Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scientists plan to ignite tiny man-made star

I'm still pessimistic about our ability to actually solve the climate crisis - but stories like this give me hope that human ingenuity can help us mitigate, if not outright prevent, the worst effects of climate change, while simultaneously helping us create a new energy future. This article is about science's star experiment: an attempt to create an artificial sun on earth and provide an answer to the world's impending energy shortage. Fusion would be amazing... think of the possibilities.As I read the part of the article about using so many lenses in a space the size of three football fields, it reminded me of the first computers, that used to be gigantic and take up entire buildings. In my parent's lifetime, that technology has evolved to a point where my phone is a far more powerful computer than those gigantic devices. If we are able to create fusion reactions, just think of the possibilities if we are able to get it small. I'm thinking about interstellar travel here.What an amazing world we live in.

read more | digg story

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NY Times Ed Board: Prosecute the Torturers

As if on cue, the New York Times has published a courageous editorial calling president Obama to appoint prosecutors to investigate and indict individuals in the Bush Administration responsible for the policies of torture and abrogation of the Geneva Conventions. This Editorial argues convincingly for what I wrote about only days ago: a moral reckoning that will restore America's standing in the world and correct the scandalous abuses of the Bush Administration.

December 18, 2008
The Torture Report

Most Americans have long known that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the work of a few low-ranking sociopaths. All but President Bush’s most unquestioning supporters recognized the chain of unprincipled decisions that led to the abuse, torture and death in prisons run by the American military and intelligence services.

Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The report shows how actions by these men “led directly” to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret C.I.A. prisons.

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

The officials then issued legally and morally bankrupt documents to justify their actions, starting with a presidential order saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners of the “war on terror” — the first time any democratic nation had unilaterally reinterpreted the conventions.

That order set the stage for the infamous redefinition of torture at the Justice Department, and then Mr. Rumsfeld’s authorization of “aggressive” interrogation methods. Some of those methods were torture by any rational definition and many of them violate laws and treaties against abusive and degrading treatment.

These top officials ignored warnings from lawyers in every branch of the armed forces that they were breaking the law, subjecting uniformed soldiers to possible criminal charges and authorizing abuses that were not only considered by experts to be ineffective, but were actually counterproductive.

One page of the report lists the repeated objections that President Bush and his aides so blithely and arrogantly ignored: The Air Force had “serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques”; the chief legal adviser to the military’s criminal investigative task force said they were of dubious value and may subject soldiers to prosecution; one of the Army’s top lawyers said some techniques that stopped well short of the horrifying practice of waterboarding “may violate the torture statute.” The Marines said they “arguably violate federal law.” The Navy pleaded for a real review.

The legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time started that review but told the Senate committee that her boss, Gen. Richard Myers, ordered her to stop on the instructions of Mr. Rumsfeld’s legal counsel, Mr. Haynes.

The report indicates that Mr. Haynes was an early proponent of the idea of using the agency that trains soldiers to withstand torture to devise plans for the interrogation of prisoners held by the American military. These trainers — who are not interrogators but experts only on how physical and mental pain is inflicted and may be endured — were sent to work with interrogators in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo and in Iraq.

On Dec. 2, 2002, Mr. Rumsfeld authorized the interrogators at Guantánamo to use a range of abusive techniques that were already widespread in Afghanistan, enshrining them as official policy. Instead of a painstaking legal review, Mr. Rumsfeld based that authorization on a one-page memo from Mr. Haynes. The Senate panel noted that senior military lawyers considered the memo “ ‘legally insufficient’ and ‘woefully inadequate.’ ”

Mr. Rumsfeld rescinded his order a month later, and narrowed the number of “aggressive techniques” that could be used at Guantánamo. But he did so only after the Navy’s chief lawyer threatened to formally protest the illegal treatment of prisoners. By then, at least one prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, had been threatened with military dogs, deprived of sleep for weeks, stripped naked and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks. This year, a military tribunal at Guantánamo dismissed the charges against Mr. Qahtani.

The abuse and torture of prisoners continued at prisons run by the C.I.A. and specialists from the torture-resistance program remained involved in the military detention system until 2004. Some of the practices Mr. Rumsfeld left in place seem illegal, like prolonged sleep deprivation.

These policies have deeply harmed America’s image as a nation of laws and may make it impossible to bring dangerous men to real justice. The report said the interrogation techniques were ineffective, despite the administration’s repeated claims to the contrary.

Alberto Mora, the former Navy general counsel who protested the abuses, told the Senate committee that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.”

We can understand that Americans may be eager to put these dark chapters behind them, but it would be irresponsible for the nation and a new administration to ignore what has happened — and may still be happening in secret C.I.A. prisons that are not covered by the military’s current ban on activities like waterboarding.

A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse.

Given his other problems — and how far he has moved from the powerful stands he took on these issues early in the campaign — we do not hold out real hope that Barack Obama, as president, will take such a politically fraught step.

At the least, Mr. Obama should, as the organization Human Rights First suggested, order his attorney general to review more than two dozen prisoner-abuse cases that reportedly were referred to the Justice Department by the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — and declined by Mr. Bush’s lawyers.

Mr. Obama should consider proposals from groups like Human Rights Watch and the Brennan Center for Justice to appoint an independent panel to look into these and other egregious violations of the law. Like the 9/11 commission, it would examine in depth the decisions on prisoner treatment, as well as warrantless wiretapping, that eroded the rule of law and violated Americans’ most basic rights. Unless the nation and its leaders know precisely what went wrong in the last seven years, it will be impossible to fix it and make sure those terrible mistakes are not repeated.

We expect Mr. Obama to keep the promise he made over and over in the campaign — to cheering crowds at campaign rallies and in other places, including our office in New York. He said one of his first acts as president would be to order a review of all of Mr. Bush’s executive orders and reverse those that eroded civil liberties and the rule of law.

That job will fall to Eric Holder, a veteran prosecutor who has been chosen as attorney general, and Gregory Craig, a lawyer with extensive national security experience who has been selected as Mr. Obama’s White House counsel.

A good place for them to start would be to reverse Mr. Bush’s disastrous order of Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the United States was no longer legally committed to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Water Boarding IS Torture, and Real Change Demands Accountability for Outrageous Crimes

During the Spanish Inquisition, waterboarding, or simulated drowning, was first used as a torture tactic to elicit confessions. As far back as the Spanish-American war, American law has condemned soldiers who use waterboarding to stiff sentences. American soldiers were prosecuted in 1968 for waterboarding prisoners of war in Vietnam. After World War II, America tried and sentenced Japanese officers who used waterboarding on American soldiers for war crimes. According to John McCain, some Japanese were tried and hanged for using this technique on Americans. The American case law is clear: waterboarding is torture, and it is a war crime. International Law condemns it as well.

Yet just yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney gave an interview where, when asked whether he still believes it was appropriate to use the waterboarding method on terrorism suspects, he said: "I do." Not only did he support the use of this illegal torture, Cheney signed off on the use. In that same interview, he said that the CIA "in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."

Read that again. When a United States federal agency, charged with defending our country in accordance with its laws, asked the vice-president if they could use torture, he said yes. He said, "do it."

In effect, the vice-president has just admitted, blithely and on national television, that he personally approved of war crimes perpetrated by this administration. Make no mistake about it: the use of torture is a war crime and is punishable by law. And Dick Cheney is responsible.

Cheney's comments comes only a few days after disclosures by a Senate committee showing that high-level officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in reviewing and approving interrogation methods that have since been explicitly outlawed and that have been condemned internationally as torture.

Change in America will not just come by stimulating the economy and providing better health care. Change must also have a moral component. For America to lead once again, and regain its moral stature, it must show that it is a true democracy that respects the rule of law, and allows no one, not even the most powerful of its officials, get away with crimes that must shame every citizen proud to call themselves a member of this great nation.

The next president must launch a full investigation into these crimes, and people must be held accountable for their abuses of the law. This is not a mere political stunt. More even than a legal necessity, it is a moral duty.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Inspiration to Help You Achieve!

I know many of my friends are currently in the midst of finals right now, as am I. This inspirational 2 minute video will definitely get you inspired and motivated to do your best. Go ahead, give it a watch:

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Call to Service: Sign the Petition Today!

On January 20th, Barack Obama will give his inaugural address to the largest crowd ever assembled for a Presidential Inauguration. Tens of millions of Americans will watch this historic speech. At that moment, President Obama was have a unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of John Kennedy, and issue a call to service to the American People. At this time of great economic distress, more than ever we need Americans ready to put on a uniform or set aside a few hours a month to assist their fellow citizens, and help build the foundation for our new, more prosperous future. National Service is a fundamental public good that is already helping transform communities and individuals for the better. It provides much needed resources and manpower to areas of positive externality like Education, Health care and the Environment, and it gives young people an opportunity to earn money for college and acquire the skills needed to compete in a global economy.

We need Barack Obama to issue a powerful call to service in his inaugural address. That is why I urge you to please go to and sign the petition asking the President-Elect to make this an important theme of his upcoming speech.

Together, we can be the change we wish to see in the world.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What’s Your Big Idea for Change in America?

President-Elect Obama says he wants to hear ideas from all Americans, so the good people at are taking him up on his offer. At a newly launched part of their website, you can submit their ideas for how to change America, discuss these ideas with others, and vote for your favorites.

You can vote for as many ideas as you like. After all the voters are in, the "Top 10 Ideas for America" will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day. will then build a national campaign to advance each idea in Congress, marshaling the resources of and their dozens of partner organizations and millions of combined members. This includes organizations as diverse as MySpace, Campus Progress, the Energy Action Coalition, Good, Public Citizen, the SEIU, the ASPCA, and many more.

What's so exciting about this project is that it provides a democratic way for individuals to promote their ideas for how to change this country and bring them to the attention of the new president in a powerfully public manner.

I hope you'll check out the site, and consider voting for my idea, "Expand AmeriCorps!" I also hope you'll consider voting to create a Department of Peace and help support the important efforts of the Student Peace Alliance.

You can check out my idea HERE. I hope it can receive your vote!

Here's why I think this is such an important idea:

Currently, 75,000 Americans every year participate in AmeriCorps programs like City Year, Teach For America, Vista, NCCC, and other essential programs that are providing critical services to needy communities across the country and giving a new generation of young Americans the opportunity to strengthen the civil bonds of our democracy. Even more remarkable is how cheaply this is done; current AmeriCorps funding is less than $900 million a year, total. The benefits of giving Americans a chance to serve their country radically outweigh the costs. In addition, service is a wonderful way to give young people the resources they need to go to college.

President Obama should keep his promise to expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 members a year by immediately pushing to increase its funding, instituting a "health corps" and a "green corps," and giving a major speech in which he personally solicits young people to make a commitment to filling these slots. More than ever, Americans desire the opportunity to serve their country; President Obama must make that a priority immediately.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mumbai Attacks Chabad Family: A Memorial

Amidst the horror of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last week, one story that sent reverberations throughout the Jewish community across the world was the murder of Rivky and Gabi Holtzberg, a young couple that ran the Chabad center in Mumbia for the last five years. The story got a lot of attention in the press, not only because this Jewish organization was one of the first places the terrorists purposely attacked, but because of the daring rescue of their two-year-old son, Moishe, by their Indian housekeeper. Several excellent news articles have told us many of the details of the raid, the escape, and the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. Yet what I think can be lost in these articles is a clear sense of who these individuals were, and why their good works were so meaningful not only to the Israelis and Jews who passed through the Chabad house, but also to the many people in the local Indian community that they reached out to with their good works.

My grandmother forwarded me the following letter from Hillary Lewin, a PhD candidate at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology (Yeshiva University). Hillary spent five memorable weeks in Mumbai with Yeshiva University on a Global Health Seminar, and during that time to personally get to know the Holtzberg family. I hope you'll read this and take a moment to honor their lives this week by doing a good deed in their honor, as the article suggests. It is the least we can do to remember these innocents who dedicate their lives to selflessly serving others.

To Rivky and Gabi: My Heroic Friends, Role Models and Family in Mumbai, I Will Miss You Very Much

Many of you first heard of the Holtzberg family three days ago when news of the Mumbai hostage situation emerged. I feel compelled to write this letter, because I want the world to know who Rivky and Gabi Holtzberg were in life and to tell you what I witnessed of their accomplishments in their brief 28 years on earth. While I am devastated by their death, I am thankful that my life and so many others were touched by their purity, friendship and spirit.
Before I entered the Chabad house in Mumbai, I thought, "What kind of people would leave a comfortable and secure life in a religious community to live in the middle of Mumbai; a dirty, difficult, crowded city?" As I got to know Rivky and Gabi over the course of this past summer, I understood that G-d creates some truly special people willing to devote their lives to bettering the world.
I was first welcomed by Rivky, who had a big smile on her face and her baby Moishie in her arms. She ushered me and my fellow travelers into the Chabad house and immediately offered us something to eat and a sofa to rest on. We quickly became good friends. We bonded with the Holtzberg family and the staff at Chabad, including Sandra, the heroine who saved baby Moishie's life.
Like his parents, Moishe is a sweet, loving, happy baby. He was so attached to Rivky and Gabi. He got so excited to sing Shabbat Z'mirot (songs) every Friday night with his father, and I could tell by the light on Gabi's face when they were singing together, that he looked forward to it too. It breaks my heart that I can still hear Moishie's voice calling, "Ima, Ima, Ima", and she will no longer be able to hold him or rock him in her arms.
On my second Shabbat at Chabad, Rivky told me there were two Israeli men staying at the house who were just released from an Indian prison. When I saw these men sitting at the dinner table, I was startled. One man had only a front tooth and a raggedy pony tail, and the other looked like an Israeli version of Rambo. I observed the way that Gabi interacted with them and how they were welcomed at the Shabbat table the same way everyone else was, and my fears melted away. Over the course of the night, I learned that these men were not the only prisoners or ex-convicts the Holtzberg's helped. Gabi frequently brought Kosher meals to Israelis in prison, spent time with them, listened to their life stories, and took them in after their release.
I realized that Gabi and Rivky's job was not only to run a Chabad house and provide warm meals and beds for weary Jewish travelers, it was much greater. The Holtzberg's were running a remarkable operation. They took their jobs as shlichim (emissaries) very seriously. Their lives never stopped. There was no such thing as "personal space" or "downtime". The phones rang constantly, people came in and out like a subway station, and all the while Rivky and Gabi were calm, smiling, warm, and welcomed everyone like family.
Rivky spent each day cooking dinner with the chefs for 20-40 people, while Gabi made sure to provide meat for everyone by going to the local markets and schechting (koshering) chickens himself. They also provided travelers with computers for internet access, so that they wouldn't have to pay for internet cafes. They even took care of our laundry. Having spent much time abroad, it was clear to me that Rivky and Gabi were unusual tzadikim (righteous people).
On my last Shabbat in India, I slept in Rivky and Gabi's home, the 5th floor of the Chabad house. I noticed that their apartment was dilapidated and bare. They had only a sofa, a bookshelf, a bedroom for Moishie, and a bedroom to sleep in. The paint peeled from the walls, and there were hardly any decorations. Yet, the guest quarters on the two floors below were decorated exquisitely, with American-style beds, expansive bathrooms, air conditioning (a luxury in India) and marble floors. We called these rooms our "healing rooms" because life was so difficult in Mumbai during the week. We knew that when we came to Chabad, Rivky and Gabi would take care of us just like our parents, and their openness and kindness would rejuvenate us for the week to come.
The juxtaposition of their home to the guest rooms was just another example of what selfless, humble people Rivky and Gabi were. They were more concerned about the comfort of their guests than their own.
The Holtzberg's Shabbat table was a new experience each week. Backpackers, businessmen, diplomats and diamond dealers gathered together to connect with their heritage in an otherwise unfamiliar city. We always knew we were in for a surprise where an amazing story would be told, either by Gabi or a guest at the table. For each meal, Gabi prepared about seven different divrei torah (words of torah) to share.
Though most of them were delivered in Hebrew (and I caught about 25%), his wisdom, knowledge and ability to inspire amazed me. Rivky and Gabi were accepting of everyone who walked through their doors, and they had no hidden agendas. Rivky once told me that there was one holiday where they had no guests. It was just herself, Gabi and Moishie. I expected her to say how relieved she was not to have guests, but she told me it was, in fact, the only lonely holiday they ever spent in India.
I remember asking Gabi if he was afraid of potential terror threats. Although his demeanor was so sweet and gentle, Gabi was also very strong-minded and determined. He told me simply and sharply that if the terrorists were to come, "be my guest, because I'm not leaving this place." Both he and Rivky believed that their mission in Mumbai was far greater than any potential terror threats.
Everything Rivky and Gabi did came from their dedication, love and commitment to the Jewish people and to G-d. I cannot portray in words how remarkable this couple was. If there is anything practical that I can suggest in order to elevate their souls, please try to light candles this Friday night for Shabbat, improve relationships with family members and friends, try to connect to others the way that Rivky and Gabi did- with love, acceptance and open arms. There is so much to learn from them. May their names and influence live on, and inspire us in acts of kindness and love.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Proposition 8: The Musical

This is absolutely amazing.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

An all star cast has produced this remarkable video about proposition 8 (Jack Black is particularly amazing as Jesus). Its funny, its poignant, and it makes an excellent point: this country was built on the separation of church and state, so who are we to deny gay people equal rights under the law? Whatever your religious views, gay people have the same civil rights to form a legal union for the purpose of sharing a life together and raising a family as straight people do. The struggle for equal rights for homosexuals is the next great civil rights battle of our time, but I do believe that by the time my generation is in charge, it really won't be an issue. Studies have shown that we are the more tolerant to gays and sensitive to their rights than any group of Americans in history.

Overturning proposition 8 will be a fine start. Learn more at join the impact.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Be a Voice for Darfur

Amidst all the troubles of the world, little attention has been paid to an enduring tragedy that should darken the conscience of every world citizen: the continuing genocide in Darfur. While President Bush paid lip service to this terrible humanitarian disaster, he did little more than help manage the problem. Without effective American leadership, the people of Darfur continue to suffer and die by the thousands.

I was recently reminded that the appalling genocide in Darfur continues – now in its sixth year and at the price of nearly half a million lives. Ironically, December 9th marks the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Genocide Convention, and Darfuri people are still suffering and struggling to survive. As the Obama administration ushers in a new era of foreign policy, this nation has an opportunity – an obligation – to aid our global neighbors in Darfur. You, an influential voice, can play a pivotal role in making this happen.

During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama promised to change Washington's approach to this crisis. He pledged his "unstinting resolve" to end the genocide in Darfur. Now that his national security team has been named, it is time for us, the American people, to hold him to his word.

Save Darfur, has launched a new initiative, Add Your Voice, to launch a postcard campaign that will organize at least a million people to send a letter to Barack Obama reminding him of his promise, and urging him to take immediate action upon taking office in January. By going to their website, you can sign on to be one of the million people whose postcards will be delivered -- along with a clear outline for what needs to be done in Darfur -- to the new president.

In addition, Facebook Causes and Save Darfur just launched their new petition application for the campaign. The new Facebook petition will be a gamechanger for cause-based social media marketing. If you’re already using Facebook Causes, you can access and sign the petition now, by going to (As an incentive, Save Darfur is offering a free t-shirt to anyone who recruits 100 signatures.)

Below, you can find a video statement from Barack Obama about this Darfur effort. I kindly ask that you to take a few minutes to add your voice to this important effort.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Back to the Future in Georgia: Run-off on Tuesday!

Friend of the blog may have noticed that I have been significantly lax of late in posting to ABAUM'S WORLD. Alas, this dearth of productivity arises in direct response to my quickly approaching first semester finals, which begin on December 10th. Knowing this, you might be wondering why I'm taking the time to write on here at all? The answer is that, as you may have gathered, I can't get away from politics, and I like nothing more than making a good prediction.

Some significant things will be happening on the political front this week. On Monday, Hillary Clinton will be officially announced as the President-Elect's Secretary of State. Amidst the brouhaha, it is easy to neglect the fact that on Tuesday, Georgia voters will go to the polls in a runoff race between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic opponent George Martin. To recap, this way a three way race on November 4th, and the Libertarian candidate drew just enough votes to keep either candidate from gaining the 50% margin required for victory by Georgia law. Subsequently, the race went to a run-off between the two top vote getters, and Chambliss, who edged on Martin by just a few points in the first election, seems poised to pull off a squeaker win in this rapidly changing Southern state.

The Georgia runoff has been fascinating to watch, because it has kind of telescoped a lot of the major things going on in both parties in a very narrow way. The Democratic party currently holds 58 seats in the Senate. If Al Franken prevails in the recount against Norm Coleman in Minnesota (another fascinating case whose scope is beyond the focus of this comment), they'll have 59. George Martin is therefore the crucial difference between a filibuster-proof 60 seat super-majority in the Senate, and a chamber where Republicans still have, at least in the ex ante position, some strategic room for maneuvering.

Nate Silver at has provided excellent analysis of many of the issues I'm discussing here, so for a more nuanced treatment I suggest browsing many of the posts on his site since the election. One point he compellingly made early on is that run-off elections are a strange creature; they are wildly unpredictable, and has historically defied accurate polling. This is largely due to the fact that runoffs occur at a time when people are not used to voting, and so victory is often awarded to the candidate that can more effectively turn out its share of the electorate. Since a significantly smaller proportion of the electorate votes in run-offs, candidates increase their marginal utility for every voter they are able to get out to the polls.

Its no small wonder then, that with so much on the line, the Republican party has brought out "the big leagues." In the last month, the entire pantheon of big-name Republican pols have trekked down to Georgia in the hopes of exciting the base and pumping them out to the polls, with the boogeyman of a Democratic super Senate majority their fear tactic of choice. John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich have all visited the state for Chambliss, and Sarah Palin will be stumping four times for the Republican on Runoff Eve. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Al Gore and Bill Clinton have come down for Martin. Notice anyone missing from this illustrious list? Of course, it's Democratic President-elect Barack Obama.

Though he has recorded television spots and radio ads for Martin, Obama has declined requests from the Martin campaign to make a personal appearance in the state on Martin's behalf, despite the fact that a massive Obama-Martin rally could make a sizable impact on the Democratic hopeful's get out the vote efforts. Speculation is rampant about why Barack has refused to show up. Many have argued, and I tend to agree, that he is saving his political capital, eschewing large, public acts of partisanship at a time when he has become the de facto President of the country. I also think he is concerned about becoming distracted from his central task of carefully building his administration and transition team, and risk alienating Republicans and Independents who are showing him enormous goodwill right now (a recent poll showed 75% of Americans think Obama is going to be a good president - numbers he doesn't want to endanger with partisan politicking so close to the inauguration).

However, just because Obama isn't in the state himself doesn't mean his political machine isn't hard at work. Martin has 25 field offices in the state, equal in number to Chambliss', and since the election, they have been ably staffed by former Obama field organizers and staff from all across the country. These hardened veterans of the 2008 election have descended on Georgia en masse for the final battle of this election cycle, and they are using every tool they can muster to try and get out the vote for Martin. The entire model is a replica of what Obama used to get himself elected. The crucial question is, can the same principles and organizing tools that got Obama to the White House propel Martin to an upset win over Chambliss?

The odds are in Chambliss' favor: state polls consistently give him around a three point lead, which is about what he beat Martin by in the November election. If Chambliss wins, Republicans will claim a moral victory, and give a little hope to their 2010 chances of regaining some of their competitive advantage in Congress. If Martin wins, however, it will be in no small part due to the efforts of Obama's organization. What makes this elections so interesting, and worthy of this extended comment, is that in a way, it is an indicator of what a post-Obama Democratic field organization might look like, and a small glimpse of an answer to the question - can Democrats win without him? Obviously, there are many other factors at play here (including the strengths and weaknesses of the respective candidates themselves). Nonetheless, this run-off will give us all a little insight into the power of Obama's political organization at work after his election. For that reason, you should play close attention to what happens in Georgia on Tuesday.

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