erik lundegaard

Politics posts

Monday June 02, 2014

'Doctor, Always Do the Right Thing': Confidence Abroad in Obama

Lately, Peter Beinart of The Atlantic has been hearing Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and other Bush alums spout off about America's standing in the world: how we have “strained relations with allies” (Rove) and how “the perception around the world is increasingly negative” (Cheney).

Don't even get me started on The Economist.

So Beinart did the Nate Silver thing and crunched the numbers. In his piece, “Is the World Really Losing Faith in Obama?” he realizes ... they're not:

“Again, the numbers come from Pew, which has been asking people in key countries every year whether they have 'confidence' in America’s president to 'do the right thing in world affairs.' Obama’s popularity is down since 2009. Still, in Mexico and Argentina, the president’s 2013 numbers (the most recent we have) are 33 percentage points higher than Bush’s in 2008. In South Korea, the margin is 47 points. In Japan, it’s 45 points. In Brazil, it’s 52 points. In Britain, it’s 56 points. In France, it’s 70 points. In Germany, it’s 74 points.

”In case you’re reading quickly, 74 points isn’t Obama’s approval rating in Germany. It’s the gap between his approval rating and Bush’s. In George W.’s final year in office, 14 percent of Germans had faith that the president of the United States would do the right thing internationally. Last year, 88 percent did.“

I love that 74-point gap. In Rotten Tomatoes' terms, that's basically the difference between Adam Sandler's ”Blended“ (14%/Bush) and the new ”Captain America" (89%/Obama).

Obama abroad in 2008

Obama in Europe in 2008. He still has an 88% approval rating in Germany vs. just 14% for Bush.

Posted at 01:13 PM on Jun 02, 2014 in category Politics
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Friday May 09, 2014

The Worst Op-Ed?

I know. So many options.

But this one comes from The Economist, which is usually smarter, and it's the lead-in to their cover story: WHAT WOULD AMERICA FIGHT FOR? THE QUESTION HAUNTING ITS ALLIES.

My immediate thought upon seeing the cover line was: What wouldn't America fight for? Well, I guess genocide in Rwanda. But aluminum tubes? Send in the Marines.

The Op-Ed is worse. Bottom of the second graf:

But when America’s president speaks of due caution, the world hears reluctance—especially when it comes to the most basic issue for any superpower, its willingness to fight.

Immediate thought: How the fuck do you know what the world hears?

We get more of these vague lines: “Doubt has spread quickly ...” “Doubt feeds on itself ...” “For every leader deploring Mr. Putin's tactics, another is studying how to copy them.”

Evidence? Anything? Bueller? McFly?

Then we get this line more than halfway through:

The critics who pin all the blame on Mr Obama are wrong. ... the president has often made the right call: nobody thinks he should have sent troops to Crimea, despite the breaking of the 1994 agreement.

(TE: Doesn't this graf contradict the entire premise of the piece? Curious. — EL)

The art for the article, by the way, shows a grinning fox eyeing a lolling Uncle Sam, his shephard's staff on the ground beside him, while keeping a paw on a very, very scared sheep. The sheep's fur is dotted with the continents of the world.

The article also has a sidebar, titled “Unrivalled, for now,” in which the authors expound on the insane advantage the U.S. has in terms of military budget compared to everyone else. Key line: “China and Russia combined spend less than half what America does ...” And The Economist is worried why? Oh right, because it knows what the world hears.

Posted at 02:34 PM on May 09, 2014 in category Politics
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Sunday April 27, 2014

What's Your Favorite Conspiracy Theory from the Militia Members at the Bundy Ranch?

Cliven Bundy and American flag

Cliven Bundy believes in the American flag but not so much to the republic for which it stands.

Caty Enders of Esquire did the dirty work so we didn't have to: She hung out at the Bundy Ranch even as FOX News and Sean Hannity were skedaddling in the wake of the Cliven Bundy's racist comments last weekend. Read her piece, it's very, very unpleasant, particularly when Bundy starts talking about receiving word from God. Then take the poll below. Afterwards, we'll have a special screening of “Capricorn One.” Nah, we'll watch Stephen Colbert's masterful takedown on both Cliven Bundy and Sean Hannity, which is about the best thing I've seen on television in years. Also worthwhile: Slate's Amanda Marcotte on why Bundy is no welfare queen. No, he's much, much worse. 

Which Is Your Favorite Conspiracy Theory Out of the Bundy Ranch?

Show poll results

Posted at 10:55 AM on Apr 27, 2014 in category Politics
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Thursday March 20, 2014

North Carolina: Now with Less Tar, More Heels

In his profile of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “Holder v. Roberts,” the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin makes a pass through North Carolina and lets us know what's happened there since they elected a Republican governor, Pat McCrory, in 2012, and the GOP expanded its hold on both houses:

At that point, the Republicans went on a legislative tear, ending benefits for the long-term unemployed, declining the expansion of Medicaid offered by the Affordable Care Act, and cutting taxes and government spending, especially for education.

Then in the wake of Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the general assembly, led by Sen. Bob Rucho, passed House Bill 589, which Rick Hasen of the University of California at Irvine calls “the most sweeping anti-voter law in decades.” It includes:

  • the elimination of same-day registration
  • the elimination of a week  of early voting
  • the end of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds
  • the end of straight party ticket voting
  • the repeal of public finance provisions for elections
  • an increase in maximum campaign contributions
  • a strict voter I.D. requirement that excludes student and public employee I.D.s

It was signed into law last August.

The state motto of North Carolina is Esse quam videri: to be rather than to seem. So true. They no longer seem racist.

Posted at 02:40 PM on Mar 20, 2014 in category Politics
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Sunday February 23, 2014

'Henny Penny, When the Sky Fell' is Tamarian for ... ?

I've been meaning to create this image since I rewatched “No End in Sight” last year. Consider it a taste of the Errol Morris doc coming out this spring:

Henny Penny, When the Sky Fell

Ring a bell? In April 2003, when the press reported all the looting occurring in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn't think it important. He said, “Stuff happens.” He talked about seeing on TV news the same shot of a man stealing the same vase over and over again. He said, “Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?” The press corps, to its discredit, laughed along with him.

Rumsfeld also said, “And it was just Henny Penny, the sky is falling.”

Henny Penny is a compatriot of Chicken Little, the central figure in a folk tale about false hysteria over imminent doom. Rumsfeld was suggesting that the press, which tends to go negative, or at least sensational, was being hysterical about the looting. The world wasn't coming to an end. Things in Iraq weren't bad.

Except they were. Allowing the looting—of not only stores and buildings but national museums and archives—was the U.S.'s first toward losing the peace; toward losing, as we said in an earlier war, the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Watching “No End in Sight,” I guess I turned that phrase over in my head until it wound up in the past tense, where it sounded distinctly Tamarian. For the non-“Star Trek” geeks in the crowd, Tamarian is a language of metaphor where historical or mythological incidents mean everyday things. So “Sokath, his eyes uncovered” means understanding. “Temba, his arms wide,” means a gift. And “Shaka, when the walls fell,” means failure.

And “Henny Penny, when the sky fell”?

It means the opposite of Henny Penny. It means when an authority figure dismisses an imminent doom that is in fact about to occur. It means when an authority figure dismisses the evidence at hand for the storyline in their head.

It means the sky is about to fall.

Heckuva job, Rummy.

Posted at 06:57 AM on Feb 23, 2014 in category Politics
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