Monday, September 17, 2007

Did Greenspan just agree with me?

In December 2005 I wrote an articled called "We're in Iraq because you want us there." In it I wrote:
So now we've invaded Iraq and many American's don't understand why. In reality they know perfectly well why but prefer denial. We're there because we're dependent on foreign oil. We're dependent on it because our lifestyles require it. We live further and further from work, enjoy the luxury and autonomy of one-car-one-person, and drive increasingly larger vehicles. Our "right" to live where we want and commute how we want is not without costs beyond $2.25/gallon. As ignorant as pretending the consequences may be it is disingenuous to drive to a No Drilling in ANWR demonstration in anything less than a bus filled with like-minded protesters or display a "No War" lawn sign with the same SUV parked in the driveway you drive 20 miles to work.
Now Alan Greenspan has a new book coming out that has already re-agitated this controversy. The Washington Post reported Greenspan blamed the invasion of Iraq on oil. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates took issue with Greenspan's comments on this past weekends television news programs.

In a Washington Post interview, Greenspan has explained his out-of-context comment in a way that makes me sound like a Washington insider:
His main support for Hussein's ouster, though, was economically motivated. "If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands," Greenspan said, "our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first gulf war. And the second gulf war is an extension of the first. My view is that Saddam, looking over his 30-year history, very clearly was giving evidence of moving towards controlling the Straits of Hormuz, where there are 17, 18, 19 million barrels a day" passing through.

Greenspan said disruption of even 3 to 4 million barrels a day could translate into oil prices as high as $120 a barrel -- far above even the recent highs of $80 set last week -- and the loss of anything more would mean "chaos" to the global economy.
Well, since my blog is locally-focused I didn't rush into any "global economy" claims. But I must admit some satisfaction knowing Mr. Greenspan and I have something in common--even if he doesn't call me to discuss national and international issues.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is there a little Gorbachev in all of us?

"Whoever first said religion and politics shouldn't be discussed among friends laid the first brick in a wall of misunderstanding that's been growing every time the topic is avoided between families, friends, and neighbors..."
This year's Dream Cruise started Friday, August 17 at 5PM. Tiffani made the family "Gagne for Mayor" tee-shirts all four of us wore to the opening ceremonies. We stood as conspicuously close to the stage as we could so everyone taking pictures or looking at it would see us. A little good-natured self promotion never hurt anybody.

That evening Tiffani and I ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings for a Boys' and Girls' Club fund raiser. Craig Covey, the other Ferndale mayoral candidate, sat between Tiffani and I (still wearing our tee-shirts). Later Mayor Bob Porter joined us.

I want everyone to picture this--because it happened. Two candidates for the same position, joined by the current mayor and Tiffani, having drinks together, getting our fingers dirty eating chicken wings, congenially talking politics with each other. Heck, I probably had a piece of black pepper between my teeth, but no one seemed to mind (or let me know).

Craig and I have a lot in common. Not the least of which is our commitment to keep our campaigns' rhetoric positive. Neither of us believes dirty politics, name calling, slandering, or anything else of the sort reflects who we are, what we want our campaigns to be, or does anything positive for Ferndale. We agreed that both of us can control what we say,but we can't control what folks on the edges might say. We also agreed neither of us would take it personally when that might happen.

Councilman Covey said he looks forward to being Ferndale's first openly-gay mayor and I told him I look forward to being Ferndale's first openly-straight mayor. We both laughed, toasted, and went back to eating wings with Tiffani and Mayor Porter.

I'm fairly confident we can all think of other politicians we wish would share a pizza, some pops, discuss the issues, and go home understanding a little more about the other person, agree to disagree on some points, and leave the table as colleagues without hard feelings toward each other, or each others' parties.

Can you imagine Granholm and DeVos eating messy hamburgers dripping mustard on their chins or suit coats? Or Bush and Pelosi making slurping noises over hot and sour soup? How about Ted Kennedy and Newt Gingrich with spaghetti hanging from their mouth?

I can't either. But I encourage all of you to imagine yourselves talking about the upcoming election with your neighbors, family, or people you meet while out-on-the-town. Encourage them to vote. Encourage them to learn about the candidates (especially me). Encourage them to share their thoughts. Listen to what they say and ask questions.

Politics should not be a taboo topic. Whoever first said religion and politics shouldn't be discussed among friends laid the first brick in a wall of misunderstanding that's been growing every time the topic is avoided between families, friends, and neighbors or when someone invokes the "religion and politics" rule to stifle political discussion. When we avoid the topic or leave angry we either imitate the worst behavior of our politicians or encourage it.

Walls keep ideas out as much as they keep others in. Good ideas aren't so fragile they require walls to protect them. Twenty years ago President Reagan challenged, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" In the coming weeks before this year's November 6 election let's tear down our own.

Cross posted at

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Declining special interest groups' endorsements

After my candidacy for mayor became public record a lot of things started happening. First, there's the official correspondence from the county clerk warning me to be careful about campaign finance laws, advising me of the limits, due-dates, and other lines I'll be careful not to cross.

What I didn't expect were letters I received from special interest groups and political action committees (PACs) asking me to complete a questionnaire to test if I qualify for their endorsement. If sufficiently impressed (or if craftily completed) I may also have received contributions to the campaign. I know this because campaign contributions are public record and I've seen these groups' contributions on other Ferndale candidates' finance statements.

While I was filling out the forms a curious thought came to me--none of these groups can actually vote. While their endorsements might persuade some voters they could just as easily upset others. The only entity that represents all of a voter's interests is the voter. On election day votes are the only endorsements that count.

So for this election I've decided not to seek any special interest group or PAC's endorsement. If I can't raise the money I need from Ferndale businesses and citizens there's little reason to sell a piece of my office to special interests for a mere couple thousand dollars.

I sent four letters last week, one each to The Triangle Pride PAC, Right to Life of Michigan, Sierra Club, and the Michigan Consolidated Association of REALTORS® (MCAR). Each one started with the same paragraph. Here's the one I sent to MCAR:
Thank you for the invitation to respond to MCAR's questionnaire for candidates seeking its endorsement for November 6's election. I've decided not to seek any special interest groups' endorsements to avoid the appearance of impropriety or suggest I may need to return the favor of the endorsement after elected to office. I believe the most important endorsements I will receive are from Ferndale's business owners, its residents, and ultimately its voters.
Following the introduction I included a paragraph-or-two summarizing my position regarding each group's cause, then included a closing paragraph with a thank you for their dedication to the issues most important to them. Here are selected paragraphs from each.

Be assured a major part of my platform gives attention to Ferndale's tax base. Both commercial and residential real estate play important roles growing our tax base, lowering our millage rate, and attracting new businesses and residents to our city. This is not only critical when the market is down, but to planning Ferndale's future as a healthy real estate market is an important ingredient to any community's business and residential vitality.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to our business and residential communities, and your understanding.
Ferndale already provides curb-side recycling as well as other environment-friendly services and policies. To promote a “greener” city it is my intention as mayor to encourage citizens to do what they can to reduce their carbon emissions, to recognize citizens' accomplishments and reducing their power or water consumption, recycle, and reward those citizens that have gone above-and-beyond to protect the environment.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to the environment, and your understanding.
Triangle Pride PAC
My commitment as mayor is to treat all Ferndale's citizens with respect and insist that all city employees and contractors do likewise. Every visitor to and resident of Ferndale should be treated professionally and courteously no matter what special interest groups they may identify with or may advocate for them.

That promise extends to not leveraging Ferndale's GLBT community or other minorities to score points with outsiders or further my political career or personal agenda.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to civil rights and our community, and your understanding.
Right to Life of Michigan
As important as abortion and choice are to individual Ferndale citizens, municipal government is an inappropriate forum to address these issues. Attempts to do so can only be symbolic, and as such have no impact on state and federal legislation or Supreme Court rulings.

I was adopted by loving parents when I was four-weeks old and appreciate both the gift I received and my mother's choice of adoption. I'm committed not to squander either.

Thank you for your interest in Ferndale politics, your dedication to the unborn, and your understanding.
Sure, I may regret not having multiple Good-Housekeeping
®-like Seals of Approval on my website or campaign literature and their contributions in my committee's bank account, but I won't be obligated to or need to excuse my actions as Ferndale's mayor to anyone other than Ferndale voters.

I can live with that.