Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Here's an interesting link

Ever wanted to see where you compared to the candidates on the actual issues? Click here and you can take a survey which then links your choices to the candidates positions.

I should warn you though, that the Iran question is a bit of a false construction since Hillary is clearly hawkish and if you select of dovish answer, it still says that Hillary supports that position. That being said, after you take the survey you can compare the positions of each candidate and judge for yourselves.

I found it interesting that my results said I favored Edwards 1st and Romney last. In fact, about the only thing Romney and I agree on is Stem Cell Research.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Some things I don't Understand

Things I don’t understand

If the IPod is so totally cool (and it is), why can’t they put a radio in there too? I mean, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about watching TV on a 2x2 screen. But it would be nice to have a radio option for when my playlist gets tired.

If you own a bank that has given out X number of variable interest rate loans only to find out 2 years later that 80% of those loans are going into default because the rate jumped up past what your borrowers can afford and now you’re looking at a round of foreclosures and multi-billion dollar write-offs, wouldn’t it make more sense to amend those mortgage contracts to lower the rate, give grace periods, etc so that your borrowers continue to pay and you continue to make money?

If you found someone dead on their apartment floor, even though they were famous, wouldn’t you immediately call police instead of calling another pseudo-celeb for advice?


If you were facing the gravest economic crisis in recent memory, fueled by the twin engines of out of control federal deficits and out of control housing gambling, would your first (and only) solution be to immediately give every American a $600 check? Wouldn’t you want to do something more, address the root causes? Hello? GOP? Dems? Anyone driving this bus?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama Love

When it comes to the top 2 democratic candidates, there is really little difference on a policy level between them. The minor differences that exist are more about how to design and implement a policy, not on the actual policy itself. One of the best examples of this is the rather boring and useless debate about health insurance mandates. Look, both candidates support a system that provides health insurance for those who can't afford it. All things being equal, I'm generally opposed to mandates, but the bottom line is, both candidates will do their best to get a system up and running that helps the roughly 45 million americans get health care. And that's a good thing.

One area where there is a big difference, however, is in the area of rhetoric. A lot of people poo-poo this arguing that it's not terribly important. I kind of see this issue as a nuts in your chocolate sundae kind of deal. Ask someone to name their top 5 presidents since 1900 and, depending on party affiliation, knowledge, and what they value in a president, the list will include the following: FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush I, and Bill Clinton. FDR, Reagan, and Clinton get in more because of their leadership and speech-giving while LBJ, Nixon, and Bush I get on the list for their policymaking. The first three were powerful speech givers and rallied the American people around the causes of their times. The latter three were less gifted at political rallying but were able policymakers (excusing LBJ's Vietnam debacle, Nixon's Watergate debacle, and Bush I's economic debacle).

The point is that "best president's" are generally a matter of taste. And my tastes generally fall with the first group of president's able to rally the public and motivate policymaking based on the strength of their oratorical skills rather than their ability to manuever within the backrooms of Congress (although, let's be honest, every president cuts backroom deals as a matter of course).

This preference helps explain why I liked Bill Clinton the President, even though he failed to act in Rwanda and was late in the coming in both Bosnia and the Middle East. But it also helps explain why I strongly prefer Obama over Hillary Clinton. Obama the President is a man who could help heal some of the wounds of racial division that still fester in America. His oratorical power is such that he makes sophisticated arguments without turning off his audience or putting them to sleep. And the symbolic value (in this moment) of electing a Black President is much, much greater than electing the first woman president. For better or worse, it will take a Black President to convince the black community that America is a nation of equality and fairness.

But more than just symbolism, Obama is a man who can lead black america away from the politics of hurt and toward reconciliation, who can wrestle the mantel of leadership away from polarizing figures like Jesse Jackson, and who can sell a message of inclusion and equality to a black community that has oft been associated with discrimination against Jews and Gays. Yesterday's speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta was a beginning:

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scape-goating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others -- all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face -- war and poverty; injustice and inequality.

We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.

Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.

The more Obama talks like this, the less relevant Hillary's candidacy becomes in my mind.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

That which we can never understand

"It seems that we are worthless, that we do not exist."

Five years is a long time. People fall in and out of love, change jobs, have kids, and travel. Lives grow, expand, develop, and sometimes, end. People experience both happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow, and everything in between. Ten years is even longer. It’s university and a PhD. It’s childhood to adulthood. It’s a first job to a career.

If one thinks back five years, ten years and all the things, both wonderful and awful, that have happened over that time span it seems a lifetime. And indeed, it is a lifetime. At no point, amidst the best or the worst, do most of us ever feel that we are“worthless,” that we “do not exist.” Even amidst heartache and painful decisions, we always have options, choices, possibilities.

The victims have none of these things. Instead life is the same every day. The only variation is what will come with the rice: beans, peas, lentils, or pasta. Long marches through dark jungles that look so similar one loses track of time, space, and direction in a heartbeat constitutes change. Swarms of stinging mosquitoes, dysentery and tropical diseases, deteriorating health and lingering weakness even in times of relative fitness marks the passage of time. The only link to something civilized, something human is a Saturday morning radio broadcast which, on occasion, will afford the opportunity to hear the voice of a mother, a father, a loved one.

“It is not the physical pain that wounds us, nor the chains on our necks that torment us or the constant sickness ... it's the mental agony of the irrationality of all this…"

Hopelessness. Despair. Loss.

These are emotions that we all grapple with from time to time. These are emotions that most of us can put aside and overcome. These are emotions that an untold number live with day in, day out.

And this harm is inflicted almost without purpose, without end in sight. The tormenter torments solely for torments sake. The jailor jails because he is ordered to do so, because he is trained to comply, yet never asks why, never questions the ethics or morality of his actions, all the while he kisses that crucifix hanging around his neck before battle and faithfully recites his Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

The warden taunts and threatens and throws snakes and tarantulas in their beds. “The jungle is dangerous,” he mocks, “don’t try to escape or you shall be eaten!” On another day he tells the prisoner that if the army comes, they will shoot and kill every hostage before one can be freed. The jailor would rather fulfill his mission to execute the innocent than take the fight to his “enemy”.

Not once does the jailor understand the struggle he is engaged in. Not once does he wonder if he can win this fight. Not once does the thought pass through his head that perhaps, just maybe, what they are engaged in is wrong, wrong on more than just moral or ethical grounds, but also wrong on practical grounds – that their struggle could never achieve anything more than bloodshed and lost lives, all the while fattening their Supreme Commanders’ waistlines and wallets.

"The only thing you can do is survive, because there's just nothing else to do."

Everything that it means to be human is stripped away, almost at once; yet still the survival instinct remains. Is it life? Can one who is chained to a tree, day in, day out, who is chained when using the restroom, when showering, when washing clothes, be called “alive”? The abject and insistent dehumanization of the victim continues every single day for weeks, months, and years without end.

Dehumanization is a fate almost worse than death. It is the prolonged feeling that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, your value will always be no more significant than that of a dog. But you try to hold on anyway. You try not to give up. You listen to the other victims, the soldiers and police that have been captive for longer than you when they say "take it one day at a time, focus on the now, ignore the future." Every day is a struggle, every day brings false hope of freedom, of relief, until finally, after long years, you find yourself wishing for death so as to end the permanent state of non-existence in which you survive.

And then, against all hope, you hear that two of your fellow prisoners have been freed. You feel grateful for them but hate them all the same for they have that which you long for so deeply in your soul that it hurts. They are free. They are human. And still you live in hell.

"I had to drag myself to the bathroom for my necessities through the mud with just the strength of my arms because I could not get up..."

The humanity of those who create and maintain such conditions has long such departed yet still we ask: Is there no humanity left in the captors? Are the captors so committed to dehumanizing their victims that they too are stripped of everything that it means to be human?

After 10 years in the jungle, after every possible infection and disease, at the point at which the captive has lost whatever possible value he could have had and is on the brink of death yet is still not freed, has the jailor lost all sense of compassion? Of humanity? Of strategy and sense of propaganda?

Perhaps the captor, in dehumanizing the victim, has permanently lost his humanity. Or perhaps the captor is afraid of his commander who doesn’t have to live with the collapse of humanism that is the jungle jail, a commander who is ruthlessly counting victims like chips on a poker table and judges that the loss of one chip is little more than the ante needed to get dealt a hand with the big boys.

“I'll put it in the hands of God”

They come to you. It is late in the term and the contractions have been coming and going all day, yet still the baby won’t come. You ask for a hospital, a doctor and they offer a nurse. Strangely, you see that as a sign of humanity. At least they offer you something. But then the nurse tells you the news. He will have to cut you open. He will have to take your baby from your stomach. There is no other option. He will use a kitchen knife. There is nothing else available.

You accept your fate and thank God that there is anesthesia. You pray silently but then there is nothing. When you awake in pain, pain that you can not measure, you are overjoyed. You are still alive and so is your son. You name him Emmanuel "because he was a gift from God," and you love him even if his father is a captor, a tormenter.

Eight months pass. Your son is sick and worsening. They come for him. You don’t want to lose him but you see death written on his face so you let him go. Then there is nothing. No news, good or bad, leaves you longing for something, anything. He is your hope and dream and he sustains you and even in the worst moments, you force his face into your mind and push through that which seems unbearable.

Three years pass. They come for you again. Freedom. It is yours if you can reach out and take it. They make you march. Twenty days through the same jungle you have spent the last 5 years. Twenty days in which every step takes you closer to home, closer to life. You pray this isn’t another taunt, another trick. You pray you will see your son again, hold him in your arms, and know that you accomplished the impossible. You survived. You emerge from the jungle, pale and weak but with a smile on your lips and hope in your heart. The tormenters leave you with a wave and a smile and you are both grateful and vengeful. The helicopter takes off and you return to life knowing that you will see your mother, your son.

Guilt touches your heart for those you have left behind. The sadness tugs at you and you feel a loss, an empathy that lingers and will never leave. You vow to do what you can to free those who still remain in the jungle, in the “people’s prison” all the while wanting to put those memories behind you forever. You do press conferences and interviews. You struggle and fight to stay strong. And you maintain the hope, the faith in your heart that came with your son. They will be freed. They must be freed.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bush: Middle East Peace Deal by 2009

Shorter George Bush:

"Shhhhhhhh, be vewwwy, vewwwy quiet; I'm hunting wabbits, heheheheheheh."


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Don’t call it a comeback

I am surprised and disappointed by last night’s results. Every time I see Hillary Clinton, I feel less enthusiastic about her. Maybe it’s one of those “not good on TV” type things. I don’t know, but I sure hope that this doesn’t mean something bigger about her prospects. I found the highlights of her victory speech to be particularly flat and uninspiring.

Why the polls were wrong

Two factors. New Hampshire voters pride themselves in their independence. That certainly played a role as everyone was predicting an Obama victory. But more than that, the number of undecided in NH were much greater than in Iowa and it looks like those undecided votes went to Hillary.

That being said, the notable trend is that she won the women vote this time. The CNN anchors are falling all over themselves with the theory that her “tears” helped win over women but I’m not buying that. There’s no data to support it and it just seems overly simplistic. Instead, I think that, in an odd twist, she won the more traditional democrats (Obama is clearly more progressive and that would seem his natural base) in a relatively conservative and older state. The demographics didn’t help Obama. He won Iowa but lost the “older” vote. In NH, there were more older people than young people and he came up short.

Why I’m opposed to Clinton

In addition to previously mentioned factors, there are two factors which really stand out at this point. First, a president must be able to use the power of the bully pulpit to sell policies and rally support for important legislation. Bill Clinton was able to do that at times (when his sex scandal allowed) and Reagan was a master at it as well. Neither of the Bush’s were particularly good (aside from Iraq – for both) at it and all indications are that Hillary is an uninspiring speaker. Obama has that special something that transcends politics and suggests that he could use the power of the presidency to spur real, progressive change in our country. I have great confidence in his rhetorical abilities and even if he’s not as experienced as Hillary, he’s sufficiently experienced and more able to unite and lead than she ever will be.

The other factor is the universal hatred dynamic. Hillary is, without a doubt, a divider. She won’t win over independents or Republicans and the GOP will do their earnest to block her at every move. Now, you can argue back and forth over the morality or ethical nature of that sort of politics but I won’t. I’m simply viewing the world from a realist lens. The Clinton’s are the GOP’s most reviled and hated political family. Anyone who thinks that Hillary can overcome that hatred is fooling themselves.

Edwards is playing the Ralph Nader Role

Really John, I like you. I think you got important things to say. But what are you doing? If there is a divide between you (and Obama) and Hillary as you so suggest, then how can you reasonably continue given that you’re ciphering votes away from the frontrunner who shares your vision and actually has a chance to win?

I get you want to be president. And I get that it’s got to be a hard dream to give up. But the writing is on the wall. Allow me to tell you in simple terms: You will never be president of the United States of America. It’s time to accept that and move on. Get behind Obama. You can help him. Divided we fall, united we stand.

The media need to buy a brain or two

This can’t be considered a huge comeback because all the polls had Obama with a lead after Iowa. But the media loves a story and they’re pimping this one big time. Let’s look at the data.
Prior to Iowa, Obama was losing by as much as 17 points. After Iowa he went up and was leading by as much as 13 points. That’s a 30 point swing and is indeed significant. Had this election been held on Monday, I have no doubt that he would have won. However, and I admit to not seeing this yesterday, the Hillary decline (Obama bump) stopped on the 6th. The very last polls showed Hillary trending back up from 28 to 34.

That is significant. Remember, this is a state in which Hillary had a huge lead. Obama almost won it (and probably should have). The fact that Hillary won was surprising, but to label it an upset or to call her the “comeback kid” is lazy journalism at best and outright dishonest at worst (like her CNN interview this morning where she claimed that she was down by 15 points two days ago – not true holmes).


The race is wide open. If Obama goes on to win Nevada and South Carolina, then that will regenerate some of the momentum that he has “lost” from NH. I think that likely. But, after seeing yesterday’s outcome, I have a strong feeling we won’t be seeing an end to this race any time soon.

That being said, I’d like to thank Gravel and Richardson. Great knowing you. Now please go away. Edwards – It’s VP time.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Awaiting NH results eagerly. Expecting an Obama win amidst news that Hillary is considering giving up on both South Carolina and Nevada - which would undoubtedly be huge and probably spell the end of her candidacy (the Guiliani strategy isn't for winners).

Anyway, thought I'd put up a link to this article which I find quite interesting in that it not only supports my point that the Militia Support (i.e. buying off the enemy) Strategy in Iraq is the reason why the "surge has worked" but it also supports my argument that this strategy is likely to lead to a bloodier and more dangerous civil war "ahorita" as we say down here.

(Ahorita: at some point in the undefinable future. Used like this: "When are you going to clean the dishes?" "Ahorita.").

I also like the ego gratification of being proven right 1 out of a 100 times or so.

Cheers and happy voting.


Friday, January 04, 2008

I love this

John McCain is a "winner" in Iowa but he just got beat by a guy who said he doesn't actually want to be president and it about 190,000 years old.

Only the punditry could spin that as a win.


Hillary Goes Negative

It's crap like this that really turns me off to Hillary Clinton:

"We can't have false hopes. We've got to have a person who can walk into that Oval office on day one and start doing the hard work that it takes to deliver change," she said.

Yeah, because anything that other guy says is a "false hope". Let us all stand witness to electoral suicide as Hillary turns to desperation.


A Huge Win


He didn't just beat Clinton and Edwards. In a seemingly close contest, he destroyed them. I have yet to read the day's analysis so the following thoughts are my own (with some help from CNN's coverage last night).

The Race Factor

As was said repeatedly on CNN last night, the fact that a black man could beat out Edwards by 8 points and Clinton by 9 in a 97% white state says good things about America and about his chances. The going theory has been that blacks (in the south) have been reluctant to support Obama because they don't know if he can win the general election. I'd say that fear has been resoundedly put down. A trouncing on this magnitude should mean a significant bounce for Obama's black support and that means very good things for South Carolina (to start).

The Independent Factor

Last night's results also show that Hillary Clinton is just as polarizing as everyone expected (at least in Iowa). She pulled her support primarily from older, core democrats while Obama tapped into the under 30 crowd and, notably, won about 60% of the independents and even pulled moderate republicans. In a race in which "healing the nation" from partisanship is becoming an increasingly popular theme, this is very bad news for Clinton.

The speeches

Edwards came first. He gave a fiery, combative speech that I found extremely effective. It was so strong I was concerned that Obama wouldn't top it. I shouldn't have worried.

Clinton's speech was a sad, emotionless, stump speech that had Bill looking defeated (although the crazy looking, shifty eyed guy behind her seemed to like it). In fact, after seeing that speech, I really have to wonder if she can mount any challenge after this. She looked D-O-N-E and this was only one state. Now, maybe she was just tired and disappointed. Who knows. But defeat was written across her face and she said nothing even remotely inspiring.

Obama's speech, on the other hand, was empassioned and brought forth memories of MLK (CNN's comparison that I'm adopting). It was a moving speech, although not particularly substantive (none of them are at this point). What I thought most telling between the two, however, was that Obama has cadence, a natural sense of when to pause for applause, and fed off the crowd. Hillary's speech looked like she had dinner reservations and needed to hurry. I know that it has been said often that Obama is the better speaker (and Hillary the better debater) but I had never seen such a vast difference between the two until last night. Obama made Hillary look like a first time speaker. Watch for yourself, I think it's more than worth it (and I don't often make such a claim so you should immediately click the link and watch the damn video!).

Big Picture

A very smart gentleman on CNN's staff (John something) made what was, without a doubt, the smartest comment of the night. He stated that to win an election there are essentially tactics and strategy. Tactics refers to things like Get Out The Vote while strategy refers to speech giving, advertisements, and message. Hillary's campaign, up until now, has largely been based on tactics while Obama has been based on strategy. Last night, Obama absolutely trounced Hillary on the tactics as well as the strategy (the legions of young voters that are "unreliable" but actually turned out, for example). The question then is where does this leave Hillary? She's already losing the strategic/message based fight (she's running on experience which Iowa voters largely ignored as a selection factor) and she just got outfoxed on the tactics. In other words, from a meta-strategic level, she's in trouble.

More than that though, both Edwards and Obama (and Huckabee, to be fair) made the very clear point that Iowa decided that it was time for fresh faces. The repudiation of Hillary was a clear spanking because, as David Gergan said, 70% of the participants in the Democratic primary voted against her core of strength of experience. Or, to put it the other way, 70% of voters preferred a fresh face with fresh ideas over someone steeped in Washington for the last 15 years. This trend carried forth over on the GOP side as well to some extend and it appears to be a national trend. This bodes well for Obama.

What is next

It's incredibly difficult to predict what will happen in New Hampshire as the people there have an almost obsessive desire to be more "independent" than the rest of the nation. However, the short time between the two elections (5 days) and the natural bump that Obama will get from Iowa may propel him forward. This is sheer speculation, but if he wins NH, that could very well be the end of the Clinton candidacy. Her entire campaign up to this point has been based on two factors: she's "more" experienced and she's the inevitable winner. Both of those ideas were severely injured last night. A second consecutive win for Obama would probably ruin whatever hopes she has. (And rightfully so. They were stupid things to base a campaign on.)

As to Edwards, I've never believed he had much of a shot and last night somewhat bolsters my claim. He had invested heavily in Iowa, moreso than any other candidate and he didn't win. If he hopes to have any chance, he's got to place in the top-2 in NH and then hope to win SC. I don't see that happening. Maybe he'll be the VP.


You know, if he wasn't so apeshit crazy, I'd be a bit worried. Because he is just a down home country as Bill Clinton and George Bush. But, he's crazier than shit and that will ruin him if he gets the nomination (he stands by his belief that AIDS can be transmitted in the air, for example).

That being said, last night was a disaster for Romney. He had to win and didn't. If he loses again, well, it won't be good for his chances.

Pundits are going to talk an awful lot about Huckabee and the rest in the next few days but I'm going to mostly ignore it. I expect McCain to win NH but that doesn't mean much. The guy is 71 and is starting to look like the Emperor from Star Wars and won't even answer the question if he would be able to serve 8 years as president. Guiliani has adopted what can only be described as Jack Nicholson's laugh from the Shining and he will soon be out of the race (it's not a good thing when the more people get to know you, the less they like you). Fred Thompson is already trying to get back on Law and Order. In the end, the GOP needs Romney because he's the only guy that doesn't have a foot in the grave, isn't an alien, or isn't apeshit crazy...even if he is the worst flip-flopper in recent memory.

At any rate, the GOP is going to lose the next election so my interest in their candidates has yet to really pick up.


It was a very good night for America. As a whole, the state of Iowa said that they want change and reconciliation in Washington (as generic and stupid as that sounds, it is true) and I believe that no matter who wins the election, that message will be a resonating theme across the political spectrum which might actually help some good things happen (like health care for everyone).

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Obama won the women vote in Iowa as well which was always considered Hillary's Ace in the Hole.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Back from Holiday and its election time

Not much to report about the holidays aside from the obvious: Colombia is an incredibly beautiful country and if it weren't for an SOB group of scallywags, I would see much, much more of it.

Anyway, tonight is the first step for the presidency. In an incredibly undemocratic, group-thinky process, about 80,000 - 100,000 Iowans are going to set the tone for the Democratic nomination process. Tonight's winner will have all the momentum in the world.

I've made no secret my preference for Barack Obama and I'm sticking by him, warts and all. There are a lot of reasons for that (he's progressive but appeals to moderates on the right and independents as well) but more than any is that he's black. It's something that isn't talked about in the press, but I think, having lived out of the US for quite some time now (the better part of 4 years), that race is an ongoing and enduring factor in the US. The election of a black president, I believe, could make a difference in changing the tone of race relations in the country and for the better.

Maybe it's wishful thinking. Or maybe there is a whole host of other criticism that could be leveled against me for that thought. Ultimately, I don't give a damn. This election has the potential to be historically significant and while I would love to see a woman president (cause you know, great liberal democracies like Pakistan have had women presidents already and we, uh, haven't progressed that far), I think it would be far more historically significant to have a black president.

I accept all criticism that that position invites. But in a selection process which offers 3 candidates that are, for the most part, equal on the issues (minor policy differences aside), and in which a great percentage of people aren't buying the "I'm more experienced" vs. "I'm post-partisan" tripe that is being touted by the big 2, I think this is as good a decision maker as any.

(Note: I would support any of the big 3 in the general election without hesitation. But for the primary, my favorites are, in order: Obama, Edwards, Clinton.)

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