Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

February 22, 2013

On Oscar Pistorius and trial by media

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 3:17 am

If there is one thing I have learned – or more accurately have had re-affirmed – is that we all love a good killing. We especially love it when it has famous people involved and even more importantly, at least one physically attractive woman involved. If there is an added twist or two – some sort of differentiation from common or garden killings – then all the better. 

Well we have every element of those right here dear reader in the soon-to-be trial of Oscar Pistorius. I won’t rehearse the reasons why the gutter media’s ghoulish depiction of the tragedy – we can probably all agree that it merits that word – wherein we had reports of a young woman’s death while being treated to a bikini shot of said woman on the same page kind of proves Lord Levenson’s point. Instead, I will focus on the “news” that has erupted from the South African courts over the course of the week or more. 

I won’t bore you with criminal procedure, but suffice to say at this stage, anything that is presented by the media as “facts” are in fact assertions by the respective legal teams on each side. Both accept that Pistorius discharged a firearm four times into the bathroom where his now deceased girlfriend was, and by doing so ended his life. What we now have are a series of positions and statements from each side, aimed at the question of whether a man missing the lower parts of his legs and likely to be staying in the most watched residence in South Africa – second only to the almost equally ghoulish Nelson Mandela deathwatch – is likely to be inclined or even able to flea in the face of the charges against him. 

But the media do not follow procedural rules, so they have begun their trial already. And all very well, that’s what they do. However it again shows the limits of information as I have argued elsewhere. We are getting reports of things that have been said by the advocates on each side. Luckily, the media need only to present them in “scare quotes” for it be considered reporting on what was said plainly without comment, rather than advocacy for a position of where the truth lies. 

So, when “Pistorius put on his legs before shooting” appears as a headline in your news feed, you as member of the rump public of course would not jump to the conclusion that that is now settled fact in the matter, you would calmly think “ah – that is an interesting point that the prosecution is making, I await the defense rebuttal and will of course judge objectively based on the evidence adduced”. You certainly do not have your opinion or suspicions aroused the implied implication that the subsequent trial on the charge of pre-meditated murder, an action that took time implicates one way or the other. Nor do the journalistic outlets presenting you with said information in said manner in any intend for you to take a subjective or even prejudiced view of the matter, they are merely presenting it as reported fact. 

In case you didn’t detect glibness and irony in my tone just now, I will confess that it was there. Such headlines are designed to inflame the passion despite revealing nothing beyond what seems to be avid speculation from the prosecution and self-serving defending from… the defense. And then we hear that he shot four times, and that shows he intended to kill, as if that undermines the man’s defense of mistaken identity. Much like the question of whether he put his blades on does nothing of the sort either.

But both are sheared of context, some of which I believe I can at least attempt to provide here. In South Africa, everyone has a gun in their home, or they live in compound with a level of security that makes it unneccesary or they are poor. Everyone lives in places with a level of inherent security that means that if someone is intruding in your house, they have a plan. And they almost certainly have a gun with no hesitation about using it to kill you. They’re also fairly likely to throw some rape into the endeavour as well. Point is, reaching for the gun is a very natural thing. I lived there in the 1980s when the good times were rolling and my own father took me into a gun store for some ammunition as casually as if we were going to pick up the drycleaning. And the threat of that is far worse now. To put it bluntly, in his position, and with fully functioning limbs, I can see a situation in which I act like Pistorius is claiming like he acted. I am not saying that definitely would, but it’s within a fairly plausible universe of possibilities. 

I’m not saying that the man did not intend to kill his girlfriend, and I accept that he very much intended to kill whoever was behind that door. But to read the headlines and not drill down into the facts – assuming there are individuals who take their media that way – you really don’t have a fucking clue what happened. More importantly, the proceedings that are being reported on, aren’t even there to determine the facts of what happened. They are there to establish that if, on the strength of the case as presented by the prosecution, the defense can give reason why a man on a charge for pre-meditated murder ought be granted the liberty of being bailed at the pleasure of the state. 

And let me be clear, the press guys involved do not give one ounce of crap about the deceased victim in this beyond what good copy it would make. Otherwise we might hear a little more at length about the horrific murder situation that is somewhat par for the course in South Africa, beyond a recitation of some of the more particularly gory spectacles. No, Johnny Q Reporter does not care a jot about the dead girl in this instance beyond the fact he may slightly regret it’s one less hot blonde girl he can fantasise about when he’s having pedestrian sex with his wife. And probably that’s even a tenuous good faith assumption. 

What the media want instead is a rolling narrative that is sexy enough to sell papers and generate pageviews and from which their sociopathic commenters can bloviate without a shred of legitimacy while you and I dear reader get to be distracted by the only lesson there is – just how harrowing and tragic this world can be and what horrible mistakes human beings can make. It’s how they make their money, these purveyors of the Terrible, through fear, hate and delusion, all seasoned with the classic spice of hypocrisy. All the while presuming themselves the mantle of stately arbiter while resisting any attempt to be held accountable for that self-appointed role.

Lord Leveson should be ashamed for having so grossly understated his case.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

January 17, 2013

On the UK Independence Party

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:12 am

Or the Myth of UKIP decency

If the first couple of years following the US election were notable for anything in that nation’s politics, it was the rise of the so-called “Tea Party Patriots for America”. I’ll not go into a lengthy retelling on this movement, but suffice it to say that they be known to antiquity for two things – dominating the discourse of American politics for more years than history will deem reasonable and shifting the Republican party further towards essential fascism than they previously were. They – or more accurately the pernicious interests behind them – did this under the banner of FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE and RIGHTS and LIBERTIES. These are all laudable concepts, and I support every one of them when applied to the appropriate cause and in the appropriate way.

Yet they are also used in the bugle call sounded by the self-interested oligarchs who see a portion of their power waning at any given time, and feel need to solidify their position by giving the illusion of popular support for it. Or to state the matter more accurately, popular support for a fictional concept upon which they can consolidate their power. All this is done while distracting the “movement” that has been created usually through social issues – or other issues that essentially boil down to the same – and fighting the forces of progress on ground that oughtn’t be contested, but nonetheless is.

This brings me onto UKIP. I don’t incline toward generalities, but I am comfortable in stating that UKIP is, for purpose if not particulars, this country’s version of the Tea Party. I state this because the interests that support UKIP’s rise are so similar in their relative position to their US cousins who support the Tea Party as to make them near interchangeable. I will variously refer to them in my writings in many ways – oligarchs, robber barons – but here I shall use the term the Bosses*.

Their concerns are not particularly rooted in an aggressive attitude against taxation. Their selling point is a near psychotic hatred of the European Union and indeed any institution that emanates from the Continent. In both cases, this is supposed to have noble intentions, but it belies an otherwise troubling agenda filled with the vague language of nativism and xenophobia, a support for individual liberties so far as they can protect those interests held by those behind the movement, or desired rank and file therein. Nowhere in their movement do they seek to rock the boat of privilege, mostly because they believe that they will soon be boarding it.

However, when a person, a movement, or institution opens with “we are against political correctness” then I start to discern a true set of motives within whoever says it. They have entered a sphere occupied (and perhaps ruled by) those who being many a politically motivated sentence with “I’m not racist but…”. There usually follows some thinly veiled argument against either the current position or potential advancement of some group that can be categorised into what I uncomfortably find myself having to call a “minority”. Immigrants and homosexuals do not find favour with these groups and often bandy statistics in scare quotes such as noting how many people in London weren’t born in this country*. Similarly, the obsession with cutting foreign aid – a relatively miniscule portion of GDP expenditure, when put against, say, military spending which they seek to buttress – is a constant theme of these subtle nativists. At this point the bugle becomes a dog whistle.

Another constant is a contempt for their country. At first this seems counterintuitive a suggestion, but in all of their writings they often express their distaste for what the country has become and sometimes let slip into talking about getting THEIR country back. For you see, despite proclamations of patriotism, they are really pining for some fictional utopia, usually with an invocation to a past that never actually existed, and supplying their mass of followers with a counterfeit nostalgia. I often wish interviewers would ask UKIP what they believed is RIGHT with the country. I suspect the Royal Family and the armed forces would be there, and perhaps some other institutions rooted in the wielding of power. If history tells us anything, it is that fetishisizing such institutions is the hobby of a fascist, or at the very least the worship of power of the ilk that would happily be ruled by fascists.

The genius of UKIP is that they are the middle class version of the BNP. And it is unfashionable among the decent people of all classes to be associated with such a movement, despite the fact that they wear suits on occasion. In walks Nigel Farage who unlike Nick Griffin, doesn’t look particularly suspect, at least not by comparison. Not least because he also provides you with a Leviathan to despise in the European Union. It’s a very technical hatred, but he doesn’t ask much of the casual bigot. While the true believers within UKIP believe the EU to be the source of all ills, the passive participant is content to see it as a mysterious enabler of their ills.

Yet if you look at where Mr Farage are targeting (the working class of the North) you see who they are attempting to take votes from – those disillusioned Labour votes who would otherwise find themselves casting their ballot for the British National Party – a party I prefer in a way, as I like my fascists honest, without the base alloy of hypocrisy – on grounds as near to racism as those that can be expressed. Instead, the slightly less ugly nativism of UKIP seems far more respectable as it has far more code words to deploy in the cause of obfuscation.

They are also adopting similar tactics to the Tea Party (as far as our system allows) in that they are threatening to field candidates that will – they say – lose Tory seats by the score. Thus, as happened with that intellectual bantamweight known as James Delingpole*** threatened, weakly as possible, to stand as a UKIP candidate a by-election to voice his strong opinions against windmills. This apparently caused the standing Conservative candidate to change his views on the matter.

Let us take them at their word that they are not racists****. They are, at the very least, nativists, and sound somewhat xenophobic in their rhetoric. Let us also accept that the type of person who is likely to vote for this party isn’t necessarily a racist either. However, to the extent that no one is colour blind and everyone has racism essentially coded into their social DNA, the sentiments expressed in their policies tickle that part of their brain that has a fear or distaste of the OTHER.

But it is the attack against the spectre of Political Correctness that looms large in their rhetoric. Lord Ashcroft, of Tory Party fame notes the results of recent poll:

“For voters attracted to UKIP, complaints about immigration or the EU are often part of a greater dissatisfaction with the way they see things going in Britain: They told us that schools can’t hold nativity plays any more; that you can’t fly a flag of St George any more; that you can’t call Christmas Christmas any more; that you won’t get social housing unless you’re an immigrant; and that you can’t speak up about these things because you’ll be called a racist – but the mainstream political parties, they believe, are too in thrall to the prevailing culture of political correctness to do anything about it.”

It is interesting that none of these beliefs is actually true. Indeed, in the DAILY TELEGRAPH, where I first noted the above quote, it is reported mere weeks ago that “Nativity Plays in Schools are Making a Comeback”. I need only walk half a mile around any council estate in Britain to see both non-immigrant social housing recipients and the George Cross flying. Indeed, I having lived in an estate for a number of years, I see one every day I leave. The reason you might be called racist for speaking up against these things, is because racists will often change the subject, and insist that racism against white people is the real problem.

And the final revealing trope is that support for UKIP is based on the fact that it will say what others are too afraid to say. I am not afraid to say that it is worrying that you cannot fly the George Cross anymore. I refrain from saying it because I would peddling a falsehood. So, if Lord Ashcroft’s analysis is to be believed, then support for UKIP is based on a lie. Each lie is predicated on a fear of some other culture, or alien person overtaking NATIVE concerns. It is an age-old pattern, and in darker times I fear it shall never be overcome, but at the very least it ought be acknowledged and aired when it occurs.

What conclusions, if any, are we to draw from all of this? Will UKIP be a dominant political force in the election two years hence? Our commentariat would have us believe so, though this would be the same gallery of clowns who saw some sustainable relevance in the BNP.

Perhaps the role of the Tea Party are instructive here. They were a useful tool for certain interests to re-establish the doctrine of the supply-side, oligarchical view of things. They became a Golem of sorts when national embarrassments such as Donald Trump rallied to their cause with the cry of a racism so thinly veiled as to be all but transparent. Then they succeeded in curbing potential gains of their sponsor party, the Republicans, in the latest American elections, which saw a majority of those voting endorse the Democratic Party platform, in every national race*****

The so-called Tea Party Caucus is no longer heard from, as the interests behind them abandoned them as to ugly and divisive. Ultimately I’m not certain what UKIP are even for. Their avowed purpose is not the sole source of appeal, as the intricacies of the EU Superstate are little more than a mythological basis upon which they seek to establish the blame of others for the perceived ills of society. Their effect seems to have been to ameliorate – and in some instances reverse – the so called “liberal revolution” within the Tory Party. It is debateable how sincere that particular endeavour ever was, but assuming that it was (and ascribing no reward or favour with that assumption, because it was plainly abandoned), then UKIP has succeeded and will continue to do so. I doubt that they can win a seat in Westminster, if only because they represent a sublimated essence of any body of human beings. Yet they assume with such conviction that they represent the true id of society. And they do so by the deployment the poorly defined tropes that will agitate enough among their base to make whatever deception seem irrelevant. It will not be scrutinised, but it will be reported.

Perhaps this is the point: They are the vocal minority, much as the Tea Party is. I believe that their popularity is transient, yet their impact will be sustained by virtue of media interest. Both the active promotion of the Telegraph, and the indulgence of the Guardian have left a gulf of sensible analysis. I do not expect them to win, but they will make a sporting effort at dragging our political discourse to the depths of reactionism.

A.F.

————-

*My distaste for the Bosses is thinly veiled, if at all. They don’t require my indifference or support or ignorance, and my open contempt won’t make a dent on their interests, so I’ll declare it here, though this will not be the only occasion.

**In the interests of disclosure I should note that I was not born in this country.

***I find myself convinced that he is in fact a fictional satire, invented by the left to spew the tired nonsense that those in the middle-class inteligentsia must imagine every Tory does. An alternative theory is that Mr Delingpole’s childhood pet was killed by a windmill, such is his unrelenting vitriol against the contraptions.

****I find it a refreshing intellectual exercise to accept such premises, if only because it saves time arguing a point that no one present will actually accept.

***** Though a GOP majority was returned to the House of Representatives, that particular august institution is so hopelessly Gerrymandered that more votes were cast for Democratic candidates in total across the House races than the Republicans, though the latter retained a fair majority.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

December 24, 2012

Plebgate; Theatricality and Deception

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:14 am

If there is a more detestable demonstration of the collusion between our media and political elites, I believe that what is now called “plebgate” trumps every other example. To summarise, Andrew Mitchell is accused of calling a police officer a “pleb”. He is therefore deemed unfit for government. 

I do not know Andrew Mitchell’s bona fides nor anything about him. Nor do I care. However, I do know that in our current political system calling someone an antiquated word for a “commoner” cannot be a disqualification for office worthy of the notion. One can lie and deceive, and so long as one does so effectively, and courts our media thusly, one will remain fit. I suspect this of some eighty percent of our Parliament, though I may be off in that estimate. 

 

It is at this point, you might expect me to say that calling someone a “pleb” is not befitting of our governance. In truth, I care not one bit. Nor is it even clear that he even uttered that phrase. But we are presented with reportage of the controversy, not the facts. Though they may become real in the ultimate account they are not the things that our press cares about. Indeed, reflecting on it, I wonder how many consumers of the media even know what “pleb” means. It’s a somewhat sophisticated insult, all told, and at least for today’s audience. 

Regardless, what we are presented with, alongside stories of greater import (or lesser, if you include the cultish and pointless obssession with the Mayan “prophecy”) is a story about what one grown man, whilst riding a bicycle, said about another grown man, This is our political theatre production, dear reader! This is WHAT MATTERS, according to the RESPECTABLE papers. Does it affect anything at all? Much like the EXPENSES SCANDAL it has so little relation to ordinary lives, yet it affects our media class much like pornography might.

 

I can speak from anecdote as to the quality of those who police the Palace of Westminster. In every encounter I have had with them, I might better deploy the term “fascist” than “pleb”. If anything “pleb” is a compliment beyond their actual station. Frontline police deserve a semblance of respect. The little Napoleons that populate Parliament in the name of protection of our “betters”, with all the trappings and safety it provides deserve at best, our scrutiny, and at worst our contempt. 

Having danced around the point of this, but the ultimate aim is that of, per the title, theatricality and deception. The media, in presenting “plebgate” hopes to show that it is in genuine conflict with with the political class. Yet they are not. They are courtiers who take some delight in the lewd intrigues of their former bretheren. I can guarantee you that those responsible for pushing and “reporting” “plebgate” are the rough equivalents of the gossips in school one so despised in principle, but followed in prejudice. 

The simplistic beauty of PLEBGATE is this. Does this thing that is happening affect my well being, or the Commonwealth of my society? The extant answer is “NO”.

And that is the answer to most of the questions that our failed media experiment purports to ask. 

We ought be vigilant in remembering that. 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

December 23, 2012

When “gun rights” and fascism meet

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 10:05 pm

I watched the President of the United States of America give a speech, and was consumed with disgust. My contempt for the event was not a response to the particulars of what he had to say – it was a good response – Barack Obama is an adept at such things – but what sickened me was that it had to be given at all.

I then watched a response from the National Rifle Association, in which, among other obscenities, Wayne LaPierre, suggested that the solution to the problem that left 26 people dead, twenty of them children. His solution was to focus not on the loss that occuurred in Newton, CT. Though he pretended that he did. Instead, he led with an appeal ABOUT his own organisations members. Then he exhorted the relative silence on the topic as evidence of his organisation’s stoicism as to political motives. 

His thesis, if it can be creditted as such, is that application of gun free zones was the causal effect of the Sandy Hook shootings. This has been debated amongst those pretending to the supposed ideology of libertarianism (it’s more a of a childish fantasy when one deconstructs it. Much like, in character as opposed to specifics, pacifism). What he does then, is blame the victim. Not the individual victim, of course, that would be in bad taste. 

The NRA had two choices following this catastrophe. One was to have a sane discussion about extended clips and assault rifle bans. The other was to double down on the insane dogma that has kept them moving somehow throughout the years.  Instead, his solution is the institution of a police state. That children ought be guarded at arms like banks, and politicians. He then proceeds to, for all purposes, blame the black and hispanic populations for the prevalance of gun violence. Only the supposed “Good Guys” with guns are the solution. The silent hero who for some reason hangs around school with a gun. His solution is so utterly juvenile that I wonder if he will suggest that we make Jack Bauer the head of Homeland security. It is a fiction.

He then decides to blame video games, movies and music with supposed evidence so thin and . I will tackle these in turn in another essay, but suffice to say his critique so boils over with dishonesty that it ought make the stomach churn. In the following paragraphs I could catalogue his dishonest rhetorical turns, but the basic gist is ultimately advocacy of a fascist police state. If there is a reserve of disgust and abhorrence at a concept that can be exhausted, then for me it is dry. If everybody has guns then that will solve all ills. The NRA are apparently for “assurance of school safety”. As if the schools don’t have enough problems. 

Wayne LaPierre does what most fascists do, he abhors a particular piece of minor encroachment of the supposed rights of self-interested minority and then in response proposes a far bigger annulment of basic civil freedoms. Let us trust the men who advocate guns against those who it is supposed misuse them (though we are assured that such people are an unknowable minority). It is worth noting at this juncture that that the NRA is essentially a wing of the Republican party in the US. A party that perpetually trumpets personal freedom yet benobles military power and now seems to believe that there ought to be SERVICEMEN in “protection” of the children of that country. A party who are in part sponsored by what is soon to become an apartheid state. These people are little more than sociopaths with so little faith in humanity that they believe violence is the possible defence of the innocent within their own nation. Look through to the odious language he deploys and his solutions boil down to little more than the takeover of the education system of the US by the “Good Guys”. Note also, that they hate the current school system, and wish it altered. When they have guns in place and are the established “protectors”, under what guise will they impose their values?

It seems the extant question, yet no one asks it. The media express only outrage at “more guns” without thinking through the barbaric appeal that it foretells. The Democratic party as a mass won’t notice this, though may accidentally block its passage. The President probably knows this, and I doubt he is alone. But it will become POLITICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to do anything about it. It already is, most likely. 

Mr LaPierre ends his speech stating that “we won’t be taking questions today”. 

They don’t feel that they have to. After all, they have the guns.

 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

August 18, 2011

It’s Posh Girls* Holding Pieces of Paper Day!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:53 pm

Author’s note: My use of the word “posh” is very wide ranging. What I truly mean is “girls from an advantaged position in the prevailing socio-economic heirachy”. I hope you will forgive my shorthand.

Well, the holidays are upon us once again dear reader. Just last week the Narrative was that the Youth of Today were a bunch of feral scumbags set on burning and looting everything they could see. Now they’re having trouble accessing a website. Sunrise, sunset.

How best to mark the occasion than with a plethora of pictures of girls of varying degrees of poshness holding pieces of paper? The Guardian leads off with this instant classic:

 A-level students from Badminton school in Bristol

Jumping in the air, screaming or cheering or whatever and not one foot touching the ground. Most years with a picture of this calibre, you could go home right now, but we’re just getting started friends.

The next picture doing the round is a timeless example of posh girls holding pieces of paper:

 Ellie Atkinson, Grace Carroll and Alison Coxon are overjoyed as they open their envelopes at Withington Girls School in Manchester

Perfect. All the girls are looking at the pieces of paper, and we have representatives from all colours of hair. Note the varying widths of open mouths too. Clearly they have spotted something on these pieces of paper that they are holding that has pleased them. Either that or they are overcome with some sort of palsy of the jaw, but a solid entrant nonetheless.

The Guardian, alas, has been somewhat self-aware this year, and actually posted pictures containing boys! Breaking the spirit of the holiday you say? Think again:

18 Year Old Twins Stuart And Matthew Waugh open their A-level Results

Here’s a couple of posh boys holding pieces of paper. Notice anything? That’s right – the Twins Exception. That’s right, an immediate genetic link between the people holding paper will make it legitimate for there to be pictures of dudes there. Don’t believe me? Here’s the other early picture featuring boys:

A-level results twins

Jumping, shadows, pieces of paper, but each individual in there shares a common ancestry and birthdate my friends. That’s right. The Twins exception.

 It has a broader application too:

A-level results 2011 Olivia and Hannah Singh

What’s that? Ethnic diversity? Perhaps we have advanced as a society… not really! These guys are twins too. Holding a piece of paper isn’t enough for some sections of society (indeed, traditionally, not having blonde hair was a bar to entry). If you’re a minority, you’re out of luck unless you share a womb or a picture with white girls at a ratio of 2:1.

But enough twins, let’s see some solo action shots:

Alison Coxon's reaction is clear as she opened her results revealing five A* grades at A-level

A-level results

Seasoned observers of the holiday will be able to discern which of these girls is the posher, but I offer the greener reader my own personal take:

  • The size of the open mouth is key here. The larger the posher.
  • Note the two stances. While the fist in the air was viewed unfavourably in the 70s, the “Tim Henman” as it is known has been the staple solo shot. Contrast this with the second girl’s attempt to imitate a bird in flight (an African swallow, I believe). Formerly in vogue in the 50s, it is now considered vulgar.
  • Posh girls don’t wear cut-off jeans without tights underneath.

What fun!

But now, the money shot. A picture of posh girls, all holding pieces of paper, all of whom have gotten into Oxbridge:

Essex girls:

Note that unlike most full body group pictures, these girls aren’t jumping in the air – that’s just level of calibre that Oxbridge are looking for.

Also, remember the ethnic minority ratio rule I mentioned earlier? Check out the three girls on the left.

QED motherfuckers.

Finally, Hugz!:

Abbi McKenna and Rebecca Livesey celebrate their A grades in Manchester Danielle Eddington is congratulated by a friend as she picks up her exam results from Chelmsford County High School For Girls in Essex

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:04 am

So tomorrow. Or today, if you’re reading this in real time. Should I say some words? I guess at this point, making some comment, one way or the other about the Royal Wedding, will be like tears in rain. But I’m not ready for bed yet, and it’s a thing, and I’ve not blogged in a while, so here we are.

Regular viewers will be expecting some cynical screed on the notion of Royal pageantry, or the fetishisation of the wedding ceremony generally. And yeah, while neither of those are strictly my “thing” in any sense, I can kind of see the point of them. Don’t get me wrong, the guy who’s been camping out there since Tuesday is kind of an idiot, but he’s no more of an idiot that someone who did that for a new Star Wars movie or Apple product. Actually, he’s less of an idiot, because you can see/buy those things a couple of months hence. 

And yes, if we were a sane society, we’d question more readily why a large portion feel so strongly about it. But we’re not really a sane society and really, by now the Royal family are little more than a strange fantasy exhibition that we wheel out for pomp and circumstance. Of course, they’re human beings with feelings and so forth, but they’re so perpetually in the public sphere that it utterly eradicates any reasonable perception we might have of them, for good or ill. And while it is said that they give this country a sense of history, I disagree – the fact some of our pubs are older than our more successful former colonies is what gives the country its sense of history (to name but one example). 

So why the obsession? Well, some of it is a legacy of the British class system: the need to pretend to your “betters”, and that such a notion is worth something. Great film as The Kings Speech was, ultimately the importance of the speech was that the British love being talked down to by people they don’t elect. Geoffery Rush and Colin Firth just also did a pretty nice bromance/Rainman thing in the first two acts of the movie. 

Which brings me to the reason I’m even plowing through several hundred words on this. The Media. Not just journalists, although mostly them. The bastards love a spectacle. This year has sent them over the top, and I think they’ve just abandoned all pretense of being a serious and useful part of society, and have just become professional carnival barkers. But with the Wedding, it’s gone beyond parody. Every word of this blogpost could be a differernt hyperlink to some Wedding related nonsense, both approving and disapproving. 

But you probably know all this already, and it’s probably also beside the point. So I’ll just say this: Fuck it – Mazel tov to ’em. Hope they’re happy. They look like they might be, and who am I to judge or project? For the me, the Royal Wedding is pretty much like the World Cup Final – I don’t really have a horse in this race, but if I’m around a TV at the relevant time, I’ll probably tune in to see the final outcome. The biggest objection I’ll have is to the quality of the commentary.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

April 4, 2011

Dispatches from the Robot Apocalypse – Part XI

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 9:26 pm

“The only thing it needs a carbon based lifeform for, is to let it know it’s ok to drop the bomb” 

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=bestoftv/2011/04/04/gps.afghanistan.warrior.robots.cnn

Fareed Zakaria, reporting on real news.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

April 2, 2011

AV or not AV, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind etc…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:13 pm

There are some pretty sutpid arguments against electoral reform in the direction of the Alternative Vote. They range from liberal concern trolling to this piece of nonsense from the Prime Minister:

Cameron continued to make his claim that AV is unBritish, undemocratic and likely to favour extremists. He said yesterday: “It is a system so undemocratic that your vote for a mainstream party counts once, while someone can support a fringe party like the BNP and get their vote counted several times.

“It’s a system so obscure that it is only used by three countries in the whole world: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I’m not making it up, three countries in the whole world. Our system is used by half of the world.”

Ugh. Look, I don’t suffer from Cameron derangement syndrome, and think he’s some proto-fascist aristocratic Thatcherite clone who hates poor women or whatever the Guardian comment pages accuse him of this week. He’s a mainstream politician, who’s pretty posh and went to Oxford. This type of individual has been running the country on and off for about two centuries, and for a Tory, he’s pretty moderate all considered. 

But both of those arguments are at best stupid, at worst deceptive. Let’s tackle the second one shall we? 

“It’s a system so obscure that it is only used by three countries in the whole world: Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. I’m not making it up, three countries in the whole world. Our system is used by half of the world.”

The reason First Past The Post is used in half the world is historical, it being the simplest way of counting votes of people when voting became a thing. Just because of ubiquity by virtue of antiquity does not make it a necessarily good system. It’s kind of like a doctor in 1840 espousing the virtues of phrenology because it was widely accepted at the time. 

A form of AV, the Supplementary Vote is used to elect the Mayor of London. The Irish President is elected this way, and the House of Lords used the method to elect the retained hereditary peers. Get that? The only voting system to have touched the House of Lords was this supposedly UnBritish one.    

Also, “our system” is a constitutional monarchy with an unelected upper house and a legislative-executive fusion that canr esult in unmitigated power for a party with a dominant majority. Half the countries in the world do not use “our system”. For fucks sake.

What about this then:

Cameron continued to make his claim that AV is unBritish, undemocratic and likely to favour extremists. He said yesterday: “It is a system so undemocratic that your vote for a mainstream party counts once, while someone can support a fringe party like the BNP and get their vote counted several times.

Words fail. Again – so what? If their vote for the BNP was getting counted several times then yes, we’d have an outrage on our hands. But the only reason their vote gets counted more than once is because their vote for the extremist party gets discounted at the outset. The extremist party has no real chance of being elected by virtue of the AV system. The objection must then be that because this person chose to vote for the BNP, their franchise must necessarily be discounted. What if we substitute BNP for Green? Does their vote become less objectionable? Eitherway, their first choice doesn’t get in (except in Brighton). 

This argument is deceptive because it subtly implies that AV will advantage extremist parties, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. If it means that some people with objectionable opinions get their way on their third vote, it’ll be because that third vote probably was for a mainstream party. The value of the mainstream vote is in no way prejudiced by this anymore than a Labour voter already does in a Tory safe seat, or a Lib Dem does pretty much everywhere out of their core support areas with FPTP.

But the worst thing about this argument is that it seeks to use the outcome that will happen the least often to instruct us about the entire system. Which is such a bullshit method of rhetoric it’s unbelieveable. 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

March 26, 2011

The Arab Spring Reaches London

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 11:19 pm

This might be the most idiotic minute in a speech ever given:

I assume in the uncut version the audience starts singing “we shall overcome”.

Look. All the movements that Ed Miliband mentions were fighting against a tide of oppression. Say what you will about the current level of The Cuts, it doesn’t come close to that. Further, all those groups managed to convince lawmakers through means that went beyond the protests to measurable democratic victories. 

We’re not arguing over the inability of half the population to express themselves at the ballot box because they lack the Y Chromosone. Nor the lax enforcement of equal voting rights and the surpression of voter registration based on the colour of one’s skin. And certainly not the establishment of an underclass of individuals who form the majority in what is essentially a Christian Fundamentalist regime. 

All this really does is prove how shallow the bench of the Labour Party currently is.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

March 22, 2011

In which I agree 100% George Monbiot

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 2:19 pm

Well, with a 5% margin of error. Devotees will know that I’m not exactly his biggest fan, and especially find his political analysis quite shoddy. I think the same about Paul Krugman, though for different reasons. But I digress.

To be fair, his environmental writing is generally pretty well constructed and ultimately aiming in the right direction, and further to his credit, Monbiot does research his pieces and is knowledgeable. I’d certainly not want to debate against him, if only because . Today he weighs in on nuclear power with a degree of reasonable analysis that is remarkable, especially as the German government (to name but one group) lose their heads over the energy source in the wake of the Fukushima apocalypse meltdown incident. To wit:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

It’s hard for headline writers to really capture the point that human ingenuity and engineering capability has got to the point where even a corner-cutting example of it is still relatively resilient against catastrophic failure. It’s by no means perfect and has required a great deal of ad hoc remedial work, but given the prevailing circumstances, I’m going to go ahead and put this in the “win” column for Man’s Hubris.

Of course, it would seem perverse to celebrate such a state of affairs in the wake of the disaster, as much is might seem perverse to celebrate the fact that, the terrible loss of life notwithstanding, a combination of engineering prowess and strict regulation, saved untold numbers of lives in the face of a potentially horrific earthquake/tsunami double-punch. It could have all been far, far worse (c.f. Haiti, 2004 Tsunami etc)

More on the disaster itself another time; back to nuclear, where George provides some further context:

Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by xkcd.com. It shows that the average total dose from the Three Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I’m not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.

Bonus points for linking to xkcd by the way. Click through to the diagram he mentions, it’s a nice illustration.

The rest of his post is a a fairly wonkish dissemination of how an effective move to fossil fuels could be effected, and worth a read, if only because it throws cold water on some of the environmentalist magical thinking that routinely does the rounds. But more importantly, I think it’s genuine progress for finding a solution to our energy and environmental problems (and no matter what one thinks of the latter, we definitely have the former) that even the most outspoken advocates of green issues can find a pragmatic basis on which to evolve their views in light of how facts and circumstances develop. It’s encouraging for the debate as a whole, which is uncharacteristic of most that is written from any side of the debate.

I don’t even have to put one of my usual snarky one liners at the end of a post, either.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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