Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Other Items

No, the dishy Viggo Mortensen is not trodding the local boards in a play. But the "Lord of the Rings"/"Eastern Promises" hottie -- make that distinguished thespian -- will be appearing at a benefit reading from "Voices of a People's History of the United States."
[. . .]

Joining Mortensen onstage at the May 5 reading are Anthony Arnove, editor and author; Staceyann Chin, a performance poet; Camilo Meija, war resister; Shontina Vernon, singer; Sarah Levy, Portland student activist; and others.
The event location is First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Ave. Tickets are $20, and $10 for students. You can purchase tickets
online or call 503-222-2719.

The above is from Kristi Turnquist's "Viggo Mortensen Onstage in Portland!" (The Oregonian)
and that's a reading of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. From books to toys, Skip notes "Bill proposed in Iraq to ban toy guns" (AP via Sydney Morning Herald):

Iraqi lawmakers are working on a bill to ban imports of toy guns and fireworks in a bid to curb increasingly aggressive behaviour among children growing up amidst war, a lawmaker says.
"The culture of violence has prevailed in our society and controlled the Iraqi family and it has affected the culture of children," said Samira al-Moussawi, head of the parliamentary committee on children and women, which is preparing the legislation.
"It has become a habit among a majority of our children to take what they want by force and that we want to change this culture," al-Moussawi told The Associated Press.

The toys really aren't the cause. The cause is the illegal war and the UNCHR and others have long documented that children are copying -- as all children do -- what is going on around them. Banning the toys doesn't end the illegal war and doesn't end the climate the children are growing up in. Equally true, any child wanting to play guns knows how to point a finger and raise a thumb. There are serious issues for the Iraqi Parliament to address and this really doesn't appear to be one. Regarding fireworks, with the number of civilians killed when someone fires off a gun to celebrate a wedding and the number of explosions already taking place, it's surprising that they're only now considering a ban on fireworks.

From Hamza Hendawi's "Iraqi kids play make-believe war games" (AP, Feb. 2007):

On Baghdad's dusty streets, Iraqi children are playing make-believe war games inspired by the Shiite-Sunni conflict, a development that shows the depth of the city's rapid and violent break-up along sectarian lines.
Some adults try to discourage such games, fearing they only contribute to sectarian hatred. Others believe there is little they can do to stop it — given the horror that children in Baghdad experience nearly every day.
"Playing such games is normal," said Rabab Qassim, a school teacher and mother of three from Hurriyah, where Shiite militiamen drove out hundreds of Sunni families last year. "It has become part of the kids' lives. It is not a figment of their imagination. It is in front of them everywhere and they live it every day."

And, in fact, toy guns weren't really the issue in 2005. From March 2005's "Iraq's Children In Shadow Of War" (CBS News):

For a generation of Iraqi children, war is all they know. So instead of playing with bikes or balls, they bring their nightmares to life.
"Iraqi kids have lost their ... the golden times of their life. They are living in the worst and the most adverse situation a child can live through," child psychiatrist Dr. Ali Hameed told CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier.
Their elders don't always "teach the children well," either. Local leaders organized a street play in Sadr City. The "bad guy" is dressed as an American soldier, paying off local informants to squeal on the militant gunmen of the Mahdi army.
"Here is some money as a reward from the coalition forces," said one child.
Instead of using their imagination - or toy guns - they fire real guns, loaded with blanks.
And when they "play dead" they are treated as heroes, and martyrs.
They talk of rivers of blood, and revenge.
"Let us revolt against America."

Turning to US politics . . .

Yesterday Pennsylvania held their primary and Hillary Clinton won. Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) observes:

Yet the campaign has exposed Obama's glaring weakness among the working-class whites Democrats need to win the presidency.
"If I told you somebody was winning California, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Michigan and Florida and was not winning the nomination, you'd say something was wrong," said Democratic consultant Doug Schoen, who is unaligned in the race. "And something arguably is not right."
If Democrats had the same winner-take-all process that catapulted McCain toward the GOP nomination despite close victories in a fractured field, Clinton would have all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination on Feb. 5., when she took four of the six largest states, including California by a nine-point margin.
The Electoral College is a similar winner-take-all system that would seem to play to Clinton's strengths and prey on Obama's weaknesses.

A pretty HUGE weakness and the plan is to note this article in the snapshot today. US News & World Reports has a round-up of coverage:

Media reports are assessing Sen. Hillary Clinton's 55%-45% margin of victory in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary as sufficient to allow her to continue her campaign, but most also focus on the challenges that her campaign faces in actually securing the nomination. The Los Angeles Times, for example, reports that "mathematically, with just nine contests left, it appears virtually impossible for Clinton to overtake Obama in the popular vote and among pledged delegates -- those chosen in primaries and caucuses." In an analysis, the AP says this morning "Clinton should savor the moment. Soon enough, she must face the reality of time and money running out on her once-invincible campaign." In an analysis, the Chicago Tribune reports, "Despite another high-profile defeat, Obama still has numbers on his side."

Obama has no numbers on his side. He's in a tie. Obama's not winning and he's not winning the needed groups. The campaign has exposed his weaknesses. Latrice notes Beth Fouhy's "Analysis: Obama still struggling to win key constituencies" (AP):

Why can't Barack Obama close the deal?
It's a question Hillary Rodham Clinton and her surrogates raised through the last days of the caustic Pennsylvania primary contest. And unfortunately for Obama — who lost to the former first lady by a 10-point margin Tuesday night — it's a question that bears repeating.
The loss, despite a massive cash infusion and robust campaign presence in the state, underscores the persistent problems he's had winning over many of the voters who form the traditional Democratic party base.
While the Illinois senator remains overwhelmingly popular among blacks, affluent voters and young people, other groups key to building the Democratic coalition remain elusive.
Clinton bested him among white, blue-collar voters by a margin of 69 percent to 30 percent in Pennsylvania, similar to her showing in Ohio last month. She also won older voters, women and whites and improved her margins among white, non-Catholic men.

The Clinton campaign offers an analysis of last night's results in "MEMO: The Tide Is Turning:"

The voters in Pennsylvania have spoken. America is listening. And the tide is turning.
By providing fresh evidence that Hillary is the candidate best positioned to beat John McCain in the fall, the Pennsylvania primary is a turning point in the nominating contest.
Despite making an unprecedented financial investment in his Pennsylvania campaign, including millions on negative ads in the closing days of the race, Sen. Obama again failed to win a state that will be vital to a Democratic victory in November and spurred new questions about his ability to beat John McCain. No candidate has ever had more resources or enjoyed the kind of momentum that Sen. Obama had in Pennsylvania.
With concerns about the economy paramount, voters decided that Sen. Clinton was the candidate they trusted most to deal with job loss, the housing crisis and health care.
And with both candidates under the microscope at the same time for the first time, Hillary took more than a few punches and came out stronger while Sen. Obama emerged weaker as voters learned more about him. The exit polls clearly show that Sen. Clinton gained strength in the final days when the campaign was most engaged.
The reason for the Clinton comeback is clear: voters want a candidate who will stand strong for them and work to create a better future.

STRONG ON ECONOMY: Pennsylvania turned on which candidate made the better case for fixing the economy. Exit polls show voters viewed Hillary more favorably on the economy - her leadership resonated across the heartland of Pennsylvania. Those who want change in the economy voted overwhelmingly for Hillary.

A DECISIVE VICTORY: According to exit polls, Hillary won voters most concerned about the economy by 16 points (58-42) and union households by 18 points (59-41). She won those with incomes between 100K and 150K by 20 points (60-40); white women by 32 points (66-34) and Catholics by 38 points (69-31). She won those who decided on the last day (59-41), the last three days (58-42) and the last week (54-46).

SEN. OBAMA PLAYED TO WIN & LOST: Sen. Obama played to win Pennsylvania outright, outspending the Clinton camp by a 3 to 1 margin while sharply attacking Sen. Clinton on the stump and in television, radio, and direct mail pieces. He understood what was at stake for him in Pennsylvania, had six full weeks to make his case, went for a knockout at the end and came up short. Sen. Obama’s failure to do well raises questions about his ability to win the large, swing states that Democrats need to win in November.

HRC WILL WIN IN NOVEMBER: Democrats must win the large swing states to beat John McCain in the fall, but Sen. Obama has struggled in states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. In addition, Hillary’s voters form the coalition needed for Democratic success in the fall battleground states: women, Hispanics, older voters, working class voters and Catholics. Sen. McCain is stronger than a typical Republican normally is among these groups while Sen. Obama has proven weaker among them. Hillary is also most likely to hold traditionally Democratic states and poised to expand the electoral map in the Southwest while also flipping a few traditionally GOP states like Arkansas.

OUR VICTORY HAS RE-ENERGIZED OUR CAMPAIGN & OUR GRASSROOTS: Sen. Obama may have outspent us 3 to 1 in Pennsylvania, but Hillary's strong supporters kept her in it. As news of Sen. Clinton’s victory spread, we received more donations at and more new online contributors than after our wins in Ohio and Texas. In fact, this was our best night ever for online fundraising.

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