26 July 2010

The Afghanistan war logs

I can't get on to the Wikileaks site at the moment to look at the Afghanistan stuff - and I expect that to continue for some time yet - but Channel 4 news had a good summary.

The material confirms what most of us sane people out on the blogosphere have been saying all along... Afghanistan is a disaster, with thousands of civilian casualties (at least).

It's unlikely I'll have time to analyse the thousands of pages of material in depth any time soon, but hopefully there'll be plenty of other people doing that.

This just underlines the spectacular military misadventure that was the Bush administration. And if Obama and Cameron have any sense they will get the hell out of Afghanistan. And fast, before who knows how many thousands more lives are lost.

21 July 2010

Some thoughts on the Labour leadership election

I should be getting into a zone where I'm able to do a bit more blogging over the next few weeks after a very quiet July, so it's time to take another look at the Labour leadership election. FWIW here is my .02 Euro (can't get the Euro key to work under Linux - what the hell?) on each candidate:

  • Andy Burnham: the blog post which said "there is a token candidate for the leadership - his name is Andy Burnham" says it all. A nice guy, but hopeless.
  • Diane Abbot: not as bad as many people have been saying, and will probably pick up more votes than most pundits realise. She's unlikely to win, though.
  • Ed Balls: good, hard-hitting soundbites attacking the coalition's economic policy fatally underlined by a neanderthal stance on immigration, as previously taken apart on this blog. Also not the most popular flavour in the jelly bean pack with voters... in fact probably the hardest sell of all 5 candidates. (Diane has a lot of voter recognition through being on the TV a lot, and who the hell could dislike Andy Burnham? He's the Ronnie Corbett of Labour politics. But if you remember Ronnie in Sorry! that's what Burnham would be like as leader... a bit of a laugh.
  • Dave Miliband: now we start coming to the real contenders. He has been steadily trying to move away from his 'microBlair' days with a spirited pitch to the soft left on some issues, interspersed with splashes of the old Blairite rhetoric. In short, a little something for every voter in this leadership contest - and therefore maybe tickling all the bases and not nailing any of them. His campaign team is good and features some real radicals, the delivery is smooth and assured, but I still can't quite convince myself that Dave really means it. I just sense the dead hand of Tony Blair lurking round the corner. I'd be happy to be proved wrong, but I'm sorry Dave, I couldn't vote for you even if I was eligible (and unless I join the Labour Party I'm not - more on that later). Also, what is the government's enquiry into torture going to come up with? As Foreign Secretary at the time, did Dave knowingly go along with extraordinary rendition? If he knew the British state was complicit in torture there's no way he should be anywhere near the Labour leadership. Or indeed anywhere at all, apart from a prison cell.
  • Ed Miliband: for me, the obvious choice. A smooth soft left pitch with maybe a dash of something harder in the mix. Can be smooth, like Dave, or more of a rottweiler, like Balls, depending on what's required ("the emissary from planet f***", he was nicknamed by members of the Blair entourage when he was a Brown special adviser). Also has enough cabinet experience to avoid looking like a novice but is a recent enough entry into Parliament to still seem pretty fresh (and wasn't in Parliament during Iraq, which helps A LOT.) If I do end up joining Labour my vote will be for Ed.
The interesting thing about this election is that no-one has a bloody clue what's going to happen really. Will Straw has a good go at predicting the result on Left Foot Forward, with the ambitious "LFF model" suggesting that the Milibands are neck-and-neck on first preferences, with Ed likely to draw ahead on second preferences. This is sketchy analysis to be sure - there's no proper polling of the people who are actually going to be voting (the YouGov poll of the electorate and a ComRes poll of business leaders, both of which favoured Dave, mean f*** all because almost none of those polled - perhaps literally none at all! - are eligible voters in the election.) But it's the only analysis of any quality at all we've got so far, and I think it's about right. Dave may come out slightly ahead - maybe by 5 percent or so - on first prefs but I think that second prefs will favour Ed and put him over the top - maybe not by much.

And that in my view, is A Very Good Thing. Perhaps we should be nervous though that Simon Heffer, of all people, is suggesting that Ed could be prime minister within a year. Now one school of thought is that support is a good thing wherever it comes from. But when it's the Heff, that seems crazy. I haven't read the article in any detail yet.. it was linked from LFF. I'll read it in a minute.

So anyway, carry on Ed. You can do it. Just don't f***ing let us down if you do win. I'm already minded to join the Greens... not because of anything Ed or the other candidates have done, but because there's no way Caroline Lucas is gonna sell anyone out. And in these days of duplicity, double dealing and splintered manifesto commitments, I find that reassuring.

16 July 2010

Catholic Church thinks women priests are tantamount to child abuse

...but of course until recently it was much more willing to tolerate one than the other.

Really this tells you all you need to know about the world's most reactionary and corrupt religious organisation.

Some people are fighting the good fight for sanity and liberal tolerance within the RC Church and I wish them all the best. They've got a real fight on their hands though, the poor bastards.

13 July 2010

Jon Gaunt is the tip of a very large and septic iceberg

So the extreme right-wing shock-jock Jon Gaunt has lost his fight against Ofcom's decision to uphold complaints against him (although he will appeal).

In 2008, when discussing Redbridge Council's decision to ban smokers from fostering children, Gaunt called Redridge councillor Michael Stark a "Nazi" and an "ignorant pig".

Perhaps strangely, this kind of thing doesn't faze me as I wouldn't expect Gaunt, or Richard Littlejohn, or any of the other stupid little fascist wankers who've ever tried to create their own version of Fox News on the British airwaves to behave any differently.

Banning Gaunt probably isn't the best response though (not that Ofcom have actually suggested doing that - he's been fired by TalkSport but remains available for hire by anyone else mad enough to take him on). Instead, EVERY person who gets interviewed by Gaunt should just say "how's it going today you Nazi? Alright, you ignorant pig?" etc. until listeners switch off from the flood of incoherent abuse. It's always been a one-way flood of abuse from Gaunt - my proposal is that we make it a two-way flood of abuse and see how he likes that.

Ofcom, in their justification for censuring Gaunt, rightly point out that "the offensive and abusive nature of the broadcast was gratuitous, having no factual content and justification".

Very true. But for consistency's sake they should also point out that the Daily Mail, the Express (complete with appalling headlines referring to "ethnics", the Sun, most reality TV programmes, the Dutch football team, and Prime Ministers' Questions, not to mention at least half the current cabinet, are also gratuitous, with no factual content or justification. It's a big septic tank out there once you dig a little.

11 July 2010

Back in contact

Well we had a good holiday last week but it's nice to be back. Or it would be, if there wasn't SO MUCH work to do. Still, I will make some time to watch the World Cup final tonight. I will be backing the Netherlands (or "Holland" as they are erroneously called on ITV - that's a bit like referring to England as "East Anglia", for example) for the sole reason that they have a good shirt number font. It's not exactly the same as the font used in the movie "Rollerball" (that was more like cheque book numbers), but it does conjure up that 70s spirit. Also they play in orange, which was the colour that Houston (James Caan's team) wore in "Rollerball", so there is a nice connection there as well.

So much stuff on the government during the week I was away that it's hard to know where to begin. I'll try to do some more detailed posts on just how awful this administration is later this week. But it was nice to see Micky Gove taking some real flak over letting schools fall down rather than refurbish them. Once Labour gets a new leader they will probably be running at something over 50% in the opinion polls. And, under just about any electoral system, that translates to a wipeout for the coalition next time round. So Bring It On.