i disagree with everything you just said.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Courtney's letter to her parents about Obama.

Since this blog seems to have primarily become an outlet for publishing my lovely wife's occasional missives, here's the latest. An open letter to her parents, who live in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, urging them to vote for Obama. She writes:

"By popular demand, here is the letter I wrote to my parents about the election. Feel free to plunder & plagiarize if you think it will have any effect on your own family members."

Dear Mom & Dad,

I’m writing to explain to you why I am voting for Obama, and why I think you should too. Please read the whole thing.

I truly believe we are witnessing a sea change here in the U.S. and in the world. We are going to look back on the Bush Administration and mark those years as the beginning of the decline of the of the United States as the sole superpower. The EU is coming together and China and India are on the rise. New technology means they will advance more quickly than we can imagine. By the end of the next 8 years, politically and economically the world is going to look radically different than it does now – probably as big a reshuffling as the WWII Era.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still be a great country – France is still great, Great Britain is still great – but it does mean that we will need to start thinking about our place in the world in a different way. We need to earn back the respect of the world; we need to start being good citizens of the world; we need to work with everyone else instead of expecting them to take our lead, because we are no longer the shining example. Perhaps you still think, “So what? We are the United States – the greatest nation on Earth – and we will do whatever we want.” To that I ask, is that YOU? In your daily life, you obey laws, you work, you try to take care of your children and do the best for those around you – you are a good citizen. So why should we be any different as a nation?

We need a President that recognizes that the world is changing, and will be thoughtful in his approach. McCain will not be that President – he’s proud to be a “maverick” who answers to no one. Would Obama be that President? I think he would. He’s thoughtful and recognizes the complexity of the issues in front of us in the coming years; he knows and says there are no easy answers; he surrounds himself with people who are experts in different areas and listens to their counsel; he believes the President should answer to every citizen. Just look at their choices of Vice Presidents as an indication of leadership style: McCain makes a cynical choice of an unprepared, dogmatic woman who he thinks will be accepted by a “base” he personally disdains, that Clinton supporters will flock to because she is female (what a crass evaluation of an entire gender), and who he can marginalize once in office. Palin is downright scary because she is so utterly unqualified and so anti-intellectual, and according to her, I don’t even live in the “real” America – I don’t count. This is the first major decision that McCain made as would-be President of the United States, and it does not bode well – it is a dangerous choice for all of us. On the other hand, Obama picks someone who is well-respected by both sides of the aisle, who has shepherded through important legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, which he sponsored, who is extremely well-versed in areas where Obama has less experience, and who expects to help govern and be a real advisor rather than a ceremonial token.

Dad, you told me that any politician is no different than any other and I was crazy to think otherwise. I think that is a cynical and sad position to occupy, and also is demonstrably untrue – public policies have a massive impact on employment, quality of living, economic growth, foreign relations, civic engagement, etc., and nothing influences the agenda like the Presidency. Every President in my lifetime has left an indelible imprint on the country – Reagan’s trickle-down economics and military buildup, GHW Bush’s “New World Order,” Clinton’s methodical deficit reduction and free trade pacts, GW Bush’s Iraq War and the Bush Doctrine. Simply put, Presidential priorities drive hundreds of billions of dollars, affecting millions of human lives. That matters.

Truly great leaders can inspire and create positive change. McCain is not that leader – he’s frittered away all the possibility and respect he used to have with the dispiriting cynicism of his campaign. Can Obama be that leader? I think he has a good chance. Just look at what he’s done with his campaign – he has inspired a generation that has historically been condemned as politically apathetic. I can’t turn around without someone I know (yeah, in California, but also in other states) inviting me to a fundraiser or a phone-banking party; making t-shirts and posters on their own; talking to their friends & family members in other states about why they should vote for Obama. He’s turned out record numbers for speeches. He’s received donations not only in record numbers of dollars, but in record numbers of people. And he knows how to get people involved: turning down public financing was a smart move because then he turned around and instead of courting the big donors, he asked millions of people who had never been politically involved to donate just $5, just $10. And now those millions of people have bought in – they have a vested interest. I think he’s shown he can inspire people to get involved, to CARE, and can do the same for the country. Which leads us to…

Technology. The youngest of my generation already use and integrate technology into the their lives in a more advanced way than I do; I can’t even imagine how my children will use it. This is another way that the world is fundamentally changing, and another example of how McCain just doesn’t get it and Obama does. Obama has used technology in unprecedented, very smart ways in this campaign. There is a section of his site that allows you to do volunteer phone-banking with your own phone and computer from home. His campaign released an iPhone app that updates you on all sorts of election news and even sorts your contacts by battleground states. There are more examples, all totally new in the electoral world. He *gets* it – he understands how technology is changing everything, not just how we buy plane tickets and books, but how we THINK. You might think this is a minor issue, but technology and our leadership on it is what will determine where we stand in the coming years, and in the last eight years we’ve already started to fall behind. Meanwhile, McCain proudly states he doesn’t know how to use email.

So how will an Obama administration use technology? With one technologist friend working for the campaign and several others deeply involved, we have some good insight into that. He’s been talking about creating a position for a Chief Technology Officer for the government to oversee broadband and data policy. The people he’s mentioned are all really smart people with a bent toward openness and equality of access. He’s asking what the government would look like if it had an API – feeds of raw government data that anyone could build applications on top of – to create REAL government transparency. It’s a bottom-up approach so that citizens can police the earmarks and spending, while McCain favors a top-down approach of the President going through the budget line by line. He’s asking what it would look like if there were a social network for citizens, so that everyone could register their interests and issues and more easily form groups to make their voices heard on the level that only lobbyists can now access. I cannot emphasize enough how important I think this approach is – Obama is really looking toward the future here with real understanding of the values of the new generation in a way that no politician in my lifetime has ever done.

The same goes with environmental issues – we are moving from a world where people think of recycling as something “those environmentalist people” do, to one where we cannot afford to continue to think about this as someone else’s issue. We’ve actually *been* in that world for a while, but our government has ignored it. The oil crisis of this summer was just the beginning, and even after that huge jump in gas prices we are still paying less per gallon than any industrialized nation outside the Middle East; we aren’t going back to the way it was. We HAVE to fundamentally change the way we live over the next couple of decades. McCain’s approach is stopgap and non-comprehensive; it’s like he’s saying, “We’ve gotten totally great at digging trenches and foxholes!” but we’ve entered the nuclear age and it just doesn’t matter. Obama says, Let’s build a new green economy. Let’s rethink and reinvest in our infrastructure. Let’s bring manufacturing back to the US and be a front-runner in all the new industries that will come out of this need to completely change the way we live, and use that to propel our economy. Is his plan perfect? Certainly not. But at least he seems to understand the enormity of the task, and that’s a good starting point. This is not really a choice we are going to have over the next decade or two if we want to retain any place in the world – it is an imperative.

The whole “tax and spend liberal” and “socialist” charges from the Right are just outdated ways of thinking about the issues. Obama has proposed some important new programs, and in addition to proposing cuts to offset their costs, they have the effect of creating millions of new jobs (energy plan), producing a more educated workforce (college tuition program), and fighting the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. But I don’t see him as someone who thinks the government is the answer to everything. Over and over in both words and policy he says that WE THE PEOPLE are the answer to everything, and that government’s role is to support The People in that execution of will. He consistently calls on citizens to get involved and make their country into what they want it to be, a far cry from the current administration, which asked us to go shopping and make no sacrifice. My generation has never been asked to sacrifice *anything* – no Victory Gardens for us – but I know we would be proud to do the work if we thought there would be an effect. You guys think I am not proud of my country, but really I just feel disconnected from it. I look forward to a leader who could point the way to that pride and ownership that you’ve had the opportunity to feel in your lives.

As far as taxes go, all Obama’s proposal really does is roll back the Bush tax breaks on the wealthy, which I think we can agree at this point didn’t really work out the way they were supposed to (or, perhaps they did, unfortunately.) Yesterday two independent analyses came out that show that Obama’s plan cuts more taxes than McCain’s for the middle class (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/us/politics/31taxes.html). I don’t have a huge problem with taxes for people who make more than a quarter million a year going back to Clinton-era levels, and for most of those people we are talking a difference of a couple thousand dollars. It’s a huge difference to you and me, and a huge difference to the government in aggregate, but it’s not a huge difference to someone with a $500K annual income. And let me tell you – I was hanging out with a bunch of those people at a conference last weekend (actually $500K probably doesn’t come close to a lot of them) and as far as I could tell, they are ALL voting for Obama because they think he will be better for the economy and better for business and better for the future of this country than McCain.

Francis Fukuyama was a leading neo-conservative that had a change of heart after the failure of the Iraq invasion. He just endorsed Obama in The American Conservative:
"At a time when the U.S. government has just nationalized a good part of the banking sector, we need to rethink a lot of the Reaganite verities of the past generation regarding taxes and regulation. Important as they were back in the 1980s and '90s, they just won't cut it for the period we are now entering. Obama is much better positioned to reinvent the American model and will certainly present a very different and more positive face of America to the rest of the world."

(More here: http://www.amconmag.com/article/2008/nov/03/00020/)

I know you have some uneasiness with electing a black man as President, given your experience with local & Georgia politics. I just keep wondering: if he has a white mother and a black father, why is he black instead of black and white? Why would he have the interests of one group over the other? Might he in fact be the perfect person to understand the reality of the incredibly complex issues around race in this country? To finally help move us beyond the suspicion and resentment and fear, and into a post-racial future? I think he can be. I think conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan puts it well: he says Obama’s election would be “A body blow to racial identity politics. An end to the era of Jesse Jackson in black America.”

More from the conservative Sullivan:
“If you believe that America's current crisis is not a deep one ... if you believe that today's ideological polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong.

“But if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution. Close-up in this election campaign, Obama is unlikely. From a distance, he is necessary. At a time when America's estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind's spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.”

(The whole thing is here: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200712/obama/)

So here it is:

The politics of your generation is giving way to the politics of mine. The WORLD of your generation is giving way to mine, and the one my children will live in. The changes are so fundamental that everything that has gone before does not count; politics as usual is gone, and the United States of your childhood is on the wane. So I ask that when you go to vote you think not just of yourselves, and not even of me, but rather think of your grandchildren and the world they will inherit, and vote for the candidate that is looking ahead to that world. And I believe that man is Barack Obama.


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

by the time you finish watching this video, you'll want to run a marathon.

slides (with audio) from my recent ignite talk entitled: "by the time i finish this talk, everyone here will want to run a marathon."

only 5 minutes long! so worth watching. and if you like it, don't forget to donate to the aids marathon organization care of me and of courtney.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Once more unto the breach.

Hello, my fine, deep-pocketed friends. Courtney and I are running the San Francisco marathon for a second time this coming August, and once again we're doing it with the help of the National AIDS marathon training program. In fact, this year we're doing the "advanced" training program, which means longer, faster runs up much higher hills.

And once again, we could use your support. We've set our goals at $2500 each, so whatever you can spare to help out will be much appreciated. It's a fine group of people and a totally worthy cause.

* Donate to Lane
* Donate to Courtney

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

An open letter to Bob Buckter, color consultant, San Francisco.

from my lovely wife, and so entertaining and impassioned i had to share:

From: Courtney Skott
Date: September 20, 2007 11:57:31 AM PDT
To: DrColor/at/DrColor.com
Subject: building at McAllister & Pierce

Hi Bob,

I live across the street from the building at McAllister and Pierce that's currently being re-roofed, repainted, etc. I stopped by today to ask the workmen what color it was going to be, and they said they didn't know, but that there was a great color consultant working on it. "Not Bob Buckter?" I asked; and indeed, it was you. Are there even any other color consultants in the city?

So, as a concerned neighbor, I decided to write and make this request: Please don't make it brown. Please don't make it beige.

I've watched over the last 3 years as building after building in this neighborhood has gone brown or beige. There's that unusual one on McAllister - the mid-block one with the corner bay - that was run-down and mint green. When the scaffolding went up a year and a half ago, I was so excited because that house deserved to be beautiful. And now it's beige. The one on the corner of Scott & McAllister just went beige. There's that horrendous dark brown one with red trim on the same block. A bunch of places along my running route to the park in the blocks north of the Panhandle have recently gone brown and beige.

Bob, stop the madness! This newest one is already right next to a big brown brick behemoth. Just Say No to Brown! Brown is the color of default; the color of fear and indecision; the color for people too cowardly to do anything else. You have it in your power to do so much more! Please use that power responsibly.

Thanks very much for your time.

A concerned neighbor,
Courtney Skott

PS - Love the new navy one on Scott right on Alamo Square.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

testing out a satisfaction widget.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

where i'm @.

got a nifty new startup called satisfaction, and i'm entirely posting over on its weblog @ the moment.

we're building "people-powered customer service for absolutely everything." which means this.

hoping to launch in the next month or so. having a disturbingly fun time. and that's what's important, right?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

i'm running a marathon, but only if you help pay for it.

courtney and i are in training to run the san francisco aids marathon at the end of july. we figured the structure of the program will get us through 26.2 miles by race day, since group expectation and guilt are truly fantastic motivators.

for the marathon, we're participating in a fundraiser benefiting the san francisco aids foundation. established in 1982, the san francisco aids foundation is one of the oldest and largest community- based aids service organizations in the united states. they provide direct services to thousands of people living with or at risk for hiv/ aids, promote hiv prevention and awareness in the community, and advocate for sound hiv/aids policies at all levels of government.

speaking of group expectation and guilt, here is where you, our friends, come in. we've both set our personal fundraising goals at $2500 each -- we have to raise $1800 each to participate, though if we can raise more, that's great! -- and we have to do it by april 27th. so whether you are motivated by the cause, by the prospect of me running a marathon, or just by the prospect of seeing courtney (who's way faster than me) kick my ass, please help us meet our fundraising goals and donate today!

it's (theoretically, if the web site wasn't such a clunker) easy to make your tax-deductible donation by credit card online:

my donor page

courtney's donor page

or if credit cards on the internets scare you, you can instead download a form from the link on our donor pages or just mail a check to:

national aids marathon training program file #7409302
po box 60000
san francisco ca 94160

if you send a check, please reference our names and participant numbers: courtney skott #7167; lane becker #7168.

finally, please pass this link along to anyone else you think might want to support hiv services and prevention programs. donations of any amount to either of our campaigns will help us reach our fundraising goals.

thanks so much for supporting us in this undertaking. we'll keep you updated on our progress! (coming up next: 14 miles. ouch.)

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Friday, October 06, 2006

follow me.

trying this out:

Download Flash plugin

Thursday, July 06, 2006


i'll be over here for the next little while.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

the high cost of dying.

hey, anybody out there own the complete set of all five seasons of "six feet under," and if you do, couldja loan 'em to us? (it's either that or join netflix, because the full set from amazon's $350!) i'll be your best friend forever. promise!