24 October, 2012

Mass debating 2

I was at work when the third debate was on, but if I had live ’blogged it, this it roughly how it would have looked.  The debate was nominally about foreign policy, and being a foreigner, I guess that means I’m qualified to comment as two Americans try to decide what’s going to happen in a dozen or so other countries.  That’s a weird definition of democracy, but what can you do?

Romney:  “Terrorists of some kind.”  Nice specifics there, Mitt.

Romney:  “We can't just kill our way out of this mess.”  Good point.  When are you going to tell the Republican party about this?

Obama:  “Al Qaeda's core leadership has been decimated.”  Decimation isn’t enough Barack, and I don’t think that’s what you meant.  Decimation literally means reducing by ten percent (deci – get it?) and originates from a particularly brutal way that the Romans dealt with underperforming centuries.  The word should not be used to mean devastated.

Romney:  “Go after the bad guys.” It's not a movie, Mitt.

It really is about time someone cracked down on those pesky Russians.  ROMNEY ’84!

Romney:  “Attacking me is not an agenda.”  Another very good point, rendered utterly hypocritical coming from the man who has used attacking Obama as a substitute for an agenda for his entire campaign.

How can we help the Muslim world?  Excellent question!
How about treating them like adults who don't need Uncle Sam's help for everything? You’re not going to get cooperation from people by taking away their self-respect.  Then there's the whole freedom thing.

Obama:  “Syrians are going to have to decide their own future.”  That’s the attitude Republicans want to paint as weakness.  Because they love freedom, don’tcha know!

And, to the awkward moment when Mitt Romney seems to think that Iran is a landlocked nation.
There have already been dozens of memes based on this ridiculous gaffe from Romney, which is probably the worst ignorance of geography since Sarah Palin decided that Vladimir Putin must fly over Alaska while travelling from Moscow to New York.  However, it might be worth having a look at a real map.
Google Maps
Russia has always wanted a “warm water port,” and pretty clear that Iran is their best option for that.  This could explain Russia’s friendliness towards Iran and actually goes some way to backing up Romney’s assertion that Russia is not to be trusted.  That’s why it’s called geo-politics.  If Romney had half a clue about what he was talking about, he might have been able to make a point of this.  Instead he said they need to get to the seas via Syria even though they don’t even share a border.
Fox news are reporting that geography has a liberal bias.

Romney:  “When Ahmadinejad says our debt means we're not a great country, that's a frightening thing.”  Really?  Why?  Are you going to have a cry because the crazy man said something mean about you?  Grow up!
Right America, you’re going to have to reduce your debt because Ahmadinejad says so.  Because he’s important.

Romney:  “Our military is second to none.”  Fine.  What’s your problem then?

Shieffer:  “What is America’s role in the world?”  To fill the gap between Canada and Mexico?

Romney:  “When there are elections, people tend to vote for peace.”  Um, Mitt... check your history. The real stuff.

Obama:  “He (Romney)’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who's -- who shows great wisdom and judgment.”  That’s gotta hurt.

Romney: “He (Obama) promised unemployment would be at 5.4%.”  Yes, and Donald Rumsfeld said the war in Iraq would take less than six months.  No-one seemed too bothered about that.  Republicans suddenly have a taste for arbitrary end dates.  I wonder what changed.

Romney: “On day one…” DRINK! I'm less bothered about the first day as the possibility of the next 1460.

Romney takes credit for balancing the Olympics budget. Fails to mention they got a government bailout.
Takes credit for balancing the state budget. Fails to mention state budgets are legally required to be balanced.

Romney wants to be able to fight a war on two fronts.  Because that always works.

Obama:  “Israel is our greatest ally in the region.”  Hardly a high bar.

Expanding sanctions?  No problem.  With you on that one.
Words amount to genocide?  No.  Just...  NO!  What were you thinking?  For a start, it cheapens the charge of actual genocide and I kind of suspect the Hague has better things to deal with than behaviour that’s comparable with that of most talk radio blowhards.

Look, nuclear weapons exist. If you have them, others are going to want them, especially if you threaten them. You can't just say “We can have them but you can't.”

“Apology tour.” Just pathetic.  Yes, talking to people shows weakness.  Because not talking to people always makes them do what you want.  Is that all you’ve got?

So, the middle east in tumult. Well you know, there was a fair bit of “tumult” in America a couple of hundred years ago but they came out of it as the United States.  Sometimes freedom isn't easily won.  Nobody held America's hand as they fought for independence.  See earlier comment about self-respect.

Holy crap! Shieffer stopped Romney from talking over him. How the hell did that happen?
Waaah!  Mom!  He’s biassssed!

Romney is right that "divorcing" Pakistan would be disastrous. Classic US mistake is cutting allies loose when they're no longer useful. See Afghanistan, Iraq, bin Laden...

Romney:  “If I'm president, America will be very strong.”  Um... because why?

Romney seems to think that manipulating markets is bad.  Where was he in 2008 when Wall Street’s house of cards came tumbling down?  Better still, where was he before it happened?

Romney:  “I like American cars.”  DRINK!  Mitt, stop telling us everything you like.  You're running for president, not speed dating.

Finally, where are these 12 million jobs coming from?  Republicans like to quote Reagan saying that there are no works that spark more fear than, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  Well, I’m not much more enthused by, “I’m not saying how but trust me, I know how to do that.”
I’m a teacher.  Saying, “I know how to do that,” isn’t enough.  You have to show that you do.

22 October, 2012

Things that confuse me

I’m probably a fairly simple person really.  When Republicans say something, I like to figure they’re sincere about it and if it doesn’t gel with other things they say, that means there must be something I am missing.

For example,
I have been seeing Republicans blaming the president for high prices.  But I thought that according to Republican doctrine, prices are set by the free market according to the laws of supply and demand and that this is sacrosanct and must not be interfered with.  It would seem that some Republicans want Big Government to make the prices lower for them.  I can’t say I blame them, but I thought that was socialism and that that’s a bad thing.
It’s very confusing.

Here’s another thing that confuses me:
According to Republicans, when four Americans are killed in Libya by Libyans, that’s all the president’s fault.  Yet, when there are several mass shooting per year and dozens of individual shootings every week of Americans by Americans in America, there’s nothing the government can or should do about that because freedom.
What am I missing here?

Tomorrow, the two top candidates for president of the United States will argue over what each of them would do about Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Russia and Europe.  Yet, if I say anything about it, I’ll be told I don’t count because I’m not American and what’s it to me anyway?

The alternative reality of US politics is very, very confusing.

12 October, 2012

The Rules: Lying

If Side A accuses Side B of lying – especially when the accusations are specified, the best thing that Side B can do is show that they’re not lying.

I know that this isn’t usually how the onus of proof works.  It’s not incumbent upon the accused to prove their innocence, but if the truth is on your side, why not use it?  What better way to make the accuser look utterly foolish?

If Side B won’t do that, then they look like liars.  If they can’t do it, then they are liars.  If all they can do is complain about how unsporting it is that someone said they lied, it really doesn’t look good.

05 October, 2012

Mass Debating

I am starting to think that presidential debates are second only to the state of the union address when it comes to pointless political theatre.  To quote my brother in law, the president could fulfil that particular constitutional mandate by buying Congress a recurring subscription to the Washington Post and be done with it.  Similarly, with these debates, it’s become all about the theatre.  While it’s good to have the candidates face each other directly like this, it seems more people today are interested in where each candidate was looking when the other was speaking.  Fifty-two years after Kennedy/Nixon, it seems we’ve learnt nothing.

The thing I hate most about these debates is the fact that everyone wants to declare a winner.  The primary purpose of a debate should be to explore ideas, not to beat the other guy.  Mitt Romney certainly went into it with nothing to lose.  If he could get through the night without insulting half the population or accidentally bragging about how fabulously wealthy he is, then it was always going to be chalked up as a win for him.  Did Obama look tired?  Of course he looked tired.  He’s had a country to run for the last four years.  Show me any president who didn’t age a decade in his first term.  That’s the kind of job it is.  What has Romney done in that time other than run for president?  Having said that, Obama clearly let multiple opportunities for rebuttal go begging and it’s hard to imagine why.

The conventional wisdom certainly has it right on the standard of moderation.  I’ve never seen Jim Lehrer so weak and ineffectual.  The questions were high school stuff.  “What would you say the difference is between the two of you on _____?”  That means each candidate has to characterise his opponent’s policies, which is just asking for derp.  I had to chuckle when Romney said Obama was misrepresenting his tax policy.  Aside from whether he was or wasn’t, that’s a bit rich coming from someone whose own campaign has said they won’t be dictated to by fact checkers.  Without making any comment on Obama’s description of the policy, if you’re going to go post-factual, you have to go all the way.

If you knew nothing else about Mitt Romney you would say he presented well in the debate.  The problem is, we do know other things about Mitt Romney.  We know he changes his story according to who he’s speaking to.  He goes to Michigan and says he likes cars.  He goes to Mississippi and says he likes “cheesy grits.”  I’m not saying the two are mutually exclusive but I’ll lay odds that even I’ve had cheese grits more often than Mitt Romney has.  So the question is not so much what Mitt Romney said last night, but how it squares with what he has said previously, what he may say tomorrow and which one we ought to believe.

I think the most telling moment in the debate came from one of the segments they replayed on the news a lot, but not for the same reason they replayed it.
Mitt Romney said:
I just don't know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the -- at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. 
A couple of things first:  I think we all know how he came to office facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment and an economic crisis.  They all came from the policies of the administration that Republicans dare not name, yet whose economic policies they want to return to.  Secondly, since millions of Americans are dependent on their employers to provide their health insurance, high unemployment is actually a pretty important reason to prioritise health care.  But neither of those things really highlights how disturbing this comment from Romney really was.

For those with short memories, a major plank of Obama’s platform in the 2008 campaign was to reform the health system and bring coverage to millions who didn’t have it.  The policy may have been watered down, no thanks to obstructionist Republicans and gutless Democrats (by the way, can someone please explain to Republicans that “bipartisan” does not mean Democrats shut up and do whatever Republicans want?), but regardless of whether you agree with the policy or not, Obama spent his energy and passion fighting for health policy reform because he said he would!  Perhaps Obama is old fashioned enough to think that when you take a policy to an election, win that election and receive a mandate, then you should enact the policy.

By his own words, Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to understand that.  He doesn’t seem to make the connection between election promises and what you do in office.  This should ring alarm bells for anyone considering voting for Romney.

And yes, Obama should have said that too.