The S word returns. The dreaded socialism has returned to Australian political language or, more likely, it never went away. National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce has declared his party to be “agrarian socialist” in an article written for the Sun Herald in which he ponders how the Nationals and Liberals will merge together — “a party based on agrarian, socialist principles”, combining with believers in pure market principles. “The Nationals believe greed is a higher order driver than market principles and market power ultimately destroys market theory,” Senator Joyce wrote. “The Liberals believe the market will look after you; the Nationals believe, unguided, it will walk over you.” It really will be an interesting union if and when it happens.

The inconvenient truth. In the United States Senate last week they spent three and a half days debating proposed legislation that would have required greenhouse gas emissions to be cut 18 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and nearly 70 percent by mid-century. And the end result of all the talking on what was supposedly a proposal with bi-partisan support? Absolutely nothing. Debate was cut short without a vote on the substance of measures which, among other things, would have capped the production of heat-trapping gases and forced polluters to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide. The subject will not be debated again until next year with the Washington Post reporting the outcome “highlighted the obstacles that will stand in the way of enacting meaningful cuts in greenhouse gases, even with a new president and Congress next year.”

Improving the cosmetics out west  The arrival of a Perth staffed Fairfax website WAToday has caused a belated cosmetic improvement in the website of The West Australian but little improvement to the content. The new Fairfax Digital offering has an editor and nine Perth based journalists trying to take advantage of the absence of news on The West Australian’s site until well after the paper itself has gone on sale.

Jim Webb favourite for VP. Barack Obama has the experts guessing when it comes to who he will choose as his vice presidential running mate. Our Crikey election indicator has as many as 13 people with a 2% chance or more of getting the nod and the consensus view is that there is more than a one in four chance that someone outside that group will be chosen. The early favourite is Jim Webb who is narrowly favoured over Hillary Clinton.

Candidate Probability
Jim Webb 16.2%
Hillary Clinton 14.7%
John Edwards 2.5%
Bill Richardson 6.6%
Al Gore 4.3%
Wesley Clark 3.4%
Mark Warner 5.8%
Evan Bayh 5.5%
Joe Biden 3.0%
Sam Nunn 3.3%
Ted Strickland 4.6%
Tom Daschle 1.6%
Christopher Dodd 1.9%
Tom Vilsack 0.8%
Bob Kerry 0.3%
Any other 25.5%

Richard Farmer’s “Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage”, “The most read stories on Australian websites” and analysis on “Politics and economics on the international newspaper sites” are now available first thing every weekday morning on Crikey’s website.

So if you’re drowning in a sea of morning paper and too tired to trudge the web in search of the juiciest of the commentariat then Crikey is here to help with a daily serving of the best in Australian and International media.