Don’t Let the Door Hit Your Ass On The Way Out

We’re almost there. Under 12 hours till the grinning idiot who somehow stole the US Presidency eight years ago is gone. At 12 noon EST, 5pm in England, Barack Obama is sworn in as the US President. It’s an historic day, of that everyone is sure. Whether or not Obama can fulfil the hopes that are now pinned on him for a brighter American and global future is on all our minds, but the reality is whatever he does or doesn’t achieve he has created an iconic moment in American history. Never in my life can I remember a time when people around the world even considered watching the US inauguration. Is this as dramatic as a ‘moon’ landing? As monumentous as JFK’s assassination? Probably.

Whatever Obama achieves, Bush is going Soon. No more of that grinning idiot apparently totally unaware of the impact of this actions, of his lack of public talking ability, of his desire for more and longer holidays as the world he helped create went to pot. Even in his extensive exit interviews (on every American TV show that will have him barring The Daily Show) he seems to believe that history will vindicate him, I wonder if Nixon felt the same way? America deserved better than your obliviousness to the wake of damage your frat-boy actions caused, both for the lives lost and the damage to America’s reputation on the world stage. You’re an embarrassment.

So here’s to Obama, on his first day as US President. There’s a lot resting on his shoulders now, but maybe he’ll be able to hold that weight and carry out his responsibilities with dignity. We can but hope, history will tell the rest.

Inspiring Obama Mural

This inspiring Obama mural is highly prominent outside the Art Basel show in Miami right now. It’s another great example of the Obama fervour that is consuming the US and the rest of the world right now. Of course some folk are looking at the administration team he’s put together and saying “More of the same then…” as it’s so Clinton-esqe, and this resonates badly with Obama’s campaign cry of “Change”. For my mind we’ll have to wait and see, and given the amount of obviously disruptive legislation the Republicans are throwing up in their last few weeks, that wait might be a while. We can only hope part of the promised change includes suitable impeachments for people who felt that the US was allowed to operate outside of the moral consensus in its pursuit of so-called terrorists. Somehow I feel we’ll be disappointed on that front. [From coolHunting].

Huzah – I Was Right!

Surprisingly, my joke post from the morning of the US Election turned out to be correct. We sat in the Sun and Doves and watched the results roll in till 4am British time, when Barack Obama was confirmed as the first black President of America. An auspicious night indeed, and a welcome one as witnessed by the raucous cheering whenever Obama won a state and booing when McCain did the same.

So now we just have to wait and see how Obama’s winning campaign based on positive forward thinking translates into a post-Bush administration. As Obama himself says, America won’t turn itself around overnight, but I believe that he’s given many Americans something they haven’t had in a long time, perhaps in their entire lives – hope, and a vision of a future where individuals can effect positive change not only in themselves, but in their country. One can only hope that this new vision of the American Dream, writ in human flesh by Obama, survives meeting reality. Even if it only inspires a small percentage of people, these people are likely to be in the parts of society where hope is most needed as a valuable currency.

For me the best part is that the nightmare that was George W Bush can shortly end, and not just end with a tailing off, but end with a full stop. The end. Finito. I truly believe that people will look back on his time in the White House as some of the darkest days of American history. America needs hope and positivity right now, not just for themselves, but also to restore their lost goodwill in the rest of the world, and Obama is the right choice at this time. Huzah!

The Results Are In: Obama Wins!

Yay, Obama! Unfortunately, that’s only for the first town in America to open it’s poll.. Dixville Notch. the 21 registered voters gathered just after midnight and declared themselves overwhelmingly for Obama, in a town that has consistently voted Republican since 1968. Now if this result were to be repeated across the US today we could expect Obama to win in a landslide, taking 71% of the vote.

Of course anyone with even a slightest understanding of statistics will realise that one small town of 21 voters is never going to offer a reliable poll for the whole nation. Still, we can but hope – and with McCain now fervently spouting Obama’s ‘We need change’ slogan himself, you can only agree with his obvious endorsement of Obama’s presidency. So off you go good gentlefolk of the fine United States, head to the pools and do some good for yourselves and the rest of the world today.

Almost Votin’ Time – Please Vote Obama!

As the US election nears I’m getting increasingly fearful that McCain/Palin will win. Personally, like the majority of my US friends, I want Obama to win – although that is mostly a “please, no more Republican evil!” knee jerk reaction, there is now some sense in my head that Senator Obama is a strong orator who doesn’t rely on feel good bull-sh*t like his opponent. That and McPain/Palin seem to be running on a ‘dig more oil’ and ‘attack more countries’ policy more than anything else these days. Oh, and don’t forget ‘Joe the Plumber’!

Here’s the rub. To folk outside the US who’ve never lived there it may come as a surprise to learn that most Americans are reasonable folk, who love their families, support charities and just want a good life. They aren’t all part of gun-toting, lynch mobs. However the vast majority of Americans also watch Fox and other hyperbole spewing mega-media corps who firmly want the Republicans to get in. Sarah Palin looks good on TV, and her ‘straight talking’, ‘hockey mum’ appeal seems to be having a big effect.

To really understand what Americans are subjected to I suggest us Brits regularly watch The Daily Show on More4. You will be shown, to comedic effect, the bizarre ramblings and contradictions of the politicians who are vying for the US votes. Thankfully for The Daily Show writers the McPalin bandwagon is a comedic goldmine of repetition, slogans and vilification of that ‘terrorist’ Obama. Watching this will show you how good the Republican strategists are at working the fear in many Americans minds into something firm they can latch onto – amazingly this fear isn’t translating into ‘we need someone to lead us out of this credit crunch’ it’s translating into ‘Oh please no baby Jesus, don’t let that evil Islamic terrorist Obama into office or we’re all dead!’. Fear is a powerful weapon. It’s the weapon of choice for the dark side and it’s the weapon of choice for the Republicans. Fear leads to simple slogans sticking in the minds of the populace, as it feels like a solid rock to hold onto.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, they like to be reasonable about everything. Liberal even. Or as McPalin is now saying – ‘socialist’ – a word that strikes fear into every ‘right thinking’ American’s mind. Ooo! Socialist.. that’s like ‘Communist’ isn’t it? No. They’re very different. However the Democrats will stay reasonable, pointing out the reasonable flaws in the McPalin sloganfest, and presenting a reasonable, considered approach to how the country might be run – including potential compromise where appropriate, or change if necessary. This is not a message that fits nicely on a bumper sticker, or that resonates with those folks who it needs to resonate with. They’re still stuck on Obama’s colour… not that they’re racists! Oh no, it’s just he’s one of ‘them’.

So you see why I’m a bit worried about this election. Last time two rich, white guys went up against each other – and the Southern, war monger won against the successful businessman. This time an older, white war monger with his trophy VP is going up against a black, educated, intelligent, charismatic, black man and his older white VP. I know who I’d like to win, but my money would have to go on evil winning again if I was a betting man, or if I had any money during this greed induced recession to waste on betting…

All of you in America. I implore you. For the sake of your children, and the chance to bring your once great country to the forefront of world politics again for positive reasons (not just because you’ve bombed poor people again). Please vote Obama, and get your friends and family to vote Obama. Look in your own heart and see if you’re being racist – be honest now. If you think Obama is either a terrorist, Islamic or ‘one of them’ then you’re racist – sorry, that’s the truth. Of course if you want to vote McCain for any other reason than that then go ahead, it’s your free choice. Just don’t expect me to feel sorry for you when you wake up in the morning, and look over on the other side of the bed and go ‘Oh wait. Did I vote for him lat night? I’m never drinking again…’

Stephen Fry’s Love Letter to America

This Sunday, for those of us in jolly old Britland, Stephen Fry is embarking on the first episode of his love letter to America – which should be a jolly good watch and probably a lot better than the watered down distress visited on us by Little Britain USA (sorry, Matt and David – it’s not your best work). In a wonderfully long blog post Stephen explains where his fascination with America came from, the near chance that he could have grown up in America had his father but taken a different career decision. Having found this out at age ten the young Stephen, or ‘Steve’ when effecting an American accent, would imagine how his life could have been had this choice been made differently. Now the adult ‘Steve’ Fry gets his chance to share his effusive joy and wonder about the country that might have been his but isn’t thankfully for all us Brits who consider him one of our brightest treasures.

Is this how the Republicans plan to win the Electrion?

In the US, Republican contender John McCain has suggested that the US lift the moratorium on off-shore oil production to ease the current fuel ‘crisis’ and current President and lover of oil companies George W has jumped on the bandwagon. Both of them contend that opening local oil production is the only feasible solution, one that the Democrats constantly block in Congress. Hmm… sounds like the start of a new, engineered crisis for the Republicans to use to make the Democrats look bad and win the election to me. Last time it was the ‘War on Terror’ (TM), this time it will be ‘The Worsening Fuel Crisis’ (TM).

Of course the Democrats will always face an uphill struggle in oil addicted America, in their efforts to convine normal folk that cutting back on gas consumption is a good thing. Do we really think that someone who buys a Hummer would believe converting it to run on fuel cells or vegetable oil is a good idea? Unlikely. Maybe the real question is in whether or not the current administration has been using their connections in the oil industry to slow down oil production and engineer this crisis themselves, while lining their pockets with additional dollars in the process. A nice little bonus on your way out of the White House, certainly more lucrative than writing an autobiography.

Colbert back on the Air

Even though the writer’s strike is still on the ever awesome Colbert Report, along with other less wonderful daily shows (sorry Sandra), is back on the air. Woo! Of course now that I’m living in Montreal without cable I have no way of knowing how amazing Stephen is being without a script… unless of course there was some kind of way to see him on the internet or something… Nah. That would never happen because that’s why the writer’s are striking… Oh wait.

And that was a standing ovation of over two minutes… only slightly spoilt by the geeky overweight guy saying ‘I love you, Stephen!’ at the end. We get it. We all love him. He knows, we don’t need to tell him. Doi.

America’s Sicko Health System

Just saw Michael Moore’s latest expose on the American health system – Sicko. A great film from Mr Moore, incisive, emotional and as usual he manages to bring up 9/11 as often as a Republican Presidential candidate, hopefully to more positive ends. The subject of the film is America’s singularly unique approach to healthcare – privatization to an extreme degree. Every US citizen has to pay for their healthcare in monthly payments to private organisations, although more normally this is through their employer. Should the inevitable happen and they need to go to the doctor, their HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) has to pre-approve any charges raised, from the consultation, ambulance trips, x-rays and everything. This all sounds a great win for private industry and free choice (the positive view on HMOs) until it goes wrong and the company’s bottom line becomes more important than saving lives – the situation Moore says now exists.

I’ve had to go through US medical treatment a few times now, with varying levels of medical cover. The first time was due to an icey slip into a puddle which resulted in a sprained tendon that took an age to heal but no major operation thankfully. The slip also resulted in about $5,000 in medical bills from a few hours of emergency room checkups (that weren’t even that quick). Luckily this was all covered, but it would have been an unwelcome cost should my HMO have decided not to pay out. In Moore’s movie the many ways that HMO’s avoid payouts and the impact on peoples’ lives is gone into in detail, often heart wrenching detail as death is regularly involved. Unsurprisingly the government’s link with big business is singled out as a driving factor by Moore, and his old pal George W comes in for the usual treatment.

Having revealed the warts of the US system, Moore then proceeds to wax lyrical about overseas systems based on ‘socialist’ practices – ie, taxes pay for everyone’s health cover however poor, all are equal. Canada, Britain, France and Cuba are examined and Moore acts out his country’s amazement on how well these systems work. As a Brit I know the British system isn’t as wonderful as Moore makes out, but I’m glad we have that rather than the US system. Equal healthcare for all is a wonderful thing, as none of us know who will be unlucky in the good health lottery.

Sicko is a great film, more emotionally wrenching than his previous offerings and a lot more human while staying political as only Moore can. Generally the US doesn’t get much sympathy these days due to its oil driven global policies, but this film reminds us that the citizens of the US are often the ones who suffer. Hopefully this movie will help drive positive change for all.

Disclaimer: Many years ago I did some work for Humana, one of the HMO’s mentioned in the film. In fact when you watch the film and see the ridiculously huge and be-marbled Humana offices in Louisville, look at the small brick building to the right – that’s where we were working.