Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Clinton, Congo and Cooler Heads.

So, earlier today I was checking out the video of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton* momentarily losing her cool after being asked a question that she thought was about what “Mr. Clinton” thought about an international trade issue:

“”You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” she asked incredulously when the student raised a question about a multibillion-dollar Chinese loan offer to Congo.

“If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion,” she said. “I am not going to be channeling my husband.”.

No, it wasn’t an “outburst,” a “meltdown” or a “blow-up.” It was nowhere near a big deal** – unless, of course, you happened to be the extremely nervous Congolese student on the other end of Clinton’s withering response.

And given her background, her husband’s sometimes mettlesome ways and the relentless misogyny she’s faced over the years, Clinton’s initial exasperation at the question could certainly be understood.

But …

More than anything, that response almost perfectly crystallized the reason why I preferred Barack Obama to Clinton, McCain and any of the other contenders for the White House last year. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that very little separated Obama from Clinton in terms of agenda (if anything, I preferred Clinton’s more ambitious health care goals). There was also a moment when – very early in the primaries – I found myself wanting Obama to gracefully bow out so that the stronger Democratic candidate could win the nomination.

But when it came to diplomacy, it became apparent very early on that Obama had no peer in the presidential race. He hardly ever seemed to lose his cool. He almost always seemed willing to disarm his opponents with poise rather than pique.

Remember his deft touch when Jeremiah Wright nearly threatened to consume his campaign? Remember John McCain’s sneering performance in their debates, punctuated by the “That One” remark? Remember the moment we all – regrettably – came to know Joe the Plumber?

In retrospect, that impromptu confrontation had the potential to get ugly. It’s almost amazing that anyone could have bum rushed Obama like that in the streets, especially given the heightened security that he was supposedly outfitted with from the start. But Obama completely diffused the situation. He politely answered the questions, and sent the perturbed – and phony – plumber back on his way.

Most importantly, when it came to matters of foreign policy, Obama was wedded to the idea that engaging your enemies was best while Clinton and McCain seemed all too eager to embrace military force as a solution. Of course, Clinton and McCain called Obama “naive” while Obama countered that diplomacy was no sign of weakness.

Yes, at some point during the campaign, I decided that I would rather have the composed Obama representing our country’s interests abroad rather than someone given to “running hard right.” We saw what eight years of that brand of cowboy diplomacy did to our country’s rep around the globe.

Can you imagine President Obama dressing down an obviously jittery college kid? Even on his worst day? Right.

Then again, it’s definitely possible that I’m making too much of this.

I don’t think Clinton is an ugly American. I’m not out to do the dirty work of that The Corner can do so skillfully. I can understand why some might actually applaud her reaction. And I don’t want the true purpose of her visit to Congo to get lost because of the news media’s silly cycle.

But it’s nice to remember that, once upon a time, my instincts might have been right.

*I’m a sucker for using formal titles. Sorry if that seems awkward.

** Unless you’re referring to the presence of Dikembe Mutombo. That was really dope.


(x-posted)

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: The joke’s on who?

So where do we go from here? President Obama has been portrayed as a monkey, witch doctor, various types of pimps and now The Joker. Certainly, there’s more variations on this general theme.

But I really want to know, what’s the endgame? Is this supposed to advance some principled political opposition? Or merely “to get their country back”?:

As always (and a little earlier than usual), here’s your PostBourgie-approved weekend reading material:

To separate fact from fiction in the health care debate, let Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact help you wade through the misinformation. (Blackink)

Also, you think you have health insurance? You got another thing coming, homie. (G.D.)

Nate Silver crunched some numbers to see if the Hispanicness of a state made its Republican senator more or less likely to vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The results were inconclusive. But he did find a correlation between their votes and the way they were rated by the NRA. (G.D.)

Former Bush Administration official – and super hawk – John Bolton in a nutshell: “You know, you mentioned somebody who heavens, if President Obama walked on water, he would say he couldn’t swim.” Spot on, Hillary Clinton. (Blackink)

Well gosh. This piece on RaceWire on crowding in California prisons seems almost prescient, in light of the rioting that took place over the weekend in Chino. (Shani-o)

Let’s hope this piece on the spike in heroin arrests is a fake trend story. (quadmoniker)

Black-on-black violence: Someone named Dr. James Manning for Louisiana repeatedly refers to President Obama as “Mack Daddy,” claims that he’s “destroying the fabric of the nation” and predicts that there will be bloody riots in the streets. By comparison, Manning almost makes Glenn Beck seem reasonable. (Blackink)

Twitter had a rough week. Mashable recaps. (Shani-o)

On Broadsheet, a great article about the myth of girls not liking nice guys. (Belleisa)

Houston has nearly 2 million outstanding criminal warrants (worth $340 million), although most are for minor traffic infractions. Still, it’s overwhelming the courts and law enforcement agencies. (G.D.)

A gaggle of statistics to assuage parents’ fears that the world is too dangerous a place for their children. (Blackink)

Jezebel’s Megan posts a photo essay about Congolese women and girls who have survived rape (including brutal gang rapes that leave many dead) and the efforts made to help them; there’s a photo of a psychologist at a clinic that treats 300 rape victims every month. (Shani-o)

Once again, teenage girls and young women are vanishing from the dangerous streets of Ciudad Juarez. Authorities count at least two dozen in the last year and a half. The disappearances recall the killings of hundreds of women that made this industrial Mexican border town of 1.5 million infamous a decade ago. (Blackink)

In a fascinating guest post at Feministe, Plain(s)Feminist writes about “Feminist Mothering,” a broader take on the ‘othermothering’ that goes on in black communities. (Shani-o)

With the NFL season set to kickoff again, Jay Adler gives us another reason to root against the Redskins. And I’m not talking about Daniel Snyder. Adler: “Team names, statistical records, stadium rituals are all part of the mythic regalia of an athletic Valhalla. You want to disrupt all that for – the Indians?” (Blackink)

A 13-year-old girl arrested for shoplifting in Dallas spent two weeks in an adult jail before anyone noticed. (G.D.)

Slate offers a rather puzzling essay about the rise of “no homo” and “the changing face of hip-hop homophobia.” Can’t it just be that “no homo” is hip hop’s version of “not that there’s anything wrong with that”? Apparently not. Also, Jonah Weiner briefly touches on that old boogeyman (no homo), the down-low brother. Weiner: “Saying ‘no homo’ might have started as a way for rappers to acknowledge and distance themselves from the down-low phenomenon.” Sigh. (Blackink)

Florida led the nation in attacks on the homeless for the fourth-straight year. (G.D.)

A cautionary tale about unregulated growth: Florida’s Lehigh Acres. “When the real estate bubble burst nationwide, Lehigh was decimated. Property values dropped nearly 50 percent this year, on top of a 25 percent decline a year ago. About one in three homes are in some stage of foreclosure. Town boosters put the population at 70,000 permanent residents, but a recent University of Florida study estimated 55,000. That’s less than 1 person per acre, in a space the size of Orlando.” (Blackink)

The extremely awesome Muslimah Media Watch posts a piece on Princess Moroccan Barbie, and various independent spin-offs, and whether the Muslim dolls are sign of rejecting Western norms or embracing them. (The author also hints at the fact that while these Muslim dolls come in slightly different “colors,” they all have similar features, and presumably, don’t represent Muslim women of African descent). (Shani-o)

Doubling down on its previous criticism of so-called reparative therapy, the American Psychological Association announced last week that therapists should refrain from telling gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments. (Blackink)

Given his platform and willingness to tackle substantive issues, Bob Herbert of the New York Times should probably wield more influence. Why do so many people ignore him? T.A. Frank offers this suggestion: “Poor people plus statistics equals boring—we’ve got the science to prove it.” But is he really boring? (Blackink)

Speaking of Herbert, his latest column claiming that our society is saturated with misogyny was discussed with a pro slant on Jezebel and definitive con on DoubleX (reasoning I think is shallow and poorly done). (Belleisa)

In case you hadn’t noticed, Forbes really likes lists. This one is about the best colleges in the U.S., and places West Point in the top spot. Rounding out the top five are Princeton, Cal Tech, Williams College and Harvard. (Blackink)

Fans of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger have been leaving threatening phone calls to the woman who accused him of rape. (G.D.)

More on Roethlisberger: His accuser allegedly bragged about having sex with him and also claimed that she hoped to have a “little Roethlisberger.” (Blackink)

This was sad but sorta predictable: Texas Rangers All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton, who almost miraculously overcame a drug and alcohol addiction to reclaim his career, suffered a relapse several months ago. Hopefully, Hamilton can overcome what he says was a brief setback. (Blackink)

And finally, the most reviled of all NFL quarterbacks: Michael Vick. There’s apparently some building faux outrage about him hanging out with Young Jeezy and using the word “nigger.” I fail to see the problem, other than him possibly deepening the concerns some might have about his judgment. But those some are the sort whom would not be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt anyway. (Blackink)

Until the next time, rock on.

Game Theory.

Maybe you have heard that rappers Jay-Z and The Game are involved in a dispute of sorts. Maybe you have heard that The Game said some rather unkind things about Jay-Z’s pop star wife, Beyonce. And maybe, over the years, you have grown weary of hearing about any and all hip-hop beefs.

But have you thought about the implications of a response from Jay-Z, the so-called “closest thing to a hegemon which the rap world has known for a long time,” in terms of an international relations perspective? More…

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: Never Can Say Goodbye.

Don Cornelius would like a word with you. Don’t make any dinner plans.
In the meantime, your Post-Bourgie-approved reading material from the weekend:

1. Of course, homage must be paid to the King of Pop. But we will try to spare you from the overkill. Check out some really good write-ups here, here, here, here, here and here in particular. From Kiese: “The greatest American worker of our time, a curious little black boy from Gary who felt compelled to work in white face while changing the way music and masculinity sound and look, died today. Michael Jackson will never work for us again.”

2. A former member of Jackson’s entourage says MJ predicted his death six months ago. He also claims that Jackson was suicidal, possibly anorexic and secretly gay. Take from this piece what you will.

3. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier today overturned one of Sonia Sotomayor’s most controversial rulings, siding with a group of white firefighters in a 5-4 decision on Ricci v. DeStefano. The Ricci case has provided plenty of fodder for conservative opponents of Sotomayor’s nomination to the High Court. That opposition figures to gain more steam in the coming days. Here’s some instant analysis from Adam Serwer and the crew at Slate.

4. With the slow death of the U.S. auto industry and the steady – but sure – decline of Detroit, Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times considers what will become of the black middle-class. “We’ve been hearing this phrase — “the death of Detroit” — for years now, but this is what it’s going to look like, how it’s going to play out. There’s a perverse paradox here, one that I was reminded of every time I met a black autoworker in an Obama T-shirt or with an Obama bumper sticker adorning his or her car. We have just elected our first African-American president, and yet, at the same moment, a city and industry that together played a central role in the rise of the black middle class … is being destroyed.”

5. Potraits of instability: Foreign Policy offers some grim images from some of the world’s most fragile countries.

6. The mystery of who revealed those steamy yet strangely un-erotic e-mail messages between embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and his Argentine mistress has been solved: it was one of the woman’s former lovers.

7. On the same topic, Amanda Marcotte has an interesting theory about why Sanford would be willing to take such a tremendous personal and professional gamble: “But the whole right wing Christian culture discourages those things that might inflame passion … If you never feel that sort of passion and suddenly it enters your life in middle age, what would you do? You’d probably freak the fuck out, I’d guess. Your entire worldview would change. You’d babble about how much in love you are during a press conference.”

8. In case you missed it Friday, the five remaining defendants in the Jena 6 case all pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. They also settled a civil suit with the family of the schoolmate they were accused of attacking in a school fight in December 2006. So, for all intents and purposes, the case is finally over and move along and there’s nothing to see here. For a little more background, check out this story from 2007.

9. Hoping to bypass Congress, The White House is drafting an executive order that would allow for indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charges. Sigh. The more things change … yada yada yada. Glenn Greenwald does the business here.

10. The Stimulist’s argument for lowering the drinking age.

11. Remembering Stonewall.

12. Whither the end of “superdelegate“?

13. Steamy vamps, murder, passion and sex. If you were a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and True Blood makes you a slave to the idiot box on Sunday nights, you’ll appreciate this piece by Laura Miller on the genre known as Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance. It’s a cultural study of the some of the popular heroines pre- and post-Buffy. Here’s a taste: “In your 20s (the age of most urban fantasy heroines), love and sex can seem like a powerful magnetic field, distorting your perceptions of yourself and other people. If you succumb, will you be surrendering control over your own destiny, which is still coming into focus? It’s a question with particular relevance to young women, and the mesmeric power of vampires and other supernatural lovers in urban fantasies speaks to the fear of losing your bearings should you fall under the spell of an especially irresistible suitor.”

14. The NYT provides an interactive map of all NYC’s homicides from 2003 to 2006, which you can view by race, age, sex and time of day.

15. Is there really a John Edwards sex tape? Jeebus.

16. In Vibe‘s voter-fueled “The Best Rapper Ever” contest, it’s defending champ Eminem against 2Pac. They’re both wrong.

17. On a somewhat related note, GOP National Committee Chairman and noted hip-hop fan Michael Steele tells a crowd in Detroit to “don’t write the Republican Party off.” Reaction was, uh, mixed. One panelist: “Michael Jackson is dead. God rest his soul. I am not going to be the Michael Jackson of the Republican Party. You will not use me until I am dead.”

18. The one industry lobbying to pay more taxes: licensed brothels in Nevada.

19. Why Mitt Romney is a lot like former NBA draft bust Michael Olowakandi.

20. Speaking of the NBA and the draft, Milwaukee Bucks draftee Brandon Jennings is off to a rocky start. And Joe Budden is involved. Bethlehem Shoals, as always, makes a spirited – and thoughtful – defense.

21. Meesh does the hula.

Sorry for the delay. Blame it on the boogie. Or Joe Jackson:

But really: what the hell was wrong with BET last night?

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: The Failure of Marriage.

Did you know that some Republicans, like Sen. John McCain for instance, are unhappy with President Obama and his leftist agenda? News at 11!

Your PostBourgie-approved reading material from the weekend:


1. In her exhausting and depressing essay in this month’s edition of The Atlantic, author Sandra Tsing Loh makes a compelling case that the American ideal of a lifelong, monogamous marriage is obsolete. She closes with a mighty thunder clap: “In any case, here’s my final piece of advice: avoid marriage—or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love.” It is here that I should mention that Loh is divorcing her husband of the past 20 years.

2. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that convicts do not have a constitutional right to evidence to test it for DNA testing to prove their innocence. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog writes that “while the decision appeared to be focused on whether such a right of access exists after a criminal conviction has become final… the language used by the Court majority made it appear that the sweep of the decision may turn out to be considerably broader.” Glenn Greenwald points out that the decision has raised the ire of many liberal bloggers, and notes that it’s another example in which Obama’s Justice department adopted the position of the previous administration.

3. The Obama administration, which has (rightly) taken a lot of shit for the way it’s handled a bunch of Defense of Marriage Act cases, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and other LGBTQ issues, has organized a meeting with several prominent gay rights groups to help repair some of the damage and figure out a way forward.

4. Against all odds – really, almost all of them – a homeless girl from Los Angeles has earned her way into Harvard. “I was so proud of being smart I never wanted people to say, ‘You got the easy way out because you’re homeless,’ ” she said. “I never saw it as an excuse.” No doubt, Pat Buchanan feels she has denied some white guy of his rightful place in the freshman class.

5. President Obama has issued a cautious statement on the protests in Iran. “Martin Luther King once said – ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.”

6. Stephen Walt at Foreign Policy (via ObWi) has some ideas on how raising kids is a lot like international relations: “Most of us love our children deeply, which puts real limits on the amount of punishment we are willing to inflict. Total war just isn’t an option, and the ability to use force is limited, so we’re stuck with coercive diplomacy. And kids quickly figure out which threats are credible and which are not, and they are geniuses at probing the limits of our resolve.”

7. How does Mayor Brad Pitt sound to you? The idea has taken hold with at least a couple of New Orleans residents.

8. Eliot Spitzer gets very candid with Vanity Fair over some hot dogs and a stroll in the park.

9. “I’m not a sideshow. I’m not a freak show,” (Jonathan) Krohn exclaims, pointing his finger, nearly shouting. “I am an intellectual force! Newt Gingrich said that.” Ladies and gentleman, meet the 14-year-old future of the GOP.

10. It would be wonderful if people could play nice and decent, and not go out of their way to offend American Indians. Are you listening, good people of Stockton Springs, Maine?

11. From KateHarding.net, a blog on the “fatosphere” called Shapely Prose that dispels fat stereotypes and catalogs the effects of pop-culture on women from a very funny, blunt and feminist perspective. Check out this article on the lack of fat heroines in romance novels. Also, check on the BMI slide show here.

12. Arturo Garcia at Racialicious is not a fan of the nation’s No. 1 movie. “What I cannot abide is brainless humor. And so, when I tell you that The Hangover is celluloid excrement, I don’t say it lightly.” For what it’s worth, I saw the movie Saturday night and thought it was pretty funny. But very overrated. Also, Racialicious has come up with a list of acceptable white guys for black female performers seeking love or lust or both. In a bit of an upset, Bill Maher doesn’t make the list. But I might quibble with the inclusion of aspiring mayor Brad Pitt because, hey, who hasn’t dated Robin Givens?

13. Newly released FBI documents explicitly (heh) detail how the agency tried – and failed – to stop the 1972 release of classic porno movie,”Deep Throat.”

14. Deconstructing Kobe. Money quote here: “By any measure Kobe just put up a grade A finals for the ages — even if it’s compared to the Basketball Prototype.” That would be Jordan.

15. Speaking of the Lakers, proceeds of the sale of Phil Jackon’s “X” hat, in commemoration of his record 10 NBA championship rings, will go to the American Indian Scholarship Fund.

16. Former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar is an absolute mess.

17. There’s so much wrong with this story: a Corpus Christi, Texas, strip club is suing a 14-year-old girl that it hired as an exotic dancer.

18. And to make up for all that divorce unpleasantness earlier, let’s talk about love:

And for the first time since we made the round-up a regular feature, I actually had trouble narrowing down the list of submissions. Thanks to everyone that made a contribution.

About Citizenship.

newtgingrichTa-Nehisi’s (predictably) insightful post about the Letter From Birmingham Jail and the conservative relationship with black Americans got me thinking about something else from the letter. This excerpt, in particular:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Now, compare that to this recent gem from Newt Gingrich:

Let me be clear. I am not a citizen of the world! I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous. There is no world sovereignty. There is no world system of law. There is in fact no circumstance under which I would like to be a citizen of North Korea, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba, or Russia. I am a citizen -I am a citizen of the United States of America, and the rest of this speech is about the United States of America.

Gingrich, his boastful tribalism and the round of applause that greeted that pronouncement gives us some insight into why some people consider “empathy” a character flaw rather than a sign of character.

That anyone could take pride in being an isolationist, in a time when our world is getting smaller and more interconnected than ever, says less than something about him and the people that give him a megaphone.

It is the mark of a sociopath, and it has no place in our global community. Indeed, the very idea of being an anti-citizen is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous. Even Reagan would agree.

But if Gingrich doesn’t want to be a citizen of the world, fine. He can’t stop the rotation of the Earth, or the passing of time. He will accept citizenship, or he will be left behind – if it hasn’t happened already.

To borrow a line from Italian (egads! a foreigner!) poet Antonio Porchia, “Man goes nowhere. Everything comes to man, like tomorrow.”

(x-posted from False Hustle)

Dogwhistles and Handshakes.

CNBC’s Larry Kudlow thinks that President Obama and Hugo Chavez shared a “Boyz N the Hood”-style handshake.

But not really. I actually thought it looked more like this.

I really can’t wait until someone blacks out in front of the cameras and microphones and calls Obama a nigger. Or nigra, at the least.

Post-script: Matt Yglesias, who dubbed Obama’s greeting of Chavez “the handshake of doom,” brings some heat and light to the discussion about U.S. policy toward post-Cold War Latin America.

x-posted here.