Whilst I’m not quite willing to go to dsquared’s levels of defence of unpopular bands, I can’t quite believe that in my last, trolly, incoherent post the only thing I’ve so far been picked up on is suggesting that Paul McCartney’s solo output is better than John Lennon’s. That wasn’t part of the trolly incoherence – it’s just an obvious truth. Even if you’re a Lennon-ist, you have to base that on the conjecture that he contributed more than Paul to the Beatles, because nobody could possibly class any solo track by John Lennon as anything other than “disappointment”.
Paul McCartney recorded this:
…and this, which is also an alternative theme song for this blog:
Paul McCartney was always my favourite Beatle. Not only because of his superior songs, although Jet is better than any of John Lennon’s solo output. But also because he never followed the absurd craze amongst arty types of “pretending not to be middle-class” (this is a middle-class home, whatever Mr Lennon’s pretensions).
Today, I’ve been mostly riled by Internet-ists playing the “prolier than thou” game. A Twitterist entitled @MediaActivist believes that capitalism is evil and should be abolished, not regulated. He also believes that he doesn’t have enough to eat. The latter isn’t just lies, it’s offensive, mad, patronising lies. Thanks to the combination of capitalism and socialism that has prevailed in the UK over the last 100 years, everyone has enough to eat. Anyone who says otherwise on the Internet is talking shit [*].
I very much like Laurie Penny‘s writing, but it often falls into the same trap. Ms Penny is poor because she’s chosen to be: she has a degree from a respectable university, and hence could easily, were she into such things, get a horrible job as an accountant, IT project manager, recruitment consultant, or similar. The reason she’s got no cash is because she’s – completely reasonably, because working as a junior accountant, project manager or recruiter is horrible – decided to live in a rats-and-roaches share-house whilst making it in the media. I did the same thing 10 years ago; sadly, the lure of “no rats and no overdrafts” seduced me to the dark side.
People sometimes slate writers like Ms Penny for their privileged background. They should be boiled in oil. The point isn’t the background, and if you judge anyone by their background then you’re a worthless prick. The point is that, if you’ve got half a brain and the right to reside in a developed country, you are unspeakably and amazingly economically privileged, whether your dad was the Duke of Canterbury or a tramp.
If you’re capable of participating coherently in a debate about poverty, whilst having the unqualified right to reside in a developed country, then you’re not poor, even if your income’s a fiver a year. The only people who are really poor in the UK are the people who aren’t capable of participating in such a debate. We need to do more for those people at the margins of society, but that has absolutely cock-all to do with how the majority of people who’re basically middle-class [**] live.
Relatedly, this is you, me, and everyone else reading this post:
Unrelatedly, give money to these people. Also, whenever the UK next has a government, write to your MP and point out that it’s a revolting, unspeakable state of affairs that over a million British citizens don’t have abortion rights, purely because we’ve left the lunatic theocrats on both sides of lunatic theocracy to it rather than saying “no, fuck off, this isn’t a game, be sensible”.
[*] the only UK citizens who don’t have adequate food, heating, healthcare, etc are people who are too challenged by whatever disabilities they suffer from to claim the benefits that otherwise mean that all UK citizens have adequate food, heating, healthcare, etc. And someone who’s a coherent Twitter activist does not fit into that bracket. Many non-citizens are screwed, and I don’t believe they should be, but that’s a separate point and it’s to do with racism rather than capitalism versus socialism.
[**] spurious ‘75%’ stat removed. I’m willing to defend the proposition that on any sensible indicator, 50%+ of British people can be described as ‘middle-class’.
So there’s yet another alcohol-bashing study out. This one says [*] that sports stars’ drunk behaviour has no impact on young adults’ drinking behaviour (that’s ‘over 18s’, or ‘legally responsible adults’), but that alcohol marketing does.
This isn’t surprising. Of course alcohol marketing makes people drink more of the brand being marketed, otherwise people wouldn’t do it. But we need people to research things that seem obvious from time to time, because sometimes we find out that what we think we know is wrong. So, decent study, worth funding, all good.
“There’s always been a link made between alcohol and sport… the detrimental effects of that, in the same way as there was previously between cigarettes and sport,” Professor Kolt said.
Err, no. The difference is that smoking, full stop, is harmful. Alcohol consumption below 30 units (300ml of alcohol; 15 pints of bitter) a week has not been demonstrated to do harm, even compared to not drinking at all, and you need to get up to 50+ units before the risks of morbidity or mortality are substantially higher than for non-drinkers.
Unless the study shows that the impact of alcohol marketing is to encourage people aged 18-22 to drink more than 30 units a week, then it’s only of interest to alcohol marketers, and not to policymakers. And if they had found that, they’d most certainly have put it in the press release…
The problem with this kind of alcohol research (i.e. social science on consumption behaviour, rather than epidemiological science on health outcomes) is that nearly all the work commissioned and published by public bodies is carried out by miserable puritans who hate the concept of anyone ever having any kind of fun. This is because researchers who don’t hate the concept of anyone ever having any kind of fun work for drinks companies instead: they pay better, you get a free bar after work, and you don’t have to hang out with people from the first group.
But drinks companies tend to keep their studies private, because they don’t want their rivals to see them…
Therefore, the general pattern in the public arena is that some people will create a report which actually shows mildly interesting things about how people like to consume alcohol – but because of the prejudices of the people who’re writing it, the abstract and the PR make groundless accusations about negative impacts on disorder and health. And then the media reports the groundless accusations as “a study has concluded that”, and the public debate is ratcheted slightly further towards miserable puritanism.
[*] I have no idea what the study says. The above is what the press release says; the press release features quotes from and has been approved by the study’s main authors, and is what will shape the public debate.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
Something which surprised me when I first researched moving to Sydney was that the city (in the sense of “wide urban area”) has no governing authority: the CBD and some of the inner suburbs are called the City of Sydney, but the vast majority of the city (including places that are only 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre) is made up of independent boroughs.
This felt familiar: it was also the case in London for 15 years, following Mrs Thatcher’s bizarre ideological crusade against local government, cities, any kind of planning of anything and the poor. And the resulting lack of focus on anything was pretty disastrous for London’s development over that time – hence why we now have a Mayor and an Assembly with control over major strategic issues affecting London’s development.
However, in Sydney, there’s never been much real pressure to do the same – because there’s already an authority that’s well qualified to do the job.
Greater Sydney has a population of 4.5m people, and so it makes up two-thirds of the population of the state of New South Wales. The NSW government and civil service are based in Sydney, and – because it accounts for most of NSW’s people, economy, media, culture, and events good and evil – devote a large majority of their time and budget to Sydney’s governance.
In other words, while the system governing Sydney is a little odd, probably wouldn’t be one that you’d choose if you were starting from scratch, and means that the metropolis is administered at a different level of authority to all the other cities in NSW, the net result is something that works, doesn’t pointlessly duplicate layers of effort, and is pretty much fair to everyone involved.
Sydneysiders, being a laid-back and sensible bunch of people, are happy with this state of affairs, and don’t kick up a fuss about people who live in Wagga Wagga getting to vote for the state government even though they don’t live in the city.
The comparison with the un-laid-back, un-sensible types who devote their time to campaigning for an English parliament despite England making up 84% of the UK’s population, is noticeable.