Let’s play a game of political compare and contrast.

Obama envisions a government that inspires and leads, but most importantly includes all Americans. At Obama rallies, Barack leads the chant, “Yes WE can!” At Hillary’s, supporters shout “Yes She Can.”

Obama envisions a government that is accountable to itself and the people it serves. He wants to make government records freely available for citizens watch groups to monitor online. The Clintons have been mired in secrecy and tinged with corruption since the 90s.

Obama wants to turn a new page in foreign policy, restore America’s standing in the world, and use diplomacy instead of preemptive war. He will talk to friend or foe. Clinton voted to give Bush the greenlight to war in Iraq, does not regret it, and calls Obama’s opposition mindset a “fairy tale.”

Obama taught Constitutional law, fought to pass a bill that requires the videotaping of police interrogations, and will immediately END torture and restore the civil liberties that have been raped and taken from us by the Bush administration. Hillary voted for the Patriot Act twice, giving Bush not only the power to wage war, but actually spy on and detain Americans without warrant.

Obama is staunchly anti-corruption. He catalyzed the passing of Senate bills and reform requiring campaign finance and lobbyist contribution disclosure. Hillary, when challenged about taking large sums of lobbyist money, scoffs at the idea that it’s at all unethical.

Obama is well versed in technology issues and demonstrated his firm defense of net neutrality during his visit to Google. He singularly intends to appoint the nations first Chief Technology Officer and ensure that the government’s infrastructure is up to date. Clinton, to her credit also supports neutrality and wants to “expand broadband access” but does not have nearly as comprehensive a plan as Obama’s.

Obama has a natural ability to reach and appeal to conservatives, Republicans, independents, and people of all backgrounds. Hillary has a natural ability to unite conservatives against her, and, in their own words, would be a dream to run against.

Obama’s message of hope over fear and diplomacy over war can starkly contrast himself against McCain’s pro-war, pro-business, pro-Bush platform. Hillary’s “I can command from day one” argument would fall flat on its face against a Vietnam war hero, and her muddled position on the Iraq war cripples her ability to stand apart.

For the future of our country–please support Barack Obama.

Great video: Our priorities for saving the world

In an ideal world, we solve all the world’s problems. But we don’t. And if we do not, the question we need to ask ourselves is, which ones should we solve first? If we had, say, $50 billion dollars to spend on doing some good in the world, where should we spend it?”

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is chock full of fascinating mini-speeches from prominent thinkers that come from all walks of life: scientists, artists, designers, technologists, businesspeople, clergy, you name it. The presentations are of a succinct and very watchable length (about 10 minutes long), but each one thoroughly develops and presents an idea that can somehow change the world, or at least reshape the paradigm through which we view it.

Today I viewed one of the best TED clips I’ve ever seen. In it, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish political scientist, presents an economist’s approach to prioritizing the world’s most pressing and problematic issues. There are several we face today: widespread poverty and malnutrition, lack of sanitation, communicable diseases, social injustice, trade barriers and protectionism, corrupt and exploitative governments..the list goes on and on. The question we need to resolve is not which of these problems are most deserving of our attention (they all are, really), but which of them have have the most effective, feasible, and rewarding solutions when analyzed from a cost-benefit point of view.

The “big idea” in this episode is that despite the pervasiveness of some issues, like climate change, in political rhetoric and the media, the high cost of fixing them (hundreds of billions of dollars) and the relatively small effective reward or ROI of such resolutions (delaying temperature from rising for a few years) pale in comparison to the relatively low cost and huge social benefit of, say, initiatives to prevent AIDS or malaria. We can spend billions to help some people in the distant future a small amount, or we can spend less and help far more people who are suffering immensely, right now. From this perspective, the choice easy. He explains it better than I possibly could, so listen to the whole thing yourself. It’s definitely worth it.

Our priorities for saving the world (via TED)

Paragraphs on Religion

I wanted to share a few excerpts from The Economist’s thought-provoking, 9 article special report on the current state of world religion.

Philip Jenkins, one of America’s best scholars of religion, claims that when historians look back at this century, they will probably see religion as “the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs, guiding attitudes to political liberty and obligation, concepts of nationhood and, of course, conflicts and wars.” If the first seven years are anything to go by, Mr Jenkins may well turn out to be right.

…But why has religion’s power seemed to keep on increasing? The first reason is a series of reactions and counter-reactions. Fundamentalist Islam, for instance, has helped spur radical Judaism and Hinduism, which in turn have reinforced the mullahs’ fervour. Hamas owes much to Israel’s settlers. Without Falwell, Messrs Hitchens and Dawkins would have smaller royalties.

Second, the latest form of modernity—globalisation—has propelled religion forward. For traditionalists, faith has acted as a barrier against change. For prosperous suburbanites, faith has become something of a lifestyle coach. It is no accident that America’s bestselling religious book is called “The Purpose Driven Life”.

Most of the time I think of a person’s beliefs to be a very individual and personal affair, but the truth is that major religious faiths are like massive organisms, constantly growing, evolving, competing and clashing with each other in the social and political arenas of the modern world.

Movies like “Crash” nudge me to believe that despite the extreme polarity of cultural differences, all humans can relate to each other at some fundamental level. If you use the individuals in the movie to represent collective cultures, like Muslims and Evangelicals, and the events in the movie like the car accident, which bring them violently and fortuitously together, to represent globalization, you could conclude that despite the damage and pain of the crash, maybe there’s hope that people could forget about their respective sides of the “culture wars” and lend one another a human hand towards some kind of transcendent peace.

But then I think about how immutable religious-based conflicts have been from both ancient and modern history and I am, in frustration, led to believe that this is how it will always be: the religions of the world as armies of ants, with each colony perched atop their ant-hill and proclaiming their God to be mightiest. I am not discounting the strides toward peace that religious people have made in the name of their God, but I’d argue that these strides are more than set back by the acts of violence done in the name of that same God.

Anyway, the bottom line is that although it’s much more comfortable for me to keep my views on religion internal, it is almost certain in this day and age that, much to my dismay, the religious views of others will always have an impact on my life as well as the prospects for peace in this century. It’s for that reason that this special report is so relevant and important. I’d highly encourage anyone to read the whole thing.

Giving Tumblr a shot.

I’ve practically abandoned this blog, and I think it’s because writing blog posts burden me with a great amount of pressure to say what I want to say, how I want to say it. The formality with which I approach these posts is a source of unnecessary perfectionism, and because of it I often defer every topic I want to write about until I have more time to think through both content and delivery.

For this reason I’ve finally gotten around to setting up a “tumblog” (powered by Tumblr) to experiment with at andychen.tumblr.com. Tumblogs, in case you’re not familiar, are a simple blog format that let you share interesting tidbits, media, and content from around the web without having to think about what to write. You can stick a “Share on Tumblr” bookmark in your Firefox and instantly post quotes, links, videos, songs, or pictures without any the hassles of logging into wordpress and formatting your entry, etc.

Of course, one sacrifices thoughtful and original commentary for the sake of sharing things quick and painlessly.

The Continuing Evolution of AIM Bots

Adam Pash, senior editor for the ever popular Lifehacker blog, has created very a cool new AIM bot that helps you track your purchases and stick to a budget. I think this is a great idea, and as you’ll see from his screencast vid below..it’s very easy to use!

Contemplating the loss of faith

A man who dedicated his career to reporting on the impact of religion in people’s lives, writes about his spiritual journey and eventual loss of faith in an incredibly honest and moving article for the Los Angeles Times. I have been looking for a story like this for quite some time. As someone who used to be very religious there is much about his personal struggles that I can relate to.

Taking Responsibility (for that which we are demanded)

Lately I’ve been reading Man’s Search for Meaning by psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor Viktor E. Frankl. This book is incredibly inspirational. Each time I pick up it up it fills me with a deep sense of existential urgency. The idea is basically that the only important metaphysical question is not “What is the meaning of life?” but rather “What is the meaning that life is demanding from me?” In the unique circumstances given to us, we each have some task to fulfill or some problem to solve in a way that no other individual could replicate. To recognize those task(s) and take responsibility for their execution is ultimately the meaning that we create for our lives.

I remember two cases of would-be suicide, which bore striking similarity to each other. Both men haad talked of their intentions to commit suicide. Both used the typical argument–they had nothing more to expect from life. In both cases it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them. We found, in fact, that for the one it was his child whom he adored and who was waiting for him in a foreign country. For the other it was a thing, not a person. This man was a scientist and had written a series of books which still needed to be finished. His work could not be done by anyone else, any more than another person could ever take the place of the father in his child’s affections.

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” -Victor E. Frankl



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