US Election

Long Queues

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.

No Joe?

McCain has made much of 'Joe the Plumber' - and called on him the other day in what must be one of the more cringeworthy moments on the stump:

The irony is that 'Joe the Plumber', who argued with Obama - 'isn't really a proper plumber and owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes' (Source)

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'.

Original video

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.

Tina Fey does Palin

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'?

More Saturday Night Live

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."

(Source)

Sarah Palin Interview

Sarah Palin is being spoofed very successfully on Saturday Night Live in the USA. The interview mentions Russia, and this was spoofed in the New Yorker recently.

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.

Threat to Obama?

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.

Obama has moved away from his Bob the Builder platform (and nominated Biden, known for plagiarising Kinnock, of all people).

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!

Update: Reaction to Hillary Clinton's convention speech.

Kerry Concedes

So, Kerry Concedes. Apparently he will make a formal statement at 1800GMT (under an hour). It's hard to imagine what could possess half of the US to vote for Shrub, but there it is. I'm living in the UK, and have only met one person (in august) who leaned toward Bush. Nevertheless, this is the result - and we have to live with it.

Despite some irregularities which need to be stamped on, and hard (e.g. lack of paper record in some states, misregistration of voters etc) - the vote seems to have been better than in 2000. There are still massive problems in the system (e.g. media not having to be impartial, calling results before polls shut, voter registration and so on). I'm certainly surprised to have a result on the 3rd Nov, I thought it would run on.

I have seen a statement from the Whitehouse which says 'More people voted for Bush than for any other president'.

This may be true - but I do hope that the Whitehouse remembers that this is because things went right to the wire in a divided country with a bigger population than at any point in history. The challenger got the second most votes.

The worst result would be if Bush assumed that he had a mandate to press ahead regardless, to ignore the massive shot across his bows. To think that he needs to make history without the spectre of re-election. In short, as the election was so close he needs some modesty.

I won't be holding my breath.

We also need to see the republican and democrat voters buring some axes.

I still think that David Brin's Suggestion is a very good one:

Imagine a candidate or new President Elect making the following pledge:

"If I become president, I promise to ask my honorable opponent to pick a panel of Americans who will have control over my appointment calendar one afternoon per month. And I expect my opponent to serve on that panel. On that afternoon, I shall meet with -- and listen to -- any individuals or delegations that panel may choose. Millions of Americans will then know that I do not live in a tower of ideological isolation. I will answer questions and hear dissenting points of view."

It would cost the incumbant nothing, except a few hours of time once a month. It would be a superb gesture. Imagine if this had been said in the campaign... it could have been followed with the question 'I wonder if my opponent will make the same pledge?'

I have my fingers crossed that Bush will seek to unite, especially in the international arena. He promised to be a uniting leader in 2000 and we were disappointed. Let us hope not to be disappointed again.

Voting Scandals

Before the US goes to the polls tommorrow, it may be an opportune moment to record before the election that due to Voting Machines not all having a paper record and other issues, Voting Scandals are feared (that last link is old, but still relevant)

Gore-Bush 2000 all over again, anyone?

Bruce Schneier has written recently on why it is so difficult for the yanks to run a fair election at the moment.

Fox puts Kerry ahead by 2%

It is in the margin of error, but Fox - known for its Republican views(*), has reported that in their poll Kerry is ahead by 2%.

*The trailer at Moveon.org 'outfoxed' compilation is worth a look.

This was put together for the film, 'outfoxed'.

The site has a wonderful quote from a Fox Journo:

"It's unfair, it's slanted and it's a hit job. And I haven't even seen it yet."

Though in every effort not to appear neutral (heaven forfend), the article finishes with 'Am I going to go with a Massachusetts liberal or a Texas ranger?'

One of the commenters here points out that 'I think we should watch what the Faux News folks say today. This is very likely rigged for a "Get out there and make us liars" message'

In related news, a deputy in Florida is reported to have punched a journalist who was 'was enforcing a new county rule prohibiting reporters from interviewing or photographing voters lined up outside the polls'. According to the Yahoo article, 'the law prohibits police from standing in the immediate vicinity of polling stations unless they are voting or called in to handle a disturbance.'

There is a helpful article here for people who have not received absentee ballots in time

The latest electoral vote projections are here - the methodology has been to use the last dated poll published. Over the past month there have been major swings as the margins are wafer thin across a range of states.

Let us just hope that the election does turn out to be free and fair, and that no skullduggery takes place. I won't hold my breath for this, especially when the person in charge of the election in a state can be partisan.

Its the Corruption....

An interesting piece:

Our media, and to some extent, our electoral system, have failed us. They've presented this election as a choice between longer and shorter war, slightly different views on domestic issues, slightly different plans for economic reform. It's not any of those. It's not even "the economy, stupid!" Those are all the "overlay."

The one simple, clear-cut, black-and-white issue in this election, where one candidate is on each side of the line, is corruption. We have someone with ties to all the major financial and political scandals of the last 25 years... and someone who's investigated or prosecuted those very scandals.

(Update: Apologies that the link no longer works - but the above should give a sense of what it said)

Osama is Good?

A senior official in the Bush Campaign has said:

"We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days," said a Bush-Cheney campaign official. "And anything that raises the issue in people's minds is good for us."

A senior GOP strategist added, "anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush."

He called it "a little gift," saying it helps the President but doesn't guarantee his reelection.

It's good for Bush that Bin Laden is still out there? That explains a lot...