Thursday, February 26, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Paulie elsewhere

I'm expecting an unkind reception to this nugget of gleaming commonsense over on the Liberal Conspiracy site.

I will be on a long-distance flight later today and will not be around to stick up for myself.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gotta Have You

I'm not normally keen on this kind of thing - acoustic downbeat - but these two have really got stuck in my head lately. Quite sweet songs:

1. Weepies - Gotta Have You


2. Kings of Convenience - Surprise Ice

Pointless sites

Here's an index of pointless sites. Via Dave.

Relax, sit back and enjoy Nosepilot.

Update: WTF?

Questioning sources

David Mitchell is very funny anyway, but I thought this article was quite perceptive as well:

"Wikipedia's level of accuracy is remarkable considering its eclectic provenance. And second, readers should always question the veracity of what they read and the motives of whoever wrote it, and in the internet age more than ever. People who allow themselves to be made credulous by stylish typesetting and a serif font are screwed. And if Wikipedia, while being very informative in most cases, teaches a few lessons about questioning sources, then that's all to the good."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Duffy & Elbow

Not listening to daytime radio much any more means that I'd never really heard Duffy. I just heard Mercy now - it's actually really good, innit? I heard it by chance on the radio and thought 'that's a bit Northern' - then just looked up the YouTube video which confirms it all.

In other stuff I've sightly missed news, aren't Elbow like Mark Eitzel & American Music Club?

(Wait for about 25 seconds in on the video below for 'Ex-Girlfriend' - a terrific song of which Eitzel did a fantastic solo/acoustic performance of when I saw him, many years ago).


Friday, February 20, 2009

Public opinion

Further to yesteday's post, it seems that the public are telling councils that they're relaxed about councils doing surveillance.

It underlines the point: Defending liberties is not a function of 'making the liberal case' - it's all about asserting the deliberative model of policymaking. This is something that very few people seem to be concerned with.

Ben Goldacre v LBC

Too busy to say anything other than this: Ben deserves your support.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Forget infringements of liberties. Populism is the problem.

The Henry Porter Convention is attracting more followers to the banner.

The latest is the normally-quite-good Tim Garton-Ash. Reading his unconvincing article, you get the impression that he's scrabbling around for reasons not to be left out. 

Yet, oddly, buried towards the end, is the key point:

"A couple of years ago I asked a very senior New Labour politician if his government had not got the balance between security and liberty wrong. "Well", he replied, "one thing I can tell you is that if you ask the British people they will always choose more security." And this is where the ball comes back to us. Since our leaders are now mainly followers - following the latest opinion poll, focus group or newspaper campaign - it's up to us, the people, to change their view of what "the people" want."

Now, that final sentence is pure bullshit. Columnists from the Guardian - even in coalition with a handful of (hanger!) Tories such as David Davies - are not going to do this. The point isn't to change people's minds - the public have always been deeply illiberal, and collectively stupid - as Matthew Parris illustrated very well a while ago here.

The point is - instead of banging on and on and on about specific infringement of our Aynchunt Wibberties - real or imagined - it is to campaign with equal gusto against those who promote and excuse the populist mode of democracy that is the cause (as Tim seems to acknowledge) of this illiberalism.

If you want to stop the intrusive and ill-thought out legislation, you have to demand a return to deliberative policymaking.

This week, the Tories have launched possibly the most odious and reactionary proposals ever to go into a draft manifesto of a major British political party - demands for direct democracy and elected officials on a number of fronts - and I've not heard a squeak about this from any of the refugees at Henry's bash.

If you want to see "great thinkers compelled to drink Hemlock at the whim of the masses*" then that's what the Tory proposals will give you. Legislation that is thoughtless and reflexive to a greater extent that that promoted by the current government - if that were possible?

*Not my own aphorism, sadly - but I can't find it's origin now

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To Ipswich

I'm off to Ipswich later to see if Billy's bounce is not one of the dead-cat variety.

I always like going to Portman Road- I've a few mates who are regulars there, and they always bring people along to the pub afterwards who are a good laugh.

Back in the day, we hammered them 5-1 in the Charity Shield. I was 14 and it was my first visit to Wembley - we went with a load of the family that day. There'll be a few drinks to absent friends tonight.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry....

The other day, I was talking to a communications manager of an NGO.

"We have a blog now. Our CEO writes it."

That's what he said. He could have been a politician, or a civil servant, a trades union official, a council officer or a corporate PR - the same tune would have sprung to mind.

Ordering Pizza in the future

Discuss:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Conor Gearty getting things into perspective again

Don't know how I missed this at the time, but I did:

"...early democrats knew the value of government and well appreciated how the most resistant to regulation were those whose wealth and privilege were likely to be reined in by proper democratic government. To camouflage their self-interest in morality, these forces of conservatism described themselves as libertarian, in other words as committed to freedom and on that account opposed to governmental intrusion into their lives."

... and

"If we fetishise individual freedom at the expense of our wider struggle for transformative change, we play into the hands of the right who use libertarianism as a shield with which to resist change."

Bizarely for CIF, there's something worth reading in the comments as well (though as far as I can see, it's the usual idiot-swamp for the most part):

"Where liberty has turned into tyranny, it is seldom because of slippery slopes as imagined by liberals. It is usually because the free society has failed in its basic job of protecting its citizens."

I'd agree with that completely. The biggest threat to individual liberties is not the particular instances of illiberality by governments, as much as the populist mode of democracy that we are drifting into. A question I've been trying to provoke people to talk about for some years now without much success.

2008 Predictions

Back at the end of 2007, someone asked me for eight predictions for 2008. Here's the outcome:

1. Yes!

2. <0% - opposite of progress

3. No progress

4. 85% progress - great leaps on that front (bought a Mac when I went self-employed)

5 <0% - opposite of progress

6. Utter disaster -a complete, total betrayal. There are no words for just how bad this news is.

7. No progress

8. Can't prove it but I think I did this on the music and non-fiction front, but my fiction reading was inordnately low in 2008.

The Four Courts

I've got an odd fascination with my ancestry. Under normal circumstances, I think that I'd be one of those people that goes out of their way to track down their family tree (for me, the interest is in social history - knowing about the economic circumstances of people you have a connection to would help me understand the economics a bit more).

But there's no point. I'm 75% Irish, 12.5% English and 12.5% Welsh. The Welsh bit (Evans, FFS) from Cardiff (that's almost all I have!) isn't going to be a picnic - and it seems that none of them were talking to each other before he left, so there's hardly going to be a rich seam of information there. He was a boozer who deserted his family before his kids grew up, so there's not even that contact.

The English bit (Gt Granma) was, I think, an only child and she kept herself to herself.

And the big prize - the Irish - their records were all destroyed in 1922. So I know that loads of them emigrated to America, and that there are some of my family's names in the records of Belmullet Workhouse, but I don't know if they were my family really.

I'd love to know about all of this, but I probably never will.

So who pays for 'content' then?

Here's a really good post by Will Davies about paying for content, copyright and the urge to use some form of 'protectionism.'

"I wonder too if those on the other side of the argument, represented by the Open Rights Group, are also a little inconsistent in their politics. Defending the public domain is all very well, but may be increasingly incompatible with defending the public sphere. ORG tend to be opposed to alternative ways of funding media content, such as Phorm, which is admirable. But this only means that paying for stuff becomes more important for upholding our 'digital rights', not less."

Concluding...

"But how might industrial-knowledge models develop/survive which are neither pig-headedly state-protected nor built on the commodification of 'free' (consumer-tracking, advertising etc)? That to me is the highest priority. I have a curmudgeonly hunch that, for those of us committed to financially viable, culturally unpolluted artefacts and events in the future, we may have to side-step both the state and Google and simply pay a fair price for stuff."

This is not 'other people's problem' - it seems to be the big issue, and all I ever see is a list of what most lobbies are against.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Morning Star bequest - mixed blessing

Shouldn't laugh at this, but it's hard not to:
"Morning Star journalists, some of whom earn as little as £18,000, want asubstantially better pay rise to make up for years of low wages after the paperwas left a bequest of £500,000 over three years by an anonymous donor. It is understood that the bequest was made on the condition that itwould not be spent on boosting staff salaries."
It's a pretty sadistic thing to put in a will, that is. I suspect it would have been quite funny to see the faces-like-smacked-arses when the qualification to the good news was relayed to staff.

But like I say, it's no laughing matter.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Ransom to be paid again?

When the BBC apologises for this, it will have something new to apologise for tomorrow.

Sack Sir Michael Lyons - and anyone involved in the BBC who backs down on any of this. If your job is to fight sometimes, and you turn up with a sicknote each time, you need to step aside and let someone who can actually do the job have a go.

You'd sack a politician if they paid a ransom, wouldn't you?
(ta Will)

Charlie Brooker on Twitter


Here's what he has to say, and it's quite good as usual. The screengrab would suggest that he hasn't quite grasped the two-way nature of the whole thing tho...

"Generational and contextual use of linguistic formula"

Dizzy on the use of the word 'Gollywog':

"...when you look at it rationally, and with a non-partisan hat, really comes down to little more than generational and contextual use of linguistic formula."

Without wanting to get involved in the detail of this argument, I'd have to say that this is one of the most obviously stupid comments that I've seen on this whole farago.

Democratic republicanism

This post on the Fabian Society blog is worth a look. I left my own comment there, and not here.

Eames-Bradley report online consultation

I don't normally use this blog to promote the work I do, but this bit is a suitable exception.

The Eames-Bradley report on reconcilliation in Northern Ireland was an interesting exercise with one headline story that rather stole the show. I've been working with Slugger O'Toole on a site that makes it all commentable - chapter by chapter.

The site's here and Slugger's announcement is here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Add your name

I'm not generally keen on petitions, but this one is worth signing.

Hazel: Correct again

I don't want to get into the habit of this, but it needs saying: Hazel Blears is absolutely correct again.

On George Moonbat:

"Being called a coward by someone who has never dared test his or her opinions, values and personal attributes at the ballot box is always something I find amusing. You don't get very far in politics without guts, and certainly not as far as the cabinet table. Monbiot has to my knowledge never stood for office. I might have had more respect for his views if he had followed in his family tradition of service to the Conservative party, rather than joining the "commentariat" - wielding great influence without accountability."

One of the best blog comments I've seen since I started writing stuff here was this one: "Philosophers have only interpretted the world. The point is to complain about it."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

All coming together

They used to say that the Tories had this hinternet thing all sorted and that Labour were way behind.

Well, that's all changed now.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More evasion from the so-called 'Tax-Payers Alliance'

I'm not quite as critical of the Labour List site as others are. I'd say that it's important that Labour get their content out there and start defending it properly - as well as taking on the more dishonest rivals that the Party has largely given free reign to in the past.

There's a lot more of it now than there was before LL came out - and that can only be a good thing. Here's a good example: Derek Draper taking on the odious Taxpayers Alliance over corporate tax avoidance, their endorsement of it, and the obvious conclusion that anyone can draw - that they are really saying that ordinary taxpayers have to pick up the slack.

He concludes: perhaps they should change their name to the "Corporate Tax Avoiders' Alliance"?

  • Who are these people?
  • Who funds them?
  • Are they a black-bag operation run by the Tories?
  • How much tax do the people who fund them pay?
  • When do their contributors celebrate Tax Freedom Day?
  • Which journalists uncritically run with their stories - names? Dates? URLs? 
  • Which editors employ journalists who uncritically run their stories?
  • Which media-owners employ editors who employ .... oh, you get the picture

This is what Hashtags are for. C'mon guys - I've got too much on my plate to do this, but someone can, can't they?

Update: 4th Feb - Don Paskini has weighed in.

PS - Just remembered this from the archive:

If the TPA gets a free ride in the press, it is only because it's made things so easy for hard-pressed/lazy (take your pick) reporters. "We are always available 24 hours a day," says Elliott. "We put the work in so we get good coverage."

Another reason to blow the whistle!

Monday, February 02, 2009

John Martyn & Bernard Crick

I never quite got John Martyn, though I'm going to give him another go having read this. The thing is, the way Shuggy describes him, he sounds like exactly the sort of musician that I'd read about, give a try to, and like.

The opposite, for instance of Tim Buckley (Jeff's dad) who I read about, thought 'I'll hate it' and was confirmed in this when someone gave it to me as a present.

I think the thing that put me off was the story that Solid Air was some kind of tribute to Nick Drake. I loved Nick Drake in my teens, and really, anything that was compared to those three LPs was always going to sound bloody awful in comparison.

So, Inside Out is the place to start is it? Or is there one LP here that's a better place to start (and isn't Solid Air)? 

In other news about the deceased, I've only just heard that Bernard Crick is dead - died before Xmas. I've no idea of how I missed this one.

Bernard Crick was a great man, and I've not quoted him enough on this blog (though I probably wouldn't have written about half the stuff on it if I hadn't been nodded in certain directions by him). His 'Democracy - a very short introduction' is something that every undergraduate should be forced to read (no matter what they're studying) - mainly for the earlier chapters.

I met him once, and couldn't say anything to him because I was (uniquely for me) worried that I'd say something daft and that he'd think the worse of me.

Debategraph

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of meeting David Price, the founder of Debategraph. It's a fantastic idea, and it's really getting there as a means of getting participants to identify and weight issues.


If you get a chance, have a play around with it. This is a map of the issues surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict - each element itself has it's own set of relationships and sub-issues. It tells you a good deal about the perception of the issues - a valuable bit of info in itself.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Stupid stupid stupid

Stupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupid.

As John Stuart Mill said, 'The Stupid Party'.

Via Bob.

Update: Rodent.