Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Shame On You"

Obama's NAFTA mailer:


Obama's Health Care plan mailer:


It is widely known that mailers are one-sided, lacking context, and sometimes even outright distortive or untrue. Sen. Obama's mailers indeed lack context, but there are no falsehoods proclaimed in them, as for instance analysed here and here.

Here's from a mailer from Sen. Clinton (link):

Obama "voted for Dick Cheney's energy bill that gives huge tax breaks to oil companies".

He "wants to raise Social Security taxes by a trillion dollars"

Obama has "no plan" for a moratorium on foreclosures.

All of these statements are distortions or lacking context too. The first statement is untrue for instance since the bill resulted in a net tax increase for oil companies, and subsidies for environmentally-friendly buildings and vehicles, and funding for research. The second is a distortion, since it deals about a "good option" Sen. Obama mentioned, about employing pay roll taxation on incomes above 97,500$, only 6,5% of all incomes. And he never went on record to actually wanting to carry out this idea. And third, Sen. Clinton's mailer leaves out the fact that Sen. Obama has a different plan to alleviate troubled home owners.

So this confirms again that all mailers are not entirely, or sometimes far from, true.

These mailers date from the beginning of February, and Sen. Clinton's staff was already being on file to having responded to these mailers, comparing them to the "Harry and Louise" ad in 1994 meant to oppose HillaryCare, or even worse, "outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie, Illinois."

This last statement was given by an unpaid health care adviser, and was retracted, but along with Sen. Clinton's remarks today, it shows the emotion Sen. Clinton and her campaign have about this topic. While it is justified and perhaps a virtue to be so involved with some of your own positions on the issues, such display of moral and political superiority ("Every Democrat should be outraged", "That's what I expect from you"), comparisons to Karl Rove and dare I say, blatant hypocrisy, really are uncalled for, especially if you know that her campaign has sent out similar, if not worse, mailers.

It hurts her own campaign, it unfairly accuses Sen. Obama, and, well, makes everyone really uncomfortable.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Come to our side..we have cookies!

Well, what a month this has been. To make it short, Sen. Obama survived all the negativity and went to win almost all states with double digit margins, resulting in a 150+ pledged delegate margin.

I'm so stunned, I really can't utter any useful statement. I've backspaced these lines 6 times already now.

With the help of a very broad coalition fed by the most extensive and well organized grassroots organisation (1 million donations!), Obama's movement has delivered him right where he needs to be: up front, and the moment his to take.

Because it's not March 4 when Sen. Clinton will make her last stand. It's on the dual debates, now, in few hours (and already past when you read this) and on February 26. These are the moments when Hillary Clinton can really shine, and still severely dent Sen. Obama.

However, any hurdle can be seen as a great challenge. Barack Obama has one option, one that he will very likely take: to simply dodge attacks with grace, assimilate and enhance all issue stances, and to make a lasting impression on national television. For that is the way of the winning candidate. Mind you, I'm not stating he has won, but currently, there's no denying that he is.

Whoever the nominees and President will be, however, change, solutions, or straight talk will not come easily. Today, the US embassy was attacked in Serbia. In Pakistan, Musharraf's lost the elections and the opposition has joined forces
(not that I'm supporting Musharraf, but at least he did try to stem radicalist activity in his country). And the economy is either seriously slowing down or well in the initial stages of depression.
I think all candidates realize that past the shine of the election of new leadership, stand the challenges that await all of us. However, you still need to have a strong mandate to begin with. When you shun half the country or block out the youth & educated, you'll only succeed in nurturing your part of the cake.

But we want the full pie, don't we? So come to our side. We have cookies! Well, according to Ben & Jerry, ice cream at least.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Me, myself and Barack

Canongate Books UK edition, hardcover. First impressions - some passages were omitted in the audiobook. Very nice jacket, nicer picture than on original Crown US edition.

SHOUT OUT - pose with your copy of "the Audacity of Hope" or your favorite poster, put it on your blog, and spread it across the blogosphere! Silly? Probably. Cool? Definitely.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cynicism sets in - a sign of what's coming

Let's be fair. Sen. Barack Obama has received considerable and mostly favourable coverage from most national television networks. MSNBC's full of Obama fanboys (notably, Chris Matthews) Even Fox News has refrained from repeating earlier attacks (the middle name thing, for instance). However, ever since Sen. Obama nudged past Sen. Clinton in Gallup's tracking poll, many commentators have begun putting Sen. Obama's campaign in a very cynical daylight. Especially this article, with attached CNN clip of the "Situation Room". It describes Obama's movement as being like a cult, and the clip cites commentators finding the high levels of enthusiasm "creepy".

This kind of reporting is downright perverse. It symbolizes fully the willingness of "the man" to crush anything and anyone that has any glimpse of good will and intent. Although I have no doubt that Sen. Obama is a very smart politician and a very crafty campaigner, I believe that behind all the political competitions, lies a sincere belief and insight into how this generation can write a new chapter in American politics.

Things can get much worse, still. These reports are mere negative spins to, basically, events and observations that boost Sen. Obama. Imagine when the "real dirt" comes up. And it will, we had a preview of that when the Billary dragon reared it's ugly head in South Carolina. Rezko, race, doubts about his faith, "present" votes, weakening of legislature due to pressure from lobbyists and interest groups,.. these are things that have only been very sparsely noted till now. The GOP will certainly use them, but Sen. Clinton's campaign might also. Perhaps for winning the Democratic nomination, but, and this is what scares me most, perhaps also like a sort of tactic of "scorched earth": that, even when they realize they can't or very unlikely will win, they will launch flak that will tarnish his record and provide a handy step-up for the GOP artillery.

These are all very pessimistic projections. I guess it's an expression of the recurring disappointment in what politics are and what it has begun to imply once you participate in it. And exactly herein lies my hope in Barack Obama's project. That one day perhaps, politics isn't such a rathole, the cynics won't be able to wield such power and if they do, at least the people have a basic trust in what they believe is truthful and what is not.

*Update* Read this more detailed view into how the press has launched attacks since 1992. It's a thoroughly disturbing but necessary read.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Powerplay and Full Court Press - the ripples of the Potomac

Sen. Obama's landslide wins in the Potomac primaries yesterday has increased his pledged delegate lead to over 100. According to many observations, amongst which NBC senior political editor Chuck Todd, Sen. Clinton needs to have a 55-45% win on average in all the remaining states. Although not insurmountable, it certainly isn't a place you want to be in.

The Clinton campaign thus set forth to sticking to the post-Super-Tuesday plan: to retreat to Ohio and Texas and to play Full Court Press on those delegate rich states. The Obama campaign however (or at least some of the execs in the team), presumably envigourated by the landslide margins, broad support amongst all possible population groups and absolute delegate lead (in all calculations), chose to embrace a bold, old strategy. That of inevitability. While the I-word was not mentioned, that's what Obama campaign manager David Plouffe implied, stating "the cold, hard reality of the math", in a statement today.

Personally, I think both campaigns are making mortal mistakes. Sen. Clinton should not be retreating, because Texas and Ohio isn't a Super Tuesday. The offset she can gain from these states is not as big as on Super Tuesday. Also, these primaries come late in the primary season, leaving very little options should this strategy fail.
David Plouffe's statement is however a huge blunder. Although intended as a rebuttal of the Clinton campaign's initial stance, a call-out to the DNC establishment and a strong, final argument for a cemented nomination, it beheads the grassroots strength of Obama's campaign, which is in danger of being labeled the inevitable establishment ticket. This might blow up horribly, and with a naturally divided Democratic electorate, could swing the vote right back to Sen. Clinton. In hockey, you have powerplay if your team has one man or more up. But Obama is nowhere near that, and the bodychecks could be brutal.

Note that many seem to agree, as the blogposts of David Plouffe's statement are heavily commented upon.

Judging from the latest reports (eg. link), Clinton has also decided to not concede Wisconsin. Although most polls point out a victory for Sen. Obama, the margins are slim, and the constituency's makeup projects a very close battle, with strengths and weaknesses of both candidates' electorate represented in America's Dairyland. Also, Maggie Williams stated (link) that the Clinton campaign admits underestimating small states' importance and will focus more on volunteer initiative in the remaining contests.

More than ever, the voter's steadfastness is tested. With spins going back and forth, future strategies being pre-tested, and a media that is wildly swinging about, the Democratic race is becoming hideously nervous. A nervosity that is actually wasted, and energy lost for the real battle to come. Who in the right mind wants a hundred year war, anyway? Ask the French. Ask the British. They tried, and it ruined the Middle Ages for them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Crunching the numbers, all the way to November

As voting is fully underway in the Potomac primary (Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia), let me induldge in some number crunching.
We've been hearing a lot lately about delegates, superdelegates, firewalls, etcetera. But how do the numbers really run down if you actually look at them?

In the Democratic Party, most of the delegates are awarded proportionally. This proportionality is however different state-by-state. A 60-40% can yield a significant net gain or a near split when considering the size of the state and the proportionality rules.

When you browse through the numbers, there are a few trends. Sen. Hillary Clinton wins big states like California, New York and Massachussets, some of them with significant margins (eg. New York, net delegate gain of 40). Sen. Obama wins a lot more states, and many of them with large margins (3-2, 2-1), especially in caucus states. However, the bulk of these states are small and medium sized states. If you add them all up, you see Sen. Clinton getting large wads of delegates out of the big states, but Sen. Obama constantly nibbling away that lead by gathering delegates from a very diverse constituency (ie, the entire country). In the end, you get the deadlock we have today, at about 900-1000 delegates each.

Looking ahead, there are 3 more big states: Ohio (141), Texas (193) and Pennsylvania (151). If you extrapolate past polls, Sen. Clinton will win these states by a 10 to 15 point margin. This would allow her a net gain of anything between about 70-100 delegates. Knowing this, it's perfectly understandeable why Sen. Clinton's campaign is "retreating" to these states. However, if you add all the numbers of the other states, including medium sized Indiana and North Carolina, Sen. Obama could very much neutralize this gain. In fact, a strong showing (victory, dead heat, or single digit loss) of Obama in Ohio and Texas could spell obvious disaster for the Clinton campaign.

Knowing this, you can understand why the Hillary campaign is so adamant on seating the Michigan and Florida delegates. These are big states, with Michigan approximately having 70 delegates and Florida 100. Sen. Hillary would get a net gain of 70-90 delegates out these two alone, and the necessary "lifeguard" or "queenmaker" she requires. An obvious opportunity is however to stunt Sen. Obama in some of the smaller states, denying his continuing crescendo comebacks and ruining his strategy. So far, the Clinton campaign is either unable or unwilling to pursue this route.

If you compare all this to the past elections, the Republicans were always more successful in the smaller states, which tend to be either Red-oriented, or simply overlooked by the Democrats. So it might be symbolically more important to have a wider geographical coalition instead of the centralized urban areas, which have long since been dubbed "Blue".

The superdelegates by the way, whom many fear will "unfairly" decide the outcome of this race, will most likely "go with the flow", and put the candidate over the top with the pledged delegate lead. Anything else would spell disaster for November.

A very likely projection is that either candidate will win with a slim margin, that margin enlarged by the superdelegates. Nobody wants a 50,01% nominee. Added with the fact of campaign fatigue, the general dislike of the two camps for one another, and Sen. McCain's broad appeal as a moderate conservative, war veteran and longtime political powerhouse, Democrats might face another tight election in November, an election that should've swung easily for them.

Are the Democrats so bold to either ride the Obama wave of Transcendency or go with Clinton's rocketship of Gettin' It On? (Fmr. Sen. John Glenn endorsed her today.) The longer the race goes on, the more we risk getting a babbling brook or a blank round instead.

For this blogger, surf's up! But I wouldn't mind a soaring lady Gemini , either.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spin: the true dark side of politics

Let's just get one thing out of the way. There is no real truth in politics.

This is not because of a cynical presumption that politics are all about power, but because the truth is complex and not possible to be presented in one statement. In many other cases, the whole truth isn't or cannot be disclosed, like when a doctor doesn't explain all the complicated tests a patient is going to undergo. Not only is it unnecessary as such, it can provoke unnecessary anxiety about tests he doesn't fully understand. Of course, this information is not hidden, and can be accessed upon simple request.

However, "spin" is the premeditated act of distorting a fact or statement to not only serve one's own purpose, but to present it like it *is* the truth. This is something I loathe on a fierce and personal level. While I'm sure that all politicians indulge on this sin, the continued use of it greatly discredits one's sincerity.

On many occasions, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign has been spotted on employing these tactics. It started when they pulled the race card, something Sen. Obama never did. He always perceived himself as a politician who happened to be black. Then Bill Clinton accused the Obama campaign to spin the media against them, an accusation without base. In Florida and Michigan, they claimed victory in events that weren't contests. Throughout the campaign, Clinton's campaign downplayed losses (or plainly ignored them). And finally, today, Mark Penn, senior strategist on the Clinton campaign, dismissed all polls showing Obama's lead in general election projections (link to

**Update** The abovementioned post of Mr. Penn has been edited. He now takes on Sen. Obama by citing specifics. Reference to the polls is now a lot more factual, and presented with a more fair counterargument.

While any campaign has the right to vigorously support their candidate, the continued denial and distortion of certain facts seems to have become customary to the Clinton campaign. Spin symbolizes a campaign that is constantly "adapting" to the political opportunities. While offering resilience in the face of changing circumstances, it reveals one's ultimate goal: that of winning at all costs.

When you compare this to Sen. Obama's campaign, spin is much less prevalent. Yes, Obama's campaign is very keen on stressing they have won the most states, ignoring the importance of the big states, and the fonts of Sen. Clinton's delegates is a bit lighter and thus less legible than Sen. Obama's in his delegate chart. But at least he did put Clinton's delegates up. If you note, for example, his New Hampshire speech (Youtube link), after conceding a frankly blistering and upsetting loss, he was graceful in defeat, and instead of denying his loss, he thanked the ones who did support him and rallied them for the contests ahead in undeniably one of the best speeches in US political history.

An argument might be because of Hillary Clinton's longer run in DC, she has become more seasoned in political strategy. But this argument simply doesn't fly if you note that her husband used similar tactics when he was an upstart back in 1992.

A final protest against spin is that it leads to disappointment. Not only to those whom it discredits, but also to whom it favors. Both parties know spin is unfair. It arouses that gutwrenching feeling, associated with deceit, injustice, and theft. And after the theft of the 2000 election, I'm just sick of these political power games that constantly mar honest intentions. Intentions that don't waver and change in the need of the hour. Let's go back to January 16, 2007. Far before the onslaught of these primary elections, before the bitter rivalries, before the spin.

Over one year later, Obama's message stands solid as a rock. No spin attached.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama sweeps Nebraska, Louisiana, Washington, Virgin Islands

Nebraska: 68% - 32%
Louisiana: 57% - 36%
Washington: 68% - 31%
Virgin Islands: +- 90%

Although the delegate and voter mass in these states is a lot smaller than those of the large states and of Feb.5, the wide margins show that Obama's campaign was able to materialize the raw excitement leading up to the vote.

Here's Sen. Obama's speech at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond, Virginia.

Sen. Clinton also spoke at the event (parts 1 and 2 of the speech can be found here). She made no reference to Sen. Obama's victory.

Next up is the caucus of Maine, where 24 delegates will be pledged.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama outside the Key Arena, Seattle, Washington

Sen. Barack Obama speaks to people outside of the Key Arena on February 8, 2008, in Seattle, Washington, who couldn't get in because full attendance (20,000) was reached.

These rockstar scenes are repeats of what happened in New Hampshire and across the nation. A common observation however is that not all of these huge, energized crowds actually come out and vote. This has been the lingering strength of Sen. Clinton's electorate: they don't come out to cheer, but they cast their ballot en masse.

However, this does not minimize the importance of Sen. Obama's crowd appeal. It is very rare for a politician to arouse such strong emotions amongst the young and political uninitiated, and not only because of his looks and posture, but because of his message.

Funny: note the "young man" Obama doesn't want to see falling, is probably the guy in this picture -

A feminist's support for Hillary: "Goodbye to all that #2"

"Goodbye to all that #2" is the follow up to a 1970 essay Robin Morgan wrote about sexism within the press and it is regarded as a very feministic manifesto. "#2" seems to be of the same fiery nature, with Ms. Morgan strongly citing arguments about her support for Sen. Hillary Clinton's candidacy. Some excerpts of the text, (of which the full version can be found here):

She’s “ambitious” but he shows “fire in the belly.” (Ever had labor pains?)—When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.

The women’s movement and Media Matters wrung an apology from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for relentless misogynistic comments ( But what about NBC’s Tim Russert’s continual sexist asides and his all-white-male panels pontificating on race and gender? Or CNN’s Tony Harris chuckling at “the chromosome thing” while interviewing a woman from The White House Project? And that’s not even mentioning Fox News.

Goodbye to an era when parts of the populace feel so disaffected by politics that a comparative lack of knowledge, experience, and skill is actually seen as attractive, when celebrity-culture mania now infects our elections so that it’s “cooler” to glow with marquee charisma than to understand the vast global complexities of power on a nuclear, wounded planet.

Goodbye to the phrase “polarizing figure” to describe someone who embodies the transitions women have made in the last century and are poised to make in this one. It was the women’s movement that quipped, “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” She heard us, and she has.

Time is short and the contest tightening. We need to rise in furious energy—as we did when Anita Hill was so vilely treated in the U.S. Senate, as we did when Rosie Jiminez was butchered by an illegal abortion, as we did and do for women globally who are condemned for trying to break through. We need to win, this time. Goodbye to supporting HRC tepidly, with ambivalent caveats and apologetic smiles. Time to volunteer, make phone calls, send emails, donate money, argue, rally, march, shout, vote.

The essay was written on February 2nd, 2008.

What's most apparent of the essay is the very combative tone of the text. It seems to stem from a very personal opinion that women throughout history have always been on the shorter end of things, and that Sen. Clinton is, through her credentials ànd her identity as a woman, a chance to break from that past.

Cited and posted fiercely around the blogosphere (eg.'s Ben Smith), the essay is evoking very diverse reactions. One such reaction is that it does Sen. Clinton's candidacy more harm than good, and that it is a creed of an older, more bitter generation of feminists that dons the role of the eternal victim and spitefully reminds everyone they have been, are, and will be, right.

This blogger's opinion is a bit more moderate. To start, note that in the text, other candidates like John McCain or Barack Obama, were cited only very scarcely. It is almost everyone else that gets a' whoopin'.
I believe the essay is a very strong piece, citing many valid points, at least in spirit. The analysis of biased journalism, the criticism on the popularity of an inexperienced President-elect and the exposure of people's short memory spans and categorizing thinking is fair. However, such a strong way of wording, some unfair statements (Pardon me for not being able to feel labour pains) and a stance of moral superiority are elements that are in the way of constructive politics. Even if it stems from true events, continuing vindictive reminders of past injustices will tap into people's unwillingness to move beyond, simply because human nature has the ability to hold a very tough grudge.

And don't we all want to say goodbye to that?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Eye on Obama hits off! Commitment, opinion and excitement

Hello everyone and welcome to my coverage of the 2008 United States' election for President.

"Eye on Obama" will try to present a fair, critical and common sense report on my support of Sen. Obama's presidential candidacy. I do not wish to enforce any ideas, after all, this is all just opinion. What I do want to do is to try to convey some of my observations, and point out criticism that is fair to any candidate.

Below is my personal motivation to my support for Sen. Barack Obama.

Since the 2000 Presidential election, I've been disappointed in the democratic process of the United States. While it is true GOP have become masters in the Machiavellian arts (ie. winning at all costs by any means), Democrats have become almost as divisive as their political counterparts. Although understandeable after many years of congressional and political hardships and ruthlessness, the American political system has become a very cynical place where the best attainable goal seems to be appeasement of interest groups, powerful entities within one's constituency and maintaining a truce with the press.

This is not what it was supposed to be. Although power corrupts all, and no democratic system in the world is entirely loyal to its founding principles, at least politics should be about policies and trying to make a positive difference for the people and the nation. Politics should not be about left versus right, black versus white, liberal versus conservative. It should be about justice as opposed to injustice, freedom against oppression, and a common good and respect for one another that binds us all.

This is something that has been Sen. Obama's creed since the very beginning, long before the primaries, elections, and promises of political glory.

I believe that Sen. Obama has struck a chord with his ideas, which seem to stem out of a sincere belief and confidence in what has made America so great. I believe that Americans have a unique opportunity to reach out to one another, sit down and face the issues, and at the same time deal with some of the demons of the past.

I'm Erwin Ho, medical student and Belgian supporter of Sen. Barack Obama. And I believe Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States of America.

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