Thursday, September 25, 2008

Demand the Debate -- Please?


And an update to the post -- the debate will take place as scheduled, according to an announcement from John McCain's campaign: http://tinyurl.com/4shldm

We interrupt my obsession with books other people write and the collection of words I call my work in progress for this plea from Democracy in Action. This is actually the second such petition I've received in so many days about the debate scheduled to take place tomorrow (Friday).
Regardless of which candidate you support and in particular, for those who are undecided, the Presidential debates are a long-standing part of our democratic process and I urge everyone to watch them. The debates are the first real opportunity we get to see the candidates address the issues and express their similarities and differences in an environment that's arguably controlled and where the playing field is level. I'm passing on this petition to demand (well, I'd request but that's just the way I am) that the debate take place tomorrow, as scheduled:

In the last 24 hours, more than 6,500 people have signed "Demand the Debate," asking the Commission on Presidential Debates and both Senators Obama and McCain to commence with Friday's scheduled debate. Can you tell everyone you know to join you and sign this petition?

http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5583/t/3369/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=241

Tomorrow we're going to deliver your petition to the Commission on Presidential Debates in person (and to the Obama and McCain campaigns electronically), but we need to get as many signatures as we can.

Please ask your friends, family, and neighbors and co-workers to sign our petition by 11am on Friday. Click here to use our tell-a-friend tool to send our petition to people you know:

http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5583/t/3369/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=241

Scott and I plan to go to Scott's Dad's house tomorrow night, order some pizza and watch the action.

How about you? How many people plan to watch? Does anyone plan to watch with other people?

Odds and Ends:

On the subject of debate, there is a great HBO documentary on high school debating, called "Resolved". Scott and I saw this a couple of months ago. From HBO's website:

"Through the stories of two debate teams, the fascinating intricacies of high school debate give way to a portrait of the equally complex racial and class divide in American education in Resolved. As Matt and Sam, gifted debaters from an affluent Texas suburb, rise to the semifinals in their bid to win the national Tournament of Champions, Richard and Louis, talented inner-city debaters from Long Beach, CA, mount a successful challenge to modern debate by refocusing on personal experience and dialogue in their own quest for the championship. This 90-minute film offers a verité, behind-the-scenes look at the stresses and pressures of this highly competitive pursuit, while serving as a primer on the idiosyncratic techniques that have evolved over the years in high-school policy debate. Inspiring and enlightening, Resolved reveals a constantly shifting sport that is as much philosophy as it is a competition."

It's an incredible piece of film work, and high school debate has evolved into something I had no idea existed. Watch it if you get a chance. Watch the trailer here.

HBO is on a roll with good documentaries. Airing now is The Black List. Here's the HBO synopsis:

"Part of a multimedia initiative, The Black List: Volume One is the brainchild of renowned portrait photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and acclaimed NPR radio host, journalist and former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, with Greenfield-Sanders directing and Mitchell conducting the interviews. Mitchell, by design, is never seen on camera or heard, a strategy that allows the subjects' own voices to remain the focus. The actual title of the film itself, The Black List, was first conceived by Mitchell as an answer to the persistent taint that western culture has applied to the word 'black.'

The Black List's interviewees come from a diverse collection of disciplines from the worlds of the arts, sports, politics, business and government, and include, in order of appearance: Slash, former Guns N' Roses guitarist; Toni Morrison, author and Nobel laureate; Keenen Ivory Wayans, film writer/director, creator of TV's In Living Color; Vernon Jordan, lawyer and former president of the National Urban League; Faye Wattleton, current President of the Center for the Advancement of Women and former President of Planned Parenthood; Marc Morial, former Mayor of New Orleans and current National Urban League president; Serena Williams, eight-time Grand Slam tennis champion; Lou Gossett Jr., Oscar®-winning actor; Lorna Simpson, artist and photographer; Mahlon Duckett, former Negro League Baseball star; Zane, best-selling erotic author and publisher; Al Sharpton, pastor, activist and 2004 Presidential candidate; Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Hall of Fame basketball great; Thelma Golden, art curator at the Whitney Museum and now the Studio Museum in Harlem; Sean Combs, mogul, actor and music producer; Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State and Barack Obama's senior campaign advisor; Chris Rock, comedian, producer and director; Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright; Richard Parsons, former Time Warner CEO; Dawn Staley, 3- time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA All-Star and current Temple University women's basketball head coach; and Bill T. Jones, Tony Award-winning dancer and director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. "

The Black List had a profound impact on me. We're still struggling to deal with race in America. White America doesn't much discuss it outside of close knit circles. It makes us uncomfortable. The prevailing attitudes are either that it's not a problem anymore and we're past it, we're in denial and claim to be "color blind", or we want race to no longer be an issue, but we know it is and we don't know what, if anything we can do about it. I suppose there are other conversations that go on that I don't have any insight into. Racists tend to keep to themselves with their views, unless they're part of extremist groups that like to go public.

These short vignettes from well-known African Americans shed some light into the African American experience in a way that's rarely seen by the average white American or maybe in a way that's rarely been seen by anyone. My cable company has The Black List available "on demand" right now. See the clip in the Making of the Black List here. Video out-takes, including one from Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison are here.

Let me know if you've seen either of these excellent documentaries. What did you think?

And here's an amazing thing called The Wisdom Project. Watch it. You'll be glad you did.

I'll end by sharing Leo Kottke Radio, one of my Pandora radio stations. I'd give anything to see how he does what he does with only two hands.




8 comments:

Usman said...

I'll be following this round for sure. Good that you reminded me. It's been reported that the question of what to do with Pakistan shall also come up in this debate.
I personally expect more of the same from both candidates, I'll be trying to read between the lines.
I suspect it won't help me or my country either way.
I am growing more critical every passing day, I know. And I want just a bit of good news to give me hope.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

We'll be watching and hosting a debate party at our house--5 other couples will be here, plus anybody else we invite today.

We actually gave away baseball tickets we had for tonight in order to not miss the debates.

steve said...

Lisa, thanks for letting us know about the petition. I signed it, if typing my name, e-mail address, and zip code can be called signing.

I'll check the radio on my way. I doubt it's going to happen, though. John McCain has found an excuse to delay or cancel the debate. The trouble with his having a lot of political experience is that he has a record--and it's one of consistent support for the laissez-faire policies that have gotten us into this mess.

If there is a bright spot in all this, it's that John Maynard Keynes is being rehabilitated.

If the debate happens, I suspect most of the talk is going to be about the economic crisis. While it's supposed to be about foreign policy, the candidates will most likely want to talk about the economy. In the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate devoted to domestic issues, both candidates talked mainly about foreign policy.

I suspect Pakistan will come up, but only in terms of NATO incursions into the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Melissa Marsh said...

I think the debates are terribly important and I'm sure they will happen one way or the other, but I also think it's important to address the financial crisis right now.

Larramie said...

A debate party is a great compromise for dealing with the fact that many don't stay home on a Friday night. However dealing with the economic crisis should be the top priority.

Lisa said...

Usman, I hope the debate goes off as scheduled and I certainly hope that the evening's topic (foreign policy) is adhered to. I don't believe there has been any concrete policy developed about Pakistan and I feel it is of critical importance that the American people are educated about what's happening and what our leadership feels the appropriate action needs to be. I suspect, since things are unfolding rapidly that any detailed discussion is unlikely to occur as I imagine such a discussion would actually be classified and not subject to worldwide dissemination. I hope that doesn't sound overly sinister as it's not meant to.

Judy, I know you feel strongly about this debate and thank you for forwarding this petition to me (I think I got one from you!)

Steve, It will certainly be interesting to see how events unfold tonight. I find John McCain's attempts to delay this debate disappointing. Despite the fact that he's a senior Republican and people feel that he wields influence over these proceedings, he's not on the committee responsible for working out this plan, he hasn't shown up for a Senate vote since April, and we're talking about a 90 minute event at 9:00 on a Friday night. I am certain if the Senate has been able to operate without him since April, they can live without him for a couple of hours on a Friday night. I don't buy this delay and I think it's actually a bad demonstration of the multi-tasking that the President must be able to handle at all times. I suspect you're right about the Pakistan discussion as well.

Melissa, I think the financial crisis is being handled, but I don't think John McCain's absence from the proceedings for a few hours is going to make on whit of difference. On the other hand, the average voter has had nothing but speeches from each candidate and campaign advertisements of questionable content and veracity. The debates are potentially the only discourse with any substantial content that might help all of us really understand each candidate's positions and the differences.

Larramie, I think the economic crisis is the government's top priority. Relative to their overall parts in the big picture, I don't think it should be either candidate's top priority tonight. We have a Presidential election in a matter of weeks and these debates are crucial to that process. When I weigh what we lose by postponing the debate indefinitely against pulling the candidates out of discussions on a Friday night, I don't see how there could be an argument about what should happen....as always, IMO.

Patti said...

i wanted a debate party last night but was worn out. did watch and sadly wasn't too fired up in either direction.

Steve Malley said...

Thanks for the doco recommendations. I'll check 'em out.

How'd the debate go?

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf