Browsed by
Category: American politics

Clapping in Parliament: the dangers of a simple courtesy

Clapping in Parliament: the dangers of a simple courtesy

The other day, Bill Shorten was on the television giving his budget reply speech in the Australian Parliament. It was on in the background, far too uninteresting to pay attention to, until something happened. I heard what sounded distinctly like clapping, about halfway through.

At first, I thought I was hearing things – perhaps it had started raining? – but, just in case, I turned towards the TV and watched, until I saw the hands of MPs move in a motion that looked just like clapping. This didn’t take very long, as Labor MPs and the gallery that was presumably filled with ALP staffers were eager to put their hands together as often as possible. As I saw this, my instinctive response was that I was seeing something terrible take place. My second response was one of wonder that a simple courtesy often used to indicate agreement should provoke such a negative reaction in me. I went back and checked the treasurer’s speech, and found clapping there too, but only after the speech. This is true of both speeches in previous years as well, though only very recently.

There has, as far as I can tell, never been applause during a budget reply speech, which makes it rather seem like the ALP decided that they needed a helpful audience to make Shorten’s speech seem strong, and the Speaker let it happen.

So, what was it about seeing this practice that raised my hackles?

Photo: Kym Smith/The Australian

Read More Read More

In what universe is the Wall Street Journal ‘conservative’?

In what universe is the Wall Street Journal ‘conservative’?

Politico – a gossip rag dressed up as an important political news organisation – is generally more miss than hit, but an article of theirs caught my attention this week. It is, of course, related to Donald Trump, but focuses on how his campaign and victory affected American news organisations, particularly those traditionally associated with the Republicans. These organisations, Politico tells us, are ‘conservative’ news outlets.

The outlets most affected? Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.

Photo: GameRant

Read More Read More

A note on the foreign policy of President Trump

A note on the foreign policy of President Trump

My general policy with posts on this site is that I do not engage with day-to-day, ground level political discussion, which is often wild, misplaced and quickly forgotten. Do you remember what was dominating political headlines in your country a month ago? Two months ago? Six? I doubt it.

Occasionally, though, a situation will call for some comment, if only to set in place a guiding principle for you to bear in mind whenever similar stories come up over the next however-many years. One such occasion is happening right now, and it has to do with the foreign policy direction of the Trump presidency.

Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian governmental air base was, for the most part, strongly supported by traditional instruments of power, while being disliked by his base. Naturally, the question both of these groups have been asking since is ‘Is Trump going to become another ‘policeman of the world?’, which seems like a reasonable question on the surface, but is actually just the kind of wild, misplaced and quickly forgotten discussion that benefits no-one and achieves nothing, because on its own, it lacks any supporting statement. It has no thesis to work towards. There is no attempt in asking the question to view the actions of the US administration within a political framework.

Read More Read More

Venezuela’s Supreme Court and a history lesson

Venezuela’s Supreme Court and a history lesson

Former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and incumbent president Nicolás Maduro Photo: Getty Images

Venezuela has been in a downward spiral since the death of socialist icon Hugo Chavez in 2013. During his presidency, Chavez was a whirlwind of activity, using the price of oil to fund socialist initiatives in his oil-rich but poor nation, nationalising whole industries in the process. His death came at just the wrong time, as in 2014 the price of oil plummeted, and the country plunged into crisis, with food and medicine shortages. Chavez may have been able to troubleshoot the country out of the crisis, but his chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro, is a much more stoic, stable character than his charismatic ‘father’ – and therefore not the kind of person to fix an economic and political crisis such as this. Maduro has instead spent his presidency attempting to retain his hold on power while the nation’s economic and social situation continues to fall, strengthening his own position as president wherever he can while the people he is meant to be serving struggle to have food on the table and stay healthy.

The latest manoeuvre in this depressing story comes from the Supreme Court, which decided to revoke the legislative power of Congress (which now has an opposition majority) and take it for themselves, making themselves a legislative and judicial body. Because the Court is full of Maduro appointees that belong to the ruling Socialist Party, this would mean that Maduro, the head of the executive, has control of all three arms of government. Maduro reversed the Court’s decision a day later, but the scale of the backlash suggests that people find something distinctly wrong with the mingling of the judicial branch of government mingling with the legislative branch of government.

Read More Read More

Breaking down the results of the 2016 US presidential election (part two)

Breaking down the results of the 2016 US presidential election (part two)

In part one of our election review, we looked at the results of the election by state and region, and what they indicated for the Democrats, Republicans and third parties. In this second part, we will be looking more closely at some of the states that mattered, to discover exactly where it was that Trump won the election.

States are in alphabetical order. Maps are courtesy of the New York Times, voting figures are from the respective state electoral commission.

California

Dem – 8,753,788 (+899,503)
Rep – 4,483,810 (-356,148)
Oth – 943,997 (+599,693)

California stands out at this election for how unrepresentative it is of the election as a whole. It is one of only five states (plus D.C.) in which the Democrats gained votes and the Republicans lost votes, and the only of those states in which the Democratic gain was over 100,000 votes.

Unsurprisingly, the shift in the votes predominately came from the major urban centres. Amongst the inner-city counties of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara, the blue vote increased by 485,727, more than half of Clinton’s gains in California. There was also some increase in her vote in suburban/coastal northern California, with a collective increase of 146,277 in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo Counties. But it’s in southern and eastern California, traditionally stronger Republican territory, where Clinton made the most impressive gains. Removing San Diego and Los Angeles, her vote increased in SoCal by 236,937, including flipping Orange County with a 180,000 vote turnaround.

Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the OC is, I think, indicative of the enormous political shift that has occurred, as Orange County has not voted Democrat since 1936. It is reflective of both a cultural shift that has occurred within the county, and indeed across the other coastal counties, and also of a political shift that has occurred within the Republican Party, which is not appealing to these counties like, say, Mitt Romney was. On the other hand, Trump’s vote in Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino actually increased, while his overall vote in the counties he won was more or less exactly the same as it was in 2012. It was in the urban centres, where Clinton and the third parties gained votes, that his losses occurred, presumably due to the aforementioned cultural and political shifts.

Read More Read More

Breaking down the results of the 2016 US presidential election (part one)

Breaking down the results of the 2016 US presidential election (part one)

Having spent a great deal of effort in (accurately) predicting what would happen in the 2016 US presidential election, it seems appropriate that, now that we have the final numbers for said election, I should also break down those numbers, and explain to you what actually happened, and why.

As with my prediction, you will find next to nothing in what follows about day-to-day issues, such as the Clinton email investigation, or supposed Russian hax0rs. The reason for this is simple: they’re not that important. Trends across a group of voters, especially one as large as in an American presidential election, do a good job at preventing minor and last-minute issues from seriously impacting the result. Hopefully this will become clear to you as we go through the numbers.

In this introductory first part, we will be looking at the raw numbers and party trends. Regions are divided in accordance with the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Read More Read More

2016: The year that defines the next century

2016: The year that defines the next century

Last time, we looked at the possible reasons why the experts got 2016 wrong. It is now worth looking at what place 2016 may end up having in world history.

One of the few people to correctly predict that Donald Trump would win the election was Allan Lichtman, a professor at The American University. He uses his own methodology for predicting elections, built in the style of earthquake prediction. The reason, he says, was that the language we use for significant political events is mostly geophysical in nature: tremors, earthquakes, landslides, eruptions, and the like. I even used this language in my last post. Lichtman believed he could turn this into a system that would predict the winner a presidential election based on how stable the political climate leading up to the election was. Lichtman is yet to get an election wrong since creating this system.

If we were to take a similar approach to world history, 2016 could be considered a significant political-geological event. According to another university professor, it could well be the year of this century’s ‘Great Event’. Nicholas Boyle, a Cambridge historian, wrote in 2010 that world events were all pointing to an earth-shattering moment happening within the next decade. As proof of his thesis, Boyle pointed to similar ‘Great Events’ occurring in the second decade of each of the past five centuries.

Read More Read More

Why did the experts get 2016 so wrong?

Why did the experts get 2016 so wrong?

2016 was not a good year for political experts. To be fair, it’s not as though they had that many opportunities to get things wrong, but the opportunities they did have were highly significant: the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, and the United States voting for Donald Trump as their next president.

For the most part, the people telling us that it was not a good year for political punditry are the pundits themselves, who are also trying to explain how they were shocked so badly. These explanations have ranged from the sober to the shrill, and everything in between. But few, if any, of these really manage to fully explain why the people paid to tell us what will happen failed to correctly tell us what would happen.

I believe there are two fundamental reasons political punditry got 2016 wrong.

Read More Read More

Who will win the US presidential election?

Who will win the US presidential election?

This was originally posted on Medium on the 8th of November, 2016.

divided flag

How many words can be written about the 2016 United States presidential election that have not already been said? America’s penchant for long political campaigns often feels at least a little bit ridiculous, but conventional political wisdom has been totally thrown out the window over the past eighteen months. Within that time, billionaire businessman Donald Trump has gone from being ridiculed and joked about for running any kind of political campaign, to being within reach of being the next president of the United States. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has gone from being The Chosen One to looking seriously vulnerable. What we have now is a contest that is repeatedly being labelled ‘too close to call’, which is normally an annoying phrase that feeds the media narrative of a horse-race that doesn’t end up reflecting reality, but in this election may actually be true.

Such an election is worthy of a in-depth preview, and that is what I shall strive to give you here.

Read More Read More