Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A right royal cock-up

CNN is leading on "McCain takes hit from bailout collapse". After 10 days of incoherence on the economic crisis, McCain probably had no alternative but to try something dramatic - his return to Washington.

But his impulsive action has brilliantly served to show up McCain's major fault. He makes "grand gestures" which are, in fact, impulsive and ill-judged. He has also been shown not to be a team player.

As Michael Tomasky said at the weekend in the Guardian in an article entitled "How McCain made a drama out of a crisis":

Behind the scenes, Obama was apparently trying to play a constructive role. The New York Times reported of the meeting that "participants said Mr Obama peppered [treasury secretary] Henry Paulson with questions, while Mr McCain said little".

By contrast, McCain has been almost entirely about the theatrics - trying to swoop into town and finagle it so he could either take credit for any deal or (more likely) grandly announce he would regretfully have to "put country first" and oppose it.

He certainly hasn't been engaged on a substantive level. He acknowledged to a Cleveland reporter on Tuesday he hadn't read Paulson's proposal, released two days earlier and running to all of three pages. Back in Washington, he clearly allied himself with the Republican intransigents.

...Even McCain supporters will acknowledge high finance is not his strong suit. But in this matter, which will clearly consume a great deal of the next president's time, McCain was concerned wholly with how to gain political advantage. He stood before the mirror, awaiting his close-up.

Presidential campaigns (and their coverage) can be vacuous enough that it just may work in the short term. Americans able to think longer-term saw that experience and judgment don't always walk hand-in-hand.

Two soups

Julie Walters is all over the shop at the moment, promoting her autobiography.

Regardless of Oscar nominations or any awards or accolades Ms Walters achieves, as far as I am concerned, her apotheosis is this sketch. It has me in stitches just thinking about it.

The implosion of the US Republican party

I am now a proud new shareholder of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Call it contrarianism, call it bloody-mindedness, call it recklessness but a new and proud RBOS shareholder I am.

Today's "get it into perspective" statistic: The Dow fell 42% in the month of the 1929 Wall Street Crash. Since the end of August 2008, the Dow has now fallen 11%.

Today's bonus "get it into perspective" statistic: If 12 Representatives in the US House had voted "yea" instead of "nay", the vote on the bail-out would have got through.

We appear to have shifted from a economic crisis to a crisis centred on politics. Specifically, it is centred on the breathtaking implosion of the Republican party in the the US.

Imagine a reasonably popular mid-term President A of Party A on reasonable terms with his own party and with the Treasury secretary appointed by President A and the head of the Federal Reserve appointed during Party A's term of office. A package to sort out the banking mess would have got through Congress with no problems.

But look at what happened yesterday. Bush is not a lame duck President. He has now become a Dead Man Walking.

Yesterday, President Bush's Bill, although passionately urged upon congress by a respected Treasury Secretary Paulson and an equally respected Chair of the Federal Reserve Bernanke (both Republican appointees), was only supported by 33% of his own party in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the Republican Presidential nominee is unable to do anything except make things worse.

That is just a stagegring breakdown of leadership in the Republican party. A complete dislocation between leadership and party. And all it needed for 12 carrots to be offered or 12 arms to be twisted!

And throw into the mix John Boner Boehner. It seems unbelievable that he was incapable of getting just 39% of his members (that is all it would have taken) through the same lobby as him.

A note about Nancy Pelosi. As Rep Franks bluntly put it, 12 Republicans thought she hurt their feelings so didn't vote for what was best for America - because she hurt their feelings. Franks offered to speak "uncharacteristically nicely" to those 12 if it would make them do what is best for America.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ex-Tory Staffer: 'David Cameron's liberal lie'

Ashish Prashar has worked for the last two and a half years in and around the Conservative Party. He's spent the last 11 months within the press office, serving as a spokesman for the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Leader of the House and the Conservative Head of Policy.

Ashish has written an article in the New Statesman saying that he spent those two and a half years believing in Cameron's "liberal Conservativism", but that he now realises that this is a "lie" and the Conservative party remains basically "white, rich and elitist".

When I started working for the Tories I was convinced that because they had no idealistic anchor they could adapt, becoming what they needed to be to suit the age. So when Cameron claimed he is a ‘Liberal Conservative’, like many others I fell for it, and I was so wrong.

I’m sceptical of the idea that you can be both socially liberal and politically conservative. With the economy facing recession, a Tory government will have to rely more on its politically conservative instincts at the expense of any liberal agenda.

The Tories talk about social mobility and opportunity for all. This is hard to believe when the party itself hasn’t changed at the core.

Firstly, the Conservative parliamentary party is unrepresentative of modern Britain. In the two and a half years that I worked in and around Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters, I encountered only a handful of staff from black minority ethnic backgrounds.
Cameron’s top table is even more elitist, looking like something out of a 1960s American boardroom, pre-civil rights movement.

As for Cameron’s credentials as a ‘Liberal Conservative’, it was he who authored the Conservative manifesto at the last election, with its dubious undertones of “are you thinking what we’re thinking?” on immigration.

A bitter pill - and a violent tremor on Wall Street!

This is incredible - live blog - updates at the bottom
They're just approaching the vote on the bail-out/buy-in in the US House of Representatives.

I was much entertained at watching the Dow Jones Industrial Average as Rep. John Boehner was speaking. He's minority leader of the Republicans in the House. When he started, the Dow was down about 2.67% on the day. His preoration was somewhat gloomy - and the Dow sank a bit more. He then started speaking all the more powerfully in favour of the plan - and the Dow was at only (!) 2.35% down on the day when he finished.

Rep Hoyer is now quoting Spiro Agnew. Not the Democrats quotee of of choice normally....

Update: With 1 minute to go it's a real nail biter with 86 representatives still to vote and the nays are ahead. But apparently they can go on for hours.

Update 2: The initial vote has timed out and there are 27 still to vote. The Nays have reached 220 which is past the halfway marked. The Dow is absolutely gone through the floor! A 600 point loss on the day! Incredible!

Update 3: The Dow is down more than 5% on the day! Commentators are saying that this hasn't happened in at least 20 years. 227 Nays.

Update 4: On 9-11, the Dow dropped 684 points. So far today, the drop was, at one point, starting to clumb above 600. Apparently there has been some calming down talks going on, so now it's recovered a tad to 466 points down since opening.

Update 5: The voting is stuck at 207 yeas against 227 noes. There are 434 members, so once you go past 218, you've won a vote. Apparently there is arm twisting going on. Could go on for four hours until Nancy decides to kill it. Looks like the no vote will take some shifting. So far, two nay votes have shifted to yea. At this rate it could go on for hours.

Update 6 at 19:05: Crikey. The gavel has come down at 206 yeas amd 227 nays. Dow Jones down 4.7%. The plan is at least temporarily dead.

Update 7: There's now lot of procedural discussion going on, about a reconsideration.

A bracht bricht moonlit nicht

With all this talk of Sarah Palin and her Alaskan roots ('people being outnumbered by Moose' and 'The only time she gets awoken at 3am is when there's a moose going through the garbage can' etc etc), I thought that a blast of Lord Rockingham's XI's "Hoots Mon" was well overdue....

The lyrics are extensive, as follows:

Hoots mon, there's a moose loose aboot this hoose
Hoots mon it's a bracht bricht moonlit nicht.

Look out for a McCain "nuke"

With McCain now trailling by about 5-9 points in the tracking polls (Rasmussen -5, Gallup -8, Diageo/Hotline -5, Daily Kos/Research 2000 - 9) I think we can safely expect a McCain bombshell at any moment. We've had the Palin "Moose in the Hoose". We've had the "suspension" nonsense. Now we can expect another "googly".

My money is on this guy rearing his ugly head again....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Contender for "nit wit of the year"

Domnic Grieve makes some comments about multi-culturalism in the Guardian today. He says: "We've done something terrible to ourselves in Britain".

Breathe in....count to ten....breathe out.

First of all I would say that Mr Grieve represents Beaconsfield, a town with a 4% non-white ethnic population, about a third of the national rate.

So, let's just say that Mr Grieve may lack day-to-day experience of what he speaks of.

In passing, I would also point out that Dominic Grieve spoke French as a child before he spoke English. I'm not sure what that has got to do with this, but it must have some relevance.

The key flaw in his attack on multi-culturalism, as with all attacks on it, is that he seems to assume that a group of woolly lefty academics sat down and drew up a plan called "multi-culturalism".

Of course they didn't. It just happened, for goodness sake! If there is any one word which defines Britishness it is "tolerance". We have had a tolerant immigration policy over the last hundred years. We have welcomed Empire and Commonwealth citizens and we have been a haven for people fleeing dictatorships.

People have lived where they felt like it. In this country people are free to rent or buy houses where they want to. So if they choose to live with people who have a similar ethnic origin to themselves then - fair enough. It happens.

If they choose to eat certain food and wear certain clothes then - fair enough. It happens. The only duty of a British citizen is to obey the law. Not deny their origins and culture.

Grieve says:

In the name of trying to prepare people for some new multicultural society we've told people, particularly long-term inhabitants, 'Well your cultural background isn't really very important, or it's flawed, or you shouldn't be worrying about it'

Has someone actually said this to anyone? Of course not. Is there any government pronouncement over the last hundred years that could be characterised as such? Of course not. He is making it up. No one has said "Your cultural background isn't really very important" to anyone. It is total and complete cobblers.

Is this ad the biggest waste of money ever?

This ad (below) really is the most bizarre thing. It was the rapid response from the McCain campaign after the Presidential debate last night. But for the end voice-over, I suspect it would qualify for Obama to say "I approve this message". It basically shows clips of Obama saying he agreed with Senator McCain. And that's meant to make him unqualified to be President? How bonkers is that as a line of logic? It actually emphasises how reasonable Obama is and contradicts the point about him being partisan in his approach.

This McCain ad is more likely to decrease McCain's popularity, not increase it. That is underlined by watching the tape of the CNN broadcast of the debate which had an audience reaction line at the bottom. Whenever McCain said "Senator Obama doesn't understand" (which he said repeatedly), the graph dropped right down.

Despite being asked several times to address Obama directly, McCain didn't look at him once and only once addressed a remark to him. Most of the time he looked away or at the monitor, even when meeting Obama at the beginning.

The cut-aways of McCain's reactions showed him bristling and smirking. He looked like an angry old man - his body language and demeanour seemed to be saying "It's obvious that I have vast experience and I know best - why on earth is this whippersnapper even allowed on the same stage as me?"

One answer which McCain gave ought to make Americans very afraid. When asked what he would do about the extra spending caused by the bank bailout, he suggested a government spending freeze on everything except defence, veteran affairs and entitlements. This once again underlines the impulsive, overly gung-ho character of John McCain. As Obama said, perhaps a scapel is needed, rather than a hatchet.

Has McCain had his chips?

It's too early to say, but thank goodness I finally have an excuse, albeit a wafer thin one, to use that title. I've waited two years to do it!

McCain needed to win the first debate clearly, given that it was on his strong subject of national security, and he is behind in the polls. He needed a "game changer" but didn't get it.

CBS did a poll of 500 uncommitted voters straight after last night's debate. 39% said Obama won it, and 24% said McCain. 37% said it was a tie.

But a CNN poll was even more convincing for Obama. They did a national poll of 524 adults who watched the debate with a 4.5 point margin of error. 51% said Obama won and 38% went with Obama.

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain wins first Presidential debate!

Yes, isn't that great to know? John McCain has apparently won the first Presidential debate even before he has arrived in the town where it will be held in eight hours time! Well, so sayy s internet advertising alread

McCain wins first Presidential debate!

Yes, isn't that great to know? John McCain has apparently won the first Presidential debate even before he has arrived in the town where it will be held in eight hours time! Well, so says internet advertising already being shown - see screenshot above. It reminds me of "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN".

God's antidote to Anne Atkins

I am being spoilt at the moment. My nearest and dearest has given me tickets for Newbury Corn Exchange to see several of my heroes in quick sucession. Coming up are Ed Byrne and Barry Cryer. Last night I had the great pleasure to be entertained, together with 200 other West Berkshire folk, by Rabbi Lionel Blue.

At the venerable age of 78 he stood in the middle of the stage for two hours and recited a stream of wonderful jokes, strung together by his wonderful, humble, life-worn wisdom.

He really is a fantastic advertisement for religion. He sums it up as "It helps you decide what to do next and gives you a bit of courage to do it - that's all there is to it".

He finished with a little song (hymn) written by Sydney Carter, which he said summed up his religion:

One more step along the world I go,
One more step along the world I go;
From the old things to the new
Keep me travelling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new
Keep me travelling along with you.

Full lyrics here.

Richard Benyon's disappearing blog

Following on the two LibDem Voice posts on this subject, the Newbury Weekly News this week carries the following article:

Blog bogged down by political comment

NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has been forced to take his blog offline less than a week after its launch.

Parliamentary authorities told Mr Benyon that it could break strict rules about MP's communications expenses, because it contained party political comment on a website funded by the taxpayer.

Mr Benyon said: "MPs of all parties do this, but because I had said something that was slightly lighthearted but party political, I've had to take it off."

The offending entry criticised Prime Minister Gordon Brown's speech at last year's party conference, while claiming that Conservative leader David Cameron had given "the speech of his life".

Mr Benyon promised the blog would return on a separate website.

What have 527, 538 and 270 to do with the US Presidential election?

Many thanks to all those who took part in my quick quiz. Most people got the right answer, but quite a few got wrong answers.

Here's the full SP. The question was: Which of the following has nothing to do with the US Presidential election?

The correct answer was 519, which was a random number I thought of, and then checked on Google to confirm it had nothing to do with the election. (Although you could argue that if a Presidential candidate won all the states except Arizona and Louisiana, they would have 519 college votes. But it's rather unlikely.)

The other potential answers were:

527 - "A 527 group is a type of American tax-exempt organization named after a section of the United States tax code, 26 U.S.C. § 527. A 527 group is created primarily to influence the nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates for public office." - Wikipedia

538 - is the total electoral college votes up for grabs in the US Presidential election.

270 - is the number of electoral college votes that a candidate needs to win the election.

Again - many thanks for your participation.

McCain: The mouse in the corner

It is laughable that McCain has "suspended his campaign" to solve the financial crisis. He has admitted, as at Tuesday, that he had not read the draft bail-out plan. He didn't fly to Washington until 24 hours after his announcement of "suspension". And several observers say that he was very quiet in the "High Noon" meeting chaired by Bush yesterday, and, indeed, didn't speak until 43 minutes into the meeting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clear conscience?

When I read that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York were criticising "short selling", I did wonder if they might rue the day they brought up the subject. The Church of England have a very large investment portfolio, which is carefully managed.

Indeed, now Ekklesia have highlighted some interesting points:

Ekklesia weighed into the debate on the ethics of financial investments and stock market speculation in response to comments made by senior clerics in the wake of the recent banking crisis.

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu branded the traders who cashed in on falling share prices in troubled bank HBOS as "bank robbers" and "asset strippers", while Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams called for fresh scrutiny and regulation of the financial world.

But the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia claimed that in 2006, the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England's investments, set up a currency hedging programme that hedged against a fall in the value of sterling, effectively short-selling the British pound to guard against rises in other currencies. The think-tank also criticised the Church for its shareholdings in oil and mining companies.

... A spokesman for the Church of England denied it was involved in any short-selling and said the currency hedging programme was aimed at protecting its investments rather than speculating on them.

He said: "The Commissioners do not short equities, nor have they delegated any shorting powers to their external equities fund managers. They do not have any exposure to hedge funds that short stocks, either. The currency hedging programme, set up in 2007, is designed to protect the sterling value of the Commissioners' foreign currency denominated assets.

"The Commissioners invest in a wide range of equities, including those of mining, oil and financial companies, as part of a broadly diversified asset base and in compliance with the ethical investment policy as recommended by the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group."

Is McCain preparing to throw the world economy down the toilet for electoral advantage?

It is a fascinating question. CQ Politics notes that John McCain refused to sign up to a simple set of principles last night:

Why wouldn't McCain agree to a fairly innocuous, Mom and apple pie set of conditions for a bill? Democrats fear this morning that McCain is setting up a scenario in which he will vote against the bill, rally conservatives to his side and, most importantly, distance himself from both President Bush and Congress before the election.

It seems utterly unbelievable that McCain would vote against a bail-out bill. Surely it is essential to reach a compromise which helps ordinary Americans and has safeguards for taxpayers money? Without that the stock market really is going to go into freefall and it really will be "Hello 1929" all over again. Republicans have been sayin that without McCain's support there will be no bailout.

Don't panic!

Recent doom-laden reports of the stock market crisis in the media have reminded me of a couple of “Dad’s Army” catch phrases. One is tempted to repeat Private Fraser’s “We’re all doomed!”, or to run round like Corporal Jones shouting “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!”.

Many of the journalists covering the recent stock market crisis weren’t adults during the last serious recession. A long period of growth has perhaps allowed us to lose our sense of perspective.

To take an extreme example, I have heard last week being compared with the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

This really is a wild exaggeration. In a 30 day period over October/November in 1929 ("The Wall Street Crash") the Dow Jones Index went down by 42% from 345 to 200. Moneymen were seen throwing themselves off the skyscrapers in Wall Street and there were resultant soup kitchens, cardboard cities, lines of people begging and "Brother, can you spare a dime".

Even if you take the whole of the 30 days up to 24th September and take the highest and the lowest point, the Dow Jones Industrial Average only went down by 9% from 11600 to 10600. Today it is at 10825, down 5.8% from the 1st September when it was 11,500. Compare that to 2003 it went under 8,000.

While not wishing to minimise the hardship and worry caused to people in the current economic situation, we really need to put things into perspective.

Inflation is at 5%. In 1975 it was 24%. Obviously, things like petrol and food are going up faster than the headline rate. But still, in an historical context, inflation is nothing like as high as it has been at times.

Unemployment is at 5.5%. In 1982 is was 12.5%.

Many talk of an energy crisis. Yes, we should be concerned about energy supply and use. But some of us remember the three day week in the early 1970s when we had scheduled power cuts, industry closed for two days a week other than weekends and all television broadcasting stopped at 10.30pm. Now that’s what I call a “crisis”.

I certainly don't wish to under-estimate the need for action to stem the credit crunch - the market will certainly go down further if there is no "end game" in sight. And of course, there are bound to be knock-on effects further down the road. Having been unemployed myself, albeit for a short period, I don't discount the hardship and worry caused to just one unemployed person and their family.

But we are in danger of talking ourselves into an unnecessary tizzy.

In particular, one thing which I found was missing from current discussions is putting a positive perspective on how we lead our lives in a recession in connection with preserving the planet.

By far the greatest threat facing our planet is global warming. If the glaciers continue melting and there are wars breaking out over water supply, worries about the stock market will seem silly.

We should be focussing on the "win win" which we can derive from certain domestic measures in a potential recession.

Improving the energy efficiency of our homes, being more fuel efficient with our travel and growing more of our own food will save money so that we are better able to get through any economic turbulence, while doing our bit to help minimise the effects of global warming. This is a great, positive message. We should be turning the fears of a recession to positive effect. We have all, as a human race in the western world, wasted a lot of resources in recent years. The need to save money can have the big positive knock-on effect of help to save the planet as well.

I find it quite disturbing that this link is not being made more widely.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sarah Palin in cotton wool

Jo Christie-Smith has written a thoroughly absorbing post on Sarah Palin.

So far, Palin has been received relatively sympathetically compared to Dan Quayle.

However, she has yet to hold a press conference, and her debut at the UN was 'pool cameras only'.

Her main "freewheeling" encounters with the press have been:

1. When she was starting to drink a coffee in a diner and she was asked about the AIG bailout to which she replied "disappointed that taxpayers are called upon to bail out another one" before immediately sipping coffee, thus ending the conversation. Her mouth had hardly finished forming the word "one" before the coffee passed her lips.

2. Buying icecreams at a shop, but the media 'pool producer' wasn't notified of this, so she was not asked any questions.

I also note that concessions have been made for Palin at the Veep candidate debate so that she doesn't get caught out in anything as vigorous as a debate.

So, although the choice of a woman may have done favours to her gender to start with, the patronising way she is being used, or not used, on the campaign trail may well turn out to be disastrous as an advertisement for women's skills. The message currently seems to be:

"yes - have a woman on the ticket - but keep her wrapped in cotton-wool".

Much of this patronising, cotton-wool treatment flows from the choice of a grossly inexperienced candidate.

As I have said repeatedly, if McCain had chosen Kay Bailey Hutchison (right), we wouldn't be having this conversation....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Economic crisis: 'McCain loses his head'

George Will has written a very astute oped regarding McCain's pronouncements on the economic crisis in the Washington Post, summarised as follows:

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

The huge, massive, ginormous challenge for Gordon Brown today

We are told that this afternoon's speech is "Make or break" for Gordon Brown.

There are, indeed, myriad risks for Gordie. Just think of what could go wrong:

- He could just not turn up. They announce him but there is silence and everyone looks around but he is nowhere to be seen. He has chickened out. Or he has got the date wrong. He thinks his speech is tomorrow.

-On the way to the lectern he falls over and has a "personal accident" necessitating the emergency attentions of a cleaner with a mop and bucket, prior to commencement of the speech. Gordon grins nervously and tells a few "jokes" ("A funny thing happened to me on the way to the gallows...") while the mopping up is finished.

-He forgets his script and the autocue breaks down. So he searches the shelf of the lectern and all he can find to read out is the Manchester telephone directory. He gets to the "Rs" before anyone notices the problem. Gordon doesn't knows his "Rs" from his....[no, that's far too cheap].

-He delivers his speech in German.

-In the middle of it he breaks down and starts crying.

Yes, indeedy. So much could go wrong. Expectations are so high. Perish the thought that all he needs to do is turn up, make sure his flies are fastened, shout a bit and receive a standing ovation. This really is make or break time for Gordon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why library photos of McCain with George Bush are getting high usage....

It's not surprising that the photo library of John McCain with George Bush is getting vigorous usage by the Obama campaign (see latest ad below). George Bush now has a favourability rating of just 19%. That's the lowest ever for a US President since George Gallup started doing such polls in the 1930s. Bush was at that level before, but it was when the Iraq situation was far worse than it is now.

Meanwhile, the McCain is now giving up portraying Obama as "an empty-handed, idealistic neophyte. Now (writes Marc Ambinder), John McCain's election strategists in Arlington want to transform him into a scheming insider-urban-machine politician."

Huh? It doesn't quite wash does it?

Quick quiz

Thanks to everyone who has so far had a stab at my quick quiz on the right. There are three days left to have a try.

The question is: Which of the following has nothing to do with the US Presidential election?:

Sorry that it says "Vote" at the bottom of the quiz, but I couldn't find any quiz widgets so used the poll widget instead.

Bagpipe judges do mildly funny things...

I have finally got round to putting this video (click below) on YouTube. It is a sneeky video I took of a bag pipe competition when the judge goes to sleep. I freely admit that it is only mildly amusing but it is always interesting to see how many people give it a whirl. So far, 34 after a few days. My videos of a basking shark coming up to our boat off the Isle of Mull (example 2nd below) have so far clocked 1,617 viewers. Not in the Jonathan Wallace league, of course, but it never ceases to amaze me how people watch the most innocuous thing.

When does missing the goal by two yards get over 250,000 hits on You Tube?

Answer: When it was allowed as a goal! Update: Someone at YouTube has obviously been very busy after a call from the Football League's legal department! You can see the "goal" here as long as you on a UK IP address - right hand box - scroll down to choose "20 Sep 08 Watford 2-2 Reading". The red arrow below points out the video box on the page. The blue arrow points out the scroll down menu to find the Watford v Reading match.

Just to be on the safe side, the link to the page containing the video is also here:
and here:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Michael Palin for US President - campaign gathers pace

I was very early on in 'announcing that Michael Palin was in the race to be US President'. 29th August, to be precise.

Well now he's got his own full-blown campaign website and video.

Hat-tip: Nick Barlow.

Palin gaffe

There are many tales of Rock stars getting the name of the town they are visiting wrong. "Hello Manchester" going down a bomb in Prague, for example. It usually gets forgotten in the opening bars of the first tune.

But when you are a politician, getting the name of the town/city, is a little bit more damaging:

The opening was superbly choreographed. To the sound of thundering rock music blaring from speakers, several thousand people watched as John McCain's campaign plane swooped out of the sparkling blue Iowa skies.

The plane taxied to a halt only 100 metres away from the crowd gathered at an airport outside the city of Cedar Rapids. They cheered wildly as McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, descended from the aircraft and trooped through the throng, smiling and shaking hands.

Then things started to go wrong. 'Thank you so much, Iowa. It's great to be here in Grand Rapids,' Palin said as she took the stage, naming a completely different city in the far-off state of Michigan. 'CEDAR Rapids!' came shouts from the crowd. Palin ignored her gaffe and ploughed on...

In John McCain's ad recording studio.....

Saturday Night Live do it again...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

First day at conference

Well, I've arrived here at Bournemouth for our conference. The weather is fantastic! Here's a photo (left), which I took today from the end of the pier, of the conference centre, as I made my way to it.

UPDATE: Something strange is going on. I went up to the conference centre for the debate on the Security Paper. Instead of our normal pale yellow-clad stewards, I was greeted by Postman Pat and his black and white cat. There appears to be a CBeebies theatrical performance going on at the centre. This has delighted my daughter but puzzled me. Perhaps the start of the conference has been postponed until tomorrow? More later.

UPDATE2: Oh dear. Oh dearie me. I seemed to have committed an almighty snafu with my dates. I am informed that the conference started last Saturday. Not today.

Oh dear.

Oh dear me.

Did I miss much?

Anyway, the day was so glorious that we enjoyed a fantastic sit down on the beach and walk from Bournemouth to Poole (do you know that the tarmac on the pathway actually changes at the boundary between the two authorities?). We were accompanied by our relatives and friends visiting from Australia. My disappointment at missing the conference, due to my own incompetence, was tempered at my delight at hearing, from one of my Australian-abiding cousins, this......

You don't get Fosters in Australia. You do get XXXX, but not Fosters. Apparently.

The future Tory cabinet - a grateful nation sighs with relief

We can all sleep very soundly in our beds. With a generous passing hat-tip to the newly and quite rightly ennobled Alix Mortimer, Tatler, the home of stringent political analysis, have done us all a great favour and revealed the future Tory bright stars who are waiting in the wings to take the levers of power in Britain.

Phew! What a relief! It turns out that they are all very talented indeed, very intelligent and with very wide experience. But most reassuringly, they all have excellent taste in clothes - the more expensive the better. Well you can't have glorified tramps putting their bums on the back seats of government Rovers, can you?

I am amazed and bowled over by the dazzling array of Tory glitterati just itching for the British constitution to tick round so that they can take their rightful place behind ministerial desks in Whitehall. They are so smiley and well turned out.

Very helpfully, Tatler has informed us which cabinet posts these bright young things will take when the Tories meet their date with destiny and put their skillful hands on the tiller of state, to collective sighs of relief from us grateful citizens.

Shaun Bailey, PPC for Hammersmith, has an excellent taste in suits and will be our future Home Secretary, we are informed. Excellent. Shaun has an excellent background for such a role. He is "now a youth and drug worker who set up a charity for young people." (Oh, where did we hear that before? Never mind - move on quickly) "A member of the Police Community Consultative Group, he enjoys comics and South American economics in his spare time. "

"Enjoys...South American economics in his spare time"

That's a new one. South American economics. Fascinating. It is not entirely clear what inspiration or information from this interest will be used by Mr Bailey in his future career lording it over us grateful citizens. Perhaps the special economics of Columbia might be of some interest to the United Kingdom? Or the economy of Argentina (public debt 59% of GDP) or Uruguay (53%) perhaps?

Never mind. Let's move on swiftly.

Annunziata Rees-Mogg will apparently be our future Secretary of State for Defence. Excellent. From what I read of her CV in Tatler, she has a fiance who recently served in Iraq, so she is superbly suited to that role. If you still had any lingering doubts, she has a great taste in clothes and poses in one of those dressy-things with a wonderful belt in the middle (Our fashion correspondent writes). Her hair looks great too. (You can tell I am an experienced husband - I know all the right phrases like "Your hair looks great")

Jeremy Brier is 27 years old and the PPC for Luton North. He will be our future Chacellor of the Exchequer, we are told. Even at such a young age, that is obvious. He chooses for his Tatler photo shoot a very natty suit featuring a pattern which I think is called "Houndstooth". He is a commercial barrister and an accomplished cook. Cooking is always an excellent skill to have as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has a double first in English from Cambridge. Need I go on? Give the boy the keys to Number 11 immediately. Why wait?

For those of you who still wonder why Mr Brier is destined to be our Chancellor of the Exchequer then wonder no more. The answer is there, glaring you in the face, in the last sentence of his Tatler CV:

Jeremy Brier.... quotes Middlemarch as his inspiration for social policy.

Middlemarch. It's obvious isn't it? That's what Britain needs. Social policies from Middlemarch.

Now let's be fair to Mr Brier. Although Middlemarch was based in 1830s Britain (1830-32 actually), its main character, Dorothea Brooke, is idealistic and well-to-do and starts the book engaged in schemes to help the lot of the local poor.

So that is just the ticket for Britain in the 21st Century, of course. Tried and tested do-gooding by the well-to-do for the poor. Excellent.

However, Hold on there! Against the wishes of her relatives, she actually marries Edward Casaubon, a middle-aged pedantic scholar who, she believes, is engaged on a great work, the Key to all Mythologies.

So there you are! We have a dreamer and an idealist as our future Chancellor!

Middlemarch also includes an idealistic doctor hoping for reform. So there is plenty of altruism in the book and even a comedic attempt by a character to enter parliament as a reformer. Perish the thought that our future Chancellor might actually see Gladstone or some other piffling woolly-liberal 19th century politician as his inspiration. Much better a book which includes someone failing - comedically - to get involved in sponsoring the Great Reform Act.

So put aside all negative thoughts of the period of 1830 to 1832 in which Middlemarch was set. Forget about the fact that slavery had yet to be abolished. Forget about workhouses for the poor. Forget the practice of employing children as workers. Forget sending "climbing boys" up chimneys. All these things are peripheral fripperies.

1830-32 and Middlemarch really represents, socially, the way to go.

Well done Jeremy Brier!

...And I take my hat off to the Tory stars of the future!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Go into banking, my child

Banking is the trade to be in. You can make lots of mistakes, take lots of bonuses while you make them, and then the government comes along with a big truck, loads up all your mistakes in it and takes the mistakes off to a big sort of septic tank for storage.

What a great trade to be in!

One interesting comment came in a BBC piece about Lloyds TSB. They said that Lloyds TSB is in a fairly good state because their boss is fairly old-fashioned and got a bit stubborn on the subject of lending. He insisted that if the bank was going to lend money to anyone, they ought to be reasonably sure that the borrower had the ability to pay the money back.

Crikey! That's original!

John McCain invented the Blackberry


When "ads" aren't really "ads"

Barack Obama is pounding John McCain on the economy, with another very effective ad - click below.

But one fascinating aspect of the US Presidential election campaign is to observe which ads actually get broadcast on television and with what frequency.

Many ads, which are much talked about in the press, are actually only broadcast to a very limited extent.

The campaigns take advantage of "viral" publicity for the ads via the net and the media.

The Campaign Media Analysis Group track which of the ads are broadcast and where. They have come up with some interesting stuff.

For example, at the start of the Democratic National convention, there was much talk about ads in which Hillary supporters said they would be supporting John McCain. This caused a huge stir and vast acres of media coverage were devoted it.

So you would expect that these adverts in question were broadcast widely over the States on terrestial television, wouldn’t you?

WRONG. One of the three ads in question was broadcast in Toledo, Ohio. It also received at least one airing in Denver, Colorado. It was also shown on cable television.

Similarly, the McCain ad about Obama’s attitude to sex education in kindergartens received very limited airing, as did Obama’s ad characterising McCain as out of touch and unable to send emails.

AP reports:

Haven't seen all those negative presidential campaign ads the media are fussing over?

Chances are you won't.

Barack Obama's and John McCain's presidential campaigns are peddling campaign videos as advertising - even though they are getting little commercial airtime.

The head of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a firm that uses computer technology to track commercials in all television markets, says the spots are designed to get widespread media attention without the expense of buying airtime.

Among them are one from McCain that alleges Obama supported sex education for kindergartners and one from Obama that says McCain doesn't know how to use a computer or e-mail.

"It's getting just silly that the ads they are putting out are represented as real spots," TNS head Evan Tracey said, noting that many of the videos are released in time to be displayed and discussed by cable news commentators.

"You used to hide the harder-edge message in radio and direct mail," Tracey said. "What you have now is that the campaigns say, 'Hey, [MSNBC's] Morning Joe is a food fight, let's supply the tomatoes.' "

Spokesmen for both campaigns declined to discuss their ad placement decisions.

The ads that get little actual airtime spread the perception that the two campaigns are running exceptionally negative campaigns. But an analysis released yesterday by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found more of a mixed picture in ads in the week after the party conventions - 56 percent of McCain's were aimed against Obama and 77 percent of Obama's were against McCain.

The study said the ads aired about 70,000 times and each campaign spent about $7.8 million, but McCain received Republican National Committee funding for about half.

The study also concluded that for all the talk of an expanding electoral map and Obama's 50-state strategy, the campaigns are focusing on the same swing states as in 2004. Obama aired ads in 17 states, and McCain did so in 15 of the same states.

Tracey said McCain is primarily running three ads. One, portraying himself and running mate Sarah Palin, has appeared nearly 11,000 times, he said. Another ad, criticizing Obama as a mere orator whose policy proposals will cost Americans money, has run about 17,000 times.
Obama's most prevalent spot - airing about 17,000 times - links McCain to Bush and uses footage of McCain in asserting that he voted in support of President Bush policies 90 percent of the time.

The restricted broadcast of some ads doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been carpet bombing of Americans’ living rooms with political ads. Spare a thought for Floridians. They were subjected to 9,785 Obama ads just up to the beginning of August.

McCain won't commit to meet with Spanish Prime Minister - is he insane?

John McCain has got himself into a very sticky mess over his refusal to commit to meet the Prime Minister of Spain (Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero) if he (McCain) is elected President. This was in an interview with a Miami radio station. However, if you listen to the interview (click below) it seems that McCain may have been confused and thought that Zapatero was a Latin American leader. Nevertheless, McCain's foreign policy adviser later confirmed that McCain knew what he was doing and did indeed mean to not commit to a meeting with Zapatero.

In the Boston Globe, Max Bergmann, deputy director of the National Security Network, is quoted as saying:

This is insane. McCain won't meet with a NATO ally, that has nearly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, that has lost more than 20 soldiers there, has been brutally attacked by Al Qaeda, is incredibly influential in Latin America, has the seventh largest economy in the world, is a DEMOCRACY, and is a large and influential country in the EU. Won't meet with them?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rooney's new shirt


or perhaps?

US polls - Whooo-hoooooooo!

Look at these latest tracking poll results for Obama from Political Wire! :

Diageo/Hotline: Obama 46%, McCain 42%

Gallup: Obama 48%, McCain 44%

Research 2000: Obama 49%, McCain 43%

Rasmussen: Obama 48%, McCain 48%

It's still too close to call

Larry Sabato of Rasmussen Reports gives an excellent summary of the state of play in the US Presidential Election.

Sarah Palin's Yahoo account hacked

This is deplorable. Someone has hacked into Sarah Palin's Yahoo account, which she has been using for some Alaska governor's business. Political Wire reports on this.

The moral of this story must surely be that if you are using an email account for official government business, it ought to be hack-proof.

Her account name was apparently gov.sarah@yahoo.com, but this has now been closed.

Prescott gives Today a vigorous enema

Well, I can't think of any other adequate words to describe this.

James Naughtie took it like a man, I thought.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Momentum shifts back to Obama

An ARG poll shows Montana and West Virginia, previously regarded as Republican shoe-ins, as closer that they ought to be. It also shows New Mexico shifting towards Obama.

Political Wire reports:

Three of the four major daily tracking polls now show Sen. Barack Obama leading Sen. John McCain.

As Gallup notes, "from a broad perspective, the race remains a statistical tie. But there has been a general drift towards Obama since McCain moved to a five-point lead over Obama through the weekend after the GOP convention."

Gallup: Obama 47%, McCain 45%

Diageo/Hotline: Obama 45%, McCain 42%

Research 2000: Obama 48%, McCain 44%

Rasmussen Reports: McCain 48%, Obama 47%

Palin has done wonders for Democrats' support for Obama!

One distinct disadvantage which Obama had in the US presidential election campaign was that Democrat voters weren't as solidly behind him, while many more Republicans backed McCain. In August, Reuters/Zogby showed only 74% of Democrats backing Obama, with 81% of Republicans backing McCain.

Sarah Palin has changed all that.

Yes, she has swung more Republicans behind McCain - so that 89% of them now back McCain, according to the same polling organisation.

But gues what? She has had an even greater effect in swinging Democrats behind Obama, so that he also has the support of 89% of his party's voters!

Obama sets out his economic plan in two minute ad

The 30 second US campaign ad is rather restricting in terms of what can be communicated. Just a quick message and that's that.

Barack Obama's latest TV ad is remarkable in that it is two minutes long and features just him talking to the camera about his economic plan.

Needless to say, he approves this message.

The LibDems gather and the markets shudder!

Here's an hilarious piece in the FT from Alex Barker:

Two people have already asked me why on earth I’m at the Liberal Democrat conference while the markets are in crisis. But it’s becoming more and more clear that I’m in exactly the right place. Bring more than 100 Liberal Democrat delegates together on a seaside resort and — with frightening regularity — capitalism seems to shudder.
Yesterday Vince Cable joked about the “Lib Dem curse” that has seen their autumn conference coincide with the collapse of Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers and Black Wednesday.
But there is more. In September 1998, while Paddy Ashdown was telling delegates to “grow up” and prepare for a possible Labour coalition, over on Wall St the Fed was negotiating the biggest bailout of a hedge fund in history. Most observers say Long Term Capital Management collapsed after taking massive, one-way bets on Russian interest rates. But was the “Lib Dem factor” decisive? Should traders now factor in a “Lib Dem discount”?
Delegates have long understood the powerful effect careless talk in conference debates can have on global capitalism. In 1951, when the Liberal party was at 1 per cent in the polls and could fit all its MPs in a hackney carriage, one delegate strode to the podium and said he would “carefully” choose his words for fear of “doing anything to unsettle the markets”. A good thing too.

Lloyds TSB in merger talks with the Halifax

I bought a modest number of shares in HBOS early on this morning, just out of sheer bloody-mindedness. It's not going to go anywhere, (except perhaps ***BREAKING NEWS*** by way of a merger with LloydsTSB!) and I suspect a lot of the trading is caused by some smart-alecs trying to make a killing.

Mind you, it would be nice if, when they need to put a spokesperson up for the telly in dire times, HBOS put up someone who looks like they might be able to knock the skin off a rice pudding, if push came to shove.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain doesn't get it

A very effective ad from the Obama campaign.

'Use cattle prod on the unemployed'

An Australian politician has used his first speech to parliament to call for unemployed idlers to be stung with a cattle prod to get them to work.

Is he sure they wouldn't just enjoy the attention?

Brilliant sense of priorities

With the world facing its greatest financial crisis since 9/11, the Labour party are squabbling about nomination papers.


Monday, September 15, 2008

What's happened to John McCain?

Which planet is John McCain living on?

"The fundamentals of our economy are strong" says John McCain (clickbelow for video). But this is not an old quote.

He said it today of all days!

The Vince Pincer wins it

Well done and trebles all round to Stephen Tall on LibDem Voice for a stonking good service in live blogging from the "Make it Happen" debate at conference.

The amendment was "clearly defeated" (which could be 60-40 - we'll find out later). The motion was passed overwhelmingly with only a few against, which is a MAJOR achievement for Nick Clegg. It went through with great help from a "Vince Pincer" movement (phrase copyright S Tall 2008) - a pincer movement of two speakers (Graham Watson and Lord McNally) intimating that adopting the amendment would be a slap in the face for Vince Cable, Liberal Superhero.

Emotionally I tend to be with the amenders. Evan Harris always brings out the emotional woolly Liberal in me and he was in typical witty and passionate form this afternoon, according to ST. Roger Roberts also turns on my weak-kneed liberal gooiness like a tap and he made some excellent points.

But the big conference guns were out in force: Simon Hughes with his full authority, Vince Cable coming down specially from Mount Sinai, Danny Alexander, Mike German, Jo Swinson, Lord McNally, Chris Huhne....these are the sort of people who swing conference votes.

Oh dear

...It looks like someone falling off a cliff. Don't Panic!

Red Monday

There's likely to be quite a lot of "red" on the screens when Wall Street opens. The FTSE is already down 3.64%.

In times like these I turn to the BBC's Robert Peston. He appears to be somewhat flabbergasted by events over the weekend across the pond.

As I said last Tuesday when I first noted the Lehman Brothers' problems: We're all doomed!

This ought to be....

...one of those "what were you doing when.." moments.

I was queuing for my morning coffee.

Biggest political rally in Alaska's history - women AGAINST Palin

I think this lady's hitcounter may have gone "volcanic". She's had 1114 comments so far on a blog that normally deals with stories like people getting stuck in the mudflats.

Hat-tip: John at Liberal Revolution

Meanwhile, even Karl Rove says McCain went too far with his ads.

Eyes down for a wonderfully tight card vote

There really needs to be a "Well done" and "trebles all round" to the party and LDV for the brilliant coverage of conference via the party's web site and LDV itself. Look! I've just read today's daily announcement sheet online at 8.30am. A year ago you'd have to shake off your hangover and rush down to the conference hall to do that.

Anyway, I've now been able to read the proposed amendments to the "Make it Happen" motion, which are as I would have expected. The stewards will, doubtless, be re-briefed on the "card vote" procedure by Mr Jennings this morning. That's the most exciting thing that happens to you when you are a "block steward" sitting by your little block of seats in the hall, handing out speech cards to people. A card vote. You have to make sure that you say aloud the number of votes you have counted, as you count them "one", "two", "three" as you point to people.

Otherwise, you will get some smart-alec, hyped-up, clever-dick anorak jumping up and saying "You didn't count me!"

What I can't see anywhere is more detail about how this miraculous £20 Billion cut in expenditure will come about. We have seen a couple of fairly flaky examples being limply proferred: Moving some civil servants out of London, reducing the number of MPs, abolishing the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory reform.

But where is a little more flesh on the bones? I think this is needed to reassure those of us who shiver at the thought of David Laws being let loose to cut public spending wherever he feels like it.

And how many and which civil servants will be moved out of London? And how much precisely will this cost and how much precisely will it save? And wouldn't abolishing the BERR simply move sub-departments to elsewhere? If it doesn't, to what extent doesn't it? And surely we need the Department of Energy, which sits somewhere in the bowels of the BERR in a much more prominent position for the future, don't we? Shouldn't we have a cabinet-level Department of Energy to face future monumental challenges that we have as a world? If so, wouldn't that cost money?

And given the forthcoming recession (After Lehman Brothers going "tits up" - I can almost hear people taking position on the 34th floor of Wall Street skyscrapers to see what the view is like and decide whether a quick nose dive is preferrable to a contiuance of reality) shouldn't a government be holding on to money to inject it into public works schemes as per Keynes/F.D.Roosevelt? Although I can see also that giving people more disposable income is a reflationary activity - but wouldn't that feed inflation just when we don't want to?

Thank goodness I am not at conference. All these things will no doubt be considered by or overlooked by, the wise heads in their seats. Have a good card vote.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Photo of the week

Why is it, that whatever Lembit does he ends up looking like something out of Monty Python?

Hat-tip: Millennium Elephant

Why is it that whatever Lembit does, he ends up looking like a prat?

I only ask the question.

McCain criticised Wasilla earmarks in 2001

CNN reports:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain criticized two of his future running mate's hometown projects in broadsides in 2001 against congressional "pork-barrel" spending, records from the Arizona senator's office show.

McCain and running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have criticized such spending as a central part of their campaign for the White House. McCain has made pork-busting a centerpiece of his maverick pitch for years.
But when Palin served as mayor of her hometown of Wasilla, outside Anchorage, she obtained about $27 million in federal "earmarks" during her last four years in office, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.
In a 2001 statement opposing a transportation spending bill McCain singled out for criticism about $3 million worth of those projects. McCain's list of "objectionable" spending included a $2.5 million road project for the town that then had a population of 5,500, as well as a $450,000 appropriation for an agricultural processing plant there.

McCain myths and facts

The Obama campaign has issued a memo listing McCain myths and facts:

McCain Myth: Palin visited troops in Iraq
FACT: Palin did not venture further into Iraq than it’s border with Kuwait

McCain Myth: McCain’s appearance drew crowd of 23,000 to event
FACT: Crowd-size estimates provided by campaign aides Not backed by Officials.

McCain Myth: Palin is a fiscal conservative
FACT: Palin has grown government in her time as Executive of both Alaska And Wasilla

McCain Myth: Palin has cucceeded in signing a deal to build Alaska’s long-stalled gas pipeline
FACTS: The pipeline has not been started, would take years to complete and could never happen, costing taxpayers $500 million for nothing.

McCain Myth: Palin’s energy experience will lower gas prices and reduce our dependence on foreign oil
FACTS: High gas prices have given Alaska a huge windfall, passed on to Alaskans like Sarah Palin in huge dividend cheques - and Palin has backed shipping Alaskan natural gas to Asia

McCain Palin Myth: Sarah Palin told Congress “Thanks But No Thanks” on that bridge to nowhere
FACT: Palin was for it before she was against it - and kept the money for other projects

McCain Myth: Sarah Palin NEVER sought earmarks as Governor.
FACT: Palin sought nearly $200 million earmarks for the coming year.

McCain Myth: Sarah Palin has taken a tough stance against earmarks
FACT: As Mayor, Palin hired a lobbyist tied to Ted Stevens who got Wasilla $27 Million in earmarks and as Governor, Alaska has sought and received more earmarked spending per person than any other state

McCain Myth: Palin cut taxes
FACT: Palin raised Wasilla’s Sales Tax

McCain Myth: Palin is a reformer who brought ethics back to Alaskan politics
FACT: Palin is under investigation, faces a separate ethics complaint and signed a weak ethics law.

McCain Myth: Palin traveled abroad to Ireland
FACT: Palin stopped in Ireland to refuel plane.

McCain Myth: Palin has experience in foreign affairs because she was Commander-in-Chief of the Alaska National Guard
FACT: Palin has no role in National Guard’s National Defense Responsibilities or Overseas Deployments and never issued any orders to the Guard since she took office

McCain Myth: Palin sold the State’s jet on eBay
FACT: Palin sold the jet to campaign contributor at a loss of $600,000 for the State

McCain Myth: Palin fired the Governor’s chef
FACT: Palin did not fire the chef, just reassigned her to a different job - she now cooks for the legislature

Joint address by "Sarah Palin" and "Hillary Clinton"

Some fun from Saturday Night Live. The last two minutes are the best:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Palin on nuclear war: "Perhaps so"

Examiner.com has a passionate commentary on Sarah Palin's first major interview. While noting that Sarah Palin thinks that the fact that you can see Russia from an Alaskan island gives her some sort of foreign policy kudos, Kristy S-Y writes:

While her thinking geography gives her some type of edge over intelligence and experience is absurd and a bit scary, it didn’t come close to her other Russia answer! This one was beyond scary, it was downright dangerous!

Palin:Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO. Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously he thinks otherwise, but,

Gibson:And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

Palin: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

No American leader would give an answer like that. No European leader would give an answer like that. Barack Obama would never give an answer like that. Joe Biden would never give an answer like that. Even John McCain knows better than to give an answer like. In fact,:any sane, informed leader (or hopeful leader) knows better than to give an answer like that. And yet, Sarah Palin did.

In one uneducated, unscripted answer Sarah Palin spoke volumes. This first term Governor, with absolutely no foreign affairs experience and absolutely no national security experience states that “perhaps so” when talking about a nuclear war shows just how unqualified she really is, how unprepared she is to serve. It shows just how unqualified John McCain is in choosing (and supporting her) and how questionable his choices and motives are. McCain sings “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” and his running mate is ready to start WWIII, what horrific signals are we sending around the world?

The 159 lobbyists running John McCain's campaign

...And Sarah Palin didn’t buck Alaska’s Republican culture of corruption, she hired it.

All the details are on a new website: Mclobbyist.com

Chinese water torture

So the total of Labour MPs calling on Brown to step down is now 12.


12 down. 58 to go.

Anything on the telly?

The original list included Frank Field and Kate Hoey - in terms of Labour revolts, the Pope's Balcony and the Ursine wood habit.

But the extra three includes Fiona MacTaggart - formerParliamentary Under-Secretary of State
at the Home Office. Not one of the usual suspects, I would have thought. She represents Slough, which tends to be a bit of a Labour/Tory bell-weather seat.

Has Obama blown it?

For the first time yesterday, Electoral-Vote's state projection (which tends to be rather sensitive, and therefore, possibly, an early indicator) tipped to McCain.

It seems time to start panicking.

David Shipman writes for the Sunday Telegraph:

The Democratic presidential candidate's slump in the polls has sparked pointed private criticism that he is squandering a once-in-a-generation chance to win back the White House.
Party elders also believe the Obama camp is in denial about warnings from Democratic pollsters that his true standing is four to six points lower than that in published polls because of hidden racism from voters - something that would put him a long way behind Mr McCain.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned that senators, governors and union leaders who have experience of winning hard-fought races in swing states have been bombarding Obamas campaign headquarters with telephone calls offering advice. But many of those calls have not been returned.
A senior Democratic strategist, who has played a prominent role in two presidential campaigns, told The Sunday Telegraph: "These guys are on the verge of blowing the greatest gimme in the history of American politics. They're the most arrogant bunch Ive ever seen. They won't accept that they are losing and they won't listen."
A Democratic National Committee official told The Sunday Telegraph: "I really find it offensive when Democrats ask the Republicans not to be nasty to us, which is effectively what Obama keeps doing. They know thats how the game is played."
Mr Obama tried to answer that critique on Friday when he responded in kind, issuing an attack advert depicting his Republican opponent as out of touch and mocking the 72-year-old Mr McCain's confession that he does not know how to use email.
He rammed home the point during a rally in New Hampshire, pointing out Mr McCains recent admission that he was divorced from some of the challenges of ordinary Americans.
Mr Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, called it the first day of the rest of the campaign.
But that was the fourth time in the last nine months that Mr Obamas team have been forced to declare that the gloves are coming off. And Mr Plouffe's dismissal of Democratic doubts as hand-wringing and bed-wetting only served to reinforce the growing doubts about what some see as a bunker mentality among Obamas inner circle - where outside advice, even from highly experienced people, is not welcomed.
The Democratic strategist told The Sunday Telegraph: "They think they know best. They don't return calls. There are governors and senators calling them up with ideas. They don't get back to them.
"These are senior people from the border states and the South who know how to beat Republicans, and they're being ignored. They ignored everyone during the primaries and they came through it, so they think they can do the same again."
Mr Obama has never won an electoral contest against a strong Republican candidate. David Axelrod, his chief strategist has been hailed as a political genius for beating the Clinton machine, but Democrats now point out that he has never run a successful campaign in the heartland states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Virginia, which will decide the election. His expertise is in mobilising young, educated and black voters in urban areas.
Mark Cunningham of the New York Post summed up the private views of many: "If it suddenly seems like the Obama campaign doesn't have any idea what it's doing, maybe that's because it doesn't."
Party elders are also studying internal polling material which warns the Obama camp that his true standing is worse than it appears in polls because voters lie to polling companies about their reluctance to vote for a black candidate. The phenomenon is known in the US as the Bradley effect, after Tom Bradley, a black candidate for governor of California who lost after leading comfortably in polls.
The strategist said: "I've seen memos where they've been told to factor in four to six points for the Bradley effect, but they're in denial about it.
They say the polls also underestimate the enthusiasm of young voters and African Americans and they believe that balances things out. But that's a wing and a prayer stuff. There's previous evidence for the Bradley effect."
Other Democrats are openly mocking of Mr Obama's much vaunted "50-state strategy", in which he spends money campaigning throughout the US in the hope that it will force Mr McCain to divert funds to previously safe states. Critics say a utopian belief in bringing the nation together has trumped the cold electoral calculus that is necessary to triumph in November.
Doug Schoen, a former pollster for Bill Clinton, last week declared it insanity not to concentrate resources on the swing states.
The Democratic strategist said: "My Republican friends think its mad. Before Sarah Palin came along we were investing money in Alaska, for Christ's sake, that could have been spent in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"It assumes Republicans are stupid and, when it comes to winning elections, they're not."
The one thing everyone agrees the Obama camp have woken up to is the toxic effect on their chances of Mrs Palin's arrival on the national scene. Polls show that white women voters, attracted to her down home virtues, now support Mr McCain by a margin of 12 points, the same lead among white women that George W. Bush enjoyed over John Kerry in 2004. Until recently, Mr Obama led among that group of voters by six points.
A senior aide to one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives voiced the fears of many: "Palin doesn't just play to the Republican base. She has much broader appeal."