Cynical Rot

This is a response to the torrid commentary in NZ media in general, and in particular to an opinion piece by Finlay Macdonald that was posted on RNZ on August 9. You can read his piece here.

Of all the disgusting articles posted about Metiria Turei’s resignation, Finlay Macdonald’s contribution is particularly mean-spirited. He argues, in short, that it wasn’t the offense at the centre of the controversy – lying to Work and Income – that was bad, it was Turei’s own handling of the affair. Further, he charges that it was absurd that she should resign on the basis that the public scrutiny of her family was unbearable, because, as he puts it:

“Having invited scrutiny of her private life… If it is not too blunt to ask, what the hell did she expect?” – Finlay Macdonald on Metiria Turei.

That sent a chill to my occipital lobe, perhaps because it is self-evidently victim blaming language. She was asking for it, she should have known what would happen, bad Turei! I say this is absolutely and stunningly wrong, not only in moral terms, but as a basic political analysis.

The layers of irony in Macdonald’s piece might be funny if they were not so overdrawn. I almost expect a disclaimer that the article is a clumsy satire on media commentators becoming so saturated in parliamentary politics that they are more hack than human. At least, they have either forgotten the human element, or simply deny that it exists.

This is deep cynicism, to actually convict Turei of the heresy of not being cynical. Of not acting as a cold and ruthless political machine. Of having the temerity to be hurt when her family is bullied and harassed for nearly a month by the media, and attacked online by political opponents, and troglodytes with nothing to say that isn’t intended to hurt.

The crux of Macdonald’s argument, and I think it encapsulates the thinking of many on the centre-left, is that the damage done to the Green Party, and the left in general, is the sole responsibility of the former co-leader. Here, I smell the sterile odor of a whitewash, the clean-up crew from the political centre heaping as much rubbish onto the most prominent Māori leader the left has. All to spare their dream of a gentle change of government from centre to centre. Nevermind that it is mere weeks since Labour was itself in turmoil, no, Turei might have spoiled it all.

Therefore, if the result of the September election is that Jacinda Ardern is not Prime Minister, fault can be dumped on Turei for fatally compromising the campaign. Forgive my cynicism, but I think it is distinctly less rotten because unlike Finlay Macdonald, I don’t expect or desire politicians to act cynically. I don’t think it is ever desirable to put the world-weary in command of even a slice of the world.

The truth might actually be that Metiria Turei didn’t know what speaking up about her experience on the DPB in the 1990s would do, but that she genuinely believed it worth taking the risk and standing up for the powerless.  Doing so is worth losing support today, even her own position, and maybe even the election. Is it worth changing the government if the price is shutting down such an important debate about dignity in the welfare system? I don’t think it is, frankly.

However, I’m glad to say that the debate isn’t going away. This particular elephant has been in the room a long time and Metiria Turei has turned us to face it. That she paid a heavy political, and personal price should not be thrown back in her face. The tragedy is that New Zealand politics is a little more cynical.

 

 

 

NZIFF: Final Portrait

Righto, not having written a blogpost in a while I will keep this fairly terse. The New Zealand International Film Festival is on in Wellington, and if you are in a position to attend a screening I strongly recommend that you do. In fact, don’t even check what you are about to see. Get a ticket for whatever and enjoy the surprise; independent cinema won’t hurt you. Now then, on to what I saw today:

Final Portrait (wri/dir: Stanley Tucci, starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer) is a character study of Swiss-Italian artist Alberto Giacometti (b. 1901 – d.1966), set in Paris in 1964.

Giacometti, a draftsman and sculptor as well as a painter, is particularly known for his  style of rendering the human form in long, gaunt, monochromatic shapes. Coincidentally, my father showed me some of Giacometti’s work only a matter of weeks ago, and it was the first time that I actually took note of who he was. Therefore, seeing Final Portrait was, for me, a perfect elaboration from that introduction.

Geoffrey Rush is just as brilliant as I expected, playing irritable, chain-smoking, eccentrics is hardly a leap for him, but few could have done it better. Rush captures the look of Giacometti; the muttering bleakness of his spirit, and all the idiosyncrasies to be found in painters. I don’t have the knowledge to verify to accuracy of the portrayal, but to do so would be a mistake in my view. It would be beside the point. Let me explain.

James Lord (played by Armie Hammer), was Giacometti’s biographer, and in the movie he is enduring sitting after sitting in the hope of getting a finished portrait of himself to take back to New York, where his fiancee is waiting for him. The days pass by, and progress is slow. Giacometti sits opposite Lord in the studio and watches him, getting him to move his body by miniscule amounts, stopping work frequently crying, “fuck!” Sometimes packing up having only added a few strokes to the picture. As the sessions wear on, Lord’s morale is worn thin, and he despairs that the painting will never be finished.

Giacometti also despairs. That he can’t finish anything. He says to Lord, “When I was young I thought I could do anything, when I grew up I realised I can do nothing.” This may not be mere fatalism, but an expression of the existentialist view that modernity is vacuous. That it is without meaning. In the face of that, Giacometti searches for meaning in his subjects – in James Lord.

The painting itself, and the act of painting it, is cathartic for both Giacometti and Lord. The film, with it’s wit, and its excellent supporting cast (Clémence Poésy (Caroline), Tony Shalhoub (Diego Giacometti), James Faulkner (Pierre Matisse), Sylvie Testud (Annette Arm), is a much easier watch than Mr. Turner was, which is the best film I can compare it with – in terms of being about an artist.

Unfortunately, I have exhausted my analytical ability, and to continue to slip on the keyboard would be a waste of my, and your time. For art lovers this is not a film to miss.

That’s all for now.

 

 

Trump’s list of broken promises

What is that crunching underfoot? The shards of Trump’s broken promises. The shattered dreams of those who voted for him, and are stuck between a bloviating moron and the hate of dejected democrats. 

Let no-one get away with saying that at least Trump is doing what he said he would do if elected. It simply isn’t so.

Trump’s promises before and after the election – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-37982000

The Cold Light 

The rush of the moment can be exquisite, but perilous. An angry tweet can destroy a friendship, or a presidency, or simply be lost in a fog of a million other tweets. Thinking with the knees is not really thinking at all.

This thought comes to me as I read about the terrorist attack in London, which has killed at least five people including the attacker outside the Houses of Parliament. The nationalist instinct bubbling beneath the surface of British politics will almost certainly break through again. Attacked within from without, us and them, the wicked measures to enhance security suddenly necessary.

The political impacts of this are unsurprising. We are living in security states that exist entirely at the mercy of politicians knees. Whichever way they jerk affects us all, and it is all about thinking. I hope it is clear that the the current security measures worked. The attacker was stopped. Parliament was not invaded. There need not be more security measures as a response.

What this means for Scottish independence I do not know, although I am sceptical that attacking the nation’s parliament arms nationalists with overt ferver because many people were feeling misrepresented by Parliament anyway. Had it been in the attack on the duke and duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace, things might be different.
As the day draws to a close and the bodies go to the morgue, and families pass a sleepless night in mourning, I hope real thought returns with the cold light. Anything else is maddness.

Who is Orrin Hatch?

Orrin Hatch is the senior US Senator from the State of Utah, who in 2015 became the President pro tempore of the Senate. This honor is conferred on the most senior senator of the majority party, and according to the Constitution the President pro tempore presides over the senate in place of the Vice-President who is also the President of the Senate, whenever they are absent. In practice they don’t actually preside at all, the office being more ceremonial which suits the incumbent who is a crusty 82 years old. However, should the President be incapacitated, the Vice-President indisposed, and Speaker Ryan unavailable due to being too high on the prospect of depriving poor people of health-care, the President pro tempore succeeds to the Presidency.

Old Orrin has served in the Senate since 1977, and and ran for President in 2000 with a platform that claimed his website was more accessible than George W Bush’s. As strong as this was, it wasn’t quite enough to convince the GOP who at the time were still convinced that Y2k would infect their computers and turn them gay. Orrin has been busy in the last 17 years though, ducking in and out of the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposing abortion, advocating 14 year old offenders to be treated as adults and punished harshly for petty crimes, and Chairing the Finance Committee.

He is seen as pro-business, anti-gay, pro-state death penalty, pro-stem cell research, pro-war on drugs, pro-prayer in schools, anti-environment, pro-Israel, anti-Iran, pro-NATO, and since Trump won the Republican nomination for President; pro-Trump.

I am writing about him because I think it is valuable to take a little time to take a closer look at some of the peripheral shadows in the US government. What they do affects us, and without the occasional closer look we run the danger of inhaling the junk statistics and rectal generalizations that people love to throw around in order to seem intelligent.

Hatch doesn’t seem to want to seem intelligent, hence his support for nonsense and stupidity, and because of his position this makes for a somewhat dangerous figure. Having said this it looks like Hatch is drooling in ceremony now, and no longer much of an active participant in Republican skulduggery. He was absent at the 2017 inauguration of President Trump because as the designated survivor (a member of the line of succession kept in a safe place in case the entire US government is collectively vaporized) he was safe in an undisclosed location.

It is odd to consider these senators close up, rather like examining an ichneumon wasp through a jam jar, its ovipositor pulsating against the glass. Curious because American politics is so inhuman, so impervious to the logic of the rest of the world. IN Britain, Australia and New Zealand, with quaint parliamentary systems that actually work, a u-turn is treated severely and rarely forgotten. But Republican senators like Orrin Hatch who  through 2016 engaged in procedural gymnastics and contortion to prevent President Obama from carrying out his constitutional duty of filling vacancies in the Supreme Court, now call Democrats idiots in breach of Senate decorum for holding up Trump’s nomination.

What makes American politics different is not simply the bizarre constitutional system, or their fetishisation of liberty and freedom (I mean what are they, sex toys?), it is that there is no such thing as shame. You cannot cause Donald Trump to feel shame in himself, nor Paul Ryan, nor Bill and Hillary Clinton. The condition requires a standard upon which to hang,  and that standard is long gone, if it ever existed at all.

Burning Down the House

I keep wondering how many times the house can burn down. It goes on and on, the relentless nightly arson, and by now the inferno seems unstoppable. Yet there is still fresh fuel, more sections of the house to devour, and more opportunity for witty people to make fun of it. This would be hilarious if it weren’t for the screams of people burning. Some things are too crispy for humour.

The seven week old Trump Administration is tangled up in court again for using executive power to achieve racist goals. The doleful replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (I won’t call it a health care plan because something that strips 24 million Americans of their health insurance does not deserve the name) is dying in Congress. Trump wants to move on to reforming the tax code, right when two pages of his 2005 tax return are leaked and can be used to quantify just how much he will personally benefit. And former President Obama wanders around paradise in a leather jacket with a $60 million book deal.

Just what sort of reality is this? Will Trump really fail for the rest of his term like he is failing now? His approvals are down to 43%, and the Bush zone (mid 30s) beckons. But I don’t expect that will give him any pause. Trump is 70, he’s not going to change, and as a majority of Americans get alienated from him the zealots of Breitbart News and InfoWars will only get louder in his ear. He seeks attention, praise, and thanks, but he doesn’t need it from everyone.

At the moment I am reminded of President Obama’s achievements and also the vitriol poured on him. Friends of mine who are otherwise incandescent in their intelligence get cantankerous and stupid when discussing Obama. Off the top of my head I can summarize his achievements. He passed a health reform act that remedied many of the worst things about private health insurance. It wasn’t universal healthcare by any means, but got the insurance rate up to over 90% of the population. He banned waterboarding enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding and other torture by US personnel.

At home he also banned solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in federal prisons. He made guidelines for the protection of transgender students at schools — which was overturned a few weeks ago by Trump who likes to grab women’s genitals, on the advice of the right-wing hawks around him who are fascinated with the genitals of young people. Obama ended the US military policy on gays, don’t ask, don’t tell. He changed his mind on same-sex marriage and supported the successful case that went to the Supreme Court. He appointed two female supreme court justices, including the first Hispanic justice. He appointed the most culturally diverse cabinet in American history. He was the first President to make public the identities of those visiting the white house, and who he played golf with, because he truly believes that transparency matters.

He also saved the auto industry, bailing it out and overseeing it’s reorganization and reconstitution. It payed the bailout money back, because unlike Wall Street the auto industry actually makes something tangible. Obama also made the US energy independent through the oil and natural gas it produces domestically, and growing the renewable energy sector to the point where a future without fossil fuels is viable. He signed an international climate change agreement in Paris which actually sets reduction targets for the US and China, making the threat of climate change actually look surmountable.

Also abroad he negotiated with Syria to give up its chemical weapons stockpile — which it did — and he negotiated with the Iranians to nullify their offensive nuclear capacity. He changed US policy on Cuba to end a particularly stupid American foreign policy delusion that dates back to Eisenhower. He made public the details of the budget for the CIA, the first President to do so.

Yeah, I guess he failed. It’s all nullified by his failure to close Guantanamo Bay eh? Or his murderous drone strike program. Or domestic surveillance. Or the rise of ISIS. These things are blights on his record, but they are part of a larger picture, that of a pock-marked portrait of an American President. Of course, so far with Trump there’s no space between the pockmarks and nothing worth painting.

 

Personal Update – Getting through to creativity -photography

Okay, I followed my bolder instincts (the cautious ones are in a ditch somewhere) and am leaving my job in a week. Just wanted to update any regular readers. If you aren’t regular, but just dropped by for whatever reason, hello! I promise this will not be a long scrawl of sentimental soul retching. No, it’s just a short scrawl of sentimental soul retching.

Well then, here goes: Stress, isolation, poor-health/fatigue, and the fact that admin/analysis is absolutely not my bag makes Joe a very dull boy. I was a tad concerned that the bout of depression I’ve had would take me somewhere I do not wish anyone to ever go themselves; that far too many do.

This country — and many westernized countries — has a horrendous problem with mental health, and if I may be permitted to suggest one responsible factor (among many that far better people can analyse) I would say that the fact that no-one can (yet) see clearly into your head makes understanding someones mental state extremely difficult. Especially because, I say this as a chronic depressive, you don’t want to be seen as unwell. Capacity to do work dwindles, but at the same time fear and paranoia that the capacity might not come back — or people will take it away entirely — is ratcheted up.

As a person with a progressive disability, capacity and ability are sore spots for obvious reasons. The fear of being trapped into a situation where every effort goes into maintaining a diminishing standard of living, as the goals and ambitions I once had are realized by others… no. That is the garbled thinking of a mind looking only for exits. The world does not work like that. Achievement of goals by anyone (okay, anyone you don’t actively dislike, we all have our reasons) is positive, and should be celebrated.

Getting past that fear though… I shudder at the prospect while quickening my step. Leaving an intensely unsatisfying job is one thing, adjusting to the reality of not having a job is quite another. Along with developing my creative writing (which is tonic for the spirit and air to the wallet) I am investing in my photography/videography skills as my main source of income. But oh my, I have no clients! Well, I turn to you. If you need headshot portraits for your business, or want a promo video, or to discuss a creative project that I can help with, or know someone who is looking for someone to make this stuff, I really want to talk to you.

I specifically mention headshots and promo vids because I have done them before, and am comfortable with my level of experience that I will deliver a quality product.Geographically I am focusing on the Wellington region and Palmerston North (home sweet home). So if you want something outside these areas please hold fire until I can get this thing set up. Gotta start somewhere!

I’ve done quite a bit of stuff for free in the past, and I love to do it so it will continue. But, I have to be able to pay rent and the utility bills, so paying projects are the priority. In a week I will be changing my website to include information about the services I can provide, and I’ll be putting together a portfolio over the next month.

Critical F*ckery 

Suicide Squad is not a great film. But if you pay attention to critics you might think it is worse than terrible. I saw it on Sunday night, and my impression is mixed, but it is not negative.

First of all, the point of the project was the characters. To get a great cast together to play some iconic roles. The plot was always secondary, and criticisms of the plot are therefore missing the point. We didn’t buy tickets to be blown away by an ingenious narrative. Hell, any lame excuse to get Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, and El Diablo together is worthwhile. We are there to see some good action, Will Smith being witty, Margot Robbie being gorgeous, and Jared Leto as the Joker weaving a bit of chaos. Did the film deliver on those points? Yes, it bloody well did. So don’t dismiss the film with vague assertions that it doesn’t hold together, that the plot is tired and poorly written, or even that too many of the characters are two-dimensional. You do know how many dimensions there are in a comic book right?

I made the experience of seeing the film hard. I was alone, and I had no food or drink. That means at no point could I slurp some sugar into my system to enhance the pleasurable parts of my brain. Even then I enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed it because there was enough of Ben Afleck’s Batman to redeem his part in Batman v Superman — that is hardly any.

I got annoyed by Jared Leto’s Joker, which I think was way overdone, but was intrigued by a development in his character that I will elucidate below. Leto played the Joker as much more of a Victorian gothic character, with his brooding and Shakespearian mutterings. However, the costume and makeup was far more modern, with tattoos and silver teeth that made him look more gangsta. I fault the director David Ayer for that, and it was indicative of everything I didn’t like about the Joker. At one point he is sitting at a table in a fancy club talking to the rapper Common who presumably is a high-ranking criminal. The Joker mutters about how Harley (who is exotic dancing in the background) is the fire of his loins. Harley comes over and it turns out that Common does not like her. The Joker kills Common. Now, why was the Joker in that club? Does he own it, or have a share? Is he scoping it to rob it? What was the basis of the conversation with Common? It is quite possible that I missed something, but in a nutshell this is my problem with Suicide Squad, much like Batman v Superman putting Gotham and Metropolis right next to each other so that both could be shown in a single shot and Lex Luther could gesture from one to the other, cool shots are prioritized over common sense. The Joker at one point is talking to one of his henchmen in a modern highrise building. The Joker is sitting in a large room with hundreds of knives and other weapons (and a few baby onsies by the looks of it) arranged in a spiralling circle around him. I could only imagine him spending hours arranging the items just right, or maybe handing a detailed specification to his henchmen on how he’d like his room arranged. It is stupid, and eroding to the character, who is not supposed to make sence, but still needs to be somewhat consistent.

So with that verbal puking of some of the things I didn’t like, what did I dig? Margot Robbie of course, she was exactly as entertaining as the marketing promised. And aside from being outrageous eye candy (hey I’m not the only one who was monitoring just how far her short-shorts would ride up her crack) she was way more powerful than in the comics and the games. She really kicked ass, which is important because otherwise she would too easily become a damsel in distress being constantly rescued by the Joker. Throughout most of the story she has an unshakable confidence and cheerie attitude, it is only when she thinks the Joker is dead that her facade is shaken. This is no shallow character. Her motivation is always clear, and her methods to achieve her ends make sense. As I said before, there is an intriguing development with the Joker’s character. He is genuinely in love. We have not seen this before at the movies (I cannot speak for the comics) and it is a huge change because suddenly there is something predictable about the Joker, he is always going to get his girl. That is a vindication for Harley Quinn as well because to date she has been little more than a pleasing appendage to the Clown Prince of Crime, something that can be cut off if necessary. Her survival as a character I think has more to do with the fact that fans like her. She is villainous, but not in the way that Poison Ivy, or the Enchantress, or Talia al-Gul are. Those three are exotic, whereas Harley Quinn is more mainstream. She is like Catwoman, and just as Selena Kyle genuinely has her claws in Bruce Wayne’s heart, Harley has captured the Joker’s.

The best scene for me demonstrates this. The Joker and Harley Quinn are talking on a ledge above several vats of acid. It is implied that these may be the same vats that the Joker fell in to become the character we know. He asks Harley if she would die for him, and she says yes. Would she live for him? Again, yes. Then she dives backward into one of the vats, and the Joker looks down at her and turns away. Then, with conflict on his face he throws off his coat and dives into the vat, pulling Harley to the surface, and kissing her. This is the most human Joker I have ever seen, and dammit I want to see more. With all the criticisms; the overacting, the Heath Ledger voice imitation, and the fact that with white make-up, darkly hooded eyes, ratty tattoos and silver teeth, and forty-four years on this earth; Jared Leto is still so outrageously pretty, I am sold for a sequel. And one is already on the way, with David Ayer tempted to go R-rated. The implications of that on Margot Robbie’s shorts are almost too much to be considered in the daytime, and a second crack at this may bell yield something better.

Don’t expect the critics to be merciful with their opinions though. They are so far up Marvel’s arse I expect their bleating to drown out Jarvis in Tony Stark’s helmet. If a film is entertaining don’t let the critics convince you that it is poor. It may not be the best thing in the world, but hell Hollywood is never going to be.

will-smith-is-deadshot
Hitman with a heart, and you know what the film needed that. Will Smith plays the villain looking for personal redemtion, and is the character the audience can identify with. Film 101 guys, it makes total sense.
joker
Way overdone, yet narratively interesting. Leto tried a little too hard with this one, he might want to tone down his method acting.
forget-joker-suicide-squad-trailer-reveals-enchantress-is-in-control-of-task-force-x-e-932278
The Enchantress AKA Cara Delevigne. She did a solid job playing a difficult part. I swear her eyebrows increase the production value by at least 10 percent…
maxresdefault
There is nothing Margot Robbie cannot do. Will we ever fall out of love with her?

The Wretched Society 

The Guardian published an article about the 600 children living without parents in the largest refugee camp in Calais. Every night they try to get on the backs of lorries and get to the UK. Most are from Afghanistan, and their parents sent them away from the conflict between the Taliban and Isis. They told their children that the UK is a good country that will take care of them and educate them. But not even an act of parliament has been enough to spur Theresa May’s  jaundiced government into any action at all.

Use the link below to read the article about this in The Guardian.
Hungry, scared, and no closer to safety: child refugees failed by Britain

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/02/child-refugees-calais-failed-by-britain?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

What has happened here? Well something that has to certainly changed is the evolving foreign policy of the United Kingdom and the eroding of it’s politics in general. Remember when Tony Blair looked at the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo and the genocide perpetrated by Slobodan Milosevic. Tony Blair decided that the horrors of World War 2 would not be repeated in Europe ever again. Parliament agreed and so did the public. They were persuaded by Tony Blair that this was a just cause. The refugees in Calais are not European, so Britain doesn’t care, because Britain doesn’t even care about Europeans anymore.
Last week someone told me that the Brexit has given Britain control over its immigration. How sad that the control they sought was to deny basic human rights to 600 children who come from a country they bombed with post 9/11 evangelical aplomb. 

But of course they do not claim responsibility for the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was Tony Blair’s folly, he is the war criminal and the rest of the country will spit on him long after he dies. But it was acts of parliament that sent Britain to battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the absent weapons of mass destruction do not change the fact that what was happening was a colossal human crisis that Britain decided to try and stop. Say what you want about Tony Blair, the man had guts and determination and the country at large no longer has either.

More more drivvle is spilled out everyday on how we are living through the second coming of the 1930s. The non-argument is so boring I am almost inclined to not mention it at all. But I will mention one very key difference between now and then concerning Britain. In the 1930s Jews fleeing Nazi persecution came to Britain including Sigmund Freud in 1939. Now Britain won’t even help 600 children a mere 20 miles from the coast.

One of the pacifist arguments against war and military intervention is that if you apply moral reasoning you are obligated to intervene in every crisis. But I don’t not help my neighbour because I can’t help every person who needs it in my city. Who would’ve thought that this sort of thing needs to be explained to the UK just so that they can rescues 600 children on their bloody doorstep.

I call this a Wretched Society, and sadly note that the condition is contagious. Below is a link to an article about the disgusting lack of kindness in Wellington society.
http://i.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/share-your-news-and-views/15478610/Why-I-m-embarrassed-to-be-a-Wellingtonian?cid=facebook.post.15478610

This is fear triumphant over love. Time to make an adjustment I think. Help your neighbour and perhaps the UK will find it’s moral backbone and rescue 600 children. Hell, that’d be a nice photo op on the beach Theresa May.

Let’s get real

Any way you slice it Hillary Clinton is probably going to be President-elect this November. For all the vociferous rabble rousing, or one’s opinion on the intelligence of the American public (estimates of severe idiocy tends to be based on the most tiresome collection of superstitions and delusions) the reality is — and has always been — down to cold hard numbers. Clinton has them. Bernie didn’t, and Bernie lost. Donald Trump doesn’t have the numbers, and he will therefore lose. This is very simple to explain.

Nationwide polling puts Clinton on 41% and Trump on about 36%. Troubling right, Clinton is in the lead, but she doesn’t even have a majority! In the USA you don’t need one to be President. I will repeat that, you don’t need a majority of votes to win an election. Crazy right? But, if you were conscious in 2000 you might remember the Presidential election in which George W Bush got a few hundred thousand votes fewer than Al Gore. There were problems in Florida with antiquated machines and a recount was demanded by the Gore camp. They thought they had narrowly won the state, which would give Bill Clinton’s Vice President enough electoral college votes to win the White House. But, the Bush campaign claimed victory and went to court. The result was that the recount was halted and Bush declared the winner. The Supreme Court thus decided that the popular vote was inferior to the electoral college vote which is a fundamentally undemocratic position.

Thankfully this kind of skulduggery is rare. Clinton is likely to get both more votes that Trump as well as the required 270 electoral college votes. How the electoral college works is that each state has a number of electoral college votes depending on the population within the state. California has 55, Texas has 34, New York has 31 and it goes on until we get to Alaska which has a tiny population and 3 electoral college votes. So basically, if you are a Democrat you need to start with California and New York, which Hillary Clinton is comfortably winning. Democrats have their support concentrated on the west coast and the industrial east coast, while Republicans are big in the south, the middle, and the agricultural mid-west. The real contest is not in those zones, but in a few key ‘swing’ states. Florida, Nevada, and Ohio. If those three support Hillary the race is over right there.

Yes, there are more than three ‘swing’ or ‘battleground’ states, but I am following the rule of three, plus have selected the states that have been important in recent elections. One could add Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, and New Hampshire. I’ll stick with my three.

Critically, President Obama won the three swing states in 2008 and 2012. Eight years ago they swung and have yet to swing back. It would be quite overconfident to assume that Clinton will win those states simply because they voted Obama, but what makes this election easy to follow is that you only have to know how those three states are voting, the Nationwide vote be damned. Now, Hillary does not need all three. In fact if she wins Florida it is likely to be enough to take her over the threshold on its own. But for Donald Trump to win he needs all three.

So, we can expect to see a large proportion of campaign funds being spent in the three swing states. At this point Clinton is winning Florida, and narrowly winning Ohio. Trump — whose personality matches Las Vegas better than a herpes ridden pokie stool — is winning Nevada. This is the battleground, and with the conventions over, Clinton ahead in the polls and Trump on the defensive over his statements about the family of a dead Iraq-war veteran, it would be inappropriate to conclude that this is too close to call.

If you want to game this out yourself, just take a look at the latest polls and run a simulation on the electoral map here.