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the making of bobby jindal June 23, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, comedy, politics, race, religion.
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details magazine:

When Bobby Jindal was 12, a Southern Baptist friend named Kent gave him a paperback Bible for Christmas. Jindal was disappointed, not least because the Bible was engraved with his name and thus unreturnable. “I was raised in a strong Hindu culture, attended weekly pujas, or ceremonial rites, and read the Vedic scriptures,” Jindal wrote in a 1993 article in America, a Jesuit magazine, one of many religious essays he published in the early nineties. “I considered myself anti-Christian,” he wrote in another piece; elsewhere, he confided that he thought Christians worshipped fish (“in the same way that many Westerners think Hindus worship cows”). The Bible went into a closet, and might have remained there had Jindal not sneaked away with a girl from a high-school dance at a Baton Rouge hotel.

(more…)

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what obama should say on iraq June 23, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, foreign policy, international, iraq war, politics, terrorism.
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zakaria in newsweek:

“In six months, on Jan. 20, 2009, we will have a new president. But it is not clear that we will chart a new course in the ongoing war in Iraq. Senator McCain has promised a continuation of the Bush strategy—to stay in Iraq with no horizon in sight, with no benchmarks or metrics that would tell us when American troops can come home. In 2006, when levels of violence were horrifyingly high, President Bush and Senator McCain said that things were going so badly that if we left, the consequences would be tragic. Today they say that things are going so well that if we leave, the consequences would be tragic. Whatever the conditions, the answer is the same—keep doing what we’re doing. How does one say ‘Catch-22’ in Arabic?

“I start from a different premise. I believe that the Iraq War was a major strategic blunder. It diverted us from the battle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan—the people who launched the attacks of 9/11 and who remain powerful and active today. We face threats in Iraq, but the two greatest ones, as General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have testified, are Al Qaeda (which is wounded but not dead) and Iran. Both are a direct consequence of the invasion. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before 2003, and Iran’s influence has expanded massively since then.

“And then there are the more tangible costs. The war has resulted in over 4,000 U.S. combat deaths, four times as many grievously wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths. Over 2 million Iraqis have fled the country and 2 million more have been displaced within the country. The price tag in dollars has also been staggering. In the last five years, the United States has spent close to $1 trillion on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. That is enough money to rebuild every school, bridge and road in America, create universal health care and fund several Manhattan Projects in alternative energy. Whatever benefits the invasion of Iraq might produce, it cannot justify these expenditures in lives and treasure.

robert reich on clinton April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, berkeley, interviews, news, politics.
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clinton and reich (1994)

nymag:

So what’s changed? I asked Reich.

“I saw the ads” — the negative man-on-street commercials that the Clinton campaign put up in Pennsylvania in the wake of Obama’s bitter/cling comments a week ago — “and I was appalled, frankly. I thought it represented the nadir of mean-spirited, negative politics. And also of the politics of distraction, of gotcha politics. It’s the worst of all worlds. We have three terrible traditions that we’ve developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn’t possibly believe and doesn’t possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I’ve seen growing in Hillary’s campaign. And I’ve come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can’t in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They’re lending legitimacy to a Republican message that’s wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past twenty years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It’s old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It’s just so deeply cynical.”

obama, clinton, and foreign policy in the middle east April 22, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, foreign policy, international, news, politics, religion, terrorism.
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discussion on to the point (segment begins at 8 min with lewis and levine; glick and ben-ami at 24 min):

Listen to/Watch entire show:

Barack Obama’s been criticized as weak in support of Israel and not tough enough on Iran. Hillary Clinton’s talked about “massive retaliation” if Israel is attacked and an “umbrella of deterrence” all over the Middle East. We explore their differences and similarities on a crucial arena of foreign policy. Also, tomorrow’s Pennsylvania primary, and oil, gas—and waivers of environmental protections—in Wyoming’s open spaces.

—————————–

Obama, Clinton and Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Barack Obama says Israel is ” America’s strongest ally in the Middle East,” but skeptics contend he’s soft on the Palestinians and not tough enough on Iran. Hillary Clinton promises “massive retaliation” if Israel’s ever attacked by Iran, and an “umbrella of deterrence” that would go beyond that. These and other differences have been used to suggest that Obama’s support of Israel is insufficient. Does Obama suffer from guilt by association with his church pastor and others? Who are the real advisors to his campaign? Does Clinton really support a two-state solution? What about a pre-emptive attack on Iran?

Guests:
  • Ann Lewis: Senior Advisor, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign
  • Mel Levine: Advisor, Barak Obama’s presidential campaign
  • Caroline Glick: Assistant Foreign Policy Adivsor, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami: Executive Director, J-Street

who’s bitter? April 22, 2008

Posted by KG in comedy, econ, news, politics, religion.
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jonathan chait in the new republic:

But nobody’s challenging the validity of caring more about your religion, or even your right to hunt, than your income. The objection is whether it makes sense to vote on that basis. There are, after all, stark differences between the two parties on economic matters. Republicans do want to make working-class voters pay a higher proportion of the tax burden, restrain popular social programs, erode the value of the minimum wage, and so on.

Democrats, on the other hand, have no plans to keep anybody from attending church or hunting. A few years ago, their gun-control agenda revolved around issues like safety locks, banning assault weapons, and other restrictions carefully designed to have virtually no impact on hunters or average gun owners. Now Democrats have abandoned even those meager steps. The GOP’s appeal on those “issues” rests on cultural pandering rather than any concrete legislative program.

Now, it’s true that many working-class whites also vote on social issues that do have some political relevance, like abortion or gay marriage. It’s certainly not irrational on its face to vote your values over your wallet. (Democratic billionaires do it, too.) On the other hand, conservatives routinely express their fury that a majority of Jews stubbornly flout their own “self-interest”–defined as low tax rates and a maximally hawkish Middle East policy–to vote Democratic. The process of trying to persuade others to reconsider the nature of their self-interest is not some Marxist exercise or an accusation of false consciousness. It’s what we call “democracy.”

Sorry, did that sound condescending?

the obama doctrine April 22, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, foreign policy, international, iraq, iraq war, news, politics, terrorism, Uncategorized.
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spencer ackerman in the american prospect:

During Bush’s second term, a strange disconnect has arisen in liberal foreign-policy circles in response to the president’s so-called “freedom agenda.” Some liberals, like Matthew Yglesias in his book Heads In The Sand, note the insincerity of the administration’s stated goal of exporting democracy. Bush, they observe, only targets for democratization countries that challenge American hegemony. Other liberal foreign-policy types, such as Thomas Carothers and Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, insist the administration is sincere but too focused on elections without supporting the civil-society institutions that sustain democracy. Still others, like Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, contend that a focus on democracy in the developing world without privileging the protection of civil and political rights is a recipe for a dangerous illiberalism.

What’s typically neglected in these arguments is the simple insight that democracy does not fill stomachs, alleviate malaria, or protect neighborhoods from marauding bands of militiamen. Democracy, in other words, is valuable to people insofar as it allows them first to meet their basic needs. It is much harder to provide that sense of dignity than to hold an election in Baghdad or Gaza and declare oneself shocked when illiberal forces triumph. “Look at why the baddies win these elections,” Power says. “It’s because [populations are] living in climates of fear.” U.S. policy, she continues, should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”

This is why, Obama’s advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise — because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. “It’s about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe,” Gration says. “Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I’m concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years.”

(more…)

link roundup April 7, 2008

Posted by KG in arts/culture.
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1) “legal bondage: why we like restrictions on sex”

2) “a case of the blues” – nytimes mag story on the “recent struggles of the Republican party”…they are quite generous with their euphemisms

3) nytimes mag profile of david axelrod, “obama’s narrator”

4) “obama, mccain forged fleeting alliance”

5) ezra klein on health care

6) washingon post on the impact of howard dean as dnc chair

7) the erotics of investing

8 ) nytimes article on storing willpower

9) jonathan chait on hillary’s ridiculousness

10) the sting of poverty

11) vanity fair interview with ?uestlove about the roots’ new album and its political message

12) time.com’s first annual blog index

obama’s foreign policy March 26, 2008

Posted by AP in 2008 Elections, international, politics.
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you shouldn’t talk to your enemies because they are your enemies, so goes the logic of clinton and mccain. wsj:

Barack Obama is drawing fresh fire for pledging to hold direct talks with foreign adversaries, an approach both Hillary Clinton and John McCain say they will hit hard.

Critics in the foreign-policy establishment and from rival presidential camps said his idea could undercut pro-Western forces and legitimize leaders whose power the U.S. wants to undermine, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Increasingly, they are presenting his ideas as a radical departure from standard U.S. doctrine.

maybe if you talk to them they won’t be your enemies anymore.

designing obama February 28, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, design, news, politics, style, tech.
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andrew romano interviews graphic designer michael bieruit on the branding of obama:

Obama’s success owes a lot, of course, to his message–the promise to pass Democratic policies by rallying a “coalition for change.” But watching Obamamania over the past few weeks, I’ve become convinced that there’s something more subtle at work, too. It’s not just the message and the man and the speeches that are swaying Democratic voters–though they are. It’s the way the campaign has folded the man and the message and the speeches into a systemic branding effort. Reinforced with a coherent, comprehensive program of fonts, logos, slogans and web design, Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand.* And for folks who don’t necessarily need Democratic social programs–upscale voters, young people–I suspect that the novel comfort of that brand affiliation contributes (however subconsciously) to his appeal.

Seeking expert opinion, I tested my hypothesis on leading graphic designer and critic Michael Bieruit, who was kind enough to dissect Obama’s unprecedented branding campaign–and show me how it’s helping his candidacy. Excerpts:

What do you see as the “philosophical implications,” to use a highfalutin phrase, of Obama’s design choices?
There are a couple of levels. There’s the close-in parlor game you can play about what all these typefaces actually mean. Gotham was a typeface designed originally for GQ magazine, so it’s a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources, by the way. Unlike other sans serif typefaces, it’s not German, it’s not French, it’s not Swiss. It’s very American. The serif font that he often uses to write Obama is delicate and nuanced and almost, not feminine exactly, but it’s very literary-looking. It looks very conversational and pleasant, as opposed to strident and yelling. It’s a persuasive-looking font, I would say. But that’s putting these things on couches and pretending they have personalities.

Right. It’s sort of hard to imagine in a voter in Cleveland (or a Newsweek political blogger from New York, for that matter) interacting with Obama’s design on that level. How does it affect those of us who aren’t graphic designers?
Well, I’m teaching this class at the Yale School of Management, and we were just talking about brand management and politics–exactly this thing before we got on the phone. And one of the things that came up in the conversation is, if you think about it, the challenge for someone named Barack Hussein Obama is that he’s such an unprecedented figure in American politics–so much so that everything he’s trying to do is, in a way, trying to make him look smoother and more normal. Someone said, “Well, why shouldn’t he have revolutionary looking graphics–graphics that make him look like grassroots, like an outsider? Things drawn by hand, things that look forceful and avant-garde.” But I think he’s using design in a way to make him look as normal, as comfortable, as inevitable as a brand can look in American life. Those are really deliberate, interesting choices. Whether or not a sans serif font like Gotham looks more “American” than a Swiss font like Helvetica, that’s in our imaginations to a certain degree. I think it’s much more incontrovertible that he’s actually using the seamlessness of this branding to convey a candidacy that’s not a dangerous, revolutionary, risk-everything proposition–but as something that is well-managed and has everything under control.

the first civil libertarian president? February 20, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, op-ed, politics.
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jeffrey rosen writes (pdf or jpg) in the new republic:

If Barack Obama were to win the Democratic nomination and the White House, he would be, among other things, our first civil libertarian president. This is clear not just from his lifetime rating on the ACLU’s scorecard (82 percent compared to John McCain’s 25 percent). It is clear from the fact that civil liberties have been among his most passionate interests – as a constitutional law professor, state legislator, and senator. On the campaign trail, he has been unapologetic about these enthusiasms.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, Obama went to work for a civil rights firm in Chicago, where he represented whistleblowers, community organizers, and black voters challenging discriminatory ward boundaries. During the same period, he developed an approach to constitutional law – which he was teaching at the University of Chicago – that has proved especially relevant to civil liberties debates. The Constitution, he wrote in The Audacity of Hope, “forc[es] us into a conversation, a ‘deliberative democracy,’ in which all citizens are requirred to engage in a process of testing their ideas against an external reality, persuading others of their point of view, and building shifting alliances of consent.” Discussions about civil liberties require this kind of conversation because they attract an unusual coalition of liberals and conservatives under one umbrella.

Obama’s approach in the U.S. Senate was similar. He became a co-sponsor of the SAFE Act, the bipartisan reforms that would have corrected the worst excesses of the Patriot Act, and encouraged the coalition of civil libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives who supported it, from the ACLU to the American Conservative Union.