[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

Scotland 2016 held its final election debate, on housing, earlier this week. West of Scotland lead candidate Katy Gordon represented the Liberal Democrats. She put forward the Lib Dems’ plan, which takes in mental health, addiction and prison services as well and confronted SNP Housing Minister Alex Neil on his government’s failure to keep its promises and deal with a very real housing crisis in Scotland. As always, Katy was full of practical detail and put in a very thoughtful and engaging performance. You can watch her here.

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You can see the whole debate here.

And if you were impressed with Katy, you might like to donate to her campaign.

[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Daniel

Readers may have noticed that the British Labour Party has gone kind of mad this week, and decided to make the question of whether Adolf Hitler was a Zionist a key issue in the local election campaign. I’ve written in the past on Crooked Timber about why I think it is that the general question of Israel and Palestine is so unfailingly nasty and full of toxic bullshit. But I think it’s also worth looking at why this is specifically a problem for left wing politics in the UK. Below the fold, a loooong attempt at a structural explanation of a persistent phenomenon.

1. Starting from the start – the basic facts.

There aren’t that many Jewish people in the UK; about 250,000 at the last census. That means that they’re somewhat less than half the proportion of the population as in Canada, a bit more than half the proportion as in France, almost exactly a quarter as much as the USA. The overwhelming majority of them live in London; there is still what might be described reasonably as a “Jewish community” in Manchester and (albeit to a declining extent) Leeds, but that’s about it. In Wales and Scotland it’s even more extreme – something like two-thirds of the Scottish Jewish community live in one parliamentary constituency (East Renfrewshire, a Glasgow suburb), and there are roughly 2000 Jews in the whole of Wales (there used to be a lot more in the days of coal and steel and they left behind some of the oldest and most architecturally significant synagogue buildings in Europe – they left because of long term economic decline rather than persecution).

So the general level of ignorance in the population is pretty high. Anyone who went to school in the old county of Gwynedd would have learned precisely one fact about the history of Israel, which was that the Welsh Division liberated Jerusalem from the Ottomans. This fact isn’t even necessarily true (a number of other army units make the same claim), and I suspect that people who went to school in places where it wasn’t on the local regiment’s battle honours wouldn’t even know that.

Given this, your average British leftist is an empty vessel into which information can be poured on this subject. Pause to consider the general quality of the information about Israel-Palestine which is generally available, and the considerable time and effort which goes into making it worse.

2. Picking sides – how the conflict looks to an outsider.

As I’ve mentioned in a number of contexts, people who are not very bright have this terrible tendency to pick a side in major intractable geopolitical conflicts, and support it as if it was a football team. Note that the phrase “as if it was a football team”, given the context is the UK, is potentially a little bit of foreshadowing on my part.

How do people pick sides in Israel/Palestine? Well, the first way is that if you had an existing interest in the Northern Irish conflict, then your side basically got picked for you. Lots of things in British politics which are otherwise incomprehensible, make sense when you realise they’re really about Northern Ireland. And the Israel/Palestine conflict was not a difficult mental exercise. The Israelis are a small tightly-knit community defined by religion, they’re outnumbered by a population generally less well-educated and prosperous, they got to where they are by a historical process which doesn’t make much sense, but they’ve got nowhere else to go and they’ve got an entirely legitimate fear of being pushed into the sea. Are they like Irish Catholics, or like Protestant Ulstermen?

Even if it weren’t the case that the Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley’s theological views implied very strong affinity with Israel (and he brought this one to American Protestantism, by the way, via Bob Jones), this wasn’t a difficult call to make. And partly out of oppositionism, partly out of the fact that the Palestinians are an oppressed people who feel like there’s an alien occupying force in their land (and the simple economic logistics of arms smuggling which kept on linking the PFLP with the IRA), the other side picked the Palestinians.

Nearly everyone on the British Left was basically convinced of the fairness of the Irish Republican cause, and a lot of them (Ken Livingstone was in the vanguard of this strain of idiocy) spent the 1970s and much of the 80s getting a lot of practice in making mealy mouthed apologia for terrorism.

Assuming that you were one of the people for whom it was not all about Northern Ireland, you got another chance to pick sides because … I know this is going to piss people off but I’m going to say it. The other big campaign of the British left for most of my life was a campaign against a state which gave systematic privileges to a particular ethnic group, kept a largish proportion of its population in nominally independent territories in unbelievable squalor, had an out of control law enforcement operation which was not only brutal in domestic policing but regularly attacked state enemies overseas, and so on. The similarities between Israeli policy and that of apartheid South Africa were well remarked at the time, and noted by leaders of both countries periodically. Frankly, I’m surprised that so few people have bothered to look at the multi-decade embarrassment which was Israeli-South African cooperation.

So, everyone picked a side, and the main stream of the British left tended to have fairly strong reasons to pick the Palestinian side. If you were a Briton of Pakistani descent, like Naz Shah it was even easier because you had a religious affiliation.

3. We All Agree, My Team Is Better Than Your Team – how people behave

Having picked their sides, how did people proceed to behave. As I mentioned before, the answer is generally “like a bunch of football supporters”. You only have to take a cursory look at football websites after a contentious game (or, God help us, in a week when a star player has been charged with aggravated or sexual assault) to see that sports partisanship can blind people to any hint of impropriety on the part of anyone on their own side, while giving them an all-seeing insight into errors on the other side. And when they believe themselves to be supporting their team, it is astonishing how low people will stoop in their attempts to taunt the other side. At the Liverpool/Everton derby last week, the week before the Hillsborough inquest reported, there were credible reports that Everton fans were making a “bars across face” gesture – in other words, a simulation of a person being crushed to death against fencing. This was, of course, as it always is, a small and unrepresentative minority[1]. But it’s the sort of thing that happens.

Politics – not exclusively British left wing politics, but that’s what I’m talking about here – can get this way too, and when it does, the partisanship tends to skew a lot more Glasgow Old Firm than Friendly Local Rivalry. When I was a lad, it was universally recognised that white South Africans were scum. The B-Side of “The Chicken Song” by Spitting Image was a ditty called “I’ve Never Met A Nice South African” and it was at number one for weeks (check out that link, by the way – it’s quite flabberghasting; borderline trigger warning stuff). Having a South African accent would definitely make it difficult to get served in a pub, and it was not at all unknown for them to be spat on a couple of times over the course of a night out. This was, of course, when you think about it, amazing bullshit even in its own terms, because white South Africans living in the UK in the 1980s were vastly likely to have left the country specifically because they couldn’t stand apartheid, and in many cases even to have left the country one step ahead of the Bureau Of State Security. But, when you’ve convinced yourself that you are acting in solidarity with a political cause that’s toweringly obvious in its justice and rightness, standards of behaviour tend to slip.

This is, I repeat, not a phenomenon exclusive to left wing or pro-Palestine politics and I’ll mention another important example below. But it does happen. Please don’t tell me it doesn’t.

4. The drip drip effect – why it is a problem that people don’t take seriously

(I am indebted for this point to Alex Harrowell). It is noticeable that the original Naz Shah Facebook post was an example of something that’s really quite difficult to make as big a deal of as was actually made (unless you’re the kind of skilled PR guy who can gussy up a dumb meme into the Final Solution). It was a dumb joke which had previously been made by Michael Moore (he claimed that the Jewish state should have been declared in Bavaria, so that the Germans had to give their land up rather than the Palestinians), and he is not the only person to have done so; suggesting that the State of Israel would be easier to defend if it was located somewhere other than Palestine is not advocating deportation or transportation, and I don’t really see how anyone could sincerely claim it was. To their credit, a lot of British Jewish organisations seem to have recognised this early on and accepted Ms Shah’s sincere apology; the continued outrage is being supported purely by the professionally enraged, as far as I can tell.

But conversely, although it was a joke, it’s a very bad mistake to say that it was “just” a joke, because the trouble with these Facebook memes and email forwards and all the like is that there are effing millions of them, and people keep producing more. People support their team, and they keep arguing with each other, and they won’t shut up about it. I won’t repeat my analysis of why this happens, but it does happen; I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been in some meeting or other, plaintively insisting that the Israel/Palestine conflict is not one of the issues that the organisation in question is about.

And this must be just incredibly wearing for British Jewish people. It’s the “microaggressions” concept – each one of these “god the Israelis are really unfair to the Palestinians” memes and forwards is individually not particularly objectionable, but if you have to deal with a dozen of them every day it is going to be a burden. And of course actually, you deal with a dozen heavy-handed but not-malicious memes on a good day; on a bad day, you get one of the real idiots who has decided he wants to flex his muscles and say something that will ruin someone’s morning; the equivalent of a football fan who has just learned the words to a comedy song about a stadium disaster. Of course, British Muslims (and their supporters’ club) will say that they have to deal with half a dozen terrorist and Mohammed-was-a-paedophile memes per every Israel-is-like-the-Nazis meme they send out, but that is a shitty excuse. This is a bad thing, and it’s a problem and people should knock it off. And, once more, it happens.

5. The other push of the piston – the role of bad faith and PR

The trouble is, of course, that running a broad-based “people, knock it off” campaign based on a general realisation that harassment is shitty behaviour, is nothing like as fun as picking one of your existing political enemies and firing up the internet shame machine. A major contribution to the British Left’s problem with anti-Semitism is the way in which this genuine problem has been weaponised by the opponents of the Palestine Solidarity cause.

One claim that is regularly made in this whole debate is that “any critic of Israel gets called anti-Semitic”. This is usually said with a heavy tone of self-serving bullshit (ie, it’s usually said when someone has said something dodgy and is being called out for it), but this doesn’t change the fact that it is, broadly speaking, a fact that this happens[2]. The reason is the same one that I mentioned above – people act like football supporters, and they know that an accusation of anti-Semitism is a very serious charge that can get people fired from their jobs or severely damage their political careers. If you have access to a rhetorical weapon like that and you’re not very bright and you’ve got into a place where partisanship has blinded you to how far you’ve lowered your standards, why would you not over-use it? Particularly since if you’re a supporter of the State of Israel, you are pretty much locked into a four-year cycle in which periodically, you’re going to find yourself, like a supporter of a team which employs Luis Suarez or Joey Barton[3], in a position where you have to defend the indefensible.

It has the effect of entirely toxifying the debate, and causing people who would otherwise take anti-Semitism seriously to be less inclined to do so; nothing hardens minds faster than seeing a friend run out of a job over a bullshit scandal. In my assessment, a lot of the people involved in these sorts of campaigns are intelligent enough to have been very successful in their private life, intelligent enough to have done well in student politics, and even sometimes in national politics (although very rarely in elected office), but not quite bright enough to realise that it is amazingly toxic to your long term credibility if you a) very blatantly choose your targets and timing based on political convenience and b) don’t bother to pay even token lip-service to consistency and literally simultaneously campaign for the strictest sanctions on anti-Semitic gaffes while also campaigning for the free speech of quite virulent Islamophobes.

The role of the public relations industry in the Israel/Palestine debate is another key part of why there are so many problems in responding to genuine anti-Semitism. I don’t think one needs to postulate anything in particular about the media – just that a PR person for biscuits is capable of placing stories about biscuits in the press and a PR person for Israel is capable of placing stories too. The UK has one of the world’s biggest and best media industries and a lot of very good PR people. And so you regularly get launches of a somewhat odd kind of campaign, which has a four stage life cycle. First, it launches as a campaign about antiSemitism in British life. Second, it decides that the best use of its resources is to monitor the British media for antisemitic tropes. Third, it starts mission-drifting into straightforward defence of Israeli policy. Finally, it falls apart acrimoniously as Israel has just invaded somewhere and the members of the campaign disagree about the extent to which they are prepared to provide unconditional support to the resultant war crimes. In the mean time, at the same time as the official communications arms of the IDF are ramping up their efforts, their amateur hangers-on and wannabes are also taking to the keyboard[4], and it becomes inevitable that genuine complaints about anti-Semitism get linked in everyone’s mind with obvious attempts to provide apologia for war crimes (the phrase “singling out for criticism” seems to act as the bridge between the two; if you can find anyone who has ever been convinced by this rhetorical device, I’ll buy them a drink).

6. And so here we are …

And so here we are, in a situation where Jewish people in Britain have to put up with an unacceptable torrent of anti-Semitic crap, which the people generating it don’t take seriously because they don’t look at the cumulative effect. And in which it is far more difficult than it needs to be to get the British left to take anti-Semitism seriously, because it is much more difficult than it should be for sincere campaigners against bigotry to distinguish themselves from people trying to do fan-fiction propaganda.

That’s where this post ought to end. But it can’t end quite yet, because I need to explain why things have blown up right now … actually, what I really need to explain is:

7. Why it is specifically bullshit to try and tie this one on to Jeremy Corbyn.

It would have been a hell of a lot more convenient for a lot of people than it actually was if Jeremy Corbyn had ever said anything colourably anti-Semitic himself. A lot of people just presumed he had done, because he’s been on the left since forever, he’s spoken at more Palestine solidarity meetings than I’ve had cooked breakfasts, he’s on that team … he must have compared Israel to the Nazis one time, mustn’t he? And yet, the trawl through Corbyn’s back pages produced basically zip. I wasn’t surprised. Islington Constituency Labour Party is a North London borough and I would guess it’s in the top five most Jewish CLPs in Britain. Islington is also home to a lot of members of extreme left-wing parties (the phrase “a lot” being considerably contextualised by “members of extreme left wing parties” here), who as far as I can tell spend more time arguing about Israel on the internet than a really keen bird-watcher would spend birdwatching. Corbyn’s whole political career has been spent in a milieu where “doing Palestine solidarity without anti-Semitism” is a game being played at a very high level. The best they could come up with was a donation to a charity run by a man who later went mad and became a Holocaust denier.

The UK media then went through the back pages of everyone Corbyn had appeared with. They got one Palestinian representative, who had been invited to address a group of MPs by Corbyn and was later convicted under the incitement to racial hatred laws for a blood libel. The return on investment in terms of substance generated for the time and effort spent was lousy, and people were beginning to notice.

So now we have the third stage – finding stuff that Corbyn obviously isn’t responsible for and couldn’t reasonably have been expected to know about, like two year old Facebook posts and university Labour Club scandals from before he was leader, and then declare that he hasn’t acted fast enough, nudge nudge. He Just Doesn’t Take It Seriously Enough If You See What I Mean.

Of course, Corbyn has a very ramshackle media team, because the old machine built by Alastair Campbell won’t work with him. And he is very isolated with few friends in the party, most of whom are the constant subject of a shower of bullshit allegations of all sorts, mixed in with some legitimate ones. It’s basically impossible for him to react any faster than he did. What’s going on here is that Corbyn’s party enemies have made the party uncontrollable, then blamed him for not being able to control it. It’s fair enough – by which I mean it’s an absurdly crappy way to behave but politics isn’t whiffle ball – but we shouldn’t be confused ourselves about why this has blown up right now. The majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party think that Corbyn is an electoral disaster area, and they know that constantly doing and saying dodgy things in the service of being anti-Israel is a massive Achilles heel for his wing of the party. I would hope that they are very confident that any long term damage done to the party’s reputation will disappear as soon as they are in charge, and although there is never a wrong time to fight racism, I confess to being surprised that two-year-old Facebook posts were considered too urgent an issue to wait until after the local elections. But this is by no means even in the top ten worst party machinations that Labour has seen in my lifetime, and the problem is a genuine one which would have had to be addressed sooner or later.

7. Conclusions

So, I’m glad that the Labour Party is having a proper look at anti-Semitism. I’d be more glad if it was doing so because it’s the right thing to do, rather than as a pretty transparent way of fighting a leadership battle by proxy. I’d also be more glad if I thought I could remotely trust the people involved in the campaign to stick to the actual issue, rather than trying to push through policy victories with respect to support of the Israeli government’s actions. But there you go.

I think my view is a fundamentally hopeful one, though, and I think I can back this up with evidence. I don’t believe that the British population or the British left are fundamentally anti-Semitic. I think they’ve chosen a side, and that lots of them are too dumb to understand that their behaviour is not OK. Which means that if the actual underlying conflict reaches resolution one day, there will be no more problem on the British left. That’s what happened with respect to South Africans, after all – more or less overnight, the state of affairs which I described above came to an end, and people who had been in the habit of behaving extremely badly to white South Africans more or less forgot that this had ever been a thing. This isn’t about age old hatreds; it’s about an even more ancient bad habit, that of lowering your standards of behaviour while supporting a team.


[1] I’m a Blue myself. Don’t tell me that Everton fans don’t make Hillsborough jokes. You might as well try to convince me that it was a coincidence that they were the last team in the League to have a black player.

[2] See, for example, the Fraser tribunal case, an unmitigated fiasco in which formerly useful anti-boycott campaign ENGAGE wasted uncountable amounts of time, money and credibility in a doomed attempt to prove that the Universities and Colleges Union was institutionally anti-semitic.

[3] These names were selected from the whole grisly record of the Barclays Premier League on the objective criterion of me wanting to wind up Chris. What did I tell you, I said I was a Blue.

[4] The relationship between the state of Israel and its online wannabes is interesting, but not so interesting to me that I want to spend a lot of time on it. The facts about what happens are what they are. Other countries (Russia and China) also have similar online supporters.

[personal profile] birguslatro
From here...

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/04/why-game-thrones-perfect-show-modern-age

"Right now, the really frightening prospect is that the world is actually being run by vicious idiots with only half a plan between them who are too busy fighting each other to pay attention to the weather, which is about to kill us all."

Get the latest UK election law news

May. 1st, 2016 09:25 am
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Ballot boxYou’ve probably noticed I quite often write about how British elections are run, what the Electoral Commission is up to, how election law is changing and controversies or prosecutions that have kicked off.

However, not all of those stories about UK elections appear on this blog or in my main Facebook/Twitter accounts.

For a fuller range of stories (or if you just are interested in election law and want to skip the pieces about toilet signage in Pizza Express and what Tim Farron has got up to), take a look at my UK Election Law news Facebook page or follow @UKElectionLaw on Twitter.

If you spot any stories about our election law or how our elections are administered which I’ve missed that you think I should or might want to cover, do let me know.

supergee: (hedgehog)

Brief answers

May. 1st, 2016 06:06 am
[personal profile] supergee
Are we facing an epidemic of harmful anal sex, brought on only because of the availability of online porn?

No
miss_s_b: (Default)

The Blood is the Life for 01-05-2016

May. 1st, 2016 11:00 am
[personal profile] miss_s_b
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

My own personal preference would be for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton: but that’s something driven by emotion rather than careful consideration of the issues. And what we’re about here is the consideration of exactly those issues, the economics of public policy. At which point Bernie becomes very much less appealing as a candidate. Simply because his actual proposed economic policies appear to me to be so terrible. We’ve actually had, over this weekend, a simple short hand description of the major policies which Sanders thinks constitute the heart of his crusade. And with one exception I think they’re just terrible as I say. This does not mean that Donald Trump’s trade ideas are any good, nor the Ted Cruz fixation with the gold standard, they’re both failures as policy ideas as well. But to that Sanders list:

Then he offered a framework for how that campaign might influence the direction not just of the party but of politics in the years to come. “[This] campaign,” said Sanders, “is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.”

That’s not a full discussion of his policies of course, but it is a useful list of what he considers to be the most important parts of his program.

Most of these have been dealt with at length before here. The $15 minimum wage I consider to be an appalling idea, as I’ve said here, here and here. Bernie deeply misunderstands the entire point and purpose of trade as I’ve detailed here, here and here. Medicare for all isn’t a terrible policy and would almost certainly be better than the current system as I’ve said here and here. But as I’ve also pointed out there are distinct problems with how Sanders wants to get from here to there. And it’s also true, as I describe here and here, that there are very much better reforms that could be applied to that healthcare system. We don’t particularly want to break up the Wall Street institutions, even though we do want some of them to shrink below the too big to fail limit. As I’ve explained here, here and here, Bernie and others aren’t grasping the correct point at all. Then of course there is the Sanders insistence on a financial transactions tax which simply wouldn’t work as advertised as I point out here, here and here. Quite why we’d want to end fracking is beyond me, cheap and lower carbon energy sounds like a good idea to me. And the real world is telling us that we don’t want to make college cheaper at all. We’d actually prefer rather fewer people going in fact. It’s a standard current complaint that many graduates have to do work which doesn’t require their expensive education and qualifications. OK: that’s reality telling us that we don’t need that many people with that education and qualifications then.

Which leaves us just with Bernie’s insistence upon a carbon tax as a way of dealing with climate change. Which is absolutely spot on correct. This is one of those things where there’s near unanimity among the economists who have studied the matter. William Nordhaus, Nicholas Stern, Richard Tol, John Quiggin: the correct solution is a carbon tax. Sure, we can argue about how large it should be and whether to phase it in over time or go for the big bang approach right now. But that is the solution. Great, so, here Sanders is right? Not so fast, because when we look at the details of what he’s saying he is till, sadly, wrong:

In fact, nearly a full quarter of the world’s electricity today comes from clean, sustainable resources like the sun and wind.

Well, no, not really. The electricity production figures are here and solar and wind (in 2014, and yes they’re growing, but not that fast) were about 4% of global production together. The only way you can get to that higher figure is by including hydroelectric as being one of those clean sources. Which it is of course but that’s still, given the American environmentalist concern for the snail darter and all, rather an elision to reach that claim. But it’s this economic misunderstanding which really grates:

That starts with simple, commonsense steps: instead of subsidizing massive fossil fuel corporations, we can create millions of jobs for working families by investing in clean energy. The answer is clear and affordable.

Creating millions of jobs is a measure of how expensive something is, not a measure of how affordable it is.

Create a Clean-Energy Workforce of 10 million good-paying jobs by creating a 100% clean energy system.

That’s 10 million costs just being added to the energy production system.

For every dollar invested in energy efficiency, families and businesses can enjoy up to $4 in energy savings, and for every billion dollars invested in energy efficiency upgrades we can create up to 7,000-8,000 new jobs, roughly ten times as many jobs as we would create from the same investments in coal.

Ten times as many jobs being created is ten times the labour cost of the alternative method.

Work toward a 100 percent clean energy system and create millions of jobs.

Jobs are a cost, not a benefit.

Support American workers moving into clean energy jobs. Our transition to a clean energy economy has created hundreds of thousands of jobs all over the United States, and Bernie’s climate change plan will create millions more.

Again, this is a measure of the cost, those jobs, not the benefits. And this really is a crucial economic point that Sanders doesn’t seem to understand: jobs are a cost of doing something, not a benefit of something being done.

We know that jobs are a cost to us too. The job is the cost of gaining the income from having to go to work. That’s why they have to pay us for us to go to work: because that work is a cost to us as individuals. The income we’ve got to be paid to persuade us to do the work is also obviously a cost to the employer. And at the larger societal level jobs are also a cost. We’ve an unlimited number of human wants and desires and we’ve limited resources to meet them. That’s the central contention of economics and if you want to deny that you could be doing all sorts of things it just won’t be economics that you’re doing. And labour is one of those scarce resources: there’s a certain amount of people out there and a certain number of hours in the week. So, if we use a more labour intensive method of doing something then we are made poorer. Because that labour now being used in greater quantity to do this, whatever it is, subtracts from the amount of labour that can be employed to do something else. We’re poorer by the lack of that something else as a result of our new labour intensive method of doing this. Which is another central point about economics: the true cost of something is the opportunity cost of doing or having that thing. What is it that we have to give up to have this thing?

In this case, having 10 million “good jobs” in wind and solar power, just as an example, the cost is that we will not have access to the other things that those 10 million people could have been producing if they weren’t handcranking the windmills.

Note that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have windmills: nor that climate change is or isn’t a problem. It’s purely a statement about that economic claim: Bernie says this technological change is good because it will create more jobs. But those more jobs are a claim about the cost of the change, not about the benefits of it. At which point we find that even when Bernie is right about economic policy, as he is when he says that a carbon tax is the right policy, he’s still wrong on the details of the plan. Jobs are a cost, not a benefit, of whatever it is that we do. This is not a great recommendation for his proposed public policies.

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

More educative entertainment from Tom Scott:

At the JET reactor at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Tom Scott talks to the engineers about fusion power, being the hottest place in the solar system, deliberate disruptions, and about the surround-sound speakers that give a diagnostic test you might not expect.

Yes, I suppose so

May. 1st, 2016 08:10 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

The former racing driver, who has been banished by administrators from BHS’s head office, has said he has backing from US and Canadian investors to buy back the retailer and has blamed its demise on mismanagment from chief executive Darren Topp.

However, a BHS spokesman said that Chappell was a “fantasist” , while another source said news he was looking to buy the business back had provoked “howls of laughter”.

Was it by a migrant?

May. 1st, 2016 08:08 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Southampton man found murdered in £400k Victorian house following housing dispute

Not quite the perfect Mail headline if it wasn’t

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

A couple of polls have suggested that Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservative Party might just edge ahead of Labour to become the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament. That is a truly horrible thought. Just imagine it, the timid, illiberal, centralising SNP opposed by David Cameron’s representative in Scotland. Their leaflets don’t push the fact that they are Conservatives. They are trying to make their campaign all about Ruth, as if she is somehow the saviour of the union. That, of course, is an argument that does not stack up, as this video from the Scottish Liberal Democrats shows.

It was the Scottish Conservatives who pretty much kept the SNP in power during their first term of minority government.

Do we really want them, with their contempt for benefit claimants, nonchalance about inequality and poverty and disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as the official opposition to an SNP government that is already so fiscally conservative and illiberal?

Their claim to be the only ones who care about the union has been shown up to be a pile of hogwash by Nick Clegg. In an article originally published in the Times and now on the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ website, he said:

As the Holyrood elections get closer and closer, I have become increasingly bemused that Ruth Davidson and others have sought to claim that the Conservatives are somehow the authentic opposition to the SNP.

It jars starkly with my experience when governing alongside the Conservatives in Coalition in Whitehall for five years.

In that time, I witnessed an odd ambivalence in the Conservative Party towards Scotland: indifference one minute; confrontation the next.

My party frequently disagreed with the Conservatives on Scottish issues, which was perhaps unsurprising since the only Scots around the Coalition Cabinet table were Liberal Democrats.

Whether it was over the negotiations with the SNP on the referendum bill; the conduct of the government during the campaign; or the approach to devolution both before the campaign and in the weeks and months that followed the vote, Liberal Democrats consistently stood up for Scotland when it was of little interest to English Conservatives. Not a single senior member of the Conservative Party represented a Scottish seat.

My Lib Dem colleagues and I – in particular Michael Moore, Alistair Carmichael, Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson – had to go to great lengths to deliver real powers for Scotland.

David Cameron and George Osborne are brilliant tacticians – the general election result in England is evidence of that – but sometimes they can be too cunning for their own good.

Whenever Scotland was on the agenda I saw time and time again how they sought to secure short-term political advantage before the long-term interests of Scotland and the Scottish people.

Shortly after the Holyrood elections in 2011, when the SNP won a majority and therefore the mandate to hold the independence referendum, the Conservatives wanted to push ahead with it on their terms and their timescale, sending a clear message that the UK Government, and not the Scottish Government, was in charge.

In the Conservatives’ hands, the referendum would have become a confrontation between Holyrood and a beligerent Westminster government that refused to respect their mandate or accept the need to relinquish powers in any meaningful way.

It was the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore who stopped them, insisting that it was for the Scottish Government to put forward their plan and for the two governments to then work together. Michael was diligent and respectful throughout the negotiations over the referendum and made sure it would be fair, legal and decisive.

It was also Michael who oversaw what at the time was the greatest devolution of power – especially tax raising powers – to Scotland since the formation of the United Kingdom as part of the Scotland Act, something the Conservatives had previously displayed little interest in doing. The Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have argued for the devolution of power and for a federal United Kingdom for decades.

And don’t be fooled by what has happened since the election: the new Scotland Act was drafted by Liberal Democrats in the Scotland Office before the election, based on the cross party work of the Smith Commission.

During the referendum campaign itself, it was Danny Alexander who co-ordinated the Government’s efforts. In particular, he did a huge deal to expose the weakness of the SNP’s economic case and to encourage businesses to speak out about the impact independence would have on them and their employees.

It was the morning after the referendum when the mask really slipped. As the result became clear, David Cameron and George Osborne’s first reaction was to genuflect to their English backbenchers and antagonise Scottish voters by turning the debate immediately towards the divisive issue of ‘English Votes for English Laws’.

In doing so they gave the SNP the grounds to cry foul and helped to foster a sense of grievance among some English voters that the Conservatives would harness very successfully at the subsequent general election with their spine chilling warnings of what would happen if a weak Labour government was pushed around by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Once again it was the Liberal Democrats who stood up for Scotland.

We vetoed their plans for a government commission on English Votes for English Laws and instead insisted that any commission should be cross-party and look at all aspects of devolution, not just the divisive issue of votes in Parliament. And it was the Liberal Democrats who insisted that the ‘Devo Max’ reforms that we, the Conservatives and Labour had promised in the vow made shortly before the referendum would go ahead with no strings attached, instead of making them contingent on English votes as the Conservatives initially wanted.

On the afternoon of the referendum itself, I told David Cameron that while I understood he had some restive English MPs on his backbenches whom he had to deal with, big constitutional changes should be made on a cross-party basis, not just to suit the political needs of one party.

I was dismayed at the prospect that the politics of grievance in Scotland, exploited mercilessly by the Scottish Nationalists, could so quickly be supplemented by the politics of grievance in England, exploited mercilessly by the Conservatives.

Far from opposing the SNP, the Conservative party has alighted on the SNP as the perfect whipping boy to stir up their English voters, just as the SNP have always used the Conservatives to whip up their own voters in Scotland. The SNP and the Conservatives, whatever they might say about each other, now have a strong interest in talking each other up, not down.

The attitude I repeatedly found myself coming up against from senior Conservatives was that the politics of Scotland were ‘Labour’s problem’, not theirs. In fact, a situation where the SNP rules the roost in Scotland suits them just fine as it makes it virtually impossible for Labour to win a majority at a general election.

So don’t buy Ruth Davidson’s nonsense about the Conservatives being the real opposition in Scotland.Time and time again the Tories have put their own interests before those of the Scottish people.

This does beg a very big question about Michael Moore, who was undeniably a wise and reasonable voice as Secretary of State. Nick acknowledges he did a very good job. You have to wonder why on earth he sacked him. But, leaving that aside, his broader point is bang on. The Tories can’t be trusted to deliver for Scotland. Ruth Davidson might look great in a tank or on a buffalo, but she is still David Cameron’s representative in Scotland, and David Cameron’s government treats Scotland with contempt and has been worse for the union than even the SNP.

In the most recent Parliament, it was the smallest group, the Liberal Democrats led by Willie Rennie who forced the SNP to change tack on several occasions over big issues like stop and search and use of armed police on routine duties. If people really do want a strong opposition, then it’s the Lib Dems who are best placed to provide it.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Modern regulation

May. 1st, 2016 07:51 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Lidl’s just recalled all tinned herring from its branches because the labels don’t warn consumers that it contains fish.

Yes, really.

Apparently, the budget supermarket’s Herring Fillets were being sold without warning customers that it contains certain allergens.
These are milk, egg, mustard, gluten – and fish.
According to Food Standards Agency rules, possible allergens must be written, in English, on all food products.

Sigh.

Welcome to the 19th century

May. 1st, 2016 07:20 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

IN an unprecedented experiment that ayurveda experts said was a “first in the world”, a bunch of doctors successfully operated upon an 83 year-old man for prostatic, removing a massive 240 gm of prostate, without using antibiotics.

He’s fine apparently. But anesthesia without antibiotics in surgery, that is 19th century. And there’s a good reason why, when antibiotics became available, everyone started using them.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

The global coffee giant, Starbucks, is being sued for $5million over the amount of ice it puts in its iced drinks.

Stacy Pincus alleges that customers are being misled because the chilled beverages contain just over half the drink they are paying for.

An interesting thought really. Is ice part of a drink or not?

For example, in the UK, if you wanted ice in your beer in a pub then the ice would have to come in a separate glass. To put it into the pint itself would mean serving a short measure.

Still, shows that the US has solved all other problems, eh? Nothing left to argue about except ice in drinks.

It’s the economy, stupid

May. 1st, 2016 04:18 am
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE

If Leave wants to win they need to show that Brexit is the better option for the economy and the financial wellbeing of voters.

We’ve been here before. We see the headline voting intention figures showing it neck and neck, yet the supplementaries on the economy show one side extending their clear lead further. Looking at the above supplementary questions from this week’s YouGov poll that showed Leave ahead by 1%, this referendum campaign, with the supplementaries showing more and more voters saying Brexit would be bad for the economy, jobs, and their personal financial situation, with Remain being the best option, is all very reminiscent of the polling we saw at the 2015 general election, the Tories and Labour tied but the Tories significantly ahead on the economy.

The YouGov supplementaries aren’t atypical.

David Cameron and George Osborne have their detractors, but it appears that with their recent Treasury analysis, and President Obama’s intervention, more and more voters see Brexit as damaging to the UK economy, jobs, and to voters personally. Focusing on the risks of Brexit is a clever strategy as the polls show the economy will be the most important issue in how voters decide which way they will vote in this referendum.

A few weeks ago ComRes found the most important issue in how voters would vote in the the referendum was the economy at 47% followed by immigration at 24%. Ipsos Mori had a similar finding. As with the Scottish Independence referendum, I expect a majority of voters won’t choose to make themselves worse off, saying to voters that they can be only £25 per year better/worse off is enough to change the minds of some of the voters in this referendum.

Unless Brexiters manage to improve the economic polling figures, I fully expect Remain to win. The voters won’t vote for anything that will make the country and themselves worse off. With prominent Leaver Arron Banks very publicly claiming earlier on this week each household losing £4,300 a year would be a price worth paying for Brexit and the Economists for Brexit saying Brexit would mostly eliminate manufacturing, Cameron & Osborne must privately be echoing the mantra of Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’

Once the local council, London Mayoral, and devolved elections are out of the way, the referendum campaign proper starts a week on Monday, that might be enough time for Leave to turn the economic perceptions of Brexit in their favour by June 23rd.

TSE

[syndicated profile] cif_andrew_rawnsley_feed

Posted by Andrew Rawnsley

Labour has a serious problem, but the last place to go for sincere advice is the Conservative party

Only in America. Never in Britain. The irresistible rise of Donald Trump has horrified our political class and at the same time has made them feel terribly smug. His incendiary journey towards the presidential nomination of one of his country’s major parties has been accompanied by many expressions of disgust on this side of the Atlantic.

In unison, our mainstream politicians have condemned the racist language he unleashes against Mexicans and Muslims. What a gift he has been. What a pleasurable opportunity he has offered British politicians wanting to posture from high moral ground. Some MPs have backed motions demanding that the probable Republican nominee be banned from our shores. Others have insisted that he should be allowed here so he can be told to his face that he is horrible.

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Three!

Apr. 30th, 2016 10:16 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The number of times patrons enthusiastically (and independently) speculated about how useful my cane must be for disciplining patrons*. Both the frequency and the open glee at the idea surprised me.

I wonder what the reaction would be if I brought in my blackthorn cane?

* Instant firing offense if I did, of course. As it should be.
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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