Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

July 31, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:17 pm

Is all I have to say about this picture:

Full story here

Cross-posted at Something Quotable


July 29, 2010

What he said:

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 9:56 am

Martin Kettle, in today’s Guardian accurately sums up Labour’s approach on electoral reform in one paragraph:

This week’s decision to oppose the bill on second reading, however, defines Labour both as a party that is a defender of unequal constituencies and one whose commitment to AV reform has quickly become conditional. It raises the question of whether Labour will now, in fact, campaign for a yes vote on AV at all. When Labour looks at this bill it sees Clegg – whom it now hates – not electoral reform, which it should and until a few weeks ago did support. Nearly two centuries after the Chartists, one is bound to ask whether the Labour party is any longer a party of reform at all.

Read the whole thing.

On reflection, I think I was too generous in letting Labour’s accusations of gerrymandering stand. It is a couple of steps away from suggesting ballot box fixing, and quite disingenuous given that it’s no secret that Labour benefits significantly from the current electoral boundaries.

I’m beginning to think that the basic Labour party aim is to wreck the coalition as it stands and force another election. For the good of the country, I assume.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

July 28, 2010

Did 24 hour drinking happen and no one invite me?

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 3:42 pm

Much like the baby pigeon of myth, I confess to never having seen a pub that was open 24 hours outside of an airport. So when we are told that the measure didn’t work because we are not a mediterranean country, I have an alternative theory that it didn’t work because it never happened.

Maybe it happened in an alternate universe populated only by right wing columnists and Sky News, but more than a few of my evenings have taken an abortive turn because I couldn’t find a place to drink after midnight that wasn’t a club (which had extended hours anyway). And as far as “unpleasant town centres” go, ’twas ever thus as memory serves. As I recall, the scenes on display during the average Saturday night in York in the late nineties provoked a brief abstention in my teenage years.

Given that this narrative seems to be have been pushed almost exclusively by Sky News and the Dailies Mail and Telegaph, it’s not a leap of faith to assume that the temperance movement yet lives:

But whatever the particular mix of cultural forces that produced it, the endemic British misuse of alcohol is legendary. How could any government – even a hubristic Labour one – have believed that a simple change in the law could have reversed a national tendency that has been recorded by Shakespeare, Hogarth and Dickens?

Nothing makes me want to drink more than the bleatings of a temperance advocate, let me tell you son.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

Well played Labour party

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 2:05 pm

I was going to lay into the Labour front bench for the unsurprising turn that they will vote against the electoral reform Bill in Parliament that would schedule a referendum on AV next May. But then I noticed this, relating to boundary reforms:

Labour claims the boundary reforms would benefit the Tories so much that the Labour party would find it impossible to win a general election again.

Conservatives complain that the current boundaries require them to win more votes than Labour to gain the same number of MPs, because on average Tory seats have more constituents.

Straw insisted today the difference was only “marginal” and could be dealt with by the existing system of Boundary Commission reviews.

As to the effects of boundary reforms, reasonable men may differ, and it’s not remotely in Labour party’s interests to countenance such reforms. Or indeed any electoral reform whatsover. Still, their evangelical conversion to the Alternative Vote during the last election cycle does look less than fully ingenuous. Though on this occasion they’ve played their hands well. It’s the smart way to frame the issue, and it puts the Prime Minister in a bit of a spot. For bigger stupidity comes, as it often does, from the Conservative backbenches:

A total of 45 disaffected Conservative MPs, led by Bernard Jenkin, John Redwood, Edward Leigh, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and David Davis, have signed an early day motion saying it is wrong to hold the referendum and elections on the same day.

I guess the British public might just be overwhelmed by too much voting in one day to properly decide on…things. I’m not sure. This has been one of less cohesive arguments ever levied, so I won’t try to decipher it lest I develop an ulcer.


As a side observation from this and other news stories this week, it would seem that the Labour attack of choice these days is that a politcal system with political parties might herald “partisan” or “ideological” policies. Perhaps this has lead me to misread the retrograde agenda as regards civil liberties pursued during the last government. Maybe they were just being less “ideological” as a way of outreach to what they thought the Tories wanted.

Or maybe this all part of their curious dogwhistle overtures to the Liberal Democrats, who they seem to think were unaware of the existence of Conservative manifesto. Or the Coalition Agreement.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

July 27, 2010

Simon Heffer is about a week late to the party. Also he’s an idiot.

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 10:55 pm

Simon Heffer writes a piece that he presumably was keeping a drawer somewhere next to his “Dave is weak” pile, and filled in with some current names that have been swirling around. 

Seriously man, Shirley Sherrod is so last week:

Last week, a twisted opponent put out a selectively edited video of a black Department of Agriculture official, Shirley Sherrod, apparently admitting discriminating against a white farmer. Mrs Sherrod had done nothing of the sort – either the discrimination or, therefore, the admission of it – but was immediately sacked, for fear that Fox News was about to broadcast the video. This outrageous act was followed by an even more outrageous apology by the president the next day – outrageous in that Mrs Sherrod was not immediately given back her job. In the White House there were, we are told, great mutual congratulations (to start with) that swift action had stopped this becoming “a story”. Well, it’s a story now, not least because it exemplifies the incompetence and disconnection of the administration. Mrs Sherrod’s husband was a leading civil rights activist and her father was murdered by white racists in 1965, so there is a resonance to this story that is causing discomfort.

I don’t know where to begin. Heffer attributes so much to the President in this paragraph, that I can only point out with some degree of irony, that the whole thing blew up in the middle of a high level diplomatic endeavour 

It’s also kind of ironic for a man who lauds Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood Speech to claim to give a crap about Mrs Sherrod’s civil right’s bona fides. In truth, Simon Heffer doesn’t care about Shirley Sherrod beyond her ability to be a cudgel with which he can attempt to beat a politician he hates. In an alternative universe where the White House But that’s just a paragraph he inserted in there to sound current, like topical references in an Osama bin Laden recording. Onto the economy:

This immediate proof of mismanagement adds to the cumulative feeling on so many other fronts that Mr Obama and his team simply don’t understand governance.

Yep. Just as Watergate brought down Nixon, so the actions of the Agriculture Secretary will see to Obama. As a piece of trivia, this is the same position held by the guy that President Bartlett ceremoniously leaves at the White House in case the entire capitol building is destroyed during the State of the Union Speech. 

Last month Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Fed, warned America that without more care being taken it could have a Greece-style debt problem.

But Obama renominated Ben Bernanke. Given his propensity for mismanagement, this Bernanke fellow must be wrong? Also Simon, February is not last month. Hey, maybe this was written in March…

The president seemed to regard this warning as so self-evidently absurd that he quickly asked Congress for another $50 billion for various social projects.

I had to Google this – he means to “keep poor people on their health insurance and aid struggling state and local budgets”. Though I guess he used “various social projects” to belittle the idea of cash injection into a faltering economy and imply wasteful boondoggling avoid confusion. 

Last week, benefits for the long-term unemployed were extended for another six months at a cost of $34 billion.

I’m not sure how money into people’s pockets doesn’t cost cash money. But I guess Heffer’s solution would be for them to starve or something.

The health care programme is forecast to cost at least $863 billion.

Yes, healthcare costs were projected to rise along roughly the same lines without reform and the extra spend is minimal compared to glaring inequities of the status quo. Unlike Medicare Part D, this actually makes an effort to fund itself.

The total deficit this year is to be $1.47 trillion. America’s debt is likely to be $18.5 trillion by 2020, though it will be so low as that only if growth is maintained at 4 per cent: it is currently 3 per cent, and rocky.

I’m not sure where he gets the $18.5 trillion figure by 2020 from. That’s ten years from now. Ten years ago the federal budget was running a surplus, and if you’d said it’d be funding two wars, paying for a tax cut design to increase the deficit and funding an entirely new medical entitlement (the aforementioned Bush Medicare reforms) people would have called you crazy. In other words, ten years is a long time. Also, look at this graph, courtesy of Clusterstock:

But I’ve just spent thirty minutes on that one reprehensibly disingenuous and stupid paragraph. Maybe I’ll tackle the rest of his post tomorrow evening, but that task may require a bottle of whiskey and a loaded pistol. Or I could skip to the part where he calls Newt Gingrich a serious intellectual and assume that it was all just ridiculous Hefferian parody. 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

July 26, 2010

“War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it”

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 12:04 am

Am I the only one to be utterly unsurprised by the recent Wikileaks… revelations about the war in Afghanistan, as subtly highlighted by the Guardian today?:

We are told that hundreds of civilians have been killed by coalition troops. Apparently Taliban leaders are being hunted on a “kill or capture” basis. And there has been, in probably the most shocking revelation of all, an increase in Taliban bomb attacks on NATO forces. This is the “real war in Afghanistan”. I’d happily applaud the Guardian et al for this, were it not for the fact that not one ounce of this is new information. Perhaps I missed the light-hearted sitcom that depicted Afghanistan as anything other than an acrid hell-hole in which an under-resourced and poorly prosecuted war currently resides. But it seems to me that this is more of an opportunity for this paper, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel.

And then there’s this expression of po-faced naivety:

Reading these logs, many may suspect there is sometimes a casual disregard for the lives of innocents. A bus that fails to slow for a foot patrol is raked with gunfire, killing four passengers and wounding 11 others

Never in the history of journalism has such an incident been recorded or illustrated.

Except for then. Though that’s Iraq. And anyone who read or saw Generation Kill would know that there’s a far greater context to that scene, and that Evan Wright was doing the actual the actual journalism that Wikileaks are purporting to do here by publishing documents passed onto them by whoever. 

One thing I will concede is that the extent of Pakistani involvement is illuminating, but it seems to confirm readily held suspicions, rather than a deep twist about the players in the conflict. But this isn’t a level of information that further public knowledge can really help, other than to compound our sense of doom at the futility of the whole affair. But still nothing really new. It’s basic knowledge that Pakistan are hedging their bets in this regard to placate the core Islamist factions within their midst. 

No, these War Logs do not smell like real journalism at all. They remind me more of a sordid serialisation of something already known, sensationalised to appeal to the core readership. The war equivalent of the Peter Mandelson memoirs. Fine, that’s the job of the newspaper, but this isn’t news in the sense of it being “new”, this editorialising with a few more sources. It’s kind of insulting for anyone at this point to say “this war is terrible” as if we didn’t already know. Show me a person who truly believed that civilians weren’t dying, insurgents weren’t stepping up their successes and I’ll show you someone who didn’t want to know it, and still doesn’t. Now, one can question to justness of the war, and the manner in which it is being prosecuted, and also chalk this one up in the alacrity with which we might pursue future conflicts. But a grim nitpicking of each and every incident in the conflict is closer to rubbernecking than it is to journalism. The story of this leak lies in the fact of its happening, not its substance.

But that’s not all – I don’t understand how anyone, upon finding this information could be remotely surprised or shocked. This is a basic situation where men, trained to kill people, have been put to the task of prosecuting a conflict that a statistically significant number of individuals are committed to thwarting. People will die, including innocents. But that’s always been the case, since time immemorial. Just as these revelations are nothing new, their mere existence is nothing that hasn’t gone before in many conflicts before. It is distinguished only by our involvement and the grim feeling that it is utterly worthless. 

The way they are presented is as red meat to the already ardent anti-war crowd, presented as they are in an “I told you so” tone to condemn the notion of support for this particular conflict. It is packaged in a manner of political point scoring and “oh-dearism“, designed to reflect on our simplistic cruelty, rather than how we might more rationally consider the application of warfare. It is not that I would minimise what happens in relation to civilian causalities and the apparent war crimes. They are significant. But worse things have been pursued by our armed forces, and just because the cause was better in those conflicts doesn’t remove the gravity of actual events. Point is, we should pay more attention to the cause of the war and what keeps it ticking. The political and media culture that entrenches facile notions of “victory” and “defeat” that ultimately sustain the current stalemate by making no strategic option a good one. 

The media are not an honest broker in this exchange. If we were to make the correct decision and leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, it is not as if the Guardian or the NYT would run headlines any different from the pro-war rags touting a defeated foreign policy. You wouldn’t see a single paper carrying the story “A sensible withdrawal”. We’d get only condemnation and recrimination from and to all quarters, varying from “we were right” to “this was wrong” depending on your journalistic drink of choice.  When this is all over, every party will be looking for their respective political scalps, while the victims for which there is so much current concern will receive as much attention as the denizens of Haiti do, only several months after their national catastrophe. Most people don’t give a crap about this beyond the ability to stick it to their ideological nemeses. I know – I used to be one of those people. 

Yet at the end, I am convinced by this sentiment from one of the most able military commanders that ever drew breath:

I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting — its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers … it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.

In other words, we don’t know shit about war and aren’t really inclined to find out.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

July 23, 2010

The limited point of the British military

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:52 pm

I missed this from Defense Secretary* Liam Fox yesterday:

Since the Second World War, the nation has maintained a force that can conduct all-out warfare, counter-insurgencies such as in Afghanistan or medium scale campaigns like the Falklands or Sierra Leone.

But Dr Fox has given the strongest signal yet that it will have to give up one or more of these capabilities, which have been maintained at the same time as contributing to collective security pacts such as Nato. “We don’t have the money as a country to protect ourselves against every potential future threat,” he said. “We just don’t have it.”

“We have to look at where we think the real risks will come from, where the real threats will come from and we need to deal with that accordingly. The Russians are not going to come over the European plain any day soon,” he added.

Good stuff! It goes a little downhill as he proceeds to fudge the issue somewhat, but the ethos is encouraging.

A large portion of the problem as regards our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is the fact that we had a standing force capable of providing the level of support that we did. Neither of these countries (nor any polity that exists today) is an existential threat to this country. But if you have in place the capabilities to engage, then no one should be surprised when, upon invitation to have their budgets justified accompanied by the sound of sabre rattling and jingoism, engagements will occur.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in favour of slashing the whole lot, as the future may breed actual enemies, and we should really be in a position to fight back the coming robot apocalypse. But our situation for now is such that there is little that can truly justify the expense our defense budget. And no, “national pride” doesn’t count.

*On a side point, I really think that the Defense Secretary should revert back to its previous title of Secretary of State for War, to reflect its actual portfolio. I think the public would be less inclined to instinctively support every desire of the “War Department.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

Let the Silly Season begin!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 9:54 am

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, to no one’s surprise:

Transvestite had sex with a dog at English Heritage castle

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

Nick Clegg speaks his mind on Iraq War, Britain to be indicted, coalition doomed

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 9:53 am

From the Guardian:

Nick Clegg was tonight forced to clarify his position on the Iraq war after he stood up at the dispatch box of the House of Commons and pronounced the invasion illegal.

The deputy prime minister insisted he was speaking in a personal capacity, as a leading international lawyer warned that the statement by a government minister in such a formal setting could increase the chances of charges against Britain in international courts.

Which International Courts? We aren’t told. Phillipe Sands is on hand to add the vague warning:

“A public statement by a government minister in parliament as to the legal situation would be a statement that an international court would be interested in, in forming a view as to whether or not the war was lawful.”

Really? That would be the crucial evidence? Can anyone seriously imagine any court, international or not saying “Screw the Chilcott inquiry, we have the Deputy Prime Minister of a different government, 7 years after the fact, not involved in the original decision making process, stating his personal opinion. Gentlemen – we have our smoking gun.”

But what’s this?:

Clegg’s remarks could be legally significant because he was standing at the government dispatch box in the Commons.

Is the Guardian really suggesting that everything said at the government dispatch box automatically becomes true? Could Nick Clegg also state that the economy is fully recovered? Can I have a pony while he’s at it?

What would be news is if a member of the former government said those words, better yet, someone intimately involved in the deciding or interpreting the legal basis of the war. Let’s call this man “Jack Straw”. If he was standing at the dispatch box (or indeed anywhere) calling the war illegal, this would have what we call in the Law of Evidence “probative value”. This means that it would actually prove something – that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, thought the war was illegal, but went ahead anyway. Indeed, it would be tantamount to a confession.

Conversely, Nick Clegg’s personal opinion has no probative value at all. Even if he was a lawyer, it wouldn’t. It’s something we call “opinion evidence”. This sort of evidence is generally admissible only by experts where a technical issue is in contention. Nick Clegg, to my knowledge, is not a an expert in International Law.

But we all know the real story, this is seventh “first big test” for the coalition – just the excuse the Tory leadership have been looking for to throw Nick Clegg under the bus, right?

“The coalition government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict,” the No 10 spokesman said. “But that does not mean that individual members of the government should not express their individual views. These are long-held views of the deputy prime minister.”

Oh. What about the Chilcott inquiry then?

The Iraq inquiry is currently examining many issues surrounding the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the legal basis of the war. The government looks forward to receiving the inquiry’s conclusions.”

But this appeared to be contradicted by the Chilcot inquiry, which issued a statement saying it was examining the legal issues in the run-up to the war but would not make a judgment about the legality of the war. A spokesman said: “The inquiry is not a court of law, and no one is on trial.”

Pausing here. Dearest Guardian, the first statement does not contradict the second. This should be obivous to anyone that can read and exercise basic powers of logic. Here’s the key takeway from the first statement:

  • The Chilcott inquiry is examining the legal basis of the war (among other things)

Here’s the what the second statement is saying:

  • The Chilcott inquiry is examing the legal basis of the war
  • The Chilcott inquiry is not a court of law and no one is on trial

If the author of this piece thinks that the conclusions of an inquiry are the same thing as a judgment in a court of law, then I’d suggest the editors find someone else to write articles with the word “legal” in them.

Of course, when you break it down, what we’re left with here is a piece critical of Nick Clegg’s PMQ performance, in which the latter stated his well publicised view on the Iraq War, something shared by the very paper on the offensive here. It then goes onto spin this widely known view as a gaffe, notwithstanding it’s the Guardian editorial line.

Definy irony.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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