Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Precocious! 7-year-old political blogger

Precocious: adj. exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age, from the Latin praecox = early ripening.

My kids were really really smart little whippersnappers. My grandkids are also RRSLWs. But this kid, Stanislaw Gunkel is a super RRRRRRSLW.

He isn’t blogging in pajamas in his mom’s basement; he’s in the family library. His blog is called Planet Stas (his nickname).

Now I don’t know how much his parents help him with his punctuation (quotation marks! parentheses!) and spelling, not to mention the sophistication of his thinking, but at this rate he will be taking over for Markos any day now.

He started the blog when he was in kindergarten, focussing on things of childhood like Legos. And it just expanded from there.  The more I think about it, the more I think letting a child blog is a fantastic educational experience – he has to formulate his ideas, spell out the words to articulate those ideas, and then as if by magic, get feedback from around the world.

Here is one tidbit:

My mom told me that I shouldn’t base my election analysis on “feelings” (I like him/her) or “beliefs” (I share his/her beliefs) but on logical arguments. She asked me to create my own rational explanations for my support of Obama. Here is one of my arguments:

McCain and Palin are not be qualified to be President / Vice President of the U.S. The President’s job is to do good for the country and the world. To do good for the country, the President must make smart decisions on important situations.

Governor Palin believes the world is 6000 years old. This is absurd. This is not a rational belief. This is a mistake. Scientists, experiments and evidence have shown this to be completely false. Therefore, she is not rational. If she is not rational, she should not be allowed to be President or Vice President.

Somehow word got to Obama about Stas, and he wrote him a letter a few days before the election:

Senator Obama’s advice to me:

“Dear Stas, Thank you for your kind words and for your support. I am impressed with your interest in politics, especially at your young age. I encourage you to visit my website kids.barackobama.com to learn more about everything we’re doing to make your family’s future even brighter.

I leave you with three bits of advice that will make your life more fulfilling: Look out for other people, even when it does not directly benefit you; strive to make a difference everywhere you go; and get back up every time you are knocked down.

Thanks again for writing to me. Seeing young people like you who care about making things better inspires me and gives me great hope about the future of our country and our world. Sincerely, Barack Obama”

Pleased as Punch (P-words inadequate for EUPHORIA!)

“Pleased as Punch“: Colloquial for delighted. The phrase has unsavory beginnings with the 19th century Punch and Judy puppet shows where Punch pretty much outwits and kills everyone he doesn’t like – with great glee, each time squeakily repeating his catchphrase, “That’s the way to do it!”

Euphoria is a much better word to describe the joy that swept much of the country – indeed much of the world – last night at the declaration that Barack Obama had won the presidential election.

I stayed home until 7:45 watching CNN and MSNBC and reading the blogs, wanting to see how things were going across the country from a variety of sources. Then I drove to the Hilton in downtown Vancouver, where the Dems had rented the ballroom, complete with big screen TV. The place was PACKED, and just as I walked in, the polls in California, Washington and Oregon closed and CNN called it for Obama.


Pandemonium broke out. We whooped and hollered and wept and hugged the nearest person, even total strangers. Even the bartenders left their posts to join the happy throng.

(I don’t know what was happening on the streets of my town, but my son in Portland and my daughter in Oakland said that happy cheering people poured onto the streets, cars honked, music blared – for much of the evening, beginning at the victory call at 8. And nobody complained about the revelry.)

Then we watched Obama’s victory speech on the big screen. Oh. My. God. We wept and cheered as if he was in the room with us. We have waited so long for a person of this much heart, intelligence, compassion, integrity and eloquence – that he is also an African-American is just frosting on the cake for me. For the African-American community it is unspeakably thrilling.

He couldn’t have been more gracious and more inclusive (when was the last time you heard a politician include gays and lesbians in a major speech).

Here’s the link to the speech video and transcript on the NY Times website.  Wactch and weep for joy!

And here are the Democratic precinct officers for Clark County WA precincts 460 and 470: my neighbor Laurel and me – both wearing our Obama bling:


President Obama!!! America finally practicing what it preaches.

President: n.  Barack Hussein Obama, 44th elected leader of the United States of America. First African American elected to the highest office in our country. [Here insert whoops, hollers, tears, leaps and twirls, happy pandemonium from the elated public!]

Practice: v.t. to carry out, apply

Preach: v. to advocate earnestly, to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action

In America, we like to say that anyone with a strong will and consistent effort can realize their dreams. But that’s never been true except for white heterosexual Christian males. Blacks, gays, atheists, women, Muslims, need not apply. If you read Obama’s first book, The Audacity of Hope, you will understand how difficult a path Obama trod to reach last night’s historic victory.

EJ Dionne of the Washington Post:

Above all, it is time to celebrate the country’s wholehearted embrace of democracy, reflected in the intense engagement of Americans in this campaign and the outpouring to the polls all over the nation. For years, we have spoken of bringing free elections to the rest of the world even as we cynically mocked our own ways of conducting politics. Yesterday, we chose to practice what we have been preaching.

And what America has had to put up with in the meanwhile was truly the worst elements among us. Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman of the NY Times:

Last night wasn’t just a victory for tolerance; it wasn’t just a mandate for progressive change; it was also, I hope, the end of the monster years.

What I mean by that is that for the past 14 years America’s political life has been largely dominated by, well, monsters. Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.

And in our national discourse, we pretended that these monsters were reasonable, respectable people. To point out that the monsters were, in fact, monsters, was “shrill.”

Four years ago it seemed as if the monsters would dominate American politics for a long time to come. But for now, at least, they’ve been banished to the wilderness.


Purposefully passive campaigning: Obama lies low

Purposeful: adj. intentional, done with purpose

Passive: adj. receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating an action in return

I’m about to make a politically incorrect association after reading Stanley Fish yesterday in the NYTimes. He writes about how Obama has used an unexpected approach to campaigning. While the McCain campaign is doing the typical Republican rabble-rousing, fear-mongering, mud-slinging thing – trying to tar and feather Obama with dubious associations, Obama is doing something new. 

Nothing much. The purposefully passive campaign.

We saw it in the 10 days when the activity around the mounting economic crisis was at its height… Media commentators went from one hysterical prediction to another. John McCain went from saying there’s nothing to worry about to saying there’s everything to worry about to saying that he would fix everything by suspending his campaign to saying that he was not suspending his campaign and that he would debate after all.

And Barack Obama? He didn’t do much and he said less (O.K., he did say some reassuring, optimistic things), and his poll numbers went up.

Weeks later, the pattern continues, but in an even more intense form. The McCain campaign huffs and puffs and jumps from charge to charge

Instead of tossing legitimate mud back at McCain and Palin, like:

bring up the Keating Five… McCain’s treatment of his first wife, or make fun of Sarah Palin (she doesn’t need any help), or disparage his opponent’s experience, or hint at the disabilities of age.

Obama just stands there looking languid (George Will called him the Fred Astaire of politics [love that!]), always smiling and never raising his voice.

Fish takes the high road and is reminded of Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Satan can’t seem to get any traction in his attempts to rile up Jesus.  Me, I’m reminded of one of the non-PC Uncle Remus stories, “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby”…

Brer Fox wants to bring the uppity Brer Rabbit down a notch, so he creates a babylike creature of paper and sticky tar, plunks a hat on its head and sticks it in the middle of the path Brer Rabbit will travel.  When Brer Rabbit, being mannerly, encounters the Tar Baby on the path, he tips his hat and says good morning, but the Tar Baby says nothing. Meanwhile, in the words of the storyteller, “Brer Fox, he lay low”, watching from the underbrush as the scene unfolds as he’d hoped).

Brer Rabbit gets pissed that the tar baby isn’t responding and he starts threatening it. (Brer Fox, he still lay low.) Eventually he hauls off and punches the Tar Baby, getting his paw stuck in the tar. He gets madder, insisting that if the Tar Baby doesn’t let him go, he’ll punch him with the other paw… [and you can see where this is going.  The story is a classic American folktale – read the whole thing here]

McCain, like Brer Rabbit, has completely lost his cool, while Obama, he lies low, crazy like a fox, dumb and sticky like a tar baby.  

During the debates when McCain would slime him with some easily refuted garbage, I yelled at Obama/the TV: “Ask him about that right-wing pastor! Ask him about Cindy stealing drugs from her charity and causing a couple of respected docs to lose their licenses! Ask him about Rick Davis’s ties to Fannie Mae!”  

But he just smiled knowingly, and lay low.

It looks like the high road is paying off.

Parsimony: not for Palin

Parsimony: n. the quality of being careful with money or resources, thrift

Sarah Palin has been looking pretty plummy on the campaign trail. Hair, makeup, glasses, and outfits snappy enough to get notice from the fashion mags. This look doesn’t come cheap, however, and makes John Edwards’ $400 haircut seem pikerly.  From Politico yesterday:

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission’s long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

One could argue that Palin only bought all this stuff at the RNC’s urging. However she also needs to explain a similar extravagant streak in personal expenses she charged to Alaska’s taxpayers:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.

In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters’ 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls….

In October 2007, Palin brought daughter Bristol along on a trip to New York for a women’s leadership conference. Plane tickets from Anchorage to La Guardia Airport for $1,385.11 were billed to the state, records show, and mother and daughter shared a room for four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House hotel, which overlooks Central Park. …

Elsewhere I read that they only spent five hours at the conference although they stayed five days in Manhattan.

The state is already reviewing nearly $17,000 in per diem payments to Palin for more than 300 nights she slept at her own home, 40 miles from her satellite office in Anchorage.

Meanwhile Our Man Obama resoles his shoes.

Pumpkins for Obama: carve a Barack-o-Lantern!

Pumpkin: n. a large orange fruit of the squash family used at Halloween for decoration and at Thanksgiving for pie. Among many other uses it has now become a political billboard.

I just discovered a website that promotes political pumpkin carving. The site has instructions, stencils with a bunch of very creative designs, and lots of photos of Barack-o-Lanterns with their creators.

All you need is a pumpkin, some carving tools and a little patience. What are you waiting for?

Is this the “squashacity of hope”?

Publicity and Plumbers named Joe

Publicity: n. an act or device designed to attract public interest ; specifically : information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support

Plumber: n. a person who installs and repairs water, drainage, or heating pipes and fixtures in a building. From a Latin word meaning lead.

Much noise is being made over a guy named “Joe” from Ohio who was filmed asking Obama a question about getting his taxes raised if he expanded his plumbing business.  McCain used this incident during the debate last night in an attempt to drive home his point that all the mythical “small businessmen” of America would be screwed by an Obama presidency if they make more than $250,000 a year.

(McCain didn’t mention that this is on PROFIT rather than income. Less than 2 percent of small businesses in the US make more than $250,000 profit.)*

The video encounter made it all over the web and overnight Joe was famous!  At first it was really fun – being on Fox News and all, spouting the R talking points.

But then the media began digging deeper. Turns out he is a registered Republican (surprise!), but:

An official at Local 50 of the plumber’s union, based in Toledo, said Mr. Wurzelbacher does not hold a license. He also has never served an apprenticeship and does not belong to the union.


Unlike some other states, Ohio does not have a formal statewide licensing system for plumbers. But the city of Toledo and other municipalities do, Mr. Joseph said, and Mr. Wurzelbacher has not met those requirements.

“All contractors are licensed, and he does not have a license, either as a contractor or a plumber,” the union official said, citing a search of government records. “I can’t find that he’s ever even applied for any kind of apprenticeship, and he has never belonged to local 189 in Columbus, which is what he claims on his Facebook page.”

According to public records, Mr. Wurzelbacher has been subject to two liens, each over $1,000, one of which — a personal tax lien — is still outstanding.

Oops. But there’s more… a racist tinge – here’s what he said to Katie Couric:

“You know, I’ve always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question,” he said, “for once instead of tap dancing around it, and unfortunately I asked the question, but I still got a tap dance.”

He added, “Almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.”

Here’s what the NY Times says about taxes and small business:

How relevant is Joe’s company to most small businesses in America?

If Joe’s company really makes over $250,000 and is an S-corporation, it might see a tax increase, but it does not reflect the majority of American small-owned businesses.

This is because most small businesses earn much less in profit. In 2009 about 35 million tax returns will report some income from small businesses, according to Roberton Williams, principal research associate at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. Of these only about 660,000 tax units — or 1.9 percent — would see an increase under Senator Obama’s tax proposal.

Joe probably overstated how much his company makes, though. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean wage for a plumber is $47,930 per year. A plumber in the 90th percentile earns $73,500.

If Joe’s business is less successful than he claims (which it probably is), then it likely won’t see a tax increase under Senator Obama’s plan — and in that respect, is a more relevant model for most Americans who own small businesses.

P.S. Palin, Obama and the Jungian Shadow. Deepak Chopra part 2

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Deepak Chopra’s important essay on Palin, Obama and the Jungian Shadow archetype. Because he got such a huge response to that essay, he went further last week.

How could the mentality of a small-town mayor morph into a potential President making global decisions? To explain her meteoric rise, I offered the idea that each of us harbors a shadow, a place where our hidden impulses live. By appealing to fear, resentment, hostility to change, suspicion of “the other,” and similar dark impulses, the Republicans have been the shadow’s party for a long time. Sarah Palin put a smiling face on feelings that normally we feel ashamed of.

The shadow is irrational; it thrives on gut emotions. (A recent Fox News poll ran with the headline, “In their gut, independents choose McCain.”) Bringing the 2008 campaign down to the gut level means bringing it down to the level of the shadow. Instead of listening to an intelligent, persuasive, charismatic man with one African-American parent, people get to say, “I just don’t like blacks. They’re scary; they’re not like me. It’s a gut thing.” Only it’s not. It’s a shadow thing that each of us, not just the right wing, must deal with. Reacting to Palin with fear, confusion, panic, and lashing out also comes from the shadow.


The Democrats were triggered by Palin because they fear losing and that fear runs deep. The bogeymen that frighten us the most come from a primitive level; they stir a sense of childish helplessness. But your mature self, like Obama’s campaign organization, is coherent and knows how to carry out its purpose. Realize that American politics has been dominated by shadow issues for decades, so it’s only natural they still have claws and teeth. But their game has gotten old and tired. If you are able to see past the appeal to fear and resentment, have trust that other people can, too.

The bottom line is that the 2008 election isn’t about change versus experience or a noble candidate who may lose to one who plays dirty. This election is about consciousness. Since the Reagan revolution, consciousness has been sleepy and dull in politics; ideals have been tarnished by cynicism; inner decay has sapped the party in power of its original purpose, leaving only a pointless morass of defensiveness that expresses itself in negativity. If the majority of the electorate wakes up and feels inspired to turn the page, that will happen. Obama has sounded the call; few people missed the message. Now it’s a matter of dealing with a phase of fear and resistance before we discover if stuck consciousness is ready to move ahead.

I sure hope his optimism about the majority of the electorate waking up isn’t misplaced.

Poor poor McCain: only 13 cars, 8 homes, 1 jet

Click to enlarge: And he claims Obama is elite??

Prejudice: perspective from Nick Kristof

A frightening number of Americans actually believe the rumors spread by right-wing radio personalities and religious groups – that Obama is or must might be a Muslim. And of those 10% who believe that the Book of Revelations “end-times” are near, some are saying Obama could be the “Antichrist.” You can buy T-Shirts with a horned Obama with that very caption.

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times speculates that religious prejudice is replacing or masking racism:

To his credit, Mr. McCain himself has never raised doubts about Mr. Obama’s religion. But a McCain commercial last month mimicked the words and imagery of the best-selling Christian “Left Behind” book series in ways that would have set off alarm bells among evangelicals nervous about the Antichrist.

Mr. McCain himself is not popular with evangelicals. But they will vote for him if they think the other guy may be on Satan’s side.

In fact, of course, Mr. Obama took his oath on the Bible, not — as the rumors have it — on the Koran. He is far more active in church than John McCain is.

(Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border …)

What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.

The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

Deepak Chopra said this in another way when he wrote about Obama and the Jungian “shadow.” We project onto the “other” the darkest aspects of our own souls.