The political Heat

Look, here’s a picture of my party’s leader being impressive with a world leader:cleggromney
Yes, that’s certainly an impressive sight of him looking not at all uncomfortable with a major world figure. Or it’s a picture of him doing a weird thing with his hands while talking to Mitt Romney. That’s all right, though, as I’ve definitely got a picture of him looking confident and relaxed while President Obama is hanging on his every word, and definitely not looking past him on his way out of the room: cleggobama
I only bring this up because apparently Lib Dem Voice and others think this is meaningful political commentary:

Ho ho ho! Ed Miliband’s looking awkward again, isn’t it hilarious! There’s no way he’s just having a serious discussion with one of the world’s most powerful people in a time of several international crises and, by applying basic common sense, has realised it’s not a time to look relaxed and jovial.

When they said ‘politics is showbiz for ugly people’ they didn’t mean that it needed its own version of Heat magazine or the Sidebar of Shame, yet that’s what a lot of supposed commentary has descended to. ‘Hey look! In this one picture we’ve plucked out of the thousands that were taken of them yesterday, politician X looks a bit awkward! That fits our narrative, so we’ll print it!’ is merely the political equivalent of ‘Are Celebrities X and Y about to break up? Look at these pictures of them out together, where we’ve only chosen the ones where they’re looking away from each other or not smiling to prove the point we’ve already decided. By the way, there’s absolutely no way that they’re looking angry or glum because what they thought was some private time has been disturbed in order for us to fill some space and attract some clicks.’

Cherry-picking photos to make a fatuous point makes showbiz journalism look stupid, and if political commentary is going to go the same way, then we might as well give up now and replace voting with asking who’s got the best diet for fitting back into your Parliamentary suit after a recess.

But to be fully equal opportunity, here’s a picture of David Cameron hovering awkwardly in the background while Obama plays table tennis. Happy now?

Continuing in the grand tradition

I’ve just realised I’ve made a mistake in working out when my 10th blogging anniversary is. Because I looked at a file name rather than the dates on the post themselves, I had it down as being on the 26th, when it’s actually on the 30th. It kind of fits for the way I’ve run this blog for the last ten years that I get that wrong, but all it means is that the retrospective posts will start tomorrow, but they’ll only appear on Monday to Friday, as leaving the weekends blank will give me the four days gap I need to make things match up.

So if the Eleven Day Empire are looking for somewhere to go on holiday, I’ve got four days free for them.

Woken up by the alarm clock of nonsense

You know, I tried not to comment on the whole ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ nonsense, I really did. But then, just when I thought I was out, Lib Dem Voice pulled me back in by printing some of the most vapid nonsense I’ve ever read. Indeed, I initially thought it was a new satirical column, but it turns out that Johnny LeVan-Gilroy is apparently a real person (or ‘a cross-media brand consuming human unit’ as he might refer to himself) and we are meant to take that article seriously. (Admittedly, there is still the possibility that it’s a new version of the Sokal hoax, but it feels unlikely)

OK, so ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ is just some nonsense branding phrase, perhaps a scene from The Thick Of It come to life and almost definitely heading to the same graveyard of forgotten political groupings as David Cameron’s ‘Great Ignored‘. But, what gods have we offended and what sins did we commit in a past life to have this drivel inflicted upon us?

Because of these possibilities, and the fact a national brand is now required, the Liberal Democrats are going to have to wise up to how those demographics consume content, what the media landscape will be like in 2015 and how the party has been about as redundant as an actor in Avatar at being able to communicate to these voters during the periods between elections when brand development is paramount. Becoming closer with News Corp should be key to this as they are the gatekeepers and have a direct phone line to ‘Alarm Clock Britain’.

The party also needs to look at reforming its national capabilities to be more responsive to branding, communicating to demographic groupings and adapting to the new dynamic and opportunities in government and new forms of content consumption. The latter remains the least important right now but it cannot be left to neutral civil services, as this domain has no arbitrators to be editorially objective or neutral.

Silly me, thinking politics is about values, principles, policies and ideology. No, it should be about a content-free world of ‘brand development’ and ‘content consumption’.

Remember when we used to mock Labour for their dependence on spin and soundbites, their lack of any ideology beyond what would drive the next news cycle? Yeah, I should have realised that was all being played out over a soundtrack of ‘you will be like us’.

Whatever marketing-bots like to say, the Lib Dem surge in the election did not come from the anything to do with a world where ‘branding plays as much a part as policy’. It came because people were fed up with micro-managed, content-free, focus grouped to death politics and saw, just for a moment, the prospect of something different. The reason we’re floundering now is not because we’ve failed to ‘be more responsive to branding’ but because we look like we’re becoming just like the other two and operating in a vacuum world of nonsense speak.

The last thing the Liberal Democrats need right now is an influx of drones telling us how to connect to ‘Alarm Clock Britain’ or whatever the next key demographic will turn out to be – my guess is either ‘takeaway temps’ or ‘couch share couples’, but a decent random word generator will help you generate your own – but I fear that’s exactly what we’re going to get.

Mind-numbing stupidity

Until very very recently, I would have expected the competition for the worst comment piece published by the Guardian in 2010 to have been easily been won by one of the innumerable post-May ‘How dare the Liberal Democrats decide not to agree with me on everything’ articles.

But then, out of left field on the last day of the year – which they must have been storing it up for, so Toynbee or Milne wouldn’t have the time to come up with a competitor of equally moronic depth – came this piece of spectacular asshattery.

According to Stephen Kinzer, it seems the people of Africa – and Rwanda in particular – aren’t in need of any human rights, because they’re perfectly happy without them. Yes, we should stop complaining about anything anywhere because he’s been to Rwanda and he thinks that the people there are happy with their lot. The Guardian has published many bizarre articles in the past – I can recall very odd pro-Milosevic articles finding a home there – but I never thought I’d see them publishing an argument like this:

The question should not be whether a particular leader or regime violates western-conceived standards of human rights. Instead, it should be whether a leader or regime, in totality, is making life better or worse for ordinary people.

which sounds like the sort of thing even the Chinese government might regard as a bit extreme to make as a public statement.

The thought that comes to mind from reading that statement is whether people would feel better if the law allowed them to assault – without any consequences – Stephen Kinzer or anyone else espousing similar views. Surely then, if that was the case, Mr Kinzer would agree that he has no need of his ‘western-conceived standards of human rights’ that stop him being assaulted in the street as the government would be making life better for ordinary people? Or can such trade-offs only be made in the name of other people, living in far away lands of which we know nothing?

(story originally found via David Allen Green – aka Jack of Kent – on Twitter)

Tesla respond to James Martin

Just a quick follow-up on yesterday’s revelation that James Martin is an idiot. The Fredcast, a cycling podcast, managed to get in touch with a representative of Tesla to get their view on his comments. It’s an interesting listen, though I think describing Martin’s inane bloviating against cyclists as ‘hate speech’ is going a bit far, and good to hear Tesla distancing themselves from his comments.

What’s most interesting about it to me, though, is the discussion between them about how weird they find the British attitude towards cyclists and the way in which two non-British observers can be surprised by how much venom can be directed towards people on bikes for doing nothing other than daring to ride from A to B. Definitely worth a listen, anyway.

UPDATE: James Martin has now issued a public apology. Apparently, “it was never my intention to offend the many cyclists who share our roads across the country”, which makes you wonder just what reaction he was hoping for.

Celebrity chef, Daily Mail columnist and idiot. But I repeat myself.

Ah, the Daily Mail. The champion of the law-abiding citizen, the sort of paper that would surely regard someone boasting about how they wilfully endangered people to be beyond the pale and worthy of condemnation. Well, you’d think that, but then you’re not the Daily Mail executive who thought it would be a good idea to get James Martin (if you don’t know who he is, he’s celebrity cookery’s version of Alan Titchmarsh) to write their motoring column for them in which he does just that.

Like most wannabe motoring writers, James likes to think he’s the new Jeremy Clarkson. Of course, the Jeremy Clarkson he wants to replace isn’t the real one, but the crass, boorish and thuggishly crude version of Clarkson that exists in many peoples’ heads without any of the real one’s talent, wit, irony and self-deprecation.

So, when James gets asked to review the electric Tesla Roadster, you can predict that his article will contain the usual digs at ‘tree-huggers’ (yes, he uses that exact term) and cyclists inbetween his attempts to actually review the car, but then he ends with a quite stunning…well, confession is probably the best word:

Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the birdsong – and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists. Knowing they wouldn’t hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed.

The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my rear-view mirror. I think this could be the car for me.

Yes, a Daily Mail writer has just boasted about how he wilfully endangered other road users while out driving a car on behalf of the paper. Unfortunately, he doesn’t say exactly where this took place, but if you know of any cyclists who were driven off the road by an arrogant idiot in a Tesla then they now know who did it and can inform the relevant police force. So maybe by printing this, the Mail has done something for law and order.

UPDATE: Obviously in order to demonstrate their commitment to free speech, the Mail have now removed all the comments from the article, most of which were from cyclists pointing out his stupidity.

(via Bradley Wiggins and Cycling Weekly on Twitter)

Do the BNP want to send teenage mothers to prison?

I’m not likely to be at Liberal Democrat Conference this year, so I’ve been spared the task of reading through any policy papers. But, whatever my gripes may be with some party policy papers, I’m sure we’d have to go some way to achieve the levels of idiocy plumbed by the BNP with the proposals on single mothers going to their conference. More discussion of the ins and outs of the policy – and some of the process by which the BNP determines its policy, including a benhind-closed-doors conference – are on the Lancaster Unity website.

As you might expect, it’s a rather staggering piece of stupidity from the BNP. According to them, the problem of housing shortages and much more can be solved by effectively imprisoning any unmarried woman under 21 who gets pregnant. There’s no mention, of course, of what happens to these women after they turn 21 and are allowed out of NotPrison with their children, nor is there any mention of the men (of whatever age) who surely played some part in the conception process, though one assumes that the staff of the NotPrisons would be happy for them to remain free, in order to ensure that they kept their jobs looking after a steady wave of pregnant teenagers.

Of course, given that it’s an insane plan based on a kneejerk reaction to create a non-solution to a perceived problem, there’s every chance it might already be being considered at some level of the Government.

All major problems solved in Liverpool

We have good news from Liverpool (via Liberal Vision), where all the important issues facing the city have clearly been solved. After all, they can’t have anything more important to deal with if they’ve got the time to carry out this consultation about giving films that feature smoking an 18 certificate in the city.

Sadly, people from outside Liverpool can’t take part in the consultation exercise, though this may be a good thing as I imagine the owners of any cinemas just outside the borders of Liverpool would be arguing strongly for it to be brought in. But if you are resident in Liverpool or representing ‘national bodies and organisations with a clear interest in the proposal’, please do feel free to take part, and tell them what a silly idea it is.

Of course, this has come from a Liberal Democrat-controlled Council, but I’ll save my condemnation of them until it’s shown that they were complicit in allowing this consultation to go for. Knowing how local government works, and seeing that this is being pushed by the local Primary Care Trust – again, it’s good to know that the people of Liverpool are so healthy they can concentrate on ideas like this – it’s entirely possible that this has got to this stage without any elected official actually seeing it. However, any action resulting from this does have to be approved by the Council, and I would hope that that would be where this nonsense ends.

For if it doesn’t, what next? Obviously, scenes involving alcohol would have to go behind the protection of an 18 certificate (sorry kids, you can’t watch The Parent Trap, as it features scenes on a vineyard with no information about the dangers of drinking), then dangerous driving would have to go and, of course, any character who ate unhealthily and didn’t suffer the fate of Mr Creosote would be far too dangerous an example for the kids to see. In short, the only James Bond safe for anyone under 18 would likely be any scenes involving Japanese food in You Only Live Twice, because you’re never too young to understand the benefits of sushi.

Sometimes the stupid doesn’t just burn…it incinerates

Now, I’m not a financial expert, but I’d like to give you a little bit of financial advice. If you’re investing any money following the recommendations of Investor’s Business Daily, I’d strongly advise you to reassess those investments.

Why? Because they’ve printed what may be one of the all-time great moronic statements in the history of the Internets, one so caked in ultimate wrongness that you can’t help but question just how they manage to turn computers on, let alone publish a website and financial advice. The context is in a discussion of the latest proposals for health care reform in the US, a debate that I’ve only been following peripherally, so can’t say how the rest of the article stacks up in the whole ‘truth vs oh-my-god-you-really-believe-that-nonsense’ stakes. (The article I got the link from seems to think it’s slightly bonkers overall).

But, let us cut to the chase and the idiocy you came here for. Strap yourself in and read this:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Yes, someone wrote that, someone edited it and approved it to go out in the name of Investor’s Business Daily. Others have put it on the Internet and kept it there for well over a week, allowing the whole world to gaze at the stupid.

So remember – if you’re ever tempted to follow their investment advice: remember the stupid, and look after your money.

(Thanks to Mark on Facebook for the original link)