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Speechifying

I haven't watched Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. I might or might not get around to it. But I have watched my Twitter feed and it's been awash with people who loved Clinton's speech and couldn't praise it enough. A subset of this group was the bunch of Australians, especially journalists, who saw it as a masterclass which Australian politicians would do well to learn from.

Which may well be true, but I think people got pretty carried away, particularly at the point where a good speech starts to be read as some sort of evidence about the political process. One message, I think from Latika Bourke, said words to the effect of "Julia and Tony take note - a good old-fashioned speech like Bill's beats a scare campaign any time".

But... does it? The actual politicians in the US don't seem to think so, because there's plenty of scare-campaigning - about Medicare, about debt, about Mitt Romney's background - going on. …

Australia and the US

I don't know how to feel about this.

On the one hand, I'm no massive fan of America and it's not very consistent with having a proper, sovereign national identity to just let another country use us as a staging ground for its imperial ambitions. On the other, America has bases in Germany and in lots of places which aren't obviously just cravenly giving in to US wishes.

And there are reasons to support the US alliance and help it achieve its goals in the Asia-Pacific. It's a good idea to have a situation in the region which prevents war from breaking out. US forces as a kind of containment might achieve that, though they might also just be antagonistic. More narrowly, it'd be nice to have US forces to hand if Australia faced a defence threat.

Judicial Review

Earlier this week I did a debate about the election of justices to the US Supreme Court. Whilst I don't actually think that's a particularly good idea, the case we made in favour of election contained a lot of elements that I agreed with. Essentially I am broadly suspicious of judicial review, particularly as applied to striking down legislation that has been passed. This kind of review generally involves considering a law against a constitution or some higher law. I have a couple of problems with this.
Firstly, it's not clear why the democratic wish of an electorate for a certain policy should be overruled by the caveats decided upon some lengthy period of time earlier. If Australians want plain packaging for cigarettes, or Americans want healthcare that involves compelling people to buy insurance, the fact that constitution-writers didn't think those were good ideas doesn't seem a particularly legitimate reason to prevent modern citizens from implementing them.

Not-Romney 2.0

It’s official.  The all-important New Hampshire primary has been followed by what Stephen Colbert called “the all-important-er South Carolina primary” and Newt Gingrich has blown away any hope that the front-runner might actually get out in front and leave us alone until election-time-proper.
The received wisdom for most the pre-pre-election-race-race was that Mitt Romney, establishment candidate and (reviled) moderate, would ultimately shrug off a series of Not-Romney candidates and come through the primaries a clear winner of the candidacy.  That remained the received wisdom for a good two weeks into the actual pre-election-race-race until two things happened – a rich casino owner chipped in a lot of money to fund attacks on Romney’s erm, wealth, and a moderator chose to open a debate with the story of the day about Gingrich’s infidelity.  The ads seem to have been successful, Gingrich hammered John King for even thinking about the question, and the rest is history.  So after Rick Pe…