Friday, November 28, 2008

India's 9/11

Some friends have asked me about the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai/Bombay.  I shot off this e-mail to a friend, which captures my feelings about this:

This is something very new to Bombay - gunfire and bombs happen all the time in Kashmir, but not in Bombay, and there is definitely no attack of such public places.  Those terrorists have (had?) a death wish - there is no other explanation.  There was no chance of escape, given just 30-40 terrorists in a city of millions.  So they are trying to become martyrs, taking as many innocent lives as they can.
My first reaction was - this is India's 9-11 moment. [Apparently, I am not alone.]
[A little while after 9-11, some terrorists drove into the Parliament complex shooting at random.  The press in India started calling that 12-13 (Dec 13, the day of the attack), iirc.  But that was nothing - comparatively.]

People in India are pretty riled up, and quite likely a similar reaction as Americans had to 9-11.  Kill the terrorists (some idiot politician or cop has already used the dead-or-alive theme), use strong anti-terror laws (previous PATRIOT-like laws TADA and POTA were allowed to lapse with a refusal to invoke such laws as late as last week), etc.  It's easy enough to blame Islamic extremists for this tragedy, and very likely they are.  Things are just going to get a lot worse now...

Why now - recently, some right-wing Hindu extremists bombed a Muslim-majority locality.  (This apparently followed many other incidents perpetrated by Islamic terrorists.)  Anyway, this is similar to (connecting to my memory-map) what happened in 1992-93:
Dec 6, 1992: Hindu right-wing mob destroys the Babri Masjid.
Jan '93 - Hindu-Muslim riots break-out, especially severe in Mumbai. [The area around my college is among the ones put under curfew.]  Many casualties among Muslims, with allegations (probably true) of Hindu-police complicity (at the very least, inaction by the police as Muslims were killed).
March '93: Serial bomb-blasts at 7? sites across Bombay, within minutes of each other.  Over 300 killed iirc.

So there's a pattern...

Update 11/29: Here's a timeline of the events, and an interesting take from Robert Baer of Time.

Update 12/2: Amitav Ghosh opines in the NYT that this is not exactly India's 9-11.  Ghosh makes a good point that America was not used to terrorist attacks on American soil unlike India, which has a much longer experience with terrorism (though he offers an example of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots - but America is used to communal/racist riots).  He also says 9-11 refers not just to the attack itself, but the "utterly misconceived military and judicial response" that followed.  I must disagree with Ghosh to some extent here - I think the US invasion of the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was right, even as the excesses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib were wrong.
I look at last week's events as India's 9-11, as the day the Indian government and the world community (read the US and Pakistan) realize these terrorist activities cannot continue, and action is taken  by all concerned governments and peoples to hound the terrorists out of business.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Did Britain just sell Tibet?

...asks Robert Barnett in an NYT op-ed.  Apparently, Britain is dropping its support for Tibet as an autonomous region in return for financial help from China to help the UK tide over the current global financial crisis:
an announcement on Oct. 29 by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, that after almost a century of recognizing Tibet as an autonomous entity, Britain had changed its mind. Mr. Miliband said that Britain had decided to recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. He even apologized that Britain had not done so earlier.

And this matters to India as well, says Barnett:
the decision has wider implications. India’s claim to a part of its northeast territories, for example, is largely based on the same agreements — notes exchanged during the Simla convention of 1914, which set the boundary between India and Tibet — that the British appear to have just discarded. That may seem minor to London, but it was over those same documents that a major war between India and China was fought in 1962, as well as a smaller conflict in 1987.

This is NOT helping the Tibetans (d-uh!):
On Nov. 10, China issued a damning attack on the exile leader, saying his autonomy plan amounted to ethnic cleansing, disguised independence and the reintroduction of serfdom and theocracy. The only thing that China will henceforth discuss with the exiles is the Dalai Lama’s personal status, meaning roughly which luxury residence he can retire to in Beijing.

The last word from Barnett:
Including China in global decision-making is welcome, but Western powers should not rewrite history to get support in the financial crisis. It may be more than banks and failed mortgages that are sold off cheap in the rush to shore up ailing economies.

Free Tibet!  Let's at least have an autonomous Tibet.  Oh wait, we are broke and China has money... The Chinese commies are great, it's the Dalai Lama who is engaged in ethnic cleansing!

'Nuff said.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The change I need!

Following up on my previous post, here are somethings I'd like to see in an Obama presidency, as a change from the Bush administration:
1. A real scientist in-charge of the EPA, or at least a professional with a science background.  The person should also have a strong independent streak, so s/he can put science and the public health ahead of corporate/monetary interests.
[There was a trial balloon that RFK, Jr could be the EPA administrator - but he's an activist of dubious credentials, even if on the right side.  And not a scientist.]
2. Do we really need another President who uses executive orders rather than wait for Congress to act (via FirstRead)?  Here's a leader of Obama's transition team, John Podesta:
"There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for Congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that"

Yes, I know - Obama will be reversing some questionable decisions by the Bush administration.  But it's the principle - and should we not hold President Obama to the same standard to which we hold/held President Bush?
3. This is not about governance per se, but worth mentioning.  I just heard Howard Fineman on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Obama does not want to make a hero out of Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) by kicking him out of the Democratic caucus or stripping him of his Homeland Security/Government Affairs Senate Committee chairmanship.  I am not so sure - Lieberman campaigned actively against Obama, questioning his abilities while praising Governor Palin's qualifications.  Lieberman also said that "whether Obama is a Marxist" is a good question, questioned Obama's patriotism, and was mute when Governor Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists." [The last as heard on Rachel Maddow's show tonight.]  This is the person Obama, Reid and other Democrats want as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security/Government Affairs committee?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What to do next?

So Obama has won, with increased Democratic majorities in Congress and the Senate.  What's next?  Are things going to be much better now that The One is President?  Will everybody chant kumbayah and work together for the "right" things?
I don't think so.  As Obama said in his victory speech: "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep."

Here is a great article by Tim Wise:

...we can savor the moment for a while, for a few days, perhaps a week. But well before inauguration day we will need to be back on the job, in the community, in the streets, where democracy is made, demanding equity and justice in places where it hasn't been seen in decades, if ever. Because for all the talk of hope and change, there is nothing--absolutely, positively nothing--about real change that is inevitable. And hope, absent real pressure and forward motion to actualize one's dreams, is sterile and even dangerous. Hope, absent commitment is the enemy of change, capable of translating to a giving away of one's agency, to a relinquishing of the need to do more than just show up every few years and push a button or pull a lever."

This encompasses what I have read occasionally elsewhere (mostly on dailykos!) - whether we revert to "rule by politician" and trust Obama to make the right decisions, or get more involved.  After all, Obama is human like the rest of us, will make mistakes, will probably do something that we think is wrong - but it's up to us to call him on it, or support him, as we see fit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Boulder story

Boulder is seen as a far-left part of the country, like San Fran (one of my favorite cities!)  "Folks here don't vote for the Democrat, but go for Nader!"
The NYT has an excellent graphic giving county-wise results, not just for 2008, but all Presidential elections since 1992.  The data bear out a strong preference for Nader/Perot in the '92, '96, and 2000 elections:
1992: Clinton 50.9% (64,567), Bush 26.5% (the rest Perot?)
1996: Clinton 52.2% (63,316), Dole 34.5% (the rest Perot?)
2000: Gore 50.1% (69,983), Bush 36.4% (the rest Nader?)
2004: Kerry 66.3% (105,564), Bush 32.4% (Nader out!)
2008: (29% reporting) Obama 75.2% (43,347), McCain 23.5% - ~100,000 votes to be counted

Obama currently leads Colorado by 138k votes - if the Boulder split holds up, add another 50k to that lead.
Yes. We. Did.

End of an election

President(-elect) Barack Hussein Obama.


Landslide, baby, landslide!  Popular vote by 6.34 million, or ~5% according to CNN as of 0200 Mountain time, Nov 5.  Electoral votes: Obama 349, McCain 159, as per's aggregate of the different networks:
- CBS/Fox/NBC/AP have called IN for Obama.
- NE's CD-2 EV is still outstanding as per  So are MO, NC, MT.
- At least CNN has called MT for McCain.  So McCain's up to 162.
- The AP has not called GA for McCain (via an excellent diary at dkos) - apparently because approximately 600k early votes cast in metro Atlanta are still outstanding, which is almost twice McCain's 245k lead.
- Obama's ahead in NC by 12k votes out of 4.2 million cast.  Looks like Obama has won NC!  So Obama's up to 364 EVs.

Yes. We. Did.

p.s. 11/5 PM: I just remembered my post - made almost a full month back - that Obama's EV upper limit was... 364!  This was similar to Larry Sabato's prediction, except he called MO, while I called... IN!  In fact, Sabato's prediction was exactly like the final leads, including the pick of MO rather than IN - per the Pollster trendlines, McCain was ahead a hair in IN (R+1.2, actual D+0.9), while Obama was ahead in MO (D+1.2, actual R+0.2).
Did I just beat the Crystal Ball, with a tremendous assist from, but with the considered pick of IN instead of MO?  Yay!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Florida polls

Florida is essential to a McCain victory, and so two recent polls by PPP and SurveyUSA (via Pollster) make me slightly optimistic.  Both show a small Obama lead, 50-48 (PPP) and 50-47 (SUSA).  That could be just two polls matching due to the wrong reasons, but the internals seem quite similar.

Early voting:
PPP says 56% has already voted, and Obama wins them 56-43.  McCain leads E-day voters 56-38.
SUSA says 58% have voted, and Obama wins them 58-40.  McCain leads E-day voters 54-42.

Gender split:
PPP: Obama wins women 52-47; is tied among men at 49.
SUSA: Obama wins women 50-47; also wins men 49-47.

Ethnic splits (pollster, fraction of voters):
Whites: McCain 57-41 (PPP, 70%) or 53-43 (SUSA, 69%)
Hispanics: Obama 55-42 (PPP, 13%) or 53-44 (SUSA, 15%)
Blacks: Obama 93-6 (PPP, 13%) or 81-16 (SUSA, 12%) - the latter result seems weird, but the subgroup sample size is small.

Age-group composition and splits seem slightly different, but neither pollster uses the same age groups.

IMO, two independent polls showing roughly the same result is an indicator which means Obama has a good chance of winning FL.  Fingers crossed... In the mean time, I will be doing my part at Getting Out The Vote in Colorado.  We still gotta win this state!

Final GOTV push, Day 2

Today was the second day of the final Get Out The Vote (GOTV) push.  I am a canvass captain in North Boulder (Colorado) for the Obama/Udall/Polis campaigns, which just means I train new volunteers in addition to canvassing.

Though thus far the NB office hasn't looked busy, there has been a steady influx of volunteers, which means we knocked on over 1100 doors today.  That's a decent figure, and hopefully more volunteers show up tomorrow and E-day (very likely), so we can really turn out Obama supporters here.  Though Gallup's final release (via dkos) suggests Obama is up 53-42 among likely voters, a series of polls released by Democratic pollster PPP says the election is much closer where it matters - in the battleground states of OH, FL, NC; PA is becoming tighter, but so is MT.  Obama apparently has a good lead in CO, but I will believe it when I see it.

Today, I had some experiences, which perhaps encompassed the highs, the lows, and the middle of canvassing.  First, the good.  Most folks who I talked to supported Obama - this is Boulder, but some say folks here are apt to support Nader more than Obama!  Very possible... Pacifists don't like Obama's position on Afghanistan - the other day, my neighbor said, "why should we fight in a country half the world away that hasn't harmed us?"  [I am no kumbaya-singing pacifist.  Gotta finish Al-Qaeda, and that requires fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.]
A neighbor to one of my stops was a little worried about OH and PA, but I told her things are OK in PA, and Obama has many more routes to 270 even if he loses OH.  She said she'd stay up late tonight to finish her work, so she could come volunteer, which is a great attitude!
There was also this incredibly beautiful woman I ran across - I was canvassing her room-mates, who were out.  Greek goddess, I thought, but I managed to spew out the required information coherently.  I woulda asked her out, but a random canvasser asking a person out is so not creepy, right? :-)

The middle - a woman, about my age, asked me what I hoped to accomplish with the GOTV effort.  She supported Obama, so that was no problem, it was just that I had asked her to volunteer.  I talked to her for about 10 minutes, but I don't think I convinced her.  Though the polls may show Obama up in CO, folks, remember - this was a red state for many years, and polls don't win states - only votes do.

[On CO as a red state - Amendment 48 tries to classify a fertilized egg as a person, and Kristi Burton, the sponsor, was selling it on local PBS today as "a commonsense basis for further negotiations."  Apparently, CO is a testing ground for this anti-abortion legislation, though a poll suggests Amendment 48 might be defeated.  Even Bob Schaffer, the Republican candidate for CO-Senate, is apparently against it, though Burton denied this.  A guy on my canvass, when I asked who he voted for, mentioned Amendment 48 as the most important issue for him!]

Another young woman I met today said she was voting only for President this year.  I wonder if that was because she didn't want to vote for Schaffer, but she didn't want to support one-Party rule (by voting for Democrat Mark Udall for Senate) either.  Oh well.
[On my first canvass, I met an elderly woman who said she'd seen an NEA ad supporting Udall, and so was unsure because she didn't like the NEA - even though Udall has been the Boulder Congressman for almost a decade.  But she supports Obama... So there are other reasons to oppose Udall as well, I suppose.]

Finally, the bad.  On my fifth or sixth day of canvassing (it's all a blur!), I came across a drunk (at 2 PM) nutjob.  In an apartment building, nobody else around, though he was small-built, so I could probably take him.  First, he goes: "You are with ACORN, aren't you?"  Ummm... No.  That starts off a tirade - "F***ing socialists, tax the people who create jobs..." etc.  I had just inserted Obama and Udall leaflets under the door of an apartment, so he goes around me, takes it out, and storms out of the building, tearing up the leaflets.  (I replaced the leaflets later, this time pushing it well inside the door.)  This was followed by the guy ranting outside the building, using more four-letter-words and flipping the bird at me.
Later I walked into the next building, and after a few stops, the guy came up behind me again.  Walked the corridor, and tried to pry another leaflet from under a door (but now I had learned, and he couldn't get it out).  Walked off, again muttering and swearing.  As I said before, I could have probably taken him if it came to that, but he left me shaking, nonetheless.  Probably a Sarah Palin fan.  The worst part of it was that the experience erased the picture of the Greek goddess from my mind... I just remember she had lovely blue eyes and long, wavy, jet black hair :-)

Time to get some sleep now, two more days to go... Remember, folks: polls don't win elections, only votes do.  And you knock on enough doors, you run into all sorts of people, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So canvass during day time, and/or if you prefer, walk in pairs.  But it's overall a good, positive experience at least in Boulder.  And it's for a great cause!

By the way, I should give a shout-out to the "higher-ups" in our team - they work longer hours, have been at this longer, and deserve full credit for keeping us enthusiastic. And of course, the comfort captains and volunteers who are bringing in good food :-)

(Also cross-posted at dkos)