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Friday, 3 July 2009

Questions and Answers

I have hesitated for a while to put pen to paper on the broad vision for this website, but recent developments has forced me to clearly address some of the questions, which are often posed via emails but now seem more evident in recent posts. As the website has grown so have the attacks not just on myself but the Zambian Economist and its contributors. I thought the basic way to do this is answer some specific questions. This hopefully will then provide an opportunity for open feedback from individuals on issues that concern them (this is now the second feedback this website has solicited). So where your concern is not discussed, please feel free to ask and I will respond, consistent with our broad etiquette:

1. When was the Zambian Economist started?

This website has been in existence since February 2007. Since then we have moved from “blogspot” URL to a self-standing domain. During that period, it has also given birth to another sister website House of Chiefs , with the sole purpose of discussing issues related to traditional authorities in Zambia (political, economic and social). Readers are encouraged to visit that website. Often many issues related to land, water, health and the environment tend to be discussed there given the critical role of chiefs in these areas. We have so much material for the Zambian Economist, that it is simply not possible to duplicate material across the two websites.

2. What is the purpose of the Zambian Economist?

The aim is to provide “a non-political platform for exchanging ideas on the many issues facing our nation”. This is not to say political issues are not discussed here, we do as politics and economics tend to be inseparable (see the tag cloud on politics). It essentially means three things:

  • Learning: It is our hope that this website will enable everyone to learn more about Zambia (a sort of independent economic source about our country). Often as individuals and citizens, we build up "priors" or preconceived ideas. It is good to see those tested and refined so that our individual perspectives on life and issues facing Zambia continues to improve. It gives us an unparalleled opportunity to research areas we know nothing about, by being free to debate and ask questions, with the full certainty that an answer will pop up from another contributor.
  • Influencing: We want to see Zambia become better than it is. There's no reason why after 44 years of independence many of our people live in abject poverty. It is deeply frustrating to see that often the politics get in the way of intelligent and effective dialogue on life and death issues. Many Zambians just want to see things get done, regardless of the chitenge you wear. More importantly, many Zambians have the solutions to make our nation better, but have no avenue for communicating their thoughts or debate them with other people. They simply wonder why is it that something so simple cannot be fixed? Or why has that never been tried? Or where can I know more about X? This website is a small step towards offering a platform to ask and debate such questions. It exists to try and encourage positive dialogue on the many pressing challenges facing the nation. Its strength is drawn from the many contributors who sacrifice their time to understand the pressing issues and offer meaningful exchanges on many areas, and have fun doing it!
  • Sharing: We can all influence and learn as individuals from a closed room! But our culture emphasises the village community and the beauty of interactions. Blogging together allows us to interact with other Zambians (and friends of Zambia) thinking about the same issues and share experiences. We believe there's much to be gained not just in reading what people write, but also understanding why people write the way they write. It’s our goal therefore to ensure that at all times, Zambian Economist remains a friendly relaxed site.

3. What is the current readership of the Zambian Economist?

The readership of the website has grown substantially since its conception. The current readership is around 500 unique visits a day (according to google analytics). We regard this as very positive given the “analytical” nature of the website and given that we have only recently moved to a self-standing domain. In terms of geographical coverage, whilst most of the access is abroad, more than a third of our traffic is accessed by people within Zambia and this has been rising as use of internet expands.

In terms of access, we have just around 200 subcribers who receive regular emails via our Feedburner Subscriptions (again the trend here has been upward with many positive feedback and only 1 drop rate per every 3 months or so - people clearly love the facility). This is a great way to keep in touch and allows people either to get posts in a batch or daily. We recently launched two twitter services (for specific issues of interest and news/blogs update services both linked to the website). The combined subscription to these has now reached around 600. Undoubtedly these services will grow as Zambians take more to web.

4. What are you doing currently in Zambia beyond words?

Zambian Economist is investing in Brick World Zambia Ltd, an indigenous company based in Lusaka and Solwezi, as we try and build Zambia one brick at a time. The aim is to support our nation not just with words but also deeds. Those who want to know about this and other investment opportunities are welcome to get in touch via email.

5. What is the long-term vision of the website?

From the beginning there has always been a long-term vision. An essentially six - step approach. It was never the intention to fully publicise this but for full transparency and to encourage others to think along the same lines, here it is (so any other person who wants to copy this, feel free - we encourage as many of these initiatives as possible, but we obviously encourage you to partner with us) :

Stage 1: To create a website via blogger that was able to get some traction and test whether Zambians were thirsty for much deeper dialogue than is characterised by other news aggregators. [Measure of success: A new blog - this was achieved in February 2007 when Zambian Economist blogspot was created].

Stage 2: To have a self standing domain name, once it is concluded that there is sufficient traffic to warrant a more structured approach. [Measure of success: successful transition to a new domain name. This was done early this year we migrated to after concluding that there was sufficient traffic and the website had become very popular]

Stage 3: Create a new template that would more accessible beyond the current restrictions imposed by the google template. This might include combining hosting the House of Chiefs, Zambian Economist and News Feeds together in a single place, with dedicated columns from other leading Zambian Economist contributors. [Measure of success - this stage would require an estimated $5000 war chest funding to take forward. Funding currently being solicited]

Stage 4: Recruit Zambian experts around the world from all different areas of interest (politics, economics, history, culture, etc) who would write important articles, consistent with the vision and aims of the Zambian Economist. Such experts would write for free, but given small “thank you” payment in recognition of their efforts. The aim is to engender a culture of non-partisan writing from our many contributors [Measure of success - a team of leading Zambian experts from around the world, built around the Project Syndicate model].

Stage 5: Create an Editorial board to oversee the activities of the Zambian Economist, especially issues related to news aggregation and more political subjects.

Stage 6: To create an Institute built from this website that would support and engage emerging Zambian economists at our universities. The aim is for this institute to support scholarships, non-partisan public debates and lectures on issues and get the ordinary Zambian people at home and abroad excited about discussing issues at a level than we are used to. The hope is that such an Institute will be funded by partners of the Zambian Economist around the world, as well as other willing international organisations.

This is the vision we are working to and this is what we hope those of you are submitting your donations are expecting.

I thank those of you who continue to contribute time and effort, and of late financially, in support of this vision. I welcome feedback on the questions and answers raised above. Also in terms of what genuinely people think should be the broad approach. The Zambian Economist and the House of Chiefs websites although principally maintained by myself is kept going by our regular contributors and readers. It is intended as a gift to the Zambian people. We do not do this for money, political or financial reward (as suggested by some in recent exchanges). We do this to forge better dialogue among our people and hopefully to contribute in an intellectual and practical within a small space afforded to us by technology.

Your views, please!


  1. Thank you for clarifying the vision. I applaud the work that you are doing; I admire your vision; and am proud to be one of your regular readers. Long may this work continue

  2. cho -
    you've a veruy good platform here, we need to expand participation of more ordinary Zambians, most comments are from Zambians in diaspora this creates the appearance of " Zambians in ivory towers talking down on the poor lot that are physically experiencing the boiling pot of poverty and strike". we in diaspora may have a vantage point but in order if this is to be something like
    a think tank that will have an impact in azmbia's development , we need practical solutions, I know this blog has proposed ideals since it's creation but we may have to develop a creteria for measuring the impact of this blog in influencing policy in Zambia, if you need help we can help develop a mechanism to measure that influence.


  3. Wishing you every success and multiple blessings! You're doing a great work for Zambia...

  4. Thanks Mofya for your kind words! Julia always good to hear from you! Thanks! I receive the blessings :)


    Many thanks for these very important comments.

    I agree on the need to ensure that this reflects full participation from all Zambians. We have had guest writers from Zambia in the past e.g.

    Herman Kunda's (Ndola / Lusaka) fantastic piece : Addressing the problems facing our Zambian Universities (Guest Blog)

    FMD's (Lusaka) piece during the elections : Political or Economic Leadership? Which way for MMD? (Guest Blog)

    Murray Sanderson (Kitwe) : Strategic Industries (Guest Blog)

    We also ensure that showcase analytical pieces written by Zambians as they appear in the The Post and Government owned papers.

    We would welcome any views from you on how we can recruit additional writers from Zambia especially as part of Stage 4, but even now.

    On influence, I totally agree :

    I think it is important to move from theory to practice! I welcome your ideas in this area, including as you suggest measuring influence. Stages 4 & 6 is where I saw influence, but open to any ideas.



  5. Thank You Cho!

    It was very necessary to put these points down so as to give your blog more direction. If the Post Newspapers could do the same and reflect on their current agenda, they would expand their readership a lot faster because they are capable of writing for the improvement of the welfare of the majority of our people and not just to appease a disgruntled few or those whose investments into a defunct airline has caused so much heart ache.

    I hope readers of your blog will adhere to its tenets and desist from using it as a means to insult our government and its leadership. There is nothing to learn, influence or share by making misguided judgement or insulting government and its leaders.

    Furthermore, I am glad that a Zambian in Diaspora is able to see things the way Zambians at home do which was clearly stated in an anonymous comment which reads “we need to expand participation of more ordinary Zambians, most comments are from Zambians in diaspora this creates the appearance of " Zambians in ivory towers talking down on the poor lot that are physically experiencing the boiling pot of poverty and strike".”

    We, the Zambians on the ground, have a very different view of where we want to take our country and how we intend to do it. The political decisions made by our government are generally derived from the ideas of the majority on the ground. Some of these ideas may not be economically viable and others may be purely political. But we must understand that these are the desires of our people and discrediting them is tantamount to discrediting our own people. There is nothing to learn, influence or share, when you discredit your own people.

    Therefore, it becomes very difficult to discuss the way forward when one is detached from the situation on the ground and solely depends on newspapers and relatives whose views are biased in one way or another for one specific reason or another. Because of this misguidance, Zambians in Diaspora find themselves with a delusionary idea of the state of affairs in our country, hence their failure to properly address our nation’s political and economic problems.

    I urge you to encourage more local input and include the positive side of the happenings in Zambia so as to encourage debate on a much more realistic and progressive level. This way we can all learn, influence and share ideas to take our country forward in unity.

    One Zambia, One Nation!

    Well done Cho.

  6. FMD,

    Thank you for your assessment.

    I agree with your assessment. As Zambians we must strive to always distinguish our nation from the government. As we hold GRZ to account, we should uplift Zambia at all times.

    I should also point out that in addition to the vision above, we are also supporting a local Zambian indigenous company Brick World. Our aim is not just to contribute with words, but also through investment both as brick and mortar and human capital.

    I look forward to seeing thoughtful contributions from your and other Zambians on the ground. We value your holding this website to account. I trust that when the time does arrive you can be part of the editorial oversight as we push this vision forward. In the meantime, if you know anyone who wants to submit a piece on the ground, do put them in touch with me..

  7. FMD,

    Thank you for those words of caution for those of us unable to judge the situation on the ground in Zambia with our own senses. You are very correct to point out that democratically elected governments are entitled to a presumption of majority consent to their decisions, in much the same way that criminal defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence. While consent is not necessarily indicative of personal support, it is indeed useful to reiterate that, except in specific instances where a court finds that actions are in contravention of the Constitution, all actions being undertaken by the GRZ on behalf of its citizens are legitimate by definition.

    On the other hand, I would like to encourage you to disabuse your fellows "on the ground" that somehow life outside of the country exists in some sort of ivory tower where everything works by different natural laws. As someone who clearly understands that this is far from being the case, knowing as you do that biased media or relatives will have misguided your perceptions of life outside of Zambia to the point of delusion, you are in a position to advance the quality of communication between these two groups. You can assure them that some things are true everywhere, and these things we can all share without fear or favour, and perhaps build a better bridge by which these other misconceptions can be displaced by more accurate information.

    Certainly mistakes will be made, likely by everyone, but that in no way means that the ultimate power over decisions should be taken away from the collective will of the Zambian electorate. However, it is laying it on a bit thick to suggest that to argue against a particular point of government policy on the basis that it may not be economically viable or displays the appearance of overtly political motivation and consequence, is the equivalent of denigrating the entire population of the entire country. It reminds me of a quote I read the other day by Thomas Dewar, "Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open."

    Rhetorically walling the far-flung Diaspora up into ivory towers has the reciprocal effect of walling you in. While this can certainly be effective in prolonging maintenance of the status quo in certain circumstances, it seems to be at odds with the GRZ's open position towards FDI and participation in global and regional cooperative initiatives. As someone who admittedly has much more active real world sensory input from the "global business street" than from the streets of Lusaka, I encourage you to also embrace direct foreign sources of information and ideas. Most of the information will likely turn out to be largely irrelevant, and most of the ideas won't fit the local circumstance, but the stuff that translates will more than make up the difference.

    The Diaspora certainly does not know Zambia any better than the people who live there, but they do know your competitors better than you do. This information is just as important if you are doing things in similar ways or different ways. If the opinions you are hearing from people in other countries do not reflect the Zambia that you know, they may still be indicative of common assumptions and misapprehensions being made elsewhere. When one's competitors are acting out of false information, then depending on the consequences one typically either tries to exploit or correct the situation. Willfully ignoring it as irrelevant is not in my opinion a winning strategy in the information age.

  8. Ba Yakima,

    I am happy you responded to my comment.

    It must be made clear that it is not our local people who deliberately put the Diaspora up in ivory towers. This situation arises when people don’t understand each other’s plight and instead resort to name calling and branding. Once you start looking down on your own people, they begin to resent having spent tax payers money to send you abroad to get an education. They begin to realize that the money could have been better utilized servicing their local problems thus developing a more understanding crop of future leaders.

    For instance, Clive Chirwa, who is a renowned automotive engineer who has lived outside Zambia for so long, has not come to tell his people what he can do for them by understanding their plight first. He instead carries himself like everyone is inferior because they cannot comprehend his very sophisticated vision and ideas for Zambia, and that our current leaders have made a complete mess of things. This is a common characteristic amongst many but not all Zambians in the Diaspora. As a result, our locals begin to see Zambians in the Diaspora as foreigners because they just don’t speak the same language anymore.

    Where a common Zambian is asking for simple tools like fishing nets, ploughs, seed and fertilizer with which to feed themselves and educate their kids, our educated elite want to deliver macroeconomic stability, the fight against corruption, treated mosquito nets, etc. These educated elite are not only in the Diaspora. The majority of them are on the ground in Zambia, and yet they are so detached from the reality faced by the common man. This is why it was so easy for PF/Sata to reduce MMD/Levy’s estimated share of the support of the electorate from 54% to 42% in just 3 months preceding the 2006 general election!

    Furthermore, there is no unity in the ideas of our educated elite and when they fail to convince each other that one idea is better than the other, they resort to slander campaigns and petty squabbling. Hence all the anti-government comments made on this blog! Culturally, our people do not respond positively to such and consider this as “misbehaviour”. Furthermore, the ideas of the educated elite do not respond to the locals immediate threats and demands.

    In a nut shell, the dilemma is as a result of complete detachment from the majority of Zambians. It’s almost like Obama campaigning in French in the USA and expecting people to vote for him. Similarly, our educated elite and the Diaspora are very detached from the reality on the ground and when they fail to communicate their ideas across to our people and convince them that they are correct, they call our people uncivilized and primitive!

    The donors make a greater effort to understand our peoples plight than the dictatorial “you are all stupid because I am more educated than you” effort made by the Diaspora! So it is unfortunate that our local people feel this way but you must understand that it is human nature when treated this way.

    Zambia is a democracy and as such, a democratically elected government must respond democratically to the wishes of its people. It would be dictatorial to impose an idea which is foreign or misunderstood by our people. In a democracy, it is the responsibility of our people to convince other people that one idea is better than another and not have to resort to slander campaigns and showers of insults! In a democracy, it is important to understand that people will have their way and this way may not be the one you think is better!

    In a democracy the onus is on ourselves to climb up to the level of our local people and convince them that putting our education to good use can bring their desired results efficiently.

    Zambia is a democracy and therefore you must start with the people!

  9. FMD,

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify your perspective, I fully agree that this sort of conversation without pointless finger-pointing or name-calling is far more productive for the stated purpose of us all here.

    I can appreciate the attitude of taxpayers who feel that they have invested in the human capital development of individual diaspora members, and watched those individuals become less connected and responsive to the needs of the common Zambian as a result. I guess that one thing I would like to make clear is that such a circumstance is far from universal, for example in my own case I have a grade 12 education (which I was lucky to receive with only a single full year away from school working when I was 16). What I am able to bring to this website is not the result of any sort of ivory tower, rather the product of a lifetime of struggle in my own circumstance, in parts of the world where life admittedly bears little superficial resemblance to daily life for a majority of Zambians. I am fully prepared to accept the idea that the individuals in that majority do not want to live the sort of life that I have, in the sort of high-speed, high-risk style of a global entrepreneur. At the same time, if my experience is being falsely labeled as irrelevant due to my supposed special access to state sponsored higher education, then I want to set that record straight. In the information age and in my personal experience, it is entirely possible to learn a great deal about the workings of the world without access to formal educational facilities. You and I are in complete agreement on that score, democracy is about each individual's view of their own circumstance and best interests, aggregated by political systems to the best of human ability in order to insure that duly appointed leadership has a clear mandate to exercise power.

    This blog is about non-partisan discourse, recognizing at the same time that certain individuals may have existing partisan loyalties. Persons like myself may be content to simply critique the policy decisions of whomever may hold office, but that is because I am a "Wonk" and I have a natural inclination to do so. To those of you who have existing party loyalties, I humbly ask of you two things: First, confine your criticisms of other parties to their policies and public statements. Where people are from, how they dress, how much school they have had, who they owe money to, what they have for breakfast, etc. are all "ad hominem" and just because these people are not present to defend themselves on the blog does not mean that the rule against pointless attacks on their person are somehow okay. Second, do not assume that just because someone else disagrees with you, that they are necessarily speaking on behalf of some other party or organization. Everyone who comments here does so as an individual, except where specifically indicated (e.g. when a press release by Kyambalesa is made as president of AfC and reprinted here, when a member of a government ministry comments to clarify official positions and procedures, or when JCTR members use our forum to publicly air and gather feedback on policy papers). In the future, if you are speaking in some official capacity for some larger group of persons than just yourself, please state so clearly as others have done. Otherwise, let us all treat each other as individuals, adding our singular voices to the choir of democracy.

    [to be cont-]

  10. [-inued]:

    One thing that I hear consistently from Zambian citizens of all demographic descriptions is that they don't want the country to remain poor forever, so some things will have to change over time, and I wholeheartedly agree that there is a desperate need in some sectors, especially parts of rural Zambia, for prioritization on simple, incremental improvements in personal productivity using low tech applications of local materials. I have commented extensively on a variety of such technologies over the last several years in hopes that the knowledge will appear relevant and useful to someone. Wind turbines, water wheels, pulser pumps, solar-thermal and geo-thermal installations, earthbag construction, organic pest-control, cover-cropping, composting and vermiculture, and so on, all of which make relatively passive use of ongoing natural systems and once in place can only add net value to the local resource pool. Additionally I have also tried to outline areas where potential Zambian entrepreneurs might see a niche market for their particular skill-set, such as in agricultural soil and water testing and amendment, local agricultural fertiliser and seed supply (something which the current FSP reform will encourage relative to the prior regulations), livestock breeding (vastly enabled by establishment of disease free zones, if successful), fish farming, produce processing/canning/freezing, sanitizing/cosmetics manufacture from agricultural byproducts, you get the idea and we aren't out of just the agriculture related projects yet.

    Some of these things can be done profitably by the private sector under the current set of laws and regulations, some will require changes, and some of those changes are non-controversial and are largely being enacted by government in cooperation with donor countries and the private sector, while some are still subject to widespread debate and disagreement, but for whatever reason are either not-being done or perhaps being done but not as well as they could be done. I think that it is an overall positive for Zambia that the membership of political parties are making use of IT tools to disseminate their messages and engage the public in debate over items of public controversy. I also think that it is reasonable to report on the activities and statements of various political parties and to analyze their impact on the public discourse. Personally I am not impressed when the leaders snipe at each other's persons instead of addressing policy differences, so I try to ignore such things as obviously beneath the thinking voter and concentrate on whatever "meat" might still be clinging to the bone of contention. While I appreciate the efforts of others to openly condemn each instance and call for civilized dialogue, I find that the diversion of attention otherwise spent is too high a cost to pay in most such cases.

    [to be cont-]

  11. [-inued]:

    I will close by saying that while I certainly sympathize with the frustration you and those you describe have experienced at the hands of arrogantly self-styled elites within the Diaspora, I can only remind you that most Diaspora members offering their opinions through the blogosphere and/or civil-society organizations are doing so at the repeated request of the Zambian Government. This is an otherwise totally diverse grouping of persons who have nothing in common other than a direct personal connection to Zambia, and as such I would imagine that however foreign they may become they will remain less so than the foreign investors and donor governments currently dominating the economy. Thus far the only single source of external capital which is of sufficient volume to rival those two are diaspora remittances, which is why the Government has wisely sought to engage with organizations seeking to inform and organize this human resource for the benefit of the country. While I agree with you that purely partisan comments made are largely devoid of useful content, I would discourage you from disparaging the medium or the other people using it, and implore you to concentrate on providing us with your perspective as counterpoint to that of which you disapprove. I find that aspect of your comments to be personally much more useful.

    [Oh and incidentally, while you are correct that to do so in Iowa would have been ridiculous, Obama apparently does speak passable French, which he used while visiting the country on his European tour during his campaign for the presidency and on his most recent state visit. Other than within the purely partisan republican press, this fact seems to have only reinforced the majority view of his competence and ability to follow through on his promises to reform the nation's image abroad. The way one pundit put it was that after eight years of Bush, voters were no longer interested in leadership "just like them," and were looking for someone "better than them" at tackling big problems, otherwise what's the point of leaders? End.]

  12. Yakima,

    I am glad you agree with what I have written.

    Now I hope other people who intend to comment on this blog will take ALL this advice into consideration.

    Yes, Zambians don’t want to struggle like you and I did, and neither do they want Zambia to remain poor. I am glad that you acknowledge that convincing our people that our ideas are the best, will not be achieved by insulting their intelligence. Like Obama, we both agree that we must start by understanding our people and their needs, and then building a sustainable plan for our entire nation. We both agree that adopting foreign ideas which don’t fit within the expectations of our people will not yield positive results.

    Furthermore, it is hard to convince our people that we know better than they do when we have nothing to show for it. For instance, if a critique of our people’s ideas made a success of himself in a foreign country and was say in the top 100 richest in the world or something, Zambians would follow this person without questioning his ability. This is why so many people voted for Anderson Mazoka in 2001. They felt that because he was capable of making a success of himself, he was surely capable of making a success of his people.

    I see you have your own opinion on why Americans elected Obama but I must remind you that the polls conducted after his election showed that the majority of Americans expect very little significant change from his administration. With this we can only assume that he was elected because the Bush administration did so badly that they tarnished the image of the republicans, and consequently the Americans, and, like Zambia in 1991, the citizenry were ready to vote anyone into office as long as they were not republican! This gave Obama the advantage that every non-white presidential candidate did not have in the past. Furthermore, Obama is a direct descendant of the white majority and his black ancestors are not of slave origin. They are not even American! To top it off, he has a good education and is as articulate as some of the top white politicians. All the cards came out right for Obama and he did not need to bluff to win the November 4th Presidential Election last year. The presidency of the USA is an institution and both the majority of the people in the USA and the Democratic party with its 72 millions members, felt they could include a White American Coloured of African decent into this institution without any upheaval. They felt that adding colour to the white house would dispel the many racist ideas people around the world have of Americans and they were right. Similarly, during the peak of apartheid, the boers preferred to pick capetonian coloureds as their managers because of their ethnic relationship with both blacks and whites.

    45.7% of Americans know that Obama is not their Messiah! Meanwhile 52.9% voted for him believing that he is just a necessary inclusion during this trying time of terrorist threats haunting the United States.

    Never-the-less, I am glad we’re on the same page and I hope we’ll help Cho to keep this blog educational and prevent it from becoming a tool for baseless arguments and political insults.

    Good work Yakima.

  13. FMD,

    I would be curious as to which polling firm compiled those figures! I'm going to guess Rasmussen. ;)

    Most American voters are very cynical about their political choices, the largest single bloc of voters are registered independents like myself, and increasingly large numbers are "single issue" voters who seek to leverage whatever power they have at the ballot box for the benefit of a single activist lobby. Although there has been an increasing drift towards concentrating public sentiments about government accountability in the executive branch ever since the nation was founded, nevertheless the extensive checks and balances within and between the various organs of federal and state government mean that of course the vast majority of voters know not to consider any one elected official capable of being a Messiah-like figure. I can also assure you that it has been years since I heard an American citizen outside of the media express any sort of fear of imminent terrorist attack, and such fears appear to be concentrated on the right of center within the population rather than being pervasive. Incidentally, one also rarely hears mention of the wars overseas anymore in general discussion, outside of overtly pro- and anti- activist camps. Foreign policy is apparently one area that Americans are not overly concerned that their government cannot handle to their satisfaction.

    As for the racial political aspects of the last election, while I appreciate that such concerns are still quite salient for a large proportion of the population over 40 years of age (especially males), they are apparently not of great concern to Americans under 40 (especially females), a majority of whom are not white, probably not coincidentally. Most younger Americans have never seen formal segregation, and find racism to be repugnant and punishable. American children in the last several decades have grown up with authority figures and popular celebrities of every melanin hue and ethnic background imaginable. Barack Obama's American ancestors appear to have been pretty humble economically, and inactive politically, I don't really think that they entered into the equation much (this is no Kennedy or Bush family dynasty by any means). The issue of whether or not Obama was "black enough" was apparently settled quite early in the minds of a majority of African-American voters, no doubt aided to a large degree by Michelle. Thus I don't really agree that the current political climate in the US is anywhere near as racially charged or motivated as that of South Africa at the peak of apartheid. Again, such commentary is confined primarily to the political fringes of American society, and the colour that most people are fixated on is the green of money.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. FMD,

    The presidency of the USA is an institution and both the majority of the people in the USA and the Democratic party with its 72 millions members, felt they could include a White American Coloured of African decent into this institution without any upheaval. They felt that adding colour to the white house would dispel the many racist ideas people around the world have of Americans and they were right. Similarly, during the peak of apartheid, the boers preferred to pick capetonian coloureds as their managers because of their ethnic relationship with both blacks and whites.

    South Africa is not the United States. Their definitions of 'race' are different, because they came out of different economic needs. In South Africa, there was the need to increase the numbers of the white minority, while in the USA, there was a need to widen the number of the African American minority after the end of the slave trade.

    So while in South Africa people of 'mixed race'would receive all kinds of different designations to separate them from the Black majority, in the US you had the 'one drop rule' and the '1/8th or more' rule (coming out of South Carolina), which made anyone with a drop of African blood Black or 'Colored'.

    In other words, even if Barack Obama's great-grandfather had been from Kenya, he would still be designated Black. If being 'mixed race' had more to do with it, Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton would have won the presidency long ago.

    I think it is the perfect storm of the worst administration in US history (Bush), combined with the proliferation of internet access which made all the republican party tricks fail (he's a muslim, he wasn't born in the US, or in the words of Sarah Palin: "Barack Obama has two autobiographies to his name, but not a single bill" where there were the Coburn-Obama, Lugar-Obama) - they found no traction.

    Remember that in the 1980s and 1990s, the people never found out the details of the Republican party 'culture war' issues - Willie Horton and how truly exceptional his case was, 'Welfare queens in Chicago driving cadillacs' which never happened.

    Because of the internet, none of their usual lies stuck.

    On the issue and conception of 'race' in the US.

    Especially instructive will be an examination of the histories of the Gibson family and the Pendarvis family.

    The Blurred Racial Lines Of Famous Families (PBS)

    frontline: jefferson's blood: mixed race america | PBS -

  16. The latest Rasmussen daily tracking poll shows that President Barack Obama for the first time has a negative approval index — more Americans disapprove of his job performance than approve.
    In an exclusive Newsmax interview, pollster Scott Rasmussen also disclosed that, if the economy does not improve over the next year, Obama's numbers will deteriorate even further — and Democrats will suffer in 2010.

  17. Obama's poll numbers drop
    July 9, 2009 07:29 PM
    Is President Obama's honeymoon with the American public nearing an end?
    A second poll out this week shows a noticeable drop in public confidence in the president, six months into his term. The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released today put his overall job approval rating at 61 percent -- and on a steady decline from 76 percent in February.
    As telling, 70 percent of respondents believe Obama is "a strong and decisive leader," down from 80 percent in February; 56 percent think he generally agrees with them on issues they care about, down from 63 percent five months ago; and only 53 percent said he has a "clear plan" for solving the nation's problems, down from 64 percent.
    While 79 percent approve of Obama personally, a smaller subset -- 58 percent -- approve both him personally and his job performance, and 19 percent like him personally but not his job performance.

  18. Rasmussen is not necessarily a good source to use in isolation from other polling data from less reputedly biased firms (they work almost exclusively for republican clients and display a heavily biased "house effect" in their results).

    Their results have been particularly anomalous on the subject of President Obama, and tend to disagree wildly from the majority of polls conducted on the question. Here is a recent example from Nate Silver, arguably the pollster most dedicated to accuracy in the system:

    I hope that this helps people makes some sense out of seemingly contradictory American poll data.


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