The Hinjews

One interesting side-effect of the overly-publicized terrorist attacks in Mumbai is that it has brought to the foreground cultural ties between American Jews and Indian Americans :
The affinity ... extends well beyond the shared experience of being the target of Islamist terrorism, or the resulting military and security ties between India and Israel. The softer tissue of human experience — culture, religion, values — also binds Indians and Jews ... In suburbs like Great Neck on Long Island or West Windsor, N.J., the same top-flight public schools that attracted Jews moving out of cities in the 1950s have more recently drawn Indian immigrants. "Some of us in the Indian-American community feel our Jewish-American friends set a very good example of being good citizens," Mr. Anighotri said. "Their activism, their social values, their family values, the educational values. Many of them are professionals and entrepreneurs, and that's what we see in the Indian community as well."

The article doesn't mention an inconvenient fact.  Even though Indian Americans are now at parity with American Jews as the nation's wealthiest minorities, most neo-Nazis in the US still focus on Jews.  However, a white supremacist group in New Jersey who called themselves the Dot Busters targeted South Asians in the early 1990s.  Being targeted for their affluence is part of the Indian diaspora's major nightmares. When I was growing up in Africa in the early 1980s, Idi Amin was never far away from the thoughts of Indian and Lebanese.traders.  So, that too contributes to the special affinity that Indian Americans have for Jews.

But the humor also works across the two cultures:
Hinjew leaders today conceded the merger of Hinduism and Judaism has not worked out as planned, as instead of forming a super-religion to fight off the common Islamic enemy, they have instead created a race of 900 million people who, no matter how many times they are reincarnated, can never please their mothers

You call this dual loyalty?

Considering that this article, or a variation of it, runs every year, I suspect that the reporter for Norman Transcript phones it in ahead of time so that they can spend more time gorging on turkey. Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, and with it, comes the perennial feature about "dual loyalties":
"My first husband, who is deceased, was a big OU fan," Parrish said. "And when we went to games, he had to come to my defense on many occasions. I continued to wear my most obnoxious orange sweater regardless of which stadium we were at."

As Wikipedia points out in in its entry on "dual loyalty" 
the accusation of "dual loyalty" is often used or co-opted by racist or xenophobicgroups within a country, regardless of the original intent of the accusation.
and goes on to point out a few instances, including the Drefyus affair in France, JFK's run for president and  the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War-II .

Do we really need such a loaded phrase to describe supporting a different college football team?

The punchline

Okiedoke is pissed  about left-wing out-of-staters using the past election to paint Oklahomans with a broad brush.  I followed the link  to read the comments and they were usual Internet vitriol.  But the first item on his list was actually the punchline to a pretty good joke:

"Why doesn't Texas secede from the United States?"

"Because Oklahoma sucks"

So that poster, at the very least, ought to be forgiven.

And the pretty brutal comments about the stupidity of Little Axe residents deserve some context if even if the context doesn't quite justify those comments.

How the media make travel less safe for Americans

The latest terrorist act in Mumbai (Bombay) is getting a lot of press coverage. And the coverage is over-wrought, emotional and with no sense of history. Bombay (and India) have been here before. The monsters the western world created to fight the Russians in Afghanistan have always bled across the border into India. Thus, terrorists have attacked the Indian parliament, bombed a train in Gujarat, bombed commuter trains in Bombay and hijacked planes and kidnapped children. Almost once a year, Bombay itself is a target.  But both Bombay, and India, endure.  This time will be no different.

Why is the coverage this time so overwhelming? Maybe because the terrorists carried out a publicity coup by singling out Americans and British citizens and by choosing a Jewish center (yes, there are Jews in India; there have been Jews in India for centuries) as one of the places to attack. By focusing on the USA, UK and Israel, the terrorists are trying to align themselves against our highly unpopular (in the Muslim world) policies in Iraq and towards Israel.  And by immediately jumping in with wall-to-wall coverage when this happens (as compared to more cerebral coverage when American lives were not at stake), the American media is only serving the interests of the terrorists.

A little perspective served with a little less emotion would do wonders to reduce the incidence of terrorism.  It would, incidentally, also serve to keep Americans safer when they travel.

Becoming American

NPR is running a series of interviews with immigrant authors.  Yesterday was Junot Diaz. Today, it was Jhumpa Lahiri. 

Lahiri was simply ridiculous.  She claimed that she did not feel fully American.  Asked to explain why she (who's been in the USA since she was two years old) felt not quite American, she quickly changed the subject to her parents:

For me, there is sort of a half-way feeling ... [My parents have] lived here now for more than half of their lives, and they raised a family here and now have grandchildren here. ... It has become their home. But at the same time, for my parents, I don't think either of them will ever consciously think, 'I am an American.'

The interviewer made the mistake that anyone would make under the circumstances.  He asked whether her parents had not become American citizens.  Lahiri then backtracked, and said that they had become American citizens but that they still didn't feel American.  Steve Inskeep did the classic interviewer's trick of remaining quiet.  Lahiri then rushed into the void, explaining that her parents were always betrayed by their accent. If the family went to a store, apparently, the sales person would talk to her and never to them.

Really! That's it? Doltish salespeople who decide to focus on one person in a group? That's what makes Ms. Lahiri feel less American? The lengths to which some people will go to claim victimhood is amazing.

Junot Diaz had a more nuanced and ultimately more optimistic view of his immigrant-American experience:

"I don't think that I ever would have thought so fondly of Santo Domingo had I stayed there my whole life," he says.

One way he adjusted to his new surroundings was through reading. "The solitude of being an immigrant, the solitude of having to learn a language in a culture from scratch, the need for some sort of explanation, the need for answers, the need for something that would somehow shelter me lead me to books," Diaz says.

Books about car engines, oil paintings and historical figures "became the map with which I navigated this new world," he says.

And as he grew up, Diaz says he came to see the United States as a composite of "multiple Americas": ones that were racist and xenophobic, coupled with Americas where anything is possible — where a kid can "come from a nonbookish culture and be transformed."


Upper crust?

Upper crust? Us?
Instead of one game that matches two upper-crust contenders like Alabama and Oklahoma, a playoff could include teams from football’s neglected working class, like Utah and Boise State.
Oh, football.

Statistic of the day

More Americans own their own business (15%) than belong to a union (12%).  (source here )

Cure cancer or practice football?

Myron Rolle, star safety at Florida State, is on the short-list for a Rhodes scholarship.  The Florida State defensive coordinator opined that he was studying too much, and that all that studying was affecting his football preparation.  The kid nevertheless finished his pre-med degree in two-and-a-half years.  He also started doing cancer research and the faculty advisor on that grant remarks : 
Myron has such a tremendous mind and intellect that it's exciting to think about what he could do if he didn't have all the distractions of football
If it were not football and cancer research, this jockeying between professors for the focus of a star student would be funny.

Of course, this reminds  me of the time that the Norman Transcript chose to highlight the fellow who maintains the lawn in the football stadium over a researcher who'd made an important advance in cancer research. Glad to know that it's not just Oklahoma.

Responsible and hard-working

According to this tool that will analyze a blog and spit out an analysis of its writer, I am:
The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. 
Being responsible and hardworking, I saved everybody the trouble and tried out friends' blogs.  Sundar and Dave are independent problem-solving types.  58th customer is entertaining and friendly.  TR , Valley Blogzine and Suja especially attuned to people and things around them.  Darwin is good at looking something and figuring out how to improve it.

Not just in America

Could a Barack Obama happen anywhere else but in America?  Is it only in America that a member of a reviled ethnic group can make it to the top political post in the land?  Happens all the time
For one thing, self-made, boundary-crossing leaders generally arise in times of upheaval, when it's clear familiar ways aren't working. Were it not for the French Revolution, after all, Napoleon's "supernatural energies might [have died] away without creating their miracles,'' as Disraeli himself observed. Disraeli's own career took place in a rapidly industrializing England. Fujimori's slogan, in a time of economic chaos, was "Cambio'' or "change.'' As for the Berber, Arab, and Balkan Roman emperors, they were Latin-speaking Colin Powells—outsiders who had entered politics' elite circles via military service.
Napoleon was Corsican who spoke French with a coarse Italian accent.  Disraeli was a Jewish convert to Christianity. Fujimori held dual Japanese and Peruvian citizenship.

Butt of jokes in NYC

S., a classmate from my undergraduate days who runs a metallurgical business in Chennai, emailed that he was going to be in New York City this week.  D., another classmate, works in NYC doing something sophisticated involving financial analysis.  So, the three of us met in a comedy club (Caroline's ) in midtown.  Weekdays are apparently for "up-and-coming" stand-up acts -- ten different acts of about 10 minutes each.  D. and S. both live in cities with great comedy scenes, so they felt the show was only so-so.  Being from the boondocks, on the other hand, I loved it ...

We picked a table right next to the mike, even as D. warned us that we would be singled out if we sat there.  And yes, we did get singled out.  The host asked us whether we worked together.  "We went to school together," I replied.  She asked us where we went to school. "India," we said.  And so, several of the comics worked in Indian jokes into their material. One guy said he was annoyed at how Arabs in movies had Indian accents.  He did a hijacking in an Indian accent, and then repeated the words in an Arab accent.  Another guy said my mustache looked like that of an Indian porn star.  And proceeded to list the differences between an Indian wedding and an Indian porn film. "You're Indian, right?" he finally asked, "God forbid you're from Pakistan and I say you're Indian."

A thrilling memory

An article about science-related things to do in Boston brought back good memories of the Boston Museum of Science and its Van de Graaf generator.  Long-time readers of this blog will remember my thrill  at getting a personal, after-hours tour of the museum.

Kudos on data mining done right

I'm headed to New York City next week and the wife wants stuff we don't get here in the boondocks.  So, decided to see if there was a Trader Joe's near where I'll be staying.  That's when I discovered that Google Maps now gives you public transit directions. 

My directions were to: walk 7 minutes west to Wall St. station, take subway line no. 5, get off at Union square and walk 2 minutes east on 14th St. to the store.  The page even listed train timings, and sported an announcement of when that line is going to experience interruptions.  Now, none of this is data that I could not have gotten on my own, but the sheer convenience of this is amazing.  I probably would not visited the NYC transit page to find train timings or interruption information -- I would have just shown up and cooled my heels.
It's not about the data; it's about how accessible and usable the data are.   Count on Google to get data mining right -- they pulled together a variety of sources into something concise and comprehensive.   The resulting directions and display are so simple that the underlying algorithms must be sophisticated indeed.

Another word on Oklahoma's vote

Via Okie Funk, this is from David Walters, scandal-prone former Governor of Oklahoma and the last Democrat to lose to Jim Inhofe:
... it's not good for Oklahoma to run so counter.  One national media service recently said based on the polls, the future of the Republican Party lies with "old white people and hayseed states."  I don't believe that, but much of the nation does and we don't need to be in that category.  Another pundit said that to understand the current Republican Party one has to "understand the unique culture and politics of Appalachia."  Are you kidding me?  Hayseed states and Appalachia!  Call your local chamber and ask them if they think this is somehow good for us. 
 
To which the Daily Oklahoman responded:
Obama won the election handily, fairly and squarely. He won it without Oklahoma and other red states. What's the matter with that? Are voters here supposed to refrain from expressing their will because it might affect the state's national image?
 
Well, the problem with that, as I pointed out before, is not that McCain won in Oklahoma -- he won in Utah too -- but that he won with a greater proportion of the vote than Bush did over Kerry.   When the entire country is giving 6% more votes to the Democrats, this puts us in the company of post-Katrina Louisiana, hayseed states and Appalachia. I don't think the lack of a housing bubble or the high price of oil had anything to do with this.  Texas and New Mexico produced 6% more votes for the Democrats and the same conditions apply there as well.

Now, I'll shut up about the election.  Promise.

Interesting reads

Many newspapers and blogs, including this one, allow you to subscribe to new articles as RSS feeds. That's how I read most of what I read on the net.  Google Reader lets you "share" articles you find particularly interesting, and Blogger lets you make a widget out of them.  That's the "Interesting Reads" section that appears on the right hand-side of this blog. Right now, the list includes:

An article noting that LBJ may have lost the South for a generation with the civil rights bill, but that the generation that LBJ lost is dying off:
Barack Obama is often called a transformational figure, and this election, it then follows, is a transformational one. I beg to quibble. Barack Obama is a confirmational figure, and this election confirms what has been gradually occurring in American society ever since that July day when Johnson virtually outlawed most forms of racial segregation in America. We've been transforming ever since.

A politician with Liberian links who beat out a 5-term congressman in rural Virginia:
A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, Perriello worked to end atrocities in Liberia as well as with child soldiers, amputees, and local pro-democracy groups in Sierra Leone. He became special adviser for the international prosecutor during the showdown that forced Liberian dictator Charles Taylor from power. His work as a security analyst has taken him to Afghanistan and Darfur. Perriello has also been a part of a groundswell of young progressives whose religious faith motivates them to seek social change through public service. One of the most startling aspects of his 2008 campaign was his pledge to tithe 10 percent of his campaign volunteers' time to local charities. Time they could have spent stuffing mailers and phone-banking went to building houses for the poor.

The arms race amongst high school and college swim teams around Michael Phelps-style swimsuits:
Swimmers wearing Speedo's LZR suits set 71 of the 77 new aquatic racing world records at, or just before, this year's Olympics. Now collegiate swimming programs are buying LZRs, and their competitors feel obliged to, um, follow suit. The trend extends to the high-school level, where the suits are showing up at state championship meets. Problem: LZRs cost around $500 retail.

That ethanol replaces the wrong crude oil product, looking from the demand side:
The problem for the ethanol advocates is that there's very little growth in gasoline demand, while the demand for other cuts of the barrel is booming. In short, the corn ethanol producers are making the wrong type of fuel at the wrong time. They are producing fuel that displaces gasoline at a time when gasoline demand—both in the United States and globally—is essentially flat. Meanwhile, demand for the segment of the crude barrel known as middle distillates—primarily diesel fuel and jet fuel—is growing rapidly. And corn ethanol cannot replace diesel or jet fuel, the liquids that propel the vast majority of our commercial transportation machinery.

That it's tough getting Asian parents to participate in their kids' schools:
The Asian parents are anything but uninterested. They call with concern if their children receive "satisfactory" rather than "excellent" progress reports, and bestow so many Godiva chocolates on guidance counselors at Christmas that the gilt boxes are donated to charity. But having come from a culture where performing well on tests was the only school activity that mattered, and self-conscious about their limited English skills, they are scarce at social activities like back-to-school nights, bake sales and football games.

On how many mothers are choosing to deliver their children at home (S2 was born at home, so we know what this article is talking about):
Many women are wary of hospital births, both because of a patient's limited control over the process and because of the growing frequency of Caesarean sections (use of the procedure increased by 50 percent nationwide from 1996 to 2006, to nearly one in three births, according to the National Center for Health Statistics).

If you read this blog by visiting the site, you may not have noticed the new widget.  And if you read my blog through a RSS feed, you wouldn't know about the widget, would you? So, consider this a heads up.  Feed Readers can subscribe to articles I found interesting using this link.
 

The market in adoptions

This article on adoption statistics in the United States was eye-opening.   600,000 women seek to adopt children every year.   There are 129,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted; yet only 8,000 children are actually adopted.  The usual rationales don't add up: there are 12.5 prospective parents for each black child in adoptive care, six prospective parents for every child older than 13 and nearly as many for foster children with disabilities.

Thinking about all the adoptive children among my friends, there is one child who was adopted when his teenage mother gave him up on birth.  Another child (9 years old) was adopted after he came to the family as a foster child.   The remaining adopted children (more than a dozen) in my circle of friends were all internationally adopted.  Yet, statistically, only 19,000 children are adopted internationally each year: the bureaucracy involved with international adoptions is too expensive for most parents.  This kind of thing never ceases to surprise -- for an average American, only 1 out of 4 of this closest friends graduated from college -- yet, I am sure (if you are reading this on the Internets) that the vast majority of your friends did graduate from college.  So, yes, few American prospective parents can afford an international adoption.

Bottom line: adoption is another market failure in America -- there are all these children in foster care, and all these parents willing to adopt them.  Yet, these adoptions don't happen.  The article proposes that government bureaucracies are so focused on keeping the bad parents out that they fail to provide a smooth path to the good prospective parents they should be adopting.  That may be true, but there is another reason that is probably acknowledged more in private:  one over-riding concern of parents who adopt stateside is that the biological parents would come back years later and sue to get the children back.  Since it's much harder to do so across international borders, parents who can afford it go outside the country.  And since most families adopt only one child or two,  they're willing to shoulder the additional cost as insurance.  So, perhaps, a better legal framework to protect the rights of adoptive parents would help.

S1 spends a day in my office

Due to parent-teacher conferences, S1 has the day off from school today.  But neither the wife nor I can take the time off.  So, S1 did what he does in such situations -- he came to work with me.  Eight hours is a long time for a 7-year old to occupy himself.  But he manages.

First, he made a "drawing book".  He drew a bunch of pictures on paper, stapled them together and plans to take it home to give to S2 so that she can color them.
Next, he did a 100-piece Spiderman jigsaw puzzle. This occupied him for more than an hour.
Then, he commandeered a couple of packing boxes that have been lying around in my office for several months.  I was wondering what he was doing with them. It turns out to be a train.  He is sitting in the first car, reading a book. All his other stuff is in the second car.
So, he's managed to occupy himself for 6 hours now.  I can't imagine S2 being so patient and self-directed.  Difference between first and second children?

Oklahoma election fine print

I'm looking at the fine-print of the election statistics and not liking what I see about Oklahoma.

Obama increased his share of the electorate over Kerry's almost uniformly (by about 6%) across the board -- in some cases, that was enough to tip the state to his column but in other states, it wasn't. That essentially was the election.  This was pretty much in line with the final polls. People who said race was a factor voted identically to those who said it wasn't.  So much for the Bradley effect.  Racism is dead in America. Hurray!

But as usual, the exceptions are interesting.  Obama didn't improve over Kerry's margins in Massachusetts, Alaska or Arizona because those were the home states of Kerry, Palin and McCain.  But Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginiai and Louisiana ... what's up with them?  These are the only states where significant numbers of people who voted for Kerry didn't vote for Obama.  Not happpy that Oklahoma is amongst a handful of states where racists still lurk in large numbers.

Jim Inhofe won without a sweat in Oklahoma.  Even Sarah Palin compares favorabily, corrupt and complexity-free as she may be, to Jim Inhofe.  I didn't expect Inhofe to lose.  But in a heavily Democratic year, one would think that such a bad senator would be somewhat vulnerable.  But no.  Oklahomans will vote for any body as long as he has a (R) by his name.  Sigh.

S1's vote

S1 (the 7-year old) came back from school to report the results of his school vote.  He'd voted for Obama, but McCain won in this school: 438 to 330.  Since children pick up cues from their parents, I wouldn't be surprised if McCain's margin in Oklahoma is right around 57-43. 

"People in the red states vote for McCain because he fought for us in a war," S1 informed me, "why do people in blue states vote for Obama?".  Obviously, this is a question he needs to answer at recess tomorrow to some buddy of his.

How do you come with an explanation fit for a 7-year old? I can not mention torture, the overwhelming moral issue (for me at least) in this election.  And things like science policy, innovation, diplomacy, temperament, etc. are too complex for him.

"Obama will help poor people find jobs and be able to go to the doctor," I finally told him.

(S2, of course, voted early.  Against the black man, and for the blue man.)

A life well lived

What does a "life well, fully, and joyously lived" look like?  James Fallows receives an email about his dad, a small-town doctor.

Norman's new claim to fame

Forget being ranked sixth best small city in America.  Norman's new claim to fame :
The line to vote at the Cleveland County Election Board in Norman, Okla., was two blocks long on Friday.
It was on Friday that I voted early: my wait was an hour and a half.   Slate must have missed Sunday's paper -- the waits on Saturday were close to 3 hours.

Next election, I'm getting an absentee ballot. But ... why don't we all adopt Oregon's system of voting by mail? And while we are cleaning up the voting system, why don't we automatically register all voters who apply for a driver's license, and automatically update their voter registration when they get a license in another community or state?  My magazine subscriptions and junk mail somehow automatically find me at my new address.  Why can't my voter registration?

Rachel Maddow calls the baroque rules and waiting lines an updated form of poll tax.

Coin design

Americans who travel abroad encounter colorful, playful currencies. Ever wonder who comes with those designs and why?

A Dutch artist explains his design of a commemorative 5-Euro coin. The multiple layers of symbolism, and the use of modern media and concepts is simply amazing. As is the coin design itself (one face of the coin, required to have a potrait of Queen Beatrice, is made up of the names of Dutch architects, ordered by popularity).

This puts the extremely tradition-bound designs of our 50 state coins to shame. What an opportunity lost! And to think that 50 different opportunities were squandered!

Race, bigotry and negative ads that backfire

Ruchira Paul avers that Obama's likely election tomorrow doesn't mean that Americans are looking past race-based hypocrisy:
Those of us who grew up in countries where rigid identity politics (religion, caste, gender) is the norm, know that sometimes voters can indeed eschew prejudice in politics without revising broader cultural attitudes. Just because a male chauvinist votes for a female head of state or a casteist elects a candidate from a lower caste, doesn't mean the end of other personal predilections. Think Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto and the status of the majority of women in India and Pakistan.
Bigoted Indian voters could nevertheless vote for Indira Gandhi because she was Nehru's daughter. This is the difference between what you can tell of British attitudes towards women from Queen Elizabeth I becoming queen and Margaret Thatcher becoming prime minister. The regal association trumps all others -- just because the royal family practiced primogeniture did not mean that lower-ranking estates went to the first child: they still went to the first male heir. But Margaret Thatcher's election did show that Britons' attitudes towards women in positions of power had changed significantly.

Obama has no regal background to protect him from racists. So, if he is elected president, it'll be because Americans are looking past race to some extent.

But, only to some extent. I believe the comparison to royalty kind of explains why the negative attacks against Obama have failed so miserably. The USA is a republican country with no royal family: the cultural elite is all it has. Joe Sixpack may hate it, but he looks to it for social validation. McCain and Palin attacked Obama saying that he associated with "terrorists", but the proofs turned out be professors at Chicago and Columbia. And Obama, in his debates, came across as a reasonable, well spoken fellow with a measured way of talking. Not at all angry or sloppy. What the negative attacks served to do was to put him squarely in the elite. In other words, Obama was not like the poor blacks who a bigoted American thinks he sees every day; this Obama guy was on Tee-Vee and palled around with professors. He is part of the cultural elite, and that makes him acceptable.

P.S. This is also why the Rev. Jeremiah Wright videos were so damaging to Obama during the Democratic primary -- they bracketed him within a poor, angry, black milieu. This makes it interesting that even though McCain has a run a very bigoted campaign, only the Pennyslvania GOP has run ads of Rev. Wright. And indeed, those ads have coincided with a tightening of the polls in Pennsylvania.

More Palin Fun

What will do for political amusement next week?

A couple of Canadian radio jocks call Sarah Palin claiming to be Nikolas Sarkozy and talk to her for five minutes.  She accepts all the misinformation they feed her,  spouts campaign talking points in a supposedly private conversation and doesn't manage to ask a single question back.  Is even thrilled with being the theme of a song supposedly written by Carla Bruni in praise of her.

A negative result that got away

Lots of times, you never hear about negative results from scientific research.  If condition A is found to be a great predictor of outcome B, then you will read about it.  If it turns out that the causation isn't likely, it never sees the light of day.  Unfortunately, this just means a research group a few years later will chase down the same unlikely lead, and end up disappointed (again).  It would be nice if scientific journals would publish more negative results, especially those that peer researchers consider likely candidates.  But that's not how it is.

Oxford professor Peter Millican has developed a machine intelligence algorithm for comparing the writing styles of different texts. A few years ago, one such program was used to find the author of "Primary Colors" even though the book was published anonymously.  Millican was contacted by a right-wing group who hoped to show that Obama's first book was ghostwritten by (wait for it) William Ayers.

Millican took a preliminary look and found the charges "very implausible". A deal was agreed for more detailed research but when Millican said the results had to be made public, even if no link to Ayers was proved, interest waned.

That's a shame. I wish the Republicans had gone for it anyway. Not for the politics ... my interests are for the science community.  The results would have been reported about in the papers, and the resulting notoriety may have prompted some academic journal to run it.

A published, high-profile negative result would have been a good thing, indeed.
 

Obama's Aunt an Illegal Immigrant: Guilt-by-association and abuse of power

This is the kind of story that gets a visceral reaction.  Obama's aunt is in the US illegally four years after a judge turned down her asylum request.   It took me 15  years and thousands of dollars to become a US citizen, doing it the legal way.  Yet, this illegal immigrant is living in public housing in Boston?  I'm outraged.

If I hadn't already early voted yesterday, I think, I may have to sit the presidential election out. If  McCain wasn't erratic and the McCain-Palin ticket hadn't run such a bigoted campaign, I think, I might even have voted for them.

But of course, visceral reaction is all that this story has going for it.

African families are sprawling.  This woman is Obama's father's half-sister -- close enough to be mentioned in a memoir, but hardly close.  If Obama had sponsored her immigration, it is one thing. But how else can he responsible for what a distant relative does?  Last month, the story was that his half-brother was living in a slum in Kenya.  That story is irrelevant to the election (do you send monthly checks to all your poor relations?), as is this story.  The whole point of leaking a story like these three days before an election is to suppress voter turnout.

Immigration records are, of course, under federal government purview.  Why would this story come out three days before an election?  Remember: Sarah Palin abused her government position to try to get her brother-in-law fired.  Now, the Bush administration is abusing its power to release irrelevant, guilt-by-association information in an attempt to help McCain.

Vote Obama, if you already haven't.  Abuse of power like this has to stop.


UPDATE:  Obama did not sponsor her visa:
She attended Obama's swearing-in to the U.S. Senate in 2004, but campaign officials said Obama provided no assistance in getting her a tourist visa and doesn't know the details of her stay. The campaign said he last heard from her about two years ago when she called saying she was in Boston, but he did not see her there.
But she did contribute illegally to his campaign, so the Obama folks ought to return the money.
According to Federal Election Commission documents filed by the Obama campaign, Onyango has contributed $260 to Obama over a period of time. Under federal election law, only U.S. citizens or green-card holders are legally permitted to give money to campaigns. Onyango, who listed her employer as the Boston Housing Authority, gave in small increments to the Obama campaign. Her latest contribution was $5 on Sept. 19.