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Freedom, but only for Jesus-loving ‘Murcans

By Julian Harris
August 17th, 2010 at 1:55 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Culture, US Politics

The 9/11 attacks were coined an “attack on our freedoms” both in the USA and in other parts of the West (like here). This seemed like reasonable rhetoric, at least until the US government came up with the Patriot Act and a variety of plans to drop a load of bombs on people in the Middle East.

The latest sadly ironic post-9/11 assault on freedom involves the reactionary opposition to some community centre in New York which will apparently include a mosque. This has widely been reported as a plan to “build a mosque on ground zero”, yet as this blog post shows, the mosque isn’t even that close to ground zero:

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To borrow Big Apple parlance, the mosque is “two blocks” away. Presumably some flats/shops/offices in that area even include people called Mohammed.

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Photo of the Day

By Julian Harris
June 11th, 2010 at 10:51 am | 3 Comments | Posted in International Politics, US Politics

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Obama – it’s the economy stupid

By Angela Harbutt
January 28th, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Comments Off on Obama – it’s the economy stupid | Posted in US Politics

obama-state-of-the-unionI stayed up late last night to watch the President’s State of the Union address. A year in and Barack Obama has seen his approval ratings plummet. Then again this was a man who a year ago people thought was god. It seemed that just by voting for Obama, Americans believed all their woes would be over.

When they woke up and found it took a bit more than that,  the nation was shocked and appauled. Superman had been hit with a large chunk of kryptonite and things were not all mother and apple pie at the ranch. So this was a speech designed to appeal to the middle classes of America who have shown through poll ratings – and that Massachusettes Massacre – that they expected better. They care more about jobs than healthcare reform (or more accurately “insurance reform”). Surprise surprise.

Overall it was a sound if unthrilling speech -a bit of an acknowledgement that he and his administration could do better, and quite a bit of finger wagging at the Republicans, the pundits and the media for not pulling together more. It was probably too long – and probably tried to cover too many things. It wasnt a bad speech, I dont think Obama can do a bad speech, but it wasnt a great speech.

If  Obama is capable of such a thing as a u-turn this was it. Obama has at last realised that what matter is jobs. Yes folks, it’s the economy stupid. Healthcare was indeed in yesterdays speech – but it was jobs, wealth creation, and tax incentives for business that featured prominently in the opening of his address. Obama has definitely got the message. “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight” received the most rapturous applause of the speech as far as I could tell. He proposed small business tax credits on creating jobs and raising salaries; abolishing all capital gains tax on investment for small businesses and tax incentives for all businesses. (This comes after the “big spend”  jobs bill passed with the smallest of majorities in December, including some big infrastructure spending, ran into problems in the Senate. Even Democrats are running out of enthusiasm for more spending). Ok we might have heard the tax breaks for businesses line before in his campaign promises – and not acted on for a 12 months – but by jove I think he’s finally got it.

You will doubtless have read much more thorough analysis elsewhere that cover in detail the other speech highlights; cutting the defecit from 2011( the fact that it wont start for another year brought audible giggles from the floor); education; lots of green energy investment;  another predicatable swipe at Wall Street; another (equally predictable) call for bipartisanship ( have the Republicans not already made it clear that they dont want to play?) and an attack on the Supreme Court ruling last week that gutted Campaign Finance restrictions etc.

What I was looking for as much as anything was his style of delivery – his tone. Serious and repentent, acknowledging he was wrong to spend so much effort on healthcare reform and bail outs and not enough on jobs and the economy? Or the unflappable Obama of old, cool and confident.

His tone was probably about right. Relaxed (no sign of nerves here) but sombre for large swathes of the speech. Its a marginal call but I think a tad too cocky and a shade light on humility – though it, and some self-deprecation, were there to be seen – but quite definitely defiant in his attitude towards the Republicans ( a kind of “play with me or else” approach). He may have taken a few blows in the last 12 months, but he certainly looks like a man still up for the fight. One thing that struck me in particular – his advisors would have been wise to school Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi not to sit there looking quite so smug – grinning like cheshire cats. Not good given their end of year report was definitely a D/E . It is perhaps odd that having spent so much time on his speech, as has been reported, he didn’t take more time to sort out that back line – especially as they were in shot for the vast proportion of his speech.  

So, America is moving, it would seem, towards more business friendly times – and the sobering realisation that it must now turn its attention to the trillion of dollars of debt it has amassed.

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This, Mr President, is how your government will “build a nation”

By Julian Harris
January 5th, 2010 at 8:00 am | 1 Comment | Posted in International Development, International Politics, US Politics

The story, in short:

A consultancy in London provided this nation-building plan to the Pentagon. Wonderfully it ended up online (still available, here).

A quick visual of the plan to build a new nation of Afghanistan…

STEP 1: Look for support! Yes, this is your “Popular Support”

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Step 2: Ah, but these strange A-rab folk are a bit different to us, yes? What about their “Conditions, Beliefs & Structures”? Better shove them in.

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Step 3: But ugh, the insurgents! And all those poppy fields. Better shove them in ‘n’ all…

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Step 4: Right, there might economists in the room. Mention infrastructure and the economy and stuff…

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Step 5: Not to mention the ‘public sector workers’. Fit them in somewhere…

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Step 6: And the Brits, don’t forget them. You know, the ‘Coalition’, the other governments. Include the ‘Coalition’. Still following?

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Step 7: Dammit, there’s still a gap left. Make something up…

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Step 8: Add some colour. That’s better. But actually, what happens when all these things link together? Don’t we need to…

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Step 9: …ah yes, that’s better. Everyone reading from the same hymn sheet now? Ladies and Gentlemen, the Development of Afghanistan Stability!

nation-building-i

YES.

This will definitely work.

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Hat-tip: Chris Coyne.

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Worst decade ever?

By Julian Harris
December 31st, 2009 at 11:59 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Satire, US Politics

Reason.com thinks so. Or at least since the ’90s.

Warning: very American.

Happy 2010, from everyone at Liberal Vision.

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