Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hillary's Foreign Policy?

Posted by Picasa


When Hillary Clinton threatened to "obliterate" Iran, it was rhetoric that not even Dick Cheney could have dared to use. When she several times talked of "massive retaliation" in the Middle East, not only if Israel is attacked but unnamed other countries, she was toying with nuclear annihilation in such a cavalier way that it should have been shocking. In fact, it should have prompted Democrats, Independents and the non-insane wing of the Republican party to condemn her. Even as campaign rhetoric it was dangerous enough to disqualify any serious candidate for the Presidency.

So what greeted her statement? Silence, pretty much. At least here in the U.S., where the news media is obsessed with flag pins, and politicians are too busy taking the temperature of super-delegates. The response, or lack of it, I found more shocking than Clinton's reckless, tougher-than-the-guys, warmongering rhetoric.

But it didn't get past a lot of people in the rest of the world. Says the Los Angeles Times: " But it prompted shock overseas as well as headlines from Bulgaria to New Zealand."

This is what a British diplomat (Lord Mark Malloch-Brown) said:

"While it is reasonable to warn Iran of the consequence of it continuing to develop nuclear weapons and what those real consequences bring to its security, it is not probably prudent ... in today's world to threaten to obliterate any other country and in many cases civilians resident in such a country."

It's what every responsible American politician on the national level--and certainly every congressional Democrat--should have said. And should say. In a country that takes the presidency and its place in the world seriously--especially when the entire globe must cooperate to deal with the Climate Crisis or failure will exact a toll on everyone--this statement should obliterate the candidacy of the person who made it. But hey, let's talk a little more about "bitter."

Update: Well, at least somebody else is taking this seriously.
Update 2: As is the Sunday Boston Globe, in an editorial entitled "Hillary Strangelove." The Globe concludes: "A presidential candidate who lightly commits to obliterating Iran - and, presumably, all the children, parents, and grandparents in Iran - should not be answering the White House phone at any time of day or night."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Glacial No More

The phrase "glacial change" takes on new
meaning, as scientists continue to be freshly
shocked by the speed of melting at the poles,
and pretty much anywhere there's
ice. This is a satellite photo of the Lambert
glacier in the Antarctic.

The New Abnormal

As a society, we live within an elastic sense of normality. It expands or contracts a bit, and changes over time: that's our sense of what's normal. An intelligent, vital society recognizes signs and small changes that threaten that normality, and elements of the society work together to stop problems before they become threatening.

Right now normality is at the breaking point. The most obvious signs are the changes rippling through daily life caused by high oil prices and a global food crisis. At the same time there are other serious problems manifesting themselves in our financial and economic systems. The lives of millions of people are changing for the worse. Soon the elastic could break.

We could have avoided what's happening, and what may come. Within society, we are pretty good at diagnosis and innovation. Some people within society know what the problems are, and there are possible solutions.

But society as a whole isn't functioning intelligently. In many ways we are a cell phone version of the decadent Roman Empire. Our politics in this crucial year has become dominated by idiocy. After more than 20 years of cultural brutalization, we are ready to brand anything intelligent as "elitist." We can barely understand the word "distraction," because our lives are all distraction. While the Climate Crisis is contributing right now to the fractures in our normality, big money fuels loud voices calling reality into question, and those voices become enablers for the fearful. They call those who recognize the threat of the Climate Crisis alarmists, because they do not want to hear the alarm.

Civilization is in peril. We don't have the normal margin for error, or for stupidity. We could have prevented a great deal of what is starting to happen now. The sooner we recognize the threat to normality, the better chance we have of doing something effective, rather than something stupid that will only make things worse.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bump in the Road to the White House

For Barack Obama, the PA results were a bump
in the road. Clinton gained a net of 9 to 12 delegates,
and lost her last big chance to gain significant ground.
She needed to win by the 25 points she had been leading
in some polls a couple of months ago. She won by 9.2. So
for Obama, it has its minuses and its pluses. For me it
was more personal. While the campaign reminded me of
what I cherished about the state, the result reminded me
of why I left, several times. PA is so old partly because the
cost of living there is relatively low, and the last generation
to have pensions they can count on has retired. But it's also
because the young leave. A lot don't want to, but there aren't
enough ways to make a living. Some feel they have to, because
the mood of the place is stultifying and oppressive. And that's
another reason those jobs aren't there: imagination and innovation
are a hard sell.

It's still a beautiful state, the cities of Pittsburgh and (I'm told) Philadelphia
are unrecognized jewels, and family and loyalty are values the rest of
the country could use more of. But the place has the vices of its virtues,
and the contradictions within the white working class culture are major.
Listen to Lennon's "A Working Class Hero" and you get the drift.

The New York Times today has an article arguing that "According to surveys of Pennsylvania voters leaving the polls on Tuesday, Mr. Obama would draw majorities of support from lower-income voters and less-educated ones — just as Mrs. Clinton would against Mr. McCain, even though those voters have favored her over Mr. Obama in the primaries." So her "more electable" argument based on the PA results doesn't work, besides contradicting most national polls. Clinton is running out of time--she can't win enough delegates or enough votes to surpass Obama. This should have ended in PA, but now it will end somewhere else. In a month or, more likely, two weeks. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth in View

an infrared imaging of the West Fjords of
Iceland from Earth orbit. Though Earth Day has apparently
devolved into sentimental plant-a-tree platitudes,
the meaning of it isn't about the Earth in isolation
or as the Big Other; it's the relationship of humanity
with Earth. So refresh your memory of this post and
this one. Posted by Picasa

Hey PA, Make Us a President

It's been fun following the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania. It's my state, even if only now a state of mind. I'm excited about what this election today may show. There are many Pennsylvanias--not just the old cliches favored by TV pundits. MSNBC even thought it was important to poll the preferences of beer drinkers, gun owners and bowlers. That may be PA but it's not the whole PA. It's alot more complex than that, and each stereotyped region is a lot more subtle.

Back when the Governor's office of Bob Casey, Sr. was my client, I wrote a document called "The New Pennsylvania: A Commonwealth That Works." Today we'll see who shows up, and in what numbers: the old PA or the New Pennsylvania. Which is a new
combination of old and new, tradition and the future.

But there are things that unite places. That's Barack Obama over there, with Steelers owner and local icon, the nationally revered Dan Rooney.
Who endorsed Obama, as did Franco Harris and the Bus. There are lots of
different Pittsburghs. But the Steelers are all those Pittsburghs; they are Pittsburgh.

Everybody's got a town. San Francisco is still a fantasy to me, and Vancouver is a dream. Pittsburgh is still my town. Do the right thing, Pittsburgh. You can make history today, Pennsylvania. You can essentially nominate the next President. I'm pretty sure you're going to make it just about impossible for anyone else to get the Democratic nomination but Barack Obama.

It's going to be a fun day just thinking about you.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Obama Sunday

Barack Obama in Lancaster, PA (first two photos), then at a Town Hall Meeting in Reading, before a full house of 2500. And finally at a rally in Scranton, PA (last photo), with Caroline Kennedy and Senator Bob Casey, Jr. Casey's family is from Scranton, and other family members were also there, including his mother, Eleanor, widow of Governor Bob Casey. The enthusiastic crowd was estimated at 4800.

Two items about Scranton (which is also home to the Rodhams, Hillary's family): first, this description of the rally contains a couple of paragraphs from Obama's speech that pretty neatly summarize his "closing argument" for PA voters to vote for him Tuesday.

Second, this story in the Washington Post reports on the Obama ground campaign in Scranton, where it withstood racial slurs and threats, and worked hard for every vote--all hoping to keep the margin of defeat in Scranton below 30 points. It says something about the young people in particular who worked together with such energy and perseverance for their common cause. According to one of them, "Sure, there are long hours," he said. "But we're like a family here. Everybody's last name is Obama."

Posted by Picasa

More Obama Saturday

A few more photos from Obama's train stops on Saturday.
Part of the fun for me has been seeing him in these familiar environments. That photo at the end from Downingtown--although I don't think I've ever been in that particular town--evokes the Pennsylvania I've known most of my life. This train route does that, too.

What a ride.

Posted by Picasa