The Futility Monster

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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

11 For 2011

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 2, 2011 @ 11:11

OK, so it’s hardly the return of the Futility Monster, here, but two posts in two days does mark something of a minor miracle. Even so, it’s unlikely to be repeated. Maybe I will try and write something at least semi-frequently. Maybe once a month or something.

But for now, more to get it down in writing than anything else, here comes my top 11 predictions for 2011.

  1. The AV referendum will pass. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I believe Ed Miliband will drag the Labour Party, kicking and screaming, behind the campaign as a show of his authority and capacity for “change”. This will encourage the Lib Dems to give it their full support. It will scrape home. Just.
  2. The “Other” 2011 referendum – in Wales – will also succeed, but with a larger majority in favour.
  3. Following that, Welsh Labour will win. But perhaps not as big as they will hope. I predict an extremely close finish, with them just falling below the magic 31 seats for outright majority control.
  4. The Scottish Nationalists will lose power in Scotland’s May general election, but they will only be replaced by an enfeebled Labour minority, who may struggle to find partners to get its legislation and budgets through.
  5. Meanwhile, in London, the Coalition will last the whole year, without too many hiccups, despite sluggish economic data.
  6. Somewhere during the year, the Liberal Democrats will hit another low in their post-2010 election opinion poll woes.
  7. In the post-May reshuffle, Nick Clegg will receive a real portfolio in a bid by David Cameron to shore up support for the coalition amongst demoralised Liberal Democrat MPs. Home Office, anyone?
  8. Also to boost the Lib Dems, House of Lords reform (defined here as anything 80% or more elected), will pass the Commons, but die a sad death in the Lords itself.
  9. Looking abroad, Silvio Berlusconi will finally reach the end of his woeful Prime Ministerial career. Having said that, his replacement will hardly be any better.
  10. Barack Obama will have a traumatic year: under fire from the hostile House of Representatives, a ceaseless war in Afghanistan, and unable to achieve anything of great significance. This will seriously damage him running into the pivotal 2012. And if that happens, expect Sarah Palin to run for the Presidency. Whether she gets the nomination, however, will have to wait till next year’s prediction…
  11. Finally, North Korea will come back to the negotiating table at long last. But will a deal be reached? Extraordinarily unlikely. Unless Kim Jong Il croaks it, and his son is, to everyone’s shock, slightly less of a lunatic than his father…

As for who wins this year’s Premier League, alas, it’ll be no one other than Manchester United.

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BP: Big Phuckup

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 1, 2010 @ 09:30

With the disaster in the Gulf in full, inexorable, flow, the blame game is well underway. BP. Obama. The whole US administration. Transocean, the actual owners of the rig. Even Dick “Dick” Cheney’s old friends Halliburton have some involvement as a sub-contractor. It’s a perfect storm for us lefties.

The oil spill can no longer be called that. It is certainly the worst US offshore oil disaster in history. Its disastrous impact on marine and avian life in the area affected by the spill will be felt for many years to come, and there’s no doubt that that too will have a knock on effect on industries based upon the sea in that area. No surprise so far.

Then there is the hindsight. Polls in America are starting to turn. No longer do they support off-shore oil drilling in such great numbers as they did. Remember Sarah Palin with her “Drill, baby, drill!” during the 2008 election? Well, now even her position is much more restrained, which is a shocker for her.

But the most disappointing aspect of it is that just a few weeks before the incident, Obama came out and reversed his own campaign policy and said that he was, after all, going to allow for an expansion of offshore drilling.

Though Obama is indeed having success as President, he has made a few misjudgements in his attempts to reach out towards a so-called “moderate” centre. In this case, he was rowing back on his oil drilling policies in order to get some Republican votes in the Senate for a climate change bill.

Now he just looks silly.

The moderate centre of the Republican Party in Congress does not exist, and hasn’t for some time. That was demonstrated during the healthcare saga, and yet Obama just will not seem to learn.

The same process is in train here. Obama is obviously not to blame for the oil deluge, but he is getting landed with it. Just as he sat on the sidelines during the major part of the healthcare debate, so as to not get tarred by the Senate’s indecision, he took too long before rolling-up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty sticking it to BP.

Nature, especially the media, abhors such vacuums. Into it steps a Republican Party disinformation campaign, and a PR exercise by BP worthy of whatever top prize the PR industry gives out. Anyone would think BP were the heroes, nobly coming in and cleaning up those oil-ridden shores. The BP Chief Executive is never off the airwaves in the US, giving a running commentary about the process as if he was some neutral, non-partisan expert. He isn’t.

Every crisis like this has an opportunity. The opportunity for Obama is to tell America that its suckling at the teat of the oil industry has to end. To tell the American people straight that the likes of BP are not to be given the easy ride that they are now in future.

BP are no doubt going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on this operation.

But that shouldn’t allow them to be let off the hook.

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Healthcare Reform Passes; Hell Freezes Over

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 27, 2010 @ 09:19

What's more scary: that some Americans actually believed this shit, or that the people behind this campaign were so cynical enough to dream it up?

I couldn’t let my final post of the week go by without making some comment on the success of the US Congress to, finally, pass a healthcare reform bill. A bill that was lauded as a “big fucking deal” by Vice President Joe Biden must have something going for it.

And it does. It makes a delicate step in the right direction for improving the lives of millions of Americans. It’s nowhere near where they need to be, but it will bring America closer to the rest of the civilized world in ensuring that thousands of people do not continue to die because they have no access to healthcare.

But you know what it is most of all? It, combined with recent international manoeuvres by Obama regarding Israel and the West Bank, and the gentle nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, show that something is occurin’ once more in America. That something is our old friend, missing for almost a year.

Change.

I have been on a big downer about Obama during this healthcare fiasco. His handling of the situation over the last year has been poor at best. Weak. Wishy washy. Unclear about what he actually wants to achieve. Appearing to dither. Aloof.

That is, until the last few weeks, when he realised that it was time to get directly involved in the campaign, put his entire presidency on the line, no matter what the cost.

Really, we all knew there would be no “cost” to him. We all knew that his poll ratings were flagging because of the failure to deliver during this spectacularly long and boring healthcare debacle.

No sooner did the bill pass Obama’s ratings took a significant lift. Approval and favorability up by between 5 and 10% depending on the pollster. It seems the American people actually like success, and want change after all.

All of this is in spite of the fact that a plurality still disapprove of “the healthcare bill”. Of course, whenever a pollster has broken down the bill into parts, asking their opinion on the things within it, approval of it skyrockets. Just goes to show that Obama’s team have been extremely poor at explaining exactly what it is they’re doing, and failing to define their enemies as roadblocks to delivering all of these goodies.

But this event, hopefully, will be the Duh! moment of the year to the Obama administration.What they think of as risks are actually nothing of the sort. The public are easily misled by the media, especially one so eager to deliver “balance” by countering a Democratic opinion with a rabid Tea Party one, even if only one of those “opinions” actually has a basis in reality. Hint: it’s not usually the latter.

Obama should take a moment to enjoy this success, and use it to drive a hunger for more. It’s time for him to exploit his platform to deliver another major piece of reform before November (immigration, please!), for the simple reason that he will never again get a Congress this far in his favour.

Make hay while the sun shines, and all that.

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One-Term Obama?

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 13, 2010 @ 09:41

OK, maybe our expectations were a little too high...

It being a fine Saturday, what better excuse is needed for forgetting about our politics and thinking about politics in America again. Hey, it’s been a while!

The big hooha at the moment in the States surrounds Obama’s apparent further drop in support. Approval ratings are tanking, with them now being some way below the 50% mark, with the latest figure being 46%. Panic buttons are being hit across the Democratic party. Republicans holler with delight. Oh, those early days when this approval was sky high at 69% seem so far away now.

We’re being told that the reason is simple. Americans don’t want Obama’s “socialist” take over of everything, from healthcare to the economy.

Time for a reality check. Obama was elected on the biggest wave of hope and optimism for change America has seen in decades. Obama’s program was by no means radical, being firmly rooted in the centre of American politics (centre-left doesn’t really exist as a concept over there). He looked good, he sounded great. The Americans gave him a thumping mandate, both personally and to his party.

14 months later – yes, that’s all it’s been – Obama’s agenda has stalled. Early small victories came to a crashing halt when the Republicans happened to stumble upon the strategy that has delivered so much success. Do nothing. Stop everything. Use every parliamentary trick in the book to ensure that Obama fails.

Obama has some responsibility for letting his useless Congressional leadership take care of the specifics. They have wasted the biggest opportunity in a generation to use full control of the legislature, having been held to ransom by a handful of truly awful Senators. Obama might have got a bit more involved at an earlier point. And Obama’s insistence on trying to get “bipartisan” legislation is a total waste of time, when the Republicans have no desire to take part.

And why would they? They’re doing awfully well out of Democratic failure to deliver. And now, because Democrats have no spine, the Republicans are able to claim that it’s all the Democrats fault for their internal squabbling and inability to govern. Republicans never needed 60 votes, after all.

To me, the narrative behind the approval ratings failure is simple. The American people wanted change. The American people have not seen any. Approval ratings don’t equate to masses Democrats suddenly wanting to vote Republican. No. It means Democrats lose interest. Republicans get fired up as the feel the tide turning. Independents feel let down by one side and start to consider whether maybe the other side could do a better job after all.

Meanwhile, the approval ratings continue to slide, as the nation gets bored to death by talk talk talk about healthcare reform, with still no delivery or end in sight.

But there was something Obama said last year that he ought to come back to…

President Barack Obama is “quite comfortable” with the prospect of being a one-term president in order to address the issues he is concerned about, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.

If I’m wrong, and greater access to affordable healthcare really is not what the American people want, then Obama probably will be a one-term President.

But I’m willing to bet that if Obama can finally get round to strong arming enough of his errant Congressional party into supporting his reforms, his plans will steadily gather support when the Democrats can start to wheel out the laundry list of things the healthcare package improves for Americans.

The attitude of “I’m going to do what I think is right, because I have no electoral fears” may be the only way out of this mess. So what if you’re a one-term President but massively increased access to healthcare, cut the budget deficit and started the ball rolling on curbing the worst excesses of the insurance companies.

Obama must regain that confidence in his messaging that he displayed during the campaign.

Change takes time. Change takes guts. Change involves a mammoth battle with the vested corporate and selfish interests.

But I’m starting to doubt if Obama has the bottle to do it.

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POQs

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 30, 2010 @ 10:10

The Republicans gave Obama this document of "solutions" to read. In response, he shoved it up their arses and tore them a new one. Nice man.

… stands for President Obama’s Questions, of course.

Apologies for yet another American politics post, but I can’t let this one go by uncommented.

The liberal blog networks are alight at the moment because yesterday President Obama walked right into the lion’s den and held a “question time” at the House Republican Retreat. Better still, the whole thing was recorded and televised.

I’ve watched the whole thing – you should too –  because it truly is the mother of all smackdowns, so much so that there are rumours around that the Republicans are regretting agreeing that it should be televised.

One by one, Obama politely takes apart the myths, lies and outright bullshit that the Republicans have spouted on every issue they threw at him. In various parts, he directly mocks the unbelievable way in which issues such as healthcare have been spun by the GOP machine.

But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.  No, I mean, that’s how you guys — (applause) — that’s how you guys presented it.

What can we learn from this?

Liberals across the nation are suggesting that this becomes a regular feature. They look at our Prime Minister’s Questions with awe. They don’t understand why politicans would subject themselves to that bearpit. They examine it through their political culture, and think how can someone be so disrespectful to their leader – forgetting, of course, that our Prime Minister is merely a chief executive, with a separate head of state who everyone (allegedly) looks up to.

Obama is clearly intelligent enough to be able to handle such a system; and not a single toadying question handed out by a friendly party whip in sight. And, in truth, there’s no real reason why Obama couldn’t repeat this on a regular basis, setting a very strong precedent for any future president. After all, the American system is all about checks and balances. What greater check than to see the President being held to account by the Congress?

It would be a fantastic way of directly calling out smears and obstructionism, right to their faces. Obama has such a way with words that he could do it in such a way that is extraordinarily respectful, yet effective. No other President in recent history would be able to handle such an environment on a regular basis. Facing an unelected, unaccountable press corps is one thing. Facing fully mandated, legitimised, elected opposition is another.

Maybe it’s high time for the Americans to think about it.

But somehow I don’t think Republicans will be all too keen on the idea any more…

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State Of The Obama

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 28, 2010 @ 10:39

I suppose this is funny to Americans...

It says it all when Obama is craftily reminding everyone that he never promised that he alone would deliver change…

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone

And, you know what, he is right. I could have sworn I’d written about it before, but if I have I can’t find the post where I did, but it had always been abundantly clear to me that Candidate Obama was saying to the American people that if you want change, I can help you, but you are the ones who’ll actually have to do it from the bottom up.

After one year in government, Obama is now all too painfully aware of the defects in the American constitution, the goal of which is to ensure that real change is boringly slow, if not impossible.

He has faced the obstruction of a Senate, tied up in knots by its own ludicrous rules allowing a single Senator gigantic power to delay executive appointments. It seems ridiculous after a year, but there are literally hundreds of posts in the Obama administration that are unfilled or pending Senate confirmation.

Of course, too, there is the endless use of the filibuster that doesn’t actually require Republicans to do any real filibustering, which has basically changed the rules to say that 60 votes are needed to pass anything. And then, even when Democrats actually had a nominal 60 votes, they spent all their time squabbling over what they were going to do with their new-found power. Fortunately, that luxury is now going to be denied to them.

Meanwhile, the absurdity of a Supreme Court decision granting corporations unlimited power to finance political campaigns highlights just how much of a joke that institution has become.

Then there is the impact all of this has had on the American people, who were anxious for real change quickly. Well, they just gave up. The coalition that brought Obama to power was eager and willing for quick reform.

It didn’t happen, and now they’re sitting on their hands.

They await real action from Obama. They were willing to do a lot of the work, but when they saw Obama being too distant, too aloof from the process – merely asking the Congress to send him a health bill – they got mightily pissed off when the delays and obstruction from the opposition actually worked.

Last night’s State of the Union may be a sign that Obama is going to be a bit more hands on in future. Obama must surely realise that if he doesn’t concentrate wholly on delivering domestic goods for the American people over the next year, his party will be decimated in the coming elections, and then he’ll soon see what real obstructionism is all about.

A year ago I would have said Obama was an absolute shoo-in for a second term. But if he doesn’t change the agenda, seize the initiative and bring his errant party under control, he will have a real battle on his hands come 2012.

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Goin’ Back To Massachusetts

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 20, 2010 @ 15:05

A song about a failing Democratic party being washed away on a tidal wave of apathy...

… sang the Bee Gees. And that’s exactly where failed Democratic candidate Martha Coakley will be staying today, after her humiliating defeat at the hands of the Republican machine.

The Democrat blogosphere is filled with much analysis today. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Reactions have varied from “it was a little local difficulty”, to a warning shot across good ship Obama’s bows, or the downright facetious, arguing Democrats never really had 60 votes anyway

Last night in my last post I was 50-50 about a Democrat win. Hence why I even tempered some of my usual scepticism. If this were an election in Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, i.e. a true swing state, then I would have had no doubts about a Republican win. But Massachusetts? Come on.

Some Democrats are trying to argue the solution now is to be true progressives, and go on a radical binge. Maybe. But Obama’s authority is now deeply undermined. The time to do that was at the start of the Presidency, when his mandate was at its strongest.

Congress, hardly known for its institutional bravery, is going to see this as an excuse to do nothing for the rest of the year. Why should they? After all, they try to do something for the American people and they get it shoved back in their face.

The problem is that, in this case, that is exactly what the Republicans want. Since Day 1, their agenda has been to slow down and stop anything and everything the Democrats want to do, because they know every little victory for the Dems amounts to a much bigger picture of demonstrating the change they want to bring to America.

It would be hard to believe that the American public’s minds have changed all that much in the space of 14 months. Back then there was genuine enthusiasm for a real fight to take down the special interests that are ruining America. How else could Obama have achieved such a ringing endorsement from the people? The message was CHANGE. The outcome has been anything but.

And, of course, I am exaggerating a little. Obama and Congress have indeed brought change over the past year. The verge of healthcare reform, no matter how much of a corporate boondoggle it is, is still an achievement. Actions on fair pay, the winding down of Iraq and Guantanamo, as well as that all important Supreme Court vacancy. Progress. Good stuff.

On the ground, however, circumstances changed. The extraordinary nature and depth of the recession demanded a change of emphasis. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And laying the smackdown on the banking sector that had just taken the American taxpayer for a serious ride. That would still have all fitted his campaign strategy perfectly.

Obama missed the boat there.

Instead, they got mired in an eight month battle which displayed the worst excesses of partisanship, the divide in the Democratic party, and exposed a massive streak of entrenched special interest lobbying at the heart of the very same party whose ostensible figurehead – Obama – was elected to sort out.

The modern age of politics is as much about the message as it is about actually governing. We decry it, but we can’t deny the reality. Obama has let his agenda get seriously off kilter with what the American public wanted from him. Instead the message got lost, and the only good deeds that were being done were just not enough to sell the change rhetoric to an increasingly disinterested, cynical and misdirected electorate.

I’m sure Cameron’s team will be observing the lessons from Obama’s past year closely…

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All Eyes On Massachusetts

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 19, 2010 @ 22:59

No time to blog properly today after a surprising deluge of work, of the piss-taking variety, but my political antennae are currently firmly tuned to the special election for Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the Senate.

If a Republican manages to win, in one of the bluest states in the Union, it will spell curtains for Obama’s midterm efforts in November. It will mean that it is already too late for the Democrats to convince the coalition that brought him to his epic victory in November 2008 to come out for him again.

But it is too early to write the obituaries. Maybe the Democrats will manage it after all. Maybe they’ll even get a stonking win and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Even if they do though, this is a sign of how difficult the fight is going to be this year. The Republicans are strongly motivated. Democrats are beleaguered after a year of internal warfare and ceaseless pandering to the right and the special interests, after being elected on a promise to deliver major reform to the country.

Some might counter that a Democrat loss may be the kick up the backside they need.

Possibly. It’s hard to be sure. But I wouldn’t bank on it.

In any case, Obama is not a man to take risks.

My disappointment rating moves up just another notch…

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The Drones May Fall Into Line

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 15, 2010 @ 10:40

Well, it sort of makes sense here...

Praise be!

Our Lord President Obama has actually taken an opinion on something!

Yesterday he unveiled an opportunity to extract large sums of cash from the corporate monster that is the banking sector.

The plan itself is remarkably bold for a man who has been so timid on various issues throughout the first year of his presidency, when he should be at the peak of his mandate. And yet, it is actually a fairly modest tax that would extend over 10 years, and only be more punitive to those who deserve it the most: the ones with substantial borrowings. It should still, however, raise significant sums of money.

Bankers in the US will bleat and moan that many of them didn’t even accept taxpayer’s money during the height of the crisis; and that they will just have to pass on this cost to the consumer. Of course, that’s all just part of the PR game. First of all, no bank would be left standing if it wasn’t for the unprecedented scale of loans, investments, nationalisation and quantitative easing that has kept the sector going. They should be grateful they’re still here.

And as for passing on charges… well, many banks were planning to do this anyway in order to enhance their profitability after a couple of years of hits. Now they have a perfect excuse to do so, and can blame the government in the process. It’s all about the rhetoric.

With a bit of luck, the plans will make it through the US Senate relatively unscathed. It is an election year after all, and all the polls are still showing a great degree of negativity towards banks, bankers and their bonuses.

What will be most interesting, however, is whether other countries will react in the same way. British efforts to rein in our banking sector now look rather tame in comparison. Surely we should take the opportunity provided by Obama to copy the policy and extract our own pound of flesh? It would be a relatively free hit and wouldn’t be as damaging to UK competitiveness if our biggest rival in the banking sector is doing exactly the same.

That old chestnut of national interest, however, is probably what’s going to stop us. There is still a banker love-in going on in the City of London, and many of them will currently be wondering if Obama’s actions could lead to another round of offshoring. Maybe once our 50% bonus tax has worked its way out of the system we might be in line for even more banking jobs, and even more bonuses…

And this, my friends, is why we need global co-operation. If only Obama had told everyone last year that this was what he was planning all along, we might have got better agreements at the various G20 and G8 summits last year.

A wasted opportunity, methinks.

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10 For 2010

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 1, 2010 @ 10:32

I dunno about you, but that just looks so cool!

In time honoured fashion, the start of a new year is always a good time to consider what it might herald. And so, not to be outdone by other bloggers who’ve done the same thing, I’m going to share with you 10 predictions for this year.

1 – The Conservatives will win the General Election (which will be held in May) with a majority of approximately 50 seats.

2 – George Osborne will not be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.

3 – Gordon Brown will be replaced as Labour Party leader by Ed Miliband.

4 – Gordon Brown will get a job on the international stage and resign as an MP.

5 – The new Tory administration will suffer a scandal of some kind. Yes, I know this is very vague, and a total cop out, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

6 – The Tories will scrap the ID card, but questions will remain over whether the database behind the project actually disappears with it.

7 – Obama will not only pass his healthcare reform bill, but will score a major political coup by passing comprehensive immigration reform, utterly dividing the Republican Party in the process.

8 – The Democrats will lose 30 seats in the House, and 5 seats in the Senate, worsening the already fractured relationship between Obama and an increasingly obstructive Republican minority.

9 – Australian PM Kevin Rudd will win the next federal election – a double dissolution – with a major landslide.

10 – The Iranian crisis will either culminate in the death of Mirhossein Mousavi or there will be a popular revolution. That’s another cop out, I’m sorry, but either way I think this will be a significant year for the Iranian situation.

Oh go on, one more, I hear you cry. Well, it’s not going to be what you’re expecting.

Arsenal will win the Premier League.

There, I’ve said it. Cos I’m interested in more than just politics, you know. I’m not that boring…

Hey, that was a lot of fun. Wish that could be my post every day!

And now I’m almost looking forward to the end of the year to see how spectacularly wrong I’m going to be. Wish me luck! Unless you don’t want any of those events to happen, of course.

Happy New Year to you all. Here’s to much more futile monstering in the year to come 🙂

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