Obama as Literary Critic by Edward Mendelson [The New York Review of Books]
“Recently, while writing an essay on T.S. Eliot for The New York Review, I read or reread the work of many earlier critics, and was impressed most by two of them. One was Frank Kermode, who was ninety when he wrote, in 2010, one of his greatest essays, “Eliot and the Shudder,” [London Review of Books] a breathtakingly wide-ranging and sharply-focused piece about Eliot’s unique response to the common experience of shuddering. The other was a twenty-two-year-old college senior named Barack Obama, who wrote about Eliot in a letter to his girlfriend, Alexandra McNear, when she had been assigned to write a paper on The Waste Land for a college course.”[more inside]
President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation in Iowa. "It seems to me as if democracy is the logical, the inevitable consequence of this kind of religious humanism at its highest level. And it [applies] to everyone. It’s the human image. It’s not any loyalty or tradition or anything else; it’s being human that enlists the respect, the love of God being implied in it."
A nonviolent drug offender who was granted clemency after 22 years adjusts to life on the outside. "I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong." - President Obama [more inside]
President Obama will announce today that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is submitting his resignation. According to the New York Times, "The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ." [more inside]
Tomorrow night, President Obama will address the nation on steps he will be taking by executive action in an attempt to fix the immigration laws. [more inside]
Obama, DC Press Corps Locked In Mutual Loathing Pact. Mike Allen, of Politico, in his article Obama, The Puppet Master, said that Obama " has shut down interviews with many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions." John Cook (Gawker) replies: I will now tweet every question Politico's Mike Allen asked President George W. Bush during a May 2008 interview" (Screenshot) [more inside]
There's been a lot of talk in the US media about the "Fiscal Cliff" and the "Grand Bargain" What are they?
The "fiscal cliff" is a confluence of three legal changes taking effect Jan. 1: the expiration of a payroll-tax cut, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, and the advent of mandatory spending cuts known as "sequestration."Fiscal Cliff 101: 5 Basic Questions Answered. What's Happening: Fiscal Cliff Explained [more inside]
The ad is the work of two of the most fearsome players in Republican politics: Larry McCarthy, the producer behind the infamous Willie Horton commercial in 1988, and Crossroads GPS, the political battle squad founded by Karl Rove. Here it is.
"Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith. Or for that matter my citizenship." - President Obama
Handwritten 1961 memo in father's immigration file notes Obama born in Hawaii. "Documents obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service through a Freedom of Information Act request offer evidence that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. A memo dated Aug. 31, 1961 from William Wood of Immigration and Naturalization Services indicates that Barack Obama, Sr., was attending the University of Hawaii on a student visa and that a son, Barack Obama, II, was born in Honolulu on Aug, 8, 1961." [Image of Memo]
A Federal Judge in Virginia has ruled the mandate in the recently passed Affordable Health Care Act unconstitutional. This unlikely result means that the Supreme Court will be in the position to decide whether or not all or part of the health care reform remains intact. Some argue this development may reflect the success of broad-reaching Republican efforts in recent years to tilt the political alignment of the Federal judiciary. Others, naturally, disagree.
The Obama and Biden tax returns are already on line. The President and First Lady made a lot of money, and they also paid a lot in taxes, as well as donating generously to charity. The Vice President and his wife made a lot less, and apparently didn't keep track of all their cash donations. Here are the returns for the Obamas and the Bidens (pdf format). (P.S. -- Dick Cheney's reported income in office outstrips the President's.)
After sending strong signals by hiring just one clerk, Justice Stevens has officially announced his retirement. The retirement, which follows a very distinguished and lengthy tenure, is effective the end of the current U.S. Supreme Court term. President Obama now has his second chance to nominate to fill a vacancy left by a member of the Court's liberal wing. Among the most frequently mentioned possible candidates are Judge Diane Wood, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. [more inside]
Landmark health care reform legislation passes senate on a Christmas-eve party line vote. So after a turbulent and contentious legislative process with many sudden reversals and last minute surprises, what's actually in the bill? NPR offers a "Consumer's Guide" to the form the final, reconciled legislation now seems likeliest to take. [more inside]
Advance reports indicate 30,000 are headed to Afghanistan. In addition, President Obama is seeking a commitment of more troops from allies. The apparent broad plan is to make a short and intense deployment of some 40,000 troops against the Taliban, with pullout beginning in 2011. The most intense troop engagements are expected next year.
Health Insurance Reform Reality Check. The White House has just launched a new site to attempt to counter concerns arising from the various factual distortions, misrepresentations and wild-eyed fears that some participants in the ongoing health care reform debate have loudly been voicing lately. [more inside]
In his latest national security speech, President Obama unequivocally reaffirms his commitment to closing GITMO. President Obama's strong statements reaffirming his administration's commitment to cleaning up the legal and ethical mess the Bush administration left behind comes just after congressional Democrats recently saw fit to capitulate to the Republican minority by defunding President Obama's efforts to close GITMO, ostensibly to ensure that President Obama proceeds prudently and avoids setting the terrorists loose on America's strip malls. But others interpret these latest maneuvers from the "weak-kneed" congressional Dems as reflecting a sudden acute case of the political jitters, pointing out that, despite all the fearful talk of the imminent dangers of possible terrorists being held and tried on American soil, it's not as though we haven't done it before. [more inside]
In 2009, a remarkably gifted politician, confronting a remarkably difficult set of challenges, will have to learn to say "No we can't", Guantánamo will prove a moral minefield, economic recovery will be invisible to the naked eye, governments must prepare for the day they stop financial guarantees, we will judge our commitment to sustainability, scientists should research the causes of religion, we will all be potential online paparazzi, English will have more words than any other language (but it's meaningless), Afghanistan will see a surge of Western (read: American) troops, Iran will continue its nuclear quest while diplomacy lies in shambles, the sea floor is the new frontier, we should rethink aging, (non-)voters will continue to thwart the European project -- but cheap travel will continue to buoy it -- though it has some unfinished business to attend to, and a Nordic defence bond will blossom.
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]