How many of you spotted the deliberate mistake in last week’s ‘Mobi-Babble’ ? Or did you just assume that ‘mad cow’s disease was finally taking its hold on an ageing Mobi?
Last week I wrote that due my preoccupation with other matters, there was, sadly, no new chapter of my novel published during the week. That statement was of course, utter balderdash, as Chapter XVIII of Part Three was actually published on Tuesday 28th August.
The reason for my senile confusion is simply that I always work a week in arrears of my blog publication date; thus the chapter I am working on in any given week will be published in my blog the following week, after it has undergone proof reading and editing.
So, as I didn’t do any writing last week, there was no chapter to publish this week – not last week. That is what I should have written in last weekend’s blog, before dementia got the upper hand.
Clear? Clear as mud, I imagine…
Although this week started very slowly and I did have a mild case of ‘writer’s block’, I did become fairly industrious towards the later part of the week and have written just under 10,000 words, but have still not yet completed the chapter. I am working on Chapter XIX, the penultimate chapter of Part Three, and it is not very far from being finished. However, I have made a ‘management decision’ to split the overly long chapter into two smaller chapters, (XIX & XX), so the final chapter for part Three will now be Chapter XXI.
This means that I will definitely be publishing a trimmed Chapter XIX next week, and quite possibly Chapter XX as well – I will have to see how it goes.
Not much to report on Mobi’s daily life this week. The new month of September brought up my 21st month of sobriety and I spent most of the week at home, save Wednesday, when I had an appointment with my new cardiologist and also did a bit of shopping with my little Noo.
The weather has been quite changeable and nearly every day we have experienced heavy showers, which on no less than 3 occasions have prevented me from doing my late afternoon exercise.
Today, Saturday, has been the first sunny day for a while and Noo took her son off to Pattaya to meet up with friends and take the 40 minute ferry ride over to Koh Larn island, with its broad expanses of golden sand and crystal clear, unpolluted, sea. I was left at home, (by choice), to write my blog and do what I wish…
“America! America! – God shed his grace on thee”
My interest in UK and US politics is more than a passing fad, and I confess that I find the American election season particularly fascinating and absorbing.
Yet over the past two weeks, as much as I have been captivated by the American presidential election campaign, the only speech I watched and / or listened to from either political party during their conventions was the one made by one of my lifelong heroes – that doyen of Hollywood acting, directing, producing and even composing; the one and only Clint Eastwood, now in his 82 year.
I have been a huge fan of Clint Eastwood ever since he played the role of Rowdy Yates in TV’s Rawhide back in the 1950’s and to me, he can do no wrong. Indeed, by universal acknowledgement, Eastwood has directed some of the finest movies ever made, such as Grand Torino, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, and Million Dollar Baby, to name a few at random.
I would listen to what Clint Eastwood had to say, even if he was in the latter stages of dementia and was drivelling on his death bed, which is the state some of my democratic friends would have you believe he was in, when he made his speech at last week’s Republican convention.
I thought the speech was funny, made some telling points, and was not rabidly partisan, (did anyone spot his anti-war remarks?), even though he clearly has an antipathy towards the sitting President.
Most importantly of all, it was spontaneous – not scripted – and certainly not Teleprompted, or written by some ardently biased party media flunky. Those who ridiculed him for ‘talking to a chair’ are the ridiculous ones, not him – for failing to comprehend just how clever his little device was.
It seems to me that the party faithful, and indeed a vast majority of the American electorate have been brainwashed into expecting trite, rabble-rousing slogans from their party leaders, which are passionate, eloquently written and appear very worthy; but in the end tell the electorate next to nothing.
Clint Eastwood probably made more telling points in his brief speech than Mr and Mrs Obama, Mrs and Mrs Romney, Biden, Ryan, Clinton and God knows who else put together did in theirs. But most folks didn’t see it, because they just wanted to fawn over yet more political dogma from the leaders of their chosen party, and to angrily dismiss equally asinine statements made by leaders of the opposing party.
I have no desire to get involved in ‘Yankee-bashing’, as in spite of everything, I still have great respect for the USA and what it has stood for over many years as the leader of the free world; but I do find it very sad that American politicians find it so necessary to ‘dumb down’ their messages in order to get through to the lowest possible denominator of their electorate. This applies equally to their television ads, their speeches on the stump, and their addresses to the converted at their conventions.
Although I refused to watch or listen to their mind numbing rhetoric, I have since read much of what they had to say, and it is absolutely clear that both parties are long on magniloquence and extremely short on substance.
Just what is it that they are actually going to do to turn kick start the American economy, and get people back to work? The Republicans say they are going to reduce taxes for the rich and the Democrats say they are going to increase taxes for the rich – with Obama making provocative statements like: ‘I refuse to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled all so those with the most can pay less.’
Everyone with a modicum of intelligence, from both sides of the political divide, knows that this is just a load of inflammatory nonsense. Equally, the Republicans are totally dogmatic in insisting that their proposals to reduce the taxes for the rich will benefit the economy.
In these hard times, it isn’t a very smart move to try and convince a financially struggling electorate on the benefits of such a policy – yet they have no choice, as they must do so in order to retain the full support of the right wing of the Republican establishment.
Either way, it is largely a ‘red herring’. If Obama was to raise the taxes for the very rich, or if Romney was to reduce their taxes, it would have little or no effect on the overall cost of healthcare or any other social welfare programme. The amounts of tax they are arguing over is a ‘pin prick’ in the general scheme of things.
And let’s not forget that the top 10 % of US income earners pay 71 % of all federal income taxes, even though they earn 43 %t of all income. By contrast, the bottom 50 % pay 2 % of income taxes but earn13 % of total income. About half of tax filers pay no federal income tax at all. In 2009, The top 1 %, who President Obama has made a target during the presidential campaign, earned 13 % of all pre-tax income, but paid 22 % of taxes.
One of Obama’s strongest supporters, the multi billionaire, George Soros, by his own admittance, pays less tax than his secretary. Why is that? It’s because the American tax code is woefully screwed up and out of date. Why doesn’t President Obama and challenger Romney announce plans for a comprehensive revision of the tax code in order to bring these billionaires to book, rather than exchange insults and make disingenuous and misleading comments on the effect of increasing or reducing taxes on the rich?
One of the things that I have always found particularly disturbing in the American electoral process is the fact that in the end, it really all boils down to money. I suppose in the modern world’s greatest ever experiment in capitalism; you could hardly expect anything else.
But I ask you? Is it right that the candidate who spends the most money in his election campaign has the greatest chance of winning? The Yanks are always banging on about the so-called ‘American dream’,a dream whereby any American citizen can aspire to the highest office in the land. But this is simply not true, unless they are prepared to compromise their principals and toady up to the vested interest groups who provide the campaign finances.
An aspirant for high office may have a compelling campaign platform which has the potential to attract a wide spectrum of popular support, but if they don’t have the backing of businesses and billionaires, then they will never get further than the first ‘primary’ in the election process.
And as we all know, major corporations and billionaires will always expect something in return for their financial outlays. How many promising primary election candidates have we seen fall by the wayside through the years, almost entirely due to lack of money? Even those who succeed in staying the course, often come close to bankrupting themselves in the process.
In 2008, an astonishing sum of 5 billion dollars was spent on the presidential election process. In 2012, with unrestricted donations and the emergence of Super PACS, (Political Action Committees), the total amount spent will far exceed 6 billion dollars, even though the Democrats didn’t have to spend a single dollar on a costly primary campaign.
6 Billion Dollars! I ask you? Seriously? How can such an obscene sum be justified? especially in a world where so many are suffering the ravages of a seemingly never-ending financial recession.
The British and American political systems are so different that it is difficult and generally misleading to try and draw comparisons between the two, but on the subject of campaign spending, I think that some kind of a comparison may be in order.
In the UK, television and radio political advertising is simply not allowed. However, what are allowed, are brief party political broadcasts, (PEB’s), of no longer than four minutes which may be broadcast on radio and television. Theses PEB’s can be , and often are, much shorter.
Under the election laws, the number of PEB’s are limited in number and are transmitted at peak time on all major television channels, but never simultaneously across the channels, so that the viewer always has the choice of watching an alternative programme.
All political parties are allocated a set number of broadcasts, based on various criteria such as the party size, the number of ‘seats’ they are campaigning for and their historical support. Fringe parties, such as the Socialist Workers Party, The Monster Raving Loony Party, and even the Communist party are allowed to have a small number of PEB’s.
Money spent in political advertising on street billboards and in the print press is unlimited, but these forms of advertising are considered to have minimal effect on persuading voters to vote for a particular party.
During the election period, which is short and sweet, all broadcasting media, both public service and commercial, has to follow very strict guidelines on their election coverage, which effectively restricts them to reporting the facts of the campaigns, without being allowed to offer any personal comments or putting any ‘spin’ on a party’s policies or campaign rhetoric. Even some TV drama and documentary programmes, which are judged to favour one political doctrine over another, are taken off the air until the election is over.
The net result of all this is that relatively modest amounts of money are spent on election campaigning, and anyone who wishes, can become a candidate and have a reasonable chance of getting his/her views heard.
To those of my American readers who were not aware of this, it must come as a bit of a shock, as they have grown up in a country where money is always ‘king’ and where, to large extent, political offices are ‘bought’ through expensive television campaigns that set out to brainwash the electorate, rather than a system where it is decided by the voters on the merits of the candidates and their policies.
‘What strange, quaint, liddle ideas you limeys seem to have…’ I hear you all saying…
But when all is said and done, the American general election boils down to the results in about 6 ‘swing’ states and also down to the whims of less than 1 million ‘independent’ voters who live in those swing states.
Under the American presidential system, voters in each of the 50 states are required to vote for the candidate of their choice and each state will have an ‘electoral college of electors’, who will pledge their votes to the party who has the largest popular vote in their state.
Each state has a pre-determined number of electoral votes based on the population of the State, and whichever candidate garners the largest number of electoral votes, becomes president. Thus it is possible that one candidate can garner a greater number of ‘popular votes’, but the other candidate may win the election, as the presidential election is really a series of 50 individual state elections for president, rather than the entire country voting as one, across state lines.
In recent years Americans seem to have become ever more partisan in their political beliefs, which is in marked contrast to what has been happening in the UK, where traditionally, the Conservatives were the party for the upper and middle classes and Labour was the party for the working class.
These days, class barriers have largely been broken down in Britain, and parties can and do attract voters across the political spectrum. Indeed, they have found to their cost that voters from all walks of life can be extremely fickle in their political allegiances.
But not so, it would seem in the USA, where a vast majority – maybe more than 90% of the electorate – either love President Obama or hate him. They are either dedicated Democrats or committed Republicans and their beliefs and political views are so polarised that no compromise, or agreement on bi-partisan policies seems remotely possible.
We have seen this in Congress over the past few years, where they have failed to even pass a federal budget, and where many other critical other legislative programmes have ground to a halt, due to the total lack of compromise from either side.
I have heard Obama and his Democrats blame recalcitrant Republicans for this impasse, and I have heard speaker Boehner and other leading Republicans similarly blame the intractable Democrats. Who to believe? Who is telling the truth and who is lying?
The answer is that both sides are lying and both sides are telling the truth. There are obstinate members of congress on both sides and it would seem that a blunt refusal to shift even a tiny bit on political dogma is more important than getting the country moving again.
This polarisation of most American voters means that the outcome in the forthcoming election in as many as 44 of the 50 states is already pre-determined. If you live in California, New York, or Illinois then your state will certainly go for Obama, and if you are in Texas, Alaska or Utah, you will choose Romney. And so it goes on – right across the USA, and because the country is so divided, they have now reached the point where a mere handful of swing voters in states such as Florida, Virginia, and Colorado will almost certainly decide who their next president will be.
I weep for America and the obscene amounts of money that they waste on their elections and the partisan deceits and drivel that both sides try to ram down the throats of an already hugely biased electorate.
Let’s face it, the real truth of the matter is that most voters haven’t got a clue what the state of their economy is all about; what and who really caused the recession, or have anything approaching an informed opinion on the best ways to sort it.
As for other ‘heady’ political matters – I doubt whether more than 10% could even point to a map of the world and show you where Israel or Iran are, let alone have any sensible opinions on America’s policies in this highly volatile part of the world.
Butt…Butt…Butt…I don’t give a hoot!…