Clever Democrats

A response to Gary Younge in today’s Guardian.

There has been a lot of commentary about the effect of President Bush’s veto of the bill linking funding for the US armed forces to a timetable for withdrawal. The usually excellent Gary Younge misses a trick, though, on this one in today’s Guardian.

His argument is that the Democrats need to provide leadership on the war. I fear he is looking at the Democrats through rose-tinted spectacles. There is no leadership on the horizon here. At the moment, Hilary and Barack are winding up for a punch-up for the Democratic nomination. This is a fantastic tactic to put attention on the Republicans. Whether or not you think there should be a timetable, the ball is firmly in the GOP court. The Democrats have acted decisively. As Younge notes, the Dems always have a problem in appearing un-patriotic in not automatically approving of everything the military does; in their resolution, they have secured material provision for the military by granting more than was requested while securing – or giving the appearance of trying to secure – physical and moral security by setting a timetable for their withdrawal.

President GW Bush will now veto the Bill. There is almost no chance of the veto being overturned, as the Dems will not be able to secure the two-thirds majority needed in both chambers of Congress, but it will provide in-fighting and indecision in the Republican camp for now. It will also, critically, come back to haunt the Republicans when it comes to choosing their presidential candidate; if it comes down to two, one who went one way and one who went the other, there will be splits there. If there is a core GOP vote that likes the war, it may not be energised to come out if the candidates disagree with the President’s impending veto. It could exacerbate existing splits within the Republican Party. Most importantly, it gives a clear, understandable and easily-saleable line for the Democrats against a confused Republican line that looks too much like playing partisan politics.

I can’t help but feel that Bush has made a rod for his own back by not vetoing any bills before this other than one easing federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. It becomes much more of an issue and shows that there was a lockstep between the executive and legislative branches that cannot be seen as healthy. As an aside, one of the most successful presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was responsible for almost one quarter of all presidential vetoes ever – 635 out of 2,551. In fairness, some presidents had no vetoes whatsoever, but these are historical. Anyway, take a look as it makes (for historians of American politics) interesting reading.




Oh, Iain... Iain...

Iain Dale has become an expert on the fairer sex. It would seem, sadly, that Iain Dale's idea of not being sexist is, er, stereotyping women. Quoth the raven:
In this increasingly presidential age, his softer approach will be judged against the aggression of Gordon Brown. Women do not like great clunking fists. They don't like the confrontational approach adopted by Brown. A small minority find his smouldering personality quite attractive, but for the most part they are turned off.
Is that a fact? Women do not like clunking fists. Gordon, no women will vote for you. All women are going to be voting for that nice Mr Cameron. Indeed, Iain Dale continues:
Few non-political women judge a male politician purely by what he says. They judge him on the way he looks, sounds and appears on television.
Because there is not a man in the world who judges without reference to how they perceive another person rather than on the basis of their arguments. Iain Dale's argument is, frankly, idiotic. It may well be that there are issues that are of particular interest to women as opposed to men. However, the argument that this will definitely affect the vote relies on the assumptions that men like Iain Dale know what those issues are; that all women will go and vote on the basis of those issues; that those are the principle issues that are of concern to women; that women will all vote the same way on those issues; and that women, like any other group, will be happy to be patronised in a broadsheet by Mr I Dale of 18, Doughty Street, WC1.


Labels: , , , , , , ,


Bloggers4Labour and the deputy leadership of the Labour party

I have an idea for an online deputy leadership hustings. There is, in the form of Bloggers4Labour, a community of Labour activists who blog and who are trying to promote the medium. The Conservative blogosphere grew around the time of Cameron's election; perhaps the Labour blogosphere should do the same now.

The idea is:
Members of Bloggers4Labour should submit questions, perhaps to a messageboard or the B4L wiki, and at a given point, a vote should be taken to find the most popular questions. These should be submitted to the presumptive candidates for them to answer (at their leisure) with the answers being posted, perhaps, on B4L.



Labels: , , , , , , , ,



A Bloggers4Labour meeting took place on Monday evening and it was really rather good. Yes, there was geekery - Labour geekery, computer geekery and even ale geekery - but it was all very good natured. I'm going to do a couple of posts, on Labour blogging and blogging in general,1 but what strikes me is that there is a lot of technical expertise, goodwill and commitment to helping the Labour blogosphere develop out there that bodes well for the future.

Anyway, I'm going to be doing some graphicky bits for B4L. Which is nice.


1 - Yes, I know I've said before that I'll do things and don't get round to them. This time, I think I may actually get round to it...

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Disclosing ministerial meetings with pressure groups

In light of today's PMQs and the debate about whether MPs should be excluded from Freedom of Information requests, it's worth pointing out that ministers can't decide themselves whether they can or can't answer questions about meetings they've had. Norman Baker has been asking some dull questions (and, yes, I know he's a LibDem) and receiving some interesting answers. They all appear under the title of "Departments: Pressure Groups" in the relevant section of Hansard.

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if she will list the meetings between Ministers from her Department and outside interest groups which took place between 1st January and 31st March. [132437]

Hilary Armstrong: Ministers and civil servants meet a large number of people and groups in the course of their official duties. It is not normal practice to disclose details of such meetings.

It is, of course, possible that different departments have different normal practices, but not when you look at this answer

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his meetings with outside interest groups which took place between 1 January and 31 March. [132436]

The Prime Minister: My officials and I have meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals on a range of subjects. Information relating to internal meetings, discussion and advice is not disclosed as to do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.

which suggests that any such discussion would be harmful. One wonders, then, why Jack Straw gave this answer:

Norman Baker: To ask the Leader of the House if he will list the meetings between Ministers from his Office and outside interest groups which took place between 1st January and 31st March. [132438]

Mr. Straw: Ministers from the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons met with representatives of outside interest groups nine times during the period specified. I have set out details of those meetings in the following table. This includes, where appropriate, certain speaking engagements.

Date of Meeting Outside Interest Group or Body M et

Thursday 15th February 2007

Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK

Thursday 15th February 2007

Hindu Council UK

Tuesday 20th February 2007

Hansard Society

Wednesday 21st February 2007

New Local Government Network

Thursday 22nd February 2007

Public and Commercial Services Union

Thursday 8th March 2007

Trade Union General Secretaries

Thursday 15th March 2007

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

Thursday 22nd March 2007

Muslim Council of Britain

Friday 23rd March 2007

Electronic Data System Ltd.

and why Peter Hain gave this even more fulsome answer:
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the meetings between Ministers from his Department and outside interest groups which took place between 1 January and 31 March 2007. [132434]

Mr. Hain: Ministers at the Wales Office met with the following non-governmental organisations between 1 January and 31 March:

    Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research

    Post Office Counters Ltd. Wales

    National Federation of Postmasters

    National Grid

    National Audit Office

    General Dynamics

    Severn Tidal Power Group

    First Great Western

    Milford Haven Port Authority

    Narberth Museum

    The Motor Sports Association

    Institute of Chartered Accountants

    Visteon Corporation

    Local Government Network

    University of Wales Swansea

    Dragon Feeds

    National Botanical Gardens of Wales

    National Autistic Society

    Swansea Waterfront Museum

    Friends of the Earth

It does seem like the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing in the civil service.



Planes and trains

thelondonpaper, one of the freesheets in, er, London reports on page six of its edition of the 23rd of April both that there will be seaplanes taking of from the Thames in the region of the city and that people are likely to have their quality of life damaged by more planes in stacks over London. There is no suggestion that the seaplanes, which presumably will fly, as they will be for domestic flights, under VFR, will contribute to these stacks.

However, these planes are hoping to compete on the basis that
"a London-to-Oxfordshire flight would cost about £120".
In Spain, it costs €65.80 - about £44 - to travel on the express AVE train from Madrid to Seville, a distance of 293 miles, at about 180mph. It is madness to run polluting aircraft on medium distance, let alone short, overland routes. There is always opposition to major infrastructure development, but I don't believe it would be impossible to sell the idea of a large-scale regeneration of the UK railway network, particularly commuter rail around London and the other cities, if there was a timetable for the works that everyone knew about in advance. Nationalisation, at the end of the current franchises, would help make it an easier package to accept as people would not feel that private companies were profitting from a public good. It would also help to shift freight off the roads, popular in many smaller towns and villages that don't have by-passes or are used as short cuts.

Travel between Madrid and Barcelona, which used to be almost exclusively by air, is now 80% on the AVE. If an AVE is more than five minutes late, you receive a full refund on your ticket. Not that this happens often - in about 16 of every 10,000 journeys.



Allez, Segolene

30% for Sarko, 25% for Sego. 85% turned out to vote; I think this is a combination of wanting to make absolutely sure that Le Pen didn't get anywhere and that it's a contested election.

It is initially hard to see where Sego's support will come from. Certainly, you'd hope that the left would vote for her but may not turn out strongly and while she will pick up some of Bayrou's vote.

This post does illustrate one of the problems with blogging - I don't know a huge amount about French politics, do know a bit about elections, psephology and so on, want to say something and so post some semi-reconstituted rubbish. I'm not that keen on Sego, but I'd rather her than Sarko.



The acceptability of not going to university

The government's stated intention is for half the population to have experience of higher and further education. The precise definition doesn't matter any more than whether it was originally university or H/FE. The idea is that we have to have a highly-skilled economy to compete against India and China and so lots of people have to go to university.

So far, so good.

I am absolutely sure that no-one would say that the middle class(es) have a divine right to have their offspring go to a university in preference to the offspring of the working class(es). There are some people born to the middle classes who are not really going to benefit from a university degree. That's true of all classes, but there does seem to be an assumption that they should be going to university. Unless there is going to be a huge expansion of universities so that all middle class kids can go and we can still skill up the economy as much as possible by making sure there's room for working class kids to go to university, it's going to have to become acceptable for middle class kids not to go to university, with everything that entails. Just a random thought - in order for non-traditional people to go to university, traditional people have to make room.



I hate Internet Explorer

I wrote the new template for my blog according to the standards for XHTML laid out by the World Wide Web Consortium. Mozilla, which runs to these standards, displays my template without any problems. Internet Explorer, however, does not run to these standards and so does not display my blog properly.

For an internet browser to not properly interpret one of the basic languages of the internet is pretty bad. Take back the web with Mozilla Firefox - how many other pages appear wrongly on Internet Explorer?




New template

Well, after a few days of fiddling with HTML and CSS instead of posting and a few hours of trying to make Blogger work, I have a new template designed and built by, er, me. Comments gratefully received.


PS - I know that the other posts are in Arial. New posts will appear in this font. I can't be bothered to change all the tags at the moment.


Hello Dave, it's Dave calling

An entirely brilliant blog by someone else called Dave. Not only that, but he is a Dave C and he likes open source as well.

Apologies for the lack of posts - I'm redoing the design of the blog and hope to have v2.0 up this weekend. There will probably be some further tinkering and I'm thinking of putting together a website - Dave 3.0. Geeky as it sounds, I actually quite enjoy doing html and whatnot, and I've picked up a few ideas from a great site I found called CSS Zen Garden. It's also good to be picking up xhtml.



Edwardian SuperSize Me

The BBC had a programme last night where Giles Coren and Sue Perkins ate like Edwardians for a week. Coren is The Times' restaurant critic and helpfully provides a menu here for an Edwardian week. It is a huge amount of food to consume and is only possible when you have plenty of time to burn off the excess calories. Particularly given that people at the time were principally living off unrefined staples, it reminded me to a great extent of Metropolis by Fritz Lang. The comparison is obvious, but is strengthened by the proximity in time - perhaps fifteen years if the Edwardian period ends with the sinking of the Titanic, as Metropolis came out in 1927.

An awful lot of it is about conspicuous consumption, with some dishes being a mass of flavours , ingredients chosen on their price rather than anything else, such that you wouldn't be able to distinguish what you were eating from grey mush.

One of the most incredible and barbaric dishes they ate was duck à la presse. Barbaric because it requires strangling the duck and incredible because of the preparation - have a look at this recipe - that requires the blood of the duck obtained through a contraption called a duck press.

Anyway, I'm looking for funding for my new film, SuperSize One's Self. I intend to eat at the Savoy in London three times a day for a month and will only SuperSize when they offer. I undertake to dress for dinner.



Don Imus and racism

Why has only Don Imus been fired for racism on talk radio? has some other bits and bobs to listen to... was set up by Danny Schechter, an LSE alum who wrote for The Script while I was involved in it.




Minimum wage reduces sick leave

Today's UK version of the Financial Times reports that the introduction of the minimum wage has reduced the amount of sick leave taken by the lowest paid, with positive effects both for them, their employers and UK plc..

Although this is fairly intuitive - wealth and health correlate and people are less likely to pull a sickie if they have some feeling of appreciation from their employer - I've not heard it mentioned before.



In response to Lionel Shriver in today's G2

Writing in today's G2 section of The Guardian, Lionel Shriver asks why it is not acceptable for a modern woman to want to fall in love to be her chiefmost aspiration. The article is worth reading, but this made me think:
Yet I would still commend the old-fashioned sequence of 1) fall in love; 2) have kids. Otherwise, what's left is career.
A lot of people probably think that if you're not going to raise a family, the only valid aspiration is a career. They're probably middle-class, Guardian readers, to be honest. Don't get me wrong - I've no desire to work in a bakery - but there are things I want beyond working a fifty-hour week and/or having a family. First and foremost, I want to have fun. There's a lot of cant about 'work hard, play hard' and it really is unreconstituted drivel. I don't want to work every hour God sends because I want to spend time with my friends, I want to go to an art gallery and I want not to do anything. I want to be involved in my community and the Labour party. Hell, I might want to be a councillor or a JP. I want to work on my blog. I want to build my own computer and a Stirling engine. I want to read a lot of things.

There is an option other than family or career - developing yourself for no reason other than you want to and it's fun. I say 'there is'; I should say 'there should be'.



I hate you, Microsoft

Microsoft Campus
Thames Valley Park
Reading Berkshire RG6 1WG

Dear Microsoft,

I like blogging. I've been writing a post recently. It's about a film called Holy Mountain and I've been writing it over a few days because it's a bit complicated. The film, that is, not the post. Now, I know this isn't very environmentally friendly, but I left my computer on overnight with the document open. I woke up this morning to finish the post to find that you had decided that my computer needed an update. I probably said yes to this at some point. However, I didn't say that you could restart my computer and I didn't say you could ditch my document.

I think you've gone beyond 'embrace, extend and extinguish' because people are becoming wise to the fact that open source software is pretty good, too. Lots of people already use LAMP set-ups for higher-end stuff, but people without lots of technical skills are increasingly using Mozilla and OpenOffice. I think you're using the guise of security to come up with technologies that lock people in to your products. I think you're adding a flashy GUI but reducing what people can do with their data. I think you've realised the only way you can defend your position, now that the EU is acting on some of your anticompetitive practices, is to make the Total Cost of Ownership higher for open source than for your products. I think one of the ways you're doing that is by making it harder to move data from Microsoft products to alternatives, locking people in to your kit.

Anyway, I'm moving to Linux. I'm certainly not upgrading to Windows Vista - I'm ditching Windows XP for Ubuntu.






I've been listening to a band called Portobella recently. Do take a listen. The lead singer, Luciana Caporaso, featured in Yeah Yeah by Bodyrox, which has done well in the charts. I can't quite understand why Portobella didn't - they have fantastic songs, particularly Viva La Difference and Covered in Punk. Scroll down the Portobella mySpace for the videos. I think they've only done enough tracks for an EP, but reading the various pages suggests that something will be forthcoming.




Exclusive: Tina quits Corrie

I hate the tabloids. I hate them for many reasons, but calling everything an exclusive when it patently isn't annoys me. I hate the events of soaps being front page news. Today's Sun and Daily Mirror both have front pages on someone leaving Coronation Street. They both claim to have exclusives on the story. Do people who read The Sun and The Daily Mirror not notice the papers, next to each other in the shop, both running exclusives on the same non-story and doubt, even a little, their journalistic credentials? They're both even running their 'exclusives' on page 9. Can I sue under trades descriptions?
Dear Editor,
I bought
The Sun expecting an inclusive story but was disgusted to see that the down-market rag, The Daily Mirror, was running the same story.
Yours, disgusted of Yeovil.


Search terms that have led people to my blog

Include "dalton trumbo on demolishing silly books", "where does elvemage pk", "dave cole south london" (a different Dave Cole, as I live north of the river) and "unoriginal name dave cole" (someone knows who I am).


Labels: , , , , , , ,


Fourth option on council housing

I have signed the petition at the Number Ten website. The text of the petition is
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to provide the 'Fourth Option' of direct investment in council housing as an alternative to privatisation by stock transfer, PFI or ALMO, to enable local authorities to respect the choice of their tenants and bring all homes up to at least the government's Decent Homes Standard by 2010 and also build a new generation of decent, affordable and secure council homes for rent, accountable to an elected local authority landlord, and to give a clear commitment to defend the lifelong secure tenancy that council tenants enjoy and uphold the right of everyone who needs or wants to rent public housing to do so without time limit or means testing so that council housing can again become a tenure of choice and council estates can once again be a place that people are proud to live in.
Whether you think the use of the fourth option is a good idea or not, you can accept the idea that people should be able to choose it for themselves, particularly as 'devolution' and 'power to the people' seem to be the flavour of the month.



Click here for my Blogger profile


Ubuntu - linux for human beings

Firefox 2

Add to Technorati Favorites

Locations of visitors to this page

Powered by Blogger

Click here to find out why.

  • Atom RSS Feed

recent posts


friends' blogs


political blogs


blogs i like


photography blogs




political tools




sadly gone