All posts filed under “Politics

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A couple of recent reads

I wanted to write about two books that I’ve read recently. The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin, and Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

The Nine: Nine.jpgInside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

I bought “The Nine” a number of months ago as I browsed in a Washington DC bookshop. I’m fascinated by the Supreme Court, though I have zero interest in becoming a lawyer. (While I don’t have any irrational hatred of lawyers at all, it’s just not work that suits me.)

This book goes into really interesting detail about all of the recent Supreme Court justices. They each have really interesting personalities and approaches to the law. The book does a great job of really rounding out their personalities, with both positive and negative elements. But a couple of justices just don’t come out looking so well… Thomas and Kennedy in particular. Kennedy seems to be quite a shallow person, and interested largely in his image. Thomas comes off as a man obsessed by his critics, and quite isolated professionally.

Strangely I found myself fascinated by David Souter. He’s a man who seems very defined by his home state of New Hampshire. A life-long bachelor who still lives on the family farm/homestead, doesn’t use a computer or the internet, writes with fountain pens, and allegedly never even plugged in his television! (He wasn’t in attendance for Chief Justice Rehnquist’s funeral simply because no one could get in touch with him in time.) But underneath those personality quirks, he comes across as deeply devoted to judicial principles and stability, so much so that he seriously contemplated resigning after the debacle of the Bush vs. Gore decision in 2000. His role in landmark decisions such as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey is explored in much more detail that I have seen elsewhere.

What I found most interesting in the book was the balance of power issues, and how various blocks of justices come together to hash out agreements on opinions, and the diplomatic tactics used within the Court to make that happen. It’s really fascinating, and could itself serve as an excellent study in organisational dynamics.

Unfortunately the core of this book ends around the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor. While it covers Samuel Alito and John Roberts, there’s little detail there as they had just gotten to the Court as the book was finished.

Overall, I highly recommend it!

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone

ImperialLife.jpgMost recently I read Imperial Life in the Emerald City. This book blew my mind! If you are at all interested in what the hell went wrong in the Iraq occupation, you MUST read this book. It’s only after this that I began to understand how many different ways the United States screwed up the aftermath of the original invasion.

This book details the year and a half or so at the end of the Iraq invasion and the beginning of the occupation; particularly the Coalition Provisional Authority. If the stories that the author tells were in a fiction book, it would be high black comedy. Unfortunately, they’re all true.

The crux of the problem that the author describes is an unyielding ideology. People weren’t selected because they would do an outstanding job; they were selected to go to Iraq because they had excellent Republican/neo-conservative principles. (Those that were extremely qualified but not reliably conservative were often prevented from these jobs.) This led to such things as a 24-year old recent university graduate (with no background in finance) being put in charge of getting Baghdad’s stock exchange up and running! WOW!

There are so many excellent vignettes of complete incompetence, but also of extreme competence trying to do their best in the environment of incompetence. It was a great read from beginning to end.

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There’s more to Obama than many people believe


I believe that Barack Obama is the best candidate to succeed George W. Bush as President of the United States. I wanted to highlight three recent articles on Barack that I found interesting. (Then again, it’s easy to find an article interesting when it shows “your” candidate in a positive light.)

Vanity Fair recently ran an article called Raising Obama, which discussed the important role that both his mother and his grandmother played in his life. Largely a background piece, it really focused on his family and his upbringing in Hawaii as well as the beginning of his political career.

Newsweek ran an article called Barack’s Rock, which discusses his wife Michelle and their relationship. She certainly seems like a strong woman herself, rising from a South Side of Chicago childhood to Princeton and Harvard Law School, only to be coaxed into community work through Barack.

While those are both interesting reads, there is one article that I found truly fascinating. It talks about Obama hopes to achieve through politics, and how his community organising has directly impacted his philosophy and the kind of campaign that he hopes to run. The kicker? It was written over ten years ago, as he was running for Illinois State Senate in 1995. Check it out on the Chicago Reader website here.

I think it is absolutely remarkable exactly how consistent Barack Obama has been in his political career, from when he first ran for office to his current run for the presidency. Certainly his scope has changed, but the philosophy is the same. In order to build a better life for our country and our society, we all need to become involved.

The popular criticism of Obama is that he’s just a great speaker, and hasn’t “done anything.” “All hat and no cattle.” That sort of thing. (Which ignores some very important legislative accomplishments both as a member of the Illinois State Senate and the US Senate, by the way.) These critics say that idealism won’t get the drug companies and insurance companies to give an inch on any health care bill.

I think there’s more to him here than many believe, and it can be shown in a short segment of a speech I found on YouTube. He speaks directly to how he will solve political problems as President; hope inspiring people to action, and that action overcoming tremendous opposition. Check it out here:

And with his recent winning streak, it looks more likely than ever that Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States. I can’t wait, and am counting down the days.

(Flickr photo by an agent)

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I’m supporting Obama in ’08

Ever since his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I’ve been a fan of Barack Obama. Even before that famous speech I had known about him, given the chaos and mess of the 2004 Illinois Senate election. He had won the Democratic nomination, a bit of a surprise if I remember right, and then became the obvious favorite once the Republican candidate dropped out of the race. (Even at that point, no Republican wanted to join the election halfway through, running against a charismatic Obama.)

I was excited to hear that he was interested in running for President, and even more excited when he actually announced his candidacy. From the news I read and the people I talked to, I thought he would do better than the media was predicting.

After Barack won Iowa and South Carolina, people have really started looking at him anew. Just in time for Super Tuesday!

I’m supporting Barack Obama for President in 2008. As an American that lives abroad, I don’t really get a chance to vote for him in the primary, but certainly look forward to voting for him in November. I’ve also put a poster-pic in the right sidebar of this blog.

If you haven’t already seen it, please play the video below. It’s the kind of video that could be a true phenomenon in this years’ election.

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And now… a message from Jimmy Carter

I Got What America Needs Right Here

The Onion

I Got What America Needs Right Here

Sometimes I’m a little stupid, maybe, a little slow in the head, so I’m wondering if you can help me get something straight….

My favourite quotes:

See, I got solutions to all your problems—I got ’em right here in my big, hairy ballsack.

But who comes to me, huh? F**king nobody. Why ask old Jimmy anything? What the f**k could he know about peace in the Middle East? It’s not like he f**king won the Nobel Peace Prize for that s**t. You myopic pricks. Back in ’79, I sat Sadat and Begin right down and made those two d**klicks shake hands.

You got a global warming problem? Boo-f**king-hoo! I was telling you morons to turn off your lights and unplug all your s**t at night to conserve energy in 19-f**kin’-75, for chrissake.