice ran an articulate, profound and very popular campaign for president with a compelling slogan and inspiring rallies nationwide. Jackson showed that, from a political candidate, the cadences of gospel churches could resonate with millions of Americans of every region and ethnic orientation. And Jackson showed what not to do as well: not to be too much of a preacher -- or to be too closely aligned with one.

Oprah Winfrey, the most influential and admired woman in the United States, has made more gains for the mainstreaming of blacks than anyone else, as she morphed from entertainer, from specialist to generalist, and onward, upward to become the female soul of the nation. Oprah is the soul at the center of America. And her early endorsement of Obama was a big thing and helped him loom larger than Hillary in the primaries.

Colin Powell is the male version of Oprah, an abiding American soul but with a uniform and a cabinet post, military intelligence and the masculine calmness in calamity we want from a leader. Powell's elegance transcended partisanship, showed it could be done, that a black man could look great at the top.

Every politician depends on a sidekick who compliments and constructs the drive behind his quest. For Clinton, that was James Carville. For Bush, that was Karl Rove. And for Obama, that is David Axelrod. As each says, they find their association compelling as they share a kindred world view. Axelrod is and will continue to be Obama's right hand champion. From Obama's early days on the south side of Chicago, we all owe a lot to David Axelrod, architect of the ambitious arc of the next president of the United States.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President-elect Obama

A beautiful revitalization of American democracy.

An honorable concession for McCain.

A beautiful scene in Chicago, a beautiful speech from the President-elect.

Hope, at last, for progressives, pays off.

We voted against militarism, empire, deregulation, deceit. We voted for diplomacy, for friendship, for steadfastness, for honesty, for peace, for multi-lateralism, for multiculturalism, for the planet.

The electorate looks toward a more realistic, more integrated, more worldly, more cooperative future.

Tonight, all things considered, America lived up to its promise.

Tonight, America rejoined the world.