October 2009

America, the numbers and the Recession

As always, politics is money. Obama can be on television talking about whatever he wants to talk about, but the bottom line is that he needs to put money in the pockets of the people who need it- or at least make sure that they have enough in there to do what they need to do.

These days that means getting people out to the stores to spend money so that we can start expanding the businesses again, right? Jump starting the economy means promoting investment, and the only way investment works is if there is growth- and in order for there to be growth, people need to be spending money. Circular, for certain, and we need to start drawing a whole new circle.

Clinton in Pakistan Asking Questions

Hard to believe.

I love it. That was Hillary Clinton’s assessment of the Pakistani government’s claim that they don’t know where al Qaeda is.

"I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to," she said. I’ve never been a big Hillary supporter but that is awesome. She flies to Pakistan after traveling the world and being super-peacemaker, sits down and is like, ok guys, lets get down to business here.

U.S. and China to Deepen Military Ties

Call it the changing of the guard, call it the new world order, or call it just the way things go- the U.S. and China are now holding high level talks about working more closely together militarily in the future. China has far more people than the U.S., holds a large chunk of U.S. debt, and recently overtook the U.S. as the number one polluter on the planet, as far as countries go. None of those in and of themselves mean anything dramatic, but taken together the represent symbols of a shifting power structure around the world. China also has a major voice in the Copenhagen summit and whatever environmental/ climate change agreement can hope to be made in the years that come.

Abbas Threatens To Not Run Unless Israel Agrees to Cease Settlement Building

Now this is politics. Current Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is saying that unless Israel drops its refusal to freeze settlements. That is either a threat or some serious hardball politics (or not true, as some of his officials are saying). Either way, it is the most recent of the international political challenges that President Obama has to deal with.
So far he gets a bad score on Copenhagen, lost out on the Chicago Olympics bid, hasn’t made any kind of progress on the Israel-Palestine Peace Accord and hasn’t made any real decision about Afghanistan- so, this one has some clout as far as giving us some idea how Obama plays hardball in the international political arena.

Questions About Afghanistan

There are 65,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan and President Obama is taking his time considering whether to send all or part of the 40,000 recommended/ requested by General Stanley McChrystal. Cheney says Obama is dithering (Does what Cheney thinks still matter?) It’s the first real decision that Obama is going to make in his role as Commander In Chief.

It brings up a few questions, all of political significance:

All Politics is Environmental Politics

As politics and the environment become more and more entwined, they will become the framework for every other issue out there. Do you think the healthcare reform issue has nothing to do with the environment? What about the financial crisis? Is it a stretch to say that both of them are actually about the environment? Perhaps, but consider:

1.    Healthcare: Taking care of each other is about community, and community is what America does not have. Individual rights? Yes. Patriotism? Yes. Community? Not so much. And that’s what makes it ok to argue that creating a public option is not a good thing for people.

The Catholic Church Speaks to Africa

The Pope is getting in on the international politics of Africa. In essence, he called on all African leaders who grew up Catholic and were Catholic educated to stop being corrupt and start governing like good Catholics or give up their positions. In essence: Repent or Retire.

"Many Catholics in high office have fallen woefully short in their performance in office. The synod calls on such people to repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name,” said a message from the synod.

Liberal Agenda? You Bet Your Sweet Behind

Some people, mostly the vocal elements of the ever more cartoonish Right, have accused me and my party of having a comprehensive "Liberal Agenda". They say we're trying to make the country different from what it once was, that we have plans for America's future and nothing but the conservative bloc can stop us. Well, to that I have this to say:

My name is Barack Obama, I am the President of the United States of America and yes, I do have a big, gay, socialist, liberal agenda.

Health Care Reform and Harry Reid

"It's time to level the playing field for American healthcare consumers and make the insurance industry play by the same rules that other industries live by," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

And there you have it- the Senators are going after the insurance industry not just with the public option but where it hurts- the insurance industry’s exemption from antitrust laws.

So, is this an earnest attack or just a bargaining chip in a brutal battle over the coming healthcare reform vote- as in, Democrats saying look, back off with the assault on the healthcare reform or we are going to come back at you and bust up your antitrust exemption. Don’t make this any nastier than it already is, guys.

Since Democrats are saying they will add it on to the bill that will be going to the floor in the next few weeks, I expect it is there as a bargaining chip, something to be taken off later on once the battle gets going.

Americans Need to Live Within Our Means? What Does That Mean?

Tim Geithner is talking about America learning to live within its means once the economy recovers- but, won’t the economy only truly recover once people start investing again? And doesn’t investment inherently mean creating money where it wasn’t before- as in, getting things to grow- as in, getting your money to work beyond its means?  

Interracial Couple Denied the Right to Marry in Louisiana, ACLU Calls for Removal

Can you imagine serving in the military, doing your duty for the land of the free, to come home and meet Mr. Right just to be told that you are not allowed to get married because your fiancée has the wrong color of skin? That is just what happened to a couple in Louisiana. When Beth Humphrey and finance Terence McKay chose to get married, Keith Bardwell, the Justice of the Peace for Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, refused to issue them a marriage license because they are an interracial couple.

What Has Obama Done?

Words I associate with the Obama campaign: Change, Hope, New.

Words I associate with the Obama presidency: Great speeches, Unwavering optimism, No new legislation.

I’m not getting down on President Obama, but I am in the camp that wonders where the change is. But that said, I see what he is up to- he’s currently working on probably the most difficult issues of his presidency: trying to pass a universal healthcare reform bill and trying to figure out how to deal with the war in Afghanistan. Each of these will have significant and lasting impact on the general perception of his presidency. Take your time and make the right decision, make them happen, fine.

I'm At Peace... Nobel Peace

Ah, I haven't felt this good in a long time. I'm sleeping better than I have in months, I've got my appetite back and I am just so relaxed. It's just nice to be recognized for once, ya know? I mean, recognized for who I really am. Everybody always sees the suits and the b-ball and that big, gaudy seal that says "The President of the United States", but they don't know what's underneath it all. Deep down, I guess I'd call myself a negotiator of sorts, the kind of guy who can show people how to settle their differences and make some real progress. Yeah, there'll be no more needless fighting while I'm in charge. We're just gonna have to slow things down and start working at a more reasonable pace. Of course, I can't move as fast these days as I used to, on account of being a little weighed down by my Nobel Peace Prize.

The Politics of Afghanistan

Politics is, at a very base level, the exchanging of favors for mutual gain. One of the biggest political stories going on right now is Obama and the Afghanistan issue- there are plenty of political moves being played there.

Japan is choosing to let an Afghanistan refueling contract with the U.S. run out just a month before Obama is set to visit them- but there is a new government in Japan, a new party in power and they are claiming that they want the U.S. to treat them as more equal. Well, not renewing a military contract is a great first step toward that, guys…

That would go in the hard-guy category, not on the side of exchanging favors for mutual gain. On the other hand…

On President Obama Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

Honestly, I don’t really know what to think.  During his acceptance speech, President Obama attempted to deflect attention from himself, and for good reason.  One would be hard pressed to find a solid problem that he has yet solved.  This doesn’t mean he won’t solve any problems or that he will; it’s just a statement of fact.  But it’s not necessarily important that he has “done” anything.  No one who has won the Nobel Peace Prize has ever actually brought about peace in the world.  It is their effort to bring about peace that the award seeks to honor.