Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Some light relief before 2009

The best video on YouTube at the moment?



Absolutely brilliant.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nothing posted for a while...

Sorry haven't written anything in a little while - currently putting together the next chapter of my PhD, covering the foreign policies of Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. Still got some reading to get through, too, so I don't have a great deal of time to complain/rant/critique anything I read in the news at the moment.

Also, Christmas is coming up, so less incentive to do more...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Auto-Maker Bail-Out

Just my two cents on the issue: if the US government offers a bailout to Detroit, it should come with conditions on fuel-efficiency and environment. Some people will suggest this will harm their competitiveness… Well, how competitive can they be when they’re completely bust? Even without these conditions they’re not exactly booming, so it’s a terrible excuse.

Most loans come with conditions, these are not terrible ones.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Ok, so I didn't get it 100% right. Obama won more than I expected.



Two states still to call, but it seems like he's going to have 364 electoral votes . All the states I predicted, plus Indiana and North Carolina (I'm assuming they're going to call North Carolina for him, even though he has a minute lead there).

It was a great night, sitting in the college bar as we watched CNN predict everything extremely early. But, I guess, they were mostly right. Good ol' Blitzer.

Now, I guess, we've just got to see how good he is at governing. Here's to hoping...

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Optimistic Election Prediction

I predict an electoral college win for Obama: 338-200

(Possibly 353-185 if North Carolina switches.)

Basically, everything Kerry won in 204, with the addition of Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Florida and maybe Iowa.

I also think it's going to be a very close popular vote result.

Tune in tomorrow, to see if I was right.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Common Cold - Not How I Remember It...

At the moment, I'm suffering from a standard winter cold (or "freshers' flu" as we call it at Durham Univeristy). For some reason, though, it seems to be having a whole different set of symptoms complementing the usual sneezing-your-brains-out and aching joints: apparently, the common cold now comes with a motor function component.

I'm bumping into everything, and dropping everything that it's possible to either bump into or drop. When your taking tutorials for impressionable freshers, it's a little annoying when you trip over your desk or walk into a door...

It's bloody infuriating!

This is very good (if extremely partisan)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Who is the Real Barack Obama?"

There's been a lot of posting about the shouted response (second video) of "Terrorist" to McCain's question about who Obama really is. While this is repugnant, and that McCain is attracting such supporters should worry everyone, McCain's reaction clearly shows that he doesn't agree - something many in the mainstream media have ignored.

Like I wrote, that McCain is attracting such supporters who feel it is ok to say these things in public, on the air, is very troublesome. I can't imagine that McCain is happy about it, but he didn't verbally repudiate it, either.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin gaff During VP Debate

At one point, in the second half of the debate, when she clearly meant to say "John McCain is the one who should lead", she switched the last word for "leave". Oops.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

So Damned Hard To Say...!!

Obama-McCain debate yesterday - around the one hour mark, both candidates stumble over the pronunciation of Iran President Ahmadinejad's name. Just made me chuckle.

Obama kept stuttering, too, which was disappointing. Both candidates gave a good performance, I suppose. No quality one-liners or anything like that, and nothing particularly new, either. McCain relied a little too much on a small handful of statistics, though Obama wasn't too hot on specifics. Though his claim that 95% of Americans will NOT see a tax raise was pretty good - assuming they believe him.

No idea who "won", though. Guess we'll see on election day.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Foreign Policy "Experience"

"I can see Russia from my house" (or whatever her exact words) is not foreign policy experience. It's not even funny to joke about this.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

FP - Election Choice

Americans are in a difficult position this election year. Having completely failed to make good on their 2006 campaign promise to end the War in Iraq, what is to happen to the Democrats? Do voters switch sides, voting instead for the Republicans who started the whole thing, and appear to have done everything to extend the war, doing nothing to stop the Bush War Machine? Or do they give the patently feckless Democrats another chance, which they will - in all likelihood - squander?

A vote for McCain will likely keep the war in Iraq going for some years to come. A vote for Obama, assuming he can keep his campaign promises, will likely see a draw down from Iraq and a surge in Afghanistan (the "right" war).

Either way, more young Americans will be shipped out to fight and die in a country many of them probably couldn't find on a map.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Single-Issue Candidacy

I've been reading all the coverage about McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate, and it's amazing how no one really has anything to say about her - either in defense or opposition - except pages and pages about her pro-life, anti-abortion beliefs. The Weekly Standard and the National Review sees this as a reason to elect her (because in right-wing world, apparently being anti-abortion is the most important thing in choosing someone to effectively run the world...), while left-wing publications such as The New Republic and The Nation view it as a reason not to vote for her. Mind you, The New Republic has a good article (by Michelle Collette) about why Palin's feminism is not a good idea.

What's most interesting is the coverage about Palin's daughter, Bristol's pregnancy. The Weekly Standard editorial this week discusses the pregnancy, and derides "the liberal media" for misinterpreting conservative viewpoints, for pointing out how accepting the right has been. William Kristol (who wrote the editorial), says the liberal media doesn't understand how conservatives can approve of the situation. Sure, Bristol Palin didn't have an abortion, but it's amazing how conservatives aren't picking up on the sex-outside-of-marriage aspect of the situation. Personally, I don't think it's any of our business (Obama's commendable position, but I'm going to talk about it anyway...), but as Leon Wieseltier writes in his New Republic column ("Against Integrity", TNR, September 24gh 2008), there is a good deal of hypocricy in the approval of the conservative factions of American politics: "I was unaware of the tender feelings of conservatives for sex outside of marriage."

"The fecundity of Bristol Palin is a windfall for Jesus, but the fecundity of black girls is doom of the republic," he writes, pointing to the conservative complaint about soaring teen-pregnancy being one of the reasons America is going to hell in a handbasket.

One of the main, stand-out issues involved here, though is about choice. Conservatives praise both Bristol's choice to have the baby, and also Sarah Palin's choice to carry her down-syndrome baby to term. Ok, but if Governor Palin were to get her way, it would be impossible for any pregnant woman - young, middle aged, old, victim of sexual violence - to actually have a choice. They would lose all ability to decide for themselves whether or not to carry their pregnancies to term. Social conservatives want to take away any element of choice. It still amazes me how they want to do this when the Palins actually highlight the success of pro-choice being the law: they prove that people can choose not to have abortions. Gary Younge talks about this in The Nation ("Sarah Palin's Shotgun Politics", p.10): "The fact is, Bristol can make the decision to keep the baby only because, in legal terms at least, she had a choice. A choice, as it happens, that her mother wants to criminalize... The woman who would like us to keep her daughter's pregnancy a private matter is running for office so that she can make the pregnancies of other people's daughters an affair of the state."

Imagine what would have happened if Bristol has (legally) decided to abort the baby...? Would her parents have stuck by her and supported her decision as strongly as they support the one she has made?

Of course, the GOP slashes all funding for anything the child might need after it's born, but I suppose it's more important that unwanted babies are born into unloving families than keeping wanted babies (and these unwanted babies) cared for and properly provided for in the form of child care, healthcare (congratulations, President George "I'm Pro-Life" Bush, on slashing SCHIP!) and so forth.

Anyway, that's all I'm going to say about abortion, now. It's not a good issue on which to choose a president/vice-president. Apparently, McCain's top two choices for the VP slot (Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge) were rejected by the GOP elders because they were actually pro-choice.

Then again, maybe it is a good indicator: Clinton was very good, he's pro-choice. George W. Bush is anti-choice, and he's been... well, not so good. Something to look into, I think.

So, let's all move on to what really matters - healthcare, energy, environment, defense, the deficit and retirement. These issues matter. Sadly, though, they're not very interesting and spittle won't really fly during any discussions about them. Watch as media coverage of the election continues to focus on issues that don't really matter.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ok, I was a bit harsh...

I've been reading more about McCain's VP pick, Governor Sarah Palin. She's actually done a fair bit for Alaska, even if the town she was mayor for was described as "the worst kind of suburban sprawl of highway-fronting shopping malls and gravel lots" in a Frommer's travel guide to Alaska. As governor, she's actually done quite a bit, and has some laudable accomplishments as outlined by Fred Barnes in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard:
  • "She brought down Alaska’s governor, attorney general, and state Republican chairman... She killed the 'bridge to nowhere.' She used increased tax revenues from high oil prices to give Alaskans a rebate. She slashed government spending. She took on the biggest industry in Alaska, the oil companies, to work out an equitable deal on building a new gas pipeline." (p.10)
And, to top it all off, Barnes has a good point about all this: "Obama can't match even one of these accomplishments." Maybe that's a bit strong, but I still wonder what Obama's actually achieved in the Senate. Too often he gives off the impression of playing it so safe, it's a wonder he's ever in the Senate to make a "present" vote...

Time will tell whether or not either Obama or Palin are decent picks for such high office. It is interesting that Obama (young, energetic, attractive) picked an old, crusty back-up, while McCain (old, crusty) picked a young, energetic and attractive back-up...

Senator McCain, what were you thinking?!

More evidence that Sarah Palin is a batty choice for McCain: she thinks global warming is NOT man-made/-caused. Considering a large proportion of McCain's proposals and whatnot in the senate (when not regarding a branch of the military) are environment-related, this seems crazy...

Stop tacking to the right! Come back to us in the centre, and all will be forgiven!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Vice Presidential Picks

And so "Veep-Stakes" comes to a close. What do we make of the choices? Well, let's start with Obama's inspired choice of Senator Joe Biden.

Is it just me, or is the art (left) open to massive interpretation? There's something that pops into mind, when you see Senator Obama - accused of being inexperienced and unworthy of being president, not one of Washington's players, ready to change the whole environment in the capital, and behind him, an old white dude, who's been in Washington since time began... To be honest, though, I like Senator Biden - he'll be good for Obama's administration, as long as he's not treated like someone who just needs to have a pulse. Anyway, I like him, so now Obama's looking like an even better choice: superb Foreign Policy team, good VP choice, suggestions that he's actually going to be a sensible president (not the raging, scary liberal frequently in the pages of The Weekly Standard).

As for McCain's choice? Well, I'm not so sure it was as inspired. I know there's been an MASSIVE reaction in the blogosphere - my RSS feeds are going crazy, being updated every couple of minutes with another revalation about Sarah Palin (usually not a good one) and how she is a really strange choice for McCain (The New Republic, especially has had a lot to say). If you're picking opposites, then McCain's done a good one: younger woman. Her support for Pat Buchanan makes me want to run for the hills, but we'll see. Not one to usually like the slur of "not enough experience" as a reason to dismiss a candidate, I think in the case of Palin, we just might have the dictionary definition of "inexperienced". She served as a mayor for 9,000 people... Oh yeah, she's also the Governor of Alaska (which is probably pretty good practice for something). Even if it is an attempt to steal the women's vote from Obama (unlikely, given Palin's pro-life, repeal-Roe-v.-Wade urges), I think this was a batty choice from McCain. Way to steal the media's attention, though (Michael Crowley points out that McCain's pick is receiving almost wall-to-wall attention on newspaper frontpages and so on). Feeding the beast...

At least one way or another, though, this election will definitely have a whole new something: either 1st Black President, or 1st Female Vice President.

In slightly related news, as the Economist says on this week's cover, "Bring back the real McCain"! He's being a little dotty at the moment. (More on this after I've read the rest of the article...)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Site Rearrange

Just a quick update on the future of this blogsite.
I'm trying to get everything rearranged, so this will be the homepage for all my other blogs, with a ribbon of links at the top (if anyone knows how to do this...). I will rearrange some of the posts, too, into their new places. The categories that will be featured:
  • Politics & Current Affairs - this will remain on the frontpage, as it is now.
  • MWRI - the music review site I've been running for years.
  • Civilian-Reader - my book review site
  • Gubbins & Gizmos - a technology blog, where you'll (eventually) find posts about technology, like the one below about the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader.
  • General - this is where I'll put all my posts about life, coffee, travel and so forth. Lighter in tone, shorter posts. I suppose this would be the closest I get to having a "Twitter" site.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sony, Kindle, iLiad...

On 3rd September, Waterstone's is going to release Sony's new e-reader via its highstreet stores and also its website. Ok, so far so intrigued. We know how much the reader will be (£199), but other than that, not a whole lot. The battery lasts for just under "7,000 page turns", and it can store up to 160 books at a time. Fine, that's pretty great, if true. But there is NO information about the costs of the books to read on them, or really much information or indication what sort of range will be on offer (7,000 pages of crap-per single charge won't really do much for anyone). Some sources claim "10,000s" of titles, which I suppose is okay for a first launch (unless they're all books people are likely to own already if they have any interested in them).
As someone seriously considering one of these (there's no more space in my home for books!), I'm not happy about this fact. This, frankly, makes it the worst promotional campaign in Britain's history. I contacted Waterstone's by email to find out a little more, and I was referred to their website, despite my email specifically stating that I wanted more information than was available on the website (Customer Services/Satisfaction: D-...), but they just told me they had no other information. Three weeks before launch...
On purchasing the Sony reader, you get a CD with 100 free classics - step up all English students! They'll likely need all 100, and think of the space and money saved! Ok, it probably wouldn't be that much, as most classics are now pretty cheap anyway, but think of the space!
Now on to the bit that worries me: according to The Times Online, publishers are "pitching the books at just below the price of a hardback". A hardback?! A clerk in my local Waterstone's Academic store said - while admitting that she hadn't really paid much attention at the presentation - that books would be about £1 cheaper than the printed versions.
The Times article also mentions the release of a UK version of Amazon's nifty Kindle device (which will apparently also see 2 new versions in the US over the next year or so, according to other sources: including this week's Newsweek, p.40). Now, these are a hell of a lot more interesting than Sony's limitted ereader, assuming the UK Kindle retains much of the functionality of the US version. Come to think of it, will it be possible to use a UK Kindle in the US, or a US version in the UK? It's something to think about, given the possible, massive price differentials. Speaking of which...
In the US, a lot of the titles available for the Kindle at priced at $9.99 - this includes, at the time of writing, the following (with corresponding print-copy prices):
  • Scott McClellan, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House & Washington's Culture of Deception" ($27.95)
  • James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge, "The Dangerous Days of Daniel X" ($19.99)
  • Fareed Zakaria, "The Post-American World" ($25.95)
  • Brad Thor, "The Last Patriot" ($26.00)
  • David Sedaris, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" ($25.99)
  • Stephanie Meyer, "Breaking Dawn" ($22.99)
"Paperbacks" on the Kindle seem to be going, through a cursory glance, for approximately $6.
How can they justify such a large increase for over here? Even at £15 they would be too expensive (equivalent of about $29). I think iTunes is pushing it, asking for £8 for a digital album when that's only £1 less than you can normally buy them in stores or Amazon/HMV/Play.com, so almost full price for a book will be seriously pushing it.
Personally, I'd be willing to pay £8-10 for a new ebook of a new hardback release (particularly political and current affairs books, which I actually need for my PhD, and are usually much more expensive and rarely on special offers), and maybe £4 for an ebook of an equivalent paperback release. "Cheapskate" someone said to me in a conversation about ereaders. Well, no, not really. Amazon.co.uk offers new paperback at £3.99, sometimes £3.49 - this price, one assumes, can cover the cost of printing, storage and (if you order £15 worth, or have an Amazon Prime account, as I now do) postage and packing. An ebook will have no printing costs, no physical storage costs (digital storage must be infintely cheaper), and no postage and packing costs. How would £6~ for a "paperback" and £15~ for a "hardback" be justified?
The Times Online article does say that most/all of Terry Pratchett's novels will be available as ebooks by the end of the year. Ok, so at least they'll be getting some great content, but we need to know more!
eReaders have a great deal of potential - for voracious readers with small homes, for students (if the prices are reasonable), and with regards to older or hard-to-find titles (ebooks should help reduce the problems inherent with books going out of print). We'll just have to keep an eye out, I suppose.
For the moment, though, with Amazon's discounted prices and Waterstone's 3-for-2 on mass-market paperbacks, along with the fact that hands and opposable thumbs came as standard when I was born, I'll be sticking to the printed format.

Continuing the Coffee Theme...

Another quick post on the subject of coffeeshops in the UK. Some observations
  • Coffee cups/mugs are considerably smaller in London than they are in the same franchise in Durham and Cambridge. I was in a Cafe Nero's a month or so ago in London, and the cup was noticeably about 1/3 smaller than usual! No comparative reduction in price, I might point out...
  • Starbucks have improved their coffee a great deal - it used to be way to strong and be far too bitter. Now they appear to have discovered a better strain/species of bean. Highly recommended.
  • Don't go for Starbucks' coffee-of-the-day unless you're there really early in the morning. If you get it by the end of the day, it's stewed to the consistency and (I imagine) the flavour of warm tar - this is true for, at least, the branches in Cambridge and New York.

I'll write about coffeeshops again tomorrow. I spend enough time in them, after all. Maybe I should write my thesis about coffee and not US Foreign Policy...

Damned Stupid Coffee Cups

Just a short, irritated post about the size and shape of coffee cups in the chain stores in the UK: they're too wide. For those of us who are... nasally gifted, it's a pain when one takes a sip and (if it's freshly made and piping hot) burns the end of one's nose! Costa, Starbucks and Esquires (which might only be in Durham, I'm not sure) are the worst offenders! Nero's have decent mugs.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When others do things better than you...

I'm currently putting together the second chapter of my PhD and I've come across a particularly irksome problem: namely, finding people who have done a better job at what you're trying to achieve, writing about the same subject with far more eloquence and aplomb that I ever could manage.

It makes it really tempting to just have this as my chapter:

Chapter 2
US Foreign Policy in History
See Henry Kissinger (2002) and Charles Kupchan (2002)

Bugger.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

re: "The Death of English (LOL)"

"Will text messaging produce generations of illiterates? Could this - OMG - be the death of the English language?"

So writes Lily Huang in the latest issue of Newsweek (p.10 for European readers). The UK sends six billion text messages every month, apparently (of which I send a hefty proportion, I must say). While it is true that most people use "textese" contractions, I've managed to avoid it at all costs. The shortest text I'm willing to send is "ok", but I often think that's a waste of the 160~ characters you're allowed per text. So, I usually expand on the message, in full prose.

My response is to Huang's question, though is: It will, but it deserves only half the blame. The rest of the blame rests on the way children are taught in schools. Certainly, this is true for UK schools, but I can't speak for any other countries. One of my former flatmates was doing a PGCE at Durham, and he was doing his marking in the kitchen one day.

I flicked through the stuff he'd marked, and noticed that he hadn't picked up on the rampant misspellings throughout every child's exercise book. When I asked him why he didn't correct their spelling, he said that he was told not to, because it "diminishes the child's momentum", and as a teacher, he's not allowed to tell a student that they've done something wrong.

Funny, I thought that's EXACTLY what a teacher was supposed to do. You know, teach the child how to spell!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

New Yorker "Controversy"

Following the erruption of anger from the Obama Campaign regarding the latest cover of The New Yorker, it's wonderful to see so many editorial caroonists (both conservative and liberal) coming up with their own lampoons of the whole situation. Sure, the more critical ones are from the conservative editorialists, but at least everyone's getting in on the game.

It was a bizarre cover, as I can't see why it's relevant to anything in the magazine, but for the campaign to get so uppity about it... well, surely they knew this was going to happen? Because of their overreaction, almost everyone wants to talk about it, comment on it, satirise it, satirise them, and so on.
If Obama's people can't take this sort of thing when he's not president, imagine how things are going to be if he wins? George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and especially George W. Bush have received more than their share of abuse in the form of mockery by the talking heads all over the globe (I mean, come on, there's an entire industry based around taking the piss out of George W.). If Obama's people can't learn to let things slide off them, like water off a duck's back, then they're in for a really miserable time in Washington.
If I really think about it, I was surprised to see the cover, but I've seen much worse about George W Bush and Clinton, that really I couldn't bring myself to care or even do a double-take. It was only after the fracas began that I decided to get a copy of the magazine and see what all the fuss was about. (This, I bet, was the case for a lot of people - sales of this issue will probably be more than their usual.)
I don't think anyone wins in this sort of situation, expect editorial cartoonists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (I have no idea if the latter two have commented on the cover, as it now seems to be impossible to get The Daily Show or Colbert Report on the internet while in the UK).
Perhaps not the smartest editorial decision, but come on people, there are far more important things to be discussing or getting angry about. Let's move on.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Seal of the Candidate of the United States (Democratic Party)

Just spent some time over on Barack Obama's website. It's actually a pretty nice website, though apparently they're gagging for money: every new page seems to have a "Donate Now" element to it.

After you've typed in address, you get sent to the donate page (perhaps a little presumptive for someone who's never visited before). Watch his new ad, you get a page that's dominated by donation form with only a relatively tiny window with the actual ad in it.

They're hoping for 75,000 extra doners by July 4th.

You know, the website really does look nice. All the graphics and pictures, chosen no doubt by a hoard of consultants (probably why they still need bucketloads of donations...). Lots of blue, lots of white, a little red (can't have too much Republican colour on there).

While I think it's a little pompous to design your very own seal, Obama's is, like his website, rather pretty:










Friday, June 20, 2008

What kind of sentence is this...?

Just read a Washington Post editorial about Obama's "moderate" credentials, and I was struck by Obama's strange response to Michael Gerson's question, "Have you ever worked across the aisle in such a way that entailed a political risk for yourself?"
Here's the bizarre sentence he responded with:
  • "Well, look, when I was doing ethics reform legislation, for example, that wasn't popular with Democrats or Republicans. So any time that you actually try to get something done in Washington, it entails some political risks. But I think the basic principle which you pointed out is that I have consistently said, when it comes to solving problems, like nuclear proliferation or reducing the influence of lobbyists in Washington, that I don't approach this from a partisan or ideological perspective."

Gerson goes on to write about how this isn't a very good response in terms of content ("weak tea" are his exact words), but what strikes me most is the garbled nature of his reply. I have no idea what he's really saying. I think he's saying that he's reached across the aisle repeatedly, and that each time it was a political risk. If that's accurate, why didn't he just say that? (Ok, Gerson makes the argument that it's because it's just not true, an argument I think is pretty accurate.)

Another worthy sentence in the article - this time for its quality, rather than Bush-type garbling - is how Gerson says McCain isn't a moderate, but "a conservative with a habit of massive, eye-stretching heresy".

Anyway, this wasn't meant to turn into another Obama vs. McCain comparison. I just thought Obama's weird answering style was worth mentioning. That said, I think Gerson's questions about Obama's liberalism do warrant answering, too:

  • "[H]is lack of a strong, centrist ideological identity raises a concern about his governing approach. Obama has no moderate policy agenda that might tame or modify the extremes of his own party in power. Will every Cabinet department simply be handed over to the most extreme Democratic interest groups? Will Obama provide any centrist check on liberal congressional overreach?"

These are questions I asked in my participation in a recent panel about foreign policy after 2008 (and previously on this blog). A Democratic House and Senate will no doubt be able to pass a lot of legislation that I approve of (e.g. I'm hoping they'll get their butts into gear to move towards an end to the whole abortion question - "Pro-Choice" should be the law, people can still choose not to have an abortion, as is the case in reality). I worry about his trade protectionism and the spectre of massive spending increases that the US can't sustain, but ultimately a Democratic law-making system is far less scary than the nutty wing of the Republicans getting ("keeping"?) their hands on the levers of power.

Another thing: what's interesting about the GOP primaries is that of the three front-runners at the beginning, none of them were the new, favoured brand of "conservative": McCain, Romney and Guiliani were all moderates before they started running for president. (Romney could be accused of being a liberal, and Guiliani just slightly eccentric.)

So close, but no cigar...

Found a couple of posts about the mythical, ephemeral new Guns N Roses album, Chinese Democracy, but sadly they were both wrong. There's no new information, the album still remains a myth, and will likely only be released posthumously...
Sigh.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Does McCain have a point...?

I'm referring to the growing grumbling about Obama's media coverage being far better than McCain's. Lots of people will just throw this out as one campaign complaining about another's successes, but I think he might have a point. No one can deny that Obama has been getting a lot of media coverage, certainly enough that it occasionally makes it feel like Obama's the only candidate for president.
Let's take a look at magazine covers, which is basically the only thing I have access to, for the past two years (January 2007-present, from both "conservative" and "liberal" ones):
  • Obama - 2.5
  • McCain - 1.5 (they share latest issue)
  • Obama - 2 (two where he shares with Clinton)
  • McCain - 1
  • Obama - 5
  • McCain - 2 (both 2007)
  • Obama - 5.5 (one shared with Clinton)
  • McCain - 3
  • Obama - 1.5 (one shared with Clinton again)
  • McCain - 1

Newsweek (US Edition)

  • Obama - 6
  • McCain - 2

Time (US Edition)

  • Obama - 6
  • McCain - 4
So what does this tell us? Not a whole lot, really. Who really knows what the truth is? It certainly can feel like Obama's getting all the press, but it's not always great press. Maybe they should only do covers/issues with both on them/in them?
I can't believe I took the time to find this all out...

It's all apolitical

Someone asked me why I haven't blogged anything about the election recently (imagine my surprise that someone actually read my blog!). Well, the simple answer is that it's all just going round-and-round and too many people are saying all the same things, which is incredibly boring. I also don't find "veep-stakes" at all interesting.
If you do, then you can head over to The New Republic, who are seriously getting into the whole vice-presidential sweeps mess.
What I can say, though, is that it's completely unsurprising that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is now an adviser for the Obama campaign. Who'd have thought it? Well, turns out everyone.

Asus Annoys...

First off, this is more about their release schedule than their products. I ordered one of the new Eee PC 900 laptops, which took an age to arrive, but is absolutely fantastic! It's tiny, lightweight and does exactly what I was hoping it would!

But, why are they now releasing (one and a half months later) the 901 model, with MUCH better processor, longer battery life and lower price?!

This is not treating customers well, or fairly. Not impressed at all.

Monday, June 02, 2008

McCain Interview

Just a quick message:

Good interview with Senator John McCain with Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Sweetie-gate"

I only heard about this most recent campaign non-story at work today, so I'm playing a little catch-up, but I was moved to write by the sheer banality of the latest problem, dubbed "Sweetie-gate" by Lisa Anderson at the Chicago Tribune. Obama recently said, while touring a Chrysler plant in Detroit, to a reporter who asked him a question, "Hold on a second, sweetie", and failed to answer the question ("How are you going to help the American auto workers?").
This is simply the most stupid thing for anyone to get excited about. No, it's not that he didn't answer the question that has all the precious jouornalists in a wad, it's the fact that he used the word "sweetie". Is there really nothing else to write about the campaign?! The video of the incident is all over the internet, and it has been blogged about hundreds of time (I'm feeding the beast, too), but what's interesting is that it seems to only be the unpaid bloggers (from a cursory, quick Google search of "Obama sweetie") that are pointing out that this is a non-story.
At least the person Obama referred to as "sweetie" wasn't offended (good on her for being a normal human being). What's amazing, as I suggested, is that his use of the word is more newsworthy than the fact that he didn't answer this rather important question. How is it any different from the use of words like "sugar" and "honey" for other politicians?
His phone-apology to the journalist was also very well done, and I have to say I like him that little more, despite still being concerned about the amount of taxpayer money he's likely to spend as president. (Democratic president, Democratic House and Senate... the deficit is going to explode! Even if they end the war in Iraq!)
What the hell is wrong with the media? The fact that the BBC reported on it too is just depressing.
Maybe Obama likes Absolutely Fabulous?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gotta Love Democratic Voters...

Following yesterday's primary election in West Virginia, it would appear that my earlier comments about the primary season are holding true as, once again, the candidate most recently written off by the media and chattering classes makes a comeback: this time, it was Hillary Clinton's (most impressive) turn, beating Barack Obama more convincingly than in any other state:
  • Clinton: 67%
  • Obama: 26%
  • Edwards: 7% (I love that there are people still voting for him, considering he dropped out months ago - true, it's probably mail-ins, but it's still admirably hopeful)

So, the Democrats will continue to beat the living crap out of each other for another few weeks yet. With 2,025 delegates needed to claim victory, Obama (1,875) will need to win 139 of the remaining 189 delegates (from Oregon, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota's primaries) - Hillary (1,697) only needs to win 27% of the remaining delegates to keep Obama from reaching this total. If my (admittedly poor) maths is correct, this should be easy considering she has already won on average of 41% in each state (she has 45%~ of total delegates to Obama's 50%~).*

I'm sure a lot of this maths is completely wrong, but it was momentarily fun to pretend I was a pundit and try to work it all out.

*Some states she's won massively, and the same can be said for Obama, but I think they balance each other out, to make this average not too absurd or arbitrary.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Democratic Spending

I'm not at all happy about this, but according to the Washington Post, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign is $20 million in debt.
Does anyone imagine that a Democratic president would be any better with taxpayers' money? This, in fact, is one of my main reasons for not wanting a Democratic House and Senate, on top of a Democrat in the White House: both Clinton and Obama have outlined lavish spending plans with little clear indication as to how they will pay for all this government largesse.
More on my opinions of how the election is shaping up in tomorrow's post, which will be longer and more thought-out. It will include:
  • why I think people are selling Obama short by "blaming" racism on his success
  • why the increased media focus on "race" is likely highly insulting to the vast majority of Americans
  • why I'm reconsidering Obama (again)
  • why I think McCain as president won't be as scary as many are making out

Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pondering the Democrats

Is it possible that the reason the Democratic candidates are ignoring McCain and the wider effects of their bickering is because they don't see the election as a race between Democrats and Republicans? Most polls suggest that dissatisfaction with the GOP is so high, that it won't matter who they put forward as a candidate, as the Democrats are a shoe-in. It's possible that this has led Obama and Clinton into narrowing the race until it is just a battle between the two of them, ignoring McCain completely. They're certainly expending an awful lot of energy, money and vitriol towards each other, that might ordinarily only have come out in the national election.
Also, can pundits please stop saying that only racist people don't like Obama? At this point, I'm fed up of both Democratic candidates - does that mean I'm a racist chauvinist? No. I'm not. I think either of them would be a good president (same goes for McCain), but I don't think we're going to have a great 44th president. By constantly mentioning his race, there is no way he can run the "post-racial" campaign that everyone keeps talking about. Treat him like any other candidate, who happens to be intelligent, highly organised and full of potential. Then at least Clinton won't be able to say he's received a free-ride.*
The Democrats are setting themselves up for the mother of all disappointments by building Obama up into a messianic figure of liberal salvation. It's dangerous, and will ultimately leave everyone feeling cheated or let down - there's no way anyone can live up to the expectations people have piled on top of him (not his fault, but he'll get the blame).
* Speaking of which, I think McCain would have a genuine beef about the Democrats receiving all the media coverage. Though, at the same time, he might benefit from it because by the time people come round to voting, they'll be so sick of both Clinton and Obama that they might just pull the lever for McCain who is, let's be honest, a good prospect. He'd be just as good in the White House as the Democratic candidates, if not better, because he won't have spent the last year tearing his party a new one.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lame Endorsement

This is quite possibly the lamest “endorsement” for Obama over Clinton, from Willie Barrow, an Illinois party official and Democrat super-delegate:

“I support Barack because [he] exemplifies a real man. He is a Christian, husband and father. Universal healthcare, employment and education are the primary issues for me. Our children are not going to school and not graduating. The state is closing schools and opening jails. I think that people of faith have to broaden their ministries outside the walls of the church. Anyone can sing in the choir or serve on the deacon board but how many know the level of unemployment in their community or the number of people losing their homes?”

It’s posted somewhere on Obama’s website, if you want to find it, and can also be found here (where I spotted it).

Below are the particularly noteworthy exerpts, that need addressing:

  1. Christian, husband and father” – Hillary is a Christian, wife, and mother. How is this any different? Unless you’re sexist.
  2. Universal healthcare, employment and education” as primary issues – well, as has been made clear by almost every media outlet in the world covering the primaries, Obama and Clinton are essentially in the same place for all these issues (and more).
  3. know the level of unemployment in their community or the number of people losing their homes” – well, I’d say that Hillary has proven that she has an amazing capacity for policy and for data, so I’d say she would probably be more likely to know not only her own community/district’s unemployment rates, but also those from obscure communities around the whole country.

And one other thing – Barack is a “real man”? Surely Hillary is a “real woman”? I’m not coming down on either side here, but seriously, this endorsement is the emptiest load of fluff I’ve ever read. If anyone is swayed by this, they deserve to be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Daily Show Bump?

Going to engage in a little punditry, now (it has to be done). After her successful appearances on both The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live, Hillary Has won three of the four states up for grabs yesterday. Claiming victories in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, she edges ever closer to Obama, who only won Vermont.
What does this mean for the everlong Democratic primary race? Well, frankly I haven't the faintest idea. While I have been pretty close to the mark with my predictions since the beginning, now it's just becoming downright weird. Whenever someone is considered "out" or "lost", they have a comeback. Are voters deliberately playing with the media? I'd love it if they were, but I think that would be bestowing the American people with a communal guile that is wholly unlikely.
Needless to say, the race is still too close to call for the Democrats, while the previously scrappy Republican field (which has gone through three sure-thing front runners) has now been whittled down to just Senator John McCain (Huckabee conceded yesterday, and no one really knows what's happened to Ron Paul). McCain now has a couple of months' head-start to campaign for the whole country. While not knowing who specifically he's campaigning against, he can at least start general attacks against the Democratic platform - after all, both Hillary and Barack have told us so many times that they agree on everything anyway, McCain can safely just poke holes in the general ideas.
The Democrats, on the other hand, will continue to shout at each other, for months to come.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Clinton does Comedy Shows

Just a quick post:
Watched the Saturday Night Live sketches about the Clinton-Obama debates, and also Hillary's "Editorial Response"; and also caught Senator Clinton on The Daily Show, and while I know it was all very careful and semi-scripted (not the shows, but certainly the responses would have been over-thought), I must say I have come away liking her more than I did before.
Does that make me shallow? No, it probably just makes me the ideal Clinton/Democratic/American voter. She managed to get some good answers in, without sounding stiff or like a lecturer. Pleasantly surprised.
Still prefer McCain, by a little bit.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Best Story Attributed to a President

Sadly, this is probably apocryphal, but it still needs to be shared. It's from David Greenberg's excellent biography of Calvin Coolidge.
Calvin and Grace Coolidge are at a farm, and Mrs Coolidge is told that a rooster mates several times a day.
"Tell that to the President!" she is reported to have replied.
President Coolidge then asked if the rooster mated with the same hen each time. When he was informed that it was always a different hen, he said, quietly: "Be sure to tell that to Mrs Coolidge."

This year, I am apparently a Republican

Well, now that the Democrats are taking part in their favourite sport (verbally abusing other Democrats), I find myself leaning towards Republican Senator John McCain, who is bound to be the Republican nomination for President, even though Mike ("Don't Believe In Evolution & The World Is Only 6000yrs Old") Huckabee and Ron ("I'm Fun, But Mad") Paul are still convinced they can snatch victory from the jaws of insignificance.
McCain is a great man, and a great senator. Of the 37 measures he presented on the Senate floor in 2007, all have been meaningful measures - covering mainly military matters, but also a welcome number of environmental protection motions for this home state of Arizona. Compared to Obama and Clinton, who seem to have the senate equivalent of tourettes (each has proposed over 100 motions, most sadly non-binding and vacuous), McCain appears to be the better politician and also more conscientious of what he proposes.
Rather than spreading himself too thin with proposals that are mere window-dressing or pandering to special interests (Obama wants to create a Rosa Parks commemoration stamp, for example - woot! So much for eschewing racial politics), McCain has decided to do what he can achieve, and what is sensible, without pandering to anyone. Sure, his environmental measures are Arizona based, but he is the Arizona senator, so of course he needs to look after his state - that's why he was sent to Washington in the first place.
Not only that, I think McCain would make a better president than either Clinton or Obama. I'm concerned about who he might choose for his VP candidate, but ultimately, I think he'd make an excellent president. It's a pity he's running against two historically significant candidates, and also that he's running as the candidate for the same party as George W Bush, who has managed to disappoint just about everyone in the US (not to mention much of the rest of the world). It's quite possible that many people will vote for a Democrat because they are just fed up of Republican rule, despite the fact that McCain is an unusual Republican (i.e. a moderate).
Even the "dirt" on McCain is harmless. The New York Times is running the story (again) about his ties to lobbyists - it first surfaced in 2000, when he was running against GWB for the Republican nomination. Turns out, a lobbyist from Paxson Communications asked McCain to act on long-delayed bid for a local Pittsburgh TV station that was before the FCC for a decision. Rather than be a poodle for the lobbyist, McCain agreed to ask the FCC to speed up their deliberation, but refused to argue for or against the purchase - indeed, he bluntly admitted asking the FCC to speed up, and admitted that campaign contributions he received through Paxson contacts would "absolutely" look corrupt to the average voter. But, because he didn't push the FCC to vote in favour of Paxson's client, I can't see how it could be argued that he did anything wrong. This is not really a scandal. In the post-Jack Abramoff world of lobbying, not to mention the slew of other Republican money (and sex) scandals that emerged in 2007, McCain's actions look tame in the extreme.
We shall see what happens, I guess. McCain is the only Republican I've ever wanted to vote for (at least, Republicans from my admittedly short lifetime thus far), and if I was a US citizen I have no doubt that I would pull the lever for McCain.

"Jumper"

I recently saw "Jumper" at the cinema. It was not bad. It was not great. Empire said "it lays the foundations on which a great franchise can be built". True, but it would have been nice if they actually laid the foundations of the story, too.



Too much of the movie was style (it was very stylish) and not much story. They really should have spent some more time explaining what the hell was going on. Sure, too much exposition would have come across as forced, but a little bit of exposition would have not only extended the movie beyond 1.5hrs, and also made it a more well-rounded movie.

There was vast potential to expand the story. The ideas behind the "jumping", and how doing so leaves a "jump-scar" was, to my mind, inspired! The complete lack of explanation as to why the Paladins were chasing the jumpers, and why chief paladin (played by the ever-excellent Samuel L Jackson) always uses a specific, ancient, blood-encrusted knife to dispatch each jumper he captures is never explained.

A good movie, sadly let down by a small budget? Considering the movie was directed by Doug Liman, this is unlikely - he directed Mr & Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Also, considering it stars the young Darth Vader (the marginally-improved Hayden Christensen), this should have been given a relatively generous budget. The special effects were cool, and very well done.
The movie was better than expected, and I think it is for this reason I was disappointed with the short-shrift they gave to the background and story. If this is the beginning of a franchise/series, then I'm very happy about that, as the concepts and storyline leave things wide open, with oodles of potential for expansion and development!

Monday, February 18, 2008

A truly bizarre system...

According to the Economist (Feb 16th 2008, pp.48-49), even though Barack Obama has won 22 of the 35 primary races for the Democratic nomination, winning all the remaining races would not give him enough delegates to claim victory over Hillary Clinton. This is just downright weird.
He's won 22 states so far, giving him 1,253 delegates to Clinton's 1,221 (from 13 states). Surely his winning the most states should be enough? I understand that certain states have considerably larger 'power' in these primaries, and I can appreciate why (California, New York and Texas are where most of the nation's money is, for example), but there's something decidedly undemocratic about the Democratic parties system.
I know, not a very deep posting, but it's something that came to me as I sit here, waiting to take applications for the Warm Front grant...