Saturday, August 30, 2008

This Should Be Fun

Just recently we've had the spectacle of Global Warming deniers trying to claim that they are the true defenders of the enlightenment. I suspect that this isn't a line their American equivalents would run. The US Right is so interwoven with religious fundamentalists that even secularists don't want to claim the enlightenment crown too fiercely.

That's not true here. Australian fundamentalists are useful to the Right, but they are pretty peripheral, and not powerful enough to get offended when their allies start talking about the enlightenment as a good thing.

But the Australian Right these days is caught up in worship of Republicans. Most decry the fundamentalist wing of Bush's coalition, but also downplay it. In particular, they don't want anything to do with creationism, and want to pretend its not a crucial part of the movement they support. Bush, they say was in an alliance of convenience with creationists because of all the other things they had in common - he didn't really deny evolution.

So it will be interesting to see how they handle the reported fact that Sarah Palin is a creationist, as well as a global warming sceptic. It's no great surprise. In America the two usually go hand in hand. But its going to be fun watching the Craig Emersons of the world explain how it is the environmentalists who are the new church persecuting modern Gallileos, when the new standard bearer for global warming deniers believes the world was created in six days.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Is America So Bad At Sport?

Looking at the Olympics medal table I just can't help wondering "Why is America so bad at sport?" The question is seldom asked, and may seem ridiculous - America dominates world sport, dontcha know? They've dominated the Olympics since the East Germans stopped their cheating regime. Even with homeground advantage and 1.3 billion people China's trailing them in the medal count, although they have more gold.

Until you look closer. This is usually done with number of medals per capita, and that's kindof dry. So lets look at it this way - how would things be going if the EU competed as one team.

At the point of typing it would be US 14 gold, 12 silver, 17 bronze, EU 27 gold, 30 silver, 30 bronze.
Bit of a masacre really.

No fair you cry - The EU is bigger than America. Indeed it is. So lets cut it down to first nine nations to sign up, who happen to have a population very similar to the US. That brings it down to 19 gold, 17 silver, 20 bronze.

And this is just the summer olympics. In winter its not unusual for European nations with less than ten million people to outscore America. On a per capita basis including the winter olympics raises the risk of the ultimate humiliation, Americal being beaten on a per capita basis by Canada.

An alternative way to look at it is: How would America go if each state competed seperately. Well whichever one of Michigan and Maryland Michael Phelps chose to reprsent would be doing fine, but everyone else would be feeling pretty grim. Even California wouldn't stack up too well. It's not just Europe of course - Australia smashes America (and everyone else) on a per capita basis, as does South Korea. The Americans may beat impoverished nations (with a few exceptions like Zimbabwe) but that's about it.

Some argue that the problem is that teh best American athletes get snapped up by the big money in Basketball, Football and Baseball. Besides the obvious question why these sports are so much more of a threat than soccer, the fact is that this is a very gendered view of the world. Women athletes are financially better off in Olympic sports than competing in the amateur competitions in football or baseball. Yet America's women are bring home even less gold than the men (mainly for lack of a Michelle Phelps).

This isn't a bag America post. Australia places far too much reliance on sporting results for its national pride. Much better to lead the world in solar cell design or medial breakthroughs than following a black line up and down a pool. I just think its an interesting question.

When Britian's sporting results tanked in the 80s and 90s some lefties delighted in blaming Thatcher. Supposedly she had sold off the sporting ovals many poorer schools used, and this had made it harder for kids to take up sport. I'd love to be able to pin this one on George Bush, but I somehow doubt I can. Anyone with any ideas?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More Liberal Doom

Having for a long time hidden their declining numbers behind secrecy laws the Vic Libs are now letting it all hang out. Some statistics worth keeping in mind from today's Age (can't find online):

Of the 13,373 "members" almost 2000 became unfinancial recently. Presumably some of them just haven't got round to rejoining, but quite a few may never be back.

6% (not a typo) are under 30, while 27% are over 75. In other words their numbers will be below 10,000 in a few years. There's simply no way they will get the new recruits to replace those who are not long for this world.

A quarter are in 3 electorates - Kooyong, Higgins and Wannon. They don't have a single member or Kororoit. I'm not sure if there is a single seat where the Greens membership is zero. The Age mentions having just 153 members in Gippsland, but this doesn't seem that bad to me - its a National seat and I'd imagine there are plenty of people who will join whichever arm of the coalition is dominant there. But that would only depress their numbers in two seats. Clearly there are a lot of state electorates where they would struggle to have a viable branch going.

And On That Note

Highly relevant to the post below. Since the New Zealand Greens did not ignore the lesson of 1999. Since then they've worked hard to appeal to Kiwis living in Oz.

In the lead-up to this year's election they're even having campaign launches and fundraisers over here, including one 7pm Tuesday August 12 at the Horse Bizarre on the corner of Little Lonsdale and Hardware Lane in the city. It's a great little pub. Entry $7.

Global Voters

One of my obsessions at the moment is expatriates and voting.

Expats from democratic countries increasingly tend to be younger and more educated than the general population. If they don't already have a broader view of things than their compatriots before they leave the country, they sure do once they've spent some time overseas.

In other words they are the people most likely to be concerned about global environmental issues. They're also relatively likely to be concerned about war, human rights abuses, racism and poverty.

Exactly the sort of people I want to vote. Unfortunately most don't. A few have dual citizenship and vote in both their country of origin and of residence, but far more vote in neither. When they do, they can make a real difference. The New Zealand Greens only got MPs because in 1999 Kiwis living in Bondi and Brisbane lifted the Green vote from 4.8% to 5.2%, just above the crucial 5% threshold.

So I'm really pleased to see the Obama campaign is putting resources into galvanising this group, including Youtubes such as this and this (I forgive Gwyneth for taking the oscar that was rightfully our Cate's and giving that god-awful speech.)

I'd encourage beg anyone who is reading this to pass it on to any American expats you know. And if you're an expatriate from somewhere else yourself, remember for when your country goes to the polls. A network of people who care about two countries could be an essential ingredient in saving the world.