Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I was of course, completely right - Little wins

Back in October, I suggested that
For Cunliffe's supporters, Little has the distinct advantage of not being Grant Robertson; for Robertson's adherents, he has the decisive positive of not being David Cunliffe.  Given that it is a preferential voting system, the curious position of being no-one's first choice may serve him well. 
There is precedent.  Ed Miliband won the British Labour Party leadership by being no-one's first choice and everyone's second choice; I suspect the Cunliffe / Robertson camps are so embittered that they will probably find they do the same as the supporters of David Miliband, Ed Balls, Dianne Abbott and Andy Burnham, and achieve curious unity and elect the leader none of them want.
And so it came to pass.  Little won less than 16% of the caucus vote in the first round, and 43% in the third round as Parker and Mahuta's votes swung his way.  The same pattern in the membership vote, surging from 25% to 44%.  Though it is inevitably going to be pointed out that he trailed Robertson in both, and only beat him by a whisker.  The comparisons with Ed Miliband, also brought home by the unions, seem even more apposite than I had imagined.

This means that Robertson will be deputy. Even if Little got to pick his deputy - which he doesn't - the likelihood is he would pick Robertson, given the way the votes fell. He lost caucus and membership votes. If his leadership is to be credible beyond the weekend, he needs a popular, heavyweight candidate.

Mahuta (a popular choice among Standard commentators noted for their lack of attachment to the real world) does not have that support. Ardern lacks the experience. Robertson is the obvious contender.

And - though it will stick in the craws of the partisan self-deluders on the left - it will probably be an effective combination.

I think Robertson, having run twice and lost twice, knows he isn't likely to get it now. If he knuckles down and gets on with being the most effective deputy the world has ever seen, he might be in with a shout in the future, though perversely the better he does his job (and thus helps Labour win) he will postpone that date. But another short-lived, ineffective leadership will simply leave him tarnished as well - either because he refuses to be part of the team, or doesn't play his part fully.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Philae

I'm not convinced by the claims that the European Space Agency has successfully landed a probe on a comet.  First of all, we all know 'comets' are actually dragons, tearing through space, going about their business.  It is highly unlikely a probe cold have landed on a dragon's back and not been eaten - unless the dragon was thinking really hard about something, and didn't notice.

Second, we've been assured for the last 40 years or so that it is impossible for anything innovative or exciting to happen in the public sector, and the ESA is very much a publicly funded body.  Worse, it is a multiple national Euro-pudding of an organisation.  It defies credibility that they could have the sense and wherewithal to actually bring the paper and pens to a planning session, far less come with a plan, build a spacecraft capable of hurtling through space and intersecting with a comet/dragon and land on it's hindquarters.

It's clearly a fake.

In fact,the more I look at it, the more this so called 'comet' look like a bit of wasteland in one of Glasgow's less affluent areas. Like most of the locals, the lander sprawled in disarray amid the debris, possibly clutching a bottle of Buckfast or Whyte & MacKay. it isn't 'running out of power'; it's just drunk.

If, remarkably, it really has happened just like the scientists say, it is excellent work by Europeans. And to think David Cameron wants to stop Britain being European. The man's demented. And a real triumph for of state funded research and innovation. Public bodies have reached the moon, Mars and now landed on a comet-dragon. And there are all sorts of other probes out there, tootling bout and frightening the asteroids. Private space travel on the other hand ... well, Richard Branson assures us it is going well. Let's here it for the comrades at NASA and the ESA. And don't forget CERN. Massive scale public funded research is doing all sorts of cool stuff. The private sector has given us ... Britain's Got Talent and The Apprentice. That is it. Nothing else. (I'll grant the private sector contributed something to deciphering the human genome. But that's it. Nothing else. Reality TV and and a score draw in genetics are all private enterprise has to boast about.)

Musical interlude

I don't think I've listened to Diamond Dogs in a decade. What was I thinking? It's quite Bowie's best album. Except for all the others that weren't released in the 80s.

Take 10 minutes and enjoy.



If Bowie ever dies (or just goes back to Mars) a state funeral and a year of mourning will be in order.

(Note this is from the CD, and there's a distinct pause between the tracks, which you don't get on the vinyl.  Maybe I'd better explain what Vinyl is ...)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Save us from Ebola, Muslims but not guns!

For some reason, Americans are terrified about the threat of Ebola, the dangers of Muslim terrorists, but not gunzzzzzzzzzzz.

Meanwhile:
At least three people have been hospitalised after a student reportedly carried out a shooting at a high school north of Seattle on Friday morning (PDT).

Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville is currently in lockdown as police attend the scene, according to officials.

The suspect is thought to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, two police officers told the Seattle Times.

The Marysville School District said in a statement that "Marysville Pilchuck High School is currently in lock down due to an emergency situation. Police and emergency services have responded."

Live video footage from the scene shows students being evacuated from the school in the state of Washington.
The New York doctor may have behaved irresponsibly; quarantining people who might have dreadful diseases makes sense. There are crackpots out there who want to maim and kill in the name of their diseased perception of religious duty. The population at large needs to be protected from them.

But lots of other people other than doctors and Muslims can be irresponsible or insane.

But yeah, I get it. The fundamental rights must be protected. But only when it comes to gunzzzzzzzzzzz.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dunno what to say about this, really

Donald Trump and Russell Brand are having a spat on twitter.  It puts me in mind of Oscar Wilde's quip about fox hunting - "The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable."  Though in this case, more a matter of the despicable in affray with the punchable.  You can choose who is which.  I recommend alternating them as the mood takes you.
The digital fight started when Trump tweeted that the Forgetting Sarah Marshall star is a 'major loser.' Brand, however, hit back - and eventually suggested that Trump is not the entrepreneur he has claimed to be, by linking to an an article that mentioned his multi-million dollar inheritance and financial aid from the US government. 
'I watched Russell Brand @rustyrockets on the @jimmyfallon show the other night—what the hell do people see in Russell—a major loser!' Trump first wrote. 
Trump's comments came three days after Brand appeared on 'Late Show with David Letterman' on Monday. Brand is not scheduled as a guest this week on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'. 
Trump then published another tweet, which read '.@katyperry must have been drunk when she married Russell Brand @rustyrockets – but he did send me a really nice letter of apology!' 
It was not immediately clear what 'letter of apology' Trump was referring to.

Perry and Brand were married in 2010 and divorced two years later, with Perry telling Vogue in June 2013 that Brand announced his intention to divorce in a 2011 New Year's Eve text message. 
Brand soon retaliated and responded to Trump's second message with jokes about Trump's sobriety and his much-lampooned hairline.
Smells like two sad publicity whores staging a phoney fight for attention.

Meanwhile, John Lydon, of Sex Pistols, PiL and buttermongering fame, sums up Brand pretty well in a typically bracing Q&A session in The Guardian:
The youth of today have every possibility as being as smart or a stupid as the youth of past. So long as you remove Russell Brand from the agenda. I think he's absolutely clarified himself as arsehole number one. It's not funny to talk nonsense. I think his words are the words of somebody else. Misconstrued.
Excellent.  Elsewhere in the Q&A he advocates voting, no matter how dire the options, as "everybody should try to make the best of a bad situation, and for me I despise the entire shitstem because it is corrupt, but that corruption has only come about because of the indolence of us as a population." Which is about the polar opposite of Brand's recent (well, recent-ish) whiney call for mass apathy in the face of drab, uninspiring or actively corrupt or malevolent politics.  Brand justified - nay, bragged - about his disengagement from politics:
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.
Well, that's nice, Russell.  You really showed those nasty corrupt venal self-serving troughers, didn't you!

Incidentally, Brand was born in 1975, the year after I was.  That would mean the first election he would have been able to vote in was in 1997 (probably).  That was a big one, and anyone who couldn't see a difference between John Major's corrupt, exhausted Tories and Labour (even with Tony Blair in charge) was being wilfully blind.

It is staggering how willing people are to discount the impact of democracy on their lives. Born in an NHS hospital? Had NHS treatment? Enjoyed a free schooling? Voted out the Tories in 1997? Worked in a safe environment, with the right to join a union (which you probably ignored) and with recourse to the courts and law when you needed them? These are not rights but privileges, and they need to be defended as there are powerful people who want to destroy them. I'm going to hazard a guess that someone who can't be bothered to vote would make a fairly piss-poor revolutionary. Brandism, a political creed of shrugging ones shoulders and doing nothing, would help people who want to attack the privileges he - and you - are taking for granted.

Someone who can't be bothered to vote isn't going to accomplish much as a revolutionary, no matter how much he styles himself on vaguely remembered 60s icons.

And authoritarian governments fear an active citizenry. They aren't scared of passive refuseniks who bleat about how "nothing works," how "they are all the same" and how they are "giving up on political parties." That's the sort of thing Thatcherites love to hear. It gives them free rein and forces the opposition to appeal more an more to the pool of active voters.

So if "They are all the same" as Brand calims, it is because people are passively enabling that evolution.

Brand qualifies his stance slightly by saying it is "current" politics and political parties he is disillusioned with.  But political parties can be reformed. We saw this, negatively, in the 90s when Blairism subverted the Labour Party, or in New Zealand in the 80s when the neo-liberals infiltrated Labour.  Or in the 2004 when ACT tried to take over the National Party.  Just because the obvious examples are negative, showing parties going the wrong way, it doesn't have to be that way.  And sitting on your hands saying, "But I don't like this, give me some parties I want to vote for," isn't going to work either.  Because if you're not in the game, why should they care what you think?

And no matter how dire, there's always ther stark reality of choosing between 'bad' and 'worse.'  Standing aside and letting others decide for you might be a superficially noble act, but it's a bit shitty, really, for all the people who aren't Russell Brand and have to live with the consequences of 'worse.

The fact is, politics and political parties can make people's lives better (or worse).  Comedians, with an amplified idea of their own importance, don't.  From the 1940s to the late 70s things were moving in the right direction.  Leftwing political parties made the country better.  Comedians told some funny jokes.  Then the crises of the 70s gave the ruling class a chance to reverse the progress made over that time, almost back to pre-WW2 days.  Comedians told some funny jokes.  Some of them were even political.  But they didn't change anything.

(As an aside, the reversals suffered in the 70 illustrate something too many on the left have failed to grasp. Progress is not made in times of crisis. The assumption that 1927, or 1977, or 2008 (love those Kondratiev long waves!) would lead to the final demise of capitalism is naive. A crisis gives the ruling class the chance to re-establish control. Progress is only made during times of plenty and relative ease, when people are able to worry about more than what they are eating for dinner tonight and whether they will have somewhere to sleep next week.  That is why the French and Russian revolutions ended so badly - they were a desperate convulsion that played into the hands of the bandits and psychopaths who wanted power for themselves, not for the powerless.)

Brand's message is a naive bit of posturing, couching basic ideas in preposterous language (He really should read Orwell, particularly 'Politics and the English Language,' or at least look at the five rules of good writing at the beginning of The King's English by the Fowler brothers.)

It appeals because it justifies people's indifference - getting involved in politics and actually making the Labour party (or, if you are That Sort Of Person, the Conservative Party) into a properly functioning, distinct political force, is hard, tiresome and not very well rewarded. We'd much rather watch TV.

Or follow him on twitter, because berating someone about his hair is so revolutionary and daring.  Well done, Russell!  That showed that unspeakable oligarch!  He'll think twice before he garners even more wealth!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Tory MP, gun, foot

The Tories appear to have gone completely mad over their routing at the Battle of Clacton:
David Cameron is under pressure from his backbenchers to break up the coalition and harden his message on immigration after Ukip took its first seat from the party in the Clacton byelection. 
The prime minister was urged to change strategy after losing Clacton by more than 12,000 votes to one of his former MPs, Douglas Carswell, who defected in August over unhappiness about the EU and a lack of political reform. 
Sir Edward Leigh, a former minister, said breaking up the coalition would be one way of showing fed-up Conservative voters that Cameron was serious about addressing their concerns, instead of being shackled to the Liberal Democrats.
Because, of course, getting rid of your parliamentary majority and rendering your party incapable of passing any legislation without relying on parties that no longer have any interest in supporting your bigoted agenda, and leaving yourself vulnerable to a vote of no confidence and thus allowing (as Cameron can not dissolve parliament without two thirds support) other parties to form an administration is PRECISELY the way to show your supporters you are looking after their interests and are a credible party of government.

People this confused hould not be allowed to even LOOK at the levers of power, far less touch them.

Even funnier, Sir Leigh then adds that, "Every Conservative MP is desperate to stop [Ed] Miliband getting into No 10," even though his idiotic ramblings would likely do just that. If the coalition was dissolved acrimoniously, Cameron and his minority administration would last a week before being put out of Britain's misery - and as parliament can not be wished out of existence any more, the only option would be for a broad coalition to propel a slightly startled Ed Miliband into Downing Street rather sooner than anticipated.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Bloody Hell!

Ouch.  Turns out the Mail was right and I was wrong.  Labour were indeed 'clinging on,' holding Heywood and Middleton by only 617 votes.

But it's not all bad, as that shows how wildly inaccurate Ashcroft's polling in, and he's a Tory, so I can jeer and scoff at him a bit.

Obviously, that result looks like a massive blow for Labour.  It's actually more important in lots of ways that the far more predictable Clacton result.  Yeah, UKIP have ot an MP - but that was a given, once Carswell announced he was defecting and triggered a by election.  A UKIP win, for a popular local MP, in that part of the country, was pretty much a given.

But Labour getting bearded in their heartlands is very much against the form book.

Up until now the evidence has shown they are holding their vote and the UKIP are leeching Tory support.  But getting (almost) taken to the cleaners in Manchester is a bit of a bad look.  Especially when the preliminary polls (not just Ashcroft's to be scrupulously fair) were predicting a comfortable win for Labour.

It might not be as bad as it looks, as Labour's SHARE of the vote stayed stable - they still polled as as big a share of the vote much as they did at the general election.  The UKIP share was made up of the collapse in the Tory and Lib Dem vote.  The Conservative vote fell by almost 15 and the Liberal Democrat vote fell by almost 18% (The Liberal Democrat candidate appears to have retained his deposit, which is something of a novelty for the party, these days.)  The BNP also got 7% in 2010 - with no official racist bigot to vote for, a lot of that would likely have gone the UKIP's way.

The interesting thing is the massive tactical vote here - previously, anti-Labour support had been harmlessly divided between the Tories and Lib Democrats.  And the two parties hated each other sufficiently to ensure they would never sort out a tactical arrangement.  Power seems to have shaken loose the adherents of both parties, however, and fate has gifted them a third option in the form of the UKIP.  And having almost tasted victory tonight, they may be inclined to give it another go next year.

So Labour IS still holding onto its support.  They can be relieved about that.  But the other parties are losing theirs in such absurd numbers, and the previously fragmented Conservative / Lib Dem voters are uniting.  It could be very interesting in 2015.