Saturday, June 28, 2008
The town in western New Hampshire was chosen for two reasons. Number one, obviously, is the name. Number two is the fact that in the New Hampshire primary back in January, both senators received exactly 107 votes there. How do you beat that for the location of a Democratic lovefest?
And that's almost exactly what it was. Clinton wore a powder blue pantsuit; Obama wore a light blue tie. And then they took turns complimenting each other and urging Democratic-- you guessed it-- unity. Clinton especially took the time to urge her backers who were considering voting for McCain towards Obama, as that has been a sizable concern.
But time will tell whether this-- and, no doubt, future events like it-- will be enough to bring so sharply divided camps together and make Clinton's prediction come true:
"Unity is not only a beautiful place as we can see, it's a wonderful feeling, isn't it? And I know when we start here in this field in Unity, we'll end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our next president."
Thursday, June 26, 2008
"Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.
"The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns."
Fairly predictably, the Court split on this issue narrowly and along ideological lines. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito voted in the majority; Justices Stevens, Bader-Ginsburg, Souter, and Breyer dissented.
#1: When candidates claim God for their side for political expedience or really anything else.
#2: When candidates wrap themselves in the Declaration of Independence and/or Constitution, claiming to be the true 'candidate of the people'.
The first one has been a recent trend, which I hope is on the way out. I haven't heard too much of it during this campaign. The second one happens every election, without fail.
The fact is that these days if you're campaigning for president or any leadership office, you kind of have to think that you're better than everybody else. And you kind of have to rely on more than just the grassroots people. For a presidential campaign to succeed, candidates also need the big donors, and no matter what they say they will use them. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post points out in her column "Patriot Games" that Obama has been impressively successful at raising grassroots money-- in many ways, his primary campaign will go down in political history because of that feat. But in the general election campaign, he can't hide the fact that although he has refused public funding (which is by and large fine and certainly politically smart), his general election campaign will not be funded exclusively by "the people", the average working- and- middle-class people. As Marcus wrote,
"I don't take issue with Obama's decision to opt entirely out of the public financing system. That was bound to happen eventually. Obama is smart to exploit his fundraising advantage over McCain. The political price of his about-face will be negligible. Likewise, I don't begrudge Obama his bundlers -- or Clinton's bundlers, for that matter.
What's galling is Obama's effort to portray himself through this entire episode as somehow different from, and purer than, the ordinary politician. Different might have been coupling the announcement with a self-imposed limit on the size of donations. Different might have been -- it could still be -- taking the big checks but acknowledging that, since bundlers will be bringing in even bigger hauls, disclosure should be adjusted accordingly, to reveal not only who raised $200,000 but also who brought in $500,000, who $1 million."
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Who Will Be Obama's Running Mate?
Who Will Be McCain's Running Mate?
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Bolles has a great sense of humor, and it comes across in his writing. The book is written as if he was talking to you. It's down to earth, understandable, and engaging. He uses two different font colors, and abuses italics and grammar- and- punctuation- related issues in such a way that would make an English major cringe, but that most of the rest of us just interpret as his voice. He writes like he talks, which is perfectly fine in my opinion because he talks in a very intelligent yet comprehensible manner. Anyway, even though I'm not really looking for a job right now per se, it's certainly useful to start thinking about this sort of thing, and I think it's good to get the job-hunt into your head as something you work at, and something that you can enjoy rather than dread. And of course, it's important to learn one of the most-emphasized pieces of advice he gives you: always write a thank-you note.
But what I've found most helpful and interesting is the way he talks about networking-- or the "building your grapevine" as he calls it. Bolles points out that everyone you know is a contact. Everyone. Therefore you should try to meet people, as many people as possible. Get their contact information. Then, when you're searching for a job, don't be afraid to call them and ask if they can help you out with whatever you need at the time.
To be upfront about it, I hate networking for the sake of networking. I see it all the time in DC-- people trying to meet people just for the sake of getting ahead. I understand that knowing people is a tremendously useful way to get jobs. But the point is that rather than networking for the sake of networking, you should meet people because you enjoy meeting people. The fact that they could help you get a job should be a side benefit, not the main attraction. Other than that, I agree with Bolles. Why not get help from the people you know? Could be the most helpful thing you ever do when searching for a job.
So Heaven help you if you are standing behind them, and they decide to move, and you aren't as fast as you should be.
Why do I say this?
I say this because that happened to me last week. And the weight differential between said cow and me is about 800 or 900 pounds in their favor. And now my foot is in a lot of pain after having a cow stand on top of it for even a few seconds.
Let it be a lesson: when you're dealing with cows, or any creature that is several hundred pounds heavier than you are and fairly stupid, you're the one who has to be quick on your toes. Or else you probably won't be quick on your toes for at least a few days.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Shout loud at the top of your voice, "I AM I!"
I am I!
And I may not know why
But I know that I like it.
Three cheers! I AM I!"
Today you are you! That is truer than true!
There is no one on earth who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, "I am lucky to be who I am!
Thank goodness I'm not just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That's a great thing to be!
If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!"
Saturday, June 14, 2008
"McCain would like to make the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent, and has proposed a few more of his own. Obama, by contrast, favors allowing the tax cuts to expire as scheduled for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year. He would raise taxes on capital gains and dividends, but has also promised tax breaks for low and middle-income Americans."
#2: In the same vein, the Urban Center and the Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center has A Preliminary Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates' Tax Plans.
"Fundamental reform of our tax system is one way to resolve these problems, but because reform creates both winners and losers, the leading presidential candidates have not addressed it seriously. Nonetheless, both candidates have proposed major changes to the nation's tax laws."
#3: David Ignatius has an column in the Washington Post from this past week on Obama's Economic Challenge.
"But will Obama's domestic economic agenda also be exciting and visionary? Will it connect with the country's yearning for fundamental change? That's a much harder question, and it goes to one of the trickiest problems for Obama: Can a candidate who has gathered such a broad tent of supporters also find the intellectual spark that could make him a transformational president? What will he stand for, other than the generic idea of change? What's the cutting edge here?"
Friday, June 13, 2008
I am in mourning.
Tim Russert, the host of NBC's Meet the Press, and the Washington bureau chief for NBC Nightly News, passed away yesterday. He suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed while recording voiceovers for this Sunday's show.
Russert was one of the best journalists in the business. He was the longest-serving host of Meet the Press, and a highly respected moderator and commentator. He had a passion for politics that viewers could detect easily. Russert was also a dedicated father and a dedicated son, authoring two books about fatherhood-- Big Russ and Me and Wisdom of Our Fathers.
All I can say is- the loss of Tim Russert is a loss to civil, intelligent, inquisitive, and fair journalism. His presence on the airwaves will be sorely missed. I will particularly miss his commentary for the rest of this 2008 presidential campaign, because it was always among the best, if not THE best.
Rest in peace, Tim Russert. NBC will never be the same.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I have previously discussed my thoughts on the idea of a "unity ticket" with both Obama and Clinton on it, and I still hold to my belief that Obama should offer Hillary Clinton the nomination, and that Hillary Clinton should respectfully decline it, and that this should be publicized in the interest of party unity.
Instead of the vice presidency, I think that Obama, if elected, should nominate Sen. Joe Biden for Secretary of State and Gen. Wesley Clark for Secretary of Defense. Each of these men, to my knowledge, have impeccable credentials in the fields of international relations and national defense, respectively and collectively, and would serve well in these posts. I also think that John Edwards should be nominated for Attorney General, due to his experience as a prosecutor earlier in his life, and the fact that he could use the job as a platform to continue to be a spokesman for the poor, maybe push for increased justice for poor people in the legal system, where they are often shunted to the side because they can't afford lawyers.
I think it is plain to see that Obama needs a vice president with some serious experience in government/leadership. Aside from the need for an experienced sounding board, it would make up electoral ground for him with those who feel he is not experienced enough. My top two choices for him, in no particular order, would be Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. Both have gubernatorial (executive) experience. Both have legislative experience (Richardson served in the House of Representatives). Richardson was also UN ambassador and Secretary of Energy under the Clinton administration. Bayh is a moderate, fiscally conservative, different brand of Democrat that could bring some different perspectives to the campaign, who also prizes traditionally Democratic issues like education, which was a very strong issue for him while governor of Indiana. Politically, Richardson could bring in the Hispanic vote (previously strong for Clinton) and Bayh could possibly bring in the working-class vote, which was strong in Indiana (also a Clinton stronghold).
Other possibilities that I think could be good are Michael Bloomberg, the Independent mayor of New York City, Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia (strong record on military issues, although some of his past comments could be subject to negative scrutiny and be detrimental to the campaign), and possibly Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, another important previously Clintonite state. We will see soon enough, however, who will wind up being Obama's choice. Anyone else want to weigh in on their guesses and/or suggestions for Obama's vice president?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I have been giving a good deal of thought, now that the primaries are over and my candidates of choice (John Edwards and Hillary Clinton) did not prevail, to who I will support in the general election. As a Canadian citizen, I cannot vote here, but hey, I'm also a Political Science major, so I feel obligated to educate myself. And that very often leads to choosing the candidate that you hope will win. So, here we go.
The McCain-Obama match-up means a very difficult choice for me, and for many Clinton supporters, I suspect. Each candidate has at least one characteristic that sets these supporters on edge. For example- Obama's inexperience and McCain's hawkishness. For me, because of these important issues, choosing a candidate is probably going to come down to one deal-breaker, one policy that a certain candidate supports or does not support that I simply cannot live with.
As I have been reading God's Politics by Jim Wallis and educating myself more and more on the issue, I have come to realize that, pending further thought, research, and revelations, I have found that deal-breaker. And it's the poverty issue, and what the candidates would do about it.
Poverty is possibly the single biggest problem in America and in the world today, and it ties into virtually everything. It's tied to the economy, foreign policy, and almost every domestic issue. The statistics are staggering. Over 13 million kids live below the poverty line-- over 36 million people. This is in the United States, the richest country in the world, ALONE. The numbers climb when you start talking about food insecurity (difficulty providing enough food for their families), housing, and health insurance.
As a result of the costs of the war in Iraq and other programs-- specifically the tax cuts-- instituted by the Bush administration, the already bad conditions for the poor in America got worse. There is pathetically little budgeting for the needs of our poorest citizens, because we're spending so much overseas and on the wealthy. On a related note, there has also been pathetically little spent on education, which is important to ALL youth, but it is especially important to give good education to lower-income young people, because it will be their path up and out of poverty.
As a Christian and as a human being, I feel that there is a moral obligation to help those struggling to get by. The Bible is FULL of commands to help the "poor and oppressed." Literally. As Jim Wallis points out, if you take a pair of scissors and literally cut everything about the poor and oppressed out of the Bible, the book will barely be held together. We are called to act with justice and mercy, and we will be held accountable.
Here's two verses in particular that I like:
Isaiah 1:15-18: "Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord."
Micah 6: 1, 6, 8: "Listen to what the Lord says. 'Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.' [...] With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? [...] He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
This is why, after much careful consideration (with more still to come, of course) I am unofficially endorsing Barack Obama for president of the United States.
My primary reason for this is that John McCain is a staunch supporter of the Bush tax cuts. In fact, according to this article from the Washington Post, McCain would not only make the tax cuts permanent, he would expand them to cut taxes for corporations. So while those who can afford it-- the upper tier of Americans and corporations-- would be paying less in taxes, we would be maintaining an expensive war and the poor would probably be continuing to get slammed. This seems fair...NOT. "With great power comes great responsibility," so said Uncle Ben of Spiderman fame, and that in my opinion extends to taxes also. If you are blessed with wealth, you have the responsibility to take a greater portion of the tax burden so that those with a smaller income can put more of that money toward, say, food and a home. I know that many conservative Republicans will argue the trickle-down economics theory and stimulating the economy and all that, but I still don't see how putting money into middle-class pockets for mall shopping is more morally worthwhile and even fiscally sensible than putting extra money into the grocery budgets for low-income families. The money goes back into the system anyway, and giving money back to those who really need it is the moral, responsible thing to do.
I may have some of my facts mixed up here, of course, and I welcome comments and discussion from people who disagree with me-- or even people who agree with me. But I want to see change made on the poverty issue. There is no question in my mind that Christians and, indeed, all caring and responsible citizens, have a moral imperative to work for change on this issue, and it seems to me that unless John McCain changes his viewpoint on this, that a Democratic administration under Barack Obama would be the best way to accomplish this. I can only hope that I am proved correct in this.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
So has Hillary Clinton then conceded the race? Well, not really. Not officially. She knows Obama is over the top in delegates, and is therefore the presumptive nominee. But she also knows that she is only about 100 delegates behind him, and that if she wanted to keep fighting to the convention floor she could. She took a couple days to weigh her options, and CNN is now reporting that her campaign has announced that she will be ending her campaign and endorsing Obama by the end of this week. This is wise, and the dignified way to end the campaign.
The real question of the hour is, will Obama offer Clinton the VP slot? And if he does, will she accept it? Now, I really have no idea. Very little in this campaign has been predictable. For my own two cents worth, I think Obama should offer Clinton the VP slot, but I think Clinton should turn it down. See, the Democratic party is very divided right now between Clintonites and Obamaniacs (Obama maniacs). If they're going to have any chance of winning the White House in November, that gap has to be bridged. Many theorize that the best chance for a Democratic victory would be for Clinton and Obama to be on the same ticket-- a "dream ticket," a "unity ticket." This may be true-- though for the record, former Pres. Jimmy Carter and PA Gov. Ed Rendell disagree. Regardless, I think it would be a good gesture for Obama to offer Clinton the VP slot, and do it very publicly, so that everybody knows that he is trying to do something gracious and good for the party. Clinton, however, should respectfully turn it down on some equally respectful grounds, i.e. that she could do more good for America by staying in the Senate. And then she should stay in the Senate. Build support, do good, pass bills, be bipartisan. Become a post-1980 Ted Kennedy-esque elder stateswoman, or prepare for another run for president in the future, either one. I strongly believe that she could do more good in the Senate than as VP, or "state funeral attender-in-chief" as I prefer to call it. She's too smart and talented to take a position like VP, where the only power is in the name and if the president dies or is incapacitated. She should go back to the Senate, where she already has a base of influence and power, and lots of ways to do good.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I was reading a chapter in the book God's Politics by Jim Wallis at work tonight during my break about peace in the Middle East. In it, Wallis pointed out something very interesting-- that the Israeli-Palestinian violence is not only mutual, but comes perhaps more often and at least equally violently from the Israeli side.
It's funny to think, seeing how we in the West frequently victimize Israel and therefore let it off the hook from virtually anything it does that, if it were done by another country, would be considered an act of state-sponsored terrorism. The fact that we let acts of apartheid happen in Israel and don't say a word except in eternal praise of Israel is really remarkable. They were born out of the ashes of tragedy, but they are not pathetic little victims anymore. They're one of the most powerful states in the world, with one of the most powerful militaries in the world, including their extensive nuclear arms program.
I cannot and do not condone what the Palestinians do to the Israelis, with their acts of violence and terrorism, but I can't deny that they have reason to be bitter. Both sides are being unreasonable and committing unspeakable acts of terror. One side will not let the other side get away with anything without retaliation of an equal or greater degree. How can we really get peace in the Middle East without this philosophy of reciprocity, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, changing? It just can't happen. It's so horrible, what people will do to each other. I have to admit I find it disturbing that the rest of the world is so inclined to give Israel a blank check. They should be held justly accountable just like everyone else.
Monday, June 02, 2008
I was watching some older episodes of the ATV (American University TV) show Politics Now!, and in one segment heard a discussion of, fundamentally, the death penalty and the 9/11 military tribunal for six high-level Al-Qaeda operatives. One person on the show was in favor of the death penalty, the other was not. The one individual argued that it was absolutely acceptable to execute these people, and some of the arguments he made were very, very interesting.
Let me say this: I have to think that there is something gravely wrong when someone can say, with a straight face, that it is okay to kill Gitmo prisoners because, #1, they're on foreign soil and they're not U.S. citizens so the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply and, #2, that they're not prisoners of war so the Geneva Convention doesn't apply. First of all, let me start with the fact that if you term these individuals "enemy combatants," which the same individual did later in the program, that I believe that is synonymous with "prisoners of war." Now, the War on Terror is not an actual war in that it has not been declared a war by Congress, but it is being conducted precisely as a war would, with the exception of how we treat prisoners, or "enemy combatants" if you will. I believe that the Geneva Convention rules apply to all conflicts, especially ones in which you are in the business of regularly terming those from the opposing side whom you capture as enemies.
Second of all, maybe you can't apply the Constitution itself to the prisoners, but the point is not the document itself, it's the principles on which the document was written. Those principles are of course primarily geared toward American citizens, but they were written with the "inalienable rights" of all human beings in mind, a philosophy that America today seems to have tragically lost sight of. Jefferson's rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" seem today to be misrepresented in all quarters in all kinds of ways, from all directions. It's either understated or overstated, and taken in directions that I doubt Jefferson ever intended.
Thirdly, I find it very disturbing that some people take various laws as the only source of justice and truth rather than acknowledging a higher ideal. Whether or not you acknowledge God, or a god, it seems evident that there is some kind of higher Moral Law, a "Law of Human Nature" as C.S. Lewis puts it. This is evident in the fact that throughout human history and across cultures, many of our laws have striking similarities. For instance, in no culture that I am aware of has it been popularly thought good to kill or steal. Where did that idea come from? How could it possibly be so uniform without some sort of outside guidance? People today argue about whether the government killing people in the name of justice is acceptable, but they will not argue that killing-- committing murder-- is a bad thing. There is a higher Moral Law than what the US Constitution and US law sets down, and there is a higher source of human rights and human worth too.
Fourth-- one of the hosts on the show pointed out that execution for these prisoners was the will of the families of 9/11 victims as if that was some kind of conclusive point for the need to kill these prisoners in the name of justice. It's not a conclusive point at all. Obviously and understandably, these families are angry and sad to this day. They have a need for justice, but too often in these kind of emotionally charged situations, a need for justice becomes a need for vengeance, and the need for vengeance tends to lean automatically toward killing the people responsible. It is understandable, but that does not mean that the justice system, if it is truly just, should take into account their wishes. This should not be an "eye for an eye" situation. It's one thing to do that in terms of monetary damage and things like that, but life should not be sacrificed for life simply on the whim of the loved ones of the victim of the violence.
How does killing prisoners automatically bring justice? For one thing, many people on death row who are actually guilty of the crimes they are there for WANT the death penalty. Certainly this is true of at least most of the Al-Qaeda terrorists, whose fundamentalist religion tells them to die for Allah, that this will bring them eternal glory and blessings. But this was also true of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who went so far as to waive his right to appeal so that the process would be hastened. By dying for his cause, McVeigh became a martyr for what he believed in. Granted that the people to whom this made him a hero is a relatively small group, this still doesn't solve the problem. I, again, agree with Jim Wallis-- as harsh as it sounds, McVeigh should have been forced to lead a life without parole of solitary confinement and hard labor, and wasted away out of the public eye, so that he cannot be given the status of martyrdom by those who would seek to emulate him. There is no excusing the crime that he committed-- there is no excusing any of these crimes-- but there is also no bringing back those that he killed, and what would be accomplished by adding his life to the mix? McVeigh got what he wanted, and accomplished only bringing closure for the families. While I don't diminish the importance of closure and healing for the families, I am not sure that the death penalty is the best way to accomplish true justice.
One final point that bears asking-- who put us in the position to judge who lives and who dies? Who really brings justice? As a Christian I believe that God alone brings true justice, and all of man's attempts fall short. That includes killing someone. That merely brings at best the illusion of justice. I do not, and will never, say that the fact that God will bring true justice is reason not to punish someone for wrongdoing-- we have to give punishment to the best of our understanding, but I personally believe that a right to life is something that neither man, law, or government has the right to take away, no matter how heinous the crime.