International: November 2008 Archives

A Green Party I don't support.

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thaiarmy.jpgApparently Thailand's army, with their green fatigues, are known as the Green Party for their history of political involvement. If only there was a real Thai Green Party to make that joke redundant.

Incidentally, the current protesters, who appear to be semi-aligned with the army, may be closing down airports, which has a certain appeal, but they're only doing it to challenge Thai democracy. Also not my preference.

Baroque Obama.

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The scholar awaits the Presidency. The original is here.


Whose marriages would Jesus ban?

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moroni.jpgOr indeed, whose marriages would Moroni (pictured left, blowing a trumpet) oppose? This year's successful California campaign to ban gay marriage apparently received $20m from Mormon organisations, half the total campaign fund. (NYT link, bypass registration here). 

The NYT notes "the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass [Proposition 8] with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers."

These volunteers met away from the church to avoid arousing suspicion, and were whipped up with a claim that "the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan". So same-sex couples with children aren't families, but polygamous groups are?

Update: on a related topic, this is my favourite comment so far on this blog. It was the Scottish isles reference which made me snort milk out of my nose.

Blood-sucking versus brains-eating.

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mccaingmonster.jpgDemocrat administrations lead to an increased incidence of vampire movies, while Republicans are accompanied by more zombie flicks, according to Peter Rowe at the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

Why would this be? Rowe cites Annalee Newitz of sci-fi website io9, whose engaging view is that it's pure class warfare:

"Democrats, who want to redistribute wealth to 'Main Street', fear the Wall Street vampires who bleed the nation dry," Newitz argued, noting that Dracula and his ilk arose from the aristocracy. 

"Republicans fear a revolt of the poor and disenfranchised, dressed in rags and coming to the White House to eat their brains."

A further piece of "research", also from io9, shows that war and crisis lead to higher numbers of zombie films in production. The graph is below: note that mummies are included, but vampires and ghosts are not, as the definition is the living dead, not the undead. Isn't science cool? 

Looking at both these pieces of work, there appears to be a missing link. Although the Democrats have hardly done much on the economy that they can be proud of since FDR, perhaps the real correlation is between Republican Presidents and both deficits and economic crises

Incidentally, Obama's sci-fi and fantasy interests are elsewhere - Spiderman and, implausibly, Conan the Barbarian. Perhaps this Schwarzenegger interpretation of the latter (youtube) is one of his inspirations. Personally I hope to see a little more Admiral Adama and a bit less lamentation.

Apologies for having completely failed to blog less about American politics.

The Fourth Republic.

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republics.jpgMichael Lind had a great thesis in Salon last week about the three phases the United States have gone through, and the fourth that's begun. In essence, each phase lasts 72 years, even though that sounds like numerological voodoo. 

The first half of each phase, or Republic in the French manner, is a Hamiltonian nation-building period, which is then followed by a Jeffersonian limited-state backlash (note that Jefferson himself wasn't particularly Jeffersonian by this analysis!). 

Each Republic is associated with a new period in technology, and they begin with a heroic President and end with a dire one. So...

First Republic: 1788 - 1860
First half: President: George Washington and the Federalist Party build a federal state.
Second half: Backlash led by Andrew Jackson, era ends with James Buchanan and America on the eve of the Civil War
Technology: Agrarianism

Second Republic: 1860 - 1932
First half: Abraham Lincoln reunites the country by force, the end of slavery and Reconstruction, builds railroads and other infrastructure.
Second half: Backlash led by populists, culminates in Hoover and the Wall St Crash
Technology: Coal, steam, and then Fordism.

Third Republic: 1932 - 2004
First half: Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal, economic regulation, more infrastructure, end of segregation
Second half: From Nixon onwards, attempts to cut taxes and the size of government, culminating in second Bush presidency
Technology: electricity, internal combustion engine, new media

Fourth Republic: 2004 - 2076??
First half: Barack Obama..

And then the crystal ball is hazy, although it projects constructive expansion of government - healthcare, clean power? - led by Obama, with a backlash starting precisely in 2040. The clock's ticking.

In my optimistic moments I have said that if Obama lives up to his promise he could indeed be one of the four most important American Presidents to date: the three identified by Lind in this article were the other three I had in mind. Whatever their flaws, it's hard not to see the current United States as primarily shaped by those three, and however implausible the 72-year Republics sound, it's an interesting analysis.

They call it an air war.

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awacs.jpgGood spot by Tom. Of course both Russia and George had squads of PR people fighting for them in Brussels. It's so obvious once you think about it. Winning the war is one thing, but it's clearly vital to be perceived to have won it, and equally so for the blame not to be assigned your way.

change.pngExtraordinary as it seems, is the real address of the transitional office of the President-elect. You may not need to know more about Obama, but you might be want to see a summary of his views on the environment, foreign affairs, or ethics

You may also wish to apply for the job of Josh Lyman's Rahm Emanuel's deputy. If so, the form is online. It's not all up yet, though. The Obama National Service Plan still says NEED CONTENT. (via)

Shabby reflections.

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salmondyeswecan.jpgAcross British politics, everyone wants to be associated with Obama, no matter how absurd or tenuous the claim may be. 

David Cameron thinks the change agenda is his, despite having backed McCain, while Brown thinks Obama shares his progressive politics

That must be why Obama was so desperate to share in Brown's reflected glory during his campaign.

The Liberals want to submit to his leadership, and, absurdly, think his main policy is to cut taxes. Right. That's why he got the young people so motivated.

Even Nick Griffin backed Obama, for some obscure and presumably racialist reason I can't begin to understand. 

That's the most jarring claim, obviously, with a staggering bullshit quota, but I make the SNP's claim the most empty. The only bit they've taken is "Yes we can", as per the picture above. In the process the phrase has been gutted of vision so entirely that all it now means is "Yes we can win in Glenrothes", which would send a reluctant SNP MP to a Parliament he doesn't believe in. There must surely be SNP supporters squirming at the absurdity of this photo.

The way Obama uses it (and it was the part of his speech on Tuesday night I liked least) at least each time it followed a slice of historical political vision (see the full text). Women fought for the vote. Yes we can. FDR tackled the Depression. Yes we can. And so on. He touched on a wide range of important issues in his speech, including poverty, climate change, gay rights and peace.

All the SNP have is a vision of a single constitutional change. I agree with independence, but I'm not a nationalist. One of the reasons for that is that I cannot understand why anyone would find the (admittedly inadequate) constitutional settlement their key political motivation. 

It's the broader spectrum of policies which are more important to Greens, including all those from Obama's list above. Not that I'm trying shamelessly to associate us with the President-elect, you understand.

Ban straight marriage.

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2guys.jpgIn amongst all the post-neocon Obama excitement, there were a lot of depressing votes against equality in America yesterday. Arkansas voters barred unmarried couples from adopting or fostering, and it was clear that "unmarried" was code for gay or lesbian. Florida, Arizona and California went for hetero definitions of marriage, albeit by relatively low margins in the last two cases.

If you want to see some decent analysis for why equal status lost even in much-mythologised California, read Time. San Francisco Mayor Newsom, who only narrowly beat a Green mayoral candidate in 2003, seems to have had a Sheffield moment, for one thing.

However, a pal in Massachusetts pointed out to me perhaps the most interesting consequence. The Proposition 8 amendment to California's constitution bans gay marriage. Other parts of the same constitution guarantee equality. So if the gays can't marry, perhaps no-one can. 

All those wingnuts who said that gay marriage could threaten the traditional family may just have abolished the entire institution of marriage themselves. I know it won't happen, but stop for a second and imagine what a magnificent irony that would prove.

Some have argued that opening marriage up to same-sex couples allows them to suffer just as much as heterosexuals. Perhaps California is edging closer to a more imaginative solution, one which is just as equal.
mccain-nope.jpgI wasn't going to write one of those identikit Obama blog posts that are currently clogging up the tubes of the internet, but here's one thought. 

During the US election, there were two schools of thought in the party and the Green movement. One said "there's a Green candidate and we should be backing her", and the other said "dammit, when will there ever be a better likely President than Obama?".

Obviously, they need a fair election system - even alternative vote would make a huge difference - but personally I'm in the latter camp, and firmly so. 

The US Greens should be working to build local bases, targeting their best areas, running for lower offices, and in this case they should have given an caveated endorsement for Obama. One more Nader effect in a tight election could have killed the party entirely. Also, as Jim points out:

"Unlike for the Democrats for them it's all about the top job, and I tell you, it takes something to be more hierarchical than the Democrats."

Now, of course, there's the "yes I'm excited, but surely he'll let everyone down" position, but the comparison with 1997 is poor. While Obama may disappoint, by 1997 I didn't know many people who were positively optimistic about Blair's Labour. Most were simply delighted to see the Tories crushed.

dancers.jpgThis time it's not the creationism, nor the absurd under-qualification for the job, let alone the other job, nor is it the hatred, fear and division she has sought to inspire on the campaign trail. 

It's the way she's dealt with Alaska's natives, who make up 15.6% of the state's population. A friend of mine, an Alaskan native himself, says:

"Alaska is too small a state to say anything without having things come back to them and Palin seems to think that junior high school politics is the way you do business at the higher, or in her case lower, levels of Government operations."

He's sent me the following list of her failings on this issue. Americans surely cannot elect her to national office. Surely they will send her back to Alaska (sorry, Alaskans, it's just until 2010).

Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing
Perhaps no issue is of greater importance to Alaska Native peoples as the right to hunt and fish according to ancient customary and traditional practices, and to carry on the subsistence way of life for future generations. Governor Sarah Palin has consistently opposed those rights.

Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue litigation that seeks to overturn every subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska. In pressing this case, Palin decided against using the Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation) and instead continued contracting with Senator Ted Stevens' brother-in-law's law firm (Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot).

The goal of Palin's lawsuit is to invalidate all the subsistence fishing regulations the federal government has issued to date to protect Native fishing, and to force the courts instead to take over the role of setting subsistence regulations. Palin continues to argue against Native subsistence rights, in favor of sport and commercial fishing.

Palin opposes subsistence protections in marine waters, on many of the lands that Natives selected under their 1971 land claims settlement with the state and federal governments, and in many of the rivers where Alaska Natives customarily fish. Palin also opposes subsistence fishing protections on Alaska Native federal allotments that were deeded to individuals purposely to foster Native subsistence activities. All these issues are now pending before the federal district court.

Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting 
Palin has also sought to invalidate critical determinations the Federal Subsistence Board has made regarding customary and traditional uses of game, specifically to take hunting opportunities away from Native subsistence villagers and thereby enhance sport hunting. Palin's attack here on subsistence has focused on the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina.

In both hunting and fishing matters, Palin has continued the policies initiated by the former Governor Frank Murkowski's administration, challenging hunting and fishing protections that Native people depend upon for their subsistence way of life in order to enhance sport fishing and hunting opportunities. Palin's lawsuits are a direct attack on the core way of life of Native Tribes in rural Alaska.

Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty
Given past court rulings affirming the federally recognized tribal status of Alaska Native villages, Palin argues that Alaska Tribes have no authority to act as sovereigns, despite their recognition. So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she has sought to block tribes from exercising any authority whatsoever even over the welfare of Native children, adhering to a 2004 legal opinion issued by the former Murkowski Administration that no such jurisdiction exists.

Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages
Palin has refused to accord proper respect to Alaska Native languages and voters by refusing to provide language assistance to Yup'ik speaking Alaska Native voters. As a result, Palin was just ordered by a special three-judge panel of federal judges to provide various forms of voter assistance to Yup'ik voters residing in southwest Alaska. Palin was ordered to provide trained poll workers who are bilingual in English and Yup'ik; along with sample ballots in written Yup'ik. 

In sum, measured against some the rights that are most fundamental to Alaska Native Tribes - the subsistence way of life, tribal sovereignty and voting rights - Palin's record is a failure.

The return of Bobby Kennedy.

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Listening to Obama and watching his crowds, I remembered another campaign, another candidate, someone who perhaps could have helped to heal America forty years ago.

Complacency fail risk.

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When you're ahead, in a relatively apathetic country with two main parties who are often hard to distinguish (although less so lately), complacency has to be a risk. Which makes this an excellent message, via Oliver Willis. keen-eyed observers will remember the original from failblog.

Personally I think Obama's campaign complacency risk peaked in July. Here's some extraordinarily dated August coverage to illustrate how much things have changed, what with the bubble bursting and all.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the International category from November 2008.

International: October 2008 is the previous archive.

International: December 2008 is the next archive.