Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Bugger ye off

The Sun has abandoned Labour (1) and pledged its support to David Cameron's Conservatives - even though they are essentially the same bunch as was on offer last time, with a nice new leader and a whole herd of elephants in the livingroom that aren't to be talked about.

I am sure we can rely on The Sun to fearlessly investigate these issues and bring The Truth to The People. Or, rather more likely., they'll do their usual vacuous cheerleading and dish out some really, really unpleasant stuff to Gordon Brown. The Sun is such an intellectual midget it couldn't get itself out of the gutter if it wanted to.

I think it is a good thing that Labour has lost The Sun's support. THe idea of a berserk rightwing scuttlebutt rag supporting a social democratic party (yes, I know, but let it go for now) was always ddistasteful, as the alliance was based on Labour conforming to what the Sun and its master wanted. Without having to pander to the Murdoch suite of papers, Labour might (big might) put up some proper policy, talk about really important stuff without having to enusre it will 'play' at Wapping.
1 - "The Sun Says: Labour’s lost it," unattributed editorial comment. Published in The Sun, 30th of September, 2009. (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2661063/The-Sun-Says-Labours-lost-it.html)

Silly people

Lefthandpalm is moderately amused at how the panel of experts that the Independent invited to comment on Gordon Brown's speech all come to completely different conclusions about the same things (1). Getting his wife to introduce him was a masterstroke. Getting his wife to introduce him was a blunder. The speech started well. The speech started badly. It ended badly. It ended well. Brown spoke well. Brown spoke badly. Brown announced bold new policies. Brown announced nothing of note.

Lance Price
Former Labour Director of Communications


Gordon Brown's speech showed that, in policy terms, New Labour still understands where the centre of political gravity is in this country. My reservation is that he still hasn't found the language to reach out beyond the party, who loved the speech, to people at home to persuade them to look at him afresh and the party afresh.

Judi James
Body language specialist

There was real pace of movement. It was a high-energy performance that said, "I'm up for the fight." It was also the most natural smiling I have seen him do, as he threw in some genuine humour. But I did not like the fact that Sarah came on at the start. It may not do him damage, but in the long run he has got to be able to look like he is standing on his own two feet. He must not look like he is hiding behind Sarah's skirt, or Peter Mandelson's trouser-leg.

Lynne Franks
PR Consultant


Sarah's introduction was brilliant and Gordon started well. He looked powerful, confident and energetic and did not seem like a man down and finished. For me it was great to hear him supporting Harriet Harman early on and back her Equality Bill. But at times, his claims, such as tackling cancer, seemed over the top, and on issues such as pensions and free childcare, the trust question remained. I was left thinking, why haven't these things happened already?

John Curtice
Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University


The Prime Minister aimed for the right targets – to remind voters of Labour's past achievements, to suggest he is on the side of the "mainstream majority", and, above all, to give an idea of the better future he hopes to deliver. But it is not clear the whole was more than the sum of the headline grabbing parts, voters may still be unclear about the shape of the fairer, more responsible Britain Mr Brown says he wants.

Robert Bean
Branding analyst


Despite a typically tough, barnstorming flurry of policy presentation, the Brown brand hasn't really moved on. His reputation of "all substance and no style" has been borne true with this speech. And whilst the speech contains plenty of substance, it's questionable if the voting public will buy the brand next year. It's sadly too little, too late. And there's a danger that he could re-write his legacy as "not enough substance, with definitely no style".

Neil Sherlock
Former speechwriter to Paddy Ashdown


The speech started well and was brilliantly set up by Sarah Brown. It certainly did play well in the hall, not least the anger and passion shown. The economy message would have been stronger if it had been more personalised to what people are experiencing. There were some new policies – but did they weave a clear theme? The key question is: was it powerful enough? Was it personal enough to give Labour a chance to get the choice message across?

Andrew Hawkins
Chief Executive of ComRes polling


Having made a strong start, the rest of his speech lacked spark and impact. But at least we know the campaign narrative: this election is different because of the new economic climate. Labour will say the Conservatives cannot be trusted on the economy because they have too much faith in the markets and showed poor judgement in their response to the financial crisis. This is a powerful argument because it exposes the Conservatives' weakest flank. Will it be enough to turn around the poll ratings? No, especially if David Cameron gets a bounce of his own next week.
Almost like ... whisper it ... they don't have any idea what they are talking about and are just making noise to maintain their own profiles and justify their salaries? A bit like Gordon Brown, in other words ...
1 - " Brown fires starting gun in race for Downing St," by Andrew Grice. Published in The Independent, 30th of September, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brown-fires-starting-gun-in-race-for-downing-st-1795146.html)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Who wants to live forever

While I think I'd quite like to be immortal (1), I think scientists should be more concerned with reducing mortality for the billions of people for whom it is a day to day issue, rather than striving after immortality for Bill Gates and the other 0.000001% of the population who would be able to afford it.

Dying is a bitter thing to contemplate, but just think about the sort of people who would be able to afford to live forever. Truly, a horrible concept. Check out the Forbes list of billionaires, 2009. These are sthe sort of people who would be able to afford it. Silvio Berlusconi is number 40. Say no more - let's hope the Grim Reaper is never retired.
1 - "Immortality only 20 years away says scientist," by Amy Willis. Publsihed in The Telegraph, 22nd of September, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6217676/Immortality-only-20-years-away-says-scientist.html)
2 - 'The World's Billionaires,' edited by Luisa Kroll, Matthew Miller and Tatiana Serafin. Published in Forbes, 3rd of March, 2009. (http://www.forbes.com/2009/03/11/worlds-richest-people-billionaires-2009-billionaires_land.html)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

BNP tactics

How stupid do you have to be to support the BNP and doe sit run in families?

The answers might be 'very' and 'probably' but I can't help but wonder if the furore surrounding Adam Walker, a teacher and BNP member, facing diciplinary action for accessing far right sites while he was meant to be teaching a class, is not the result of congenital stupidity, but a ploy by the BNP.

Remarkably, Mr Walker is not the only member of his family to have come to grief in this manner. While the Klitschkos featured two remarkbale boxers, and the Williams family produced two outstanding tennis players, and Scottish rugby boasts a range of families where talent seems to run in families- Gavin and Scott Hastings, John and Martin Leslie, Sean and Rory Lamont. The defining characteristic of the Walker boys seems to be stupidity and far right politics. According to the Times:
Mr Walker’s brother, Mark, lost an appeal against his sacking from Sunnydale College, Shildon, County Durham. Mark Walker, also a technology teacher, is accused of accessing the BNP’s website during school hours. Sunnydale Board of Governors upheld a decision to terminate his contract owing to ill health.
Frankly, with this apparent genetic idiocy, I think Mr Walker was probably making a more valid contribution to the education of his students by pissing about on the internet, posting hate filled rants on Stormfront or whatever he did, than he would have if he actually tried to do any teaching.

The incident took place in 2007, but has been delayed due to various tactics. The latest attempt to hold the hearing has been delayed due to worries about social disturbance. The case itself is fairly straight forward - Walker breached his terms of employment, and in a way that could bring his employer into disrepute, so he will lose. But a couple of things interest me in this.

First, it all seems a bit too pat. Both brothers making the same mistake? It seems unlikely. Both also have stood as cndidates for the BNP at council level (Mark mustering a remarkable 513 votes for the Sedgefield council in 2007 - way to go, Mark!), which is the year this story broke. The BNP make a lot of noise about being victimised and oppressed and bullied by the 'PC liberal elite.' It strkes me as a ploy designed to allow them to perpetuate that image and raise the candidates' profiles in the far right circles.

Which means they must be almost tumescent with excitement about how it has been dragged out over several years now, with escalating media attention and now demonstrations and the threat of violence.
1 - "Police cite riot fears to delay case against BNP teacher Adam Walker," by Joanna Sugden, published in The Times, 22nd of September, 2009. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6842824.ece)
2 - "Demo over BNP teacher suspension," unattributed BBC artcile, 3rd of September, 2007. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/6976135.stm)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Names Names Names

It's that time of year when the Daily Wail and the dim witted forces of the reactionary national right in Britain like to get themselves a little bit worlked up about the increasing popularity of Mohammed as a name choice, and how this is a bad thing (1).

The usual Wail wail is that the popularity of Mohammed and its variants is an index of "the changing face of Britain" - it shows how rapidly the Muslim population in Britain is growing, who "espouse an entirely different cultural tradition from our own," refusing to participate in traditional British past times like "reading Jane Austen or tuning into the Archers," something that "dismays millions of people". If something isn't done, Britain can look forwards to becoming a "divided society, no longer recognisably British," an Englishman's (sic) right to read Jane Austen threatened by a "host of young Mohammeds and Muhammeds" (2).

Quite.

I'm not going to bother rebutting the Mail's flim-flam - it's opinion, not evidence based. Outside the readership of the Mail and its ilk, I do not think Muslim's quaint fondness for the name Mohammed causes all that much concern. Brits are inherently opposed to conformity. We have special schools for random religions and quasi legalistic institutions like the Beth Din courts. We not only allow the uncivilised folk dwelling at the fringes of our country to speak their barbarian tongue, we encourage it, in the spirit of happy mischief. Our leaders' continual failure to recognise this inherently socially minded individualism and impose its authoritarian desires on our naturally fragmented, incoherent and possibly deviant British way of life is why we always end up hating them, regardless of political stripe.

While calling all your children Mohammed might not fit in with this national oddness, it issn't something we'll get too worried about. It's just odd, and we quite like that. Britain has always used a hodge-podge of names, drawn from various traditions - most of which arrived a lot less peacably and meekly than the current Muslim immigrants. Consider the origins of the first names of British Prime Ministers since WW2:
Gordon Brown - Celtic
Tony Blair and Anthony Eden - Roman
John Major - Hebrew
Margaret Thatcher - Greek
Jim Callaghan - Hebrew
Harold Wilson & Harold MicMillan - Anglo-Saxon
Edward Heath - Anglo-Saxon
Alex Douglas-Holme - Greek
Winston Churchill - Anglo-Saxon
Clement Attlee - Roman
Anyway, there are far more worrying trends in naming to worry about.

How can we get worked up about lots of children being called dull but sensible things like Mohammed or Muhammed, when we live in an age where people get called things like Shanqiria-Odelay and Dasdamanda-Coree-Poppy, I think we can cope with Omar and Mohammed. Let's not forget poor little Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, Violence, Midnight Chardonnay and Number 16 Bus Shelter (3). I think Mohammed would have been preferable in all cases, even for the girls.

And I remember a woman interviewed on One News, whose first name was ... Sincerely. Not Sincere or Sincerity, both of which could make unusual but beautiful names, but Sincerely, as in 'Yours Sincerely.' It's and adverb, you clowns, not a noun. You can't make it into a name, unless you're desperately stupid.

Britain has its own fair share of bad names, and a bad habit of making lovely names sound unbearably ugly. Ethel is a good example. Pronounced in the continental way, Eh-thell, it is quite beautiful, but in the British tongue mangles it to Ithil. Same with Agnes. Continentally sexy An-yes becomes frigidly British Agh-nus. Or worst of all, Hortense. A French sex kitten called or-ten-zay become the ridiculuous Whore-tinz once she crosses the channel. Wrong, very wrong.

However, my personal bugbear is a Kiwi one - I can't abide the way New Zelanders mangle the Gaelic name Catriona. Its pronunciation is similar to Katerina - Cah-tree-un-ah, with equal stress on all syllables. Bloody Kiwis turn it in to Cat-try-owner. And you can't ignore it because Catriona McLeod is always popping up to read the news, inevitably preceded by a hideous mangling of her name. Forget the 'H' in Whanganui, for this bastard ponunciation the whole nation should be shot.
1 - "Mohammed is now the third most popular boy's name in England. So why this shabby effort to conceal it?" by Max Hastings, published in The Daily Mail, 11th of September, 2009. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnists/article-1212368/Mohammed-popular-boys-England-So-shabby-effort-conceal-it.html#ixzz0QiaoRBR2)
2 - ibid.
3 - "'Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii' not a girl's name, New Zealand court rules," by Bonny Malkin, published in the Daily Telegraph, 24th of July, 2008. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2452593/Talula-Does-The-Hula-From-Hawaii-not-a-girls-name-New-Zealand-court-rules.html)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Stop me if you've heard this one before ...

Israel's former deputy defence minister, rattling his sabre like crazy:

Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defence minister until 2007, said a nuclear-armed Iran was an unacceptable threat to Israel. No Israeli government could put its faith in President Barack Obama's efforts to bring Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme, he said.

"The Israeli government is the only entity that is responsible for the existence of the Jewish people," he said. "Iran has been explicit in its hostility to Israel time and again. They would use these weapons.

"We believe that Iran has the capacity and the delivery capability for nuclear weapons. They can proceed to production. We have got two months to act - before the end of 2009." (1)
Never mind that there isn't a shred of evidence that Iran's nuclear programme is intended for anything other than peaceful purposes, or is in violation of any treaty or obligation.

And "We believe that Iran has the capacity and the delivery capability for nuclear weapons."

That sounds achingly familiar. Where have I heard it before ... ?

Would it take them 45 minutes to deploy these weapons, I wonder?
1 - "Israel 'will attack Iran this year' if West does not cripple Tehran with sanctions," by Damien McElroy, published by The Telegraph, 17th of September, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/6199002/Israel-will-attack-Iran-this-year-if-West-does-not-cripple-Tehran-with-sanctions.html)

Daily Rip Off

Today, the Daily Mail carried a story about a Sikh policeman 'suing' the Police Force because he was worried h'd be made to wear a comedy turban (1).

The story itself is bullshit, as he isn't suing the force - the case is being heard by an industrial tribunal. Also, he was concerned about far more than being made to look silly - his complaint centres around the forces failure to respect the long established protocols made for Sikh policemen.

But that's not what is interesting.

The Mail story appears to be pirated from an article written by Mike Keegan and published in the Manchester Evening News the day before. The two articles are very similar - the paragraphs have been swapped around a bit and the detail included in the MEN story has been removed and hysterical flim-flam substituted, but other than that, it looks like a straightforward rip-off by the Mail.

MEN is owned by the Guardian Media Group, and the Mail by Associated Newspapers, so it doesn't appear to be a case of the blurring between titles that seems to be getting increasingly common.

I've emailed Mike Keegan to find out if this was authorised. Could be interesting if it wasn't.
1 - "You plonkers! Sikh policeman suing Force over fears he'd be asked to wear modified turban says: 'I felt like I was on Only Fools and Horses'," unattributed article published in The Daily Mail, 17th of September, 2009. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1213811/You-plonkers-Sikh-policeman-suing-Force-asking-wear-modified-turban-says-I-felt-like-I-Only-Fools-Horses.html#ixzz0RLIf0VOF)
2 -"Sikh police officer 'offended' by turban demand," by Mike Keegan, published in The Manchester Evening News, 16th of September, 2009. (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1136987_sikh_police_officer_offended_by_turban_demand)

Just a reminder ...

In a recent online argument, someone told me, with the conviction only possessed by the truly deluded, that the USA was the home of individualism, capitalism and blah blah blah.

The idea that the USA is a capitalist country is a strange and rather widespread fallacy. It is, in fact, one of the most socialised countries on the planet. The country's economic success is based on its defence industry, which is, obviously, based on government spending - over half of federal spending goes on defence related stuff (1). This supports numerous other industries and provides income for a huge slice of the population.

The big problem the United Soviets of America faces is that the obssession with appearing to be capitalist - translated roughly into English, that means low taxes - means massive debt. As of today, according to the Brillig debt clock (2), the USA's National debt is $11,838,707,176,110.08.

So whereas countries following the European model spend - more or less - the money theytakes in tax (though this is distorted by the 'low tax-high debt' regime in the USA, forcing the European countries to take on more debt and lower taxes somewhat to remain competitive), the USA taxes as little as it praciably can, still beholden to the Lafferite madness that low tax means a higher tax take, and disguises the failure of this absurd proposition by borrowing. This makes the USA a great place to live, of course - more nice shiney things, better living, cheaper this, newer that, but it certainly isn't a capitalist economy. It's vibrancy depends on government spending and debt, which isn't a very good model in the long term.
1 - "Where your Income Tax Money Really Goes," Courtesy of the War Resisters' League, viewed 17th of September, 2009. (http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm)
2 - The U.S. National Debt, as of 17 Sep 2009, calculated by Ed Hall. (http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/)

Why dentists will save civilisation

I visitied my dentist this morning and finally we celebrated victory in an epic stuggle against decay, infection, impaction and, in one odd little side show, pasta bake.

The reason for my sorry dental plight is years of neglect, which is the way that the British have always cared for their teeth, which we treat more casually than one would a dog, which is at least certain of occasionally visiting the vet, and getting the odd brush.

It's been a long and very expensive process, with odd moments of existentially challenging pain - am I really the fairly witty and werudite blogger, wannabe writer and itinerant teacher, or am I really the squirming, shivering, snivelling wretch begging for more and yet more anesthetic - before the surgeon as even taken his first jab at me?

Having had two molars ripped out over the last year or so, I know of what I speak. I couldn't believe the pain that an infected tooth can cause, though having it ripped out was almost as bad - the surgeon must have put enough anesthetic to stun an elephant into my jaw, and I could still feel something far too much like a tooth being wrenched out.

For all that, I'd rather not go back twenty years, or even ten. One reason my teeth got into their parlous state was the morbid terror of the barbarity of British dentistry that I grew up with. Modern dentisty is the reason our civilisation needs to be saved, at least as long as I and anyone I love is part of it.

People who salivate about the imminent End of The World As We Know It should consider carefully the impact this will have on dental care. If we don't want to be reduced to inpromptu dentistry, a la Tom Hanks in Castaway, we need to keep things just about as they are.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Something is burning

John Key's electoral office was damaged in a suspected arson attack during the night (1).

Ah, of course, your mates act of vandalism was good, everyone elses was rotten.

On Tumeke Bomber has posted a comment designed to distance Tumeke and his co-blogger, Tim Selwyn - who was imprisoned for a not disimilar act of political vandalism where he drove an axe through the window of Helen Clark's constiuency office - from this incident.

This is not surprising but is disingenuous. You can't justify one act of political vandalism just because the vandal in question is your mate. Either they all count, or none of them count. Unless Bomber (nice choice of nic there, by the way) thinks that some politically motivated vandals are more equal than others.

Point is, idiots like Selwyn and the Urewera clowns push the envelope, blur the lines, whatever cliche you want to use to describe it. Set an example, maybe. Or a target that has to be surpassed.

Once the debate centres around what it is okay to destroy - or as Bomber seems to be arguing (absurdly), how it is destroyed - then the argument is over. Democracy gets replaced by terrorism and trying to use terror tactics to impose your will.

Arsonist = Stupid.
Tim Selwyn = Stupid.
Bomber = With stupid.

Though I can't help but wonder if I'm ultiamtely responsible, after pointing out (3) to the dolt mumbling about Sue Bradford being a prime candidate for assasination, that John Key is the person now blocking the repreal of the repeal of Section 59? Could it really be that half of lefthandpalm's readership turns out to be a berserk rightwing political terrorist with a propensity for beating children? Nice.
1 - "Fire at PM's electorate office," by Michael Fox. Published by by stuff, 10th of September, 2009. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/2850428/Fire-at-PMs-electorate-office)
2 - "Arson attack on Prime Minister’s Electoral Office (cocktails anyone?)," posted by Bomber on Tumeke, 10th of September, 2009. (http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2009/09/arson-attack-on-prime-ministers.html)
3 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/08/just-sick-and-evil.html

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Since when

... does a letter to the editor warrant a full write up in a newspaper?

The answer, of course, is when the paper in question is the Daily Telegraph, and the letter in question is endorsed by a coalition of religious groups like the Medical Ethics Alliance, which embraces human life in its "God given dignity," and the anti-abortion Choose Life campaign, which "exists to highlight an awareness of the sanctity of life from conception to natural death" (2).

Add to that the transatlantic rightwing hysteria around state provision of health care at the moment - particularly following Sarah Palin's delerious 'Death panel' lunacy - and you've got a Barclay Brother's rag wet dream, never mind that the news value is approaching absolute zero.

The Telegraph was always reactionary, rightwing and wrong, but at least it used to be more than the frickin' Daily Mail.
1 - "Sentenced to death on the NHS," by Kate Devlin, published in The Daily Telegraph, 2nd of September, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6127514/Sentenced-to-death-on-the-NHS.html)
2 - The webiste for the Medical Ethics Alliance is here: http://www.medethics-alliance.org/ and the website for Choose Life campaign is here: . Both viewed on the 8th of September, 2009. Quotations are from the relevant websites.

Brooker on Murdoch (jnr) on the BBC

Amusing commentary on James "Son of Rupert" Murdoch and the News International empire:
... Damien Thorn, offspring of Satan, was educated at Yale before inheriting a global business conglomerate at a shockingly young age and using it to hypnotise millions in a demonic bid to hasten Armageddon. James Murdoch's story is quite different. He went to Harvard. (1)
It doesn't really get beyond the cheap shots, though think referring to Fox New's Bill O'Reilly as a "bellicose human snail" and the network itself as "about as plausible and useful as an episode of Thundercats" is appropriate and apt. He does finish with an important point, however:
Now there's a lengthy, valid, and boring debate to be had about the scope and suitability of some of the BBC's ambitions but, quite frankly, if their news website (a thing of beauty and a national treasure) helps us stave off the arrival of the likes of Beck - even tangentially, even only for another few years until the Tories take over and begin stealthily dismantling the Beeb while a self-interested press loudly eggs them on - then it deserves to be cherished and applauded.
Amen to that. In the war against the Daily Mailification of the world, where choice will be between the middle-class pants-wetting of the Mail and the the chauvanistic laddishness of the Sun, then every inch of territory is vital.
1 - "Charlie Brooker's screen burn," by Charlie Brooker, published in The Guardian, 5th of September, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/sep/05/charlie-brooker-on-james-murdoch)

Stray thoughts on the political situation in Britain

Almost any criticism levelled at New Labour is merited. The fact that there is still a question about whether or not the Tories would be better shows how deeply, deeply awful the the Tories would be.

The whole way politics are done in Britain is rubbish. It used to be quite cool, swapping two blokes called Harold around every few years. The parties were distinct, even if the leaders weren't, and - IMPORTANT BIT - both reflected very real traditions in British society. The Conservatives reflected a traditionalist bouirgeois world view, with a few aristocratic bits for fun, and Labour more prolish. Weirdly, a lot of criticism, particularly from the left, was that both parties were effectively just different teams of administrators, vying to convince the electorate their team would be best at implementing the same policies. But that's just the left for you.

The reason for this consensus was there generally was a lot held in common, in areas that would seem far to the left of the current political scene. Industrial relations are a good example of this - both Labour and Conservatives had Union troubles and both resolved them the same way. Inflation was held in check through negotiations with the unions about wages and through price controls. The upshot was that for all the perceived differences, you had people working together to achieve goals.

The state was one force in this set up, balanced by others - particularly the unions. This was because the state in Britain was always the instrament of conservative (small 'c') interests. With a monarch, an established church, an unelected second chamber with real power and a voting system that ensured non-radical consensus would win over sectarian extremism, reform was never going to be achieved through elected (as opposed to democratic) means. The British genius for most of the 20th century was that reform was achieved, through the collaboration of state power, capital power and labour power.

Now, of course, things are rather different. The union movement is dimished to the point it no longer represents labour (small 'l') on the national stage. Instead, it just protects or advances (a little) the interests of its members and sector - while the numbers dwindle further. The union movement is politically impotent.

British capital hasn't triumphed, however, because it has been subsumed by the monster of globalisation - there isn't any British industry left - apart from mad highlanders making moonshine - just (an ever decreasing amount of) industry in Britain. Capital is still potent, but no longer British. It has no inherent interest in maintaining the social consensus.

Then, as now, there is a broad similarity between the parties, but the similarity is not the same one as there was up until the end of the seventies. Both parties have an agreed consensus, but it is a neo-liberal, not a social-democratic, consensus. Whatever slight internal tendency there was to reform is extinct. Neither represents a distinct constiuency any longer, both are competing for the same votes and - this is the important bit - the same powerful interests. News International has far more ingfulence on policy of Labour and the Conservatives than the interests of their traditional tribal bases. Like the unions, they are impotent, and like the capitalists, they are effectively de-nationalised.

As a short ginger fellow remarked a propos of another problem, what is to be done?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Blogging

... may be light all through September. I'm unwell in body, with allsorted crappy bugs. I'm also feeling borderline insane, and have strong urges to lurk in doors with the curtains drawn, wearing dark glasses and listening to Tom Waits.

So you may all have to get on without me for a little while.

That said, I said soemthing like this a couple of months ago, and had one of my most productive months.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Immediate response

I'm not sure how I feel about Maori TV screening the Chinese Government's film, Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth, immediatately after 10 Conditions of Love. Two reasons why.

First because it gives the impression this is rebuttal of the image of Kadeer presented in 10 Conditions ..., which it is not. Second, because I'm a pampered westerner I find images of people being kicked and clubbed to death disturbing, especially when they are presented without adequate warning. The program was preceded by a generic warning about violent contents - as had preceded 10 Conditions of Love. Ten Conditions ... contained a very few, shocking moments of mass public execution. Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth contained extensive, graphic footage of people being beaten and kicked to death.

I wonder if anyone at Maori TV had even watched the film before broadcasting it. It wasn't scheduled, which suggests it was a last minute decision. The announcement that Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth would follow 10 Conditions ... was made part way through the latter, which would be bizzare if they had planned it as a follow up. Perhaps a copy was made available to them, and they decided to go with it.

So this will be more about Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth than about 10 Conditions of Love. The latter was a fairly routine account of Kadeer's life, contianing little nbew information and only giving her a chance to demonstrate her magnetic personality and her sense of humour - perhaps that is what the intrisically humourless Maoists found so disconcerting. But there was nothing that couldn't have been gleaned from her biography on wikipedia.

Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth fell into several parts.

The first part was a genuinely embarrassing hymn to the glories of unity and harmony, illustrated with kitschy tourist ad style visuals showing Uighurs happily enjoying their cultural practices in slightly too vivd technicolour. Thankfully it was over in seconds.

The next portion was made up of footage of the riot of the 5th of July. It was shocking, but no-one has denied that a riot didn't happen, or that the violence against Han Chinese was anything other than repulsive. Some - myself included - have suggested something like this would occur as a result of the policy of ethnic saturation the Beijing government has waged for the last 50 years - but explaining why something happens is not the same as saying that it is good or okay that it happened. It just puts some responsibility on the authoritites in Beijing, set the whole sorry thing in motion when they decided to swamp the region with Han to stop the Uighurs finding any democratic means to achieve independence.

This section served one very obvious purpose - to sicken and repell the viewer so that the response to whatever came next would be visceral, not rational. It is hard to consider things cooly when your head is full of the images of someone being kicked repeatedly in the head, or smashed to a pulp with iron bars. But that is the point of propaganda, isn't it?

The next section was the most important part, where an attmetp was made to link the riots with Kadeer's World Uighur Congress. It is repeated several times that events were organised and planned, but what is not shown is that a riot was intended. Kadeer and others are quoted talking about a 'demostration' and as far as can be deduced from the information given, it seems like it was an international show of Uighur solidarity, not a bloodbath. Out of context, the quotes seem sinister. Kadeer is quoted, from the 4th of July, saying:
Many things have happened and we all know something will happen tommorrow evening in Urumqi. (1)
Which might seem ominous, if you persist in thinking she's talking about a planned blood bath. On the other hand, if she's talking about a demonstration, it is innocuous enough.

A lot is made about what was said in the days immediately after the riot, by Kadeer and others. But the situation was very confused - Beijing put a stranglehold on the region and very little hard information was available. It isn't susprising that people were confused abotu what was actually happening and that false information was given. All of which points not to some dastardly conspiracy, but to people reacting to a situation that's moving too quickly for them.

An example of this is the use of footage of Kadeer being interviewed on Al Jazeera, on July the 7th, showing a photograph she alleged was of the Urumqi riot. Infact, it was of a riot in Shisou a few days earlier - but the mistake was originally by Reuters, who used the image on the 6th of July, identifying it as Urumqi (2). The judicious narrator says Kadeer was spreading "rumours" and adds that the image had been widely distributed before the July riot, creating the impression it was a WUC orchestrated fraud. That Kadeer was responding in good faith to an image provided by a reputeable news source isn't explained, and the viewer is left with the impression that Kadeer was peddling a falsehood.

Frequently, throught out this section, images of the riot are repeated, ensuring that the immediate reaction is gut revulsion, and diverting the viewer's attention from the tenuous links they attempt to draw between the WUC and the violence.

Finally, we're back to where we started, assured that peace and harmony has return to the region, and the day days of seperatist agitation are in the past. Which is, of course, nonsense. Nothing, fundamentally, has changed, except some people ahve died and some people's lives have been wrecked. And July the 5th will not be the last time this happens.
1 - Rebiya Kadeer, quoted in Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth.
2 - As per Wikipedia's sumamry of events, "July 2009 Ürümqi riots: media coverage." Viewed on 1st of September, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_2009_%C3%9Cr%C3%BCmqi_riots#Media_coverage)

In about 15 minutes

... I'll be watching 10 Conditions of Love, the documentary about Rebiya Kadeer than the PRC objected to so much they unleased their hacker hordes on the Melbourne Film Festival when they refused to pull it on demand. Attempts to muscle Maori TV were similarly ignored. Which shows that Maori TV is the only free-to-air channel that is motivated to show interesting programming that isn't about sex or home reno, and (unlike the NZ and US governments) isn't afraid to stand up to the Bastards of Beijing and tell them where to go.

So good on 'em, in other words.

P.S. I'll be videoing it as well. Eat that, Chairman Mao!

Prediction

There's nothing stupider on the internet than putting down your thoughts in an indisputable form.  So that, of course is what I am going...