Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

A great night to be in Pittsburgh. The local baseball team, the Pirates, were attempting to reach their first play-offs in 21 years. Meanwhile in Washington DC, a Republican party rejected at the polls last year was seeking to increase its popularity by bringing the government to a halt. On the Strip, a bustling street along the banks of the Allegheny River, it seemed everyone was wearing a shirt declaring his or her allegiance to the Pirates. In the pizza joint where we'd gone before I played my first Pittsburgh gig in nearly two decades, the TV above the bar reported on the stalemate in Washington.

But it didn't feel much like a shutdown.

No one in the place seemed to care that the Republicans might be in a hole, nor willing to suggest that they stop digging.

Someone who might have benefited from that kind of advice is Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. If he had hoped to undermine Ed Miliband's reputation by attacking his late father, the plan backfired spectacularly. Right before the Privy Council was due to assess the newspaper industry's plan for selfregulation, Dacre gave us a reminder of how irresponsible editors can be.

Granting Miliband the right to reply seemed, on the face of it, a reasonable thing to do. But taking the opportunity to further attack Miliband Sr dragged the whole affair on for a week, not just eclipsing the Conservative conference but dragging the war record of Dacre's own father into the fray. Result? The stature of Ed Miliband was enhanced. The stature of the press - less so.

The America I have been touring is convulsed by Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, which has come into force this week extending basic insurance coverage to more Americans.

A considerable step forward, yet fierce opposition from the Republican party has ensured that many of those in the greatest need will remain without cover. Twenty six states have opted out of an extension of the Medicaid programme, affecting about half the population but two-thirds of America's poor, uninsured AfricanAmericans and single mothers. Fifty years ago, many of these states, predominantly in the south, regularly passed 'Jim Crow' laws, local statutes designed specifically to marginalise African-Americans. It took the civil rights movement to make that a thing of the past. But when the glitches on the Affordable Care Act have been ironed out and the nation sees who remains without insurance, many Americans may come to view refusal to implement 'Obamacare' as a 21st-century form of Jim Crow. …

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