Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I've just had my 'don't know what I think until I read what I've written' line tested successfully. I read an article in a newspaper, got a bit annoyed about it, and started writing a post about why the author was wrong to say what he did.
In constructing my arguments, I couldn't articulate anything better than the offending article. OK, I don't think he would have argued his case (the one that I now agree with) in the same way that I do, but I'm forced to admit that he was right all along. OK - he should have been a good deal more dismissive of the very idea of group rights, and he should have explained why the encouragement of anti-democratic violence elsewhere is not compatible with liberal democracy here.
But, as I say, he was broadly right to say what he did. And that I've just wasted best part of an hour.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
There y'go. This is probably because Eamon Dunphy's The Diary of a Professional Footballer is one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. It's even better that Tony Cascarino's ghosted autobiog - and that's saying something.
See? Not totally obsessed with H.I.M.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I wrote about this a while ago with two long tedious posts, and I've tried to summarise it in a slightly shorter one over at Common Endeavour.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I don't have time to google it now, but I think it was DeTocqueville who described elections as an 'advance auction of stolen goods' - a quote that is certainly enjoyed to this day by classical liberals.
I wonder what he'd have made of the Public-Private Investment Programme, eh?
Privatised profit and socialised debt.....
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Join if you're not in already and dig Elan Mehler's lovely Christina's Song (if you want to get your heart-rate down, that is). Then try the slightly overlooked 80s act, The Woodentops 'So Good Today' and follow it with a spot of downbeat house from A Guy Called Gerald - Humanity.
Then nip over to some early Human League - Black Hit of Space and - in a similar vein, Kraftwerk's Pocket Calculator.
All a bit anti-septic so far? Then how about Thee Milkshakes 'You Got Me Girl' and Lou Reed's Romeo Had Juliet from his not-bad New York comeback LP. Then switch over to some country from Dwight Yoakam - It Won't Hurt and Emmylou with Luxury Liner. Then demand some justice along with Johnny Cash singing The Man in Black ('till things get brighter) or Bruce's Johnny 99. Then there's Martin Stephenson & the Daintees Running Water and Damian Dempsey's St Patrick's Day and Mary Coughlan's Double Cross.
But that's enough soul-free time. Here's Roy Ayers 'We Live in Brooklyn Baby' and Red Black and Green and then some sleazy Ohio Players Sweet Sticky Thing followed by Dr John's What Goes Around Comes Around.
Finish off with beats from Nuyorican Soul Habriendo El Dominate, Positive Vibration by Bob Marley and finally, The Only Woman DJ With Degree from the great Sister Nancy (for some reason, her version of Bam Bam isn't online).
"Why is it that out of all the clubs in the Midlands, there has been one in particular that continually seems to be fighting against unseen forces that drag it down?"Via Through the Seasons Before Us.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I should have done, because it's something that everybody in the Labour Party should read and understand.
If - as seems a slight possibility - Labour don't win an outright majority at the next election, there may be some post-mortems.
This is item one on that agenda (with a failure to politicise the civil service as item two):
"It is not just the case that electorates choose governments. Governments also choose electorates, by building or facilitating the growth of client groups - people who believe that their self-interest lies in voting for the government, or failing that, people who are grateful for what government has given them.
This - rather than any bull about creating a free market economy - was Thatcher’s success: in selling council houses, she created a new clientele supportive of a Conservative government and its policies that fuelled house price inflation.
And it’s New Labour’s failure. Where are its client groups? Not in the public sector, whose workers, whilst better paid, are alienated by managerialism and job insecurity. Nor among benefit claimants, who are incessantly harassed and stigmatized.
Herein lies a point under-rated by all the talk about the future of the left. A key part of the task for the post-New Labour party must be to reshape the electorate, creating client groups loyal to it."
Why John Cruddas thinks it's all a matter of communiations and tone is beyond me.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"The idea that the state is an unwarranted assault on individual freedom is not a progressive one. This kind of libertarianism works to protect privilege by cloaking the advantages of the rich in the garb of personal autonomy, individual freedom and the “human right” to privacy.
It is not at all surprising that the Convention on Modern Liberty is attracting strong support from those on the right of politics, politicians who hanker after a golden age of rights for the rich and responsibilities for everyone else.
But the left, or at least those parts of it that believe in the progressive power of the state, need to be more careful about defining exactly where they stand when they join in this chorus of dissent."I'm glad he's written this. As an 'umble blogger, I've found myself (like most of us) thrown back on subjectivity in answering the question: Police state - getting closer or further away?
It seems to me very clear that - leaving aside some bloody horrible examples of bureaucrats using a badly drafted bit of law to solve a problem that it wasn't intended to address, that the general direction we are heading in is a positive one. And bureaucrats feeling able to exercise more discretionary power than they used to .... in what sort of circumstances does that happen, eh?
Deserves a post of it's own, this one:
My previous post referenced Michael White's latest. This para deserves repeating:
"Yesterday a smart 250-page paperback landed on my desk and only served to deepen my gloom. Modestly entitled The End of the Party, it set out what's wrong with British politics – from alienation to falling turnout and funding problems. It is thus not encouraging to see my old friend, Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail, getting five indexed references.
Peter has the quaint notion that we are witnessing what one of his books calls "The Triumph of the Political Class", whereas we are actually seeing it run ragged by the media and a disengaged (not the same as alienated) electorate. In his haste ex-stockbroker Pete forgot to write a book about the triumph of the banking classes, the ones who got away with the loot."
If you want an example of it, have a look at this piece by Michael White. Read down until you get to Andreas Whittam Smith and Martin Bell.
The men in the white suits. Even their shit doesn't smell.
This post is cross-posted at Common Endeavour
This post, in which Steve Goodrich asks 'why do we hate politics' over on the Compass website is a bit of a classic of it's kind.It starts off identifying a fairly well-fleshed out thesis - that the consumerisation of politics has resulted in an increasing disillusionment and disengagement.
It then offers a thin denunciation of this line - but one that doesn't address any of the reasons why the problem - as he's sketched it out - exists, apart from asserting that politicans haven't done everything that Steve wishes they would do:
"The problem lies not within our demand for politics per se but in the failure of politics, or to be more specific politicians, to supply us with reasons to give them our support.
This is not surprising considering the government's current performance. Their attempt to stabilize the banking system has provided mixed results, yet more fundamentally it has done nothing to reassure us that they are working in our interest. Promises made for job creation look fanciful and far-off, whilst staggeringly high amounts of money are pumped into the black hole of our decrepit financial system. Workers are laid off in their thousands whilst at best their plight is met with unconvincing, rehearsed showings of empathy and understanding by ministers and opposition alike.
To top it all off the common line throughout the past six months has been that matters are out of their hands. ‘The economic crisis is a world crisis' does not instil trust in their ability to tackle the problems at hand. What makes it worse is that there is little substantive difference between the parties as to how this can all be resolved with minimal harm to us, the victims."
It all sounds very consumerist to me. THEY haven't managed to come up with the right product for US. And for a post that is so fixed on identifying the problem with politicians (THEY haven't adopted Steve Goodrich's particular prescriptions, it seems), there seems to be no defence of politics, no outline of how it can be done properly, and no questioning of how far the quality of democracy can provide a cause for these problems.
David Aaronovich doesn't make the same mistake in this excellent article in The Times:
"...if you don't have a liberal democracy, everything else goes to hell. And it does strike me that, right now, we are in a nasty phase of attacking democratic politics and its inevitable representatives, the politicians, for their deficiencies and taking refuge either in populism, legalism or magical thinking.
Any of these are dangerous, but doubly so in a time of potential depression. The populism is expressed in the casual, jokey bracketing of politicians with fraudsters, the influence of potty-mouthed right-wing bloggers on some political journalism and an impatience with foreign workers and other minorities. The legalism is evident in the suggestion that politicians should hive off their responsibilities to technocratic bodies, such as an “independent” NHS. The magical thinking comes in imagining wheezes that would somehow save us from the messy business of having, joining, organising, funding or voting for political parties.
It always amazes me - and it shouldn't - how clever adults seem to believe, against the evidence of their own experience, that the governing classes in our democracy inevitably mess everything up."
"So how depressing it is that there are Grand Conventions in defence of liberty and none in defence of politics; that we count cameras but won't join parties; that we obsess about biometrics and databases and refuse our support to the democratic politics that is the real safeguard against authoritarianism or chaos."
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Sadie has tagged me with Tom Harris MP's meme.
Apparently President Obama gave Gordon Brown some DVDs (as if he'll ever watch them!). The rule is, if you own the DVD and you've watched it, you get two points, you get one for either having only watched it or for owning but not having yet watched it.
Here's my list:
Own: Star Wars Episode IV (my son has it), The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, Chinatown, The Graduate
Seen: Schindler's List, Vertigo, Wizard of Oz, On the Waterfront, ET - the Extra Terrestrial, Sunset Boulevard, Casablanca,Psycho.
Never seen: It's a Wonderful Life, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, The Searchers, 2001 - a Space Odyssey, Some Like it Hot, Gone with the Wind, City Lights, The General, The Grapes of Wrath.
Twenty points out of a possible fifty which makes me a better person than Sadie, but not as good as Tom Harris MP. Being a rampant libertarian, I'm not going to coerce anyone into doing this but if you feel like it, why not?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
John Peel loved them, but they lacked the thing (whatever it was) that you needed to make the breakthrough. I think that there's something a bit problematic about making jangly country-ish rock sell too much - REM seemed to monopolise that particular sphere with the Go-Betweens being another slightly under-rated player in this field.
Here's Sacred Heart Hotel and here's Two O'Clock Waltz. And Moonstruck is worth a listen if you've got time.
Friday, March 13, 2009
(Good, innit? If you listen to one of those, try The Bump - it's a nice slightly funny surprise)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Over on Slugger, Brian Walker is urging everyone to give Sinn Féin the space it needs at the moment.
Irish republicanism has always sought to conflate legitimate grievances - inequality, discrimination, harrasment - with the national cause.
Their great successes - 1916, the 1918 election, the subsequent collapse of British rule in most of Ireland with Black & Tan mayhem as a backdrop, through to the NICRA-era in the late 1960s leading to Bloody Sunday and internment, and then the Hunger Strikes of the 1980s - riling the Brit dog - have all led to entrenchment in a longer and longer death march.
The lack of even the legitmate grievances of the past should put paid to the current outrages. I think Brian is right.
Monday, March 09, 2009
(Quote from a TV programme on at the moment)
I've not always been the greatest fan of Sinn Féin, but Martin McGuinness really deserves full credit for saying this:
"I will stand for all democrats against their attempts to plunge us back into conflict; to see soldiers on the streets; to see more checkpoints; to see houses being raided and to see people being dragged back to interrogation centres. Those days are over. They can never come back again."
It is a step-change for Irish Republicans to take and it's not something that I think they could have been reasonably expected to say straight-off-the-bat.
Sinn Féin have come under a fair amount of criticism for not having said this sooner than they did after Saturday nights' murders. I'd suggest that this is unfair.
To be as unequivocal as Sinn Féin leaders have been would have involved a degree of consultation - a squaring of a few circles. Once again, it shows that the demand for a reflexive statement can often result in a poorer outcome.
It's early days, but the politicians in Northern Ireland look like they are responding well to this situation. For once, the focus has been on the undeserving victims - not the yesbuttery that often characterises debate - even on Slugger's heavily moderated comment threads.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Northern Ireland has a disproportionately large public sector - and it's not clear to me that the public sector are (yet) bearing the brunt of the current downturn.
They will do in the end though....
Saturday, March 07, 2009
What a vile shower of shitheads these people are. More detail here.
Why do you think this is?