Sunday, March 23, 2008

I Misspoke

It was a treacherous night landing. Ice had formed on both of our wings, and as I looked out the port window, I could see it breaking into shards, flying off into the night sky with each near barrel roll of our C-50, highlighted by the flares shooting past on either side of the cabin, turning them into falling prisms of wildly careening light.

As the cabin lurched back and forth and the sounds of rocket fire percussed the urgent, faltering rhythm of our right engine, I unfastened my seat belt, and, finding my center of gravity, rose from my seat, moving past aides who were frozen, stock still in their chairs, arms locked like girders against their arm rests in terror, and walked up the center aisle to the pilot's cabin.

"How long to Kosovo"? I shouted over the screaming whine of the altimeter's alarm, marking our steep descent. The pilot turned, looked at me in shocked recognition--" did you make it up here? No one has ever walked up here in these conditions before! How..."

"Never mind that!" I barked, with what I hoped was a not too stern forcefulness, yet laced with sufficient steel and empathy to create an impression of firm imperturbability. "Check the master FMC! Is it working or has it failed?"

The pilot paused, as if in amazement at my readiness, and then himself awakening to crisis, looked to the Control Display Unit . "It's down! It's down!" he shouted. Beads of sweat began to form on his brow.

I knew what I had to do. "Get out of there!" I commanded, and pulled him from the seat, from where he crumpled to a fetal position on the floor behind me. Stepping over him, I took the chair behind the console.

"Check the Central Maintenance Computers and activate the NAV RAD for alternate radio tuning capability!" I shouted to the co-pilot. He, too, had broken down in tears, his head buried in his hands. I looked to his ID on the console. Another newbie.

Well, this was another one where I would have to go it alone.

Quickly, I tore the scarf from my neck and fashioned it into a crude lasso that could be used for EFIS/EICIS control. Catching the lever with my right hand, I activated the cabin loudspeaker with my left. I knew that the passengers had likely been gulled by the earlier soft patter of the pilot. "Brace yourself! Get ready! These aren't just words!" Then I pulled the lever back hard, sending us rocketing towards the runway.

"You'll never make it!" A voice behind me--I knew that voice, and turned. Richardson! How did he trundle up to the cabin? "Out of here, Judas! And take that quivering beard with you!"

I could feel bolts straining against Pennsylvania steel as I pushed the '50 down, down, down to the ground below us. Suddenly, an explosion punctuated the sky--Hand held rocket fire at 3' o'clock!

I quickly performed the evasive maneuvers that I had learned for so long, and so well. My face became angry, then sad, then gentle, then intensely serious, then was finally rocked by a powerful squealing, an unnatural burst of laughter. That did it! The rocket exploded harmlessly behind us.

Now. Now it was time to take the stick and bring this shaking, careening flight, parts straining against themselves until nearly ready to burst, down to the ground. I put my arms to the twin arms of the FO-AP, set the APC, and with all of the strength remaining in me, began to push the levers down. Straining, I pushed harder. And harder. I could see the runway rising before us in the glare shield. I would have to find the remaining strength to bring it down.

Finally, as if a burst of superhuman might had somehow been delegated to me, I pushed the levers into locked position. I could hear Penn in the cabin shouting "We're landing...We're going down!" as I felt the rough shock of the landing gear snapping into place.

Sparks flew as we hit the runway, bullets ricocheting off of the cabin, one wheel touching pavement. I looked straight through the windshield--the militia, arms at the ready stood at the runway's end. The last obstacle.

I turned the craft hard, sending it hurtling sideways across the pavement. It swept the militia away in a single screaming motion that combined with the screaming that arose from the cabin, as we continued to move towards the small, makeshift terminal, where the dignitaries, negotiators, and heads of state awaited my arrival.

I did not close my eyes. I did not let go of the wheel. I watched--as we ground to a halt just before the doors of the terminal.

I looked fore, at the dignitaries protecting themselves from the sniper fire that raged around them. I looked aft, at the passengers, shaken but safe.

We had arrived. All was good.

Just a moment...

Due to the discovery of a video of the above described occasion, I would like to make a few small corrections. The flight was in fact actually a regularly scheduled chartered flight that was actually flown by the pilot and co-pilot--although the pilot did have a cold, and during the flight, I did at several times give serious attention to our flight conditions (notes indicate that I found it "a bit bumpy"). I would also note that the dinner, Salmon with Creamed Potatoes, was undercooked, and was served with a Riesling that was unusually dry. It is also true that we were met not by a militia, but by a girl's youth soccer team. However, it was necessary for me to dodge a soccer ball as team members demonstrated their often aggressive skills. No other shots were fired.

In short: I misspoke.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Clinton Papers: Arrogative Deleted


ar·ro·gat·ed, ar·ro·gat·ing, ar·ro·gates

  1. To take or claim for oneself without right; appropriate: Presidents who have arrogated the power of Congress to declare war. See Synonyms at appropriate.
  2. To ascribe on behalf of another in an unwarranted manner
From Newsweek:

"The more than 10,000 pages, released by the National Archives in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, purport to be the New York senator's daily schedules for her entire eight-year tenure as First Lady—the first major "document dump" from the Clinton Library in Little Rock. But the documents include only Hillary Clinton's public schedules, not her private calendar. And even those appear to be heavily redacted to exclude almost anything that might be of interest to historians and the inevitable posse of "oppo" researchers...

The schedule is considerably less revealing when it comes to more awkward episodes of the Clinton presidency. Consider the afternoon of March 9, 1995, when Johnny Chung, a businessman and soon-to-be-notorious Democratic Party fund-raiser, made a fateful trip to the White House carrying a campaign check for $50,000. For many critics, Chung later became a symbol of the campaign-finance abuses of the Clinton presidency, a mysterious Chinese businessman who managed to be cleared into the White House on 49 occasions. (He also later pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations and testified that a sizeable chunk of his illegal campaign cash came from a Chinese military-intelligence operative.) Hillary Clinton made a special trip to the Map Room that day so she could have her picture taken with Chung. "We handshake, and then she [Hillary Clinton] said, 'Welcome to the White House, my good friend'," Chung later testified, describing the encounter with Hillary Clinton. Right after that, Chung hand-delivered his $50,000 to Maggie Williams, who was the First Lady's chief of staff at the time and now manages her presidential campaign...

But Hillary Clinton's newly released calendar for that day shows no reference to Johnny Chung at all. There is listed, just as Chung testified, an "official photo" session in the Map Room. But the name of the person Hillary Clinton was having her picture taken with has been deleted on the grounds that it would be "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," according to the Archives' released record. This may seem odd, given that Chung had spoken openly, many times, about his photo op with Hillary. It may seem even odder given that just a few minutes later the First Lady had another photo session—but this time, the documents identify the person whose picture was taken. It was Eileen Collins, the astronaut...

Equally unrevealing are Hillary Clinton's schedules for August 1998—a fateful month, during which Bill Clinton was forced to deal with the audacious attacks by Al Qaeda on two U.S. Embassies in Africa even as the Monica Lewinsky scandal was reaching its climax. (The same month, after Bill Clinton gave testimony in Ken Starr's inquiry and finally confessed his relationship with a former White House intern, the Clintons flew off to a vacation in Martha's Vineyard during which Hillary supposedly chastised him for the Monica Lewinsky affair).

Little of this is evident in the schedules released Wednesday. On the contrary, the newly released documents show no public events at the White House—and no public events at an unspecified private residence on Martha's Vineyard. The HRC schedule for Aug. 17, 1998—the day of Bill's grand-jury testimony at the White House—only shows that the Clintons were scheduled to travel to Martha's Vineyard at an undetermined hour that day.

The sad, lifelong impulse of Clinton to elude and hide--as perceptively characterized in Carl Bernstein's balanced, well-researched and first-rate biography of Clinton, is evident here, as it has been in the past.

The actual facts are sanitized to fit--or at least not to contradict--the later arguments--that Clinton was intimately involved in policy decisions, that she, like Obama, is an agent of reform and change. The ironies of such redactions as compared to her early, enthusiastic work on the Watergate committee are painful in their recognition of what her "experience" has led her to now regard as necessary in a political campaign.

She could embrace what she regards as positive in her past and in her husband's administration openly, and equally openly reject what has been negative--those actions that she disagrees with, and how she would act differently in her own Presidency.

Instead, with the heavy mark of a black pen, she hides the past, asking us to then believe in its fragmentary reconstruction.

Such a pattern will likely be prospective in its framing of future events--drawing a black line through those outcomes and events that her Administration fears will be regarded with disfavor.

We have seen this before, in the prior Administration. She should bring her considerable talents and skills to a stance of greater openness and honesty regarding the actions that she has taken and will take. This will provide a solid foundation for what she actually believes in, rather than the hidden fissures that can cause a frantic and self-defeating fall.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Speech

The speech that Obama will give today on race will likely be the most crucial one of his political career. Up until the questions raised about Wright, Obama had instilled a powerful and resilient enthusiasm in the American electorate, standing fast against virtually every line of attack from the Clinton camp. It was only the vivid clips of Wright's impassioned statements from the pulpit, and a line of questions that have arisen in association with those remarks, that has caused some of those who had been most supportive of Obama campaign some pause and reconsideration.

The questions are of two types. The group of explicit questions are now well-known. Given Obama's 20 year membership at the church, does he endorse the views of Wright? If not, why did he remain a member, or did he not raise objections to Wright's more inflammatory positions before this date?

The implicit and unspoken questions are themselves more inflammatory, and uncover more deep-seated discomforts and fissures that many Americans still experience regarding race. Those who have embraced a new message of change are vulnerable to triggers of fear and doubt. The most primitive triggers, as we have seen throughout history, move electorates most effectively, despite the intellectual justifications that may ride along the top of such reactions.

Those who hear the Wright clips have a chain of unspoken associations that can be described as follows: Obama brought a message of change and hope to American politics that was embodied by his calm, measured and honest judgment, juxtaposed with the distortions of the previous Administration. Obama offered not only a new view of American politics, but a new paradigm of race--of post-racial politics--as a part of this message of change.

Wright now evokes the inchoate fears associated with the old political paradigm--of incendiary conflict rather than unity. In this case, in an odd and uncanny echo of the self-restricting responses that occurred in the run up to the Iraq war, many now hear in Wright's statements a warning that support of Obama may lead them to be viewed as unpatriotic; deeper still is the unspoken fear that Obama may be like the "old" rather than the "new"--with all of the unstated uneasiness that Obama supporters have celebrated the divestment of as a part of his message of transformation and change.

These underlying emotional doubts, precisely because they are impulsive rather than fully considered, can have considerable power--unless they are themselves calmly, clearly, and fully addressed at both the explicit and implicit levels.

One, of course, may attend a house of worship of any denomination, often for a lifetime, in which they do not fully embrace all of the enthusiasms of the Pastor, Reverend, or other religious leader of the church. Such intense enthusiasms are often issued from the pulpit among many denominations--think of your own house of worship, for example--and are often viewed by the congregation as the specific preoccupations of the Pastor, products of differing generations of life experience, those of one who has been fully immersed in the work, issues and expressions of that time.

Congregants do not typically attend a chruch simply because of a specific attachment to these particular preoccupations of the Pastor--they seek the spiritual and communal fellowship of others, and recognize the difference between generations in the experience of spirituality, struggle, and life, much as many congregants do in making distinctions between the positions of church elders, often steeped in an earlier set of issues, and their own spiritual positions, values and needs. A house of worship is a community, and as in any community, members vary and understand that they vary by differing life experiences, and recognize that these generational variations do not reflect the core issues of theological belief shared by congregants.

You can probably see this in your own religious community--or, indeed, in any community of belief. The hard core adherents. The old fighters. The blind followers. Those who come for largely social reasons. We understand such variance in a community, and yet often continue to attend because it *is* a community that represents the variants of time and humanity, yet brings us together because of, and to discuss, a set of shared beliefs and commitments.

To succeed in his speech today, Obama will need to make clear those principles of shared belief. He will have to help those who are new to understanding the generational struggles of those who fought for spirit in the face of intense racial hatred, how the product of such struggle differs from those who have emerged today, from different experiences--that, just as the spirituality of the Protestants who arrived in fervid protest on our shores to escape religious tyranny differs in rhetoric and form from that of today's Protestants, all forms of belief are reflective of such struggles and change.

He will need to do so in the manner that has brought so many in enthusiasm to his campaign--and that both signifies and heralds such change--with the unifying clarity and honesty that will allow him to describe this spiritual world, etched and co-existing, like all such worlds, like the rings of a tree, with a history of struggle, growth and change--and his place within it.

With such a presentation, that his own views should differ from those of Wright should not be surprising to any member of a thinking community.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hillary and Elton John

WP's The Sleuth reports that Elton John is playing a benefit concert for the Clinton campaign in New York on April 9th.

Citing Mr. John's previous statements in his prior endorsements, the Sleuth wonders "what he'll call Hillary" this time.

Perhaps he'll sing:

"And it seems to me

You run your campaign

Like a candle in the wind...

Never knowing what persona

We will find you in;

And when the phone rings out at 3

Which one will answer it?

Your candle flickers long before

We'll find the one that did."

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Internet Voting In MI and FL

A truly terrible idea.

Given that this will be a first-time endeavor, and given the complexities of votes jumping as packets, however securely protected, from server to server, the likelihood that someone, somewhere will be able to raise at least a plausible basis for tampering is great. The result will thus no doubt be contested by one side or other, or at least viewed with skepticism by a part of public. This will further divide the Party, providing a feast for the Republicans.

Don't do it.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Making The Turn: Clinton's Newest Move--And How Obama Can Respond

In a speech today at George Washington University, Hillary Clinton indicated the next clever move of the Clinton camp--making a turn from attack on Obama by insinuation and surrogates, to a serious and detailed speech on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, leveled largely against Bush and McCain. Having drawn Obama out to respond to the attacks, the plan is clearly to now outflank, moving forward on the issue of Iraq, thus leaving Obama standing amid the mire of the attacks while also attempting to underscore the foreign policy "experience" argument and to turn the narrative towards the general.

Wearing an incongruously joyous shamrock-covered scarf, Clinton spoke in even and leveled "3. a.m." tones of soldiers "who have made the ultimate sacrifice" and who have "experienced wounds both visible and invisible to their bodies, their minds and their hearts."

That President Bush seems to want to keep as many troops after the surge as a clear admission that the surge has not accomplished its goals. Meanwhile, as we continue to police Iraq's civil war, the to our national security, our economy, and our standing in the world continue to mount." She then tied the ongoing expense in Iraq to her core domestic issues--health care for the uninsured, pre-K for children, solving the housing crisis, providing support for college students, and offering tax relief.

Repeatedly tying the failed policy of Bush to that of McCain, and citing chairman of the J.C.S. Mullen, she invoked the "unescapable reality"--we can have troops on the ground for 100 years--but there is no political solution" to the war in Iraq.

The payoff: "Withdrawal is not defeat--defeat is keeping troops in iraq for 100 years. Defeat is straining our alliances and losing our standing in the world. Defeat is losing our reseources and diverting attention from our key interests."

A deft move. As Obama prepares to level strong attacks against Clinton in response to the onslaught of the previous weeks, Clinton is now premptively changing the message and focus to Bush, McCain, the war in Iraq, and withdrawal. Underscoring the latter is certain to draw media attention, and is intended tactically to leave Obama standing in the echo of his return attacks, in the potential position of being a step behind, with the questions of Clinton, however legitimate, unanswered. After having leveled the most broad-brush attacks against Obama, the Clinton camp is now attempting to place Obama in the perceived position of leveling attacks, rather than dealing, as they now happen to be, "with the serious issues of the day."

What Obama can do:

Do *not* avoid Clinton's newest turn. Instead, come strong--having first *tied* Clinton's speech to the questions that will now be raised about her, e.g.

Hillary Clinton, has raised questions about fitness for office--at the same time that, as the person running second in this contest, she has said that I would make an excellent Vice President. She has questioned my experience, when she has less experience governing, and key figures from her husband's Administration who were with her at the time have that that experience did not occur. We know the other charges that have been leveled.

Now, when Mrs. Clinton is having questions raised about herself, serious questions about her own fitness for governance, about her own "experience", about her own--let's say politely veracity, in statements that she has made and is making, now--she would like to change the discussion. Now--she would like to focus on the "serious issues".

Well, I have to wonder. I know...I know...this is just her newest change, the newest hoodwink...but, still, I just have to wonder. Where was she when we were focusing on the serious issues? Where was she focusing he concerns when Congress took the vote on Iraq? Where has she been when we have been focusing week after week on the serious issues of resolving the war in Iraq, on providing security for our nation?

Just what will her next change be, next week? Do we want a President who does not know what she will say from week to week? Who does not know who she will be at 3 a.m."

And so on.

Instead of letting her simply make the turn, and playing catch-up, let her make her turn--and then box her within it, by tying it to and framing it within the context of her previous changes and actions.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kosi Fan Tutte: Unity and Division

Thus do they all.

There is a time in the life of a new movement when limbic outrage combines with the glimpsed promise of a new and expanded platform. The initial rush from nonentity to prominence has carried them forward together, but standing on that platform, however low or small, the view creates a burgeoning space in the self--a place of surprised importance--first that their voice is heard, then a question of deserving such a place, which becomes affirmed with each passing day that they hold their new small staff--a place where the narcissism of small differences can take over. "Can I?" The internal voice asks. So close to the emotions of the initial rush of emotions, which were felt together, this new rush of emotion must be right. If they can...if they did...if we can I!

Thus do half-formed, ill-considered second revolutions often take place. The first wave was too heady to consider the splinters of emotion, ambition, pride, and how these might combine with actual ideological difference. The move forward was collective, as was the new degree of influence--but the experience of power, however slight, was individual, and could be triggered into the disparate directions seen all too often in the impulsive spatters across time that we, if noticed, call history.

The impulse--anger, wounded narcissism--comes first, quickly followed by a now slightly practiced, or at least slightly observed, ambitious idea. It is then that words and concepts are appropriated, to provide apparent substance and heft to the initial reaction--"strike" or "abuse"; "freedom" or "censorship"; or, in other similar cases, "patriotism" and "nationalism". Thresholds are set and described after the reaction--a post hoc "it was too much" "we have had enough." Such justifications provide a new form of heady reaction--perhaps the impulse, raw and initially unmitigated, now propped up by the buttresses that follow, not only feels good...but is right!

In such ways does unity often fall apart. The smaller purposes--which we must, we must put forward upon principle, rarely consider the larger principles to which they, often moments before, were firmly committed. It creates the seemingly paradoxical but historically common situation in which a small excitement is able to fully cover a larger objective to create a blind spot, a canyon into which the blinded march with excitement, until the excitement passes, and they survey the terrain around them. We have seen this in 1917, in 1946, in 2002--three examples among countless manifestations across time. Such splinterings typically lead the electorate to search for solid ground in the midst of seeming chaos under "strong", "solid", "traditional" leadership.

Many of those who would today march into the canyon are those who decried Ralph Nader's 2000 stand--who saw the narcissism within the "principled stand", and the larger consequences that such blindness could create.

We have lived under 7 years of an Administration that can be plausibly credited to the excited, impulsive acts, narrowly bounded by limited justifications beyond which was a willed sea of darkness, of that time.

Now, in the acts of a group still fresh with the sense of a new and unexpected influence, we see this phenomenon again: moving impulsively into action, without providing even a full consideration of what it is that they call their act (a "strike" like those taken by workers who give up their jobs and pay?); without providing the evidence upon which they base their claim (to demonstrate the "abuse" would only be to repeat it--or to demonstrate their similar use of language against those that they found unsuitable or unworthy); and without--or perhaps, excitedly, with--a consideration of the consequences.

We see much of the media drawn towards similarly small differences. One such example, as cited in today's LA Times:

CBS CEO Les Moonves "is cheered by the fact that the Democratic race is continuing and that John McCain is raising lots of money to combat the eventual Democratic nominee. 'That's music to our ears,' Moonves said. 'We want this to be as long and as dirty as humanly possible.'"

However, online leaders, at the very least, are subject to considerably fewer constraints, such as shareholders and ratings, than major media, and have considerably greater latitude to shape and drive a new dialogue towards substantive change.

With self-importance comes actual importance. With excited, elevated action comes consideration of and responsibility for the actions.

We should all be proud of the force that we, collectively, have brought to bear on an electorate that, only a decade before, was far less informed on issues of political and personal consequence. The ease with which our voices can reach into the world can create a more powerful unity of purpose towards overarching goals that we share--or a greater and more rapid ability to splinter amongst our smaller differences.

Take a deep breath. Recognize and appreciate the importance and impact of your role--with the human responsibility that your impact now has, and without the tendency towards defense and excitement that exists in all of us. Consider your stand. Ask what you really want for yourselves and for others in the next four or eight years.

A quickly and tenuously built stand can provide a temporary, if illusory, exhilaration. However, a considered and firmly built platform provides a view that lasts for years, can see over and past the canyons--and beyond for many miles.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Monday, March 10, 2008

Re: How Obama Can Win and Win Strong, March 8

Obama tonight in Jackson, MS, via CBS News:

“When in the midst of a campaign you decide to throw the kitchen sink at your opponent because you’re behind,” he said, “and your campaign starts leaking photographs of me when I’m traveling overseas wearing the native clothes of those folks to make people afraid, and then you run an ad talking about who’s going to answer the phone at three in the morning, an ad straight out of the Republican playbook, that’s not real change.”

He named it as "kitchen sink" politics, anchored it to Republican tactics--and it contrasted with a vision of change for the nation's future.

See it on CNN:

You can read the original post delineating this approach, "How Obama Can Win and Win Strong", from March 8, here.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Client 9

Or, as is likely to be said in the coming media Schadenfreude, Emperor's Club R. I. P.

The question will be asked repeatedly: How could someone of such seeming moral rectitude, who seemed not only to base his career on such rectitude but to be driven to it, commit such an act?

In such a question, people make a simple but understandable error--they look at the fact that someone has embraced the mantle of morality--rather than the reasons for it.

There are many reasons why people adopt a particularly moral stance. For some, morality is method of controlling an otherwise fearful world, allowing one to keep a sense of predictability and control over what would otherwise be a rush of panic in the face of life's unpredictability and chaos. For others, morality serves a kind of tribal purpose, a tie to family and origins, maintaining a sense of stability and permanence through clansmanship. For others, it is a weapon of sheer opportunism, a way, among the human weapons seen across millenia, to evince power and dominion over others.

None of these are, of course, mutually exclusive, and people will often display several of these forms and bases for morality.

For Spitzer, however, morality appears to have had a particular been powerfully yoked to twin and inextricably tied purposes: competition and ambition.

Driven from an early age, morality seems to have been inextricably yoked to Spritzers remarkable drive to indicate that he was stronger, better than his competitors. Spitzer went after morality with a relish--and a tendency, which he struggled to fight down over the years, to rub victories in the face of those he had vanquished --that suggests a drive to morality as a form of competitive victory and evidence of personal superiority--the relish of a perfect score against those who would do lesser--of winning.

This is not to say that Spitzer did not see his targets as morally wrong--indeed, their moral flaws provided the spark and impetus for battle-- nor that he did not wish to correct moral wrongs. However, it is to say that the most powerful and persistent motivation driving this each day, was Spizter's drive to compete, to emerge perfectly victorious over those who were thus proven as lesser, and the division of people into rather simplistic and binary forms of good and evil to serve the sense ones own victorious perfection.

Such a moral stance--of victory and defeat, of good (Spitzer) and bad (his vanquished enemies)-- can lead to a particular (and likely rapid) form of inner moral accounting and comparison: One can feel that they are so far "ahead" in moral victories as compared to the vastly less moral and vanquished others, that they are allowed a structured, narrow, and quiet deviation. After all--they are still far ahead in the moral contest, with so many victories, as compared to those that they have turned out as far less moral. Given such a margin, one can be allowed a flaw--and still be winning. It is no wonder that many of Spitzer's enemies viewed him as, at times, embracing a double standard.

Regardless of how one may view such a standard, it is different than a morality that views moral failure as human flaw; where one recognizes that there are not good people who win (Spitzer) and bad people (others) who, in a rush of competitive self-enhancement, must be defeated, but that all people must fight against human flaw. In such a moral scheme, one includes themselves. As a reformer embracing this moral approach, one would work to expose immorality for its social harms, rather than as a route to personal and professional competition and victory--and would also recognize the tendency to such flaw within themselves.

This will burn like a brushfire. Spitzer, despite the desire to fight to the last, will, in the crush of revelations, and in the unending march of human hubris, irony, and folly, likely have to resign.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman


Readership has increased by a multiple of thousands in the past few days. Welcome readers from Salon, Washington Post, Buzzflash, Chicago Tribune, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Drive We Said, Facebook, and Obama '08.

Some notes:

-You have asked for subscription options. To the left, you now have the ability to subscribe by Blogger, Yahoo, and Feedburner;

-You can now also email posts using the email icon at the bottom of each post;

-Many have asked to post these messages on other sites. Feel free to do so, as long as you provide a citation/link to the site; you are free to use your energy, intellect and creativity to spread and cite the posts in all ways that you think will help get the message out.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ready But Not: There She Goes Again

Clinton claims Obama is not ready to be President. However, she extols the idea of his being Vice President--a heartbeat away.

Cognitive dissonance anyone?

Note: This move was predicted in this very blog, as long ago as February 5, here.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Saturday, March 08, 2008

How Obama Can Win and Win Strong

I am aware of the delegate math.

I know that, unless the Clinton team runs roughshod with regard to superdelegates, the numbers are unassailable.

However, for Obama to not only win, but to win strong, and thus to be in the best position for the general,
he must step outside of the box created when Clinton tactics were applied to his own admirable stance.

By declaring himself the candidate of the new politics, putting the politics of Rove et al. aside for a politics of honesty, straight-forward decency, and strength, he has putatively left the field open for Clinton et al. to lob innuendo after innuendo. If he responds, he is in violation of his commitment to the new; if he continues with his current path of non-response, he will be taken down by a series of attacks, that however false or fantastic, will eventually raises doubts in the mind of the electorate as to the validity of his new politics, and will, in the great viscera of the electorate, so responsive and so easily changed, appear "weak."

If he attacks, it is said, he betrays himself; if he continues on the same path, he is whittled down by rumor and insinuation.

Clinton's current strength is her ability to attack, however true the nature and content of the attacks. Obama must turn this very behavior into its own negative. To do so, Obama must relentlessly name what she is doing and anchor it--calling for an "end to the era of 'kitchen sink' politics, i.e.:

"It's about time that we left the era of "kitchen sink" politics, of distortion and insinuation, behind us. We have all seen it before this--a period where it was often difficult to tell falsehood, rumor, and misinformation from truth. It was this type of politics that contributed to a war in which we have lost the best of our national treasure, our nation's men and women. It is this type of politics that our opponents not so long ago decried. And it is this type of politics that, more than anything else, signals weakness--the inability to base one's statements and actions on the firm ground of truth, on our collective and honest dedication to the construction of a new and positive future--and instead, on a retreat into the politics of personal destruction.

It's time to take out the dirty dishes; It's time to empty the kitchen sink. After an era where it was often difficult to distinguish fantasy from truth, it's time to put that era behind us, to base our future efforts on a strong and honest desire to build a new and better future."

What Obama can create is his own "There you go again" moment--one that will both define Clinton (after all, someone has to do it), and at the same time place the Clinton camp in their very own box, of their own making: A box where any attack will be immediately associated in the voter's mind, and will be accompanied by a roll of the voter's eyes, as another example of Clinton's "kitchen sink" politics; of the chaotic, inconsistent, contradictory and frantic willingness to say or do anything to be elected, be it the changing of one's personality, tone, degree of honesty--or one's degree of tolerance or gusto for the politics of personal destruction.

Without a single attack, this demonstrates the nature of the Clinton camp: in a moment of crisis, and in danger of loss, rather than respond with strength, principle and authority, they throw the "kitchen sink" at the issue, abandoning principles and frantically strewing innuendo as they do so.

With powerful moral force, it names exactly what the Clinton camp is doing, and anchors it both to the politics of the past Administration, and to the very political tactics that Clinton herself has denounced and disavowed. In addition, it provides direct evidence--thus far, the only direct evidence--of how a Clinton Administration would likely govern in times of chaos, crisis, and other "3 a.m. moments" (thus disempowering her already shaky claims to superior foreign policy judgment): With a "kitchen sink" approach of tumultuous, changing, disorganized and contradictory attack, rather than with consistent purpose and moral authority.

Obama must persistently name what the Clinton camp is doing rather than complain--and he must then link it to the very essence of an old politics that has been lived through by all of us, and denigrated by most over the past 8 years.

Thus named, and thus defined, Obama can then invite Clinton up to the higher ground--to a debate based on policy and principle--or she can choose to stay in the box that she and her camp have created.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Harvard Looks In The Kitchen Sink

From Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Veritasiness Blog:

So, it seems like Hillary survived Mini Super Tuesday.

I’m not sure if what has been tossed inside the Kitchen Sink recently had anything to do with tonight’s outcome, but the sink does seem to show how desparate Hillary was.

Another interesting video to check out: Does Obama look darker to you? Whoever in charge of Hillary’s ads might be smart. But I must say… “Internet bloggers” are no less smart…


-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Après lui, le déluge

The kitchen sink runneth over.

The fact that many would fall prey to such a desperate, Rovian grab-bag of distortion and misrepresentation brings home a truth that, now more than ever, must be recognized--a truth about us.

As long as we remain susceptible to negative campaigning--as long as we allow inchoate fear and primitive doubt to overwhelm our capacity to understand and check the facts--we will get the winners we deserve--namely, those who win ugly.

Democracy takes more than participation--a goal we have yet to achieve--it also takes a willingness to apply thought over fear.

We have been trained to respond to fear appeals aimed at the pursuit of electoral success very well over the past 7 years--and at this point, we should begin to become inured to them. In plain speaking: we should wise up.

The Clinton camp has discovered a formula that, at least in the days of its brief burst of novelty, has worked. We can expect a deluge of such tactics in the coming weeks.

However, despite a sink that will likely fill to bursting--paired, of course, with the conciliatory words that are meant to justify and allow further attacks--we now have time to adjust and evaluate.

We can and should do so.

A campaign that wins in adversity by the use of distortion and fear will govern in adversity in the same manner.

Note, as a single example, today's report by the CBC that Canadian Prime Minister Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, was indeed the source the leak of supposed quotes regarding NAFTA--and that Clinton's team had also allegedly told Harper to "take her NAFTA concerns with a grain of salt."

This is the true "red phone" lesson, one that we should remember over the coming weeks. Overcome vague appeals to fear and unproven distortion. In the slowly receding shadow of these past two terms, pursue reality. In the face of appeals to induced doubt, unproven "experience", and dark insinuation, tenaciously learn--and vote--the facts.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Inside The Kitchen Sink

From the NYT:

After struggling for months to dent Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy, the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is now unleashing what one Clinton aide called a “kitchen sink” fusillade against Mr. Obama, pursuing five lines of attack since Saturday in hopes of stopping his political momentum.

Let's see what has been tossed inside the kitchen sink:

-A vicious email smear campaign falsely portrays Obama as a Muslim. He has been a devout Christian for 20 years. The Clinton camp has the opportunity to firmly decry such tactics, or to sow the seeds of doubt. Clinton on 60 minutes: If he says that he is a Muslim "I'll take him at his word";

- A picture of Obama dressed in traditional Somali garb mysteriously arises and is splashed across the front page of the Drudge Report, designed, like the above, to inflame the most base and simplistic prejudices. Again, the Clinton campaign has the opportunity to refuse to use prejudice and stereotype to political advantage. Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams responds: "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed";

-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is a Conservative. His Chief of Staff Ian Brodie leaks supposed minutes of statements by an Obama aide. The statement is not by the Obama aide, and the minutes were not taken by the Obama aide, they were taken by a Canadian official. Liberal Canadian parties vehemently protest the attempt by the Conservative Party to influence the U.S. election. The Clinton camp accepts this specious account as valid--and throws it in the kitchen sink as well;

-The Clinton camp, in Drudge-like fashion, insinuates dark misdoings regarding Antoin Rezko--despite the fact that there have been absolutely no allegations of wrongdoing by Obama--hoping perhaps that the mere association will stick--and despite the questions that have been raised about Clinton fundraising during the years of her own "experience";

-The Clinton campaign rolls out the hackneyed "red phone" advertisement, dating to Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign, to suggest that she, unlike Obama, has greater experience for such "3 A.M. moments". When asked to name a single crisis situation that she has actually had to deal with, she is unable to name one.

-Mark Penn, the Clinton campaign's chief strategist, in the weekend panic, emails the L.A. Times to state that he had "'no direct authority in the campaign,' describing himself as merely 'an outside message advisor with no campaign staff reporting to me.'"

This sink is filled with the type of fear-based politics that we have come to know so well over these past 8 years. It is fundamentally defensive, and is all-too-willing to use the familiar tools of dishonesty and distortion in pursuit of victory. It indicates how a Clinton Administration would respond to adversity--with a tactical fusillade of presentations, followed by distortion and attack.

It's time to clean the dishes. Don't allow yourself to be misled by misrepresentation, insinuation and division. Leave this kind of politics behind.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Monday, March 03, 2008

The New Triangulation

From today's Politico:

In a front-page stunner, Clinton campaign message guru Mark Penn e-mails the L.A. Times over the weekend to say that he had "no direct authority in the campaign," describing himself as merely "an outside message advisor with no campaign staff reporting to me."

"I have had no say or involvement in four key areas — the financial budget and resource allocation, political or organizational sides. Those were the responsibility of Patti Solis Doyle, Harold Ickes and Mike Henry, and they met separately on all matters relating to those areas," the e-mail said, as quoted by the paper.

From today's WP:

Mark Penn, the chief strategist for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) presidential campaign, asserted today that an ad that raised the specter of a national security crisis and questioned Sen. Barack Obama's (Ill.) readiness to handle such an event has fundamentally altered the shape of the race heading into tomorrow's votes in Ohio and Texas.

Penn said the ad, which began airing Friday, effectively framed the question of "who's ready and prepared to be commander-in-chief." Penn added: "Just by merely asking the question and nothing more, millions of people understood what is the answer to that question." He called it a "tipping point" in the race that has signaled a "change in momentum."

One's personal war room must always be ready--with both messages, if need be.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Fish on Obama and McCain in Today's NYT

Stanley Fish, in today's NYT, makes the argument that Obama will be "boxed in" by the position that he has taken on Iraq during the nomination process. By taking the position that the U.S. should withdraw, Fish argues, Obama will be inflexibly committed to a stance that will be set against McCain's ability to continue to endorse the surge if it succeeds, while being able to tack towards modifications as the situation changes on the ground.

This presupposes three assumptions:

1) That the current reduction in violence is due to the U.S. military/force multiplication effects of the surge alone--rather than to the belief among Iraqis that the surge is linked to increased participation by Iraqis, and, thereby, to imminent withdrawal of American forces;

2) That the American public wishes to remain in the war, when a majority of Americans have indicated that they favor a withdrawal plan;

3) That a commitment by McCain to the same policies followed by George W. Bush will have a positive "halo" effect, enhancing McCain's popularity, in an electorate that is reacting in ways never seen before against such policies.

The response for Obama is clear: we enhance the process (already begun) of returning Iraq to Iraqi hands, extracting ourselves from a war that we never should have begun. We act in response to the majority of the electorate, which favors withdrawal from a conflict based on specious premises, while actively and aggressively pursuing the war outside of Iraq. And we turn from the poorly sourced, ill-considered, and reactive policies and cronyism of the prior Administration to policies based on reason, strength, and honesty with the American people.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Authentic Change

The WP reports today that Obama has "thrown away the script" in Ohio, turning from his stump speech to a series of town hall meetings.

Ohio and Texas are tight. The contest is too close to call. This is, for a campaign, a "red phone" moment.

Note how Obama responds.

Instead of an array of tactical shifts in persona, Obama shows the strength and fortitude that he has demonstrated all along--in a kind of reverse Rove (recall that Rove was famous for taking his adversary's greatest strength and attacking it) taking his greatest ability and putting it to the side, moving from score to improvisation, to further answer the questions of the people--something he has done all along the campaign trial, but now is putting aside his greatest strength to emphasize.

Note what he could have done: He could have gone on the attack, derogating Hillary's past through the ad hominem methods all too recently seen. He could have attempted to change the presentation of his personality, in order to find the persona that consultants recommend, changing his tone, his emotions, shifting through traits like a anxious shuffle through a deck of cards, searching for the combination that would meet the seeming demands of the day. In a moment of pressure--at 3 .A.M.--he could have responded with panic and artifice.

Instead, he moves *away* from his strength, and presents himself simply before the people.

This is judgment, which arises from a known and consistent self. It does not arise, despite experience, from a self that uncertain, fearful, and therefore driven by fear, to change under the pressures of the moment.

This is what will count when genuine moments of crisis occur in our future evenings, in our 3 A.M. moments, and in the early dawn.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman