Friday, October 31, 2008

Re-distributor in Chief

John McCain's closing argument in the US presidential election is that he is running to be Commander in Chief where as Barack Obama is running to be Re-distributor in Chief. Pretty lame it has to be said. McCain and Palin's last throw of the dice appears to be to paint Obama as a socialist that wants to punish the successful. Focusing on his plan to increase taxes for the richest 5% and a newly discovered 2001radio interview where Obama claimed that the civil right movement in the 1960's failed to re distribute wealth to the black community (seems reasonable to me) McCain has decided to pounce on this and hammer in home in swing states between now and Tuesday. I don't think the public are buying it. Obama responded nicely by claiming next they're going to accuse me of being a secret communist because I used to share my toys in kinder garden. Obama's half hour infomercial aired on Wednesday has I think alleviated any fears in main stream America that he's a dangerous radical. Obama has it. As I keep repeating, just don't screw up, don't even bother going in for the kill. Just coast over the line because at this stage McCain needs Obama to give it to him.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Netenyahu to be Israel's next PM

Tzipi Livni has failed in her attempt as leader of the Kadima party to form a new coalition government. The ongoing effort since Ehud Olmert's resignation last month collapsed when negotiations broke down between Kadima and the ultra orthodox Shas party. This means that Ehud Olmert will remain on as caretaker Prime minister until the outcome of the next election which will now probably take place next month. This is a blow to Livni, the current foreign minister, as it means she does not automatically become PM after Olmert's resignation but will instead have to face the electorate. Most pundits agree that the Kadima party will not fair well in a general election as it is tainted by Olmert's corruption allegations and the ineffectual leadership during the July 06 war with Hezbollah. A general election will most likely see a return to power off the Likud party under the leadership of former PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netenyahu will likely be elected Prime Minister of Israel next month

Netanyahu is a hawk. As PM from 1996 to 1999 he rarely negotiated with Arafat, was against dismantling Jewish settlements and in 2005 he resigned from Ariel Sharon's government in protest at the disengagement from Gaza. Today he is uncompromising on the final status of Jerusalem, the return of Palestinian refugees and the Iranian nuclear crisis where ha has called for a preemptive strike. Netanyahu is popular in Israel. He has in some ways been proven right both on Gaza and Lebanon. I predict he will lead Likud back to power in the next election. That is unless of course the liberal wave sweeping across America at present also sweeps across Israel in the wake of an Obama landslide next Tuesday. Who knows, the election of Obama could lead many Israelis to consider giving peace another chance.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Strike on Syria

A video has appeared on the Internet appearing to show footage of Sunday's helicopter strike by US forces inside Syrian territory. The tape also displays images of the bloody aftermath that left several civilians dead. The strike it is claimed was a specific hit on one of the main Syrian facilitators that operates a weapons and insurgent smuggling racket in and out of Iraq.

I am surprised that this has not become more of an election issue as it is an identical situation to the controversial Afghan issue of using that occupied country to launch cross border attacks into Al Quaeda controlled parts of Pakistan, a thorny topic that both presidential candidates have frequently been quizzed about. I would have thought this is especially more complicated and potentially explosive in Iraq because of the possibility that the US might use Iraq to launch a total war against either Syria or Iran, something which would obviously put the Iraqi government in an impossible position. Particularly since there is a provision in the Iraqi constitution that says Iraq should not be used by the Americans as a base for an attack on its neighbours. It is not known yet if the Maliki government in Baghdad was aware in advance of Sunday's attack. If they were then they would have been in violation of their constitution. Oh it feels good to be doing a piece on something other than the presidential race.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This guy is adorable

Barack Obama is flying to Hawaii today to visit his sick 85 year old white granny. He will return to the campaign trail on Saturday where he is scheduled to save a puppy from a burning building.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hey Ronnie Reagan

Apparently Christy Moore was not a fan of Ronald Reagan. Who would have guessed. He even wrote a song to demonstrate. What masterful words from Ireland's greatest song writer. Hey Ronnie Reagan... I'm black and I'm pagan I'm gay and I'm left and I'm free. I'm an un-fundamentalist environmentalist... please don't bother me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When Clowns Run for President

Political comedy in the states is running amuck ! Not surprising really, the material is there at present. With one presidential candidate being a funky black man and the other being a senile old war hero, not to mention Joey the shark and the hockey mom, the comedians are in take the piss heaven. And its not just Saturday Night Live, Letterman, Leno, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, even the candidates themselves are getting in on the act. Watch McCain and Obama have a go at stand up comedy at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York and tell me, who do you think is funnier ?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama

Former Secretary of State during George Bush's first term Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama. Speaking earlier today on MSNBC's Meet the Press he said he was supporting the democrat because of his extraordinary ability to communicate his message to young people and the rest of the world. Today is a bad day for John McCain. Colin Powell, a republican, a former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has a lot of street cred in Washington. His endorsement of Obama will reassure many hesitant voters that Obama is not a hard core leftist, as the McCain campaign have been trying to convey. If he were, the shrewd general would not be backing him. Powell like McCain is a Vietnam veteran and a politician that is seen as being close to the soldier, not the kind to send men off to war without understanding the consequences. So McCain's public endorsement of Obama is another big boost for the Illinois senator.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Americans and political satire

As I have said before on this blog, the yanks have replaced the Brits as the kings when it comes to political comedy. Watch this clip below and imagine if the presidential debates were taking place on HBO. Fans of The Sopranos will like this. Click on the link below for more brilliant political satire from The Onion, War for The White House.

Was There Too Much Sex And Profanity In The HBO Presidential Debate?

Who is Joe the Plumber ?

Anybody watching this weeks final presidential debate in the US will be asking this question. The reason being that he was mentioned about 20 times during the debate. To answer the question, his name is Joe Wurzelbacher from Ohio. He confronted Obama on the campaign trail this week and expressed concerns that Obama's tax plan would hamper his efforts to buy his plumbing business. Watch the confrontation below.

America being the somewhat funny place that it is, Joe the plumber has become something of a celebrity. During Wednesday's debate both candidate addressed the man directly. This has led to a media frenzy surrounding poor Joe. All mainstream media outlets have tried to get him on record. They all want to know who he is voting for. Is he going to stick with McCain, the natural choice for him or did Obama win him over in the above clip. So far the wily plumber is remaining tight lipped. As for the debate itself. Obama won, and by win I mean it was a draw but a draw is as good as a win for Obama because as I keep saying all he needs to do is break even and allow his momentum to carry him over the line. At this late stage, I don't think Joe the Plumber's endorsement will make much of a difference.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Whats wrong with John McCain

Why is John McCain so far behind in the polls ? It seems a long time ago since St Paul when his post convention bump had McCain as favourite to be the 44th President. But that was jut five weeks ago. What has happened since. Today most pollsters say its going to be President Obama in January. I have a theory. The sub prime crisis in the states has obviously hurt McCain but most conservative analysts in the US are angry at him for not seizing an opportunity amidst all the chaos. He has consistently failed to tap into the anger on main street at the gross incompetence of several CEO's, many of whom have links to the democrats. He has appeared unsure of himself and of where his anger should be directed and I know why.

Ronald Reagan believed in the total deregulation of the market

On many occasions throughout the campaign John McCain has spoken about his two political idols, Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt. Both of these former Presidents despite serving during completely different times had a similar view of the world. John McCain clearly shares this view of projecting American power around the world. We all know John McCain's foreign policy credentials. We know where he stands and what he believes about Russia, Iraq, Iran and the wider war on terror. A mere 18 months ago he is on record as saying that foreign policy is his strength and that he is weak on macroeconomics. We should not be surprised, he is a military man. So when the unprecedented global financial crisis struck last month John McCain had to look to his two inspirations for guidance and there in lies the problem.

Teddy Roosevelt confronted Wall Street and the tycoons

Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt were polar opposite on the role of the free market. Reagan was probably the 20th century's biggest advocate of deregulation. If he were alive today he would be defending wall street and most likely insisting that the problem was caused by excessive attempts at regulating the mortgage industry to cater for the poor. Teddy on the other hand, the crusader against the tycoon, hero of the working man and nemesis of JP Morgan would probably want to tear wall street down in the wake of the fiasco. So John McCain was left asking himself on the crisis, am I a Ronald Reagan or a Teddy Roosevelt, and I don't think he has quite managed to answer it. For all his campaigns talk of "Who is Barack Obama"? we don't really know who McCain is when it comes to the role of the free market and this has been exposed. Obama has not excelled in recent weeks but at least we know where he stands. He believes that wall street has to be properly regulated. As I have maintained in previous posts, all he has to do now is break even, don't screw up and allow his momentum to carry him over the line while voters continue to blame the republicans and McCain fails to portray a clear message on the crisis.

The final debate is tonight. John McCain has one last chance to turn it around. Unless he goes all out for it and successfully blames the democrats for the crisis and the audience buys it, his presidential ambitions are dead as disco.

Fundraiser for Obama in Dublin

Over 100 US citizens gathered in Dublin on Sunday at the Dalkey home of Moira Shipsey to raise money for Barack Obama's bid for the White House. Ms Shipsey is a prominent refugee lawyer who is married to senior counsel Bill Shipsey. The Shipsey's teamed up with Kate Fitzgerald, who chairs Ireland's chapter of Democrats Abroad to launch the event. Attending the fundraiser were a variety of well known personalities most notably Daniel Day Lewis and his wife, novelist and filmmaker Rebecca Miller. Also attending was US-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo who advises Barack Obama on Irish issues.

I do not know how much money the event managed to raise. In order to attend the fund raiser a minimum donation of $100 was required. The maximum donation permitted per person by US law is $2300. The money raised will go to the Obama campaign's efforts to win over the swing states. Lets face it, the money raised in Dalkey is a mere drop in the ocean. But symbolically though, it will I think help Obama. This event will be well documented in Irish America and will help reassure the Irish vote that Obama is sensitive to Irish issues. I wonder, republicans abroad, do they exist ? and if so what kind of numbers could they pull in at a fundraiser abroad. It is difficult to imagine how John McCain's message would appeal to many living oversees. Maybe in Georgia, Israel or South Korea but that I reckon is that.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The World is Still Spinning

Any of my regular readers here at GUBU will have noticed that the US election is beginning to dominate this blog. I cannot help it as its just such good craic. However its not just me. Over the last number of weeks the main stream media has been so focused on events in the US combined with the global financial crisis that many issues of tremendous importance have barely been reported on. But let me assure you, the world is still spinning. Governments are rising and falling and people are still butchering people for being of the incorrect religion or race or what have ya. Here is a small sample of some of these happenings that in less remarkable times, would be global front page news.

The death of Jorg Haider occurred this week. The charismatic far right 58 year old Austrian politician was killed in a single car accident while on his way to a family gathering. Haider is the only politician from the far right to gain any position of authority in European Union. This has proved a massive embarrassment to Vienna which has had to deal with EU sanction as a result and even calls for Austria's expulsion from the Union. It is unclear what effect Haider's death will have on the far right in Austria. He may be seen as a martyr or his neo fascist politics may fizzle out as a result of his death.

There is a vicious war going on in Pakistan's South Waziristan, a federal district along the Afghan border. The war is being fought between the Pakistani army, with occasional help (sought or unsought) from the US Air force, and Taliban fighters. South Waziristan has not been under the control of the central government in Islamabad for many years but following the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan the Pakistanis have, under massive pressure from the US launched an all out offensive to retake the Provence. There is it appears large scale fighting going on with high levels of civilian casualties. The Taliban have retaliated against this offensive in their own way, most notable the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad last month that killed over fifty foreigners.

A massive bomb crater in front of the Marriott hotel after last months attack

The Middle East
There has been a series of blasts throughout the Middle East. Scores have been killed in last ten days in blasts in Beirut, Baghdad and Damascus.

There has been an upsurge in violence in the last month in Iraq. While not comparable to 2006 levels there has been a noticeable increase in car bombings. Most of the tension has been caused by the "sons of Iraq" and their refusal to absorb, or to be allowed absorb into the Iraqi army. Similarly tension is growing between the Iraqi government and the Shiite militias that agreed to a ceasefire last year. While the ceasefire is holding it is very fragile and several recent clashes have led to fears of it falling apart. This would significantly undo all the progress of the surge. Just another regular chapter of these Gubu times and the Gubu World that we live in.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What Obama Should Have Said

Obama is winning this election. It will be President Obama in January if he keeps his cool in the face of McCain's increasingly personal attacks. However there is one foreign policy point which I feel he has missed many opportunities to make, including at yesterdays debate. The three most important foreign policy issues the next president will have to deal with are Iran, Pakistan and Russia. The primary reason the Bush Administration has misfired in these areas, particularly within the Middle East is because Washington's diplomatic power has dried up rendering it incapable of persuading friend and foe alike of the need to pursue a certain course of action. Bush's unilateralism combined with his administrations arrogance and the general contempt in which its held around the world means that America despite it enormous military, economic and diplomatic strength has been unable to convince the Pakistanis to crack down on Taliban militants along the border region with Afghanistan. This despite the fact that Bush handed the Pakistani government 10 billion dollars a year for the last seven years. Likewise the Iranians despite massive regional and global opposition just will not bow to US pressure. And why should they ? America under Bush has not been respected even by its allies. Those on the American right that love to mock and belittle those who talk about the Europeans (to the extent where they ridiculed Obamas speech in Berlin) as if its a dirty word should consider this. An Obama administration will build consensus among the Europeans and the Arabs that will make it impossible for the Iranians to stand alone on the anti American card. An Obama administration will make it clear to whoever is running Pakistan in January that it is going to be in their national interest to wipe Al Qaeda out, not just contain them. I believe that if Obama would make this point more aggressively, McCain is toast.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama Wins, technically

I think Obama won it. Its not so much that he trounced McCain its that he played to break even which is all he needs to do at present. John McCain is losing this election mainly because the American public blame the republican party, rightly or wrongly, for the financial meltdown and they are ultimately going to take that out on McCain. Consequently I think Obama does not intend to land a knock out blow. I think he is trying to allow his momentum carry him over the line. Unfortunately for us political junkies that means the debates, like last nights, are going to be a bit boring. Unless that is, McCain in the knowledge that he is losing, decides to go on a major offensive. You can see already he is developing a real personal dislike for Obama. Watch the frosty post debate handshake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Homer tries to vote

Republican dirty tricks yet again. Eight years ago it was the fiasco in Florida. In 2008 the GOP are up to the same type of skulduggery, this time its Springfield in every ones favourite state. Watch as poor aul Homer is conned out of his democratic right.

John McCain on Northern Ireland

It appears that Irish America is beginning to turn solidly behind Barack Obama. Irish Americans have traditionally voted democrat but there was a fear that McCain might nudge his way into this constituency as a result of bitter Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom are Irish Americans, and because of Obama's position on the special envoy to Northern Ireland. However any fear of this trend becoming a more standard pattern is waning mainly thanks to the financial crisis which is hurting McCain big time in the polls. And in an article in The Irish Times yesterday, that was also circulated around the US, former ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smyth, Sister of Jack, Bobby and Ted, illustrated how John McCain consistently opposed Bill Clinton's efforts in Northern Ireland.

Jean Kennedy Smyth, center, was US ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, pictured here along side John Hume and Liz O'Donnell.

According to the former ambassador, John McCain described Clinton's role in Northern Ireland as "mistaken". He vehemently opposed Bill Clinton's decision to grant Gerry Adams a US visa in 1993 and further criticised the Presidents decision to invite the Sinn Fein chief to the White House. Any scholar of the Northern Irish peace process knows that this was a pivotal moment in its success. The process itself has now become a model for conflict resolution throughout the world. Any American that doubts this or wishes to trivialise Clinton's role in Northern Ireland should keep in mind the respect an admiration Bill Clinton earned for himself and his country throughout Ireland and Europe for his Irish endeavour. They should further remember that this respect paid dividends in countless ways to the benefit of American national interest. This as we know was completely undone by the Bush administration.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"W" the Movie

Oliver Stone's latest political movie continues the trend of presidential biographies following on from JFK and Nixon. His next masterpiece is simply entitled W and I just can't wait. It explores the life of George W. Bush from his hard drinking college years through to his presidency. It is due out in the states just before the election, no doubt in order persuade the electorate away from voting republican. Watch the trailer below. Look out for James Cromwell playing Bush senior and Richard Dreyfus playing Dick Cheney.

Here is a clip where Josh Brolin, playing Bush, meets his future wife Laura for the first time.

And here is another little teaser.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Both Fail to Land Knockout Blow

Have you ever noticed in sport how in the run up to a long awaited match expectations are dashed when the game turns out to be a dull draw. Well that's how I would describe the Palin Biden debate in the wee hours of this morning. Both were cautious and both, particularly Biden did not put the boot in. Perhaps out of fear both candidates danced around the ring and failed to land a knock out blow. Likewise, everybody was waiting for a gaffe from either candidate, it never came. I do not think this debate will have a significant impact on this campaign contrary to what I suggested in the last post. I'm a little disappointed. The highlight of the debate however was when Joe Biden began to choke up when talking about raising his two kids alone after his wife and child were killed in an accident. No doubt it will go down well with the sentimental yanks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden Debates Palin

In a couple of hours time Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will go head to head in the only vice presidential debate. I am not going to wait up to watch it because, I'm just not. However I eagerly await the repeat on RTE news tomorrow morning. It should be fascinating. Usually the Vice Presidential debate, in fact their entire campaigns have little effect on the overall ticket. However this year it is different. The controversial pick of the particularly inexperienced Palin has led to a media scrutinizing of the Alaska Governor. If she messes up this debate as she has several TV interviews it could be a serious blow for the McCain campaign. Unless I and most commentators out there have seriously underestimated Palin I expect Biden to run away with it. Here is a taste of what we can expect. Watch how Palin and Biden respond to the same question from CBS's Katie Couric about Roe V Wade, the most controversial law in America that legalises abortion. Who do you think answers more convincingly ?

John McCain on Spain

I want to bring to the attention of GUBU readers a minor enough incident that occurred in the US Presidential campaign last week. What first appeared to be a serious gaff by John McCain gradually fizzled out amongst all the headline grabbing news related to the financial crisis. Basically in an interview with a Florida radio station McCain was asked if he would meet face to face with a series of Latin American leaders. He gave a rather predictable answer of " I would meet with anyone with comparable values". He was then asked if he would invite Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Zapatero (Pictured) to the White House. He responded by giving an identical answer to the previous question about Castro, Chavez and co. When the interviewer clarified that she was referring to Spain he stuck to his guns. This immediately struck a cord with me. In the years since 9/11 no example of bad blood between Europe and the USA has angered me more than conservative America absurd interpretation of the events surrounding the 2004 Madrid bombings and the subsequent general election in that country. And I believe that John McCain had this in mind when he referred to Spain in his answer.

The March 2004 Madrid Bombings that claimed 191 lives

Right wing America has always mocked Spain for what they see as the Spanish electorate giving into Al Qaeda. A little background might help. Under the conservative leadership of Jose Maria Aznar Spain was probably Europe's most ardent supporters of George Bush's war on terror. In 2003 Aznar backed the invasion of Iraq and sent the second largest contingent of European troops after Britain, to fight in the war. This decision was extremely unpopular with the Spanish public. Then on March 11th 2004 a series of coordinated bombs murdered 191 people throughout Madrid's railway system. The attack occurred three days before a general election. Immediately after the attacks Prime Minister Aznar placed the blame on the Basque separatist group ETA even going so far as to instruct Spanish diplomats world wide to continue to imply that ETA was responsible even after ETA denied involvement and evidence came to light that suggested it was an Islamist group. In addition it was clear to most that the March 11th attack was on a far greater scale than anything done before by domestic Spanish terrorists and the likelihood of ETA being behind it was slim. However Aznar, who had led a crusade against ETA for decades held firm in public that the Basques were responsible. Three days later the Spanish electorate punished him for this. Zapatero's left wing government was elected and the new Prime Minister fulfilled his pre election promise to pull out all Spanish troops from Iraq.

Jose Maria Aznar Meeting President Bush at the Azores summit in 2003

This is not however how conservative America saw it. In America they ignored the fact that post Franco politics in Spain had swung between conservative and liberal governments every couple of elections and that after 8 years in power the Aznar government was deeply unpopular for a number of reasons. Some in American found it difficult to understand that a Spanish election was actually about Spanish issues. So, led by the right wing radio and TV hosts and followed by some political figures a position became popular that projected the Spanish people and its new government as weak and cowardly. The myth was spread that the Al Qaeda linked group that bombed Madrid did so in the hope that the Aznar government would be removed and that Spanish troops would ultimately be pulled out of Iraq. "Al Qaeda achieved regime change in Spain easier than we did in Iraq" and "We have lost Spain" were common headlines. The anti Spanish rhetoric basically claimed that the Spanish people were bombed into submission by Al queda and that they purposely voted in the government that they knew would remove Spanish troops from Iraq out of fear of future bombings. This is utter fiction but it is popular fiction and I have no doubt that John McCain deliberately played to this right wing populist rhetoric by lumping Prime Minister Zapatero in with Castro and Chavez and co. To do this with a democratic country like Spain, an EU and NATO ally is of course ridiculous and offensive but I have to say with genuine regret, John McCain's campaign is going increasingly in that direction.