Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New Zealand - a word in your ear

Look, I know you are all fired up about this Asian foreign driver thing.  But just stop it.  Now.

You are the last nation on Earth to be complaining about foreign drivers.  You are the most reckless, selfish and unthinking drivers in all Creation.  Your banged up, dinted road-wreck 'cars' are a testament to your vehicular incompetence.

Yes, there have been a handful of terrible accidents.  It is not surprising that they have been concentrated in the last few weeks - of course tourists are going to come here in the summer.  Pass your mind over the following:
During the 2014/2015 Christmas holiday period there were 15 fatal crashes resulting in 17 deaths.

The deaths included:

7 drivers
7 passengers
3 motorcycle riders

12 of the fatal crashes occurred on the open road.

Provisional crash reports indicate that alcohol and/or speed contributed to 11 of the 15 fatal crashes. Driver fatigue is suspected for 2 of the fatal crashes
Drunk, careless New Zealanders, wrecking their own lives and others.  For what it is worth, foreigners accounted for 11 road traffic deaths in 2013.  Everyone of these deaths is tragic.  But the hysteria building around tourist driving stinks of a media beat up., but it is nothing compared to the 17 racked up over the 10 days or so of the holiday season.  Or the 300 (roughly) people are killed in road traffic accidents each year.  The vast majority of the drivers responsible for those deaths will be New Zealanders.  But we're tired of flagellating ourselves over our own useless selfish stupidity, and it is far more comforting to lash out at FOREIGNERS.

Rather than rushing about grabbing other people's keys in a display of vigilante b-a-bloody-legend machismo, you should be pounding your on out of shape so you can never drive again.  You aren't safe on the roads, New Zealand.  Face up to it and sort yourself out.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Bad taste?

Clint Eastwood's American Sniper film breaks records after opening ... over Martin Luther King Jr weekend.

I know it is hard to find a day in the US that isn't commemorating some famous person wasn't being killed by an idiot with a gun.

But surely they could not have chosen the second most famous sniper style killing in US history?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Cameron demands Greens are included in election debates

David Cameron insists the Greens are included in any pre-election TV debates. Otherwise, he won't participate:
The PM has refused to participate unless the broadcasters' initial plans are changed to include the Green Party.

Mr Miliband told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the debates should go ahead "with or without" Mr Cameron, who he claimed was "running scared". 
Mr Cameron says the broadcasters' plans are unfair.
Common sense decency, or a blatant attempt to scupper debates he's scared of participating in?

I suggest third option: Cameron is playing a very smart game here.

If he insists the greens (on 5%) are included, he knows he won't be excluded when his party's ratings hit the same level.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

"The deficit halved"

... was, I seem to recall, Alastair Darling's target for 2015.

At the time, the Filthy Lying Tory Scums brayed and gibbered and claimed this was woefully unambitious and their plan was much better.

Now, they're putting "The deficit halved" on their campaigning posters, as if completely failing to meet their target while achieving precisely what Labour set out to do was something for them to brag about:

And it turns out the road shown in the poster is in Germany, not Britain!

What are we to make of this? There can only be one conclusion!

In essence, Cameron's telling us he wishes Hitler had won. Hang the traitor! His next PR campaign will be encouraging employment, based around the idea that "Work will set you free." I think we know who pinched the gates of from Dachau.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Target Obama! Any Obama!

Does the American right have a problem with women?  That's sort of a rhetorical question, of course.  It is pretty obvious that they do.

Not all parts of the right, perhaps, and not all women.  But enough of them to make the question valid.

Some parts of the right.  Real conservatives, who may be slightly fuddyduddy and myopic (they may need a new prescription for their rose-tinted glasses) but are blessed with a certain chivalrous attitude, which may be rather old fashioned (positively ante-bellum) but which at least embodies a basic courtesy and decency.  They know what is on, and what is not on.  And while they may think hemlines exposing ankles, non-gingham dresses and VOTING are terrible, their sense of decorum prevents them from doing more than looking slightly pained.

A large swathe of what might be loosely called the right, however, knows no such restraint.  Here I am thinking primarily about the more modern, economically right wing section.  Which is strange, because you would have thought that modern market liberals would be inclined towards social liberalism as well - at least, you'd have thought they don't hate women who dare to do things like be successful at things other than cake baking and child making.  But there is plenty of evidence that they do.

Oddly, it seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon.  Ronald Reagan managed to be both ferociously right wing economically while still embodying some sort of olde-world courtesy.  As long as you weren't an air traffic controller, he would treat you with respect and decency.  If you were unlucky enough to come from a socially disadvantaged minority, he might cut funding for programmes designed to help you - but at least he wouldn't be rude about it.  And he was always polite to Margaret Thatcher, which must have strained even his reserves of charm.  But the adherents of Reaganism only seemed to have inherited the slash-and-burn free market mentality, and ditched the chivalry.

Since the 90s at least, this section of the right has been vitriolic in its attacks on women.  In his book, Blinded By The RightDavid Brock recounts being commissioned to do hatchet jobs first on Anita Hill and then on Hilary Rodham Clinton when he was the "rightwing Bob Woodward" (only without Woodward's ethical sense or commitment to fact checking).  In his memoir about his disillusionment with the right, he notes that Clinton was "easily the most reviled figure on the national scene, even more so than her husband ... Critics [sic] compared Hilary to Leona Helmsley, Ma Barker, Eva Braun, and minister Louis Farrakhan."  He also quotes speculation about her sexuality, and Anne Coulter referring to Hilary Clinton as a "Prostitute."

Bear in mind, this is the mid 90s, when Hilary was not manifesting presidential ambitions of her own.  Since when did political wives become fair game in this way? I don't recall Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush or Laura Bush being subjected to this hatred.  Hell, the only reason I could recall Barbara Bush's name was because the Beach Boys sang Barbara-Anne at her husband's inauguration.

Of course, these ladies kept very much in the background, doing little more as First Lady than providing a wholesome backdrop for their husbands.  Hilary was unashamedly ambitious and - to be fair - the rank Clinton marital situation warranted some investigation.  But to argue Bill's endless skirt-chasing justified attacks on Hillary is tenuous, to put it mildly.  There is something deeper here, some sort of issue with successful, public, confident women who don't conform to idealised images of feminine behaviour and - horror of horrors - are left wing (by American standards).  And it is down right creepy.  Think of the seedy fantasies peddled around the right about just what went on in the Clinton bedroom (can anyone recall similar speculation about the marital relations between George W and Laura Bush?  I can't.)

It isn't just Hilary Clinton, of course, though her case stands as a grim illustration of just how far the right will go.  Brock also infamously savaged Anita Hill and cites plenty of other examples of ramapnt misogyny, often tinged with a bit of racial hate as well - Clint Bolick's campaign against Clinton's nominee, Lani Guiner, featured the racially tinged epithet "quota queen".  You can't help wondering if the continual stream of misogynistic ranting helped frame Jared Lee Loughner's madness, and focused his wrath on Gabrielle Giffords.  He expressed the 'opinion' that women shouldn't be in positions of power, and referred to her as a bitch.  Which is bad enough.  And then he shot her.

Which brings me to the Obamas.  It's hard to imagine a nicer couple in the white house, regardless of your opinion of their politics.  He's handsome and clean living, she's attractive and successful in her own right.  They have two lovely daughters.  Oh yes, you might have heard about them, recently, being described as ungracious tarts and tramps ...unsurprisingly, a right wing commentator.  That's right folks, it isn't enough to attack a man in power, or smear his woman, his children are now fair game.

(For the record, I can't even recall if Reagan or Bush I or II had children.  I know Clinton did, because the right wing media liked to focus on her and show unflattering pictures and Rush Limbaugh referred to her as a 'dog'.  Nice going, Rush.)

Michelle has also come in for negative attention.  I argue a lot on the interweb, and recall a discussion with a British right winger in which he speculated with just a bit too much interest in what might happen in the Obama bedroom.  Slightly more significantly, we have a yarn doing the rounds, concerning about how Michelle has twisted an anecdote she told as a positive experience two years ago, into an example of everyday racism, post Michael Brown.

Basically, in the first version of the story, Michelle describes going to Target in disguise and how a woman asks her to get something from a shelf:
No one knew that was me because a woman actually walked up to me, right? I was in the detergent aisle, and she said — I kid you not — she said, ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, cover’s blown.’ She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?’ I kid you not…And the only thing she said — I reached up, ’cause she was short, and I reached up, pulled it down — she said, ‘Well, you didn’t have to make it look so easy.’ That was my interaction. I felt so good. … She had no idea who I was.
So she 'felt so good' and wasn't it cute and heartwarming and yaddah yaddah yaddah.  Thn, two year later, according to the right wing narrative, she's re-telling the same story, but with a different spin on it:
I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.
See the difference?  The heartwarming has been transmogrified into the harrowing.  The first lady is being mistaken for a shop assistant!  Because she is black!

That's the right wing spin on it, of course.  Don't take my word for it.  Here's the lad himself, the chap responsible for highlighting this glaring example of hypocrisy - the not at all worryingly named 'Allahpundit':
Are there any Targets in the metro D.C. area where the employees don’t wear red polo shirts with Target logos on them? They do in every one I’ve ever been to. Which means, unless FLOTUS was disguised as a Target employee, the odds that anyone shopping there thought she was “the help” are small. I myself have been asked in the grocery store by a fellow customer to help them get something off the top shelf. You know why? It’s not because they thought I worked there; I had a cart just like they did. It’s because they were short and I was tall enough to reach — just like FLOTUS, who stands almost six feet. That’s her “racism” story at Target.
Only, alas, Allahpundit is so blinded by his own hating he can't see what the story is actually about.  The issue Michelle is raising is not that someone asked her for help - that's still presented as a sweet encounter ("she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her") but the way that she felt she was being ignored by the staff - "the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her".  The point she is trying to make is that the stores salespeople were not interested in her, presumably because she was black and so viewed as low value - a phenomenon that has been commented on by many minority ethnic groups.

(It is worth noting that Michelle doesn't tell us the ethnicity of the woman asking her for help - Allahpundit simply assumes she is white.  Big assumption, and rather revealing about his/her attitude.  Or perhaps his/her knowledge that the story only works if this person is white.)

But Allahpundit, blinded by his right wing hate, can't see it.  Because no power on Earth exceeds the power of the right ... to delude and bamboozle itself.

Have the Cubans thought this through?

Obviously the moe to normalise relations between the USA and Cuba is a Good Thing, from most points of view. The two countries have a lot in common. But there are still grave concerns:
“We fully expect we will continue to have strong differences, particularly on democracy and human rights ... [but] engagement is a better tool than isolation and nowhere is that more clear than Cuba,” added a senior US administration official in a White House briefing call for reporters.
Indeed. I hope the Cubans have considered the impact on their reputation of resuming relations with an anti-democratic, warmongering, torture endorsing rogue state like the USA.