Category Archives: john mccain

Barack’s as Muslim as Sarah Palin

McCain/Palin’s slanderous attempt to portray Christian candidate Barack Obama as Muslim, by repeatedly having surrogates refer in nasty tones to Barack Obama by his full name “Barack Hussein Obama”, has spurred some impressive and inspiring reactions to seize a higher moral ground than McCain and Palin.

A lot of Facebook page owners (who also are not Muslim) have changed their middle names in sympathy to Hussein.  So I would post as Thomas Hussein Sander.  See this thread of Hussein is My Middle Name.

It’s reminiscent of the 1993 Billings, Montana story where a Jewish family’s window was shattered for lighting a menorah.

When a brick was thrown through the bedroom window of a Jewish child whose window bore a menorah, the community response was extraordinary. An organized alliance of citizens, churches, unions and the media banded together. The local paper printed a full-page, color picture of a menorah, so that others could hang it in their windows in solidarity. With the help of merchants, by late December nearly 10,000 people in Billings, Montana had this symbol of Jews overcoming persecution displayed in their windows.  PBS made a movie of this called Not In Our Town. (Thanks to Forgotten Fires for the specifics.)

And now this Massachusetts Observer page has claimed Barack O’Bama as Irish with a humorous rhyme.  What’s next?  Japanese Obama-san?

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How low can McCain and Palin stoop in campaigning?

John McCain and Sarah Palin continue to campaign at some of the basest levels we’ve seen in recent years.  Sarah Palin now regularly throws “meat” to racist bigots that I’m embarrassed live in America. Does she believe that her best and maybe only hope of becoming V.P. at this point is to incite an assassination of Barack Obama?    The simple fact that she dresses it up in lipstick and says it with a smile doesn’t make it any better.

(photo by thekateblack)

(photo by thekateblack)

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank described this scene in Clearwater, FL:

Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”

Cindy McCain has joined her husband in the nasty, angry tirades. [Spreading more lies about “Obama not funding the troops in Iraq” when this is equally true of McCain who refused to back a funding bill for U.S. soldiers in Iraq that had a withdrawal timeline.]

And John McCain continues to dwell on the fact that Barack Obama has served on non-profit boards with former Weatherman Bill Ayers, even though the two are not even close friends and Ayers is now a tenured professor in Chicago, Ayers been commended for his recent educational work, and got a Citizen of the Year award from the city of Chicago in 1997.  [Not to make light of the subject, but Jon Stewart nails what is going on.]

His latest is this “about-to-air” commercial which the New York Times calls “paint-peeling” in tone (10/10/08)

I know McCain is embarrassed that he is not stronger on the economy, and E.J. Dionne has noticed that McCain, in his campaign desperation, has decided to start putting “John McCain First” rather than “Country First” as his campaign slogan claims.  The only mark that McCain has any scruples is recent claims that he has put the brakes on advertising that tries to make hay out of comments of Obama’s ties to his previous pastor, Rev. Wright;  McCain apparently, as least as of today, feels that this is a bridge too far.  Let’s hope he holds on to at least this shred of campaign decency, even if his campaign numbers fall further, and current polling shows a 168 point electoral landslide for Obama.

One would hope that McCain would have learned something positively from the nasty smear campaigns that George Bush’s campaign ran against McCain in 2000, but instead he appears to have learned: ‘if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.”  Desperation has no fury like a McCain scorned…

Let’s hope that Americans have greater common sense than to fall to McCain’s baiting.

Coda: David Tanenhaus, who met Ayers and Obama in the early 1990s, writes about how Ayers’ 1997 book A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court and the serious national discussion that ensued ushered in policy reforms of blended sentences, “whereby kids, even though tried as adults, received suspended sentences and were then referred to juvenile programs instead of rotting away for years in adult prisons.”

By the late 1990s, such ideas had become part of the national dialogue. Approaches that Ayers helped publicize were being adopted in several states—including Texas under then-Gov. George W. Bush. Juvenile justice was, in fact, a cornerstone of Bush’s “compassionate conservative” agenda. In his 2000 acceptance speech, he spoke movingly of a 15-year-old African-American boy he had met at a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, who had committed a “grown-up crime” but was still a “little boy”: “If that boy in Marlin believes he is trapped and worthless and hopeless—if he believes his life has no value—then other lives have no value to him, and we are all diminished.” The passage could have come directly from Ayers’ book….

Leading Chicagoans, including Mayor Daley, now commend Ayers for his service to the city. “I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago, but I remember that period well,” Daley said last April. “It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep refighting 40-year-old battles.”

See a related comment on McCain’s deplorable tactics in Gail Collins’ “Confessions of a Phone Solicitor” (NYT, 10/23/08)

Our growing divisiveness

Roger Cohen, NYT columnist (“In The Seventh Year“, 9/1/08) describes how, far from 9-11 bringing the country closer together, it has sundered America in two: with some fighting for our country while others backdated options, packaged toxic mortgage-backed securities, and got themselves wealthy in the process.  America, far from other countries has become noticeably more uneven in wealth over the past few years.  [You can see how this growth in inequality is greater than than in the UK, Canada, France or Japan.]

In an interesting companion piece, Scott Leigh notes wistfully how the promised civility of the 2008 campaign has given way to rancorous squabbling (“Civility is Casualty as Campaigns Spar“, Boston Globe, 9/1/08).  While largely initiated by the McCain/Palin team, especially in her nasty (but humorously and folksily delivered) speech at the nomination; Obama has now countered calling McCain/Palin, laughingly commenting: ““You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it’s still going to stink after eight years.” McCain has lambasted the use of the “lipstick on a pig” image, a phrase McCain claims is a dig on Palin, even though McCain used this phrase himself earlier in the campaign.  Woe to the higher plane on which these candidates said they would play: appearing at joint meetings to discuss their policies.  And McCain’s tactics make a mockery of his claim that he will usher in a new era in bipartisan politics in Washington — live by the sword, die by it.

I myself think that President Bush squandered a remarkable opportunity after 9-11.  We had the world’s admiration and sympathies after 9-11 and now we have their enmity for our cowboy foreign policy.  We had amazing class solidarity, with financiers helping waiters out of the Twin Towers and vice versa, and now we are back to every class looking out for itself.  We had a remarkable opportunity to give Americans a chance to sacrifice for the good of our country: e.g., conserving fuel use to make us less dependent on the Arab undemocratic states, but instead we were encouraged to shop by Bush and initially the Administration’s policies drive down gas prices and made us use all the more fuel.    And we had an opportunity to use our powerful assets to reshape the world for good:  to teach Muslim youth so they saw that there was opportunity to learn beyond going to radical madrassah schools, to invest mightily in our own educational system so we could ensure that our citizens prospered in the years ahead amidst a much more globally competitive world, and to usher in the next wave of green technologies so we were exporting these technologies to the world with lots of jobs, rather than the reverse.  But all this has been squandered along with trillions of dollars on the Iraq War, which has radicalized Arab youth rather than made the world safer.  Let’s hope that we can do a far better job in the next 8 years.

Transforming 9-11 Into a Day of Service

The movement to transform 9-11 into an annual day of service picked up some momentum this year. MyGoodDeed.org, the nonprofit founded in 2003 by friends and relatives of 9-11 victims, gained two important allies this year in their quest: ServiceNation and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. ServiceNation is a coalition of more than 600 nonprofit groups nationwide which is hosting the two presidential candidates in a civic engagement forum in New York on Sept. 11.   Obama and McCain have agreed to MyGoodDeed.org’s request that they suspend campaigning and negative advertising on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this year, and instead engage in voluntary service.

“The anniversary of September 11 should be officially recognized as a national day of charitable service to honor the 9/11 victims, volunteers and rescue and recovery workers of Ground Zero,” said David Paine, president of MyGoodDeed.org. “All of us can best honor the memory of those lost by engaging in good deeds, community service and other charitable acts to rekindle the remarkable spirit of unity that existed following the 9/11 tragedy.”

New York Cares has agreed to organize 9-11 service projects together with MyGoodDeed.org to also carry out this vision of transforming the day into a day of service.

Details of the program can be found at ServiceNation‘s website, which includes members of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation attending MyGoodDeed.org’s signature service project on September 11 at PS 124, a public elementary school in the Chinatown community in downtown Manhattan.

The 25-member Council, created by Executive Order of the President of the United States in 2003, includes actors Stephen Baldwin, Patricia Heaton and Hillary Duff; NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne; Art Linkletter; journalist Cokie Roberts; and other prominent individuals. [List available here.] The Council recognizes the important contributions Americans of all ages are making within their communities through service and civic engagement.

ServiceNation’s summit meeting on national service in New York City on September 11-12, is expected to be attended by more than 500 influential delegates from throughout the nonprofit community. Caroline Kennedy and Alma Powell are co-chairs, and Barack Obama, John McCain, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other nationally prominent figures are expected to participate.

ServiceNation was the brainchild of BeTheChange, CivicEnterprises, CityYear and the Points of Light Foundation (which recently merged with HandsOnNetwork and is now led by HandsOnNetwork founder Michelle Nunn). The vision of ServiceNation is “an America in which, by 2020, 100 million citizens will volunteer time in schools, workplaces, and faith-based and community institutions each and every year (up from 61 million today), and that increasing numbers of Americans annually will commit a year of their lives to national service.”

On a related note:  the forthcoming issue of TIME magazine has a cover story on national service, and I’ve contributed a mini-essay on the importance and promise of national service in building cross-racial bonds.

Background on MyGoodDeed: Each year since the 2001 attacks, the MyGoodDeed.org movement has sought to inspire millions of people from around the nation and world to perform good deeds, volunteer and engage in other charitable and civic activities on the anniversary of the attacks, in honor of the victims, volunteers and rescue and recovery workers. In 2007, more than 300,000 good deeds were posted on the MyGoodDeed.org Website by participants from all 50 U.S. states and 150 different countries and territories.

Founded in 2003 by two close friends, David Paine and Jay Winuk, following the death of Jay’s brother, attorney and volunteer firefighter Glenn Winuk, who perished in the line of duty on September 11, 2001, MyGoodDeed.org has gained widespread bipartisan and bicameral support. In 2004, the MyGoodDeed organization worked closely with Congressional leaders to secure unanimous passage of H. Con. Res. 473, urging the designation of 9/11 as a national day of service, charity and compassion.

A Cause Larger Than Self

I disagree with many policy positions of John McCain (among them, his being anti-abortion, appointing judges who would fail to protect Americans’ rights, lack of environmental concern, believing that cheap oil will help solve our longer climate-crisis problems, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.).   But McCain did sound two notes in his convention speech last night in St. Paul with which I heartily agree (although I shy away from his bellicose imagery): the notion that our gridlock in Washington stems from self-interested politicians and the fact that regardless of our government in power, we all owe it to ourselves to change that with which we disagree.  His notion that if you disagree with government you should work to change it, deeply parallels our suggestion #70 in 150 things to do to build social capital (“When somebody says “government stinks,” suggest they help fix it.”)

Two snippets of McCain’s speech:

1) “The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause. It’s a symptom. It’s what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you.”

2) “My country saved me [speaking of his experience as a tortured MIA soldier in Vietnam]. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

“My friends, if you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them….

“Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an — an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed.

“Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

“….And with hard work, strong faith, and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.

“Fight with me. Fight with me.

“Fight for what’s right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

“Fight for our children’s future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

“Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other, for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

“Stand up, stand up, stand up, and fight.

“Nothing is inevitable here. We’re Americans, and we never give up.

I must admit I still heavily favor Barack Obama and having been burnt by George W.’s meaningless claim that he would be a “compassionate conservative”, I am naturally distrustful of McCain’s rhetoric.  Moreover, Republicans have had 8 years in power and McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time in 2007 and 100% of the time in 2008, according to Congressional Quarterly.  With most of the same Senators and Representatives likely returning to Washington, I am skeptical that McCain could achieve real meaningful change even if he wanted to.  But I do agree that we all have the power to refashion a better and more engaged America, and it is at least refreshing to hear from the bully pulpit that we have larger duties to our country than shopping (as George W. suggested).

While we’re on shout-outs, a hearty praise to Barack Obama’s wonderful nomination acceptance speech In Denver last week and his assertion to open the doors to higher education for those who serve our nation.  “[W]e will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.”  It echoes a promise made by Bill Clinton in the “rights and responsibilities” mode when he first promised AmeriCorps in the 1992 presidential campaign, although the reality that he and we were able to achieve on AmeriCorps was far smaller than Clinton’s promise (not nearly all young people, and they only got a $4,725 educational voucher for their year of service).   Let’s hope that Obama is better able to fulfill his vision; our ability to compete in the global economy will depend on the better education of our citizenry (see Glaeser Op-Ed “The Dream for a Human Capital Agenda“, Boston Globe, 9/5/08).  It is also worth noting two things: 1) that the World War II GIs who went to college through the G.I. Bill were extraordinarily grateful to their country and would up paying back in the country in so many ways beyond their higher earnings; and 2) more educated Americans tend to be more socially and civicly involved so this education-through-service approach is likely to further enhance America’s social capital.  [For more information on Barack and national service, see this earlier post.]

On the theme of McCain/Obama and civic engagement, both candidates have mini essays in the current issue of Teaching Tolerance:  Obama writes in Choices for a Rising Generation:”[A]t this historic moment, we must ask our rising generation to serve their country…. Because that’s how real change has always come — from ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.” In A More Peaceful and Prosperous World, McCain writes, “After 9/11, leaders in Washington missed an opportunity to call young people to service. Young men and women, who are willing to give of themselves and sacrifice, want a leader who will ask something of them.”  [And see Sabrina Karim’s critiques of these essays.]

And one final un-related note on the conventions:  I think Rudoph Giuliani would be a bit less nasty and more effective if he actually had served as a community organizer (a hallowed role that he mocks).  If Sarah “Barracuda” Palin is the pitbull in lipstick, Giuliani is just a plain old pitbull (or pitbully) and it makes one realize why so many New Yorkers disliked him when he was Mayor.

Use of technology in the 2008 Obama-McCain contest

Howard Dean’s presidential run in 2004 unlocked politicos imagination about the power of online politics to shape the race.

While Dean’s bid imploded with his Iowa rant, Dean’s rapidly growing Meetup.com following in the campaign’s early days convinced the media that Dean was a rising force. The Economist in a story this week notes that Dean “changed the way campaigns are organised. Using social-networking tools, Ron Paul’s supporters generated a “money bomb”–$6m in one day, shattering the previous record. Huck’s Army, an online network of Mike Huckabee’s supporters, rallied 12,000 campaign volunteers. Both networks meant that Mr Paul and Mr Huckabee stayed in the race a lot longer than they might otherwise have done….

“Mr Obama took it another step, raising more money–seen in real time–from the grassroots than any campaign ever. In June alone he raised a near-record $52m, of which $31m were donations of $200 or less. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, says that he has “succeeded in translating what was happening online to getting the vote out”. Mr Obama has 1.3m supporters on Facebook, a popular social-networking site; John McCain has only about 200,000…The Democrat is using Twitter, a social-networking and micro-blogging service featuring instant messaging (each answer, or “twit”, is limited to 140 characters). By signing up to Mr Obama’s twitters, the campaign at once signs up to yours.”

And this go-round, YouTube is placing a newly important role. Will.i.am’s (of the Black-eyed Peas) “Yes we can” video has gotten some 9m views in six months

and the McCain Girls’ “Raining McCain” video got 1.9 million hits in 4 months. Obama’s videos on his YouTube channel garned 52m views to McCain’s 9.5m on his channel. Several million of McCain’s hits came from his sleazy campaign comparing Obama to Paris Hilton ; which inspired Barack to launch his “Low Road Express” (mocking McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” mantra). Even Paris Hilton hit back at “white-haired dude” McCain with her bikini-clad bid for the “pink house.”

Barack’s speech on race in America has been viewed 4.7m times on YouTube in its entirety, while Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary sermons have also been seen by millions. YouTube moderated highly interactive debates among Republicans and Democrats during the primaries, and has now asked YouTube users to submit 2-minute videos explaining why they support McCain or Obama (with the prize being a trip to the convention).

And it is not just YouTube. The conventions promise to also feature”Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, My Space profiles and Flickr…” Obama sent an e-mail one week ago to supporters indicating that they could sign up to be the first (several million?) to receive an email or a text announcing his choice for vice president.  The real benefit of getting this million person list will come near Election Day: “What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican techno-political strategist.

It appears clear that something transformative is happening, but not enough careful research has helped us to understand the social consequences of this media, other than the fact that YouTube and cellphone cameras mean that future candidates will have ever diminished chances of privacy without one mistake being aired for everyone to see.

But will the new technologies help to stoke the 9-11 Generation’s interest in politics (that Bob Putnam and I have written about). Will the technology enhance people’s ability to make connections with others active in the campaign or weaken those ties relative to “old-world” technologies of political parties and rallies and door-knocking? Will the technology make us more likely to stay involved after the campaign or not (evidence on the latter front may come from a September poll issued by the National Conference on Citizenship’s Civic Index for 2008)? And will the new technology exacerbate class and racial gaps in the patterns of political participation (or see this link) or ameliorate them? Brave new worlds indeed….

For full article, see Economist’s “Technology and the campaigns: Flickring here, twittering there” (August 16, 2008), including the fact that more of the online role comes from the millennials (those born between 1978 and 1996) who comprise 50m voters, are 90% online and two-thirds of whom are on social networking sites.