appughar

An Endorsment for Barack Obama

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2008 at 2:29 am

An Endorsement

A PhD thesis to write, five years of acquired procrastination skills, a profound fascination towards web 2.0 and social web et.al and an election looming in corner. You don’t need much eloquence to describe to others (or to myself) the circumstances that has forced myself to put my thesis writing (supposedly unknowingly) in the back burner. I find myself reading all the op-ed of the prominent Liberal press, partaking in discussion forums, and having my share of frustration realising the futility of arguing with a hard-core right-winger

And yes! I am a big Obama supporter and like many others in the world feel it is unfair that I cannot cast my ballot! (Take about Americanization of the world!). However, let me pen out the specific quality of the candidate which has made a profound impact on me.

I had only a very vague idea or interest about American political system till a few months ago. The general notion was that Democrats are better than Republicans. More specifically, Clinton was way better than Bush, Al Gore would have made a way better president than Bush (at-least we could have had a slightly more greener planet). However, I was ambivalent to the internal dynamics of the Democratic party, hence for a long time the democratic primaries did not interest me much.

The first time I realised Barack Obama was in a blog post about his interview at Google. Asked by Eric Schmidt about “the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers,” Obama replied that “the bubble
sort would be the wrong way to go”. That was fancy full. A presidential candidate who has some clue about CS! This was followed by his speech “A More Perfect Union”. I was amazed by his oratory skill (this was made more profound when I compared his ability to articulate to that of the current incumbent American president!). With each of his speeches, notable of them being his Energy speech at Michigan State University and the nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, my admiration for Obama grew. However I still gave adequate weightage to the criticism that he might just be a fanciful orator, who lacks real political skills. Is incompetence and questionable motive getting masqueraded by the sheer glamour and aura of his words and personality.

This blog post aims to detail out how I grew out of the cynicism and moved towards a position of admiration and respect for Mr. Obama. However, I have made a mental note to review my position time and time again (going with the assumption that he will be elected the president of U.S.A).As mentioned earlier, my cynicism had two parts, first – the motivation, second – the skill level (or preparedness). So, I am going to go one by one.

What really struck me in Obama speeches are their clarity, consistency and the ability to say the right things. The juxtaposition of these three qualities are a hard thing to achieve, especially when you are in the media spotlight for an extended period of time. And frankly, this is a breath of fresh air in modern politics, where flip-flopping of stances are ubiquitous and viewpoints itself are ambiguous. I believe, for someone to be this clear and consistent, apart from oratory skills, he/she will need to have extreme passion and conviction on what he/she is speaking about.

One can argue that someone like Hitler also possessed the same set of skills. His arguments and speeches had clarity and to a certain extend consistent. Maybe the extreme nature of his extremist and fundamentalist ideas were not overtly evident in his initial speeches, however Hitler rarely contradicted himself. The fact of the matter is that Hitler also possessed the high amount of passion and
conviction. However, this is where the third and the most important aspect kicks in.

`Saying the right things’. First of all we need to scrutinize whether Mr.Obama is really saying the right things or his ideas are ineffective or even malicious. So let’s do a quick parse on what the U.S Senator is claiming. For the time being let’s keep aside the implementation aspect (for eg, providing Health care via mandatory
scheme or giving tax credits) and concentrate on the intend. Provide health care, make education cheaper, attack global poverty, stop a war, de-polarise a society, protect environment, develop infrastructure. All of them perfectly honourable. No Hitler-like ambition in any of them. I also note in passing most of Mr. McCain’s intention are more or less well placed. Anyway the point I want to raise is that we may effectively rule out malice.

Now let us go back to implementation. Unlike his republican rival, Obama has exhibited a far greater amount of pragmatism. Being, an engineer, my trade is the complicated art of trying to understand and manages trade-offs. Obama has shown far deeper skill and knowledge in the formulation or speculation of the challenges his country is facing. He is also modest in acknowledging his country’s short-comings and limits. And most, importantly he has taken pains in proposing the possible solution (almost always indicating the hardness of the problem) and proposes achievable targets and charts out his action plan in a coherent manner. I would be lying if I claim that there is no optimism in his plans. However, prima-facie most of his plan appears to be do-able, however with a lot of hard work and focus.

So in terms of ideas he is a far superior candidate. This is the most important reason I endorse Obama. If you want to do something (positive) consciously towards a goal, you will have to first imagine it to be possible. You will then have to imagine the process through which you will reach there. You have to build up conviction on your ideas, and you should retain a reasonable amount of clarity. As Micheal Phelps remarked “I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I
think your mind really controls everything.”, first step in addressing challenges and expanding boundaries start by imagination. The thought process seems have gone through. Conversely, Bush administration is a
prime example of the problem caused by `lack of imagination’

This is coupled with his ability as a motivator and mobiliser. <to be continued>

ps: Note, my impressions and opinions on politics in general are based on the Indian political and US political systems and landscapes. My familiarity to former based on me being a (passive) part of the system
and the later from media exposure.

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  1. Dear Nancy,

    Thanks for the link that you sent me. I however, cannot agree to your observation and have reservations on some of the sources. Unfortunately you had not provided any citations, so I am unable to verify these claims or the sources. Albeit that, I have strong reasons to believe your reasoning is flawed.

    Specifically your reasoning suffers from “guilt by association”. More formally, ‘association as an ad hominem fallacy’ (in a more day to day language a `red herring’). Let me take a minute of yours to explain what that means and how it fits into context.

    [From Wikipedia] If the argument attacks a person because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument.

    This form of the argument is as follows:

    A makes claim P.
    Bs also make claim P.
    Therefore, A is a B.

    Your argument in the post may be parsed as follows

    A – “William Ayer (allegedly a terrorist)”
    B – “Obama”
    P – serves in a educational board, for advancement of educational system

    Notice that it follows the same structure of `guilt by association’, which is fallacious way of reasoning and do not hold much gravity.

    Also, by this logic any professor who worked with Ayers at University of Illinois, the other board members or any parents who participated in the program will be termed a terrorist (or supporting terrorism), which clearly isn’t the case.

    I also will like to point out your claim that Obama lied about the affair
    * A guy from the neighbourhood
    * Our kids go to same school together
    * We have served in couple of boards together

    These are perfectly legitimate and correct statements. True, he might have played it down a bit, however he was never inconsistent or untrue in his arguments.

    Also, the claim that CAC was Obama’s first employer and Ayers was person responsible for making this claim is also incorrect. Please verify the source before making this claim.

    Also, please note that I have consciously tried to detail out only the logical fallacy in your argument, and except for one, I have not pointed out the lack of support materials for your arguments. Reason being, to show that the argument will fall flat even if all the claims you made are correct and verifiable.

    -Appu

  2. i agree to your views.
    Even i was quite surprised by the answer he gave in that google interview 🙂
    The consistency of his message and views was evident in a video i found on new york times..check this out http://vinjk.livejournal.com/63417.html
    As he claims, I too feel he has one of the most detailed and specific plans for each and every major issue in US.
    His speech on race was just amazing!

    His victory wont be just a victory for the blacks in US, i feel it will be a defning moment for oppressed people all around the world.
    I cant wait for that moment…but at the same time i have a feeling something really bad is going to happen!:-|

  3. Appu,
    I wanted to write a “Dear American” letter before the election day, but was not quick on my feet to make it in time. Looks like your post was created on somewhat similar lines.

    If this was a world election Barry-O will win hands down, but alas it is not. Living in the heart of Palin country, it is hard to believe that one of the presidential candidates really knows the drawbacks of bubble sort, not that it really matters. The one who used to work a few miles away from my office and currently running for one of the haloed offices of the United States might say, ‘bubbles burst so we don’t usually sort them’ with a trademark wink.

    Ultimately this race is about race. If the average American ‘heartlander’ can think with his head and not let the right-wing radio talk shows(oh you should hear them) do the thinking on their behalf as to how much the traits of Anti-Christ match with Obama, then the battle is won. What they don’t understand now is, America is losing ground in the world, if they write-off this so-called Anti-Christ they are forfeiting their only hope of redemption.

    Well, Christ was a misunderstood guy in his times, hope humanity(the American part of it) has learned enough from their Bibles not to commit the same mistake twice.
    *fingers crossed for Obama*

  4. Deepti,

    Yes, I have heard snippets from couple of Rush Limbaugh’s show. The whole purpose of show seemed to be to inject huge dosage of hate and paranoia. The amount of paranoia pertinent in some of the Americans appears almost bizarre. For example, people seems to draw a very premature conclusions at the very mention of some of the phrases like “socialism”, “communism”, “spread the wealth around” etc. Though I have a feeling India is also following in the step, courtesy Raj Thackery and co.

    However, election results are refreshing! Finally, my fear about the possibility of the scattered brained winking senator can get remogrified into relief and thank her for some unintentional, albeit quality humour.

  5. Vineet,
    Thanks for you the links!
    And the news is marvelous for a change, isn’t it?

  6. about palin
    I was watching a of the bill maher show…i know he is too mean at times but i have to say he is hillarious. In that he says the biden-palin debate was the defining moment..it was contest between the “thinker and the winker…the reader vs the breeder…”! 😀

    Her Katie Couric interview was toe-curling experience for me! eventhough it had nothing to do with me…i was literally cringing each time she opens her mouth!

    Obama victory is just amazing…it was quite moving to see Jesse Jackson and the likes shed tears

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