Hard News by Russell Brown


Foreign Affairs

Having readily conceded that there are others more skilled than me at the popular parlour game "how many slush funds does Winston Peters have?", I cast my eye further, and it lit upon Barack Obama in Berlin. I watched the highlights of his speech to 200,000 Berliners and was moved.

You might look at the text and decide it is a string of platitudes. Perhaps you're right: but it's a better class of platitude than we've had in a while.

The irony, as Fred Kaplan pointed out on Slate, is that the US political commentariat has supposedly been perched on the edge of its seat waiting for the inexperienced senator to utter a foreign policy gaffe since his tour began -- while his veteran opponent has committed a series of blunders that might make you wonder if he could find the Middle East on a map. Seriously: the "Iraq-Pakistan border"?

Polls nationally and in key states largely favour Obama, but we must bear in mind that John Kerry was polling very well four years ago, and still managed to lose to a chump. But even though they voted twice for the chump, it is still hard to credit that Americans could elect a candidate as manifestly inadequate as McCain. Not when the generational shift in party allegiances is bedding in, and when even Republican voters are despairing of their country's direction.

And why not, when Ford Motors announced a loss of $US8.7 billion? And that's not an annual loss -- it's the loss in the last quarter.

Pew has a table showing where economic confidence has most grievously collapsed in the past year (Britain and the US) and where it has notably held up (China).

Also on Slate, a helpful annotated Venn diagram of Bush White House scandals, from torture to wiretapping, which finds Alberto Gonzales in the middle of everything.

And finally, two tunes on Hype Machine: a strange and wistful version of 'Guns of Brixton' by Calexico, and Amanda Blank guests on a Diplo remix of Santogold's I'm a Lady with lyrics borrowed from LL Cool J.

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