That’s right. I’m going to tell you who to vote for president. Not only that but I’m pretty sure you will take my recommendation.
People get pretty wrapped around the axle about a candidate’s foreign policy or domestic policy proposals. So let’s look at Obama and Bush. McCain was labeled as being nothing more than Bush by a new name. Obama was supposed to right all of Bush’s wrongs. He’d bring the troops home. He’d close Gitmo. He did take our troops out of Iraq. This was done in accordance with the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement signed by George W. Not only that, Obama was trying to negotiate for our continued presence in Iraq. Have you heard about Club Gitmo lately? Neither have I, but it is still up and running.
I neither support nor condemn any of those choices. But the fact is that Obama is strikingly similar to Bush in many areas of foreign policy. You might point out that he has made decisions that are different from what Bush would do. His running around the world bowing to every foreign leader he met would definitely be a change from Bush but I’m sure he’s made substantive decisions that are very different from Bush. But that is my point. There is very little in the overarching theme of US foreign policy that changes that much and little of lasting import that one president can do in foreign policy. Presidents either carry on with the same old policies that were there already or go about changing things back and forth so that no changes last.
There is one thing that the president does which has a lasting impact on our lives and the lives of the Americans who come after us. What is it?
During the interviews with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church Obama was asked whether he believed the Second Amendment guaranteed a collective or individual right to keep and bear arms. Obama replied that he believed it to be an individual right. Yet both his Supreme court nominees voted against findings for the Second Amendment being an individual right. This came as no surprise but here is the issue. Justices Sotomayor and Kagan (Obama’s two appointees) will be there long after Obama’s presidency. Justice Antonin Scalia was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986—over twenty-five years ago! Off the top of your head can you think of a decision that Reagan made which is still having such a direct impact on our lives? There may be one or two but it’s not springing to mind. The president appoints many other judges as well. These decisions have a lasting impact.
So I put this to you. When you are evaluating the lack-luster field of prospective presidents for this next term ask yourself one question, “Who is most likely to nominate people that I want to be judges?” And then vote that way.
February 22nd, 2011
Obama’s Big, Bold Bet on High-Speed Rail
I heard about this on our local public radio station while my wife and I were discussing different options for visiting friends in Virginia. We live in Oregon and anyway you slice it traveling 2,800 miles is not cheap. We looked at plane tickets but for the two of us to fly round trip was $900! We love our friends dearly but $900 is simply way outside our budget. Of course there is always the bus but it just sounds miserable. Then I thought of the train. I figure we’d get there in a day or two and since trains are supposed to be super efficient it ought to be cheaper than the plane by a wide margin. Boy was I wrong!
To get there the train would take seventy five hours! That is well over three days, just to get there and then another three to get back. We’d spend half a day shy of one week solely on travel. While the plane would get us to Virginia in little more than seven hours the train still might be worth it if the train was substantially cheaper. But it wasn’t. The round trip price for seats on a train was $1060. That is no bed, no shower, and buying food for three days there and three days back. We could get a sleeper starting at $450 round trip but we’d still have two transfers before we got to Virginia.
This is when I heard about President Obama’s great plan to drop $53 BILLION, that we don’t have, on high-speed rail corridors around the country. While I am struck with the fact that a car full of drivers taking shifts and driving non-stop could make the trip over a DAY faster the real problem I had with the rail option was the PRICE. I don’t know what market Amtrak is targeting but it certainly isn’t regular folks like my wife and me just trying to get somewhere. What on earth are they going to charge for high-speed rail travel?
Please explain to me why trains, the most efficient vehicle I am told, cost MORE than a jetliner. It is the price that is stopping people from using trains and not the travel time. If my wife and I had the time to spare we would still not travel by train. I am a big fan of train travel but what we need is to take what we have and learn how to use it well before we start spending vast sums of money (roughly five times what it would cost to give the whole world clean drinking water) on more rail services that will be as oddly executed as our present rail options. I think the government needs to start backing out of transportation services.
Here are some interesting numbers from my research on our Virginia travel options. All the figures are round trip. I factored in $80 per night for hotels on the road trip and for food every multi-day option got $30 per day. I came to the conclusion that the two best options are plane travel and the road trip. Planes get you there fast and you don’t spend a bunch extra for food or accommodations. The road trip is more flexible. Don’t travel directly. Meander a bit and see some cool stuff, eat some good food, and when you get to your destination you still have a car to drive.
Round Trip Travel Numbers
Obama eloquent, but short on specifics, in praising Egyptians – Article from The Globe and Mail
First off Obama is not “eloquent.” He is not anything like a great orator. Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Colin Powell are examples of skilled orators. I have heard them deliver speeches or speak extemporaneously (Colin Powell!) with unique power and eloquence. President Obama can competently deliver a speech. That is all.
Enough of that rant and down to the issue I have with what President Obama is quoted as saying.
“In Egypt it was the moral force of non-violence – not terrorism, not mindless killing, but non-violence, moral force – that bent the arc of history”
I could sum that up with any number of words but only need one, “Hooey.” What “bent the arc of history” was a confluence of events. There is no doubt that two of those events were the strikes and relatively non-violent protests. However what changed the situation was the military and while the change was relatively non-violent what kept it that way was the military’s threat of violence. Statements like this one from President Obama are disingenuous. That is not what happened, that is not the way the world works, and President Obama knows that.
From the guardian.co.uk
Egypt protests: Hosni Mubarak’s power fades as US backs his deputy
The ninth paragraph down gives you a nice sense of the protesters’ sentiments.
Not for one moment do I maintain I am some sort of subject matter expert on Egypt. Presumably we have several subject matter experts on Egypt in the State Department and hopefully they were and are regularly consulted. If they were then this statement from Secretary Clinton may be the best long term strategy for the US, but I doubt it.
The United States is THE big dog. At present there is no one as big. I have absolutely no problem with that. If you do then ask your self this, who would you prefer was the big dog? China? Russia? Not only is it the best thing for me as an American that the US is the dominant power but I believe it is the best thing for the world as well.
The problem with being the dominant power is that people, quite understandably, resent it. If we were to make the absolute best choice in every aspect of our foreign and domestic policy some degree of resentment would be unavoidable. When we factor in our honest mistakes the resentment grows. However, when we make decisions that are blatantly because they are in our own short term best interest even though they run completely counter to our ideology (i.e. the stuff we tell everyone else to do because we do it) we sow the seeds of deep anti-American sentiment.
Check out the Wikipedia page on the 2011 Egyptian Protests for a good overview of what has been happening and why. The protests have been going on for over two weeks. This is not some vocal minority. The protesters would not be able to endure for two weeks without support. Those protesting have not had the same idea of what they want but they are nearly unanimous in what they don’t want. They don’t want any of the Hosni Mubarak regime left in power. In comes the US and what do the Egyptians get from our Hope and Change White House*? The Egyptians can trade Mubarak’s bull-crap for his vice president’s horse-pucky.
*[I'm not saying the Republicans wouldn't do this but that President Obama doesn't actually stand for anything unique. He's just a new version of the same old story.]
This is the sort of decision that will haunt us. We are saying we only support democracy and self determination if it will lead to something we can control or agree with. It fuels extremists and supports the mission of nut-jobs like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It undermines our work in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot win hearts and minds if people will not trust us.
I’m not saying leaving the people in a country free to make their own choices can’t make for a difficult situation. Hamas getting elected in the Gaza Strip is a good example. What I would say though is that these difficulties are less likely to happen if we don’t needlessly piss people off in the first place.