Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Medford-Patchogue Continues to Cope with Racially Motivated Murder

More charges - and details - have emerged in the murder of Marcelo Lucero at the hands of 7 teens from Eastern Long Island. According to prosecutors, they are looking into whether some of the teens charged in the beating of Lucero had been involved in another beating of another immigrant. The seven teens apparently made a habit of going out and hunting down defenseless Latino residents to harass and beat on, referring to it as "beaner hopping." One of the defendants, Jose Pacheco, 17, admits to going out with two of the other defendants, Anthony Hartford and Kevin Shea, and knocking out a Latino man cold (the victim has yet to step forward). Pacheco perplexingly told authorities that it was a rarity for him to go out and do something like this: "I don't go out and do this very often, maybe once a week."

What is funny is that a lot of people are coming out and saying, "Oh, some of these kids can't be racist - they have Latino backgrounds," or "Look, they hang out with people of other races." Your background has nothing to do with whether you're a racist or not - your mindset does. If you do not like a person because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity or whatever, you're bigoted; it doesn't matter if you happen to share that skin color or ethnicity. And even if you hang out with people of other races, you can still be racist. If you go "beaner hopping" and attack innocent Latinos because of their ethnic background it does not matter who you hang out with. Let's put it this way: think about Southern slave owners. Some were very close personally to their slaves, some of them even had affairs with them (*cough* Thomas Jefferson *cough*). Would you argue that these Southern slave owners were not racist? Yet they hung out with people from other races and even fathered children with them.

One would think that this would be a time of reflection and deep introspection for the residents of the Patchogue-Medford area. But if the meeting held at the high school to discuss the incident is any indication, the human tendency to blame others when the shit hits the fan is alive and well. According to Newsday, many parents in the crowd at the meeting blamed the media attention that the ruthless attack has brought upon the community. A Newsday reporter, who was invited by principal Manuel Sanzone, began to be screamed at by the crowd and was physically removed by security despite making it clear that she had been invited by the principal who was holding the meeting. Meanwhile, the principal stood silent as the reporter was removed. If you can't even stand up to the forcible removal of a reporter you invited to the meeting, how are you going to stand up to prejudice and intolerance that led to the murder of an innocent man?

And today the New York Times came out with an article about the person who physically stabbed Lucero - Jeffrey Conroy - filled with quotes from family members and family friends saying the usual, "Oh my, I cannot believe it was him; he was such a good boy." Unfortunately for a lot of people, the way they act in public with their families and the way they act in private with their friends can be night and day (this case seems emblematic of that). Conroy could have been a great family member and all of that, but it does not change the fact that he plunged a knife into the chest of a man who had the audacity of being Latino. This is a kid who, according to police reports, has a swastika tattooed on his leg and was the ringleader of the "Caucasian Crew." Additionally, the Times article states that youths who additionally came forward and defended Conroy have backed off of these statements and have said that they were not, in fact, friends with him. One could see that coming, considering the Post had a picture of the accused group's "friends" running out of court, shielding their faces because they were ashamed to be friends with people who could do such things (because why would they shield their face if they believed that the men were innocent and being unfairly targeted by prosecutors?).

So while the charges have been upgraded for those involved - namely Conroy, who now faces second-degree murder as a hate crime - the six who were beating Lucero while Conroy stabbed him are still not being charged with murder, or at least manslaughter, and I ask, "Why not?" Their reckless actions led to the death of Marcelo Lucero and at the very least they are guilty of manslaughter. It's clear that not one of these individuals value human life (one of them was already involved in the death of somebody else). Hopefully as the anger dies down - and people stop blaming the media - the Patchogue-Medford community will be able to heal and move on from this hateful murder. Peace.

Photos - Jose Lucero, Marcelo's brother (New York Times), Jeffrey Conroy (center, in red) with his football team (New York Times), Marcel Lucero (Newsday), "Friends" of the 7 accused teens leaving the Patchogue courthouse (New York Post)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Romney to Big Three: Drop Dead

If you read the opinion page of the New York Times today, you would have noticed a curious thing in the Op-Ed contributor section. Mitt Romney - yes, the golden child of Michigan - arguing to let Detroit go bankrupt. While his piece was insightful and I agreed with a lot of what he said (as it was in similar vein to my ditty about Detroit on Monday), the problem with Mitt is best summed up by a friend of mine: "He has no backbone and will say anything to placate the people in front of him." This is true given his campaign speeches in Detroit back in January.

Specifically, the speech he gave in front of the Detroit Economic Club on January 14, 2008 during his failed campaign for the Republican nomination. In his speech, he lamented over the fact that Washington saw what was happening in Detroit and in Michigan as a whole, and rhetorically asked, "And the question is, what has Washington done with this looming, not looming, this existing crisis, this recession, what has Washington done to help? The answer is not very much at all." He goes on to say that "A lot of Washington politicians are aware of the pain, but they haven't done anything about it. And of course, I hear people from time to time say, 'Well, that's Michigan's problem.' Or, they say something like, 'Well, it's the car companies. They just brought it on themselves. But that's where they're wrong."

Romney also went out of his way to criticize John McCain who told Michigan voters in his characteristic straight talk that was missing from the general election, "Some of the jobs that have left the state of Michigan are not coming back. They are not. And I am sorry to tell you that." Romney attacked McCain in the South Carolina debate and said that he disagreed with McCain's assertion and that he was "not willing to accept defeat like that." He also asked "Where is Washington?" while campaigning in front of a GM plant during the primaries.

So all of this rhetoric about Washington saving Detroit and the Big Three, with all those jobs lost in Michigan coming back in Romney's view, and the Washington politicians ignoring the problem because they think the car companies brought it on themselves was Romney's tone in January. November? Romney is a new man, calling for Washington to ignore the pleas of the Big Three and allow the companies to go bankrupt.

But why? Why the sudden turnaround? He says that the labor agreements are a burden on the American manufacturers and benefits like retirement should be reduced. Secondly, he says that the management of the companies must go. That must be because the management brought this disaster upon themselves. Romney also calls for investment in fuel saving designs - despite criticizing an energy bill signed by Bush increasing the measely MPG requirements for cars and trucks in the US. Romney says that a "managed bankruptcy" might be the only path to save these companies as it would allow them to do a multitude of things, one of which is to "shed excess labor." So I guess those jobs that Romney promised Michigan that would be coming back to their state are really just excess labor that need shedding.

So it appears that Romney may just say anything to placate those in front of him and that my friend is right. Obviously Mitt wants to stay in the spotlight because campaigning for 2012 should be starting any day now, but writing Op-Eds in the New York Times that completely go against what you said earlier this year is not a good way to start. The populism streak amongst Republicans is a fad right now, because it helped McCain garner some votes in the election, but it just does not suit most of them. So the question Mitt needs to start asking himself is not "Where is Washington?" but "Have I no shame?" Peace.

Photos - Mitt Romney (Wikipedia), Car executives begging for money in Washington (BBC), Romney at the GM exhibit at the Detroit Auto Show the same day he gave a speech in front of the Detroit Economic Club (Daylife)

Monday, November 17, 2008

GM and Others Beg for Money - Should They Get It?

As if $700 billion for Wall Street was not enough (though that plan seems to be a big mess more than a big help), now Detroit is running to Washington with their hands out. Leaders of what is referred to as the "Big Three" (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) will be in Washington this week lobbying hard for your and my money to save their failing businesses. The question is: should we give these companies money when they have been so irresponsible in the past?

There is no doubt that the complete collapse of just one of the three companies would be devastating to not only the manufacturing portion of our economy, but the economy as a whole. The problem is not only with the companies themselves, which employ about 240,000 workers, but their suppliers who rely on them to buy their products, which employ 2.3 million Americans. The "domino effect" (to use the justification for going into Vietnam) would be large and possibly debilitating to an already lagging American economy.

Given all of this, should we simply hand over $25 billion to these companies? Would they use it responsibly? Given the past three decades, the answer would be a resounding no. We all know what happened in the 1970s with the oil crises; what will it take for people to understand that history has a tendency to repeat itself? Instability in the Middle East has historically led to high oil prices. Why would companies like GM refuse to focus on gas mileage and instead build the biggest trucks they can that the people who buy them do not really need?

Part of that answer may lie in the ideologies of GM's vice president, Bob Lutz. Back in January, Lutz declared that Toyota's hybrid cars "make no economic sense." Yet it is Lutz who must get down on his knees and beg for money while his company circles the drain and Toyota is riding high, given that its Toyota Prius sales jumped 69% in 2007 and the car continues to be popular - with waiting lists popping up across the country.

Lutz also claimed at the same event in January that global warming is a "total crock of shit." Despite the fact that this is simply not true, it shows the utter disregard that companies like GM have shown to conventional wisdom. It was the Japanese car companies that specialized in fuel efficiency during the 1980s and focused on sedans and coupes rather than monstrosities like the Ford Expedition or Chevy's Suburban. Only one group of car companies now need handouts from the taxpayers, and it is not the Japanese ones.

So my initial instinct would be to say screw GM and their misguided executives like Bob Lutz. They got themselves into this mess, let them sink or swim. The problem with that is the people who make up the core of the company, the laborers, would suffer unjustly. While the argument can certainly be made that the utter strength of the UAW has hurt GM's ability to bargain and cost the company millions in supporting laid off workers and retirees, the company signed those contracts. The issue is that if we let GM die, we would be hurting the working-class folks who build the cars and had substantially less to do with the company's downfall than the executives. People like Lutz and others are rich, will be able to find other jobs in a matter of months and have the connections to keep them employed. The assembly line workers - for the most part - have none of those things.

So bascially we are left with two options: allow GM to go bankrupt or bail them out. The first option would somewhat punish the executives of the company, but would hurt the laborers more. The second option would simply reward incompetence at the exectuvie level, but stave off economic disaster - for the time being. Michael Levine at the Wall Street Journal is advocating for allowing GM to go into bankruptcy and restructure, and the New York Times has an article today about how the foreign auto companies would take over the roles of GM and others in the years to come. The only issue is that the temporary impact on the economy would be substantial. I am inclined to agree with Thomas Friedman in his Op-Ed from last Tuesday, in which he quoted Paul Ingrassia's piece in the Wall Street Journal last Monday, in which stipulations like getting rid of upper management, privitizing the company and massively revamping it would be attached to any money given to GM. I would add that the union gets absolutely none of the $25 billion and Bob Lutz goes to executive training seminars at Toyota and Honda to show how foresight in business prevents throwing temper tantrums for government money like a toddler at a candy store. Peace.

Photos - GM headquarters in Detroit (Wikipedia), Bob Lutz, in possibly the most symbolic failure of GM - a Hummer (HummerGuy.net), GM employees leaving work (Boston Globe)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seven Long Island Teens Kill Ecuadorean Immigrant in Hate Crime

Seven eastern Long Island teenagers face serious charges after they set out to "beat up some Mexicans" and ended up killing 37 year-old Ecuadorean immigrant Marcello Lucero. Lucero worked at a dry cleaners in Riverhead and was near the Patchogue train station when he was approached by the seven teens - a junior and six seniors from Patchogue-Medford High School - and was beat up. The assault culminated in a knife being pushed through Lucero's chest, allegedly by 17 year-old Jeffrey Conroy. The teens were arrested shortly after the assault nearby.

Suffolk County officials have charged the teens with hate crimes, and the prosecutor seems to be quoting the young men when he talks about their desire to do harm to someone of Mexican descent, leading me to believe that some type of confession or something similar has been offered up. A profile of the young men have come out. The alleged stabber - Conroy - is a three sport athlete at Patchogue-Medford and does not have a record. At least two of the teens have a Latino background - one being half-Puerto Rican and another having a half-Puerto Rican grandmother. The mother of one of the suspects claimed, "How can it be a hate crime? My son is half-Hispanic?" When it comes to the law, however, it does not matter what ethnicity you are; if you target someone based solely on certain immutable characteristics (ethnicity being one of them) you are guilty of a hate crime. It also does not matter if you are incorrect (as in this case, when the teens went to target a Mexican and killed an Ecuadorean) as long as your intent was based on the aforementioned set of immutable characteristics.

What is perplexing about this case - beyond the fact that people like this still exist in society - is that one of the teens is already involved in a fatal home burglary, in which the victim was 38 year-old Carlton Shaw and was found outside his home with his three year-old son asleep at his side. Overton eventually pled down to burglary in that case. My question is why is someone who is involved in a fatal burglary not in jail awaiting sentencing? Given that he was out of jail, why would his parents allow him out of the house? Are there no repercussions for his behavior? Did he not have a court-ordered curfew or some kind of sanctions because of his admittance of guilt in a case that led to a man's death?

Another perplexing thing is that while all seven teens are charged with gang assault as a hate crime, only one (Conroy) is charged with manslaughter as a hate crime. Why aren't all seven charged with manslaughter? In another case happening in New York, three men are charged with the death of NYPD officer Russel Timoshenko, despite the fact that only one of the three shot at the deceased officer. The definition of manslaughter in the second degree is "when he recklessly causes the death of another person." It was certainly reckless to go and "beat up some Mexicans" and it resulted in the death of a human being. It seems that the teens acted in concert (in that they surrounded Lucero and all beat on him before he was stabbed) and were all arrested together after the incident.

If these teens do not spend the majority of their adult lives behind bars, something is seriously amiss with this system. When you have such little regard for human life that you go out and beat on a man due to his ethnicity - resulting in his death - what use do you serve society other than as an example of what is wrong? What is sad is that it seems that Conroy could have had a future (the others could have, too, but the Newsday article seemed to focus on him), but he threw it all away on something stupid like this. And while the government certainly has a responsibility when it comes to dangerous individuals being out on the streets (in this case, the example of Overton), parents do not get off scot free. Schools don't raise kids, government programs don't raise kids, video games and television don't raise kids; parents do. I feel for some parents, because they try everything they can and still their kid screws up; other times the parents don't get involved as much as they should with their kids' lives and the kid screws up (I've personally seen both examples). I'm not going to judge the parents of these teens because I do not know them and that would be unfair. At the end of the day, a mother is without a son, a brother without his brother, because of the incredibly selfish acts of a group of teenagers with no regard for others. Hopefully these teens are locked up for a long time and cannot terrorize others again. Peace.

Photos - The seven teens being led out of a police station for their arraignment in Islip on Monday (Newsday), Victim Marcello Lucero (ABC News), A memorial set up to commemorate Lucero at the stabbing scene (1010WINS)

Monday, November 10, 2008

American Covert Raids Extend Beyond Pakistan

The New York Times this morning published an article about "Al Qaeda Network Exord," an executive order signed by then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld back in 2004 that greatly expanded the military's power to secretly enter sovereign territory of other nations if they felt that terrorist activity was going on there. While Rummy signed the order, it was apparently approved by President Bush and used to justify numerous covert attacks in nations like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (in all 15-20 countries are listed in the order).

Beyond the PR nightmare that this should bring to the White House (though at this point I think many people are jaded by the Bush Administration's use of the Constitution as toilet paper and are more than ready to move on to President Obama), this brings up many questions both philosophically and diplomatically. To begin with, there is American exceptionalism. I'm down with American exceptionalism; I think this country has something that others do not (namely a heterogenous population that, for all of its issues [racism, xenophobia, etc.], is unique and culturally enriching), as well as a Constitution that goes farther than any other state document in protecting freedoms such as speech and religion for its people. This is something to be proud of. However, because we have these things does not mean that we can conduct secret missions without the approval of the government who rules over the land we conducting covert attacks on. If something like this were to happen in America can you imagine the response? If a Zapatista cell were in Texas or Arizona or New Mexico and Federales crossed the border into America without Washington's approval to take out the Zapatistas, how would Bush and Company respond? Do you think they would just let it slide because Calderon had signed some executive order? Doubtful.

Diplomatically this brings up serious issues, as well. When you choose to go behind a government's back to get things done, you lose all bargaining power with that government. What incentive would Zardari have to compromise with the U.S. on certain diplomatic items if he knows that his power will be worked around with secret executive orders? The way that he, or any leader of the 15-20 countries on that list, sees it they lose either way: either they bargain with the U.S. and allow these strikes to happen, or they do not bargain (or take a hard-line stance that is non-negotiable) with the U.S. and the strikes occur anyway behind their backs. So while publicly Bush and his administration will refer to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as allies, in private they clearly do not trust them enough to take care of what they deem as threats to America and will violate those countries' sovereign borders to do what they think is right.

With Obama coming in in January, one would hope that he would bring an end to this kind of thing. One's belief that this would happen may be heightened by the reports that Obama wants to reverse a lot of the executive decisions made by the Bush Administration. However, his stance on cross-border raids into Pakistan from Afghanistan during the campaign suggests that he will more than likely not repeal this portion of the Bush Adminstration's strategy. In fact, it would politically harm him to repeal it because of Senator McCain's attacks on Obama that he is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief and is not hard enough on terrorism. We saw this with another young president who came from the Senate and did not want to appear soft on Communism. Let's hope that history does not repeat itself.

All in all, these types of secret raids into others' territory is not a good step in healing the wounds America has brought to the world with its blatant lying about the Iraq War in 2003. Many in America may not realize the distrust that other countries have for American leadership due to this egregious error. Instability in the Middle East has been underscored by the American invasion of Iraq. Just today there were mulitiple bombings in Baghdad. This country most certainly has the ability to return to diplomatic greatness and be seen abroad as something to emulate rather than fear or scorn. We have it in us, and hopefully Obama's administration has it in them. Peace.

Photos - Map of the region where many of the countries mentioned in "Al Qaeda Network Exord" lie (New York Times), An October 27 funeural for a person killed in an American cross-border raid into Syria (New York Times), The guys who made it happen (Wikipedia)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Habeas Corpus at Gitmo: A Good First Step

In today's New York Times there is an article about the habeas corpus hearings involving Guantanamo detainees that were mandated by the recent Supreme Court decision of Boumediene v. Bush. While this is a good first step and a glimpse of hope for those locked away in the Cuban enclave wrestled from the small Latin nation to our south in the settlement of the Spanish-American War, the hearings themselves are markedly different from anything that would take place on sovereign United States soil.

To begin with, the lawyers for the six Algerian former residents of Bosnia are not allowed to discuss the evidence with their clients. Obviously this greatly hinders the defense's ability to mount a defense for their clients, as they cannot tell their clients what they are being charged with or why. How can someone give an alibi or refute the charges against him without first being told what he did wrong? If the United States is worried that by allowing the defendants to hear/see the evidence against them they will be privy to classified information they previously did not know (such as plans by terrorists to bomb a Sarejevo U.S. Embassy), how airtight is the government's case? If you accuse someone of planning to bomb the embassy, then tell them they cannot see the proof because it may compromise national security - despite the fact that you are accusing that very person with creating the proof (i.e. the plans to bomb the embassy) - then clearly you are not sure beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is guilty and thus should allow him to defend himself in a court of law.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the government has changed their story regarding the six men. They were first accused of planning to bomb the Sarejevo U.S. Embassy, but now the DoJ says that they are being held for other reasons (what other reasons we do not know). Usually when a victim/witness changes their story in the courtroom, they are discredited. Of course, if I were to say that the government has discredited themselves by changing their story in the courtroom, I would be called a terrorist sympathizer, America hater, or, even worse, unpatriotic. Thankfully we have the Patriot Act to make sure that everything I say/do can be tracked and my wireless phone company can hand over private documents without a warrant regarding my phone activity to the government and not be prosecuted, so don't worry America. You're safe from critical thinking and individualism.

The sad fact is, however, that even if these six men are determined to be no threat to the U.S. and are ordered to be released, they won't be going anywhere soon. Back in October the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. District blocked the release of seventeen Chinese Muslims after they were determined to no longer pose a threat to the U.S. and, thus, could not be held as "enemy combatants." Despite federal judge Ricardo M. Urbina's order to release the men, the Bush Administration urged the D.C. Circuit court to have the men remain in custody so the government could rehash their case, which they had just lost. The men remain in custody despite having been ordered to be released.

Guantanamo Bay and the loosely defined and even more loosely designated term "enemy combatant" will be a stain on this country's history similar to the way that Japanese internment was during World War II. Nearly all historians and legal experts would agree that Korematsu v. United States was not only a grave mistake, but embarassing as well. Similarly, the decision to utilize Gitmo to such an extent will prove to be a mistake and will be another moment in U.S. history (hopefully in history and not the future) that shows a grave error on the part of the national leadership at the time. Peace.

Photos - Entrance to Camp Delta at Gitmo (commons.wikimedia.org), Detainees arriving at Camp X-Ray at Gitmo (en.wikipedia.org)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Historic Election: Barack Obama Wins the Presidency

As people wake up after celebrations both in America and around the world, the fact remains: Barack Obama is the president-elect of the United States of America. Slightly more than 50 years ago blacks and whites could not sit down at the same lunch counter together, and today the next president of this nation will be black. It is truly an historic moment, and one to appreciate no matter who you voted for. But Obama's acendency to the presidency does not solve all of our problems; the Red Sea has not been parted and we still have severe issues to deal with when it comes to America.

To begin with, I want to address the media's coverage post-election results. Nearly every video feed or interview was that of a minority. Very rarely did I look at the television and see a white person (unless they showed McCain's concession speech or the newscasters). While I understand and appreciate the historic moment of Obama's trailblazing, I also consider Obama's campaign to be predicated not on race or physicalities like that, but a togetherness and a united front moving forward. By highlighting only the minorities celebrating Obama's win it only increases the racial dichotomy that has plagued this country and goes against Obama's creed of one country united. I want to stress that there is nothing wrong with discussing the historic significance of this election because of the victor's race, but we also have to understand that Obama's victory is not ONLY a victory for minorities in this country, but a win for the country as a whole as well and an excellent example of how people came together to vote for Obama (because his victory cannot be attributed to one race or one group of people, but a diverse mix of the electorate).

Secondly, it is important to note that Obama's victory does not solve any of the problems this country is facing. We are still hemohrraging money with a $10 billion a year war overseas in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a financial mess that stretches from the most obese of the fat cats on Wall Street to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who has a mortgage on a home declining in value, and a health care system in tatters. These problems will not be easy to solve. I am also relieved that the Democrats did not get the 60+ Senate seats needed for a filibuster-proof majority. One of the tenets of this country is checks and balances, and while my vote was on the issues and not whether or not the Democrats would get that magic number of 60 Senate seats, I was a bit relieved to know that the executive would not have an extremely strong majority in the legislative branch of his same party (because we saw what it did from 2000-2006). And if, for whatever reason, Congress becomes a rubber stamp for Obama, 2010 will see a lot of Democratic seats upended (like in 1994).

The problems facing Obama are very serious. Iraq is officially a quagmire. Thanks to the severity of the situation caused by the Bush Administration, we cannot leave just yet. We have to turn things over to an Iraqi government that is a few assassinations away from civil war. Unfortunately we have to participate in nation building there, which will be difficult because no other nations want to help because of the way the war was begun (i.e. bold-faced lies). I think Obama plans to get out by the end of his first term, and this is possible, but everything must go well and no unknown variables can arise. Again, it is certainly possible, but I will not be surprised if we still have a large troop presence (50,000+ with numerous bases) in 2012.

Then there is the health care system. Obama's plan is ambitious, and will probably be passed as a watered-down version. In any event, if Obama does not make a significant amount of headway (in lowering premiums and insuring a large amount of currently uninsured folks), his popularity will severely wane. While we are in a state of euphoria right after the election, we have to remember that a lot has been promised to the American people. I feel Obama can fulfill a good amount of these promises (if I did not, I would not have waited two and a half hours to cast a vote in this election), but it will take a lot of hard work and dedication.

One promising thing that is not getting a lot of press time is McCain's concession speech. I thought it was a great speech and emblematic of the pre-election McCain who reached across party lines, had a pragmatic approach to politics, and was willing to work with others who were willing to work with him. One thing I was dissapointed to see (and I think McCain was dissapointed to have done) was the attacks on Obama when it came to Ayers and Wright and socialism. That's not the John McCain I knew a year or two ago. The John McCain I knew a year or two ago popped up at certain points in the campaign (the Alfred E. Smith dinner, for one), and certainly made an appearance last night in a very good concession speech:

It was dissapointing to hear the crowd boo and cat call when Obama's name was mentioned (especially because the event was invitation only), but McCain handled it well and his classiness showed during the speech. An important thing to remember in this campaign is that John McCain is one of the only Republicans who could have done as well as he did with, in Chris Shays' words, the "tsunami" of Democratic support following a disastrous Republican presidential administration. You put any other Republican up there (Giuliani, Romney, Thompson) and we're looking at a Nixon-McGovern situation (with Democrats winning). While McCain's campaign has been marred by the last few months and the attacks, he still did well given the circumstances.

No one knows what the next four years have in store for us. We are an anxious country right now (and would be no matter who was elected). While Obama certainly did very well in the electoral college, his mandate is not as large as the ridiculous numbers system assigned to states would let on. Obama won 52% of the vote, with McCain gaining 46%. This is a large victory, but not a landslide. If Obama wants to make government work, he is going to have to work with both parties (something I am confident he will do). At the end of the day, while Obama's election does not solve our problems, it is a good first step, in my opinion, to fixing them. Given his campaign promises, Obama has a lot to live up to and hopefully he can. I am confident he will make a good president and will do this nation proud. Congratulations, Barack Obama.

Photos - Obama giving his acceptance speech in Chicago (Bloomberg),

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bill Kristol's Logic: McCain Victory Good for Liberals

Reading Bill Kristol's column today made me wonder, "How does this stuff make it past the common sense police?" Kristol goes into an argument about how a McCain victory would mean good news for liberals, while at the same time painting everyone on the left as anxiety-ridden crybabies when it comes to electing a president. He even cites a young woman from Denver who put her relationship on hold while she awaited the results of the election. Are there people like this in the Democratic Party? Yes. Are there equally nutty people on the right? Given what we've seen at McCain/Palin rallies, you bet there are. Yet Kristol continues to pool all liberals into one group, saying that he's here to help us in the case of a McCain victory (it's just like the Second Coming!).

But maybe Kristol's right. Maybe those conservatives supporting McCain and Palin are actually nice people, voting on the issues and not rumors like Obama is a Muslim or hangs out with terrorists. Maybe, as Kristol says, "conservatives will greet the news [of an Obama victory] with [their] usual resolute soicism or cheerful fatalism." Or, maybe not:

But it's unfair to pool all conservatives into one group like Kristol did with liberals. There are obviously fringe elements on both sides, though it just seems that one side is basing their anger on 8 frustrating years of Bush/Cheney and the other side is basing their anger on rumors of terrorist ties and religious affiliations (did I mention one of the candidates is black?). As one reads more of Kristol's article, however, it becomes apparent that the man has no idea what he's talking about. His first point as to why an McCain victory would help liberals is that it would be a win for an underdog. Yeah, because a 70+ year old white man who's been in Washington for almost three decades beating an under-50 black man in Washington for less than a full Senate term is an underdog victory.

His second point was that a McCain victory over Obama would be a defeat for the establishment. Because cheating on your first wife with a woman whose family is worth over $100 million, and then marrying her and launching your political career with her father's money and connections really says, "Fuck the establishment."

His third point: a McCain victory would be a victory for the future. He says that, "Liberals should therefore welcome a McCain win as a triumph of hope over fear, of the future over the past." Seriously? Voting a well-educated, qualified black man into the White House only 50 years after the Jim Crow era would be a triumph of the past over the future? Are some of Obama's votes from white guilt? Sure, but he's also qualified and I think more votes come from his qualifications than his skin color (I would even argue his skin color does him more harm than good in the eyes of the electorate). But apparently McCain, with the whole Keating Five scandal and decades of Washington experience, is the candidate of hope and the future.

Fourth point: A vote for McCain is a vote for freedom. Beyond the fear-mongering and the not-so-subtle "Obama is un-American" tone this has to it, Kristol's primary citation is McCain's defense of the surge and Obama's continued criticism of it. Do we forget that Obama was against the war before it was cool? That's like someone saying, "Here, play with this snake, it won't bite." And despite your unwillingness to do so, you are forced to play with it and it bites you. Then your friend says, "Well, it's actually a really poisonous snake and now we have to cut your leg off so the poison doesn't spread." Then somehow your friend is baffled when you want nothing to do with him after you lose a leg thanks to his ignorance. But he was right about cutting off your leg!

Fifth (final and most desperate point): Executive and legislative control by one party usually creates a political superstar for the other party (citing Carter and Reagan, Clinton and Gingrich). Then the scare tactics: it might lead to a Palin presidency in 2012! Reagan must be rolling in his grave and Gingrich must be angrily e-mailing Kristol for comparing them to Sarah Palin. Reagan may have been highly misguided, but he was no Sarah Palin. He was smart, and while Gingrich is similarly misguided, the two have done more good for their parties than Palin ever will. If Obama wins this election, you will see public attitude toward Palin change drastically, as she will be cited as one of the main reasons McCain could not pull it off in November. Plus, why is it a bad thing for the other party to have a qualified political star who increases public debate on the issues? If anything, that's what we'll need if the Democrats dominate the executive and the legislative branches (I'm already assuming a strong Republican showing in the 2010 midterm elections in the event of an Obama victory).

In his little wrap-up describing what McCain needs to do to win, Kristol pens an emblematic line about the McCain campaign. He says, "It's an inside straight. But I've seen gamblers draw them." The entirety of the latter-half McCain campaign has been a gamble. Palin to win PUMA voters, going extremely negative (trying to tie Obama to Ayers and Khalidi), and praising Joe "Obama = Death to Israel" the Plumber as McCain's role model. But the thing with gamblers (and this is one area where Kristol is right) is that sometimes they win big. Nothing is written in stone and until all the votes are tallied and all the hanging chads are counted, we do not know who the president-elect will be on November 5. No matter what your political affiliation or who you are voting for, this is America and it requires the people's participation. So please, go out and VOTE!

Photos - Bill Kristol (nytimes.com), Barack Obama (en.wikipedia.org), John McCain (en.wikipedia.org)