Families in the park. The struggle for marriage rights for same sex couples in the United States moves to Maine next month when voters at a referendum will be asked “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?” Governor John Baldacci signed the same-sex marriage bill in May but the law has not gone into effect, pending the outcome of the November 3 election.

The history of public votes in other US states on questions of marriage suggests that again the attempt to legalise gay marriage will fail but the way the question is framed at least raises some doubt in the mind of an Australian used to people tending to vote no in referendums. In Maine, a no vote will allow the same sex marriage legislation to stand with its opponents campaigning for a yes vote.

Both sides, I notice, are featuring happy family groups sitting in the park on their websites (Maine Freedom to Marry and Stand For Marriage Maine) which is a symbolism I don’t grasp. But I do understand the kind of message being spread by the yes campaigners with their story inside “of Robb and Robin Wirthlin who were shocked when their seven-year-old son came home from school in Lexington, Massachusetts and told them that he had been taught that a boy could marry another boy.” I hope Robb and Robin are careful with him in that park.

More popular abroad than at home. It’s hard not to get the impression that Barack Obama is far more popular abroad than he is in his own country when you look how his approval rating is tracking. The Gallup organisation has him back hovering about the 50% approval mark after jumping slightly after the President was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize.

That there is still some confidence that things will not get worse is provided by the figures at the Intrade prediction market where the probability is given as 65% that he will finish the year with an approval rating of 50% or more.

Reappearance of the genie. It was only 18 months ago that Treasurer Wayne Swan was worried about the inflation genie having got loose and now it seems that every economic commentator is rubbing the lamp to set the beast free again.

Some of the speculation about interest rate rises to come is starting to verge on the fanciful with people whose inability to make accurate predictions speaks for itself predicting increases of two, three or even more per cent by 2012.

Historically, it looks to me that real interest rates set by the Reserve Bank have been about one and a half percentage points higher than inflation. Currently the inflation rate is falling not rising and it should continue to do so while the Australian dollar remains so strong. So if you had to guess the inflation rate in a year’s time, where would you put it?

For my money I wouldn’t be above the 3% level, so an interest rate of 4.5% compared with the current 3.25% would be about right.

A delicious delight. I am taking a delicious delight in the thought of how Peter Dutton is going to explain to the voters of Dickson why he was so keen to desert them. Will he be telling them that they are not good enough to deserve him because he is a potential Prime Minister? Or will he just say that he is another career politician who thinks the world owes him a living?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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