Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

an hour and a half with barack obama

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

I’ve been reading Marc Andreesen’s blog a bit lately – he was founder of Netscape and is generally seen as being an early leading light and guru in the development of the Internet. Today he posted about spending some time with Barack Obama last year, before the real campaigning started. Interesting reading. He notes that although he also donated money to the Romney campaign he sees Obama as being “Smart, normal, curious, not radical, and post-Boomer. If you were asking me to write a capsule description of what I would look for in the next President of the United States, that would be it.”


Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

So last night Barack Obama won another couple of primaries in his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. So far he’s won all ten contests since the Super Tuesday votes, and seems to have a lot of what everyone’s calling momentum, moving further and further into Hillary Clinton’s core constituents – lower income families, union members, female voters. Momentum indeed.

During Clinton’s speech on TV last night (which actually CNN cut away from in order to cover Obama’s speech, which they showed without ad breaks – sweet deal for him) she mentioned that if she becomes president it would break the hardest glass ceiling of them all. When they cut back to the analyst room one commentator, who happened to be an African American woman, seemed very upset and said that while Clinton is indeed a woman and there is a glass ceiling there, she went into this as the millionaire wife of a well-loved former president and really representing the party’s establishment. Obama, who while being a lawyer and therefore not being exactly poor, didn’t have the same advantages, and by the way is being African American not also a glass ceiling challenge?

Now as you (probably) know I am neither a woman nor African American, but every company I’ve worked for in America has had one or both in very senior leadership positions, and I have had several female bosses in the past. My last company had an African American man and a woman as the 2nd equal most senior company officers. So I have been in organizations where there was admirably very little in the way of glass ceilings. Growing up in Britain there was a woman Prime Minister – she was a strong, self-made woman. But I can’t say that I know first hand what the challenges must be of being in either of those groups in everyday life or in politics, and how people would likely pre-judge your abilities based on race or gender. I do admit that one of the reasons I like the idea of Obama being president is what a message it would sent to the country and the world for America to have a black president, but at the same time I wouldn’t be supportive if I didn’t think that he is highly capable entirely on his own merits and separate from his racial background.

I would also suggest that the biggest glass ceiling is not around race or gender. I have seen many surveys where Americans have said that all thing being equal they would vote for a woman president, an African- or Asian-American president, a Mormon president, Catholic or even Muslim president. Even a homosexual president. The lowest of the low out of all the choices in the surveys, the personality trait which would be the biggest impediment to being elected president? If a candidate was atheist.

tidings of misuse and woe

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

A sad, sad story from local Twin Cities News: The Prosperity Gospel church is facing cutbacks of between $40,000 and $70,000 per week, and their pastor is having to sell his plane. Plus some of their contemporaries are under investigation by the U.S. Senate on uses of their budget, and there are allegations that some ministers may have improperly solicited funds for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee during a conference at which their head pastor spoke (it is illegal for tax-exempt organizations, such as churches or charities, to solicit for presidential candidates, which is why Focus on the Family head James Dobson was speaking as a private citizen when he endorsed Mitt Romney).

The full story is in our local paper; if they remove the link you can also see it here (with some extra commentary). Key lines:

“Prosperity Gospel” churches are based on the notion that success in business or personal life is evidence of God’s love.

Hammond [the pastor] told other ministers that people “gradually become disillusioned” when their prayers are not met promptly or when promised riches don’t come.

“They have needs to be met, and when they don’t get it they leave,” Hammond said. “They get their hands put on them, they don’t get cured, then the disillusionment sets in.”

super tuesday reaction

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Emma and I watched the Super Tuesday results last night. CNN High Def was all very well – graphs all over the place – except for how scary former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer looked in HD. He even admitted that the Republicans are salivating over the prospect of facing Hillary later in the year.

We (Emma and I) decided on a few things: firstly, Huckabee is a good speaker and looks all honest and folksy but he’s mad. Romney probably isn’t going to get too far. McCain’s wife was the most glam of the Republican wives but started to look like an alien when she was trying not to cry.

On the Dem side we’re still not seeing eye to eye. If she doesn’t mind me paraphrasing, I think she’s going for the experience of (the) Clinton(s), and doesn’t feel that Obama really has that. I accept that Hillary probably could get some things done right off the bat but I’m still not buying it. I admire her, but there are some things going on which are making me feel very uneasy. The Daily Show played some clips from her one hour Hallmark special which just seemed so icky (the clips featured her standing on a stage while people gave testimonials about how great she was) and her speech last night was pretty bland. Emma doesn’t deny that Obama is a great orator – I have to be honest that my emotions totally get the better of me when I see him deliver a speech – but feels that there’s a lot of ego going on without much realism or concreteness behind it. I can totally see that, and have sometimes had the same feeling. However if you take a step back and consider his experience in community organizing, in the Illinois legislature and the way he leveraged this to get to the Senate and now being on the cusp of having an African American presidential nominee, I can’t help feeling that there has to be something there beyond oratory.

What I mean by that is that he must have picked a super-hot campaign team (which you would hope bodes well for cabinet selection) and must have done something to be able to stand up to the Democrat old guard of the Clintons and their friends. He has also stayed fairly true to his word of keeping dignity in his campaigning – what a concept. I know I’ve linked a few times to Andrew Sullivan’s writing lately, and while I’ll note that there are many times I don’t agree with him, he is also capable of being considerably more succinct than me (he’s a pro of course) and his posting today sums up a lot of my impression of Obama, so I think it’s worth linking to, and worth reading.

don’t be stupid

Friday, February 1st, 2008

The eagle-eyed among you (at least among those who don’t use an RSS reader to view my posts) will see that I have officially added an Obama 08 graphic to the page. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking and listening and viewing, and (although I can’t vote) have decided it’s time to officially endorse Barack Obama for President. Aside from the emotion that I experience when I hear him speak, or even think about what America would look like if he was President, there is the basic argument – let’s just not be stupid.

Obama is going to be in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon – unfortunately I can’t go, but for pretty much the most fun reason possible: it’s the party for Toby’s fifth birthday! Hooray!

election brain dump

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I like this post from the Whatever blog, which features musings on the early stages of the presidential nominating process. One of my favorite quotes about the Democrats: “…having a President Obama would make it feel like the American people were doing a Ctrl+Alt+Delete on the previous eight years…” I hope that by now people outside of the US are realizing how exhausted and despondent this country is. I saw something a couple of days ago which said how enlightened the American people are that they would even consider voting for someone named Obama, and that Brits, for example, would be very unlikely to vote for someone named Hitner.

And about the Republican candidates: “…the GOP field? Monkeys. Or more accurately: Jesus Monkey, 9/11 Monkey, flip-flop Monkey with perfect hair, Monkey who wins teh Internets and fails everything else, and John McCain, who is not a monkey.”


Friday, January 4th, 2008

There’s been loads written today about Barack Obama’s win in the Iowa caucuses yesterday. People thinking it’s a real change, even though there’s a long way to go in the presidential primaries. Emma and I watched the results last night on TV, and although she prefers Hillary Clinton, I think she was reasonably impressed with Obama’s speech. Personally it made the hairs on my neck stand up – I found it exciting, visionary and moving and made me remember why I wanted to come to America in the first place (the last 7 years, politically, have been something of a nightmare).
Here are the things I liked:

Obama was on stage behind a podium, rather than crammed on a stage with all his elderly cronies around him. Clinton had tired, sad looking staffers – Obama held his head high, smiled a couple of times, but mostly was firm, clear and passionate.

Also you could see a lot of the crowd behind him was young and very enthusiastic. Edwards had union types (a guy was holding a “Carpenters for Edwards” sign which seemed kind of old school – we were wondering if it was a Christian thing, or union workers, or the band) and didn’t even acknowledge or mention Obama.

Edwards spoke of fighting; Clinton spoke in passing of Republicans; Obama spoke again and again about unity (although there was a firm ding against special interest lobbyists), and apparently many Republicans and Independents are fired up about his candidacy – they don’t necessarily agree with him all the time but he’s someone they could be proud of and believe in. Interesting times, in a good way for once.


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Just read a transcript of a speech by Barack Obama – impressive. I’m sure Clinton would be good for the US (let’s face it, we can’t get any worse) but if Obama can follow through on this kind of rhetoric the world is more likely to be a better place.

fame for minneapolis

Monday, September 17th, 2007

A report today: the toilet in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport where Republican senator Larry Graig was busted for allegedly soliciting a quickie is now a tourist hot-bed. What a way for our city to be famous.

Ironic note – many Republicans will be traveling through the same airport (if not necessarily the restroom) during the Republican National Convention next year.

data and information

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I went to a really cool day-long seminar yesterday – noted information design guru Edward Tufte was in town presenting his course on Presenting Data and Information. Totally fascinating – he pulls together sources from all over to demonstrate effective and ineffective presentation of data. There’s a ton of information on his site, and in his fantastic and beautiful books too.

Examples of effectively presenting data which he cited were Galileo’s documentation of his evidence of sunspots, Jupiter’s rings and the almost infinite number of stars, and also the first English translation of Euclid. He even brought along first editions of the books – wow.

Examples of ineffective presentations of data were a bit more up-to-date and focused a lot on the inappropriate use of PowerPoint. It’s worth following the link to see his detailed essay on how use of PowerPoint caused extremely poor decisions to be made at NASA.

Overall, really inspiring, thoughtful and stimulating. I hope that I’ll be able to use what I learned.