Friday, 29 April 2011

Come and see the vileness inherent in the system!

Look I wasn't going to say anything about the royal wedding, because a) I don't really care much about it, and b) I don't want to be seen as a horrible grinch. It's nice that William Windsor and Kate Middleton are getting married. They seem like nice people and I hope they're happy. There's enough miserable marriages in the world without wishing for more of them, just because the persons involved happen to be ridiculously privileged and fortunate.

But, this isn't directly about the wedding, so I'll do it anyway.

Much has been made about the fact that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown haven't been invited to the wedding. Many have claimed this is a deliberate snub to them; and others (including the palace) have tried to explain it away, as they aren't 'Knights of the Garter,' unlike John Major and Margaret Thatcher, who have been invited (1).

I don't know why people are trying to argue it isn't a snub. As Martin Kettle - hardly a squealing leftie - points out, it most certainly is. And it shows what a petulant bunch of point scoring, reactionary Tory lovers the royals are:
Of course it is a snub. Of course it is deliberate. Not inviting Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to the royal wedding, while inviting Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major, is a cold, calculated act of high establishment spite against Labour. The failure to correct it – especially when the invitation to the official representative of the Syrian tyranny was so speedily withdrawn – only confirms the miserable, petty, ill-advised disdainful nastiness of the original deed. And I blame Prince Charles. His reactionary fingerprints are all over the wedding's programme of events. This wasn't William's wish, they say.

What's more, it all matters. But not because a royal wedding invitation is itself important. It matters because the snub is a symptom of renewed establishment confidence. British royalty's enduring historic hostility to Labour – a hostility that has very rarely been reciprocated, it should be pointed out – is unsurprising, even today. But the snub might not have been so confidently and publicly delivered without the more general sense, which stretches far beyond the snobbish ghastliness of Clarence House, that it is now absolutely fine and dandy for a public person to parade outright contempt for the Blair and Brown Labour governments. (2)
Basically, it's a massive snub - more a "Fuck off you peasants" - not just to Blair and Brown, but to us plebs who voted for Labour, whose representatives they were to the Crown. Indeed, it's a snub to democracy itself!

A vile, patrician attitude, in otherwards, which has demeaned what should have been a lovely day for the youngish couple.

And we're supposed to tug our forelocks and make obeisance to people who still entertain such deluded ideas of their own innate superiority. Maybe five hundred years ago. But in the 21st century, if we're going to have to put up with a silly anachronism like a royal family, then respect has to be mutual. Respect us, or we'll bloody well overthrow you.

That said, have a nice day, Mr and Mrs Windsor-to-be. And a very happy life together. I mean it.
1 - "Royal wedding snub for Blair and Brown criticised by ministers," by Nicholas Watt. Published in The Guardian, 27th of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/apr/27/royal-wedding-snub-blair-brown)
2 - "Vote yes to AV if you want to see Tories feel the fear again," by Martin Kettle. Published by The Guardian, 28th of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/28/vote-yes-to-av-conservatives-fear)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I was, of course, completely wrong

... When I predicted Roger Douglas would be the next - and final - leader of ACT (1).

Incredibly, they managed to find someone even more repulsive to mainstream New Zealand (remember that shibboleth, Don?). Someone who - in spite of running the most cynical and dishonest campaign in living memory, in spite of having patently ridiculously of funding from various eminence gris of the New Zealand right, and in spite of being up against a tired administration waiting to be put out of its misery - was rejected by the voters (2).

Yes, I can really see Don Brash luring 1 in 20 voters to cast their party vote for ACT. Rodney Hide (I'm almost remembering him with affection already) might have been corrupt and hypocritical in a venal way, but no-one would bother to write a book about him talking his girlfriend on holiday at the tax payers expense. Don Brash's electioneering antics merited a tome of their own, you may recall.

(Oddly, about a week ago I was looking for something light and frothy to read in the bath, and I picked out The Hollow Men. Clearly, something was in the air, even before Brash decided to lurch back onto the political stage)

(I'll leave it to you to decide what my choice of the Hollow Men as "something light and frothy" says about me, dear reader.)

Talk about baggage. In the dictionary, under "Damaged goods" it says, "See Don Brash." And in the thesaurus, Don Brash is a synonym for "Unelectable."
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2010/09/arise-sir-roger.html
2 - "ACT leadership stoush: Rodney Hide resigns ," by Tracey Watkins, Imogen Neale and Vernon Small. Published by Stuff, 28th of April, 2011. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4934835/ACT-leadership-stoush-Rodney-Hide-resigns)

Monday, 25 April 2011

British Christians unmartyred

it would appear that British Christians aren't quite as martyred and oppressed as some like to make out.

A recent case, where a Christian electrician was facing disciplinary action for refusing to remove a palm cross from his company vehicle, has been resolved, with his employer backing down (1).

There's been much fulmination in the Daily Mail about this, most of it profoundly (and probably deliberately) missing the point (2).

Mr Atkinson claims he is not being allowed to practise his Christian faith, but in what way? He's being told he can't display a cross in a company vehicle. Being a Christian isn't about making ostentatious displays of virtue and faithfulness.
He should, perhaps consider the words of Jesus:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (3)
They aren't forcing him to pray to Mecca or worship Cthulhu. Just obey the same rules as everyone else who works for them - no personal paraphernalia in company vehicles.

Telling him to remove the cross from his care doesn't stop him 'practising' his faith. Just stops him making an ostentatious display of his piety. Which both Jesus Christ and Wakefield and District Housing disapprove of.

The decision by his employer to let him keep his cross is pragmatic enough resolution, and I'm always in favour of employers addressing the concerns of their employees. But kow-towing to religious special pleading sets a bad precedent. Wonder how many of the people supporting him would offer similar support to a Muslim refusing to handle alcohol?
1 - "Christian electrician wins cross battle," by Nick Collins. Published in the Telegraph, 22nd of April, 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8468073/Christian-electrician-wins-cross-battle.html)
2 - Persecuted for his cross: Electrician told he faces the sack for Christian symbol on his van dashboard, "by Jonathan Petre. Published in The Daily Mail, 17th April 2011. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377684/Electrician-Colin-Atkinson-faces-sack-Christian-cross-van-dashboard.html#ixzz1JlgOhBLg)
3 - The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 6, verse 1. New international Version. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6&version=NIV)

Hardly news - Telegraph dog whistling about Islam

I note a bit of a fracas about an alleged claim from the Muslim Council of Britain, about the vexed issue of Islamic women wearing veils.

From Eye-on-Islam, as representative:
As Andrew Gilligan has noted today at the Telegraph, a document on the website of the Muslim Council of Britain (which you can read in full here - I have saved it for re-upload in case an embarassed MCB tries to bury it) declares that the obligation for Muslim women to wear the veil is "not open to debate" (1)
Only, of course, It Isn't That Simple.

Now, in fairness to the Telegraph, it doesn't actually say what Eye-on-Islam claims it says (2). Nor does the MCB.

If you actually read the statement from the latter, it acknowledges in its very first point that there are "differences and opinions about the veil" in the Muslim community (3).

The document is actually reminding Muslims of the status of the veil as an Islamic artefact, not whether it should be worn or not. It is reminding Muslims that it has been identified as a part of Islamic practice (within which there are graduations, from compulsory through to the merely praiseworthy) and - IMPORTANT BIT - it is warning people wanting to take part in the debate not to deny that it is an Islamic practice. It's denying this, not the not wearing of a veil, that is identified as a potentially serious lapse.

So what the statement is actually saying is that Muslims must acknowledge the veil is an Islamic symbol - I'd tend to disagree with them there - not that wearing a veil is compulsory. In fact, they call on Muslims not to cause strife about it when it becomes an issue:
We would like to advise the sisters who observe the veil/niqab in the work-place or in educational premises to avoid making it a matter of dispute between them and their employers or school authority. Such disputes will attract more unnecessary media attention, and thus may cause various negative consequences including the imposition of certain dress codes in work places, and in turn, used as justification to legislate further restrictions on wearing it in other areas.
In other words, don't make an issue of it - certain Christian electricians should take heed of this (4) - and ditch it if your boss asks you.

It is interesting to speculate why the Telegraph decided to run this stoyy now - the MCB exhortation is actually quite old, originally published in 2006.

One can't help but wonder if it is something to do with recent burblings by David Cameron about immigration and integration (5).

It's classic dog whistling stuff. The Telegraph presents some very old news, made topical by events in France and the ruminations of David Cameron - who has a bit of form for this sort of thing himself (6) - which is diligently repeated, and exaggerated, by the interweb squealers and water cooler crusaders.
1 - "MCB: Women Who Don't Veil Are Disbelievers" posted by Ben on the Eye On Islam blog, 17th of April, 2011. (http://eye-on-islam.blogspot.com/2011/04/mcb-women-who-dont-veil-are.html)
2 - "Muslim Council: women cannot debate wearing veil," by Andrew Gilligan. Published in The Telegraph, 16th of April, 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8455955/Muslim-Council-women-cannot-debate-wearing-veil.html)
3 - "Joint statement about the veil from Muslim groups, scholars and leaders," by Dr Daud Abdullah
et al. Published on the Muslim Council of Britain website, 25th of October, 2006. (http://www.mcb.org.uk/features/features.php?ann_id=1543)
4 - As described elsewhere on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2011/04/british-christians-unmartyred.html
5 - "Immigrants must learn English, says David Cameron – while cutting funding for lessons," by Samira Shackle. Published in The New Statesman blog, 14th of April 2011(http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/04/speech-integration-core)
6 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/tory-dog-whistling-on-holocaust.html

Thursday, 21 April 2011

UK sales and borrowing figures

Says everything you need to know about the evil Tory lies and spin:
The UK's chancellor, George Osborne, was forced to deny he had resorted to cheating, threats and violence to bring about the surprise recovery in the country's sales and borrowing figures.

Excluding the impact of bank bailouts, the government borrowed £18.6bn in March, bringing the total for the financial year to £141.1bn, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. This was less than the £145.9bn forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the tax and spending watchdog.

Britain's shoppers staged a surprise revival in March, with retail sales increasing by 0.2%, after dropping by 0.9% in February.

Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, immediately accused the chancellor and the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) of, "Basically cheating, threatening and bullying people into doing what he wants them to do, because the economy won't."

'I've seen it myself," said Mr Balls. "Down the shopping mall the other day, dlack clad, baton weilding 'specials' were driving people into shops, and forcing them to buy stuff. Pensioners and beneficiries were being herded into high class jewellers and forced to buy tiaras on credit. One woman in my constituency was forced to buy 500 tonnes of dog food. She's only got one cat.

"I was wrong about George Osborne," said Mr Balls. "I said he didn't have a 'Plan B' for when his economic strategy failed to work. Turns out he did."

Mr Osborne remarked this was not the only thing Ed Balls has been wrong about. (1)
Are there no depths to which these evil, evil people will not stoop?
1 - Obviously, this is a piss take. It saddens me that I have to say that, but after someone said Boris Johnson should sue me for 'Liable' following one of my pieces on his antics, you never can be too careful. Some bits are borrowed from the actual Guardian article linked, "Government borrowing falls and retail sales rise to boost George Osborne," by Julia Kollewe and Heather Stewart, published on the 21st of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/apr/21/government-borrowing-fall-retail-sales-rise)

Monday, 18 April 2011

Dream on, Ed

A bit of wistful thinking from Ed Miliband:
In the end, my sincere hope is that this referendum does not revolve around any particular individual – Nick Clegg, David Cameron or me. (1)
Right now, Ed, the likelihood of you influencing anyone's voting intention is minimal. You're about as close to the centre of the political solar system as Pluto.

Fanciful flights of egoism aside, the rest of what he says is fine.
1 - "" by Ed Miliband. Published in The Independent, 18th of April, 2011. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/av/ed-miliband-this-is-a-referendum-on-the-voting-system-not-on-nick-clegg-2269219.html)

U.K. A.V. - P.A. Vs G.O.

Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, and perennial campaigner for electoral reform, is in full flight in the Guardian, fulminating furiously (though with perhaps more respect to metophors than I am showing) over Chancellor George Osborne's intervention in the campaign against the Alternative Vote.

As Ashdown points out, the 'No' campaign is almost entirely negative. Rather than making a case for retaining First Past The Post, the No Camp prefer to spread scare stories and disinformation about AV.

Perhaps there is a reason for that:
In the 1950s more than 90% of us voted either Labour or Tory. The vast majority of MPs were elected with more than 50% of the vote in their constituencies.

Now that total is down to just 65%. Even when you add in my party, the three big UK parties combined achieved their lowest share of the vote ever in the last general election. One in 10 of us now vote for parties outside the big three.

But the system doesn't reflect the change in people's voting preferences. Now fewer than a third of MPs are elected with a majority of the votes in their constituencies. Some get in on fewer than three out of 10 votes cast.

Most of us are now represented by an MP that most of us voted against. (1)
Great man, Paddy. Though he must feel like he's swallowing rats every time he has to support AV.

Contrast his forthright argument with the mealy mouthed dishonesty of the strange bedfellows involved in the No campaign:
Cameron has not shared an anti-AV platform with a Labour politician before and he will insist that he and Reid "don't agree on much". Reid is expected to reciprocate the sentiment, but will say "some issues are so important that they transcend party politics" and that he and Cameron are opposed to AV because they are "united in believing that politicians are the servants of the people". (2)
Reid's statement is bizarre. A voting system is more important than the fundamental economic principles guiding the country? it shows, pretty clearly, that this is really about Labour and the Conservatives maintaining their my turn/your turn hegemony.

Elsewhere in the article, Cameron mumbles something about how FPTP allows the electorate to "kick the rascals out." Only, it doesn't. You get suspiciously similar rascals wearing different coloured rosettes, but equally dishonest, self serving and confident in their unalienable right to be in charge. It's false to claim you're clearing out the rascals when all you get is more rascals in their place.
1 - "The AV vote matters – the no campaign's scaremongering shows it," by Paddy Ashdown. Published in The Guardian, 16th of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/16/paddy-ashdown-av-vote-matters)
2 - "Cameron and Miliband to lock horns over AV as debate divides coalition," by Andrew Sparrow. Published in The Guardian, 18th of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/18/av-david-cameron-ed-miliband)

I know not "seems"

The BNP are getting all teary about the cancellation of a 'traditional' London Easter parade:
Council officials have claimed that they banned the procession because they were contacted too late to carry out a “consultation” to close the roads! Of course, in reality, it would seem that this is just an excuse by the council as they seek to further downgrade Christian beliefs, in the hope that they do not offend Muslims. (1)
Never mind that this 'tradition' dates back to all of ten years, what is this dickering about with reality? The report says 'in reality, it would seem ...". Call me old fashioned - maybe even traditional - but can something that is "in reality' also "seem"? If it's in reality, surely it will be so, not "seem" so.

Or, to borrow from peerless Will, '"Seems," madam? Nay, it is; I know not "seems."'(2)

Oh, fuck it, why am I expecting coherence from the BNP news apes?
1 - "Easter Humbug – Christian Parade Banned," by Jennifer Matthys. Published on the BNP website, 16th of April, 2011. (http://bnp.org.uk/news/easter-humbug-%E2%80%93-christian-parade-banned)
2 - Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Act I, scene ii, line 78.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Come and exploit our Morlock labour

A certain J. Key of Helensville once rather placed his foot within his mouth by opining that he'd love to see wages fall. At the time, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but now Bill English has boldly inserted both of his mud encrusted farmer's feet into his maw by loudly hailing low wages as a crucial part of New Zealand's competitive 'advantage' (1).

Of course, he wasn't talking to the punters out in punterland when he said this. We get a different message.

Still, it's good that he's revealed his arrogant image of us as worthless Morlocks to be exploited by international capital, or as stunted lackeys who should fawn gratefully on the bronzed beautiful bodies of those rare creatures from overseas who deign to honour us with their presence and some. But not very many of those dollars, because we're cheap.
1 - "Low wages 'advantage' for NZ - English ," unattributed NZPA story. Published by stuff.co.nz, 10th of April, 2011. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4869938/Low-wages-advantage-for-NZ-English)

US government unshutdown

Some last minute rat swallowing has meant the US government will remain operational.

I must say, I think the idea of parliament shutting down the whole government in a fit of pique strikes me as a fine constitutional absurdity, and one that should be imported to all democracies.

Anyway, it is all sorted out:
Boehner, an hour before midnight, told journalists in Congress: "I am pleased that Senator Reid and the White House have come to an agreement that will cut spending and keep government open."

It would have been the first federal government shutdown since 1995-96 when there was a stand-off between the Republicans and the Clinton White House.

Barack Obama tore up his schedule for Friday, including the start of a family weekend break in Virginia, to concentrate on negotiations with Republicans. He had hoped to reach a compromise Friday morning but discussions dragged out throughout the day.

Obama portrayed the compromise as a tribute to US democracy as he said: "Tomorrow ... the entire federal government will be open for business." (1)
Sounds like the Republicans got the slightly better deal in the sort term - a bigger chunk of spending exchange for preserving the Planned Parenthood funding. But in the longer term, Obama gets to look like the pragmatic compromiser, not the SOCIALIST DEMON the Tea Party need him to be.

Clinto faced a similar crisis, and brazened it out. But the situation now is very different. Obama's actually delivered some sort of SOCIALIST HEALTHCARE, complete with DEATH PANELS. Where as Clinton had already folded on that by the time the republicans shut him down. They couldn't brand him FERVENT PINKO SCUM because he'd manifestly demonstrated his spinelessness.

Obama will probably profit from the last minute resolution of the crisis, as the extremist labels become harder to apply. If he can make deals with the saner Republicans, the Tea Whackjobs will begin to look more isolated and mad.
1 - "US government shutdown averted by late night deal in Congress," by Ewen MacAskill. Published in the Guardian, 9th of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/09/government-shutdown-obama-boehner-deal)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Coalition scorecard: Libya

I've been neglecting my scorecard for the British coalition government, largely because they had hit negative territory, and once you're mired in that sort of level of awfulness, it's hard to sink further or pull yourself free of the filth.

However, I'm willing to give them a bit of a nudge up, because I'm fairly impressed by the response to the Libyan crisis. Okay, that can't really be attributed to the coalition, it was driven by the French and the USA, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt ...
+1 ... Bold and morally justifiable intervention in Libya.
OVERALL: -1/10. It might not sound very impressive, but it's a rare move in the right direction for this dreadful government. Perhaps pursuing a genuinely ethical foreign policy abroad will compensate for their unutterable awfulness at home.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

George Osborne is a reckless, incompetent fool II

The other day brought to light the not-unforeseen revelation that the British chancellor, George Osborne, is making up economic policy as he goes along, and pissing off his colleagues and major investors at the same time.

Now we learn he's actually expecting the British public to make up for the failure of his voodoo economics by driving themselves ever further into debt:
The Office for Budget Responsibility has raised its prediction of total household debt in 2015 by a staggering £303bn since late last year, in the belief that families and individuals will respond to straitened times by extra borrowing. Average household debt based on the OBR figures is forecast to rise to £77,309 by 2015, rather than the £66,291 under previous projections.

Economists say the figures show that George Osborne's drive to slash the public deficit and his predictions on growth are based on assumptions that debt will switch from the government's books to private households – undermining his claims to be a debt-slashing chancellor. (1)
Genius. Public spending down. Unemployment up. The only way demand can stay up is by people taking on more personal debt. Obviously, the people doing it are going to be the sort of people who cant afford to and really shouldn't. So the government's problem becomes a personal, family problem. Nice one, George. And if they don't decide to shore up demand by taking on more debt - and given how fragile consumer confidence is, there's no reason to believe people will decide to play Gideon's Game - then we're hit by the triple whammy of high unemployment, low demand and a stubbornly high deficit.

And people thought New Labour was irresponsible for taking on sovereign debt. This is shoddy beyond words, a cynical attempt to move debt off the government's books into the wallets of British workers and taxpayers.

If all goes according to plan, four years from now, Osborne will be able to stand up and announce he's delivered on his promise of eradicating the deficit to the mass ranks of the unemployed, impoverished and bankrupt.

Rather more likely, he'll me belated announcing that the 'crisis' is continuing and further austerity is needed to revive the economy - to the mass ranks of the unemployed, impoverished and bankrupt.
1 - "Ministers admit family debt burden is set to soar," by Toby Helm and Daniel Boffey. Published in the Gaurdian, 2nd of April, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/02/family-debt-burden-government-figures)

Friday, 1 April 2011

Tough on crime II

Remember that brilliant crime fighting initiative I mentioned the other day (1)? The one where cuts are leading to able bodied coppers are being taken off the street and put behind desks to replace 'redundant' bureaucrats?

Well, it gets worse:
More than 2,000 of the most experienced police officers will be made to retire by 2015 as forces across England and Wales try to find 20% budget cuts, a Labour survey has claimed.

A series of Freedom of Information Act requests by the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has disclosed that over the next four years 13 of the 43 forces intend to use an obscure regulation to compulsorily retire 1,138 officers who have more than 30 years of service.

Labour estimates that a further 986 officers could be affected if some of the remaining 30 forces also decide to use the same regulation to find budget savings. (2)
So we're putting able officers behind desks, because we've sacked the pen-pushers, and we're getting rid of long service officers as soon as we can. And on top of that:
Police forces froze their recruitment last year, which saw 2,500 jobs go through natural wastage. (3)
No new bobbies, no old bobbies, and most of the ones in between filling out forms. Genius. Pure f**k**g genius.

So next time you're being viciously murdered by some drug addled maniac, reflect on just where those too soon, too far, and in all the wrong places cuts got you.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2011/03/tough-on-crime.html
2 - "Budget cuts hit police with more than 2,000 officers forced to retire," by Alan Travis. Published in The Guardian, 29th of March, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/29/police-job-losses-budget-cuts)
3 - ibid.

George Osborne is a reckless, incompetent fool

So, what else is new?

He blindsides the oil industry and on his cabinet colleagues by springing a massive new tax on them, jeopardising 40,000 jobs and £6.2bn of investment. And backtracking on his own promises.

Ed Balls begged him to switch to Plan B. that's based on the assumption he had a Plan A in the first place. One can't escape the feeling the man is making it up as he goes along.

1 - "George Osborne urged to drop North Sea windfall tax," by Patrick Wintour. Published in The Guardian, 31st of March, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/mar/31/george-osborne-north-sea-tax)