Test post – no need to read it

Posted from IE Internet Explorer

As I write (mid-November) the final results of the US presidential election are not in, but we know enough to highlight some figures.  With 66.7 million popular votes and counting, and with a lead of 6.5 percentage points over John McCain, Barack Obama won more popular votes than any other US presidential candidate in history:  nearly 8 million more than John Kerry in 2004, and a cool 15.7m more than Al Gore in 2000 (when Gore won more popular votes than GW Bush, but lost in the Supreme Court – remember?).   Obama’s share of the popular vote (52.6%) was the highest of any Democratic candidate since LBJ (1964), and higher than any Republican since 1956 except GWH Bush, Reagan (1984) Nixon (1972) and Eisenhower (1956).

Some suggest that Obama won because many Republicans failed to vote, but the figures scarcely confirm this:  Senator McCain won 58.3m votes (46.1%, comparable with GW Bush in 2000 with 47.9%), 3.8m fewer than G W Bush in 2004 but 7m more than the same Bush in 2000.  Each candidate won a very respectable share of the vote, on probably the highest percentage turnout (over 60%) for 40 years.  Those who imagine an entire American population transformed by the election into leftish, colour-blind liberals need reminding that Senator McCain, after a policy-lite campaign driven by smears, innuendos and outright lies, nevertheless won 58.3 million votes across the country, including an estimated 55% of white voters, taking almost all the mid-west (from Montana and North Dakota southwards) and the south, apart from Colorado, New Mexico and Florida (where Obama won by 51-49%).  Equally sobering, McCain was ahead in the polls until the financial crisis broke and he frivolously selected Governor Palin as running-mate, two events that probably lost him the election. 

The victory of Barack Obama is hugely welcome to almost everyone in the outside world, but he will have a monumental task in living up to the extraordinary expectations that have been raised, especially confronting the challenges of climate change, global recession, world poverty, terrorism and foreign oil dependency, and two unwinnable wars – the poisoned chalice about to be handed to him by George W Bush.

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Was Mrs Thatcher, as she now isn’t, the first British political leader to confuse the economics of the private household with those of government, excoriating all borrowing as fecklessly irresponsible and asserting as common-sense that government must always balance its budgets?  Such misconceptions have contaminated much comment on the financial crisis, people who should know better denouncing orthodox proposals to slash interest rates, reduce taxes on and increase benefits to the less well-off (who have the highest marginal propensity to spend rather than save, thus helping to boost demand in a recession), bring forward government spending on labour-intensive infrastructure public works, especially when environmentally positive, and fund this from increased government borrowing – since the only alternative is increased taxation, likely to deepen the recession.  All good Keynesian economics: how surprising that it should appear controversial!  The government’s critics are now agonising about the fall in the value of sterling. Massive exchange rate gyrations are unwelcome; but a fall in sterling helps exporters and so reduces deflationary pressures.  Who’d be a finance minister at such a time?

11 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    There’s a silver lining for two prominent political figures who have benefited in curiously similar ways from the global financial collapse:  Gordon Brown and Barack Obama.   (All the same, I don’t envy either of them.) 

     

    The other positive by-product is the comprehensive discrediting of the mania for deregulation and minimal government under which we have suffered since – well, you know who.

     

    According to the new survey by the Committee on Standards in Public Life of public attitudes to the standards of conduct of UK public figures, when the public were asked which of 17 professions they trusted to tell the truth, the leaders were family doctors, trusted by 94% of the public, head teachers (83%) and judges (82%).

     

    “Top civil servants” score only 39% (!), well above Ministers and MPs (27% and 26%).  Bottom of the league are tabloid journalists with a mere 10%. 

     

    The survey found that “there is an association between reading only tabloid newspapers and being critical of standards in public life,” although tabloid-only readers “rate tabloids very poorly as looking for any excuse to tarnish politicians, focusing on negative stories and being more interested in getting a story than telling the truth; and they are … positive (c. 80%) about broadsheets avoiding these behaviours.” 

     

    As Martin Kettle noted recently in the Guardian, the editor of the exceptionally poisonous Daily Mail, one Mr Dacre, exhibits amazing chutzpah in publicly denouncing a prominent judge for his rigorous administration of UK human rights law, while claiming that the tabloids’ “extensive coverage of public affairs is the glue of democracy.”  What breath-taking hypocrisy!  The tabloids should carry a health warning about the malignant effects of sniffing that particular glue.

  2. Brian says:

    Copied from Notepad into comment box in MS Internet Explorer and posted from MSIE:

    It’s common knowledge that our prisons are grossly overcrowded, with record numbers of people behind bars: that very many of these ought not to be in jail, their problems better (and far more cheaply) addressed elsewhere: that overcrowding obstructs rehabilitation and promotes re-offending, which damages offenders and society alike: and that in these conditions prison is extravagantly expensive and doesn’t work.

    The solution, obvious to any 14-year-old, is to remove half the prison population for alternative treatment outside and to stop sending so many people to prison, especially on pointless short sentences.

    Instead, presumably fearing the wrath of the Daily Mail if so much as a frightened shoplifter is released early, the Justice Secretary is to spend yet more billions on yet more prisons, including three ‘Titan’ prisons holding some 2,500 prisoners each, ignoring the evidence that smaller prisons are incomparably more effective.

    Can ministers be acting on civil service advice when they persist in these manifestly perverse policies, not just on prisons but (e.g.) on extending the period for detention without charge to a monstrous 42 days when no-one can cite any justification for it, or constructing a colossal, intolerably intrusive national database with ID cards for no credible purpose, or spending billions on renewing Trident when no-one can devise a plausible scenario for using or even threatening to use it, or keeping troops in Iraq long after there is a viable task for them?

  3. Brian says:

    Copied from Notepad and paragraphed in the comment box in Firefox:

    It’s common knowledge that our prisons are grossly overcrowded, with record numbers of people behind bars:  that very many of these ought not to be in jail, their problems better (and far more cheaply) addressed elsewhere:  that overcrowding obstructs rehabilitation and promotes re-offending, which damages offenders and society alike: and that in these conditions prison is extravagantly expensive and doesn’t work. 

    The solution, obvious to any 14-year-old, is to remove half the prison population for alternative treatment outside and to stop sending so many people to prison, especially on pointless short sentences. 

    Instead, presumably fearing the wrath of the Daily Mail if so much as a frightened shoplifter is released early, the Justice Secretary is to spend yet more billions on yet more prisons, including three ‘Titan’ prisons holding some 2,500 prisoners each, ignoring the evidence that smaller prisons are incomparably more effective. 

    Can ministers be acting on civil service advice when they persist in these manifestly perverse policies, not just on prisons but (e.g.) on extending the period for detention without charge to a monstrous 42 days when no-one can cite any justification for it, or constructing a colossal, intolerably intrusive national database with ID cards for no credible purpose, or spending billions on renewing Trident when no-one can devise a plausible scenario for using or even threatening to use it, or keeping troops in Iraq long after there is a viable task for them?

  4. Owen Barder says:

    This is posted using Firefox 3.0.5 Maybe the problem is using Internet Explorer 6? That is notoriously unreliable.loveOwen

  5. Owen Barder says:

    Interesting – i’m getting the “no line break” problem too!loveOwen

  6. Brian says:

    This is also posted using Firefox 3.0.5.

    It will be interesting to see if this sentence shows as a new paragraph (I used the <enter> key twice).
    And this is after hitting <enter> once:  I suspect that it will run on from the preceding sentence with no line break and not even a space.

    Let’s see.
    Brian
    27 Dec 08

    PS: No! It has come out exactly as I intended. Curiouser and curiouser.
    BLB

  7. Tony says:

     Brian and Owen,
    Just a wee variation. This is posted using Google Chrome ver. 1.0.154.36!
    t

  8. Owen Barder says:

    Test message.

    New line here. I am not logged in.

    Another new line here.

    O

  9. Owen Barder says:

    Hurrah – that seems to work!!

    Brian writes: Brilliant! Many thanks. Now let’s see if it works for others as well.

  10. Tim Weakley says:

    Dear Brian,(##)

    Here goes:(##)

    The chief defect of Henry King(#)
    Was chewing little bits of string.(#)
    One day he swallowed some which tied(#)
    Itself in ugly knots inside…(##)

    …and so on.(#)
      ‘So she went into the garden, to cut a cabbage-leaf, to make an apple-pie.  And at the same time, a great she-bear, coming down the street, pops its head into the shop. ‘What!  No soap?’  So he died; and she, very imprudently, married the barber.  And there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the Great Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top; and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots’. (##)

    Regards,(#)
    TW

    Brian writes: Ça va bien, merci!

  11. Tim Weakley says:

    That looks all right!
    T.

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