In Germany, “Dueling Breasts” Join the Ad Campaign in the Run-up to the September Election

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

There’s beem some stuff around the internet implying/stating that to criticize Hillary Clinton’s recent words and demeanor in Africa is an obvious case of “sexism.”

Well, I guess this makes me a sexist as I criticize this woman pol in Germany.  From the BBC World Service:

Merkel’s party in low-cut controversy.

Vera Lengsfeld of the Christian Democrats, who is campaigning in the east of Berlin, has billboard-sized pictures of herself in a low-cut dress next to a picture of Chancellor Angela Merkel in an even more revealing number.

The poster’s strap line reads “We have more to offer”.

The image has been dividing opinion in Germany.

more

So, what does the picture look like?  It was on the BBC site, but I copied it from Spiegel Online, which has a full article on the campaign now going on in Germany leading up to the September election and a picture gallery of all the advertising.  (See:  ‘Merkel Is Planning a Campaign with Nationalistic Undertones’ which asks if these first ads are “any good”…)

Here’s the one in question:

GERMANY/

Vera Lengsfeld, a member of Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has already raised eyebrows with a campaign poster displaying the chancellor's ample cleavage alongside her own, together with the slogan: "We have more to offer." She did not ask the chancellor for approval before using her picture.

I’ll answer that question posed about whether this ad, in a particular, is any good.

I think it stinks!  First of all, Vera Lengsfeld didn’t ask Angela Merkel if it was OK to use Merkel’s picture.

The bigger question is: What the hell is Lengsfeld trying to prove? Does the “humorous” reference to cleavage make it OK to bring her body into the campaign?

What kind of judgment does this woman have?  You’d think a woman politician would want to leave gender aside and stick to the issues for the sake of her own credibility.  And why play into the hands of a global culture which zeroes in on a woman’s appearance first instead of her intellect and other qualities? A global culture which pretty much demeans women non-stop.  Even here in the U.S. of A. in the person of Barack Obama and his finger and his speech writer Jon Favreau who likes to grope Hillary Clinton’s chest even if it is only cardboard.  You know, the same country where the media went bonkers over a ‘”hint of cleavage” that Clinton “displayed” at one point?

Is Lengsfeld trying to emulate the sex queens of Italian politics?

Poor Angela Merkel was probably photographed at a function with no intent of being plastered all over a billboard.  Maybe her dress was a bit too much for any public appearance, but who knows when it was taken? Maybe it was before she was elected Chancellor.  No matter…Merkel has never used cheesecake in her political campaigns as far as I can tell.

Until now.  But not because she wanted to.  Lengsfeld has completely cheapened this political season in Germany.   Merkel has been dealing with an economic mess and has had the guts to not get on the Obama bandwagon. She’s tough and smart.   But now she’s used in a “dueling breast” ad at the hands of another woman from her own party, no less.

And I have to laugh that it’s a “Conservative Christian Democrat” who’s dishing out this stuff!  Sort of conjures up images of those family values Republicans, one of whom recently dashed off from the governor’s office to South America for trysts with his mistress…

Men may compare their “packages” in their leisure time chat, but I’ve yet to see an add displaying a male pol’s crotch on a regular basis.  Of course, there is one exception, though not in exact parallel:  Our beloved leader showed off his crotch to a gaggle of women reporters on his campaign plane.  but he did NOT run an ad comparing his crotch to John McCain’s.  Even he didn’t go THAT far…

Women undercutting other women is nothing new, but this little escapade sure takes it to a lower level than usual.

So, am I a sexist for criticizing Lengsfeld?  If you are even considering such a thing, you should have your head examined!

The point is that women who are assholes in public are fair game for criticism, just like male assholes.  It’s not always sexism that’s in play…

The Complicated Diplomatic Life of Hillary Clinton (UPDATE 1X: Clinton on the Defensive in Congo over Bill’s “Presence”; UPDATE 2X: Bill Off the Leash?; UPDATE 3X: Video of Clinton Congo Outburst, Glenn Beck Comments)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

UPDATE 1: 8/10/09 PM:

Apparently, Hillary Clinton IS getting touched by the recent focus on her husband–in Congo, no less!  This is SO NOT GOOD! And in so many ways…for women, for Clinton herself, for the country…is the final set-up in place for her to leave? A large part of her visit to Congo is going to focus on the mass rapes in the country and human rights issues, but by the time the following report gets to the U.S. that emphasis will probably be lost.

Note: I’ve deleted the original excerpt after seeing that it was from the AP….replaced by the story from the France24/AFP:

Clinton pushes rights issues in Congo, Angola

snip

Clinton faced a flurry of questions from the students, not all to her liking. At one point, she showed a rare flash of public anger as a young man asked for the views of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

“My husband is not the secretary of state, I am,” Clinton said forcefully.

The AP story also quoted her as saying she wouldn’t be “channeling” Bill Clinton and described her response as being “snapped.”

The Voice of America news omits the exchange and the BBC story only cites the last line/quotation (without the “she snapped” or the “forcefully.”)

UPDATE 2

Albert R. Hunt, Exec. Editor for Washington for Bloomberg News opined 8/10:

Big Dog May Not Return to Leash After Pyongyang

What will this Pandora’s Box yield?

UPDATE 3   8/11/09   AM

From the AP story at FOX News, the video…and, as predicted, this is going viral. Glenn Beck was razzing Clinton about this on his AM radio show just now and will sending it in his newsletter.  He did make one comment that makes a lot of sense: that Clinton must really regret that she took the job.  Whatever it is, she’s cleary frustrated as hell.  Beck also played a tape of her during the campaign in which she shouts about how “Amercans have a right to debate” and how “debate is patriotic” (in reference to the Bush Administration). Beck mocked her “gentle” style and compared it to her outburst in Congo.  He also commented on her absence from the trip to Russia and the N. Korean business.  He was implying that she was being cut out of the loop.   He was caustic, of course, but an awful lot of it was spot on.  Especially when he finished up by saying that the Obama/ACORN machine had taken down the Clinton machine–that’s how scary these people (Obama people)  are.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “untitled“, posted with vodpod

***

ORIGINAL POST BEGINS HERE (Touching on what’s been brewing and finally came out today, as reported above.)”

This is a complicated post that has evolved over several days observation…

To start,  back on Tuesday, 8/4/09,  I posted a little comment over at the TD Blog’s open thread on Bill Clinton’s mission to N. Korea to free Al Gore’s journalists/reporters  from Current TV (or whatever they are).  I commented:

I expect to hear at some point that Bill’s success shows that Hillary sucks at being SOS…

So, lo and behold, I listened to the report on the “rescue” the next  morning on the BBC World Service news bulletin (at 1400 UTC)  and at the very end, the throwaway comment by a reporter on the phone (a British reporter, not an American) was (sic) “What’s interesting is that SOS Hill Clinton is married to Bill Cinton and he accomplished what she couldn’t.”  The AP on Thursday (8/6) in an analysis piece (can’t quote them) and the L.A. Times in a news story that, of course, includes “analysis” used the word “overshadow” in their post-mission coverage.

Meanwhile, over at the BBC’s “Have Your Say” page, the teaser is “Should Africa Listen to Hillary Clinton?”

Should Africa listen to Hillary Clinton?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun a tour of Africa, saying improving democracy is the key to boosting trade and development. But should Africa follow her advice? (more)

Gee, I thought she was representing the Obama Administration/the United States–why the “personalization” of her foreign policy trip?

Well, I guess it’s understandable, since Clinton has personalized some of her rhetoric, notably her comments in late July regarding North Korea. From the detailed coverage of the spat at India’s IBNLive:

“Maybe it’s the mother in me, the experience I’ve had with small children and teenagers and people who are demanding attention, Don’t give it to them,” she said in the interview.

She also said the North Koreans were like “little children” who “had no friends left.”

I have no no problem to the reference to motherhood, in general, but …did Clinton’s acid comments really help the situation?

North Korea’s Foreign Minister issued a scathing response. From the KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY of DPRK(Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

She said during her recent trip to India that “north Korea should not receive the attention it is seeking through behavior like missile launches,” likening Pyongyang’s behavior to that of unruly children. Her words suggest that she is by no means intelligent.

The DPRK has taken necessary measures to protect the nation’s sovereignty and right to existence to cope with the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat, not to attract anyone’s attention.

snip

We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community.

Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.

Anyone making misstatements has to pay for them.

While some stories in the Western press called N. Korea’s personal attack “bizarre”  (See: the Agence France-Press report at News.com.au titled  North Korea in bizarre Hillary Clinton attack ),  over at IBNLive there’s a vote up on Clinton, up or down which is basically tied, and also a place where, among several choices,  you can give her flowers or throw tomatoes, complete with a “live action” tomato throw at Clinton.  Currently the tomatoes are the most popular choice.

The result of this spat was that the 6-party talks were declared “dead”….but the rhetoric was toned down and backchannel work to reset the playing field  was undertaken and then, enter Bill Clinton and the freeing of the Current TV writers.

Early on,  Asia Times Online, the “private” nature of Bill’s N. Korean rescue mission was nabbed as a “fantasy”: See Dear Leader stars in Bill and Hillary show for a good read.

Clinton was just the high-profile visitor North Korea hoped to entice from Washington in return for handing over the journalists.

Why bother to pretend otherwise, after wife Hillary, as secretary of state, had laid the groundwork by saying that maybe Ling and Lee had made a mistake and strayed across the Tumen River border with China when North Korean soldiers picked them up on March 17? And hadn’t Hillary already expressed an apology for the mishap after having said earlier the two had done nothing wrong?

The Independent Opinion Page seemed to think everything is OK for Hillary:

Yet one perk now stands out. How many other jobs would enable a woman to send her philandering husband to North Korea? Many women have fantasised about it. Mrs Clinton has actually done it. Take note Harriet Harman. Some sisters, at least, are letting their menfolk know who wears the (pantsuit) trousers.

Well, that BBC reporter quoted up top doesn’t seem to echo this shallow assessment. Neither did the AP or the L. A. Times and other media outlets. From the  above L.A. Times story,

It once again led to him overshadowing his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, even as she is on her own diplomatic trip to Africa.

snip

At the same time, the trip left some uncertainty about how Clinton’s new diplomatic career is fitting in with that of his wife, America’s chief diplomat. While Bill Clinton was in a worldwide spotlight, the debut of Hillary Clinton’s 11-day trip to Africa received scant attention. She has been trying to raise her visibility in an administration stocked full of capable diplomats and influential White House foreign policy aides. The Africa trip, including stops in Kenya — Obama’s father’s homeland — and several longtime hot spots, was meant to help her raise her own profile.

In an NBC interview Wednesday, the secretary of State said that though she had originally favored Gore for the North Korea assignment, she was “very much in favor” of sending her husband once the North Koreans requested it.

And, here’s something else, also from the L.A. Times story:

“This is really going to help consolidate his role as an elder statesman,” said Ross Baker, a political analyst at Rutgers University. “It almost gave him a kind of heroic tint.”

So Bill is the hero of the story; Hillary, not so much. Heck, by the end of the week on the McLaughlin Group, Hillary Clinton’s name didn’t even come up in the discussion of Bill’s trip to N. Korea and its potential implications at all!

Back to that BBC news bulletin I mentioned right up at the top…

A short bit later in the same news bulletin, I heard the report on Hillary Clinton’s umbrage at the Kenyan government…their corruption, impunity, and failure to correct the problems that resulted in the post-election violence back in December 2007.

The BBC story below has a video of  Clinton Speaking at the 8th AGOA Conference.

Kenya impunity ‘disappoints US’

snip

Addressing the press following a meeting with the Kenya’s president and prime minister, Mrs Clinton strongly criticised Kenya’s political leadership.

She said the absence of strong and effective institutions had permitted ongoing corruption, impunity and human rights violations.

And she noted that these conditions had helped fuel the violence that engulfed the country in early 2008.

“We’ve been very clear in our disappointment that action has not been taken [over the violence],” she said.

“It is far preferable that it be done in the regular course of business, that prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials step up to their responsibilities and remove the question of impunity.”

The violence broke out after supporters of Raila Odinga – the main opposition leader at the time – said he had been cheated of victory in the December 2007 polls.

Clinton adds:

“I want you to know President Obama feels a personal connection and commitment to the future of Kenya.”

If you listen to her speak this line, she enunciates every word very carefully, as if she wants to make sure everyone listening gets it.  It’s overkill, of course.  Perhaps over-compensating for Obama’s ties to Odinga and the same old, same old foreign policy that’s chugging along. Or some reflexive sense that she has to make sure any hint of “not being fully on board” is dispelled.  Whatever.  It seems to happen fairly often.

A little bit below this video there’s an audio clip which discusses the main concern of the U.S. regarding  Africa, namely, OIL, since 24% of our imports come from Africa and catching up with China, Russia, and India.

Emira Woods, Liberian-American  journalist and an “expert on U.S. foreign policy in Africa”  comments, that  despite the ” lofty rhetoric” of Obama’s Inaugural Address, U.S. foreign policy is “still focused on a  narrow definition of U.S  interests” with regard to “extractive industries”…oil, gas, and mining.  Then there’s the “land grab” which is going on across the African continent.  According to Woods, large “tracks of lands” are being turned over to the production of biofuels to fuel cars around the world, but there’s really very little concern about feeding starving children.  Woods also relays concerns about the militarization of Africa. (Note: Both the Clinton video and the Woods audio are here on one page:   http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8185626.stm).

Very little “hope and change” over there, just like there’s very little here at home…

And in Angola, Clinton pushed for  “credible elections”…you know, the kind the Democrats gave us last year during the primaries.  Eek!

Of course, the topic turned to oil. From the BBC:

In Luanda, Mrs Clinton is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with American oil giant Chevron and the US Agency for International Development (USAid) to promote investment in Angola’s agricultural sectors like coffee and bananas.

Asked about China’s growing influence in Angola, Mrs Clinton said she was not interested in what other people were doing in Angola because her focus was on what the US was doing.

Last year, Angola overtook Saudi Arabia as China’s leading source of crude oil.

She’s not interested in what China is doing?  Really?  Oh, please.  It sounds sort of glib, doesn’t it? And completely disingenuous…

So, basically, all the trumpeting of a new foreign policy seems to be a lot of hot air and not much different than anything that’s come before. The U.S.’s self-interest is still all wrapped up in oil.

Remember how during the Bush years we got all sorts of big talk?  Remember the infamous “axis of evil” reference in his 2002 State of the Union address (axis = North Korea, Iran & Iraq)?  Well, there are times when Clinton sounds just like George W. with her sometimes very harsh or very glib statements.

Now, I really deplore the snark from that BBC reporter aimed at  Hillary Clinton about Bill coming to the rescue.  She seems to absorb al this without batting an eye. Then again, Hillary got the “street finger” from the Obama crew during the primaries. And she chose to leave the Senate and sign on with the Obama crowd.  It’s nice that she’s adding some comments about women in her speeches, but in real life, she’s being slimed by a reporter for the BBC and undercut in her desired appointments to positions by the Obama team.  It’s been reported that HIS  people are in under her, not her first choices for key jobs.  And now, Bill has re-entered and is the new hero of the N. Korea situation.

But she’s apparently OK with all this. (?)

So, the upshot of how this makes me feel is that 1) She’s getting shafted or undercut too often and 2) Sometimes she speaks in ways that makes me scratch my head. But most of the time, I just wonder what will happen next. What does Bill do next?  Madeline Albright sure didn’t have to deal with this sort of thing. I can’t figure it out, unless Clinton is used to the soft form of “battered wife” syndrome.  Then there’s the dealings with Obama, the guy who cheated and muscled himself into the nomination.  Here she is, right on board the train with the usual U.S. foreign policy, surrounded by Obama loyalists, while he keeps his nose clean. I guess she’s OK with this and how she must defer to his lead, but it I don’t feel OK watching it all happen.

So, while others cling to Hillary Clinton as their personal inspiration, I can only say that I’m left with very mixed feelings at this point. I sort of shake my head and say ” Too bad”  about Clinton’s odd position at State, along with everything else that is “too bad” these days…

Iraqi Oil Contract Bidding: BBC vs. NPR Reporting

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

Here’s a little nugget for you regarding the bidding on Iraqi oil fields…the ones that the U.S. was supposed to clean up on after the “liberation” of Iraq.

It’s also a tale of the miserable news reporting we have here, including the “superior” NPR Radio.

I woke up and listened to the BBC World Service yesterday as usual and heard a brief report about bidding for Iraqi oil contracts.  The report included the facts that bidders weren’t exactly running to invest in Iraq.

From the BBC:

Oil companies reject Iraq’s terms

Only one of the bidders for the eight contracts to run oil and gas fields in Iraq has accepted oil ministry terms.

Six oil fields and two gas fields were available in a televised auction that was the first big oil tender in Iraq since the invasion of 2003.

BP and China’s CNPC agreed to run the 17 billion barrel Rumaila field after Exxon Mobil turned it down.

Iraq has asked the rest of the companies to consider resubmitting bids for the other seven contracts.

The oil ministry is offering 20-year service contracts.

Other fields have failed to find buyers, either because there were no bidders or because terms were declined.

Thirty-two oil companies had been approved as potential bidders.

MORE

The terms, of course, are detailed in the story, but suffice to say that the amount of payment is one of the key issues.  Another twist is that these are not “production-sharing” deals, but “service contracts” being offered because the Iraqi parliament hasn’t passed an oil bill yet and this sort of contract makes it easier to start the process at this point.  Under service contracts, a fixed fee will be paid for oil produced instead of having a proportion of the oil awarded to a company under a production-sharing contract.

So, things aren’t proceeding that quickly on the oil production front.

However, I caught a report on NPR which didn’t provide that information. Instead, the report simply mentioned that Iraqi oil bidding had started.

If you look at the story on the NPR site, you’ll see a fuller report, with the emphasis on being a lot more “touchy-feely.”

Foreign Companies Bid On Iraqi Oil Licenses

Morning Edition, June 30, 2009 · Foreign companies could soon be pumping Iraqi oil for the first time in nearly 40 years.

On Tuesday, the government of Iraq opened bids from oil companies interested in helping the country realize its oil production potential.

The oil companies are so eager for a crack at Iraq’s vast oil wealth that they are willing to overlook some big negatives: It’s a country still at war. There’s a lot of political opposition to foreign oil companies. There’s no guarantee the contracts awarded at this auction will even be honored. And yet, more than 30 companies submitted bids.

Big Oil has not had an opportunity like this for decades.

A bit later in the story, we do get some reality:

When Saddam Hussein kicked the foreign oil companies out of Iraq in 1972, many Iraqis supported the move, and there is still strong opposition to any sharing of the country’s oil wealth with foreign companies. The withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns this week has only reinforced Iraqi nationalism. In the coming weeks or months, Iraqi parliamentarians may even move to overturn oil contracts awarded through Tuesday’s auction.

But there’s hope:

The opening round produced only one deal. The Iraqi offers generally fell short of the oil company bids, and additional bargaining seemed likely.

Such deals won’t necessarily be highly profitable for the oil companies. In the next phase of the competition, however, the Iraqi government is expected to open fields that have not yet been explored or developed. The companies that win the right to search for oil might then be able to take a share of what they find. It’s that competition — not this one — that would mean big money for the companies.

“This is just everybody kind of wanting to get their foot in the door for the bigger prizes that will be here in a year or two,” says Stratfor’s Zeihan. No one wants to be left out.

“What makes Iraq special,” says Diwan, “is [that] there is room for all the big oil companies at the same time, and for all them to have sizable projects. Everybody will get something fairly large.”

All this may be very true, but if you only caught the brief headline story that I heard on the radio later in the day, you wouldn’t have a clue about the first day of bidding.

The question is, of course, why a news brief on the BBC can include fact that there was a difficult first day of bidding, while the NPR brief omits this information.

That’s a silly question, of course, because we all know that Americans are not allowed to get news, just spin and and obsfucation.

While Pakistan Has Our Attention, Look What’s Brewing in Somalia…

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

A few mornings ago I was listening to the BBC World Service as usual and heard a very brief mention about an Islamist leader returning to Somalia and how this might affect the Somali government. The story on the web, however, didn’t hit until yesterday.

Yes, Somalia DOES have a government.  Back in 2006, Ethiopian troops went into Somalia and shattered the Union of  Islamic Courts, a prime force in Somalia’s instablility, which hadn’t had a central goverment since 1991.  However, one of its leaders came back to become the new Somalian president in January– Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. (BBC profile here.)

Between 2007-2008 Mr Ahmed was an exiled leader of a faction within the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).

(SNIP)

He says he wants to make peace with Ethiopia, recruit Islamist militia fighters into a national security force and rebuild the country’s social services.

But a new group of insurgents has formed out of what was left of the Islamic Courts.  Al-Shabab (The Lads) are text-messaging Islamic insurgents believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda and they are controlling large areas of the country and posing a threat to the capitol, Mogadishu.

In an earlier story from March 16, 2009 the BBC published this report:

The Somali transitional federal government implemented Sharia law in the country in March in an effort to drain support for the radical Islamist guerrillas.

But a senior police officer in Mogadishu – who also asked the BBC to withhold his name – said the government’s move would not stop the killing because al-Shabab had a “hidden agenda… to make the world unsafe”.

map of areas under al-shabaab control

The police officer said al-Shabab was led by foreigners, while some younger members of the organisation were Somalis who had spent time abroad.

They had often been dropouts or addicts and were the most vulnerable to be used as suicide bombers, he added.

So now, the other Islamic Courts leader has returned.  He’s on the U.S.’s most-wanted list of terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Islamist leader back in Somalia.

Mr [Sheikh Hassan Dahir] Aweys and Mr Ahmed both headed the UIC, which ruled most of the country for the second half of 2006.

They fled to the Eritrean capital Asmara, where they formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS).

The two men split after Mr Ahmed – considered the more moderate of the two – agreed to UN-led talks with the government that brought him to power in January 2009 and saw Ethiopia withdraw its troops.

Mr Aweys accused Mr Ahmed of siding with the enemy, and last July declared he had taken control of the ARS.

Mr Aweys is an influential leader of one of Mogadishu’s most powerful clans, so his arrival in the capital suggests that relations between the two men has improved and some kind of agreement is one the table, our correspondent says.

If that is the case, it could significantly improve security in the capital, and give the government a badly needed boost of authority, he adds.

Radical Islamist guerrillas such as al-Shabab, which control parts of Mogadishu and much of central and southern Somalia, have sworn to topple the fragile government.

And, guess what?  International donors are going to spend $250 million to build up a police force (10,000) and national security force (6,000).  This is supposed to help combat piracy and bolster the new government which, according to BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Woolridge, “enjoys little practical authority at present.”

On a parallel track, we’re now hearing how Pakistan’s deal to allow the Taliban to impose Islamic law in a part of the country has opened a Pandora’s box.  We’ve got Sharia Law in the UK, and U.S. Treasury Department meetings about Sharia investing.

What comes next?

“The Black President”: A 1926 Novel “Predicts” the Politics of 2008 with Some Eerily Similar Details

~~By InsightAnaltyical-GRL

On the morning of January 3rd, a Saturday, I lingered in bed listening to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio.  I had tuned in in time to catch the weekly “roundup” edition of  the BBC World Service’s daily show on arts and entertainment called “The Strand.”

Suddenly, near the end of the program a woman, who was apparently a critic from Brazil, was talking about an author who wrote a book back in the 1920’s about a black man who became President of the United States.  The host commented on all the uncanny similarities between the events in the book and 2008’s Presidential campaign.

I scribbled a few notes, then later that day went back to the BBC World Service site to try to “re-listen” to the broadcast.  Couldn’t find it.  To this day, I still can’t find it. The site hasn’t been updated since January 3 and I’ve looked through all the full daily programs as well as the show I heard that Saturday morning. I’ve listened to the whole thing, but there is NO discussion of the book…and there is nothing mentioned about it in the show descriptions, either.

So, what’s up with the missing program segment on this story?

All this mystery prompted me to go searching. It took me quite awhile, but I came up with a few bits and pieces of information.  (What I’ve cited in this post is basically all I found.) Curiously, the very last thing I dredged up was a story from Slate dating from this past September.

Finally, I had found out more details on this book!  The author is apparently much better known as a children’s writer, but about half of his output was geared toward adult readers.  This book is one of his adult works, which is described as being on of Brazil’s earliest science-fiction novels. According to the critic I heard, the book was never published in the U.S. and only a few chapters have been translated into English.

Take a peek (my highlighting):

The Black President A 1926 Brazilian sci-fi novel predicts a U.S. election determined by race and gender.

O Presidente Negro (The Black President).Monteiro Lobato is a household name in his native Brazil, best-known for “Sítio do Picapau Amarelo” (“Yellow Woodpecker’s Ranch”), a series of children’s books that has been adapted for television on several occasions. He was an active businessman and libertarian and is considered the founder of Brazil’s publishing industry, but his 1926 science-fiction novel, O Presidente Negro (The Black President)—which foresaw technological, geopolitical, and environmental transformations—is attracting the most interest this year, since it anticipated a political landscape in which gender and race would determine the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

O Presidente Negro envisions the 2228 U.S. presidential election. In that race, the white male incumbent, President Kerlog, finds himself running against Evelyn Astor, a white feminist, and James Roy Wilde, the cultivated and brilliant leader of the Black Association, “a man who is more than just a single man … what we call a leader of the masses.”

You may notice some similarities to the John McCain-Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama face-off; and so did Editora Globo, the publisher of O Presidente Negro, which reissued the novel during the Democratic primaries in a stroke of marketing genius…

Of course, there are several differences between Lobato’s story and the circumstances surrounding the 2008 election.

(MORE)

I’m not going to go into more detail.  The Slate article includes a FULL PLOT SUMMARY. Let’s just say that the critic I heard on that Saturday morning a couple of weeks back said that there were lessons to be learned and that Barack Obama, hopefully, would be attentive to situations that could be full of threatening tensions, some that could have a personal impact on his life.

Here’s some more background on Monteiro Lobato, his writings and his political views:

From the site, Vidas Lusófonas (translated)

In 1918, he successfully published his first volume of short stories, Urupês. He founded the publishing house Editora Monteiro Lobato & Cia., introducing new standards for printing quality, bringing out new authors and, finally, going bankrupt. In 1920, he published A menina do nariz arrebitado (The Little Girl with the Turned Up Nose), with cover design and illustrations by Voltolino, and managed to have it adopted as a school text, with a record first printing of 50,000 copies. He set up the Companhia Editora Nacional, another publishing firm, in Rio de Janeiro. He was invited to be the commercial attaché in New York, where he served for four years (between 1927 and 1931). He was fascinated by Henry Ford, by metallurgy and by the oil industry. He lost all his money in the 1929 stock market crash. He returned to Brazil and threw himself into the Campaign for the Protection of Brazilian Oil, delivering speeches, sending letters and making the whole country aware of the importance of oil to national development. It was then that he realized how popular and well-known he really was. He was arrested! His feelings about Brazil wavered between enthusiasm and depression. – He was active in Editora Brasiliense, a book publisher, lived in Buenos Aires, became a communist sympathizer…

From Brazzil magazine, March 2001 (translated from the Portuguese)

Lobato thought about development as translated into the image of the machine. In order to build those machines, you needed iron. To move the machinery, you needed oil. For him, the two fundamental pillars are these two things, and the third was bread, that is, food. These are the three elements of modern economic infrastructure.

Let’s talk now about Lobato the children’s author. How did he revolutionize the universe of children universe through literature?

If Monteiro Lobato had written in English, there’s no doubt that today he would be one of the great universal fabulists. First because he gathered all world fables together in his stories. Second, his stories include the fantastic element but it was not the oppressive fantastic, as in most imported fables, but the delirious fantastic. Lobato’s formula has one foot in reality but also has an opening for fiction and dreams. Observe that Lobato, when he produces his fables, he also subverts the relations between children and adults. Suddenly children are interlocutors capable of talking with adults and the adults have to be available and to look at the child as a little human being who is intelligent and thinks. He used to say that he was a children’s writer, not a writer of childish things. There is, in fact, a project behind all his children’s literature. At the end of his life, when he was tired, the oil didn’t work, the iron didn’t work, Getúlio Vargas’s dictatorship censured him, he said he was tired of writing for grown-ups. “What boring people!”, he used to say, “let’s see if I can help train better adults by writing for children”.

More details on his political views from Wikipedia:

Politically, Lobato was strongly in favor of a state monopoly for iron and oil exploration in Brazil and battled publicly for it between 1931 and 1939. For his libertarian views, he was arrested by the then dictatorial government of Getúlio Dornelles Vargas in 1941. This movement, called O Petróleo é Nosso (Oil Belongs to Us) was highly successful, and the same Getúlio Vargas, after being democratically elected president, created Petrobras in 1952.

He died in São Paulo in 1948.

Political ideas

Lobato was really a man ahead of his time, and paid dearly for this, being ridiculed by part of the public and even arrested by the government. His ideas included:

  • English should be taught at schools because it was more important[citation needed] than French or Latin (So he had the children characters learn English in one of its books)
  • Ores and Oil should be managed by the state to prevent their control by international corporations not interested in developing Brazil but in keeping it as consumer market (Viscount’s Oil)
  • The Brazilian folk traditions were the cornerstone of national identity, they should be preserved and more cherished
  • The world was changing fast and those who could not adapt to its pace would end up being “eaten” (The Size Switch)
  • That scientific research could eventually enable man to make deeper changes to nature, and that such changes, if not wisely directed, could result in disasters
  • That war exists only because of corporate greed, political alienation of the masses and racial prejudice (The Size Switch)

All these ideas were published between 1923 and 1944, which makes them even more notable.

Read the full,  detailed description of the book from the article in Slate. And wonder why the BBC seems to have “lost” the interview I heard two weeks ago.

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Additional Information:

Encyclopedia Brittanica, José Bento Monteiro Lobato (very brief bio)