Sunday, October 26, 2008

Portraits of Obama From His Past

This piece covers new territory for me, and I've read a lot about Obama. I really recommend the whole piece in the British paper, The Guardian, called Obama As We Knew Him...Man and Boy.

Some highlights:
  • Barry was the only one in the class who had bread in his lunch box - the rest of us had traditional Indonesian snacks. There's one called kepan - sticky rice and desiccated coconut which you have to dip in this very strong chilli sauce. It's hot even for us. But Barry was very curious. He tried it and burnt his mouth, and he was saying: 'It's hot, it's hot.' You can see he was always open to learning something new.
  • We'd sit on the sidestep of the library, where a radio would be playing Marvin Gaye and the Eagles, and have these great conversations about life. I recorded one for an English assignment. Rik asked what we thought 'time' was, and Barry replied: 'Time is just a collection of human experiences combined so that they make a long, flowing stream of thought.' He was 14 then, Rik was 16, I was 17, and Barry was definitely matching us.
  • I studied in a creative writing class with him. I remember him submitting a poem called 'Pop' (since published in the New Yorker). It was a penetrating portrait of his grandfather, in which his grandfather asked him what he was going to do with his life.
  • It's like Shakespeare's line: 'Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.' He was the guy who achieved greatness and it clearly took a lot of hard work to do that.
  • To take a break, we went to the coast. Coming back (from Mombasa to Nairobi) we travelled by bus. The driver was going so fast and I was so, so scared. Barack took it all in his stride. I, the Kenyan who should have been used to it, was furious at the driver. But Barack was just like: 'OK, this is the adventure that it is.' He came with this big baggage of tolerance and relaxedness and the ability to just absorb.
  • One of his preoccupations was being a novelist and he had taken the journalism job to facilitate that. He wrote a number of short stories about his experiences, other people's lives and their struggles. I read a couple and I thought they were pretty good. He's a wonderful writer by non-professional standards, but he knew he wasn't up with his heroes.
  • He was resilient and good at turning things around. Always, when things were going badly, Barack would stay up most of the night, trying to figure things out. And by the next day he'd be meeting people and we'd be trying an alternative strategy.
  • The fact that he wants to work for the community, that was his mum. The people's person side of him, that was his mum. Ann and Barry have 'fire', but in the case of Ann, it was tempered by her earthy, motherly nature, whereas with Barry, he's more 'air' and expresses his passion more through his intellect.
  • He had a combination of intellectual acumen, open-mindedness, resistance to stereotypical thinking and conventional presuppositions. He also had a willingness to change his mind when new evidence appeared, confidence in his own moral compass and a maturity that obviously came from some combination of his upbringing and earlier experience.
  • He had a charismatic quality and was very engaging. Other students gravitated towards him and liked him rather than envying him or wanting to compete with him.
  • He had a personal quality which was transcendent and I continued to feel that way about him each time we met. And the quality he demonstrated that I've always been left with more than any other is authenticity. There isn't a fibre of phoniness about this guy.
  • There was another player, Larry Walsh, a relatively conservative Democrat. Barack trumped his four of a kind with a higher four of a kind to take the pot and Walsh threw his cards down. 'Doggone it, Barack,' he said. 'If you were more liberal in your card playing and more conservative in your politics, we'd get along much better.'
  • As Republicans controlled the House it was a monumental task to get legislation passed. Barack could forge relations with others very well. He was very even-keeled, even when bullied on the Senate floor. It frustrated him, but he always kept his cool. His demeanour was: 'I'm going to explain this, I'm not going to get into a fist fight about this.'
  • Like all inquisitive, curious and interesting politicians, he is someone who can scan the horizons of many different issues and can find politics in cultural situations - the sadness of death, the experience of living in a developing country and what that means, or economic hardship in rural middle America. He is someone who has a strong emotional intelligence as well as a strong cognitive intelligence.

Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women

For me, this was the funniest segment on Saturday Night Live this weekend: 

And you can now buy a t-shirt too!. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Palin's Russian Fans Write Her a Love Song

This is hilarious - "I want to fly into your airspace"  The mispellings are cute.  The wonderful thing about the internet is how small it makes the world.   It's wonderful piece of fun.  Check it out (they look like pasty Brits! and are just about as funny).

Opie Endorses Obama (along with the Fonz and Sheriff Andy Taylor)

It's how far in the memory the gestures and inflections of these beloved characters are - Ron Howard as Opie and then Cunningham. The Fonz talking about Palin is priceless.  

Check it out: 

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Monday, October 20, 2008

Best Electoral College Analysis Out There

I just spent 3 hours looking for this web site. Shame on me for not bookmarking it, or posting this when I found it in September. IT IS GREAT.

Check it out: 3BlueDudes.

It's basically a summary of all the news sites' analysis of the electoral college. The page is very helpful to get a sense of where things stand in the Electoral College.

As of today - the average shows Obama at 313 and McCain at 166 and 59 electoral votes in toss up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lines from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence really resonate:

It opens:
TO see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

And concludes:

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born, 120
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie 125
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night; 130
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ryan Lizza on Joe Biden

In this week's New Yorker Ryan Lizza profiles Biden breifly.

Of interest to me were these excerpts -
not long after Biden ended his own Presidential campaign, Obama approached him to ask for his support in the remaining primaries. Biden is close to Bill and Hillary Clinton (she once told him, “I think you and Bill were separated at birth”), and he said that he would stay neutral until the nomination was settled. “If you win, I’ll do anything you ask me to do,” Biden told Obama. Obama replied, “Be careful, because I may ask you a lot.” They had another conversation in February, and Obama continued to cajole him. “The only question I have is not whether I want you in this Administration,” Obama told Biden. “It’s which job you’d like best.”During the primaries, which continued until June, Obama and Biden spoke about twice a week. “He’d call not so much to ask for advice as to bounce things off me,”
I like this, which demonstrates Obama's interest in pragmatism and how to get things done:
The conversation in Minneapolis ranged from foreign policy and possible appointments to the federal courts to the legislative strategy that would be needed to pass an Obama agenda. Obama wanted to know how Biden had managed his signature achievements—such as the 1994 crime bill, which added a hundred thousand federally funded police officers to city streets.
And then this (emphasis mine)
he official story behind Obama’s Vice-Presidential choice is that Obama was won over by Biden’s ability to get support from Republicans in the Senate. In Biden’s telling, Obama liked his sense of empathy, a trait that Obama shares, to judge by the finely sketched characters in “Dreams from My Father,” his 1995 memoir. Biden told me that Senator Mike Mansfield, of Montana—who persuaded him to stay in the Senate in 1973, when he was distraught over the deaths of his wife and child—taught him that, no matter how reprehensible another senator’s views, his job was to figure out what was good in that person, what voters back home saw in him. It may be a sentimental view of how senators treated each other in an earlier age, but Biden suggested to me that when he repeated that to Obama it helped to bring them closer—and he said that he and Obama would bring that approach to Washington.
And the reason Biden is long beloved by me:
As a longtime chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Biden was at the center of many of the hard-fought debates of the culture wars, and many conservatives still resent him for leading the fight against Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Bork, a strict constructionist, expressed his views freely, and Biden had little trouble using Bork’s past opinions to embarrass him.
This is also helpful:
By 2002, Biden’s brand of liberal interventionism was the consensus view among foreign-policy √©lites in the Democratic Party. During the 2002 Senate debate over the Iraq-war resolution, Biden occupied the political space between Bush Administration unilateralists and antiwar Democrats. He pressed for a resolution that would have allowed the President to use force only to disarm Iraq. (In the end, Biden’s proposal was undermined by Democrats who supported Bush’s version of the war resolution.)
Biden's Brief can be read in full here.

Why I Love Dancing With the Stars

Here is just one reason.  Last night's show featured the seven Vivancos brothers from Spain:  

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Howard Wolfson Declares Race Over

Wolfson writes:
Perpetually fretting Democrats will not want to accept it. The campaigns themselves can't afford to believe it. Many journalists know it but can't say it. And there will certainly be some twists and turns along the way. But take it to a well capitalized bank: Bill Ayers isn't going to save John McCain. The race is over.
He says Bill Ayers attacks won't work (I'm not so sure). Wolfson calls such attacks smallball. And concludes with the big picture:

Just as President Bush's failures in Iraq undermined his party's historic advantage on national security issues, the financial calamity has shown the ruinous implications of the Republican mania for deregulation and slavish devotion to totally unfettered markets.

Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over the proper role of government for a century. In 1980 voters sided with Ronald Reagan and Republicans that government had become too big and intrusive. Then the economy worked in the Republicans' favor. Today the pendulum has swung in our direction. Republican philosophies have been discredited by events. Voters understand this. This is a big election about big issues. McCain's smallball will not work. This race will not be decided by lipsticked pigs. And John McCain can not escape that reality. The only unknowns are the size of the margin and the breadth of the Democratic advantage in the next Congress.

We shall see. I'm not as confident.

Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Spots of Time

"One of my fascinations about my own life is that every now and then I see a thing that unravels as if an artist had made it. It has a beautiful design and shape and rhythm. I don't go as far as some of my friends, who think that their whole life has been one great design. When I look back on my life I don't see it as a design to an end. What I do see is that in my life there have been a fair number of moments which appear almost as if an artist had made them. Wordsworth, who affected me a great deal, had this theory about what he calls 'spots of time' that seem almost divinely shaped,"