Tag Archives: barack obama

Life After Graduation

I’ve been watching commencement speeches on YouTube.  Eric Schmidt of Google.  Jodie FosterEllen DeGeneresStephen ColbertBarack Obama.  John Legend.

What I realized is that the power of the individual, the determination, the reserve are beyond any education level or intelligence.  Their speeches may be good (or not so good), but what differentiates them is their message.  John Legend’s stuck me the most.  perhaps it’s his role in pop culture, or simply that he’s so cute.  But I doubt that.  Graduating a mere eight years before me  from Penn, he’s already achieved so much.  With an educated mind and a pure soul.  He’s conscious.  Better yet, he’s awake with life.  he took what Penn had to offer and went beyond it.  I wonder how many of my fellow classmates have done the same.

To a certain extent, his accomplishments drastically trumps my own and makes me question what I’ve been doing the past three year.  Yet, I don’t feel like I’ve mistepped in life.  I believe my journey is still beginning (God willing).  he, along with the other speakers, inspire me to be bigger than myself.  And more this year than any other, challenges us to be truthful, socially conscious and ultimately, the start of a whole new revolution.  Bill Clinton called it “interdependence” in his 2006 commencement speech.  Eric Schmidt admitted it to the power of information and technology (and its limitations of finding ourselves).  John Legend simpled call it “soul” and “truth.”  But within all those contexts, our united goal has shifted hopefully shifted from ‘me’ to ‘we.’  From personal accomplishments to social responsibilities.  And that we as citizens of this generation and this would can and must effect change.  It doesn’t matter if we went to Penn or Yale or Arizona State or nowhere at all.  If we have the will to dream (not wish, via Dolly Parton), the cojones to follow through and the ability to persevere against those who oppose us, we will in fact succeed.

More and more, I keep hearing that mistakes are good.  Maybe it’s a new generational thing.  maybe it’s my coming-of-age.  The conclusion still stands. It reveals our ‘self’ and it teaches us to be better, to do better.

I remember a leadership retreat that I went to in high school.  I spent the whole weekend sketching trees instead of interacting with other high schoolers.  Two things cling to my memory.  One: I’m a better leader from behind.  I work well with decision-making and taking charge through times of crisis, through mounds of information and through my pure intuition.  Not a spokesperson, I work better with deciphering context and drawing broad conclusions.  My style is more collaboration than competition (perhaps the reason my GPA suffered under Wharton’s infamous bell curve).  Second: I distinctly recall on of the prominent Texas businessmen telling us that we want to have as little experience as possible.  Experience equates to failure, and we ought to have as little of that as possible.  I see now the blunder in his words.

We cannot succeed without failure.  And if we do, that’s not success.  That’s luck.

I want to insert a brief reminder to myself: if I’m ever discouraged or afraid to face the future unknowns, I should simply YouTube these commencement speeches.  To believe in my own power and confidence and self.  To revel in my unknowing instead of fear it, and to realize a “dao” will reveal itself.  To look forward to the future.  To know that if I am setting myself up with the right tools, failure is only temporary.

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Filed under just life

Please Go VOTE! No on Prop 8!

No matter what you think (O), please (B) don’t (A) forget (M) to (A) vote!! :-)

All kidding aside, this really is an important move and probably one of the crucial votes of our lifetimes.  Not to be overly dramatic, but this election could literally dictate the continual leadership or the fall of the US Empire.  So honestly, whatever your opinions may be, please go out there and show that you appreciate the gravity of this election.

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As incentive:

Starbucks is giving out free coffee to those who say they’ve voted today.

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Krispy Kreme is handing out heart-shaped doughnuts with red, white and blue sprinkles.

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Ben & Jerry’s is giving out free scoops!

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On a personal note, I’m an FIRMLY AGAINST PROP 8. I understand that people are worried about the argument of gay marriage impeding on religious views, having LGBT rights being taught in schools and the value judgment that the definition of marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

This is what I have to say:

  • One of the reason people came/come to this country is for the right to practice their own religion, to believe what/who they want and live life their way.  Why would we suddenly take that right away and write it into the amendment of our constitution to forever remove the right for people to live their life?  Gay marriage isn’t a religion; it’s a singular act to express the love.
  • LGBT rights being taught in schools: seriously, it won’t promote “being gay” to children.  First of all, the deepest sense of values should come from the parents and not the schools.  That being said, yes, schools do affect how children grow up and act.  But how is teaching children that California promotes civil rights and equal treatment of all people a bad thing?  Being taught the feminist movement, doesn’t make us all feminists and believe feminism is the best thing since sliced bread.  It only teaches students to be more accepting.
  • I don’t really understand how gay marriage would intrude other people’s lives.  The Yes of Prop 8 people say that marriage is between a man and a woman.  EXACTLY.  It’s between those two people.  A.K.A. None of your business.  So why impede your opinions on someone else’s life?  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I just think that we shouldn’t impose our views on others.  Especially when the marriage of LGBT members don’t affect straight people’s lives.  Honestly, they really don’t.  Just because you may not agree with their way of life, doesn’t give you the right to judge them and restrict their rights and actions.

It’s about equality.  It’s about acceptance.  It’s about the celebration of love.

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Filed under politics, social

Enough About Politics

[Sorry, this post isn't about "food politics"; it's more about "food" and "politics."]

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During dinner with a couple friend last night, my girl friend said, “I’m really surprised we didn’t talk about politics tonight.  I always thought you were really knowledgeable about it.” (or something like that…)

A few reactions instantaneously popped into my head:

  • Oh, that’s so flattering!  Thank you.
  • I don’t know as much about the election, or politics in general, as I should.  But thanks for thinking that.  I’ll definitely work harder on doing my research and finding out the details of each candidate’s platforms.
  • My friend M from college could blow me out of the water.  Are you kidding? I’m like novice ^infinity.
  • Uh… sorry… *munch munch munch*… This salmon is delicious.  I can’t stop… *munch* eating *munch*… what were we talking about again?  (BTW, thanks for the recipe.  Seriously.  Best salmon ever!)

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Truth is I have done my research.  After the primaries and finally accepting the Obama over Clinton win, I didn’t know much about McCain Camp.  In fact, I saw him in Letterman and thought, “Wow, he’s a really nice guy.  Maybe we’ll have a real reformer on the Republican end, and American can see social reform AND lower taxes.” Wait… don’t stop reading… [and definitely don't use this as a sound byte]… cuz I was dead wrong.  Let me repeat that dead bleeping wrong.

So I started by watching the news, reading political blogs, monitoring links and bites on Twitter and Tumblr (yes, I admit this is overly liberal).  Most importantly, I went to each candidate’s websites.  Now, some may think that’s the last place to go.  After all, this is where McCain and Obama get to paint their picture perfect version of the U.S.  But that’s exactly what I want.  If their websites aren’t able to convince me (and most of my friends are liberals and campaign commercials are always too vague and inflammatory), then what will?

I’ve written over the past few weeks, posts on some of the issues where McCain and Obama take diverging stances (to put it lightly).  This is what I’ve discovered:

Fuck the issues.

FUCK THE ISSUES.

Here’s why.  We’re trapped in a jacked up love triangle.  The only choices are McCain or Obama (realistically anyway), and we have to choose.  Now both want to get elected, so they’ll sweet talk us and send us flowers and promise to love us forever.  They’re politically wooing us right now.  Each has their own strengths and weaknesses.  Each their own opinions on issues.

But the question we really need to ask ourselves is, “Which one is going to stick around after we’ve said yes and let them have their way with us?”

Or better yet, “Who do we trust?”

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We know that McCain hasn’t always been faithful to the Republican party.  He’s a maverick, right?

We know that he has to answer to major corporations.  So when the economy’s gone to shit (“We have about a year… a year and a half more of this…” according to an analyst after Pepsi Co. fired… sorry… ‘laid off’ over 3,000 employees today), who’s McCain going to come home to?  The public?  He’s already had us.  We voted for him and everything.  Obviously, from the last 8 years, we’ve proven that impeachment doesn’t work.  Or the major corporations and banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, who can very much affect McCain, his friends and the people around him?

We know McCain picked one of the most inexperienced Vice Presidential candidates in history, and she’s completely incapable of answering the simplest questions with preparation and note cards.  She’s a smooth talker, so there’s no excuses.  Palin just didn’t know the answer.  You comfortable with that?  Cuz I sure ain’t.

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Now, what do we know about Obama?

Obama championed to stop all lobbying.  What does mean?  Hold back, giant corporations.  Thou shall not influence his decisions on whether to benefit the rich or the poor.

His platforms are not based on broad statements about how hardworking Americans are or how we deserve better.  Are we hardworking?  Sure.  Do we deserve better?  If we earn it, then yes.  But those aren’t his points.  Obama has specific goals and plans that he says he will carry out over the next four years.  It doesn’t mean that he will, but I sure trust specific timelines and strategies over general, sweeping wishes.

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So there you have it.  I choose Obama because I believe he will be true to his word.  And that’s more important than all the promises in the world.

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[Image courtesy of shiftingheat. There used to be an image here, but the artist (not the one linked) is being a poopface (read: complete asshole) about credits.  FYI, I'm more than happy to credit your art, but 1) please allow time to do so, i.e. more than a day, and 2) tell me which piece is yours.  I'm too lazy to scour the internets to figure it out, so please help me. :) ]

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On a completely different note…

Google,

I believe in you, and I believe that I would deliver 110% as your Chief Marketing Officer… err… you don’t have a CMO?  Really?  Well, let me get right back to ya on the specific title, all righty?

You embody the right philosophy, and your employees deserve praise for their innovation and dedication.  Together, we can make a better internet.  We can kick Yahoo’s ass and leave victorious.  Now is not the time to withdraw and hide.  We need to dedicate as many resources as possible to this vital threat.  Screw Microsoft, Powerset, Ask, Facebook and the others.  Yahoo’s the real threat.

And let’s make sure Google’s staff has the tools for making more innovations.  We shouldn’t educate them on the best practices for managing a side project/start-up.  Instead, we should verbally dissuade them from making anything new, but let’s make sure they have the tools just the same.

Oh, last thing.  In this ailing economy, Google certainly understands the hardships people are having.  We should pay larger dividends on all Google stock.  Sure, the payout benefits major shareholders and the executive management the most, but it’ll all trickle down.  A payout’s a payout, right?

… Google.  I know with me as your CMO, we will make a brighter internet for tomorrow.  Sure, I’m just two years out of college, but I have been the social director, professional chair and president of multiple clubs.  And heck, I manage a WordPress blog, a Tumblelog and a Twitter.  If that doesn’t make me fit to be CMO, I sure as heck don’t know what will.

Vote fer… err… hire me!

Your patrio… supporter,

Jany

Update: July 6, 2010  Apparently, I didn’t credit the artist (totally not going to pimp him out) for one of the above images.  Apologies.  That image has since been removed (at least I don’t have to deal with him anymore).

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Filed under funnnie, politics, pr/marketing, social, tech

Politics & The History of Marketing

PART I

My last post on the vice presidential debate highlighted the great marketing campaign of the GOP.  I say marketing because many of you pointed out via emails and ims that Sarah Palin, and to some extend John McCain, focuses on broad sweeping statements about some utopian United States without much in the way of a plausible road map.  Well… that’s what worries me most of this campaign, as did the campaign in 2004.

The American people have always held on to great hope for the future.  It’s been the promise of the American dream that’s driven so many people to immigrate to this great country (yes, it’s still great).  And that’s exactly the tactic that the republican party focuses on during election time.  They toy with our optimism, fondle our emotions and make those sweeping generalizations about how their candidate, McCain, will change the U.S. and the middle class for the better.

But so many supporters of the GOP at major corporations and the wealthy.  They hold much more sway over the party than the millions of rural, small town and middle class families.  Can we trust that they will serve us over the rich?  Has the last 8 years taught us nothing?

But the Obama and democratic party actually gives clear goals and action plans that cite the benefits, costs and consequences on the economy, healthcare, social security, foreign affairs, the energy crisis/global warming, etc.

But at the end of the day, as we learned in Made to Stick, the emotional appeal works much more effectively than the factual… right?

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PART II

Well to explain, let’s examine the brief history of marketing [via lessons from my management 101 class at The Wharton School].

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start – The Sound of Music). Marketing is defined as “an ongoing process of planning and executing the marketing mix for products, services or ideas to create exchange between individuals and organizations.”  Advertising, public relations, research, branding among others all fit under the marketing umbrella.  But marketing is the core strategy that directs all of the above.

New technology = economic growth.  The Industrial Evolution spurred the beginning of mass production.  No longer do we have to make our own clothes because the cotton mills could do it faster and cheaper.  Great!  With Ford’s application of the assembly line, the Model-T was so much more cost effective car that the average American could afford.  Great!  However, there wasn’t much in the way of marketing.  No strategic placement of a product or service, finding market segments, developing a unique selling point.  There was no need.  It’s “any color, as long as it’s black.”

Skip forward to proliferation of the market place.  Developments in transportation, packaging and refrigeration means that people now have a choice in what they want to buy.  These were especially apparent in the CPGs (consumer packaged goods) like Heinz ketchup (“47 varieties!”), Campbell’s soup (“M’m m’m good” since 1935), Coca-Cola (“Deliciously refreshing” 1900) and so many more.  Slogans were a way to set products apart from competitors and a catchy phrase to help advertising and consumer choices.

From there, marketing mutated to a complex machine.  In order to keep things brief (because it gets a lot more complicated), here are some highlights in no particular order.

  • Proctor & Gamble realized that it’s better to cannibalize their own products, if it means gaining more of the marketing.  Just in their family of detergents, they have Tide as a household name and top market brand.  Cheer and Gain, which sorry for not knowing, play somewhere in the mid-cost, mid-performance range.  (I’m sure PG has gigabytes of consumer studies, scanner data and much more market research on the differentiators and market segments under each.  I just don’t know them.)  Then Era at the bottom (which I assume b/c I’ve never heard of it… maybe it has higher market proliferation abroad).
  • Intel evolved into a household name by using both the push and pull strategy.  During a time when chips were a dime a dozen and consumers weren’t aware of what went into their computers, Intel pushed their chips as the top of the line.  More importantly, they pulled consumers in with effective advertising and PR (all part of marketing).  Make sure that your computer has “Intel inside” to guarantee quality, etc.
  • Pepsi, as the newcomer, challenged Coca-Cola with their blind taste test, and stupidly Coca-Cola (instead of leaning on their tradition, branding and established consumer base) fell for the trap.  They came up with New Coke.  Sure… months later with people across the nation hoarding the old stuff and complaining so fervently, Coke came back with Coca-Cola Classic.  But Pepsi had make it’s mark, and they’re still competing with about 50-50 market share (depending on country) of beverages and snack products.  [Side note: some people suspect that Coke had introduced New Coke as a ploy to convince the public how much they really love Coca-Cola.  I think the executives were just idiotic.  Side note #2: Coca-Cola determined a few years ago that there are 27 beverage opportunities in a day.  Yeah, 27.]

Those are just three very quick snapshots of successful marketing techniques and how much marketing’s evolved from “47 varieties!”

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Now every company is trying to differentiate itself.  We have dozens of choices.  Brands are freaking sub-branding, creating off-shoots and variations.  There’s like 12 types of Tylenol ache, cold and flu medicines.  When I’m in pain, I just want “THIS IS THE ONE YOU NEED.”  So advertising’s become less effective.  Direct mail’s also less effective because my mailbox is full of ads I don’t want.  [Discover, unless you're giving me 10% cash back, which I know you can't afford, stop sending me biweekly mail.  I'm not going to accept your 'exclusive offer.']  Telemarketers hounds us all the time.  These annoying marketing techniques work because they’re so cost effective that a few “YES’s” make up for the majority of “NO’s.” [Unfortunately, they also give marketing a bad name.  It's become an industry of shoving shit people don't want down their throats.  Not true marketing: exposing product/service options to audiences who want to know.]

The problem was that companies were offering their guarantees so often that what they say mean nothing to us.  We’re emotional numb to their appeals and no longer trusted their slogans.  At the end of the day, no matter how kitschy or cute the advertising is, if the product/service ain’t work, we ain’t buying it.   So things started to change.

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Remember new technology = economic growth.  Internet = proliferation and democratization of information.  The normal paradigms of advertising, public relations and branding are changing.  Thus, marketing (the planning of such) is evolving as well.

Inventions like TiVo and DVRs help us skip the ads, while companies are trying to find ways to ‘cut through the clutter.’  Marketers are moving online.  Okay, yes, a lot of the bad habits of marketers have moved online.  The flashy, corny banners.  The incessant pop-ups selling us crap and then selling us pop-up blockers.  The spam, even from legitimate companies (you have the money; hire an email-marketer!).

But this is just the beginning.  More and more, word of mouth is playing a role.  Blogs and influencers across the web are popping up and spreading relevant information to interested niches.  Email marketers are popping up with opt-in policies and reassurances that our information isn’t getting sold to the evil spammers.  Semantic search and backend settings allow us to just see ads and banners that may be of interest to us.  Because we do want marketing.  It helps us find out about great sales, the new android phone or 20% off coupons.  We just don’t want what we don’t care about.

So here’s the lesson: marketing works.  Emotionally appealing to audiences works.  BUT.  BUT, there has to be facts that support the emotion.  In order to prevent buyer’s remorse and to keep a customer (which is so much cheaper than acquiring a new one), the product/service has to deliver.

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Part III

Thanks for sticking with me. :-)

Presidential nominations are like laundry detergent.  We have to choose one.

The difference (other than the fact that one is soap and one is people) is that the companies and branding may stay the same, democrats, republicans, independents, etc., but the product changes all the time.  Last time around it was Kerry and Bush.  Now it’s Obama and McCain.  So we can’t rely 100% on past experience to determine which one we want this time.

But we learn from shopping (an everyday task of differentiating among products and choosing what’s right for us) that we have the tools to make those decisions.  For example, we know that we care about the product specs above marketing gimmicks.  As a shoe fanatic (I have the proverbial shoe closet), Manolos would go so much better with my lifestyle brand.  However, they hurt my feet, don’t fit as well and quite frankly, I’d rather save $200 and buy Kate Spades.

The same should go for decisions on candidacy! Yes, I love America.  Yes, I want the government to be for the people again.  Yes, I want someone who isn’t afraid to challenge the authority and be a ‘maverick.’ But that doesn’t mean I’m going to blindly go on my emotions and not look at the FACTS!

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1) I’m SO enraged that the GOP would use a cheesy marketing ploy to try and fool the American people.

2) Even more so, I’m irked that the public would buy into it!

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FACT: Sure, she’s cute and a MILF, but Sarah Palin said exactly 0 about specific plans of the McCain doctrine.

FACT: A ‘blanket’ tax cut helps the rich exponentially more than it helps “the Joe six-packs and hockey moms.”  (see below)

FACT: Obama’s healthcare reform includes a specific plan.  He plans to “make employer contributions more fair.”  HOW? … “by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.”  McCain’s healthcare plan is full of unsupported claims.  “John McCain will reform health care making it easier for individuals and families to obtain insurance.” How?  Not sure… but “Americans [sure] are working harder and longer, yet the amount workers take home in their paychecks is not keeping pace because of rising health care costs.”  Really?  I wasn’t aware.

FACT: Obama’s foreign policy talks about the situations, the factors and multiple influences we have as a country to resolve/strengthen the problem/our position. McCain… doesn’t have “foreign policy” on his website…  Apparently, it’s not that important to him…  The closest thing I found was “national security.”

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Look, I’m not going into all the issues and who said what (all from their websites).  You can do your own research.

The point is that when we’re making such an important decision that affects not only Americans but the entire world, shouldn’t we look above the marketing ploys that tug at our heart strings and get to the not-as-interesting facts?

To answer the first question, wayyyy above: the emotional appeal works much more effectively than the factual… right?

We’ll see.  But it shouldn’t.

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Filed under politics, pr/marketing, social, tech

Well, Gosh Darn It, Dontcha Know.

Oh, gosh.  How to start.

1. I think I’m starting to talk like her [Sarah Palin], which is freaking me out and forever destroying my warm fuzzy feelings of Bobby’s World with Howie Mandell.

2. The Vice Presidential Debate at Washington Univesity in St. Louis gave the voters are great sense of both democratic and republic platforms.  Namely that Obama/Biden have concrete plans for energy, economy, education, international policies (which is one of my biggest concerns), LGBT rights and “the war on terror.”  On the contrary, McCain/Palin talk a lot of rhetoric of representing the American people, the average Joe, drilling in Alaska and “straight talk.”  Even the website doesn’t give specific details and plans, which if you look at Obama’s site, each issue is clearly spelled out with bullet points on analysis and a plan of action.

2a. During the primaries, I specifically blogged a chat with my friend stating that Hillary had a specific plan of attack and Barack didn’t.  Of course, as with many Hillary voters, I would have liked her to win.  But they’re so close on all the issues; the only major difference is in their leadership styles.

Now, Obama has a definitive plan and McCain… not so much.

3. I love Biden’s concrete examples of how to tackle the energy crisis, the specifics of economic stimulation, the U.S. relations with Iran and Afghanistan, etc.  The bar is much lower for Palin.  Thankfully, she was well-prepare, had extensive notes and smiled a whole gosh darn lot. *wink*

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I’ve listened to the pundits’ opinions (and agree that Bidden was less talkative & Palin pretty well spoken).  Here are some of my personal take-aways:

  • Clarification: foreign countries do not hate us because they’re jealous of our “freedom,” great nation, economy, democracy, etc.  They dislike our hypocrisy, our foreign policies, our egos and our lack of perspective (I can’t believe how many students can’t locate foreign countries on the map, and they’re easy countries like France and Spain!).
  • I loved that Palin looked at the camera when she spoke.  She was able to get a real connection with the audience.  I widh Biden did that more.  Most of the time, he was talking to Gwen Ilfill.
  • But I loved that Biden was about “here’s what we want to change and here’s how to do it,” while Palin just used a bunch of canned phrases (woman, it’s not like your speech will help with SEO; stop saying “straight talk”).
  • Sarah seems to keep going off topic and discussing the points that she has experience talking to: Joe six-pack, “straight talk,” bringing confidence in government back to the American people, her work with oil companies in Alaska and McCain’s war hero record (btw, yes, he’s a hero, but that doesn’t mean he has experience managing a country in times of war; being a soldier is completely different).  Biden’s comfortable talking across all issues.
  • Apparently, the republicans have officially coined the word nucular.
  • Although I appreciate Palin’s ability to memorize lines, she obviously isn’t well versed in Israel… or for that fact North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq or Spain.
  • Favorite line (paraphrased) from Sarah Palin: It’s okay for us to have nucular weapons because we’ll use it as a deterrent, but people who don’t like us, e.g. North Korea or Iran, absolutely cannot be allowed to develop nucular weapons.  Why I love it: if the situation is reversed, how would we react to North Korea saying, “We want to keep all the countries civil, so we’re going to keep all the nuclear weapons.  We promise not to fire.  *zing!*”
  • For the most part, I agree with Biden’s policies and loved how he spoke and what he said.  So most of my notes are on Palin.  Biden said one thing that irked me: any country who participates in genocide or harbors terrorists without any prosecution is forfeiting their right to be not invaded.  The first part, especially pertaining to Darfur, I don’t dispute.  But to say that the U.S. has the right to invade any country who harbors a group that disagrees with us… that’s too one sided for me, even if it is about security.

I really tried to be impartial, especially with my entries on abortion and healthcare.  However, the more I do research on each candidate’s platform, the more I lean towards Obama ’08.  I don’t necessarily understand how an educated person can go the other way, other than tax shelters and economic protectionism.

If you’re a republican (and actually got through this entry w/o wanting to send me hate mail :-P), please explain.  Thanks!

UPDATED: If you missed the debate, you can read the entire transcript here.

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Filed under politics

You Can’t Read

I debated whether to call this entry “lipstick on a pig” but I don’t want to lead you on. This post isn’t about Sarah Palin or the comments that Barack Obama made about the McCain campaign. I agree with most of the blogs out there that Obama was wrong to use that phrase, and the Obama Camp should be focusing on the fact that we don’t know who the hell Sarah Palin is versus whether or not the phrase should be deemed offensive to her. But that’s practically beside the point. This post is about me.

It’s 11:47pm as I’m blogging right now. And given that I’ve been to the Seesmic party (happy anniversary) post TechCrunch50 (technically 52), I’m a little buzzed. People always advise against drunk dialing much less drunk blogging. That’s isn’t the case here. I’m just trying to be candid. (It also doesn’t help that I woke up early this morning to start drinking mimosas at the Powerset/the Rubicon Project Rehab party at Mighty.)

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A friend commented that Get Smart was a decent movie. Not moving but worth the watch. So I rented it today on the way to grab my 1 month supply of cat food and some Duvel (trust me, the sales clerk at Trader Joe’s definitely gave me a weird look).

My interpretation of the movie is quite different. You see, last weekend, I took the test that I’d been dreading most of my life: the Mensa test. And for the first time in my life, I’m pretty damn sure I failed the test and am not in fact among the prestigious 98%. But after watching the movie (spoiler alert?), I don’t really give.

Sure Get Smart is like every other off-beat comedy: witty, comic and 2 hours of my life. After this week of worrying about whether or not I had the privilege to call myself smart than everyone, I had a complete epiphany: IT DOESN’T MATTER. It doesn’t define ‘success,’ at least not the way I see it. And it certainly doesn’t define ‘happiness,’ that evasive term that everyone uses but few know the meaning.

What should matter in your life is what you hold dear. Not your parents. Not your friends. And certainly not your culture (mine is filled with grossly ill-defined body images, sex, porn, monetary success and of course… more porn).

And what matters in my life right now is the relationships I have with people. I realize that I’m truly sarcastic and could stand to brush up on my Bay Area social skills. I’m a really nice person. I’m fiercely loyal and a great listener. But sometimes I just don’t translate. I understand that I’ll never been as zen as Chris. I know that when I told Jennifer this morning that I hate Carrie Bradshaw (too unrealistic) but still loved her blog concept, I was being truthful and she probably didn’t believe me (understandable, totally my own doing). I know that I am amazed at what Jeremy was able to create on the Seesmic blog. I know that when my boss, Parry, told me that I was a good artist today that I should have just said thanks instead of commenting that Julie‘s caricature really wasn’t proportional.

I just can’t help myself. I’m trying. Really. I am. And I’m kinda hoping that by being honest right now, you will help me in my quest.

So thank you for the patience. Thanks for reading. But I’m far from perfect. And (here comes the after school special), I’m hoping people will like/love me all the same.

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Filed under just life, social

Obama. McCain. Healthcare. 2008.

There are 13 drafts sitting in my blog waiting to be written, edited or published, but there are more pressing matters here.  Again, instead of discussing the candidates, their merits and campaign promises overall, I’m going to delve into another tangential topic/issue.

[Side note: I think that we sould choose a President based on his character and ability to carry out projects as much, if not more so, as his platforms/issues.  Campaign promises are promises, which in the world of politics, don't always mean that much.  Instead we should base our judgments on the candidates as people (not 'normal people like you and me'; just people).  Believe that he + running mate will make the best decisions because choices beyond the restricted set of today's platforms will certainly arise in the future.]

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Yup! Today’s topic: health care.  I wrote an extensive analysis of some of the world’s universal health care systems, including those in Taiwan, Switzerland, England, Japan and Germany, based on a documentary from PBS- seriously, my fave station.  Each has it’s merits, but the most poignant lesson is that each system also has its flaws, and to move from the current (and yes, faulted) U.S. system to another just doesn’t make sense.

Health care in a minute.  To my knowledge (and confirmed here), employer sponsored health care started during World War II, when the government had instituted a salary cap (low supply of workforce during war and the government didn’t want inflation to get out of hand).  Because one company couldn’t compete by offering a higher salary, they opted for other benefits, i.e. health insurance.

But here are the problems with employee sponsored care:

  • Whenever you switch jobs, you have to fill out paperwork (ew).  But the insurance companies are experiencing workers changing jobs all the time, so that creates tons of bureaucracy (double ew).
  • People who are older, younger, unemployed, disabled or otherwise not with a company who provides health care are… well… screwed.  It’s really expensive to insure just one person.  Lots of companies recruit small companies and individuals to join an informal, non-work associated group, so that everyone can lower their insurance.  How often does that work?  If a small percentage of people use more of the insurance and raises the premiums for everyone, doesn’t it make sense to block them from entering a given group?

Another huge problem is the gross overvaluation of health related work.  Meaning we pay too damn much for doctors, nurses, insurance providers… everyone.  Yes, nurses are striking all the time, for better benefits, hours, etc.  And I don’t profess to know their plight.  I’m just saying compared to fees in other countries, the U.S. charges wayyyy to much.  In many countries, insurance companies are non-profits, doctors make an equivalent of about 60-80,000 instead of 100-200,000 and schooling for medicine costs a fraction of what it does in the States as well.  Because of the price restrictions abroad, pharmaceuticals, who invest millions of dollars in research, then are forced to charge what they can in order to make a profit.  (I’m not saying pharmas aren’t gouging us; what I am saying is that pharmas are charging an arbitrary ‘fair’ amount.  To me, it’s like buying a bottle of Coca-Cola in China vs. here.  It’s only 15 cents in China, but that’s because no one’s going to pay their equivalent of 8 RBM (bucks) for a bottle of soda there.)

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Barack’s got your back. And brain. And heart.  And heck, let’s throw in the rest of your body too.

From what I’ve read on the Obama site, Barack’s universal health plan would basically subscribe all the Americans who don’t have health insurance into one gigantic group.  The idea is that if you spread the risk over a really really large number of people, it would lower the premium for everyone.  However, he also promised extended medicaid help, an electronic infrastructure (cheaper in the long term but with a huge learning curve, initial investment and probably tons of bugs to iron out), and new initiatives in the AIDS fight, research, etc.  Even with employers obligated to contribute, there will probably be some hefty support coming from the government itself.  I know Barack’s changing the nation for the better, but the initial phase will probably hurt.  All change does.  And I’m really doubtful as to how he’s planning to pay for everything.

Several other points in his health care plan confuse me, i.e. I don’t know the details or how it would play out:

  • Allowing Americans to buy drugs on the international market: How many Americans would take advantage of this?  If a third company begins to import drugs from abroad, that would jack up the prices abroad (due to increased demand) and piss off the international community even more.  (The smart pharmas would just lower prices in the U.S. to accommodate for the new law before third parties come into play.) If this happens, will the pharmas reduce revenue, causing a longer lead time before a new drug is profitable.  They may press for longer patent times, delaying generic production of a certain drug. It may also hinder research into new drugs due to budget cuts.  Yes, Obama supports new research, but government funded research is a fraction compared to commercial spending.  Of course there are other results.  I just don’t know enough details and hope the Obama Camp’s really thought through all the reprecussions.
  • How is Obama planning on “challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care through quality measurement and reporting, implementation of effective interventions such as patient navigation programs, and diversification of the health workforce”? Hospitals who deliver better care have patients who can afford to pay their bills.  No guidelines or committees will help a poor hospitals churn out enough revenue to cover the increase in care.  Also, how will he guarantee diversification in the workforce?  How will he convince a graduating MD to take a job at inner-city hospital A over rich hospital B, when the doctor has over $200,000 in loans (if he’s lucky)?  Will Obama raise the salary or offer student loan subsidies?  Who will pay for them?

There are genuine questions that hopefully he will be able to detail as the campaign moves towards November.  BTW, I LOVE LOVE LOOOOOVVVEEEE that he’s establishing a program to help prevent diseases.  That’s is (and always has been) the best solution to developed diseases (non-genetic).

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Is this mike on… McCain…? HElllloooooo…..!?!?!

Yeah, I read through McCain’s ‘plan.’  I’m actually pretty on the border in this election, and I understand health care reform isn’t on the top of the list for McCain.  With that in mind…

What I DO have a problem with (a big problem) is that most people won’t actually read through his or Barack’s sites.  And McCain’s site is a great example of 1400 words (1379 to be exact) that pretty much say nothing.

This is what I read:

  • John McCain cares about you and your family.
  • John McCain understands health care is getting more expensive.
  • John McCain says we should pay less for healthcare.
  • John McCain will ask states to lower costs.
  • John McCain had an itch on his arm, but now that he scratched it, it’s ok.
  • John McCain will give a stipend of $2,500 of individuals and $5,000 for families to arrange their own health care needs (here’s the money… good luck!).
  • John McCain will import drugs.

Why, that sounds dandy, John McCain… HOW??

*Do you hear crickets yet?*

*How about now?*

I will say the one good thing about McCain’s plan is that we probably won’t have an increased tax burden… cuz I don’t really see any concrete actions items, a.k.a. if you’re happy right now with your insurance, great!  If you’re not, good fucking luck.

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Of course, this doesn’t mean that I have a magical answer in my hands that will solve our needs. What I  think we should do is hire a 6-10 people coalition, who are deeply entrenched in the system as it stands right now, i.e. presidents of hospitals, doctors, nurses, mid-level insurance managers, pharma reps, lobyists, etc.  Give them 2 months to develop a research methodology, 8 months to carry it out and 2 months to generate a report.  From the raw data, they and 2 other groups (one of regular people in different health insurance situations and another similar to the ocalition) will interpret all the data and make recommendations.  Separate recommendations.  It doesn’t have to be an entire plan. Then these 30-odd people will pick the ideas that work best together, present it to government and recruit people to make the change happen.

I don’t think we should have ‘experts’ speaking about this or that (they lack the perpective), or have either candidates making any concrete plans without first consulting a plethora of people throughout the health care network and at all levels.

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Yes We Can!

It’s 2:44 am Central Time, and I can’t seem to pry my eyes off the YouTube videos featuring Obama, Al Gore, Bill & Hillary and Joe. The DNC and announcement of Barack’s running mate have set politics into a frenzy.  What were a long primary period and a period of political fatigue, are gone.  I’m so incredibly excited about what we can achieve in the coming year.

Earlier this year, I believed that Hillary was the best candidate for President.  Through my many posts, I’ve detailed my trust in her leadership, ambition and experience above the mere fact that she’s a woman. I wanted Hillary to make the situation better, so Barack can instill the change we need.  But I was wrong.  He’s able to do both.

The DemConvention has been pretty broad in terms of specific plans for these changes outside of campaign promises, so I’ll be interested in watching the debates online and reading more analyses.  (Thanks to the internet, it no longer matters if I don’t have cable or CNN.)

But for now, here are some of my favorite speeches, starting with, of course, Barack’s acceptance speech:

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Al Gore:

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Bill Clinton:

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Good night internets!

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