Shared posts

22 Mar 20:27

But hes a liar...

20 Jun 11:11

We need to talk about Tristram

by The Plashing Vole
I'm a member of the Labour Party. Being a member of any political party makes me a little bit weird - formal participation has been declining for many years. I'm even weird amongst my friends. Most of us are socialists, and we're not especially welcome in the Party. But I carry on because I'd like to have even a tiny say in the policy determinations of a party that has a strong chance of winning a general election. I admire my friends who spend their time arguing over the minutiae of leftwing ideology before standing in the rain selling three sectarian newspapers a week, but let's face it: that's more of a hobby than a plan for government. 

So I'm in the Labour party. I joined to vote for John McDonnell in the leadership election that led to Gordon Brown's elevation. What can I say? I unerringly support the losing side. I wanted Denis Kucinich to win the US Presidency. I've met both Milibands, and far preferred Ed. David struck me as an unreflective and cynical machine politician. Ed, for all the scrapes he gets into, seemed to be principled and genuinely interested in the people he met.

But my party doesn't make it easy for me to remain a member. There's the whole embrace of neoliberalism, for a start. Then the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture, the kidnapping, the deregulation etc. etc. ad infinitum. There's the latest wheeze, which is to punish young unemployed people for the bankruptcy of Britain (caused by the financial sector) by reducing their social security support. It's marketed as 'help to train' so I'm sure it's a complete coincidence that the 'help' is significantly lower than the current rate of unemployment benefit.

But most of all, there's the Honourable Tristram Hunt MP.

Tristram is the privately-educated son of a Lord (not that I'm particularly bothered about that: Benn and Dalyell were both quite posh) who was unaccountably parachuted into the poor and socialist constituency for Stoke-on-Trent Central, apparently thanks to the machinations of his friend Peter Mandelson. Tristram is an historian, or as the newspapers put it, a 'distinguished' historian, i.e. one who can produce a decent narrative from interesting though not essential material without troubling the reader with tricky metaphysical questions.

Tristram is the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. That means his job is to oppose the work of Michael Gove, the man who thinks that education should be given to private corporations who'll reproduce the atmosphere of Mr Gradgrind's drone factory and make a profit along the way. Mr Gove wants you all to become junior Empire Loyalists who know that Muslims are Bad and the British have been, are and always will be White, Christian and Nice.

Tristram isn't up to the job. Worse than that: he agrees with everything Mr Gove does. He simply feels that Michael could be a little more efficient. For a very clever man, he seems incapable of thinking anything through beyond the question that obsesses all rightwing Labour politicians: 'what will the Mail say about this?'.

Not only is Tristram incompetent, deeply conservative and entirely lacking discernible Labour values, he actively works against his party's history, beliefs and members. A few months ago, this former academic went back to Queen Mary College to deliver a lecture (apparently he doesn't consider being an MP and shadow cabinet member constitutes full-time employment). To do so, he crossed a legal picket line of his own colleagues. The subject of that lecture? Socialism. The biographer of Friedrich Engels stirred the workers with his principled defence of the right of exploited workers to withdraw their labour:
"I support the right to strike for those who have balloted to picket. I have chosen not to join the strike." Mr Hunt, who is also the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said his "personal commitment remained to the students" he was lecturing.
Funnily enough, that's the exact same claim deployed by my scab colleagues here at The Hegemon. It is, of course, transparent bullshit. I took strike action because I'm committed to my students: I want them to be taught by rested, decently-paid academics who have the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research, not by exhausted hourly-paid ones exploited by a management that cares for nothing beyond bums on seats, while the financial sector or whatever creams off potentially great thinkers.

I won't be going to my constituency party's summer party to be lectured on Labour values by a man who betrays his colleagues and his comrades. The continued presence of Tristram Hunt, while marginal compared with all the other failures of the political class, has become symbolic to me of a party leadership which can't throw off the mental shackles of the New Labour period, a clique which is more concerned with appeasing the right than developing the self-respect required to make a case for socialism and persuading the voters of our cause.

I know that my party's local and national representatives will write off my whinging as typical of a privileged élitist, but they're wrong. You don't have to be a raving Trotskyist to understand that you don't cross picket lines, especially when you're a massively rich person earning a second or third income by taking work done by former colleagues protesting about eight years of declining pay.

Tristram is the touchstone of the debate, a symptom of the cowardice and isolation of the upper reaches of the Labour Party. If you can't find anything to argue about with Michael Gove, you're in the wrong party and the wrong job.
15 Mar 03:49

Young Oxford Conservatives leader abuses DMCA to censor reporting of his calling Mandela a "terrorist"

by Cory Doctorow

Jeff Vinall, a Conservative Party activist who is director of communications for the Oxford University Tories and is a second year law student at Brasenose College has abused the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to censor a website that reproduced a posting from his Facebook account in which he called Nelson Mandela a "terrorist," shortly after Mandela's death.

Vinall sent a DMCA takedown notice to the hosts of the UK-based website Political Scrapbook after an initial demand to censor their reporting was declined. The DMCA is an American statute and notices issued under it have no standing in the United Kingdom; furthermore, it's clear that the brief quotation from Vinall qualifies as fair use under the American copyright law and fair dealing under English and Welsh copyright law.

In my opinion, Vinall is trying to have his cake and eat it too. I think he believes that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, but he also believes that saying this aloud brings him and the party into disrepute. At the same time, I think he believes that repudiating his tasteless remarks will alienate a sizable number of Conservative supporters who also hated Mandela and cheered his death -- so using bullying, censorious tactics to suppress the reporting of his remarks is way for him to suppress news of the remarks without having to issue an insincere apology through gritted teeth that would disgust the party's reactionary wing.

However, the Streisand Effect is in full effect; The Oxford Tab has picked up the story and reproduced Vinall's remarks. They have spoken to Apartheid refugees, who expressed shock and horror at Vinall's callous remarks and his willingness to take the side of the totalitarian monsters who branded Mandela a terrorist and imprisoned him for a quarter-century.

The claims have upset some members of OUCA, with one South African member commenting to The Tab: “My family were removed from their homes due to the racist policies during Apartheid – calling Mandela a terrorist is not only deeply personally offensive, but it is also worrying that such a person is a candidate in an OUCA election.”

A student at Wadham, which ends every bop with “Free Nelson Mandela”, said to The Tab: “Wadham had historic close ties with Nelson Mandela, and I’m shocked that anyone could call him a terrorist. Mandela was a great man, and should be remembered as such.”

One senior member of OUCA commented to the Tab: “I have grave concerns about some of Jeff’s behaviour, he needs to understand that OUCA has to rapidly change if it’s ever going to be a proper Conservative society and not just a bunch of oddballs with unsavoury opinions.”

Oxford Tory Soc candidate Jeff Vinall calls Mandela a ‘terrorist’ [The Tab]

Jeff Vinall tries to gag Scrapbook after 'Mandela terrorist' claim [Political Scrapbook]

(Image: Jeff Vinall's Facebook update, used for critical and commentary purposes, without permission, as fair dealing [England/Wales] and fair use [USA])

15 Jan 20:16


by Greg Ross

On Sept. 29, 1940, two Avro Anson training aircraft took off from a Royal Australian Air Force base near Wagga Wagga for a cross-country exercise over New South Wales. They were making a banking turn over Brocklesby when pilot Leonard Fuller lost sight of Jack Hewson’s plane beneath him, and the two collided with a “grinding crunch of metal and tearing of fabric.”

To his horror, Fuller found that the planes were now locked together. His own engines had been knocked out by the collision, but Hewson’s were still functioning, and he could still manipulate his own ailerons and flaps, so he found he could control the lumbering pair as one aircraft.

After the crew of the lower plane had bailed out, along with his own navigator, Fuller flew an additional five miles and made an emergency landing in a paddock, where he slid 200 yards to a safe stop. “I did everything we’ve been told to do in a forced landing,” he told air accident inspector Arthur Murphy. “Land as close as possible to habitation or a farmhouse and, if possible, land into the wind. I did all that. There’s the farmhouse, and I did a couple of circuits and landed into the wind. She was pretty heavy on the controls, though.”

Fuller was credited with saving £40,000 worth of military hardware and preventing any damage or injury in Brocklesby, and his plane was even returned to service. He died four years later in a road accident.

06 Jan 09:00

Let Us Be Too Proud

by The Plashing Vole
For Christmas, my mother gave me a recent and rather magnificent copy of JB Priestley's English Journey (rarely, for an Englishman, he actually just means England too). Originally published in 1934, it's a fair rival to Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier. Most famous for his play An Inspector Calls, Priestley's friendly, socialist, sometimes slightly tetchy style, his love of ordinary people and his fury at the lives to which they are consigned by industrial capitalism makes for very enjoyable reading. I spent quite a lot of the Christmas break tweeting his pithy aperçus about the Black Country, Stoke, the Irish, hunting and so on.

Here are some of my favourite bits. On the Black Country and its inhabitants:
a beauty you could appreciate chiefly because you were not condemned to live there
Nobody can blame them if they grow up to smash everything that can be smashed.
While they still exist in their present foul shape, it is idle to congratulate ourselves about anything 
A typical visit is his trip to Stoke. It's foul and barbaric, but he thinks the people are wonderful, and they have been betrayed by the state and the ruling classes.
a grim region for the casual visitor…I have seen few regions from which Nature has been banished more ruthlessly…Civilised man…has not arrived here yet
He doesn't think much of hunting either, particularly those who claim it's an agricultural duty or whatever:
men and women who…spare no pains to turn themselves into twelfth-century oafs, are past my comprehension'
Though he says he'd have a bit more respect for 
the man who … declares…"It may be…cruel and anti-social, but I don't give a damn".
Rather wonderfully and topically, Priestley proclaims his love of state healthcare, immigrants (his home town of Bradford declined after the German Jewish population was victimised after WW1, he says) and the poor, no matter what fat politicians say about them. He hates talk of rationalisation:
You may do a good stroke of work by declaring the Stockton shipyards "redundant", but you cannot pretend that all the men who used to work in those yards are merely "redundant" too… Their labour, wages, full nutrition, self-respect, have been declared redundant. All their prospects on this earth have been carefully rationalised away. They have been left in the lurch. We have done the dirty on them. We can plan quite neatly to close the doors of their workshops on them, but cannot plan to open anything. 
Priestley's particularly incensed by the plight of the miners. He declines the offer of a trip down a pit because he was buried for a while in the trenches and clearly suffered considerably. He knows what a foul, dangerous life mining is, and is infuriated by bourgeois accusations and the complaints of 'red-faced gentlemen lounging before club fires' that miners are lazy Communist subversives.
Every man or boy who goes underground knows only too well that he risks one of several peculiarly horrible deaths, from being roasted to being imprisoned in the rock and slowly suffocated.
He's not a 'dignity of labour' type in general, but he has some curious blind spots: though he sees the miners' wives as cleverer and more determined than their sons and husbands (they have 'gumption'), he thinks that women are more suited to repetitive factory work because they find it easier to escape into a fantasy world, and he also thinks the Irish are troglodytic peasants beyond redemption. However, he has a cunning solution to the divide between the productive classes and the parasites:
Suppose we had a government that began announcing: "Coal is a national necessity…We will now have conscription again, this time for the coal-mines, where every able-bodied man shall take his turn, at the usual rates of pay. All men in the Mayfair, Belgravia, Bayswater and Kensington areas…will report themselves…for colliery duty" What a glorious shindy there would be then! And if you could buy yourself out by subsidising a professional miner, how the wages in East Durham would rise. 

To him, the state of the mining areas is the fault of
greedy, careless, cynical, barbaric industrialism
The Daily Mail style bigotry of the urban middle classes infuriate him. He loves to see the workers having fun, whether on a trip to the seaside, having sex or getting pissed in the pub:
Those persistent legends about miners who buy two pianos at once and insist upon drinking champagne… A man who has been working for seven hours at a coal face, crouching in a horribly cramped space about half a mile underground, has a right, if anyone has, to choose his own tipple; and I for one would be delighted if I knew that miners could afford to drink champagne and were drinking it.  
He's not keen on bankers either:
Until they are openly proved to be crooks, our own financial jugglers are regarded as distinguished…benevolent wizards…a sphere of action in which all depends on your being able to "get away with" certain things.
I know all this looks like he's the world's grumpiest man, but he's on a mission - to puncture the chocolate-box-Chipping Norton definition of England peddled by politicians and his fellow writers:
Most of my fellow-authors do not go blundering in like that; they never go near these uncomfortable places; they continue writing their charming stories about love affairs that begin in nice country houses and then flare up into purple passages in large hotels in Cannes… 
As it happens, 1930s 'proletarian' novels are my specialist subject: for an antidote to the Purple Prose of Cairo, I'd recommend Gwyn Thomas's Sorrow for thy Sons, Lewis Jones's Cwmardy and We Live, Hanley's Grey Children and Bert Coombes's These Poor Hands.

By the end, Priestley identifies three Englands: Old England of honeyed manor houses and meadows (the tourist and aristocrat version), which depends on the Nineteenth-Century England of 'sootier grim-like fortresses' like Birmingham and Stoke, where money (for some) and misery (for most) went hand-in-hand, and post-1918 England. Priestley isn't nostalgic: he knows the pretty countryside was a place in which peasants starved and died, or were glad to escape to the cities, but he's determined to end our illusions. Industrialism
found a green and pleasant land and had left a wilderness of dirty bricks. It had blackened fields, poisoned rivers, ravaged the earth, and sown filth and ugliness with a lavish hand…What you see looks like a debauchery of cynical greed… Wolverhampton and St. Helens and Bolton and Gateshead and Jarrow and Shotton. … I felt like calling back a few of these sturdy industrialists simply to rub their noses in the nasty mess hey had made. Who gave the leave to turn this island into their ashpit? … and the people who were choked by the reek of the sties did not get the bacon. The more I thought about it, the more this period of England's industrial supremacy began to look like a gigantic dirty trick. At one end of this commercial greatness were a lot of half-starved, bleary-eyed children crawling about among machinery and at the other end were the traders getting natives boozed up with bad gin. 
Not that post-industrial England holds much charm for Priestley either: a land of strip malls, escapist cinema, advertising and filling stations. Like the Frankfurt School, he fears that we're all being bought off by cheap tricks and shiny toys (from Woolworths, he reckons). It looks like being a classless society in which people admire sportsmen more than royalty, so not all bad, but
too much of it is simply a trumpery imitation of something not very good even in the original. There is about it a rather too depressing monotony…leisure is being handed over to standardisation too… I cannot help feeling that this new England is lacking in character, in zest, gusto, flavour, bite, drive, originality, and that this is a serious weakness. 
What he fears is that a complacent, lazy, satisfied England is ripe for authoritarian politics: to him, the contrary, pushy, touchy, loud, drunk, proud working classes are what keeps us safe from the dictators of either doctrine.

By the end, JB is a sad and angry man. He has met working and workless people all over the country. Some of them are depressed, some broken, some slovenly, some angry, some phlegmatic. None of them, he feels, deserves the 'dole' and the attitudes which come with it.
…the England of the dole did not seem to me to be a pleasant place. It is a poor, shuffling job, and one of our worst compromises… The young men, who have grown up in the shadow of the Labour Exchange, are not so much personal tragedies, I decided, as collectively a national tragedy.
It cannot be every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. [my italics] 
Priestley remembers the drawn, grey faces of starving German POWs in 1918:
I did not expect to see that kind of face again for a long time; but I was wrong. I had seen a lot of those faces on this journey. They belonged to unemployed men. 
…this blackened North toiled and moiled so that England should be rich and the City of London be a great power in the world. But now this North is half derelict, and its people, living on in the queer ugly places, are shabby, bewildered and unhappy. And I told myself that I would prefer…to see the people in the City all shabby, bewildered and unhappy…because I like people who make things better than I like people who only deal in money…What had the City done for its old ally, the industrial North? It seems to have done what the black-moustached glossy gentleman in the old melodramas always did to the innocent village maiden. 
What's the inevitable consequence of a country in which the workers are raped by the rich?
People are beginning to believe that government is a mysterious process with which they have no real concern. This is the soil in which autocracies flourish and liberty dies. Alongside that apathetic majority there will soon be a minority that is tired of seeing nothing vital happen and that will adopt any cause that promises decisive action.  

And yet Priestley sees hope. Underneath the swaggering
'red-faced, staring, loud-voiced fellows, wanting to boss everybody about all over the world and being surprised and pained…if some blighters refused to fag for them'
he detects an England of natural beauty, technical genius, literary glory and generosity:
Let us be too proud, my mind shouted, to refuse shelter to exiled foreigners, too proud to do dirty little tricks because other people can stoop to them, too proud to lose an inch of our freedom, too proud, even if it beggars us, to tolerate social injustice here, too proud to suffer anywhere in this country an ugly mean way of living… We headed the procession when it took what we see now to be the wrong turning, down into the dark bog of greedy industrialism, where money and machines are of more importance than men and women. It is for us to find the way out again. 
Now, I know I've gone on far too long, and you probably feel that I've typed out the whole of English Journey, but there's a good reason. We're governed once more by a group of Southern English multimillionaires with no real experience of work, hunger or want. They inherited their cash or made it on the money markets. They're experienced tax-evaders and system players. They move between Notting Hill and the Cotswolds. They encourage us to blame the poor, the weak and the foreign rather than their friends in the City, and tell us that the solution to our ills is to close the borders, sell the Mail and the NHS, and to hate the workless.

Like Priestley, we have a population eager to work but no government is interested in finding anything for them to do. What should happen to them? They won't just dwindle away. They can't all be 'sleeping off a life on benefits' as the Chancellor put it, and they can't all serve us coffee on the minimum wage. Priestley's minority is UKIP and the Tory voters encouraged by their leaders and their friends on the Mail and the Express to see every foreigner as a terrorist benefits thief, every welfare claimant as a fraudulent scrounger rather than as a fellow citizen. This is the country in which a millionaire investment banker made Minister for Welfare Reform can stand up in the House of Lords and claim – on behalf of the government of this country – that food banks are busy because everybody wants a free lunch.

Have we heard any politician come anywhere close to the pride, or despair, of Joseph Priestley? I could imagine Atlee nodding along in his quiet way, perhaps Wilson even. But this shower: they see us as so many millstones round their moneyed, tanned necks. When they venture North of their hunting grounds, they sneak from limo to photo-op without a care. My own MP made his millions in property speculation: he hasn't a word to say about his constituency's decline from being the workshop of the world to a grey, sullen sinkhole of ambition.

Happy New Year. 
09 Nov 09:24

Подборка карикатур Павла Кучински

Что есть человек? Что есть общество? И куда мы идём? Эти и многие другие вопросы задает в своих работах польский карикатурист Павел Кучински. Его многогранные и интересные иллюстрации на злобу дня, по признанию многих, отражает всю суть происходящего вокруг нас. Спектр затронутых художником тем очень обширен, поэтому его произведения пользуются большой популярностью. Кроме того, у Кучински есть свой собственный фирменный стиль, отличающий его работы от работ других мастеров. По признанию автора он продумывает каждый свой рисунок и старается внести в него как можно больше смысла.









Конец сезона

Пластическая хирургия


Промывка мозгов








На крючке

Длинный нос

Золотые цепи



Глобальное потепление





22 Oct 09:52

Masculinity In Rockwell

by Andrew Sullivan


Deborah Solomon remarks that “although [Norman] Rockwell is often described as a portrayer of the nuclear family, this is a misconception”:

Of his 322 covers for the Saturday Evening Post, only three portray a conventional family of parents and two or more children (Going and Coming, 1947; Walking to Church, 1953; and Easter Morning, 1959). Rockwell culled the majority of his figures from an imaginary assembly of boys and fathers and grandfathers who convene in places where women seldom intrude. Boyishness is presented in his work as a desirable quality, even in girls. Rockwell’s female figures tend to break from traditional gender roles and assume masculine guises. Typically, a redheaded girl with a black eye sits in the hall outside the principal’s office, grinning despite the reprimand awaiting her.

Although he married three times and raised a family, Rockwell acknowledged that he didn’t pine for women. They made him feel imperiled. He preferred the nearly constant companionship of men whom he perceived as physically strong. He sought out friends who went fishing in the wilderness and trekked up mountains, men with mud on their shoes, daredevils who were not prim and careful the way he was.

(Image: Shiner illustration © SEPS. Used by courtesy of Curtis Licensing)

16 Sep 23:55

Surreptitiously Tampering with Computer Chips

by schneier

This is really interesting research: "Stealthy Dopant-Level Hardware Trojans." Basically, you can tamper with a logic gate to be either stuck-on or stuck-off by changing the doping of one transistor. This sort of sabotage is undetectable by functional testing or optical inspection. And it can be done at mask generation -- very late in the design process -- since it does not require adding circuits, changing the circuit layout, or anything else. All this makes it really hard to detect.

The paper talks about several uses for this type of sabotage, but the most interesting -- and devastating -- is to modify a chip's random number generator. This technique could, for example, reduce the amount of entropy in Intel's hardware random number generator from 128 bits to 32 bits. This could be done without triggering any of the built-in self-tests, without disabling any of the built-in self-tests, and without failing any randomness tests.

I have no idea if the NSA convinced Intel to do this with the hardware random number generator it embedded into its CPU chips, but I do know that it could. And I was always leery of Intel strongly pushing for applications to use the output of its hardware RNG directly and not putting it through some strong software PRNG like Fortuna. And now Theodore Ts'o writes this about Linux: "I am so glad I resisted pressure from Intel engineers to let /dev/random rely only on the RDRAND instruction."

Yes, this is a conspiracy theory. But I'm not willing to discount such things anymore. That's the worst thing about the NSA's actions. We have no idea whom we can trust.

11 Jul 01:17

Open and Shut

by Greg Ross

A man’s wife disappears and he’s accused of killing her. At the trial, his lawyer tells the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have amazing news. Not only is my client’s wife actually alive, but she’ll walk through that door in ten seconds.”

An expectant silence settles over the courtroom, but nothing happens.

“Think about that,” the lawyer says. “The fact that you were watching the door, expecting to see the missing woman, proves that you have a reasonable doubt as to whether a murder was actually committed.”

He sits down confidently, and the judge sends the jury off to deliberate. They return in ten minutes and declare the man guilty.

“Guilty?” says the lawyer. “How can that be? You were all watching the door!”

“Most of us were watching the door,” says the foreman. “But one of us was watching the defendant, and he wasn’t watching the door.”

02 Jul 00:59

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