In which I look at the latest polls
In which I take a look at the opinion polls, and what that'd mean for parliament.
In which I look at the first leader's debate in the UK
In which I look ahead at the Leader debates
In which I look at the general election so far, and lament the lack of engagement with the public
In which we head to a general election in the UK
There are huge queues in the USA - four hours or so. To someone on this side of the Atlantic, that seems positively third world. When I vote, I nip in on the way to work, 30 seconds and done. Why does it take so long in the states?
Because the ballots are usually long... and contain many issues. The example here is just one page of a multi-page ballot.
If you listen to Obama's reply - I don't think 'Joe the Plumber' was a major problem - and truly can't understand why the McCain campaign has made so much of it.
I put some cash on an Obama win back when Clinton was still in the running - unfortunately I didn't get great odds as I was rather late to the game. With the polls due soon, and Obama ahead by a significant margin, the concern is that people won't turn out as they see it as a 'done thing'.
If it had been McCain-Kerry, I would have been fine with it. But out of the two on offer, Obama is the guy. Prior to this campaign, McCain has always come across well for me. However, this campaign has got dirty. The low spot was lots of (admittedly disavowed) comments that Obama sounds a bit like Osama. McCain should have gone nuclear on his 'supporters' who did that...
To be honest, Hillary Clinton should've been less negative too - negative campaigning always makes me think worse of the person doing it.
Obama does have an air about him which is inspirational - it's Kennedy-like (and I know Kennedy had problems). It doesn't feel like 'just another candidate'.
Obama's campaign may not have been beyond reproach - but it has (at least from this side of the Atlantic) been the only one from the start which achieved, and maintained, a presidential air.
Much more so that the incumbent - but that isn't hard.
I don't want a president who knows everything. I do expect a president to be able to hold more than one thought at a time. I want a president who takes expert advice, processes it and is able to weigh the pros and cons.
In his response to Joe the Plumber, Obama showed that he knows you can't please all the people all the time - but what you do have to do is try and get a 'best fit' given the conflicting demands and restraints.
Sometimes - or more likely often - this won't result in an optimal solution for most of the people. An 'almost best' solution for most is better than a perfect solution for some.
You can't please all the people the time - and if you try, you'll please nobody.
The real Sarah Palin shows up for Saturday Night Live in the USA. It's scary how much Tina Fey looks like Sarah Palin, and how little they have to spoof....
Politically, it's about the only thing the McCain/Palin camp could do at this point with the Tina Fey impersonation, self-deprecate and show 'we have a sense of humour here'.
Is this the real one?.... (yes)
Of course, Palin looks very comfortable - but then, she has had some experience.
None of this is a recommendation for potential Commander in Chief (I know she's not running for president, but the job of VP is to be 'President in waiting'). Personally I want much more substance than being able to read an autocue (though given the last eight years, even that is an improvement).
I wonder, can she say 'nuclear'?
The Al Smith Dinner is a fundraising event for Catholic charities. The candidates are invited to speak, and in recent years it has been a humorous address. Obama
The Al Smith dinner was directly referenced in 'The West Wing', in the prescient in-so-many-ways campaign between Vinick and Santos.
The Saturday Night Live spoof of the VP debate is online. Tina Fey does not have to do much spoofing, Palin spoofs herself. I had to grin at the 'Due the historically low expectations....'
In the UK, 'The News Quiz' has a nice take on Sarah Palin. Every time she is mentioned on the show we get a burst of 'Halleluia!' from Handel's Messiah - It's Sandi Toksvig thanking the Gods of Comedy for such a rich source of new comedic material.
Toksvig now finds herself "terribly grateful to Sarah Palin. For comedy writers, she’s just heaven."
Another sketch has Clinton (Hillary) and Palin jointly address the nation.
'I can see Russia from my house!'
On the basis of these sketches, it looks like SNL have a running gag whereby 'The Bush Doctrine' is an 'adult movie'. This phrase did stump the real Sarah Palin... at least until it was defined for her.
Several have been arrested following an alleged assassination plot on Barack Obama. I find it amazing that someone planning to assassinate a US Presidential candidate would precede that by loading their car with weaponry and then going drink-driving in the early hours of the morning. Surely, surely, this might have seemed to be 'not according to plan'.
Barack Obama might view this as a positive, when they want to kill you, you're probably doing it right.
John McCain meanwhile continues to promote his 'home fry oven chips' message. Looking at the election from this side of the water, John McCain is looking quite preferable to the current incumbent, and Obama has an energy about him which is refreshing. The big problem the democrats have now is the Clintons - if Hillary gives anything less than her full-throated support to Obama, she is playing right into John McCain's hands, and the democrats won't forgive that. Ever. The trouble with the nomination process in the US is that it can go negative; this is a massive own goal when the election proper comes along.
The Barack Obama campaign is seeking to highlight that John McCain is essentially an extension of George Bush's term, and those associated with McCain are saying (in a deniable way) that Obama is a muslim (which they're trusting equates with terror in their swing voters - despite the references at urbanlegends, 38% visiting believe he's a 'stealth muslim' - tragic on many levels). At the same time the official campaign is trying to imply that Obama likening himself to Jesus.
I tend to find 'attack ads' are offputting, they tend to make me think the campaign producing them has nothing to say themselves. They strike of desperation. Unfortunately - they often work.
Recently, both Barack Obama and John McCain appeared on a show answering questions which seemed to have a 'christian-right' type of slant. They were asked about marriage, abortion and some other issues. John McCain responded as expected for the republican candidate. Obama handled himself well, but saying what he personally believed (e.g. marriage is between a man and woman) but going on to say that historically these matters have been settled at state level, and by saying that he was pro-choice, but not pro-abortion as he didn't believe that women took these matters lightly. I'd much rather see the US president able to see different sides of an argument - so this was quite hopeful.
Similarly, I've seen John McCain (prior to his candidacy) equit himself well in interviews with regard to complexities - so this could be quite hopeful. The trouble with the campaign is that simple messages play much better in the soundbites that passes for journalism.
Of the two, I'd rather see Barack Obama win the presidency. However, compared to Bush, John McCain is looking good too. Compared to Bush/Kerry and Bush/Gore - there's a lot to be gained here for the USA as a whole if both sides can rein in the attack ads and actually debate the issues, not just the soundbites. I can't see it happening. I'd love a modern day presidential campaign to resemble the Santos/Vinick debates!
Today I received my electoral registration form. As usual, no changes - so very easy. However, I did not one logical fallacy on the form.
We are supposed to register everyone at the address on the 15th October - but in order to save the costs of a reminder message, they would like people to do this by the 15th September. This is a physical impossibility if one is striving for accuracy!
As no changes are expected, I took advantage of the 'as far as I am aware' clause and registered by phone (you dial a number, and key an ID and pin code, printed on the form).
Gordon Brown recently wrote to David Davis to say this:
As you know, Prime Ministers are available once a week at Question Time to debate all the issues of the day, and I was disappointed that you chose to step down as a Member of Parliament in advance of Question Time on Wednesday, 11 June rather than coming to the House to debate with me the issues around the use of CCTV and DNA evidence, and the measures we have taken to protect our national security.
Nevertheless, the leader of your party has the opportunity each week to ask six questions on those issues that caused you to leave his Shadow Cabinet. He has had two such opportunities to date, but he has yet to ask any such question. He has two further opportunities to raise these issues before the 'by-election' on July 10th, and I am sure that if he shares your strong feelings about them, he will not duck those opportunities.
David Davis has replied, with a masterful letter:
Thank you for your letter of 26 June. This is the second time you have responded to me directly, since my resignation from the House of Commons in protest at your relentless assault on British liberty.
First, you gave a speech on 17 June at the IPPR, a favoured Labour think-tank, hardly an environment that allows for the vigorous and open debate we so sorely need. Now, you insist that any questions I wish to ask on this vital national issue be raised within the narrow confines of Prime Ministers Questions, where you have developed the novel practice of asking - rather than answering- the questions.
I note from your speech on 17 June that you genuinely believe in the positions you have taken and stand behind the sustained erosion on British liberty, which regrettably means that the country must expect more to come in the future. Equally, it is deeply disturbing how ill-informed you are about the basic effectiveness of your security policies - from 42 days, ID cards and the DNA database, through to the ineffectual deployment of CCTV at immense cost to the taxpayer.
We need a proper national debate on these important matters - not just set piece speeches to carefully choreographed audiences or the weekly one-liners you deploy at PMQs. If you were serious about debating these important issues, you should have put up a candidate or at the very least allowed your Ministers to debate publicly with me. Having cowered from both options, it is a bit rich to snipe from the sidelines in a serious debate that will proceed with or without you. Even at this late stage, I would be only too willing to adjust my schedule to debate you or any Cabinet Minister in public, if you feel able to relax the restrictions currently in place.
In short, Brown has said "You lost an opportunity to 'debate', but you should have got more support, nah nah ne nah nah." and Davis is saying "Anytime, Any place, Anywhere - bring it on".
'The Nasty Party' used to be a term applied to the Tories. This is most emphatically no longer the case. Putting aside historical issues for a moment and looking at recent weeks:
The Labour Party is putting out an official leaflet which carries a picture of the Conservative candidate and the question, "Do you oppose making foreign nationals carry an ID card?"
Maybe the Conservative party policy isn't clear on the issue. But Labour (government) policy isn't just about foreign (non-EEC, by the way) nationals. Soon we shall all have to carry ID cards. The government is preparing to collect our biometric details so that it can store them on a database. The ID scheme targeting foreign nationals is simply starting with a soft target - people who don't have votes.
The Labour leaflet in Crewe hasn't been published to open up a debate on ID cards. The government has made it very clear that the introduction of ID cards is not open to debate. This leaflet is about race. It's about fuelling fear and race hatred to hold a vulnerable seat in a parliamentary by-election. The implication of the leaflet is that foreigners are dangerous and only the Labour Party will keep them under surveillance.
Spreading suspicion is dangerous. Mistrust is often a two-way process.
In other news, Labour want to institute a database recording the internet activity and phone calls of everyone in the country 'just in case'. (source)
Jonathan Bamford, the assistant Information Commissioner, said: “This would give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the State to hold every UK citizen’s phone and internet records. We have real doubts that such a measure can be justified, or is proportionate or desirable. We have warned before that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Holding large collections of data is always risky - the more data that is collected and stored, the bigger the problem when the data is lost, traded or stolen.
As an interesting aside, Guido notices that the number of stress related sick days at the treasury has dramatically reduced since Brown became PM.
Ha! Labour's got a hammering in the local elections. I'm pleased. Why? Not because of the 10p tax rate, or because of the continual tinkering Labour has done to our constitution without a clear plan. Not because of the imbalance they've created in our constitutional settlement by giving each part of the UK a degree of self determination except England. Not because of the spin or the lies. Not because of the wars. Not because of the increased cost of living with house prices much higher than incomes.
Well, maybe I'm a little annoyed for those reasons.
Why am I mostly annoyed with Labour?
Mostly because of the way they've systematically undermined civil liberties in the UK. It's been a little chip-chipping away. Detention for 90 days without trial. No? 28 days then... let's make it 42... ID cards (if you have nothing to hide), terrorism bills used on people who shout 'nonsense' or wear a T-shirt in the wrong place, removal of the right to protest in central London (people have had problems having a tea party in parliament square, must have been the protest cake).
All done with the best of intentions, and, as it's to 'help the fight against terror', done in a way that the vast majority won't mind; until, like the proverbial lobster, they find the water temperature has been gradually increased and it has become too hot.
When I grew up, the IRA were regularly blowing places up (yes, I know about July 7, I was in London, that doesn't change the point). Regularly. They blew up central manchester in one of their last acts before the ceasefire. They blew up parades, children got killed. They even blew up the government of the day during their party conference.
The UK never took measures like the current lot feel are necessary. It's Orwellian... keep the populace scared of the 'invisible enemy' and you can keep power....
Gits. They've done more to disrupt the 'way of life' in the UK for the long term than any mis-guided bomber(*).
For that reason alone, they deserve to lose the power they temporarily wield.
Next week on More 4 at 10pm, a documentary called 'Taking Liberties' will be shown This is repeated at 11pm on more 4+1. Please try and watch it.
(*) Yes, it's true that really devastating attacks are possible, dirty bombs and all sorts. However, one can never totally shield against things like that. Even if we choose to live in a full-blown totalitarian regime. Is that truly how we want to live, on the off-chance that it might stop a theoretical risk?
By the way, I'm feeling much better now. It's all good. Thanks for asking (or not).