Posts Tagged With: politics

I hate you. Please stay.

I’ve been following the Scottish independence campaign with a detached sort of interest. Because I don’t have a dog in the fight, and no real opinion either way (not my circus, not my monkeys) so I’m just watching both sides in their attempts to win the debate. And I have a question, which I’ll phrase by stealing a quote from elsewhere:

How exactly is “Be a complete fucking dick to Scotland” supposed to persuade them to vote to stay part of the UK?

On the one side, the Yes campaign is led by Alex Salmond.  Opinions vary on him. The leader of the SNP is, to his enemies, a scumbag, a slimeball. Satan incarnate. Now, when I read that sort of thing, it always comes across as shooting the messenger and ignoring his message. It doesn’t help that every time Salmond heads South of the border, he wipes the floor with whichever Westminster idiot is put up against him. He’s even able to deal with the hectoring of Paxman or John Humphries.

The “No” campaign just seem to be throwing mud at anything and everything, trying to turn Salmond into a hate figure along with a side order of unfounded scaremongering. The key question for me as a interested observer is around finance – how will Scotland cope, fiscally, if granted more independence. Opinions on this vary, from Yes in the Yes camp to No in the No camp to… er, Depends, and We’ll Cross That Bridge When We Come To It by anyone knowledgable who has actually written a report on the subject.

Salmond has recently-ish maintained that Scotland would not be dropping the pound. (I say recently-ish as he was batting eyelids at the Euro a while back, before that imploded.) However, the latest tactic is that all three Westminster parties have said that they might take the pound away from Scotland and “where would you be then Salmond, eh? Eh? Answer that you pooey bumhead.”

Which got me thinking.  What, ultimately, is The Pound?  To me, it is a currency, a coin.  Like most financial instruments, it is a construct of trust, an item of agreed value.  Since when did the pound become some kind of actual real thing? I know the Tories elevate the pound to God like status, but then they worship at the altar of money above all else – read any pronouncement from a Tory and you’ll see the word money in the first three sentences. Hell, even some of their objections to gay marriage were fiscal. But it has got a bit ridiculous.  The No campaign seems to treat The Pound as some kind of trophy, wrestling over it like who gets custody of the kids in a divorce. But recently, and to far too many people, The Pound has stopped being a financial instrument and taken on a mystical quality. George Osborne is The High Priest Chancellor, consulting The Great Golden Coin on matters financial. The Pound must be Defended. The Pound is Sacred. The Pound is Holy. Gaze upon The Pound and fear Its mighty power.

It is a bit… weird really. Fetishistic at times. William Hague tried a similar tack in the 2001 General Election, declaring that Britain had “only x days to save the Pound“, as if there was any realistic possibility that Tony Blair was going to remove the Queen from bank notes. It is the same sort of fetish that they have about Work. You must Work. Education is Preparation for Work. Life is Work. You will not retire, you will Work. If you do not Work, you are not a valid human. Work makes you Free.

To be honest, I don’t think people don’t really care about the pound. I know I don’t. I do like the idea that my coinage is called a pound, has the Queens face on it and not a dollar or mark, but then other countries have pounds and other countries have photos of Liz too. Perhaps we could have a cooler name, like Baht or Colones. I have to admit that sometimes I look at the other peoples Dong and get jealous. But when it comes to it, as long as I can exchange an amount of them for goods or services, I don’t care if they are called pounds, euros, groats, magic beans or Magnificent Metal Discs of Awesomeness.  What I do know is that for something so valuable to the very core of the Tory party, they don’t half treat The Pound like shit.

The No campaign is weird. One minute, it is all “Don’t leave us Scotland, we need you as much as you need us” and the next minute it is “You’ll regret it, you bitch, you’ll see!” While Salmond goes about his business, organising meetings, answering questions, the No campaign is running personal attack pieces on supporters in the Scottish Daily Mail and when it does campaign, it campaigns South of the border. Even if I was prepared to believe David Cameron, I can’t vote in the referendum, why are you trying to persuade me? And if you are trying to reach out to the Scots, why are you doing it from a lectern in London and not one in Edinburgh? (Cameron gave the above “don’t go” speech from the Olympic Park in London.)

As I write, the Yes campaign still is likely not to gain a majority. It has gained momentum though and I think that by the time of the vote there is a strong chance it could be Yes. It is typical of the three Westminster parties that they are approaching the campaign all wrong – and all speaking with the same voice

I’ve often said that current politics is about, well, playing politics than actually solving issues or making the country better. You only have to look at Michael Gove’s pathetic attempts to be Machiavellian in education (who cares, Govey boy, it is only the future of an entire generation that you are fucking around with like a teenager deciding who they want to be Bestest Friends with today). The Tories lurch to the Right to appease a party full of ignorant morons with absolutely no MPs. Clegg does whatever Clegg does (which is hopefully look into the mirror and weep at what he has become).

The No campaign feels like it is doing, just, well, fucking about playing politics. No real campaigning on the issues, no boots on the ground canvassing. Just a veiled threat here, a suggestion to a newspaper editor that they could do with an attack piece there (oh yeah, how is that for a fine example of the independence of the Press?). No problem lads, I mean, it is only an issue that has ramifications for the United Kingdom as whole, not really a biggie.

It reminds me of the 2008 US Election. On one hand you had the Republicans, all money and attack ads and slogans and soundbites. And on the other, Obama managed to mobilise armies of volunteers on the ground, young ones who were offered the opportunity to believe that there was a guy who listened to and spoke for them.  The Republicans and the No campaign are playing old style politics, where independence and peoples lives are an abstract notion, pieces on a chessboard to be manoeuvred and nudged and played with. Obama at times seemed to not only be using a different board, but playing a different game altogether.  Time has, of course, proved this trust to be misguided, but the lessons in running a campaign seem to have passed Westminster by – but Alex Salmond seems to have noticed.  Independence for Scotland is a real change and real change always comes from the grass roots.

Not that we can look to Labour to provide an alternative.  Ed Miliband is utterly incapable, presumably because that part of his source code, along with the module that gives him a fucking spine, is still in beta.  He’ll just keep saying the same repeated soundbites in order to avoid upsetting people who will never vote for him while completely pissing off those who would. Maybe they need to put more than 16K of RAM in him or something.

(Addendum: I wrote that yesterday and today we have the interesting prospect of Westminster taking the Pound away from Scotland and ignoring a Yes vote. It neatly shows what I was trying to say. The idea of the Pound being taken from Scotland is ridiculous. It isn’t the Stone of Scone or the Elgin Marbles. It isn’t a Real Thing that can be locked away in a cupboard under the stairs of the Treasury. It is an idea. An idea with currency (oh-ho!) but an idea none the less. Westminster can no more ban Scotland from using The Pound than it can ban it from going on the Playstation before doing its homework.

By threatening to simple ignore a Yes vote, then it justifies the absence of proper campaigning and debate on the issues. Modern politics is thus – if you don’t like what people say, then just pretend it never happened.

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There used to be a Labour Party there, once

In 1984, Tottenham Hotspur won the UEFA Cup.  Their manager, Keith Burkinshaw, had won promotion, two FA Cups and now a European trophy while in charge of the club.  After this last victory, he was sacked without ever leading the club in another match.  Famously, when leaving White Hart Lane for the last time, he remarked “There used to be a football club there, once.”

After reading the news this morning, I feel much the same about the Labour Party.

Last month, two people won a court case against the Department for Work and Pensions where they had been forced into doing unpaid work for businesses.  Leaving aside the moral, ethical and indeed business related reasons why the taxpayer should not be subsidising massive companies with free labour, the fact is that the Government lost and the people won.  If they wanted to carry on with the scheme, the Government would have to change their rules going forward.  Again, this is how the world works, the rule is wrong in law, you change the rule so it is right, and then carry on.

Yesterday, the Government announced emergency legislation that would change the rules retroactively.  The rules that were found to be illegal last month will now suddenly, magically become legal at the time.  Basically, I’ve burgled your house, been caught, convicted and then the law changed so that not only can I burgle more houses in the future, but I get to walk away with all your stuff.

It is the kind of utterly bullshit ploy that I’m come to expect from this Government, who have taken on the worst habit of the Bush Administration, in that reality is what they say it is.  If a law says what they do is illegal, then it is the law which is wrong and not them. (Effectively politicians see themselves as above the law, which is a very dangerous thing indeed.)  If there are 400,000 jobs in the UK for 2.1 million unemployed, then the laws of mathematics must be wrong because we are frequently told that everyone who is unemployed can get a job.

(You know, a job at Poundland, Tesco, Matalan, Argos or somewhere, where they will happily pay people to work for them instead of, I dunno, picking up labour for free and having it subsidised by the taxpayer.  But what do I know? I didn’t have the finest education money can buy.)

Now this isn’t a go at the Tories.  I’d expect this sort of cuntery from them, the sort of inbuilt reflex that means they have to kick a poor person when they walk past them.  The crucial bit about this, and I’ll quote directly from the Guardian article:

The Guardian understands that Labour will support the fast-tracked bill with some further safeguards and that negotiations with the coalition are ongoing.

There you have it, folks.  If the past few years haven’t demonstrated that democracy is dead in this country, then the sight of the party of the common man, colluding to change the law in an Orwellian fashion in order to deny the jobless of much needed benefits and force them to work for free stacking shelves.  And I say Orwellian in the meaning of the Memory Hole. Not only was the Government right, it always was right.

It often goes unremarked that the Tory treatment of the disabled, the poor and the jobless is merely an extension of Labour policies in the early 2000s.  It was Labour who introduced ATOS tests, free schools.  They forced marketisation of the NHS.  They opened the door to workfare and closed it on civil liberties.

Ah yes, civil liberties.  In a week when Theresa May made noises about demolishing the Human Rights Act, who should spring to her support?  Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett.

I’m a big believer in the law of unintended consequences being applied to people who are mendacious and stupid. Article 1 of the HRA, for instance, is the right to protection of property.  Article 14 is the right not be discriminated against.  If David Blunkett wants to repeal the HRA, I propose a new law that strips disabled former Home Secretaries of their home and all their possessions.  Just so people can shout at him in the street going “DO YOU GET WHY SOME THINGS ARE IMPORTANT, DAVE?  DO YOU SEE WHY YOU CAN NEVER RELY ON IT NOT TO HAPPEN HERE?”

You know what, I think that I’ll try to get it retroactively applied as well.

Of course, we can always rely on a little stunt or two.  Labour introduced a Mansion Tax bill into Parliament, an exact duplicate of the Liberal Democrats manifesto proposal.  This had the amusing sight of the Liberal Democrats rushing to vote down something they themselves support.  Now ordinarily, I’m a big supporter of that kind of stunt, but I’m afflicted with the disease of consistency, which means as I am against the Bedroom Tax, I have to be against a Mansion Tax.

You see, it is simple.  The Bedroom Tax basically says that if you receive benefits on Friday, and your house is above a certain size, you will be punished by receiving less benefits on Monday.  Through no fault of your own, your house has been deemed above an arbitrary limit, regardless of circumstances.

The Mansion Tax says that if your house is worth £2m on Friday you are fine.  But if it is worth £2m on Monday, then you will be forced to pay a tax.  Through no fault of your own, your house has been deemed above an arbitrary limit, regardless of circumstance.

See? Consistency.

(I’ve no problem with changing the rules going forward, but not punishing those for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

Of course, if Labour had actually thought through their Mansion Tax stunt, they could have used this argument to demonstrate the invalidity of the bedroom tax, but I’m attributing to their leadership a level of intelligence that they, quite frankly, just don’t have.

You see, this is the problem.  There is no use even pretending that Labour and the Tories have any real differences.  It is all a matter of degree.  Labour introduced free markets into the NHS, ATOS testing, privatised many things that shouldn’t have been privatised and turned a blind eye to bank regulation.  All the Tories have done is taken that to its logical conclusion.  Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith and Jeremy Hunt are smashing up schools, the welfare state and the NHS like gleeful vandals allowed to roam free, but Labour let them in the building to do it.  Theresa May is attacking fundamental civil liberties, cheered on by one of the most authoritarian Home Secretaries of all time.

All the time, ordinary people, not just the poor or the jobless, but the working people who vote Labour watch in horror as the people they voted for sit back and let the lunatics take over the asylum.

Of course, we could try and show our protest at the polls, voting every one of these idiots out.  But then I’m in a constituency where the Labour majority is 16,000.  Of course, we could have had the Alternative Voting system, which would have been a truer reflection of how things stand.

But then David Blunkett campaigned against that, too.

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Armed and ignorant

The old saying is that nothing is so dangerous as ignorance.  But with Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, we have an ignorant idiot who is also armed.

In todays Telegraph, he is quoted as saying “We don’t want America to become like England, where some of that nation’s outstanding rifle competitors keep their hobby a dark secret from their neighbours for fear of social disapproval,” said Mr LaPierre. “We’re not going to let the anti-gunners push us into that zone.”

We’ll leave aside the fact that the head of British Shooting described his statements as “absolute rubbish”.  Why is it that whenever the NRA come under fire for their moronic, pathetic defence of the age old right for patriotic Americans to be easily able to kill children using assault rifles, they point to the UK as justification?  Why us?  It is, of course, a useful indicator of their sheer, planet-sized ignorance that they refuse to this place as “England” when they mean “the United Kingdom”.  The UK is a slightly complex beast, being made up of four countries (depending on your point of view) but the overall concept is fairly simple to explain and understand.  A five year old could grasp the concept, unless they have just been shot in the face by someone who has exercised their Constitutional right to walk into a primary school loaded down like Rambo.  It is, of course, beyond the understanding of the head of the National Rifle Association, but then, that level of stupidity comes with the job.

After Sandy Hook, we had the age old discussion about gun control.  The NRA fell back to its usual standbys, blaming Hollywood, videogames, Obama, little green men etc.  Falling back on power fantasises about killing burglars in their homes (ask Oscar Pistorius how that one turned out).  They also said that the immediate aftermath of the tragedy was not the time to have this discussion on gun control.

At the time of writing, since Sandy Hook which happened in mid-December, 1852 Americans have been killed by guns.  (This site keeps a live tally.)  So, about 30 deaths a day since Sandy Hook.  One every 48 minutes or.  It would seem at first glance, that if we were to take the NRA line that “now is not the time for discussion” then,with one death every 48 minutes, there never will be a time for discussion.  Then I had a thought.

If you support the current state of gun control in the United States then you support the killing of children.  You believe that 20 dead kids is a reasonable price for your own personal freedom to pretend that you can freely take another life without consequence.  Ordinary US citizens have proved, time and time again, that they can’t be trusted not to go out and shoot up schools and shopping malls. When a five year old misbehaves, you take their favourite toy away from them until they learn to behave properly. Yet you don’t think this is the case for gun owners.  The right to carry a gun stops at the right to shoot someone else in the face.  You want to protect your Second Amendment rights?  Well, it says you have to be part of a well-regulated militia, so go off and join the Army.  If you want a gun, be a soldier.  The moment you stop being a soldier, you lose the gun.  You want to go hunting, hunt bear.  Not something that couldn’t hurt if there were ten thousand simultaneously flying at you – like quail or duck.  (I mean, seriously, you are hunting a duck?  What is it going to do, use its bill to suck you to death?)  Oh and you can’t drive to it and blast away – you want to hunt, then we’ll drop you in the middle of the Oregon forest to do so. If you want to use a statistic in favour of less gun control and it is wrong, you lose, automatically.  Debate is not shouting louder than your opponent.  If you manage to make Piers Morgan look reasonable and rational, then you are clearly on the wrong side of the issue. Every single one of the current arguments on gun control are based on a) money, b) pathetic power fantasies, c) rampant selfishness and d) a child-like tantrum that the “wrong” President got elected by the “wrong type” of people. And yes, I do know what you are saying when you say that.

Discussion over.  48 minutes?  More like 48 seconds.

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The European Hokey Cokey

I haven’t blogged for a while, despite having plenty of things to try and find time to write about.  Well, not so much write, but rather type an endless stream of invective, abuse and swearwords as this current Coalition Government set about demolishing everything that made Britain a decent country, the safety net of the NHS, the respect for the poor, the disabled.  They’ve pretty much stopped hiding it.  This Coalition Government legitimised lying to Parliament (well done Nick Clegg!), lied under oath to Leveson and stand to profit hugely from selling off taxpayer funded institutions to themselves.  Or their mates.  They even demonise people on benefits as fraudsters while allowing a man who ripped the taxpayer off to the tune of £40,000 back into the Cabinet.

Of course, my anger isn’t eased by the knowledge that they will be kicked out at the next election, seeing as they are up against Ed Miliband, the human equivalent of beige.  Getting angry at him personally is like getting angry at, I don’t know, porridge.  Or toothpaste.  The problem is that Ed has never actually had a job outside of politics.  He was brought up with politics and sees everything in terms of a political calculation.  Therefore he doesn’t actually stand up for anything, because he doesn’t believe in anything.  Labour has abandoned any principles it has trying to aim for some kind of middle (in actuality, Right) ground.

Anyway, a couple of days ago David Cameron announced that, should the Tories be re-elected, that he will hold a referendum on Britains membership of the European Union.  This is, of course, one of the big issues for the Tories since the early 90s.  More than the economy (twice as fucked as it was when they came in power) more than defence, or the NHS, the real thing the Tories care about is “Yerp”.

Cameron has been forced into this by UKIP.  The UK Independence Party are the equivalent of the US Tea Party, loud, obnoxious, funded by the rich and supported by the selfish.  The Tories will happily steal candy from a poor baby (“how dare they have treats funded by my tax money?”) but UKIP will punch it in the face afterwards “for looking a bit foreign”.  The UKIP view of the world can be summed up in the following image.

The British Empire in the 1920s.

The caption says “The British Empire in the 1920’s” but it is effectively how UKIP and their Tory supporters essentially see the world now.  Britannia, despite all the evidence to the contrary, rules the waves.  Europe is still full of Krauts, Huns, Frogs, Dagos, Spics and millions of others who would all be speaking German right now if it wasn’t for Churchill and Our Brave Boys.

UKIP are a bunch of hypocrites.  They hate Europe so much, that they’ve taken £2m from it in expenses and keep standing for election there.  The undemocratic EU dictatorship has 12 UKIP MEPs, whereas the UK mother of all Parliaments, home of Great British Democracy has… none.  UKIP epitomise the very worst of Brits abroad.  I don’t mean the sort of idiotic lager louts you see in Magaluf, but the ones who buy a holiday home in Tuscany and then complain when the Portuguese cleaner simply refuses to learn proper English and to follow instructions even when repeated to them Quite Loudly Indeed.

(It is important to point out that UKIP as stated on their website, are not racist.  They just hate Europeans as a whole, and not any particular race.  So not racist.  Xenophobic.  But definitely not racist.  They also say that they are Libertarian, which as any fule know, is an utterly bonkers idea that can be reduced in two minutes to “Fuck you, got mine”.)

There are two main strands to the anti-EU argument.  The first is that it is an undemocratic dictatorship that has sovereignty over UK issues. This is answered easily – the EU Parliament is elected by the people in elections run via Proportional Representation, which is a much more democratic way that the UKs First Past The Post system.  The members of the EU Commission are appointed by the Parliaments of the respective countries, so with the Parliaments being democratically elected, we can put that argument to bed.  Laws pass down from the EU to the member countries, who have signed treaties ratified by their Parliaments to allow them to be put into practice.  Some countries – of which Britain is one – has negotiated various opt-outs to these laws.

So you see just how undemocratic the whole thing is.

As for UKIP believing in the sovereignty of the UK Parliament, here are two things.  This referendum is to appease UKIP.  UKIP, as previously stated, have no MPs in Parliament.  They have stood in a General Election and failed to get an elected voice.  They are, effectively, a lobbying group, albeit one which has managed to exert an incredible influence over a democratically elected Government.  I can’t think of another unelected organisation that has such an influence over Government, well, not now that News Corp are keeping their heads down for a bit.  Second, this UKIP idea of parliamentary sovereignty manifests itself in.. a referendum of the people which bypasses Parliament altogether. So the party which believes in democracy and sovereignty of Parliament is in fact an unelected lobby group that doesn’t want Westminster to have a say in our membership of the EU!

The second anti-EU argument is that all sorts of rules are imposed by Brussels on Britain.  Take, for example, the Working Time Directive.  Nigel Farage: “We urgently need more EU reform, not least of the working time directive“.  William Hague: “The Working Time Directive is doing enough damage as it is to British businesses and public services.”

But what is the Working Time Directive?  Well, it enshrines, in law, the following things:

  • A maximum working week of 48 hours, unless the employee agrees to voluntarily work more
  • A minimum 20 days holiday in a year
  • A maximum of 13 working hours in a single 24 hour period, unless, again, the employee agrees
  • Rest periods every six hours

There is some other stuff, but you will note that the Working Time Directive is there to protect employees.  They can’t be forced to work insane hours under threat of dismissal, nor can they be forced to work year round.  The key word is “forced”, as employees can choose to work long hours and can withdraw that consent at any time.

It also doesn’t force employers to do anything like providing free creches full of kittens and mandatory sedan chairs for their workers.  All the Working Time Directive does is let a worker have a little bit of choice in this work-life balance thingy.

These workers rights are what the Tories and UKIP want to remove.  Not rules on how straight bananas can be, or any other made up bullshit.  They want to reduce holidays and increase working hours and fire you if you refuse to comply.

So the next time you hear the words “Working Time Directive” coming from a Tory or Nigel Farage, ask yourself this:

  • Which part of me being able to choose to work more than 48 hours a week is a problem?
  • Which bit of me being entitled to 20 days holiday a year is a problem?
  • Which bit of me having a mandated break when doing a long shift is a problem?
  • Which bit of me not being forced to work over six days a week is a problem?
  • Seeing as I can voluntarily choose to do any of the above, exactly which specific bit of the Working Time Directive is the problem, exactly?

Now you may have guessed that I support Britains membership of the EU.  I have a little bit of sympathy for David Cameron.  He is basically running an unpopular, minority Government and needs the support of the whackos and nutjobs in order to have a chance at re-election.  I don’t have a lot of sympathy, mind, as the shit he finds himself in is of his own making.  Cameron is clearly walking a tightrope as membership of the EU is absolutely vital to the British economy.  They are our biggest trading partner.  We leave, China, India and United States will simply trade with the EU.  EU countries will pull investment from Britain as it will cost them more.  Our own goods will cost more to make, because we buy it all in.  And we flogged most of the utilities to the French anyway.

The entire basis for this referendum is insane.  It jeopardises everything – vote to leave the EU and say hello to high prices and goodbye to many forms of employment protection.  What angers me is that so much of the argument are driven by either naked greed or by hypocrites.  The Daily Mail will argue against – owned by a man who is exiled for tax purposes.  The Telegraph will argue against – owned by two brothers in a tax haven that they try to run like a fiefdom.  The Sun will argue against, owned by an Australian who became American for tax reasons and run from a company in the Cayman Islands.

And these shitbags will try to give us lessons on Britains place in the world with a level of lies that will make the anti-AV campaign look like a paragon of truthfulness.  (Which reminds, how is that Leveson thing panning out…)

Ultimately, I just don’t understand what the beef with Europe is.  Britain joined the EEC before I was even born.  I’ve grown up with it.  I’ve seen that Europe isn’t full of shifty foreigners trying to extract revenge for “The War”.  I’ve seen it as a place to go to, to live, to work, to visit. I like it.  It isn’t just me – an entire couple of generations have grown up connected to Europe.  To me, saying we shouldn’t be part of it is like saying we should withdraw from the Internet.  It occupies the same mental space as the debate on gay marriage.  “It exists, it can’t be wished or legislated away. Why are we even debating it? Grow the fuck up and deal with it.”

Therefore what I can see is the lies, the delusion and the hypocrisy.  The lies about what Britains membership of the EU does.  The delusions from UKIP of the position of Britain in the world. The hypocrisy that the Tories are saying the UK is better apart from Europe, yet Scotland shouldn’t have independence because common interest is stronger.

I can see that, right now, there is a hell of a lot more wrong with the UK that needs fixing than our relationship with Europe yet all we could end up talking about is a sodding “Yerp” from now until 2017.  That an undemocratic, xenophobic party who want to strip people of their protections is exerting far too much influence.

And that worries me.

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Why the Republican Party lost the election – in their own words

“You’ll find that conservatives outnumber liberals in America by 2 to 1” – Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser, BBC Five Live, believes that 48% is twice as much as 50%

[I could not believe] “the majority of Americans would do this…It’s a perplexing time for many of us right now.” – Sarah Palin, quoted in the Guardian has trouble understanding something.  Again.

“The Obama administraiton concentrated on the issue of free contraception instead of what women want, which is the economy and jobs” – Alice (somebody), Republican strategist, when interviewed by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, blames Obama for not securing his opponent more votes

“I don’t know of anything in that agenda that we would want to drop.” – Gary Bauer, President of American Values, in the Washington Post

“He [Romney] is a successful businessman and voters don’t like successful people” – Person interviewed by Channel 4 News at the Romney/Ryan party in Boston

“For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.” House Speaker John Boehner makes a case for the winners to adopt the losers policy

“No doubt the media will insist that Republicans must change, must sprint to the center, must embrace social liberalism, must accept that America is destined to play a less dominant role in the world,” Fred Barnes wrote on the blog of The Weekly Standard. “All that is hogwash, which is why Republicans are likely to reject it. Their ideology is not a problem.”

Five ways the mainstream media tipped the scales in favour of Obama – Fox News, the most popular cable news channel knows what the problem was.

 

So there you have it, in seven actual quotes.  I haven’t cherry picked some random Twitter rant either, these are people put up for interview in the New York Times, or international TV.  The problem for the Republican Party is that is simply doesn’t exist in the real world.  Instead of Keep Calm and Carry On, they have a motto of Deny Reality and Make Shit Up.  That was the entire plan for Romney and Ryan, just simply lie their way to the White House.    The problem with saying “vote for me, I’m not That Guy” is that people will look at you and say “OK, so we know what he is, what are you then?” (See how successful that strategy was for David Cameron in 2010.) And all there was was a multi-millionaire sociopath and a swivel-eyed lunatic.  Between them, every time they opened their mouth, another whopper would fall out and they hoped to just sail serenely onwards without anyone noticing.  They resembled Comical Ali, insisting the Americans were losing a war as the tanks rolled into Baghdad behind him.

To be fair, some Republicans do Get It.  But they’ll be shouted down, as a party of Angry Rich White men continue to only appeal to other Angry Rich White Men in a country that has a dwindling supply of them.  Two states voted to legalise marijuana, two legalised gay marriage.  Latinos, blacks, young people and women all voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

And as long as the party is funded by the lunacy that is the Tea Party, the evangelists and the Koch Brothers, long may it continue.

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Sport and politics

It is often said that sport and politics shouldn’t mix.  That is an ideal that is rarely, if ever achieved.  Orwell famously said that “sport is war without the shooting”.

As most people who know me know, I am a huge fan of ice hockey and of the Boston Bruins in particular.  Last season, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the biggest prize in the game for the first time in my lifetime.  They won based on many factors, balanced scoring, playing on the line between hard and dirty, taking their chances and one of the most astonishing performances in goal by Tim Thomas seen for many a year.  The man was just unbeatable and set record after record on his way to the Conn Smythe Trophy, the individual award for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.

One of the traditions of the game is that the Stanley Cup winners go to the White House with the Cup and have their photo taken with the incumbent President.  This is usually scheduled for when the winning team is in Washington to play the local team, the Capitals.  It is a photo op for both sides, a formality.

Yesterday, the Bruins went to the White House for the formality.  They went minus Tim Thomas.  Thomas released a statement giving his reasons for not attending.

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

So what started as a formality has become a bit of a flap.  There are two sides to the argument, Thomas is free to say what he wants and do what he wants.  The other is that he should have sucked it up and smiled for the camera.

The latter is the preferred option of most people.  Yesterday was merely a photo opportunity on both sides.  The Bruins team will consist of Republicans and Democrats as well as Canadiens, Slovaks, Swedes and Finns who have no horse in the race.  The President, like many before him, probably knows little about hockey.  The idea is the President looks good, the NHL looks good, the team look good.  Sport and politics mixed, but only in a superficial way.

Thomas didn’t have to go – some players have cried off citing personal reasons.  Fine.  But by releasing his statement, sport and politics were mixed – and they were mixed by Tim Thomas.  So if you want to get into the politics, Timmy, then so be it.

So, Tim, you think the Government has suddenly grown too large since 2008?  What about beforehand – why now?  You support the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  If the document is so binding, why does everyone keep ignoring those awkward bits about slavery?  How do you feel faced with the option of possibly voting for a Republican candidate who declared, just two days ago, that is so devoted to the Constitution that he will ignore the bits that don’t agree with him. Who are you on the side of, Tim, the aforementioned hypocrite, the tax dodger, the religious freak or the racist?

Oh, and for those who think Thomas is a hero for doing this are largely the same people who told the Dixie Chicks to “shut up and play” and organised events where their CDs were crushed by bulldozers for… saying they disagreed with the President.  Thankfully Thomas won’t be receiving death threats for expressing his opinion or have people turning up to games openly displaying guns or anything.

As for “this is the only public statement I will be making on this topic” is shutting down debate in a completely cowardly manner.  He lit the fire and is running away.  Like I said, he is the one who made it political. At least have the balls to stand up and defend your position – he does that plenty on the ice.  This is probably the first fight in his life that Thomas has started but never finished.

I’ve never made the mistake of elevating an athlete to a role model (they never ask to be put in that position and being able to score a goal, kick a ball or stop a puck doesn’t automatically make them one).  I’ll continue to cheer for him when he wears the Black and Gold – I don’t sit there and go “What a save! Despite being, you know, having views I disagree with”.  But I can’t help but be disappointed – because he has made himself look like a stupid, petty man and Tim Thomas is not a stupid, petty man.

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Merry Christmas (War is Over)

So, that is it. The Iraq War is officially over.

Looking at the numbers, the Americans has 4,500 dead soldiers, 32,000 wounded and spent $800bn. British casualties totalled 179, with 5,970 wounded.   It also left a million Iraqis dead. But no-one can possibly argue that the entire adventure has given us safety and security like never before. We no longer have Islamic terrorists threatening violence all around the world and those post September 11th security measures have been lifted. Neither do we have a Middle East country threatening us requiring possible military intervention.

Oh.

Good job we found those WMD, eh? Those mobile weapons labs capable of launching biochemical weapons, that country that was sheltering terrorists.

Oh.

At least people weren’t disappeared into Saddams prisons, instead being disappeared into a global network of rendition and prisons.

Oh.

Lets remember the defining moments, shall we?

  • Abu Ghraib
  • Hostages being beheaded
  • Regular reports on innocent civilians and Western journalists being bombed by their own side

Oh.

Well at least we knew we totally won that war against… those other people…

Oh.

And it is finally all over, as the last troops come home.  America is out of Iraq, leaving only a 10,000 large diplomatic contingent and several thousand mercenaries which isn’t going to end badly at all.

Oh.

And all only 3,166 days after this guy stood in front of a banner that said “Mission Accomplished”.

A war criminal, yesterday

“Good work, everybody! “

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A day out in Dublin

OK, so I’m in the middle of Dublin on Saturday and just finished off a bit of lunch outside Dublin Castle. Next thing I know, there is a massive protest/parade passing by. The Spectacle of Hope and Defiance, organised by a lot of community groups in protest at the ongoing cuts to funding and budgets in Dublin.

The parade was led by children from the local community carrying tombstones for all the inner city projects that either had been closed or were threathened with closure.

People followed behind with slogans painted on butterflies or with placards. I think that the youth groups in the march had been working on them as projects.

Then we had a couple of floats – I liked the design of this one.

Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who built the Celtic Tiger has retired with an annual pension of 152,331. Although to be fair, he did take a cut in it last week. He’ll really miss that 4,200 they lopped off it.

Of course, no protest is complete without drummers.

And a clown making balloon animals

And the bloody Socialist Worker.

Those stuck in the traffic jam didn’t mind.

The Scales of Injustice, complete with Marie Antoinette throwing cake out to those below.

One of the Marie Antoinettes. Cake not pictured.

Of course, the protest covers all of the people in Ireland. So here is a group of bankers on the way to the golf course.


And a banking fat cat, who threw cake at anyone photographing him (he was a good shot).

One of the EU Bondholders, who handed out Euros to the crowd.

The fat cat makes his way past the Bank of Ireland. The Bondholder shouts at him “Darling, look, it is our cash machine! Do you have the ATM card?”, which I thought was pretty funny.

Finally, the back of the parade was brought up by this huge phoenix.

All in all, good fun and quite uplifting to see the turn out and support, not just from the parade itself but the people it was passing by. Pretty much brought Dame Street to a halt, but it was all good natured and friendly. Special mention to the Gardai, who was more interested in keeping traffic moving – if this was the Met, it would have been truncheons, kettling and nicking of cameras. It really brought home just what a bunch of cunts the policing of protest in the UK is.

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A rookie mistake

Was pointed towards this by Ben Goldacre.  The Foundation for Future Studies launched a website called United Dreams for Europe.  It would be a social media/crowd sourcing effort.  To quote from their website

Firstly, with the aim of gaining insight into perceptions of and views on Europe, we conducted a survey. In the end more than 15,000 citizens from 13 European countries took part in our quantitative research.

Secondly, as qualitative research, we conducted 27 interviews with members of the European Parliament, scientists and students from different countries to get a cross section of opinions.

The results of this two-sided study will be discussed and presented at an event in the European capital Brussels, hosted by the Foundation for Future Studies in association with the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Furthermore, to enable the European public to access the study, the research will be published in a book of the same name, “United Dreams of Europe” (release date: September 2011), including all the answers and interviews as well as an analysis of the central questions.

In addition, this website has been created to give everyone the opportunity to take part by posting their personal dream for Europe.

So far, so.. meh.

Except… The Foundation for Free Studies is an initiative of British American Tobacco, those purveyors of cancer causing cigarettes.  And more importantly, see that bit about “posting a personal dream for Europe”?  Well, they forgot one crucial thing – to moderate the entries.

Yep, a public unmoderated website feed created by a lobby group for Big Tobacco.

It was never going to end well.  First we start with the obvious:

Then we get to the odd and the funny

Culminating in this work of utter genius.  I was genuinely in tears after reading it.

You would think BAT could afford web designers who knew what the hell they were doing.

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