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Posts Tagged ‘obama

Someone, God knows who, bought my breakfast this morning. I went to pay and the waiter said, “It’s covered.” I have no idea who paid for it. Thank you, whoever you are. You made my day. It’s been a great morning.

I drive a lot to write.

From home, 3 1/2 hours north, hoping the weather is good, so it takes only that long and not more. Last week a 2 1/2 hour trip I take regularly became a six hour slog. I gave up at one point and pulled over for a sleep until the blizzard quit. I watched small cars and larger trucks, most with hazard lights blinking, as they powered through the flurries. Across from me, on the rural intersection, a commercial haul truck did the same thing I did, pull over until the flurries calmed. Why take a chance? I slept for an hour or so. When I woke the snowstorm had passed. I took to the road again.

When there is snow on the road, light snow whips up every time a heavy truck goes by. It makes seeing the highway impossible for a few seconds. Two or three trucks in a row make it harrowing. You can’t speed. Some do. I don’t know how they do it. Speed, and it will catch up to you. Once, years ago, I counted 27 cars and trucks in the ditch in a a half-hour stretch I’d driven a thousand times. Winter driving is different.

Yesterday the roads were good for the entire drive, no snow fell, and for the most part the roads were clear. Only on  a few sections did light snow swirl up and make seeing impossible for those precious few too-long seconds when the highway cannot be seen.

I came up to take a single photograph. There is more to that, a story I could  tell another time, perhaps, but how it was taken is simply the way things happen in the communities I cover. Then, after talking to people I knew, jotting things in my small notebook, taking a few more spontaneous photographs, I drove another hour and a half to an office to type and to download my photographs to the print shop where they were published this morning. It was a sparse day’s work: four stories and a half dozen photographs. I started late, 7:00 a.m., and finished the day at 11:30 p.m. First days of the week are typically long.

It will be another long day today. I’m chasing stories all day. I have a municipal meeting in this community at 7:00 p.m., then I’ll be writing it up right after.

It is -36 Celcius in the community I just left yesterday. Here, an hour and a half south, it doesn’t feel that cold. But this morning it was at least -30. I could tell by the clear clank when I closed my truck door; it makes a different sound when it gets cold. When it is warmer it is a much fuller sound.

It’s almost noon. The Environment Canada website tells me the temperature outside is -29. It’s a beautiful day. No cloud. Full brilliant sun. Gorgeous virgin-white snow covers everything, everywhere. It is the sort of day you thrill to be alive just to see it.

And now, back to work.

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Ironic that of all publications, Rolling Stone magazine can bring down a general. The killer quote can indeed kill.

The article, written by a features writer, not a news reporter, and one obviously unfamiliar but fascinated with the testosterone-laden, disdainful, and by necessity over-confident world of senior military staff, was also as obviously deeply embedded somehow among the general’s staff. The trust given him seems unprecedented. The result is considerable damage.

The article was a weapon of general destruction. It should not have been. An experienced president with more confidence than Mr. Obama will ignore the article, speak to the general, have a public meeting in the White House rose garden complete with its array of microphones and eager press, and announce confidence in the general. The war could then go on uninterrupted. This is, after all about war.

But President Obama may have fired the general. As of this moment, the Stars and Stripes published this photo, above left , and the general concerned, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, fit, professional and every inch the commander he should be, looks stricken. His eyes tell the tale, looking into forever, at a unknown black future before him.

When I noticed one other picture, in a news story, the photo taken some time ago, the one at left, I was struck by the body language. There was something odd about it, something uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Ever been in a meeting where someone has their turn speaking and you know what they are going to say, but you have to keep silent and listen politely? That’s the impression I had of McChrystal from this photo. Both men are leaning forward, there are things to discuss, but Obama looks down, guesturing with his hands, looking at his talking points. The photo was taken at a moment when there is no eye-to-eye dialogue, no let’s-do-this, no eye-to-eye contact, but one has the impression that even if there were, the general would still give the impression he was listening patiently but not taking in anything vital. He is there for an appointment. Imagine the general getting up and leaving this meeting from his chair. It is easier from the position he is sitting in to leave in a dismissive huff than with polite deference.

One does not take in new information from such a position. There is no openness. I gather from that he has not asked a question of the president who is going through his talking points, but that Obama is lecturing, providing general information, getting a message out and the general is politely taking it in because he has to.

Obviously the photo was taken aboard Air Force One, the general a top commander or he wouldn’t be there. The commander, even at rest, looks like a man of action. He is not there to relax.

Isolating McChrystal in the photo, without his wide stance and without Obama, we have a different impression. We focus on his face more. Gen, McChrystal is listening intently. His body language says, tell me what do do and I’ll do it. It is a look of deference and respect, in contast to the impression when both men are in the image.

Another president, Lincoln, had his trouble with generals, several of them. I remember once reading that he wrote and angry letter to one general and put it away and sent him another.  General Ulysses S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, who might have been a forgotten loser without the civil war, was the last in a long line of his top commanders. Grant drank. When someone complained, Lincoln said, more eloquently than I can put it, if whiskey was what it took, he should send some to all his generals.

Truman, too, had his general problems and met with a the corn-cob smoking, open shirted egomaniac Douglas McArthur on Wake Island after sitting on the tarmac in the ancient rendition of Air Force One before there was such a thing. Truman, aware of his position, was damned if he was going to go outside the plane and wait for the general. The general had to wait for him and greet him. Truman stubbornly sat in the plane until McArthur showed up.

Obama should be well above Rolling Stone magazine. This is war. He should not give a flying fig about the contents of the article. Both men recognize the landmine for what it is and avoid such in the future.

A feature writer for Rolling Stone magazine should not decide the fate of a general or the outcome of a war.

The mystique of cult Obama, the rockstar politician who emails, will eventually corrode. It is the nature of all politicians to eventually tarnish, no matter how much spin can polish.
Where will this corrosion first take hold?
I think I see where it might.
In the United States, the head politician, the president, will be immortalized, go down in history, have his name ranked in encyclopedias for easy reference, During his term he will personify the country itself. For good or ill, the country will be a reflection of the president. He will become his time. His image will be the image of the country.
Think of FDR. Dashing, jaw jutted, confident, cigarette holder in bared smiling clenched teeth. Truman. Quick stepped, deliberate, decisive, reporters on the run to keep up with him as he walked each morning from Blair House, where he lived, to the White House where he worked. Calvin Coolidge, quiet, reserved, lassez-faire, hands off manager of a country of unregulated and unbridled confidence that would run into a wall to end the roaring 20s. Kennedy, a superstar politician who challenged America to go at least to the moon in an era where America seemed capable of anything.
Was it Leacock who wrote about the 1930s banker, who was asked, as he rushed into a restaurant from his limousine how the depression had affected him.
“Terrible, just terrible,” he said on the fly.
Like that banker, we have seen Obama less in the oval office, where he is needed, and more in exotic locales. He is needed to repair America’s damaged self among its allies, and he is doing, it seems, a refreshingly remarkable job.
But the image of the president on an endless honeymoon, flying off to Broadway on a jet from Washington and back for the only and specific purpose to date his wife in the middle of a recession laying off millions, may be the chip in the mystique that eventually begins the inevitable corrosion.

Barak Obama will be the next president of the United States.

In January of a new year, a black man will take the oath of the highest office in a country unrecognizable from the superpower America of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s when a black man would not be served in many restaurants. This new humbled America is a battered country. Its world prestige is at its lowest. Its glory days of Berlin Airlifts and moon walks are memory.

This new America needs friends and allies in a way it has never needed them before. Now friends and allies are not optional. Swept away will the the second Bush Doctrine of you are with us, or against us. The new president will seek friends and show he wants to earn their friendship, and that will be welcome.

The new president will be president of a poorer America. For generations, America had seen each new generation grow more presperous than the one that came before. That is no longer true in the new America.

The old America was astoundingly rich. In 1950 the USA produced more than half the word’s goods in dollar value. In that year the USA accounted for 54 per cent of the gross domestic product of the economic output of the entire world.

The new America is a rubble of bank failures, trillions in debt, its energy economy mortgaged to foriegn oil dependence. In July alone, the United States imported from China good worth $31.3 billion while exporting to that country $6.4 billion in goods. The year’s trade defict stood at the end of that month at more than $142 billion in China’s favour with almost half a year to go.

The old America could be counted on to perform miracles in space. The moon was a place where Americans not only could land and walk, but also, in casual whimsey, see how far a wacked golf ball could fly. The new America may see a Chinese astronaut walk on the lunar surface before an American gets back. Recently, as Americans looked on in shock as their investment bank giants failed, three Chinese astronauts circled the globe, one walking in space.

Just a decade and a half ago the Russian navy’s proud Baltic Fleet was a series of rusting hulks. There was no money to maintain them. The old America looked with disdain at such disintegration of economic stability of a former superpower.

The old America was the America of the Greatest Generation of young people who saved the world from great tyranny. Their work ethic and business savvy built an economic super power. The Greatest Generation are now America’s most aged citizens. Their children, the babyboomers, are retiring in great numbers. Their retirement and medical bills will be as much a strain on the American economy as their parents youth and input was a boon

The new president will be president of a very different America.

When a presidential candidate’s party has conducted an unpopular war precipitated by an invasion of a sovereign country that didn’t have weapons of mass destruction or Al-Queda or 9-11 links, when it has run the world’s greatest economy straight into the ground, when it’s spending is greater than any other administration, when it took steps to dismantle social security, and when its preparation for disasters at home, namely Katrina, have made the U.S. look like the third world, you’d think that would be the candidate on the defensive.

Wrong.

John McCain won tonight’s presidential debate, the firswt of four scheduled, by being aggressive. He stuck to simple issues and hammered them home. Cut government spending. Bring home victory in Iraq. Obama wanted $932 million in earmarks. Spending is out of control. He held up a pen (“…this old pen..:”) and said it would be used to veto every spending bill that came across his desk.

His best moment was toward the end when speaking about military veterans.

“I know the veterans, I know them well. I love them. I know them and will take care of them and that is going to be my job.”

This was the closest thing to a simple sound bite all night. With a complex mess in Washington and Americans needing someone to take care of it, that statement almost feels like relief.

Great stuff. No knockout one-liners, all hard issue questions with substantive, informed answers.

The surprise was Barak Obama being on the defensive for so much of the night. McCain owns the military issues. That’s clear. But now he owns the issue of government spending. That was supposed to be Obama’s issue- isn’t he touted as the agent of change in this election?

Twice Obama agreed quickly with moderator Jim Lehrer it was time to move on to the next issue. He sounded like a boxer being saved by the bell.

Obama’s best moments came at the beginning. Those were also McCain’s worst moments. Obama, in his opening statements- the question to deal with was on the bailout- talked directly to people’s biggest concerns on the issue of the financial crisis. He talked about the hardship people were having. He spoke well, he looked presidential. The man understood and he cared. That came through clearly. Then Obama made four strong points on what has to be included in a bank bailout- oversight, see that taxpayers may get the money back, no padded CEO pay or golden parachutes and help for homeowners.

McCain followed Obama’s great start start with the line, “I’m not feeling good..” and you had the sense of his age. The debate seemed over then with those four words. I felt an oh-oh moment. Would McCain fall asleep? Would he cry? Would he fall down? He also used the line “..Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac and all that..” as if not pushing the entire issue of the U.S. economy cratering away, as if it didn’t matter a damn.

But through the debate McCain warmed like an old motor, firing on all cylinders once the debate rolled. He became a warrrior, absolutely in control of himself, and he was the only candidate to make fun of himself. Moderator Jim Lehrer very much wanted the candidates to address each other directly. He told Obama at the end of one of his comments, “Tell him,” meaning McCain, who joked, “Did you not think I heard him the first time?”

McCain sounded experienced and presidential, chiding Obama for saying he would sit down with Iraq President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without conditions. “That’s not just naive, that’s dangerous.”

On the war in Iraq, McCain is adamant that the war can be won and is being won. He stubbornly refuses to note that Obama’s point- the U.S. should never have gone in. Obama said the two have “fundamental differences” on the issue. That could be understatement.

McCain also borrowed a line from Hillary Clinton: “I’m ready to go on day one.” Now that should have sparked applause somewhere and shocked gasps elsewhere.

Again, no knockout blows, no sound bite oneliners, but McCain came close to some good ones. It was, very simply, good honest hard debate from two very capable and knowledgeable men. It may have been one of the best ever presidential debates as far as candiates being informed enough to aggressively discuss a wide range of complex issues in a knowledgeable way without resorting to “There you go again” Reaganesque trick-quips, in order to be memorable without being substantial. This debate had meat to it. The players came to play.

Interestingly, McCain also never once looked at Obama while Obama was speaking. He may have never looked at him while he was speaking, either. Some commentators didn’t like that. I did. It made McCain look even more in control, like the leader in the two-man contest.

When a political party has caused this much mess, how McCain, the old warrior, managed to be on the offensive, and not on the defensive, is testament to his mettle. That is how McCain won, but Obama, in spite of being on his heels for some of it once McCain got rolling, more than held his own.

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For additional reading check out this fact check list of the candidates’ on-air statements and claims during the debate. Link here.

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If you really want a very good article on the financial troubles in the United States and how it may favour Obama’s bid for the presidency, I link you to David Callaway of Market Watch, who has coined a new term, the “Paulson Doctrine”. Worth a read. Link here.

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Election in Canada
Governor-General Michaëlle Jean will meet with Prime Minister Steven Harper at 8:15 a.m. Sunday when Harper will tell her that he does not have confidence in parliament. The Canadian federal election is expected to take place October 14. Three Harper cabinet ministers will not run again, David Emerson (Foreign Affairs), Monte Solberg (Human Resources), and Loyola Hearn (Fisheries). Link to David Akin story, Edmonton Journal. Link to Alexander Panetta story for the Chronicle Herald.

How long has the American election been going on? Seems like forever. Here in Canada a parliament will fall and we will be at the polls all in 37 days. Then there will still be 18 days to the American election on November 4.

A recent CBC poll places the Conservatives at 38 per cent, Liberals at 28 per cent and 19 per cent New Democrat..majority territory is 40 per cent plus…Conservatives could make gains in Quebec – that story by Rhéal Séguin, Globe and Mail.

Election U.S.A.
Quote from Todd Palin…”I should have asked more questions when Sarah joined the PTA”…that from ABC news…Here’s a profile of Mr. Palin from Dino Cappiello for Associated Press…Can you see him hosting a tea for former Alaska First Ladies? Well apparently he has. See the bottom of the article.

There is an online buzz that Oprah Winfrey, a strong Barak Obama supporter is balking at putting Sarah Palin on her show that pulls in 15 million viewers a day…story from newsroomamerica.com

(Well, well. Update to the above. Oprah has responded. She would be happy to have Sarah Palin on her show- after the election. Winfrey’s statement: "The item in today's Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over." Link to story on Drudge Report.)

The Republicans did get a bounce at their convention. From Obama’s recent 50 per cent polling (Gallup reporting that on September 2) the tide has shifted. Rasmussen puts McCain-Palin pulling to within a single point of Obama-Biden…link here…Gallup conducted a poll over September 1 to 3, before Sarah Palin made her RNC acceptance speech. That poll still had Obama over McCain 49 per cent to 42 per cent. Gallup expects any Palin effect, if any, to show up in a couple days for their polling.

Stormy Weather
Atlantic storms this hurricane season are lining up like a hurricane traffic jam…Following the near miss of Hurricane Gustav that prompted an evacuation of New Orleans and cut off power to 900,000 Louisiana homes…there is Hanna, now a category 3 hurricane with 125 mile-per-hour winds (198 kilometres per hour), now 420 miles (632 kilometres) off North Carolina, followed by Hurricane Ike and then Josephine, a tropical storm not expected at this time to make landfall. Story link to Jack Ryan, Post Chronicle.

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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence

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