Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

The connection between Elana Kagan and Young MC

May 10th, 2010

Break it down, fellas! Malcom Gladwell criticized my alum mater asking “Why are Hunter’s results so disappointing?” Hunter students have IQ scores three and a half standard deviations above the mean and are given the best classroom resources, so they are not as distinguished as they should be: “Although most of our study participants are successful and fairly content with their lives and accomplishments,” the authors conclude, “there are no superstars . . . and only one or two familiar names.” Thank you, Obama, for providing yet another piece of evidence against this unfair criticism.

First, I present to you, Elena Kagan, Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. Is that a big enough superstar for you, Malcom?

Elena Kagan with Obama

Second, I present to you Young MC. Watch this video to be reminded how great he is. No gimmicks just hip hop. Bust a move!

Want to see more Hunter superstars? I rest my case!

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The irony is rich

February 4th, 2009

Too bad Daschle wasn’t running for Secretary of Energy–then this ad would be just about perfect:

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Obama not the first African American POTUS?

January 20th, 2009

Apparently, Condi Rice was President of the United States for about 1 minute today, beating Obama to the punch as the first black President. And we were probably under Biden’s rule for a minute or so as well, if this blog post by a constitutional law professor is to be believed:

No, the oath is *not* legally meaningless, even if it is a ritual. Art. II Sec 1. Cl. 8 of the US Const. clearly states that “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following oath. . . ” Therefore, from 12:00 noon until about 12:01 pm today, the President of the USA was Condoleeza Rice. From 12:01 until about 12:03 pm the President of the USA was Joe Biden. Interestingly, this means that, technically, Obama was *not* the first African-American President! (And yes, I actually am a constitutional law professor!).

What good are lawyers anyway? This must be nonsense!

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Engaging a million citizens

December 15th, 2008

Here is an interesting article in the American Prospect that proposes that how Obama administration should try to engage citizens in governance, co-written by my friend Joe Goldman at AmericaSpeaks. The key sentence:

As president, Obama should signal a new kind of governance by calling on the American people to take part in a series of national discussions, each engaging 1 million Americans or more, on the issues of highest public concern, such as the economy, health care, foreign policy, energy, and climate change.”

I know that my advisor Jim Fishkin would criticize AmericaSpeaks recruitment methodology, that allows anyone to participate. He usually argues for random sampling to ensure “formal equality” in the deliberations. But there is definitely something appealing and legitimate about having an open process that offer equal opportunity to participate and make special efforts to recruit people from underserved communities.

I’ll be interested to see if any this talk translates into action!

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From campaigns to governance

December 9th, 2008

The grassroots Obama campaign is asking itself what it should do now that the election has been won. The answer? Governance. I am heartened by these goals that they’ve laid out in an email I received this email from my local chapter:

The national organization [e.g., Obama for America] will 1) support state and local legislation; 2) organize grassroots efforts in communities and train volunteers; 3) facilitate two way communication between the White House and volunteers about priorities; and 4) rejuvenate civic engagement on a local and national level.

And also two ways to get involved:

* Attend a house party this coming weekend to plan strategies for civic engagement plans. Go to to find a house party near you.
* Be part of our transition effort. OFA has asked local organizations to conduct research about our communities, identifying the most important relationships outside team (non profits, media, unions, etc); as well as the tools we will need to get things done. Go to to read about the teams to get involved.

I’ll be interested to see how it pans out.

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What to watch for on election day

November 3rd, 2008

Here is a snippet of what Nate Silver, author of has to say about the election tomorrow:

7pm EST Virginia, for my money, is the most important state in this election. If John McCain loses it, his path to victory is exceptionally narrow—he would need to pull out an upset in Pennsylvania, while holding on to Florida and Ohio, and avoiding a sweep out West. Barack Obama has considerably more ways to win without Virginia, but a failure to close out the state would suggest at best a more circuitous route to victory. As Obama remains about five points ahead in most polls of Virginia, what we’re really looking for is a quick call on anything before 8 PM that would indicate that the map has indeed changed from 2004, and not in McCain’s favor.

Read the whole thing. It gives an hour by hour analysis of what to look for as the results come in.

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For the Obama supporters

August 16th, 2008

Polls are tied! Could Obama really lose the election?

August 15th, 2008

My neighbor asked me: “The polls show that McCain is now tied with Obama – could Obama really lose this election?”

No. Obama cannot lose the election.

Why? Two reasons. First, I believe the polls overstate McCain support because of how they estimate likely voters. They are greatly undercounting the new voters that will vote for Obama and they are overcounting the demoralized republican turnout. (For example, new voter registration greatly favors democrats.) Second, even these flawed polls will turn around once ads like this start airing:

Yeah, Republicans will not likely be very enthusiastic this fall. I think Obama has an insurmountable 10 point lead in the popular vote that will result in a Reaganesque electoral victory.


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On Texas and Ohio

March 6th, 2008

As an Obama supporter, I was disappointed that Barack did not seal the deal yesterday. I have been reflecting on the delegate stalemate and the PR loss, and I have a few thoughts.

1) Identity politics: Obama has made massive progress in demonstrating that equality for all is a powerful message for whites and blacks. I am surprised that he wasn’t able to carry that message to the Hispanic communities in Texas. I dislike Clinton’s direct approach at appealing to women, and I don’t think it is working well with younger women. I much prefer Obama’s President for all Americans message and policies.

2) Generational warfare: Clinton is for old people and Obama is for young people. The candidates appeals are *not* personality-based but policy-based . Clinton wants to mandate that young people pay more money into health care in order to pay for more benefits for older people. Obama wants to lower health care costs–which may very well end up in less health care services for old people. Again, I think Obama has to devise a message of equality for all and policies that support it. But the worst is this aweful “experience” debate. It’s really just a thinly veiled ageist argument that anyone born after the baby boom can’t be President. Hasn’t 8 years of Bush/Cheney proven that ‘adult’ supervision isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be?

3) Tired solutions vs Fresh Solutions: Hillary I think has a slight advantage framing the election as solutions vs. rhetoric. For awhile, I favor a direct defensive maneuver by Obama: publishing policy papers, holding smaller events, etc. But now I think that is wrong. Obama has plans that are just as detailed as Clinton. It is really a battle of “tired solutions” versus “fresh solutions.” I mean she is just re-treading past political battles, whereas Obama wants to move us forward.

Well, that’s it for now. If you want more great Obama commentary, check out Marc Andreseen’s excellent endorsement of Barack Obama.

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Hillary supporters to “Swift Boat” Obama

February 21st, 2008

This report by the Washington Post is disturbing. About 100 contributers have started a 527 PAC called “American Leadership Project” to air attack ads on Obama. At the moment that the Obama campaign has crossed 1 million contributors, 100 ultra-wealthy people are attempting to hijack the primary with $10mm of cynical attack ads.

Here is how the Obama campaign describes the group:

“Here we have a committee that springs up on the eve of an election, promotes a specific candidate, and has no history or apparent purpose of lobbying specific issues outside the benefit to the candidate of these communications,” the memo states. “Its ‘major purpose’ is no mystery.”

And here’s how the spokesperson for the American Leadership Project responds:

“We want to communicate to people where they’re paying the most attention right now. Right now, that’s Ohio and Texas,” he said. “Senator Clinton is a recognized champion of these issues, and we support her positions on health care, the mortgage crisis, the economy, and we say so in the spots. These are positive ads that serve to raise awareness about the issues.”

You can decide which explanation is more plausible for yourself. In my opinion, this proves beyond any doubt that team Clinton (1) is entrenched in money politics and (2) will do anything to get elected. I really hope this backfires.

Here’s a Swift Boat ad to remind you how shameless this tactic really is:

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Comparing the campaigns of Obama and Lessig

February 20th, 2008

Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law Professor, is considering a run for Congress in a special election in my neighboring Silicon Valley district. He has an interesting ten-minute video on his reasons for consider such a run on his new campaign web site, In a nutshell, his campaign platform involves three principles:

1. Accept no lobbyists/PAC money
2. Banning earmarks
3. Support public finance

He asserts that money in politics is the *cause* of the problems with our government, and that without these fundamental systematic changes we are doomed to fail at solving the political issues that most people care about (social security, health care, etc.) He wants to start a bipartisan movement to reform Congress.

His likely opponent for the Democratic nomination is a career politician who is good but trapped in the current system. For example, she has received $250,000 in contributions from insurance companies–and she is the state senator in charge of regulating insurance companies.

Lessig’s message appeals to me. However, I think that he’s going to have to quickly translate his overarching principles into something pragmatic. He’ll get trounced unless he can turn his high ideals into policy solutions to the real political problems we face.

In this way, I think it is instructive to compare Lessig to Obama. In a previous video, Lessig makes a compelling case to support Obama over Clinton for nearly the same reasons that Lessig himself is considering a Congressional run for office. Clinton, like Lessig’s opponent, is a good career politician who is too invested in the corrupt system to make fundamental change.

But now Obama is facing new choices: will he abandon the public financing system? It seems that he likely will, given his amazing fundraising prowess. To wit: he has 900,000 individual contributors and is shooting to reach 1 million by March 4. Should Obama risk losing the Presidency to support our current public financing scheme?

I imagine that Lessig would recommend staying within the public financing guidelines. But aren’t the current guidelines hopelessly out of date? And what about McCain-Finegold campaign legislation – doesn’t that well-intentioned law have more harmful unintended consequences than benefits? I worry that Lessig’s prescription is naive, because the details of the reform matter a lot.

So, to answer my original question: how do lessig and obama differ? I think Lessig is more idealistic than Obama, perhaps to a fault. And Lessig is less detailed about translating his ideals in pragmatic policy solutions than Obama. But Lessig is really smart, and he is running in a Congressional election not a Presidential one.

I am rooting for him. I will applaud him if he has the guts to test whether his high-minded principles can really work in practice. Go Lessig!

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It’s better than voting with ‘invisible ink’

February 8th, 2008

invisible I had a minor voting problem on Super Tuesday in California. Unbeknownst to me, my precinct was turned into a “mail-only” precinct. According to the San Mateo County election department, our precinct was too small (less than 200 people) so we were giving the “opportunity to vote by mail.” I replied, “actually, everyone in California has the opportunity to vote by mail. My precinct is denied the opportunity to vote at a local polling place on election day that almost every other CA resident enjoys.” Two additional points: isn’t the silly election board that draws the precincts in the first place? And if we are so small, wouldn’t it be easy to accommodate the small number of us at our usual polling place, which by the way, is still open?

So, there was no information of what to do on the board of elections web site. I got conflicting advice from the poll workers. One said, go get your mail-in ballot. When I pointed out that it was non-partisan, and did not have the democratic presidential candidates, another worker helpfully suggested that I vote provisionally. I was annoyed at that decision, because it means that my vote will take up to 28 days to be counted.

But then I heard the poll worker say: hey, we are running out of provisional ballots. Steer people away from using them so that we don’t run out! I made the hasty decision to take one of the few remaining ballots (11am!!) so I could vote.

These problems are a BIG deal. More than 1 in 5 voters in the democratic primary in CA are like me as ‘Decline-to-state’ voters, and these voters split better than 2 to 1 in favor of Obama over Clinton. That’s hundreds of thousands of votes. Read this story about the “double bubble trouble” in LA county.

But here’s the worst story so far: Chicago voters were told that broken voting pens were actually ‘invisible ink.’ Wow. We’ve really taken to heart the lessons of the 2000 election, haven’t we?

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Fired up?

February 4th, 2008

Well, I am ready to go for super tuesday. Please go vote, and vote for Obama!

If you want to help spread the love on facebook, please install this application that I’ve created:


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Yes, we can

February 4th, 2008

Inspirational video for obama…enjoy!

btw, Obama is up to 50/50 on today. We have a real race here, ladies and gentlemen!

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