Monthly Archives: October 2008

Defining Moment

Only one week to go. I can’t wait for change.

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McCain’s Shaky Performance

For the past few days, I have suffered from presidential election writer’s block. Actually, it’s not that I couldn’t think of anything to write, but there was nothing that interesting or novel to say that warranted a post. Nevertheless, today I finally decided to get my act together and write a few lines about some of the more interesting things we learned this week about the candidates and the election:

  • Sarah Palin, though I do not believe she is directly to blame for the $150,000 wardrobe, the expensive stylist, and professional acting/speech coach, has not given a credible explanation. Rather, she has proven herself to be, as Maureen Dowd has repeated, nothing more than a My Fair Lady remake.
  • The feeling of inevitable defeat has already begun to plague the Republican Party, and there is tension around the handling of Sarah Palin. While everyone panics and tries to save their own skin, Palin has gone from maverick to renegade, concentrating on her own political future.
  • A valid worry is that the McCain Palin campaign’s mismanagement will infect many of the other state and federal races, giving the Democrats majorities nationwide and ousting Republican incumbents. McCain’s best argument, now much too late in the game to be successfully articulated, should have been about divided government and the perils of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a Democrat in the White House.
  • As I wrote previously, the Obamas have become more representative of “America” than Mcain Palin’s small town “only served here” sign. Forget about whether or not a black man can become president, McCain’s own campaign has already conceded that Obama is the  “mainstream” candidate with the mainstream media favoring him. As Frank Rich writes, white Americans already support Obama in higher numbers than they did Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry. Would a fringe, angry, radical African American break all campaign finance records by rasing $150 million in a single month? I don’t know how Palin thinks Obama sees America, but a lot of Americans sure see Obama as worthy of their campaign donations.

While I was preparing to elaborate on the above, I took a short break to watch McCain on Meet the Press. I was stunned. While I have criticized McCain for his overly military-centeric and extreme shift to the right (including his choice of Sarah Palin), I have consistently avoided disqualifying him due to age. But on Meet the Press, McCain looked exhausted. His voice was shaky, his hands trembled, his tone was offbeat, and at one point he seemed to lose his bearing — giving him that forgetful senior moment that everyone has been hoping would not happen. Continue reading

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After about a month and a half, I have only reached 1918 in Morocco Since 1830. That’s pretty slow, especially considering that I had been averaging about one book per week. So what’s going? The culprit is this darn election and me resorting to a combination of podcasts and other online sources of media. What is pretty amazing is that in both 2000 and 2004, I had trouble keeping abreast of the elections while living abroad, where now there is so much information (and disinformation) available online that is easy to stay tuned. That’s good news, except for the fact that I have a stockpile of interesting books waiting for me.

Luckily, the presidential race will come to its finish line by next week (in the absence of recounts, inshallah), and I can get back to reading. In the meantime, here is my podcast playlist: Continue reading

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Wassup 2008

Thanks, Sanjeev, for the heads up on this one.

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With God’s Blessing, inshallah


In Arabic, all statements about the future are tempered by adding the phrase inshallah, meaning “God willing”.  This comes from the Muslim precept that only God knows and determines the future; and therefore, it is a sign of arrogance and blasphemy to speak of the future without conditioning it on God’s will. Examples would include: I will see you later, inshallah; tomorrow I have an exam, inshallah; or I am going to Florida for Christmas, inshallah. Furthermore, its use is widely accepted by all Arabic speakers regardless of their religion (Islam, Christianity or Judaism). Even Spanish, heavily influenced by Arabic, adopted its own version of the expression — ojalá— to denote when one hopes for something to occur, i.e., ojalá que llueva café.

I wasn’t sure whether we had something similar in English until this morning when I heard Sarah Palin’s recent CNN interview. When asked what her role would be as vice president, Sarah Palin responded,

Well, we’ve talked a lot about that, John McCain and I have, about the missions that I’ll get to embark on if we are so blessed to be hired by the American people to work for them.

The “if we are so blessed” expression in American English is most commonly used by fundamentalist Christians to show that same degree of humbleness before God as does the Arabic inshallah. While I won’t doubt Sarah Palin’s sincerity, I can only imagine that by saying “if we are so blessed” she was also giving a wink out to her Christian voters.

Here’s what I would have liked to ask Sarah Palin in response. If ultimately you are not “so blessed”, but rather the will of God and that of a majority of American voters determine Barack Obama to be the next president, does that mean that Obama and Biden “are so blessed”? Could an Obama presidency be God’s will? And if so, wouldn’t you then have to accept God’s will and give Obama your full support?


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20th Century Rhetoric for the 21st Century


As an American living in Europe where the root word “social” is considered a democratic value, I often tell people about how growing up in the U.S. in the 1970s and 80s we were taught to fear all things “social” as dangerous manifestations of Soviet communism. Being called a “commie” or a “socialist” was an insult, for everyone knew that “commies eat your mommies”.

So it’s is kind of funny to hear, almost twenty years after the so called “Fall of Communism”, the Republicans accusing Barack Obama of being a socialist. Sarah Palin recently said on the campaign trail that Joe the Plumber thought Obama’s tax plan sounded like socialism, as if either Sarah or Joe actually knew the definition of socialism. The bailout is wealth redistribution, and taxes, by definition, are wealth redistribution.

But when I thought about it more closely, I wondered, why are the Republicans so obsessed with reliving the Cold War? Between the time they have dedicated to Bill Ayers, the anti-Vietnam War terrorist from when Obama was eight, and now this absurd fear of socialism, you’d think that McCain Palin wanted to go back to 20th Century and fight the spread of communism all over again. Maybe with a new surge we could finally claim victory in Vietnam.

McCain would obviously rather cast himself as a Reagan than a Bush. But does that really justify revisiting 20th Century rhetoric for addressing 21 Century reality.

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Dans le sud de la France


I took a two day petit séjour from my election obsession to go to Hyères in the south of France for my first authentic French wedding . On Friday afternoon, we took the train from Paris to Zizou’s hometown, Marseille. On the train, believe it or not, I dreamt that I was writing a detailed post about how the government bailout was essentially a subprime loan — we lend money we don’t have, borrow from abroad to pay for it, and hope that a different party will be in power when the day of reckoning comes and taxes need to be raised to pay for it. Continue reading

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