Mag Talk: Talking The Economist
The Economist is like walking around holding a placard that says, "I'm educated and informed and therefore liable to be a bit of a tosser", so I don't make a regular show of this magazine indulgence, but I did for a moment feel smug sitting next to a snooty couple en route from Sydney with The Economist in my lap (neatly disguising the Grazia that lay beneath). Of course, they needn't know that I read over some of the passages twice to fully comprehend their meaning (I was sleepy, okay).
So, with all that time and cerebral effort, why not share of the fruits of this media engagement on the day of the U.S Mid-Term Election (my sole reason for scooping it up). Here's some of what The Economist and its stable of very excellent journalists has to impart:
"The likeliest outcome [of the mid-term election] is that the Republicans will take back the House of Representatives [435 seats in total] and make solid gains in the senate [100 seats], where, though falling short of majority control, they will effortlessly be able to block any bill they wish."
- Americans are angry at Obama.
The Lefties think he's piss-weak; the conservatives (see 'Tea Party') think he's a spendthrift (all those pricey health reforms); and "centrists", like The Economist, see "his skills as president falling far short of his genius as a campaigner". He is out of favour with big business, Silicon Valley and "middle America", which does not like uncertainty or economic hardship (presumably like the upper and lower parts of the American population!).
- But it's not all bad.
The magazine credits Obama, now 21 months into his presidency, with steering the economy away from a "much worse fate" with a "big, bold and immediate stimulus plan" and also for his attention to health reform ("he should probably have postponed doing so until the economy had recovered"), his "generally sensible decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan" and his political appointments (see 'Hillary Clinton').
- Rounding out.
Obama "inherited the inbox from hell" from Bush, says The Economist: banks to be saved from collapse, GM and Chrysler heading down the gurgler, climbing unemployment rates, unfinished wars and climate change... and then BP spilled a load of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. His health reforms have been controversial (unaffordable! unconstitutional!) and he's been described as "professorial and aloof". Can he redeem his presidency and win back the confidence of disenchanted Americans by the next election in 2012?
The Tea Parties
Nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland, apparently, the tea parties represent a growing conservative movement based on "small government, free enterprise and self reliance". Reports The Economist: "In primaries all over the country they have secured the selection of Republican candidates who are 'true' conservatives, not the big-spending counterfeit Republicans whom they blame for leading the party astray under George Bush... America's pontificating class is not yet sure how to take the measure of this strange new movement. Puzzled academics gathered last week at the University of California, Berkley, to ask, among other things, how tea-partiers were "tapping into and/or managing the populist, libertarian and radical currents on the right, as well as fear, anger and resentment among segments of the American public...".
Afghanistan and the Taliban
The Taliban are in talks with the "corrupt and shambolic" Afghanistan government led by President Hamid Karzai. "[The Taliban] leadership, partly based in Pakistan's province of Baluchistan, is believed no longer to have close ties to al-Qaeda, whose command is thought to reside in Pakistan's tribal areas... it seems unlikely that that the Taliban leadership would settle for less than the significant control over southern Afghanistan it currently wields." Despite NATO's 130,000 peacekeepers, and a recent surge of 30,000 American troops [Australia currently has 1550 diggers in the region], the Taliban has a stronghold in large parts of eastern and southern Afghanistan. In response to questioning about an Islamist acid attack on schoolgirls in Kandahar, a mid-level Taliban leader tells The Economist: "What else do they deserve? A good woman needs only Islam, not school."
And soon, back to Grazia...
Girl With a Satchel