Posts Tagged ‘president’

You’ll have already seen this picture. Wil Wheaton tweeted a link to it the other day, which I think officially makes it mandatory viewing for anyone on the internet.

It’s a handy, pithy, lightly humourous, serious-point-making chart of some of the differences between the two upcoming Presidential candidates in the US, comparing Obama’s generally progressive stance with Romney’s own comically backward positions.

Four years ago I would’ve been all over this shit. And I’m still not completely out of that mindset. Significant parts of me will be profoundly depressed if Romney wins the election. It’s just an instinctively, viscerally appalling thought, in a way that Obama’s continued presidency just isn’t quite yet.

But the seemingly high probability of Obama’s second term is scant comfort. And the graphic above is a fine example of what I refuse to find comforting, this time around, about the idea of a Democrat (phew!) who isn’t George Bush (mercy of mercies!) in the White House.

“Not hard enough on Wall Street” is a nice downplaying of the fact that Obama’s been about as good a friend as the super-rich could have hoped for. The mostly empty rhetoric about having billionaires “pay their fair share” was enough to get him branded as a despised socialist, by people who have no idea what actual socialism looks like, but he’s done very little to stop corporate power and wealth creeping every further toward the top.

“Took a while to warm up to gay marriage” means the government he’s in charge of still routinely discriminates against same-sex couples. Look, it’s nice that Obama doesn’t seem to actually have much of a problem with gay people, the way Romney pretty clearly does. But public opinion has been massively shifting in tolerance’s favour, and Obama’s views are a symptom of that, not a cause. Gay rights are obviously winning, and their victory is about people getting it right, not governments passing laws. It’s nice when they do pass the right laws, obviously, but given what Obama claims to believe about equality, he gets way too much credit for not being quite as oppressive and discriminatory in his policies as he could be.

“Continuing the drone strikes”? Well, that’s a lot of dead children you’re euphemising away there.

A lot of the statist left arguments focus on how much worse things would surely be under a Republican than a Democrat, which encourages this kind of brushing away of minor niggling points like the mass murder of foreigners. They’ll admit that Obama has some flaws, hasn’t achieved as much as they’d hoped, does some things they wish he wouldn’t. But look at the alternative.

I was convinced, in 2008. I stayed up on election night watching the news until fairly late here, when the first results were starting to trickle in. Then I spontaneously woke myself up at around 5.30am, turned the radio on just in time to hear a news update with the announcement of the winner, and went back to sleep with an immense sigh of relief. Finally, the nightmare was over. Bush was out, and the sensible, progressive, nice one was in instead. Everyone knows Democrats are at least better than Republicans. They might not be great, but at least they’re not awful.

And during Obama’s first term, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act, giving the government unprecedented authority to detain basically anyone they like without trial or legal recourse, and he deported more immigrants than Bush did in the same time-span, and he stepped up raids on legal marijuana dispensaries, and he granted fewer pardons than any other president, and he just kept on droning the fuck out of brown people, and it’s getting really hard to even see him as the lesser of two evils.

(By the way, if you acknowledge that Obama is the lesser of two evils, and think this is a reason we should vote for him anyway, but you still do so with enthusiasm – or really anything other than weary, disgusted resignation – than you need to look up “evil” in the dictionary and give yourself a reminder.)

The assumption, which still pervades a lot of my own thinking, that things will necessarily be massively worse under a Republican President because the Republicans are obviously terrible, really doesn’t seem to stand up as well as it used to. And I’m finding it harder to see Obama’s continued supporters as being as well-meaning as I thought I was, four long years ago.

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Wow. Cracking down on medical marijuana, protecting torturers, casually murdering foreign civilians… One of the candidates in the upcoming US Presidential election sounds like a pretty terrible choice.

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Here’s an article about targeted drone strikes.

Here are a few choice phrases from the article, presented largely without comment, which make my head hurt.

In this new age of drone warfare, probing the constitutional legitimacy of targeted killings has never been more vital

There are contested legal issues surrounding drone strikes

Awlaki’s killing and others like it have solid legal support and are embedded in an unprecedentedly robust system of legal and political accountability

Whatever else the term “force” may mean, it clearly includes authorization from Congress to kill enemy soldiers

Congress as a whole is well aware of the president’s targeted killing program

The Supreme Court has ruled in many contexts that due process does not always demand judicial scrutiny

There is simply no way to wring all potential error from the system and still carry on a war

While the Obama administration can improve its public explanations for targeted killing, its critics have wildly overstated the legal concerns about the practice

There is every reason to think that the government was super careful

Super careful, you guys.

And finally:

President Harry Truman, for example, received a great deal of advice about whether and how to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it didn’t come from lawyers advising him on the laws of war.

Thank Christ we’ve come so far from those horrible days, when world leaders didn’t have the reassuring presence of legal experts there to assure them that killing millions of foreigners was technically fine as far as the paperwork was concerned.

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Mitt Romney demonstrated his utter inability to comprehend the basic number ordering system last week.

He said, specifically, that he’s “not concerned about the very poor“, and instead wants to focus on the middle-class, the “very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

His rationale is that the very poor have a “safety net” in place, and so we can basically stop thinking about them. Whereas the middle-class, that block in the middle who it’s assumed aren’t really poor but are doing kinda-okay-but-could-be-better – the ones who might actually vote for Romney – well now, they’re worth some pandering.

The point being, of course, that those people are by definition better off than the “very poor” who need those safety nets, and it makes no coherent sense to be more concerned about them.

He also said:

The area that I think is the greatest challenge that the country faces right now is not to focus our effort on how we help the poor, as much as to focus our effort on how to help the middle class in America, and get more people in the middle class, and get people out of being poor and becoming middle income.

A sentence in which he both continues to misunderstand how numbers work and contradicts himself a couple of times.

Oh, and if you look at the actual tax plan Romney’s proposed, most of the middle-class he’s courting get screwed over pretty good anyway. And Obama’s not exactly unfamiliar with similar rhetoric himself.

So, good luck America. Hope that democracy thing works out for ya.

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I’m all for more liberal relationship norms. I strongly think we should be striving to break away from the idea that monogamy is some supreme standard we ought all to aspire to. It shouldn’t even be the default mode. It’s working very nicely for me, thank you very much, but it’s high time we stopped having to call it an “alternative” lifestyle if people want to form different-sized groups with different, complex relationship dynamics of their own.

But cheating on your wife for six years, then, when she finds out, asking if you can’t carry on seeing both of them, is not what polygamy is. It’s not a way to bring about a freer and more loving world.

Dammit, Gingrich.

Christina knows the difference:

Here’s how you don’t do polyamory: First you get married to wife #1 (Jackie) and presumably have monogamous vows. Then, you cheat on her. Then she gets cancer and you divorce her while she lay stunned by the news of your affair. Six months later, you marry the woman with whom you cheated on your first wife with (Marianne), presumably having monogamous vows. You have a clandestine affair for six years, then decide you want a divorce so you can marry your mistress. After you tell your current wife you want a divorce, you tell her you will stay with her if she agrees on an open marriage. When she cannot agree, you divorce her and marry your third wife (Callista).

As my friend TheNerd said, “Comparing Gingrich to polyamory is like comparing wife-beating to BDSM.”

The fact that monogamy might not be for him isn’t why Newt’s not someone we should want as president. The fact that he’s repeatedly demonstrated himself to be a lying, cheating ass? That bodes less well.

The writer of a Fox News opinion column has a hilarious take on all this:

Three women have met Mr. Gingrich and been so moved by his emotional energy and intellect that they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with him.

Yeah. And he’s been so unmoved by any sense of compassion for each of them in turn that he’s responded to their affections by treating them like dirt. This is not a sign of such “energy and intellect” that we should be holding him up as a paragon of leadership and conviction. This is a sign of being a self-centred douche.

Mind you, you know what’s really “despicable” about the number of wives Newt’s cheated on? Daring to bring it up while he’s trying to persuade people that he’s a legitimate candidate for the highest political office in the country.

Now that’s low.

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A columnist for the HuffPo has some opinions on the Ron Paul presidential campaign. He’s not a big fan.

He makes some good points about the right-libertarian idea of “liberty” in the US these days, and his description of the Ron Paul meme as a “shibboleth for nihilistic hipsters” is possibly a stroke of genius. And yet there seems to be a point being missed here.

The repeated refrain of “But, you know, ‘liberty!'” is used to point out the ludicrously oppressive inequalities which would in fact result from some of Paul’s proposed “libertarian” policies – widespread discrimination based on ethnicity and gender, deregulation of business allowing the richest to screw the rest of the country even more than they already have been, and so on.

But, you know, liberty is meant to be a good thing.

The right-libertarian ideal might not provide as much of it as it claims in theory, but don’t let’s start acting as though the cry for greater liberty and less authoritarian oppression were itself a sign of foolishness.

The writer of this article explains why Ron Paul’s supporters are deluded to think he has any hope of getting anywhere with this election:

The reality is that our political system has remained relatively intact for 224 years because most people, despite their gretzing, are actually comfortable with the continuity it provides. If voters were as militantly anti-system as they claim to be in anecdotal conversations, they would elect more incumbents and fringy third-party challengers.

I guess I agree with that, about people being generally more complacent and less enraged by the current system than it sometimes seems. Maybe the difference is that I don’t find that comforting.

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Newt Gingrich is running for President.

I’ve only really found out who he is over the past few weeks. If you’re also new to Newt, he’s a Republican politician, of the kind who campaigns against gay rights on a “family values” platform while working his way through three marriages.

If he sounds like the kind of fun guy you want to get to know better, Mother Jones has a pretty good start. Among my favourites:

Asked whether he agrees with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s comments that opposition to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy is tantamount to appeasing Hitler, Gingrich responds, “Yes.”

Gingrich tells Bill O’Reilly that “there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us.” The gay and secular fascist movement, Gingrich charges, is “prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it.”

Gingrich warns that Obama’s agenda “would mean the end of America as it has been for the last 400 years.”

Yep. Obama’s trying to ruin what your country’s been like, consistently and without incident, since the year 1600. Every American citizen from all 63 states should be outraged.

Vote for Newt.

[Late edit: Ooh, here’s some more.]

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Presidential hopeful John McCain has announced that Sarah Palin, the current Governor of Alaska, will be his vice presidential candidate in the upcoming election. I’ve no idea what Republicans are thinking about this, but the buzz I’m getting from the parts of the blogosphere around which I linger is that not much about her is surprising, and it’s all piling on to the reasons why the Republican Party really doesn’t deserve the chance to keep screwing things up for another four years.

Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate recently too, which I don’t think I blogged about properly. Not that I have much to say about Biden either, having barely heard of the guy, but the general response seems to be more or less one of “eh, makes sense”.

One thing getting commented on about Palin is that she seems to be, if not a creationist herself, then someone who doesn’t fully understand evolution and science and is willing to pander to that crowd. (The whole “teach the controversy” idea is something I should write about later.) Eh, I don’t know. There are crazier and scarier ideas being suggested by other Republicans out there (and no doubt a few Democrats too), and I guess I don’t want to be too much of a single-issue non-voter. I doubt this decision really sways many people.

Hat-tips to PZ and the denialism blog, both of whom have rather more on this than me.

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Rick Warren is an Evangelical Christian minister, author of a number of successful books on Christianity, and founder of the Saddleback megachurch in California. Yesterday this church hosted something called a Civil Forum on The Presidency, where Barack Obama and John McCain were both interviewed by Pastor Rick, before a ticketed audience who’d paid up to $1,000 a pop.

As ERV points out, it’s pretty depressing that none of the candidates wanted anything to do with Science Debate 2008, but they leap at the chance to share some platitudes, with a Christian minister, in a church, as part of their political campaigns.

Hemant has liveblogged the whole thing, and has a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the whole two hours. Obama seems to come off better, but to someone who was pretty well blown away by his speech on race a few months ago, in response to the whole Reverend Wright thing, this is a long way from being inspiring.

He plays up the Jesus talk, and moderates some of his views on abortion and gay rights, in front of a conservatively Christian crowd, because he can’t afford to alienate people by being brutally honest. I know, this is hardly a revelation – shock alliterative horror, politician panders to public opinion – but in the case of someone like Obama, who I think has some great ideas, and would be a good President, and who a part of me really wants to believe is as miraculously awesome as his hype, I resent how much of a cynic this presidential race is making me.

I really think that Obama is worth voting for, and I’d vote for him if I could, even though he does play the game, he can be disconcertingly slick, and some of the things he says and does make him sound like an empty populist – and even though I know part of my motivation for supporting him is that I think he’d be better for the job than John McCain. That’s an unavoidably cynical attitude. I guess I’m kind of a cynic.

Penn Jillette spoke recently about Bob Barr, the current Libertarian Party nominee for President, and the glorious joy and optimism that really infuses that campaign. They can talk about freedom and all the other things that are important to them as openly and optimistically as they like, whereas Obama “doesn’t have any hope; he’s got to do everything right.”

And Penn really kinda has a point. There is a degree of inspiration to the crazy libertarian position which Obama just can’t match. Because he’s mainstream, and needs to win this, and can’t put people off with the kind of honesty that the media will jump all over. He has to do everything right. That’s pretty depressing, and so is realising that I’m just cynical enough to go along with it.

Damn you, complex and diverse political arena.

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