Thursday, February 26, 2015

Obama's Swagger

You don't have to be a movement expert to appreciate how President Obama moves. Black or white, American or not, he is the coolest guy that ever walked in presidential shoes.

Outside the US, especially in Northern Europe and Israel, Obama is a lot more appreciated than here at home. Whether this popularity has anything to do with his swagger is debatable, but it probably doesn't hurt. The American President's casual confidence may be viewed as a breath of fresh air, an anti-dote to the overly formal and stiff demeanor of some European politicians.

The definition of swagger is 'A demeanor of confidence, coolness, and togetherness. Someone with Swagger gives off an aura of comfortability with himself. It can also be shown in the person's walk.' Another, more illuminating definition is: 'I Don't Know, I'm White'. When asked where he learnt to walk the way he does, actor Denzel Washington, the ultimate swaggerer on the Hollywood scene, said: 'I don't remember, but it doesn’t work with your hands in your pockets'.

But swagger is more than just a walk. If you have Swagger you can wear jeans to the opera, a suit to the beach and people will think nothing of it. They'll admire your swagger. Obama knows how to up his swagger at the precise moment. Whether he kisses his beautiful wife at a basketball game, marches in a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, or makes that last minute wave before entering Air Force 1, he does it all with grace and finesse.

It is not just the President that has Swagger. Watch the First Lady's awesome performance in this video to promote her "Let's Move" campaign, to encourage parents everywhere to get up and get moving with their kids.

Mr. Obama has done more talk-show appearances than other sitting presidents, appearing six times alone during his re-election campaign. White House aides say the president uses late-night talk shows to reach an audience that doesn’t always get its news from traditional sources. He uses the media to set certain misconceptions straight, promote his agenda and even though it seems like a contradiction, to remind the audience of what is important, of 'keeping your eye on the prize', when the line between entertainment and politics is starting to blur.

Some critics argue that his frequent appearances are at the expense of tax payer money and conservatives find his appearances unpresidential. Former President George W. Bush would not have been caught dead on late night talk shows during his presidency. It was beneath his dignity, but he also instinctively knew that he didn't have the swagger to pull it off. Read more...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ode to Amsterdam: Mecca for Culture and for Jazz

 Amsterdam has a reputation. Ignorant people allude to the city’s cannabis caf├ęs and its red light district with a smirk, reducing its entire identity to a haven for hippies and sleazy tourists in search of free pot and sex. And they generalize this to the whole Netherlands.

It is true that Holland has always been exceptionally progressive, open-minded and tolerant of free-thinking. It has long been in the forefront of decriminalization of drug addiction, sex work, euthanasia and gay marriage, it has always been a haven for persecuted religious minorities such as the Huguenots and the Puritans (who went to Holland before ending up in Massachusetts).

But the glib stereotype does not do justice either to the city or to the country. For one thing, it is a zoning thing. Many countries zone “sin” in such a manner. Paris has Pigalle, the US has Las Vegas, China has Macao. etc.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Demography is Destiny - Part Two

In my previous post, I argued that when it comes to variations in violence and murder rates, AGE explains more than just about any other variable. In other words, Auguste Comte was right when he said that demography is destiny.
2. Today I want to show the importance of demography in another related area, namely (im)migration and population shifts. This, too, is something that threatens  a lot of people today, something quite topical in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath and the incessant chatter about  terrorism. Many Europeans fret about the “Arabization” of their continent, and many  Americans fear the “Latinization” of their country.  The reaction in both cases is Eurocentric Christian nativism. Europeans are marching and rallying behind nativist leaders such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders. Some,  like Hungary’s Jobbik Party, attack gypsies. In the US, many Republicans  want to evict millions of Hispanic immigrants. The unifying theme on both sides of the Atlantic is:  “Save Western civilization.”