Friday, 31 December 2010

Dinosaurs vote for asteroids

From the Indie:
Britain's biggest union is in talks to form an "unholy alliance" with rightwing Conservatives to oppose next year's referendum on electoral reform, The Independent has learnt.

Unite, which has more than 2 million members and is the largest funder of the Labour Party, is expected to throw its weight behind the No2AV campaign early in the New Year. It will commit funding to the campaign and mail anti-AV literature to members.

The decision raises the prospect of union officials campaigning side by side with local Tory party associations to oppose electoral reform. The move also puts Unite at odds with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who announced earlier this month that he would campaign in favour of changing the voting system.

.oO SNIP Oo.

However the other big union, Unison, which represents the majority of public-sector workers, is likely to abstain from taking sides in the vote. The decision by Unite and the GMB is a boost to the No camp, which yesterday revealed the names of 114 Labour MPs who have pledged their support in May's referendum. These include Hazel Blears, Jim Fitzpatrick, Keith Vaz and Margaret Hodge. In contrast around 60 Labour MPs, including most of the Shadow Cabinet, have said they will campaign for a Yes vote. (1)
The idea that a trade union would ally with the Tories to prevent progress marks a new low in intelligence among the forces of social democracy. It shows that, in fact, the tradde unions can be every bit as reactionary, stupid, and anti-democratic as the forces they are supposed to be opposing, and that they are more interested in maintaining a two team stranglehold on power, content to take their turn in charge every decade or so, rather than advance the ideals they are supposed to represent.

Proportional representation will entrench the social democratic majority in power, and allow meaningful long term reform. It will mean the Tories never again enjoy the disporportionate sway they held in the 80s, which effectively broke the Labour party and allowed the Tories to implant their corrosive ideals and policies for a generation.

I just can't get my head around the imbecile tendency in some parts of the Labour party, as shown by their opposition to proportional representation AV. Surely, the strategic benefits of it are obvious to anyone other than the dimmest tribal warrior. Yeah, it might mean coalition with centrist parties, but it will mean the Tories are far hobbled far more effectively. If Unite really had the interests of its members at heart, rather than just getting its paws on power every now and again, it would be campaigning for a 'Yes' vote - and demanding the Labour party support real proportionaal representation, not the feeble halfway house of the Alternative Vote.

Voting to keep first past the post is like dinosaurs voting for asteroids, because it will mean whatever Labour manage to accomplish while they're in power will be obliterated whenever the Tories get back in.
1 - "Labour split as 114 MPs say 'no' to voting reform," by Oliver Wright. Published by the Independent, 30th of December, 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-split-as-114-mps-say-no-to-voting-reform-2171786.html)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Bastards yet again

While we're on the subject of Uighurs, what about this?
Last December, 20 Uighur refugees were forcibly deported back to China from Cambodia. Now, one year later, they’re still missing.

The ethnic Uighurs from northwest China had been applying for asylum in Cambodia because they feared persecution and torture in China. They fled China’s Xinjiang region during a crackdown that followed deadly riots there in July 2009. Hundreds of Uighurs were arrested, and several were executed, after what Human Rights Watch called “grave violations of due process.”

Just one day after the Uighurs were deported last year, China’s Vice President arrived in Cambodia. That visit ended with $1.2 billion dollar grant-and-loan deal for Cambodia. (1)
And, if you're still struggling to wotrk out what's going on, maybe this will help:
Ablikim Abdureyim, one of Kadeer's 11 children, told relatives who visited him in prison last week that he was mistreated, placed in solitary confinement and that his health has been deteriorating, supporters said.
Amnesty International said Abdureyim was confined after refusing to sign a document denying that he witnessed an unspecified "controversial incident" in the Urumqi city prison.
Catherine Baber, the rights group's Asia-Pacific deputy director, urged China to release Abdureyim and called his treatment "the latest example of systematic human rights abuses suffered by China's Uighur population." (2)
Life sentences, torture and disappearances. These are our valued trading partners.
1 - "20 Uighurs Still Missing After Being Sent Back to China in 2009," unattributed article. Publsihed by NTD TV, 22nd of December, 2010. (http://english.ntdtv.com/ntdtv_en/ns_china/2010-12-22/126167258980.html)
2 - "China urged to probe Uighur 'torture'," unattributed article. Published by AFP. Reproduced by Google News, 22nd of December, 2010. (
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iqg3aS0stiN43TR0fDu0CFC13COg?docId=CNG.60eb4047766bf2f855b1e742fd8c9784.ca1)

Bastards again

After the disgusting 15 year sentence handed out to Uighur journalist and blogger Halaite Niyaze (1), the Bastards of Beijing have decided to stop being nice and doled out a LIFE SENTENCE to Uighur journalist Memetjan Abdulla.

His crime? Translating a release by the World Uyghur Congress and putting it up on his website (2). This merits a life sentence for supposedly inciting people to riot.

This happened back in April, but has only just been revealed. Another blogger, Gulmire Imin, was apparently sentenced at the same time as Adulla, also to life imprisonment (3).
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2010/07/bastards.html
2 - "China sentences Uighur to life for reporting riots," unattributed article. Published by the Press Association. Reproduced in The Guardian, 24th of December, 2010. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9421797)
3 - "Uyghur Web Moderators Get Life," by Shohret Hoshur and Rachel Vandenbrink. Published by Radio Free Asia, 8th of August, 2010. (
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/sentence-08082010190802.html)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Sporting National making a match of it, again?

Some time ago (the 7th of March, 2008, to be precise (1)) I pondered if National - in opposition but well ahead in the polls - were so bored with the inevitability of their victory that they were deliberately acting all hateful and useless to even things up a bit. This was the time of John Key's "We'd love to see wages drop" gaffe, his absent mindedness about what his party's policy on treaty settlements was, and Bill English promising to flog off Kiwi Rail at the first opportunity.

The same sporting spirit manifest again, with National deciding that, really, it is silly having a 20 point lead in the opinion polls, and since Labour don't seem to have any ideas at all on how to reduce it, they'd better give them a helping hand.

I can't think why they'd do something so obviously stupid as threaten to open up ACC to competition - well, I can, but that would mean they were both ideologically driven and boneheadedly stupid as well (2). It's better to assume they're trying to make a match of 2011. After all, it would be pretty depressing to be trounced twice by arrogant, dim free market fanatics.

Nick Smith's announcement is a gift to Labour, if they have the nous to take it (a big if, I'll grant you). It's one of these divisive issues where the real differences between National and the electorate is made clear - and not to national's advantage. And because it's something that lots of people have experience of, and which can be phrased in fairly straightforward language, it might have some resonance.

Even better, the fact that any changes won't take place until after the election means 2011 can effectively be ABOUT the future of ACC. The battle lines can be very clearly drawn, and the electorate given a straightforwards choice between the status quo, or hideous mess.

(n.b. I may have shown my preference there)

I can even discern the makings of some sort of policy platform here:
  • PROTECTING our ACC from the freemarket.
  • RESTORING your rights as workers by repealing the 90 days rule.
  • KEEPING the employer contribution and government subsidies on Kiwisaver.
Which is nice an worker focused, and has the advantage of being good policy.
2 - "ACC levies unchanged, work cover opened up," by Vernon Small. Published by Stuff, 21st of December, 2010. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/4481101/ACC-levies-unchanged-work-cover-opened-up)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Daily Mail plumbs new depths

The Daily Mail really is a horrible rag, isn't it? A deranged woman murders her child, and the Mail fixates on the fact that she happens to be a Muslim (1).

Must have been a major dilemma for the Mail though, horrible case like this. Do they go with the Muzzie bashing angle, or run the "Where were Social Services" routine. Obviously, in this case, they went for the first option. Mad people do terrible things. That she was listening to the Koran isn't relevant at all, any more than the fact that Mark Chapman was clutching a copy of The Catcher In The Rye when he shot John Lennon.

This really does mark stupendous depths of venal, hate raking for the Mail.
1 - "'Mother cuts out the heart of her daughter, four, as she listens to recording of Koran in ritual killing'," unattributed article. Published in The Daily Mail, 18th of December, 2010. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1339665/Mother-cuts-heart-daughter-4-listens-recording-Koran-ritual-killing.html)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Politics's loss is the military's gain

I've just had my attention drawn to this (1):


The gentleman talking is one Colonel Alan West, who has just been elected to congress, who appears to have retired after some 'controversy' surrounding his treatment of an Iraqi prisoner (2).

Sorry, what's the point here? He seems to be claiming Muslims are somehow displaying a unique impulse towards conquest, warfare and a religiously motivated desire to slay infidels even though they are acting pretty much like everyone else has acted throughout history?

Seems a bit of a silly argument to me, as non-Muslims and non-Islamic states have been indulging their penchant for violence and expansion for millenia. Verily, since before there were even Muslims! The Romans, afer all, were not followers of Mohammed.

So, according to Col. West, if Muslims invade another country or indulge in a bit of naval warfare, its because it is a requirement of their faith. Even though, in doing it, they're just behaving like everyone else. Because his argument is that - while Muslim states have historically acted in a way very similar to everyone else, invading, conquering, salting cattle and raping fields and so on, this is somehow different from the same behaviours exhibited by other cultures and countries. We invaded, we conquered, we salted cattle and raped fields on a far grander scale than the Muslims. Which would suggest, that there's nothing particularly different about them doing it.

Consider the empire building antics of the Romans, the British, the French, the Germans, the Austro-Hungarians, the Spanish, the Dutch, even the friggin' Portuguese had one. And that's ignoring for now the Vikings, the Saxons, the Angles, the Jutes, the Normans (though they were Vikings) and all the other various national and tribal factions that have been happily creating mayhem over the years. European history is a continual process of warring, invasion, conquest and colonisation. West is arguing that Muslim states and empires are somehow different because they behave in exactly the same way as Europeans! Sorry, but that makes no sense.

Nations have always sought more power and wealth, to maintain their status and to keep their standing armies busy. Armies were piling into Europe from that part of the world from almost before history - Darius I could hardly have been a Muslim, as he preceded Mohammed by about a thousand years.

The Muslim holy book says DON'T EAT PIGS, PRAY TO MECCA LOTS and SMITE INFIDELS It doesn't really say that, but lets pretend for now it does). So Muslims don't eat pigs, pray to Mecca lots and smite infidels. Fair enough. But then we compare their behaviour to ours. Our holy book (which informs our culture even if we don't officially believe in it any more) says YOU CAN EAT AS MANY PIGS AS YOU WANT, DON'T WORRY ABOUT MECCA and DON'T GO ABOUT SMITING ANYONE (I don't think the pigs thing was ever properly cleared up, but we kinda decided to assume pigs were okay). So we blithely eat pigs, don't care a damn about Mecca ... and smite just about anyone we feel like.

The obvious lesson from this is that the urge to smite stems from somewhere other than what is said in holy books. You can attribute it to some basic human instinct to smite, or some basic economic factor that forces empires to continually expand, but the holy books don't seem to have much to do with it. They might be useful in deciding who gets smote, but when that doesn't avail, anything will do.

As for the title of this post? Think about it like an accountant would.
1 - "Sura 9:5 says, 'Slay the idolaters wherever you find them'," posted on You Tube by AmericanFamilyAssoc1, 9th of December, 2010. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYbaln3Uqfc)
2 - "The Struggle For Iraq: Interrogations; How Colonel Risked His Career By Menacing Detainee and Lost," by Deborah Sontag and Ian Fisher. Published in the New York Times, 27th of May, 2004. (
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/27/world/struggle-for-iraq-interrogations-colonel-risked-his-career-menacing-detainee.html?scp=1&sq=How+Colonel+Risked+His+Career+by+Menacing+Detainee+and+Lost&st=nyt)

Frailty, thy name is Moody's

They're never happy, these ratings agencies, are they. They threaten you with a credit down grade if you don't slash public spending. And when you do, this happens:
Ireland's credit rating has been slashed by five notches by Moody's, which also warned that the country faced an increasingly uncertain economic future.

Moody's said that the cost of rescuing Ireland's banking sector meant Irish debt was now significantly riskier. It also expressed concern that the deep austerity cuts due over the next four years will hurt domestic demand. The agency maintained a "negative" outlook on Ireland, and said that further downgrades are possible in the future. (1)
Do what they say, or they'll downgrade you. Do as they say, and they downgrade you. Seems to me, if they ain't got you one way ...
1 - "Ireland's credit rating slashed five notches," by Graeme Wearden. Published in The Guardian, 17th of December, 2010. (http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=507659435767768133)

Beefheart departs

Multiple sclerosis (1).

Rock in Perpetuity, Beefie.
1 - "Captain Beefheart dies aged 69," by Damien Pearse. Published in The Guardian, 17th of December, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/dec/17/captain-beefheart-died-aged-69)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Education, education, education

A spectacular example of The Telegraph trying to have it both ways:
raft of reforms introduced by the last Government – including a new curriculum for pre-school children and a generation of Sure Start centres – have had no impact on five-year-olds’ understanding of the basics.

An analysis of more than 117,000 children over an eight year period showed pupils’ early reading and picture recognition ability had actually declined slightly in the last decade.

The report by Durham University suggested that failure to develop key skills at a young age could hold children back throughout compulsory education and in later life. (1)
Not how they loudly proclaim that the Labour reforms to early childhood education have had, "no impact on five-year-olds' understanding of the basics," and then add they are actually getting worse in some areas. Only further down the article, they're forced to confess that,
An analysis of results showed a “statistically significant decrease” in children’s reading and shape recognition over eight years and a corresponding rise in maths results.

However, in both cases academics insisted differences were small and not “educationally significant”. (2)
See what they're doing there? In the opening paragraphs, they point out areas where a decrease was observed, even though the wonks behind the study say the decline isn't significant; and then they claim there's been no impact at all on the mastery of the basics - even though the study points out there has been a positive impact on mathematical ability, of an equally significant (or insignificant) magnitude.

There is something wrong with education, however, and I don't think it is something that wil be solved by throwing money into classrooms - though that will help. More teachers, smaller classes, better facilities will go someway, but won't resolve all the problems that confront parents, students, teachers, employers and everyone else who makes up interested society. Because the problems don't really lie in the classrooms. Dispatch once and for all myths about 'trendy teaching,' insidious creeping leftwing PC prizes-for-all ideology, and how all that is needed is the return of God and the cane to make everything better.

The problems originate in the whole messed up nature of the world schools exist in. Individualistic, selfish, me-me-me-now-now-nowism is so ingrained that the idea of actually having to work for something leaves a lot of people - not just school kids - completely baffled. Parents have children and are staggered to learn that they actually have to work - Quite Hard - to raise them into proper little people instead of feral beasts. Children are shocked to learn that they have to actually work to attain success at school. Employees are vaguely under the impression their employer is an entity that exists only to let them piss about online all day, and get paid for it. The whole world is awash with pitiful. selfish, short sighted and shorter minded, callow neo-barbarians who think the time it takes a modem to warm up in an insufferable imposition on them.

We live in a pretty fecked up society, where people are rootless and community is a quaint and archaic notion. We celebrate this anonymity, this alienation from a sense of belonging. It's an essential part of the doctrine of individualism, a consequence of our modern convenience culture. You can't, after all, really be a properly selfish little monad if you feel you belong somewhere and you're part of something as suspiciously collective as a community. heaven forbid that you might feel a sense of duty towards something other than yourself and your immediate family. People can move about pretty much as they please and live where they like. Unfortunately, we're still pretty tribal in our outlook and don't find this very comfortable, and it leads to isolated, anonymous cities, sundered families - who wants to look after aging relatives, anyway? move away to London, and claim you can't possibly afford a bigger house for them ... Which in itself is another symptom of our misbegotten up social priorities. In terms of education, it leads to a rootlessness, an unwillingness to invest emotional capital and effort in the process of learning. If it is all about me, why should I listen to you, or learn stuff that will make it easier for me to fit in with you? You should learn how to fit in with me ...

Wailing about a lack of discipline in school is describing a symptom, not a cause. The problem is the change in the kids coming into the class, not the abscence of flogging - if they were the same sort of kids that you remember from whatever 'Golden Age' delusion you entertain, then it wouldn't matter. Good kids would behave well regardless of the discipline or lack thereof. The problem is, there are more and more problem kids disrupting classes and - in spite of the howls from predictable quarters - there isn't much that 'more dicipline' can do for them. They don't know how to cope with conflict, or respond to authority. They tend to get worse when challenged, not back down. And they wouldn't be frightened of caning or strapping, because that requires a degree of control over their own behaviour which they're not actually capable of, and, even more depressingly, a lot of them would be used to far worse at home.

I do not buy into the idea there has been a deliberate trend towards mediocrity so that all can achieve at the expense of the very best. There has a broadening of what is studied. Kids in the 1950s didn't learn about computing, boys weren't taught to cook, girls (and bright boys) didn't do wood work, no-one learned Japanese and so on. If we're going to increase depth, we have to accept a narrowing of subjects - and that can't be done because parents and politicians immediately wail that "Standards are slipping" if there is any move away from offering Latin and Glorification Of The British Empire Studies. Anyway, I think it's a bit of a myth that there was 'excellence' back then. There was less to learn, and people were herded into specific areas. The best of today are probably the equal of the best then, and the numbers achieving Besthood are probably about the same. Though they may be best at Japanese instead of Ancient Greek.

The archetypal teenager - sucking on a fag on her way to school, yawping into her mobile and pausing only to make an obscene gesture at a passerby or pull her sagging jeans up over her arse - isn't a symptom of the failure of modern education, but of changes in modern society. Mobile phones, cigarettes for all, obese, surly, lazy, unruly, low attaining students, they all have their roots in the wider community, not in the classrooms. If schools aren't performing adequately, it's because society itself is a miserable mess, not because the tawse was banned or because no-one studies Latin any more.

I'd say it is more to do with consumerism and the modern trend for instant gratification (school isn't sexy or fun), the amount of cash people think they have (since the whole country is living on debt and other people's money, we only think we have it, we don't really) which allows them to access far more fun and enjoyable products, and inculcates an attitude that everything should be continuously pleasurable for no significant effort, and a general trend towards selfishness and individualism - hardly a new thing, but now promoted as a virtue.

This doesn't apply to the children alone, but the parents as well, who are often failing to take responsibility, because they have had the same virtues instilled in them, and are now dismayed to find out that having children isn't actually all fun and gratifying, and even if they do want to make the effort, they struggle because modern life is so demanding and expensive that they can't physically stretch time out to include both parents working, maintaining a home, and adequately parenting.

As long as we continue to put the emphasis on careerism, individualism, consumerism and quick gratification of selfish desires, the problems in the schools and in society in general ain't going to go away.
1 - "Labour's pre-school reforms 'failing to raise standards'," by Graeme Paton. Published in The Telegraph, 14th of December, 2010. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8199247/Labours-pre-school-reforms-failing-to-raise-standards.html)
2 - ibid.

British polling

Polls for the first ten days continue to show a very mixed picture, with the Tories 'winning' most, but no decisive trend (1). Polls since the 10th - not yet included - emphasize the indecisive picture:
DATE-CON-LAB-LIB-LEAD
10 Dec 40 42 9 Lab +2
9 Dec 41 39 11 Con +2
8 Dec 41 41 8 Tie
7 Dec 42 39 9 Con +3
6 Dec 42 39 10 Con +3
3 Dec 41 39 10 Con +2
2 Dec 40 40 11 Tie
1 Dec 41 38 11 Con +3
It's worth noting all these polls are by You Gov; while there's nothing wrong with that, it means any bias in their polling method won't be corrected by other polls (and, of course, any rolling average will probably reflect You Gov's biases, due to their daily polling, compared to monthly polls run by most other companies). Still, they are generally in line with other companies.

Interesting that the Tory support seems firm at 40% - up on their general election performance. They seem to have leached some support from then rightwing of the Lib Dems, while Labour are profiting by defections from the left ...

Also worth noting that Labour are doing well in spite of the failry negative view the electorate have of Ed Milliband. He really isn't impressing anyone, yet his party is still strong. Be interesting to see what happens if he does manage to start asserting himself and building a positive, effectual image with the voters.

Big if, mind you.
1 - As per UK Polling Report, viewed on 27th of Novemeber, 2010. (http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Assange at bay

A bad day for Julian Assange. Arrested ... refused bail ... and Visa suspending payments to his website (1). Even Swiss bankers have suddenly developed scruples, something the Holocaust could induce them to feel (2).

I dislike almost everything about Julian Assange. People called Julian are almost always creepy, and Assange just sounds sleazy. I don't like the name of his website. More substantivel;y, I don't like what he's done. Without buying into the whole "He has recklessly put lives in danger" bollocks put out by the people discomforted by his behaviour, he has only really succeed in causing embarrassment and awkwardness, and putting his sources in a terrible position. He's a bit of a self important tosser, to be honest. But even self important tossers don't really deserve to have the Forces of Darkness unleashed against them as seems to be the case here.

It's almost like the gibbering paranoid conspiracy loons are right, and the western world is ruled by a self-serving oligarchy which pretends to be decent and civilised and abide by the law only so long as it feels like it, but doesn't give a monkey's for all that really, and will quite happily show its true face when it suits.

Though before we all apologise to the troofer freaks and their ilk, and acknowledge they was right all along, it does beg the question - how come the Powers That Be could orchestrate the Twin Towers mass murder, frame the innocent freedom fighter and philanthropist Osama Bin Laden, yet not manage to close down one poxy website and put a creepy Aussie sex pest (alleged) to silence?
1 - "Julian Assange denied bail over sexual assault allegations," by Caroline Davies, Sam Jones and Afua Hirsch. Published by The Guardian, 7th of December, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/07/julian-assange-denied-bail)
2 - "WikiLeaks Founder Warns About More Dispatches," by Shane Scott. Published by the New York Times, 6th of November, 2010. (
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/world/europe/07assange.html?partner=rss&emc=rss)

A propos of nothing

The other day, I heard 'Dancing In The Dark' on the radio for the first time in years and suddenly the world seemed really simple and everything could be sorted out if I just shook my fist in the air and was Defiant.

I don't like Bruce Springsteen, except for about three minutes whenever I hear one of his songs.

Oddly, one of the few instances when I haven't considered Tony Blair to be a monstrous bell end also involves Bruce Springsteen. Before he was elected in 1997, I remember reading an interview with him in NME. Rather than ask him really important stuff, like, "If you wanted to invade another country and didn't have any really good reason to justify it, or the remotest idea what do do after the initial victory, would you do it anyway?", the asked him to list his Top 10 songs of the year. Most of it was PR man crap - I seem to recall 'Wannabe' by the Spice Girls was in there. But the song he nominated as this favourite for the year seemed like a genuine pick - Springsteen's 'Ghost of Tom Joad' (1).

I suspect The Boss is less than pleased with the association these days. I mean, it's great to have friends in high places and all, but not when they're corrupt megalomaniac wankers with a penchant for warmongering and writing really bad sex scenes into their memoirs.
1 - "Bruce Springsteen-The Ghost Of Tom Joad," uploaded to Youtube by BruceSpringsteen, 19th of March, 2007. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DEtA5fhk4k)

Nasty little shit

So, Adam Tomkins, a Conservative MSP in Holrood, has brought up the issue of Where Richard Leonard Was Born.  (For those who do not follow S...