Santorum Pulls Out

A belated comment from me, because I’ve overdone it on caffeine and can’t sleep. If you hadn’t already heard, Rick Santorum, latest incarnation of the US extreme-right, has suspended his presidential campaign. This is slightly earlier than I had expected; as a political geek and election junkie I’m disappointed. There were so many contestable primaries still to go, with most of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states due on the 24th of this month. Shame on the anti-choice candidate for aborting his campaign and not carrying it to full term!

As far as I can make out, Santorum has two positive qualities. 1) He’s seemingly quite fond of a drink before noon, and 2) he wears those lovely sleeveless jerseys (great for keeping your core body snug while letting your arms and armpits breath!) I liked having an “underdog” candidate in the race, and I was sympathetic to his plight of being massively outspent by the Romney campaign.

Copyright from left: Jim Wilson/The New York Times; Josh Haner/The New York Times; Jim Wilson/The New York Times; Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Not too hot, not too cold. By far his most sensible policy decision.

Then again, I loathe nearly everything that Rick Santorum stands for. There’s far too much for one post, so I shall focus on two prominent issues. Firstly the man is a bigot. He is a homophobic bigot. You cannot justify homophobia, not in the 21st Century, not in a civilised society. Dressing it up as a feigned defence of the “traditional family” cuts no ice; its like saying you don’t want any black kids in your white children’s class because you’re afraid they’ll learn bad habits. You assume there’s a threat and use that to justify your pre-existing bigotry. This should not just be an LGBT concern – if you’re capable of hating one group solely because of something intrinsic to their being, you can just as easily hate another. As a socialist and a social liberal I find it abhorrent.

Before I was a socialist I was already a scientist. Santorum’s second negative trait is his preference for non-evidence based policy. Here is a man who prefers to substitute his own reality. It is not enough to say that he is anti-science; he is anti-fact. From a genuine objectivist point of view, he is anti-reality. Call it creationism or call it intelligent design, it’s still bullshit. Then there’s the Dutch euthanasia epidemic which doesn’t really exist, except in Rick’s head. An oblate spheroidal 4.54 billion year-old Earth? Just a “liberal” media conspiracy. Probably.

Ultimately I suppose I should be glad he’s gone. Unfortunately there was his speech after Wisconsin last week, where analogies were made to the Republican nomination races in ’76 and ’80. Pick the moderate (Ford, ’76) and lose, pick the conservative (Reagan, ’80) and win was the message. Santorum sees this as his ’76, and he’s now positioning himself as nominee heir-designate for 2016. Be afraid. 2016 would be a much better year for him than 2012 could have been. Romney, near certain nominee, faces an incumbent President with decent approval ratings and an improving economy. The precedents aren’t good. But assuming Obama’s re-election, by 2016 the party political pendulum will be swinging the other way. Apart from 1988 the last time a party retained control of the White House into a third term with a non-incumbent candidate was 1928. Santorum will grow more electable not less, especially if a second “moderate” Republican loses to Obama.

On the other hand, as recently six months ago people were still speculating about Palin 2012. Hopefully Santorum will disappear into obscurity. Either way, the 2012 race just became much less interesting, with the next election results worth staying up for being the Big One itself in November.

Don’t assume from any of this that I like Romney. To me he represents an equally insidious hatred, though in a much more subtle flavour. His evil is a delicately refined one, and the more dangerous for it. I’ll deal with him later.

What’s happening across the Ocean?

Great news y’all (may as well get in the spirit of this post) America has seen its fifth consecutive month of falling unemployment; down by 8.5% to 8.3% with 243,000 jobs being created. Coupled with growth figures from last week showing a rise of 2.8% in GDP in the final quarter of 2011 (1% higher growth on the previous quarter) it’s becoming increasingly apparent that America’s strategy of economic stimulus is comparatively buoyant when next to Europe’s strategy of austerity. Yes, unemployment levels are higher than here in the UK (for now at least), but that’s primarily because of the USA’s private sector economy focus (when compared to our economy at least) and some of the weakest employment protection laws in the world.

What is beginning to emerge is that Europe’s (and more specifically, the UK’s) austerity programmes are not working. If you make too harsh a cuts to the public sector you’ll also damage the private sector as numerous contracts are arranged between the two sectors. That’s right, they’re intertwined, you attack one part too harshly it will have a knock on effect on the other.

It is hugely unlikely Cameron, Clegg and Osborne will take notice of Obama’s successes. But at least the American people hopefully will this November.

Max

Another despairing moment for the American right

Michele Bachmann speaks during the GOP debate

You’d think after eight years of George W. Bush as President you would have thought the Republican party would ensure its front-runners for the 2012 Presidential bid would at the very least appear to seem to know what they are talking about. But sadly, they got Michelle Bachmann instead. Now I thought the American right (specifically the Tea Party wing) had lost most of its credibility (primarily) in regards to modern science when one of its darlings, Sarah Palin, said this:

Now, yes you may well be reeling laughter/pity for the Palin. But this has turned out to be nothing when compared to the Tea Party’s newer rising darling, Michelle Bachmann. This is the woman who wishes to close down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regards homosexuality as a “disorder” and a “sexual difunction” and wishes to repeal all health care system legislation.

What she done now? You may ask. Well she, like Palin has delved into the realm of scientific ignorance. Bachmann claimed that the HPV vaccine, which is a well-proven preventer of cervical cancer, causes “mental retardation” in children. Yup, you heard right, “mental retardation” in children.

Now I’m not even going to go in to the long long list of scientists and scientific institutions that lined up to show how ridiculous Bachmann’s comments are. But I will provide her with two specific facts:

  • HPV, Human Papilloma Virus, or more commonly: genital warts is the most common STD worldwide and is the 2nd largest cause of female cancer (CDC).
  • Investigations by the AMA, CDC, WHO, and other major health organizations have cleared the vaccine as safe. Of 23 million administered dosages, 772 (that’s .003%) reported serious effects.
Please Tea Party, grow up!
Max

 

Danger, Danger – High Voltage

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-14553613 

Yesterday a young man in his prime died needlessly following an incident with the police where a Taser gun was allegedly used by officers. The case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It would be premature for me to claim that police had been unreasonable in this case or to cast aspersions on Dale Burns, however the case has led to calls for a rethink over the use of Tasers by Amnesty International, and I echo their sentiments.

This is not the first time someone has died suspiciously not long after being subject to a Taser ‘shock’, yet still this and the previous government have both ordered their wider usage to please the ‘hang-em-and-flog-em’ brigade – no doubt they will be used more extensively as a method of crowd control following the riots. If police leaders can question politicians’ orders to use water cannon and rubber bullets where needed, citing Britain’s century-and-a-half long tradition of unarmed community policing, then why have they not criticised the authorisation of these brutal weapons? Anyone who has seen a video clip on Youtube where someone has volunteered to receive the shock treatment will tell you that it does not look pleasant.

Police officers are only human beings who can overreact like ordinary citizens, and in many public order situations can fear for their lives. However these weapons have not only been used against armed assailants but also when carrying out routine arrests on the most unthreatening of suspects, and in the US it has even been reported that sick and bored police have been ‘testing out’ their device on farm animals to pass the time. These weapons are lethal and do not discriminate between those bent on harming others and innocent bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; they do not ask questions. There are millions of people walking along Britain’s streets with heart problems – what if one of these went on a legitimate peaceful protest which turned violent and were Tasered trying to restore calm or quickly leave the scene?

Since the tragic cases of John Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, the tuition fees protests and following the riots of this month, police are in an unenviable position where they don’t know whether they are being too harsh or too soft in the heat of the moment. Despite this, however, the monstrous Taser should have no place on our streets.

US update

Well the GOP has seen the very first primary to secure its nomination for President in 2012. And it seems to be developing in to a three horse race between Rick Perry, the Texas governor who recently organised a prayer rally to stem America’s decline (instead of helping America by simply getting on with his job as governor and fixing the problems himself). Mitt Romney the former Governor and second choice candidate to McCain in 2008. And Michelle Bachmann the Representative who wants a Federal Ban on Gay Marriages, the phasing out of social security and Medicare, supports the teaching of creationism in schools in science lessons and refused to compromise an inch during the debt ceiling rise fiasco (this in turn played a large part in America’s credit downgrade).

Now this is where I am glad to live in a country where the likes of Gideon Osborne, David Cameron and even Tony Blair are considered right wing, each of which have nothing on the GOP Presidential hopefuls. Don’t get me wrong, this will be an interesting race, each of the front runners have their own unique strengths. Bachmann is the darling of the Tea Party and can easily whip up widespread Republican grass-root support, Romney is seasoned campaigner after running for the Republican nomination in 2008 and Perry has enormous experience as Texas governor.

Bachmann’s win in Iowa was certainly far from solid, most of the voters in the straw poll were relatively undecided as Perry’s recent arrival will mean Bachmann and Perry will battle it out for the Tea Party and right of the Republican party while Romney takes the relatively moderates.

The GOP would be wise to choose Romney as their candidate for President, as the least Tea Party like front runner he is the one truly capable of capturing the all important swing moderate voters. But with the rise of Bachmann, Palin and Beck amongst the American right, that outcome doesn’t seem certain, which is comforting news for Obama.

Max

All things economic

Sorry for the lack of blogging in the past couple of weeks, I myself have been working almost full-time with a work-placement on the side. Anyway, I’d like to focus on two of the biggest economic updates in a news dominated by the ongoing phone hacking scandal. The up coming growth figures for Tuesday and the situation over the debt talks in the USA.

First off, who needs a plan B, right? Judging by what is being said by the likes of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) this stubbornness is not quite paying off. The GDP growth figures are mainly regarded as the be and end all test for a government’s economic credibility. To meet budget forecasts for growth this year the UK will need 0.8% of that well needed boost. What the NIESR is predicting the Office for National Statistics to actually say is that the UK has grown by a mere 0.1% with some City forecasts predicting a contraction.

Now don’t get me wrong, here in BULS we are capable of recognising that the Chancellor (Gideon) can not control every aspect of the economy. The rise in oil and food prices and the growing concern over the Eurozone crisis aren’t the greatest assets ever. In fact, the idea of austerity does have the vague potential to work, as seen in Canada in the 90s and in the UK in the 80s. But these are totally dependant upon favourable economic circumstances in neighbouring nations such as Europe and the USA. Sadly though, we currently don’t have those circumstances. We don’t have secure and confident markets in Europe and the USA and this is something Gideon totally fails to grasp. Cutting spending to reduce the deficit is all very well but once again, it’s pointless without growth to fuel this deficit reduction and with average pay rising at 2.3% and inflation at 4.2% (thank you VAT hike) this recovery is still far from certain.

Turning our attention over across the Atlantic it seems Federal government has seen a roadblock to progress because of dogged stubbornness with Republican House Speaker John Boehner walking out on a crucial debt talks with Senate leaders and the White House. Now anyone who’s studied the US governmental and political structure will always recognise that it is a system based upon compromise. With an increasingly ideologically driven Republican based House of Representatives, Obama has had to make drastic compromises in the name of reaching a deal for the good of America.

The President has already pledged to double his cuts particularly in the area of medicare which many supporters (such as myself) are completely aghast at, with $650bn of extra cuts pledged recently. Either way, this is a man who will attempt to build the bridge with his conservative law-makers. Sadly, it takes two to build a bridge and this is not what we are seeing from the Republican end of the river who refuse to raise any taxes (I thought they were rather keen on deficit reduction?). The Republicans have increasingly gone down the road of stubbornness in the past few years, but now it’s time to walk the walk as well as talk the talk as they put aside ideological differences. Sadly, given the ever increasing grip of the Tea Party, I doubt this much needed maturity will happen any time soon.

Max

The civil rights movement of our time

Just a quick blog this morning, another will be done on the pension reforms, hopefully, this evening. But anyway, I’m sure you’re probably aware of New York legalising same-sex marriages. Now this is nothing less than a triumph against the forces of bigotry, especially since this had to be pushed through a Republican state Senate but also New York is the third largest American state, so you can tell this was a big target set by the gay rights movements.

You only have to look at what was being spouted out by anti-equality campaigners such as National Organisation for Marriage (NOM) to see that what they were saying was nothing less than vile. While NOM has been veiling its true views behind a smokescreen of claims about the “Government redefinition of marriage”. At the very least, their grass-roots have portrayed the movements true views upon the lines of the usual “it’s wrong and an affront to the family” and simply spouting religious lines and hatred. It’s the sad truth that the NOM is primarily made up Roman Catholics and Christian Evangelicals both of whom spout such vile and hate. And it’s always the case that the establishment, particularly the establishment of bigotry which stands in the way of true justice and equality, throughout history. And this is what is happening in the USA today.

This is why I believe gay rights is the USA’s civil rights movement of our time. But this is a massive step in the right direction and who knows, at this rate Martin Luther King’s dream may come true one day.

Max