Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vanessa Redgrave: Slash and burn book review in Washington Post

The Washington Post has sunk to a new journalistic low by publishing Lloyd Rose's book review of Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave. These days newspapers frequently insert editorial comment into news stories. Fox News consists of nothing but editorial comment, usually from three different commentators all competing to be the most biased and insulting.

Book reviews, however, are supposed to be immune from this sort of sniping. After all, the main purpose of the review is to present the book and help the reader decide whether to read it. In Vanessa, Rose makes no pretense of reviewing the content of the book or checking it for accuracy, probably because fact-checking takes time that Rose would prefer to use attacking foreigners and socialists.

In the first line of the review, Rose calls Redgrave "maddening". Certainly this has more to do with the contents of Rose's head rather than the contents of the book. Vanessa's political views are "offensive...trivial and silly." Her politics were "clodhopping".

Rose reserves special opprobrium for Redgrave's speech on the Academy Awards broadcast in 1978. He says she called the Jewish Defense League "Zionist hoodlums", a "remark taken by many as a sweeping anti-Semitic statement." While this statement of Rose is probably true, it is also true that many others took Redgrave's criticism of JDL's bullying tactics as a courageous stand in defense of the Palestinian people. JDL had burned her in effigy while picketing her appearance outside the Academy awards theater. Such demonstrations have been known to irritate their targets.

Among those who agree with Redgrave's estimation of JDL is the Southern Poverty Law Center which describes JDL as a violent anti-Arab group, saying that
[JDL] has orchestrated countless terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad, and has engaged in intense harassment of foreign diplomats, Muslims, Jewish scholars and community leaders, and officials.
Furthermore, Rose takes Redgrave's Academy Award comment out of context, in a tactic much abused by right-wing propagandists. Redgrave's remarks also included statements describing the movie for which she won the award as depicting two of the millions who gave their lives in  the fight against fascism and racism in Nazi Germany, and a vow to continue to fight against anti-semitism and fascism.

That vow was not enough for JDL founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who wrote a book, Vanessa, I am a Zionist, attacking Redgrave. Rose attributes her remarks to "political dopiness". Redgrave gave offense to the powerful by speaking her mind directly. She called Guantanamo a concentration camp, which it is and remains to this day.

Redgrave was outspoken in her criticism of the War on Terror at a time when few dared raise their voices against the unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration. She said the Bush administration betrayed the memory of those who fought against Nazi Germany in the name of democracy. Specifically, she said,
democracy meant: no torture, no camps, no detention forever or without trial...[Such] techniques are not just alleged [against the governments of the U.S. and Britain], they have actually been written about by the FBI. I don't think it's being 'far left' uphold the rule of law.
I did not read the book, only the review. I do not know how much of the anti-democratic rhetoric in the review was actually present in the book. But Rose makes it clear, by his choice of material and parenthetical remarks, that he considers Redgrave a dope and a dupe. It is clear from her actual words that she is a remarkably brave, thoughtful, and outspoken person. To imply otherwise is simply biased journalism.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rupert Murdoch keeps trying to kill us all

The Wall Street Journal ran another opinion piece that is skeptical of climate scientists. This one was written by Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute and infamous denier, Roy Spencer. Rupert Murdoch published this article as an "opinion", though he knows it's not an opinion at all, but a virtual press release for the energy industry. He should not publish it except as an advertisement, and the WSJ should be paid for it. At least he should if he cared about journalistic ethics, but apparently he does not.

Rupert is flying high these days. He owns most of the newspapers in Australia, where 85% of the articles he runs on global warming are skeptical. Murdoch's long-term campaign has influenced the Australian electorate so well that the new, Conservative prime minister has proposed repealing the carbon tax, which will result in accelerated global warming and more unnecessary deaths.

Bast works for an organization which is neither a think tank nor a research institute. It is a public relations firm, bought and paid for by oil company money. Heartland has a long history of attacking scientists whose opinion is inconvenient to corporations. They are strong supporters of the tobacco companies, preaching that second-hand smoke is harmless. They are strong supporters of asbestos companies, preaching that asbestos is almost harmless, and even, in the long run, beneficial.

Now Heartland has taken on global warming, which it claims is unimportant, harmless, and exaggerated. It is using the same tactics it used against scientists who warned against the harmful effects of tobacco and asbestos. It takes money from the companies without giving any indication of where their money comes from. Check the Wall Street Journal article. Do you see any mention that Heartland takes major funding from the Koch brothers? Of course not. The whole purpose of this kind of PR campaign is to smear the honest scientists and reward dishonest ones for their assault on truth. Heartland does it very well. They should, because they have been doing the same thing for 30 years. 

Spencer does not deny his role in this charade. The only job of a scientist is to discover the truth. But Spencer says his job is
a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.
Spencer--a University professor--is supported by the government, but he gets extra income from climate deniers like the Koch brothers. Serious scientists have ignored Spencer for years because he has been wrong so many times in so many different ways. But he keeps on getting published in the popular press because it suits the purpose of those who profit from filling our atmosphere with deadly greenhouse gases.

The point of view of the WSJ article is that the claim that 97% of climate scientists accept global warming is a myth. The number comes from counting the number of articles that oppose man-made global warming which were published in peer-reviewed journals during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Ninety-seven per cent of those articles either supported the theory of man-made global warming or didn't mention the topic. Only 3% of the articles opposed the theory, though not all of them dismissed it out of hand.

That 97% is an outdated figure. Between 1991 and 2012,  13,950 peer-reviewed articles have been published. Only 24 of them rejected the theory of global warming. Using the same method that led to the 97% figure mentioned in the article, we find the total percentage of scientific articles written by scientists who support the theory of man-made climate change is 99.8%.

Bast and Spencer argue with that figure. I suppose they must, since it makes the situation quite clear and they don't like the situation, nor do their energy-industry clients. But the figure is actually meaningless, because science is not determined by democratic vote. It is determined by scientific studies that can be repeated by other scientists. Using that measure, there is not a single study that contradicts the theory of man-made global warming. Not one.

Climate change deniers are not scientists. They do not care whether the temperature of the earth rises 10 degrees or sea level rises 50 feet. Their attitude is the same as the investment who abbreviated their rationale for capsizing the world economy: IBGYBG. I'll be gone, you'll be gone. This was their justification for causing millions of people to lose their life savings and millions more to lose their jobs. It didn't matter because the investment bankers would not suffer personally, someone else would suffer. IBGYBG.

When it comes to climate change, the lack of morality in that phrase, "I'll be gone, you'll be gone", reaches the level of obscenity. Yes, Rupert Murdoch will be gone. David Koch will be gone. You and I may also be gone. But we will be leaving our children and grandchildren to suffer. Many of they will die, from hunger, thirst, heat, or violence caused by the vicious struggle for survival in an uncertain future.

IBGYBG means many will die. Rupert Murdoch, by continuing to publish such propaganda, is causing people to die, just as certainly as if he took a gun and pulled the trigger. Rupert Murdoch is trying to kill us all.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Kochistan: the libertarian fantasies of the Koch brothers

This is the decade of libertarianism. Two billionaires, Charles and David Koch, are spending vast fortunes to convince Americans that we can have a utopian society if we embrace libertarian ideals and elect Republicans to office. The Kochs have been successful to a great degree. Several states have elected Republican legislatures intent on turning back progressive programs from the last century.

Right now, residents of those states are seeing some of the results of this rejection of progressive ideas. New Jersey has reduced taxes and lost so much revenue that its bond rating has been reduced six times, meaning that the state will have to pay more and more interest on money it has already borrowed. Other states have reduced the ability of unions to organize, the ability of women to obtain birth control and abortions, and the ability of lower income people to vote.

So far, so good. The Kochs have succeeded in bringing politicians to their banner. But that is the easy part, after all. Politicians are available to be bought, and the Kochs have more money than God. The hard part will be to convince the populace that the libertarian utopia is a place they would like to live in. Fortunately, we have a genius who once lived in that utopia and described it for us. His name is Charles Dickens.

Dickens lived in England when industrialists had everything their own way. They expelled peasants from their land so it could be used to raise sheep—wool was the commodity that brought wealth to England in those days. The peasants, now without farms to work, migrated to the cities, which became the nightmarish place so well described in such books as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and Little Dorrit. What were the institutions that made this place a hell for so many of its inhabitants?

First off, there was no birth control, which Republicans seem intent on outlawing. So there were plenty of orphans. The industrialists could use these orphans as factory workers, for there were no laws against child labor. Some orphans were cared for in orphanages, operated for profit, which created the kind of hunger described so vividly in Oliver Twist:
[the proprietors] established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they), of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it.
Here you see the libertarian nature of the orphanage, or the workhouse, for they were the same place. No one is compelled to enter the place. Each person has the option of starving in the streets or starving in the workhouses.

Another institution of the libertarian utopia is the debtor's prison. A person who cannot pay a debt must be sent to prison, where they sit until the debt is repaid, or the rest of their lives, if it is not. There were thousands upon thousands of unemployed workers in England. The factories automated production so that only a few workers could do work that previously had kept many employed.

Here again we see the beauty of the free market at work. People who cannot find gainful employment are thrown back upon their own devices. The children became petty thieves and were hanged for it. The men became soldiers or criminals, although there was little difference between the two professions in those days. Soldiers relied on loot to supplement their wages. It was a kind of legal robbery.

Poor women had a harder life, of course. There were many more women than men, so marriage was not an option for perhaps 750,000 women in Dickens's England. Single women could become servants for the wealthy or prostitutes. Here again we see the operation of the market place, which libertarians place above any governmental program. Women were free to sell their services on the open market. They did what they had to do to survive.

Dickens's libertarian utopia can better be described by what it lacked. There was no social security to provide retirement income for the elderly. There was no medical care for the poor, since only the middle class could afford doctors. There was no unemployment insurance. If you couldn't find a job, you were once again thrown into the marketplace: You could commit a crime or starve to death.

There was one safety valve for the poor in Dickens's England. The poor could emigrate to America or Australia or South Africa. Millions of poor people did just that. But there would be no safety valve in Koch's libertarian utopia. The poor could beg in the streets or starve.

Rather than listen to the blandishments of libertarian apologists like Rand Paul or Charles Koch, we should ask ourselves if we would like to live in the libertarian utopia of Kochistan. It's a great place if you're wealthy, but hell if you are not.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Marita Noon provides disinformation on energy

An article recently appeared on the internet called, How energy from mountain top removal, fracking, and tar sands makes America great. This sentiment may surprise you. After all, we learned in school that what makes America great is liberty, democracy, equality, and other similar ideals.

The author of this article is Marita Noon. On, Noon is listed as an expert. The source of her expertise is completely unknown. She is not a scientist, an educator, or an engineer. She has no scientific degree that I have discovered. Around 20o8, Noon started writing articles and books and giving speeches on energy and energy policy. Before that, she wrote books on Christianity.

Heartland is well-known for its disinformation campaigns to protect corporations against law suits for all sorts of dangerous products. For example, about tobacco Heartland says 
The public health community's campaign to demonize smokers and all forms of tobacco is based on junk science. 
About asbestos, once again blaming junk science for public misconceptions, Heartland says 
Research has confirmed that asbestos workers who do not use protective breathing apparatus suffer increased health risks. For the remaining 99+ percent of the U.S. population, however, asbestos health risks are virtually nil.
This paragraph is in lawyer-speak. Translated into words we all can understand, it means that anyone exposed to airborne asbestos, including the spouses and children of those directly exposed, has an increased chance of getting mesothelioma, a rare, incurable, and painful form of cancer. This risk applies to anyone exposed to asbestos dust, including the first responders on 9/11.

Heartland is funded by the tobacco industry and the asbestos industry. It is also funded by the energy industry, since it received more than $600,000 from Exxon/Mobil and more than $200,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation. Exactly how much money the energy industry pays Heartland to spread disinformation can't be known because they're not telling. But it's plenty.

So I think we can fairly conclude that Noon is a flack for the energy industry.

Noon's article is filled with half-truths and outright lies. Commenting on Noon's article in the Daily Times, Bo Webb writes
Marita, you are not anywhere close on the truth of Mountaintop Removal.
Unlike Noon, Webb is an expert on Mountaintop Removal.

Among other misconceptions, Noon writes that
There were no federal programs with subsidies, tax breaks, and mandated markets to favor the shale industry.
This is false. Aside from the billions of dollars of federal subsidies going directly to the oil companies, the federal government spent $140 million to develop fracking technology starting in 1987.

Flacks like Noon and front groups like Heartland claim to be educating the people about important issues like energy policy and global warming. The truth is that they do precisely the opposite. They propagate lies and half-truths. They muddy the waters and make it difficult for the average person to understand an issue. We must expose these liars whenever possible and make it difficult for them to submit an article to a newspaper anywhere in the world.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Piketty and the one per cent solution

Thomas Piketty, a French economist, has written a new book on the ills of Capitalism, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Alone among 700-page works on economics, it rose to the top of the New York Times best seller list. The terms used by Piketty to describe inequality of wealth—one per cent and ten per cent—have come into common usage.

Piketty views the concentration of wealth with alarm. Such concentration is hardly a new story, but prevailing belief has held that a concentration of wealth, like the one we are currently experiencing in the U.S., is a temporary condition to be rectified shortly by increases in productivity. Piketty says it ain't so. Wealth inequality, he says, will increase as long as the money earned on capital (interest rates) is higher than the growth rate of the economy in general (GDP).

Piketty points out the obvious. Inequality began to increase when Ronald Reagan began lowering taxes on the wealthy. Conservative dogma preaches that low tax rates on the wealthy will bring prosperity to all of us, saying, a rising tide lifts all the boats.

Guess what? It hasn't happened that way. The top ten per cent of Americans now own 70% of the wealth. Piketty says they will soon have more.

Americans seem willing to tolerate the wealth of entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They should not be so tolerant. Bill and Warren were clever handicappers. They were able to pick the companies and ideas that would be successful in the late 20th Century. But they did it through luck and clever ruse, not hard work, unless you count the work of thousands of engineers at Microsoft who contributed to Gates' windfall.

Americans seem willing, for the most part, to tolerate the inherited wealth of folks like the Rockefellers and the Kennedys. We can only hope they feel less generous toward Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters. Let us not forget the Koch Brothers, who inherited their wealth as well. 

What a crew!

Picketty suggests imposing a tax on wealth, a proposal which has the one percent protesting against the unfairness of it all. I think we should have a tax on wealth for that very reason, and the following taxes:

  • A confiscatory inheritance tax for the wealthy. Their heirs did nothing to earn that money.
  • A law that forbids companies from paying their employees with stock options instead of cash.
  • A steeply progressive income tax.
  • Higher property taxes on luxury homes and second homes, including yachts.

There are plenty of ways to narrow the gap between the one per cent and the rest of us. We should make this a high priority, starting now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Robert J. Samuelson reminds us of his ignorance: Washington Post lets him do it

In an article that appeared in the Washington Post opinion section,  Robert J. Samuelson, who is already known for denying a link between climate-change deniers and the oil industry, again puts on the blinders that only come from an unwillingness to seek solutions. Samuelson tells us that climate-change is inevitable and that we have no solution.

Samuelson belongs to a class of pundit known as denier-deniers. They don't deny the existence of global warming; they deny that we can do anything about it. This means they deny that they are climate change deniers, but they embrace all the conclusions that deniers draw while claiming not to agree with them.

The original denier-denier was G.W. Bush. As President, Bush announced that he agreed with scientists that global warming existed but refused to adopt the Kyoto Protocols on CO2 emissions reductions because, among other things, the protocols were not fair to the US. Bush overlooked the greater progress made by the Europeans toward energy conservation. The Europeans had been moved to action by the oil embargo of 1979; the Americans had ignored it.

Bush and his supporters also complained about the lack of standards that applied to developing nations like India and China. The denier-deniers claimed that they were holding out for better and fairer standards. In the event, no other standards were proposed or approved by the Americans.

In his article, where his position is almost identical to Bush's in 2001, 13 years earlier, Samuelson made the claim that the technology does not exist to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He made the same claim in a Newsweek article in 2007. This claim is demonstrably false. The average passenger car in 2012 was 27% more efficient (mpg) than that produced in 2001. Much greater efficiencies are already possible but not yet implemented.  For example, people could be coaxed out of their SUVs (2012 avg. mpg. 23.5) into regular passenger vehicles with average mpg of 35.6, resulting in an efficiency improvement of approximately 50%.

A wind turbine in 2012 produced 15 times as much electricity as one produced in 1980; at times, wind energy accounts for 25% of the Texas energy grid. Solar electricity installation costs have fallen dramatically in recent years, but remain nearly twice as high as in Germany, showing that large cost reductions are possible with current technology.

I have two issues with the Washington Post publishing Samuelson's column on its opinion page. First, Samuelson claims that technology does not yet exist to solve global warming problems. But such technology does exist; if current technology does not solve the entire global warming problem, it can solve much of it. Since this is a fact, Samuelson's opinion is demonstrably false and the Post should explain this falsehood to its readers. Instead, the Post's editors permit Samuelson to make up his own facts.

Second, the Washington Post bills itself as a newspaper. As such, its articles, in order to be newsworthy, must contain new and important information. Samuelson's opinions have not changed since 2007. They are not new. The Post does not usually publish editorials from 7 years ago as if they contained new information. The Post permits Samuelson to publish this nonsense out of shear laziness.

There is a great deal to be said about improving technology to combat global warming. Samuelson has not said it, and the Post has not published it, at least not in this article.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Obama shows his hand; Clinton will run for president and Obama will support her

President Obama spoke at a Walmart Store in Mountain View, California, on Thursday. I was shocked, as was Chris Hayes, who wondered why Obama chose to embrace Walmart for its environmental leadership, even though Walmart is not among the leaders in this field. Why should Barack Obama choose to give a speech at a Walmart, whose owners are charter members of the one percent.

I forgot my Obama rule: If you don't understand why Obama has made a political move, it's only because Obama understands politics better than you do. If Obama chose to give a speech at a Walmart store in Silicon Valley in California, rest assured he has a reason for so doing. He is one of the most subtle and perceptive politicians of our time.

My suggestion is that Obama has tipped his hand. He is looking forward to the presidential race of 2016, when he will support Hillary Clinton. If Clinton has a challenger from the left, such as Elizabeth Warren or Ed Markey, she will need to win the California primary. So Obama went to California to give her campaign a boost. If Clinton runs in California, she will have to face charges that she was once on the board of Walmart, and thus is a stooge for the one percent. No one is more a member of the one percent than a member of the Walton family, billionaires all.

So Obama has struck a blow against any challengers in 2016. Walmart, apparently, is a leader in the environmental movement. Obama has said it, so it must be so, no matter what Chris Hayes or I might argue against it. He said it in California, too, so California voters will recall his verdict well.

Hayes and other pundits have wondered why Obama would take such a step. After all, they say, he is not going to run for another office. He doesn't need to take controversial positions. But Obama is also concerned about the Democratic Party, more than his own candidacy or lack of it. He is concerned that everything he has worked for in the environmental field, in health care, or in the area of equal rights for all, may be reversed by the President that succeeds him, if that president is a Republican.

Obama is right to be concerned. The Republicans and the one per centers who back them would love to reverse the achievements of the Obama presidency. They can't do it, though, as long as a Democrat occupies the White House. Obama cares about that, as should we all.

The one per centers--yes, David Koch and Sheldon Adelson, you know who you are--wish to impose their will on the 99 percent (the rest of us) by spending their millions to lie to us and persuade us that the worse argument is the better. These are perilous times. We must not let them win.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Obama speaks at Walmart store, says nothing about unions, benefits, or wages

President Obama spoke at a Walmart store in Mountain View, CA, today.Obama spoke at this store because it uses advanced technology like solar panels and LEDs to supply 15% of its electrical needs. The company would have to pay its employees a lot more to let the employees afford solar panels and LEDs. The one percent can afford to use solar electricity. The rest of us have to use what we can get.

Nor can a Walmart employee afford a family home within 20 miles of the Mountain View Walmart. Families may supplement their meager incomes with food stamps but they won't come anywhere near the going rate for a 2-bedroom apartment in Mountain View, which is somewhere around $3 thousand a month.

According to Walmart, half of its employees earn less than $25,000 a year. A 2-bedroom apartment in Silicon Valley costs about $36,000 a year. The employees do not live in Silicon Valley, of course. They commute from far away. This long commute by car further adds to the absurdity of Obama's message. Obama doesn't address how much energy these low-wage workers waste while driving to work, or how this affects the savings in energy (15%) claimed by the company for its energy-efficient store. The average commute in Silicon Valley is about 20 miles.

The place boasts the second-worst commute in the nation, over 40 minutes each way. Many of my fellow workers took much longer than that. Even using ethanol-laced gasoline and a car that gets 40 mpg, each 40-mile-a-day commuter would put around 10,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere during the course of a year. Walmart must count all the energy required by its business model, not just the amount used in a store.

Obama used this speaking opportunity to criticize congress for failing to move on global climate change legislation. This is a fair charge, though Obama himself has been lukewarm on environmental issues, despite the latest report from the Obama has yet to block building of the Keystone Pipeline XL. The EPA has yet to release its standards for CO2 emissions on coal burning electricity plants, which will only apply to future coal burning plants, not to those currently in operation.

It is all very well for the EPA to release regulations that will limit new coal-burning plants or close existing ones, but these plants will only be replaced by gas-burning plants that will be just as dirty as the ones being closed. The difference between coal-burning and gas-burning plants is that the CO2 from burning natural gas is released when the gas is extracted from the ground.

Obama calls this move from coal to natural gas part of an "all-of-the-above" strategy to fight global climate change. Since this move may actually increase the amount of CO2 that the US injects into the atmosphere, the whole concept of "all-of-the-above" is a fraud.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chan Kapin and his son, Dash, review the original Star Wars movies

[Note: Chan is my son. Dash is his 4-year-old son. Both are brilliant.]

We showed Dash Star Wars.  I think he liked it.  He laughed every time Chewbacca was on-screen.  I hadn't seen it in a while, and not since I watched the garbage new movies.  I was impressed with Carrie Fisher more than I ever remember.  She was ballsy, takes action, has good one-liners and bosses people around.  She puts Queen Amidala to shame.  

What's remarkable is how the movie is bursting with ideas.  George Lucas threw in the kitchen sink with all the crazy aliens in the background, oddball moments and really well-directed action scenes.  It's shocking at how he forgot everything for the prequel movies.  

It's a little less shocking how George didn't watch the original when he was writing the new movies because the plots spun off from this one are terrible and there is no way the events in those movies happened in the same storyline as this one.  All the talk about the force is inconsistent, and Obi-Wan doesn't think twice about training Luke in the force, even after the colossal failure he had by training Darth.  In the prequels there was lots of hemming and hawing about should he train Anikin, should he not for three movies.  Who gives a crap, let's get to lightsabering dudes.

Also why the hell is Vader subservient to any of these turkeys?  For some reason Peter Cushing is bossing him around and is in charge of the Death Star.  I call bogus as Darth has the force, has the authority, is the best pilot they have and is basically awesome at everything.  He'd step onto the Death Star, choke out Cushing in his sleep "the Commander must've had a heart attack in the night."  and Bang, he's the boss.  Also, in the prequels he's hand-picked and is a special protege of the Emperor.  Darth doesn't take orders from anyone.

As you said, 25 year old Lucas is effortlessly creative, like a 7 year old, and 55 year old Lucas is out of ideas.  Everything is forced.

It's also humorous how even as a younger guy Harrison Ford runs like Groucho Marx.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Elizabeth Warren is For Real

I went down to the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC, yesterday, to get a look at Elizabeth Warren. She appeared as part of a national book tour for her new book, A Fighting Chance. The book is primarily a history of her adult life. It is eerily reminiscent of a book called Dreams From My Father that appeared before Barack Obama, its author, had run for his first political office.

In Dreams, Obama gave an intriguing account of his early life, ending just before he entered Harvard Law School. He included the story of his indigent mother and her husbands, one (Barack's father) Kenyan, the other, married after a divorce, Indonesian. The writing style is plain and inspirational at the same time. Obama was running for his first political office, a virtual unknown. 

Dreams contains some details that his political opponents later used to attack him: His father was Kenyan, he lived for a short while in Indonesia, a Muslim country, and he was born in Hawaii, which many Americans do not consider a "real" state, but rather a place on the other side of an ocean, inhabited by a handful of mixed-race people who have no connection to the "real" America. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it was probably admitted because of Peal Harbor, when its importance as a military base was recognized for the first time.

Warren's book, like Obama's, tells about her growing up in reduced circumstances, about the family who loved her, and about her adventures as an adult. Warren has had many more adventures than Obama, because he was only 34 when Dreams was published and she is now 64. The book contains some information that has already been used by her political opponents to attack her. In particular, she relates that her father's family did not approve of her mother because her mother was part American Indian. Scott Brown, Warren's opponent in her Senate race, mocked her claims of Cherokee Indian relationship, but the book makes it clear that this was a liability, not an advantage in Oklahoma before WWII.

Warren likes to connect with people by telling folksy stories and using straightforward language. Asked her opinion of Republican refusal to raise the minimum wage, she said, "It stinks". Asked her opinion of Janet Yellen's appointment as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, she said "woo-oo!" in a high, clear soprano yelp. Warren's speaking voice in person is no better than it is on tv. She has a weak, reedy delivery that sometimes becomes unintelligible, as when she tried to say "Buffett Rule" the first time. She later clarified what she meant by Buffett Rule: A millionaire (or billionaire, like Warren Buffett) should pay at least as high a percentage of his income in taxes as his secretary. Warren likes that rule.

The suspicion that Warren may be using her book to kick-start a presidential run is not idle. Warren indicated that once before, during the fight for a consumer review board, she was willing to fight because she didn't want a job in the capital. Additionally, she was introduced by Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. Warren told a story about how she had met Trumka at the White House. She backed a chair into his shins, at which point he remarked, "I've got your back." Now he adds, in a larger, more forceful voice--the kind that Warren lacks--"And I always will have your back". Hillary Clinton, take note.

Hillary has reason to be concerned about Warren. Warren negates Clinton's main advantage in the race to become president in 2016: she's also a woman. Additionally, Warren has the "log cabin" childhood that has served presidential candidates so well since Lincoln, which is to say, her family struggled and her mother had to go to work at a minimum wage to support the family. Hillary, on the other hand, graduated from Wellesley and served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart. Hillary makes public appearances perfectly coiffed and dressed in designer duds; Warren buys her clothes at Target and clearly styles her own hair.

When Hillary and Elizabeth appear in debates together and the topic of debate turns to income inequality, Hillary will look like a one-percenter; Elizabeth will look like what she is, a teacher and a member of the working class. Elizabeth will have another advantage: She won a state-wide debate contest in Oklahoma as a high-schooler. As Warren puts it, she wasn't pretty and she didn't have the best grades, but she knew how to fight.

Supporters of Barack Obama often wish that he had a stronger competitive urge. As President, Elizabeth Warren would give us exactly what we have been missing: a born fighter.