Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

I know what you’re thinking – Obama hasn’t even taken office yet – how is it possible to judge whether voters chose the right president already. Well let’s take a quick look at events from the last few days:

– President-Elect Obama has gathered some of the top economic minds in the country to come up with ideas as to how to stimulate the country out of recession. He has received messages from Chavez, Ahmedinejad and the leader of Hamas, indicating that they are willing to talk.

– The Republicans have continued name-calling, only now they’re insulting each other, with McCain aides calling Palin a “diva” and Palin responding by calling them “jerks”

So I may be proven wrong yet but it certainly looks like yes, America made the right choice


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So the Fed, in its eternal wisdom, is dutifully following Monetarist orthodoxy by cutting interest rates by half a percentage point. So what is the rate at now? 1%!!!!! Has nobody in the government realised that this is not working???!!!! Do they seriously believe that they are not, as Keynes put it, pushing on a piece of string???!!! Confidence is in the toilet, there’s nowhere else to go with interest rate cuts, it’s becoming an exercise in futile grandstanding for the business media. Nobody is spending. And John McCain wants to freeze government spending, the only way the government can guarantee that money gets spent to stimulate the economy!!!

Now the stock market went up yesterday in anticipation of this cut, but then the stock market went up in anticipation of the bailout that was demanded from the banks and when it was confirmed, the market proceeded to plummet. So how long will this bounce last, before stocks drop again? Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder whether all the decisions on Wall Street, the City of London and other financial centres are being fuelled by traders’ well-documented consumption of cocaine! Because there seems to be absolutely no reason at all involved. Should we start testing all market traders for drugs on a weekly basis and banning those who fail it?

In the light of all this, it is economically irresponsible for John McCain, Sarah Palin and the rest of the Republican Party to equate the modest taxation and spending plans of Barack Obama with socialism in an effort to scare people into giving them four more years of cronyism. In fact, it’s so irresponsible it’s practically Anti-American.

Again, I know I’m a little late into the discussion. I was just wondering what Joe the (unlicensed) Plumber would prefer: to pay 39% tax on his marginal income over $250,000 (note:NOT his total income) instead of 36% (assuming he does actually in the end earn that much profit after wages and other expenses), or to pay a pittance in tax under John McCain because he makes no profit as the economy is in the tank?

Look folks, all Western countries (even the US) made the collective decision throughout the twentieth century that there were certain services that were too vital to be left at the mercy of the vagaries of the marketplace. For both Europe and the US these included Fire, Police, Education, Infrastructure. Europe and Canada added Universal Healthcare to that while the US has thus far shied away from it. The US has decided to have a larger and more expensive military than European countries. Decisions were made to provide varying levels of welfare to those who weren’t gainfully employed for whatever reason. Thus taxes had to be collected to pay for these services to be available for the good of all citizens, rich and poor.

Decisions then had to be made as to how to share the cost burden of these services and again all Western countries made the decision that those with more money to spare should pay proportionally more than those earning less, mainly because they could afford it but also because to do otherwise would compromise the ability of those in lower paid jobs to earn a living wage for a fair day’s work.

Over the years, different countries have tweaked these variables to various extents and with varying levels of success. However the general principles of a progressive taxation system to pay for essential services has remained in place for decades, that is until it came under attack from neocons seeking a redistribution of wealth to the haves with the promise that it would trickle down. And with the election of George W Bush, they got to implement these policies leading to the economic crisis of today. So a modest rollback of the taxcuts received by the richest 5% to pay for tax cuts to the middle-class is not a Marxist wealth redistribution programme. (especially as the wealthy didn’t get this extra income through extra work, but rather through political manoeuvring) – it is a sensible return to the principles of a mixed market economy that served the Western World so well in creating and distributing prosperity reasonably well through the 20th century.

So please do not get scared by tags like “socialism” into making decisions that are not in your financial interest and that are to the detriment of the global economy.

Who won? Who lost? Was a knockout blow landed? How should the debates be analysed? Is there an objective measure to determine who succeeded? Sporting metaphors abound (well actually boxing metaphors, mainly). But me, I’m going to use another sport for my analysis metaphor, one which unites me with suburban American Heartland homemakers: soccer.

Firstly, the clubs: It’s Obama-Biden FC v McCain-Palin United

Secondly: Tournament format: Four games with the first, third and fourth being contested by the clubs’ first teams, the second set aside for each club’s reserves. Winner determined by aggregate scores over the four matches.

Game 1: Team Obama v Team McCain. Played on what was supposed to be Team McCain’s hope patch, a late change in weather conditions combined with knocks picked up by Team McCain through over-exertion in an external mini-tournament plays into Team Obama’s hands somewhat and the tie becomes the proverbial “game of two halves”. In the first half Team Obama go on the attack forcing Team McCain onto the backfoot. Pressure pays off as Team Obama score a tidy goal by taking advantage of weaknesses shown by Team McCain that are similar to those displayed often by the unpopular, dirty and ultimately inept Team Bush. In the second half conditions improve for Team McCain and they score an early equaliser. However Team Obama show themselves more adept at the conditions than anticipated and soon retake the lead. Team McCain continue to attack, only to find that Team Obama are happy to soak up the pressure and create chances on the counter-attack and the game finishes with no additions to the scoreline. Final Score: Team Obama 2, Team McCain 1.

Game 2: Team Biden v Team Palin. In spite of being a reserve team game, this matchup is eagerly anticipated as the experienced but unpredictable Team Biden take on the inexperienced and unfancied Team Palin. There are concerns about whether Team Palin has any ability whatsoever and whether Team Biden will be too aggressive, losing support among neutral spectators or underestimating Team Palin and lose the match. The game starts at a high tempo, with Team Palin playing at a frantic pace and managing to string some passes together, leading to a scrambled goal for them. However, Team Biden soon take control of the game, smartly absorbing pressure from Team Palin and putting together a number of fluid passing movements, creating numerous chances and scoring two goals before half-time. In the second half the pattern continues and Team Biden score two more as Team Palin seem to run out of ideas and are reduced to chasing the game frantically and putting in a couple of wild tackles. Team Palin score before the end but it’s only a consolation. The most entertaining tie of the tournament ends: Team Biden 4, Team Palin 2.

Game 3: Team Obama v Team McCain: Played at a smaller, older, small-town venue, ostensibly to test the teams ability to play at grassroots level. This turns out to be a bad decision as the pitch turns out to be small and waterlogged and not conducive to expansive soccer and leads to a dull encounter. Team McCain doesn’t seem to want to attack to strongly, possibly due to fear of Team Obama’s counterattacking ability. Team Obama, meanwhile, seem happy to absorb whatever attacks are made by Team McCain comfortably, and this makes them appear like the superior team. However the only vaguely exciting moment of the evening occurs when Team McCain pick up a yellow card for a petulant kick out at “That One”. Final Score: 0-0

Game 4: Team Obama v Team McCain: Team McCain come out fighting aggressively, knowing that they need a big performance to have a chance of catching Team Obama. However, due to inferior ability, they resort to tough and sometimes dirty challenges on Team Obama. Team Obama manage to ride most challenges but Team McCain receive a yellow card for persistent fouling. Team McCain’s tactics lead to a scrappy goal, however Team Obama’s calm passing ability lead to two goals. Final score: Team Obama 2, Team McCain 1.

So final aggregate score in the tournament: Obama-Biden FC 8 McCain-Palin Utd 4. So I hope that clears it all up.

Do you agree with this analysis? If the debates are viewed as a soccer tournament, what was the aggregate result? Vote below.

In recent days Barack Obama’s lead in polls has tightened somewhat-for example the Gallup Daily has seen margin reduced from eleven points to seven. It’s still a winning lead but with two and a half weeks left to Election Day, with more attacks to come from the Republicans and considering he’s held a lead on two or three occasions before only to see it fritter away within days, it’s time to ask:

Well, I just saw the second presidential debate last night and the main thing that struck me about it was just how boring it was. It may be that I was just tired or it may be that I’m suffering from Election 2008 overload but, after spending the whole day looking forward to the event, I spent a good portion of it splitting my attention between the TV and the internet. I think it’s something to do with the format. The term “Town Hall Debate” is misleading, to my mind. When I think of this term, I envision regular people confronting and challenging politicians forcing them to defend their positions. But all I saw last night were a few regular people politely asking really basic, sanitised versions of already sanitised questions that have been asked in the media over and over again and then allowing the candidates to individually give responses reminiscent to their stump speeches.

None of the audience challenged the candidates, the candidates generally only indirectly challenged each other, in a way that they can already do in separate speeches and as for Tom Brokaw, he may as well just have literally phoned it in. I don’t know how pundits could expect John McCain to thrash Barack Obama because the format didn’t allow for thrashings to be handed out by anybody. I could have debated either candidate in that format, whilst drunk and restricted to words of two syllables or less and not gotten thrashed. So it’s not surprising that one third of respondents in CBS’s focus group called it as a tie and the rest split for Obama but not by a huge margin.

Seriously, if the last debate is going to be like this, I want them to bring Biden and Palin back. Their debate was WAY more exciting and, somewhat surprisingly, for all the right reasons AND in spite of a format that was ostensibly more restrictive. Or what the hell, send in Ralph Nader, Bob Barr and Ron Paul to spice things up. If you’re going to involve ordinary voters in a political debate, maybe use the BBC TV show Question Time as a template. There, ordinary citizens pose the questions but they also follow up their own questions, they follow up the questions of others, they strongly challenge the views expressed by the politicians on the panel and generally add their two cents worth (or over here I guess it’s 1.2 pence worth). Meanwhile, the moderator, Jonathan Dimbleby, strongly challenges the politicians and the politicians strongly challenge each other.

So given all that, who did win? I guess Obama because of two things: firstly his composure as he focused calmly and clearly on the issues – while McCain talked about the need for a steady hand for The Presidency, Obama displayed it (plus he didn’t make any “that one” comments – probably not racist by McCain, but certainly a little disrespectful). Secondly, the fact that McCain needed to land some blows but didn’t will continue to make people more comfortable with the idea of Obama as President. But as regards undecided voters making a decision based on the substantive performances of the candidates, I don’t think Tuesday’s snoozefest will make a whole lot of difference.

I know what you’re thinking – not another sequel but there was something I forgot to praise Joe Biden about in the VP debate. On several occasions he referred to the middle class as the engine of the American economy, which aligns well with the views I expressed in McCain-Obama Debate and The Big Lie about bottom-up economic growth, as opposed to the trickle-down orthodoxy. This is possibly THE most important ideological issue of this election. I also want to thank Lurain Penny and fifthdecade for their supportive comments on this particular issue.

That’s all for tonight but I’m sure we’ll all have more to talk about when the burgeoning Republican smear tactics take effect this week.