Friday, October 31, 2008

Snazel Blog Feedback

We don't get many comments on this blog, but when we do, it almost always provides great feedback.

For example: Culture Vulture commented recently on my thread about generational politics entitled Generation We vs. Generation X vs. Baby-Boomers. The comment is listed below...

As many prominent experts have noted, Obama (and you, born in 1963) is a member of Generation Jones–born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and GenXers.

Here is a column by Clarence Page about GenJones in last week’s Chicago Tribune.

And this new 5 minute GenJones video features many top pundits (including David Brooks, Clarence Page, Dick Morris, Juan Williams, Karen Tumulty, Howard Wolfson, Michael Barone, etc.) specifically talking about Obama (and Palin’s) membership in Generation Jones, as well as the surprisingly big role that GenJones is now playing in this election. Link to the video is here
-- CultureVulture

The next comment comes from Geoff who writes his own fine blog here.

Geoff wrote a couple of comments, but the one I'd like to highlight is the following, he wrote this in response to my rant about how "old school" and "Washington Insider" Obama's tentative cabinet choices look to be. A link to the original thread is here

Geoff's comment is below:

I think Obama is overcompensating for people's concern that he does not have enough experience. With the absurdly inexperienced Gov. Palin on the Republican ticket, Obama is not the one people are worrying about as far as experience goes. Agreed, Obama should reject this list. The old hands have failed us time and time again. He needs to put the power in new hands, starting with his own.
-- Geoff

Thank you both for the comments.

Cabinet List is a Disaster

Politico has apparently come up with a list of possible cabinet members in an Obama administration. The list was compiled from inside information from those close to Obama, and others are purely speculative.

You can read the list here.

MY COMMENT: The list is an utter disaster.

Whoever it is in the Obama camp that is snitching on this issue, needs to be muzzled, punished and kicked out of the campaign. The list presented here, entirely contradicts the “Change” message of the Obama campaign.

This list reads like a “Who’s Who on the Inside of Washington”, a list of bureaucrats, old codgers and inside-track Democrats, that don’t suggest change at all. Rather, they seem to suggest Obama’s administration would quickly descend to “same old Washington”. This list should be dismissed officially by Obama, they need to get in front of it fast, because this is superb fodder for McCain’s campaign.

Also if many of these rumors are true, I am utterly disappointed. When I vote for Obama, I was not endorsing the Clinton administration, and this list looks largely like a sequel to a lot of the ineptitude of the Clinton administration, a presidency which made an utter mess of the Middle East process, and utterly ignored the growing threat of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Thank goodness Janet Reno isn’t on the damn list, or I would seriously be considering changing my vote.

John Kerry as Secretary of State? Are you kidding me? I could write volumes on what an utter disastrous pick this would be. Rahm Emanuel? Can anyone tell me what this rubber-necked, poll-watcher actually believes in, other than protecting his own job and ducking for cover when the tide gets a little rough? Tom Daschle? Who on God’s green Earth, thinks Daschle represents change? The man is a cowardly rat, and represents all that is partisan and dirty in Washington and is knee-deep in lobby influence.

We are not voting for Obama, just so old, liberal hacks, that have failed us for decades, can suddenly get a payday. For the most part, the “progressives” on this list, represent the old liberal dogma that was rejected by voters before and will be rejected again, if it is slammed down our throat. We expect more than just the same old tired bureaucrats of yesterday.

Somebody in the Obama campaign, I beg you, disavow this list, it’s a disaster and makes your campaign look like a complete charade. “Change” does not mean we reward Dean, Daschle, Emanuel, Kerry and half of the Clinton cabinet with cushy new jobs, and major policy influence. Those names don’t represent one iota of change, and most of them were rejected by voters for executive power.

If the list is true, Obama should prepare for a one-term presidency immediately, because this crap won’t fly in this new electorate.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Khalidi "Scandal" is Last Straw

I personally don’t agree with some of Mr. Khalidi’s views, and I confess he argues for the Palestinian cause with great fervor. I also confess he has criticized Israel for failing to work towards a two-state solution. However, this does not make him a terrorist, nor does it link him to the PLO and it certainly does not make him an anti-Semite.

To make matters even more deplorable, John McCain chaired a committee which handed half-a-million dollars to an organization which Khalidi founded, so this campaign pointing any suspicious fingers towards him is utterly hypocritical.

There are several other aspects of this charade that bother me:

1) The idea that anyone with Palestinian heritage is somehow ‘un-American’, anti-Semitic or connected to the PLO is ridiculous.

2) The fact such serious accusations can be leveled by a presidential campaign with no proof, is unacceptable. I blame the media for this, for providing validity to the story, instead of clearly reporting the facts. Mainstream media has to stop merely being an echo chamber for campaign managers (both left and right).

3) Even worse, the insinuation that because Obama appeared at a banquet with Khalidi, means Obama is also in league with the PLO and is working to destroy Israel, is a new low.

4) Why hasn’t McCain criticized “Joe the Plumber” for suggesting, a vote for Obama would mean the “death of Israel”?

There was a time I had great respect for John McCain, but that is no longer the case, after this garbage. I really hope the Republicans get their soul back in future elections, because their current status and desperate tactics are beneath all of us.

Anti-Semitism is a serious charge that should never be reported by the media without definitive proof. The phrase “he will bring the death of Israel” is a phrase that must be substantiated immediately by a campaign, or withdrawn and apologized for profusely.

Goodbye John McCain, good riddance, your biggest failure is you actually made the wing nuts at DailyKOS seem like they were right all along, by running the lowest presidential campaign in history.

If you have any doubt of Khalidi, I invite you to watch the following debate he has with a former Israeli ambassador. And again, while you may not agree with some of his points of view, at least concede he argues his case reasonably, as any American should be permitted to do in a free society...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We vs. X vs. Baby-Boom

Everyone should see this, because even if you don't agree with the message, it should certainly spark a worthy discussion...

I have much to say about this, and while some of my commentary is quite negative, overall I have to say, I applaud this video. It may be a little cheesy, self-righteous and presumptuous, but it has its spirit in the right place, and it also signals the death of political power dominated by the baby-boomer generation, (which personally I cannot wait to see).

Personally, I am just two years younger than Obama, which puts me right at the cusp of "Generation X" and the end of "Baby Boomer". I've always considered myself as "Generation X" because my parents were born in the middle of World War II. I grew up with, recognize, and identify with much of Gen-X culture.

I have to say, I think a new generation finding its own identity and purpose is a good thing. What I especially like about the video above, is how often they suggest that their generation rejects partisanship.

If this is true, how will the cheerleader blogs and media (DailyKOS, Huffington, Rush Limbaugh, NRO) captivate this new generation? If all they do is attack the other side, demonize ideas contrary to their own, how can they expect to capture this new generation of voters?

I wonder how long it will be before JWR, KOS and other sites like it, will be seen to be as anachronistic as Dick Cavett, Donovan and Catcher in the Rye?

Hopefully not too much longer, because the need for true bipartisan and intelligent dialog (rather than pom-poms and rhetoric) is sorely needed. I sincerely hope this "Generation We" brings true bipartisan dialog to the internet.

Rovian Tactics RIP?

It seems that this time around, (if polls are to be believed), that “Rovian” tactics are simply out of date. There have been many editorials of late that discuss “what went wrong”. Putting aside these editorials are jumping the gun a little, I think it is still it’s a worthy discussion.

My favorite editorial on this topic recently can be found here.

My favorite quote in this editorial comes at the end…

Two years ago, I wrote a book imploring the Republican Party not to follow its worst elements off a cliff—not to evolve, in short, into an insular party with little-to-no appeal outside of the rural, the southern, the Evangelical. As the McCain campaign flames out in a ball of Rovian disgrace, scorching the center in an attempt to fire up the base, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the battle for the soul of the Republican Party has been lost.
- Ryan Sager

MY COMMENT: As much as I wish this election to put a stake in the "energize the base" politics of Rove and Kristol, I have a feeling, we haven't seen the last of this gang. They are plotting their triumphant return to power in 2012 already I am sure.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Score Another Point for Brooks

For the second day in a row David Brooks scores a worthy quote. I don't always agree with this man, but this quote is precisely how I feel right now:

I have nothing against partisanship, but I do have something against self-deception. In the final months of a campaign large majorities in the country simply shut off all information that doesn’t confirm their own candidates superior virtue and intelligence. I’m amazed at the number of pundits I see who are simply campaign mouthpieces. I’m amazed at the bloggers who have lost all independence and are simply operatives.
-- David Brooks, New York Times

I challenge anyone who reads this to dial up a site that contradicts your established point of view and give it a read. If you are left-wing, dial up Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt or the National Review. If you are right-wing, dial up Markos, Huffington or "The Nation".

For us independents, this is a daily exercise, trying to read both partisan hype-machines, and then attempting to discern the truth amongst the cheerleaders and echo chambers.

It's not easy, but it is what responsible voters do.


Swines Compete for the Swill...

The bailout is now the hottest lobbying game in town.
-- MARTIN CRUTSINGER, Associated Press

Cunning Realist links to an AP story that is truly frightening.

MY COMMENT: Swines, competing for the swill.


No Shame in Science

Christopher Hitchens is the kind of editorialist many people loathe. He is loathed by some, because he is both a conservative and an atheist, he’ll cross any party line when it suits him, and because he can make eccentric arguments with great cunning and reason. Now, I don’t always agree with Hitchens but there are times he writes with great clarity and wisdom, and this is one of thos times.

My favorite quote from his latest editorial is:

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured.
-- Christopher Hitchens

A link to the full article is here

My comment: One of many positive possibilities from this election is that fiscal conservatives who value civil liberties more than religious dogma, might finally get their lungs back in the Republican party.

If Republicans would simply diminish their slander of science and secularism, this would make them a far more attractive political party for many independent voters.

However, if Sarah Palin is dragged out of the Alaska wilderness and is offered to voters again in 2012, the Republicans will officially become a farce. The choice belongs to Republicans and it will be interesting to see which way they turn.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

David Brooks is Right

David Brooks.

DailyKOS rails against him, and questions his intelligence. Republican cheerleaders have ostracized him, for refusing to tow the party line.

So in other words, he annoys both extremes of the spectrum, which in my eyes, means he's probably doing something right.

Well, he did something right with his Sunday editorial I thought, my favorite quote is below:

...some of us hoped McCain would take sides in the debate now dividing the G.O.P. Some Republicans believe the G.O.P. went astray by abandoning its tax-cutting, anti-government principles. They want a return to Reagan (or at least the Reagan of their imaginations). But others want to modernize and widen the party and adapt it to new challenges. Some of us hoped that by reforming his party, which has grown so unpopular, McCain could prove that he could reform the country. But McCain never took sides in this debate and never articulated a governing philosophy..."
-- David Brooks

The full editorial is here.

Trite "Wardrobe Scandal" Hides More Obvious Truth

It was a stupid and trite distraction to begin with, but the Palin “wardrobe scandal” has now come full-circle.

Recognizing the media went for the item (which first appeared as an item on Politico.Com for 24 hours before picked up by mainstream media), and now trying to distance herself from the damage the story scored, Sarah Palin is now washing her hands of the entire fiasco, with a classic denial story.

Earlier today, Kristol, (ever the Palin-apologist), even insinuated the clothes were purchased without any knowledge of Sarah Palin.

So in short, we’re meant to believe Sarah Palin doesn’t even know where the clothes she wears at public appearances came from; which even it was true, speak volumes on her leadership, naivety and accountability.

There is a much larger truth related to this story though. The real truth is, *all* political campaigns are obscene. They float massive payrolls to political hacks, custom jets, top-tier hotel rooms and 5-star restaurants.

It is laughable, that both parties stood in front of us, and tried to tell us they sympathized with middle-class America, while their personal expenditures and per-diems soared the roof, often to the tunes of millions of dollars a day.

If Obama was any kind of leader, he’d take half of that 150 million he earned this month in donations, and put it in a fund to fight cancer. I personally know of a great colon cancer study he could invigorate for years, with just 1% of the money he earned in a single month.

What do you say Obama? Will you recognize the funding of these campaigns has become obscene, and put some money where it is needed most?

And Sarah, I know the story was just a stupid distraction, from a lazy media, but just how naïve do we think we are? Are you not responsible for your own campaign, or are you trying to show us that real leaders duck, cover, and then blame their own friends and party when things get rough?


Franken Unfit for Senate

One major drawback to the Democratic tide, (that is apparently sweeping the country if polls are to be believed), is that idiots like Al Franken get to ride it into the senate.

Having read Al Franken's disgusting slander in his book, Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) and having listened once or twice, to that dreadful, partisan, snobbish and inaccurate "news" show he moderated on "Air America", I can tell you it saddens me this comedian, turned leftist-cheerleader is about to be elected.

He is a hateful, biased and narrow minded man, who advocates a dogmatic approach to every problem, and can't see beyond his left-of-center bias. He demonizes those who do not goose-step to his own narrow politics, he writes and says sexist things, and then ducks for cover when they cause him controversy.

If you need more evidence this man is a terrible choice for senator I offer you this:

Al Franken was taking on the vast right-wing conspiracy before other people even admitted it existed," Mrs. Clinton said.

That statement should be speak volumes to anyone with an independent mind.

Party cheerleaders find no comfort on this blog, and Al Franken is a dangerously narrow partisan, that is completely unqualified for the Senate.

Cheap Sentiment Hurts Gay Rights

I was at a gay wedding in Vancouver, British Columbia, just a few years ago. I watched as two beloved friends of mine (whom I both consider as family), said their vows, and exchanged rings.

Let me tell you: Had you seen the beauty of the service, and the sincerity of the love at this ceremony, it would be difficult to advocate any kind of constitutional amendment against it.

Alas, in California, this is exactly the kind of amendment on the ballot in November. So obviously, I am eager to see this initiative defeated, and the constituion of California left alone.

All men and women, be they gay or straight, should be able to enjoy the legal and social advantages of marriage.

One small problem though, and that is gay advocacy groups in California, are botching their campaign with schmaltz like this:

Ads like this cheapen and trivialize the beauty of any marriage, be it gay or straight. Ads like this come across as the cheap sentiment that they are, and they hurt the cause for gay rights rather than help.

Such a serious issue, deserves a far more serious treatment than this. A hackneyed pull at the heart strings, will only galvanize the homophobic even more.

This issue, needs honest, unapologetic advocacy for basic human rights, not heart strings, pathos, sentiment and a really bad soundtrack from "Rent".

Someone in California, please I beg you, give Gay Rights, a better voice than this.

And shame on the state politicians of Washingston State, for refusing to tackle this issue! Given the cowardice and petty nature of our current race for Governor however, is it any wonder, both have ducked for cover on this issue?

Impressive vs. Squabbling

I slam the Democrats, because I am skeptical of any political party, and view partisanship, as a dogmatic solution to problems that require a pragmatic approach.

It's hard however to criticize the Democrats current political success however. An illustration of which is best described here:

I just got back from the Obama rally at Civic Center Park here in Denver. The Denver Post estimates the turnout was 100,000 people, which is really just astounding considering the total size of the city is about 550,000 people.
-- David Sirota, Huffington Post

The full blog post can be seen here.

Meanwhile in contrast, we have Bill Kristol whining. Suddenly Kristol sounds like the KOS "gang" in 2004, who whined and squabbled like wet mules after Kerry was defeated.

If Bill Kristol is the best conservatives can do for a spokesman, you can kiss independent voters like me goodbye. The sum of Kristol's argument, is that it was not Palin's inexperience, her botched interviews, her gaffes, or her scandals that made America reject her at the polls. No, it was the fact McCain "mishandled" her...

Most of all, it bothers me how Kristol refuses to blame himself for the mess. He was a loud, and powerful advocate for Palin, and rather admit he was wrong, he seeks to scapegoat his own party. It is political cowardice, plain and simple.

I argued just a few posts ago, that if Obama wins, the Republican response to his victory will be calculated, effective and vociferous, and that the Democrats will be ill-prepared for it as usual. However, if this is the best they can do right now, it appears the Republicans are not only losing, but they intend to squabble and whine about it, instead of counter-attacking.

This is not good news at all if you are a Republican, and I suggest humbly you get better spokesman than Bill Kristol moving forward, or it could be dark times ahead for your political party.

Meanwhile in Iraq...

Meanwhile in Iraq, failed negotiations are in a very dangerous position:

“Chief of the Kurdistan Alliance Fouad Masoum said if the agreement is not signed by the end of the year, U.S. troops will be left without legal cover from the UN. This means they will not have to perform security-keeping operations. This justifies concerns about the possibility of a coup. … Chief of the Accord Front Adnan Duleimi also warned of a coup toppling the government.”

Read this outstanding blog, for more.


The "Fraud" Narrative Gains Momentum

I continue to harp about the inevitable Republican response to an Obama victory, which I predict will be: fraud, fraud, fraud!

We saw initial seeds planted last week for this narrative, and now we see mainstream slowly taking the bait.

A key quote from this article in the Washington Post:

Donors to the Obama campaign using false names such as Doodad Pro and Good Will gave $17,375 through 1,000 separate donations, with no sign that they immediately tripped alarms at the campaign. Of more concern, Cairncross said, are reports that the campaign permitted money from 123 foreign nationals to enter its accounts.
-- Matthew Mosk, Washington Post

As someone with a decade of electronic commerce experience in my career, I can tell you, there will be many examples of "suspicious" donations in Obama's campaign.

It won't matter that there was a serious effort to thwart the fraud, or that the vast majority of the contributions were probably legal, or that Obama was clearly the preferred candidate.

No, the narrative will be, that America's first black president, used "Chicago-style" politics to steal the presidency.

Sean Hannity is writing his first diatribe on this topic already, to be delivered within 24-hours of an Obama victory.

What is the left doing in anticipation of this? Nothing, they are popping champagne, laughing at SNL skits and saying stupid things like "leave nothing on the road, nothing".

It will be giddy cheerleaders versus a savvy, media-driven narrative to discredit the left's largest political gain in decades. I think it will be the cheerleaders that might end up "on the road:, if they don't start acting now to counter these accusations.


A Worrisome Mess

A quote worthy of repeating, (and even shouting from rooftops if you have the energy):

We can go to the moon, split atoms to power submarines, squeeze profits from a 99 cent hamburger and watch football highlights on cell phones. But the most successful democracy in human history has yet to figure out how to conduct a proper election. As it stands, the American voting system is a worrisome mess, a labyrinth of local, state and federal laws spotted with bewildered volunteers, harried public officials, partisan distortions, misdesigned forms, malfunctioning machines and polling-place confusion.
-- Michael Sherer, Time Magazine

I have warned for a while now, how the outcome of this election will likely bring thunderous cries of “voter fraud”. If Obama wins, the validity of his victory be called into question, primarily because our election technology and voter audit procedures are sadly lacking.

Think of it: the first African-American President will have his legitimacy questioned, merely because our procedures can be called into question. That's just tragic, and we have only ourselves to blame.

We should be pushing our leaders for reform of our electoral process, and provide a means by which we can all track our individual vote, and ensure it was recorded correctly.

The full diatribe from Michael can be seen here.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Justice for All

This will easily be the most controversial thing I've ever posted on this blog, so be warned, this is an opinion that may not sit well with others.

The sum of my outrage over this is simple this: I don't want to become so tolerant in life, that I begin to tolerate intolerance.

On that note, I am disturbed by this:

Sharia Rules in England

One set of laws for all of us please, this idea that a segment of society gets access to an exclusive legal system, just so sexist Sharia laws can be enforced in divorce and property disputes, is wrong. This is not democracy and this is not multi-culturalism.

If we oppose the Ten Commandments in our courts (as we rightly should), and if we oppose Christian prayer in our public schols (as we rightly should), then we must protest this disastrous decision.

Separation of church and state is a fundamental tenant for democracy to thrive, and pandering to any religious extreme (of any persuasion) erodes our freedom.

If you scoff at the dangers of Sharia rule, or suggest my concern over this is somehow "racially driven", I invite you to read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book: Infidel.

She, as a Muslim, and without apology claims the following:

Islam is in a period of transition, the religion as it is currently practiced is often incompatible with modernity and democracy. It must radically transform itself in order to become so.

"We in the West," she writes, "would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life."

We are a secular society. We honor freedom of religion, but our schools, our laws and most especially our government, are separated from religion. We do this, so that all religions may flourish equally, and that no religious dogma is given precedence, or more power than another.

We cannot let the tolerance of democracy, allow an intolerant religion to demand and receive its own legal system, or become greater than the law of the land, simply because of their faith.


McCain Finally Finds a Message

Andrew Romano of Newsweek writes an interesting analysis of the McCain campaign, suggesting that they have finally found a message that might work against “Obama Mania”.

You can find the article here.

I agree with the editorial only in part.

While I agree capitalizing on Joe Biden’s incredibly stupid remark in Seattle is political platinum; I am not so sure the “Joe the Plumber” message is working.

I suspect most voters are a little fatigued with "Joe the Plumber" already. Not to mention, that most of us in the middle class, don’t see a pending tax cut to our returns as “spreading the wealth”, we see it as necessary relief to shelter ourselves from the impending recession.

To be blunt: I want that tax cut, and I don’t consider myself a “socialist” just because I’d like a little relief, from this current economic climate.

However, I think Romano is right that Biden's inane comment earlier this week, provides a means whereby McCain can score points on foreign policy.


Si Se Puede!

Clinton supporters claimed the Latino vote was one of Obama’s greatest weaknesses (among others), but as usual, the Clintons were wrong:

“Latinos make up 32.4% of registered voters in New Mexico, 11.4% in Nevada and 9.9% in Colorado. The institute examined data from eight polling firms and found that Obama's lead over McCain in Nevada would be 42.4% to 40.7% without Latino voters -- a difference that's within the margin of error. Include Latino voters, however, and Obama's lead grows to 50%, versus 43% for McCain.”
– Marjorie Miller, LA Times

The original/full article can be found here.

My comment: If things continue to tighten in Pennsylvannia and McCain continues to lead (and therefore win) Ohio and Florida, then these Latino voters in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado could well decide who is president of the United States.


Lions, Tigers and ACORN, Oh My!

Great quote from Lisa Lerer on this idea that ACORN is part of a vast conspiracy to destroy democracy:

“But faulty registrations rarely turn into illegal votes. While ACORN has admitted to errors in its registration process, documented cases of illegally cast ballots remain rare. A five-year investigation by the Bush administration resulted in the convictions of only 26 voters found guilty of voting more than once, registration fraud, or ineligible voting.” – Lisa Lerer

The full article can be found here

Dumb "Buds" Redeem Themselves

The dumbest beer commercial ever, redeems itself with this clever revisit many years later by the original actors in the ad:

Friday, October 24, 2008

This Week's: "Best of the Blogs"

Here are my favorite "blog quotes" of the week. We begin with some sober analysis of the Republicans, and what they must do if they are "blown out" in this election, as some predict they will be:

“We will see a serious conservatism again when Bill Kristol and Karl Rove are banished from the Republican party and from the conservative media...It was when McCain ceded his campaign to Schmidt and Palin (creatures of Rove and Kristol respectively) that he threw it all away. As long as they are given any credence, Republicanism will not recover. “
- Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic

The "YouTube" moment of the week was this video, which includes this quote:

“I just dressed up as an eight year old boy, from a 48-year old television show. Please don’t let my efforts be in vain”
- Ron Howard dressed up as Opie

Larry David summarizes our angst over the impending election:

“This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it's worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there's still a potential cure. With this, there's no cure. The result is final. Like death.”
- Larry David

Tom Ridge hints how things would be different, if he had been selected as the VP candidate:

“I think the dynamics would be different in Pennsylvania. I think we'd be foolish not to admit it publicly."
-- Tom Ridge

And to all left-wing nutters who think this election is already over, I have this reality:

Strategic Vision has McCain narrowly ahead in both Florida and Ohio, and gaining ground in Pennslyvania. Rasmussen, meanwhile, has him narrowly ahead in North Carolina…and closing his difference with Obama in New Hampshire, where his taxation message may be selling well.
- Nate Silver

Don't let the media fool you into thinking the election is all over! It isn't over. We need to hear from you.

So go out there and vote!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chess and Checkers, Right and Left

“Thus, what is of supreme importance in war
is to attack the enemy's strategy.”-- Sun Tzu
Today, as a purely mental and distracting exercise (it is a slow Sunday in comfortably middle-class Seattle for me after all), I began to think about what a Barack Obama presidency would look like. I began to contemplate the very thing, I have convinced myself is impossible. The more I contemplated it, the more I was disturbed by what lies ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I intend to vote for Barack Obama and still yearn for a regime change at the executive level of American government. However, seeing the discourse of the past week, and following that trajectory forward beyond November, I am very concerned.

Republicans are a notoriously aggressive political party, so "better luck next time" isn't enough for them. They use their self-righteousness to galvanize and energize their political maneuvers, and thus they need never apologize for their tactics and they never stop fighting. For many Republicans, the end always justifies the means, and the greatest end one can achieve is to solidify and protect the American values, that most Republicans feel that they alone symbolize. Literally, some Republicans view all alternative points of view as “anti-American”.

As I have written before, I admire Republicans in many ways, because far more than the Democrats, they do not delude themselves about how power is usurped, and used, to achieve an agenda. In other words, they see politics for the cold, malicious power-grab that it is, and not the pleasant discourse of contrasting philosophies that we wish it was. Also unlike many Democrats, Republicans actually have an agenda. You may not like their staunch support and vision of “Reagan’s America”, (and I certainly don’t) but give them the credit that they have successfully rallied-around this vision for decades, and have gone to great lengths to perpetuate and empower it.

Now of course, several boughs of the Neo-Con philosophy have begun to break, (or at least appear to be ineffective). Indeed, there is an argument to be made that Neo-Conservatism may have even been the systemic cause of some of the country’s current problems. So it seems like dire and desperate times at the Republican dinner table, which explains why even the National Review and the Buckley family have suddenly come to blows.

However, despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not convinced the Republican Party or the conservative movement is going through the utter collapse and humiliation, that DailyKOS is already celebrating.

Assuming however, the polls are correct, and Obama wins, let’s play the politics of the next year out, see what we find…

Nobody likes an angry Republican, and unlike the Democrats, when Republicans are angry: heads roll and blood is spilled, (Democrats in contrast tend to whine they lose, then mutter and write editorials that blame the centrists in their party for losing). To start with, all of the anti-McCain voices in the conservative movement will begin their “I told you so” essays. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter will appear almost instantly, to remind us they predicted the calamity months ago. This discourse will only last a day or two because the real message the conservatives want to perpetuate is: fraud.

Fraud. Illegitimate. Scandal.

These three words will be the only explanation Republicans can offer for the results of the election, and they will hammer these three themes home, well into November and well beyond the Obama inauguration (assuming he wins).

Already, the groundwork is being laid for this rebuttal, and the messages we hear are alarming. The most alarming aspect of them is there are just enough granules of truth in these accusations, to allow the Republicans to ensure their "scandal" takes root in the mainstream media. What media outlet doesn’t love controversy anyway, and wouldn’t be more than willing to magnify these granules into a full-blown, scandalous investigation and national dialog?

The attack will come from several tiers. First, we’ll hear reams and reams about ACORN, (and other community-based voter registration organizations), that registered thousands of fake voters. These organizations are skewed left, they are disorganized and they are quite frankly, a tad inept. Rightly, or wrongly, they will look and sound suspicious to the average American once the bright light of media scrutiny shines on them.

Then we’ll hear about “fraud” at the polls, and especially how early-voting in some states were usurped and manipulated by Barack Obama. The Republicans will scour the Earth for voters, who “confess” how they voted multiple times, or used a combination of early-voting, absentee-ballots and poor registration. Others will suddenly pop-up claiming Obama supporters urged them to cast votes in states they do not reside in. They’ll find a black-woman from Illinois for example, that will “confess” how she was urged and taught how she could actually cast her vote in Florida.

Then we’ll hear the more powerful and quite frankly more legitimate claim about the shady way Barack Obama was able to raise such enormous funds.

The fuel that will drive this “controversy”, will be that, in fact, Obama does indeed collect money in a somewhat dubious way. In many ways, this is not Obama’s fault. He merely perfected a means of fund-raising pioneered by Howard Dean. To make matters even more perfect for the Republicans, this means of raising funds, also questions the integrity and security of the internet, and this is a theme that a vast majority of older-Americans appreciate and applaud.

The internet is big and spooky to many Americans fifty and over, because it is a medium and tool that was developed primarily by the generation that came after them. And of course, there is a basis of truth in the internet’s unreliability and insecurity, so the ingredients are well established for the Republicans to make a lot of noise about how Obama "broke the law" in becoming President.

The Republicans will probably even find internet-donations, that have "links to terrorists", and despite the flimsy evidence, the headline will be so sensational our media won't be able to resist it.

Obama’s main source of income was built around a rule that establishes that nobody who contributes less than 200 dollars to a political campaign has to declare who they are.

You then combine this rule, with an internet-based campaign fund-raising tool, and you then combine this with the elements of fraud that take place under any electronic-commerce endeavor, and you have the recipe for the accusation of scandal.

I guarantee you, there will be examples and instances that the Republicans can point to in the months ahead, where people were donating money via credit/debit cards that were stolen, (or used without permission). There will be examples where people obscured how much or how often they contributed, (therefore bypassing the 200 dollar rule), by creating “anonymous” profiles to hide the true source of the contribution.

We'll see instances of foreigners contributing, and some of the contributions will be deemed to have very dangerous ties or a "threat" to our security. For all of these accusations, there will be examples along the way, to make these accusations seem legitimate, there are probably some being "planted" by shrewd Republicans right now.

It sounds outrageous I know, but I have a great deal of experience in electronic commerce, and indeed have had great success in my career in this field of work; and I can tell you any electronic-based, credit card system, can be exploited via fraud.

Indeed, there is no e-Commerce business I know of, that hasn’t had fraud issues and these include billion dollar companies who devote millions to limiting their fraud-liability. There is *NO* way, Obama’s campaign could have completely insulated themselves from fraud, because no e-Commerce business ever has.

So while, it may be true that Obama’s campaign did the best they could to limit fraud, (and make sure people were contributing honestly), all it will take is a few sturdy examples of fraud (and those examples will manifest believe me), and the entire campaign can be called into question.

Lastly, these two veins of attack (voter-fraud and campaign financial-fraud), is a clever and obvious move for the Republicans because they can claim higher ground on both fronts almost immediately, and even more brilliantly, could use their attack to create legislative pressure that will seek to strengthen them in 2012. They can’t lose anything (since they’ve already lose the election), but can gain not only legitimacy for the next election, but might also take away the very tools and means by which Obama has forged himself into such a strong political force.

One casualty from this election I am certain, is that if Obama wins, the rules for campaign financing will change again, because if the Republicans have any kind of congressional power (a lack of a filibuster-proof majority for Democrats in the Senate more than likely) they will extend that power to get this dialog onto the public agenda. They’ll rally the FBI/CIA to investigate Obama’s financing, and they’ll rally their “troops” into civil acts of discontent (rallies etc), to delegitimize Obama and his party.

It will be a war of words, unlike any we’ve ever seen, because the conservatives will perceive themselves as righteous and just, in raising these concerns.

If the left were smart, they’d be preparing for this inevitability right now. Sadly, the left in this country is not always smart. Remember this is a side of the spectrum where half of their members refused to recognize how brilliant a politician Obama was to begin with. Their solution was to dredge up the ghosts of the Clinton presidency. Mercifully, the other half of the left, stopped us from that nightmare, which would have surely ended in Republican victory.

Unbelievably, as I write this, the left is popping champagne and declaring a victory, before it is even won. The left will probably stand around stunned and surprised that their victory isn’t as fully realized as they deluded themselves it would be and then blame "racism" for it. Then the real war will begin, and the left will be (as usual) playing a reactive and defensive game to the right’s attacks, totally unprepared and hung over from their premature celebrations.

I think if this plays out, we’ll likely see concessions on voter registration and campaign financing, that will ensure that the populist-nature of Obama’s political rise, will not be seen in this country again for a very long time. After all, Obama's campaign defeated two institutional and powerful forces: it defeated the Clinton machine, and it is now poised to defeat the Neo-Con machine.

You can't slap the power-brokers of America that hard, and not get punished for it.

The fight does not end after November; indeed, the fight will have only just begun. That’s something the left should be talking about and strategizing against, but instead they post YouTube clips of Sarah Palin and giggle and pat themselves on the back, for an election that still is undecided.

The right is playing chess, the left is still playing checkers, and I fear Obama’s political career (and populism in general), could suffer from it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

News of the World

"Each morning our key to the world comes through the door
More than often its just a comic, not much more
Don't take it too serious - not many do
Read between the lines and you'll find the truth"
-- “News of the World”, Bruce Foxton, The Jam

Not long ago, I wrote that I’m voting for Barack Obama. I stand by that vote, and after nearing the end of his book “Audacity of Hope”, I feel my choice is a good one. Now an eloquent and well-reasoned book about politics doesn’t mean the author will make a good president, but it is at least comforting to know your candidate is capable of explaining his positions on everything from the economy, to race, to foreign policy. I say that, because many of our recent political leaders, seem unable to even recite a cliché, without botching it up.

So, I am willing to give Barack Obama a shot, and I feel more comfortable with that decision after having read his book, which explains in detail his general philosophy about politics and leadership.

However, I also stated a few weeks ago, that I am apathetic about democracy in the US right now, and I also argued that despite my vote, I think Barack Obama will lose.

These seem like ludicrous positions now, given how weird and entertaining the campaign has turned of late, and extremely implausible given the polls show Obama has a significant lead.

However, I still stand by what I wrote.

I am still apathetic about the process, because the campaign is even more farcical now than it was just a month ago. The Ayers and ACORN “conspiracy” theories of the right-wing are laughable, the kind of “we never landed on the moon” ranting you hear from that schizophrenic low-life at the end of the bar.

The left however, simply can’t stop demonizing Sarah Palin and now of course they’ve focused their venom on the so-called “Joe the Plumber”. The left have talked more about the trivial details of these two people, than they have about the current economic crisis. Most disturbing the liberal blogs are ignoring how complacent, weak and ineffective the House of Representatives acted during the recent “bailout package”. Nor are they angry at all at their own party, for the shameful pork-barrel that was added to a bill, to provide welfare to companies that managed their debts irresponsibly. What we get instead is this weird self-righteous rhetoric because it turns our “Joe the Plumber” doesn’t have a license, and Sarah Palin lied about her experience hunting caribou, like this somehow justifies the shameful performance of congress.

This really goes to the core of my apathy. There simply doesn’t seem to be an outlet, for reasonable, non-partisan discussion about critical issues that affect me and the future of my children. Indeed, people assume that because I’m casting my vote for Barack Obama, that I must now forgive Democrats of all sin and “join the team”. My apologies, but Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Franks, Charlie Rangel and others have a lot to answer for, and I won’t give them a free pass simply because they play for the same “team” as my presidential candidate.

The blogosphere of course, makes the situation worse, and yes I do recognize the irony of whining about blogs, on a blog. Still, I took the time last night to click every blog link on the Andrew Sullivan page. There, I was taken a whirlwind trip of the partisan blogosphere. My favorite and most illustrative lunacy of these blogs can be categorized by these two points of view:

RIGHT: It is ridiculous that the liberal-press has vetted “Joe the Plumber” more than they have investigated the secrets of Barack Obama’s life and ties to domestic terrorists.

LEFT: It is ridiculous that the press has vetted “Joe the Plumber” more than they have investigated the secrets of Sarah Palin’s life and her ties to secessionist parties and their attempt to acquire explosive substances.

What made both points of view so ludicrous was not just that they were a partisan mirror reflection of one another, but that the rest of these blogs that made these complaint, went on to spend at least 50% of their real estate talking even more about “Joe the Plumber”. This is akin to complaining about the “power of cheese” while munching on pizza.

Meanwhile, real news is ignored: Our governments around the world are injecting tax dollars into banking corporations, radically altering the foundation of the geo-economy; the Russians have assassinated yet another dissident, this time apparently via mercury poisoning and once again have rattled their sabers with direct threats to the Ukraine and Poland. Saudi Arabia continues to indoctrinate their student population that western democracy is “evil and unpure”, while we hand them billions of dollars because we are addicted to their oil. Dubai perpetuates slave labor, recruiting Indian laborers into an indentured servitude scam that is now the largest slave trade in the world. China continues to send money and political support to the atrocities in Darfur and Russia props up Mugabe, a dictator of equal moral proportion to Saddam Hussein. Iran has just acquired better nuclear technology, and is defying the United Nations with an almost laughable hubris. Domestically, we see a volatile marketplace, frozen credit at our banks, and foreclosures rising. We’ve seen the worst unemployment in decades, and an infrastructure in the worst shape in our country’s modern history. We are fighting two wars, neither of them progressing as well as we would like, and our veterans are returning to a health care system that fails to treat their wounds adequately. Yet, the number one headline on CNN is that Sarah Palin will “star” on a comedy show on Saturday night.

How can you not just shrug your shoulders and tune out the media noise? How am I supposed to be “energized” into activism, when a Bruce Spingsteen fund-raiser is considered “news”, when our country just recently sent bomb-dropping drones into Pakistan? Apathy doesn’t seem so utterly unreasonable when you stare at that reality.

I also said a few weeks ago that I think Obama will lose. It seems like a laughable assertion given the polls. Heck, even Christopher Hitchens and Chris Buckley have cast their lot in with Obama. Still, I predict here and now that Obama will lose, and I predict this because of the following reasons:

1) The “Bradley” Effect, which I feel is very real. You can knock off at least 6% of Barack’s support (more probably in a lot of Midwest and Southeast “swing” states). Also polls *always* skew left, and you can review polls before the 2000 and 2004 elections for proof of that.

2) The “October” surprise. Republicans are starting the momentum towards a huge “voter fraud” campaign, that will make the liberals whining about Florida in 2000 look like a tea and cupcake party. This “surprise” will include even more allegations that Obama is a terrorist, and will inject so much vitriol, partisanship and hatred into the campaign, that the outcome of the election will suffer as a result.

3) The hubris of the left, will reach such catastrophic levels, and the expectations for Obama’s victory are now so unrealistically high, that voter turnout for the left (a critical element to Obama’s success so far) will falter, and Obama will lose states that looked in the “bag” heading to voting day (states like Pennsylvania will stunningly support McCain I predict). Obama succeeded in the primaries, because he was in a razor tight race, and his well-organized “ground game” was superb at getting the vote out. Now that everyone thinks its over, that energy will dissipate, and the left, being the left, will simply be too lazy to vote (once again).

If you doubt the third point, I point to you that the leading story on Politico today was “what networks should do when Obama blows out McCain on election night”. The media, (even the liberal blogs) are already crowing about a blowout. This is a disaster for the Obama campaign, that require a sense of urgency in order to win. Their “change” platform falls flat, if everyone already is deceived into thinking he’s already won.

I hope I am wrong. Indeed, there is a part of me that suspects that I am wrong, but I refuse to raise my expectations, because the alternative is so depressing, that I almost feel it is better to resign to it now, and just accept the fact that the Neo-Conservative apparatus will find a way to preserve their executive power.

I will be voting though, you can count on that. I am not so apathetic as to not cast a ballot. Let’s hope that vote actually counts, and that we give a new kind of leader a chance, the stakes are high, the times are dire and we need to move in a new direction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Flat World, Fat American

The world is shrinking, and like Thomas Friedman suggests, it is also flat, (or at least it is getting flatter all the time).

As an American, living in Seattle, I am fairly sure Melbourne, Australia qualifies as somewhere “very, very far away”. The thing is though, it really isn’t, and indeed putting aside the marathon flight it takes to get here, it is pretty obvious as you travel these days just how real the "global village" truly is.

I was 8000 miles from home, a distance just a century ago that was beyond the reach of everyone except the truly rich, and even then, would take months to traverse. Travel in the 21st Century is wondrous, because while the flight may not be faster than it was say 25 years ago, the speed at which information, communication and commerce could be conducted was measured in the blink of an eye.

On my recent trip, I kept up with local news, I even watched local sporting events, on-demand and at my convenience. I tracked my bank accounts, paid bills and monitored the situation at my work via email and Skype.

I didn't want to pay for any outgoing phone service, so instead, I'd email my wife via a cheap, but high-speed internet connection and this would signal her to call me, via our cheaper phone service from home. Literally her phone would receive the email, buzz her that I was contacting her, and she'd push a single button to talk to me. Another button later, and I was on speaker talking to my whole family, my voice emanating from the center of the dinner table, while my kids ate macaroni and cheese and told me how about their homework.

I thought the city of Melbourne was a poster child for the dawn of the 21st century. We live in a century where slowly the national and cultural lines have begun to blur, and we are becoming citizens of the world. Melbourne reflects this progression just as well as any other modern city I’ve recently visited. In Carlton for example, (the academic neighborhood of Melbourne where I stayed), the student population was literally, a world-wide population. I met students from China, Japan, India and North America, who blended in and mixed with the local students; the cafes and eateries too offer a variety of fare, curry at one stop, falafel in another, and then eggs and bangers in another.

During a taxi ride, I met a student from India, who worked a cab at night to pay his bills. He was in Australia on a student visa, and working on a path for Australian citizenship. When he learned I was originally from Canada, he immediately inquired as to the ease of immigration for students there. He seemed willing to contemplate moving there, if the economic and academic prospects were brighter. He resolved to research these opportunities, and the idea stunned me. Literally, this young, bright and ambitious young man was shopping the entire world for opportunity. The concept is not new or revolutionary, but it made me realize, even the cab drivers have become international citizens of the world. The very man driving me to the pub in Australia could be building bridges in Vancouver just five years from now.

I picked up a local newspaper in Melbourne one afternoon, and digested the front section in its entirety, editorial section and all. The paper had a conservative lean, and was commenting on the global financial crisis and the American election, with a unique Australian-conservatism. It smeared Barack Obama in one editorial, linking him to Ayers and suggesting strongly Obama was far more radical than America realizes. On the very next page, George W. Bush was ripped apart for his ineptitude. It seems even conservatives in Australia can't stand America right now. One out of three entries in the paper had an extremely anti-American take, and therein lays the problem.

As the 21st Century starts its second decade, our political and social biases haven't kept up to speed with the advances in communication and multiculturalism. We still define one another by our nationalities. While I was in Melbourne, I was nothing more than a fat American tourist in most places I visited, and I was sized up and categorized into this pidgeon hole quickly and often.

I understand and even empathize with international resentment of America right now. However, to judge someone purely based on their nationality, is a shallow and extremely outdated prejudice. I was born in England, I was brought up in Canada, and now I reside in Seattle, Washington. Along the way, I called Mexico and the Bahamas home for brief periods. I have about as much in common, with the stereotype of the "fat, ignorant American" caracature as the Australian serving me has in common with "Crocodile Dundee" (well except the fact, I must confess, I could probably shed 25 pounds). I don't suggest I'm the most intelligent, or open-minded fellow on Earth, far from it, but I deserved a better chance to distinguish myself from a stereotype than I received in many places I visited while in Australia.

So while the world may be flat, and it may be shrinking, our minds have not broadened to match. I concede, I am just as guilty in this regard as anyone. All of us, still occasionally cling to this idea that we're culturally divided, and that these cultural lines define precisely who we are. While we can all draw strength and a sense of purpose and faith from our ancestry, we are all much more than the flags and governments of our countries. Indeed, most of us (myself included), now draw our identity from several nations, and thus, borrow bits of culture from all over the place.

It may come as a shock to some, but as an American, I am not particularly fond of hamburgers (and prefer falafel any day), and I actually do know the rules of cricket, and yes, I have a basic understanding of the history of some other countries. I am not George Wallace, I am not Gordon Gecko, I am not Fred Flintstone. I also do not wander the Earth with a sense of manifest destiny. Similarly, I assume most Australians I meet don't wrestle alligators, or barbecue shrimp, or have blonde air, blue eyes and funny cowboy hat.

Yet, when we travel, it is amazing how quickly, we seem to call upon these wretched caricatures and apply them instantly to those we meet. Some of this is pure social anxiety of course, but mostly I think, we've just simply not caught up mentally to the realities of the world around us.

We are all connected now, and all reliant on one another. What makes the Bush administration such a dangerous anachronism, is more than anything, it ignored this basic reality, and tried to execute its policies unilaterally.

Perhaps, more than anything, this is why Americans are loathed abroad (and believe me I was snobbed in enough restaurants in Melbourne to verify that we are indeed loathed abroad). American government has refused to act like a member of the global village, indeed perhaps, denied it even existed, and more than anything I feel this is what other citizens of the world seem to resent most.

The global village is real. If there is any positive lesson at all from the current financial/banking crisis, it is that it demonstrates clearly, just how utterly dependent we all are on one another. A badly structured mortgage in Ohio, will eventually cause the Australian government to pass new bank deposit reform. A butterfly flaps its wings, and the price of tea in China changes.

Now that we're all in this together, economically and politically, its time to take the next step socially as well. Although the world is changing quickly, and often this is difficult to cope with psychologically, we need at least to make the effort.

Don't let Lou Dobbs tell you, that internationalism and multiculturalism is something to fear. It is as inevitable as the construction of roads, after the invention of the combustion engine; as inevitable as electronic commerce, once the computer modem was perfected. You shouldn't waste energy trying to stop, fear or demonize the realities of human evolution. This kind of resistance inevitably hurts your culture, and holds it back.

Look, I am narrow-minded as the next fellow, I am not trying to preach from a soapbox, I just see what I see, and try to understand for myself what I can learn from it. To do that, I must admit my cultural prejudices, my biases and distortions run as deep as any other. More than not, these prejudices are barriers to my happiness, and now more than ever, they are far more out of touch with the realities of the world today than ever before.

Bigotry, in any form, simply isn't a 21st century idea, and to put it bluntly, bigotry is bad for business. While all human beings cling to cultural distortions and consume propaganda from their governments a little too willingly at times, the good news is that the ugliness of nationalism and racism are slowly eroding. They are eroding because we all rely on one another to survive, and we are learning through one on one contact, that we are all not so very different from one another.

The good news here is, the more we connect, rely and depend on one another in the global village, the less likely we seem to want to destroy it. The 21st Century more than any other time in history, has all the right tools and technology for us to forge a level of prosperity and peace that seemed like an utter pipe-dream just 50 years ago. It might take the rest of this century to come even close to this, but the tools and progression are already there, we just need to advance socially to keep pace with the technology around us.

That's a comforting thought, especially as the anachronism of the Karl Rove era of gunboat diplomacy comes to an end. And to those waiters, hosts, clerks and others who treated me like a second-class human being simply because I was American I simply say this: I may be American, but I am also much more than the cartoon figure that word seems to conjure today.

Let's shake loose these mental shackles. If a cab driver from India can see the world as a marketplace of opportunity to consummate his dreams, so can the rest of us; if a girl from Shanghai can perfect her doctorate in microbiology in Melbourne, then move to a research facility in San Francisco to help isolate a new vaccine; if this fat American can sit in a college pub watching live cricket from Bangalore, while drinking Australian beer with students from New Delhi, Perth and Adelaide, then maybe we can finally catch up socially and mentally, to the technology and advancements and realities of the 21st Century.

We are neighbors. We are neighbors, just as surely as the woman next door who trims her hedge and shares with you the chocolate cake she just pulled from her oven. Our technology, our email, websites, cell phones and economies have brought us together. So lets act like neighbors, and lets not punish Americans just because they elected a bad president. Heck, Canada made Brian Mulroney Prime Minister, and nobody ever complains about “that fat Canadian at the end of the bar”, well except for one bar I know, but that’s because it’s a bar full of Husky fans, and they tend to behave that way after they lose the Apple Cup. :)