Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Barack On Track

So, no surprise to learn that Barack Obama is forming a committee to formally explore a run for President. This has been on the cards since he spoke extremely well during the 2004 campaign. Many are describing this as Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare, but there are a number of reasons (highlighted here in October by Our American Cousin) that make it unlikely that Obama will win:

1) Senators never get elected, so it's a pointless discussion (the only one in the past hundred years was Kennedy, and his dad called in a few favours for that one). This applies equally to Hillary and was almost certainly at the root of John Kerry's problems at the last election.

2) Not proud to say it, but how does a guy whose last name is one letter away from Osama and whose middle name is Hussein get elected in a post-9/11 invading Iraq America? Forget black-white issues--will this country be enlightened enough to elect a man with an Arabic name (even if he happens to be a Christian raised in Hawaii and a descendent of Jeff Davis)? I'd like to think so, but we are talking about the same electorate who was easily convinced that a winner of the silver star and three purple hearts was a coward while a draft-dodger who didn't even complete his service in the Texas Air National Guard was some kind of war hero.

3) Everyone gets very excited about the chance to have the first African-American president, but, racial labels aside, I don't think that distinction really counts until the direct descendant of a slave is elected. As Thomas Sowell, among others has pointed out, basing racism on the color of skin alone often overlooks a cultural bias against "American" blacks in favor of relatively recent Caribbean and African origin. So in a country where a black kid is six times more likely than a white kid to go to jail for the same crime (and with the same record), we ought to be very careful about what is real racial progress and what only appears to be racial progress. Interesting also to note that the typical civil rights leaders such as Jesse Jackson have pointedly chosen not to support Obama with much gusto.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Harry Training For Iraq

It is interesting to see (here) that Prince Harry is training to go to Iraq and it says a great deal about his character that he seems keen to go with the guys he's trained with. It is likely that in the next few months, Prince William could be put in the same position. I cannot understand those who say that the second and third in line for the throne should not be heading out there in case they come to harm. Do we still believe in the 21st century that royal lives are worth more or less than any other? I will be disgusted if the MOD decide that either of them shouldn't go. I certainly hope that no harm comes to either, but I feel the same way about everyone that we have out there, from the cooks to the generals.

TV Predictions 2007

I am still in New Zealand, but heading back this week. Before I reconnect fully with the UK political landscape, I thought I might fill you in on two of my favourite television shows that are currently running in the US.

The first is 'Friday Night Lights' an amazing show based on the movie released in 2004 and the 1990 book by Bissinger. Ostensibly it is about a football team in a small Texas town, but for anyone wise enough to track it down, it is much, much more. It really showcases American TV at its best - terrific acting, great writing and superb cinematography. I have been glued to it all season and although I haven't seen anything about it being picked up in the UK, I urge you to hunt it out. It has had great reviews from critics although the US public hasn't quite warmed to it in the same way. I just hope they get into it soon and ensure that more episodes are made.

The second is 'Heroes'. I don't feel quite as well placed to comment on this one having only seen the first episode, but it is off to a great start. The premise is that there are a group of people brought together by newly found special powers. It is very similar to X-Men, but is done incredibly well and is focused on normal people rather than a breed of mutants. I think it is being picked up by the Sci-Fi channel in the UK and I will be tuning in regularly. It really deserves a wider reach and could end up being bigger than Lost. It was the most talked about US series on the internet last year.

Both of these programmes are from NBC and represent really exciting investments by this US TV channel. If only we had a true market based media in the UK...