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.