Posted by Jason O on Nov 8, 2012 in Irish Politics
Posted by Jason O on Nov 7, 2012 in US Politics
A friend recently observed, watching Mitt Romney’s campaign, that Romney was very similar to John McCain in one significant way. Neither Romney nor McCain resembled, in the final leg of the campaign, the candidates that had made them so attractive in the beginning. Both McCain and Romney had, pre-primary, clear images as relatively moderate candidates with considerable appeal to centrist and moderate voters. If anything, watching Romney debate Ted Kennedy in his 1996 run for the US Senate, one can’t help thinking that he would have made a fine moderate Democrat. Yet the GOP primary process forced both men to recant many of their moderate beliefs, forcing them to dash clumsily for the centre in the general election.
There are plenty of us who have seen this before, where a party is hijacked by its extremist wing. We remember the British Labour Party losing four general elections in a row before it finally confronted the fact that its hard left certainties may have brought comfort to its hardliners, but those same stances alienated the vital centre ground where elections are won. The GOP needs to confront the poisonous influence of the tea party, and the reality that its obsessions are damaging not only to the future of the Republican cause, but more importantly the cause of rational bipartisan compromise upon which the sane and sensible government of the United States and her constitution are based upon.
Good evening. As you know, for the last sixty years my predecessor clones and I have headed up SPECTRE, the Special Executive Council for Terror, Revenge and Extortion. During that time, we have fought various Western governments with their concepts of democracy and the rule of law. Then in the early 1980s, a new Australian member of the Council proposed a different approach. Rather than fight governments directly, why not take them over from inside?
We started by funding candidates willing to support our agenda, who then changed the laws on campaign financing and media balance and fairness, and then set up our own news channel to beam propaganda direct to the public. We also set up special committees to target specific groups of voters who could be bent to our agenda through emotional manipulation.
To be honest, I was sceptical. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, whether it is by stealing nuclear submarines or placing menacing platforms in space, but the results speak for themselves. SPECTRE owned energy and big business interests have done very nicely since 1980, and all legally too! We actually got to write the laws ourselves! And we’re saving a fortune in not having to maintain large and costly private armies. In fact, with the rise in private security outfits after Iraq, we can just buy in hired goons as we need them, without any pesky HR costs. And it’s all tax deductible (SPECTRE ® is a Delaware registered corporation. For tax reasons).
Of course, it’s not all perfect. By the end of the Bush administration, even we were glad to see the back of them, because they were so incompetent. It’s true, we did go in for the oil, but they made such a balls of the occupation that it took ages to get any of the sodding stuff out. Truth is, if Saddam hadn’t haggled so tough on the price, we would have left him there. So when Obama got in, we weren’t that worried. Another Democrat promising the stars. Big deal.
Then he killed that actor from “Knot’s Landing” we hired to play the character of Osama bin Laden, and brought in Universal healthcare and started complaining about how campaigns were financed. Next he’ll be appointing judges who don’t think freedom of speech has a price. Can’t have that. So we’ve decided to run our own campaign. Perhaps you’ve heard of our SuperPAC? SPEcial Committee To get Republicans Elected? By the way, Mitt isn’t a member of SPECTRE, funnily enough. Nor was George W. Probably never even heard of us. That’s not how we operate. No, we prefer to put people close to them. And not who you think either: Dick Cheney isn’t a member, because I know that if I let that bastard in the door he’d be after my job in weeks. Let’s just say, our guy in the Romney administration’s name rhymes with, eh, let’s say…Baul Byan.
So, vote Romey-Ryan on Tuesday. Because evil organisations dedicated to global domination are people too.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 1, 2012 in US Politics
Many people in Ireland ask me how can I, a centre-right pro-free market liberal, be so enthusiastic about President Obama. After all, if he were a candidate in Ireland, with his pro-public sector union views and unwillingness to tackle public spending, would I vote for him?
Probably not. But bear in mind, if he were a candidate in Ireland, he would not be opposed by a party that is de facto religiously sectarian, wobbly on the separation of church and state, actually either stupid or mad on female biology, regards gays as second class citizens, denies evolution and believes the world to be six thousand years old, and is openly dismissive of the poor.
If he were opposed by a party like that in Ireland, I’d vote for him here too.
He’s not perfect by any stretch. Gitmo is still open, despite a (foolhardy) promise to close it, and with his drone attacks his administration makes taking human life just a little too easy. He didn’t budge on his own Simpson-Bowles commission on deficit reduction either.
Yet he is nowhere near as left wing as his opponents say, and I believe he is genuinely open to compromise with moderate Republicans if only their own voters would stop firing them. He brought in universal healthcare, based on a Republican model, the greatest domestic political achievement in the US since the Great Society, when even the mighty Clintons couldn’t. He stopped the US economy from collapse, and saved the auto industry when President McCain would have just walked away. More importantly, like Teddy Roosevelt and FDR before him, President Obama recognises that if Capitalism, as the greatest wealth creating mechanism humanity has ever seen is to be saved, it has to be tempered to serve the common good, and yes, that does mean that the Koch brothers have to tip in a bit more. Left to their own devices, the far right of the GOP will, almost like Hoover before them, destroy Capitalism if they are let have their Marie Antoinette way.
Finally, there is the fact that after eight years of President Bush, President Obama made it possible for those of us outside the US who regard America as a friend and a force for good in the world to stand up and point and say “See? That’s what we mean.”
Mitt Romney is, I believe, a good and decent man. He probably is far more tolerant and moderate than the caricature he had to create during the GOP primaries. If President Obama is re-elected, he could do far worse than find a place for Governor Romney in his cabinet. But Mitt Romney has shown himself to be willing to bend to the will of the worst extreme elements of his party, and to publicly dismiss moderate political positions he held over a lifetime. It just isn’t worth the risk.
If I were a citizen of the United States, I would pause as I stood in the polling booth. If I were in a solid red or blue state, I would lend my vote to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, whose fiscal conservatism and social moderation deserves recognition in the ridiculousness of a two party system. But if it were a swing state, I would vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and I hope America does too.
Posted by Jason O on Nov 1, 2012 in Irish Politics
One of the more curious attitudes to come out of the FF/FG/Labour political establishment is the idea that political reform is some sort of fancy concept that has nothing to do with real life. If anything, that attitude shows how archaic and insular most Irish politicians are. In the United States, one of the great strengths of having a devolved federal system of government is that every city and state becomes a laboratory of democracy, where elected leaders have the power to try new approaches to problems. Some fail, some work but what is interesting is that the good ideas, whether it is cracking down on minor crime, like New York’s broken windows approach spearheaded by Mayor Giuliani, or other ideas like putting all state invoices online to encourage other suppliers to undercut them, allow a pick and mix approach for good ideas.
The current FG/Labour government, struggling to get better value for money from public funds, either doesn’t have the intellectual capability to grasp this, or isn’t genuinely serious about the task. Certainly, their stale status quo approach to local government reform would indicate a mixture of the two. As long as the specific individuals responsible for spending taxpayer’s do not have to face voters with a tax bill in their hand, we will have little progress.
But then, that’s almost certainly the way majority of our elected leaders actually want it. Office without responsibility, perks without perogative should be tatooed on their foreheads.