Posts filed under ‘Politics’
Seems that the masterful poet, Donald Rumsfeld (he of “there are known unknowns” fame), has encountered a real unknown – a Metro system bus. Rummy tried (and failed) to catch a public bus in Washington DC (eh? he’s sunk to the depths of the public transport system now?). Old Donald was waiting for the No. 42 bus at Dupont Circle. In his hand was a plastic SmarTrip card, a rechargeable fare card used on DC’s metro system.
Now, let’s remember that Rumsfeld was the former Secretary of Defense (how could we forget?). He was perfectly capable of launching an invasion into Iraq but seems the intricacies of how to catch a public bus are way beyond him. Apparently, he was standing alone (yeah, well I for one wouldn’t wish to stand next to him) at the 42 Metrobus bus stop looking at his card (probably wondering what the hell to do with it). Along came a bus, packed with people. So Rummy took off and walked down the hill. Guess he was too distracted, thinking about his memoirs that will hit book shelves in 2010.
And speaking of a fall from grace old dudes, hasn’t Dick Cheney left office? You wouldn’t think so reading this story. The former VP has been busy giving interviews and warning that there is a high probability that terrorists will launch a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack and that Obama’s administration will make it easier for said terrorists. Cheney is fretting about the release of “hard core terrorists” from Gitmo and refers to Guantanamo as a “first-class program” (in what? torture?).
He went on to bleat: “The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.”
Really. This tired old dude just needs to ride off into the sunset. We’ve had enough of this rhetoric about war, fear and terrorists about to pounce. Let Obama do what he can now that we are breathing in an atmosphere of hope and change. Go off and retire somewhere far, far, far away PLEASE. NOW.
At long last: Dubya is about to ride off into the sunset, only to be remembered as the worst Prez in history. He leaves office with a 22% approval rating. Since Australia is ahead of the US, I get to farewell Dubya ahead of my US readers (by the way, I’ve installed a cluster map on TS blog. I was surprised to see how many readers I have in the US – more than two at last!).
What better way to farewell Dubya than to celebrate his masterful oratory skills. Here is a collection of my favourite Bushisms, enjoy:
- “There are some monuments where the land is so widespread, they just encompass as much as possible. And the integral part of the – the precious part, so to speak – I guess all land is precious, but the part that the people uniformly would not want to spoil, will not be despoiled. But there are parts of the monument lands where we can explore without affecting the overall environment“. Say what??? Washington, D.C. March 13, 2001.
- “[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system“. Ranks as one of my personal favourities along with:
- “I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully”. Michigan, September 2000, explaining his energy policies.
- “I want to thank my friend, Senator Bill Frist, for joining us today…..He married a Texas girl, I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me”. Nashville, Tennessee – May 27 2004.
- “I just want you to know that when we talk about war we’re really talking about peace”. Washington, June 18 2002.
- “I’ll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office”. To Israeli journalists in Washington in an interview – May 12, 2008. Ah actually Dubya: I think we’ve been onto you for some years now.
- “I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office”. Washington, June 26 2008.
- “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning”. South Carolina, January 11, 2000.
- “You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test”. Tennessee, February 21, 2001.
And here is the Bushism that sums up for me all the damage he has done to this world, to the US Constitution and to the reputation of the US and its citizens:
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we”. Washington, August 5 2004.
So join with me in saying hasta la vista Bush. May your brother, Jeb, never see the inside of the Oval Office. And can we finally rejoice in having a US Prez who can skillfully string a sentence together? Yes We Can!
I am nominating someone for the ThinkingShift 2009 idiot of the year award. And this person has an apt name – Mayor Michael Nutter. And a nutter this dude appears to be. He is the Mayor of Philadelphia and wants to contribute to the dumbing-down of contemporary society. He (wait for it) wants to close libraries in Philadelphia to save money.
He wants to close 11 of the city’s 54 branch libraries at an estimated savings of $8 million a year. Nutter is also planning to deactivate seven fire department engine and ladder companies and close scores of city swimming pools. Tough luck if the city suffers a major fire!
Now, I’m not familiar with this city although I visited it once to deliver a workshop. But seems to me that any city that shuts libraries (and swimming pools) is closing off educational and social opportunities for children and adults. Don’t know about your local library but mine is used by young kids to improve their reading skills; older people as a recreational place to meet and borrow resources they can ill-afford; young mothers who participate in a book club whilst their young children listen to stories being read to them. Libraries contribute to the social fabric and provide a sense of community. Particularly in poorer areas, libraries provide a safe haven for at-risk kids. I could provide a very long list to this Nutter dude of what libraries do. But I won’t reinvent the wheel – Nutter can go here and find out all the ways libraries contribute to society, education and ciitizenship.
And swimming pools? Well, not everyone can afford a sparkling backyard pool and having one is not environmentally responsible anyway. So if you close community swimming pools, where do the kids and parents go on hot summer days? I guess Nutter will be happy when he finds kids scrawling graffiti on public buildings or participating in petty crime because the libraries and swimming pools have been slammed shut in their faces.
Thankfully, this ridiculous proposal of Nutter’s is turning into a fur fight that I will be watching with interest. A group of private citizens and some City Council members have filed a suit to stop this nutter. And a sensible judge has ruled in the plaintiff’s favour. But in an astonishing display of hubris, Nutter responded that the ruling hampers his Executive power to run the city, which apparently includes some scheme to “re-purpose” the libraries into “knowledge centers” by turning over public libraries to private sources. And we all know what that could mean: fewer services, reduced hours, less staff – all in the name of profit seeking.
I’m no Mayor but wouldn’t it be a smarter move to examine let’s say the number of motor cars clogging up the city’s roadways and perhaps tax those who bring their cars into the city. London hits its citizens with a congestion charge so why not consider this? Or what about conducting an energy audit of city buildings and schools and implementing energy saving techniques such as occupancy sensors, energy efficient fluorescent lighting and so on. Nutter could also have a look at highly paid city officials’ salaries, including his own, and perhaps give them all a haircut. And he could check out all the contractors the city is hiring and terminate those for non-essential services. He could also ask all city departments to examine their own spending and nominate three ways they could cut back. Heck, Philadelphia ask me to be your Mayor – I could come up with dozens of ways to prune the city budget without slashing libraries and swimming pools!
I am mourning the impending loss of Dubya. Who will I rant and rave about now that he’s set to swoop from office? As we know, Bush has been ripping to shreds civil liberties and expanding Presidential powers at the expense of citizens over the last 8 years in the name of the War on Terror. And he’s been usurping Legislative powers and disturbing the balance of powers. Frankly, I continue to be amazed the US Constitution is still standing. If you need a refresher course on the crimes of Bush and his croneys, go here.
I’ve said in previous posts that I’ve been watching Obama carefully. I’m still not won over by him. I worry about anyone who refers to himself as “an instrument of God’s will” coming to power. But my spirits were uplifted when he was on the campaign trail I’ll admit that. Here was someone I thought could usher in “change”. And at least he could string a sentence together unlike Bush.
I did a post recently that looked at whether there is a cult of personality going on around Obama and asking what exactly is Universal Voluntary Public Service? Given the popularity of Obama, I expected to be slammed for this post. Nothing, nada, zippo. No comments left. No fiery emails. I can draw some conclusions from this:
- I have no readers or very few readers.
- No-one cares what I have to say and can’t be bothered leaving a comment. Possible!
- You are waiting (just like I am) to see how the Obama Administration works out
In the interests of saving face, I’ll go with the final option. But today, I want to have a look at some of the criticism that is already being levelled at Obama and why. Mainly, it concerns his backsliding on promises he made on the campaign trail. I guess we need some sympathy for the guy. He’s always struck me as being like an eager, idealistic puppy. And when you’re like that and campaigning for The Prize, you believe you can change things. But when you start getting daily security and briefing reports that tell you the economy is toast, that the US is toast, that the climate is toast – well, guess you may have to renege on some of those promises.
However, the list is getting big. Let’s have a look.
- he vowed to tax the obscene profits of oil companies. That ‘aint happening now as he’s reversed his pledge to tax the pants off them.
- he said that he would withdraw US troops from Iraq but seems he’s gone a bit soft on this pledge. He is saying that there will be a responsible withdrawal over 16 months (but only if advised that this is a safe withdrawal timeframe), yet up to 55,000 troops will be left behind (for training and logistical support). And I don’t hold out much hope for a withdrawal given that Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State (and voted for war in Iraq) and Robert Gates continues on as defense secretary. And Obama’s talking about sending more troops to Afghanistan.
- he is a supporter of “clean coal” (how the heck is coal ever clean?) – not something we need when we’re facing climate change and really should be finding alternative energy sources.
- and where are the Liberal Democrats in his Cabinet? I’m still looking.
But here’s the thing that really has me worried. At a time when Federal funding for scientific research has taken a battering, Obama made an election pledge to double Federal funding for basic research in the sciences; he promised to strengthen maths and science education; and work to increase the number of science and engineering graduates. Obama has already made some smart appointments, showing that he is supportive of science: Harvard physicist, John Holdren, as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Steven Chu, a Nobel prizewinner, to the Department of Energy.
So why choose a Creationist to deliver the religious ritual at your Inauguration? Obama has asked Rick Warren, a pretty extremist, celebrity pastor who wrote the bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, to deliver the invocation on January 20. This is what Warren stands for:
- he opposes gay marriage (so I guess Hope and Change is not about accepting diversity) and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia.
- he does not believe in Evolution. In fact, his grasp of science and paleontology is a bit suspect for he states that “The Bible’s picture is that dinosaurs and man lived together on the earth”. Obviously, he’s from the scientific creationism school of thought, which believes a literal interpretation of the Bible is scientifically demonstrable. But the fossil record shows that humans appeared on Earth millions of years after Dino dinosaurs went kaput. Scientific creationists apparently believe that human and dinosaur footprints have appeared side by side, ergo man and Dino lived happily together on this planet. Given that Obama has pledged to promote and support science, I must say inviting an extreme creationist to deliver the invocation is an odd choice and smacks of the continuing influence of the religious right.
- worse: Warren has compared abortion to the Holocaust. So I guess he is equating women who have abortions with Nazis. He also believes that Jews will burn in Hell.
I have no issue with Obama picking a Christian minister to deliver the blessing stuff. But I would have thought a Christian leader who represented what Obama seems to stand for (ie progress, change, moderation, inclusion) would have been a better choice and sent a better signal. The Prez-elect is saying that he holds views that are contrary to Warren’s on gay rights and abortion. And that “During the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented. And that’s how it should be, because that’s what America is about. That’s part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated”. Mmmm…you would think that Obama of all people might be sensitive enough to understand what it means to be discriminated against and would take a stand against discrimination in all its forms. So I’m thinking that choosing Warren to pray over the POTUS is a dumb start to the new Administration given its historical significance.
I said in a previous post that I don’t like uneven numbers, so already I’m not liking the sound of 2009. Normally, I don’t offer up my own predictions – basically, I’d be worried that one year later, when my predictions turned out to be oh so ridiculous, I’d have serious egg-on-face. But I’ve been reading heaps on the global economy and other stuff, so I’m going to outline what I think 2009 might bring us based on all my readings and thinking. Leave a comment if you have other thoughts.
1. Re-invent yourself as a Chief Financial Officer. This would be have to be the dream job of the moment. With the GFHF (global financial hissy fit), employees are being shown the door and companies are literally vanishing overnight. Organisations left standing require a magician to navigate them through economic hell – the CFO! Organisations will do some internal reckoning and look at their exposure. Pity I suck so badly at finance.
2. We’ll all be in economic hell along with the CFO. Obama’s stimulus package (or as I believe it’s now called, Economic Recovery Plan) and the Rudd Government’s attempts to kick-start flagging economies seem to assume that this is all that’s needed. The spending that sustained us all over the last few years was based on the housing bubble, which has well and truly burst. Before that, it was the tech bubble. So unless a new bubble comes along, I’m not sure how things will recover once the Recovery Plans run out of steam. What will be the basis of a post-GFHF economy? Manufacturing? Real Estate? Financial industry? How do you build a sustainable economy without bubbles and Government “recovery plans”? All the devastating forces are still ripping into the economy – housing slump, decrease in consumer confidence and the hedge funds and banks I reckon are still to reveal exactly what they’ve been up to (so probably more bailouts will be required, further burdening the taxpayer). And I don’t see how leaders like PM Rudd are going to really help the situation with the Christmas hand-out, telling us to spend up big. It’s the consumerist, American-style capitalist model that got us into the GFHF situation in the first place. A rethink of this model needs to take place pronto.
I reckon 2009 will see formal admission by the IMF that the global economy is in Recession. Despite Obama and the atmosphere of hope around his Administration, I don’t think he’ll be able to overcome rising unemployment in the US and a deepening Recession in that country throughout 2009. I wouldn’t be surprised if some US States declare themselves “bankrupt”. Let’s just hope we don’t see signs of hyperinflation.
Banks will screw you and me. Consumer credit will be restricted and if you’re late with a payment, watch out, they will hit you with penalties at high interest rates. But Governments will probably increasingly take direct control of banks.
I also think that employers could get nasty. Knowing that people are fretting about keeping their jobs, wages could be cut and more demands made on staff to “do more with less” – leading to worker stress and gloomy moods.
3. There will be a trend towards living a simpler life. Yep, I know that many people have been calling for a return to a less materialistic world for some time. But I think 2009 will see a conscious shift towards making your own stuff, doing with less voluntarily. The GFHF has scared the bejesus out of us. Anyone under the age of 80 years has no memory of what it’s like to live through a Depression. But we’ve all heard the stories. As a result, I think we’ll start to re-examine our lives with a view towards having less personal debt and going back to basics – like lay-bys, eating at home more, less reliance on outside entertainment and so on. Heck, even I am looking to invest in a sewing machine to make my own clothes (and I’ve never been known for my sewing abilities). I want more control over what materials I can choose. I want clothes that aren’t “Made in China”, poorly made and destined to fall apart within a season.
We will no longer sit back and accept that CEOs get paid exorbitant salaries and bonuses. We will not suffer fools – greedy bankers and financial advisors. We will return to saving and investing wisely and seeking long-term financial security not just short-term profits. We will need to reflect and adapt because a very different GFHF world awaits us.
4. Because of the ongoing economic uncertainty and people worrying about jobs and losing homes, I think we’ll see an increase in civil unrest. There could be a rekindling of socialist ideals.
5. There will be some industries or professions you’d like to be in because they will see an increase in popularity. During the Great Depression, people went to the cinema to relieve anxiety. Women still bought lipsticks and cosmetics to make them feel better. So I reckon the entertainment and cosmetics industries will thrive.
6. We’ll expect more from our politicians. Instead of party bickering, we will be looking for strong leadership to guide us through 2009. Hopefully, this will start with Obama. We will expect increased cooperation between political parties and on the international stage as Governments and politicians collaboratively address economic issues.
7. Politically, Afghanistan will start to haunt Obama. There will be further strife between India and Pakistan. I think we’ll see a rise in trade protectionism. So for example, already you see Russia raising tariffs on autos to prop up its ailing car production industry (mmmm….wonder if there will be a call for the return of Communism there?). The EU is busy accusing the US of taking a more protectionist stance on trade. I think that increased protectionism will be a huge threat to the global economy in 2009 because it will lead to a collapse in global trading.
8. The global climate is stuffed and continues to be stuffed. 2009 will see more wild weather patterns. I think it will be chaotic and all at a rate faster than predicted. We’ll have to take ourselves off the snooze alarm but it might be way too late to get serious about climate change. I think we’ll start to see the first skirmishes over resources. I was reading recently about a worldwide shortage of seed. For example, soybean seed has been in short supply and alfalfa seed supply is tight. We’ve already seen food riots breaking out in Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. And of course farmers are probably going to face a tough time getting credit to buy seeds. This will all get worse in 2009 leading to food shortages and skirmishes affecting the stability of regimes.
World food security is measured by grain inventories and the really bad news is that only 50 days of grain inventories are available, compared with 115 days in 2000. This is the lowest amount of available grain reserves since 1960.
I’m not sure there’s much to look forward to actually, particularly in the UK. But I also think it is a temporary situation. We will ride it out and come out the other side okay, maybe in 2010 or 2011. But we’ll be in a very different post-GFHF world that will require us to adjust, adapt and learn to focus less on ourselves. We’ll realise that in our global environment, everything is connected and that a crisis here or a skirmish there can have a ripple effect and ultimately impact you and me. I have left out the prediction that there will be disappointment with Obama in 2009 as that’s a separate post.
What are your predictions based on what’s going on in your country or what you see going on around the world?
Well, I’ll probably be slammed for this post since everyone seems to think Obama is going to save the world. I’ve been contemplating Obama for some time. Frankly, I’m not won over by him. I admit he’s a great orator with shades of Martin Luther King and JFK. The fact that he’s only been a Senator for two nanoseconds has me a tad nervous but I can live with it. He was the preferable candidate especially when you consider that Sarah Palin could have become Prez if McCain had been elected and carked it in office. And of course it is a magnificent shift in American psychology to elect the first Afro-American Prez. This is probably the first sign of the growing demographic shift in the US with minorities predicted to be in the majority by 2050. And how tremendous that Obama will be inaugurated within sight of where slave pens used to be. America has grown up.
But once Obama trounced Hillary, I became concerned about a cult of personality surrounding Obama. Paul Krugman (American economist and intellectual) in February 2008, writing in the NY Times, said: “I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality” and hero worship. Obama’s supporters have been referred to as glassy-eyed cult members with one writer saying that “Obamaphilia has gotten creepy” and that “He’s a politician so soft and safe, Oprah likes him. There’s talk about his charisma and good looks, but I know a nerd when I see one”. Other more slamming critiques refer to Obama as a “vacuous opportunist“.
Leaving aside whether there’s a cult of personality going on, what I find more serious is the admission in The Washington Post that there was press bias towards Obama (now there’s a surprise!). There were 58 negative items about McCain compared to 32 items about Obama. Stories and photos about Obama outnumbered those on McCain.
So I have been sitting back and waiting for some signs of how Obama will be different from Bush. We are all breathing a sigh of relief that Bush is wafting off into the sunset. But I posed the question some time ago: what will the new Prez do with the increased powers Bush usurped for himself? A primary question for me is what Obama will do about the expanded surveillance powers under the FISA Act, which has resulted in illegal snooping, prying and surveillance of US citizens and eavesdropping on international communications without a specific court order.
Well, I’m not given much comfort when I hear John Brennan, who heads up Obama’s intelligence-transition team, is quoted as saying Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul Bush’s intelligence policies. Okay we know he will give up the most controversial policy – Gitmo – finally putting an end to the US being implicated in torture, sorry “interrogation”. But Obama did in fact vote for the FISA Amendments Act on July 14 2008, reversing his original position and breaking with the Democratic Party’s base. Sounding a lot like Bush, he said:
“Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike..”.
In casting his vote, Obama supported giving telecommunications companies immunity against civil damages as a result of any lawsuits challenging the illegal and unconstitutional dragnet of surveillance ushered in by FISA. Perhaps Obama and his campaign handlers suffered temporary amnesia because in 2007 the Obama camp issued this statement:
“To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.“
Obviously, we have to wait and see what Prez Obama actually does under FISA once in office. He has said: “There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.”
But added that he gives a “firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.” It’s the “I deem necessary” bit that has me a bit nervous. This is sort of like “trust me, leave it to me, I will know best”. Yep, well look what Bush did.
Back to John Brennan. He recently said his team will “be looking at existing executive orders, then making sure from Jan. 20 on there’s going to be appropriate executive branch oversight of intelligence functions”. And Executive oversight is exactly what Bush did – concentrated the power into the hands of the Prez. What about Congressional and Judicial oversight?
Another aspect to Obama that I’m curious about – and the jury is still out on this one – is this business about a national civilian security force. I haven’t seen much written about this. Probably because something he said in a July 2 speech in Colorado Springs apparently disappeared from official transcripts. Obama said:
“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”
Apparently, the Wall Street Journal and the Denver Post carried the full transcript but I’ve searched in vain. What exactly did Obama mean by a powerful civilian national security force? He’s not referring to the Peace Corps because that is not a national security force. Mmmm…don’t think the US Constitution would allow for a domestic army Mr Prez-Elect.
I have found references to a “giant police force” and comments that Obama wants to take control of youth like Hitler did with his paramilitary brown shirts brigade. Surfacing the old chestnut of Marxism, Rep. Paul Broun said:
“That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.”
Okay, don’t think we need to go this far. But Obama has not articulated what he means by a “civilian national security force” so we are left to fill in the blanks. Is it referring to Obama’s strong support for community organisation and volunteerism? During his campaign, he often referred to Universal Voluntary Public Service (UVPS). Under UVPS, all Americans will be required to perform one year of public service between the ages of 18 to 30. The “volunteers” will be placed in Government service or with an NGO and will be required to attend training workshop and three retreats (or bootcamps as I’ve seen it referred to). While serving their time in the project, volunteers earn a monthly income of up to $1,800, paid health and childcare. Sounds good?
I guess it depends on how the programme is wielded. Nothing is ever really voluntary and universal. What if a young person does not wish to participate? Will they eventually be denied a specific job or College graduation? One blog refers to UVPS in this manner:
“The ideal behind the Universal Voluntary Public Service program is to guide as many youth as possible to jobs either in the government or with socially progressive NGOs. This program is really a draft forcing our youth into one year of progressive brainwashing and reprogramming”.
Obviously, we have to wait to see what the UVPS is all about but people voluntarily working for the common good was a part of the Communist Manifesto. There’s been a lot of talk about whether Obama is or was a socialist. To be honest, I don’t care. I just think that quite a few questions could and should have been asked by voters and the media but these were largely runover by the Obama steamroller.
I am very hopeful he will bring the change that is needed to the world, don’t get me wrong. But because he has “come from nowhere”, I think it is only prudent to probe and ask questions because we don’t want a replay of the Bush years. Let’s just hope he wasn’t swept into office due to public anger against Bush and the Republican agenda.