Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adam In Ghana

My good friend Adam embarks on his journey to Ghana with the Peace Corps on Monday, September 29th. He'll be blogging the experience at:

We love and miss you, Adam!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mugabe's Reign of Terror Persists

The New York Times Reports Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has pulled out of the run-off election.

It was over two and a half month's ago that Tsavangirai received more votes than the incumbent Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe's presidential election. However, Tsavangirai did not secure the 50% threshold needed and the election was forced into a run-off. In the days following the April 1st election and the announcement of a run-off at a future date that the international press sounded the alarm, warning against the terror and corruption that would surely plague the opposition in a run-off.

The NYT on April 3, 2008:

A Zimbabwean businessman with close links to the ruling party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the nation’s military and intelligence chiefs discussed several options with the president after the vote appeared to go badly. These included the outright rigging of the election, going to a runoff and even the “elimination” of Mr. Tsvangirai.

As reports of Mugabe resorting to terror in an effort to drive off the opposition (including the out right assassination of 85 of Tsvangirai's party activists and supporters) became more frequent, Tsvangiari was forced to withdraw his bid:
At a news conference, Mr. Tsvangirai, who leads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, or M.D.C., said he was unwilling to ask the party’s supporters to go to the polls on Friday “when that vote will cost them their lives.”

Mr. Tsvangirai’s decision came on a day when governing party youth militia armed with iron bars, sticks and other weapons beat his supporters as they sought to attend a rally for him in Harare.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hillary Makes It Official

Her words are powerful, but the real question remains, how hard will she campaign for Obama through to November?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AP: Obama Clinches Nomination

According to the AP tally, Sen. Obama has clinched the necessary 2,118 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Obama has rolled out nearly 20 superdelegates in the 24 hours leading up to the South Dakota and Montana primaries. The Obama campaign hopes to announce after tonight's results that they have officially clinched the nomination.

Earlier in the day, reports surfaces that Sen. Clinton would be conceding the nomination tonight, but campaign chairman Terry McAulliffe quickly debunked the reports. McAulliffe did not go as far as to assert Sen. Clinton would not drop out on Wednesday.

This blogger's prediction: Sen. Clinton stages a massive rally in upstate New York on Wednesday declaring a glorious campaign in which the Democrats went through all 50 states, multiple territories, had much greater turnout than the Republicans, are stronger than ever and ready for November.

Perhaps it is naive of me to assume she could be so realistic/gracious/selfless.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hey, where's your lapel?

See any relevancy to the artificial and inflated flag lapel issue?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Colbert Nation: O'Reilly Parody

Tuesday's Significant Election

If are thinking about West Virgina, think again.

Last night, Democrat Travis Childers won the special election for Mississippi's 1st congressional district. Childers winning one congressional seat is relatively insignificant on the surface, but there is a larger trend.

Childers is the third Democrat to win a special congressional election in the last three months. This has the Republicans very nervous for their already dim prospects in the fall.

Historically, Mississippi's first congressional district is considered one of the safest Republican districts with Bush winning 62% of the vote out of Missippi's 1st in 2004. Childers' Republican challenger Greg Davis tried to nationalize the battle by repeatedly invoking Sen. Obama and Rep. Pelosi in ads and speeches, but no one took the bait.

On a day when the pundits raise concerns over the Democrats prospects in November given Obama's troubling performance in West Virginia moot primary, perhaps they are missing the much more telling signs coming from the Mississippi bayou.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Message from Sen. Hillary Clinton

What Would Jesus Do?

The Seattle Times highlights a new trend among evangelical youth voters:

According to a September 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 15 percent of white evangelicals between 18 and 29, a group traditionally a shoo-in for the GOP, say they no longer identify with the Republican Party. Older evangelicals are also questioning their traditional allegiance, but not at the same rate.

What is driving the young evangelicals away from the GOP?
"I just keep thinking, if Jesus were alive now, he wouldn't necessarily be voting Republican."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

We Hood, We Votin'

Pretty high quality production comin from Tisa Arnold and Daedelus.

A Day In The Life ~ Saturday, May 10th

-- Tours PV Powered and holds press availability, Bend, OR
-- 2:30 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Bend, OR
-- Travels back to Chicago, IL


-- 2:00 pm ET: Attends Mother's Day Celebration with Chelsea Clinton, New York, NY

--5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Rapid City, SD
-- 11:00 pm ET: Addresses Yellowstone County Democratic Central Committee 22nd Annual Harry S. Truman Dinner, Billings, MT

-- No public events scheduled

At the White House. . .


-- No public events scheduled, Crawford, TX

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Democratic Race in 7 Minutes


Obama Takes Superdelegate Lead

According to ABC News' count HERE.

No significant change in the already daunting math Sen. Clinton faces, but it is a symbolic milestone.

A Day In The Life ~ Friday, May 9th

-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends economic discussion with voters, Portland, OR
-- 6:30 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Albany, OR
-- 10:45 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Eugene, OR


-- 1:00 pm ET: Attends event with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Chicago, IL

-- 12:30 pm ET: Attends roundtable discussion on health care, Portland, OR
-- 8:30 pm ET: Delivers remarks to Kentucky Democratic Party Dinner, Louisville, KY

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Madison, WV
-- 12:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Williamson, WV
-- 3:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Wayne, WV
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, St. Albans, WV
-- 7:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Ripley, WV

-- 11:00 am ET: Holds press conference, Jersey City, NJ
-- 5:00 pm ET: Attends fundraiser with supporters, Columbia, SC

At the White House and Beyond. . .


­-- Crawford, TX

-- 8:30 am ET: Releases the March report on trade balance, Washington, DC

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Toward Better Student Lending

The New York Times' Editorial Board outlines the future of student loans as they ought to be, the political forces working against the reform, and the realistic middle ground that can be achieved.

President Bush showed good sense on Wednesday when he signed legislation to ensure an uninterrupted flow of federal student loans during the credit crunch. Now comes the test of leadership.

The new law will help lenders who have found themselves unable to raise money for new loans on acceptable terms — if at all. The difficulty has nothing to do with the quality of the loans. The government guarantees all federal student loans against default and guarantees lenders an interest rate set in law. But as capital has become costly and scarce, student lending has become less profitable, leading several dozen lenders to stop lending.

There was no real danger of students being left high and dry because plenty of lenders remain in the market and the government also offers loans directly. To keep the situation from deteriorating, the new law allows the Education Department to buy some outstanding loans, thus providing money to make new loans.

At the same time, however, the student loan crunch has shown that the private lending program is costlier and less reliable than it should be. Fixing it will mean standing up to lenders that have long reaped immense profits from the status quo and would no doubt prefer to revert to the old ways as soon as credit conditions permit. It is up to lawmakers and Mr. Bush to prevent that.

The major reform is to push for more direct government lending. Currently, direct lending accounts for about 22 percent of student loan volume, down from 33 percent in the mid-1990s. It has suffered as free market enthusiasts insisted that it is better for the government to subsidize lenders rather than make loans directly.

Various government reports, including President Bush’s own budget estimates, have shown that direct lending is a much better deal for taxpayers, and just as good for students. But ideology, reinforced by huge campaign donations from lenders, has created deep support for subsidized lending. Lenders have burrowed into the financial aid system, providing software and other support to colleges and universities and — as we learned last year — kickbacks to aid officers.

Then, when trouble loomed, some of the lenders who profited so well for so long headed for the exit. Direct lending won’t dry up when credit gets tighter.

Ideally, all student lending could be handled directly. But politically, that may be a long way off. In the meantime, subsidized lenders should be made to adhere to new rules. The ability to profit from government subsidies during good times should come with a reciprocal obligation, currently lacking, to hang tough in bad times.

And rather than simply provide generous subsides for lenders to make federally guaranteed student loans, lenders should have to bid for that profitable opportunity. Auctions would potentially raise tens of billion of dollars in revenue that could be used to improve grants and loan terms for college students. Free marketeers should cheer the development, because auctions would bring market forces to bear on a system that is currently nothing more than an expensive government giveaway.

Student lending always has been a government program designed to make college more attainable. The new law could be a first step toward that core goal — if political leaders will take the next necessary steps.

Power Still With Putin

A mere 3 hours after stepping down from the presidency to make way for Putin's hand-picked successor, Dmitri Medvedev nominated Putin as Prime Minister. Only 23 hours later, Mr. Putin was approved as Prime Minister receiving 392 votes in the 450-seat Duma, Parliament’s lower house.

In a speech directly before the parliamentary vote, Putin focused on economic matters, per BBC News:

Mr Putin told parliament that he would strive for "single-digit inflation within a few years".

He said Russia could overtake the UK in terms of GDP this year. Reducing the tax burden and widening the shareholder class were further priorities, he said.

To no one's surprise, Putin seeks to maintain his influence even under the new title.
Analysts say the powers of the prime minister will expand under Mr Putin, and he may in effect govern Russia jointly with the president.

Mr Medvedev told the deputies: "I don't think anyone doubts that our tandem, our co-operation will only strengthen."

Some speculate that the relationship may experience some bumps in the road:
Although Putin and Medvedev are political allies, some analysts have said that the partnership could be unstable.

After he won the presidency in March, Medvedev said only the president would determine foreign policy, but Putin has called the prime minister's office the "highest executive power in the country".

Yet, at Medvedev's inauguration, Putin did hand over the country's prize:
Shortly after he took the presidential office, Medvedev was presented with a briefcase containing controls for Russia's nuclear arsenal.

Picture of the Week

A picture of a Chilean volcanic eruption at night.

A Day In The Life ~ Thursday, May 8th

-- Attends senate duties, Washington, DC

-- 10:15 am ET: Attends rally with voters, Charleston, WV
-- 3:15 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Sioux Falls, SD
-- 11:30 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Central Point, OR


-- 10:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Philippi, WV
-- 1:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Sutton, WV
-- 3:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fayettesville, WV
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fairlea, WV
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Athens, WV

-- Attends fundraiser with supporters, Lakewood, NJ

At the White House and Beyond. . .


-- No public events scheduled

-- 10:30 am ET: Participates in a tour of the Philadelphia Financial Center, Philadelphia, PA
-- 10:50 am ET: Speaks to employees at the Philadelphia Financial Center, Philadelphia, PA
-- 7:00 pm ET: Speaks at a reception on the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, Washington, DC

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Can we say "It's over" yet?

A Day In The Life ~ Wednesday, May 7th

-- No public events scheduled, Chicago, IL

-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Shepherdstown, WV
-- 5:45 pm ET: Attends a fundraising event in Washington, D.C.

-- No public events scheduled.

-- 10:00 am EST: Holds a Town Hall Meeting at Oakland University East Campus, Rochester, MI.

At the White House and Beyond. . .


-- 1:15 pm ET: Makers remarks to the Council of the Americas, Washington, DC

-- 8:30 am ET: Releases the productivity report for the first quarter, Washington, DC

-- 3:00 pm ET: Releases the March report on consumer credit, Washington, DC

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Big Night for Obama

As the final Indiana votes trickle in, it is already apparent that Obama scored a big "W" tonight.

He won handily in North Carolina and it looks as though Clinton will barely scrap out a win in Indiana. The delegate math is daunting for Clinton. But more importantly, it shows that Obama has still got it. Despite Clinton's 'momentum' and Obama's month and a half of news cycles from hell, Obama is still on top of his game. While the math has always been troublesome for the Clinton camp, their electability argument and superdelegate pitches have been undermined as well.

It will be interesting to see how the media analyzes the results, but I would be surprised if they didn't reflect on tonight as a decisive win for Obama.

The Food Crisis Stirs Violence in Somalia

The food crisis first led to violent outbreaks across the world in early April. Over a week later, the World Bank committed to taking action, but has not provided any significant results.

Beginning Monday, Somalia's capital Mogadishu erupted in violence as rioters took to the streets in protest of the detrimental combination of rising food prices covered with soaring inflation.

The riots come less than two weeks after another violent face in Somalia's capital between the Ethiopian-backed interim government and the Islamist-led insurgency and only a few days after US air raids on Dusamareb, roughly 300 km north of Mogadishu.

Due to the rampant printing of counterfeit money in Somalia, the Somalian shilling has dropped significantly in value. Monday's protests were focused on both the devalued currency and rising food prices. Al Jazeera News has more:

On Monday thousands of demonstrators poured onto the streets to vent their anger at printers of fake money and unscrupulous traders whose preference for US dollars over the Somali shilling is helping to push inflation to record levels.


Although there are no official inflation figures, UN monitors say cereal prices have increased by between 110 and 375 per cent in the past year as central Somalia has endured its worst drought in recent memory.

The dollar is now equivalent to 25,000 Somali shillings, up from an average of 4,000 shillings in 1991, when the country descended into lawlessness after the sacking of Mohammed Siad Barre, the president.

Since then, Somalia has had no central bank to regulate inflation.

The profiteering from fake Somali currency has created more destitution in the war-torn country, affecting the poorest of Somalia's poor, especially those whose wages are paid in the practically useless currency, Al Jazeera's correspondent Mohammed Adow said.

"Many feel that these riots have been long overdue. Faced with numerous other challenges the Somalia people seemed to have forgotten their currency woes."

The simultaneous crises occuring in Somalia make the issue exceptionally difficult for international aid organizations to address.
Cindy Holleman, chief technical adviser for the UN's food security analysis unit for Somalia, said the country has been hit by a number of disasters at the same time.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, she said: "We have a very serious, deteriorating situation. Rising food prices ... are affecting a lot of the urban poor who cannot afford to buy food any more.

"On top of that, you have the drought in central and southern parts of Somalia ... [rains] should've started mid-April and they have not come."

She said a humanitarian response is needed in the country and with increasing food prices, "you're going to see more and more people desperate" to be able to access enough food.

BBC News takes a look at civilian life in a country over run with armed, aggressive, and competing militias:
It says the situation is "dire" in the centre and the south with government troops, their Ethiopian allies and Islamist insurgents "out of control".

They carry out killings, torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances, a report says.


People who have visited the capital, Mogadishu, recently say parts of it are a ghost town, but Amnesty says residents fleeing the city are prey for armed bandits on the road who rape women and girls and steal whatever they have taken with them.

Even in refugee camps, Somalis face attack, Amnesty says. It says no-one is offering them any protection.

The group says more than 6,000 civilians have been killed in Somalia in the past year.


"Nothing justifies gang rape, slitting the throats of civilians or disproportionate attacks," Amnesty's Michelle Kagari told the BBC.

In one case, "a young child's throat was slit by Ethiopian soldiers in front of the child's mother," the report says.


In another incident, the report quotes Haboon, 56, saying Ethiopian troops raped a neighbour's 17-year-old daughter in 2007.

When the girl's two brothers tried to help her, Ethiopian soldiers gouged out their eyes with a bayonet, she said.

Graphic and disturbing, yes, but a reality we must face and address. Somalia has been without a central government for 17 years and offers little prospect of progress in the years to come.

Primary Predictions

Clinton by 6 in Indiana.

Obama by 9 in North Carolina.

Dynamics of the race go unchanged: the race undoubtedly goes on, but Obama's lead remains insurmountable.

A Day In The Life ~ Tuesday, May 6th

North Carolina -- 115 Delegates at Stake
Indiana -- 72 Delegates at Stake

-- Spends the morning and early afternoon in Indianapolis, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Election night party with Michelle Obama and voters, Raleigh, NC


-- 8:30 pm ET: Election night party with voters, Indianapolis, IN

-- 9:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Hutersville, NC
-- 11:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Lexington, NC
-- 1:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Winston-Salem, NC
-- 3:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Durham, NC

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Winston-Salem, NC

At the White House and Beyond...


-- 9:45 am ET: Delivers remarks commemorating Military Spouse Day, Washington, DC
-- 2:20 pm ET: Meets with the President of Panama, Washington, DC

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Empire Strikes Barack

The YouTube mash-ups come a dime-a-dozen these days, but every now and again you come across one that someone spent entirely too much time on; this one fits the description.

Micro-financing: Coming Soon to New York

New York is often viewed as the leader in banking with the rest of the world taking notes and cues from the giants in Manhattan. But the city of banking and finance may have overlooked some of its own.

Noble laurate Muhammad Yunus announced that Grameen Bank will be opening its first branch in the Big Apple.

Al Jazeera News Reports:

Grameen Bank, the micro-credit financier initially set up to help the poorest in Bangladesh, has opened its first branch in the United States.

The Bangladesh-based outfit known as the poor people's bank plans to hand out loans to the less well-off in one of the most ethnically-diverse neighbourhoods in the US.


Muhammad Yunus, who founded the bank in 1976, said the branch in Queens, New York City, was to cater to thousands of new immigrants without access to basic banking services.

"People consider this audacious," he told Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey.

"They think 'What you come from Bangladesh to do banking in NYC? That sounds so ridiculous. This is [the] city where [the] whole world learnt banking from'."

But the Nobel laureate said New York also had its share of poor people just like any other city "so we are actually working in [a] third world" environment.

Cyclone Ravages Myanmar

A cyclone ripped through Myanmar leaving thousands dead.

Al Jazeera reports on the carnage:

At first the death toll estimates stood around a few hundred. However, this morning the Myanmar state radio program reported that over 4,000 people have died in the storm.

The stubborn behavior of the military government in Myanmar has thwarted the efforts of aid groups to deliver much needed relief to the area. Al Jazeera News has more:

The UN says the government has not responded to its offer to help after the storm destroyed communities and left thousands of people homeless.


Teams of foreign aid workers were trying to assess the damage and aid needs, but their access and movements are restricted by the military.

"That is the existing situation for international staff. The way most agencies work is they use national staff who have more freedom to move," Skavdal said.

"We will have a dialogue with the government to try to get access to the people affected," he added.

The Forum for Democracy in Burma and other dissident groups outside of
Myanmar have also urged the military government to allow aid groups unfettered access to the country.

Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.

"International expertise in dealing with natural disasters is urgently required," said Naing Aung, secretary-general of the Thailand-based group.

"The military regime is ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone."

[UPDATE: 11:49 am ET] Independent aid groups suspect the death toll will exceed 10,000.

[UPDATE: Tuesday, May 6th, 9:01 am ET] Burmese officials are now estimating over 22,000 dead.

Ad Watch: Obama

Sen. Obama has a new ad out responding to Sen. Clinton's attack ad regarding the gas tax holiday. Watch Sen. Clinton's ad HERE.

The two ads are essentially the same save for minor tweaks making each one specific to the respective state.

"Boost" (airing in North Carolina)

"Boost" (airing in Indiana)

A Day In The Life ~ Monday, May 5th

-- Attends event with voters, Evansville, IN
-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Durham, NC
-- 7:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Indianapolis, IN


-- 11:35 am ET: Attends event with voters, Fayetteville, NC
-- 1:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fayetteville, NC
-- Attends event with voters, Charlotte, NC
-- 9:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Gary, IN


-- 8:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Greenville, NC
-- 11:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, High Point, NC
-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Merrillville, IN
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, New Albany, IN
-- 10:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Evansville, IN

-- 7:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Elizabeth City, NC
-- 9:15 am ET: Attends event with voters, New Bern, NC
-- 11:15 am ET: Attends event with voters, Jacksonville, NC
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Smithfield, NC
-- 3:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Zebulon, NC
-- 4:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Louisburg, NC
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Henderson, NC
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Roxboro, NC
-- 10:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Raleigh, NC

-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Charlotte, NC

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Day In The Life ~ Sunday, May 4th

-- 4:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fort Wayne, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Delivers remarks at Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner, Indianapolis, IN

-- 9:00 am ET: Attends ABC's "This Week" Town Hall, Indianapolis, IN
-- 12:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fort Wayne, IN
-- 4:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, South Bend, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Delivers remarks at Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner, Indianapolis, IN

-- 12:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Marion, NC
-- 2:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Morganton, NC
-- 3:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Lenoir, NC
-- 5:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Newton, NC
-- 7:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Kenersville, NC
-- 9:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Reidsville, NC

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel

As we dwindle through the last month of contests, Sen. Obama is getting closer and closer to securing the nomination. Here's a quick look at the numbers:

Contests – Obama 30, Clinton 15 (Guam pending)

Total Delegates – Obama 1747, Clinton 1608

Pledged delegates Obama needs for a majority – 134

Total delegates Obama needs for the nomination – 277

Ad Watch: Obama

Sen. Obama makes his "closing argument" to the voters of North Carolina and Indiana in two new 2-minute ads (Note: the ads are vitrually the same with minor tweaks making each ad specific to Indiana and North Carolina).

"Minute" (airing in Indiana)

"Minute" (airing in North Carolina)

Ad Watch: Clinton

Another gas tax holiday ad from the Clinton campaign. While every economist has acknowledged the gas tax holiday as negligent, irresponsible, and ineffective, perhaps Sen. Clinton's focus groups reveal the political merits to the flagrant pandering of voters.

Guam Results

With 11 of Guam's 21 precincts reporting, Sen. Obama has a 6 point margin over Sen. Clinton, 54% - 46%.

Get updates by the minute HERE.

'A Classic Military-Political Dilemma'

The Israeli government has seen great success in reducing suicide bombings over the last year. The drop off in bombings allows the Israeli leadership the necessary domestic political breathing room to engage in serious diplomatic talks with Palestinian leadership. However, the Israeli government finds itself in a military- political pickle.

The New York Times' Isabel Kershner illustrates the diplomatic catch-22 facing Israeli leadership:

It is a classic military-political dilemma. The progress in stopping suicide bombers, the vast majority of whom cross into Israel from the West Bank, has brought enough quiet for Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinian leadership there.

But the current calm is fragile, and to maintain it Israeli security officials say they must continue their nightly arrests and sometimes deadly raids in the heart of the West Bank — tactics at odds with a peace effort that envisions a separate Palestinian state, an eventual Israeli withdrawal from much of the West Bank and, in the meantime, a gradual transfer of authority to the Palestinian police.

“The price of staying out” of the West Bank, said one senior Israeli military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of military restrictions, “might be one that we don’t want to pay.”


Israel also started building the West Bank separation barrier in 2002, describing it as an answer to the suicide bombers. Made up mostly of fences and some sections of wall, the barrier is now about two-thirds complete. Security officials say it has proved effective, but they do not rely on it alone.

Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has managed to straddle the seeming contradictions between the peace process and the military’s continued campaign in the West Bank largely by putting off the matter until a later date.


In theory, Palestinian security forces would assume the responsibility of preventing such attacks, and a test of that approach will come this summer when a 600-member battalion of the Palestinian National Security Force completes an American-financed training program in Jordan. The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, has stated that the recruits will be deployed in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, once considered the capital of the suicide bombers. Additional Palestinian forces are already due to start deploying in the city in order to prepare the ground.

But leading Israeli security figures, past and present, seriously doubt that the Palestinian police will have the capacity or the will to fight terrorism in the foreseeable future.

While it is unlikely that Palestinian security forces will provide Israeli officials with enough comfort to bring raids in the West Bank to a halt, there are signs that the Palestinian security forces are taking the necessary first steps:
A 500-strong force made up of Palestinian national security forces and presidential guards has begun deploying in the West Bank city of Jenin for a law-and-order campaign.


The deployment is meant to show the government is laying the ground for statehood. Another 150 men already in Jenin will also take part in a campaign.

Sunday Talking Heads Preview

This Week with George Stephanopoulos
--Sen. Hillary Clinton

Meet The Press with Tim Russert
--Sen. Barack Obama

Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace
--DNC Chairman Howard Dean
--Former DNC Chairman Joe Andrew, Obama Backer
--Terry McAullife, Clinton Campaign Chair
--Carly Fiorrina, McCain Advisor

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer

--Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.
--Sen. Evan Bayh, D- Ind., Clinton Backer
--Mayor Doug Wilder, D-Richmond, Obama Backer

A Day In The Life ~ Saturday, May 3rd

-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Indianapolis, IN
-- 3:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Noblesville, IN
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Kempton, IN
-- Attends event with voters, Lafayette, IN


-- 8:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Cary, NC
-- 10:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Wake Forest, NC
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Gastonia, NC
-- 3:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Mooresville, NC
-- 9:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters and John Mellencamp, Indianapolis, IN


-- 8:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Angola, IN
-- 10:15 am ET: Attends event with voters, Kendallville, IN
-- 12:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Columbia City, IN
-- 1:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Warsaw, IN
-- 3:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Plymouth, IN
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, La Porte, IN
-- 9:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters and John Mellencamp, Indianapolis, IN

Friday, May 2, 2008

Picture of the Week

(Source: Al Jazeera News)

Rice seeds make splashes in a flooded field in California as rice growers plant 222,172 hectares of rice throughout the Sacramento Valley. Growers in the Sacramento Valley were planting nearly 550,000 acres of rice amid a worldwide shortage of grain.

Dalai Lama Envoy to Meet with Chinese Officials

The meeting would be the first between members of the exiled Tibetan government since days before the Tibetan protests erupted in violence. The protests brought the abuses of the Chinese government into the media spotlight at a time when the Chinese government least desired: right before the Olympic torch run. The torch was met by protesters at a handful of the torch's stops raising many questions and compelling some leaders to boycott the opening ceremonies to the summer games.

BBC News Reports:

Two Tibetan envoys are to arrive in Beijing on Saturday for talks on ending the crisis in Tibetan areas of China.

This would be the first contact between the two sides since anti-China protests in Tibet in March turned violent.

The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile have been based in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959.

What will be discussed during the diplomatic talks?
The Tibetan envoys "will convey His Holiness the Dalai Lama's deep concerns about the Chinese authorities' handling of the situation and also provide suggestions to bring peace to the region," a statement from the Dalai Lama's office in Dharamsala, India, said.

Last week, an unnamed Chinese official told state media that Beijing would hold talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama "in coming days".

Talks between the two sides have been held sporadically for several decades.

While opening diplomatic relations between the two groups should always been viewed as a step in the right direction, there are many concerns that the Chinese government is simply engaging in public relations damage control and nothing more.

The anti-China March 10 Lhasa protests have done considerable damage to China's global image. While the Chinese government reports 19 people were killed by rioters on that fateful day in March, the Tibetan government-in-exile says 203 people were killed and some 1,000 hurt in the unrest and crackdown.

A Day In The Life ~ Friday, May 2nd

-- 12:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Munster, IN
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Charlotte, NC
-- 7:00 pm ET: Attends North Carolina Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Raleigh, NC

-- 9:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Kinston, NC
-- 10:15 am ET: Attends event with voters, Hendersonville, NC
-- 3:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Greensboro, NC
-- 7:00 pm ET: Attends North Carolina Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Raleigh, NC
-- 9:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Raleigh, NC

-- 4:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Greenfield, IN
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Beech Grove, IN
-- 7:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Avon, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Lebanon, IN

-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Denver, CO
-- 1:15 pm ET: Holds media availability, Denver, CO

At the White House and Beyond. . .


-- 11:55 am ET: Tours World Wide Technology, St. Louis, MO
-- 12:20 pm ET: Speaks on the economy, Maryland Heights, MO


-- 7:00 pm ET: Speaks at a reception for Oklahoma Victory 2008, Tulsa, OK


-- 8:30 am ET: Releases unemployment statistics for April

-- 10:00 am ET: Releases statistics on factory orders for March

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Joe Andrew Switch-a-roo

Former Clintonista, DNC Chair, and current superdelegate Joe Andrew has shifted his allegiance to Sen. Obama. Andrew announced his decision Thursday morning citing the need to bring the nomination process to the end. Andrew was appointed DNC Chair by former President Clinton and was head of the party during the contentious 2000 Bush v. Gore race.

Andrew was the former state party chair in Indiana, but it is unlikely that his Indiana roots will change many voters.

Andrew is just part of the continual flow of superdelegates flocking towards Obama as the Illinois Senior continues to close the gap in super-D's between him and Sen. Clinton.

Sen. Obama netted 3 superdelegates on Wednesday. On the same day, Politico's Amie Parnes and Josephine Hearn report that Capitol Hill insiders have indicated the 80 "undecided" superdelegates in Congress have made up their mind and largely support Obama; the are simply waiting for the right time to come off the bench.

[UPDATE 10:46 am ET] The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports that 3 Illinois add-on superdelegates to be announced on May 5th will offer their support to Sen. Obama.

[UPDATE 12:12 pm ET] Texas DNC Member John Patrick endorses Sen. Obama citing his record of standing up for working families and opposing trade deals that fail to protect American workers.

[UPDATE 06:22 pm ET] Sen. Clinton nets four add-on delegates from New York.

Ad Watch:

On the 5th Anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" photo op, is airing a 30-second spot will air in New Mexico and Iowa for a week.

The ad features Bush's classic soundbite, "Major military operations in Iraq have come to an end," as well as McCain's classic soundbite from the same time, "It’s clear that the end is very much in sight.” The ad also features McCain's "100 year" comment. A narrator closes it out, "and you thought no one could be worse that George Bush."

Gas Tax Holiday: Political Pandering, Not Solutions

The proposed Clinton/McCain gas tax holiday is political pandering at its finest. One of the most pressing issues on voters minds is the high prices of gas. But what will a removal of the gas tax do? McCain and Clinton claim that lifting the 18.4 cent per gallon federal tax would drop the price at the pump by the equivalent 18.4 cents. This translates into a 4% drop which would save summer drivers $2 on every $50 fill-up... IF lifting the tax resulted in a 18.4 cent drop in the price at the pump.

Even libertarian Jerry Taylor, a fellow for the Cato Institute, thinks lifting the tax is a bad idea, calling the proposal, "A holiday from reality." Taylor added, "What would happen more likely than not, gas taxes would be cut, but pump prices wouldn't go down, service stations would just continue charging what they are charging."

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post cuts to the chase in his latest: "Expert Support For Gas Tax Holiday Appears Nonexistent":

I took the task upon myself. I would call experts from all sides of the ideological aisle to get a sense of where the debate stood. In the end, every single analyst I surveyed judged the gas tax holiday proposal to be, roughly speaking, a silly, superfluous, or outright pandering idea.

As I noted yesterday, even economists in Clinton's corner find the proposal objectionable: The NY Times' Paul Krugman calls Clinton's plan "pointless and disappointing."

In his column "Dumb as We Wanna Be," economist Thomas Friedman, who is often criticized for his belief that the free market will naturally solve the most pressing issues facing our environment, notes the Clinon-McCain plan "is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away."

Even those who are hit the hardest by the soaring prices of fuel do not support the proposal. In an offical release, the American Truckers Association stated the following:
ATA did not ask for this legislation. And we believe it is only a very short term answer that does not do anything to address the longer term issue of rising fuel prices.
So what are the issues with the gas tax? Or, better yet, where do we begin?

The federal gas tax supports the Federal Highway Trust Fund. In turn, the revenue Highway Trust Fund invests in infrastructure i.e. building new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, maintenance, etc. At a time when the construction industry is already feeling the crunch from the housing crisis, halting investment in infrastructure during peak construction season (northern states typically do all of their road construction in the summer) would further devastate the construction industry and send ripple effects throughout the economy. Sen. Clinton proposes to replace the revenue with a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies. Estimates show that the windfall profits tax would not be able generate the equivalent amount of revenue. Additionally, it is a near guarantee that oil companies would counterbalance the losses from a corporate windfall profits tax by raising the price of gasoline!

Next, the gas tax holiday is an environmentalists nightmare. At a time when the government needs to be providing incentives to change commuter behavior and increase investment in R&D for enviromentally sound transportation, the gas tax holiday does just the opposite.

Lastly, I would point out that, as the name suggests, the removal of the gas tax is only for the "holiday" (specifically, the period of the summer spanning from Memorial Day to Labor Day). While the benefits of a marginal reduction in price would be slight, the strain on consumers would be great when the tax is reimposed in the fall.

The proposed "gas tax holiday" is a ploy to garner votes, not an answer to a serious issue. At least most in the media are reading between the lines.

Thursday's New York Times Editorial calls the gas tax holiday ""an expensive and environmentally unsound policy that would do nothing to help American drivers."

The Washington Post Editorial Board sees the proposed Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday for what it is: political pandering.
His opponents no doubt hope that Mr. Obama's stand will prove to be political suicide. We think it qualifies as political courage.

See Clinton's ad attacking Sen. Obama for neglecting to take action on gas prices HERE.

And Sen. Obama's response ad HERE.

Ad Watch: Clinton

Clinton has a new ad out in North Carolina featuring her latest NC endorser, Gov. Mike Easley.

Hillary the Obliterator

Sen. Clinton has developed a record of paying tough gal in the final days leading up to primaries. Recall the "3 am Red Phone" ad that she ran in the 11th hour of the Ohio and Texas primaries.

In the weekend run-up to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, Clinton brought the tough talk again; this time, the target was Iran. Sen. Clinton promised she would "obliterate" Iran with nuclear force if they were to launch an attack on Israel.

Sen. Clinton pitches her threats as "deterrence theory." In doing so, she completely neglects the most pressing issue facing our country: Iraq.

One of the Bush Administration's greatest failures in the handling of the Iraq War has been the complete absence of serious diplomatic talks with Iraq's neighbors. Everyone acknowledges Iran's meddling in Iraq, typically coming in the form of providing aid to Shia militias. If Sen. Clinton truly desires to end the war in Iraq, she will need to engage Iran, most in direct talks, a pledge Sen. Obama has made. What effect will Clinton the Obliterater's tough talk have on diplomatic relations with the Iranian government?

An AP report has the answer:

Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, called an April 22 statement on ABC by the New York senator, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, "provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible" and "a flagrant violation" of the U.N. Charter.


Danesh-Yazdi's letter said Clinton "unwarrantedly and under erroneous and false pretexts threatened to use force against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
The Iranians sent the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and asked that he circulate it to the Security Council.
The council has imposed three rounds of gradually tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran insists it is enriching uranium to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but the U.S., key European nations and other countries suspect Tehran's real motive is to eventually produce nuclear weapons.
In the letter, Danesh-Yazdi said "Iran is a leading nation in rejecting and opposing all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons." He added that Iran has repeatedly declared "that nuclear weapons as the most lethal and inhumane weapons have no place in the defense doctrine of the country."
Iran has also campaigned to make the Middle East a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone since 1974, he said.
"Moreover, I wish to reiterate my government's position that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nations," Danesh-Yazdi said. "Nonetheless ... Iran would not hesitate to act in self-defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation and to take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself" as authorized under the U.N. Charter.

A Day In The Life ~ Thursday, May 1st

-- Attends events with voters, Columbia City, IN
-- 2:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, South Bend, IN


-- Attends event in Jeffersonville, IN

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Brownsburg, IN
-- 4:15 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Jeffersonville, IN
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Terre Haute, IN

-- 8:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Morgantown, WV
-- 10:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Clarksburg, WV
-- 1:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Whiting, IN
-- 2:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Schererville, IN
-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Crown Point, IN
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Michigan City, IN

-- 10:10 am ET: Attends health care town hall meeting with voters, Cleveland, OH
-- 11:15 am ET: Holds media availability, Cleveland, OH
-- 3:00 pm ET: Attends health care town hall meeting with voters, Des Moines, IA

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 10:05 am ET: Delivers remarks on the National Day of Prayer, Washington, DC
-- 2:50 pm ET: Delivers remarks at celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Washington, DC


-- 8:30 am ET: Releases personal income and spending statistics for March
-- 10:00 am ET: Releases construction spending statistics for March

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ad Watch: Obama

The Obama campaign has a new ad out responding to the ludacris proposals of Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain for a temporary lift on the gas tax.

Russia-Georgia Tension Mounting

As Georgia has its troops in position, ready to quell the separatist movements in its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Russian foreign ministry ramped up its rhetoric towards Georgia.

BBC News Reports:

Moscow has accused Georgia of preparing to invade Abkhazia, and says it is boosting Russian forces there and in the South Ossetia region.

Georgia has reacted angrily to the Russian move, which its prime minister called "irresponsible".

The EU also urged caution, saying to increase troop numbers would be unwise given current tensions.

Russia's foreign minister said his country was not preparing for war but would "retaliate" against any attack.


Georgia denies any build-up of its own forces in the area, and says that Russia is taking provocative action.


"We think that this step, if they take it, will cause extreme destabilisation in the region," said Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze.

"From now on, we consider every [Russian] soldier or any unit of military equipment coming in [to Abkhazia and South Ossetia] as illegal, potential aggressors and potential generators of destabilisation."

Georgia and Russia have been at odds ever since the dismantling of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Russia has developed a strangle hold over its neighbor as Georgia is now entirely dependent on Russia for oil. In the face of threats to completely cut the flow of oil into Georgia from Russia, Georgian officials have become slave to the drastically inflated prices of oil set by the Kremlin.

Russia's tacit support for Georgia's separatist movements and condemnation of Georgia's mobilization of troops to the regions is quite contradictory if not down right hypocritical with respect to Russia's handling of the Chechen separatist movement. The First and Second Chechen Wars in the 90's resulted in a total death toll upwards of 200,000.

BBC News has more on the recent Russia-Georgia tensions:
Tensions between Russia and Georgia have flared up recently, despite Russia lifting economic sanctions against Georgia earlier this month.

Last week Georgia accused a Russian plane of shooting down an unmanned Georgian spy plane - which Russian authorities insisted was shot down by Abkhaz rebels.

And on Tuesday Georgia said it was blocking Russia's entry to the World Trade Organization.

Many in Abkhazia believe that Kosovo's announcement of independence from Serbia in February provides a precedent for it to be recognised as an individual state.

Although it has its own flag and postage stamps, it is not internationally recognised.

Our correspondent in the area says that with this latest statement the Russian government has pushed the already bellicose rhetoric between the two countries to a new level.

Jenna on the Fence

In an interview on Larry King live, Jenna Bush revealed she is contemplating voting for a Democrat in November (much to the dismay of her mother... and father... and the Republican party).

"Too busy with books" is a very poor excuse as to why the President's daughter, of all people, has not been paying attention to the race. But, if she is hesitant to support McCain, can we infer she brews similar feelings of confusion and hesitation regarding her father's "legacy"?

Ad Watch: Clinton

Sen. Clinton has a new ad out in Indiana. Sticking to her guns, Clinton is the first to go negative in Indiana. The ad highlights Clinton's plan to "take action" on the economy by freezing foreclosures and lifting the gas tax.

Her support for McCain's plan to lift the gas tax is pure pandering to the oters. She claims a tax on the windfall profits from oil companies will off-set the removal of the gas tax, making her proposal revenue neutral, when in all actuality, it the windfall profits tax will not come close to replacing the revenue brought in from the gas tax.

The McCain/Clinton proposal is riddled with economic and enivronmental concerns. Even Clinton's economist and NY Times' columnist cheerleader Paul Krugman takes issue with her proposal to lift the gas tax.

Ad Watch: Obama

Sen. Obama has two new ads out in North Carolina. The first ad (airing for the first time in NC) entitled, "In America" focuses on changing a Washington that has "trade deals that put profits before people," and "laws written for - and by - corporate lobbyists." The second ad, "Return" focuses on Obama keeping Americans safe as commander in chief, and emphasizes his role on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

"In America"


A Day In The Life ~ Wednesday, April 30th

-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters and Michelle Obama, Indianapolis, IN
-- 6:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Indianapolis, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Bloomington, IN

-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters and Barack Obama, Indianapolis, IN
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters and Caroline Kennedy, Boonville, IN

-- 9:45 am ET: Visits Deluxe Sheet Metal, South Bend, IN
-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Portage, IN
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Lafayette, IN
-- 9:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Kokomo, IN

-- 7:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Apex, NC
-- 9:15 am ET: Attends event with voters, Sanford, NC
-- 10:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Lillington, NC
-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Dunn, NC
-- 1:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Hope Mills, NC
-- 3:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Lumberton, NC
-- 5:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Whiteville, NC

-- 2:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Allentown, PA
-- 3:45 pm ET: Holds media availability, Allentown, PA

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 11:00 am ET: Participates in photo opportunity with 2008 National and State Teacher of the Year, Washington, DC
-- 11:15 am ET: Delivers remarks to the 2008 National and State Teachers of the Years, Washington, DC
-- 3:20 pm ET: Participates in photo opportunity and delivers remarks to the New York Giants, Washington, DC
-- 6:55 pm ET: Attends National Republican Congressional Committee reception, Fairfax, VA

-- 8:30 am ET: Releases first quarter GDP figures

-- 8:30 am ET: Releases first quarter Employment Cost Index

-- Addresses a joint session of Congress, Washington, DC

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rev. Wright Rehashed: Blessing in Disguise for Obama?

Rev. Wright's appearances at the NAACP and the Press Club brought a lot of unnecessary attention to a subject Obama has been struggling to silence for nearly two months. Rev. Wright fully reserved the right to go public and explain himself. But, the Reverend showed no respect for Obama's candidacy in his approach to either speech. The last two days were a nightmare for the Obama campaign.

However, Rev. Wright's disregard for Obama's candidacy may have been a blessing in disguise. In a last surprise press conference, Sen. Obama was able to create the significant distance between himself and Wright. As far as any outsider can tell, the two man are at odds right now and the tension just might be beneficial to Obama in the end.

Watch the press conference here:

Ad Watch: Clinton

Clinton spent a month and a half traversing the Keystone State talking about her roots in Scranton, PA. The day after the primary, as the focus shifted to Indiana and North Carolina, Stephen Colbert opened his show with a stab at Clinton's elaborated Pennsylvania roots stating, "I can't wait to see where Clinton is from in Indiana."

While not quite Indiana, Clinton morphed into a regional gal with roots in the blue-collar town of Park Ridge, Illinois for her latest ad airing in the Hoosier State. Forgive me for being blunt, but what a fraud!

Watch to the lastest Clinton morphology here:

Ad Watch: McCain

McCain has a new ad out focusing on health care as he delivers a speech today on health care in Tampa, FL. Read a piece by yours truly and Teddy Davis on the gap in McCain's health care plan HERE.

Troubles Entering Palestine

Sky Cohen is a friend of Rob's over at the Lowdown currently enroute to the West Bank to build playgrounds for Palestinian children. So far he hasn't had much luck but this was his last update.. from Jordan.

A riveting first person account.

How Friere’s ‘Pedagogy of Hope’ Almost Saved Me, but Ultimately Was One of the Implicators of My Status as a Thought Criminal.
By Sky Cohen

The King Hussein Bridge, which is the only land crossing that permits internationals to travel into the West Bank from Jordan, is located about 20 miles from my residence in Sweilah, Amman. This drive to the isthmus takes one through the entire spectrum of geographic that is offered by Jordan. From the bustling metropolis that is Amman, through the impoverished residential area of Salt, under the towering gaze of limestone hills and past the Dead Sea; this idyllic, picturesque, drive is one that will calm anyone’s nerves.

Going through customs on the Jordanian side of the boarder is less than an arduous task, that is, if you have a grasp of the Arabic language or are traveling with someone who does. As I watch internationals, baffled, walking in circles I feel thankful that I am traveling with Imad and that we are able to get through customs without much of a hassle. At one point a Jordanian customs guard, in jest, accuses me of traveling with my ‘brothers’ passport, (my passport photo is of me with beyond shoulder length hair, which I have cut since arriving in Jordan) but with a smile waves us through. As we are waiting to board the specialty bus designed to take us to the border of the West Bank (Israel), I notice that the bus depot is partitioned into two sections: one for International-Tourists and the other for Palestinians returning home.
The number of internationals, roughly 30 people, barely fills a quarter of the extravagant, grandiose, air-conditioned bus. As we travel down the mile long stretch of land that separates Jordan from the West Bank (Israel), I look out the window to see nothing but desolate tract: this desert purgatory is a cavernous maze of dehydrated dwarf plants and barbed wire. About half way down we stop at a check point, and the bus is boarded by a toll guard who checks our passports and takes our bus tickets. As the bus continues on, I see we are coming to another security check point where scores of buses are waiting; I notice that the road is divided into two paths and rather than waiting in line, our bus takes the empty route and is allowed to pass without any further inspection. As we roll by the line of busses I look from the comfort of my air-conditioned seat and see that each one is full to its carrying capacity with Palestinians, luggage protruding out windows (obviously not air conditioned), little children sitting on their mother’s laps, and few are conversing. I see the acceptance of the unfortunate situation in the eyes of the people; the apathy marred with contempt is obvious in their gazes, I lock eyes with a young girl and as I raise my hand to acknowledge our mutual existences she violently spits out her window and I apologetically avert my eyes.

It becomes obvious when we cross into the Israeli (occupied) side of the border; there are dozens of Israeli flags lining the walk way, parallel to where we are driving; female soldiers are wearing Kevlar vests that seem to be a size too large for them; and their males counterparts have automatic weapons dangling from their shoulders, I marvel as I see the Israeli flag being flown for the first time in an official capacity. For an instant I forget that this land I am now on is being occupied by Israel and that Palestinians are subjected to that occupation on a daily basis; but strangely feel a sense of pride that this land – these people (the Israelis) - would accept me as one of their own merely for my cultural heritage. In the hours to come this belief would prove to be nothing more than an illusion.

As the bus pulls to the front of the terminal our luggage is out onto a conveyer belt and we are ushered through an Israeli security check; our belongings are once again x-rayed and we are put through a metallic device that jets high pressure air strategically on our bodies. Imad passes through before I do, and as if scripted, three plain clothed IDF soldiers take him off to the side of the room and begin to interrogate him: out of a bus of roughly 30 internationals, he is the only one questioned. Israel’s paranoia, whether justified or not, has produced the world’s most reactionary security system.

After a few minutes of questioning and Imad’s release we proceed to a row of security booths; the majority are designated for Palestinians but a few are saved for internationals. At the booth I am asked a series of questions and I regurgitate my rehearsed answers: I am going to the West Bank for tourism; yes, I am staying with my friends grandmother; I will be staying in Nablus; no, I do not have her number; why? Because we are being picked up at the boarder; yes Nablus. The woman behind the booth takes my passport and enters my information into her computer: she tells me to sit down and wait for my name to be called.

Sitting, waiting for my passport is the first time that I am truly able to observe some of my fellow travelers; there is an organized tour group of Indonesian Moslems waiting to pass through customs; I notice that more common than luggage, the Palestinians are carrying multiple 5-10 gallon containers of fresh water: Imad tells me that they do this because Israel has control over the allocation of water that flows into the West Bank and that it is regularly shut off. After about an hour of waiting Imad’s name is called and his passport is returned to him, I also hear my name called and I stand up to procure my passport, but I am greeted by a woman in a pink shawl accompanied by two IDF soldiers. In accented English she says to me: ‘Sky? Please come with us.”

I follow the three officials through a labyrinth of security coded doors and past a numbers of closed-circuit security cameras. The woman in the pink shawl gestures that I enter a room and sit down; sitting across the table from me she begins to ask me questions. She asks about my parents and their occupations; about my reasons for traveling into Israel (she constantly referred to the West Bank as Israel and for a while it threw me off); when I explain to her that I had done fund-raising for a school in Nablus, she tries to get me to admit that I am going with political motivations and am planning on attending anti-Israel protests. When I adamantly deny these claims, she shrugs as if not fully convinced. I’m starting to believe that this woman has already judged and convicted me of something. But, this interrogation experience is so foreign to me that I don’t know if she’s serious or not. After about half an hour of questioning she ends with “Are you carrying any books or religious scriptures?” I am careful not to disclose the entire truth, but I keep from lying. I tell her: “Yes, (in my backpack) I am currently carrying Paulo Friere’s “Pedagogy of Hope”. For the first time in the interview as if acknowledging her exposure to Friere, she smiles and says “Ok” and I am convinced that when I am let into the West Bank it will have been Friere’s doing.

She leads me out of the room and into a hallway where she tells me to sit and wait. She sits me down near a cylindrical ashtray and disappears back through the security enabled doors. Disgusted by the smell of cigarettes, I get up and walk slightly down the hall to another set of chairs; and as soon as I sit down a door at the end of the hallway slams open and two IDF muscle men come barging out with their hands on their holsters and scream me down in Hebrenglish; they communicate to me that I need to be seen by their security cameras, and I realize that where I am sitting just happens to be located in a blindspot. I thought maybe they would thank me for finding a weakness in their security zone, but, no, they weren’t in the mood for showing their appreciation.

They leave me in the hallway for another 2 hours. Just as I decide this is as good a time as any to get some sleep, a security guard comes and tells me to bring all of my belongings into the back room. He accompanies me as I retrieve my camera, laptop, backpack and suitcase. We enter a room which has nothing in it except a metallic table; the security guard tells me to put all my belongings on it. The woman in the pink shawl and her two friends enter. After they put on rubber gloves, they begin to dump all of my belongings onto the table. They place all of my literature (including Friere, I am carrying Edward Said’s ‘The Question of Palestine’ Jimmy Carter’s ‘Peace Not Apartheid’ Rachel Corrie’s “Let me Stand Alone” the Japanese translation of ‘The Little Prince’ and Arlo Guthrie’s 1966 anti-war classic ‘Alice’s Restaurant’) notebooks, magazines, note cards and any other scraps of paper I have into a separate plastic bin.

After they shake the last bits of detritus from my bag, the security guard escorts me yet again into an isolated interrogation room. He asks for my wallet and after I give it to him he begins to strip it of all the cards, currency and the fortune I received from a cookie from that Thai restaurant in downtown Olympia WA foretelling that “(My) ideas will be needed to solve a problem.” He looks me dead in the eyes and points to my shirt; as I stare back into his cold eyes, I realize what is happening: I’m being subjected to my first official strip search. There is a moment of static in my mind, and as I begin to lift my shirt, off in the distance I start to hear the ascending notes to Right Said Fred’s 1992 one hit wonder “I’m Too Sexy”. My shoulders begin to inevitably bounce as I hand him my shirt, and at first my movements are concealed and he pays them no attention, but by the time he is feeling the lining of my shoes for concealed weapons and flattening my socks looking for my drug stash I am smiling and my upper body is going though controlled miniature convulsions.

Agitated, the security guard exclaims: “No dancing!”
Slightly shocked but unable to control the sounds in my head I respond: “No dancing for me?”

To which he forcefully and without hesitation proclaims: “No dancing for you!”

I keep myself from breaking out into laughter and realize that this Dance Nazi is serious about making my strip search as unpleasant as possible. I respect his demands but that does nothing to curb Right Said Fried's dirty-‘too sexy’-English voice from looping in my head for the duration of the search.

Fully clothed I am once again taken to the hallway and left alone with the security cameras. This time I make no hesitation and place my head down on the seat beside me. Before long one of the plain clothed IDF soldiers walks past: I sit up and ask him if I am being arrested; he casually responds that I am not, I ask then why exactly it is that I am being detained; he answers “We have had some problems in the past with some of the books you are carrying, and we are making sure you are not dangerous”. After another 2 hours of being curled up in an uncomfortable fetal position the woman in the pink shawl wakes me, returns all of my literature and tells me to gather my belongings and follow her.

I follow her to a security gate and she hands my passport off to a customs agent and I see the agent stamp my passport: ‘Finally’ I let out a sigh of relief ‘this has not been entirely fruitless, they are letting me into the West Bank. I will think of this as an inauguratory greeting, and all is well.’ The woman in the pink shawl turns in my direction, hands me my passport, and says: ‘Today you will not be entering Israel.’
Perplexed I ask her why and she answers “You have been deemed a security threat to Israel.” Keeping myself from overreacting I enquire: “Are you not granting me permission into Israel because of my choice of literature? Was I wrong in assuming that Israel is a democratic state?’ She pauses to think but rather than respond to my inquiries she reiterates her previous statement: “You have been deemed a security threat to Israel.” I realize that any further attempt to defend myself would be fruitless and before turning to walk away, I take one last look at her and say: ‘I wasn’t even trying to go to Israel, I was wanting to go to the West Bank.’

A Day In The Life ~ Tuesday, April 29th

-- Plays basketball with UNC'S mens basketball team, Chapel Hill, NC
-- Attends town hall meeting with voters, Winston-Salem, NC
-- Attends town hall meeting with voters, Hickory, NC

-- 8:00 am ET: Tours Bio-manufacturing Training Center, Raleigh, NC
-- 8:30 am ET: Attends event with voters and Governor Mike Easley, Raleigh, NC
-- 2:00 pm ET: Tours Miller Veneers Factory, Indianapolis, IN
-- 5:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Hobart, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Princeton, IN

-- 3:15 pm ET: Attends event in Boone, NC
-- 5:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, North Wilkesboro, NC
-- 6:45 pm ET: Attends event in Elkin, NC
-- 8:15 pm ET: Attends event in Mount Airy, NC


-- 10:00 am ET: Delivers speech at event, Tampa, FL

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 1:15 pm ET: Meets with special representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Afghanistan, Washington, DC
-- 1:50 pm ET: Delivers remarks on National Volunteer Week, Washington, DC

-- Appears on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Green War

The Onion provides a much needed laugh in this time of turmoil.
In The Know: How Can We Make The War In Iraq More Eco-Friendly?
I love it. The war for oil going green!

A Day In The Life ~ Monday, April 28th

-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Wilmington, NC
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Wilson, NC
-- 9:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Chapel Hill, NC

-- 9:15 am ET: Attends event with voters, Graham, NC
-- 3:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Salisbury, NC
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters and Chelsea Clinton, Charlotte, NC

-- 8:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Carmel, IN

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Miami, FL
-- 11:15 am ET: Holds media availability, Miami, FL