Monthly Archives: November 2012

‘Skyfall’

Bond At 50 years

It’s hard to write something new about James Bond movies in light of 50years of Bond movies. One ca imagine it’s even harder to come up with a new script and a new threat. This current Bond movie is getting rave reviews from otherwise difficult-to-please people so it’s interesting that the Bond Movie that brings up the half-century is still hitting its mark.

What’s Good About It

Some of the action set pieces in this one are more visceral and tense than in ‘Quantum of Solace’. The title sequence is pretty cool, but maybe not as cool as the one on ‘Casino Royale’. That one was pretty special. At least in this one, like it is in ‘Casino Royale, the action has a sense of space and time in which things take place. The frenetic post- ‘Jason Bourne’ action seqeunces in Quantum of Solace were pretty ridiculous.

Some of the stunts in the earlier part are great. The action towards the climax seems more like a re-run of the sot o action we used to see in the early Die Hard movies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the context of a Bond movie. Bond is a man of action after all.

What’s Bad About It

It’s been said for many years that James Bond the character is a sociopath, and may even be some kind of psychopath. the man never really changes. The moments we’ve seen Bond change as a result of the action are few and far in between. The greatness of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ with George Lazenby lies with the ending which strongly suggests Bond is transformed. There really isn’t an equivalent moment in Roger Moore’s tenure, which in most part was about a glib one liner in the face of immensely awful violence.

Once again, having gotten to the third film, Daniel Craig’s Bond is showing the strain of being unable to transform. In the absence of the glibness he’s got fewer means to charm, and at this point in the Bond franchise, he’s actually a standout for having the least charm.

What’s Interesting About It

There have been all kinds of articles about James Bond in the 50th anniversary of Dr. No coinciding with this film. One of the most interesting was the graph put together in the Economist.

Look, I’m  no Nate Silver, but I do put trust in what numbers say about players. 🙂

As you can see, as thuggish as Daniel Craig’s Bond might seem, he had nothing on the kill total of the Pierce Brosnan Bond. The Bond with the least kills and by extension, the least action was Timothy Dalton, which tallies with my impression of his low octane Bond Movies. Craig’s Bond is about on par with Connery’ Bond in terms of kills per movie, which flies in the face of Connery’s complaint that Bond these days is about the killing. If Mr. Connery could have a whinge about Craig’s Bond using his own Bond as a yard stick, it would be that Bond seems to gets laid less and drinks more.

Moore’s Bond drank the least and killed fewer than Connery, Craig or ‘Killer’ Brosnan. I sort of expected him to get laid more, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. George Lazenby’s Bond had a better track record in his one appearance, than the averaged efforts of the others.

For my money, I suspect the Brosnan Bond movies are more up my alley judging from the body count – but I remember being so appalled by ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, I never went to see  the rest of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies after that; I gave up on Bond movies until they rebooted with ‘Casino Royale’. ‘Quantum of Solace’ sorely tested my patience. If the Brosnan Bonds are anything to go by, – and as Sick Boy observes in ‘Trainspotting’ one day you have it, and then you don’t – I wouldn’t put much stock in the next two Bond movies being any good, even with Daniel Craig doing his damnedest.

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Warriors Past

Restoration Of What Exactly?

Before I get into today’s entry, I just want to say I can’t stand the right wing nationalists in Japan. They drive around town in their black vans blaring their slogans and World War II era tunes that sound *terrible* through the megaphone speakers mounted on the roof. They create a commotion on crowded streets and really at their core, they’re just nothing but nostalgists in denial.

So, when 80 year old Shintaro Ishihara goes into a national election in Japan forming a team with the Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto and his Japan Restoration party, one can’t help but get a little suspicious of this so-called third force in politics. Indeed, in most modern (and post-modern and post-post-modern) democracies, the experience has been that the third force is invariably fascist, and conservatives are always conned into thinking fascists are the better allies than the old adversary, the progressives.

That’s how Hitler and the Nazis snuck by the deteriorating Hindenburg, and brought about the end of the Weimar Republic. I dare say the rise of the Tea Party on the back of sloganeering idiocy of the likes of Sarah Palin tells you just enough that there really isn’t much of a difference between the methods of the Nazis and the Tea Party. History tells us the third force is a collection of crackpots trying to disrupt the orthodoxy of the polity for its radical agenda.

In Shintaro Ishihara, we can see a man who is nostalgic for the kind of Japan that was a military power in the first half of the Twentieth Century, and it’s an uncomfortable sort of nostalgia because it means he has to line up with those morons in the black vans and their megaphones. Any person with a modicum of sanity and good sense would stay away from that mob, but alas no, Ishihara wants to get  third party going with the express hope of confronting Communist China.

This bring me to this column by Peter Hartcher today.

Hashimoto and Ishihara are taking advantage of a growing disenchantment among Japan’s voters with either of the major parties. But China, through its nationalist assertiveness, might be providing them with a new purpose and platform.

It would be a profound historical blunder if Beijing’s decision to energise and enlarge its territorial claims turns out to have not only alarmed its neighbours and reinvigorated US commitment to the region – it has already managed to achieve these unintended consequences – but to have remilitarised its historical enemy Japan as well.

The Japanese people favour their current constitution and oppose nuclear armament. But China is giving the neonationalists an opening and they are taking it.

In the 1980s, the first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once counselled against then-prevalent 1980s complaints against Japan’s commercial success.

”The Japanese are good merchants but they are better warriors,” he said. And he didn’t think Japan’s underlying warrior prowess was dead, only dormant. China should be careful it does not push its neighbours too far.

Those ghosts of the warriors are never too far away; and if you are Japanese, there’s something deathly compelling about some of the symbols.

Why, even today in the Sankei Newspaper, they are celebrating the last ‘operational’  Zero Fighter.

It’s exactly the kind of symbolism that stirs the hearts of nostalgists. I should know – it stirs something in me! And I’m not a nationalist – but I am a historian.

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Movie Doubles – ‘Terminal Trust’ & ‘The Three Stooges’

The Opposites On The Joy Scale

Today’s movie double is an attempt to talk about two totally different movies linked by only one tenuous link, euthanasia.

‘Terminal Trust’ was one of the featured highlights of this year’s Japanese Film Festival, which also saw the director Masayuki Suo and his wife and leading actress Tamiyo Kusakari make an appearance in Sydney. It’s a heavy film which negotiates the tough waters of how a doctor arrives at a point to administer euthanasia, and if that’s not heavy enough, it goes on to show how the prosecution system works in Japan, which is infuriating and frustrating. The film is on the whole, heavy, dark, depressing and full of protestations about the injustices of the Japanese justice system.

The Three Stooges on the other hand is a Farrelly Brothers movie. You know what you’re going to get – furious slapstick – and you get it in spades.

I will say this for the latter film: I was really glad to watch it straight after seeing ‘Terminal Trust’.

So… Euthanasia You Say…
‘Terminal Trust’ is an interesting movie in as much as it uses the important topic of euthanasia to vault into a deep investigation of the prosecutorial process in Japan. In that sense, euthanasia itself is what Hitchcock would have termed a maguffin. The film spends 2 hours going through a recollection to explain why the doctor finds herself in the office of the prosecutor, and it can be distilled simply as, she made the call for euthanasia when perhaps the circumstances didn’t quite warrant it; and yet she believed strongly that was what the patient desired. What follows is  45minute scene in the prosecutor’s office where the prosecutor bullies and browbeats her into signing a confession worded to suit his case.

In ‘The Three Stooges’, Larry, Curly and Moe need to make $830,000 in a hurry which invites the evil conspirators to hire Larry Curly and Moe to carry out a murder. The conspirators use the pretext that the husband needs to be euthanased, but he doesn’t want to see it coming. Curly responds by immediately pushing one of the conspirators in front of the bus, landing him in hospital. The Stooges then try to fulfill the mission by entering a hospital to finish off the job. What’s interesting in the sequence of events is that euthanasia is the implicit euphemism for murder.

And oddly enough that is exactly where both films land themselves. If euthanasia is interchangeable with murder, then it is no surprise that the doctor lands in front of the prosecutor, any more than Larry Curly Moe do their damned best to kill their target because they need to be euthanased properly. The grey area is amplified when the patient struggles in ‘Terminal Trust’ as well as the turtle-like resistance of Larry, Curly and Moe’s target.

The Law Is An Ass? It’s An Evil Motherfucker In Japan
I haven’t lived in Japan for so long it’s hard for me to get a feel for how courtroom dramas work in Japan or whether they even have those kinds of things. Japanese court scenes seem odd areas where the adversarial system seems to take some shape, but what I did not know until I saw this film is that Prosecutors get to:

  • summon their suspects (with a summons to which they must comply)
  • interrogate them without a lawyer present
  • write out the ‘stated confession’ on behalf of the suspect
  • make them sign it, even though it is not in their own words
  • use this ‘stated confession’ as the centre piece of their argument when the trial proceeds.

All of this is pretty frightening just to watch in ‘Terminal Trust’ and the director assured us that this was about par for the course, and this is why he is involved with the juridical committee for the Ministry of Justice in Japan, trying to propose changes to the law so that there is more transparency.

Because I’m so used to seeing lawyers in action in the adversarial system through western courtroom dramas, I was apoplectic with my “but, but, but where’s her lawyer?” shock.

Let’s be frank, it’s a brute violation of basic human rights; and yet this stuff goes on everyday in Japan. Which got me to be thinking, that if I were some kind of Yakuza crime lord and some prosecutor spoke to me the way they do in this film, I’d vow to kill the asshole. And then it occurred to me this is exactly why Japanese prosecutors don’t go hard at organised crime in Japan. They can’t beat a confession out of the Yakuza without endangering their own lives. Instead they beat up on the meek, framing them up for crimes they didn’t commit.

A typical example of this is how 4 people were hauled into the prosecutor’s offices because their email was hacked by some blackmailer. The prosecutor managed to force 2 of the 4 to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. And presumably he was going to wave this ‘stated confession’ around in court as his central argument as to why the innocent must be placed in jail. You wonder if these people ever read the work of Franz Kafka.

But it’s even worse than that. Once they get the suspect to sign the ‘confession statement’, they can then pull out an arrest warrant from the drawer, cuff the suspect on the spot and remand them for 21 more days for ‘questioning’ – before they see their lawyer. The Japanese police and prosecution boast of a 97% conviction rate – which is to say, they go after the soft targets and make them confess to crimes they haven’t committed and send them to jail, all the while letting organised crime flourish.

Some people came out of the screening for ‘Terminal Trust’ demanding that Japan change its laws. I’d have to say I was one of them. I was so revolted, I rushed home and put on ‘The Three Stooges’.

There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Terminal Trust’ is a very important film. It is immensely high-brow and so grave that you cannot argue with it; you are more overwhelmed by the massive legal edifice of how Japanese prosecutors do their dirty work

Fast & Furious Slapstick

In contrast to the high brow, high-minded ‘Terminal Trust’, ‘The Three Stooges’ is a decidedly low-brow, poke’em-in-the-eyes slapstick movie with virtually zero intellectual challenges in deciphering its meaning – because there is no deep underlying meaning. It’s just a showcase of some actors being able to duplicate the fast and furious slapstick routines of the original Larry Curly and Moe. The surprising thing is just how good they are at doing this ‘business’.

Watching ‘The Three Stooges’ took me back to moments from my own childhood when I used to watch this immensely violent psychotically hyperactive slapstick. The film was so evocative that the maudlin sentimentalism of the plot seemed to just float by.

What is tremendous about the original Three Stooges’ oeuvre is that their chaotic routines of poking and hitting and hammering and stamping on each other is not the result of comedy degenerating to slapstick, but a sign that the essence of comedy being  distilled to the point of its essential sadism. Consider a moment that comedy depends entirely on the creation of a victim. All the best jokes have somebody or something being the butt of the joke. With the Stooges, you saw the flip-flop of sadistic tormentor and  hapless victim swap between the three members at a phenomenal pace. The senseless sadism of Moe results in knocked heads, poked eyes, squeezed noses, pulled nose hairs and hair, while immediate retaliation from Curly and Larry result in misdirected blows hitting one another, increasing the cycle of violence.

In a sense the fast and furious slapstick routines are mini-critiques of social interaction as sadistic interlocution. Some weeks ago, I pointed to Woody Allen’s interpretation of the Three Stooges through the stylings of Truman Capote, and I have to say that Woody Allen does a marvelous job of connecting the apparent senselessness of the violent interplay with the apparent senselessness of a God-less universe. What draws me greatly to the Three Stooges and this remake at this point in my life is that I like the reification of violence, comedy, sadism and victimhood. The lower the mode of comedy goes (and the Stooges even in this incarnation are uncompromisingly low and nose-turned down), the more acceleration we feel towards the laughing end.

Or more to the point, if I were the doctor on ‘Terminal Trust’, I might have just stood up and poked the prosecutor in the eyes with my index finger and middle finger and then swiftly twisted his nose by pinching it between my index knuckle and middle knuckle with a  ‘Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk! Wise guy huh?’

…but that’s just me.

High Brow, Low Brow

It’s interesting how the higher the brow, the lower your spirits are when you come out of the movie. The lower the brow, the more uplifted you feel. What is that?

The modern incarnation of the Three Stooges is uplifting as ‘Terminal Trust’ is down-stamping.

Acting As Construct

The director of ‘Terminal Trust’ mentioned that the reason the prosecution sequence seemed to be more theatrical than the rest of the film where everything else was naturalistic had to do with the unnaturalness of the conversation that takes place between the prosecutor and suspect. The prosecutor is ‘acting’ because there is no way he speaks to people in his own private life like he does in the office.

This is an interesting notion because in ‘The Three Stooges’, Larry Curly and Moe stumble into a room and begin to blame one another for their failings, eventually launching into one of the most brutal-looking slapstick routines, only for Moe to find out they had done so in front of a casting crew for a reality TV show. The casting people assume that Moe’s persona is an act.

Now, we know that Moe in the context of the Three Stooges is an act; but this is layered on by the fact that the Moe we’re seeing is not the original Moe but an actor playing a representation of the Moe character created by Moe Howard. Moe is then cast in a Reality TV show, where all the personae are masks of some kind, representing yet another layer of acting in our society. There are layers upon layers of ‘acting’ that you actually find it hard to parse which bit might not be the acting.

The more serious a film gets, the more the acting tends towards naturalism. A serious film cannot withstand the indelicacy of a schtick or an artifice. The less serious the tone of a film,  comedy seems to gain power by layering levels of acting upon the characters. This may be why there are so many comedy pieces through history where characters pretend to be something they are not. We watch, not for the Cathartic denouement, but for the Cathartic rupture of laughter.

Anti-Catholicism

If you look around the net a bit, you’ll find that there are complaints about ‘The Three Stooges’ being ‘Anti-Catholic’. This may be true, in as much as one of the nuns gets portrayed in a bikini as a babe, while another nun is a truly repugnant sister Mary Mengele, played by a man.

However, I’d like to point out some things…

  1. The Catholic Church did support the Nazis against the Communist Soviets and then helped many Nazis escape to South America.
  2. The Catholic Church is against euthanasia.
  3. The Catholic Church is lucky the film didn’t portray the priests fiddling with the orphans in their care, given the dire history of such things in the real world.

Now, I’m not anti-Catholic myself (“some of my best friends are Catholic!”); I’m totally outside of this issue, but I do think that if you are a worldly power, sometimes you just have to cop it sweet when you’re made the butt of jokes. Complaining about it makes you look worse.

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The Zero-Sum World

The Energy Limit To Growth

One of the notions being presented as the reason growth is hard to come by in the post-GFC world is that the energy costs are too high. Take for example this article here from some outfit called NEF.

The gist of the argument is that as the cost of oil itself rises, this rising cost limits the capacity for growth. Advanced economies are more likely to feel the pain as crude oil hits the $90 per barrel level while China can allegedly still handle a rise of up to $100-110, but the projected price of oil is going to be more like $180 a barrel. In other words, pain is on the way.

The silver lining on all this is that it may actually prompt the world to move away from its heavy reliance on hydrocarbons, but the transition away from hydrocarbons is going to be pretty expensive.

What all this points to is that the size of economic growth in coming years is going to be much smaller than before the GFC, and this render the world economy a kind of Zero sum game where somebody’s gain is going to be somebody’s loss. In the past, this kind of notion was pushed aside because economic growth had a way of making the pie bigger, rather than splitting the same pie in different ways. Indeed, if there is one reason why economic growth was valued so highly by our societies in advanced economies is that as long as there is growth, it staves off the zero-sum game.

The problem then in the zero sum world is that anybody who gains is doing it at the expense of somebody else. Take labour costs for instance. When people like Gina Rinehart bang on about productivity, what she’s really saying is she wants to pay less for the labour component of the production of her mined commodities. It’s the fault of the unions (and by extension the ALP) that won’t allow her to make more of a buck per ton of coal and iron ore.

If she were to have her way, the miners would get a pay cut, and she would get to have more of the share of the sales (did we mention the bit where she ants to have her profit taxed less?); and this pay cut represents an increase in productivity. Much of the third world  understands this as the garment factory that comes from America to exploit child labour and families in sweatshops, far away from the advanced economies, out of sight – and they want this business.

However in an advanced economy, any increase in productivity would mean the lengthening of the unemployment queue because there aren’t any growth industries to absorb the unemployed. In advanced economies, people are less flexible to move from one specialised sophisticated area of work to another; which makes it even more unlikely for people who lose their jobs to productivity rises to find new employment.

The bottom line is that ‘big government’ models where we pay welfare to the people who are forced out for the sake of these productivity rises are going to find it financially tough without raising taxes; while ‘small government’ models will have a greater disparity of wealth in their societies leading to instability. You can pick either option but in a zero sum game, somebody has to lose, and somebody is going to be unhappy. To be honest, I don’t know if people will want to really go down the avenue of the ‘small government’ only to find social instability and a replay of the French revolution on the cards (just look at the Arab Spring and the end of Gaddafi) . Even the recent election in America points to a picture where the kind of economic fascism advocated by the wealthy was put back in its box.

Gina Rinehart should really be careful what she asks for with her rants about productivity in a low-growth environment. If she has her way, she may be contributing to sticking her own head on the metaphorical guillotine down the track.

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A Tough Spot

Fair Game

This business of Julia Gillard in her time as Slater and Gordon lawyer and union apparatchik just keeps going on. The most interesting bit of information was brought to light on the 7:30 Report wherein an old colleague of hers at S&G Melbourne pointed out that she did after all, leave under a cloud.

LEIGH SALES: Today you’re releasing an extra section of the transcript of the Gillard interview at Slater & Gordon. What does it show?

NICK STYANT-BROWNE: What it shows is that Ms Gillard claimed at the interview in 1995 that the first she heard about the Slater & Gordon loan for the acquisition of the Kerr Street property was around August of that year. So, her claim is that the first she heard about the fact that the loan for the Kerr Street property was a Slater & Gordon mortgage was not until August of 1995, the transaction of course having taken place in March of 1993.

LEIGH SALES: OK. You’ve also released other documents. One is a fax from the Commonwealth Bank to Julia Gillard. What, in your opinion, does that show?

NICK STYANT-BROWNE: Yeah, I haven’t released those documents, Leigh. Those documents form part of a conveyancing file which are now matters of public record. So they are from the conveyancing file which Mr Blewitt consented be released and made publicly available. Now what those documents show is that there is no doubt Ms Gillard knew of the mortgage from Slater & Gordon in March of 1993. And just to give you some examples, she personally arranged for the mortgage insurance for the Kerr Street property through the Commonwealth Bank and a letter was faxed to her on March 22 of 1993 from the Commonwealth Bank marked for her attention noting that the insurance had been renewed and further advising that the Slater & Gordon mortgage interest was noted on the policy of insurance.

That’s actually a bit of a problem. If Ms Gillard was living in the house with her live in boyfriend who got a mortgage and she didn’t know from whence it came, it strikes one as being entirely out of character. By Julia Gillard’s denials, we’re being asked to believe that she didn’t know, didn’t ask, didn’t care to ask, like somebody with fairly impaired critical thinking faculties. Maybe that’s true, but then I would find it very frightening that such a person was the Prime Minister of the land.

It is far more believable to say she knew these things. If she didn’t know for sure, she intuited them – and then lied at the meeting with the partners. The rest of that transcript makes for some interesting reading. In a nutshell, she knew and lied to the partners, and there’s really no other explanation for it. So this thing isn’t going to go away, now that there’s solid evidence that contradicts her account.

It seems odd that we’re raking through this grubby business in union land almost two decades ago, but let’s consider for the moment the retroactive scrutiny Tony Abbott has received for his boorish behaviour at St John’s College at the University of Sydney dating back to 1978, and you’d have to say this was fair game. My own intuition says this business really won’t go away and that the Prime Minister is on a hiding to nothing trying to stonewall it with denials. You get the feeling that the young Julia Gillard was somebody who thought nothing of circumventing rules and regulations. If I’m getting that impression, I think the electorate is going to look to really dump her at the next polls.

UPDATE:

Peter Hartcher has this article this morning in the Sydney Morning Herald.

So while he did not challenge the Prime Minister’s version of events, neither did he mount a rousing defence of her. The political significance of this was not lost on Gillard’s caucus, which is increasingly uneasy about the matter.

There is much detail but three central questions that Gillard will need to answer next week. Gillard has said she had no knowledge that Wilson stole the money and used some of it to buy a house in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

So the opposition’s first central theme will be to demand to know what did Gillard know about the conveyancing and how much was she involved in the house-buying transaction? Did she know the source of all the funds?

Its second central theme will be to demand to know whether she received any personal benefit?

And third, the opposition will take up Gillard’s account of events in which she discovered in 1995 that she had been deceived by her conman boyfriend.
Why didn’t she report her discovery to the AWU, or the police, or help recover the money, the opposition will want to know?

The questions next week will overshadow any good news of the government’s achievements. And its very existence could depend on the quality of her answers.

That seems like it’s going to be not much fun for the government. Combined with the fiasco unfolding in NSW over Eddie Obeid, I won’t wonder what on earth brought the ALP to this point, but you realise it’s history and vested interests. It’s not absolute power that corrupts absolutely; it seems anybody who is corruptible, will necessarily become corrupt on their way to power. One shouldn’t be surprised to find that Julia Gillard had her moment in the corrupt soil of a corrupt union.

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BrisConnections Update

They Should Get Out Of Forecasting

This BrisConnections thing was pretty interesting a few years ago, but now the privately owned tunnel has hit the wall.

BrisConnections shares went into a trading halt on Monday, November 14, at 0.4¢ each, when the board announced the $4.8 billion project could now be worth less than its outstanding debt, due to lower than expected traffic flows. It is now renegotiating with a 10-bank consortium of lenders. Two directors, Andrea Harcourt and Richard Wharton, resigned on Monday.
Back in 2009, Mr Bolton made front page news when he called a BrisConnections shareholders meeting to vote on winding up the project.

Here’s Nick Bolton with the crux of the problem:

‘‘A tunnel can cost seven times more to build than an above ground toll road, and a driver is unlikely to pay seven times the toll to travel on it.  Accordingly, it is almost impossible to get the economic argument to stand up for private ownership of tunnel infrastructure,’’ the Melbourne University drop-out turned internet millionaire turned celebrity investor told BusinessDay.

‘‘The concerning element is how neatly the traffic forecast seemed to fit the financial model put to investors, and how grossly inaccurate this forecast has turned out to be.  It’s worthwhile asking why that traffic forecast was selected, and whether there were any less optimistic forecasts available to the Directors at the time.’’

All of which is eminently sensible, and has been shown in court that entities such as Macquarie Bank continually use the same model to suite their purpose when raising money for these crappy schemes.

In fact the scuttlebutt doing the rounds is that Infrastructure NSW used the same ‘forecasting’ system to run their argument in favour of their ‘WestConnex‘ pitch. If that were the case, then we’ll probably end up seeing yet another replay of the Cross City Tunnel, Lane Cove Tunnel and this BrisConnections misadventure.

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Obama Wins

Not Even Close

Keep Calm

For some weeks we’ve been hearing that the race was neck and neck and that the popular vote reflected a deeply divided America. Of course, I’ve been following Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com for a long while and it’s been clear for some time that Obama’s actually been ahead.

The little dip you see is after the first debate where Romney beat Obama, but even then the electoral college count never went below 285.

Nate Silver’s tracking of polls

As you can see in the third graph, the popular vote was tight, but then that’s been what most pundits have been focusing on, saying it’s neck and neck. If anything, Nate Silver’s charts clearly show that Romney was doing a bang up job securing his base without making any headway into the crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That brings me to this bit in this coverage here:

The Republican failure to topple a president who was perceived as weak and divisive is expected to provoke a blood letting in the party.

The battle lines between those who say the party became too moderate and those who believe it is too radical are already drawn.

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95% of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough, ” the Republican senator Lindsey Graham told Politico, last week.

That’s really interesting right there. If the Republicans thought they were in it since the moment they nominated Romney, then they were very misguided; and the reason they were misguided is because they took the popular vote to be more important than what the distribution of the electoral colleges were going to be.

It’s surprising that these people who are in a political party and therefore should understand how the election works, should have looked at the numbers Nate Silver was looking at. Silver had Obama beating Romney in a fluctuating zone of 59%-91%. Amazingly, some people thought Silver was pumping for the Democrats but right now as of this writing, Obama has 302 of the college votes, which means Silver has been as accurate as he was last time in 2008.

Which leads me to the point. How can these Republican types even be in politics if they don’t understand how their own system works? It’s not the raw popular vote. It’s how the votes are distributed across electorates that matters.

Which leads me to the next thing in the live coverage that got my interest:

If you want to get a strong feel for the demographic current underlying this election I strongly recommend Ron Brownstein from the National Journal who has been reminding readers for months that this will be the last election that the Republicans can attempt to win with a majority of white votes alone. It was a big risk that Obama took when he decided to embrace gay marriage, push back hard on efforts to restrict abortion and contraception (including a very public stoush with the Catholic Church) offer up a partial amnesty to young illegal immigrants and effectively concede non-college educated white men to the GOP. Instead of a coherent national message, the Obama campaign has stitched together a rainbow coalition.

So far tonight, it is looking like the risk paid off.

That’s a really interesting point about the demographic right there. It goes hand in hand with Bill O’Reilly – he of the awful, awful, awful, spin-ful Fox News – having a whine about the death of the White Establishment. The 2008 election was a watershed because there were more urban voters than rural voters for the first time. This time, it became the election that could not be won by appealing to the White voters’ racism alone.

And so the Republican Party clearly is at at the crossroads. They’ve got the wrong end of the demographic and going harder to the right and more conservative and more ideological is not going to get it done for them in coming elections. The curiosity now is how long they are going to persist with their dalliance with the irrational, Ayn-Rand-ist, racist, retrograde, ignorant and fearful Tea Party.

Judging from the number of Senate seats lost by Tea Party, it seems clear that the Tea Party is not going to come out of the 2012 election with any amount of credibility within the Republican Party. This is where it gets interesting. Fox News was already denouncing the Tea Party blaming them for Romney’s loss – which is ironic because they’re the very same people who gave so much air time to these crazies. Fox News may have successfully polarised the electorate through misinformation and propagandeering and generally misrepresenting arguments; but this has not translated one bit in to votes that mattered. If the way the swing states voted for Obama is any representation, then it is clear the biggest disservice done to the Republican Party might have been the blatant partisan-ship of Fox News. And if the demographic shift says anything, it is clear that Fox News’ own viewership is a shrinking demographic. I wonder how Rupert likes the sting in that tail.

UPDATE: Obama finished up with Florida, winning 332 electoral votes in the end.

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