China and its Discontents

Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ tag

“Who’s The Rich Guy? Obama, Romney Duel Over Status”

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I spurted out my coffee when I read that headline in this morning’s Playbook. As James Fallows notes, this is yet another example of false equivalence in the media. Yes, President Obama is by far better off than the vast majority of Americans. But who is wealthier? Mitt wins this no contest.

Written by Will

April 11th, 2012 at 10:06 pm

What’s Wrong with the Israel-Iran Nukes Story?

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The United States news media’s coverage of the possibility of Israel or the U.S. targeting Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program is not really about Iran; it is about us. Just as Herbert Gans noted that Vietnam was primarily a domestic news story in the 60’s and 70’s, the Iranian nuclear threat is also. (Gans, 37) Most recent news coverage has devolved into a few dominant narratives, representing different political factions. Different media outlets either report on or explicitly represent the factions, and they generally make arguments that have very little to do with the substantive evidence for or against the existence of Iran’s nuclear capability; rather, the news follows election year trends, the possibility of war as it relates to the Jewish population in the United States, and criticism of the political actors involved.

The first narrative, representing the contingent of neoconservatives who pushed for war with Iraq in 2003, also supports not only a limited tactical strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but even a large-scale war. This perspective mainly shows up as representing the policy positions of the GOP presidential candidates or as the author’s view in opinion pieces. And then there is the narrative told by the traditional news sources such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Most major news organizations were embarrassed by the general failure to “get it right” on Iraq a decade ago, when they almost uncritically accepted the administration’s arguments that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). This time around, mainstream news is slightly more cautious in tone, but it still rarely publishes explicitly foreign-centric stories or stories with a serious consideration of the evidence on both sides, for and against Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons. The mainstream media much prefers to focus on the domestic political situation. Finally, there is the more liberal coverage, which often focuses on politics or criticisms of the neoconservatives for being so blithe about war.

Before one can even approach these narratives, one thing is glaringly clear: the news does not focus on the fact that the U.S. Intelligence Community still stands by its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and that Iran continues to only enrich nuclear fuel, which could be used for a variety of peaceful purposes. This was reported on once in February by The New York Times, and scarcely appears in any of the related articles that I surveyed, either at the New York Times or at any other news organization. Much more common is the domestic political news story: “U.S. Backers of Israel Pressure Obama Over Policy on Iran.” This story is far more newsworthy. Why write about the intelligence community when you can report on Eric Cantor at the meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): “We must stop following mirages in the Middle East and start following through on this reality: our mission in the Middle East is to drive our stake in the sand with our values—to proclaim our values rather than apologize for them.” If the news chose to highlight Senate testimony by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper saying that Iran is not building the bomb, the media would kill the most profitable and long-lasting angle by which to view a possible war with Iran. Political squabbles can extend on forever. The story will never end—according to Paul Begala (writing in The Daily Beast), war with Iran is one of the GOP’s biggest strengths going into this election year.

One factor complicating Israel’s and the United States’ decision to strike is the two countries’ on-and-off-again relationship. And it has become “a complication” in this otherwise calculating story of whether to strike Iran precisely because the media has made it so. President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have notoriously not gotten along—it is mentioned in almost every newspaper article where the two are discussed in tandem. And they are supposed to disagree: President Obama comes from the center-left party in the United States while Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party is partnered in a coalition government with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist and ultra-conservative Yisrael Beiteinu Party. But instead of focusing on the conflict between two governments based on legitimate policy differences, the media casts this as an acrimonious personal dispute between the two men. Why cast this as a story of, “If Mr. Obama trusted Mr. Netanyahu more, he might issue a more muscular statement of military threat to Iran…And if Mr. Netanyahu trusted Mr. Obama more, he would be less jumpy over every statement of caution emerging from Washington,” as so many stories do? Surely the entire diplomatic decision-making process does not rely solely on a pop-psychology assessment of the two.

And when the media cannot play up “Bibi” and Obama’s disagreements, they focus on how the President and every other mainstream politician must remain unswervingly loyal to the state of Israel. One might think that these are two contradictory narratives. But this oath of support to Israel is apparently the sole metric by which Jewish Americans decide who to vote for. Obama, even after clashing with Netanyahu over military action against Iran and even after denouncing the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, cannot completely rebuke Israel (when push came to shove, he did not even follow-through with support of a UN resolution officially rebuking Israel for the “illegal” settlements). For the Republican Party, “fealty” to Israel is a solemn vow. For the Democratic Party, “fealty” to Israel is (mostly) a solemn vow. At this past week’s AIPAC meeting, President Obama assured the attendees that he is behind Israel every step of the way: “So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” In a blog post by Colum Lynch on, President Obama’s Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is quoted as putting it in even more emotionally charged terms, relating her memories “as a 14 year-old tourist where she floated in the Dead Sea,” of a visit with then Senator Barack Obama where she touched the “charred long remnants of the rockets that Hamas continues to fire at the brave unyielding citizens of Sderot,” and of her favorite psalm, “’Hinei ma’tov u’ma-nayim, shevet ach-im gam ya-chad’ — or ‘how good it is and how pleasant when we sit together in brotherhood.’” Rice went even so far as to say: “Last October, when the Syrian regime’s ambassador, speaking in the Security Council, had the temerity — the chutzpah — to accuse the United States and Israel of being parties to genocide, I led our delegation in walking out.” (Ital added) How is this any different than when Obama delivers a sermon in a Black church speaking Ebonics? What is surprising about this whole episode is not just that Susan Rice quoted psalms in Hebrew that have an almost comically transparent political effect and chose to sprinkle in some Yiddish to play up the schtick—it is that the blogger, Lynch, not only thought to make a whole post revolve around that schtick but also to entitle it, “Has Susan Rice found her cojones moment?” And this happens in the media all the time. Do politicians say these things because they think the AIPAC attendees and the American Jewish population will simply accept it uncritically, that it won’t sound like pandering? And do journalists dutifully report these speeches because they don’t know any better? Or do they not want to make a fuss over a common political trope, so they pass it along with a nudge and a wink? Or did Lynch write that post because he actually supports these theatrics, and didn’t stop to think that his title might be misogynistic? It is hard to accept the last conclusion, but it is probably the most correct (perhaps a combination of the latter two).

But some in the media have commented on the absurdity of AIPAC and the reversal of Israel’s “client state” dynamic with the United States. Israel, after all, receives nearly three billion dollars annually in foreign aid from the United States. Why does the U.S. President, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, and politicians of all political stripes have to speak in emotional terms of their undying loyalty to the state of Israel, when it is in fact Israel that needs us more than we need them? In his blog at The Atlantic’s website, James Fallows noted (speaking of the President’s AIPAC speech), “I can’t think of another situation where an American president, speaking to an American audience on American soil, would find it necessary or dignified to plead his bona fides in a similar way.”

And in the latest issue of Washington Monthly, Paul Pillar makes the same meta-argument that this paper is making—that the rhetoric surrounding a possible war with Iran is not aligned with the evidence: “Strip away the bellicosity and political rhetoric, and what one finds is not rigorous analysis but a mixture of fear, fanciful speculation, and crude stereotyping…we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another such war—almost purely because the acceptable range of opinion on Iran has narrowed and ossified around the ‘sensible’ idea that all options must be pursued to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The media is an intentional accomplice to political actors who want to sensationalize impending war with Iran. The media is interested in GOP conflict with the President over Israel and Iran because it is a better story, a more relatable story to the American public. The media cares about and politicians pander to the Jewish-American population because they are a substantial portion of their readership and electorate, respectively. But the media also forgets the essential truth behind any future war with Iran, as articulated by the President in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg: “[I]f people want to say about me that I have a profound preference for peace over war, that every time I order young men and women into a combat theater and then see the consequences on some of them, if they’re lucky enough to come back, that this weighs on me — I make no apologies for that. Because anybody who is sitting in my chair who isn’t mindful of the costs of war shouldn’t be here, because it’s serious business. These aren’t video games that we’re playing here.”

The Challenge for All of Us, Not Just Presidents

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A president needs empathy and emotional intelligence, so that he can prevail in political dealings with his own party and the opposition in Washington, and in face-to-face negotiations with foreign leaders, who otherwise will go away saying that this president is “weak” and that the country’s leadership role is suspect. He needs to be confident but not arrogant; open-minded but not a weather vane; resolute but still adaptable; historically minded but highly alert to the present; visionary but practical; personally disciplined but not a prig or martinet. He should be physically fit, disease-resistant, and capable of being fully alert at a moment’s notice when the phone rings at 3 a.m.—yet also able to sleep each night, despite unremitting tension and without chemical aids.

Ideally he would be self-aware enough that, in the center of a system that treats him as emperor-god, he could still recognize his own defects and try to offset them.

From James Fallow’s latest cover story on Obama in The Atlantic.

Written by Will

February 10th, 2012 at 8:16 am

Idealism/Realism Reconciled

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Ryan Lizza writes a great piece on the Obama doctrine for the New Yorker:

“The project of the first two years has been to effectively deal with the legacy issues that we inherited, particularly the Iraq war, the Afghan war, and the war against Al Qaeda, while rebalancing our resources and our posture in the world,” Benjamin Rhodes, one of Obama’s deputy national-security advisers, said. “If you were to boil it all down to a bumper sticker, it’s ‘Wind down these two wars, reëstablish American standing and leadership in the world, and focus on a broader set of priorities, from Asia and the global economy to a nuclear-nonproliferation regime.’ ”

Trying to figure out the correct balance between realism and idealism is hard. And this article (among many others), complains about the lack of an Obama ‘doctrine’ or ‘vision’. But I almost feel like Clinton and the NSC staff quoted are apologizing for not being more clear about that. They don’t need to – even if it turns out that the Obama ‘doctrine’ is some messy combination of idealism and realism that fully satisfies neither camp. This doesn’t have to be a flaw, and it definitely could be a virtue. We have a large array of philosophical systems in our policy ‘toolbox’, and we should consider using all of them as appropriate. This is, as Obama notes, non-ideological. And it’s also smart. Here’s what Obama could say to break through the clumsy rhetoric, or at least, what I would say:

“I believe in values, but I also believe we should pursue the best policies to advance those values. Both domestic and foreign policy represent shared national values that we hold as a country. Policy makes a moral statement. But invading a country to instigate regime change may not be best way to serve those values – if democracy protestors in a given country retain credibility in the eyes of the people when the US does not interfere, then we should not apply military force, and pursue other means of promoting our values. It’s a philosophy that espouses an idealistic vision while retaining the ability to tailor our policies situation by situation.”

There. Isn’t that simple?

Or maybe, its simplicity lies in acknowledging we must embrace complexity.

Written by Will

April 27th, 2011 at 4:06 am

Where are the David Stockmans in the White House?

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This op/ed in the New York Times written by Reagan’s OMB director and former Republican congressman David Stockman is the best piece of writing I have read about the deficit in the past year. And Stockman even manages to be bipartisan in his criticism of the various deficit plans! It’s common knowledge at this point that Rep. Ryan’s budget makes the deficit worse immediately by extending the Bush tax cuts and not doing anything with Medicare until the 2020’s; furthermore he focuses on cost-shifting and raising the burden on seniors and the poor and not on actually making the delivery of healthcare cheaper. But what Stockman reintroduces to the debate is that the Obama budget has its own problems – it is too timid and doesn’t call for any shared sacrifice from the middle class in the form of raised taxes.

This is the liberal argument we have been missing. But it’s also a realistic argument that states the obvious. The deficit debate has measurably shifted to the right – first, the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission was supposed to be the centrist plan, the compromise. Then the Republican Study Group’s budget was labeled conservative, the Ryan plan was labeled ‘serious’ and moderately conservative, and the Obama plan came out to the right of the Deficit Commission. Viola – a new middle, seriously shifted to the right.

There seems to be two methods of leading and bargaining in a political context – first, “The American President”-Michael Douglas style, where a leader articulates his preferred outcome, negotiates and compromises. Or, the second, where a leader releases a bargaining position that is designed to appeal to the other side, already compromised from the ideal. The President embraced the second tactic from the get-go, and he’s received a lot of flak from the Left and the media for doing so. Personally, I’m torn – I’m sure the success of tactic #1 is idealized, where the perfect outcome only exists in movies, like “The American President.” At the same time, I think the country needs presidential leadership with an aspirational vision. I don’t see that vision articulated in the Obama White House. I see: “We’re cutting less spending than the other guy.”

So does the White House need more David Stockmans in the White House – and a more liberal-sounding president? Do we need more people like Jared Bernstein, Biden’s economic advisor who just resigned to join the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities? I’d like to think so, if only because I still believe policy is ultimately an extension of the values we hold as a country. And would that mindset cause negotiations to grind to a halt, and lose on every priority the president has? Ideological conviction doesn’t seem to have stopped the Republicans from winning the debate.

Economic Populism Won’t Help Liu Xiaobo

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I was going to post this next week when it is in the Trinity Tripod, but it’s relevant right now.

UPDATE: It’s posted on the Trinity Tripod.

This month, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese democracy dissident and intellectual famous for negotiating the safe passage of the last few hundred students at Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989. He is currently in jail for drafting Charter 08, the most recent major call for democracy in China. The week before that in the U.S., the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impose tariffs on China because the Chinese government is artificially suppressing a rise in the value of the RMB; although the bill is inflammatory, it is unlikely to pass the Senate. And across the country, midterm election advertisements have blamed China as the final link in a chain of economic misery, stealing jobs from hardworking Americans and destroying our way of life. How are these events connected? While we might want Chinese democracy activists to prevail and the Chinese economy to come into balance with the rest of the world, we are actually shooting ourselves in the foot by playing to election-cycle populism.

A common word you hear around foreign policy circles in the Obama administration and the Clinton State Department is engagement. It basically means that the U.S. has a duty to stick to its core values, but that we can advance those values not by lecturing from a bully pulpit, but practically through a combination of defending our interests and appealing to the interests of other countries. This does not mean what political opponents of this administration want you to think it means. It does not mean that we are abandoning our values. It does not mean that we can’t strongly condemn human rights violations. But it does mean that instead of cultivating our national pride and vanity in throwing bombast at China, we’re more interested in results. We should in every circumstance call China out on its politically repressive policies. But its economic policies are different.

We need to stop demonizing Chinese economic policy because it will only lead to more Chinese intransigence. No government wants to be perceived as if it is beholden to the demands of another. This is essentially the application of behavioral psychology to international relations: do we ever want to be perceived as weak and submissive, buckling to the demands of a competitor? No! Political leaders want to project independence, primarily because their constituents want to feel as if they are collectively independent. Government behavior mirrors individual behavior because governments, even non-democratic governments, are at some level accountable to the people. We can better influence Chinese policy by negotiating, and gently manipulating the tug and pull of international diplomacy.

We also need to rid ourselves of some populist notions that say that if only the value of the RMB would rise, a flood of manufacturing jobs would return to American shores and our economic misery would be healed. The artificially low value of the RMB is a problem, but inflating the RMB is not the panacea that election ads make it out to be. It will not directly result in new factories in the Rustbelt – making China wealthier will encourage more Chinese to buy more foreign products generally, not just American products, and there will always be another country to which we can outsource jobs. Even at a doubling of the value of the RMB, the average Chinese factory worker’s salary would be pitifully low, still ripe for outsourcing jobs. Raising the value of the RMB will, however, correct systemic imbalances in the global economy. In order to better understand these imbalances, we need to look at the situation on both sides of the Pacific for the past ten years.

We need to recognize that the U.S. in the last decade has complied with the policy of a cheap Chinese currency – even benefited. Although China’s economic ascent has been rapid, it has not been as rapid as it could have been. In addition to artificially lowering the value of the RMB, the Chinese government has artificially raised the national savings rate. When a Chinese factory produces goods that are shipped to the United States, that factory gets paid in dollars. The proprietors of that factory must then exchange those dollars into RMB at the local bank to pay their costs. If we were looking at the situation in foreign countries, that bank would then invest its dollar reserves in whatever it thought to be most profitable. But under Chinese law, the dollars can’t go to the Chinese bank that exchanged them, but to the central bank, the People’s Bank of China.

Billions of dollars end up in PBOC coffers every day, and every day the PBOC parks the vast majority of its holdings in Treasury bonds, and to a lesser extent, stocks and other investments. This has an affect of improving the American standard of living – our stocks rise in value, bank holdings rise, those banks lend to the average middle-class family using a credit card and sitting on a subprime-mortgaged house, and they purchase more Chinese goods – all in a virtuous circle of consumption. But this policy, which has been tacitly affirmed by both Chinese and American governments, also has a dark side. First, it allows the U.S. government to spend more than it could ever possibly spend without raising taxes; second, it suppresses the living standards of the average Chinese worker.

We already know about the U.S. debt crisis. We’ve spent more and more on wars of folly, unpaid expansions of entitlements (in the form of Medicare Part D), and in addition to a sudden drop in tax revenue, a massive dose of counter-cyclical stimulus in response to the recession. This is compromising our ability to invest in the future and provide a stable platform for future economic growth. What we don’t know is that we’re also stymieing the average Chinese family’s advance in economic prosperity. Every day that the PBOC shuttles a billion dollars back into the U.S. economy is one more day that well-off Americans are borrowing a billion dollars from substantially poorer and worse-off Chinese. The money that has enabled an exploding deficit and a diseased consumer culture is also money that is not being spent in China on schools, infrastructure, and credit extended to Chinese families in the same way it has been extended to us. This is what the “trade imbalance” really means. The end of the imbalance won’t mean an instant economic stimulus in the U.S.; it will however make both countries substantially better off for the future. Why does all this matter for the Chinese democracy movement? China will be much more receptive to political reform when it is integrated into the world economy, not isolated; attuned to movements of global culture, not cut-off; and when individual citizens prosper, not mired in a low standard of living.

Fang Lizhi, a major Chinese democracy activist who fled to the U.S. after Tiananmen, recently wrote a New York Times op-ed claiming that Liu Xiaobo’s Peace Prize should disabuse us of the “dangerous notion” that “the autocratic rulers of China will alter their disregard of human rights just because the country is richer.” This, I believe, is not a fair representation of this view; subscribers to that view don’t believe that the Communist Party will change as a result of economic prosperity, but that individual Chinese will.

A higher standard of living for Chinese citizens will do several things: it will bring more Chinese out of poverty, and into education. This, in turn, will expose them to ideas not sanctioned by the government. Consider this: every major democracy movement in China has been instigated by Chinese students and intellectuals. The 1979 Democracy Wall movement was student-led; the 1989 Tiananmen protests were student-initiated, followed by the support of broad swaths of the Beijing population and people in cities across the country; Charter 08 was written and signed by intellectuals and prominent professionals. This pattern repeats itself over and again.

Rural farmers too, have engaged in protest, not generally for democracy, but against local corruption. When taxes in these rural areas are raised exorbitantly high (nearly wiping out their yearly income), farmers have organized opposition, and in some cases, made minimal reform. But this is not addressing the issue: an unaccountable bureaucracy and an illegitimate authoritarian government. At Tiananmen 21 years ago, the students found support in factory workers, doctors, teachers, and even employees of the Communist Party newspaper, but not rural farmers. Tiananmen was a minimal blip in the minds of most Chinese (if they knew about it at all). The voices for a democratic China must link arm in arm with the poor, rural farmers. Only when more farmers are lifted out of extreme poverty can they truly wipe out corruption. When this happens, the Communist Party will not be able to stop the transition to multi-party democracy.

The Communist Party no longer has a coherent value system upon which policy is based. When capitalism was slowly introduced in the 1980’s, the then party chairman Zhao Ziyang said that China was still in the first stage of socialism, and had to build up its productive forces for 100 years for socialism to be sustained. This was and is a façade. The party currently exists to preserve its own power.

Under Mao, China did have a value system, however violent and repressive. Because the Chinese people are now grasping for something to believe in, they ask – what does it mean to be Chinese? Is it just the pursuit of wealth and the technocratic application of utilitarian economic policy? Millions are turning to religion: Christianity, Buddhism, and traditional Confucian practices. But Chinese democracy activists have for thirty years offered something different. To be sure, the vast majority of Chinese know little of the movement and will have been blocked from hearing about Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize. But it is influential enough that the Communist Party feels threatened. As more and more Chinese rise out of poverty and into the halls of academia and professional life, more and more will desire a real, national set of values. The democracy movement must stand ready to offer that alternative to the newly well-off.

We’ve now come full-circle: we must stop demonizing Chinese economic policy because doing so will not change the situation, which will not solve our debt crisis nor raise the Chinese standard of living; the lack of such an increase in prosperity will ultimately further the repression of political reform in China and inhibit the advance of our interests and human rights globally. We can further our economic desires and the cause of democracy and human rights by taking a reasoned, practical course, and engaging with the Chinese, not cutting them off.

“The Poverty of Experience”

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Published in the Trinity Tripod.

Martin Peretz, of Harvard University and editor of the magazine The New Republic, recently wrote, “Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.” He added, “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”

A month ago protests sparked over the construction of a Muslim community center, the Cordoba House, several blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center. For two years, a vocal minority of Americans have posted on internet forums and passed on viral emails written loudly in all caps: “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA IS A MUSLIM!”

Each of these controversies stem from a stereotypical representation of Islam and its adherents – stereotypes that are bigoted because they aren’t true. From my travels in Xinjiang, China and living amongst Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims, I’ve found that bigoted beliefs can only arise out of a profound “poverty of experience.”

Last week I stayed for a few days in Hemu, a tiny village on the Kazakh, Russian, and Mongol borders. The natural scenery was beautiful, but more important to me were opportunities to speak with local Tuvans (a Mongolian tribe), Uyghurs, and Kazakhs. After spending an afternoon at a school cultural exchange, I learned that Kazakh teenagers are surprisingly good basketball players and admire Kobe Bryant. It’s probably because the basketball courts are the only fun thing in town.

After dinner with the family of the head schoolteacher, they taught us how to dance to the ethno-pop of Shahrizoda (three Uyghur girls who are all the rage in Xinjiang – their music is incessant). The dance was a traditional Kazakh line dance, and very similar to line dances in Texas. We were also served horse milk wine – think sake with a tinge of milk flavor.

The next night, we got to practice our newly-learned line-dancing skills at a dance party. In Hemu. Population: less than 2000.

After all that, how can I ever stereotype a population of one billion people – it’s futile!

I am an avid reader of James Fallows, correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, who in response to Mr. Peretz wrote, “The real secret of American inclusion through the generations is that when you grow up with, work with, live next to, intermarry with, and in all other ways get to know people from different categories, you have less patience for generalizations about ‘the blacks’ or ‘the Irish’ or ‘the Jews’ or ‘the gays’ or ‘trailer trash’ etc.”

When you come into contact with those unlike yourself and expose yourself to the alien, “poverty of experience” is erased; you cannot be bigoted, because what was once alien you now recognize as familiar.

Not everyone can make the trek to one of the most remote places on earth to learn this lesson – but Americans need not to. My “wealth of experience” includes not just getting to know Kazakh teenagers in Xinjiang, but also growing up and going to school in a racially and socio-economically diverse community. I am sure the Tuvans, Kazakhs, and Uyghurs I’ve met are well-represented by others in the states (not to mention Muslim and Arab cultural groups on this campus). If you have the opportunity to study abroad, it is the best choice you can make, but it is certainly not the only path out of bigotry in this country.

This Man is Insane

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“What if Obama is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his actions? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

— Newt Gingrich, quoted by the National Review, arguing that President Obama “is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works.”

From Political Wire.

Written by Will

September 13th, 2010 at 12:28 am

Obama’s Bad Analogy

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President Obama at a fundraiser for Patty Murray:

They spent almost a decade driving the economy into a ditch. I mean, think about it, if this — if the economy was a car and they drove it into the ditch. (Laughter.) And so me and Patty, and a bunch of others, we go down there and we put on our boots and we’re pushing and shoving. And it’s muddy and there are bugs and we’re sweating — (laughter) — and shoving, pushing hard. And they’re all standing there sipping Slurpees — (laughter) — and watching and — “you’re not pushing hard enough.” “That’s not the right way to push.” (Pretends to sip a Slurpee.) (Laughter and applause.)

So finally, finally, Patty and I and everybody, we finally get the car up on level ground. We’re about to go forward. And these guys come and tap us on the shoulder, and they say, “We want the keys back.” (Laughter.)

You can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. (Applause.) You don’t know how to drive. (Applause.) You can’t have them back. (Applause.) Can’t have them back. You can’t have them back. We are trying to go forward. We do not want to go backwards — into the ditch again.

You notice, when you want to move forward in your car, what do you do? You put your car in “D.” (Applause.) When you want to go backwards, you put it in “R” — (applause) — back into the ditch. Keep that in mind in November. (Applause.) That’s not a coincidence. (Laughter.)

And Ezra Klein’s response:

Maybe I’m just breathing too much of The Washington Post’s air, but that last bit bugs me. The driving analogy? Fine. It’s a colorful way of making a fair point about Republican mismanagement of the economy. But that bit about “D” and “R”? It doesn’t feel presidential. It’s more like the sort of joke that your liberal grandmother would forward you. It’s lame.

My instinctual reaction when I heard that was the same. Obama’s been using the driving analogy for a while, though.

Written by Will

August 18th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Senator Obama vs. President Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan

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Fair question, Senator Obama.

“At what point do we say: ‘Enough’?”

Written by Will

August 10th, 2010 at 9:55 pm