Obama sets vision for second term: ‘Let us answer the call of history’

Official White House photo
Official White House photo

Obama was inaugurated for his second term as U.S. President on Monday. “America’s possibilities are endless,” he said in his inaugural speech, reflecting his inauguration’s theme: “Faith in America’s Future.”

“We are made for this moment, and we will seize it—so long as we seize it together,” Obama said.

“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course,” he said near his conclusion.

In my favorite line from his speech, which mixes Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr.—as Monday is MLK Day—he said: “While freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on earth.”

Obama concluded his address by saying:

“With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”

Culture Journalism Politics

Social War: A ‘Like’ and a Prayer

Social media mingles with war in the 21st century, and social media and war are just beginning to realize just how bizarre that is. This is an account of the 8-day conflict between Israel and Palestine in November 2012 that saw more than 150 casualties. It is the first Social War, a war centered on followers and flashy pics.

Story and illustration by Tim Worden.


A ‘Like’ and a Prayer

“We will destroy our enemies.” Like. “Our missile has assassinated their general.” Retweet. “Mission accomplished.” Share.

“Sirens in Jerusalem #IsraelUnderAttack” demands attention. “Scared. Bomb blasts shaking my windows #GazaUnderFire” gets 300 retweets.

Eyewitness Instagram pics spread like wildfire, death counts are updated to the minute and two opposing military forces chatted with each other via Twitter.

On Nov. 14, 2012, for the first time in world history, a war was declared via Twitter. The eight-day conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas involved drone and missile strikes. Dubbed Operation Pillar of Cloud by Israel, the IDF began by targeting Hamas’ military commander.

Churchill had his “Get ‘em in the trenches!” speech, FDR had his fireside chats and now the Israeli and Hamas armies have their retweets. This is war, broadcast in real-time through tweets and grainy drone cams.

This is Social War.

And in Social War, armies don’t just fight with assault rifles and rockets; they launch viral hashtags and drop in flashy infographics. The IDF armors up with a YouTube, Facebook and blog. But Twitter, which lets a nation, from Haifa to Tel Aviv, collectively watch a war unfold, is the secret weapon.

“We were able to stay ahead of the game, allowing us to counter the onslaught of misinformation and rumors that are generally part of the arsenal of terrorist organizations we face,” said Eytan Buchman, head of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit North American Desk, the IDF’s communications arm dealing with North American press.

Twitter helps the IDF rapidly share accurate and reliable information through an ad-hoc movement, says Buchman, who has 3,500 followers.

“Twitter can create a dialogue, giving us a feel for what information is getting out there and how we can take steps to correct it,” Buchman says.

Social War comes from the top, too. On a Facebook post a few days into the war, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is engaged on four fronts. The first three—the military, home and diplomatic fronts—are all obvious. But the fourth front, now that’s interesting: “the information front,” where citizens combat misinformation.

“What you are doing provides us with serious reinforcement on the information front, we have to battle for the truth,” Netanyahu stated in the 19,000-like post.

The IDF publicly began the war with a tweet. A press conference came later.

“The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets,” the IDF Spokeperson’s Unit (@IDFspokesperson) declared at 6:29 a.m. on Nov. 14, getting 418 retweets.

Hours later, the IDF tweeted: “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

Twitter sees some bizarre stuff, but nothing like what came next.

Alqassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, replied to the tweet, the first time warring enemies have conversed in a public fashion online.

“@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves),” Hamas responded.

Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger, on the ground in northern Israel, was among the first to publicly note this as the first declared war on Twitter.

As a history professor at the University of Haifa who studies Israeli-German relations and political thought, she knows a thing or two about the development of war. She was amused at this, really.

“My first thought was: ‘Those young geeks in uniform at @IDFspokesperson are a step ahead of their slow, snail-paced commanders,’” she said.

Social media allows things to spread easily, from uninformed tweets to incorrect propaganda that is fact-checked in real time, she said.

“Governments and military spokespeople will have to become far more cautious and savvy when making any public statement,” Oz-Salzberger said.

Jon Mitchell, a writer for tech blog ReadWrite, sees social media fusing with war as inevitable thing, no more surprising than the use of any other propaganda channel historically. But that didn’t stop his initial reaction at watching the IDF tweet the war: “Wow. It’s a new world.”

By tightly controlling the message through tweets and live images, the Israeli army framed the military campaign just the way it wanted. As the first military social media use, it certainly set the bar high, he said.

“It’s brilliant in its way,” he blogged on ReadWrite.

Social War likes it fast and dirty.

A simple look at the IDF’s Twitter followers over time shows this. The account went from 52,000 to 61,000 followers from mid-August to Nov. 13, the day before the war began. This number more than tripled in only 10 days. They nabbed 20,000 new followers several days during the war and had 205,000 by Nov. 23, two days after the cease fire.

Hamas fared even better. The group’s account, @AlQassamBrigades, started the war with a measly 9,000 followers. By war’s end, it had 41,000—a full quadruple.

Social War grants the outside world access to the inner workings of a war-torn country.

In Israel’s last military operation in Gaza in 2008-2009, communications and Internet line were cut and journalists were barred from entering Gaza. This time, Palestinians maintained Internet access and journalists were allowed entry, resulting in an unprecedented amount of first hand accounts from citizens living in Gaza, according to Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which tracks human rights issues and civilian and journalist casualties in Gaza.

“The spreading of eyewitness accounts of ordinary citizens of the Gaza Strip has been especially valuable in countering the mainstream narrative of the conflict, which lacks a rights based approach and factual reporting,” said Sourani.

He sees this openness as a step in the right direction. The world watched as Anderson Cooper, reporting live in Gaza City, flinched and staggered as a rocket blast erupted behind him one night. “That was a rather large explosion,” he said.

Palestinian citizens and bloggers took the world stage, too. Some photographed the destruction of office buildings and others wrote poems seeking peace.

Shahd Abusalama, a Palestinian student and blogger in Gaza City, was exhausted after six days of continuous bombings on the city. She rested under her blankets, but at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, a missile zoomed into her neighborhood, she wrote on her blog.

“I remember exactly how I heard the missile falling, like a whistle,” she wrote.

The rocket hit meters away from her house and the neighborhood gathered together to investigate. A loudspeaker from the mosque advised the crowd to spread apart in case of another missile. The victim was torn to pieces, spread across the street. His blood stained the street, she wrote.

In addition to posting the news to Facebook and Twitter, she keeps an updated list of every Palestinian killed in the conflict on her blog.

Social media shares the good news, too.

In 2010, three former Israeli soldiers created a website to combat negative misconceptions of Israel and the army. Called Friend a Soldier, the program pairs users with an Israeli soldier. It promotes hasbara, the Hebrew word for public relations, since users see the soldier behind the uniform.

Hasbara has a bad rap, akin to propaganda in English. While some, like Oz-Salzberger and Mitchell, see Social War as incorporating propaganda, Lirut Nave, a Friend a Soldier member, said said hasbara informs the public and explains reasons behind actions taken.

“We reached a time where presence in social media is a must, and there is no better and more efficient way to inform the public of your actions and motives,” said Lirut, a retired IDF soldier who served in an operational command center in the Jordan Valley.

There is much incentive for militaries and governments to enlist social media. You tell the story, you frame it as you like and bam! the story bombards Twitter.

A popular Vietnam anti-war slogan was: “What if they gave a war and nobody came.” In Social War, they not only come; they “like” it.


Cal State Fullerton News Politics

Libertarian candidate Gov. Gary Johnson visits Cal State Fullerton

Gov. Johnson speaks about fiscal responsibility while decrying “crony capitalism”

By Tim Worden and Chris Konte, published in Tuesday’s Daily Titan.

Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2012 presidential candidate, visited Cal State Fullerton Monday to promote his message of limited government, saying that voting for a third-party candidate is not a waste of anyone’s vote.

Johnson, who served two terms as the New Mexico governor from 1995 to 2003, originally ran as a Republican in this election, but switched to the Libertarian Party in May after a stagnant showing at the beginning of the election cycle.

He is known for his views on low-taxation and military nonintervention. He earned the nickname “Governor Veto” for vetoing what he claimed was more than 700 bills, in addition to 1,000 line-item vetoes while in office.

By the end of his eight years as governor, the Washington Post reported the size of state government had been considerably reduced and New Mexico was basking in a budget surplus.

Students had a chance to meet Johnson before and after the event, which was set up by the CSUF group Students for Gary Johnson. Many attendees to the noontime speech in the Quad wore Johnson and Ron Paul shirts.

Johnson said citizens have the power to change the course of the country.

“You’re your own movie director, you’re your own producer, you’re on the screen. Do you like what you see? If you don’t like what you see, change your life. You have control of your life, and you can make that change tomorrow,” Johnson said to the crowd of nearly 120 students.

Johnson made his name by founding a construction and handyman company, Big J, that grew to employ a thousand people. He had never been involved in politics before he ran for governor of New Mexico as a Republican in the 1995 election, something he said a Republican chairman at the time told him would not allow him to win.

“Well I did win, and I’d like to think it was based on what I had to say, which was, ‘Let’s just bring a common sense business approach to state government.’ Best product, best service, lowest price. Let’s keep government out of the bedroom, let’s keep government away from making decisions in your and my life that only you and I should be making,” said Johnson.

Johnson urged students to reconsider the notion of “wasted votes,” or votes for a candidate who has little chance of winning, such as a third-party candidate.

“I know right now that you’re all hearing this notion of wasted votes. What is more of a wasted vote than voting for somebody you don’t believe in?” asked Johnson. “The way we change things in this country is to vote for the person that most mirrors what you think.”

Derek Leininger, a Students for Gary Johnson group organizer who is pursuing a master’s in public administration at CSUF, said no Californian’s vote counts anyway, since “our state always goes blue.”

According to a Reason-Rupe poll released Friday, 53 percent of Californians said they will vote for Obama and 38 percent will vote for Romney. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

“To actually really make your vote count in this election, bolstering the third party is a very productive way to show the opposition that we’re not consenting anymore,” said Leininger, who became a Libertarian in 2007 by being attracted to Congressman Ron Paul.

The Orange County Libertarian Party has reported a 6 percent growth in members over the last month and a half, according to Tom Hanson, chair for the Orange County Libertarian Party, who was present at the event.

Others disagree with the viability of third-party candidates. Don Matthewson, Ph.D., a political science professor at CSUF, said most libertarian views are immature, akin to a two-year-old who wants less rules to follow.

“A well thought-out third-party candidate cannot win, but can force the other two candidates to face some key issues,” said Matthewson, citing Ross Perot as an example. Perot won 21 percent of the popular vote in 1992.

Historically, third parties have not fared well in presidential elections. In 2008, the Independent and Libertarian candidates managed only 0.56 percent and 0.4 percent of the popular vote, respectively, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Johnson was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Norby, who presides over the 65th assembly district, which includes CSUF, and Steve Collett, treasurer of the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative.

Norby, a Republican and CSUF alumnus, said war should not be a permanent policy for this country, and that people who believe in freedom have a choice this fall.

“Remember this: It’s much better to vote for somebody you want and lose, than vote for somebody you don’t want, and win,” he said.

comic books Culture Politics

Captain America for President

Illustration by Peter Pham for the Daily Titan

Published in Tuesday’s Daily Titan.

It’s October and the presidential election is in full swing.

We watch as President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney debate, cheering our respective candidate while blotting out the other. And soon, perhaps during last night’s presidential debate, undecided voters must make their final decision with the election only 16 days away.

Not me. I’ve already made my choice. I was undecided until early October, but while watching the first presidential debate, it came to me in a spark of inspiration.

I’m voting for Captain America. Yes, the Marvel Comics superhero who wields an American flag shield.

Don’t get me wrong: I think both candidates are OK. I’ll even concede that Obama has a trustworthy face. I just have a complete lack of faith in the political system, that’s all.

Both candidates are, simply put, good alternative choices. They are more of the same bland crop of American politicians who are unwilling to think outside the box and are eager to spend America’s money. The debates have shown that Obama and Romney lack backbone, sticking in the shallow end with a “war of words.”

That’s boring.

If Captain America has a problem with you, he will tell you outright why you are lying. Some shield throwing and punching may be involved.

For example, in the mid-2000s Civil War storyline, the American government forces all superheroes to register to the government with the “Superhero Registration Act.” Seeing this as a tremendous overstepping of government authority, Captain America vehemently rejects this unjust law.

Since he is breaking a federal law, a group of U.S. special forces agents surround him with guns drawn. His response?

“Weapons down or I will not be responsible for what comes next,” he says.

Romney couldn’t even summon that amount of backbone in his dreams.

Captain America stays away from politics, but he knows when his country has its priorities in reverse. In s #128 (1970), he comes across a Vietnam-era university protest with students rioting against police officers and an “aloof” college dean.

“Here’s where I oughtta step in and make like a swingin’ hero! But how do I know whose side to take? What the heck—the cops don’t need any help—but these kids do!!” he says.

In 1974, months after the conclusion of Watergate, Captain America discovers that a high-ranking government official (assumed to be President Richard Nixon) is working for an evil terrorist group.

He promptly rejects the U.S. and calls himself the Nomad.

Captain America’s fans have always been attracted to his courage. Beyond his suit he is, after all, Steve Rogers, a scrawny young man who was not able to get drafted into the army during World War II. But his determination makes him the perfect candidate for the “Super-Serum.” He’s the target of bullies, the underdog, and he brings this into his role as Captain America, where he now has the strength to fight for the underdogs.

His selflessness and defensive nature are perfect presidential qualities. “Captain America is not here to lead this country. I’m here to serve it. If I’m a captain, then I’m a soldier,” he says in a 2003 issue, adding:

“I am not a ‘superhero’… I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America’s problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. Together, we will define the American Dream and make it an American reality,” he said.

He’s an idealist who is not bogged down by a political party. He doesn’t campaign in swing states, he goes out and fights evil.

But these issues are all chump change compared to the real reason why Captain America deserves the leader of the free world honors.

On the cover of his first-ever comic book appearance, in March 1941, only months before  the attack on Pearl Harbor, Captain America is shown doing something extraordinary. He is decking Adolf Hitler in the jaw.

That’s bad-ass.

Cal State Fullerton News Politics

CSUF spotlights Constitution Day

  • Constitution Day, celebrated Sept. 17, celebrates the adoption of the Constitution, which defines the U.S. government’s powers and ensures democracy. Originally posted in Wednesday’s Daily Titan.
National Archives rotunda in Washington, D.C. Such an amazing place. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

A Constitution Day panel put on by Cal State Fullerton’s Division of Politics, Administration and Justice is to be held at the Becker Amphitheater Thursday, Sept. 13.

The panel, “Contemporary Challenges and the U.S. Constitution,” will be from noon to 1 p.m. Along with a voter registration booth, there will be three short discussions on issues relating to the Constitution and the 2012 presidential election, followed by a question and answer session.

“The Constitution, even though it’s over 200 years old, still remains as the center of American politics, it’s still incredibly relevant,” said Scott Spitzer, assistant political science professor, who is moderating the event.

The Constitution Day panel will examine these contemporary topics. The discussions include the “U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)” by Pam Fiber-Ostrow, Ph.D., an associate political science professor; “U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision on SB 1070 (Arizona’s controversial immigration law)” by Robert Castro, Ph.D., an associate political science professor; and “The 2012 Elections and the Constitution” by Matthew Jarvis, Ph.D, also an assistant political science professor.

Constitution Day celebrates the adoption of the Constitution as well as those who have become U.S. citizens. It is celebrated annually Sept. 17, the day in 1787 when the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution.

“I want students to understand first of all the Constitution is the rules of the game, how many players can be on the field at any given moment, what are their positions, and what are they allowed to do when they’re on the field,” said Fiber-Ostrow, who will speak about Obamacare.

For example, she said Article I of the Constitution, which deals with Congress’ power and limitations and defines Congress as a bicameral legislature with a lower House of Representatives and a higher Senate, remains relevant.

“I think it’s extremely important for students to understand the difference between whether or not Congress has the power, and whether or not they should be doing something,” Fiber-Ostrow said.

Associated Students Inc., who is co-sponsoring the event along with the Office of Government Relations and the Division of Politics, Administration and Justice, will have a voter mobilization before the panel. Beginning at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, students can register to vote and get voter materials, Spitzer said.

The event will have free refreshments and Constitution booklets that include the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, said Frances Teves, director of state relations and advocacy for the Office of Government Relations.

CSUF’s keynote Constitution Day event, focusing on the effects of capital punishment, will examine Proposition 34 and the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. The panel, “The Cost of Death: Is the price of capital punishment worth the consequences?” will be Wednesday, Sept. 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Titan Student Union pavilions.

One of the event’s speakers, Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles district attorney, authored Proposition 34. The proposition, up on the November ballot, will eliminate the death penalty in California and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Spitzer, who puts the Preamble and the idea of separation of powers as his favorite parts of the Constitution, said the Constitution is “universally revered” among politicians and still remains at the forefront in American politics.

“Everybody kind of agrees that this is our amazing blueprint for government and it’s working,” he said.

-Tim Worden


The Constitution also…

  • Creates a separation of powers between three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
  • Begins with the preamble: “We the people, of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
  • Has 27 amendments. The first amendment includes freedom of speech and religion.
News Photography Politics

A day working at the California Primary Election (Photo essay)

I worked 15 hours as a poll worker clerk in the California primary election Tuesday, helping voters cast their votes.

This is our polling location, a newly-remodeled house nestled in the hills of east Yorba Linda. It is a small precinct, only having 825 voters in a dozen streets.

We had a great view:

Beautiful Yorba Linda in mid-morning as the clouds started to clear up for the day.

As it was the primary election, there was an expected poor turnout. Many voters in Yorba Linda seem to vote by mail (335 out of 825 people, or 40 percent). That leaves 490 potential voters that could have voted from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

We had 108 voters. That means 22 percent of voters showed up at the polls. (See METHODOLOGY for more info).

So we had 100+ voters in 13 hours. That is a lot of free time. Luckily, I brought Insurgent by Veronica Roth, The Avengers (Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates) and Captain America (Marvel Masterworks: Captain America, Volume 6) to read!

This is the JBC (Judges Booth Controller), a computer that gives voters a code to vote and stores their votes. The clerk puts in the voter’s party and the voter is given his preferred ballot at any of the eSlate voting machines.

JBC computer.

These are the eSlate voting machines (they look like touch screens, but they use a track-ball iPod-like thing instead).

The eSlates.

The family who hosted us took care of us with sandwiches for lunch, a fully-stocked fridge of sodas and lasagna and bread sticks for dinner.

My brother Daniel, who also served as a clerk, eating his dinner.

This is my fourth time working at an election, and being a poll worker is always an exhausting but rewarding experience. I get to experience Democracy first-hand. It is great that in America, anyone can contribute to our government. I love seeing voters proudly flaunt their “I Voted” stickers.

One guy, probably in his late 40s, who zoomed to the polls in his yellow motorized bike, said he has voted in every election since he was 18 and eligible to vote.

“I wouldn’t miss it, it’s one of the perks of being an American.”

Poll workers received a primary pin (right).


-Photos and text by Tim Worden

METHODOLOGY: This is not scientific, it is my best estimate. There are some technicalities (a few voters who were Vote by Mail came and voted, so that would have some affect). I went through the list and counted the 335 Vote By Mail voters so naturally I made an error or two. So I will arbitrarily say, with the power vested in me (aka all the power in the universe), that my conclusions are true to within plus or minus 3 percentage points.