Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Obama Independence Day

The image above was posted on Facebook by somebody that I went to high school with. It is ironic that the man who gained national attention for a speech that highlighted similarities in people of different backgrounds is seen as such a divisive president. Since I am both of those things and do both of those things, this image, and my perceived lack of status as a “real American” in the eyes of my former classmate, got me thinking about the American revolution.

Can you imagine the American revolution occurring today? Can you imagine a group of revolutionaries whose every statement is critiqued on Twitter and cable news? Can you imagine a relatively small group of radicals leading a revolution and then watching in horror as their conservative neighbors elect a president who is not aligned with the ideals of increased freedom and equality that the revolution stood for? Can you imagine the efforts of CEOs and politicians to maintain their power under a new regime? Can you imagine the futility of trying to create a constitution that unites a bitterly partisan country? Can you imagine the economic devastation that endless arguments would bring as regular people try to go about their daily lives in the face of grave uncertainty?

To me, these thoughts reinforce the idea that we need to work to improve our country from the inside out. Despite the large (and seemingly growing) differences in our country between liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, corporations and employees, we are lucky to have a guiding document that was crafted over 200 years ago, because I don’t think we would get very far if we had to start all over again.

Good luck, Egypt.

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Following Obama’s comments about education during the State of the Union, David Shribman refutes the argument that the value of a college degree can be quantified on a scorecard (look up your own school here). He states:

Where the president has gone wrong — along with those college trustees contributing to the 39 percent decline in the number of liberal arts institutions — is in assuming that Americans need to be trained for a living rather than educated for life. This is more than a semantic distinction. It is the difference between reading Shakespeare in college and mastering accounting.

This is the sort of argument that many faculty members have been making, but it seems that the view of student-as-consumer, however flawed, is inescapable.

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A recent Washington Post editorial questioned Obama for failing to pardon more people.  As the article states:

Mr. Obama has thus far extended mercy to a mere 17 individuals, most of whom committed relatively minor offenses decades ago. … At this pace, Mr. Obama is likely to fall below the 189 pardons issued by George W. Bush — the modern president with the worst track record in this area.

Mr. Obama need only look to the thousands of Americans — many of them young, African American men — incarcerated for inexcusably lengthy periods because of draconian crack cocaine laws. Mr. Obama joined with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to reduce the penalties and make them more proportional to the crime. Some inmates may benefit from a U.S. Sentencing Commission decision this summer that allows judges to resentence inmates under new guidelines reflecting the penalty reductions. But many nonviolent offenders worthy of relief will be out of luck because they were sentenced to mandatory minimum prison terms. This is exactly the kind of situation that cries out for presidential intervention.

Aside from the interesting framing of a president failing to pardon people that the criminal justice system has dealt with as a problem – note that Bush has the “worst” track record in this area for his paltry number of pardons – is it really hard to imagine the backlash that the first black president would face if he decided to pardon thousands of young, African American men incarcerated under laws that began in the Reagan era?

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Given that Obama ran on a platform of change in 2008, one of the things that has been most interesting to me about this year’s crop of political ads is the framing used by Republicans.  I’ve seen a number of ads noting how incumbents have been “responsible” for skyrocketing unemployment.  I’ve also seen a number of ads mentioning the “failed stimulus.”  In some cases, it seems that candidates are saying, “Remember what  you voted for in 2008?  Well, some people have actually been trying to do those things.  It is time to vote them out!”  In response to this rhetoric, I wonder why more candidates haven’t taken the approach of this campaign ad from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers:

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Religion may prevent socially disapproved behaviors because of an omniscient, judging other (panopticon religion), but it also prevents individuals from taking action because of a promised “better” life ahead (opiate religion).  It appears that religion is failing us on both fronts.  The potential presense of an omnisicient, judging other does not prevent all of us from doing reprehensible acts, nor does it allow all of us to accept these acts because of a promised “better” life ahead.  Because of this, we look for earthly solutions.

Some make much more money than others, so we tax them at higher rates; some businesses are harmful to the environment, so we create environmental regulations; some are rewarded for the failure of their companies, so we create pay limits.  In each case, there are loopholes.

Escape HatchesIf Obama really were a deity we wouldn’t have these problems.  As it is, the chance of getting caught and punished for abusing these loopholes appears to be continually outweighed by the potential gains that come with taking advantage of them.  If society were a prison, we could implement Bentham’s panopticon in order to create the illusion of an omniscient other and, thus, prevent these behaviors.  In case you haven’t noticed, however, society is not a prison.

The failure of religion, social norms, and actual regulations to regulate these behaviors creates a situation in which it is easy enough to conclude that we need increased governmental controls on behaviors such as these for the good of the people!  We need a digital panopticon!  Two-way screens in every room to protect us from the worst among us!


I love Big Brother.

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Continuing on the presidential theme, below is what will probably be the most discussed aspect of last night’s press conference.  It is interesting (and refreshing) to watch the president thinking things through.

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Life inside the White House isn’t all fun and games.

Obama Meeting

But some of it is.

Obama Football

More photos available on the Official White House Photostream.

Via:  Daring Fireball

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Loss of liberty

You may have noticed that since Obama took office some have cried that we are one step away from a totalitarian regime in which we have neither liberty nor freedom.  Some have even decided to go Galt, curtailing their incomes to stick it to the taxman.  Noted pundit J. Stewart examines the allegations below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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A recent article on ABCNews.com quotes individuals who are interested in reducing their incomes by just enough to avoid earning over $250,000 this year because they fear the tax increases (a.k.a. repeal of Bush tax cuts) that Obama plans to implement.  Of course, families earning less than $250,000 will see “not one dime” of additional taxes, as anybody who has seen Obama speak in the past year or so knows.

Obviously, earning nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year does not mean that you understand the tax code, since the US has a marginal tax rate, meaning that only earnings over $250,000 are taxed at the higher rate.  Thankfully, a new version of the article explains this.

Possibly because of the arcane procedures for filing taxes in the US, issues such as these are not easily understood.  It will be interesting to see how my own taxes are affected by the process of going from a barely-paid graduate student to a reasonably-paid assistant professor.

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