Hasta la victoria siempre

I was initially a bit depressed to hear that Fidel Castro had passed away; then I remembered that, despite everything that the US had thrown at him since the 1950s, he had died in his bed, at the age of 90, with the legacy of the Cuban revolution more or less intact, which, all things considered, isn’t a bad result.


America – WTF dudes?

One more message to my friends in the US of A

I’m not usually one for superstition, but this worked in 2008 and 2012, so why take a chance?

[Thanks again to Matt Groening.]

I Wanna Be Sedated

There are about 24 hours to go until the less-than-edifying US Presidential campaign draws to a close, and the long-suffering voters finally get a chance to have their say. The national polls, tracking polls, swing-state polls, early voting indications and pundits all seem to agree that Hillary will win fairly comfortably, albeit not with the landslide that looked likely a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t think I, or the rest of the world, will really be able to relax until the final count is in, and even then the trouble may only be starting.

It seems unlikely that Trump will go quietly, but I think fears of widespread unrest are probably overstated. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that what Trump needed was a redemption narrative; he has, of course, been unable to grasp that opportunity, but the story can still work for the nation as a whole. Having flirted with, but ultimately rejected, the spectre of fascism, the US will be able to congratulate itself on still being that shining city upon a hill, the country that we atavistic Europeans can only wish we were, and carry on down the road of American exceptionalism.

It’s not all gloomy though; it looks like marijuana-legalisation measures around the country will pass, as the stoner vote, motivated by anti-Trump animus, turns out in greater than usual numbers. It certainly won’t hurt to have some extra calming influence around…

Half way home

I must admit that I mentally composed an “Unlucky Cubs” post after they lost the second game at Wrigley Field, but, fair play to them, they dug out the wins to take it to a seventh game, though they couldn’t resist giving their long-suffering fans one more bout of anxiety in the decider by blowing a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth and going to an extra inning, before finally emerging victorious.

I imagine the parties in the Windy City will go on for a while. I’m just hoping that one particular Cubs fan has another reason to celebrate next week too…

How ’bout them Cubs?

I spent a week or so in Chicago back in the early 90s, 92 I think it was. I have a lot of fond memories of that trip; early morning walks along the shore of Lake Michigan, late night music shows, great steaks, and a visit to the charming, ivy-clad arena of Wrigley Field.

I’m not a big baseball fan, but I did enjoy the game that night, or at least I enjoyed chatting to the fans sitting around me in the cheap seats, all of whom were keen to school an ignorant foreigner on the finer points of the sport, though none of them seemed to be paying a huge amount of attention to what was actually going on on the field. I think the Cubs lost, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits, and I ended up going out for a few beers with the locals. I have a vague recollection of a bar with a goat-related name – possibly “The Goat” – which years later I realised was probably a reference to the infamous curse. The night ended with me sleeping on the sidewalk because I had missed the curfew at the youth hostel, which wasn’t a joke in Chicago in April, but it felt like it was worth it.

Anyway, it’s good to see the Cubs finally back in the World Series, though it’s not looking too promising for them so far. I hope they turn it around, and give those fans who welcomed me 25 years ago something to cheer about.

Change don’t come easy

The third and final Presidential debate turned out to be a bit anticlimactic. Donald Trump actually performed relatively well, by his own low standards, managing to more or less focus on the issues, before blowing it at the end with his self-defeating reluctance to say he would accept the verdict of the very voters he was supposed to be trying to win over. Hillary Clinton, who, as all observers have noted, might well be struggling against a semi-competent opponent, once again had little to do but avoid disaster, which she managed with the ease one might expect from such a veteran operator.

The papers today have been full of hand-wringing about Trump undermining the traditions of US democracy, which I think is all rather overblown, especially now that he has started to walk back his “No Surrender” position. Hillary will win next month, and an exhausted electorate will move on. The GOP will regroup, and it will be business as usual by the end of the year, in Washington at least. There may be some grumbling from the disaffected elements that Trump has riled up, but they don’t constitute anything like an organised movement, so it’s unlikely to come to anything.

The best chance of real change probably lies in the remnants of the Sanders campaign, but that will be a long-term project. Hillary may progress some mild reform, but, whatever the right say, she’s no revolutionary. For the left, once the distraction of the quadrennial election has passed, it will, as ever, be back to the unglamorous grind of everyday activism, the sort of thing that actually gets things done.

He’s a poet

In an otherwise gloomy week there was one bright spot; Bob Dylan scoring a Nobel Prize for Literature. The somewhat controversial (but thoroughly deserved) award has had everyone quoting their best-loved lyrics, but I haven’t seen anyone mentioning my favourite, Motorpsycho Nitemare; one of the few songs where I can identify completely with the narrator.

Trumpocalypse now

Well, as I forecast, the Trump campaign has gone into meltdown, though I hesitate to claim too much credit for a feat of prognostication on a par with predicting that the sun will come up in the morning.

The election may be all over bar the shouting, but it does look there is going to be a lot of that before polling day rolls around, now that Trump has gone into full-on Nazi mode, railing against the vast conspiracy ranged against him, all orchestrated by shadowy “global financial powers” (hint: he means the Jews).

Trump’s strategy to consolidate the angry white male vote is not completely insane; as Nat Silver has shown, if it was up to the guys he would be a shoo-in. Fortunately, the 19th Amendement is a thing (however much the alt-right wishes it wasn’t), and the rest of the world can breathe easy knowing that the distaff side of the US electorate will keep us safe from disaster.

St Louis massacre

In news which has shocked – shocked! – the Republican hierarchy, it turns out that Donald Trump is an entitled, misogynistic asshole. Who knew? Despite Trump’s attempts to brush off the whole affair as the youthful indiscretion of 58-year old, it looks like this might be the point at which the wheels finally come off his increasingly unstable bandwagon.

If we were talking about anyone else but Trump, I’d say there was slim chance that the situation could be turned to advantage; Americans love a redemption narrative, and a display of humility and contrition at tonight’s debate might just be enough to persuade wavering conservatives to suppress their misgivings about Trump in the cause of keeping Clinton out of the White House. I’ve no doubt those of his advisors who haven’t yet jumped ship are begging him to follow that strategy, but I’m equally sure that he’ll ignore them and stick with the aggressive counterattacks that seem to be the only response he has to any adversity.

So we can expect an entertaining, if unedifying, spectacle in St Louis tonight; Trump becoming increasingly unhinged and incoherent, as Clinton stands back and looks presidential. If the GOP haven’t dumped him by this time tomorrow they might be looking at a defeat of historic proportions come November.