The Oprah effect

Via  Marginal Revolution: A study claims that Oprah’s endorsement of Barack Obama was responsible for an additional 1,000, 000 votes for Obama. The study compares vote tallies with circulation figures for the Oprah magazine O and with geographical variations in sales of books included in Oprah’s Book Club.

Her reference can literally mean the success or failure of a variety of products. For example,
when the cosmetic company Philosophy’s “Gingerbread Man Salt Scrub” was included in the 2004
favorite things list, the company was forced to rearrange its entire production schedule to meet the
resulting demand (Walker, 2004). After selecting Ciao Bella blood orange sorbet for her 2007 list, the
company’s website received 3 million hits in one week compared to an average of 175,000 in previous
weeks. Clarisonic skin-care system had their sales increase “10-fold in just one week after her
endorsement” (Goldman, 2007). After challenging her viewers to beat the one day sales record for Lance
Armstrong “Livestrong” bracelets, 900,000 bracelets were sold—besting previous records by
approximately 600,000.
A negative comment by Winfrey can be equally damaging to a products success. During a 1996
show concerning “mad cow” disease Winfrey stated that her fear of the disease “stopped me from eating
another burger” (Babineck, 1998). The day after the show cattle futures fell 10 percent (Verhovek, 1998).
Winfrey was subsequently sued by a group of cattleman claiming they suffered losses of $12 million.

Could the Oprah effect be the reason why, after the votes were counted, the Obama campaign couldn’t be compared with the Jesse Jackson campaign in ’84 and ’88?

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Fifteen minutes of fame for the Camel’s Nose, and a prayer on the Arab side of The Wall

I have finally gotten discovered by The Bigtime.

PRI’s The World has linked to me in their August 5, 2008 edition, having discovered me through no less than Reuters. The piece that caught their attention was Obama weasels on Palestine.

Sooner or later, bloggers discover other blogs creating links to them. A lot of the sites that link to me are bogus, only printing the first line of any piece I write, and sometimes even crediting the writing to someone else. They put up a few ads and use my content to make money. These websites don’t last very long.

Other sites that link to me are real people, not electronically generated content. They’re interested in what I say. That’s not always as nice as it sounds. A while back, before all the media fuss about Barack Obama’s church, I visited the church and wrote some opinions about whether it was racist. I say it is. Unfortunately some of the bloggers who link to that piece are looking for something to bolster their adherence to some ideology or another, rather than engage in systematic thinking. Others are looking for someone to link to them in exchange for a link, in order to symbiotically increase the google mojo of both our sites. That’s fine with me. Still other bloggers that link to me are just ordinary people like myself, some international.

The ordinary people thrill me, yes, that’s what life is made of and I love to taste it. But the mainstream media attention is very heady. Getting the attention of MSM means my ideas get wider currency.

The premise of my blog is that one person CAN make difference, just by reaching out, by being tolerant, and enjoying other people for their differences. That’s why my mission statement says “let’s just eat.” In the Arab culture, when you eat with someone, you accept them and shelter them unconditionally, for three days and one third, according to custom. I want that type of acceptance to become contagious.

In particular, every so often I write something about Palestinian independence. King Abdullah has been taking about it all year and says that yes, it can happen this year. I believe him. When I visited the mosque of Omar in Jerusalem, a spot that many cultures have considered to be the navel of the universe, my guide told me there was one spot in the surrounding courtyard where a prayer has a thousand times more influence than in any other geographical location. It’s on the Arab side of the same wall where Obama put his prayer on a piece of paper. I sent up a prayer there for peace and tried to visualize all my Palestinian friends going about their lives without the specter of war.

Of course, prayer by itself isn’t enough. You have to do something to manifest the vision as well, so I told my guide about it. And now I’m blogging about it. I’m trying to blog about it in a very concrete way, in the American way of writing paragraphs with topic sentences and reasons and examples, so other people can start to visualize it as well. And if my sense of history is faulty, they can fill in their own blanks and start to create their own vision.

Palestine the nation. Now.

It’s ours if we want it.

Posted in Jerusalem, Middle East, Obama, Palestine. Tags: , , . Comments Off

View of an Obama presidency from the gutter

MySpace has sent me an email reminding me that today is the birthday of one of my “friends”, a certain  Barack Obama.  So for the Senator’s birthday I will relate a local Obama story.

Last week I paused in the dash to finish all the end of semester paperwork and took a stroll in the neighborhood around my school.  In front of a local day care center, a drunk was shouting about all the people he was going to kill.  That was different.

I made my way to the Radio Shack where my last unfortunate visit had yielded a fawning sales clerk who told me how wonderful it was that someone female would take an interest in technology.  As I restrained homicidal impulses, he read the back of several router packages to me.  Was he amazed that I could read as well?  No, if he was reading to me, he probably thought I couldn’t read.  Never mind, I found a very lovely router for $60 less online through my favorite website, techbargains.com. Maybe reading is such a mystical art, and maybe technology for women is such a novelty, but I sure do know how to accessorize.  The little green lights of the router match my modem perfectly. This visit was even worse.  I had developed a sudden compulsion to look at thumb drives, which were behind the counter.  The lone sales clerk had the volume of a demo stereo cranked to max and I was clearly in the way.  Radio Shack is always so unpleasant.

Returning to the school with a bag of fast food, I settled into the break room and tried to follow the Spanish conversation of the staff.  I had just missed a drunk who showed up at the school.  The same one who had been shouting at the day care center.  “When are you going to give me some food?” he had demanded from the staff.  “Never,” was the answer.

Just wait til Obama is president, the drunk said.  There won’t be any more white people, and you will have to go back to Mexico.

En vino veritas? Is this something going around on the streets or just some drunken raving?  Last winter there was a rumor in the Hispanic community that if Obama won all the blacks were going to riot.  So they didn’t want to vote for him.  In retrospect, after Al Sharptons’s comments about Denver, maybe it’s not so far fetched, but the answer I gave at the time was easy.  It wasn’t that long ago that Chicago elected a black mayor, Harold Washington, and there was no riot.  Just Chicago business as usual.  But what is the expectation on the street?

Posted in Election 2008, Obama. Tags: , . Comments Off

Jerome Corsi’s new Obama book–save your fifteen bucks

The blogosphere is all atwitter about the latest Obama book just released yesterday, Jerome Corsi’s Obama Nation.  Supposedly, snarky Obamabot bookstore employees are intentionally keeping the thing hidden away, while wildfire rumors had it as number one on the New York Times bestseller list before it was even released.  Spare me the drama.  A quick glance at the NYT shows it’s not even in the top 20 non-fiction hardcovers, although it’s currently in Amazon’s number 5 position, in a list that’s updated hourly.

No, I’m not going to read it, and here’s why.  First of all the title should tell you everything you need to know about the author’s viewpoint.  Obama Nation=”Abomination”.  Hardly original and not funny.  No one is perfect, especially politicians,  but no one deserves to be demonized either, and this is clearly meant to be a demonizing book.

A little quick googling shows me Corsi was also the author of the Swift Boat attack book against John Kerry back in 2004–or rather co-author. The accuracy of that book was disputed, and this one seems to be full of factual errors, particularly about Obama’s positions, as well.  Not that Obama people don’t do the same thing–last weekend I was approached by an Obama supporter registering voters who used the “McCain wants 100 years of war” talking point.  I have read McCain’s exact words and that’s not what he said at all–he was talking about military bases.

A little more digging yields the following Corsi quotations:

  • Corsi on Islam: “a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion”
  • Corsi on Catholicism: “Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn’t reported by the liberal press”
  • Corsi on Muslims: “RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters — it all goes together”
  • Corsi on “John F*ing Commie Kerry”: “After he married TerRAHsa, didn’t John Kerry begin practicing Judiasm? He also has paternal grandparents that were Jewish. What religion is John Kerry?”
  • Corsi on Senator “FAT HOG” Clinton: “Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?”

If that isn’t hate speech, I don’t know what is.

To top it off, Corsi is a leading fearmonger of the North American Union conspiracy theory as well as the Amero conspiracy theory.  That’s just too tin foil hat for me.

For anyone who prefers something a little more factual, I recommend the Chicago Trib’s biography of Obama.  It doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and it’s free. Or read Obama’s own books.  I would check them out of the library though, instead of giving the money to Obama.

As a disclosure, I have to say Obama is my senator, quite a good one, and I have voted for him more than once. That doesn’t mean there aren’t serious concerns about him now.  For instance, (1) voting for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and voting to cut off debate on the bill, when he promised very publicly to vote against it and support Senator Dodd’s filibuster, (2) changing his position on reproductive rights and women’s health, (3) changing his position on off-shore oil drilling, and (4) statements that Jerusalem should be the undivided capitol of Israel.  If anyone is running for “Bush’s third term”, it isn’t McCain.  It’s Obama.

But Obama’s most serious problem is still his acquiescence in some of the worst misogyny ever seen in American politics.  And he hasn’t learned, either.  Listen to him speak.  In Berlin, or in the more recent speeches, whenever he starts his familiar refrain about ending divisiveness between this group and that group and the other group, one group is always glaringly left out.  Yes, gender.  Obama never talks about healing the nation’s divisions by gender.   I wonder why that is.

Obama: remaking the world is not for Woman

Would Barack Obama prefer to return to the days of yesteryear before women could vote?  Looks like it.

Obama signed the guest book at Yad Vashem, writing, “At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man‘s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise from tragedy and remake our world.”

Looks to me like women just got excluded from the Obama vision of human action in the world, both good and bad.

In the 18th century, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the words “all men are created equal” and “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” women could not vote and could not give consent.  Jefferson did not mean the word “men” to mean “men and women” or “humans”.  He meant “men”.

Gender-neutral language has been around for the last 40 years.  It is the norm these days for newspapers, law journals, psychology journals, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and countless English grammar texts, including the one I studied from as an undergraduate in 1991.  Surely Obama has some basic understanding of the idea.

Use of language that is not gender neutral is associated with promoting sexism in economic issues, like equal pay for equal work. No one disputes the role that sexist language plays in manufacturing consent to gender inequality, in maintaining and strengthening sexist values.

Obama already has enough problems with women defecting from his political party. Why would he appear to ignore the role that such women as Golda Mier, Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, just to name a few well-known ones, have played in the evolving picture that is the Middle East. Why is Obama so ultra cautious not to offend Jewish voters by spending days with his careful reclarificaton of his stand on Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel but so careless with trivializing more than half of American voters?

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Obama weasels on Palestine

Why can’t Palestine have statehood right now?

From time to time I ponder this question, usually after one of King Abdullah’s visionary speeches where he says we can solve the Palestinian question now, this year. I have never heard an answer.

This time I thought I heard on NPR that Obama had made a speech in Amman where he said Palestine couldn’t have nationhood because neither Israel nor Palestine was strong enough.  Strong enough to do what?  Push each other into the sea? That sounds like an excuse, and a poor one at that.

But paraphrasing never works for me–I need the exact words.   And a lot of people in the Middle East will be parsing Obama’s words in the next few days as he moves on to Israel.

From the Washington Post:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008; 11:36 AM:

Now, before I take some questions, I want to make a comment about the events today in Jerusalem. Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long. I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.

Right now, my thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured and to their families….

~~~~~~~~~~~~

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I just want to say that the reason that I haven’t focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is because I’m spending tomorrow visiting Israel and the West Bank. And so I was going to save some of these comments until I actually had these conversations tomorrow. It wasn’t that we were avoiding the issue. We just came back from Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is my firm belief that it is in the interest of both the Israeli people and the Palestinians to arrive at a peaceful settlement.

It is a very difficult process. There is a lot of history that exists between those two people. That history is not going to vanish overnight. People’s memories are long. There’s been bloodshed and disputes that date back generations.

And so I think it’s unrealistic to expect that a U.S. president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region.

OBAMA: What a U.S. president can do is apply sustained energy and focus on the issues of the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I do believe that an ultimate resolution is going to involve two states standing side by side in peace and security, and that the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to both have to make compromises in order to arrive at that two-state solution.

Now, one of the difficulties that we have right now is that in order to make those compromises you have to have strong support from your people, and the Israeli government right now is unsettled. You know, the Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas.

And so it’s difficult for either side to make the bold move that would bring about peace the way, for example, the peace between Israel and Egypt was brought about. Those leaders were in a much stronger position to initiate that kind of peace.

So one of the things I think the United States is going to have to do is to help build capacity, make sure that Israel feels secure. And obviously the tragedy that happened with the bulldozer does not help with their security. That breeds a sense of insecurity.

And that’s why terrorism is so counterproductive, as well as being immoral, because it makes, I believe, the Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what’s going on beyond their borders. I think the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happen and innocent people are injured.

On the other hand, I think that the Palestinians have to feel some sense of progress in terms of their economic situation, you know, whether it’s on the West Bank or Gaza, if people continually feel pressed, where they can’t get to their job or they can’t make a living, they get frustrated.

OBAMA: And it’s hard for them if they see no glimmer of hope to then want to take a leap in order to make impressions.

And so, I think what the United States can do is — is to help to create more — a greater sense of security among the Israelis, a greater sense that economic progress and increased freedom of movement is something that can be accomplished in the Palestinian territories.

And with those confidence building measures, that we get discussions back on track.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

OBAMA: I’m sorry. I need you to speak up. You were speaking up very loudly when you wanted me to call on you. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

OBAMA: Well, let me — let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. It will be a strong friend of Israel’s under a McCain government — administration. It will be a strong friend of Israel’s under an Obama administration. So that policy is not going to change.

OBAMA: What I think can change is the ability of the United States government and a United States president to be actively engaged with the peace process and to be concerned and recognize the legitimate difficulties that the Palestinian people are experiencing right now.

And recognize that it is not only in the interest of the Palestinian people that their situation improves, I believe it’s also in the interest of the Israeli people, because it is going to be very difficult for Israel ever to feel secure if you don’t have some sense of opportunity and prosperity and stability with its — its neighbors.

And so, you know, my goal is to make sure that we work, starting from the minute I’m sworn into office, to try to find some breakthroughs.

Now, the other thing I have to make a point though is is that everybody’s going to have responsibilities and obligations in this process. And sometimes I think there’s a tendency for each side to focus on the faults of the other instead of looking in the mirror and saying, what can be done to improve the situation?

So, for example, I think with respect to the Palestinians, obviously it is very important to resolve the internal differences between the Palestinians. It’s going to be very difficult for the Israelis to resolve a significant peace agreement if they don’t know who they should be dealing with and who can actually enforce an agreement. But I just use that as one example.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What a cop-out.

This is the same politician who stood in in front of a crowd in the Chicago Hyatt on Super Tuesday, having won considerable victories in the primaries,  and said,

“Maybe this year we don’t have to settle for politics where scoring points is more important than solving problems.

Maybe this year we can finally start doing something about health care we can’t afford.

Maybe this year we can start doing something about mortgages we can’t pay.

Maybe this time, this year can be different.”

That night, the crowd screamed “Yes, we can.”

So now what does Obama propose for the Middle East?

Maybe this time we’ll be willing to work for Palestinian statehood?

Maybe this time America won’t demand that Israelis and Palestinians skip hand in hand singing Kum Ba Yah before they’re willing to lift a finger to support any actual movement toward that two state solution?

Maybe this time, this year, Palestine will declare its independence?

Maybe this time America will be first in line to give official recognition to the new nation of Palestine?

Nope.  If Obama was president he would be having a goal to be making sure to be working to be starting to be trying to be finding …..Uff da!  So many verbs, you forget was he started out to do.  Funny that a savvy politician who also happens to be a lawyer would talk that way.

So let’s take Obama’s arguments against Palestinian statehood and see where they lead.

1.”Palestine can’t be a state because Israel had some Palestinian guy run amuck in a bulldozer today.”

Ridiculous.  Did America wait until all its tea was safe before declaring independence?  Did we wait til all the redcoats were out?  No way.  It was Nike thing.  We just did it. We still have people run amuck in Amercia every day, from 9-11 to the shoe bomber to random crazy people exhibiting road rage during rush hour.  That doesn’t mean America can’t be a nation.  In fact, it is BECAUSE America is a nation that it is more capable of dealing with acts of violence.

2. Palestinians can’t get to their job or make a living.

Well, if Palestine was a separate nation they would still be crossing borders to go to work, wouldn’t they.  You don’t have to be particularly friendly with a country to declare your own independence.  It would be nice if Palestine and Israel could be just like America and Canada where you just show your driver’s license to cross the border (or is that all changed now?) but the U.S. has not always had friendly borders.  What about Mexico? There was that Pancho Villa guy.  And the Alamo.  And there was the invasion of Veracruz by the marines.  Still that didn’t keep America from being a country. Maybe the incidents even ended sooner because America could act in an official capacity as a government.

And as far as needing economic stability to be a nation, we in America went through an economic depression in the 30’s without losing our nationhood. In fact, it was the federal government that started the WPA, CCC, and all the other alphabet soup agencies to put people to work to rebuild the nation’s parks and cities. Once people were working, the nation started pulling out of it’s economic problems.  That’s exactly what Palestine needs.  A New Deal.  Jobs, a la Tammany Hall or the Kingfisher.  Patronage, with the U.S. quietly holding the purse strings.  Okay, I’m putting a little negative spin on it, but the U.S. needs to be involved in Palestine’s economic recovery.  If we don’t, all the crazies from Iran will be right there with their big fat oil money.  Let them keep Gaza and run it into the ground; America needs to be front and center with Palestinian statehood.

Obama is WRONG.

Obama is saying no, when there is not any reason to say  no.  This is called a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.  He is claiming Palestine can’t be a nation until they do a bunch of stuff that other nations never had to do. Obama is setting Palestine up for failure. No we can’t, says Obama.

Listen to these words instead:

Time is now of the essence. It is vital that the year 2008 does not end as the year 2000 did: With progress cut off, the sphere of agreement collapsing and years of expanding violence to come.

We need to ask ourselves, how much further ahead would we be today, if these last eight years had been years of peace and stability? If, all this time, a sovereign Palestine had been building and thriving? If extremists and external forces had not had this issue to manipulate? If global investors and customers had been able to approach our region with even greater business confidence? If the Middle East were, already, the united economic powerhouse it can and should be – a regional community, speeding growth, ending poverty, creating jobs and securing the future, the future for which our young people are preparing so hard?

Let us not stand here in eight years, or even one year, thinking, ‘if only’. We can begin a different future, right now.

The words are from King Abdullah, of course.

Right now.

Forget capacity building and all those other stalling tactics. That can be done any time.

We need a sovereign Palestine right now.

Why Jesse Jackson is after Obama’s nads

So Jesse Jackson Sr. really said he was after Obama’s nads. While wearing a microphone and getting ready to tape the O’Reilly show on Fox Channel. And surprise, surprise, surprise, the mic was turned on and an old media hand like Jackson didn’t even notice it and didn’t even watch what he was saying in front of one of the country’s most notorious conservative pundits.

Who cares.

Oh and just maybe, maybe, maybe, he said something bad about faith-based initiatives, and about Obama’s father’s day speech telling black men to take care of their children, and maybe hint, hint, hint, he even said the n-word.

That Fox teaser tape is cut up so weirdly who knows what’s really on it or what the context was. And we have one that’s even worse than the one we released, says Fox, tease, tease. But Jesse did apologize, and Obama accepted the apology. And Reverend Jackson’s son, Jesse Jackson Jr., issued a surprisingly strong statement that he was outraged etc. Not surprising. Relations within the Jackson family have been strained since the Rev. Jackson admitted to having an out of wedlock child a few years ago. And how can he be a real father involved in the child’s life when he is already in a marriage relationship? Perhaps Obama’s comments about black fathers taking care of their children struck a nerve.

But we have already seen so many stories of power, politics, money and betrayal.

Who cares.

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