Obama and Latin America

From Jim Johnson’s (Notes on) Politics, Theory and Photography blog, this post entitled “The Summit Challenges Obama’s Pragmatism.”galeanocover

Johnson points out that pragmatism isn’t just about predicting the future but about learning lessons from the past.

Johnson starts out by discussing this book, given to Obama by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.


“Colonialism was essentially a good idea for Africa, it was a shame that we got rid of it, and the continent would have been better off under foreign rule.”

–Posted by Tom Cookson

Would European colonialism be good for Africa?

Watch this short video clip and decide for yourself: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/18424?in=16:57&out=20:04

Peter Singer (a very famous Australian philosopher at Princeton who you’ve probably heard of) and Tyler Cowen (a slightly famous American Economics Professor at George Mason University who you probably haven’t heard of) match wits on the subject.  If you’re bored, click through the entire interview, they’re at each others throats throughout and they talk about some really big, interesting ideas regarding world poverty and the implications of accepting a Utilitarian system of ethics (for the philosophy people).

I’m not sure what I think about this myself, even though I’ve done a lot stuff about Singer and frequently cite his opinions in arguments, Cowen makes some really good points.

-Tom Cookson

Money, Status, Sex and Happiness

–Posted by Tom Cookson

Anyone who needs a primer on the psychology of happiness should check out this video clip:


This is a discussion between liberal Mark Kleiman (UCLA’s expert professor on Drugs and Public Policy) on the left and Libertarian Megan McArdle (journalist for The Atlantic Monthly and economics expert) on the right, about what makes people really happy in a society.

If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that this is actually a clear, beautifully articulated version a pathetic incoherent rant I went out on a few weeks ago in class — even with the same exact examples I gave (the burned MIT professor; Fox’s “The Swan”), but this time they are sourced. I saw this when it was first published in 2007, and it really got me thinking, and I thought I had the exchange mostly memorized until discovered I was unable reproduce it in class.

Anyway, what does happiness have to do with Obama? Politics and economics is all about maximizing the happiness of a population–not just giving them what they want. Pragmatism has a lot to do with maximizing your own well being–or finding happiness–so knowing about it is important.

-Tom Cookson

Obama’s Pragmatism in Practise

Posted by Anna Raugalis

Here’s an interesting article I found on the NYT website about Obama’s calm attitude in the White House. At the beginning of the quarter we talked a little about the Pragmatic Mood and this article talks a little bit about how Obama fits into this.

Despite Major Plans, Obama Taking Softer Stands

-Anna Raugalis

Barack Obama @ Google

Posted by Peter Erickson

Illinois Senator and 2008 Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama visits Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters to deliver his innovation agenda, speak with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and take questions from Google employees. This event took place on November 14, 2007, as part of the Candidates@Google series.

Bob on Barack

Posted by Anna Raugalis

Here’s a pretty interesting interview with Bob Dylan where he talks about Obama’s Dreams From My Father. Dylan brings up previous Presidents autobiographies, something we haven’t really talked about in class but something I think we could consider.

Bob Dylan on Barack Obama

-Anna Raugalis

Obama’s Inaugural Address

Posted by Peter Erickson

I just wanted to link everyone to the video and transcript of Obama’s Inaugural Address:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/inaugural-address/

Specifically relating to what Dewey suggested about living our day-to-day lives democratically, Obama claims, “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”  He sees that the values involved in both the means and the ends are important, and elaborates that, “Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.”

Also, I wanted to comment quickly on his opponents’ counter-argument to this claim; specifically, that Bill O’Reilly said shortly thereafter, “I didn’t like the line about ‘we don’t need to compromise our values to protect ourselves.’ I think sometimes we do.”  It shows the divide between liberal pragmatism that Obama represents and the absolutist, ends-justify-means conservative agenda of the Bush Administration.  Not to make humor of the point, but I think Jon Stewart summed it up nicely: “If you don’t stick to your values when tested, they’re not values! They’re hobbies.”  I think John Dewey would agree fervently with this point.