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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Obama, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 160
1. Obama Loved Comics as a Kid

Barack Obama revealed a childhood love for comic books this week in an email he sent to constituents, soliciting Organizing for Action supporters to share how they got involved with the president’s organization.

“Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman,”  he wrote in the email. “Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story — the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

The email encourages recipients to share the story of how they got involved in his movement. The winning writer gets to meet the president in DC.

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2. Thanks, Obamacomics!

gruber graphic0011 101x150 Thanks, Obamacomics!A graphic novel has become Exhibit A in the latest Obamacare controversy.

Clear, simple, understandable, useful – those are just a few of the words that recurred in reviews of Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works, a 2012 graphic novel by Xeric-winner Nathan Schreiber and MIT’s Jonathan Gruber.

The irony of these descriptions is no doubt evident to anyone who has been following political news over the past weeks — years after Gruber won praise for his adeptness in making the proposed health law easy to grasp, Gruber has become the center of a political storm due to his recent off-the-cuff claim that the language of Affordable Care Act was deliberately misleading and designed to take advantage of Americans’ “stupidity.”

The dust-up has given new life to the Gruber and Schreiber graphic novel, which thanks to the vagaries of Amazon pricing algorithms appears to become an expensive collectible in hardcover. Conservative sites are finding the book funny in unintended ways, although no one has yet to explain the replacement of its originally announced artist, Dean Motter. It’s natural to assume that there may have been issues of scheduling or style, but perhaps there just wasn’t a place for health care in Terminal City.

1 Comments on Thanks, Obamacomics!, last added: 11/20/2014
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3. Timothy Geithner Lands Book Deal

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has inked a book deal to write a “behind-the-scenes account of the American response to the global financial crisis” for Crown Publishers. Publication is set for 2014.

Robert Barnett negotiated the deal with publisher Molly Stern. Executive editor Vanessa Mobley will edit. The publisher did not reveal how much Geithner will earn from the deal. Here’s more from the release:

Secretary Geithner will chronicle how decisions were made during the most harrowing moments of the crisis, when policy makers faced a fog of uncertainty, risked catastrophic outcomes, and had no institutional memory or recent precedent to guide them. He will also describe the relationships, debates about strategy, and strength of collaboration among key decision makers in the crisis, including Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, President Obama, senior White House advisors, and finance ministers and central bank governors of other key economies around the world whose own financial fires threatened to derail the U.S. and global recovery. Secretary Geithner will aim to answer the most important – and to many the most troubling – questions about the choices he and his colleagues made, the strategies they adopted, and the economic aftermath.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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4. 15,000 New Books on the National Mall, Plus Celebrities, Cabinet Secretaries and Cute Kids


On Saturday, volunteers from across the country joined First Book on the National Mall in Washington DC to celebrate President Obama’s National Day of Service by providing 15,000 brand-new books to DC-area children from low-income families.

Click here to see photos of the event, including pictures of volunteers, political leaders, and even a few celebrities.

First Book was one of seven nonprofits featured at the event, highlighting the idea of community service in such areas as education, the environment and support for military families.

??Each volunteer packed two books into a bag, and decorated bookplates with personal messages.

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 1.56.04 PM

The books, including “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport, were provided thanks to the generous support of our friends at KPMG, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm, through its KPMG’s Family for Literacy program.

The bags will be distributed in the coming days to students throughout DC, thanks to First Book’s partnership with the American Federation of Teachers.


Even if you weren’t able to join us on the National Mall, you can still bring new books to kids in need. Click here to donate to our National Day of Service Virtual Book Drive. Every $2.50 provides one new books to a child in need.

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5. Obama’s Second Inaugural Address

By ELvin Lim

Conservatives hate it; liberals love it. His Second Inaugural Address evinces Barack Obama coming into his own, projecting himself unvarnished and real before the world. No more elections for him, so also less politics. He is number 17 in the most exclusive club in America — presidents who get to serve a second term. Yes, there’s still the bonus of a legacy. But the legacy-desiring second-term president would just sit back and do no harm, rather than put himself out there for vociferous battles to come.

For better or for worse, Barack Obama believes that the constitutional compact from whence he derives the fullness of his authority gives him a responsibility. He believes that the framers of the Constitution “gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people. Entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.” But he did not mean that he was an originalist, or a “constitutional conservative.” Indeed, the very opposite is true. Obama believes that the “founding creed” is no less than this: “we have always understood that when times change, so must we, that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges.” Originalism means change, he is telling us.

This is a president no longer prepared to dally, or to punt on his liberal beliefs. “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us,” he said. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he also proclaimed. In his mind, there is no need to coddle the political right anymore, and he believes that the truth as he tells it will set us free.

So unreserved was Obama’s conviction that he took the sacred line of modern conservatism, “We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still” and turned it into the most liberal of philosophies, that “our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” Obama never really had much of a stomach for unadulterated libertarianism; in his heart of hearts, this former community organizer is a communitarian. This is why he cited “We the People” five times in his address.

Call Obama liberal, or call him correct; the point is half the country does not agree, and there are tough wars to come. That Obama has been so uncharacteristically upfront about his intentions signals, though, his belief that the national political tide has turned. That on gay rights, immigration, and so forth, either because of his electoral mandate or the changing demographics of the country, he believes he holds the upper hand.

And however short his second-term “honeymoon,” I think he does. Had Obama not been re-elected, his first term might have been construed as a fluke; a bit of electoral charity from a guilt-ridden America willing to give a half-African-Anerican a chance to deliver at the White House. But Barack Obama was re-elected by a vote differential of 5 million. Only the most measly of partisan spirits will deride this victory, and deny Obama the honeymoon that he justly earned.

Elvin Lim is Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com and his column on politics appears on the OUPblog regularly.

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The post Obama’s Second Inaugural Address appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Review: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope

written by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Simon & Schuster, 2008. We've been reading this book over and over in the past several weeks. The story begins with a mother and son watching Obama give a speech on TV during the 2008 campaign. The little boy in the story starts to ask why all the people are chanting and clapping as Obama stands before them giving an inspiring talk. His

2 Comments on Review: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, last added: 2/6/2013
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7. The five stages of climate change acceptance

By Andrew T. Guzman

A few days ago, the President of the United States used the State of the Union address to call for action on climate change. The easy way to do so would have been to call on Congress to take action. Had President Obama framed his remarks in this way, he would have given a nod to those concerned about climate change, but nothing would happen because there is virtually no chance of Congressional action. What he actually did, however, was to put some of his own political capital on the line by promising executive action if Congress fails to address the issue. The President, assuming he meant what he said, has apparently accepted the need for a strong policy response to this threat.

Not everybody agrees. There has long been a political debate on the subject of climate change, even though the scientific debate has been settled for years. In recent months, perhaps in response to Hurricane Sandy, the national drought of 2012, and the fact that 2012 was the hottest year in the history of the United States, there seems to have been a shift in the political winds.

Oblique view of Grinnell Glacier taken from the summit of Mount Gould, Glacier National Park in 1938. The glacier has since largely receded. In addition to glacier melt, rising temperatures will lead to unprecedented pressures on our agricultural systems and social infrastructure, writes Andrew T. Guzman. Image by T.J. Hileman, courtesy of Glacier National Park Archives.

In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described the “five stages” of acceptance:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For many years, climate change discussions seemed to be about getting our politics past the “denial” stage. Over time, however, scientific inquiry made it obvious that climate change is happening and that it is the result of human activity. With more than 97% of climate scientists and every major scientific body of relevance in the United States in agreement that the threat is real, not to mention a similar consensus internationally, it became untenable to simply refuse to accept the reality of climate change.

The next stage was anger. Unable to stand on unvarnished denials, skeptics lashed out, alleging conspiracies and secret plots to propagate the myth of climate change. In 2003, Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma said, “Could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.” In 2009 we had “climategate.” More than a thousand private emails between climate scientists were stolen and used in an attempt (later debunked) to show a conspiracy to fool the world.

Now, from the right, come signs of a move to bargaining. On 13 February, Senator Marco Rubio reacted to the President’s call for action on climate change, but he did not do so by denying the phenomenon itself or accusing the President of having being duped by a grand hoax.  He stated instead, “The government can’t change the weather. There are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point. They are not going to stop.” Earlier this month he made even more promising statements: “There has to be a cost-benefit analysis [applied] to every one of these principles.” This is not anger or denial. This is bargaining. As long as others are not doing enough, he suggests, we get to ignore the problem.

It is, apparently, no longer credible for a presidential hopeful like Senator Rubio to deny the very existence of the problem. His response, instead, invites a discussion about what can be done. What if we could get the key players: Europe, China, India, the United States, and Russia to the table and find a way for all of them to lower their emissions? If the voices of restraint are concerned that our efforts will not be fruitful, we can talk about what kinds of actions can improve the climate.

To be fair, Senator Rubio has not totally abandoned denials. While engaging in what I have called “bargaining” above, he also threw in, almost in passing, “I know people said there’s a significant scientific consensus on that issue, but I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle.” In December he declared himself “not qualified” to opine on whether climate change is real. These are denials, but they are issued without any passion; his heart is not in it. They seem more like pro forma statements, perhaps to satisfy those who have not yet made the step from denial and anger to bargaining.

If leaders on the right have reached the bargaining stage, the next stage is depression. What will that look like? One possibility is a full embrace of the science of climate change coupled with a fatalistic refusal to act. “It is too late, the planet is already cooked and nothing we can do will matter.”  When you start hearing these statements from those who oppose action, take heart; we will be close to where we need to get politically. Though it will be tempting to point out that past inaction was caused by the earlier stages of denial, anger, and bargaining, nothing will be gained by such recriminations. The path forward requires continuing to make the case not only for the existence of climate change, but also for strategies to combat it.

The final stage, of course, is acceptance. At that point, the country will be prepared to do something serious about climate change. At that point we can have a serious national (and international) conversation about how to respond. Climate change will affect us all, and we need to get to acceptance as soon as possible. In short, climate change will tear at the very fabric of our society. It will compromise our food production and distribution, our water supply, our transportation systems, our health care systems, and much more. The longer we wait to act, the more difficult it will be to do so.  All of this means that movement away from simple denial to something closer to acceptance is encouraging.  The sooner we get there, the better.

Andrew T. Guzman is Professor of Law and Associate Dean for International and Executive Education at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change and How International Law Works, among others.

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The post The five stages of climate change acceptance appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. The Great Migration

I've been reading two great books on the Great Migration. Between 1915 and 1975 more than 6 million African Americans moved from Southern states to the North and West. Cities like Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York, Cleveland, Detriot, Chicago, St. Lewis, San Diego and Los Angeles swelled in numbers of Black residents. This phenomena was bigger than the gold rush and the dust bowl as far as

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9. Another victory for public and open access

If you paid for it, you should be able to read it. For publicly financed science research, the Obama administration agrees.

I’m aware that this decision wasn’t just because of this We The People petition (which I signed) but it’s nice to think that the petition has an effect. Read the entire memorandum here (pdf) and here is the short post on the White House blog about it. The Association for American Publishers is in favor of this move, in contrast to their strongly worded opposition to the FASTR Act, a bill endorsed by many library associations. Read more about the Open Access to Research movement.

This is yet another “big deal” open access move in what is starting to look like The Year of Open Access.

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10. Defending the Language with Bullets

By Dennis Baron

“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”     –Barack Obama

The bumper sticker on the back of a construction worker’s pickup truck caught my eye: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

This homage to education wasn’t what I expected from someone whose bitterness typically manifests itself in vehicle art celebrating guns and religion, but there was more: “If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.”

It was a “support our troops” bumper sticker that takes language and literacy out of the classroom and puts them squarely in the hands of the military.

It’s one thing to say that we owe our national security and the survival of the free world to military might. It’s something else again to be told that we need soldiers to protect the English language.

But according to this bumper sticker, any chink in our armor, any relaxation of our constant vigilance, any momentary lowering of the gun barrel, and we’ll all be speaking Russian, Iraqi, or even Mexican.

Supporters of official English argue that it’s the language of democracy — the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, not to mention the “Star-Spangled Banner,” “American Idol” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (it doesn’t matter that Millionaire was a British show first, since Americans were British once themselves). English, goes the claim, is the “social glue” cementing the many cultures that underlie American culture. As Teddy Roosevelt said back in 1918, “This is a nation, not a polyglot boarding house.”

But apparently even the official language laws that states, cities, schools and businesses have put in place aren’t doing the job, so what we really need is to put a gun to people’s heads to make them use English.

Only that won’t work. The large number of translators killed in Iraq, or drummed out of the army for being gay, are two of the many indicators that our armies aren’t keeping the world safe for English.

The linguist Max Weinreich is credited with quipping that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. But guns can’t literally keep a language safe at home any more than they can effectively seal a border to keep other languages out.

In a bold act of regime change and a glaring breach of homeland security, French streamed across the English borders in the 11th century along with the Norman armies, but French soldiers were unable to convert most of the Brits they encountered to the parlez-vous, at least not in the long term.

And while the Royal Navy helped spread English around the globe as part and parcel of the British Empire, what really undergirds English today as an international language isn’t military might, but the appeal of global capitalism, science, computer technology, t-shirts, and good old rock ‘n

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11. Up the Wazoo and Into the Abyss: Words I Love

By Mark Peters

It’s easy to find articles about words people hate. Just google for a nanominute and you’ll find rants against moist, like, whom, irregardless, retarded, synergy, and hordes of other offending lexical items. Word-hating is rampant.

So if that’s the kind of thing that yanks your lexical crank, look elsewhere: this column is all about word love, word lust, word like, word kissy-face, and word making-sweet-love-down-by-the-fire, as South Park’s Chef would put it.

These words not only float my boat; they rock my socks and warm my cocoa. I love these words, and this is my attempt to figure out why. If such analysis ruins the love, as so often happens in life, big whup. There are plenty of other words in the sea.

We’ll never know why intelligent young citizens become proctologists (or how they break the news to Ma and Pa back on the farm) but we do know that words for the butticular region tend to be vivid and fun. Wazoo is my favorite. The OED traces it back to a friendly suggestion made in 1961: “Run it up yer ol’ wazoo!” I couldn’t agree more with a 1975 example: “Dating is a real pain in the wazoo.”

So what’s so great about wazoo? Studies show you can’t say it and be in a bad mood. Try it and see: wazoo wazoo wazoo wazoo wazoo. It’s funny and silly and a blast to say. Surely, it’s a better world with wazoo in it.

Bonus wazoo words: I am also a staunch admirer of gazoomba, bippy, badonkadonk, bottom, tush, fanny, fourth point of contact, and tuchus.

My mother always warned me to avoid two things: packs of wild dogs and the abyss. Still, I can’t stop reveling in this word. Part of the appeal is its meaning. You have to love a definition this ultra-hellish: “The great deep, the primal chaos; the bowels of the earth, the supposed cavity of the lower world; the infernal pit.” The OED’s secondary meaning is nearly as cool: “A bottomless gulf; any unfathomable or apparently unfathomable cavity or void space; a profound gulf, chasm, or void extending beneath.”

Also, I love looking into the abyss—except when I make the void jealous. The void is very insecure, you know.

When it comes to a perfect marriage of humor and stupidity, you can’t get any better than Beavis and Butthead, and I have yet to greet the day when I get tired of hearing their litany of immature, silly insults, such as dumbass, bunghole, peckerwood, dillweed, dillhole, and butt dumpling.

For me, the dumbass laureate of these words is buttmunch, so I was pleased to learn its origin in the DVD extra “Taint of Greatness: The Journey of Beavis and Butt-head, Part 1.” As B&B creator Mike Judge tells the tale, “Standards at MTV said no to assmunch. So I said, how about buttmunch? So we started saying buttmunch so many times, and then I just inadvertently said assmunch once. And they just heard buttmunch so many times that assmunch didn’t sound like anything new, so then assmunch slipped past ‘em. And that’s the story of assmunch and buttmunch.”

My marginally reliable memory told me I first saw this magnificent word in a Bloom County cartoon. Lucky for me and the

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12. Why Operation Odyssey Dawn may become another protracted odyssey

By Elvin Lim

The Obama administration is having a hard time responding to critics who disagree with its decision to intervene in Libya. Some on the Left do not want another war; while some on the Right don’t want a multilateral approach to war focussed on humanitarian intervention and one authorized by the UN. Both sides, of course, are using a “separation of powers” line, charging that the President failed to seek congressional approval, but the procedural objection disguises a substantive disagreement. The fact is very few politicians have ever really cared about the erosion of congressional authority (not that they shouldn’t) since the last war Congress declared was 60 years ago during World War II.

And there lies the crux of the matter. It is not that the President has clearly made a blunder, whether in the timing, method, or articulation of our aims in Libya, for all are up for debate and indeed are being debated. It is just that war is not the sort of thing that we, and most democracies, can easily agree on. (And that is why kings, not presidents in our inquisitive electronic age, have been most successful in using prerogative and secrecy to wage war.)

What is worse is that our agreement on war is so rare that we have romanticized the one war where we came closest to agreeing on, which of course has added to more disagreement because we have subsequently held ourselves to such impossible standards. This is our collective cognitive illusion that all wars should be like World War II, ostensibly the last war in which America took the right moral stance, where we were both unilateral and multilateral, defensive and yet also aggressive, and on which, at least after Pearl Harbor, there was relatively little partisan disagreement. The romanticization of this unusual war has only made the conduct of foreign policy more, not less, difficult in the decades since.

Democracies are rarely in consensus about the conduct of war, which is why we should start them with abundant caution. One reason why we have had a long and less than impressive list of foreign misadventures since the middle of the last century and at least since Vietnam is that we have tried too long, and without any success, to prove to ourselves that World War II was the war to guide all future wars. As it turns out, that war was the exception, not the rule. Yet both the Obama administration and its critics share such a missionary zeal about how foreign affairs should be conducted, respectively, in their anti-totalitarian aspirations, their commitment to procedural orthodoxy, and moral leadership.

Our present disagreement about how to deal with Libya comes from uncertainty, the fact that no one holds a crystal ball. The problem with military intervention is that interveners must know which domestic party to side with, and some appreciation of what the end game should look like. But while we suspect that Muammar Qaddafi isn’t the best bet for democracy in Libya, no one can be sure that the rebel government in Benghazi would do any better. By definition, interveners guide the outcome of domestic strife, changing the timing, manner, and outcome of that which would otherwise have organically occurred. This is good, in the short run, for global order; but bad, in the long run, for democratic consolidation in the host country, and political consensus in the intervening country.

As the White House struggles to articulate a clear mission in Libya in the face of criticism from both the liberal and conservative bases, it is worth noting that ambiguous aims beget unending wars as it is worth

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13. The art of political quotation

‘Politics feeds your vanity and starves your self-respect,’ according to the journalist Matthew Parris. In the video below, filmed by George Miller, Antony Jay discusses what makes a good political quotation.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Sir Antony Jay is the editor of Lend Me Your Ears: The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations. He is most famously the co-creator of the classic British 1980s sitcoms Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.

View more about this book on the

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14. What might be a constructive vision for the US?

By Ervin Staub

In difficult times like today, people need a vision or ideology that gives them hope for the future. Unfortunately, groups often adopt destructive visions, which identify other groups as enemies who supposedly stand in the way of creating a better future. A constructive, shared vision, which joins groups, reduces the chance of hostility and violence in a society.

A serious failure of the Obama administration has been not to offer, and help people embrace, such a vision. Policies by themselves, such as health care and limited regulation of the financial system, even if beneficial, don’t necessarily do this. A constructive vision or ideology must combine an inspiring vision of social arrangements, of the relations between individuals and groups and the nature of society, and actions that aim to fulfill the vision. A community that includes all groups, recreating a moral America, and rebuilding connections to the rest of the world could be elements of such a vision.

In difficult times, people need security, connection to each other, a feeling of effectiveness, and an understanding of the world and their place in it.  Being part of a community can help fulfill  these needs. The work programs of the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression provided people with livelihood. But they also gave them dignity and told them that they were part of the national community.

Community means accepting and embracing differences among us. Especially important among the influences that lead groups of people to turn against each other is drawing a line between us and them, and seeing the other in a negative light. The words and actions of Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln propagated acceptance of the other even after extreme violence. The U.S. is a hugely varied country, and for every one of us, there can be many of “them.” But others’ differentness can enrich us. People travel to distant places just to glimpse at other people and their lives. As much research shows, real contact, deep engagement, working for shared goals across races, religions, classes, and political beliefs helps to overcome prejudice, helps us to see our shared humanity. Engaging with each other’s differentness here at home can connect us to each other–and increase our satisfaction in life.

Creating a vision—and reality—of community also requires addressing the huge financial inequality in America. Research shows that during periods of greater inequality in income, people are less satisfied. This is true of liberals; perhaps surprisingly, to a lesser degree, it is also true of conservatives. Inequality presumably reduces people’s feeling of community. The financial crisis provided an opportunity to begin to address inequality, to use laws, policies, and public opinion to limit compensation in financial institutions and corporations. Roosevelt had to fight for his programs. This time there has not been enough “political will,” that is, commitment and courage, to do this

Good connection to the rest of the world also increases our experience of community—and our security. For many decades, the United States was greatly respected and admired. Now, as I travel around the world in the course of my work on preventing violence between groups and promoting reconciliation, most of the people I talk to are highly critical of us. But my sense is that many yearn to again trust and respect us.

In his Cairo speech, as President Obama reached out to the Muslim world, he offered an image of connection between countries and peoples. But words alone are not enough, and there has been little follow up. He also continued with policies of the Bush administration, such as extraordinary rendition, handing over suspected terrorists to other countries for interrogation using torture. We Americans believe we are a moral people; both for

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15. A Sisyphean fate for Israel (part 2)


Read part 1 of this article.

By Louis René Beres

Today, Israel’s leadership, continuing to more or less disregard the nation’s special history, still acts in ways that are neither tragic nor heroic. Unwilling to accept the almost certain future of protracted war and terror, one deluded prime minister after another has sought to deny Israel’s special situation in the world. Hence, he or she has always been ready to embrace, unwittingly, then-currently-fashionable codifications of collective suicide.

In Washington, President Barack Obama is consciously shaping these particular codifications, not with any ill will, we may hope, but rather with all of the usual diplomatic substitutions of rhetoric for an authentic intellectual understanding. For this president, still sustained by an utterly cliched “wisdom,” peace in the Middle East is just another routine challenge for an assumed universal reasonableness and clever presidential speechwriting.

Human freedom is an ongoing theme in Judaism, but this sacred freedom can never countenance a “right” of collective disintegration. Individually and nationally, there is always a binding Jewish obligation to choose life. Faced with the “blessing and the curse,” both the solitary Jew, and the ingathered Jewish state, must always come down in favor of the former.

Today, Israel, after Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement,” Ehud Olmert’s “realignment,” Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes for “Palestinian demilitarization,” and U.S. President Barack Obama’s “New Middle East,” may await, at best, a tragic fate. At worst, resembling the stark and minimalist poetics of Samuel Beckett, Israel’s ultimate fate could be preposterous.

True tragedy contains calamity, but it must also reveal greatness in trying to overcome misfortune.

For the most part, Jews have always accepted the obligation to ward off disaster as best they can.

For the most part, Jews generally do understand that we humans have “free will.” Saadia Gaon included freedom of the will among the most central teachings of Judaism, and Maimonides affirmed that all human beings must stand alone in the world “to know what is good and what is evil, with none to prevent him from either doing good or evil.”

For Israel, free will must always be oriented toward life, to the blessing, not to the curse. Israel’s binding charge must always be to strive in the obligatory direction of individual and collective self-preservation, by using intelligence, and by exercising disciplined acts of national will. In those circumstances where such striving would still be consciously rejected, the outcome, however catastrophic, can never rise to the dignifying level of tragedy.

The ancient vision of authentically “High Tragedy” has its origins in Fifth Century BCE Athens. Here, there is always clarity on one overriding point: The victim is one whom “the gods kill for their sport, as wanton boys do flies.” This wantonness, this caprice, is precisely what makes tragedy unendurable.

With “disengagement,” with “realignment,” with “Palestinian demilitarization,” with both Oslo, and the Road Map, Israel’s corollary misfortunes remain largely self-inflicted. The continuing drama of a Middle East Peace Process is, at best, a surreal page torn from Ionesco, or even from Kafka. Here, there is nary a hint of tragedy; not even a satisfyingly cathartic element that might have been drawn from Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides. At worst, and this is the more plausible characterization, Israel’s unhappy fate has been ripped directly from the utterly demeaning pages of irony and farce.

Under former Prime

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16. A Sisyphean fate for Israel (part 1)


By Louis René Beres

Israel after Obama: a subject of tragedy, or mere object of pathos?

Israel, after President Barack Obama’s May 2011 speech on “Palestinian self-determination” and regional “democracy,” awaits a potentially tragic fate. Nonetheless, to the extent that Prime Minister Netanyahu should become complicit in the expected territorial dismemberments, this already doleful fate could quickly turn from genuine tragedy to pathos and abject farce.

“The executioner’s face,” sang Bob Dylan, “is always well-hidden.” In the particular case of Israel, however, the actual sources of existential danger have always been perfectly obvious. From 1948 until the present, virtually all of Israel’s prime ministers, facing periodic wars for survival, have routinely preferred assorted forms of denial, and asymmetrical forms of compromise. Instead of accepting the plainly exterminatory intent of both enemy states and terrorist organizations, these leaders have opted for incremental territorial surrenders.

Of course, this is not the whole story. During its very short contemporary life, Israel has certainly accomplished extraordinary feats in science, medicine, agriculture, education and industry. It’s military institutions, far exceeding all reasonable expectations, have fought, endlessly and heroically, to avoid any new spasms of post-Holocaust genocide.

Still, almost from the beginning, the indispensable Israeli fight has not been premised on what should have remained as an unequivocal central truth of the now-reconstituted Jewish commonwealth. Although unrecognized by Barack Obama, all of the disputed lands controlled by Israel do have proper Israeli legal title. It follows that any diplomatic negotiations resting upon alternative philosophic or jurisprudential premises must necessarily be misconceived.

Had Israel, from the start, fixedly sustained its own birthright narrative of Jewish sovereignty, without submitting to periodic and enervating forfeitures of both land and dignity, its future, although problematic, would at least have been tragic. But by choosing instead to fight in ways that ultimately transformed its stunning victories on the battlefield to abject surrenders at the conference table, this future may ultimately be written as more demeaning genre.

In real life, as well as in literature and poetry, the tragic hero is always an object of veneration, not a pitiable creature of humiliation. From Aristotle to Shakespeare to Camus, tragedy always reveals the very best in human understanding and purposeful action. Aware that whole nations, like the individual human beings who comprise them, are never forever, the truly tragic hero nevertheless does everything possible to simply stay alive.

For Israel, and also for every other imperiled nation on earth, the only alternative to tragic heroism is humiliating pathos. By their incessant unwillingness to decline any semblance of a Palestinian state as intolerable (because acceptance of “Palestine” in any form would be ruthlessly carved out of the living body of Israel), Israel’s leaders have created a genuinely schizophrenic Jewish reality in the “new” Middle East. This is a Jewish state that is, simultaneously, unimaginably successful and incomparably vulnerable. Not surprisingly, over time, the result will be an increasingly palpable national sense of madness.

Perhaps, more than any other region on earth, the Jihadi Middle East and North Africa is “governed” by unreason. Oddly, this very reasonable observation is reinforced rather than contradicted by the prevailing patterns of “democratic re

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17. Same-sex marriage, state by state

By Elvin Lim

New York has just become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, together with Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, and the District of Columbia. New Jersey, Maryland, and Rhode Island have not legalized same-sex marriage, but they do recognize those performed in other states. State by state, the dominoes against same-sex marriage are falling away as surely as reason must conquer unreason. President Barack Obama has been accused of allowing a state governor, Mario Cuomo, to be the leader on this issue. But on this issue, Obama’s hesitation and characteristic equivocation might turn out to be strategically, if unintentionally, wise, because civil rights issues are most effectively advanced by state legislatures, not national institutions.

Consider the bittersweet record of the Civil Rights movement. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the lesser known Loving v. Virginia (1967) (which legalized inter-racial marriage) were landmark Supreme Court decisions. But they created decades of backlash, most easily exemplified by the busing controversy as well as the “special rights” retort — the argument that a too-ready conferral of alleged rights to identity groups creates an atomistic society and a government with more obligations than it can or ought to fulfill — the lead argument against affirmative action policies today. In 1967, the year inter-racial marriage was made legal by “judicial activism,” 72 percent of Americans were opposed to inter-racial marriage. It was not until 1991, 35 years later, that these Americans became a minority. Brown and Loving gave us the right decisions, but not necessary with the smartest strategy.

The history of the same-sex marriage movement in the mid-2000s exhibited the same one step forward, two step backwards tendency when it tried to follow in the strategic footsteps of the Civil Rights movement, by way of Courts. In 2004, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts declared, in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, that it’s inconsistent with the State’s constitution to limit marriage only to opposite-sex couples. Massachusetts became the first US state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples; a triumphant first hurrah, but ultimately a harbinger of backlash, including a national movement to amend the US constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and the passage of amendments in 11 state constitutions to the same on election day. 2004 would be remembered as the of anti-same-sex-marriage backlash, not the year when the movement for marriage equality started.

But something remarkable happened in the last few years, when the movement decided that the “special rights” retort was too powerful to overcome. The movement suspended its alliance with the Courts, and turned, as presidential candidates must, to a state-by-state strategy. In doing this, the movement drove a knife into the the heart of the anti-same-sex-marriage argument. The argument against “activist judges” — a procedural argument that disguises the moral disgust — cannot stand when state legislatures comprised of elected officials redefine the meaning of marriage. Just seven years after a national hysteria against “judicial activism,” conservative groups are now left with one of two choices: either come out (no pun intended) and articulate the real moral or religious reasons why they are against same-se

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18. A Facebook roundtable of the Left

Who said academics don't know how to use social media? Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, has certainly proved them wrong. After reading this article by Glenn Greenwald, Robin turned to Facebook.

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19. "Yes, the Obama campaign is soliciting unpaid labor to create a poster “illustrating why we..."

“Yes, the Obama campaign is soliciting unpaid labor to create a poster “illustrating why we support President Obama’s plan to create jobs now, and why we’ll re-elect him to continue fighting for jobs for the next four years.””


Obama Solicits Designers to Work - Unpaid - on … Jobs Poster | Tim Dickinson | Rolling Stone

Add Mr. President to the list of big name clients who want to crowd-source get free work from designers. That it’s to promote his jobs plan is the icing on the face-slapping cake.

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20. Insulting America

It began with John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. The choice of this incompetent, unqualified, inexperienced, and stupid person as a vice presidential candidate called McCain’s judgment into serious question. Had the old war hero turned senile? How could he have put such a person a heartbeat from the Presidency? The mere thought of Palin in the White House was frightening. But McCain’s choice was far more than a scare—it insulted America and unleashed a wave of violence and racism that continues.

Never forget the crosshairs map Palin posted on her Facebook page. She urged her Twitter followers, “Don’t retreat, reload.” Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ face was in one of the crosshairs. On January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head outside a Tucson Safeway supermarket. Fortunately she survived and is making a remarkable recovery. But America is still coping with the incivility and insults initiated by Palin and taken up by the Tea Party and Congressional Republicans.

The insults continued after President Obama was elected and took office. With exhortations to “take back our country,” the Tea Party, overwhelmingly made up of whites, spread its unsubtle racist message. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that “take back our country” meant take it back from the black guy who’s President.

Four days before the President was inaugurated, the tone was set by radio talk show bloviator Rush Limbaugh. On January 16, 2010, Linbaugh said, “I hope Obama fails.”

During the President’s first term, Congressional Republicans took up Limbaugh’s mantra, deciding to do everything in their power to destroy the Obama presidency by holding up, blocking, weakening, misrepresenting, and voting against everything the President and Democrats wanted to accomplish.

Republican senator Mitch McConnell stated the Republicans’ position quite clearly: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” McConnell told Major Garrett in an interview published in the National Review in October 2010. A month later, in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, he repeated his position: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” In another time, such a call of opposition to a sitting President would have been considered treason. But over the past two years, Republicans have, like obedient little soldiers, followed McConnell’s marching orders, turning their backs on their country and the people who elected them and abandoning their responsibility to participate in government.

Despite repeated attempts by the President to work in a bipartisan fashion, Republicans refused, becoming the “Party of No.” No to health care for all Americans. No to the President’s job creation bill. No to restoring regulations of the banks whose fraudulent practices caused the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. No to repealing the Bush tax cuts that added billions of dollars to the deficit. No to taxing millionaires and billionaires so they pay their fair share. Last summer, Republicans’ political brinksmanship with the debt ceiling resulted in the first downgrade in the national credit rating in U.S. history. In carrying out Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell’s dictum to bring about failure of the Obama administration, Republicans have made Congress dysfunctional and the economic recovery slower than it might have been had they spent more time working with the President instead of working against him. That President Obama has been able to accomplish so much despite Republicans’ intransigence is a tribute to his political skill, patience and intelligence.

Now we come to this election year and the line-up of potential Republican presidential candidates who are as insultingly unqualified as Sarah Palin. All celebr

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21. Separated at birth: Obama and Luffy?

obama luffy Separated at birth: Obama and Luffy?
What really happened in Jakarta???

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22. Racism and Antiracism

By Mark R. Warren

We seem to be facing a new wave of racial animosity in our country right now, from the Florida preacher who threatened to burn a Koran unless the Manhattan Islamic center was moved, to Arizona’s new immigration law legalizing racial profiling; from Glenn Beck high-jacking Dr. King’s march anniversary on the Mall in DC with an overwhelmingly white Tea Party crowd, to the New York gubernatorial candidate who won the Republican nomination after sending monkey pictures and tribal dance emails mocking President Obama.

In the face of this divisiveness, we have an urgent need to better understand how to bring Americans together across racial and religious lines.

In times of economic insecurity, white Americans have often turned towards blaming racial and ethnic “others” for the cause of their problems. One important reason this happens is the segregation that still runs deep in American society. Indeed, white Americans are the most segregated racial group in the U.S., living, worshiping and going to school in predominantly white communities. Only 15 percent of whites report having even one close friend of color. If white people and their closest white family members and friends do not directly experience racism, how can they develop a deep appreciation of the experience of racism and come to care about it – rather than blame other races and ethnicities for America’s troubles?

I have been interviewing white Americans about how they became aware of racism and came to care enough about the issue to development a commitment to become activists for racial justice. They reported to me the profound impact that building relationships with people of color had on them. For example, juvenile justice advocate Mark Soler knew the statistics on the growing criminalization of black men. Indeed, in places like Baltimore, nearly half of all black men are in the custody of the criminal justice system in one way or another. However, it was when his African American colleagues told him their personal stories of harassment at the hands of the police that Soler began to grasp the reality of that experience in what he calls a more visceral way.

Relationships do more, however, than deepen understanding of racial experience. Through relationships white people can come to care about racism because it affects people they know personally and care about. Soler spent many hours driving to juvenile facilities with one African American colleague. His colleague shared stories not just about his own treatment at the hands of the police but also his personal anguish about how he should counsel his son about the police. The colleague’s fear for what could happen to his teenage son became palpable to Soler in a deeply personal way. Soler’s thirty year commitment comes from both his intellectual understanding of racism but also his visceral awareness and personal connection.

Clearly it’s not enough to just place people together. Indeed, Robert Putnam’s research on diversity and social capital shows that, absent meaningful relationships, racially and ethnically diverse communities are lower in social trust, for example. The activists I interviewed highlighted the importance of their experiences in multiracial organizations like schools and community organizing groups where they built meaningful and reciprocal relationships with people of color, where differences were openly and honestly discussed, and where people had a chance to find their commonalities in shared values for a more just and equitable society.

Perhaps the Tea Party demonstrators will not enthusiastically embrace these kinds of opportunities to work across racial lines. But the activists I interviewed, and many others, are building the local foundations for the emergence of a new racial justice movement. When people have a chance to work together, share stories and bu

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23. George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream

By Dan P. McAdams

In the spring of 2003, President George W. Bush launched an American military invasion of Iraq.  From a psychological standpoint, why did he do it? Bush’s momentous decision resulted from a perfect psychological storm, wherein world events came to activate a set of dispositional traits and family goals that had long occupied key positions in Bush’s personality. At the center of the storm was a singularly redemptive story that, around the age of 40, George W. Bush began to construct to make sense of his life.  After years of drinking and waywardness, Bush fashioned a story in his mind about how, though self-discipline and God’s guidance, he had triumphed over chaos, enabling him to recover the freedom, control, and goodness of his youth.  In the days after 9/11, President Bush projected this very same narrative of redemption onto America and the world.  Just as he had, with God’s help, overcome the internal demons that once threatened to destroy his own life, so too would America, God’s chosen nation, overcome the chaos and evil of Saddam and thereby restore freedom and the good life to the Iraqis.  Because the redemptive story had played so well in his own life, the president knew in his heart that the mission would be accomplished and that there ultimately had to be a happy ending.

I have been thinking a lot about George W. Bush’s redemptive story these days as I follow the U. S. midterm elections.  The big political story for the past few months, of course, has been the Republican surge and the rise of the Tea Party.  One of the strategies of embattled Democratic candidates has been to frame the election as a contest between them and Bush.  After all, the Democrats decisively beat the Bush legacy in 2008, and they would love to fight that fight again.  But I wonder if they have picked the right enemy.

Like such Tea Party darlings as Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, George W. Bush was a died-in-the-wool conservative.  Throughout his political career, he pushed for lower taxes, less government regulation, strong defense, and other favorites of the political right.  Like Glenn Beck and many other social conservatives, furthermore, he was emotionally in tune with an evangelical Christian perspective on human life and social relationships.  At a Tea Party rally in Anchorage, Alaska, Mr. Beck recently confessed:  “If it weren’t for my wife and my faith, I don’t know if I would be alive today.”  As governor and president, George W. Bush often expressed the very same sentiment.

But Bush was really different, too.  In tone and sentiment, George W. Bush was less like the angry Republicans who are fighting to take over the House and Senate on November 2 and more like, well, President Obama.  Both Bush and Obama embrace an unabashedly redemptive narrative about life and about America.  Bush’s life story channels the well-known American story of second chances and personal recovery.  Obama tells the quintessentially American tale of upward mobility and liberation, the black boy who grew up to defy all the odds and become president.  In both narratives, the protagonist overcomes early suffering to reach the Promised Land in the end.  Both men project the theme of redemption onto America, though in different ways.  Bush wanted to restore small-town American goodness and spread democracy to the Iraqis.  Obama wants to catalyze human potential and improve Americans’ lives through progressive government.  Both appeal to the discourse of hope.

And what about the Tea Party?  It is difficult to generalize, but most conservative candidates who have won the backing of Tea Party activists in this election season do not seem to be telling a redemptive narrative about American life.  Their political rhetoric instead has a harder edge.  Let’s take the country back from the evil forces who ar

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24. Story Behind The Stats: Did Politicians Fail To Reach Teens?

Ed. Note: Among the most interesting findings in our latest Ypulse Research Report on Millennials and Politics was the intra-generational differences we saw in political outlooks between older and younger members of Gen Y. Both expressed... Read the rest of this post

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25. Rappers for the Rich

So the Republican blockade of bills that might actually help the middle class and the poor continues—all held hostage to the party’s demand that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires be extended. You have to hand it to Republicans, they know how to practice togetherness. Not one independent voice among them. Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, and Tweedle-Dee-Dum—the Boehner, McConnell-Cantor corporate rap trio – lead their faithful lackeys in their continuing assault on government for the American people. It’s nothing new. Ever since President Obama took office, Republicans have turned their backs on the people whom they were elected to represent and have instead refused to participate in governing. President Carter called their behavior “irresponsible” in an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm on Tuesday, November 30th. Along with raw sewage and flesh-eating microbes, Republicans are right up there with the most toxic elements in public life. Never before in my lifetime – and I’m a senior citizen – have I seen an entire political party work single-mindedly to bring down the country in order to bring down the President.

Congressional Republicans have become the most destructive force in American life. Their efforts to create more economic disaster to gain political advantage in the 2012 election displays disrespect for the Presidency and contempt for the American people, for democracy and for our Constitution. As if their actions hadn’t revealed their seditious strategy right out front, corporate rapper McConnell proclaimed the Republicans’ agenda baldly: “The single more important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he said in an interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett on October 29, 2010. Note: not a single word about the good of the country or the American people. Now McConnell has sent his ultimatum letter to Senator Harry Reid basically saying, “It’s our way or the highway.” In the ultimate display of arrogance and hypocrisy, the Boehner/McConnell/Cantor trio refused to extend unemployment benefits for the 2 million Americans whose benefits expired midnight December 1st. For the past two years, this gang of naysayers has voiced support for only one thing – tax cuts for the super rich. In case you don’t remember, these are the Bush tax cuts that raided the U.S. Treasury, squandering the budget surplus left by President Clinton and creating the largest redistribution of wealth from the middle class to millionaires in the nation’s history. No matter that extending these tax cuts will add $700 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. Well, you know, the country can afford a deficit that goes to “feeding” millionaires but not an $18 billion (the cost of extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed) deficit that goes to put food on the tables of people who’ve lost their jobs. Recall Rhett Butler’s line to Scarlet O’Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

It’s all so simple really – not all deficits are equal. Although the “party of No” proclaims cutting the deficit is the single most important thing that Congress must do, this deficit addition that will be created if Congress allows itself to be bullied into extending the millionaire tax cuts doesn’t count. Under a Democratic President, Republicans are for reducing the deficit; under a Republican President, they’re for racking it up. And rack it up, they did, creating the largest deficit in the history of all previous administrations put together. But that was THEN, you know, under the Bush/Cheney team of good ol’ corporate boys.

If the Tea Partiers, or anybody else who voted the new crop of Republicans in office, believes Republican propaganda about working for the American people, they should pay close attention to what Republicans have voted against during these past two years. Then decide what people Republicans are working to

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