Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

kennedyIn recent times, we have seen an upsurge in a rejection of the status quo and the success of populism, overwhelming the accepted norms of political discourse. The litany of events is very obvious … Erdowan in Turkey becoming progressively more authoritarian, the election of Syriza in Greece to oppose the EU-imposed austerity, the British public voting (albeit narrowly) for “Brexit”, the near-defeat of the Liberal-National coalition Government in Australia, the ascent of a virtual fascist to the Presidential run off in Austria, the likely ascent of the far-right National Front in France to a run-off in the coming French elections and the inability of a left-centre candidate to even make the frame, the rejection of Prime Minister Renzi’s attempt to rationalise decision-making in Italy leading to his resignation, the likely future success of the ultra-right in Holland, and above all, the election of businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump to the most powerful position in the Western world, President of the United States.

In reality, this trend can be traced back even further, to the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union (although this was also a more complex situation than mere discontent with the failures of the incumbent power structures). It could also be argued that the ultimate example is the steady move towards a command-capitalist model in China, with attendant liberalisation – creeping, at times reversed, but inexorable in its trend – of the media, of criticism of Party officials, and of the material expectations of a growing middle class. Indeed, in unleashing the forces of capitalism on Chinese society, Deng Xiao Ping can be said to have headed off a more dramatic and cataclysmic change in China.

When people are asked why they are participating in these quiet (or not so quiet) electoral revolutions they invariably answer with comments like “I am just sick of all of them”, “I am tired of the status quo, we need someone to shake things up”, “Politicians have failed us”, “We need someone to fix things up.”

The danger, of course, is that the people wreak major changes based on their discontent, without necessarily taking the time to consider whether those changes are what they really want. Fed a diet of rubbish and lies by both the media and their political leaders they simply cannot work out what is true or not, and therefore fall back on their gut instinct. And their gut instinct is that they are being badly led – which they are.

This is emphatically not to say the people are stupid – not at all. It is simply to note that in their desire to punish the under-performing elite they place rational decision-making of what might come next as secondary to their desire to give the establishment a damn good kicking. They argue, if questioned on precisely this point, that “it couldn’t be any worse”.

Winston ChurchillThe fact that it could, definitively, be much worse, is ignored because of the same anger that created the switch to populist idols in the first place.

Churchill’s warning that “democracy is the worst form of Government, it’s just better than all the others” is forgotten as the public elevate people who do not essentially subscribe to democratic ideals to run their democracies, with as yet untested outcomes.

In Russia, for example, the putative glasnost and perestroika of the Gorbacev era has now been thoroughly replaced by the quasi-fascist rule of Putin and his cronies, with uncertain outcomes that could be argued to threaten peace in Europe, at least. The Brexit vote at a minimum calls into question the “Union” part of the European Union, which is now on the nose throughout most of the EU, and the great dream of a peaceful, co-operative Europe that transcends mere trade freedom seems to lie in tatters. We might also note Churchill’s prescient remark that “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” People used to understand the limits of Government to “fix things”. No longer, it appears.

How did it come to this?

It is important to see this collapse of the ruling consensus as more than any desire to attend to this particular problem, or that, because the matters creating the angst vary from theatre to theatre.

Unquestionably, above all, the refugee flood around the world (and not just from the Middle East, at all) has created great tensions – great fear of “the others” – because it has happened at a time when the world seems to be collapsing into an ongoing conflict between the West and extremist Arabist/Muslim sects. But when massive population shifts occurred immediately after the Second World War there was considerably less social angst about an inflow of refugees, although by no means was there none, as any of the Italians, Greeks, Albanians and others who were shipped en masse to Australia (and America, and Canada) can attest. But it produced no mass revolution against the status quo. As recently as the late 1970s, huge inflows of refugees from the communist takeover of Vietnam produced barely a ripple of protest. So something different is happening here.

Unquestionably, economic uncertainty is playing its part.
The lost of traditional jobs has devastated some areas,
and not been replaced withtightrope anything else. That politicians seem unable or unwilling to recognise and successfully the problem is a staggering failure. During the 1930s, a huge “whole of Government” effort in some countries prevented the compact between the governing and the governed from breaking down altogether. The “New Deal” in America being the best and most successful example. But the mass unemployment caused by the breakdown of capital in that decade led inexorably to World War 2 and all that meant. That Western politicians can look at societies with 50% youth unemployment, can gaze on as we witness the wholesale collapse of traditional industries, can make mealy-mouthed contributions when someone brings up the obviously inadequate funds to support the aged and the ill, and yet imagine that such a cataclysm could not occur again? This is the ultimate desertion of responsibility.

It seems to us that the world is experiencing a “perfect storm” of fear – endlessly beaten up by politicians and the media – at precisely the same time as politicians are struggling, and usually failing, to come to terms with the stresses and strains created in economies by “instant” international banking (which can change the dominant rules of a market in seconds), globalisation (which has led to the wholesale demise of “old” industries in the established economies), a series of scandals that imply that our political leaders are little more than a series of ever-hungry pigs with their snouts so deep in the trough that their eyes can’t see anything over the top, and, and this is critical, a failure of leadership.

On the one hand we have the populists, with their broad brush stroke slogans, their breathlessly simple solutions, and their fellow travellers that constantly beat the drum praising the perspicacity of their chosen flag bearer. Only he (or she, in the case of Marie le Pen) have the strength and vision to ram through “the change we need”. And like parched wanderers in the desert, the people turn inevitably to the promise of relief. Tongues hanging out for any water, no matter how brackish.

But this is just a mirage of “we can fix it”. It’s a big lie. A big con. So big, indeed, that people swallow it, because surely no-one could be so ruthless, so uncaring of the effect they are having, so roguish in their pursuit of power, as to promise relief with no real idea of how to deliver it. But they can. As Stalin so chillingly said, “one man’s death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic”. The same hideous calculation is made by the populists when they promise change they cannot deliver, and solutions that are paper thin in their analysis.

But what has the response of the liberal democracies, the “ruling elite”, been to this challenge? It has been to bury themselves in perpetual over-intellectual obfuscation, to sneer at the populists as if they do not represent a threat, to blithely fiddle as their Rome burns. It has been to bleat “but we are doing our best”, when Blind Freddie can see that their best is woefully lacking. It is to lock themselves in their ivory towers – towers made of parliamentary walls, and TV studios, and offices – and to make little or no real attempt to explain to the people why they are doing what they are doing, and that is assuming they are doing anything much, at all.

How has this situation been allowed to persist?

The reasons are many and various, but in our view they come down to this:

THE FIVE GREAT FAILURES

The failure of vision

Politicians are no longer driven by a desire to create better societies – to serve their people – but by careerism. There is no doubt that no one succeeds in climbing the slippery pole without a strong streak of self-regard, but until the relatively recent past politics was still full of people whose primary, over-riding motivation was the betterment of their electorate, and more widely, humankind. There were more “enthusiastic amateurs”, drawn from all walks of life, chock full of useful experiences. To be sure, they never turned their noses up at the perks of office, nor the thrill of handling the levers of power. But at the core was a desire to conserve what was good, and to develop what was promising, and – based on evidence – to eschew what was failing. It is highly questionable whether that still applies to most politicians today – certainly those of reach the top of the heap – and the people smell the rot with absolute accuracy.

The failure of honesty

It is now a dispiritingly long time since any politician, anywhere in the West, dared to say “Actually, we’re not really sure what to do”. And yet, in huge swathes of decision making, it is perfectly clear that our leaders do not know what to do. The pace of change, and the relentless news cycle, is leading them to pretend they know what they’re doing when they really don’t. In vast areas of public policy – balancing the structural changes in economies, achieving unanimity on climate change, reducing the proxy conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, preventing a new Cold – or Hot – war, it is plain they are thrashing about, confused and dispirited. And yet, turn a camera and a microphone on and they act like Mastermind contestants with all the answers.

This has two linked effects. Firstly, it destroys trust, when it becomes clear that the assurances and calming words are so much hogwash. Second, it removes responsibility from the public to be part of the solution to intractable problems, leaving them reliant on blowing up the entire system when they are – inevitably – disappointed, as they had no part in devising the solution, and no ownership of the outcome.

The failure of communication

Politicians seem to no longer be able to phrase their goals in simple language, without succumbing to the temptation to reduce everything to focus group-led slogans.

It would be hard to think of a single major Western politician – with the possible exception of Angela Merkel, although her days may well be numbered – who still has the required “common touch”, although Justin Trudeau in Canada is undoubtedly a standout exception – and he, it should be noted, is of the left, and is an intellectual, thus giving the lie to the assertion that all this change is merely a revolt against “left intellectualism”.

A politician like Churchill, for example, could be autocratic, even waywardly so, but he never forgot the absolute need to take the people with him. Perhaps in war-time this need is more obvious. But in the recent past – much as we disagreed with some of her policies – a politician who widely admired Churchill – Margaret Thatcher – also had the ability to communicate broad themes in a popular way, while making changes that many argue were long overdue in Britain despite being sometimes achingly difficult.

Where are the democratic politicians who offer us soaring rhetoric, yet rooted in common sense, to enliven and inform civic debate? Certainly Obama offered the soaring rhetoric, but outside of campaign mode he so often failed to return to those heights, and was too often hidebound by a toxic combination of an obstructive Congress, a swingeing economic crisis, and his own innate conservatism.

The cupboard is depressingly bare.

The failure of thought

The West, in particular, but by no means exclusively, is failing itself. The essence of democracy is free, vibrant and deep debate, the development of philosophy, the parsing of solutions. One of the inevitable results of the dumbing down of Universities – through the diversion of their funds increasingly to commercial “applied science” rather than humanities such as literature, politics, and philosophy – even theology – has starved our system of thinkers. The problems we face are massively complicated, yet those who used to work diligently behind the scenes in thousands of “thinking hives” are increasingly no longer there, and no longer contributing. Political parties are increasingly less full of thinkers and increasingly full of yar boo sucks partisans. Where political thought across the political divide was once welcome and respected, now it is virtually unheard of. While politicians of different ilk may well be friendly “behind the scenes”, for them to acknowledge the thoughts of an opponent as having value, of being worthy of consideration, is apparently political death. Little wonder the public don’t trust them, faced with such ludicrous and childishness obstinacy.

The failure of media

Our media organisations have become helplessly addicted to the brief, and the sensational.

Whilst this was always true of the tabloid media, it is now true of all media.

The people they employ are largely intellectual pygmies, and in television in particular they are in the job because they look good and can follow a producer’s brief.

Across all types of media, they don’t scare the horses, because they rarely ask any hard questions. Hard questions require that the journalist has knowledge and the politician can address that knowledge intelligently, taking whatever time is required. Neither is true, and anyway there is no time.

There are exceptions, to be sure, but they are very few and far between, and becoming more so. The success of the series “Newsroom” showed the public’s deep desire for a form of journalism that is principled, erudite and independent. But of how many journalists today can those three qualities be said? And increasingly, anyway, mainstream media is being over-taken by social media, where the provenance of any story is impossible to divine, and where the impact is so transient that clear nonsense is forgotten almost as soon as it has trended, but not before it has added to the dominant zeitgeist, whatever that may be. If we are in the era of “post truth politics” – a terrifying concept in itself for admirers of democracy – then the most brutal criticism of all must be levied at the media – all of the media – that simultaneously tolerates and encourages the situation.

So what’s to be done?

It may indeed be way too late to close the stable door after watching an entire herd of horses bolting in all directions. Or to mix our metaphors, we may all be just a bunch of well-boiled frogs who should have acted to redress the decline a long time ago.

Yes, we will be accused of being pessimistic because it appears “our side” of politics is currently losing, and we will also be accused of succumbing to conspiracy theories.

In fact, we confidently expect we will be today’s Cassandra, doomed to wail on the battlements while all around mock us.

But in our view, the first step in redressing this danger – the danger of the collapse of modern liberal democracy – is to acknowledge the problem and seek to persuade others to address it. Others, we note, regardless of their native political bent. This is a task for all of us, whatever our political persuasion.

As we do not have the influence to turn the ship around on our own, we simply point to the mounting evidence, and suggest the general shape of a solution.

It will take a mighty effort to reverse the trends outlined here. But as Horace said 2000 years ago, “A journey, once begin, is half over.” To begin this journey, we have to agree that there is a problem, yes?

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pinProvided even a reasonable percentage of her supporters turn out, as opposed to spending the day in a bar drowning their sorrows at what has become of America, then Hillary Clinton has already won the Presidential election.

Barring an opinion earthquake, of course. Of which, yes, there is always a tiny possibility – especially in this most unusual year – but we surely now know everything there is to know about Mrs Clinton after her much-touted thirty years in public life. The chances of anything truly dramatic coming out now is vanishingly low, especially after the Wikileaks big expose, which kept some right-wing Americans up all night with excitement waiting for the goss, turned out to be a complete fizzer.

How can we be so sure? Simple. The size of the mountain Trump has to climb.

This is famed statistician Nate Silver’s latest forecast of the likely result.

Likely election result

This takes into account a wide range of opinion polls, some traditionally favouring one side, some the other, but only some of which factor in opinions SINCE the Trump “groping” scandal broke. The CNN poll on “who won the debate” isn’t factored in, but that strongly favoured Clinton too, even though it generally overstates Clinton support slightly, a factor that CNN acknowledge.

In other words, if Trump’s scandalous remarks are not fully factored in yet, and the debate isn’t either, then this is a dire result for Trump. His position, already looking rocky, has declined further. And still has some downside to go.

This is how Trump has been faring recently:

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

 

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

 

Chance of winning

The “chance of winning” calculation looks insurmountable for Trump.

 

The “path to a win” problem

Most pointedly, when we look at the Electoral College likely result, Trump’s path to the White House now looks impossible, because the polls are predicting critical wins for the Democrats in Florida (up by more than three points) and Pennsylvania (up by nearly seven points), in North Carolina and Virginia by comfortable margins, and, indeed, in every other battleground state except Nevada and Arizona, and in Nevada Trump’s lead is just 4%, and in Arizona it’s “even stevens”, but then again we also know that the main newspaper in that state is now campaigning for Clinton.

Trump simply doesn’t have a route to win, on these figures. As things stand, Clinton will win 310-340 electoral college votes: more than enough for a very comfortable victory. Trump may well pile up votes in very conservative locations, but that doesn’t help him, no matter how much “singing to the choir” he does.

But the real killer for Trump is that things are going to get worse from here, not better. Blind Freddie can see that there will be some fallout from the recent furore that will be reflected in polls that will get reported by about Wednesday or Thursday, American time. How big a hit Trump will take is as yet unknown, but a hit there will be.

And as Silver argues:

Trump couldn’t really afford any negative shock to his numbers, given that he entered Friday in a bad position to begin with. Let’s say that the tape only hurts him by one percentage point, for instance, bringing him to a 6-point deficit from a 5-point deficit a week ago. Even that would be a pretty big deal. Before, Trump had to make up five points in five weeks — or one point per week. Now, he has to make up six points in four weeks instead (1.5 points per week).

In other words, Trump’s mountain is growing, not getting smaller. A gain of 1.5 points a week will require a massive sea change in opinion and there is no evidence whatsoever that is happening.

In addition, we see three more anti-Trump factors that will be starting to bite against him, given that is always a delay between things coming up and them affecting the opinion polls.

Trump’s “non payment of Federal tax for 20 years”

The expose over Trump’s tax situation is, we believe, much more telling than some people have realised. It’s simply too smug for Trump to dismiss it as “smart business” to use write offs to reduce tax seemingly forever. The idea that a billionaire doesn’t need to pay ANY tax, year after year, is a lousy atmospheric for the Republicans, especially for a party often condemned as being only interested in the big end of town. Trump’s natural support base is angry. Angry in an inchoate, unspecific way.

And they all pay their taxes, on much lower incomes. Sure, a few will say “good on him”, and a few will argue “he did nothing illegal”, but that is emphatically not the point. Most will say, “Well, f***.”

Trump’s stunt on Sunday with “the Bill Clinton women”.

No one would argue that Bill Clinton is anything other than a womaniser: it’s a near-fatal character flaw when his record is judged. But there’s a reason that Republican strategists have historically NOT gone after him as a means to get at Hillary. It’s because every time it’s brought up, it produces more sympathy for Hillary than everything else, especially amongst women voters. In desperation, Trump broke that rule. It won’t help him, and could hurt him.

Also, every time Trump brings up Clinton it reminds people of his own transgressions. His first wife accused him of rape – an allegation withdrawn after a confidential settlement. A “live” rape case with a thirteen year old plaintiff is in the courts now. Trump denies both, but, you know, so did Clinton …

The Republican backlash.

Sure, the Republican Party is split right down the middle. Sure, Tea Party types will accuse all those Republicans now abandoning Trump as being the best possible reason to back him and his intra-party revolution. But not all Republican voters are Teapublicans, and they and “independent” voters leaning towards Trump will be dismayed at his own colleagues’ thumping rejection of him. Some of those voters will plump instead for the Libertarian, Johnson, some will simply stay home rather than vote for the hated Clinton. Neither of those possibilities help Trump. By contrast, the centre and left have coalesced effectively around Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is fading.

Now opinion polls have been wrong in the past. (Most notably with “Brexit”, which we and everyone else called wrong.) But not this wrong.

Which is why we say, as we have all along, it’s all over. Somewhere, a fat lady is singing her lungs out.

Probably one that Trump insulted.

Trump v Clinton second Presidential debate

We were very taken with this quick comment by the Wall Street Journal on the Presidential debate just gone: “marking as it did the nadir of the bitter partisanship and personal rancour that has steadily grown like weeds over the edifice of American government.”

Bitter partisanship and personal rancour that has steadily grown like weeds over the edifice of American government. Yes, indeed. Well said, that man.

American democracy has been in trouble for quite some time. Let’s just look from, say, the turn of the 1960s onwards.

The death of two Kennedys, and Martin Luther King, three tragic events driven by visceral hatred. The mental exhaustion of LBJ. The ascension of the criminal (and traitorous) Nixon. The standstill of Gerald Ford and the essentially neutered failure of Jimmy Carter – the latter a man who was too good to be in that role. The Reagan era, so terminally tainted by Iran-Contra and adventurism in Central America that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. George H Bush who famously promised “No New Taxes” (and promptly despatched his friend and rival Bob Dole) only to turn round and increase taxes and produce a notably weak economic performance. (His evisceration of Dukakis was also the beginning of modern “hate” politics.) Then we had the economic and policy-wonk success of Bill Clinton hopelessly over-shadowed by his mangling of the truth and his appalling personal behaviour. Of George W Bush and his off-sider Dick Cheney only one thing needs to be said: 500,000 Iraqi dead, over oil, and the comprehensive attempt to confuse people into believing it was about something else. Oh, and, “The great Recession”, or “GFC”, depending on where you live in the world. And then, of course, Barrack Obama, who after raising the watchword “Hope” has delivered a stuttering economic revival but only at the expense of a massive increase in Federal debt, and who has presided uneasily over a fractious Congress and a series of foreign policy mis-steps.

It is a pretty sorry performance, overall, to be sure.

But even after that list is chewed over and considered and debated, this debate was, very possibly, the most unedifying spectacle in modern American political history.

trump-v-clinton

There was no nobility. There was no soaring vision. There was no wit. Precious little wisdom. No humility. There was just the contrasting styles of two deeply unpopular candidates knowing that they are buried up to their knees in mud in their trenches and there is no longer an opportunity for either of them to climb out.

There was no courtesy. No mutual respect. There was bullying. There was disturbing body language, especially from Trump, who prowled around behind Clinton in an aggressive and frankly disturbing manner. The bulk of the debate was taken up with discussions that should properly take place in front of a psychological counsellor, not a worldwide TV audience.

It was, frankly, embarrassing. It was ugly to watch. It was cringe-worthy.

In our view, Trump avoided a complete implosion, battered a too-meek Clinton in a way that will play well with his core supporters, but probably no one else. If he made one glaring mis-step it was in publicly disagreeing with his Vice-Presidential running mate on Syria, who he said he had not discussed the conflict with. That admission is truly bizarre, given how significant that conflict currently is.

Clinton appeared poised, and steely calm, and confident. But history may judge she could and should have gone for the jugular more effectively. Certainly Trump’s jibe that “she’d be in jail” under his Presidency hit home, and she was less than convincing on the ever-running emails saga.

As a friend opined to us, in all probability, not one Democrat-leaning voter would have moved towards Trump, not one Republican-leaning voter would have moved to Clinton, and anyone genuinely undecided probably became yet more depressed an unenthusiastic.

According to CNN’s poll of debate watchers (a poll they say tends to skew towards the Democrats because their supporters are more likely to watch), Clinton did well – but almost a quarter of the audience were expecting her to do better.

Who was the winner?
Clinton 57%, Trump 34%

How did Donald Trump perform?
Better than expected 63%, worse 21%

How did Hillary Clinton perform?
Better than expected 39%, worse 26%

(If that’s the case, by about Wednesday or Thursday Clinton will have a lock on the race with about a 6-7% lead, possibly as high as 10%, higher in the battleground states, lower in the centre and the South.)

But taking everything into account, “depressing is right”. This is, unquestionably, the most significant Presidential election in a generation. A titanic struggle of ideas should be going on. Yet this election may yet turn out to have one of the worst turnouts, too. As for America’s image overseas, it is being trashed. The “Great Democratic Experiment” is doing a very poor job of recommending itself to the world, just at the moment. How, for example, can liberal democracy recommend itself to, for example, parts of South America, large swathes of Africa, the Middle East – most pressingly – and large parts of Asia including obviously China – when this is how low it can sink.

America can – MUST – do better.

America, you’re not just letting yourselves down. You’re letting us down, too.

A few oddities – Trump was still sniffing audibly and often, two weeks later. Most curious.

Trump claimed the moderators were biased against him. But by our estimation by halfway through the debate he had hogged at least 2/3rds of the available time, and we will see what the final figure looks like when someone works it out.

You may also like to read Dan Rather’s analysis of the debate on Facebook. He pretty much agrees with us.

Anyhow, the full WSJ article is below: we agree with it, and politely recommend it to you.

A Memorable, Riveting, Nasty Debate – but Will It Change the Direction of the Race?

This was one of the most memorable debates in history. It was perhaps the debate that American politics has been cultivating for a quarter of a century, marking as it did the nadir of the bitter partisanship and personal rancour that has steadily grown like weeds over the edifice of American government.

It featured two of the most disliked candidates in modern history taking lumps out of each other – with accusations of sexual assault and defending rape and repeated allegations of deceit and mendacity.

And yet, will it change the contours of the race after an astonishing few days?

The initial exchange of fire in the wake of the release of Mr. Trump’s crudely offensive remarks captured on videotape on Friday, followed by a moment in which Mr. Trump apparently threatened to try to put Mrs. Clinton in jail if he is elected (a threat that, as some have commented, looks like something close to an unprecedented authoritarian turn in American politics) were as electrifying as anything in a presidential debate.

Once that dust had settled, though, Mr. Trump succeeded, much better than he did in the first debate, in hitting Mrs Clinton on key policy issues of health care, immigration and foreign policy. He was sharper on his feet and had some of the most memorable lines of the night. His lampooning of her calling Abraham Lincoln in defence of her Wall Street speeches won spontaneous applause and laughter from many sides of the hall.

The two somehow managed to end with a kind word (just one really) for each other and the handshake that they had denied each other at the start.

But this was raw and angry politics as blood sport and served perhaps only to underscore even more how unappetising political debate has become.

Like her, love her, idolise her, mistrust her. That’s not what today’s post is about.

Please spare us “she’s a witch/she’s a God”. She is neither. She’s just a very hard working, driven, senior politician, with all the faults and foibles and strengths and pluses and minuses which that implies.

What she is, without question, is the first female major party nominee for President since American Independence. And that, in itself, is hugely noteworthy. And she should be praised for crashing through that particular glass ceiling, just as Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Corazon Aquino, Julia Gillard and even Isabel Peron did before her. In doing so, she empowers women everywhere to strive for the top – to strive to be the best they can be.

Our opinions on these women will vary dramatically. That’s not the point. In rising to the position she has in one of the most small-C conservative countries in the world, Hillary Clinton’s achievement should be praised. The American election has been dragging on so long, and Hillary is such a familiar figure, that it’s easy to forget that she is blazing a trail for others.

So well done, her. Let it be noted.

 

Clinton NY Post

We have long tried to explain to the more breathless of our right wing friends in America why Trump can secure the Republican nomination easily and still get trounced in a match up with the Democrats.

This article from Anthony Zurcher of the BBC does a better job than we could.

Donald Trump’s Hispanic voter ‘doomsday’

trump san jose

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente should probably be a Republican. The walls in the lobby of his San Diego, California, office are dominated by photos in which he’s smiling alongside Republicans – Presidents Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush, and 2008 nominee John McCain.

He’s donated thousands of dollars to Republican politicians over the past several decades.

When the self-made millionaire talks about government meddling in private industry – his car dealerships, currency exchange stores and real estate ventures – he takes a page right out of the Republican playbook.

“In my business 30% is owned by the United States government and 10% is owned by the state of California. I didn’t pick them as partners, but they sure know how to mess in my business,” Mr De La Fuente says. “It appears that the more people are trying to be productive, the more government tries to disrupt.”

The Rocky De L Fuentes of the world ought to have been easy pickings for a Republican Party whose leaders just over three years ago acknowledged that they were facing a demographic doomsday scenario if they didn’t broaden their appeal to the growing numbers of Hispanic voters.

Because of population growth rates, if the Republican presidential candidate won the same percentage of the Hispanic vote in 2016 as nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012 (27%), according to a study by Republican strategists, he would have to win 64% of the white vote. No Republican has done that since Ronald Reagan’s re-election landslide in 1984.

Hispanic and white voting percentages for Republicans
  • 2012 Mitt Romney reiceved 27% of the Hispanic vote and 59% of the white vote
  • 2008 John McCain received 31% of the Hispanic vote and 55% of the white vote
  • 2004 George W Bush received 44% of the Hispanic vote and 58% of the white vote

 

An even more daunting estimate, from UCLA researchers, finds that if Mr Trump wins the same percentage of the white vote that Mr Romney did (59%) he would have to carry 47% of the Hispanic vote – a number only George W Bush in 2004 approached.

If the party were to thrive, Republican National Committee analysts wrote in their 2012 post-mortem, they would have to find a way to make their party more welcoming to minority voters – particularly Hispanics. Immigration reform should be a priority. Outreach efforts must be improved. Off-putting rhetoric should be adjusted.

Instead the party nominated Donald Trump. And a few months after Mr Trump launched his presidential campaign with a sweeping condemnation of a Mexican nation that he said allows its drug-dealers and rapists to enter the US, Mr De La Fuente – who was born in the US but grew up and attended university in Mexico – announced he was also running for president.

As a Democrat.

Since then Mr De La Fuente has used his personal fortune to get on the ballot in dozens of states and has received nearly 60,000 votes – good enough for fourth place behind Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Mr De La Fuente may be an unusual man with an unusual reaction to Mr Trump’s calls for mass deportation of undocumented Hispanic immigrants and a wall on the US-Mexico border, but his actions reflect the high price the Republican Party is paying for embracing Mr Trump.

“Trump needs to be stopped at all costs,” Mr De La Fuente says, repeatedly referring to the Republican by his derogatory Spanish nickname, “pelos del elote” (corn hair).

“The United States was founded by immigrants who were trying to leave Europe because they had rulers who were making a mockery of people’s rights,” he continues. “That’s why we created the Constitution of the US.”

He says that while Mr Trump treats undocumented immigrants as a menace, he views them as assets.

“There’s 12 million immigrants currently in the US, with or without papers, with or without the right to be here,” Mr De La Fuente says. “I did not ask them to be here. But they’re here, and they’re doing the work other people don’t want to do.”

Doomsday arrives

The animosity of Hispanic voters – 77% of whom have a negative view of Mr Trump according to a March national poll – is a development that has Republican Party officials increasingly concerned.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Mr Trump could be damaging the Republican Party among Hispanic voters the same way 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater’s stand against civil rights legislation led to generations of blacks moving to the Democratic Party.

“It did define our party, for at least African-American voters, and it still does today,”he told a television interviewer. “That was a complete shift that occurred that year, and we’ve never be able to get them back.”

mexicans

 

Hector Barajas, a Republican strategist from California, agrees. He’s seen record numbers of Hispanics register to vote in his state over the past few months – an indication that Mr Trump’s rhetoric could drive unprecedented turnout among this voting bloc.

“Elections are about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division,” he says. “And as long as you have divisive language, you’re making it more difficult not just for yourself to win but for other individuals who are also campaigning, whether you are running for Senate or congressional seats or even down the line for city council.”

Barajas co-founded Grow Elect in 2011, an organisation that recruits and trains Hispanic Republicans in California to enter politics. He says Mr Trump is making the task increasingly difficult, as Hispanics in the US wonder why their ethnicity is being singled out for Mr Trump’s opprobrium.

“Here you have a group of individuals that are willing to come to this country, work as hard as we work, join in the military, work the long hours just to try to provide a better place for our family and for our society,” Barajas says. “Yet at the same time they’re targeted with this type of language which is very divisive.”

California redux

Barajas should know about the political dangers of words and policies that can be branded as anti-Hispanic. He had a front-row seat in the 1990s, when Proposition 187 – a state ballot measure that sought to deny government benefits, including healthcare and public schooling, to undocumented workers and their children – helped cement the views of Latino voters there against the Republican Party.

“With Proposition 187 you had a very strong campaign that seemed to blame a lot of the ills of California on Hispanics,” Barajas says. “You’re looking at two generations that have been lost because of that rhetoric.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger waves at a campaign rally in 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only Republican to win statewide election in California since 1994.

The initiative passed in 1994 with 59% of the vote and was credited with helping Republican Governor Pete Wilson win re-election – but it was eventually overturned by the courts. And the only Republican to win a statewide race in California since then was Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a quirky 2003 special election following Democratic Governor Gray Davis’s recall,

The spectre of 187 is still used in elections to this day – as Democrats try to paint Republicans, and even some fellow Democrats, as sympathetic to those efforts in the 1990s.

For California Republicans, Barajas says, the tragedy is that they were just starting to put the damage from past battles behind them by focusing on an economic message that could unite a diverse electorate.

“In California, we have a tremendous amount of new jobs that have been created,” he said. “But a lot of these jobs are part time and they pay lower wages, and they don’t have health insurance or they tend to be in service or in retail. That doesn’t do much to provide a leg up for families.”

Instead, the Republican Party is left playing defence – in California and in essential general-election battleground states with large Hispanic populations, like Florida, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado.

Barajas worries that even traditionally conservative states like Texas and Arizona could be fertile terrain for Democrats.

Trump undaunted

If the electoral reality confronting the Republican Party is clear, it hasn’t changed Mr Trump’s views – or his rhetoric.

“We are going to have a strong border, and we are going to have a wall,” Mr Trump said at a rally in California last week. “And you know who is going to pay for the wall? Who?”

“Mexico!” the crowd shouted in reply.

“One hundred percent,” Trump said. “Not even a question.”

Mr Trump has caught particular heat over the past few days after he highlighted the ethnicity of Gonzalo Curiel, the US-born Indiana judge who is presiding over the fraud case against the now defunct for-profit Trump University.

The judge, Mr Trump said, has a conflict of interest because he is the son of Mexican immigrants.

“We’re building a wall,” Mr Trump said in a television interview. “He’s a Mexican.”

The comments have been criticised by Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans and featured in a Clinton attack video.

Raul Grijalva, a Democratic Congressman from Arizona, says that Mr Trump’s comments are the latest example of his strategy to use the Mexican-American community “as a foil”.

“Trump is playing his Trump card in this election, and that is to introduce a level of racism in this race that continues to frighten people and he hopes drive supporters to his side,” he says. “It is a rhetoric and strategy that further divides this country, and it’s not good for anybody.”

Raul Grijalva speaks at an immigration rally in 2014.

Congressman Raul Grijalva says Donald Trump is trying to win votes by using Mexican-Americans as a foil

He doesn’t see a way the Republican Party can avoid a long-term electoral disaster from Mr Trump’s campaign.

“The Republican leadership has become like the Vichy French,” he says. “They’ve kind of given up.”

Efforts to get Mr Trump to moderate his tone are “clearly not working right now,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said on Monday.

Unlike most senior Republican officeholders, Mr Flake has yet to fall in line behind his party’s nominee. At this point, the #NeverTrump movement is on life support, and the Arizona senator’s words are tinged with resignation not resistance.

Mr Trump’s remarks on Curiel were offensive, he said, and “if he doesn’t change, we’re in big trouble”.

OK, well, Ted Cruz just beat Donald Trump, especially supported by country voters and died-in-the-wool conservatives, as we proposed was a possibility.

If there is one area where we could consider our prediction lacking it is that Trump’s result was really rather poor by expected standards, and given his demeanour afterwards, lower than he and his team expected. Whilst Cruz was always a possibility to win, Trump looked the more likely until perhaps a few hours ago. Clearly there’s been a late swing against Trump, possibly because Cruz’s “ground game” was better. Cruz actually criticised Trump’s “fly in fly out” campaigning recently, and it looks as though those comments have been justified.

It may also well be the case that skipping the last GOP debate has counted very badly against Trump, with his decision seen as petulant and whiny.

Moving along … third place getter Marco Rubio IS the story of the night as we predicted. The charismatic young man can genuinely claim to be the real winner on the night having been a long way behind the front runners until recently. Clearly the “oxygen” of publicity has done him no harm at all and his vote is right about the upper limit of where we suggested it would be. The charismatic, good looking Floridian is determined and will appeal to Latino voters (as will Cruz, but less obviously) which marks him out as attractive to the GOP establishment, who know they cannot win a general election without Latinos. We have been predicting Rubio to take the nomination for some time now, and nothing that has happened today persuades us otherwise.

Hillary-AngryThe Democrat race is incredibly tight between Clinton and Sanders. Possibly within 1%. We did predict Clinton shading it, although in all honesty before publishing we deleted the word “just” before “shading it” as we thought the Clinton’s ground game would see her home, as well as Democrat supporters being concerned that Sanders cannot win a general election.

In one incredible event Clinton and Sanders tied 61 votes each in one precinct – the result, going to Clinton, was settled by a coin toss. How interesting THAT might be in an incredibly close race. Watch the video of that most unusual – and completely legal – event here: https://twitter.com/FernandoPeinado/status/694345745420320768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

As we write – right now – apparently both Clinton and Sanders are about to declare victory, which would be closer than even we imagined. Our money’s still on Clinton.

Whomever finally stumbles over the line, such a tight result cannot be considered good news for Hillary Clinton, and New Hampshire looks an awkward test for her with Sanders polling well there. The Democrat race may trundle on for some time yet – but we still believe Hillary has a lock on the nomination because of her support from the party establishment, super delegates already committed and so on.

Mind you, if a week is a long time in politics, then a few months is an eternity.

cruz2Ted Cruz, who was not favoured to win Iowa just a few months ago, is delivering his victory speech.

“God bless the great state of Iowa,” he said. “Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and across this great nation.”

Amid cheers of “Ted! Ted Ted!” he said his win was a victory for “millions of Americans” who have “shouldered the burden” of seven years of Barack Obama’s policies.

In a comment which will cause raised eyebrows amongst just about anyone but the religious right, he commented: “Our rights come from our creator, not any political party”, he said, citing Bible passages.

Given the determination of America’s founding fathers to create a SECULAR state, those words seem odd, even comical. but there’s no doubt they play well with evangelicals.

Whether they play as well with independents and those Cruz needs to lock in both the nomination and election is a different matter entirely.

This might be the most interesting thing we have heard about Rubio since the results have come out, from David Wasserman at 538.com:

DAVID_WASSERMAN
Remarkably, it looks like Rubio may end up winning five of Iowa’s 10 largest counties, and ZERO of Iowa’s other 89 counties. Yet this urban coalition may be his blueprint for victory nationally.
An interesting point, well spotted and well made.

 

Well done, Mr McClure, whoever and wherever you are. Well done, that man.

 

Well done, Mr McClure, whoever you are. Well done, that man.

The latest utter drivel coming from the right in America is that they’re going to impeach Obama for using (well, threatening to use, anyhow, and he probably will) an Executive Order to break the (Republican organised) log-jam on Immigration.

Now, we don’t wish to comment on American immigration policy – too complicated from this distance, and we have enough problems with our own in Australia – but we sure as hell feel able to comment on the idiots who think he should be impeached.

Can you see the difference between Obama and these enthusiastic users of Executive Orders? There are two essential differences.

exec order

Yes, we think you spotted the two differences pretty quickly didn’t you?

Given the staggeringly low level of achievement of both the House of Reps and the Senate since Obama came to the Oval office, and the GOP’s deliberate and unashamed obstructionism which looks set to get even worse, we suggest that #uppittydemocratniggerwhoinsistsonfuckingdoingstuff just about explains the current impeachment push.

And just for the record, in case any of our Republican readers don’t do big three-digit figures, Obama has used Executive Orders less than any of the others except Lincoln.

Frankly, if the hard-right GOP continue to eschew any attempts to create any bipartisan agreement, then we’re hopeful that Obama just presses on and gives the Republicans the regular whacking they so richly deserve. He has been altogether far too polite and reserved with them thus far for our liking. It’s time to give these Tea-Party-led-by-the-nose numpties a lesson in Government. Which is not the same, please note, as Opposition.

In doing so, he’ll give his own party and supporters something to cheer, too. Which they need.

An exceptionally well-researched piece of work by AP and Rachel Maddow which you can read here goes even further than our irritated rant. It points our that at least three former Republican Presidents used exactly this sort of action to grant – yes, you’ve guessed it – protection to illegal immigrants living in the USA, when Congress couldn’t get it’s shit together.

Bizarre. Bring it on, we say.

mitch-mcconnell-glum
Excellent article on Rachel Maddow’s site today, which effectively skewers any idea that the Republican Party somehow now have a mandate to govern. The arguments should be read widely in America today: very good commonsense thinking.

It’s going to be a hot topic in the coming days and weeks. Having taken control of the Senate, is there a new GOP mandate for it to pursue with its new-found control of both houses of Congress?

That’s a question Republicans and Democrats will be debating in coming days, as the GOP makes the case that its election victories add up not only to an electoral “wave”, but to a mandate – a genuine endorsement of conservative policies – while Democrats cast them as something less.

Part of the problem is that we’re dealing with terms that have no specific, generally accepted meaning. For example, was this a “wave” election? Maybe, but there is no actual definition of the word, and because it’s somewhat subjective, opinions vary.

A “mandate,” meanwhile, also seems to mean different things to different people. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be part of a democratic model: a candidate or a party presents an agenda to the public, the public then endorses the candidate or party, and the winners claim a popular mandate. That is, by prevailing in an election, the victors believe they’ve earned the popular support needed to pursue the policy measures they presented during the campaign.

As of this morning, Republicans are predictably claiming just such a mandate, and at the surface, it may seem as if they have a point. The GOP took control of the Senate, expanded their House majority, flipped some state legislative bodies, and fared surprisingly well in gubernatorial races. The result, they say, is an endorsement from the American people that affords them the right to pursue their top priorities.

It’s a nice argument, which just happens to be wrong.

The Republican right can't have it both ways. But they will try.

The Republican right can’t have it both ways. But they will try.

Right off the bat, perhaps the most glaring flaw with the Republican pitch is that the GOP seems to believe only Republicans are capable of claiming a mandate.

Two years ago, President Obama won big, Senate Democrats kept their majority for a fourth-consecutive cycle; and House Democratic candidates earned far more votes than their House Republican counterparts.

Did this mean Dems had a popular mandate for their agenda? GOP leaders replied, “Absolutely not.”

Indeed, the Republicans said the opposite, concluding that Obama and his agenda may have been endorsed by the nation, but it was the GOP’s job to kill the every Democratic priority anyway. They proceeded to be the most obstructionist Congress in history, rendering the nation effectively ungovernable.

Elections have consequences? Republicans have spent the last two years insisting otherwise. It’s laughable for GOP officials to now change their mind and declare, in effect, “Mandates only exist when we win.”

What’s more, the obvious question for those arguing that Republicans have a mandate this morning is simple: “A mandate to do what, exactly?”

Think about the policy platform Republicans emphasised over the course of the last several months. Let’s see there was … well, we can’t forget about … but they certainly pushed … there was a real debate about issues such as … Ebola-stricken terrorists crossing the border from Mexico?

Look, it’s not exactly a secret that the GOP’s priorities, such as they are, do not enjoy broad national support. The party did its best to obscure its unpopular ideas for fear of losing. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even went so far as to tell reporters the other day, “This is not the time to lay out an agenda.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, but that, in a nutshell, effectively ends the “mandate” debate. A party, no matter how well it does in an election, cannot claim a mandate for a policy agenda that does not exist and was not presented to the people. Vaguely blathering on about smaller government, or using explicitly abusive negativity, (as we said yesterday), doth not a mandate make. What exactly do the Republican Party stand for as opposed to against?

Republicans ran an “agenda-free campaign.” Did it produce big wins? Yes. Unarguably. Did it create a mandate? Very obviously not.

donkeyWe do not consider ourselves to be either Robinson Crusoe or Nostradamus in predicting a poor day for the Democrats today in the USA. It does not require us to be especially prescient to predict a dark day for the centre left, and a big celebration night for the centre-right. Commentary and polls have been running strongly that way in the last ten days.

Many races will be a lot closer than people have been predicting, but in general we expect the Republicans to do better tonight USA time. We are ambivalent on whether they will take control of the Senate: on balance, we have suspected JUST not until very recently, but as the counting continues it is increasingly possible, undoubtedly, especially if the Democrats are in trouble in a swathe of Southern and Western States where they had hoped to hold off GOP challenges, as in states like Arkansas and Colorado.

Why the Republicans are doing well is perhaps more interesting.

A referendum? Maybe. But on much more than just the Presidency.

Barack ObamaThere is a general assumption that the result will be a “referendum” on President Obama, who has been struggling in the polls for some time now, despite a strong bounceback in the American economy.

There is a pervasive view in America that the economy is not doing well: despite a recovery from the depths of the recent recession, markedly higher employment levels and a soaring stock market, the economy remains the top worry for voters, with an overwhelming majority pessimistic that conditions won’t get better soon, according to Tuesday evening exit polls.

When Bill Clinton won the Presidency he famously had a large sign on his campaign headquarters walls that cried out “It’s the economy, Stupid”, to remind him and all spokespeople to focus on the economy as by far the most important issue for voters. Well today, 78% of Americans said they are worried about the economy, according to CNN reporting on national exit polls. Another 69 percent said that in their view economic conditions are not good. Nearly half of voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country at 45 percent. Health care, foreign policy and illegal immigration are also top concerns, but ranked well below.

Overall, 65 percent said the country is on the wrong track and 31 percent said it’s headed in the right direction, the exit polls found.

The survey of 11,522 voters nationwide was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 281 precincts Tuesday, as well as 3,113 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. This will bias the results against the Democrat incumbent, as pre-poll votes favour the Republicans, and the poll quotes a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Nevertheless, the broad thrust of the poll is essentially right.

But Republicans shouldn’t celebrate too hard

The voters have thoroughly had it right up to their yingyang, according to exit polls released Tuesday evening. The national survey of voters showed broad dissatisfaction with both parties, the Obama administration and Congress.

58% of those casting ballots in the midterms were either dissatisfied or angry at the White House, while just 11 percent said they are enthusiastic with the administration and 30 percent said they were satisfied, according to CNN.

Another 54 percent said they disapprove of President Barack Obama’s job while 44 percent said they approve.

But the winners are winners by default. The Republican leadership does not fare well in the eyes of voters either, with 59 percent saying they are not happy with GOP leaders in Congress.

And as for the parties as a whole, 56 percent view the GOP unfavourably, while 53 percent say the same of Democrats. Hardly a crushing endorsement for the Republicans. More like “a plague on both your houses”.

And a whopping 79 percent said had a negative view of Congress, according to CNN. This statistic has hardly changed since the Republican-led shut downs of Government some time back.

Politics as a whole is the loser

Meanwhile, voters are split on how much the federal government be involved in people’s lives, as 41 percent said the government should do more and 53 percent said the government does too much.

The trust level is also staggeringly low. Sixty-one percent said they trust lawmakers in Washington only some of the time. Democracy itself is under question here. Accordingly, we expect to see some solid swings against incumbents of both parties tonight.

voter IDWe also expect to see a bigger turnout from Republican voters than Democrats, favouring the GOP, and that’s before we factor in the ludicrous “Voter ID” push from the right which may have effectively disenfranchised as many as 7 million Americans, almost all of whom would have voted Democrat. If the Republicans take control of the Senate by less than those 7 million votes in the States that have enacted voter ID legislation then what we will have been watching is little more than a legalised coup d’etat. It won’t be the first time, either. Remember the Gore-Bush fiasco in Florida?

Whatever you believe about the ID laws, the other factor is that GOP voters are currently more motivated to vote partly through their visceral hatred of Obama – some of which is undoubted racially-based, sadly, but also through perceived American weakness on the international stage, and other hot buttons – but also through deep concerns about the size of Government debt, especially on the far right with the Tea Party and its fellow travellers. The other significant factor is that voters that identify as Independents can expect to break heavily in favour of the Republicans, reversing recent trends, and again reflective of the generalised malaise with all incumbents and with Democrats in particular.

There is little question that along with a generalised dislike of Government per se in the Western world at the moment, there is a pervasive concern about the size of Government, and the arguments of small government libertarians have gained some traction with those who feel especially disgruntled. Whether this will turn into a broadly-supported consensus for what a small government democratic society would look like is, to our mind, far less likely. Small government is all very well until they start to abolish the bit you happen to like.

Building agreement to substantially reduce the role of Government following sixty years of mixed-economy high-touch post-WW2 consensus politics will be much more difficult than promising to keep expanding spending inexorably. We suspect pork barreling is not about to disappear anytime soon.

Ye will reap what ye sow. So be careful what you sow.

However, what we see in this election is the net result of years and years of relentlessly negative campaigning by the Republicans, in effect “talking down” the economy, talking down the President’s performance, and talking down confidence generally. In our entire adult life of closely following American politics we do not recall ever having seen such a sustained barrage of brutal criticism, virtually entirely unsupported by any serious policy alternatives.

In reality, apart from the race card, this is due to one factor above all others. Let down, in our opinion, by an inability to strike the right note in promoting their successes, the Obama Administration has actually been one of the more successful in recent American history, in a variety of areas, but this news has completely failed to cut through the miasma of rabble-rousing from the Republicans.

wall streetExamining just one of the key areas of Obama’s activity (there are many we could point to) reveals this to be true.

The economic cataclysm of the Global Financial Crisis can be laid squarely at the feet of two very contrasting Presidents, Messrs Clinton and Bush, who both bowed to pressure to de-regulate Wall Street and American banking practices, which led directly to the economic crisis and cost millions of innocent little folk worldwide their savings, and worse, their homes and jobs.

The resulting “austerity” measures didn’t touch those who played fast and loose with the world’s money, none of which was their own.

What the f*** did Obama ever do for us? Well, this lot, for a start.

In response, in terms of Consumer Protection, the Obama government has been one of the most involved and proactive in history. Just consider, he:

Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.  http://huff.to/eAi9Qq

Along with Congressional Democrats, pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.  http://bit.ly/hWCPg0http://bit.ly/geHpcD

By signing Dodd-Frank legislation, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau http://1.usa.gov/j5onG

Created rules that reduce the influence of speculators in the oil market.  http://bit.ly/MDnA1t

Fashioned rules so that banks can no longer use consumers’ money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests.  http://bit.ly/fnTayj

Supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation. http://bit.ly/fnTayj

Endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that closed offshore tax avoidance loopholes.   http://bit.ly/esOdfBhttp://bit.ly/eG4DPM

Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks that now permits the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and tax evaders.  http://bit.ly/htfDgw

Signed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which closed many of the loopholes that allowed companies to send jobs overseas, and avoid paying US taxes by moving money offshore.http://1.usa.gov/bd1RTq

Established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses.  http://bit.ly/fnTayj

Oversaw and then signed a bill constituting the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.  http://thedc.com/gxkCtP

Through the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, extended the False Claims Act to combat fraud by companies and individuals using money from the TARP and Stimulus programs.  http://bit.ly/SLTcSa

That’s quite a list. Yet these directly attributable, unarguable and very welcome successes – and this is just one area of government we could look at – have been largely drowned out by the constant cat-calling and nay-saying across the aisle.

No matter how much we support historic measures like Obamacare, the “pivot” towards Asia in foreign policy, and other historic changes, we freely concede as natural supporters of Obama that small revolutions are never without controversy, and even the success of a reform like the new health insurance system in the USA will always be something of a “curate’s egg”. Massive reform always involves partial failure, and results in future trimming of the sails. This is natural, and acceptable.

Just one of thousands of examples of the disgraceful tactics employed by the right to rubbish Obama.

Just one of thousands of examples of the disgraceful tactics employed by the right to rubbish Obama. Just pop “Obama is a Socialist” into Google and see for yourself.

What bemuses us is how so much of our politics has descended into complete opposition to the party in power, and viciously so in many cases, whereas previously the role of Opposition was to oppose with principle, to achieve bi-partisanship where possible, and to propose alternatives where the difference of opinion was unbridgeable.

We condemn this drift into mindless yahoo-ery as unhealthy for society.

The fault is by no means all on one side of politics – indeed there will be those who leap to accuse us of the very same failing, and possible sometimes justly, (we are only human) – but in general the verbal (and sometimes physical) thuggery is demonstrably more common on the right, often hiding behind the cowardly anonymity of the Internet – the modern equivalent of scrawling on a wall – to spread their ridiculous and offensive “memes”. And overwhelmingly, the target for these memes has been Obama himself, and his family. No President in history, even George Bush who was viscerally detested by the Left, was subjected to this level of abuse, vindictiveness, and outright falsehood. As my mother would say, “give a dog a bad name” … Well, it’s worked.

Disgusting "humour" like this is freely available all over the internet. Should concepts of "free speech" protect those who produce it from sanction? In our opinion: No.

Disgusting racist “humour” like this is freely available all over the internet. It seeps into the body politic and corrupts it. Deliberately.

Which is why, as they celebrate their likely successes tonight, we urge thinking Republicans to crow less and think hard that this is a very dangerous furrow to plough.

What we are seeing is a wholesale abandonment of decency and consensus as principles worth following, and that is a very dangerous and unwelcome step.

The GOP need to pause and consider that if they achieve some measure of power tonight by winning control of the Senate, then if they are not careful they will – in due course -find themselves hoist by their own cruel and destructive petard.

Is it too much to hope that faced with the reality of power the right will abandon their childish name calling and rediscover a sense of purpose beyond blind obstinacy and negativity? Yes, we rather fear it is.

We will post comment on the individual races in due course.

McConnell v Grimes: forgive our cynicism, but the look of both candidates isn't exactly going to hurt the Democrats either.

McConnell v Grimes: forgive our cynicism, but the look of both candidates isn’t exactly going to hurt the Democrats either. Hey, Kennedy beat Nixon because he was taller, right?

A round of new polls conducted by The New York Times and Kaiser Family Foundation have some good (and surprising, to some) news for a handful of Southern Senate Democrats in key seats. This news may hose down excitement in some GOP and fellow-traveller ranks that the Republicans could win control of the Senate: that now looks less likely, not that we ever thought it was.

The polls, released Wednesday, found Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) leading Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) by a comfortable 46 percent to 36 percent.

In Kentucky, controversial Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – long tipped as a very possible loser in the mid-terms by this blog – just barely leads Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) 44 percent to 43 percent, the poll found.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is also neck-and-neck with House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC) in a hypothetical matchup with Hagan getting 42 percent while Tillis gets 40 percent.

Lastly, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has a commanding lead over Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and the rest of the field in the Louisiana Senate race.

(That finding deserves a caveat: Louisiana’s primary system is something called a “jungle primary” where there is no Republican or Democratic primary. Instead all candidates run together and if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face each other in a runoff election. The poll found Landrieu with 42 percent followed by Cassidy with 18 percent. No other candidate managed to get double digits.)

The polls were conducted April 8 to the 15. The margin of error for each poll was plus or minus 4 percentage points for registered voters. In other words, despite “weeks of attacks ads” quoted by one source, Mark Pryor in Arkansas has pulled out to a winning lead (his biggest lead since polling started) and looks comfortable in what should still be a relatively tight race. The other races are all within the margin of error.

We believe incumbency will be a negative for all candidates in November, and even more than usual. On that basis we think McConnell looks doubly vulnerable. We shall see.

corruption-corruptionblog-blogspot-comIn a minute, you will find a link to a must-read article by blogger Valentine Logar.

But first: wedon’t care what your politics is. This woman is right.

Yes, of course, Val is coming from a Democrat perspective, but she is actually speaking for all Americans who care about the quality of their civil society.

About a truly participatory democracy, with freedom and justice for all.

It’s this simple.

Democracy in America is for sale, and the last chance to prevent it becoming completely corrupted is right now.

If you’re American, read this. Read it now. If you are living anywhere else in the world, but you value a vibrant and growing American democracy as a key bulwark against totalitarianism, read it now. Click now:

Wake Up Citizens.

There is a concerted effort by the extreme right in America – by which I mean the extreme corporatist right, “big business” that is – the 1% – to BUY the American government. Legally. Under the “cover of law”.

corruptionAll of it, not just the Republicans, but Democrats too.

The Republicans apparently could care less – or maybe they are already so controlled they can’t fight back – although I strongly suspect many Democrats are equally compromised – but the people of America, those who value the land of the free, it is the people that must wake up and realise what is happening to their democracy.

The shadow men that have always circulated behind the seats of power obviously no longer think they need to fear people realising what they’re doing. They are using the froth and bubble of the debate over healthcare, and the upcoming possible debt default, to mask far murkier moves.

The land of the free. For all our sakes, bury your differences, before you become the land of the bought and paid for.

Which would make the whole world tremble.

Please, America, the reforms you need are not that difficult:

  • Stop your election funding laws becoming an international joke
  • Stop allowing political parties to gerrymander boundary changes – create an independent electoral boundaries review commission
  • Insert a circuit breaker in your Constitution so that governmental logjams cannot persist forever.

 

PS On a related issue: if you do default on your debt ceiling, America, and throw the entire world economy into chaos again, just please remember who did it. As trade dies, as your jobs disappear, as your prices rise, as your programs are cut, as you can’t afford new roads, or schools, or your armed forces, please remember those politicians who really refused to negotiate. And remember this, too: some people make money in a recession just as easily as they make it in a period of growth. They have the levers, they can throw them whichever way they want, and still buy and sell at a profit.

Just remember, as you hurt, they won’t be.

Eisenhower

Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

Dwight Eisenhower, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

In my opinion, American defence spending is bloated beyond belief, beyond anything necessary to fulfil either a defensive or offensive role in the world, and this is the result of an active and ongoing conspiracy between corrupt politicians (perhaps I should say, a corrupted political system) and the military-industrial complex.

Remember, American defence spending is greater than ALL of the next ten biggest defence budgets in the world, and that includes Russia and China.

And who pays for this? American taxpayers.

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new - as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn't it time we really tackled it?

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new – as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn’t it time we really tackled it? Over to you, taxpayers.

See, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Americans – and especially those who detest taxes and Government waste of public money – do not rise up and demand that their defence budget is radically trimmed.

I cannot understand, for example, why Tea Party activists – almost universally anti excessive taxation – do not target defence spending first.

Just why is defence spending protected from cuts that are clearly necessary?

Why does the right wing demand defence spending be exempted from cuts?

Is it somehow a measurement or reflection of some deeply ingrained macho-psyche bullsh*t?

Is it merely that the political forces are so deep in their trenches that they cannot move from ossified positions?

Is it simply  that defence is a dog-whistle topic for the GOP base, and it’s better to try and make cuts to needed social security spending, despite the harm it causes, than to seek to educate their own supporters?

In which case, shame on them. And shame on the Democrats for letting them get away with it.

Yes, I understand that decisions about what items to cut are always complex … I have heard persuasive arguments from friends in the US Navy that they believe expenditure on capital ships has fallen to dangerously low levels. But I am talking here of the overall budget. Someone needs to get to it with a serious knife and cut deep, hard and long. It’s time.

There is another good reason for America to get it’s defence spending under control. Without excess (and excessive) forces, they will be less inclined to engage in military adventures overseas that are both morally and legally dubious. Iraq – and the 500,000 subsequent dead – would never have happened. And Afghanistan, in the absence of Iraq, would have been a two year event, and a much more likely success, rather than the morass it has become.

So – it’s over to you, American taxpayers. We are all relying on you. Are you really happy with the way things are going?

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc. It is from the excellent “Ethical Reporters Against Faux News” Facebook page, a source of regular facts that need to be known.

Yes, before someone upbraids me, I know US military spending IS tipped to fall. From $638 billion this year to $538 billion by 2020.

But it’s not enough. And anyway, if pressure is not kept on, who says if that goal will be met?

Do I think it is beyond the wit and wisdom of Washington insiders to dream up another false-flag reason to suddenly ramp up spending again?

No. Sadly, I do not. Do you?

Oh, and Ike? He was a Republican. The type of moderate, thoughtful Republican that doesn’t seem to exist any more, more’s the pity. He was hawkish against communism, expanded America’s nuclear arsenal, but also launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.

In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was no captive of extremists – he actively and adroitly condemned the excesses of McCarthyism without upsetting his own right wing – in marked contrast to the current leadership of the GOP, he articulated his position as a moderate, progressive Republican: “I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”

He was a talented politician. He prevented the GOP from collapsing into extreme-right irrelevance, and became, in doing so, wildly popular with both Democrats, independents and Republicans.

In summary, Eisenhower’s two terms were peaceful and productive ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59.

So why was Eisenhower so chary of military spending?

Further comment superfluous.

Further comment superfluous.

Perhaps it was because, unlike most politicians today, he had actually witnessed the effects of that spending at first hand.

Not just the theft from those who needed the money spent on them, but also the carnage that war let loose really entails.

He walked the beaches after D Day.

He had ordered into battle legions that he knew would suffer 50%, 60%, 75% casualties.

He spoke with those men, face to face, hours before they left for France, knowing that most were just hours from dismemberment, disablement, or a  grisly death.

For him, every bullet fired, on both sides, was a disaster. But that understanding did not prevent him being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

And it didn’t stop him being a Republican.

In Michigan, the Republican-controlled legislature succeeded in passing a new “right-to-work” law, which weakens unions’ ability to negotiate and has serious negative implications for all workers in the state. They had no public meetings, no debate, no time for review, and most offensively had Republican staffers sit in seats in the gallery to block interested citizens from even being in the room to hear about it.

So this guy decided to say something about that.

Whatever your view of the legislation, (and I think it stinks), don’t you just ache to have someone representing you who speaks from the heart like this, eschewing all the weasel words and obfuscations?

This man will go far. Brandon Dillon, Democrat, Grand Rapids. Remember the name.

If you want to tell him what you think, try tweeting with the hashtag #brandondillonrocks, or tweet him direct @brandondillon75.

Barack Obama

Change that America still appearently believes in. Will you welcome, please, Ladies and Gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Barack Obama. (Wellthatswhatwethink, anyhow.)

So. Well. Here it is. This is where the rubber hits the road.

After months – nay years – of fulminating and opinionising (great word, huh?) on the likely result of the 2012 Presidential election, this is now our considered view of what will happen tomorrow, so we can be hung out to dry or lauded as geniuses, when the actual results are known.

It’s currently about 9.00 am on Monday on the east coast of America. It is reasonable to assume that the various party managers will not allow anything much to affect the overall outcome now.

What matters now is trends, and the trends are heading Obama’s way, strongly during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and gently now, the waters are pretty much stagant. The electorate has politics exhaustion.

We are gliding to a predictable result, unless everyone polled by everybody has been lying through their teeth – which is, it has to be said, entirely possible.

State by state, we tell you what will happen

We give the key battleground state of Ohio to Obama. Primary reason – the stimulus. Whether or not one agrees with it and its targeting, it shored up hundreds of thousands jobs in the state directly or indirectly. People simply won’t forget – well, enough people won’t forget. What’s more, recent growth in the energy sector (amongst others) in the state actually has its unemployment level comfortably below the national average. No Republican candidate has ever found a way to the White House without Ohio in the bag, and the latest RCP rolling average has it +2.9 for Obama.

More importantly, it has been for Obama to one degree or another in every poll since 23rd October. The ground campaign has also been very effective for the President in the seat. Obama only won it by 4.6% in 2008, and there is unquestionably less enthusiasm for him this time than last time, and – yes – the Republican ground campaign is better organised there than ever before. Nevertheless, it is the trend to Obama that interests us. So – Ohio goes for Obama.

Although it is tightening, we give the other huge and vital battleground state of Florida to Romney.

Both sides have poured work into there, but in my view the state is gradually becoming more conservative, not less, and the Obama campaign have failed to reassure the elderly on Obamacare, or frighten them enough on the vouchers for Medicare issue. Also, the strong Jewish vote may be less than enthusiastic about Obama’s obviously less aggressive attitude to Arab states in the Middle East, and less than cheerful embrace of Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, the large Latino vote is breaking strongly for Obama.

In the end, barring seeing precinct by precinct pre-polling data, it’s a gut call. I have always thought in a tight race that Obama would lose Florida, and I see no reason, even though Romney is currently only 1.4% ahead, to change my mind, especially as he has been so consistently for a while now. What’s more, just watching Obama adviser David Axelrod on TV, (and I consider myself a good judge of body language and facial expression) he looked utterly convincing when he called Ohio for his team, and a lot less so when he spoke of “good reports” from the southern state. So – Florida for Romney.

(What will also be interesting in Florida is when it “declares”. If it is early, and it is for Romney, it will be treated as bigger news than frankly one thinks it should be. For that reason, I expect multiple challenges and recounts all over the state from the Democrats, some of them frivolous, to delay the result here being published or assumed with any certainty, until Ohio, where a very high percentage of ballots have already been cast, declares for the President.)

The next key state to consider is Virginia. I have long been of the view that Virginia will go for Romney, largely because of the military influence, and also because it is essentially a safe “red” state, giving Bush the Younger wins by plus 8% twice in a row before the Obama bandwagon rolled through in 2008.

Yet it is now possibly the most fascinating contest of the lot, as it stays stubbornly in the “too close to call” camp, with Obama leading by just 0.2% in the rolling average of the polls.

The interesting thing here is that the trend is now firmly towards Obama, and the growth of younger, affluent voters now living in the state and commuting elsewhere is supposed to aid him. What’s more, Axelrod (whose face is usually very revealing, so I really don’t know why the Obama camp puts him up on TV, personally) almost jumped out of his chair with obvious delight when he claimed that he was thinking Obama would win there, and I thought he looked completely sincere.

Another interesting factor is that except for two tiny blips (around the first disastrous debate for Obama) Romney has trailed by a substantial factor in the state since February. Then again, that could be said of many places around the nation. But after agonised consideration I am going to go against the current opinion trends and say that I think Romney will win Virginia – just. So that’s another 13 votes for the Republicans in the electoral college, and although its near neighbour North Carolina has often been considered to be in play I think that’s solidified for the Governor too; he’s up round about 3-4%, here so make that another 15 votes for Romney.

But there I really believe the good news for Romney ends. Of the other toss up states I honestly only think he has a chance in Colorado, where Obama is leading by about half a percentage point, having won it by 9% last time. Here again, though, the trend has recently been away from Romney and towards Obama. Obama is starting to look like a winner, and that all-important oh-so-elusive “Big Mo” or momentum becomes vitally important in very tight races. Also, for a state to go plus 9% to negative is a hell of a leap, even with an unpopular Presidential incumbent. I would say Obama’s loss over his 2008 performance will – overall – be in the region of 6-8%, although in a couple of states it may go as high as 10%.

On that basis Colorado is line ball, (9 electoral college votes) and so, looking westward, is Nevada (six votes).

But, and perhaps crucially, it’s worth noting that Colorado is two hours behind the Eastern seaboard, and Nevada three hours. Exit polls will slam onto the airwaves giving Florida to Romney and Ohio to Obama within seconds of the eastern polls closing.

This will have two effects in the swing states of Colorado and Nevada. Firstly, it will call the race as close and encourage late voters and those intending to vote on the way home to actually do so. And the higher the turnout, the more the Obama camp will like it. Second, it will demoralise some Republicans and boost Democrats, because the prevailing commentators mantra (except on Fox News) will be “Romney can’t win without Ohio, it’s all over bar the shouting”.

And if that sounds as if it is contradictory (on the one hand calling the race as close, and on the other calling it as a likely Obama victory) the two effects do not actually cancel each other out.

Why? Well, people like being on the winning side: so a small but significant number of possible Obama voters will be persuaded to jump on the winning ship.

People also like being in a close race and thinking their vote matters – but the effect is stronger with unenthusiastic voters who might otherwise stay home. So that factor – a close race – will, I believe, be marginally more effective for the Democrats than the GOP.

So: I give both these states, with some degree of nervousness, to Obama. But I freely admit I might be wrong. The effort going into local Senate and other races will matter, and certainly in Colorado I think those are leaning to the GOP. Who’d be a poll predictor, eh?

But after that small caveat, I frankly consider Romney is toast.

I remain to be convinced otherwise, but I simply do not see any of New Hampshire, Michigan – for heaven’s sake, the state only still exists as a going concern thanks to Obama’s largesse – Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (despite much huff and puff about the latter by the right, desperately trying to offset a loss in Ohio) being in play any more.

NH voters are notoriously independent. They will have been impressed by Obama’s efforts over the “superstorm”, and warmed to him very late. (This state always decides late, anyhow.) Four more votes for Obama.

Wisconsin is more problematical but the figures look like it is following its neighbours in reluctantly holding its nose and giving the President from the big smoke over their border another chance. Ten in Obama’s column.

Pennsylvania is a biggie – 20 electoral college votes – but in my view it is simply too urbanised, overall, to fall to the Republicans. With the exception of one poll (a tie) it has been in plus territory for Obama since the 21st October, and currently by nearly 4%, and if, for example, I give Florida to Romney on the basis that the trend has comfortably been his way for a while (which is one of the other reasons I like him there) then it seems logical to give Pennsylvania, despite a new TV buy by the GOP, to Obama.

And any talk, in my opinion, that Iowa (6 votes), Minnesota (10 votes) or Oregon (7 votes) are in play for Romney is purely fanciful. And beyond that, the latest margins reported by polls in other states are all so large as to make any late changes in their likely result impossible.

The what if game

But let’s play a game. Let’s pretend I am allowing my pro-Democrat rose-tinted glasses to cloud my independent commentator judgement, and let’s give everything that’s called a toss up to Romney except, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which I really do think are so solid for the President now that it would be pointless messing around with them.

I call this the “Crazy Game Scenario”

Let’s give Romney all of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon. It’s highly unlikely, of course, that every single swing state listed would flop into the Romney column, but not literally impossible. On that basis, Romney/Ryan actually win by 280-258.

But remember, as at today the polls have Obama leading in Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota and Oregon. It would be an earthquake for the Republicans to win this way.

The “Best Revenge Is Voting Scenario”

Let’s give Florida, Virginia – yes, still – and North Carolina to Romney, and Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, Minnesota and Oregon to Obama. Under this scenario (which on current polling is at the very least “likely”) then this gives the race to Obama by 290 to 248, a Democrat majority in the electoral college of 42.

If by some remarkable result Axelrod’s confidence is well founded and Obama takes Virginia as well, then the math becomes Obama 303 Romney 235, or a majority of 68. This is also conceivable. And there’s a lot of people around who think it’s becoming likely as we are about to see.

If I was a betting man – which I am – I’d therefore be having a close look at an Obama victory in the region of 20-42 electoral college votes, and probably nearer the upper end of that spread.

If you feel like having apunt, then these two options are currently offered at 7-2 (270-289 electoral college votes) and 5-2 (290-309 electoral college votes) respectively on Ladbrokes (UK), for example, so one could take both bets and still end up ahead. But you can do better with tighter spreads – for example, you can get 6-1 around the traps for 281-290 electoral college votes if you hunt. Oddschecker.com might be helpful.

As these figures reflect actual money being invested by people who are studying the runes and placing often substantial sums on as a result of their research, they are historically often better indicators of likely outcomes than anything else.

Interestingly there has obviously been substantial money on a big Obama win – garnering as many 330-349 electoral college votes – as the odds I have spotted are miserly, just 3-1.

You can also get a little worse than even money, 5/6, on Obama getting under 304 electoral college votes. That might be a smart bet if you can afford to put enough on it to make an even money bet worthwhile.

I can tell you that looking around the betting websites, I see the bookies have the Democrats favourites in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, and even Virginia. They are such strong favourites in New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Iowa that they aren’t worth a bet. The smart money currently has Romney winning Florida – just.

Some serious money has gone down on some sites for a Democrat win in Virginia. Ditto, they are almost unbackable in Pennsylvania, which is supposed to be the state that is rescuing Romney’s ass. Er, not.

Overall, the Democrats are almost an un-backable favourite, both to win the Presidency and the popular vote.

OK, so that’s about it.

As I have said consistently for six months, Obama will win, probably about 40 electoral votes ahead, maybe as little as 20 (unlikely) maybe as high as 60-70 ahead (unlikely, but possible).

Oh, and as I have said elsewhere, I haven’t got an election result in the USA, UK, or Australia wrong in over 35 years. (This of course means it is certain I have got this one way wrong, I guess!) But I take no responsibility whatsoever for you losing your shirt on the result, whatever it is.

In short: all care, no responsibility, people.

Enjoy watching the results flow in. Come Wednesday, we can all get back to talking about the football.

Can you spell A-I-R-C-R-A-F-T C-A-R-R-I-E-R?

The funniest (and pithiest) moment in last night’s US Presidential debate was Obama comprehensively making Romney look like a total idiot on the future of the US Navy.

This great article on Think Progress not only shows (in a very useful graphic) that Obama has actually done a great job of protecting the US Navy’s interests, but also replays the relevant segment of the debate for us all to enjoy again.

If you haven’t seen it, this moment may well be considered historic in the future – do yourself a favour and click on the link and watch.

http://thinkprogress.org/lbupdate/1067981/our-ship-production-is-just-fine/

#horsesandbayonets is the leading Twitter item in the US right now, hours after the debate. I reckon this is – just possibly – a gotcha moment.

And I will say again what I have said before – if the Obama of Debate #2 and #3 had turned up in Debate #1, this thing wouldn’t even be a race right now.

And by the middle of this week, it might not be so again.

#horsesandbayonets indeed

Kansas

Kansas: for a moment there something nearly happened. False alarm.

A Kansas man who filed an objection with the state to President Barack Obama appearing on the state’s ballot is withdrawing his objection.

Joe Montgomery’s decision, which he communicated in an email to the secretary of state’s office Friday afternoon, ends a process that caused the all-Republican Kansas Objections Board to vote unanimously Thursday to seek further information before making a decision on whether Obama could be on the ballot.

Montgomery told The Huffington Post Friday afternoon that public reaction to the complaint led him to decide against continuing. He declined to say exactly what was said in the calls and emails he received, but indicated that people who knew him both personally and professionally were also contacted about the complaint.

“I didn’t file this objection with the desire to involve anyone else. This is me expressing myself on a personal political level,” he said. “I would appreciate it if people would not call anyone associated with me, whether a personal or professional association.”

Montgomery, who works at Kansas State University, filed the objection Monday, claiming Obama was not a “natural born citizen” because his father was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Kenya, and that U.S. citizenship is conferred “primarily” through the father.

He also said that Obama has not shown “valid, certified documentary evidence” of being born in the United States.

Montgomery wanted to start a dialogue with his objection, he said. “I have not been successful in that objective,” he told HuffPost. “Not in achieving a constructive dialogue.”

The state Objections Board — consisting of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt — voted to delay a final decision, saying it needed more evidence and would reach out to Hawaiian officials for certification of the president’s birth certificate, along with officials in Arizona and Mississippi. The board expressed concern that Obama’s campaign did not appear before the board and only sent a letter with its position. Obama’s campaign attorney Kip Wainscott wrote the board that Montgomery’s objection was “baseless” and that Obama’s eligibility has already been determined by state and federal courts.

The board’s decision has led at least one Democrat, state Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka), to accuse Kobach of pandering.

“It is a little disappointing that a board that has two out of three members as attorneys who should understand the Constitution made this decision,” said Mah, the ranking minority member of the House Elections Committee.

“But we are in Kansas, and Kobach has been waiting for this moment for a long time. The pretense that this has any validity and needs further investigation is ridiculous. Kobach seems to enjoy this type of thing. It panders to his base of “birthers”.”

Kobach, an informal adviser to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said at the board meeting that he was not acting in a partisan role, but rather wanted as much information as possible before the board made a final decision.

Mah said she believes the episode has hurt the state’s reputation. “They are making Kansas a laughing stock again,” she said, referring to Kobach, Colyer and Schmidt.

UPDATE: 7:06 p.m. — The Kansas secretary of state’s office sent out a statement Friday saying that the state Objections Board will meet as scheduled Monday morning. The statement said the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. CT, will consider Montgomery’s complaint and his decision to withdraw the objection. Kobach’s spokeswoman, Kay Curtis, told the Topeka Capitol-Journal that the withdrawal is “unprecedented” and the meeting would be held to accept it.

The Objections Board was formed more than a century ago by state law and is considered a quasi-judicial agency that meets when objections are filed to candidates on the ballot. The board has held more meetings than usual this year, due to objections filed after the state’s redistricting process. During Thursday’s meeting, the board heard three other objections in addition to the to Obama, including disqualifying comedian Roseanne Barr from the state’s presidential ballot.

I think this is a meaningful, timely and heartfelt article that we would all do well to read. I urge you to click the link below, right now:

http://valentinelogar.com/2012/06/20/generations-lost/

Grinding poverty, poor social provision, perpetual disadvantage. These are the unseen people, and they are our children. Unseen, not because we can’t see them, but because we don’t look. We choose not to look. We look away.

This is what America’s election in 2012 should be about, not pettyfogging issues of who gets a tax break, who pays for a woman’s contraception, or all the other nonsense.

This is a FACT. Millions of American children are abused, or are injured or die unnecessarily, or remain essentially uneducated, or have basically zero life opportunities, in the world’s wealthiest nation.

The world’s WEALTHIEST nation. Consider this simple NCCP stat: 21% of children in the U.S. live in families that are considered officially poor.

Oh yes, and the average age for the sexual exploitation and trafficking of a runaway child in America is 13.

Well done, Val, keep it up.