Sunday, April 07, 2013

Reopening the Blog

It has been years since I have updated this blog. That will soon change.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Obama For America Staff Ball

On Wednesday, January 21, 2009, Jen and I called a taxi to pick us up at our friends’ home. We waited over an hour for the taxi to take us to the Metro station. We wanted to arrive at the Obama for America Staff Ball earlier than we did, but we still managed to arrive before the main festivities began. This Ball was held at the D.C. Armory, and was mercifully close to a Metro station, so we did not have to endure the frigid winter night for long. We passed through an identical security screening as we had the night before, giving us more confidence to our suspicions that President Obama would be attending. When we arrived the whole Armory was full of campaign staffers and their guests.

(Here are a few pictures of the Staff Ball.) The food that was served was really good – much better than even the Western Ball. There was quite a bit of variety – brisket, noodles, stir-fry, cookies, mini cupcakes and much more. Throughout the night more and more food was brought out as well. Drinks were free and plentiful too, though the lines were long. The atmosphere was very festive. After walking around for a while, I eventually met up with people that I had worked with on the campaign in Newark, Ohio and Toledo, Ohio. Many of my former co-workers and fellow fellows were in attendance. With so many people crowded into the building, I was lucky to have met up them at all.
With much excitement, Vice President Biden’s sister introduced her brother. He gave a very warm speech talking about how much he had respected we Obama campaigners, first as an opponent and then as part of the team. Jen and I moved up higher to have a better view after the Vice President spoke. Actor Kal Penn spoke for a few moments, before introducing David Plouffe who had managed the campaign. He then introduced a very happy President Obama. The President was quite relaxed and one did definitely have the sense that he wanted to stay with us. His remarks were very gracious and humbling. For the President and Vice President, the same introductory and exit music that had been played during the campaign was played. We all knew this would be the last time that would happen, so we were quite literally witness to the very last campaign event of the 2008 election.

(Some videos of the speeches at the OFA Staff Ball.)
I was very lucky to stumble upon Jeremy Bird, who had headed the campaign’s efforts in Ohio. I was glad to have the opportunity to thank him for his leadership and tell him what an honor it had been to work with him. Bird is now the Deputy Director of Organizing for America aka Obama 2.0.
After the speeches, Jay-Z began to perform. I felt old.

(Some of Jay-Z’s performance.)
Jen and I had a very nice time and were thrilled that we had the opportunity to attend this amazing gathering. It was truly a moving experience.

(OFA Staff Ball Ticket)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

01-20-09 (Part 3) The Western Ball

Though we had already had spent many hours in the “Purple Tunnel of Doom”, Jen and I still had more to do on 01-20-09. After eating some food and resting for a couple hours, Jen and I donned our formal attire and headed off to the local Metro station.

(Here we are dressed for the occasion.)The Metro was busy but was not nearly as crowded as it had been earlier in the day. We passed by hundreds of others in the Metro stations, most of whom were also dressed in formal attire. An ATF team passed though our train and one of the officers asked Jen and I if we were coming from our wedding. We told him no, that we were in fact going to one of the official Inaugural Balls. He smiled and said that a lot of people were attending balls that night and told us to have a nice evening. Everyone was upbeat and a general feeling of happiness and upbeat optimism pervaded the whole area.

We had read many negative accounts of Inaugural Balls and were prepared for the worst. We were presently surprised by what we found. We were attended the Western States Inaugural Ball – because we live in California. There were different balls for different areas of the country. The Western Ball was held in the Washington Convention Center, a massive complex that was actually holding several official balls. We walked quickly through the cold from the Metro stop and arrived at the entrance to which we had been directed. The many police officers and workers at the Ball were extremely friendly and helpful and around in great numbers. This was in marked contrast to earlier in the day. We went through a through security screening where one guard was really excited to recognize the University of Toledo Rockets - which were on Jen’s gloves. We entered the enormous convention center and there were thousands of people inside. We found our way to the Western Ball entrance. The space for the ball was enormous and we could tell that it was designed to handle thousands of people. We arrived rather early and while hundreds of people were already there, it felt a bit empty with all the space.

(Pictues from Early in the evening.) Contrary to the horror stories I had read about previous Inaugural Balls – where one had to pay exorbitant prices for cheese and crackers, food was provided for free. We had rather large helpings of tortellini, rolls, and stuffed chicken. The quality was really good – not as good as Italy but certainly better than most food we’ve had at catered events. A band was playing on one stage at the back of the hall and another stage was set up at the front of the space. Drinks were available for purchase via tickets. Jen and I lived it up with some Cokes and Sprites. One man offered to take our picture. I gladly accepted and handed him our new digital camera. He asked how it worked and I told him just to point and push the button. Jen and I posed and nothing happened. I went back and checked the camera – everything was ready. We tried it again and again and again. After four attempts – the man kept saying it wasn’t working – I thanked him and told him it was ok. I then proceeded to take several pictures in a row – with no problems.

(See, my pictures of Jen) I suppose he just wasn’t pressing hard enough – but luckily this was probably the biggest annoyance of the evening. Jen and I wandered around for a while. Since this was the ball where people from California would be attending, we knew that we might spot some Hollywood or Silicon Valley notables.

(Sure enough, we spotted Ron Howard being interviewed.) After about an hour, we noticed that more and more people were arriving and heading up near the front stage. We figured that would be where the President and Vice President would be making their entrances. Soon after we arrived, Marc Anthony was announced and began to perform on stage – about 20 feet from where we were standing.

(No, not that Marc Anthony – though that would have been pretty cool too.)

(This Marc Anthony.)

(Here is a short video of the performance.) He and his band sounded great and they played quite a few salsa numbers. I think we has getting a bit upset that very few people were dancing – but in our defense we were getting packed in at that point and we were more interested in seeing the new President. Still it was nice. Near the end of his performance, he called upon his wife, Jennifer Lopez aka J. Lo to perform with him. The crowd went wild and I felt bad for Marc Anthony who was really upstaged by his wife.

(J. Lo and Marc Anthony.)

(Here is a video of their performance.)

Afterwards, we kept standing for a while. We noticed the Vice Presidential flag was in place and a few minutes later, Vice President Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden made their entrance.

(Some pictures of the Vice President and Dr. Biden.) The Vice President said a few kind words and then danced briefly with his wife. It was nice to see them and the thousands of people (mostly behind us) cheered emotionally. I called my mother a few times during the evening and she kept us informed as to where the Obamas where – she was watching TV. It was nice to share the moment with her as well. An hour so passed and more people kept entering and most headed as close to the stage as possible. It was getting very crowded and tight. We heard from others in attendance that some people could not get in – the fire marshal would not let everyone in at the Western and Youth Balls. As we waited, a military band began to set up and a color guard assembled. “Hail to the Chief” was played and that’s when I think it all hit me. Jen and I had worked for this for so long and now- it finally felt real. As President Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama entered to that music, with the military color guard I felt it in my gut – the sense of history in the making and the realization that I had been a part of making this moment possible. I had been working for this since March 2007, and now my candidate was President. It was really that moment that moved me the most of the entire trip.

(Some of our pictures of the President and Mrs. Obama.)

(Here are some videos of the event.) One could tell that President Obama was very tired. (And we knew that he had had at least as long of a day as Jen I and had had.) His remarks were brief but gracious. It was certainly worth seeing and I was grateful for the opportunity. After the Obamas left, many people streamed out hastily. We stayed for a bit longer. We noticed that chips and pretzels had been put out by the staff. We heard a few people complaining but overall people were happy. Really most of the criticisms of the Inaugural Balls that we heard either that night or in reading before made sense – if one arrived really late. If one arrived late, I could see how one would find no food – just some snacks, everyone crammed tight and just standing and waiting in front of the stage for a quick visit by the President. But Jen and I arrived early – so we had good food, and time to walk around and enjoy ourselves. Jen and I headed back to Tim’s via the Metro very happy to have been part of the historical festivities.

(Western Ball ticket)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

01-20-09 (Part 2) The Ceremony

As I have written earlier, Jen and I were unable to see President Obama take the oath of office in person. This is how we experienced the event:

It was still a moving experience and I am glad we were able to share the moment with others. As I have also said, Jen and I also were lucky enough to be able to see the President at two inaugural balls. We are more concerned about the people who were stuck in the "Purple Tunnel of Doom" and other, similar situations. Not all of them had the opportunity to see the new President as Jen and I did.

My friend, Tim, has found some amazing satellite pictures of Washington D.C. on 01-20-09 and has posted them on his blog. They are amazing to see - people really do look like ants. Which gives us food for thought in many ways.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

01-20-09 (Part 1) or Matt & Jen and The Purple Tunnel of Doom

Jen and I woke up very early on Inauguration day, Tuesday January 20, 2009. We were physically exhausted after being in the cold and coming home so late the night before, but it didn’t matter – we were excited. This was the much anticipated 01-20-09 – the last day of George W. Bush’s presidency. People had been selling various items with that date on them since at least 2005 when I first saw them. As the day went on, I kept looking at my watch, counting the hours remaining of our national nightmare. Of course, the end of the W presidency was only an item of secondary contemplation. We were excited that the presidency of Barack Obama would be beginning. We arrived at the metro station just before 6 am and the trains were crowded to a point I’ve never seen in America. We finally arrived at the stop to which we had been directed and exited the crowded station. Immediately, we saw that there were people everywhere, traveling in various directions. A carnival atmosphere prevailed. Many people were selling souvenirs, some were performing music and all around were the smiles of happy people waiting to witness history.

I had been given the opportunity to receive tickets for the inauguration from the campaign. I received two “Purple Section” standing tickets, along with directions and advice.

The doors were supposed to open at 8 or 9 depending on which was read – the email or the ticket itself. The program was to begin at 10:30 and we were told not to arrive any later than 9:30. We arrived in the vicinity of the purple gate just after 6:30am. Lines of people snaked in different directions. No one seemed to know where people were supposed to be going. Jen and took a bit of a short cut – rallying on my knowledge of the local map and we arrived near the gate. For a few minutes we thought we were in line. There were no signs, volunteers or police along the jammed street. We were just in back of dozens of others who were also standing in line, many with purple tickets in hand. Soon we heard second and third hand information that we were not in fact in the official purple line. We moved down half a block and finally saw two police officers. They kept repeating “Purple tickets – line up in the tunnel.” I asked again to verify that this was the case. “Anyone with purple tickets, go ahead,” we were told by the officers as they indicated for us to pass behind a barrier they were guarding. Jen and I proceeded into the tunnel, confident that we found the place where we were supposed to be waiting. At first the line in the tunnel seemed to be long, perhaps a hundred to two hundred people. But as we continued to walk past a bend in the tunnel, we realized that line stretched further than we could see. We walked and walked, seeing thousands of people waiting in line. We kept walking and actually arrived at the end of the line, which extended about 50 feet from the end of the other side of the tunnel. We could see people on the street level above us waiting in line as well. Some called down asking what line we were in. They were looking for the end of the blue section line. The weather was bitterly cold, about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. After an hour, the line had barely moved but it had lengthened, with thousands more people getting in line behind us. When we did get into the tunnel, the air circulation system kept a constant wind blowing, making it painfully cold. Many of the people in line had (like me) worked for the Obama campaign in some capacity. Others had made special trips to get remaining tickets from their members of congress. As we slowing inched forward in the tunnel, we saw no one of authority. There were no signs, volunteers or law enforcement officials at all.

(This is a picture by Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press from the L.A. Times)

Occasionally, a police car, or some other emergency vehicle would come rushing though the tunnel sirens on. Hours passed and we kept very slowly creeping forward. Eventually we heard rumors that the purple gate was closed, but these were third and fourth-hand accounts and we dismissed them, figuring they were opening the gate for small numbers of people and then shutting it, admitting only a certain number at a time. The rumors continued to circulate. As we got close to the end of the tunnel, many people were trying to cut in line and they were booed at by hundreds. Most changed their minds and retreated to the end of the line. We made it out of the tunnel eventually, after 10:00am. People in the buildings above the street waved to us and displayed American flags and Obama rally signs. Many began to chant “Yes we can!”. People were happy to be out of the tunnel and moving forward. The group kept moving forward and then hit another line of people who were headed to the same gate from a perpendicular angle as we reached an intersection just in front of the gate. People were coming back from the gate and the whole intersection was a chaotic mess, with people moving in every direction. The people returning from the gate said that they had been told it was closed and that the section was full. We continued on, despite the news until we made it to the gate. There was only one lone police officer on the other side of the gate. We were going to inquire about what was going on, but he was already talking to several other people. We asked them what he has said. They told us that the gate was in fact closed but we could wait and if there were any openings, a few more people might get in. Many people, (including an older African-American man) were crying. People there were in great despair. From that location, the Capitol was visible, about 200 feet away, but from that angle, no one would be able to see any of the ceremony. There were no monitors or speakers in the area. We also knew that it would be impossible now to make it down to the National Mall to see the swearing-in ceremony. I was very upset and we started heading straight to Union Station, were we could get back on the metro and return to Tim’s house before the 2 million people-plus crowd began to disperse. Many vendors were talking as I and others retuning from the purple gate passed them. “Lots of upset people here. Don’t know why – it’s a happy day,” I heard one of them say to another vendor. This incident quickly became known as the “Purple Tunnel of Doom.” Just before we headed down to the metro station, Jen insisted that we go into the station itself. I really didn’t want to – but I am glad she insisted. Inside were two tiny TVs with barley any audio. A small crowd had gathered in front of them. We could barely see the screen, but there we were able to see Joe Biden and Barack Obama take their oaths of office. It was almost as good as seeing it in person. The excitement and happiness of the crowd was moving. “Been a long time comin’” said an African-American woman, as Obama took his oath. “Thank God” said a white man, “we have a new President.” With that shared moment in Union station, I felt much better. What really mattered was that Barack Obama was now our President and that the Bush era was over. I was happy . Besides, I thought, we can’t really be too upset, we were going to be attending an Inaugural Ball later that evening and we would see the new President then. Jen and I went down and took the Metro back. A few minutes later, we were back at Tim’s and we could hear the Inaugural address. Weary, Jen and laid down a took a nap before heading back to D.C. for the ball.

Read more about the Purple Tunnel of Doom at the L.A. Times, Politico, Huffingon Post and MSNBC.

I have joined the Facebook group "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom."

An investigation has been launched into this fiasco and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer has been holding on-line discussions via the Facebook group and I have to say they have been very sympathetic and and trying to work out some sort of compensation - an event with President Obama etc. I have been very impressed with their attention and concern.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Day Before the Inauguration

On Monday, January 19, 2009, the day before the inauguration, Jen and I took the Metro to D.C. and explored the newest museum of the Smithsonian, the Museum of the American Indian. It was very interesting seeing the various cultures and their traditional belief systems and stories.

(The image above was an interesting piece that has the U.S. states listed in the blue field and Native American tribe names in the stripes.) We ate at the cafeteria in the museum which features native foods. It was interesting and delicious. We didn't have time to finish seeing the whole museum and resolved to return before our trip back to San Francisco. As we left the museum, we went by the MSNBC booth which was set up on the national mall. We managed to see Chris Matthews and Jen was in the crowd as the live camera swung by us.

(In the above picture, Matthews' back is to the camera.) The sense of anticipation was palpable as the crowds milled around the mall and vendors hawked Obama-themed items of every sort including thermal underwear!

We traveled to U Street where we met up with Bobbie Sue, another Obama fellow whom I had worked with in Toledo and her husband, Scott who also had been heavily involved with the campaign. They, of course, were in Washington to see the inauguration. We ate at a nice Ethiopian restaurant. The food was good, but we agreed that the Blue Nile in Ann Arbor, Michigan is our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. It was very nice to see them and catch up.

After that, we returned to the Chinatown area to meet up with Tim and Kelly (our hosts). We ended up staying out considerably later than we had planned in the frigid weather, so we didn't get much sleep before the start the very long inauguration day. Thank goodness a local Starbucks was staying open for 24 hours due to the large crowds, so that we had a place to get somewhat warmed up and sit down.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


My wife, Jen and I flew from San Francisco to the greater Washington D.C. area on January 17th. Our friend, Tim had graciously invited us to stay with him while attending the presidential inauguration and related festivities. While we flew east, we watched Barack Obama’s whistle-stop tour on the plane’s built-in video monitors. Our anticipation grew. We arrived in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. and were happy to see our friend. The next day, Sunday, January 18th we decided to stop by the free concert that was taking place at the Lincoln memorial. Of course, we expected some large crowds, but when we arrived, it was truly amazing to see so many people. I have read estimates that over 500,000 people were in attendance. I can believe it. Perhaps there were more. We could only get just beyond the western side of the Washington monument, between the Washington monument and the World War Two memorial. We could see the speakers and performers as dots against the stark white of the Lincoln memorial. In the intervening space, three sets of “Jumbotron” monitors allowed us to see more detail of what was taking place. The list of performers and speakers was a who’s who of entertainment notables. It was an amazking concert that ran the gamut of genres. Just look at the line-up:

Of course, then President-elect Biden and then President-elect Obama spoke and the crowd roared with thunderous applause. It was great to see them again. But the most impressive part of the whole experience was the attitude of the people. Everyone was so happy, and so friendly. Thousands of people sang along together and cheered. We experienced a feeling of community and shared historical import in a way that I have never known. It was truly amazing. Some have taken to calling this event “Obama-stock”. I have to say that the name is appropriate and will be remembered in its own right, not simply as a prelude to the inauguration.

Click here for an account from the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.

Here are a few of the pictures I took at "Obama-stock":

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Campaign

Many people have asked me to write about my experiences with the Obama campaign, so here I will attempt to briefly outline my experiences.

As I have written earlier, I returned to Toledo, Ohio where I volunteered as an Obama Organizing Fellow. I worked long hours and was away from my wife, Jen, for a month. We laid the groundwork for the campaign, recruiting other volunteers and opening an office. I met some wonderful people and forged some great friendships along the way. The difficulty of our task, the long hours we worked, and the like-minded sense of purpose that we shared brought many of us close together. At the end of July, I was offered the paid staff position of Field Organizer in Ohio. While I was happy to be offered the position, I was not sure if I would be able to keep with the long hours and most of all even longer time away from Jen. As those of you who are close to us know, Jen and I do everything together, so such a long time apart would be unthinkable but for the fact that the dire situation our county found itself and for our complete confidence in Barack Obama to address the nation’s ills. So we agreed to continue our sacrifice and do our small part to secure our nation and the world’s better future. After a brief four days back in San Francisco, I returned to Ohio to begin work as a Field Organizer. I was told I would be assigned to Cleveland, but at the last minute, I was sent to Newark, Ohio in Licking County. I was familiar with Newark, having visited back when I was growing up two counties away in Cambridge, Ohio. I began working with another group of dedicated Obama supporters, many of whom had also quit their jobs to help Barack Obama win election in the critically important state. The work was similar to what I had done as a fellow. I was tasked with recruiting, training, and managing volunteers, who would build teams, make phone calls, canvass door-to-door and convince people to vote for Barack Obama. This work was much more difficult in an area that was more conservative and demoralized than Toledo, where the excitement for the election was quite palpable. Slowly but surely, we built neighborhood teams, opened our own office (see the pictures with me in front), and reached in an organized effort the likes of which Licking County had never seen. I was very lucky to have supporters house me, and the use of another’s car for the duration of the campaign. It certainly helped a great deal and I am truly grateful for their contribution.

A typical day for me began at 9:00 am, with meetings and a conference call. The rest of the morning was spent preparing for the volunteers’ arrivals, and it went by very quickly – sometimes we forgot to eat. Early afternoon was often a mix of meetings, returning phone calls, training new volunteers and assisting other volunteers. Late afternoon until 9 pm was our “sacred call time” and we spent the whole time (or very close to it) on the phones, finding new volunteers and rescheduling others. At the end of this, we had a few minutes to scramble to get our call numbers and results together to report first to our region which consisted of Licking, Delaware and Knox counties, and then to a regional conference call which consisted of ¼ of the state. Later, we would also have a statewide call. After all of this, we had to enter data. Luckily, I had some great volunteers, and one in particular who did a massive amount of data entry which probably saved us a couple of hours a night, so we could get home by 11:30 pm or so each night. Although, as we got closer to the election, I was not getting home until after 2:00 am. It was very rough – and working last few days of the campaign was the hardest thing I have ever done. Jen came out to spend the last few days of the election with me in Ohio and even helped canvass on election day. I was so glad to have Jen at my side while we watched the election results and we shared tears of joy as Ohio was announced for Barack Obama. It had been worth all the struggle and sacrifice.

I was happy that I was able to see Obama and Biden once with Jen (she visited for a few days in August).

In addition, during state-wide training for the campaign staff in Ohio, Obama did show up to encourage us. I also was able to see the future Vice President when Joe Biden came to visit Newark.

It was amazing to have been a part of this historic campaign and now I look forward to doing my part to help this incoming administration rebuild America.

Friday, November 14, 2008

We Won! Now, Back Home in SF

Well I am now back home in San Francisco after working in Ohio for the Obama campaign since June. It's great to be back with my wife, Jen and I am getting a lot of rest after working 16 hour long days.

I was working in Licking County, Ohio and was in charge of much of Newark as well as all of Hebron, Heath, and Hanover.

I'm so happy that Obama won the election. I've never been as motivated as I was working to get him elected President. We need fundamental change and Obama had the vision and the principles to get things done to move this country in the direction we all need.

I was not able to blog during my employment by the campaign, but now I am able to do so and will be writing more in the future.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Working with the Obama Campaign in Toledo (Unite for Change)

I've been working hard with the Obama presidential campaign as an organizer. Here is a local news article that highlighted one of our first major goals:

Grass roots Obama parties held throughout Toledo area.

The Washington Times even carried an article on the Unite for Change meetings as well:

Obama house parties tap 'persuasion army'

The official campaign web page for the event is here:

It's an amazing experience to be a part of such an energetic movement that is empowering people and re-introducing the long-lost idea of community in Ohio.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Went Back to Ohio...

I just returned from 3 days of rather intensive training for Obama Organizing Fellows in Columbus Ohio. It was a great experience, I met some wonderful people and am excited to be helping the campaign organize my home city of Toledo, Ohio. Here is a picture with me (my back turned) with several of my fellow Toledo team members.

Click here for a link with more information on the training that I attended.

Going back to Ohio and seeing the sad contrasts between San Francisco where I now live and Columbus, arguably the current most prosperous major city in Ohio brought the old Pretenders song back to mind:

Sorry Rush, but the ideals you stand for are the ones that contributed to these tragic conditions.
In any case, I am excited to be helping the Obama campaign organize in Toledo!

Al Gore Endorses Barack Obama !

Al Gore gave a wonderful speech endorsing Barack Obama for President in Michigan. I am very happy to see Gore enthusiastically working to elect Obama. I think Obama and Gore share many of the same ideas and ideals concerning the environment, energy independence and the role that technology can play in addressing many of our current problems.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Great Response to Fox News Refering to Obama's Fist Pound as a "Terrorist Fist Jab"

Cenk Uygur, of the Young Turks had a great response to Fox "News" referring to Barack Obama's "Terrorist Fist Jab".

Monday, June 09, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech

Here is a link to the complete video of Barack Obama's wonderful victory speech on June 3rd in St. Paul Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obama Wins Democratic Party Nomination for President!

Barack Obama has secured enough delegates to win the Democratic party's nomination for President of the United States of America. This is truly a historic moment, full of significance for our nation. I have never been so inspired or moved to action as I have been by this incredible candidate and his campaign. I am very happy to report that I have been offered and accepted an internship with the campaign. I will be traveling to my home state and crucial battleground of Ohio. I look forward to assisting the campaign.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bush Gave Up Golf to Support the Troops?

Recently, President Bush claimed that he had given up golf in a sign of solidarity with our troops and their families. While I would be the last person to criticize someone from making any sacrifice to keep a devotion to our solders in mind, coming from this President, the gesture seems far too little and it is made worse by the fact that it appears he lied. Not only is his gesture questionable in regard to being a conscious effort on his part, because his aides suggested it to him, but also because of a medical condition that may have forced him to abstain from the sport. It also appears that President Bush lied about his token gesture, by playing golf months after he supposedly gave it up. Keith Olbermann said is best once again in one of his special comments on MSNBC:

This is just the latest in a series of outrageous actions that this administration has either been directly responsible for or has allowed to happen, things that go completely against the spirit and ideals of America. To list a few:

1. Torturing prisoners held in our custody.
2. Starting a preemptive war against a nation that was no direct threat to America.
3. Operating secret prisons in foreign nations out of the reach of international and congressional oversight.
4. Keeping Americans fearful and manipulating elections though the use of a laughable color-coded terrorist warning system.
5. Wiretapping the telephone and email communications of American citizens without a warrant an in violation of the law. (Don't tell me that this wasn't used for political ends either...)
6. Placing people in charge of regulatory agencies from the industries that they are supposed to regulate - such as the EPA, FDA, and Mine Safety)
7. Disclosing the identity of a CIA agent and exposing friendly operatives in other nations to danger just to score a political point.
8. Holding a secret energy meeting with oil executives before the war in Iraq and refusing to disclose what happened.
9. Disastrous incompetence and lack of leadership that left Americans dead, injured and homeless after hurricane Katrina.
10. The deliberate and complete politicization of every action and function of government especially foreign policy.

Any one of these would be worthy of investigation and possibly impeachment. This administration is the worst in American history.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Audacity of Hope, Not the Audacity of Hate

Barack Obama just held a press conference where he clarified the differences in his views from those of his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Read more here. While I am very glad that Senator Obama did so, I am saddened by the necessity of his actions. Unfortunately, Reverend Wright who was forced into the spotlight when a few of his inflammatory statements became widely played, had a unique opportunity and he squandered it. Rev Wright had the opportunity to bring a Christan message of helping those who are oppressed and talk about what needed to be done to help us move forward together. He hurt the causes he believes in whether he realizes it or not. That is most unfortunate, because, these are causes I believe are important - social justice, racial equality, and an end to aggressive and violent foreign policies.
I am saddened by Reverend Wright's choice to make himself the story and suggest that the media are not criticising his fringe views but the African American church. Senator Obama had to distance himself from his friend and former pastor. He really had no choice. This is Reverend Wright's fault for making such inflammatory statements. Remember, Reverend - it is the audacity of hope, not the audacity of hate that brings change and progress. Now let's hope the media can focus on the issues and not be distracted by the Reverend Wright.

Friday, April 18, 2008

ABC's Terrible Debate

On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, the two leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama held a debate moderated by ABC's Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. This was easily the worst debate I have seen in this election cycle. Huffingtonpost called it the "gotcha debate." Read the story here. The first half of the debate was full of petty criticisms of personal misstatements, questions of guilt by association, and other petty "distractions" to quote one of the moderators of the debate. In such an important time in such a crucial election, why were such distractions given so much focus? We are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, have top officials in the government admitting to have authorized torture, we have a housing, credit and energy crisis, millions without health care, U.S. paid mercenaries who are not subject to any law killing civilians in Iraq, billions of dollars wasted or lost in Iraq, and many many other pressing problems. Instead of concentrating on these vitally important questions, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos decided to concentrate of the HRC's multiple misstatements regarding snipers in Bosnia and Obama not always wearing a flag pin. Absolutely ridiculous. I hate to be so critical of George Stephanopoulos since I met him, during Bill Clinton's first run for the presidency in 1992 and know him to be very intelligent and personable. But this was a terrible excuse of moderating. As Keith Oblberman pointed out today, some of the questions posed by Stephanopoulos came from Sean Hannity of Fox News infamy. That showed. This terrible excuse for a debate probably will mark the end of the debates between Obama and Clinton. If this is to be the way future debates were to be held - that is certainly a good thing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quod Principi Placuit Legis Habet Vigorem

Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem or "That which pleases the prince has the strength of law" seems to be the maxim of the Bush administration. Recently, it was revealed that top officials at the White House including Vice President Dick Cheney, then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and CIA Director George Tenet met and approved the use of torture. Read more here. Even more seriously, President Bush has admitted his knowledge of these meetings and their substance. Read more here. This was clearly against the law, and even then Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly objected saying "History will not judge this kindly." What we are confronted with is an administration that uses signing statements or flat out ignores the law to get done what it wants. This is an administration that puts far more emphasis on loyalty than on adherence to the constitution or the law. So in effect we are left with an administration that might live up to the Latin maxim above. This is even worse than the Regan administration's "imperial presidency" or Nixon's where he claimed that the law is never broken when the president is doing a given thing. This is the worst administration in U.S. history - the corruption, blatant abuse and disregard for the law and governmental institutions shows that this administration must be stopped. Bush and the top aides should all be impeached - but I know it won't happen due to a lack of political will. I pray that the Democrats will win back the White House in November and then we will see some serious prosecutions. If McCain wins, these criminals who are running our government will not be prosecuted and may very well be pardoned. It is necessary for this Republic to show what happens to officials who live by the misguided maxim "Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem" - those who seek to govern in this manner have no place in a Democracy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Iraq: Five Years Later

Five years ago, the United States invaded Iraq. I remember living in Japan and witnessing the beginnings of a war that I knew would be tragic. I prayed that we would not start a preemptive war against a nation that was no direct threat to our own. My prayers were not answered and the bloodshed and destruction began. I watched President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney full of bluster talk about how we would be greeted as liberators. I knew that things would be bad and unfortunately I was right. Of course living overseas, I had the uncomfortable experience of the anti-American backlash in the face of our naked aggression. "Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?" people would ask me. I would feebly explain that the U.S. government believed that they had weapons of mass destruction. Some Japanese would then ask if it wasn't true that we had been keeping Iraq bottled up with strict sanctions and no-fly zones. I would answer that it was true. They asked me if I believed there were weapons of mass destruction. "Maybe", I answered, but I knew there couldn't be many. Inspectors had searched and searched the country and we had destroyed the few remnants after the Gulf War. But the hardest questions came from my students. "Why does America like war so much?" they would ask. My answers to them were unconvincing. "Why does America want to kill all the Muslims?" they would ask. I told them that it wasn’t true but they did not all believe me. A few even voiced some sympathy with Al-Qaeda. It was a difficult position for an American charged with putting a positive face on America, the English-speaking, and in a broader sense, the Western world and its culture. I did what I could and talked about how I disagreed with the actions of my government. But in a democracy, I told them, that is ok. In fact it is a duty to oppose the government when you disagree with its policies. I tried hard to convey this to a simple rural people who like many people everywhere tend to think that all the people in a country support it's government and all its actions.
I knew many people in the U.S. who strongly supported the war and were ready to "Kick Sadam's ass." But I knew enough of the history and culture of the region (which I had studied quite extensively in college and on my own) to know that things were going to become a mess. The British faced a committed insurgency in the 1920s and had to withdraw. The county was a patchwork of Kurd, Shia, and Sunni with some other groups thrown in for even more complication. The Kurds had enjoyed defacto independence - why would they want to be part of an Arab Shia led nation that might only drag them down and steel some of their wealth? What of Kurdish irredentism? There are a lot of Kurds who live in Turkey. Would Turkey get involved to fight against Kurdish terrorists/freedom-fighters (depending on one's view)? As it turned out they did and they probably will again. The Shia are the majority and would naturally gravitate toward friendly relations with Iran (which has happened). The U.S. would not approve and have to fight that. The Sunnis who are a minority in Iraq were favored and ruled the nation through Sadam's brutal regime. They would want to fight to remain in control. Of course the Shia would fight them back. Let's not forge the Shia who rose up against Sadam following the Gulf War with the strong encouragement and promise of support by President George H. W. Bush and were crushed by Sadam's forces. They weren't going to be happy with the U.S. Let us not forget that in the 1980's the Regan administration sold weapons to Iran (who was at war with Iraq) while selling intelligence to Sadam in (what seemed to be) an obvious effort to keep the two nations fighting each other so that Iran would be occupied and Iraq wouldn't attack Israel. Why would anyone in that country trust Americans? Then what did we find out once we invaded - there were no weapons of mass destruction. So the stated purpose of the war was changed. We were there to stop Iraq's connection with Al-Qaeda. A ridiculous claim. A secularist megalomaniac like Sadam had no use for religious extremist terrorists inside his own county, especially when they were regularly making statements denouncing his surprisingly tolerant religious freedom policies. (For example he gave money to some Christian churches.) So the purpose of the war was changed to spreading democracy in the Middle East. That didn’t work so well. Sure elections were held, but is the government functioning? It is divided along ethnic and religious lines and is not working together. So then one of many terrorist groups operating in Iraq decided to become an Al-Qaeda franchise. By pledging loyalty to Osama Bin Ladin. These were not the people who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001; these were other Arabs who wanted the immoral support of the top Al Qaeda extremist. The purpose of the war, then stated by the White House to stamp out Al Qaeda in Iraq - an organization that existed only because the U.S. invaded Iraq! Eventually, they were on the run - in the so called "Sunni awakening" in Al Anbar province in western Iraq. Why were the Sunni fighting fellow Sunni, in this case local tribes vs. Al Qaeda in Iraq? Ostensibly because they were tired of all the collateral damage and the U.S. counter attacks. But of course they had been fighting the U.S. too - but money talks and it talked them into opposing Al Qaeda in Iraq. They were happy to take money and weapons from the U.S. government. At the same time we were and are supplying money and weapons to the Shia government in Baghdad. I cannot stress this enough. We have supplied weapons and arms to the local Sunnis in Al Anbar. At the same time we gave money and weapons to their main opposition the Shia dominated central government in Baghdad. You think Iraq is a civil war now - wait until this one plays itself out. Not to mention the Kurds and the Kurdistan Worker's Party which carries out terrorist attacks in Turkey. This war is a mess and there is nothing to do but walk away. There are no good options. The U.S must cut its losses and have "victory with honor" or "Iraqization of the war", "strategic withdrawal" whatever euphuism once wants to use. Whatever we call it, the U.S needs to get out of Iraq. Five bloody, destructive and costly years later, the situation is a mess and I fear there is worse to come no matter what we do. I suggest we get out of the way before we get caught in the middle of a real full-scale civil war and before we become entangled in the spillover into Iran and Turkey.
My wife and I are currently watching "Vietnam: A Television History" the excellent PBS documentary from PBS. I am struck by the parallels to that conflict and the one we are involved in Iraq. That conflict was a mess to start with - we leaned no lessons from the French defeats, tried to impose a domino theory of global communism on a conflict that many there saw as an anti-colonial fight, and were drawn into spill over conflict in Laos and Cambodia. It was a mess, millions died as a result and America's image and potential to do good in the world was diminished. We should see the parallels for what they are and end this current conflict as quickly and carefully as possible.
At the same time, I honor the service of the American soldiers, sailors and marines who have had to endure the very worst in life. They are doing what they see as their patriotic duty and their service is exemplary. It is because of their dedication to America that makes their sacrifice to a vain cause all the more tragic. I wish them all the best and keep them in my thoughts and prayers as I also do with the people of Iraq.

About Me

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Lima, Ohio, United States
I was born and raised in Ohio. I am a lifelong Catholic Christian who has always been interested in the big questions of life. I have a passion for learning especially Philosophy, Science, Religion, History and Culture. I graduated from the University of Toledo in 2001 with a B.A. in International Relations. I married my soul-mate, Jen in 2001 and we moved to rural Tanigumi-mura Japan where we taught English for 3 years. We moved to California and lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area for 4 years. Tired of sitting on the sidelines, I began volunteering for the Barack Obama campaign in March of 2007 and was eventually hired as a Field Organizer. Through the Obama campaign, I found my calling and moved back to Ohio to continue organizing. In 2009 I helped the field operations of the Keith Wilkowski for Mayor of Toledo race. After that, I was hired as a Regional Field Director for 15 northwestern and north central Ohio counties for the 2010 Democratic Coordinated Campaign. Jen and I are continuing to volunteer as we wait for the next organizing opportunity to present itself.