May. The US political race, for those of us backing Obama, had come to an end. Except Clinton was still trying to do something. Obama pulled a (then) surprising victory in North Carolina, and people started to think about state-based campaigning for the presidential election (finally). Demographic make-ups, geographical location, and state-based politics started taking focus, with Obama being the candidate ahead. Then the thought of VPs started to hit the Democrats – was Clinton campaigning for that spot? Who else might get it? Would it bring any states into play? Democrats, like Republicans, started thinking ahead – VPs, the election. Democrats couldn’t get over the problem that had slowly grown in weight of Michigan and Florida – what would they do about the stripped delegates? The authorities were adamant that they not be counted, the Clintons that they be reinstated in full, and Obama had no comment at the time.
Towards the end of May, Obama had the majority of pledged delegates and now the superdelegates would decide the race. Clinton promised she would stay in it to the end – a mark of respect to her voters (she said). Really, we now know that it’s because she had plunged enough money into her own campaign that she was in big debt. This would be an important point in removing her from the race next month. Obama made a presidential-esque speech the night he won Oregon (and the most pledged delegates) and, with more votes and delegates than his opponent, rested his case. That case wouldn’t be fully solved until June, which at the time made for some tense and anxious supporters.
Somehow I was able to pay attention to all this, even as I ploughed on through my mountains of university work. I look back, in which I probably had the most (by number of assignments, not number of words – that would come next semester) assignments due in a month – that month being May. I was very eager to get through them, as I had other things to do – get a head-start on a take-home exam I would have that was due a week before my holiday; get ready for my holiday; work as much as I could for the extra money. In what became a trademark of mine, even when the university work started to pile up, I didn’t cut back on my work hours. I usually just found extra hours in a day by staying up well past midnight. It worked well enough, scoring my best results for a semester – a 99 in one subject. I wouldn’t know this, however, until I got back from my US trip in late July. Funnily enough, it didn’t weigh on my mind as much as results have in the past.
I managed to sort out most of the issues that had come up in my life the previous month, so I was able to actually have a bit of a care-free time. It certainly wasn’t the end of all my problems, not by a long shot, but I was able to have some enjoyable time with all of my friends. My friendship with Diana, who lives in New York, went from strength-to-strength in the wake of the news I was headed over there soon-ish. This was after some troubled times, so I was glad I have her around. The holiday was starting to weigh on my mind a fair bit as well – I hadn’t fully thought it through when I booked it up, and now I was coming to terms with it.
In Australia, we had our budget handed down to us with little surprise. Liberal leader Brendan Nelson’s budget reply was good (for deliver and attack, not for policy and critique). Most of it had been accounted for in the election the previous year, or released from February onwards when the Rudd/Swan ‘razor gangs’ started to go through the Liberal’s spending patterns. Also here, there was some talk about the need for an Australian space program. Jim Belshaw and I had a small debate on this. It wasn’t so much the debate proper that I want to note (as interesting as it was for me), rather that it was around then I started to think of people I had met through blogging (primarily Jim and Ninglun) as this strange sort of e-friend. Having never met them, I still liked them as much as I did those people I see on a day-to-day basis.
Something else that actually made me stop and think, and probably changed me a little, was the realisation that the students I’ll be teaching – some of them will have been born close enough to September 11 that they will have no understanding of a world without terrorism, a war on it, and all sort of rhetoric that I can acutely remember not being around one day, then suddenly appearing wherever you looked. It made me modify the way I thought about some things – all for the better. It would inadvertently help for the next semester’s work in my education subjects.
In world news, the Chengdu quake in China killed some 69,000 people – and the call for help around the world was met with warm reception. Cyclone Nargis, on the other hand, that killed some 133,000 Burmese, had all sorts of political problems. Efforts to help were initially declined by the local dictatorship, and eventually only partial assistance would be let in. The Nepalese monarchy was voted out by their national assembly after 240 years as the head of state in May too. These three events were examples for everyone to see: of the world community coming together, of democracy still at work, yet that the problems of the world that are still rife. On a lighter note, great female tennis player Justine Henin retired from the sport – notable because she was my favourite player on either circuit. Women’s tennis really did take a nose-dive after this.
June, and the end of university semester was the thing that occupied my mind second-most. I got everything done, did my take-home, and had a couple of weeks to work extra. But nothing mattered all that much – I was too excited because the first thing on my mind was that I was flying out to the US on the 27th, 4pm. I was productive on my blog, I was productive at university, and I worked a head – all because the excitement and jitters about my holiday kept me going. Whatever reprieve I had of problems in May was gone through June, so I was anticipating the holiday more than ever now. It was a chance to get away and clear my head. Problems with some of my friends, and that girl, kept on popping up. Though they got me a card at work on my last day, which gave me hope that things would resolve themself with time. I thought the holiday would be exactly what I needed, and with each passing day got more excited.
I would leave, and the first few days of the tour would fall into June – which can be read on the Legend of the Moustache page above.
Worth a little mention: I took my grandfather to Star City for his first time in June. He enjoyed it (winning some over $100 on a pokie), I enjoyed it (winning some $300 on blackjack); I finally, after some months absence, caught up with St. Ives before my trip; I had a lecture from Bob Carr in my Australian Social History subject (I was planning to blog about this at the time, but forgot, and never go around to it. I recorded it, and will upload it somewhere); I attended the funeral of a member at my golf course, a regular customer, and a genuinely good guy in the week before I left for my trip.
Politics, and in the US the Democratic primary finally came to an end – Clinton saw out that last states and went on to endorse Obama after suspending her own campaign. The pledge, behind the doors, was that Obama’s millions of donors would be asked to help Clinton get out of debt, while Clinton’s handful of fat-cat donors would be asked to support Obama. He really didn’t need Clinton’s money launders, but it was all part of the deal. John McCain, by now, had been such a non-register on the political radar that when he finally emerged to take up the fight, he had no interest, no popularity, and no platform. Obama had the upper hand of 4 months of press coverage, national exposure, and a well-defined platform because of Clinton’s attacks. We should have seen it back then, but we didn’t: Obama had an easy path to walk to victory. Pundit’s focus then turned to Obama/McCain national polling. People with any real knowledge of the race, and who had pegged an Obama win back in 2006, turned attention to state polling. This would be the difference between a tight race or a confident Obama victory.
To make things a little more interesting for myself, I took an interest in the Virginia senate race, and backed Mark Warner for a win there. Also on the US political front, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Ted Kennedy had surgery which was reported to be successful. And Michigan and Florida were finally sorted out for the Democrats: half-count for their original delegates, which gave Clinton no advantage (and rightly so).
The Australian cricket team was playing the the West Indies, and while they were performing well enough, I took the time to warn about the problems we would face in the medium to long term if actions weren’t taken. Funnily enough, yesterday Australia lost a test series at home for the first time in some 16 years. I don’t want to say that I told you so, but what I suggested back in June, to fix our cricket team, would have gone a long way to ensuring we didn’t lose the series here. I’m shattered to see it happen.
Around the world, and only listed first due to the amount of times I heard about it at work (and I did watch all the rounds) Tiger Woods wins the US Open with a ruined knee. It was a display of technique and sporting achievement that ranks among the best. “President” Robert Mugabe was “reelected” with “85%” of the vote in a second round in Zimbabwe. And still this would not settle the problems of the election, nor the country. Taking a leaf from Kevin Rudd, Canadian Prime Minister apologises to their native population for their residential school system. And Bill Gates retires as the Chairman of Microsoft, after 30 years in the position. Computers are no better with him gone.
Australian politics, and the implementation of the budget was the big thing – and getting it through the senate. That was no easy task, and wouldn’t be completely resolved for months. The Coalition took issue with some new taxes and not increasing some benefits. All stunt that would be exposed as such in due time. The other big story was that Australian troops in Iraq, 550 combat troops, would be withdrawn, fulfilling another of Rudd’s campaign election promises. While not of huge importance to the situation on the ground, it was very symbolic in Australia as probably the final step needed to signify moving on from the Howard years.
July, and majority of the month was taken up with my holiday – to the 28th. For accounts of it, again, go to the Legend of the Moustache page.The rest of the month, for me, was strange. I stopped into work, and there were no problems there anymore – and wouldn’t be for the rest of the year. I was glad. With the girl, however, while I had changed she had not, and it was only a matter of time before things would come to ahead again. But it didn’t bother me, I was too taken up in my holiday, the experience, and the great people I had met there. It was a life-changing experience, that holiday, and something I desperately needed. I vowed to do something like that every year – just to keep me sane.
I met my friend Diana in New York and spent a few days hanging out with her and her friends. I had an enjoyable time, though unexpected. I realised I met a person that I had a genuine friendship with, the same as I have with the handful of people that I call friends here. I’m eager to get back to New York again now.
In Australia, I managed to miss World Youth Day. By all accounts, it wasn’t that bad to be out of the city then. Some people enjoyed it – and for them, congratulations. Around the world, there was a G8 meeting, and when I looked back over the news at the end of the month in a catch-up session, I noticed something: India had been going through a lot of problems. Their embassy was attacked in Kabul, Afghanistan, and two series of bomb blasts over the country through the month showed that the country was struggling. The government there also (only just) survived a no-confidence vote. There had been some bomb blasts through May as well. I remarked to a friend casually that you wouldn’t want to be traveling to India any time soon. I was reminded of these remarks come December.
While I was away, The Dark Knight, the latest Batman film and Heath Ledger’s last completed on-screen role, was released. It was a blockbuster – breaking records from the day it came out to now. We wait to see if Ledger gets rewarded for his supurb performance as the Joker at the Oscars coming in the new year. I was skeptical of the movie and the hype at first, but I have to say that it’s a movie I’ve watched no less than 10 times since getting it on Blu-Ray. You really should see it, as it probably was the most enjoyable film of the year.
August, and while I had resumed university at the end of July, I was in no state to remember it (I took off from New York on the 25th and landed in Sydney on the 27th, began university again on the 28th). It wasn’t long before I started feeling the pinch of this semester’s demands: I had to do 20 hours placement in a ‘special education’ setting, I would do prac. placement later in the semester, all while holding down 4 other subjects which had the same assessment demands as the previous semester. Most of all that (assignment due dates and prac.) were towards the end of the semester – and a few months away.
On the US politics front, the national campaigning has begun, though not proper. That would happen after the conventions. Now, it was trying to craft the media’s story – which Obama won easily. The historics of the election, the change that the election would bring, and the importance of it, all were messages Obama was sending out, and the media wanted to repeat them. McCain’s messages of experience, Republicanism, and status-quo with a bit of difference, were largely ignored. Then came the next big announcements: the VPs. Joe Biden, a former primary candidate, was announced as Obama’s and well received. This lead straight into the Democratic National Convention, where we had a star-studded arrangement of political heavyweights endorsing Obama and getting the base all worked up. Hillary Clinton nominated Obama from the floor, and it almost seemed that any issues between them were gone. In less than a month’s time we would find out that they weren’t, but we had hope at the convention that they would work together well. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Michelle Obama, Howard Dean, John Kerry Evan Bayh (important, as his traditional Republican state of Indiana would go Democratic in the election), Tim Kaine, and Bill Richardson all has speeches, among others, and the convention was a massive hit that ignited the base and kept them alive until November 4.
Obama was dominating the media, dominating the rhetoric, dominating the policy, and dominating the minds of voters. McCain needed to change this. He only had one move left, and it would come in September.
Also in the US, there were little tremors going through the economy. A few small insurance and investment firms had hit the wall some time back in the year. Only through my connections in the US – my Dad’s associate in Kansas, some friends scattered across the land – and my interest in how my money is being invested, I heard towards the end of the month that a huge, Wall Street mainstay company called American International Group, or AIG, was about to go to the wall. I didn’t care much when I heard this because I invest domestically, but it would be the start to the perceived end of capitalism come September.
August also saw Russia invade Georgia – an event that made a lot of people sit up. It signalled to the world the Russia was making a play for their old position in the world. Cool heads prevailed, but I suspect that Russia won that skirmish – everyone is keeping a keen eye on them now.
In China, Tibetan protests came to a head right before the Olympics began. I casually paid interest in the Tibetan’s case, but was more interested as to how China would react with the world watching. Not all that great, I would argue. It certainly could have been worse, but it did cast a worrying shadow over the Olympics where everyone was expecting something to happen. It didn’t, and the sporting achievements were the main focus. Australia performed a little worse than in previous years – but that was to be expected. China surpassed all expectations (and they were already high) with their performance. I suspect that now, instead of assuming that the USA and Russia will instantly get number 1 and 2 place on the tally, it will be a fight for 1, 2 and 3 between these two and China. England is the country to watch as well – they host the next Olympics, and they made a good showing in China.
The most memorable achievement, in my eyes, was Michael Phelps knocking off Mark Spitz’s record of the number of individual golds in one game. Pehlps won 8.
Months after the election in Pakistan, President Musharraf finally resigns from his post – only when threatened with impeachment. It was good to see him go – and I suspect that he only really went ‘peacefully’ because the world was watching them for so many months.
Hurricane seasons began in the US with Gustav and Hanna sweeping through the Gulf of Mexico. Thankfully, with anticipation of another Katrina-esque disaster, the damage is less severe, though deaths still as tragic. Haiti, of all the countries, suffered the most. Politically though, McCain had to fend off attacks about the Republican response to Katrina. Really, McCain as Bush’s 3rd term began here. Try as he did (delaying the convention, sending Republicans back to their states to help with any disasters that would arise, etc.) he couldn’t shake the idea that he really was another Bush – the Democrats employed this effectively. It would be a label that stuck with McCain right through the election.
And a good note to finish August up on: leadership speculation. Brendan Nelson’s budget reply was his high, and he had been sliding ever since. He hit some astronomical lows in polling and prefered prime minister against Kevin Rudd, and towards the end of the month there was an informal countdown to a leadership challenge, or at least a vote, in which it was widely expected to see the Liberals walk out with a new leader in Malcolm Turnbull. But that is all news for September.