Posts Tagged ‘obama’

At the summit

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Unlike the one in BURNING SKIES, the summit between the U.S. and Russia was not crashed by elite Autumn Rain hit-squads. Nor did any of the participants wear powered armor. They did, however, dance around a couple of the key issues that arise in the Autumn Rain trilogy, to wit:

Missile defense:  Russia would like nothing better than for the U.S. to dismantle its plans for missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe.  This is unlikely to happen, but the key variables are (a) the administration’s overall posture toward missile defense (which is still being defined), and (b) whether Russia will ultimately insist on a formal linkage between that and overall arms control talks (in particular the still-unresolved questions around bombers/launchers). While the defense facilities themselves would appear to be directed at Iran rather than Russia, a heavy NATO presence in Eastern Europe is something that makes the Bear nervous.  To say nothing of the possibility that the current “Son of Stars Wars” will ultimately be a stalking horse for a more robust space-based systems.  The conversation so far has both sides biding their time, agreeing to study cooperation options, i.e., defer the key decisions to a later point.

Cyberwarfare:   I’d be surprised if serious discussion occurred on this between the principals, but it’s definitely something getting discussed at the lower levels.  Particularly given that the U.S. created CyberCommand a few weeks back (handing the whole thing over to the NSA—uh-oh).  But while everyone agrees that cyberwar is a problem (if it’s aimed at them), no one agrees on what to do about it.  Indeed, Russia has already launched successful attacks on both Estonia and Georgia.  And China has been attacking the U.S. in cyberspace for some time now.  Ongoing “warfare” of this nature may just be a fact of life in the 21st century, at least until/unless the major regional power blocs establish their own separate nets like they do in my books.  (Of course, such “cyber-autarkies” would have to be accompanied by a comprehensive failure of globalization, but that could be the least of our problems in the decades to come.)

And of course there’s no better way to prepare for those problems than to read BURNING SKIES.

Fire in the sky

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Boeing has fired its airborne laser in the first comprehensive end-to-end test of the world’s most pimped-up 747. Next year’s follow-up test will feature an attempt to shoot down a real missile; after that, the ABL will be cleared for operational status, assuming Obama doesn’t scrap the whole thing. The new president will have to decide fairly early on how he intends to play the missile defense card; particularly now that he’s picked Gates, he’ll be under enormous pressure from the Pentagon to keep (if not accelerate) BMD.

The logical culmination of all this, of course, is weaponry in space. It’s doubtful that’ll occur or reach maturity on Obama’s watch, but space-based lasers capable of hitting missiles in their booster phase would constitute the crown jewel of any missile defense architecture that’s worth the name.  But the public is skittish about weapons sailing over their heads several times a day, so for now all the focus has been on surface- and air-based hardware. The advocates of the current generation of missile defense learned their lesson well from SDI:  don’t propose everything at once, and don’t talk about space until you have to.  That’s why they’ve made far more progress than SDI ever did. The fact that the technology has come a long way doesn’t hurt either.

Lieberman stays?!?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Obama is taking an enormous gamble in leaving Lieberman in charge of the Homeland Security Committee. All the arguments for doing so—new tone in Washington, increasing the chances of passing key legislation, another seat in the Senate, etc.—all of it pales before the fact that should another 9-11 occur on the new president’s watch, Lieberman will be the one in charge of the ensuing investigation. The Senator gave Bush a free pass these last couple of years, but I somehow doubt that the man he insinuated is a Marxist on the campaign trail would get anything approaching the same treatment. Lieberman’s whole MO is to use his centrist position for maximum political/media exposure; Obama had better hope that his decision to prioritize his domestic legislation above all else doesn’t ultimately hand Lieberman yet another opportunity to seize the limelight.

Nice election, we’ll take it

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Obama’s decisive win shouldn’t let us lose sight of just how badly in need of reform our electoral process is—and just how close we may have come to another stolen election. On Friday, October 31st, Mike Connell, GOP IT specialist and Rove protege, found himself in an Ohio court being accused by a member of the Ohio bar of stealing the 2004 election in favor of George Bush. Connell asked for several days to prepare his deposition, claiming he was too busy to testify until after Election Day; attorney Cliff Arnebeck told him that was like the robber saying he couldn’t show up in court because he was busy getting ready to rob the bank.  The judge ordered Connell to be in court on Monday; Connell showed up with a battery of GOP lawyers and denied all wrongdoing under oath.  But any ability he had for maneuvering was at an end.

And that’s where things stood when the whistle blew. Whether or not another game-changing scheme really was in the works, in hindsight Obama’s lead was probably too pronounced to allow for any believable vote-fixing that would impact the national results.  But the fundamentals of the process—the use of private contractors, the lack of any standards from state to state, the ability of local elections officials to influence results, the proliferation of unreliable electronic voting machines, etc.—leave the door open for future thievery.  And there’s been multiple reports of irregularities in the Senate races still being counted. So this remains an issue that the broader public desperately needs to wake up to. Still, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the outstanding NGOs and journalists who worked so tirelessly to keep this issue top of mind in the run up to the election:  in particular, BlackBoxVoting, Brad Friedman, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast, Velvet Revolution, and of course the folks at Rolling Stone.

The Republican conundrum

Monday, November 10th, 2008

The latest counts reveal that Nebraska’s second congressional district (aka Omaha) has gone for Obama. This is the first time that a state has split its electoral votes (Maine is the only other state that even allows for this possibility). More importantly, it brings Obama’s EV total to 365. This is five EVs less than Bill Clinton got in 1992, but Obama is in a far stronger position than Bill ever was, and the Republican Party is in far deeper trouble.

And that’s putting it mildly. The GOP lost the twenty-something vote by a 38 point margin and is no longer competitive at the presidential level in the cities, while the McCain-Palin “real/fake America” rhetoric turned off educated voters in droves.  Acutely aware of just how shitty the numbers are, members of the (dwindling) GOP brain-trust met last week in Northern Virginia to try and discuss how they can be a more inclusive, “big tent” party. The answer, of course, is that they really can’t unless they can figure out how to deal with the millions of rabid Christians who comprise the backbone of what’s rapidly becoming a regional political party, centered on the Old South.  Fundamentalists are good at a lot of things, but compromise and rational negotiation are not among them, especially with Sarah Palin fully prepared to try to lead her soldiers to victory in 2012.  The prospects for the GOP look bleak indeed, particularly as America continues to become (a) less white, (b) less rural, and (c) less stupid.

Then again, the political landscape can shift in unexpected ways (just look at how it’s shifted since 04).  Obama could fuck up big time, and open the door for a Republican resurgence.  Or the economy could worsen into Dust Bowl proportions, which is always a good climate for extremist politics.  Or another 9-11 could convince the people that they must throw out the sinners who have seized control of the government and made God so #$# angry.  But in the meantime, it’s going to be a lot of fun watching the people who are so good at hating taking it out on each other instead of the rest of us.

The path(s) forward for Obama

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Ok, I lied. . . election coverage continues. . . North Carolina has been called for Obama. . .will someone pull me away from this #$# computer????

There seem to be three major precedent-models for Obama.

Model #1: FDR, 1932. Obama engineers a second New Deal while building a new progressive majority.

Model #2: Carter, 1976. Obama gets blamed for everything, and becomes a one-term president.

Model #3: Clinton, 1992. Obama hangs on to power while falling well short of his initial promise.

#1 is eminently possible, if he runs the government as well as he ran his campaign.  Seldom have both expectations and challenges been so high for an incoming president.

The national nightmare ends

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

As for Bush and Cheney, history will bury them. (The latter probably quite soon, I’m guessing.)

It was interesting to watch McCain last night: he looked like a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, and I found myself wondering once more what kind of campaign he could have run had he tacked toward the center. But the truth of the matter is that his running on the base was virtually inevitable when you consider that the GOP no longer has any senior political operatives who weren’t trained in the Atwater-Rove school—i.e., the Republicans at this point literally have no idea how to run a presidential campaign that isn’t based on crude “othering” techniques.  It’s significant that a lot of them thought that McCain’s central failing was that he wasn’t extreme enough and didn’t attack Obama to the extent he could have.  Watching that party struggle to find a coherent message for 2010/2012 is going to be very interesting.

And as for the president-elect, he faces historic difficulties, but it’s going to be incredibly refreshing to have a president who (a) doesn’t seem to be rife with insecurities, (b) doesn’t seem to have an anger management problem, (c) seems to have some insight into his own psyche, and (d) is actually smart and intellectually curious. Also, until this year I never thought I’d see a black president in my lifetime (save perhaps through the elevation of a VP selection), and I’m glad to be proven totally and completely wrong.

And to all readers of my blog who have been wishing I would shut up about the #$# election and write some more about Vin Diesel, thanks for bearing with me.  Now that the country’s taken a step back from what looked like an inexorable slide toward a police state, I plan on resuming normal programming….stay tuned…

Election Eve

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Make no bones about it, an American presidential campaign is the greatest show on Earth. Wednesday is going to have us all feeling like the circus has left town (and it had better, otherwise we’ll be facing the nightmare of a disputed election). It seems amazing that an African-American is now within a hairsbreath of the presidency; it seems all the more amazing that he’s managed to do so while decisively defeating the Clintons and battling the Right Wing Attack Machine to a standstill.

It might also seem incredible that the GOP is even remotely competitive in such a year as this, though (as I’ve noted before) a lot of that is due to the underlying electoral map.  But credit also goes to John McCain. The pundits are falling over themselves to declare what a shitty race he’s run; personally, I think it’s little short of a political miracle that he’s managed to convince so many voters that it’s neither constructive nor even possible to hold the party that’s governed America for eight years accountable for what it’s done. Had those eight years not made themselves all too apparent in the form of the economy cratering, it’s entirely conceivable that McCain’s early September lead would never have evaporated. Even if tomorrow’s returns realign everything on a seismic scale, it’s worth considering (in the words of the Duke of Wellington) what a “damn near run thing” this whole thing has been.

Esquire: “Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch”

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Esquire‘s endorsement of Obama is probably the most devastating piece of writing I’ve seen on the election. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here are some of the best bits.

More than any other recent election, we are voting this year not merely for a president but to overthrow two governments. The one we can see is the one in which constitutional order has been defaced, the national spirit degraded, and the country unrecognizable because so much of the best of itself has been sold off or frittered away. The other one is the far more insidious one, a doppelgänger nation of black prisons, shredded memos, and secret justifications for even more secret crimes. Moreover, the current administration has worked hard not only to immunize itself from the political and legal consequences of the government we can see, but it has also worked within the one we cannot see in order to perpetuate itself. . .

There is no evidence at all that anything will change under a President John McCain, who has already identified Roberts and Alito as his beau ideals of Supreme Court justices. He has made brave noises about torture and the extraconstitutional prerogatives of the executive, but President Bush and his men went on and did what they wanted anyway, and McCain walked away, begging for votes from fundamentalists who hate him, meeping his displeasure in ways that were barely audible. The virus will gestate and spread on his watch, all throughout the federal government. Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch, everywhere it has been established, or else the presidential election of 2008 is a worthless exercise in futility. Barack Obama may not be the man to do it, but John McCain, for all his laudable qualities, clearly is neither willing nor able to do so.

To continue to govern ourselves this way is unthinkable. It is unsustainable as a democracy to continue to mock so egregiously in secret what we continue to profess in public. That is the task for the next president. That is the main reason to vote for Barack Obama of Illinois. We strongly encourage you to do so.

President Who???

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I talked yesterday about the extent to which the electoral math continues to be stacked in the direction of the GOP. Today I want to talk about another dynamic that also advantages the GOP: the question of what constitutes legitimate presidential power. This has become perhaps the most glaring double-standard in American politics today, allowing Republican presidents to get away with shit that Democratic presidents can only dream of. When Bush attacked Iraq, we were told by right-wing ideologues that we had to support the president or be declared unpatriotic.  Of course, I can’t help but remember that back in the 1990s Rush Limbaugh and his ilk showed no such forbearance to Clinton in his Bosnian adventures, and I distinctly recollect how mercilessly they attacked him any time he went after Bin Laden.  (Though now they castigate him for allowing him to get away.)

But that’s the nature of a double-standard.  The real question is what’s driving it, and I think part of the answer lies in the fact that the GOP is far more adroit than the Democrats are at manipulating cultural symbols like the flag (and the Bible, for that matter).  Keep in mind, too, that the core of the GOP is far more comfortable with autocratic ideation than the Democrats ever will be (partially because so much of the GOP base would clearly prefer a theocracy to a republic, so it comes naturally to them).  Indeed, foreign wars are often the vehicle via which democracies slide toward dictatorships:  this is a dynamic which we see clear hints of in the GOP’s calling Obama a terrorist, etc.  (And check out the latest campaign incident in which a McCain crowd turned ugly and was ready to start kicking some peacenik ass.)

So the GOP reserves for itself a view of executive power that borders on the monarchial . . . as long as the sitting president is Republican.  But if the president isn’t—and this is the really dangerous part—then the very legitimacy of his holding office is immediately called into question.  Clinton was the first to feel the brunt of this attack, but that’s likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to what a President Obama would face (already the more vitriolic of McCain’s supporters are declaring that he “wouldn’t be my president.”).  This is one more reason why Obama has to hope he doesn’t just win, but that he wins big, lest a close victory be a Pyrrhic one.  When Republicans win the Oval Office with a 50.00000000001% majority (or even when they fail to attain a majority) they can declare a mandate, whereas a Democrat can only declare the same when he has a landslide big enough to bury the Himalayas. Confused?  You’re clearly just not patriotic enough, you #$# traitor.