Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Crisis and recovery: The Dow Jones Industrials

From MSN Money, September 2008

This is a screen capture of an MSN multimedia feature for which I did the research and a bulk of the writing. See the full feature here.

My bad, actually Africa’s doing just fine

from Duff Does Africa, 8/21/08

In today’s New York Times, Roger Cohen bubbles over with optimism about Africa’s current situation and prospects. Apparently Cohen just came back from Ghana, one of a small handful of African nations with relatively decent governments, and he’s extrapolated Ghana’s modest success onto the rest of the continent.

Unfortunately, Cohen’s rosy view of Africa’s current state is deluded. “Vodaphone had bought a majority stake in Ghana Telecom for $900 million…and I’d heard much about 6 percent annual growth, spreading broadband, and new high-end cacao ventures,” Cohen reports. “I don’t think that picture is exceptional these days for Africa, where growth averaged close to 6 percent last year.” What Cohen fails to take into account is that a lot of that 6% growth is fueled by opportunistic Chinese and Russian companies who strip mine and destroy the local environment, or companies like Firestone, which has been operating a virtual slave labor camp in Liberia. Moreover, no matter where the cash flow comes from, the amount that touches Africa’s poorest citizens amounts to less than a trickle. Most of Africa’s pseudo-democracies still operate on old patronage networks, in which profits go to friends and political networks, not roads and schools.

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Change Some Can Believe In?

From the Playboy Blog, July 3, 2008

As a longtime Obama fan, I’ve been preparing for the excruciating anxiety of poll-watching in the months leading up to November’s election. What I wasn’t prepared for was the pain of seeing Obama bend to conservative interests as he attempts to woo independents and moderate Republicans. When I read yesterday’s New York Times headline, “Obama Wants To Expand Role of Religious Groups,” my liberal conscience wanted to reach for an ice pack.

But wait. As it turns out, the Times headline—in fact, the entire article—was misleading. It implied throughout that Obama simply plans to continue and expand President Bush’s White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives (WHOFBI). Barely allowed in a criminal 5-4 Supreme Court decision, the WHOFBI directs federal money to help faith-based—and only faith-based—charities apply for federal grant money, giving religious groups an automatic advantage over secular ones. Obama’s plan, the President’s Council for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, actually rights Bush’s wrongs. It opens funds to secular community groups as well as religious ones and requires rigorous monitoring to ensure that federally funded charities do not proselytize or discriminate when they hire staff.

Why didn’t the Times mention this radical difference, which makes Obama’s policy, unlike Bush’s, constitutional? Continue reading

We’re Number…Huh?

The sidebar to the Playboy Interview with Fareed Zakaria in the May 2008 issue.

Playbill, May 2008

from the contributor page of Playboy Magazine, May 2008

This month’s Playboy Interview with Fareed Zakaria began at a New York restaurant. But long after that first meeting, Contributing Editor and author of Beautiful Boy David Sheff just couldn’t stop telephoning the razor-sharp Newsweek columnist and foreign-relations expert. “Zakaria makes really complicated issues understandable without dumbing them down,” says Sheff. “So much happens in the world every day that I could have kept calling him for updates until the day the interview went to press. In fact, I’d love to call him right now.”

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A Little Dog in a Big Fight

From the Playboy Blog, 2/4/07

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Last week six-term Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich bowed out of his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. No one gave Kucinich a chance in the primaries, but he’s used to being the underdog. When he sat for the Playboy Interview back in June 1979, Kucinich’s uphill populist battle was just beginning. The spunky 32-year-old Cleveland mayor had a lot to say about fighting against the odds, the evils of corporate America and the need to clean up politics.

Playboy: Weren’t you a third-string quarterback on your high school football team?
Kucinich: That’s true. I was so small that when I came out and said I wanted to play football, the coach told me he already had a football. When I ran out on the field people thought I was a mascot. When they found out I was on the team, they started rooting for me.
 

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The Hoover Cam

From the Playboy Blog, 1/31/07

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Since 9/11 and the Patriot Act, everyday Americans can assume that their internet history, library records, and private conversations are making lively water cooler banter at the FBI building. We complain, but the Feds have been snooping into the private lives of celebrities for a whole lot longer. Recently declassified documents from the 1940s to 1970s show that J. Edgar Hoover had an intimate knowledge of the A-list’s doings. Very intimate.Among the FBI’s findings: Elvis Presley got some special “treatments” from a male dermatologist in the army, while Jimi Hendrix couldn’t stop practicing solo in his barracks. Comedy duo Abbott and Costello were porn addicts. Even our first centerfold, the unimpeachable Marilyn Monroe, may have had a sex tape stashed away. Read the full story on J. Edgar’s voyeurism here.

F for Effort

1/25/07

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Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Op-Ed column this morning is drawing much needed attention to the “Genocide Olympics” campaign. Its message is simple: as China prepares for its debutante ball—the Beijing Olympics—it should reconsider its open support of the genocidal government of Sudan, lest it tarnish the bright image it’s trying to promote. China spends $2 billion a year on Sudanese oil, sells weapons to Sudan’s government, and most importantly blocks attempts by the U.N. to deploy an effective peacekeeping force to a miasma that’s seen 200,000 people killed and 2.5 million displaced.

As part of the Genocide Olympics campaign’s efforts, they asked Beijing’s corporate sponsors to use their influence to pressure China to take action, since slaughter isn’t exactly one of the Olympic ideals the companies claim to promote. Now the campaign has a nifty report card telling us just how much the sponsors care. Read the full report here.

The results: 13 F’s, 3 D’s, 2 C’s, and one C+. Several companies actually received scores of 0, including Anheuser-Busch, Panasonic, Samsung, Lenovo, and Swatch. So this summer crack open a Bud, flip on your Panasonic flat screen, and enjoy Beijing 2008: “One World, One Dream.” Who doesn’t dream of Olympic-size pools full of cash?

Another 5-4 Loss for the Constitution

From the Playboy Blog, 1/10/07

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The New York Times reports today that a five-person majority of Supreme Court justices are leaning towards upholding Indiana’s requirement that all voters show government-issued photo ID at the voting booth. This is a tricky issue. Requiring voters to show a government ID might stem voter fraud to some extent, but at the same time it presents a real burden to lower-income voters, who are less likely to have IDs or the time and resources to obtain them (see this study). 

But what bothers me more than the majority’s stance on IDs is that they’re rejecting the Indiana Democratic Party and ACLU’s right to challenge the law at all. The case is a facial challenge, which means that the IDC and ACLU are opposing a restriction that they see as unconstitutional before it actually causes harm. This method has been accepted historically and, as Linda Greenhouse of the Times points out, was a key to overturning poll tax and gerrymandering laws before they actively disenfranchised voters.  Continue reading

One More Year

From the Playboy Blog, 11/28/07

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George W. Bush hasn’t been a “sexy” president. But a new calendar by photographer Burke Heffner (no relation to our Hef—Burke’s got an extra “f” in there) suggests that you don’t have to be having sex with someone to be in bed with her. Or him. Or them.

Each month of the calendar assigns a pinup girl to a different form of Bush corruption. Miss July bathes in a tub of oil, and thanks Georgie for starting a war for her. Miss April rolls nude in a pile of money, celebrating Bush’s tax breaks for the rich. The pictures include vital stats like income ($12.2 billion for February’s girl, “Mrs. Wal”) and turn-offs (Michael Moore for Miss June, a.k.a. “Robin DeSyck”). The calendar also points out fun dates like August 30, 2005, the day Dick Cheney ordered crews to fix oil pipelines running to the Northeast instead of restoring power to hospitals serving Hurricane Katrina victims. Continue reading