Monday, October 31, 2005

Utilitarianism

Like Clinton’s “it’s the economy….”, there are some arguments that really need to be suffixed by the word ‘stupid’. Like “eating people is wrong, stupid!”

In one of the best blog postings I’ve read, Shuggy reminds us that torture is wrong and the use of evidence obtained under torture is barely any better. This is where weblogs can come into their own. Newspapers are often too focussed on current concerns to step back and make these kind of arguments.

I’d suggest that a similar argument can be made about what passes for political realism. The view that ‘perception is reality’ in political communications. On the one hand, you are more likely to succeed in politics if you take focus group findings seriously and if you don’t pick a fight with any identifiable interest group (particularly one with media support). On the other hand, this hardly fits within the model of representative democracy – one where you govern with the interests of the nation as a whole. It hardly makes for optimal policy-making either.

I’d urge anyone who wants a successful career in politics to read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people’ In it, he outlines a view of the world that is both misanthropic and generous – depending on your mood when you’re reading it.

Misanthropic in that it focuses upon a very pessimistic view of human nature – one that is fickle and overwhelmingly self-righteous and self-centred. Generous in that it urges us to go out and find out more about the perspective of others, and to challenge our own lazy assumptions.

I’d also urge anyone who wants to live in a country that is well-governed to find a way of providing a political counterweight to anyone who has adopted Dale Carnegie’s views.

This, I would suggest, is a useful mission for Labour’s internal opposition. Where the Labour government has failed, I would argue, is when it has felt unable to challenge vested interests – particularly those in the media. Labour appears to have taken the view that it can get a lot done as long as it follows a path of least resistance. I’d suggest that it should have tried to do less, but to do the things that it does more effectively. This would involve more fights, but it would result in better policies.

Shuggy is probably a bit closer to the well-trodden paths of political science than I am (I last studied it about ten years ago), but I’d be interested to see if there is anything about utilitarianism in political communications out there?

PS: A few weeks ago, I said I didn’t agree with Trevor Phillips assertion that "Pim Fortuyn's anti-immigrant movement flourished in the Netherlands because the centre and left refused to acknowledge that their laissez-faire attitude to integration had failed." This is exactly what I mean here. I doubt if Trevor actually does think that the way that the UK has absorbed millions of immigrants over the past fifty years is really anything other than a remarkable success – one that few would have predicted.

What he really means, I suspect, is that the more relativist extremes of multiculturalism have been found wanting. That an unattractive bit of territory has been vacated by most politicians (with the honourable exception of people like Ann Cryer MP).

This has allowed gutter-rags like the Daily Mail and the Express to generalise this into an all-round failing. For Trevor, perception is reality. The media and the political class are elemental forces.

PPS: Also worth a look - Shuggy’s observations on consociational democracy in Iraq

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

From Rulsenberg (I know it's not Friday, but...)

Rulsenberg Rules links to the 'What Classic Movie Are You' test. And the movie 'link anyone to anyone' site.

I'm Schindler's List, it seems.


When I went to see Schindler's List (at the Phoenix in Finchley), me and the missus did the short dash to the White Hart as soon as the credits started rolling to catch last orders. As we opened the door, we were faced with a stand-up comic saying "... anyway, there was this Jewish bloke....."

No beer that night then.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Expel Italy Now!

Though I'm what you might describe as 'fanatically pro-EU', to my inexpert eyes, the whole project looks a little stalled (to put it kindly).

A while ago, I linked to a good peice in the FT (subscriber only - sorry) about the potential for a new 'variable geometry' within the EU. Wolfgang Munchau thinks that core countries will increasingly develop smaller multilateral agreements to ensure that the Eurozone (at least) can be dynamic and effective.

I'd argue that the European ideal is one based on solid democratic foundations. You have to demonstrate reasonable standards of governance to get in, after all. The problem is that, once you're in, you can abuse the privilege. I'd suggest that the only way that Europe can renew itself is by a process of continuous improvement. One in which the member states set each other improvement goals.

So, take all of the indicators of good governance that there are, for instance.....
  • The rule of law
  • Independent judiciary
  • Bicameralism
  • Strong regional and sub-regional government
  • Representative democracy
  • Low levels of media concentration
  • Freedom of expression
  • Equality
... and so on (go on, add your own!)

Continued membership of any internal sub-club should be based upon continuous improvement on all of these. This would in turn provide a democratic core that latecomers like the UK, or still-developing East European newbies could aspire to in the medium term. Europe could, thereby, continue to develop in a dynamic way.

The problem with all of this (and thus my pessimism) is that Italy is a member of the Eurozone. If it were applying for membership of the EU today - never mind the Eurozone - it wouldn't get in on almost any of the criteria I outlined above. That the inner core have included Italy among their number speaks of a moral vacuum at the heart of the European project.

Removing Berlusconi would only be the first step in rehabilitating the Italian state. Assuming Prodi wins next spring (no certaintly) he will find it a quagmire to reform. And to win and govern, he will have to rein in a political left that is about as narrow-minded and infantile as anyone could possibly imagine.

I argued a few weeks ago that, if you campaign against something in an incompetent way, it will be your own fault when you are defeated and the policies you oppose are implemented. Well Berlusconi's success - and the unreformable nature of the Italian state - is a testimony to the idiocy of the Italian left.

Update: there's a piece in today's Guardian sketching out Berlusconi's alleged plans to spend a million Euros in every marginal constituency in the run-up to the election next April. It's here.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Opinion Changing?

There's an interesting thread on Eric the Unred asking people if blogging has changed their opinions (please give examples).

I'm proud to say that it would take more than a feeble army of bloggers to change my mind on anything.

But bloggers have helped to clarify something for me. Particularly some of the morons in Harry's comment boxes.

Here's how. In my teens, I was quite sure that I was a socialist (no change there). So I detested Mrs Thatcher, natch. And when she declared war on the Argies, I was opposed to it.

The logic was simple; opposing the flotilla would give us another chance to show Mrs T in her true light. A socialist nirvana would follow as night follows day.

In my calculations, I didn't really give a toss about the poor Falklanders. So what if a military dictatorship over-ran a bunch of sheepshaggers? And so on.

I met a dishy young woman from the Falklands a few years later so, obviously, a new position had to be improvised quickly. I discovered muscular liberalism for the first time.

Age (and the pull of hungry gonads), not bloggers, showed me the error of my ways here. But I think you can explain a lot of the idiocy on the left in the same way that my oppositon to the Falklands expedition can be explained. They think:
  • America is a (sort of) democracy
  • The UK is even more of one
  • Activism can change democracies
  • You can't change dictatorships
  • So being more critical of democracies than of dictatorships makes sense
This recent blog posting illustrated this very well, I thought. So often, every new phenomenon is co-opted to support a pre-existing argument. For me, the Falklands was only about Mrs T. Even issues like the opposition to war in Iraq are more about 'Bliar' than they are about ... say, the Kurds?

While I doubt if mere argument ever actually changes opinions, Blogs can assure you that you're not alone in your views. They can offer a perspective.

Le panique Attaq

I can’t understand the widespread distain in this country for the French approach to culture. Especially from lefties.

We Brits tend to delude ourselves into beleiving that we’re roundheaded free-traders in the film / TV markets. If you listen to the middlebrow consensus on this, you’d think that we don’t do cultural protectionism in this country - and that we don’t need to. The consensus appears to be that, unlike the Frogs, we don’t have snobby cultural policement picking winners and shovelling massive subsidies into flicks!

Well, wrong on every count. We subsidise our audiovisual industries more than the French. We do it by applying cultural standards - not ones that are dominated by market values.

And why shouldn't we? We could stop it, of course. If you’d be prepared to put up with the consequences.

What bothers the French is that the US has a huge comparative advantage in film-making. In a market that involves high levels of risk and enormous investment, a prosperous country with a large single-language domestic market and receptive foreign markets open to a bit of lucrative dumping, the US is always going to enjoy massive advantages. In many ways American-English is the lingua franca of film-making. Even stridently ‘local’ non-American films adopt many of the narratives, characterisations and structures of American films.

So when the world wants to watch a new film, it first checks the in-tray for anything American.

Should this bother us? I’d say so. I’d have no objection, for instance to (scrabbling for an example) importing all of my rice from Asia. Or all of my coffee from Kenya and Columbia. But the idea of importing all of my culture - or all of my TV and film at any rate - from one country? Well, I’ve countless objections to that. But I’ll restrict myself to one basic Marxist one: No-one should let another social group have a monopoly on interesting work.

The reason that we think that the French are barmy about subsidies is because we don’t see the consequences of not doing the same. We have an effective and popular public service broadcaster in the UK. The last time I looked (I went over this in detail about five years ago) the BBC provides more investment for dramatic productions than the entire European film and TV industries put together. This includes France.

As a result, we have a constant stream of popular high-quality TV production. The majority of TV content in the UK is originated in the UK with British investment. It’s written and produced for British audiences.

The French didn’t have the foresight to establish a public service broadcaster as good as ours. In the dim-and-distant, it became a political football, and the only area that receives any subsidy to match our TV production is their Film industry. It benefits from an investment quota from Canal Plus (at least I think it still does) and a bit of box-office protectionism with it’s European film quota.

So if you go to the flicks in France, you can enjoy a reasonable selection of European-originated films to go with the usual diet of US blockbusters.

And what would happen to TV if our crafty little subsidies were removed?

Go and pick up your local cinema guide. Look through the review section first and see if there are any British (or any other non-US) films with good reviews. OK? Now find them in the listings. Are they on at the local multiplex?

Usually not.

Where then? Well, there are a couple of screenings at that coffee-and-carrot-cake place on the other side of town...... for a few days only.

I routinely miss films that I want to watch because they are on for such a short window (as they call it in the trade). My local multiplex with about a dozen screens regularly shows American crap across all of their auditoria because of the marketing muscle that anyone who is dumping comodities has - and way that distributors throw their weight around.

And unless something major has changed since the last time I did the sums, around 98% of films shown in British cinemas are of US origin. Read that figure again: 98% of films in British cinemas are American.

Everytime I use this argument in conversation, people don’t beleive it at first. Then they check it out and they’re astonished. Why it isn’t a major public policy issue is a mystery to me.

And if English wasn’t your first language, wouldn’t you be particularly glad about your subsidies?

(Note; the Wallace and Grommit film probably makes this an unusually bad week to make this argument. But over time, it's fairly insignificant.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

NTaH - latest

It turns out that ‘Zak’ Goldsmith is a Tory.

Who would have thought it?

London venues

The forthcoming London Jazz Festival looks as appetising as usual (on paper). The McCoy Tyner Trio and Bill Frisell are both playing the Barbican.

Archie Shepp and The Branford Marsalis Quartied (performing a set entitled 'A Love Supreme') are both playing the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The brochure I've been given omits the ticket prices. Poor communication - or embarrassment? You decide.

I'm sure that the musicians will all put everything they've got into their performances. But both of those venues will suck the life and soul their respective shows.

Shame, really. I'd love to see all of these acts. But not this time.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bring back National Service

I've commented before (here) that far-left politics has always provided a steady supply of fresh attractive females for sweaty old blokes. For some reason, presentable young women are strangely attracted to men who talk bollocks.

Well, Leninist bollocks anyway :-(

The new postgraduate course in political activism should make a good few old men very happy then.

Satire may have died, but at least we have blogs with comments boxes. The comments on Harry's Place about this are worth printing off and reading on the bus.

If anyone wants to set up a 'Pressure Group Watch' blog, please PLEASE contact me. I'll help.

Bluey-green shoots

In the Labour Party - when I first joined (early 1980s) - there was a growing realisation that Leninist 'entrists' needed to be thrown out if we were ever going to win an election.

A large slice of the Party, at the time, were worried that doing this would lose us our activist base. Tony Benn even thought it would lose us votes (the prick).

The Daily Mail has the same role within Conservatism as Militant had in the Labour Party. I don't know if David Cameron as fallen out with the Mail because of the hounding he's had over drugs - of if the hounding is because the Mail believes that he has a disdain for the rag. But either way, a Cameron-led Tory party that has no gravitational pull from the Daily Hell can only be good news for the residual Conservative factions that actually want to win elections.

It's bad news for Labour as well.

The other bit of (good for them / bad for us) news is the reasonably sensible position that the Tories appear to be taking within the Local Government Association (which they now control).

Apparently, their line is that local government 'should do less, but do it better.' This view could easily be extrapolated into a solid political position. If they take the line that they are not opposed to tax-and-spend policies per se (and therefore not expose themselves to Labour attacks along these lines), but that they just think that our civil service aren't very good at spending taxpayers money sensibly, then they could be in a winner.

They'd certainly be making a fair point.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Help Geoff. Or Pete.

Geoff of Geofftech - the man who got an i-Pod by asking Internet users for 50p each has a new trivial request.

He's got a bet with his mate, Pete, on who can be first to find 50 people who share his birthday.

Visit his site - and pass it on to anyone you know.

Necropolis

In the mid-19th Century, a huge cemetery was established in Woking to take the manifold corpses of London. It even had its own grisly transport scheme - the 'Necropolis railway' with its own terminus near Waterloo. Here's what Google found on this.

So why mention this today? Well, as a measure of my own shallowness. Some people call particular wars, genocides or disasters 'the lowest point in history.'

I have a different candidate. Last night, I resisted the temptation to jump aboard the Necropolis line to witness the lowest point in the history of one great institution.

I'm glad I did.

Brian (peace and blessings be upon Him) thought that minor cups were as important as the big ones for a ambitious clubs. He claimed that the Anglo Scottish Cup taught Forest how to win things.

Megson may have only put out a reserve team (a spit in the eye to Woking that they paid back in full), but in doing so, he set them up to be losers. This is not the kind of motivation that a side on its uppers needs. It may have worked at West Brom, but Forest are too slap-happy for that kind of treatment at the moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Work work work


Marx on the division of labour.

Alarm Clocks Kill Dreams.

Why Work?


The great Colin Ward.

Ten pointers to improve the quality of your weblog

I know I'm a bit of a repeat offender on this, but the way people use hyperlinks in blogs often serves to make content unreadable.

I've been meaning to write a post on this, but it's now been done by the ultimate authority. Read Jacob Nielsen on making your blog more user-friendly.

I think his point about common blogname suffixes looking amateurish is a bit overblown though (see point 10).

My day-job involves advising people on how to make the most of their websites, and I'm always telling them to keep it simple and use hosted solutions as plug-ins to their site (unless they've got loads of money - then the only option is to pay us to develop something bespoke!).

Monday, October 17, 2005

On the telly

I watched Match of the Day (both editions) this weekend. I wanted Man City to win (the manager is an ex-City Ground hero). I wanted Newcastle to lose (because Souness is a dreadful manager - I've always said so, and when he's fired, I'll be proved right).

I wanted Villa to beat Birmingham (prefer O'Leary to Steve Bruce, used to have a girlfriend who supported Villa etc). And I wanted Everton to hammer Spurs (I've about fifty reasons to detest Spurs).

Three out of four isn't bad.

So what's this got to do with the usual political crap that usually appears on this blog? Well, I saw a post over the weekend that explained a lot about the way people approach the big issues that dominate political discussion. This post, for instance, explains that suicide bombers in Baghdad are not primarily motivated by a desire to embarrass Tony Blair in front of his electorate.

You wouldn't beleive this if you wre to read the op-ed pages of our national newspapers though. Our inability to 'understand' militant Islam appears to be the root of all of this trouble if you were to beleive what you read.

The reasons that pressure groups prosper in liberal democracies, it because there is a margin in turning any development to your advantage. Lots of people earn a living from it. Call Guantanamo a gulag, for instance, and someone will be on the defensive.

Organise a demonstration in London about Iranians hanging gay teenagers , on the other hand, and you might as well whistle up your own arse. Organising it in Tehran would be another matter.

Is this something to get worked up about though? (click here for a few thousand examples of someone getting upset about this kind of thing)

I'd say that it isn't. Really, this solopsistic response to big issues pays a compliment to a liberal democracy.

Which brings me to the Biased BBC website / vendetta. It pays Auntie the highest compliment. Would you bother, for instance, to run a website called 'Biased Daily Telegraph'? If so, then you could launch its snappily named sister title 'Bear Shit Producing Bears that Shit in the Woods'.

In the UK, our printed media rivals that of the Italian press in the way that its readers distrust it.

That's right. Survey the European public and ask 'do you trust what you read in your newspapers?' I haven't checked the Eurobarometer research on this for a while now, but last time I looked, our hacks RIVAL ITALIAN JOURNALISTS in this particular field.

We have the most trusted broadcast news source, and the least trusted print equivalent. So next time you see a story on the BBC that you think was a bit partial to one side of the argument, remember....

  1. you can complain and your complaint will be taken seriously (as long as its not obviously stupid). They even have a nice programe on Radio 4 that will bring the offending edior on to defend their alleged bias. Complain about bias to almost any newspaper editor, on the other hand, and you can expect to be told to grow up.
  2. there will probably be something on another BBC programme shortly putting the opposite point of view.
  3. that the BBC draw their journalists from Europe's most stagnant cesspit.
Thankfully, there's a new blog that appears to be largely making this case in a more sober and coherent way.

Bookmark it.

Muscular liberal: alternative definition

I keep hearing the phrase 'muscular liberal'. Apparently, I'm a borderline case. Perhaps this makes me a slightly flabby liberal?

One example I've been given is a rejection of the cultural relativism that says that we shouldn't be so imperious as to criticise limb-amputation or the stoning of adulterous women - especially after what we've done to the rainforests. Taking the side of Trevor Phillips against A Sivanandan for example*. Well, guilty as charged on that one.

Another argument is related to the war in Iraq. Do liberal democracies have a right or an obligation to impose democracy on dictatorships? Again, with reservations about the application of the policy, guilty on that one as well.

I'm not too enthusiastic about either of these two though. I think that they're both points of debate rather than policy. They often act as avatars supporting more obscure agendas.

I'd prefer another definition. I argued a while ago that, in a liberal democracy, we share a collective responsibility for the actions of our governments. If you fail to oppose a particular initiative, you are as responsible for it as the supporters of that policy. Collective responsibility is, after all, vital to the running of any efficient organisation.

This argument is, in my view, a vital bulwark to any pro-democracy position. We can't just promote democracy on the grounds of its fairness. If we don't believe that its the most effective way of running things .... well, Mussolini DID get the trains running on time, didn't he?

Democracy should result in optimal policies. It should create a motivated population. If we were to have the 'none of the above' option added to our ballot papers, we would have populist policies and a sulky resentful electorate.

So; another definition of 'muscular liberal' for you to chew on. One that says "if you don't vote, don't bitch." And, on the day after an election, one that says "OK. So you lost. Get over it!"

(Why does all of this muscularity make people talk like Americans?)

*I reserve the right to rant in future about Trevor's argument that... "Pim Fortuyn's anti-immigrant movement flourished in the Netherlands because the centre and left refused to acknowledge that their laissez-faire attitude to integration had failed."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Note to self

When the Bloggers4Labour site asked people to write essays, I dibsed one entitled 'Why Vote?'

Obviously, I've not written it yet. But I promise to do it soon. When I do, I'll try to reflect the optimism in Norm's posting on the Iraq referendum (read it!), and not the rudeness that I've used in the past about non-voters in this country. Even though they deserve it...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My customary profanity

I thought I had a tame no-fun fortysomething life. Then I did this:

My life has been rated:

Click to find out your rating!
See what your rating is!
Created by bart666


This means that my life is comparatively racy. If this is true, its one of the most depressing things I've heard for quite a while. Maybe my near-tourettes swearing skewed my averages a bit?

Which reminds me. I'm a salesman. A high-class one obviously, but a barrow-boy at heart. I talk people into buying website services (of the very highest quality - feel free to e-mail me your requirements).

My colleague Bob claims that he phoned up the Tourettes Syndrome Society to ask them if they wanted a website, and they told him to fuck off.

Stay tuned for more sales-related humour.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Inveresk's fifth (from Tom)

I've been tagged by Tom. With this:

Directions:
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Here’s my result.

“The blogger.com spellcheck suggests 'partition' as a replacement for Portadown.”

The sentence reflects an occasional theme on this blog; that the less effective spellcheckers sometimes throw up prophetic quotations. Years ago, I did a lot of work around the potential damage BSkyB could do to the quality of TV – reducing the investment in original production. My spellchecker at the time suggested ‘Repeat Murder’ as a replacement for ‘Rupert Murdoch’.

The fifth sentence from my 23rd post on this blog was a link to the (now defunct) Portadown News website. But, like The Religious Policeman blog, you can spend a whole afternoon reading it. But I’d suggest that you wear incontinence pads when you do.

Which reminds me of my favourite Black Country joke (well, someone from Dudley told it me, and it is best read in that accent – thus the eccentric spelling).

Telephone Conversation:

Caller: “Hellow, is that Lloyds the Chimist”)
Callee: “Yis it is. How can oi hilp?”
Caller: “Do yow sell incontinince pads?”
Callee: “We certainly dow sir.”
Caller: “And could yow arraynge to have them delivered?”
Callee: “I’m sure we can dow that sir. If yow could just tell me where yow’re ringing frum?”
Caller: “Well, Oi’m wringing frum the waiyst dowen maowst of the time….”

As Ronnie Scott used to say “these are the jokes ladies and gentlemen.”

And I nearly forgot. I’m supposed to tag others with this. So go on Councillor Bob – what’s the 5th sentence of your 27th posting? (And you should have no problem understanding the Dudley joke). Rockmother may want to do it as well. And maybe Shuggy can be tempted back with this gentle workout?

Friday, October 07, 2005

How wars start

Tom Hamilton has picked up on today's Guardian story about what God told Dubya. I'm not as relaxed about theists as Tom is. While I was thinking about this, I saw the Church Sign Generator (via Bowblog), and in the spirit of Landover Baptists, I thought of a bit of mischief.

While not wanting to give too much comfort to the Seamus Milne tendency on the Grauniad, I knocked this up.




And this....








Is this how subliminal advertising works? Did George see signs like this beside the road in Texas?

Then, pleased with this, I knocked this up to e-mail to a few mates:







It reflects my personal brand of Catholicism (though my lapsed Jewish ex-punk mucker managed to distill it into a sentence for me s few years ago).

By way of reply, Ged (you don't know him) sent me this (the bastard):



Would you take that lying down?

Me neither. So he got an e-mail within a few minutes with the following in it:




Religion huh? Always leads to trouble.

Arctic Monkeys

It used to be said that if all of the people who said that they’d been to the Wigan Casino had actually been …. well …. it would have needed to be a bit bigger.

I went to see another type of Northern Soul last night. The Arctic Monkeys are getting bigger and bigger in front of our eyes. Booked to play London’s medium-sized Mean Fiddler, they were upgraded a few days ago to the Astoria, and even then, they sold the place out.

They were obviously a bit taken aback by how fast things are moving for them. The singer did this little routine;

“We played a place called The Garage a few months ago…(whole audience cheers) … alright, you were all there were you? Go on, be honest, who was really there?”

It seems that everyone thinks that The Arctic Monkeys are going to be the next big thing. I’m sure they’re right. Last night, they were starting songs and letting the audience finish them for them.

There’s plenty of links to downloads in on their website’s discussion boards if you’re interested…

Monday, October 03, 2005

Who does George Galloway blame?

I argued here that the opponents of the Iraq war are partly implicated in the government's support of it. And regular visitors to this blog may recall that I think the point of campaigning is to change the minds of the public. Politicians will rarely confound an electorate who have been persuaded on a particular issue.

So when a large part of the anti-war movement saw the war as just another opportunity to advance an old agenda, they increased their complicity in what followed.

This has set me thinking about the wider question of blame and root-causes. Take the discussion around the July bombings in London for instance. There was a predictable row about who was to blame for them. I'm broadly with Norman Geras on this: When you detonate a bomb, you are largely responsible for the consequences.

Apologists for the bombers have argued that they were trying to change the UK's foreign policy the only way open to them. The one bomber who has expressed a view on this justified his indiscriminate slaughter by told the British public that....

"your support for (your democratically elected governments) makes you directly responsible."

In his own warped way, he has a point. We all pay taxes, we all have the option to campaign or stand for election. Democracy brings a collective responsibility that we all share.

But George Galloway has repeatedly laid the blame at the feet of George Bush and Tony Blair. While George and the bomber agree that Britain's foreign policy explains why Londoners were blown up, they are disagreeing on exactly who is to blame for that policy.

But is George really only blaming Tony Blair? Would one well-placed bullet absolve Britain of its perfidy? Surely he'd include the Foreign Secretary as well? Or does he include The Cabinet? What about those who argued against the war but didn't resign? (George isn't alone here - Ken Livingstone's post-bombing statement implied that politicians could be a more legitimate target).

What about pro-war MPs? And what about anti-war Labour MPs? They helped win the election that placed Mr Tony in charge of the army, so surely they are a bit to blame?

George himself stood as a Labour candidate in 2001 (and would have done so again if he hadn't been expelled). Maybe he blames everyone who has supported Labour since his expulsion? Or maybe just those who voted for a pro-war Labour MP.

What about those who voted Labour without knowing the candidates views? Which is it?

Either way, he probably blames Tory voters as well. Most Tory candidates supported the war, apart from the grandees who thought Iraq to be a distant land that was not our concern. And what about people who didn't vote? They could have voted against Labour. Surely, in George's book, they deserted Iraq in it's hour of need?

So maybe they were all responsible well?

And do people who discredited the anti-war cause with their incompetent opportunistic campaigning deserve some kind of upbraiding? Perhaps George is doing this in private?

And what about the government (the real one - the one we get whichever way we vote). Does he blame the civil service? Or the forces? His praise for Iraqi 'martyrs' would suggest that soldiers deserve whatever they get. Has he mentioned this to Cindy Sheehan? Would he say "Sorry Cindy, I support your campaign, but your son had it coming."?

And are all public sector workers part of the government? The IRA regarded anyone who emptied the bins of a police station as an organ of the state, so maybe George does too? (Did George support the IRA? I can't remember.)

And where does this leave common-or-garden taxpayers? Even George's biggest detractors probably don't claim that he blames everyone. Obviously, the closer you get to his views, the less you are to blame. But it would be interesting to know at what point someone becomes implicated. There must be a line somewhere?

My own view is that - in return for the right to vote and all of the benefits we enjoy living in a liberal democracy - we bear a collective responsibility for the policies of our governments. If you justify violence as a response to the policies of democratic government, you are justifying an attack on yourself and your own neighbours.

Any other position is an insult to every one of us. We are not cannon fodder that can just be blown up in order to send a signal to our political leaders. If you want to change the policy of our government, you must persuade us.

Not the government.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Over-ratedness update

Here's an update on this farce. The public has spoken, the bastards. And this is what they said.

Before I comment on this though, there is no black music on this list. Nor should there be. In fact, I sat in a pub a few weeks ago and challenged anyone to name ANY black recording artist who would be confined to the Mothercare / Swan Vestas League Division Six (Northern) with the Rolling Stones and Jamie Cullum. Personally, I couldn't even name any that were not prime Premiership candidates. Even Nat King Cole was unlikely to get into a relegation battle at the bottom of the Championship (been there, got the t-shirt).

Back to the list. I'm sure the public were also consulted in drawing up the shortlist. So no Led Zep, no Floyd or Genesis or any of the other usual suspects. And only one LP by Radiohead. That tells you all you need to know about direct democracy.

But in the spirit, (leaving aside the huge flaw in this whole exercise) here is the correct order of overratedness and general dispicability:
  1. Radiohead - OK Computer
  2. Coldplay - X&Y
  3. Nirvana - Nevermind
  4. The Libertines - The Libertines
  5. Oasis - Definitely Maybe
  6. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
  7. U2 - The Joshua Tree
  8. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
  9. The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  10. Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks
The first two need no commentary. They would obviously be on anyone's list. Nirvana have probably been treated more fairly than they deserve as well. Why anyone has ever taken them seriously is beyond me. They were a walking argument for the re-introduction of National Service and with the possible exception of 'Lithium', it's a dreadful album from start to finish.

The Libertines may be a bit useless as well, but in fairness, I've never heard them being over-rated, so I don't know why they're on the list.

The rest shouldn't be there at all. U2 could really have appeared further down my version (aka 'the definitive version') of the list.

If Bono wasn't such an emetic, I'd have to admit the Joshua Tree is quite inspired. It was a revelation to guitarists about what could be done with a delay pedal, for one thing.

Posh People's Disease....

.... or 'PPD'.

It's everywhere. Burchill on Guy Richie:

"I don't want to pull the class-war angle, but only a public schoolboy could think that violent criminals are anything but cretinous, sexually stunted scum." (via Hak Mao)

For years I've had a guilty secret. I thought that the The Police were better than The Clash* in every way. Pootergeek's explanation exonerates anyone who shares this view.

"It’s also worth noting that within a year of Gordon Sumner (Sting) being born to a milkman in Newcastle-on-Tyne, John Graham Mellor’s (Strummer’s) diplomat father was probably putting the freshly-slapped infant down for the private Surrey boarding school he would go on to attend before beginning his career as a class warrior."

Stop Press: Want more of the same? Tom has linked to Julie on the Kaiser Chiefs - so that you don't have to buy The Times.

(*The Police's 'Ghost in the Machine' was always shite tho' - nothing will change that. And The Clash's 'Give 'em Enough Rope' is very good on the headphones at the gym. But then so is Deep Purple's 'Highway Star')

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Charges dropped

I know how Walter Wolfgang feels. I’ve also just had a few hours cooling my heels in custody after a little incident at a North London coffee shop.

I sat there dipping my Biscotti for twenty minutes minding my own business. I pretended not to notice the staff sniggering as they cued up Jamie Cullum, James Blunt, and Norah Jones.

But then they put The Scissor Sisters on and they all looked over to my table.

The Constabulary were called, but I knew they’d have to release me in the end. I don’t care how much it will cost them to replace their poxy windows. No proletarian jury would convict me and they couldn’t arrange to have the trial switched to Windsor or Hampstead.

I better get an apology or I’ll to write a bloody letter to The Guardian about this.