‘Futureland’ and a co-worker’s racism harsh my Obama high

January 21, 2009

futurelandFROM JASON’S GRITTED TEETH — My outlook swings day-to-day from gloriously optimism to blood-boiling pessimism.

Yesterday, watching Obama take control of the mess into which the executive branch had fallen, was a good day. In the evening, I told Andrew I believe we’ve done much more than we realize to eliminate racism in this country, or at least make it so socially odious that it might as well not exist.

Today, however, was a pessimistic day as my idealism was smashed. In the cubicle next door, I heard a co-worker raving about an encounter with a client he labeled “a damned Arab.”

“They’re all terrorists. Even the children… You can’t trust any of them. I don’t know why they have to call me, talking all Arab. We should blow them all up,” he said.

I am sheltered. I normally associate with people of extreme education, raised in a strict environment of social correctness. This co-worker’s words were alien and loathsome. There was nothing in them to which I could connect on any level.

They were not the starry-eyed hope I felt during Tuesday’s inauguration. This co-worker clearly does not agree with Obama’s words: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and latino America and asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

The fever of the inauguration had given me a temporary peace. But my co-worker’s words jogged me into a blacker vision for our nation’s future, one that’s been reinforced in the last week while reading an excellent science fiction work by Walter Mosley, titled Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World.

This dystopia is no Idiocracy; it’s a world of corrupt geniuses and the helpless victims pulled into their sphere of influence. Futureland is a place of designer brain-viruses, corporate city-states and megalomaniacal dictators, genetically-engineered slaves, and politically oppressed masses.

It’s a place where children are drafted into government cabals; where the race and gender divides have exploded; where the Supreme Court allows citizenry to be revoked from anyone the authorities deem socially dangerous; where property rights have been all but abolished; where pre-teens live in underground concentration camp castes while the rich cavorte in the streets above; and where science and religion have been merged into one InfoChurch to keep the desperate under thumb.

Some days Mosley’s futurescape seems laughable. Others — when a co-worker reveals such ill-masked, torturous hate — his grim vision seems as imminent as the vignets he ties together in this book. And then I wonder whether we’ve really progressed at all as a nation, or whether we’ve simply deluded ourselves into thinking our attitudes are evolving at all.

Forumites: Election ’08 for Morons #3

June 3, 2008

I’m rushing to get this post up for a couple of reasons. My original plan had been to let it go until tomorrow.

Now, though, it looks entirely possible that Barack Obama will reach a magical milestone tonight that could make the entire Democratic infight with Hillary Clinton moot. By midnight, CNN is reporting, Obama could have 2,118 superdelegates pledged to his nomination as the party’s candidate. Mathematically, that would eliminate Clinton from contention.

Clinton could be forced to concede the race, but told reporters about an hour ago that she won’t do so today. That means probably the biggest news of the year will break tomorrow.

Still, Clinton plans to speak in New York City tonight, and it will be interesting to see whether she turns a deaf ear to the speculation about the superdelegate squeeze, whether she’ll address them head on in her speech, or if she’ll actually do the smart thing and admit defeat gracefully instead of prologuing the inevitable for another full news cycle.

It’s the starting gun all the pundits have been straining to hear. If the votes fall as predicted, tonight could mark the beginning of the real presidential race between Obama and John McCain.

With that in mind, here’s Obama and his stances, taken quote for quote, in context, his real words:

Also, I’ve been itching to post a real blag entry here, instead of these comics I’ve been obsessed with. They’re fun, but there’s no substitute for substance over style. So I’m getting ready to review a few books I really love.

Tonight I saw Caroline Kennedy endorse Barack Obama

February 28, 2008

kennedy01.pngFROM JASON’S CONTINUED LEFTWARD DRIFT — Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, spoke tonight in my city.

She is stumping across Ohio for Barack Obama as the March 4 primary nears, saying Obama is the first candidate she’s ever seen who inspires people the way her father did.

“He’ll appeal to those around the world who still believe in the American ideal and are looking to America for the kind of leadership that we provided internationally when my father was president,” she said.

I was working my beat at the newspaper where I am a reporter, and had the opportunity to watch and analyze objectively from the back of the room. Kennedy did not say anything to sway me to Obama’s cause. Her 20-minute speech was more nostalgic jingoism directed at the already-converted than any kind of rational argument for Obama.

What did cause me to gain sympathy for his campaign were some of the attendees I interviewed after Kennedy’s speech. They didn’t say they have decided to support Obama because he is black, because he is the anti-Bush, because they have a gut feeling about him, or because he’s an elegant speaker.

Each and every one said they are marching in Obama’s line because of his platform — and they cited specific policies to back it up. One woman, a 39-year-old mother of a college freshman — said she is drawn to Obama’s promise of a $4,000 tax credit to make college more affordable. Another woman said his clear anti-war stance (and the fact that he did not cast a Senate vote to go to war, as did his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton) is his strongest appeal. One man listed to me several NAFTA provisions that Obama wants to amend in order to secure open trade.

Trust me, that’s an unprecedented level of education to meet at a local political rally.

I’ve said previously that I am more supportive of Clinton in 2008 than Obama. I think I’m slowly giving ground, especially after the Cleveland State University debate Tuesday.

Click above for part 1 of 10 in the complete Democratic debate at CSU. 

Clinton did not perform well; she was combative while Obama was collected. She was smug where Obama was gracious. She was outclassed several times by his well-phrased quips, and when she danced around Tim Russert’s questions (especially the one about job creation shortfall in New York state), Obama handled them smoothly.

We’ll see how things progress between now and the Democratic National Convention in August.

Election 2008: Charles Barkley, you are America

February 17, 2008

FROM JASON’S POLITICAL SOAPBOX — Sir Charles Barkley is jump-fading away from the Republican party, and that’s worth 3 points.

A few years ago, Barkley drew double-D from liberal politicos for taking a very pro-Republican stance, but now The Round Mound of Rebound is changing teams — like so many other former conservatives — and endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Friday, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the Republican party is full of “fake Christians” who hypocritically judge the rest of America. He couldn’t be more right. That’s why so many, including myself, are turning from the Right and running full-steam this election season for the Left.

BARKLEY: “Hey, I live in Arizona. I have got great respect for Senator McCain. Great respect. But I don’t like the way the Republicans are taking this country. Every time I hear the word “conservative,” it makes me sick to my stomach, because they’re really just fake Christians, as I call them. That’s all they are. But I just — I’m going to vote Democratic no matter what.”

Later, clarifying what he means by “fake Christians”:

BARKLEY: Well, I think they — they want to be judge and jury. Like, I’m for gay marriage. It’s none of my business if gay people want to get married. I’m pro-choice. And I think these Christians — first of all, they’re supposed to be — they’re not supposed to judge other people. But they’re the most hypocritical judge of people we have in this country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like their Christians. And they’re not forgiving at all.

Disenfranchised Republicans, fed up with Bushism and the abandonment of praxeological economic conservatism, are turning to Clinton and Obama. I’ve been a Republican for years for practical reasons — the party has traditionally supported small-scale government, low taxation, balanced budgets, open markets, and individual freedoms.

No longer. In the past… um… eight or so years, the party has trampled on those ideals and bloated. Republicans have been disproportionately rocked by scandal. Republicans have made bad power plays. Republicans have waged a foolish and expensive two-front war, and above all, Republicans have made themselves publicly notorious for being anti-science, anti-rationalism (read: pro-religion), and anti-civil rights.

Intellectual Republicans are becoming intellectual Independents and turning to Democrats for help — because as long as both parties are levying huge taxes and pissing money away, you might as well endorse the one that won’t discriminate against the hungry, the poor, the gay, the non-believers, and the disabled.

I’m not endorsing Obama, here — I’m actually much more enamored with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s stances — but that’s hardly the point. When you look at the Democrats, you can’t help but be terrified of the Republican presidential candidates. And Barkley and the rest of America seem to agree.

Democrats: Why do you really back your candidate?

January 9, 2008

dems.pngFROM JASON’S OWN PRIVATE SWITZERLAND —So coming off his stunning 8-point win in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama let opponent Hillary Clinton slip by Tuesday with a 3-percent lead in New Hampshire — surprising all of us.

Clinton has come to be viewed, even among the anti-Bush-ite youth voters, somewhat of a frumpy, cold, clumsy pariah on the campaign trail. Her demeanor and years of being viewed as her husband’s taskmistress have set even the energized youth voters distinctly against her.

The exit polling shows what I think is so damned interesting.

MSNBC’s statistics throughout the day screamed exactly why Hillary was able to slide by Obama — the two have mirror-opposite support bases within the party. Clinton’s percentage of votes by age breakdown only escalated among older and older voters, while the stats showed Obama getting an inversely proportional response among younger and younger brackets.

And we all know who turns out in bigger droves when the polls open — the old fogeys.

There are a couple of things that bother me about this Democratic showdown (forget the Republicans for now. They’re not going to take the White House this term anyway, thanks to 8 years of sabotage by GWB).

The first is that 2008 will be as much about which type of “minority” (even though women actually outnumber men by about 2 percent of the population in the U.S.) is selected as about any issue. Look at how the masses are categorizing the two Dem front-runners. Will this be the year that we have our first black president, or the year that we have our first female president?

It irks me. Having darker skin or breasts isn’t going to help either Obama or Clinton do a better job in office. These two factors should be non-issues, especially when we have such larger ones to consider — inflation, the bankruptcy crisis, the health care coverage hole, rampant immigration without naturalization keeping pace, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, non-renewable energy. Yet we have people lining up to support one or the other candidate based on obscure racial or gender guilt, and that doesn’t help anyone.

It is interesting to note, however, from a strictly historical perspective that the U.S. embraced African American voting rights before it did the suffrage movement. It will be a fun academic exercise to see whether the same priority/coincidence follows true here.

The second thing that bothers me about this election is the unbounded enthusiasm that the 18-32 (or so) voters have for Obama. Sure, he’s charismatic. I like him. I would gladly toss back a couple of beers with him. But it seems that his gravitas is based more on his attitude, cultured speaking, and early grassroots web campaign than on — once again — any issue(s). Frankly, I don’t think a lot of casual supporters really understand his platform (or the reasons behind their distaste of Clinton’s, either).

Let’s take a look at Clinton and Obama and see exactly what they believe.

Here is a break-down of Obama’s stances:

– Pro-choice
– Voted against the flag-burning ban
– Wants to include sexual orientation in anti-descrimination laws
– Supports charter schools and privatization
– Wants to invest in alternative energy research
– Insists on placing human rights mandates on China to continue trade
– Recognizes morality is the issue with gun violence
– Made several smart Medicare expansion votes
– Voted against extending Patriot Act’s wire-tapping provision
– Supports better equipment for troops
– Anti-war
– Opposes federal spending reductions
– Supports affirmative action
– Voted against CAFTA
– Supports strong gun control measures
– Pro-universal health care
– Voted to re-authorize Patriot Act
– Pro-minimum wage increases
– Pro-Christian; supports “call to evangelize in politics”
– Voted for giving illegal aliens health and social security coverage (without citizenship)
– Voted against repealing death tax
– Wants to expand welfare state
– Opposes gay marriage, but supports civil unions
– Sympathy for drug use
– Wants free public college for B-average students and above

Now here is a similar list of Clinton’s planks:

– Pro-choice
– Supports stem cell research
– Calls for tax cuts and balanced budget
– Pushing for Privacy Bill of Rights
– Voted against flag-burning ban
– Voted to expand cell phone wiretapping
– Supports requiring DNA testing for all federal executions
– Pro-charter schools
– Pro-Kyoto Treaty
– Pro-campaign finance reform
– Opposes e-mail tax
– Criticizes Iraq war management; supports phased withdrawal
– Anti-school vouchers
– Believes media (television and video games) causes violence
– Anti-privatization
– Calls for increasing strength and size of government
– Pro-universal health care
– Voted against medical lawsuit reform
– Voted to renew the Patriot Act
– Wants to give illegal alients social security benefits
– Supports minimum wage increases
– Opposes tax reform
– Supports creation of special “drug courts”
– Wants to force oil companies to fund energy research
– Supports Star Wars-esque missile defense
– Still refuses to apologize for Iraq vote, but admitted in April that it was a mistake
– Touts values-based welfare entitlements

I guess my point is this: I don’t think it’s any more acceptable for the American political left to have a blind devotion to a candidate than I think it’s okay for the American right. The Christian fundamentalist movement gets a lot of negative heat (and rightfully so) for latching on to ultra-conservative dogma; I think those of us measuring the Democrats this season should be held to the same standards.

We have to choose based on qualification and platform, not the better dresser, the better personality, or the candidate that late-night hosts steer us toward.

NOTE: I already linked to it, but I feel obliged to mention that the sourcing for these platforms comes from OnTheIssues.org, a trusted non-partisan vote-tracking and statement-tracking political analysis group.

ANDREW’S EDIT: I recommend my goto site for political analysis Opencongress.org