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Today In History
On July 8, 1939
Henry Havelock Ellis, English physician and author, died

musiclibre web media sharing and recommendations

IF YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY ... Not all that long ago now President Barack Obama "announced that ... grants will be available for those wishing to do research in renewable energy ... such as wind [and] solar." The next day "German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG said ... it will acquire a 28 per cent stake in Archimede Solar Energy S.p.A. to expand its expertise in solar thermal power plants." Meanwhile, for mere mortals who just want to know more the OpenSolar blog in the San Francisco Bay Area has been expanding its resources for letting you "ask questions about solar technology and get personal answers from experienced solar professionals and installation owners." All this remains one big piece in the big new clean-energy future that lies ahead. You can check it out in depth at ABOUT OPEN SOLAR!

PAST VERSUS FUTURE .. Obamamania part deux now in motion .. what does it mean for true north?   PDF  Print 
Written by Citizen X  
Sunday, 27 January 2008  

UPDATED JANUARY 29. So ... it was, according to the Slate website "the most thorough trouncing of the election season." The dramatic numbers cannot be denied: 55% Obama, 27% Clinton, 18% Edwards. Say what you like, Obamamania is back. Or, as the Huffington Post tidily explained: "Barack Obama routed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the racially charged South Carolina primary Saturday night, regaining campaign momentum in the prelude to a Feb. 5 coast-to-coast competition .. . ‘The choice in this election is not about regions or religions or genders,’ Obama said at a boisterous victory rally ... It's about the past versus the future.’" My assignment here is to comment on what it might all mean for the true north strong and free. And first I remember the financial guru on TV Ontario this past week, who urged that a Clinton victory in November would work best for the North American economy. But then it strikes me: What country of the world really needs a fresh debate about the past versus the future more than Canada today?

(CW Editors' Note: And now, in the wake of Teddy Kennedy's robust endorsement of Obama, there's the January 29 Democratic primary in Florida, which may slightly qualify the second wave of Obamamania, and leave us wondering even more about "Super Duper Tuesday," February 5. Those who dare can read on below for Citizen X's brief north-of-the-border report on that.) 

Is new and disturbing divisiveness arising in US Democrat ranks?

You might think that a January 21 Paul Krugman column in the New York Times, raising some concern about Barack Obama’s cagey recent remarks on Ronald Reagan, has something in common with Canadian arguments about the North American economic virtues of a new Clinton II administration in Washington.

But that seems not altogether correct. What the Bay Street financial guru Ross Healy seemed to be arguing, on the January 24 edition of Steve Paikin’s TV Ontario show The Agenda, was that Ronald Reagan (and George H.W. Bush) left the US economic and financial house in some considerable disarray. Whether you’re on the left or right (in Canada at least), Bill Clinton’s greatest virtue was that he did manage to clean up the mess and finally balance the national government budget of the biggest economy on earth — and certainly the driving economic engine of North America.

Now George W. Bush has managed to replicate Reagan’s twisted economic and financial legacy — and even take it to some new order of magnitude. Who, among all the current US presidential candidates (in both parties) stands the best change of straightening the mess out this time around?

The obvious answer for Ross Healy was Hillary Clinton, whose husband has done it all before, and can give some good advice on how to do it all again. And it may or may not be true that, thanks to oil and gas in Alberta (and Saskatchewan and Newfoundland etc) and all that (maybe gold mining in various places, even including Ontario, e.g.), Canada may manage to miss the most severe depths of any imminent US recession of 2008. But the economic health of all Canadians of course remains profoundly attached to the economic health of the USA today.

There are fragments or whiffs or whatever of this kind of essentially economic argument in Paul Krugman’s January 21 column. But there are also perhaps stronger hints of the potential new divisiveness among American Democrats or liberals or progressives that the internal clash between Hillary and Barack increasingly seems to be mobilizing. (Alas to the delight of far too many right-wing conservative US observers and so forth. This has been illustrated dramatically, e.g., by Pat Buchannan’s recent appearances on MSNBC. And it is at least vaguely alluded to in Jonathan Chait’s January 26 Los Angeles Times opinion piece "Is the right right on the Clintons? Hillary's campaign tactics are causing some liberals to turn against the couple.")

The focus group I watched the MSNBC and CNN coverage of the South Carolina Democratic primary returns with, on Saturday, January 26, also included substantial numbers of boomer feminists, who were visibly distressed to see Hillary Clinton’s version of the identity politics cause suffer so much. They were equally quite irate at how even the much admired Keith Olbermann seemed to welcome Ms. Clinton’s new troubles. (I just kept on trying to remember what Bill Clinton had said earlier, as recounted below, about how "If [Barack Obama] wins this nomination, I’m going to do what I can to help him become President.")

Barack Obama in US and multicultural strengths and illusions in Canada ...

Obamamania of course is fundamentally about so much more than economics. It arguably even is about the future and not the past, as Mr. Obama so effectively and inspirationally declared in his South Carolina victory speech. It is about "Yes We Can."

(And if Barack Obama actually does become the Democrat nominee at the end of this coming August — which still seems to me only somewhat more likely now than yesterday (?) — perhaps Bill Clinton will live up to his promise, and give an Obama administration the benefit of his seasoned advice on how to clean up the economic mess the Republicans have left once again? And Pat Buchanan and his friends will be proved wrong again too ... or some wishful thinking like that!)

Ever mindful of how brief my very preliminary remarks here are meant to be, I’ll just start to conclude by noting some related recent wisdom from the current Toronto Globe and Mail columnist in Washington, John Ibbitson. He has, e.g., pointed to one harsh fact that the rise of Barack Obama is (or ought to be) bringing home to those Canadians seriously prepared to handle the truth: "Many Canadians define themselves in opposition to America. Not only are these people insufferable, they are wrong ... Canada, according to the morally superior school, is tolerant, liberal and diverse, while America is intolerant, conservative and unequal ... So please explain Canada's intolerant, conservative, unequal record in electing women and minorities, compared to the United States."

To elaborate a little, very quickly, there is of course no one remotely like Barack Obama in Canadian politics today. And if Mr. Obama is going to become President of the United States, we Canadians will almost certainly increasingly have to ask ourselves why not? Canada probably is a more multicultural country than the United States nowadays, down on the ground in certain key places at any rate. But we too need something of the kind of "CHANGE" that Mr. Obama seems to be alluding to so well and so successfully. And none of our current major political leaders seem altogether ready for that.

At the same time, Mr. Ibbitson has also written another column recently. And it gets much more into the kind of argument that Bill Clinton has been making and getting into trouble for, in certain quarters at least (Pat Buchanan for one seems to like it). The title here summarizes the main story: "Obama risks votes by proving he's black enough."

I.e., in the cynical end of everything, the very idealism about so many continuing harsh realities that makes Barack Obama’s campaign so appealing may ultimately defeat his presidential ambitions, no matter how many times he so inspiringly proclaims "Yes We Can!"

Or, as John Ibbitson explains: "The great appeal of Mr. Obama's campaign is that it seeks to surmount race and partisanship. Yet it is being compromised by the very race-identity politics it hopes to overcome." Say whatever else you like, the age-old truth remains: "change does not come easy."

This probably is the ultimate argument for Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama. What Mr. Obama wants to do is impossible, and he will finally just make things worse. It may prove a wise argument in some fullness of time. Who really knows? But I have at least finally decided myself that if I had to vote in the USA today I would very definitely give "Yes We Can" a chance.

To land on the absolutely final point here, if it ever does actually happen that all the world will be greeting a new President Obama a year from now, there are no doubt a great many things that we’ll have to start thinking about changing in Canada too. And, as much as or even and especially because we all do love the true north and want to see it last forever, who wouldn’t be happy about that? Canada is still too much about the past and not enough about the future. It will be an even better place than it is now when that finally does start to change. (And that too is worth bearing in mind as the current fractious minority Parliament reconvenes in Ottawa on January 28.)

UPDATE JANUARY 29: FLORIDA PRIMARY. As with Michigan the 2008 Democratic primary in Florida will (so far at least) not be awarding delegates to the late August party convention, because the local party has violated national party rules by holding the event too early. It is strictly a "beauty contest."

Because she has now won both beauty contests — perhaps because she is a woman (joke of course)? — Hillary Clinton is already trying to have the original national party ruling reversed. But until this happens, if it ever does, pundits stateside are asking such questions as "Is Winning Florida a True Boost for Clinton?"

One point here is that close to 1.7 million voters turned out for the January 29 Democratic primary in Florida. Although no candidates campaigned in the state, Hillary managed to win a full 50% of these votes. And that must mean something.

On the other hand, it would seem that this Democrat turnout was comparatively lower than in other state primaries or caucuses so far. The January 29 Republican primary in Florida (won by John McCain) attracted more than 1.9 million voters. And in other states so far the Democratic primaries and caucuses have typically been attracting far more participants than the parallel Republican events.

Similarly, as one might expect in the Sunshine State where so many Americans (and even, for the coldest parts of the year, Canadians too) go to retire: "Both parties' electorates were older than in any other presidential contest this year. A third or more in each primary were at least 65 years old. In earlier Democratic contests no more than a quarter were senior citizens." Hillary typically does better with older people than Barack. And so (as perhaps with South Carolina too, for different reasons) the results there may not translate so exactly to the broader national scene.

Finally, even making all allowances of this and related sorts, Hillary’s 50% to 33% beauty contest win over Obama in Florida (with 14% for Edwards) is not quite as dramatic as his 55% to 27% victory over her in South Carolina. And Obama currently leads in the convention delegate count with 63, versus 48 for Clinton (and 26 for Edwards). On the other hand again, not all Kennedys are backing Obama. And the ultimate point would still seem to be that it remains tantalizingly unclear just what is going to happen in the great Clinton-Obama showdown, when more than 20 states vote this coming Tuesday, February 5. So definitely stay tuned!

January 24 preliminary report: NOTHING FINER THAN SOUTH CAROLINA .. Obamamania will rise again .. at least one more time?

My first reaction to the Democrats’ January 19 Nevada caucuses was to go refresh my memory of Langston Hughes’s sad but wonderful poem "Dream Boogie" (composed apparently in 1948 as part of a "collection about Harlem," but not published until 1951?): "Good morning, daddy!/Ain’t you heard/The boogie-woogie rumble/Of a dream deferred ..."

It says something about how interesting Barack Obama is that the "dream [not] deferred" figures in his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. (As it does in much else out of the particular American progressive political tradition that has nourished him, which is not at all confined to African Americans.) Now, in any case, with the disappointment in Nevada just a fading memory, the smart money is telling us that there is still some hope. Obama probably is going to win South Carolina on Saturday, January 26. Or so the best US TV seems to be saying. Even Hillary Clinton is getting ready to stare his victory down. For the moment at least, American politics has deep historical interest again.

* * * *

It is of course not altogether clear that Barack Obama will win on January 26. On January 23 the Charleston Post and Courier reported that while "Obama continued stumping throughout South Carolina ... Hillary Clinton ... has pulled out from the state and is looking ahead to Super [Duper] Tuesday on Feb. 5. She flew to California ... Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, stayed behind to draw in support."

You could read this to mean either that Hillary has conceded Obama will win in South Carolina — or that she’s confident enough about her own chances to leave them in the hands of her husband and daughter. On the other hand, on [Wednesday] January 23 as well, another Charleston source reported that "Hillary Comes Back to South Carolina Early ... She wasn’t expected to come back ... until Friday, but we just got word that she’ll be delivering a economic policy speech on Thursday in Greenville." And this suggests she’s still fighting at any rate.

At the same time again, all current and recent polls on the USA Election Polls site suggest that Barack Obama will in fact win the South Carolina primary handily enough. Most recently: "A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby telephone poll taken Jan. 20-22 shows Obama holding 43% support from likely Democratic voters, compared to Clinton’s 25% support. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards trails at 15%. The survey included 811 likely Democratic primary voters and has a margin for error of +/-3.4 percentage points."

The Democratic primary in New Hampshire has of course made all polls seem less convincing. Even assuming Obama does win in South Carolina, however, this same Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby telephone poll (and others reporting similar results) will no doubt prompt some to downplay the significance of his victory for the bigger picture in all of the USA. In South Carolina "African Americans, a group that made up slightly more than half of the sample, backed Obama by a margin of 65% to Clinton’s 16%. Eighteen percent of black voters said they were undecided. Clinton did better among white voters, getting 33% support to 32% for Edwards. Obama lagged at just 18% among whites."

* * * *

Even assuming Obama does win in South Carolina as well, the recent internecine warfare between the Clinton and Obama camps has certainly taken the bloom off the Obamamania rose that seemed to blossom briefly just after the Iowa caucuses only a few weeks ago.

In this same context a January 23 report from the Slate website’s "Trailhead: A Campaign Blog" offered some respite: "Kingstree, S.C. — Speaking to a crowd at the Williamsburg County Recreation Center, Bill Clinton just now offered an olive branch: ‘If [Barack Obama] wins this nomination, I’m going to do what I can to help him become President’ ... The promise comes after a week of bitter exchanges between the former president and the Obama campaign. ‘After all the mean things they said about me, I can’t believe I’m saying this,’ Clinton said."

* * * *

The results of the "Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby telephone poll taken Jan. 20-22" for white voters in South Carolina — with Clinton "getting 33% support to 32% for Edwards" — also highlights the extent to which Democrats (to say nothing of Independents and potential Progressive Republicans) are as yet far from united behind Hillary.

These same results give the "economic populist" John Edwards at least something of the attention he no doubt deserves but has mostly been denied by circumstances so far (and almost certainly from here on in too?). Edwards — whose appearances on David Letterman’s late night TV show January 22 and then Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC January 23 were cheerfully impressive — has been standing up bravely and boldly for progressive democratic strands in the American political tradition which transcend the early 21st century identity politics issues that inevitably dominate both Hillary Clinton’s drive to become America’s first woman president, and Barack Obama’s campaign to be the first black (or multiracial?) president.

There are certainly moments when I feel myself that all three of Clinton, Edwards, and Obama are a very impressive group, taken together. But none of the them all by herself or himself packs the same kind of punch. And in the middle of the worst TV commercials I sometimes foolishly wonder why the USA today can’t finally be governed from 2009 to 2012 or even 2016 by a triumvirate of all three together. Isn’t there even some residual monarchism, e.g., in the still prevailing rule that even any democratic country can ultimately have only one leader?

Back in the real world, I now have no doubt that I count myself among those Canadians who see President Barack Obama as the one leader who could do the most to change America in the way that would do the most good for all of the global village today. (With apologies to all the boomer generation feminists I know so well and admire so much, who so desperately do seem to want Hillary to win the identity politics contest instead.)

Whatever else, if Mr. Obama can win the South Carolina Democratic primary on January 26, the dream will still be alive. For how much longer will of course then depend on just what happens on Super Duper Tuesday, February 5.

If Mr. Obama loses South Carolina, despite what all the polls seem to be saying now, then it really will be a time to remember Langston Hughes’s sad but wonderful poem, yet again: "Good morning, daddy!/Ain’t you heard/The boogie-woogie rumble/Of a dream deferred ..."


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