Monday, December 21, 2009

A Palpable Hit

Just in time for the holidays, a little departure from our normal programming:

A few days ago, I was hit by a car as I was walking crossing the street (I'm totally fine). A friend and I had stepped out at around 10:45pm, and though this mostly residential street is mostly empty, we are on the crosswalk and wait for a "walk" sign. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a Toyota Forerunner enter the intersection and start to turn left. I think, "This guy is really waiting for the last second to start braking -- oh shit, he's not!" He's headed right for us. My friend jumps forward with alacrity. I jump backward with ineffectiveness, and he gets me at about 8-10 miles per hour. Not really that hard. I land on my feet (though I do get some Pinkberry on my jacket). I bang on the hood and let loose a stream of oaths. The driver has stopped but doesn't seem to register what has happened. In fact, he starts to take off, and I angrily fumble for my phone to take a picture. But then he pulls over and gets out of the car. I'm still fuming as he walks over to us when I see that he's shaking like a leaf. He doesn't speak a lick of English, just Spanish, and he's extremely sorry, thanking God that I'm okay and offering to take me to the hospital. I explain angrily that I'm not hurt, but it was just lucky, and... I'm sputtering at this point, partly because my Spanish is a shadow of its former self, but mostly because the driver is starting to cry. "No licensia," he keeps repeating. He had been driving from his first job to his second job, again thanks God that I'm all right, and at this point, I can no longer keep up the hardass act - I tell him to calm down.

Suddenly, a man comes running up. "I saw the whole thing! You drove right into him! Do you even speak English, buddy?" He asks if we've called the cops yet. The driver's eyes widen and he starts repeating "No licensia" again. The witness has heard enough. "No license? He's either got a DUI or he's illegal, either way you gotta call the cops." It turns out the witness is an ex-cop. At this point, the driver is weeping, begging us not to call the cops. "They'll deport me, I have two little kids." I turn to my friend, who's a lawyer, and ask her what she thinks we should do. What can we do? Neither of us wants to call the cops. I really think I'm fine, and the small chance of me later developing something doesn't seem to stack up against the great chance of the driver getting deported. "Okay, I don't think I'm hurt, so..." We decide to just get the driver's information. The ex-cop looks at us with disgust. He came over thinking he was being a good samaritan and now these bleeding heart yuppies are making HIM the asshole? We get his information too - he hands us his card, shaking his head. Once he leaves, I tell the driver that he "should not to sleep during to drive" but that I'm not calling the cops. He's too rattled to feel relief, and he takes off.

Avoiding this kind of situation is precisely the motivation behind efforts to license all drivers, regardless of legal status. And actually, the LAPD has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to legal status - it was just reconfirmed by new LAPD chief Charlie Beck today - but that's more geared towards witnesses of crimes rather than people alleged to have committed them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mike Capuano for Massachusetts Senate

I’ve decided to vote for Congressman Mike Capuano in this Tuesday’s Democratic primary to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, and briefly, here’s why:

There are four candidates in the race: Capuano, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Bain alum and Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, and City-Year founder Alan Khazei. Survivor Massachusetts Senate:

Pagliuca is the first to go. He lost me when I started seeing his ads during Celtics games a month ago, which suggests he ever had me, which he didn’t. Grainy photos of men in suits handing off cash-filled briefcases, with voiceovers demagoging against Wall Street greed. No thanks.

My opening bid was “I’ll give Khazei every chance to win my vote.” But I’m not the only one with whom he never caught on. In a short special election, it’s hard to make a grassroots campaign work; there’s little time for a movement. I think if he were really special, he could have caught fire. And the Globe did endorse him, which is remarkable. And we do elect Senators for 6 years, so it’s permissible to grow into the job. But from what I’ve heard, I just don’t think the guy has a realistic idea of how to be a Senator. The idea isn’t to be a mini Barack Obama. The idea is to be a mini Ted Kennedy.

The seat doesn’t belong to Ted Kennedy, but the fact that it’s Kennedy we’re replacing reminds us of some of the criteria for being a good Senator, and I think Capuano meets more of them than does Coakley.

He understands the legislative process better than she does – she could learn, but he seems more suited to being a legislator than she is. He seems to be an effective hybrid; fiercely principled and passionate on the one hand, but a deal-maker on the other. To the extent that he’s put the Kennedy comparison at the center of his campaign, that’s the comparison he’s making, and I buy it. Coakley, on the other hand, seems well-suited to being an AG; she’s clearly fierce, smart, and confident. But I suspect she’d be frustrated by the legislative process, and by the inanity of what is often the world’s most inane building.

And then there’s just the matter of their politics: Coakley is a good Democrat; Capuano is a Liberal. His leadership on Darfur is meaningful to me. He has won me over by talking about unemployment as a true crisis that must, as a moral matter, be tackled my spending public money on underfunded jobs programs. When he talks about 10% unemployment, you get the sense of a Congressman who knows what he’s doing there. And though I would hope our next Senator would vote for the health care reform bill in whatever form it is likely to take, and I trust that he will, from the north or south side of the Capitol, he has convinced me that now is the time to stand up against the Stupak amendment. This, of course, is a position that Capuano and Coakley share. A position they don’t share is the one she expressed by leading the campaign against Massachusetts’ recent successful ballot measure to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana. Even if those were Massachusetts’ values, which they aren’t, they wouldn’t be our priorities.

So that’s my vote: Because I think he’s to her left, but probably more importantly because I think he’ll simply be more effective at making American laws better than they otherwise would be, which ultimately is the job of a Senator, and we’ll leave the hope and whatnot to the President, I’m voting for Mike Capuano.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama Speech Reaction

The good news from tonight's speech is that Obama seems serious about wanting to get out of Afghanistan. I actually believe him. He recognizes that the costs are too high for an open-ended commitment. In short: he is a "reluctant warrior."

Looking at the situation in Afghanistan today, he has judged that the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal today would be unacceptable. He is hoping that an Afghanistan surge will provide America the opportunity to leave without everything going to hell in a hand basket in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don't really buy this line of thinking--the fear of a resurgent Taliban/Al Qaeda threatening the United States I think is overblown.

But I do understand why making a decision to leave now is so unpalatable, especially when we have a new team of military leaders who have a new strategy that they say will work. Pulling the plug even before they have an opportunity to succeed, and risking pulling the plug and then potentially watching things fall apart, would be a very difficult thing to do. The right thing to do, perhaps, but very difficult.

Of course, the new strategy probably won't work, and that is where the bad news come in. If and when the Afghan surge doesn't work, what speech will Obama make in 2011 when we are supposed to be bringing the troops home? If the situation does not improve, does Obama have the guts to pull out in 2011 and, in essence, admit defeat? Perhaps. But I wouldn't bet on it.