Saturday, January 26, 2008

Political Blogging - Obama's Fourth Win

If delegates are what decide nominations then Barack Obama won his fourth straight showing last night in South Carolina garnering 25 of 45 unpledged state delegates. Though poised to win the state contest, few expected such a routing where Obama carried 55% of the popular vote compared to Clinton who claimed only half that much with 27%.

During the commotion of the South Carolina returns it was announced that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president John F. Kennedy, was endorsing Obama’s candidacy. The op-ed will run in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, movingly entitled, “A President Like My Father”.

Update: Ted Kennedy will be endorsing Barack Obama's campaign, making the announcement Monday in Washington D.C., before the State of the Union. The news comes even after MSNBC pundits perdicted that the very senior Senator would stay out of the race. Obama now has both senators from Massachusetts supporting his campaign. Senator John Kerry threw his support behing Obama three weeks ago. Massachusetts holds its primary on February 5th.

The Obama victory speech was much like his Iowa speech; stirring, inspiring and quintessentially, hopefully. Again consider that unpledged delegates are what win nominations this will be the fourth straight victory for Obama: who won in Iowa, tied in New Hampshire, won in Nevada and who has now swept South Carolina.

As Florida has no delegates, the next contests will be on February 5th where over twenty states will hold primaries.

With such momentum behind Barack Obama it is hard to foresee an end to the campaign even after the dishing out of super-Tuesday delegates. Will Edwards play the kingmaker?

Lastly, Governor Crist of Florida has endorsed McCain, seemingly sealing the deal for John McCain’s run in Florida where Mayor Giuliani pegged his presidential promises on winning. The endorsement also fueled speculation that Crist might be John McCain running-mate if he captures the nomination.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Political Blogging - Good Cop, Bad Cop, Bad Politics

There is a bad moon arising. The continued good cop, bad cop routine by Hillary and Bill Clinton respectively adds up to only one thing, bad politics.

In the beginning of Hillary Clinton's race Bill Clinton was going to, naturally, be an advisor, and Hillary Clinton as running as first and foremost Hillary Clinton. Yet, as Barack Obama retorted during Monday night's debate, "I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes." Bill's recent ubiquity is a problem, and undermines Hillary's original campaign promise. As the New York Times op-ed writer Gail Collins wrote yesterday, "Now, Bill’s role as Chief Attack Dog undermines all that. If he’s all over her campaign, he’s going to be all over her administration. Instead of the original promise of the thoroughly educated Hillary, we’re being offered the worst-case scenario — that the pair of them are going to return to Pennsylvania Avenue and recreate the old Clinton chaos."

In the past few primaries she has apologized for how her husband has acted, playing the innocent good cop, now all veils of naivety have fallen. The New York Times reporter Patrick Healy wrote, "Advisers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton say they have concluded that Bill Clinton’s aggressive politicking against Senator Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary." And this is in the primary! This isn't politics, this is professional wrestling, and it isn't change, it's exactly that type of push-polling Bush did to McCain in 2000 in South Carolina, its mud-trowing at its worst.

Yet, all are not silent. The recently minted radio attack ad aired by Clinton in South Carolina was pulled after only one day following a rancorous outcry by many who saw the ad as unduly misleading. All of this reminds one of the New Hampshire debate where Edwards stated, "Anytime you speak out powerfully for change the forces of status quo attack, every time." The dynamic interplay of the 'two-headed' monster is not what presidential politics should be about. In December I wrote "What's in a Poll" that 13% chose "Married to Bill Clinton" as the number positive personal quality in who they were supporting (i.e. Hillary). As I said before this is a staggeringly stupid reason. There is a reason for term-limits. And lest we again not forget that for the last 20 years the President of the United States has either been a 'Bush' or 'Clinton'. Democracy is about eroding dynasties and monarchies, not sustaining them.

The Clinton years were not much than the Bush years; in that they were typified by political partisanship that knew no end. Clinton has obviously and unequivocally chosen to run a caustic campaign. Her good cop, bad cop campaign style is only bad politics. If nominated she will run a general election campaign that will surely focus on winning nothing more than 50.0001% of the electorate; losers be damned.

Don't believe me? Read op-ed from the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan. She writes, "In Dillon, S.C., according to the Associated Press, on Thursday Mr. Clinton "predicted that many voters will be guided mainly by gender and race loyalties" and suggested his wife may lose Saturday's primary because black voters will side with Mr. Obama. Who is raising race as an issue? Bill Clinton knows. It's the press, and Mr. Obama. "Shame on you," Mr. Clinton said to a CNN reporter. The same day the Web site believed to be the backdoor of the Clinton war room unveiled a new name for the senator from Illinois: "Sticky Fingers Obama." Bill Clinton, with his trembly, red-faced rage, makes John McCain look young. His divisive and destructive daily comportment—this is a former president of the United States—is a civic embarrassment."

However, perhaps most telling of how far (too far) the Clintons have gone can be found in her home state, and party's paper, the New York Times. The weak worded and almost conciliatory Clinton endorsement by the Times reads, "The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee. “Firstness” is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign." Further down the editorial board write, "As strongly as we back her candidacy, we urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign. It is not good for the country, the Democratic Party or for Mrs. Clinton, who is often tagged as divisive, in part because of bitter feeling about her husband’s administration and the so-called permanent campaign. (Indeed, Bill Clinton’s overheated comments are feeding those resentments, and could do long-term damage to her candidacy if he continues this way.)"

It is telling that Obama opened a 'truth squad' in South Carolina so as to ensure that Obama's positions are not distorted. The effort, led by former-senator Tom Daschle, was reported by "First Read" at MSNBC. All of this says one thing: the Clinton good cop, bad cop routine is just bad politics.

Read John Kerry's take on ex-president Bill Clinton's recent smears toward Barack Obama, as reported by the National Journal On Air.

Also, read the spoof article by the Onion that, as always, edges a little to close for comfort; humorously entitled, "Bill Clinton: 'Screw It, I'm Running.'" This article was cited by The New Republic blog written by Noam Scheiber who also things this is becoming Bill's rather than Hillary's race.

Finally, if I could write as well and elegant (and as informed) as professionals I would have written this piece in the National Review, penned by Peter Wehner. The article chronicles all the reason we should be truly appauled if just not confused by how the Clintons are acting (attaking).

To bastion the argument read Bob Herbert's op-ed printed in Saturday's New York Times. He writes, "The Clinton camp knows what it’s doing, and its slimy maneuvers have been working... What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?" Indeed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Global/Christian Idenity and Immigration Policy

Political economy, especially global political economy, is an exciting mess.

My friend at the Mystical Atheistjust wrote an article on immigration and its effects economically and socially.

I hope to throw a few helpful and friendly rejoinders into the ring: 1) a discussion about global objectified human identity 2) the need for immigration control as it pertains to economics.

First, there is a concern that late-modern capitalism has, in its ability to dissipate and dissolve political sovereignty created neo-colonialization. Such that, colonialization in its almost defining role of dehumanizing local people, so too (some argue) capitalism had eroded the 'Real' subjectivity of peoples around the world; now being reduced to mere consumers and producers working in/for a capitalist machine that has stripped any discernable marks of authentic humanity.

Yet, this is not the case. This argument, and its cottage-industry ilk, posits a type of vague essential subjectivity for humanity. Yet, this ontology is not only vague but conspicuously weak in light that capitalism has ostensibly crippled it from its role in defining what it means to be man.

Further, let me suggest that the only ontology that can be historically sustained is one that can both fully envelope the character of humanity while at the same time express the transcendental nature of humanity, which of course is reality that humanity is both creature and made in God's image.

I have strayed from the conversation. The point to consider is that globalization has certainly eroded the 20th century's fascination with national identity. The nation state is a relatively new political concept and one that has had devastating consequences. All of this is to suggest that culture, language and geographic boundaries may never be able to suffice in constructing a harmonious identity - and certainly does not seem strong enough in creating a holistic identity that will lead to economic-parity of pay. Yet, perhaps, religious identity can; that we all share the same ontological grounding in the fact that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. If interested the post-humanist literature is both fascinating and deeply, deeply troubling (and that is another one of the reasons I have yet to give up hope for faith).

2) There is a need for immigration control, and the reasons are counter-intuitive. The desire to open borders for labor (as we do now for capital) is an idea that has long been championed by truly staunch capitalists. The increased fluidity and liberation of capital has certainly helped development in the world (though has also led to gluts and dumps) around the world. Stiglitz in his new book states that if we are serious about free trade, then we should also be serious about being more amenable and open to more fluid and unrestrained immigratory/emigratory labor markets. This certainly seems the case in E.U. as one of its final economic unifying decisions was to open immigration between countries (though let's remember England).

Yet, for all the economic reasons that seem to scream for open labor markets, let us examine two concerns: 1) immigrant country infrastructure 2) emigrant country brain drain.

It seems the liberal bleeding-heart issue of the day is immigration; specifically, how ruthless it must to not allow immigrants into the United States and allow them to work towards the 'American Dream.' However, proponents should realized that capping the number of immigrants into the country is not necessarily a heartless policy nor a veiled attempt at keeping the population fair skinned. No, there are infrastructure concerns that must be considered. Cities inundated with high numbers of immigrants (especially illegal immigration) do not have the resources to properly deal with the unexpected, and often sudden increases in the population. These increases especially affect already crowded public schools that often may not have quality ESL transition teachers who can give the type of assistant many of these immigratory students will need. Often illegal immigrants lack the ability to procure health care leading to little if any preventive medical treatment and increased ER visits which are dramatically more expense, while the costs are left to the local hospital or local municipal government to cover. Finally, if labor was free to move into this country freely without restraint the labor market that was initially so (relatively) lucrative for them would fall. Increased cheap labor would lead to (inevitably) falling wages. Minimum wages might mitigate some of these effects, but such a glut of cheap labor would almost surely intensify the already potent incentive of black market labor.

However, this is not the worst. The worst is that opening the United States to world labor will emaciate the labor pools of other countries. The state of Indiana was concerned with what they dubbed the ‘brain drain’ in the late 1990’s. They were concerned with the high percentage of high school and college graduates that immediately left Indiana for employment in other states. I am one of those ‘brain drain’ students from Indiana. Michigan has talked of a similar problem, too. With unfettered boundaries for labor there is a risk the best and brightest of developing countries will flock to the United States or Europe eschewing more limited economic, educational, and occupational opportunities in their native countries. The global draw of the American university system has already begun such a process, one that could have unforeseen, but still devastating effects on developing countries that find themselves with a perpetual dearth of human capital.

Thus, there are – I think – convincing, if not counter-intuitive, reasons why immigration policies should continue to set limits on how many aliens are naturalized annually and how many visas are granted each year.

Finally, let us turn our eyes to Stiglitz (and who so unfortunately wrote an overly-apocalyptic op-ed for the New York Times today). In his more sober and somber moments, specifically in his book, “Making Globalization Work” he articulates that the problem with globalization is not that there is too much of it, but not enough. Pointedly, there has not been enough globalized-banking mechanisms nor globalized-political power. So, while the 1980’s and 1990’s innovation in telecommunications marketedly increased the ability of business to globalize, political institutions have been much, much more resistant to such a change. Inroads have been made, but usually political unification is the last step in the process, while economically driven trade agreements are the first. The development, if not strange development, of the EU is a text book example; it started out as trade agreement for steel and coal. Global political governance will certainly be able to set humanitarian and environmental standards, which are currently undermined by single national governances that have little control in forcing regulations on transnational corporations lest the businesses leave for a country that offers more amenable (less restrictive) policies on labor and the environment.

Ultimately, let us turn back to the presidential race as a way to find an end to my rambling. I cringe every time Barrack Obama (and Edwards and Clinton) that NAFTA was a mistake. I cringe every time my friends say the same. Truly free trade is fair trade. Continuing farm subsidizes is undermining the competitive advantage of South American countries, but the blue collar jobs that are moving across oceans are not coming back (unless transportations costs skyrocket), and the American citizens needs to accept our own competitive advantage which rests in a highly educated work force. As much as I love Obama he falls into the old and evil necessity of playing to the whims and wills of the American unions’ worries.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why Christianity Need Not Fear Pullman

Spoiler Alert for Book Three, The Amber Spyglass

The Golden Compass hath no existential despair like a Nietzschean essay. The weeping and gnashing of teeth that has followed the arrival of the new movie, based off Philip Pullman’s first book in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, is an unnecessarily emotive response to a series of books that leaves the theological door wide open.

Yet, problems abound: dishonest, panentheism, and works righteousness are all championed.

Before coming to why the third book in the series, The Amber Spyglass actually opens up a lot of possibilities for theological reflection, the few serious problems should be considered.

The allegorical names of the two main characters, Lyra and Will are perhaps less virtuous than Bunyan would have chosen, more likely they would have been characters that would have tried to dissuade the good man Christian from continuing his journey to the Celestial City. Nevertheless, Lyra lies with conviction and regularity, and Will, in fact, personifies the human will. And these are certainly not qualities that I want my future children to cherish and revere.

Second, the whole series is founded on a Spinozian panentheism. As Pullman writes, “Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself. Matter love matter. It seeks more about itself, and Dust is formed” (31). A friend recently wrote a note on the Golden Compass and curiously entitled it, “God dwells within you, as you” which is from the neo-chic-spirituality book, Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert (191). And this is in fact quite close to what Pullman has in mind. This is the difference between form and substance. The insidious and disastrous move unassuming Christians can make is that we are part of God; that we, as it were, share in the substance of God – rather than the image of God. Pullman tries to persuade readers to this uncouth perspective. Christians, yet, are called to participate in God’s life and goodness, not animate and actualize God’s life. Gilbert’s silly spiritual self-help wants to obliterate all particularities slowly making ‘religion’ a type of bland mind-set that is created by a universalizing transcendent; the absolute worst of mysticism.

God does not dwell within us, as us. One of God’s gifts is the gift of agency, of particular identity. Christian identity is always formed by the Imago Dei, and certainly sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, and reality constructed properly from the participating of the sacraments. In this way Christians participate in God’s life, but we are never God, and God is never us (at least in any univocal sense).

Third, Pullman at the end of his book argues for a type of works righteousness. The story argues that grace (funny word for an atheist to use) is freely given to children, but is lost as they become adults. They must work to receive back the grace that was lost in adulthood. Pullman renders ‘grace’ a skill to be honed. Though what grace is, where it comes from or why one must work for it as adult and why children are given it freely is never really explained. Looking closely he seems to almost equate grace with gaiety and frivolity: asking us to look over the Nietzschean precipice and naively smile at the dark nothingness, which Pullman asserts as something desirable. He writes, “When we’re alive, [the Church] told us that when we died we’d go to Heaven. And they said that Heaven was a place of joy and we would spend eternity in the company of saints and angels praising the Almighty, in a state of bliss. That’s what they said. And that’s what led some of us to give our lives, and others to spend years in solitary prayer, while all the joy of life was going to waste around us and we never knew” (320). Thus, Pullman demands the cheerful nihilism – the artistic taming of the horrible - that is the mantle of the postmodern man; Christians can only reject such a na├»ve proposition that leaves no room for the good news. Worse Pullman cannot see that a life devoted to God isn’t one that deprives one of joy. At the very end of the book the character Mary says definitely that there is, ‘no purpose’ in life, but that, ‘there is now!’ (491) – (at which time all the emo-bohemian-fundi-liberals rise to their feet and applaud, and if you listen closely the anthem of ‘Rent’ begins an encore, “No day, but today”). But for what? For the recognition that we all are hopelessly mired in immanence and materialism? No thank you. As Mrs. Coulter laments during the book, “I can’t bear the thought of oblivion. Anything than that. I used to think pain would be worse – to be tortured forever – I thought that must be worse… But as long as you were conscious, it would better, wouldn’t it? Better than feeling nothing, just going into the dark, everything going out forever and ever?” (380). And who could not resonate with such a thought. How precious is life that we’d rather endure the vicissitudes of immortality (no matter what they are) rather than renounce such a gift. But this doesn’t work for Pullman because after death there is only a universal consciousness; where all individualism is forever gone.

Yet, after all these concerns Pullman is postmodern and with that there is room for the post-secular… room to resurrect the metaphysical. And even Pullman recognizes the power of the Christian narrative and sees how necessary its appropriate is to make his own fanciful fiction function.

Mrs. Coulter at one point pontificates, “Well, where is God if he’s alive?” And why doesn’t he speak anymore? At the beginning of the world, God walked in the Garden and spoke with Adam and Eve. Then he began to withdraw, and he forbade Moses to look at his face. Later, in the time of Daniel, he was ages – he was the Ancient of Days. Where is he now? Is he still alive, at some inconceivable age, decrepit and demented, unable to think or act or speak and unable to die, a rotten hulk? And if that is his condition, wouldn’t it be the most merciful thing, the truest proof of out love for God, to seek him out and give him the gift of death?” (328). Later two angels say that the true creator withdrew from the worlds he made to consider the ‘deeper metaphysical questions.’ Which suggests that even the creator speculates on the existential… leaving room for the sublime, unknowable noumenal. Yet this Kantian outlook need not be where Christians draw the line. Tradition and Scripture point the epistemological event for Christianity – the incarnation. And as such the ineffable was given a historical name and the wholly other was made particular. The Christ event fully disclosed the transcendent God into the immanent world. What Pullman offers though is the possibility that God might exist – pointing to the fact that he’s really a postmodern agnostic. And much of knowing God is apophatic such that Christianity has always had a place for the agnostic it is just usually called the mysterious.

In the end of the book, in a particular touching passage, Mrs. Coulter adopts quite explicit Christian language. She says, “I told him (the antagonist) I was going to betray you, and betray Lyra, and he believed me because I was corrupt and full of wickedness; he looked so deep I felt sure he’s see the truth. But I lied too well. I was lying with every nerve and fiber and everything I’d ever done… I wanted him to find no good in me, and he didn’t. There is none. But I love Lyra. Where did this love come from? I don’t know; it came to me like a thief in the night, and now I love her so much my heart is bursting with it. All I could hope was that my crimes were so monstrous that the love was no bigger than a mustard seed in the shadow of them, and I wished I’d committed even greater ones to hide it more deeply still… But the mustard seed had taken root and was growing, and the little green shoot was splitting my heart wide open, and I was so afraid he’d see…” (405).

It is not surprising that humanity is capable of evil. What is surprising is the abundant capacity to love, even where and when love was absent before.

So often popular theologies are promulgated upon the question: ‘whence does evil come?’ How foolish it seems because the question that seems far, far more interesting and perplexing is: ‘whence does love come?” The question is raised by Pullman’s character, but Pullman doesn’t have answer except perhaps some bland Spinozian conscious substance. But the real answer is God, who truly showed His love through the creation of the world and incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Political Blogging - Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I have not shied from my absolute resolve for Illinois Senator Barack Obama's campaign for democratic presidential nominee.

So assuming I had money, I would put it where my mouth was: in Intrade.

Right now (January 17, 2008 5:00pm cst) the Intrade price for Obama winning the democratic nomination is 40.5 (or $4.05 for each share). I'd put a $1,000 on Obama which buys about 247 shares of Obama stock.

I'd do this because he's going to rebound with two wins in Nevada and South Carolina. And his Intrade price will rebound.

So why wins in Nevada and South Carolina for Obama?
1) A federal judge today ruled against the suit that attempted to close the Stripe's nine at-large caucus sites. Adam Tanner reported the story for Reuters. This is a boon for Obama. Further, the attempt itself created intense ire among voters who saw it as an attempt by an embittered Clinton camp at disenfranchising low-income and service sector workers, and moreover probably solidified the culinary workers around Obama.

2) African American voters are beginning to break overwhelming for Obama. In Michigan nearly 70% of all black voted 'uncommitted' (essential a vote for Edwards or Obama). See the exit polls from CNN's Election Center 2008. If this number is even remotely close to what happens in South Carolina Obama will win by double-digits (yeah, yeah, I know you've heard this before).

3) The head to heads don't lie: Obama is the most electable candidate for the general election. Real Clear Politics has the numbers. Hillary Clinton might be 'change' for some liberals, but for most conservatives her 'negatives' are here to stay and they are at times higher than 50%. In the general head-to-head polling Obama does 2% better (than Clinton) aginst McCain, 7% better against Giuliani, 6.5% better against Mike Huckabee, 10% better against Romney, and 4.5% better against Thompson.

4) Finally, Obama is getting the endorsements: Claire McCaskill (IA), Patrick Leahy (VT) and Ben Nelson (NE). These are for the most part representatives from conservative leaning states, and reinforces the support that moderates have for Barack Obama.

The morning after the South Carolina race I'm going to 'sell' the stock at 8am cst.
I predict that his number will be 60%. This would yield about $481 in profit.

Who else wants to speculate? Predictions anyone?

Update: (January 19, 2008)
Hillary Clinton won Nevada, but it would be a bad time to sell. Barack Obama is at 32.2 right now (meaning I'm down $205). However, the Nevada race wasn't bad for Obama. If anything it reinforced two (well, three) things.
1) Black voters are now breaking for Obama; watch out for South Carolina.
2) Latino voters are still not ready to vote for a black candidate.
3) Clinton's cronyism is still going strong; late yesterday and earlier today she and Bill were ratcheting down expectations by ancedotally suggesting that there was union voter supression.

South Carolina will go to Obama. February 5th looks unnervingly wide open.

With Barack Obama winning South Carolina the Intrade stock jumped though not enough to make up the loss. Cashing in at the current rate of 38.0 the lost per share would have been $0.25 and with 247 shares totals a loss of $61.75.

Nevertheless, 5th is still wide open and watch to see how momentum plays.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Political Blogging - Clinton's New Role as Lady Macbeth

The problem is you can't trust Clinton. Hillary Clinton. She wants it too bad, and you wonder what she's willing to do to get it. Meghan Daum's opinion article out of the Los Angeles Times argues just this. Like a Lady Macbeth wanting the throne for herself, you wonder the lengths she might go... and if she needs to divide the democratic party in the primaries, and more deeply entrench the two parties in the general to win election so be it.

This isn't personal anecdotally commentary. Just turn to Nevada to see what I'm talking about.

An article in today's Las Vegas Sun written by J. Patrick Coolican, David McGrath Schwartz, Michael Mishak reports that a lawsuit has been filed that would close 'at large' caucus sites located on the Strip. These at large sites were added to allow shift workers the opportunity to still participate in the January 19th caucus.

Certainly if the suit is upheld by the courts it would disenfranchise workers, and disproportionately culinary union workers who only days ago threw their support behind Barack Obama (as I wrote in Unions or Bust?).

So who would file such a suit? Clinton associates, no surprise. As the article reports:
The plaintiffs have ties, albeit indirect, to the Clinton campaign. Dan Hart, chief political consultant to the state teachers union, has run Reid’s campaigns in the past and is currently an unpaid adviser to him. Some of the activists were active backers of state Sen. Dina Titus’ failed 2006 bid for governor. Titus, a Democratic national committeewoman, has endorsed Clinton. She did not return a call seeking comment.

As The New York Times reported Saturday, the teachers union’s deputy executive director, Debbie Cahill, was a founding member of Clinton’s Nevada Women’s Leadership Council.

Clinton's campaign impishly responded, "[The suit] is not for us to decide. We just want the process to be fair."

Obama admonished the legal suit.

Yet, what make this all the worse. Is that Clinton herself admonished the Iowa caucus because it excluded some from participating in the process. After spending months and millions in Iowa, she left the state in third place. The next day she started spinning her loss, and what a cyclone it was.

David Yepsen, chief political writer for the Des Moines Register wrote:
Clinton's professed love for Iowa proved short-lived. By Friday, she and her staff were dissing Iowa's caucuses.
She told reporters in New Hampshire that "this is a new day. This is a new state. This is a primary election. You're not disenfranchised if you work at night. You're not disenfranchised if you're not in the state."

The at-large caucus sites on the Las Vegas Strip were added to help mitigate caucus disenfranchisement, which the Clinton campaign castigated Iowa for. Now, that Obama has the culinary workers endorsement the Clinton camp doesn’t seem to care if there is caucus disenfranchisement. When she began her presidential campaign she said, “I am in it to win it.” She forgot to add, “…whatever the cost.”

The day after Iowa Clinton made a statement that she was "the most innocent." Trust me, at night she washing her hands, stammering, "Out! Damn'd spot. Out!"

Update (Sunday, 3:51pm)
Clinton is now claiming that the racial concerns shared by numerous black leaders across the country were engineered by Barack Obama's campaign. The response came when Hillary stated (quoted from
“Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done.”

Mr. Clinton stated around the same time that Senator Obama's campaign, "Is the biggest fairytale I've ever seen."

The next seeming gaffe came when State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said that Obama would have to do more than just 'shuck and jive' at news conferences.

Clinton went on Meet the Press (see video) with Tim Russert and made this comment:
"Clearly, we know from media reports that the Obama campaign is deliberately distorting this,” she said. "It is such an unfair and unwarranted attempt to, you know, misinterpret and mischaracterize what I’ve said."

Obama responded, as reported by Fox News:
"I didn’t make the statement. I haven’t remarked on it and she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous. I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Senator Clinton spent an hour talking about me and my record in a way that was flat-out wrong,” Obama said.

There is sure to be political fallout over this development. It must be noted that I could not find a comment by Obama on the aforementioned statements by the Clinton or Cuomo.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Political Blogging - Unions or Bust?

After writing yesterday that Obama received a big endorsement from local Culinary Union some question its importance even while controversy has erupted in Nevada over the issue.

A friend commented,
Though Obama might win Nevada because of the big union endorsement out of Nevada, but (sic) Clinton also has won her fair share of union endorsements.

Of course my friend is correct. The unions have fallen for Edwards and Clinton. Clinton has already captured a number of national union endorsements, including: the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and others.

Yet this isn't roadblock, but a backdrop for Obama, placing into relief the type of political machine he has already overcome to win the most delegates in Iowa and tie in New Hampshire. This is how blogger David Swanson sees it, which was picked up by

The culinary union, part of the national union Unite Here, endorsement for Barack Obama will carry with it get-out-the-vote foot-soldiers for the caucus, but also, and perhaps even more importantly a signal to Las Vegas, Nevada, and the rest of the country that this race is not a Democratic-crowning of previous First Lady Hillary Clinton.

With that said, political intrigue has engulfed the culinary union's endorsement. Reported by Jon Ralston from the Las Vegas Sun, Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, who endorsed Clinton in November, whispered to Clinton, "I cannot emphasize to you enough, Senator, how the Hispanic workers in the Culinary are loyal to you. They are loyal to the Culinary, but they will vote for you." The Hispanic vote will be crucial for either candidate to win Nevada. However, what Clinton's yesterday door-to-door campaigning (in a heavily-populated culinary union neighborhood) tells us is that old-school politics are far from dead. The need for people on the ground to muscle and move the vote on caucus day is needed.

If Obama did so well in Iowa and New Hampshire without the union machines, one has to wonder what he can do with them in Nevada.

If you haven't heard Arizona Governor Napolitano has endorsed Barack Obama. This comes just a day after Senator John Kerry placed his support for Obama.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Political Bloggging - Kerry, Richardson and Unions

Breaking news this morning and it cuts both ways for the two leading Democratic candidates. 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry will be endorsing Barack Obama in his bid for the presidency. MSNBC reported the Associated Press story only moments ago. The Massachusetts Senator is a welcomed addition to the union endorsements that Obama garnered yesterday and the night of the New Hampshire primary, where he lost to Clinton by 2%.

The other developing story is that Governor Bill Richardson is expected to be dropping out of the race. Richardson was, "a former congressman, secretary of Energy and U.N. ambassador, Richardson presented himself as an experienced problem-solver with impeccable international credentials" as reported by Nicholas Riccardi from the Los Angeles Times. In a race where it has been about change v. experience, he was the real beef. If he bows out of the race it might lead some to speculate if his votes will flow to Clinton, who has tried to precariously position herself as the candidate for both change and experience. No word yet if he'll endorse either candidate, but if he does expect Nevada to be shaken up. The endorsement by a Latino governor of a Southwestern state will surely influence a southwestern state primary. Or, does the fact that in Iowa Richardson's caucus-goers defected to Obama's camp on second and third rounds make the annoncement a boon for the Senator from Illinois?

Finally, don't forget Intrade.

Forgetting the fiasco of New Hampshire, Intrade is almost always right. Right now Obama is projected to win both Nevada (65% certain) and South Carolina (75% certain). No new polls yet out from Nevada, so most of this must be coming from union endorsements.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Political Blogging - Fallout

As if waking after a blizzard to the new fallen snow this morning Americans are awaking to a new political landscape.

Of course this is a surprise. And just like snowfall, it is either a joy or for others a fallout. Not to overburden the analogy, but last nights outcome was if every meteorologist in the country had forecast sunny-skies and highs in low 50's only to find 3' feet of snow on the ground.

So what happened? Why did a 98% Intrade certainty begin to fire-sale around 10p.m. and close at 0% in remaining hours of the night. How did the Real Clear Politics tracking polls show Obama ahead by 8pts (-/+ 1% sampling error) and then come out down 3pts?

A few possibilities, and they fall into two camps: emotive and empirical.

Jonathan Alter at Newsweek has an article that traces the possible emotive reasons why Hillary won.

And though something stirred voters yesterday there is also a need to look at the numbers. Larry Ganger over at ABC News questions why the polls were wrong. The Republican polls were on target, but the Democratic race is unconventional. Ganger links two very interesting articles, one concerning name placement on ballots and the other on bi-racial contests. Both of the reasons don’t give a clear sense as to what happened last night.

Some hopeful news if the unexpected snowfall didn't bring you joy. Los Angeles Times
staff writer Peter Wallsten mentioned two reasons not to rule out Obama. One, he writes, "No longer was Clinton viewed as the most likely candidate to beat a Republican. In the [exit] poll, 44% percent said Obama was more likely to win the November election, compared to 35% who said that of Clinton." Second, last night a large Nevada union endorsed Obama, and there is speculation the culinary union will endorse Obama later today.

So where do we go from here?

Nevada and South Carolina: (our nation turns its lonely eyes toward you). Nevada will be a tough win for Obama, and South Carolina would be a very tough win for Clinton. Super Tuesday now becomes a fiasco for both the Republican and Democratic contenders. Watch to see if any of the candidates turn negative (The New York Times' Editorial Board is worried of this).

Steven Greenhouse just reported from the New York Times's The Caucus page that Obama will receive the Unite Here union endorsement. The union represents around 60,000 culinary casion workers in the much coveted state of Nevada.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Political Blogging - New Hampshire

Already Barack Obama has opened a lead in New Hampshire. A little after midnight, Dixville Notch residents voted, which can be about read at CNN. The tally: Obama 7, Edwards 2, Richardson 1, Clinton 0.

Obama has not only sustained the momentum by winning Iowa's caucus five days ago, but has continued to increase the fervor. Since Iowa Obama overtook the Club 100 dinner where it became more rock concert than fundraiser, was endorsed by Bill Bradley, and was pitch-perfect during the Saturday nationally-televised debate. There is no Obama bandwagon, its more like a train.

The corresponding surge in the polls suggests only one outcome for Tuesday night; another victory speech by Obama. Intrade has Obama winning New Hampshire with 92% certainty. Money in the bank.

The question now is not if he'll win, but by how much. Let me wager. Real Clear Politics shows Obama ahead of Clinton by an average of almost 8 points. Since two days after Iowa, Obama has lead in every poll. Let me suggest that tomorrow Obama runs away with 40% of the vote. Clinton will come in second with 28%, Edward with 27% and 5% for Richardson. The independents are more interested in the Democratic race and will vie for Obama, (and even Edwards). Richardson's vote will dissipate.

The new (and very conservative) Op-ed writer for the New York Times, William Kristol, wrote against Obama, which is worth a laugh.

The always charming, but still neurotic and unbalanced fruitbakset of man, Christopher Hitchens, writing for the Slate, also wrote an anthema for Obama. He wanted to remind us that Obama was black, and discouragingly admonish us for all this white-guily driven non-sense. We can now add him to the growing list of pundits who still don't get what's going on.

Update: It doesn't seem to be only the right that doesn't get why Obama is pulling ahead. Gloria Steinem wrote an Op-ed for the New York Times arguing this election is just another example of sex being a bigger barrier than race in this country (think voting rights). She writes, "But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex." But Obama's race isn't what is unifying. Clinton's sex isn't what makes her divisive. What makes Obama a unifying figure is becuase he talks about partisan reconciliation and the end of primary-color politics (red, blue and swing-state-yellow). Clinton is divisive because she tows the party agenda, in her speech after Iowa all she could talk about was getting a Democrat into the White House.

So to recap: New Hampshire (predictions):
Obama - 40%
Clinton - 28%
Edwards - 27%
Richardson - 5%

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Political Blogging - "Anti-Hillary" Runs Deep

Until the Democratic National Committee has pledged a presidential nominee I will probably be writing few posts that pertain to theology.

So, while reading articles yesterday I came across a wildly errant statistic. A Blue Mass Group writer argued that youth support could be conveyed by the facebook groups that both laud and demonize the candidates.

The writer, you can read the article here, stated that the largest anti-Hillary facebook group was around 64,000. I wrote him to explain that the largest was actually almost 700,000 members. He revised his report soon after my notifying him:

"UPDATE: An alert reader corrects my report that the largest anti-Clinton group has 58,982 members. The largest anti-Clinton group, "Stop Hillary Clinton: (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)," has 673,511 members -- the vast majority of them well under 44, based on their pictures."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Political Blogging - "West Wing" be Bested

I am a West Wing junkie. I’ve seen every episode, at least twice. Love every character. Cherish every Bartlett speech. But much, much more than the liberal idealism it purports, West Wing is contagious because it promotes hopeful patriotism. After watching West Wing I am proud to be an American. And what a sentiment to truly hold to in such a day and age.

There is indelible speech in the second season that I thought would never be surpassed in real politics. In the scene President Bartlett begins to lament to a room of school teachers that a recent suicide bombing by a number of young American students. He explains that, “They were not born wanting to do this.” Below is the video.

President Bartlett's Speech

The message is of progress, of bettering education; it was of hope. As I said, I never thought I would ever hear a more stirring speech, until last night.

Last night Barack Obama won over women, won over young people, and won over independents; and in doing so won over Iowa. Last night Obama gave a victory speech that superseded any West Wing speech. It was a speech for a new generation, a new era in American politic. My political life has been defined by candidates who champion mediocrity and defend the status-quo. West Wing was the only supplement for what I and so many wanted in a President, in a government, and in a country. West Wing be bested; we now have a real American President: Barack Obama.

Barak Obama's Victory Speech

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gratus as an Ontological Proof - Part II

Here is lengthy response from a reader (whom I always appreciate) concerning the November blog, "Gratus as an Ontological Proof." I have made rejoinders as necessary.

Hi, I found your blog through Emily's blog. I thought I'd jump in and stir the pot a bit.

First, there's no point in pretending I am an unbiased vacuum. So, to give you context of my reply, I am a Buddhist woman. As a Buddhist, I'm a non-theist, meaning that while I find the debate over God's existence a philosophically challenging and fascinating one, I hold that the existence or non-existence of God holds no relevance for the practice, definition and validity of a moral code. So for me, the existence of God boils down to a belief in an ultimate reality versus a nominal/relative one. All very fun, but not really a moral question.

Thanks for the response. Its always exciting to know that someone out their reads my blog, even if they categorical reject the ideas contained within it. Let me retort your response in order.

First, you state, “So for me, the existence of God boils down to a belief in an ultimately reality versus a nominal/relative one. All very fun, but not really a moral question.” It seems obvious in the rest of your response that you are central concerned with a moral code. Whence does the sense of gender equality come from; if simply a modern social more (and while also living in a nominal existence) what ought to direct someone to care about the sensibilities of women? Perhaps you do not want to be saddled with an epistemological locus for your morality, but there is a genesis. If this genesis is situated in culture, which is in flux, it seems that morality is nothing more than a way to get along or more ‘cruelly’ (as you say) a way for women to co-opt the control that has been historically annexed by patriarchy. If it is the latter, then feminism isn’t so much an ideology for women, but simply another socially constructed palliative for a more amiable society (nothing more meaningful than law stipulating that all must wear seat-belts). If it is the former then feminism is socially and inherently antagonistic, and men should not only not heed such an ideology, but explicitly reject and react against feminism. All of this is to suggest that your moral code is betrayed by your feminism. None of this is in chastisement, but simply to illustrate that this is indeed about morality; but we have placed the horse, before the cart. Let us continue.

The most important thing is how you are defining "God". Do you mean a moral arbiter of the Judeo-Christian/Muslim variety? Or the representation of ultimate reality, of an Ultimate Cause (Mr. Big Bang himself!), of the Aristotleian variety? By this one post, you seem to be advancing a more Aristotleian concept: God is the receiver of my gratitude/humility, he is the Cause of what I am grateful for. If I am feeling grateful for something, there must be a God. (Correct me if I'm wrong!)

Second, we must understand what we mean by God. But this too is premature. This discourse was not to describe God, but to posit God. Yet, your question should be answered, nonetheless. You ask; is the God I posit that of the Judeo-Christian/Muslim persuasion or more of the Aristotelian variety. Yet problems here abound. To begin, Judaism and Christianity differ in how God has dispensated how believers are to understand the law – or, how God is the moral arbiter. Further, many Christians theologians have appropriated the Aristotelian construction of God as the first mover. One ought read Aquinas’ Summa Theologica’s questions 1-13, which construct God as the fullness of the Aristotelian concepts of accidental categories. So, back to your question, the God of Christianity or Aristotle? The answer, Yes.

Let me advance my own interpretation of the priest's father, an interpretation shaped by my Buddhism and my feminism. To put it cruelly, I think the father's gratitude "for" his wife is more revealing of old-fashioned gender politics than any spiritual awakening (though, of course, the father took it as the latter - and one could argue that subjectivity and self-identification is the basis of most genuine spirituality anyway!). Yet as nice as a subjective "awakening to faith" is, it is naive to pretend that a man's culture, his internalized perceptions of gender and race and the Other, do not play a significant role in how he interprets reality. It is revealing that he jumps to the conclusion that he must be feeling gratitude to God, rather than, at least for a moment, questioning why he does not feel grateful to his wife (which would be more logical and certainly less self-centered).

Third, you miss the subtle points of the argument. He appreciated his wife, and thus was grateful for his wife. But you cannot be both grateful for an to the same thing, simultaneously for the same thing.

So, he was grateful for many things his wife did for him (companionship, fidelity, etc.), and thus grateful to his wife.

But he was also grateful for his wife. But then to whom could he credit for his faithful and loving wife?

To put it cruelly, it rings almost misogynistic to be thankful "for" your wife, as if she was a "gift from on high" and not just another person, an equal, just like you. It implies a sense of possession. The father certainly didn't consider his thoughts sexist and he probably thought he considered his wife an equal, yet there is such a thing as "color-blind racism" and no doubt "gender-blind sexism". There is something subtly offensive about his inability to feel gratitude "towards" the woman who chose to spend her life with him, who behaved in ways which were agreeable to him, etc. In my opinion, a more reasonable, more generous behavior would have been ultimate gratitude to his late wife. His refuge in the idea of a (no doubt gendered masculine) God "giving" him his wife seems to ring too much of oppressive gender politics rather than any philosophically sound awakening. It is also a bit selfish to be concerned about your own spiritual awakening rather than the passing of a loved one. It's psychologically predictable, it happens all the time when strong emotions are provoked, but it is, in the end, only about you - your new faith, your new religion, your God giving and taking things away from you. (I'm sorry for how callous this sounds.)

Your next paragraph has two larger issues to address: First, you suggest misogyny, and ‘sense of possession’ and charitably offer that it may have been a case of ‘gender-blind sexism.’ This must be rejected. I no nothing of the man and the relationship with his wife save this: it was Christian marriage. For that I must say that they were in possession of one another. Paul says that spouses ought to be subject to one another. This is the essence of the vow, the act of subjecting one another to one another. And it must said, that his wife was a good Catholic woman, and most certainly saw her husband as a ‘gift from on high,’ as she must have seen all humanity, which came from the goodness of God.

Secondly, I agree your argument sounds callous. How ought one be concerned with a passing loved one? You are concerned the husband was too selfish, (also, whence does your concern for selfishness come from, as morality is nothing but a passing fancy) but what could be less selfish than to reflect and realize the death of your wife has made clear the reality of true existence? What good can come to the dead from the wailing and gnashing of teeth? More accurately, he was being incredible other-centered. He was focused on his wife, her life, and his appreciation for her, and only then realizing his feelings, and in a moment of mindful acumen sees that his feelings point to a benevolent God. Who wouldn’t want their death to be such an epiphany for those they love?

After all that, I will admit that I'm nitpicking. The man probably did not consider himself sexist, was not sexist in any drastic way apart from the internalization of a patriarchal culture. Also, I understand that your point is that the ability to feel gratitude - that is, God is the Ultimate Cause of good in the world, the reality which we find pleasurable we can call "God" and feel grateful towards. A valid argument, but the example you chose was less than convincing.

P.S. Also revealing is the father's immediate assumption that he must be feeling gratitude to the gendered masculine, Christian God. I don't trust religion based purely on emotion, and I don't trust religious decisions taken in a moment of high emotion (such as after a trauma). Because then it is more often than not a retreat into the comforts of the normalized superstition. It is limited in its expression, it is driven by anxiety and fear, rather than a genuine probe into reality and morality.

The father did not suddenly exclaim, "Allah be praised!" He did not suddenly realize that God was in his wife, just like the Hassidism (or Philip Pullman) believes. Are these interpretations of God less valid? They certainly imply different things. The father was simply behaving within the confines of his culture. He believed that a Christian God had "given" him his wife - he jumped to the normative conclusion. How valid is a confined, ignorant faith driven by emotion?

I suppose you could say I'm playing the Devil's advocate now. (Nyuk nyuk nyuk.)

Finally, it was not immediately reveling at all what the father meant when he said there must be a God. Certainly, he probably was drawn to a Christian notion of God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet, even then this is not evidently (and certainly not Orthodox) a ‘gendered masculine’ God.

He may even in the future find Islam an appropriate religion, even Judaism. But Pullman’s conscious panentheism (which is by happenstance the next item for my blog) could not support the type of ontological theism argument that my post posits.

Yet, what must be finally retorted is your final contention, specifically the interrogative, “How valid is a confined, ignorant faith driven by emotion?” How valid indeed it must be asked. But first, how much more valid is an austere rationalism that makes a calculated analyses and parses every phrase? I doesn’t seem that the sober Enlightenment did anything but dissipated the natural passions to such an extent that faith was not only stifled, but snuffed out completely. Certainly, faith – at its best – seeks reason (Augustine), but reason, but emotion is not some perversion or pure absence of reason. Yet, more concretely emotional experiences often lead us to recognize who we love immanently, why would it surprise us that emotional experience could likewise lead us to recognize God? How often do others realize the importance of someone in their life after some emotional instance such as a birth, wedding, or funeral? Now, are these necessary? No, and need not be for religious conversion; Augustine’s conversion happened in solitude, while quietly sitting under a pear tree.

Ultimately, the thrust of my original argument was that gratitude is an almost surprising emotion that can make one pause to wonder how such a feeling arises. One answer is that it is the feeling for God, and the realization that we all are participating in the goodness of God. Such appreciation from gratitude may behoove one to consider how to behave – to live rightly - not out of a legalism, but out of appreciation for the goodness of creation and also salvation.