Reshaping America: No One is Above the Law

•November 17, 2008 • 2 Comments

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“If there has been a basis upon which you can pursue someone for a criminal violation they will be pursued, not out of vengeance, not out of retribution – out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no one, no attorney general, no president, no one is above the law.” – Joe Biden, September 2008

Criticizing the Bush-Cheney (or Cheney-Bush) administration during the campaign trail was perhaps not very original, however, Joe Biden touched on a very important issue and it is my biggest hope that the new administration will investigate (and prosecute) the criminal acts of the old one.

There is no doubt that gross criminal offenses have been made throughout Bush’s era (the most prominent one being Bush’s incentive to intervene in Iraq). Violating more than 10 of the human rights articles (out of 30) it can be hard to grasp the scale of the offenses the Bush administration is guilty for. Not only did close_gitmoBush lie about Saddam Hussein being an imminent threat to the United States, and thus causing millions to suffer (see evidence here), but he strove further, legalizing convictions without trial, torture as an interrogation method and signing the Military Commissions Act, making it harder to prosecute and convict officers and employees of the US government for misconduct in office.

It might seem harsh at this moment, when America glows with pride after realizing the dreams of their fathers, to put judgement and criticism this painful on the table. Yet, I cannot think of a better moment, than that of change, to acknowledge what has been wrongly done and make sure it does not happen again.

How can we truly say that all men are created equal when our actions say we are not?

That a developed nation (or any nation for that matter) which prides itself on being a beacon of freedom and equality, has so little respect for human rights as to commit such horrible offenses as water-boarding, abduction and mass murder, is truly unacceptable. Even worse is the fact that Bush has escaped conviction by using his power to hide behind new legislation, climbing higher and higher above the law.

How can we demand leaders of nations like China or North Korea to value the rights of every human being when our leader does not?

On a happier note, it seems like the President has reached the end of his ladder and that the fantasies of George W. Bush finally answering the numerous suits, inquiries and subpoenas pending against his administration might come true. But, perhaps the most pressing issue is not to seek justice for what has been but to stop the violations which are still going on. President-elect Barack Obama has made a move on this front and might bring us closer to true equality;

“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture. And I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.” – Barack Obama, “60 Minutes” – CBS, November 15 2008

If we wish to righteously say that all men are created equal and if America is to be a role model for other nations once again, then we have to make sure that Bush and his partners in crime face the law they have strived to stand above for so long. It is never too late to correct ones mistakes, but the longer we wait the greater effort we will have to make. My hope is that, with the leadership of Barack Obama, everyone of us will be inspired to make this effort sooner rather than later.

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– Kajsa, Admin Future for America
politics.of.tomorrow@gmail.com

When the New Conquer Will the Old Make Amend?

•November 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

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President-elect Barack Obama took his first steps in the Oval Office on Monday, less than a week after his glorious victory (breaking yet another record). The visit was planned to provide images of a peaceful transition and a warm and friendly welcome for the new first family. Of course all four participants knew their choreography, as seen on the picture above. 

Looking past the politicians’ charade, however, it is obvious that yesterday was not merely a tour of the Obamas’ future home but the beginning of a remarkable (and quick) transfer of power. Even though Barack Obama’s inauguration is not to be held until January 20th (70 days for us who like to keep count) he has already begun the time consuming task of deciding how many controversial policies of the Bush administration he will need to reverse to prevent America from falling into depression (at the time of this post’s writing the count is on a steady 200). Furthermore, as time is running short, Mr. Obama did not hesitate to urge the President to reverse some himself, particularly the decision to deny automakers to tap into the $700 billion bailout fund.  

The struggling economy is getting weaker as three major automakers in the U.S. (G.M., Ford and Chrysler) have come under threat of collapsing, with the G.M. (an iconic, century-old American corporation with business tentacles in every state) issuing a warning last week saying that they might not survive the year.

The collapse of “the Big Three” would be a deadly blow to the already struggling Americans as at least three million jobs would be lost. What’s more, the cost to local, state and federal governments would reach as much as $156.4 billion over three years, in lost taxes and higher outlays for unemployment, health care assistance and such. In spite of these alarming facts President Bush is persistent on his decision, unless (of course) the Obama administration drops its opposition to a free trade agreement with Colombia. The new administration will not commit to this proposal, Mr. Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff, Rham Emanuel, said in an interview with ABC.

The Obama administration’s firm stand on the Colombia agreement (which would violate human rights and has both labour groups and activists against it) indicates that the future President might be able to resist the temptations of taking the easy way out of the crisis. 

I join the many democrats who are willing to call Mr. Bush’s bluff; even he would not want to gamble that G.M. would fail on his watch and thus add a U.S. depression to his shameful legacy. Nevertheless, the U.S. cannot afford to lose its auto-industry, and as the time is running out (and it is running out fast) I can understand Mr. Obama’s decision to use his presidential voice before being officially appointed to the job. All of this does, after all, strenghten the fact that Barack Obama is more than ready to take over command.

– Kajsa, Admin Future for America
admin.twende.twende@gmail.com

Change Has Come At Last!

•November 5, 2008 • 1 Comment

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“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”                  
                                                                     – Barack Obama

After two agonizing years of hard work, tough primaries and fierce campaigning Barack Obama has won a sweeping victory in last night’s election, breaking the racial barrier and becoming the first Afro-American to be elected President of the United States! It has been a long journey (gosh, don’t get me started) but the change we have fought for has come at last, we can fill our hearts with new hope because finally we are seeing a clear end to the nightmare of President George W Bush’s governing. I will not make any excuses for the sentimentalism in this post. This has been a historical election and today is a day of joy and celebration! (I can’t be the only one with tears in my eyes)

“Forty-five years ago Martin Luther King had a dream of an America where men and women would be judged not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character.
Today what America has done is turn that dream into a reality.”
                                        – Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister

Having followed Barack Obama since he first announced his candidacy in Illinois this has truly been a much anticipated day for me (and everyone else, of course). Despite the last weeks convincing lead the President-elect’s campaign has not always had it as easy. Having gone through a vigorous primary, facing one of the toughest opponents and securing the nomination just by an inch, Mr Obama was tested early. The clashes with republican candidate John McCain have also been fierce and the preposterous claims that Mr. Obama would be a terrorist tore on everyone’s patience. 

You might argue that any Democrat would have had an easy win against Mr McCain, who had both the economic crisis and the heavy weight of the Bush legacy against him. However, Mr Obama won this election because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens and its role as a unifying force in the world. (BBC has two interesting analyses of why Barack Obama won and why John McCain lost)

The soul of Barack Obama’s campaign has been hope and change, in which lies a desire to unify the country which have been split for too long. In his victory speech the President-elect voiced his concern and warned the American people that all is not won yet;

“[We must] look after not only ourselves but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything it is that we can not have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” 
                                                                           – Barack Obama

Throughout the campaign Obama (and we who support him) have fought the republican smears, spreading the truth and focusing on what really matters. Tonight we have seen the result of this struggle, we have witnessed the American people rise up and elect a President who will lead us towards a brighter future. The outcome of tonight’s election has proved that America is ready for change (and change will come). However, like Mr Obama so often says himself, change will not come easy. The journey here has been tough but there is an even tougher road ahead. It will take determination, patience and hard work, sacrifices and even some broken promises. Yet no leader could be better equipped to unify and motivate the American people than Barack Obama.

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“Tonight change has come to America.”

– Kajsa, Admin Future for America
politics.of.tomorrow@gmail.com

Powell Says it Right

•October 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

In case you have missed it there was yet another win for the Obama campaign during the weekend. Reaching across party lines former Secretary of State (and long-time friend of John McCain), Colin Powell, decleared his endorsement of Barack Obama on Sunday.  

John McCain said he was not surprised at his friend’s decision (despite the fact that Mr. Powell donated to the Republican’s campaign) and did not seem to put much weight into the endorsement which could be the end of his candidacy. Having backed both Bill Clinton and current President Bush, Mr. Powell’s judgement means a lot to the undecided voter (especially Independents). Thus this is not another leftish-opinion but rather an assessment of Mr. Powell’s history of endorsements. Still in doubt? Well, you do not need to take my words for it:

“Powell is a glass of warm milk and a cookie for those who can’t sleep worrying about the lack of experience of a President Obama.”
                 – Alex Castellanos, Republican strategist.

Even though Mr. McCain claimed the endorsement was to be expected there were signs of hurt pride at his friend’s decision and he made sure to point out that other former secretaries of state had backed his own campaign (all Republicans and lacking the voter influence of Mr. Powell).

Referring to Mr. Obama as a “transformational figure” Mr. Powell emphasized the fact that his endorsement is not only an embrace of a candidate from another party but an effort to reshape (or perhaps repent) the legacy he himself believe (probably rightly so) has been tainted during his years under President Bush.

Mr. Powell stressed that while it was not easy to disappoint John McCain he strongly disagreed with the Republican’s campaign tactics; “the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower.” Furthermore he said that Barack Obama has an ability to inspire and that it will be up to the next president “to fix the reputation that we’ve left with the rest of the world”. (“We” might be accurately put here as he did serve under one President Bush… Luckily Mr. Powell seem to have understood who will bring the better future for America this time)

Perhaps the most memorable part of Colin Powell’s endorsement came when he touched the subject of race. While making clear that Barack Obama is neither arab nor muslim (rumors which have spread with alarming speed throughout the country) Mr. Powell added:

“Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.
Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion – ‘he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists’. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Despite the fact that America so often claims to be an open country with equal rights and opportunities for all, (the American dream certainly implies so) prejudice and racism is still a daily occurrence. The issue is a sensitive one in America and goes deeper than the 9/11-attacks, all the way back to the first slaves that were brought to this country. Thus the importance of Mr. Powell’s message and the fact that he chose to address the problem stretch further than boosting Mr. Obama’s campaign (analysts say the eventual backlash of closet racism will not be decisive in the election) and will hopefully start a greater debate among policy makers as well as ordinary “Joes”. 

These prejudicial believes have no place in the 21st century and if America want to portray itself as providing equal rights and opportunities to all then it is certainly about time we eradicate them.

— Kajsa, Admin Future for America

Foul Play Will Not Help McCain

•October 15, 2008 • 2 Comments

Frustration and anger (soon to be joined by desperation) have shaped the republican campaign during the last couple of weeks. As we move closer and closer to the 4th November election the failure of Mr McCain’s smear tactics becomes more obvious, as seen here. This is a perfect example of why negative campaigning should take no part in politics and it is encouraging to know that (most) voters of the 21st century are persuaded by more important factors.

The prejudice and racist remarks uttered in the video highlight the fact that race is still an issue in America. However, the misconception that Mr Obama is a muslim, an arab or even a terrorist, comes solely as a result of the ambitious (but confusing) effort by the McCain campaign to damage Barack Obama’s image and sow a seed of doubt among still undecided voters. This tactic has clearly failed; Mr McCain does not only find himself having to defend his opponent against republican attacks but has fallen heavily in the polls while Mr Obama is enjoying day after day with a double digit lead.

According to a New York Times poll Mr McCain, who quite recently has tried to adopt Mr Obama’s message of change (claiming he is the real maverick), is actually spending most of his time on the kind of personal attacks which threaten to divide the country further, whereas Mr Obama is spending more time explaining his position on the issues that matter. With only three weeks to go voters are getting tired of candidates’ pointing fingers and welcome Obama’s more than eager effort to focus the campaign on the economy, healthcare and other main issues.

Still, John McCain’s struggle to keep his approval rating above (or even at) average is not only due to the ways of his campaign, but also a result of the well organized, research-full and original Obama team he has had the misfortune to go up against. (They recently extended their advertising network to cover MTV-channels and X-box games)

As the third and final presidential debate takes place tonight John McCain is certainly feeling the pressure; his performance tonight will be watched (and more closely scrutinized than Mr Obama’s) by millions of voters. Rumors are Mr McCain will attack his opponent fiercely, but on what grounds? If he has learnt anything the last few weeks he will make sure to stay away from personal attacks (if not: bye bye McCain).

 

— Kajsa, Admin Future for America
politics.of.tomorrow@gmail.com

Economy in Focus

•October 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Last week’s passing of the revised bail-out bill (expanded to 450 pages, from George W Bush’s original three) came as a relief, but doesn’t mean the economy is safe – far from it. While the bill is likely to lessen the problems of bank failures and emergency rescues, the financial system is still close to disaster and, as we wait for the bill’s effect, we might well fall over the edge of global recession.

The issue is expected to stay on top of the presidential campaign and will be crucial in the election as voters will only elect a president they believe can lift the nation back onto its feet (or so I hope).

Looking at national polls the crisis seems to have boosted Barack Obama and may even win him some swing states (such as Florida!). To explain this boost let’s look at the differences in the candidates’ tax plans, which are quite astonishing. While John McCain like to accuse the Obama campaign for making (rich) people pay higher taxes, his own tax cuts would not do much for growth (GPD growth after Mr Bush’s tax cuts were estimated at a tiny 0.7 %), but rather boost the national debt by $758 billion! (Mr Obama’s plan would, in contrast, reduce it by $748 billion)

Having been more active and called for $50 billion to be spent on public infrastructure, aid to fiscally strapped states as well as tax rebates of $1,000 per family (financed by a five-year tax on oil-company profits), it is obvious Mr Obama has a strong advantage in this crisis. Nevertheless he too has faulty policies. (One of which even makes a whole hearted supporter like myself cringe.) 

Living in a globalized world Mr Obama’s support for farm and ethanol subsidies does not go well with free traders. His underlying argument that free trade can only advance once workers no longer feel threatened by it does not, I’m afraid, justify the consequences of subsidies. I quote economist Paul Collier when he says:

“This is the least defensible of indefensible aspects of OECD trade policy; not only do we waste our own money subsidizing the production of crops but we also close off opportunities for people who have few alternatives.”

Despite the current crisis the U.S South does have alternatives to its farming activities; farmers in Chad and such countries are not as lucky.

As Mr Obama moves closer to the precidency I (amongst others) hope that he shifts his support from this doomed-to-fail policy and redirects it into a policy which would better reflect the true meaning of change.

Saying this, it is unlikely Mr Obama’s voting record on free trade will be decisive in the election; Mr McCain has (I am happy to say) drawn the short straw here. The facts about his tax cuts as well as his confession that he does not know enough about economics are truly death blows to his campaign. 

— Kajsa, Admin Future for America
politics.of.tomorrow@gmail.com

Judgement Day

•October 1, 2008 • 2 Comments

The past month’s events have been truly chocking for the financial markets. Bank failures and government bail-outs have become all too common as front page news; something the recently rejected bill might have helped put an end to (if it hadn’t been rejected that is).

Both US and European shares have plummeted after the $700bn US bail-out (sorry, national investment strategy) bill was rejected by the House of Represenatatives on Monday. President George W Bush (and others) were very disappointed by the vote’s result (228 to 205). About two-thirds of Republican lawmakers as well as 95 Democrats refused to back the rescue plan.

Why this rejection?

Well there has been a certain blame game going on recently, with John McCain accusing Democrats of seeking an unhelpful partisan approach in the debate. One might, on the other hand, wanna consider another fact for a change; American voters view of the crisis. So far voters have seen the financial turmoil as a welfare scheme for the capitalists of Wall Street, not as something that affects their lives on Main Street.

I am glad the bailout bill failed. I work five days a week, save cash and pay my bills. I did not want to pay for Corporate America’s greed -Lisa, Baltimore (BBC)

With the bill not only giving unlimited power over a tremendous (more-than-you-can-ever-imagine) amount of money to Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, but also adding another $2,300 to every American’s share of the national debt, or $15,000 per household, ($1.8 trillion in total) this view of the crisis should not have come as a surprise.

Saying this, that sentiment might change if the problems deepen and people suddenly see unemployment rising because businesses cannot get money from the banks to pay their bills and honour their payrolls. However when this happens it will be too late, something the two presidential candidates are well aware of; both of them urged politicians to work together to pass emergency legislation. Speaking on the campaign trail, Mr Obama warned that without action by Congress “millions of jobs could be lost, a long and painful recession could follow”. As Mr McCain told members of Congress to go back to the drawing board “immediately” and work out a new deal, Mr Obama let ordinary people know that he thought it was an outrage that they were being asked to clean up Wall Street’s mess;

“If I am president I will review the entire plan on the day I take office to make sure that it is working to save our economy and you get your money back.”  

He added: “There will be a time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out.”

There might be a break through tonight when the U.S. Senate (including John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden) will vote on a new version of the original bail-out plan (I cross my fingers). This new version includes several “pleasing” new clauses, one of which will raise the government’s guarantee on savings from $100,000 to $250,000. The vote comes as senior Democrats pledged to find a bipartisan solution which highlights the importance of understanding each other and being able to make compromises;

“Working together, we are confident we will pass a responsible bill in the very near future,” Senator Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to President George W Bush. (BBC)

As the crisis causes havoc on the worlds financial markets all eyes will be on the US Senate as they cast their votes tonight; the outcome here (and, later, in the House) will determine the future of the global economy.

— Kajsa, Admin Future for America
politics.of.tomorrow@gmail.com