Sunday, June 15, 2008

A very large clash of values

Mr. McCain is the Old America, of course; Mr. Obama the New. Roughly, broadly:

In the Old America, love of country was natural. You breathed it in. You either loved it or knew you should.

In the New America, love of country is a decision. It's one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.

Old America: Tradition is a guide in human affairs. New America: Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.

The Old America had big families. You married and had children. Life happened to you. You didn't decide, it decided. Now it's all on you. Old America, when life didn't work out: "Luck of the draw!" New America when life doesn't work: "I made bad choices!" Old America: "I had faith, and trust." New America: "You had limited autonomy!"

Old America: "We've been here three generations." New America: "You're still here?"

Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it. Old America: Politics is a duty. New America: Politics is life.

The Old America: Religion is good. The New America: Religion is problematic. The Old: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. The New: I'll sue.

Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like "personal honor," of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles. Mr. Obama is the new world, which is marked in part by doubt as to the excellence of the old. It prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.

Both Old and New America honor sacrifice, but in the Old America it was more essential, more needed for survival both personally (don't buy today, save for tomorrow) and in larger ways.

The Old and New define sacrifice differently. An Old America opinion: Abjuring a life as a corporate lawyer and choosing instead community organizing, a job that does not pay you in money but will, if you have political ambitions, provide a base and help you win office, is not precisely a sacrifice. Political office will pay you in power and fame, which will be followed in time by money (see Clinton, Bill). This has more to do with timing than sacrifice. In fact, it's less a sacrifice than a strategy.

A New America answer: He didn't become a rich lawyer like everyone else-and that was a sacrifice! Old America: Five years in a cage-that's a sacrifice!

In the Old America, high value was put on education, but character trumped it. That's how Lincoln got elected: Honest Abe had no formal schooling. In Mr. McCain's world, a Harvard Ph.D. is a very good thing, but it won't help you endure five years in Vietnam. It may be a comfort or an inspiration, but it won't see you through. Only character, and faith, can do that. And they are very Old America.

Old America: candidates for office wear ties. New America: Not if they're women. Old America: There's a place for formality, even the Beatles wore jackets!

I weigh this in favor of the Old America. Hard not to, for I remember it, and its sterling virtues. Maybe if you are 25 years old, your sense of the Old and New is different. In the Old America they were not enlightened about race and sex; they accepted grim factory lines and couldn't even begin to imagine the Internet. Fair enough. But I suspect the political playing out of a long-ongoing cultural and societal shift is part of the dynamic this year.

As to its implications for the race, we'll see. America is always looking forward, not back, it is always in search of the fresh and leaving the tried. That's how we started: We left tired old Europe and came to the new place, we settled the east and pushed West to the new place. We like new. It's in our genes. Hope we know where we're going, though.


Obama is too conservative!

A Leftist perspective below. Like many people, he assumes that Obama means what he says

Like the majority of his colleagues, Obama has done very little to change the face of American politics. He has voted for war spending, appeased the pro-Israel lobby, and helped build the erroneous case against Iran, saying nothing about Israel's plentiful arsenal of nuclear warheads. In short, Barack Obama is not an ally to those of us who oppose the ambiguous War on Terror.

"I want you to know that today I'll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel," Obama announced a day after he locked up his party's nomination to a crowd of pro-Israel zealots. "[W]hen I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends, Good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever."

Yet here we are again, like 2004, with "progressives" and other lefties ogling a hope-filled candidacy. But it's not just Obama's war support that should raise our hackles.

Obama supports the death penalty, opposes single-payer health care, supports nuclear energy, opposes a carbon pollution tax, supports the Cuba embargo, and will not end the vast array of federal subsidies to corporations, including those to the oil and gas cartel.

And as the United States economy slides into a deep recession, Barack Obama is promising more of the same, despite his criticism of John McCain's economic plan. But behind the curtains of Obama's strategy team is the same set of economic troglodytes intellectuals that led us in to our current financial disaster.

Obama's advisory team includes Harvard economist Jeffrey Liebman, a former Clinton adviser, who believes we ought to privatize social security. Then we have the renowned David Cutler, another Harvardite, who believes our economy can be boosted through an increase in privatized health care costs. Writing for New England Journal of Medicine in 2006, Cutler explained, "The rising cost ... of health care has been the source of a lot of saber rattling in the media and the public square, without anyone seriously analyzing the benefits gained." And that's just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Perhaps all of these issues are aiding the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader, who is consistently polling above 5% nationwide. This, despite a virtual media blackout and very little support among progressives. Nader still faces many hurdles, from ballot access to fundraising, yet his support is higher at this point than it was at a similar stage during his 2000 Green Party bid. I still believe that if Nader wanted to put real pressure on Obama and the Democrats this year he would focus his finite resources and energy on the states that matter most: Ohio and Florida.

All in all, progressives and others working to bring about real change in this country, ought to escape from under the dark "Nobody but Obama" cloud that hover above. For his campaign, when it comes to the most pressing issues of the day, does not represent "change" and "hope" anymore than Senator McCain's.


The "smear" is true

In an effort to combat what it calls Internet smears, Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign yesterday launched a website with the stated aimed of setting the record straight. One of the main issues addressed by Obama's "Fight the Smears" site is the contention the Illinois senators was once a Muslim. "Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim, and is a committed Christian," states the site.

But as WND reported, public records in Indonesia listed Obama as a Muslim during his early years, and a number of childhood friends claimed to the media Obama was once a mosque-attending Muslim.

Obama's campaign has several times wavered in response to reporters queries regarding the issue of Obama's childhood faith. Commenting on a recent Los Angeles Times report quoting a childhood friend stating Obama prayed in a mosque - something the presidential candidate said he never did - Obama's campaign released a statement explaining the senator "has never been a practicing Muslim."

The issue of Obama's personal faith has dogged the candidate amid multiple scandals involving his now former Chicago church and several spiritual advisers. The issue re-emerged in recent months following conflicting media accounts of Obama's enrollment as a Muslim during elementary school in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. Widely distributed reports have noted that in January 1968, Obama was registered as a Muslim at Jakarta's Roman Catholic Franciscus Assisi Primary School under the name Barry Soetoro. He was listed as an Indonesian citizen whose stepfather, listed on school documents as "L Soetoro Ma," worked for the topography department of the Indonesian Army.

Catholic schools in Indonesia routinely accept non-Catholic students but exempt them from studying religion. Obama's school documents, though, wrongly list him as being Indonesian. After attending the Assisi Primary School, Obama was enrolled - also as a Muslim, according to documents - in the Besuki Primary School, a public school in Jakarta. The Loatze blog, run by an American expatriate in Southeast Asia who visited the Besuki school, noted, "All Indonesian students are required to study religion at school, and a young 'Barry Soetoro,' being a Muslim, would have been required to study Islam daily in school. He would have been taught to read and write Arabic, to recite his prayers properly, to read and recite from the Quran and to study the laws of Islam."

Indeed, the Israel Insider online magazine points out that in Obama's autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," he acknowledges studying the Quran and describes the public school as "a Muslim school." "In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Quranic studies," wrote Obama.

The Indonesian media have been flooded with accounts of Obama's childhood Islamic studies, some describing him as a religious Muslim . Speaking to the country's Kaltim Post, Tine Hahiyary, who was principal of Obama's school while he was enrolled there, said she recalls he studied the Quran in Arabic. "At that time, I was not Barry's teacher, but he is still in my memory" claimed Tine, who is 80 years old. The Kaltim Post says Obama's teacher, named Hendri, died. "I remember that he studied 'mengaji (recitation of the Quran)," Tine said, according to an English translation by Loatze.

Mengaji, or the act of reading the Quran with its correct Arabic punctuation, is usually taught to more religious pupils and is not known as a secular study. Also, Loatze documented the Indonesian daily Banjarmasin Post caught up with Rony Amir, an Obama classmate and Muslim, who describe Obama as "previously quite religious in Islam." "We previously often asked him to the prayer room close to the house. If he was wearing a sarong (waist fabric worn for religious or casual occasions) he looked funny," Amir said.

The Los Angeles Times, which sent a reporter to Jakarta, quoted Zulfin Adi, who identified himself as among Obama's closest childhood friends, stating the presidential candidate prayed in a mosque, something Obama's campaign claimed he never did. "We prayed, but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque. But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and went to the mosque together and played," said Adi.

Friday prayers

Aside from the new site to fight purported smears, Obama's official campaign site has a page titled "Obama has never been a Muslim, and is a committed Christian." The page states, "Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ." But the campaign changed its tune when it issued its "practicing Muslim" clarification to the L.A. Times.

An article in March by the Chicago Tribune apparently disputes Adi's statements to the L.A. paper. The Tribune caught up with Obama's declared childhood friend, who now describes himself as only knowing Obama for a few months in 1970 when his family moved to the neighborhood. Adi said he was unsure about his recollections of Obama. But the Tribune found Obama did attend mosque. "Interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia," states the Tribune article. It quotes the presidential candidate's former neighbors and 3rd grade teacher recalling Obama "occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers."

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, notes the Tribune article - cited by liberal blogs as refuting claims Obama is Muslim - actually implies Obama was an irregularly practicing Muslim and twice confirms Obama attended mosque services.

In a free-ranging interview with the New York Times, Obama described the Muslim call to prayer as "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset." The Times' Nicholos Kristof wrote Obama recited, "with a first-class [Arabic] accent," the opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer. The first few lines of the call to prayer state:

"Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that Muhammad is his prophet... "

Some attention also has been paid to Obama's paternal side of the family. His father, described in some reports as an atheist, polygamist and alcoholic, was buried in Kenya as a Muslim. Obama Sr., also named Barack Obama, had three sons with another woman who reportedly all are Muslim. Obama's brother Roy is described as a practicing Muslim.

Writing in a chapter of his book describing his 1992 wedding, the presidential candidate stated: "The person who made me proudest of all was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam, and has sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol."

Still, Obama says he was raised by his Christian mother and repeatedly has labeled as "smears" several reports attempting to paint him as a Muslim. "Let's make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible. I pledge allegiance [to the American flag] and lead the Pledge of Allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I'm presiding," he told the UK's Times Online earlier this year.


Obama's Brain: Not Just A New Politics But A New Epistemology

I'm beginning to think that many critics - and I certainly include myself in this group - may have done Rev. Wright a grave injustice. I'm not referring to the denunciation he so richly deserves for his rants against AmeriKKKa, AIDS as purposeful genocide, 9/11 as deserved retribution, etc. I'm referring to his Ebonics-endorsing speech to the Detroit NAACP, dumped on here, in which he offered his offbeat (we thought) roadmap to the different contours of the black brain, including such gems as:
European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America.... Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object.... African and African-American children have a different way of learning. They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object....

Now all this was dismissed, including by me, as just so much hooey, but now I'm starting to have some doubts. For example, if Obama's brain, like the persona he adopted as a young man, is black, and thus is creative and intuitive and not bound by the rigid European and European-American strictures of logic, rationality, and consistency, it suddenly becomes much easier to understand how he can claim to be the candidate who will bridge the partisan divide when he has voted with his party 97% of the time (compared to McCain's relatively low 84% with his party) in the Senate and deviated from its liberal orthodoxy on no controversial issue.

In addition, if Obama is operating under a Wrightian right-brained epistemology it also becomes much easier to understand how he can claim to believe in equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of their race, ethnicity, or gender, as discussed recently here, even as he continues to favor allowing states to discriminate in favor of some citizens and against others because of their race, ethnicity, or gender. Ditto regarding his new, Wrightian black math, discussed in the ADDENDUM to my post just cited, under which zero-sum situations are not really zero-sum.

I do not, Wright's possible perceptiveness notwithstanding, mean to make this new "intuitive, creative" epistemology that now seems to make some sense of Obama's many contradictions a genetic, racial issue, for the same tendencies can be seen in many of those in the media and elsewhere who have become enraptured with Obama.

Take, for example (Please!), the eminent Thomas Friedman in yesterday's New York Times. Before taking him (with or without a grain of salt), however, it will be useful to recall some salient facts from the campaign to date. Foremost among these is the anger and disgust many Democrats, liberals, editorial writers, and journalists (but I repeat myself), and many Republicans as well, direct toward those they regard as rigid, nativist, right-wing, bitter/clinging small town yahoos (I repeat myself again) who insist on believing that Obama is a Muslim or that, at the very least, his middle name, Hussein, reveals something suspicious about him, something they dislike. Now, reminded of that, now switch to Friedman. All of a sudden, what is disgusting at home becomes a glowing sign of hope for a new, better America abroad.
While Obama, who was raised a Christian, is constantly assuring Americans that he is not a Muslim, Egyptians are amazed, excited and agog that America might elect a black man whose father's family was of Muslim heritage. They don't really understand Obama's family tree, but what they do know is that if America - despite being attacked by Muslim militants on 9/11 - were to elect as its president some guy with the middle name "Hussein," it would mark a sea change in America-Muslim world relations.

.... As one U.S. diplomat put it to me: Obama's demeanor suggests to foreigners that he would not only listen to what they have to say but might even take it into account. They anticipate that a U.S. president who spent part of his life looking at America from the outside in - as John McCain did while a P.O.W. in Vietnam - will be much more attuned to global trends.

Of course there is nothing inconsistent here according to the Wrightian and now Times/Friedman epistemology, because everyone who is not a knuckle-dragging bigoted nativist, i.e., a conservative Republican, fervently wants (and some of them even pray) for the U.S. to align itself with "global trends" and usher in "a sea change in America-Muslim world relations" - initiated by "change" in America, not the Muslim world. Friedman also writes:
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Democrats' nomination of Obama as their candidate for president has done more to improve America's image abroad - an image dented by the Iraq war, President Bush's invocation of a post-9/11 "crusade," Abu Ghraib, Guant namo Bay and the xenophobic opposition to Dubai Ports World managing U.S. harbors - than the entire Bush public diplomacy effort for seven years.

This may sound extreme, but Friedman's infatuation with the hope Obama brings to the Muslim world seems to be pervasive at the New York Times and similar precincts.
My colleague Michael Slackman, The Times's bureau chief in Cairo, told me about a recent encounter he had with a worker at Cairo's famed Blue Mosque: "Gamal Abdul Halem was sitting on a green carpet. When he saw we were Americans, he said: `Hillary-Obama tied?' in thick, broken English. He told me that he lived in the Nile Delta, traveling two hours one way everyday to get to work, and still he found time to keep up with the race. He didn't have anything to say bad about Hillary but felt that Obama would be much better because he is dark-skinned, like him, and because he has Muslim heritage.

So far I've seen no evidence that the New York Times and its far-flung correspondents share Rev. Wright's enthusiasm for ebonics or his extreme left brain - right brain dichotomy, but I do believe their devotion to the "logical and analytical" skills Wright dissed can at least be called into question when many in the Times's orbit (here I'm including devoted readers) believe that it is racist and nativist invective of the worst order for Obama's domestic opponents to assert that his color has been an asset, not a liability, and to believe, despite heated and repeated denials from the Obamaphiles, that he has Muslim ties while at the same time Times writers and many readers point to Muslim infatuation with his dark skin and "Muslim heritage" as prime reasons why "the mere fact of his nomination" has done "more to improve America's image in the world" than anything in recent memory.

When Friedman looks at Obama he thinks of Emerson and swoons with Emersonian visions of America as "the country of the future ... a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations." Me? When I look at Obama I still see a movie star, but as I mentioned here last spring I still can't decide whether he is
a) Jimmy Stewart, in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington;

b) Robert Redford, in The Candidate;

c) Peter Sellers (Chauncey Gardner), in Being There; or

d) Laurence Harvey, in The Manchurian Candidate.

I will say, though, that the possibility that he is Mr. Smith has faded into the background.


The far-Left crazies at Firedoglake are just salivating for civil war

Which they project onto others, of course. See below:

If there is a President Obama come next Jan. 20, normal folks better brace for what the right-wing crazies have in mind. Because it's becoming clear that they are winding themselves up now for a fresh spate of violence if Obama wins. You can find the signs in the things they're saying now, both on Internet forums and in the things they say when they think no one is listening. For instance, read some of the details emerging from that militia bust in Pennsylvania that the media have been studiously ignoring. To wit:
Bradley T. Kahle, 60, of Troutville, was one of five people arrested in last weekend's sweep. He told undercover agents he hoped Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama would be killed if they were elected president, and that he would shoot judicial and law enforcement officials if he became terminally ill, according to an affidavit of probable cause made public Tuesday. "Kahle said words to the effect of, that 'if Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama, get elected, hopefully they will get assassinated, if not they will disarm the country and we will have a civil war,'" the affidavit stated.

The same man also told authorities he planned to visit Pittsburgh so he could get on top of a high rise and start shooting black people. And of course, the judge let him go on bail. Would I be crazy to suspect that if he were a Muslim talking about shooting white people from a high rise and hoping John McCain would get killed, no judge on earth would let him go?

In any event, a pattern is already developing, ranging from the Klan fellows who promise that Obama will be shot to the white supremacists who are actually rooting for him to win because they're certain he will fail. We're hearing a lot of language from the racist and "Patriot" right indicating that they expect a Democratic president to enact policies (particularly regarding gun control) that will inspire "civil war." Which means they are looking for excuses to act out.

As always with these folks, there's a lot of projection going on here. Because even if a President Obama follows only the most moderate of liberal agendas, the far right will look upon those policies as cause for "civil war." That was how they responded to Bill Clinton, after all -- a white male Southerner with generally conservative leanings. One can only imagine how a liberal black man from Illinois would fare.

The extremist right went into remission, largely, with the election of George W. Bush; militias disbanded because their followers believed the threat of an oppressive, gun-grabbing, baby-killing "New World Order" had largely passed. They bided their time by forming Minutemen brigades. Now they can see that their "safe" era is coming to an end.

All this time, there really has been hankering for an excuse to start acting out violently, and they see any Democratic presidency as providing that excuse. But an Obama presidency in particular will do so. All of which makes rather ironic the fears expressed by the fellow who propped up that phony "Hillary Clinton Supporters For John McCain" page:
What good is a great economy if you have to worry about getting blown up by a car bomb every time you go to the Mall? You want another Baghdad here in the USA, not me! I want my grandkids to be free and that includes being free from the fear of being killed by a terrorist. If Obama is elected, you better hope he adopts Hillary Health Care plan, because you are going to need it with his idea of "Security" for this country.

Well, there is indeed a potential threat looming after this election in which terrorists will make ordinary people feel unsafe about going to places like malls -- just like they did in the 1990s. But they won't be Arabs coming from Baghdad. They'll be little Timmy McVeighs from Buffalo. Then again, to the folks on the right, that doesn't seem to be a problem. To the rest of us, well, we had better be prepared. I think we'll all find that the "law enforcement approach to terrorism" is a lot more effective than those same right-wingers have been telling us the past few years.


The left should shut the hell up about race

They lost that "moral high ground" a long time ago. But it doesn't stop them - see this screed. It's amazing how the only one's making "race the issue" in the "Light Being's" run for office is the left. Yet from the group who had a Black Face party for Joe Lieberman, and Michael Steele, or outright racism against Condi Rice and other black administration officials over the last seven years they've lost the right to talk about anyone else. Again, quoting Dr. King.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The left, not the right, has ignored this dream from the beginning of Obama's run. They - not the right - asked "Is Obama Black Enough", and refererred to him as "The Magic Negro". They have exclusively made his race - exclusive. In fact when Hillary dropped out, the leftist media touted him as the "First Black Presidential Candidate". In the dream of King it doesn't matter what color his skin is, absolutely none.

Yet it goes deeper than that. The historical party of racism, who opposed the 1964 Civil Rights legislation, is now flipping it around and plans to use Obama's race as shield to cover him from his lack of "character". We've seen this numerous times every time someone has the audacity to bring up one of his ever growing gaffes. Watch the next time - and since he has about one a week it shouldn't be long - he has a gaffe, and is called on it, how the left throws out the "race" card to claim he's being picked on.

Actually they can't help themselves, because that's what liberalism does. It never has followed King's dream. Affirmative Action is as far from the dream as Pluto from the Sun. The entire concept is nothing more than the celebration of racism. Yet through that policy liberals tell blacks by design, "You're stupid and inept, but don't worry, we'll help you get ahead, just trust us and us alone".

They're doing no less with the Obamas. Protecting them from - well, themselves. Shielding them from criticism with an almost "How dare you say that!" every time someone brings out any of the serious questions about his candidacy. You will continue to see this played out in the weeks and months to come. Expect it.



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