Archive for Election ’08

“Angry” Criticism of Obama

"Caged Hope"

As noted in the post below, what people seem to forget is that Obama is human. He will inevitably let people down, because “people will eventually diappoint you if you know them long enough.” (“Synecdoche, NY” – Fascinating movie)

I’ve criticized his pick of VP ( I never hesitate to mention that Biden received the Friend of Zion award from Israel). I’ve also expressed disdain for his choice for Chief of Staff (see previous post from Electronic Intifada). But in the end, they won’t make the final decisions. That is left to a man who has shown clear judgement in the past. But, still, I am reminded of what Presidential candidate Eugene Debs said early in the 20th century: “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it – than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” Have I become, as one writer has termed it, a political “Judas, selling [my] ideals short for political gain?”

Below is an excerpt from a popular Middle Eastern professor’s blog who is, often times, quite “angry.” He brings up valid points. But what’s important is not to dismiss his criticisms, as a lot of Obama supporters do, but USE them. Be aware of them. Listen to them. Because it is this criticism, this disagreement that fosters change. But at the same time we must be sure not to blame all the injustices on some conspiracy that will constantly keep Arabs down, or keep Palestine or Iraq occupied, but instead turn to ourselves. How do we, as people, inform the public, and thus give Obama a platform on which he can remove support of Israel as an occupying force. In the end it’s easier to give up on change. It’s easier to say Obama is just like the rest of the politicians. It’s easier to back down and blame Obama for selling out, to give in to that self fulfilling prophecy, than to pressure him and ourselves to live up to the ideals set before us. So, to the author of the excerpt below, I welcome your Obama bashing. In fact, I demand that it continue. Because without it, we would be nothing more than sheep.
We have at least four years. While we shouldn’t be praising him as our saviour, we shouldn’t be prejudging him on decisions he hasn’t made yet.



It was a noisy night in Washington, DC. Cars were parading the streets and honking their horns all night long. People around were very excited and people walked the streets and yelled and shouted in joy. AlJazeera offices: now that was a different story. The chaos there could not hide the festive atmosphere. People took bets and they had a sheet with staff names. I asked who was betting on McCain: no one, they said but they were betting on when the results would come in with news of Obama victory. People were excited and emotional. As I sat with the three anchors listening to Obama victory speech, I would make critical comments. I could tell that people did not enjoy that and there was a white technician who was very emotional got really mad at me because I was being critical of Obama. I ran into Lawrence Korb (former assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Regan) and I asked him if he had endorsed Obama. He said that he did not do that publicly but that he was advising him on defense and national security policies. He said that there is a move to appoint Richard Halbrooke as Secretary of State. I said: but the man (in addition to annoying the hell out of me) is the biggest self-promoter in the world. I woke up to day and put on Fox News: yesterday, at the GYM I turned to Fox and the people in the GYM were about to kill me. Not Fox, they yelled. I said: are you kidding. They are hilarious and I will derive a lot of pleasure watching them this week and in weeks to come. Fox mentioned the headline of Al-Akhbar newspaper which referred to Obma as “the black Jack Kennedy”. I was not amused and I did not like that headline by Al-Akhbar at all. Why should the White Man always be a term of reference? He is not Jack Kennedy: and even though I don’t support Obama but he is much more capable and effective than Kennedy, and he did not use his daddy’s money to achieve victory, and Obama wrote his own words. The festive coverage of the Arab press is really bothering me and I tried to express that in my appearance on AlJazeera. I will write about that soon in Al-Akhbar. Those who supported Obama: you will be disappointed and you will remember my caution. Remember me when Obama will endorse an Israeli war on a refugee camp and on a Lebanese village, and he will call that justified self-defense. Remember me when Obama will mourn the deaths of Israelis and will celebrate the deaths of Arabs and Muslims. Remember me when he orders his first bombing campaign on some remote area of Pakistan. Remember me when he betrays the poor in favor of Wall Street. Remember me when he will betray the aspirations of black people in favor of the white middle class that is now the headline of the Democratic Party. Remember me when Obama will not fight for his health reform plan, and will he not deliver on many of his promises. Remember me when Obama will stick to his campaign promise of opposing gay marriage. Remember me when when Obama will continue to blame the failure of the American occupation of Iraq on the Iraqi people themselves. On Angry Arab: the Obama bashing has just begun and will continue unabated.

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Hooray, Election Day!! Now what?


“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
-Mark Twain

I have this really uneasy feeling about Obama now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still voting for the guy, and I’ll be happy to have a President I can respect for his intelligence and conduct.
I just feel like I’ve spent so long rooting for this moment that I’m afraid of what will happen afterwards.
What happens now? What do we do now?
I think I’ve used the election as a distraction, along with a litany of other distractions, to take my attention off the stresses of life from personal issues, to romantic issues, to educational issues. Over the past 20 months I’ve been able to watch pundits analyze political minutiae, browse polls, laugh at impersonations, sneer at the mudslings and cheer for the hope of a greater country. I’ve been able to quarrel with friends and family over Healthcare plans, crazy pastors (though he spoke the truth), Ron Pauls and Dennis Kucinichs, a weepy woman, a robotic Republican, a really old man…and the list goes on. When it’s over, whether or not Obama wins, I will feel this sad longing for the struggle.
I think it’s a fear a lot of people have. It’s the type of fear many men have when they get married, longing for “thrill of the chase.” It’s a fear that drives many corporate CEOs to committing suicide once they’ve ascended to the top of their company, knowing they’ve achieved everything they could hope for, and so have nothing left to strive for.
As I write this at 1:30PM on Election Day, nearly five hours before the first polls close, I wonder just what I was struggling for. If Obama wins, how bittersweet will that win be? How much easier was it to blame a shitty life and a shitty world on a shitty President than to have to possibly face the fact that “the fault, dear Brutus, lies in ourselves?” How good did it feel to scapegoat everything on an incompetent President and an evil administration rather than face the reality that evil will exist and still exists everywhere and in everyone no matter what color their skin is, or what color their state is on a political map?
I guess it’s like the feeling a Red Sox fan must’ve had when they finally won the World Series after 86 years. You’ve grown so used to the struggle, that when it’s gone, you miss it. And moreover, you’re scared the struggle was never worth it.


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I believe in miracles…I think


I’m going to be honest. I’ve been wavering on my support for Obama ever since he spoke at the AIPAC conference, and his support for Israel became more and more concrete. He is, after all a politician and I’m just scared that he’s going to disappoint. Maybe it’s so it’ll be easier for me to deal with if he doesn’t come through. I’m scared that someone who can gain such popularity among a group of conniving politicians so entrenched in BS can’t possibly be as noble as he seems. I’m scared that people will think that somehow one man can heal a nation; that all that’s required of a population is to fill out a ballot. That’s just the first step. Without us, one man can’t do anything. Without his people, Ghandi would be nothing. Without MLK’s marchers, he would be a footnote. But most of all, I’m scared that he actually is what he seems. And all it takes is someone with a gun to tear all of it down. In a world where we are bombarded with reality shows, we forget the reality around us, how permanent things are.
We invest so much in one man, and we expect miracles. But isn’t the ascendence of a black man to the White House a miracle itself?


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Olbermann: 9/11(TM)

Olbermann’s lips once again release a stream of enlightened whoop-ass.


As promised, a Special Comment about our sad anniversary tomorrow.

Or, more correctly, what our sad anniversary tomorrow has been turned into by the presidential administration, and the current Republican candidates for President and Vice President.

This is supposed to be a day of remembrance. Remembrance of the attack, remembrance of the national unity which followed it.

Most important of all, remembrance of the dead.

But 9/11 has become a brand name. A Republican campaign slogan. Propaganda of the lowest form. 9/11 has become 9/11 with a trademark logo.

9/11 (TM) has sustained a president who long ago should have been dismissed, or impeached. It has kept him and his gang of financial and constitutional crooks in office without — literally — any visible means of support.

9/11 (TM) has made possible the greatest sleight-of-hand in our nation’s history.

The political party in office at the time of the attacks, at the local, state and national levels, the party which uniformly ignored the warnings and the presidential administration already through twenty percent of its first term and no longer wet behind the ears, have not only thus far escaped any blame for the malfeasance and criminal neglect that allowed the attacks to occur, but that presidency and that party, have managed to make it seem as if the other political party would be solely and irredeemably responsible for any similar catastrophe in the future.

Thus, Sen. McCain, were you able to accomplish a further inversion of reality at your party’s nominating convention last week.

There was the former Mayor of the City of New York,  the one who took no counter-terrorism measure in his seven years in office between the first attack on the World Trade Center, and the second attack.

Nothing, except to insist, despite all advice and warning, that his Emergency Command Center be moved directly into the World Trade Center.

Yet there was this man, Sir, Rudolph Giuliani, quite succinctly dismissed as “A Noun, a Verb, and 9/11,” and repudiated even by Republican voters,  transformed into the keynote speaker, Sen. McCain at your convention.

And his childish, squealing, braying, Tourette’s-like repetition of 9/11 (TM), was greeted not as conclusive evidence that he is consumed by massive guilt – hard-earned guilt, in fact  but rather as some kind of political tour-de-force, an endorsement of your Vice Presidential nominee, a rookie governor , a facile and slick con artist.

The blind endorsing the bland, to a chorus of 9/11 (TM), 9/11 (TM), 9/11 (TM.)

Your ringing mindless cheer of “We’ve Kept You Safe Since Then.”While nobody asks “doesn’t then count?”

All of this, sadistically disrespecting the dead of New York, and Washington, and Shanksville. Endorsed,  Sen. McCain. Exploited, Sen. McCain. Trademarked, Sen. McCain by you.

And yet of course the exact moment in which Sen. McCain’s Republicans showed the nation exactly how far they have fallen from the Better Angels of Mr. Lincoln’s Nature, came the next night.

The television networks were told that the Convention would pause, early in the evening, when children could still be watching, for a 9/11 Tribute, and they were encouraged to broadcast it.

What we got was not a tribute to the dead of 9/11, nor even a tribute to the responders, or the singularity of purpose we all felt. The Republicans gave us sociological pornography, a virtual snuff film.

Years ago, responsible television networks, to the applause of the nation, and the relief of its mental health authorities, voluntarily stopped showing the most graphic of the images of the World Trade Center, except with the strongest of warnings.

And yet, the Republicans, at their convention, having virtually seized control of the cable news operations, showed the worst of it.

This is all anyone with a conscience can show you of what the Republicans showed you. The actual collapse of the smoking towers.

A fleeting image of what might have been a victim leaping to his death from a thousand feet up. And something new. From this angle, ground-level, perfectly framed, images, of the fireball created when the second plane hit the second tower.

It was terrifying. After all its object was to terrify. Not to commemorate, not to call for unity, not to remember the dead. But to terrify.

To open again the horrible wounds, to brand the skin of this nation with the message — as hateful as the terrorists’ own, that you must vote Republican or this will happen again and you will die.

And just in case that was not enough, to also dishonestly and profanely conflate 9/11 with the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, to stoke the flames of paranoia about another Middle Eastern Nation.

This was a 9/11 Tribute. Not to the dead, nor to the unity. But a tribute to how valuable 9/11 has been as a political tool for the Republican Party. 9/11… (TM.)

Sen. McCain, you had promised us a clean campaign. You could be Snow-White the rest of the way, Sir, yet that manipulative videotape from your convention should tar you always in the minds of decent Americans.

And still, as this seventh 9/11 (TM) approaches that, Sir, is not the worst of your contributions to the utter politicizing of a day that should be sacrosanct to all of us.

Hard to believe, but the Senator has done worse with 9/11 and the evil behind it.

We heard it last week in Minnesota, we’ve heard it off and on since January but Senator McCain said it most concisely in June.

“Look,” he said. “I know the area, I’ve been there, I know wars, I know how to win wars, and I know how to improve our capabilities so that we will capture Osama bin Laden — or put it this way, bring him to justice. We will do it. I know how to do it.”

Sen. McCain seems to be quite serious, that he and he alone, not the CIA, nor the U.S. Military, nor the current President  can capture bin Laden.

Thus we must take him at his word, that this is no mere ludicrous campaign boast.

We must assume Sen. McCain truly believes he is capable of doing this, and has been capable of doing this, since last January. “We will capture Osama bin Laden… we will do it. I know how to do it.”

Well then, Senator, you’d better go and do it hadn’t you?

Because, Sir, if a man or woman in this nation, Democrat or Republican, had a clear and effective means of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden…

If that person had been advertising his claim, Senator for eight months.

But if that person not only refused to go to responsible authorities in government and advise them of this plan to catch bin Laden, but further announced he would not even begin to enact this secret plan to corral the world’s most hated man until the end of next January.

What would be your description of such an individual, Senator? Charlatan? Do-nothing? Opportunist? Sen. McCain, if you have, if you have had a means of capturing Osama bin Laden, and you do not immediately inform some responsible authority of the full scope of that plan, you are to some degree great or small aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden.

If you could assist in capturing him now, Sen. McCain, but you have chosen not to you, Sir, have helped Osama bin Laden stay free.

Free to inspire and supervise the terrorists. Free to plan or execute attacks here.

You, Sir, are blackmailing some portion of the American electorate into voting for your party, by promising to help in the capture of bin Laden only if you are made president!

I’d rather win an election than catch bin Laden! No more cynical calculation has ever been made in this nation’s history, Sir. If you lose the election, Senator, are you not going to tell the President-Elect?

Are you intending to keep this a secret until the next election and your party’s next nominee? Senator, as you and your Republicans shed your phony, crocodile, opportunistic tears tomorrow on 9/11 TM, in front of the utterly disingenuous banner “Country First,” the fact is, you have shown that it is John McCain first, and the country last.

The fact is, Sir, by holding out on your secret plan to catch bin Laden by searing those images into our collective wounded American psyche at your nomination last week, terrorists are not what you, John McCain, fight. Terrorists are what you, John McCain, use.

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Slacker Uprising

check it out, michael moore’s latest is being released for free on the internet this september 23rd. to get the free download, simply sign up with your email at the film site: Slacker Uprising.

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lipstick on pig

so apparently some hillary supporters are riled over obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment, a common saying in D.C. they’re calling it offensive to sarah palin and equating it with the media’s sexist treatment of hillary, despite the fact that obama’s comment was referring to mccain’s policies. that certain hillary supporters would take it out of context shows that they’re either racist or desperate to have a woman in office, regardless of her credentials. i don’t understand how a democrat can suddenly switch values simply because a woman is now the face of the republican party. these women who have flocked to palin’s camp are committing the same kind of sexism they accuse society of.  i thought the idea was to look beyond gender and judge a human being according to his or her qualifications and character. what happened in this instance? suddenly character and values have taken a backseat.

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The Self-Cripple

Given the facts about public opinion, it means what’s needed is something not very radical. Let’s become as democratic as say…Brazil. I mean their last election was not between two rich kids who went to the same elite university and joined the same secret society where they’re trained to be members of the upper class and they can get into politics because they have rich families with a lot of connections. I mean people were actually able to elect a president from their own ranks. …They could do it because it’s a functioning democratic society. I mean there were tremendous obstacles, repressive state, huge concentration of wealth, much worse obstacles than we have. But they have mass popular movements. They have actual political parties, which we don’t have. There’s nothing to stop us from doing that. I mean we have a legacy of freedom which is unparalleled. It’s been won by struggle over centuries, it was never given, and you can use it, or you can abandon it. It’s a choice. —Chomsky, 2005

This post was inspired by those Muslims and Arabs who believe that voting is “haram” or that it won’t change anything so why bother. I know that more needs to be done in the way of addressing the many inequalities that exist in American society, but I don’t think it is far-stretched or unreasonable to admit to the historic nature of this election, and the positive implications it has for our democracy. No matter which party wins, either one will bring a minority into power. Yet, there are those in our community who never fail to infect the rest of us with their pessimism and deep cynicism.  Even many secular Arabs like to point to the treatment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as proof that this system should be abandoned altogether. It is a hopeless view of American politics and whether their calls are true or not, at the end of the day they have accomplished nothing more than to paralyze many and to keep the idea going that there’s a coordinated and well organized attempt to keep us permanently disenfranchised. But this is just not true. Not even their intellectual messiah, Noam Chomsky, believes that. Chomsky believes that disenfranchisement in general stems from a “willing subordination to power.” Key word being willing. And neither did the much praised militant hero Malcolm X believe that it was futile to get involved. He preached that we’ve got to do more than just sit at the table before we can call ourselves true Americans.

It’s sad and abhorrent that so many Muslims not only choose to not exercise their right to vote, but will try and convince others not to participate either.  I know the government has done its part to make many of us feel like rejected cynics, but how will altogether removing ourselves from the equation help? Ayatollah Sistani, a well respected religious scholar, was recently asked what his position was with regards to participating in a non-Muslim country. I chose this man’s statement not because of my own personal beliefs but simply because he hits the nail on the head:

At times the higher interests of the Muslims in non-Muslim countries demand that Muslims seek membership of political parties, enter parliaments, and representative assemblies. In such cases, it is permissible for Muslims to engage in such activities as much as is demanded by the interest [of the Muslim community] that must be identified by consulting the trustworthy experts.

As citizens of a democracy, there is nothing to hold us back from impacting change other than ignorance. It is the quality of the media that defines the strength of any nation’s democracy, and true, our media is often biased. Sources of information that are accessed by most Americans have helped to fuel war, fear, and hate. But that’s not to say that the problem is out of our hands. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to indoctrinate people with propaganda and to suppress information. Although corporate media used to be the cultural gatekeeper, the advent of the internet has changed the rules of the game. It has killed their monopoly over information, severely damaging print media and forcing broadcast media to reevaluate its programming and to be more inclusive. For example, I learned about the Dunkin Donuts decision to pull down the Rachel Ray Ad through a news show, in which the host was allowed to express how ludicrous and bigoted he thought the decision was. Lou Dobbs is holding a special “Independent Convention” all week on CNN and one of the topics he will be addressing is the dangerous influence of lobbies. And there are many other similar instances of mainstream media covering issues once considered to be on the fringe of legitimate public discourse.

Our political landscape is changing, thanks to the web. People are becoming increasingly empowered because they are better informed. As a result of having greater access to information, civic awareness and participation has dramatically increased. Obama built up a huge base early on in his candidacy primarily because of the campaign he waged on the web. His candidacy alone has brought four million new voters to the Democratic party. Sarah Palin wouldn’t be on the map today had it not been for a college blogger. And Ron Paul, who refers to the internet as the “strong political equalizer,” held a counter-convention this past Tuesday that drew about 15,000 supporters from across the country. The New York Times did a piece in 2007 describing what the internet has meant for Ron Paul’s candidacy:

If his campaign had taken place in the pre-Internet era, it might have gone the way of his 1988 Libertarian campaign for president, as a footnote to history… .How much the Paul campaign had snowballed on the Internet became evident…when supporters independent of the campaign raised $4 million online…

Many Muslims also lack any nuance when it comes to their approach to politics. So they will deride Obama because he isn’t pro-Palestinian enough, or because he won’t be seen in a photo with women in hijab. But they forget that it took 9-11 to draw our community out of its shell and to force it to become more engaged. We are still new to the game and need to work on building a presence and establishing coalitions with other communities. Meanwhile we can’t even get enough of us to go out and take a simple kuffiyeh photo (of course I was going to bring that up). But that’s the sort of behavior I’ve grown accustomed to when it comes to my community. We love to complain and do nothing.

I’m starting to think that the adamant resistance displayed by many towards the political process comes from something more. Based on my interactions with the Muslim and Arab communities, there is no doubt in my mind that there are far too many of us who are in love with our sense of victimization. A dangerous pitfall for any minority to fall into, I’m really starting to believe that we can’t define ourselves without it– the intellectual nihilism, the crippling cynicism, conspiracy theories that serve to let us off the hook, this attitude that the whole world is plotting against us, and that we are special and unique in our suffering and humiliation. Tragic histories have shape our psyche and we cling to these markers so tightly that it has become second nature to despair and to dismiss our own agency. We would much rather remain in some corner embracing our bleeding hearts.

Islam is not a faith of defeatism, it isn’t defined solely by a series of rituals– we do not worship God as a means of doing good, we do good as a means of worshiping God. Every mu’min is charged with social obligations and it’s only when we have run out of options that we are told to hate the unjust with our hearts. There can be no room in such a faith for indifference or despair. To the self-cripples among us, my advice to you is earn the right to bitch first and then complain if you’re not being represented properly. But if you’re already so convinced as a Muslim that the world is conspiring against you, than go dig yourself a hole and wait for some messiah to come and make the world right. The faith I follow tells believers to look for any means to make a difference in their environment and above all else, it stresses the need to get over ourselves. Like Chomsky says, it’s a choice.

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