Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Animal testing

Blair supports Animal Testing, uses 'crisis' to tighten powers.

I've got no more to comment on the issue. If you want my opinion go here, here and here. This will simply serve as a record for me and anyone who forgets just how many opportunities the man will take to deprive us of our liberties.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Constructing new men

As a new writer for the Fluffy Economist, I thought I ought to set out some of the basics of my thinking, though it might help to know that my political co-ordinates are: -9.00, -7.54. You can read more of me at Bartlett’s Bizzare Bazaar, and, coming soon, The Sharpener.

+++++

“[W]hen we act, we create our own reality”; unnamed aide to President Bush, 2004.

Like giants, ogres and gnomes, Homo economicus is a mythical species of humanoid. Or rather, it once was. Unlike giants, ogres and gnomes, many educated, modern people have believe that Homo economicus, the monster-man who lives only by a calculation of personal material interests, not only exists, but that it is in fact Homo sapiens, the thinking-man, the man of sense, who is the fantasy.

Possessed by this belief, and possessing great power over the organisation of our society, this group of fantasists have, through human action, made their legends real. In ‘on your bike’, the attempt to disguise labour mobility as a virtue, people are told that there is no value to be found within the communities that they live and work. ‘Flexibility’, rendering jobs temporary, transient and often, precarious, erodes the notion of loyalty to and pride in anything greater than the individual economic unit.

This is presented as inevitable. But it is the product of human action. Homo economicus is presented as the natural form of existence for mankind. Why then, does it require thousands of years of social development to reach this form? Neo-liberal economic policies are the deliberate attempt to transform Homo sapiens, attached to place and people, culture and tradition by bonds that cannot be quantified, altering the environment so as to force evolution into Homo economicus.

The Marxist heritage of the leading proponents of neo-liberalism is patent. Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto that “[t]he bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and with them the whole relations of society”. “All that is solid melts into air”, leaving, as the only “nexus between man and man… naked self-interest… callous ‘cash payment’”. Everything is swept aside leaving only “egotistical calculation”. “[P]ersonal worth [is transformed] into exchange value” and freedoms have been replaced by Free Trade. Veiled exploitation is substituted by “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation”.

What men like Thomas Friedman have forgotten is that ‘making the world flat’ is not conducted in the interests of the poor and the powerless, people whose difference is their only defence against exploitation. Like so many liberals, ex-New Left and now the New Right, what is always missing from their analysis, and is apparent in their blind faith in the market and the United States Marine Corps., is the central importance of power in human relations, even those apparently, at least to the myopic, equal relations of the market, even the market of ideas. Yes, making the world flat might, and only might, strip away the rationale for tribal conflict and gender inequality. But it undoubtedly is the painless, liberal way of describing the way that capital kicks through barriers and establishes its dominance, in the process transforming human-kind into the rational, but uncivilized monster-men of Milton Friedman’s dreams.

Andrew Bartlett on FE

Hooray!

A new writer hits the Fluffy Economist in the form of Andrew Bartlett of Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar fame. His debut post is a cracker and should be up sooooooooon!

Carnival of Socialism #2

Scrawled across the door of a much neglected toilet cubicle on the fourth floor of the Edinburgh University Library, nestling amongst "The English are all gay" and "The Scots are tight as Nun's etc." is a placid non-bigoted plea: "So, who's up for Socialism then?"

Well this lot certainly are. I've been picked up by them for a post I wrote recently on the US democratic mission. There's some well written stuff on there and it's certainly an antidote to the right-heavy Britblog carnival. It's run by a different blogger every week, this time it's Think Socialist.

Perhaps this marks another westward drift in my political coordinates.

Monday, May 15, 2006

If only this were boring

The carpet bombing of civil liberties and human rights continues with Blair calling for a 'rebalancing of the civil liberties debate'. I swear the man has go it in for me. The last exam of my university career is on Thursday and he has to make it his mission to destroy what I hold most dear before then. I've said all I can on the subject, felt enough grief to last beyond my exam. Here are some quotes from the shit magnet himself:
"The demands of the majority of the law-abiding community have to take precedence," he told the launch.

"We should not have to fight continual legal battles to deport people committing serious crimes or inciting extremism."
Especially when they face torture in the country we wish to deport them to, and haven't faced a fair trial here because these are after all vile and dangerous men. Unconvicted maybe, but Ian says they are so they are, K?

"We cannot allow violent or drug-abusing offenders to be put back out on the street again without proper supervision and, if necessary, restraint"
Especially those that have served their time and repaid their debt to society, as deined by our so called justice system?

"Now none of these things is new but what I think is new is the emerging national political consensus to tackle them, and that should be a central part of the debate ahead."

From the Sun yes, but where else?

"Despite our attempts - and we have made many of them [we know!] - to toughen and reform the criminal justice system ... the criminal justice system is the public service most distant from what reasonable people want," he said.

Or rather a figleaf for your continuing ineptitude.

I'm sorry make this blog into a one issue wonder but I'm sick of Blair feeling that he must create news the whole time because everything else is ballsed up or run out of steam. It was fine when all he wanted to do was have tea with Damon Albarn but when he threatens our basic freedoms to continue his little show it becomes clear that he deserves to die a horrible and ugly death. The issues he delights in highlighting are simply not important, the way he wishes to deal with them is. I admired Blair when he refused to make immigration an issue at the last election, but playing with xenophobia is just as inexcusable when it comes to deporting foreign criminals. It is nothing more than a simple lust for power and that makes him anything but Churchillian.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Just what is that fucker's problem?

Rights
Rt Hon TonyBlair has left human rights activists gasping with his latest pronouncement that the human rights act needs a 'radical overhaul'. Civil liberties campaigners were also delivered a round house when Blair criticised a judge's ruling as 'barmy'.

Twat
Mr Blair, you are a twat. An extremely dangerous twat, but a twat you remain. Does it not strike you when you propose to harry, hassle and hound the suspects out of the country, when you criticise an independent judiciary and when you call for for a further erosion of human rights that you sound like a tyrannical demagogic twat. And this ain't no MSM conspiracy to poison our minds, even if Flabbodopolos was still around to point that out , because, hurher, you said it.

Urgent
Tell us also why this is now your "most urgent policy task"? I thought that was climate change. It's funny how it's not exactly urgent is it? More pressing is the need to deflect attention from the NHS and the Home Office and, shouldn't we all forget, that bill to abolish parliament.

Blow up (please)
Are you also aware, TB, that while pleasing the decent "law abiding majority" -- that so heartily thanked you for their protection nine days ago -- you are also marginalising an increasingly unsettled minority? And do you see no link between this alienation and the desire for young men to blow themselves up? Being marginalised yourself, why don't you share this inclination?

UPDATE (via Tom Paine): It's not just Tony who's at it:
Mr Cameron said he was deeply concerned that the [Human Rights] Act was preventing the authorities from expelling foreign criminals if the courts believed they might face maltreatment in their home countries.
Another word for maltreatment, David, is torture. But then again, they are foreign aren't they?

Disclaimer: Standing up for the right of foreign criminals not to be tortured does not at all diminish my desire to see Tony Blair blow himself up, however hypocritical this may seem.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Leg Reg vote this week

Amendments to the the Abolition of Parliament Bill get a reading on Monday and Tuesday (15th and 16th) of this week, but they're pretty much a mixed bag. Despite making a concession to maintain a veto in both the Commons and the Lords, Save the Parliament is not happy, arguing that the amendments still leave loopholes to allow Ministers to change legislation without recourse to Parliament.

Over at Liberty Central, Unity welcomes the Goverment being more specific about the burdens that can be removed - namely those of financial cost, administrative inconvenience, obstacles to efficiency, productivity or profitability, and sanctions, criminal or otherwise, for doing or not doing anything in the course of any activity.

What the hell does that last sentence mean? I agree with Spyblog when he says:
This Bill adds to the already strong case for a law which imposes criminal penalties on any Government Ministers, civil servants and lawyers, who dare to use words like "any" or "all" or "every" in a Bill or Order or Regulation, without qualification, caveat or restriction of unlimited powers.
Moreover, two major points of concern have not been removed from the bill. The first, long ago pointed out by Spyblog, is that the bill contains the power to amend itself. The second, as pointed out by Unity, is that it gives Ministers the ability to impose criminal penalties with sentences of up to two years.

I have pasted Save the Parliament's latest email bulletin below which summarises recent developments. It is imperative that you email your MP to vote against this abhorrent legislation. Democracy is a slow, sometimes tortuous, process but we cannot allow it to be subordinated to the needs of productivity, however defined.

= = = = = = =

Welcome to the fourth Save Parliament bulletin, and if you've only just joined us, welcome to the campaign!

This is the latest update on the Legislative and Regulatory Refom Bill (aka Abolition of Parliament Bill). For more information and constantly updated list of resources, visit the site at www.saveparliament.org.uk.

We have a lot to tell you about!

Since our last bulletin the Government announced a huge climbdown on the bill, recognising there were some concerns and committing to reconsider the bill to fit the 'Better Regulation Agenda'.

Since that announcement we have been waiting for the next move and finally, on 4th May, the Government published a list of amendments which will be voted on in the Commons on Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th.

Our initial reaction to the amendments was literally, "We've Won!" but after careful and detailed scrutiny by ourselves and a number of law professors we have uncovered that the bill still threatens democracy in much the same way.

The Government has added the much requested veto which can be used in the Commons as well as the Lords. They have also limited the bill to regulatory functions.

However, the delegation aspect still remains in the bill and there is only a limited list of excluded acts so as to ensure that core constitutional enactments cannot be amended by order.

The most worrying of the amendments is the use of the Law Commission. A minister may implement Law Commission recommendations 'with or without' changes'. This means the minister can used the bill to amend legislation based on the minister's inital idea, regardless of the recommendation from the Law Commission. The bill also threatens the independence of the Law Commission, which presents a huge threat to civil liberties.

The bill still does not mention business, which means a burden can be anything a minister considers to be such, unless it affects only a minister or Government department. If a minister considers that trial by jury is a burden on the police, it could be abolished, for example.

An addition brought in with the amendments gives the power to abitrarily shuffle around regulatory functions. A good example would be the BBC, whose board of governors could be abolished if a minister so wished.

The bill is still raising concerns about time limits, also. The committee will only have 30 days to consider an order which is not long enough, especially if many orders are introduced around the same time.

What happens now?
-----------------
The bill is now returning to the main chamber of the House of Commons for it's Third Reading, which is scheduled for the afternoons of Monday 15th May, and Tuesday 16th May. If you have time, you are encouraged to log on to the parliament.uk website and watch the debate live, or read the transcripts the following day on TheyWorkForYou.com.
http://www.parliament.uk/
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/

The debate will proceed like the Committee Stage before, where some amendments are brought before the house which are either dismissed, accepted or voted on. The amendments brought by the minister in charge, Jim Murphy MP, will all pass, and those proposed by anyone else will all fail. The list of proposed amendments is available here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200605/cmbills/141/amend/60509a01.htm

The amendments will be read or skipped over in the order that they are presented. Clauses 1 and 2 are expected to be entirely replaced. The first amendment in the list is to present a new clause replacing clause 1. When it is "Read a Second Time", it is up for consideration. The subsequent amendments (a)-(e) are proposed amendments to this new clause. These have the potential to change the clause, but they will all be rejected, because the Government believes it's version is perfect. It will then be "Read a Third Time" and inserted into the bill. The game roughly proceeds like that for the remainder of the day.

To follow the proceedings effectively, you may want to print out the version of the bill as it stands before the debate, and tick things off with a pen as they go through and change it: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmbills/141/06141.i-ii.html

We will be tracking the progress of this stage as it happens on our blog which you can find at http://bill111.wordpress.com/.

Unfortunately, the way these things are presented makes very simple things highly confusing - perhaps to keep the public uninvolved! Indeed, if you don't understand what's going on we'd urge you to write to your MP and bring the matter to their attention as they are ultimately responsible for the presentation to the public and can change it.

We'll issue another bulletin next week to let you know how things went in the Commons if you don't get chance to look at either of the sites above.

What can you do now?
--------------------
In the meantime, we strongly urge you to e-mail your MP as soon as possible to express dissatisfaction with the amendments which do not limit the powers in the bill effectively enough. We recommend you urge your MP to vote in favour of any amendments proposed by the opposition parties and vote against the entire bill should they be rejected.

Cheers,

Phil Peter
Director, Save Parliament
http://www.saveparliament.org.uk

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What let the terrorists through the net

Inadequate resources have been blamed for the failure of the intelligence services to pursue the threat to the UK. The full report is notable for its complete absence of reference to the role of legislation in preventing the terrorist threat. This may have been outside their brief, but surely an important question is whether such legislation (e.g. Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, Terrorism Act 2000) is necessary in the first place.

Incidentally, while reading "TA2000", I was sruck by the definition of terrorism offered. As my colleague Hesq has frequently pointed out, it is very hard on this basis not to refer to the goverment itself as a terrorist organisation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

DK on oil and innovation

I've got a few gems lined up for when I finish exams and the ensuing wallow in gallons of Harviston's Best. For now, head on to Devil's Kitchen which has some interesting thoughts on oil and its ability to constrain innovation in the countries that possess it. It was nice to be deflected from the Cochrane-Orcutt iterative procedure for a few moments. Best get back to it!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Just call him Giovanni

As the Premiership season ends, and inquests into the outrageous Spurs food-poisoning incident begin, John Terry reminds us all of the benefits of cultural exchange (my emphasis):
I think Luca Vialli was the first man to bring in [a focus on diets] at Chelsea. He brought in an Italian chef who's still there now - Nick. First of all the players were all, 'Oh, I can't eat this pasta - what's this all about?' We'd never seen it or tasted it. But now when I go to a restaurant that's all I eat. I want to eat chicken and pasta, and that's something that I'm going to do for ever.
Thanks John, a real lesson in culinary sophistication.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More on reshuffle

'Mr Reid was said by No 10 to be "the right man to take over" from Mr Clarke'...who was the right man to finish the job. Hmmm.

Reshuffle: complete. Government: finished

A cabinet reshuffle then, hot off the press, just 30 mins ago. So what's the news?

Losers
Clarke's off to the backbenches - hooray!
Prescott - "stripped of his brief" - a sad day for the 'true left'
Straw - now Leader of the Commons - the traditional resting place for a weary foreign secretary, especially one with a point to prove vis-a-vis Iran.
Kelly - quietly goes away.
Brown, G - not consulted (and remains in his post, obviously)

Winners
Reid - New Home Sec - the journeyman continues his rise
Des Browne - New Defence Sec - third Brown to serve in Blair's cabinet
Darling - Trade - biding time for Brown call up.
Johnson - Education - first real test for former pensions man.

Also rans:
Blears - Labour Party Chairperson - loyal, yes, but too embarassing on front benches.

And the replacement for Straw? Oh wait make that TWO!!!!

This is the most exciting thing to happen to the Cabinet since the Government took an absurd acronym and changed it to Defra. We now have two foreign secretaries!!

For Europe: Hoon!
What a choice, what bravado! The man who drove a civil servant to suicide is now 'Our Man on the Continent'.

For RoW: Beckett!
Another Blair stalwart, and we thought she was finished forever in the backwaters of the environment but now... front row! She's played a blinder.

In sum
Reivingorating - pah! A stale cabal of yes-men and -women. Blair can only gather this musty lot from the hedgerows and mothy cupboards of his crumbling estate so he bore can us to death for the rest of his term. It's a cabinet that's bad for the British but heartening in that it will only hasten the day the Blair jumps ship.

Beckett and Hoon! Can't help get a whiff of pig-shit about this one. Perhaps a ploy to drive policy past two weak politicians easier than one strong one. Hoon and Beckett not natural allies so Blair becomes new Foreign Sec. Stay tuned for excuses about complexity of world etc.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Golden Colbert

I was a little slow to pick on this, but, via Sonia's new blog, comes an absolute gem from the Daily Show's Steven Colbert, who used the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner to slam Dubya's regime and its subservient press. From the outset, Colbert was sparkling:
Wow, wow, what an honor. The White House Correspondents' Dinner. To just sit here, at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what, I'm a pretty sound sleeper, that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face.
He goes on, playing the President's ultimate fan:
Now, I know there's some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

...So don't pay attention to the approval ratings that say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's not doing? Think about it. I haven't.
The punches keep rolling:
...Now, there may be an energy crisis. This president has a very forward-thinking energy policy. Why do you think he's down on the ranch cutting that brush all the time? He's trying to create an alternative energy source. By 2008 we will have a mesquite powered car.

...The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday, that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change, this man's beliefs never will.
His juiciest stuff, however, was reserved for hos press colleagues:

But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on N.S.A. wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason, they're superdepressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished.

Over the last five years you people were so good over tax cuts, W.M.D. intelligence, the affect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions, he's the decider. The Press Secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home.

Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know, fiction.

Whatever he does for the rest of his life, Colbert can die a happy man, his service to humanity complete. The media reaction, however, has been somewhat mixed, with the establishment obviously peeved at being so insulted. The playwright Christopher Durang, registered his disappointment at the lack of coverage on the Huffington Post:
The media's ignoring Colbert's effect at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a very clear example of what others have called the media's penchant for buying into the conservative/rightwing "narrative."
ie the very thing Colbert was railing against. Durang reproduces the whole of Colbert's speech which he delivered standing right next to the President, eyeballing the man with his most biting lines. The whole thing's brilliant and must have made the most uncomfortable watching for all attended.

For those who prefer a little truthiness, go to Thank You Steven Colbert and register your support.

The Sharpener - know what they like!

The Sharpener was relaunched on May 1st, and will undoubtedly be a valuable resource in the battle against ignorance we wage each day. It has an excellent team of writers and has already shown its erudite discernment and superb credentials even in this short space of time.

PS This has nothing, absolutely nothing, to them linking to me in their sidebar.

Ahahahahahahaha

hahahahahahahahahahaha! (via Bondwoman)

Six degrees of blogging

Coffee and PC is attempting to get to Oscar Wildebeest in no more than six blog links. However, the bloggers had to have met in the flesh. The route has gone through Tim Worstall to Devils Kitchen with whom I am well acquainted. I can get you to: Fire On the Lifeboat, Trashbat and via Hesq you can get to Inthecompanyofus.

If Myspace counts, I can get you to Charlie Calleja - which I suggest you check out anyway because he's brilliant.

All of these live within or around London, furthest is Cambridge, so we could be getting close.

That's it!!
Well that started at 4.16pm yesterday. Worstall completed the loop at 12.28 pm today, with a hop of only four blogs: Coffee & PC, Rob Davies, Worstall, Danny Finkelstein and Oscar. Ye Gods the blogosphere is smaller and more frightening than we ever thought possible.

Clarke - fuckwit

Pssst...Jug-ears, you tried the tougher law thing before. Didn't work out too good did it? So what do you propose to solve you shambles of an office? Hmm? More tough laws! Genius, that way we won't think it failed in the first place.

AUT latest

The AUT 'action short of a strike' at St. Andrews looks like it is drawing to a close. It is reported that the union and the University have agreed to a new pay deal which is being put to members this week.

Something also seems to be stirring in Edinburgh with 'further guidance to be issued at the end of this week'. It does not seem like a resolution is close, however, with merely the promise of more, albeit overdue, advice to students. Perhaps they're going to tough it out.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Name your coordinates!

There is much on the blogosphere on the inadequacy of the right/left labels, which is odd because us bloggers throw the terms around like a rubber cock at a hen party.

One solution to this dilemma comes from Phil Edwards (hat tip: Charlie Whitaker) who proposes an ingenious scale which brands me a Pelagian Digger Right-Hegelian Whig - a PDRHW, although I've a tendency to be PDLHW at times.

Another less erudite but more effective method comes in the form of the Political Compass: a four-way scale which combines the standard left/right distinction with Authoritarian/Libertarian leanings. I first took the test about four years ago (when I was about -3.4/-3.3) and my progress has been heading in a marked south-westerly direction ever since currently standing at -8.38/-6.82, which makes me more left wing and libertarian than Gandhi. This is either the ability of university to turn a head, or for it to take the veil from one's eyes. I guess we'll see when I start paying council tax.

Heidi hits the blogosphere

If Heidi's blog is as good as its first post suggests, we're in for a treat.

Fluffballs #1

We say:
"The notion of the Economy has become so abstract that we cannot conceive of what it means for it to grow, shrink or stagnate - only follow programmed responses to each of these outcomes."
They say:
"[Benjamin] Friedman makes a powerful argument that—-politically and sociologically-—modern societies are like bicycles. As we all know, the laws of physics (specifically the conservation of angular momentum) make a bicycle extremely stable as long as its wheels are spinning fast and it is moving forward rapidly, but extremely unstable as it slows to a halt."

Thanks to the Independent for providing inspiration for this format.

Save The Parliament!

Thanks to Fourth Place for giving me the shiny button for SaveTheParliament.co.uk. It's a campaign dedicated to informing us about the Abolition of Parliament Bill, a frequent topic of this blog.

If you want one for yourself, here's the code:
<p><a href="http://www.saveparliament.org.uk"><br />
<img src="http://www.saveparliament.org.uk/images/banner2.png" alt="Save Parliament" border="0" height="63" width="472" />
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