Saturday, October 28, 2006

The pantomime, continued...

I've just listened to a programme on the wireless called 'Corridors of Power', presented by Sir Christopher Mayer.

It contrasted the way that - in the US - the most popular TV show about politics that has ever been made (The West Wing) presents a sympathetic, largely benign portrait of how the political centre is managed. Commentators such as Ian Hislop told us how programmes like Spitting Image were impossible to get off the ground in the US. He recounted how an outraged producer called him into an office to demand "...are you trying to say that The President of the United States is an asshole?"

What followed was, I suspect, a fairly simplified binary in which we have 'Yes Minister', 'The Thick of It', 'Have I Got News For You' and 'Spitting Image' made over here by bold crusaders in contrast to the pussies and lickspittles in America who just don't have the balls to Speak Truth To Power. To demand 'why is this lying bastard lying to me?'

And who were the commentators? Well, there was Ian Hislop... (I've mentioned him already). Oh yes, there was Nick Robinson as well. Great bloke, Nick! No-one better at painting the whole business as an exercise in mendacity. And then there were a few other satirists and the usual clowns from the press gallery.

Any politicians? Anyone looking at how accurate and proportionate the portrayal of politics is in this country? Or any of the journalists that sometimes step a little bit out of line on this bullshit. Hacks like John Lloyd perhaps?

Well, you wouldn't want those lying bastards queering a perfectly good pitch, would you?

And in the meantime, we have a relentless drip-drip message that we somehow live in a corrupt country. It effects the manner in which public discourse happens and it has an impact in turn-out during elections.

But, to anyone who DOES think that we really live in a corrupt country, could I respectfully suggest that you just fuck off and live in ....
  • Italy
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Belgium
... for a while. That should cure you of that particular dillusion. I'm not that familiar with the political settlement in any other EU countries, but I know those four reasonably well, and any fool knows that they are much more corrupt - by any measurable metric - than the UK.

And if that's now far enough for you to fuck off to, then you can try...

(I know, lets make this easier. Why not fill in a list of the countries that are demonstrably less corrupt than the UK?)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Excellent news

My eight-year-old twins have started learning a musical instrument at their school. The boy has been given a French Horn and the girl has a Tenor Horn - to practice with at home.

This is a French Horn:














And this is a Tenor Horn:

I'm sure you'll join me in agreeing that this is, in every way, absolutely excellent news.

Hague Effect – redux


The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh: Wise. Statesmanlike. Onanistic. We get the kind of politicians that HE deserves.

Chris Dillow is questioning the common assertion that ‘we get the politicians we deserve.’ He raises some good questions:

Do politicians take newspapers too seriously? And do politicians under-estimate the voters?

And he draws consolation from the fact that a large number of voters are, effectively, ticking the ‘none of the above’ box in disgust with the whole shooting match.

I touched on this here last week. And, in standing by those conclusions, I’d answer Chris as follows:

  1. Taking newspapers too seriously? Yes. Politicians do take newspapers too seriously, but only when the newspapers are campaigning on policy issues. All the evidence would suggest that the public vote for people, not specific policies. So politicians can ignore a tabloid campaign as long as they don’t make a tit of themselves in the process. Annoyingly, the main strategy newspapers employ is – instead of making their case - is that they often seek to lampoon opponents to their case. In short, the problem is not the politicians. It’s the newspapers.
  2. Under-estimating the voters? Chris has, to my eye, a fairly idealistic take on ‘the wisdom of crowds’. But rather than get into that argument here, surely the public wish to vote for people who have better judgement than themselves? Another reason for politicians to avoid populist grandstanding, if only they could without the shit-sheets targeting them for abuse.
Newspapers, on the other hand, DO underestimate the voters. They aim to sell newspapers, not impress the public with their wisdom. A substantial slice of the middle class think that a substantial slice of the working class admire The Sun and The Star. I've never heard them being discussed as anything more than a comic. This explains, or is explained by the evident misanthropy that infects every corner of public life.

Tragically, large slices of the middle classes do admire The Guardian and The Independent; And they are little more than comics either.

Political structures are shaped by power-relations, and we are stuck with a rising spiral of centralisation and sub-optimal policy outcomes partly because of the way that journalist make politicians perform.

It can’t be too much of a surprise when some of the weaker-minded voters become confused and decide to declare that they are ‘disillusioned’. Others just abstain because they can’t get their lazy arses in gear to register and turn up at the polling station. To both of these groups I offer this message of sympathy, empathy and goodwill:

Pull yourselves together and grow up you lazy
solipsistic little turds. If you
can’t be bothered to vote, or stand for
election yourself, then don’t waste
anyone’s time by bitching about how dreadful your poxy little lives are.

Hang on a minute. Let me check. Is that a Haiku....?

Point ... counterpoint continued

Watch the airbag. I missed it first time.



(Ta Amanda)

Update: the more I look at this, the more I think it's staged. Other revenge fantasies here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mixing it with The Fuzz

This is worth a look.

At the dispatch box, a minister was daft enough to allow his opponent to identify with a blogger. In this case, a Copperblogger. The said long arm of the law is almost too chuffed about getting into Hansard to be annoyed by the Hon. Members' slight. But not quite.

The minister was asked a question. He gave a glib evasive knockabout answer. And now he's got lots of Plods on his case. Nightmare!

If he had any balls, he'd get involved in Copperblog's comment boxes. He'd have the chance to engage with them and explain his position - and maybe overcome some of the cynicism.

Ex Cllr Andrew Brown in Lewisham did this a while ago when local skaters had a dig at him (before their elders and betters voted him out...). He went into their discussion forum and turned it around somewhat. They didn't go away completely satisfied, but he explained things, got a bit of respect, and learned something. He was able to ask a few pertinent questions of his civil servants, and got the sort of quality reply that you probably only get when the respondent knows it's going to be published.

None of the bog-standard Freedom of Information Act evasions. He picked up a bit of abuse along the way, but he doesn't have an eggshell personality, and these things take time. That's how things should be.

However, I expect that Tony McNulty (the minister concerned) has a battery of unbearable civil servants at the ultra-competent Home Office with lots of 'guidance' and various codes of conduct that would stop him from mixing it in a blog's comment boxes - in the unlikely event that he'd want to, that is....

Either way, I'd mind how you go Tony. Pay attention to the road markings, if you know what I mean....

Digital Rights Management

Oh dear.

When will they give up trying to copy-protect digital music files?

The Holy Showband

Getting hatched? Matched? Dispatched?

In the West Midlands area?

Then why not get The Holy Showband to be your soundtrack.

A showband. Why didn't I think of that ? *peeved*

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm gong to write a LETTER to the BLOODY GUARDIAN about THIS!

In today's newspaper, there is a jointly signed letter. Jointly signed by a bunch of people who could only, really charitably, be described as the jackmanape's scourings of a lock hospital pisspot, I might add.

But I won't. Anyway, it starts:
"We deplore Jack Straw's remarks concerning the veil.... blah blah blah ... bullying attacks by John Reid .... blah blah blah..."
If any of these pricks can find even one word - ONE WORD spoken by Straw, Reid or any other Minister, that doesn't fall into the category of 'fair comment' in a liberal democracy, then I will volunteer to suck John Pilger's ample manhood until it comes off. This is not a commitment that anyone should make lightly. A number of these signatories are the loudest of defenders of free speech when it suits them. But now they want everyone to tread on eggshells.

They go on to include the media in this tirade. Nothing wrong with that of course. I don't read any of the shit-sheets concerned, but it wouldn't surprise me if one or two of the guttersnipes had taken the words of a Minister, fiddled with them, and used them to stir things up a bit. A bit of deniable encouragement for skinheads everywhere. It wouldn't be the first time.

But looking at the signatories, I think we've isolated pretty-well the only demographic that think - in the great scheme of moral cause and effect - that Government Minsters can be held responsible for the elaborations, falsifications, additions and misrepresentations on their words by a bunch of lying liars who wouldn't know how to present the facts honestly if they were asked to do so on pain of Scaphism.

But back to the whole snivelling wreck of dishonesty and pusilanimity that is The Letter To The Bloody Guardian!
"Current attacks on Muslims are rooted in the "war on terror" - a war which has made Britain more vulnerable, not less, to terrorist attack. If the Government is concerned about improving cohesion, let it first abandon its support for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan."
There you have it. Distilled into two sentences; Simplification, nihilism, appeasement, and a rush to amplify the vilest of threats. Like Lord Haw-Haw but with a copy of New Left Review on the poufee. A few of the signatories have gone on the record as supporters of 'the resistance'. But to Pilger and Benn, ... well... you can't afford to be picky at times like these, can you?

The letter concludes...
"Today, Comrades, we lie with dogs. Tomorrow, we will rise with fleas!"
OK, I admit it. I made that last bit up.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bottled beer / London moan

St Peter's. As good as it gets.

I can't help thinking that - if I lived outside London - that I'd spend more time in the pub than I do. I do more 'straight-after-work' boozing than I should do. But once I'm home, I'm home.

I don't know that many people near where I live. In London, I reckon, the people who you work with or the people that you'd go boozing with live further from you, on average, then anywhere else in the country.

And then there's the problem of getting babysitters. And the problem of having a missus who has a long list of ideas for a fun night out - bottom of which is sitting in a smelly Irish pub listening to Johnny Allen's Promised Land on the jukebox.

So, bottled beer from the supermarket often rides to the rescue. I share Flann's conviction about draught Porter, but even though canned Guinness is very good (and consistant), there's something profane about drinking it at home. The problem is that you have to kiss a load of frogs to get a decent bottle. So, to save you the bother, here's a list of the winners and losers:
  • Fursty Ferret; OK. Not bad. Slightly too bitter - noticeably bottled taste, but OK. 7/10
  • Rebellion; red colour, hint of bonfire toffee. Hard to drink more than one bottle. OK. 6/10
  • Spitfire; Good. A bit dry and bitter, could have a fresher finish, but quite drinkeable. 8/10.
  • Waitrose 'Green Man' Organic Ale; Quite light. Good taste, whiskyish hint, a bit gassy, but drinkeable enough. 8/10.
  • Timothy Taylor Landlord - 'stong pale ale'; Actually only 4.1% and nothing much wrong with it. Maybe a bit gassy, but maybe all bottled beers are gassy? 8/10.
  • WychCraft; 4.5% from Wychwood. Hoppy smell. V.good. 8/10.
  • Marstons Single Malt; 4.2%. Nice, beery taste. Slightly smokey - noticeably nice after the WychCraft. 8/10.
  • St Peters' Organic Ale; 4.5%. The king of bottled beers. Clear, bright and drinkeable. Just the right balance of bitterness, sweetness and dryness. 9.5/10
  • Marston's Pedigree; 4.5%. Darker than most, heavier than most, not as good as the draught version. Not very drinkable. 5/10 at best.
  • Badger 'Golden Glory' - 4.5%; Very fruity & sweet, peach aroma. Delicious on first taste. Probably couldn't drink too much though, but if you plan to have only one bottle, this is it. It's a bit acidy, but if you worry about after-effects, you'd never drink any beer in the first place. 9/10.
Even the St Peters is gassy enough to limit how much you can drink though. Unlike Guinness. I have no stopcock of alimentary gaseousness (as I believe doctors call it) with Guinness. If I was in the pub every night, I suspect I'd now be dead.

Ingratiating?

Is there any sight in the world that is more annoying than Bono?

Three songs were on the radio earlier today within about an hour or so, all having changes hidden in them that suggest other songs:
  1. U2's raunchy 'Vertigo', the start of chorus reminds me of The Supremes 'Keep me hanging on'. Apologies for the odious comparison, by the way.
  2. Bedouin Soundclash's rather good 'The Night Feels My Song' has got loads of the changes from Toots' 'Pressure Drop'
  3. The Lost Prophets peice of trendy nihilism, 'A Town Called Hypocrisy', sounds like Ricky Martin's 'Livin' La Vida Loca' (along with a bit of a nicked riff from 'Eton Rifles')
  4. The not-bad 'Never be lonely' by 'The Feeling' is uncannily like 'Our House' by CSNY.
We have Radio One on in the office a lot of the time (though we sometimes switch around other stations), and it's a mixed blessing. But Paolo Nutini's 'Jenny Don't Be Hasty' is a real grower. Forceful, unpretentious and likeable. The polar opposite, in fact to the unconvincing, oft-played and awful Scissor Sisters' 'I don't feel like dancin''

And why are the Scissor Sisters so exasperating? For a band that are so unbearable on so many levels, I set myself the Herculean task of coming up with one word that sums them up.

At the moment, the favourite is 'ingratiating'. Does anyone know what I mean by this? And is there a better word beyond the bounds of profanity?

Friday, October 20, 2006

No mates

Just catching up with something. A while ago, Brother Bob claimed (in the comments) that Peter Withe was a better Forest striker than Stan Collymore. I think that there are grounds for a heated debate here, and I reckon that Stan would win. But never mind.



I saw this clip a while ago on Sean's site. And Col has a counter-argument for Bob as well.

I'm pretty sure that this clip was from a Wimbledon game at Selhurst Park. If it was, I was at it. And the thing that stood out - that you can't see on this clip - is what happened next.

There can be no question. This is a great goal. If anyone else scored it, within seconds, they'd be drowned in a homoerotic swamp of writhing Garibaldi Red shirts

But not one Forest player even gave Collymore a pat on the back for it.

A See You Next Tuesday at work

If there are two things that regular visitors to this blog will know, it is that ....
  1. I detest Simon Jenkins and everything that he stands for, and...
  2. It really annoys me when the reptilian profession slag Nottingham off for no good reason.
Well, today Simon Jenkins has decided to slag Nottingham off. How perfect is that?

Go and read it, why don't you? And when you do, you can see how his mind works. His sub-editors are confident that they can summarise it by saying "...Nottingham's glories are now defaced victims of Blair's Britain."

Funny that. I always thought that the biggest blow that Nottingham ever sustained was from Geoffrey Howe's budgets of the early 1980s. But you wouldn't expect a Tory like Jenkins to acknowledge that, would you. Instead, you get the horror of faceless bureaucrats .... *pause* .... housing riff-raff.. *pause* ... in the countryside!!!

"Eeek! Eeek! There are more dreadful townies being housed around Barton in Fabis!"


It sounds like it was dictated by some old Tory git - probably the local branch chair of the CPRE.

Oh, and Col is onto the git as well.

Odious comparison

By mbutual consent, Mbunting has parted company with Dildos. She lasted 46 days. At least she wasn't fisked out of a job this time.

Who else can we think of who only managed forty-something days in an organisation with which they were incompatible?

If there was such a thing as a portent, her next employer may live to bless the day she was hired. But the whole idea of a 'portent' of this kind is just bollocks, isn't it?

Still and all, I'm sure that there are lots of opportunities waiting to knock. If the jobs pages of the Society Guardian are anything to go by, there are plenty of vacancies for people who are good at being patronising towards 'community leaders'.

The Hague effect

William. The great communicator.

One more thing to add to my previous post about Shuggy’s line on the environment and electoral cycles.

He raises the question of how representative democracy is suited to long-term problems.

I'd suggest there is a clue in his notion of ‘the Hague Effect’ – the phenomenon whereby a popular policy is not necessarily an electoral asset. If I understand Shuggy correctly, it arises when politicians and the chattering classes believe that high profile and controversial policy matters decide elections when really, people are much more persuaded by a party's position on a wider range of non-headline grabbing issues.

In reality, this argument seems to suggest that they vote for the broad range of policies that seem less likely to bugger the country up.

This assessment is very superficially attractive, and almost one that I’d agree with. But not quite. We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the public are voting for a sensible batch of policies at all. They are, I believe, nearly always voting for sensible-looking people (or more likely, the least stupid-looking). The policy debate only serves to show people what the politicians are like in action. A sort of pre-nuptial peacock display. The policies are instrumental rather than central.

Hague will go down in history as a poor leader because most people saw him as a bit of a twit. The way his party debated policies may have given him little choice but to act like a twit, though I think we can all conclude that he brought his own special quality of twittiness to his role as leader of The-he Conse-eh-veh-teve Pa-harteh.

If you need this argument testing, ask yourself this: Did Hague give the impression of being a sensible man saddled with silly policies? Or was it the other way around? I suspect that most people thought of him as a silly man with policies that were irrelevant because of the silliness of the bearer.

I can’t prove this, of course. But I suspect that most people are a lot more agnostic on most things than we give them credit for. Certainty and grandstanding are for Question Time. That programme self-selects the lumpen intellegencia to it's audience. Ask the kind of people that don't go on programmes such as that to make decisions on complex policy matters and they will – quite wisely – duck them.

Ask them to read the many signals that senior politicians give out, on the other hand, and they will be a lot more at ease with this. People with few firm opinions on policy issues will speak with conviction about particular politicians. They will, I suspect, pick the ones that look the least dodgy. It is something that we all can do. It's a democratic skill that we all have. We don't need to be specialists to know how to vote in elections - and this is a good thing.

The actual policies are less relevant than anyone in the nit-picking chattering classes will admit. And if this realisation ever becomes common currency, I'd hope we'd start to see a bit more statesmanship and a bit less single issue posturing.

In the United States, we see a much more direct form of democracy. Politicians are much more vulnerable to organised lobbies. The result is more short-termism and less statesmanlike policies. In many states, for example, no politican would dare stand up to the capital punishment lobby. Bill Clinton famously went out of his way to attend executions on the eve of major elections.

In the UK, however, for many years there was a large majority in favour of hanging*. But politicians recognised that people may want hanging brought back, but didn't want to be governed by hangers. I'd suggest that one of our assets in this country is that politicans can gain a little bit of political capital by standing on unpopular principles, as long as they don't overdo it. I suspect that this is less the case now than it used to be, but is it still there to some degree.

And, by the same token, no US politician would raise fuel tax to UK levels.

So I'd argue that representative democracy is more likely to rewards statesmanship than the more direct forms that are emerging. I'd go further and argue that - if politicans took the time to reflect on this, they'd realise that pandering to populist demands - while superficially appealing - damages their personal standing in the medium term.

In the meantime, those direct forms of democracy are partly a phenomenon of a more powerful mass-media, and we can only expect long-termism in politics if we can reverse this process. The jury is out on the impact that the blogosphere and the wider, atomised web 2.0-led media will change this. But if climate change is the challenge we are told it is, this starts to become an important challenge.

So, Shuggy, if you want a system of democracy that is more likely to take difficult decisions, you have to drop everything and jump on the (as yet, empty) bandwaggon that this blog has been trying to start rolling for a long time now. The single biggest obstacles to an effective representative democracy are the various power-structures within the media that dictate how public life is conducted every day. Changing those power-structures is not that big a job, surely?

*I'm told that 2006 is the first year in which some polls have shown a majority opposing capital punishment in the UK - but I can't remember where I read this now.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If you're going to drink and drive...



... don't spill any...

(Hat tip: Alacoque)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Necrosis

The Manchester Student rag, Students Direct has been annexed by the SWP. They are a bit like a necrotising agent, aren’t they?

In the late ‘80s, I gained almost the only elected position of my lifetime as the editor of Kingston Polytechnic’s student mag, The Crez (don’t ask - I can't remember why it was called that).

A few RCP members didn’t fully understand representative democracy, and they kept trying to get student union meetings to instruct me to carry their articles.

Finally, I relented.

“I’ll publish anything that you write….” I told them, “…as long as it doesn’t contain any of the words 'Living', 'Marxism', 'Revolutionary', 'Communist', 'Party', 'Furedi', 'Ireland', 'Next', 'Step' or 'Palestine'."

And that was the end of that.

Elections and the environment

A comment on Shuggy’s post on the environment and the electoral cycle.

I’d normally stick to his comments box, but he seems to be fighting a rearguard action against trolls and he’d probably end up deleting me by mistake.

For some time, the green-left has had to let Labour off the hook on the environment on electoral grounds. No matter how strongly you hold a conviction in democratic politics, if it threatens your ability to retain power, it usually becomes unthinkable. Until this summer, Labour’s only significant dip in the opinion polls came at the time of the fuel protests.

And while the fuel protests were not officially led by the Tories, they were given plenty of tacit support. Indeed, this is a long-standing MO that the Tories have been using.

But with the new Hippy Cameron in charge, Labour have two options:
  1. Pull a flanker. Start to pull him all over the place on the subject by raising the stakes. Introduce proposals designed to stretch the Tories to breaking point. In recent years, whenever Labour want to keep a Tory leader awake, all they need to do is loudly consider the Euro again. Every mention causes a new outbreak of fratricide at Central Office. CO2 emissions could provide a new tool in this respect. And Labour could expect plenty of help in this from the clowns as it offers endless scope the kind of sloppy narratives that they love so much.
  2. Strike a deal. Allow Cameron to use greening as a way of modernising his party. In exchange, neutralise it as an election issue while allowing Labour to go to the country on a fairly radical platform of emissions limiting measures.
Number two is the principled option, obviously. There are a number of problems with it though. The most obvious one is that you can’t trust the Tories as far as you’d throw them. Alongside this, there is always the worry that some ‘ratepayer’ type alliance (the next version of UKIP?) could emerge in the process.

And all of this assumes that Labour really does want to pursue a greener policy - you know, deep down.

The wider question of how long-termism can be compatible with representative democracy is, of course, a fascinating one that deserves a book to itself – not just a blog-post.

For the record, I think it can be, and I think I know how it can be. Anyone know a publisher that hands out advances rashly?

Skid technology

Now Bond, pay attention. This little beauty is the XP977 Suppository....

In a bind? Need your own Dirty Bomb?

The answer is at hand with new Evacuator

A good soldier needs to know when to run and when to hide. And has Q gone to work for Viz without telling anyone?

(hat tip, Ben, Charlie and Amanda)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Placeblogging

Here, commented on by David.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Neo-pessimism revived

Paul Anderson’s ‘Orwell in Tribune’ is something of a revelation. I’ve always been quite a fan, but reading this, I realise that I’ve forgotten just how much he (Orwell - not Paul!) has influenced the way I look at the world.

When I was at school, I had all four volumes of his collected essays and journalism out of the library (as the fines mounted, I always ended up just hanging on to them) and I read them lots of times. This new volume has some old friends in it and a fair few samples that I’ve never seen before.

There’s plenty to choose from, but as early as his fourth ‘As I Please’ column, we find the great man on the extraordinary influence of what he calls ‘neo-pessimism’: At the time, it was largely a right-wing phenomenon, but he could be writing about the relentless nihilism and negativism of the fuckwits that call themselves ‘the left’ these days:
“The danger of ignoring the neo-pessimists lies in the fact that up to a point they are right. So long as one things in short periods it is wise not to be hopeful about the future. Plans for human betterment do normally come unstuck, and the pessimist has many more opportunities of saying ‘I told you so’ than the optimist. By and large the prophets of doom have been righter than those who imagined that a real step forward would be achieved by universal education, female suffrage, the League of Nations, or what-not.

The real answer is to dissociate socialism from Utopianism. Nearly all neo-pessimist apologetics consist in putting up a man of straw and knocking him down again. The man of straw is called Human Perfectibility. Socialists are accused of believing that society can be - and indeed, after the establishment of socialism, will be - completely perfect; also that progress is inevitable. Debunking such beliefs is money for jam, or course.

..... Socialists don’t claim to be able to make the world perfect: they claim to be able to make it better.”
Another feature of the book is it’s footnotes. They’re almost as interesting a read as the articles themselves. It's very good. Ask Santa for it. You never know your luck....

Friday, October 13, 2006

Changing media landscapes: Will it decentralise us at last?

This isn’t intended to be a particularly informative post. More a fishing exercise – I’m looking for a few pointers and a discussion here. I’ve looked around briefly and can’t find anyone who has written about this with any authority – but suggestions are welcome.

A few months ago, I posted on the work of Pierre Bourdieu – his explanation of how the totality of power-relations work in the media, and how it influences the quality, the tone and the content of reportage and public discourse.

In the decade since Bourdieu published this work, the media has begun a process of transformation that is not yet complete. You will point out, of course, the organic processes such as this rarely reach a point of absolute completion, but, again, bear with me here.

For instance, there was a time in which advertising-spend could be roughly correlated with the success or otherwise of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs). This is no longer the case.

There was a time in which the contract between a journalist and a reader was fairly simple – that I would fork over 50p for a newspaper in return for a bit of reportage, a bit of comment and access to a few ‘classified’ noticeboards. It would be more than 50p but for the advertisers who subsidise my reading in return for me agreeing to glance at some of their messages.

Free stuff on the internet has changed all of that. The transactions are a lot more complex now – and many of them are highly speculative. For instance, you can watch The Fall performing Big New Prinz …



… on my blog without being served up with any adverts. How do YouTube monetise that service? Well, the short answer is that I haven’t a clue, and I can’t pretend to understand why someone would invest in a project that doesn’t have a visible revenue stream. I can just about understand how Google is worth as much as it is, but this goes one step further for me.

Advertising is particularly interesting. In the past, people were prepared to pay a newspaper for space in the hope that readers would glance at the ad and be impressed enough to nip down to the shops to buy the product. Having sold ads, I can confirm that being able to guarantee response was always the elusive Holy Grail.

Unless you had the kind of volume that mass media had, you didn’t even have the data to make the case to advertisers – a factor that has – I believe - favoured national over local media. Local papers, as a result, have reduced their investment in local journalism, and the political consequence of this is, of course centralisation. Boo!

But now you can get a measurable volume of response by advertising on a weblog. You can offer ‘payment by results.’

Is it the case, then, that a tide is turning here, and that we have the sunny uplands of decentralisation to look forward to?

It’s not a rhetorical question. I really don’t know the answer. But if anyone can point me to any reading on this, I’d be grateful.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Let's have a heated debate...

...about Labour's deputy leadership shall we?

Via Hak Mao, who already has comments suggesting that a website called 'Left Foot Forward' has to be a papist conspiracy.

Desperate measures

It's the middle of October, and the park near my house had sunbathers in it at lunchtime.

I don't know how far this is a result of global warming, but I do know that it's making it hard to know what to wear in the mornings.

It's not helping me know what newspaper to buy either. The other day, I went on a short tube trip across town. When I went underground, it was sunny. When I arrived in Moorgate (about 20 mins later) the rain was torrential. As I stood at the station entrance, looking out into the storm, I heard the newspaper seller shouting 'Free Umbrella with every Evinstaindid'

I thought he was taking the piss. But he wasn't.

All of this newspaper competition is driving me nuts. A few months ago, I had to endure 'buy the Daily Mail' temptation. Now this.

Reader, this time, I gave in. I arrived at my destination, dry as a bone with a copy of The Evening Standard under my arm. And I can confirm that, after many years separation from the rag, that it is still as full of shit as ever.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kim's bomb - background

I thought this was interesting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Supply your own joke here #2

David Blunkett says:
"For the rest of my life, I will regret speaking to Stephen Pollard."
(hat tip: Matt T).

More effective away from home

I wasn't initially convinced by Chris Dillow's excellent post about the factors that make for effective politians, but the more I think about it, the more I'm sure he's right.

He notes the success of Scottish politicians and offers a persuasive set of reasons for this.

1. Presbytarianism encourages self-restraint - an aversion to impulsive behaviour
2. The ability of minorities to bond.

I'd suggest another factor in this success - or rather an extension on the second reason. That local politics makes people fractious and unconstructive. While the relative quality of Scotish statespersonship is evident in Westminster, it is almost totally lacking in Holyrood. Indeed, Scottish politics is often talked about as a proving house for Westminster. If you can negotiate your way around the nepotism, the backstabbing and the religious sectarianism, it is thought that you will be able to deal with anything that the gentleman amateurs of Westminster can throw at you.

Politicians often depend for their livelihood upon fairly small factions and, as a result, become their delegates. Almost, you could say, their employees. We will get a higher quality of representation from them if we can put some distance between them and their sponsors.

A few years ago, and over a number of years, I used to attend social functions for politicians from Northern Ireland. Always at the Labour Party Conference, always in England. It being a subject that I have a lot of interest in, I got to know a few of the regulars quite well. They included mainstream Unionists, nationalists, Trade Unionists and Loyalist ex-paramilitaries (and one or two who were not entirely 'ex' as it turned out).

In many cases, politicians who were officially 'not talking' to each other could be found socialising and arguing quite affably. With no local gallery to play to, constructive informal negotiations could take place. The events in question were hosted by The Workers Party, and when the Northern Ireland completes it's transition to a liberal democracy, this role played by 'the stickies' in overcoming sectarianism should be acknowledged.

Not only were they able to chew the fat in a suitable setting, they were also able to get a bit of perspective. A few ex-UDA people I spoke to were prepared to acknowledge that they felt more comfortable in the company of Belfast Catholics than they did with English prods. So the ability to put aside petty grievances and to jointly promote the interests of their localities is something that they were practicing at those social events. In addition, they were able to step back from the overarching sectarianism, and in the context of a Workers Party event, were able to contemplate their shared class interests.

This is, of course, only an extrapolation on Chris's point about 'bonding. The conclusion that I'd draw from that is that a country will be better governed if politicians can be removed as far as possible from interest groups. This is fairly widely acknowledged in the case of pressure groups (commercial or otherwise), but not as widely acknowledged in the case of local interests. We have a responsibility to create a constructive stage on which politicians act. On the whole, I think that - on this issue, I'll end on a pessimistic note in saying that we may be heading in the wrong direction.

Monday, October 09, 2006

RIP Anna Politkovskaya

"It is time to grasp that we are sharing a continent with a very large tyranny, in fact, that we never ceased to do so."
A good perspective on the whole issue is here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Looksee

Worth a look:
Is anyone running a spread on when Dave's honeymoon will be over exactly? I fancy a little flutter.

Ivan in the comments thinks I'm on the same page as Simon Jenkins on David Cameron and decentralisation here. Worrying news. Thankfully, a quick squint highlights a difference between us. Jenkins says:
"At the Commons dispatch box will he stop banging on about postcode lotteries and demanding ministers "do something" all the time? Does he really mean to leave people to vote locally rather than whinge nationally? Blair said much the same about devolution when he was in opposition, and did not mean it. Such respect for social responsibility - the empowerment of individuals within their communities - requires politicians to deny what they most crave, power."
Cameron's problem is not that we can question his sincerity in seeking power in order to disperse it. We already know that he doesn't mean it because the real question is not what he does if he's returned as PM, it is about whether it is at all possible to credibly advocate decentralisation when the media's coverage of politics (surely a significant electoral factor?) focusses largely on personality issues, gossip, recycled briefings, leaks and gaffes.

For the avoidance of doubt, it isn't possible to sincerely advocate decentralisation and win elections. Because every issue is now served up to us as a national totemic issue requiring a strong populist response, sincere decentralisers can't win elections. Jenkins omits to mention that is own dispicable profession is largely responsible for this state of affairs. And he can't really, because he spends a good deal of his time arguing for more referendums and other populist and demagogic forms of government.

Only a new leader, during a mid-term, can take the kind of steps that would offer the genuine possibility of decentralisation in the current climate. Cometh the hour, cometh The Son of the Manse?

I doubt it.

‘Profession’

I missed this article on Islamism by Jason Burke the first time around.

It looks very persuasive, well informed and level headed to me. And the kind of commenters that it attracts tells you all you need to know about the whole 'Comment is Free' project. When large media outlets dip their toe in the blogosphere, they don't create in interactive space that adds any value.

All they do is hold up a mirror to the appalling quality of public discussion that they themselves have fostered with their own plunging standards. They attempt to co-opt us into their quagmire.

Hopefully, after a while, they'll realise that they are paying a fortune to commentators who (with notable exceptions such as Jason Burke) have rivals online doing a better job on personal blogs for no pay.

Maybe they will start re-directing all of that cash into reporting instead. Remember reporters? Reporting events as they see them without any need to soliloquise or provide a little simplified context of their own? No need to go back to Nick in Westminster who is on the line now to tell us what we've just seen or heard for ourselves.

Think about how much valuable information you could pick up for fifty pee every morning if all that cash currently wasted on the twatocracy of Bruce As, Simon Js, Yasmin A-Bs, (…. oh, insert your own pet dingle-berry* in here) were spent on reporters instead?

Don't hold your breath though....


*note to Comrade Rubbish. Dingle-berry = winnit or clagg-nut.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pies. Chucked.

This is quite funny. Whatever you think about him, Boris writes very well.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Supply your own joke here

Stan: "I'll be back." (via Mac).

Still and all, I'd love to see the old dogger in a Forest strip one more time. He was probably the best striker we've ever had.

(Also, see Col on this here)

Too stupid for words

Gary Younge, that is. Fisked here (via Fisking Central).

Q: What class of numb-nuts section-editor lets this kind of rubbish through? Perhaps it was Seamus Milne's day off?

Orwell in Tribune

The social event of the year is going off tonight for anyone who is a short bus-ride from the middle of London. Be there, or be a gefilte fish.

Apparently, anyone wearing a shirt like the one pictured will have their drinks bought all night for them by the host.

The Battle of Cable Street

The great and good Mick Hartley has found a good set of links on The Battle of Cable Street - seventy years ago today.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Funeral vibes

Comment on this post for a change, whydoncha?

My old china Enda has e-mailed me a list of the top-twenty songs played at funerals as compiled by The Bereavement Register - an outfit that apparently monitors junk mail that has been sent to dead people.

1. Goodbye my lover: James Blunt
2. Angels: Robbie Williams
3. I’ve had the time of my life - Jennifer Warnes & Bill Medley
4. Wind beneath my wings - Bette Midler
5. Pie Jesu - Requiem
6. Candle in the wind - Elton John
7. With or without you - U2
8. Tears from heaven - Eric Clapton
9. Every breath you take - The Police
10. Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
11. Danny boy - Daniel O’ Donnell
12. Time to say goodbye - Sarah Brightman
13. What a wonderful world - Louis Armstrong
14. Knocking on heavens door - Bob Dylan
15. I don’t want to miss a thing - Areosmith
16. Bright eyes - Simon & Garfunkel
17. Eternal flame - The Bangles
18. I’ll sleep when I am dead - Bon Jovi
19. I want to live for ever - Fame
20. Reach for the stars - S Club 7

Lovely, I think you'll agree. Col speaks for all decent people about the top choice. No 10 will be popular among Forest fans - it's our equivalent of 'You'll Never Walk Alone*' or 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles.'

Comments that Enda had from the other people he e-mailed this to:
"at my cremation... Fire by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown"
You get the idea. Use the comments box please with your suggestion. I think I'd be all serious and pick 'The Parting Glass'. It's a great ballad - fantastic words, and a tune that really suits a rasping bass voice - that is sung in Ireland, but it pisses off a certain brand of Irishfolk who will quickly point out that "it's a northern song - and from the wrong part of the north as well..."

Or I'd have the tune 'Banish Misfortune' (hear it here) played for the same reason. And because I like it as well. Or maybe Paul Robeson's 'Joe Hill' or Luke Kelly's take on 'Raglan Road.'

Another old friend, Kevin the Kitten, says that he'd have the Merry Melodies tune 'Thats all Folks' played as his coffin slides into the oven. He'd have a remote control hand waving from under the lid as well.

*Come the revolution, I will arrange for everyone to be lined up and asked the simple question; Which song do you like the most? 'My Way' or 'You'll Never Walk Alone'

While I know Brian (pbuh) loved 'My Way', anyone still living who choses it will be shot straight away. This is because 'You'll Never Walk Alone' should be the national anthem of any new Socialist Republic that deserves yours truly as it's leader. 'My Way' is this great song's antithesis.

Fair and balanced? Fuck OFF!

Just seen this on the top of Bloggers4Labour's 'recommended' list.

Good idea, that recommended list, innit? I must confess that I voted for one of my posts completely accidentally - in that 'I wonder what happens if I press that button' ways.

Won't do it again. I promise.

Cleft stick

Pay attention.

Here, Hughes illustrates how simplification leads to centralisation.

In this case, he predicts that the Conservative Party will be unable to resist crowing about the 'postcode lottery' at the same time as campaigning for devolved NHS decision-making.

He is, of course, correct. And we, in The Labour Party should be gloating about this, shouldn't we? However, we can't, because we are just as bad as The Stupid Party in this respect.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oversights

I knew I'd omitted a few sites when I updated the blogroll. I intended to include some of the more 'NuLab' sites in the 'engaged' subheading. The 'engaged' sites are the ones that I don't always agree with, but that I think are good sites worth a visit.

Luke Akehurst is the best of them. I've met Luke a few times and he's an argumentative git. Natural blogging material, and I'm surpised it took him so long to get cracking online. Luke meet Shuggy. Shuggy, meet Luke. Shuggy, Luke will really get on your tits.

Then there's Adrian McMenamin, an ex-Millbank enforcer, the Idiots4Labour site, and the blog of Progress - the antidote to Compass.

I haven't sidebarred the other Luke Akehurst blog - a blog that has been kindly written for Luke by his enemies. But here's a one-off link.

Elsewhere, I forgot Skuds. Soz Skuds.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

This and that

And, er.... stottie cakes - the full saga.

David asks "Is the government capable of consulting people?"

If not, who can do it? I've argued in the past that we should let Slugger do it. (scroll down to suggestion no3) .

Shuggy on citizenship classes and their alleged failings. I think we need to improve the quality of the public discussion before we should be asking teachers to catch up.

And finally, just a quick thought.

  • Most of the huge debts that the two main parties have run up in recent elections (£27m for Labour and - allegedly - £30m for the Tories) is the result of advertising spend
  • Traditional ad-spend is largely a waste of money these days
  • Any reforms that are made will probably address a problem that has become obsolete.

Curious

On the day of the Madrid bombings, a journalist called Simon Jenkins apparently had an article published in The Times denouncing Tony Blair for exagerating the threat from Islamist terrorism. Or so I'm told.

In 1994, another hack of the same name had an article in The Times entitled 'Leave Rwanda Alone'. Were they written by the same person? I don't suppose there are any plans to put The Times archive online?

And would they have been written by the same Simon Jenkins that wrote this about the current situation in Darfur?

"The inhumane folly of our interventionist machismo"