Monthly Archives: October 2006

Stupid is as stupid does

David Cameron’s latest effort to get wit da yoot involves having tea and crumpets with a man who goes by the name of Rhymefest.

Rhymefest, who may or may not be allowed to sleep with Cameron’s wife afterwards, accuses Dave of knowing nothing about rap.

Far be it for me to stick up to Cameron here, but it should be pointed out that this photo demonstrates that Rhymefest knows nothing about the wearing of eye protection. My old science teacher, Mr Marshall, would have had a fit.
Boys In Da Hood
It is of course a matter of some debate as to which of these areas of ignorance is more serious, but I would suggest that knowing about rap isn’t likely to stop you from being stabbed by a 12 year old with a flicknife, while knowing about eye protection is liable to prevent serious blindness when using a lathe.

And they wonder why US industry is in decline.

Spy in the sky

Jonathan Calder suggests that Brass Eye inspired the government’s latest idea for flying robot drones being used to spy on anti-social behaviour.

Of course, given the name of this blog, I should point out that Spy-in-the-sky cameras have been a staple part of crime fighting in the Judge Dredd comic for years now.

I used to work in a comic shop many years ago. One thing that always struck me was that we had a number of policemen who would come each week to pick up their local comics and all of them seemed to think that Judge Dredd was a good idea.

15 years later, we have spy-in-the-sky cameras and summary powers for the police. Most of these coppers would now be senior officers now, with an influence on policy. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

An Inconvenient DVD

I should have mentioned this earlier in the week, but over the weekend a friend of mine bought a pirate DVD of An Inconvenient Truth off some bloke in a pub. When we sat down to watch it on Saturday, the disc turned out to contain a 90-minute Fox News documentary that was all about how climate change is all a hoax.

On the one hand this anecdote is an amusing moral lesson about why you shouldn’t buy dodgy DVDs off blokes in pubs. On the other hand it did get me thinking: why would you go to the lengths of copying the wrong programme on a disc unless you were politically motivated?

I know I’m liable to be accused of wearing tin foil hats in my spare time for saying this, but is there an agenda to undermine Al Gore’s campaign by flooding the black market with disinformation?

The other DVD he bought – Superman Returns – didn’t have a Fox New programme explaining how it is physically impossible for a man to fly and lift up islands with one hand.

Flock to London on 4 November

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but I’ve added the National Climate Change March and the iCount Trafalgar Square Rally, both on 4 November, to Flocktogether.

Remember when over 2,000 Lib Dems came together on 15 February 2003 as part of the anti-war demonstrations? This march and rally should be less controversial and, if anything, more important.

As a party, the Lib Dems must be seen to be standing with the Green Movement on this day. It would mark the perfect culmination to our months of campaigning as part of the Green Switch campaign.

I’ll be there, and I’m planning to write to the Federal Executive to get the party to formally back the Rally and encourage members to be there, just as it did in 2003. The more other people do the same, the more successful it will be.

Death of a President

I watched More 4’s Death of a President last night and, to be honest, I rather wish I hadn’t wasted 2 hours of my life.

I don’t have a problem in principle with either mockumentories or a drama speculating what would happen if Bush was assassinated. I enjoyed the BBC’s If… series as well as their one-offs about smallpox and transport system collapsing. But most of these had something in common: they either explored how a supposedly unlikely to terrible event might conceivably happen, or they explore (rather more speculatively) what would happen in such a situation.

Death of a President did neither of these things. What we got instead was a rather feeble story padded out by use of the mockumentory style (authentic looking footage, lots of talking heads going over the same incident from several different angles…). It wasn’t making any serious claims about weaknesses in the Secret Service’s methods, it didn’t say anything really about the War on Terror or the civil liberty implications of the Patriot Act. The only thing it had to say was that a lot of people don’t like George Bush very much. Well, duh.

Worse, it ticked the box of every leftist prejudice going. The main suspect was a Syrian man who trained at an Al Qaeda camp. Therefore, he must be innocent. Instead, the murderer turns out to be an ex-US soldier, driven to do it because his son was killed in Iraq. In fact, far from being presented as a lunatic (who, let us not forget, inflicts President Cheney on the world for God’s sake), it actually portrayed as a tragic hero. The “villain” of the piece is clearly made out to be the Intelligence Community who lock up an innocent man, and Cheney, who nearly declares war on Syria despite having no evidence of their involvement.

Either this film has a message – in which case it stinks – or it doesn’t – in which case it is utterly pointless. I happen to think it is the latter. If instead of concocting some silly whodunnit the programme had explored the national and global consequences of what happens when the world’s most powerful man gets wiped out, it might have been more interesting, but even then I suppose it would inevitably have been politically loaded.

But at least it would have been better than the lazy nonsense I had to sit through last night.

Tory Balls

I think Channel 4’s Fact Check is being a little unfair to Gideon Osborne here in stating that is claim that Ed Balls was a member of the Tories at university is completely bogus.

It is true, at least in my experience, that there is a very different political culture in Oxford and Cambridge when it comes to signing up people to student societies. Elsewhere in the country, student groups often struggle to sign up enough people and mostly treat the Fresher’s Fair as a recruitment ground. Back when I was the LDYS Communications Officer we were always frustrated with the fact that the Oxford group didn’t see it as their role to recruit people into the party, but rather have lots of jolly parties. I’m not for a minute suggesting this is still the case; I have no idea. Nor am I denying that many of the party’s brightest and best went to Oxbridge; indeed in my experience many of those people had the same frustrations I did and got politically involved in other ways.

But seriously, why would you join the “Conservative Association” unless you were genuinely inclined to join the Conservative Party? If you just wanted to go on jollies, there’s the Oxford Union or the Wine Society. While there are always a few wags who delight in joining all three parties, they are rarely people with firm political convictions.

So the fact that a potential future Labour Chancellor of the Exchequor once flirted with the Tories is both meaningful and important for the public to know. The fact that it took an annoying squit like Gideon to point it out is neither here nor there.

Missing Pritchard

Unfortunately, I missed the Amazing Mrs Pritchard last night. I say unfortunately, but by all accounts I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I really wanted ot watch it to see if it was really as bad as it looked.

Richard Huzzey confirms my worst fears:

Having opened up a critique of the modern party system, and suggested that it had become a contest of image, rivalry and management pitches, Mrs. Pritchard then misses the target. Where is the pitch to idealism? If it had been a drama about principle triumphing over pragmatism, it may have been high-skies dreaming, but at least it would have been inspirational. We should be demanding from our politics. Instead, we were given the absence of principles as an ideal, that made her pure. A blank canvass was apparently the best thing for a new sort of politician. Her lack of interest in politics is her strongest virtue.

Of course, this is exactly the approach of Blair, Cameron and, post-2001, Charles Kennedy. Yet, unlike in the drama, it hasn’t inspired anyone. One hopes that during the rest of the series, the Annoying Mrs Pritchard will get her comeuppance, but somehow I suspect that even if the series does acknowledge some weaknesses in her approach, Mrs Pritchard herself will remain a sympathetic character.

It isn’t really fair to comment on something I haven’t seen, but that’s another issue that irritates me. The BBC’s website won’t tell me when the programme is going to be repeated, if at all. This is in common with most of the BBC’s original programming. Despite the fact the world has changed immeasurably since the BBC started in the 30s, they still slavishly follow the principle that their programming is all about the nation coming together at a specific date and time to watch the same TV. People frequently complain about there being too many repeats on TV, but in my experience the opposite is the case. Put simply, while the BBC chooses to repeat certain low grade pap that it can’t make money out of any other way ad infinitum (Dad’s Army, Two Pints of Vomit and a Packet of Genital Warts, etc.), most new programming is repeated as little as possible with the specific aim of maximising profit.

The truth is, most “quality” BBC programmes aren’t paid out of our license fee, but make a profit. They don’t even take on the whole risk themselves and almost all of it is a co-production between, for example, Discovery (most nature documentaries and Horizon), HBO (Rome) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Doctor Who). This stuff they then go on to sell on DVD (the prices of which are kept ridiculously high compared to other DVDs), repeats channels such as UK Gold and of course on the global market. What you pay for out of your license fee is the uncommercial stuff, which with the exception of things such as educational programming and news, normally means low grade crap such as soap operas and reality TV. This sort of stuff would of course be perfectly commercial if it was paid for out by allowing adverts, but we are told that would damage the “quality” of shows like Animal Hospital and Eastenders.

I’m struggling, really struggling, to justify the license fee these days. All my leftish prejudices tell me that I should, but then I see how the BBC has distorted commercial television to the extent that all there is to watch after 9pm is wall-to-wall phone-in quiz shows and shopping channels and wonder if there isn’t, surely, a better way to ensure a high standard in public service television. No one would dream of trying to set up a UK version of HBO, precisely because of the BBC. Yet people are being put in prison on a daily basis for refusing to fund it. There’s something profoundly wrong going on.

For this reason, I welcome the fact that Blair and Brown are reportedly blocking the BBC’s request for a massive hike in the license fee, but I do feel we need a more radical long term solution. Yet if anything qualifies as a “third rail” issue in British politics, it is questioning the status quo over the BBC.

Another Labour Loophole

I’m not sure the government have thought this through properly.

Surely, we are bound to see hundreds of rich millionaires sign up to fight in the worst warzones on Earth so they can enjoy tax exempt status?

I mean seriously, would you want to see people such as Philip Green and Richard Branson being shot at and fighting for their lives 24/7 in the depths of Afghanistan?

Actually, come to think of it, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea.