Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Barack's Third Grade Essay

There was this guy in my class at high school in Kathmandu, Shailesh. He was Nepali, but he had spent a few years in America. Maybe his father had been a diplomat. He came to school during the seventh grade. He spoke fluent English. The truth was he had been too young to have remembered his time in America. But all we cared was that he had spent time in America. He loved the attention. So he made things up. He told people he had met Ronald Reagan's daughter. Not true. He would make trips to the library to learn about America. And then he would boast those facts to us. America was this magic land, and we were all so impressed.

My specialty in US politics is the presidential level politics. When I first moved to NYC, some local activists I got to know thought I was kind of snotty for not taking more interest in the local races. As if I was too good to take interest. There was no presidential election anywhere in sight and that was the only level I was engrossed in. It did not go well. Normal people start at the city council level, then move on to city and state. National level comes last. Even at the national level, you first take interest in the Congress. To the onlookers I seemed intent on skipping all the early states of delirium.

The truth is when you grow up in a foreign country, that presidential level politics is the entry point.

So there is this third grade kid in Indonesia. I am guessing everyone in his class thought of him as an American first and foremost, and that included his teachers. He sure had a white mother that everyone knew about. So how do you respond to that intense attention? How do you play to the gallery?

You write an essay saying you want to be president. You succumb to the peer pressure.

If you are a smart kid, and the only American your kindergarten teacher knows, she just might like the idea of having a future president amidst her.

Or maybe I am off the mark and Hillary is right. Barack has been gunning for the job all along, though not always obvious even to him. If Hillary is right, how is Barack in the wrong? All that means is he has been preparing for long. In that case he does not lack experience.

Plus, it is not about Barack. It is about where America and the world happen to be at this juncture in history. He is needed now, not 10 years after.

Bill Clinton's kindergarten friends would tell each other, "Let's go watch Billie Clinton think!"

In The News

Time to Talk to Iran Washington Post Bringing Europeans together in support of serious sanctions was difficult before the NIE. Now it is impossible. ...... do the next administration a favor, by opening direct talks with Tehran. ...... Eventually, the United States will have to take the plunge, as it has with so many adversaries throughout its history. ....... Bush could even name a hard-nosed Democrat to lead the talks. ..... The talks should go beyond the nuclear issue and include Iran's support for terrorism, its harboring of al-Qaeda leaders, its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and its supplying of weapons to violent extremists in Iraq.
Democrats incredulous over Bush's account of Iran report CNN Biden says Bush "incompetent" if he didn't know about new assessment earlier ...... he said the new report, which found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003, will not change U.S. policy toward Iran. ..... "Are you telling me a president that's briefed every single morning, who's fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the U.S. government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in '03?" Biden asked in a conference call with reporters. "I refuse to believe that," he added. "If that's true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American history, and he's one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history." ........ Biden said Monday's report was an unpleasant echo of the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- a war that was launched based on mistaken conclusions about Iraq's weapons programs. ........ "It's hard to think of a more serious and more self-inflicted wound to our national security than this president continues to inflict," Biden said. ........ Obama, D-Illinois, told the same forum that Bush "continues to not let facts get in the way of his ideology." ....... "They should have stopped the saber rattling; should have never started it. And they need, now, to aggressively move on the diplomatic front," he said.
Poll: Huckabee gaining fast on Giuliani Newsday
Edwards Takes Step Back as Two Others Slug It Out
New York Times “I have to confess,” Mr. Edwards said, “when I was in third grade, I wanted to be two things. I wanted to be a cowboy, and I wanted to be Superman.” ........ “I’m going to respectfully decline to get involved in that fracas between the two of them,” Mr. Edwards said. ...... he is even farther back in the polls in other early primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. ..... acknowledged that his failure to move up in the polls was on his mind.
Hub biotech biggies launch new stem cell startup
Iran Hails US Report That It Ended Bid for Nuclear Arms New York Times “But I don’t see how it can be positive for people’s economic situation when it stresses that pressure and sanctions have worked.” .... Iranian authorities were surprised last week when Chinese state banks refused to lend money to Iranian businessmen.
Bush plans Middle East trip in January
USA Today
Google gets set for spectrum race
Verizon Wireless says its on board with Google's Android
San Francisco Chronicle
Authenticity is Romney's biggest hurdle, poll suggests
Los Angeles Times
Google Trends API coming soon
iPhone tops list of 2007 Google searches Reuters UK
News Corp. Unit Buys Beliefnet Web Site
Wall Street Journal paid in the tens of millions of dollars ..... Beliefnet, the most popular religion Web site in the U.S. ...... Beliefnet offers a wide range of content about religion and spirituality, including tips for lighting Hanukkah candles and interviews with Hindu spiritual leaders.
Dell authorized to buy back $10 billion in stock Reuters

The Humbling Of Eliot Spitzer The New Yorker once-in-a-lifetime effort to break the culture ........ the Albany press, the union leadership, the executive directors of the state agencies. “You teach people lessons and force people to do it a different way.” ...... politics is like a sporting contest: you go out, play hard, and shake hands when it’s over ...... ‘The Legislature is like your in-laws. You’re stuck with them.’ ....... Spitzer, furious, began paying recriminatory visits to the districts of some Democratic legislators who had voted with Silver (and who had supported Spitzer’s own campaign), questioning their integrity as well as their standing come primary time ......... almost irreparable harm to the relationship between the Governor and the Democrats in the Legislature ....... calling him a rich spoiled brat and a bully ...... calling attention to his own respect for decorum, “I could have called Bruno a senile piece of shit, but I never did.” ....... 1199 S.E.I.U., the giant health-care-workers union, which is a longtime kingmaker and one of the Senate Republicans’ major backers. (Big unions in bed with the Republicans? Only in New York, kids, only in New York.) ......... The union spent almost five million dollars—an extraordinary amount—on television advertisements attacking Spitzer ....... his poll numbers started to fall. ...... What is uncontested is that it has been devastating to Eliot Spitzer. ....... Dopp was put on unpaid leave (he has since gone to work at a lobbying firm), and Spitzer published a self-flagellating Op-Ed piece in the Times, “An Apology from Albany,” in which he said, “What members of my administration did was wrong—no ifs, ands or buts.” ....... entertaining report in the Post that Spitzer aides were holding secret meetings in black Town Cars, riding around the outskirts of Albany, to avoid using e-mail or the phone ........ “You will be arrested and brought to Albany. And there is not a goddam thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-shit son can do about it.” ....... showing off a Nixon tattoo between his shoulder blades ....... “It was shocking for two reasons,” Spitzer told me. “One, that they would do it. And, two, how bizarrely obvious they were in what they did.” ........ “Eliot’s gotten down in the mud with these guys, and they know how to fight in the mud. They’re not there because they’re nice guys. They’re there because they’re great tactical politicians.” ......... it rankled him that Spitzer declined to endorse him in the attorney general’s race until after the primary ...... “Of course. He’s my lawyer,” he said, with a mischievous grin. ...... “Yes, even the expletives are privileged” ....... Bruno .. He was wearing as fine a suit as I’d seen in Albany. ....... Every summer, Bruno, along with Senate colleagues and staffers, decamps to Saratoga, where he presides like a kind of feudal lord. ....... Bruno went on, “He is the biggest disappointment that I’ve had in thirty-one years of serving in political life, because I liked him on a personal level. He fooled me. And I’m pretty good with people, I have a good intuition with people. He fooled me, he hoodwinked me. And I’m embarrassed. He told me I was going to be his partner. . . . ‘We’re going to get all kinds of productive and constructive things done. Shelly Silver’s a problem; he’s not my kind of guy. I’ll deal with Shelly.’ ” Bruno, who called Silver “the biggest wimp on this earth” (Silver has adopted a sticks-and-stones approach to Bruno’s provocations), mentioned the series of bills that he had favored and that Spitzer had got passed. “Then what does he do? Now that he’s on a roll, suddenly he’s a hero, he worked miracles—what did he do? In my mind, his ego took over, his temperament took over, he started believing all his own press clips that he walked on water, that he was the savior of all mankind.” ........... He went crazy—screaming and shouting. ....... the town “a pinnacle of porkhead bossism” ...... one of the last American towns, outside the District of Columbia, where most of the men wear suits. It can feel like a city full of detectives and bodyguards ......... from January to June, when the Legislature is in session and the budget is in play, the political professionals take to the catacombs, a race of disingenuous horse-trading troglodytes haunting the fast-food pavilions. ......... Spitzer had gone on a kind of taunting tour of the members’ districts, where he delivered a PowerPoint presentation whose theme was “Where’s Waldo?” .......... “It’s been years since I’ve seen the kind of glee on the part of Republicans that we saw here yesterday.” ....... the actual substance of state governance (the policy) and the application of it (the politics) are numbing ....... all manner of fainthearted, small-minded, cynical, greedy transactions occur out of sight ......... what goes on north of the Bear Mountain Bridge stays north of the Bear Mountain Bridge ...... two legislators who got caught up in staffer sex scandals a few years ago ....... Wall Street, which furnishes up to twenty per cent of the state’s tax revenues ........ the importance of having a coherent message about what you stand for ....... “Albany’s acting how you would expect it to act: the organism is marshalling its antibodies,” he said. Of the Spitzer agenda, he added, “Is it a virus? It may be the cure.” ......... the operative word in bully pulpit is ‘pulpit.’ ..... Executive-branch history is strewn with lousy first years. ........ Michael Bloomberg, whose billionaire’s scorn for political ritual and collaborative capital in his first two years earned him abysmal public-approval ratings; Bill Clinton, whose ill-advised or poorly handled initiatives (gays in the military, health care) derailed his first-term agenda and handed Congress to the Republicans; and Teddy Roosevelt, another hard charger, whose confrontational ways as governor so infuriated the powers that be in New York that they had him drafted as President William McKinley’s running mate, just to get rid of him. ......... William Sulzer, a first-year governor from Manhattan, who, in 1913, was impeached and removed from office, after too zealously attacking the corrupt Tammany Hall Democratic machine. Like Spitzer, Sulzer said, “I am a fighter,” and tried to appeal directly to the voters, rather than to their representatives. ........... President Bush, who is very different from Spitzer in most ways—temperament, ideology, fluency, firepower— ........ power is absolutely necessary to fight the battles that must be fought. The trick is to fight these battles with humility and constant introspection, knowing that there is no monopoly on virtue ........ Lou Dobbs, on CNN, had been assailing Spitzer on a nightly basis. (“How about a spoiled rich-kid brat who is treating New York residents as if he thinks they’re his rich father’s tenants, instead of citizens? . . . He may be what he calls a steamroller, but I think he’s a weak-kneed, spineless steamroller.”) ........ county clerks around the state, the ones responsible for issuing driver’s licenses, were threatening civil disobedience ......... He hadn’t watched Lou Dobbs, but he’d seen some transcripts. “I ignore it. Honestly, I ignore it. If there was a serious intellectual response to him, I would think about it very deeply. .......... Spitzer is not an after-work-drink kind of guy. ....... an appearance on “Hardball,” where he had parried Chris Matthews’s barrage of moderately hostile license-debate recapitulations with generously uninterrupted on-message clarifications ........ He received a message on his BlackBerry ........ reform is a messy process ........ Editorial boards desperately want reform but yet desperately don’t want the discomfort of seeing people fighting. And so there is a sort of a schizophrenia. They see us fighting and they say, ‘Can’t you guys get along?’ Well, the answer is, you know, maybe not. .......... “None of this is personal to me. In other words, no matter what has been said, I like Joe Bruno. I mean, it’s a crazy thing for me to say. I was on the phone with him last week. We had a great chat. We had the most wonderful chat we’ve had in the years I’ve known him.” ......... Spitzer had taken to likening the job of governor to “three-dimensional chess.” ...... “I feel sometimes like I’m sinking into quicksand and subjected to the very significant—and sometimes appropriate—critiques of editorial pages about missteps, which I read, and, like any normal person, mutter under my breath and resent, but then take seriously. ......... George W. Bush, who infamously, at a 2004 press conference on the Iraq war, couldn’t think of any mistakes he’d made. .......... the “specialty media”—editors of Hispanic, Irish, Indian, and Chinese newspapers ........ “I had a tsunami coming from one side and a hurricane coming from the other, and it was not a healthy situation to be in.” ........ “The fact that I made those comments reflected that I was going through internal evaluations”—a rare acknowledgment of the existence of the unconscious. ....... Hillary Clinton’s equivocations on the subject of Spitzer’s plan, in the previous debate, had wounded her campaign. ......... That afternoon, Spitzer called Clinton to let her know his decision and flew down to Washington, in the state plane, to announce his retreat, on terms that might flatter him. He continued to defend the policy, on the merits, and then assailed the federal government for failing to act on immigration and also criticized his opponents for their hysterical rhetoric: “The consequence of this fearmongering is paralysis.” He had exhibited a new grasp of that old political talent: extracting oneself from an intractable position. That is, he had caved. ........ “The problem that people have attributed to me is one of hubris, arrogance, unwillingness to shift, listen, and respond. But I did it because we are responding. We are listening ........ A witness told the Post Spitzer had declared that if the Democrats took the State Senate legalizing gay marriage would be one of his highest priorities. Spitzer denied it ...... a gathering of Democratic assemblymen, whom he’d asked for another chance ........ “It’s like I am merely an object being moved, subject to poking, pushing, like an unknown in a science lab. Everyone’s trying to push at you, figure out ‘What is it?’ ” ......... “When I was a prosecutor, we had a much greater opportunity to reflect on every decision,” he had said earlier. “The pace of decision-making and the range of decision-making was slower. And much more under control. You are, by and large, the actor who determines pace, timing, substance, et cetera. You control the pace of the game. In this job, a great deal comes at you, and so you’re thrust into positions where you’re reacting. And just the scale, obviously, makes it more likely that you’re going to have decisions that go awry. “I don’t believe that at age forty-eight that you become, overnight, a transformed person,” he said. “But is there a different sense of how we have to work with folks? Yes.”
Hillary in attack mode as Obama takes lead the former First Lady said "Now the fun part starts," before launching into a character assassination of Mr Obama ...... "This is not a job you can learn about from a book." ....... mocked him for a lack of experience and over-reaching ambition. ...... who started running for president the day he arrived in the US Senate ....... "Senator Obama's relatives and friends say he has been talking about running for president for at least the last 15 years. ........ Much of her appeal to voters has been the aura of "inevitability" around her well-disciplined campaign, which has been engendered by her experience, command of the issues and eloquence. ..... her lack of personal rapport with voters means her support is much wider than it is deep. ....... an Obama win in Iowa could give him the momentum for victory in New Hampshire and other states that vote soon afterwards. ....... Bush has said that he misses being on the campaign trail for the presidency apart from the respiratory infection he said he caught from a reporter covering his 2000 campaign.
At Obama Event, Mum’s the Word for Student Who Asked Clinton Question New York Times There she was, standing a stone’s throw from Senator Barack Obama at a rally here tonight at Grinnell College. ....... As several students pointed her direction and she broke out laughing, Mr. Obama finally realized who was standing in his midst. “I didn’t know she was going to be here” ........ As he shook hands along the rope line, he paused to talk briefly with her. In a quiet voice, she asked about the trajectory of his political career. Leaning close, he said, “I lucked out”

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