Archive for the ‘Sarah Palin’ Category

A year after Barack Obama’s historic election, one of his most contentious programs has been the $700 billion stimulus package. Here’s a clip of Lewis Black explaining John Maynard Keynes’ theory of how public works projects can stimulate the economy in his own inimitable (and be warned, very foul-mouthed way):

Now, just in case you’re thinking “that’s just crazy comedian talk and has no basis in proper economics” here’s the view of Keynes himself from “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”:

“If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.” (p. 129)

So while Barack Obama may not have been thrilled about having to spend such a huge amount of money getting the American economy going and saddling the American taxpayer with such a large debt (yes, I said it), is was absolutely the correct thing to do. In this instance, to compromise the spending aspects of the package to appease Republicans (the people who, to a large extent, created this mess) in the name of bipartisanship could have led to the Great Recession becoming the second Great Depression and may have left future generations with an even more unmanageable National Debt. The world is now in the thankful state of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, just over a year after we faced economic catastrophe, as the recession ends (at least technically) in many countries and hopefully we can get back to job creation in the new year…

 

OK, everybody else has being doing their reviews of the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency, so why can’t I? No responses to that question please, it’s rhetorical and I’m going to do this anyway. So here goes…

Overall I think Obama has done well, with important steps being taken on a number of fronts. However, there have also been a number of dumb (albeit ultimately inconsequential) missteps:

Important Step#1: The economy – as the banking crisis developed in late last year, Obama must have thought to himself “Damn, why didn’t I wait until 2012/2016 to run?”. But he’s handled the crisis admirably with the passage of his stimulus package. I know Paul Krugman believes that it should have been larger and I understand where he’s coming from but I also acknowledge that quick passage of the bill was an important factor and to get bogged down by trenchant Republican opposition could have been more disastrous for the economy than the package’s imperfections and omissions. So he compromised just enough to appease just enough Republican senators to pass it. As regards Republicans who say there was no compromise, well there’s a significant proportion of tax cuts, which is enough compromise to those who lost and lost badly. The likely Republican solution, 100% tax cuts focused on the rich (If Plan A fails, fall back on Plan A), would have condemned us to years of Depression.

Dumb Misstep #1: Whoever chooses gifts for foreign dignitaries really needs to do better. Seriously, Gordon Brown gives Obama a pen-holder carved from the wood of a nineteenth-century anti-slavery ship and Obama responds by giving him a selection of DVDs! Come on, a little thought please – Gordon Brown could have ordered them to 10 Downing Street from Amazon.com! There is no ban on American movies in the UK! And then Hillary Clinton gives her Russian counterpart a cheap button with the Russian word for “Reset” on it. Could it BE any more embarrassing…Oh yeah, it didn’t actually have the word for “Reset” on it, it had the Russian word for “Overcharge”!

Important Step #2: Repairing America’s relationship with the rest of the world: Obama has worked overtime to signal a change from the arrogance of the Bush Era. He played his part, but wasn’t overbearing at the G20 conference, he explicitly said that America was not at war with the Muslim World in Turkey, he signalled a willingness to use negotiation to deal with Iran, the Taliban, Cuba, Venezuela (not getting fazed by Chavez’ grandstanding) and, possibly most significantly, went over the heads of Iran’s leaders to appeal directly to it’s people. (note-Iranian election coming up on June 12th – come on bloggers – it’s a chance to get rid of Ahmadinejad)

Dumb Misstep #2: Bowing to the Saudi King – The Leader of The Free World should not be seen to be grovelling to an oppressive, unelected absolute monarch. If he wants to show respect for other people’s customs, that’s normally a good thing – for example, a quick bow to the Japanese PM, who in turn bows as a show of mutual respect, is fine. However, this deep bow while King Abdullah looks all smug  was a craven and unnecessary act of deference.

Important Step #3: Signalling the beginning of the end of the worst abuses of the Bush Administration: explicitly saying that America will no longer torture, arranging the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and setting a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq – I’m a little disappointed that it’s slower than he had pledged, but if he sticks to it I won’t be too unhappy.

Dumb Misstep #3: The low-flying “Photo Op” over New York – that was incredibly stupid and insensitive and whoever came up with it should immediately own up and resign.

There are many other aspects of Obama’s first 100 that I could go into because a)the results won’t be known for a while (eg response to Swine Flu outbreak and b) to do so would upset the symmetry of this blog and make it interminable. But overall based on what we’ve seen, I still think there’s plenty of reason to believe that Barack Obama will be a very good, possibly even a great, president. And I’m sure as hell glad we’re not facing this time of crises with John McCain and Sarah Palin leading us.


Firstly, a very Happy New Year to everybody. However, I have this weird feeling of still being stuck in 2008 with all it’s problems at least until January 20th. Because as long as Still President Bush is in office these problems sure as hell aren’t going to get solved. So it feels like we’re all sitting in a lifeboat waiting for the coastguard and hoping that nobody does anything to cause a leak (Dammit Israel!!!). They say a week is a long time in politics, so the next three weeks are going to feel like a lifetime. And what an in-tray President Obama is going to have on his first day: Fix the global economic crisis, arrange for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq, save the American motor industry while ensuring its long-term viability, achieving energy independence and solving global warming, stopping a resurgent Taliban and getting Israel and Hamas to talk just after a pretty severe deterioration in relations that weren’t the best to begin with. So…no pressure then.

I know what you’re thinking – Obama hasn’t even taken office yet – how is it possible to judge whether voters chose the right president already. Well let’s take a quick look at events from the last few days:

– President-Elect Obama has gathered some of the top economic minds in the country to come up with ideas as to how to stimulate the country out of recession. He has received messages from Chavez, Ahmedinejad and the leader of Hamas, indicating that they are willing to talk.

– The Republicans have continued name-calling, only now they’re insulting each other, with McCain aides calling Palin a “diva” and Palin responding by calling them “jerks”

So I may be proven wrong yet but it certainly looks like yes, America made the right choice


Welcome back, USA, to your rightful position as inspiration to the rest of the world. You have restored our faith in you and your ideals, quite simply by moving back towards them. Because when most people in the rest of the world question the USA, it’s not because we are questioning the ideals, but rather whether America’s actions are consistent with these ideals. And on Tuesday, you took a giant leap towards these ideals.

I didn’t post yesterday because I had to stay up until 4am UK time to watch the moment in history and thus got only five hours sleep. I have been lucky in my shortish stay on this earth to witness a few great moments in history – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid, the end of Northern Ireland’s Troubles – and that moment was right up there with them. It brought tears to the eyes of both my wife Meri and me. And it wasn’t just us – the entire presenting team of ITV News choked up at some point (except for poor Bill Neely, stuck in the McCain party and looking freaked out by their refusal to relay Obama victories to the crowd). John Irvine at Grant Park could hardly contain himself – He looked like he had been drinking with some college students and was ready to surf across the crowd.

And of course everybody over there was emotional with good reason. It was amazing to watch Jesse Jackson (who had been so critical of Obama previously) overcome by the enormity of what was happening. On Tuesday the American People made a massive choice. You chose hope over fear, unity over division, excellence over mediocrity, positivity over negativity. This truly was the people’s election and restored the faith of people around the world in American Democracy, giving us all hope that things will work out in the future and for that I thank you.

1. Obama has excelled at everything he’s done – from modest beginnings to Harvard to the brink of the US Presidency.

2. He’s already shown himself to be calm in the face of a crisis already.

3. From the three million donors, to the tens of thousands of volunteers, this has truly been a people’s campaign.

4. With a couple of minor exceptions, Obama has been unflappable throughout the campaign in the face of numerous smears and has not responded in kind (even though some of us really wanted to see him do so at times). He has shown that it is possible to run a classy campaign and still be in a position to win.

5. As regards his lack of experience, this is only because he has learned faster than anybody could imagine and has moved up really quickly – he is ready for the White House

6. Obama is a true winner, starting out his campaign as an underdog with little money and backing and taking on two formidable political machines by inspiring people and running an amazing campaign.

7. In Joe Biden, Obama has an able deputy who will help him govern successfully, as he showed in the Vice-Presidential debate, when he skilfully defeated Sarah Palin, removing the possibility of a significant “Palin Did Better Than Expected” bounce.

8. The American people have, to a great extent, moved ahead of their politicians in their views of the issues of the 21st century – global warming, defeating terrorism, race, economic stability. In Barack Obama, they have a politician who has caught up with them.

9. His economic plan shows that he understands that the middle class is the engine of the economy and is the best chance we have of avoiding a deep and sustained recession.

10. And of course, his presidency would be historic on so many levels…a big step towards the ideals of the founding fathers who held it “to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

PS Given the sad news of today regarding the loss of Obama’s grandmother, I would like to add my voice to the chorus of condolences being expressed all over the net – my thoughts are with him at this tragic and difficult time

Three quick reasons why Obama supporters in North Dakota should go all out for victory in their state tomorrow:

1. In a McCain comeback scenario, your three electoral college votes might allow Obama to hold on for victory.

2. In an Obama landslide scenario, North Dakota may have the honour of being the state that pushes him over the line.

3. Most importantly, you’re my predicted surprise for the night and I want to be proven right! Back in early October, I noticed on http://www.pollster.com that there had been no post-convention, post-Palin polls from your state (as well as Montana and South Dakota) and commented that the state of play in the area may be closer than shown (all three states were “safe McCain” at the time). Sure enough a few days later a poll came out for North Dakota showing a statistical tie and has been followed by several similar polls. Montana and South Dakota also showed tightening races but not quite ties. North Dakota is up for grabs.

So come on, ND Obamaniacs, let’s Get Out The Vote!