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Four More Years!

November 6, 2012 — Obama wins his re-election.

What a rollercoaster ride this election season has been! Like many people, I am glad that at last the frenetic jostling for the office of the POTUS has come to an end. In the end, as I fully expected, Obama was re-elected as the president of the United States.

Yesterday morning I went to vote making fully sure that my iPod was fully charged. I knew that there’d be a great turnout so I braced myself for a long line. True to my expectations, there was a long line, but it wasn’t as long as I feared. Perhaps, it was because, like I thought, I had mercifully beaten the early morning rush by people who wanted to get in there early, vote and head off to work. I got in line around 9:45 am with other happy and excited people around.

One very chatty old white woman directly in front of me kept us all talking and laughing as she told us many of her previous election experiences. She was 93 years old but yet she could stand and walk around without aid. She stood with us throughout the 2 hours that it took for us to finish voting. I am still amazed at how strong that elderly white woman was. I remember that there were many times one of the election judges came over to her and kindly inquired if she needed a chair to sit. She smilingly declined, and stood with us all through as she regaled us fantastic stories about her life. I am not going to bore you with her tales anyway.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got to the voter machine and promptly voted for Obama. I rolled out and came home to relax and wait for others to do the same.

Now, how many of you were on tenterhooks as you nervously waited to see the outcome of the election? I was not one of such people. I patiently saw the whole process through; as a matter of fact, I was one of the people still awake long after Obama had given his victory speech. I can honestly say that I was happy to see that after extensively studying the trends, polls and examining the predictions from Nate Silver, I was thoroughly convinced that Romney was not going to win—and it turned out to be so. Indeed as I have pointed out before, I accurately called the election 6 weeks early!

How about some raw stats then? Obama won about 92-93% of all black votes; about 73% of all Hispanic votes; only about 35% of white votes; he beat Romney in women vote by as much as 11%.  Obama garnered about 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 with 49 states accounted for. All that’s left is Florida with her 29 electoral votes. Chances are that Obama will get these electoral votes as well swelling his ultimate grand total to 332 electoral votes. He got around 50.4% of the popular vote or roughly 60,452,197 votes at the time of this writeup. This figure will increase slightly after the Florida votes are completely accounted for.

It is interesting to note however that Obama got 9 million votes less than what he got in 2008. Could this be because many people were disenchanted with Obama seeing as he has failed in definable ways to favorably impact their lives? Could it be because they became disillusioned with Obama after 4 years saw to it that some of Obama’s numerous campaign promises never materialized? Nevertheless, it is even more surprising to imagine that despite the bitterness of the long campaign, and the incessant chorus from the conservative base to the effect that Romney was going to beat Obama by a landslide (because of the dismal economy), Obama beat Romney in the popular vote and the electoral vote regardless.

The ugly truth is that Romney ran a spectacularly cynical and dishonest campaign. Time and time again, Romney flip-flopped on many issues of the day. It became apparent at some point in the campaign that Romney was simply saying any and everything to get himself elected—principles and records be damned. It might be the reason why many conservatives abstained from voting, or voted libertarian or otherwise. Just think how surprising it is to note that despite the deafening voices we heard during the campaign, proclaiming an imminent election-day Republican tsunami, it turns out in the end that somehow John McCain  (with his caribou Barbie running mate) managed to get more votes in 2008 against a popular Obama than Romney did with a politically weakened Obama! There is simply no other way to parse this save to say that Romney had high unfavorables—many people frankly did not like him—least of all after they heard the now infamous 47% remark.

So what have we seen in this election? By running on inclusiveness and unity even in times of great adversity, Team Obama masterfully forged a way to his election triumph. Team Obama knew that with the recession and the

Yes, I voted too.

attendant snail-paced economic growth, he would lose the election if it was a referendum on the economy. In all sincerity, his administration’s record has not been terribly impressive even if one might grant that he is an impressive man personally. So, he had to make a strategic move to endear himself to the shifting segments of the American populace—in other words, having noted the changing demographics of the country, he had to make a calculated move to endear himself to the different portions of a fast-changing electorate.

That gamble worked in a big way. He received considerably fewer white votes this time around but scored impressively amongst the 18-30 age group, students, women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, labor and unions, the auto industry, veterans and the elderly etc. The demography of the country was changing and it now appears that no longer can the Republicans hope to win elections just by banking on the collective electoral angst of the white vote. To be competitive in future elections, the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans now have to seriously work hard to draw the youth and minorities into the party in much larger numbers. Otherwise, with these levels of Hispanic and women support for Democrats, the Republicans will invariably continue to experience future election-day woes.

Obama has now written his name into the history books. He is the first African-American president of the United States—a feat magnified once a person fully begins to understand this country’s past shameful legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination. Additionally, in winning a second term in office, he joins a smaller cadre of presidents—14 out of 44 presidents—who have served two or more terms.

All that remains now is to see how well he would govern in his second term. Also, one wishes to see whether the stinging loss suffered by the Republicans might have engendered some serious soul-searching to usher in a season, no matter how briefly, of bipartisan cooperation and an end to gridlock: is this asking for too much perhaps?

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Romney Will Lose The Elections

Given the events of the last two weeks, anyone can see that Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency of the United States is in serious danger of fatal derailment. If he eventually loses the election, I am going to identify the shocking sequence of mutilating strokes he dealt to himself and to his campaign over the last 2 weeks as the primary cause of his defeat. There are already many republicans who cannot understand and quite frankly openly wonder why Romney had been struggling in the polls to convincingly beat a president they have universally acknowledged as the worst president ever.

There is simply no easy way to slice this: given the suboptimal state of the economy, the degree of vilification that Obama has received from Republican quarters, and the active push by targeted ads financed by Romney’s rich sponsors and donors, it was simply baffling to notice how Romney had consistently found it difficult to spring forward in this hotly-contested race. Why, someone might ask, is Romney not handily beating Obama amongst likely voters if this election truly was a referendum on the performance of the Obama administration? Please hold that thought.

As if Romney wasn’t having a hard enough time convincing many Americans that he should be given the nation’s top job, the events of the past few weeks have all but put a nail on the coffin of Romney’s presidential aspirations. Indeed, as things stand now, this election is all but over. Let me take the remainder of this brief write-up to give reasons why I do not think that Romney will win come November 6:

A –  Reminiscent of John McCain’s hasty and uncoordinated  over-reaction in ‘suspending’ his campaign at a time when America stared at a crisis, [thereby prompting wide-mouthed disbelief and concern over his emotional state or his ability to perform under pressure] Mitt Romney has unwittingly generated serious concern over his ability to perform in times of great national or international uproar.  Only last week when the nation was quietly mourning the loss of an ambassador, several embassy personnel, countless innocent lives, and the breaching or burning of American embassies or consulates in an orgy of violence that has erupted all over the middle East, Romney chose that singular moment of subdued national outrage to try to score a cheap political point. Without waiting to get the full picture or the facts in the case, he mistook a tweet emerging from a US embassy under siege, as the official statement of the Obama White House and launched off into a tasteless self-serving rant about how Obama (and  his administration by extension I suppose) was supposedly apologizing to the Muslim world about American values; how Obama was not projecting strength and how his own administration would undoubtedly have risen to the challenge posed by the events that were yet unfolding.

Apparently, what happened was that some Coptic Christian Egyptian-American posing as an Israeli to secure funds had made a disparaging video about Islam mockingly titled “The Innocence of Muslims” a few months back. A 14-minute trailer could be found on YouTube. The poorly produced and directed documentary (if at all it could be called a documentary) features actors with American accents and since the producer of the film was also resident in the US, the Arab world took that as sufficient casus belli to rail against American interests in the region. The aftermath? Scores died and several American embassies faced mob assaults all over the Middle East. It was at this moment of heightened national anxiety and concern that Romney chose to launch a baseless criticism. The fact was that the tweet he thought represented the Obama administration actually came from the embassy facing down hordes of angry Muslims. The official Obama statement on the matter sought to give avenues for peace even when condemning in strong terms the attacks on American embassies and embassy personnel. It furthermore re-iterated the commitment to freedom of speech. Frankly, a lot of Americans especially the undecided were able to see in glaring detail that Gov. Romney would say just about anything if he thinks it would get him elected even if that means going against the conventions of good taste. He was roundly criticized for his thoughtless remarks, but rather than apologize for his hastiness, he simply doubled down on his earlier statements. Brilliant strategy!

B – As if that was not enough headaches for a campaign quickly spiraling out of control, a video was leaked showing what Romney really thinks about 47% of the electorate. It turns out that in a secret, private fundraiser organized for Mitt Romney, one of the people in attendance had wondered why Romney wasn’t more popular and more visible than he currently was, and wanted to know what the appropriate response should be to people who still could not find Romney appealing enough as to vote for him. In a remarkable moment of candor, Romney coolly stated his indifference to 47% of Americans whom he said would never vote for him anyway because they were tax-nonpaying, handout-seeking, Obama-loving lackeys afflicted with some form of victim mentality and who doubtlessly think that government exists solely to cater to their needs. Shocking as that characterization of nearly half of the electorate is, the simple truth of the matter however is that Romney was right. There are indeed people who will never vote for him no matter what. The problem however is that that sort of frank assessment is not something you would expect out of the mouth of someone campaigning for the presidency. In writing off people who are or were former supporters of Obama, he is effectively shutting himself off from thousands of people who might have voted for Obama in 2008 (people who would fit the description he gave) but who for whatever reason best known to them might have decided that Obama was not the change they hoped for or imagined.

You see, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to construct a scenario where Romney wins campaigning only for the votes of the 53% he imagines are willing to give him a fair shot. Statisticians and public relations personnel fully realize this. The odds are heavily stacked against him if he thinks that he will be elected on the backs of rich, white conservatives alone. This is because the statement that was credited to him strongly reinforces the view that he is an unfeeling and emotionally disconnected shill of the big business or corporate class, and that if his ideas were fully known, would pose a disaster to more than the 47% he imagines are ideologically attached to Obama’s hip. They will in fact affect a great deal of the people (like seniors, veterans, failed small business owners etc) who might ordinarily have looked upon him more favorably.

C – Lest we forget, presidential elections in the United States are not decided by the popular vote but by something called the Electoral College vote. Now, I am convinced that Obama will definitely win the popular vote i.e the number of people that voted for him nationally will be more than the number that voted for Romney. All it will take are a few of the big  and densely populated states like California and New York for instance massively voting for Obama to see the wide gap he will gather  by the time all the votes have been cast. Fortunately for Romney, America uses a ‘weighted’ Electoral College method which I shall not start explaining in detail here. In a nutshell, every state has a specified number of electors which a presidential candidate will win if he wins the popular vote in that state. These are apportioned in such a way as to make the votes of people in the American suburbs and hinterland matter. The winner of the election thus becomes the man who first surpasses 270 electoral votes gotten by adding up all the Electoral College votes apportioned to each of the individual states. The use of the Electoral College method means that it is possible for Obama to get the higher number of votes and still lose an election. This is the reason why you would hardly see Obama campaigning in states that are traditionally democratic; or hardly see Romney campaigning in states that are traditionally republican. In effect, it means that both the Obama and Romney campaigns will be focused on those battleground states with a somewhat equal balance of republican or democratic voters hoping to tilt the voting scale in their favor. These are the states that are inundated with millions of dollars of targeted negative ads.

However, a critical look at the Election map shows that Romney is trailing Obama in some of these key states. In other words, Romney’s path to the Whitehouse is ALREADY tougher than Obama’s. Romney would need to basically sweep through these critical states if he wants the Electoral College votes in his corner to surpass those in Obama’s corner—and there is no suggestion on the ground that such a scenario is shaping up. With Obama suddenly jumping ahead out as much as 5-7% in national polls this week, it becomes even more difficult to see how Romney will flip enough votes to effectively win many of the battleground states which Obama won in 2008. The math is just not looking favorable for Romney at this point—and if Obama is able to distance himself from any and all costly political scandals, it is downright impossible to see how Romney would  win in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada,  and New Hampshire to get enough Electoral College votes to get him to the magical 270.

D – Despite the RNC’s strenuous efforts to humanize Romney, the undisputable fact is that Romney still has a perception chasm battling his efforts at becoming more appealing to most people. Some view his Mormon faith with something akin to scorn and derision; many are still upset and rightly suspicious of Romney’s decision to hide his tax returns from previous years from the public. What is he hiding? In addition, a lot of people who decry foreign tax shelters also find that they cannot reconcile their views with a president who has hidden most of his wealth in the Cayman Islands and in Swiss accounts. It certainly does not sound like the actions of someone who has much faith in America. There is no denying that he is an extremely wealthy man—and that has perhaps spawned the perception that Romney is altogether emotionally and psychologically far-removed from the plight of the suffering masses. This is a thorny perceptions issue, and he has battled it vainly for a long time. Indeed, there is no shortage of republicans who, regardless of their overwhelming disapproval of Obama, are nevertheless indifferent or even perhaps harshly critical of Mitt Romney. If some members of Romney’s party can be hostile to him based on their own negative perceptions, I leave you to ponder how much less appealing he would be to Independents.

It is on the strength of these assessments that I fail to see how Romney will eventually emerge the winner of the 2012 presidential elections.  But as we all know, the truth (life) is sometimes stranger than fiction. We have a few weeks left before the country votes and something might still happen which could potentially zero out the scales in Romney’s favor. Until such a cataclysmic event happens, the die is cast against Romney.

Au Revoir Monsieur Lieberman!

When news reached me that Joe Lieberman had decided not to seek re-election next year, I distinctly remember feeling sorry for him.  Now, I am not always sure I understand the way Joe Lieberman thinks or what motivates him, but the general antipathy directed towards him by liberals and conservatives alike might lead one to wonder why he is so reviled. The stubbornness with which he  clung to his positions—caring little if democrats were incensed by his positions or not—leads me to appreciate his courage. It seemed that in Joe, we witnessed a politician who was not going to be beholden to party politics; a man who was going to fight for what he believed was the right thing even if his democratic colleagues felt differently.

That’s all changed now, hasn’t it?

Here was a man that came close to being the vice president of the country when he ran with John Kerry. Frankly, it is difficult to say at this stage, but I am sure that not a few democrats might have had cause to wonder in recent times, if the choice of Lieberman did not cost them much-needed votes. And why, you may ask? The answer is simple. Joe Lieberman, fairly or unfairly, is portrayed as a lackey for Big Pharma and Big Energy companies.  His patriotism was also questioned by people who see in him nothing but a shrill mouthpiece for Israeli interests. Worse, he is viewed as being a neo-con on financial and security issues. For a self-styled democrat, he sure sounded like a conservative on many issues.

Should that quality be considered a liability? Well, it depends. When he faced a primaries challenge for the office of Connecticut’s senator, he cleverly switched and became an independent. That was his saving grace I suppose. But I’d like to say that with Joe running as an independent, his actions tend to be more accepted unlike when he was operating like a traitor to the liberal cause. Therein lies the rub: media outlets can cry and whine for bipartisanship till the cows come home; Americans can complain and decry the gridlock in Washington till they are blue in the face; pundits can say whatever they damn well please, the fact remains that when push comes to shove, the same people or institutions that are expressing their revulsion at partisanship will DEMAND partisanship if it is going to significantly further their political agenda.

So I am not particularly surprised to see that over the years, Joe Lieberman has greatly irked the liberal-progressive base he was once part of. And he has paid for it with a deafening roar of disapproval and even disgust not only from the Democrats but from his very own home state of Connecticut.  How for example, were liberals going to forget his role in the 2008 presidential campaign? –you remember, don’t you, how he followed McCain all over the place, campaigning with and for him when his own party was trying their best to get everyone to consider the democratic alternative?

Be that as it may, we should not forget the pivotal roles Joe Lieberman played in the waning days of his career. His was the 60th vote that was needed to pass Obama’s health care reform. Had he not voted with the liberals, that legislative packaged would have died. Furthermore, one can’t ignore his pivotal role in the passing of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal which exceedingly gladdened the hearts of many liberals. So it seems like whatever way you slice it, Mr. Lieberman has his fair share of republican and democratic critics. The sad thing is that despite the shrill calls for bipartisanship, it seems the political climate in Washington forbids such. Just take a look at the last election cycle in November of last year and you would notice how the middle-stream, blue-dog, moderately-conservative democrats were swept out. Lieberman may not be a democrat any longer; he may have grown weary of the endless partisanship; he may feel that he lived out his full convictions on Capitol Hill—the thorny truth is that with his departure next year, a long curtain will finally be drawn over non-partisanship in today’s congress.

Joe, you announced your exit too soon. Let’s hope you’ll find a way to withdraw yourself from the political limelight till you settle back in the private sector. Au revoir Monsieur Lieberman!

The Rise Of The Tea Party?

A Tea Party Rally

I have always wanted to make a little comment on the meteoric rise to prominence of the Tea Party movement. I just never got the chance to do so until now. If my memory serves me right, it was during the 2008 election that we began to notice a fundamental shift in Republican thinking and propaganda. The Republicans were traditionally opposed to the Democrats – that was a given, but in that dramatic and turbulent 2008 election period, the Democrats were mostly in control of the message of change and hope.

The Bush administration along with its many failures and compromises left many Republicans rueful about their prospects at the polls. There were a great number of Republicans who were frankly fed up with or displeased by the eccentricities and the sloppiness of the beltway republican establishment. And of course they were staunchly opposed to a Liberal or Progressive takeover of Washington. Thanks or no thanks to shrill republican media watchdogs, a lot of these dissatisfied Republicans and/or Independents began to fashion an identity of their own. Gradually, the Tea Party movement was born.

These scattered voices of rage and dissent against the Washington establishment found strength and support in right-wing radio and on some cable TV shows. They tried as much as they could, with their sometimes frighteningly exclusivist positions to win back broad-based support for McCain during the election period. But they failed to get McCain elected.  Ironically, the election of Obama was the best thing that happened to the Tea Party. In fact, it could be argued that the election of Obama as the 44th president of the United States kept conservative radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh gainfully employed. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and other new actors on the national stage, sensing an opportunity, decided to throw their weight and support behind this new faction of the Republican Party—the Tea Party began to grow exponentially despite being cajoled and maligned by the mainstream media.

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On Divine Omniscience and Freewill

Trite, superfluous and mundane as internet chat room discussions usually are, there are occasionally flashes of real serious and interesting debate or dialogue. It is usually at times like that that I would start paying very close attention to what different people often say when they start waxing philosophical.  It is usually at times like this that you would be truly impressed or disappointed at the astonishing depth or shallowness of arguments or viewpoints that one may not have bothered to contemplate closely.

One of such discussions was taking place recently, when a usually infrequent but popularly known regular of the chat room started a much-needed and thematic deconstruction of Christian Theism. If you asked him, he would deny that he was launching any personal attacks – as a matter of fact he simply maintained that he was just philosophically analyzing popular belief and pointing out the fatal flaws and inconsistencies of the positions advocated by Christians. This sort of critical analysis of faith-based or religious claims are usually seen by the majority Christian theists in the room as a premeditated attack on their faith, but I beg to differ. I welcome such philosophical ruminations, because it helps to strengthen and bolster theistic belief when it is properly understood and seen to be free of some self-referential incoherence.

At any rate, the young man – I’ll just call him Kendoll – made a statement to this effect:

God’s Omniscience negates Free will. They cannot both exist. It is either human beings have free will or God is not omniscient for both cannot exist at the same time.

That statement was very confusing to many people at the time, as I noticed.  Indeed, it was of a sufficiently complex nature to many people that he actually had to stop typing his viewpoints in order to get on the room’s audio feature to speak on it. When he did, he seemed to be quite passionate about the topic that he set out to discuss.

Before he got up to speak though, I had been partially engaging him on the subject to get a feel for how he would actually explicate the position. I have to say, in retrospect, that his answers to me were unusually brief and curt, and lacked the enthusiasm which I had expected of one who had decided on a philosophical interjection in a room dominated by theological banter.

But if we examine the claim critically, is it really the case that God’s Omniscience negates human free will? Is it really true that if God knows everything in the past, present and future then it is not possible for human beings to exercise their choice as free moral agents? Read the rest of this entry

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