Long Reads: Barack Obama, Jose Mujica, Al Sharpton, living in “The Hole”

Rich Jackson’s #LongReads bring us Jose Mujica and Al Sharpton, Vox’s epic two part interview with Barack Obama, with PB’s narrative.ly Ed’s pick taking you into life in “The Hole”…


Barack Obama: The Vox Conversation (Vox)

Part one: Domestic policy – Ezra Klein

Part two: Foreign policy – Matthew Yglesias

These interviews with Barack Obama demonstrate the best of what digital media has to offer, and the best of Vox, a new-ish web platform, started by the ex-Washington Post policy wonk Ezra Klein with the aim of providing greater context and insight to the news, which is why Matthew Yglesias, and ex-Slate writer joined them. This article is slickly put together; the transcript is intercut with videos of Barack Obama explaining his positions and thoughts, graphs, and little notes that elaborate on the issue.

To the substance of it, on domestic policy, I particularly enjoyed Klein’s questions on polarisation in American, and found Obama’s responses quite informative and illustrative of his understanding of the history of American politics.

On the foreign policy. Hmm…

I like Yglesias. I liked him at Slate. Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The Dish (to the detriment of the internet he closed the site last week) used to make a yearly set of awards, the winners nominated by his readers, and one was the Yglesias Award, for those writers “who actually criticise their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.” But saying all that, he fails to ask the question I think needs answered: is your policy of drone warfare democratic, immoral, and is it not acting as recruitment propaganda for the enemy? Which brings me to another article: Glenn Greenwald criticising American foreign policy and the media in a piece concerning the death of a 13 year-old Yemeni boy burned to death by a drone last week.


Jose Mujica was every Liberal’s dream president. He was too good to be true – Eve Fairbanks (The New Republic)

Jose Mujica, the Uruguayan President, is very far to the political left. He eschews monetary wealth, refusing to live in the Presidential quarters, instead living in his countryside shack where he can grow chrysanthemums with his wife. He gives 90 percent of his income to the poor, and in 2013 at the UN, gave a speech criticising capitalism:

“The average man of our time wanders between financial institutions and the tedious routine of offices … He dreams of vacations and freedom. He dreams of being able to pay his bills, until one day, his heart stops.”

He legalised marijuana and gay marriage. All those things in themselves read like a socialist’s wet dream. However, progressives in his country are disappointed with him and think he has achieved little, according to Fairbanks. Apparently he is too nice a guy, essentially.  It reminds me of something Tony Blair wrote in his autography, that you don’t get to the top office by being a prophet; I think I butchered that line.

Fairbanks directs this article to criticise what we need; we so badly want leaders who live to the values they preach and we aspire to.

(Ed’s note – check back on 23 February for Isaac Ohlin’s piece on Jose Mujica in the week out from the Uruguayan election)


The public life and private doubts of Al Sharpton – Eli Saslow (The Washington Post)

I have never been a big fan of Rev Al Sharpton, and as I write this I can’t really work out why. I just don’t really think he speaks for black America, but then how could I possible have come to that? I haven’t lived there and I’m not an African American. But what this article does is illuminate the differences between how civil rights movements used to work in America, with crowds gathering round an inspirational orator (ie, Martin Luther King) and what happens now, where a protest movement is distrustful of having a central hierarchy.


EDITOR’S PICK from narrative.ly

 Life in the hole part III: The Cultivator – Allen Agostino

This is a brilliant series where photographer Allen Agostino pictorially documents the life of residents of NYC living in “The Hole,” a small neighborhood on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. Once you read this piece you will want to go back and check out the first two in the series.


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