Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vote Obama!

I can't listen anymore. It's seems like a numbing cacophony of stats from both sides that imply the other side is lying or telling half truths.

But I still woke up this morning and sent of my vote, which I trust might sway the results in the swing state of Vermont.

I didn't need convincing -- I have found the Romney/Fox News/Republican/Ayn Rand view of the world narrow, self-centered, short-term and historically unfounded. I got my problems with Obama and politicians and the way the world is moving, but I see the clear differences.

It makes my stomach twist up with nervousness that garbage like Obama's America: 2016 was advertising on the NYT Five Thirty Eight blog last week, just as the polls are to close. Some really helpful comparisons on a "Who's Who" on Obama's founding fathers!? This film panders to the very worst stereotypes and distortions. While there are many moral equivalency arguments to have about left and right wing "art", this is out of bounds for dishonesty and divisiveness. (Obama's thoughts on the film.) That the film is advertising on Five Thirty Eight and soliciting more tax-deductible donations!!! to spew shit before the election points right at the heart of what's wrong with money in politics. Thank goodness we have had Stephen Colbert mocking and educating us on the role of Super PACs.

Cutting through the loads of lies and counter lies and lies about lies, The New Yorker is comprehensive in its analysis to justify why Obama should get another four years. Read all the reasons, since they all matter, but don't miss the conclusion:
The reĆ«lection of Barack Obama is a matter of great urgency. Not only are we in broad agreement with his policy directions; we also see in him what is absent in Mitt Romney—a first-rate political temperament and a deep sense of fairness and integrity. A two-term Obama Administration will leave an enduringly positive imprint on political life. It will bolster the ideal of good governance and a social vision that tempers individualism with a concern for community. Every Presidential election involves a contest over the idea of America. Obama’s America—one that progresses, however falteringly, toward social justice, tolerance, and equality—represents the future that this country deserves.
Or the New York Times or the Salt Lake Tribune... Yes, you knew how these publications would "vote", but the rationale and reasons -- dare we risk saying we value such talents in writing? -- hold together and make sense and are consistent with what we see happening in the world. And they show the contrast in this election, as well as why voting is a matter of great urgency.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Informed Debate On 2012 Election, Please!

Listening to the Romney/Ryan opening speech was a warning to me about what is ahead. Values, principles and character... blah, blah, blah. My main question is whether the rest of the world has anything to do with the US or is it just some island that will rise or fall as a result of the moral convictions of the president?

In contrast to what I expect from both campaigns' upcoming talking points, I dream of really having an long discussion about the economy. I think any debate over the economy should take place only after the electorate listens to the Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air in her interview with David Wessel, the economics editor of The Wall Street Journal. Why can't all interviews be this informative? Best to listen to the whole interview. The "interview highlights" are not sufficient.

That was a rally and not a policy speech, for sure, but aside from blaming Obama for the economy and praise for Romney's faith and character (in contrast to a lack of both in Obama?), I don't see any other strategy developing.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A House Divided

Some people described the Supreme Court upholding the mandate as one of those decisions that change the future of a country. That's true no matter what one's opinion on the issue. But look at how different media outlets displayed the news as it was announced. Wonder how many historians will remember the importance of "Fast and Furious"... (Even the UK's Telegraph knew Balotelli was a better picture than Obama or Holder.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Saving Tigers

Potlatch is very observant and I wish I could condense this whole post into a statement that can be said in the time it takes to dodge the people trying to get my signature on the street. Perhaps "That's Not How Tigers Die!" will become the code word for all his points.

And I haven't heard from Kony 2012 recently, but they are still dancing. I am pleased to see they are keeping their work going, and it's good news that a leader has been captured, but does it have to be so strobe lighty and rave-crazed? "That's Not How Tigers Die!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Marriage For All!

Not yet a reality, but this is a great step for the United States and rights in general.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Read and Watch! I like that the daughters led their father toward this decision.

Friday, March 09, 2012

More Thoughtful Responses On Kony 2012

On Complexity, Awareness, and Social Action
What I am advocating for is that before you take action you dig deeply into the issue before pushing people with political power to use international force in a nation and continent not your own. That is not a flippant decision to make. And to do so based on emotion or slick marketing is socially irresponsible. You may decide, as other thoughtful people have, that doing so is what is necessary, but please do so realizing that it should be a last resort.
(Note, this blog started with a commitment to complexity.)

And via McCarty's blog, this comment by Mr. Okwonga in The Independent is an important comment on the whole issue. He writes:
Invisible Children asked viewers to seek the engagement of American policymakers and celebrities, but – and this is a major red flag – it didn’t introduce them to the many Northern Ugandans already doing fantastic work both in their local communities and in the diaspora. It didn’t ask its viewers to seek diplomatic pressure on President Museveni’s administration.

And one from the ever-insightful Knowledge Management 4 Development (KM4Dev) listserv: KONY2012 – a story in one flavour

This linked me to a great video by Chimamanda Adichie on TED about "one story". And her talk reminds me of a very formative paper I read by Richard Shweder, "Moral Maps, 'First World' Conceipts, and the New Evangelists". In it, he writes:
...I am a cultural pluralist. My version of cultural pluralism begins with a universal truth, which I refer to as the principle of "confusionism". A "confusionist" believes that the knowable world is incomplete if seen from any one point of view, incoherent if seen from all points of view at once, and empty if seen from "nowhere in particular". Given the choice between incompleteness, incoherence, and emptiness, I opt for incompleteness while staying on the move between different ways of seeing and valuing the world.

And one more that I read via Mr. Thorpe's post: Kony 2012: history, nuance, and advocacy’s Golden Rule

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Exaggerating Truth To Be Effective?

...and another thing...

I was reminded of another video that got me a bit unsettled last year. I refreshed my memory and came across another thoughtful piece in The Guardian: Unwatchable: should charities use shock tactics to get attention?

It speaks about when it is and isn't OK, in the writer's opinion, to exaggerate, shock and make the general public uncomfortable. I'd guess there will never be a right answer to this. I agree with this statement: "Sometimes it can be tempting to prioritise effectiveness over truth. I know of campaigns that have deliberately exaggerated statistics and claims to provoke a reaction. It has sometimes worked, but in the long-term an untruthful strategy may well lose support and legitimacy."

How you convey "the truth" matters. In my last post on Kony 2012, I guess I was saying that I didn't like their message, but it provoked me to act (not buy posters, but get to work in my own way).

The makers of "Unwatchable" state:
We know we’ve made something which many are going to find disturbing and thought it was important to explain why we went to such lengths. The issue that hundreds of thousands are targeted by weaponised rape as a tactic of destroying communities to control mines has been with us for over a decade and still continues.

The last sentence doesn't answer an important question: who is using rape as a weapon? So the awareness-raising "truth" will make people more anti-mining rather than think about who uses rape and why they are able to get away with it. Mining companies have a huge responsibility to prevent their complicity, but the truth is that such violence doesn't just disappear if you even could set up a programme to mine only "rape free" minerals so tossing out your iPhone won't do anything. In short, this is a less effective campaign than Kony 2012, in my opinion, especially as it makes people less open to thinking about ways that natural resources present an opportunities for development.

And, the assumption that if you see wealthy white people getting raped means we should care seems like an "effective" tactic, but makes my stomach turn. Maybe that's just my displeasure with the way of the world rather than a comment on the film.

This video on "Why we made this?" is really worth watching. But I still don't change my opinion. And if you ask me, nothing can be more horrific than the story itself, told in graphic detail with no professional directors and filmmakers.

Kony 2012

Holy Thursday morning distraction! I must blog!

The buzz around Kony 2012 reached my inbox early, encouraging me to drink even before lunch. I watched the film -- I cried a bit, rolled my eyes a lot and felt old for not being able to socially network like my younger socializing friends. Mixed emotions.

I've got no major problem with the filmmakers. I think it's naive. But I value and respect what it takes to organize. I also value the tone of their responses to the criticism. Dialogue is good and they are responding in detail to their weaknesses and inviting you/me to ask harder questions.

At the end of the day, I really value the push of encouragement at the end of this post -- go and read the Crisis Group analysis from November about this problem! If 1% of the 26,684,765 people who see the film on youtube do that (and go further still), that's a lot of better informed people on a really complex issue.

If some naive guy wants to push for the urgency of now, it may make me cringe on many, many levels, but I was "there" once too and I did far less than him to try and raise awareness. More power to him. Maybe in the buzz of outcry against and outcry to support, we'll all get a bit more creative about how to deal with the complexity. The the fatigue that comes with dealing with complexity is real, it's not going away, so I appreciate the kick in the pants. In fact, all this stuff is even making me re-think Bono, who I have long criticised for his shallow and over-simplistic approach to social change. But Bono is making a case that often leads to better, more specific critiques of aid and development. So, well done, Bono (even if I think your music is still shit).

Here's to all the over-simplifies, even you Bono! And to everyone who knows it's more complex, use your disgust at the over-simplification as a new push to get more creative at making your solutions heard.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning More About Hospice

I learned about a new film via Help the Hospices. Check out the trailer of Life Before Death, which I hope to see in a few weeks in London.

The bigger website seems a bit odd, but I support all efforts to talk more comfortably about the issues.

Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Beyond

This is a good article on the rise of Elizabeth Warren in politics and thinking about ideals in the Obama and post-Obama world: "Heaven Is a Place Called Elizabeth Warren".
But many of the people looking to Warren, as they did to Obama before her, are expecting material things — like readable credit-card pitches or safe bridges or jobs or a vote on a bill to create jobs — that are, at the moment, figments as imaginative as dragons and their slayers. And that’s dangerous, because when the person we decided was going to fix it all isn’t able to change much, it’s not just that we get blue but also that we give up. We mistake the errors of our own overblown estimations for broken promises. And instead of learning, reasonably, that one person can’t do everything, we persuade ourselves that no person can do anything.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Read this article on money flowing to people who voted for same sex marriage in New York.

I am both elated by the vote, as it turned out, but highly suspicious of the "flow of money". How can anyone be for getting money out of politics, but also donate to causes or politicians who are making social change happen? Flip the issue to cash flowing to Democrats getting money for voting on limits to abortion and I'd be...well, conflicted. Until all the money is out of politics, you gotta play the game, which makes me almost agree with Newt Gingrich's current strategy, something I haven't done before.

By the way, I want to start having dinner parties where we watch one Super PAC ad and discuss...best thing to happen to democracy.

Vote Herman Cain!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You Won't Miss It!

This is power (this is the link you click on when you see this on wikipedia today).

Our purpose here isn't to make it completely impossible for people to read Wikipedia, and it's okay for you to circumvent the blackout. We just want to make sure you see our message.
I saw it! Not only do I feel impelled to read more about this, my mind realizes the power of a site like wikipedia to funnel our attention on a whole number of issues.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Super PAC Survey

Who named these things? And, more importantly, if you had to vote just based on the name, which one would get your money?

Red, White and Blue Fund.
Our Destiny.
Make Us Great Again.
Restore Our Future.
Winning Our Future.

I really like the Definitely Not Coordinated with Stephen Colbert Super PAC, now run by Jon Stewart.
"I am excited to take the reins of this completely independent organization, and begin to air ads in South Carolina," said New President and Noncommunication Director Jon Stewart. "But I want to be clear: Stephen and I have in no way have worked out a series of morse-code blinks to convey information with each other on our respective shows."

You can read the serious overview of how these things are keeping some candidates in the race...
“I’m not going to back down or be afraid to say, ‘We, the American people, have the right to know, and any candidate for president has an obligation to tell us,’ ” Mr. Gingrich said at a convention of the elderly in Columbia.

Asked if Winning Our Future was keeping him in the race, Mr. Gingrich said that “it just offsets the other PACs.”

...or you can watch the Colbert Report. The Guardian found it worthy to report.

If you really are interested in feeling depressed, I highly recommend watching a few of the commercials on the "real" super PAC sites. It's insane... especially the disclaimer on the bottom of the page: "Paid for by Winning Our Future. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee."

Yes, Mr. Colbert, god bless Citizens United!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Marry Gay People; Or How I Almost Topped 2011 Blog Posts!

Wow, five days into 2012 and I have almost surpassed my blog post total for 2011!

With all the Santorum quotes giving you a very bad stomach ache, listen to the governor of Washington, Christine Gregoire, who has just disclosed her intention to marry the gays! She said it very, very well.

I can't believe we are still having this debate, let alone voting for people who connect homosexuality with some sort of moral decay that is hurting the economy and country, Rick. Don't support his Super PAC!

One more post to go for a tie with 2011. What a year already!

Hello 2012! The Year of "Truthiness" (For Me)

I am old, so if it takes me six or so years to recognize the importance of truthiness, I just put it down to being a slow reader.

The NYT review of Stephen Colbert is further evidence to convince me that I have a new favorite person. He was also on NPR's Fresh Air doing broadway musical song and expanding on my favorite of his three personalities.

How many times have I heard about Super PACs and their corrosive role in politics? But the indignation only really bubbles up when I see the Buddy Roemer clip. Will Gingrich start teaming up with the Colbert Report now that Romney has torpedoed his campaign?

Donate to the Colbert Super PAC with me. Or maybe you'd prefer Sarah Palin's? Why donate to candidates when the real stuff we love, like unicorns, comes from Super PACs?