Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Nick Nick Nick

NickNickNickNickNickNickNickNick. Nick. You really are an asshole, aren't you?

And this, remember, coming from me, means something. It's not just some guy on your way into Parliament hollering 'Hey, Nick! You're an asshole!'. No. When I call someone an asshole, it is with the full weight of a man who knows about assholes. Knowing that sort of shit is how I make my living, so you have to believe me when I say, 'You're an asshole.'

It isn't just mere speculation. It's a professional opinion.

Like a diagnosis. You can take that your doctor, and when she asks what's wrong, say, 'excretera. says I'm an asshole.' She'll know what to do.

First, we had Nick criticising the Institute for Fiscal Studies, because they had the temerity to look at the numbers and realise that his coalition budget wasn't, well, very fair after all. 'But George and David promised me that it was!' he insisted, in the face of all reasonable argument. It's like he really believes his Tory friends. Like we believed Nick. Once.

The human capacity for self-delusion never ceases to amaze me.

The New Statesman's Mehdi Hasan points out that Nick and his pal George weren't always so critical of the IFS. Like, when the IFS's conclusions suited their own needs. They loved the respected IFS then.

See? Asshole.

And now we have news that Nick has made another another ill-advised attempt to seduce the Common Briton with his tales of his not-really-licentiousness. He likes a cigarette, apparently. He revealed this on Desert Island Discs, presumably thinking that no one was listening?

Of course he knew they were listening. He prayed that we were all listening. 'I know I shouldn't say this and it's a terrible thing,' he said, hoping Kirsty Young would chastise him with a playful slap on the wrist.

Oh you are a naughty boy, aren't you Nick?

(And no. I didn't listen to the programme, and I have no intention to do so. I don't feel a need to be a party to Nick's little masquerade.)

And immediately I was reminded, when I heard this on the news, of that time, do you remember? because this too was so very shocking, when Nick admitted/boasted in an interview with GQ that he had slept with 30 women.

I have no idea if 30 women is a lot to have slept with, or not many. And I don't care. To have slept with 30 women, 24 men and maybe three goats, now that would be interesting. But I still don't care. Both episodes reek of a sort of desperation, a plea for acceptance. 'Look at me, look! I'm not really That Person that you think I am.'

I think we've had enough of your duplicity, Nick. The point is now: shut up.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Precious little good news of late

and I'm falling behind in my attempt to throw poo at all of it. We've just had the CSP, and I'm just getting really very fucking angry about that -- spurred on by today Guardian front page, that tell me that the IFS has checked the numbers and that 'Families with children will take brunt of cuts'. But don't worry, Nick Clegg says that the IFS -- the most respected independent financial organisation in the country -- don't know what they are talking about, that it's all 'distorted nonsense'. Alan Johnson hit the nail on the head the other day, but maybe didn't go far enough: between the closing of the ballot box and the opening of his ministerial car door, Clegg underwent a transformation that makes what happened to David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London look like just a few touches around the eyes.

BUT, before I can get all exorcised about the re-structuring of the British economy and all that, there was the matter a few days back of Lord Browne (remember him?) and his review of higher education. So, while we wait for the IFS to figure out just how shit the broad spending cuts will be, let's take some time and look at what we know: that is, just how very fucking awful implementation of Lord Browne's recommendations will be.

Let's start by ignoring for the moment that the Lib Dems campaigned explicitly on the pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees. And it looks like they will support Browne's recommendations, if the noises from not only Clegg but so-called 'lefties' Cable and Hughes are anything to go by. So let's forget -- just for this moment -- that this is further evidence that Lib Dem yellow really is the colour of cowardly, spineless, power-hungry slug-like sycophants who MUST receive their just desserts at the next election with complete annihilation. (Starting with Nick Clegg, my own dear MP. The cull must be merciless. It must be total.)

So, what's actually wrong with Browne's proposals? If more money is needed in these tough economic times, then shouldn't those who will benefit pay more? There are those who argue, rather convincingly, that the free or heavily-subsidised tuition involves the working (non-University attending) classes funding the aspirations of the middle and upper classes, and thus a perpetuation of social stratification and inequality, so would charging higher fees, and the withdraw of government money, be an important step in bringing 'fairness' to post-secondary education?

The real problem isn't the raising of fees, though that is fairly shit. No, the REAL problem with Lord Browne's reforms is the marketisation of the University. Yes, it is a word, and one that you'd better get used to using more and more often under this government (and the last, and the last before that, and the last before that...).

I've said for a long time that Universities are strange places. They are fundamentally medieval institutions redesigned on the principles of 19th century prisons, run by a tiny cabal who think they are late-capitalist CEOs (and sometimes are). They trade on the ancient, religious origins as purveyors of Truth to draw in staff and students who are driven by (largely) altruistic ideals of learning and education; bureaucratically, they are governed by a panoptic structure that is not at all confused that the primary purpose of ANY institution is the surveillance, management, hierarchalisation and governance of its population; and it is all overseen by a management class who pretend that their inflated six-figure salaries are necessary to support their efforts to run their domains in the name of financial prudence.

And now, it seems, the CEOs have had their way. Post-secondary education is going to be turned into a market.

Which makes sense, because past and recent history have clearly demonstrated that markets are completely infallible.

Oh. Wait.

But go figure. You ask a former Chief Executive of BP to conduct a review on how to manage higher education and guess what? He suggests you run it like a corporation. Why do we do this? Or rather, let this be done to us? (Check Catherine Bennett's excellent article in the Guardian on this.)

Turning British universities into a market now makes as much sense as leaving a child with a penchant for pyrotechnics at a nursery with a box of matches, a can of petrol and a glass of milk.

Why the glass of milk? because like the totally ineffectual 'regulations' imposed on the City after the banking crises, the bursaries and support for disadvantaged students that are promised to accompany the deregulation of university tuition will be of no use to anyone fleeing the burning nursery, except the pyromaniac who will stand giddy amongst the flames, a contented, white-moustached smile, asking the fireman 'What? What?'

Ok, one of my more fraught similes. But you see the point.

I might have accepted that tuition fees needed to rise. Maybe. I would have rather seen an increase in basic rates of tax (for higher earners) or, preferably, an increase in corporation tax (instead of the decrease that the Tories introduced in their first budget). Why not? The corporations reap the benefits of post-secondary education; it's a training of their workforce that they don't need to pay for. But I'm getting side-tracked: a simple increase in tuition fees would have been wrong, but that would have been other argument. But what the Tories are now likely to do, thanks to Lord Browne, is something else all-together more evil. Like their radical re-structuring of the NHS (which, incidentally, the blue-half of the coalition promised not to do), this is about more than cuts and crises. This is ideological-driven re-building of the British social institutions, the transformatiokn of Britain into a Thatcherite Wonderland of markets, competition and consumer-relations.

Just how very, very wrong that is will only become clear in the coming weeks and years. These reforms must be resisted.

Right now, I'm a tutor or lecturer standing before students. Though the titles won't change (a nice, sentimental throwback to the old days, that'll be) I'll become, essentially, a Product-Supply Officer stood in before customers.

Not that I expect to have a job in the modern Corporate University. There won't be many of those, either.

Though the lecturers' union, the UCU, came out against Browne's review, and I hope hope hope that they stand with the NUS against the proposals, I know that a lot of lecturers and professors aren't going to raise too much fuss about this. You might be surprised at how quiet so many of them seem. But they won't see what's coming, what with being blinded by all the pound signs flashing in front of their eyes.

Those pound signs? they're just a mirage. Anyone expecting to make a fortune from an academic career in the new Open Market Universities are going to be very, very disappointed.

(Unless, of course, you get to be a CEO. They're called 'VC's at university.)

But I'll go one step further. If Russell Group Universities seize on this report to deregulate their fees and capitalise on this market, it would be unethical for anyone who professes to favour progressive politics, as academics often like to do, to continue to work for a so-called 'elite' university.

'Fortunately', I expect to be forced out of work before I become a hypocrite.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Sometimes you have to say 'Sorry.'

I didn't know who was going to win the Labour leadership election. I guess I assumed that it was going to be David Miliband, and the thought didn't particularly trouble me. But when his brother, Ed, won, I was a bit shocked and surprised, but not entirely displeased. I wasn't not overjoyed, nor was I particularly not underwhelmed.

I know. You're sick of coming here and reading such polemics.

And yesterday I fired off an angry post insisting that Nick Robinson and Jeremy Paxman and everyone just shut up trying to analyse every gesture, every expression of the brothers like a bunch of amateur psychoanalytic literary critics. It would have been nice, instead, had they focussed on the substantial issues of policy.

(I speak, too, I guess, as a professional psychoanalytic literary critic...)

Some people have suggested that there weren't any substantial differences in policy between the brothers, which is why everyone focussed on the 'psycho-drama'. But I don't think that's true: I think Nick Robinson and his ilk would have focussed on any of the gossip or tittle-tattle rather than the big issues anyway, because that's what the (post-)modern media likes to do, it's all they can do.

So now that David has (finally) announced that he won't run for the shadow cabinet (which seems like a perfectly sensible thing to do, and a perfectly sensible time to announce it, given that the media would have focussed on nothing else no matter when he decided to do it), and now everyone is saying 'Well, he couldn't be in the cabinet, could he? because the differences between the brothers are so great.' Except they're not, are they? I mean, were hardly talking Benn versus Healy here, are we? Of course not. This is a united Labour party. The differences on display, even those differences buried, aren't anywhere near as great as those between the Conservatives and their Liberal slaves, or even within the Conservatives (e.g. Europhiles versus Eurosceptics) or within the Liberals right now (between left, e.g. Hughes, and the right-wingers in Cabinet.)

BUT, there is one important difference, and it seems to be this difference that has seen David leave today. IF, on the Iraq war, David Miliband is unable to apologise, if he is unable to admit that the last Labour government made a terrible, terrible mistake into going into war -- whether because of ideological blindness or a more simply failure of intelligence -- then David needs to go. Because that was the issue on which the Labour government lost the support of the country, of the left and of their own supporters. And he should not be allowed back until he is willing to share responsibility for that horrid error. And no one who sat with their hands in their laps yesterday when Ed acknowledged the mistake should be allowed in the shadow cabinet either.

Ok. Now that's done. I'm going to go crawl into a hole and hide while the Tory conference is on, because I can't stand the thought of those smug, self-congratulatory bastards celebrating. (Unless Mr. Fox has any more private letters to his leader he wants to leak to the media? Keep it up, Mr. Fox -- you might have your uses yet.)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Jeremy Paxman is being a dick.

And a bully. And it's got me so mad that I need to rant for a bit. I managed to keep quiet through the entire visit of the pope to the UK ('aggressive secularism'? PLUH-EESE. When atheists start locking men of faith, Torquemada-style, in iron maidens, or start knocking on doors like Jehovah's Witnesses, demanding, 'Do you know you are full of shit?' then call me and I'll denounce 'aggressive secularism'), and I've happily kept my head down and focussed on the work in hand (and on my lap and in my inbox), but now, enough.

It's all about this Labour leadership thing. I don't know who should have won, I hope Ed Miliband does well, really well, really really I do. But I am sick to frickin' death of the amateur psychoanalysts who want to scrutinise every gesture, every muscular strain of any of these politicians.

Worst of the lot of course is Nick Robinson, of course, who can apparently channel the spirit of Freud in his detailed analyses. 'This "psychodrama", as I called it...' he said the other day about the brothers running for the Labour leadership, wishing to enforce his 'intellectual' copyright, has distracted Labour and the public from the issues at stake in the leadership contest. Well no shit, Nick! Because reporters, including the BBC's own political editor, consistently eschew the issues to focus exclusively on this speculative bullshit. Of course there are going to be problems, and clearly there are issues that their entire family needs to address, but shouldn't someone tell Nick that he doesn't have a clue what these might be, that nothing in his history as a young Tory or a pathetically vacuous political reported affords him any insight into this 'psychodrama' of which he purports to be an expert.

In your quest to present yourself as a psychoanalyst, Nick, I'd say don't give up the day job, though clearly you are shit at that too, so you might as well. Please.

And now Paxman is having a go at Tessa Jowell on Newsnight. When did bullying pass for serious, probing interviewing? (cf. John Humphrys). I didn't really pull enough quotations from this interview to wave around and prove Paxman complicit in this game of wild analyses, but in addition to Robinson's narrative, Paxman was capitalising on Jowell's friendship with David Miliband to ask about his motives and plans, making assumptions he had no business making and digging in places he has no business digging.

Eventually, someone in the audience groaned. Jowell, even Paxman, realised that this groan really meant 'Shut up you massive prick.'

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I'm back...

from my holidays. Just three weeks, but it seemed an age. We walked into the town centre here and Sheffield and Jonah (just turned 5) starts panting excitedly.
'Oh, oh! Daddy! Do you remember that building?!?'
'That's Sheffield City Hall, Jonah. Of course I remember that building. It's been there a hundred years. We were just here three weeks ago.'
That kind of thing. And it is nice to see that not much changes, apparently, here in Britain in that time. Every time I go back to Canada -- which, granted, is only once every two years now -- it seems that the place is utterly transformed. Why, this time I learned that the Mall near my Mom's house has had its food court re-done. Again. But, fuck, hey, that's progress. It's only a matter of time before Sutton gets a Wal-Mart and everyone can stay there and drive to the local branch to get really cheap shit without having to go all the way to Newmarket.

(I should add that my Uncle Dave, a Councillor for Ward 3 in Georgina, is still fighting that very good fight against Wal-Mart in the town. So let me take this one chance excretera has to call you to Re-Elect Dave Szollosy in Ward 3! Not much use in me having a sign on my lawn, but anything I can lend to the cause. He's family, you know.)

So nice to see that not much changes at least in one part of the world I inhabit. Britain is much the same. Despite my desperate pleas, for example, some gin-drenched mum pushing her lump of baby in a GX Turbo 9000TT pram failed to notice yet again Jonah skipping towards the crossing light, his little face screwed up in excitement, his finger reaching for that happy spot on the button and, wouldn't ya know it, this crazy streetwalker -- oh, yes, she was! -- pushes the button ahead of him. Lady, if you're reading this, your pathetic little apology meant nothing to my son, and it certainly did nothing to help me console him as he turned to me, all hope and expectation in life suddenly destroyed: mouth curved to his chin, eyes soaked with the deluge of thwarted desire.

(One day, lady, it'll be your kid, slipping, slug-like, to the light. And I'll be there. Waiting. And I will bring the finger of almighty judgement down upon you and your off-spring, and ye shall know the tragedy of such iniquity. And I'll laugh. A triumphant, cruel laugh.)

AND the BBC is taking another beating. God knows what for this time. But this from The New Statesman offers another very good reminder of why the BBC is better than its rivals, and how generally shit (and not in the good way) life will be if Murdoch is allowed to take over the world. I'm sorry. I know he doesn't really want to take over the world. Oh, wait. Yes he does.

This deserves a wider audience. Watch the sycophantic little slut lie back for his sugar daddy. Christ. Crawl back under your shell, you shit-eating mollusk. (Does that even work as a metaphor? You get my meaning, anyway.)



I don't know whether or not Coulson is guilty. No, scratch that, too. Of course I do. We all do. We don't need intangible things like 'proof' to make up our minds. He's as guilty as hell, but that's not the point. The Tories trying to spin this as party-political posturing by Labour shows just how little interest they have in democracy. I mean that. I know that phrase 'contempt for democracy' is thrown by politicians at their opposite numbers every time a minster loses a paperclip, but there is a more important issue here, and New International have been getting away with it for far too long. It needs to stop. And not just swept away. Murdoch's strategy - not even denying it, just completely ignoring it -- is brilliant. (And remember, as The New Statesman article points out, this interview was conducted over a year ago, so it worked, at least once.) Let's just hope that the rest of the British press don't back down as cowardly as they have done in the past.

Honey, I'm home...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's the end of the honeymoon

I'm hearing from YouGov, via PoliticsHome (thanks to @MaximManchester). Here is a link to the YouGov article (if you have Diigo, you can turn it on and see where I have highlighted and commented on a couple of points.

There is a bit of the no-brainer about all of this, that when the cuts started... well, erm, cutting, that people were going to get a bit miffed. Two things on that: Well, serves you right obviously comes to mind. The Tories said they were going to cut, and they're cutting. And people don't like it, apparently. Which begs the question as to why we elected them with a workable majority so that they could implement their agenda unopposed... oh. Wait.

But also it's the Tories own fault if they're not loved right now, because they are cutting more than they have to. Yes, they are. Don't believe the hype, don't fall for the scare stories. They were always going to cut more than they have to. The are Conservatives. That's what they do.

But I'm confused by a couple of points raised by Peter Kellner's commentary. He explains that the public are getting disillusioned with the new coalition government much faster than they did with Labour from 1997. The statistics bear this up. However, Kellner's decisive interpretation of this seems a bit odd.
Plainly, part of the problem is that many voters are growing queasy about the coming spending cuts. No longer is it possible for most of us to believe that these will be confined to efficiency savings and services that affect other people. David Cameron’s warning that ‘we are all in this together’ is proving to be alarmingly true.
First, no, we're not all in this together, as the Tories' posh-boys, I suspect, will somehow survive these cuts relatively unscathed. Call it a hunch. But, no, it's not 'plain', Peter, no. Surely another -- perhaps even more likely -- explanation is that many Lib Dem voters are not happy that the party they voted for went into coalition with the Tories and so sycophantically support an agenda almost completely opposite to that on which they stood? Which surely the statistics themselves imply?

While approval for the coalition has risen among Tory voters, from 80% in mid-June to 84% , which is to be expected as they get to see cut in public spending beyond their wettest, wildest dreams, the situation amongst people who voted for the Lib Dems is rather different:
Among those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, opinions are divided: just 40% approve of the coalition’s performance, while 36% disapprove. No wonder Lib Dem support has slumped since the coalition was formed. Indeed, of those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, just 46% would vote for the party if an election were held now, while 18% would vote Labour, 9% Conservative and 5% for other parties; 22% are ‘don’t knows’ or ‘won’t votes’.
So Kellner's assumption that the coalition, who swept to power with 61% of the vote between them, is losing support now because of the cuts themselves seems like an assumption unsupported by the facts, doesn't it? I'm not saying that we can know for sure that the low approval rating for the coalition is due to disaffected Lib Dem voters, but isn't that the Lib Dem portion of that 61% are saying, 'Whoa!' -- because Lib Dems are like that -- 'Hold on one second here. I don't remember voting for this. I don't think I like this. No sir. Not one bit.'

Ok. It's how I feel, stupidly lured into voting Lib Dem as I was. So surely everyone else naive enough to vote Lib Dem agrees with me?

Monday, 19 July 2010

A plea.

Ok, starting a new week with a topic of grave concern for the children of Britain, nay, doubtless the world.

I wish to call your attention to a worrying trend, something that is symbolic, I feel, of how badly we treat our children. I want to call for a swift and decisive change in the behaviour of each and every one of you. I want each of you to look into your hearts, into your souls, and take the action that is necessary to free our children from a terrible injustice that will, if allowed to continue unimpeded, have serious repercussions on our children's development and the future of this planet.

So, please heed the following: IF you see a four-year-old boy skipping happily towards a cross-walk this morning, keep your finger off the fucking button to request a cross. I don't know whether it is by pathetic ignorance of malicious cruelty, but every morning last week my four-year old Jonah, after asking so sweetly if he can edge ahead of me to press the cross-walk button (and this now that his older brother is much too cool to try to beat him to it), has had his hopes crushed at the last second by the merciless finger of a callous teenage boy or the foreboding wrinkled hand of an old man.

What kind of people are these? That they either do not sense the uninhibited enthusiasm of youth, or that they wish to destroy it? Have they suffered so much, have their own childhood experiences been so traumatic, that they are compelled to repeat the injustices done to them unto the youth of today?

Sort it out. Because I'm not having it any more. My son has suffered enough disappointment. Have a look before you press that button, or so help me you'll find it bitten off. I mean it.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Shock Breaking News!

Wealthy white men in the United Kingdom are using their financial advantage, privilege and connections to get themselves elected to Parliament!

Unbelievable, I know. But apparently true. Hear all about it here.



What's wrong, Posh Boy? Not used to not getting your own way? (You could just see his stuff upper lip wanting to bark at the injustice of such an interrogation. And to tolerate that from a man who clearly buys his ties from Marks and Spencers! The horror.)

Oh, Zac. Zac, Zac, Zac, Zac, Zac, Zac, Zac. You poor fool. You've just joined Michael Howard in the annals of The Classic Political Interview. Jon Snow at last takes his position alongside Jeremy Paxman. Next time you'll remember to call Dave's media people, won't you, old chum? There's a good lad.

But seriously. Good investigative journalism from Channel 4 and all, but doesn't this feel a lot like getting Capone sent away for tax evasion? I mean, if it gets the job done good work and all that, but don't you feel like we're missing something in all the detail? When the Prime Minister and his Chancellor, yes, I will mention it again, thank you very much, were happy Bullingdon dinner pals in their youth, along with the mayor of London?

I just think there's a Bigger Picture here, you know?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Where have I been?

Well, other than in a dentist's chair -- interminably -- I've been largely depressed. Not 'depression' like depression, but just sick sick sick of it all.

I'm not depressed that we've got a Tory government. (Yes, it is. For all the talk of a coalition, we've got a right-wing, conservative government. They just happen to have a yellow fig leaf for cover. We couldn't have got a more right-wing Tory government had we all rushed to the poles and voted overwhelmingly for it. Which we didn't.) I'm not depressed about that because, if I'm being honest, there is something strangely comforting about the axe-wielding bastard Tory villains coming at us while we sleep. Like the Pope being a misogynist schmuck and Russian spies being uncovered in the US and being deported. It all reminds me of snuggling warmly into my Star Wars sheets as a boy, fighting the certain knowledge that world was going to end in nuclear holocaust before the morning. It's like everything's conspiring to rid the world of its usual ambivalence, of Labour politicians taking us into a neo-con war, etc. etc., but hey, this is good, because it's what we know. It's less work. Let's get on with it, I say!

SO, I was ready for a little joy, Schadenfreude, what have you, in climbing back under the anxiety-soaked sheets of opposition, of complaining endlessly about what Those Bastards are up to now. But what's the point? Nobody's listening.

Have you been watching the news? Listening to the radio? Everyone seems to be receiving the Condem claims of Big Cuts Now on face value. Even Labour, who are putting up a shadow of the resistance they should be, seem to accept the Tory claim '... because of the mess left to us by Labour'. BBC interviewers seems incapable to thinking outside the Tory cage.

'Whose fucking mess?' I find myself screaming impotently at the radio in my kitchen. 'Who's fucking fault is it that the UK is in so much debt?'

'Is it the banks' fault, Daddy?' Will asks.

'Yes! The banks fault...!' and we carry on like this. (If your children go to my sons' school and have inexplicably started swearing in the last couple of weeks... well, I don't know where they got that from.) It seems like everyone has declared war on the public sector, forgetting it seems that it wasn't a bloated public sector that got us into this mess but an irresponsible private section.

And New Regime has emboldened every asshole who, for years during the Labour government, had the decency to at least moderate their bullshit. So you've got disgruntled men who have been laid off their private-sector jobs blaming everything on the 'cushy' pensions of teachers. You've got VCs -- both Vice-Chancellors and Vice Cable -- who for years pretended that they gave a shit about students, now slipping back into complete elitist mode: 'Don't cut our funding, just cut the number of places', daring to call for markets in a way that was, frankly, very awkward for them under Labour.

Everyone is suddenly calling for Markets to be introduced into everything - the NHS, schools, unversities -- forgetting that it was Markets that got us into this problem in the first place.

And of course it is worth remembering that MOST of us didn't vote for such dramatic cuts. Most of us wanted something different. What was it you said, Nick?



Oh, yeah.

So there was no mandate for these cuts, but the Tories are going to do it anyway. And as I said, that in-and-of-itself isn't what frustrates me. I was rather looking forward to joining the mass-uprising against what the Tories wanted to do, given that -- again -- MOST of us didn't agree that the Tories had the right idea. But it seems that we've all been lobotomised. Post-election, we have forgotten what the debate was, and instead of fighting the cuts, everyone is getting behind the Tory's plan, just because they've scared us into thinking that their ideological want-to is a pragmatic need-to.

It's not. These are choices. The Tories want to cut corporation tax so that it is, as they proudly proclaim, the lowest in the developed world. They raise VAT and make deeper cuts into public serves than are necessary to pay for their smaller state. Which I understand. They are Tories. It's what they do. But can the rest of us stop pretending to like it?

(Incidentally, thinking of such choices and the attacks on the BBC and very idea of public broadcasting, as another example, it is worth remembering that 15.1 million people chose to watch the World Cup final on the BBC, the publicly-funded model, whereas only 3.3 million chose the private model on ITV. These things matter, you know.)

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The history lesson

I wish I had before the election. You'll remember that I argued right after the election that I made the now-obvious mistake of voting LibDem on the premise that, as a (now determined) foreigner in your country, I didn't fully see your political spectrum in its true colours; that, having arrived after the election of Labour in 1997, I came to see the LibDems as the only viable (in a FPTP system) alternative to the left of the government.

BUT, now, Vernon Bogdnor's article in last week's New Statesman explains why, really, nothing of the Con-Dem pact should come as a surprise, and why many (my wife among them, who has been ever so good in not singing 'I told you so' as I mope around the house) were right not to believe in the idea of 'progressive coalition' on the left. Some highlights:
The present coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has long ante­cedents. The Conservatives were in coalition with dissident Liberals in 1895, when the Liberal Unionists joined them to resist Home Rule; from 1916 to 1922, when a group of Liberals led by Lloyd George joined with the Conservatives to win the First World War and secure postwar reconstruction; and again, in 1931, in the National Government. [...]

The Liberals have formed coalitions with the Conservatives, but they have never been in a peacetime coalition with Labour. Though it may be a bit much to conjure the ghost of Ramsay MacDonald, as John Reid and David Blunkett did during the fraught period that led to the creation of the new government, it should be rememberered that the Liberals have supported minority Labour governments - in 1924, 1929-31 and during the Lib-Lab pact in 1977-78.

Ominously, Bogdanor points out that 'coalition government has always benefited the Conservatives.' Uh-oh.

However, I was not the only one fooled it seems.

The last YouGov survey before the election, on 5 May, found that 43 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters described themselves as centre left or left, as compared with 29 per cent who described themselves as centrist and 9 per cent who described themselves as centre right or right. Moreover, 39 per cent of Lib Dem voters thought the party was left or centre left, as compared with the 33 per cent who thought it was centrist and 5 per cent who thought it was right or centre right. Nick Clegg appeared to agree with them: last year, he wrote a pamphlet entitled The Liberal Moment, in which he argued that "progressive conservatism" would prove a contradiction in terms. A Populus poll for the Times on 8 May revealed that, while a minority Conservative government was the favourite option, attracting 53 per cent support, a Liberal Democrat-Labour arrangement was preferred to a Liberal-Conservative one by 51 per cent to 46. In forming the coalition, the Liberal Demo­crats may have ignored the views both of their members and those who voted for them.
This we already knew, in a sort-of way, so it's nice to have the numbers to support it. So there are a lot of us naive numpties. But are we entirely to blame? Could Nick and the wafflers of the centre-right have been playing a bit of a game with us?
Nick Clegg was tactically shrewd in not making his preference known; had he done so, the Lib Dems would have secured fewer than the 57 seats they won. But in Oxford West and Abingdon, the seat lost by Dr Evan Harris, leaflets were delivered to electors telling them that voting Liberal Democrat was the only way to keep the Conservatives out, given that Labour, a distant third, had no chance. David Cameron agreed, saying that if one voted on the Thursday for the Lib Dems, one would wake up on the Friday with Gordon Brown. Perhaps the leaflet should have said that voting Liberal Democrat was the only way to keep the Conservatives in; indeed, after the election, the defeated Harris endorsed the coalition with the Conservatives. Perhaps in Labour-Lib Dem marginals, electors were told that voting Liberal Democrat was the only way to keep Labour out, since the Conservatives, a poor third, had no chance? As a campaign guide published by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors declared: "You can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being effectively anti-Labour and, similarly, in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory."
Ah ha! So we was tricked! The LibDem manifesto was political Rohypnol, slipped into our drinks by the friendlier, left-leaning charmers of the party, while Laws and the right of the party rubbed their hands in anticipation of our drugged, compliant corpses. Vince, oh Vince! I believed you when you said - like Alistair - that cutting now would hurt the still-feeble recovery. I trusted you! And now look. I feel so... terribly, terribly... afraid of a double-dip recession. Have you no shame?

Bogdanor's full article, again, is here. He says a lot more, besides, about why the LibDems had no choice, really, and the truth about potential electoral reform, the only good thing that might come of all of this. Do check it out.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

This can't be right...

in this completely fucked-up election, it seems that there is no end to weird shit.

Just as Cameron's car was heading to the Palace, I received a tweet from someone called 'Dollywagon', whose analyses of the 'Twitter Political – Top 30 most influential tweeters today' reveals -- beyond any reasonable comprehension -- that our very own excretera was the THIRD most 'influential' political tweeter from the 7th to the 10th of May.

No. I don't believe it either. But here's what it says:
We used the Influence Engine to analyse political activity on Twitter for the period 1200hrs Fri 7th May until 1200hrs Mon 10th May (today). Our analysis looked at an individual’s success in having their tweets picked up and distributed to other people within the network of Twitter’s politico-sphere. Here is the list of the UK’s Top 30 most influential tweeters on political subjects
I mean, WTF Country doesn't even begin to cover it. I'm expected everyone else on Twitter to reply and inform me, pityingly, that they, too, received this message, that it's some kind of scam. In the meantime, I'm basking in happy ignorance at my apparent POWER. So, here's the list:


Yup. That's me. Just behind @nick_clegg and @c4election. And ahead of @guardiannews, @libdems and @uklabourparty. Obviously. I'm watching @bbclaurak on News 24, standing out in front of Number 10, and I'm thinking, 'What do you know? You're like, what? 22nd on the list? You know nothing!'

This tells us two things, without a doubt:

1) that search engine needs lubrication, or something.

2) Twitter really is full of shit. I've obviously found my home.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Last little goodies...

There is NO WAY this should have escaped your attention:



I guess Boulton didn't like being outed -- again -- as a Tory-whore-boy. I'm sorry. I mean a Fat-Tory-whore-boy.

Well, now, what can I say?

Short of 'Fuck off.'?

I suppose, 'I'm sorry' would be a good place to start, since it seems that my vote has gone to help elected a Conservative government.

I feel very dirty. And not in the good way.

Like Lady Macbeth, I'll try to scrub and scrub this shit from my hands. But I reek. I suck.

I don't know the details of the Conservative-Liberal alliance. Or the #ConDemNation as it's being tweeted. I'm too depressed to check, or wait. This is my fault.

I always write about how the British press, and the British public -- and, in the last few days, large numbers of British politicians -- don't really understand their/your own electoral system. And you don't. But it seems that I didn't completely get it either. Having only arrived in 1997, flying into an already-Blair Britain, I didn't really understand your political spectrum. Because for much of the last 13 years, if I've wanted to vote left of the government, I've had to support the Liberal Democrats. Against the war in Iraq. Against silly corporate tax breaks. But I didn't understand, really, what the LibDems were about, or what they stood for. I heard the words of left-leaning LibDems and assumed that they were ok. Kennedy, Hughes, Ashdown, Steel. Good eggs, I think.

Vote Nick, get Dave. I suppose I knew it was possible, but I didn't see it coming. Suffice to say, I won't be voting LibDem again. Even as a second choice in a alternate-vote system, which they'll be lucky to get.

Still, I suppose that it had to happen sometime, that the Tories would worm their way back into Number 10 at some point. And, if it had to happen, these perhaps aren't the worse circumstances under which it's happened: a weak government, uneasy alliance, about to face a fuck-hell of economic pain, which they will exacerbate with poor economic policy.

Let's just wait and see what happens. Hopefully, we won't have to wait for long. In the meantime...

Bring the Revolution!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Well...

you fucked up. We asked you not to, but you fucked it up all the same.

However, you didn't fuck it up completely.

So, now we wait. But one thing is clear:

Nothing is clear.

The Tories have not won this election.

The Tories have no mandate to assume sole control of the government.

Cameron and his minions and The Mail and The Express will huff and puff and try to bully you into believing that the Tories have won, but this is wrong. This is how George Bush and his allies in the media and the Supreme Court -- and the baying Republican mobs -- bullied the Americans into suspending political process. We cannot let that happen here.

The Tories, their supporters, and the right-wing press need to shut up now and give the political process its time -- the proper and perfectly legitimate political process that all parties signed up to before this all started. And we must resist any attempts to subvert this process, even if it doesn't work out the way we'd like it.

It might very well happen that the Tories will get to work with a coalition or even work with a minority government (it would go everything they said they believe in, e.g. the need for strong government, but nevermind). Personally, I'm hoping for a Lib-Lab coalition, in some form, at least in the short term, to secure certain priorities -- electoral reform, and preventing the Tories' planned cuts. And it's GB's first call.

Let's see what happens. But DO NOT allow the Tories to hijack the process.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Here we go. Don't fuck it up.

I'm off to vote this afternoon, after I pick up the kids from school. I can't wait for the questions from the boys. 'That one is David Cameron's puppet, isn't it, Daddy? Will anyone vote for him? Please tell me that pudding won't win, Daddy? Please?'

Ok. So, I wave my right to secret ballot. I think the secret ballot should be allowed anyway. You should have to justify who you vote for, and, if you're reason isn't good enough, you're vote shouldn't count. 'I want to vote for Cameron for change'. Nope. Fuck off. 'I want to vote BNP because we need to do something about the immigrants.' Nope. Fuck off and go learn something. 'I want to vote Labour because I think Gordon Brown would look good in a dress, and I really want to see that.'

Ok. I'm intrigued.

So: I'm probably going to vote for Nick Clegg. And I say that not misunderstanding how British democracy works. I know you don't actually vote for the party leader -- a truth the debates have somewhat clouded; more on that some other day. No. The Cleggster is really running in my constituency, Sheffield Hallam. And I know I shouldn't, really. I am not a massive Lib-Demmer. According to votematch.org.uk, I should vote Greens (though, strangely, Lib Dems came a close second -- I assume that's because there is no Nutty-Old-Lefty Party candidate in my area). So apologies to Steve Barnar. Maybe next time.

And I mean that. Because I am voting for the Cleggmeister not out of love, but tactically, in the expectation that this is the last time I ever need to vote tactically again. I am voting for the Cleggeramma to give him a mandate to reform the electoral system. This is the only clear mandate that can possibly come from today's vote. No party is going to obtain a majority to implement their agenda, not that they bothered to share their agenda with us anyway. No party will have a clear mandate to make the cuts they want. The only clear demand from the electorate, it seems, will be for a new political system, and for co-operation. (Perhaps, if 'Lib-Lab Coalition' was on the ticket, that might win, but it's not, so we make do.)

And if you are still in doubt as to who to vote for, here's a quick guide. A bit Lib-Dem Happy, but funny anyway. I've got a feeling we'll need a laugh tonight.

Ok. So go and vote. And don't fuck it up.

Seriously. Do not fuck this up.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

This month, I'll be wasting time...

playing this.



Oh dear oh dear. I am so vulnerable to the small joys of quirky, topical flash games. But since I always imagine flying is a bit of race to the death, this slaps me with it's sense of realism.

But it's the music, really, what does it. Heroic. I AM the daredevil pilot.

(BTW, my high score is a pathetic 37,986. Because really even this sort of flying is beyond me. Have fun embarrassing that record.)

Friday, 23 April 2010

Fear

It's all about fear now, isn't it? Davey Cameron, poor boy, certainly looked afraid last night. The other parties are ganging up on us, he says. (Which is only right, really, given the centre-left majority of this country -- didn't you know that was the case? Oh yes. It's just that the rabidly right-wing, billionaire-owned media and the completely unjust voting system make it look like more people in this country are crazy. In reality, only about 35% of you are off your rockers.) The other parties are trying to scare you into not voting for us, Cameron says. Which is sort of like Dracula complaining about Professor Van Helsing warning people not to go on dates with Transylvania counts with pale skin and sharp teeth.

Yes, Labour and the Lib-Dems are desperately trying to make voters aware of the very real consequences of a Conservative victory. Should we be afraid? Yes.

BUT, in another classic case of long-used cooking vessels using recognisable appellations for similar devices used in the heating of water, the Tories themselves have been trying to scare us throughout this election, too. I've already mentioned their negative campaigning, using Gordon Brown as a the Bogeyman (while all the time claiming that they alone are running a positive campaign). But what else have they are their friends in the media been up to?

Well, this idea that there will be economic collapse is there is a 'hung parliament' is completely dishonest. It's like threatening children with eternal damnation, just to get them to eat their broccoli. Do as we say or you will suffer. This is simply not true. Countries all over Europe, Canada, too, have been steered these last years through the hard economic waters without one party in overall control of the government. A friend actually said to me, but what if there is a hung parliament? How would the country function? To which the answer is completely normally. Parliaments are absolutely capable of functioning without having one party in overall control. To say otherwise either shows a fundamental misunderstanding of our political system, or is simply deceitful. Just because the two-party hegemony might be broken does not mean that it's curtains for the rest of us.

The very term 'hung parliament' is dishonest. It implies stalemate, indecision. Like a hung jury, a body that has fundamentally failed and cannot continue without starting from scratch. What we would have would not be a hung parliament at all but one in which there was no disproportionate control. Unless one party gets more than 50% of the vote. Which isn't likely. Most countries see this as a desirable thing. They call them balanced parliaments.

Should we be afraid? Not at all. The encouraging thing seems to be that the people of this country aren't believing the Tories and their media friends when they say we should be.

But (un)dead parliaments aren't the only Monster that the right-wing politicians and media want us to fear. And so the opportunity arises for excretera. to bestow yet another Completely Inappropriate Evocation of Hitler Award! Yeah!

Let me explain. No, no time. Let me sum up. The Mail, as ever, have decided that Nick Clegg made a 'Nazi slur on Britain', dredging up this old (and actually spot-on) article from The Guardian when he was MEP in 2002. Desperate, yes, but entirely predictable. Almost as bad as The Mail's desperate slur on unlikely stud Lembit Opik in September 2009. But, again, you think The Mail would be a bit more careful, given their own black-shirt, anti-Semite predilections. (I will never tire of bringing that up, no. Not until they stop sounding so much like it in the twenty-first century.)

I think this scaremongering and intimidation stems from the right's sense of divine entitlement. Again, I refer you to my last post on the matter, but also Murdoch Jr's storming the barricades of opposition at the Independent. It increasingly seems, as the old right's petulant little shits throw one tempter tantrum after another, that the Indy might just be right, and maybe, for once, Murdoch will not decide this election.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Oh dear oh dear!

What do we have here? Don't the Tories suddenly sound most very nasty, don't they? Like sleep-deprived three-year olds told that they can't have more Easter chocolate, not until they've finished their dinner, they're throwing a right proper strop.

Why is this, now, I wonder? Oh yeah. Because the Lib Dems are spoiling their election. I've heard Tory after Tory on the airwaves in the last couple of days and all of them, Retired Grandee or Cabinet-to-Be Bighitters, are to a man apoplectic that anyone should vote for the Lib Dems and that Nick Clegg. It is, to quote Vizzini, inconceivable! It is simply beyond the pale, old chap, that this should happen. He won't be PM, you know, they insist.

Well, see, that's not really up to them, though, is it? If the Tories have so spectacularly failed to capitalise on a very unpopular Labour leader, a weary government, economic meltdown, disastrous wars etc. etc., then they have no Divine Right to take up the mantle. But it's our turn! they insist. Listen to them, the petulant little asses. It is no wonder they alone of the major parties -- and in that we can even include the Greens, UKIP and the Scottish and Welsh regional parties -- oppose the electoral reform so desperately needed. What they are doing now is nothing less than an assault on democracy and the right of the British people to have a genuine choice.

Vote for Change! they declare.

NO! Not THAT change! they correct us now. We mean the same change as before!

Cameron and his minions insist that they have been running a 'positive' campaign, which is the biggest load of horseshit see on these Islands since the stables at Henry VIII's jousts, and if Today and Newsnight presenters don't start calling them on it I'm going to demand a refund on my licence fee. Cameron runs around, hugging hoodies and offering compassionate conservatism like a smiling rapist, but his entire campaign is built on 'Not Gordon'. See the posters up and down the country with Brown's smiling face and a list of his crimes -- which include high unemployment, a ruined economy and a greater inequality between rich and poor, all of which would have been much worse under the Tories. And every Tory when asked why people shouldn't vote for Clegg answers with 'Vote Clegg and get Brown', a mantra that by now must be distracting the monks in the Tibetan mountains so often has it echoed around.

I'm not endorsing the Lib Dems. I don't think Nick Clegg is the Second Coming. (He is my MP, though, did I mention?) And to keep the Tories out, I might vote tactfully for him, partly so -- with any luck -- I won't have to vote tactically any more. (It's worth pointing out, too, which the Tories aren't, that Clegg also went to a posh school. But I guess it's because Clegg wears it much more lightly. Like you don't want to punch him the same way you want to punch Cameron, Osborne, Johnson and those the Bully Boys.)

(Incidentally, above I corrected one of those Freudian type-os. I called what we have a 'demonocracy'. In the unconscious movement of my fingers, there lie the Truth.)

And now I'm loving the idea of the Tories as Vizzini. Maybe this is a new theme? the arrogance, the pseudo-intellectualism certainly suits the Tories. Nick Clegg is certainly Inigo Montoya, dreaming, obsessed with the single goal (is his case PR), looking into the distance and seducing us with 'Hello. My name is Nick Clegg. You killed my dreams of a single European currency and federal state. Prepare to die.' Try it! It works. So this means that Gordon is Fezzik. He should try this in the next debate:

Clegg: You took us to war in Iraq!

Brown: But that doesn't mean I deserve the sack!

Cameron: You destroyed the economy!

Brown: You've had a lobotomy!

Clegg and Cameron: You've nationalised a bank!

Brown: Why don't you both go and have a stimulus package relieving inflationary pressure.
See what I did there? Did you see? Did you? (You would be amazed at how little time that took me.)

Universities and election

I'd just like to forward a couple of bits and pieces from a University and College Union (UCU) newsletter) that pertain to the election. Couple of things to munch on, anyway.

The first is over the notion of higher tuition fees:
Evening Standard poll confirms higher fees a vote loser

A poll for the Evening Standard has revealed that the overwhelming majority of voters are opposed to putting up university fees. The results of the poll are in line with recent polling by both UCU and the National Union of Students that show higher fees to be a vote loser.

Sally Hunt, said: “All the parties must clearly state their fee policies to ensure that students and their parents can make an informed choice at the ballot box and add their voices to the debate on the future of university funding. For the vast majority of people in this country higher fees would be a disaster. We would see the rich able to buy a place at whatever institution they please, whilst the rest scramble around for a place within budget.”

Further reading:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23822931-gordon-brown-continues-to-fight-ni-battle-and-plans-to-bring-morality-to-financial-services.do - Evening Standard
And less directly regarding the election, but something nevertheless interesting I think for most of excretera's readers, is this reality check about staffing levels at institutions across the country:
Universities actually spending record low on staff

The percentage of total expenditure spent on staff in UK universities has dropped to an all-time low, according to figures released on Tuesday. The figures, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), show that staff costs as a percentage of total expenditure fell in 2008-9 to 56.8%, compared with 57.4% in 2007-8, despite a 5% pay rise in October 2008 that universities said at the time was on the brink of affordability.

Sally Hunt said: “Universities have been arguing against pay rises on the basis that they already spend too much on staff. These figures are from the last year of a pay rise we were told was at the brink of affordability. When put against the recent massive pay rises for those at the top and the offer of a pay cut for staff, the figures are further evidence that there is one rule for them and one for the rest.”

Further reading:

http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4539&from=1676 – press release

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article7096704.ece - Times

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7586820/More-than-115000-students-could-miss-out-on-university-place.html - Telegraph

Like I said, a couple little droppings for you to chew over.

And how about that Nick Clegg, eh? He's my MP, you know. And the Second Coming, apparently, now that 80% of the country actually know that he's leading a third party. Wow. I expect...

Well. Let's not get excited. But he had a Good Debate, out-casualising Call Me Dave. (Is 'casualising' a word? Fuck it. It is now. That's why I got a PhD, so I could make up words.) I thought Great Big Gordie won on substance, though. Not that it matters. Funny. The next day, everyone correctly noticed that the debate had changed the face of British politics. But alas, not for the right reasons it seems. Did anyone catch the morning call-in on 5 Live? 'In the context of last night's debate,' texters, tweeters, callers were implored, 'who would you now most like to meet, have a beer with, you know, and why?'

It's enough to make you want to tear you're own eyes out. Or someone else's. (The latter I would recommend if you are new to this. That way, if you make a mistake...) There were issues discussed that night. This really is an issues election -- as most of them are, however that twenty-first century Prometheus named Apathy might swing it. And the debates were a terrific opportunity to hear ideas, or the lack of them. Nice to see, then, the media reducing the whole thing again to celebrity and personality, which seems to be all they are capable of grasping of late. Shame, really. Very shit. And not in the good way.


(Still wondering whether that Prometheus image works. I'm still in two minds. Literary analysis and opinions are welcome.)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Keep Calm Carry On

And we're off!

Fuck.

I'm a politics junky, so I usually look forward to elections the way my sons look forward to... well. Anything involving chocolate. But, to quote Han Solo in Episode IV (and Obi-Wan in Episode I and Annakin in Episode II etc. etc.), I've got a bad feeling about this one.

Still. I'm encouraged by two things coming from the Tory campaign so far: They are running on a platform of change, which will reek of Obama-tail-riding sycophancy AND will soon be revealed to even the most brain-dead of the British electorate (yes, even them) that they are the party offering the absolute least amount of change: status quo on the electoral system, status quo on party funding, status quo on bank (un)regulation... so that helps. They also seem to be determined to run a personal attack against Brown, which should backfire nicely. Two things I've learned about the British: they don't like their politicians sucking up to the Americans (see above), and they always back an underdog who is getting picked on. Watch that space.

Anyway. Should make for some obsessive viewing, for an obsessive, obsessed as he is.

Assuming I'll be much too busy chewing the ends of my fingers in anxiety to blog much, I want to use this space to highlight some useful articles I find here and there. So:

Poly Toynbee in Saturday's Guardian. This is the brilliant riposte to the 'Business-leaders-back-tax-cut' story I promised. Contract sealed.

(And, by the way, if you haven't already, read Malcolm Tucker's election briefing column. It's like a delicious little sprinkle of Thick of It on your Saturday porridge.

Also today, read Sarah Ditum at Paperhouse on the choice agenda. Brilliant, as ever. That should help clarify a couple of things.

And finally, a note from Chris Sexton from the University of Sheffield's CICS on digital economy bill and the poverty of our democracy. This is why we need electoral change.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Shock News!

Unbelievable! Can you imagine it?!? Who saw this coming:

Business supports George Osborne's national insurance cut
And this appears in The Daily Telegraph!!

Pluh-lease. Really? This comes as a surprise to who, exactly? Context, people, context! Cameron is all agog, obviously. (Here's how the in-house Tory paper spins it.) But is anyone else fooled for one second? I suppose the Tory plan, which doubtless will involve raising the level of some deeply-regressive tax (i.e. a tax that disproportionately hits lower-incomes harder), such as VAT, will sit much happier with businesses. But the rest of us, well... Here's another one: sometimes the interests of business are not those of the average voter. I know. I know. Too many shocks in one morning, eh?

Of course none of this banal shit would need to clogup your blogosphere EXCEPT that it seems the press report this as if it really was news, which we have already established it isn't. The Telegraph (and the usual suspects) will, of course, but does the BBC have to? Come on. Wake up. Apparently, there's an election happening soon, did you know?

I'll link to a suitable riposte here as soon as I can find one.

I'm sitting here now thinking, do I really need to actually hit 'Publish' for such an obvious no-brainer? Alas. It seems so. Do forward this on to any brain-dead potential-voters you know out there, please.

Monday, 29 March 2010

excretera addendum:

... to which I should have added to my last post this little nugget:

Tory national insurance move 'clearly irresponsible'

An economist who signed a letter that appeared to support Conservative plans to tackle Britain's budget deficit said today it was "clearly irresponsible" of the party to partially reverse government proposals for an increase in national insurance without a full explanation of how it would be funded.

Professor David Newbery, of Cambridge University, said the Tories "don't seem to have a coherently worked-out" plan. "I would have expected more clarity about what their long-term strategy is. One assumes that scaling down the public sector is one of those aims, but how they will do that we don't know."

That would be one of the 20 dufi (you know, plural of dufus) who signed that letter saying that cutting the deficit needed to be done immediately -- well, that's how the Tories spun it. What they really said was that it needed to be done soonish, depending on economic conditions. But don't take my word for it: read The Freakin' Brilliant David Blanchflower in The New Statesman on this, and everything else, too. But specifically on The 20 Dufi here.

So now Osborne has pissed off his own propagandists, which has got to be a little like shitting on our own TV, or something, doesn't it?

Better metaphors apply within:

I really don't get how anyone,

anywhere can think of voting Conservative. Or Republican, if you're American. That's just me. I suppose that's not entirely, true, because I can imagine that very rich people, that narrow percentage of elites whose interests are best served by right-wing economic policy, might want to see the Conservatives get in. And I guess 'social conservatives', you know, those sorts of Neanderthals that would still allow slavery, deny women the vote, foster racism, fascism, ... all that, yes, I guess I can see why they might vote for that same party, though why they imagine their quaint beliefs -- we'll call them errors -- could for any conceivable reason be represented by the same the party who serves the interests of the economics elite... well, anyway. You see my confusion.

But I really can't understand why anyone in the UK is thinking of voting for this lot of pudding-brained muppets. It's obvious to everyone now, right, that Cameron and Osborne aren't real politicians, but just public-school bullies that couldn't organise a end-of-term dance? I mean for fuck's sake.

I submit as Item #3,406,653 in a seemingly interminable list of evidence the following: Watch this video, where Cameron makes a complete dog's ass of questions from The Gay Times. Ok, yes,I tweeted this last week, but I've watched it twice since and it really is quite shocking. Not because Cameron appears confused on his policy on homosexuality (as if 'who-fucks-who' is something that political parties need to have a Policy on), or that Cameron seems afraid of his own party, or trying to apologise for his party's relationship to the rest of Europe, or any number of other problems of which this clip is symptomatic. No. I suspect that Cameron himself is probably pretty down with the gays -- some of his best friends, etc. etc. -- but that he can't say so doesn't surprise me in the slightest and should be a lesson for us all that the Conservative party hasn't really changed a jolly jot, as one of them might say.

HOWEVER, what's really shocking about this is the truly impressive level of complete incompetence that this represents. THIS, most certainly, is one idiot fully capable of blithering in a really special way. It needs to be seen again. And again. And not just for the comedy value. Everyone needs to see this. You've seen it, sure. I know you have. But now: Call your Mum. Forward her the link. Get your Dad in to see it. Send it around the office.

Oh, and hold the press! Today Osborne has demonstrated his macro-economical acumen -- by which of course we both mean political opportunism -- by offering a tax break should the Tories win the election and form the next government -- a caveat all too often mumbled as an afterthought these days. (Come on Media! It ain't over yet!) This is, I'm sure, completely pragmatic and not at all ideologically-motivated (thank-you to The Telegraph for being so... well, so predictable), and I'm sure he'll find the money for that, AND saving all public services AND slashing the deficit wildly.. or he won't. Obviously.

Well. Even The Torygraph reckons that this Gift from the Blue Gods will be worth... hold it... £150 a year to a British worker. Now. I am not the sort that makes enough money that I can sneer at £150 at any time, though I accept that yes, I am more economically better-off than some. But £150 a year? Really? That's only, like, 60 lattés! Really? Is that going to be enough? Are the people of Britain going to look at that and think, Yes. I want that £150. It will be well worth it. Are their souls so easily bought? Are they going to be happy enough with their 8Gb iPod Touch(TM)* that they won't notice it when Osborne and Cameron stumble through budget after budget, slashing away the NHS and education -- which, remember, they really want to do, regardless of anything else -- and so busy random-playing the X-Factor's Greatest Hits that they're not going to notice the Tories sending the country down river? Again?

Argh!! And now I don't know if this is a case of Death by Zombie or Death by Vampire!! Thanks a fuck of a lot. (Update on that little battle immanently.)

*Please note: it is not Apple stated policy that money bestowed by a reckless government should be squandered on such frivolities. Though doubtless it will be so, hey, you know. Why not?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Non-doms, ditty dom dom ... DOM...

Such is the state of the world at the moment that I feel compelled to release myself from my self-imposed blog ban (or 'blan' -- I am sooo back), lest I damage my internal organs holding in all this shit that presses mercilessly upon my sphincters, desperate to be unleashed into a world so obviously in need of having violent poo flung at it. (And glad to see that my time off has tempered my penchant for dramatic metaphor.) Yes, those mysterious 'other projects' whirl away rather nicely, thanks, but needs must and like Superman, or Spiderman... whichever went away and then came back because they learned how responsibility weighs heavy on the shoulders of the hero... oh dear. That metaphor appears to have run it's course.

No matter! Because there are things that must be talked about, things that a 140-character tweet simply cannot contain. But where to begin? I want to talk about University funding. I want to talk about the ongoing war between the zombies and the vampires as they choose sides in the inevitable UK general election. I want to talk about those Dementors that lurk at the cross-walk outside my sons' school. But first up, the boring boring boring topic of Ashcroft and the non-dom political party donor. Because it's essential, because it is about the world we are making for ourselves, because it has massive ramifications for the election, but mainly, because it's quick and easy.

Look. It's simple. Does the average UK voter, as Nick Robinson repeatedly asks (happily unaware how this undermines his own existence), really care if Michael Ashcroft (fuck 'Lord') is a non-dom for UK tax purposes? Did William Hague know about blah blah and when did he know or not know blah or did he do a secret deal with so-and-so? When did Cameron become aware of whatever? Does Lord Such-and-Such of Somewhere pay lots or little or no tax? Because he once lent a fiver to Alistair Darling...

No. None of this matters. What does matter is that, once again, the British electorate, British politics and, in particular, the Conservative Party, are in the clutches of a mega-wealthy elite that are uniquely damaging to Britain's national interest. I say 'uniquely damaging' in that their role in British (right-wing) politics is directly -- and I suppose unsurprisingly -- related to an area in which they should be specifically and explicitly barred from participating. Like letting the grandson of a warmongering ex-prime minister complain about defence spending. Or like an Australian-American setting British policy on Europe. (And, once, a Canadian, too, but in a move that guaranteed Jean Chrétien a place on Canada's Mount Rushmore, if we can ever be bothered to make one, Conrad Black was stripped of his Canadian citizenship.) Or like, in this case, a Belizean man who does not pay UK tax (potentially worth tens of millions of pounds a year), demanding in this country a regressive tax policy that favours the wealthy, and funding potential MPs that will when elected argue for smaller government on the basis that we cannot afford such lavish public services. THAT is the real problem here.

There. A stupid, obvious point that shouldn't have needed making, I think you'll agree. Why we're not hearing this more vociferously from people who are much more intelligent, and much better informed than I, I do not know.

But this is only a symptom of what we face in the wider context of the election. As Polly Toynbee said in a recent (and always excellent) Guardian politics podcast: There is a difference between a party that knows they have to trim the budget and cut public services and a party that really wants to cut those services, that are salivating at the prospect like Dracula poised at a throbbing virgin's jugular. [edit: it's not really the innocent young virgin the Tories are after, but the saggy, wrinkled old carcass of its usual victim, already drained of most of its lifeforce who, despite a recent transfusion, nevertheless seems to be ready to offer herself up one last time to the evil that promises to finish her off. Yes. That's better.]

Spread the word before May 6th. Please.

Monday, 22 February 2010

In favour of the Tobin Tax.

Here is my .1 of a cent's worth on the topic.



I was forwarded this from this website, which includes some interesting news:

The Guardian found that the website owners were surprised and disheartened when they received thousands of online votes against the idea of the tax in a period of just a few minutes, until: "After a bit more investigation, though, the unlikely backlash against the rob-the-rich plan – almost 5,000 no votes against the Robin Hood tax within 20 minutes – turned out to emanate from just two computer servers, one of which was registered to the investment bank Goldman Sachs." The Telegraph reports that a Goldman spokesman confirmed that they just received the information and "are investigating fully."

The Robin Hood Tax website reset the counter after the vote onslaught, and as of Monday the public votes are running nearly 10 to one in favor of the tax.


Hm. Surprised?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Oh My God! Richard Bacon you confuse me so!

I don't know what to think any more. For years, I despised that brain-vacuum that was Richard Bacon and his late-night Radio 5 show. ('Can you solve the country's economic woes? Tweet us your ideas!' 'Should paedophiles be allowed to live? If so, should they be allowed to ride horses? Call in with your thoughts!').

THEN, he does that sorta cool turn on The Thick of It, doing sort of maybe a parody of himself and even, perhaps, the sort of callers he gets, and he was almost, I had to consider, Ok.

Then he moves to Radio 5's daytime slot, and lots of (otherwise intelligent) radio critics are giving him good reviews, and even I accidentally caught a few minutes of one and it wasn't total shit, so there's a chance, I'm thinking, that he is Ok.

But today it's been a reckless, crazy day of incessant Bacon news that's left me dizzy from the vicissitudes of his actions. FIRST, I'm ready to give him a green light to cruise down You're Ok Boulevard when I read this blog from the New Humanist. It seems that our just-about friend Richard slapped down God-loving monkey Stephen Baldwin (I don't fucking know! Apparently Celebrity Big Brother), particularly over the latter's ideas on creationism. 'I'm no Darwin', Bacon admits, 'but...' and then sets out a few facts that does, in a Radio 5y sort of way, put Baldwin Jr. Jr. Jr. in his place. So much the better, I say.

But just as I was about to sign his invitation to dinner next week, I hear that the Independent has criticised Bacon for his praise of David Cameron. Apparently, he said:
"That's the sort of many we should have leading the country. A bright, intelligent, dynamic, handsome man we really respect and admire who would be a brilliant prime minister."
Shame shame shame, you Tory toss-pot! Well, at least that sorted that.

BUT, just as was tearing up his invitation, I read the rest of the link in a tweet from the Guardian, confirming the Independent's story. Or does it? Apparently, the Indy missed something. What Bacon said, in full:
"I've just started a new job at BBC 5 Live – I've taken over from Simon Mayo at 2pm, Monday through Thursday, and I'm loving it. On my first show, I sat down for an hour-long interview with David Cameron. Don't know if you heard the show, but I know what a lot of you are thinking: 'That's the sort of man we should have leading this country. A bright, intelligent, dynamic, handsome man we really respect and admire who would be a brilliant prime minister.' And it's very kind of you to say so, and I'm very flattered, honestly I am, but I'm happy just doing the show for the time being. But thanks, it really means a lot that you think so highly of me."
So, you see, I don't know WHAT to do. Looks like I'll put that veggie meat roast back on a slow cook, as Bacon's dinner invite might be some time coming yet, but I'll not rule out the idea. If he could only say something really, really rude about George Osborne...




(I know I know. I should have come up with some clever pun on 'veggie meat' and 'bacon'. I just can't be bothered.)

Friday, 15 January 2010

I can't decide which I like best...

I think maybe this one:




Or maybe this one, for it's perfect absurdity:

(click either for a better, larger image. And disseminate widely.)

Either way, I obviously have some unresolved issues with 1980s fashion advertising. Or maybe Cameron just lends himself to it so neatly.

See these and MANY, MANY more, each as brilliant as the last. You can even make your own!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Protest prorogation

Stephen Harper needs to eat a big pile of shit. That is my reasonable, measured response to what is happening in Canadian politics right now. So, for my Canadian readers reader, this (a little uncomfortably patriotic) video is for you -- spread the word, protest this nonesense.

For anyone in the UK who sees this, beware: This IS what happens when you give Conservatives even the smallest minority.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Happy New Year!

and happy 100th dropping here in excretera. But let's not get excited: I am probably the world's only blogger who's New Year resolution is to write less in cyberspace, so that I might work in a more concentrated way on 'other projects' (he said, mysteriously), at least temporarily. However, whenever needs must, I will do what needs here, just, hopefully, you know, in a more concise, less time-wasty sort of way.

And if there was ever a cause more in need of a movement from excretera, Britain's snow-flurry-fury is it. I am, after all, Canadian, and therefore omnipotently qualified to explain to you, the poor people of Britain, how to survive the snow. (These are the people who took the Blitz on the chin, as a mere annoyance? I ask myself. Hitler's bombs fine, but a dusting of snow... geez.)

Now I could write volumes and volumes on how to drive in the stuff (DON'T try to go faster when you're wheels are already spinning) how to brake in the stuff ('pump' the brake -- lots of little stops, rather than skidding through one long one) how to walk in the stuff (slide when you walk, with your feet slightly splayed, as if you were skating) how to make the perfect snowball, etc. etc. etc., but that would go against my New Year's resolution. SO, I have to be brief, and address those few concerns that are most making me explode in impotent rage (as I increasingly seem to now. Do they make a Viagra for self-righteous indignation?)

And so, first, it's Stop Whining. Ok. Good.

Now, stop throwing so much grit all about. You wonder why you're running out of the stuff? I walked through a mud bath on Crookes' high street today. Not wet snow. But mud. I have a grit box across the street from my house and watched, yesterday, as a man tossed 5 spadefuls of grit on the road, where there was no snow, and then took 3 spadefuls of grit to pour around his car, so he could move it forward 3 feet, which he still failed to do. (I went to push - when pushing, let the car rock, forward and backward. That does not mean let it go forward and then pop it into reverse; you will crush the kind man that's helping you, which is less good.)

When I first got a car in this country, my father-in-law made sure that we had a 'de-icer': some toxic spray that was meant to magically melt the snow on your windshield. 'What's wrong with a scraper?' I asked.

And here is the problem: you, people of the UK, think that grit is some magic pixie-dust that will keep all that nasty snow away. You expect there to be a vaccine, a chemical defence against the ice. Nope. What you need is some old fashioned digging. Get on with it. In my part of the world (i.e. Ontario), you are legally obliged to clean the snow from the path outside your home or business, within a certain specified number of hours. And remember, we know snow.

Which leads me to ask this: I heard, a rumour around work, that if someone falls and injures him or herself outside your house and you have done nothing, you are fine, but if you've shovelled the snow from in front of your house and someone falls and injures him or herself, you are deemed responsible for those injuries and could be sued.

Surely that's not right? Tell me that's some Daily Mail reader's tale? Like Council Cancels Christmas! and Immigrants Ate My Dog!.

Don't bother. Just get shovelling.