I apologize for this steam of consciousness mode; I know that I will probably make some grammatical mistakes.
Obama is being watched closely:
It seems hard to believe that after SO many debates this year, that another one could provoke more than just a yawn. But it seems fair to say that the Democratic debate taking place in Philadelphia tonight, televised on MSNBC starting at 9 p.m. Eastern, may be the most eagerly anticipated forum of this year.
That is because of Senator Barack Obama. Last Friday, Mr. Obama –- whose campaign has been, for the most part, studiously non-confrontational -– gave an interview in which he attacked the credibility Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, ticking off a string of disagreements with her as he proclaimed that “the time has come” to start distinguishing himself from his opponents.
And it’s not only Mr. Obama. John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, has himself turned up the temperature on his attacks on Mrs. Clinton.
That’s what you need to know: Here’s what to look for.
Mr. Obama. Will he pull the trigger? Will Mr. Obama say on television, in front of Mrs. Clinton, some of the things he said in the interview with two New York Times reporters aboard his plane last week? (Read the excerpts.) Mr. Obama has appeared to struggle from the start of this campaign with how to marry what he has promised to be a new approach to politics -– free of the partisan bitterness that has marked presidential campaigns for so long -– with what it takes to actually win a presidential race.
For a while, judging by the crowds he drew, the number of small contributors who flocked to his campaign, and some polls, it appeared that Democrats were rallying around this new voice. But Mr. Obama has watched as Mrs. Clinton has pulled way ahead of him in national polls and polls in New Hampshire, even as he has remained strong in Iowa. Many of his own supporters have expressed frustration that he has not highlighted his differences with Mrs. Clinton or verbalized the reservations many Democrats have about Mrs. Clinton
The trick for Mr. Obama is to find a way to make these attacks without appearing that he has have abandoned the “politics of hope” message he brought in the front of the race in response to polls. Candidates who go on the attack tend to find that voter opinion of them turns more unfavorable; Mr. Obama would appear to be particularly at risk of this.
Mr. Obama’s advisers are calculating that at some point, the initial story line that Mr. Obama is drawing differences with Mrs. Clinton in response to his poll numbers will fade, and that Democrats will begin considering the criticisms he is making of her. Still, it is not an easy task Mr. Obama faces tonight, and especially challenging one for someone who is making his first run for national office and may not yet have risen to his full potential as a candidate.
And the Clinton campaign is not making it easy for him; it posted a video on YouTube and its Web site this morning showing Mr. Obama, in a memorable speech at the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, talking about how he was not going to attack his opponents and did not even think Democrats should be looking to attack Republicans. That message drew a warm response that morning, but it is part of why he is in something of a box today.
Oh, one other thing: It is of course possible that Mr. Obama will end up not pulling the trigger. That would give late-night TV hosts, columnists and television commentators plenty of fodder for a few more days of Obambi-bashing
We’ll see; here we go!
Obama is up first. First, he is asked about how he differs from Senator Clinton, and how she is “like a Republican”. Obama starts with a joke; says this is Rocky vs. Apollo Creed with his being Rocky! 🙂
He accuses Clinton of flip flopping on NAFTA and the Iraq war.
Clinton says that the Republicans don’t see it that way; as evidence she says that the Republicans have gone after her; she did not counter his charge directly.
Edwards: asked about his accusation that Clinton has engaged in double talk. Edwards talks about Bush destroying the trust between the public and the office. Edwards said that Clinton is defending a corrupt, broken system, and says that Clinton will keep troops there. Edwards hammers on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. He gets her on social security.
Clinton doesn’t counter directly, but talks about her record and says that she has stood up to the administration. She appeals to Bill Clinton’s record. She talks about no-bid contracts and tax increases on the wealthy.
Clinton is asked about the Kyl-Lieberman amendment (which was condemned by Senator Webb). She says that she is not in favor to “rush to war”. She says that this is a diplomacy option. She says that this amendment is not an authorization for war; noted that even Senator Durbin (who voted against the Iraq war) voted for it.
Dodd is asked. He says that this vote will haunt us. He noted the similarities with the Iraq authorization vote; he said that we should have learned our lesson in 2002. He says that it was dangerous. He noted that Lugar and Hagel voted against it too; Dodd says that this was the time to show leadership.
Biden is asked: he says that there are consequences about what we do. He noted that oil prices went up as a result. He noted that Bush has been emboldened. He noted that there are consequences for Pakistan and Afghanistan (the moderates are put into jeopardy; this gives the appearance of a crusade against Islam). Biden claims that this vote has consequences.
Obama is asked about a “red line” for attack Iran. Obama says that we shouldn’t be talking about attacking Iran. He says that Republican rhetoric is a rejection of diplomacy; he says we need to talk to both allies and enemies. He recommends talking about both carrots and sticks. He says the resolution weakens our capacity to influence the region; says we haven’t tried as yet.
Clinton Says economic sanction are part of diplomacy. He says to put “everything on the table”. She says that the Revolutionary guard being declared as a terrorist group hurts them economically. She will not speculate about when they will get nuclear weapons; same as Obama.
Edwards Wonders how passing Bush’s amendment is putting pressure on Bush, notes the language is similar to the 2002 Iraq resolution. Edwards says that they have to say “no”; says that Bush is rattling the saber. Says the resolution is written in the language of the neocons and enables Bush.
Richardson Claims to have been the only one to have negotiate with the Iran. Someone else disputed this. He says that they can make some deals; nuclear power for potential for nuclear weapons. Says that he knows the region (U. N. Ambassador) He says that it will take skilled diplomacy; says that saber rattling is not effective. He says that we need allies, in particular from Russia and Europe.
Kucinich Says that we need to reject this move to war with Iran; he calls some Democrats are enablers. Talks about the policies of preemption. He wants to know when the Democrats will stand up to Bush and to try to impeach him. Got some applause.
Clinton Pledges to do everything she can to prevent a nuclear bomb. Edwards Says something similar.
Obama Notes that the question isn’t that helpful. Says that we will not be governed by fear. Says that we are NOT the weakest one but the strongest one. He mentions the erosion of civil liberties.
Biden Notes that this is a complicated question. Gives an example of why some questions don’t have a simple answer. In fact, he gives an excellent example; this guy is smart.
Dodd Says which one of them has the background and experience to make the best judgment. But he mentions that Pakistan is a bigger problem.
Richardson Says he would make the pledge, but to do it by diplomacy. He talks about loose nuclear weapons. The key, he says, diplomacy. Talks about how he brought people out of Iraq when Saddam was in power. He talks about his international experience. He talks about North Korea and how he dealt with them.
Kucinich Scolds the media for bad questions; urges media to not enable the run up to war. Talks about the non-proliferation treaty (nuclear weapons).
Clinton Kennedy, one of Clinton’s campaigners, said that she has never heard of Clinton opposing the war. Clinton says that she does oppose the war and will end it. She says that there is no plan in place to turn it over. She talks about assembling a team to do this; she says that there are problems all over the place; calls many places “tinderboxes”.
Obama Says her answer is not consistent with respect to the Iran Kyl-Lieberman amendment. He agrees that we need to focus on diplomacy. He says that we can’t just dictate. He says that the next president shouldn’t have been one of the co-authors of the Iraq resolution. He says we need to engage Iran, Syria and other countries.
Edwards Says that if you think that we should keep troops in Iraq and there should be no timetable for withdrawal of troops, then vote for Clinton. Mocks the “if we knew then what we know now”, mentions that she moves from “mode” to mode (primary and general); says Clinton is more of the same.
Clinton Clinton says that we should pursue Al-Qeda; how can one do that without troops. Calls it a limited mission. She says where she stands and says that it is nuanced; her withdrawal plan is “responsible”.
Analysis: Biden gave the best “nuts and bolts” policy wonk answer; it is clear that she is a smart, knowledgeable guy. Obama came off well; Edwards landed the hardest shots, and for the first time Clinton didn’t really shine above the rest. She did ok though; her best line was the one about the Republicans constantly attacking her. That will play well. She also had the “the voters know my record” (though in fact, they don’t).
Workout notes 2200 yard swim; I am getting better at swimming again. Then I had the best yoga session (on my own) that I’ve had in a long time; the “camel” pose is finally beginning to open up for me.
Walking: my legs are recovering. But for those who wonder why I call myself “pathetic”, here is the type of walking a national class (or world class masters) ultrawalker does:
quick note: I walked the hilly 30 miles today 48 minutes faster than last week, 4h 26m. Ate a bag of jelly beans, a coke and a gatorade. morning weight 175. feeling strong. last mile 8:27.
Ray has qualified for the U. S. Olympic Trails 50K racewalk.
Get a load of this training week:
147 kms this week in 6 days. That’s about 90-91 miles, I think.
Monday: 60k, with 6 k slow, 50k in 4:25:34, 4 k slow
Tuesday: 10k jogging/ski walking
Wednesday: 8 k slow walking
Thursday: 3 X 5k in 24:07, 23:22, 23:49
Friday: 6k slow, 8 k slow
Saturday: 1 k slow, 25 k 2:07:10 (26:02/25:08/25:22/25:02/25:34), 1 k slow, 5 k 23:52, 1 k slow, 1 k 4:31, 3 k jog.
I’m ready to walk about 4:15 now for 50k. I have 12 weeks to lose a few pounds, increase the pace a bit, and do more long walks. I’d like to take a second per week off my readiness pace, which is around 5:05 per km now. I can walk 4:55s without breathing hard, but 5:05s or so is all my legs can handle for 3-4 hours. In the 25k today I had a few 4:58s or 4:59s, but my legs were tired from Monday so I stopped at 25k to rest instead of doing 40k in 3:22, which I probably could have managed with an all-out effort.
A 4:25 50K training walk!!!! For the uninitiated, I’ll put it this way: his training walk would have placed him 12 out of 133 in the Chicago 50K RUN (paved bikepath course) in 2004 (the year I walked a 6:20, which remains my PR). Of course, the world record walk is 3:35, and anything under 3:50 is considered world class.
Anyway, this is what a real athlete does in training. This is why my wife calls me a “pretend athlete”. 🙂
Athletic excitement this week: Football, Navy vs. Notre Dame. Can Navy end the long losing streak (since 1963?) Notre Dame is a 3.5 point favorite.
NFL: Colts-Patriots. Two teams that just completely dominated other good teams. The Colts blew out Jacksonville and Carolina on the road in back to back games (the first one on Monday night, no less) and the Patriots dominated a good Redskin team 52-7 and blew out the otherwise undefeated Cowboys in Dallas.
In running, we have the men’s Olympic trials marathon on Saturday.
Workout notes Nothing yet; I plan to do some yoga and to walk with my wife.
Note: I feel very satisfied with yesterday’s walk though it was slow. I was beginning to question my mental toughness (could I stay with it for a long period of time) and I reminded myself that I can, so long as I keep the early pace under control.
After the walk, I met my wife at a large Chinese buffet place. This particular place is very crowded, and there are many, many very overweight people who eat there. In fact, it is common to see a car drop off a load of obese people near the door; they can’t be bothered with walking from the car! (I am NOT talking about someone leaving a physically handicapped person nearby).
So, of course, I start to feel smug, and then I remember my friend with pancreatic cancer; one who used to be able to run marathons and 5K’s at a 6:20 pace. Whatever physical abilities I have are due to, in part, having the physical health and monetary means to train.
In other words, I have been very lucky, and I need to remember that.
Football Last night, both Arizona State and Kansas remained unbeaten, as did Hawaii. Arizona State is better than people think. I don’t know about Kansas.
So, what do the major unbeaten teams have facing them?
Arizona State has Oregon, UCLA, USC and Arizona coming up. Brutal.
Kansas: Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Missouri. The last game might be tough.
Then they would have to play the south division winner.
Boston College: Florida State, Maryland, Clemson, and Miami. Doable. Then they would have a championship game.
Ohio State: Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. Tough, but within the capabilities of this team.
I’d say that Kansas has the easiest road (possibly Oklahoma in the championship game, and Oklahoma, in my opinion, is overrated)
More on football: watch this 15 lateral play with 2 seconds left, as Trinity beats Milsaps.
This is even wilder than the famous Cal-Stanford play.
Politics It is no secret that I back Barack Obama. But his campaign is going through some bad growing pains.
For example, I talked about the uproar over his hiring a homophobic singer (someone who had claimed to have been cured of his homosexuality) to sing at one of his campaign events.
This is an update to the post below. Courtesy of Aravosis, comes this statement from Barack Obama:
“I have clearly stated my belief that gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens. I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country,” Obama said in the written statement.
“I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin’s views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division,” the statement added.
Simply not good enough, not that I frankly expected anything better. I am heartened to see that he mentions homophobia, however I would have liked o see him take a harder approach to the language he used to talk about McClurin’s views. “strongly disagree” would be better as “repudiate”.
It seems like the campaign did a terrible job vetting the participants, at least that is what I am optimistically thinking. The campaign would have faced significant blowback if they disinvited McClurin. Instead they decided to face the ire of the GLBT community. That was a political calculation and further evidence of where the community stands with respect to Barack Obama. Needless, to say this will be a continuing topic of conversation in the GLBT blogosphere and has the potential to stay in the media’s eye.
Ok, I disagree with the “simply not good enough” statement of the blog author; I think that Obama made the best of a self-inflicted bad situation.
And frankly, these are the kinds of mistakes that Hillary Clinton doesn’t make.
I don’t pay much attention to David Broder, but he gets it right this time:
These are difficult days for supporters of Barack Obama. This city is filled with people who have voted for, worked for, contributed to and, in many cases, prayed for the success of the young senator from Illinois. The struggle he has had in trying to overtake Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination is wearing on their morale.
Last weekend, I heard them tell each other that while the race started months ago, it is still the early going; that the crucial days in Iowa and New Hampshire are still ahead; and that there is time for Obama to close with a rush, as he did when he came from behind to capture the nomination for his Senate seat in 2004.
But the steady drumbeat of polls showing Clinton with more support than all the other Democrats combined — and twice as much as Obama — is taking a toll. In their private moments, they wonder whether even Obama, gifted as he is, can pull off this feat. […]
They see Obama as someone uniquely positioned to heal a divided nation — and to change the image of America in the world — simply by virtue of his history and personality. They can visualize the headlines and television coverage around the globe if he were elected to the White House.
Among the Obama faithful, Hillary Clinton is not reviled. Indeed, there is a good deal of admiration for the way she has conducted herself in the campaign.
But at every turn, Obama’s people feel that he has been outmaneuvered and outsmarted by Clinton’s timing and tactics. […]
The speech that he delivered at DePaul University here was as serious a discussion of the lessons of Iraq and the future of American foreign policy as anyone could wish. And, as I was repeatedly reminded by the Obama people, it got next to no national press coverage. It was briefly summarized on Page A8 of The Post, Page 11 of the Boston Globe and Page 20 of the New York Times.
Why? Because the Clinton campaign, with exquisite timing, that same morning released its latest-quarter fundraising totals, which put her ahead of Obama for the first time in the money race. The Page 1 stories in the next day’s Times and Post were simple: Clinton, leading all the polls, now leads in campaign finances as well.
The pessimists in the Obama camp worry that never again will they have such an opportunity to highlight his early opposition to the war — in contrast to Clinton’s vote for the resolution that President Bush used when he ordered the attack on Baghdad.
That is probably an exaggeration. Future debates, especially those coming in Iowa and New Hampshire, may provide more openings. It is also the case that the voters in those states are far less firmly attached to their current candidate preferences than polling numbers would suggest. There is, in fact, time for Obama to rally. It’s just hard for his people to believe it right now.
As far as Hillary Clinton goes: (ok, I am ducking as I say this): I actually LIKE her. Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer a “flaming liberal” and on the issues, Senator Clinton is easily the most conservative among the top three Democrats. But she sure is a good campaigner, and she has a good ability to find common ground (though her detractors call it “triangulating”).
We’ll return to politics a bit later (later post); right now I want to discuss some religion/society issues:
From around the blogosphere:
Science Avenger: absolutely takes Dinesh D’Souze apart. Here is a sample (please read the whole thing):
“In a way, the atheist attacks on God and religion are a bit odd. I don’t believe in unicorns, but I don’t go around writing books about them.”
Well no, that is because there is no group of unicornists running around trying to outlaw ice cream cones because of their resemblance to the Holy Horn, or trying to suppress scientific findings and indoctrinate children with bronze age creation myths, or trying to prevent people from using birth and disease control. Many atheists lack belief in astrology and the Loch Ness monster as well, but we don’t attack that nearly as much as we attack religion. Same reason: the astrologers for the most part leave us alone and don’t try to force their views on the rest of us. Let Christians develop the same tolerance for differing views, and rest assured, the atheist attacks on them would abate.
This is a Coulteristic non-argument. It’s just a smart aleck claim akin to what a 10 year old might conjure up. Why isn’t it spelled out logically? Because D’Souza knows how absurd it would sound to say “Gosh, atheists sure criticize belief in God a lot. They must really believe in Him.” It is not the stuff of serious scholarship, and certainly not the sort of thing that is going to be a challenge to atheists.
The only point I’d make here is that D’Souza’s work is more about making his fellow theistards feel better about themselves than about trying to convince the other side. Then again, you can say the same about the new atheist books (which I have and enjoyed, thank you). But they didn’t change my mind about anything.
Atheist or Anti-Theist: evanescent explains:
When I first started to self-identify as an atheist, I held several positions that I have since rejected. An example of one of these was the notion that science answers “how” questions and religion answers “why” questions. Although I was unaware of him at the time, I would have agreed with Gould’s non-overlapping magisterium. Now I don’t. I don’t actually believe religion has anything worthwhile to say on anything. Religion never shied away from making bold claims about the world when it was talking to an ignorant unscientific audience. If religion doesn’t overlap with science today it is only because the religious are rightly afraid to compete with science; a battle they have historically always lost. Some fundamentalists aren’t happy to remain on their side of the playground however; they actively undermine legitimate science and try to have their view of reality supersede any other. Finally, religion makes numerous claims that are incompatible with scientific knowledge. Some theists rationalise these incongruities by appealing to symbolism or non-literalism. That’s their choice, but I don’t think you can justify every contradiction, and indeed if religion was true, why would you have to?
Another position that I used to tacitly hold is that religion can do whatever it wants, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. That is after all, one of my universal principles for living: do as you wish, as long as no one is harmed. In theory, if religion also lived by the same precepts, I would have little problem with it. I don’t agree with everyone’s worldview, but I would hate to see a world where any worldview was imposed. In my ideal world, free speech, free inquiry, and freedom of belief (or non-belief) would be permanent inalienable human rights. The reason I am so opposed to religion is because it embodies everything that civilised society should not want to see realised on any scale.
I see no reason to believe in anything supernatural, which obviously includes god. That makes me an atheist. But what about anti-theism? You don’t have to be an atheist to be an anti-theist strictly speaking. One could fully believe in a god and also be opposed to him and his regime. One assumes that the character of Satan is an anti-theist. Being an atheist doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an anti-theist either. I don’t know many atheists personally who self-identify as anti-theists, but this might just be because they don’t know of, or like to use, the expression. I will explain why I’m an anti-theist.
First, I’d like to point out that there doesn’t seem to be one theist who doesn’t dislike the idea of what they believe in. This may seem like a rather obvious point, but is subtly powerful. There are many facts about the world we accept. Some of them we like and some of them we dislike. Some we are glad are the case, and some we wish were different. But we accept it. I don’t like the fact that I will die, but I accept it. I don’t like losing, but it happens (occasionally). I don’t like having to pay so much in taxes, but it’s a fact of life. A nihilist may consider the ephemeral nature of life as inferring that life is meaningless, whereas a humanist would infer that life is even more precious because it is so brief. Isn’t it rather convenient that there isn’t one theist who believes in a god and doesn’t wish it were true? If it were so obvious that a god existed, why are the only ones who believe in him those who wish it were also true? […]
One point of disagreement: I fully believe that religion has something to offer, on a personal level. If one accepts religious myths as paradigms to live by (and accepts the positive ones), it can be useful. Prayer and mediation can relax people; help them get centered to deal with their respective challenges. Yoga can relax the body and mind; even make both stronger. (Yes, yoga can be thought of as a religion; in fact many continue to claim that it is bad to take the religious aspect out of it)
To me, religion becomes harmful when it stops being a self-help technique and starts being thought of as a source for truth.
Shalini takes on this issue (of combating the widespread belief that believing in irrational stuff is ok, or even good) and points out that even our mainstream media is part of the problem.
Feature story: Does your house have ghosts?
*bangs head on the wall*
A sampling of the kookery and buffoonery that passes of as a ‘feature article’ on CNN:
If natural explanations cannot be found, and it’s determined that there is indeed a presence in your house, the investigators will likely suggest you get in touch with a family minister so he or she can come to the house and to pray for the soul of the spirit that is present. This is not an “exorcism,” but simply an attempt to get the ghost to leave in peace.
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