Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Shearer

The vexed issue of David Shearer's leadership is up for discussion again, because it seems some people are never satisfied. Even when 8% has been added to the Labour vote, solid policy is starting to be announced and a Labour-Green coalition is looking like a workable government, some can't help but believe the Sky Is Falling because Shearer's personal numbers are bad.

But I don't think it matters.

At the moment, for 90% of the population, David Shearer is a nonentity. They can’t think of much good about him so he he must, therefore, be doing a bad job. Truth is, they can’t think of much to say about him because there is very rarely ever anything to say about the Leader of the Opposition, unless it is negative. It’s like being Vice President in the US, which someone compared to having to drink a glass of vomit. By definition, you’re unimportant and dismissed, until a month or two before an election when the apathetic majority give themselves a shake and think, “Who the Hell are we going to get to run this place now?” Then, and only then, is it likely Shearer’s numbers will move.

Looking at Britain, Ed Milliband is in a similar to position to Shearer in terms of voters perception of him as a credible alternative PM. The British electorate don’t know much about him, and obscurity equates to uselessness as far as voters are concerned.

Milliband does enjoy the odd position of being the least disliked of the three main party leaders. But that's because of the specifics of the British situation; Milliband’s ratings are better than the coalition leaders because they are more hated than things that are hated. So comparisons between the two have to be made carefully. Milliband isn't made popular because his opponents are even more unpopular. He's ignored because he hasn't done anything much, and his opponents are loathed for what they have done.

Shearer is in a less pleasant position - he's ignored because he's the leader of the opposition and Key is still quite liked by a lot of people. they can't do much about it now; but if they can’t boost their numbers when the election is imminent, then there is a problem. Pointing to Shearer's ratings and squeaking is a waste of energy.

Nick Clegg was in a similar position prior to the 2010 election – his approval and disapproval ratings were pretty much even until about a year out from the election, when he began to get positive coverage due to the Expenses Scandal and the Financial Crisis blah blah blah – then one went up, the other went down. He didn’t suddenly become competent, of course: people just started noticing him and thought, “That’s what we like in politicians: not Scottish and not a Tory.” After his performance in the leader’s debates, he became even more wildly popular, teenage girls were swooning and the matrons of Olde Englande were surreptitiously mailing him their underwear. Then he got into a coalition with the Tories, and now he’s hated again …

Milliband’s critics have generally complained about him being too leftwing for the British electorate. Witness the current fuss about the commitment to exceed Tory spending pledges to stimulate the economy. Or the description of him in the rightwing press as Red Ed, the puppet of the unions? As I said, George Galloway and his ilk might make noises off to the left (though Galloway is really a self promoting rabble rouser, more akin to Winston Peters) but they are an electoral irrelevance. So, as I said, it is silly to try to read anything into Shearer’s personal ratings at this point. Opposition leaders are almost always held in faint regard. After all, painting them as great often forces the electorate to confront the uncomfortable question of why the voted them out in the first place. My assessment is that Shearer may only start firing on all cylinders in the lead up to the election, it is based on his performance to date – generally erratic and stuttering until the moment of (often self caused) crisis.

I might be wrong, of course.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Random angry post


Haven't been blogging over the last couple of weeks as I have been Not Well so I have missed two events I never thought would happen (The death of Margaret Thatcher and the NZ Labour party coming up with a good sound policy) and one that was sadly predictable (A terrorist attack in the USA).

But I break radio  silence, briefly, just to comment on the latter, how it is insane - utterly insane - that something like the Boston Bombing leads to junking of basic rights and safeguards but an atrocity like Sand Hook provokes shrill demands to Keep Your Hands Off Our Guns and Our Rights Are Sacrosanct. Tells you everything that is wrong with the USA (well, not everything, there's Bon Jovi as well) in a nutshell. A two faced, hypocritical, self deluding arse-about-tit nutshell.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

On scum, and scum who use scum

Mick Philpott is scum, let's be clear about that.  I am not going to waste time trying to explain how he was a victim of the system, of society, or of class snobbery or what-have-you.  Indeed, as the Guardian points out, the role usually assigned to the apologists of the left - trying to exculpate the foul and depraved - has been take up by the right, who prefer to to claim Philpott is somehow the creation of an over generous nanny state, a benefits system that encouraged him to always ask for more.

This rightwing idocy has found its final incarnation, perhaps inevitably, in the smirking features of the hateful Gideon 'George' Osborne, a man to whom the benefits system can only ever have existed as an abstract concept, one of these odd things that other people have to do.  I'm not going to waste time with Osborne, because I am fairly sure that he does not read Lefthandpalm and - well - what do you really need to say about a man who makes Ed Balls seem decent and reasonable?

If I am not at all interested in Osborne, I am slightly more interested in Philpott, a creature of the underclass, but not, I feel, created by the benefits system.  From my Bargain Basement knowledge of Philpott's life, I think he is a narcissistic psychopath, and as such, his behaviour has nothing to do with the 'underclass' or the welfare state as such. With a better upbringing and education, Philpott would still have been an abuser and a tyrant. There are plenty of vile violent men with money, who terrorise their spouses and cause havoc and misery. And his total disregard for others or for the consequences of his actions would probably have seen him do very well in the banking world, or in Enron.

Obviously, the latter sort present themselves in a more socially acceptable manner, but can behave in as destructive and self-centred a manner as Philpott, just pursuing different means.  The still exploit and harm those around them without compunction, their ability to do harm, if anything, feeding their ego and sense of power.

Which brings me to my second point, the evil suggestion Osborne made that tragedies like this one and the general squalor of the underclass could be brought under control through a stricter social security regimen.

Well, George, bollocks.  Even when we are not talking about narcissistic psychopaths like Philpott, we are talking about people whose minds work in very different ways to the minds of, I don't know, millionaire heirs to wallpaper empires.  Hacking away at the welfare state will not stop the people affected from having children they can not afford. The world is full of people who gorge themselves on junk food until they become grossly overweight and sick; smoke cigarettes until they die; drink themselves into casualty every Friday night; have children they don't want even though they know how the process works and they have easy access to contraception. All these behaviours are known to have consequences but they are over-indulged anyway. Pizza satisfies a craving for salty high fat food, cigarettes sate the nicotine addiction, booze makes them feel happy and relaxed for a bit. Sex deals with the horniness.

The fact all these things can lead to undesirable consequences down the line doesn't figure in their thinking when they decide they need to eat, smoke, drink or fuck. And because they don't worry about consequences, they will fuck even if they can't remember if they took their pill this morning or if they don't have a condom.

The welfare state does not act as a stimulus to breeding, and reducing benefits will not encourage people to have fewer children. The way of thinking and acting described above evolves as a response to social circumstances, and is a perfectly rational in its own way - go for the short term benefits and pleasure, because there isn't any point planning for the long term; something will always turn up that screws up any plans. Equally, any long term consequences are something to worry about another day.

Even from the point of view of public finances, Osborne's implict message that money spent on benefits is money wasted is stupidly erroneous. What do you think scum like Philpott would be doing if he hadn't been drawing social security? He would have his legion of children out there pilfering, mugging and stealing. And sop would the scum fringe like him. And the costs to the rest of us would probably have been higher, because it costs more to put a policeman on the street or a man in jail than it does to hand a scum ball some money.

I have no pat solutions, but I do know that George Osborne's simplistic equation of degeneracy with the supposedly too generous welfare state is a dim shibboleth that will please the Daily Mail and - if followed through - increase misery and squalor.  After all, Osborne is the man who has managed to increase debt and deficit when he pledged to reduce it; and lead to Britain's credit rating being downgraded when he pledged to preserve it.  Wghy should we listen to his inane witterrings on social policy when he can not even master his own financial brief?

The Dark Art

Did any economic analyst anywhere predict the Cyprus crisis?  Remember PIGS?  STUPID?   No Cs in those acronyms.

Just like they only foresaw 2008 in 2009, and only predicted austerity would fail after it had failed, they completely missed the current crisis.  Dicks.

You'd be as well listening to me for all the relevance the witterings of economists have.

Monday, 1 April 2013

"My boys! My boys!" RIP Richard Griffith

31 July 1947 – 28 March 2013

"The older order changeth, yielding place to new. God fulfills himself in many ways. And soon, I suppose, I shall be swept away by some vulgar little tumour. Oh, my boys, my boys, we're at the end of an age. We live in a land of weather forcasts and breakfasts that set in. Shat on by Tories, shovelled up by Labour. And here we are, we three, perhaps the last island of beauty in the world."


Some positively surreal comments appended to his not-quite-an-obituary in The Independent, carping about how he is described as playing 'borderline creepy types', presumably because Uncle Monty in Withnail & I is a) gay, and b) a slightly creepy type - though that might be a bit generous as he sets out to rape Marwood (the 'I' of the title). That's a bit creepy, innit? If you find the portrayal of a homosexual man as a predator, complain about the stereotypical and homophobic characterisations in Withnail & I, not the description of the character in the obituary. 'Borderline creepy' is rather generous as a description of Monty. But brilliantly incarnated by Griffith. And thank goodness he will be remembered for something more than Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films.

Mynabirds - 'What we lose in the fire, we gain in the flood'

I've only recently discovered the Mynabirds and so I can confidently declare they are the greatest thing ever.


Dodgy Cliff and Randy Mann

Someone cited two alleged climate experts, messrs Cliff Harris and Randy Mann in an I had argument recently.

The graph below was referred to.  It was meant to  prove something or other - though they were coy about telling me exactly what it was I was supposed to be seeing.




It's something about temperature, right?  I know that, because it says Temperature in big red letters in the top left corner.

And volcanoes, yes, I can see that.  There are lots of volcanic eruptions given.  Volcanoes pop off every now and again, and the global temperature changes.

Presumably, from this, I am supposed to see how It Is Not All Not Our Fault, as if it hadn't been pointed out a million times at least, that past temperature misbehaviour doesn't really tell us much about current temperature misbehaviour, because Things Were Different Then.  You know, just like Things Are Different on Mars.

In fact, now that my mind has almost caught up with my consumption of Milcrest Estate 2010 Pinot Noir (Bloody Hell it is good - and my wife was using it for cooking!) I recall I even made something of a Lurgee's Paradigm of this sort of nonsense.

Ah!  The folly of youth!  When I actually had time to blog and subscribed to the foolish belief that - if I just repeated the bleedin' obvious one more time - I might succeed in changing someone's mind.

But, anyway, back to the graph and what it is supposed to be telling us. Something, I think, about temperature variation and a correlation with volcanoes?

Only, there isn't much of a correlation, really.

There are some points where there are cold spells with no or few notable eruptions; and 'sudden' cooling taking 400-500 years, and instances where multiple eruptions don't seem to have had any discernible impact on rising temperatures - 35 recorded immediately prior to BC/AD switch over, for example, just as a warming spell kicked off.

The impact of volcanoes on global temperatures is a Known Thing We Know About, not some Ghastly Secret Concealed In The Climategate Emails.  And even though the short term cooling impact of Old Vulcan's  particulate emissions - and the insignificance of volcanic CO2 compared to humanity's -  is generally Not Secret, why is it no medium scale act of Vulcanism can occur without a chain email sweeping the world claiming all humanity's efforts to stem climate change have just been undone?

What might be a bit more interesting is what causes the warm / cold spells recorded (the chart seems to be missing a Y axis scale, or is it just the booze blurring my vision?) and whether it might have any influence on the current trend.

On that, of course, the graph has nothing to say.

Being a thoroughly nasty piece of work and not at all ashamed of playing them man rather than the ball, I cyber-stalked the creators of the graph, Mr Cliff Harris - a climatologist, apparently - and Mr Randy Mann, who is described as a meteorologist.

(I concentrated on Mr Harris rather than Mr Mann, mostly because I'm not so foolish as to run 'Randy Mann' through a search engine.  Oh, no.  That can only lead to perdition.)

What I discovered was that Messrs Harris and Mann run a website (which puts them on a par with yours truly) and occasionally get mentioned in their local newspaper, a degree of fame to which I can only aspire.

Other than that, it all becomes very vague.

We are assured they have been providing media and public bodies with weather forecasts for decades, and that may well be true, but it is remarkably short on detailing any actual credentials the two may hold.

In a profile (again in what appears to be his local newspaper) of Mr Harris, we are told:
Harris estimates he has earned more than 300 college credits from seven different colleges and university.
That's nice, Cliff, but do you actually have a degree of any sort in anything?  Because at the moment you are looking even less credentialed than the 31000.  And that ain't good!

Frighteningly, on their website, Harris doesn't even seem to know what the initials IPCC stand for, naming it the International Panel on Climate Control. Maybe it was meant to be a joke, but you know, the thing about jokes is they are meant to be funny ... I get the feeling Harris and Mann really believe this stuff; and true believers don't often joke about their faith.

They also claim (I am not making this up) their weather forecasts are based on secret information that was divulged to them by an organisation called the Weather Science Foundation, which once employed "over 60 people to gather world wide data."  Sixty people, gathering world wide data?  They must have been pretty busy.

Only, those 60 people were rudely dumped on the dole queue and (oddly) don't seem to have thought their stupendously important information might have been of use to the people studying the impact of human activity on climate.  Instead - I kid you not - they decided to gift the information to Mr Harris but made him promise not to use the information for 30 years.

It gets worse, though.

Further probing lead me to a name I know well ... Marc Morano.  A-ha, I thought, here be bullshit, for the name of Morano is always found where crap about climate change has been posted.  And verily, it was so.

Seeking out the source article, I discovered Mr Harris holding forth in - inevitably - the columns of his local newspaper, to this effect:
Although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that sea levels will rise 100 cm by the year 2100, actual measurements do not bear out that conclusion.
This is simply and obviously incorrect. The IPCC made no such prediction. It is simply not true.

The actual projections in AR4 can be viewed right here - about half a metre, +/- 10cm.  He was writing in 2012, before you ask, and the projections in the TAR - while a bit wider - were not so spectacularly extreme as to justify the claim that the IPCC predicted sea levels will rise by a metre.

Bluntly, it is a lie.  Not an exaggeration or a bit of hyperbolic rounding, but a lie.  He must have known it was so, but he went ahead and published it anyway.

(But at least he got the name of the IPCC right, this time.)

Perhaps I am too good for this world but I still find it slightly shocking to actually discover someone calling themselves a climatologist simply telling lies.

Not the sort of vaguely-almost-might-be-kinda-sorta-true-if-you-look-at it-this-way-I'm-buying-the-drinks-ain't-I-so-don't-tell-me-it's-bullshit stuff that is denier stock in trade, but an outright Thing That Is Not True And Which Must Have Been Known To Be Untrue.

If if it was the IPCC putting out some similarly shonky claims, you know how it would be treated, right? Think Himalayan glaciers!

So I feel Messrs Harris and Mann can be ignored, henceforth.