Tag Archives: Barack Obama

10 Ballot measures to Watch in Tonight’s U.S. election

Tonight President Barack Obama will be re-elected, Democrats will keep the Senate and for no apparent reason the Republicans will keep the House of Representatives for another 2 years. More awesomely, Wisconsin is going to elect America’s first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin. As a politics nerd, I always like to watch a number of ballot measures (mostly because it lets me repeatedly use the plural “referenda” as much as humanly possible) because they can have as large/damaging/excellent effect as the Presidential ticket, and they can be really interesting/weird. Here are 10 measures to watch tonight:

Marriage Equality:

Maine, Maryland, Washington State and Minnesota all have same-sex marriage ballot initiatives  The first 3 have affirmative ones and Minnesota’s is to take away rights from same-sex couples by banning SSM. Tonight could be the first time same-sex marriage is approved by a popular vote. It is terrible that human rights are being put to a vote but these 4 states give me hope. Check out The Advocate for live coverage of all LGBTQ issues on election day.

Cannabis Legalization:

Colorado, Oregon and Washington all have ballot measures to legalize marijuana. All 3 states already have medicinal marijuana. These ballot measures have been polling positively in Washington State and Colorado, but surprisingly not in Oregon. The pro-legalization side in Colorado is called “The Colorado Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” which is exactly how legalization advocates should make their case.

Death Penalty/3 Strikes Law in California: 

2 awesome ballot measures in California are 34 and 36. 34 would get rid of the death penalty in the state of California ( I don’t think this will pass but I’m still hopeful) and 36 will get rid of California’s “three strikes” law which has lead to California’s overcrowded prisons and has been devastating for those in California living in poverty. This is the kind of regressive legislation you could see Stephen Harper’s government putting forward and I’m glad it seems to be heading for repeal.

The Plutocrat and the Bridge:

Proposal 6 in Michigan could have a profound affect on Canadian-American relations. Proposal 6 would amend Michigan’s constitution, so that if the state ever wants to build a “new international bridge or tunnel,” the whole state–and each affected municipality–would have to first hold a referendum. The Ambassador Bridge (between Detroit and Windsor) is 85 years old and is owned by one man, Manuel  Moroun. Mr. Moroun is a billionaire trucking magnate and he doesn’t want a competing bridge.  Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder (as well as Canada’s government) have come out strong against this ballot measure. It is bad for trade between Canada and the United States and is the perfect example of the new politics of plutocracy that seems to have taken over parts of the United States in the new post-Citizens United world.

President Obama commits to high-speed rail in his 2011 SOTU!

This clip is from the energy section of the State of the Union speech. President Obama followed his promise to get rid of $4 billion worth of government subsidies to oil companies with a commitment to “bring high-speed rail to 80% of Americans within 25 years.” President Obama knows that high-speed rail is good for manufacturing in the short-term and produces many long-term benefits (economically and environmentally.)

The Liberal Party of Canada should commit to high-speed rail. Many journalists/political scientists have determined that Stephen Harper’s biggest weakness is his lack of vision. Bullet trains could be just the thing to capture the Canadian imagination and take the fight to PM Harper.

Stephen Harper’s Attack Ads

– Stephen Harper said to Republicans down South: “Your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.”
– Stephen Harper has imitated the Republic’s failed environmental policies, failed foreign policies, failed drug policies, failed economic policies and has divided Canadians like Republics divided America.
– Now Mr. Harper has stolen the 2008 Republican candidate for President John McCain’s failed negative campaign strategy:

Globe and Mail Compares Future Prime Minister to Current President and Past Prime Minister

– I welcome the comparison of Michael Ignatieff to Pierre Trudeau and Barack Obama. They are all inspiring leaders, all are public intellectuals, all represent/represented change and all upset the status quo to lead their country (that will be true for Mr. Ignatieff is the near future.)
– The problem with Stephen Harper is that his policies all have a “win votes now” philosophy behind them. Michael Ignatieff, as a historian, political philosopher and intellectual is able to grasp the bigger picture. Foreign policy affects economic policy, ecological policy can affect the economy, health care policy can affect crime; the leader of the government should be able to see how everything is connected. This is not possible when your policies have no depth like those of Prime Minister Harper.
– Michael Ignatieff’s family history is very epic and very Canadian.
– Ideally Canadian politics should be about public discourse, competition of ideas, thoughtful decisive action (all of this is was Mr. Ignatieff represents) and not the politics of fear, division and patronage (which Mr. Harper represents.)
– Stephen Harper is the Canadian equivalent of President George W. Bush. He has ruled with fear, took us from surplus to deficit, pursued regressive crime/drug policies, fought against scientific development, worked to subvert democracy by putting all the power in his hands, acted in a very cloistered and un-transparent manner, and pursued foreign policy that has worked to undo a lot of what the Liberal party has worked to achieve from the end of World War II. We need our own Obama to replace our Georoge Bush.
An atypical politician with a pen

There are many differences between Barack Obama and Michael Ignatieff, but one that struck me as I was reading Mr. Ignatieff’s True Patriot Love is that while Mr. Obama is a politician who can write, Mr. Ignatieff is a writer who can be a politician.

Both are men of ideas, but the true nature of the American President lies in his formidable political skills – the easy charm, the inspiring speeches, the soft diplomatic approach to problems, the (almost) flawless way he manages to diffuse controversies. The true nature of the new Liberal leader lies in his love of writing. He is part-novelist, part-historian, part-political philosopher. Mr. Obama knows how to tell a story (preferably his own) to his advantage. Mr. Ignatieff is simply, like all born writers, very good at telling a story – any kind of story, his own or that of others. For a politician, however, this gift can be a trap, since writers are independent minds who get carried away with words at the risk of forgetting words might have a political fallout.

The Russian Album, the epic tale of Mr. Ignatieff’s paternal ancestors, was a delightful read. This new book is about three generations of Grants, on his mother’s side. The subject is certainly not as exciting and romantic as the story of the Ignatieffs. The intellectual biography of austere Canadian Protestants of Scottish origin cannot be as gripping as the extraordinary lives of Russian aristocrats who played a prominent role in czarist Russia before taking the painful road of exile. Yet True Patriot Love is a lively, interesting, even entertaining book. I especially enjoyed the chapter about his great-grandfather’s exploration of the West. (George Monro Grant was part of the first expedition that mapped the course of the Canadian Pacific Railway and wrote a book about his journey.) Mr. Ignatieff, who retraced these steps in 2000, conveys the sense of wonder of his ancestor as he discovers the vast expanse of the Prairies, as well as his compassion at the sight of the misery of aboriginal Canadians.

Of course, one cannot help feeling the political manipulation. The story of the Grants – public intellectuals who in different eras and in different ways were obsessed with the destiny of Canada – is tailored for a politician who wants to be prime minister of Canada. Mr. Ignatieff wants to be seen as their inheritor, the one who will give Canada the prominent role his ancestors dreamed of.

This book is also, obviously, a way to show off his “roots” – a response to those who reproach him his 30-year absence from Canada. Mr. Ignatieff started the book six years before his jump into politics, but the introduction and the afterword, written recently, are filled with political clichés and sanctimonious pronouncements. (Granted, they are more readable than the usual political “manifesto.”)

Mr. Ignatieff is an atypical politician given that he lives in a country where politicians don’t write. This is a sharp contrast with France, where any respectable political figure feels obliged to publish more than one book. The rare books authored by our political leaders were written by professionals hired for the job. Either they were crude attempts at boosting a leader’s image before an election or, like the recent memoirs of Messrs. Mulroney and Chrétien, intended to provide a self-congratulatory interpretation of their years in power.

The only genuine intellectual to lead a political party in Canada was Pierre Trudeau, whose earlier political essays were masterworks that have indeed become classic reading for anyone interested in political philosophy. But Mr. Trudeau was a Cartesian thinker, with a dry, slightly cynical turn of mind. He could write splendid essays but he would never have thought of writing a novel, let alone a story about his family. Mr. Ignatieff is another sort of writer – more imaginative, more romantic. Perhaps too much for his own good, now that he’s left the world of ideas and emotions for the hard field of politics. We’ll see.