Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lashkar-e- Taiba Behind Mumbai Terror Attacks

India's national newspaper says authorities tapped terrorist cell phones. From The Hindu:
The magnitude of the attack by suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba elements, who are believed to have come by the sea route from Karachi, could be gauged from the statement of Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra R R Patil who said with the ammunition the terrorists had, they could have killed 5,000 people.

The elimination of the three terrorists in Taj came this morning after intense battle between the commandos, who believed there was a lone gunman holding out, and the terrorists who kept exploding grenades at periodic intervals.

Of the 183 killed, civilians alone accounted for 141 including 22 foreigners, two NSG commandos, 15 Maharashtra police personnel, one RPF constable and two Home Guards. Six NSG personnel were injured.

In all, nine terrorists were killed while one was captured alive in "Operation Tornado" executed by the NSG alongwith the army and naval commandos and Maharashtra police. The security forces rescued 250 people in Oberoi, 300 in Taj and 12 families of 60 people in Nariman House.
Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on the alleged perpetrators' organization:
Lashkar-e-Taiba (Urdu: لشكرِ طيبه laškar-ĕ ṯaiyyiba; literally Army of the Good, commonly translated as Army of the Righteous; also transliterated as Lashkar-i-Tayyaba, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba or Lashkar-i-Taiba) is one of the largest and most active terrorist organizations in South Asia.

It was founded by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed[1] in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, and is currently based near Lahore, Pakistan operating several militant training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.[2] Lashkar-e-Taiba members have carried out major attacks against India and its primary objective is to end Indian rule in Kashmir.[3] Some breakaway Lashkar members have also been accused of carrying out attacks in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi, to mark its opposition to the policies of President Pervez Musharraf.[4] The organization is banned as a terrorist organization by India, Pakistan, the United States,[5] the United Kingdom,[6] the European Union,[7] Russia[8] and Australia.[9] According to some sources, Laskar-e-Taiba renamed itself to Jama'at-ud-Da'wah (JUD) in January 2002 to escape the ban imposed by the Pakistani government.[10]
More info from the Federation of American Scientists:

Has several hundred members in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, and in India’s southern Kashmir and Doda regions. Almost all LT cadres are foreigners—mostly Pakistanis from madrassas across the country and Afghan veterans of the Afghan wars. Uses assault rifles, light and heavy machineguns, mortars, explosives, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Location/Area of Operation

Based in Muridke (near Lahore) and Muzaffarabad. The LT trains its militants in mobile training camps across Pakistan-administered Kashmir and had trained in Afghanistan until fall of 2001.

External Aid

Collects donations from the Pakistani community in the Persian Gulf and United Kingdom, Islamic NGOs, and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. The LT also maintains a Web site (under the name of its parent organization Jamaat ud-Daawa), through which it solicits funds and provides information on the group’s activities. The amount of LT funding is unknown. The LT maintains ties to religious/military groups around the world, ranging from the Philippines to the Middle East and Chechnya through the MDI fraternal network. In anticipation of asset seizures by the Pakistani Government, the LT withdrew funds from bank accounts and invested in legal businesses, such as commodity trading, real estate, and production of consumer goods.
Will Obama give India a green light to bomb Pakistan? For background, see James Kurth's article on returning Pakistan to India.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Unseen Alistair Cooke

The other night someone I know and yours truly watched Masterpiece Theatre's The Unseen Alistair Cooke with great interest. After all, I had interviewed him, and conducted a friendly correspondence, while writing my dissertation. He had been unfailingly polite and helpful, unlike some PBS types. He invited me to his home, and we conducted our conversation in his library, painted red, overlooking Central Park, bookshelves featuring the complete WPA guides to the United States, arranged geographically, like a map of his travels. So it was nice to see his familiar face, and more to the point, hear his familiar voice--as well as clips from home movies featuring Charlie Chaplin and Adlai Stevenson, among others. I had never met either of his formidable wives, only knew of his children by reputation before seeing this picture--and now that it has been screened, see why he didn't talk about them much...

What was left out of this picture is well-covered by the late Nick Clarke's Alistair Cooke: A Biography, so I won't nit-pick the omissions. For me, no one better symbolizes 1950s New York sophistication than Alistair Cooke. Here are few angles left untouched by the show:

1. A major influence on Cooke's life and work was Arthur Quiller-Couch, Cambridge don and literary critic. He taught at Cambridge when Cooke studied there. What "Q," as he was known at the time (take that Miss Moneypenny!). did in print Cooke did on the air.

2. Cooke was seen as an American by the British. Indeed, he was resented by many at the BBC for becoming an American citizen in 1941, viewed as a coward and a traitor who abandoned his nation during the Blitz for the safety of the USA (the US was not at war yet). He had a New York accent while hosting Omnibus.

3. Cooke was a friend and admirer of H.L. Mencken, the sage of Baltimore. He saved his house from destruction, and championed Mencken's Americanist approach to literature and history. He stood by Mencken even after his career ended in disrepute due to German sympathies during WWII.

4. As a journalist, Cooke wrote one of the seminal accounts of the Cold War: A GENERATION ON TRIAL - USA V ALGER HISS. The book was remarkably even-handed, praising Richard Nixon (he was described as "handsome").

5. Cooke made a number of publicity films for the UN during the 1960s, after Omnibus folded. They are quite interesting, and would have given some context to his trans-atlantic internationalism.

6. His son John Cooke was Janis Joplin's manager, he discovered Janis dead from an overdose of alcohol and pills.

7. Cooke hated the 1960s, calling it a "ghastly" decade.

8. When he died, Cooke's bones were stolen by a criminal human medical spare parts ring, a crime covered widely in the press. Here's a link to the BBC account:
An investigation is under way in New York into allegations that the bones of the late broadcaster Alistair Cooke were stolen before his cremation.

Cooke, known for the Letter from America he broadcast for the BBC, died almost two years ago, aged 95.

According to the New York Daily News his bones were stolen by a criminal ring trading body parts.

They were later sold by a biomedical tissue company now under investigation, the paper claims.

When Cooke died of lung cancer that spread to his bones in March 2004, his body was taken to a funeral home in Manhattan.

Two days later, relatives of the iconic broadcaster received his ashes, which were then scattered in New York's Central Park.

Now they have been told that body snatchers allegedly surgically removed his bones and sold them for more than $7,000 (£4,000) to a company supplying parts for use in dental implants and various orthopaedic procedures.

The US attorney general's office in Brooklyn is investigating an elaborate ring involving funeral directors, surgeons and entrepreneurs.

This is a grim and ghoulish tale which has understandably appalled everyone who knew Cooke, says the BBC's Guto Harri in New York.

Cooke's stepdaughter, Holly Rumbold, told the BBC's World at One programme she was outraged by the claims.

"I'm most shocked by the violation of the medical ethics, that my stepfather's ancient and cancerous bones should have been passed off as healthy tissue to innocent patients," she said.
IMHO, Cooke would have enjoyed his posthumous notoriety. For a newspaperman and reporter, it was a great final story...

You can read my obituary of Cooke in The Idler, here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

He's b-a-a-a-c-k...

Sidney Blumenthal is in line for a top State Department position, should Hillary Clinton get the nod, according to this item in The American Spectator:

Late last week, as stories swirled around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's possible jump to the job of Secretary of State, another longtime Clinton aide's name began to crop up: former journalist and Clinton back-room consigliere, Sidney Blumenthal.

Should Clinton accept the Secretary of State job, Blumenthal, it is believed, will move to Foggy Bottom as a counsel to the secretary, a post that will not require Senate confirmation, but will require an extensive security and background check.
According to Obama transition team sources, Clinton aides presented them with a list of potential senior staff for the Secretary of State office, and Blumenthal's name -- without a title or role described -- was on it.

Also on the list were the names of most of Clinton's senior Senate aides, including several who had left her office in the past two years for the private sector. All have been contacted about possibly returning to public service should Clinton accept the cabinet position.
According to The Nashua (NH) Telegraph, Blumenthal is a convicted criminal and alcohol abuser, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor DWI charge in New Hampshire in March of this year:
Blumenthal pleaded guilty March 28 to a standard, misdemeanor DWI charge. He was fined $900, and his driver's license revoked for 10 months. Blumenthal can seek to get his license restored after 120 days, however, if he completes and alcohol education program in Washington, D.C., court records show.

Blumenthal also agreed not to contest a six-month administrative license suspension, which was already in effect, police have said previously.

Though there is no standard disposition to fit all cases, the terms of Blumenthal's plea are stiffer than a standard DWI charge, and typical of an aggravated DWI plea bargain for a first-time offender, Capt. Peter Segal said. Blumenthal has no prior DWI convictions, he said.

Police negotiated a plea bargain in part because the arresting officer, Christopher Ditullio, was called up for service in Iraq, and would not have been available to testify, Segal said.

Blumenthal is an unpaid adviser to Clinton, actively involved in her presidential campaign, according to his lawyer. Blumenthal also was an adviser to former President Clinton. He was in southern New Hampshire on the eve of the primaries but got lost on the way from dinner to his hotel, he told police.

Sgt. Michael Masella spotted Blumenthal's rented Buick heading north on Concord Street in the area of Greeley Park at about 70 mph on the night before the New Hampshire primaries, police reported. Masella and Ditullio stopped Blumenthal near the Henri Burque Highway and arrested him after performing a field sobriety test.
During the Democratic primaries, Peter Drier blasted Blumenthal in the Huffington Post for spreading anti-Obama propaganda:
Former journalist Sidney Blumenthal has been widely credited with coining the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" used by Hillary Clinton in 1998 to describe the alliance of conservative media, think tanks, and political operatives that sought to destroy the Clinton White House where he worked as a high-level aide. A decade later, and now acting as a senior campaign advisor to Senator Clinton, Blumenthal is exploiting that same right-wing network to attack and discredit Barack Obama. And he's not hesitating to use the same sort of guilt-by-association tactics that have been the hallmark of the political right dating back to the McCarthy era.

Almost every day over the past six months, I have been the recipient of an email that attacks Obama's character, political views, electability, and real or manufactured associations. The original source of many of these hit pieces are virulent and sometimes extreme right-wing websites, bloggers, and publications. But they aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address. Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers -- including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers -- in what is an obvious attempt to create an echo chamber that reverberates among talk shows, columnists, and Democratic Party funders and activists. One of the recipients of the Blumenthal email blast, himself a Clinton supporter, forwards the material to me and perhaps to others.

These attacks sent out by Blumenthal, long known for his fierce and combative loyalty to the Clintons, draw on a wide variety of sources to spread his Obama-bashing. Some of the pieces are culled from the mainstream media and include some reasoned swipes at Obama's policy and political positions.
According to Jude Wanniski, before he trashed Obama, Blumenthal trashed Monica Lewinsky as a "stalker":
Liberals are troubled by what you have developed to date about Clinton trashing Lewinsky in his conversation with Blumenthal, but they still insist that we can't tell for sure if Clinton would have used the "stalker" excuse to defend himself if the blue dress had not messed him up. Your case is hypothetical. And Charles RufF thus far has been successful in keeping it hypothetical, insisting that there was no "coordinated effort" to trash Lewinsky, to "malign her." When Rep. Asa Hutchison [R-AR] expressed disbelief that Ruff could make such a statement, he read from an AP dispatch about how Ann Lewis and the White House press secretary both announced at the time that there was no such conspiracy to say anything bad about Lewinsky. I believed them at the time, thinking it was James Carville doing it. Ruff did not wish your team to point out that it was Clinton who was already trashing Lewinsky! (I still wonder why Hutchison was doing the answer when it was your initiative, but perhaps in the long run it was best that he did.)

The one thing you can be sure of with Blumenthal is that he will not lie under oath. He is one of the best wordsmiths I've ever known, so you must bear in mind that he is extremely clever with words and will not give you one scrap of assistance if you do not ask the right questions in the right way.

I think you should ask him how the conversation happened to occur, where it took place, what time of day, whether it was a regularly scheduled meeting, or if the President summoned him or if he asked for a meeting.

The guts of the deposition will come in developing any kind of inference that the President meant Blumenthal to leave his office with the stalker story in order to have him disseminate it. Of course he did, because Blumenthal was his most loyal counselor on political communications. Sidney was one of the best political writers of his generation, an indefatigable reporter who did not resist moving where the facts would take him. His profile of Bob Dole for the WashPost "Style" section in the 1988 campaign is still the best ever on Dole. I met him in 1980 when he came to my home and spent 3 1/2 hours filling his tape recorder with material for a Boston Globe magazine piece on Reagan's brain trust. That's when we became friends, in a way mutual political admirers — although he has refused to talk to me since I criticized his work in the New Yorker in 1993 for being too fawning on the Clintons.

Blumenthal certainly was the source of the stalker story, but it is important that you get him to say that the President did NOT tell him to keep that between them. Blumenthal has to recall that the President told him what Blumenthal later told the grand jury with no restrictions on how he should use it. If the President told him to "Keep this between us, Sid," and Blumenthal did not, then he was betraying his word to the President. So you can be sure that did not happen. Blumenthal had to come away from the meeting knowing the President wanted him to broadcast it. You can ask him about each of the people who wrote stories about the stalker, including the AP dispatch, and if he personally knew them, and if he called them or they called him for reaction to the Matt Drudge story.

The key point cannot be made strongly enough that the President insisted to Blumenthal that Monica Lewinsky threatened him and THAT HE RESISTED, which is why Lewinsky now could be expected to tell false stories about him. Liberal journalists tell me that of course it is true that Lewinsky came on to him, she batted eyes and flashed her thongs. That's true enough, but the President's evil act was in broadcasting the news that after he had his way with her over those many months, he would cast her as the sinister sex predator, the blackmailer, in those moments. It would be nice to know what Lewinsky thought when she heard about the Blumenthal testimony, as she surely believed it was coming from Carville. She now must be aware that Clinton had set in motion, as he did, the story that she threatened him with charges of sexual harassment unless he had sex with her. This story disappeared from the public prints when the story of the blue dress surfaced.
How about Richard Holbrooke, for Secretary of State?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Yet Another Reason Hillary is Not Qualified

According to Wizbangblog, her appointment as Secretary of State would be unconstitutional--therefore, illegal:
Doesn't Barack Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, know the constitution? From the Washington Post-

Even if the vetting problems involving former president Bill Clinton's finances can be resolved, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may face another roadblock on her way to the secretary of state's chair.

It's called the Constitution of the United States, specifically, Article One, Section Six, also known as the emoluments clause. ("Emoluments" means things like salaries.) It says that no member of Congress, during the term for which he was elected, shall be named to any office "the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during his term." This applies, we're advised, whether the member actually voted on the raises or not.

In Clinton's case, during her current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, cabinet salaries were increased from $186,600 to $191,300. This situation has arisen before, most famously in the case called "The Saxbe Fix," but it involves a controversial, somewhat tortured reading of the Sacred Document.

It is just plain incredible no one has thought of this before. That goes for both the media and law professor bloggers. Here is the particular part of the constitution in question-

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Ahmad Chalabi: Yankee Go Home

From today's New York Times:
Nonetheless, President Bush’s democratic approach to Iraq has, in many ways, succeeded. Iraq has the strongest constitution, the fairest elections and the most democratic government in the Islamic Middle East. This success stems from the democratic ideal expressed by the United States, through the uncountable sacrifice of American and Iraqi lives, and through the Iraqis’ profound belief in the gift of our nation. Iraqi freedom is a debt to America we will never forget.

This is true despite President Bush’s manifest failure to honor his word. At one time, the liberation of Iraq was to be the centerpiece of a new regional order in the Middle East founded on a new American emphasis on democracy, human rights and free enterprise. Instead, Iraq has endured occupation, the authoritarian installation of a prime minister, the strong-armed removal of an elected leader, the indiscriminate arrest, torture and killing of Iraqi civilians without recourse to law, and an utterly corrupt reconstruction program that oversaw one of the biggest financial crimes in history, which has left average Iraqis with little water, power, health care, education or even food.

Yet there are still those in Washington’s corridors of power who want to reduce Iraq to being an American puppet state, like Jordan or Egypt, nations governed through a corrosive mix of covert intelligence and military support spoon-fed to a permanent oligarchy. Iraq will not accept this.

Barack Obama has every reason to support Iraq’s efforts to greatly increase the world supply of oil, expand trade with the United States, and raise a new generation of Iraqis focused on education, achievement and cooperation. We must not be asked to focus on military expansion and arms purchases, which would mean raising yet another generation of ill-educated soldiers fit only for internal repression and external aggression.

Iraqis want the closest possible relationship with the United States, and recognize its better nature as the strongest guarantor of international freedom, prosperity and peace. However, we will reject any attempts to curtail our rights to these universal precepts.

We welcome Mr. Obama’s election as a herald of a new direction. It is our hope that his administration will offer Iraq a new and broader partnership. Iraq needs security assistance and guarantees for our funds in the New York Federal Reserve Bank. But we also need educational opportunity, cultural exchange, diplomatic support, trade agreements and the respectful approach due to the world’s oldest civilization.

We also hope that Mr. Obama will support the growing need for a regional agreement covering human rights and security encompassing Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran (and any other neighbors so inclined). We have all been victims of terrorism. The mutual fears that have been festering for decades, augmented by secret wars and the incitement of insurrection, are no longer acceptable.

The United States has agreed to Iraq’s request to inscribe in any regional pact a prohibition against the use of Iraq’s territory and airspace to threaten or launch cross-border attacks. This laudable commitment gives us hope that America has a new collective vision of security in our region as not exclusively a function of armed force but also dependent on a profound comprehension of others’ fears.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sudden Debt

Someone I know told me the blogger known as Sudden Debt predicted the current financial crisis.
Finance is essentially finished as a business model for the foreseeable future because deleveraging will go on for years. Investors should look elsewhere for returns; my choice is renewable energy and sustainable resource utilization, particularly proven technologies such as wind, organic farming and the peripheral opportunities arising from them. Sorry, no stock tips from me - you must do your own research. And be prepared for the long haul, because there won't be any instant gratification out there. Another intriguing area is genetic/molecular medicine, but I am woefully ignorant on the subject. Biology was my worst subject in school.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hillary's Blackwater Connection

Bits of baggage have started to fall off the Hillary conveyor belt. Here's a link to The Politico's story about Hillary's Blackwater connection:
Hillary Clinton found herself defending her chief strategist Friday after The Associated Press reported that the public relations company Mark Penn runs had helped prepare the chief of the controversial military contractor Blackwater USA for his congressional testimony.

“Mark Penn did no work on the Blackwater account,” Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said Friday afternoon.

Burson-Marsteller, of which Penn is Worldwide President and CEO, “has cut its ties to Blackwater and that was the right thing to do. Mark is and remains a valuable member of our team,” Wolfson said.

Penn’s unusual dual role as corporate executive and presidential strategist has been a running source of distraction for Clinton’s typically single-minded campaign. Though her supporters believe that voters will ultimately be unlikely to make their choice based on the actions of a consultant who is little known outside political circles, Penn has drawn a steady stream of criticism from other campaigns and from key Democratic groups.

Labor leaders objected to his firm’s work against union organizing, and Burson-Marsteller’s work for clients that include the tobacco industry and a leading, troubled subprime mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, have also drawn fire.

“Bush has been a perfect example of cronyism, because Blackwater has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans and to President Bush. I also saw this morning that Sen. Clinton’s primary adviser, Mark Penn, who is like her Karl Rove — his firm is representing Blackwater,” former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said in Iowa Friday.
Clinton reportedly owes Penn 5.4 million dollars for campaign work, while Burson client Blackwater still has a multi-million dollar contract to protect US State Department officials. Does this look like a manifest conflict-of-interest for a potential Secretary of State?

This story is the first of a drip-drip-drip. While Bill might be powerful enough to pull strings to get her the job, IMHO Hillary honestly should not be able to pass any reasonable person's "smell test" for the position of Secretary of State..

Fight Somali Pirates--Reopen the Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa Oil Pipeline

Closed due to the Arab League's Anti-Israel boycott, reopening the Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline could provide a land-based alternative to shipping oil via tankers open to Somali pirates. Eventually, the existing pipeline network might be expanded to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, linking Israel to the Arab world in a mutually beneficial relationship.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

(ht Althouse)

I Don't Question HIllary's Patriotism, I Question Her Judgement

Yet one more reason not to pick Hillary as Secretary of State, newspaper stories with headlines like this: Clinton: Obama Not Winning Over "Hard-Working Americans, White Americans"
The Huffington Post | May 8, 2008

Some vox populi from the Washington Post blog:
It makes ya sick Ha. I feel like I just voted for George Bush. In six months Obama will known as the White House pet that Hillary and Bill keep around for show. I can't believe I've spent the last year helping Obama get elected.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | November 21, 2008 12:56 PM |

From Our Life Imitates Art Department...

Joshua Goodman's report::
Barack Obama's election as America's first black president is fueling worldwide demand for a forgotten 1926 science-fiction novel from Brazil.

Jose Bento Monteiro Lobato's ``O Presidente Negro'' (``The Black President'') tells the story of Jim Roy, a brilliant and charismatic leader who is elected America's first black president in the year 2228.

Out of print for 40 years, the pulp novel was republished in March by Brazil's largest media conglomerate, Organizacoes Globo, at the height of the Democratic primary battle between Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, a contest that drew comparisons to Roy's race against a fictitious white feminist named Evelyn Astor.

Now the obscure work -- controversial for what some critics see as its defense of racism -- is going international. Last month, it was published in Italy by Edizzione Controluce under the title ``Il Presidente Nero.'' The book is being translated into English and Spanish from Portuguese.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in a June interview with the Sao Paulo newspaper Gazeta Marcantil, said Obama's victory was foretold by Monteiro Lobato.

`Pure Coincidence'

The book was rushed to publication in March after its antiquated Portuguese was updated for modern readers. Full-page advertisements in national magazines under the tagline ``Any resemblance to actual events is pure coincidence'' have spurred sales of 7,000 copies for 28 reais ($11.73) each. They printed 15,000 copies, the same amount as the original printing.

Brazilian bloggers debate the book's racial ideology as well as its prediction of the rise of China and a technology system much like the Internet.

``We knew we were sitting on a gold mine,'' said Lucia Machado, an executive at Globo Books, adding that sales were double the amount considered a commercial success for a new book in Brazil.

Monteiro Lobato is famous in Brazil for the children's fable ``Adventures of Little Nose.'' The ``Black President,'' when read at all, was criticized for its association with eugenics, a philosophy of human improvement through genetic engineering that was embraced by the Nazis.

The H.G. Wells-like storyline takes place in an age of racial purity, where black people are subjected to selective breeding, forced whitening and sterilization...
More information can be found in Manuela Zoninsein's article about O Presidente Negro published by Slate in September:
Of course, there are several differences between Lobato's story and the circumstances surrounding the 2008 election. In Lobato's fictional world, the United States prohibited the mixing of races—believing it would lead to "disintegration" or "denaturalization"—and thereby conserved white and black races in "a state of relative purity." Lobato also failed to predict the civil rights movement, which undid his predictions of an extreme version of "separate but equal." Unlike Roy, born in a supposed age of "pure races," Obama, born of a white mother and black father, witnessed America's social revolution.

In the 2228 of the novel, the white women's party, the Sabinas (a reference to the Roman legend of the rape of the Sabine women), has apparently reached feminism's pinnacle: Women are no longer considered equal to men—they are simply different and entirely independent. Homo, the ruling white men's party, and the Sabinas each command 51 million voters.

In previous elections, voters sided with their gender, with no regard to race. But with the creation of the Black Association, black men and women unite to create the largest political party, giving Roy 54 million supporters. Kerlog is forced to broker an alliance with Roy: black votes in exchange for easing the "Código da Raça" ("Race Code"), which set limits on the growth of the black population through selective breeding and genetic manipulation. To Kerlog's frustration, when the time comes to cast ballots, citizens loyally vote with their identity group, and the black man wins the presidency.

In response, Kerlog threatens race war. He persuades Astor to protect the interests of the white race and encourages an alliance. Lobato, at his most sexist, writes that Astor accepts this proposal on the grounds that man "is woman's husband for thousands of reasons ... long live man!" With hardly a second thought, she shepherds the 51 million female voters to the cause of the Homo Party. Kerlog demonstrates to a despairing Roy that his race will never assume control, and on the morning Roy is set to assume the presidency, he is found dead in his office. (Lobato hints at murder.) Kerlog calls for a re-election and emerges victorious. White leaders then mastermind the end of the black race in America, using a senseless and tragic sterilization technique, and Roy's dream of serving as the first black man in the nation's most powerful post is left by the wayside.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Al Qaeda Blasts Obama

Looks like Al Qaeda is more scared by Obama than Bush, from this MSNBC report:
CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri has criticized President-elect Barack Obama, calling him a demeaning racial term implying that Obama is a black American who does the bidding of whites.

In an audio message which appeared on militant Web sites Wednesday, al-Zawahri said that Obama is "the direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X. He called Obama a "house negro."

He added that Obama's plan to shift troops to Afghanistan is doomed to failure, because Afghans will resist.
The BBC added (ht Drudge) that the Al Qaeda leader charged Obama with apostasy, which carries the death penalty:
He also criticised Mr Obama - whose father is Muslim - for abandoning his Islamic roots.

"You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand with the enemies of Muslims," he said.
Let's see if Obama does better with his vow to "stamp out" Al Qaeda than Bush did with his promise to get Bin Laden "dead or alive."

Another Reason Hillary is Not Qualified

This headline on today's AP story: Democrats: Clinton to help Hillary get State job.

If her husband is reportedly making concessions then obviously Hillary's not even able to negotiate the terms of her employment without help from someone else--namely Bill Clinton. And, if Hillary can't negotiate credibly on behalf of her husband, how could she speak credibly for the United States of America or the Obama administration?

This whole episode is an embarrassment. The sooner Obama puts Hillary to rest, the better.

BTW, David S. Broder agrees with this blogger that Hillary should not become Secretary of State, in today's Washington Post:
What, then, is the problem? Clinton is the wrong person for that job in this administration. It's not the best use of her talents, and it's certainly not the best fit for this new president.

What Obama needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations. One of the principal reasons he was elected was that, relying on his instincts, he came to the correct conclusion that war with Iraq was not in America's interest. He was more right about that than most of us in Washington, including Hillary Clinton.

Of course, he will benefit from the counsel and the contacts that his secretary of state can offer. But remember, he provided another and probably more expert source of that wisdom when he picked Joe Biden, the veteran chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as his running mate. The last thing Obama needs is a secretary of state carving out an independently based foreign policy. He needs an agent, not an author.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Have You Heard the One About The Polish "Diplomat?"

Britain's Daily Telegraph reports that the husband of Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, a former fellow at the American Enterprise Instiute, is in political hot water for telling ethnic jokes about America's President-Elect: (ht Drudge)
Radek Sikorski, an Oxford-educated politician who has lived in the US, was reported to have made the jibe by an opposition politician, Ryszard Czarnecki.

Writing in his blog, Mr Czarnecki, an MEP, quoted the foreign minister as saying: "Have you heard that Obama may have a Polish connection? His grandfather ate a Polish missionary."

A spokesman for the Polish foreign office conceded that Mr Sikorski had made the controversial comment, but denied that the foreign minister had intended to insult Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

"Mr Sikorski did not tell a racist joke," said Piotr Paszkowski, the spokesman. "He was only giving an example of the unpalatable and racist 'jokes' that surround President Elect Obama."

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, has made no comment on the affair. It appears that Mr Sikorski's position is not under threat despite calls from opposition politicians for an investigation to deter if the foreign minister broke anti-racism laws.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stop Hillary Now!

More reasons Hillary would be a mistake as Secretary of State:

1. What has she ever done? What are her actual individual accomplishments? She didn't even have an opponent when she ran for Senator. During the primaries, Obama himself ridiculed her claims to have been closely involved in foreign policy.

2. Wouldn't Bill Clinton--an impeached former President--be perceived as an American version of Benazir Bhutto's husband, "Mr. 10 Percent," if Hillary were selected as Secretary of State? Is that the image of America Obama wants to project to the world?

3. Doesn't widespread publicity before an official decision has been made make things look more like the Old Clinton Administration than the New Obama Administration? Is that the Chicago way?

4. Speaking of which, Hillary's office was notorious for leaks.

5. Last but not least, unlike Obama, Hillary was in favor of the invasion of Iraq.

Charles Morris: America Needs a Recession

In yesterday's Washington Post, Charles Morris made the case for some creative destruction in the US economy:
Our economic model is broken, and trying to restart it will just dig us deeper into a hole. The massive changes that are required can be made only through the violent rejiggering that takes place during recessions. That may sound coldhearted, but there's a precedent.

From 1979 to 1981, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker masterminded a nasty slowdown that broke stagflation -- the noxious combination of rising prices and no growth. Among other moves, Volcker pushed the yield on three-month Treasury bills up to an unheard-of 20 percent, stopping the economy in its tracks. Millions lost their jobs; Volcker was burned in effigy on the Capitol steps.

But when Volcker finally broke inflation's back in 1983, healthy growth resumed almost immediately, and Ronald Reagan rode the result to a landslide victory in 1984 -- a little fact that people worried about a one-term presidency for Barack Obama should note.
A good reason to put Paul Volcker in charge of the Treasury in an Obama administration--he's done it before...

BTW, Ann Althouse pointed out that Peter Schiff called for a recession to clean the "phony wealth" out of the US economy over a year ago on TV: Here's a link to Schiff's company website: EuroPacific Capital, which carries opinions like this:
Bait and switch

Reminiscent of his Bazooka maneuver, quick draw Paulson reversed course quickly with his decision to not use any TARP funds to buy the assets that the plan was specifically funded to procure. Instead, he will simply dole out the loot to his buddies on Wall Street and use it for whatever seemingly worthy initiative strikes his fancy.

Although Congress loves to grandstand about oversight, it has thus far shown no courage to interfere, or even question, the change in strategy. Paulson claims that he is simply rolling with the punches. The truth however, is that the original plan was flawed from inception, as I clearly pointed out in a string of commentaries following his proposal. How could the Treasury Department, with all its funding and PhD’s, not make similar predictions? Paulson is either a liar or completely incompetent. My guess is he is both.

Friday, November 14, 2008

AAARGH...Obama Please Don't Pick Hillary for Secretary of State...

I hope this rumor goes the way of the John Kerry gossip...Reasons:

1. She is incompetent. She failed to get Health Care legislation through Congress in her own husband's administration. She failed to beat Obama despite every advantage in this election cycle. She did a really bad job on behalf of the arts in the Clinton administration--I was there and saw it. She just doesn't have good radar or people skills. Bad instincts. We need a diplomat, not a bully as Secretary of State.

2. She is a polarizer. She gets people mad, seriously.

3. She has baggage. Huma Abedin, plus who know what else we don't know about--not to mention Bill Clinton and sleazy international business deals like Kazakhgate and the Marc Rich pardon. Do you really want to open that can of worms?

4. She's not a fresh face. We are TIRED of Clintons and Bushes in Washington.

5. If you have to do something, send Hillary as Ambassador to France or the Court of St. James...but please don't appoint Hillary Secretary of State.

6. Forget the "Team of Rivals" fantasy. Pick the best people for the job.

7. Remember that America voted for CHANGE. Clinton would be the same old, same old...

Nikolai Timkov in Washington, DC

Enjoyed an exhibition of landscapes by Russian painter Nikolai Timkov now on display at the White-Meyer House in Washington.

Moody riverscapes, snowscapes, and townscapes. Brrrrr....

From Alison Hilton's catalog notes:
The beginning of Timkov’s career coincided with the establishment of Soviet Socialist Realism as the only authorized style of art. Prominent artists and writers joined political authorities in declaring that art and literature must depict the “reality of Revolutionary Russia.” Many artists turned to landscape painting as a way of avoiding overtly political subjects and glorification of Soviet leaders, while still celebrating a Russian identity. Unlike many of his peers, who adapted to the regulations by including appropriate, life-affirming genre motifs in their landscape paintings, Timkov concentrated firmly on the landscape itself. He kept his artistic integrity, perhaps at the expense of lost opportunities for advancement. Although he was admitted into the Union of Artists and participated in many exhibitions, he did not gain the prestige of colleagues who fulfilled the Party’s plans for monumental, representational art.

Which Private School for First Daughters?

Today's Washington Post reports it's one of three: Sidwell Friends, Georgetown Day, or Maret.

You can check their ratings at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Onion News Network Covers the Treasury Bailout

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

Sarkozy Bashes Bush

From the BBC. For failing to resolve the Georgian crisis:
Receiving a prize in France for "political courage", he asked his audience "who defended human rights?" after the war erupted in August.

"Was it the president of the United States... Or was it France?" he asked.

Mr Sarkozy led a mission to Moscow that resulted in a ceasefire between Georgia and Russia.

Picking up the prize, awarded by Politique Internationale magazine, at a ceremony at his own Elysee Palace in Paris, Mr Sarkozy suggested the American president did not want to stake his credibility on a push for peace.

"When on 8 August someone had to leave for Moscow or Tbilisi, who defended human rights?" he asked rhetorically.

"Was it the president of the United States, who said 'This is unacceptable'? Or was it France which kept up the dialogue" between the leaders of Russia and Georgia, he asked, in a speech covered by the French AFP news agency.

"I remember the American president's call the day before our departure for Moscow: 'Don't go there, they [the Russians] want to go to Tbilisi, they're 40km away. Don't go, [just] condemn it'.

"I did go, along with [French Foreign Minister] Bernard Kouchner, and, as if by coincidence, while we were there the ceasefire was declared," Mr Sarkozy said.

FOIABlog Releases FBI 9/11 Videos

FOIA Blog has a scoop--10 previously unreleased 9/11 videos from the FBI.

The FBI recently released 10 videos of 9-11 footage to my client, Scott Bingham. The videos can be seen here.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Michael Lewis on the Wall Street Crash

Michael Lewis explains how Meredith Whitney and Steve Eisman predicted the collapse of the subprime mortgage industry--and why a rating company 20-percent owned by Warren Buffett bears responsibility:
The funny thing, looking back on it, is how long it took for even someone who predicted the disaster to grasp its root causes. They were learning about this on the fly, shorting the bonds and then trying to figure out what they had done. Eisman knew subprime lenders could be scumbags. What he underestimated was the total unabashed complicity of the upper class of American capitalism. For instance, he knew that the big Wall Street investment banks took huge piles of loans that in and of themselves might be rated BBB, threw them into a trust, carved the trust into tranches, and wound up with 60 percent of the new total being rated AAA.

But he couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says.

As an investor, Eisman was allowed on the quarterly conference calls held by Moody’s but not allowed to ask questions. The people at Moody’s were polite about their brush-off, however. The C.E.O. even invited Eisman and his team to his office for a visit in June 2007. By then, Eisman was so certain that the world had been turned upside down that he just assumed this guy must know it too. “But we’re sitting there,” Daniel recalls, “and he says to us, like he actually means it, ‘I truly believe that our rating will prove accurate.’ And Steve shoots up in his chair and asks, ‘What did you just say?’ as if the guy had just uttered the most preposterous statement in the history of finance. He repeated it. And Eisman just laughed at him.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Daniel told the C.E.O. deferentially as they left the meeting, “you’re delusional.”

This wasn’t Fitch or even S&P. This was Moody’s, the aristocrats of the rating business, 20 percent owned by Warren Buffett. And the company’s C.E.O. was being told he was either a fool or a crook by one Vincent Daniel, from Queens.

Google Earth Adds Ancient Rome

Google Earth now doubles as a time machine, according to this BBC report:
popular 3D map tool, Google Earth, offering millions of users the chance to visit a virtual ancient Rome.

Google has reconstructed the sprawling city - inhabited by more than one million people as long ago as AD320.
Users can zoom around the map to visit the Forum of Julius Caesar, stand in the centre of the Colosseum or swoop over the Basilica.

Researchers behind the project say it adds to five centuries of knowledge.

"This is another step in creating a virtual time machine," said Bernard Frischer of Virginia University, which worked with Google on the Roman reconstruction.
Here's the link to Google Earth for Ancient Rome.

Journalist Sues CIA. . . Again

The FOIABlog reports on my complaint charging a violation of the Freedom of Information Act, in regard to a request for CIA documents about the May, 2005 outbreak of violence in Andijan, Uzbekistan. . .

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veteran's Day!

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I came to an end...we celebrate it today in memory of all veterans. Here's a link to the official Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Friends 4ever?

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Inside the Borgia Administration...

Friday night's cultural super-day was capped by the Washington National Opera's production of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia. The performance starred soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. The Berwyn, Illinois native sang beautifully, a lovely voice in a rather unlovely tragedy about murder by wineglass. Placido Domingo conducted the orchestra, and all the singing sounded first-rate. The stage direction was a bit strange--a distracting homosexual romance had been added to the plot by John Pascoe, in addition to Lucrezia slitting her own throat. His set and costume design featured what looked like fetish wear rather than beautiful clothes. The choreography, by Bulgarian Vladimir Angelov, was unfortunately not good...

But who cares... The music was great, the singing was great, and the story was great. A great show.

OperaLuvr's blog post about Renee Fleming's performance. IonArts review here.

Rachmaninoff in Washington

Before the Pompeii show, someone I know and I had been to a performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Opus 19, performed by Sean Neidlinger and Jennifer Yeo at the Arts Club. It was a lovely performance, and both of the musicians were excellent. They are two members of the Sage Chamber Players, and so good that I googled their website, where you may read about upcoming performances.

Pompeii Comes to Washington

Last Friday, someone I know and yours truly took in the National Gallery of Art's Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Around the Bay of Naples. It's a nice show. Not the bordello paintings and priapic satyrs one associates with the ruined resort. Rather highbrow, dealing with Pompeii past, present, and perhaps future...

Not just Las Vegas, Pompeii had been a Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket of ancient Rome. Writers, orators, actors, even philosophers were respected--on display is a mosaic featuring Plato with students beneath a tree. Thoughts of 9/11 came to mind while looking at 19th-century paintings of the disaster by the likes of Joseph Wright of Derby. Photos of the ash-covered bodies re-created in Plaster of Paris likewise evoked the collapse of the World Trade Center. Some of the statues looked surprisingly contemporary--like art deco sculptures by Paul Manship. Painted walls for a dining room turned out to have descendants on display in hearing rooms of the US Capitol. And Sir Derek Jacobi's Masterpiece Theatre-like video orientation brought back the glory days of I, Claudius.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Scott Hodes on the Future of the Freedom of Information Act

From FOIA Blog.
Historically, Democratic Presidents (Carter, Clinton) have been much more pro-disclosure than Republican Presidents (Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Bush II). I would expect the Obama administration to be more like the Clinton and Carter FOIA model than that of the current administration.

Initially, I look for the Ashcroft memorandum to be stricken. This memorandum which came out in the Fall of 2001 said that any properly used FOIA exemption would be defended by the Justice Department. It superseded (without expressly stating that it did) the Reno memorandum of 1993 which said even if something could be withheld under a FOIA exemption, agencies should look to make discretionary disclosures of material as long as there was no foreseeable harm in government activities in releasing the material. For instance, privileged material in a document that could be withheld under FOIA exemption 5 should be looked at to see if the material could be released even though legally it could be withheld under FOIA exemption 5--the test was would the release do any foreseeable harm to the government. If the answer was no, the material went. Under current policy agencies don't have to ask, they just defend the withholding. Under the Obama administration I look for a similar foreseeable harm test to return.

I also look for an increased awareness in FOIA programs. FOIA Operations will get greatersupportt from those in charge of agencies. While money will be tight in the new administration, I look for investments in the use of new technology to streamline FOIA Operations making them more efficient and answerable to requesters. Additionally, I think the Department of Justice will provide more guidance in FOIA operations, both legally and procedurally.

Finally, I think agencies will overall be more pro-disclosure. I don't know how to quantify that idea, but I think there is a feeling in many FOIA Offices that they can't release information because the current administration doesn't want them to. I think this will slowly change and some agencies will release information they are now withholding. Again, I can't quantify it nor give specific examples.

How to Get a Job in the Obama Administration...

Go to Scroll to the "Jobs: Apply Now" link. Fill out the form. Wait for the email...

I just did it. It takes about a minute.

There's also a link to the transition directory.

Coincidentally, at dinner last night, there was a discussion speculating on what Obama would do in foreign policy--especially over whom he might pick as Secretary of State. I mentioned that the only foreign policy expert on Obama's team I had seen in person was Susan Rice, years ago at an event at the National Press Club in relation to the 2004 election. She impressed me at the time as the only panelist who sounded like a normal human being. So, it was interesting to read that she seems to be in charge, according this leaked email from
TO: Obama Foreign Policy Experts
FROM: Tony Lake and Susan Rice
DATE: November 7, 2008
RE: Thank You

We want to thank you, and thank you again, for all that you have done to help elect Barack Obama President of the United States. Your wisdom and expertise have been invaluable. We will remain extremely grateful for your incredibly hard work and for your many personal and collective contributions.

We are obviously entering a new phase now with the transition. The transition will be a separate operation from the campaign, which is now disbanding. So too must our foreign policy expert teams disband.

The transition operation will be brief and comparatively lean. Given the need to complete this work expeditiously and efficiently, please understand that only a limited number of people will be able to support those activities. But, please also be assured that participation in the transition is in no way a prerequisite to, nor an assurance of, being offered any position in the Obama-Biden administration.

For those of you interested in applying for a position in the future administration, a transition website has been set up where you can (and, in fact, must) apply by filling out a form and submitting your resume. It is: We hope very much that you will apply. You should follow the instructions to indicate your interest in being considered for a position in the government. This is a real website, which will be used to fill important positions in the government below the cabinet level. There will be no other channel through which applications will be accepted. Please also feel free to copy Mona Sutphen who will be tracking your applications at: REDACTED, with any resumes and materials you submit in the official channel.

Finally, and importantly, we ask each of you please do not under any circumstances speak to the press, any foreign officials, or embassies on behalf of the transition or President-elect Obama. Please also do not encourage solicitation of such contacts. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of this request. It would be highly damaging for foreign governments or media to receive information that they believe falsely to represent the views of the President-Elect.

If you receive any inquiries, please refer them to:

Dan Pfeiffer, REDACTED (for press inquiries)

Denis McDonough REDACTED or Mark Lippert REDACTED (for any inquiries from foreign officials and embassies)

Their new email accounts should be active by next week.

Thank you again for all that you have done to help make this historic moment possible.

Susan and Tony
A reminder of the Washington truism not to write anything that you don't want to see in the Washington Post the next day...

BTW, If Google's electronic news clippers are pulling names from blog posts for Obama, I'd like to see Susan Rice as Secretary of State. If not Rice, my other candidate is Bill Richardson--he has experience as UN ambassador, energy secretary, and governor. Richardson might send a strong signal to Latin America that the USA takes anti-American developments in the Western Hemisphere more seriously than President Bush appears to have done...

More information on Obama foreign-policy aide Mark Lippert in this Newsweek article. Wikipedia entry here.

A little bit on Dennis McDonough here. I see from the bio that he worked for Sen. Tom Daschle for years...perhaps Sen. Daschle is in the running for Secretary of State, as well?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Rik Freeman at the Arts Club of Washington, DC

The walls at Friday's Arts Club concert yesterday featured big paintings by Rik Freeman. I liked them, they reminded me of Thomas Hart Benton's murals, full of 1930s intensity, substance, as well as style. Well worth a visit. My favorite is Moses Train.

Friday, November 07, 2008

From the Goldendoodle website, the breed sounds like a perfect puppy for an Obama White House, IMHO:
The Goldendoodle gets its name from its mixed heritage - golden retriever and poodle. Goldendoodles are a hybrid dog, a first generation cross, and as such they exhibit "hybrid vigour". the term used to describe the burst of fertility, good health and growth that is seen in the progeny when two unrelated breeds are mated.

Goldendoodles were first deliberately bred in North America as a larger version of the popular Cockapoo around the mid 1990s. Their non/light shedding coats and ability to live with families with allergies has made them very popular companions.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


In addition to taking us on a Chicago Barack Obama tour last weekend, Bob and Mary brought us to a screening of Oliver Stone's W in a Rogers Park arthouse. The film was a little long--one of our guides snored a bit--but overall, thought-provoking and strangely sympathetic. It was a serious attempt to explain the Bush Presidency in the context of an Oedipal struggle between father and son. George H.W. Bush (James Cromwell) is the hero of the story (does anyone remember that his Presidency had big problems?), while George W. Bush was portrayed by Josh Brolin as a prodigal son. Stone took Bush's "I'm the decider" line seriously. In this picture, Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) is a servile yes man who pulls troops out of Iraq for Bush 41 while he goes all the way to Baghdad for Bush 43--a departure from Washington conventional wisdom that Cheney tells Bush what to do. There's also a glowing depiction of Laura Bush (Elizabeth Banks), and a harsh portrait of Barbara Bush (Ellyn Burstyn, who's really nice in real life, she was kind to me years back when I worked as a PA on one of her TV movies). Brolin's Bush is loveable, which is a nice piece of acting work. He really believes in Jesus, he really prays, he really has malice towards none, he really wants to do what's right. He really cares when he visits wounded soldiers. The tragedy is that W's just not up to the job.

After watching the film, it occurred to me that if Oliver Stone is so kind to Bush now, then perhaps history might be even kinder. After all, for all his mistakes, Bush essentially purged the Republican party of the Pat Buchanan wing and appointed both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice Secretaries of a sense, paving the way for Barack Obama's run for the White House.

Here's a link to Oliver Stone's MySpace page.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What Next for Obama?

The election is over. The transition has begun.

All Washington wonders this morning what Obama will do next. His transition headquarters is already furnished and ready for business, thanks to the acting administrator of the GSA. Who will fill the cubicles there--and who will get the 3,000 political patronage jobs in the plum book (aka "United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions")--are questions still to be answered. Only one thing is certain:

Texas is out, Chicago is in.

Why Obama Won...

It was the youth vote, according to This 'n That:
With the aid of the Hispanic vote in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, Barack Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States. He is also the first African American who will reside in the White House on Pennsyvania Avenue come 20 January 2009. Election 2008 was far from being a repeat of the 2000 and 2004 elections that were stained by controversies about hanging chads and insinuations of corrupt voting practices in Florida in 2000 and Ohio four years later.

Barack Obama began to build a commanding lead of electoral votes soon after polls began to close on the east coast and never faltered. Once Pennsylvania turned a dark shade of blue, a hotly contested state along with Ohio and Florida, a win for Barack Obama had become a near certainty. And then Florida and Ohio gave up their electoral votes to the popular democratic candidate, two states that had put current President George Bush over the top in 2000 and 2004 respectively.

Change has occurred. Young voters below the age of thirty turned out to vote in large numbers. Hence, the face of the voting public has also changed. No longer do the faces resemble over thirty, white, middle and upper middle class faces that have essentially lived in a vacuum of among their own kind. Young voters of today have been and are constantly exposed to, and intermingle with varied groups of people of varied races, ethnic and religious groups. They exchange thoughts and ideas about the current state of global affairs. They are far from being nationalistic by any stretch of the imagination. What has empowered the youth of today to be more curious, informed and eager to participate in order to make a difference, a change, is access to the internet. It is a fast and efficient way of accumulating information. Some of it not all that accurate. Still their faith in what they read and visualized online never caused them to waiver in their support of the man who they believed could and would bring about the kind of change they want to see. They genuinely care about quality of life they desire to live in the next four years and possibly beyond.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Voted... person, at my local polling place, on Election Day. As the old advertising jingle used to say; "The Only Way to Fly!" Here's an excerpt from Hank Steuver's defense of this tradition from today's Washington Post:
For now, the "I Voted" sticker remains gloriously the same. Oh, some jurisdictions may dress it up -- Prince William's sticker is much jazzier than the District's simple white circle with the red "X" in the box -- but the message is clearer than ever: I kick it old school. I waited in line with everyone else on the appointed day, because "everyone" is the whole idea. The "I Voted" sticker has been around a long time, at least five election cycles. (A Florida manufacturer claims to have been making "the original" version since 1986, but it probably goes back further.)

The District of Columbia Voter's Guide showed up several days ago in our mail, and on the front cover was a cartoon of a ballot and a pencil holding hands and jumping happily. There was something rudimentary and childlike, almost Hello Kitty about them. It made it feel like social studies class. It's dorky cool, more cool than watching Kirsten Dunst vote early. "You complete us," read the cute words beneath the Pencil and the Ballot, in a retro '70s-style italic. What followed was 57 sober pages of instructions, rules, sample ballots, statements from candidates and long lists of potential advisory neighborhood commissioners.

There's so much to love about the standing part today, amid all the drab beige, taking in the smell of someone else's coffee, rereading the entire newspaper, stuck in the line of voters that doesn't seem to move but, in fact, does. Then comes the sticker.

What a wonderful and boring thing, voting together.

Barack Obama's Baby Pictures

And more, like this one from his prep school, on the Chicago Tribune website today.

The Huxtable Effect

Forget the "Bradley Effect." Alisa Valdes-Rodrigues argues in this article that the key to the 2008 Presidential election may be the "Huxtable Effect" created by Bill Cosby's TV sitcom.

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Tour of Barack Obama's Chicago Neighborhood

Just came back from Chicago, where I learned that Obama lives in an old Jewish neighborhood named "Kenwood." Here are some photos from the walking tour we got from our friends Bob and Mary...

In front of Barack Obama's house, with someone I know:
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

The shul across the street from Obama's house, the KAM Isaiah Israel Temple :
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

Our tour guides in front of Obama's house:
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

Yours truly in front of the home of William Ayers, Jr. and Bernadine Dohrn:
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

Coffee and grits at Valois Cafeteria, where Barack Obama has eaten many meals:
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

Yours truly in front of the Valois Cafeteria (a Radio France International reporter was doing interviews inside):
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

Yours truly in front of the Hyde Park Hair Salon, where Obama gets his haircuts:
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

Inside the Hyde Park Hair Salon, with European TV crews:
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

The HQ of Jesse Jackson's "Operation PUSH" (in a former synagogue):
From Chicago Barack Obama Tour

For more background on Obama's neighborhood, someone I know who took the tour with me sent links to these articles from The Chicago Tribune and The Star.