Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shorter US public response to Deepwater Horizon

“Dear Big Oil. Yes, we know this sort of thing is inherent to oil extraction, and we do still want cheap oil extracted – but please can you do it in places where instead of oiling up a few American pelicans and ruining American banjo-playing yokels’ weekends by making them kill land animals instead of sea animals for fun, it instead kills large numbers of foreigners? Nigerian, Iraqi, Timorese, Uzbek, Scottish, whatever, as long as we don’t have to think about the consequences of our actions. Thanks, The US Public”

Semi-relatedly, I hadn’t realised that Tony Hayward was a drilling engineer by background, rather than a generalist suit. That’ll be why BP has been focusing on containing the spill, rather than running a super-slick PR campaign, then.

Sorry about this

I really want to steal the bust of Aneurin Bevan, the inventor of the NHS and all-round excellent Welshman, that’s currently installed in the the House of Commons.

Partly that’s because I think it’d make an excellent decoration for my house.

But it’s also partly because I could lift it high in the air and sing at the top of my voice, “HEAD OF BEVAN, HEAD OF BEVAN…”

Fear and West Lothian

It occurs to me that a major reason why a Lab/Lib coalition was a complete non-starter is simply that it would not have commanded a majority of seats in England, and the regional parties it would have required for support don’t vote on England matters.

Hence, it couldn’t have passed any domestic English legislation without Tory support. Hence, it would immediately have collapsed, and hence, it could never have happened in the first place.

Take-out: the West Lothian question is self-resolving, and a de facto English parliament already exists: there is no conceivable scenario under which a party or alliance without a majority of English seats could govern the UK.

Sure, formally (or, more plausibly given the UK constitution, ‘creating a tradition of’) taking away Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs’ right to vote on laws that are solely domestic English in nature wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do. But it wouldn’t actually have any benefits for anybody, either…

Quiz time, wahey!

OK, so what links The Pit And The Pendulum, Richard Dawkins, and the Botswana national football team? The usual prize of a Simply Red album and a broken wireless router to the winner. Extra bonus points to be gained from suggesting the fourth clue.

Unrelatedly, which punk song contains the lyric “I’m looking for you, oh my sweetheart”?

Quick thought on speeches

Not sure if these are downloadable, but listening on the radio I was really struck by the difference between Gordon Brown and David Cameron’s speeches on winning their constituencies.

Mr Brown is in the wrong job, and needs to resign tomorrow no mater what the final results, but the speech was heartfelt, interesting, passionate and genuinely moving.

Mr Cameron sounded like the kind of personality-free senior manager who gives corporate Powerpoint presentations that mean nothing, are full of waffly buzzwords, are delivered with intensely loatheable smugness, and generally make you want to die.

I don’t think I could stand living in a country where someone that personally dislikeable (which Gordon Brown, for all his faults, isn’t – you might hate his politics and/or his competence, but I genuinely can’t imagine anyone disliking the man, personally, on meeting him) was main national figurehead and spokesman. So I suspect I’ll be out here for a fair while then…

(FX: checks “permanent residency” requirements again…)

Back with a vengeance

Good news, everybody. I’m online, with a real Internet connection and not a telephone, which has been my sole means of Twitter and email for the last week aside from taking my laptop to cafés and pubs [*]. Thanks, Telstra and iiNet, for only taking a month to sort it out.

I’ve also begun writing a report on an exciting (for people who like boring things) topic which requires copious quantities of online research, so I’m expecting to be spending more time both working, and engaging in social media [**]. My liver is particularly delighted at this news.

While I’ve been offline, I’ve missed the emergence of the Lib Dems as a serious political force, the Tory press getting so riled by said emergence that they’ve pulled out the kind of hate campaign normally reserved for children who’ve done something bad, and – most excitingly – the potential collapse of Rupert Murdoch’s influence over UK politics. Meanwhile over here, Murdoch’s rugby club has just collapsed amid a cheating scandal; I wouldn’t want to be the old man’s PA today…

Back on the Liberals, my favourite backlash piece is from the US’s so-far-right-it’s-almost-fallen-off-the-stage National Review. It lists “Five Reasons Why American Conservatives Need To Worry About Nick Clegg”:

1) Clegg’s outlook is anti-American.
2) Clegg is not an Atlanticist.
3) Clegg does not believe in a nuclear deterrent.
4) Clegg is a fervent supranationalist.
5) Clegg harbors strong anti-Israeli views.

Now, bearing in mind that NRO is trying to smear Clegg by putting the worst possible slant on everything he’s ever said, don’t most of these still sound like points that would be good things in a UK leader? (well, 2-5 at least. Not so much 1, which NRO made up because they don’t understand the difference between not always mindlessly backing the US and being anti-American.)

We’ll stop blindly following US foreign policy; we’ll stop wasting billions on something that is of absolutely no possible military benefit to the UK under any circumstances; we’ll work more closely with foreigners; and we’ll stop backing a murderous apartheid regime. I reckon the majority of Brits of all political hues would sign up for 2, 3 and 5. Not so much 4, but that primarily reflects the odd lies that most people now believe about the EU. Indeed, it’d be interesting to write a post from an Old Tory perspective emphasising how Clegg’s approach fits with their preferred way of doing things (you’d need to gloss over Europe quite heavily, of course).

Interesting times. I’m almost sad to be out of the UK for this election, which definitely isn’t something I’d have expected around January time…

[*] which it’s enjoyed, I think, although it hasn’t touched the beers I bought it, and still doesn’t show any signs of wanting to sleep with me.

[**] It’s an irregular verb: “he pisses about on the Internet; you’re a blogger; I engage in social media.”

Local media medium scepticism fail

From this week’s Popbitch:

“About your item last week on John Lennon’s psychic mate, Joe Power, I interviewed Joe about four years ago for a London newspaper. We were doing a ‘walkabout’ at West India Quay and he was introducing me to the various spirits that popped up along the way. I had a photographer due to meet us there, but he was running late. I hadn’t told Joe we were expecting anyone else, when all of a sudden he stopped and said, ‘Who else is supposed to be here? I’m seeing a man and it looks like his fingers are chopped off’. A few minutes later, the photographer turned up – wearing fingerless gloves.”

What happens when a local paper interviews someone to run a profile? Either they send a reporter and a photographer, or they send a reporter with some photography skills and a camera. If you’re a semi-famous mate-of-a-celebrity, you’ll know this.

What do people who need to do delicate tasks with their hands in the outdoors wear when it’s cold? Fingerless gloves. If you’ve ever been anywhere cold, you’ll know this.

So, what would be a good way to spook and convince a reporter who turns up for your outdoor, wintery profile interview without either a camera or a photographer…? Hmm, yes.

Consequences, or their absence

I originally posted this in the comments at Crooked Timber as an aside, but thought it deserved elevation of sorts:

It’s worth remembering the very limited harm that was done by Tony Blair’s stupid and wrong decision to get involved in Iraq. The net result was that:

a) a lot of people internationally thought the British were slightly more wankerish than they previously thought us, at least until they forgot about it again.

b) the risk of Islamist terrorism against UK nationals rose from imperceptibly low to still imperceptibly low but slightly higher than before.

Also, some of the military casualties of the war became people with British passports instead of people with American passports, and some of the civilian casualties of the war were shot or bombed by people with British passports instead of people with American passports.

But as far as I can see, that doesn’t affect the total harm done, unless you think the British Army is appreciably worse than the US Army at minimising casualties (which doesn’t appear to be the case either from the casualty data or the anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen), or that American deaths are more acceptable than British ones.