Open-Source Obama

Just saw Howard Finemann on Countdown and he discussed how Obama is bidding to change the structural way in which political campaigning/organizing is done and he listed the history from Andrew Jackson through FDR and then Reagan to today.

The thing Finemann discussed was that Obama volunteers go person to person and do not have to (as he said) route back through the central office.  Each has a great degree of autonomy.  Obama in other words is applying open-source methodolgy to US political campaiging.  The organization is adaptive in the specific meaning of biology and information systems theory:  the head office works very hard on creating what it calls the brand (image, message, stylistics, aesthetics) and then holds very tightly (almost maniacally) to that brand.  Experimenting occurs across the regional/local field offices as to how to best get that message out.  The entire system is nodally linked through the website and then each of the staff and volunteer groups can post on effective strategies which get immediate feedback (and cross-connections) throughout the entire network in real time as they say.

I think this is going to have a huge effect on the outcome on Tuesday.

A video of the Obama organization in the state of my birth (h/t E. Klein):

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 7:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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All Hallow’s Eve

The veil it is said in the ancient traditions tonight, the veil between this world and the dead is thin.  It is at this time that it is an act of reverence and love to our ancestors to remember their lives.  Their joys, their sufferings, their loves, their hopes.  I believe they are with us still and look upon us with love and care.  And they deserve our recognition in return.

For Christians we especially remember today those of saintly disposition, those who have protected and defended and taught and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ and made it to be that it has survived to our day, we their descendents give them the honor due their name and sacrifice.

It is a night of Hallowed-ness.  Sacrality and depth.

She Was Robbed???

Sarah Palin:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” (my italics)

Sullivan thinks its a sign of her non-intelligence.  Cole says someone needs to get her a Constitution. But John asks, “Does this make any damned sense to anyone?”

Let me give it a shot because while the not so smart Sullivanian interpretation has other pieces of evidence to suggest it, I think actually something else is going on.

Obviously the future of any such attacks would not be hindered en toto by the MSM calling such attacks negative.  And negative here meaning something like “out of bounds”, “in poor taste”, “pathetic”, etc.  Not negative in the purely factual sense of negating or criticizing Obama.  But negative in a committing a foul sense.  Of course such attacks can always be made through right-wing radio, the internet, blogs, anonymous email chains, whatever.

So in that sense, the First Amendment charge is ludicrous.  I mean if The First Amendment is preventing freedom of speech, she can certainly still say these things in public in all kinds of formats.  She’s not going to jail for saying what she has said about Obama and his associations and what she thinks that says about him.

But I think on another (deeper?) level what is being said–or perhaps left implied–is that free speech constitutionally for the GOP is to be able to say that Democrats are un-American.  I think she knows she is saying that–or at least that certain people can catch the hint–of course I can’t know that for sure, but I think that’s a more plausible read than her being a total airhead.

I hear it as much more part of a attack against liberal media and certain forms of discourse being shut off through (from this pov) the bullying tactics of the left media.  Not a literal or legal censorship but a kind of moral or political censorship.  Not de jure but de facto. It’s part of the culture war battle–something like the war on Christmas.

And if that is what Palin means then I actually agree with her in the sense that that is what the media is doing BUT I think the media should do that.  I think they should be in some sense calling out the BS of a campaign.  And one of the prime BS charges for me is this guilt by association stuff.  Particularly when the other campaign is not engaged in such a process.  It’s not like McCain doesn’t have some negative associative history.

I know this will out me as some elitist “real hard-workin” America-hater but has it ever occurred to the VRWC that constantly attacking the media you know might turn them against you?  And then that would you reap what you sow to a certain extent?  It’s one thing if you can keep the media in abject fear, but one day they might grow a pair (even a small set) and call you out, you’re bluff has been called, you got a nothingburger hand which is exposed, and you look like a chump.

As a smaller subset of this same phenomenon has been Jewish folks on the left tired of right-wing American Jews creating litmus tests for who are the real lovers of Israel.  Especially when the majority of Jews keep voting Democrat.

One of the main issues that has come up in this recent election is whether the media’s job is supposed to be to just be this (so-called) neutral almost deistic figure and simply create a space where both sides get equal time.  Or are they suppose to referee.  Are they supposed to call it like they see it when one side is undoubtedly doing this kind of thing much more than the other.  When one side, is simply sleazier, much sleazier than the other?

The kind of thing Palin sees as a threat to her constitutional right is the media no longer kowtowing to the GOP in its recent history of character assassination politics. Obviously she doesn’t have a constitutional right to have her criticisms of another politician be presented a certain way (to her liking) on cable news.   Unless she wants to control the media say by what the government?  Well that wouldn’t really work now would it?

But the invocation of constitutional rights I think is out of fear that the media (as well as other realities) will no longer go for the kinds of Pat Buchanan/Lee Atwater/Karl Rove style of campaigning. To be fair, those cats all had candidates who actually had platforms in addition to the character attacks on the left. This cycle, for the first time that vaunted Republican discipline was blown up by the incompetence of the Bush administration and the corruption of the Republican Congress (esp prior to ’06).

To the degree the MSM cut McCain off on this front (and again has she heard of Fox News?  How many ACORN stories did they run?) it is because McCain had nothing else then Obama attacks. Once that media advantage is gone, the political faction that Palin represents is only something like 20-25% of the country and is decreasing over time.  And that is a recipe for electoral disaster unless they can control the media sphere.  They lose that they are in big trouble long term politically–if they are going to continue to hold on to the remaining and ever shrinking hard-right base and whatever is left of the Reaganite coalition that is.

Chakras and Proposition 8

The Plank informs me that Proposition 8 (the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative in California) is the 2nd most funded political campaign (other than the Presidency) in this election cycle.  Think about that–approximately 60 million for both sides by the last count according to the post.

I sometimes have moment’s of wondering why sex is always such a big deal in political discourse, particularly among churches–which are prominent in both sides of this debate.  But then I recall a very ancient wisdom on exactly this point.  According to the traditional Charka conception (pictured above) the 2nd chakra which is the sexual/elan vital chakra is located right next to the 3rd chakra (hara/gut) which is the seat of power.   Sex is always closely aligned energetically with power.  In a way say poverty isn’t which is why you can’t really get as many people fired up about that issue as sex–for people who aren’t desperately poor that is.

The no on Prop 8 side has had commercials showing gay marriage as a place of warmth and home (for both gay couples and hetero parents/friends), which is a Fourth/Heart Chakra defense, as well as talk of not supporting (it is argued) discrimation, which is a Fifth/Voice-Mind Chakra.  Giving gays and lesbians their voice (5th Chakra).

But they haven’t touched on number three, as I’ve argued before.  And I think this is a mistake.  I don’t know if it will be a fatal mistake–the vote appears to be very close–but I think it’s been a serious mistsake nonetheless.  Changing the social convention around chakra #2 inevitably affects #3.  It just does. Yes the No on Prop 8 folks can correctly via the letter of the law point out that schools are not required to teach about marriage.  But in practice it will come up in schools, in class.

The attempt to create fear is aimed directly at the gut (3rd chakra) which as we all know can and does override emotion (chakra 4) and/or reason (chakra 5).  I’ve argued that the No side has to speak directly to the gut and the fear.  The discrimination card played by the No on 8 side only would work if you first allow folks to feel that their fear while ultimately (according to this pov) not final is not altogether illegitimate either.  They could then be given the opportunity to feel more courageous for embracing a future (or current reality if you like) about which they may have some hesitations.

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 12:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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CJ As Nineteenth Century Anglican Parson

Click the link to see the photo of my costume from last night.

I’ve since shaved off the Ambrose Burnsides part of the muttonchops and am left with a wicked handlebar ‘stache. You heard rumors of this in one of my Skypecasts with Scott awhile back.  Now the photo evidence:

Also, fellow Anglican Kate Maltby points me to the Martin Luther rap (appropriate on Reformation Day Today).  Click the link to Kate and watch the video.

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  

you betcha

Saw some footage (can’t find it on youtube) of Sarah Palin bringing up the newest Obama hangs out with scary terrorists canard about Rashid Khalidi (here’s Khalidi on Charlie Rose–Charlie Rose is now a terrorist fellow traveler?).

Of course Palin mispronounced his name–wouldn’t want to sound too elitist with proper pronunciation and what not–she said “KA-LA-DI” (Is are usually not pronounced like As Governor) and of course it’s a (oh no) scary Arab name so immediately the crowd starts booing. All that matters is Obama is somehow connected to an Arab–hence it must be some nefarious reality.

And then she says “He was in the PLO”. Jesus Mary and Joseph, God, and the Baby Jesus No!!!

Never mind that as Juan Cole points out:

Khalidi was not, as the schlock rightwing press charges, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was an adviser at the Madrid peace talks, but would that not have been, like, a good thing?

More importantly someone might want to tell Sarah Palin that the PLO is now called Fatah and they are the US’ main ally among the Palestinians. Memo to the lady running for VP, slamming Fatah will not exactly help them in their struggle against Hamas. Slurring your allies isn’t exactly a smart move. Unless McCain is still secretly angling for Hamas and this is part of a subtle diplomatic outreach to the Palestinian branch of The Muslim Brotherhood. [Let’s say I’m doubting that latter theory].

Update I: Since the question will inevitably come up and/or lest I get charged with being anti-Semitic or something, (though a hard charge to make against Khalidi given he is a Semite). Khalidi is anti-Zionist that is true. I think it’s fair to say he thinks the Israeli state should never have come into being. An essay of his here. Obviously Obama does not support that view. Neither do I for that matter. But I can understand from a Palestinian perspective that the invocations of the creation of the state of Israel as purely positive would ring very hollow.  But disagreeing with the state of Israel does not mean one hates worldwide Jewry, I mean come on.

I agree with Khalidi that a two state solution is not going to happen so long as the occupation continues and the whole penumbra of repression that goes along with the occupation (psychological, legal, political, economic, etc.) persists and because the Palestinians have been led by corrupt vile morons (as Khalidi freely admits btw) lo these sixty years. And continue to be (mis)lead. I agree with Khalidi that the Palestinians had other options less than ideal though they may have been (like taking the deal on 2 states from the get go). I’m as pessimistic as he is of any chance of real peace with justice after two intifadahs and the failure of the 90s Peace Process.

Update II: Khalidi has done some very good work on the background history of the Palestinians but is otherwise I find a typical sorta anti-imperialist leftist. Like a Noam Chomsky. Not much new or interesting there frankly, but not some evil guy.

I always thought it was so funny that the right-wing bloggers started a meme that Obama would betray his friends/acquaintances and throw them under the bus the second they were a liability and yet he had all these evil guys from his past. But even if you assume those true are both true, then clearly all these guys are electoral liabilities so Obama is going to dump them according to this theory right? So shouldn’t the right-wingers be happy that Obama is (in their minds) a power-hungry narcissist who only is doing what he needs to do to get power?

Update III [Day After]:  On the whole Joe Klein Khalidi can’t be an anti-Semite because he’s a Semite semi-defense.  Obviously the terminology here gets in the way.  There are undoubtedly Arabs (who are Semitic people) who are racistly prejudiced against all Jews (also Semites).  And so in the reverse, which would be a Jewish form of anti-Semitism is you catch my meaning.  I don’t think Khalidi fits that definition anyway, so the Klein defense may simply muddy.  But anti-Semitic in practice means anti-Jewish or problematically anti-Israeli.  In the latter case, it can be tough to distinguish between Israelis as citizens and Israel as the state. For people who racist against Arabs, we typically use anti-Arab or more incorrectly Islamophobic.  Many Arabs aren’t Muslims and the majority of the world’s Muslims are not Arab.  

While I have a theoretical issue (I think) with anti-Semitism meaning only anti-Jewish (since not all Semites are Jewish, linguistically this is a problematic usage), in practice that reality is basically set, and we need a different term (I guess anti-Arab???) for being racist/prejudiced towards Arabs or Arab-Americans.  


PBS Frontline: The War Briefing

Sneak peak of documentary here:

The full video is available from the Frontline Website.  A must watch in my book.  Interesting to note that many of the experts on the interviews are made up of the new left/center-left security outfits (e.g. CNAS) who are going to make up a lot of the mid level positions in an Obama administration.  Also a bunch of COIN guys (Nagl, Kilcullen).

There is so much to comment on, but the section (towards the middle) on Pakistan is the key portion in my book.  The prior colonials have never been able to hold Afghanistan (Alexander the Great, British, Soviets) because they could not deal with the tribal Pashtuns lands in FATA.  That sanctuary allows an on-going insurgency.  This to me is exactly the same and I’m not sure I see a way around that fact.

I’m not as concerned as some of the interviewers (e.g. Colin Kahl) that Pakistan is teetering on the edge of total collapse.  They are facing some serious threats–both financial and military.  But I don’t get the sense that the Pakistani Taliban want to overrun the Pakistani state.  They just want to be left to rule themselves I think.  They have launched a series of attacks on the Pakistani state and civilian population in response to periodic incursions by the Pakistani military into the tribal areas.

As Robert Kaplan notes, the Pakistani army is not built for such fighting–it is built for a conventional state war against India.  When Hussein Haqqani comes out at the end and says that the new Pakistani government of Zardari and Gilani sees the Pakistani Taliban (as did Bhutto) as an existential threat, that position is one of those elites and not necessarily of the Army, nor the ISI, nor perhaps the bullk of the population who I sense are anti-Taliban in the sense that they obviously don’t want to be ruled by the Taliban but not in favor of what they see as the US War on Terror.  The airstrikes into Pakistani territory don’t help in this regard.

The COIN Doctrine of winning hearts and minds is a particularly tough one, and I’m pessimistic that it can ever work at all. But certainly after the initial opportunity has been missed 6 years too late in the Afghanistan context and 3 years too late in Iraq when the surge came into existence.

The best it seems it can do at this point, in my opinion, is not make it all out civil war when one leaves.  But the state will be for a long time to come dysfunctional if not essentially hollowed out.

Eventually the Afghan Taliban are going to be part of the Afghanistan government.  There will have to be an amnesty, allowing them to join the National Army, etc.  But the Afghan Taliban are not centralized and controlled by Mullah Omar any longer.  Moreover, with the loss of the Taliban police state, the Taliban have now had to join up with criminal gangs, poppy growers, narco-traders, etc.  So even some attempt as Petraeus wants to do to separate the reconcilables from the unreconilables, which I agree is as smart a policy as can be done (and could do some objective good), with the fragmenting of these groups, such a policy as in Iraq post-surge may just be more a recognition of the basically failed state status/fragmentation of the country and work to undermine whatever state power is left (again as in Iraq with the Awakening Councils).

The Afghan Taliban at the end of the day and even a Pakistani Taliban that is not seeking to overthrow the Pakistani government are not threats to US national security.  The potential of failed/hollowed out states wherein trans-national terrorists can hang out, train, and launch attacks is.  [Not an existential threat unless we overreact to another terrorist attack like we did the first one–but a legitimate threat nonetheless].

But I’m not sure how those two get separated.  There are rumors like Mullah Omar will split with al-Qaeda (h/t Attackerman), but others could pick up the slack (Jalalludin Haqqani, Beitullah Mehsud in North and South Waziristan respectively).

What is clear is that as long as there are foreign troops in Afghanistan there will be a jihad.  As long as the Pashtuns (and their new Pashtun-reps the Taliban) are not part of the government, then the jihad will also be against the Afghan Army.  As well as on the other side, the Pakistani state/army/civilians.

The tribal lands are the hardest nut to crack.

Quote of the Day: Obama Edition

That’s why he [McCain] is spending these last few days calling me every name in the book. I’m sorry to see my opponent sink so low. Lately, he’s called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in Kindergarten.

Full remarks here.

Exit Question:  If BO is what McCain says he is, does that make these people at the rally the socliaist mob come to take over the republic?

Update I: Credit where credit is due on the GOP side, Mike Huckabee in the primaries was the only one (with maybe the exception of Ron Paul) who realized that the GOP would obviously not agree with Obama’s policies, but that he should not be disrespected 1. because of the racial issue/historic nature of the campaign 2. because people were angry and he was able to speak to that frustration without being a populist/fear-monger in many ways.  By disrespecting him, you end up disrespecting these people and Huckabee knew that was a prescription for disaster.  Moreover, Huckabee recall was the only one with the anti-Wall Street pro-Main Street language back in the primaries long before the financial meltdown and the one who realized that any GOP canddiate in order to win had to run away from George Bush as far as possible.  McCain came way too late with far too little for that party.

Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Friedman on Iran

Mother and child Khouzestan Province Southern Iran.  Photo under Creative Commons License from Flick-er Mahi Teshneh (she’s got some beautiful work, check it out).

Really sharp op-ed this morning by Thomas Friedman, hooking up an option to negotiate from strength vis a vis Iran with his theory of petropolitics (that regimes are undermined during lower oil prices).

Here is why Iran was never the existential threat that McCain and Crew keep trying to make it out to be:

Under Ahmadinejad, Iran’s mullahs have gone on a domestic subsidy binge — using oil money to cushion the prices of food, gasoline, mortgages and to create jobs — to buy off the Iranian people. But the one thing Ahmadinejad couldn’t buy was real economic growth. Iran today has 30 percent inflation, 11 percent unemployment and huge underemployment with thousands of young college grads, engineers and architects selling pizzas and driving taxis. And now with oil prices falling, Iran — just like the Soviet Union — is going to have to pull back spending across the board. Fasten your seat belts.

Everything in foreign policy is not economic, but economics is part of everything.  The neocons have no sense of the global economy (see their response to Russia-Georgia).  Economics is part of every FP scenario.  They simply don’t get that fact.  And it leads them to hype powers who may be crumbling from within.

Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 9:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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On Stupid Wackos

So a local group of Neo-Nazi wackos was apparently planning to kill Obama. Fortunately as with most of these scenarios calling these guys not smart is an insult to not smart people everywhere.

It’s the same basic thing with the mostly weak attempts at domestic terrorism of a self-professed Islamic variety in the US.  Namely marginal characters, not very bright folks.  Which is one of our great weapons in this battle–stupidity is our ally.

The left with its emphasis on rationality sees stupidity as the great evil to be undone–particularly through education.  More mythic-based sides of the right overestimate the efficacy of myths and therefore whenever they sense a looming/powerful non-ours myth rising they tend to over inflate and hype a threat, turning what is often a possibly dangerous situation into a multi headed beast of Satan.  The recent fear-mongering Obsession (which is making the rounds again for the election, which I have seen and commented on here).

Jeffrey Goldberg (not exactly a non-pro Israeli/Jewish kinda guy) refers to the makers of the film as Jewish extremists. I wasn’t aware of that background when I reviewed the movie.

The reason for this obsession about the Obsession (as it were) is in a Jungian sense a common resonance and a desire that dare not speak its name (usually) which is a deep wish to have the same level of mythic singularity of focus and large numbers among some Christians and Jews that they see in this (romanticized Islam).  As C.S. Lewis wisely said, “As soon as someone is made into an angel, then they can be made into demon” (paraphrasing).   Just so in the reverse I would say.

But if we get away from the myths of both fundamentalism and the myth of rationality/education, then we might have a more sober view that stupidity is indeed (at times) our great friend and hope in all this.  From the perspective again of domestic terrorism within North America.

With the  Neo-Nazis/Skinheads even more so. It’s better to know that they are just a bunch of inbred hillbillies in most cases nowadays. Not exactly the fearsome mobs of yore. But just some ignorant fools.  Most of the time of course–I don’t want to be dismissing what is a serious thing (guys planning to kill people based on their race), but they weren’t apparently far along (thankfully).  Nor that bright.

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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