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City of Brass

City of Brass

have they no decency?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

As many have heard by now, Obama is suspending his campaign for a couple of days to fly out to Hawai’i to visit his ailing grandmother. Normal human beings with compassion and love in their hearts would hear this news and say a prayer for his family, and recognize a basic human impulse in the act.Unfortunately, those in the throes of Obama Derangement Syndrome are far past “normal” – right-wing bloggers at the conservative Republican websites RedState.com and The Minority Report are speculating that Obama is in fact racing to Hawai’i to deal with a ludicrous lawsuit against him that he is ineligible for the presidency because he was not born in the United States as he claims, but was actually secretly born in Kenya and hence is not a natural-born US citizen. The alternative theory that these insane fools are pushing is that Barack Obama is actually the illegitimate son of famil friend Frank Marshall Davis. At any rate the details are sordid, disgusting, and utterly without merit (of course) given that the Obama campaign has already posted a copy of Obama’s birth certificate on his campaign website (though in the fevered imagination of these bloggers, the document is clearly a forgery). There’s something seriously wrong with these people.

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The best debunking of this nonsense, it must be noted, is by another conservative blogger, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who stands up to these slime merchants and calls them out for their atrocious behavior. Kudos to Ed for doing the right, but unpopular, thing.

Related: Snopes.com debunks the “Obama not a US citizen” smear. Note that the “not a citizen” smear is really an evolution of the muslim smear, by emphasizing his “foreign” heritage. FactCheck,org, neanwhile, actually saw the original document.

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Listen Islam: podcasts

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Over at Talk Islam there is a new feature called Listen Islam, which features podcasts between bloggers in the Islamsphere (and beyond) about various topics related to Islam. There are already two great podcasts posted, the first by myself and Razib Khan (who runs the GNXP website and is an avowed atheist) about the validity of the analogy between Catholics and Protestants when comparing Sunnis and Shi’a. The second podcast is by two women, blogger Muse and writer Willow, about mahr, the practice of bridal gifts. We had a lot of fun putting these together and inshallah we will have many more at Listen Islam.

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Here’s direct links to each podcast:

  1. Sunnis, Shi’a, Protestants, and Catholics, oh my
  2. Willow and Muse on Mahr

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pushback on Powell

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Republican pundits have been hating on Colin Powell, saying he endorsed Obama solely because of race, as well as impugning his service and his honor. But the really venomous reaction has been from the rank and file, flooding Powell’s inbox. Especially with regard to Powell’s impassioned defense of muslim-American patriotism, I found this particularly telling:

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Powell got a note from Feroze Khan this week thanking him for
telling the world that Muslim-Americans are as good as any others. But
he also received more e-mails insisting that Obama is a Muslim and one
calling him “unconstitutional
and unbiblical” for daring to support a socialist. He got a mass e-mail
from a man wanting to spread the word that Obama was reading a book
about the end of America written by a fellow Muslim.

“Holy
cow!” Powell thought. Upon checking Amazon.com, he saw that it was a
reference to Fareed Zakaria, a Muslim who writes a Newsweek column and
hosts a CNN foreign affairs show. His latest book is “The Post-American
World.”

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I am actually reading Zakaria’s Post-American World right now and it’s a brilliant book, not about the “end of America” but the increasing ways in which globalization is letting the rest of the world wean itself from our dominance in all spheres, particularly economic and cultural. Zakaria’s previous book, The Future of Freedom, was really quite formative upon my thinking with respect to constitutionalized liberalism and the pursuit of freedom world-wide.

I think that the reaction to Powell from the right, especially the email above, are indicative of a tremendous intellectual gap between the idealogues who have dominated the Republican Party and the stalwart, serious Republicans who comprised its serious core. That the core is being expelled does not speak well of the GOP’s future, which by all accounts appears headed for scapegoating, civil war and ideological purges after its impending massive defeat.

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one million repeat donors: people-powered politics

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Further to my earlier post about how Obama’s $150 million September serves to utterly vindicate the vision of Joe Trippi and Howard Dean, comes this interesting observation by Al Girodano about the donor base:

With an average contribution of $86 that means that more than 1.7
million people donated last month. Plouffe reports that September
brought 632,000 new donors. The interesting number to me is the
remainder: more than one million people out of almost 2.5 million that
had given earlier in the year gave again in September
.

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Recall that Joe Trippi’s vision was a million donors giving $100 each – at an average contribution of $86, and repeat givng, it’s clear that the vision was actually conservative! But it isn’t just the money, either – small-dollar donors convert much more readily into ground activists as well:

That’s the day I learned the phrase, “the donor-activist model.” The
concept was this: that if you get a regular working person to give even
a small amount of money – say, five dollars – that person had now made
an investment and would work harder as a volunteer because he and she
would then want a return on that investment.

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The small-dollar donor is essentially an investor buying “stock” in a company. They become invested in the company’s success, and so will act to help bring that success about long-term. The analogy also holds for big-dollar donors, who for a campaign are really buying access, not success. In many ways, big donors don’t really care if the candidate wins, they are just hedging their bets, and if the candidate loses they still retain influence. This is akin to large investors who buy millions of shares in a stock, not for any long-term investment strategy but rather to make a short-term or medium-term profit.

Finally, Giordano echoes Trippi’s Perfect Storm essay in observing how the activist-donor base empowers a genuinely different kind of politics:

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Should Obama win the White House, he’ll be the first president in
ages who can afford to buck the instructions of the super rich and
their bidders (he’s already told their lobbyists and PACs that their
money is no good to him) and count with the sufficiently large small
donor base to back him up for reelection should that happen. 

[…]

the donor-activists are going to want a return on their
investment in his candidacy: they now outnumber the influence donors
not only in population, but, newly, in buying power. They – the people
that gave five or ten or a hundred bucks – and then worked the phones
and the neighborhoods to get a return on that investment – may soon
become the most special interest in America.

This isn’t mere populism, but rather something new – to borrow the phrase from the Dean days, a “people-powered” politics.

Related: Internet Politics 101: The List vs The Network

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