International: August 2008 Archives

Ageism and sexism come together.

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mccainpalin2008.jpgWonkette compares McCain/Palin to J Howard Marshall/Anna Nicole Smith. So inappropriate. Yet so funny. Please accept my apologies in advance.

OK, I should include two alternative takes on the last few weeks' US campaign to make this a serious post. First, Scotland on Sunday has just realised that either candidate could win. Andrew Sullivan makes the case for Obama the strategist in the Sunday Times - recommended.

Republicans attack the Greens.

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sarahpalin.jpgEveryone's very excited about McCain's VP pick, Alaska's Iron Lady (left). Fair play, it's sucked the oxygen of publicity away from Obama's convention as planned. 

It's also a good pitch for the PUMAs, although if they check out her position on abortion they'll be back with Barack. But won't she make McCain look, well, extremely old in a way that only Lonesome George normally looks?

Less well noticed, understandably, was a curious item from the Republicans' platform. On climate change they believe there's a need to "resist no-growth radicalism". You mean the kind of thinking that says a world of finite resources can't be subjected to endless economic growth? You mean Green thinking? 

It's a pleasure to be on the opposite side from these clowns. Looks like we're onto Phase 3 of Gandhi's famous maxim, just one step from victory.

On an unrelated matter, thanks to the Scotsman for publishing one of my earlier entries yesterday, in their actual newspaper (but not online, oddly). I'm hoping to parlay this breakthrough into a regular and thoroughly impartial column. Note to Scotsman editors: you have my number. Call any time.

Update: the wonderful Chez has spotted how much a younger Palin resembles Britney. Pic here.

Storm clouds over McCain.

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deadendkatrinaorleans.jpgThe news that a category 3 hurricane called Gustav could hit New Orleans this week is alarming local residents

It's Republican convention week too, which is alarming McCain's team, and they say they'd postpone the balloon-drop if need be. 

Another hurricane hitting Louisiana wouldn't just remind Americans of the utter disgrace of Bush's response to Katrina: it might also close down oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico, and remind them of how fragile and pointless a policy it is to try and drill your way out of peak oil.

Incidentally, I thought all hurricanes were female. Turns out they used to be, but since 1978 they alternate male/female each year, unless they get to Z
What a headline

It's Joe.

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joebiden.jpgHey Obama, you promised me I'd be the first to know your VP. How come I read it's Joe Biden on the BBC and still haven't had an email?

No matter. My good friends at Gristmill have posted a summary of Biden's environmental credentials. They seem decent for a US politician, bearing in mind the certain disappointment such situations always bring. Miles approves, too.

On the plus side, Biden's quoted as saying his number one magic wand request would be a solution to the energy problem, which does suggest a shortage of here-and-now ideas, but at least it's his top problem. He co-sponsored the toughest of the various climate change bills floating around the Senate, opposes extra drilling whether in Alaska or offshore, and backs renewables.

On the flipside, he's still pushing biofuels, although those positions may be old, so I won't rush to judgement there. His ideas on targets remain inadequate, but he's hardly alone on that in US politics. And one of the videos on that summary has him talking about "clean coal", which is always a clear sign that someone's been bought.

Still, compared to McCain... Just so long as the 1988 campaign doesn't turn around and bite him and Obama.

Ten golden tickets.

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I'm on Barack Obama's spam list, just out of curiosity. Like at least hundreds of thousands of others, I'll be the first to know who his VP pick is. 

It's Hillary. No, it's not.

Tonight I got an email signed "Barack" which told me about the ten "ordinary people" who get to meet him backstage before he accepts the nomination. It's like rock'n'roll, politics, you see.

The ten names interested me less than the ten states these individuals come from (links take you to coverage about them). Montana, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Alaska and North Dakota. Now take a look at today's map.

It shows twelve swing states, including some you might not expect, like Montana, North Dakota, and Indiana. Virginia's the swingest of them all just now, as liberal Washington DC spreads south. 

In short, Pennsylvania and Alaska are the only two on Barack's little list for hometown coverage that aren't currently showing swing-ness. But Pennsylvania went for Kerry by just 2%, and it's Clinton country, so Barack's just spreading the love. And Alaska has a very close Senate race going on, with a Republican in some very hot water

Now this could, of course, be coincidence. And I'm Willy Wonka (both versions included - take your pick). The lady from Montana, incidentally, makes the same joke.

Lost in space.

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carinspace.gifGristmill note that the most recent American government figures on driving show a substantial drop: a 4.7% reduction in mileage, motivated by the increase in oil prices (154Kb pdf).

A 4.7% drop amounts to a staggering 12.2 billion miles. In other words, one year's reduction in U.S. driving is equivalent to 489,940 fewer car trips around the world, a standard unit of mega-distance.

Looking at the bigger picture, the total American mileage over the last year is 2,954,326,000,000 miles, roughly. That's a little more than half a light year, the next largest such unit. Now, the nearest star system to our own is, as everyone knows, Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 light years away. 

Over George Bush's term of office, therefore, Americans will have collectively driven as far as Alpha Centauri, more than 25 trillion miles, and all at about 24.6 miles per gallon. Other sci-fi dorks may find this as shocking as I do.

Each time Americans go round their protracted electoral cycle, it gets a little more internet. It doesn't seem to happen here in the same way - perhaps we're not quite at critical mass yet, or maybe we're slow learners. 

Anyway, the attack ad and YouTube were made for each other. Next to zero cost to make (some dork with a copy of Final Cut), zero cost to distribute (Google pays), and easy to circulate. Also for free.

Here's two very different ones against McCain. They each take a very different tone, but both make me pretty anxious about the fact that he's even still in this race (and tightening - Electoral Vote has it at 289-249 in Obama's favour today).

First, here's a TPM one about what a senile fool he is. Especially about Czechoslovakia. And timetables. Not to mention dirt, and/or Frankenstein. 

Next, the really scary one, thanks to Scribo Ergo Sum. I have seen about half of the clips from this already, but the whole package together shows a terrifying whole. Seriously, if these two are the choices, wouldn't seeing this make everyone more sensible than Strangelove himself back Obama?

Anyway, it's not just the Americans who're doing this, obviously. Here's one more, presumably a TV ad just ripped for YouTube, but it was done by the Jamaican Labour Party, they posted it officially, and it has a YouTube aesthetic about it. Aaron tells me that "don't draw mi tongue" means "don't provoke me into slagging you off", roughly.

Islamic and Green.

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gusdur.jpgSome people think concern about the planet's future is a purely decadent Western activity, as if climate change, resource depletion and pollution won't hit the poorest hardest. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

Greens are the only truly global movement, holding common ground with activists and politicians around the world. The latest addition to this list is former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, known as Gus Dur (left). 

He is transforming the PKB party into an Islamic and environmentalist party, arguing for human rights and peace, and against logging and environmental destruction. This piece has the story, and sets out how nuclear power was declared haram or forbidden by Javanese clerics. 

Why should politicians around the world care about the environment? That same article says that Islamic policians are recognising "that their rural base relies on environmental resources". Same as everyone else, whether urban or rural, in other words.

Commerce or conservation?

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pandawwf.jpgThe First Minister has admitted that the plan to bring Chinese pandas to Edinburgh Zoo is "primarily a commercial transaction", not conservation. We knew that already, of course. 

Pandas have been misused this way for centuries, as far back as the reign of Wu Zetian in the 7th century AD. Taiwan came under Panda Attack in 2006, and in 2007 the Chinese claimed they were giving up the habit, but actually they just started charging more.

Exactly what the Royal Bank of Scotland get out of it is unclear, but don't bet against some additional access to Chinese markets.

The truth isn't out there.

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The European Court of Human Rights is now all that stands between Gary McKinnon and extradition to the US. 

His alleged crime? Looking for UFO information on inadequately protected US military servers. He left notes pointing out security holes, but is now being threatened with life in prison.

This is a massive over-reaction, as has been noted elsewhere. For more updates on the campaign, see

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the International category from August 2008.

International: July 2008 is the previous archive.

International: September 2008 is the next archive.