Archive for January, 2010

Mixture of friends.

January 30, 2010

The contrast between the types of things different Facebook ‘friends” include in their status updates is often amusing.

Friend A is just back from a 4 hour canvassing session with Emily Thornberry MP.

Friend B Anyone in Preston GOt green?!?! Lemme know

Playing the ‘International Bastards League’ game.

January 30, 2010

Dave Osler has devised a new political parlour game.

IMAGINE a scale that runs from one to ten and measures every independent polity in the world in terms of niceness and nastiness.

At one we have Sweden and Norway, because they are permanently cuddly and welfare statey and social democratic, even when the centre-right gets in.

Singapore occupies the half way point with a score of five, because it is authoritarian while desperately trying to pretend to be a semi-democracy. Trade unionism isn’t exactly encouraged, for instance. But trade union activists are not routinely executed, either.

At ten I have placed Saudi Arabia and Burma, both utterly execrable totalitarian regimes with manifold sins that need no reiteration here.

This scale is not designed as a yardstick of democracy as such, but rather an indefinable property that might be described as a ‘bastardness quotient’. You must know what I mean.

The game is this: commenters are invited to place Cuba, Iran, Israel, Britain and the US at points of their choosing along this continuum, giving reasons for doing so.

Dave’s blog attracts a lot of leftier-than-thou leftists who – apparently seriously – give Cuba scores of ‘1’ , Israel scores of ‘9’, etc. Of course, it’s all fun and games, and everyone is interpreting ‘bastardness’ in different ways,  but it’s surprising to see so much socialist adoration of the Cuban monarchy.

It’s also ironic that revolutionary ultra-leftists have a much easier time in democratic, multi-party Israel than dictatorial, single-party Cuba where the Castro regime has periodically locked up or expelled its critics on the left.  

Anyway, here is my contribution:

  • Cuba – 7 – Oppressive, censoring, one-party state must be a real pain. Combine that with a rubbish economy and no wonder everyone wants to leave the country. On the plus side, the weather is better than over here and the dictatorial government isn’t quite as bad as it could be (North Korea, I’m looking at you)
  • Iran – 7 – There seems to be more potential for positive political change in Iran at the moment, which stands in its favour, but all the religion truly does my head in. The fact that the country is still presided over by a Holocaust-denying loon does not bode well.
  • Israel – 5 – I’d love to visit Israel one day. When it comes to democracy and human rights, Israel is the best thing going in the region. But at the same time, there are many obnoxious defenders of the illegal settlements. Plus more religious mumbo jumbo.
  • The US – 3 – Negatives = Anti-communist hysteria in 20th century leading to unhealthy domestic politics and overzealous intervention across the world; love of free-market capitalism; gross social inequalities. Positives = Has maintained system of elected government for hundreds of years; crucial role played in defeating fascism during WW2; gave us The Simpsons, the West Wing, Bob Dylan, and all that other great stuff. If there has to be a single power acting as global policeman I’d still take the US over, say, China anyday.
  • The UK – 2 – Cos I’m patriotic, innit.


Tory inconsistency.

January 29, 2010

Yesterday a topical debate took place in the House of Commons to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

MPs from all parties were – quite rightly – speaking of the importance of remembering the Holocaust and other acts of genocide and of never being complacent about the possibility of such events taking place again.

Tory MP Bob Neill, a Shadow Minister, talked about his visit to Auschwitz. He said that he returned from the visit (organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust) on the same day that Nick Griffin, the filthy fash leader of the BNP, was appearing on the ‘Question Time’ panel.

Neill thought this “particularly obscene juxtaposition” demonstrated how vital it was to be vigilant against Nazi-like extremists who want to spread racial hatred and undermine our democratic, tolerant society.

Labour MP David Winnick then asked:

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that although immigration is a perfectly legitimate subject for debate-no one is suggesting otherwise, certainly not myself-there should be particular care in the coming general election about how the debate is conducted? It must be very far from the BNP. If we are talking about discrimination and the persecution of Jews, we must bear in mind that as we saw in Stoke last Saturday, there are also other groups in this country who are subject to racist thugs who will use any sort of lie against the Muslim community.

To which Bob Neill sensibly replied:

The hon. Gentleman is right. That is why it is important first that the mainstream democratic parties are not afraid to address these issues, but also that we set a lead in the tone and responsibility with which we do so. That is hugely important.

So that’s all well and good. Mainstream politicians recognise the dangers of irresponsible, rabble-rousing politicking and therefore promise to avoid doing anything that could encourage things like racism and persecution of minority groups. We’re all agreed on that then.

Except that only a few hours later Tory MP David Davies was getting pretty high scores on the irresponsibility-metre.

Davies speculated as to whether one individual rapist could have acted in the appalling way that he did because of his immigrant culture and the backward views towards women held amongst his community.

Idiot. Whilst it would be nice to see David Davies devote more time to improving women’s rights, there could hardly be a more perfect example of a mainstream democratic politician setting a low tone and using irresponsible arguments. BNPers would have surely nodded their heads enthusiastically upon hearing Davies’ thoughts on the matter.

Next time a white taxi driver gets banged up for similarly horrible crimes will Davies go on radio and start discussing the problem with the white taxi driver culture that leads them to commit rape?

Somehow I can’t imagine that happening. All this Tory inconsistency is truly nauseating.

The Man Who Would Be A Rubbish King.

January 27, 2010

Blogger Adam Bienkov submitted a Freedom of Information request to see correspondence between Boris Johnson and Prince Charles.

This is being resisted. However, interesting revelations have still come to light. According to the Evening Standard:

Mr Johnson is understood to receive handwritten memos from the Prince “every few months”. Sources also claim the Mayor has met Charles at Clarence House every three or four months.
It raises questions over how far Charles influenced the Chelsea Barracks housing project. The development was dropped last June by its Qatari backers after Charles wrote to them criticising its modernist appearance.
Prince Charles has raised some eyebrows in the past by stating strong opinions on topics as diverse as fox hunting, GM crops, and education.
Rather than play-it-safe by concentrating entirely on supporting charities, Prince Charles cannot resist the urge to share his views on controversial matters. A former aide claimed that the Charles sees himself as a “dissident” and feels compelled to confront majority opinion when he feels it is mistaken.
If Charles was a normal, though obviously slightly eccentric, letter-writing bloke, that would be fine. Charles Windsor could participate in debates, lobby powerful politicians, and even stand for election if he so wanted.
But as Prince and future monarch, Chuck must accept that he has to stand above the political fray. For the monarchy to survive in a democratic polity it has to depoliticise itself as far as possible. That means abstaining from these sorts of arguments and avoiding putting excessive pressure on politicians to do what you want them to do, whether in public or in private.
Queen Liz II has managed to function in such a manner quite successfully. Her reign has seen some tumultuous political happenings, but Elizabeth has stayed aloof and has therefore preserved the “dignity” of her position.
She is apparently shy and not especially interested in politics and current affairs, so that has all worked out very conveniently. Her popularity was only really dented by the personalised controversy surrounding the Royals’ treatment of Diana.
A King Charles III who uses his position to influence elected officials and to try to change policy decisions will soon alienate politicians and probably public opinion at large. Good news for republicans like me. Does Charles have the self-discipline to change his behaviour once he inherits the bench covered in velvet? Stories such as this suggest not.

Small taste of injustice.

January 26, 2010

I recently finished a stint of temporary employment with a fairly prominent environmental organisation that enjoys charitable status. Along with around 25 other people, I was helping on a project for the organisation that required working outside nearly all of the day. We signed contracts promising us “continuous employment” during the project dates. All seemed well and good.

However, the snow and ice that descended upon Britain earlier this month meant that we weren’t allowed out to work because of the ‘ealth’n’safety. My colleagues and I only had this confirmed to us by text message on the snowy mornings – usually less than an hour before we were supposed to start the day’s work.

This was frustrating enough. What was even more annoying was then being told that we weren’t going to be paid for those days. Through no fault of our own, we were losing pay. The workers were expected to take the brunt of the costs incurred by the snow days in order to save the bosses in their offices some money.

I was in a fortunate situation because I had another job to go to. Many of my colleagues, however, suffered agonising stress as they realised they would have difficulty paying their bills after losing around five days’ worth of pay. Some of these people had been loyal employees of the organisation for years but were being treated very poorly.

The nature of the work means that noone had joined an appropriate union for protection. A letter of protest was written and signed by just about everyone on the team. Even though it seems as if the organisation has broken its obligations under the contract to provide “continuous work” to the project staff, we are in a weak position and can only hope for a sudden sense of generosity on the part of those managing the project.

Most of the project team were middle-class and in little danger of imminent starvation. But it was depressing to witness a charity treating its workers so abysmally. Readers will be kept updated of any developments in this heroic wage struggle!

From our foreign correspondent…

January 26, 2010

This came through yesterday. It’s an artist’s impression of a news event which I thought I’d share with you.

A desperate search.

January 25, 2010

I’m searching for sources of enthusiastic Labourites so that I can invite them to come campaigning in my ward. It’s not easy. I thought university Labour societies would do the trick, but sadly there aren’t actually that many universities in London with functioning Labour Socs. Even when I find one that does seem to exist, the society officers do not appear to check their emails very often (or they’re just ignoring me)! I’m also disappointed to see that the London Young Labour website has not been updated for nearly a year. All very worrying.

Clampdown on photographers.

January 25, 2010

Here in the UK there have been numerous incidents involving coppers harassing photographers. People have got in trouble for taking photographs in the City of London, for example. Police officers have asked the photographers to delete the images they’ve taken and have tried to justify this by citing anti-terrorism legislation.

Some people see these incidents as evidence that laws ostensibly designed to protect the public from terrorists are in-fact being used to curtail civil liberties in Britain. The conclusions drawn are Big Brother-tastic. Whilst I obviously disapprove of the police harassing photographers, I suspect this takes place as a result of individual officers being overzealous and misinterpreting the powers given to them rather than because the government and police chiefs want to pursue an anti-photography agenda and have set out strict targets for police bullying of photographers.

An example of a genuine clampdown on photographic freedom can be found in Uzbekistan. The woman who took these pictures is currently on trial and faces six months in prison or three years of labour. The Uzbek authorities claim she is deliberately spreading negative images of Uzbekistain and she is being charged with defamation.

I guess they didn’t get the memo about ‘Thou shalt not kill’.

January 22, 2010

Trijicon Will Remove Secret Biblical Codes From Gun Sights Sold To US Military. 

A Michigan defense contractor will voluntarily stop stamping references to Bible verses on combat rifle sights made for the U.S. military, a major buyer of the company’s gear.

In a statement released Thursday, Trijicon of Wixom, Mich., says it is also providing to the armed forces free of charge modification kits to remove the Scripture citations from the telescoping sights already in use. Through multimillion dollar contracts, the Marine Corps and Army have bought more than 300,000 Trijicon sights.


January 20, 2010

The left loses power in Chile?

The Republicans are victorious in Massachusetts, thus depriving the Democrats of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate?

Time to console myself with some Victor Jara and then an episode of the West Wing.