election

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I just posted The Open Source Force Behind the Obama Campaign over at Linux Journal. I wrote it in August for the November issue, which would come out in time for the election. But it was too long for the magazine, and too off-topic as well. So we shelved it, and planned to put it on the website after the election.

Originally I was going to update it; but after noodling around with that for awhile, and not quite getting it the way I wanted it, I realized it was more interesting as a piece of history: a snapshot in time. So that’s what I just put up there, adding only an introduction.

In going through this process, one thing that surpised me was how much I wrote about the Dean Campaign back in ’03-04. Since the Obama Campaign was what Britt Blaser calls “Dean done right”, you could say I had started covering the Obama campaign more than four years ago.

And maybe I was unintentionally influencing it as well.

In digging around for old stuff, I ran across Gary Wolf’s How the Internet Invented Howard Dean, in the January ’04 issue of Wired. One sidebar is The Howard Dean Reading List: How a bunch of books about social networking rebooted the Democratic system. Among those six is The Cluetrain Manifesto. So perhaps by that thin thread I can claim grand-paternity to Obama’s success.

Though not as credibly as, say, David Weinberger, who actually advised the Dean campaign. David, who is quoted in the Wired piece, not only co-wrote Cluetrain, but sole-authored Small Pieces Loosely Joined, which is another book on the Howard Dean reading list.

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In response to my last political post, the subject of High Road vs. Low Road was brought up. One comment suggested that I thought Obama’s was the former while McCain’s was the latter. In fact I was suggesting that both roads were tactics used by both candidates, and that I feared the election would be won and lost, as it usually is, by fighting along the low road to election day.

My current favorite reporting about road-taking comes from the St. Petersburg Times, which keeps up with both campaigns via the Politifact.com Truth-o-Meter. To each statement by each candidate and their campaigns (including emailings by candidates and parties), they sort statements into True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False and Pants on Fire. Currently those3 sort out this way :

Obama Biden McCain Palin
True 39 7 25 4
Mostly True 23 4 19 0
Half-True 20 4 19 3
Barely True 12 3 19 0
False 18 4 22 0
Pants on Fire 0 2 4 0

Some of the rulings are generous. For example, they found Sarah Palin’s claim that she put the state’s jet up for sale on eBay is true, even though it wasn’t sold on eBay.

As H.L. Mencken said, Looking for an honest politician is like looking for an ethical burglar. (More good quotes — all correct — here.*)

For what it’s worth, I favor Obama for two main reasons. One is that I’d rather see the country run on the ethics of empathy rather than those of fear. The other is that McCain and Palin are both warriors at heart (McCain was ready for war with Iraq right after 9/11, and Palin preached that the Iraq war was part of God’s “plan”) — and we’ve had eight bad years of that already.

I also think Obama is more likely to nominate top-notch non-ideological judges and to reform government in general. Also that he is less likely to screw up the Internet, which is the single best thing the world has going for itself. Finally, that he’ll restore the faith of the rest of the world in the sanity of the U.S. electorate and its government.

As for the economy, I think McCain understands the private sector — and the good it does — far better than Obama. If I were voting by my economically consevative and Libertarian sympathies alone, I’d favor McCain. But this election isn’t about that. This election is about throwing the old bums out and trying some new ones.

Back to the War Issue.

A few decades back Penelope Maunsell said of a former employer that “His management style was to find a problem and intensify it”. Same goes for politicians. There are exceptions, but that’s close to a rule.

I don’t doubt that John McCain is a first-rate military man. His experiences as a prisoner of war obviously strenghtened his character and equipped him with a high degree of sympathy for those suffering injustice, as well as for members of the armed forces. But John McCain shared with George W. Bush the urge to solve the problem of terrorism with the use of force, and lots of it. I don’t doubt that this response was exactly what Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders were looking for.

Even if the Surge is working (and I’m inclined to agree that, on the whole, it is), that does not excuse McCain from having supported the Iraq War in the first place. That war has not only killed countless thousands (beyond the counted thousands of our own casualties), but put the country terribly in debt, weakened our military positions elsewhere, and diminished our reputation throughout the world. It was strategically wrong, in a huge way. McCain’s bad judgement on this count alone is reason enough not to elect him.

[Later...] Calvin Dodge points to RedState’s take on FactCheck.org’s take on Palin’s acceptance address.

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