Politics Daily #17 – Sam Brownback Signs Bill Banning Islamic Law in Kansas

Actually, technically, no he didn’t.

But such was the title of the Huffpost article.  In reality, governor Brownback is signing into law a measure that prohibits courts and government agencies from basing their decisions on foreign legal codes, namely the Islamic Shariah law.  The intention of this bill was to ensure that legal cases in Kansas are only decided by American laws and constitutions.

Sounds kind of patriotic, doesn’t it? It was probably Brownback’s intention to make it appear so, as well.

When I saw the headline, I somewhat interpreted, my previous impression of Brownback as a staunch conservative, especially on social issues, the headline as ‘Sam Brownback hates Islam.’  While that might be entirely possible at a personal level, the signing of this bill, or even the contents of the bill, do not really support the notion that Brownback is targeting Islam specifically with this bill.  Hence I found the article title somewhat misleading.

Politics Daily #15 – Obama Administration’s ‘War’ on the Press

The latest Huffington Post headline reads: “WAR ON THE PRESS: Obama Administration Attacks Basic Reporting Right.”

A lawyer representing the Department of Justice is arguing that New York Times reporter  James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.

While it has somewhat become a struggle between the ‘reporters’ privilege’ and the Espionage Act – a World War I-era law intended to prohibit the aiding of enemies -, some, such as Lucy Dalglish from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, are arguing that it is not even necessary to force Risen to testify, as the DOJ has the power to obtain all the evidence it needs to make a case (airline tickets, hotel receipts, etc.)

I wouldn’t pretend to know much about the inner workings of D.C., or Federal politics, or the correlation between the methods with which reports obtain classified information from government departments such as the Department of Justice, the C.I.A., or the N.S.A.  I do think though, that it would be a shame if this issue with the press winds up becoming an election issue that comes back and bites Obama during the election.

While Fox News is the ultimate voice of American conservatism and Republican rhetoric, most other television news outlets are fairly centrists or liberal-leaning.  As such, it would be very unwise for Obama to anger the part of the media that has largely been standing on his side (you really only need to adhere to the facts to be on his side).  As Jake Tapper of ABC questions the inconsistency (bordering hypocrisy) as the Obama administration’s applauding of aggressive journalism abroad as highlighted by the recent passings of Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin and its crackdown of aggressive journalism at home, it seems like the administration is struggling to find the right tone to approach the issue.

Or perhaps it is more clear-cut than that; somebody inside the administration is controlling which direction they would take with regards to cracking down on leaks.  And that person, whom I doubt very much would be the President himself, is putting the notion that ‘there’s a reason classified documents are classified’ before ‘people have the right to know what the government is doing’.

Politics Daily #14 – The Two Things some Europeans are ‘Anti-ing’

A substantial number of Europeans, all over Europe, fervently dissatisfied with the political status quo, are electing politicians with radical beliefs and agendas to lead their country.

And it turns out, a portion of these folks are mixing another ‘anti’ with the ‘anti-austerity’ storm that has swept the continent.

For a detailed report on which peoples are voting for whom where, check out CNN’s report here.  The article highlights the notion that the number of people who voted for political parties with rather extreme views in recent elections in Greece, Austria, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Hungary, and others, is large enough to take note, the majority of them enraged at the failed austerity economic measures.

However, the article aptly points out that, although many are turning to extremist political parties for change, the main force that is driving the incumbent governments out of power has more to do with their failure to revive the economy and their seeming disregard for the lower and middle classes rather than support for the extremist parties’ policies.  As the recent election in France demonstrates, the Socialist Party, led by Francois Hollande, does not hold extreme radical views.  He won partly because of the public’s discontent with the austerity measures implemented by Nicholas Sarkozy.

That was the first ‘anti’, anti-austerity as a significant number of Europeans have deemed fiscal conservatism a failure. The second ‘anti’ has somewhat caught on with the first one, for vaguely linked reasons.

As the far-right gained more support in recent elections, so did their ongoing anti-Muslim sentiments.  Many Europeans, such as those who voted for the ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Golden Dawn party in Greece, are merging their anger at austerity measures together with their distrust towards foreigners.  It’s a strange mix, and these parties face the difficulty of being convoluted in their messages between nationalism and anti-austerity while channeling the public’s anger into supporting them.

The supporting of far-right groups for either anti-Muslim or anti-Austerity reasons might result in more chaos for Europe.  But once the economy recovers, albeit which might take many years, support for these groups is likely to wane.  As Dr. Matthew Feldman said in the article, “it’s clear that a large minority across Europe isn’t comfortable with these things — demographic change and multiculturalism… But what the far right offers is not something that many can accept.”

Politics Daily #12 – When the President says ‘I Do’

So President Obama came out expressing his personal support for Gay Marriage.  Now what?

The President says that he has struggled with this for a long time, having in years past  favouring civil unions over marriage.  In the sense of an actual declaration of his support, this was a breakthrough.  But in terms of policy, this was, as Rachel Maddow aptly puts it, icing on the cake, for the Obama administration has up until this point had a consistent pro-Gay rights policy record.

Instead of talking about the policy implications of Obama’s declaration, I want to focus briefly on what impact this would have on the upcoming election, but moreover, I want to discuss what Obama’s declaration means within the larger context of the overall direction of how politics is evolving.

By announcing his support for Gay marriage, President Obama has all but locked in the fact that a portion of the voting electorate, a substantial portion at that, will for sure not vote for him in the upcoming election.  He is now more guaranteed than ever to not receive any vote from the religious right.  But where Obama is losing votes where he was never going to get a lot of anyway, he is, for one, affirming to his liberal base of his support.  But more importantly, he is trying to get out the young vote.

It has become clear that Obama is trying to frame his reelection campaign about the young, the next generation.  He has, for some time now, highlighted the issue of keeping student loan interests rates low as the key current issue. He has used this issue to attack Republicans as willing to let the interest rates double when summer arrives.  For the record, the Republicans have proposed their way of keeping the interest rates low, and it involving slashing funding for a preventive health program for women who would like to check for breast cancer and other illnesses.  But lets not talk about the Repubicans’ ‘war’ on women here as that would induce too big of a tangent.

But most importantly, Obama’s statement lands itself in a bright spot on the somewhat linear line of the overall progress of politics.  As values go, most historians will agree with the notion that it is something that is constantly evolving.  Even Christian values evolve over time.  This evolution of beliefs has been accelerated in recent times with the advances in information and communication technologies.  In addition, we have a country where more and more of its children are educated, and therefore gaining the knowledge and wisdom to develop progressive beliefs that continues the evolution of politics.  There are many bumps on the road, of course, as many children are still left behind and various Conservative groups and politicians are fighting this progress by introducing legislation that are viewed as medieval in nature by other Western countries, or are having children taught regressive or downright untrue things at school.

In a very broad sense, the linear nature of the history of Western Civilization would have Europe as the longest-standing and most progressive.  While there are many exceptions to this idea, in general, the United States is following Europe’s footsteps on many issues, as it is just now treading on territories that the Europeans have already passed.  Most European countries allow same-sex marriage, abortion, the use of marijuana, are anti-gun, and are less inclined to indulge in a money-driven, competitive capitalist society.  Will America follow Europe in this regard? My guess is, eventually.  Although faced with strong resistance on all fronts, increasing number of Americans support same sex marriage, anti-gun, support the legalization of marijuana, and don’t view the Wall Street, the symbol of the rise and fall of capitalism, in a favorable light.

There is evidence where in certain areas, America has shown that it can surpass Europe and lead as example in the current course of history.  By using bailouts and government interventions (even with one major party being against it), the United States is on pace to have a faster economic recovery than Europe, which resorted to a series of austerity measures.  The effectiveness of the dreaded ‘A’ word has been beyond disappointing, and many have paid the political price for it (France, Greece, Britain) while more might soon.

Ultimately, I think Obama made the claim that he did as a leap of faith to jump forward in the linear progress of history, to accelerate the progress of tolerance and achieving the goal of allowing same sex marriage in the entire country.

Politics Daily #9 – Americans’ (Misplaced) Faith on an Afghan Governor

In his latest Huffington Post article, Joshua Hersh discusses prominent Afghan governor Atta Muhammad Noor’s dissatisfaction with the American strategy of withdrawal, particularly their plan to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations.  Hersh highlights Noor’s argument as being the fact that many of his men and that of this fellow governors and warlords fought alongside American troops against the Taliban, and cannot stomach the fact that the Taliban was extended an hand by the Americans.

Hersh also notes Noor’s public rhetoric that attempts to galvanize Afghan nationalism by declaring that they will not be used by the “Western countries,”  which fuels speculation that he might well be seeking to become the next Afghan President.  Hersh corroborates by quoting Lt. Col. David Olson of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as saying of Noor that “He’s looking out for his regional and ethnic interests. But on balance he’s someone we feel we can count on. He’s a very influential fellow, and he’s very vital to the efforts of the government of Afghanistan up here.”

Sounds like Noor is someone who is trying to shine in areas where Hamid Karzai has failed.  And, given that Karzai is generally viewed by the U.S. as an unreliable lying crook, why not advocate for a fresh face to lead Afghanistan and can actually contribute to the peacemaking process.

Politics Daily #1 – The Republican Primary Blender

I have chosen to talk about the Republican primary race as the topic of the first installment of my “Politics Daily” series.  It is the subject that dominates the cable news channels day in and day out.  But, as anyone who views the cable news channels with any frequency (i.e. MSNBC, Fox, CNN), discussions about the state of the primary gets boring, fast.

It is the same stuff over and over again, partly because the primary process is (might have been deliberately) so long that nothing new emerges.  After the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida, we said goodbye to the candidates who were never realistic choices to become the nominee (Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain), and to candidates who either lacked fundamental skills in political stagecraft (Rick Perry), or never gained traction with voters (Jon Huntsman).

What we are left with are three candidates with so many flaws voters cringe at the prospect of them leading the nation and one without a realistic chance of winning but has a sort-of entrenched cult following that isn’t likely to switch allegiances any time soon.

I can imagine many Republican voters (and Independent voters),  presented with the names Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul as their choices to face Barack Obama in the general election are thinking to themselves, “really?” Each one of them has had a political career, coupled with unpopular, inconsistent, or extreme political views, that can be picked apart by the Obama campaign.

Even Fox news, the most viewed cable new channel in America, and the de-facto voice of the Republican party, doesn’t have a clear idea of whom they are supporting to become President.  While they are still reluctantly (or resisting) supporting Romney, they have a hard time wrapping their heads around envisioning a President Santorum.

And now, after the results of Super Tuesday, with Romney unable to claim a decisive victory and still clearly facing much opposition to him becoming the Republican nominee, it might come down to the eventual surrender by Rick Santorum.  Then what?

In this struggle to survive the Republican primary marathon, I guess Mitt Romney should really thank the Citizens United decision and his host of wealthy donors.

Ahmadinejad Resignation Coming? Speculation Over Internal Rift Intensifies

Read the quite-amusing article on the HuffPost here

“On Thursday, the battle took a strange turn as allies of Ahmadineja­d found themselves slapped with charges of sorcery.”

Comedic gold right there.