Sunday, November 02, 2008

It looks like President Obama

Unless there is a turn-about it looks as if Barack Obama is heading towards victory in next Tuesday's election, and Politaholic - considering the alternative - very much hopes so. (Although I never expected it; I thought Obama could not win, that the Republicans would play the "race card" against him: but these expectations have been confounded). Here is what might go wrong:

(1) "Nobody says it out loud but nobody needs to", says Gary Younge in the Guardian: he might be assassinated (with someone shouting "Kill Him" at a Sarah Palin rally this is a real fear).

(2) The "Bradley effect": as I understand it there is some doubt about whether there is such an effect, and even in the case of Bradley there are other explanations. And yet...

(3) Massive electoral fraud by the Republicans, especially in Florida and Ohio, where they have a track record in these things (apparently the Democrats will have thousands of lawyers at polling stations to try to prevent this).
(4) A "late swing" to McCain - which seems unlikely.

I think Obama will win. But I also think that those who expect big "change" are in for a disappointment. Obama is essentially a pragmatic conservative politician. Under an Obama Presidency the US empire will not be dismantled. The US may be a bit more collegiate vis-a-vis Europe, and the US may begin to disengage from Iraq (I do not expect speedy withdrawal). For the most part it will be "business as usual". Obama endlessly talks of "change", but is less specific about the change he seeks; indeed, it seems to be widely believed that "he is the change". Mmm.

If Obama does win one reason will be that he broke his word and declined public funding; allowing him to outspend McCain. For this he was universally praised: it showed he was "determined to win", that he was "tough" and "pragmatic" etc. Had it been the other way round - had McCain declined public funds and Obama accepted them - I doubt if it would have been reported in this way.

Harold Evans in the Guardian has one of the precious few articles I have seen voicing any kind of critisism of Obama. He comments on the extraordinary easy ride Obama has had in the press, which began in the primaries:

  • "...the press let the Obama campaign get away with continuous insinuations below the radar that the Clintons were race-baiters. Instead of exposing that absurd defamation for what it was - a nasty smear - the media sedulously propagated it.
    Clinton made the historically correct and uncontroversial remark that civil rights legislation came about from a fusion of the dreams of Dr Martin Luther King and the legislative follow-through by President Lyndon Johnson. The New York Times misrepresented that as a disparagement of King, twisting her remarks to imply that "a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change". This was one of a number of manipulations on race by the Obama campaign, amply documented by the leading Democratic historian, Princeton's Sean Wilentz..."

  • "Chelsea Clinton joining Clinton's campaign prompted Shuster to report she was "pimping" for her mother".

  • "...until it became inescapable because of a video rant, they wouldn't investigate the Reverend Jeremiah Wright connection for fear of being accused of racism. They wouldn't explore Obama's dealing with the corrupt, now convicted, Chicago businessman Tony Rezko. They haven't investigated Obama's pledge to get rid of the secret ballot in trade union affairs. After years of inveighing against "money in politics", they've tolerated his breach of the pledge to restrict himself to public financing as McCain has done (to his cost)".

When - as I think he - wins, there will be a giddy celebration of an historical barrier broken: the first black President. But I suspect that, as after many a celebration, there will a hang-over...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Poor George

According to Marina Hyde in last Saturday's Guardian poor George Osborne - seen here on the left - was known as "Oik" by his Bullingdon chums, because he went to St. Pauls public school, rather than Eton or Harrow (the good Lord never rests). He appears to have been the butt of Bullingdon "high jinks" (or "hooliganism" as it is known, if you don't have zillions in the bank). On one occasion he was held upside down and his head banged on the floor. Each time he was asked: "What are you?" and his head banged on the floor again (explains a lot methinks) until he came up with the correct answer, which was, aparently,in the unexpurgated version: "I am a despicable cunt" (a view apparently held by a good many Tory backbenchers who find George a tad "full of himself"). Who would have thought Bullingdon thugs could be so perspicacious?


The interesting thing about "Corfugate" is the way it allowed us peasants a glimpse of the life-style enjoyed by the "Masters of the Universe" who rule over us. Here they are - the bankers, the press barons, the politicians, and assorted shady characters - cavorting together on luxury yachts, exchanging favours, gossip, and intimacies regardless of party affiliation (as benefits the members of a single ruling class). And all this is governed, apparently, by a strict code of omerta (which the callow Osborne was too dim to understand). Osborne, incidentally, clearly did - unless Rothschild is lying - solicit a contribution from Deripaska: that is what Rothschild says and Osborne is not sueing. (The Electoral Commission appears to be like many of these regulatory bodies: afraid to bark never mind bite). Now it transpires that Deripaska, who has financially benefited from decisions taken by Mandelson (who initially suffered from a convenient amnesia regarding when they first met), is refused entry to the US because he is suspected of being linked to organised crime. (It is beyond credulity that Mandelson and Osborne did not know this, if they did not, as Nye might have said, they are too stupid to hold government office). In the Guardian Martin Kettle for his part sees nothing wrong in having rich friends (now why would he say that?). But friends like this? Anyway, it depends what you mean by "friends". Aristotle thought true friendship only possible between equals (I'm afraid that's why he thought men and women couldn't be friends!). Now if I go for a drink with a mate and buy him a pint I expect him to buy me one back. Not so here, I think: Mandelson is aboard the yacht (which costs zillions to buy and still more zillions to run), he is quaffing Rothschild or Deripaska wine, eating their food (I don't think we're talking sausage rolls here), and generally "enjoying their hospitality". (Has Mandelson never heard the old adage: "There is no such thing as a free lunch"?). It's not that Mandelson can't do something in return, but he can't - unless he has a £80 million yacht hiddden away somewhere - exactly reciprocate. This is not a relationship between "friends"; this is the kind of relationship the wealthy have with a family retainer, trusted no doubt, but servile nonetheless. Another thing that strikes me is that all this fawning before the mega-rich, to which Mandelson appears to be addicted, betrays a lack of self-respect, a smallness of ambition, a lack of dignity. This man - Mandelson - was and is again now a Minister of the Crown; why should he feel the compulsive need to bow-and-scrape before such people?

Old Man Ross "going on 16"

Martin Rowson is bang on the button: one needs to get thing into proportion. Apropos Jonathan Ross, is there not something odd about a man who must be nearly 50 years old cavorting around like a badly brought up sixteen year-old? I mean, the so-called prank call wasn't even funny. Of course, neither Ross nor Brand will suffer from this. All publicity is good publicity in their line of business and they are laughing all the way to the bank. But really old man Ross - the oldest teenager in town - is a pathetic figure.
P.S. An afterthought on this. There is a lot of talk about the BBC retreating from "cutting edge" programmes in the wake of all this. But there is nothing at all "cutting edge" about Jonathan Ross, unless you count mindless vulgarity. TW3 was cutting edge; Spitting Image was cutting edge; occasionally so is Have I Got New For You. But Jonathan Ross?! Give us a break. What's cutting edge about saying FuckShitWank and falling around in helpless laughter as though this was the sharpest, wittiest comment one has ever heard?