bIGMOUTHERY

bIGMOUTHERY

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas.

Having just re-read last year's Christmas blog entry, I feel a paucity of ideas for this one. Oh, there'd be plenty to write about, but my thoughts this season have been mostly to do with my own shortcomings. It's a little like a reverse-Festivus. But I try not to treat the blogosphere as a confessional, even if I do engage in the occasional curmudgeonly rant.

So, if I don't share what's really on my mind, what's to write about? I queued, I stewed, I gave/got presents and ate lots of food?

Certainly I did all of the above. Hardly earth-shattering.

I'll admit this much publicly: I am very aware of my failings as a son, brother, uncle, friend and partner. And I loathe those failings. If I were writing this under the influence of too much Christmas cheer, then I suppose it could be written off as mere lachrymose drivel. Even with only early morning coffee and cigarettes under the belt it's still ripe for accusations of maudlin self-indulgence.

But, as someone told me recently, Christmas is as much about reflection and introspection as it is about commerce and gluttony. I'm pretty sure they couched it in less cynical language, though.

It's not that I'm unhappy. Whenever I think that might be the case I think back to the years prior to 2005 and count my blessings. But part of the comparatively newfound and hard-fought happiness has come at a cost, and it's at Christmastime when that cost stands out in very sharp relief.

So, on to Christmas itself. Christmas Day is great...all that commerce becomes worth it and the gluttony is rare and rich. But Christmas EVE...no, thanks.

It's my fault, I leave it too late. Why I don't know. Perhaps it's a futile effort to forestall the inevitable. The more likely reason is this: if I leave myself two hours at the end of the work day and shopping season to buy presents, I'm forced to rush around like a drooling, sweating, gasping berserker and a Christmas shop that COULD have taken a leisurely five weekends is over in two hours.

This approach comes with attendant problems, not the least of which is the sight of a man on the cusp of middle age tearing around the CBD in a T-shirt bearing the slogan 'Your a Idoit' looking like a drooling, sweating, gasping berserker.

Then there's the loss of clarity. Unless I plot each stop carefully beforehand, I usually end up sitting in a park quietly cursing Jebus and his fucked up cut-up of a holiday.

But the worst of all is...the commerce. Constant readers will be aware of my mobile phone-buying adventure earlier this year. A similar thing happened Christmas Eve while trying to buy Loolee her present.

I went to a few stores looking for a digital photo frame. None of 'em had what I was after, which was in itself disappointing until I had the brilliant idea of getting a portable DVD player (it seemed brilliant at the time, but now I wonder why the hell I was going to buy Lou a digital photo frame in the first place).

With the clock running down I made a beeline for an electronics/gaming and DVD/CD store. Let's call them...oh I don't know...JC Hi-Fi. Most everything in these stores is in a locked glass cabinet, so you have to hunt around looking for someone with keys, preferably someone who isn't suffering the ills of slack-jawed pubescence.

No luck. The only guy I could see was attending to a Vietnamese man who was trying to buy a camera. I waited for about ten minutes (in actuality, probably two) and rushed upstairs to get Loolee a DVD. This was an optimistic move. At this point I must have been convinced that the purchase of said product would be as simple as:

Man: Can I help you sir?
Me: Hello, I trust you are well. Yes indeed you may indeed help me indeed. I wish to purchase a product from your extensive line of electronic audio/visual items, to wit, a portable DVD player. It must be a) reasonably priced and b)in good working condition.
Man: (producing a portable DVD player)Does this one suit, sir?
Me: Yes. Here is my money.
Man: Here is your DVD player.
Me: Thank you. Goodbye.
Man: Goodbye.


I grabbed a copy of 'The Notebook', a real weepy-weep that Lou loves, and made my way back downstairs to try my luck. More aggressively this time. I collared a 'sales person'. He'd been doing nothing but standing there perving at young summer boobies but when he saw me advancing, he must have remembered a matter of great import because he almost shouted: 'Oh! One minute!' and waddled off in 50km walk style.

Cue Muttley Grumble .

I stood at the glass case a little longer. There were three players I had my eye on, but only one was turned on, so I wanted a little demo of the others. Meanwhile, someone approached the 'sales person' and to my annoyance (but not surprise) the fucker actually began to attend to this guy.

I merely stuck my hand up and said "'Scuse me..." gave him the quizzical frown (you have to be a Doyle to get this right every time, I think) and he came over.

Man: Yes?
Me: I want to have a look at these three DVD players please.
Man: Well, this one is 169 doll-
Me: Is it okay to open the door and turn 'em on? I just wanna see what the picture's like on 'em.
Man: (annoyed sigh)


He opened the case and fuddied around, turning on one player. They were all linked up to the one that was turned on, playing Shrek.

Me: And this one?
Man: (annoyed sigh)
Me: Thanks.


I looked at 'em for a few seconds.

Me: Does this one have-
Man: None of these are in stock.
Me: What?
Man: They're all sold out.
Me: Then why do you have them on display?
Man: They're for a catalogue sale.
Me: You have absolutely nothing in stock.
Man: No.
Me:(pointing at display) What about these ones? I'm happy to buy one without a box.
Man: No, they're on display for the catalogue sale.
Me: But-...wait, Boxing Day sale?
Man: Yup.
Me:(a little piqued) So...your Boxing Day Sale is more important than your customers' Christmas.
Man: Wait...we might just have one left in stock.

Within 30 seconds he was back with what he claimed was the last portable DVD player in the place. I bought it, and Loolee is very happy with her Christmas gift.

How on earth can retailers justify this? Imagine going into a supermarket to get something you needed in a hurry, like aspirin or tampons. You see the last pack on the shelf and think 'Huzzah!' only to be stopped and told 'Sorry...display only'. I think 'fuck' and 'off' would be words floating near the tip of your tongue.

Consider this. A car salesman turning down the chance to sell something they had in stock? Not bloody likely, guv'nor.

This is why I should probably give away the berserker approach to Christmas and start buying in...I dunno...March.

By contrast, Christmas Day was, as it often is, lovely. We were lucky with the weather (29C/84F, though sticky) which is half the battle won. For anyone in the Brisbane area who says 30 is too hot for Christmas Day, I have this to say to you: 2001.

Now it's Boxing Day. Day two of four days off, the first four in a row I've had for 18 months. Once upon a time I'd be in front of the telly, beer in hand at 11am, watching the first day of the Boxing Day Test. I might pass an eye over it at some point today, but I just want to read, write and make sammiches with my new sandwich press .

It was my late brother Sean's birthday on Wednesday. He'd have been 51. It's my late mother's birthday today. She'd have been 81. Happy birthday Mum & Sean, and Happy Christmas and New Year to you all, with love.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Mike Connell Story.



Let me begin this one by saying I'm not a huge fan of conspiracy 'theories' or their adherents. The faked moon landing/s, the 'false flag' of 9/11, the Jonestown/CIA mind control experiment...they are all big loads of poo. I'll admit a propensity to believe that Lee Harvey was not the only person firing shots at JFK that day, but apparently recent analysis casts doubt on even that (my knowledge of physics is not even such that I could be classed a neophyte).

There seems to be a conspiracy theory in the making, though, and it's well worth investigating.

A few days ago Internet strategist and GOP consultant Michael Connell was killed when his plane crashed three miles from its destination in Akron, Ohio. Connell was flying his single-engined Piper Lance Saratoga home from Maryland.

Connell was apparently responsible for designing and implementing an alternative communications system for the GOP.

Last September, Connell, the CEO of a company called GovTech Solutions, was subpoenaed to appear in a federal case to give evidence surrounding his involvement in the Republican party's alleged manipulation of the outcome of federal elections.

Using a similar strategy (though not reason) employed by Karl Rove to avoid appearing in front of a House judiciary committee (refusing point blank, citing investigators' 'ready access' to public information and and inability to tesify for reasons of confidentiality - Rove cited executive privilege and left the country) Connell successfully avoided the subpoena for two months.

In November he gave a deposition, during which he was accused of rigging results. He was set to appear again.

There have been reports floating around (mostly on 'non-mainstream' sites) that Connell had been warned against flying and that protection had been sought, due to fear for his safety.

The conspiracy nuts are already having a field day. Some are saying that Connell cancelled two flights because of suspected sabotage and some are just coming right out and saying that Rove had Connell murdered.

It's no secret that I'm not the Bush administration's biggest fan, but there are a few things about this embryonic 'theory' that concern me.

If Michael Connell were that worried for his safety, why would he be flying his private plane at all? If you were a qualified pilot who thought the powers that be were trying to kill you, would you maybe consider going commercial for a while?

If the powers that be wanted to 'off' Connell, would they not have increased their chances of success by arranging some kind of problem on takeoff, when the tank was full of gas, rather than three miles out from the plane's destination?

I think we've all heard the stories of the terrible cold that has gripped the United States in the last little while. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that Connell's plane might simply have succumbed to the cold and ice?

Lastly, I'd like to bring up the 'Kennedy curse'. There was John, murdered. Bobby, murdered. Michael, skiing. John Jr., plane crash. I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come instantly to mind. Some people take these incidents as proof that the family is cursed.

But (putting aside John & Bobby's untimely deaths), is it not possible that the reason Michael died skiing was because a Kennedy is more likely to do a lot more skiing than you or me, and the reason John John died piloting his plane was because a Kennedy is more likely to be piloting a plane?

Look at it this way. Is it reasonable to suggest that John and Bobby died because they were the victims of murderous loathing and/or mental illness...and that Michael and John died because they were living the life of the privileged rich...or would you say it's more logical to say that all of these men died because of a mystical curse?

Likewise, is it not possible Michael Connell died in a small plane because of simple law of averages and probability? He was flying a small plane in crappy weather...or...the tyrants devised an elaborate plot to have him killed.

Having said all that...Connell's death does require investigation. I'm completely unconvinced to this point of any nefarious action by certain people, but by the same token, I do not dismiss the ability of these people to commit nefarious deeds.

I'll leave you with some of the 'fresh from the funny farm' conspiracy bits and pieces (and ACTION!!!! news articles that have sprung up in the last few days:

I love ACTION news!!!





Links to allegations and scuttlebutt here.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Homeopathy...less than a drop in the ocean.

Main Entry: ho·me·op·a·thy
Pronunciation: \ˌhō-mē-ˈä-pə-thē, ˌhä-\
Function: noun
Etymology: German Homöopathie, from homöo- homeo- + -pathie -pathy
Date: 1826
: a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.
(Source)

Homeopathy was introduced to the world by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th Century. It has its basis in an alleged 'law of similarities', which, when applied to this purported medical science, states that 'like cures like'.

It's easily confused with vaccination, but there is a simple, crucial difference: vaccination is the introduction of dead microbes into the system to stimulate the immune system into fighting a disease.

The basic thrust of homeopathy is that maladies and ailments can be cured by introducing small amounts of substances that produce the same symptoms as the ailment. For example, if you have a skin condition, a homeopathic remedy might be to introduce the body to a diluted mixture of a mineral or botanical substance that causes skin conditions, like sumac or poison oak. If you have an acidic stomach or an ulcer, the homeopathic remedy would include acids.

By 'small', I mean...infinitesimally small, and by diluted...really diluted. There are standard symbols for measuring dilution, represented by the Roman numerals X & C. 'X' is for dilutions of 1 to 10, 'C' for 1 to 100. The standard homeopathic preparations is '30C'. This is equivalent to one molecule of the curative substance diluted in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water.

According to Stephen Barrett MD writing on the Quackwatch website, "this would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth".
Robert Park of the American Physical Society, to whom Barrett refers in his Quackwatch article, says this:

This is the point at which we are all supposed to realize how ridiculous this is and share a good laugh. But homeopaths don't laugh. They've done the same calculation. And while they agree that not a single molecule of the active substance could remain, they contend it doesn't matter, the water/alcohol mixture somehow remembers that the substance was once there. The process of succussion is presumed to charge the entire volume of the liquid with the same memory. Is there any evidence for such a memory?
(Source)

The homeopathic fraternity acknowledges the above dilution to be correct, but rather than accept the truth of homeopathy, they engage in the same kind of sunk costs fallacy that afflicts devotees of the practice. How? They claim that water has a memory.

Now, while this sounds completely outlandish, science has been doing its part to do what science does best: test.

While no proof yet exists of water's ability to remember past molecular inahabitants, a Swiss chemist, Louis Rey, has conducted experiments in which he hoped to challenge conventional thinking on the subject.

I'm more than sceptical about the veracity of homeopathy as a valid treament; I think it's downright nonsense. But rather than expound too much further, I'll let Richard Dawkins and James Randi explain it all far better than I can:





What really intrigues me about the whole thing is that, as with astrology or tarot or faith healing or psychic power or an Abrahamic god, people subsume or even discard the more likely truth in favour of 'how it makes me feel'. And worse, presented with overwhelming evidence to refute the claims of 'horoscopists' or the religious faithful, these people use 'how it makes me feel' as their buffer against critical thought and the potential for learning.

Worse, I'm firmly of the belief that engaging in the fallacy of sunk costs is more damaging to people than biting the bullet and accepting the possibility of a different truth.

On that note, I don't feel so good. I need a glass of water.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Farewell to the Yahoos...



After 10 months of contribution, I have decided to bid farewell to Yahoo! Answers. Over that period I'd answered nearly 9000 questions and accrued a couple of little Top Contributor blobs along with about 37-38000 points (and a little notoriety).
Yesterday my account was terminated due to some unnamed infraction, most likely a succession of 'violation notices' culminating in the use of the word 'boobies'.

Most Y!A regulars have lost an account or five, and they just sign back up under another name and keep at it. Not me.

I'd been a regular contributor to their Elections and Religion & Spirituality sections, but with the US election over, and the content and tenor of those sections resembling a kind of online Groundhog Day, I've decided to say goodbye.

It's been a bit of a giggle, really.

Between those who think that charity & compassion = communism and bananas are proof of creationism...it's been a hoot.

To any Y!A Elections people who come here spoiling for a fight...it's over kids. Y'lost.

All others welcome. Take a load off, listen to an alt/country tune...

By the way, the photo at the top doesn't really relate to anything. I made it a few years ago when at a loose end...I had a few loose ends back then.

A few days ago I sought the advice of a successful writer who gave me some handy tips. I've been writing over 1000 words a day for a while but, in a place like Answers, it's completely wasted. So leaving Answers be will hopefully allow me to maintain the 'words-per-day' habit while helping me to channel it in a better way.

Of course, I might just end up looking at boobies.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Vale Geoffrey Perkins.




It was with shock and a little shame that I learned yesterday of the death of Geoffrey Perkins, one of the most important figures in comedy in the last 25 years.

Geoffrey died on August 29 when he was hit by a truck in Marylebone High Street in London. He was 55.

Many of you mightn't know the name, but trust me, all of you have been provided with much laughter, thanks to this man's work. Among many other fine programs, he was responsible for producing, developing and/or writing:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Spitting Image
The Man From Auntie
Harry Enfield's Television Programme
Father Ted
The Fast Show
Big Train
Coupling
The Royle Family
Coogan's Run
One Foot in the Grave
Operation Good Guys
The Catherine Tate Show

My first real awareness of Geoffrey Perkins' comedic abilities came not from TV, but from a book my brother gave me when I was about 15, called 'The Uncyclopedia of Rock'. Perkins co-wrote it with Angus Deayton and Jeremy Pascall. I still have it and it's still pissfunny.

There's not really much I can say about Mr. Perkins, other than the fact that the work he was so influential in creating still makes me laugh on a daily basis. And I am sorry I did not hear of his passing sooner; he deserves much more recognition for his immense contribution to comedy. If he'd been in front of the camera instead of mostly behind it, this small appreciation would have been written in late August.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sickie McComputer.

Apparently the computer at home is unwell...so until I can get it fixed, I'll be offline. This is probably a small sign that it's time for a laptop.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Climbing the Walls

This is not something I’d normally do, but it’s so random I thought I’d give it a whirl. My friend Nick put it on his F/book. Here’s mine:


1. Put your iPod on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!

IF SOMEONE SAYS IS THIS OKAY, YOU SAY
Honeycomb


WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
Steppin’ Stone


WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GIRL?
Oregon


WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
Over & Done With


WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Night of Joy


WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Curfew Tolls

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Tasty Fish

WHAT IS 2+2?
Red Rabbits

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Let Your Light Shine On Me

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
All of Us

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
The Group Who Couldn’t Say

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Black Wave

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Montana

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Ode To Isis

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Fond Farewell

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Lost On Your Merry Way

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Parry the Wind High, Low

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Bruce Forsyth

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
See the Constellation

WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
My Home is the Sea

HOW WILL YOU DIE?
Acronyms

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
Experiment No. 6

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Destination Moon

WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
I Better Be Quiet Now

WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
Kelly Watch the Stars

WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
Ramblin’ Man

DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
Everythin’s Not Lost

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
A Comet Appears

WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)

WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
Climbing the Walls

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Tunes.

Some of you don't know of my past as a lo-fi indie pop alt/country devotee and nobody. To the right is a sample of some of the stuff I used to do before I started again on different stages...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

More stormage.



Another storm, not nearly as intense as Sunday's, but a wonderful light show. The sky is still lit up as I write. This is fresh off the phone. Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Big storm.


A few hours after posting the rant on Brisbane in summer, we were hit by the biggest cluster of storms for many years. It has taken a life, caused a welter of damage (including some buckled ceiling/water/mess at our place) and left approx 150, 000 homes without electricity.

It was a bloody hot day yesterday, and it felt hotter than it was mainly because it was the first hot one we've had this season. In actual fact it was only 31°-32°C (88°-90°F) but if you factor in the humidity (and my rant) it was pretty unpleasant.


Lou had asked me if we'd get a storm so I checked the BOM radar. There was a pretty nasty storm brewing but it really didn't look like it was going to have much of an impact here.


At the time it hit the Beaudesert/Gold Coast hinterland area it was huge, but as with many storms that rip over our way, the worst of it hits a small area and then weakens as it reaches the coast. Most storms also tend to build to their most intense a bit farther inland. We often find that by the time they reach us they have done their worst, in small pockets to the south and west.


Not this one. As you can possibly see from the little radar graphic above, the storm was massive, with severe cells of rain and electricity all over the south-east region (the green dot is where we live, right in the black nasty of the storm).


According to the radar, the storm was looking as if it’d just head meekly on out to sea, but then the wind changed. In the space of about half an hour a south-easter picked up and swung the bastidy thing in our direction. It was building in intensity all the while. This BOM data tells the story.

But the story is told best by this footage, taken on my crappy phone camera. In reality, the storm was a lot darker, but the lightning is the real star of the show (well, perhaps it gets second billing to Lou's cussing):


video
She's got a mouth on 'er, don't she?
So that's that. I doubt we'll see one like it for a while.
For those of you who'd like a comparison, below is a typical late afternoon view from our porch (with typical idiocy included):
video

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Brisbane in summer (a rant).



Brisbane is, for all intents and purposes, my hometown. I was not born here (Dublin), I did not spend the bulk of my formative years here (Redcliffe, just to the north of Brisbane), but I have lived here for a huge chunk of my life to date...it's home.

I love Brisbane. It's clean, safe and becoming more cosmopolitan with every passing year. It contains all the goods and services we spoiled, indolent ones in the developed world take for granted. It's still home to a wide variety of native flora and fauna, even in built-up inner-city areas (proof of this: I live seven minutes out of the CBD & a brush-tailed possum lives in our bathroom closet and, as I typed 'closet', a scrub-turkey walked in the front door).

Brisbane has one of the best winters in the known universe. The nights rarely drop below 7°C/45°F and the days, mild, crisp and blue, are usually 20-22°C/68-72°F. It's a treat, and I love it.

But every year, at around the same time, my fondness and affection for my hometown begin to dwindle. It starts in early November with the falling of the jacaranda flowers & the shrill morning tinnitus of the cicada...and does not end until April, when the first cool zephyrs lick towards the sea.

Summer.

Now, Brisbane does not have the hottest summers on Earth; far from it. Nor is it the most humid place, though you don't think that when you're marinating in it. But it's well and truly fucking hot enough, thanks, especially when the sweat leaking out of your body does not dry because the air is just as cloying & moist.

In short, I hate Brisbane in summer.

A typical summer morning starts beautifully, if you are able to tune out the fucking cicadas. It's mild, the air is sweet...then about 10 minutes later it's 35°C with 99% humidity and you're bathing in the sweaty soup of your own filth. That's what summer is like here...walking through a big bowl of unpalatable soup.

The strangest thing is, people here LOVE summer. In the middle of a god-perfect July day when the air is so fresh it's as if the world is newborn and the sky is a crisp candy shell blue, people moan about the fact they can't wait till summer comes. And when it does come, they get annoyed when it rains! I find myself wanting to commit acts of violence.

This is another thing I detest about summer. It serves to highlight and reinforce all my petty little 365-days-a-year Brisbane-loathings:

Brisbane is never finished. Just when you think the skyline looks good and should be left as is, up goes another crop of misshapen, ugly buildings and the sky is full of cranes.



Brisbane's roads are in a constant state of 'works' and alleged transformation, but the traffic gets no better (Exhibit A: Coronation Drive). And even if it did get better, Brisbane drivers think they'll get home a lot faster if they don't let you merge.


Show a tourist around Brisbane and if you don't take 'em to Lone Pine, Southbank, Mount Coot-tha or the Valley, you'll spend all your time in foodcourts. Brisbane is a land of foodcourts. Give it two days with a tourist and I guarantee you'll be looking for stuff to do out of town.



Thousands of Brisbane people do not know how to use an escalator. On any given day at peak hour you'll see a horde of people alight from trains at Central/R Street/B Street etc. Many will hit the escalators, stop and keep to the left, allowing those who are in a hurry (or aren't not lazy bastids) to walk up the escalator steps on the right hand side. But there's always a cerebellum-shy goofball who stops, blocking the path of dozens (including one bitchy 39-year-old guy of Irish ancestry who is cussing murderously under his breath).

It's even worse in malls and shopping centres. Glazed-eyed eejit-brains with tiny gleams of drool collecting at the corners of their mouths, transfixed by all the purty Xmas decorations. I want to scream at them. But I don't. The Anglo parts of me (even though they're northern) just won't allow it. I merely wait for them to reach the top and quietly curse their corpulent hides as they waddle off to the foodcourt.



I get the train to work every day. It's usually pretty full. As in most cities, humans are frightened of each other, so they bridle at the thought of having some stranger sit beside them. This makes it very curious then that, once all the seats are full, people cram like Tokyoites into the vestibule, leaving the aisles empty. It usually takes a verbal plea (either from the conductor on PA or a passenger in the throes of asphyxia) to get people to filter into the aisle.



This is a Brisbane phenomenon. I was in Sydney & Melbourne in June and this singular stupidity did not occur on either city's conveyances. Actually, the day after arriving home from Melbourne with a bronchial infection as souvenir, I got on an unevenly cramped/spacious train and was moved to set aside propriety & reserve, saying, "Could we please have some people move into the aisle? It's really cramped." No reaction, save for startled stares. Fed up, I followed almost instantly with the loud declaration, "I have a virulent cold." Never have I seen 'em move so fast.



Most council buses in Brisbane are now, thankfully, air-conditioned. However, there seems to be a large cross-section of people in this city who, when on an older bus with no a/c in mid-summer like to pretend it's air-conditioned by keeping all of the fucking windows closed. I've seen people pass out on buses in Brisbane all because some toolkit didn't want their hair getting mussed up. Open the goddamn windows, people!



Yes, I know...I'm moaning. But you'll notice that I did subtitle this blog post 'a rant'. We need to purge every now and again, and I can think of no better audience than my tiny readership.



As I've been writing I've heard a few phantom adenoidal voices of Brisbanites saying 'If y'don't fuckin' loik it, why doncha fuck off down South then?'



Two reasons really. When all is said and vented, I do love Brisbane...even some of the summer bits. Frangipani & poinciana in bloom, the cricket season, the anticipation of a belting thunderstorm, girls with less clothes on...it's all lovely.



The second reason? Statements like 'If you don't like it, move' are false dilemma fallacies and as such borne of complete fucking ignorance.



I'm off to the mall, where in air-conditioned comfort I can hang with the madding crowd, listening to the strains of 'Walking in a Winter Wonderland' as the Season of Rabid Commerce begins.



See you in the foodcourt.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Reflecting on history.




Whether it takes a few days' remove to put the events of the last week into clearer perspective, I'm not sure. Perhaps no clearer perspective is needed than acknowledgement of the simple fact that, last Tuesday in the United States, the American people voted against the last eight years of neo-conservative rule.

What??? How dare I not say 'the American people voted for the first black President' or 'voted for change'! Yes, dare I.

I don't say it to undervalue those truths, certainly not the former. Merely saying 'President-elect Barack Hussein Obama' is still a little odd, it's true. And I appreciate the immense symbolism and inspiration that an African-American President will give to a people who for so many years have been treated as something 'other' or inferior. As for 'change', well...we'll see.


It's certainly true that knifing the neo-cons plays into the 'change' mantra, but the message is a hollow one, really. Even über-neocon Karl Rove said "Every election is a 'change' election" and he's right. Look at this race. One side was selling change and the other 'reform', which is basically saying two things: 'they started using change first' and 'even if we had beat them to the punch, to use it would be a tacit admission of failure'.

Which brings me back to the really important aspect of last week...the downfall of neo-conservatism. America showed the world on Tuesday that it is not made up solely of insular little drones who have been hard-wired to respond to messages of fear. It took eight years for them to see the tangible results of the damage a deeply flawed political ideology can do, but they saw it nonetheless, and more to the point, they responded to it in the best possible way.


As an 'armchair pundit', I make a great 'guy sitting in an armchair'. I've found it difficult to see past the factors that may play outside of polling data, plus...I'm hopeless with numbers. That's why it's all armchair and no pundit. While I had a pretty solid feeling Obama was going to win, I could not eliminate the possibility of a Bradley Effect, nor could I escape the notion that McCain's negative run in the last few weeks was going to gain traction.


I saw this negativity towards Obama on a daily basis in the Elections section of Yahoo! Answers. There was a huge section of people quite happy to regurgitate the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Coulters in accusing Obama of being everything from a crack-smoking homosexual to a Muslim Manchurian Candidate (yes, I know...if you read any of the questions on these links you'd wonder why anyone would go to Y!A, let alone stay there. Still, it does make for amusement at times, and I may include some answers in a future post).


The vitriol these people spat has to be seen to be believed. They are the worst advertisements for a great nation. In the space of 12 or so months over 300,000 'questions' were asked about Obama, most of which were inflammatory, juvenile, hateful and downright racist.


So...how did Barack Obama win the Presidency?


There are many answers to that question, but to get a little bit of focus on the main reasons, one has to go back to Super Tuesday on Feb. 5 and the huge roll of the dice by Hillary Clinton. Sen. Clinton was very confident that she would be the presumptive nominee by the time Super Tuesday was over...in fact, she was confident to the point of being hubristic.


Polling data did show her with a substantial advantage over main rival Obama, data which had been tracking her way for some time. Leading up to ST she was ahead in pledged delegates, a situation which only changed the week after Super Tuesday (as did the polls, which flipped Obama's way on the 12th and, save for a near deadlock for a day or two in May, stayed in his favour).


As I've mentioned previously, in-depth analysis of the numbers is not my strong suit, but it was clear the Hillary camp was so sure of a rout on Super Tuesday that they pinned all their hopes on it. It turned out to be folly, and while Hillary ploughed on until June, it became increasingly clear that losing in February meant that Hillary had blown the bulk of her money, and just as importantly, she had no contingency plan in place.


John McCain, meanwhile, was coasting to the nomination. His Super Tuesday was everything Hillary thought hers would be. The GOP choices were pretty ordinary, and the ones that looked as if they might be okay were either considered unacceptable due to their faith (Romney, Huckabee), left their entry into the race too late (Giuliani) or were just befuddled and lost (Fred).

Of course, the primary race is all old news now, but it's worth remembering how easy it was (apart from some money troubles in '07) for McCain and what a shitfight it was for the Dems. When Obama's campaign burst into life in mid-late Feb, Hillary's negative run, as with McCain's six months later, was a red flag on the state of their paucity of new ideas.


Dirty campaigning on the election trail is not a new phenomenon. Choose randomly from any race in any country throughout history and you're sure to find smears, vitriol, slurs and 'attacktics'.


Any delving into the smears in this campaign would mean a separate blog entry, or even a book, and given that Obama did not have crack & oral sex in a limo with Larry Sinclair and John McCain did not set fire to the U.S.S. Forrestal, what's the point of it? Smears are part & parcel of the game. With that said, I'll save you the detail around Wright, Ayers, Khalidi, the Muslim crap, the Sinclair nonsense. It was all 'guilt by association' fallacy and, in the case of Larry, outright opportunism.

Fast forward to June. Hillary was dogged in her resistance but with no primaries left to contest and the DNC ruling on Florida and Michigan complete, it was Obama's race now. Of course, there were many Republicans hoping to capitalise on the infighting among Democrats, most notably the Mugabe-style tactics (early on) of Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos, and the PUMA bollocks (a short side note: PUMA officially means 'People United Means Action' but was better known as 'Party Unity My Ass'...perhaps that mixed message went some way to outlining their abject failure in sabotaging the Democratic nomination).

Of course, the Dems did make their own mess by slugging it out so dirtily in the primary season, not to mention the Florida/Michigan stupidity. If not for the fact that Hills had no back-up plan after Feb 5, the primary race might well have been a much more sedate affair. Critics, skeptics and droolers were predicting (and in some cases, willing) a 1968-style riot situation at the DNC Convention.

There was much speculation as to whether Hillary would play ball with Obama, or try to kneecap him at every opportunity. It was even suggested (admittedly by not very smart people) that she might run as an independent. While I always knew that Hillary was capable of being a brawler, it was highly doubtful she'd be so petulant as to sabotage Obama's chances by splitting the ticket and handing a gift to McCain & the GOP.


And so it went. At the DNCC in late August, both Hillary and Bill formalised their vociferous support for the Democratic nominee, and rendered the bleating of the divisive ones mute. Obama accepted the nomination with typical eloquence and was lauded for a brilliant speech...for about a day.

Enter Sarah Louise Heath Palin. Governor of Alaska. The Barracuda. The MILF...the dolt.

Caribou Barbie.

The initial reaction to John McCain's choice of Palin as running mate was 'Sarah who?' Then, for some reason, it was considered a stroke of political genius. Certainly the timing of the announcement could not have been better. It completely extinguished the almost post-coital glow of Obama's speech and turned everyone's attention to the unknown 'hockey mom' and former beauty pageant contestant.


McCain's campaign was seemingly revitalised. He'd pulled focus from the golden boy and in doing so turned a four point deficit into a three point lead.

The GOP convention took place in the Twin Cities a few days later, and with their new wunderkind on board and the incumbent President absent, the Republicans must have been feeling increasingly confident about their chances of winning the unwinnable.

It didn't last. Two things happened that combined to put McCain's campaign right back where it was:


1) In mid-September, Caribou Barbie opened her mouth. Sarah Palin first did an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson in which she tried to make some kind of link between Little Diomede's proximity to Russia and foreign policy experience. Then she did a gaffe-free soft ball interview with Fox's Sean Hannity. Who'dathunkit? A few days later CBS anchor Katie Couric engaged Palin in what appeared to a bit of a light chat, shot as a behind-the-scenes look at the Governor on the campaign trail. Here's the interview in full, but it's still worth seeing parts of this exchange in print:


a) Couric: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?


Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie - that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.


Couric: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.


Palin: He's also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about - the need to reform government.


Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you've said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?


Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.


Couric: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.


Palin: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.


Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/09/24/eveningnews/main4476173.shtml


b) Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?


Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.


Couric: What, specifically?


Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.


Couric: Can you name a few?


Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.


Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/09/30/eveningnews/main4490618.shtml


America's response to this arrant stupidity appears to have been 'Oh no, not another idiot!'


2) When the economic crisis got to the point where Washington decided to intervene (around the time of Palin's Couric interview), McCain announced he was going to suspend his campaign. This happened a few days before the first scheduled Presidential debate. His reason was simple and to the point. He had to get back to Washington so he could help to be a part of the bailout bill.

Immediate raising of eyebrows, not just from pundits, but the general public. McCain is not a member of the Senate Finance Committee or any of its sub-committees. What possible use would he be in drafting a bailout bill? And if the excuse was more to do with being in town to vote on the bill, well, wouldn't a proxy vote have been acceptable?

The truth of it is, McCain was busted trying to get out of the first debate, which, while scheduled to be primarily about foreign policy (McCain's alleged strong suit), would certainly devote a little time to the economic crisis.

Proof of McCain's transparent blunder came not from an investigative journalist, but from McCain himself in pulling out of an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. I covered this at the time, but did not cover McCain's terrible attempts to shimmy out of it when he returned to The Late Show a couple of weeks later. As you can see, I've included the interview link, so I'll leave it to you to judge how McCain handled himself, but 'I screwed up', to my way of thinking, was a pussy move.

Of course, having been thoroughly caught out, McCain did appear at the first debate, and did reasonably well. Oddly enough, he did better on the questions around the economy than he did on the foreign policy stuff.


In the space of two weeks, the McCain/Palin ticket had experienced a mildly dizzying high and, through their own actions, let that all slip away.

Palin was also taking the 'maverick' tag a little too far when she broke from 'message' and criticised her own campaign's decision to pull the pin on Michigan.

What was Obama doing all this time? The same thing he'd been doing for months. Staying 'on message', running a mostly positive campaign and most importantly, presenting an unflappable, 'cool-in-a-crisis' demeanour that made him look and sound...well, Presidential.

In October, it became clear that Obama was dictating the agenda of the campaign. McCain had little response, and dwindling finances. Well, certainly compared to BHO. In September Obama's campaign received a staggering $150 million in donations.

So...what did McCain do on the back of all of this mess? He started running hard negative. This in itself was not surprising for a campaign in near freefall, but in a bewildering move, the McCain campaign telegraphed this ramping up of negative strategy to the Washington Post.

The DNC pounced, producing an extremely effective ad in response to McCain's negative escalation, quoting McCain in 2000:

"I just have to rely on the good judgment of the voters not to buy into these negative attack ads. Sooner or later, people are going to figure out if all you run is negative attack ads you don't have much of a vision for the future or you're not ready to articulate it."

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/new-dnc-web-video-shows/story.aspx?guid=%7B544BF98A-A0EC-427C-93BB-C8C124A817FF%7D



Into the home stretch, Obama maintained anywhere from a six to eight point lead on McCain. The electorate by this time had pretty much rejected the attacktics from McCain and viewed Palin not just as a harmless clown, but a dangerous one.


The polls were giving the result to Obama by 7.6%, in the end he took it by 6.5%, with (to date) Obama gaining 364 electoral votes to McCain's 163 ( with Missouri, the 'Show Me' state, yet to be called).


So...how did Barack Obama win the Presidency?


When I was at school, one of the few things I remembered from my modern history classes was this: Oppositions don't win elections...governments lose them.


The main reason Barack Obama is the President-elect of the United States has not as much to do with his buckets of money, his charm, erudition, looks or loquacity as it does with eight years of George W. Bush.


In the final analysis we can say with certainty that it was Bush's intransigence, incompetence and goofballery that led to the GOP being defeated. It was a complete rejection of the neo-conservative ideology that allowed massive corporate greed, a murderous foreign policy and an abject failure to look after even its own citizens in the aftermath of a natural disaster.


If there are any lingering doubts about this, you need look no further than the campaign of John McCain. He wanted Bush nowhere near the stump or the convention. The only time he ever willingly mentioned Bush was to highlight their differences. Bush, quite simply, was poison to the Republicans' chances of winning another four years of executive office.


But it wasn't the Bush admin alone. I've already outlined some of the main failings of the McCain run, but there are others. Timing, for one. When McCain cruised to presumptive nominee status in March, the country considered the war in Iraq a major issue. This was great for McCain, as he was seen by many as an expert on foreign policy and military strategy.


By the time the campaign started getting to the sharp end, however, Iraq was not important anymore. The economy was the only real issue that had traction with voters. This left McCain at a huge disadvantage. Not in comparison to Obama, whose experience is light-on in all areas. But that didn't matter. Obama, being from the challenging party, represented a clear, if not yet defined, alternative. McCain was, by his own admission, confused about economic matters.


The only way out for McCain was to try and set himself apart from Bush in particular, and the Beltway in general. He railed against Washington, not realising for a second that people obviously saw a man who's been in the Senate for 26 years as nothing more than an apparatchik.


McCain was trading on his maverick status to highlight himself as a 'man apart' from the machine. By October, it was clear that any ideas McCain had about convincing people he was a renegade Senator from the Wild West were shattered.


You can blame Palin (or Palin's string-pullers) for some of this. She fell back on the word 'maverick' so often it lost all meaning. Especially when a quick look at McCain's voting record shows how often he happily danced along party lines. It also didn't add up when McCain said on Meet the Press in late October he shared a "common philosophy" with Bush.


And then there's the choice of Palin herself. McCain made a blunder of massive proportions by taking the populist route in choosing such an ill-prepared, unintelligent person to have as the potential leader of the free world. It made a complete mockery of the McCain slogan 'Country First' and worse, it made the American people out to be stupid, gullible fools.


And if we didn't know it before, we know it now...they are anything but.


So that's that. Election 2008 done and dusted. President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in on January 20, 2008...and I hope to take the day off work to watch that, too. I heard the date described recently as the 'end of an error'. Obama has a lot of work to do, and he must do it quickly. He is inheriting a country riven by turmoil, at home and abroad. He is extremely inexperienced, and let's not forget, 57.5 million people didn't vote for him.


I do wish him, his team and America the very best of luck. But remember...no matter who wins, no matter how much you like them, no matter what they may promise you, they are not to be trusted.


"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." -- Thomas Jefferson.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

In the meantime.

There's a blog entry currently half-finished, sitting in drafts, waiting for a more time-happy hand. It's a look back at the election, covering the period just before it all really kicked off...Super Tuesday.

I haven't been able to finish it due to a film project on the Gold Coast tonight. It's 2.20am and I'm just in the door (well, post-pee). More soon.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Election day.




It's a measure of how obsessed I am with this election that I took the day off work to walk it down to the gate. Casual & new observers of this blog will not really have any clue as to my addiction for the last year, but those who know me and those who read the other blog will understand. I wish I could have posted more and generally been more publicly engaged but with what effectively added up to five plays this year (on top of a day job), time was short.
So...it's nearly done. As I write, the polls are about three hours away from closing on the east coast. The latest polls (I use Real Clear Politics exclusively because they take combined averages), which now carry less import than ever, show Obama up by 7.6%, 52.1% to McCain's 44.5%. In terms of electoral votes, RCP has Obama up by 128, with no toss up states.

Polling data's been the trickiest thing to analyze this election. Not just because I'm a bloody actor and hopeless with numbers, but because there are so many factors allegedly playing outside of the numbers. Between the Bradley Effect, the Reverse Bradley Effect, the neo-con shy conservative backlash (basically old-fashioned conservatives for Obama because they are sick of neo-conservatism) and the cellphone only vote (pollsters only use landlines for data collection; some feel this skews data in McCain's favour).

While all of these factors have been dissected, picked over and analyzed by pundits and eejits like me, it's all pure speculation. There's no way of knowing whether, say, the Bradley Effect will play out today. You can't poll for it ("Sir, just one last question...are you lying to me because you really hate black people and will vote whitey on Tuesday?") so we'll just have to wait and see.

So...up the top there's an electoral map of the US, with no reds or blues or fancy bits.

If McCain does better than expected in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida, we've got a race on our hands. However, if these states break early in Obama's favour, it's going to be a mammoth task for McCain. My personal feeling is that if any of the south east states go Obama's way, it's goodbye GOP.


Say McCain does well in the east/south east. Your key states are then Missouri, Indiana and the historical bellwether, Ohio. I fully expect McCain to take Indiana and have mild confidence Obama will squeak past in Ohio, but it's Missouri that's key. It's been on a knife-edge for months, never showing either candidate with more than a two-point lead, even for a day. If McCain is travelling well by the time the numbers start showing in the midwest...just about every poll has been wrong.

Most pollsters, pundits, commentators and analysts will say that Obama will win, comfortably. They also predict that the Dems will increase their stakes in Congress. But there are quite a few who are playing up McCain's chances. Sure, most of them might be Dick Morris and some may be saying this to get dejected McCain people off the couch and into the booth, but there's no denying that until we start getting hard numbers, McCain has a shot.

Finally, it's worth noting the little piece of trivia around the Washington Redskins predicting the outcome of the election.

The legend goes something like this: for 15 elections, the Redskins have accurately predicted the winner of the race for the White House. If the Redskins win their last home game before the election, the incumbent wins the election. If they lose, the incumbent loses.

Yesterday the Redskins played the Pittsburgh Pirates and were defeated, 23-6. According to the legend, that means Barack Obama will take the White House.

Of course, as with all superstition...it's fundamentally flawed.

Firstly, the pattern was broken in 2004 when Green Bay beat Washington 28-14, meaning John Kerry would win the Presidency...we all know how that transpired.

Secondly, there is and can be no correlation (other than purely coincidental) between a football game and the votes of millions of people. When I pointed this out elsewhere online, I was rounded on. I asked for a bit of science to back up the correlation, but of course, received none. I'd like to see some science to prove the link though. That way, America could save millions and millions of dollars by doing away with the election process altogether and merely determining the nation's leader by holding a game of football.

Friday, 17 October 2008

McCain goes up, McCain goes down...


Thursday morning (Australian time) saw the last of four debates leading up to the U.S. Presidential election. While most commentators and undecided voters gave the result to Barack Obama, many have suggested that Republican candidate John McCain delivered his best performance to date.

While it's true that McCain was more aggressive and animated during the Hofstra showdown, his performance was aided not so much by his more fiery rhetoric or his invisible dialogue with 'Joe the Plumber' (more of whom later), but by…a table and chair.

In Debate One at Ole Miss, McCain looked ill-at-ease and grumpy at the lectern, avoiding Obama's eye (even when they shook hands…tch tch tch) and appearing almost to turn his shoulder to the 'new kid' on the block, as if out of disdain. It's no surprise McCain looked out of sorts: he really didn't want to be there. Not only did he try to 'suspend the campaign' using the outright (and publicly transparent) lie that he was needed IMMEDIATELY in Washington to help shape the Wall Street bailout bill, he pulled the pin on a David Letterman interview for the same reason.

Letterman busted him in an interview with Katie Couric and later found out he did not return to Washington until the next morning. It appears that the truth of it is...McCain's attempt to ditch the campaign was done out of cowardice. He knew that the electorate ties the economic failure to the Bush administration, an administration he strongly supported, despite his 'maverick' claim.

The second debate in Nashville was a 'town hall-style' number. McCain had been goading Obama through the northern summer to participate in a few of these head-to-heads, presumably because he thinks that this type of venue is where he's at his best. Also, it's a nice needle tactic. Politicians only use the 'debate' chestnut when they know their opponent will decline. It's not about actually having a debate, it's about making your opponent look too frightened to participate. It's a fairly mild old tactic, and it didn't work for McCain.

Neither did the Nashville debate. I'm not sure why McCain thinks he's such a hot town-hall 'stumper'. His performance in the second stoush was easily his worst. He overdid the attempt at cheesy intimacy by whispering into his mic and getting uncomfortably close to questioners. His stiff gait and peripatetic wanderings made him look like much older and...forgetful, like someone who'd lost their keys.
There was also the much-dissected 'that one' comment, which many read as racist. It wasn't. It was one of many cack-handed attempts to look as if he was engaging in a close and conspiratorial conversation with a group of friends, kind of a 'shhh, if I whisper he won't hear...just between you me and the lamppost...it was him.' Fail.

Obama, by contrast, may not have had a great deal to say in any of the debates...but his key is consistency. He's cool, measured, well-spoken, courteous and unflappable. This only serves to make McCain look even more curmudgeonly.

The most recent debate in New York belonged not to Mr Smooth or Mr Cranky, but a shaven-headed Toledan called Joe Wurzelbacher. 'Joe the Plumber' (as he will be known in election lore) was McCain's weapon on Thursday: a 'six-pack' voter who was engaged by Obama on the stump and whom McCain useed as a populist example of why obama's tax policies won't work. Obama & McCain referred to Joe repeatedly during the debate, and as a result the media descended on Wurzelbacher's front yard like Amy Winehouse on a bag of white powder.

Joe seemed to like holding forth too, on everything from taxes to Iraq, bleating a very uniform neocon line. Not, it would appear, just an undecided voter from the 'burbs.

There have been allegations that Joe the Plumber is a not an independent (but a Republican), not a licensed plumber (but a guy who works for plumbers), and tellingly (in a claim first raised online by Martin Eisenstadt of the McCain-friendly Eisenstadt Group) related to one Charles Keating, convicted felon and the man responsible for the S&L scandal in the late 1980s.

That the GOP used Joe as a plant is a bit of a stretch. It's about one hundred times as much of a stretch as Sarah 'Bush with Boobs' Palin asking Joe Biden at the top of the Veep debate if she could call him by his given name purely so she could hit him later on with 'Say it Ain't So, Joe'. All this 'Joe-ing' has got me thinking that there's some kind of McCain campaign drinking game going on. Every time the name is mentioned, the guys back at HQ have to down a shot.

If that's the case, they must've got totally arseholed during the debate the other night. His name was mentioned 21 times by McCain and five by Obama...meaning, effectively...no-one won the debate. America's obsession with meaningless distraction worked to bury the populist rhetoric of both candidates.

It's mildly ironic that the Attention Deficit Disroder (read: penchant for shiny things) afflicting Americans contributes to the style and pitch of political campaigns, yet the way in which politicians try to play to this flaw is so lacking in subtlety that it's almost instantly dismissed by the electorate as transparent.

McCain's campaign of the last four or five weeks is an example of this. The big push came in late August. In a perfectly timed move, McCain's choice of VP not only blunted the impact of Obama's DNC speech, it spoke to his overarching need to choose a deputy that would contrast his perceived shortcomings.

Within a matter of weeks, the advantage McCain has built by choosing Palin was gone. Sure, Palin had opened her mouth to Gibson and Couric (and Hannity, but he doesn't count because he threw nerf balls to her like the neocon clock-puncher he is) but it was more than that...here's a capsule of the way it's gone the last few weeks for McCain:

He transparently lied in his justification for suspension of the campaign, he pulled the pin on Letterman, he was wooden, rude and grumpy in Debate One, he called Obama 'that one' in Debate Two and hobbled around the stage like a cranky pensioner looking for free creamed corn, he pulled out of Michigan, flagging to all that he was running out of ideas, he let his people announce to the Wash Post that they were going to run a 'fierce' negative campaign on Obama, flagging to the electorate that they were out of ideas, he used Palin as his loyal drone in testing the water with Ayers & Wright (even though he's condemned the use of Wright as a legitimate tactic), he then pulled out of the negative campaign when his numbers went south almost immediately and he then forced himself into bringing up Ayers in the debate because he found out Obama had taunted him about not being able to say it to his face.

All the while, the core droolers in the GOP ranks who want to believe Obama is a terrorist baby-killing Muslim 'nigger' are hoping and praying that McCain will throw populism to the winds and start hurling all the filth that's been floating around online for 18 months.

If there's one lesson to be learned from all this, it's that these people are more interested in getting the job than doing the job.

If they were keen to show the people integrity, honesty and all that good stuff we like to think we admire, there'd be no such thing as negative campaigning (which of course is not a new phenomenon) and they'd spurn populism, choosing VPs based on merit instead of how they'll 'scan' and answering directly and honestly the questions put to them instead of vomiting their rehearsed soundbites.

In the week after the Palin announcement, McCain turned a seven point deficit into a three point lead. By mid-September, when Palin first opened her stupid mouth to Chuck Gibson, they were locked up again. Now Obama has a 7-ish point lead, which has been reasonably steady for the last week.

The good data from the third debate will come into play over the next day or two, and I'd expect Obama to take a little bit of a hit based on GOP Joe's input. But, as Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics. Two and a half weeks is an eon.

What do they need to do? Obama seems determined to play clean (for a politician, anyway). By that I mean...don't say anything nasty yourself, just let your websites and ads dish the gruel. But I think there's room for Obama to hit a little harder. Hit Bush, call the man a fool, a spendthrift and a murderer. He is all of these things and America needs to be shaken by the lapels in this regard. Obama could stand to get a little angry.

Obama's coolness can appear as aloofness and arrogance, and Lord knows we seem to hate anyone who sounds intelligent. There are a lot of anti-intellectual types who should maybe read up a little on what anti-intellectualism can lead to. Start with Pol Pot.

McCain? Well hell, I dunno. He has no trouble getting angry and making rash calls. If his campaign team doesn't know what to do other than run negative, I can't help 'em. The problem for McCain in these last weeks is that the only people who buy the Ayers stuff are those who are in the tank for him anyway. Everyone else just looks at it and rolls their eyes.

I'm thinking the only thing that can help McCain now is the mystical and magical Bradley Effect...and, in a blow for pundits, analysts, commentators and armchair bigmouths like myself, there's no way of accurately factoring Bradley into the equation until November 5.

The only other thing that can secure a win for McCain is just as nebulous as Bradley: the October Surprise. A few months ago some Internet scribes were suggesting that it would come in the form of a video recording of Michelle Obama spouting Jeremiah Wright-style 'anti-whitey' comments. These people claimed not only that such footage exists, but that they have seen it and it's being kept under wraps in order to provide the maximum impact.

I have some advice for the people who might be in possession of such a tape...if you want McCain to win, it might be a good idea to release this video...last week.

Monday, 6 October 2008

"Do you think 43% of Americans are ignorant?"

This is reprinted from an answer I gave to the above question on Yahoo Answers recently:

I know Americans. Quite a few. The Americans I know are smart, wise, well-travelled, inclusive and really engaged.

However, there is a definite impression of Americans as insular.

Y'know how Middle Eastern types have been stereotyped as terrorists, the English as weak-willed snobs, the French as garlic-smelling surrender monkey (thanks Groundskeeper Willie) the Germans as humourless automatons, the Italians as passionate gangsters, the Irish as tragic wordsmithing drunks, the Australians as boisterous but laidback beer-swillers, the Chinese as 'inscrutable', the Indians as call centre jockeys...and so on?

Americans are stereotyped as boorish, ignorant, insular, greedy, dumb, backwards culture-raping hicks with low standards and high expectations.

It's not very fair is it? And in most cases, not in the least bit true. My argument to people who make these claims is two fold, and quite simple:

1) You generally don't become the pre-eminent power in the world by being boorish, ignorant, insular, greedy, dumb, backwards culture-raping hicks with low standards and high expectations;

2) The people who claim foul against Americans are the ones who eat McDonalds, wear Nikes, dunk Oreos, listen to Jay-Z and watch (cringe) Ghost Whisperer.But...to every stereotype there is some truth. A lot of Americans seem to think we all hate you...and that we are all socialists and terrorists...this gives rise to maps such as:

http://www.dodgyspace.com/uploads/americ...
http://vevmo.com/f142/american-view-of-t...
http://www.welfarestate.com/map/

A lot of answerers here display the height of ignorance when they say that foreigners should shut up about your election. Well, sorry kids, what you do affects me. I want in, and I have the right to free speech as well...to suggest otherwise makes a bit of a mockery of the whole free speech thing. In short, there are ignorant people all over. I meet 'em every day...and they ain't American. There are also kind, smart, thoughtful people all over too.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Random

I'm not a fan of Pokemon or the Mission Impossible series (or Tom Cruise) but I thought this was funny.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Obama on Religion.

Here's something that has not been widely publicised that I found very interesting.
Barack Obama on religion.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Unwell.

The last couple of days I've been suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection. My girl has tonsilitis. I have no tonsils...so I guess it's just -itis. I took two days off work and went back in this morning. The powers that be took one look at me and backed off like I was a vampire, though in truth I felt more like this kid:






Last week I attended a product testing seminar through my work. It was a typical finger food and bubbly affair, with a complimentary goodie bag. I like goodie bags, because I'm forever losing pens. Also in the bag was a thermometer, which I've been using to take my temperature (well, it seemed the most obvious thing to do with it, y'know). Despite the fact that I've been runnig a constant fever for the beter part of two days, this thing has my temp at no higher than 35.8 C (96).

So...I am off to bed, because I feel like a bag of assorted dog. But I'll leave you with something fun...

Monday, 15 September 2008

Sarah Palin & Tall.

When John McCain announced his running mate a few weeks back, there were very few people involved or even interested in the U.S Presidential election who didn't react with puzzlement. Apart from belonging to the party whose policies have destabilised America's economy, international relationships and sense of 'self', McCain's greatest perceived weakness has been his ability to galvanise the Republican base. He's viewed variously as old, crusty, stodgy, ill-tempered, too moderate, weak on (and in) faith - in short, not nearly conservative enough to please conservatives and certainly not insane enough to please neo-conservatives.



How to fix perceptions? Who to choose that will counterbalance all of these claims in one fell swoop?


Enter Sarah Palin, former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska and currently governor of that state. She appeared to be, on the face of things anyway, everything McCain isn't. He's 72, she's 44. He's all beat up and broken, she looks immaculately restored. He's perceived as too liberal, she's a neocon's wet dream. He's been shaky on faith for years, she's a rock-solid right wing fundie. He's been closely involved in the policies of the Bush years...she's about as far away from the Beltway as it's possible to be. Plus, they have very different genitals, and genitalia and skin colour are playing very big roles in this election year.



She seemed the perfect choice. But the perfect choice for what? Filling the void should the President of the United States be unable to fulfil his duties? President of the Senate? Supervision of the electoral college? Or simply the perfect populist expedient to propel John McCain into the White House?


One short term consequence was certain, the announcement of Palin as VP took all the glow off Barack Obama's stadium speech the day before.


The Democrats had had a perfect convention: the theatrical arc of the speechifyin' was immaculate, from Michelle Obama's easy, laid-back style, right through Hills' and Bill's much-needed calls for party unity. Even Gore stepped on the gas so the final day wouldn't peak too soon and pull focus from what was to follow.



Obama gave a brilliant speech. Well-measured, pithy, attacking where necessary and outlining in broad strokes the plan for the future. It was everything an acceptance speech should be. But...


..the post-coital glow of Obama's super-sized love-in lasted about 12 hours. McCain's choice of Palin immediately switched all the focus back to the GOP, virtually destroying any chance of a DNC 'bump' in numbers.


Journalists, bloggers, regular Joes, nutcases and smearers were all over Ms Palin. Who was she, what were her achievements...and more importantly, for those who were well pissed with the McCain team for stealing the DNC's thunder...what dirt might be uncovered?

Very little, as it turned out. Despite the Troopergate allegations, questions around nepotism, her family life and her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy, there were precious few 'smear' blows landed...and in true neocon style, Palin was shielded from having to answer any of these questions.

The choice of Palin did much to re-ignite McCain's chances in November. His poll numbers following the RNC turned right around. His 2-3 point deficit rapidly swung around in his favour, and this had very little to do with his own lacklustre performance at the RNC, a convention saved by the appearance of Palin and the non-appearance of Mr Poison, George W. Bush.

So Palin, young, female, fresh and new, gave a great deal of impetus to a campaign that looked tired, with policies cut very much from the Bush cloth. To many it's looked for the last few weeks as if McCain has done the unthinkable: he's managed, by choosing Palin, been able to distance himself from the incumbent administration and put himself in a position where he can tout 'change' (albeit under the title of 'reform').

But there are signs the honeymoon might be over for the McCain/Palin team. She couldn't be shielded from the media forever, and a few days back gave an interview to ABC America's Charles Gibson, where she essentially started to undo all the good work achieved by the McCain team from the end of the DNC through the end of the RNC. In the interview she came across as almost as thick-headed and unprepared for office as Bush. Her most notable piece of stupidity came when Gibson asked:

"What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?" Her response?

"They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

Oh...yay. That's confidence-inspiring isn't it? She was also completely stumped by Gibson's question on her support and understanding of the 'Bush Doctrine'.

The Republicans are force-feeding Palin's 'executive experience' as a major factor for her suitability. It's true, Biden, Obama and even McCain have never been short-serving governors of a state with one of the smallest economies in America, nor have they been mayor of any small towns. But with time, exposure and a little more perspective, Americans are now starting to see that Palin is a much bigger risk than they first thought. The Palin/RNC bump seems to be wearing off. While it's true that Obama and his team have been stunned by the dazzling success Palin has brought to the last few weeks of the McCain campaign, they must concentrate not on her, not even on Ol' Grumpy, but on the total failure of the last few years...and what they are going to do to remedy that failure.