Electoral Blues

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/political-world

So, Brown’s resigned his Labour Leader post; rumours abound about a Con-Lib deal and a PM has formally resigned; tempers are flared; fuses are short; everyone in the country (it seems) is blaming anyone they can; and I’m a good number of days late in writing anything about a British Election that – frankly – bored me silly until the closing weeks, but now has me pretty intrigued. All at the time of writing, of course.

I may as well be honest and state from the outset that party and statewide politics bore and irritate me. It’s not something I support and in my own little idealist way can’t until the time comes that we can cast off those shackles towards real freedom. But, whatever protestations I may have, it’s the system I find myself under, and as such find I need to be realistic about it. Which probably explains my interest.

Anyway, another thing I should get out of the way is which way I voted which, in honesty, is that I voted for this. A hung parliament. And, much to my own surprise, one that would result in a Con-Lib coalition. Why? Because I honestly believe that of all the myriad (ok, four) possibilities being mooted about the place, that is the only combination that could actually introduce any real (and in my view, necessary) changes to the country that most people I think would agree needs to happen, current economic climate or no.
On the topic of Manifestos, I can admit that the only one I read in full was the Liberal Democrat one, and I spent some time scanning the Tory manifesto for points I agreed / disagreed with, and similarly scanned the key Labour points (as I saw them).
So, whether its agreed with or not, I feel I’ve done my bit to make the decision I wanted to make, and made it based on choosing the party I disagreed with least at a Manifesto and personality level. And so its made. So it remains to be seen what the parties finally decide.

A bunch of things throughout the campaign, and after have annoyed me from all sides, so I thought I’d choose a few as I remember them:

ConLib / LabLib / Rainbow Squabblings

The whole episode of the last few days seems to have been dominated by the extremes on both sides (and may yet still be decided from them). Hardline Liberal Democrats appalled to be dealing with the Conservatives, and clinging desperately to their failed notion that New Labour are really as “Lefty” a party as they like to think they are; Tories disgusted to be seen to be “lowering” themselves to dealing with 3rd place when “they got more votes anyway” (irony, anybody?); and Labour supporters uncertain over what they want more – to see Gordon Brown away from the leadership or to keep themselves in power. All of which, frankly, are ridiculous and missing the point completely.
Lab-Lib would have been a mistake, whichever way you cut it. At a time when there’s a genuine opportunity for change, having two parties align that have ‘historic’ ties amongst back-benchers and party members would have inevitably been frail and wouldn’t have lasted (by my reckoning) more than 2 years. Similarly with a “Rainbow” coalition, although my money’s on that having lasted even less time. As it is, I’d be fairly confident that a ConLib agreement could be mutually beneficial, and potentially provide the right checks and balances between two quite different parties and policies. I jsut hope the Lib Dems can approve the deal by more than 75% to allow Clegg to pursue it, then let everyone see what the details are and what we think can happen. As many seats as they do have, I don’t think the Tories can last if they’re made to go it alone.

Clegg’s Pimping Himself Out and LibDems Not Doing as Well as People Thought

Two myths, right there, if you ask me. Firstly, to the actual election results, which near enough tied in with my expectations (alright, I didn’t expect the LibDems to actually lose seats, but I didn’t expect them to gain any). yet there was such a public sense of defeatism from those people who foolishly thought their LibDem votes were going to result in a landslide. It was never going to happen. And the reason it would never happen is for exactly the reasons the party had espoused beforehand – electoral reform. So why be surprised?
And secondly, the recent frustrated notion that Clegg has been pimping himself out to any party in an eager attempt to get power. Two issues with this: 1) What’s the problem? He’s a politician. He can’t, really, ever achieve anything noteworthy if he stays in opposition (which, realisitically, is what the LibDems risk facing if they don’t take the opportunity now while it presents itself) and (2) Why is it “pimping yourself out” to go and hear both possible deals that are on the table, and making your decision accordingly. I’ve said it already earlier today, but I’d be many times more disappointed in anyone who clung desperately to the first offer they received rather than taking their time and weighing up the choices. I even heard one person on the radio today saying they were disgusted with Clegg and that they only voted LibDem to get Labour out… well… that comes at a risk doesn’t it? And that risk is that you’ll,  most likely, get Tory, in some incarnation. Deal with it. And stop being silly.

Unlock Democracy and Proportional Representation

A massive sticking pointing for the LibDems (and it remains to be seen if it will get passed them, and in what form), but the news all week has been obsessed with this question of PR, and what it means. Unlock Democracy, as much as I can applaud them for the speed with which  they put together their protests. And, I agree, First Past the Post is a ridiculous system and one that does need to be changed. However, as with so many protesters, I can’t agree that their expected timescale is correct, let alone feasible. Expecting a referendum, and for that to then be enacted within a year – in a coalition government (a coalition, incidentally, that whichever way it was formed, would have resulted in disagreements in exactly how far to go with PR) – is optimistic, to say the least. Push for it once the coalition’s in place. And support the coalition with the most contrasting views – its the better way to ultimately get the more dramatic changes you want.
I remain quietly optimistic that PR will happen, but it won’t happen if we don’t have  strong coalition government. I never thought I’d say it, but I think Con-Lib is the strongest coalition we can get at this time, and also the one most susceptible to enacting change.

Clegg’s “Two Horse Race” Moment…

… surprised me. Whilst I’m all in favour of being optimistic, this moment struck me as a public show of unmerited over-confidence that, frankly, wasn’t needed. I’m not saying I think they would have done better had he not come out and said this, but I’m sure it didn’t help sway those who were on the edge of deciding which way to go.

LibDem’s “Losing”

A big deal seemed to be made of the LibDems losing seats, both on the public’s part, and their own. I still can’t help feeling this is misplaced. They gained votes. They gained quite a few votes. Yet they lost seats. Is that not, in essence, what PR aims to resolve? If anything it adds fuel to the fire that electoral reform is needed and confirms one of their strongest policies and arguments right the way through.

Tories “Winning”

Not a right lot to say on this except it goes back to arguments about first past the post. This was sadly inevitable, so deal with it. In honesty, I expected them to win outright by a very slim margin, which would have been a much worse situation than we now find ourselves in. Equally, even with the Coalition, its no surprise that Cameron took the PM spot (seems justified). Until late last night I remained optimistic that balance could be restored and Osborne would be replaced as Chancellor by Cable, but it seems that hasn’t happened, and won’t happen this time round. Those were really the only two posts that interests me significantly at this time. Clegg as Deputy could be interesting, guess we’ll see what happens.

Brown as “Unelected PM” Possibility

This kept coming up again and again, especially when the LibDems first said they were going back to talk to Labour. Unfounded fear-mongering at its best. We don’t elect Prime Ministers. Parties elect their leaders, and we elect Parties. Parties decide policies (naturally, a strong party leader can influence those policies). It really is that simple. Stop whining.

So there’s a few, I’m sure there are more, and I’ll probably add them later. But for now, I’m going to go back to waiting to see what the final results are, and what the LibDems side on.

EDIT 1: So, Cameron’s Prime Minister. And the LibDems – to my surprise – have accepted the terms offered in a Coalition. It will be interesting to see what the terms are. Can’t say I’m overwhelmingly pleased with Osborne as Chancellor, but I guess it was to be expected.

The BNP on QT

Well, I’m not the first blogger who’ll mention this and arguably – with an hour or so to go until it airs – I’ve left it quite late, but it’s all I’ve heard on the radio all sodding day and so I wanted to have my own short(ish) rant about it. Craig’s already written a letter on his blog that I largely agree with, but need to summarise some extra thoughts myself. Because I can.

My first impressions of the whole affair (including the ‘protests’)? The country is overrun by single-minded idiots. Sorry, but there we go. I’ll come to why shortly.

As for where I stand on politics, I’m largely neutral. I have no sense of support for any party (major or minor) and long for the day the ‘state’ is little more than a thing of the past. I’m also realistic and doubt strongly that will happen in my life time, so I feel I can get involved in little arguments like this. On top of this, I despise being encouraged to vote for a ‘major’ party in order to stand against the BNP – if no-one can give me a convincing reason to vote _for_ them, I won’t. I strongly believe that whilst the argument has limited merit as to what it hopes to achieve, it will never fix the fundamental problem, and as such will just prolong its symptoms from rearing their head again.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to some of the arguments against the BBC playing host to Nick Griffin this evening:

  • I don’t want my license-fee being spent on the BNP
    Short answer: tough shit.
    I don’t like _my_ license-fee being spent on far worse and (completely) uninformative programming, such as Eastenders or Stictly Come Dancing, but I’d rather pay it and not watch those shows if it means it can also be spent on pressing political programmes (yes, such as Question Time), or exceptional documentaries (a la Blue Planet, Life, Planet Earth). As it is, I’m prepared to ignore the shit in order to receive the good. If you don’t feel you’re getting that value for money, don’t pay it, and go do something more pro-active, like reading. Either way, don’t bitch about it. Because it’s a baseless argument.
  • The BBC has a moral obligation to not host the BNP
    I’m not so sure on the actual truth of this one, nor the morality of it either way. I guess I would come down on the side of, ‘Surely it is more amoral to pretend the voice in the wilderness doesn’t exist (and so let it fester unseen) than it is to give that voice the same chance the others get’. If you’re so concerned that you will be that easily swayed by the ramblings of such a party, I suggest suicide. Before you kill us all.
    If you don’t believe you’re that easily swayed and that the views and propaganda of the BNP are built on a pack of lies then you have nothing to fear. They will embarass themselves in their own time. Either way, face facts: Just because you can’t see / hear them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you would rather force them underground and hope that will solve the problem, I encourage you to think harder.
  • Nick Griffin as holocaust-denier
    This seems to get brought up every time someone mentions Nick Griffin and the BNP. And whilst I can understand why (citing an easy example as to why this man’s a moron), it carries no real weight in the sense of the argument. I believe the Holocaust occured. And I believe that on the balance of the facts I have seen and studied. In just the same way that I do not believe in a god, based on the facts and evidence I have looked at. Just because I have friends who do believe doesn’t mean I shouldn’t discuss and debate such issues with them ultimately in the pursuit of knowledge.
    Is he a holocaust-denier? Then good for him. Just means he needs to go back and actually digest the facts. Nothing more for me to worry about except that he’s an idiot. Whilst it’s a very good reason he should not be in politics, it does not change the fact that he is and as such deserves the same chance to talk as we would give any other politician.
  • Allowing him on Question Time provides a valid platform to spout their racist diatribe
    No. It gives him a valid platform to partake in a public discussion, fielding questions both from the public and his opposition. This is not a BNP Political Rally being broadcast by the BBC, it’s a political debate. And in many ways I would like to think the questions don’t become just a bashing of BNP policies, because that’s not what the debate is about. And if that does happen (as I fear it inevitably will) then the situation has been changed by the very people claiming to protest it. And that gives Griffin every opportunity to use it to his advantage.
    Treat him like any other politician in the way you ask your questions and respond to his answers and he will be exposed as the flawed individual he is. If you try and attack BNP policies and him explicitly, it will be easily manipulated to make you look the fool, and garner further support. Any shouting, pointing person can be very easily made to look like the mad man. So don’t do it to yourself. Let them do it to themselves.
  • He’ll manipulate it to appeal to a broad audience  to garner support (disguising the more sensitive views they may stand for)
    See above, largely. But moreover, I disagree in terms of scale. Pissy little protests incorporating such views as listed above do far, far more for the extremist politician in their ability to manipulate that reaction to their own advantage. It’s already happened countless times (MEP Elections, the ‘Egging’ incident, etc.). And here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter if what he responds with is lies (to the general public), he’s still coming across as far more in control of the situation than you will in your hate-filled moments of shouting and demonstration. And that is what’s dangerous.

Well, I wrote a bit more then than I wanted, and it’s nearly time to actually see how it did turn out. I hope at least some of that is coherent, if a bit ranting. I’ll be interested to see what the reaction is to the broadcast in the end.

*sigh* Time to get a pot of tea ready me-thinks.

LUGRadio Coming to an End…

Well, it’s been posted in numerous places already, and I really meant to write something about it sooner, but LUGRadio is apparently coming to an end at the end of its present season (finishing up with LUGRadio Live 2008 in a few weeks time).

Both Aq’s and Jono’s blogs gave pretty detailed reasons for the sad news.

As, it seems, with the rest of the LUGRadio faithful, I was pretty gutted when I heard the news.

I can understand the reasons, afterall, it isn’t and has never been planned as being a job for any of the presenters, even if they managed to pump out shows with scary regularity over the 5 seasons they’ve done.

Personally, I started listening to the show regularly when I was away in Egypt, so probably around Season 3, as I was experimenting more and more with Linux and Free Software on my laptops as a way of passing the time. The show was good to listen to, gave a good update of some of the things going on in the various Open Source communities and projects around the world and, as much as anything, gave me a good solid dose of British humour whilst I was away, rather than watching various downloaded comedies on repeat. There was always good (not always clean) banter and it did serve to provide great amusement.

To that end, even though I have never really been a very active part of the LUGRadio community – preferring to stay in the shadows both in IRC and on the forums – I decided last year to attend LUGRadio Live 2007, seeing as I was back in the country when it was on and thought it would be a laugh. I think my review from then really sums up what I thought about it- it was a great laugh and really was like being at one huge show. Good information, and general fun.

So, yeh, attend LUGRadio Live 2008 this year. There’s no need to register, just turn up and pay on the door. If you’re heading down from Lancaster, give me a shout – I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll either be driving or getting the train down again (probably the train) – it’s always fun to have people to talk to.

As for the LUGRadio Team – great job over the time I’ve been listening to the show. I think it’s clear from the responses your posts have invoked that your regular banter will be missed, and I’m sure most people, like m, will still follow your various blogs and postings just as avidly before. So have fun, and hopefully you’ll change your minds for a commemorative season at some point… 😉

Seriously, big thanks for all the laughs, and we’ll see you at LRL2008 – I’m sure it’ll be bigger than ever!

 LRL-08-Banner

New Job

Well, turns out I got a new job offer. Which surprised the hell out of me.

It’s for Lancaster University Network Services, and I really am bloody amazed I got offered it. But, somehow it happened. Happy days.

It’s a shame this appears to be the positive karma off-setting negative stuff that makes my head hurt. Would be much more fun if it was all positives!

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about it, and still in a state of shock. No defined start date, and not as much written here as I thought I would write but… whoop. It’s done.

Glastonbury Lineup Anticipation…

Well, the lineup for Glastonbury 2008 has been announced and, unlike a lot of comments I’ve seen posted in places, I’m actually rather looking forward to it.

It’s a weird one though because, with one or two exceptions, there’s no particular artists that have been announced that I could say I’m huge-mega-omgwtf fan of, but there’s just a whole bunch of artists that I’ve heard a good deal by and / or would just be really interested in seeing what they’re like live. To mention a few in such a position are:

  • Kings of Leon
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Spiritualized
  • Groove Armada
  • Kate Nash
  • The Zutons
  • Newton Faulkner
  • Fatboy Slim
  • Sinead O’Connor
  • Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Candi Staton
  • Manu Chao
  • Hot Chip
  • Duffy
  • Pendulum
  • The Verve

There are obviously others beyond that as well (if there’s nothing else on I’d be quite interested in seeig The Subways and Joan Baez for example), but that gives a rough impression from my first looking through it.

It looks like it’s going to be quite a cool mix all-in-all, with Manu Chao, Groove Armada and Kings of Leon topping my list of ‘really want to see’.

Bring on the rain.

BBC News: Man sues M&S for £300K over grape

Original Item:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7289051.stm

What an absolute miserable bastard this fellow is. Please, read the article, it’s not too lengthy.

In short, a London accountant is trying to sue Marks&Spencer after slipping over and tearing a tendon in their car park in 2004.

The reason he believes he fell over is because he found a grape stuck to the bottom of his shoe that could have become attached either inside or outside the store… so therefore it’s their fault…

Thankfully M&S are contesting this and I sincerely hope they win it and bring the scrounging little prick back down to earth with a bump.

The reason he’s suing? ‘Loss of Earnings’. Good one… nobody ever tries that, do they? Something confuses me though… he’s a sodding accountant. How critical is a tendon in his right leg to his work? It’s not as if he’s a footballer, rugby player, cyclist or any other ‘active’ job that sort of requires the full and proper use of his right leg. Would it have made things more difficult while he was recovering? ‘Course it would, but it’s not bloody impossible.

This little section particularly gripped me

Mr Martin-Sklan, who is representing himself, is claiming for lost earnings on top of his general damages, because “loss of confidence” and depression following his injury led to him being unable to recruit new clients and contacts for his business.

… Stunning. He hurts his leg and suffers loss of confidence and depression as a result. To me, that screams that he needs psychiatric attention, not financial. I am not doubting that tearing a tendon works, but if something that simple knocks your confidence and induces depression which in turn affects your ability to do your job then you’ve always been an accident waiting to happen good sir, and should be thankful it happened know rather than later. In fact, you should be paying M&S as a little ‘thank you’ for bringing your clear instability to your attention before it got too far.

Either way, you need to grow a pair of testicles and move on, you whiny mother trucker.

EDIT: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7292657.stm ROFLCOPTER. You fail. Now dig deep to repay those fees…

BBC News: ISPs could face piracy sanctions

News Source:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7258437.stm

I’m genuinely curious to see how they try to implement this. And the inevitable workarounds that will appear the next day.

Also, this comment:

“ISPs are in a unique position to make a difference and in doing so to reverse a culture of creation-without-reward that has proved so damaging to the whole music community over the last few years,” said John Kennedy, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Yeh, because the music industry’s on it’s arse… *sigh*

It really does get tiring hearing the same fat cats argue that the music industry has been damaged by so-called piracy. Apparently though, it’s not obvious enough, so people like the RIAA have to try and make it look like all media ‘pirates’ are up-and-coming terrorists.

Of course, what the various groups are avoiding from admitting in this sort of lobbying is that… wait for it… DRM does not work. But, of course, they can’t say that, because the other hand is still trying to push DRM.
For those not full aware, DRM is that little thing that means if you buy music through the iTunes store, you can’t play it on your Sony Walkman. Or if you buy music from nearly any other store* you can’t play it on your iPod. In some parts of the world, that would be considered an attempt at creating a monopoly, or at the very least, consumer lock-in. Apparently though, it’s not. It’s for national security… Erm, right.

* Full credit to Play.com who ahve recently opened their completely unrestricted digital downloads store, with quiet a healthy selection of music on there. My advice is, if you want to buy music online, buy it through Play. If you can’t find it there, buy the CD f(as long as it doesn’t have that super-smart copyright protection on it that doesn’t play on some CD Players, or under Linux boxes, usually, and only sometimes work with Macs.
Play.com, I salute you. And all that.

I have to be honest, I don’t endorse piracy. But I also like the right to at least have _some_ control over the items I have legally bought, whether it be making a copy so I don’t have to keep a £10 (minimum) CD Album in my car – where it’s at greater risk of being stolen – or putting a copy of a song on my PC or iPod (my PC runs Linux and my iPod runs Rockbox, so DRM is not an issue I can really consider, unless I want to use one of x number of limited CD burns I can make with it, or download it again from another PC after I’ve reached my limit for ‘Registered Computers’ etc etc grumble grumble.

piratebay.org has some interesting views on the subject as well, and some useful links.

BBC NEWS: Saudi school ‘preached race hate’

Original Post:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7257695.stm

Do we really need to have such articles on worthless news like this? Does it really go anyway to being helpful? I think you’ll find the answer is a categoric ‘no’.

Besides the fact that a Whitehall inquiry stated that the school provided ‘satisfactory education’, the headline is still chosen to be as it is.

Granted, the teacher in question, Mr Cheetham, may well have been dismissed unfairly – but that has fuck all to do with what the school teaches, seeing as, from the article, he claims he was sacked after ‘blowing the whistle on students cheating in public exams’. The school claim he was sacked for misconduct. The truth is though, under a headline like that, what he was or was not sacked for comes across as highly irrelevant. Feeding the fire and all that.

In fact, Mr Cheetham, by his own confession, states he was only ‘informed’ about the school ‘preaching race hate’ after his employment was terminated, and he can’t prove that the passages he was shown were ever actually used in lessons. Mr Cheetham said:

“Without any evidence to support it, it’s not worth a jot,”

No, it isn’t, you fucking moron. Because it’s not illegal to own a book. So why are you moaning about it? If a school dismissed you because you rattled on them for allowing cheating to occur, then bollock them for that – it’s bad enough and it’s what I’d rather hear about. I’d also want to hear about it _whatever_ the background of the school is. But that apparently isn’t very newsworthy these days.

‘What? A Muslim school accused without evidence of preaching race hate? Yeh, print that, they’ll fucking lap it up.’

It’s a shame as well, because I’ve always found the BBC site to be more or less ok in giving me the news I want to read in a fairly straight-forward manner. Of course, the actual text of the article was fine, it just proved that the headline was completely ridiculous tabloid-style stuff.

So, Mr Cheetham and the BBC – grow up.