Dynamist Blog

More Obama--Or Reportorial?--Vagueness

The WaPost's personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary interviewed Obama about consumer debt and discovered that he, too, used to have a lot of debt and plans "initiate reforms" to "address the whole debt industry." What the hell does that mean? Here's Singletary's account:

Until a few years ago, the candidate and his wife, Michelle, were deep in debt. Together, they were carrying $120,000 in student loans they had taken on to pay for law school.

"We were making payments the size of a mortgage every month," Obama said.

Although Obama acknowledged that he and his wife were blessed to have enough income to service that debt, it wasn't until he wrote two best-selling books, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope," that the couple were able to pay it all off.

Were he to become president, Obama said he would initiate reforms to address "the whole debt industry that has really got people in a financial hole they never dig themselves out of."

I believe that when Obama talks about his family's situation, he gets that we must move away from an economy driven by debt-laden consumers.

Nonetheless, the problems are so large and the changes needed to correct them are so deep and far-reaching -- requiring legislative reforms and shifts in people's financial behavior -- that even a self-proclaimed change-agent president would be sharply tested on this issue.

She believes he thinks we've got to "move away from an economy driven by debt-laden consumers," through "deep and far-reaching" change and "legislative reforms." But he wasn't that specific.

Where Does Obama Stand on Marriage?

What does Obama think of the anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot in California? And why aren't California reporters--and his numerous and prominent gay supporters and fundraisers--asking?

I ask not as an attack on Obama, but as a California voter opposed to the initiative. I would like his help. On the other hand, if he's really in favor of the ban, and he ought to stop letting his supporters think otherwise. I don't think his opposition would make that big a difference--the swing votes are older women and Latinos, aka Hillary voters.

His silence says a lot about his willingness to use his glamour to advance his presumed beliefs at the risk of losing popularity (not an altogether bad thing when I think about other issues). And the media's lack of interest in pressing the question says a lot about press bias. Surely an anti-marriage constitutional amendment in the nation's largest state is a more significant national issue than, say, whether the South Carolina capital building displays the Confederate flag, a question reporters have never dismissed as merely a state issue.

Noah Millman at The American Scene also wants to know. Steve Miller (who quotes an earlier post of mine) and his commenters have more at Independent Gay Forum.

People Like Me Are Killing Journalism

I saw The New Yorker on the newsstand and considered buying it for this article on itching. (I'm a very itch-prone person.) But then I realized I could get the article free online and even print it out without ads, so I didn't buy the copy. I then forgot about it until a typographically shouting Tyler Cowen reminded me.

All of which is great until you start to wonder how anyone in this business is going to get paid.

The Things You Learn Reading Posters Outside UCLA Medical Center

Aging: the Disease, the Cure, the Implications

Aubrey de Gray will be speaking tomorrow (Friday) at 4:00 at UCLA's Royce Hall, as the kickoff to a weekend conference on extending healthy life. According to the website, advance registration is required, though I rather doubt they'll be turning people away.

I'm agnostic about the potential for radical life extension in my lifetime--my current interest is not-so-radical middle-age extension--but it's an interesting and important subject, and de Gray is a provocative speaker.

Book Review Swag

The NYT Book Review gets scarily enormous piles of review copies, but that's not all--as you can see in this slide show, which begins with a Trojan horse turned candy holder. [Via Paper Cuts.]

More Obama Glamour

This time in superhero form, from the LAT's Rachel Abramowitz:

WHILE I believe in hope and change, I know some cynics (mostly die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters) who think Barack Obama taps into the same collective yearning as superheroes. He might as well be called Obama-man, political wonder boy, able to leap giant deficits in a single bound, vanquish scores of angry Iraqis merely by batting his doe eyes.

Obama-man has no past. Like all caped crusaders, he is a mysterious cipher, and yet a reassuring figure, like Superman or Spider-Man. And you all know that beautiful, lanky Michelle Obama would look great in her own spandex. Personally, I have more confidence in Obama, and I'd just like to say, what's the alternative? John McCain as the Incredible Hulk?

[Via the skeptical Fishbowl L.A., which needs to read my take on superhero glamour here and Obama's glamour here.]

Obama As iPhone

From an LAT article on black presidents in TV shows and movies:

"It's interesting and fascinating that this happened kind of quickly," said Ali LeRoi, who co-wrote "Head of State" with Rock. "At the time we did the movie, Barack was just beginning his rise in politics. Now he's like one of those great gadgets like the iPhone. Everyone is fascinated."

I think there's something to this analogy, and it doesn't suggest any deep concern for policy. If elected, Obama would be wrong to assume any kind of mandate beyond the glamour of his persona.

California vs. Genetic Information

Ever alert for new opportunities to regulate business, behavior, and anything else they can think of, California officials are now out to stop personal genetic testing. Wired's Alexis Madriga reports:

Last Monday, the state's laboratory field services group issued 13 cease-and-desist letters to genetic testing companies. Wired.com obtained a copy of the letters (pdf.) from two recipients. And a recent teleconference among regulatory officials confirms the seriousness of the department's intent.

"We [are] no longer tolerating direct-to-consumer genetic testing in California," Karen Nickles, Chief of Laboratory Field Services at the health department, told members of the Clinical Laboratories Advisory Committee on June 13.

Targeted companies include personal genomics startups 23andMe and Navigenics. These services are seen as the leading edge of a new type of health care in which consumers can use their genetic profile to tailor their medical and lifestyle choices. The established medical community, however, is wary of the technology arguing that the medical utility of some tests is unproven. Doctors also complain that direct-to-consumer services bypass them as the gatekeepers and analysts of medical information, which they worry could confuse consumers, not to mention cost them a billing event.

Read the rest, including a politically pointed lead and instructions on how to hear the phone call for yourself, here

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