Saturday, January 17, 2004

An interesting comparison.

Peter Cuthbertson has many books about Margaret Thatcher. I, on the other hand, have only one.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

Trifling Obsessions

My work occassionally leads me to spend a few weeks in London. (Yes, I'm an MP.. hah).

When I'm here, I take one bus to work, and one to get home. This happy state of affairs means that I have absolutely no need of a bus pass, and am instead satisfied by purchasing a Saver Six. This, as you might gather, is a pack of six bus tickets, or for europeans, a carnet.

Why do I bore you with this? Because dear reader, your correspondent has developed an obsession. I never want to buy more than one of these carnets a week. I don't know why this is so. The £2.50 or so I try and save is a mere trifle, but I am obsessed by it.

If I have ten journeys a week to take, and only six tickets, It's pretty clear I have to take four journeys without paying for them.
Now there are two different buses I can take to get to and from my place of work. One is a an old routemaster with a ticket inspector, while the other is newer bus with a driver who takes tickets.

It should therefore be obvious that fare avoiding is only really possible on the routemaster bus, as the modern bus requires handing over the ticket on entry.

Now, you might ask, why not try to sneak on the bus? No, That would be wrong. I am very strict about this. If I am ever asked for my ticket, I will hand it over. Even if the ticket insector pauses meaningfully as he passes me, I will pay my way. Only if no attempt is made to collect my fare will I dodge payment. Why, it's scarcely a dodge.

I have realised the best way to do this. First, wear a suit. the more respectable you are, the less likely inspectors are to ask for a ticket. Second, make eye contact, but briefly and only if they pass your field of vision, If you're prepared to look at the inspector, but not draw attention to yourself by gaizing, you look more confident and thus, less likely to be asked to hand over money.

Still, even with these top notch techniques, missing four out of ten fares is a heavy demand. All else being equal, the modern bus will pick me up half the time. I would have to pay on average 5 times. Which would leave me trying to avoid fares on the routemaster 80% of the time. An almost impossible task.

Yet I've done it. Through determination, hard work and grit I have succeeded. The problem is my dedication to my mission is becoming overweening. This morning, I massively increased my chances of sucesss by waiting for the routemaster, letting two modern busses pass me by.

Is this good tactics, or am I just cheating myself?

(and yes, I do realise I am, quite literally free -riding. I have come to terms with my moral weakness, and am content i just want advice on the tactics.)

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

RSS feed and updated blogroll

I don't know how it works (or if it works) but Lance asked me, so here's a new RSS feed. I've also got round to adding Andrew Ian Dodge to the blogroll, (which I promised to do ages ago). Also those people who change their sites all the time should have the right links now.

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You want to know how the Bush administration works from its own documents?

Well you're going to be able to read it for yourself online.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is about to release hundreds, if not thousands, of Bush administration documents on the internet.

"Suskind, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that he planned to post many of the documents on the Internet in coming weeks so that the public can get a firsthand look at how policy has been made in the Bush administration. "

"We will begin releasing them in a week or two so the American people can then read these documents for themselves,'' Suskind said". "This is very much a fact-based view of the administration's first two years.''

Whatever you think of the Suskind/O'Neill book, the ability to read this stuff will be fascinating. (OK, I speak as a man who has a copy of Beschloss's Johnson whitehouse tapes on his bookshelf).

Apart from anything else, the chance to read Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman going through all this stuff will be amazing.

Two thoughts.

1. No man is a hero to his valet & Politics is like sausage making, you don't want to see how it's done.

Not just cliches, eternal truths. There is no way this will look good for the Bushies. Just because every flaw will be exposed. Same would be true of anyone.

2. How will the Whitehouse respond? They can't disprove the documents. Attack the source most likely, but ermm, they appointed him. perhaps someone will be cut loose - say someone who comes out looking bad, but isn't core.

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Marriage and politics..

I get the New York Times delivered to my desktop each morning. A minature paperboy cycles along, and always manages to hit the trashcan. (apologies for anyone who didn't spend a significant part of their childhood playing paperboy on the Spectrum).

Maureen Dowd dumps on Howard Dean because his wife has her own career and doesn't want to sit on a platform looking adoringly up at him. Well, that's important, right. I mean it's not like there are any real issues to be dealt with in this election.

For some reason pundits galore have decided in the last few days that this is "an issue". You can't read an article about Dean without the absence of his wife from the campaign trail being noted as unusual, and therefore somehow troubling.

Why? who (other than pundits) has volunteered the information, unbidden that this stuff matters to them? Did Lincoln's wife matter to voters, did Wilson's or Theodore Roosvelt's? How about Mrs Coolidge? Or is this just another pundit generated load of crap about nothing?

Dowd starts on the Deans by saying "The doctors Dean seem to be in need of some tips on togetherness and building a healthy political marriage, if that's not an oxymoron."

The Deans' have been together for over 20 years. He was governor for ten. As far as we know he hasn't been playing away. So the fact is that they don't need any tips on building a healthy political marriage. They found a way that works for them. Yet, to Dowd, this is "an unusual relationship".

In some way, for Dowd, this relationship is odd. She implies that their lives are distant, and then segues into the fact that Howard Dean is "chilly" and "angry" (strangely though, this chilly man generates a lot of heat. Cold fusion, eh?). Well, we can see where this is going. There's a huge questionmark about the Dean's relationship running though this whole piece.

Why? What does it matter how the Deans love each other, if they love each other in a way different to the way, say, the Bushes love each other, or ron and Nancy loved each other. Truth is, it doesn't.

So despite this, should the Dean's force each other to do things the other is disinterested in, should they upset their strong, longlasting marriage for political gain?

Apparently. According to America's premier feminist journalist.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Right whingers.

I'm sick of these cry baby right wingers and their constant whinging. If I have to read another article about how awful life is for the privileged, I think I'll scream.

Wealthy, privileged white guys moaning about persecution and attempts to end their free speech in their National newspaper columns. Bwwwwwaaahhh. Bwwwwwaaaaaahhhh.

University educated, ex-public schoolboys and girls complaining about how terrible it would be to discriminate against public school kids, while at the same saying that it would be terrible to let more kids got to university. Bwwaaah Bwwaaaah.

I say, if you're paying ten grand a year for better education than other kids, don't complain when someone else gives state school kids a hand up too. Your other option is a big increase in taxes to pay for better schools. Capiche, you whinging plutocrats?

People who get caught committing breaking the law saying they shouldn?t have to face punishment. Bwaaaaaaaaah. Bwaaaaaaaaaah

Because, umm, there should be one law for the rich and one for the poor? Oh, wait, no, it's one of those irregular verbs. I am unjustly persecuted, he is under suspicion, you are a criminal lowlife.

What is it that makes the wealthiest, most powerful people in the world spend their days whinging about persecution? Conrad Black is being persecuted by people who were upset he innocently took millions of dollars from the company they owned together- and he is complaining about it. Poor thing.

The right wing just can't stop whinging. It must because if they ever stop complaining, people might see how damn lucky white, middle class, educated, wealthy people really are. Right Wing whinging is part of the pathology of the right. It's an easy smokescreen for privilege and self interest.

Oh, and for those of you who want to tell me how decent and reasonable people are being persecuted for harmless offences by government Bureaucrats while "the real criminals" get away with it, read this. A quarter of a million stolen from you and me by one family. Think you'd have heard more about it if it was an Asylum Seeker?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Voters are Bastards. Discuss.

In all the kerfuffle (how I love that word) about Labour MP, Stephen Pounds’ “The voters have spoken, the bastards” quote (which was stolen from Democratic Congressman and failed presidential candidate Mo Udall), one question seemed to have been be missed. Was he right? Are voters bastards?

Of course he is. Taken as a whole, voters are the most ungrateful, selfish, and ignorant group you can imagine. If No-one ever lost money by underestimating the taste of the public, no politician ever lost votes by catering to either the self interest or ignorance of the voter.

George Wallace was a progressive southern governor until losing office in a race baiting election. His response? To say “I’ll never be out-niggered again”. He went on to win the next election on a racial platform.

So who put racist southern governors in power for a hundred years, and fought to keep them for another hundred? Voters.

But it’s not just old southern racist voters who are Bastards; it’s all sorts of voters through history.

Who put Hitler in power?

Who spent the thirties backing appeasers?

Who stopped Roosevelt from backing Britain against the Nazi’s before Pearl Harbour?

That’s right; it’s those bastards, the voters. They're responsible for he entire Second world war.

Somehow, voters never get the blame for their mistakes. They’re irresponsible too.

Take Chamberlain. He knew that the British public were dead set against war. So he tried to avoid going to war. Then we had to go to war anyway- and who gets the blame? Not the voters, Poor old Chamberlain, who was only trying to do what they wanted.

So, ignorant and irresponsible. Don't forget ungrateful. After all, who kicked Winston Churchill out of office mere months after he had saved the Nation from the voter's follies? Why, the voters, of course.

Add selfish to the list, too. Voters vote for tax cuts when there’s no money to pay for them. The vote for public services when there’s no money to pay for them. More often than not, they vote for both at the same time and let someone else pay for it later. Voters have had their faces deep in the trough since invention of the ballot.

Contrast voters with the quiet dignity of the non-voter. Martin Luther King couldn’t vote. Nor could Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela. The Pankhurst’s couldn’t vote. Not a single prophet, son of God or Buddha has ever voted. These people are inspirations, loved, worshipped and followed for their examples and love for their fellow man. No voter has ever reached their heights. I dare say no voter ever will.

So there you have it. Stephen Pound was right. Voters are bastards. Only problem is, the only thing worse than rule by millions of conflicting bastards is being ruled by one bastard with a mission, or a few bastards with common interests. So we’re stuck with the buggers.

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Monday, January 12, 2004

An interesting blog...

I sometimes feel guilty about the very Anglo-American content of this blog. So here's an interesting blog written by a couple of South African Rhodes Scholars. One of my many, many new years resolutions is to learn more about African politics, so any suggestions from the authors on where to start would be most welcome...

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I'll be your Private member, your member for nothing...

The ballot for the Private members bills for this year was announced last week. Here are the top six, which are most likely to get voted on and enacted.

Andrew Stunell, Liberal Democrat,Hazel Grove, SUSTAINABLE AND SECURE BUILDINGS. Presumably Mr Stunnell is in favour of these and is trying to make it easier to build them. No Press releases as yet.

Hywel Francis, Labour, Aberavon, CARERS (EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES)
Employment rights for carers. Cross party Support.
Jim Sheridan, Labour, West Renfrewshire, GANGMASTERS (LICENSING)
Was introduced by a Tory last year- is about licensing agricultural cultural Labour.

Julian Brazier, Conservative, Canterbury, PROMOTION OF VOLUNTEERING.
Likely an NGO written bill. Uncontroversial.

Dari Taylor, Labour, Stockton South, CARDIAC RISK IN THE YOUNG (SCREENING) A Bill to promote the above, obviously.

Kevan Jones, Labour, North Durham, CHRISTMAS DAY (TRADING)
Probably a Union sponsored Bill to prevent trading on Christmas day. Tom Watson is a co-sponsor.

Confusingly, the ballot for private members bills is a lottery, not a ballot.

It might be fun to devise a method of choosing private members bills that a) reflects members desire to debate them, and b) requires cross party support (to stop it just being more whip fodder).

Oh.... and nestling in at Number 11 on the ballot.. a Bill to prvide for a referendum on the constitution of the European union. Waste of time, but might be a fun debate.

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