Saturday, November 29, 2008

Roger Ebert's Journal: Death to film critics! Hail to the CelebCult!

Roger Ebert column at the Chicago Sun-Times, November 26, 2008
Death to film critics! Hail to the CelebCult!

Roger Ebert is the movie reviewer at the Chicago Sun-Times, made famous by being part of the movie review team of Siskal and Ebert (later Ebert at the Movies). This column talks about the art of being a movie critic. It's trigger.

The crowning blow came this week when the once-magisterial Associated Press imposed a 500-word limit on all of its entertainment writers. The 500-word limit applies to reviews, interviews, news stories, trend pieces and "thinkers." Oh, it can be done. But with "Synecdoche, New York?"

. . .

Worse, the AP wants its writers on the entertainment beat to focus more on the kind of brief celebrity items its clients apparently hunger for. The AP, long considered obligatory to the task of running a North American newspaper, has been hit with some cancellations lately, and no doubt has been informed what its customers want: Affairs, divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been "seen with" somebody, who has been "spotted with" somebody, and "top ten" lists of the above. (Celebs "seen with" desire to be seen, celebs "spotted with" do not desire to be seen.)

So, what is a film critic for? Is it just to tell about the gawking of the actors and actresses who play the character on the screen? In another forum, one of my book reviews is being severely criticized, because I have stated that my primary criteria to judging a book is the believability of the characters (after I grant to the author the scenario and situation), not the politics of the book. Ebert says this much better.

Why do we need critics? A good friend of mine in a very big city was once told by his editor that the critic should "reflect the taste of the readers." My friend said, "Does that mean the food critic should love McDonald's?" The editor: "Absolutely." I don't believe readers buy a newspaper to read variations on the Ed McMahon line, "You are correct, sir!" A newspaper film critic should encourage critical thinking, introduce new developments, consider the local scene, look beyond the weekend fanboy specials, be a weatherman on social trends, bring in a larger context, teach, inform, amuse, inspire, be heartened, be outraged.

I could only hope to move in the general direction of that goal. And mourn every sign of its passing that comes my way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

PSO: Ohlsson plays Beethoven

Last week, Mr. Ohlsson was featured in New York Times review of a recital in New York City. Reading this piqued my interest, and I was looking forward to this Sunday's concert.

With the beginning of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 seemed to start different. Instead of the usual build from the orchestra, Mr. Ohlsson introduced the theme on the piano. And the exposed introduction on the piano was followed by the richness of the full orchestra. For the rest of the piece we were treated to impressive piano, intricate, delicate and amazing fingerwork. Well contrasted with the fullness of sound in the orchestra.

I have a belief that people and roles are not interchangeable. Which is a little strange, since my profession is one that is forced to work with people who are anonymous (except perhaps in terms of skill sets.) But even if from an abstract level we can work as if people could be interchangeable, at the point where something actually happens, it always seems different. People working alongside each other seem to adjust to each others strengths and weaknesses, and even if the job titles are fixed, the actual jobs seem to be just a little different from one team to another.

And Ohlsson playing Beethoven shows the uniqueness. It never seems like the piano and orchestra are ever competing, because the orchestral parts display a richness that is hard to imagine coming from a piano, and the piano parts have intricacy and detail that is hard to imagine coming from the multitude of voices of an orchestra. It was a wonder and a joy to behold.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book meme: Head First Java

The rules:

* Grab the nearest book.
* Open it to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

From Head First Java 2nd ed. by Sierra and Bates

"But when you're talking about memory allocation issues, your Big Concern should be about how many objects (as opposed to object references) you're creating, and how big they (the objects) really are.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Book Review: The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Audacity of Hope is not a biography, it is a discussion of politics in the United States. It is not a denunciation of the current political system, but a description of it and how and why it developed the way it has.

Obama walks through a number of topics, the two-party system, values, the constitution, politics, opportunity, faith, and race, and writes about how each is related to the political process. He discusses the actual issues that are involved, how various groups within the United States view the various sides of the issues, and he discusses on how these issues are addressed during political campaigns.

The theoretical part is instructive. Among other things, Obama taught constitutional law in one of the top law schools in the country. That is not a qualification in itself, but he notes that it exposes him to intelligent people who will challenge details of his understanding, and force him to clarify the corners of what he believes. The chapter on constitutional law is probably one of the better descriptions of the views and implications of the strict constructionist view of law, and why Obama opposes it (Strict construction implies that the law should be taken as written. The opposition arguement "judicial review" is the law (especially founding fathers) tells us how to think, not what to think, the writers of the constitution actually disagreed on many things, so the concept of "founders intent" in "what to think" is meaningless. Since the founders left behind considerable commentary (paralleled by the congressional record in the case of laws), the commentary can be used in understanding "how to think" and give an understanding of how the law should be applied to the situation at hand.) )

The more practical components stem from his experiences on state and federal level campaigns (Illinois and U.S. Congress) and his experience at the community level as an organizer with a number of churches on the south side of Chicago. It is highly practical, how politics work at street level. It is probably one of the more comprehensive explanations of why special interests are so important to political campaigns, especially as the area covered by the campaign gets larger.

His main point about special interests is they provide two things, money and political workers on the ground. A normal candidate cannot provide these things by him/herself because a mere candidate base of support starts as local, where the candidate has been working in the past. So all political candidates work with people who can provide large sums of funds, and motivate people who would be willing to speak on behalf of the candidate in various parts of the country, and to their neighbors through phone banks and canvassing. For the Democrats, the main groups that provide this manpower are labor unions, environmental groups, and prochoice groups. For Republicans, the key special interest groups are the religious right, local chambers of commerce, the NRA and anti-tax organizations. And the messages are "spun" by media in this context.

So it is instructive on how this understanding of the political process played out in the campaign. Not just how the sides were taken (the Republican advocacy of Strict construction, the Republican use of Gov. Palin to keep the key special interest groups involved in the campaign, the McCain/Palin emphasis on not raising taxes.) but how Obama structured his campaign. The emphasis on small donations rather then large donations. The refusal to take money from lobbyists or allow lobbyists to take positions in the campaign. The heavy recruiting of volunteers not associated with unions, environmental or prochoice groups. So if a lobbyist comes to advocate a position, that lobbyist cannot say that the group he represents provided the decisive contribution to the Obama campaign, in either money or workers. The lobbyist must advocate the issue on its face.

Audacity of Hope is a primer on the U.S. political system, both as theory, and how it actually works and why. It also provides a framework to look at the American political system at work. And, it provides thoughts on how the more self-destructive tendencies can be mitigated. The next question is how this works in practice.

View all my reviews.

Book Review: Faith of My Fathers by John McCain

Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir by John McCain

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Faith of My Fathers is the book about the making of a military officer, whose author was preparing for the 2000 Republican Presidential primary campaign. McCain talks about his father and grandfather, both successful Navy officers (an Admiral who became CINCPAC, and a submarine Captain).

McCain discusses his relationship with the Navy in the context of this family. The fact that as a young man, he was not so serious about the Navy, that it started out looking like just a job. In this, he acknowledged that he probably disappointed his family as well as others who cared deeply about the Navy as an institution.

He writes that his sense of duty and seriousness grew as he served and gained responsibility. First, with his midshipman cruise, where he went to sea on a deployed ship. Then as he had multiple tours of duty on a carrier.

With all of his mentors, and experiences, he makes it to the second part, his service in the Vietnam war then being a prisoner of war of the Vietnamese. With his now maturing sense of duty to country and fellow servicemen, he undergoes interrogation by the Vietnamese, and the offers to break faith with his fellow prisoners or for freedom in return for false statements. And he intimidates that it was his developing sense of duty and honor, that was not present at the beginning of his Naval Academy times, that gave him the strength to bear it, and return with honor.

In it essence it is a story of how a pattern of dealing with adversity and responsibility turned into strength of character, in time to face a test of character. It is a very deeply personal story. It suffers from this degree of personal intimacy, because it lacks generalization. This may have cost him during the 2000 campaign, when political supporters of George W. Bush spread rumors that his time as a POW, detailed in the book, actually made McCain a "Manchurian Candidate." While the Bush supporters campaign was very efficiently run, I would have wished this book could have been a better foil to the 2000 smear campaign.

The deeply personal nature of this makes it different then the books related by Afghanistan and Iraq veterans (military and otherwise) that I have read. Granted, it is because I tend to read the books that are closer to my experience, but most of what I have read deals with the need to work with the locals, the difficulty of working with people who were not open and honest with you. Of knowing that even people who were in fact supporting you, could not be open with you because of the hazards they faced when you walked away for the day. Because of this, the current generation writes more about having to depend on each other, on those they trained with, shared their struggles, and the lessons they all learned together. Yes, all learned much about themselves, but even that was done in the context of others in service. Faith of My Fathers almost suffers because it focuses so much inward.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Obama Ground Game, from the ground

[these are notes, so someday I can tell my grandkids what it was like as part of the Obama campaign]

I started following the Obama campaign during the primary season, in the days leading up to the Pennsylvania Primary. A Democratic Primary campaign that was expected to be a lock for Sen. Hilary Clinton had turned interesting, with the first two contests split between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama. Sen. Clinton's big push was against Sen. Obama's inexperience, proclaiming that when the primaries were over, Sen. McCain and the Republicans would launch into a no-gloves smearfest, and Sen. Clinton could handle it while Sen. Obama could not. She predicted that the Republicans would leave no stone unturned, or distorted, to make these attacks. And since the Republicans have been smearing her for 10 years, the Democrats already knew she could survive.

As part of these attacks, Sen. Clinton's campaign brought up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. A veteran, with a tour in the Marine Corps, then a tour in the Navy during the Vietnam war era, Rev. Wright was Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, which is where Sen. Obama accepted the Christian faith and became part of a christian community. Rev. Wright was also known for his fire and anger at the United States with all of its injustices. And Sen. Clinton attacked Sen. Obama for this.

Sen. Obama had two options. He could ignore the attack, hoping it would not stick. Or he could forsake his pastor, denouncing Rev. Wright's views. He decided something different. He acknowledge the hate of his pastor, then denounced it, stating that it acknowledged truth, but denied what America could be. And, in Philadelphia, he presented a vision for an America that could be ("More Perfect Union"), completely in keeping with the themes of his political life.

I ended up voting for Obama in the primary, then connected with the campaign. Months later, as Sen. Obama began winning more primary contests, and the Sen. Clinton campaign died down, the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania started up again, looking towards the national election.

I live in the North Hills, affluent north suburbs of Pittsburgh. The area is heavily conservative. In addition, the entire southwest Pennsylvania region is striking in its insularity and lack of diversity, visible to anyone who has to work with the region as a whole (my experience is with public safety and emergency services). And with a multi-racial candidate, this was shown to be an issue with whisper campaigns and unattributed e-mails that circulated throughout the primary season.

I first started with voter's registration in Cranberry, then in the North Hills. The local field organizer for Butler County (a student from California taking a semester off), as part of our introduction, explained that it was never expected that Butler County would vote for Obama. But the goal was to cut into its dominance, and let the Butler Republican Party know that the Democrates would work in Butler County. The field organizer for the North Hills (recent graduate, taking time off before starting a teaching job in PA where he grew up) said the same. For Pennsylvania, it could be expected the Democrats would dominate Philadelphia and the city of Pittsburgh, the Republicans would dominate central PA. The question would be the ability of the Democrats to develop support in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs. And as campaign volunteers in the north suburbs of Pittsburgh, we would see it all.

Voter's registration went on during the remainder of the summer. It was good natured, especially in dominantly Republican Butler County. We probably registered as many Republicans as Democrats in Cranberry. But the point was to make a presence, and let people know that Democrats were not stand-ins for the devil (which was a serious issue there.)

By late-July, the North Hills team was started with a field organizer who grew up in the North Hills, and a few couples who would serve as volunteer organizers, dividing the six townships in northern Allegheny County. We continued voter's registration, but as Obama reached the point that he won the Democratic nomination, we started calling voter's and canvassing (knocking on doors), asking them about their views on Obama and McCain, recruiting volunteers from supporters and talking to Clinton supporters, encouraging them in their support of Clinton and the Democratic Party in the runup to the Democratic National Convention. And we laid the groundwork for a bigger organization to come. From a group that started in late July at about 20 volunteers for the six townships in the North Hills, it was expected to multiply ten-fold after the convention.

Right after the convention, and after going to a rally in Beaver County with Obama and VP-Candidate Sen. Biden, I left for three weeks to volunteer in Texas and Louisiana in response to Hurricane Gustav and Ike. The volunteer coordinator for Franklin Park/Marshall teases me for being so lazy to leave the campaign in September.

When I returned, the campaign was a buzz of activity. The campaign had a North Hills office, right off McKnight Road (the big commercial road for the North Hills) There were always volunteers there on the phone, with extra ones for the evening. There were now two additional staff. Of course, this was after the Republican Convention. With the standard convention bounce, polls considered the race even. Which was expected as Sen. McCain was the only Republican who was different enough from the Republican party to have a good shot at the middle. And while the conservative wing of the party, especially those who spoke for evangelical christians, openly disliked him, having Sarah Palin as candidate for VP gave them cause to embrace and support the Republican candidates. With so many volunteers, I elected to canvass when I had time, because I was comfortable with going around, knocking on doors of strangers, even if I was alone. Because I figured the North Hills of Pittsburgh did not compare to Afghanistan or a disaster area.

Knocking on doors had lots of responses. There were the houses with Obama supporters who asked "are there other Obama supporters here?" The houses where people said "good work" and "good luck". Old ladies who were so delighted to have someone that came to talk to them. People who were delighted to have a Presidential campaign contact them and wanted to help in any way. Veterans who did not support Obama, but when learning I was in Afghanistan, we would greet each other as brothers. There were people who wanted to talk about health care, or taxes or the economy. We would usually have a few fact sheets and specific issues. And the Obama-Biden campaign would posts videos on YouTube about issue areas as well as current campaign speeches by the candidates and supporters around the country. One day Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg (daughter of John F. Kennedy) came by to give us a pep talk and join us canvassing. And so many people who asked "do you think he (Obama) has a chance?" (my reply "he has a chance, but we have work to do.") The most memorable conversations were a few mothers of soldiers or soon to be soldiers. We spent alot of time talking about Afghanistan, and why I thought that Obama would be a good commander-in-chief for their children. Several asked if Obama would get us out of the war. Of course, unlike some candidates, Obama does not promise a unilateral, immediate pullout. But I could tell them that he will use the military appropriately, and he will also bring other aspects of national power (DIME) to bear, not just the military.

And the campaign also posted McCain-Palin ads and recordings of campaign phone calls. The McCain-Palin campaign had made the choice to go almost all negative, to the point where their campaign site had only the briefest of outlines of their position and platform. There were the houses where they heard from church that Obama was a Muslim (Obama is a church going Christian, there is no Muslim in the world who would call Obama a Muslim. If Obama was not Christian, he could not be attacked on the basis of his pastor.) There were those who asked if he worked with terrorists (based on being part of a Republican organized board to improved schools in Chicago. The Republican organizers included a former member of the 60's radical Weather Underground.) Others were told he went to school in a madrassas (He went to public schools in Indonesia. And the ones that wondered if he was indeed a citizen and truly eligible to be President (Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Sen. Obama had earlier in the year prepared a memorandum that supported that the Panama Canal-born John McCain was considered 'natural born citizen' as opposed to one who citizenship was conferred to ensure McCain's citizenship would not be an issue during the Presidential campaign.) And there were the people who would slam the door in any Democrates face. During this time these views were being promoted on radio shows, automatic telephone calls and email campaigns. All of which the Obama-Biden campaign would make available on the internet so we could address the smear campaign.

By the week before the election, the weekend canvassing was too big to work out of the Obama campaign office, so we staged out of the local congressional campaign office. Then we used staging areas at the volunteer coordinators (three for the North Hills). The weekend before the election, 200 volunteers had canvassed in the North Hills at some point. While McCain was 'guarantee victory', the Obama campaign was preaching "Don't let up" And we did not. With that many volunteers, we were meeting each other all over the place. Over the weekend I took four shifts. I saw three other groups of Obama canvassers, two groups with SEIU (a union that was supporting Obama) and a group supporting Republican Congressional Candidate Hart. And I know that there was at least one group with Democratic Congressional Candidate Altmire around me as well. There were thanks and encouragement from Obama supporters and those who did not want to say who they supported, and heckles from McCain supporters. On Saturday night there was a big volunteer conference call, that included Sen. Obama himself giving a pep talk to the volunteers over the phone. ( *ring ring* this is the Obama campaign. Please hold the line for a few minutes for a conference call with Sen. Obama.)

The last day was election day. After voting, I spent the rest of the day knocking on doors, checking if people had voted. It was just like the old school Chicago precinct captain election day ritual of walking around the neighborhood to make sure people had voted. There were packets of walk sheets that the volunteer coordinator house. People were dropping off food, snacks and drinks for the volunteers, and others were standing by to provides for anyone who needed it.

And then the wait. Everyone had discounted polls talking about 15% advantage for Obama in PA, preferring to focus on all of McCain and Palin campaigning in the area, and our memories were of when PA was considered even. I took the time off to go home and rest. And around 8:30 my wife and I went back to the volunteer organizer's house to watch the results. The next couple hours went from casual acceptance to astonishment. Many of the states were pretty well known. Pennsylvania was the first shock, because we almost did not believe that Obama would be that much ahead to call so early (Obama ended up winning by 10%). We discounted almost every piece of news before 9PM. There was Indiana not being called for either for the longest time. The announcement that Democrats swept the New England congressional races. Obama winning New Mexico. Colorado still being in contention. Then Ohio being called for Obama. And after the unified media had Obama at 200 electorial votes, with California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii yet to close, everyone knew that Obama would reach 270. The various network announcers were tripping over themselves dealing with the obvious (CA, OR, WA and HI were all going to be for Obama without question) without actually saying it before the polls in those states closed. Of course, everyone else could do the same math, and all the various campaign offices were calling us, sharing in the excitement without actually saying anything because it may jinx it. And then, at 11 EST, the west coast polls closed. And the six media networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, AP) all declared that Obama would win those states, and their tally had Obama over 270 electorial votes (even without Florida, Virginia, North Carolina or Missouri) And much gladness, and feeling of a job well done.

An American Election

After voting (an hour wait at 7AM) I spent the day all over the North Hills of Pittsburgh, knocking on doors, reminding people to vote. Somewhat incongruous, because "everyone knows" the North Hills is overwhelmingly Republican. Or, it is supposed to be. Many people said thanks. A few were surprised to find that their polling location had changed from what they knew of it. And a few who proudly informed me that they had voted for McCain. Depending on my mood, I informed them I served my country in a combat zone so they could vote. And many people for Obama wondering "can he (Obama) win?"

Some campaign signs outside the voting booth

We spent the evening in a small house party at the local volunteer organizer's house. One of the shockers was seeing the networks declaring Pennsylvania so quickly. Because we remember back in summer that Pennsylvania was almost even, so the reports of ~10-15% advantage to Obama/Biden was "crazy talk".

Campaign map at ~9:30 EST

Throughout the night as the results rolled in, and once it was apparent that the only thing that everyone was waiting for was the Pacific Time Zone states to report in, the phone calls were coming in. At our little party we got calls from friends in California, Virginia, Florida. The campaign staff at the local congressman campaign headquarters and those at the Pittsburgh headquarters, all sharing their joy, and asking if any of us wanted to go. But we stayed. Happy to be with our little band, basking in months of hard work, making calls and pounding pavement. And a President-elect who promises hard work ahead for this country.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting in Pennsylvania

One of those dark open secrets of American democracy is the embarrassingly low voter turnout rates. The U.S. is a country that considers 50% participation to be high. Dictatorships around the world point to this number and tell their populations that American democracy is a myth and not for their people. And they point to their 100% turnout in their elections, with 99% of the votes for the winning (and only) candidate. After all, 100% turnout is much more representative then the <50% the U.S. gets, even for a presidential election. It is a hard argument to refute.

This is one of the things that makes voter suppression efforts in the U.S. to be so insulting. The right to vote is the foundation for all the other rights. When an interest is shut out of the political process, the only means left to being heard is through violence. The right to vote brings groups that would otherwise resort to extremes and violence into the political process. And in the U.S. and around the world, moderates them. The modern classical example is the Basque region of Spain, where Basque separationist have operated for generations. Then the Basques were given semi-autonomy, and the responsibility of governance. Even with many issues still open, the violence went down.

To attempt the wholesale rejection of people's right to vote is to refute representative government as created by principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It is cynicism in the extreme. One of the perverse effects has been the wholesale challenges to a large number of voter registrations in Ohio, where one of the challenged names was Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, also known as "Joe the Plumber." But Joe will be glad to know that the Democratic Party is fighting for his right to vote.

Voting information for Pennsylvania

Protecting your right to vote

How to use voting machines in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (ES&S iVotronic video)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NYTimes: Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage

If Elected . . . - Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage

It is an altruism that you can be judged by the quality of your enemies. When the subject is political discourse, it is hoped that the saying can be rephrased to "opponents" oe "those who disagree." This U.S. Presidential Race is remarkable that there happens to be an issue that is considered a major flashpoint in American politics, and both major party candidates agree. Both Obama and McCain oppose same-sex marriage and both Obama and McCain oppose amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. But the difference lies in the way this opposition is presented.

Gay rights activists have reported many interactions with Obama on the issue of same-sex marriage. The New York Times article and other reports are the same, Sen. Barack Obama will not back same-sex marriage due to his Christian beliefs. And there is no expectation that Obama will be changing his understanding of Christian tradition that "marriage is something sanctified between a man and woman" , nor change his acceptance of this aspect of Christian beliefs and teaching. But they support him despite his opposition to this dearly held goal. Because his Christian beliefs also include a belief in his own sinfulness and fallibility. And a Christian faith that recognizes the fallibility of the holder is something they can live with.

McCain's opposition to same-sex marriage is due to acceptance of culturally accepted norms, according to his advisors. But when this is communicated to those of the gay community, it comes out, wrong. Whereas Sen. Obama always openly communicates to the gay community that he will not support same-sex marriage due to his Christian beliefs, Sen. McCain is less straight-forward. In his interview with Ellen DeGeneres, they had the following exchange.

The California Supreme Court had just cleared the way for same-sex marriage, and Ms. DeGeneres had announced on her program that she planned to marry her longtime girlfriend. “We are all the same people, all of us — you’re no different than I am,” Ms. DeGeneres told Mr. McCain as they sat next to each other in plush chairs. “Our love is the same.”

Mr. McCain called her comments “very eloquent” and added: “We just have a disagreement. And I, along with many, many others, wish you every happiness.”

Ms. DeGeneres said: “So, you’ll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you’re saying?”

Mr. McCain replied, “Touché.”

It is not that their views are different, but Sen. Obama is capable of communicating differences with people, even on issues that they hold dear, even when the differences are irreconcilable due to an immutable value on Sen. Obama's part. While Ms. DeGeneres catches Sen. McCain offering patronizing platitudes without being willing to follow through in action. So Sen. Obama can disagree and leave his opposition's dignity intact, and with the belief that they are also viewed as human, with the greatness and fallibility this implies.

It is not only with the gay community that Sen. Obama does this. The Palestinians Sen. Obama deals with knows this, that they will never change Sen. Obama's staunch support for Israel's right to exist with secure borders ([Rashid] Khalidi added that he strongly disagrees with Obama's current views on Israel, and often disagreed with him during their talks over the years - LATimes). Yet the Palestinians who desire peace also view Sen. Obama as someone who can consider the interests of the Palestinian people in the context of a secure Israel. (Those that do not desire peace dislike Sen. Obama without reservation) He has spoken openly to African-American audiences about the requirement for personal accountability and individual work ethic. Messages that have been reacted to badly when delivered by others such as Bill Crosby.

In his book Audacity of Hope Sen. Obama talks about the interaction of political candidates with special interest groups. He talks about how political advisors recommend not answering questionnaires from groups that oppose them, because it only gives them more reasons to hate you. But somehow, Sen. Obama has figured out how to confront audiences with his beliefs that are in opposition to their's, and leave them thinking that he is still the person they want in office. And I believe it is because he has this understanding of his own fallibility, that he knows there are no silver bullets, that the tasks and issues are not black and white and easy, but that the path ahead is hard. And he asks that along this hard road, his audiences follow him and work with him. And that this hard road ahead is something they can find believable, more then the many false platitudes they have heard before.