Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Obama must abandon the change that we can no longer believe in.

Obama won easily in 2008, on the "change we can believe in" mantra. During the 2008 campaign and for a while after, we did believe. Obama can change D.C.; he can make it less partisan and a far more effective legislative body. Come 2011, unless he stops trying to change Washington, he is unlikely to be re elected.

By the "change we can believe in" Obama was attempting to portray a more bipartisan presidency. Presidents can be above the partisan, warfare like nature of Capitol Hill. The electorate must have thought this was ambitious, but also must have believed he was capable or he would not have been elected. Little did he and they realize how deeply the "beltway mentality" was engraved in each congressman’s head.

A positive and righteous message, so why abandon it? Remember the debt debacle barely one month ago. Obama, playing the role of the bipartisan mediator, insisting on compromises from both sides, did not portray a confident national leader. Bipartisanship was morally correct, but in reality he didn’t achieve much; and not achieving much is what he will be judged on in November next year

Obama shouldn't throw his morals out the window just yet, but definitely needs some "umph" as they say. Be decisive, commanding and ensure congress know that the childlike bickering over the debt ceiling is not acceptable behaviour for a national legislative body. The country needs significant action from a confident, convincing leader. Obama needs to take the country by the scruff of the neck and drag it away from its current anxiety. To achieve progress Obama must first challenge congress, as he is with his current jobs plan.

He should abandon the idea of "change” being bipartisan. Obama must show that he has a legislative agenda, and he can make congress pass it; irrelevant of whether far right GOP congressmen disapprove. Americans will want to see their president act like a leader they can trust and not give more speeches about what’s possible."Fine words butter no parsnips", Obama must prove he can butter the parsnips and rescue the country and its stagnant economy.

Friday, 9 September 2011

America should have acted like the bigger man

9/11 (2011) approaches and I am rather hopeful that our actions after this 11th September are significantly different to the last time that we had a year that ending in a "1".  

I am hoping they are different because I believe our actions were disproportionate, arguably wrong and unethical. Why so?

It would be disrespectful of me not to say that 9/11 was probably the worst crime, certainly of my generation and it should have been dealt with accordingly. The terrorists responsible should be prosecuted accordingly and if that means locking them up for a long time, then so be it. But ask yourself this, did the actions of that day really deserve two international wars, trillions of dollars spent on fighting an increasing number of insurgents, thousands of allied soldiers dead and far too many innocent Muslims dead or tortured. We not only over reacted, but the reaction was wrong.

I am going to explain why it was wrong or disproportionate, using a well known playground analogy, I hope you follow. In this analogy, I am the terrorists attacking the west, you are America/western world being attacked and the teacher is the peacekeeping UN. So metaphorically speaking, if I (the terrorists) approached you looking for attention, looking for a fight, so let’s say I poke you in the arm - in the real world, Al-Qaeda did this to the west in the form of 9/11. Under Bin Laden's vision of "Jihad", they attacked America's heartland, proclaiming that we want to be Holy warriors in Bin Laden's Holy War. They showed their frustrations that western forces are in so many of our Muslim countries, commonly killing innocent family or propping up corrupt regimes. 

You (America and the west) are now faced with two choices - in the form of human psychology or rational choice, what would you pick (hopefully rational choice)? Human psychology would be to fight back; nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of the rest of the playground (in this case the rest of the world). Or, more rationally and as we get told to do by parents and teachers, walk away and don't retaliate. Don't give me (the terrorists) what I am so clearly crave, attention and then a fight.

Sadly, and I think wrongly, America and rest of the west went on instinct or human psychology, and did what I would hope you or I would not. America retaliated on a massive scale, with what now looks like a rush of blood to the head. Within a month, America and the west had declared war on Afghanistan, fast forward two years and America and the west had declared another war, Iraq.  By declaring war, America has given Al-Qaeda a fight in the form of a Holy war and given them ten years of attention. It seems as though they didn't think to walk away and think about the next steps, not giving the terrorists a fight. They didn't listen to the teacher (UN), and walk away, refusing to be provoked. They didn't act like the bigger man.

However there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, Afghanistan and Iraq did continually provoke the west and it would have been very hard not to go to war. Afghanistan admitted to hiding Bin Laden but refused to hand him over. It could be argued that this forced America to go and find him. Did they have to declare war though; could they not have found him like they did in may? Iraq also provoked America to an extent. Saddam Hussein refused to let UN inspectors in and continued to ignore UN sanctions. Again though, he always maintained he never had nuclear weapons and to our current knowledge, he never did. The only evidence that ever said he did have weapons was found to be fake - see earlier post on Valerie Plame affair - Secondly, in my opinion the UN is not carrying out its role, if a country, even of America's stature, can declare war without approval. As a collective decision making body, the UN has a responsibility to stop countries retaliating irresponsibly. They should question the decision, like a responsible adult questions a child's decisions. Are you really sure you want to do this? Do you really want to get yourself in a very expensive, bloody fight that the opposition wants? The UN did do this for Libya, and the result was a so far, successful Arab spring.

To summarize, the reaction to 9/11 was always going to be difficult. 9/11 was so shocking and awful, that is was bound to cause a shocking reaction. No one likes to be attacked in their own backyard. But I think we over reacted (declared war. Our actions were irresponsible and reckless for countries claiming to be the world’s leading democratic nations

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (or Molotov Cocktails in this case)

I don't usually read the Daily Mail, but I felt rather aggrieved after reading this story. But this post won't be me complaining and repeating all the angst about the riots and why the rioters are wrong, I will be instead offering an analysis of the political side of the crisis. Note that I do think that what the rioters are doing is wrong and they should all be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

If you didn't see the link or article, it says that some Labour MP's believe that the current conservative government spending cuts are to blame for the riots. It may well be the case, that a very small minority of rioters are actually angry with the effects of the public spending cuts. If this does turn out to be the case, I really do not believe any Labour MP's are in any position to be criticizing the government.

Labour is currently not in government, but if the current Tory government are to blame for these riots, then so is the previous Labour government. The years of Blair and Brown governments over spending and running up Billions of pounds of national debt is forcing the Tories into immediate action. The immediate action they chose is mainly public spending cuts. This particular method to tackling the debt and structural deficit may have been unpopular but they were forced to take some kind of immediate action by the previous Labour governments (or the country would be facing another fiscal crisis) - any other immediate financial action would probably have been just as unpopular as the cuts.

Having analysed this Labour argument that the cuts are to blame, you will hopefully conclude that actually Labour are just as much at fault as the current government. As explained the Labour governments overspending caused the current government to have to legislate for an immediate increase in national revenues - Conservatives chose public spending cuts - this forced legislation is now supposedly is causing the riots. This argument, when followed through, leads all the way back to the previous Labour government. I hope your surprised, because I'm not.

In summary, given the former Labour governments are just as much to blame for the riots, for current Labour MP's to try and shift all the blame onto the Conservatives is rather desperate and very, very misguided.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

John Lennon

"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"

Is the Arab Spring to be a false dawn?

The Arab Spring is now 6 months old. Since then Egypt, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have all followed Tunisia's lead. But have their protests come to fruition?

The best place to start to this argument, is to consider whether the protesters have achieved what they wanted. They had two very clear goals when these revolutions started: get rid of the dictators and implement a more democratic system. It should  be noted that it is hard to judge the Arab Spring's success as a whole, because each country has its own revolution which will have different goals, different sizes and different speeds of change.

It is true that in some places the first objective has definitely been achieved. Egypt has ousted Mubarak, Tunisia no longer have their former leader in charge and it looks as though it's only a matter of time for Qaddafi. Syria is not quite in the same situation, but they too will succeed eventually. It seems that many of the cruel, sometimes inhumane dictators have wilted under immense pressure and are no longer in power. But for the second objective, have they been replaced with anything better; a more democratic system?

From where I am sitting, it looks as though there are a lack of new democratic systems in the Middle East, caused by several important factors. Firstly in the countries with new leaders, the elections haven't been held yet. Part of me isn't surprised though, military generals do not have a particularly good reputation for handing over power legally and quickly. Another issue is what happens when they do hand over power. The Muslim brotherhood is likely to become a potent force in any Arab country's elections. As the people feel disillusioned and harshly treated by their former leaders, and as mostly Muslims populations, they may look to this party to support their views. There is a very strong possibility that if the Muslim brotherhood won the election, they would not implement a democratic system. Iran for example, a mostly Muslim country, has a system doesn't appear to be democratic, based on the protests about unfair elections. Similarly the Saudi Arabia system doesn't appear to be all that democratic. Lastly (I know this may be far fetched and we live in the 21st century) but in the past there have been occasions where worse leaders have risen to power in desperate situations. After WW1 for example Hitler rose to power, saying that he would get Germany out of crisis and back on its feet. Given the atrocities he committed and wars he caused, Germany may now regret allowing him to come to power. My point is that the Arab countries should think about its next leader or it may end up with a leader it later regrets.

This may appear to a very negative take on the situation, but so far there doesn't appear to be much progress on the democracy part of the revolution. Hopefully it's just be a longer process than we thought and in the next year or so, we will see democratic systems in many Arab countries; it will turn out I just spoke too soon.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Maybe the Tea Party wasn't such a good idea after all

To understand this argument, the best place to start is back in the 2010 mid terms, which provided a platform for many of the tea party  endorsed candidates. Candidates like Rand Paul won many elections around the country ousting the unpopular Democrat congressmen. The election result (a large victory for the GOP) was celebrated up and down the country, the electorate now had congressmen who were elected by the people, for the people. I am sure though that if they could have forseen the consequences of the Tea Party candidates being elected (the current US debt crisis) the mid terms may have been rather different.

I do however appreciate wholly blaming the debt crisis on the Tea Party would be unfair. Many Democrats are being ridiculously stubborn too. What annoys me most is that the Tea Party influence is putting the Tea Party backed GOP congressmen and senators in an impossible position.

The Tea Party are refusing to back any tax increases for the wealthy or any changes to the Bush tax cuts. The Tea Party congressmen therefore have to the same anti- tax increase line or they risk not getting re elected next year (many congressmen only won due to Tea Party backing). The result of this is that it becomes almost impossible to reach a deal. Democrats are demanding tax increases and GOP are demanding spending cuts. For any sustainable deficit reduction deal to be made, it will have to consist of both tax increases and spending cuts. Many GOP congressmen refuse to back any tax increases, due to the stance of the Tea Party; even though Obama and the Dems have agreed to spending cuts, demanded from the GOP.

Now in my mind, in order for a negotiation to be successful, you need a compromise. If one side, in this case the Tea Party refuse to compromise what so ever (like they have been doing for the last month), you can see why a deal between both sides becomes almost impossible; as seen by the fact the US has almost defaulted on its debt.

A resolution to the crisis will only be possible if the Tea Party stop acting like immature children and actually try to reach a deal, rather than promoting their own values. We will see whether this is the case when congress votes later this evening. Don't hold your breath though folks!