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Do the sheep have teeth?

24 Dec

I’ve just read Justin’s piece on the bailiffs story. I feel I need to revisit the issue as I don’t think I was pissed-off anything like enough the first time.

Also, check out the reader comments. Get a measure of just how fucked up these proposals are, and how people who’ve done bugger-all wrong, can find themselves caught up in the system and on the wrong end of an ass kicking a dose of reasonable force.

Justin writes ::

You could call this another front in New Labour’s war on the poor but the thing is, they way things are going right now, the number of people who could end up on the receiving end of this is growing by the day. It’ll probably take a nice, respectable white middle-class stockbroker, who’s down on his luck and has photogenic children, to be killed or seriously injured before people realise that this isn’t just about keeping the underclass nervous.

It’s teaching all of us to never, ever, be poor. To never, ever, have a run of bad luck. Keep your head down and keep kissing the boss’ arse. Bite your tongue over your pay and conditions. Come in a bit earlier and stay a bit later. Don’t forget you’re the smallest of cog in this economy – a little fear should keep you lubricated and in good working order a little while yet.

Indeed. Are we going to continue to take this shit? I know, we’ve swallowed this god-awful system of governance for centuries. What other choice is there?

I’ll tell you what, you just sit there and flick-trough your latest copy of Heat. Read that front-page tabloid story about Amy fucking Winehouse’s recent trip into rehab. Send a text to create yet another convey-belt star live on TV. Have you seen Britney recently? She’s really got her shit back together, no?

What the hell is wrong with you? Are you bat-shit crazy or just thick as shit?

You’re being played. They’re taking the piss out of you.

Your Prime Minister has spent a decade telling you how gaaawwwd-damn awesome he is, yet as soon as the credit-fuelled good times ended, your emperor was left with no clothes. Some of us predicted this. Brown said he’d overseen an “end to boom and bust”, but those of us who own a history book and a calculator knew that it would all come crashing down.

And now who pays?

The politicians who encouraged you to borrow and spend beyond your means? Don’t be daft. Labour and the Tories are both just bigger cogs in the same system – the democratic window-dressing, if you like. Brown doesn’t get to go for drinky-poos with the financial elite because they love his books, you know?

So what about the bankers who “managed” the system? Will they be strung up and be flogged? Fuck no! Your taxes are “re-capitalising” the banks and the champagne still flows and private shindigs continue.

You see when those at the top of the hierarchy fuck-up, you have the pleasure of bailing them out. Yet when you and I fuck-up, they send the heavies around to give you a slap and make off with your wife’s favourite necklace. And in this scenario, you’re the criminal.

Justin is right. We have zero stake in this system – we are the smallest cogs.

They feed us a constant stream of mind-numbing celebrity guff to keep us disinterested as they ram us up the collective arse. And they’re wise enough to understand that we like the occasional terror story or bogeyman to keep us all needy and placated.

We’re the batteries that power the establishment. We just need to be kept stupid and distracted. You’ve seen The Matrix, right?

Call me a bitter bedroom nihilist if you like. I’ve had faith in politics in the past. I once believed that, while the realities of office may blunt our politicians effectiveness, they have our best interests at heart really.

Do they fuck. Is giving private debt collectors the power to kick down your door and restrain your screaming family, in your best interested?

I don’t want to resort to a burn-the-palace-down Libertarian politics, but what choice do I have? We thought we had voted in progressive and liberal politics a decade ago, yet all we got were a bunch of authoritarian warmongering halfwits, who couldn’t organise a cutlery draw.

So I’ve come to a conclusion: The house is against you. It wants you to lose. So it’s time to stop playing the game.

But what if Obama does win?

27 Oct

As the McCain-Palin ticket turns in on itself, the media narrative is building towards an Obama win by some margin.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press, an awkward and mumbling John McCain maintained that the polls do not reflect the reality on the ground. He argued that the American people will put their trust in him as the man best equipped to be President on day-one. Of course the Senator from Arizona knows the trouble he’s in, but for appearances sake, he must play up his chances.

But what if the polls can be trusted?

What if, on January 20 2009, The United States of America really does inaugurate Barack Obama as its first African-American President? What can we actually expect from a progressive executive in these difficult times?

America’s economic situation is as dire as it has been for 80-years. An economy that has been in overdrive since the early nineties, powered by an injection of cheap credit, has finally blown a gasket. Americans are finding that credit has dried up.

Millions of Americans are heavily indebted and are finding mortgage repayments impossible. They’re demanding tax cuts, but the federal budget is also drastically in the red and both candidates have promised to work to address it – even though the purse-strings are very much the preserve of Congress. The collective debt of the U.S., oft reported as in excess of $10-trillion dollars, is, including off-balance sheet liabilities, closer to five times as much.

How can a president who promises a capital-intensive Apollo-like energy project, a balanced budget, a strong foreign policy, tax cuts and better healthcare coverage, possibly deliver?

What America needs, as Michael Kinsley argued last week, is a leader who is committed to “telling people what they don’t want to hear and leading them where they don’t want to go.” If America was really going into the recovery position – and things are surely that bad, it would start by telling its citizens that the good times are suspended until further notice. Indeed neither of the candidates are being honest with the American people.

No-one, not even a president who walks on water, can possibly satisfy the huge expectation that the Obama campaign has cultivated. The opportunity for political disillusionment is colossal.

When January comes around the same problems will persist. The national debt will be gargantuan, the military will be overstretched, and millions of Americans will be struggling to make rent and their families without healthcare coverage. Obama will be limited by the realities of office as to what he can do to remedy these issues, especially considering the dire situation he will inherit from President Bush. So there is little doubt that many thousands of progressive activists will be disappointed by the time it takes to create real change. As usual, the left may become it’s own worst enemy and attack its own.

In fact, the left will probably be piling onto an administration already under siege…

The Republicans have had months to prepare for opposition. The rightwing talk-show hacks are already in 5th gear. They will hit Obama hard on day one (politicos will remember Clinton’s wings were clipped even before his inauguration), in an attempt to paralyse his administration.

America’s progressives, who will have given so much to get Obama elected, must be prepared to continue to support him through the inevitable trials of office.

There is only so much an inspirational president can achieve. I hope American progressives are prepared for a slow, long haul. America, surely, deserves it.

this blog is boring. fact

17 Apr

It seems I’m a bore.

Gus of 1820 has decided that this blog is a yawnfest and will be removed from his blogroll. I can’t say I blame him.

I just don’t seem to have the energy and vigour for political blogging that I once had. I spend most of my day getting stressed out that I can’t get a minute to myself to write, and when I do finally get the baby to bed, I’m knackered. Now Mrs. tyger has returned to working after her maternity, this working from home just isn’t going very well. Looking after two very-young kids is a full-time responsibility and I think I’d be better going back into industry and putting the kids into childcare again. At least then I’d be getting out of the house, rather than being a sulky house-bound grinch. I simply don’t have the time to “work”.

Mrs. tyger is also clearly fed-up listening to me whinge. As am I.

Also, politically, I’m not sure what I think anymore. Labour have consistently proved their incompetence and slyness. Anyone who thinks that working for the Labour Party is something of value is mistaken. The Tories, Liberals, and Labour are all fighting for the same political oxygen in the centre of British Politics. There is no ideology left in our political life, and therefore no difference between the “managers” who govern us (I would be much happier if they could actually manage, but alas…). So let’s drop the pretence that they’re different, and elect proven managers instead of partisan incompetents who couldn’t organise a cutlery draw.

My personal story wasn’t always like this, there was a time when I believed that government could be a force for good – indeed in some Northern European countries it still proves to be. So let’s be straight: the British body politic is poisoned. It’s cancerous. It’s terminal.

So thanks for the previous link-love, Gus, but yeah, I think another blogger deserves my spot. I’ll make a decision regarding continuing this blog over the next week or so.

*current mood: nihilistic*

it’s the shameless hypocrisy that gets to me

3 Mar

I’ve read a few pieces about the late William F. Buckley. But this one by Bill Kristol caused me to bristle…

In my high school yearbook (Collegiate School, class of 1970), there’s a photo of me wearing a political button. (Everyone did in those days. I wasn’t that much dorkier than everyone else.) The button said, “Don’t let THEM immanentize the Eschaton.”

There you see an example of the influence of Bill Buckley, who died last week at age 82. For it was Buckley who had promulgated this slogan, as an amusing distillation of the thinking of the very difficult historian of political philosophy Eric Voegelin. I’d of course not read Voegelin then (there’s a lot of him I still haven’t read, to tell the truth). But the basic thought was: Don’t let ideologues try to create heaven on earth, because they’ll deprive us of freedom and make things a lot worse.

Bill Kristol, of course, is one of the evangelising neo-conservative ideologues, who so passionately argued that we could create a heaven on earth in Iraq, if only we deposed Saddam. I wonder if he’s still got that button?

am i a lib dem’r?

11 Dec

I was never really an Old Labour man. I became politicised during the age of Blair. Although, more than most, I have always been interested and aware of politics and current affairs. I remember a Christmas quiz at school and I was the only one (we were about 14 or 15-years old) who knew that the leader of the opposition was one Neil Kinnock. I was astonished, but it does prove that political apathy was around even when the divisive Maggie was in Number 10.

While I toyed with Marx at university (especially re. his thoughts on technology as a liberator) and my family were indeed Old Labour, I have always identified myself as someone who believes primarily in freedom and opportunity – both very much market-orienatated values, rather than socialist ones. So, prior to Iraq, I believed in Tony Blair. He spoke to me. He talked about empowerment, Europe, constitutional reform, education, and liberal values. I was for a while a Blairite.

Events and the failures to deliver on promises have meant that my support for the party has been inconsistent. I was never a supporter of Gordon Brown, and even as a member of the party, I never had a chance to vote against him. The party no longer reflects who I am, if it ever really did.

Having spent the last month writing Casting the net for Liberal Conspiracy, I have been exposed – for the first time – to a wide range of Lib Dem blogs and the thoughts and values of their supporters (obviously I followed some Lib Dem blogs, but now I take in the whole gamut of writers). I always knew that a great number of Old Liberals (see Classical Liberalism) operated under the party’s broad umbrella, alongside the more recognisable sandal wearing lefties, but other than a quiet respect for Mark Oaten and few other Orange Book’rs, I had never really considered whether I was a Liberal Democrat or not. It had always been, as the old adage goes, a waste of a vote. But slowly I am coming around to the idea that I may vote for the Liberals next time around.

Every political party is a coalition, but I just don’t think the core values of the current Labour Party bear any resemblance to my own. I deeply reject many of the policies that are at the heart of Brown’s platform. I am angry that the new leader is pushing forward with regressive policies such as ID Cards and increasing detention without trial to 42-days. The state is unarguably too big, and the hulking tax-credit system, which has admittedly helped millions of children, is ridiculously complicated and a drain on an economy facing a precarious future. Labour has also manifestly failed to reform the penal system, taken foreign policy positions on auto-cue from a Neocon White House, and pandered to a right-wing press that makes me retch. So why, pray tell, should I remain a Labour Supporter?

I have not yet relinquished my membership to the Labour Party (I left after Iraq, but rejoined to help shape the post-Blair era – what was I thinking?), but I am considering my position very seriously.

martin kettle: both right & wrong

20 Oct

Martin Kettle has an arresting piece in today’s Guardian. He argues that while the left often cry that the political parties are all now centrist ones, and that every candidate is essentially the same, in reality they are markedly different, offering very different choices. He goes on to explain how this complaint has dogged liberalism throughout history, explaining that the elections of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon were similarly dismissed as no real choice for the electorate.

This grievance is not wholly a liberal trait. Conservatives are also vocal in their frustration as David Cameron rolls out his oxymoronic vision of Liberal Conservatism. Those of the right and the left, who dally at the fringes of radicalism, will obviously find themselves disenfranchised as the political parties battle for the limited political oxygen in the centre.

Kettle is right and he’s wrong.

Each of the political parties is selling the same vision of England. They all claim they will empower you with choice in the Welfare system. They all claim that they’ll put more police on the streets and more teachers in our schools. They all claim that they can reform the civil service and get better results, and they all acknowledge that the NHS is a sacred cow that mustn’t be sacrificed.

However, what we get when we actually elect a party into power, as Kettle rightly points out, can be very different. Who would have believed that Labour would have introduced tuition fees? Who would have thought the “compassionate conservative”, George W. Bush, would have become one of the most rightwing presidents for 70-years?

What would a David Cameron government actually be like? He may come across as a moderniser and a dashing member of the North London liberati; yet his party, including – the Penfold to his Dangermouse – George Gideon Osborne, are still the same Thatcherite rightwingers that lost Major, Hague, and Howard successive elections.

The Tories haven’t changed, they’ve merely rebranded.

Look at the policy reviews that Cameron had key Tories produce. Each one was lauded in gestation, and then quietly shelved when they turned out to be old Tory solutions to a new set of problems. Solutions the country decided a decade ago they weren’t interested in.

Kettle is right. The political parties and the media are guilty of poor communication with regard to the differences between our politicians – or maybe, very good communication in the case of the parties, who sometimes have a vested interest in misrepresenting their policies.

Because if we don’t know what sort of politics we’re voting for, what is the point of democracy?


14 Oct

Quick. I haven’t got long.

Have you read Simon Jenkins’ Op-Ed in today’s Sunday Times?

Jenkins’ – normally – really bugs me, but this is a very well thought-out piece and is very close to my thoughts on the relationship between the West and Islam.

And in a Murdoch paper too!