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October 22, 2009

Bygones…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:54 pm

What follows is probably going to seem a bit odd coming from me, given some of the things I wrote leading up to last years election.  However, in the time since the election, I have both reflected and observed; and here is what I have come up with…

It is time to let the divisiveness go.

This probably does not seem like that shocking a statement to many who know me.  What you may not have anticipated, though, was that I was speaking to the left, not the right, when making it.

Yes, I am aware that there is a groundswell of divisiveness rising from the right as well, but that is not my concern today.  What bothers me are the “winners,” the in-power left that is still focusing or at least taking jabs at the dis-empowered right.

The job before the Obama administration is before them whether you elect to blame the previous administration or not.  The only difference is the time lost (wasted) making those disclaimers and accusations.

I am tired of hearing, from friends as well as strangers, things like “its good to see the Obama administration working so hard on ****.  I just hope they are given a fair chance to work on it before people jump ship on them.  They have so many messes to clean up from the previous administration.”

No on has ever walked into a clean White House, and no mess that a new President has inherited was uniquely caused by the penultimate President.  I don’t care what percentage of Obama’s issues were caused by Bush, it doesn’t matter.

But, even in saying that, I am mistaken.  It does matter, and here’s why.  Because instead of working in a bi-partisan co-operative way, in order to address the issues that face our nation and our world (the real promise, in my opinion, of the Obama administration), defensive lines and walls are being constructed with each accusation or remark.  Divisiveness, and subsequently polarization, are being allowed to proliferate rather than abate.

So my request, my hope, for everyone out there, Republican or Democrat, is to please, stay away from the blame game.  Learning from the past is a good constructive activity, blaming it accomplishes nothing… other than manifesting a compromised future.

Its time to move forward, and let the past be the past…

May 21, 2009

Who can’t handle the truth?

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 6:42 pm

I just finished reading the full text of Cheney’s speech today on torture and national security (I have not had the chance to read Obama’s… that’s next). My instant response was “Jack Nicholson already gave this speech – and much more convincingly – in the movie A Few Good Men. See it here for yourself:

The problem with these stirring – and candidly, emotionally effective – words is that they are based on the false premise that an U.S. citizens life and safety is greater in some way than the lives and safety of other people based on where they had the good or bad fortune to be born. This is a false justification that I cannot and will not abide by.

If my 85 pound son came home from school battered by the 165 pound bully, I could eliminate the problem by sending my son to school with a baseball bat and instructions to pound the “bully” out of the other child. I assure you, my son would not come home battered and beaten (he broke my nose with a bat, I think he can handle a 165 pound bully). I can also assure you he would not come home a better or safer person. Things are not suddenly “okay” because the larger boy is being beaten up now instead of the smaller one. There is still wanton violence; it is just going in a different direction. In fact the only real difference is that now, my son and I have willingly relinquished our high moral ground.

By attacking the people we believe – or perhaps I should say allege – are responsible for 9/11, and other potential future attacks, we have successfully put them on the defensive. They are being beaten by the bat and therefore cannot bully us. The same can be said for torturing them to obtain information about said attacks. However – as common sense dictates – they are not broken, their intent and resolve remain intact and, if anything, are probably steeled and emboldened by this onslaught.

In the end, what we will have done is traded our character for a transient and temporary safety that will evaporate as soon as our offensive incursion ends (Cheney says as much himself “… therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever…”). And therein lies my concern. Not with the security, mind you, but with the destruction of a character that I have always believed in.

When I was young I said the pledge of allegiance based on my belief that this was a great country. Great because we were the good guys, we did the right things, no matter the personal cost or sacrifice. I teach my children to do the right thing, even if it will be painful or costly for them. Simply put, personal integrity outweighs personal good. I tell them that at the end of the day, the only person they have to face in the mirror is themselves; and I ask them how their actions are going to reflect in those eyes.

How can I effectively teach them this lesson, which I believe to be a core quality of character indicator, when our former vice-president is extolling the virtues of “do unto other before they do unto you” diplomacy? I don’t really have an answer to that right now, but here is what I do know…

If my son ever does come home beat up by a bully, and much as I love and want to protect him, what I’m going to send him back to school with is advice, not a baseball bat. It’s not what Vice President Cheney would do, but on this one he and I are just going to have to agree to disagree…

March 23, 2009

Nobody’s Perfect… and so am I!!

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:20 pm

As anyone who reads here often knows, I am a huge fan of our 44th President.  I voted for him, I encouraged others to vote for him, and I have defended his policies and decisions.  Of course, I have also criticized him when I felt he made mistakes.

Today I simply feel the need to laugh at him.  Not in a malicious, hurtful or disrespectful way.  Rather in more of an ironic, “seriously???”, sort of way.

This is a clip from CNN’s coverage of Obama’s 60 Minutes interview:

“As a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals,” Obama said. “You want to pass laws that have some broad applicability … you certainly don’t want to use the tax code to punish people.”

On the surface, that statement seems to make sense.  However, this is the same man who just kept all of the Bush era tax cuts, except those on the most wealthy of tax payers.  Is that not using the tax code and passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals?

While I agree with both of the decisions referred to here, I cannot escape the unfortunate irony of his remark… and am forced to chuckle to myself about it.

This is the second time in a week (special Olympics bowling being the first) President Obama has said something that, upon reflection, he probably regrets.  Of course, it beats the previous administration where the ”misunderestimating” was “persecuted” both in word and deed and “They never [stoped] thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither [did] we.”

March 12, 2009

Yes I Would!

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 1:52 pm

The other day a couple of friends and I were talking and the (somewhat common)topic of not wanting to be in Obama’s shoes at this point in history came up. There was general agreement on this point and the conversation moved on.

However, I’m not sure I actually agree. In fact, more to the point, I’m fairly certain I would trade places with him in a New York minute.

Lets start with the low hanging fruit. His place in history is secure, provided he does not completely mess things up in an unprecedented way, he is always going to be the first minority President. He will be studied and revered for that forever. The Jackie Robinson of the White House, if you will.

Further, he ran one of the most innovative and successful campaigns in history. Not successful because he won, but because he changed the face of political campaigns. Social media, small private donations, and all of the other hallmarks of his run for the White House, for better or worse, will dominate the political landscape going forward.

His speeches, like the already famous race speech, will go down in history amongst the best oratory every given by a US president. His open minded approach to politics will be a model for future presidents (even those grumbling about meeting with potentially hostile nations now will likely embrace this approach when their time comes).

With regard to the problems he faces; well, there is little chance he will make them worse, and even if he does, not demonstrably so. Not in a historical sense anyway. In all likelihood, he will either share FDR type acclaim for digging us out of tough financial times (and perhaps even enjoy something more substantive by bringing some type of reform to Washington), or, at worst, he will have kept us afloat in troubled waters.

In short, I don’t believe he has much of anything to lose, and everything to gain. Obviously, he does not view it this way, because he would never accept the position that he is there for the purpose of “not messing up.” However, the reality is what the reality is. His place in history is secure, the only thing in question is how grand the accolades will be in 100 years (i.e. if he also dug us out of a recession, changed the way Washington works, etc.).

He has walked into a job where the deck is stacked in his favor and a lasting legacy is his to lose. Coupled with that, he has the opportunity to make substantive changes that will positively affect this nation, and by extension the world, for generations. On top of that, he has the ability, drive, and objectivity to drive this potential to reality.

So I have to ask myself… what’s not to like?

March 4, 2009

Et tu Bush?

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:12 am

It is not new to hear people getting up in arms (assuming, of course that they still have arms to get up in) about the Patriot Act.  There are those that argue to protect it, and those who argue the madness of it… there are not many in the middle.

In the Frost/Nixon interview in 1972, one of the defining moments, one of the moments that more or less eliminated Richard Nixon from having any hope of resuscitating his political career was when he admitted that he felt the law did not apply to the President when issues of national interest were at stake.

In other words, the President, his decisions, and by extension the United States, were above the law.  The exact quote from Nixon:

“Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

This admission (rightfully, in my opinion) crippled Nixon.

It appears, however that our esteemed former President Bush either didn’t see the movie, read his history, or even watch the interviews in real time (he was of course alive and old enough to do so).  Because, it appears, he essentially did the same thing.

I came across this short piece in the Atlantic tonight (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/03/criminals-in-th.html) which referenced this much longer piece from Salon (http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/03/yoo/).  This is an excerpt from the Salon piece:

The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens.  And it wasn’t only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls “domestic military operations” was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying — in secret and with no oversight — on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

There is a link to the actual document in the article, if you are concerned about this being out of context.

I also salute President Obama for making these documents public, and I hold a cautious optimism that he will maintain the same integrity checks on his own administration.  After all, that will be the real measure of the man.  Its easy to publish someone else’s mistakes, being honest about your own is a different matter.

If he does (continue to publish the mistakes of the past and maintain transparency regarding his own actions) then the promised change will, in fact, have arrived.

January 21, 2009

Hail to the Chief!

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 2:40 am

Monday a friend of mine had a conversation in which she said something to the effect of “I’m so glad Obama is going to be sworn in tomorrow, and the fact that he is a black man is just the icing on the cake.” To which one of her acquaintances responded with vitriol and accused her, in essence, of racism (I don’t use the term “reverse racism” to me racism and bigotry is racism and bigotry, no matter which way it is flowing) and hypocrisy.

She and I discussed the matter a little bit and while I agreed that the other individual was way out of line and mistaken, I also had a caution for her. The issue, of course, is that a statement that implies it is significant that a black person can accomplish something can also serve to reinforce the belief and stereotype that it is remarkable or amazing for a black person to do what white people have been doing for the past 200+ years.

While it is historic that we have the first African-American president, it is not historic because Obama has elevated himself to some great level. It is not historic because a black man has transcended the limitation of his race. Rather, it is historic because the general public has finally accepted the long standing, yet heretofore unacknowledged, fact that the best person for the job might not always be a white guy.

In his speech today, Obama indirectly alluded to this very fact when he did not talk about his personal accomplishment, but rather that of the country. A country, which just a few short decades ago would not have served him coffee in many of its restaurants, but on November 4th of this year, elected him as its President.

Today was a landmark day for minorities, the message resonates loud and clear: the glass ceiling can be broken; the barriers of ignorance, prejudice and bigotry can be overcome.  The competent, can in fact, aspire to the heights to which they are qualified. No longer held back by the fictitious binds of perception, they are free to be everything they are capable of being.

Today was also a landmark day for the majority, no longer are we required to carry the burden of living in a society dominated by ignorance and intolerance. Certainly bigotry still exists, however, the number of open minds in our society has reached the critical mass required to make a difference.

Today the personification of that difference, that evolution, that change took the Presidential oath of office in Washington DC. The manifestation of the intersection of two opposing but interconnected journeys (the “black” quest for recognition and the “white” journey toward tolerance) is Barack Obama, a man I’m proud to call my President.

November 20, 2008

A 14% approval rating never looked so good…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 7:07 am

Recently President-elect Obama did an interview with 60 minutes. I thought it was a good interview, in general. I felt he the covered the issues that needed to be covered. There wasn’t really anything new here (unless you count the clearly well thought out position on the college football championship ;) ), however all points were, as usual, well constructed.

We also got a look at the family dynamic in a way that I had not seen before. The Obama’s are a real family. When he tells a story differently then she remembers she corrects him (if he tells it wrong on national tv… well, lots of people get to see that correction). The playful interaction was not new to me, but the contradictions and corrections were. To me Barack and Michelle did more for me in the area of making me feel they are able to relate to every day Americans with their “normal” interactions than an entire campaign of “you betcha’s” and hockey mom stories ever could.

However, there was one particular portion that caught my full and rapt attention. When asked if dependence on foreign oil was less of a priority now due to the cost reductions related to the falling price of a barrel of oil, Obama responded “it is more important.”

He went on to point out (this is my paraphrase, not his actual words) that:

Americans tend to go through a cycle with issues such as these that involves awareness, panic, and when the “emergency” subsides, lethargy. Once the urgency of the situation abates we tend to go back to our lives, casting off our worries until the problem appears to be critical again. We did it with the very same issue in the ‘70’s with oil, and if we are not careful we will be doing it again in a few more years… again with oil.

If you have read Coveys 7 habits of highly effective people you are familiar with the 4 quadrants (if you haven’t, might I suggest you pick up a copy ASAP).

Obama correctly identifies this character flaw as dangerous and in need of attention. And I really hope that he maintains the focus he has suggested he will. Oil has moved from Quadrant 1 into Quadrant 2. This is actually good, and how things are supposed to work. However, instead of the focusing we should be doing on items in Quadrant 2, far too often we tend to avoid them (the action we are supposed to be taking on Quadrants 3 and 4). As a nation, we tend to be attentive to, and take action based on, urgency rather than importance, which is a critical mistake.  If the United States has a visible tragic flaw right now, this could very well be it.

Individually, I think each of us should constantly evaluate how often we enter into this same cycle. I know I find myself avoiding things in Q2 in favor of tasks in Quadrant’s 1 and 3 far too often. The Q1 issues are understandable, the Q3 ones are not,and putting Q2 things off for Q4 is inexcusable (and yet, it happens).

I applaud President-elect Obama for staying focused on the important Q2 tasks at hand, and hope he keeps up the good work. As for me… it’s time to hang the chart back up at my desk and get my todo’s sorted properly into it.

Once I do, I’ll be one seventh of the way to being a highly effective person!!

November 12, 2008

An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 2:30 pm

First of all, of course, I would like to congratulate you on being elected President of the United States of America. From my perspective this is a landmark election and the beginning of a truly remarkable journey. Your campaign was, for the most part, run cleanly and without vitriol (although, honestly, I could have done with a little less “more of the same” campaigning), and I cannot begin to express my appreciation for that. It was also a blueprint for efficiency and innovation, your staff deserves praise and congratulations as well.

I want you to know that I am excited and energized about our nation in a way I have never been before. When I was young, and traveling the world with my mother, one youth hostel at a time, many U.S. travelers would pretend they were from Canada so as not to be accosted by the anti-American sentiment of their fellow globe trotters. In some places it was literally considered unsafe to admit to being an American citizen. I can only conclude that this opinion has become worse rather than better, based on U.S. foreign policy decisions in the 20 years (my last trip abroad was in 1989). I believe the election of 2008 has the potential to stem the tide of this relatively global belief.

What has struck me the most about you during the campaign was your sensible, reasoned and balanced approach to the issues you have faced, and will face in office. The turning point for me, in selecting which candidate was going to get my vote, came in your “race speech.” Specifically, in these words:

That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

You then went on to say:

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

A clearer and deeper understanding of the whole picture I have never seen expressed by a person in a position to do actually something about it. It is that balanced approach that I am confident you will leverage against the problems of this nation, both global and domestic, that give me (if I may borrow the line) the audacity of hope.

I am excited, not necessarily by what I think you will accomplish during your (I hope) two terms, but by the manner in which I anticipate you engaging the issues that face you. Yours is not a Presidency that will be judged by its accomplishments, but rather on the quality and character of the effort put forth toward achieving (or failing to achieve) them.

I am energized because I feel that, like the principles this nations was built upon, and our constitution itself, you time in office and your actions during that time will be viewed, historically, under the lens of “intent” rather than “letter.” I’m not sure that, even with eight years in office, you will be able to resurrect America and solve all of her problems, but my hope for change is that you will reunite America with the dreams of its founders.

Or, in the words of so many parents across our nation, it will no longer be about whether we win or lose, but instead, how we play the game.

November 10, 2008

Keep your friends close… and your Zionists closer…

Filed under: Uncategorized,obama — sbj @ 5:32 pm

I have heard some skepticism about the appointment Rahm Emanuel as President Omaba’s chief of staff. Specifically that, due to Emanuel being Jewish, it is an affront to Islam and the Middle East in general, and the first indicator that Obama is not going to represent the hope for change that so many are expecting.

He is Jewish, in fact he “fought” as a volunteer in the Israeli army in a war against an Islamic nation. The word Fought is in quotes because what he volunteered to do, according to the research I did, was change tires on trucks during the Gulf war, in case the Arab nations decided to attack Israel in response to the Iraqi incursion upon Kuwait being repelled by a coalition of nations. In other words, just like so many Americans, French, and even those from other Arab nations (remember, one of our primary bases of operation for this was Saudi Arabia), he took up arms (or, lug nuts, anyway) to take part in a nearly global effort to liberate one Islamic nation from invasion by another. Of course, as history reflects, neither the Arabs, nor the Israeli’s, escalated that situation and no real fighting was necessary.

He also served for7 years in the Clinton White House, subsequently joining the House of Representatives and moving quickly into leadership. His track record for getting things done, for working cohiesively with both Democrats and Republicans, and for objectively evaluating the issues before him is solid.

Part of the “Change” that Obama promises is bringing everyone to the table on key issues. To me, his most moving election moment was during his “race” speech when he spoke not only for oppressed and angry minorities, but also for the equally disgruntled members of the “majority.” In doing so Obama demonstrated both a depth of understanding and a prelude to a constructive path that offers real hope for significant gains in race relations.

The efficiency and effectiveness of the Obama Presidential campaign are already the stuff of legend. Our new president reminds me, in some ways, of another minority standard bearer, Tiger Woods. Both men have a demonstrated history of surrounding themselves with a very close tight knit group of ultra qualified people. This circle is all but impermeable, and has the complete trust and respect of the man they support. Neither man, to the best of my knowledge, has made a horribly bad choice is selecting those who surround him.

It is this combination of demonstrated vision and proven judgment that has me convinced that Emanuel will be an excellent choice for the position of Chief of Staff. Because of this I do not believe that he will inflame the Muslim world with a Zionist agenda, nor will he will not create a barrier to dialog. He will be part of a team that does whatever is both possible and appropriate (that second part is a big one that I believe Obama will understand better than any past president) toward forging a lasting peace in the Middle East.

November 5, 2008

This doesn’t suck…

It’s not often that I use the same vid clip for two different posts in one week. It’s even less often that I use one from a kids movie. But, I’d like you to consider the second portion of this clip:

After ignorning the “smile and wave” portion, we are left with the “well… this sucks” portion. For those of you who have not seen Madagascar, let me provide the background for you. Those diminutive penguins have plotted since the beginning of the movie to get to Antarctica. To get there, they wound up hijacking the ocean liner pictured in the clip and navigating it to their destination.

Getting to Antarctica was their sole mission in life. They were focused, disciplined and determined, and in being so accomplished their lifelong dream… escaping from captivity in a New York zoo and reaching their homeland of Antarctica. However, what we see in the above clip is what happens when you set your sights on something without being prepared for what happens when you get there.

For our President-elect, I do not predict a “Madagascar moment,” however for the some of the people that voted for him, that campaigned for him, that donated money and time to him… I fear this may be their reality.

Last night Obama won the election, but those of us who elected him have not won anything yet. This election is not analogous to winning, or even getting to, the World Series. It is more similar to making the playoffs. It is from this point that the real work begins. We are now in the game, but are we ready to play?

Making real change will require maintaining, if not increasing, the energy and enthusiasm invested in the election process. Where we once spent our time advocating our candidate, we must now advocate the policies of our President. We must remain involved; engage our politicians and our fellow citizens. We must now, as never before, be the change we want to see in the world.

The good news is, if we do… it will not suck

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Filed under: Uncategorized,obama — sbj @ 5:29 am

President-elect Obama has, in two years time, gone from a relatively long shot, to the elected President of the United states of America. He fought a worthy and difficult battle in the primary, and he did the same in the general election. He spent a record amount of money during his campaign (which, I only hope is not a foreshadowing of how he will conduct business as president). He survived assaults on both his character and the character of those around him.

And now the real work begins…

President Obama must now prove that he is, in fact, a centrist. That he can work across party lines to forge the change and future he has promised us for the past 11 months. That he can use diplomacy, instead of violence, and in so doing restore our nations position as a respected world leader rather than a bullying military power. That he does, indeed, have a financial plan that will bring stability and, yes, common sense back to what should be the world’s leading economy. That he can provide reasonably priced quality health care for the world’s most opulent society. That he can finally prove to the world that good things don’t trickle down, they rise to the top.

The tasks before him are uniquely imposing and the expectations are unimaginably high. He will be measured, not only as the nations 44th president, but also as its first African-American president, In fact, as the first minority of any kind to hold the office.

An entire generation, and more, have pinned their hopes and dreams on this mans broad shoulders. They are counting on him to restore their faith in what the country is capable of being. He needs to provide the same example to the nations of the world. As the head of the leading democratic nation in the world, he is tasked with fixing the badly damaged image of our way of life.

Oh, and along the way, he will likely have to dodge a bullet or two… sad, but probably true.

Long story made short, for a man who has run his entire campaign with his shirt sleeves rolled up, it’s time to get in there, up to his elbows, and get to work… and I can’t tell you how glad I am that he is the man the American people have chosen for the assignment.

The ball is in your court Mr Obama… game on!

November 4, 2008

2008 Presidential Election, in a nutshell

Filed under: Uncategorized,obama — sbj @ 4:20 pm

This morning, I saw, what for me was the entire election in a nut shell. I was standing at the bus stop waiting for my carriage to arrive when two girls came up to the intersection. My guess is that they were in 4th or 5th grade (they couldn’t have been older than 6th because that as far as the school goes). Across the street there was a couple waving an Obama sign and a “vote today” sign.

One of the girls started yelling, while waving a fist in the air… “McCain, McCain, McCain!!!” The other girl, calmly leaning against the traffic light pole, said “Obama.” The first girl now “stepped into” her McCain and yelled it even louder, the second took a breath and stated, again, Obama.

At this point the Obama girl decided to try to sway the McCain girls vote, stating that Obama would be better for the economy, would provide better health care, and that, most importantly, he was keenly interested in schools and education.

The response, from our young republican, was this “Obama is going to get our country attacked. When the terrorists do attack, he will not know what to do. I’d rather be alive than have better schools.”

The latter part of the conversation was all I was able to hear, as the conversation continued as the crossed the street, out of earshot. However I was left with two distinct impressions.

First of all, I was curiously surprised how the campaign rhetoric and approaches of the two candidates had filtered down to elementary aged children. The Obama girl was calmly discussing the issues important to her, and the McCain girls was energetically trying to rally support while simultaneously laying the seeds of doubt and fear about the leadership abilities of Obama. They were perfect replicas of their champions campaigns (okay, to be fair, the Obama girls was, IMO, a better image than Obama himself, because she did not harp on Bush’s record).

The other thing that resonated with me, and this one is far more significant to me, was the fact that these girls were, at their young age, having an passionate engaging conversation about the election. They were both very interested in the outcome, and at least somewhat literate in the issues. I think this speaks volumes to the truly historic nature of this election.

No, I do not mean the potential of a black president (although that is certainly historic and a possibility). No, I do not mean the potential of a woman as vice-president (although that is certainly historic and a possibility). I am referring to the overwhelming participation on the part of the citizens of this country. The record voting numbers, the record caucus numbers, the fact that more people had voted in North Carolina as of last Friday than did in the entire election on ‘04.

This election is engaging the young, the old and everyone in between. It is engaging women as well as men, minorities as well as guys who look… well… like me. It is this, that I believe will be the lasting legacy of this election. Long after Obama’s 8 years of fame (shameless plug for my candidate), long after McCain’s distinguished yeas of service have been completed, with any luck, the electorate will remain engaged, and we will be at least a little closer to the democratic society of which we take such pride.

On a fairly cold morning, at a Boise bus stop, this exchange warmed my heart and bolstered my hopes for the future… regardless of who wins today.

P.S. If you haven’t voted, go do it! If 4th grades can take this seriously so can you!!! If you have… way to go!

October 16, 2008

After further review, the ruling on the field stands…

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 8:50 am

Watching last nights Presidential debate the first time, I judged the debate “too close to call.”   In discussing the debate with friends online, many had the same reaction, despite the polls indicating that Obama had won by a large margin.

Watching the debate the second time, I was struck by something I missed the first time through.  Something that justified or at least supported the views of those polled by every major network, that Obama had, indeed, won the debate, handily.

What I saw, the second time around, was that, by and large, McCains responses were of the “knee jerk” or “fix it now” variety, with little or no sustainability.  In fact, in some cases, lack of sustainability was not an issue… because lack of feasibility (i.e. the number of Nuclear plants he intended to have in place in his first term, which is an impossible number by the most optimistic standards of the nuclear industry itself) pre-empted the evaluation of sustainability.

His “drill here, drill now” mantra resonates more as a wake up call regarding the general culture of excess, entitlement and sloth that is our “modern American society” than an actionable plan for reducing energy dependence.  By ignoring the simple fact that we lack the critical mass of reserves which would be required to provide a long term solution in favor of windfall profits and marginal short term leverage on the global market, McCain trades our future for immediate reward.  Now that’s a sub-prime mortgage… “my friends.”

His plan to toss a $5000 tax credit for people to purchase their own insurance ignores the growing number of people who cannot afford (even with the credit) to get insurance because of age or existing health concerns.  All of those people could very well be filling hospital emergency rooms shortly after his plan is adopted.  This drives up everyone else’s rates (marginalizing further the tax credit) and, in a far more tangible effect, places non-critical health issues in the direct path of medical emergencies by over crowding ER’s nationwide.

When called upon to defend his running mates qualifications to be President, his lack of judgement was again apparent.  In all honesty, if McCain had made a responsible choice for his vice-president, this election would probably still be very close.  Instead he chose a woman that his campaign is afraid to allow out of their sight and control, and who has bungled almost every one of the few interviews she has granted.  She was a running joke for weeks, during which time the race went from a relative tie to the one-sided affair it now at least appears to be.  To her credit, she gave a credible performance during the vice-presidential debate; however, at that point the damage had already been done.

The bottom line is that John McCain is not deliberate, contemplative or big picture oriented.  His judgement which has led to him being improperly labeled as a maverick, would be more properly categorized as capricious.

The change this country needs is not just in Washington, and it is not just in the failed policies of George Bush. It goes much deeper than that.  It is needed in every state, county, and city nationwide, and the changes must extend beyond policy, into our nations very character.  We need to bring our values back inline with those that made us the most powerful nation in the world.  We need to replace our society of excess with one of thrift, our notions of entitlement with those of accountability and our culture of sloth with one of responsibility.

Watching the debate a second time, it because very clear to me that Obama won the debate, by a very wide margin.  Further, if the long term stability of our country is something you hold close to your heart, this election really has only one viable candidate.  The choice on November 4th is between a pragmatic visionary looking toward the future and a impulsive profiteer not looking beyond his own limited life expectancy.

September 18, 2008

If you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:53 pm

I found myself criticizing Gov. Palin last night for not answering questions (again).  Honestly, it has become a bit of a nightly activity for me, since I have yet to actually hear the woman answer a question directly.

However, in the midst of this criticism, I stopped myself and asked why this might be, at which point it occurred to me… there is little or no value to be gained by answering a question while running for office in this election.

If you give a substantive answer to a question, your response will be contorted by everyone in the media from Larry King to (my beloved) John Stewart.  You will be made fun of.  Your meaningful answer will instantly become a reason not to elect you, evidence of your ignorance, or simply the folly of your mindset.

Take for example, Barack Obama’s suggestion that meaningful change in oil dependence and cost could be achieved by properly filling the air in your tires.  The immediate response from McCain was to ridicule this plan on the first public stage he could find.  Something to the effect of… we are trying to deal with an energy crisis and Obama wants you to check your tires (insert raucous laughter here)

This is a fact, it is solid strategy, it is something each of us can and should be doing, and it represents a 2% efficiency increase (this is a conservative estimate, Time magazine cites experts claiming 3%, and another 4% for regular maintenance, another component of Obama’s suggestion) in our gas mileage.  What is 2% of our annual national expenditures on gas?  Well in 2005, as a nation, we used roughly 386 million gallons of gas a day.  At the bargain basement price of $3.00 a gallon (and assuming that only half of the gas consumed was in motor vehicles… obviously a *very* conservative estimate) that would be a savings of $10,000,000 a day, or $3.65 billion a year (the full savings, using the non-conservative estimates found in Time would be the neighborhood of $25 billion a year… if you don’t feel like being as generous with the numbers as I am being).

Not so funny anymore, is it?

Obama was no better in response.  Instead of reiterating his position clearly, adding needed context and sticking to his guns, he elected to go on a tirade about what McCain said and tack on a comment along the lines of “it’s like they take pride in being ignorant.”

This is how most meaningful responses are being handled.  You are better off to give a bland non-answer and give the other side nothing to attack you on (other than the fact that you do not answer questions), and so a Gov Palin, the a-political politician, is born.

I watched footage of Obama last night, saying “in the McCain camp [the old boys network] is called a staff meeting” because McCain said he wants to change the old boys system and reform Washington.  Senator, with all due respect (and there is a lot of respect here, I’m voting for the man) instead of slinging insults (witty though they may be) how about sticking to your own platform of change.  Believe me… the media will handle calling the obvious contradiction to light… and they will do it with flair… and video, etc.

It is infuriating that I cannot blame Gov Palin (completely) for choosing the (horrible) path she has taken.  It is maddening that our media lampooning and societal thirst for failure in others, rather than success in ourselves, have created an environment where real issues are not, in fact cannot be discussed during an election for the highest office in the land.

What I want to see are candidates that seek to elevate their own position in the polls by actually boosting their own credentials, rather than trying to simply bring the other candidate down, and media coverage that supports this type of campaign.  I want to be able to decide who the best candidate is, not try to eliminate the worst.

Who’s with me?

August 28, 2008

I Have a Dream… also…

Forty-five years ago, today, MLK gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.  It has become an anthem, as well it should have.  With advanced apologies to the specific demographic for which it was intended, I intend to co-opt it into my “cause.”

Much more recently a good friend of mine, while explaining why she was supporting Obama for President instead of Clinton, made the argument that she, as a feminist, was doing so because he was the candidate that most closely represented the feminist idea.  This friend, by the way, really is an expert on the topic; as in, she has a graduate degree in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies.  She explained it this way:

Feminism is not about gender.  It is not limited in scope to sex.  Feminism is about a perspective, it is about hearing those marginalized based on race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.  It is about moving away from a place of privilege to a place of lived experience, and it is about a politics of transformation – of action not reaction.

I typically refer to this behavior as “living”, rather than feminism; however, I’ll take any port (word) in a storm.  The concept is wonderful and the explanation perfect.  Further, as I think about it, the underlying traits of compassion, good will, and fairness are far more often (not uniquely, but more often) found in women than in men, so perhaps feminism is not such a poor moniker.

So, now, we come to my dream.  It is my hope that in my lifetime, or, of that is too optimistic, in my children’s lifetimes, that there will come a day where everyone looks at others as equals.  Where compassion rules over compulsion, benevolence over bigotry, and empathy over apathy.

I dream of a society that values each and every asset present within it equally.  One where people will be judged and treated according to nothing more (and nothing less) than “the content of their character.”

My dream continues with people realizing that they do not need to have an individual cause, but rather can be part of a greater human cause.  In the area of human interaction, there should not be minorities, majorities and demographics; there should simply be humans, interacting.  My dream is that all crusaders for equal rights realize they are fighting for the same things.  I want to see more people like my friend, who are willing to put an ideal ahead of an agenda.  Perhaps what I want, is a nation of feminists.

That is my dream, on this important anniversary, what is yours?

PS Thank you again Dr King, your words and life continue to be an inspiration to an ever increasing number.

July 14, 2008

You are in time out!

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:43 pm

I’m not typically inclined to point people to my blogs when they are posted elsewhere, but the same exact piece you are viewing is posted here and there was an extended conversation in comments, so you might prefer to read it there (just be sure to come back here for more of my writing :)   thx, sbj

If you read my blog with any regularity, you know how passionately I feel about the societal ill of reinforcing negative stereotypes. If you are new, here is a handful of pieces touching on the topic.

A year or so ago my son come home excited to tell me his new and provocative joke. It was racial, and instead of laughter, he received a stern lecture. I discussed with him the effects of his endorsement of the stereotypes included in those jokes. We talked about the history of psychological prejudice and bigotry, and how these stereotypes are used to enable racism, sexism, and any other “ism” you can think of.

We have subsequently had a similar conversation about a video he thought would be funny to put on his MySpace page (yes, I let me teen have a MySpace page, but it’s private and only family can befriend him… I have the password). The video was of US soldiers mocking arab citizens at a checkpoint. We discussed what impression this gave the world at large of the US mission overseas. If it fed appreciation for our efforts, or condemnation of the US as a nation of interfering bigots? Is that really the impression of his country, and the men and women putting their lives at risk for what they believe in, that he wanted to broadcast to the world.

Regardless of whether *he* knew the behavior was wrong, putting it on his profile says he approves of it on some level. Other people, without the same moral compass and ability to see that this is wrong, will look at it, see the approval and continue to *be* those soldiers at that checkpoint. Confident, because of the actions of people like my son, that they are receiving support and approval for their efforts. This is the same as the class bully getting the attention he wants from other kids (everyone laughing as he picks on the geeky kid), and thus continuing to bully.

Over the weekend I discussed the importance of paying attention to the message you send out with your actions. It appears that I should have sent a copy of that blog to the New Yorker. While it is no secret amongst my friends that the New Yorker is one of my favorite magazines; with this weeks cover shot, I am now forced to reevaluate this relationship.

obama - new yorker

The New Yorker has stated it is simply a parody of what right-wingers are saying about Obama, a satire.

In fact, it is a validation.

It is a giant stamp of approval to continue with the misguided stereotypical attack that has been the anti-Obama campaign. In a larger, far more important context, it is empowerment for a legion of bigots to continue their ways unabated, with the New Yorker as their bed-fellow. This magazine, that I once considered my friend, is stealing Obama’s milk money… and they want validation in the form of our laughter.

I expected these conversations to be necessary with my children as they became exposed to society, however I did not expect to have to have this discussion with a publication of this stature and reputation. What makes matters worse is the “it’s just a joke” mantra I am hearing from the New Yorker, and some of my other friends. It is time for the New Yorker to belly up to the bar and admit this was a huge mistake. To apologize and do whatever it can to remedy what it has done. Until then… I am putting the New Yorker in time out.

P.S. A piece on negative stereotypes and how they effect our culture would be a nice start. I know a guy with some opinions on this matter if you need any help…

Just say’n…

April 30, 2008

Obama/Wright/Race/America

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 3:23 pm

Okay, everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to talk for a minute or two and about Reverend Wright and all that he supposedly means.

First of all, I am going to say, to my favorite candidate and the person I will be voting for in November “shame on you, Barack, shame on you.” Do I know that at times you have to play the game, yes. Does that make it okay in every case? No, not in my opinion. I read a quote from Obama where he essentially said that Wrights comments were unfounded.

This actively defeats the purpose of his brilliant speech on race given a few short weeks ago. Wright is angry for a reason. He represents a group of people who are angry for a reason, and have every reason to curse the institutions that enslaved them, as well and the country that enabled this slavery. Moreover, since a significant number of people in this country today (see this post for real life examples from last week) have not let go of their bigotry, that anger is constantly being renewed. The comments may have been unsavory, inappropriate or offensive, but, be that as it may… they were constructed on a foundation of legitimacy.

Dear Bigots, racists, and other narrow minded people:

If you don’t want people speaking poorly of you, stop behaving poorly. It’s a simple process, really.

Respectfully,
Soren

Obama was correct in his “A More Perfect Union” speech. There is an issue of bigotry and injustice and the oppressed are angry about it. The oppressed are not just black, brown, yellow or green, they are white too… and those people are a bit pissed off as well.

I get very tired of hearing people saying “if you don’t like this country, get out”. Don’t they realize what hypocrites they are being by making that statement. The point of this country is that if you don’t like something you have the right, nay, the responsibility, to say, and do, something about it. If you don’t like this country, get up off your ass and do something about it… now *that* is, or at least should be, a real American response. Talking about how great your country is and how the rest of the world should be more like the U.S., and then acting like you live in a place where freedom of speech is prohibited is just stupid.

Reverend Wright should speak up, certainly in less colorful terms*, but he should speak up. Poor under represented white immigrants should speak up, and be spoken for (perhaps by their pastors amongst others), maybe thrown their own little tea party. That’s what this country was founded on, what made it great, and can keep it that way.

* My issue with Reverend Wrights approach is this. While the anger he is expressing is legitimate, he is working and advocating a negative solution and fostering an adversarial mind set. You can acknowledge something as “wrong” without compounding the problem. In lashing out and encouraging his followers to lash out as well, he is wasting an opportunity to effect positive change, both in mind set and action. This approach is why Reverend Wright, despite being motivated by the same historical context, will never have streets named after him throughout the country. MLK had it figured out, all Reverend Wright had to do was follow that blueprint and he could have actually be a constructive force for positive change.

March 19, 2008

Oh oh Obama…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:05 pm

I guess it had to happen. At some point I was going to be disenchanted with Barack Obama. That comment is at the same time both an overstatement and an understatement. I am not, in fact disenchanted with him on the whole. He is still absolutely my candidate of choice, and that is not a matter of being the lesser of evils, I truly believe in this man and his potential. However, I am absolutely furious about the careless, reckless, and completely out of character (at least the character I have painted for him) comment he made in an otherwise good speech yesterday. The comment in question:

a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam

Mr. Obama, of all people, should not need to be educated in the problem of that statement. Lets ignore the somewhat debatable issue of whether Israel should even be considered one of our “stalwart allies” for the time being. It can be stated as fact that “perverse and hateful radical ideologies” are far from limited to Islam. This is a call to emotion, at best, and smacks more of fear mongering and political gamesmanship.

The low hanging fruit, of course, is to point to Oklahoma City, the Unibomber, even Columbine as examples of “terrror” from non Islamic sources. In Oklahoma City, two men, feeling powerless against what they viewed as a oppressive, omnipotent government (based on the handling of Ruby Ridge and Waco) tried to effect change in the only way they could imagine having an impact. Ted Kazinski (sp?) Was certain that the world was headed down a path of destruction based on the relentless pursuit of technology. He tried to have his voice heard in “the land of the free” but it was not. Fearful for the future of the human race, while, again, feeling powerless, he tried to force people to see the error of their ways in a desperate attempt to “save people from themselves”.

Please do not confuse this as support for these people or their actions, because, it is not. I believe completely in non-violent protest or demonstration, and could not oppose these actions more ardently. However, the point is this. What they are, each and everyone, is an extremist with perverse (and maybe even hateful, the jury is still out on that one) ideologies.

From what I can tell, based on the slice of the evidence that I have been provided, Mr. Bin Laden is also an extremist with perverse ideologies. Some of the occupants of Palestine, and other Islamic nations (yes, I consider Palestine a nation) have also taken part in extreme activities (as have the Israelis and the United States, in my opinion). The fact that they are Islamic, however, has nothing to do with that.

Being identifiable as “black” and “mulatto” and any number of other labels that come with generalities and stereotypes that do not apply to him, I would expect Mr. Obama to be more mindful his word choice.

Am I nitpicking a at minor undercurrent of his overall speech? Quite probably. However, I am staking a great deal on this man. A man I believe in greatly, a man who represents a promise to restore what this country once was, or at least what it is capable of being. In that context, I find this mistake/oversight to be egregious.

March 4, 2008

He was the best of candidates, he was the worst of candidates…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 12:49 am

So, do you want to know what keeps me up at night over the prospect of an Obama win? Do you want to know why, despite being an ardent supporter of his, I have a secret fear of the non-failure of his campaign. If you do not want to know, stop reading now, cause here it comes.

I am not certain that many Americans, democratic Americans that is, on the heals of 8 years of George. W. Bush can handle the relative insignificance in the gap between President Bush and would be President Obama. Yep… I said it. The gap will not be that big, and I fear that is going to emotionally crush a lot of people. I am terrified that many are going to be banking on major, significant, and meaningful change and while they will probably get exactly that, it is not going to measure up to their expectations.

For the past 8 years the Bush White House has appeared to exist in a vacuum, devoid of reason and thought that has any semblance of intelligence. It appears in, the eyes of the left (parts of the right have come around to this way of thinking as well), that every thing the man touches turns to… well, not-gold. Obama offers the hope of a new leader, one more in touch with the people, one with an “enlightened” sense of right and wrong, one who will deliver the promise of everything this nation is supposed to be.

Friends… this is not going to happen. At least not the way many think it is. Obama is not going to take a neutral stance in the Middle East, he is going to continue the United States rock solid relationship with Israel. Obama is not going to make abortion legal in every city, county, and state in the union, he is at best going to uphold Roe and leave things up to the states. Obama is not going to provide free medical care to anyone who needs it, he is not even going to mandate insurance except for coverage for children. Obama is not, and Obama cannot bring about utopia (especially in a position limited to a maximum of 8 years).

Obama is a good and required first step toward what we want this country to be. He is not the answer, and he is not the great reformer, nor he should not attempt to be these things. Over the years he will be called “gray” because he does not appear to support black causes as much as black folks think he should. He will be called moderate (in the least flattering sense of the word) by those who think he does not do enough for the environment, or gender equality. He will be called a lot of things, by a lot of people… many of whom were his staunchest supporters during his campaign.

In many ways, Obama is not going to look all that much different than the presidents that came before him (including Bush). And this scares me. It scares me because I see many of my friends and co-idealists not being able to reconcile what his presidency may become with what they expected it to be. It scares me because I fear this disconnect will lead to disillusionment. It scares me because I fear this disillusionment may evolve into nihilism. It terrifies me because I fear this nihilism will result in another Bush in the White House.

There is little that is more debilitating to a cause than a failed set of expectations. Obama could be the best thing to happen to this country in, perhaps, hundreds of years… and, I have this little secret fear that without a fantastic job if setting expectations ahead of time, he could also be the worst…

February 4, 2008

Over-correction or Over-due???

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 5:39 pm

Saturday night, I watched Obama speak to a packed house (an all time attendance record for the building) at Boise State University.  I watched the recorded version as I was not permitted, based on the non-partisan nature of my job, to attend the actual event.

After the event I was left with two distinct thoughts.

First of all, this is a man that could really change the face of the world.  If elected, his presidency has the potential to be spoken about in the same breath as Lincoln.  I should clarify, this has nothing to do with issues of temporary historical significance, like the color of his skin.  While significant in a specific way to a specific segment of the population, and in a general way to everyone, those types of considerations, in my opinion, pale in comparison to the impact this man could have on all of humanity.

Leading by example, I feel that Barack Obama has the potential to change the consciousness of the United States and by extension the world.  I think he is young enough, enlightened enough, powerful enough and genuine enough to be that force of change.  I cannot tell you how excited I am, for example, about a scholarship program that is repaid by community service (see my blog entry from around Christmas for my opinions on getting in the habit of giving back).  I think he is a candidate that can truly relate with the next generation and, as such, influence a change in the mind set of people who are still young and active enough to make a positive change in their world.  In Barack Obama, I feel there is a candidate that would not only leave the world a better place than he found it, but would inspire and empower an entire generation to do the same.

That was the good news.

Here is my concern.  I fear that he is going to be viewed as an over-correction.  In the “any thing but Bush” landscape, he is going to be looked at as the extreme (he is already being called the Ultimate Liberal, or something very close to that, I cannot remember the exact term).  I am afraid that this will lead to him ultimately being unelectable and as such leaving us with a defacto president of McCain (I believe it is pretty clear at this point that Hillary cannot win, based on the galvanizing effect she has on the extreme right)..

The political game sucks, I cannot stand the compromise and accommodation that is inherent within it.  However, the more exposed I am too it, the more I understand why the game must be played.  There is eminent danger in over-correction.  If the car is going to fast, and you turn to hard, you will flip.  If the ship has a head of steam and you make too abrupt a course change the results can be catastrophic.  It takes time and determination to change the course of a mighty river, etc.

In my opinion (well, not just my opinion), our little ship is headed for troubled waters, and with a head of steam.  If you accept my argument that Obama is at least the best choice in this election, if not perhaps the best choice of my generation, do we embrace MLK’s (and now Barack’s) mantra regarding the “fierce urgency of now”, or do we play it a little safe and work toward a more gradual change?

Obama has made is position clear on this, he will turn that corner, and he will do it now.  The question is whether the American people are ready to take that wild ride.  Are we, as a country, ready to leave a little rubber on the road of life, are we ready to careen off a guard rail, feel our pulse quicken and a little sweat begin to form on our brow?  Are we ready to take some chances and push ourselves outside of our comfort zone?

Because, America, if you are, this could be the ride of a lifetime, and a historical ride at that.

For me, the top is off, the radio is blasting and I’m ready to roll… okay, okay, my seat belt also is fastened low and tight across my lap… so what!  I have not, and will not assume the crash position.  I am hopeful, nay, optimistic, that a real, meaningful, and lasting evolution is upon us, and I cannot wait to feel those winds of change blowing through my hair!!!

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