January 5th, 2008

Fawlty Towers

On sweltering weather and vast wastage of money

Well, Melbourne sure has been sweltering this past week. New Year's Eve struck 41 - and was still over 34 at midnight! - followed by 40 on New Year's Day, almost 36 yesterday, and today crept just past the 37 mark. Apparently it's going to be 24 tomorrow though, so make sense of that. For those of you still living in the Dark Ages in the US, 37 is 100 Fahrenheit, and I believe 41 is around 106-odd. Thank goodness this is just a dry heat; it's damn warm but you don't feel like dying, thanks to the absence of the sticky and mightily uncomfortable humidity that typifies Queensland summers. So, Victoria gets points there.

It seems that even in this part of the world, news about the Iowa caucus is rather inescapable. As much as I wish Kucinich were a viable candidate, I am delighted to see Obama emerge victorious and hopefully that will give him the boost he needs to take New Hampshire in a few days. What, however, strikes someone such as myself as truly extraordinary is that this is the first week of January, and yet we won't have a final outcome until early November, and even this time next year, the Dear Shrubbery will still be in power! From afar, the election process to gain the US Presidency is frankly a bit of a curiosity, something peculiar to stare at for a bit and shake your head in wonder. I live in a part of the world where the date of the election is not even announced until six weeks beforehand, and thus the formal campaigning is rather limited in duration. Now, since the date of the election must fall on a Saturday during a particular period roughly three years since the last election, there's naturally some moves being made as the announcement of the date becomes progressively more imminent, but it's more subtle and the floodgates don't open until six weeks prior. What's more, there's none of this jockeying for candidacy as the Prime Minister is simply the head minister of the party that achieves a majority in the House of Representatives. Given all of the campaigning that had already taken place last year, it feels to someone such as myself that the Iowa caucus should have been the US election itself and you almost start wondering why Obama hasn't been sworn in yet.

One other thing absolutely blows my mind, and even more than how drawn out the process is - namely, just how much money is funnelled into this, even into the marginal candidates who don't have a snowball's chance in hell of even competing with the lead candidates, let alone actually gaining the nomination. Once everything's said and done, I'd love to see a comparison of how much Labour's successful Australian election campaign last year cost compared to how much each Democrat and Republican nominee spent simply in campaigning for the primaries. I don't doubt that the latter will cost more than the former. It makes me sad really, that there are people out there with so much money to burn yet so little clue what to do with it. You could probably fund a year's worth of food for an entire small African country! And the wonders this money would do if it were pumped into health or education ...! Instead, all that money is going to waste on campaigning - and barely 15% of the people eligible to vote actually turn up. What a waste. Though given how the US seems to be in a permanent state of somebody campaigning for something, voter burnout would hardly surprise me.