4thofeleven: (Default)

“The Hawaiian flag…is suggestive of the prominent political elements of the Islands. It is part French, part English, part American, and is Hawaiian in general.”

 - Mark Twain, Letters from Hawaii

There’s something strange about the sight of the Hawaiian flag, about seeing a banner with the Union Jack so prominent flying over a part of the United States. And yet, the more I travelled in Hawaii, the more appropriate its design seemed to be, the more its presence seemed to sum up the history and character of the islands.

It’s not the only American state flag to incorporate elements of a foreign country’s ensign; Iowa is built around a French tricolour, while Florida and Alabama uses the old Spanish Cross of Burgundy. But Hawaii seems different to them – the Spanish connection in the latter two are too obscure to stand out, while Iowa adds a bald eagle to proudly indicate its American identity. Hawaii, though, the British flag remains recognisably unchanged, and while the stripes feel American, the addition of blue to the familiar red-white pattern gives a sense that this is a culture still not entirely American.

The borrowed crosses of the Union Jack seem quite at home as symbols of Hawaii. They form an eight-pointed star to go with the eight stripes for eight islands. And as the symbol of a foreign nation, they also make it hard to forget that Hawaii was itself a sovereign state, that this is not just the flag of an American state or territory, but of a nation outside the American sphere, whose people did not wish for annexation or absorption, but wished to carve out their own identity, like that of the other empires and kingdoms they'd encountered.

For that matter, the Union Jack in the corner calls to mind less Britain itself, but so many other flags built around that design. It almost seems like a symbol of Pacific identity, a reminder of the ancient connections between Hawaii and its neighbours - Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, New Zealand, and the other nations of Polynesia that use such a design.

The more I saw the flag, the more I liked it. Kamehameha I could not have planned it when he designed his new kingdom’s banner, but the symbolism of it still works beautifully.

4thofeleven: (Default)
A progressive group called on Republican National Committee leader Pat Rogers to step down on Friday after emails showed him telling New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s staff that meeting with a group of American Indians “dishonored” Gen. George Armstrong Custer
- RNC Official: N.M. Governor ‘Dishonored’ Gen. Custer By Meeting With American Indians

Between this and Mitt Romney's comments about 'Anglo-Saxon heritage', did we wander back into the nineteenth century or something? Serioulsy, who still sees Custer as anything but, at best, a warmongering idiot?

And did Custer ever go anywhere near to New Mexico in the first place? My American geography isn't great, but I'm pretty sure Little Bighorn is a fair bit north of NM...


4thofeleven: (Default)
(Found via various tumblrs.)



Obviously, it's a rather unfair comparision. Dukat and Weyoun had charm, at least...

Red States

Jan. 9th, 2012 07:11 pm
4thofeleven: (Default)
"The governor [Mitt Romney] used a term earlier that I shrink from, and it's one that I don't think we should be using as Republicans: "Middle class." There are no classes in America", Santorum said Saturday at a Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire...
- Santorum says there are no classes in the United States


Huh. I was unaware Republican or American political ideology was so focused on the ideal of the classless society. I always associated that with a rather different ideological viewpoint...
4thofeleven: (Default)
Sitting my exams today, one of the questions is on the American Revolution. Don’t remember the exact phrasing, something about whether economics or ideology were the biggest influence on the revolution. I argued economic, pointing out as part of my argument that the American colonies were hardly united and that the revolution’s ideology was largely incoherent, varying greatly depending on who among the revolutionaries you asked. Pretty much the only thing they all had in common was opposition to taxes…

Then, in a later question, about the Haitian revolution, I wrote something along the lines of that Haiti differed from the American revolution in that it really was a mass revolt, while the American revolution was largely led by the established elite, those who were already rich and powerful…

While rereading my answers, it hit me. Holy crap, I thought. The Tea Party really are the heirs of the American Revolution.
4thofeleven: (Eden)
Not a man I normally find myself praising, but in light of current events, I think I’m actually going to give George Bush a few points in hindsight for making an effort after September 2001 to avoid rhetoric that demonized Muslims or Islam in general…
4thofeleven: (Eden)
So, the Republican Party, in an attempt to further harness the power of ranting mobs popular discontent, have started a website designed to ‘increase the dialogue between Americans and their Congress’. You can submit your brilliant ideas on what Congress should do, vote on other people’s brilliant ideas, and, um, earn badges. Because everything needs achievement points, apparently.

Now, I’m not going to mock this idea too hard, because it’s theoretically got potential. Except, for, well, the whole ‘anonymous people on the internet’ factor.

Highlights from the ideas currently posted:

- ‘There ought to be a Constitutional amendment banning cannibalism in every state except Kentucky.’
- ‘Enough is enough! Let law-abiding minors carry handguns to promote personal responsibility.’
- ‘Do ‘The Running Man’, but with unemployed instead of criminals’

Of course, I’m assuming these are all trolls – the true believers are the people posting ideas that are half a page of unpunctuated text that they then submit three or four times. I’m not sure if the racists are beating out the Marijuana advocates, but the Birthers will really have to lift their game to catch up with either of them.

How, exactly, did this website get this far along without someone realising it would need some sort of moderation? And how long before it gets shut down and quietly forgotten about?
One final bit of wisdom, submitted by some unknown person:

- ‘someone told me scientists created artificial life in a lab test tube last week. only God can create artificial animals! why should science be allowed to play god? god made mice and animals.’

Either ‘Only God can create artificial animals!’ or ‘god made mice and animals’ need to become memes, stat.
4thofeleven: (Eden)
So, general consensus is that Rudd won yesterday’s health care debate, owing almost entirely to the fact that Abbott didn’t actually have a policy to debate. One really has to wonder why he agreed to the debate in the first place when he’s openly admitting the Opposition doesn’t have a health policy at the moment. As it is, the ‘debate’ ended up largely a question and answer session on Rudd’s policy with Abbott left with nothing to contribute than the occasional rather childish insult.

Meanwhile, the US has actually made its first tenuous steps towards something that could possibly be considered an adequate health system. A lot of comentators seem to be treating the failure of any Republican representative to support the bill as the death-knell of the Republican party. (Of course, a few weeks ago, the failure to pass the bill was being treated by many of the same observers as the death-knell of the Obama administration.) I’m not convinced – it might cost them some votes in the short term, but the level of party unity the Republicans have can only be an asset in the long term, and from a policy point of view, their refusal to compromise gives ultimate power to the conservative wing of the Democratic party, moving the moderate position further right.
4thofeleven: (Default)
Bleh. Had to present an in-character defense of Southern succession in the American Civil War history tute today. I think I need a shower.

Oddity in the readings – George Fitzhugh’s “Cannibals All!” offers a defence of slavery by claiming that northern free labourers were worse off because they had terrible wages and working conditions but didn’t have the security of slaves and weren’t guaranteed food or housing. Alright, a lot of defenders of slavery argued that. But he goes a step further, and argues “Slavery is a form of communism, and as the abolitionists and socialists have resolved to adopt a new social system, we recommend it to their consideration.”

Now there’s an interesting political what-if – not Confederate Socialism, but what if Fitzhugh’s argument gained prominence in histories of the Civil War? We could have the Confederacy being painted by American historians and popular culture as the nineteenth century Soviet Union, and the Republican party could claim their first leader as the first anti-communist. No Republican Southern Strategy, of course, and the deep south would presumably remain strongly Democratic. And what of the impact on the American labour movement, if socialism was even more demonized than it was in our world?
4thofeleven: (Eden)
A random thought – it occurs to me one of the reasons I’m less than engrossed by “The West Wing” is that real American politics is far more entertaining and has much more exciting storylines… Certainly more interesting than Australian politics, where the opposition has decided to show off its new found environmental concerns by announcing a bold plan to deal with climate change… namely, eliminating Australia’s feral camel population.

The Massachusetts election is interesting – in terms of voter mood, I’m not sure there’s anything there that can be projected nation-wide, and as far as its effects, it doesn’t mean that much. The Democrats never really had sixty senate seats – delays in seating new senators, the death of Kennedy, and Lieberman’s unreliability means not that much has really been lost. On the other hand, losing a traditionally safe Democratic seat on the anniversary of Obama’s inauguration will have serious symbolic power, and it will be interesting to see the reaction.

Theoretically, this might actually help the Democratic party in the long run – rather than chasing after the impossible goal of sixty senate votes, they might remember they actually do still have a majority and can still do stuff with that – giving them a little flexibility when it comes to recalcitrant members of their own party. It might also serve as a wake-up call to Obama and his advisors that the honeymoon is well and truly over and they need to at least look like they’re fighting for their goals, even if they’re not achieving anything yet.

Of course, if history is any guide, that won’t happen, and the Democratic party will instead panic and begin shifting even further to the right in another futile effort to win over independent voters. The sad thing is that in 2008 the Democratic party really had an opportunity to take advantage of populist anger and finally shed their reputation as being ineffectual and out-of-touch. Instead, they cozied up to business interests again, and Obama’s popular appeal has melted away to be replaced with the reactionary demagoguery of the tea baggers…
4thofeleven: (Eden)
- The Victorian state election will be a rather quiet affair, with both parties trying very hard not to publicise their own existence, due largely to both of them being utterly incompetent. Don't want to place any wagers on the outcome, I suspect it will be very close.

- The Federal ALP will continue holding the threat of a double-dissolution election over the opposition's head for most of the year, but will end up going for just a regular senate election in the end, probably around late September. Despite Tony Abbot's vaunted 'people skills' and charisma, the Liberals will fail to make any real inroads against Labor's popularity, due to a combination of infighting, lack of any real policy, and the fact that everyone hates him.

- The British general election will prove slightly less of a total disaster for Labor than expected, but will still be a landslide win for the Conservatives. Various political commentators will take this as proof of their own pet theories, ignoring the fact that Labor's collapse had been obvious for years.

- The Republicans will pick up a handful of senate seats in the US congressional elections; various people who should know better will take this as proof that the American public is inherently right-wing, having failed to notice the results owe less to a swing to the right as much as the result of a diminished turnout among left-leaning voters, due to voter apathy towards a seemingly ineffectual Democratic government.

- Justifications for the Afghanistan war will become increasingly unclear, as it becomes increasingly obvious that the Karzai government is both utterly corrupt and lacks any real local support. No real progress will be made by coalition forces, owing to it being unclear as to what would qualify as 'progress'. So, same as usual.

- At least one of these predictions will prove utterly and embarrassingly wrong.

Lost Hope

Sep. 14th, 2009 04:50 pm
4thofeleven: (Default)
So, maybe I’m just cynical, but am I the only one thinking Obama’s starting to look increasingly like a one-term president? His health-care reform seems to be dead in the water – at best, he might scrape through the bare minimum of what’s needed. On foreign policy, Afghanistan’s as much of a mess as it was under Bush with the recent election turning out to be a farce, while no progress has been made with Iran or North Korea’s nuclear programs. The economy’s recovering, but as far as unemployment goes, the recovery is largely theoretical.

Now, granted, predicting elections three years in advance from another country is something of a fool’s game, but it does seem to me the Democratic party is going to suffer from depressed voter turnout in the 2010 congressional elections, while the crackpot wing of the Republican party will be out in force. Obama’s having enough trouble getting things done now; what on earth will he be able to accomplish if his party lose a few key seats in the Senate? And without real accomplishments to point to, in 2012 he won’t be able to run as the candidate of hope and change; rather he’ll be the candidate of broken promises and ineffectual leadership.

The problem I see is that Obama seems to actually believe in bipartisanship. The thing is bipartisanship in politics isn’t really a philosophy you're meant actually follow; it’s a big stick you hit the opposition with. “Why are you being so partisan?” you demand, to get them to go along with your own policies in the name of unity. Obama, as the candidate of change, was in a perfect position to constantly paint his opponents as out of touch obstructionist old fogeys – and he hasn’t. He seems oddly naïve about the realities of party politics; never give your opponents an inch of ground, because they'll only see you as weak.

Granted, US politics are very different from Australian politics. But it does seem to me that so far Obama’s squandered a lot of the opportunity he had for very little gain, and he’s going to have real trouble getting voters to muster the same sort of enthusiasm as they had last time.
4thofeleven: (denny crane)
You know what's kind of disappointing about the various political crackpots in the US today? Realising that there's never going to be a Boston Legal episode about them...
4thofeleven: (Default)

“President Obama expressed regret yesterday over a comment that has plunged his administration into a polarizing national debate over race, and he invited the two men at its center - a white police officer and an African American scholar - to join him at the White House for a beer.”
   - “Obama Regrets his Police Words”, Philadelphia Inquirer
 
 
Alright, maybe I’m weird, but this would really annoy me if I were Professor Gates. I mean, there’s no way he can politely turn down the invitation without looking like the bad guy. That doesn’t strike me as very fair, since it seems to me he’s entirely within his rights to maintain a grudge for the rest of his life rather than having to agree to a meeting with the police officer who he, presumably, would much rather never see again in his life.
 
I mean, hell, I’ve had plenty of confrontations with authority figures in my life. Sometimes I was in the right, sometimes I wasn’t, most of the times when I was in the right I handled the situation extremely poorly. Now it seems to me that Gates probably didn’t handle the situation particularly tactfully. On the other hand, he was being accused of breaking into his own house then being handcuffed after offering proof of his identity, so it’s pretty understandable that he wasn’t in a very charitable state of mind.

But then Obama decides to weigh into the discussion of the incident. Not entirely of his own choice, he was asked about it, but he could have been non-committal from the beginning. Instead, he makes the - fairly understandable - statement that he thinks the police were pretty stupid to do what they did. A day later, surprise surprise, it turns out the police didn’t appreciate that analysis. So now he’s asking everyone involved to come meet him at the White House and pretend they’re completely over the incident so he can quickly distance himself from his own statement.

And, like I said, there’s really no way Professor Gates – or the officer - can diplomatically say “Fix your own mess; I didn’t ask you to get involved, and I’m not participating in this charade just so you can restore your reputation as a moderate.”
4thofeleven: (Default)

Sarah Palin will either not run for president in 2012, or if she does, will not make it out of the primaries.

I thought I'd record this prediction for future reference because I'm seeing a lot of doomsaying both on American blogs and, oddly, in the Australian media from people convinced that her resignation is somehow part of some machivellian plot to better position herself for a run for the White House. I don't see this happening, and if that is what she's planning, I'm looking forward to watching her crash and burn over the next few years.

Yes, yes, Bush was elected despite being largely incoherent and innept - but he at least had a few terms as Texas governor under his belt. Even the most die-hard Republicans are going to think twice before nominating someone who's main achivements are 'Failed vice-presidential bid' and 'single incomplete term as Alaskan governor', especially against an incumbant Obama.

If I'm wrong... well, she still wouldn't stand a chance of actually winning, and it'd be a damned entertaining election.


4thofeleven: (Default)
 
President Barack Obama's administration strongly denied a British report on Thursday that images of apparent rape and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners are among photographs that it is trying to prevent being made public...

..."Let's just say if I wanted to read a write-up today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not entirely sure it'd be the first stack of clips I picked up," [White House Spokesman] Gibbs said.

- U.S. slams British press over report of abuse photos, Reuters

So, it appears one of the big changes in White House policy is that while the Bush administration was characterised by an open contempt for continental Europe, the Obama administration is willing to be a little broader, and will now also show contempt towards the UK as well.

Personally, I'm not especially fond of the British press myself - but the Telegraph isn't exactly the Sun - and I'd trust it more than I would the US media... and definitely more than I would the White House, which has not exactly done anything recently to convince anyone of its openness or honesty.

And considering what we already know about the treatment of prisoners in US custody, quite frankly nothing would shock or surprise me at this point.
 

 

4thofeleven: (Default)

There’s an opinion piece up at The Root, arguing that Obama is not Spock.

“The notion of Barack as Spock keeps him at a distance. He has always been “other”—and now, some would suggest, he is an actual alien.”

I will admit, speaking as a white guy in Australia… the whole Obama=Spock meme - which I've seen repeated in quite a few places - has struck me as a little… off. I’m aware it’s mean to be complimentary, but there are… issues with making the argument that “Obama’s just like that passionless half-breed alien!”

And on that note, I was a little baffled after seeing the movie to look back on a couple of reviews that had, bizarrely, made a big deal about the new film embodying the new hopeful energy of the Obama era or something. Now granted, I’ve never bought into Obama’s appeal in the first place, so maybe I'm missing something obvious – but let’s look at the movie itself:

A bunch of ungrateful foreigners decide to launch an unprovoked terrorist attack at the heart of America the Federation. In the wake of this catastrophe, some people think we need to regroup and coordinate with the rest of the fleet and the other Federated worlds, but as the movie makes clear, the correct response is instead to run off half-cocked under the command of the brash young American who totally knows what to do because of his secret information source that he can’t talk to anyone about. And hooray, it all works out for the best!

I would rather hope that sort of narrative is not the sort of thing people elected Obama for…
4thofeleven: (Default)
"The Republican Party has turned a corner, and as we move forward Republicans should take a lesson from Ronald Reagan. Again, we’re not looking back – if President Reagan were here today he would have no patience for Americans who looked backward. Ronald Reagan always believed Republicans should apply our conservative principles to current and future challenges facing America. For Reagan’s conservatism to take root in the next generation we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age."
- RNC Chairman Michael Steele

The Republican party - boldly looking forward to twenty years ago!
 


4thofeleven: (Default)
"You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a catapiller in the box with him."
  - TIME, 'Bush Torture Memo Approved Use of Insects'


"'You asked me once,' said O'Brien, 'what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.'...
...'The worst thing in the world,' said O'Brien, 'varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.'...
 ...'In your case,' said O'Brien, 'the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.'"
  - George Orwell, 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'
 



4thofeleven: (Fey'lya)
I had a very snarky post written up concerning the Obama inauguration, but I thought better of it and didn’t post it.

One thing though – did tonight’s news really need to be 95%+ inauguration? I’m fairly sure they didn’t devote this much time to Kevin Rudd’s swearing in. Hard as it may be to remember, Obama is, in fact, a foreign head of state, not the new World-Emperor.

And if you are going to devote that much time to a foreign change of government, at least offer some analysis? Some context? Something more than “Wow, there’s a lot of people in Washington” and “People elsewhere in the US watched the inauguration… on TV! Wow!”. Closest to actual reporting we got was one idiot ‘expert’ explaining that Obama plans on focusing on ‘smart power’. Well, that’ll be a welcome change, but that doesn’t exactly mean anything unless you explain what he’s planning on achieving with that power, yes?

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