Archive for April, 2008

Obama has picked his running mate – and it’s not Clinton

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

… but it is a woman – an eighty-two year old woman.

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A jolt of electricity

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Poster from the Obey website.

Here’s the Utne Reader

Obama is a young man, and no matter what his political future, he too will disappoint the same people he instigated. It’s inevitable. Nevertheless, the millions he’s already touched will never forget this moment in history because, no matter your political stripe, there’s no denying that our nation has been sleepwalking for the past eight years. We put the covers over our heads on September 12, 2001, got up to look around in 2004, and then hit the snooze button again, hoping that things would work themselves out. They didn’t. And they won’t.

Obama has jolted us awake. The air is crackling again with the power of possibility, with the belief that there’s still some magic to be squeezed out of the American Dream. And that sensation is as real as it is unforgettable.

Storytelling is the new politics

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Previously I wrote about the emergence of the new politics courtesy of the US presidential election. Here is another example of what’s happening. The Obama campaign is doing something clever: having ordinary folk introduce the candidate by telling their personal story. This is a significant change when compared with the traditional approach of having someone famous, established or important introducing the candidate. I love this, from the Obama website

The great birthing – the significance of the US presidential election

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Like me, you may have become fascinated – obsessed, even – with the presidential election in the United States.

Some might think that the levels of money being raised are obscene. To that perspective, I’d counter that people’s participation rather than corrupt secret deals is the cause. Others may think that no politician can be honourable. To this perspective, I’d counter that we’re all human but that some are better than others.

I believe this election is the most important the world will know for a very long time. The stakes are the highest they have been.

Can the growing sectarian conflict in the world, that’s embroiled with American foreign policy, be reversed? Can the rhetoric of intolerance, and the belief that might is right, be overcome? Can the political will be generated to address global warming, and other seemingly intractable issues like the rising food prices globally? America can shine a light and do something positive to address each of these questions.

In sum, this election may be the last time that any one nation state has the chance to prevent the erosion of human civilisation as we know it. It’s about sustainability in its deepest sense.

Now I don’t believe any one individual alone can solve these issues. However, the president of the United States, as of 2008, sure sets the tone and leads by example in how to go about addressing them.

If it’s about anything in particular, I’d suggest the election is about the ability to manage amidst complexity.

McCain, unfortunately for him and the Republican Party, has the wrong policies. Clinton has the wrong decision-making approach.

To my mind, the tortuous Democratic nomination campaign reflects the labour pains of a new kind of politics, one that Senator Barack Obama seems the better able to appreciate. Obama has, broadly speaking, both the right policies and the right decision-making approach. (For those who missed it the first time, read Andrew Sullivan’s article, The New Face of America, published in the Times.) That is, of course, from my point of view, but I believe he gives people confidence that he is able to handle, grapple with, and forge pathways through complexity.

Like many others of his supporters, I was disappointed that Clinton won the Pensylvania primary, but I wasn’t surprised. Not only was it predicted and she heavily favoured. If you think about it, anything big that tries to be born has long and drawn-out labour pains.

An important part of the new politics is the grass-roots organising going on, facilitated by the internet. The fundraising has been staggering. The ability to reflect and share ideas and perspectives on the campaign, online, is also formidable. Candidate’s supporters in a very real sense are guiding where the campaign goes. The feedback from a candidate’s speech to a supporter’s online donation can be immediate.

Innovatively, an American NGO,, which has endorsed Obama, is currently hosting an online competition for the best ‘Obama in 30 Seconds‘ advert. I’ve watched a few now, engrossed in how keen people have been to express themselves in aid of a political campaign.

Something I have found heartening has been how people have been effected when they have met Obama in person, heard him speak at rallies, and have had a chance to size him up; like here.

Here are four of my overall favourites

And my vote would be for ‘My Name Is Barack Obama – Afraid’

Window of Light

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meet the 9,550 year old tree

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


A spruce tree found in Sweden –

[…] scientists found a cluster of about 20 trees that are 5,660, 9,000 and 9,550 years old. They used carbon dating on the cones and wood, found underneath its crown, and that showed that its root system had been growing for 9,550 years. Spruce trees grow by cloning so they produce exact copies. It was explained that “while any individual tree growing in the area would itself not be more than a few hundred years old, any tree found on site over the centuries would be generated from the same genetic root system. There is constant turnover in what is actually growing above ground but genetically, the trees growing today are the same as those from thousands of years ago.” A fence is being erected around the tree to protect it from trophy hunters.

– from Treehugger. And this from the BBC

The discovery of the tree has been surprising, because the spruce had until now been regarded as a relative newcomer in the region.

“Our results have shown the complete opposite, that the spruce is one of the oldest known trees in the mountain range,” Mr Kullmann said.

He explained that 10,000 years ago the spruce would have been extremely rare in the region and that it was conceivable Mesolithic humans might have imported the species as they migrated northwards with the receding ice cap.

The discovery also shows that it was much warmer in the region at the time than had been thought previously, perhaps even warmer than today, he added.

A belated post for Earth Day

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yesterday was Earth Day.

[…] from a planetary perspective, a quadrupling of atmospheric carbon lasting 10,000 years (for example) is little more than a passing blip. The fact of the matter is that, no matter how much greenhouse gas we pump into the atmosphere or how many toxins we dump into the soil and oceans, given enough time the Earth will recover.

But human civilization is far more fragile.

From Open the Future, via Memex 1.1.

The rising passion of Al Gore – ‘moving together and quickly’

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The video is worth watching just for the remarkable difference between his wooden presidential campaign of 2000 and his demonstrative passion here. There are other nuggets – like the number of questions asked of the presidential candidates regarding climate change, and this wonderful African proverb –

If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together

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I was particularly struck by the thought that one week’s worth of the Iraq war could be much better spent. There may come a point for US citizens and their allies where there is a decision to be made as to the greater threat and the greater good, Iraq or the whole world.

The costs of doing business: Nike in Vietnam

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The problem with being a global brand, Nike –

More than 20,000 Vietnamese workers have walked off the job at a Taiwanese-owned plant that makes shoes for Nike Inc., demanding higher pay to keep pace with skyrocketing prices, officials said Tuesday.

The workers at Ching Luh plant, in southern Long An province, went on strike Monday. They want a 20 percent bump to their $59 average monthly salaries along with better lunches at the company cafeteria, said Nguyen Van Thua, an official with the province’s trade union.

I’m no economist, but this sounds to me like the way by which a country’s living standards improves… assuming, that is, that Nike accept their demands and that others in the region get similar ideas. And, of course, assuming Nike doesn’t quickly relocate to somewhere cheaper – but to that prospect I ask, how many significantly cheaper places for them can there be in the coming years?

Many of the workers, by the way, are women from rural areas – presumably displaced by their own experience of poverty coupled, I suspect, with land-grabs going on by those in power, hungry for timber, coffee, tea, palm oil and biofuel profits.