Sunday, September 14, 2008

Obama...not Osama

Why Obama

1. He understands that complex problems like global terrorism demand nuanced, thoughtful and comprehensive solutions, not cowboy rhetoric, lies, torture, unilateralism and military occupations funded by foreign debt.

2. He will invest in healthcare and education by reversing the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 and by closing tax loopholes for corporations. Also, by cutting military spending and getting us out of Iraq. We used to call this fiscal conservatism. Even Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial cuts.

3. He has raised most of his money from small individual donations, not from lobbyists and wealthy donors. He is much more likely to make independent decisions free from special interests -- unlike McCain, who has 7 former lobbyists in top advisory positions in his campaign. Obama was smart to opt out of public financing, because he can raise more money on his own, which he will need to fight back all the Republican lies and smears.

4. He has been a leader in the Senate for increased veterans benefits, while McCain has consistently opposed them.

5. His platform represents a real change from the policy of the past 28 years. We've now had the luxury of enjoying nearly 30 straight years of the Republican revolution (Clinton implemented welfare-to-work, NAFTA, and signed banking de-regulation -- he was easily the most conservative democratic president of the 20th century), and our country is poorer, less educated, less healthy and has more people in jail than the rest of the western world. I think it's high time we let go of the myth that government has no role to play in helping to promote the public good. Unfettered, unregulated free markets have been a huge boon to those who are already powerful and wealthy, and who then use their power to take advantage of the little Enron and the mortgage crisis. If supply-side economics worked, we would have seen its benefits by now.

6. Obama is pro-choice.

7. Obama will promote the development of alternative energy, McCain has consistently voted against all legislation to promote alternative energy.

8. Obama has an experienced running mate, who complements his candidacy. McCain has an inexperienced running mate who has repeatedly lied about her experience as a reformer. Did you hear she charged the state of Alaska per diem charges for 300 nights she spent staying in her own house? And, she promoted the "bridge to nowhere" as part of her campaign for Governor. She only said "thanks, but no thanks" after the Alaska legislature voted to de-fund it and then she went ahead and took the earmark for the bridge and spent it on other pet projects. Reform? No, more of the same.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Country First

Dedication on first page of 2008 Republican Platform:

This platform is respectfully dedicated to our

“...heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life.”

America the Beautiful
Katharine Lee Bates

Of course we should honor those who gave their lives for our country, but why is it that Republicans always place love of country over love of self? Why can’t they be equal? In fact, if you truly cared about your self, your education, health and well-being – your pursuit of happiness – then wouldn’t that naturally manifest in a lovely country? Republicans suffer from a delusion: that they are maverick cowboys, free from the constraints of big government. Yet this romantic vision of the free spirited American runs in direct contradiction to ditto-head Republicanism that rallies around a narrowly defined set of Christian values and "love of country." To veer from this set of values, flag pins and church picnics - to truly be a maverick or an independent thinker - is not what they really want. That is just their myth. I think they just like the guns and cowboy hats. It really has very little to do with sacrifice, freedom or democracy, and is much more about a nationalism that prizes aggression, conformity and low taxes above all else.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Palin Effect

A socially liberal Republican friend of mine claims he is undecided between Obama and McCain, but is impressed with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the following reasons:
  1. She has more executive experience than Barack Obama or Joe Biden (or McCain, for that matter).

  2. She took on the corrupt Republican establishment that has run Alaska for 40 years and BEAT them. She has a record of reform and commitment to ethical standards. Has Obama ever criticized Chicago's corrupt Mayor Daley?

  3. She shows for the thousandth time that McCain is not a Bush clone.
My response: based on the comments of Anne Kilkenny, Palin's neighbor in Wasilla, Alaska, it seems that Palin practices the same brand of cronyism, bullying, and corruption that have been the hallmarks of Dick Cheney's tenure as VP. It is unfair to commend Palin for her commitment to ethical standards, and the jury is still out with respect to the investigation of her abuse of power in a state trooper firing. The revelations in this article in today’s New York Times do not bode well for Palin.

On Palin’s executive experience: she may have served in an executive capacity for more years than Obama, but Obama has executive experience in successfully managing a campaign organization of more than 2500 paid employees and hundreds of thousands of volunteers. He doesn't get to defend the US from Russia like Governor Palin :), but certainly his years as a State Senator, US Senator and Presidential Candidate are at least on par with the Governor who is in charge of a state with 647,000 citizens, about the size of Las Vegas. Also, if you look at the way Palin has acted as a Mayor and Governor, I would certainly not say that the content of her experience is commendable, although she has shown some admirable tendencies toward bi-partisanship, like McCain.

While a purely rational response to Palin will whiz past voters who make their election decisions primarily on emotions and personality, Frank Rich lays out his best argument against Palin, by showing how her selection reveals the worst characteristic of John McCain: his impulsiveness.

The Palin nomination has provoked a dramatic rise in Republican attacks on the “liberal media” as exemplified in this YouTube video. This is the worst aspect of Republican politics: whenever they are on the losing side of an argument, they make it personal, either through attack or through avoidance. In this video, a McCain advisor completely ignores the substance of a Time magazine reporter’s argument, which is that the American people need to learn what Sarah Palin knows about important issues. The Republican response is to ask, "Why should the American people want to hear her talk to someone like you?" Absurd. The record and personality of Sarah "Barracuda/Pit Bull" Palin is in lock-step with the Republican politics of personal destruction and belies any arguments that McCain/Palin is a reform ticket.

Whoever wins, we have to keep working to expose truth and hold our government accountable. Much of the visceral reaction we are having to Palin is psychological. We project so many of our deepest hopes and ideals on the President that it is hard to accept the fact that so many Americans seem to like Palin. She serves as a mirror of our own sub-conscious, but it is the shadow side of intolerance, bullying and self-righteousness that is manifest in both her persona and her public record. We certainly feel that the Obama/Biden ticket -- in tone, personality, policies and methodology -- is a much better reflection of our highest ideals for the nation. Even if it means, as it will for my Republican friend, crossing into the “dreaded” realm of a government that sometimes tries to help average citizens.
Two opposing views on Palin:

A sobering view of the Palin effect:
Sarah Palin: northern star injects new life into lumbering campaign

A more sanguine one:
The Palin charm is a tough sell in small towns

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Obama's Saddleback Advantage

In yesterday's candidate forum at Saddleback Chuch, McCain’s crisp, clear answers to Pastor Rick Warren’s excellent questions, reminded me of George Bush – not only in style but also in substance – especially, McCain’s belief that evil can be defeated. While such sure-headedness in a leader may give comfort, it should also give pause, because it was such simplistic, single-minded thinking that allowed Bush to declare his “war on terror” against an “axis of evil.” Based on such rhetoric, we launched the war in Iraq, the greatest foreign policy blunder in US history. I vastly prefer Senator Obama’s analytical and nuanced approach, which should allow us to revisit not only the decision to invade and occupy Iraq, but also the disastrous domestic and economic policies of the past 8 years.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Spiritual Advisor Politics

Recent opinion by Bob Herbert in The New York Times implies that in a decent world, Wright showing up and making his speeches this past week would have been a small paragraph on page 9. But, we live in a world where Republican smear tactics are the norm and blend in perfectly with a pornographic tableau of the entire culture. As long as media companies rely on the generation of fear, hysteria and disbelief in order to generate maximum revenue, it is unlikely that mainstream journalism will be able to ask the tough questions necessary to move past pornography. Even reputable journalists like MSNBC's Chris Matthews participated in the endless echo chamber of the Rev. Wright "controversy" last week.

There is hope in this opinion by Frank Rich, which suggests that Obama will be able to refute Rev. Wright-based swift-boat style attacks from Republicans. Herbert shows that while everyone is giving McCain a free pass and focused on Hillary's mad wind-up to defeat, McCain is vulnerable to associations with white televangelist Rev. John Hagee. And, McCain recently praised Jerry Falwell, whose kooky comments about the 9/11 attacks make Rev. Wright look normal.

I wonder if the Obama campaign will draw attention to the fact that Billy Graham spewed anti-Semitic comments and gave advise to Nixon, and yet even with this being in the public record, Hillary Clinton took solace in Graham's words during the Lewinsky scandal.

Obama should use all this -- exposing a double-standard and defusing Wright-inspired "swift-boat" style bombs being hurled by Clinton, Republicans and most mainstream media.

Monday, January 7, 2008

CDs Going the Way of the 8-Track

Reuters reports that album sales sank in 2007, dropping 15 percent. While Josh Groban's Noel and High School Musical 2 sold less than 4 million copies each (small compared to Usher's 8 million albums sold in 2004), overall music sales increased 14 percent with single digital music track sales surging 45 percent. Seems that fragmentation driven by digital distribution is bringing us back to the good old days of rock 'n roll when the 7" single ruled. What will it take to bring back "album rock"? The numbers indicate that younger music consumers may not appreciate the joys of listening to the same artist for 30+ minutes at a time. Or, musicians may be abandoning the form with their labels and producers pushing them toward a focus on the single.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Obama Leverages Word-of-Mouth

The lead article in Newsweek reveals that Barack Obama's win in Iowa is partly attributable to a strong reliance on traditional word-of-mouth. According to the article, Obama's campaign has been recruiting hairdressers in South Carolina and used high-school students in Iowa to help spread the word about Obama. He has also bucked conventional campaign wisdom and run an entirely positive campaign, never deigning to go negative on his opponents. While the low-tech methods have served him well, Obama's campaign has also leveraged Facebook, as shown by this graph:

Based on Obama's recent, convincing win in Iowa yesterday, a win leveraged largely on an unusually strong turn-out of pro-Obama voters under age 25, we can certainly conclude that not only is Obama's positive message a winning one, but that his ability to leverage both traditional and online social networking is undoubtedly one of the key drivers of his current success.