sábado, 26 de julho de 2008

Obama and MLK

Photos of Barack in Berlin and Middle East


Nas on Colbert Report re Racism on Fox

Fox petition delivered

On Wednesday, Fox got a taste of what can happen when folks who care about racial justice come together and push back. The seconds you took to sign the Fox petition helped create a major story in the mainstream media. Here's how it unfolded on Wednesday:

1:00 p.m. Your signature was printed off at a New York City Kinko's along with 620,126 others--filling 19 big boxes.

2:00 p.m. The signatures were piled in front of Fox's national headquarters at 6th Avenue and 48th Street.

3:15 p.m. Hip hop star Nas (whose new album had just risen to #1 on the Billboard charts hours earlier) joined over 100 ColorOfChange.org members and delivered the petitions to Fox on behalf of ColorOfChange, MoveOn, and Brave New Films.

3:30 p.m. Fox refused to accept the petitions. (Sometimes, the truth hurts.)

4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. News of Fox's racism and the star-studded petition delivery made its way around the world--with stories in Vibe, Rolling Stone, Billboard, USA Today, Associated Press, Reuters, Bossip, Huffington Post, MTV, OpenLeft, and over 200 other places.

11:30 p.m. Stephen Colbert welcomed Nas as his guest on the Colbert Report and dedicated over half of his show to Fox's racism. The boxes containing our signatures were stacked prominently on Colbert's set in place of his normal interview table and chairs--and he conducted the entire interview surrounded by petitions! Then, Nas performed his new song "Sly Fox," which is all about Fox's racism.

Since then, our poweful message to Fox keeps spreading, and they're sounding desperate. True to form, Fox responded with a racially insensitive statement comparing our partner MoveOn to the Klan -- yes, the KKK! It's outrageous -- comparing an organization that works everyday to engage citizens in politcs to a hate group that hunted and murdered Black people in a reign of terror. It's another example of how far Fox will go, but it also shows that they can't address the real issue -- their racist attacks -- because they have no defense.

But the fight's not over. This week, we changed the conversation about Fox and we'll keep bringing the heat -- watch for a message for us in about a week for next steps. But for now, enjoy the video of Wednesday's petition delivery and the video of Colbert. Both videos are at this link:


Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, Clarissa, Andre, Kai, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
July 26th, 2008

P.S. You can listen to Nas's new single "Sly Fox" on the Colbert video at the link above. If you like it and want to buy the full album, it's available here:


Help support our work. ColorOfChange.org is powered by YOU--your energy and dollars. We take no money from lobbyists or corporations and our tiny staff ensures your contributions go a long way. You can contribute here:


quinta-feira, 24 de julho de 2008

"These now are the walls we must tear down" - Obama's Berlin speech

Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.
I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.
I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.
That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.
Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.
On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.
This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.
The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.
And that's when the airlift began - when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.
The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.
But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. "There is only one possibility," he said. "For us to stand together united until this battle is won...The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty...People of the world, look at Berlin!"
People of the world - look at Berlin!
Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.
Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.
Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.
People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.
Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.
The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.
The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.
As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.
Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.
In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.
In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth - that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.
Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.
That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.
So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.
That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations - and all nations - must summon that spirit anew.
This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.
This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.
This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.
This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.
This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.
This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.
And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust - not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.
Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?
Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?
Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?
People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.
I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.
But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.
Those are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. Those aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of those aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of those aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of those aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on history.
People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world.

quarta-feira, 16 de julho de 2008

Race poll shows disparate views

Published: July 16, 2008
Blacks and whites hold vastly different views of Senator Barack Obama and the state of race relations, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

terça-feira, 15 de julho de 2008

What's so funny about Obama?

International Herald Tribune
Want Obama in a punch line? First, find a joke
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What's so funny about Barack Obama? Apparently not very much, at least not yet.

On Monday, The New Yorker magazine tried dipping its toe into broad satire involving Senator Obama with a cover image depicting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and his wife, Michelle, as fist-bumping, flag-burning, bin Laden-loving terrorists in the Oval Office. The response from both Democrats and Republicans was explosive.

Comedy has been no easier for the phalanx of late-night television hosts who depend on skewering political leaders for a healthy quotient of their nightly monologues. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and others have delivered a nightly stream of jokes about the Republican running for president — each one a variant on the same theme: John McCain is old.

But there has been little humor about Obama: about his age, his speaking ability, his intelligence, his family, his physique. And within a late-night landscape dominated by white hosts, white writers, and overwhelmingly white audiences, there has been almost none about his race.

"We're doing jokes about people in his orbit, not really about him," said Mike Sweeney, the head writer for O'Brien on "Late Night." The jokes will come, representatives of the late-night shows said, when Obama does or says something that defines him — in comedy terms.

"We're carrion birds," said Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on the Comedy Central channel. "We're sitting up there saying 'Does he seem weak? Is he dehydrated yet? Let's attack.' "

But so far, no true punch lines have landed.

Why? The reason cited by most of those involved in the shows is that a fundamental factor is so far missing in Obama: There is no comedic "take" on him, nothing easy to turn to for an easy laugh, like allegations of Bill Clinton's womanizing, or President George W. Bush's goofy bumbling or Al Gore's robotic persona.

"The thing is, he's not buffoonish in any way," said Mike Barry, who started writing political jokes for Johnny Carson's monologues in the waning days of the Johnson administration and has lambasted every presidential candidate since, most recently for Letterman. "He's not a comical figure," Barry said.

Jokes have been made about what Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton really thought about Obama during the primaries, and about the vulgar comments the Rev. Jesse Jackson made about him last week. But anything approaching a joke about Obama himself has fallen flat.

When Stewart on "The Daily Show" recently tried to joke about Obama changing his position on campaign financing, for instance, he met with such obvious resistance from the audience, he said, "You know, you're allowed to laugh at him." Stewart said in a telephone interview on Monday, "People have a tendency to react as far as their ideology allows them."

Despite audience resistance, Stewart contended, his show had been able to develop a distinctive angle on Obama.

Noting that the senator seems to emphasize the historic nature of his quest, Stewart said, "So far, our take is that he's positioning himself to be on a coin."

There is no doubt, several representatives of the late-night shows said, that so far their audiences (and at least some of the shows' writers) seem to be favorably disposed toward Obama, to a degree that perhaps leaves them more resistant to jokes about him than those about most previous candidates.

"A lot of people are excited about his candidacy," Sweeney said. "It's almost like: 'Hey, don't go after this guy. He's a fresh face; cut him some slack.' "

Justin Stangel, who is a head writer for "Late Show With David Letterman," disputed that, saying, "We always have to make jokes about everybody. We're not trying to lay off the new guy."

But Barry said, "I think some of us were maybe too quick to caricature Al Gore and John Kerry and there's maybe some reluctance to do the same thing to him."

Of course, the question of race is also mentioned as one reason Obama has proved to be so elusive a target for satire.

"Anything that has even a whiff of being racist, no one is going to laugh," said Rob Burnett, an executive producer for Letterman. "The audience is not going to allow anyone to do that."

The New Yorker faced a different kind of hostility with its cover this week, which the Obama campaign criticized harshly. A campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, said in a statement that "most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive — and we agree."

Asked about the cover at a news conference Monday, McCain said he thought it was "totally inappropriate, and frankly I understand if Senator Obama and his supporters would find it offensive."

The cover was drawn by Barry Blitt, who also contributes illustrations to The New York Times's Op-Ed page. David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, said in an e-mail message, "The cover takes a lot of distortions, lies, and misconceptions about the Obamas and puts a mirror up to them to show them for what they are.

"It's a lot like the spirit of what Stephen Colbert does — by exaggerating and mocking something, he shows its absurdity, and that is what satire is all about," Remnick continued.

Colbert said in a telephone interview that a running joke on his show has been that Obama is a "secret Muslim"; the New Yorker cover, he said, was consistent with that. "It's a completely valid satirical point to make — and it's perfectly valid for Obama not to like it," he said.

Colbert said he had been freer to poke fun at Obama than other late-night hosts because "my character on the show doesn't like him. I'm expected to be hostile to him."

Stewart, who is also an executive producer of "The Colbert Report," said the Obama campaign's reaction to the New Yorker cover seemed part of what is now almost a pro forma cycle in political campaigns. "Nothing can occur without the candidate responding," he said.

Bill Maher, who is host of a politically oriented late-night show on HBO, said, "If you can't do irony on the cover of The New Yorker, where can you do it?"

One issue that clearly has some impact on writing jokes about Obama is a consistency among the big late-night shows. Not only are all the hosts white, the vast majority of their audiences are white. "I think white audiences get a little self-conscious if race comes up," Sweeney of O'Brien's show said.

Things might be somewhat different if even one late-night host was black. Black comics are not having any trouble joking about Obama, said David Alan Grier, a comedian who, starting in October, will have a satirical news magazine show on Comedy Central, "Chocolate News."

"I tell jokes on stage about him," Grier said, reciting a few that would not ever get onto a network late-night show (nor into this newspaper).

But he said of the late-night hosts, "Those guys really can't go there. It's just like the gay comic can do gay material. It comes with the territory." Still, he said, he has no sympathy for the hosts. "No way. They've had 200 years of presidential jokes. It's our time."

Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the ABC late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live," said of Obama, "There's a weird reverse racism going on. You can't joke about him because he's half-white. It's silly. I think it's more a problem because he's so polished, he doesn't seem to have any flaws."

Maher said that being sensitive to Obama was in no way interfering with his commentary, though on HBO he has more freedom about content than other comedians. "There's been this question about whether he's black enough," Maher said. "I have this joke: What does he have to do? Dunk? He bowled a 37 — to me, that's black enough."

Kimmel said, "His ears should be the focus of the jokes."

Mostly the late-night shows seem to be in a similar position.

Burnett of the Letterman show said, "We can't manufacture a perception. If the perception isn't true, no one will laugh at it."

Sweeney said, "We're hoping he picks an idiot as vice president."

segunda-feira, 14 de julho de 2008

What they're bragging about

Message from the Obama campaign:

Video: Strategy update from David Plouffe
The McCain campaign is bragging that they are out-raising and out-spending us.

By collecting huge checks from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs, they raised more money than ever before in June. Combined with the Republican National Committee, they now have more than $95 million in cash on hand.

I recorded a short video in my office about what we are up against. Now is the time to step up and make your first donation to help us close the gap.

Please watch the video and make a donation of $25 now:


Together, we have already accomplished so much in this campaign. But we cannot take it for granted.

This grassroots movement won't just happen on its own. It's up to you to make it happen.



David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Hope deferred makes the heart sick...

...but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

According to Slate magazine, "USA Today leads with a poll that shows a majority of Americans across racial lines think race relations in the country will improve if Sen. Barack Obama becomes president. Black Americans are most optimistic as 65 percent think Obama's election would improve race relations, a feeling that is shared by 54 percent of whites. On the other hand, about a third of both blacks and whites said race relations would get worse if Obama loses."

domingo, 13 de julho de 2008

Freedom of expression or racism? Redux

Or, as Mike Allen's Politico Playbook puts it: Satire or Stupid?


The cover shows Barack and Michelle Obama fist-bumping in the Oval Office, he in a turban and she wearing jungle-camo pants and slinging an automatic weapon. A portrait of Osama bin Laden hangs over the mantle, with an American flag crackling in the fireplace.

Here's the description from the magazine's press release: 'On the cover of the July 21, 2008, issue of The New Yorker, in 'The Politics of Fear,' artist Barry Blitt satirizes the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama's campaign.'

Here's the description from ABC's Jake Tapper says on his 'Political Punch' blog: 'Michelle is in full revolutionary garb, an enormous afro making her look like a millennial Angela Davis.'

Obama chief strategist David Axelrod said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' that it was 'poorly executed' but not the focus of the campaign's attention.

On CNN's 'Reliable Sources,' Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune defended it as 'quite within the normal realms of journalism': 'It's just lampooning all the crazy ignorance out there.'

HUFFINGTON POST interviews New Yorker Editor David Remnick, who says: 'Obviously I wouldn't have run a cover just to get attention - I ran the cover because I thought it had something to say. What I think it does is hold up a mirror to the prejudice and dark imaginings about Barack Obama's - both Obamas' - past, and their politics. ... We've run many many satirical political covers. Ask the Bush administration how many.'

quinta-feira, 10 de julho de 2008

"Jackson and O'Reilly deserve an award"

Jackson's 'Crude' Remarks May Give Boost to Obama

By Jonathan D. Salant

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Reverend Jesse Jackson's derogatory comments about Barack Obama could provide a boost for the presumptive Democratic nominee, giving him an opportunity to win over some voters who have been skeptical of his candidacy.

Jackson was appearing on Fox News on July 6 when a microphone picked up his remark suggesting that Obama was ``talking down to black people'' in recent speeches at black churches, according to a tape of the comments played on Bill O'Reilly's show on the Fox News Channel.

He then said, referring to Obama, ``I want to cut his nuts off,'' according to the Fox News Web site. At the time, he was speaking to Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief medical officer of United Health Group Inc.

Jackson, 66, apologized for his remarks, telling CNN yesterday that they were ``crude.'' The comments may turn out to help Obama by emphasizing his call for personal responsibility, a favorite topic of Republicans, said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.

``It reinforces Obama's effort to present himself as an advocate of responsible personal behavior, a position that Republican candidates like to secure as uniquely their own,'' Rozell said.

The Illinois senator, who in August stands to be the first minority candidate to be nominated for president by a major political party, spent Father's Day last month at one of Chicago's largest black churches telling the audience that they should set better examples for their children and shouldn't abandon them.

`Any Fool'

``Any fool can have a child. That doesn't make you a father,'' Obama, 46, said at the Apostolic Church of God, which has more than 20,000 members. ``Too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes.''

Jackson's comments help Obama in other ways as well, said Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University in Ames.

``This helps Obama make the case that he is not a `black' leader but just a Democratic candidate for president,'' Schmidt said. ``Cynics are asking if Jackson made this comment on purpose to help Obama.''

Jackson, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, said he didn't know the microphone was on when he commented on Obama's speeches.

`I Offer Apologies'

``Anything I said in a hot-mic statement that's interpreted as a distraction, I offer apologies for that,'' Jackson said at a news conference yesterday after his remarks became public.

``I have supported Barack's campaign with passion from the very beginning. I thought the very idea made sense,'' Jackson said. ``We've been there all the way, because I think this campaign is a redemptive moment for America and a great opportunity to redefine America.''

Jackson told CNN that his criticism about Obama was that he ``comes down as speaking down to black people.'' He said Obama should also be talking in the black community about issues like health care, jobs and justice.

``That's a range of issues on the menu,'' he said. ``Then I said something I regret was crude.''

Jackson's comments were criticized by his son, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat and a national co-chairman of Obama's presidential campaign.

``I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric,'' the lawmaker said in a statement. ``He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.''

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Obama ``will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Reverend Jackson's apology.''

He should do more than just forgive Jackson, said David Schultz, a professor in the graduate school of management at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

``Obama should give Jackson and O'Reilly an award for helping his campaign with white voters,'' Schultz said.

Why I still support Obama...

...though I've given up any hopes of an invitation to his inaugural ball

Op-Ed Columnist
The Audacity of Listening
Published: July 10, 2008
If you look at the political fights Barack Obama’s picked throughout his political career, the main theme is not any ideology. It’s that he hates stupidity. [emphasis mine]

quarta-feira, 9 de julho de 2008

Jesse Jackson says Obama "talking down" to blacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson complained on Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama can seem to be "talking down to black people" at times and should broaden his message.

But Jackson apologized for a disparaging remark about Obama at the weekend while he was speaking into an open microphone that he thought had been turned off and which CNN said was too crude to broadcast.

Jackson, talking to CNN on Wednesday, said Obama has given what amounts to "lectures" at African-American churches.

"I said it can come off as speaking down to black people. The moral message must be a much broader message. What we need really is racial justice and urban policy and jobs and health care. There is a range of issues on the menu," said Jackson, who was an acolyte of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama would be America's first black president if elected on November 4 over Republican John McCain. Jackson ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and lost.

Jackson told CNN the remark he apologized for was "a sound bite within a broader conversation about urban policy and racial disparities. And I feel very distressed because I'm supportive of this campaign and with what the senator has done and is doing."

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said the candidate accepted Jackson's apology. "(Obama) will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Reverend Jackson's apology," Burton said.

Jackson made the remark after an interview with Fox TV.

"I was in a conversation with a fellow guest at Fox on Sunday. He asked about Barack's speeches lately at the black churches. I said it can come off as speaking down to black people," Jackson said.

"And then I said something I felt regret for -- it was crude. It was very private, and very much a sound bite -- and a live mike. I find no comfort in it, I find no joy in it.

"So I immediately called the senator's campaign to send my statement of apology to repair the harm or hurt that this may have caused his campaign, because I support it unequivocally."

Jackson's son, Jesse L. Jackson Jr, an Illinois congressman and active Obama supporter, condemned his father's remarks.

"Reverend Jackson is my dad and I'll always love him. He should know how hard that I've worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. So, I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric," he said in a statement.

See original here

terça-feira, 8 de julho de 2008

"A pretty progressive guy"

Published: July 8, 2008
The Democratic candidate asserts that he hasn't shifted positions on Iraq or on other issues in what some perceive as a shift away from the liberal party base.

A political pain in the neck?

Published: July 8, 2008
Senator Barack Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He’s zigging so fast it’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.

segunda-feira, 7 de julho de 2008

According to Obama, "this is your convention, not his"

I just received this email:

Sabrina --

Join Barack at the Open ConventionI wanted you to be the first to hear the news.

At the Democratic National Convention next month, we're going to kick off the general election with an event that opens up the political process the same way we've opened it up throughout this campaign.

Barack has made it clear that this is your convention, not his.

On Thursday, August 28th, he's scheduled to formally accept the Democratic nomination in a speech at the convention hall in front of the assembled delegates.

Instead, Barack will leave the convention hall and join more than 75,000 people for a huge, free, open-air event where he will deliver his acceptance speech to the American people.

It's going to be an amazing event, and Barack would like you to join him. Free tickets will become available as the date approaches, but we've reserved a special place for a few of the people who brought us this far and who continue to drive this campaign.

If you make a donation of $5 or more between now and midnight on July 31st, you could be one of 10 supporters chosen to fly to Denver and spend two days and nights at the convention, meet Barack backstage, and watch his acceptance speech in person. Each of the ten supporters who are selected will be able to bring one guest to join them.

Make a donation now and you could have a front row seat to history:


We'll follow up with more details on this and other convention activities as we get closer, but please take a moment and pass this note to someone you know who might like to be there.

It will be an event you'll never forget.

Thank you,


MiLKing it

By Sabrina Gledhill

Apparently, Obama's decision to give a "rock-star" acceptance speech at a stadium seating over 75,000 people is not only designed to associate him even further with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. - he will be speaking on the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech - but has a precedent, set by none other than John F. Kennedy.

Although the occasion he is marking is highly appropriate - the nomination of an African-American candidate is an important step towards fulfilling MLK's dream - it is also a high-risk move in two ways: Obama's speech will have to avoid paling in comparison with King's, and the venue could provide an opportunity for some fruitcake to make Obama "emulate" MLK and JFK (and lest we forget, RFK) in the worst possible way. For some reason, the idea of it is chilling - I have visions of Icarus flying towards the sun, the wax in his wings slowly melting...

I wish Barack Obama well, and sincerely hope he will not disappoint his legions of supporters, including me. But I fear the effects of hubris. Like Caesar, he should always have someone on hand to whisper: "Remember, you are only a man." Michelle Obama, perhaps?

domingo, 6 de julho de 2008

Michelle Obama's America

Jul 3rd 2008
From The Economist print edition

Is Barack Obama's wife his rock or his bitter half?

THERE are two ways to be a political spouse. You can shun the limelight or you can grab it. Margaret Thatcher’s late husband, Denis, exemplified the former approach. He never upstaged his wife and though intelligent and rich, he was content to be viewed as a golfing, gin-swilling duffer. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Clintons. Hillary was Bill’s closest adviser when he was president, and he would have done the same for her, had she been elected. Neither approach is right or wrong, but both have predictable consequences. If you keep your mouth shut, you are unlikely to stir up controversy. If you speak up, you may help your spouse, but you risk hurting him or her, too.

John McCain’s wife, Cindy, gazes adoringly at him on the stump but says little. If she has to introduce him, she says she loves him and hopes you will vote for him. She may favour pink skirt-suits over golfing trousers, but in her reluctance to say anything that might conceivably hurt her spouse she is unmistakably a (Denis) Thatcherite. Hostile bloggers half-heartedly accuse her of being a Stepford wife or make snide cracks about the fortune she inherited and her past addiction to painkillers. But she seldom captures the headlines and seems to like it that way.

Michelle Obama falls somewhere between the two poles. Unlike Bill or Hillary, she has never hinted that she expects to be co-president. But unlike Mrs McCain, she criss-crosses the country making fiery speeches on her husband’s behalf. In many ways, she is a huge asset to his campaign. She is clever, driven, beautiful and articulate. Even when he is not there, she draws large, avid crowds. Yet she still finds time to be supermum. She bought two laptops so her husband can see and talk to his daughters when he is on the road. She teases him about his snoring and makes him take out the rubbish. He calls her “my rock”.

Like her husband, she exemplifies the American dream, having risen from humble roots to Princeton, Harvard and a $275,000-a-year job handling “community and external affairs” and “business diversity” for a hospital in Chicago. But her story is otherwise quite different from his. His background is more exotic and chaotic. His mother was white, his father was Kenyan, they broke up when he was two and the young Barack later lived in Hawaii and Indonesia. Michelle’s family, by contrast, was hard-up but intact. It was also all-black, all-American and rooted in the South Side of Chicago. Michelle grew up knowing useful people: she was chummy with Jesse Jackson’s daughter and even baby-sat his son when she was a teenager.

When Barack was starting out as a politician, his rivals dismissed him as inauthentically African-American or even “the white man in blackface”. Having Michelle at his side helped reassure sceptical blacks that he was really one of them. Even the precise shade of her skin colour may have helped him at the polls. Famous black men often pick light-skinned or white wives. Some black women resent this. That Michelle is quite dark may have endeared Barack to black female voters who might otherwise have voted for Hillary Clinton.

Now that the primaries are over, the issues have changed. Blacks are solidly for Mr Obama, but many swing voters are unsure. Some Republicans think his wife’s habit of speaking her mind could prove a problem. For example, in February, as her husband’s campaign was catching fire, she said: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country, because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” Some Americans bristle at the implication that the only worthwhile thing any of them has done in the past quarter-century is to back Mr Obama.

Mrs Obama’s speeches rarely accentuate the positive. America, to her, is a “downright mean” country where families struggle to buy food, where mothers are terrified of being fired if they get pregnant and where “life for regular folks has gotten worse over the course of my lifetime”. But she was born in 1964, when Americans lived shorter, poorer lives and southern blacks couldn’t vote. Whereas her husband is magically skilled at not giving offence, Mrs Obama can be a blunt instrument. “Don’t go into corporate America,” she urges young people, denigrating what most Americans do for a living and biting the hand that pays for all the public programmes she favours. “Barack Obama will require you to work,” she says. “He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation…Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Some
people would rather decide for themselves how to live their lives.

The bitter bit
Conservative pundits have savaged her. One acerbic blogger calls her “Obama’s bitter half”. Others mock her occasional gripes about her personal finances and her solipsistic college thesis about the woes of black Princetonians. The National Review says she “embodies a peculiar mix of privilege and victimology, which is not where most Americans live. On the other hand, it does make her a terrific Oprah guest.”

Mr Obama says people should lay off his wife. Laura Bush agrees. And one has to sympathise with Mrs Obama. She was always a reluctant political wife. Her husband’s crazy hours and long absences impose a hefty burden on her and on their children. In dark moments, she fears for his physical safety. And all the while, both she and her husband are subjected to maliciously false gossip online.

But not all criticism is unfair. If Mr Obama is president, his wife will have the ear of the most powerful man on earth. So her political views matter. And if she expresses them forcefully in speech after speech, she can hardly cry foul when not everyone likes what she says. On June 30th she appeared on the front page of USA Today saying: “I don’t want to be a distraction.” For better or for worse, she is.

Ironically, many Brazilians are rooting for McCain...

...a third Bush term would give a major boost to the BRIC economies.

July 6, 2008

Obama’s cunning capture of the centre ground

Slowly and subtly, Barack Obama is wiping out every reason to vote for McCain

It is a telling sign of where American politics is now headed that last week several leading conservative voices proclaimed Barack Obama had seen the conservative light and many leading liberal voices accused him of being a sellout.

At one extreme, The Wall Street Journal bizarrely claimed that Obama was now running for George W Bush’s third term. On the other, liberal blogger Arianna Huffington accused him of making a “very serious mistake” by agreeing to a new wire-tapping law. And leading left-wing blogger Markos Moulitsas accused Obama of “unnecessary stabbing” of political allies. Neither side, I’d say, is right – the truth is more muddy. However, if you want proof that Obama is one of the shrewdest – as well as one of the most inspiring – politicians in recent history, last week is hard to refute.

Obama began it with a full-throated defence of patriotism, in front of two large American flags, invoking his white family and its history of military service. He went out of his way to praise General David Petraeus and to condemn the attack by the antiwar group Moveon.org on him as “General Betray Us”.

Obama went on the next day to brazenly coopt one of Bush’s signature policy innovations, funnelling public money to the social services of religious organisations. He ended the week by dropping his previous long-held position on a fixed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq in favour of a “re-fined” strategy of withdrawal as soon as prudently possible after consultations with generals on the ground.

All of this caps a flurry of small adjustments in the postprimary phase. We now know that Obama can live with mass wire-tapping to gain antiterror intelligence, as long as it is placed under congressional law and oversight in ways Bush tried to avoid. He was fine about the Supreme Court’s defence of gun rights in the recently decided Dick Heller case (in which a Washington DC security guard argued for his right to carry a gun to protect himself); he supported the death penalty in some extreme cases such as child rape; he ran an ad touting his own role (much exaggerated) on welfare reform; and he also plans to avoid any tax hikes on the middle class while adding some strong fiscal medicine to the well-to-do.

For good measure he was the only candidate last week with ads being broadcast on Christian radio. Yes, it was an independent group placing the ad, but its evocation of Obama’s conversion to Christianity was a bold foray into deep Republican territory.

When you examine all of these adjustments, they are not quite the bald reversals the extreme partisans on both sides are claiming. Obama’s position on Iraq, for example, has always been framed around the formula that the US should be “as careful getting out as we were careless getting in”.

His pledge of a fixed timetable for withdrawal was always going to be subject to empirical shifts on the ground in Iraq. Being careful does not mean sticking to fixed withdrawal plans regardless of reality. And as the primary season lengthened and the situation in Iraq turned surprisingly brighter, Obama found himself locked into a fast-calcifying position.

His policy was bound to become more complicated, as his former foreign policy adviser Samantha Power blurted out earlier this year. And by conceding a “refinement” of his policy the day before the July 4 holiday, Obama avoided short-term attacks on his policy “flip-flop” while making a necessary adjustment.

And there’s a point to the successive shifts: Obama is slowly undermining every conceivable reason to vote for Republican candidate John McCain. If you want to withdraw from Iraq – as prudently as possible – Obama is still your man. You now know though that he won’t risk chaos in a precipitous withdrawal regardless of the strategic and tactical situation. He will not, in other words, be susceptible to snatching defeat from the jaws of progress. Unlike McCain he is also unafraid of real diplomacy with Iran and Syria; and unlike McCain he does not threaten a hundred years of occupation in Iraq and the suspicion that he’d like the US to stay there for ever.

What can McCain say now in response? All he can say, I think, is that Obama is cynical. However, it is a little difficult to have spent the entire year portraying Obama as a radical, soft-on-terror leftist and now pivot to accuse him of being like the Clintons.

Obama, after all, is not running for Bush’s third term, but he is running after Bush’s two terms. In the brutally real world, he cannot undo the Iraq invasion. He cannot ignore the pressing need for good intelligence gained through wire-tapping after 9/11. He cannot ignore Tehran’s malevolence, while being more open to diplomacy than McCain is.

What the smarter foreign policy conservatives have long sensed in Obama is not a knee-jerk leftie, but a cool, cunning liberal strategist who could be a potent weapon for the West in the war on terror. Obama will inherit Bush’s war apparatus and it is not in his nature to dismiss all of it as useless until he has a grip on what’s working in a dynamic world. He is not going to surrender to Iran either, but he has a much better chance of wielding soft power as well as hard power in trying to avoid another conflict in the Middle East than McCain. He also has a chance to bring the American public with him – an attribute that Bush hasn’t had in his diplomatic arsenal for years.

None of this even faintly surprises me. The picture of Obama as a big-time leftist was always wrong – and more a function of the Clintons’ need to marginalise him than of any accurate portrayal of his record. His 2002 speech against the Iraq war aired a prescient worry about unintended consequences, not a deep reluctance to use military force in any circumstances.

Obama has long been a committed Christian, even of a more liberal, mainstream variety than the Republican leadership. His embrace of faith-based programmes is therefore utterly unsurprising to anyone who knows him. (The one key difference between Bush’s faith-based programmes and Obama’s is that Obama’s forbids religious charities from using public money to discriminate in hiring on the basis of faith.)

Obama also explicitly favoured the death penalty for child rapists and murderers in his book The Audacity of Hope. These are not, for the most part, U-turns or manifestations of cynicism. They are pragmatic adjustments made by a Democrat who wants to win.

This election will be about who can deliver the most change in a way that least disturbs an anxious electorate. McCain reassures in as much as he is obviously not a simple heir to Bush and Dick Cheney. But his refusal to countenance any tax increases or entitlement cuts in a debt-laden America, and his visceral hostility to diplomacy and nuance in the politics of the Middle East, worry many who have been rattled by the reckless rigidity of the Bush years.

Obama’s main liability has always been that he may be too inexperienced for an America at war and too culturally different from heartland America to win it over. In the past few weeks he has done a much better job in removing his liabilities than McCain has. This election, unlike the past two, will be won in the centre. It’s a centre in which Obama looks increasingly at home.

sábado, 5 de julho de 2008

Muslims on Obama "smears"

By Sabrina Gledhill

Although it's not strictly speaking a "racial" issue, I've been struck how segments of the Muslim community - particulary the courageous Muslims against Sharia - are enraged with Obama for his failure to add a "so what if I were?" to his denial that he is a Muslim. He has changed the accusation on his "Fight the Smears" site to "is a secret Muslim," but that has done nothing to assuage the fury.

First, I believe that Muslims against Sharia are absolutely right - Barack Hussein Obama should and could have taken a firm stand from the very beginning. If blacks and women have a right to be elected President of the United States, then so do Muslims - there is nothing in the US Constitution to the contrary.

Branding someone a terrorist because he or she is a Muslim - or is a Christian with a Muslim name - is just as absurd as it would have been to call everyone with an Irish name a terrorist when the IRA were setting off bombs in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK. That would have included every Kyle, Kevin and Connor in the US of A. (I'm also reminded of the time when Kennedy's opponents railed against him because he was a Catholic, claiming that he would be controlled by the Pope.)

Although Obama should have said "I'm not a Muslim, but even if I were, there would be nothing wrong with that," the Muslims' worst enemies are Karl Rove and all those who use Rovian tactics, Fox News commentators and conservative bloggers and emailers who fuel and pander to prejudice and bigotry by sending out scurrilous libels of Obama and, by association, the Muslim community, such as emails and comments about 99% of terrorists being "Muslim males between the ages of 18 and 40" (try Googling the words in quotes or variations thereof). The injustice to the Muslim community is so staggering that the fact that Obama is 46 and a Christian seems hardly worth mentioning. Even NY Mayor Bloomberg has denounced the "whisper campaign". In this regard, it is worthwhile reading this NY Times article on how lies live and grow in the brain.

If Senator Obama is elected President of the United States, I hope he will feel secure and confident enough to take a firm stand in favour of the peaceloving Muslim community and start the healing process. They, too, have a right to fight off slurs and live the "American dream."

Just another politician?

NY Times Editorial
New and Not Improved
Published: July 4, 2008
Barack Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics. Yet now there seems to be a new Mr. Obama on the hustings.

quinta-feira, 3 de julho de 2008

Racism or "cross-cultural gap issue"?

By Sabrina Gledhill

Argentines call Brazil the "monkey country" ("país de los monos") because large numbers of its people are of African descent. Men in gorilla suits have long served as metaphors for blacks in Brazil. In other words, the pejorative association of blacks, Africans and simians is known and recognised in South America, as well as in other Western regions and countries - including, of course, the United States. So when a Japanese company put a monkey in a podium, apparently imitating Barack Obama in a TV advert, many Westerners were shocked. But here's the thing - monkeys have an entirely different meaning in Japan - a very positive image, in fact - and the macaque is the company's mascot! However, as the Guardian points out, this isn't the first time a simian simile has been used in regard to blacks in Japan.

At any rate, the advert has been pulled, and now Japan can go back to its previous warm and fuzzy image of rooting for Barack in the town of Obama.

Read more about it here and here

Mighty Sparrow backs Obama

From The Mighty Sparrow website:
Newspaper: Newsday
Date: Monday, September 3, 2007
Page#: 20
Brooklyn: “The respect of the world, which we now lack, if you want it back, then vote Barack,” proclaims the musical wordsmith, The Mighty Sparrow - Calypso King of the World, who on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama in Brooklyn. The endorsement was given at a brief exclusive meeting held at the Marriott Hotel at the Brooklyn Bridge.

During the backstage meeting, which was also attended by publisher and attorney Brian Figeroux, community activist Gerry Hopkins, political organizer Jordan Thomas, and Caribbean immigrant Derek Webster, The Mighty Sparrow also presented Sen. Obama with a CD of a calypso which he composed and recorded as a tribute to Obama.

The song gives an exposé which takes the listener through Barack’s humble beginnings and his rise to the top. The sharp lyrics, which are skillfully interwoven with a rhythmic Caribbean melody, present Barack as a true family man, capable intellectual, effective grassroots leader and legislator, and a progressive Presidential candidate with a solid agenda for real comprehensive reforms in education, healthcare, economic development, and foreign policy.

With respect to the issue of whether or not Obama is ready to govern the United States, Sparrow observes, “Were we ready for 400 years of slavery? Based on what I have heard, read and researched, I am very impressed by the resplendent vision of Obama. He is resilient and wise. It is easy to equate him to Solomon."

In more ways than one, Sparrow’s calypso captures the sentiment of most Caribbean-Americans interviewed by CAW for this story. And like The Mighty Sparrow, who is of Grenadian/Trinidadian origin, most of those interviewed about their opinions of Barack, believe that he stands out as a well-qualified candidate.

“Barack! Barack! He is fighting for openness and honesty in government. Barack – is doggedly defiant; phenomenal strength; and wisdom beyond comment,” Sparrow sings in the chorus.

The calypso single, titled Barack the Magnificent, is not yet available in record stores.

Patriotism and the rumour mill

What Patriotism Is, and Is Not

by: Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Presidential candidate Barack Obama is fighting back against those who question his patriotism. (Photo: Reuters)

At the beginning of the week, a friend sent me a scurrilous, anonymous e-mail attacking Barack Obama that has been circulating around her elderly cousin's Jewish senior living community in New Jersey. Headlined "Something to Think About," it lists 13 acts of assassination, kidnapping, war and terrorism, all of which, it notes, were committed "by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40."

After several other claims, including a bogus citation from the Book of Revelation, the e-mail concludes, semi-literately, "For the award winning Act of Stupidity Now ... the People of America want to elect, to the most Powerful position on the face of the Planet - The Presidency of the United States of America to A Muslim Male Between the ages of 17 and 40? Have the American People completely lost their Minds, or just their power of reason? I'm sorry but I refuse to take a chance on the 'unknown' candidate Obama."

To point out the obvious errors, that Barack Obama's a Christian, not Muslim, and that he's 46, not "between the ages of 17 and 40," feels a bit lame, like damning with faint fact-checking. Let's call this appalling missive what it is - bigoted, hysterical and more than a little nuts. Unless, of course, it comes from the hands not of a mere delusional crank, but one of those beneath-the-radar smear forces that we all know are out there, ratcheting into higher and higher gear as November gets closer.

E-mails such as the one my friend passed along are insidious, appealing to our deepest fears and prejudices. A front-page story in Monday's Washington Post profiled retired worker Jim Peterman of Findlay, Ohio. He's a decent guy who "believes a smart vote is an American's greatest responsibility," the Post's Eli Salsow wrote. "Which is why his confusion about Barack Obama continues to eat at him ...

"Does he trust a local newspaper article that details Obama's Christian faith? Or his friend Leroy Pollard, a devoted family man so convinced Obama is a radical Muslim that he threatened to stop talking to his daughter when he heard she might vote for him?

"'I'll admit that I probably don't follow all of the election news like maybe I should,' Peterman said. 'I haven't read his books or studied up more than a little bit. But it's hard to ignore what you hear when everybody you know is saying it. These are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?'"

So it goes across the nation. Chances are, many of the perpetrators of this nonsense think they're being patriots, saving us from Obama and ourselves. And goodness knows, there's a long history of this kind of guttersnipery in American politics. As Obama pointed out in his Monday speech on the nature of patriotism, "Thomas Jefferson was accused by the Federalists of selling out to the French. The anti-Federalists were just as convinced that John Adams was in cahoots with the British and intent on restoring monarchal rule ... the use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the Republic."

Details of Obama's speech got buried in the wake of General Wesley Clark's politically lunkheaded comment about John McCain that, "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president." But over the Fourth of July weekend, it might be appropriate and enlightening to take a few minutes to read or watch the whole thing.

It's a good speech. The senator talks about American history and his own patriotism, about the need for service and sacrifice. "For those who have fought under the flag of this nation," he said, "for the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed; for those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country - no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides."

And this: "I believe those who attack America's flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America.... But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism."

Which brings me to what I think was an unusual and especially fine expression of American patriotism. It's the June 19 closing argument of Air Force Reserve Maj. David J.R. Frakt, arguing for the dismissal of charges against Mohammed Jawad, a young detainee at Guantanamo, charged with throwing a hand grenade that wounded two GI's and their interpreter in Afghanistan. Frakt argued that Jawad should be released because sleep deprivation - two weeks' worth - was used to torture him. You can read it on the web site of the ACLU.

Frakt stood before the military commission upholding the inviolability of the American principle of due process, even for an alleged enemy of the United States. "Under the Constitution all men are created equal, and all are entitled to be treated with dignity," he said. "No one is 'undeserving' of humane treatment. It is an unmistakable lesson of history that when one group of people starts to see another group of people as 'other' or as 'different,' as 'undeserving,' as 'inferior,' ill treatment inevitably follows ...

"After six and a half years, we now know the truth about the detainees at Guantanamo: some of them are terrorists, some of them are foot soldiers, and some of them were just innocent people, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the detainees at Guantanamo have one thing in common - with each other, and with us - they are all human beings, and they are all worthy of humane treatment."

Thus, in the face of adverse public opinion and White House opposition, Frakt bravely defended a constitutional principle as all-encompassing, including under its protections even those who might seek to destroy us and the very constitutional principles for which we stand. In fact, he said, "It is a testament to the continuing greatness of this nation, that I, a lowly Air Force Reserve major, can stand here before you today, with the world watching, without fear of retribution, retaliation or reprisal, and speak truth to power. I can call a spade a spade, and I can call torture, torture."

To me, that makes Maj. David Frakt a patriot and this a great country. Happy Fourth of July.

quarta-feira, 2 de julho de 2008

Clinton attacks against Obama vanish on Web

They say politics makes strange bedfellows...

Ads show only positive images

Washington Times

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has scrubbed all negative ads from her campaign Web site and YouTube page, leaving visitors with only the warm and fuzzy moments from her bid for the presidency.

Gone are the attack ads accusing Sen. Barack Obama of insulting Pennsylvanians, ducking debates and making misleading assertions about gas prices. In their place are some of the campaign's best and most positive ads and multiple "Hillary I Know" testimonials that have a shelf life should the former first lady ever run again.

The whitewashing took place quietly in the past few days as Mr. Obama cut his former rival a check to help relieve her campaign debt and as the Clinton family moved to fully embrace Mr. Obama as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

"She's no longer campaigning for president," said Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee. "She's focused on her work in the Senate, campaigning for Senator Obama and other Democrats."

Mr. Elleithee said the videos probably are archived.

Also missing are the dozens of speeches and hundreds of press releases running back to Mrs. Clinton's January 2007 campaign announcement. Many offered reporters details about important endorsements or the scripts of TV ads, but dozens were dedicated to countering the senator from Illinois.

"Misleading attack: Sen. Obama flubs in Ohio," one release read. Another blared, in capital letters, "NAFTA-gate: False denials from the Obama campaign."

Also gone are campaign memos, such as Mark Penn's Feb. 2 "Hillary is the Democrat to beat McCain," or the May 19 missive by Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson complaining that Mr. Obama was about to declare that he had won a majority of delegates: "Mission Accomplished? Not so fast."

The only releases left at HillaryClinton.com are a statement about the death of NBC's Tim Russert and the text of Mrs. Clinton's June 9 speech suspending her campaign after Mr. Obama earned enough delegates to lock up the nomination.

The separate "Fact Hub" Web site that rebuked the Obama campaign has gone dead, along with "Attack Timeline" that detailed every nasty remark by Mr. Obama or his surrogates during the long primary battle.

By contrast, the Obama Fact Check page on his campaign site still offers rebuttals to Clinton attacks dating back to its creation in fall 2007.

HillaryHub, a site showcasing positive press coverage, also has been removed.

The Hillary TV page that once featured fundraising appeals and dozens of ads — including those with Bill Clinton on a treadmill and the former first couple in a "Sopranos" spoof — now offers just five videos.

In one, she heartily endorses Mr. Obama's candidacy. In another, she thanks supporters and tells them, "I could not have made this part of the journey without you."

The site still has her Pennsylvania spot titled "Scranton," which features black and white photos of Mrs. Clinton as a girl, and the "Dreams" ad in which the senator from New York shows photographs of her parents, talks about the values they instilled in her and promises, "I carry with me not just their dreams but the dreams of people like them all across our country."

The final video shows Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton meeting the campaign's 1 millionth supporter.

Several upbeat videos also have vanished from the site and YouTube page.

Voters trying to view the Chelsea Clinton Mother's Day tribute are directed to an error page that informs them: "We've recently updated our site and we welcome you to explore the new content from the navigation above."

Although cleaning up a campaign site for the sake of party unity isn't unusual, the YouTube scrubbing is. Other failed White House hopefuls have left their free campaign "channels" — created before last summer's YouTube debates — intact, and ads for Republican Fred Thompson and Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr. are still posted.

But the Clinton YouTube page is missing hundreds of videos, positive and negative alike. Her victory speeches, a showcase of enthusiastic young volunteers and her pledges to keep fighting through the primary season are history.

Yet nothing is ever truly gone in the YouTube age because Internet surfers have spliced, diced and saved every campaign ad of the cycle. Cable networks still can replay the ads, but any blogger who tries to link to the Clinton versions will get an error message: "We're sorry, this video is no longer available."

Still intact on the Hillary Hub YouTube page are remnants of some of the nastier moments of the campaign, including Mr. Wolfson's insistence that he would not accept Mr. Obama's delegate math unless the Florida and Michigan votes were fully counted, and a Clinton surrogate in North Carolina responding to Mr. Obama's comments about "bitter" rural Americans.

Also on that page is a clip called, "Confronted w/ facts Obama experiences technical difficulties," that shows a news report critical of Mr. Obama on the health care issue.

The HillaryClinton.com page is no longer funded by the presidential campaign, and a new disclaimer notes that "Friends of Hillary," Mrs. Clinton's Senate re-election committee, is paying for the site. She is not up for re-election until 2012.

Mrs. Clinton will be fundraising for Democratic candidates until the November election using her HillPAC political action committee. Its Web site, HillPac.com, was reactivated this week.

The Obama Agenda

Monday 30 June 2008

by: Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Paul Krugman compares policies of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

It's feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It's also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country's direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton? Current polls - not horse-race polls, which are notoriously uninformative until later in the campaign, but polls gauging the public mood - are strikingly similar to those in both 1980 and 1992, years in which an overwhelming majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the country's direction.

So the odds are that this will be a "change" election - which means that it's very much Mr. Obama's election to lose. But if he wins, how much change will he actually deliver?

Reagan, for better or worse - I'd say for worse, but that's another discussion - brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.

Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing "a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement." The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.

We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans' health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: "The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008."

So whom does Mr. Obama resemble more? At this point, he's definitely looking Clintonesque.

Like Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama portrays himself as transcending traditional divides. Near the end of last week's "unity" event with Hillary Clinton, he declared that "the choice in this election is not between left or right, it's not between liberal or conservative, it's between the past and the future." Oh-kay.

Mr. Obama's economic plan also looks remarkably like the Clinton 1992 plan: a mixture of higher taxes on the rich, tax breaks for the middle class and public investment (this time with a focus on alternative energy).

Sometimes the Clinton-Obama echoes are almost scary. During his speech accepting the nomination, Mr. Clinton led the audience in a chant of "We can do it!" Remind you of anything?

Just to be clear, we could - and still might - do a lot worse than a rerun of the Clinton years. But Mr. Obama's most fervent supporters expect much more.

Progressive activists, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama during the Democratic primary even though his policy positions, particularly on health care, were often to the right of his rivals'. In effect, they convinced themselves that he was a transformational figure behind a centrist facade.

They may have had it backward.

Mr. Obama looks even more centrist now than he did before wrapping up the nomination. Most notably, he has outraged many progressives by supporting a wiretapping bill that, among other things, grants immunity to telecom companies for any illegal acts they may have undertaken at the Bush administration's behest.

The candidate's defenders argue that he's just being pragmatic - that he needs to do whatever it takes to win, and win big, so that he has the power to effect major change. But critics argue that by engaging in the same "triangulation and poll-driven politics" he denounced during the primary, Mr. Obama actually hurts his election prospects, because voters prefer candidates who take firm stands.

In any case, what about after the election? The Reagan-Clinton comparison suggests that a candidate who runs on a clear agenda is more likely to achieve fundamental change than a candidate who runs on the promise of change but isn't too clear about what that change would involve.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Mr. Obama really is a centrist, after all.

One thing is clear: for Democrats, winning this election should be the easy part. Everything is going their way: sky-high gas prices, a weak economy and a deeply unpopular president. The real question is whether they will take advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to change the country's direction. And that's mainly up to Mr. Obama.

terça-feira, 1 de julho de 2008

Critics of Obama's "flip-flop" on campaign financing take heed: does the NRA's $40M fall into the Republican campaign budget? I think not!

NRA plans $40M fall blitz targeting Obama

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Barack Obama
NRA members will get automated phone calls, mail pieces and pre-election editions of the group’s three magazines making the case against Obama.
Photo: AP

The National Rifle Association plans to spend about $40 million on this year’s campaign, with $15 million of that devoted to portraying Barack Obama as a threat to the Second Amendment rights upheld last week by the Supreme Court.

“Our members understand that if Barack Obama is elected president, and he has support in the Senate to confirm anti-gun Supreme Court nominees, [the District of Columbia v. Heller decision] could be taken away from us in the future,” Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s political arm, told Politico.

The politically powerful gun rights group will split its message efforts between communicating with its 4 million members and the tens of millions more firearms owners across the country.

This fall, NRA members will get automated phone calls, mail pieces and pre-election editions of the group’s three magazines making the case against Obama. More broadly, the group will use an independent expenditure effort to hammer the Democratic nominee via TV, radio and newspaper ads in some of about 15 battleground states in the Midwest and Mountain West.

“We look forward to showing him ‘bitter,’” Cox said, referring to Obama’s statement this spring that some in rural America “cling” to guns and religion out of bitterness.

Read the rest here