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Thoughts on the US presidential election

I'm writing this as a timed posting; assuming I did the setup right, you won't be reading this until polling has closed. I'm not American, and it's not really for me to tell those of you who are how you should vote.

However ...

If I was an American voter, I would have cast my vote for Barack Obama. Here's why.

I expect President Obama to disappoint me. He's center-right by American standards, and I'm not — I'm mostly off the American political map in a socially liberal/economically socialist direction that doesn't really compute.

However, he's intelligent, highly organized, and gives every indication of being extremely competent. He's run a campaign that, astonishingly, has not left him beholden to large corporate interests for funding — the vast majority of his campaign was funded by small individual donations. And if there's one thing the USA has been short of for the past eight years, it's competent governance administered by people who believe the system can be made to work in the public interest and who are not beholden to lobbyists.

I don't think John McCain will be a very good president. He tends to be hot-headed, during the campaign he's shown a worrying tendency to seek patronage wherever he can get it (resulting in his platform being held hostage to special interests), and I think many of his espoused policies are half-baked or counter-productive. There are also lingering questions over his health (and age). I don't think he would automatically be a bad or disastrous president, especially in comparison to his predecessor, but ...

The one thing that terrifies me about McCain's candidacy is his choice of running-mate.

John McCain's presidency not only places him in the oval office; it threatens to place Sarah Palin at the heart of the unitary executive welded together by Dick Cheney. The office of the vice-president has become swollen and excessively powerful in its own right under the Bush administration, and the incumbent vice-president wields unprecedented power. Cheney's constitutional theories make it neither fish nor fowl, a weird hybrid of executive and legislature that is subject to the rules of neither, but makes its own authority up as it goes along.

Sarah Palin frightens me because her grasp of US constitutional structures is worse than mine — and I'm a foreigner. She frightens me because she thinks her first amendment right to freedom of political speech is threatened by the existence of an independent media. She frightens me because she thinks the vice president runs the senate. She frightens me because she's a member of the New Apostolic Reformation who believe in spiritual warfare, casting out of demons, witch hunts, and the imposition of her brand of Christianity on unbelievers, if necessary by force. She frightens me because she fears and ridicules the findings of science and the scientific method, and holds it in disdain where it contradicts the elements of her faith. And she frightens me because I don't think she's entirely sane.

It doesn't matter whether John McCain lives to retire at the end of his presidency — letting a loose cannon like Sarah Palin anywhere near the spiderweb of special executive powers accumulated by Dick Cheney would be a disaster for the entire world.

And that is why, were I an American voter, I would have felt morally obliged to vote for Barack Obama.

PS: Okay, so my deferred-posting scheduler broke when I moved servers. No matter; better late than never.

PPS: I am going to sleep easier tonight, in view of the outcome.

103 Comments

1:

Well, Charlie, it looks like we got lucky - this time.

I wonder how Prop #8 did in California, and #48 in Colorado?
I didn't know, until I read it just now, that Obama was an author. Reading his prepared acceptance speech was wierd - it reminded me of anothe professional writer, who became Prime Minister here ....
I heard his last public speech, at an election rally in 1955 - my parents took me.

Beware 2016 - my nightmare prediction could still stand.
Palin for President - wins by fraud, declares state of emergency, suspends Constitution, rule of Saints/Gilead, exit of all scientists to Europe - just like last time, but in reverse.

2:

CA proposition #8 is at the moment looking like it's going to pass, with a fairly narrow margin. My sources tell me:
2:13 am: 82% reporting, 51.8%-48.2%.

That's 51.8% for proposition 8, 48.2% against.

3:

According to at least come comments I've seen on Proposition 8, in California, if it succeeds there are reasons for it to be thoroughly booted out by the courts. One argument, apparently, is that it is such a significant change to the State Constitution that the wrong procedure has been used.

In the US, generally, that would seem plausible. Here in the UK, we don't have ballor measures, and we don't have any special bodies of law protected from easy change. It maybe holds of the mob, but not the modern aristocrats.

4:

You aren't the only person who felt this way. Several friends chose to vote against Palin and 46% of the polled electorate felt that she damaged McCain's chances. I actually think she is psychotic and that those who dressed her up as Barbie politician are completely machiavellian and misogynistic.
It's hard to understand how anyone interested in the election could have missed that Obama is an author: it's the primary source of his income (as Palin's appeared to be her untaxed per diems).
Change has come to America.
"That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."

5:

Well, I've been skimming the references, but seen nothing about writing, until today.
The other author/politican, of course, also made most of his income from writing. His paintings are now fetching quite high prices.
I assume you realise whom I'm talking about?

But that phrase, from Obama, is very reminiscent of him ...

6:

G. Tingey: if you weren't a regular, I'd ban you for that comment. (Drive-by comparisons of $POLITICIAN to Adolf Hitler are an automatic red card.)

As it is, I'm just going to warn you, and add that it's in very poor taste.

7:

Charlie, isn't he referring to Churchill? Adolf Hitler was, quite famously, not around in 1955.

8:

The main problem with Obama is that now the U.S.President will be younger than me, which doesn't seem right. Luckily my own local Head of State will be older than me until King Willy eventually takes over.

9:

The FL Def. of Marriage Amendment appears to have passed also. LINK. I think I was in the minority on every amendment this year.

10:

@6 I'm pretty sure he meant Churchill, although he's wrong about where most of Winston's money came from (he wasn't exactly a middle-class boy made good!).

11:

"And she frightens me because I don't think she's entirely sane."

This is I suppose an euphemism to she is completely and hopelessly clinically insane?

12:

Prop 8 seems to have passed, and so did Amendment 2 here in Florida. Sad days mixed with good ones, I suppose.

13:

@6: Churchill was no painter (unless I am astonishingly ill-informed).

@11: British understatement. OK? You may wish to translate "I don't think she's entirely sane" as "I think she's a barking-at-the-moon bull-goose loony".

14:

Both of Obama's books are way, way better than "candidate's books." They did a great deal to sell me on him.
BHO will be the best writer-president since Teddy Roosevelt, which is a higher bar (on the writing axis) than most realize.

15:

Churchill was a good amateur painter (watercolourist I think), and of course bricklayer. There's a few of his paintings at Chartwell and they are pleasant landscapes, gardens etc.

16:

Charlie@13, @6: yes, and a bricklayer, too....

17:

Charlie @ #13:

The International Churchill Centre have an article/essay up, discussing Winston Churchill, the painter, though I cannot vouch for how well-known that is or was. FWIW, I did not know it, but I am a scummy furriner, here to steal jobs, women and land.

18:

Technically her comments about the leading the Senate were sort of right, if badly expressed. One of the few powers specifically held by the VP is that they are President of the Senate. The power has not been exercised much since the 1830s however it does still exist.

19:

17 comments (as I write), and so far two different politicians have been likened to Hitler. Internet for the win?

20:

@13 Yes Charlie, he was an artist (although, it has to be said, not a tremendously good one!),

And G Tingey was right about where he got his income from too (I didn't know Winston had actually won a Nobel prize for literature). So apologies tendered.

(Wikipedia is a wonderful thing!)


21:

wiki on Churchill as a painter:

'Winston Churchill was also an accomplished artist and took great pleasure in painting, especially after his resignation as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915.[180] He found a haven in art to overcome the spells of depression—or as he termed it, the "Black Dog"—which he suffered throughout his life.'

If you wanted to pick a political match for Obama from previous UK PMs, I would pick Disraeli ahead of Churchill.

22:

I think you nailed it -- voters (on both sides) approached this election as a moral referendum on America, a solemn obligation to fulfill.

Unfortunately, these same people were apparently cursed with a profound lack of imagination regarding Prop 8 and similar measures.

23:

@13: According to Wikipedia "Winston Churchill was also an accomplished artist and took great pleasure in painting..."

24:

@15, @16, @17, @20 and especially @21: that will teach me not to refresh the page before finishing reading it and replying!

25:

To those who fear Palin will run in 2012 and 2016, a few thoughts. She is quickly becoming a pariah in the Republican party, seen as the one who lost the election for McCain. She had very high negatives from voters going into the booth. People were already blaming her before Tuesday and without having to spin anymore, those voices will only get louder. Also, do you really think she will make it through 30-40 debates during the primary season? She barely made it through 1 without embarrassing herself. She would never survive the scrutiny of a 2 year campaign, so relax.

26:

What set off my Hitler-detector was the reference to writing. (I've seen the royalty figures for "Mein Kampf" during der Fuhrer's lifetime. He was a self-made millionaire; indeed, he had to stop the Reich tax service pursuing him by ordering them to desist: he was also an income tax evader.)

I'm hoping Coltrane is right and we've seen the last of the toxic Barbie from Wasila.

27:

Coltrane @25
I fear we will not see a female get a shot at the Big Job, at least for a decade or two.
Certainly, she won't be an ex-pageant queen - self styled 'Hockey-Mom' more likely an Ivy League possibly a Rhodes Scholar, with a an estabilshed presence in Congress.
I doubt whether she has been born yet. This isn't to say she might attaint the Big Job by being in the Wee Job and filling the vacant position should the incumbent be absent on a permanent basis.

I'm not saying this is my preferred status, just the way I think it'll pan out.

28:

More author/politicians than you might think. For example, the bestselling author of "Sybil; or The Two Nations", Benjamin Disraeli.

29:

Actually, although it might not be politic to say so, who runs the US _is_ my business. As is who runs Russia, France, the UK, Israel and China. It's a hydrogen bomb + delivery system thing.

30:

Being an American, I appreciate the unique perspective of "a foreigner" on our national affairs. I'll save the soapbox on American politics for my own blog, but sufficed to say that I would be sad to see Prop 8 (California) passed and I am pleased to see Obama win the Election (but only in the Douglas Adams "I don't want the wrong lizard to get in to office" kind of way.) I don't like a lot of things about Obama, but the alternatives offered in McCain-Palin were "not quite as good" (quote offered as an attempt at British-like understatement).

Besides, I hope Obama will be good for our international image-- having a Black President (finally)-- and I do look forward to the day when a competant female President can challenge for (and win) the Presidency (someone quite unlike Hillary Clinton.) But for now, we just need someone in the Presidency (and Vice-) who doesn't abuse the position and who works with others in government to do all the things that need to be done.

For whatever it's worth, Prop 8 has not yet passed although it leads by a strong lead (4% lead, with 8% of the voters not yet tallied, meaning it could still swing the other way and be defeated.)

31:

I must admit, I was a little surprised by Charlie's automatic assumption of Hitler as the paunter/politician, but considering the millions of accredited idiots out there, I reckon it's a fair inference that we shouldn't be too sly about the comparisons.

There's a little bit more here, including Eisenhower. Benjamin Disraeli wrote 18 novels.

Of course, Churchill made sure that he wrote the history.

32:

Charlie: "I expect President Obama to disappoint me. He's center-right by American standards..."

It was really important to have a non-Republican president win, and the Democratic party has achieved that. Furthermore, the party has picked up more senate seats and possibly may acquire the filibuster proof 60 seats. (This time they had better use that position and actually legislate effectively).

Jack@27: "I fear we will not see a female get a shot at the Big Job, at least for a decade or two."

I disagree. There are many competent women politicians out there who might well have a shot in 2012 and 2016. Quite possibly she may be an unknown and emerge as the candidates are decided.

33:

(I haven't read the comments yet, so if I repeat anything, apologies. Besides it's 8:30am and I'm not totally awake yet.)

Colorado is now a Blue State, we went to Obama, and elected two Democrat Senators. Unfortunately the candidate for House of Reps in my district didn't win.

Amendment 48 was soundly defeated, last I saw it was 76% against. Another state's anti-choice proposal was also defeated.

However the three anti-gay marriage proposals all seem to have passed, Prop 8 is still being counted. I'm assuming/hoping that they'll get thrown out by the state Supreme Courts.

I voted for Obama basically for all the reasons that Charlie said above. One other reason, a minor one, was the realization that electing an African-American would be more historic than electing a woman.

The UK, Germany, Israel, Philipines, India, and Pakistan have all had woman leaders. How many countries, outside of Africa, have had a leader of African descent? Only a few Caribbean nations. On a global scale they don't get counted for much.

Electing Obama is huge. Imagine if the UK elected a South-Asian prime minister.

Now, I'm gonna go wake up some more.

34:

Oh, I'm so glad we voted for a President who will be more interested in currying favor with the International Community than he is in actually working for the US citizens that he is supposed to represent.

Just great.

I predict an imminent redeployment of US Forces from Iraq to Darfur.

S. F. Murphy
Dissident in his own country
Exile in his own genre

35:

"I predict an imminent redeployment of US Forces from Iraq to Darfur."

Suits me.

36:

SFM @34: I suspect any such deployment will be ordered by Dubya, just to fuck up his successor. (See also: Somalia, 1992, GHWB and Bill Clinton.)

37:

Just as long as the Air Force doesn't have to... invoke more primal obligations, again, to avoid that pleasant Mr. Cheney sending them off to nuke somebody.

Navy, too, but the Navy is culturally tougher and the submariners are intolerant of stupid.

It's the prospect of mass blanket pardons that really rot my socks.

38:

SFM@34: Maybe it's just me but I've never really seen how getting along with our neighbors is such a bad thing, especially as globalized as the economy is these days.

39:

Any thoughts on critical policies that need swift enactment? In other words, what would the rest of the planet feel would be the top five executive actions that need to occur ASAP?

40:

Belatedly:

Obama... W00T!

I just feel... happy. haven't felt this good in a long, long time.

Will Obama do things I don't agree with? Certainly. No two people agree on everything. I didn't vote for Obama because he'll do everything I agree with. I voted for him because the man has a grasp of the world beyond the "hierarchy of power" shit that has taken hold of america for the last 8 years. He understands "other". He understands systems. He even seems to have a decently advanced grasp of spirituality that doesn't boil down to "God said so".

41:

Kelson, here's my list of what I'd like to see in the first 100 days:

1. Shut down Gitmo. Try any of the inmates who face outstanding changes in front of a civilian court. Release (and if necessary, pay compensation to) those who are categorically not guilty of anything and who were swept up by mistake. Grant political asylum to the Chinese muslims and any others who are (a) not accused of anything and (b) can't return to their homes for fear of persecution.

2. The whole torture thing? You know what needs to be done, and there's a lot of it -- from reverting US interrogation practices to pre-2000 norms, to identifying those who ordered harsh measures and determining whether grounds exist for prosecution, to seeking and compensating the victims of torture. Oh, and end extraordinary rendition and wiretapping without warrants.

3. Dismantle the DHS -- it is an out of control bureaucratic Frankenstein's monster. Separate divisions can go back to doing what they did before they were stitched together. Leave in place communications channels between such divisions so they can share data, but destroy the unitary chain of command. You don't need a Gestapo.

4. Ratify the Kyoto Treaty, and/or put the wheels in motion to participate in international talks aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Start a public Congressional enquiry into the systematic injection of politically partisan appointees in the civil service and judiciary over the past 8 years, with specific reference to politically biased prosecutors and judges, administrators in scientific agencies (NASA, NIH, Environment, and others), and election officers.

6. Find three young, energetic, liberal supreme court justices.

7. Start a public Congressional enquiry into election practices, with the objective of moving towards a bill (or if necessary draft constitutional amendment) setting out acceptable standards for the conduct of elections.

8. Start a public enquiry into the misuse of intelligence agency resources in the run-up to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism since 9/11. Remit to include the allegations of collusion between Saddam's regime and Al Qaida, and the embarrassing question of why the USA has been unable to find Osama bin Laden for the past seven years.

9. Start talking to the Russians about (a) gas and oil security (this includes South Ossetia), (b) Ballistic Missile Defense (and their allergy to it), (c) NATO expansion, and (d) any other grievances that must be aired in order to stop Cold War 2.0 from escalating. One cold war was quite enough, thank you (I still remember the nightmares).

10. Start talking to the whole of the G11 -- no, leaving Spain (the world's 8th largest economy) out in the cold because Dubya is having a snit at the socialist PM is not acceptable -- about a global plan for rebooting the planetary economy without overheating the money markets or triggering further energy spikes. An exercise in multilateralism and soft power that will (a) achieve something useful and (b) start to convince the rest of the world that sanity has resumed.

(Want me to continue ...?)

Frankly, if Obama does all ten of these things I will be overjoyed. If he does just two or three of them, I'll be nodding along and satisfied. But they all need doing, and they're merely the top of a long list ...

42:

Prop 8 hasn't passed yet: there are still between three and four million absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted here in California, and the bigots have a 400K vote lead now.

43:

That's awesome, Charlie, thanks. They all have merit, and should be pursued with vigor. Maybe with some luck, they'll become viral.

44:

Looks like prop 8 went through. Thank goodness. Now divorce will be eradicated from California and cold, loveless marriages will become the passionate, romantic affairs that they always were before the homos started marrying... oh wait.

45:

Charlie @ 41:

1: Doable and likely. Gitmo has become a national embarrassment and no one outside of the Republican base really wants to see it continue.

2: I'm confident that this will happen, too.

3: Not too likely, I think. It would be seen as a soft-on-terrorism move and, frankly, the Democrats aren't big on shutting down government agencies for any reason. I'd like to be surprised but I'm prepared to be disappointed.

4: Something along these lines will happen. Probably not Kyoto, but something similar.

5: Something like this is already going on, but don't expect the Administration to lead it. That one is up to the congress.

6: They can't be too liberal because we don't have enough votes to prevent a Borking but they'll be liberal enough to at least preserve the status quo. The rightward shift of the court is over.

7: That one's difficult given that states have a lot of Constitutional autonomy when it comes to electoral practices. There will be reform movements but don't expect them to be centralized.

8: I'm not hopeful. Again, it would appear spiteful and wouldn't play way to the middle. Anything that is accomplished is going to be fairly quite and behind the scenes.

9: I'm hopeful about this. The real question is how deft Obama is going to be at foreign relations. While I discount the McCain smear campaign there is the fact that this is an area where he is going to be tested.

10: I expect that to happen as well.

46:

@27: Janet Napolitano is the Dem Governor of Arizona, locally popular and free to seek Federal office in 2010 due to term limits. She has a solid resume of public service behind her. Running against Senator McCain is not out of the question, especially if he decides to retire after taking his shot at the Presidency. After that 2016 and the White House is a real possibility for her. Speculating wildly, if VP-elect Biden decided to be a one-termer she'd slide quite neatly into the VP slot for 2012.

Oh, did I forget to mention there's some, ahem, "discussion" about the fact she's unmarried and possibly not totally heterosexual?

47:

@6,13,26 Don't you think an actual apology and admission of error are in order?

48:

I have a horribe feeling that Prop 8 will go through.

Whilst people have been concentrating on refuting the rabid bigotry being spouted by the likes of Orson Scott Card and the LDS, the real vote winners will have been the Roman Catholic Church and it's affiliates quietly assuring thier adherents that if they don't vote "yes" they will face eternal damnation. (I suspect there are a lot of Catholics amoungst the Californian hispanic population).

What is really sad is that the Roman Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and various groups of Evangelical Christians can't agree a common position on things like promoting world peace - but they can all agree to be hateful and bigoted together.

Hopefully given the rather obviously partisan nature of the propositions promoters a case can be made to have it struck down as unconstitutional, it does seem to go against the seperation of Church and State. I won't hold my breath though.

The next obvious target will be a revision of the abortion laws.

49:

Slightly more awake now.
Unfortunately remembered Colorado's Amendment 43 'Defense of Marriage' act that passed in 2006. Still on the books. I'd say that I hope there's a chance to get rid of it now, but looking at the morning paper I see that the State gov is still more Republican than not.

I jumped to the same concliusion as Charlie did about the politician/writer/painter. Perhaps because we're Jews? Maybe not. I haven't heard anything about either person's paintings selling recently, and can't imagine anyone, sane, would actually buy H's.

A favorite Disraeli qoute: There are three kinds of lies; Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.

50:

Andrew's a lot more optimistic than I am.

(1) is pretty likely, to some degree. I don't think anyone's going to get compensation, though.

(2)... again, to some degree. But nobody's going to be prosecuted, as much as I deeply wish Snippy would be arrested as Obama's first act after swearing in.

(3) is definitely not going to happen. First, it would require an act of congress to do. Now, some significant changes are likely -- but most of those changes also require an act of Congress. So he can't do them by himself.

(4) won't happen.

(5)... I hope so. I really am curious as to how many DoJ staffers will be out of a job by Feb 1.

(6) will require retirements, or other vacancies. In my fantasy life, Scalia, at the least, is impeached.

I don't think (7) is going to happen, and if it does, it won't be in a form anyone sane likes.

(8) is definitely not going to happen. (9) probably will, at least to varying degrees. (10) is pretty likely.

But not in the first 100 days. In the first 100 days, he's going to be hard-pressed to keep the economy from melting, and dealing with relations with several other countries, including Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan.

51:

Nice of the Americans to elect an intelligent guy for prez this time. Thanks.

So, how did the vote on naming that San Francisco sewage plant the "George W Bush Sewage Plant" go?

52:

Charlie @41:

You missed out my personal dream, taking the opportunity of the inauguration speech to announce the arrest, there and then, of all neocons involved in the OKing of torture, kidnap, etc. Preferably with the individuals being in attendance and having them led away in chains (Cheney most of all).

Unlikely, but THEN I'd believe there was some real 'change' happening, a real break from the past, rather than just a changing of the guard.

53:

Dog @47: assuming it was Churchill G. Tingey was going on about, then yes, I apologize.

(I have a very short fuse when Godwin's law comes up.)

Sean @50:

On the DHS: I'm more optimistic than some. I got to kibbitz on some fascinating over-dinner conversations earlier this year, between serving senior US military officers, all of whom were united by their loathing for the DHS. It's a pantomime horse, not well integrated between limbs, and it doesn't actually work very well -- other than as a gigantic bottomless barrel of pork for the likes of Blackwater and Wackenhut to mine.

On the supreme court: three liberal judges are either ill (with cancer) or well over 70 and looking to retire. Hence the need for replacements -- I expect them to step down as soon as Obama is sworn in.

Note that I didn't really touch the economy because I figure that's a longer-than-100-days problem, as are relations with Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. (Even his statements on withdrawal from Iraq, for example, envisage a draw-down over a 16 month period.)

54:

Ironically, it looks like it may have been the large surge of Black voters for Obama who caused Prop. 8 to pass in California. Exit polls show that over 70% of black voters voted to pass Prop. 8.

In fact, White voters where the only ones who voted against it in a majority. If it passes, it's because of the large minority vote turnout for Obama...

55:

Ian @52: what you're asking for is a revolution, not a regular transfer of executive power.

There is a reason most politicians are careful about how they treat their predecessors: unless they plan to die of old age in office, the rule "do unto others as thou would be done by" applies.

56:

Obama's victory is really a miracle and a blessing. Who would have thought with our difficult racial history that last night would have been possible, and by such a landslide?

We're living in fascinating political times.

Unfortunately, it sure looks like Prop 8 is going to pass. The Mormon church and vile groups like Dobbs' Focus on the Family has been pumping tons of money into it, and even here in California, backwards religiosity and clinging to tradition seems to have held sway.

But there's a bright side: Allred is already filing suit on behalf of her married lesbian clients. I think that, several years down the road, with Obama appointing more liberal US Supreme Court justices (hopefully more liberal than Clinton did), we'll see an expansion of Lawrence v. Texas to permit gay marriage (which is basically what the state Supreme Courts were doing).

It appears increasingly obvious that the rights of minorities can be protected only through federal judicial intervention, as the majority of the electorate will always vote for its own ends to oppress minorities.

57:

Charlie @55:

What I'm asking for is accountability for crimes...but I did call it a dream, no?

The level of 'taking the hard, unpopular decisions' necessary for Obama not to just continue steering the ship of state down the plughole makes that kind of politican bravery minor league stuff. Unfortunately what we will very likely get is the type of self-serving politician you describe.

The 'easy' bit was getting elected, now the real question is "how much guts have you got?"

58:

Luke @ 56: If that happened I'd be worried about a *Federal* anti-gay-marriage amendment.

59:

Obama may not be center-right; we don't actually know. He did not campaign on progressive positions, but that could be because they were an electoral liability. After the Palin pick, my impression is that he moved to the left, and he seems to have kept this up in his acceptance speech. As Obama pointed out in his acceptance speech there are huge challenges facing the USA and the world. Much of his policy-making is going to be forced by circumstances and political considerations. We'll have to wait and see. Watch his choices in Treasury and State; they will tell a great deal.

60:

Andrew @58:

Luckily, it's much harder to amend the US constitution than the state ones.

61:

Charlie @53, I wouldn't hold out too much hope for the conservative Supreme Court Justices to step down, they'll all --especially Scalia and Thomas, hang in there as long as their health allows. I expect they'll live a couple decades out of spite.

62:

Oh, I don't know Luke. I'm sure your boys will find away to amend away the Second Amendment and replace it with Obama's Civilian Security Corps.

Which I predict will be what replaces DHS, packed with felons no less.

63:

SFM @62: you're trolling.

Get over yourself, or piss off: if you continue to post along these lines I will ban you and delete your comments.

(You're only getting this one-time pass because I know you of yore. Use it wisely.)

64:

I've said my say, Charlie. I'll simply wait for 2010. Do what you want per my comments. Just be advised that not everyone in the United States is thrilled.

65:

Charlie, Obama may not be beholden to any particular group of American corporations but he is beholden to George Soros through the Open Society Institute and though OSI contributions to groups like the Joyce Foundation in Chicago.

While I do not disagree completely with some of the OSI's policies it does appear that one group of corporate interests has been replaced by another. Some of Soros' actions in the past could be viewed as immoral. Not much hope for change there.

66:

I don't see Obama as being center-right at all, by American standards. Maybe by European standards, but his actual voting record is on the liberal side of Democrat, so for us, he's pretty far left.

As for the positions he campaigned on, he tried to push himself toward the center, but he still ended up seeming pretty liberal--especially his tax policies.

67:

Christian @66: Maybe that's part of the problem, though? If what we're perceiving as liberal is, to the rest of the West, right of center, then perhaps the States are not moving away from the old and tired imperialist viewpoint quickly enough. Quicker than if the GOP remained in the Oval Office, but still.

We've got to put forth the effort required to re-establish that the E pluribus unum is a team-player.

68:

Speaking as an employee of the US federal government I'll just be happy to have rational management again.

Job 1 for Obama will be dealing with a chaotic Iraqi situation after the UN mandate expires at the end of the year. The Maliki government sees this as a wonderful way to get rid of us, on the other hand, the current administration being what it is, I expect them to refuse to be constrained by the realities of the situation.

Don't laugh, but the US could be at war with the government they created!

69:

Charlie@41 - As the Russians announced today that they're going to be stationing Iskander missiles in Kalliningrad - not a very long way away from some of my relatives - which will be able to `neutralise' the US anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, I think someone ought to have a quiet chat with them about Ballistic Missile Defence fairly soon.

70:

Don't laugh, but the US could be at war with the government they created!

Don't laugh, but, in the 18th century, the British Empire found itself at war with the North American colony they created!

71:

Dave@69: I think that's what got the Russians pissed off in the first place.

Bush's entire "consultation" from the Russian point of view was to cancel the ABM treaty, invite thier former allies to join NATO, set up military bases in neighbouring countries and station missiles in those countries.

"Having a quiet chat with them" or even talking at all before going ahead and doing what they liked might have prevented a raft of crap including the monumental cock-up in Georgia/South Ossetia. Yes, the Russians are being a bit "bolshey" ATM and quite honestly I don't blame them.

Yet more work for Barak when he gets a minute.........

72:

@69

At least the Iskander isn't nuclear.

73:

#66
Obama is way the h*ll to the right of me, and *I'm* a medium-liberal Democrat. He's about as liberal as Eisenhower was. (Which is still more liberal than the outgoing gang of criminals. More honest, too.)

74:

The Iskander doesn't need to be nuclear: it's there to take out the ABM installations in Poland in the event of the Russians deciding that they want to nuke someone somewhere.

On a more optimistic note, my Obama wishlist has:

15. Call India / Pakistan peace conference. India implements UNSC 47 (the Kashmir Referendum), in return for which it gets a UNSC veto. Pakistan gets a Kashmir peace process which in itself takes a lot of temperature out of jihadism (not least in the UK). In return, the Pakistan Taliban get suppressed.

75:

Andy W@71 - Oh yes. Although I think the Georgia thing was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

76:

Hmmm. If the Kashmiri referendum went in favor of independence from both Pakistan and India - and an acquaintance of mine from Kashmir says it might - how would the Pakistanis handle that?

77:

"You missed out my personal dream, taking the opportunity of the inauguration speech to announce the arrest, there and then, of all neocons involved in the OKing of torture, kidnap, etc. Preferably with the individuals being in attendance and having them led away in chains (Cheney most of all)."

Biden's already talked about criminal investigations. I doubt Bush will leave office without issuing some sort of blanket pardon of anyone involved in detainee interrogation during his 8 years in office.

78:

BTW, a lot of the posts here reflect a lot of what my friends on both sides keep saying. Each think that Obama's election somehow changes everything either for the better or the worse depending on where they come down.

But, personally, I don't think much will change at all. Obama's history suggests he is largely non-ideological, essentially mirroring the views of whatever constituency he is representing at the time. His reversal on FISA was indicative of where I suspect Obama's headed. He could have taken a stand on FISA but instead chose the safe route and went along with immunity for telcos, etc.

I think Obama is another Bill Clinton, more concerned with his image and standing in the polls than something as silly as ideas and ideology.

79:

"Biden's already talked about criminal investigations. I doubt Bush will leave office without issuing some sort of blanket pardon of anyone involved in detainee interrogation during his 8 years in office."

Blanket pardons ought to be found unconstitutional. It has only been done once, I believe, for Vietnam war draft dodgers, but was never tested. In that instance the pardon was also at least for a specific offense.

I think there is good reason to be hopeful that a Bush pardon of "everyone" for "everything" in a vague category like "interrogation" would not stand up before even the current right dominated supreme court. I doubt the Bush administration could generate a complete list, and doing so would be very embarrassing.

To even try he would also have to go for surveillance, personnel practices, campaigning on government time, etc.

80:

I think he was referring to Ford pardoning Nixon, more than Carter pardoning draft dodgers.

81:

pardon if this is a double post, it did not appear to go through the first try.
Obama center-right? Do you believe CNN, or do you have a totally different definition of "Center-right"?
http://nj.nationaljournal.com/voteratings/

82:

One of the reasons they pardoned the draft dodgers is that by then most of the district attorneys were people like our president who had dodged the draft through college, three year enlistments (spend three years in Europe and avoid Vietnam), the navy, the air force, the coast guard, the national guard, or anything else their personal pull could get them.
At least Kerrey and McCain volunteered for a Navy combat post.

83:

JeffF@79: I was under the impression that a few years after a war ends, most countries issue blanket pardons to draft dodgers. However, I have no sources other than the vague recollection that I read it somewhere. So take my opinion with a large pinch of salt.

84:

"He's center right by American standards." WHAT!? By European standards maybe - but by American standards he's center left - at best. Shit, 20% of Americans think he's about to bring on the first Islamo-Fascist Socialist revolution in U.S. History. Not to mention that, despite years of Republican bullshit, we actually managed to elect a minority to lead this backwards-ass banana republic.

85:

Well prop 8 passed because of black voters. How amusing. You people in europe have no understanding of the true dynamics in the US. Blacks are very conservative on social issues. I myself oppose all morals legislation and I don't think goverments should sanction marriages of any kind. Obama is just another statist just like Bush. I could care less.

86:

@84 it depends on how long you look back. Since the Reagan and Nixon swung everyone to the right from 68 onwards he is Center Left compared to that norm.

If you look further back at the political center over a longer period the real political center is far further to the left compared to where it currently is. In that case he is Center Right especially when you compare him to Truman or even Eisenhower.

87:

@84 it depends on how long you look back. Since Reagan and Nixon swung everyone to the right from 68 onwards he is Center Left compared to that norm.

If you look further back at the political center over a longer period the real political center is far further to the left compared to where it currently is. In that case he is Center Right especially when you compare him to Truman or even Eisenhower.

88:

Charle @ 53, apology noted, and accepted.

To clarify.
Yes, it WAS Churchill, and I made the mistake of assuming that was obvious.
Although the grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, and born in Blenheim Palace
, he was not THAT well-off.
He was very ambitious, and made a name for himself as a young cavalry officer, bent on promotion.
I think his first book was The Malakand Field Force - which makes VERY interesting reading in the light of what islamofascists are doing in the exact same area (The Swat valley) today.
His book "My Early Life" is a fascinating read ....
He took painting lessons from Walter Sickert
, and he principally used oils. One of his works sold recently for over a £million
He had retired as PM when I heard him, he was obviously old, and tired, but that face, that voice, and he only spoke a few sentences, but .......

You DO have to be careful of rhetoric - and although this may count as a Godwin-violation ...
There are colour-film tapes, on public view, in the Imperial War Museum, in London, of Adolf speaking. Now my German is about enough to get by on, but the presence of that man, evil though it was, is quite scary, even at this distance in time.

89:

Tim Foutz @85: wait until you get a real dictatorship, then tell me you could care less. (The Bush administration, for all its evils, stopped a long way short of the excesses of, say, General Pinochet or the Greek Colonels.)

Libertarianism: an ideology about as realistic as Leninism, only based on the purest of motives -- greed.

90:

I am not a Libertarian. Well I am on some issues I guess like marriage. I am in fact just someone who opposes all religion of any kind in goverment. From your perspective I would be a right wing/left wing gun nut extremeist..or somthing like that. But I love your books and buy all of them so at least I am a good customer.

91:

#70: As they say, all good things come to an end; all bad things too. I want out of Iraq as much as the next person but it behoves all that it happens in a somewhat orderly fashion. Yeah, I know, I want a lot.

92:

"think he was referring to Ford pardoning Nixon, more than Carter pardoning draft dodgers."

Ah, perhaps. Another vague pardon that ought not have been honored.

If the president wants to pardon someone for something it is my assertion that he must name that person and name the crimes for which they are pardoned. That is the only kind of check on the pardon power than might be extracted from our constitution. Really the president having such an unchecked power seems, to me, to be an awful idea.

"JeffF@79: I was under the impression that a few years after a war ends, most countries issue blanket pardons to draft dodgers. However, I have no sources other than the vague recollection that I read it somewhere. So take my opinion with a large pinch of salt."

Possibly. Doesn't mean those pardon's should actually be legal under the US constitution. My preferred remedy for such a situation would be an amnesty law.

93:

@79 wrote: "Blanket pardons ought to be found unconstitutional. It has only been done once, I believe, for Vietnam war draft dodgers, but was never tested. In that instance the pardon was also at least for a specific offense."

I doubt they would be found unconstitutional. The pardon power is pretty much absolute in the Constitution.

Also, there's a much older precedent than Carter's pardon -- Andrew Johnson's blanket pardon of all Confederate soldiers not convicted of war crimes. That pardon was upheld by the Supreme Court in Ex parte Garland and there's no way the current SC is going to revisit that.

(Apparently a number of other presidents issued general pardons in the early 19th century).

94:

Tim @90: the only space between me and Richard Dawkins on religion is that I don't think blunt rudeness about superstition is the way to get the superstitionists to reconsider their idiocy. So yes, I buy into the idea of getting religion out of politics.

However, marriage is about more than religion: it's about how the state sees family interpersonal relationships. And that's quite significant, beyond any question of religious belief.

95:

Completely agree with Charlie wrt marriage. I don't understand this obsession that marriage is a church/religion thing, in my view marriage is a matter of rights and duties, of social organization, in short, a civil matter.

BTW, have you guys read ESR's blog of late? Really lol-worthy material. I shan't dignify it with a link ;-)

96:

He's run a campaign that, astonishingly, has not left him beholden to large corporate interests for funding — the vast majority of his campaign was funded by small individual donations.

It seems that it was necessary to defeat the Palin ticket, but Obama opting out of the sadly almost defunct public funding system for US Presidential candidates is a tragedy and means that the *next* election will witness funding from corporations and "bundlers" on an unprecedented level. It's worth noting that for all his "small" donor notoriety, Obama still receives around 60% of his financing from corporatate and PAC-ish funders. Higher for small donors than Kerry in 2004, sure, but only by an absolute 10% or so. The problem is the Americans have this "freedom of speech" thing and they are also burdened with the unfortunate idea that a corporation is a "legal person" and so entitled to exercise free speech, in the shape of massive monetary pollution of elections. How to check funding sources:

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/summary.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638

One thing to note is that coming out of Illinois, Obama has been sponsored by ADM almost from the beginning and represents one of Big Corn's major new assets. Expect the massive subsidies for growing corn to convert into fuel for cars to continue, and expand, along with all the food insecurity consequences we have seen of late...

97:

Agreed on corporate personhood: it's a besetting evil that I suspect will, in the long run, prove to be the downfall of the hybrid social-democratic/capitalist-mixed-economy system that from around 1940 to 1980 (and subsequently to this date, in bastardized form) was the best-of-breed administrative system of the 20th century.

98:

Charlie @ 97: In the US, if not elsewhere, the real problem is that corporations are persons for the purposes of freedom of speech, etc., but not for purposes of accountability for illegal acts. So even if a criminal charge for an act committed by a corporation is sustained in court, the guilty verdict is found against the executives or other employees of the corporation that were charged; worst case, the corporation sacrifices a few executives to short jail terms in "Club Fed", and goes on about its (illegal) business.

99:

Societas delinquere non potest. This is very, very, very well settled penal doctrine. The US solution to this are class action suits and punitive damages. The European solution (which in some ways is not as well developed) goes through something "like" class action suits and administrative fines. A problem here is that of emergence: if a crime is committed, in such a distributed way that no person has criminal liability, and the corporation walks free, there is almost a systemic incentive to create the structures that can lead to this sort of state of affairs and get away with it. Neither administrative fines nor punitive damages seem sufficient, my personal option is revocation of juridical personhood. OK, so you as a juridical person cannot commit a crime, but since through your administrators you have arranged it so that crimes can be committed, you're incompetent to hold personhood and are thereby dissolved. Sure, easier said than done.

100:

David @ 99: In fact, the worship of corporate capitalism is so endemic in the US that in at least one state it is not allowed to find a judgment against a corporation in civil court that results in the corporation's bankruptcy or other inability to continue business.

On the other hand, in most states a judgment against an individual can be much larger than the individual could possibly earn in the rest of his/her working life. Not that it will ever be collected, of course, but the situations do seem a bit assymetric.

101:

@100:

Goodness! A bit assymetric? That's like saying nukes are mildly excessive means of population control. I'd never heard of that idea, that a company couldn't be judged against because it would go bankrupt. Reminds me of a very bad judgment by a Spanish court a few years ago, where a company was allowed not to fulfill certain contractual obligations to the workers because it would be unduely burdensome for it. My classmates, as well as the professor in question, had a good time wondering whether we could get away from paying rent because it would unduely burden us too! ;-) Oh well, 'tis the way of the world, I guess, but it does need to change.

103:

David @ 101: There have been a lot (certainly more than 10) cases in the US of large corporations defaulting on one or more provisions of their retirement plans, with the excuse that they couldn't afford it. In every case I know of, the retirement fund was underfunded because the corporation had been using the money to be paid in as a slush fund, to fill in gaps in their budgets, just putting IOUs in the fund. Then when the retirees tried to collect, the company said it couldn't afford to pay its debts and got a free pass. Note that most of these situations were not in the context of a bankruptcy proceeding. (Don't get me started on the recent changes in bankruptcy laws; I need to watch my blood pressure).

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