January 2008 Archives

Obama: the world's candidate

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The Moderate Voice highlighted a website called Watching America whose tagline is:

"Discover What the World Thinks About U.S.
With Translated Foreign News Available NOWHERE Else In English
"


Robin Koerner's post on The Moderate Voice reviews the world's fascination with Barack Obama and his symbolic importance.

The prospect of a black leader is engaging the world's media for some very important reasons.


First, the selection of a leader from an ethnic minority is extremely progressive prima facie.

Second, it would be all the more dramatic following a period of extreme liberal retreat and toothlessness.

Third, the choice faced by America has a special poignancy and self-defining importance by virtue of the brutality and deep cultural importance of the still-raw history that defines the place of African-Americans in the United States.

Fourth - and this is the reason that might be less obvious from the media rooms of these States but may be the most interesting - every open country faces its own huge questions around the integration and enfranchisement of its minorities, and have their own cultural groups which could not easily be imagined as providing a leader: this huge choice for America could, in a way, propel the developed world's bastion of conservatism, Bush's United States, to a beacon of progressive societal choice, which would, by its existence alone, shine a new light on racial issues particular to countries very far away, both geographically and politically. And for that reason, whether explicitly stated or not, the foreign press watch Obama's journey to the White House as closely as they've watched any.

The list of articles she points to come from Germany, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Canada and the UK.

Obama's speech - Yes We Can

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If you haven't seen Obama's speech after the New Hampshire primary, give yourself a treat and watch.


Part of me wants to say can we just make Obama chief speech-maker regardless of who wins the nomination? That's treating his import too lightly but what a delight to hear someone who sets out his vision and brings us into it.

Jim Sleeper has identified part of the appeal of Obama's speech in his TPMCafe post:

The preacherly cadences in Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech last night in Nashua deepened his two greatest symbolic promises: Domestically, he makes being an American beautiful again because, in him, it makes achievable what is still incredible to many -- a 400-year-old hope that we can untangle the race knot we've tied ourselves in since 1607. "It's not something he's doing," Dartmouth Professor Joseph Bafumi told the New York Times; "it's something he's being."

Internationally, therefore, Obama reminds multitudes of what has fascinated them about America - not just its wealth and power, which are trashy and brutal even when irresistible, but a folksy universalism that disposes Americans to say "Hi" to anyone rather than "Heil" to a leader, to give the other person a fair shot, and, out of that kind of strength, to take a shot at the moon.

Our wealth and power often subvert what's best in us. But because Obama knows human failings make that more complicated than either conservative moralism or leftist anti-capitalism alone could explain, his promise runs deeper than the poetry of campaigning.

[...]

Obama says "Yes we can," arguing that the movement his campaign is building will sustain him as president against countervailing powers...His campaign confirms many Americans' yearning to believe again that, unlike that of almost any other nation in history, the national identity of the United States was founded not on myths of primordial kinship, of "blood and soil," but on a more universal experiment that enjoins all Americans, "by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government through reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force," as Alexander Hamilton put it.


Yes We Can. Simple words for a candidate who brings the promise of so much more.

UPDATE: H/T to Populista for this excerpt of the speech transcript.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea

- Yes. We. Can.

Items of Interest

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-- Here's John Dickerson at Slate looking at two rallies, one for Obama, one for Clinton at the same High School gym on two successive days ... H/T to TPM


-- Diarist 'Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse' put up a remarkable diary, Telecom Immunity Gives Bush Immunity. It's lengthy but worth the time. It's nice when the legal types "peel the onion" in plain English.

My judicial clerkship with state supremes taught me that arguments are a little like onions: Sometimes you need to peel away the surface claims to uncover the real issues.

Bush argues that retroactive immunity is imperative to protect the telecoms from financial ruin from lawsuits and to avoid unfairly punishing patriotic telecoms which cooperated after receiving assurances of lawfulness. Neither of these grounds is presently an issue facing the telecoms. The law already immunizes telecoms and if financial ruin becomes an issue, there are remedies which have been used in the past which do not involve retroactive immunity. In fact, there is no political or legislative precedent for retroactive immunity under these circumstances.

If the telecoms do not actually need immunity at this time to address issues that presently do not exist, what is Bush's real motive for pushing retroactive immunity now? The answer lies in what may happen to Bush if the telecoms are not provided immunity now: The courts may review evidence showing that Bush acted illegally. Telecom immunity would provide grounds to dismiss the lawsuits to prevent the disclosure of this evidence. However, if the telecom immunity clause only provided immunity to telecoms, then Bush would not be protected from other forums --- like independent media, prosecutors and Congress --- that could investigate his domestic surveillance programs.

Coincidentally, the telecom immunity clause is structured to also provide retroactive immunity to Bush.

-- I disagreed with a post (actually the title of the post) that Booman put up last week but I have to say in all fairness that he's a little closer with this one:

          The Blogosphere and the Obama Surge

-- I can't say I've monitored reports about the relationship between the media and the military all that closely but I ran across this article yesterday. I found Sec. Gates' comment in it quite interesting.

"The press is not the enemy," Mr. Gates tells military audiences, including at the service academies, "and to treat it as such is self-defeating."

Channeling

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Channeling. Mahablog does it again. BTW, Vegetable is also known as David Brooks. Looks like he eventually found his way to the right parking lot. At any rate, Mahablog sets him straight on his column today:

Because, dear Vegetable, it's not about ideology.

For the past several years, "bipartisan" has meant "agreeing with Republicans," with Republican defined as "an ideologically blinkered whackjob who takes marching orders from Richard Mellon Scaife and who would sell out the Constitution in an eyeblink for the sake of more power and some tax cuts." And the effect on America -- nay, the world -- of this "bipartisanship" has been devastating.

Now bobbleheads like the Vegetable are trying to redefine "bipartisan" as a requirement that right-wing ideology must be honored and included in all policy decisions, even though a majority of the American people are rejecting it wholesale. And we must do this because, you know, it's nice. It's like when you were seven and your mother made you share your toys with Cousin Maggie even after she deliberately popped the heads off all your Ken dolls.

Brooks's idea is that, out of some sense of etiquette, politics and policies coming out of Washington must honor some ideological mean. Obama's idea is that government ought to be responding to what a majority of Americans want it to do.

To me, that's always been the foundation of progressivism -- government that genuinely responds to the will of We, the People. It's not about loyalty to a menu of policies like cutting or raising taxes or growing or shrinking government. If We, the People, genuinely want to starve government of tax revenues so it can be drowned in a bathtub, fine. If the majority really want our domestic needs ignored for the sake of becoming an unstoppable imperialist might, then so be it. [...]

But just as his appeal is not about ideology, it's also not about policy. It's about democracy that's not in name only. As Digby wrote the other day,

When people say they want change it's not because they are tired of "partisan bickering" (which basically consists of derisive Republican laughter.) They're sick of a government that does exactly the opposite of what they want it to do.

The experience of the past several years is that Republicans expect to be congratulated for making government do the exact opposite of what you want it to do. Democrats may express regret for it, but government still does the exact opposite of what you want it to do... why do we have to put up with the wingnuts and their failed policies at all? [...]

I suspect the Obama surge isn't about Obama. I think it's about long-growing, pent-up frustration with unresponsive government. Obama is becoming the rallying point for people who want real change, dammit, not promises and apologies.

Though I think the Obama surge has something to do with Obama, I think she's onto something there. People voted for change in November 2006. The message was not received very clearly in Washington, DC.

Just think of it as the people turning up the amplifier.

Today's the Day

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I've been thinking a lot about one of my friends the last few days. She's been an Obama supporter since the day she found out that he was thinking about running. I was with her when she got his autograph on her copy of his book at YearlyKos this summer and declared to everyone that we met afterwards her supreme happiness with life in general.

Well, Madame Defarge, I'm guessing that everyone around you since last Wednesday has been similarly greeted. And now that they're running out of ballots for the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire, I have the feeling that tomorrow we'll be scraping you off the bottom of the clouds in the sky.

Frank Luntz & Faux News Exposed

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Youtube blogger microspect has nailed the same actor being used twice in 2 different focus groups representing different views in polling for Fox News. Watch the video.




Go check out Microspect's About This Video info. Has some other interesting links. H/T to Jason43 at dkos

UPDATE: TPMMuckraker has an update with Frank Luntz's explanation of why the same guy appears twice.

Items of Interest

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-- Took a spin by RedState to see how they were looking at yesterday's primary and found this in my scrolling:

This is the most impressed damn thing I've ever seen in a political campaign. Holy Cow.


Don't think those are quite the words I'd use to describe it. And as for RedState's reaction to the Dem side of the primary, the main impact seems to be the addition of a photo atop their main column today showing the fiery crash of the Hindenburg with the text: Congrats Obama! So much for Hilary's inevitability

-- Charles Peters, the founder of the Washington Monthly, has an op-ed at the Washington Post:

People who complain that Barack Obama lacks experience must be unaware of his legislative achievements. One reason these accomplishments are unfamiliar is that the media have not devoted enough attention to Obama's bills and the effort required to pass them, ignoring impressive, hard evidence of his character and ability.

Since most of Obama's legislation was enacted in Illinois, most of the evidence is found there -- and it has been largely ignored by the media in a kind of Washington snobbery that assumes state legislatures are not to be taken seriously.

-- Kevin Drum adds his two cents about Obama's skill as a legislator. The update from Archpundit is interesting.

-- Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger report also comments on the Washington Monthly editor's op-ed about Obama's legislative skills, Archpundit's comment and adds in this link to an Obsidian Wings post by Hilzoy written over a year ago about Obama's achievements in the Senate.

-- Mahablog's characterization of "Bwana Broder's" latest comment is priceless:

Populism clearly is distressing to Bwana. How he longs for the days when well-bred aristocrats in powdered wigs and satin coats gathered in tastefully decorated drawing rooms to make decisions on behalf of the simple peasants.

Goodbye Andy Olmsted

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olmsted
It's amazing how close you can feel to people you've never met in person, people you've come to know through bits and bytes on a computer screen.

Major Andy Olmsted, one of the first 3 US soldiers killed in Iraq in 2008 and a blogger at Obsidian Wings, took the time to write a good-bye message to his blogging friends. Go read... after you locate the box of kleenex.

My deepest condolences to Major Olmsted's family and friends, his army buddies and his blogging community.

---

Update: Found this photo and a really nice article about Major Olmsted at the Rocky Mountain News blog.

Action Item

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I hate it when people re-write history to suit their agenda, much less try to legislate it.

Troutfishing raises the alert at dkos. Please go read, follow the links and then take the action.

Free Fouad

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Saudi Arabia's best-known blogger has been detained by the Saudi government. The Christian Science Monitor reports that "Farhan told The Washington Post and others in early December that an Interior Ministry official had warned him that he would be detained because of his online support for a group of men arrested in February and held without charge or trial."

Naturally his blog is written in Arabic but given the attention being drawn to his plight, his friends have developed a widget that translates some of his words into English for non-Arabic speakers to embed in their blogs.

A Challenge for the Washington Post and the New York Times

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It's time for them to step up to the plate and put their journalistic muscle to work proclaiming the accurate facts about Barack Obama.

This incident should not have happened.

Mark Halperin has posted a press pool report that recounts a scene in Iowa today where Barack Obama faced still more questions about his religion from voters who have no idea that he's a Christian:


He reached over the counter and shook hands with workers at the Subway sandwich shop.

Zanata Moore-El asked Obama if he was an atheist.

"I'm a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ," Obama replied. "Don't read e-mails."

E-mails have circulated in recent weeks saying Obama is a Muslim or an atheist or took his oath of office on a Quran instead of a bible, none of which his true.

"I hated having to ask him that," Moore-El said. "But I heard he was like an atheist. I don't want a president who's an atheist. I'm a firm believer in God. I just really wanted to make sure because I really wanted to vote for him and he has some good topics and everything."

Just to hit this point again, this sort of stuff reminds us just how much is at stake -- and how much may be at stake again soon -- when we do things like demand that The Washington Post state firmly and unequivocally that rumors of Obama's Muslim past are false.

This could only get more pressing, not less. A recent poll found that more than 80% of Americans don't know that Obama is a Christian. If Obama becomes the Dem nominee you can bet that the rumors of his shadowy Muslim past will ratchet up a thousand fold. And if you don't think that this sort of thing can make a difference in a general election, you're kidding yourself.

As Greg Sargent noted "if one big news org's report aggressively call the rumors out as false, another report will follow suit, and another, and another, and so on. And just maybe we might end up with an electorate that's at least a tad informed on the question."

Here's a challenge to the Washington Post and the New York Times and the other influential news organizations of our country to step up to the plate and set the record straight in unequivocal terms.

More on Iowa

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-- The Group News Blog has a very interesting perspective on the vote results.

iowaresults



-- NY Times flubs up again... though they did try to clean up the act. How is it they can reduce the Obama victory to a 'win over racism'? I think Miss Laura got it right: "I'm not sure who that insults more, Obama, the people of Iowa, or the readers of the New York Times."

-- This looks really promising:

Youth Vote in Iowa Triples: Young Voters Prove the Naysayers Wrong

...According to estimates by CIRCLE (pdf) youth vote turnout at the caucus tripled tonight, rising from 4% to 11%. Within the Democratic caucus, over 46,000 young people participated, and young voters comprised 22% of all caucus-goers. According to entrance polls by CNN, 57% of those 17-29 year old caucus goers stood up to caucus for Barack Obama. Tonight, they drove his campaign to victory.

The numbers themselves were larger than expected, especially considering the early caucus date during winter break for most colleges. But no one who has been paying attention to young voters in the past four years should be surprised that young Iowans played such a significant role in tonight's caucus.


-- I think Markos said it well last night:

I have to admit a bit of sentimentality. I loved all the speeches tonight -- from Edwards', to Clintons', to Obama's. I'm proud of my party. I'm hopeful for the future.

In a week, I may get cynical again as a few lonesome Democrats, led by Chris Dodd, fight another impossible battle against a terrible FISA bill. We'll see Harry Reid, the rest of our party's leadership, and many Democrats with them sell out key progressive principles out of terror that Mr. 24% will say "boo!" They'll sell out our troops in Iraq, lard up on pork, and forget the promises that gave them their Congressional majorities in the first place. What do they care? Republicans are so pathetic, that even an ineffective Democratic Party will run roughshod over them.

Sigh. The cynicism will return.

But tonight, seeing what transpired in Iowa, I can't help but be hopeful for our party's long-term future. The youth vote is turning out big, and turning out for us. Independents have had enough of Republicans and are trending our way. The center is moving leftward for the first time in a generation.

This was never a short-term project. It's always been a long-term challenge. And we'll have many disappointments along the way. But tonight, I got a glimpse of the promised land, and it's a place I want to reach.

Obama - Maybe I can hope now

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Barack Obama won in Iowa last night.



I'm so relieved. I've wanted him to do well but a part of me has been hesitant to jump in with both feet. I did so with John Kerry in 2004. It took me a long time to recover from the hurt of his defeat (which may not have been so much a defeat as a theft).

Now here we go again. But the US needs a change so desperately. We need to restore the rule of law in our country. We need to restore our government, our diplomacy, our economy, our care for the people of the United States of America.

That's a tall order.

That's what is needed though and whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee, Obama, Edwards or Clinton, I will not be unhappy. The Democratic candidate field is so impressive this year. And I do want to give a nod to Senators Dodd and Biden who added to the depth of the field though they've now withdrawn from the race.

Well, it's onto New Hampshire and then the rest of the primaries. And may all of us in the US be the real winners this time.

Return of the SBVT Liars

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Faith at KerryVision has a good post today that builds on the article just published by The Nation, "Return of the Swift Boaters".

As she points out...

So, it was never about Kerry. And the question remains: Have we learned the lessons of 2004, or are we going to let fear and smear put another Swift Boat Liar-funded incompetent in the White House?

Whenever you see a John McCain or Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani TV ad, campaign sign or bumper sticker, just remember that money's coming from rich Republicans with a history of lies and deceit, and not 'the other side of the story'.

KV's video clip of testimony of Sam Fox answering Senator Kerry's question during his ambassadorial hearing in the Senate is particularly interesting.

Items of Interest

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-- George Orwell must be spinning in his grave. The TSA has now implemented another of the practices that Orwell predicted. Are you ready for facecrimes?

Via webranding at dailykos

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners are learning to recognize a special set of forbidden facial expressions. If your face slips into one of these during a TSA inspection, you will be taken aside and given a more detailed screening...

Let me quote from George Orwell's, Nineteen Eighty-Four (Part 1, Chapter 5):

He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself--anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.

-- The Army's Other Crisis - TeacherKen has an excellent diary on "The Army's Other Crisis", a lengthy and worthwhile article published by the Washington Monthly, subtitled "Why the best and brightest young officers are leaving".

If you only have time for the short version, check out TeacherKen's diary. But it is worth it to read Andrew Tilghman's entire piece.

-- Have time for a chuckle? You can't go wrong watching Josh Marshall announce TPMtv's First Golden Duke Awards.

The Economy in One Picture

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I found this graph to say more about the US economy and the welfare of the average citizen than anything I've seen in a long time.




What's the basis for the figures? AfferentInput crunched the latest numbers income distribution from the CBO per this post which has a very straightforward explanation of what he did. [H/T to Jamess at dkos for the original graph and his reference to Mike Caulfield at Blue Hampshire for his post which is also worth reading.]


Take another look at the Y-axis. That's -30 on the bottom.

Afferentinput has a newer post up in which he comments:

My previous posts focused on change in share of income over time. Those posts showed that the highest 5% of income earners have greatly increased their share of total income, whereas the bottom 90% has actually decreased in share of income. That's a bit meta, given that it doesn't take into account overall increases in total income. I decided to create some new figures that just focus on income.

Some notes about what I did, first. I used the data that the CBO released last week. I used after-tax income; this is important because it is a more conservative assessment of income. If I used pre-tax income, the differences I show below would be even more exaggerated. In addition, given that some groups don't pay any federal income taxes, I felt it was probably better to use after-tax income so that we're comparing apples to apples. The data came from page 1C in their spreadsheet.

He goes onto give more detail about his analysis and then provides this chart which is equally interesting, IMO.

The fig below shows percent change in income since 1979 adjusted for inflation. As you can see, every group is making more money now than they did in 1979. Yet some groups are doing a little bit better than others.


incomegrowth

Do check out his other related posts.

The widening divide

If America had $100 and 100 people...

More on Income Inequality

Change in income over time

USAF's Cyberspace Command

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This headline from Washington Technology, an IT Contractors news site, caught my eye: USAF wants to build Cyber Control System. What does that mean? The article describes it as "a command and control system that would support defensive and offensive operations in the event of an all-out attack on the country's information infrastructure."

Cyber forces "must be capable of producing real-time analysis and developing courses of action in shorter periods of time in order to execute selected [courses of action] and assess the impacts of their actions...before any potential adversary has time to react," the document states.

Like traditional command and control systems, the Cyber Control System would generate various products, including tasking orders, battle damage assessments and incident reports.

The Air Force is in the process of building a Cyberspace Command under the jurisdiction of the 8th Air Force, with plans to formally establish it in 2008.

I'm sure others more expert than I will be wondering just what impact this will have on our civilian version and on things like a citizen's right to privacy which is already under such heavy assault.

Paging the EFF and whoever else would monitor something like this. How about Congress? Would that we had a Congress that actually did investigate and then shut down actions which are clearly against the peoples' will.

Happy New Year

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IMG00025

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