Top Five Running Mates For Barack Obama (Other Than Hillary Clinton)

With Barack Obama finally wrapping up the presidential nomination for the Democrats, pundits and experts alike are rushing to proclaim who might get the nod for Vice-President.  A good vice-presidential pick, according to Chris Bowers from openleft.com, should “reinforce[ ] his strengths, not one who balances out his perceived weakness.”

With that in mind, the first name that obviously emerges as the top VP pick is none other than Hillary Clinton.  I don’t know whether this is just a knee-jerk reaction because she was so close to picking up the nomination herself, or the fact that Obama and Clinton monopolized the political landscape for the last several months so that no one can think of anyone other than Clinton. 

Either way, the lack of any creative thought is a sad reality for the Democrats and for Barack Obama.  But once the “Go Hillary Go” dust settles, many viable Vice Presidential candidates will remain.  This is not to say that Hillary Clinton is not a good Vice Presidential pick (she certainly is but don’t ask me why).  Rather, the democrats have to realize that there are viable and meritorious Vice Presidential candidates out there who can galvanize the electoral base and support Barack Obama other than just Hillary Clinton.  To that end, here is my list of the top-five running mates for Barack Obama.  I have analyzed several data sources, spoken with numerous people, and consulted various indices both in the U.S. and abroad.

1)  Zohan:  Zohan, a former Isreali assassin and now a hairdresser, is just the kind of “action-man” Obama needs to support the rhetoric in his speeches. After all, Obama is really good with words and rousing arenas with awesome one-liners, but no one knows whether he can actually do what he says he is going to do.  With Zohan by his side, voters really won’t care.  Zohan can fill in the Obama “action” gap with his quick wit and proven record of hits.  Zohan will also erase any doubt that Barack is not a friend of Isreal.  Finally, Zohan’s profession as a hairdresser is just the kind of dichotomy the democrats need.  The assassin part will sway blue dog democrats and libertarians to vote for an Obama/Zohan ticket, and the hairdresser part will sway those democrats who want to vote for Ralph Nader.

2) Ronald McDonald:  What Obama lacks in age and experience, Ronald McDonald can make up for it with his ageless, international charm. We cannot overlook the fact that Ronald McDonald is fluent in approximately 31 languages, which will dampen any criticisms that Obama lacks foreign policy experience.  Further, McDonald has corporate connections as the CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for the megacorporation, McDonalds.  This will certainly allay any fears that Obama is a “corporate hater” or “business hater” or “socialist.”  Ronald McDonald’s corporate upbringing, coupled with his generosity, compassion, and color coordination, will help tip on-the-fence republicans and conservative democrats towards an Obama/Mcdonald ticket.

3) Sir Alexander Ferguson: Sir Alexander Ferguson’s record as the greatest football coach in English Football — and perhaps the greatest football coach in the world — is just the kind of “aged star quality” that Obama needs to counteract his own “young star quality.”  Sir Ferguson has solid, no-nonsense managerial experience running such teams as top ranked Manchester United.  Of course, if Sir Ferguson can manage his football teams so well, then imagine what he could do with a country?  Who else had the foresight and shrewdness to sign Cristiano Ronaldo when he was 19 years old?  That’s exactly the kind of message that an Obama/Ferguson ticket will have.  Ferguson has a proven track record of making the right choices during difficult times and when it mattered the most.  This is something that Obama hasn’t shown.  But by having Ferguson on his ticket, voters will forget that Obama has no track record.

4) Min Behadur Sherchan:  At 77 years old, Sherchan is the oldest person on record to climb the formidable Mt. Everest. John McCain may be 71 years young, but can McCain climb Mt. Everest?  I don’t think so.  And that’s exactly the kind of weakness that Obama needs to ruthlessly exploit by having Sherchan on his ticket.  With such a monumentous achievement as climbing Mt. Everest, it truly doesn’t matter what else Sherchan has done or what he believes in or what his economic policies are or even what his views are on the Iraq War.  It all doesn’t matter.  Sherchan can rest on his laurels.  What is there left to do after climbing Mt. Everest?  Nothing, except to run for Vice President with Barack Obama.

5) Chewbacca:  As a towering Wookie, Chewbacca has exactly the kind of presence that Obama so desperately needs to win the general election.  He has the physical stature to deflect any claims against Obama of being weak on terror or on crime or on unions — issues that usually kill the democrats in a general election.  Chewbacca is a certifiable badass. He also has the international stature to deflect any claims against Obama as lacking foreign policy experience.  It goes without saying that Chewbacca has experience in other universes, a fact that even McCain cannot dispute, as well as language skill.  Chewbacca is also a certifiable wingman and will be a loyal vice president.  Voters will know that he has no aims to be the president or some ulterior motive to control the president, as many know Hillary will want to do if she gets the VP nod.  Finally, Chewbacca can only help Obama with his rhetorical jibberjab to confuse and bewilder voters into voting for an Obama/Chewbacca ticket.  As we all know, the famed “Chewbacca defense” was no accident, and it something that Obama has mastered.  Why not have the person-practice that Obama mastered on his very own ticket?

In the end, the choice of VP will be an important decision for Obama.  Only time will tell if Obama has made the right pick.

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Croatia Airlines To Fly To Pristina, Kosovo

In Kosovo’s attempt to become more “European,” one thing, apart from obvious statehood, has held Kosovo back:  airline flights.  Airline flights?  If you want to go to Kosovo, you’re only bet other than a NATO flight, is to catch a connecting flight to Pristina from Vienna on Austrian Airlines or Budapest on Malev Airlines.  And, if you want to leave Kosovo to visit other parts of Europe or the United States, you have to do the same thing:  catch a connecting flight from either Vienna or Budapest.

To be sure, there is a wider selection of choices at Skopje Airport . . . but that’s in Macedonia.  Unless you have a free ride, you’re out on at least a 120 Euro taxi ride, not to mention anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours at the Macedonian border.  There’s also cheap and convenient flights from Belgrade . . . but the visa situation for a Kosovo traveler is extremely difficult (a traveler cannot come into Serbia directly from Kosovo without a prior “entry stamp”).  There’s also special charter flights to Germany and Switzerland run by Kosovo Airlines, but they run only once a week.  There is one true bright spot:  a quick flight to Istanbul, which has direct flights to many other places, for a roundtrip which will sink you back no more than 185 Euros.

For Kosovo to become more integrated with the rest of the world, people not only need an easier way to come to Kosovo, but also an easier way to get out of Kosovo.  Although many people can’t point to Kosovo on a map to save their lives, Kosovo is in a highly accessible place by way of the crow.  It’s a stones throw to Bulgaria, a coffee spill to Greece, a whisper to Albania or Montenegro, and a football pass to Italy.  But to get to these places by plane is either ridiculously expensive or ridiculously inconvenient.   Often times, a traveler from Pristina will have to travel to Central Europe before he or she can reach a major capital in the Balkans.

Cheaper and more varied travel options need to be provided, particularly for flights within the Balkans.  You have to take a 10 hour plus bus to get to Budva or Sofia.  A 15 hour bus ride to get to Sarajevo.  Imagine if there were more travel options than slaving in the chicken buses. 

Croatia Airlines has joined the bandwagon.  It will have flights three times a week from Zagreb to Pristina, starting June 16.  I checked the website and a roundtrip flight will cost you about 4200 Croatian Kuna, which is about 575 Euros.  True, this is ridiculously expensive but at least the airlines are coming in with flights.  That’s the first step.  Get the planes in.  Hopefully the next step will be lower prices.

Pristina Airport is ready for more traffic.  True, they need an air traffic control system to support the new renovations at their airport.  But they’re ready.

It would also be beneficial if the former Yugoslavia had a more integrated train system.  This may be difficult given the amount of mountain passes.  But as many of the countries in the Former Yugoslavia seek membership in the EU, a revamped train system could do  wonders in helping the economy, cleaning up the environment, and opening up the doors to visitors who have never experienced the Balkans.

Tatum O’Neal Busted For Cocaine Possession (And The Inequalities of Drug Treatment Programs)

Famed actress Tatum O’Neal was busted Sunday night for purchasing a couple bags of cocaine in the Lower East Side.  O’Neal was nabbed in what narcotics police call an “observation sale.”  In an “observation sale” operation, as opposed to a “buy and bust” operation, police do not use undercover police officers to purchase drugs but instead, observe drug sales taking place on the street between a seller and a buyer.  And for those who live in a cave, drug sales take place in open view, on the street, at all times of the day.  

The fact that O’Neal was caught buying drugs on the street is rather interesting for a celebrity like her.  Most celebrities have a “connect,” which means that a celebrity will generally purchase drugs inside in the comfort of their apartment or a friend’s apartment, not on the street, in open view of narcotics police.  Purchasing drugs on the street in the quantities that O’Neal purchased (likely two dime or two twenty bags), puts her in the same boat as the “usual” addicts that run through Manhattan’s criminal court on 100 Centre Street.  There is a certain level of desperation to a street purchase.  Given O’Neal’s history with drugs and the circumstances surrounding this arrest, highly suggests that O’Neal has a narcotics addiction.

She was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree.  This is a misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to one year.  Of course, it is the rare defendant who actually is sentenced to this.  This will generally happen if a defendant goes to trial on a felony and is convicted of a lesser-included misdemeanor offense.  However, most defendants who are charged with CPCS 7 are either sentenced to community service or a very short jail period — depending on their criminal history.

But herein lies the problem with New York’s drug treatment programs.  When a defendant is charged with a felony, such as Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree (500 milligrams or more of pure cocaine) or Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (any amount of narcotics), a defendant is offered a much larger menu of comprehensive drug treatment.  The issue is that most of the hardcore addicts are not charged with felonies, because they do not have the resources to either sell drugs or buy enough drugs to get them up to a felony.  Thus, if you walk into a Manhattan Criminal Court Arraignment, the worst looking cocaine or heroin addicts — the street buyers — are charged with the misdemeanor of simple possession.

What happens when a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor?  Either the defendant is given a slap on the wrist or the drug treatment offered is not comprehensive enough.  The resources are saved for defendants charged with felonies.  On paper and in politics, this makes a lot of sense.  But in practice, there are definite inequities that only perpetuate drug addiction. 

The defendants with some of the biggest drug problems (imagine someone like Bubbles from The Wire) are not given the opportunity for real life-changing and comprehensive drug treatment, because they are given the fortune of a misdemeanor charge.

But is society really doing anyone a favor?  I am not saying that defendants charged with misdemeanors should be charged with felonies.  What I am saying is that the opportunities for drug treatment that defendants charged with felonies receive should be given to those defendants charged with misdemeanors. 

Felony defendants are given the opportunity for long-term residential drug treatment — the kind of drug treatment that can work.  These defendants take part in multi-step programs, from removing the narcotics addition to living independently.  Some of these defendants are in these programs for five plus years. 

But when you are charged with a misdemeanor, you’ll be lucky if you can get a spot in a residential drug treatment program.  You’ll likely get assigned a once a week outpatient program.  Is it any wonder that many of these defendants do not succeed?

Although you will read that Tatum O’Neal will likely receive a drug treatment program, it will not do much for fixing her problem.  Of course, a person with an addiction has to want to improve.  There is no question that a level of individual will is involved.  But a person with an addiction must be given the opportunities to make that choice, in a supportive environment.  Drug treatment programs for those charged with felonies attempt to equip people with the wherewithal to make that choice.  The same cannot be said for those charged with misdemeanors.  

O’Neal’s best bet will not be through the state but through private, long-term residential drug treatment.  Tatum O’Neal has the resources to fix her life. 

But the same cannot be said for the majority of drug addicts, who will cycle through the criminal justice system — untreated — just below the “felony radar.”