Sunday, 31 August 2008

Seen Elsewhere (14)

This week's batch of interesting goings-on in the British blogosphere, plus mini-Blogpower roundup:

  • Is Brown Bonkers? (Guido Fawkes) Is Guido trying his best to bring US-style negative campaigning to the British blogosphere? (Sunny Hundal) Tim Ireland (Bloggerheads) puts the boot in as only he can (NSFW).

  • Chris Dillow, as ever, has an intriguing twist on the 'autistic PM' meme. Could it be that Brown is "not bonkers enough" to be a great leader?

  • It's not paranoia when they really are after you. So it is with the Government's plans for a massive database of all communications. Spy Blog has the details.

  • Sticking with the theme of 'spying': How about a bit of snooping on neighbours to spice up local life? All in the name of environmentalism , of course. Ambush Predator has the details; Longrider comments.

  • Longrider again, on why Guns 'n' Roses are greedy vicious bastards.

  • Last but certainly not least, Leg-Iron (Underdogs Bite Upwards) saves me a good hour of typing by virtue of an excellent post on why Equality Can't Work.

Mini-Blogpower round-up:
  • Abolish the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Ellee Seymour)? I'd say that's about half of what is needed!

  • Conservative perspectives on Margaret Thatcher's illness (Andrew Allison) and leftists' reactions to same (The Tin Drummer).

  • Campaigning blogger Calum Carr disabuses his readers once again of the notion that the NHS (at least, NHS Lothian) is compassionate & caring.

  • Would the election of Barack Obama really be "change we can believe in" (Brummie Republic)? Theo Spark doesn't seem to think so, if his choice of cartoon is anything to go by. Meanwhile, The Poor Mouth posts in praise of a former Democratic US President.

  • An Insomniac on the shut-down of Harry's Place as a result of the actions of Jenny Delich, the latest fool to fall foul of the Streisand Effect. Letters From A Tory bemoans the lack of support offered to HP by Conservative bloggers.

Friday, 29 August 2008

McCain Selects 44-Year-Old VP

It looks like Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, is John McCain's choice for running mate.

Once again the Daily Kos faithful are queueing up to ridicule the Republicans, describing the selection as a "mark of desperation". Only this time, I think they may well be quite right to do so.

The choice of Palin, as pointed out by several commentators there and elsewhere, seriously weakens McCain's strongest attack on Obama, i.e. that he is too young and inexperienced to lead.

"Now everybody is going to be wondering if Palin is ready to be President. With less experience than Obama.

McCain just took the one argument he had going for him - experience - and balled it up and threw it in the trashcan."
- wmtriallawyer

Palin's anti-choice views (shared, of course, with McCain) surely limit her appeal to undecided female voters, and she is the subject of an ongoing ethics investigation into allegations of abuse of office while she was Governor.

This selection is clearly a curve-ball that has been thrown by the GOP just ahead of their convention, and it is true that it has taken a significant amount of media attention away from Barack Obama - but I struggle to see this particular gamble succeeding!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Will Hubris Be The Democrats' Downfall?

Why on Earth are Obama and the Democratic party such strong favourites in the betting over at Betfair?

The odds against John McCain becoming the next president of the USA are 7-4 against; not far off two to one, which in a two-horse race such as the US presidential election are surely very good odds. When the polls are putting the two parties virtually neck-and-neck, and with the Republicans having pulled back strongly in terms of percentages in swing states (compare the Electoral Vote polling data from two months ago with those of today), the overall trend seems to be one of decline in support for Barack Obama and Republican fightback.

The Obama campaign has displayed extraordinary levels of hubris, at times seemingly working on the assumption that a Democrat victory is all but a formality. Should Obama lose, this sort of audacity will be looked back upon with incredulity, similarly to Neil Kinnock's Sheffield speech ahead of the 1992 general election; and as for his grandstanding in Berlin... McCain's understated, modest response was ridiculed by US liberals at the time, but I can't help but wonder who will have the last laugh.

This kind of presumptuousness, this 'we're right, the other lot are wrong and don't we just know it' attitude is if anything even more pervasive among the American left than it is on this side of the Atlantic. Despite all of the political and socio-economic reasons why 2008 should be the Democrats' year, if thanks to this kind of cluelessness 'Obama: Messiah' becomes the defining image of the Democratic candidate, it will be third time unlucky for the donkey party. I can't help but think that the Betfair price is perhaps just another manifestation of that same hubris.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Why Support The Windfall Tax?

Calls for the imposition of a windfall tax on energy companies have been one of the hottest topics of debate on the domestic politics front over the past month. Divided roughly along typical left-right lines (with some exceptions), the proponents of the tax include the social democrat think-tank Compass, Polly Toynbee, and Cath Elliott. The most vociferous opponent (at least in blog-land) is Tim Worstall, a classical liberal who has consistently opposed the measure, with convincing economic as well as libertarian justifications for his position.

This afternoon Conor Foley, writing on Liberal Conspiracy, posted in support of Tim Worstall's view that the windfall tax is a bad idea that will have counterproductive implications.

"Taxing energy production to subsidise energy consumption – which seems to be the way that the current campaign is being sold – is just daft." - Conor Foley
As you might expect, I am in agreement with Tim Worstall and Conor Foley. Aside from the worrying implications of the government introducing what is in effect a retro-active tax on the basis of an arbitrary determination of 'too much profit', the proponents of this idea appear not to take into consideration the law of unintended consequences.

Tim explains pretty clearly why this is so important in his article for Comment is Free. Taxing energy profits will have the effect of reducing supply (by reducing the incentives to search out and start exploiting new sources; an expensive process) and increasing demand. The more cynical your view of how the business world works, the more obvious this should be, surely - so why are so many lefties falling for this bad idea?

This may sound like a daft question (one person I asked this to immediately responded "because leftists are idiots?"), but I contend that it's one worth asking. When something that just a pinch of critical thinking and economic realism would tell you is nonsensical is promoted so enthusiastically, one has to take a moment to consider the reasoning, flawed as it may be, of its proponents.

The first dubious conviction (aside from the arguments countered in Tim's article) that becomes apparent on reading the articles in favour of the windfall tax is that the money raised in this way will go to people who need it, specifically those who have found themselves struggling to pay electric & gas bills as their costs have increased, owing to higher oil & gas prices. This is a variation on Kip's Law* - "Every advocate of central planning always envisions him/herself as the central planner" - just because, say, Neal Lawson would make sure that all of the re-appropriated profits made their way to the elderly and poverty-stricken does not mean that Labour can be trusted to do the same. This kind of woolly thinking can be observed over and over again in the writing of leftists if you know what to look for.

Even if that were not the case, and somehow the promised redistribution of the money were to materialise, the second problem overlooked by tax proponents such as Cath Elliott (repeating something claimed by Polly Toynbee the day before) is that the windfall tax as currently advocated is surely likely to be anything but a one-off.

Unless you think that the cause of the energy price increase has nothing whatsoever to do with a reduction in supply coupled with an unchanged or increased demand - if so, a decidedly unconventional and counterintuitive position - all that your proposed measures are going to do is store up problems for next winter and the winter after etc.

This is a decidedly short-termist view of the situation. An easing of the energy cost burden in 2008 will come at the cost of crisis in future years, as efficiency has not improved (since inefficient energy use was subsidised by the windfall tax), new sources have not been identified (since profits that could have been used for R&D were taxed away) and demand has stayed at its present high level. Crazy. So why propose it?

It's because in the parallel universe inhabited by Toynbee & co, being 'on-message' is all that matters, and damn the reality. Profit-making businesses and those who run them are by definition bad; always making "obscene profits" - defined however you want in order to best demonise the usual suspects; since the Marxist mindset never quite went away.

According to said mindset, the windfall tax makes perfect sense, or so it seems at first glance, until you learn to read between the lines. I for one am damn glad there are people like Tim around to tell it like it is and counter this nonsense. I just wish there were more like him.


* Credit to Tim Worstall for pointing me in the direction of Kip's Law; I predict that this is the first of many times it will warrant a mention here.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Quote of the Day

Spotted in the Irish Independent by Mark Wadsworth.

"If we want to retain our position as a constructive EU member state, we cannot simply sit on our hands, as some would have us do, and keep saying that 'No' means 'No'." - Dick Roche

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Video Of The Week (34)

Video Of The Week 19/08-25/08: Angry Angel

From last week's sublime to this week's ridiculous at the Beijing Olympics. Angel Matos, a Cuban Taekwondo competitor, did not take being disqualified very well!

As with Usain Bolt's feat (last week's VOTW), this Olympics video is being removed from YouTube quickly after posting. You can see it here instead.

Seen Elsewhere (13)

As you've perhaps gathered, Question That is on holiday at the moment. Iain Dale certainly isn't though, and he's busily compiling blog top lists for the upcoming 2008-09 Guide To Political Blogging. On Saturday it was the turn of the Libertarian Blogs, and I'm pleased to find myself listed, after less than a year of blogging here, at #14!

As a way of celebration, this week's Bloground is my pick of the best posts on the other 19 blogs in the libertarian list over the past week...

  • Samizdata on Barack Obama's choice of running mate. Guido Fawkes, with a video offering a related taste of things to come in the US Presidential Race.

  • The Anglo Saxon Chronicles another data loss scandal. Ian Parker-Joseph joins the dots, highlighting the role of the firm responsible in the ID card project.

  • Patrick Vessey (at LPUK blog) explains the situation in the Caucasus via YouTube videos; and why does Tim Worstall think Paraguay is screwed?

  • The Englishman and The Devil's Kitchen on the suspension of normal legal principles where suspected paedophiles are concerned. Leg-Iron has some additional comment on the latest outbreak of 'The Terror', as does The Last Ditch.

  • The EU is something that libertarians are generally united in opposition - but how? The Huntsman has a long discussion of the problems with voting UKIP. Old Holborn has some explanation as to why the EU is so loathed; Charles Crawford as to why it is so loathsome.

  • Nation of Shopkeepers comments on the banning of a music festival's headliner from performing. Some things change, some things stay the same.

  • Last but not least, the Libertarian Alliance invite as many libertarians as the “safety-Nazis and fire regulations” will allow to LIBERTY 2008 at the National Liberal Club in London in October.
Mini-Blogpower roundup will be every fortnight from now on, starting next week.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Video Of The Week (33)

Video of the Week 11/08 - 18/08: Lightning Bolt

Jamaica's Usain Bolt shattered the 100 metres world record in Beijing, completing the final in 9.69 seconds.

Unfortunately, Olympics videos are being quickly removed from YouTube. You can see Bolt's run here instead.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Seen Elsewhere (12)

It may be holiday season, but the world keeps turning! The events of the past week as interpreted and opined upon by the members of the Blogpower community...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Spotted in Notes & Queries

Couldn't believe they printed this (in the Guardian G2 earlier this week):

Why, when I stroke my cat, does his fur sometimes feel soft and silky, and at other times rough?
  • Your cat has turned around. Try to stroke it from head to tail and not the other way.
Chris Miall, Alvechurch

Bunting on Scandinavia

I can't believe it. I think I actually want to hug Madeleine Bunting.

I've been wondering if anyone in our media is ever going to say what she has said in her Guardian column today for a while.

...You could call it consensual authoritarianism, and it is profoundly foreign to most Britons. Despite the persistent illusions of the liberal left, it's part of why the Scandinavian welfare state has been one of the region's least successful exports.

Let's hope Polly Toynbee is reading...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Givin' 'Em Some Stick

Bishop Hill has put together a stunning post, summarising the fruits of Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit's investigation into the data and statistical methods underlying the famous 'hockey stick' graph of temperatures shown in An Inconvenient Truth and featured prominently in IPCC reports.

[This analysis] must be read, absorbed and understood; it is the story of how a certain section of the scientific community deliberately set out to deceive the people and politicians who encountered them. It is the story of how this same set of the scientific community obfuscated data, refused to allow replication of experiments, falsified conclusions and lied, repeatedly, to force a particular point of view. - Devil's Kitchen
If what Bishop Hill reports here is correct, it is indeed damning.
Go read it...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Video Of The Week (32)

Video Of The Week 03/08 - 10/08: Paris Hilton Strikes Back

Famous-for-being-famous socialite Paris Hilton's spoof election video is a response to McCain's use of her in a campaign ad attacking Barack Obama's "celebrity".




UPDATE: Obama's team have come out with an officially-sanctioned response to McCain's "celebrity" ad. See it here.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Seen Elsewhere (11)

Quick round-up this week; 5 from this month's Five To Watch...

  • Ambush Predator summarises the reaction to Julie Bindel's disastrous Comment Is Free outing on Thursday.


  • BenSix at Back Towards The Locus on the House of Lords ruling on BAE Systems enquiry.


  • Ewan Watt is following the US election campaigns closely. Here he is on Barack Obama's new-found support for off-shore drilling.


  • Norfolk Blogger on South Ossetia and the trouble with relying on Russian gas.


  • Douglas Johnson at Scribo Ergo Sum discusses the policing at the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth from a Green perspective.


Aside from these, the controversy of the week has been the posting of an environmentalist & journalist, Alex Lockwood, who suggested that climate change 'denial' be censored. Cue outrage.

Sorry no mini Blogpower round-up this week; it should be back next week...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

CiF: Bindel Sets A New Low

Comment by JayReilly here, article here:

Well, the Guardian has really rolled out the Feminist heavyweights here, with high flyers like this no wonder the ideology is doing so well.

Its almost impossible to comment on an 'article' like this without giving the mods good reason to delete. The quality is so low its beyond words.

Julie has compared the help given to a man innocently jailed for 8 years with the lack of help given to a fictional female murderer in a play she
saw.

It simply doesnt get any lower. I cant even think of anything to say that wouldnt get modded in these crazy days. I am shocked that she wrote it, and shocked that it was published. Could someone senior at the Guardian please explain whats going on?

Julie - men get no more help than women when they leave prison. Men also get much longer sentences for the same crime. There is no government call for men to be moved to cushy open prisons near their homes. Men make up the vast majority of the prison population. Your fictional character actually murdered someone, [Barry George] didnt. Your view that most women in prison are there because a man has abused them is utterly risible.

All in all, this is the most absurd and dismal article i have seen in any paper for as long as i can remember, this has literally set a new low.

Please remember Julie is a leading member of the Fawcett Society, a group that has a fair bit of influence on government policy and regularly get their views in the press.

I would say much, much more, but it would simply be deleted. This article is of such a quality that it inspires self censorship.


UPDATE:

This is absolutely priceless...









I don't think there ought to be any prizes for guessing how this thread is going to go!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Top 100 Blogs: Vote Now!

Iain Dale and Total Politics are compiling a Top 100 British Political Blogs for their 2008-09 Guide To Political Blogging from your votes.

The deadline for submitting your vote has now been brought forward to FRIDAY AUGUST 8. That means you have just 2 days left to compile and post your Top 10.

Send your top 10 (you must supply 10 blogs for your vote to be counted) to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com or post it here.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For anyone interested, or looking for inspiration, my own chosen 10 were:

1. The Devil's Kitchen
2. Obsolete
3. Tim Worstall
4. To Miss With Love
5. EU Referendum
6. Ministry of Truth
7. Stumbling & Mumbling
8. Clairwil
9. Underdogs Bite Upwards
10. Dave's Part

Light Blogging

It's holiday time, hurrah. Blogging will be light for the coming fortnight or so.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Video Of The Week (31)

Video Of The Week 28/07 - 03/08: The Commander In Chief Test

There's plenty of speculation as to the reasons why John McCain has drawn level with Barack Obama in the nation-wide popular polls over the past week, with the lack of bite in Obama's campaign clips compared to the GOP's ads often cited as a significant factor.

I say leave it to the amateurs. Take a look at this attack mini-movie, by a group of Democrat supporters going by the name of Humanitainment...

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Seen Elsewhere (10)

Four from the other five blogs I voted for in Iain Dale's Top 100 Blogs (voting still open by the way - if you haven't voted yet, go here or e-mail toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com (unless you don't want to vote, of course)):

  • Another blogger threatened with libel action; this time by John Mark Brewer, the owner of SPCK, a chain of Anglican bookshops. Unity of Ministry of Truth is once again on the case of a legal bully.

  • Stumbling & Mumbling's Chris Dillow on Anthony Browne's views on morality.

  • Glaswegian lady-blogger Clairwil's reaction to Labour's defeat in Glasgow East.

  • Dave Osler at Dave's Part on the David Milliband Guardian article, and the need to inspire the Labour base rather than just attacking David Cameron. Enough Daves for you?

The mini Blogpower round-up. Through a combination of laziness and contrariness, I've concentrated on the latter half of the alphabet this week:
  • The Tin Drummer on political correctness and controls on bloggers. As I have encountered myself (at The Sharpener), there are those who will, if they are allowed to get away with it, move the goalposts of 'acceptability' until only left-wing views are allowed to be expressed

  • Cuil, a new search engine supposedly intended to rival Google, was launched this week. Norfolk Blogger, for one, was singularly unimpressed.

  • How to make traditional Sicilian focaccia? Let Welshcakes Limoncello (Sicily Scene) be your guide...

  • Pub Philosopher questions the prioritisation of 'religious rights' over school uniform policy in a post entitled 'Can children now wear swastikas to school?'

  • Paulie at Never Trust a Hippy has a post that is, in typical Paulie style, thought-provoking and bewildering in equal measure. It is about alternative political axes to the traditional 'left'-'right', great - but putting 'idealist' and 'cynic' at the same end (with something rather fuzzy at the other end)? If something more exciting doesn't come up I'll write a proper post about this later in the week.

Chervil has the full Blogpower round-up at the Defending The Blog homepage.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Too True

Via Mike Power, this is too true: