Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

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

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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

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