Richard Kim is the executive editor of The Nation. He is co-editor, with Betsy Reed, of the New York Times bestselling anthology Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare. Kim has appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Up with Chris Hayes/Steve Kornacki, Melissa Harris-Perry, CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now! and other media outlets. He has taught at New York University and Skidmore College.
Last Friday I wrote about the IMF's new $100 million loan to Haiti. I cited debt relief activists who told me that the new loan would be an extension of the IMF's existing loan of $165 million. This information was confirmed by the IMF's press release, which stated that "emergency financing would be provided as an augmentation to the existing IMF-supported arrangement with Haiti under the Extended Credit Facility [ECF]." The IMF's announcement provided no further information about conditions that may or may not be attached to the loan and made no mention of future debt relief for Haiti.
It was all a hoax, a fraud, a cynical and none too well concocted publicity stunt to bolster the Heene family's reality TV cachet. But there was something beautiful about the lie too, for like all lies the balloon boy story provided us with a release from reality, an escape. I don't mean to make light of viewers' fears that six-year-old Falcon Heene's life was in danger as his UFO-shaped vessel floated into the sky. But who can deny the element of wonder and envy evoked by that spectacle?
It seemed a myth from the beginning: the innocent child, guilty only of being too curious, transcending earth to join the heavens. He was too pure, too good for this world. Literature is full of such ascendant figures: Remedios the Beauty from Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude who is too lovely for this world and so one day levitates away while folding laundry; Pascal, the French boy from The Red Balloon (1956), whose devotion to protecting his new friend from a gang of balloon-popping bullies is rewarded when all the balloons in Paris take him for a magical ride; and Jesus who, after his persecution and resurrection, ascends into heaven in front of his eleven disciples to sit at the right hand of God. Then there is the wife of Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, who wrote a book about how her soul took a ride "on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus." According to Miyuki Hatoyama, "It was a very beautiful place, and it was really green."
Frankly, from where I'm standing, Venus sounds like a great place now. Here on Earth, it is increasingly looking like world leaders are going to blow the Copenhagen summit, a moment that Gordon Brown has called the last chance to save our planetary home. In the territorial United States, unemployment is at 10 percent, and while Wall Street makes record bonuses off taxpayer-funded bailouts, jobs are nowhere in sight. Obama may have won a Nobel Peace Prize in part for his talk on eliminating nuclear weapons, but the US Senate hasn't even approved the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Ninety-nine red balloons go by. Afghanistan and Iraq--every day brings news of the horrors of occupation, and the only choices the US can make are hard ones.
I woke up, read the New York Times website and thought I had come to the Onion instead. I hit refresh. Still there: "Obama Wins Nobel for Diplomacy." Maybe this is one of my weird work-related dreams, I thought. Maybe I am still drunk from last night's party. Better close my eyes and wake up again in the real world. Five minutes later...and still no dice.
Yes, Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. My first reaction is that this is going to be a test of how much crazier Orly Taitz and the Republican Anti-Christers can get. Not only does this prove that Obama is a socialist svengali--because he got the Norwegians to vote for him, probably as part of some UN-takeover of America--it also proves that Obama is piggy. Anti-Christs are so like that; they want everything right now (and losing the 2016 Olympics was just a red herring).
But back in reality, I'm still a little bewildered. It's as if the Nobel Committee gave Obama the award for behaving like a normal American president, instead of like a clueless corrupt cowboy.
Eyal's post juxtaposes the irrational views an alarming number of Republicans have about Barack Obama (a Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist-Hitler!) with the conspiracy theory--apparently held by 25 percent of Democrats--that Bush let 9/11 happen to justify a march to war. Fair enough, but I'm not sure you need to graze that far afield to find a left-right correspondence.
The first time I encountered a fantastic, fact-proof theory about Obama was during primary season. It was at a debate-watching party where an acquaintance of mine, an Obama-volunteer, hissed at Hillary Clinton's response to a question about same-sex marriage. "She's such a homophobe!" the woman exclaimed. I felt the need to correct the record.
"She's not really any more anti-gay or pro-gay than Obama. Neither of them back gay marriage, for example," I pointed out.