Sunday, June 29, 2008


So now it's a sin to be open-minded?

Two more shows this weekend where "knowledgeable" commentators decry Obama's shifting position on various issues -- this time it was the 2nd Amendment -- and call him a flip-flopper. Is that a bad thing? George W. Bush rarely changes his mind in response to facts and events. Is that a good thing?

Very few members of the media and political establishment show any understanding of the reasons Barack Obama is so popular. Sure, he's an inspiring speaker. Yeah, we like his family. Of course, it's nice to see an African American go so far. All of those make up just a small part of why people like him. Here's the reason that we don't get the vapors when he revises a position he has held in the past:

It means he is listening. It means that, as a member of the reality-based community out here west of Washington, D.C., and east of Hollywood, he allows facts to sway him. It means that he is unlikely to formulate a plan without having the information he needs to make it work, and it means that if he comes up with a solution that solves nothing he might be willing to try something else.

The story from the 1990s on health care, for instance, is that the Clintons came in with a plan and refused to listen to objections or adaptations from those outside their inner circle. Some of the criticism of how that was handled is undoubtedly unfair, coming from people with 20-20 hindsight. One thing is certain, though, the problem was not flexibility.

I'm not even going to go into the Rumsfeld doctrine and Iraq.

Another criticism of Obama is that his record is too short for the know-it-alls in New York and Washington to be able to predict what he will do in unknown circumstances. But we do know. We know that he will remain calm. We know that he will gather facts. We know that he will handle situations with unreliable variables in ways that address those variables. None of us can predict that he will do exactly what we want him to do when he is president, but we trust his judgment. We trust him because his views and reactions are not written in stone, because he knows that every constitutional case and every diplomatic situation is unique.

Obama's ideology may be weak, but his intellect and compassion seem reliable. That is a virtue, and voters see it even if the political professionals do not.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008


Watch those dates: Americans are smarter than we look

Here is my take on the ABC - Washington Post opinion poll that just came out. Notice the dates on these figures.

Topic: George W. Bush approval ratings

As of 6/15/08 (recent poll) 29% of Americans polled approved of the job George W. Bush is doing. In the same poll 68% disapproved of his performance, and 3% had no opinion. That's now. On 5/23/04, his rating first dipped below 50%, hitting 47% approval around the time of the Abu Ghraib revelations. That's down from 71% approval 4/30/03 when the Bush government was declaring Iraq operations complete. Before the Iraq action - 2/9/03 - he had been approved of by 64% of respondents. Bush polled highest on 9/13/01 (just after the 9/11 bombings) at 86%, up from 55% on 9/9/01.

Topic: Is the country on the right track?

The current figures are 14% for yes, 84% no, and only 2% not sure. The last time it was so low -- 14% yes, 83% no, and 3% not sure -- was 6/7/92, the year Bill Clinton was elected after 12 years of Republican rule.

Topic: Is the Iraq war worth it?

Again, events are reflected in the opinions. This poll shows 34% for the affirmative and 63% feeling negative. The one taken 9/8/04, at the time of the Fallujah offensive, was a little closer at 51% yes and 45% no, while optimism reigned on 4/30/03, at the time we were supposed to have completed Iraq operations, with 70% yes answers and 27% answering no.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008


No clever title available here.

Recently, these graffiti were scrawled on the family home of Mikey Weinstein, whose Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been in the forefront of the fight against aggressive proselytizing of our uniformed troops. It has been the foundation's mission to combat the social trends and official policies that seek to make evangelical Christianity an exclusive part of the definition of American citizenship and patriotism.

photo of swastika and cross vandalism

As a Christian, and as an American, it saddens me to see these two symbols linked in any circumstances.

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Celebrate the Pangea Day Concept

The Pangea Day website has posted 51 of the 250+ videos that were submitted to their recent contest. The films are PSA length -- about 5 minutes or shorter -- and come from all over the world. Some are funny, some poignant, and others cover the range of moods in between. They address different subjects related to community values and sustainability.

This year's Pangea Day was in May, but the issues addressed are continuous.

The young energy pioneer William Kamkwamba, from Malawi, is featured in one of the spots, "Moving Windmills." Check out that film and the others for some free entertainment, information and insight into the world where we live.

Serdar Ferit's short film, "Elevator Music," is
a light but pointed take on noise pollution.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008


Here is a cross-post on education and politics...

Nuanced Faith: Are we really that dumb?


And where has toughness gotten us?

Susan Faludi
advances an interesting theory in today's New York Times.

"...[A] Barack Obama versus John McCain match-up still has the makings of an epic American gender showdown.

The reason is a gender ethic that has guided American politics since the age of Andrew Jackson. The sentiment was succinctly expressed in a massive marble statue that stood on the steps of the United States Capitol from 1853 to 1958. Named “The Rescue,” but more commonly known as “Daniel Boone Protects His Family,” the monument featured a gigantic white pioneer in a buckskin coat holding a nearly naked Indian in a death’s grip, while off to the side a frail white woman crouched over her infant.

The question asked by this American Sphinx to all who dared enter the halls of leadership was, “Are you man enough?” This year, Senator Obama has notably refused to give the traditional answer...."

So, like Bill Clinton was the first black president, is Obama going to be the first woman? Does this kind of labeling do us any good? I used to have a neighbor who was prissy and whiny and, frankly, annoying. I described him to people with the phrase "He's such a woman." Leaving aside the question of whether I, an avowed feminist, should have been using such an expression at all, is this perception going to hurt Obama? Like Faludi, I tend to think it will not. The reason is that Americans have had enough of bullies and chicken hawks. If McCain is smart, he'll let his sensitive side show.

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Friday, June 13, 2008


I still call myself a Republican, but...

Okay, I've done it. I'm still not willing to change my registration from Republican to Democrat, but I've officially signed up to work on Tom Udall's campaign for the U.S. Senate. I'm just working a couple of hours a week in the office; they tell me that there is a good-sized "Republicans for Udall" contingent but I have to admit that I don't get along too well with most other Republicans.

I do wonder whether Steve Pearce's office allows people to bring four different dogs in to work with them. Are Democrats just free-spirited animal lovers, or is this a reflection of Udall's outdoorsman/environmentalist leanings? Oh well, they seem like nice dogs; they get along with each other and with the staff and they don't slobber unnecessarily.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008


Oh my goodness, I hope not.

I saw this in the Boston Globe's "Quotes of Note."

"This was to women what Indiana Jones and 'Star Wars,' let's say, are to men."-- PAUL DERGARABEDIAN, president of box office tracker Media By Numbers, on the $55.7 million earned by "Sex and the City"

So men dream of saving planets from destruction, and we women dream of -- what? New shoes?

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