Tag Archives: us

Observations of an ex pat: Mobilising anger

Anger is a powerful mobiliser. It is also dangerous to control when turned loose on the body politic.

At the moment this raw rage is being drawn out of the American spleen by both the left and right, by Democrats and Republicans.

It is the mid-term elections.  It is the first opportunity US voters have had for passing their  verdict on the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. It is a chance to elect national legislators who will block the president and more.

If, as expected, the Democrats, gain control of the House of Representatives, Donald Trump’s hopes for new legislation to further his right-wing, anti-immigrant, unilateralist agenda will be dashed against a Congressional brick wall.

Furthermore, the president can expect a flurry of fresh investigations to be initiated by the lower house.  They will demand to see his tax returns; investigate the conflicts of interest between the White House and his business interests; probe the president’s  environmental and immigration policies; demand inquiries into the multiple sexual harassment claims that he has successfully stalled and breathe new life into the Mueller Inquiry.

It is little wonder that Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence have been criss-crossing the country to attend rallies in support of right-wing Republican candidates.  It is no surprise that the presidential rhetoric has become shriller and more extreme as the first Tuesday in November approaches.

Five thousand American troops are needed to protect US citizens from the Central American immigrant “invasion force” infected with “Middle East terrorists”.  The President promises to override the constitution and decree the end of citizenship for those born in the US of foreign parents. The pipe bombs sent to Democrats was a plot by Democrats.  And the divisive atmosphere of vitriolic hate that led to the death of 11 Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh had nothing to do with Trump. It was the fault of the Democrats and their allies in the fake news media.

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Three important aspects of Barbara Bush’s legacy

My fascination with the White House and all its incumbents has been a constant feature but was at its peak in the late 80s and 90s as the long Republican incumbency gave way to the optimism of the Clinton era. I hoovered up every book I could find on the subject.

I always had a huge amount of time for Barbara Bush. She had an authenticity and candour that both got her into and helped extricate herself from trouble at times.

The powerful images of her scooping up and kissing children with HIV were an important part in busting the myths of that time.

I bought her memoirs as soon as they came out in 1994. In it she wrote about her spell of Depression in the mid 70s. She talked of how she learned through that to be more sympathetic and understanding to others. I read that at a time when I was going through a particularly suffocating visit from the Black Dog. People didn’t really talk about that stuff back then and it really helped to read that she had got through such an experience. She also said that although she had hid it at the time, she wouldn’t think twice about seeking professional help if it happened again.

She also understood the importance of education and particularly literacy and made that a lifelong campaign.   She was motivated to make sure that people learned to read and write to give them the chance to get on in life and set up the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation which is still going strong today.

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The better angels of our nature

The US state of Alabama went to the polls this week in an election that can hardly have been more polarised.

In what is normally rock solid Republican territory, the GOP candidate Roy Moore faced Democrat Doug Jones. Mr Moore, a right winger opposes abortion in all circumstances, thinks homosexuality is a sin and believes Muslims should not be allowed to hold government jobs.

However Moore’s political views were not what made this race competitive.

The surfacing of allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour was the issue that dogged him during the campaign. It made his principle opponent a contender in a state that the Democrats hadn’t won for decades.

Jones, who has never held office, but is well known in the state for his involvement in a high profile prosecution of Klansmen, was sneeringly described by President Trump as a liberal Democrat in a statement endorsing Moore.

This from a man who with every passing day reminds the Stephen King fans amongst us of the megalomaniac politician, Greg Stillson, from the Dead Zone.

That said these days most Republicans are pretty scary.

You have to go back a long way to find a GOP liberal of the Rockerfeller variety.

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Observations of an ex pat: Scary

Be scared. Be very scared. In fact if you saw, listened to or read about President Donald Trump’s UN address than you are probably terrified.  If not, then think again.

Trump used the occasion of his first speech to the General Assembly to draw red lines across the  map and dare his opponents to cross them. North Korea, Iran and Venezuela are the new axis of evil.

In one breath he called for an international order based on a respect for national sovereignty and with the next bullied those those who oppose him.

The United Nations and international cooperation enjoyed early support, but …

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Observations of an ex pat: And so it begins…

And so it begins. Or at least it will on Friday January 20th when Donald Trump stands, on the steps of the US Capitol building, places his hand on The Bible and swears to protect and uphold the constitution of the United States.

The US presidential inauguration is a celebration of American democracy and the peaceful transition from one administration to the next. There are parades, marching bands, waving flags, an inaugural ball and a bevvy of Hollywood stars.

Not this time. Oh yes, all the above will occur as usual. But in addition a million-plus protesters are expected to descend on Washington DC to political disown the elected President of the United States. “Not our President” they will shout.

And all the indications are that the forthcoming inaugural weekend  is a mere curtain raiser for the global thrills and spills to come. If you enjoy life on the edge, than you are living on the right planet at the right time. 

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WATCH: Obama’s final White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Obama’s rocked all of his 8 speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This year is full of occasions that will be his last in the White House. It took me a while to warm to him, but he’s certainly been one of the best US Presidents of my lifetime. He hasn’t got it all right, by any manner of means, but his tenacity in getting his healthcare reform through despite everything the Republicans threw at it was particularly commendable.

Anyway, this speech doesn’t quite have a Lion King moment, but the bit where he has a go at Prince George was hilarious.

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What the Liberal Democrats could learn from Obama, Sanders and Trudeau

Justin Trudeau by Canadian Pacific CCL FlickrAs a young American woman who has interned in the Canadian Parliament, volunteered for American campaigns and is now working in the British Parliament, it has been interesting following the 2015 British Parliamentary elections through a variety of lenses. The recent change of government in Canada and the ongoing presidential election in the United States seem worth unpacking, in order to delve into possible lessons which could be learned by Liberal Democrats from these other spaces.

I propose that there are lessons worth learning from two American Democrats, President Obama and Bernie Sanders, as well as Canada’s new Prime Minister Trudeau. For the former, the reasons may be self-evident. President Obama rose from a relatively unknown position into an incredibly influential presidency. For Bernie Sanders, it is worth understanding how another political outsider has once again come to challenge Hillary Clinton in her bid for the presidency. Though he will likely lose the primary, Mr. Sanders has been a formidable opponent from a stance that rarely would be noticed in the United States. With regards to the Canadian elections, I would like to explore the ways in which a party can move from a third-party position into a powerful government in the way the Liberals have done under Trudeau.

There are three characteristics which President Obama and Bernie Sanders have shared in their campaigns: they excel in grassroots organising, they offer clear messages of hope, and their platforms are cohesive. The first point, grassroots organising, is something which Liberal Democrats would benefit from greatly. Bringing staunch supporters out to volunteer in elections is a powerful force to reckon with, especially in university areas. In my home state, Ohio, both Obama and Sanders effectively coordinated university students to participate in the electoral process as vocal volunteers. From what I have seen, it seems that the Liberal Democrats could recruit a significant amount of volunteers from universities for the 2020 elections. This is a lesson sorely learned by the Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of the 2010 elections.  Understanding the implications of reversing stances on university tuition prices is a hard lesson, but it does offer a high incentive for maintaining consistency in the future.

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Postcard from Orlando: Hillary sweeps the board with big wins in Florida and Ohio

Hillary Florida GOTVWhat do Florida, North Carolina and Ohio have in common? They’re AWS, which means All Winning States on this side of the pond.  As I write (0515!GMT) Hillary appears to have won Illinois and Missouri by a margin that would have any agent worth their salt screaming “Recount,” at the top of their lungs.
Whilst Florida was always polling strongly for Hillary, the big prize tonight was Ohio for her campaign.  After the shock loss of Michigan last week, Hillary’s campaign needed a big win in the rust belt.  In Ohio, she got it.
The two states are significant. Ohio is the ultimate swing state, crucial to Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.  Florida has even more of a history since George W Bush’s controversial “win” in 2000.  At a rally for his wife on Monday, former President Bill Clinton said “You don’t need to explain to Floridians the importance of voting.”
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A morning at the White House

A frisson of expectation sweeps the crowd as the tannoy crackles to life and the announcer declares “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.” The honour guard comes to attention, the band strikes up Hail to the Chief and the most powerful leader in the world emerges. And when moments later, a black SUV sweeps round the drive and stops in front of the White House to deposit Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister… well, perhaps only a visit from the Queen herself would top Washington DC’s current level of excitement.

This was the scene on the South Lawn of the White House as President Barack Obama welcomed his Canadian counterpart to the capital of the United States yesterday. Clutching my ticket, I had joined the great and good of Washington in a line that stretched halfway round the block, excited to be part of the occasion. Three ID and security checks later and I was in.

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What hope for liberalism in the US presidential election?

American history and politics are a passion of mine, so I always look forward to their primary season.

A year when the incumbent President is not seeking reelection is always especially interesting because it means both big parties engage fully in the lengthy process of selecting a candidate. 2016 is such a year.

American politics is unique and finding a viable candidate from what we would call the centre left is difficult. The Republicans have been an almost exclusively right wing conservative party for decades. Even those in the establishment who have resisted the insurgency of the so called tea party can be pretty scary.

Democrats too have shifted rightwards. Bill Clinton founded the ‘New Democrats’ before Blair’s New Labour and, inspite of all the talk of change, the Obama Presidency has turned out to be pretty much business as usual in most areas.On human rights and civil liberties in particular the administration varies little from its predecessors. The prison at Guantanamo Bay remains open and the draconian Patriot Act firmly in place.

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LibLink: Shirley Williams: American democracy is up for sale and it’s a warning to us all

Shirley Williams has been writing for the Independent about the pernicious influence of big money in politics in the US. She writes about the huge amounts of money being poured into Republican campaigns, how this clearly gives them advantages in access to the voters through the media. More worryingly, she outlines what appears to be a strategic approach of using the courts to abolish funding limits and of gerrymandering congressional districts to again give themselves an advantage at the expense of others.

She gives a very stark warning about why this is a bad thing. We need to think that we have a realistic chance of getting rid of our government if we don’t like them. A politics where you have to have the backing of the stinking rich to succeed is not exactly likely to benefit all and will lead to disillusionment:

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Opinion: We should be alert to this threat to Europe!

There’s a new acronym doing the rounds, which I think is a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing. And I fear the party may have fallen for the sheep’s clothing and not seen the wolf.

The acronym is TTIP. It stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which sounds all well and good. And if all it’s doing is promoting free trade between Europe and America, fair enough. But the question we should all be asking is: at what cost?

TTIP has made its way into the election campaign solely as an adjunct to the NHS debate. There are fears that the TTIP agreement – still being negotiated (in secret) by EU and US trade negotiators – will threaten the state funding of medical services. Lib Dem candidates like me are advised by the party’s Policy Response unit to say that Vince Cable has been given several assurances that neither our ability to run the NHS nor our ability to protect the environment will be threatened.

But the threat is bigger than that. A few days ago, Germany’s environment agency UBA expressed serious concern that the EU’s position on the emerging TTIP could weaken environmental protection standards in Europe. It says Europe’s current proposals would breach the democratic principles at the heart of the EU by giving US companies the right to information about EU legislation before the European Parliament or European civil society groups get to hear about it. Lib Dems should be alarmed at this.

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Sir Menzies Campbell says Egypt violence must end after “barbaric” events

In an interview with the BBC News Channel, Sir Menzies Campbell said that the international community, led by the US, should work to bring an end to the violence in Egypt. He described yesterday’s events as barbaric.

He said that the US was best placed to use its leverage, based on its funding to the Egyptian army, to initiate the process towards a sustainable political settlement. While in the long term there were strong arguments for those funds to be reduced, doing so at the moment might do more harm than good as it would remove the ability to set conditions.

He …

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LibLink..Tavish Scott: Our difficult decisions easier than in US

Tavish Scott, Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland, writes in today’s Scotsman contrasting the battle over gun control in the US to the consultation in Scotland over licensing of airguns.

Of the situation in the States in the wake of the awful Sandy Hook shootings last Christmas, Tavish writes:

But Obama senses a moment. The Connecticut shooting was so awful that pressure on Washington lawmakers is now intense. Last week, the president met Sandy Hook families who lost children and then flew them in Air Force 1 to Washington DC. These parents then met lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They asked for mandatory background

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  • User Avatarfrankie 17th Oct - 9:38pm
    Well Mr David you touched on my anonymity and I feel you deserve an explination why anonymous I am and anonymous for the foreseeable future...
  • User AvatarJames Pugh 17th Oct - 9:15pm
    Fortunately this article was written by a Scottish member so the error in the article saying that Alistair Carmichael is "the MP for the Shetland...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 17th Oct - 8:58pm
    Indeed Tim your point 'that a successful Chief Executive needs to be appointed based on their capabilities and strategic thinking,' is absolutely valid. Our point...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 17th Oct - 8:48pm
    Hopefully MPs of several parties will not be running around like headless chickens. They mostly said that they want to read the legal text, which...
  • User AvatarGeoffrey Payne 17th Oct - 8:39pm
    Those of us who are political activists are volunteers and we decide what is important. It seems odd to criticise activists from another political party...
  • User AvatarCllr Mark Wright 17th Oct - 8:38pm
    Game on! :)