I Try Not to Think of Republicans

Mostly because, they certainly don't think about me.

But this VP selection by McCain does have me flummoxed.

I was certain that Rob Portman would be his choice: Portman is known as a budget hawk - so he plays into the "I am going to trim the federal budget meme; Portman is from Ohio - and that is a state McCain wants to attempt to win; and Portman may have had a role in the Bush Administration - but who holds the OMB Director accountable for the mistakes like Katrina?

When I heard the initial reports, I assumed it was some false fire being sent out to misdirect the media and keep everything secret until the announcement. Instead, the story I thought to be too crazy turned out to be true.

Never to old to learn a new trick, I guess.

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Respect Yourself

If you disrespect everybody that you run into - how in the world do you think anybody gonna respect you?

In this piece from Friday (still returning to normal; long trip back from the DNC in Denver), respected (?) journalist provides his analysis on the convention speeches - with his greatest focus on Obama's acceptance speech and the themes it contained. How does his analysis conclude? Well, like so many in the press, he has some advice for our young hero, so that the good ship Change - as navigated by Obama - does not run aground on the rocky shores of reality. The reality in this case being, attempts to portray this son of a single mom, raised by his grandparents will have a hard time convincing people he is not an elitist - given how thin he is and how "difficult it is to imagine Obama - so disciplined and imperially slim - wolfing down a Big Mac".

This qualifies as political analysis nowadays? One perhaps should not be surprised by this piece from this author and from this journal; after all - it was the National Journal who trumpeted to the world the very liberal status of this Senator from Illinois. Somewhat obviating the fact that his voting record - on which this claim was based - was necessarily impacted by his travel schedule for the 18 months of this presidential campaign. Regardless, let me keep my focus on that "difficult to imagine" line from this "analysis"; apparently - if you are black - you can be too rich and too thin. Sure, Obama is not as rich as John McCain - for all of her charms, Michelle Robinson Obama has never been described as an heiress - but his books have made him wealthy (damn those people who have the temerity to be good writers! John McCain knows that Senators are supposed to have their books ghost-written for them). And his tendency towards frequent exercise and healthy living has led him away from a fast food diet - two tendencies that are most certainly not shared by our increasingly overweight and diabetic society. So of course, it is entirely appropriate for an analysis of four days of convention speeches to zero in on the major problem Obama has: "imperially slimness" and an inability to credibly "[wolf] down a Big Mac".

And this man hopes to be taken seriously as a respected journalist.

Now, I know not what is in Ron Brownstein's heart; I only know the man by his actions. And for him to write that Obama cannot seriously be credited with humble beginnings because he is both now successful - usually a good trait in those we seek for our highest office - and disciplined (horror of horrors!) is to enact journalistic malpractice and or malfeasance. One has to wonder what crosses the mind of a man as he commits such words to electronic ink: do they cause his heart to fill with the simple pride of a job well-done? I know that much is made these days of how little esteem the public holds for the press: I say the press must first respect themselves to engender respect from the public.

When you put your name to a piece of analysis that proffers the difficulties a candidate would face in credibly downing a Big Mac, you disrespect yourself and your profession.

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The Greater Fool

This shouldn't bother me; its just a throw-away line mostly ancillary to the larger point the author is attempting to make: 

"Walking through the Olympic Village the other day, here’s what struck me most: the Russian team all looks Russian; the African team all looks African; the Chinese team all looks Chinese; and the American team looks like all of them."

So says New York Times globalism columnist, Tom Friedman.  You see my problem, right?

"The African team all looks African" - just what team is he referring to here?  Teams at the Olympics are by country and my map has not a country called 'Africa'.  It has a very beautiful continent with that name, but try as I might, I cannot see the country to which he refers.

But isn't this was outsiders in general and white people in particular have always done?  It is interesting that the one place they actually concede the invisibility of political borders is when it comes to Africa.  Mention some small Georgian republic and white folks are up and arms about just where South Ossetia belongs, but they day in and day out express a disregard for whether or not Kenya, Ethiopia or Morocco exist as separate nations.

As I said before, this is nothing new - and in the whole scheme of things I should probably ignore this remark.

And yet, I can't.

Because there is a larger context here: what if there was a United Republic of Afrika?  The UAR could be a mighty force amongst the nations of the world and powerful enough to prevent the corporate looting of the natural resources of the first continent.  The UAR could be strong enough to protect its citizens and project a positive image of Afrikan ability across the world.

Perhaps Mr. Friedman has - accidentally, of course - provided us with a road map on how to make the 21st century an Afrikan century.

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Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest

In my Avis Rental car yesterday, I was treated to an XM Radio discussion on POTUS08 with the author of "The Faith of Barack Obama"; there were several misstatements of Black Liberation Theology as well as what Obama's faith means to him and although I do not have as large a podium as an internationally - indeed, intergalactic - broadcast radio program, I do want to address those with you here in this letter.

First, clearly Black Liberation Theology is too complex for someone such as the author to grasp in the one weekend he spent at Trinity United Church of Christ, so perhaps he is to be forgiven for the mistakes he made of mischaracterizing this theological viewpoint. Even so, his references to the church and its former pastor as "cult-like" are beyond insulting and are no doubt due to his ignorance, as opposed to any specific teaching he may have heard or read about. By example, let me delve into the author's statements that Dr. Cone's phraseology of equating "black" with oppressed and "white" with oppressor is a confusing construct, in that these theological terms of good and evil are not specifically mapped back to the equivalent racial terms; i.e. - being black racial does not equate to being automatically good spiritually and the same is true for white people in that they are not - by theological definition - automatically evil. What the author should have said is these terms were confusing to him - as someone not culturally educated with a view of the world through the eyes of a black man - and especially not the eyes of a black man in the 1960s when Black Liberation Theology was defined. Seemingly the task of attempting to understand the black experience is too difficult for the author, as he was manifestly unable to imagine just how a black man of the 1960s could have many examples in his life of white being equivalent to his oppressor and this makes the author unable to make the spiritual and theological leap that Dr. Cone was seeking to use as a pathway to open the heart of man to the Lord.

Second, the author describes how central doubt is to Obama's faith - and then he criticizes him for having the temerity to express doubt in an example given in his second book, when he was discussing the afterlife with his child. Whereas the author has certain faith, an unquestioning faith, Obama has a faith that says he believes - without requiring specific knowledge of the Lord's intention or his plans. Which one of these men has placed his trust in the Lord and which one has boxed the Lord into a position? More importantly, rather than attempting to gauge the quality of one's faith against another, Christians are called to welcome one another as brothers and not perform faith checks upon one another and call those out whom we find lacking according to a standard of man - and not a standard of God.

Let me close with one example of how the author substituted his own standard for faith: he praised McCain's swift and sure answer to the question: when does life begin? McCain answered immediately - conception - whereas Obama demurred and said that question was above his pay grade. The author criticized Obama for his answer - but provided no example text from the scripture to back up his criticism. This surely means the answer came from the word of the author and not the word of God.

Now, I know not the mind of God so I have no idea whether the author and John McCain are right when they posit that life begins at conception; what I do know is that for that to be the case, the number of abortions that pro-lifers like to put forth as having occurred since the advent of Roe v Wade is woefully inadequate. They are simply talking about doctor-aided abortions; the human female aborts embryos all of the time - we call these miscarriages in some instances. In other instances, a fertilized egg - meaning post conception - is simply allowed to exit the uterus as it occurred to late in the cycle to reach implantation in the uterine wall. As a lay person, I know not the word for this case, but here is the point: if life begins at conception - any fertilized egg that does not reach birth is an abortion - according to McCain, meaning that it is the taking of another human life. As a legislator, McCain has never sanctioned murder, so the logical conclusion of his position and the author's, is that every instance of a fertilized egg that does not result in a human birth must be investigated to determine if a murder has occurred. Does McCain really want to add to the trauma of a miscarriage with the trauma of a police investigation? And how would he even be made aware of the passage of an egg that was fertilized and not implanted? Would he mandate the collection of tampons and maxi-pads for forensic analysis? And would he then fill the jails with women who had sex too late in their cycle for implantation of the egg to take place? They would be knowingly risking the act of conception - creating a human life - with no hope of that life to continue living? Would McCain classify that as murder, manslaughter or criminally-negligent homicide?

Yes - McCain received a roar of adulation from the crowd for both his response and the author's, but this answer was as equally thoughtless as it was swift; perhaps the first response is not always the right response. Perhaps having a President who knows that is a good thing.

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It is possible for McCain to be worse than Bush

So, Russia is threatening Poland?  Why does this all so sound familiar? 

Remember this - http://archives.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/12/13/rec.bush.abm/ - back when Bush was still young (but apparently post his days of 'youthful indiscretion') and even more arrogant (did I just use the wrong adjective?) than he is these days (I know - sounds crazy, right?), he unceremoniously told the Russians that he was pulling the US out of the ABM Treaty.  He derided the 30-year old treaty as little more than an historical document on several occasions.

Brings his treatment of the US Constitution into bas-relief, no?

Any-hoo, were we to journey past 2002, even back unto those long-ago, halcyon days of yore - 1972 - we could witness some wild-eyed liberal by the name of RIchard Nixon, as he signed an agreement with another group of commie, pinko leftists; said agreement having as its underlying intent to weaken the US defense and . . . 

Wait - that doesn't sound right.

What is right is that this ABM Treaty was brought to us by Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev and its actual intent was to free each nation - the US and the USSR - from the enormous expense of attempting to bring into life the missile defense systems that each nation had been pursuing for decades - unsuccessfully, as it turned out.  It was the advent of Multiple, Independent, Re-entry Vehicles - MIRV - that made previous attempts to create missile defense systems obsolete and so our defensive posture and the Soviets turned toward MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction.  MAD worked for decades as no matter how insane each nations leaders appeared to be in order to gain power, no one was crazy enough to think they could get away with destroying an enemy with nuclear weapons and still escape retribution.

Until - a man, a plan, a canal - SDI: Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative - or 'Star Wars' to its detractors; Reagan promised to end MAD and provide the US with the ability to nuke half the world, while remaining securely ensconced within the warm, safe arms of space-based lasers.

Believe me: it is a much crazier plan than that last sentence made it appear.

I will not go into all of the reasons why that is to; some nice folks over at Wikipedia have given some interesting background information here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Ballistic_Missile_Treaty - as what I really want to talk about today is Poland (aka, "New Europe").

Russia's invasion of Georgia was their way of announcing to the world that they are sick and tired of US poaching on states to close to the Russian border.  Call it a sphere of influence, call it a zone of security, call it what you will: Russia does not appreciate how the US and Europe extended the North Atlantic Treaty Organization right up to the Ural Mountains.  Note that Georgia was on the list of nations who have sought entrance into NATO.  Note also that Poland has been proceeding ahead with plans to allow the US to install interceptors for a missile shield on their territory.  And note, finally, that it was this week that Poland and the US moved to sign the paperwork on that missile shield.  At the same time as those discussions were taking place, not only was Russia letting the world see what it thought of Georgia's plans, they also had one of their generals announce - to the world - that the presence of these interceptors made Poland a target for nuclear attack.

Bush began his administration pulling out of the ABMT; he is ending his administration by placing missile interceptors in Poland; and in between, he has launched to wars: one in the former Soviet client state of Afghanistan and the other in the once and future (?) client state of Iraq.  Contemporaneously with these two wars, the US has gone from a massive budget surplus to an equally massive budget deficit; the price of oil - for our oil-based economy has risen more than ten-fold from $10 a barrel to $115 a barrel; and Russia has gone from an indebted nation unable to feed its own people into the worlds largest purveyor of oil and natural gas.  For God's sake - they have brought the word 'oligarch' back into existence! 

And these are the policies that John McCain wants to expand upon?

No thanks. 

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We do not have a divided electorate

We have an apathetic electorate.

There is a difference.

Most years, we struggle to reach 50% turnout of registered voters on election day; this is what we saw in 2000.  2004 saw almost 60% of registered voters turn out to vote and I predict this year we will cross over 70%.

What does that mean?

Well, first of all it means the polls do not matter.  Polls have a metric they call, "likely voters" and each pollster defines it differently - but the one thing they all agree on is that if you did not vote in the last election, you are not likely to vote in this one.

When you have the Obama campaign spreading out across neighborhoods across the nation and registering people to vote for the first time - what do you think happens when pollsters call them?

High Turnout + New Voters + Enthusiasm = Obama +20 in the popular vote and Obama over 350 in the electoral college. 

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Now we are discussing Black Republicans?

Why do black Americans fret about our membership numbers in the Republican Party? They do not fret about it. Did you see McCain's presence at the NAACP and NUL conventions as more than just going through the motions?

The Republicans made an explicit choice after Goldwater lost in 1964, that they would be the party of all interests antithetical to black people. There were black Republicans; Democrats coveted our votes and so they pursued Civil RIghts legislation. We left the Republican Party as for more than a century after the Civil War, their promises to look after our interests were met with sullen statements about how they could not get simple laws passed that required our voices to be heard. Now, you might put the start date with FDR and someone else might put it with Truman, but the fact is by 1960, the Democratic Party was no longer the party of Woodrow Wilson - who hosted the KKK in the White House and that noxious movie, Birth of a Nation - and it was the party of JFK.

There is a reason that man's photo still hangs in the houses of our aging grandparents.

In five years, the coalition JFK and LBJ built did for black Americans what Republicans had failed to do for well more than a century.

(NB: Have you heard about that book - Slavery by Another Name?)

So has the Democratic Party fallen short in areas since the 60s?


Has the Democratic Party coasted on the good graces earned by their representatives from the 60s?


Perhaps, the problem was not with the Democratic Party. Perhaps - with the candidacy of Barack Obama - we are beginning to see that it was not just the amorphous noun, "the Democratic Party" that was lying stagnate, but it was the black political consciousness - such as it is.

And now that we are experiencing a revival - you want to discuss going back to our former home? The home from which we were thrown and the home in which Rush Limbaugh now lives?

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Can we end this "experience" debate?

First rule for observers of the American political scene is to ignore any media analysis that posits a "horse race" meme. Here are several reasons why:

  1. Journalists interpret their commitment to objectivity as requiring them to balance ever positive statement of a candidate with a negative statement. Reporters, anchors and editors fear applying any value metric - that's subjective! - and so they merely present tables of "this helped candidate X; this hurt candidate X.
  2. Media outlets need to sell papers and get ratings. Conflict, division, battle - these are the themes that attract attention from viewers and readers. Witness how early polls that showed Obama with a wide lead were immediately discounted as false.
  3. Focus on an allegedly tight national poll ignores the fact that we do not elect presidents that way; we elect presidents on a state by state basis. And yet even here - where Obama has held a consistent 20 electoral vote lead by the most conservative estimate since the conclusion of the Democratic primary season - the commentary from journalists tend more toward, "why isn't his lead even larger?" This is the classic case of comparing Obama to a "generic" Democrat and saying that he is not doing as well as that "generic" candidate. This ignores the fact that he was not in a contest against a "generic" Democrat, he was in contest with Clinton, Edwards, Biden, Richardson, et al. Then and now he is performing better than any of those candidates.
But I started all of this with a plea to end this senseless debate on "experience". Journalists create this artificial "horse race" meme and then attempt to fill the space with their analysis. Their faith in how they apply "objectivity" causes them to continually posit pros and cons of each candidate and then they answer their own question as to the state of the "horse race" with opinions as to why candidate X is performing not up to their expectations. They have chosen "experience" as one reason for Obama's reportedly lower performance - again compared to that generic Democrat.

Is it not the very definition of insanity to do what "experience" has taught you to do and still expect a different result? We know what experience told us to do when it comes to energy supplies: go to war to obtain the energy resources needed. That is what WWII was all about, was it not? Did we not cement our alliance with the House of Saud as a result of that war? So when two oilmen enter the White House and develop an energy plan in secret - can we not assume that the plan was developed from their experience?

Experience is changing our environment, this is a confirmed fact that we can all see every day. We do not know what the new environment will be and we do not know if we can live in that environment; why should we risk finding out? Why would we bet the lives of our children and all of their children in some selfish quest to do what our experience tells us to do?

We have a need; we can call that need "change", but what we need is to do something new. We cannot do what we did before - what our experience has taught us to do - as that way is the path to death. The human - the animal - instinct for survival compels us to veer off the well-trod path of experience.

McCain wants you to think that Obama is risky. Nothing could be more risky than electing a man who is so incapable of learning something new - of doing something different - that he has his staff "bring him interesting information off the internet."

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A republic - if you can keep it

To whom should we - the citizens who have ennobled and enriched the free press and its associated television reporters, anchors and commentators - lodge our complaints of malfeasance against the ABC News organization and their corporate overlords at Disney?

I was reading Glenn Greenwald today on Salon.com and he laid out a fairly prima facie case that tied ABC News and their atrocious reporting on the anthrax case to the thin fibers of a causus belli for war to depose Saddam Hussein. What we know now - in the absence of honest reporting by ABC News - is that government officials deliberately lied to ABC News to get an implication of Saddam Hussein's involvement in that anthrax attack. These repeated insinuations have been cited by as high an authority as President Bush as an exemplar of Saddam's status as an original member of the "axis of evil" and just the sort of evil dictator who could no longer be allowed to operate in a post-9/11 world.

- ABC News has information on several government sources who spread false information about that anthrax attack.

- ABC News has not revealed which government operatives were spreading those lies that implicated Saddam Hussein in that anthrax attack.

- We are approaching our second presidential election since a war against Iraq was launched - resulting in the deaths of more than 100K people, final toll TBD - and a "news" organization with critical information on how and why we are at this point is sitting on it; for what reason?

This is beyond a complaint letter to an ombudsman. This is not something that the Justice Department can even begin to investigate as they are hopeless compromised. There is no independent counsel law and who would trust one appointed by this President. Congressional hearings have been debased from the point of view of the public.

To what institution can we turn to redress this ill?

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McCain first played the race card

What follows is my latest attempt to check fools - this time on "John in Carolina". This comment has not made the cut there - yet.

Tarheel Hawkeye: let me be more clear; apparently, I was too diffuse earlier.

Obama has not questioned McCain's status as an American.

McCain has - implicitly - questioned Obama's status as an American ("The American President the American people have been waiting for" - and he did so with a dangling participle)

McCain attacked Obama's status as an American through Obama's African - black - father.

McCain was the first to play the race card in this presidential contest and he did so in the most incorrigible way possible: by insinuating that by the "black blood" Obama carries directly, he cannot be the American President the American people have been awaiting.

This statement was a direct descendant of the thinking that led to the decision in the Dred Scott case of 1854, wherein the Supreme Court of this land stated that no black man had any rights which need be respected by law. The drafters of the Constitution denied citizenship - American-ness - to the African residents of this country; the Supreme Court reinforced that otherness in Dred Scott and nameless other decisions as well. John McCain reincarnated that philosophy with his initial campaign ad of the general election.

I know you have named this blog "John in Carolina", but I hope and pray that it is not beholden to the same old tired rhetoric that claims blacks are not citizens and can never be citizens.

A war was fought over that idea.

Many people died over that question.

Must we repeat that war in the 21st century?

McCain chose to play the race card, because he believes - cynically - that it is his best hope for bypassing the failures of the administration he seeks to succeed.

His act was beneath him.

Defense of that act is beneath you and I alike.

PS - I brought up Helms and Gantt simply for the connection to Carolina and it seemed a nice corollary to the point that bringing up race has long been a component of Republican electoral strategy. A quick read through comments that call Obama an "affirmative action candidate" - firms up that tie-in as affirmative action was the culprit in that Helms ad against Gantt then too.

Black people are not now and have never been the enemy of this country. We have fought for the American ideal in every war this nation has ever waged - even before the fruits of freedom were secured for us and our kin. Anyone who attempts to drive a wedge between Americans of "different" racial backgrounds is seeking to build up their own power base and not to build up our nation.

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