The problem I have with Russell Brand

Oct. 24th, 2014 02:28 pm
[syndicated profile] liberal_conspiracy_feed

Posted by Sunny Hundal

The comedian Russell Brand was interviewed on Newsnight last night about his book, which you can watch above.

One headline is that Brand casually implies 9/11 was an inside job because George Bush had links to the Saudis, before half-heartedly back-tracking.

But I was more depressed by the first 10 minutes of conversation, and I want to explain why because I think this matters in a wider context.

In the debate Evan Davis wants to ask Brand a simple question: what is the alternative you propose? The comedian, who has apparently written an entire book calling for a revolution, doesn’t have a straight answer. Brand says the current system isn’t working (partly true) and points to activism by others challenging the consensus.

Brand says he is merely a high-profile voice and his job is to amplify the work of others. I think that’s fair enough.

But Davis has a more profound question that Brand clearly doesn’t want to answer. My version of that question goes like this: If you want to replace the current system of capitalism with something else, who is going to make your jeans, iPhones and run Twitter?

I.e. capitalism clearly has downsides, but it also leads to products that people really want to use. The desire for profit has led companies like Apple, Levi’s and Twitter to create popular products that – especially in the case of social media – we can sometimes even use for free (in return for being forced to watch advertising, of course).

In the debate, Evan Davis asks Brand about the fact that wages have historically gone up: making billions of people richer and allowing them to afford products like fridge freezers, TVs and iPhones. Brand’s response is: “Mate, I ain’t got time for a bloody graph“.

And then there are other responses that suggest he is blindly oblivious to his own privilege.

The problem I have with Russell Brand is that his style of politics is anti-intellectualism on an epic scale. He isn’t just leaving the heavy lifting to others, he casually dismisses facts like they are irrelevant.

Yes, our capitalist system is breaking down and our democracy has many flaws with it. But any discussion that starts with the premise that we need a revolution to over-throw the system must at least have a response to the inevitable: “and replace it with what?”

This isn’t to say I’m in favour of unadulterated capitalism or that I think cooperatives, mutuals, non-profit groups or social enterprises have no place. In fact we need far more of them. But, in effect, the Russell Brand critique is mild because all it really wants is a bit less of what is currently on offer a bit more of… some nice things that other people are asking for. To dress that up as a ‘revolution’ is plainly fatuous.

The establishment humours Russell Brand because he poses little threat to the system. Newsnight has him on because he’s good for their ratings, not because they want to bring down the system too. The lack of an effective critique means that people will listen to him, glaringly see the obvious contradictions and unanswered questions, and dismiss the Left as over-privileged white guys who don’t want to work but want their iPhones anyway.

A few years ago, I was going past the occupation of Parliament Square. I was quite defensive of the activists in the media and wanted to spend a bit of time just getting to know them. Bad idea. I came in being quite sympathetic, but soon realised that some of the people there only spoke in cliches and hadn’t actually looked into the nuances of what they were saying. The woman I was talking to seemed to think everything was a conspiracy. Soon she was joined by some people who firmly believed 9/11 was an inside job. I made an hasty exit. Of course, every group has its share of cranks but it was a very sobering experience.

If Brand gets more apolitical people to question the world they’re in, then great. But I worry about something else: that there’s a broader slide towards anti-intellectualism among lefties where facts don’t matter and smart critiques are junked in favour of cliches. The world is a messy place and our politicians are very flawed people. But we have to work (sometimes within the system) to continually reform it and improve it, not wait around for some vague revolution that will never come. If the end result is the UKIP-isation of the Left then I don’t want any part of that revolution.

Also worth reading: Why Owen Jones is wrong to suggest that criticism of Russell Brand is merely ‘snottiness’ — by Abi Wilks

supergee: (nourish)

Public menace

Oct. 24th, 2014 09:58 am
[personal profile] supergee
Texas hospital throws woman out of waiting room for breastfeeding.
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Cool Stuff Friday

Oct. 24th, 2014 09:54 am
[personal profile] jimhines

Friday is all about the bass. And the treble. Friday also has a weakness for the staccato…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Doctor Who and the Sweaty Octopus

Oct. 24th, 2014 02:37 pm
[personal profile] strangecharm
Watching The Thick of It (which I'm doing because I need something to keep me from getting bored while I knit that doesn't actually require me to pay too much attention to because I'm knitting) is weird now: I keep thinking The Doctor's swearing!

I think it's a testament to how quickly and thoroughly Capaldi's embodied the role that it's overtaken, in my mind, the previously iconic role of Malcolm Tucker. I know people who are struggling to accept him as the Doctor, but I'm totally not one of them: I've absolutely believed him and adored him from the beginning. It's nice to be able to enjoy Doctor Who uncomplicated for once.
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Belle Waring

It’s important that you listen to these important songs now, because of their great import. I like the Shirley Bassey song because, when John and I were first married, it was the signature tune of one of our favorite DJs. He had a club night where he played goofy twinkly commercially popular 60s and 70s music, and this was the “get everybody out on the floor” song. The Vaughan Mason & Crew tune (Disco Remix) is a roller disco song thankyouverymuch. Not merely normal-disco. It is so good. SO GOOD. It sounds like some Derrick Carter-ness but it’s from 1979.

See? SEE??!?

So many, the sparkles. All the sparkles. And for years I couldn’t find this song somehow. Violet reminded me just now to search again and—duh there it was! The off-kilter horns make it. I’m glad I could make this significant contribution to our blog.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

What would you want a liberal to say in the wake of shocking and violent events in your country? It must be something pretty close to Justin Trudeau’s words, full of dignity, wisdom and empathy.

Watch the video and see the excerpt below:

They want us to forget ourselves. Instead, we will remember. We will remember who we are. We are a proud democracy, a welcoming and peaceful nation, and a country of open arms and open hearts. We are a nation of fairness, of justice, and of the rule of law. We will not be intimidated into changing that.

If anything, these are the values and principles to which we must hold on even tighter. Our dedication to democracy and to the institutions we have built is the foundation of our society, and a continued belief in both will guide us correctly into the future. Staying true to our values in a time of crisis will make us an example to the world. Criminals cannot and will not dictate to us how we act as a nation, how we govern ourselves, or how we treat each other. They cannot and will not dictate our values, and they do not get to decide how we use our shared public spaces.

Today, some speak of the loss of innocence in Canada. This is inaccurate. Canada is not, and has never been, innocent to the threats we face; and we know, as we have always known, that we are not immune. What is true is that we have never let those threats shape us, and we have never bowed to those who mean to undermine our values and our way of life. We have remained Canadians, and this is how we will carry on. We will get answers to how and why this happened. They will be vital in preventing any future attack.

And to our friends and fellow citizens in the Muslim community, Canadians know acts such as these committed in the name of Islam are an aberration of your faith. Continued mutual cooperation and respect will help prevent the influence of distorted ideological propaganda posing as religion. We will walk forward together, not apart.

Credit to the nice people at Upworthy for doing the transcript.

Sculpture Vulture

Oct. 18th, 2014 07:30 am
[syndicated profile] culture_vulture_feed

Posted by Phil Kirby

Walter Grumpius sets forth again, ricochetting around ‘our’ public sculptuary like a slow and curmudgeonly pinball: Episode 2 of a continuing series.

Review: Chewing the Fat

Oct. 22nd, 2014 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] culture_vulture_feed

Posted by Rachel Jeffcoat

Fat, so we are told, is a feminist issue. We live in a society obsessed with body image. Women who don’t fit the rather restrictive mould are offered an array of options in the form ...
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Yesterday was the last solar eclipse the US will see until August 2017. This was a partial eclipse, so the Sun wasn’t completely blocked by the Moon, but it was still a lot of fun. Judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds, a lot of folks watched this eclipse and took pictures. I was out on my porch taking shots, too – well over a hundred, though only a few came out.

Some people had far better circumstances than I did, though. I asked for them to send me pictures, and I got a lot! Here are just a few of the ones I received… and I threw in one I took as well. You’ll see why.

All photos below used by permission.

Why not start things off with a classic? Craig Ruff took this shot in Table Mesa using a 10 cm telescope. The detail is great; you can see the brain-grindingly huge sunspot group AR 2192 looming in the middle of the Sun’s face as the Moon blocks a big chunk of solar real estate.

Edward Plumer got an unusual view using an H-alpha filter, which lets through light form warm hydrogen. This accentuates the twisted magnetic fields of the Sun, and you can see a huge filament lying across the Sun like a scar. Compare the visible light image on the left with what you can see using the filter, and you can understand why astronomers like to see things in as many different ways as possible.

Astronomer Alex Parker took this wonderful shot as Sun set behind the iconic Boulder Flatirons. He said it was a syzygy, an alignment of three objects: The Sun, the Moon, and the Earth itself blocking the Sun as it set.

Astronomer and friend Emily Lakdawalla knew that one part of her house creates a spectrum when sunlight hits it. Sure enough, when the Sun was in the right spot, it threw out this amazing multiple-colored eclipse rainbow. I like how each color is a complete (if somewhat distorted) image of the Sun. I used to work with spectra like this back in my Hubble days… though I never observed the Sun with it.

But I have to add Hubble did observe the Sun, exactly once.

For most of the US, the eclipse happened in the late afternoon, so the Sun set mid-eclipse for a lot of people. Bob Robinson caught it between clouds, illuminating the sky is a glorious red. I like how the foreground is silhouetted, including the tower on the left.

I asked for clever photos, ones you might not expect, and Jonathan Albright delivered: he used binoculars to project the Sun, and it was low enough that his shadow made a cameo in the photo as well.

Sometimes you just get lucky: Doyle Sliff was shooting photos of the eclipse when an airplane made an unexpected appearance. It’s about the same apparent size as the sunspot… but in reality the sunspot is well over ten million times bigger.

And why not: I’ll wrap this up with a shot I took myself. The beginning and end of the eclipse were clear here, but the long middle was cloudy. I waited patiently, then less patiently… and was rewarded when the clouds thinned a bit. I think they added a lot of drama to the picture, especially with the airplane contrail across the bottom. It goes to show you that astronomy (and photography, and especially the two together) is sometimes a waiting game. It’s worth trying, even when it seems like the odds are hopelessly stacked against you.

If there’s a life metaphor to take from that, well, feel free to find it. But patience is something we’ll all need to see the next eclipse around these parts. I’m very much looking forward to it… since it may very well be the very first total solar eclipse I’ll have ever seen.

I think I’ve been patient long enough.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Harry Hayfield

Oban North and Lorn on Argyll and Bute (Ind Defence)
Result: Scottish National Party 1,090 (41% +16%), Independent 629 (24% +1%), Labour 530 (20% -2%), Conservative 415 (16% -2%)
SNP lead of 461 (17%) on the first count on a swing of 8% from Independent to SNP, SNP GAIN from Independent on the fourth count

Rogate on Chichester (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 342 (71% -20%), UKIP 138 (29%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 204 (42%) on a swing of 25% from Conservative to UKIP

Burnopfield and Dipton (Derwentside Independents Defence) and Evenwood (Lab Defence) on Durham
Burnopfield and Dipton
Result: Labour 656 (45% +7%), Derwentside Independent 655 (45% +10%), Conservative 86 (6%), Green 63 (4%)
Labour GAIN from Derwentside Independent with a majority of 1 (0%) on a swing of 1.5% from Labour to Derwentside Independent (True Swing: 17% from Independent to Labour)

Result: Labour 546 (38% -14%), Conservatives 396 (28% -3%), UKIP 309 (22% +5%), Independent 108 (8%), Green 72 (5%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 150 (10%) on a swing of 6% from Labour to Conservative

Newnham and Westbury on Forest of Dean (Ind Defence)
Result: Independent 321 (39%), Conservatives 216 (26%), UKIP 102 (12%), Labour 100 (12%), Greens 70 (8%), Liberal Democrats 25 (3%)
Independent HOLD with a majority of 105 (13%)

Mitcheldean on Gloucestershire (Ind Defence)
Result: Conservatives 959 (38% +14%), UKIP 550 (22% +3%), Independent 455 (18% -18%), Labour 278 (11% +1%), Liberal Democrats 150 (6% unchanged), Greens 106 (4% unchanged)
Conservative GAIN from Independent with a majority of 409 (16%) on a swing of 6% from UKIP to Conservative

Haywards Heath, Lucastes on Mid Sussex (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 524 (56%), UKIP 203 (22%), Liberal Democrat 112 (12%), Labour 90 (10%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority 321 (34%)

Folkestone, Harvey West on Shepway (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 385 (39%), UKIP 293 (29%), Liberal Democrats 262 (26%), Labour 57 (6%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 92 (10%)

The main headline has to be four UKIP MISSES including two in prime UKIP areas

Harry Hayfield

Froth gone from UK recovery

Oct. 24th, 2014 11:49 am
[syndicated profile] bbc_robert_peston_feed

The UK recovery has past its peak, but growth remains better than major competitors.

No great surprise that UK growth has slowed a bit in the three months to September, from an annual rate of 3.2% to 3%.

Growth in distribution (largely shopping), hotels and restaurants of 4.4% in the previous quarter, and 4.9% and 4.4% respectively in the preceding quarters, was looking a bit frothy.

So it is not necessarily a bad thing that there appears to have been slight moderation in this proxy for household consumption to 3.8%.

The much tinier manufacturing part of the economy grew faster than GDP as a whole at 3.4% - so the Chancellor can claim there has been some useful rebalancing, to make the economy a bit less dependent on consumption and services.

And the Bank of England's Monetary Policy and Financial Policy committees need have fewer worries that the economy is already becoming too dependent again on debt-fuelled household spending.

Even so the production sector of the economy, which includes manufacturing, is still 9.6% smaller than it was before the crash, whereas the much larger services sector is 7.1% bigger.

Which is why the economy as a whole is 3.4% bigger than prior to the Great Recession - though on a per head basis, the UK has still not quite made up lost production.

I spoke to the Chancellor about all this at Toyota's plant in Derby.

George Osborne takes comfort that there is still strong momentum in the economy, at a time when the eurozone has run out of puff.

But he repeated what he told me a fortnight ago, that we cannot be immune to the growth-braking impact of stagnation or worse in France, Italy and Germany.

So the UK's economic recovery is by no means over. But it is entering a gentler phase.

And here is the thing. Growth in coming months, of whatever speed, may become a bit more dependent again on household consumption - because overseas demand for our goods and service is likely to diminish (and read why this could turn into a nightmare).

So that much touted and desired rebalancing of the economy towards manufacturing and exports, and away from shopping, may be postponed (again).

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

Today Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb held roundtable talks on mental health services in Sheffield.

Representatives from the local NHS discussed the impact of mental health conditions being brought into line with other NHS services, with the introduction of the first ever waiting time standards.

For the first time, from April 2015, most patients needing talking therapies – for conditions like depression – will be guaranteed the treatment they need in as little as six weeks, with a maximum wait of 18 weeks.

For many patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis, the NHS will start to provide treatment within two weeks of referral – bringing it into line with consultations for cancer. Evidence shows that treating psychosis rapidly can dramatically improve patients’ chances of recovery and potentially save £44 million each year in hospital admissions.

Nick Clegg said:

I’m delighted to welcome Norman to Sheffield to talk about how our plans will improve local mental health services.

At least one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives. It’s wrong that relatives and friends needing a hip operation can expect treatment within a clear timeframe but someone with a debilitating mental health condition has no clarity about when they will get help.

For years, NHS waiting standards have existed for patients with physical ailments and they have drastically cut long waits. Now we are finally ending the injustice of people with mental health conditions waiting far too long for treatment with the first ever waiting time standards for NHS mental health services.

Norman Lamb said:

Our announcement is part of a radical five-year plan to end years of imbalance between mental and physical healthcare services, backed by £40 million this year and £80 million freed up next year.

Liberal Democrats want to build a fairer society and that means mental health has got to be a priority for everyone. We are absolutely determined to make sure anyone with a mental health condition can expect the same standards of care as they would for a physical health problem.

We are urging the whole health and care system to engage with these ambitious plans to drive up standards so that, by 2020, mental and physical health services will be given equal priority in all parts of the country.

[personal profile] supergee
Empathy: One hope for not letting the terrorists win on the Internet.

Thanx to [ profile] andrewducker
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

A little something put together at work with my colleagues from Open Road, comparing the most Conservative constituency in the country – Richmond, Yorkshire – with the most Labour constituency – Liverpool Walton. Take a look at the Open Road blog for more commentary on the comparison.

How do the most Conservative and  most Labour constituencies compare?

supergee: (guitar)


Oct. 24th, 2014 07:03 am
[personal profile] supergee
Professor Borges, an excellent book made of Jorge Luis Borges's lectures on English Literature, has the words Avalon and Fabian on facing pages.

(Note for younger readers: [Frankie] Avalon and Fabian were the 50s forerunners of the boy bands: cute guys who could almost sing.)
watervole: (Default)

Google Fu

Oct. 24th, 2014 11:17 am
[personal profile] watervole
 I seem to have acquired a fan...

We had a Polish  customer in the bookshop earlier this week looking for a concise British history book that was written before WW1.

We found him one and he bought it, but he was also talking about how he was looking for a particular paper delivered by a Polish politician at Oxford just after WW1.  He'd failed to find a copy of it anywhere.  As the shop was quiet, I looked it up for him on Google and managed to find the text of it after a bit of searching.  He donated the charity a couple of quid and I  emailed him the link so he could print out the file.

Yesterday, he was back again.  He was convinced that my computer (the till) is better than the one at the local library because I can find historical things on it.  I explained that it wasn't the computer (which is pretty crap as computers go, but it does the till work and allows us to research books on Amazon, etc), but it was me because I'm good at researching things.

This time it was a speech by his politician at the Versailles conference.  That took me several minutes, but I tracked down what looked like a transcript of the speeches at the University of Wisconsin.  I think it's what he's after (the list of talks includes the one he wants), but as the file is a photo of the text rather than converted by OCR, it can't be searched for individual words and it's a massive file - far too big to scan quickly.  I gave him the link so he can try and print out the bits he wants.

Another couple of pounds in the collection tin.  (I've explained to him that I can only do his research when there aren't other customers in the shop, as I need to focus on helping/serving them.)

If he comes in again (which I half dread as he does take up an awful lot of time), I can't help wondering what he'll want next.  I've deliberately not named his politician here, simply because I don't want to show up on Google searches for the name, but he was clearly an important person in Polish history at that time - very much a Polish nationalist (though worryingly anti-Semitic).

I may have to tell him that I simply don't have the time to do any more.  Although he's only been in during fairly quiet times, he can hang around for quite a while, and I do need to get on with book pricing.
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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Stuff and nonsense

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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