The Best of The Boxing Day Affair

Boxing Day at Eaton Center

Boxing Day at Eaton Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I honestly had so much fun doing this that I wish every day was Boxing Day.

On behalf of Generation X & Y Americans, I got our own back on those evil Emergency Broadcast System tests.

There’s my take on when you most definitely shouldn’t have a rap break. (Hint: I did a Post-Mortem about it)

Lots of political laughs and eye-opening thoughts with Westralians Rod Swift and Mel, and secession is only the tip of the iceberg.

So much was packed into The Boxing Day Affair on JOY 94.9, that only the best could make through to the podcast.

Special guest voice: Jean Chretien

Enjoy: The Best of The Boxing Day Affair podcast

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More USA Q & A: Election time

 

English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2...

English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections, using apportionment data released by the US Census Bureau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

For this edition of USA Q & A, I’m going to delve into elections in the US. I will try not be too partisan, but the disclaimer from earlier applies. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I am a registered Democrat and a member of the DSA and Democrats Abroad. If this topic really intrigues you, I would also suggest going to the US Consulate in Melbourne’s website as well, which will give a wholly non-partisan view.

 

 

 

Q: Why do US elections take so long?

 

 

 

A: Technically, they don’t.  After all parties have their respective conventions, it’s about a 2-3 month long process where all the candidates campaign. What turns it into a 2 year process is the selection of the candidate. Because there are term limits, at least every 8 years, both parties select someone new. Generally, there always has been a touch of the old with the new, with the incumbent Vice President stumping for the top job, but in 2008, Vice President Cheney opted not to run, and it was the first totally new election I can recall ever happening.

 

 

 

How candidates are selected differs from state to state, and it’s staggered. In my home state (and I’ll be elaborating on that shortly), it is an open primary which means anyone regardless of which party they belong to can vote for whichever candidate they want to represent whichever party, even if it’s one that they don’t care for. You can only vote in one party’s primary, but every election you’ll find party loyalists voting in rival parties’ primaries to better the chances for their party. The crossing over, however, never really amounts to much in the end, so ultimately it’s  party members and independents that decide.

 

 

 

The first primary/caucuses occur in January, and there’s a good indication of who the presumptive nominee is by April. It was not always this way, and not too long ago, you wouldn’t have any idea who the nominee would be until voting started at the convention. Personally, I miss those conventions as it made for interesting viewing (and it must be said that no matter how contentious the selection was, after the nominee is decided, everyone does unite). The Democratic & Republican National Conventions are always broadcast by all the main networks in East Coast & Central prime time.

 

 

 

Q: Do certain states have more influence than others?

 

 

 

A: Yes. At the convention and later on at the election, each state’s vote is weighted according to its population. New York & California, two states with a very high population are very influential. Even though both are traditionally Democrat states, Republicans would campaign there during their primaries in order to get as many votes at the convention. A fair amount of states swing either way, Wisconsin, is one of them. Even though, Wisconsin has gone Democrat recently, it’s been by a knife’s edge, and at 6 million residents, it can help a candidate’s chances at becoming a nominee and/or president.

 

 

 

Q: What’s the Electoral College?

 

 

 

A: The electoral college is a really odd thing. Some advocate scraping it altogether as it’s archaic and keeps the US from being a true democracy, but some also say it counteracts the influence of bigger states. Basically, when any American votes in a Presidential election, they are not really voting for President–despite what the ballot says–they are voting for electors who then go on to vote for the president. These electors are not bound to vote according to the votes of the state they represent (it must be said that there really aren’t national elections in the US, just state elections with national ramifications) , but by practice, they do.

 

November 2: George W. Bush re-elected President

November 2: George W. Bush re-elected President (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Remember the debacle over Florida’s electoral votes in 2000? Even though Al Gore had won more votes nationally, because he hadn’t won a majority of states, the presidency went to George W. Bush who won a majority of the states. If the population was evenly distributed over the country, then this would not have occurred as he would’ve won in both areas.

 

A core belief of the US system of government is to have checks and balances, and this one way of keeping the power of more populous states in check.

 

Q: If states matter so much, how is the vote of Americans who live and reside overseas counted?

 

A: Remember what I said about US national elections being essentially state elections with national ramifications? This is it in play. When I left the US, I was, legally, a resident of the state of Wisconsin. This means no matter where I move in the world, my vote will always be counted in Wisconsin’s tally and nowhere else. My children will be able to vote in Wisconsin’s elections. If I had become a legal resident of New York, my vote would count in New York’s, and so on. The state you are legally resident of matters very much. I am, for all intents and purposes, a Wisconsinite inasmuch as I am an American.

 

 

 

 

 

Q & A on the USA

 

This (attributed to ) originally appeared duri...

This (attributed to ) originally appeared during the , but was recycled to encourage the American colonies to unite against British rule. From The Pennsylvania gazette, 9 May 1754. Abbreviations used: South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England. This is a somewhat odd division: New England was four colonies, and Delaware and Georgia are missing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I recently recorded my first solo podcast for The Full Catastrophe, on which I talked about the US and tried to explain–in my own fumbling way–how the US is pretty much 50 separate little countries that agree not to attack each other.

 

Expanding on it, I’d like to answer some questions that might also help better explain the USA to non-Americans. A disclaimer: I can only speak about my own experience, and to presume that there is only one American experience is to presume that there is only one Australian/New Zealander/English/Scottish/Irish, etc.

 

Q: Do all Americans want guns? Why do you always talk about the “right to bear arms?”

 

A: Not all Americans want or feel the need to own guns. I am one of them. I’m a major advocate of gun control, I believe guns should only be available to registered hunters who go through an intensive national database as well as psychological profile. My father owned guns and after he passed away, my mother & I immediately got rid of them. Gun Control enjoys varying support depending on what area of the country you reside in (and it can vary not just from state to state but from city to city). There is a strong gun owner lobby in the US, and one of their main ways of maintaining support is by invoking the American Revolution, where colonists’ rights (including whether they could have firearms) were strictly controlled by laws enforced by the United Kingdom. American history is strongly emphasised at US schools and one of the most emphasised aspects is personal liberty. The gun owner lobby views gun control as an attack on the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reflects the colonial experience.  Those who believe in gun control, like myself, take the view that as the US is no longer a wild frontier and that there is no need to feel armed against a dangerous environment. The fact that a lot of American literature and folklore is about conquering a hostile environment is part of the reason why guns hold an emotional appeal over many Americans despite the fact that modern life does not reflect that.

 

Q: Why does the American Revolution hold such an emotional impact over the US?

 

A: Beyond the clear answer that it’s the sheer reason that the US exists, it must be pointed out that the US was a radical experiment. In 1776, most of the Western world lived in monarchies with varying degrees of concern with regards to the rights of the people living within it. It must be pointed out that essentially, the American Revolution started out because the American colonists were being taxed by the United Kingdom without having representation in Westminster. This is where the phrase “no taxation without representation” comes from. (Washington D.C. residents find this very ironic, understandably.) The Stamp Act of 1765 where a tax was imposed on any official document was a major point in the build up to the Revolution as it was seen as a major insult to “fellow Englishmen,” who already were not represented in the British Parliament, which made the Colonists feel not part of the United Kingdom, but as a distinct group. The fact that a Stamp Act exists in both Australia and the UK to this day is a bit of a surprise to Americans.

 

Q: Why do laws and taxes vary so much from state to state?

 

A: States’ rights is something you hear a lot in US political news, and again, it goes back to the Revolutionary period. When the 13 original states were created there was little that united them beyond the fact that they wanted not to be British. There were states founded mostly on economic grounds (Virginia being a prime example), states founded on religious grounds (Maryland, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts), and some that were a bit of both (Pennsylvania, for example). The experience of living under the British crown left most of them rather wary of creating a powerful central government, but there did need to be one, and after one misfire that gave the states too much say (the Articles of Confederation) the current system of government came into existence under the US Constitution.

 

The fact is that the US is a big country with a big population and that different states have different needs. This is why taxes are collected by both the states and by the federal government. Being a resident of a state carries a lot more meaning in the US than it does in Australia, for example. The diversity amongst the states is also why laws vary so much.

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Momentous Day

It’s been a bit of a momentous day, though in many ways not.

In case you don’t know: President Obama has declared his support for same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been used time and time again (most notably in California, and most recently in North Carolina) as an issue to inflame divisions between historically persecuted minorities.

The National Organization for Marriage has even admitted thus on paper as we found out recently.

Some say this might cause Obama to lose the election, I don’t think so.

Not because I’m an Obama supporter, and not because I think he won’t win. (I believe he will.)

But because same sex marriage will cease to be a wedge issue.

Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts while the state had (and still does to this day) legal same sex marriage.

What I truly believe this election is about is one thing: the economy.

And in respect to same-sex marriage and the economy we are already too far along the right path to consider rolling back to the dismal past.

This is World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. My country’s consulate here in Melbourne has been showing their support for the AIDS-free by 2015 campaign, and to be honest, seeing support from the US like that makes me very proud to be an American.

World AIDS Day often goes unnoticed at our household, which to some extent is partly a good thing as I’m in a serodiscordant (aka “magnetic” relationship). What that means is that I’m HIV- and my partner is positive. He was diagnosed with HIV over 25 years ago and essentially abandoned by the medical establishment at the time and essentially expected to die within weeks.

Today he is a vibrant and healthy man, who I do love very much. When you look at him, you do not see HIV, but his humour and zest for life. Yet, HIV/AIDS is without a doubt a frequent presence in our lives. Some examples:

– When either of us is cut or has an open wound, we take it calmly but seriously. HIV may die when it hits open air, but there’s nothing to say that I could also pass something on which could worsen it.
– When he is off his medicine, he can become extremely lethargic and almost depressed, because the virus saps you of your strength.
– Separate toothbrushes, razors, and deodourant.

Being in a serodiscordant relationship is not what either us expected, but it is our life.

To be frank, whenever he reads about HIV infections going up (as they are here in Australia), he gets pissed off.

“How can anyone be dumb enough to catch it with all the information that is available now?”

As much as I have theorised on that subject on this blog, the fact is there are no clear cut answers.

We can talk about a heavily sexualised Gay & Straight media culture which rarely presents safe sex in a practical light as opposed to just going straight to the tantalising.

We can talk about the fact that we live in a society where we opt not to get uncomfortable for a few minutes, without realising that a little discomfort might be the difference between a positive and negative HIV result.

We can talk about how while PWA are definitely treated better in general, the fact that they are living longer and better lives still doesn’t negate the fact that life without the virus is better than without.

We can continue to talk and talk and go to fundraisers and wear ribbons, but if you don’t take the time to listen and educate yourself and others on the reality of the virus and the lifestyle changes it can impact upon you and your loved ones. Well, then it will hit you.

I love my partner with or without HIV (and yes, his HIV status is one of the reasons we moved to Australia), but I hope I live to see an AIDS-free 2015.

Just so I can end this on a lighter note, today also marks the 18th birthday of JOY 94.9,where I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of World Wide Waves since October. If you can, please support JOY with a membership. It’s a critical part of our community and it helps give voice to many who would be drowned out in our current media landscape.

That Election 2012 in a Nutshell

So there’s a Mormon, a Texan with good hair, Anita Bryant II, and two black guys.

And the two black guys are the most sane. (That’s how much That Place is freaked about by Mormons and apparently Texans and bigots now.)

And even more bizarre the one that manages to actually make sense and has actually managed to do something for That Place?

His middle name is Hussein (and everyone who voted for him saw his whole name on the ballot), and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to win and that we should all stop listening to the GOP debates until after their convention.

ImageThe way the local media down here are going about it, it almost sounds like they are shocked that he’s still the likely winner.

That Place is in dire economic straits. Part of the reason why is that the GOP congress is intentionally screwing over the country for political purposes. Furthermore, That Place’s political system is intentionally designed to move slower than molasses, so when we have a president from one party and another one in charge of congress it’s dead lock and everyone suffers.

Just ask France (their system is extremely similar).

I’m more worried about who’s going to run the country in 2016, especially since there’s no way in hell Biden is going to run.

hikarublue takes on the carbon tax

So here’s my take on the carbon tax (for non-Australian readers go to any Australian news website, and you’ll get a fifth of the amount of hysteria present on the local media):

You know those carbon offsets you are offered to pay for whenever you buy an airline ticket?

Well now, the Australian government is pretty much telling the airlines and other major polluters to basically buy carbon offsets whether they want to or not.

Single people making six figures a year will have to shoulder a low three figure hit. (Go to clean energy.gov.au and see if you’d get assistance or take a hit)

It’s nothing too radical, just not explained too well.

But yes, it’s just the carbon offsets system with teeth.

And if you don’t understand carbon offsets, then you really shouldn’t be handling money.

20110715-163442.jpg

Political love & hate in Australia

I have found that Australians have a very peculiar relationship to politics, at least to my eyes.

In this country, voting (or at least showing up at the polling place) is mandatory. Coming from a country where voting apathy gave us 12 years of right wing dictatorship-lite, I see this as a good thing. My fiancé often mentions about how Australia is the most over-governed country on Earth, yet, every time I explain to him as well as other Australians about how the vast majority of the US is composed of 4 levels of government (Federal, State, County, Municipal), each with their own ability to tax and regulate, the Australian system suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

Perhaps this love-hate relationship with politics stems from the quixotic relationship Australia has with whinging. Australians hate whinging to the point that they whinge about whinging. It gives them a degree of comfort that it would be safe to assume that annoyances are secretly lauded.

Just food for thought.