Posted tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Mid-March Resolutions (Easier For Me Than Obama)

March 9, 2010

Snow Drops and Red Wine

This morning I saw snowdrops (honest-to-goodness clumps of little white flowers) blooming behind the iron fence that runs along the esplanade in Battery Park City.  (Flowers in public spaces seem to be kept behind bars in New York City, I guess, to keep them from becoming flowers in private spaces.)   The snowdrops, combined with what was really a glorious morning, made me worry that I was too harsh about the month of March in yesterday’s post.  I called it the cruelest month.

March really isn’t cruel; it’s just, you know, brusque, brutal (think Ides).

It’s all a matter of timing.  Even to the jaded, January feels like a new start; the year is fresh;  change seems genuinely possible.  (Sort of like Obama’s inauguration.)  But, hey, it’s just January.  You’re a little tired from Christmas (the election); you want to be kind to yourself (bipartisan),   and besides, you’re still working on getting the digits on your checks right (i.e. the collapsing banking system).  You feel like you can take a little time for the life changes.

Then February hits.  But, hey, it’s February.   Cold, grey, stormy (the continuing worrisome instability of the economy), and above all, short.  Nobody really expects you to make life changes in February.

And then, suddenly… it’s March.  Not just March, mid-March.  And suddenly, the year doesn’t feel so new any more.  The stores don’t even have half-priced calendars.   (The banks are doing okay, but now everyone worries about budget deficits, or uses them as political cover.)

In March, change feels very hard.   Obligation looms (i.e. taxes) (i.e.  budget deficits) and the scent of Spring in the air seem to bring up the repeating cycle of the season as much as “newness”.   That sense of cycle (another winter over, another year already mid-swing) feels more relentless than reviving.  (Can one have schadenfreude towards a season?  Can politicians let go of their schadenfreude for other politicians?)

For all of you feeling left behind by Spring, and by time itself, I have good news: first, a new and fairly extensive study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows that women who drink alcohol regularly, particularly red wine, are significantly less likely to gain weight and become obese than non-drinkers. Secondly, spending on cosmetic plastic surgery, such as breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and liposuction, dropped significantly last year.

One would like to think that the drop in spending on such cosmetic procedures was a result of people coming to their senses—hard economic times making them realize what was important in life—but the drop may simply mean that hard economic times gave people less money to spend.  This later view is unfortunately born out by the fact that spending on less expensive treatments, such as Botox injections, actually rose in 2009.

Nonetheless, nonetheless, both studies offer hope, at least to me.  At last, there are some health resolutions and fashions I should be able to adopt in the coming year (even beginning as late as mid-March)—(i) drinking more red wine, and (ii) not getting expensive cosmetic surgery.     Definitely doable.

I wish it were as easy for the President.

The Twilight Zone – Lessons Obama Might Learn From Stephanie Meyer

February 10, 2010

I’m still reacting to the news that Stephenie Meyer has sold over 45 million Twilight Saga books.  To put this into a bit of perspective, Barack Obama only got about 69 million votes when he was elected President in 2008. 

Granted, 69 million is substantially more than 45 million, and, of course, that 69 million only consisted of U.S. citizens.  (I believe Stephanie’s tally is worldwide.)   But, on the other hand, Obama’s voters were not paying more than $10 per shot. 

These figures have led me to think that if Obama is looking to “up his numbers”, he might consider some lessons in popularity from Stephenie Meyer, and her prime male Twilight character, Edward Cullen.

 (Note: these are not my lessons.  But popularity is, unfortunately, not my strong point.)    

Here are some I’ve gleaned: 

1.  Make the trappings of wealth–big house, fast car, great clothes–seem easily attainable;  do not gloat after these trappings yourself, but do not poohpooh the pleasure they give others.  

2.  Abolish speed limits.

3.    Make it very clear (a la Edward)  that you are subject to murderous rages which you hold back through iron (but imperfect) self-control.

4.  Always tell the American voter (we’re your Bella) that we’re beautiful.   (Even if we’re fat.) 

5.   Make us feel (a la Stephanie here) that magical thinking really does work, i.e. that if we truly want something, we will get it.  Yes, there may be a bit of dramatic bustle along the way, but no significant trade-offs, sacrifices, or even analysis, will be required.   (Sarah Palin seems to have mastered this one.)

6.    Keep it sweet.  Simple.   No big words.  

7.  Think about change, sure.  But use paradigms that are familiar, instantly understood.  (Don’t worry about inconsistencies.)

8.  Don’t worry too much about those that can’t keep up or get caught in the cross-fire.  Think of them as the tourists who are the victims of the Voluturi while Edward saves  Bella.   Yes, it’s too bad.   But hey, Edward and Bella are back together again.  

9.  If all else fails, hire Robert Pattinson.

What Obama Hasn’t Done

October 12, 2009

A host of hosts – commentators, TV newsmen, talk show operators, comedians, bloggers – have argued, especially in light of the  Nobel Peace Prize, that Obama has had no accomplishments; that there is nothing that can be said to have been done in his nearly nine months in office.

I agree that Obama’s campaign set up bloated expectations.  It was a political campaign.  But I am amazed that more people do not remember the circumstances of O’s election and inauguration, particularly the fact that the country was at the very epicenter (we hope) of the largest financial collapse since 1929.  In addition, Obama inherited two long-standing and intractable wars, a bruised and devalued national reputation, and an overextended military.

Some have argued (probably with accuracy) that the financial problems were a long time coming and should have been foreseen.  Yes.   However, if the financial collapse was so clearly foreseeable, it is unlikely that so many people and institutions would have lost the huge amount of  “value” (I hesitate to call it cash) that was lost.  It is certain that, during his campaign, Obama did not anticipate that so much of his early presidency, and so many of the country’s resources, would be spent on giving CPR to a gasping and nearly brain-dead U.S. financial system.

One of the fundamental precepts taught to emergency medical service providers is primum non nocere – “first do no harm.” (I always thought this was part of the Hippocratic Oath, but apparently the phrase there is “abstain from doing harm.”)  Given the emergency state existing when Obama came into office, I’m going to stick to the EMS version.

So in response to all the many people harping on O.’s lack of accomplishments, I’d like to point out, first, all the harm he hasn’t done.   (Given the potential for disaster at the time of his assumption of office, this alone is pretty amazing.)  Some specifics:

1.  Obama has not allowed a collapse of the U.S. banking system.

2.  He has not presided over the complete collapse of the U.S. financial markets.  (In fact, the stock market has been recovered remarkably well over the last few months.)

3. He has not entangled the country in an additional war.  (Some may think I’m setting the bar low here, but, given the fact that one of our current wars was begun during the first nine months of his predecessor’s administration, I think it’s a point worth making.)

4. He has not presided over a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.  (Frankly, I don’t believe that any president can completely safeguard the U.S. against such attacks.  However, it’s interesting that O. has received virtually no credit for the lack of attack, thus far, while the absence of a post-9/11 attack during Bush’s presidency was continually cited as proof of his keeping us safe.)

5.  He has not turned the U.S. into a communist or fascist country, or even tried to.  Civil liberties remain in force.

Obama – Peace Prize and Possibility – Now Keep Him Safe

October 9, 2009

Obama  wins the Nobel Peace Prize.  I am so happy for him, and so happy for the world.

Yes, it is early.  Yes, it’s hard to point to results.  But I’m not sure that those Peace Prize winners who are major political leaders (and not leaders of  more containable movements and organizations) can ever point to lasting results.   That’s one of the age-old problems of our world—the endless wars and rumors of wars.

The committee has even admitted that the award was given to Obama to support and encourage his efforts as well as to reward them.

But it’s ridiculous to say that awarding the prize to Obama somehow cheapens the prize or is undeserved.

The fact is that Obama, even by the act of getting himself elected (before he even became President),  has radically changed the international climate.  These changes were not just made in diplomatic relations but in the hearts and minds of billions of people.  A sense of possibility opened.  It’s clichéd, but still true.  All over the world—Arabs, Africans, Asians, Europeans, South Americans, even Americans themselves—were shown that what had seemed unthinkable in the not very distant past was not only thinkable, but actual, real, had happened.   A black man was elected as President of the United States!  A man with an African father, a unusual (some might say, strange) anthropologist mother, and a very strong very American black wife was elected President of the United States!  A man who’d made money, not in business or through his family, or (God forbid) in politics, but as a writer was elected President of the United States!   A man, with an international background and outlook,  who understood (even before a presidential briefing) the difference between Sunni and Shia, was elected President of the United States!

I say this not to minimize Obama’s efforts as President, but to point out that Obama’s accomplishment of  becoming President itself promoted a greater sense of the possibility of peace in the world, of the progress of justice and fair play, and, perhaps more critically, of the importance of the individual.  His election brought a sense that an individual could accomplish great things.

His election also almost immediately created a more benign image of the U.S. in the world;  (the country was suddenly seen more as earnest good guy than self-righteous bully, or at least as trying to be earnest, trying to be good.  I, for one, count that as a step forward on the road to peace.)

It’s true that since his election, it is easier to point to Obama’s efforts rather than accomplishments.  The types of accomplishments that he is trying for are beyond the achievement of one person (despite the importance of the individual!).   But he openly recognizes that these accomplishments demand the cooperation and agreement of other parties, and he is working hard.

I don’t think awards go to Obama’s head.  I think/hope he’s more balanced than that, and more realistic.  (He also has that strong wife I mentioned before.)   The only thing that worries me is whether this kind of lionization will attract even more enemies to him, more crazies with guns.  Here, I think all Americans, even those on the other side of the political camp, could work together to absolutely condemn the crazy-talk, the heedlessly violent terminology, and hope and pray that Obama, and all about him, are kept safe.