"This is a pull quote."
-- Meriah Doty, USC Adjunct Professor

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All photography by Joe Shmo

Political Slide Show

All photography by Joe Shmo
"This is a pull quote" Meriah

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Surf's Up!

Obama bet his fantastically successful candidacy on his ability to remain unmoored from what makes us so uncomfortable— America’s racial history, and more specifically, America’s relationship to its descendants of African slaves. As of his March 19th speech on race relations, that freely floating candidacy has been securely anchored right where he did not want it to be.

Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “In some ways, this controversy has actually shaken me up a little bit and gotten me back into remembering that the odds of me getting elected have always been lower than those of some of the other conventional candidates.”

Reminded him? Please. If he ever forgot, he certainly hasn’t the smarts to lead this country out of its current morass— and he has. He did not forget. He wanted us to forget… when it was convenient for his campaign. When he could gin up black support by accusing Clinton surrogates of racism, he remembered. Let’s face it, the man has done a brilliant job of playing both ends against the middle. Now, however, the jig is up. With the Jeremiah Wright controversy and the ensuing speech (which was far less an act of political bravery than political necessity, intelligently and elegantly handled), he’s acknowledged his ties to Afro-American culture and the distasteful light it shines on American history. He has attached himself to everything he once told America he would let them forget (Pardon me… transcend). We will not look at him the same way again.

Kevin Drum wrote:

“I think Obama’s fervent hope is that his speech pretty much closes the issue of race in this campaign. It just flatly doesn’t help him in any way to keep it on the front burner. Like NAFTA, which dropped off the radar after Ohio, I expect that after a couple of days Obama will also drop the subject of race if he possibly can. We’ll know by next week.”

No doubt that is his hope. But his aura has shifted. He has associated himself with that which, frankly, the majority of Americans don’t want to discuss, have a dialog about, confront or do the work to overcome. He has associated himself with some of the ugliest aspects of this nation’s past, things from which we’ve averted our eyes throughout most of our history. We have no desire to stop now. And henceforth, when we look at Obama, we can easily see some aspect of it.

When he first announced his candidacy, I assumed he was going to follow a successful model. I assumed he wanted to inure America to his black face and his adoption of Afro-American culture. This first run, I assumed, would allow all the poisons that lurked in the mud to hatch out. It would allow him to confront racial/cultural issues and race-based attacks. Doing so, he would make enemies, and he would lose, but the process would elevate his standing and stature. He would then spend the next four or eight years as a leader in various national and international fields, prepped to win in 2012 or 2016.

The model is Hillary Clinton’s. During her husband’s first campaign, she attacked gender issues head-on (artlessly, grant you). She talked about “standing by her man” and baking cookies, and got attacked from all sides. She made clear that she would not play the passive role assigned to her. For that pronouncement, she made enemies, most of whom still hate her with a psychotic passion. That dirty work done, however, she set about building a reputation based on the non-traditional role she had assumed. She won herself a senate seat, burnished a reputation as a hard worker, and got closer than any other woman could to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.

I don’t know if it was Obama’s bi-racial background or his knowledge of his genetic freedom from the historic chains of Afro-American culture, but he seemed to believe he could avoid confronting “race” head-on, and thus make no enemies. He was wrong. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reports that “The co-founder of Laura Ingraham’s radio show, who now helps run Hugh Hewitt’s ‘Salem Radio Network,’ has mixed an Obama video interweaving Obama with Malcolm X, the Black Power salute at the Mexico City Olympics and Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’.”

Yes. Obama’s aura has shifted, and this is how the game is played when you’re clothed in basic American black.

There’s an apocryphal story involving opera singers, including two black divas, sitting backstage. One of the black women reads a review. She grows agitated. “The black diva, the black diva… why is it always the black diva,” she roars and storms from the room. The others sit in silent discomfort.

“Someone had to tell her,” says the remaining black diva.

From the eyes of a teacher

I sat down with a friend of mine today who graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, MA last week, and we talked for a while about her take on the educational system in the United States. Although majoring in Theater Arts, Ashley Ghannad received a minor in elementary education and her certification, and plans to be an elementary school teacher as her next step.

Following, I have written up some of what she contributed to the conversation, as it taught me a lot about education from the teaching perspective. She also commented on being a graduating senior, entering into the job force while the economy is in its present state.

Before I can go into what she had to say, I should give a brief description of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) since she talks about it. For all of you who may not know what it is, NCLB
is a controversial United States Federal Law that reauthorized a number of federal programs aiming to improve the performance of U.S. primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts, and schools. It hinges on the idea of inclusive classrooms, meaning students with all levels of learning abilities in the same classroom, who require a myriad of different teaching modalities to learn.

NCLB is the latest federal legislation, which enacts the theories of standards-based education reform, formerly known as outcome-based education, which is based on the belief that high expectations and setting of goals will result in success for all students - no matter their learning level. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools. NCLB does not assert a national achievement standard.

The effectiveness and desirability of NCLB's measures are highly controversial and constantly debated. A primary criticism asserts that NCLB could reduce effective instruction and student learning because it may cause states to lower achievement goals and motivate teachers to "teach to the test." A primary supportive claim asserts that systematic testing provides data that sheds light on which schools are not teaching basic skills effectively, so that interventions can be made to reduce the achievement gap for disadvantaged and disabled students.

With all that said, let's get into what Ashley, shown to the right, had to say.

She said that while NCLB is highly effective and a great idea in theory, translating theory into practice makes things more than difficult for a teacher. And thus, NCLB has not been as effective as it was intended to be.

She believes in not separating students - putting all the learning disabled students in one classroom and the regular education students in another - but there needs to be some sort of revision.

"NCLB needs to be looked at...really looked at...and maybe not even thrown away. But something's not working. Something needs to change."

Of the potential future presidents, John McCain voted for NCLB, Hillary Clinton would end NCLB, and Barack Obama would reform it. For more information about the candidates' stances on the issue, click here for a full recap.

But she attributes some of the difficulties to certain issues. They might be separate form NCLB, but they still affect the education system and the next president must take a close look at them.

Funding is a major issue. She talked about the achievement gap, where students who grow up in urban settings already have a certain percentage less chance of graduating that students who grow up in suburban settings, just because of the types of schools they go to and how much funding the school receives.

Some urban schools, she explained, don't have any resources or materials...some don't even have enough desks for their students and 40 kids to a class.

"A construction worker needs tools to build a house," Ghannad said. "Teachers aren't miracle workers. They can't teach effectively without the correct tools."

And when students don't receive any supplemental education - art, music, physical education - she doesn't blame kids for not enjoying their education, especially when so many teachers are teaching to the tests. The students who were born and raised in the United States take the same tests as those who have been in America for one year and struggle with English who take the same tests as those with dyslexia...teachers don't want their students to fail and their schools to lose funding (if a school does not pass a certain quota per year, it can lose funding), so of course the teacher teaches to the test. But sometimes that's not as effective. And not is it only ineffective for certain students, but it also takes away other valuable learning experiences. So not only are kids missing out on all of the "fun" classes, but they're also not learning as much science or social studies because they're not on the first couple of tests, at the youngest level.

"These are our future doctors and presidents, and they're not getting a well-rounded education. They're not fully educated individuals of society, and we're blaming them for not graduating?" she questioned.

Even the money spent on NCLB has not been up to par.

There are also individual education plans, which those who have learning disabilities or are considered special education. Plans are drawn up for these kids and teachers, principals, parents, psychologists, etc. all come up with specific goals and work to achieve those goals. So not only does a teacher then have to be specific to each of these students' needs (and there are probably multiple plans per class), but she needs to speed these students up while at the same time not boring the regular education students or those in between.

"There were so many teachers who could not deal with all the pressures and retired early in the past few years...not to mention some good retirement packages were written up," Ghannad said. "Many old fashioned teachers can't deal with new ideas, you know, education plans, inclusion classes, experiential education, hands-on activities...they couldn't keep up with the pressure of different theories and beliefs so they figured they would just retire early so not to become discouraged."

But Ghannad takes this all as a challenge. As a young teacher, directly out of college, she is excited to jump right into her own class.

"It's going to be challenging," she said, "but I’m really excited to jump in. A year ago I thought about having my own classroom and almost had a heart attack, and it’s only been a year, but now I feel like I’m ready, I’m prepared."

But she hopes the next president can step in and take a look at everything and see that "education is a problem."

"I understand war spending is important, but a good president will be able to juggle everything - both international and our problems - as opposed to Bu
sh who decided to pick one thing (whatever that may be, and he chose war spending and forgot the rest). I'm sure he never had to deal with the achievement gap, growing up in a poor city or anything else facing education these days. He's never tried to empathize. Hopefully the next president will just take a long hard look."

Either way, Ghannad is in it for the long haul.

I knew the money wouldn’t be great, and that’s okay with me because I think I’ll go to work every day and love what I do despite how frustrating it might be at times."

(p.s. -- hopefully this can count as two posts -- I put not only a lot of time and effort into getting the interview, but I wrote a lot -- 1261 words to be exact, which is enough to cover two blog posts.)

Democratic deadlock looks deadly for Clinton's dream

Yup, that's right folks - for all of you Hillary Clinton supporters, it's looking pretty bleak. But why does the woman refuse to back down? Well there are lots of reasons, the biggest being personal: it would mean accepting the fact she will not achieve her dream...well, at least not this year. And the dream of becoming the first female president in the United States is not a small one, nor is it an easy one to achieve. She was well on her way. After Super Tuesday, it looked even brighter for her. But in the past few months, it has come crumbling down before her eyes. But like I said before...for this year, at least.

The following YouTube clip goes more into what should go into the New York senator's decision.

Now, is there a possible joint ticket with Barack Obama as president and Clinton as vice president? In his first interview since the primaries in North Carolina and Indiana just a few days ago, Obama deflected the question. He said it's too early to start thinking about running mates.

"Sen. Clinton has shown herself to be an extraordinary candidate. She's tireless, she's smart, she's capable, and so obviously she'd be on anybody's short list to be a potential vice presidential candidate," he said. "But it would be presumptuous of me at this point ... to somehow suggest that she should be my running mate."

But think of the one two punch that would be - and there has been much talk of this throughout the race. Clinton brings her "experience," and Obama, his "change," but I don't think we can be surprised who came out on top. As green as Obama may be when it comes to being the president of the United States, his promise for change has hit the hearts of voters nationwide.

A Rock the Vote poll shows that where 23 percent of Americans think the country is going in the right direction, 69 percent believe it's going in the wrong track.

Source: Rock the Vote 2008

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Clinton promises to keep things the way they are because she doesn't. But her campaign revolved around the idea that she would be able to hit the ground running from day one (emphasizing her past White House experience, etc.) whereas Obama's entire campaign was grounded on a foundation of change. From day one, he's promised change. And that hasn't changed now that he is almost guaranteed his party's nomination.

"The world wants to see the United States lead. They've been disappointed and disillusioned over the last seven, eight years," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview on "The Situation Room."

"I think there is still a sense everywhere I go that if the United States regains its sense of who it is and our values and our ideals, that we will continue to set the tone for a more peaceful and prosperous world."

Linkz and Lolz

Last week saw the continued brow-beating of the American people with Jeremiah Wright overkill. The first 16 minutes of Meet the Press were devoted to it. CNN, FoxNews, and the whole lot continue to replay the YouTube clips. I’ve even seen some ridiculous implications in the more whacked-out portions of the blogsophere that Obama and Wright are co-conspirators in a murder.

As the Democratic primary slogs on, it seems people really can’t get enough of this sensationalism, like all of the real issues have now been exhausted and the entire affair is reduced to a pseudo-meditation on race in America. If that’s what people really want to talk about, why not replay clips of Obama’s speech in March over and over again? Seems a bit more comprehensive than Wright’s sermons.

Frank Rich wrote a brilliant op-ed for the New York Times over the weekend discussing the double-standard in the media on the coverage of Wright/Obama vs. Hagee/McCain.

None of this is to say that two wacky white preachers make a Wright right. It is entirely fair for any voter to weigh Mr. Obama’s long relationship with his pastor in assessing his fitness for office. It is also fair to weigh Mr. Obama’s judgment in handling this personal and political crisis as it has repeatedly boiled over. But whatever that verdict, it is disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t a double standard operating here. If we’re to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates — and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them — we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.

Meanwhile, as our country is engaged in multiple fronts of war, all in the name of combating “terror,” a recent MSNBC article discusses the failure of the US government to work with Yemen in retaining many of the suspects in the USS Cole bombing. The suspects have either escaped or been outright freed by the Yemeni government as the US made several unsuccessful attempts at forcing extradition. Two went on to commit suicide attacks in Iraq.

“After we worked day and night to bring justice to the victims and prove that these Qaeda operatives were responsible, we’re back to square one,” said Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and a lead investigator into the bombing. “Do they have laws over there or not? It’s really frustrating what’s happening.”

Two of the suspects, however, are sitting pretty in Gitmo right now, making me wonder how this diplomatic impasse will serve as further justification for the existence of the American concentration camp in Cuba.

Elsewhere, an article getting a ton of heat on The Huffington Post concerns Clinton’s campaign using the “nuclear option” of using the DNC’s Rules and By-Laws Committee meeting on May 31 to force the seating of Michigan and Florida delegates (quite a nifty piece of headline writing). Looks like this could possibly get uglier. Great.

And just to spice things up a bit, here’s a great Times Online piece discussing the evolution of the music industry and how many smaller acts are giving into branding partnerships with big business to foot the bills.

This isn’t exactly from the weekend, but it’s an encouraging report on the anti-SUV sentiment now rampant in the used car market as a byproduct of rising gas prices.

And lastly, this is just for gits and shiggles. It robbed me of my last scrap of innocence. Nature can be downright bizarre.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Changing" times call for a specific agenda


It comes in many forms, and both democratic candidates are asking for it.

If a democratic candidate emerges to beat John McCain in the next few months, we’ll see a lot of change.

Following the amount of attention Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have drawn to themselves, and how little attention has been paid to McCain, the thought of McCain having a legitimate shot at the White House seems far removed from the daily realm of discourse and expectation.

After all the talk that has ensued, and the 21 debates, and the constant news coverage, it seems either Obama or Clinton is necessarily in line to take over the Oval Office.

But behind the usual chatter that seems to take over every conversation, news-talk program and newspaper front page, is a quieter, more ominous and biting topic.

It’s in these dark, underground conversations, that the rooted pessimism emerges and we hear whispers of another superlative for Obama; unelectable.

Hidden away from the news cameras and far from the poster boards calling for change and hope, are the mass e-mails sent out of Obama’s family in farming clothes, asking America, “Is this what you want for our first family?”

It’s the web sites with quotes from Obama, grossly out of context, painting him as a terrorist or, “too black” to run our nation, like this one from Obama, saying, “There are a lot of people in the world to whom the American flag is a symbol of oppression. And the anthem it self conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all. It should be swapped for something less parochial and less bellicose.”

It’s the Youtube.com videos made by the KKK calling for the ultimate destruction of the African American presidential candidate.

Those discreet, underground whispers say “unelectable” at the surface. But deep down, what they mean is “black.”


And the conservatives aren’t the only ones who know that word. But in this politically correct world, the news media simply cannot acknowledge the existence of the deep seeded racism that truly exists in this country. If they acknowledge it, they accept it. And for a business run by ratings and advertising, accepting the existence of racism would be fatal.

Sometimes, the racism is characterized as “fanatic,” or something like that, but when we say fanatic, we imply that such a belief is the minority of the beliefs in this nation. Sadly, I think this is a mischaracterization, because racism in this country, still, is not the minority belief. Obama, himself, recognized that in his “race” speech.

Suddenly, it starts to seem like McCain doesn’t have much of a fight ahead of him, although judging by Obama’s performance thus far, it’s obvious he does.
The fight facing Obama, if he wins the nomination, is on par with the any of the greatest civil rights struggles in the past 100 years. Yes, I said a civil rights struggle, even in a society that calls itself accepting and progressive.

Between now and November, onlookers to this election cycle are going to be bombarded with conservative propaganda by a Republican Party determined not to change the past.
Maybe that’s the change Obama is asking for, that he won’t characterize as such, in so many words.

The change Obama asks for, is actually the change he needs. As people, we are inherently resistant to change.

Unfortunately for the rising star candidate, he cannot win unless we do change our views, and cut down those misinformed mass e-mails before they start.
Expect a lot more of this type of behavior before November.

Unfortunately for Obama, my grandparent’s generation is still around, at least for another couple of years, who simply won’t tolerate the change he needs to succeed.
My grandmother, who says Obama is a sleeper cell terrorist, so she’ll vote for McCain, even though she liked Romney more, is a huge obstacle for him.

It comes in many forms, and both democratic candidates are asking for it.
But maybe they’re not just asking for it for the nation’s sake. Maybe it’s not coincidental that both an African American and a woman made “change” their key platform.

Maybe they did it, because they know that without change, neither of them has a fighting chance. How far our nation would come though, if we could change.

As it stands, there has not been a more qualified candidate to lead our nation, in years than Obama. Now it’s time to see where our nation truly stands on matters of race and justice. After the 1950s and 60s, we have looked upon our racial progression with pride.

If Obama is shut down by the Conservative party, which they are no doubt gearing up to do before November, it should become clear that we have a lot further to go than we thought.

Change isn’t just what Obama wants; it’s what he needs.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Should she stay or should she go?

Hillary Clinton - is it right for her to stay in the race at this point? I mean, come on now, this thing is taking forever - as herbsao sums up in the post below me. Think about it...it was just a few weeks ago when much of the Democratic party was urging her to drop out of the competition...not because they hated her, but because they felt by "prolonging the inevitable" - a Barack Obama victory - she was doing nothing but hurting the party's chances of winning at the end. Even Rush Limbaugh - the voice of the Republican party - urged Texas to vote for Clinton months ago when Obama looked like he was unstoppable, just so it would buy John McCain some time to better prepare for the presidential race that was around the corner.

In the midst of all that, Clinton held strong and compared herself to the likes of none other than Rocky Balboa.

But before you make a decision as to whether it is right or wrong for Clinton to still be in the race, take these things into consideration:
--> According to an Associated Press poll, when matched up head-to-head, Clinton now leads McCain by 9 points, whereas McCain and Obama are running about even. This bolsters Clinton's argument that she is more electable than her Democratic rival.
--> The governor of North Carolina, Mike Easely, recently endorsed Clinton saying that she "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy." She is gaining support from a number of elected Democrats around the country, which also shows how highly respected she is as the potential Democratic presidential candidate.
--> The potential gas tax holiday splits Clinton and Obama...Clinton, like McCain, for it...Obama against it. With the future of rising oil prices looming, it seems that voters will support anybody who supports cutting fuel prices, even if just for a little bit.

So now you have the facts. The only question that remains now is, do you think Hillary Clinton is just hurting her party and should drop out of the Democratic race?

When is the end?

Seriously, when is this all going to end?

When will the Democratic Party at long last nominate its candidate for president? This niggling little super delegate war that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are waging is murdering their party's chances by the day.

It's getting out of hand. Sure, more and more super delegates are either leaving Clinton's camp and joining Obama's or are pledging their allegiances outright to the Illinois senator. Sure, Clinton still has a slim lead in the overall super delegate count. But last time I checked, Obama still had a commanding lead in DELEGATES! I mean the word "super" normally makes things better. Put it in front of simple words like "man" or "bowl" and they are magically transformed into comic book heroes and unofficial national holidays. Cool, I get it. Super.

But in the case of delegate counts, super does not mean better. Super just means diplomat, and the last time I checked, the American people elected presidents not supermen and women. And a majority of the American people want to see Barack Obama tango with John McCain. So give them what they want now. If the DNC waits until the convention, they may have vacillated their way out of a president.

It's like picking teams for a pick-up basketball game. Everyone selects a player from the playground, all of whom are equally qualified. But one team already has LeBron James . It doesn't matter who you pick up because LeBron James is better than anyone on the playground.

Get it? The American people is LeBron James. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo is just some bum on the blacktop.

And another thing. Have you been listening to Karl Rove talk about Clinton lately.

When the Prince of Darkness (Rove was the devil that got Bush elected twice, remember?) starts paying compliments to a political rival, it means that he knows he can destroy them. When Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh said at the beginning of last season that the '08 USC Trojans were the best team in college football history, he was being facetious. Remember what happened? He pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever by going in to the Coliseum and beating the best team in college football history. I was there. It was horrible.

Don't be fooled. The McCain camp knows they can beat Clinton one-on-one. And I believe them. Just because they share a party with the least popular president in modern history, doesn't mean the rest of the party isn't fed up with him also.

Meanwhile, Obama has done everything he can to distance himself from his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, his relationship with him being the only major sleight on his campaign. He has criticized Wright for his comments on a consistent basis, delivered possibly the most powerful and poignant speech on race ever by a major politician, he has even gone on the Today Show with his wife Michelle and talked to Meredith Viera about the issue.

Let go, people. Obama is not a racist and most know nothing about Wright besides the fact that he's an opportunist that likes to speak out of context.

Anyway, that's enough. This rant is getting subjective. All I want is a true, bona fide presidential contest. And I can't get that until the Dems have picked their horse.

Or donkey. Whatever.

LIVE! from the May Day march

Photos taken at the UCLA Labor Center pre-march rally. American Apparel's "Legalize LA"
and MIWON (the Multi Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network) were represented by hundreds of protesters. A live band played raggaeton for an hour before the crowd gathered to march down Beverly Blvd. (1st St.) towards Broadway St. downtown, the epicenter of this year's May Day immigration march. By the way, the dude with the alien is wearing a shirt that says, "I don't want to be an alien. I want to be legal."

Close your eyes and you would think you were at a futbol match at the Estadio Azteca with all the whistling and the Spanish chants in unison.

Cover your ears and you would think you were at a city-wide picket. There are tens of thousands of screaming, singing, dancing, passionate people in front of you, all gathered in a single mass of angry solidarity.

If you took the latter choice, you'd pretty much have it nailed, although the former isn't that far off in terms of spirit. Instead of "Ole, Ole, Ole!" the chants here are "Si Se Puede! (We can do it!)"

The May Day march, an annual Los Angeles event, has been the largest immigration reform protest in the country, probably the world the last several years. Last year, the march ended in violence, as many protesters were beaten and shot with rubber bullets by members of the LAPD riot squad. The fallout caused a public protest and the LAPD (and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) had to stage another more peaceful rally a month later.

By all accounts, the events of last year are a thing of the past, as police have been acting nothing but courteous (if not, too
courteous) for this year's marchers. Some of them are in skin-tight 70's style NBA short shorts and smiling. It's kind of surreal.

It would also seem that last year's events have made this year's march even bigger. I would estimate that several thousand more have crammed their way onto Broadway this year. Even more are expected to come to the 4 p.m. rally as many will be getting off of work or school then.

This is also an election year, and immigration reform is one of the hot button issues, making this rally a bit more involved.

Organizers of the march have not lost sight of the importance of the rally in an election year.

"I think [immigration reform] is very important this year," said Strela Cervas, a community organizer with MIWON and the Pilipino Workers Center. "The candidates have proposed some comprehensive immigration reform. It depends on our mass movement to push the issue further. We need to show them this immigration system is broken and it effects everyone."

She said that there are 12 million undocumented workers that are paying taxes and boosting the economy. But they have been afforded no status and therefore cannot participate in the economy they contribute to.

As of now, there has been no appearance by Obama or Clinton, although John McCain was loudly presented at the UCLA LC rally by a man identifying himself as Melrose Larry Green or the Howard Stern Show fame. Who knows if it was really him, but he was certainly crazy enough to fit the part.

"You're much prettier than Hillary Clinton," he cooed to a police horse at the rally. "Much prettier."

I don't care about Hillary Clinton anymore

As it stands right now, it’s impossible for Clinton to win with pledged delegates. She’s too far behind Obama, and she has plum run out of time. It’s not going to happen. This matters a lot, of course, least of all because no Democratic candidate has ever won the nomination without leading in pledged delegates.

Unfortunately, Clinton’s campaign – who I will hereafter refer to as the Hillary truthers – is having none of this. On Tuesday night of last week, campaign chairman and head truther Terry McAuliffe instead trumpeted the popular vote as a new measure of victory. However, even if the popular vote decided the nomination – and it doesn’t – the math isn’t looking too favorable here, either.

Unless McAuliffee is counting the outlawed Michigan and Florida primaries, Clinton’s likely too far behind on this metric to win as well. She is still 600,000 votes behind Obama in the popular vote, and he is looking to make up a good chunk of the 200,000 or so votes he lost in Pennsylvania in the upcoming North Carolina and Indiana primaries.

That is the stark math of defeat. And with that laid out in front of them, Clinton and the Hillary truthers may want to take a long, hard look at the three options they have left. Of the three, only one leaves her with a modicum of dignity at the end. She would do well to choose wisely.

In the first scenario, she trudges on to Indiana and North Carolina, running a tame, respectful campaign. Then – after losing in North Carolina and, likely, Indiana – she drops out of the race, licks her wounds, and makes up for her scorched earth strategy by campaigning relentlessly for Obama in the general.

This is obviously the best scenario for her, Obama, and the party. As for her, it leaves open the option of running again in the future (whether for president or another higher office), and she can finally get to patching together some of the relationships she and Bill have spent the past few months laying waste to. Obama benefits too – he can start campaigning against the Republican he’s supposed to be campaigning against. And the party can begin the long, arduous task of mending itself.

In the second option, Clinton hangs in the race and ratchets up the attacks, continuing to thwack Obama with the heavy, well-used pages she has wrenched so readily out of the Republican playbook. The race lurches towards the finish line, with Clinton eventually losing because, well, that’s what happens to candidates who don’t win more pledged delegates than the other candidate. Hillary truthers, take note.

This scenario offers little in the way of merriment or viability, though. Clinton effectively ends her career, and she and Bill are left on the sidelines of a Democratic party that they once, for all intensive purposes, ran. Obama, on the other hand, slumps into the general election against McCain, who will pick up right where Hillary left off with the slander and innuendo and race-baiting and prevaricating. Then, if Obama loses, America stumbles through another four years of tragedy, this time with Calamity John at the reins.

And what, pray tell, lies beyond door three? The candidates continue to beat each other up as the primaries lumber on, and we end up in a Denver deadlock. There, Clinton is able to sway enough superdelegates over to her side to usurp the public’s will, and she – and the truthers – manage to wrest the nomination away from the first legitimate African-American presidential candidate in history. The Democratic Party is likely torn asunder, with the millions of new or rejuvenated voters that Obama brought into the campaign disenfranchised by their own party.

The general election will proceed, and Clinton will likely lose for a couple of reasons. First is that she will have alienated the (more than) half of the voters that wanted Obama to win, and deserved to have their voices heard. The second is that she will have yanked the race so far to the right that McCain – being, after all, a Republican – will simply outflank her, especially on national security, sending her career to an ignominious conclusion. And if she wins, we get at least four more years of reinvigorated partisan bickering, and burrow deeper into a status quo that’s not working for anybody.

So there are three options right now, two of which could charitably be called disastrous. So what will it be? As we slouch towards Denver, will things fall apart, or can the party hold together? Will we be able to look back on this race with fondness, or regret?

It’s in lil' Hill's hands now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

General News

There was some really great journalism this week. Unfortunately, it revealed some really awful journalism.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Pentagon used former military generals to spread significant messages about the status of American armed forces affairs.

According to the Times, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held meetings with the generals about certain types of media messages.

The story revealed that some time, the Pentagon has transcended predetermined messages to the retired generals to send to the mainstream media.

Here is an example of a story they all came together on:

This story is a victory for the Times, but a dangerous one for America. It has certainly led to a few questions:

For starters, what is the role of government propaganda at a time like this, when our country is at war in two different nations? It seems only to serve the purpose of deceiving Americans to gain falsely attained support.

The following document is a list of the things the generals agreed to say on CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS and other stations, and then proceeded to do.

It seems now more than ever, we must look to the news as a source of information, not necessarily truth.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Talking with each other...seems so easy, but is it?

Tom Brokaw just spoke at USC - took us through his life covering the late 1960's...man, he's been through it all. Seems like he just gets it. There's something about a guy like that, who has interviewed just about every big name in U.S. history during his career, that just seems authentic...there's something about him that makes me believe and trust he doesn't really bullshit his way through life. Good guy to listen to, and believe me, he said a lot - about race and politics, about citizenship, but even more simply...about talking and conversing with each other.

He left his listeners with an idea: if we don't speak to one another...if we stay on opposite sides of the room with opposite ideologies, how will we ever progress as a country? Dialogue. It is the simplest of ideas. It's what we're taught when we're younger. Listen when somebody speaks to you. Don't talk when somebody else is speaking. Respect others' opinions. Be open-minded. Maybe it's just the way I grew up, but I don't think so.

So how is it that as we get older, all this sort of fades away under the broad umbrella of what we like to call politics? It somehow becomes okay to attack each other for what we believe, to close ourselves and our minds off to differing opinions completely. And we call ourselves older...more mature.

Brokaw didn't really go into this as much...I took the liberty to expand on his thoughts, but just think about it.

Tom Brokaw at USC - Broad Yet Moving

When I heard Tom Brokaw was coming to USC, I knew I had to go. A man who has gone through history with America and abroad, reported on some of the Nation's greatest, worst and most monumental moments and has been a well-heard voice in the media, Brokaw had a lot to reflect on. Using these reflections, he delivered an eloquent speech remembering history and relating it to a generation who should learn from the stories of the past. Although quite idealistic and non-specific, with the theme of individuals contributing all that they can as citizens to the greater good of the people, it still was moving. With a feeling of wanting to be a part of a collective society who upholds the value of helping one another, audience members left Bovard asking what they could do? While coming across very genuine and grounded, one question left Brokaw only skimming the surface of a much deeper topic with an answer that contradicted itself. When asked how Brokaw thought Los Angeles should deal with the vast diversity of our city and break racial walls that divide our community among ethnic lines, he was slow to answer. He made the point that people are too afraid to offend one another, yet he was very careful with what he said himself. He discussed all needing to speak one language, which was vague. Did he mean metaphorically? It is interesting to compare Barack Obama's speech on race and politics with Brokaw's. It seems as if Brokaw feels he is not at liberty to discuss the issue with blunt honesty because he's never been fully immersed in the culture. While jumping in and out of moments of racial tension, he can't have the connection the Obama can to the issue of race. Obama's speech was risky, truthful and unglazed. Nonetheless, seeing Brokaw at USC was a privelege and a thought-provoking, moving experience. He is a man that's seen more in his life than most could in a century. He hit his point home when he said that change in our current day is going to come from the bottom up. Each of us has a responsibility to choose a meaningful life path that contributes to a brighter future for us all.

Multimedia message

Tom Brokaw speaks about the state of our country and people...first by taking us back to live through the 60's. How will we get through the "worst of times?" Well, how did they?

everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt

Let's take a break from politics and remember the one-year death anniversary of the most acerbic and kick ass writers to have ever lived....

My first image of Kurt Vonnegut was through the masked ballerina that forever scarred me. Her image was haunting, the elegance of her dance destroyed by the weights strapped to her legs, her beauty shrouded within a stifling, muggy facial mask, all her potential hidden among handicaps forced upon her by a totalitarian government so everyone would be treated equally.

I hated Kurt Vonnegut for creating the idea of her. I hated him for frightening me, for describing the most disturbing image of a dystopian world, which even seven years after first reading it still freaks me out.

She is one of the main characters in his short story, "Harrison Bergeron," one of my first and favorite works by the ridiculously insane Vonnegut.

With Vonnegut's passing last April, obituaries lauded him as a master of science fiction and complexity, metaphors and allegories, but I never thought of him as any of those things. He always just seemed like a grizzly old World War II vet intrigued by the scientific possibilities of the future who had the fortune of knowing how to write.

He was someone who had the unique ability to chuck around one-liners from a rocking chair as easily as taking a breath. He was acerbic, ironic, witty and painfully pragmatic. Vonnegut braved a POW camp during the Allied bombing of Dresden, and could write everything I never could and make it sound spontaneous. He could turn convoluted sentences into hard-hitting juggernauts, and somehow have everything make sense.

Like many impressionable eighth-graders, I used to read until I fell asleep under my blankets and dream I was a famous writer, and I was always most impressed by how minimally Vonnegut wrote. He didn't delve into grandiose metaphors about willows and wuthering heights - he made up words of his own, such as "Duprass," "bokonon," "foma." My favorite being "karass," the idea that a group of people are collectively conducting God's will in carrying out a precise, universal task.

In "Slaughterhouse-Five," the main character, Billy Pilgrim, notices how you never realize when you're happy until pain takes its place. He notices how peaceful it is immediately after a war, how the stagnancy after a horrible catastrophe leads to nothing but silence. Vonnegut was the same way; his complexities lay in how uncomplex he was, how he could just sit around after a massacre and make an observation about how quiet it was.

His advice was as simple as his writing. "Be a sadist," he told aspiring writers. "No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of."

He didn't take himself seriously and he realized the role of writing was about make-believe places, characters and plots, and not about the writer at all.

That's why, truthfully, Vonnegut would laugh at this post. Like when PBS once asked him how life was treating him, his response was a sober, "Well, it's practically over, thank God." After taking one look at the words written here, he'd probably ask, "What were you thinking? You spent 500 words writing about some fleshy old man decaying underground?" He'd say it that way, too: crassly, masochistically. Then he'd probably shrug his shoulders, whistle and sigh, "So it goes ..."

He was the most beloved sadist I've come to known.

Hillary Clinton: president forty fo'

We here at Reality Check haven't given a ton of space to Hillary Clinton coverage. Why? Maybe she scares us. Maybe, for better or for worse, she's just not as fun to write about.

Well I think the old girl's giving her campaign all she's got, and it's touched me. Not in the way that makes Popes blush (happy B-day Ben Dawg!) No, in the way that makes you want to write about them.

In an attempt to make Ms. Clinton more accessible to the youth we touch here at Reality Check (no pun intended. Right, Ben Dawg?) here's a song I found on the internet on Clinton. It's written by a young Schenectady street rapper named Herb Money. I guess Herb doesn't have a producer because it's written to the beat from Flo-Rida's "Get Low." It's missing a verse, but I still think it's on point. It's called "Prez Forty Fo'"

Want to rap it for yourself? Go for it. Be sure to start rapping at :22 in.

Rodham’s got that Clinton Health Plan [Plan]
Bill to confer [to confer]
The whole nation’s lookin’ at her
She won’t take no [she won’t take no]
She will plateau [she will plateau]
Prez forty fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’

That horny Ken Starr
He’s not even on a par [on a par]
She made it through Whitewater with not even a scar
She won’t take no [she won’t take no]
She will plateau [she will plateau]
Prez forty fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’

[Verse 1]
Ya ain’t never seen nuthin like Hill oh no
First a Yalie maybe Senate tem Pro
A female lawya; she got plenty of dough
Dem health care aches, they got to go
So deplorable, Bush be lamentable
Condemnable, off in wars and blow
Hold up wait a minute, do I see what I think I
Did I think I seen Rodham say yo
Girl she say she wanna give it a go
Be da Prez? Yah’if she says so
Work the polls, grab dem Dem votes
Voters say ‘hey, we ain’t go no bank roll’
Hill like, ‘I hear dat, be makin it grow’
They say, ‘On Iraq, why ain’t you vote no?’
Hill say, “Thought Saddam had A Bombs below.”

She had that

Clinton Health Plan [Plan]
Bill to confer [to confer]
The whole nation’s lookin’ at her
She won’t take no [she won’t take no]
She will plateau [she will plateau]
Prez forty fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’

That horny Ken Starr
He’s not even on a par [on a par]
She made it through Whitewater with not even a scar
She won’t take no [she won’t take no]
She will plateau [she will plateau]
Prez forty fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’

[Verse 2]
Hillary what ya gonna do to get the votes
Your thoughts in the papers
Gotta get them quotes
Senate Bills Policies you gotta promote
Talk up your feats but do not gloat

Best seller (come on)
Grammy win (come on)
Junior Senate (come on, now that’s not bad)

What you think she’s playin’ America
She’s the man, her mettle won’t scratch a Teflon pan

That’s what she’ll show you, what most of New York knew
Barack it is ova, you sick like ebola
Tasty like granola
Work her Motorola like Yo-Yo his viola
So lucky for you, the Delegates they love her
Don’t even need any payola
Sorry but you can’t control her
Hear that, Ayotollah?
She got them

Clinton Health Plan [Plan]
Bill to confer [to confer]
The whole nation’s lookin’ at her
She won’t take no [she won’t take no]
She will plateau [she will plateau]
Prez forty fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’

That horny Ken Starr
He’s not even on a par [on a par]
She made it through Whitewater with not even a scar
She won’t take no [she won’t take no]
She will plateau [she will plateau]
Prez forty fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’ fo’

The day of the Democratic nomination will be one of the most exciting days of my life;

I can’t wait.

That’s when we can finally start talking about something else.

For months, almost all of the political discussions I’ve engaged in have come down to the fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I know when we have a Democratic nominee, I’ll start talking about John McCain, and whether Republicans will stay loyal to their party or back the more popular candidate.
But since that day is not yet arrived, we have to keep talking about Obama and Clinton, and so in this column, I will.

Irrevocably, their fight is a novel one. It’s a great story that will long outlast either one of them, or their prospective terms in office. It is a story of courage, determination and strength of wit. It is as engaging as any movie I’ve seen recently, but that may be a problem of mine, I’m not sure.

As for the ending, however, I’m not sure the winner will ever be as significant as the battle, in the same way that an amazing book sometimes leaves its reader thinking more about the journey in the middle pages than the book-closing finale.

I haven’t lived through enough presidential elections to be sure, but I have gotten the impression, over the years, that presidential campaigns and platforms do not always mirror exactly what the elected officials do in office.

In other words, I don’t think it’s clear how much the nomination will tell us about what we can expect.

Do I like Obama more than Clinton? Yes. Do I think Obama is a better leader, potentially, than Clinton would be? I do. Would I vote for Obama over Clinton? I would.

But do I think Hillary would be a bad president? I don’t.

She could definitely handle the job and is qualified to do it well.

When you have a fight between two challengers, the dynamic always seems to form that one person must be good and the other must be bad. One choice must be better than the other, but we become so passionate about our beliefs that we turn our backs on the viable alternative, often giving it no credence.

Obama has my Democratic vote, but Clinton still has my confidence.

Here are my issues and frustrations as I think about the future:

When I graduate college, I’ll do so in one of the most unstable job markets we’ve seen in generations. Without a tremendous amount of capitol, it will be very difficult for me to get a reasonable mortgage on a house. I’ll also be paying off debts, hopefully from law school. My annual household income, currently, will be heavily taxed under Obama or Clinton. I am sick of living in a country that is at war overseas.

I do not believe electing Obama over Hillary, or Hillary over Obama, will greatly impact the future of my issues one way or the other. Our country’s needs are very apparent, and any president will have to deal with them and fix them.

Whether Hillary or Obama gets the Democratic nomination, I’m going to stay concerned about these issues until they change. To be honest, what we can expect from either Clinton or Obama is probably difficult, if not impossible, to tell right now.

I am so interested to see what happens either way. The conventional wisdom says the conservatives will come very close to destroying Obama, and I’m not sure that’s wrong, despite how unfair that would be.

So if Obama does, in fact, win the nomination, I’ll just hope the fight stays fair, though it probably won’t.

If Clinton wins the nomination, who I have always believed would be a less challenging candidate to face McCain, I will be anxious to see how she picks herself up from a troubled campaign and learns from her mistakes to fight back and win.

But other than that, I can’t say the nomination will really affect me one way or the other.

I’ll just be excited to talk about something else for once.

Beer Drinkin', Whisky Swiggin'

"Drink, drink, drink, drink!"

It's a common song sung among college kids - guys looking to prove their manhood and girls getting sloshed and sloppy. We look like marathon runners pining for their first cup of water after running through the desert for miles - we slam the cup back, chug down the frothy liquid, and wipe our mouths off of the foamy debris. If us college kids drink even half as much as we do now once we get into the real world, Alcoholics Annoymous will have to build a thousand more mega-churches to house us all.

"Live it up," so the saying goes. "...because once your out of college it's called alcoholism."

Let's face it. Alcohol is an intergral part of the college experience. We earn respect from our peers when we let loose and let the liquid pour.

Out in the real world, where people work nine-to-fives and can't afford late Thursday night bingers, alcohol is not such a staple. It does, however, hold similar objectives. It lets people relax, let go of nervous inhibitions and feel comfortable around one another. Having a beer once and while shows you're a normal person who likes to let go of the stress of every-day life and kick back with a cold one.

Hilary Clinton must have gotten this memo. She decided to head over to the local bar and enjoy some shots of crown royal and chug some beer with the common people.

Obama sees this as a publicity stunt - one to make her look like a regular, fun-loving gal who can relate to even the dive-bar crowd, when in all actuality, she's just a manipulative, cunning candidate.

Clinton could say the same thing about Obama, who was seen drinking a beer while bowling.

I don't exactly know what the intentions of either candidate was when they decided to get on camera with their beverages of choice, but I don't think the footage will scare voters away from either of them - especially young voters.

While discussing the hours of time CNN devoted to talking about the beer drinkin', whisky swiggin' candidates, several of my peers commented that not only did they think it wasn't a big deal, but it made them like the candidates even more. It showed them the more human side of the bickering duo. I'm not sure staunch republicans will feel the same way, although if their truthful with themselves, they like a good scotch as much as any democrat.

I'm not saying that voters should vote for their candidate based on the brand of liquor they enjoy (although Hilary's choice of Crown Royal wasn't a bad one), I'm just saying that it is sometimes nice, especially for young voters, to feel they can relate to the candidates. I think we all want to know that the candidates aren't political robots programmed to manipulate. I hope that neither Clinton or Obama's drinking stunts were calculated to misrepresent their humanness, but it is possible. We all know politicians can by calculating!

Take a look at this YouTube Video and decide for yourself. At the very least, you'll be entertained.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Basketball and Politics, Experience is Key

Davidson College had a tremendous basketball program this year.

I hope Barack Obama watches NCAA basketball and got a chance to see Davidson play.

There is much the presidential hopeful can learn from the March Madness basketball tournament, regardless of the strength of Obama’s campaign staff or the cunning of his many savvy strategists.

Tonight, two seasoned NCAA basketball powerhouse schools will face off for the rights to the 2008 collegiate title. No rookie schools survived the battle and typically few do.

Almost each year, around March, we marvel as a team no one has heard of starts beating the well-known competition and begins to fight its way toward the big dance. Last year it was George Mason. This year it was Davidson College.

With every win, thousands of fans join the bandwagon and within weeks, teams like George Mason or Davidson are readily marketed as America’s team. There is something about rooting for an underdog that seems to captivate and arouse our senses as Americans. But rarely does an underdog win it all. At the highest level of competition, the rookies almost never beat the seasoned competitor.
If there is anything to be learned by Obama, it should be never to underestimate a seasoned veteran.

It is truly amazing the way in which so many people underestimate John McCain.
Conventional wisdom, now-a-days, seems to dangerously ignore the possibility of John McCain offering a real fight to the Democratic nominee, presumably Obama.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that, “lots of conservatives and Republicans expect Barack Obama to be our next president.”
Is it because he’s old? Is it that he hid his medical record? Is it because he’s flown below the radar while letting the democratic nominees make the rookie mistake of exhausting themselves before the real fight?

Whatever the reason for discounting the veteran politician, remember one crucial thing: McCain has been here before.
The man has been knocked down more times than most, and each time, he begrudgingly and counter intuitively finds a way to stand back up and regain any lost ground. He is no stranger to beating the odds.

He’s beat cancer, war imprisonment and torture. He’s beat the predictions of every media pundit back in July, who stood on their pedestal and boisterously called for the rapid self-destruction of McCain’s campaign, after the loss of two key strategists.
Articles are already predicting the quick demise of the republican senator, with the Times already saying things like, “The McCain campaign will be slow taking off… It’s going to be a summer of love for Obama, and a tough few months for McCain.”

His track record shows him routinely beating the odds and champions him as the voice of experience and political know-how.
Obama is foolish if he believes the media, and discounts the competition that seemingly belies him.

It may be safe to say Hillary was but a warm-up.

As Obama and Hillary enter the twelfth round of their boxing match for the Democratic nomination, McCain quietly and comfortably rounds the country on his Service to America bus tour. Meanwhile, he is building an army of regional campaign managers, as was reported in the Washington Post over the weekend. They range from former lobbyists, political experts, and even a former Romney advisor.

I believe it will be a close race if Obama and McCain face off, as long as Obama takes
McCain for what he is, which is a tough and ruthless competitor, and not just an old man looking for one last hoorah.

Obama needs to keep in mind that while he is an unquestionably strong candidate- perhaps one of the strongest ever, McCain has just been around so much longer. And it is not just Obama’s lack of years in the U.S. Senate that puts him at a deficit to McCain in terms of experience. It’s that McCain has learned the intricacies of the battle he faces for the Oval Office, in ways Obama hasn’t yet.

Simply put, the University of Kansas, who will play for the championship tonight, opened its doors in 1866, 29 years after Davidson College. But Kansas has seen a lot more championship action than Davidson, and slowly, but surely, exhausted the inexperienced team, then went for the throat. Tonight, our beloved Davidson is an after-thought.

As the old adage says: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog- even if the dog is old and has weak hips- or something like that.

Sippin' on gin and (prune) juice

McCain infuriates me. A mention of his name literally causes me to ball my hand into a fist and smash it into a child. Unfortunately the way the press has covered the elections, issues take backseat to the mega-sporting event spectacular "WHOAZzzzzzz OBAMA AHEAD BY..." aura of the whole ordeal.

For example, rarely does one hear McCain mention his pro-life stance, especially since the primaries have heated up— a brilliant possum strategy unimaginable from the other candidates. Even more perplexing is McCain’s appeal to voters who oppose the war in Iraq, a fact again revealed by the Associated Press exit polls. Consider this snippet from McCain’s own website concerning his position on Iraq:

A greater military commitment now is necessary if we are to achieve long-term success in Iraq. John McCain agrees with retired Army General Jack Keane that there are simply not enough American forces in Iraq. More troops are necessary to clear and hold insurgent strongholds; to provide security for rebuilding local institutions and economies; to halt sectarian violence in Baghdad and disarm Sunni and Shia militias; to dismantle al Qaeda; to train the Iraqi Army; and to embed American personnel in Iraqi police units. Accomplishing each of these goals will require more troops and is a crucial prerequisite for needed economic and political development in the country.
That is the first paragraph in the section on his site on Iraq. The “we started it so we have to finish it” mentality is understandable, even honorable, but how is he alone with this stance in winning over voters who oppose the war? The unabashed McCain view is that Operation Iraqi Freedom is simply a means toward the end of securing a U.S. (-friendly) stronghold in the Middle East. On its face, it would regain none of the political capital we have lost among Middle Eastern governments and people on the street over the past five years.

All this seems either brilliant or a perfect-storm kind of confluence that has drawn enough votes to place him ahead of his two major vein-popping, flip-flopping opponents as well as the minister from Arkansas.

But who would McCain appoint to the Supreme Court? Who would he install as Attorney General? Will that person offer more than a whimper of protest when the Patriot Act is up for renewal? How much longer can the struggling U.S. economy finance “operations” in Iraq? Or long can we prop-up the Iraqi non-government? How much can we spend on rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure we’ve destroyed? A few new schools, relative calm in Anbar, and a firestorm of underground resentment don’t quite cut it, Johnny.

Neither does McCain’s tight-rope act.

Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!

Throughout history, the most powerful have always supplemented their might by giving something back to the huddled masses that, frankly, had no say in their government. Not that they ever had to, but in one way or another, the big guy (or girl) usually found time to give a lil' sum'n sum'n to the little guy.

Marie Antoinette gave her people cake. She didn't know any better, but most French folks are brownie kinds of people, so they ended up cutting off her head for the inconvenience. But it's the thought that counts.

Historians say that Cleopatra fellated her entire army when they returned from a successful campaign. Now, I don't know a lot of guys who are into sloppy 50,000ths but again, it's the thought that counts.

It's just human nature to want to be thought of by other people and the same goes for civilians and their leaders today. We're just apathetic anyway until something goes wrong, so we might as well get some treats along the way, right?

In the end, it's all about knocking the powerful off their perches every now and then. We want to see that even they, with their yachts and jets and islands, still like to do the simple things their predecessors once did, like eat cake and brownies and...well, you know what I'm talking about. We like to think that they are just like us.

The same goes for politicians today, especially for those in the middle of a presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton posed with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a King Taco franchise (Hey, I eat tacos!) when she visited Los Angeles. And Barack Obama appeared on Monday Night Football (Hey, I watch football!) a few months back to make a special "announcement".

To quote John Madden: Oi, what a punim!

Speaking of men who know yiddish, John McCain has really took this "I'm just like you only more powerful" thing and ran with it.

For as cheesy and pretentious as his recent Service to America biography tour has been, it is a brilliant stroke of campaign genius. (It's got Karl Rove written all over it, doesn't it?)

When I word associate John McCain, I think of things like prune juice, jazzy chairs, dinosaurs, guys who try to return half-eaten boxes of cereal to the grocery store, things like that.

But it never occurred to me that he was ever in high school until this week.

Having him hit up all the places of his youth—the naval academy in Annapolis, his old high school, the hangar where he first touched American soil after returning from a Viet Cong POW camp—has gotten him in touch with young, prospective voters better than any taco or hat could ever do.

Not that the tour has gone completely without hiccups. CNN reported that when a student at Episcopal High School in Alexandria—McCain's alma mater—asked him what his appearance was about if not political (which McCain has maintained throughout the tour), the grumpy nominee-elect snapped, "I knew I should have cut this thing off. This meeting is over."

But as Obama and Clinton dirty each other with insults and innuendo, it's easy to see how beneficial this bio tour has been for McCain.

It gives him a chance to tell his stories without accusations of editorial and affords him many opportunities to flash that magnanimous, poo-punting grin that has become a trademark for so many powerful Republican politicians; see Bush, George W. (Check out McCain's smile at :58 to see what I mean)

It could be argued that McCain is the favorite right now, although that is taking into account that there is no Democratic nominee at the moment.

How will Obama and Clinton regain national face time?

Well, there's always baseball season for Barack (I got the Cubs winning the Central this year. So should he.)

As far as Hillary is concerned...well...she could always learn a thing or two from Cleopatra.

(To donate to my burial fund, please write all checks payable to Reality Check 2008 c/o herbsao)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Imrpoving his image?

So I was talking to my mom about politics today - very odd topic for us. She's a staunch Republican and I have no clue what the hell I am...moderate I guess. I'm still formulating my opinions. But anyway, she said something that was pretty interesting...she said: "Voting is a popularity contest these days, especially for young people. It's about the name you know, and how you perceive that name."

So I took a look at this. Maybe that falls into partly why the youth tend to vote Democratic...I mean, Sen. Barack Obama is all about connecting with the people. Sen. Hillary Clinton is an open book - there are no surprises. America has known the ins and outs of her family and history for years.

So what about Sen. John McCain? Doesn't really fit in, huh? He always seemed to me like a robot - you know, one of those military men who got where he is through "loving their country" and "patriotism."
But where was his heart? Where was his sense of family values...or any of his past NOT related to the military?

So I think he got the memo. I think that's what this whole Biography Tour is all about. Stopping at various spots throughout the United States that have mattered most to him throughout his life is a heartfelt way to show America the personal, not political John McCain. And to be honest, it's a damn good idea. Listening to him speak about gaining respect from his father and the importance of his family life growing up, to his days in high school on the junior varsity football team, I finally felt like McCain became a person. Got rid of his robot thing he had going on.

That's what analysts say..that he's using this time to "fix" his image with America before the Democrats can define it for him. And I say, what's wrong with that?

I mean, if my mom's theory holds true at all, the better McCain makes his image, the more votes he's going to get...especially from American youth.

Sen. John McCain speaks in Meridian, MS on Monday - his first stop on his biography tour.

Sen. John McCain speaks in Alexandria, VA on Tuesday - his second stop on his biography tour and the site of his high school.

He went to Annapolis, MD on Wednesday, where he attended the Naval Academy and Pensacola, FL Today. To get more information on those trips and his full biography, click here.

Not so lolcat

Not to be glib and hold forth on the obvious and feed blogger stereotypes but, c’mon, last month marked five years of Operation Quagmire, which means there are people whose entire college or high school years have been marked by this war, which has meant death, disfigurement, lies, the politics of fear, and our bungling about as a nation inciting hatred abroad and spending deficit money on Halliburton. Had enough yet? Bush will not accomplish any mission in Iraq. He has failed and says it’s up to the next president to finish “protecting our way of life,” or whatever is recognizably left of what we once used to proudly refer to with those words. Helluva job Bushie!

Some fifth-anniversary stats:

90,000 Iraqi civilians dead.
4,000 American soldiers dead.
158,000 American troops still occupying Iraq.
$3 trillion wasted.

"Americans are not casualty averse. They are failure averse," Carafano said. "They were unhappy with the lack of progress and spiraling violence. That is why you have seen public support rebound after it was clear the surge was working."

The number killed in Iraq is far less than in other modern American wars. In Vietnam, the U.S. lost on average about 4,850 troops a year from 1963-75. In the Korean war, from 1950-53, the U.S. lost about 12,300 soldiers a year.

A 2006 Duke University study found that it was 100 times as likely that an American knew one of the 292,000 Americans killed in World War II than someone today would know a service member slain in Iraq.

No end in sight.

The $3 trillion we’ve spent on Iraq could have, for example, brought an end to crushing student debt. Projected spending on the war for next year alone would provide scholarships for 21,552,257 college students but we’d have to get Bush and the scared-to-death Congress people, Bush’s vassals, to want to fund education not occupation.

Media coverage on war dwindles

About two a day for five years.

Two mothers, two fathers, two siblings two friends; two soldiers whose trips home from Iraq are marked only by a plastic body bag adorned with a folded American flag as a memory of their service.

Each day since the beginning of the war in Iraq, an average of two families have gotten bad news about someone they care about at war.

That’s the news. The bad news.

So even if you open the paper and see no coverage of the ongoing war, because nothing “newsworthy” happened the previous day, know that at least two people are getting news today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

In five years, more than 4000 families have gotten news, of a very personal sort. In that time, beginning with largely sensationalized news coverage of the first bombings in Baghdad, little by little, the mainstream media’s coverage of the war has dwindled.

We’ve gone from 24-hour, first person coverage to only occasional stories about death toll milestones or major events. It’s clear Americans, and their news organizations, have grown accustomed to the war.

Frankly, there just isn’t much conventional news coverage about the war anymore. There are features, and occasional reports. But where Iraq used to dominate front pages when it was new and fresh, our top papers have to resorted coverage consisting of a couple inches buried on an inside page.

Wars desensitize people over time. While still troubling, the gruesome, bloody photos of the carnage overseas that used to invoke tears or even nausea, shown early on by the media, have become so commonplace, that many people say the images and their stories have lost their newsworthy element.

Maybe it’s not that what’s going on is any less newsworthy, but that we have just come to accept that it’s happening, and feel we no longer need the constant daily reminder. It all comes down to the point of reporting news and reading news.

The question then, from a media standpoint, is whether or not the war, droning on each day in an overwhelmingly unchanging fashion, is in and of itself, enough to be called newsworthy. Or, now-a-days, does something more need to happen to warrant valuable page space.

After all, Interstate-10 is packed with cars every morning, but “Freeways clogged again,” doesn’t make for a very interesting front-page headline, now does it?

The answer, it seems, based on the recent performance of the news media, is that Americans know the war is going on now, so news occurs only when something changes. We’ve come to accept the war as the status quo; it’s no longer news.

We accept that two people die a day, so now it’s only news when an explosion kills fifty of more. But what of the two? Why are there deaths not newsworthy?

It’s because we accept that two more will die tomorrow. Don’t forget, the unavoidable side effect of acceptance is complacency. And with complacency comes inaction.

We say “war” but what we mean is “two bodies a day.” When we stop hearing about two bodies a day, we think of war like we think of traffic on Interstate-10, a necessary evil.

That’s not a place this country wants to be.

War, unlike traffic, is not supposed to happen each day. Therefore, for everyday there is a war, news is being made. Let’s not, as a culture or as a news media, deny that two deaths a day is not normal, but is most definitely newsworthy, and should remain in the front of our minds for each day it occurs.

The nature of the news we read about in magazines and newspapers, see on CNN and hear about during presidential debates has changed greatly since 2003.

But tomorrow, two more families will get news in the same way two families did on the first day of the war. To them, tomorrow’s news is by far, the biggest of the entire war, if not their entire lives.

And worst of all, it may not even hit

Obama, Dave Matthews come to Indiana University

Aiming to get students to register to vote, Barack Obama is sponsoring a free Dave Matthews Concert at Indiana University.

According to students there, the unplanned concert comes as a huge surprise and is another step in Obama's campaign to target students.
"He may be trying to buy our votes, but for Dave, I don't really care," said an IU student.
As can be seen below, Obama has sponsored concerts before.

Jimmy Peanut and Hanoi Jane join Obama

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama received two more high-profile endorsements this week. One, at least at this point, is technically unofficial and mostly irrelevant anyway. The second however could come to bite Obama in the butt. (If you're in to that sort of thing.)

Let's start with the non-controversial one.

Former peanut farmer and president of the United States Jimmy Carter made an announcement earlier in the week that went as far as words can go to throw support at a candidate without actually endorsing them. In an interview with the Nigerian newspaper This Day he said on behalf of himself and his wife:

"We are very interested in the primaries. Don’t forget that Obama won in my state of Georgia. My town, which is home to 625 people, is for Obama, my children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama. As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave you to make that guess."

Though off the record, I have it from a reliable authority that Carter's mailman is pro-Obama, too. And his barber, his dogsitter, his acupuncturist, his hangnail, and his two cats, Goobers and Jelly.

And get this. According to Ben Smith at Politico, Carter was in Nigeria apparently for a Guinea Worm Eradication Awards dinner.

Dinner?! Seriously, what kind of food do you serve at a banquet honoring the eradication of a parasite that lives in your body for a year and can grow up to three feet in length before exiting painfully through a blister or open wound? Spaghetti Marinara? Pigs in a blanket?

Now that I got you good and hungry, let's move on to the other endorsement, the one that might fester in Obama's craw like a Guinea Worm in an enflamed digestive tract. (Okay I'll stop.)

I'm talking of course about good ol' girl Jane Fonda, who gave her unofficial endorsement of Obama outside a Los Angeles restaurant. As reported by the Los Angeles Times' Andrew Malcolm:

"Fonda was eating out last night and exited the restaurant, ignoring as celebrities often do the assembled press contingent.

But a video camera was rolling as she approached the street and someone, perhaps just trying to get her to turn around for a picture, shouted out at her back, “Who are you going to vote for?”

There was a moment of silence. Then, the actress did turn around toward the cameras, paused and with a smile said simply, “Obama!” Then she got into a car and drove away."

Here's some video.

This is bad news for Barack. If some of you need a reminder why—or were not born before 1972—here's a brief history on Hanoi Jane.

Jane Fonda has been pissing people off her entire life, WAY before she used the "C"word on the Today show. She's so good at it that she can piss off one group of people, and then a couple decades later, turn around and piss off the people who were originally supporting her pissing off the first group.

In the late 60's, the Workout Queen endorsed the Alcatraz Island occupation, which was supposed to raise awareness for Native American rights. Then she married Ted Turner. But that wasn't what pissed people off. It was when she accompanied her husband to a Atlanta Braves baseball game—a team that Turner still owns and which plays its home games in a stadium in his name—where she was seen doing the "Tomahawk Chop," an ignorant little gesture that would seem at least a little bit distasteful for a supporter of Native American civil rights.

Anyway, a few years after her Alcatraz moment, Jolly Jane somehow found her way to Hanoi, Vietnam where she was seen talking to a group of Viet Cong and resting her buns on an NVA anti-aircraft gun—a gun that shoots down the planes of her home country. The year was 1972, right smack dab in the middle of a violent, unpopular war; a war in which a soldier by the name of John McCain was being brutally tortured not too far away.

You see what I'm getting at? 

Somewhere, Hillary Clinton is clapping her hands in delight while sweating her way through Jane Fonda's Light Aerobics and Stress Reduction video.

It's probably a smart move for Mrs. Clinton to be working out
I heard that Ivan Drago is itching for a rematch.

And to learn more about Guinea Worm and how to eradicate it, please visit the Carter Center website.