Saturday, November 06, 2004

Life After Arafat

Perhaps being a bit presumptious - he is after all in a *reversible* coma - but hugely important nonetheless.

Like Fidel Castro (another ailing leader) Arafat both embodies a whole national (or wannabe national) movement and represents an era that has arguably passed. As Castro was a creature of the 50s and 60s, so Arafat's time was the 80s and 90s and arguably ended with the collapse of the Oslo peace process and the start of the second Intafada. After this point, and despite his iconic status among Palestinians, Arafat was rendered less politically potent than the Pope, who is at least allowed to leave the Vatican, whereas the Palestinian president was under effective house arrest in his Ramallah compound - had he even made vocal overtures to the Israeli authorities it is almost certain that in a post-11th September world and in the midst of a 'war on terror' they would have fallen on deaf ears.

However,even those who praise Arafat to the point of hyperbole have a good point: he is the glue that has held together the splintered, loose coalition of religious and political factions that make up the Palestinian 'cause'.

It's up in the air whether the gathering of vultures (including the current Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei)can reach the sort of mutual settlement which will keep the beleagured Palestinian authority on an even course. If they manage to do this, there's a chance that with a more moderate outlook (and without the negative history of an Arafat leadership) a more stable relationship can be forged between Palestine and Israel). The alternative is a bitter and divisive civil war.

There is, perhaps, an opportunity for Europe. With neo-con America firmly sat in Israel's camp there's a place for a voice of negotiating reason with the Palestinians. At the very least a decent bit of diplomatic weight thrown behind the right faction at the right time could mean peace talks rather than civil war.

Friday, November 05, 2004

New Commission Lineup

After all the chaos (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here), Barroso seems to have made his new choices, as summarised by The Washington times and analysed by

There have only been two changes of personnel, although there has been a bit of re-jigging. Nonetheless, it should do the trick. More, probably, later...

A final US round-up

Bush's second term as Commander-in-Chief gets off to a good start as an F-16 from the Air National Guard (Bush's old outfit) strafes a school in New Jersey with cannon fire. Hell - they voted for Kerry, after all...

Meanwhile, Bush says he's going to spend the political capital the election has given him. A somewhat inadvisable choice of words from the man whose spending plans have given the US such a massive deficit...

Oh, and some more good news for the Dems: John Edwards' wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

But there is at least something to chuckle about: one of the Republicans' few losers from election night, ex-Reagan man Alan Keyes, has blamed his loss, (which was by 43% - the biggest defeat in Illinois Senate history)) to the new great hope for the Dems, Barack Obama, on everyone except himself - "Republicans in name only", media bias, all the usual suspects...

Get the unpleasant experience of the last few days off your chest, and remember that we love the US really: (Almost) half of America's message to the world...

A slightly less US-centric blogging service will return to Europhobia over the next few days. Let's face it, the post-match analysis is never much fun when you've been backing the losing team, and despite what everyone's been saying, the world doesn't revolve ENTIRELY around the US. In any case, maybe it doesn't make that much difference anyway...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The US: Better off than Britain

At least the US has a proper two party system, and a strong opposition. We're stuck with Blair until either the Tories or the Lib Dems can shake off their respective images as second-rate parties filled with delusional idiots. There isn't a hope in hell of this country having an election as closely fought as the Bush/Kerry presidential race for many years to come.

And that's even more depressing than Bush getting a second term.

Election press round-up

Is the Express trying to hint at something with this juxtaposition of Bush family photo and headline?

The depressing reality...

The fear...

And a couple of reasons to be cheerful...

Update: The Mirror does its bit for improving trans-Atlantic relations:

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It's all over

George W Bush has been duly elected by a significant majority of the popular vote and - in all likelihood - by a good margin of the electoral college vote to boot.

My deepest, most heartfelt condolences to any Kerry-voting Americans, but this time I'm afraid you have to accept Bush as your President. If you don't, the Right will latch on to your "lack of patriotism", and the Democrats will stand no chance next time round. You have to vocally rally behind Bush, as much as it pains you. You don't have to actively support him, but at least avoid the Michael Moore style criticism - much like the Guardian's letter-writing campaign backfired, so too did the heated anti-Bush jibes from the (loosely) Democrat camp. It riled the rednecks, and they came out in force. Don't do it again, for all our sakes. Michael Moore (and I will point out here that I loved TV Nation and still rate Roger & Me as one of the best documentaries of the last 20 years) please shut up.

What next? The US Supreme Court will, in all likelihood, turn utterly conservative, but beyond that, no one knows. The civil liberties of minority groups may well be curtailed. There may well be more foreign wars. There may well be more terrorist attacks. The Democrats may well be in a state of turmoil and disillusionment which is too great for them to recover in time for the 2008 election.

As far as I can tell, the most likely outcome is that the US will become ever more isolated from the rest of the global community. Most European nations will start to distance themselves ever more from Bush's administration. The US will increasingly be forced to act alone. This is not a good thing for the US or the world.

Six and a half billion people have to cope with a leader voted for by just fifty-nine million. The fate of the world has been decided by less than 0.01% of its population.

Democracy eh? Isn't it great?

(Oh, and a note for future reference: no political pollsters have a clue of what they're talking about, and exit polls reveal nothing.)

A more sober Thursday update in response to comments:

Certainly fight to change Bush's policies. As John Edwards said last night, "You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away. This fight has just begun."

But as John Kerry also said, "We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion."

The apparent lack of respect for the office of president was a major cause of the huge Republican turnout. Attacking Bush directly is interpreted by the Right as attacking the presidency. So focus the attacks on his policies. Associate the policies with people behind the scenes whenever possible - and with the neo-cons in the wings, this is pretty easy. In typical fashion, used throughout the ages to avoid directly criticising an unpopular monarch, attack the "bad advisors" but not the monarch himself.

If the Democrats are to stand any chance in 2008, they have to convince those people who voted for Bush out of misplaced patriotism that the Democrats have full respect for the institutions of government. As Kerry said, "I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters. But I ask them - all of you - to join me in doing that."

"We waited 4 years for this victory - we can wait one more night"

Thus spake John Edwards, not one minute ago.

Jesus... It hangs in the balance... Not a nice way to wake up of a morning.

At the time of writing, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire are still to be called - 78 electoral college votes between them (assuming my maths is right at this God-forsaken hour), and Bush is currently ahead by just 38.

Bush is on 249
Kerry is on 211

Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and New Hampshire should break for Kerry. This would leave him with 249 electoral college votes.

Nevada will go to Bush, leaving him with 254.

Wisconsin (10 votes), Ohio (20 votes) and New Mexico (5 votes) I haven't got a clue about.

Either way, it seems that Bush may well have won the popular vote this time around. Even if Kerry does hang on - as he should - hoping these final states all swing his way, he could face the same accusations of not being duly elected as Bush has for the last four years. A certain divine justice, perhaps, but why couldn't Florida have gone Kerry's way?

In other news, the Republicans look to be gaining control of both the House and the Senate - if Kerry gets it, he'll not be able to pass any legislation; if Bush holds on to his lead, look out for "The Patriot Act II: This Time We Get Nasty On Yo' Ass"... Not to mention a conservative Supreme Court.

Any rays of hope?

Well, the future first black President - Barak Obama - has been elected to the Senate in Ilinois.

Edit: Who am I kidding? Bush is ahead in Ohio. He'll get it. The final tally will be something like Bush 274-289, Kerry 249-264.

Update: For those wondering why Steve's post (below this) and mine have different tallies, he's been going with The New York Times, I've been going with CNN.

Four. More. Years.

Results are still trickling in and Ohio has yet to be called but it's basically been all over bar the shouting (which might be substantial though unlikely to match 2000 levels) since Florida went red. George Bush will be in the White House until 2008.

At time of writing Bush is on 246 electoral votes to Kerry's 217 with 75 still to be assigned (the brilliant New York Times electoral calculator is updated regularly). As I have heard about 6 times since getting up this morning, Ohio is the key and several networks in the US have already called it for Bush. Of course, if Kerry wins he could prove me (and most news organisations) wrong. It's a mighty thin straw to cling to.

Already Democrats will be looking to point fingers, and some commentators already have thoughts on this (links from Political Wire). One early disappointment was the youth vote of 18-24 year olds, widely neglected by pollsters and heavily tipped to be inclined towards Kerry. However, this great new bloc seemed not to have materialized. Otherwise the impression of an upset has been created by the inaccuracy of exit polls, which put Kerry some 5 points ahead in Florida, a state he lost by about two points, and the huge voter turnout (largest, some are predicting, in 40 years) which was read as a flood of new voters whose support would likely go to Kerry.

Compounding things, and largely uncommented on by UK news, Congress is firmly in Republican hands. They now lead the Democrats 52 to 45 seats (with 3 undecided) in the Senate and 228 to 206 seats (with 9 undecided) in the House of Representatives.

A crumb of consolation for the Democrats? Look to Illinois where Barack Obama romped home to a Senate seat with 70% of the vote, demolishing the deranged Republican Alan Keyes to become only the third African-American senator since Reconstruction. He's also a dynamic campaigner, a strong speaker and one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Turnout is huge

According to early reports, voter turnout this year looks immense. So, US readers, remember:

If you are planning to vote after work today, or late in the day, they MUST let you vote so long as you ARE IN LINE by 7:30 p.m. when the polls close. Do NOT let them turn you away if you are there but still in line, whether inside or outside the polling location.

Don't make the mistake of thinking you can't make any difference. The presidency was won last time by just 537 votes. It is your right and it is your duty to take part in the democratic process - especially at a time when the US is claiming to be spreading democracy around the world. Set a good example, and keep this election clean.


Update: Oh dear, the BBC is reporting that electronic voting machines in Kerry-leaning swing-state Pennsylvania already had votes logged on them when polling opened this morning. There may already have been a legal challenge...

No matter who you vote for, make sure you vote

A final public service announcement for any American readers which might bear repeating:

Find out where your polling place is by calling your county clerk or checking

Alternatively, call 1-866-MYVOTE1 to find your polling place.

Check the hours the polls are open with your city or county clerk.

Print the League of Women Voters' card in English or Spanish and put it in your wallet or purse. Despite the name of the organisation which produced it, it is not just for women, and provides a handy checklist of both your voting rights and what to do if challenged.

Bring a government-issued picture ID like a driver's license or passport when you vote. Some states require it but if there are problems, you will certainly need it. If you have a cell phone, take it to call for help if need be.

As you enter the polls, note if there is an Election Protection person outside the polling place.

If you are not listed as a registered voter, try to register on the spot. Some states allow that. Otherwise, talk to the Election Protection person if there is one or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for instructions. If neither of these helps, ask for a provisional ballot, but you will need a picture ID to get one.

Finally, if you are certain you are eligable to vote, don't let anyone tell you you're not. If your status is disputed you can still cast a provisional ballot. It may also be worth asking for ID from anyone who challenges your vote, and taking down the details - turn their tactics back on them.

America - make us proud of you again. Please?

Update: More useful info (especially for Ohio voters) via The Daily Kos.

Oh, and this should be handy over the next 12 hours or so... (Cheers, Manic)

Donkey vs Elephant, '64-'04

With donkey and elephant going toe-to-toe in the US political arena, there's an interesting article in the Boston Globe discussing (from a purely party perspective) potential benefits to be found in defeat for the Democrats (don't want to get negative but let's be realistic here).

It takes as its model the 1964 demolition of the hard right Goldwater Republican candidacy by the cynical muscle of Lyndon Johnson's Democrats - at that point a party still caught between Rooseveltian big-state liberalism, the bright-eyed idealists of the civil rights lobby and the stubborn, racist remnants of the southern alliance from which the party took its name. At the time many thought this marked a setback so staggering that it would mean the demise not only of the Republican party, but of conservatism in general.

Flash forward four years and Johnson's protege Hubert Humphrey is whopped by Richard Nixon - a former right wing radical, loathed by 'the liberal elite' but an expert in the wooing of middle America - 'the silent majority'. In the next thirty-six years Republicans established a lock on the White House (24 years) and in the mid-90's grabbed a foothold in Congress which they have widened into their current position of dominance. The Democrats have never really recovered, with the Carter and Clinton presidencies both aberrations - in '76 the Republicans made the mistake of nominating Ford over Reagan and were still hampered by Nixon's resignation, whereas Clinton was a one-off with magnetic charisma and a genius political instinct for pragmatism. Gore and Lieberman tried to follow the Clinton route but were (narrowly) defeated by a candidate able to appeal both to his core conservative constituency and to voters in the middle. Gore suffered largely because, in his all-out attempt to woo the conservative 'silent majority' he lost the support of the liberal left (for which Ralph Nader is often blamed - it was ultimately the Democrat Party's fault for taking this support for granted).

Today it appears, at first, that the Democrats have learned their lesson with overwhelming backing for Kerry in the primaries, but the consensus for the man from Massachusets is an artificial construct; any unity is a result of protest against Bush rather than support for the Democrat nominee. The GOP have established that their brand is for national 'security', tax cuts and small government. Despite fine speechmaking by Kerry, there is no similar instinctive shorthand for the Democrats' platform... beyond the fact that they don't support Bush.

So Kerry might win tonight/tomorrow/next week (recount dependent), but what of 2008? Will the Democrats find themselves all at sea, with neither a solid base of support for their policies nor a reviled opponent to consolidate their voters? Maybe not, but a worrying number of their votes tonight seem likely to be cast on the basis of protest rather than principle. Opportunistically you can't fault the KE '04 campaign, but the Democrats need substance if they are to become a great force in American politics again, and especially if they are to challenge a Republican party who are strong, motivated and seem to be scarily united as to their goals.

EDIT: In the name of honesty should point out that a number of stylistic changes have been made by the author as well as correction of a few grammatical embarrassments.

Nosemonkey addendum: The Village Voice's blog has an interesting piece showing how the Republicans' current tactics of voter suppression and dodgy dealings also date back to the Goldwater campaign. Let's hope it is as successful for them this year as it was in '64... Worth a look.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Kerry wins by 68%!

Well, if a bunch of people outside the US had anything to do with it, at any rate.

The final tally in GlobalVote 2004's online survey sees Kerry with 77.1%, with Bush at 9% and Nader at 6.7%.

Well, that's the least representative poll of the election season out of the way... In real news, (at the time of writing) sees Kerry win both Ohio (by 2%) and Florida (by 1%), leaving the final Electoral College tally at 298 for Kerry, 231 for Bush... Both the Ohio and Florida polls come from Zogby, the most accurate pollster from 2000.

But let's face it, the earliest we're going to know is Wednesday - and that's assuming that there is enough of a margin to avoid any lawsuits. Which, let's face it, is highly, highly unlikely... also has a handy list of things to check before going to vote, which may be handy to any US readers:

Here are some things to remember about voting. Read carefully. Your vote could decide this election.

1. Find out today where your polling place is by calling your county clerk or checking
2. Alternatively, call 1-866-MYVOTE1 to find your polling place.
3. Check the hours the polls are open with your city or county clerk.
4. Print the League of Women Voters' card in English or Spanish and put it in your wallet or purse.
5. Bring a government-issued picture ID like a driver's license or passport when you vote. Some states require it but if there are problems, you will certainly need it. If you have a cell phone, take it to call for help if need be.
6. As you enter the polls, note if there is an Election Protection person outside the polling place.
7. If you are not listed as a registered voter, try to register on the spot. Some states allow that. Otherwise, talk to the Election Protection person if there is one or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for instructions. If neither of these helps, ask for a provisional ballot, but you will need a picture ID to get one.

Election day update: In another poll of how the world would vote, the only country which would prefer to see George Bush returned as President is Niger. Then again, according to this poll, Kerry would win in the US by 51% of the vote...

US - EU comparisons

After a long-winded post, a short and simple one. North Sea Diaries has an interesting piece comparing the US and EU constitutions, and makes some pertinent points. The US constitution is, after all, one of the finest political documents ever written; the proposed EU constitution is a rambling, confusing behemoth. Worth a read.

US elections - EU implications

No matter which way you look at it, the result of tomorrow's election will have knock-on effects around the world.

It's easy to paint Bush as a wannabe unilateralist, avoiding the traditional channels of the UN, NATO etc. in his efforts to advance his foreign policy, and not caring tuppence for the views of other nations while he pursues policies he thinks best for America. But lest we forget, it is his job (at least for another few months...) to act in what he sees to be America's best interests, not those of any other country. And as Iraq has (mostly) shown, America IS capable of going it (largely) alone, so what need allies?

Kerry, meanwhile, claims to be in a better position to regain the unprecedented global support America had in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks. He lauds the UN, and promises to take a multilateral approach wherever possible; for his pains (and the fact he can speak other languages than English) he has been labelled "the Frenchman". The world favours Kerry largely because Kerry seems to accept that other countries may have some valid contributions to make to any US foreign policy decisions. Kerry, meanwhile, has perhaps noticed that in every war that America has won, it has had enthusiastic allies. (It may also be worth noting that in every major war America has won, France has been one of those allies, and that in Vietnam the war was lost after France pulled its support...)

The approach of the Republicans under Bush has largely been to charge ahead with no heed to their erstwhile allies, drumming up American xenophobia (as the "Freedom Fries" escapade amply demonstrates), and trying to convince the country that multilateralism is an evil if other countries disagree with the US (while claiming a multilateral venture in Iraq thanks to a few hundred non-US troops, which make up but a tiny fraction of the total force in the country). While claiming to be spreading democracy, Bush has ignored the democratic vote of the UN, and while trying to make the world a safer place has irritated most other countries.

But for the European project, which is better - President Bush or President Kerry?

At first, the answer seems obvious. Kerry is a Europhile and wants to talk with and listen to the likes of France and Germany, who have been largely ignored by the White House for the last few years; Kerry must be better for Europe, right? If he talks more with EU countries (including those who aren't helping out in Iraq), the foreign policy divisions which have split the continent over Iraq can more easily be ironed out, and the EU can start working more harmoniously again.

Not necessarily.

As was the case during the Cold War, when the first big drive for closer European co-operation started up, a common enemy is a great unifier. The threat of terrorism united the world behind the US in late 2001; large chunks of America remain united against this threat just as they were against the USSR during the latter half of the 20th century.

In Europe, the threat of terrorism remains ever-present, but this seems to be far, far less of a concern to most people than it is in the States (perhaps because Europe has lived longer with terrorism than the US?). What has polarised opinion in Europe - bringing together people from all parts of the political spectrum - has been the response of the US to this terrorism.

Those who have supported the war in Iraq have forged closer links; those who have opposed it have done the same. Britain has become closer to the likes of pro-war Italy, Poland and Spain (while Spain was still actively involved); anti-war France and Germany have tightened their already close friendship, and brought in new anti-war buddies to boot. Meanwhile, the people of every European country have been vocal in support of or opposition to their governments over their nations' stance on the war, and have been linking up with people of similar views across the continent to pressurise their governments - as the recent European Social Forum amply demonstrates (even if it was a bit of a shambles).

Europeans of every nation have been communicating with each other and entering heated political dialogue, all thanks to President Bush's foreign policies. The sense of European community (deliberate lower-case "c") has been strengthened as a result - people started paying attention to the views of voters in other European countries, and discussions started about whether or not Europe should speak with one voice on the issue. Although there is still no European consensus, cross-border political co-operation has, thanks to the polarising influence of the Iraq question, at long last become a reality. Bush has inadvertently strengthened European unity.

Of course, divisions have also been strengthened due to the sharply differing opinions Bush's Iraq policy has fostered. But the divisions were there anyway - they are simply now more obvious, and so easier to identify and tackle. Moves are already being made to heal the rifts of Iraq, even while the fighting continues. While the EU member states have recognised their foreign policy divisions, they have likewise been striving to find areas on which they agree in an effort to maintain some semblance of European unity in the run-up to the ratification of the new constitution.

Foreign policy has - to date - not been an official part of the EU project; the divisions over Iraq do not matter for the EU's success. And even while there were splits over Iraq, Europe was united behind the EU's condemnation of US steel tarrifs. On trade, consensus remained - and trade is at the heart of the EU, after all.

So, if President Kerry were suddenly to come along and remove the polarising catalyst for this remarkable boom in Europe-wide political discussion and co-operation, might this not be a bad thing for the EU? Could it be that having Bush in the Oval Office, implicity or explicitly slagging off various European countries, will help the EU band together?

No one likes a bully; eventually the weaker kids will band together and take a stand. Is this the way Europe is going? Is Bush inadvertently helping the EU become stronger and more unified? Or is his work here already done? Is it time for Kerry to come in and help heal the rifts?

This line of argument naturally has many flaws (not least that any potential benefits to European unity of four more years of Bush would almost certainly be far, far outweighed by the downsides - and that I've just rattled this off in 20 minutes during my lunch break), and I reckon almost every European government would rather see Kerry sworn in in January, but there could be something in it. Is a friend really what the EU needs right now?


A while back, on another site, I suggested that a multilingual Euroblog might be a nice idea - posts written in several languages, with translations provided. Well, some of the folk at the wonder that is Metafilter have come up with the self-same idea. Viewropa looks to be just as engaging and eclectic as it's more US-centred parent, largely thanks to the same system of allowing pretty much anyone to post as long as it's interesting (and connected in some way to Europe).

"Our topic is Europe, and whatever you post must have a connection to Europe... Generally, posts will be about events involving European people, or taking place in European countries. However, posts about people and places beyond Europe are perfectly acceptable so long as their implications for Europe are clear.... the idea of Viewropa is to foster intelligent discussion."

This should be a welcome addition to the Euroblogosphere. Good work, those people! (via A Fistful of Euros)

Like this blog?

Even slightly?

Well, it's got through to the final round of Deutche Welle's Weblog Awards 2004, in the category "Best Journalistic Weblog - English", which is a rather nice surprise. It's like being nominated for an Oscar or something, only without the need to fork out a vast amount of money on a tuxedo - hurrah!

There's a jury prize and one voted for by you, the public. So if you fancy giving my ego a boost (like it needs it), how about bunking a vote my way?

I have less than no hope of winning, what with being up against the high-profile likes of Samizdata, Wonkette, Talking Points Memo and dear old Manic at Bloggerheads, all of whom probably get more visitors in an hour than I get in a week, but if I can drum up even a couple of votes, that'd be really rather nice.

Ta all!

Sunday, October 31, 2004

A message from Richard Nixon to Bush voters

"America must not again fall into the trap of letting the end, however great that end is, justify the means."

This may have been said on April 30th 1973, but it is as true today as it was then. Nixon lied to the American people. He tried to get out of taking the blame for his lie. But the lie was too great, and he left office in disgrace.

Nixon's lie was about a break-in. Bush's lie was about the justification for a war. A war in which over 1,000 US servicemen and between 16,000 and 100,000 Iraqis (depending on whether you believe the latest estimates) have lost their lives.

Yes, getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, but has the end REALLY justified the means?

Will the US be like Spain?

As we all know, after the Madrid bombs, the sitting Spanish government was voted out of office. There was a chorus of disapproval from the States, accusing the people of Spain of giving into terrorists thanks to the assumption that their sole reason for voting the way they did was the bombing. Of course, it was more due to the fact that the government had LIED over the bombing, attempting to pin it on ETA when there was no proof whatsoever.

Ring any bells? A government accusing a highly unpleasant group which they have wanted to get rid of for ages of being involved in a terrorist attack when there is no proof whatsoever? Mr Bush? Mr Blair?

So, will the American people now follow Spain, and get rid of a president who has tried to blame a terrorist attack on an innocent (if highly unpleasant) third party? Or will they follow Spain in the way that Spain was accused of having acted, namely allowing terrorists to directly affect their elections?

Will the American people be affected by Osama bin Laden's latest tape, or do the sensible thing and ignore him?

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