Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some final firsts: Obama, the economy and the Tampa Bay Rays. Last Wednesday I sat down and watched most of the final presidential election debate, a first for me. It was rivetting stuff and I found myself watching more of that than Brazil`s World Cup qualifier against Colombia which was on at the same time. Politics ahead of football? Another first for me. For me I thought Obama won hands down - he gave reasoned responses, appeared calm and in control and on top of his subject matter, was magnanimous but firm and presented his policy ideas with clarity. McCain appeared blustery and resorted to the rhetoric of fighting and conquering and often opted for listing ideas rather than providing a rounded policy package. Perhaps, McCain needed this as the polls show him losing - his approach was throw mud and the kitchen sink at a wall to see what sticks. I guess both styles of communication appeal to different sections of the populace but I was left more convinced than before of Obama`s credentials of being president. The CNN tracker of undecided voters responses to the speech as it was happening suggested so as well. I, for one, would vote for Obama - I have far more in common with his outlook than not - and I think the appointment of an African American to the presidency pours healing oil on a lot of America`s own history as well as it`s relations with the world outside it`s borders. Most Brazilians agree, although some folks here have voiced their concern that Obama may become an assissination target if he were to be elected.

If, as seems likely, Obama does become the first black president of the USA he has the enormous burden of a crumbling economy to sort out. In small ways news is trickling through to us here of how the credit crunch is affecting people we know across the globe. Brazil has remained relatively immune so far, a product, says Rachel`s Dad, of a history of huge monetary upheavels in the past and dictatorships freezing savings accounts. In other words, its nothing Brazilians haven`t seen before and they were never too keen on filing their money away in savings accounts or pensions for a rainy day only for somebody else to help themselves. Furthermore, Lula`s workers party, despite attracting investors and opening up markets, still have more clout to reign in their own market it seems. Certainly, the Brazilian banking system is not nearly so ubiquitous in the lives of its citizens as it is in the UK or the USA. That said, this week we had lunch at one of our favourite little restaurants called Sal da Terra. The proprietor and his family are friends of ours and attend our church group. He told me some of his larger suppliers who are linked into foreign markets are feeling the pinch and are starting to raise prices. The chain reaction impacts him , of course, leaving him a tricky choice of hiking the cost of the dishes on his menu or cutting costs elsewhere. So, this is the first direct example I`ve seen of the economic crisis affecting Natalenses.

There`s been a few firsts in sport recently too. Andy Murray won his first Master Series final, well done to him. Lewis Hamilton just needs to finish higher than 5th in the Brazilian Grand Prix next weekend to claim his first F1 World Championship. The Tampa Bay Rays are in their first World Series. The team, which is only 12 years old, are largely responsible for my interest in baseball. I watched them several times back in 1998 when I was living in Florida. Back then, they were dire and could only fill their stadium by a third so it was a case of watching them play more prestigious teams like the New York Yankees (in the same way that if you were a Derby County fan you would try and get along to watch them play Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal). Now, Tropicana field is packed and they stand a good chance of taking the game`s biggest prize. I'll be sure to tune into the first game of the World Series tonight. I`ve even twisted Rachel`s arm to watch the first innings with me so I feel like I have somebody to be excited with about all this. Go Rays!

And thereby concludes my posts about firsts...

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