» Nick ¦ What You Can Get Away With

maninthehighcastleLooking back over my previous posts, I see I’ve been waiting for an adaptation of The Man In The High Castle for over four years. It was first announced as being adapted by Ridley Scott for the BBC in 2010, but after disappearing into the netherworld of development hell, it was then announced as an Amazon series last year, and the first episode of it has now appeared as part of their latest pilot season.

The big question, then, is was it worth the wait? On the evidence of this pilot episode, yes it was, and also worth the (hopefully shorter) wait for it to return as a full series. His involvement may not be quite so hands on this time, but Ridley Scott has shown yet again how to adapt a Philip K Dick novel. Just as Blade Runner used the characters and themes of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? but was prepared to deviate from the plot, so does The Man In The High Castle. There’s an understanding that a book and a TV series tell stories differently, especially one that’s being told through the multiple levels of Dick’s imagination. In short, I would definitely recommend watching it, whether you’ve read the book or not. Spoilers for the book and the adaptation follow, so read on at your own peril.

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1) It’s like Sherlock, only set in Victorian times

A spectre is haunting Europe’s criminals – the spectre of Karl Marx, Consulting Detective!
Abandoning political philosophy, Marx and Engels decide to use their considerable intellects to solve crime instead. Each week, they’re brought in to solve a crime that has left the police baffled, and are able to solve it, by explaining that the crime was an inevitable result of living in a capitalist society and the bourgeoisie as a whole are responsible.

“Revolutionary, my dear Engels!”

2) #clickbaitcommunism

“Karl, we like your manifesto, but all these long sentences and paragraphs are a bit nineteenth century, yeah? Could you Buzzfeed it up a bit?”

Eight Spectres That Are Haunting Europe
How Workers Everywhere Are Throwing Off Their Chains Using This One Weird Trick
Are You A Member Of The Proletariat? Find Out With This Test

Now, if someone’s got a time machine I can borrow, I’m pretty sure I can get at least one of these onto That Mitchell And Webb Look.

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Today’s trivia question: which British politician said this

“Every major statesman needs the wilderness years. Nelson Mandela had them and I suppose that’s my lot, too, so I’m ruling nothing out at this stage.”

You can find the answer here or in the tags to this post.

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Why the Tech Elite Is Getting Behind Universal Basic Income – Because they understand a world of more automation and fewer jobs needs it.
The hypocrites have jumped aboard the Magna Carta bandwagon – Peter Oborne on good form: “Mr Cameron’s Government has launched something close to an out-and-out attack on the rule of law. The idea that either he or his ministers give a damn for the principles that underlie Magna Carta is preposterous.”
Why I am not Charlie – “This crime in Paris does not suspend my political or ethical judgment, or persuade me that scatologically smearing a marginal minority’s identity and beliefs is a reasonable thing to do.”
We have been here before – “The awkward reality is that Europe is faced with a choice. We can single out and target our Muslim citizens, or we can accept and treat them as we treat everybody else and fight the terrorists as simple criminals.” Jason O’Mahony argues for the second option.
This Week In Panic-Stricken Commentary – Flying Rodent on his usual great form, looking at the reaction to what happened in Paris from Nick Cohen and others.

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Speaking about the threat of terrorism, Chancellor George Osborne said: “My commitment is very clear. This is the national priority. We will put the resources in. Whatever the security services want, they will get.”

If there hasn’t been a terror attack in your country:
“We are doing all we can to stop the terrorists but our resources are stretched. We need more powers and resources.”
If there has been a recent terror attack elsewhere:
“That could happen here. We are doing all we can to stop the terrorists but our resources are stretched. We need more powers and resources.”
If there has been a terror attack in your country:
“We did all we could to stop it but we didn’t have enough to prevent it from happening. Our methods are not in question, we need more powers and resources to stop it happening again.”
If there’s a global outbreak of peace and love, sweeping across all nations as weapons are cast aside and humanity unites in a new era of joy of optimism:
“We cannot guarantee that this will last. Even now, people may be plotting against us under the cover of everybody getting along. We need more powers and resources.”

Whatever happens, they will always ask for more powers and more resources. If our politicians won’t stand up to them and say ‘no’, who will?

Let’s suppose for the purposes of this argument that either social media as we know it existed in the 1970s, or the events I’m about to describe happened now.

In 1978, Larry Flynt (the publisher of Hustler magazine, amongst other things) was shot by a racist who was offended by something that Flynt had published. To be specific, it was pornographic images of a black man and a white woman together, which the racist shooter was offended by and wanted to kill Flynt because of it.

Flynt’s pictures were legal and depicted two consenting adults. Given that they offended a racist to such an extent that he tried to kill Flynt for exercising his right of free speech, would you share the pictures on social media to show solidarity with him?

(For the avoidance of doubt: the murders of the staff of Charlie Hebdo were an outrage and no one anywhere should be killed, assaulted or threatened for using their right to free speech)

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David Cameron’s stomping around the North today, yet again trying to persuade people that having elected mayors is a good idea.

I’ve set out before why I don’t like the current system of mayors (and their related ‘democratic’ position, Police and Crime Commissioners). In short, by concentrating power in one person and then severely restricting the ability of others to have any checks on that power, they’re effectively anti-democratic. There are good arguments for separating executive and legislative power at all levels, but democracy is about more than just voting. Most of these proposals just seem to assume that having a named individual responsible for some area of government magically makes it more accountable, without paying any attention to how that accountability takes place. As we saw with the farce over Shaun Wright, Police and Crime Commissioners are so unaccountable in practice, there was no body with the power to remove him from office.

When David Cameron and others do their pitches for elected mayors – despite the public rejecting them twice as often as they accept them – there’s a simple way to test how much they actually believe the arguments about improved accountability and democracy. Simply ask him this – should the position of Prime Minister be directly elected?

Sure, the position covers a while country rather than just a local government unit, but the principle is the same. The PM has an important role to lead and represent the country, but the people have no direct say in who gets to fill that role, so is it truly accountable and democratic? If our cities and towns will flourish more because they can directly elect their leaders, who can say how much the country would flourish if its leader was directly elected?

I’m not convinced elected mayors are some magical panacea for the problems of local government, and I strongly doubt that directly electing the Prime Minister would solve even one-tenth of the problems that it would cause. However, those that advocate directly electing more and more posts in the name of more democracy and accountability are heading towards this, even if they won’t admit it.

As I said a few weeks ago, I think there is a strong argument for looking at how we can better separate Government and Parliament, especially the question of whether ministers need to hold a seat in Parliament to do their jobs. I don’t think a directly elected Prime Minister is the answer, but then I’m not the one arguing that electing a post suddenly makes everything better.

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