Did Austria's teen voters help the far right?

Austrians went to the polls for parliamentary elections Sunday, and for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds got to vote. Austria is the first European Union country to lower the voting age to 16 for national elections. Brazil, Cuba, and Nicaragua also permit 16-year-olds to vote, and neighboring Germany allows 16-year-olds to vote in certain local elections.

What led to the change? One word: demographics. With Austrians having fewer babies, the electorate was skewed toward seniors. Granting more youth the vote was seen as a way of maintaining balance between generations.

Of course, the big news was that the country's two moderate mainstream parties had their worst showings since World War II, while two far-right parties took nearly 30 percent of the vote together.

Did the youth vote play a role? Maybe. Heinz-Christian (HC) Strache, the 39-year-old head of the far-right Freedom Party, received one fourth of the under-30 vote. His Web site, showing "StraCHE" in a Che Guevara-style beret, features a downloadable "Viva HC" rap song ring tone.


Why more briefings won't help Sarah Palin


Adam Nagourney has a good story in the New York Times about growing Republican fears that Sarah Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee, is going to crash and burn in Thursday's debate with Democrat Joe Biden.

Palin flew to her running mate John McCain's Arizona ranch yesterday to begin three days of intense debate preparations. Will she be ready?

Given Palin's abysmal performance in her recent interview with Katie Couric of CBS, I seriously doubt it. She just doesn't seem like she has given any thought to major issues in economics and foreign policy, ever, and the "gibberish" she utters when forced off her talking points shows it painfully. Nor does she appear to have the base of knowledge necessary to absorb the briefings she is being so desperately given -- something that takes years, not days, to acquire. And that's why this automated computer script (thanks, Andrew) sounds about as intelligible as Palin does. It's why Saturday Night Live could use actual quotes to mock the Alaska governor in a comedy sketch.

As the Atlantic's James Fallows, an Obama supporter, put it after seeing Palin speak with Couric about foreign policy, "After thirty years of meeting and interviewing politicians, I can think of exactly three people who sounded as uninformed and vacant as this. All are now out of office. One was a chronic drunk." The average reader of USA Today would do better, frankly.

I'm sorry if this sounds unduly partisan, folks, but I have to call it like I see it. McCain is a great hero, he has done some good things in the Senate, and he might make a wonderful president. But if he wins, he damn well better stay alive.