Posted by Jason O on Jan 23, 2015 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
The leadership of the GOP on Capitol Hill has announced that it will initiate articles of impeachment against the president on the grounds of breach of trust. RNC Spokesperson Charles Mayflower-Brooks III told us: “This president made a tacit contract with conservatives that he would become a communist dictator. Sure, he never said it, denied it even, but we managed to create that idea in our heads and by not implementing our conservative policies he let that idea fester and grow. Therefore, he’s lied to us, and has to go!”
Fox News has attacked the president this morning for “smirking, not liking his jacket, whatever”. The National Rifle Association savaged the president yesterday for forcing its members to spend billions of dollars on guns and ammunition to defend themselves from a Liberal Caliphate and then “not even having the class to use jackbooted federal thugs to oppress us and give us the chance to use all this stuff! Hell, I’m beginning to think this two-faced sonobitch isn’t going to try and implement a socialist police state at all!”
On being told the news when he arrived down for breakfast, the president picked up his iPad, tabbed on “Sons of Anarchy” on Netflix, and announced that he was going back to bed.
Supposing, after the terrible events of 9/11, the United States had acted differently. Imagine if it had worked to improve its intelligence and internal security capacity, but not launched the War on Terror. Instead, it deployed special forces discreetly throughout the world to destroy Al Qaeda and hunt down Bin Laden.
Imagine now we lived in a world where the US and her allies had not invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Afganistan is still a medieval backwater where women are treated appallingly, and Saddam Hussein or his odious sons are still in power in Iraq.
It’s not a pretty sight, save for the fact that The West has not turned two invasions into a recruiting bonanza for Islamic extremists. Thousands of allied soldiers have not died. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are not dead. Billions have not been spent on wars that have at worst not delivered what we hoped, and at best created new problems.
Are we actually that worse off? ISIS is not fighting in Iraq. The Arab Spring probably hasn’t happened. George Bush and Tony Blair have both left office in quite high esteem, two safe pairs of hands who steered The West through one of its’ darkest days.
It couldn’t have happened, of course, for the simple reason that the American people and its media would never have settled for anything short of a spectacular act of revenge. And I write that in a non-judgemental way, because it was a very human reaction to rise up and want to wreak vengeance upon those who inflicted such a terrible blow on the US.
But that’s the point. It was a hard blow, but a gnat’s blow in terms of the strength of the United States. Over 3000 people were killed, which is a savage figure. But when you consider that over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun-related deaths, without much panic by US politicians, you realise that the US, and the rest of the western world, can absorb quite a lot of pain.
America could have dismissed 9/11 with a wave of the hand and carried on if it had chosen to. That’s not to say it can dismiss threats to national security. It can’t. The next attack could be a biological weapon, and The West has to act to protect itself. But the US, and The West in general, should perhaps start considering that massive spectacular and visible retaliation does not make the US safer but creates a new generation of enemy recruits.
Imagine if Israel didn’t respond to every attack from Hamas. Imagine if Israel just stood firm and brushed off attack after attack, without bombing the Palestinians in retaliation. Yes, it would be hard, and counter-intuitive, and there would be those on Fox News screaming hysterically and quoting the bible and calling leaders wimps and cowards. But also imagine as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, of rockets being intercepted or landing, but the counter attack never coming. Imagine the anger in Hamas and Al Quaeda, as the US and Israel don’t play their part in the cycle, but instead openly mock the terrorists for their feebleness, for the fact that The West is so strong that their best efforts are as an ant to an elephant.
In short, imagine we told them that they’re just not important enough to invade or bomb. Yes, it would be hard, turning the other cheek. It would also mean turning a blind eye to terrible things done in Nigeria and Mali and Iraq and Syria. It would probably mean we’d need a more enlightened immigration policy to provide refuge for those fleeing those awful regimes, perhaps even paying another country to act as our surrogate reception area.
Would we really be worse off?
Folks: I’m hoping, in 2015, to start a podcast called “Right, Left & Centre”. The idea will be to have three guests and myself discussing a big political or social idea of Irish, European or international interest. Each guest will be asked to designate themselves as right, left or centre and I hope to have one of each on each panel.
The big questions will be something like “Is Ireland about to get its first left wing government?” or “Is it time to scrap the European Union?” or “Fianna Fail/Fine Gael: is it time?” or “Are the robots going to take all our jobs?”. I’m hoping to avoid the usual Irish “The Week In Politics” party political bunfight, and have no interest in having guests who can’t see beyond the party political, if only because it’s tediously boring.
We’ll be recording over a two hour period on weekday evening or on a weekend as scheduling permits. Assuming the thing works: the first thing could end up a disaster or in the high court.
So, if you’re interested, get in touch on Twitter or on the site here, and yet me know. And don’t forget to class yourself as right, left or centre. And please: there’s a tendency of every Irish person to call themselves centrist, so bear in mind that I only want one per show, unless we have a show where it’s unavoidable!
Most importantly: I want this to be fun and to prove the point that you can disagree with people politically but like them personally.
One more thing: if you’re interested in libelling people or espousing corruption theories about certain millionaires, feck off and do it on your own podcast. I haven’t got the pockets.
1. You, and everybody else, has a right to offend and be offended. Too much freedom of speech always trumps too little.
2. Everybody has the right to keep their money as much as you have the right to keep yours.
3. Before demanding someone have more power over someone else, imagine giving that power to your worst enemy, and see if you’re comfortable with that.
4. The validity of an argument is not increased by how strongly you feel about it.
5. It is possible to disagree with someone’s politics but like them personally.
6. Everybody minding their own business is the solution to far more problems than you think.
7. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a compassionate welfare system. There is something wrong with thinking that basic maths has nothing to do with it. Every euro spent has to be taken or borrowed off someone else.
Berlusconi. Putin. Erdogan. Farage. Le Pen. Wilders. What do all these names have in common? All have built a cult of personality on a platform of authoritarian nationalist populism. But another factor is that each one of them has built a movement which will suffer a serious, possibly even fatal blow, if one of the above were to die suddenly.
It’s a curious feature of the hard right, the centralising of power around a key figure. As Franco, Mussolini and others proved, pull the keystone figure away and the whole structure could collapse in a way that democratic centrist parties just don’t.
If Farage, Berlusconi or Putin in particular suddenly passed away in the night there’d be a actual chaos in their organisations, a genuine vacuum and lack of clear succession that could destroy the whole enterprise in a vicious struggle for power.
Just a thought.
This democracy thing is far more fragile than we realise.
I thought I’d repost this rather than write another blog on the same theme. Don’t forget to check out this article about public spending by the BBC’s Nick Robinson, as I think they dovetail nicely. By the way, make sure to watch the short film, it’s fascinating.
1. A sense of entitlement, spread across nearly every social class, that informs people that they somehow have a right to far more government expenditure being spent on them than they ever contribute in taxes, whilst at the same time believing that they are overtaxed and that others are either paying less or getting more from the state.
2. A professional political class that sees winning elections and remaining in office as a career in itself, that sees defined political values as a means to an end rather than an end goal, and that has developed its own sense of Washington Beltway/Westminster Village/Leinster House Doheny and Nesbitt set of priorities and scorecards that are getting further and further removed from the concerns of their respective publics.
3. An electorate, shaped by a post-1950s consumer culture, that expects its political leaders to deliver an unachievable level of political and indeed emotional gratification, constantly leading to disappointment in the political process. For example, this writer encountered people expressing disappointment in a new Irish government for not implementing election promises before they had actually taken office. In addition, that same electorate subscribes to a right to cheap credit but does not accept the balancing obligation of accepting a lower standard of living in order to meet those debts.
4. A media that, due to commercial realities, does not see informing the public or indeed educating them as being a high priority, but instead sees the destruction of political figures, parties and institutions as a legitimate goal in itself, as is the injecting of extreme emotion into any story where possible.
5. The corrupting effect of fundraising on the political system coupled with (see point four) a media that both decries corruption caused by fundraising but also the use of public funds to eliminate the need for private funding. Likewise, a public that demands high standards of political ethics but is unwilling to resource them, leading to candidates who are either funded by other individuals or else are privately wealthy, both cases to which the public also objects.
6. The pervasive influence of modern marketing techniques within politics, in particular the adjusting of parties to become entities espousing the least offensive lowest common denominator coupled with focusing on emotional but essentially distracting “hot button” issues. These are a direct challenge to the concept of politics being a menu of policy options that a well informed electorate can choose from. In Ireland, for example, there are supermarket chains offering more distinctive options than most of our main political parties.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 2, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
The leadership of the US Republican Party has warned the Obama administration that it will not tolerate the recent potential outbreak of Ebola in Texas being used as an excuse to promote “socialist” medicine.
“We know how this works. The president and his communist cronies, after finishing their daily prayers to Allah, will tell federal medical officials to not only treat possible infected people for the Ebola virus, but any other illnesses they might have acquired previous to catching the virus,” J. McAdoo McAdoo III, the RNC spokesman, told reporters. “Suddenly, ordinary Americans who had been getting through life with untreated ailments get a little dose of Ebola and then socialism is the answer to everything. It’s very simple, you can go through life with an all-American open and weeping sore oozing puss, like our daddies did during the war, or you can find Big Government leaving you fit as a fiddle like some sort of Frenchman. Hell no!”
Texas governor Rick Perry has taken the lead on the matter. “I understand from medical advice that it is not really possible to treat Ebola and not cure other pre-existing illnesses. Now, before good God-fearing folk think I’ve turned into some sort of atheist homosexual or scientist, let me assure them that I have consulted scripture on this. That is why I have instructed the Texas Department of Health, having cured these people of Ebola, to inject them with a good old fashioned plague of the sort mentioned in the Bible. Then let them get that treated in any one of the many fine private sector medical practices available in this great state.”
President Obama responded to the GOP leadership by loudly banging his head repeatedly on his desk in the Oval Office.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 31, 2014 in US Politics
Last year, an unusual thing happened to me. Ireland held a referendum on abolishing its Senate, and I campaigned in favour of abolition. Most of my political friends were opposed to abolition. For the first time ever, I was actually in fundamental disagreement with most of my friends on a political issue. We argued during the campaign, spoke on different sides during debates, countered each other on-line.
They won, I lost. They still think they were right. I know they were wrong (!) but here’s the thing: they’re not bad people. We disagree on this, and other things, but we agree on others. The point is, I don’t think they are evil or immoral or less committed to democracy or less patriotic because they took a stand I disagreed with, nor do (I hope) they think that of me. It was the normal robust rough-and-tumble of a health free society arguing a point.
When I first heard about Barack Obama I was struck, as a read about him, that he wasn’t just another liberal black candidate. He wasn’t another Jesse Jackson, speaking eloquently for a community he came from but failing to connect with others. Obama reminded me of the young Tony Blair, who didn’t see all Tory voters as the enemy but people who had to be listened to and accommodated. It was Barack Obama the pragmatic centrist who just happened to also be black who really appealed to me.
In government, he tried to accommodate Republicans over healthcare reform, eventually bringing in a healthcare system not like the socialist single-payer system used in the UK, but one with huge private sector involvement designed by Republicans and implemented by a Republican governor. He appointed Jon Huntsman, a former Republican governor to the key position of US ambassador to China because Huntsman was eminently skilled for the job.
And in reply, what does he get? Does he get Republicans who disagree with him on A, but find they might be able to do something on B if they get C? Like normal people? No, he gets people who question whether he was actually born in the US, and who actually dedicate their political time to paralysing the legislative process for fear of him achieving anything. He gets people who attack Republican governors like Chris Christie or indeed Jon Huntsman, conservatives who disagreed with the president on other things, for working with him on anything. Who get called traitors for working with the President of the United States on an issue of mutual agreement.
These are not normal people. That is not how normal people behave in their lives. Imagine a family was run on those line?
Then there are the other issues. He doesn’t think there is a gay conspiracy to destroy traditional families. He thinks that maybe having guns too easily accessible might have something to do with people getting shot. He believes in dinosaurs. He believes he was born in Hawaii. He doesn’t believe that poor people are inherently lazy. He doesn’t believe any member of any single major religion is all automatically evil. Normal stuff, believed by many conservatives around the world, not just liberals.
I don’t agree with him on everything. I think he’s way too cosy with public sector unions, and don’t get me started on drones. But that’s normal too. As former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to say: “If you agree with me on 10 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree on 12 out of 12, see a psychiatrist.”
In short, I support Barack Obama because he is the voice of rational debate and discussion. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because calm, reasoned debate is no longer the norm, but an actual wilful political choice. There are politicians now who are effectively opponents of rational debate, who dismiss whole swathes of their own countrymen and women as “un-American”. These people are nuts. I support the non-nut.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 19, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
In a crushing blow to the administration, a new Fox News poll has revealed that a stunning 94% of people who didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008 and 2012 disapprove of his administration and its policies.
“It’s a shocker,” Fox News’ Sherrii McBlonde told viewers this morning: “There are literally millions of Americans who did not vote for the president’s policies and now are bitterly angry that he is carrying them out. I mean, what sort of democracy is that?”
Sources in the GOP have called for a constitutional amendment whereby presidents whose names rhyme with Arak Mohama should be stripped of executive power, as a safeguard.
“I haven’t met a single ordinary American who disagrees with that sensible moderate proposal. Not one, in all the surveys I’ve carried out in the Republican caucus room. Not one,” GOP spokesperson Chuck Chuckerson III said yesterday.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 15, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has announced that congressional Ðemocrats will be tabling a motion to impeach Texas governor Rick Perry on the off chance he’s elected president in 2016.
Speaking to reporters, Sen. Reid said: “We feel that the Republicans have made much more progress on their impeachment capabilities than we have. We tried to impeach Nixon for actual crimes, which is apparently very old fashioned now, whereas Republicans went after Clinton because he got more women than they did, and Obama because they didn’t like his name or that he believed in socialist concepts like gravity. So we’re thinking to be absolutely ready to go after the next GOP president. I mean, he’s from Texas. That’s a sort of crime, isn’t it?”
The Republican National Committee responded by announcing that it wanted to know why Malia Obama didn’t give regular press conferences, or appear before congressional committees. “What’s she hiding?” A spokesperson asked.