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The Blog That Ate Everything

One (or rather two) of the most interesting and appealing things about blogging is its immediacy and its brevity. Why wait a day for a full-scale investigation into a story by a national newspaper when you can read a journalist's opinions on it straightaway, and in just five minutes?

Then I come in and cock it all up by blogging regularly once a week and at great length. I suppose one way of looking at it is that I'm stripping down the boundaries, man, and I'm not restricting myself to a blog's... restrictions. But alternatively, it might just be that I trust my readers to have good attention spans and a good enough memory to return later if they're short on time.

Why am I saying this now? Because, writing a piece on American politics as I speak – well, not literally, since I'm obviously writing this as I speak and as it happens I'm not actually speaking at all – I can tell you that it is going to be epic. There's just too much to say. Sorry.

So if you're looking for a quick opinion on the American presidential election, here it is: I am expecting and dreading a Republican victory. But if you want a bit more than that, read on. And if you don't have long to read this, as you are perfectly entitled to be, what with this being a blog and everything, you can always take a look at the other stories and bookmark the first one for later.

Hell, who am I to give you advice? This blog is for you, not me. I hope you enjoy it. Until next Sunday then.

McCain in the fast lane but no home straight yet
God Save The Queen
Medicine flatlining in the comedy stakes
Alex Ferguson is a tosser
Admin: a word to the wise

McCain in the fast lane but no home straight yet

No blood on the carpet, but then it wasn't that dirty a fight. The first televised debate between John McCain and Barack Obama has been and gone and there was no clear winner. It was a surprisingly clean affair, with Obama's assertiveness, using the words "when I'm President", seeming a bit incongruous in a debate between two candidates striving to seek legitimacy rather than state a case for election.

Whether this will last remains to be seen. But equally fascinating were the shenanigans on McCain's side beforehand. The Republican candidate tried to postpone the debate to allow a greater concentration on the current financial crisis. He did not succeed.

It may look like weakness, but trying to delay the debate was actually a very shrewd move by McCain. Not only did it give the appearance of a candidate in touch with the common man worried where his money's going; it neutralised the blow the financial crisis has had on his campaign by showing that he acknowledged the problem and wanted to resolve it straightaway. Obama, on the other hand, was in danger of appearing a power-hungry outsider not interested in the people he wants to lead.

But he pulled it back with aggression and good old common sense. You want to help the economy, John? Don't we all? But people want to know – now – what you're planning to do and I don't see why that should happen behind closed doors. Doing two things at once is an integral part of leading the country and hey, if you're not ready to do that, I'm happy to step in.

The bail-out is interesting. It looks like a bit of a rabbit out of a hat, but it was always on the cards. Matt, the cartoonist in The Telegraph, drew a fantastic cartoon, reproduced here with thanks, that sums it up quite well.

And the debate itself? Well... it's complicated – which is why analysts are choosing to strip it down by saying that McCain won on the all-important foreign policy front, but it was essentially a draw. I'm not sure about that. Obama made the better points but McCain made the better appearance and sadly, that's what's going to count. I would say that although neither candidate emerged a clear winner, McCain probably just edged ahead in the stakes.

He drove home the experience card. I mean, he rammed it home. Everything new that Obama suggested was brought back to his alleged inexperience, and although that is his stock response, McCain was able to highlight

his own experience to bring up good decisions he made on foreign policy (apparently there are some) earlier in his career. At one point he reacted to Obama's plan to negotiate with foreign threats by saying, "So let me get this right: we sit down with Ahmadinejad and he says, 'We're going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth' and we say, 'No, you're not'? Oh please." That was damaging. Even though McCain was parodying Obama's supposed naïveté to an extreme, it made the Democratic senator a laughing stock in the hall and suggested he's... well... just too nice to tackle terrorism.

McCain automatically has the problem of having to admit to mistakes the Republicans have made in office, but he's somehow working it to his advantage. "We Republicans came to power to change government, and government changed us." Humility, however false. If Obama points out errors made in the Bush administration – such as landing the country in $700 billion of debt – then unless McCain is personally involved he can reply, "Yes, we've made mistakes, but I can change that", or even "I regret that mistake but I've learnt from it", bringing him back to the advantage of his experience. He also wins the award for stating the obvious: "We cannot allow a second Holocaust – let's make that very clear." Thanks for that, John.

And most powerfully, he can rally the troops. He used the debate over the financial crisis to say he has a fundamental belief in the American worker, whom he claims is better than any other in the world, to pull America out of this hole through sheer hard work. Who cares that an individual's hard work can't pull a country out of a $700 billion debt? McCain realises how much sweat I put into my job. He's on our side, unlike that black commie. I'm great! We're great! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Combine this with Obama's perceived class-related elitism and you have a problem: how can he win the blue-collar worker away from 'working man' McCain? Yes, this is bollocks, but that's their respective reputations in working-class America.

Obama's wry humour on politics can not only undermine him beside McCain's serious 'I care about American people' approach, but also appear patronising. Saying things like, "We had a 20th century mindset that basically said, 'Well, you know, [Musharraf] may be a dictator, but he's our dictator'" can come across as belittling the American public, suggesting they can't understand global politics without it being dumbed down, and however true that may be, that's not an image you want. It's a shame, because Obama has a head for a great turn of phrase, but his superb rhetoric may well act against him, not for him.

He also stuttered a bit in the debate, which I wasn't expecting, and has the unfortunate verbal tic of saying "y'know" a lot. However quickly he says it and however hard he swallows it, that "y'know" makes him appear less confident and less certain about his views. McCain's catchphrase seems to be "I'll tell ya", which is a lot more grabbing. Amazingly, his is often the real oratory.

The fact is that McCain 'won' the debate, at least on foreign policy, because he connects with more Americans. If one candidate responds to a question about Russia by talking about energy resources, and the other says he looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters: a K, a G and a B, guess which will have workers talking by the water cooler about him. Yes, it's cheesy, yes, it's glib, but it's popular and it's going to win him the election.

I'm sorry. Excuse my pessimism. But mark my words: come Christmas, John McCain is probably going to be President of the United States of America.

We're in trouble.

God Save The Queen

Not another poll saying the Tories are ahead of us. I'm not holding a bloody election. I'm Prime Minister, not Cameron. We need to do something. What do people care about? Quick, Bryant, hand me that Daily Mail. Ah, the monarchy, eh? Very well – let's do something about it. That'll show 'em who's boss.

After a constitutional review by MP Chris Bryant, the Government is planning to rejig the way succession of the throne runs in this country. The law stating that Catholics cannot be King or Queen, and indeed that anyone inheriting the throne must make before parliament a declaration rejecting Catholicism, is to be thrown out, and so too is the requirement that the crown is automatically passed to a male heir. This means that Prince William's firstborn would be monarch upon his death even she was female.

It's a sound suggestion that obviously makes a lot of sense – there's no reason why even monarchy, the least democratic concept in the country, should be party to sexism and Catholic-bashing. I'm sure it's news that thrills Catholics and women alike, not to mention Catholic women. Finally, that insurmountable barrier is gone. They too can be Queen.

Hang on one crazy little minute though – don't you still have to be part of the royal family to do that? Isn't there some sort of requirement for someone to be born to a monarch to become one? Isn't this basically a minor amendment to an undemocratic system, perpetuating an antiquated outdated practice through supposed modernisation, and probably designed to get people behind the Labour Government again even though it affects them in absolutely no way?

I do love how people are celebrating this 'widening out' of succession, as if anyone can be King or Queen of the country now. It doesn't quite work like that. And it's a bit stupid to claim the current rules prohibiting women and Catholics from taking the throne 'clashes with the Human Rights Act'. The whole bloody idea of monarchy clashes with the Human Rights Act. Stop trying to polish a tiara-shaped turd.

Still, it's just making it fairer to those who are in line to the throne, and that runs deeper than you might think. The current law banning Catholics from the throne also applies to sons and daughters of Catholics, and those who marry them (honestly, this makes Catholics sound like mutants or something). Earlier this year Princess Anne's son Peter Phillips married Autumn Kelly, who was baptised a Catholic. He would have lost his place as 11th in line for the throne (blimey, that was a close one) but Kelly recanted her Catholicism.

Things have changed a little since the days of Thomas More. Put a crown and a sceptre in front of a wavering Catholic and they might just do a quick St. Peter impression – Jesus who?

Medicine flatlining in the comedy stakes

Are you CTD? An FLK? NFN? How about GROLIES? Let's hope not. But rest assured you won't be for long – these abbreviations are falling out of fashion.

In medical circles these terms used to be thrown around like confetti, but apparently, no longer. Since you ask, they are acronyms used to describe patients, and just to warn you, most of them aren't that positive. CTD means 'Circling The Drain' (as in, dying quite rapidly), FLK means 'Funny-Looking Kid', NFN stands for 'Normal For Norfolk' (nice) and the innovative GROLIES denotes the description 'Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt'.

Clearly these are brilliant, and should never fall out of fashion. My favourite was once DTS, used to describe obese patients. It means 'Danger To Shipping'. Now, though, I have fallen in love with the medical phrase TEETH, an abbreviated form of 'Tried Everything Else; Try Homeopathy'. One more secret of the medical world blown apart there.

But these acronyms aren't being used much any more, and who can be surprised? We live in a compensation culture: if you can sue somebody, you sue somebody. Twice. Surgeons are in constant fear of losing thousands if they don't get an operation exactly, perfectly right; why are they going to take risks with their job, reputation and wallet by calling a patient 'GPO' (Good for Parts Only)? What if the patient finds out? The doctor's immediately trying to settle out of court.

I don't know. Modern life is just ruining medical comedy. To quote Thornton Reed in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace: "The main reason I went into [medicine] was for the laughs – that and the pussy, and the pussy dried up a long time ago if you get my drift."

Sorry. Please don't sue me.

Alex Ferguson is a tosser

I've never liked Alex Ferguson.

When I was a naive young Spurs fan (i.e. from toddlerhood up until a few months ago, when I tore up my figurative season ticket through protest at how the club treated Dimitar Berbatov) I became increasingly frustrated with Manchester United grabbing last-minute equalisers/winners against us in the eighth minute of questionable injury time, and for this I blamed Ferguson's obvious manipulation

of referees and referees' assistants. Add to this his supreme arrogance, his absurd excuses and above all his incessant whining about referees being biased against his team – even though United have clearly had more luck with decisions than any other club in the world, ever – and you get a man that I would immediately consign to Room 101 without a second thought for his family, his friends if he has any, or the mistreatment of a grand Orwellian concept by BBC television.

But in recent months and years my intense hatred towards this waste of human tissue has been quelled slightly by another manager of equal detestitude (yes, I made that up). Arsene Wenger. Never before has such a whining hypocritical coward walked this Earth, and frankly I find it hilarious whenever Arsenal lose just because their manager is an arse.

But Ferguson's comments after their 2-0 win over Bolton have brought it all flooding back. Manchester United got a dodgy penalty after a fantastic tackle by Jlloyd JSamuel of JBolton was adjudged to be indecent. United took the chance and took the lead after an hour of being held at 0-0. Bolton boss Gary Megson called the decision "absolute nonsense" and "an absolute howler" (someone give the man a thesaurus). Ferguson responded, "I was surprised because it looked as though their lad got a foot on the ball," then, "But Rob Styles turned us down four or five times last year so maybe it is payback time. But he still owes us another four."

SHUT THE HELL UP. There is not some great conspiracy against your team, Fergs; on the contrary, referees have spent the last 15 years losing themselves in your colon. If it's beginning to even up now (I'm told decisions have finally been going against United) then that's justice, and to be honest, not enough of it. Rob Styles has not been giving bad decisions against Manchester United, and if he has it's pathetic bringing it up now. Let. It. Go.

I've never liked Alex Ferguson.

Admin: a word to the wise

Sorry, just a brief bit of shopkeeping. I have recently undertaken a new university course and for my studies I will need to keep a blog. It won't be in the same vein as Huw Davies' Week Spot, and it won't be updated only on Sundays. It will be on this site, or perhaps another site connected by an internal link, but I will endeavour to keep it separate from this review of the week's events. So if, in the next few weeks, you see a new section to this blog, don't be scared - it's all part of the plan.


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The Blog That Ate Everything + TIME