Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Russian people have suffered at the hands of 'Putin's War', as this record of terrorist attacks shows, but it is nothing compared to the suffering of the Chechens. Russia's people hardly live in a free and open democracy, but they may want to reflect this morning on the pass to which their mercilessly ambitious prime minister's North Caucasian policy has brought them. Many Chechens don't have even that luxury.
Monday, January 24, 2011
As it happened there was a big offside decision, for Liverpool's opening goal, which Massey got right - a call described as "wonderful" by Jamie Redknapp (the tone quickly switched from insulting to patronising once Sky went on air). That moment led Early Doors to conclude that every match official at every Premier League game should be female. Not because of the decision, which was good but unremarkable, but because of the aftermath. The Wolves reaction was typical. Even though Ronald Zubar had played Raul Meireles the best part of a yard onside, the defenders angrily turned as one to berate the linesman. Then something odd happened - they saw the lino in question was a young woman, and instantly their protests fizzled out.
Fantastic. Just to show that sexism works both ways I guess. Early Doors' not unreasonable conclusion:
ED realises that employing female officials simply to ensure players do not shout that them hardly represents the pinnacle of enlightenment, but can you honestly say it wouldn't work?
Second off, the Twittersphere's vigorous assertion of its liberalness, as it rounds on one Daily Mail columnist after another. To be honest, rounding on Daily Mail columnists is probably a fundamentally healthy thing to do, just as the recent activities of a former SGS student and tabloid editor in rounding personally on a News of the World reporter was also uplifting.
In the Twitter instance, Melanie Phillips and Liz Jones have both become trending topics on the web's most concise social network for different topics, but a common style of uniquely offensive writing. Phillips for her 'gay people are now setting the agenda in Britain, soon we'll all be expected to become one' type comments in a recent column; Jones for re-treading the last few hours of murdered architect Jo Yeats' life as if it were some sort of quaint travelogue. Quite why anyone thinks the Mail is going to waste perfectly good newspaper space on rational views when it can get so much more publicity for bonkers ones beats me anyway.
Oh, and that NoTW exchange was something along the lines of:
Desperate Reporter: Do you know anything about people who met Jo Yeats and thus might be her murderer? Preferably men living alone?
Ex-SGS Student, MM: That's right, go around destroying everyone before they're even brought to trial; and yours isn't even a proper newspaper.
Reporter: What's your name and do you live alone?
Student [suddenly seeing his name in headline type]: Er........gotta go.
UPDATE: This tweet, re. the Sian Massey story, is a treat!
UPDATE II: For a forensic examination of how a very tentative Education Dept. statement about 'non-compulsory' lessons becomes an outrageous certainty, go to this piece on the Tabloid Watch blog. Then do the Media Blog's Melanie Phillips Quiz!
Friday, January 21, 2011
Away of the personal side of the story, the Tories are claiming to be pleased [although see Paul Goodman's take on Conservative Home] that Ed Balls is now shadow Chancellor. Their line is that this is the man who is the co-architect of Gordon Brown's economic recession, but frankly that won't wash for long, and the real problem for them is that Balls represents a much more distinctive voice on economic affairs, and is a far more competent spokesman than the lamented Mr. Johnson. My prediction is that Balls will be making life significantly more difficult for George Osborne, as well as depriving David Cameron of some of punchlines in PMQs - after all, he won't be able to claim any more that the shadow chancellor can't do his sums.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Other than the above glimpse of parliament in action, there isn't much to say. Westminster Hall is still the oldest and coldest part of Westminster. Winston Churchill's statue in the Members' Lobby still has a shiny toe. Margaret Thatcher is still the only living person (her opponents dispute the strict interpretation of the word living) to have a statue in the palace. And the House of Lords still has a system of democracy envied and emulated by our very own Student Voice. And Lenin.
We didn't see many famous people, one of the real purposes of visiting Westminster, or the Ivy restaurant. One or two had hoped to see UKIP's Nigel Farage, before remembering that he hadn't actually been elected to the place. We did bump into Betty Boothroyd, the greatest female Speaker the Commons has ever had, and there was another chap who looked as if he might be famous but on the other hand might not have been. On the whole, though, who needs fame when you're part of a group comprising the editor of Sutton's least read tabloid, the self-appointed chairman of Sutton's least influential people's body, and the convenor of Sutton's least attended law society. Sadly, it also comprised one of Warley East's least voted for parliamentary candidates in the bad old days of 1992.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
UPDATE: Amidst the outrage, there is a genuinely intelligent discussion of his comments on the Jack of Kent blog.
The 1990s e-democracy paradigm was preoccupied with the creation of deliberative spaces, particularly discussion forums.
And if I mention that that's one of the shorter, snappier sentences, you begin to get a sense of why it's unlikely to be a best-seller, for all its presence on one of the UK internet's most visited blogs. The research done by political academics can often be illuminating and valuable, but why it has to be written in so utterly impenetrable a style I'll never understand, and it does nothing to attract students to studying politics at university. Do we really have to extract the life out of a fascinating study in this way? In the deathless prose of our 'Parliamentary Affairs' authors, it might be an issue of quality, and notoriously -
‘Quality’ as a concept can be too wide and too subjective for empirical study unless a clear definition of the constituents and the exclusions is made.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Her interview in today's Telegraph is glorious. Glorious because it went so badly, and she is a good enough writer to give us chapter and verse on what was clearly a car crash of an interview. Her opening line is a gem:
There is a faintly decaying smell in Lord Heseltine's living room, but I can't work out if it's coming from his musty carpets or our interview, which died a tragic death before it ever got going.
And her piece just gets better and better. If J.K.Rowling hadn't already done a bit of work on creating a super-villain called Lord Voldemort, you get the impression that Bryony Gordon might just have been able to pull out the stops in giving the role to Lord Heseltine. Cold and condescending, a man who prefers trees to interviewers - what a great guy. And what a great job from Bryony!
Friday, January 14, 2011
The Conservatives, on the other hand, never far from civil war, may find the result rather less encouraging. Reports are that they ran a lacklustre campaign, despite keeping their strong local candidate, in order to give the Lib Dems a clearer run. Their vote, in consequence, pretty well collapsed. As it happens, the vote that turned out appears to have gone primarily to Labour, rather than to an obvious Tory protest party like UKIP. The rest of their vote simply stayed at home. This is going to give the Tory rightists, agitating ever more obviously for a dilution of David Cameron's commitment to the Coalition, a chance to enter the fray again and slate the party leadership for its unwillingness to fight a full blooded campaign. As such, that decision of the Tory High Command's may prove to have been a tactical error, particularly as a higher Tory vote, and a better campaign, may not in fact have damaged the Lib Dem chances as much as Cameron and co obviously thought. Whatever the state of play in Westminster, the Tory and Lib Dem voters are not so easily transferable it would seem.
For Nick Clegg, it may be a bit of a relief that attention could turn for a while to the Tories' woes. After all, he has been a useful lightning conductor for them for a little longer than he might have liked. For David Cameron, it's another in his endless round of internecine warfare with his traditionalist opponents. And for Ed Milliband, the result has bought him some time off from the quiet sniping about his leadership that was already beginning.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Andrew Sullivan has this comment on Palin's attempt to play the victim. The White House text of Obama's speech is here, and defences of Palin's video are here on right-winger David Frum's site.
Obama caught a mood, again. He invoked scripture, and spoke of the heroism of ordinary people. And this father of two young daughters was at his most passionate when he spoke of 9 year old Christina Green:
Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future... She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.
She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
The Republican right simply cannot get away with absolving themselves from blame on this front. They use, and associate with those who use, such incendiary rhetoric that they have managed to poison the political atmosphere in the US to a considerable degree. The tragic John Rolls, the judge who fell as a result of yesterday's shooting, is a good example of this. When he allowed a civil rights suit pursued by immigrants he was subjected to horrendous abuse from the right and their fellow travellers on the talk radio shows, including explicit calls for his death. A writer on the liberal leaning Daily Kos blog has a point when he observes -
Those whose violent, eliminationist rhetoric has polluted the air waves and other media for the past couple of decades, ramping itself up a little more each year, especially with the arrival of an African American in the White House, are, of course, denying that the shootings of a Congresswoman, a judge, a child and bystanders on a street corner in Arizona have anything to do with their savage words. No surprise. One thing they're good at is refusing to accept any responsibility for the consequences of this murderous talk, whether it's Timothy McVeigh blowing up a federal building or Scott Roeder assassinating a doctor.
Sheriff Dupnik's comments (see here and post below) are amongst the crispest and most sensible. The person to blame for the shooting is the unbalanced young man now in custody. But the atmosphere that may have contributed to it is the responsibility of many, and when you're a leading figure like Sarah Palin, who glories in polarising debate and using absurdly over-the-top language against her opponents, you cannot escape responsibility. It is telling that she took down her 'cross-hairs graphic' soon after the shooting was known - if it was such an innocent thing, why take it down? And a final irony, in the fact that the poisonous atmosphere created by Mrs. Palin is the result of an Arizona senator's choice to put this little known and undistinguished governor of just two years' standing on a national presidential ticket. John McCain never served his country so badly as with that one ill considered decision.
"In that third year of the Kennedy Presidency a kind of fever lay over Dallas County. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed “Impeach Earl Warren.” Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas. Fanatical young matrons swayed in public to the chant, “Stevenson’s going to die–his heart will stop, stop, stop and he will burn, burn burn!” Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; junior executives were required to attend radical seminars. Dallas had become the mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation Convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies . . ."
Saturday, January 08, 2011
It looks as if the would-be assassin is a psychologically damaged nutcase, rather than a coolly calculating right-wing nutcase, but as Sullivan points out:
...this does not exonerate violent or excessive rhetoric from the far right or far left: it's precisely the disturbed who can seize on those kinds of statements and act on them. The danger of violent rhetoric, especially involving gun violence, is its interaction with the disturbed.
The shooting - which has claimed five lives, including that of a 9 year old girl, a political aide to the congresswoman, and a federal judge who did himself become the target of ferocious, murderous rhetoric from the right - has allowed political hatreds to explode. And while the left express - perhaps too hysterically - their alarm, there is a correct focus on the hate-filled, gun and target obssessed rhetoric of an increasingly rabid right. We await further news.