Welcome to issue 285 of Britblog Roundup, the weekly summary of the best of British blogging.
We’ll start with Raedwald who decries the loss of working-class intellectualism:
A century ago Britain’s working class were doing it for themselves. They had strong local networks based on kinship and communitarianism, they organised their own welfare with insurance and friendly and provident societies, they employed doctors and teachers. Books were expensive, and advanced learning rationed to the better off, but the publishers Dent launched a series of books called the ‘Everyman Library’, cloth bound, cheaply printed in DuoDecimo, that brought learning to the shelves of every cottage. For me, my old ‘Everyman’ books symbolise the brief flowering of endogenous British working class culture before the threat was challenged, and the flowering cut-off by the 1911 National Insurance Act and everything that followed that emasculated this class and pushed them into Welfare slavery.
Jess McCabe reports that the European Parliament wants “to extend maternity and paternity leave across the EU, so that mothers would get a minimum of 20 weeks at full pay, with fathers getting a two weeks also at full pay.” Whether the UK government agrees is another matter entirely.
Neil Craig and Lord Tebbit agree on why membership of political parties is in long term decline:
I regret that conferences no longer discuss policy or are anything but razzamatazz. I think this is part of the long term problem that ordinary members, correctly*, feel they have no influence. No wonder the membership of all formerly mass parties is being hollowed out. If there is something worse for the long term future of democracy I don’t know what it is.
Neil Craig also thinks the Forth Bridge, like many other government projects, is overpriced: “The new Forth bridge was costed at up to 13 times what the original cost.
1st Forth Road bridge £19 million, inflation adjusted equals £314 million”
Charles Crawford discusses Timothy Snyder’s book Bloodlands, about the similarities between Hiter’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia:
Yet we need to remember not just in general terms but in highly specific ways just what the Nazi and Stalinist regimes were all about. Their parallel ambitions. Their shared methods. Their shared attitudes to individual people and to the very purpose of life and society. The way they both sought to justify any murdering means in terms of fantastic utopian ends.
Jackart explains why he’s not a Eurosceptic:
For the Euroskeptic the EU is nothing but Napoleon and Hitler’s attempts to conquer Europe presented with a Ribbon round it. Now I am no fan of the EU, and on balance, were there a referendum on the issue tomorrow, I’d vote to leave, but I have flip-flopped on the issue. Such a policy would not be without cost, and frankly, I don’t think it would change much. Most of the x% of British law that comes from the EU is perfectly reasonable attempts to keep the single market on an even keel.
Natalie Bennett wonders why anyone wants Britain to be like America:
I’ve been pondering this for a while. The “American model” of politics and society supports a small state and everything possible (and sometimes impossible) being left to the market. And the most minimal of minimalist (ranging to non-existent) social support systems.
This is a society that despite being the richest by per capita income in the world, has nearly 15% of households suffering food insecurity — in simple terms they sometimes don’t know where there next meal is coming from.
About 1 in 50 Americans lives in a household that has no income but food stamps – a hundred to a couple of hundred dollars a month that can only be used for basic purchases. It is a society that has just about the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world. On the side of medicine, run basically for the benefit of the deeply flawed, indeed often deadly, pharmaceutical industry, giant healthcare providers who get away wiith charging crazy prices, and medical insurance companies that make enormous profits.
Elizabeth Chadwich recounts a story that happened to Guillaume le Mareschal around 1182.
LGB charity Stonewall have been behaving oddly; campaigning against same sex marriage:
[Stonewall's] Mr Summerskill was reported to have said at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference last month that he was opposed to the same sex marriage (SSM) equality policy – which would allow straight and gay couples to have the option of both marriage and civil partnerships – because it could cost up to £5 billion.
To which the Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert, who proposed the policy, argued that it should not be subject to a cost/benefit analysis and was later reported as saying that “It should not be for me as an MP to lobby Stonewall to support gay equality, it should be for Stonewall to lobby me”.
and giving an award to a transphobic journalist:
In 2008 there was a groundswell of opposition to Stonewall’s nomination of a journalist known to many TS/TG women and men for her transphobic views, and which culminated in the largest recorded public protest in Britain by TS/TG women and men outside that year’s awards ceremony in London.
Could history be about to repeat itself? I begin to wonder if it might be a possibility, now that the nomination of Bill Leckie for the same Journalist Of The Year Award has been made public. In 2007 Mr Leckie was criticised by, of all people, Stonewall Scotland for his writing on trans issues, which was held up by that organisation as an example of extremely transphobic writing.
Hanna Thomas adopts Caroline Lucas MP:
If you are a new reader, you should know that I have officially adopted Caroline Lucas MP, as part of the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Adopt an MP campaign. And the adoption is taking very well! I have stalked seen Caroline twice this week — on Monday at the TUC Alliances for Green Growth conference and at the Climate Rendezvous, hosted by Climate Rush.
Jeff Breslin is unimpressed by train fare increases:
Train fares are expected to rise by some 30-40% over the course of this coalition’s administration.
Taken from the Liberal Democrats’ own website, we have the following: “Liberal Democrats believe buses and trains should be affordable and reliable so people can have a real choice about how to travel”. Nick Clegg must really love the Alternative Vote if he is willing to give up so many principles for this referendum.
Molly at Gaian Economics is not a fan of tax increment financing.
Brain Barder doesn’t like the government’s spending review — apart from welcoming their commitment to increase aid:
there was no backsliding, so far anyway, on the government’s pledge, inherited from Labour, to continue to increase UK development aid for poverty reduction in developing countries to the UN target, 0.7% of GDP, by 2013.
Barder also accuses George Osbourne of being a politician:
It’s disappointing to see an obviously intelligent and capable Chancellor of the Exchequer in his first major parliamentary performance cynically sacrificing honesty to party advantage in the way George Osborne saw fit to do last week.
Wat Tyler praises the Browne report on university finance:
Yesterday they announced the much needed reform of university finance. Lord Browne’s excellent report cuts straight through the BS. His recommendations manage to combine proper funding for the unis, with affordability, with competitive pressure, with… well, to coin a phrase… fairness for all (especially taxpayers). So hurrah.
Jackart discusses Michael O Powell’s contention that we’re heading for a dystopia more like Brave New World than 1984:
Warbiany added that California, if Prop. 19 passes and allows the modern equivalent of soma to be freely ingested, the state really will look like Brave New World. With the state already self-organized into a caste system (Listen to someone from Northern California talk about Southern California or someone from Berkeley talk about Sacramento some time), abortion and every sort of contraceptive widely available and the domination of a vapid mass culture (seen at San Diego Comic Con or Wonder Con in San Francisco) taking precedence over civic involvement for Californians, the Golden State really resembles Huxley’s “negative utopia.”
I have a funny story that relates to this, that I didn’t even remember until I read what Brad said. While living in Alameda, California, I lost my phone. A teenage girl, around college age most likely, found it and called my mom, who e-mailed me about it. When I got the phone back, I was really grateful but had no money on hand. The only possession I had literally was a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I offered it to her.
She literally responded, “No thanks. I don’t read.”
The answer, as any good libertarian knows, is to ignore what other people think. Say your thing, be good to your fellow man, and don’t expect him to agree. If you can’t persuade by force of argument, then that’s your problem, not his. A society high on Soma, if happy, isn’t a problem. If People subjugate themselves willingly, well, that’s their problem, not yours.
At a risk of editorialising, I’d like to point out that if you liked Brave New World, you might also like Idiocracy.
Aaron Ellis thinks Napolean is overrated:
Napoleon is overrated. He was a good commander with flashes of brilliance, but that was at the beginning of his career against armies unused to his kind of warfare. Once allied generals learned how to counter Napoleon’s tactics, however, the victory-defeat ratio evened out. [...] Napoleon was an awful politician who couldn’t translate military victories into permanent political successes.
The Heresiarch reports that No2ID are having a party, but not going away:
Mr Eugenides thinks the Washington Post are cowards for refusing to print a cartoon that didn’t contain a picture of the prophet Mohammed:
The Washington Post, along with several other national papers in the US, pulled a cartoon strip last week from veteran cartoonist Wiley Miller, whose “Non Sequitur” strip is syndicated to over 800 papers round the country. His sin? A cartoon (right; click to embiggen) in the style of the old “Where’s Wally?” childrens’ books (“Where’s Waldo” in the US) in which you have to hunt for the eponymous stripey character in a drawing stuffed with hundreds of other figures. Only Miller’s cartoon was entitled “Where’s Muhammad?”.
Inevitably, newspapers from New York to LA took fright and binned it. But of course, not because they are scared of the backlash from lunatic radical Muslims: oh, no…
[Boston Globe] Deputy managing editor Christine Chinlund said via e-mail: “When a cartoon takes on a sensitive subject, especially religion, it has an obligation to be clear. The ‘Where’s Muhammad’ cartoon did not meet that test. It leaves the reader searching for clues, staring at a busy drawing, trying to discern a likeness, wondering if the outhouse at the top of the drawing is significant — in other words, perplexed.”
Brian Micklethwaite discusses the same cartoon:
So who are the ‘Islamophobes’ again?”
The point being that the Islamophobes are clearly not those who publicly defy Islam’s threats and attacks and who just go ahead and publicly criticise it anyway and publicly mock it anyway. Where’s the “phobia” in that? No, the phobia – the fear – is being shown by those who refrain from such criticism and such mockery, because they are afraid, and are afraid even to admit that they are afraid (because that too might be interpreted as an implied criticism of the thuggishness of that which they are refraining from criticising or mocking).
Chris Dillow thinks feeling rich repends on your aspirations:
My pre-tax income is a little over £40,000 a year and yet I feel rich; I can buy pretty much all I want and still easily save a third of my post-tax income. [...] I don’t have expensive tastes: I don’t eat out or go on foreign holidays or have any costly habits (such as children!). [...] Many of those earning more than me are, however, cursed by the aspirations that come from having rich parents.
The Devil resents the demise of Anna Raccoon’s blog, and reposts this from Anna:
The Blog Society
Did you hear it? Friday night, around tea-time? The crunch of gears engaging, the whine of engines turning over. Perhaps you smelt the noxious diesel fumes as Sandwell Borough Council revved up their engines, lowered their gun turrets and reversed their tanks off the front lawn they have been parked on for the past 136 days?
Sheila Martin’s front lawn. Sandwell Borough Council have blinked. Backed down. Taken their ball and gone home.
Sheila Martin, a frail 70 year old widow, in severe ill health, who had committed the dastardly offence of nibbing her cigarette and letting the lighted end fall to the floor, whilst dutifully stowing the ‘butt’ end in her handbag, is no longer to be prosecuted. [...]
Also on Anna Raccoon, Grumpy Old Twat reposts these words from her:
I am humbled, truly.
Reading through these comments I am reminded of the many exceptional people that exist on the internet. Good people, talented writers – yes, you Gildas – don’t you dare give up! – and big hearts.
Unfortunately, there are also a myriad of talentless, embittered souls, the pimply faced youths of Andrew Marr’s comment, spewing bile and negativity, metaphorically pulling the legs off any spider they happen to pass – just because they can.
There is an intensely negative side to the Blogosphere; confrontational, aggressive. I had hoped to establish a political blog that was not so testosterone driven, where women – 50% of the public – were welcome. Some will say I should have stood up to the bullies, that letting them win is, well, letting them win – but the personal price I was paying was too high for me.
I have stood up to them for a long time, my illness started at the end of last year; there have been many days when the only thing I have done is write the blog, only to read from Demetriou that there was nothing wrong with me, my ‘alleged illness’ was merely a ‘drive for hits’, and then creep back to bed, pausing only to throw breakfast up on the way as I struggled to live through the treatment. Hashimoto Disease for your information you pathetic little dolt Demetriou.
Obnoxio the Clown, however, is back. And doesn’t like Sainsbury’s:
The shopping was OK, I guess, but when I got to check out, there was exactly one fucking till open. One.
The queue of people trying to get their shopping out of the way early reached right across the fucking shitty store. Frantic announcements for “till-trained staff” or “shift leaders” were met with … well, nothing.
Of course, the little knob jockeys were dead keen for us all to use their cock-sucking, anally fistulated, rancid cunt pus-filled, camel felching self-checkouts. Which were, of course, entirely fucking unused, precisely because they are so cock-suckingly, anally fistulatedly, rancid cunt pus-filledly, camel felchingly cunting useless.
So the little cunt bag assured me that she’d be right there to help me if there were any problems. I stopped counting after the twentieth fucking pointless cunting whorebagging fuckspaz arsebiscuit required her to log in and fix the useless gobshite piece of shit.
Archbishop Cranmer reports that a head teacher who gave a speech at the Tory conference has been kicked out:
The ‘Tory Teacher’ who dared to make a speech at the Conservative Party conference about the parlous state of state education has been so appallingly treated by her ‘Blairite’ headteacher and her Anglican Chairman of Governors that she has been forced to resign.
Mick Hartley is no fan of the artwork Sunflower Seeds.
Justin McKeating muses on the film about the rescued Chilean Miners:
As you would probably expect, Hollywood has a script for a screen adaptation of the miners’ ordeal almost ready to go. It’s on its 15th draft and has only had 26 writers working on it so far.
As it currently stands, the film opens with evil drugs baron Chico Lopez, played by John Travolta, laying the explosive charges that will cause the rock slide trapping the 33 miners. Told in flashback we find that some of the miners, when not risking their lives for a rapacious corporation that doesn’t give two shits about their safety, are brave crusaders against the damage Lopez’s drugs is doing to their community.
The ensemble cast of miners features some brave choices of actors. Liam Neeson plays the cool, calm and collected leader who commands the respect of his men. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon play two miners whose antagonism turns to mutual respect by the end of the film. Angelina Jolie is the sassy female miner over who the two fall out. Chris Rock/Chris Tucker/Martin Lawrence plays the wisecracking black comic relief who learns wisdom from the wise, oldest miner of the group played by Morgan Freeman. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays the shaky, nervous kid who becomes a man. Denzel Washington plays the unflappable, stoic rescue team chief who risks his marriage to save the miners.
Volkswagen don’t like it when their subsidiary Skoda offers better value than VW, says A Wicker Man:
Today’s euphemism is brought to you by the loveable funsters at Volkswagen and is;
“Entfeinerung” or in English “derefinement”
Derefinement is the new way of saying decontenting, now that everyone has worked out decontenting means ‘taking out the good bits and making something rubbish’
This is used in a context such as “We are going to derefine Skoda as everyone has worked out they are better and cheaper than the equivalent Volkswagen they are based on”. So for any Skoda owners who were enjoying the fact the brand has finally emerged as respectable I can only say bad luck, it’s back to the depths for Skoda.
Introducing The Defence Brief:
You may (or may not) be wondering why I became a solicitor. Did I do it out of a sense of justice? Do I hate the police/authority? Was I hoping to become rich? Well, the answer to all of these questions is NO. The truth is I’m not sure how I got here. I’ve never had the almost religious urge to fight for justice that some lawyers seem to have.
Diamond Geezer looks at special versions of 50p coins, and suggests doing the same with banknotes:
But there’s surely an excellent further opportunity to raise even more money to fund the Games. Why stop with piddly little coins when there are lovely crisp banknotes to exploit? I for one would love to see a set of £5 notes in which the Her Majesty the Queen is seen taking part in each of the 29 Olympic and Paralympic sports. Elizabeth swimming, Elizabeth boxing, even Elizabeth weightlifting – the Mint could charge at least £10 for these and they’d sell.
Diamond Geezer also voted in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election. There wasn’t much canvassing and the turnout was low:
None of the candidates sent me anything else – not a leaflet, not a mailshot, not even a bar graph with arrows labelled “Cannot win here”. [...] The polling station was not crowded. Indeed I was the only voter present, which I found surprising given the time of day. I was completely outnumbered by the five council scrutineers, two of whom dealt with me, and the rest of whom continued overseeing nothing. While they tried to cross my name off their list, I noted that only one other person on my sheet (out of about 50) had bothered voting during the previous 10 hours.
Green Councillor Andrew Cooper highlights the Lib Dems’ broken promises: “Seeing a Lib Dem motion to Kirklees congratulating the Coalition Govt on it’s commitment to tackling climate change was somewhat annoying having seen cut after cut in energy programmes and broken promises associated with the new feed in tariff.
James at Better Nation lists how establishment parties can respond to the challenge of new parties:
Her theory focuses on the three issues of Position, Salience, and Ownership. When a new party appears with a single key policy (e.g anti-immigration, devolution/independence, the environment) other parties can amend their position on that issue, they can increase or decrease the extent to which that single issue is regarded as salient, and they can boost or reduce that new party’s ownership of the issue.
She considers three responses older parties can make to these new entrants. First, they can ignore them and ignore their issue. This helps reduce the importance with which the issue is regarded (salience), and, all other factors being equal, reduces the smaller party’s vote.
Second, the existing parties can accommodate the newcomer’s issue and develop somewhat similar policy themselves: the Tories moved right on immigration when the National Front first appeared, for instance. This will again tend to depress the smaller party’s vote by reducing their ownership of their key issue.
Finally, the existing parties can take an adversarial approach (think the French Socialists attacking Le Pen). Counter-intuitively, this boosts smaller party votes by raising the profile of their issue and ensuring they own it in the public mind. Cynical use of this strategy is best done by parties at the opposite end of the spectrum, where they believe their mainstream opponents will suffer most, and they will gain, relatively.
Harpymarx looks at John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action Bill, an eminently modest and sensible measure, which the Tories and Lib Dems have blocked: “The Bill would have tackled the increasing practice by employers of using minor technical errors in the balloting process – which have no material effect on the outcome – to take unions to court in order to prevent them from taking industrial action.”
A new use for sheepswool, insulating buildings:
With the price of wool dropping , finding a new insulation market for sheepswool could be a real boon for many hill farmers. It won’t replace mineral fibre wool overnight but it could play an increasingly important role in prestige buildings where the low embodied energy of construction products will be valued. From this base sheepswool could go on to become a much more mainstream product.
Charlotte Gore takes issue with Alan Johnson:
But, obviously, when Alan Johnson says “ordinary” what he’s really talking about is income and wealth. Diversity is great, but only on the stuff that doesn’t matter. The stuff that does substantively matter – income, wealth, intelligence, creativity, entrepreneurialism and the willingness and desire to take risks – these are differences to be crushed, fault lines to be exploited at the ballot box, social dividing lines for accumulating power.
It’s cynical and destructive, yes – and in my mind anti-humanity – but sadly when it comes to British politics such things are, well, quite ordinary.
Alfie visits the New Forest, whose previous residents included “Harry ‘Brusher’ Mills, who caught snakes and boiled them down to make snake lotions and tinctures — cure-alls for many a Victorian ailment.”
Frank Chalk doesn’t think much the criteria Ofsted use for deciding whether a school is good or bad. Some examples:
4) Differentiation and Individual learning plans are Very Good Things. Basically these involve pandering to those who can’t be bothered to listen and giving them the totally false impression that once they leave school anyone will be interested in their preferred learning style. Meanwhile the clever kids are ignored so that they gradually become disillusioned and fed up.
6) Children are also supposed to know what National Curriculum level they are on at all times. They don’t care and it is of no importance, but Ofsted love it if you slip “and this is a level 5a question..” into your lesson. Don’t ask me why.
Guilt and shame must be distinguished. I may feel shame at the acts or omissions of those with whom I associate myself: my countrymen, family (including ancestors) and friends. Shame may prompt me voluntarily to try to ameliorate the ill consequences for another of my associates’ acts or omissions, but that would be a charitable act of my free will and does not imply any share in others’ guilt.
Jim Jepps points to a Labour by-election leaflet that prtends to be from the Conservatives. He doesn’t like it:
This is exactly the sort of thing that we need to see the back of in politics. I’ve no problem with attacking the politics or record of other parties but you should do so honestly and propose alternatives in their place. This is a deliberate attempt to deceive the public and should have no place in a democracy which relies on properly informed voters. By putting out a fake Tory leaflet of this kind Labour have shown themselves to politically bankrupt and Labour candidate Jenny Headlam-Wells should hang her head.
I don’t like it either — I recently stood as a candidate in a council by-election and thankfully there was none of this shenanigans.
Mara MacSeoinin thinks the Comprehensive Spending Review didn’t go far enough:
It could have been much more comprehensive. The NHS can stand to lose several billion or so for providing the kinds of treatments that should be only available privately, including IVF on demand (particularly to those on benefits), plastic surgery and sex changes. There are charities who will raise the money for the latter, which is a noble cause; I for one can’t imagine anything worse than being born, literally, in the wrong body. But it is not a life or death situation. Nor is having a wee phobia about the length of your nose and charging Mr Taxpayer for having the offending milimetres lopped off. The NHS should not be sending out leaflets to teach children how to masturbate, how to open your bowel correctly in twelve languages, or employing toothbrush monitors. Or Diversity Officers.
And finally, Tim Worstall suspects he could be world champion at napping.