Thursday, April 27, 2006

British Socialism explained

The Daily Mail is giving DVDs away over the next few weeks. You have to collect the tokens and send off for them.

Given the Mail's editorial line, the films are a surprising choice. One is an anarchist parable, where the good people of London throw off the shackles of statehood and grasp their autonomous destiny. Another screens the glorious fantasy of the alienated young worker. There is also the story of the class-outcast gradually picking off a whole aristocratic dynasty in an act of social vengence.

Among the others, one provides a syndicalist example of how the railways could be run, while another shows the capacity that spontaneously-organised militant labour has to respond to technological change. Perhaps the best of the lot portrays the time-bomb that is the dutiful employee. So you can stick your Eisenstein up your arse, as far as I'm concerened.

I shall be buying the Daily Mail for the next two weeks. God help me. Unless someone has a maiden aunt who can clip the coupons for me?

These films are all nearly as good as the greatest British Socialist movie ever*. I got that free with The Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago....

*It's set in Nottingham y'know!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Social Innovation

A good piece by Geoff Mulgan about 'social innovation'.

"Although more policy ideas are now piloted than in the past, there are very few institutions devoted to social innovation, no widely accepted methods for doing it, no serious academic works analysing it and no widely used metrics for measuring it. Worse, there are strong disincentives to innovate in both the public and voluntary sectors. It is well known that the penalties for failed innovations are often high while the rewards for successful ones are slim....."


"... all new ideas threaten existing vested interests. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that ineffective models survive far longer than they should - for instance, in fields as various as criminal justice (where recidivism rates remain ridiculously high) and education (where levels of truancy and the number of people not currently in employment, education or training have remained stubbornly high for a decade or more)."

I'd add another brake on social innovation: Anyone that comes up with a good idea, and finds a way of making it commercially sustainable faces the following hurdles:
  1. The public sector likes the idea, and decides to 'procure' it (i.e. decide to do it, they either work out ways that it can be done without outsourcing it, or ways that they can get an external supplier to help them 'tick the box' without being that bothered about doing it properly)
  2. The public sector likes the idea so much that they give an NGO the money they need to do it. Even though someone in the private sector has already invested in the idea and is trying to do it in a commercially sustainable way.

Examples? Seen CITRA? A good idea, no? Someone put a lot of hard work and their own money into it. So why are the Government giving £Millions to NCVO to launch an 'ICT Hub'? And have you seen Governance Magazine - aimed at Charity governors? (OK, probably not, unless you're a charity governor...). A good idea, no? Again, money, hard work, and people who know what they're doing. So why are the Government giving NCVO £millions to launch 'The Governance Hub'?

There are plenty more where that comes from. The lesson? If you have a bright idea, don't invest any of your own time or energy in it, because the government will come along and balls it up for you.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Spiked in 'deregulate now' shock

There is an unwritten rule in some righty-libertarian circles: Never criticise journalists - they just do what they have to do. Take Brendan O'Neill on Spiked: (please! Take Brendan.... oh, never mind....)
"The Electoral Commission represents politicians' own doubt and distrust in themselves. After all, this body was set up by parliament in order to keep a check on the parliamentary parties' antics. Unlike the Lords and the monarch, which stood aloof from parliament and very often clashed with it, the Electoral Commission was voluntarily created by parliamentarians who seem to agree that they are involved in a shady business: politics."
He goes on to say...
"Like the Electoral Commission I, too, am 'unsatisfied' with the political parties - but for vastly different reasons. The problem with politics today is not that there are more shady goings-on than there were in the past, but that it is pale and uninteresting. It is anaemic, lacking in vision, and a generally debate-free zone. The last thing we need is a Commission that aims to make such a political landscape even flatter."

As with much of the output on Spiked, the core concern appears to be a demand for less regulation. In itself, a reasonable argument. I've argued again and again that The Standards Board (and ancilliary bodies) should be scrapped. I'm happy to engage in a witch-hunt of bureaucrats whenever anyone wants to call one.

But I never read anything on Spiked that calls for more constructive intervention, more regulation, more of an expression of consensus about the way that public debate contributes to this. Being anti-regulation on principle, Spiked will never demand, for instance, that the media should play a part in the cultivation of a more critical openness.

Because Spiked never demands that anyone should ever DO anything. Just that they shouldn't do whatever it is they are currently doing.

The reason that politics is such a shady business, and that it is dull, homogenous and risk averse, is that no-one is prepared to deal with the cause of this dullness: That public life is reported in a shrill and largely hysterical way by a largely useless and dishonest press corps. That politicians, bureaucracies - and most damningly - journalists - are unable to adopt any position of critical openness, preferring instead the well-rehearsed narratives of spin, sleaze, and 'embarrassments.'

Court politics is boring. And it's chroniclers are damn mad. Mad mad mad. When will Spiked turn it's beady little eyes on that one then?

Point 11: critical openness

I know that some will probably regard this as further evidence of guilt-by-association, but White Sun of the Desert - a righty-blog - says the following (in response to the Euston Manifesto).

....One of the most unattractive parts of left-wing politics to anyone on the right is the willingness of some to view history through the prism of ideology. One of my pet hates is the regularity with which left-wing commentators criticise US foreign policy in the 50 years since WWII in complete isolation of the geopolitical situation in place at the time. It is not uncommon to find a lengthy newspaper column preaching the evils of say, US intervention in Indonesia, with ne’er a mention of the USSR, China, or the Cold War.

Any reader who did not know better would think from what is printed by many left-wing commentators that the US just rocked up in a boat one day and started shelling Hanoi for fun, and they supported Suharto because the US just liked killing Communists. They would have no clue that the US had recently lost 34,000 of its men defending South Korea from an unprovoked Communist invasion from the North, backed and aided by the Soviet Union and China.

Nor would they know that the Soviet Union had in the decade earlier been actively encouraging Chinese forces to intervene in support of Communist revolutions in South East Asia, and that China had done so on several occasions.

That’s not to say that many of the US policies during the Cold War should not be condemned as being counterproductive, often immoral, and sometimes barbaric.

But to remove US actions from the Cold War context is to remove the ultimate aims of the US’ adoption of these policies from the picture entirely, leaving the reader to be appalled at the means only. It is like discussing in detail the RAF’s bombing of Dresden in isolation of the fact that Britain was at war with Germany at the time. Whereas historians do, and should, argue over whether the means of achieving Germany’s surrender by bombing Dresden was correct or morally sound, they at least do so on the basis that Britain’s ultimate aim of Germany’s surrender was real, and it was morally right. No serious historian writes a paper on the bombing of Dresden in the greater context of the UK’s history of military imperialism....."

(via Pootergeek's comments)

Troll detected

Following the débâcle at the hands of the Monkey Hangers, there will be no end-of-season projections this week. Seán Og will give you an update if you need one.

But, this regular feature has created this blog's first bona fide troll.

And Camulodonum (in the comments at this post) is more welcome than most trolls because s/he called Forest "a small copse near Leicester."

Not bad, I think you'll agree? Camulodonum's identity? It's the old Roman name for Colchester.

I have a few suspects....

What's happening at The Groan?

Wednesday 19th April. The day that the Groan published two op-ed peices that were worth reading: Neal Lawson on class, and Jonathan Freedland on Labour and fundraising. And two days later, Polly Toynbee on wealth and transparency.

And she must be on to something, because even S&M agrees with her. (This is a rarity).

Can someone please explain Polly Toynbee to me? How can one columnist be so spectacularly wrong sometimes and right at other times? It doesn't compute.

Usually, with Groan columnists, the by-line is enough. Read Monbiot's latest? Get stuffed! Madeline Bunting? Well, only if you've got low blood pressure and need it fixing.

But Polly? You have to actually read at least one paragraph of each column before you know whether she is annoying you today. This is not in the spirit of good op-ed journalism.

On reflection, this applies to Jonathan Freedland as well.

Three things

1. Defend the radish

2. Cretinism carried to new heights:

3. Windows Vista is coming. Slowly. And it's not going to all be fun and games:

"The bad news, then, is that User Account Protection is a sad, sad joke. It's the most annoying feature that Microsoft has ever added to any software product, and yes, that includes that ridiculous Clippy character from older Office versions.

The problem with UAP is that it throws up an unbelievable number of warning dialogs for even the simplest of tasks. That these dialogs pop up repeatedly for the same action would be comical if it weren't so amazingly frustrating. It would be hilarious if it weren't going to affect hundreds of millions of people in a few short months. It is, in fact, almost criminal in its insidiousness."
(hat tip: Ben)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pig Olympics / end of the flat-pack?


And see the magical robotic chair! (watch the film)

(hat tip for both to Charlie)

Unforeseen benefit of the Euston Manifesto debate

I've been blogging for about one year now. And I've been trying to get people interested in a debate about representative democracy (and my contention that it is being chipped away at, and that this is a bad thing). You won't need to scroll very far....

At the same time, I've tried (often without success) to stay out of political bunfights. I share a lot of Chris Dillow’s dislike for the way that politics is discussed. In particular, the obsession with court politics strikes me as one of the first signs of madness. A madness that I was once afflicted with, I might add.

So, getting involved in the Euston Manifesto discussion is something that, in theory, I shouldn't be doing. It isn't 'court politics' (therefore not a symptom of mental collapse), but it IS one of those discussions that often brings the worst out in people.

In this case, though, bringing out the worst in a particular section of the political class is something that has needed doing for a long time. Lancing the boil, so to speak. A lot of the non-signers that I've spoken to have, at least acknowledged that the political left has a serious problem that can't be allowed to fester for too much longer.

BUT, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the Manifesto has provoked a discussion about representative democracy. Something I've been desperate to do since I set up my blog - and something I've largely failed on.

It starts here: Read on....

CPA scores and 'interactivity'

Assessing how well councils interact with their communities is the major focus of a new 'easy-to-use toolkit' being launched for councils by the Audit Commission today.

Via Shane.

I can't get a look at it because they make it available only to Councils, it seems.

But I'd be interested to know if they see any role for Councillors in this activity? Or is 'engagement' purely the role of officers? Is it the case that - if Councils provide any resources to Councillors to do this work, that they will be providing 'political funding' - which is, of course, ILLEGAL*!!!

And we can't have that, can we?

And if this is the case, are the Audit Commission making Direct Democracy a pre-condition to a decent CPA score? Have they agreed this with anyone I wonder?

(*according to dozens of Monitoring Officers up and down the country, who have their salaries paid out of the public purse until the day I come to power).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

C'mon Dave! Sign it!

I'm still not sure why Dave Osler won't sign the Euston Manifesto. My only major criticism of the thing is it's blandness - and on reflection, that's also the greatest virtue that it has. There is so little in it to disagree with - yet the fact that a large slice of the left find it so objectionable explains why it is so necessary.

For years, I assumed that most of the left implicitly accepted that liberal democracy - while not perfect by any means - was better than any of the alternatives currently on offer. That our (the left's) role is to build an alternative that is more attractive. And that the instrument for this alternative-building was either the organised working class or it's parliamentary arm - the Democratic Socialist parties.

I always believed that the left wasn't vocal in it's support for liberal democracy because the socialistic alternative that is under construction is likely to be even better - and when it arrives, it's virtues will need foregrounding without any congratulatory background noise about liberal democracy.

I supported the Manifesto because in recent years, it's become clear that much of the left has chosen to forget the relative value of liberal democracy - and done so for opportunistic reasons.

To me, the manifesto is just a restatement of something that almost everyone I know agrees with - but something that has been lost in the noise. And something that is being threatened by the idiocy of some sections of the Leninist left.


OK? I suspect that there are plenty of people who will disagree with what I've said so far. But there is a lot less to disagree with in the Manifesto.

So, turning to Dave's assessment of the thing:


"I agree with a lot of what the manifesto says, possibly even most of it. Some of the rejoinders to the idiocies of anti-imperialist reductionism are unanswerable.....

.....I’ve always interpreted Marxism in a libertarian way, trying to base myself centrally on the principle that the working class is the sole force capable of bringing about progressive social change."
So far, the only word I'd disagree with here is 'sole'. Replace it with 'main' and I'm happy.

Dave moves on to criticise the manifesto largely on the grounds that it's signatories - while not signing anything that he'd disagree with much - may at some unspecified point in the future move from being the supporters of a specific piece of US foreign policy that they agree with (and by the way, not all of us DID agree with that policy) to being dog-whistle supporters of all US foreign policies.

There is nothing in the text that he can infer this from. If anything, those that signed the Euston Manifesto are in a position to be more powerful critics of the US's dealings with the rest of the world than many on the left - precisely because we have rejected a position that Dave himself agrees is indefensible. If the backstory to your position is a simplistic 'any enemy of the US is a friend of mine' position, then you will not be taken seriously.

Dave knows this, and has said as much. He argues...

"The concept of the self-emancipation of the working class is a vision that today’s far left has almost entirely lost. The dominant trend – the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Action, aided and abetted by a substantial minority of the Communist Party of Britain – now looks to other forces to win the class war for them.

That abandonment of socialist basics has already brought them into the embrace of various stripes of Middle Eastern dictator and political Islamists. While I hope the logic of the process can still be arrested, things are not looking good."
But then the lefty tribalism takes over. That nightmare scenario of being called a splitter takes over. In a subsequent post, he agrees with Mike Marqusee. But I suspect that Mike disagrees with .... er .... Dave.

Mike says...

"...there's the dishonesty of treating the Socialist Workers' party and Respect as the totality of the left or the anti-war movement."
But there isn't, is there? And Dave knows that. He knows that the large slice of of the extra-parliamentary left have put all of their chips on the StWC square. He knows that the StWC is very closely managed by a combination of the SWP and the remnants of the CPGB with a solicitous eye on the MAB - the 'prospects' as a salesman would describe them.

And then Dave bizarrely also agrees with (the blogger) 'lenin's objection to the manifesto. I've quoted it before, but it really is the money quote, so I'll use it again:

"...if the Muslim Brotherhood are fighting to bring down the Egyptian dictatorship, of course the Left should work with them. If they try to limit the revolution, then the left should turn against them. As for a certain off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, if the MAB are fighting against an imperialist war on Iraq, the antiwar left should work with them, precisely on that issue. If they are prepared to offer electoral support to Respect, (while also supporting the Greens, the Lib Dems, Labour etc in other contexts), then the left should be appreciative of the fact that Muslims, even those of a conservative outlook, look to the left to stop the Islamophobic crusade, and deliver justice and freedom from oppression."

Come on Dave. Have the left largely allowed themselves to be consumed by the anti-war movement?
You've more-or-less said that you think that they have.

Is this because they believe that it creates potential 'actors' who will work on their behalf?You've more-or-less said so already, so let's hear it.
If so, do you agree or disagree with Mike Marquesee? And do you agree with 'Lenin' as you say you do. Or do you profoundly disagree with him, as you also say you do?

And why is this so hard for you? This document has the ingredients needed to unite the sensible thinking left. It's not the neo-con Trojan Horse that you say it is. It simply repudiates a lot of the idiocy that you've remarked upon yourself. It has been drafted to appeal to a broad church - thus it's silence on whatever model of insurrectionism it is that you currently favour.

Sign it Dave. They'll call you a ‘splitter’ today. But you disagree with the EM less than you disagree with most of its opponents, I think?

Situation vacant

Derby County have a managerial vacancy.

I Love 1865 has a candidate.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Petty annoyances

Shuggy has a petty annoyance to share with you.

Here's mine: The automated train station announcement that personally apologises for delays. Something like this:

"Fuckup Great Eastern Trains are sorry to announce that the *click* Nine *click* Fifty *click* One *click* train to *click* Upper Smeggington *click* has been delayed by *click* Nineteen* minutes. I am sorry for any inconvenience that this has caused to your journey." (emphasis mine)

Not 'we' - i.e. Fuckup Great Eastern and all of its employees and it's computer. But 'I'.

The computer is the only one who is sorry. It should be suffixed with 'everyone else who works here doesn't give two fucks how long it takes you to get home' because that's what they mean when they leave a computer to do their dirty work for them.

It would do their reputation more good to simply not make that announcement at all.

British Rail would never have let this happen.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The bunfight: latest

The Euston Manifesto is now five days old, and it has been a fantastically successful exercise as far as I can see. As Norm reports:
"After 4 days, 98,500 results on Google if you search 'Euston.Manifesto'.... in the last 24 hours 'Euston Manifesto' has been between the fourth and the ninth most frequent search item at Technorati."
The way that it has been debated has also been interesting. There's been loads of vitriolic crap as can be expected. And to all of you who posted it - wherever you posted it - thank you. You made the Manifesto's point more cogently than those of us who supported it ever could.

Here is something that I've never seen articulated before though: If you are involved in the Stop the War Coalition, please note that one of your most widely-read and influential bloggers says this:
"...if the Muslim Brotherhood are fighting to bring down the Egyptian dictatorship, of course the Left should work with them. If they try to limit the revolution, then the left should turn against them. As for a certain off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, if the MAB are fighting against an imperialist war on Iraq, the antiwar left should work with them, precisely on that issue. If they are prepared to offer electoral support to Respect, (while also supporting the Greens, the Lib Dems, Labour etc in other contexts), then the left should be appreciative of the fact that Muslims, even those of a conservative outlook, look to the left to stop the Islamophobic crusade, and deliver justice and freedom from oppression."
Yes: "If they try to limit the revolution, then the left should turn against them."

Whatever you think about the whys-and-wherefores of the war, do you still think that there is no need for a Manifesto that seems to be a restatement of the bleedin' obvious? I can't imagine that even a lot of StWC activists are happy having bedfellows such as this?

A while ago, I wrote a post about how the feverish bunfight that we hear on the left does not reflect the offline conversations that I've been having with left-leaning acquaintances. Where columnists or bloggers scream certainty, ordinary left-liberals are unsure. There is a lot of uncertainty around about the role of the left and about the future of internationalism. Whatever your views on these issues, the debate around the Manifesto has foregrounded a lot of them nicely. The tone of that debate has also spoken volumes.

And this is the real divide on the left. It isn't between 'pro' and 'anti' war. It is between those who recognise that simply reaching for the 'imperialism' charge-sheet is just no longer enough, and those who don't. A section of the political class that stopped thinking after Vietnam has now started to wonder again.

This is the achievement of the Euston Manifesto.

In our own hands

If you've come here for an authoritative summary of the first five days play in Euston Manifesto Land, you'll have to wait. There are more important matters to hand:

Following the 2-1 drubbing of Yeovil this afternoon, the final placings (based upon form) are now going to be as follows:

1st: Southend - 82pts
2nd: Colchester - 79pts
3rd: The Tricky Trees - 76pts
4th: Brentford - 74pts
5th: Huddersfield - 74pts
6th: Barnsley - 71pts
7th: Bristol City - 70pts
8th: Swansea - 69pts

While this isn't as optimistic as the last prediction, it has one significant advantage: Our fate is now in our own hands. The so-called 'real league table' (the boring one based on actual performances as opposed to wildly optimistic pipe dreams) now has us inside the top six for the first time in ages. So, while Colchester's win today made the automatic promotion slot less likely, the play-offs are no longer a fantasy. If bookies gave odds on Forest getting a play-off place (none that I've found do) they would now be very short ones.

A few side observations. Brentford's goal difference is slightly better than Huddersfield, but this whole picture will be a bit clearer when Huddersfield play their game-in-hand at home to Chesterfield tomorrow. Oldham - who (if you recall) were the real fly in the ointment four weeks ago have lost their last three games and thereby dropped from view. And Bristol City have dragged themselves into the picture in fine style. Probably too late now, but still, you never know...

But most importantly, you should all note that I am being proved right here. When I started this thread, four weeks ago, a few people (and you know who you are) said that I was plain stupid to think that even a play-off place was a possibility. I alone knew that Forest would have their best-ever run since the glorious 1966-7 season when we were runners-up behind the Best and Charlton Man Utd side.

Oh yes.

Remember this next time you are tempted to question the judgment of NTaH.

Tragically, no-one did so in the comments box, for the record.

Now that there are only three games to go, I think I'll stop this exercise here. The BBC have their nice predictor to take us all through to the end of the season. Hartlepool (a), Bournmouth (h) and Bradford (a) still to go...

Promotion update

Promotion celebrations at the City Ground need to be postponed no longer. For the last four Mondays, I've been projecting Forest's end-of-season placings. Each time, I've upbraided myself for over-optimism. Each time, the next results shows that - if anything - I've been pessimistic.

As there are four games left for everyone, I'm projecting the next four games based on the last four (taking the points average over the last five games and projecting forward would actually give Forest a better end-of-season placing). Things should be even clearer when this afternoons results are in (we have Yeovil at home).

So, here goes:

1st: Southend - 84pts
2nd: Forest - 76pts
3rd: Brentford - 76pts
4th: Colchester - 74pts
5th: Huddersfield - 74pts
6th: Barnsley - 71pts
7th: Swansea - 69pts
8th: Bristol - 67pts
9th: Oldham - 67pts

I've put Forest above Brentford on two grounds:

1. If it were a 'five-game' projection, we'd be points ahead
2. Brentford have a Goal Difference of +18. Forest have +15. On current form, 3 goals will be an easy gap to close.

BUT, what happens if we finish on the same points / Goal Difference?

Anyone know?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sign the Euston Manifesto

Today, 13th April 2006, we (bloggers, academics, campaigners, writers, scientists, journalists, citizens) launch the Euston Manifesto.

With this document we hope to publicly reassert our progressive, democratic, egalitarian, internationalist principles in the face of recent attacks upon them from the Right and, to our dismay, the Left. Many of us are of the Left, but we come from across the range of political positions. We are not founding a political party.

We are not a "pro-war" grouping - many of us were, for example, opposed to Western military intervention in Iraq. Our declaration is not definitive, final, or perfect; it is, we hope, the beginning of a renewed debate, grounded in a common set of progressive values.

You can read and sign the document at our Website where donations towards our costs are also welcome.

Comments are closed on this announcement alone because that is all this post is: an announcement. We simply want to launch this movement in a co-ordinated way and make sure there is time for people to understand exactly what we stand for before criticizing it.

We welcome discussion of the Euston Manifesto across blogs, in the media, and in the public world and intend that the Euston Manifesto Group, the organisation founded upon the manifesto's principles, will promote such debate by organising meetings, sponsoring seminars, and publishing ideas.


Norman Geras and Nick Cohen have written a short history of the Euston Manifesto in the current New Statesman here.

Update: I bet you've seen my snazzy Euston Manifesto blog-button (on the blogroll) and you're wondering how you can one of your very own? Hmm?

Well, there's a selection (two of them actually) here. Along with a particularly alluring Paypal button that makes supporting the Euston Manifesto even easier than you thought possible!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Another use for blogging?

Cybersoc on not having your quote used.

Perhaps someone could build a little site so that everyone who is ever phoned for a comment by a newspaper can log their response.

Once, when I was working for an MEP, I was phoned by the Daily Mail and asked for a comment on some peice of Eurobollocks that they'd just made up. I managed to convince them that I was the world's leading expert on the issue they were discussing, and then told them that I'd be happy to give them a comment - on the record.

But I said that I'd only give it them if they'd give me an assurance that they'd print it. They said they would. I would have asked for a faxed letter confirming this, but I knew I wouldn't get it, and that this would lose me the opportunity to say....

"OK. Here's my quote. Your story would only be correct if you added the word 'not' into every sentance."

They didn't print it.

Tart Poo

Hana on Tart Poo.

"Stifling bureaucracy and lack of infrastructure are making the redevelopment of the Thames Gateway and Greater Manchester unsustainable..."

Hana commented on an earlier post of mine that she thought that it was too late to involve the people that will be living in the proposed Thames Gateway developments in its design.

While I lack her obvious experience on this, I really can't see why the housing and the neighbourhoods planned around the Olympics infrastructure can't be tweaked at this stage? I understand that there is scant navel-gazing time for the exact infrastructure around the events; But surely the way to ensure that the areas are a bit more sustainable would be to do something - after all the development is planned over a twenty-year period.


Social class and civic participation

Kevin has a competition. No prizes, but worth a look:

What year was this from:

"Much of the recent discussion about group formation has been tinged unconsciously with the experience of the middle-class citizen in organizing small voluntary interest groups, so that we have come to think of social participation as something grudgingly offered and easily withdrawn."

Answer here:

Even if more direct forms of democracy were worth considering (which, IMHO, they're not) you'd need to crack the whole 'social cohesion' problem first.

Automatic Promotion Inevitability Watch - latest

For the last two weeks, I've been projecting Forest's end-of-season placings by extrapolating the form shown over the last five games forward. Up until now, I've been calling it 'promotion inevitability watch' on the understanding that - if we get into the play-off - we're bound to go up.

So far, this has been the desperate work of a perennial optimist. Privately, I've been happy to concede that even a play-off place is a long-shot. The first week I did it, I showed that 6th place was technically possible (but massively optimistic).

Last week I had the audacity to speculate that 5th or 6th place could be possible.

All that has changed now. Even pessimists are beginning to concede that - on current form - anything less than a playoff place will represent a cruel collapse in form. Though we're currently in 8th place - two points off the top six, our form suggests that the final table will look something like this:

1st: Southend: 87pts
2nd: Huddersfield: 75pts
3rd: Forest: 74pts
4th: Brentford: 74pts
5th: Colchester: 72-3pts
6th: Swansea: 69pts
7th: Barnsley: 66pts
8th: Oldham: 70pts

On the question of Goal Difference, Forest are already outstripping Huddersfield and Brentford only have a four-goal advantage - one that will surely be overturned on current form (which is why I've put us in third, not fourth place).

And I'd say that one point is a reasonable margin of error, wouldn't you? Given our fantastic recent form - and the dreadful run that all of the others are having, even second place must now be in our sights.

I think I'm going to be sick.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Spark, Rebus, God and Journalists (spot the odd one out)

I wish I had the wit / talent / time / energy to write a novel. If I did, I'd take Muriel Spark's lovely Momento Mori (a parable that shows how various people respond to the a phone call saying "remember you must die") and update it - instead showing how people respond to the utter bollocks that passes for modern journalism.

The focus would be some feeding frenzy or other that routinely takes hold of Grub Street.

The cast could include a politician, a journalist, a head of some quango or other, a civil servant, and so on. Spark's novels usually had some saintly figure to provide contrast. I don't know who that would be yet. Perhaps I could model this character on my good self?

I've been trying to compose a post for some time arguing that Ian Rankin's 'Inspector Rebus' fulfills this role. I've beleived for some time that Rankin had actually written Rebus inspired by Spark. But I never took the trouble to find proof for this idle speculation.

Then I got hold of the new edition of his first Rebus outing - Knots and Crosses - and in the introduction, me mentions that he'd specialised in Muriel Spark's writing as a student prior to introducing Rebus for the first time.

QED, I think?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Reflectoporn on e-bay

Overheard in the office:
"No. That's not MY kettle - mine's got Siemens on the side."

Death by devil's advocate

Developing the constipators theme, here's another one: Death by devil's advocate.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Budding constipators

Budding constipators may be interested in this little get-together;
This event brings together practitioners in user engagement and those who seek to police its highways to explore the issues...
Their question:
"What are commercial, cultural and regulatory issues for organizations that arise from the increasing popularity of social software and online communities? How can we ensure that we protect participants where necessary without infringing the libertarian spirit of the online world?"
My answer
Get everyone who thinks that this conference is worth attending onto one of those 'extraordinary rendition' holidays for the next couple of years until they see the error of their ways. (And spell 'organisations without the 'z'.)
(via Cybersoc)

The problem in a nutshell (cont...)

Kevin says:
"People sense that there is a crisis of community presence. Failure to be visible as residents, as occupiers of this territory, favours those who thrive on disorder, and it could be disastrous. The drugs problem is perceived as a wave ready to swamp their lives. So why are they left so abandoned, so unsupported by the services, when the most basic provision would make a huge difference?"
Read the whole thing.

(the previous 'problem in a nutshell' is here)

Also, The Demos Greenhouse on The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer
"Local government can only get so far by listening and devolving... we also need to build authority by developing better politicians and a better kind of politics that gets beyond the town hall and its services."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Planning champions

From Developing News. (carrying on from a previous post here).

"The charity Planning Aid has announced a new scheme in conjunction with the ODPM to ecourage local authorities to all appoint an officer or elected member as a 'planning champion' to act as a bridge between groups who often do not understand the complexities of the planning system and how they can make their views known."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Promotion inevitability watch - latest

Extrapolating, as I did last week, here goes:

4th: Oldham - 75pts
5th: Colchester - 73-4pts
6th: Swansea - 71-2 pts (but a much better goal difference)
7th: Forest - 71-2 pts
8th: Barnsley - 65-6 pts

A little healthier, I think you'll agree. We're still in 7th, but we're inching towards a couple of them and a few more clubs are getting sucked into our orbit. Particularly Colchester who are now also definitely catchable. And they have to brave the City Ground next Saturday, making that one a six-pointer.

A win next Saturday, and we'll be taking six points of Cardiff next season. Guaranteed.

Funny thing is, even last week, this was intended as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek blog-post about the optimism of a football supporter. But a win at home to Colchester next Saturday will – I think – make us a modestly-priced candidate for a play-off spot. Something that was a certain impossibility as far as I was concerned a month ago.

Update - even more reasons to be cheerful; doing the same exercise with goal difference has Forest improving their total by +12 goals - this could overturn even Swansea's total.