This is possibly the funniest video of the 2008 election season since the Paris Hilton ad:


He’s as happy as a father whose kid marveled in her role as a “tree” in a third grade play. (Did you see how she didn’t fall, she stood there like a real tree!) Not so surprisingly, in the next video, he states how “proud he is with Sarah Palin”. 


Being proud of your VP pick… isn’t it kind of funny? Think of all the presidents and VPs, can you picture one where the president could say he’s proud with his VP in such a joy? (For sanity purposes, don’t try Bush and Cheney, if anything reverse could be the case there: I’m so proud of you George, and oh, why don’t you sign this energy bill, I’ll then take you out to play.)



After the vice presidential debate last night (October 2, 2008), one thing became clearer:

The Republican party does not take citizens of the United States of America seriously, which at certain points, like the debate last night, turns into almost insulting Americans.

Let me spell out what I mean…

When Sarah Palin was announced as the VP pick, I immediately thought that this was an insult on the intellect of the women of this country. The thought that she could get the votes of former Hillary Clinton supporters was nothing short of offensive for those people who had supported Hillary because her political views and her inspiring political trajectory as a woman (not solely because she had one extra chromosome). Even though Palin had possibly swung some potential votes during her glamorous introduction to national politics, later on, it became clear that women did not buy her argument. The demos showed that they can tell the difference between the original and the fake. A splash of lipstick on Palin’s face was not enough to make her Hillary (much, much more is needed for that and I don’t even think a comparison between the two is fair to Clinton). From there on, the appeal to women dimension of the Palin candidacy was slowed down, if not muted totally.

As we watched the debate yesterday, we saw, once again, that the Republicans are trying this failed formula, this time designating the electorate at large as the constituency they would like to insult. Even if we leave aside the insulting choice of Sarah Palin, who does not have even a basic knowledge of the economy (or foreign policy), the debate last night, as well as John McCain’s performance in the last two weeks showed that the Republicans are out there offering nothing but platitudes about the economy and how they both are mavericks. We are in the midst of one of the worst crisis in the US economic history and they cannot / do not talk about what they will do if elected. Despite repeated questions, Sarah Palin could not/did not speak about deregulation. All she said about the economy was to continue the party line, a blind belief in “trickle down” theory of economics, that has been unsuccessful or damaging for the working classes over the past 8 years. In effect this is exactly like trying to swing woman voters by telling them, “hey we are of the same sex, vote for me. I may oppose your right to choose, I will try to make abortion illegal even if you are raped but hey we are all women, vote for me!”  

What I call an insult at this point is to try to cover their lack of genuine solutions with a fake appeal to the people’s values, everyday American way of life, etc. It is the old “lipstick” problem, put on the last 8 years a lipstick (whatever flying colors you’d like to) and it is still the same. Telling to people that you are the agents of change without giving them any clue about how you will change things and telling them instead, “hey buddy you can have beer with me or sit around the same kitchen table” is a plain insult. This is like saying, “hey vote for me men, I’m against everything that’s good for you, but I can tell you all about that around a kitchen table, or in a diner booth. I can even use a northern small town accent and wink at you with my folksy (foxy?) manners as a treat.”

 When the economy is in good shape, this may work, which is what we have seen in the last two elections in the United States. But when the economy is in bad shape and when the things to put on that kitchen table is diminishing each day, people may not care about sitting down with you on that table or listening to your oh so American remarks about the economy you don’t know. They care more about how you plan to change it and they care about knowing that before the election day. I believe, hitting this note of “I’m a hockey mom”, “I’m a Joe Sixpack” too much as an alternative to offering solutions to people’s problems risks more and more making those people angry, an effect which is totally opposite what the McCain camp would want.  

What distinguishes Obama /Biden ticket is this point. They try to lay out their plans. They say, they are going to do X, Y and Z. They tell people, this is the plan. To be clear, their plan is not great. The available room for maneuver in a system like this is rather small –and bad for the working classes- anyway. But they seem to take seriously the people and offer them with their plan, rather than, saying, hey let’s have beer and I will pull a rabbit out of my hat later to fix the economy. If the “ideal” of democracy is about communicating your solutions to the public in a reasoned discourse, then Obama and Biden come closer to this ideal way more than McCain and Palin. Their position in this sense is much more respectful towards the people, they are seeking to lead.

People identifying with the candidate is also greatly important of course. Of course, in today’s elections, issues are much less important compared to the past and choosing someone you feel close to is a motive that leads people to vote for candidates who they would like. Palin is obviously trying really hard to hit that note. But as I said, at a time when identification (with the politician) means nothing more than the continuation of (economic) misery, politicians trying to play that game risk being seen as “out of touch”, “arrogant” and BSing, despite their belief that they are doing the opposite. (Especially if one of the guys on the ticket cannot even remember the number of houses he has. Well all that lipstick thing all over again.)



Very recently, I sat down with a group of people who were visiting New York (from Turkey). They came to the city for business and would be spending less than a week in New York. At one point when I was talking to one of them in the group, I happened to overhear others’ conversation about “what they would eat that night”. These other guys were saying that they would order Turkish food to their hotel room. I was stunned for a second, ordering Turkish food during your stay in the city where you can taste a zillion different cuisines? Plus, ordering to your hotel room when you could walk around in the heart of the world?

That’s odd, I thought and I went immediately back in time, to four years ago when I had overheard another conversation in a Turkish restaurant. When you live in NYC, it is inevitable not to miss your traditional food, and on one of those days when I was craving for mashed eggplants or some sort of kebab, I went to the Ali Baba restaurant in mid town. As I was waiting my order to be served, I could not help but listen to two men chatting in the next table.

Both men were from Turkey and, as I gathered, they had been in New York not for so long. One was a military personnel who had to attend a series of UN meetings that was to last for couple of weeks. The other was a state official from the Ministry of Finance and if I remember correctly, he was also on a short –couple months at most- mission. I know all these details because these guys were introducing themselves to one another when my ears dropped on their table. It was clear from these introductions that they had just met on that day on that table. Later on, the owner of the restaurant, Ali Baba, came to their table and made a gesture showing that he knew both of them, yet separately, and he said he was glad that they finally met.

There were many interesting details, of course, in this particular encounter between the two men. Their pretty warm conversation was rather strange given that they only had met on the spot only minutes ago. Maybe it was understandable, being “outside” makes people hook up much more easily. But even then, the “performances” they gave, the “personas” they embody and how similar these performances were, were remarkable. They carried their official identities like a skin. Two bureaucrats from Ankara sitting down in a Turkish restaurant in New York, fully armored with/and defining themselves through their official duties and precisely because of that reason feeling so at home in each other’s company. No wonder Ali Baba was glad that they “finally” met: They were like soul mates (well, in a foreign land of course.)

What struck me the most, however, was their conversation on food. “I have been here for two weeks now”, the military guy said, “and I have never set foot in another restaurant than Ali Baba.” The other approved: “Yeah”, he said with a smile on his face that suggested a “deeper” appreciation of what the other guy said, “I have been here for sometime now and I’ve never tried other cuisines. Even if I go to other restaurants, they have to be Turkish restaurants. I can’t eat Chinese, sushi, or Mexican…” They went on talking about how great Turkish food was and it was impossible not to sense a nationalist proud in their conversation. (the owner of the restaurant, Ali Baba also listened to the conversation with a weird smile on his face: Happy to have two regular customers, but kind of condescending their choice to stick with the Turkish cuisine. “Go get a life guys” was the subtext of that plastic smile, I thought!)

I said to myself at that point, “wow!, so you come to the city where you can try a million different cuisines, and you stick with what you have eaten and will eat all your life.” That was a real “wow” moment. I even briefly considered asking both men whether they are stupid or not. Let’s make no mistakes, it’s perfectly understandable if: one likes his/her country’s cuisine more than others or one chooses to eat whatever he/she is used to eat on a regular basis. But we are talking here of people who plainly deny even trying other people’s food. That’s a different story. That is about the sharp and rather high walls one erects between what he perceives to be his national identity and the rest of the world. This is about a weird lack of self confidence: I’m not so comfortable in navigating the waters of foreign lands so let’s get back to our little harbor in this ocean called America!

Of course I am aware that in one sense, the multicultural cuisine story of New York (or anywhere else) is a story about the market. Entrepreneurs in the market are exploiting people’s desire to distinguish themselves from other people (to claim status) in an effort to create for themselves a certain niche in the market. It is clear, it follows, that the various different cuisines in the big apple are at best highly unfaithful representations of their originals. The food here is surely mediated to suit the general and average taste of the mainstream. But if this were the reason why those buddies in the Ali Baba restaurant did not want to eat non Turkish food, you would expect them to search for “more” originals: Even if the restaurants are no good, NYC is full of people from all over the world who would, on occasion, be happy to share their experiences, cuisine or culture with anyone who is interested.

But no… theirs was more of a closing into themselves in an environment which they felt threatening and dangerous to navigate. They chose to interact with NY and New Yorkers from behind a glass wall that they felt would make it easy for them to pass their time here, which ended up being not a “choice to interact” but precisely the opposite: “a self forced non interaction”.

Recently when I sat down with this other group of business people and overheard their order for Turkish food, I couldn’t help but get amazed once again with the cultural barriers that’re erected in a land that’s considered foreign. Rather than opening themselves up to the freshness and surprises of a new experience, it seemed, these people chose to wrap themselves up with the foil they know and entertain a sense of control with such wrapping. Why would anyone want to eat doner kebab everyday otherwise?

To be fair to all these guys, I myself have struggled with this question and I’m far from the most open person. Those little trips to Turkishness have been part of the life here since I came. I’m trying to learn though and try not be stubborn about life. (and I eat –and enjoy- a lot of foreign food.)

I think it is no news anymore that right/Republican party is greatly hypocritical politically speaking. Just watch, as an example, a Jon Stewart segment that nails the issue.


It is OK, just another example, to “use” your kid with down syndrome to get votes of other Americans, to showcase him as a proud example of your pro life views, yet your other kid’s pregnancy is an off limits “private family matter”. Not to mention of course marketing yourself as an average/good (hockey) mom when you knowingly throw your teen daughter in the nasty national spotlight for your political ambitions (when she least needed that).

It would take pages, maybe a book, if we’d like to go on and on about the republican brand and its politics of hypocrisy and I don’t want to write about that, other people already do. I am apalled, nonetheless, to see that the right politics of hypocrisy is actually right (at least sometimes). It works, it gets votes.

What is as interesting is that exactly same thing is happening in Turkey. The religious right, which I believe is the exact counter part of Sarah Palin type evangelist, are terribly hypocritical. They (not all of them of course) are corrupt, yet they say they’re totally clean. They ask for more tolerance for religious signs and views in the public sphere, yet whenever the Ramadan, the holy month for Islam, comes, they beat up people who do not follow Islamic rituals (of the month). 

One other similarity is the use of God. It turns out god is a very useful tool in politics. Here a NYTimes from today. The story goes:

“Shortly after taking office as governor in 2006, Sarah Palin sent an e-mail message to Paul E. Riley, her former pastor in the Assembly of God Church, which her family began attending when she was a youth. She needed spiritual advice in how to do her new job, said Mr. Riley, who is 78 and retired from the church.”

A governor asking advice from a pastor on how to do her job? What? But no, it’s not over, the story continues:

“In the address at the Assembly of God Church here, Ms. Palin’s ease in talking about the intersection of faith and public life was clear. Among other things, she encouraged the group of young church leaders to pray that “God’s will” be done in bringing about the construction of a big pipeline in the state, and suggested her work as governor would be hampered “if the people of Alaska’s heart isn’t right with God.””


“pray[ing] that “God’s will” be done in bringing about the construction of a big pipeline in the state”? What the hell, where are we? I can’t decide which is worse: If she’s using god’s name for political reasons (to make herself popular), or if she truly believes in it. Yeah, I’m sure god wants a pipeline in Alaska.

How similar, or the same, this is with what some religious fanatics in Turkey said after the great earthquake of 1999, which killed more than 30.000 people: “This is how God punishes”, they said “a people who went out of his way”. 

Worst of all is, and Obama was 100% right, with more and more inequality in distribution of wealth and with more people being unable to afford to learn what really is going on in the world, they cling to the religious idioms, or media stupidity in making their decisions in elections. In this system where people don’t have time or energy (because they’re worked to death with very little pay) to understand what really is going on, they vote on the grounds that “oh he/she’s just like me”. (I heard a woman yesterday saying on TV that “Sarah Palin showed that every American citizen could become the VP” and that’s why she’s voting for Palin – Very well said!)

I think up until Bush’s presidency maybe these marginal small town tendencies in American administration could be kept at bay. But with Bush the evangelists took the Republican party and now that spirit continues with Palin. (Mc Cain, the maverick, could not resist their pressures and instead of choosing his preferred VP candidate, Liebermann, caved in and picked Palin). If this narrow minded small politics (Sarah Palin got her passport in 2007, she has never traveled outside of US until then) get the white house once again, America in world political economy will be doomed big time. Not just because those small town folks do not know how the world works, but because religion and easy answers from god replaces science and diplomacy in their administration. (Not that America in the world politics today is great, but it’s yet another nightmare to think another republican term in the white house.)

This year, I am watching the Olympics in the United States and I figured out that it’s a totally different experience than watching it in a country like Turkey.

The main difference lies in the fact that United States is a country which aspires to, and does, win a big number of medals in the Olympics, whereas Turkey, except for a number of branches maybe, has almost no hopes of winning medals in the Olympic games.  So, when we watch Olympics in Turkey, the experience is more about all these fancy words such as the Olympic spirit, or the limits of human (referring to whether it is possible to break the world record in a given branch such as swimming or sprinting).  Honestly, it is not that much fun to watch a race if there is no record involved because it usually is the only thing that you could expect to see that could be worth talking about.

In the United States, however, the whole Olympics spirit is about the US athletes running against other world nations’ athletes.  In this particular year, the TV networks in the United States seem obsessed with the competition between United States and China.  Whoever the opponent is, the general attitude seems to be one that emphasizes the success of the United States against the rest of the nations.

So it seems that, now that I’m watching the Olympics in a country who has hopes of winning medals, all those fancy language about the Olympic spirit and blah blah that we so frequently heard in Turkey were nothing but a necessity to fill the screen with some conversation. One other frequent attitude in a place like Turkey is that what matters is to participate, not to win, which obviously is not true as I experienced here in the United States. The ones who win apparently do care about winning! Who cares about participation?

Having said all these, it may seem as if I somehow care about how many medals a country wins in the Olympics. I don’t care, and who cares really? These seemingly noble ideas behind sports – challenging yourself, going beyond your limits, disciplining oneself, competing yet in a civil way, constructing that famous Olympic spirit etc.- are seriously retarded in many ways. They seem to be very elegantly framed or veiled expressions of a constant fight between the human and nature or within the modern human himself/herself. They also reproduce the idea of hierarchy and competition between people. Why, if the goal is to bring together different peoples of the world, don’t we go for global picnics, instead of Olympics? Why is competition and hierarchy the only medium through which different people of the world could come together? Why don’t we just get together and relax instead?   









Since Stephen Colbert had stepped out of the race, I was anxious to find a good candidate to support. Thank God, Paris Hilton bravely stepped in! I endorse her candidacy wholeheartedly.

Paris Hilton for president!

Rihanna for vice president!


[I also have to say that I sincerely admire the way this ad makes fun of the political campaign machine that I tried to analyze (oh so seriously) in three previous posts a while ago. Maybe celebrities have that special thing after all (!)]


Today, I was watching the Sunday morning news show of George Stephanapoulos, This Week, and during the round table (of so called political pundits) I heard a concept that  struck me as very, very funny: “arugula eating liberals”!

I remember hearing various times phrases such as “latte drinking”, or “volvo driving” to describe liberals in a way to picture them as elitist and detached from the rest of the society. I always thought these labels are funny, but maybe I got used to them over time. But just this morning I heard a new one and could not help but think that it’s ridiculously funny. From now on, if I ever use arugula in a salad, that salad will be properly named as “liberal salad”.

Except laughing to this yet another stupid label coming from not so smart republicans, I did a search the web to come up with a list of phrases used by repuclicans to describe and demean so called liberals. I came up with some pretty funny stuff such as:  

(Soy milk) Latte drinking,  Sushi eating,  Volvo driving, Arugula eating, White wine sipping, Tax hiking (rising –loving), Government expanding, Birkenstock wearing, NPR listening, New york times reading, Tofu eating…

I even came across one coming from ultra conservative Justice Scalia’s, “sandal wearing, bearded, flag burner”. Well, Scalia was using this in reference to someone who actually burned a flag, but as you see, flag burning can sit perfectly well next to the sandal wearing and bearded. (Remember they, Barack Obama, did not wear flag pins either). There are now polls on internet where you can test your degree of “liberalness” by determining how many of these things you do. (I tried myself: eat sushi, check; drink latte, i luv it; eat tofu, not only that but an aspiring vegetarian these days; eat arugula, hell yeah, i’m mediterranean; wear sandals, of course bro… i am such a liberal oh my god, how can i be forgiven? Thou shall eat three pounds of american burger three times a day, you shall drive a gas drinking truck to your work, get out of the grad school and get your plumbing license, watch (awfully boring) baseball, etc. Ok I’d rather stay liberal. That hurts less.)

As I was comparing the United States with Turkey on this issue, the “right” always seems to be better at utilizing slogans and labels, and thinking of writing my blog column for this week on this topic, I came across Geoffrey Nunberg’s book entitled, “Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax Raising, Latte Drinking, Sushi Eating, Volvo Driving, New York Times Reading, Body Piercing, Hollywood Loving, Left Wing Freak Show.” In this book Nunberg argues that the liberals lost the language war. Hijacking political language, the conservatives labeled democrats as liberals and sufficiently demonized the word “liberal” that democrats try to stay away from it now. He gives the example of Howard Dean in the primary season of 2003, qualifying his liberalness by saying things like, “if wanting a balanced budget is being liberal, then I’m a liberal.”

Another shift that Nunberg points at is the separation of the word liberal from the political and economic ideology behind it. When the conservatives set out to define liberalism and therefore get the upper hand, so to speak, in the electoral language wars, one of the things they did was to designate liberals by looking at their consumption patterns (hence, volvo driving, sushi eating, new york times reading, etc.) The conservative strategy of undermining the important points voiced by the democrats seems to be labeling them as elitist and out of touch with America, or man on the street, by reducing their ideas to mere consumption patterns.

In the last couple of months, we’ve seen more than ever how this strategy has worked. In an attempt to discredit Barack Obama, first Hillary Clinton, now John McCain has pointed to nothing but his liberal persona, which reveals itself in the latte drinking, arugula eating self of the first black candidate for presidency. The funny thing is this we don’t even know if the guy likes arugula, maybe not; or whether he likes sushi. But this is exactly how the so called republican attack machine works. It doesn’t matter who the person is, just stick the label. or even better keep it unknown because god forbid if he doesn’t like sushi, that may be bad for republicans. So just stick the label on him and it stays there. Next thing you know (as a democrat) is you have a candidate who is (labeled as) elitist, out of touch, etc.

Meanwhile of course, it is perfectly normal to be a gun-loving American (even though the gun craziness leads to major social problems in the country), or a burger eating guy (even though obesity is becoming the biggest health problem in the country), or an SUV driving suburban (even though global warming, partly caused by crazy spending of fuel in those cars, has become a major threat for America and the world) . Seen from this angle, there is nothing to do except applaud conservatives on their success in twisting issues and winning a war (the language war) that they must, in the normal circumstances,  have no chances of winning. Then comes the stage where you get filled with anger: how could this be possible? 

Why is this so, so to speak, why are conservatives better in shaping the language than liberals, could this be a universal phenomenon or is it specific to america or to our times? These are the questions for the next post.

(In the below link, you can see how liberal you are and depending on the results, you can go in your closet and secretly cry,