05 November, 2008

And While We're on The Subject ...

Of reaction from around the world ...

Suddenly, it may be cool to be an American again

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; 1:34 PM

VIENNA, Austria -- She was a stranger, and she kissed me. Just for being an American.

It happened on the bus on my way to work Wednesday morning, a few hours after compatriots clamoring for change swept Barack Obama to his historic victory. I was on the phone, and the 20-something Austrian woman seated in front of me overheard me speaking English.

Without a word, she turned, pecked me on the cheek and stepped off at the next stop.

Nothing was said, but the message was clear: Today, we are all Americans.

For longtime U.S. expatriates like me _ someone far more accustomed to being targeted over unpopular policies, for having my very Americanness publicly assailed _ it feels like an extraordinary turnabout.

Like a long journey over a very bumpy road has abruptly come to an end.

And it's not just me.

An American colleague in Egypt says several people came up to her on the streets of Cairo and said: "America, hooray!" Others, including strangers, expressed congratulations with a smile and a hand over their hearts.

Another colleague, in Amman, says Jordanians stopped her on the street and that several women described how they wept with joy.

When you're an American abroad, you can quickly become a whipping post. Regardless of your political affiliation, if you happen to be living and working overseas at a time when the United States has antagonized much of the world, you get a lot of grief.

You can find yourself pressed to be some kind of apologist for Washington. And you can wind up feeling ashamed and alone.

I'll never forget a ride in a taxi in Vienna when the world was waking up to the abuses wrought by U.S. troops at the detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

My driver, a Muslim, was indignant. "You are American, yes?" he asked in that accusatory tone so familiar to many expats.

"Uh, no, Canadian," I said.

And it wasn't the first time I fudged where I was from. I speak three foreign languages, so I have a bit of flexibility when it comes to faking. At various times, I've been a German in Serbia, a Frenchman in Turkey, a Dutchman in Austria.

I'm not proud of it. But when you're far from home, and you're feeling cornered, you develop what you come to believe are survival skills.

Last spring, after the Bush administration recognized Kosovo's independence, a Serb who overheard my American-accented English lobbed a beer can at me in central Vienna. He missed, but spat out an unflattering "Amerikanac" and told me where to go.

On another occasion, an Austrian who heard my teenage daughter chatting with a friend pursued her, screaming, "Go Home!"

Physical attacks on Americans overseas are rare. Yet some of us felt vaguely at risk.

Maybe it was just the hostility we'd encounter even in friendly venues such as cocktail parties, when our foreign hosts would surround us and demand to know why U.S. troops were roughing up inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Or refusing to sign the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Or rejecting the Kyoto accord on climate change.

Maybe it was the State Department, which issues regular travel advisories urging Americans to keep a low profile even in tranquil Austria.

My children came of age in Europe, and in a hostile post-9/11 world we had to teach them to avoid being too conspicuously American. Don't speak English loudly on the subway. Don't wear baseball caps and tennis shoes. Don't single yourselves out, guys, and even worldly wise Americans can unwittingly become targets.

We didn't overdo it, but there's always been that tension. That difficult-to-describe sense of vulnerability. That nagging instinct that maybe we'd better watch it, because our government is intensely unpopular and we're not entirely welcome.

I know Americans who at times have felt that way even in laid-back Vienna, where the greatest danger is probably eating a bad pastry.

That's what made Wednesday's unsolicited kiss so remarkable.

I don't want to read too much into an innocent smooch, but it didn't feel particularly pro-Obama, even though the new U.S. president-elect enjoys broad support here. No, it seemed to impart two sentiments I haven't felt for a long time: friendship and admiration.

Obama captured it in his acceptance speech _ this sense that despite holding America's feet to the fire, the rest of the world is rooting for it and wants it to lead and succeed.

"Our destiny is shared," he said, "and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand."

Overnight, Americans did something their harshest critics in Europe have yet to do: elect a person of color as head of state and commander in chief. That gives U.S. citizens some bragging rights, even if a lot of us would just as soon eschew hubris and embrace humility.

I'm a marathon runner, and I have a red, white and blue singlet that I've seldom dared to wear on the Continent. Marathons are difficult enough without enduring catcalls and jeers from spectators.

But my best friend and training partner _ who is French _ just gave me his stamp of approval.

"Will you wear your Stars and Stripes shirt now? You're allowed!" he told me.

O' Hell Yes, We Did (a post dedicated to Peter)

At approximately 10:00 pm CST last night, Barack Obama was declared the winner and President-Elect and I couldn't be any happier. I would say the only thing I missed was some really good theme music to dance to ... it doesn't have to be Fleetwood Mac or Ludicris but just a little song to make me smile everytime they play it on the radio. How about Coolio's Fantastic Voyage? I'm just throwing that out there.

Peter says I don't blog anymore. He's right. I am a fantastic Starter. I start things better than most people do. I start more than most people do. I start and start and start. That's what I do.
Hell, I started this blog twice.

Now ... continuing or closing ... ending. Yea ... I'm not so terrific at those things. In fact, I rarely do those things. I typically just start something else.

So, for Peter - and our new President-Elect - I will actually continue something. I might even continue it later, who knows. Maybe I just have to change the vocabulary and tell myself I need to start a new blog post.

I'll end with some pics from around the world last night/this morning (courtesy of Spiegel Online):


(newspapers across the planet this morning)

(Obama sand castle in India)

(Obama fans in Japan)

(Obama nesting dolls in Russia)

(the name of this town is Obama, Japan - how do you think they feel about last night?!?!)

(Obama's Step-Grandmother in Kenya)

(Something amazing must have happened last night - French people are waving American flags)

(It is a new world, isn't it? Like the sun is shining, people have perma-grins and hope has been restored. Thank God)

01 October, 2008

Drive By Phish Post

(Big Red strutting his stuff onstage)

I actually got a heads-up on the Phish is Back fever a couple of days ago but after so many rumors (both ridiculous and sublime), I pish-toshed this latest one and waited for it to be proven impossible (Trey's on probabtion in Guam or Mike's got a macrame final that day at the local senior center).

Well well, turns out this one is a true rumor and my feelings are almost identical to my friend Mel's. I have a real job now, people. They impose vacation restrictions. It's not like I can just take off and come back later with the cool new Phish shirt.


Okay, favorite Phish moment - the 30 seconds between lights down and the first note. That moment of anything can happen, they can play my absolute favorite song right now or they can introduce me to my new favorite song. Whatever happens though, it's bound to be the best night of my life.

How many things in life make you feel like that? I think that's livin' ... L-I-V-I-N

17 September, 2008

Dare to Blog

This will be a mobile blog, otherwise known as a MoBlog. I am posting from my new LG Dare phone. Google it, it’s the next best thing to peanut butter (which is far better than sliced white bread IMO). The only caveat to this MoBlog is that it will be sans paragraphs or any other formatting for that matter; the Dare doesn’t Do formatting, so far as I can tell. But I’m not mad; with a QWERTY keyboard on a large touchscreen and Internet access that is not restricted by my work’s Websense Enterprise software, this phone is my new best friend. Thank you Jason for my awesome birthday present! This is the best time of the year ever … today is Constitution Day, tomorrow is my birthday and Friday is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I love mid-September! So shiver me timbers with a bottle of rum drizzled over birthday cake and read up on why the Second Amendment does Not explicitly guarantee us the right to own an AK47 … It’s September!

Note: this blog was originally written on my Dare but the Publish Post and Save Now buttons did not function for the phone so while this was written on a phone, the post is being published on my laptop. God I love the 2000s!

10 September, 2008

The Meaning of Life

In yet another "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" moment, I begin to feel that I may have missed my professional calling.

Today, in a unique and awe-filled coming together of physics and philosophy with a little bit of science fiction thrown into the mix, physicists in the foothills of the Alps switched on the Large Hadron Collider housed in a tunnel beneath the French-Swiss border, sending the first beam of protons zooming at almost the speed of light. The LHC, a $9 billion particle accelerator, was designed to simulate the Big Bang that created the Universe in the hopes of advancing various physical theories. Scientists and physicists and those simply interested in the technical side of the meaning of life hope this experiment will answer many questions regarding the possibility of extra dimensions as well as finding a theoretical particle called the Higgs boson, aka the God Particle.

To be honest, this form of exploratory science just makes me giddy. A God Particle? Really? How can that not be fascinating? The Higgs boson, considered to be the Holy Grails of physics, is an elusive particle believed to bestow mass to matter, much in the same way a cluster of autograph hounds surround a celebrity on the move until they have their autographs at which point they peel off as more autograph hounds step in to take their place. In this case, the celebrity would be the matter while those seeking his autograph are the mass. As he moves down the street, the mass surrounding him makes it difficult for him to stop and once stopped, they make it difficult for him to start again.

Peter Higgs’ theory states that the particle named after him gave the Universe its form but it has eluded observation and remains a theory only. Proof of its existence would fill a missing puzzle piece in the dominant physics theory dubbed the Standard Model (particle physics version of the Periodic Table) which has been used to systematically organize all the known entities while helping to highlight and fill in knowledge gaps.

The LHC will send proton beams racing clockwise and counter-clockwise through the 27 kilometer circular tunnel creating millions of proton impacts. At full power, the LHC will be crashing protons together 600 million times per second, after which detectors will scour the subatomic wreckage looking for many of the answers they are seeking.

Many physicists feel that their entire careers have built up to this point, and that the results of this experiment will be the genesis for a “new physics”. Many detractors worry that the LHC will create a black hole large enough to envelop the Earth and that this experiment is an incautious effort to answer questions that are not dire to our survival and progression.

In fact, it is entirely possible that in the course of its run, the LHC will unleash a small black hole or two but scientists aren’t worried about any of them being big enough to cause any harm.

It is expected that the LHC will create anti-matter and it is hoped that it will explain why matter trumped anti-matter though both were created in equal amounts at the beginning of the Universe. It is also hoped that the LHC experiment may answer questions regarding the possibility of other dimensions, dark matter which makes up 25% of the Universe and supersymmetry, a theory that predicts that every particle has a partner, thus doubling up the spectrum.

I can’t find a definitive timeline for how long the experiment will run; it appears that it is open-ended with the possibility of planned equipment upgrades to combat a degradation in machinery. I expect so long as answers are forthcoming, the physicists in charge will continue seeking newer and further answers so long as they can keep the LHC running well.

Fingers crossed the Earth survives.

31 August, 2008

Palin Conspiracy Theory

Wow, is Debbi really going to delve into Internet conspiracy theories? Can she possibly be that bored for drama?

The answer, my friends, is actually no. I'm not starved for drama, it's election season - drama Is. But some dramas are so compelling, that I will stop what I am doing to watch the train wreck unfold.

This week, Hurricane Gustav is drama number one. And if not for drama number two, my attention would be solely on drama number one and any blog posting would most probably be on that same subject.


There is, in fact, drama number two.

Now, let me preface this to say that I am not sayin', I'm just sayin' - or rather The Daily Kos and many other sources are just sayin' and I'm just passin' on. The story is intriguing, especially when you get to the last and most damning part of it. Of course there are compelling reasons that dispute the story just as there are compelling reasons that give credence to it.

Let's start with the picture posted above. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska (on the right), mother of 4 children and 7 months pregnant with the 5th child. In that picture. That's what 7 months pregnant looks like. On her.

When Sarah Palin revealed to the public that she was pregnant at 7 months, she was greeted with reactions of amazement. No one suspected, even at 7 months.

Notice that Sarah Palin doesn't look pregnant or post-partum in either picture. But someone else does.

Thus the scandal.

According to The Daily Kos and before that, several Alaskan press sources, the rumor is that Sarah Palin's youngest child, Trig Palin, is actually Sarah Palin's grandson and the son of her eldest daughter Bristol Palin, seen above in both photos to the right of the family. A look at the photos indicates *something* unusual in the torso area of Bristol's images.

Around the time, Bristol was removed from school for 4 months with an apparently raging case of mononucleosis to have lasted 4 months rather than the usual one or two. (Note: mononucleosis cases swelled in the 1950s when parents would use the diagnosis to remove their pregnant daughters from school long enough to give birth and stop showing.)

Of course, the caveat to this, in many people's eyes, is that we all know children of Down's Syndrome are more likely to appear with older mothers. Sarah Palin was 44 when Trig was born therefore wouldn't it be more likely the child is her's? It certainly would seem so but, according to the March of Dimes website:

Does the risk of Down syndrome increase with the mother’s age? Yes. The risk of Down syndrome increases from about 1 in 1,250 at age 25, to 1 in 1,000 at age 30, 1 in 400 at age 35, 1 in 100 at age 40 and 1 in 30 at age 45 (6). Women over age 35 have been traditionally considered most likely to have a baby with Down syndrome. However, about 80 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born to women who are under age 35, as younger women have far more babies.
The final blow, in my opinion, is the circumstances of the birth itself. I will just quote The Daily Kos rather that re-write what has already been so well-written:

On Friday, April 18th, 2008, Sarah and her husband Todd were in Dallas, Texas for a Republican Governor's Convention. They had been in town for three days already, but Sarah had yet to give her keynote speaker address on energy policy. Then early Friday morning at 4:00am, Sarah began leaking amniotic fluid. Instead of checking into a hospital, she instead made a call to her doctor, and delivered the keynote speech.

"I was not going to miss that speech," she says.

She rushed so quickly from the podium afterwards that Texas Gov. Rick Perry nervously asked if she was about to deliver the baby then.

The oddities only grow from here on, as instead of rushing to a Dallas medical facility that could treat a mother who's amniotic fluid has been draining for hours on end (made even more crucial due to the fact that this is occurring a full month prematurely), Sarah & Todd instead opted to... Fly all the way back from Texas to Alaska. A dangerous choice, as with each pregnancy (once again, in this case after four previous), a mother's window of labor to delivery grows shorter and shorter.

Aboard Alaska Airlines, the flight lasted for eight hours, with an additional landing in Seattle. The majority of commercial airlines require mothers seven months pregnant to provide a doctor's letter to fly, but Sarah did not inform the airline of her condition. Alaska Airlines is one of the few airlines that do not require such a notice, despite the possibility of an emergency landings being required in such scenarios. That said, no one on board noticed that Sarah was going into labor:

"We leave the decision to fly up to our customers and their medical advisers," according to Alaska Airlines representative Caroline Boren.


"Governor Palin was extremely pleasant to flight attendants and her stage of pregnancy was not apparent by observation as she didn’t show any signs of distress," Boren said.

Eight months pregnant. A 6.2 pound fetus. No one notices a visible trace. By the third trimester, a perfectly fit woman not wearing anything less than a space suit should be easily spotted as pregnant. Not in Sarah's case.

The plane then made a landing in Anchorage, Alaska. Does Sarah then visit a medical facility that can accommodate a premature birth in Alaska's most equipped city? No. She drives 45 minutes away, to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, right outside the small village she used to govern as Mayor, Wasilla. Trig Palin is then delivered one month premature, Friday night. Sarah returned to work after three days.

The inherent need to absolutely have Trig delivered in a remote and possibly ill-equipped facility for premature deliveries, where Sarah would likely have numerous contacts and pull, does not sit well. The doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, approving of all of these actions borders on malpractice. Not treating leaking amniotic fluid causes infections, and time is of the essence after water breaks. Husband Todd Palin simply delivers this winner of a line:

"You can't have a fish picker from Texas," said Todd.

A poor motivation, to be sure. Another motivation began making its rounds in the Alaskan legislature, where everyone was initially shocked to hear the news.

To wrap it up, I feel a bit dirty putting this out there, as I will probably be judged for not only besmirching the reputation of a 16-17 year old girl, but as well, for insinuating that if this is untrue, she is fat.

I honestly am doing neither - my intent is to continue being political until political is no longer cool and this is one of those political stories that is squeaking too loudly to ignore.

If it is true, it says something amazingly bad about Sarah Palin as both a trustworthy politician and a mother; if it is false, well then it falls where all the false scandals and conspiracy theories fall: The Star or Weekly World News. I have read that the National Enquirer, breaker of the John Edwards affair scandal, is up in Alaska trying to break this and in the wake of the John Edwards affair scandal, you know mass media will pay more attention to the Enquirer for a little while now, which means through election season, at the very least.

I'll probably wrap up the RNC afterwards, should it even go on - there is talk of a postponement in order to concentrate on Gustav and if they truly feel that way (as opposed to this being "for camera's sake" only), then I applaud them and thank them because sometimes Mother Nature is more important that any form of government.

Edited to Add: This blog post is not intended to judge a 16 year old girl in a day when pregnant teenagers no longer are newsworthy, so abundant are they, nor is the intent to judge a mother but rather to judge the politician. The other side of the coin to fame and power is people rooting through your trash and telling other people. I am sure the same can be said of most other sources on this story. If this does turn out to be true, John McCain will have to ponder precedence and procedure in replacing Palin with another, better suited running mate and that is the real story behind this.

30 August, 2008

Sarah Palin

I will say, the McCain campaign did a great job in suppressing any leaks on who his choice would be for VP up until the last hour. I think I found out, finally, around 9:30-9:45 CST, less than a half-hour before he was to go onstage in Dayton for the announcement. (I wonder, did he manage to get his 15,000 audience he was hoping for even the night before?)

It's a good thing this leak was suppressed too; with a surprise like that, you want some people to still be in shock when you take the stage.

Remember how I was talking about transparency two blog posts ago? And how I dislike it? It shows no imagination, it shows little intelligence and it's very patronizing. The selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican VP could only have been more transparent had McCain selected Hillary instead, but she might have turned him down in her new-found sense of party unity and that would have tipped his hand, right?

Nothing against Palin, in fact I along with most of America, have never heard of her. We know Alaska exists and we're pretty sure it's way north and to the left of Canada ... oh, and it's flippin' cold. It has a government? Who knew?

Apparently, Alaska is governed much the same way as all the other American states (oh yea, I knew it was a state too) and it has a governor. A woman by the name of Sarah Palin. For a little while longer, at least. She's 44 years old, a mother of 4? 5? Lots of kids anyhow. Married her high school sweetheart (that's in almost every story I read about her and apparently, it's very important knowledge). Youngest and first female governor of Alaska where she was also raised, though not born. She likes to hunt moose. I hope she eats moose as well, the articles didn't say. I don't like sport hunting, it might as well just be called murder. I can get onboard with hunting for food though, although I have no intention of ever skinning anything ever. The idea's noble though and I'm sure there are braver people better inclined to approach the project with less EWWWWWWWWWWWWs.

So, I know all the news-bites about Sarah Palin, is my point. Every article essentially says the same few things because there is only so much the media knows about her. And having met her only once, presumably, there is only so much McCain can possibly know about her. Which makes this selection all the more suspect.

I'll mention a couple other things about Palin. They may have been reasons to choose her, I mean besides the main reason which is that she is a female and that all females are essentially mindless creatures and therefore only voting on the basis of whether or not the candidate or running mate has a vagina as we so clearly did with Hillary.

Palin is a Republican, first and foremost. She is anti-choice - they call it pro-life but let's call it what it really is because a hunter who believes in the death penalty is no more pro-LIFE than I am pro-life. She is supposedly unforgiving when it comes to abuse of power issues but at the same time, she is also undergoing investigation for firing a colleague who refused to fire her former brother-in-law who just so happened to be in the midst of a divorce and custody battle with her sister. Now I'll be honest, I think there is a good possibility that Palin is innocent of this. First, she is unforgiving, as I said, when others do it. Second, she has been Very cooperative in the investigation. I think this might be something she can slip past deservedly so. But, I find it ... odd? ... a little crazy? ... illogical for McCain to tap someone currently in the midst of an ethics investigation. Why not ask Ted Stevens or Jack Abramoff? Innocent or guilty, it all comes down to perception.

I think McCain displayed a touch of senility in this decision AND I think he knows it, in hindsight. His expression was more awkward than usual as Palin spoke at the event Friday in Dayton. And look at this photo from People ... does he look comfortable here?

To be honest, and I know this is Completely Rude but I'm just sayin', it looks a little like Cindy McCain is controlling him from a very - uh - sensitive location. And yes, I have noticed: Palin's husband is a bit of a hottie.

Anyway, back to the topic.

I am not angered by the choice of Palin, in fact I think it's a stroke of genius ... for the Democrats. McCain just took away his argument about Obama's age and experience with Palin's selection. She is younger and has less experience than Obama although it will be spun that her shorter amount of executive experience trumps Obama's longer amount of legislative experience. Fact of the matter is, most political experience comes down to Who You Know and as a short-term governor of a very-remote state, she doesn't know many people. The 72 year old McCain has an outside chance only of surviving two terms, so Palin's credentials become all the more important. I'm sure she'd do fine if it came to that, but if this is a contest of seniority and experience, McCain just dunked the ball in the opponent's basket.

And it's Game On.

Political Posting

When I originally started this blog, the second time, which I guess makes it a copy of the original, I had intended it to be completely superficial glances into my life but fact of the matter is, I love politics, I love drama and I love intelligent discourse (these three things don't always go together but more often than not, they do) sooooo maybe for the next few months you can forgive me if I speak more controversially and less superficially?



Still Thinking About Tomorrow

Fitting that my last post on this blog was about the Olympics - when they ended last Sunday night, I had but less than one day to wait for yet another uber-hyped, televised event that would hold my attention for the week. Of course, I am talking about the Democratic National Convention, normally an event I would pay little-to-some attention to with sparingly doled-out enthusiasm.

Not. This. Year.

This year reminds me of November 3, 1992, my senior year at Knox and my first eligible presidential election. I had voted by absentee ballot already as my voter registration resided in California; but I went with my friends Mel and Peter to vote that day near school. It had been a first for them as well.

That night, we gathered in Mel's apartment (perhaps in our PJs, my memory is fuzzy there) and we danced along to Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow as the Reagan-Bush years came to an end and a new era stood onstage, arm-in-arm, smiling ear-to-ear. Bill Clinton engendered idealistic visions with an unstoppable imagination for what America, and we by extension, could be. Gone were the days of the rich getting richer and faulty-thinking trickle-down economics and on the horizon would be the days of Progress and Equality and an end to Poverty and all things bad. Or so we thought. Those were my younger, greener years, before I realized that all successful politicians are intrinsically the same but with different talking point priorities, though the talking points always seem to be, also, intrinsically the same.

The night of November the 3rd, 1992 was the first time that I felt I could actually use my vote to better my life as well as the lives of other Americans. I didn't have the cynicism I have now, I didn't read as much as I read now and I hadn't yet entered the real world so I hadn't yet realized that national elections don't have much of an effect on middle-class day-to-day life. Rooting for a favored politician is little different than rooting for a favored football team. You are elated when your favored politician/team wins but a few days later, after the enthusiasm has abated, life goes on as normal. Perhaps if our lives were able to be viewed as a curve on a grid, we could see the effect varying policies and laws and environments have upon our lives as a whole but, while we can do that for historical figures, we do not have that ability for our own selves.

My first lesson in political cynicism was taught to me not very much later by President Bill Clinton, himself, when he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, making it perfectly clear that equality still had no place in American legislation. After that, I tucked November 3, 1992 away. I thought it would be nice to take out every now and again and look at it and remember it fondly. Perhaps I could take it out and display it again once more. Clinton didn’t turn out to be what he promised he would be but maybe someone else would. I made sure to keep the memory safe, just in case.

* * * * * * * * *

Fast-forward to today, August 30, 2008. Nearly 16 years have passed, I have by now entered the real world. And while I've done everything in my power to avoid wholly committing to this part of life, the full strength of my power is nothing in comparison to the almighty dollar and the conveniences and necessities it affords me. I have become a real world-er now. I, along with the rest of the world, have endured the leadership of a former C student, which we all know means merely competent, and come to find out, he's not even that.

While my day-to-day life is little-affected by the whims and vagaries of the highest position in the country, I have nonetheless felt the bite of the housing crash, the recession and the invasion they call a war. I have been enraged for days on end by this administration and drank away my sorrows on the night they got re-elected with the lowest approval rating in an election year. I have entertained thoughts of leaving America but the reality is, American education is so abysmal, I am limited in the countries I could move to because English is the only language you need to sufficiently know to graduate high school. (I did well in both high school and college Spanish but not nearly well enough to just up and move to a Spanish-speaking country and expect to be able to communicate efficiently from Day One.)

I have looked forward to this election year for the last 4 years but with the caveat that I do now understand that all successful politicians are intrinsically the same and that the best I can hope for is a successor with a better mastery of the English language, a little more compassion for people not yet burdened with an official presidential nickname and the knowledge that diplomacy can sometimes be a solution in and of itself and not just a necessary step to be accomplished by whining and kicking and screaming.

In walks Barack Obama.

As a current Illinoisian, I know Obama. He's my senator, along with Dick Durbin. They're both Democrats and generally, vote the way I want them to vote. Which is good. I, along with all the other Illinoisians, am their boss.

But I am especially proud of Obama. He speaks the English language rather well - he uses big words properly. He carries himself with dignity and manages to show a general respect for all those around him. And he appears to know much about this country, its ideals and the hopes and dreams of its people. In fact, Hope and Dream are two catchphrases he uses often and with great effect.

He has been my candidate from the day he declared his intent to run. I don't give my vote easily. I researched him and the other candidates, both announced and expected to soon give intent. I appreciated many more of his views and stances than the others and I was bowled over by his speaking ability. Speeches have more power in policy that many candidates (generally those who don't speak well) want to believe. The ability to effortlessly speak can often change stubborn minds and get things done without anger or tension or war. A great speaker could provide us the diplomacy these last 8 years sorely needed. Thus, he passed the test where others failed. And I have been an enthusiastic supporter from that day onward.

He had a tough primary season. He was up against Fate. Hillary Clinton - in my opinion, the lesser of the two Clintons - wanted to, was fated to, put another Clinton in the White House. Before Bill's last term was up, she quote-unquote moved to New York in order to be qualified to run for the open senator seat coming up in 2000. This practice is known as carpetbagging and put my first checkmark in the negative column for Hillary. As I've said, I understand that all successful politicians are intrinsically the same but sometimes, some of them forget that some of us understand that fact. This move was completely transparent and I am one of those voters who prefers to be blindsided by political motive. At least then, I have a few exultant days of hopes and dreams before reality crashes down.

The other checkmarks in Hillary's negative column appeared one by one during the Primary season as she displayed what I consider to be True Colors once she realized Fate wasn't necessarily ironclad. I do realize that the never-objective media played a significant role in many of the negative aspects of the Democratic Primary season so not all the checkmarks belong to her but she and Bill played what I consider to be a nasty game brought about by desperation and that too was utterly transparent. I prefer to believe for at least a little while that my candidate is running for the good of the country and not for him/herself. With memories of carpetbagging dancing in my head, at no point did I believe that of her.

Eventually, Obama won through. Fate jumped ship and the Obama voters breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief. Hillary suspended her campaign - that was no less transparent. But for the time being, Obama remained alive and free from debilitating scandal and so long as that status quo remained, her campaign remained suspended.

The Democratic National Convention began Monday, August 25th. I tuned into only two speakers that night: Edward Kennedy, in the midst of a fight for his life and yet insistent that he add his thoughts to the proceedings, and Michelle Obama, speaking about her husband, at that point still referred to as the presumptive nominee. Personalizing Barack Obama to an audience acquainted with his abilities at lofty speech but not yet fully introduced to the man behind the words, Michelle Obama told the story of her completely normal upbringing, the achievements that both she and her brother sought and accomplished at the insistence of their parents and the man she met and fell in love with and what she saw in him that led her to believe that he is the right man to lead us. She is an easy person to like; unlike many actual and potential First Ladies, she is not drop-dead gorgeous (she leans more to girl-next-door pretty), she is intelligent but not snobbish and she is independent enough to cloud visions of Laura-Bush type First Ladies. Her story makes me feel like Obama actually fell in love with the woman and not the woman’s potential. I hope a lot of the fence-sitters walked away from Michelle’s speech with a more fully-drawn, positive picture of Barack Obama.

The next night, Tuesday, Hillary Clinton addressed the crowd. I know a lot of breaths were held for this night. Would she fall in line and be a good Democrat or would she come out bitter and resolved to walk a fine line in order to create her chance for the 2012 elections? I held my breath as well. My opinion, in the end, is that she spent the first half of her speech using the words I, Me, My and Mine a lot and mentioned Obama’s name not a lot. She spoke of her own campaign and her own campaign promises and the people who approached her campaign and told their stories to her in order for her to tell them to her supporters. Like that. She had some great lines, don’t get me wrong (“No way, No how, No McCain”, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits”) and she did attack the McCain campaign plenty but it took her until the last 5 minutes, I’d say, before she turned the speech to Obama and to his campaign and to the need for a Democrat to win again. Once that happened, then she fell in line. She made comments that were clearly designed to pull her till-now reluctant supporters in line as well. All-in-all, I appreciate her efforts although I think she undercut them in the first several narcissistic minutes of her speech.

The next night, her husband spoke. November 3rd, 1992 all over again; I was giddy. I will always love Bill, no matter what. Despite Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, despite Lewinsky, despite Hillary’s campaign … when I think great Presidents, he will always come to mind because he was my first presidential vote and he was a great President, as Presidents go. And he is still a great speaker. When he compared Obama’s run and the critiques against Obama to his own run and the critiques against him, that’s when I felt the Clintons truly fell in line. He finally admitted that the experience argument had been brought up once before, against him, undercutting all of Hillary’s experience attacks against Obama. I cheered loudly once he closed the speech.

Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden ended the DNC that night with a rousing speech that took the fight straight to McCain’s doorstep. Biden’s role is clearly to be the attack dog for the Democrats this election which I think is a smart move. So far, Obama has played a high-road hand and the second he takes the low road, the media outcry will deafen any explanation he may have for doing so. The outspoken Biden will be the perfect vehicle for that undertaking.

Then, two days ago, Obama accepted the nomination and was crowned the champion of the Democrat party in a massive celebration at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Estimates from 70,000 to 85,000 people witnessed this particular History in the Making in person. Millions more witnessed it recorded live. I became a part of the couch as he spoke, my drink on the table beside me and my laptop on my lap. Through IM, my friend Danielle and I were able to comment to each other real-time without the hassle of having to shush ourselves to hear, though periodically, Jason would shush me for tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard.

Nevertheless, I listened intently to the entire speech and at the end, I felt a little November 3rd, 1992 surge through me - that this man just might be far enough removed from the Establishment that he can separate himself from the rest of the successful politicians long enough to fulfill some of his semi-utopian promises. That he also, is still thinking about tomorrow and hoping that he can be the driving force to returning a little glory and honor to a nation that has been fed on fear and incompetence for what seems like an eternity now. And, I know it won’t happen, but I kind of hope to hear a little Fleetwood Mac at his acceptance speech on November 4th, 2008. Not as a show of respect to the last great Democrat in office but rather as a reminder that progress means never stopping thinking about tomorrow.