Monday, June 30, 2008

FOREIGN AID AND FOREIGN POLICY

+ Sam Ruteikara argues that American attitudes about sex, in so far as they influence foreign aid policy, have undermined the Ugandan effort to fight AIDS. This is not the traditional critique (that pro-abstinence policymakers undermine condom distribution, sex education, etc.). Rather, Ruteikara argues that an American bias towards accepting casual sex has undermined Uganda's efforts to discourage the same.

+Gregory Scoblete suggests that we consider Obama and McCain's foreign policy in terms of their particularist and universalist tendencies, respectively. More specifically, how generalizable do they each believe American values to be? These positions do not easily correlate with the hawk vs. dove paradigm.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

TWO BOOKS I'VE BEEN READING

+I'm enjoying Mo Yan's Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, a magical realist and cutely funny depiction of post-revolutionary China.

+I also recently began Margaret MacMillan's Nixon and Mao, which discusses their 1972 meeting and its political, historical, etc. background.
"ECONOMIC TRANSITION AND HEALTH TRANSITION . . ."

I've been reading about China's health care system and came across a study that raises some provocative questions about how economic transition (that is, systemic change in an economy, as opposed to economic growth, per se) affects public health. The paper suggests that China's gradual economic transition (as compared to that of Russia) has led to better health outcomes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

CHANGE, WROUGHT WITH CARE

+Read George Will on "libertarian paternalism" and the surprising power of the default (not on your computer but in government policy).

+Evan Thomas wonders what Obama really thinks about the expectations that he is creating.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

PERSONAL NOTES REGARDING ORGANIZATIONS OF INTEREST

+The China Initiative at Harvard's School of Public Health recently caught my eye. I've written to them to set up an infomational interview; will this become my MD/MPH program of choice?

+As I am in the Bay Area this summer, I contacted Kiva, my favorite microloan organizaiton. I am hoping to drop by for a visit.

+I can't remember if I've written about Tom Friedman's piece about Van Jones' environmental outreach work in disadvantaged communities. In any event, I wrote to Green for All (Jones' organization) in nearby Oakland to see if I can volunteer and check out their work.
ELECTION

It may surprise some of you, given my recent, criticisms of Obama, but I've recently found myself considering voting for him.

Here's my scorecard:

1) Economics: I'd been leaning towards McCain, in part because of Obama's attacks on NAFTA. Now Obama claims that these attacks were intemperate. I don't believe him; I believe that they were carefully planned. Still, I'll take it. If Obama continues to move in the free market direction resonant with the profile of some of his top economic advisors, this will have some influence on me. Also, the revelation that McCain is a computer illiterate raises some serious concerns for me, since computer technology is central to the economic changes underway in the world. (By the way, this article on Obama's NAFTA shift may provide more evidence that folks seems to be disappointed in Obama, rather than cynical about him, when he takes a stand they don't approve of.)

2) Foreign Policy: I've tended to side with McCain, due to his believable firm posture when it comes to facing down Iran, as well as his clear support for stabilization efforts in Iraq. First of all, I think that Obama is preparing to shift his "Iraq pitch," as I tend to believe the Iraqi foreign minister's recollection of their shared telephone conversation and because Obama has recently promised a pre-election trip to Iraq. Secondly, I have been reading (read: "listening to") Fareed Zakaria's Post-American World. It is going some way to convincing me that terrorism can be contained and that the US centrality to global affairs is diminishing. These perspectives tend to move me towards Obama (I'll deal with this in greater depth later.).

3) Social Issues: I'm more comfortable with Obama.
MORRIS AND McGANN on McCAIN

Morris and McGann analyze McCain's recent advocacy of offshore drilling and take on the wishful electoral thinking of liberal orthodoxy in the process.

"The Democratic ambivalence stems from liberal concerns about climate change. The Party basically doesn't believe in carbon based energy and, therefore, opposes oil exploration. That's why Obama pushes the windfall profits tax on oil companies - a step that tells them “you drill, you find oil, and we'll take away your profits.” But Americans have their priorities in order: more oil, more drilling AND alternative energy sources, flex-fuel cars, plug in vehicles and nuclear power."


Alternative energy technology should be one of our most serious pursuits. Still, we must face the "here and now" geopolitics and the weight of oil-derived influence therein.
OF WEBSITES AND PUNDITS

+ I love, and recommend, the Real Clear Politics website. The site, run by Time Magazine and CNN, provides a remarkably broad range of timely (updated twice a day) articles. Most are very good at least in terms of their ability to be illustrative of particular political viewpoints.

+My politics are not close to the DailyKos on a wide range of issues but I do heavily admire his great sense for how politics works on the ground. Compared to CNN chatter, his in-depth knowledge (even, as he would put it, "feel") for the personalities and organizations that influence electoral politics is highly impressive.

+Dick Morris: He is, as many of you know, a through-and-through political operative but I do admire his clear insights about the ethos in which the American voter operates. An inordinate number of bloggers offer advice to candidates that is, unbeknownst to them, actually a type of wishful thinking designed to promote their own views. Morris tends to get the political-electoral facts right, as I see them. See post directly above for a discussion of Morris' latest article on oil, Obama, and McCain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

WHAT DOES "CHANGE" MEAN?

In case you were still wondering if people of many political stripes are investing their hopes in Obama, read this piece from The Guardian. Compare the left-wing hopefulness of that article to the right-of-center (somewhat more skeptical) hopefulness of David Brooks (see my June 13 posting) and you will get a sense for some of the discord that will arise in the next few months or during the first few months of an Obama presidency.
TIM RUSSERT

There are few newsmen who can consistently be counted on to be clear, thoughtful, tough, and simultaneously decent. Tim Russert was one of this ilk. I will miss him.

Friday, June 13, 2008

QUICK POSTS:

+ Krauthammer on the good news from Iraq, with specific evidence.

+ Brooks on Obama, reform, and education. Brooks analyzes Obama's stance on education to try to see if Obama has the substance to follow up his reform rhetoric.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ

A Wall Street Journal article to make you feel good (I hope ;) about Iraq:

"[As of February 2008,] Three main challenges to security and political progress remained: clearing al Qaeda out of Mosul; bringing Basra under the Iraqi government's control; and eliminating the Special Groups safe havens in Sadr City. It seemed then that these tasks would require enormous effort, entail great loss of life, and take the rest of the year or more. Instead, the Iraqi government accomplished them within a few months."

Monday, June 02, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, PUBLIC HEALTH, CHINA, AND ME

I continue to be committed to writing a political blog. I'm sensing, however, that my blog may take an autobiographical turn.

I feel satisfied with the general exposition of my analysis of current events that has covered these pages over the last several months. I still hope that you will review, and then comment on, my work.

In a hopeful sign, I am engaged in, and/or near, some work that allows me to express some of my political energy in new ways:
+This summer, I will be working with the Berkeley School of Public Health on a range of studies. One of the studies is an evaluation of the health effects of various pollutants on the people in a particular region in China.
I do not expect to be heavily involved in this study but I am excited to learn more about public health issues in China, especially as they relate to environmental contaminants, a dramatically growing problem in that country.
+Apropos of China and of my stay in the Bay Area, recent studies show that Chinese pollution is making its way to this area of the country.
+Finally, I am beginning some work this summer on an environmental program at a Westchester Co., NY synagogue. I will continue that work in the fall.
+As a (perhaps) side note, my studies of Chinese are going strong. I am over halfway through my Level III studies of the Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese tutorial. I expect to cross paths with various teachers (formal and/or informal) over the course of the summer.

As you can tell, various gurglings are supporting my vision of working on public health issues, China, the environment, etc. as I approach my formal studies of medicine in the years ahead.

I look forward to keeping you posted and hope that you will encourage, criticize, question, and/or laud my efforts when you feel moved to do so.

Many thanks,
Barak