Saturday, August 30, 2008

NSW, a parlous state

Oh my heartbreak old New South Wales. A roller coaster week, featuring yet another assault on our energy assets, revealed the depths of the social and political hole we are in.

We have a weak premier, unable to fill the boots of his predecessor and supported by equally hopeless ministers. Our major opposition party, the Liberals, are crippled by a party structure dominated by the extreme right. The political rum and junior conservative partners, The Nationals, are all but dead but refuse to lie own.

Premier Iemma recalled parliament this week, at great cost, for a show down on the sell off of the state’s power assets. He assumed he had forced his conservative opponents, supporters of privatization anyway, into approving his bid. Like everything else his administration tries, it was pure bully tactics.

For there part the conservative side had nothing to lose by rejecting Iemma’s legislation, and with a number of his own party ready to defect as well the enabling bill was rapidly withdrawn.

Why so desperate to sell
It’s all to common now, whether ideologically or greed driven, to sell of assets that rightfully belong to the people. The results are a short term economic windfall and a long term loss of control of essential services. I can’t think of one example where the people of this country have benefited from an asset sale.

The desperation of Iemma’s Labor government to force this sale has been evident for a long time. With one of the key drivers, Treasurer Michael Costa, offering to resign as soon as the sale is achieved it is not unreasonable to suspect a post parliament job deal has been hatched.

But in the wake of this latest failure, and with news of a new backdoor attempt, another piece of puzzle has been revealed. Unless the sale is made finance rating group Standard & Poors have suggested NSW will lose its AAA credit rating.

Well, so be it! Labor has ruled NSW for the past 13 years; they must bear the responsibility of any sudden economic disaster, though in reality we all wear it. However an asset sale is not the solution, particularly when it also gets this badly performing government off the hook to wreak more havoc on the economy.

Time for a fresh election?
It is still early in the cycle, but the Iemma government have clearly breached election promises not to sell off power. Those same forces which came together this week to stop the sell off bid should return to parliament again and vote the government down.

I realize that would include members of the premier’s own Labor party, but he has been as dishonest to them as he has the rest of the state. I’m not sure O’Farrell’s Liberals have what it takes to win an election, but surely between the parties there is sufficient quality talent to form a far better government than we currently have.

It is not even like there is any great ideological gap now, just purely tribal. It is a radical thought, a broad coalition of MP’s as opposed to the mess we now have. It really is time to look beyond the increasingly dysfunctional party system toward effective governance.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sayings of Hillary Tubman Clinton

If the saying is a dog, rewrite it.
If they are shouting after you, ignore them and rewrite it.
If you want a taste of freedom just ignore everyone else and rewrite.
Don’t ever stop recreating.
Keep rewriting.

Create your own reality – it works for me…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Painting the conservative landscape

Ok, that sounds arty, unlikely in Canada when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces $44.8-million in planned cuts to arts-and-culture programs. Girding themselves to call a ‘snap election’ Canada’s Conservatives are also exhibiting how bound they are to doctrine over outcomes.

For Harper the doctrine is a simple one, retain government at all costs. But his coalition of the conservative end of the spectrum have a mix of traditional and neo-conservative agenda to enact, regardless of demonstrative inanity.

Reducing funding to arts and culture, indeed any intellectual pursuit, is policy carved in conservative stone; as are:

  • An aborted effort to give the food industry a greater role in inspection. This policy document surfaced in the same week tainted meat products started killing people across the country. But self regulation is a priority.
  • They backed away from supporting a bill that would have made it a crime to take the life of a fetus. That bill will be replaced by a more convoluted version. Only conservatives have the simply answers to this complex issue.
  • Canada’s Conservatives want to force all prison inmates to work. Again, it must be wonderful to have such simple blanket solutions to highly complex issues.
  • To achieve the ‘holy grail’ of the neo-cons, free trade, the Conservatives are risking Canada’s primary producers walking off their farms if the current controlled marketing systems are dismantled. It is no idle threat; long term farm profit is not based on production, but on trading quotas and other inbuilt instruments.

“The Conservatives were supposed to be the party of economic rectitude. Yet, they'd gone from a surplus of $2.8-billion from the same period a year earlier to $500-million in the red.”

You will note that the only items above that come close to addressing economic conditions either put consumers at risk or destroy the dynamics of a reasonably well run industry. But we know from the examples of Bush in the US and Howard in Australia, conservatives pay lip service to economic rectitude and really focus on ‘out there’ social policy.

Like it or not, the conservative experiment over pat decades has made real economic focus the only priority. We simply don’t have the capacity to tinker with moral/social agendas when the world economies are going down the sink.

The world, societies, have survived this long without the universal enforcement of dubious conservative values. Inevitably the major conflicts and dangers are related to economic and trade issues, from pre-history on. We don’t need more conservative diversion, we need workable economic programs.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A look at pornography and censorship

Photographs of nude teenagers that prompted police to close a gallery exhibit, of work by Bill Henson in Sydney sparked an obscenity investigation. The exhibition was cleared by censors as non-pornographic. (Collection of news stories)

However an art magazine followed up with a protest that featured nude photos of a six-year-old girl posing in adult jewellery. Again no charges were pursued.

Intrepid, redheaded blogger D.K. Raed never forgets a thing, least of all a potentially saucy story. Some time back I referred to an event in my early political life to illustrate a point, the event related to a view on censorship and I promised to get back to it. So here, D.K. is a different sort of post for me, a personal reflection; and probably a disappointment for you.

Genesis of censorship views

Still short of my teen years I had tired of the limitations of the children’s library and nervously ventured into the hallowed adult version. From that first visit I fell in love – twice. The range of books, real books covering a vast new world for me, laid out in serious dark wood shelves and mysterious nooks and crannies was immediately welcoming.

Yes, love at first sight, and both ways it seems to me, as I was made to feel right at home in this new setting. Partly that was the second love affair – platonic I might add; what would I know at that time about any other kind? She was the ageless librarian, owlish glasses, long straight hair and long straight tweed skirt; the very embodiment of the rich intellectual content of the library.

At first she guided me through the actual contents of the library, learning my tastes then expanding them. He husband, I was told, was an international airline pilot, and often bought banned books into the country. She urged me to read one of these, The Ginger Man by J P Donleavy.

That book had the desired effect of launching me into a love of literature, as well as my love of non-fiction. But I still haven’t worked out why the book was ever banned. Sure the story portrayed stark realism as well as dark humour, but all in proper context. It certainly didn’t trigger any unseemly pubescent dreams.

Champion anti-censor

A few years later, when in my mid teens I’d become politically involved the censorship issue again reared its ugly had. This time it wasn’t gritty sexuality the authorities feared, but Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. I expect it was only the ban which inspired every young person worth there salt to get hold of a copy, the LRB itself wasn’t very inspiring.

Then came along a relatively young Minister for Customs, the man responsible for censorship. After years of conservatism Don Chipp, like a shining knight, rode in and hacked the banned book list to shreds. Even D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley's Lover became required reading, though I’m still not sure why. It really has very little appeal to the rebellious teen.

A little power

Still later, into the early 1970’s I had graduated from political foot soldier to minor power broker. The party describes itself as ‘broad church’ and extended from my mildly leftish position to the conservative Christian right. It was this latter group who again dragged me into the censorship debate.

My support, among many others, was sought to push through policy to drive essentially very mild pornography off newsagent’s display stands. I had a young family, and it was considered proper that I should protect them. My problem is that I was opposed to censorship, and I still am.

My argument has not really changed from that time – censorship and other prohibitions not only don’t work, they actually drive illicit markets. The best advertising a book, film or play can get is the prudes screaming for banning. It is about choice, even wrong choice; but it is also about understanding the social dynamics before trying to control them.

I would always argue that the most efficacious social policies generally require a fair measure of effort. I don’t profess to understand the artistic value of the photographs in those news items leading this post; I personally find the images disturbing. But I can choose not to go to that particular gallery or pick up that art magazine.

Find the cause first

The argument of any deleterious effect thy might have on others is speculative. I know it is, because for years I’ve argued that if pro-censorship people were serious they would fund studies to understand why people need/want pornography; which is to my mind in the eye or reaction of individual viewers, not a blanket threat.

In the end there is no concrete, objective social measure of what constitutes a social threat, what constitutes dangerous pornography. Social values change continually. I’m assured women’s shopping catalogues can be regarded as mild porn, and we are aware tat an innocent pic of a child can become dangerous in the hands or eyes of some.

The arguments aren’t going away, and the all pervasive internet will make its management all the more difficult. So surely it is time to focus on the hard work aspects, launch the range of studies needed to define the dangerous triggers and the reasons they are triggers. The words and images are not the danger, the reactions they cause are what we should be understanding.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Time for the campaign to show balls

Obama as “The One,” has resurfaced in a new Web video

I still find it amazing, even outrageous, that 90% of comments/ads from the Presidential candidates refer to their opponent. Ok, that is one of my major no-nos, but for good reason; it amounts to a free kick at best, an own-goal at worst.

It is surely time for Obama to turn the tables, claim the high ground by:

  • Announcing that ad expenditure will cease with the bulk of excess cash going to rebuild homes in NOLA
  • Relying on McCain’s ad expenditure and capitalize on the Obama references
  • Turning the pejoratives, e.g.: 'The One', to positive messages
  • Focusing on household economy and remedy messages
  • Link McCain, by inference, to Bush economics

US Economic Concerns

The US is facing “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression” according to the IMF.

“The details are too technical for most of us to understand. (They’re too technical for many bankers to understand, which is part of the problem.)” according to the NYT.

It isn’t really all that difficult to understand: When economies grow the benefits are supposed to flow on to workers and the wider community. That was before the investor became all important and jobs were taken overseas to cheaper labour markets.

The dynamics meant that American workers would buy imported products with their reduced incomes. What is so bloody difficult about that? American’s had they jobs taken off them, or incomes reduced, in favour of cheaper foreign workers.

For Wholesale Inflation Surges read “we’ve screwed up, but we don’t want to tell you…” The supply chain is just that, a linked sequence. If one part of it is in trouble the rest are surely infected as well. The wholesale sector doesn’t just suck up its losses, it passes them on, just as the investment (market) sector does. “Yous’all pay!”

For the life of me I can’t imagine who was supposed to pay for the corporate rape and pillage of the past decade. Certainly it was unlikely to be the Cheney/Bush crew and the Wal-Mart crowd are still trying hard to retain their exalted rights to continue. But just maybe it will take a dose of the McCains to convince America they are being led by crooks.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Canada election on the cards

I have never understood those velodrome cycle races, you know the ones when the riders try and out slow each other. In Canada we are seeing the same game applied to federal politics, with PM Harper and Liberal leader Dion circling slowly to see which will break first and trigger an election.

Harper is reluctant to go first, given he introduced a fixed term for the parliament. Dion doesn’t want to be seen as a wrecker by forcing an election; but something has to break soon. Given the current economics in that country I suspect the voters won’t really care who allows them the opportunity to have a say.

The Liberals really need to wake up to the fact that The economy, not the environment, is emerging as the No. 1 issue in the next election. Now I would argue that environment is now an economic issue, but Dion is still pushing it out front as a stand alone, potentially missing the advantage the Liberals desperately need.

“The Conservatives were supposed to be the party of economic rectitude. Yet, they'd gone from a surplus of $2.8-billion from the same period a year earlier to $500-million in the red.” G&M

That should be brilliant news for the Liberals, as one Liberal MP, Maurizio Bevilacqua, puts it: "The economy should be a slam dunk for us, but as yet, it isn't happening." But the Parti libéral du Canada have generally favoured campaigning on ‘hot button’ issues over he basics of good governance.

One can only suspect, given they have a good record on economic management, they fear the voter is just too dumb to understand economic issues. Try it Mr Dion; talk to the people about how Harpers Conservatives have hurt them and how you can turn the economy back in the right direction. Remain on the environmental track, to be sure; but as part of the wider economic debate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Election 08 trivia bites – A few favourite quotes

Perhaps you can join in with your favourite quotes. Here a few mine.

Previous: Coulter and Huffington

The candidates, presumably

The Patriot Game

The Middle East

It's the economy, stupid

Campaign about Campaign...

Campaign Vs policy

The minds and styles behind the campaigns

Let’s keep it short. Too many quotable quotes but none better than…

Back on the campaign trail after his Hawaii vacation, Sen. Barack Obama looked tanned… The Trail WaPo


“John McCain is a jerk. Alternately a bully and a whiner, and a bald-faced liar to perhaps a greater degree than even George Bush and Dick Cheney”

“McCain is running a stupid and mephitic campaign that insults even Americans of average intelligence virtually every day” Does being a jerk work? - Michael Tomasky - Guardian UK

And just a few more to go on with…

“John McCain's hired the same old folks who brought you George W. Bush” Obama ABC News

"at what point--give me a number, give me a specific number--[...]do you move from middle class to rich?" Pastor Warren

“How about $5 million?” McCain

“Obama is already distorting [McCain’s] comment about the definition of ‘rich’ in AmericaTucker Bounds

$4 million a year. That's enough to buy seven houses. A private jet. And 7,692 pairs of black calfskin loafers by Ferragamo. But it's not enough, according to John McCain, to make you rich. Stumper

Monday, August 18, 2008

Georgia and Quick Draw McCain

“Foolish Georgians for baiting the Russian bear. Silly Americans for egging them on.”
Marcus Gee

Writing in Canada’s Globe & Mail, Marcus Gee reflects some of the arrant nonsense being spun out on this tragic affair. Apart from generalizing the protagonists, at worst it was leaders of the countries mentioned, the article lays out a reasonable premise:

“…Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili started the whole thing by attacking separatists in South Ossetia, giving Russian leader Vladimir Putin the perfect excuse to respond in force. Washington encouraged the Georgian hothead by pumping him up with praise and making him think that it would gallop to his aid, while in fact it has no power at all to help.”

But that description is delivered as the clearly erroneous view of those who would “blame-the-victim”. “While Mr. Saakashvili blundered at the start and Washington underestimated the Russians, it is wrong to place the blame on the Georgians and their American allies,” Gee continued.

I’m not sure what the writer or his fellow apologists are sniffing that makes it so reasonable to turn a truth into a shaky, unfair attack. Senator John McCain, when asked about his tough rhetoric on the ongoing conflict in Georgia began:

"If I may be so bold, there was another president . . ." He caught himself and started again: "At one time, there was a president named Ronald Reagan who spoke very strongly about America's advocacy for democracy and freedom."

Did McCain also assume he was acting in a presidential way and perhaps encourage Georgia that the US would rush in to assist? Someone gave Saakashvili that impression and State say it wasn’t them. Quick Draw McCain has boasted of his close relationship with the Georgian President, did he also boast of his control of US resources?

Mikhail Saakashvili claims “I am not crazy…” In fact he has otherwise shown himself to be as urbane and thoughtful as a US trained lawyer can be. Russian President Medvedev charged that Saakashvili had acted like a "lunatic" in provoking the conflict, a fair call in retrospect.

Gee asserts that “It has been clear for months, even years, that Russia was determined to teach Georgia a lesson..” If a Canadian columnist can claim such knowledge then certainly all the main players would have understood the situation. Exactly who encouraged Saakashvili in this madness?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Election 08 trivia bites – The minds and styles behind the campaigns

Seldom is there such a marked contrast between contestants for high political office. In trying to divine those difference we are immediately with one candidate whose erratic behaviour spawns endless words and analysis. The other presents a discipline and control which reveals only what he wants revealed.

Given that dynamic a clear tit for tat analysis of style and mindset is highly problematic, but we have still managed a collection of trivia bites, plucked from the presses.

Previous: Coulter and Huffington

The candidates, presumably

The Patriot Game

The Middle East

It's the economy, stupid

Campaign about Campaign...

Campaign Vs policy


  • McCain is called the White Tornado – the Chaos candidate
  • style contains contradictions
  • a shoot-from-the-hip tendency
  • assertions of damn-the-consequences authenticity
  • a grudging acceptance on the other of the need to give in to the discipline of programmed politics
  • preaches the need to improvise under pressure
  • “You’ve got to have competing opinions”
  • “I appreciate and want some of the tension”

Matt Dowd, a key strategist in President's Bush's 2004 re-election race, said that the 2008 election is "either about Obama or about Bush. If it's about Bush, McCain loses. If it's about Obama, he has a possibility to win."

  • Barack Obama represents something big -- an inspiration movement
  • built for himself a reputation for consensus-building in the state senate
  • does not seem to suffer from the narrow-minded presumption that those who disagree must be either stupid or acting in bad faith
  • seems to be a liberal Democrat with the kind of opinions we expect liberal Democrats to hold
  • seems to offer is a respite from pettiness as a necessary prelude for policy breakthroughs
  • You've got to break out of what I call the 50-plus-one pattern of presidential politics


Ned Martel, Men's Vogue deputy editor, on dress style

  • McCain's style is "traditional Republican senatorial garb": a dark suit, a striped tie, solid shirt and, sometimes, the slightly grandfatherly sweater.
  • Obama often goes without a tie and is either in a dark solid suit or khaki pants. He favors blue or silver ties and white shirts.
  • Both candidates wear bracelets given to them by mothers of fallen soldiers
  • "It would be inappropriate if McCain looked as stylish as Obama — he has a different physique, he's a different age and he's much more conservative" Martel
  • McCain's clothes: they're too big. "I think what he's trying to do is create a bigger body image, maybe he uses bigger shoulder pads, but I think it makes him look smaller" Evangelia Souris – Fashion manager
  • “…the former fighter pilot has a quick step and looks dapper in uniform — he can carry off a leather bomber jacket even at 71” Martel

By their offices ye shall know them

  • McCain's office oozes comfy clutter and informality: random piles of books, a fortune-cookie message taped to the desk, an abundance of tchotchkes and bric-a-brac.
  • Obama's office feels more like a gallery of modern art: precisely placed objects, sparsely adorned surfaces, clean lines, choreographed displays.
  • Both offices show their occupants' sentimental streak
  • McCain has a picture of his favorite high school teacher, and a 1904 Navy register that lists his grandfather as a midshipman.
  • Obama has a photo of the cliff in Hawaii where his mother's ashes were scattered into the Pacific, and a tiger-beating stick from his grandmother's village in Kenya.

Campaign Events

  • Obama’s events are multi-cultural extravaganzas
  • McCain’s are almost entirely white
  • Obama draws crowds of all ages
  • McCain’s crowd trends older
  • Obama’s crowds are often huge
  • McCain’s are more intimate
  • The name, the skin color, the cosmopolitan upbringing give Obama the aura of otherness Patriotic themes dominate at McCain events

On Conflict

  • McCain comes from a mindset of the past where war is an acceptable substitution for diplomacy when opposing parties become entrenched in their positions
  • “You’re either for us or against us”
  • leans toward the old mindset of shooting first and asking questions later
  • “McCain's insistence on "winning in Iraq," remaining there "until Iraq is secure," and "bomb-bomb-bombing Iran" reveal the same mindset that made General Power so dangerous” Gen. Thomas Power - Cold War head of the Strategic Air Command
  • McCain can see no alternative to military victory, no matter what the cost
  • McCain began publicly urging the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein as early as 1997

Monday, August 11, 2008

Truth in Politics

“An environmentally compatible economy will bring prosperity”

“The climate change sceptics, just like Kermit the Frog, are wrong - it is getting easier to be green.”

Rob Oakeshott Port Macquarie NSW

I quote Robbie first up here because he has said something many potential Obama supporters want to hear from the probable Democrat candidate. First up, Oakeshott is no more honest than Obama, but his constituency is far more ready to hear the message.

Just backtracking, I have been discussing Obama and truth in politics on this and other blogs. That a candidate might be cautious and circumspect in commenting on issues seems a fair call to me. After all, putting faith in the electorate to accept Jeremiah like prophesy is a big ask.

Here I’m talking about people who find themselves in deep financial straits because:

  • They enter contracts and agreements on terms they cannot possibly meet
  • They ignore or rationalize bills as they come in
  • They ignore or dodge those attempting to collect supposed debts
  • They fail to try and negotiate a resolution (often fanciful these days anyway.)

In short, they ignore the hard economic reality before them.

It goes even further, however, to the corporations, banks and business who extend debt to people who obviously cannot met the terms of agreements. Of course there is a strong element of corporate corruption in all this, as debt is a saleable commodity up an increasingly slippery finance chain.

But the personal debt issue can be turned back to the political argument. Can you save people (a country) from themselves by telling them the hard truth? And what is the hard truth anyway?

Oakeshott can make his statements safely in a country which has just endured a decade or so of water restrictions and some fairly brutal weather extremes. Even my sub-tropical paradise has registered extreme low night time temps through this winter.

Yes, we know there is something big happening out there. Can we prove it scientifically? Well I can’t, and I don’t believe Oakeshott can either. But we believe, almost as a nation now, in the need for positive action even at personal cost.

So that is the economics of environment; what about personal finances? Surely nearly every household is touched first or second hand by the debt trap or housing crisis. The remedies in Australia and the US would be quite different, but initially would still call for a major overhaul of personal aspiration and acquisition.

It would be a brave politician, in either country, who would put forward an effective plan of attack as an election agenda. The question is, does avoiding to spell out the hard detail amount to lying? I think not. But I do agree with those who are aggrieved at representatives who claim to care and still don’t take action when they have the power.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Election 08 trivia bites – Campaign Vs policy

The lack of media balance in this campaign is evident on a number of levels, none more than focus on personality and gossip over policy and ideas about America’s future. The country, like the rest of the world, is faced with potentially catastrophic economic and climate issues, but personality and entertainment rule the day.

The approach seems to suit John McCain, who prefers to create policy on the trot. It’s far more difficult for Obama who is forced to water down his policy messages in the face of a seemingly uninterested electorate.

Previous: Coulter and Huffington

The candidates, presumably

The Patriot Game

The Middle East

It's the economy, stupid

Campaign about Campaign...


A Google news search using the separate search terms Obama, McCain and US election 08, with 30 results called for each query. (Aug 6 08)

Content judged on balance between policy discussion and campaign gossip.

Classifications are, at times, subjective but based primarily on the level of policy discussion in an article as opposed to campaigning chatter and gossip.

Results overview

A clear 3:1 ratio in favour of gossip.

Not surprisingly, given a one day scan, 9 of the 14 policy articles featured just one policy – energy.

Sadly only six of the articles even approaches straight reporting, the rest essentially commentary.

The article list:


  1. Energy is the hot topic on the campaign trail this week.
  2. Hillary Clinton to campaign for Obama in Florida
  3. Obama leads McCain nationally in AP-Ipsos poll
  4. TPM: another point in common between John McCain and George Bush
  5. Today on the presidential campaign trail
  6. Election 2008: "Czechoslovakia"
  7. Will the High Road Work for Obama?
  8. McCain in Michigan
  9. Pelosi keeps Hillary’s VP embers glowing
  10. More energy back and forth
  11. Obama returning to Minneapolis on Wednesday for fundraiser
  12. The Audacity of Contempt
  13. Man heckles Obama about Pledge of Allegiance
  14. John McCain's Greatest Misses
  15. Wishful Thinking and Deadly Self-Deception
  16. At last a poll that includes Cynthia McKinney
  17. Obama Abroad
  18. What We Need To See More Of From Obama
  19. Media Fall for 'Race Card' Spin
  20. Reading his clips
  21. Paging Dr. Gingrich! (Please Phone Home)
  22. Mock, disparage, ridicule, distort.
  23. Black reporter booted from McCain rally
  24. The Montauk Monster has been kidnapped. Maybe.
  25. McCain offers hugs, words of comfort to serviceman’s mom
  26. Cheney not expected to attend GOP convention
  27. Obama praises his woulda-been attacker
  28. Obama and McCain: The Wrinkly Issue of Age
  29. Obama on McCain mocking him for call to inflate tires: "They need ...
  30. A Preview of McCain’s Acceptance Speech
  31. Barack Backer Plays Dodgeball Over Obama Vote for Bush Energy Bill
  32. Fred Thompson
  33. Sen. Joe Lieberman to host Palm Beach town hall meeting
  34. What, St. Paul worry?
  35. Obama Pressed to Pledge; Obama Laughs at Pressure Gauge Attacks
  36. Who's the real Obama?
  37. He's not that mad
  38. Premiere Latino Public Television Network in US Reveals ...
  39. Report card the last before spring ‘09 election
  40. Political Punch
  41. McCain has comfortable lead in Arizona


  1. McCain pushes for more nuclear plants
  2. Nuclear waste disposal will cost US $96B
  3. Supreme Court, Abortion in the Balance: Obama and McCain Split on ...
  4. Energy compromise offers test for Obama, McCain
  5. We Don't Need a War on Terrorism
  6. McCain touts nuclear power in Fermi tour
  7. Is One Automaker Default Almost a Sure Thing?
  8. Presidential Candidates talk energy
  9. McCain Energized on Energy
  10. Obama's energy plan heavy on clean tech
  11. Obama's energy plan,
  12. Obama calls for ending reliance on foreign oil
  13. Business fears election will boost labor
  14. Obama's Plans Spell Economic Doom

I will comment on this one…

Note that McCain has never really budged in the national polls by more than a point here or a point there. But personality campaigning is the only real lever McCain’s team have in this race.

“Obama was knocked flat by McCain’s negative jabs very easily late last month, a sign that the minimal percentage of voters who had migrated to Obama over most of June and July were hardly on the bandwagon for good and still harbored doubts about him as a candidate and as a person.” Obama reclaiming lead in new polls

Using the same methodology as news, the blogs throw up an even stronger emphasis on personality over policy – try 2 out of sixty policy articles. Given the nature of blogging I would have expected a little more discussion on policies. For my part, demonstrably this series is basically campaign chatter, but I do balance that with more focused policy discussion, which also tend to drive more discussion.

It’s a different story for the media, for them it is a business driven by readership numbers. But in a campaign drawing more voter interest than any other race in generations the media are missing their mark. That is not my conclusion but the reported inability of the media to find the mark.

“…many media companies are struggling to translate campaign coverage into repeat readers and viewers — or revenue.”

“…broadcast networks’ evening newscasts — the traditional standard-bearers of television news — have been unable to stop their long-term ratings declines”

“The audience for newspaper Web sites rose sharply this year, even as the printed papers continued to lose circulation”

Perhaps some sound, old fashioned reporting, in place of self important punditry. The blogs do that well enough, but most of us don’t have the resources for reporting.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Now a local campaign to wallow in

Former Deputy PM, Mark Vaile, has finally decided the game isn’t worth the candle so we are facing a by-election here in Lyne. Just to remind regulars, this electorate is on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

I will probably limit blogging on this campaign as I’ve thrown my support behind independent, Rob Oakeshott. As a state MP I’ve supported Rob for many years, and see his move to the federal sphere as natural and valuable. But being involved in a campaign presents certain restraints.

So just a bit of a background on this match, know and possible candidates:


Rob Oakeshott:

Currently the Independent State MP for Port Macquarie, a major population centre in Lyne electorate. Rob originally won the seat at a by-election, standing for the National Party. After his by-election victory in Port Macquarie, Rob Oakeshott was re-elected in 1999, but in March 2002 resigned to sit as an Independent. He was re-elected with massive majorities at both 2003 and 2007 NSW elections. Rob is very much a consensus operator, looking for the best outcomes for his area of responsibility.


Rob Drew:

This seat has been held by the National/Country Party since it’s inception 1949. The loss of Lyne would be a death nell for the Nationals who are already staggering. Rob Drew is distinguished as being the recently sacked mayor of Port Macquarie, previously an unofficial nationals holding.

Logically the Nationals should be unassailable here, but form incumbent Vaile didn’t leave a lasting impression and it is being suggested the party will spend up to $1 mill to try and hang on to this semi rural seat.


Susie Russell:

The idea of the Greens winning this relatively conservative seat is almost laughable, but she has built a strong base. It’s easy to get the impression that Susie could easily support Oakeshott, who has listened to the Green lobby in the area and supported some key campaigns.

Susie Russell, Greens candidate for Lyne


No candidate

The growth of Port Macquarie means the Lyne is not as rural as it used to be. The huge retiree population means the seat has one of the country's oldest age profile. Many of these retirees have migrated from the cities where they would have voted Liberal, not National. Local Liberal Party branches will be keen to run, but the NSW state branch, and the Federal Executive will probably opt to keep Coalition relationships smooth by not running in the seat, even if past results reveal a latent Liberal vote.


No candidate

The candidate in last years federal election, James Langley, is not happy about Labor’s decision not to contest the seat. The fact is Rudd is in that part of the electoral cycle where he must concentrate on the unpopular policy facing his government. Why would he want to test what he knows is going to be bad news?

Monday, August 04, 2008

In memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died of heart failure at his Moscow home, aged 89. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 after writing harrowing works about the Soviet Union's system of labour camps, where he spent eight years from 1945.

The words ‘rest in peace’ seem somehow anathema to the life Solzhenitsyn lived. If his writing is any guide his thoughts must have been close to nightmares. My introduction to his writing was the novel August 1914, published in 1971, and among the most accessible of his works.

I am still struggling with ‘Gulag…” Each page seems intense with nightmare thoughts, not and easy read by any stretch. Still, I dare say I will keep picking it up from time to time and struggling through a few more pages. As a confirmation of the terrors inherent in society it seems just too close to the truth.

I remain indebted to this master of words, to his translators as well, but I don’t expect to emulate him any time soon.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Political paradoxes

“...politicians never make specific remarks about anything and when they do, nobody trusts what they say”

I risk severe criticism here for defending the paradoxes of political orthodoxy, more so because it contains overt criticism of the voters who create these paradoxes. I’m responding to a recent comment on another blog, but I admit I have no interest in direct attack, simply in understanding the dynamic.

“politicians never make specific remarks about anything” the sort of generalization which inspired the Epimenides paradox - Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: "All Cretans are liars." Of course there are massive dangers in generalization, but something most of us fall in to at times.

The comment quoted went on… “so as best we can, Americans look at the heart of the candidate: does he look presidential, does he care about America? most of all, is he a president who doesn't have sex with interns.”

The truth is that issues and policies are often as subjective as those personal measures of a potential political leader. Ideology and dogma can lock politicians into various positions, simply the desire to be re-elected can sway them in or out of positions.

I once had a friend in the Tasmanian parliament who was championing rigorous porn censorship. Among others I opposed his position, for reasons I will not go into in this discussion, but was curious enough to ask him why he did not promote his view in parliament. “I’m no good to anyone if I don’t get re-elected…” was the justification.

No good to anyone if he doesn’t stand for his belief either, as his career proved. The fact is, because voters have difficulty assimilating the ramifications of many issues facing the electorate – often avoiding the realities – it is common for a serious politician to have two notional drawers.

The first drawer contains those elements suitable for open sharing with the voter at large. The second drawer contains the unpalatable truths, those the electorate would reject out of hand, but which the serious politician must be fully aware. I distinguish the serious politician from my former Tasmanian friend, that latter who only kept unpalatable electoral truths in his second drawer.

McCain is actually very light on real policy, essentially because he is reactive rater than strategic. He is, however, tactical and armed with certain knowledge can use it against his opponent who is more inclined to face the realities. McCain knows that Americans should be paying higher taxes, so it is a simple thing for him to accuse his opponent of having higher taxes on the agenda.

In my experience it is a general unwillingness of voters to accept policy realities that drives politicians to water down the message or even avoid it completely. Logical expediency leads to other shifts, such as Obama’s sudden willingness to discuss off-shore drilling. Does that mean he would approve off-shore drilling? Or does it simply mean he is open to further discussion? Or perhaps he is being forced into telling voters what they want to hear.

What still confounds me is that if voters can be so decisive on subjective personal analysis why can’t they apply that same ability to real issues? In essence the processes are the same, except McCain has already realized that the cult of personality is a far easier spring to tap.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Election 08 trivia bites – Campaign about Campaigning

The danger of living in the pressure cooker environment of a political campaigning is allowing the campaign itself to become the issue. Senator McCain has obviously fallen into that trap now, even to the degree of stylizing issues discussion as making issues political. Ummmm, sorry John, issues are political, campaigns are supposed to deal with issues. But enough from me, let’s hear some political snippets from the campaign about campaigning.

Previous: Coulter and Huffington

The candidates, presumably

The Patriot Game

The Middle East

It's the economy, stupid

In this campaign, it seems, McCain just can't catch a break.

a bit of bad luck does not make a trend - McCain senior aide Mark Salter

  • "…these things go in cycles. Even in the course of this campaign there have been months where I am a genius and months where I am an idiot," Obama
  • [McCain is] part of a Washington establishment that "has failed the American people on energy and that failure has led directly to our current crisis." Obama
  • …a "hypocritical political attack," McCain
  • "With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to ‘the people of the world,' I'm starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too." McCain
  • “It is hard for me to understand Senator McCain’s argument. He was telling me I was supposed to take this trip. He suggested it and thought it was a good idea.” Obama standing in front of No. 10 Downing Street.
  • Obama has complained that McCain is offering little of substance to voters and does little more than attack.
  • "All those negative ads he's running won't do a thing to lower your gas prices or lift up the debate in this country" Obama
  • "we're proud of that commercial." McCain

Britney Obama

The "celebrity" television ad showed spliced images of Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton with video of Mr. Obama addressing 200,000 Germans in Berlin last week.

  • "It celebrates the excitement that he has generated, that is certainly more akin to the excitement that a celebrity generates than a normal politician," McCain senior adviser
  • "I admire his (Obama's) campaign, but what we are talking about here is substance and not style.”
  • “And what we're talking about is who has an agenda for the future of America. Campaigns are tough, but I am proud of the campaign that we have run" McCain
  • "You'd think we'd be having a serious debate but so far all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.”
  • “I do have to ask my opponent: Is that the best you can come up with?" Obama
  • "So far all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton"
  • "I do have to ask my opponent: Is that the best you can do? Is that what this election is really all about? Is that worthy of the American people." Obama.
  • If a certain heir to a hotel-based fortune is rethinking his support of John McCain, it will be understandable
  • Hilton was so enthusiastic about his candidate of choice that federal records show he donated twice as much as the law allows (the campaign returned the excess)
  • "I didn’t think McCain could look silly. But that ad diminishes him and makes him look silly.” Hollywood producer Norman Lear

Surprise! McCain is a white man

The McCain campaign is trying to shake up a race that currently favours Obama at a time when the U.S. economy is weak, the U.S. military is stretched fighting two wars, and the annual budget deficit is approaching a half trillion dollars.

  • McCain Camp Says Obama Is ‘Playing the Race Card’
  • The best way to play the race card sometimes is to accuse the other side of playing it.
  • "Since they don’t have any new ideas, the only strategy they’ve got in this election is to try to scare you about me"
  • "They’re going to try to say that I’m a risky guy. They’re going to try to say, 'Well, you know, he’s got a funny name and he doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills." Obama’s racist comment
  • Some observers interpreted this as Obama "accus[ing] McCain of running a racist, xenophobic campaign."
  • "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong," McCain campaign manager Rick Davis
  • "disappointed that Senator Obama would say the things he’s saying.” McCain
  • I asked myself. Did he call McCain "Whitey McWhiteguy"? Andrew Romano Newsweek
  • “I’m very disappointed and race will not have any role in my campaign”
  • “It’s very clear what his comments imply–anyone who looks at those and previous comments that he has made. I think it’s very clear that he has. I’m very disappointed and I repeat it wont be part of our campaign” McCain introducing race to the campaign
  • “a desperate attempt to salvage a desperate campaign” Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison
  • “It’s ridiculous, it’s offensive and you have to wonder if there is a double motive for it”
  • “The McCain campaign can’t get any traction…So what do you do? You attack the other guy.” Democratic Rep. Artur Davis
  • “Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using races as an issue, but he does believe they’re using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign.” Gibbs

The Post-Hummer Economy

  • Barack Obama today called for reform of the nation's energy economy
  • accusing President Bush of "letting the oil companies write his oil policy"
    "It's too important for us to be doing business as usual" Obama
  • "When George Bush came into office he put Dick Cheney in charge of energy policy. . . . We cannot afford four more years."
  • “It's time we had an energy policy that works for you”
  • McCain Camp Sees Energy As Winning Issue
  • If you're looking for someone to blame for high gas prices, John McCain's campaign is happy to help.
  • A new television ad, "Pump," that directly blames Barack Obama for rising gas prices.
  • "Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?," she asks - after which a photo of Obama appears onscreen.
  • "No to independence from foreign oil," the announcer continues. "Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?"
  • chants of "Obama, Obama" can be heard in the background
  • "Don't hope for more energy, vote for it. McCain."
  • Candidates in a panic run panic ads
  • McCain blaming Obama for gas prices represents "the same old politics."
  • "This is the first time the Republicans have felt upbeat and optimistic about a major issue in a long time"
  • The American people appear to be moving in McCain's direction on the issue
  • six-in-ten voters favor McCain's offshore drilling proposal
  • Obama's energy plan "would force the oil companies to drill in the areas they’ve already leased…”
  • provide every American family with an immediate energy rebate and a middle-class tax cut worth $1,000,
  • invest $150 billion in renewable sources of energy that will create 5 million jobs and replace the oil we import from the Middle East by 2025

Campaign advertising

Three months before Election Day, John McCain's stepped up aggression begs the question: Will voters vote for the scold?

  • "The campaign is making him seem angrier than he is and therefore it's a disservice to him" John Weaver, McCain's former senior strategist
  • Angry candidates don't win elections. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton won by running as sunny optimists
  • McCain wants the presidential campaign to be about Barack Obama — that's why he talks about him so much
  • there is no centralized message
  • This careening from message to message makes them look like they don't have one specific thing they want to say about this guy
  • "It's a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama"
  • more than 90 percent of the ads aired by Obama did not mention McCain
  • [Ads are] blaming Obama for high gas prices
  • Obama and McCain are airing more TV advertisements in more media markets than their counterparts did during the 2004 election campaign
  • More Than $50 Million Spent On Campaign Ads In Two Months
  • McCain has run a higher percentage of negative ads
  • about a third of his ads have been negative, compared to about 1 in 10 for Obama
  • Every RNC spot has been negative
  • Obama is airing ads in 37 markets where McCain has not aired a single ad
  • McCain is advertising in only two markets where Obama is not
  • An Obama viral video from rapper that was viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube
  • McCain’s most famous viral music video is a clip of him jokingly singing “Bomb Iran