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Today In History
On July 8, 1993
Fred Weick, US aeronautical engineer,died

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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!

NEWS FROM WEST VIRGINIA .. Can Obama really do it .. and what will it mean for Canada if he does?   PDF  Print 
Written by Randall White  
Wednesday, 14 May 2008  

Who of the ages Hillary Clinton most attracts can forget the intoxicating John Denver refrain: "Country roads, take me home / To the place I belong / West Virginia, mountain momma / Take me home, country roads"? On the evening of Tuesday, May 13, 2008, in any case, the vote soon enough came in. And it was immediately clear that the mountain mommas of West Virginia were giving Senator Clinton a striking if also quite expected victory in the US Democratic primaries. What does it all mean? For one thing, as noted in a Charleston, West Virginia newspaper: "Despite the [local] win ... most observers expect Obama to prevail over Clinton for the Democratic nomination and the right to face Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain in the general election in November." At the same time, Ms. Clinton won by such a large margin on the mountain mommas’ country roads — with an impressive two-thirds of the vote — as to once again (or one last time?) raise the question of whether Barack Obama really does have any serious chance of becoming the first African American president of the United States of America this fall. And in Canada, again and of course, we also can’t help but continue to wonder, if such an altogether remarkable thing actually does happen, just what will it mean for us?

1. Will the dream still be deferred in the very end?

From the start, Barack Obama’s campaign has quietly employed allusions to the African American poet Langston Hughes’s classic late 1940s anthem: "Good morning, daddy! / Ain’t you heard / The boogie-woogie rumble / Of a dream deferred" — as with the buttons, posters, and T-shirts that say "Obama — the dream deferred."

But events like the West Virginia primary of May 13 keep making you wonder whether Hughes’s older wisdom about the fate of the African personality in the American democracy might still not be as true as ever, after all. ("Listen closely: / You’ll hear their feet / Beating out and beating out a — / You think / It’s a happy beat?")

So even the New York Times has been asking: "How big a problem does Senator Barack Obama really have among white working-class voters? And what — if anything — can he do about it as he heads into the general election? ... Those were the questions that emerged from his defeat by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the West Virginia Democratic primary on Tuesday ..."

For good measure Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has not been friendly toward Ms. Clinton, added: " Interviews with West Virginians leaving the polls showed some profound weaknesses that could haunt the Illinois senator in the fall. More than half said they would be dissatisfied if Obama was the nominee. Half believe he shares the views of the Rev. Wright, and more than half said he does not share their values. More than half also said that he is not honest and trustworthy. Just under half of the Clinton voters said they would not support Obama in the fall ... Obama may have started the primary season with an inspiring win in 94-percent-white Iowa, but he is winding it up with a resounding loss in 94-percent-white West Virginia."

2. The unique country roads of West Virginia?

You can of course also say, with some justice apparently, that mountain momma country is still uniquely antipathetic toward Mr. Obama’s new multicultural vision for America. It is not at all representative of the rising more diverse USA today that almost brilliantly shines through the old cracks in, say, the modern jazz great John Coltrane’s home state of North Carolina.

(To say nothing of such places as Virginia and Missouri. On one theory at least, Mr. Obama is going to be bringing places like this into the 21st century Democrat fold, to replace the places like West Virginia that Ms. Clinton has lately been so aggressively urging the party must traditionally win to gain the presidency — following the obsolete logic of what another New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, recently called American political thought before 2008.)

3. Or the raw racism and hostility everywhere that have gone largely unnoticed — and unreported?

And yet again, on the day of the West Virginia primary itself, the Washington Post published some disturbing accounts of the good old-fashioned America of Langston Hughes’s day that the Obama campaign has been meeting, in many parts of the USA today as well:

"For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed — and unreported — this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president ...

"The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight ...

"Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County, Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to explain her backing of Obama. ‘I trust him,’ Seifert replied. According to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama's face on Seifert's T-shirt and said: ‘He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?’"

4. But the great likelihood is still that Obama will be the nominee ...

Whatever the outcome may finally be in November, however, it does seem to remain quite true that even Ms. Clinton’s big win in West Virginia is now almost certainly not going to push Senator Obama from his current front-runner position in the Democratic race — unless it is followed by some as yet almost altogether unknown cataclysm over the next few weeks.

Thus Yahoo News is reporting "Despite West Virginia, Obama wins more Democratic elders."

The Clinton bulldog James Carville has said, "I still hear some dogs barking" (alluding to former President Bill Clinton’s vow to stand up for New Hampshire voters until ‘the last dog dies’ in an earlier era).

On the other hand, Carville has also proclaimed: "I’m for Senator Clinton, but I think the great likelihood is that Obama will be the nominee ... As soon as I determine when that is, I’ll send him a check." (And then, the day after West Virginia, former Democratic leadership rival John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama too, offsetting Ms. Clinton’s dramatic victory the day before.)

5. And President Obama in November not just whistling Dixie too?

An ABC News-Washington Post poll published the same day as the West Virginia primary "suggested that nearly two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want Clinton to stay in the contest" for the Democratic presidential nomination right now.

But, even looking ahead to the general election still some distance down the road, "62 percent of Democrats also said Obama has the better chance of being elected president, against 26 percent for Clinton."

Similarly, Obama "had the stronger edge against McCain in a November match-up, 51-44 percent, compared to Clinton's narrower margin of 49 percent to 46 for the Republican."

So those who do argue that this time will be different, at last ("Yes We Can," and all that) can at least reasonably enough claim that, in Frank Rich’s great transitional year of 2008, they are not just whistling Dixie. It may or may not prove true in the end, of course. But you are not exactly crazy if you think it might; i.e. Good morning, daddy! / Ain’t you heard / The boogie-woogie rumble / Of the dream NOT deferred!

6. Could President Obama somehow be good for Prime Minister Harper?

If Barack Obama actually does become the first African American president this fall — or next January to be altogether exact — it is reasonable to anticipate (with not a little even gleeful excitement?) that many subtle subterranean changes will begin outside as well as inside the USA — and perhaps especially in such nearby and closely related places as Canada. (As any Canadian who just watches US TV can see, the Obama Democrat campaign is all about "CHANGE.")

Especially in a place like Canada as well, it is no doubt the many subtle subterranean changes that will prove most interesting and important, for the longer and even the shorter or at least middle term. But already it is easy enough to imagine a few more down-to-earth practical political impacts that could prove somewhat amusing, or even annoying, even in the most immediate future.

Especially if the increasingly dysfunctional folkways of the present federal Parliament in Ottawa finally do lead to a fresh Canadian as well as American federal election this fall, e.g., you might at first think that the spillover mood of an ultimately triumphant Obama Democrat campaign among the Yankees to the south of us will make life still more difficult for Stephen Harper’s already struggling new Canadian Conservatives. And in a country that always votes Democratic in American elections, many will of course be happy enough if this is what does happen.

On the other hand, as we are all too often reminded from time to time, there is also a strain of quirky Canadian nationalism that just wants to be different from the United States, at whatever cost. So if a new and historic President Obama does wind up ushering in a bold new era of American liberalism, who knows? Perhaps Canadians will rediscover their most ancient conservative roots — in some kind of absurd new global blend of George Grant and Milton Friedman, with echoes of Mohandas Ghandi and Louis Riel (and Pauline Johnson and Bill Reid) thrown in, in ways that somehow do redound to Mr. Harper’s practical political advantage?

Personally, I hope that this is not what in fact happens.

In my wildest moments at least, I hope that a new President Obama among our neighbours down south (who must south of us remain, as Ms. Johnson, aka Tekahionwake, long ago said) — if that is what the many cunning passages of history really do have in store for us this fall — will somehow give the new and diverse multiculturalism of Canadians today, from coast to coast to coast, the courage to at last bid goodbye to the surviving residual colonial heritage of the British monarchy in Canada: free at last, free at last, free at last! (And Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, it seems clear enough, are not going to have anything to do with this kind of project at all.)

The third photo above is from the Washington Post, where it bore the caption: "The Farmers for Obama headquarters in Vincennes, Ind., was vandalized on the eve of that state's May 6 primary. (By Ray Mccormick)." The very last photo is of the author of the present article, on a visit to the Acropolis in Athens.


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