Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"A New Day in America..."

As Congressman John Lewis observed, tonight America decided to "lay down the burden of race and move ahead" in a profoundly nonviolent revolution, and once again America reclaimed its place as the true leader of the world, for in no other country on earth would Obama's story be possible, such is the reality of racial hatred, religious intolerance, and class divisions that define even the best of European nations. Make no mistake about it, tonight we all witnessed the most important day in U.S. history in at least a generation, and in one seminal event America did more to realize Martin Luther King's dream than in the forty years of struggle since his death, as now every child born in this country can honestly aspire to the highest office in the land. It is no longer a line teachers try to sell kids in rundown classrooms but a real, tangible reality: Yes, you can achieve, and no, despite our heartbreaking legacy of injustice, we are not a country that is unwilling to transcend our past. Indeed, we are a country that will judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and despite the many challenges that we still must confront, we are, in essence, a nation that believes in our ideals of social justice and equality for all. I have never been more proud to be an American than I am tonight, as I looked my 2 month old daughter in the eyes and told her that she will never live in a country that is dominated by racist or sexist values: That is the message this nation sent tonight with the election of Barack Obama.

So how did Obama overcome enormous, unprecedented challenges to win this election. Here are the six most important aspects of Obama's victory:

1. He should call Bush to thank him for being the worst president in U.S. history. Bush's complete and utter incompetence opened the door to radical change in much the same way that an Indian-American--Bobby Jindal--was elected in the Deep South after Hurricane Katrina when Louisiana's residents were so fed up with the corrupt state leaders that they essentially said, "this 36-year-old kid seems young and smart, so let's give him a shot at running this state." That's basically what many conservative Americans said as they voted for Obama: Yes, he's a black man, but he's Harvard-educated, level-headed, and seems to know his stuff, so let's give him a shot, for it can't be any worse than this idiot Bush.

2. Obama had the most impressive campaign organization in U.S. history. Starting in the primaries, they left Clinton behind, utilizing the Internet not just to solicit funds but to put together a 50 state machine that mobilized voters and got people to the polls, especially in the caucus states that gave Obama the delegate lead that enabled him to hold off Clinton. Obama wisely rejected public financing and buried the GOP in advertising dollars, even as they cried about how unfair it was that the Dems finally had their chance to have more money. He knew the public didn't care much about the public financing issue, so he absorbed the flip-flop blow back and overwhelmed McCain in the battleground states and put him on the defensive in red states, which made the difference in the end in states such as Florida and especially Virginia. It is a model that will be studied for generations, and Obama did his part by running a literally flawless campaign. Except for a few stumbles in the primaries he made no mistakes.

3. On August 29th, McCain made blunder number one: The selection of Palin was a disaster, as it solidified his base in an election where needed to appeal to the center. Palin scared the hell out of reasonable independents and Democrats whom McCain had to have. Palin reinforced the perception that the GOP was a party of disgruntled white people, and all she brought to the ticket were a bunch of racists who were either going to sit it out or vote for McCain anyway. Look at the composition of those rallies in the final weeks: Angry rural white people calling for Obama's death, that's the crowd she cultivated, and it became painfully clear to open-minded Americans that she was more of a grand wizard of the KKK than a viable president of the United States. After her pathetic debate performance she was relegated to SNL skits and not taken seriously by most of America. As the results made painfully clear, she did much more harm than good simply because people had no confidence that she could take over if the 72-year-old man with a 1000 page medical history were to die in office. That's the bottom line; she failed the only test a VP has to pass--can this person be trusted as president?

4. On September 15, as the stock market was literally crashing, McCain made blunder number two when he repeated the idiotic observation that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." Even the most simplistic investors who simply have a 401K knew that their nest egg was disappearing everyday, so to hear the cognitive dissonance of a man who wants to be president make such a ridiculous statement was alarming and caused a dramatic shift in the polls. It was clear at that point that McCain was indeed as out of touch as his seven houses and dozen cars suggested. He was reduced to a typical rich, old, white Republican who has no sense of the challenges average Americans struggle with on a monthly basis. It was a devastating mistake.

5. McCain inexplicably dug himself in deeper on the economic issue when he played his little "suspend the campaign" game--and then failed to get anything done because the GOP rejected him. It was a humiliating defeat that led him to arrive at the debate with his tail between his legs and reduced to having to support the bailout package that Bush demanded and that the GOP helped pass. Obama survived the bad decision to vote for the bailout only because he waited to be certain that McCain would vote yes before he did.

6. In all three debates Obama reassured the nation that he was cool, calm, and competent, as he destroyed "Forrest Grump" McCain on the issues and left him looking flustered and angry. The debates were the first time most Americans saw Obama, and they liked what they saw: He was forceful and astute, as well as refined and respectful, certainly not some Angry Black Man. The debates had a huge impact in terms of convincing Americans that it was OK to vote for this guy, that he cared about the country, knew the issues, had a vision, and seemed much more skilled than Bush. The debates sealed the deal, as McCain never was able to catch up in the polls.

Now, thankfully, Joe the plumber can get back to the very real and very important work of unplugging toilets, and Palin can fade into Alaska oblivion: Their 15 minutes are up. John McCain has served this country well and Obama should seek his counsel, as he is an honorable man at heart. He is not the first person whose ambition cost him his soul, but McCain could have run a much more dishonorable campaign than he did, and he deserves respect for that choice. He made a deal with the devil, those "agents of intolerance" he rejected in 2000, and the GOP needs to have a good, old-fashioned war for the soul of the party. The right wing, bigoted evangelicals need to be cut loose to form their own party so that moderates can regain control in case Obama does not live up to the promise of his potential. Obama has a monumental task ahead of him, but he also has no excuses, with large majorities in both houses. As he seemed to indicate in his acceptance speech, he knows it's time to get to work, to try to save this great but fading nation.
He will indeed be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, in these next four years, and all Americans should wish him the best of luck. He will need it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October Surprise: Powell Eviscerates GOP. McCain Meltsdown in Final Debate

In a resounding rejection of Republican policies and campaign tactics, universally respected General Colin Powell delivered the most devastating attack on McCain since Obama silenced him with his three unanswered "you were wrong!" statements in the first debate. On "Meet the Press" Powell not only offered a sincere endorsement for a man he called a "transformational figure," but more importantly provided an unexpectedly ferocious attack on the people McCain himself once called the "agents of intolerance" but are now the ones McCain sold his soul to in this misguided attempt at a presidential campaign, namely the right wing racists who, sadly, have taken over the party and in doing so have reduced it to a party of the very rich and the very ignorant(the choice of the laughable Palin--which Powell cited as disturbing--was to appease this intolerant crowd), with a few lost and misguided good souls thrown in, although they are flocking to Obama everyday, as their goodness prevents them from turning the other cheek to people calling Obama a "terrorist" and shouting "kill him!" Intelligent Republicans cannot--and indeed are not going to--support a potential president who is too insecure to sit down on "Meet the Press" or even conduct a basic press conference. She has brought shame to true GOP intellectuals because of her complete lack or intellectual curiosity or even a cursory interest in the issues that will affect the lives of all Americans, and she is going to negotiate with Putin? Someone who is scared to death of Tom Brokaw...Nor can they endure idiots such as the Congresswoman Bachmann from Minnesota who called Obama "un-American" and called for a new round of McCarthyistic investigations of which members of Congress are un-American. Is this what the GOP has really been reduced to?(Powell singled her out as symbolic of this new, horrible GOP that he is repudiating.) I certainly do not think McCain is un-American in any way. Indeed, I respect him much more than cowards such as Bush who ran from military service during Vietnam and fools such as Romney, who claimed his five sons were serving their country by trying to help him get elected: That's about as un-American a statement I have heard from a politician. Perhaps that is what she was talking about--who the draft dodgers are, who refuses to send their kids to Iraq while they talk tough themselves. However, I doubt that's what she has in mind...Now Obama is a "socialist" according to another delusional old woman in a nursing home who was screaming that one word at him over and over, thanks to one of her heroes McCain or Palin, who evidently taught her that word; Obama should have asked her if she cashed her "SOCIAL" Security check this month, that most beloved of our "socialist" programs, but if Obama is a socialist what does that make the man who supported a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street AND introduced a $300 billion socialist bailout for banks who made bad loans?

Indeed, McCain is as socialist as they come(in his own words he supports "regulation " of "greed and corruption on Wall Street"), and they have the nerve to say shame on Obama for trying to "redistribute wealth" by asking the rich to pay what they were paying during the Clinton years--remember that was when we PAID for our tax breaks with cuts in welfare benefits, closing military bases etc., balanced the budget, AND had a booming economy! It's absurd to suggest that restoring the tax bracket from the 1990s for people who make over $250K is going to somehow destroy the economy, when the economy is pretty much destroyed already. The GOP, starting with the fraud Reagan, is the party of cutting taxes AND increasing spending, thus leaving future generations with the bills to pay. Take a minute to research budget deficits, including those when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress. Try cutting your family's income while increasing your spending. Where will that lead your family? Sleeping on the streets or in your car? That's where our country is headed thanks to the irresponsible combination of tax breaks for the very wealthy and unrestrained spending, especially on the bloated military budget and obscene tax breaks for Bush's oil buddies.

Is this race for president over? Of course not! I know people who are highly educated and think it's over and that Obama will win 40 states etc., yet they are oblivious to the reality that a black man named Barack Hussein Obama is not going to be a landslide victor in this country in these times, not even against John "Sidney" McCain III, champion of the common man, despite never holding a private sector job in his life, except when given one by his wife's daddy, and not even in the worst economic times since the 1930s, a direct result of the complete and utter disaster that is George W Bush, a president who offered no leadership in a time when the country desperately needed it and now is so despised that McCain takes it as an insult to be compared to the man whose GOP jersey he wears. The GOP is setting up a brilliant plan to try to suppress the vote and steal this election as they did in 2000 and 2004 if they can get it close enough to put it in the hands of states with Republican governors and secretaries of state. These are the people who delivered in the last two elections, so if anyone thinks Obama will coast to an easy victory he or she has a very short memory. This will be a brutal fight up to and including election day and perhaps weeks and days afterward, when the GOP lawyers will go after the irrelevant Acorn, who are supposedly trying to steal the election because a few crooks are filling out phony registration forms to get paid more. Anyone who has ever been part of a voter registration drive knows that stuff like that happens and that's why we have someone called a REGISTRAR, who confirms eligibility. This is all much ado about nothing except for GOP plans to intimidate people so that they will not vote. If they can bring out the dogs and cops to the polling places they certainly will.

Anyway, Obama, ironically, has W. to thank for his good fortunes, for the Republicans are humiliated to a degree that many are running for office with ads that do not even state their party, such is the shame they feel to be associated with a man who bears the type of universal ill will that no president has endured since Hoover. No, Nixon, was not despised nearly to the degree that Bush is. As the song goes, "Watergate does not bother me..." but down in sweet home Alabama these days it's hard to find too many people whose conscience does not bother them as we are bogged down in the Iraq fiasco and our moral standing in the world has been destroyed because of Bush's arrogance and ignorance, a truly frightening combination that is older than Greek tragedy and likely to end just as badly, as Bush wallows in hubris in the waning days of his presidency, isolated and alone, no one calling to ask him to campaign. A figure of pure pathos.
It was truly gratifying to hear Powell basically reiterate everything I wrote in my last blog entry, simply in more politically correct terms: While I termed these "people" "toothless inbreds," Powell, being the gentleman he is, called them "narrow" several times. So what do you think he meant? They are certainly not physically "narrow," as our country is the only country on earth where even the poor people are obese, so he certainly meant what we all call "narrow-minded," which is a precise and devastating analysis of the state of the GOP, as seen through the eyes of one of its own most respected statesmen!

McCain's final debate performance was indicative of his entire campaign: moments of clarity obscured by petulance and anger. On a night when Obama was flat and content to play defense and avoid any gaffes, McCain had an opportunity to make his last best case that he isn't Bush's third term. Instead, McCain walked into a brilliant trap Obama laid by claiming "I am not George Bush." While McCain's staff claimed it was some great moment, Obama's staff already had the ad ready to go, the one that featured that line, along with an array of McCain's awkward, antagonistic angry old man faces, finishing up with McCain's own boastful claim that he supported the greatest failure in U.S. history "over 90% of the time." He should not have even mentioned Bush's name, as it backfired by making people think, "actually, this guy IS a lot like Bush," which explains the overwhelming response of viewers who felt Obama won the debate, even with his B game.

McCain did a good job in the first 30 minutes of the debate but he simply couldn't restrain himself from himself, as he continually displayed his odious personality, limited insights on the economic crisis, and pathetic lack of credibility on such important issues as health care, women's health(which he mocked with his arrogant "air quotations") and abortion. Obama basically destroyed McCain when the discussion turned to these topics, as Americans generally feel that health care should be a right and that abortion should be legal but with sensible regulations such as exceptions for the "health" of the mother, incest, rape etc. Many Republicans have this misguided notion that human life begins at conception, when all advanced societies understand that POTENTIAL human life begins at conception but that a tiny clump of cells is nowhere near the same as a fully developed 30 week fetus that is viable outside the womb. To claim that these are the same is to disregard actual human life and display an astounding level of ignorance. This is common sense and that's why we have laws that treat the two as completely different. For instance, if a woman causes a miscarriage because she drank, exercised etc. early in her pregnancy, perhaps before she even knew she was pregnant, she will not be prosecuted and perhaps even jailed, but if she were to cause the unintended death of a 30 week fetus she may very well be subjected to prosecution, just as if someone murdered a woman who is 8 months pregnant the charge would be double murder, but if the woman is 8 days pregnant that would never be the charge. Why you ask? Because at 8 days it is a POTENTIAL human life...Anyway, this argument was the end of McCain's opportunity to impress independent women, who were horrified by his lack of concern for women's health and women's issues in general. This became painfully clear after the debate when independents favored Obama by over 25% in the the CNN and CBS polls. Now, it's all over but the shouting, as the campaign moves into the final stages and McCain clings to the hope that Bush and his criminal friends can deliver him an October surprise or help coordinate the "narrow victory" they now claim they will win. I would never claim that Barack Obama is absolutely the most qualified person in America to be president, as there are many Democrats and even a few Republicans that share his intellectual capacity and ability to inspire and listen to what others have to offer, but Obama is clearly more qualified than McCain, and as Powell made painfully clear, is what America needs here and now, in a time when a continuation of the Bush tragedy is a risk this nation simply cannot afford.
Vote Obama on November 4th

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The face of the GOP: A pathetic old lady who calls Obama an "Arab"

"How did it come to this?" someone asked me yesterday in reference to the Republican party's rallies this week that have featured crowd members shouting out and even telling news crews the following comments about Obama: "He's a terrorist!" "Bomb him!" "Kill him!" "Off with his head!" I think you get the point: These "people" are filled with the type of ignorant hatred that is a threat to American values, even as they wear their flag pins while cheering and calling for the DEATH of the first potential African-American president. Indeed, that is what this country has come to precisely because of the calculated "culture war" the Republicans began in the Reagan years and perfected in the 2000 campaign. The Republican party has sadly been reduced to, ironically, the very rich and the very ignorant. My friends who grew up Republican because they favored limited government and low taxes have nothing in common with this new party that uses billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall St. criminals, nor do they relate to people who are so controlled by evangelical religious superstitions that they endorse the government telling us whom we can sleep with, what women do with their bodies, whom we can marry, what drugs people take, what scientists can do, what basic truths are taught in schools etc.

This new GOP is nothing like the Goldwater party of the 60s and 70s, and the current Republicans have literally destroyed this country because of their overt embrace of ignorance as something to celebrate(Bush is their poster boy). Case in point: I was talking with someone the other day about the overwhelming support Obama has in places like Berkeley and Boston, locations of some of the top universities in the world. My friend said, "What do you expect, it's Berkeley?" My response was, "Exactly." Think about what it says about our country when the most educated scholars and future leaders are overwhelmingly Democratic, while Billy Bob's Bible College is where you find the McCain supporters, and not coincidentally, where many of the Bush crowd came from. Monica Goodling and her mail order law degree from Pat Robertson's college is just one example. What does it say when the educated class is Democratic and Joe Sixpack and his racist buddies are the ones who knock down a few brews and show up to the McCain rally to shout "Kill him!"? Is this the America you want for your kids? Is the uneducated class the role model for your children? One glance at the electoral map will confirm everything I have noted here, as the McCain "safe" states speak for themselves(Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah...), while the West Coast and East Coast and sites of every celebrated university in the country are solidly Obama. What does this say about the ideas these parties represent? Even Karl Rove couldn't spin the reality that the GOP has become the party of rich greedy individuals and poor, uneducated whites who claim Obama is an "Arab" or "scares them" simply because they don't want to come right out and say that they hate black people. That's the bottom line that the media is afraid to confront because they want the money that comes from these ignorant, toothless inbreds who sit around and watch TV all day, ranting about how their plight is somehow the fault of blacks and immigrants.

Let's be brutally honest about what is going on: McCain found himself so down and out last week after getting whipped in another debate that he had his campaign brazenly tell the media that the campaign was going to "go negative," and it was very clear what that meant: Their last, best hope was to turn the country against Obama because of his race, so they began their guilt by association nonsense, calling a Chicago professor a "domestic terrorist, " even though the man has never been convicted any kind of domestic terrorism, with the intention of creating a white lynch mob that would put McCain and Palin on their shoulders and carry them across the finish line and into the White House. However, someone forgot to remind McCain just how successful these tactics would be when it comes to motivating all the racists to crawl out from under their rocks to "get the black man"("Kill him" "Bomb him"). The hapless Palin began firing up the lynch mob last week, claiming that Obama "pals around with domestic terrorists" and she and McCain continued attacking all week, even as the stock market dropped over 20% in seven days. Instead of pushing a plan to save the country's financial system, they wallowed in race baiting until it reached its logical conclusion on Friday with the overt comments about being "scared" of the "Arab." Of course, the GOP talking heads tried to defend their voters, even while McCain himself attempted to save a shred of his dignity by telling the truth for a few minutes. I have nothing but disdain for McCain, Palin, and this new Republican party, but let me be very clear: I certainly don't want any of them to be killed, bombed, or have their heads cut off, nor do I think McCain or Palin are terrorists. No, I simply recognize that they are bad people who deserve to be rejected by the American people on November 4th so that they can fade from our memory and Obama can begin the ominous--and perhaps impossible--task of rebuilding this country's economic system before all of us suffer the consequences of the worst financial collapse in the nation's history. Make no mistake about it, that is what is at stake here; this is no time for ignorant observations about "terrorists" and "Arabs." This country needs a COMPETENT leader to step up with a viable plan or all of us will endure a catastrophic future that will result in the complete and utter disintegration of our society. That's what is at stake when you vote, not whom you would rather have a beer with. We saw how well that guy did...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate Analysis: Sept 26 and Oct 2

Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief--and perhaps send Gwen Ifill a stipend for allowing Palin to dodge questions all night--as Palin certainly avoided the type of meltdown that seemed increasingly plausible as the campaign has unfolded over the past two weeks. She has shown herself to be so monumentally ignorant that the bar was set so low that her literal survival in the debate was a moral victory for the "ignorance is bliss" crowd, otherwise known as the Republican base. Her insouciance and "aw shucks" demeanor consisted of the mindless regurgitation of a phrase--"corruption and greed on Wall Street"--and a relentless determination to avoid any substantive "debate" but rather engage in a faithful repetition of the McCain talking points, which Obama basically destroyed in the first presidential debate, namely the inability to acknowledge the colossal failure that is the Iraq War and the lucid reality of the failure of the Bush economic policies that have led the country to the precipice of another Great Depression.
Palin, while having no grasp of any relevant facts or statistics, nonetheless did a good job of endorsing a candidate(McCain) whose career has been one of supporting the economic policies that have destroyed the middle class and decimated the nation's financial system. So while she floundered talking about "Joe Six-Pack" and tried to make the case that the $100 million dollar man McCain somehow cares about the concerns of the Main Street workers he has trampled for years in his rush to worship his CEO buddies and lavish them with obscene tax breaks, Palin essentially did what they prayed she would do in the sense that there were no "I'll get back to ya" moments. Moderator Gwen Ifill, whom racist Republicans attacked as being essentially in Obama's camp because of a book that has been advertised since the summer, actually was much too deferential to Palin, as she let her off the hook again and again, even when she evidently didn't understand the term "Achilles Heel," as she made no attempt to even acknowledge the question, let alone respond. Ifill was obviously intimidated into discarding follow-up questions and allowed Palin to retreat to her favorite McCain talking point: "Greed and corruption on Wall Street..." Perhaps she could have been asked to provide a single salient example of Wall Street issues and how to address them...
Biden, on the other hand, was professional, polite and serious, presenting a thorough and analytical perspective of both the current state of the economy and the challenges that face the country in the aftermath of the president McCain bragged about "supporting over 90% of the time." That's not a good record when the president is the least popular in U.S. history. While Palin showed a hapless inability to address the mortgage crisis, let alone speak intelligently about solutions, Biden discussed practical ideas and implications of the Bankruptcy Bill while acknowledging the depth of the crisis. On health care, Palin fled to the same old "tax credit" argument that seems to be the Republican answer for everything, despite the reality that the current economic crash that has led banks to the brink of collapse and a panic that would bring down the entire system has taken place in the context of Bush's unprecedented tax breaks for the wealthy. A layman can see how well this failed policy of trickle down economics works in a system--capitalism-- whose life blood is human greed, pure and simple. That is why we have to regulate the economy, just as we regulate human behavior with those pesky things called LAWS.
Unchecked capitalism leads to rampant greed, and the Bush legacy, in addition to unilaterally attacking countries, will be the complete and utter disregard for even a basic level of oversight of our financial system. Bush and McCain are figures of genuine pathos, and their names will be mentioned with disdain for decades to come, as all Americans literally pay the cost of their criminal activities and those of their trusted friends and advisers.

The final analysis of the VP debate was that Palin exceeded expectations that were so low that one would think she were a 5th grader, but in terms of specific issues she was in way over her head and basically didn't get the better of a single question. She did a good job of memorizing a dozen or so policy positions she was fed but offered no solutions other than the trite tax breaks for the wealthy. That accounts for the perception of viewers who overwhelmingly declared Biden the winner and will certainly be more inclined to support Obama and Biden after witnessing the debate, but it was indeed a moral victory that someone with her limited intellectual capacity could endure 90 minute debate, so hats off to her, heckuva job, Palie!

In last Friday's debate, Obama accomplished his main objective--to convince undecided voters that he is a viable president rather than a neophyte. His clear articulation of his vision and profound insights on all substantive issues reassured undecided voters and resulted in a rush of support that has increased his lead in every battleground state and left a staggered McCain looking like the grumpy old man he is. It's not highly effective to say Obama "doesn't understand" when he is standing next to you essentially kicking your ass on foreign policy issues that are supposed to be your area of expertise, yet that is exactly what happened, as the climactic moment of the debate was the three punch left-right-left combination where Obama looked at the terrified McCain and told him three times: "You were wrong!" about all the major Iraq lies Bush sold the American public. McCain offered no response, as he knows he was indeed wrong about Iraq, as well as every other major policy issue("Fundamentals of the economy are strong...?") McCain should be playing a violin on the Titanic, not running for president, such is his stunning lack of vision and insight in a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. His campaign is laughably incompetent, and he personifies the GOP dilemma of being an old and out of touch party that is of, by and for an increasingly small minority of rich old men and ladies, with the obligatory white racists thrown in. The times are indeed changing, "my friends..."

Friday, August 29, 2008

"We are a better country than this..."

"We meet at one of those defining moments--a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more." 8-28-08

Watching Barack Obama is becoming more and more like watching the great athletes I have admired over the years, as once again he stepped up to the plate, with the burden of unrealistic expectations on his back, and proceeded to hit a grand slam. Like the Negro League great Josh Gibson, when Obama has two strikes he's not in the hole--the pitcher's in the hole, because he still has another swing. Speaking in front of 85,000 people on the anniversary of perhaps the most sacred political speech in U.S. history, Obama was able to transcend the hypocrisy of the GOP, who ridiculed his celebrity while scrambling to beg people to fill a high school gym for a McCain "rally" and deliver a speech that was not really about poetry but hard-nosed prose that rang with disdain for the Bush tragedy and their half-dead little lapdog who has sold his soul to whore himself to the same big oil interests and right wing evangelicals whose world is slipping away as this society changes in ways that were unimaginable even a generation ago.

We all remember three years ago today, as Katrina ravaged New Orleans, killing far too many brothers and sisters, it was McCain who literally ate birthday cake with his buddy George, oblivious to the suffering of poor men, women and children left to drown while the pathetic "heckuva job Brownie" did absolutely nothing to help rescue thousands of trapped Americans whose government failed them because of incompetent leaders who sent their "National Guard" to assist in an immoral, illegal, and hopelessly misguided occupation of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 and indeed never attacked America. These idiots are asking the American people to let them finish destroying the country, with McCain pledging to continue the Bush "policies." And now, before the GOP can begin to recover from Hurricane Barack that submerged their ill will, the karma-infused Gustav approaches the Gulf Coast just in time for the GOP convention, a stark reminder of Bush-Brownie-McCain incompetence and evidence that maybe there really is a God, since it appears to be payback from an angry God for the right wing nut jobs who prayed for rain to ruin Obama's speech. God evidently doesn't like evangelical blowhards and GOP conventions anymore than She supposedly doesn't like those sinners in the Big Easy. In the final analysis, Obama's speech was a harbinger of change. It will come, even if Obama cannot overcome the worst instincts of this country in 2008. As Hamlet said, "If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come; it will be now; if it be not now; yet it will come. The readiness is all." (5.2.217-220)

Obama clearly conveyed his readiness to lead the country and, perhaps more importantly, articulated a cogent and detailed vision of what we need to do to begin to reclaim the American Dream that has been battered and bruised by eight years of an administration that is hopelessly ignorant and lacking in any type of vision. Quite frankly, I would take Kanye West's assertion after Katrina much farther: George Bush doesn't care about the average American, regardless of skin color. He has abused his office to enrich his Texas oil industry buddies and in doing so has literally murdered sons and daughters whose bodies litter the desert so that these criminals can continue doing business as usual, just on a much larger scale, with their no-bid contracts to "rebuild" a country we destroyed. In a just world--or even in many countries--Bush and Cheney would be deposed from power and executed for their war crimes, so they should slither back to the Texas and Wyoming rocks they crawled out from under and be ready to take their lumps from historians who will excoriate them for centuries to come for what they have done to this country. That is what led to Obama's frustrated "Enough!" that was a metaphor for the anger and rage of a generation of Americans who have helplessly endured the destruction of the ideals of this nation that we all love so much. As Obama said, "America, we are a better country than these last eight years. We are a better country than this." Obama's speech was the most profound wake-up call in this nation's history; however, it remains to be seen if America is up to answering the call, or will they simply pull the pillow over their heads and hit the symbolic snooze button embodied by a vote for McSame. That question is by no means certain, as Obama's brave, thoughtful, and tenacious speech cannot obscure the fact that he is the underdog in this race simply because of who he is.

In Shakespeare's Henry V the young King Henry was mocked by his opponents because he was young and inexperienced and spent his early days hanging out in the pubs with his drunkard buddy Falstaff, inviting apprehension among the people as his time to take the throne approached. Once the young king assumed the throne, the French mocked him by sending a gift of tennis balls, only be told that "we understand the [Dauphin] well / How he comes over us with our wilder days / Not measuring what use we made of them." Just as the French underestimated and mocked the young king, the hapless old GOP has done the same with Obama, unable to comprehend what the young Obama learned in his younger days as a student of the world and Chicago activist. They thought they were dealing with some weak, celebrity version of Jimmy Carter when all of the sudden Joe Louis showed up on that stage Thursday night and knocked down the entire GOP, leaving them so dazed and confused they were uncharacteristically silent after Obama's speech, symbolically throwing in the towel. It was an overwhelmingly audacious frontal assault that left the McCain camp mired in shock and awe, so out of it that they made an hurried and irresponsible decision to name an unqualified, unknown governor to the ticket, hoping to peel away some of the Hillary supporters who seemed to be coming home in droves on Thursday night. The problem with the Palin VP selection is that it is a stunning insult to almost all Democratic women, as she represents everything the feminists have fought against since the 1970s, besides having absolutely none of the experience that was Hillary's main argument, remember "ready from Day One..."? More on the VP later...

It was Henry V who led his outnumbered "band of brothers" to a stunning victory over the French, noting in his own powerful speech on the eve of the decisive battle and English victory:
" I am not covetous for gold / Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; / It yearns me not if men my garments wear; such outward things dwell not in my desires. / But if it be a sin to covet honor, / I am the most offending soul alive...For he today that sheds his blood with me / shall be my brother." (Henry V 4.3.20-60)
Make no mistake about it, Obama's speech was as much about honor as it was policy. It was essentially a populist declaration of war on a GOP that has destroyed America's financial and economic structures and left the country reeling in the aftermath of an Olympics that featured the daunting reality of an ascendant China and an America so stretched by the human and financial costs of the Iraq fiasco that perhaps we have been reduced to a "country of whiners" because that's all we were able to do when Russia smacked down Georgia, after a McCain lobbyist most likely encouraged Georgia to attack South Ossetia so that he could create another Bhutto moment to highlight McCain's "experience." The opposite, of course, developed when the Georgian president appealed for "actions not words" while the helpless McCain blustered his usual tough guy talk and then let the story disappear. Of course, the mainstream media won't touch this angle, even while highlighting the connections between McCain's campaign and Georgia: "You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances."

Obama laid out his case to address the significant challenges that face this country in the 21st century with realistic and ambitious plans to end our addiction to oil in 10 years, provide more than lip service and prayers for public education, and begin to provide health care for poor and middle class people that transcends the GOP's preferred emergency room>financial ruin>bankruptcy medley the right wingers crow about, most recently proposing that no one is considered "uninsured" in America because all of us have access to emergency rooms. In terms of foreign policy, Obama finally took McCain head-on: "If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have. For while Se. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face...John McCain likes to say that he'll follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell--but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives." Indeed, they are probably afraid to find that cave because it was decorated by Bush's oil buddies at Enron, who, if you recall, hosted the Taliban in Texas and showed them a good 'ol time, even as the Taliban freaks said publicly that they felt sorry for American men who could not "control" their women. This is all public knowledge, yet some people still wonder why Bush has dragged his feet in Afghanistan and provided those chartered jets for the wonderful Bin Laden family to flee America on 9-12, while relatives of dead WTC Americans were told to catch a bus to NY to identify their dead mothers, father, sons, daughters...These are the "leaders" who stole the election in 2000 and are now counting on there being enough ignorant and racist Americans to let them pass the baton to McCain, anchor leg in a GOP relay that makes the woeful, baton-dropping Olympic American 400 meter relay teams look prepared and focused: "If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice--but it is not the change that America needs."

Much has been written already about McCain's selection of Palin to be his VP, but I have a different take than many Democrats who are focusing too much on her "inexperience." In my mind, that is an issue but not the most disturbing one. Obviously, being the governor of a state with a population that is less than many cities in California and an economy that in no way resembles most of America, does not prepare one to be president of the United States. I am also fine with the fact that she was selected because she is a woman: her gender has nothing to do with the larger issues, and although there were many much more qualified Republican women who deserved the selection more than this anonymous person from Alaska, McCain chose to make a political decision to reclaim his "maverick" image, and to be honest, he did a great job of stepping on the afterglow of Obama's speech simply because the national media was so dumbfounded by his selection that it dominated the news cycle the day after Obama's speech.
The problem I have with Palin is that she is so out of her league that even McCain did not make the case that she is qualified to be president. In his introduction today, he never mentioned anything about her readiness to be the leader of the free world--and that is disturbing. If you recall, Bill Clinton chose Al Gore despite being warned that he brings nothing to the ticket as a fellow Southerner, the same age etc. Clinton famously told his advisors that he was picking Gore "because I might die" and he knew Gore would be a great president. Likewise, Obama made the same type of choice with Biden, someone who has run for president several times and has decades of experience.

John McCain for the first time showed himself to be someone who really does not love his country but only cares about his politcial calculations, as he is willing to roll the dice on an unknown governor from podunk Alaska to stare down the Russians if McCain dies. McCain is 72 and has a 1000 page medical report and this is the type of choice he makes? This is the first example of his judgment? THAT is the problem with this choice, not the fact that Palin is two pounds lighter than a straw hat, a truly laughable choice who doesn't believe in science and wants to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest(surely that will win over the Hillary supporters...). McCain once again showed himself to have the judgment and intellectual capacity of a petulant child, not a potential president. The problem with Palin is that she is unknown and hasn't gone through the vetting process by the national press, nor has she endured 20+ debates against fellow presidential contenders. Obama has experienced the pressure of battling Biden, Dodd, Clinton, Edwards etc. in head-to-head, high pressure televised debates. That's how I got to know him. That is tangible experience, having your positions scrutinized and attacked and having to respond. That is precisely what is lacking in Palin. Who is she? What is her temperament? How does she think? What are her policy positions? This is what I expect to know about ANY person--from either party--who may be president. Is this asking too much, to expect my VP to be a national figure? What is happening to this country?

And isn't it amusing to watch the same blowhards who attacked Obama relentlessly for his lack of experience now extolling Palin's virtues and her profound experience leading a town of less than 10,000 and dealing with the pressure of the PTA and Miss Alaska competition. Cindy McCain's best argument for Palin was that "you know, Alaska is the closest state to Russia..." OK... I was afraid McCain was going to cave in and select someone as idiotic as Huckabee, but 'ol Huck now looks downright appealing. Perhaps McCain really is a genius however, because I know that I am seriously going to wish him well if he wins this election because I actually do care about this country's future and the safety of my family, so much so that I would never discard posterity simply because I'm an ambitious old man with one foot in the grave.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Tragedy of McCain III

"Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time
Unless to to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover...
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days." (R3 I.i.24-30)

Like Richard III, McCain is an odious individual, both in appearance and temperament, who, in the potential absence of war in a post-Iraq America, has no reason to live, nowhere to unleash his villainy. He is truly frightened of a world without war, one that he and his family have never known. McCain is the family failure, admitted to Annapolis solely because of his pedigree, only to sink to the bottom of his class and a well-known career as POW, directly related to his incompetence as a pilot. I respect the fact that he actually fought in Vietnam(even though he didn't seem to have many options as the son and grandson of admirals), unlike his chicken-hawk supporters and the current war criminal president, who ran for their lives when it was time to actually support America in a war instead of calling Drug Limbaugh, god of the draft dodgers. I mean, really, who can take any draft dodging baby boomer seriously? They are quite simply cowards, but they are all very willing to send other kids to Iraq.
These are the "people" who support the tragedy of McCain the third, a man who, according to a kid at Dairy Queen, would have no chance for a job serving ice cream cones (I asked a kid behind the counter if they would hire a 72 year-old man who cannot operate a computer and has never had a real job. He said McCain's application would be tossed in the garbage). Indeed, how many of McCain's supporters would hire someone with his background for any job?

"But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass,
I, that am rudely stamped..
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature...
So lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them." (R3 I.i.14-23)

Indeed, McCain--and not really anyone else-- seems obsessed with the fact that Obama is better looking, more popular, and much more interesting than McCain is. Personally, I don't think any of that will make Obama a better president, but McCain is now locked in the tiny prison that is his mind, pathetically fighting the war we lost in Vietnam, while whining and crying to his media "refs" about how Obama gets all the calls. Shame on Obama for speaking to 200,000 Germans while McCain rode around in a golf cart with another fossil, Bush I, and held court in front of the cheese rack at a supermarket. Does the guy have advisors to protect him from himself? A man or woman who has the self-confidence to be the leader of the free world is not content to simply mock his or her opponent but should be able to offer real ideas, a plan, yet there is McCain sadly content to call Obama a "celebrity," as if that's going to turn America against him. Most voters really do want to have a sense of the candidate's values and are not interested in a grumpy old man yelling at the young kid to get off his lawn, yet that is the picture McCain has produced--the angry old man, who, as Obama said, is "proud of his ignorance."

It is clear to anyone paying attention that this election will turn on America's comfort level with Obama. McCain is basically irrelevant, just as he was in the primaries. He is the default candidate, no more and no less. He was there to fill the void for voters who could not stomach the JV lineup the GOP trotted out there in January and now he is the rebound boy for voters who simply cannot vote for a black man. The debates will be critical, as the juxtaposition of the candidates will make it painfully clear that McCain is more suited to running for his retirement home's activities director than leader of the free world. One look at McCain standing next to Obama will be an epiphany for many Americans, the moment when they will ask themselves, "How can I vote for this guy?" Obama, like Kennedy, needs to convey a sense of maturity and make Americans comfortable with the notion of a 47 year-old man with limited national experience leading the country in a time of war and economic devastation. Americans are rightfully concerned about Obama's lack of experience, but he needs to accentuate the reality that McCain is older but much less wiser than he was even a decade ago, as it is clear the current McCain really has nothing in common with the moderate from a decade ago. McCain sold his soul to the the extremist GOP base and is simply another oil industry whore. It was well reported that shortly after he took $285K from big oil interests he suddenly reversed his opposition to offshore drilling, which he now touts as the cure for America's energy woes. The same oil men who pimped Bush for eight years now want to elect McCain so they can roll over and put their pants on. They don't like McCain, but as the old saying goes, you don't pay a whore to stay, you pay her to leave...

I, too, pity McCain, as he is a man with no salient life experiences that are not related to the military. I had my first private sector job at age 12(delivering the Mail Tribune), yet McCain has never gone out and actually earned a job, relying on his rich wife's daddy to hire him for a few weeks but even that was too much so he ran back to the "do nothing" Congress(as the Republicans say), and for three decades he was a master at doing nothing except extorting funds illegally--google "Keating Five"--and having his rich wife's family buy his way out of jail. As Frank Rich observed, "Given that McCain's sole private-sector job was a fleeting stint in public relations at his father-in-law's beer distributorship, he comes by his economic ignorance honestly. But there's no A team aboard the Straight Talk Express to fill him in." Indeed, he has surrounded himself with fellow bitter old men like Gramm and back benchers like Carly Fiorina, famous for running Hewlett-Packard into the ground before she was fired--and given $21 million in cash to stay gone. These are the people who are going to turn around the economy that Bush has destroyed? The only change and hope they represent is the answer to Democrats' prayers that '08 will be the most devastating Republican defeat in history. The Republicans are so hopelessly incompetent and out of touch that their only viable "message" is that they are not Obama and he is not one of "us." You know, the fat(Obama's too thin), ugly(look at McCain), uneducated(Obama went to Harvard) and bitter(GOP is losing in every state where people can read) "us" that the Republicans cling to.

This type of background--along with dumping one's disfigured wife for a young heiress and banishing her with hush money--is enough to damage one's self esteem and provides some insight into McCain's relentless attack on Obama's "celebrity," as fly boy McCain has been exposed for what he is: an empty flight suit with no moral foundation and certainly no intellectual standing, a "wrinkled old white dude" who doesn't know when he's being mocked by Paris Hilton, so clueless he offers his wife up for a pornographic biker "beauty contest." One can only imagine the response if Obama showed any signs of being the type of idiot McCain has shown himself to be. The New York Times rejected an Op-Ed essay he wrote not because the editor didn't agree with his views (they've published many of his essays) but because he couldn't even define victory in Iraq, let alone explain how to achieve it. This is a man who raves about the "surge" being a success but not enough of one to bring the troops home. It seems like a logical question to ask for a plan to bring American soldiers home and stop sending American tax money to a country Americans do not care about. America is in dire economic straits, yet here we are continually borrowing money to fight a war that was proven to be a fraud from the beginning. I guess that's the Vietnam syndrome, having no sense of when a war is over. Countries--at least ones with the catastrophe that defines America's economy--should not babysit countries for 100 years, especially when they are not wanted and even despised. And the war criminal Bush is so ignorant that he is paying to rebuild Iraq with Americans' tax dollars while allowing Iraq to have an $80 billion surplus while we are trillions in debt.

Moreover, McCain's idiotic comment that Obama somehow wanted to "lose" the Iraq war is laughable. How do we lose the war when Hussein is dead? The war criminal's stated purpose for invading Iraq was to overthrow Hussein and seize his huge supplies of WMDs; therefore, we should have declared victory and left on the day he was hanged, rather than installing an Iranian puppet government. McCain is simply a profound, bumbling embarrassment in a GOP year that has featured one after another, yet he remains viable as a potential president because it will probably never be easy for a black man named Obama to be elected in this country. McCain's in it because this is still a racist country in many ways, a fact that all but the most ignorant acknowledge. America has progressed in ways that most countries never will (where are the Obamas in "progressive" Europe?), but there are millions of uneducated bigots in this country, more than enough to swing this election.

There are obviously no easy solutions to extract our country from the Iraq fiasco, but it is quite clear that a man as shockingly ignorant as McCain is probably not the answer. He thinks Iraq shares a border with Pakistan and has to be tutored by Lieberman--a Democrat--in the difference between Shia and Sunni, something most 8th graders probably know after a war that has dragged on longer than our effort to help defeat Hitler. This man is going to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of American troops, young men and women who have repeatedly answered the war criminal's call, even while he told most draft age adults to go shopping and not to worry about the war? In his great article, "It's the Economic Stupidity, Stupid," (7-20-08)Frank Rich excoriated McCain's commander in chief qualities, noting that "you have to wonder if even General Custer's learning curve was faster than his" in response to McCain's hapless understanding of Afghanistan and the Taliban and the reality that we simply don't have the troops to engage an enemy that may indeed pose an actual threat to our country, unlike Iraq.

I doubt any candidate would do the right thing and reinstate the draft, with no exceptions for any reasons. How many wars would we fight if rich kids were going to die? My guess would be zero, unless we were attacked. What a notion, defending your own country...In the nuclear age, ground wars are a relic of the past, yet the war criminal and McCain are content to send more and more men and women to die for the most dishonest war in this nation's history, and Americans worry more about the cost of gas, too ignorant to connect the dots and make the connections. If Americans elect McCain, we will certainly all get what we deserve. This is a democracy, and democracy isn't pretty when one looks at it too closely. The man whose "brain"(Gramm) called the worst mortgage meltdown in the nation's history a "mental recession" and who has repeatedly stated that he really doesn't understand the economy, or "those issues" as he said, McRambo will be free of that pesky economy situation so that he can get back to his war games:

"But if the cause be not good, the King himself
hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads,
chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all,
'We died at such a place'--some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it..." (HenryV.4.1.133-143)

Amen, brother Shakespeare.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bringing It All Back Home

"You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast"

To quote Michelle Obama, for the first time in my adult life I am truly proud of my country tonight, for this is a historic day that posterity will revisit with a sense of pride--a day when black, Hispanic, Asian , indeed all of America's children, can see the promise of America as one that includes their hopes, dreams and aspirations. On June 4, 2008 all American children can wake up and look in the mirror and say, "Someday I can run for President of the United States," and it won't be some empty platitude but a tangible reality embodied by Barack Obama, the first non-Caucasian to win the nomination of a major political party, as well as Hillary Clinton, who despite some misguided and inexcusable conduct both by her and her surrogates, removed any doubt that American sexists have about the fortitude of female candidates. Despite the reality that Hillary got to this point in large part because of her husband's accomplishments, she nonetheless showed herself to be a strong candidate who, quite frankly, has more character than her husband, and she certainly--and rightfully--will be known as the woman who kicked down the door and shattered the glass ceiling that has confined female politicians in our society.

Clinton lost this primary not because she is a flawed candidate but because she got outplayed, out hustled, and definitely out coached by an Obama team that was built to compete in 50 states, utilizing the Internet and prodigious ground forces to vanquish a Clinton machine that was put in the hands of neophytes like Patti Solis Doyle and greed-obsessed egomaniacs like Mark Penn instead of veteran strategists like James Carville, who was left on the CNN pundit sidelines, valiantly whining about Billary's plight. The younger, hungrier team stood up to the champions and punched them in the mouth. Obama wasn't given anything in this campaign, as he was attacked ruthlessly by the GOP, Billary, and a press that played the race card itself, pouncing on any footage of "angry black men" such as Reverend Wright, whom they knew would stir up viewers and drive up their ratings--thus, the endless reels of Obama pastors while McCain's pastors' much more disturbingly racist rhetoric was barely acknowledged.

"The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence."

Barack Obama now has to get down to the serious business of running a tough general election campaign in which he is starting out 20 states behind because so much of this country are backwards, uneducated racists; that's an unpleasant thing to say, but it's the only reason that explains why in a generic match-up the Democrats beat the Republicans by 20% but when Obama's name is matched with McCain it's an even race. If ever there was a year that the Dems should sweep everything it's 2008: The country is in the worst economic shape since the Depression and people are desperate to turn the page on the failed policies and embarrassing ignorance of Bush. However, even in this climate a black man named Barack Obama is no sure thing. He is the clear underdog in this race, baffling as that may sound.

"Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you."

Obama needs to hammer McCain relentlessly on the issues, which McCain is out of step with pretty much all Americans, except guys like him--old, white redneck racists(his base):

McCain believes the following:

1. Abortion should be outlawed in all cases under the Republican platform. This alone will prevent any true Hillary feminist from voting for McCain. McCain has no regard for women's rights.

2. We should have a presence in Iraq for 100 years and continue to fight a war in which we cannot even define an exit strategy, let alone "victory"
Obama TV commercials should mock McCain's "visit" to a "safe" market in Iraq, surrounded by troops, tanks, Blackhawks. Obama should go visit the troops, where he will be treated like a rock star by the many black men in women in uniform so that he can show his support as well as the dire condition the country is really in. He should challenge McCain to define progress when he can't visit the country without a small army to protect him. The bottom line will be that the war is a quagmire and Obama is the only one with a viable exit strategy. These idiots who talk about the "surge" working leave out some important little details, such as the reason why violence is down is because we are PAYING these wonderful people not to kill us or each other. What a war: It's such a pathetic disaster that our only solution is put all these murderers on the American payroll, with U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for "insurgents" to stop shooting at us. This is victory? This is turning the tide in Iraq? It's a disgrace, that's what it is, and Obama needs to remind Americans what is really going on and what their hard earned tax dollars are paying for--instead of health care, instead of college educations, instead of a viable retirement program. The Iarq War is the single most disgusting American foreign policy blunder in the history of this country, and McCain is its biggest idiot cheerleader. He needs to be buried with this quagmire around his neck.

3. He is against a new GI bill that was supported by 77 Senators and provides the same college tuition money that WW II GIs received and that help create the middle class in this country.
As the son of admirals he only wants to reward people who choose to stay in the military for 20 years, when he knows that 75% choose to leave after 5 years or less. In McCain's world they are cannon fodder, not men and women who deserve generous benefits.

4. He has been Bush's lapdog, voting with Bush 95% in the U.S. Senate. Every one of those votes needs to be presented to the American people.

5. His message to Americans caught up in the mortgage meltdown has been simple: Drop Dead.
He has no sense of the economic challenges facing this country, as his solution is to provide more tax breaks to companies who use the increased resources to outsource jobs to third world countries, leaving Americans unemployed but enriching McCain's lobbyist friends who have been running and financing his campaign. He is a man who has no moral principles; he's a whore for the lobbyists and big companies who pimped Bush for 8 years before they rolled over and put their pants on and hit the streets to solicit McCain.

6. On health care he is equally ignorant, offering tax credits instead of a real program. Everyone knows tax credits simply help people who have enough money to buy things for which they will receive credits. He has no interest in helping people who cannot afford health care, the ones who are driving up costs by going without care, going to emergency rooms etc.

7. McCain represents a party that is mean-spirited and out of touch. The entire GOP congressional delegation doesn't include a single African-American, and their platform is riddled with hatred for pretty much everyone--Mexicans, poor people, black people, gay people, non-Christians--you name it, they hate it. Obama needs to capitalize on this by expanding his base, to bring in voters who have nowhere else to go. I mean, it would take a desperate "feminist" to vote for the anti-choice, womanizing McCain, but Obama needs to sell himself to those Hillary voters, and make them realize on their own that he embodies their values much more than the hapless and hopelessly out of touch fossil that is McCain, a relic of the past that has no place in contemporary America.

8. He says he wants to run a clean campaign, but McCain's plan is to let his surrogates convey all his racist, xenophobic nonsense; however, McCain's problem is that he is the dirtiest person out there, and Obama needs to let his surrogates go on the offensive against McStain and discuss his treatment of his first wife who waited years for the "hero" to return from Vietnam, only to be critically injured in an accident and have her "hero" husband start an affair with a woman 20 years younger while the faithful wife was seriously injured. Once he dumped his wife and married a multimillionaire who could finance his political ambitions, she had her own problems, as Cindy McCain was a junkie who illegally obtained narcotics and used political connections to avoid the prison term that any other person would have received. Then there was McCain's well-known affair with Charles Keating, a man who robbed the pensions of thousands of Savings and Loan customers, only to go to prison after leaving the poor elderly people destitute. Again, McCain bought his way out of prison, just as his adulterous wife did. This couple makes Billary look pious, and they want to gain the support of the Christian Right? Good luck when all this comes out...McCain has also been trying to hide the fact that he has no religious affiliation, which is fine--with Democrats. Indeed, McCain represents everything the GOP base despises and that's why nearly 30% of the primary voters were showing up to vote against him even after he won the nomination. The bottom line is that he is a weak candidate who only won the nomination because his opponents were a hypocrite Jesus freak with an 8th grade education named Huckabee and someone who wears "magic underwear." Now, McCain is in the big leagues and he looks as out of place as Macbeth as Birnam Woods approached: "Now does he feel his title hang loose about him, like a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief."

"The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue" (Bob Dylan)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More Fun in the New World

First, let me say what almost no one seems to have to guts to say publicly: Obama has long ago won the Democratic nomination and the charade that is currently playing out in these last few irrelevant states is meant for one simple reason: to make the Billary supporters feel good about themselves and Billary so that they will not keep their bitter selves at home in November instead of voting for Obama, or worse yet voting for McSame. That is what this is all about. The Democratic party is not going to steal the nomination from the rightfully elected candidate, one who just happens to be an African American. Think about it. That would be suicide for the Democratic Party, for African Americans are by far the most loyal group of voters the party can depend on: They supported Kerry--who lost--by a 91-9% margin! The idea that Clinton is somehow more popular than Obama and will procure enough independent votes to win in November is laughable. Her ceiling is well below 50% and while Obama may lose, Clinton surely will lose. That fact hasn't changed in the last few weeks, as Clinton has implemented her scorched earth, party-be-damned strategy to steal the nomination.

All this nonsense about this benchmark and that benchmark is just that--nonsense. The nomination is settled by delegates. Period. There is no changing the rules in the 4th quarter because it suits the rich white woman and her rich white husband. Is that the message the party wants to send to black people, their most loyal constituents? Come on...Obama had nothing to do with setting up the nomination rules, most of which are 25 years old. He has simply played by the rules and not complained to the refs every time he has lost a round. The fact is someone is going to win the nomination in Denver beacuse he or she has the most DELEGATES. Period. They are not suddenly going to go to each state at the convention roll call and call for their popular votes. All this talk is ridiculous and is being kept alive by the media so that they can keep people talking about the race and watching their news shows. That's the bottom line. Think about these vapid arguments about popular vote for instance: Using that to decide would be fine if it was established BEFORE the voting began so that both candidates could simply ignore small states such as Iowa and New Hampshire and spend all their time in the huge states. That would change the entire campaign strategy, obviously, so using that as a benchmark because it suits Clinton after the fact is highly corrupt. Does anyone think Obama would not have gotten even more popular votes if he put all his resources into large states only? In addition, they do not even have caucus popular vote totals so all those popular vote tallies do not even include all the states where Obama won the caucus votes by huge margins! And Clinton talks about fairness and counting votes in Florida and Michigan with a straight face? It's OK not to count ANY of the votes in caucus states she lost. OK...Think how ridiculous this is...

Obama and his supporters know all this but are trying to avoid tearing Billary apart because they know this race is over and they need those voters. Billary, however, seems to be the only one who is seeking any possible way to destroy Obama's campaign, which is puzzling because if Obama loses in November because of her--and that may very well be the case--Clinton, like Kerry, will not be welcomed back into the party nor should she be. She is a flawed candidate, and I stick to my prediction from years ago that the first woman president will be a Republican, as ironic as that may be. There are many excellent female candidates in both parties, but Hillary is the worst choice that either party could make. She is an unqualified serial liar whose judgment alone should disqualify her. She is the worst that politics has to offer, someone who has no real convictions except the ones that she tries to hide(creating a new tax on everyone to create some government healthcare disaster)Democrats, unlike Republicans, do not embrace losers, they cast them aside(Gore, by the way, is not a good example because people know he was screwed, even though he couldn't win his own state).

The Pennsylvania election simply reinforced what we already know about the divide in the Democratic Party: There are many older white people who are not ready to vote for a black man. Evidence: Clinton won 68% of whites over age 60 but lost 52% of whites under 30 and 65% of all 18-24 year-olds. Why is this? The times are changing, generational attitudes are shifting.
Clinton won Pennsylvania because it was a closed primary where 58% of voters were women and 32% were over 60. That's Hillary's base: older uneducated little old white ladies and Pennsylvania was her jackpot. Trouble is, she only won 55% even with those numbers. For those of you who haven't been paying much attention or aren't really good with math, let me give you TWENTY reasons why this race is over. Clinton has won over 60% in ONE state, her home state of Arkansas. Here is a list of some of the states Obama won, along with the percentage he won:

Idaho 79%
Alaska 75%
Hawaii 76%
D.C. 75%
Kansas 74%
Washington 68%
Minnesota 66%
Gerogia 67%
Colorado 67%
Illinois 65%
Nebraska 68%
Virginia 64%
Maryland 60%
Mississippi 61%
North Dakota 61%
Vermont 59%
Wisconsin 58%
Utah 57%
Maine 59%
South Carolina 55%

Those states represent the entire country--coast to coast, north, south, large, small. And they were nearly all blowouts of nearly 20% margins of victory and that's why Obama has put this away in the delegate total. His delegate margins in those states were devastating. Yes, Billary has won large states--by small margins and that's why she is hopelessly behind in the delegate count and that's simply all that matters when all is said and done at the convention. Those are the rules of the game and this game is pretty much over. Florida and Michigan can't even save her in the delegate count. Think about the common sense angle of this: Does she think Obama is going to somehow say, "OK, you're right, Hillary, I won the game fair and square but I'll give it to you."? There is no rational endgame for her to claim this nomination, not with Obama having 1733 delegates to her 1598, with only 400 elected and 300 superdelegates to go, of which he only needs 292 to reach 2025. That's 41% of the remaining delegates. Is Obama really going to lose 60-40 in ANY of the remaining states, let alone ALL of them? She is not going to make up that deficit and needs to be ready to drop out after the last primary on June 3rd, By all means she should play out the rest of the game, but make no mistake: She is simply running out the clock in a football game where she is down by 3 touchdowns on her own 10 yard-line with a minute to play.

This talk of trying to steal Obama's delegates between June 3rd and the convention in August needs to be put to rest so that the Dems can start focusing their attention on McCain, a hapless candidate who needs to be torn apart with the millions Obama has raised. Remember, McCain didn't do so well in Pennsylvania himself. He ran unopposed as the party's choice and still lost 27% of the vote. Yes, 220,000(more than Obama lost by) voted for other candidates in the Republican primary rather than vote for McCain. McCain needs to receive the same treatment Obama has endured, and those of you who are unfamiliar with McCain's past will be enlightened very quickly. He's as dirty as anyone has ever been in a presidential race. Why do you think McCain says he wants to have a civil campaign? He learned in a small way in 2000 what it's like to have his personal life and past torn apart, as Obama is experiencing, so while all the Obama attacks have hurt him and will surely come back and intensify in the general election, McCain's free ride is about to end in a big way, as he will come crashing to earth once those millions are put to work defining him. That's why all these polls showing him doing so well do not mean all that much. He has no opponent at this point, and while there may well be enough racists left to put him over the top, that's not entirely clear simply because the country is in such dire straits. For all you fools who say it's not about race, you really need to wake up: Over 400,000 people(20%) who voted in the Pennsylvania primary said race was a factor in their vote and 75% of them voted for Clinton. And that's on the Democratic side...It's all a numbers game. Also, if race is not a factor then how does one explain that the Dems lead by a large margin on every issue and in a generic match-up, but when Obama's name is mentioned the margin drops. Of course, that has nothing to do with race...Come on. Obvioulsy, there are many blacks voting for Obama because he is black, but with blacks making up around 12% of the U.S. population they don't have the effect of bitter whites who won't vote for a black man even if they agree with him on all the major issues. That is the dilemma Obama faces and the only real reason he could lose an election to a pathetic fossil such as McCain. I mean, I haven't met a single person who has expressed any excitement about McCain. I live in Orange County, CA, hardly a bastion of liberals, yet even people I know who are going to vote for him are simply voting against Obama and Clinton. No one is sporting the McCain t-shirts or stickers, talking about his great proposals to move the country forward; there is absolutely no passion for his candidacy, even here in conservative OC. Sure, he will win the vote here but voters are holding their noses wishing they could vote for someone else, someone who is a more traditional Republican, not a war hawk. McCain was born in the 1930s and wants to keep our country in perpetual war, not really what most people are clamoring for as the U.S. economy is sinking to levels not seen since the 1930s...

It's clear that short of felonious activities by Obama he is clearly going to win the nomination, in spite of these media created "issues" such as Wright and Obama's astute observations about the white working class. Before you waste your time telling me how happy working class whites are, I, unlike most whites, grew up in a working class lumber town in Southern Oregon, the type of place where many people are very bitter because the $12 an hour they make in 2008, which is what they made 20 years ago when I worked a summer at Boise Cascade Lumber while in college, doesn't provide the type of living it did when houses cost $20K and gas was $1. These people do indeed "cling" to their guns, for hunting is something that has not been ruined by government policies; moreover, it is a necessity for many families. My own family hunted deer and elk every fall and winter, as it provided a cheap source of high quality meat as well as a chance for family bonding time. However, Obama's point is well taken, for many families in these areas don't have much else to "cling" to because of the irresponsible economic policies that have sent their jobs to countries that are happy to have a permanent working class that is so poor that they have to accept ten cents an hour: That is where incessant American greed is leading this country: It's a place whose soul has been sold to shareholders and large companies, where people "cling" to what little they have because that's all they can do. The economic despair in places like Pennsylvania is incredible. Median household income in the $47K range? That's poverty level in the real world. See what that will pay for where I live. There is a real war about to emerge in this country if we continue down this road and most people are oblivious, but we'll see what happens when people literally cannot afford to feed their kids(or even buy rice or bread at the store) or drive their cars. I don't think any politicians are prepared or have the will to confront the deep flaws in our current system that are leading to impending disaster, but I am fairly confident that Obama is at least up to the task of trying to respond rather than being locked in some 1950s childhood vision of America. All I know for sure is that "it was better before we voted for what's-his-name...This must be the New World..."(John Doe)

Monday, March 31, 2008

1968-2008: Race in America

"Horrors of Ethiopia Get Little Notice"
So read a recent headline in the LA Times, highlighting the selective morality of Americans' views of the horrific reality of racial violence and genocide that dominate the world stage "The teenager awoke under a pile of corpses to a prickling sensation on her face. Ants were biting her eyelids and the inside of her mouth." One can almost visualize Dick Cheney reading this and saying, "So?" If this were happening in our country would we care? Certainly. In Europe or Japan, Israel? Most likely. In the Middle East? If they have oil, perhaps. And therein lies the problem. Poor black people simply are not viewed as worthy of our government's concern and resources and they never have been, whether they are fleeing drought, violence and despair in Darfur, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda or devastating winds and floodwaters in New Orleans. As the only people legally enslaved in our "free" country, black people have been the recipients of a unique from of hostility since the corrupt backroom deal that ended Reconstruction and led to a century of post-slavery Jim Crow segregation that was characterized by hate crimes--lynchings--counted not in the dozens but the thousands per year and the rise of the KKK, both in the informal organization of Southern rednecks and the much more frightening branch that wore badges, black robes instead of white, and bore titles such as Senator Helms of North Carolina. Indeed, the legacy of separate and unequal segregation has had a much more direct and lasting impact on post-WW II generations than the distant memory of slavery, despite the dismissive attitude of uneducated whites who say, "slavery was over in 1865 so get over it y'all," oblivious to the reality that social, economic, legal, and educational discrimination was legally institutionalized in this country and affected the lives of many grandmothers and grandfathers who are navigating the turbulent racial waters of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Sure, we'll drop some bags of rice in the African desert, hold a few rock concerts, and send some good-natured, well meaning Peace Corps kids, but actually send troops for a prolonged occupation to help confront the logical conclusion of the corruption of European imperialism? Help rebuild one of the great American cities by developing real schools and safe, affordable housing that doesn't sit in a flood plain, well below sea level? That's wishful thinking, my friends. Americans get a TV commercial of starving children with bloated bellies, telling us 26 cents a day can make the kid's village so much better...

"One man came in the name of love..."
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago this Friday--April 4th, 1968, the night after he delivered a powerful speech that included the lines "Well I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead...And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land." The courage of a man with a family, young children, who went to bed every night under the fear of death threats surpasses that of any American in the history of this nation. Period. King escaped bomb threats, shotgun blasts into his house, had an American Nazi come up on the stage while he was speaking and repeatedly punch him in the face, yet King never backed down from his steadfast belief in America's potential for justice and righteousness. I have had an interest in King since I was in high school and chose to write my term research paper on King, part of which consisted of sitting in the library watching old videos the librarian dug up for me: they had a profound impact, watching King and others attacked by Bull Connor and his fire hoses and dogs. Living in an all-white, racially ignorant town in Southern Oregon, I nonetheless idolized black blues musicians, many of whom I was lucky to see as they passed through Ashland, the little college town--Albert King, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray--my friends and I met them all, loved their music, and immersed ourselves in the power of the blues. It changed my life and the effects continue to reverberate to this day in the way I see myself and the world and the pure joy that music brings to my life. Even as a kid in an all-white school I knew that the musicians I admired were certainly worthy of the same respect as any human being, so I began my quest to explore the history of race relations in America, to understand the context of the music that provided so much meaning for my life. My journey began with King.

Forty years after that infamous day in Memphis, after an ominous spring that led to a summer of blood in the streets after Bobby, Chicago, and the failures of Vietnam, a black man stands poised to win the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. And the old vortex of racial wounds and pure bigotry endures, as the politcial dialog is obsessively focused on Obama's race, despite the fact that he is of mixed race. As in the slave days if one has 1/16 black blood that's enough to be discriminated against, despite Geraldine Ferraro's absurd declaration that is Obama is "lucky" to be a black man. Oh, where would he be if he were white? This much is clear: In the general election Obama would be ahead in every state in the country if he were white, that's where he would be. Political history has nothing to compare to the unpopularity of "the Idiot."

"The Ghost of Tom Joad"
The economy is in 1930s shape, the war is dragging on and now regressing to pre-Surge violence levels, and the Idiot is so hated that he cannot even throw out the first pitch at a baseball game without being booed, as he was last night at the opening of the new Washington Nationals ball park. So while Obama has surely gained some support because he is black, he has--and will continue to--paid a much higher cost than any benefit. Let's face it, the only reason Obama is not a sure thing in November is because much of the country is profoundly(and proudly) racist. That's why Obama will start out behind by 20 states, for no one can make a serious case that it is because of the "issues." That lie is out the window in a year where the Democrats have the Republicans running so scared that dozens of GOP incumbents are quitting rather than face the humiliating defeats that so many endured in the 2006 elections. They know that this fall is going to make '06 look gentle. So, if the Dems are on the country's side on all of the major issues, from the economy to the war, then how could they possibly lose to a fossil such as McCain? McCain, a hapless and pathetic relic of the past, who's beginning to demonstrate just how much he really is George McCain(too ignorant to know the difference between Shia and Sunni?) really offers nothing in the way of pulling W's car out of the ditch. He's the same old, rich white guy who has convinced a bunch of other old, not-so-rich white guys that he cares about them, when in fact, he really does care about them, for they are the ones he needs to pay for the tax cuts for his country club buddies.

"War, What is it good for?"
Obama has the will of the American people on his side, so the effort by Billary and McStain is to radicalize him, to turn him from Martin to Malcolm by playing on the worst instincts of the American people in order to prey upon the same ignorance to lead them to vote for the man they would rather have a beer with instead of the one who may help them keep their pensions and secure an economy that will enable their kids to attend college. Americans want out of this immoral and idiotic war: "This is the first major war in American history where all the additional cost was paid for by borrowing. If the war backers believe that the Iraq war is so essential, then they should be willing to pay for it partly with taxes rather than charging it. One way or another we'll have to pay the bill...The eventual cost of the war will be about $3 trillion. For a family of five, that amounts to a bill of almost $50,000."(NY Times 3-23-08) The war is the biggest con job in the history of the country. I cannot take anyone seriously who supports this fiasco, especially if they or their children are not over there fighting. It's always the chickenhawks who support this nonsense, the ones who ran from Vietnam but are now armchair generals, commanding the troops from their couches, watching Fox news, the ones who talk neocon toughness from the trenches of their computer chairs and their dorm room bunkers: "You hide in your mansion as young people's blood flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud." They are the worst kind of "Americans." Masters of war, who "fasten the triggers for the others to fire then sit back and watch as the death count gets higher,"(Bob Dylan)they need to be thrown out of the country to make room for the people who want to come here from other countries and do honest work, pay taxes, and become productive Americans, not waste tax dollars killing people who believe a different superstition than a majority of Americans endorse.

"A More Perfect Union"
Obama's speech about race on March 18th was a key moment in the campaign, despite the absurdity of his having to defend himself because of the comments of his pastor. I am more concerned that he has a pastor in the first place than I am that the pastor's views are offensive, for we all know the wonderful legacy of religion in the world. Faith certainly plays a role in many good deeds, but the history of faith is the history of intolerance, violence, genocide etc. I can only hope that Obama's religion, as with most Americans, is more a symbol of propriety than a way of life. Let's face it, people come to this country to get paid and do their own thing, not live in a theocracy. Thank God(pun intended). Anyone who is looking for a truly religious life can probably do better than a country that symbolizes unchecked capitalism. As JD Salinger said way back in the 1950s: " It's very hard to live a spiritual life in America. People think you're a freak if you try to."("Teddy") Thus, the derisive term for a true believer: "Jesus freak." That is the American dilemma: Capitalism is about kicking someone's ass, putting them out of business so you can make more money because you make a product cheaper, pay your workers less, drive up the price of your stock. An economic foundation based on those principles obviously doesn't leave much room for the devout. Just what would Jesus do?
Obama has a huge mountain to climb, battling the Republican "Southern Strategy," GOP code for using white racism to deliver states to dullards like McCain. The GOP is once again testing their belief that the same old racial politics will defeat another Democrat, and that may very well be the case. Time will tell, as we are truly looking into the soul of America this year. Obama seems to be transcending the race card games Clinton is playing, but McCain is already implying that he is un-American, when in fact Obama is uniquely American. Will the same old Willie Horton tactics work? That is the question that will be answered in the coming months. Is this all a mirage or has the country really changed since 1988, let alone 1968?

"The Wright Stuff"
Jeremiah Wright's soundbites are "news" because they provided cover for racist whites to say " See, I knew Obama was just another Black Panther! He's a Farrakhan!" Heaven forbid he speak out for the equal rights of black people...The irony of all this, of course, is that Wright's views are not nearly as disturbing as other equally irrelevant pastors who happen to be white. The real anger, characterized by the relentless loops and "breaking news" on Fox news everytime this pastor has a bowel movement, is because simmering white racism explodes when black people have the audacity to speak the truth about the legacy of racism in this country, the fact that well over 300 years of this country's history, until the mid-1960s was characterized by overt, legal discrimination against black people, so when Wright says the "US of KKK A" he is obviously wrong about the country in 2008 but he is surely right about the country that he grew up in, the one that segregated him at every turn, the one that legally told him, "Know your place."
When Wright speaks of "God damn America," surely the Bible suggests many times that the sin of unprovoked violence and agression(e.g. foreign wars etc.) will be met with the wrath of God. That is not news, and many white pastors have said equally inflammatory things about 9-11, Katrina, AIDS, the SF Earthquake--you name a catastrophe and I will find you a sermon where it is "America's chickens coming home to roost" as Mr. Wright said. My point is not to defend Wright or any of the other equally ignorant white pastors but simply to state the obvious: They are all irrelevant and misguided. Who cares what they have to say? They are essentially paid entertainers, not presidential candidates.
The comments Wright made about drugs and the US drug policy are also not that far off base, for if you remember the US Supreme Court is dealing with the inequity in drug sentencing laws and the fact that people convicted of crack cocaine(mainly blacks, which has a MINIMUM 5 year prison sentence) are serving much longer sentences than those convicted of powder cocaine(mainly whites, which has a MAXIMUM 1 year sentence for an equal amount). These drug laws are clearly racist; indeed, drug laws in general, since the first marijuana law was enacted in Texas to discriminate against Mexicans, have been used to put minorities in jail, for obviously whites use drugs as much as anyone else, but alcohol, by far the most dangerous of all drugs, is especially popular among members of Congress. With around 50% of our prison space being taken up by non-violent drug offenders, many of whom are people of color, is it any wonder that people such as Wright are exasperated with a government who can offer no solutions except to build more prisons and incarcerate more young black males? We are a society in which 26% of all juvenile arrests are black kids, yet 52% of transfers to adult courts are black kids. The message? Let's lock up these black kids and throw away the key. What has been done to address the 9.5% unemployment rate for black males and the fact that black males had higher incomes in 1974 than in 2004? What about the astonishing fact that 11% of black males between the ages of 25-34 are in prison, nearly 10 times the number of white men?(Dyson 109-115) With more black males in prison than in college in the United States in 2008, one would think that the country would take a look at what is going on and try to turn it around, yet we have a government that prefers the more expensive route of prison than the more humane and socially responsible course of treatment. How can someone look at the plight of black communities and not share Wright's outrage if not his rhetoric? So, the only really offensive, Robertson and Falwell level nonsense that Wright expressed was the AIDS as a government plot to wipe out black people stuff. I can only hope that this nonsense was some kind of effort to stir people up so that they'll buy those DVDs and call those 1-800 numbers, for as we all know, these large congregations are all show business.

In the end, Obama was correct in his decision not to "disown" Pastor Wright, for if he would have gone in that direction it would have suggested that he also had no principles or values, that he would disown a friend whose views do not entirely support his own. Throwing Wright under the bus is the type of easy choice that most politicians would make; indeed, it's what we would expect from the Clintons, but Obama is a different kind of politician, despite what the GOP freaks and Drug Limbaugh would have us believe. Real supporters of Obama had their faith renewed, not destroyed, by the Wright controversy, for it showed once again that Obama is clearly superior in the areas that really matter: integrity and judgment. He is clearly a man who does not always seek the most expedient solution, nor is he afraid to speak to Americans as adults rather than boneheads who cannot grasp anything more complex than a bumper sticker. Obama may very well lose this election, especially as he is fighting McCain and the equally slimy Billary machine, but it will be clear that he, if only briefly, raised the level of political discourse in a culture that desperately needed to revisit its values and redefine its objectives in this young century that began in the ominous ashes of the old social and religious grievances that left previous centuries soaked in blood:

"For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism...We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." Barack Obama 3-18-2008