Follow by Email

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jingoism, Optimism and Enthusiasm

Obama and the Europeans
(I know... it sounds like a fifties group)

"It's not only Obama's youth, eloquence and energy
that have stolen hearts across the Atlantic. For Europeans,
there have always been two Americas: one of cynicism,
big business and bullying aggression, another of freedom,
fairness and nothing-is-impossible dynamism.
If President Bush has been seen as the embodiment of
that first America, Obama has raised expectations of a
chance for the nation to redeem itself in the role that - at
various times through history - Europe has loved,
respected and relied upon."

"The people in Europe expect a different kind of
foreign policy for the USA from Obama,
away from military dominance and
towards more cooperation and negotiation."

- Interview with Thomas Bauer, Research Fellow
at the Center for Applied Policy Research,
Munich, by Academic World

These bipolar views of US policy and behavior make it easy to understand why our allies in Europe are nervous about being on the same team with us. We're the Jimmy Piersall of NATO - they need us to help them win, so they put us in and we work hard to win, but we sometimes get frightfully out of control.

We are collectively convinced by our own paternal conservatism - that which won the West, subjugated the Indians and institutionalized racism - that to take a tack other than "bullying aggression" is to show cowardice. Barack Obama's statements about having a meaningful dialogue with those who would otherwise do us harm flies in the face of that. It is therefor the contention of Europeans that the "military dominance" to which Herr Bauer refers is seared into the mindset of conservative Americans. To them, we are a country run by gunslingers whose credo might be, "If yer talkin' ya ain't shootin', and if ya ain't shootin', yer yella!" Helluva caricature we've created for ourselves.

It is to those cartoon Americans whom reporters like NBC's Andrea Mitchell refer when they say:

"[W]hat if he is so celebrated in Europe, that there is criticism back home? That it doesn't play well in parts of the country that are, you know, a little bit more jingoistic, and a little bit more isolationist, which includes, perhaps, parts of the Midwest and Appalachia, and other parts of key battleground states, where seeing him celebrated in Europe might seem to be an implicit criticism of America."
- Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, to MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, July 17, 2008

This bit of thoughtful punditry is wrong on so many levels, most importantly because there is no way that it can be said that Obama is actively courting the jingoist vote. Jingoists don't vote. Politicians can never measure up to their chauvinistic ideal of "real"Americans.

To be sure, criticism will come from the Right, but from a different kind of flag waver. The conservative National Review says the mistake is Europe's, not Obama's. A mistake, it says, being made by people on both sides of the Atlantic:

"Disappointment on two continents is inherent in the current enthusiasm. Europeans regard Bush, his America, and his foreign policy as little short of diabolical. They see Obama as the Fifth Cavalry riding in to save them from such dangerous folly."
- The Editorial, National Review Online, July 22, 2008

Setting the sarcasm and cynicism of the NRO editorial board aside, the senator's visit to Europe is not meant to save the Europeans, but to save us, or at least to lay the groundwork. You see, Europeans are not celebrating Obama, the man. They are rejoicing for the same reason many of us are: the end of the George W. Bush presidency. That the possible replacement for this mis-president is a forward thinking, eloquent, intelligent, bright, concerned and charismatic man like Barack Obama just helps up the hope-factor. Why not rejoice in that?

"A potential president who is beloved by Europeans? It just feels -- wrong, somehow. If our staunch European allies aren't inflamed with anger, how do we know we're doing something right?"
- James Kotecki's Video Blog, July 21,2008 -


Friday, July 18, 2008

A Generational Moment

Al Gore's Global Energy Initiative

"We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that has to change."

"Today I am challenging our nation to commit to producing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon free sources within ten years."

"People are ready for a new, different and bold approach to genuinely solve our problems."

"This is a generational moment."
-Vice President Al Gore, July 17, 2008

How can a ten year goal proposed by someone with no high office, with principled, progressive stands on politics, expect to succeed in a divided nation? CBS News called it "an audacious dare" and said he "laid down the green gauntlet," not quite the level of inspiration associated with JFK's moon landing challenge.

Those were headier times, the early 1960s. We were still a nation glowing from the victorious pride of World War II, thrusting our chests out at our ability to match the Soviet Union in the nascent "space race." President Kennedy set a goal with his challenge, one that "the greatest generation" had no doubt we could achieve.

Even in language, Kennedy said in his May, 1961 speech, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." He too spoke of commitment, but in the sense of achievement and national pride, not in the face adversity.

What made the moon landing embraceable is that we relied on the commitment of a few intensely passionate scientists and bureaucrats to carry us through. Beyond the financial commitment, our role was to cheer them on, and we did, crowing along with Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley.

But Mr. Gore's challenge means we all must contribute, in our own way. The group We Can Solve It ( a project of Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection) says on its website,
"This, really, is a political and cultural challenge. We can do this quickly if all Americans -- every single one of us -- embrace this and insist on it. Every scientist, every teacher, every investor, every family -- there is a role for each of us."

The reason for that statement is self evident. That is, our individual commitment requires a very, very important adjustment to our consumer culture. If in the face of expanding renewable, carbon free energy development, the oil industry chooses to lower the price of oil to lure us back, will we hold to this commitment or will we say, "Oh good. Cheap gas. It's easier to fill my tank with this than to wait for technology, "?

This is why Mr. Gore's goal is our challenge: we will be committing to give up the fossil fuels we know and love, to do something for the future of our country and the planet, rather than capitulating to the "I want it now" mentality that ad men and politicians will continue to throw at us like a somatic aphrodisiac.

The cure for this unhealthy desire is commitment. Say "I commit" and join with the million-and-a-half people that have signed up in support of the "bold approach to solve our problems."

Every time you grab your car keys, every time you sit down in your driver's seat, say to yourself, "I am committed to a fossil fuel free future." Write it on your keyring. Put it on a Post-it note in your car. Remember that you are helping to restore a healthy planet.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Knight on a Dark Horse

Is Georgia Finally Ready for Someone with Fresh Ideas?

All over this country there are invisible candidates with great ideas and no media. That is, the media does not consider them "serious" candidates. In Georgia, early voting began today for next week's primary, which features a list of Democrats running for the chance, however slim it may be, to unseat the horribly complacent and complicit Republican senator, Saxby Chambliss.

The two Democrats who have gotten the most media attention - and have the most funds - are:

Vernon Jones - a metro Atlanta county CEO who voted for George W. Bush both times and has run out of closets in which to store his various skeletons;

Jim Martin - a former state legislator, cut in traditional Georgia Democrat style, who recently lost a statewide vote for lieutenant governor.

Georgia is one of those states where the Democrats are always re-running the last election and expecting a different result. Hence, the party machine has chosen to back Jim Martin, since he has name recognition on a statewide ballot and - naturally - he's older and white. They even got the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to endorse him.

Yet in the same endorsement, in the first line of only the second paragraph, the AJC says "Rand Knight, an environmental engineer and software salesman, has the intellect and character" but they criticize him for being too young and inexperienced. "A seat in the U.S. Senate," they say, "would be too big a step, too soon."

But Rand Knight is the only candidate who has been endorsed by the NEA, the Georgia Association of Educators and the AFL-CIO. In the campaign's press release about the NEA endorsement, they quote GAE president Jeff Hubbard, who says,
"Rand Knight’s education positions are forward-looking and address education as a lifelong process," and he added, "He has fresh ideas and the passion to persuade other legislators to provide our schools with the funding they need to be successful and helping college and post-graduate students finance their education."

In a campaign season where change and hope transcend their sloganism, Rand Knight is real change, positive change.

He has a very strong following among young voters. He is an environmentalist with a degree in environmental engineering. He would tackle the energy and climate crisis like a scientist and not a politician. Despite what the AJC says, we cannot wait for him to try again in another capacity. If we wait much longer and merely attend to the status quo for political expediency, it will be too late for America. I don't think we can afford to do that. He also believes that essential to our resurgence as a nation is a firm commitment to education. He would be a rarity in Washington - a Senator who cares more about filling up children's minds than special interests' pockets.

So I am urging all of my local Georgia readers to tell their friends about Rand Knight, go to his website and his Facebook pages. Let others know about this dark horse and vote for him this week in early voting or Tuesday July 15. With five candidates in this race, there will almost certainly be a run-off, and it would be great if Georgia could make one of the names on that ballot be Rand Knight. Please vote!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Russ Feingold's Video Response to FISA Bill

Russ Feingold's Video Response to the FISA Bill
(Copied from the "Progressive Patriots Fund" site)

Dear Friend,

Senator Russ Feingold has promised to do everything in his power
to stop the FISA bill from becoming law. Because of this he's
received an outpouring of support from people across the
country. See his video thanking us for our support at the link

Follow this link to sign up: