Archive for the 'Obama' Category

Yes, you caught me… I admit that I was two-timing Broken Spines…

As Gen. David Petraeus has demonstrated for us this last week, even a rock of moral authority can fall from grace.  I know my various interests and activities have kept me from posting on Broken Spines in quite awhile but I felt I need to come back to defend my honor.  There are allegations out there that I have been two-timing by first blog… Broken Spines.  Well, I am here to set the record straight… those allegations are true.  In a moment of weakness, I built a WordPress blog (A Citizen’s Primer) more than five years ago with the intent of recruiting some of my fellow Pugilists to join me to:

“document our positions, ideas, and conclusion on today’s complex political topics.  Why us?  Why not… we feel that we a relatively informed individuals and that when we are able to break down complex topics that are swirling in the political ether we can come up with some plausible solutions that make sense.  We are not claiming to be experts but we do work hard to stay informed on political topics – reading books, magazines, & blogs – watching movies & documentaries – and discussing the issues with friends, family, & colleagues.”

Well, five long years has gone by without a single post until yesterday.  I decided to dust off the cover and share an editorial that I had originally submitted to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The post was based on my personal frustration with the Republican Party for sitting on their hands over the last two years without one iota of progress or one hint of compromise.  My article was titled “As Minnesota goes, so goes the nation? We need to move beyond a political zero sum game” and it includes ideas for both Minnesota and National Republicans and Democrats to move forward after the election.  Well, there I’ve said it.  Now let the accusations begin, or perhaps… thou who are amongst you who have not sinned shall cast the first stone?

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Street Art

obeyBroken Spines has previously discussed the work of Ron English.  But, with all the hub-bub around the inauguration, I was interested in the story behind the ubiquitous Obama “Hope” posters created by Shepard Fairey.  It turns out that Fairey is a street artist best known for his “Obey” stickers with an abstract black and white face based on Andre the Giant.  He’s a southern California skater, former punk rocker, and graphic artist who happens to avoid compliance with local ordinances.

hug-bombs

But, his omnipresent poster of Obama has ironically brought him huge mainstream success ultimately helping to elect a president, the personification of government.  Listen to this Terry Gross interview with him where he deftly explains how he balances his street cred with his new found success.

Also, check out Time Magazine’s photo series called “Art of the Street” (it includes one of Fairey’s pieces).

nope

For giggles, I included this parody of the Fairey’s hope poster. It was published on the front page of the Willamette Week paper in Portland. The image is created by Barry Stock.  I’m sure Fairey doesn’t mind.

Turn of the Tide

The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’ve been struggling with what to post on the recent election.  But, I just got off the phone with a friend in the UK who was more enthusiastic about Obama than I was, and I voted for him!  And, then Bill B. forwarded this article by William Kole who got a kiss from a stranger on the train in Vienna because he’s American. 

So, I realized that after spending 21 months immersed in this election, I lack perspective.  And, while I’m relieved that Obama was finally elected, I haven’t had a sense for how huge this is.  Looking at the election from the outside, whether you’re a foreigner or an expatriate, it’s obvious.

Along these same lines, Nicholas Kristof wrote a column three weeks ago titled “Rebranding the US with Obama” about a conversation he had with a friend in Beijing:

She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?

Me: Yes, exactly.

She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?

Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.

She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.

Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.

She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?

Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.

[Long pause.]

She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!

We are at the lowest ebb.  The tide is turning.  What an amazing country, indeed.

What are the responsibilities of Mayor of Wasilla?

There were a few folks after John McCain announced his running mate that drew the comparison between Sarah Palin and Teddy Roosevelt for their short time as governors and of course their leadership capabilities.  You know… leader of the First Calvary (Rough Riders) and Mayor of Wasilla… obvious conclusions.  And then there was the comment during Palin’s RNC address where she chided Obama about being a “community organizer” while she was just a small town Mayor with “Responsibilities.”  Well thank God for investigative journalism… we now know ALL of the details that the Mayor of Wasilla is responsible for… and it is a LONG list!  Watch for yourself from The Daily Show (details at the 2 minute mark).

Truth, Lies, & Taboos… how dearly do they cost us?

I have been doing a lot of think lately about several of our societal taboos… specifically talking about religion, politics, and money.  I have always been a fan of the quote “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, which refers to the benefits of openness and transparency.  There was a further suggestion from Louis Grumet, Publisher of The CPA Journal, who offered “We should not only accept criticism and suggestions, we should embrace them.  If questions from constituents, the public, or the media make leaders or other responsible parties obfuscate, the questions are usually valid and the answers are not.  People who feel uncomfortable under the bright light of scrutiny and criticism often have something to hide.”

I am suggesting that this impartive not only holds true for politicians but for all of us and that by conforming to the norms and labeling subjects as taboo we are supporting prejudice, hatred, misinformation, lies, deceit, and unaccountability – we are letting these lies survive in the dark alleyway between Truth & Freedom.  When women like Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee suggested that she didn’t trust Senator Barack Obama and called him “an Arab” at a Lakeville, MN, McCain rally we all thought wow… did she just say that in public?  My next question was, where had Gayle been “hiding” this racism?  Hasn’t she talked with others about the candidates?  Doesn’t she know that Barack is actually a Christian?  If her friends, family members, or fellow parishioners had heard her mention this idea before did no one speak up?  Did no one correct her on the facts?  When we avoid discussing our religious and political beliefs with others who do not agree with us we are protecting ourselves from having difficult or uncomfortable questions that we may not wish to face.  The latest of these taboos is the belief that we should not talk about money with friends, neighbors, or family.  A couple of stories that I thought I would share… 1) two years ago in a local fast food establishment I overheard a couple talking about how their daughter and son-in-law planned to file for bankruptcy immediately after returning from the cruise trip that they were on, 2) a year and a half ago friends were trying to sell their condo and plan for a down payment on their house – they had almost no money in savings but drove new Cadillac and Audi vehicles and spent lavishly on expensive clothes and purses, and finally 3) this weekend I overheard a few patrons talking in a restaurant about how one of them had four different vehicles in four years but had no money.  Where was the sense of responsibility from these people?  Did no one question their actions?  Did no one question their sense of accountability?  We need to again talk about our beliefs and actions… we need to expose them to the light of day… and we need to be more accepting of those who might question us or our motives… or we will continue to provide safehavens for prejudice, hatred, misinformation, lies, deceit, and unaccountability.

Do voters really vote in their self interest?

In conversations about the recent election I wondered how much people really vote in their self interest.  I came across an interesting article from earlier this year that I thought I would share.  The story from Bryan Caplan of the Washington Post suggests that there are 5 myths of voting.

  1. People vote in their self interests
  2. Unselfish voting will solve our problems
  3. Voters’ errors balance out
  4. Political disagreement is all about values
  5. Voters want serious change

My question is that if these are all myths then when someone invokes one as their reason for voting for a certain candidate what are they really voting for?  For example, when someone invokes that they are voting for McCain out of self interest… why are they really voting for them?  Fear, hatred, prejudice?  What are the underlying issues?

Doublespeak In the Post-Fact Society

One of our fair readers posted an interesting comment on the McCain campaign and Republicans in general with the following observations:

  • They invent death from the sky and call it a Patriot Missile.
  • They rape the environment and call it the “Healthy Forests Initiative”
  • They spy on Americans and call it the “Patriot Act.”
  • Now they put up Bush in bra and call it “change!”

This got me to thinking that Republicans are just better at Doublespeak (coined by Orwell, defined by Wikipedia as “language constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning often resulting in a communication bypass”).  But, maybe the American electorate aren’t looking for “actual meaning” – rather close approximations of truth and reality.

Farhad Manjoo writes in his book “True Enough”:

Facts are a stock of faltering value.  The phenomenon that scholars call “media fragmentation” – the disintegration of the mass media  into the many niches of the Web, cable news, and talk radio – lets us consume news that we like and avoid news that we don’t, leading people to receive reality in a way the conforms  to the long-held beliefs…it’s clear that the McCain camp is benefiting from some of these forces.  [also, see Swift Boat Veterans for Truth]

The question is whether or not Obama should sink to this level and if he can do so effectively.  So far, it appears that scrutiny and fact checking on Palin’s background is only making her stronger (and keeping her and the McCain campaign on the front pages – where is Biden?) by calling attention to the “larger truths” that she’s new, she’s popular in Alaska, and she’s an insurgent. 


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