Electricity & Lust

Select Thoughts on the US Election

Posted in Politics by Sam Unsted on September 16, 2008

I haven’t been as closely following the election since the exit of Hillary. In the run-up to the convention, little interesting happened on either side to peak my curiosity to start back up on the train but, and it’s been a fairly significant but, the last couple of weeks have finally provided some fuel for the fire and I’m starting to really begin to read and check up on the campaigns.

The first catalyst was Obama’s speech at the convention which was pretty great, if a little short on the substance that I would have wanted. If his was short on substance and heavy policy though, McCain’s was far worse. To have a vague chance of stopping Obama, McCain will have to stop trotting out Bush-era cliches and stop making Bush-era faux pas all over the shop and refocus. Either that, or apparently he can just select a woman from Alaska he’s only met once before and who has almost no relevant experience to be his running mate and the religious right will come a-running. I wouldn’t want to get focusing on the experience angle really, given that a) that’s precisely the argument used against Obama constantly and, b) it’s a ridiculous argument from all sides because almost no job can really prepare someone for the presidency of the most powerful nation on the planet.

I don’t like Palin. Not because she’s a woman, a mother, a Christian or even, subsequently a semi-creationist. Not because of her seemingly blighted and unattractive record in the past as regards her personal dealings. Not because she seems to have flip-flopped on a few points here and there to gain currency. Not because her daughter is the perfect argument against abstinence-only or because her baby-daddy is the perfect example of a teenage father. Not even because she said that she would have made her daughter keep the baby even if it was the product of a rape. I dislike and wouldn’t vote for her on these things but I don’t hate her. I hate her because John McCain’s picking her confirms his confidence in the utter stupidity of certain parts of the voting spectrum in the US, those who will vote for her no matter her policies or beliefs, her past or her record. Those who will vote for her because she is a woman. Interviews conducted outside the DNC indicated that a great deal of people still exist who think Hillary should be president and further more who will vote for McCain now because a female is on the ticket. Her presence on the ballot provides a truly terrible section of voting foolishness to be indulged and McCain’s confidence in this makes me sad, very sad indeed.

What may play now though is a return for fundamentals. The Washington Post wrote about this today and it seems like a strong argument. Given the shocking last week and a bit in the US banking and financial services market, it seems only right that focus should begin to shift away from the tabloid gossiping and shouting of Palin and the conventions and move over the fundamentals of election politics. The economy is likely to become central and no sooner has it than McCain has stuck his foot clean in it. Strong fundamentals? He comes out and praises the resiliency of the banking market, and then slightly alters it to cover his ass, after the following things have happened.

  1. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants that guarantee somewhere in the region of $3tn of the US market, are essentially nationalised and taken under the control of the Federal Government. This effective nationalisation places the burden of these two institutions, seriously hammered by the crash of the US sub-prime market, on the taxpayer. When this happened in the UK with Northern Rock, heads rolled and Gordon Brown began his descent into being the most hated man in the country.
  2. Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank in Wall Street and an illustrious institution with a 150-year-plus history, declared bankruptcy on Monday morning. It had spent the entire past week trying to find rescue funding, eventually failing because Barclays pulled out of a buy because the government wouldn’t guarantee its liabilities. It’s bankruptcy filing has sent the FTSE and the Dow hurtling lower and today hammered shares in Asia too. It is the largest insolvency declaration ever. EVER.
  3. Merrill Lynch, another mega-investment bank, follows Lehman and Bear Stearns into finding rescue funding, selling to the Bank of America before speculators could bring it to its knees. Bank of America is paying $50bn to buy the bank and is now a super-size financial institution to rival Citigroup and HSBC. This is good in the sense that the bank has been bought and can’t help to further depress markets but it means Bank of America is now so flipping huge, it can’t really succeed.
  4. AIG, the US insurance giant long-troubled due to its place as a major insurer of financial products, went to the Fed for emergency funding. Subsequent reports are suggesting this isn’t going to work given the concerns raised by the major ratings agencies over the future of the company. If AIG collapses, which it really could, the US market will almost certainly fall into recession. The only hope now is that the two still-strong investment bank on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, will provide $75bn in emergency funding to the group.
Now if you consider all of these, and of course the inflationary pressures, the hammering taken by equities across the board and the volatility of oil prices, I don’t know how much optimism you can really have about the market. About the only folks who might well be able to find some solace in the crushing depression of the markets will be the chief executives who, although likely and deservedly heading for the chopping block, will probably see pay offs well into eight figures. If McCain feels like he wants to hold this optimism, he either knows something we don’t or knows nothing we do.
It would be wonderful if the election can now get back to the fundamentals. This will allow Joe Biden to start to flex his muscles on national security issues and allow Palin to make some terrible statements in more important stages than in the circus that surrounded her appointment. It will allow Obama to make some more great, true speeches about the issues that really face the country and maybe it will give McCain a chance to show us all the man that originally garnered so much praise as a progressive Republican. Maybe, if it really gets down to good, strong politics, we will get to see two strong candidates emerge and we can go into November without too much fear that the last eight years will be repeated.
Consider that for a moment. Consider the legacy of Bush and how badly the world cannot have that for another eight years. He will leave office with a quagmire war, a chunky deficit and a recessionary economy. We can’t have another Bush. So right now, we also can’t have a McCain.
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Political Weekend

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on June 22, 2008

UK

Our new key political enemy in the UK? The Grey Squirrel.

Gordon Brown is pleading for help from oil-rich nations on nuclear energy in the UK.

29% of secondary schools in the UK have sexual health clinics.

Labour is careering towards financial disaster.

Apparently we are also leading the world in arms sales.

MPs want money for second homes.

Brown’s plans for eco-housing are being attacked as just hot air.

The Anglican church is divided over the recent marriage of two gay priests and leading bishops will boycott the Lambeth conference

Could the intense criticism of Brown from the Conservatives backfire?

Stagflation in our economy will not be like it was in the 1970s.

World

Unicef say children have been targeted in the war in Haiti.

155 people have died in a typhoon in the Philippines. A ferry, carrying 700, has been hit by the disaster.

Brazil, and the mystery of the not-so-undiscovered tribe.

Violence in Zimbabwe continues and seems to have been meticulously planned.

(more…)

Political Weekend (a day late, sorry)

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on June 9, 2008

US

So Obama won last week, officially. Plus Hillary’s getting right behind him.

But what will it take for her people to really get behind Obama?

Maureen Dowd praises her acting skills.

Why did her campaign go wrong though?

For the Clinton clan, this is a pretty huge change for their lives to take.

Peggy Noonan thinks the American people dodged a bullet.

Here’s an interesting thought, could she be predicating a future run on a failure this year for Obama?

Frank Rich concentrates more on the enormous gap in political philosophy between Obama and McCain.

Jesse Jackson thinks Hillary’s a strong candidate for vice-president.

Obama’s received the endorsement of Kurt Beck, the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats Party. The move represents a key break from tradition of German politics.

Obama has much to do however, and little time to do it in.

Andrew Sullivan and Marc Ambinder consider an Obama presidency.

(more…)

Politics Sunday

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on June 1, 2008

Scott McLellan, the tell-all Bush staffer who this week launched a book telling all sorts of terrible things about the Bush administration, five years too late.

UK

Internal documents claim Labour has failed the UK on crime.

Brown is being told to drop his Scots.

That could become a key issue.

Brown’s problems right now seem everywhere.

US

The DNC is closing its meetings on the delegates from Florida and Michigan with half votes for each (overall favours Obama). Democrats have quite rightly been contesting the whole deal.

Hillary’s reserving her right to protest.

Some Clinton supports still say they would vote for McCain if Obama gets the nomination… Matthew Yglesias discusses the flaws in this foolish plan.

(more…)

Political Weekend

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on May 25, 2008

Just a reminder for those who do enjoy the political linkage, check out the Slate Political Gabfest and KCRW’s Left, Right and Center podcasts. Both are excellent. For the British politics, try the BBC’s Weekly Political Review.

UK

Gordon Brown is being put under pressure appoint a viable successor as deputy.

Allegedly, ‘Blair-ite’ left-wing figures are plotting and have approached someone to consider taking the job.

The leading candidate at the moment is Miliband.

What about Alan Johnson though?

John Rentoul says only Labour can really be blamed for this.

It should also be noted this week that our government rejected restrictions on IVF (which really pissed off The Daily Mail and therefore must be good) which would have discriminated against lesbian and gay couples seeking adoption and we voted to keep the current upper abortion limit at 24 weeks.

US

One must-read this week, George Packer’s excellent piece from The New Yorker on the fall of conservatism in America.

He’s been getting a few responses since publishing the essay.

(more…)

Politicker

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on May 14, 2008

Why won’t Hillary concede??

The MoD has launched an investigation into the death of Baha Mousa, who died in a British detention centre in 2003.

Gordon Brown is targeting families with his back-peddling over taxation legislation changes.

Obama is moving to woo blue-collar voters after Hillary’s win in the West Virginia primary.

A win that’s unlikely to change anything.

The Great Debaters. Who would win between Obama and McCain?

Robert Scheer comments on torture and intelligence in America.

The Political Grab Bag

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on May 12, 2008

Cherie Blair… why? Just why? What purpose? This is her latest revelation.

There’s basically all out civil war in the Labour party right now.

If the Tories don’t cock it up, they’ve a clear path to power.

Is Cameron really a progressive?

Tim Hames says he needs to stop worrying about offending.

Was New Labour ever anything more than a media construct?

Would Obama really aid relations with the Muslim world?

An Obama-McCain battle could give the US its first election of ideas and issues rather than snipes and character assassination.

The environment is key to McCain.

It took Clinton too long to get going.

The role of the US in assassinations in Mexico.

Not to miss out on the family legacy, Mr Jenna Bush is getting in on the act.

Politic-ing for the Weekend

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on May 11, 2008

John Dickerson comments on Hillary and the issue of race in this democratic election.

Hillary has certainly done a good job of dividing the party on race lines.

Well, at least, if she continues her current attacks, that’s what will happen.

But has she fallen too far? Could it soon be finally over?

By June 15? Done by then?

Michael Tackett still thinks her candidacy is a success.

Superdelegates are certainly siding with Obama.

Time explores the impact of his campaigning roots in Chicago.

He’s remaining cool under pressure.

But Wolfson says he’s neglecting West Virginians.

What about an Obama/Clinton ticket?

She could be a plotting vice to Obama’s President.

Reihan Salam thinks picking her would be a huge mistake.

Matthew Yglesias agrees and adds that many more better-suited candidates for the position exist.

Over this though, Michelle Obama has vetoed the idea.

Does America remain reluctant to address the issue of racism?

John McCain’s judge selections will please Bush voters.

Apparently, an African American running mate for the ol’ dog isn’t really needed.

The lack of interest in his fundamentalist connections is appalling.

But what about those older voters…

(more…)

Politics Weekend

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on May 4, 2008

MUST READ – Let’s look at all the elephants in the room… including the white ones.

In that spirit, McCain has his own Rev. Wright in waiting. And he’s served time for Watergate.

There’s arguments to say though that McCain is a true conservative.

Seriously though, check the guy’s foreign policy.

How will the US accomplish success in Iraq.

Guantanamo and the destruction of the American reputation.

Obama versus Clinton. Bill, that is.

He’s edging closer to the official nomination now.

He’s using the personal touch in Indiana.

Keep in mind though the Wright scandal. Bill Maher described Wright eloquently on his season closer as a ‘prick’.

Shockingly though, even with this in the background, a policy debate has broken out in the Democratic race.

Loosely politics-focused but still fascinating, a look at human-trafficking in Moldova from The New Yorker.

Gordon’s getting jittery and the taxes are the first to benefit.

So Boris won… he’s really going to have to shed the buffoon image now, isn’t he?

David Cameron has very cheekily turned against him.

Indeed, his win could mark the beginning of Cameron’s final demise.

He must perform now though. There’s a nice note in this piece that Boris is ‘as unqualified for such a role as Livingstone was in 2000’. I’m not convinced but hell, I’ll give him a shot.

The Daily Politic

Posted in Links, Politics by Sam Unsted on April 25, 2008

Politics links are coming back. It’s just too busy on the circuit to just do it once a week so it has to increase to at least three times per week.

McCain is engaging in a politics of fear.

It’s not politics, but this story needs constant highlighting. 50 Bullets.

Does McCain have the racist vote?

Obama’s courting of the white vote is crucial.

Clinton has one last shot at taking the nomination, according to John Dickerson.

Her hopes are likely to be in North Carolina.

McCain is trying to move away from the Bush presidency.

Ken Livingstone has edged ahead of Boris Johnson in the London polls. I’m supporting Ken, by the way.

Can Shakira save the ailing PM?

Zimbabwe’s troubles continue as Mugabe fully embraces the true practice of dictatorship and begins rounding up MDC members.

Finally, here’s a quote from an op-ed by David S Broder for The Washington Post. Full piece here.

“Yet, in pointing to those vulnerabilities in her rival, Clinton has heightened the most obvious liability she would carry into a fight against McCain. In an age of deep cynicism about politicians of both parties, McCain is the rare exception who is not assumed to be willing to sacrifice personal credibility to prevail in any contest.”