Archive for the 'America' Category


The money goes on a 78 year old to take on a 74 year old at WH2020

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

I remain to be convinced by Biden

With interest in Brexit itself having subsided for the moment and with the Euro elections not taking place for another three weeks the top betting markets, in terms of volume, at the moment are on the 2020 White House Race. The big question is who will the Democrats choose to take on Trump?

Last week the former Obama vice president, Joe Biden, put his hat into the ring and the early polling has suggested that this has been very well received. He’s now leading by a substantial margin in most polls of likely Democrat participants in the coming primaries.

Next month we see the almost formal start of the race with the first of the TV debates between the contenders. A big hurdle for some of the declared contenders will be meeting the fundraising threshold to be allowed to participate.

Biden was Obama’s vice president for 8 years but has a record of failing in several previous bids for the White House. Last time out in 2008 he dropped to 4% in Iowa which is the first State to decide through its caucuses. He was then of course 12 Years Younger.

As someone who was born on within 3 weeks of Donald Trump I feel I can make what some might see as an ageist comment. I do not believe that someone in the late 70s, (Biden will be 78 in November 2020) is going to be able to cope with the pressure of trying to win the nomination and then the White House for the first time never mind actually governing.

The other contender who was seen some upwards movement is Senator Elizabeth Warren who has been running a policy rich campaign which has attracted a lot of attention. Her promise to cut College fee debt sounds a bit similar to the LAB promise at the 2000 General Election to abolish student fees. Will that work? I don’t know but it has certainly put her on the map more than she was.

Mike Smithson



The betting moves against Mayor Pete following accusations of sexual assault

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Whatever the veracity his betting odds are going to move out

Given the extraordinary media coverage that Mayor Pete has been getting I had been sort of expecting something like the above Tweet to emerge. Whatever the truth of these allegations I don’t know but it it is part and parcel of political campaigns that things like this do happen.

My guess is that this won’t be fatal but he could become better value in the betting. He’s now down to an 11.9% chance on Betfair for the nomination compared with his peak of 16.4%

At the moment I’m waiting for this to shift outwards.

There’s a great Politico article just out on his media operation and no doubt that will be working on this full time to limit the damage.

Mike Smithson


Biden is polling far better in the national primary surveys than in the first two states to decide

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

With Obama’s former VP, 76 year old Joe Biden, today entering the race for the WH2020 Democratic nomination he does so from a position of strength in national polls of party voters.

The chart shows the latest Real Clear Politics polling average national lead for Joe Biden over Bernie Sanders and Pete butcher Jack compared with the latest surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire. These are, of course, the first two to decide and where all the active presidential campaigns have been paying lots of visits at the moment.

As can be seen from the charts there’s a biggish divide between the national picture and what is happening in Iowa and New Hampshire. This could be the case because in these two traditional starting primary states voters are paying much more attention to the race than those elsewhere.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire take a lot of pride in their status as being the first on the primary calendar each four years with the Presidential elections I just wonder whether this explains the gap.

If so that reinforces the notion that a part of Biden’s polling position is down to the fact that he is the better known. He is of course a regular fighter for the presidency and has failed several times before going back to 1988.

Mike Smithson


On healthcare Farage, Trump’s biggest British cheerleader, is vulnerable

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Those opposed the Brexit party should change the subject to the NHS

Last November Donald Trump took a beating in the midterm elections when his opponents, the Democrats, were able to make his threats to undermine what public health system there is in the United States into an issue. This is an approach that will be used at WH2020 for once something has become an an entitlement then it is exceedingly difficult and politically dangerous to take it away.

In the UK, of course, the NHS has become something of a religion and none of the mainstream parties dare to do anything but support it. Is it any wonder that successive CON Health Secretaries have made sure that wear an NHS button badge. In the referendum campaign the official Leave organisation made extra funding for the NHS their pivotal selling point.

In the past Farage has talked of the NHS being replaced  by private health insurance a move that was not supported when he was in UKIP.  A few years ago he told UKIP supporters:

“I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100bn a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.”

If I was advising Mrs May at this difficult time I would say launch a speech defending the NHS against the Farage  threat. This would get big headlines and take the subject away from brexit.

Farage has never made any secret of his views on the NHS and in this he is treading along very tricky ground in the UK because of the very strong public support that there is there and this covers backers of all parties.

Mike Smithson


A ridiculous spectacle, looking in detail at Julian Assange’s arrest.

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Assange’s arrest – his white beard, wink and ponytail giving him a very woke mixture of metrosexual man, cheeky rebel and Russian dissident  – is the latest scene in a life made for film. Now, following a spell at Her Majesty’s pleasure (her prisons, in NI anyway, used to faeces-smearing prisoners unlike the bemused Ecuadorians bulk-buying extra-strong Cilit Bang) he faces the possibility of extradition to Sweden or the US to face charges of sexual assault and conspiracy to hack into US government computers.

Depending on who you listen to, Assange is a brave whistleblower/journalist persecuted for revealing the dirty truth of America’s wars or a narcissist and alleged sex pest dangerously indifferent to the consequences of his revelations, for countries or unknown individuals in far-away places.

Still it has been enjoyable watching the contortions of politicians, commentators and other bien-pensants as they try to work out which side they should be on. If only there could be a handy guide to what to think? Some principles perhaps? Or maybe choose according to which gang you want to be in.  Or who you dislike most.

If this is about the brave truth-seeking journalist, revealing the nastiness of the US’s illegal war in Iraq (the adjective “illegal” being practically obligatory in this telling) then charging him is a chilling attack on press freedom. All the more so if, as some of his defenders are, one is intoxicated with animosity for the US.

For them, overlooking the fact that Assange’s journalistic ethics are not what they ought to be does not seem difficult.  Still, journalism does involve something more than dumping material taken without permission.

Committing illegal acts to obtain the material is a no-no as all those British journalists roundly criticised (often by the same people supporting Assange) for hacking phones would no doubt tell you. Only a cynic would think that perhaps their real crime was to take Murdoch’s shilling

Even more surprising has been the sight of some berating the US about its attitude to journalistic freedom. It is the US – not Britain – which protects press freedom in its Constitution. It is the US which makes it virtually impossible to sue for libel, unlike Britain, whose libel laws allow the rich, the powerful, the unscrupulous to protect themselves from scrutiny and which pioneered an injunction  so fearsome that even its mere existence had to be secret.

It is the US which has taken legislative action to stop decisions of British libel courts from being enforced in the US, an extraordinary – and for Britain shaming – decision to take about the laws of a friendly country. It is Britain which sought to jail journalists using a medieval law until stopped by the Court of Appeal (not a part of his CV the shadow Brexit secretary is keen to trumpet).  It is Britain which has had its police use surveillance powers on journalists or an MP arrested to obtain details of their sources. 

It is Britain which has one party committed to legislative changes which would impose government control of the press via a regulator funded by the son of Britain’s only Fascist leader. Some of those politicians quick to jump to Assange’s defence have not been noted for their defence of journalists harassed by other regimes more to their liking.  Their attitude to whistleblowers in their own parties has been distinctly unfriendly.  Nor have they been quick to ask why Assange has let himself be used by regimes such as Putin’s Russia or Belarus, neither being keen on press freedom.

Then there are the criticisms of the US’s criminal justice system.  Could poor Julian get a fair trial? Certainly the absence of legal aid, high costs, long sentences, pressures to plea bargain make the prospect of facing US justice unappealing.  All this has been known for years; yet it did not stop MPs (some of them now loudly opposing any extradition to the US) approving the US-UK Extradition Treaty which makes it so much easier. Surely they cannot have thought it would be only crooked bankers, fraudsters and terrorists who would be caught by its provisions?

Still, if MPs are concerned about people getting a fair trial they might want to look at the the cuts to Legal Aid here, the woeful record of the CPS and police on disclosure of relevant evidence and the degrading of independent, capable forensic services rather than worrying about systems over which they have no control. It would be an insane optimist, though, to think that these problems will be resolved any time soon, even were MPs to bother about them.

All these contortions might be just about manageable were it not for the rape allegations made against Assange in 2010.  The idea that the same man might be capable of doing both good and bad things, that a talented individual (let’s be generous) might also be a bit of a shit (or worse) in his behaviour to women was a bit too hard for some to accept.  (‘Twas ever thus.

See Polanski, Koestler, Allen, though Weinstein’s film achievements cut him no slack. The rules on this can be so confusing.)  It still is for the Shadow Home Secretary, rigidly insisting that no charges were brought while ignoring that this was because Assange had put himself beyond the reach of questioners thus making charges impossible.  How very Nelsonian.

Other reactions were equally illustrative. Some noted that the Swedish allegations did not amount to rape in other countries, sexual assault short of rape presumably being unimportant unless the alleged assailant is already on the “disliked” list.

One MP even opined that “not every insertion” required specific consent, sounding like a badly translated instruction in a manual. The allegations were a convenient way of spiriting Assange off to Sweden thence to the US, this conspiracy theory ignoring the fact that there was no US extradition request at the time and extradition was far easier from the UK than Sweden.

Worst of all, it implied that the women making the allegations must have been pawns of others rather than genuine complainants. Not so much “cherchez la femme” as ignoring her, deeming her a liar or expecting her to be grateful for “insertions” by famous men. How easily reactionary views reassert themselves, even among the ostensibly liberal, when a man’s future is at stake.

Now 70 Parliamentarians are urging the government to prioritise Assange’s extradition to Sweden, ignoring the fact that these are matters for the courts precisely so that decisions can be made on the basis of facts and law, rather than on emotion or prejudged opinions. Even when politicians have the final say, they are obliged to act quasi-judicially, must not prejudge or have an actual, potential or even appearance of a conflict of interest. 

Would it be too much to hope that those aiming for high office be aware of these pretty basic requirements? Remember the fate of Vince Cable, boasting about having declared “war” on Murdoch and losing his responsibilities for the BSkyB bid. Even a judge as experienced as Lord Hoffman caused his fellow Law Lords ruling on Pinochet’s extradition acute embarrassment when he failed to reveal his links to Amnesty International, a party to the case, while sitting in judgment.

Nemesis invariably follows hubris. People’s desire to believe in heroes and villains, their reluctance to accept that their heroes have flaws, complicated – and not necessarily entirely honourable – motives, to accept that the opposing side may have a point, a legitimate interest to protect is not going to disappear any time soon.

My side, right or wrong, is so much easier than applying principles to complicated facts.  Meanwhile, Assange’s adventures have provided a diversion from Brexit.  Both stories have a few more episodes to run.  If we are lucky, their denouement will entertain us for some time to come.



Pete Buttigieg’s an interesting candidate but shouldn’t be a favourite

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

A 30-something gay small-city mayor should not be 14/1 to win WH2020

Precedent is a good guide but a bad determinant. To believe that something cannot happen because it hasn’t previously happened is to end up being unpleasantly surprised. It’s therefore possible that the Democrats could look past the current or former governors, senators and vice-president in order to select as their candidate someone who’s not just the mayor of a city the size of Chesterfield but who’s still in his thirties and gay. Possible but surely unlikely, you’d think.

Unlikely perhaps – but not as unlikely as the raw facts might suggest. Firstly, Buttigieg has serious support. His political experience might not put him in the big league but his fundraising does: in the first quarter of 2019, he raised $7m – more than any of Senators Warren, Klobuchar or Booker. That’s still a good deal less than Bernie Sanders, who led the field with over $18m but it’s more than enough to show that he’s being noticed and taken seriously.

That’s reflected in the polls too. While the as-yet-undeclared Biden continues to lead and Sanders remains a solid second, Buttigieg transitioned during March from a 0-1% also-ran into the second tier of mid-to-upper-single-figures candidates, alongside the likes of Booker, Warren and O’Rourke.

The second reason we shouldn’t be too sceptical is that while his CV might be thin, what is there is strong. Admittedly, it’s the sort of record that would usually be a launchpad to gubernatorial or Congressional office rather than a shot at the White House but it speaks of ability all the same. With the early debates likely to give candidates little time to speak out or cross-examine their opponents due to the numbers involved, his paucity of experience might well matter less than the positive message he can get across.

Thirdly, we need to look at who he isn’t as much as who he is. For all that the Democrats have an absurd amount of choice for 2020, that’s as much a measure of the field’s weakness (and Trump’s perceived weakness) as a strength. If, for example, Barack Obama were willing and able to run, you can be sure that many who are chancing their arm this time wouldn’t bother: they’re having a go because there isn’t a charismatic, dominant, experienced, inspiring person ready to assume the candidature. The fact that Buttigieg is unknown is an advantage in that context.

But is that enough? Or, to ask a related question, are his odds a fair assessment? To my mind, no: they’re the product of a minor polling bubble (which may have some further inflation left yet), a related funding bubble.

It’s certainly true that the old rules don’t apply to the same degree: Trump proved that, as did – in his own way – Sanders (who might have lost but who performed far better than expected). The polarised electorate overall and the nature of the electorates in primaries means that a party can still select an electorally difficult candidate providing that he or she have a big enough loyal base.

And the truth is that Buttigieg would be electorally difficult, coming with a whole set of high-risk factors. His sexuality alone in a country where religion plays a far more significant role than in Britain is likely to be a major hindrance, even if polls suggest that 70% of Americans would be accepting of gay president. (If this were true in act as well as word, you might expect there to be more openly LBGT senators and governors than there are). Even more of an issue is likely to be the claim that his candidature is lightweight – which in the end, and when faced with the prospect of going up against Trump, is what I suspect will do for him.

In what has in a few short years become a very unpredictable process, we should take Buttigieg seriously as a contender – but not yet too seriously. Even as a middle-ranking contender at the moment, I get the feeling that he’s punching above his weight. Most bookies have him at around 7/1 for the nomination, which I’d say is about half what it should be, with the best odds for the presidency being 14/1: almost fourth-favourite. Again, it should be well into the twenties.

David Herdson


Mayor Pete takes the lead in New Hampshire amongst those nomination contenders younger than 72yo Trump

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

While we have all been focused on the developments on Brexit there has been a lot of movement in the fight for the Democratic nomination for next year’s White House race. This starts the hot up in a few weeks when the first of the Dem Primary TV debate debates is held.

The big sensation who has been making waves is the 37 year old mayor of a small city in Indiana, Pete Buttigieg who’s come from almost nowhere and is presenting himself as almost the total antidote to Trump. Recent polls have him making running amongst those candidates who are younger than 77 years old Bernie Sanders and 76 year old Joe Biden. The latter pair have very high name recognition and are leading.

Mayor Pete recorded a fourth place in in Massachusetts and California state polls and in the latest one from the first State to hold a full primary, New Hampshire, he is in third position.

A  St. Anselm College poll there  has   Biden leading with 23%,  Sanders at 16%, with Pete Buttigieg at 11%. Behind them  Warren at 9%,  Harris at 7%,  O’Rourke at 6%, Cory Booker at 4% and  Klobuchar at 2%.

All of this will keep his momentum going. The question is will he eventually run out of steam.

Mike Smithson


As we wait for the Newport result an interesting chart on the rise Pete Buttigieg for the WH2020 Democratic nomination

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

There ‘s little doubt that the “story” of the WH2020 Dem race in recent weeks has been the rise and rise of the 37 year old gay mayor of a small city in Indiana to be the Dem nominee.

The latest news is that his fundraising in going well $7m in Q1 which while not in the Sanders’ league is far better than was expected.

I’m on him at 40/1 although I know many PBers have got much longer odds than that.

Meanwhile there’s tonight’s Newport West by-election with result expected about 2am. This looks set to have a very low turnout with a LAB hold seen as almost a certainty. The Tories are favourite for second place. This is how the seat has gone at the past two general elections.

I’m expecting a very low turnout an in that context just about anything can happen. I’ve 100/1 on Renew coming in as best without LAB.

Mike Smithson