Friday 12 October 2012

Nobel Peace Prize has been a joke for decades.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 has, in the last hour, been awarded to the EU. For um, there not being war within EU countries since WWII. Of course, that has nothing to do with cold war geopolitics (and thus people being rather reluctant to go to war with USSR). Or Western Europe being generally pretty rich (lots to lose from war), like North America or most of East Asia today (other areas with little conflict since 60s about the time the EU was former). The Treaty of Rome, establishing the EU, in 1958 came some 13 years after WWII, and yet there was no major war. To claim that the EU was what caused peace since them seems rather bizarre, given this. Given the Balkans, where the EU at best stood back, at worst help generate tension, and the current strife in Greece and elsewhere within the EU, and EU support for dodgy groups worldwide; I see plenty of reasons why the EU definitely should not have won the award.

Most people understand that this is a complete joke of an award, but few people realise that the Nobel Peace Prize has been a joke regularly - going back decades. One of last years' winners Leymah Gbowee, stood for re-election even though initially promising not to, and has been involved in corruption scandals. Perhaps minor on the face of it, and happened after the award, but still something to consider. Then there's Barack "Drone Strike" Obama, who had done nothing but make one speech on reducing the number of nuclear arms worldwide, to win the 2010 prize - having been nominated, in fact, before he made the speech. He did nothing to earn the prize, and has done much since to discredit the award.

The recent trend may strongly suggest a right-on, left-liberal sentiment to the awards, especially when you consider Al Gore and the IPCC jointly won the award in 2007. Despite global warming not having a great deal to do with peace and despite Al Gore being Vice-President when Clinton was bombing Sudan etc. without the authority of Congress. De Klerk won in 1993 - whilst I understand the reconciliation needed, it is still quite sickening to see him win the award. In 1988 the award went to UN Peacekeeping Forces. Apparently soldiers who fought in the Korean war are peaceful. There are lots of others where the award seems dodgy, like the ILO in 1969, but perhaps the worst of all, was the 1973 award to Henry Kissenger, who played a key role in illegally bombing Cambodia, the 1970 incursion into Cambodia, leading to the Cambodian civil war and napalm bombing campaigns across Vietnam (as well as the deliberate flooding of land). Kissenger was given the award alongside Le Duc Tho for bringing peace to Vietnam. Le Duc Tho refused the award on the basis that there was no peace in South Vietnam. This view was proved correct, given that South Vietnam no longer exists.

The Nobel Peace Prize has long been a joke - the trend however, seems to be one of increasing ridiculousness. Just like the Economics prize.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Unpopular Politicians Liable to Fall

Following up on yesterday's post, I think there is potential for a few more fluctuations in the coming debates. Tonight's VP debate is probably not going to make that much impact initially (with Ryan likely to win), however, Ryan could easily give Obama some ammunition for further debates. As I said yesterday, Romney is highly unpopular. If Obama gets some "big hits", he could easily get a big swing back his way. The problem is, nobody trusts either candidate, and either, with a few fluffed lines, could throw it all away because of this. You can afford to look like an idiot, get stuck on a zipline and so on if people think you are honest and on their side. If however, they truly see you as a liar, a fraud who has wrecked the economy, gone back on promises, or simply don't have a policy platform at all, then your support base is going to be weak. Polls are prone to move.

What we see right now, is growing disdain, both in Britain and America (and other "western" nations - including Japan) for the political class. We have Ed & Ed, who were at the heart of Brown's financial failures on the one hand, and Cameron, who has time and again gone back on election pledges. Both are still in the 30-45% region in the polls (out of those intending to vote) - but a large segment of that amount, in each case, is soft support. A vote only when it comes down to it. This group is ripe for conversion to a new party, be it the Libertarians in the US or UKIP (and formerly the Lib Dems) in the UK - remember Cleggmania? 23% is what the Liberal Democrats got in the last election. They currently poll at around 8%, even though they are usually prompted. That leaves 15% moving elsewhere. Add to that the fact that turnout was only 65.1% and you see that, actually, there is huge room for a major shift in political alignment. Looking closer, many Labour strongholds only had 50% or lower turnout. Given that UKIP tend to do well in these areas (winning the 2009 European elections in Hull for example) - winning seats in 2015 in these areas is definitely possible, it is a matter of getting people to vote, showing that there is a party that will respond to their concerns. If Labour can lose 'safe' seats through higher turnout, then perhaps 2015 is not as easy to predict as people think. Just like the US Presidential election is still uncertain.

If the population - largely disenfranchised with the typical political options - is passively looking for an alternative, then the establishment should be a lot more scared than they currently are. If a real alternative can present itself, then it might suddenly be something other than an alternative. Those wishing to be the alternatives better get ready for when they are given the spotlight - one by election victory, one big performance somewhere, might just be enough. When the voters look to you, you need to be ready with a plan to take charge.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

US Presidential Debate and Polling - why the big shift?

In the recent US presidential debate (where the Green and Libertarian candidates were excluded, even though they are on enough state ballots to win), Romney came out on top. This happened to surprise many, and I don't really know why. yes, Romney wasn't the best in many of the Republican debates, but he appeared to win a few of them. More crucially though, Obama, really, has no leg to stand on, anywhere. Nothing he has done has worked, Obamacare (and more crucially the personal mandate) is a disgrace, and this is basically all he has done. The economy is in tatters (Obama said he would not serve a second term if he didn't fix it, yet he still stands). Unemployment is excruciatingly high, and underemployment is still higher. U6 (the unemployment measure that includes these underemployed), is 14.7%, and did not move when the recent "increase in jobs" was announced. People are taking part-time, often short-term jobs when they really need full-time jobs. The economy is nowhere near fixed, and Americans know it - 14.7% are out of full-time work.

So it was quite possible that Obama would lose in the debates, that is fairly easy to understand, especially as he hasn't faced a debate opponent in this format since 2008, Romney has. What people are trying to figure out is why, after the debate, Obama's lead in the polls disappeared. It is unfathomable to many that such a lead would disappear so quickly. As has been rightly pointed out, such a large move, this close to the election, is unprecedented. I am not at all surprised. Why? Because something the political commentators keep mentioning but still overlook. Nobody likes either candidate. One is a proven failure, the other nobody likes. The main reasons that supporters seem to have is that their candidate is not the other guy. A major part of this election revolves around Big Bird, showing just how close the two candidates are on actual policy. The reason the polls shifted so quickly was that, both candidates have a large amount of soft support. Whilst they might have a solid base of say 20%, most of the US electorate would like a different set of choices. One of my US friends (a registered Democrat), hates Obama and the personal mandate that is his only real success. Yet, despite this, he still finds Obama preferable to Romney. Nobody likes either candidate, people are ready to jump to another candidate very quickly - and this is why the polls have shifted so much.

This is why, getting Gary Johnson and the Green candidate into the next presidential debate is still important. If a 10% swing can occur in one debate, it can happen in the next, and with a real alternative, it might make a big difference. This is quite possibly what the establishment are so scared of - a real alternative might prove to be hugely popular if given the chance.

The same is true of the UK - most polling companies still include UKIP in the "other" category, often unprompted on phone polls, yet they are currently above the Lib Dems in many of these, or at least in the same region. It is about time that both American and British politics was opened up a bit.