Obama, Rundle, Crikey, First Dog and US08:

Virginia Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle08: Tears and laughter. This is what Obama means” (yesterday, item 1). I am preparing for many changes to my life in the post election world. Nothing has prepared me for possibly losing the whimsical, insightful, sharp-edged, poetic and harsh beauty of the writing and insights of Guy Rundle and his Great American Journey. His personal reflection of cheeseburgers feeling like “…the host, like the body of Christ. It was a sacrament, the incarnation of all those things you’d seen on the recently-coloured TV screen” may find him momentarily in confession — forgive Me Lord I know what it is I was thinking. I hope Crikey is buying Mr Rundle a holiday at any destination, at any hotel, with any pampering he desires to thank him for an extraordinary American journey full of insights and emotion, crazy poetic whimsy, piercing critiques and an otherwise extraordinary journalist triumph without rest over months and months.

Take a dollar or three from every subscriber to thank him. May he not be lost to us, as we need our own Australian Journey — for him to prod and poke and travel and show us our own realities, frailties and indulgences. Let him show us the real Kevin Rudd Australia or the Nathan Rees NSW, a fertile place for Rundle’s suburban insights. Thank you Guy for an amazing brilliant tour de force. How you are standing or alive given all you have been through is a miracle!

Graham Ringer writes:

Now the US election is over I will miss my daily Rundle. Do you think you could find another election somewhere in the world for him to cover? And then another, and another?

Jeremy Apps writes: And so commences the Talking Heads, the Pundits, the Screamers and the self-appointed spruikers of Real Politick who seek to build the straw man on which they fervently hope to torch the symbolism that Obama represents. But those who regard symbolism as a dangerous and avoidable indulgence fail to recognise that it is the one distinctive thing that separates us from all other species. It is in symbols that we build our sense of purpose and identity; it defines our humanity and blankets us from our most profound fears whether used for good or ill.

The elevation of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States is far more than a simple albeit powerful political appointment by a single nation amongst a world of many nations. It is profound, it is symbolic, and speaks to so many on so many levels, not only in the United States but around the world. Adherents to the Real Politick should take solace in the fact that Obama has proven by his words and actions that his worth runs far deeper than a keen talent for oratory. Below the eloquent surface resides a serious and pragmatic intelligence; an intelligence, shaped with compassion and empathy, that will be all the more powerful for that eloquence, an intelligence that will serve the United States and the World well.

It is a myth that where the United States goes, so goes the World. The last eight years has put paid to that particular delusion. The true power of the United States lies not in what it does, but in what it allows to be done. It requires a generosity of spirit and a wisdom that sees value beyond self-interest alone; the Real Politick, if you like. Obama symbolises this hope. To my mind, the power of symbolism can be no more deeply expressed than to recognise that in this one singular collective action, the United States has done far more to progress the cause of Democracy than any number of bullets can ever hope to. It is an irony that has already paid too great a price.

The World, after far too many years, can finally dare to breathe again.

Cathy Bannister writes: It takes a while for the implications of the election to sink in. Just think: the whole juggernaut driven by the Bush doctrine is over. America will pull out of the useless war in Iraq, and won’t even consider wasting young lives in Iran. We’ve now got the best chance we have that climate change will be slowed. Compassion and tolerance will be shown, not only to those still locked in Guantanamo Bay, but also to American citizens, whose working conditions are near slavery.

It’s not just that Barack Obama is black. He’s calm and inspiring; a conciliator, a diplomat and more than anything else, intelligent, and oh, my God, haven’t we craved that? No more George Bush and his blind allegiance to evangelicalism. No more Rumsfeld, no more neocons. Thank you to the Democrats who had the confidence to vote for Barack Obama in the primaries. And a million thanks to Michelle Obama and the girls for lending the world this wonderful man.

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 5). First Dog your cartoon yesterday was brave and generous of a new spirit we have come away with after Obama’s election. This wasn’t any old fashioned political victory — Wednesday was a spirit found or re-discovered or able to shine again in Americans — which was seen within the faces of most Americans for the world to see. It became a victory with others and for others … not just Americans.

My oldest friend is a native South African who has grown up in Australia most of his life — his is now 40 and strong — and from our early days as kids the Berlin Wall was one thing, and Mandela was off the radar of possibility, but a black President as the leader of the free world?!? So thanks for your cartoon First Dog — you spoke for us all and those too nervous to speak such a thought. And I cherish your election buttons to-boot!

Kayt Davies writes: Simply thank you for Wednesday’s coverage. Guy Rundle, First Dog and Obama’s speech so promptly delivered. Awesome. Worth the whole year’s subscription and more.

Race and politics:

Despina Anagnostou writes: Re. “Obama, race, religion and Albrechtsen” (yesterday, item 27). While I agree with Bernard Keane that Albrechtsen’s obsession with Obama’s race unfairly causes her to neglect other factors that influence voters, I think that it deserves a little more attention. Obama’s ethnic background is important, because he gave minorities proof that an African American (as he identifies himself) was not just qualified for President, was not just the best candidate for President, but that he could, with their support and the support of others, make it. Wake up call to Albrechtsen: this hadn’t happened before, and it’s an issue. It’s weird that in over 200 years of federation, only white men had been elected to its highest office, and while it is sad that it’s a big deal to be black and President, it is.

That said, Obama won because of what he believes and because he inspired people — and yes, including a minority who were finally moved to vote — to support him. Many voters were thrilled that the best candidate was African American; this has to be distinguished from voting for him because he was African American. To accuse Americans of overlooking healthcare, education, what is left of the economy, the environment and all other issues that they hold dear, just to elect some random black guy, is a preposterous proposition, and shows just how narrow-minded Albrechtsen — and not your average US voter — is.

Niall Clugston writes: Bernard Keane’s claim that “Albrechtsen won’t let us forget about Obama’s race, even if the vast majority of Americans thought race was neither here nor there” is belied by the constant stream of commentary from the USA that makes precisely that connection. Obama’s win is certainly a win over bigotry, both anti-black and anti-Muslim. But it is hardly a win for substance. Few of Obama’s supporters cite his policies or his acumen: it’s always his rhetoric and charisma. The messianic quality of his election is disturbing, and First Dog’s cartoon is a case in point — anointing him as a martyr in waiting. Incidentally, his trajectory — like that of Colin Powell — is that of a successful migrant (or migrant’s child) rather than the descendant of American slaves evoked by the rhetoric of Martin Luther King.

Garth Wong writes: Of course the 97 % Black vote for Obama was racial. How can Bernard or anyone sensible deny that was the case?

Proposition 8:

Toby Fiander writes: Re. “Obama’s win could spell the end for gay marriage in California” (yesterday, item 13). Never mind Proposition 8. All the heat and very little was attracted to that debate. Proposition 11 got up, and that is much more important. Finally an impartial authority will establish the electoral districts in California, so that the parties can’t engineer a gerrymander so easily… and about time, too.

The Rudd agenda:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “The fiscal massacre that laid the Rudd agenda to rest” (yesterday, item 2). No Bernard Keane — you have brushed too close to those who are now the new Whigs. The measure of the man Rudd will be the implementation of his agenda — despite hard times. Bleating free marketeers are disgraced — it really is their entire fault! If the Liberal Party actually does not now disown them; if the Liberal Party still wishes to trumpet their fast waning message then, in turn, that party will indeed fulfil the Whig destiny. Now is the time for narratives, agendas, roadmaps — whatever the title, the plan and its implementation is all.

Forget deficits or surpluses, forget all else other than jobs, jobs, jobs. Create the jobs and feed the masses, stave off bankruptcies, and above all regulate so that this naked greed thing never happens again – at least not in this country. Rudd can become the Australian hero — or he can slide into oblivion like many others. This now must be the new/old era of controlled capitalism (competitive socialism also sounds nice) and that must now be his agenda. Free marketeers — as relevant as tomorrow’s Australian newspaper.

Jane Stephens writes: I was reading about the fiscal woes of the Government on your website and it occurred to me that they would save enormous amounts of money if they applied a means test to the Mental Health initiative. You see, I work at a psychology studio in the Sydney CBD and the amount of lawyers and other very wealthy professionals that come in on a mental health plan leave all of us very dismayed.

It seems that the people who can afford it most are the ones who are rorting the well-intentioned scheme (like the first home buyers grant, really) that had been pushed through parliament without closing the loopholes. How can someone on $250 thou a year need a $76 rebate on a $160 session fee? Paying with a platinum credit card then trotting off to the local Medicare office to claim! Unbelievable.

What the psychologists really dread is that the scheme, having massively blown its initial budget (1 billion I believe but my memory is faulty), will be revoked and the people who really need it will be left wanting. GPs who routinely put people on these schemes are pocketing the additional session fee at their end as well. I have seen some young girls put on a plan because they broke up with their boyfriend! Not unusually, they come once or twice then disappear. Hardly the description of bereavement.

Nobody has thought about the repercussions of going on a database for years as having had mental health issues, for insurance and the like, either. Over to you guys if there is any merit in it.

Ray Jones writes: Re. “Talk of recession as Swan fumbles the figures” (Wednesday, item 1). At the start of the year Messrs Rudd and Swan warned us all about “The Monster of Inflation” and the absolute need for them to raise interest rates. Everyone that was able locked in to fixed rate mortgage loans. Now the banks want to charge huge penalty fees to people who obviously want to get out. The majority of these people were spooked into locking in by the Government. The Government should help them get out. They should influence the banks to reduce or eliminate these penalties for those who got caught in the last six/nine months and are now locked in for years to come. In six months or so you will have a Cash Rate of 4%, a variable mortgage rate of 5.75% and a huge number of people locked into 8.5% plus.

Swan’s a goose:

David Lenihan writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 24). Rudd must now bite the bullet and promote Lindsay Tanner to the Treasurers position. He gave Swan a chance and while there was an improvement in his performance it was slight. Wednesday he was back to his woeful worst. Wayne Swan is probably a decent nice enough bloke, but he just doesn’t have it in him to go for the jugular and kick the bastards in the slats. Nice blokes don’t usually make for successful pollies, Kim Beazley came close but his nice guy, warm personality beat him finally. Tanner has the mongrel in him and a nice sense of humour to boot, Swanee sadly a comedian is not.

The longer Rudd takes to make a change, the more the Opposition will score off the Treasurer. 2010 looked to be a cakewalk for the Government; it could be a lot tougher given the change in playing surface. The PM is not making life any easier for his leading Ministers by continually playing the heavy, he just can’t help himself with a comment here, an announcement there, let them get on with it Kev, no one likes a one man band. If the PM must supervise and beat the drum he should start with banging Communication Minister Conroy’s tom toms. His communication skills have nothing in common with his portfolio; he isn’t doing the Government any favours at all.

ISP filtering:

Tim Errington writes: Re. “ISP filtering: who’s exploiting the kids?” (Tuesday, item 5). Won’t the Australian ISP filtering solution just provide an opportunity for an entrepreneur to set up a ‘proxy server’ business offshore, so that those who want access to the entire, unfiltered and uncensored web can subscribe and bypass filtering?

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name — we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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