Friday, 30 August 2013

Meanwhile, in China ...

Our Esteemed Trading Partners are taking care of business as usual:
Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday that 22 ethnic Uighurs were killed Aug. 20 when security forces opened fire at a house in a suburb of Kashgar.
The area, which lies close to China's borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has been a frequent site of bloodshed between the dominant ethnic Han Chinese and Uighurs, a Muslim minority.
Local sources verified the Radio Free Asia account to the Los Angeles Times, saying the dead were buried before their families were notified of their deaths. But they provided no further details.
The World Uyghur Congress,  a Germany-based advocacy group, says that it has documented a number of deadly incidents since March, some of which were also reported by the official Chinese media. In all, they say 103 to 138 people have been killed and at least 125 arrested.
Funny how we aren't so concerned about the plight of the Uighurs as we are about other peoples who have had their land stolen, their culture suppressed and who are bullied into submission by totalitarian thuggery.

I've been busy!

With 13 posts in August (14 including this one), this has been my most productive month since July 2011.  Which is pretty feeble, as having opinions and grumbling isn't exactly onerous.

On the Unexpected Discovery of Backbone in Mr Ed Milliband

This is astonishing. Britain's march to war halted. Obama checked. the French - as always - looking desperately for an opportunity to give up.

Ed Milliband has single-handedly brought the Western military industrial complex to a stop.  Just think what he could do if he didn't sound like a dork every time he opened his mouth.

And think how different recent history if the Tories of 2003 had shown the sanity and backbone that Milliband and Labour showed today.

The pathetic claim that he was somehow offering 'succour' to Assad, as stated by the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, deserves nothing but scorn.  he wasn't succouring a bloody dictator, he was preventing another blundering inept foreign adventure.  And if he really was called a Copper bottomed shit - an appalling mixed metaphor -  by a government source he should wear the label with pride.

And on the subject of Tories, pause to consider this:
Michael Gove, the education secretary, was overheard shouting "disgrace" at Tory rebels, an MP told the Press Association.

The Scottish National Party's Westminster leader Angus Robertson told Sky News he watched as Gove had to be "persuaded to calm down" following the outburst.
While this is all very serious, the image of Michael Gove losing the plot and shouting "Disgrace" and "Infamy" and "For shame" and so on in the Corridors of Power is very funny.

So all in all, not a good night for the Tories and David Cameron, but a better one for Labour and Britain.

This might be odd from someone who is in favour of intervention in Syria.  But a ill thoughtout lurch into a conflict is not going to help.  There should be a UN backed intervention - thoough it is hard to see how it can be done in the face of Russian and Chinese vetoes.  After all, the USA would not want to set a precedent of ignoring vetoes when it comes to the Middle East, would it?

Even an utterly black-and-white UN report probably won't lead to a mandate for direct intervention, I think. The Chinese and Russians will block it. But they must be tired of backing Assad, who is starting to look like a loser. They will probably allow the rebels to be supported and perhaps air cover 'to prevent further atrocities' if they can be persuaded that Assad is on the way out, and they have to think about making sure thye have friends among the regime that replaces him.

As for the nature of the rebels, we have to be phlegmatic.  Yes, some of them are unsavoury and perhaps are affiliated with terror groups.  But what did you expect would happen?  Two years ago, the Syrian people tried to overthrow Assad.  He shot them, and has continued to kill them ever since, while we did nothing.  Did we really expect the rebels to wait meekly for Assad to butcher them because we said they couldn't have guns to fight back with?

it shouldn't be that difficult to make sure we are putting guns in the hands of the least worst of the Syrian rebels.  After all, it will be in our interest to make sure the factions least hostile to us are in a strong position once Assad goes.  And go he must.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Doubly Damned Dave

So, Robertson versus Jones it is, for now.  Will Cunliffe make a bid for it (perhaps hoping not to win?) or sit this one out?

Cunliffe is damned either way, really.  If he goes for it, he may lose the leadership race; if he wins, he may lose the election.  If he doesn't have a crack, he will look like a cynical coward who was anticipating defeat in 2014.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

More balderdash on the Labour Leadership

Just as my planned post comparing Shearer/Milliband to Clem Attlee prior to the triumph of 1945 was disrupted by Shearer's decision to fall upon his sword, I fully anticipate that Cunliffe will announce he is running within seconds of this post hitting the internet. 

There's going to be a leadership contest (for those who have been hiding understones for the last couple of days).  David "Shoulda been me" Cunliffe versus Grant "I'm Not David Cunliffe" Roberstson seem to be the popular picks - though I suspect things may still turn out differently, as they contemplate precisely what being leader of the Labour Party right now means.  Neither has declared they are running, at this time.  Both are consulting friends and family, or whatever it is politicians say when they are desperately doing the numbers to see if they can win.

If it is Cunliffe versus Robertson, it has to be Cunliffe. If it is Cunliffe versus anyone in caucus, it pretty much has to be Cunliffe – though I thought that was the case 20 months ago … The question is, will Cunliffe go for it?

Is his (oft commented on) high self opinion so high he thinks he can take on Key?
If he does become leader, I suspect there will be an immediate surge in Labour support – but mostly at the expense of the Greens, and perhaps NZ First. So Labour will be happy, but the 2014 result will still be a coin toss, for now.

But it isn't as simple as that.  Cunliffe has to decide to run first, before he gets to be leader.  If he does, he would probably win.  You’d have to be stupid to take Robertson over Cunliffe.

But I’m still not sure he’ll go for it this time.  In spite of his undoubted desire to be leader, he may decide to hold back.  After all, he's been waiting a long time, and probably anticipated waiting longer before Shearer's sudden demise.

He may weigh up the likelihood of winning against the likelihood of losing and being out of a job in 2014.  Unfortunately, his prime motivation will be the betterment of David Cunliffe.  I don't think he wants to be remembered as the guy who lead the party to defeat in 2014, which will still be a distinct possibility for all the superhuman qualities some seem to attribute to him.

With this in mind, he might decide he'd rather play the assassin's role after the (very possible) defeat in 2014.  So Cunliffe may nurse his ambitions and elect to sit it out - perhaps showing his loyalty and support by signing up as deputy - with a canny eye on 2014.

The same applies to Roberston.  Both have time on their side, both are ambitious and neither would desire to be a pathetic footnote in Labour history.  So we may - just possibly - have a situation where the two main contenders for the job are not contending, leaving it open to either Andrew Little or a stop gap candidate like Annette King - someone who will at least stop the defeat of 2014 turning into a rout. 

Then, once the small business of who runs the country between 2014 and 2017 is dealt with, the important matter of who gets to shout at John Key for three years can be attended to.

The other reason Cunliffe might sit this one out (other than cynical self interest) is because he is too resented for his role – or perceived role – in all the undermining and plotting against Shearer. He might feel a period of loyalty, blasting national from a glamorous front bench position, might serve his interests better. Because it is always going to be about his interests, not the parties.

There will be some interesting meetings going on between bland little men in grey suits.  Those meetings will determine who is going to be the leader of the Labour Party, because they will be where it is decided who will be encouraged to step forward, and who will be quietly told not to make themselves difficult.  I suspect that these grey little men will mention to Cunliffe that not being difficult now might result in a swift return to the front bench, and perhaps even a hint of support if there should happen to be a vacancy after 2014.

NB – Whatever happens, I also anticipate Roy Morgan releasing some essentially random set of figures, calling it a poll and placing some frivolous interpretation on it, which will likely be contradicted by their next poll.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Labour Leadership, Yet Again

Ho, hum.  I was contemplating a longish piece - a sort of essay - on the leadership travails of Ed Milliband and David Shearer.  My starting point was likely to be the experiences of Clem Attlee, who was so scorned by his own party that he faced (and ignored) continual demands to quit for someone more acute, more charismatic, more dynamic, more leftwing, more anything.

Attlee, of course, went on to win a massive majority immediately after the end of World War 2, and instituted a programme of reforms that haven't been matched by any British prime minister since; and is now regarded as the perhaps the best PM of the century, almost certainly the best of the post war bunch.

But I didn't quite get around to it and just as well, as David Shearer decided to quit, without checking with me if that would be okay.

So, with the phoney war over, what now for Labour?

Obviously the three most mooted names are Cunliffe, Robertson and Little.  Romantics nervously suggest Jacinda Ardern.  I think none of the above are likely, for the simple reason they are career politicians with time (but not much else) on their side.

They aren’t thinking about what is good for the Labour party, but for their own prospects. Cunliffe, Robertson, Little probably don’t relish the idea of taking on Key, even now. I think the ‘Big Beasts’ will be thinking about the 2014 leadership election, rather than the 2014 general election.

I think Annette King might emerge as a stop gap contender. 

King is familiar and have a bit of ‘elder statesperson’ gravitas. King / Cunliffe or King / Little might be viable tickets, with the deputy keeping a canny eye on his prospects for 2014.

So it would be very funny if King managed to scrape some sort of a victory in 2014, and so delayed the succession to 2016-7, by which time Jacinda might be a more realistic prospect.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

More unbiased and thoughtful commentary on the British polls

The brilliantly reliable and accurate polling company Ipsos Mori confirm what everyone already knows, which is that the Tories are in their death throes at 30% (though the claim their support has risen by one point is laughable!) and Labour are sitting pretty at 40%.  Some other parties got 10% and 11%, respectively.

The superbly reliable and honest ComRes puts the Tories on CON 28% (probably a bit of a sympathy vote helping bolster the figures, as decent Brits take pity on Cameron), Labour 37%, Lib Dems 8% and the UKIP 19%.

The unutterable Populus continue a shameful history of basically making stuff up, ludicrously claiming the Tories might actually be supported by 36% of voters, and Labour by only 39%.  Pull the other one, Populous!  They rather over do the joke, however, by giving the Lib Dems 10% - not this side of a leadership change, and the UKIP a surprisingly accurate feeling 8%.  What's up, chaps, forget to add the '1' at the front?

And YouGov - who are to polling what Steven Segeal is to quality film - continue their quixotic attempts to pretend the Tories are doing smashingly, giving them 34% to Labour's 39% - an absolute affront to decency and verisimilitude.  No doubt they will shortly be reporting that the Titanic reached New York safely, such is their wanton propensity for deceit.

Respect Reject Galloway

Oh dear:
All five Respect city councillors in Bradford - where Mr Galloway achieved a surprise parliamentary by-election victory last year - have quit to sit as independents.

It was the latest blow to the party which has had a turbulent history since its creation in 2004 as a Left-wing alternative to Labour.

The strife follows Mr Galloway's disclosure that he was considering standing as the capital's Mayor in 2016.

Two Respect councillors, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Mohammad Shabbir, were suspended by the leadership after they spoke out against the move and attacked his record as the MP for Bradford West.

The party's other councillors left the party in sympathy and said they would not rejoin until the suspensions were revoked.
To get dumped by Labour is one thing. Might even be considered a badge of honour and decency.

But to be excoriated by your own vanity party and rejected by the very people who only got where they were by clinging to your dismal coat tails, is another.

Must be very unlucky, Gorgeous George. Or vain, self interested, hate inducing spasm of puke. You decide.

But he's never seen a barrel of oil, of course.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

More on that poll - serious, this time

As mentioned earlier, Opinium have produced a poll for the Guardian that shows, among other things, that Labour's lead has fallen by 3 points and David Cameron's approval rating has 'improved' marginally.  The poll itself is fine - Opinium's methodolgy seems to overvalue the UKIP (given a rather ludicrous 17%, consistently) and probably undervalues the Lib Dems, but probably gets the positions of the two big parties just about right.

The problem is the Guardian's write up of the poll, which is an impressive effort in trying to make something out of nothing.

I know journalists have to write stories and proprietors sell newspapers and stuff; and I know "Poll shows no real changes" is a boring headline.  But a 1% change in the number of people who think Cameron is doing a good job doesn't indicate anything, other than that the polling company's methodology is robust enough to produce broadly similar results.

Does the Observer not understand the concept of statistically insignificant variation? If Labour's support has dropped by 3 points, it probably ins't duse ot anything that has happened; it just tells us the last poll was probably a bit too generous, and this one a bit too harsh.

Pretending a change from one poll to another, and reading Grave Import into it, is pointless at best, and at worst a rubbishy attempt to set the agenda or engineer a crisis.  So they get to write more stories and sell more newspapers.

Poll

The foul and pernicious Opinium - whose predictions are so inept and unreliable even Robert Mugabe would blush to use them - have released spurt of propaganda masquerading as a poll:

CON 29%(+1)
LAB 36%(-3)
LDEM 9%(+1)
UKIP 17%(+1)

The suggestion that Labour support might fall in the face of the failed policies and miserable corruption of the venal convocation of serpents, glorifying themselves as a government, is laughable.

Tiger, tiger, breeding bright ...

"A rare Sumatran tiger gave birth to two cubs on Monday in efforts to keep the breed from becoming extinct, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo."

"The tiger named Damai gave birth to the first cub around 6:15 p.m. and the second around 8:23 p.m. Both cubs are healthy, but zoo keepers are monitoring the newborns. Damai is nursing and grooming both cubs, according to the news release."

"Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, with fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers in the wild."
(Here)
Sad to say, but I think celebration is naive.  We should stop wasting resources trying to preserve a species that is doomed in every meaningful sense.  We can not preserve them in their natural encvironment; preserving them in zoos would be an abomination.

Is it worthwhile concentrating resources in an effort to preserve these critically endangered species, or if we focus on stopping other species reaching crisis point?

As for the preserving them in zoos, you aren't preserving them. You can preserve tiger genetic code by maintaining a few sorry specimens in zoos, but the that things make a tiger a tiger are gone the moment you put it in a cage. I really can't comprehend how anyone can argue putting a tiger in a zoo is humane.

Let them - and all the other glorious species we have destroyed through our greed and stupidity - fade away.  We've tormented them enough.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Polls polls polls

Another typically reliable and accurate poll from YouGov shows the Labour at about 40%.

CON 31%
LAB 39%
LDEM 11%
UKIP 11%

It would appear, however, they have missed the decimal point in the figure for the Tories.  3.1% seems far more likely.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Tough on lines, tough on the causes of lines

Eric Pickles has put in a useful effort for the typically hotly contested 'Dumbest Idea' category of British legislation.

He has suggested that allowing people to park in No Parking areas - indicated in the UK by double yellow lines - for up to fifteen minutes would be a boon to struggling high streets and revitalise dying town centres, lift the economy, eradicate world poverty and cure cancer.

Okay, some of that may be hyperbolic. But it's not much stupider than what Pickles is actually suggesting, which is to take a perfectly simple rule (YOU MAY NOT PARK YOUR CAR HERE) and make it stupidly complicated - YOU MAY NOT PARK YOUR CAR HERE BUT YOU MAY AS LONG AS IT NOT FOR MORE THAN FIFTEEN MINUTES.

Setting aside the dubious claim that allowing people to park free of charge on the street would really have a significant impact (how much money can you really spend in fifteen minutes?) this is so impractical it prompts me to wonder when the last time Pickles drove his own car.

Double yellow lines are there for a reason. TO MAKE IT SAFER. Allowing people to park there for a short spell will make things far more dangerous. Then there is the policing issue. It makes fining for illegal parking almost impossible: "I was only here 15 minutes, gov!"

Either get away with double yeller lines altogether, or keep the rule as it is. If there needs to be more parking, make it official, rather than creating more ambiguity, whinging-room and silliness.

Anyway, I'm not sure double yellow lines are killing the high street. I think inflated rents on properties and not being very good or competitive are what is killing the high street.

Maybe David Cameron will order the internet to be closed because it is killing the high street?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Polling trolling

Populous - long the enemy of truth and the people - have released yet another mendacious 'poll' suggesting the Labour lead may be as low as 5 (FIVE) points.

Someone should tell them that if they are going to foist lies upon us in a feeble effort to defend their despicable Tory paymasters, they should at least make the lies almost believable.

If they had claimed a Labour lead of just 15 points, it might have been accepted by the more partisan or credulous, though would undoubtedly have been met with howls of derision by anyone with a brain or a molecule of intellectual honesty about them.

CON 33%
LAB 38%
LDEM 12%
UKIP 9%

Here

Everyone knows the Labour lead is really closer to 50%, of course, but you can't expect the Tories to face up to too much reality at once.

After all, if they had to dispense with comforting myths entirely, they would have to rethink their economic policy.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

British political polling

Populous - generally considered to be the benchmark in absolute reliabilty, unbiased accuracy and total integrity - confirms what we all knew all along (even Tories, in their dirty little Tory 'hearts'): the nation is deeply in love with Ed Milliband's glorious project of renovation and revitalisation, and dreams of the day the Tory chancers are shown the door, never to darken the precincts of Downing Street again.

CON 29%
LAB 40%
LDEM 11%
UKIP 12%

Meanwhile, the highly suspect and oft ridiculed YouGov - traitors all - have produced and other fanciful so-called 'poll' which suggests - laughably - that the Labour lead might only be measured in single digits.

CON 34%
LAB 40%
LDEM 10%
UKIP 11%.

The good yeomen of England, the canny denizens of Scotland, even the miserable demi-humans of the other bits, recognise this as the cheap trick it is and call for the perpetrators of the Wellesian bit of hoaxery to be carted off to the Tower forthwith.

Hang out the stars in Alabama!

Well done, Albanians, or whatever you are. Who ever thought The Great Fightback would start in Alabama? Seriously, well done. Nothi...