International Workers Day – we stand neutral…but happy 1st of may to all the socialists out waving their banners!
American political campaigns have become heavily reliant on broadcast media and direct mail advertising (typically designed and purchased through specialized consultants). Though virtually all campaign media are sometimes used at all levels (even candidates for local office have been known to purchase cable TV ads), smaller, lower-budget campaigns are typically more focused on direct mail, low-cost advertising (such as lawn signs), and direct voter contact. This reliance on expensive advertising is a leading factor behind the rise in the cost of running for office in the United States. This rising cost is considered by some to discourage those without well-monied connections, or money themselves, from running for office.
Scottish minister of transport Stewart Stevenson has been frozen out of office. Not by his fellow minister, parliament or his civil servants, but by the utter chaos caused by snow in Scotland that he failed to find prevent or find any solutions to. Apparently conditions in the scottish highlands were rather awful, airports were closed, thousands were trapped on motorways between Edinburgh and Glasgow, some even stumbled on their way to the pub.
Of course, the scots dont put up with such things and Stewart Stevenson had to take full responsibility, pack his back bag and leave office. Read that again, the minister took responsibility, declared himself a failure and left. They may be frozen fools but the scots sure have more spine than most politicians.
Now think about George W. Bush and his handling of Katrina.
Suicide bombers are not funny. A trail of tragedy follow in the path of these fanatics, whatever their beliefs, reasons and motivations. Equally, a suicide bomber is next to impossible to stop, as most security measures aim at making agression so threatening, dangerous or involving such a high risk of getting caught, that it simply isnt worth the effort. All such measures are of course in vain, if the danger is relevant and the risk of getting caught only includes finding the body.
All that said, I almost had to smile when reading the news that someone had done a suicide bombing in Sweden. Not because its a funny thing to do, but because the stated reasons in a mail from the suicide bomber gives “the swedish involvement in Afghanistan” and “the muhammed cartoons” as reasons. My first reaction was, uhm, does Sweden actually have any military involvement in Afghanistan? I was aware Denmark had a few soldiers hiding in a british base in Helmand, but I had never heard of swedish military there. A bit of googling enlightened me, they do indeed have some 4-500 soldiers in Afghanistan somewhere. Fair enough. Low profile and barely enough of a crowd to make coffee for the real armies there, but I guess its the thought that counts. My second thought was, uhm, the muhammed cartoons were done by danish artists for a danish book and infamously reprinted in the danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. Did this guy miss the busstop in Copenhagen and just randomly drive on into sweden?
It seem though that the muhammed cartoons, stupid and offensive as they were, had been reprinted later on in Sweden as well, and as such I suppose the suicide bombers points were valid, although his actions obviously horrid and wrong. But. Why target Sweden I wonder? Their involvement is about the smallest of any country involved in Afghanistan and some private newspaper reprinting what had already been published in other countries and produced by danes doesnt exactly strike me as something that would spur anyone into enough of a rage to consider suicide bombing. But then, admittedly, I dont really understand the logic driving anyone to that stage in the first place.
I hope the suicide bomber was basically a lone nutter, obsessed with whatever weird beliefs he may have held and acting on his own in an act of insane determination to make his mark on the world. As far as I have been able to find out so far, nobody but himself got killed, however two people were injured. Lets pray it stays at that.
London is currently experiencing the most agressive and violent riots in the streets since the Thatcher years. The demonstrations are lead, organised and carried out by students, presumably backed by militant anarchists, thucks and opportunist troublemakers. So far, several building such as the treasury has been utterly trashed, several police officers have been attacked and hospitalised, no other than prince Charles have had his car smashed up and so forth.
The students are angry, well furious, that the government havent disbanded tuition fees – and indeed tripled them instead. Now, they had probably expected that from the conservatives but the students largely carried the Liberal Democrats into parliament and government on a promise of tuition fees being abolished. Whichever way you look at it, either Nick Clegg lied to please the students during his campaign, and never intented to abolish the tuition fees, or he sold out along the way, dropped his promises and reversed his political stance 180degrees – in return for ministerial seats. Either way blatant lies, lost hopes and promises deliberately not kept have always been the fuel that lit political anger and inspired demonstrations in the streets. Nick Clegg has basically taken his party from a role of everybodies favorite pet, a faint hope for idealists and the naughty boy in class who dared speak out when others played tactical games, and bought himself seats in government at the expense of his entire political program (the voting reform was sold before he even took office remember). Former Liberal Democrat leaders and prominent figures voted against their own government in parliament, but thats barely a footnote to the students and libdem voters who feel thoroughly betrayed. In that sense, its probably fairly safe to assume Nick Clegg should enjoy his time in the ministeries, as its more than unlikely he will have a seat there after the next election.
Now does any or all of this justify rioting in the streets, destroying property and hurting people? Of course not. Political violence is a bad thing and innocent people having their belongings ruined or being hurt is obviously out of order. However, the anger, frustration and disappointment created by the actions of the british government and the Liberal Democrats in particular are to blame more than anything else, as one person I spoke to said:
“The students dont exactly make you proud to be british. But Clegg. I would have always voted Liberal Democrat. They were the only straight up idealist party. Now theres nobody left to vote for. I am not a student but Nick Clegg betrayed the voters and proved himself a liar like the rest of them. Never again.”
Taken to the streets by the people directly affected, such levels of disappointment can turn nasty. They shouldnt, but equally its hard to believe how it has surprised anyone that they did. And this may only be the beginning, the british are back on the streets, they are angry and ready to show it.
Unless you have been vacationing on mars for the last few weeks, you probably noticed the latest influx of wikileaks. They contain an overwhelming amoung of classified information of various kinds. Thus, they have kindly done the work for many a lazy journalist in need of a quick scandal or frontpage story. But apart from that, political leaders have referred to wikileads as swines and terrorists, whereas those with a thing for public transparency have been celebrating…
Now, we have learned that Saudi Arabia fancies a war with Iran and desperately tries to convince the americans that this might be a feasable venture. We have learned that Angela Merkel is an administrator with no courage or creativity. We have learned that Barack Obama have tried bribing countries such as Slovenia into taking Guantanamo prisoners in return for photo opportunities with celebrities such as himself…and the list goes on forever.
So…is it valuable information or a criminal act to release such info? Well basically, most of it is irrelevant, a bit amusing or non-surprising slander … theres a couple of potentially destabilising pieces of intelligence such as the correspondence regarding the middle east and north corea – but does that constitute the exposure being a dangerous terrorist act. Of course not. First of all, you have to be a bit more naive and narrowminded than George W. to imagine any of this came as a surprise to the involved parties. Iran isnt just likely to be well informed about the attitude towards them among their neighbours (they do afterall have a fairly efficient intelligence service of their own), they have indeed gone out of their way to manifacture it – had they wanted friendly and trusting neighbourly relations, it probably wouldnt have been first on their list to invest in a nuclear program, long range missiles pointing in all directions and having their political leaders giving speech after speech threatening and harassing the very same neighbours, that has now been exposed as “a bit grumpy”. Surprise surprise.
And North Corea. So, they have a military at the border, so they keep plotting malicious activities…or in other words – nothing has changed since the corean war and everyone know about it. It certainly wont have been scandal of the year in the South Corean ministry of defence that they might be wise to keep a lookout on the northeners and their continued efforts to provoke, militarise and cause havoc. Surprise surprise.
Should we continue? Angela Merkel being a bit boring, Sarkozy being “bizarre”, Anders Fogh Rasmussen cutting deals under the table, Barack Obama acting as though he is trying to bullship his way to winning the next round of Big Brother …. yeah, thats all astonishing news in the “terrorist exposure” end of things we would have never figured out ourselves. Wikileaks is public service, or rather – wikileaks is a nice service for journalists who cant be bothered to dig up their own stories and a marvellous reminder to those of us who briefly forgot what common sense would have told us about international politics and relations, had we thought about it for a second…not much more, not much less.
Many political players and commentators agree that American political campaigns are currently undergoing a period of change, due to increased use of the internet (which has become a valuable fundraising tool) and the apparently declining effectiveness of television advertising.
However, as modern technology continues to adapt to changes in society, Internet campaigning will never be able to serve as a complete replacement for traditional political campaigning without reducing the significant barriers to entry. Internet political campaigning leaves out entire portions of each population because it only is accessible to a certain portion of the population, leaving those without this access disconnected.
For example, during Obama’s recent presidential campaign, Internet political campaigning was effective at reaching the younger population, as they remain engaged with social websites and new media. Because of the limits of technology, Obama’s Internet campaign failed to reach older generations who didn’t use this new media, as well as significant amounts of the population who didn’t have access.
SB: for ordinary people the likely consequence is that their paycheque buys them less whilst prices shoot up…. unless of course we were smart enough… and even prepared to provide ourselves with the stuffs we need
SB: Hell.. our factories just got done pickign up and moving to China FFS… so … umm
electomaticus: yeah – you cant compete on being cheaper – devaluating is utterly pointless….theres always a 5yo child labourer in Bangladesh who will produce Nike shoes cheaper
SB: it *could* eventually create jobs and force us to be more independant… but FFS what happens until then?
SB: we’re allready pushed out of our mortgages ect.
SB: jobs lost all sorts
electomaticus: Short-term – its gonna help the property market -> because they will put the money in bonds
electomaticus: Its also gonna trash whatever little confidence there was – and drive interest rates up – so ya all are gonna get reposessed anyway…
electomaticus: Only difference is, you can afford less food whilst going bankrupt, losing your house and your job
electomaticus: And no – it wont help make you self sufficient – if it did, you would already have a positive import/export ratio (as the dollar already lost half its value) and you would see new biz shooting up faster than those closing -> but its simple really…producing a shoe in Bangladesh=50cents, in the US=10dollars … the dollar loosing say 25% value makes that 50cents to 9,95…makes no freaking difference and ruins alot of things in the proces
electomaticus: The government should invest in innovation, design, education, highly skilled things that cant be done by a crippled monkey
SB: I’z scared
SB: I’m a bit paranoid I reckon, But I’ve been waiting for a big depression here since for-ever.. and all I fucking know to do is stock my cupboards cause Im scared my kids will starve…. I’ve alwasy kept my cupboards stocked
SB: whats the argument? what good do they think it’s going to do ?
SB: WHY? lol
electomaticus: Well, american economy is rotten to begin with – you owe a ton abroad, dollar is weak, the state deficit is enormous
electomaticus: so…printing more money – to buy bonds, to avoid another collapse on the property market
electomaticus: it makes the dollar worth less – thus driving up prices…it also makes it less attractive to invest/keep dollars (and you are MEGA reliant on your friends in China, Japan and the middle east to do that) – so to attract the same flow of investment/dollar reserves the interest rate is forced up (the higher it is, the more attractive it is) -> however, that kills your local investments (cause it gets more expensive for local biz to get money for new productions, setting up etc) and it makes the mortgages alot more expensive -> so…the biz cant maintain themselves or shoot up = lost jobs…mortgages more expensive=falling houseprices and more repossessions at a time where people are loosing their jobs = deadly cocktail
SB: and China’s gonna be PISSED off
electomaticus: youve tricked japan, china and middle east to maintain dollar reserves/american bonds – to keep a safety net under the dollar -> so devaluating the value of those reserves…well you aint gonna be on the xmas card list. Same as if i was looking after your car – and you came back and id sold the engine and gearbox and jolly said: look its still here, want me to take care of another one for ya??
SB: what do you thihnk.. will they come beat us up?
electomaticus: And if they swap to pounds, euros or yens – your nationally bankrupt in one blow. Odds are they wont, cause itd ruin whatever value their investment still has – but some pissed off sheik in saudi arabia could pull the plug
electomaticus: nah, but they will force you into submission -> charging higher interest rates to fund your overspending -> thus making sure a bigger and bigger % of your taxes go to paying interest -> lower welfare, lost jobs, higher interest rates -> negative spiral
SB: doesnt help that Im sory Im American Damnit!
SB: well damn
SB: what do we do to prepare?
electomaticus: what nationally or personally?
SB: what do *I* do?
electomaticus: sell your house, keep non-dollar assets (pounds, yens, gold, jewellery), get a job earning in foreign currency, LEAVE/IMMIGRATE
SB: *head desk*
electomaticus: do NOT take on any debts
SB: OMG my husband… *sighs… and *sighs* again
SB: and *shakes her head*
electomaticus: yeps, a nice credit card bill – thats suddenly charged double in interest….cute little carloan, pay day loan, mortgage, bankloan – its dangerous right now -> your national trust is keeping the interest rate low artificially – they cant keep it up forever
electomaticus: these things, its impossible to say *when* – cause they usually need a tricker to boom or they come sneaking in slowly -> but, read any non-political/independant economy analysis of the situation, it will happen sooner or later … the when & the extend is impossible to predict
SB: I *F-en* HATE credit cards.. they are a dissaterous idea unless you can keep the mindset of not counting your chickens before they hatch.. the only thing that makes them good is for building credit..
electomaticus: Well yeah, they werent exactly designed as a charity favour to people – theyre super good biz, cause the credit card companies get away with charging massive interests for little amounts
SB: but *everyone* goes into debt with the darned things.. it’s just too easy.. and they cant be trusted with it!..
SB: LOL and the offers come in the mail everyday LOL
SB: I only constented to ONE credit card, and as soon as it came in the mail, I activated it and promptly cut it in half
electomaticus: yeah of course – its worth sending you the offer – cause if you bite, youre captured for life …
SB: it goes on the credit report as paid every month
electomaticus: hehe, but my friend – you only need a credit report, if you want credit – and hopefully you dont
SB: HAHA True, but it’s not only for buying things.. mortgages/cars…. it’s also checked for all sorts of other things to be approved for, like jobs
SB: and govt. assistance
SB: and it makes E-Bay let me be an adult
electomaticus: yeah – so having a negative one can be bad, for getting insurance etc – you dont want a mortgage or carloan anyway if you got a brain
SB: so whats up with companies doing credit reports as a part of the hiring process?
SB: If your going to be working with their money they want to know your not liable to steal it
SB: and it shows responsability
electomaticus: its a bit naughty i think – but obviously if it shows that youre deeply unreliable economically – it might make you a less reliable worker & more liable to steal and cheat
The american administration has decided to authorize the central bank to print an extra 600billion dollars. Enough for everyone you might think – or, just about it enough to further ruin the american economy. 600billion dollars extra is effectively a devaluation of the dollar in a situation where its already in a position of historic weakness.
The chinese have already complained that the american administration is keeping the dollar artificially and deliberately weak. The reason of course being an attempt to stimulate american exports, as a weak dollar makes american products relatively cheaper to purchase abroad. Now, the dollar was already weak – and it hadnt stimulated any sort of boom in exports, or indeed meant a positive import/export relation.
what this devaluation of the dollar does mean is that ordinary people gets further down into the mud – out on american streets. Letting the money press run wild like this means inflation is inevitable and whats worse, nothing indicates it will boost the economy locally which means it inspires a situation of stagflation – inflation combined with stagnation, the deadliest cocktail of all as you cant get the wheels going by stimulating the economy due to the inflation. So, whilst more money flowing in the streets (or pumped into a wobbly bond market as it may be) may sound good, for ordinary people the likely consequence is that their paycheque buys them less whilst prices shoot up.
Basically, the printing press is good for ultra short-term gains…but its a bit like peeing your pants to keep warm. The benefits are eaten in no time by inflation. And whats worse, it further weakens the trust in american economy and the dollar, thus potentially forcing the interest rates up – which could prove disastrous in a market already shaken by the latest blow to the property market.
Who on earth came up with this as a good idea?
Political campaigns in the United States are not merely a civic ritual and occasion for political debate, but a multi-billion dollar industry, dominated by professional political consultants using sophisticated campaign management tools, to an extent far greater than elsewhere in the world. Though the quadrennial presidential election attracts the most attention, the United States has a huge number of elected offices and there is wide variation between different states, counties, and municipalities on which offices are elected and under what procedures. Moreover, unlike democratic politics in much of the rest of the world, the US has relatively weak parties. While parties play a significant role in fundraising and occasionally in drafting people to run, campaigns are ultimately controlled by the individual candidates themselves.
French president Sarkozy, mainly known across the world for his love of women and redwine, stepped down and disbanded his government – only to reinstate an almost exact copy of the very same and fairly unpopular government immediately. A toast to the french for pointless maneuvres!
We have just passed the midway elections and the next campaign for president is about to get into gear. So, where are we at this point? Obama stormed into office on a campaign driven by euphoria and hope under the slogan “Yes We Can!”. So, could he?
Well, the results from the midterm elections certainly speak the language of disillusion and lost hopes. The democrats suffered one of their worst defeats since World War II and long gone were the millions of enthusiastic grassroots, the complete control of the media headlines and the glorification of mysterious democrat spindoctors and geniuses pulling home floodwaves of votes to the party.
So, what happened to the euphoria? Well, the answer seems to be hidden largely in the lack of action, rather than in wrongdoings or scandals. Obama came into office as a visionaire and reformer, but has largely acted as an administator. Lets take a few examples:
Guantanamo. Obama promised it would be closed down more or less as soon as he took office, but he has failed to do so. Its still there, the legal status of the camp and its prisoners of war is still a messy blur to say the least. Might be a minor issue to some, but it has important symbolic value.
Healthcare. He tried but largely failed to make a fundamental reform of the healthcare system. The intentions were there but in the end the results looked more like status quo than revolution when words were to be transformed into working political majorities and actual change.
The economy. Obama said he had a plan to create jobs, get the wheels moving, strengthen the dollar and limit the deficits. Now, the deficits are spinning out of control, the plans to create jobs seem to have withered in the wind as fancy slogans with little positive effect for people on the street. The dollar, well its not exactly at its prime and never will be until the deficits are sorted. Basically, the standard of living for ordinary people havent improved and the macro economical developments still look closer to disastrous than to worrying. So, where is the change, this is in fact a repeat of the terrible economical mess left behind by George W. Bush – Obama promising to change it for the better, but little or nothing has happened.
Foreign policy. Obama wanted a new agenda abroad, and God knows he is a more respected world leader worldwide than George W. Bush, not that the opposite would be possible. But, the bottomline still is that Obama a managing 2 wars started by the former president, he hasnt managed to bring them to any form of peaceful end, he hasnt clamped down on the lies justifying the wars, he hasnt defeated terrorism by diplomacy or reconciled america with friendly forces in the middle east, he hasnt taken anyone to justice for the warcrimes committed and the list is endless. Why would he you might ask? Well, for now – he has nothing but friendly speeches and cheering crowds in Europe to show, no results and no actual change in the state of international matters.
And so, the list of things that hasnt happened could continue but its barely necessary. The fact of the matter is that “Yes we can” seems to have meant “Yes, we can largely avoid making more of a mess than George W. Bush” or “Yes, we can administer status quo from here”. The words still flow freely and elegantly – but the real change is hard to find. Thats what demotivates the grassroots and opens the gates of opportunity for movements such as The Tea Party – and Obama has largely created The Tea Party himself or at least the foundation for their reach and strength by failing to deliver on key policy issues that could have carried his wave of euphoria onwards.
Helle Thorning Schmidt – nicknamed Gucci Helle due to her taste for expensive handbags – has unseated danish primeminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in a tightly contested election on september 15th 2011. Helle Thornings victory is historic in the sense that she will become the first ever female to become primeminister in Denmark.
Ironically, Helle Thorning actually suffered a hefty and bitter defeat in the elections losing more than 16.000 votes personally and a single seat for her party the Socialdemocrats. Further, her expected coalition partners from the socialist peoples party lost a staggering 7 seats. Luckily for the centre-left coalition bidding for the primeministers position for Helle Thorning her 2 other supporting parties – the radical left and the communist parties both made significant gains. In fact, the danish communist party lead by Johanne Smidt Nielsen managed to triple their public support to grab 8 extra seats for a total of 12. This is strongest support the communists have had in Denmark since just after the Second World War and speculations are already murmoring that the new female pm will have a rough ride ruling her coalition of liberals, socialdemocrats, oldfashioned socialists and communists.
Major campaigns in the United States are often much longer than those in other democracies.
Campaigns start anywhere from several months to several years before election day. The first part of any campaign for a candidate is deciding to run. Prospective candidates will often speak with family, friends, professional associates, elected officials, community leaders, and the leaders of political parties before deciding to run. Candidates are often recruited by political parties and lobby groups interested in electing like-minded politicians. During this period, people considering running for office will consider their ability to put together the money, organization, and public image needed to get elected. Many campaigns for major office do not progress past this point as people often do not feel confident in their ability to win. However, some candidates lacking the resources needed for a competitive campaign proceed with an inexpensive paper campaign or informational campaign designed to raise public awareness and support for their positions.
Once a person decides to run, they will make a public announcement. This announcement could consist of anything from a simple press release to concerned media outlets to a major media event followed by a speaking tour. It is often well-known to many people that a candidate will run prior to an announcement being made. Campaigns will often be announced and then only officially “kicked off” months after active campaigning has begun. Being coy about whether a candidacy is planned is often a deliberate strategy by a prospective candidate, either to “test the waters” or to keep the media’s attention.
One of the most important aspects of the major American political campaign is the ability to raise large sums of money, especially early on in the race. Political insiders and donors often judge candidates based on their ability to raise money. Not raising enough money early on can lead to problems later as donors are not willing to give funds to candidates they perceive to be losing, a perception based on their poor fundraising performance.
Also during this period, candidates travel around the area they are running in and meet with voters; speaking to them in large crowds, small groups, or even one-on-one. This allows voters to get a better picture of who a candidate is than that which they read about in the paper or see on television. Campaigns sometimes launch expensive media campaigns during this time to introduce the candidate to voters, although most wait until closer to election day.
Campaigns often dispatch volunteers into local communities to meet with voters and persuade people to support the candidate. The volunteers are also responsible for identifying supporters, recruiting them as volunteers or registering them to vote if they are not already registered. The identification of supporters will be useful later as campaigns remind voters to cast their votes.
Late in the campaign, campaigns will launch expensive television, radio, and direct mail campaigns aimed at persuading voters to support the candidate. Campaigns will also intensify their grassroots campaigns, coordinating their volunteers in a full court effort to win votes.
Voting in the United States often starts weeks before election day as mail-in ballots are a commonly used voting method. Campaigns will often run two persuasion programs, one aimed at mail-in voters and one aimed at the more traditional poll voters.
Campaigns for minor office may be relatively simple and inexpensive – talking to local newspapers, giving out campaign signs, and greeting people in the local square.