Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Drink Coffee to Beat Dementia - Today's Daily Express headline

At the Daily Express, they know their readership. But what would happen if their readers did beat dementia? They might suddenly start remembering yesterday's headlines ...

There is an alternative:

Stop Reading The Daily Express to  Beat ....

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Business As Usual - the failure of the Opposition in England

The Cast

Theresa May  -          Remainer who saw her chance if she quickly became a Leaver
Boris Johnson  -        Remainer who saw his chance if he became a Leaver, but fingers
                                crossed that he would not actually win the Referendum
Michael Fallon  -       Vicar of Bray
Liam Fox -                Our Man in America or vice versa


Tim Farron -              A vicar in a small parish

Jeremy Corbyn  -      Bogus Remainer and now enthusiastic Leaver
John McDonnell -      Bogus Remainer and now very enthusiastic Leaver

The Supreme Court - England's main hope of rescue from Mrs May's suicide squads

Nicola Sturgeon -       England's only other hope of rescue from the Junta

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Little Tribute to Leonard Cohen

In an essay on 'Cultural Appropriation' included in a book Silence Is So Accurate, due out in 2017, I wrote this about one of his most famous songs: 

Released in 1984 to little initial success, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah now exists in over 300-and-counting known cover versions. You can be any nationality, any ethnicity, maybe any religion, any age, any sex, any sexual orientation and most definitely any hairstyle – I did a thorough check - and you can still put your soul into this song brought into the world by someone white, male, patriarchal, heteronormative …mon semblable, mon frère - who worked incredibly hard on it (over eighty verses drafted for possible inclusion) and who says that he finds the appropriation of his song “ironic and amusing” in view that his recording label had no enthusiasm for it. They allowed it as an album track, that’s all, and without appropriation, there it would have stayed. For vinyl collectors. 

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I am pretty sure that I sing more snatches of Leonard Cohen songs to myself than of any other song-writer. Some of the more recent songs are very moving.  Did I Ever Love You gutted me the first time I heard it. I only heard him live on one occasion, in Brighton back in the 1980s,

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Mrs Clinton and the voters: I very much doubt it was a question of sexual politics

Mrs Clinton got a few more votes than Mr Trump but anything short of a total wipe-out of Mr Trump would have been a disappointment and the actual result, a disaster.

When I read books about America I read about a growing gap between wealthy and poor, about stagnant or falling standards of living for the majority, and about destruction of industries like that the UK experienced in the 1980s when Mrs Thatcher preferred putting people on Benefits to ensuring there was employment available - it was she who pioneered what we now call the Benefits Culture. If you think large parts of Northern England are a dump, then large parts of the USA are also a dump.

No President or Congress has acted in any way or any serious way to reduce the huge disparities of wealth in the USA, or to raise living standards, or to improve employment opportunities. Voters looking for a better life came to the conclusion - rightly or wrongly - that They had no interest in Us, that the Establishment was indifferent to the people. Even if the candidate was competent, they did not want an Establishment candidate - still less a Dynastic candidate, Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton. They wanted an Outsider,someone who would shake things up rather than crown their own career - Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. Denied the latter, who would have beaten him, they voted for Trump. It wasn't inevitable but the Democratic Party was too stuck in its way to offer an alternative. It did not dawn on the Democratic Party that Hillary Clinton did not beat Barack Obama for the nomination because  Obama could pass almost as an outsider, and certainly as someone fresh and young. And Obama could beat anything a dumb Republican Party put up against him, and by decent margins.

Maybe a few hundred people voted for Hillary Clinton so that she could smash a glass ceiling. But in reality, for most people,  a Presidential election is not about facilitating someone's career advancement. People are looking for someone who offers them hope of a better life. It's unlikely, of course, that either President Clinton or President Trump can or would deliver that. But that's another story.

Columnists in liberal newspapers whose main frustration is that Hillary Clinton was not deferred to sufficiently for her to cap her CV only help to deepen the gap between those who Have Most and those who Have Least - and those who have least are both men and women in very large numbers.

For the record, I do have one doubt about the Dynastic part of my argument. Suppose Hillary Clinton had not recovered from pneumonia and had died. The Democratic Party could have turned to Bernie Sanders, who I think would have won. Or just maybe they could have turned to Michelle Obama, who I also think would have won. In either case, I would now be out celebrating instead of sitting here blogging.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Mockracy is Coming to the USA

Now, children, we are going to vote for a new Class Captain and it will be a democratic election. Do you know what that means?

Donald?

Yes, Miss. It means that if I get fewer votes than Hillary I win.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Democracy or Tossing a Coin?

To all intents and purposes, Clinton and Trump picked up 60 million votes each and because this is an American election, you can forget about the two other candidates. It's the kind of result which could have been achieved by tossing a coin 120 million times and, that being so, it could have been simplified by tossing the coin once. If that seems arbitrary, then bear in mind that in American democracy you can win more votes than your opponent and still lose the election because of the Electoral College system which has a small bias towards all those small mid West states. Al Gore had more votes than George Bush first time round and Hilary Clinton may end up with more votes than Donald Trump. But who cares? When was democracy about winning more votes than the other lot?

I interpret the fact that American presidential candidates run neck and neck in my own way. I just think it shows that the average elector has no idea at all about what will work out best for them or for their country and so they effectively choose their pig in a poke. They would have done no worse by tossing their own individual coin. I am simply not prepared to describe American voters as rational actors who have weighed the issues, weighed the evidence, added in their likes and dislikes and so on. And that's where democracy has failed. The whole idea of democracy was that voters would be at least a bit rational, a bit well-informed, a bit dispassionate. It ain't happening - that's the main thing to take  from the American dead heat from which Winner-Takes-All is the consequence.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Financial Time Invites You To Construct a Post-Brexit World ...

England has two good newspapers, the i  and the Financial Times. The latter has invited its readeres to help construct a post-Brexit world. There are some very interesting contributions being published. I am afraid the one I sent in is more pessimistic:

At the best of times, the United Kingdom political system does not work very well. It is unresponsive, slow, inefficient, moderately corrupt - and there are lots of people who want to keep it that way. These are not radical claims: the National Audit Office, Parliamentary Select Committees and Government Committees of Enquiry have been telling us this sort of thing for decades. If you want examples, think about housing or airports or dangerous dogs.

Sometimes the system behaves perversely. Parliament in its collective wisdom offered voters a Yes or No advisory referendum on a very complex set of issues and Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the moderately interesting result in the most abject manner imaginable, treating it as hand-and-foot binding. 

For their own reasons, so did other leading politicians some of whom had absolutely no desire to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union. They were driven by a mixture of panic (“The People Have Spoken …”) and opportunism (…“and I Could Become Prime Minister”).

If that is the starting point, panic and opportunism may well also be the end point. Of one thing we can be sure, whatever happens over the next ten years, the unintended consequences of expensive, clumsy, protracted decision-making or failed decision-making will far outweigh the intended outcomes. 

The future is like the past and if you have a system which can blunder into Brexit, then it follows that you have one which will blunder into a post-Brexit world unlikely to bear any resemblance to promises made about the NHS, the Irish Border, Passporting, the future of Nissan, scientific research, listening to Nicola Sturgeon ….. In due course, the People may well turn against the Junta which has now installed itself as the UK government, but not until a great deal of havoc has been wreaked, much of it irreversible.

Private actors can often move faster than state actors and they are already doing so. They look at the captain, look at the ship, and take their chances. People are applying for non-UK passports, shifting assets, delaying or cancelling investments, even moving out lock stock and barrel. 

On the other side, there are opportunists looking for bargains and trying to work out which scams will do well as the Junta throws money overboard in an endeavour to keep itself afloat. Jobsworth plc can’t wait to supply the necessary tens of thousands of pencil-licking officialdom tasked with taking control over what comes in and what goes out. You thought Brussels was a waste of money? Wait till you see Mr Fox’s bill.


The danger in the FT’s invitation to contribute to the debate is that it will attract those who think it worthwhile to re-arrange the deckchairs. The only sensible way forward lies in the creation of a popular political front determined to win a General Election on a platform of staying in the European Union. Trouble is, we don’t have politicians up to that task either.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sex Role Stereotyping Made in Great Britain for Marks and Spencer


Click on Image to Magnify

Apart from the Food Hall, I would have no regrets if Marks and Spencer went the way of BHS. It just seems completely lost, which may of course simply reflect its customer base.

Thirty or forty years ago, I was sure that colour-coding of young children would disappear. It hasn't: see the cards I bought today looking for a birthday card for a child about to hit three. True, there has been a little bit of progress:the girl is now allowed to jump in a puddle but it's the boy who gets the skateboard.

Educationalists probably hope that greetings card manufacturers will understand the importance of lower case letters in helping children to read - even children as young as three. But, nope, here we have good old fashioned CAPITALS. Since the cards are Made In flag-waving Great Britain, you might have hoped that our very many degree programmes in Graphic Design - where you can specialise in children's illustration and such like - would have caught up with the drift of the argument for lower case. But it seems, no chance.



Friday, 4 November 2016

When and Why Mrs May Has To Resign As Prime Minister

Since the day she took office, it has been  the personal policy of the Prime Minister to proceed towards Brexit without consulting Parliament, let alone asking Parliament to vote. That personal policy has just been undermined by a Court ruling. Mrs May has decided to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, unwisely it seems to me. For if she loses there, and by a heavy margin (there will be eleven or twelve judges sitting), then she cannot avoid the charge that she has set about behaving unconstitutionally and has continued to do so even when alerted to the dangers she is running. If the Supreme Court rules against her, she really has no choice but to resign as unfit to hold the office she now holds. She could be ejected by a Parliamentary vote, though if this took the form of a No Confidence motion in the Government, she would have to call a General Election and might still be returned to office by the voters. Voters do sometimes vote for crooks.But the Court ruling would still be in place. And Parliament could instead, I suppose, impeach her.

But I'm serious: if the Supreme Court rules against her, she has to go,one way or another.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

You Don't Need a High Court to Understand the Constitution - Any Old Blogger Will Do



This is what I wrote back on 13 July. Parliament should be ashamed of the way in which it has tolerated Mrs May's Junta.



Wednesday, 13 July 2016

David Cameron's Strange Resignation

Imagine that on the morning of 24 June, David Cameron had gone in front of the TV cameras and said, " The results for the Advisory referendum are in and we have 52%for leaving and 48% for staying with broad support for leaving in England and Wales, and broad support for staying in London,Northern Ireland and Scotland. I shall of course be asking Parliament to consider these results carefully and my Government will of course need a parliamentary vote to determine our future course of action"

But instead he resigned and created some turmoil, now brought to some temporary close by the choice by Tory MPs of Theresa May to succeed him as Prime Minister. Both he and she were Remainers in the Referendum - the Leavers (Gove, Johnson, Leadsom, Farage ... ) all now out of the picture and all of them having disgraced themselves in one way or another.

Parliament has still not had a say, there is still no BREXIT policy - except insofar as Mrs May has by-passed Parliament and said that she will now lead a Government of (mostly) Remainers  putting themselves forward as eager Leavers (Mr Fallon, "We are all Brexiters now" - I suppose he had the Vicar of Bray in mind)