Barack Obama's Long Game

Barack Obama’s Long Game – Politico Story

A story featured both at Politico and Huffington Post making the case for Barack Obama as a transformative president.  The last few months have been an extremely interesting to say the least.  Cuba, Iran, marriage equality, healthcare victory in the Supreme Court, and commuting the sentences of non-violent offenders, are just a few of the things I think will be looked fondly upon.  I am highly skeptical of his trade deal.  I also have always been critical of other aspects of his foreign policy since the beginning, especially what this country has done with drones in recent history.   I think he could have done more on Climate Change early on, though I think he has done what is possible this term, especially considering the Congress he is dealing with.  However, although I think one can be both pleased with and critical of something at the same time, I think the good outweighs the bad when it is all stacked together at this point, especially considering where we were when we started.

Obama Frees Dozens of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Obama Frees Dozens of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

File this under good news:  Obama has granted freedom to dozens of nonviolent drug offenders.  This is only a small step for good in our ridiculous drug war.  Why dozens should be freed when untold numbers are being punished is a good question, but lets hope this is a beginning and not an end.  Not only are the punishments for nonviolent drug offenses often absurd, but the aftermath is even more troubling.  One time I was arrested for a DUI, which was thrown out of court it was so laughable.  (I passed my breathalyzer and blood test.  I was stupid enough to admit honestly to police that I had two drinks earlier in the night.  Rule one when confronting police, as told to me by my lawyer, is never never be honest.  You will never face stiffer penalties for not admitting to something, but you can very well face trouble for admitting to something.)  I was still turned down for an education job that I applied for on the basis of that arrest, before I started making my living in the music business, despite doing nothing illegal.  I can only imagine the trouble that nonviolent offenders of drug laws face when trying to find meaningful employment.  There is a Morrissey quote that goes: “Life is hard enough when you belong here.”  Life is hard enough in general even when you don’t have this kind of burden following you around, as most people not born with a silver spoon in their mouth can attest to.  Even for those born with all advantages, life is no picnic.  To live is partly to suffer.  These people are our neighbors, our family, our brothers and sisters in the human race.  We should not only not impose draconian sentences on people that have done nothing violent, but should give them a real chance at rebuilding their lives.

The Party of Jackson vs. The Party of Obama

The Party of Jackson vs. the Party of Obama – NYMag

The above article is an interesting read about the history of the Democratic party.  It also deals with recent events and the friction between different elements of the party.  The other day I saw this map, which shows which areas of the country have the most racist tweets.  I was surprised, maybe not totally surprised having grown up around that region, but at least slightly surprised that the region that looked the worst on that map was Appalachia.  (I grew up in central Pennsylvania and went to college in West Virginia.)  Now there may be reasons that this map is slightly misleading, though I have no proof of that.  The fact that it is Twitter and not some kind of more scientific poll may change results.  There are also less blacks in that region than in other parts of the country that are more traditionally thought of as racist, so maybe people feel they have less reason to hide what they are saying?  Anyhow, anyway you cut it, it is deeply troubling for that region.  (I should also add that as someone that travels a lot, no one should be stereotyped just because of the region they come from.  There are great people in the South and Appalachia, just as there are terrible people in regions that are not as negatively stereotyped for racial issues.)

One of the things that the right has been so good at doing is dividing and conquering.  Economically minorities and white working class voters would both benefit from a less conservative agenda.  Having better access to good jobs, good education, and having more regulations, especially in areas of pollution, leads to a higher quality of life.  However, these social issues have always been used to divide our country.  United we stand, divided we fall, is now as true as ever.  If we can’t overcome our differences in this age, when jobs can move anywhere in the world and environmental issues require a united front, we are truly doomed.

My Voting System

There is a meme going around on Facebook right now where Texas Governor Greg Abbot is quoted:

“Marriage is defined by God, no man can redefine it.”

Then it shows the three women Supreme Court Judges and below their picture it says: I Am No Man.

I loved it.  I wrote below it on my Facebook page:

I couldn’t help post this. It made me laugh thinking how certain heads would explode. As a straight white male maybe you think I shouldn’t be laughing. But after centuries of war, environmental destruction, and economic injustice (just for starters!), I figure it’s time to let some other people drive. We have three women on the Supreme Court and a black president and we got affordable healthcare and tolerance that just a few years ago seemed a dream.

I don’t usually like to post those memes on Facebook, but sometimes you have to break your own rules.  But anyway, it made me think of my voting system that I use if I am not sure of who to vote for.  Let’s just be honest, sometimes you go to the polls in those off years and you just don’t know all the races.  So you have to have a system.  So here is mine (I will explain after):

1.  If there are different parties I select the most liberal party.

2.  If there are not different parties I will vote for a woman over a man.

3.  If the candidates are all one sex, then I try to see if one of the candidates has a name that looks like a minority name.  If so I vote for the minority.

4.  If the only name present is a white Republican male, then I write in a candidate.

5.  If there is no one that I can think of that is breathing to hold an office other than a white Republican male, I then write in a fictional character.

Basically, in my opinion, George W. Bush doomed white Republican males until the end of time.  The Republican party, which was the party of my grandfather, and used to feature sensible moderates at times, spent the years between Reagan and W. driving all moderates out of positions of power in the party.  (I know many of you are still out there in the wilderness.  Stay strong!)  Somehow this thinning of the moderate heard reached light speed under George W.  Now that party’s leadership seems to be left without any candidates that aren’t anti-science, religious freak, free market fundamentalists.

It’s not that I think that all liberals, women, and minorities are great.  Not by a long shot.  It’s only that I am willing to bet they will be better than the WRM alternative.

In life the driving forces should be love, tolerance, and peace.  I don’t mean that in the kind of utopian sense than many on the right would call, “hippie bullshit.”  I just mean that we should strive to be tolerant of those individuals who are born differently from us and that as a society we should only use violence as a last resort.  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, if you put Hitler at one end of the human spectrum and Martin Luther King Jr. at the other, I would probably be somewhere in the middle.  But I’m trying.  It’s striving to be loving, tolerant, and peaceful that is important.  Many of us will trip along the way, but we must get up and try harder.

I feel like more often than not, those that have struggled have more empathy for other people that are struggling.  Unfortunately, right now, in our society, on average, women and minorities have more roadblocks in their path than white men do, despite whatever bullshit Fox News tries to sell you.  (You will see all kinds of “traditional values under attack” over at Fox News after the gay marriage vote.  Fox News viewers will be made to feel like victims, again.  Please, gay people are just being allowed to marry someone they love, not being given free mansions.)  There is no promise that any kind of person is going to be loving, tolerant, or kind, but again, I’m playing the odds at the voting booth on occasion.  If you’ve been shit on by the system, the odds are you are going to extend a hand to others that have faced similar problems.  And that’s what this whole life thing is about, making sure that as many of our brothers and sisters get a fair shake as possible.

Now granted, occasionally my system could vote in Clarence Thomas in a whig, but whoever said life was without its risks?

What Does Ted Cruz Looks Like?

What Does Ted Cruz Look Like?

The above article is an entertaining read from Rolling Stone.  The article examines the public perception of several mainstream candidates over the last few years, based on their looks, and tries to discern how Ted Cruz’s looks will affect his candidacy.  (There is a pretty great side-by-side of President Obama and Sam the Eagle.)

One of my best friends has often said the following to me about Ted Cruz:  “Even if he was the greatest politicians ever, wouldn’t just the way he looked make you want to kick the shit out of him?” Yes, yes, yes….

The Obama Doctrine

The new New York Times interview with President Obama is an interesting read.  I am glad that he is our leader at this point.  He explains what his approach to Iran and other countries is.  He lays out his way of thinking about countries that have been deemed enemies of the U.S.  It’s being called the Obama doctrine.  It seems more than sane to me.  Here is a small snippet:

“You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies.”

And later:

The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”

This does not mean that his foreign policy is perfect.  I still am highly wary of his use of drones over the term of his presidency.  I also don’t like the way that whistle blowers have been treated.  However, the main policies that he lays forth seem to me that they are highly reasonable.  He seems to understand our place in the world.  We are militarily the most powerful country in the world.  Why couldn’t we try new approaches, especially when the downside, given our technological and military position, is small.  His approach to Cuba and Iran, at least at this point, seem like victories for peace.

I highlight two of the quotes that Huffington Post also highlighted.  

Injustice in Ferguson

Details From Ferguson

The details emerging from the Justice Department’s investigation into Ferguson are pretty ugly.  There is definitely racism is our criminal justice system and this is just the latest example.  If you don’t think there is, you are probably white, and you probably haven’t read enough.  Again, I think one of the best one stop shop reads you can have on this subject for modern times is Matt Taibbi’s The Divide:  American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.  But if you are somehow new to all of this just read the details in the above article, it won’t take very long.  A few samples:

  • Ferguson’s black drivers were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be stopped and searched, according to records over two years. Black drivers were also 26 percent less likely to be found in possession of contraband.
  • According to the police department’s internal records concerning force, 88 percent of those cases involved force against blacks. All 14 canine bite incidents involved blacks.
  • Blacks were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed in municipal court. An arrest warrant was more likely to be issued for blacks.

Netanyahu Speaks to Congress


Salon On Netanyahu Speech

Above is Salon’s take on Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today.  Although I tend to agree with them, my point today isn’t really to focus on this one write up.  At the end of the day it is one write up and you should be reading a bunch of them, mixing and matching, and trying to come to your own conclusion.  However, this is an event that you should be reading about.  A foreign head of state is trying to sway US policy.  This is highly unprecedented in the fact that this head of state actually spoke directly to our congress to try and change our policy.

I have long viewed Netanyahu as a thug and a bully whose intentions do not run in accord with the best intentions of our country.  Nor do I think that his intentions have long term Middle East peace at the heart of them.  I think he is someone that is about self-serving political and military power above all else.

But don’t take my word for it.  Read, read, and read some more.

Canada and Keystone XL

Canada and Keystone XL

Well looking up a little background information on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Obama thankfully vetoed, I came across this Rolling Stone article.  It explains Canada’s politics in connection to big oil and to the pipeline.  It’s worth a read if you want to get a broader perspective on the topic.