Friday, June 29, 2007

Spot the connection:

Clare Short

have known
(part the second)

Just when it seemed safe to venture out, the BBC brings bad news:

Former Labour minister Clare Short has hinted that she may rejoin the party in Parliament as new Prime Minister Gordon Brown ushers in a "new beginning". ...

"Who knows, I might take the whip back before I leave Parliament," she said.
As Churchill once smugly opined, it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat.

Time to send for the pest control?
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's deja-vu all over again

Sez Yogi Berra.

But, seriously. Every good leftie should give a few minutes to the Tory bloggers over the defection of Quentin Davis. Especially one entry on Iain Dales' Diary.

Let's go back, in the first instance, just a few hours. Quentin Davis crossed over to the Labour benches. Good idea, Long overdue. etc. etc.

The Tory Party in Lincolnshire, and then the Thatcherite neo-Stalinist bloggers nationwide went incandescent. Surprise, surprise. Except the demand for a by-election in such circumstances is a trifle redundant.

Next Iain Dale ("Tha's gotta kno' wha' t'enemy's thinkin'!" And thank you, cousin Ralph) posted this:

Is Another Tory MP About to Jump Ship
At which point the dykes broke. The following were named in added comments as possible defectors:
Yawn, etc. etc.

Malcolm takes the view that all this leads to two obvious conclusions:
  • The civil war in the Tory Party continues, less obvious, but unabating;
  • This is horribly reminiscent of the Labour Party in the early 1980s.
At least, thank goodness, we can rely on a stable, determined party in Government. Ahem.


As for the graphic at the he
ad of this post, you all knew it was Dali. It is called Premonition of Civil War. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Miserable journey to and from Heathrow. Overcast and distinctly unsummery day. No lightening of the prevailing gloom, when ....

Welcome aboard, matey!

Image nicked from Conservative Home, with no apologies and absolutely no regrets.

Reminds Malcolm of the old story:
"Ted says we mustn't gloat," said Whitelaw, "wrong to gloat, mustn't do it, no, no, no. Well, I can tell you, I'm gloating
like hell". Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 22, 2007

Malcolm tends to stand aside...
...when bandwagons roll, but here comes an exception.

The story in essence:
  • Damien Mulley runs a scrap-book blog out of Cork, mainly by lifting YouTube clips.
  • Then his bag went missing on a flight. He got nowhere with the baggage company, Sky Handling Partners, who repeatedly fed him total crap, even bald lies.
  • Mulley went ballistic, and used his blog to vent his feelings about the company and SAS (Scandinavian Airlines).
  • Someone, apparently lurking behind Sky Handlers' former name (City Jet Handling) and IP address ( signed Mulley up for gay-dating websites.
  • Mulley went public.
  • Sky Handling Partners issued a legal demand that Mulley take down the two "offending" posts.
  • Mulley put a third post, including:
I will not be taking the blog posts down.

This is my first takedown notice. I’m framing it and replacing my framed copy of Joan Burton in her pink suit with that on the shrine. Sorry Joan, the fickle tastes of bloggers. It was nice though. Really.

  • Mulley's hits went from a few hundred to 47,000 a day (hmm ... if only). It twice crashed his server.
  • The latest news is:
It seems Sky Handling Partners have called the Gardai too. They also chastised me on my use of bad language. Yes, really! How many people have ever seen a solicitor’s letter than contains the word cunt at least three times?
And it's been 35 long years since Arkell v. Pressdram.

Malcolm is on board on this bandwagon, rooting for Mulley. By one of those coincidences that aren't, Malcolm remembers a small flow of gutter abuse when he pointed out that there was an unhealthy and often financial relationship between the constabulary and the feral media.

As L/Cpl Jack Jones had it: "They don't like it up 'em". Sphere: Related Content
The joy of Martin Turner
Irish Times, 21 June 2007. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

That louche old beardie, Guido Fawkes, has been salivating over Pandora in the Indy alleging continued attrition of female staff in the office the Rt Hon D. Davis (heir to Alan B'Stard's rolling acres of Haltemprice).

The count is six so far: Juliet, Marc, Kate, Katy, Gloria and Amy, with a seventh about to join the devastation.

Malcolm admits to carnal knowledge of no young Conservative-and-Unionist miss (since the 1960s anyway, when he converted her to socialism and married life). However, he does bear a related and long-standing grudge against one particular Tory candidate.

In the two elections of 1974 the (victorious) Conservative candidate for Havering-Upminster was one John Loveridge, a west country farmer and resident of Fitzjohn's Avenue, Hampstead.

One day, Loveridge decided to show his face in the Labour heartland of Harold Hill. This still bears the marks of being a vast LCC (and then GLC) housing estate, stretching north from the A12 at Gallows Corner into stock-brick infinity. Loveridge, entering enemy territory, went mob handed.

The Labour team mustered their hordes to counter-attack. Most of this dozen or so were card-carrying, red-blooded and unreconstructed marxist-leninists who worked in the foundry at Ford's, Dagenham.

In no time, the Loveridge contingent realised they had met their match and fled. A victory for proletarian solidarity.

Except ...

Not long after, Malcolm observed a lost, lonely and tearful girl, shielding blue rosette, trotting as fast as she could away from the scene of the rout.

Being a gentleman, Malcolm approached and asked if all was well. It transpired that she was a west-country maid, who up to London had strayed, although with her nature it did not agree, recruited to assist the said Loveridge in his campaign to beat back the tide of Wilsonian revolution. She had been overlooked in the rapid debunking, and hadn't a clue how to return to base.

It gave Malcolm enormous satisfaction to escort her back and deliver her to the Tory headquarters: the Malcolmobile being plastered with Labour stickers. Did he receive appropriate thanks? From the girl, of course: she was nice and well-bred. From the Loveridge team: nada, niente, zilch.

Pandora reminds us, on Remembrance Day, 2005, Paxman invited Davis to deny that he was
"a thug, bully, an adventurer, disloyal, congenitally treacherous and winner of the Whips' Office shit of the year award". In other words, a true Tory.


And Guido Fawkes has more. He identifies the eighth and latest victim of Dave "Basher" Davis as Alivia Kratke (see right, in vino veritas). She was fingered as
the nameless source of the quote in the [original] piece "He makes junior staff sit separately in a dingy bunker with no natural daylight. Lunch breaks are militarily monitored. Morale's miserable."
Her Facebook page (since changed) was describing her as
spending her birthday with her solicitor (Thomas Mansfield employment solicitors).

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A popular view (part two)

The second piece with which Malcolm found himself in enthusiastic agreement was Giles Foden in the Review section of Saturday's Guardian (on manly page three, no less). His argument hung on the peg of renewed interest in Rider Haggard:
King Solomon's Mines is currently being edited for Penguin Classics by Robert Hampson in its first full scholarly edition, and She is one of six "boy's own books" being reissued by the same publisher.
Foden continues by asking:
what is Penguin doing, bringing it out now along with five other "epic tales of adventure and bravery", namely Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, Erskine Childers's The Riddle of the Sands, John Buchan's The 39 Steps and GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday? And why is Headline Review bringing out its own set of boy's tales next month, including The Lost World and The Man Who Was Thursday.
He suggests:
The simple answer is that they hope to capitalise on the success of The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn and Hal Iggulden's guide to scrapes and derring-do. This is obvious from the deep-dyed, embossed covers of the Penguin books, whose livery imitates the Igguldens', which itself owes much to the way boy's own titles by the master of the game, GA Henty, were marketed in the late 1880s and after.
He adds, quite properly:
the imperialist ethos is certainly there, more or less explicitly, in the books Penguin has chosen to remarket in this way. But their continuing appeal cannot simply be explained away as retro-imperialism
His critique then trails off into observations on Henty, Conrad and Madame Bovary. En passant, what is it about the Guardian and Bovary? A google of the two terms shows over 54,000 hits. And then there's the delicious Gemma Bovary over and above! Foden's conclusion was what particularly linked to Malcolm's own thoughts:
It must be better that boys take a risk with literary adventure than numb their minds with screens and headphones. The mind-befogging potentiality of electronic media is the real doom now. That's what must be escaped from, not into.
Malcolm would demur from that only in so far as "screens and headphones" do not always, necessarily get in the way of involvement in literature, as Sony, Microsoft and Palm seem to agree. What odds that an electronic hand-held toy would do more to up the reading quotient of school-boys than any class library? It's the "golf-bag" effect: the steeper the entry fee, the more desirable, the glitzier the activity. Essentially, though, the conclusion holds.

Once upon a time, when the world and Malcolm were younger, there was a definable reading route for boys of his generation. It went from Moreover, all of this had some kind of street cred. Alongside this, it was still "normal" to read the popular classics which were handed out as school prizes and granny's occasional gifts, and which had a counter to themselves in Woolworths. As a result, and which we can now recognise as an obvious way to discriminate "class", the 11-plus (at least in Norfolk) had an "English Literature", which amounted to knowing the names of these authors.

brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to ... Rider Haggard, himself a good Norfolk boy.

Malcolm looks with some interest to see if modern editors feel it necessary to bowdlerise Haggard's anti-semitism and racism (both, admittedly, more a social disease of his period than active malevolence). And whether the "deep-dyed embossed covers" will override the heaviness of some of the prose. As for the plotting, Malcolm will quite happily go along with that.

After all, what's wrong with encouraging covetousness for jewels "the size of pigeon's eggs" in Little Englanders, if they discover a love of reading in the process? At least in Haggard the sex-and-violence comes closer to the surface than with that Indiana Jones bloke.
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 18, 2007

have known

Earlier today grimmerupnorth (Councillor Susan Press) had a promising contribution, posted at 05:26.

Malcolm now gratefully, even gleefully borrows his header therefrom.

The piece is still credited at bloggers4labour:

In my very much younger days I was ( for a brief time) a member of Beckenham Labour Party. Not the most leftie of areas. But the Labour Party had some nice people. One of whom was NOT the London Labour MP Reg Race. Known as a firebrand left-winger, he served as MP for the north London cons...
Of this item, the grimmerupnorth blogspot now evidences nary a trace.

Similarly, grimmerupnorth ran a header Death of a racist (don't believe Malcolm: check the link), before another crisis of conscience changed that to "Manning shuffles off the stage".

Now, come on!

Both of grimmerupnorth's targets came over to Malcolm as deeply unpleasant men. Manning certainly deserves none of Diogenes Laertius' de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est crap. Enough already: others will have it in for Manning. The keyboards are already dripping with justified bile, phlegm and sputum.

But Race. Pass the sick bag, Alice.

Race served his time as a parliamentary candidate in Ruislip-Northwood in both 1974 elections. Then he was adopted for Wood Green, which he took in 1979. When Wood Green was conflated with Hornsey, Race was out of a job. He offered his services to Sedgefield Labour Party for the 1983 candidature, but that CLP chose a better man, a young, thrusting barrister. In 2001 Race blew the nomination for Chesterfield, after Tony Benn's retirement, spectacularly on the wrong end of an 8½% swing.

While he was esconced in Wood Green, the Haringey Labour Group was riven between decent Labourites
(hence Malcolm's personal point of interest) and the loonies. The loonies were a clique, a cadre, a party-within-a-party, dragooned by Jeremy Corbyn. This lot were so into comradely solidarity they held pre-Labour Group meetings on Sunday evening, in the Middle Lane Labour Party office, to learn their hymn-sheets. Race was allegedly a regular attender. A significant element in the Corbyn faction were infiltrators from the IMG.

"Doctor" Race (he has a Phud from the University of Kent) is a master of the English language. He forwarded the discipline and polysyllabic vocabulary of sociology with his thesis
Political agents and the development of bureaucraticisation and deradicalisation in the British Labour Party. Indeed.

He is also credited with being the first MP recorded using "fuck" in parliamentary debate.

But what, Malcolm wondered, provoked grimmerupnorth's (now deleted and therefore hypothetical) piece? Could it, perchance, be Robert Watts in the Sunday Telegraph? This suggests a significant hypocrisy in "Doctor" Race, who once:
criticised Conservative MPs for profiting by the sell-off of the state-owned energy company Amersham International, alleging that one Tory had made a "killing" from the deal.
Now, however,
he has amassed a fortune working as a private contractor for the National Health Service...
Mr Race's company, Quality Health, is one of a select band of "approved contractors" that health trusts must hire to conduct patient and staff surveys...
Quality Health, which Mr Race owns with his wife, Amanda Moore, has won contracts with 320 of the 487 NHS trusts across the UK. The company charges about £4,200 to complete each annual survey.
... the success of Quality Health has allowed Mr Race to establish a palatial home at Sutton Manor in the Derbyshire village of Sutton Scarsdale, near Chesterfield.
Ah, yes, perhaps so. So here's one for the hymn-sheet: Matthew 7, 15-18—
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A popular view (part one)

One of life's natural disputants, Malcolm secretly enjoys others agreeing with him. That is why he was warmed by two recent pieces (part 2 will follow).

Chris Campling's radio review in the Times gave a couple of paragraphs of a wholly-excellent piece to BBC Radio 2's Classic Singles programme:
... cop this: “Up close by the Kansas border in the panhandle of Oklahoma there’s a place where the terrain flattens out, it’s almost like you could take a level and put it on the highway and the bubble would sit there dead centre. And it goes on that way for about 50 miles, and in the summer, through the heat shimmer, the telephone poles gradually materialise out of the distance and they seem to to rush past you and I looked up and there was a man on top of one of them.”

Thus did Jimmy Webb describe the inspiration for Wichita Lineman in a new series of Classic Singles (Radio 2, Wednesdays, 11pm). He also revealed why the song has only two verses: it was never finished. Glen Campbell asked him for a song, he sent that one as a work in progress – “and the next time I heard it was on the record”.

What first got to Malcolm about the programme was a throw-away comment about Glen Campbell's previous hit, Galveston. The second stanza fades up and down behind:

Galveston, oh Galveston,
I still hear your sea waves crashing,
While I watch the cannon flashing;
And I clean my gun
And I dream of Galveston

while the commentary goes like this:

Galveston was really more about someone caught up in the Vietnamese war ... Galveston, that was the whole war, right there.

Not bad, eh?

Malcolm has a long-term itch to look closely at subtexts and contexts of song lyrics. This originated many, many years ago when he reacted to a Cole Porter lyric:

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies.
On my Cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences,
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses,
And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences:
Don't fence me in.

Apart from smart vocabulary and semi-rhymes, this seems totally inappropriate to urban, urbane Porter. Wikipedia makes just that point:
It was Porter's least favorite song and does not have his usual signature. Originally written for an unproduced 20th Century Fox film musical, Adios Argentina, in 1934...
Ten years later, in 1944, Warner Bros. resurrected "Don't Fence Me In" for Roy Rogers to sing in the movie, Hollywood Canteen. Many people heard the song for the first time when Kate Smith introduced it on her 1944-10-08 radio broadcast. "Don't Fence Me In" was also recorded by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters in 1944. Crosby entered the studio on July 25,1944, without having seen or heard the song. Within 30 minutes he and the Andrews Sisters had made the recording, which later sold over a million copies and topped the Billboard charts for 8 weeks in 1944-45.
Put that alongside the other popular hits: say, Crosby in 1944 doing Bruce Jenkins:
Oh, I'm packing my grip
And I'm leaving today
'Cause I'm taking a trip
California way.
I'm going to settle down and never more roam
And make the San Fernando Valley my home.
The question is latent: why in 1944-5 did these achieve such resonance? The answer, for anyone not smart enough to be ahead of Malcolm, is the date. It is safe to assume that the GIs yomping across northern Europe, or surviving the suicide of Pacific island hopping, formed one common resolution: not to return to industrial jobs in grim northern cities or to labouring on country farms. They had seen the bright lights and big cities and knew what they wanted, and where they were headed. That also is the significance of Bobby Troup's iconic (Get Your kicks on) Route 66 in 1946:
Now you go through St. Louis; Joplin, Missouri;
Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty.
You'll see Amarillo; Gallup, New Mexico;
Flagstaff, Arizona —don't forget Winona—;
Kingman; Barstow; San Bernadino.

Won't you get hip to this kindly tip
When you make that California trip?
Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six.
With free publicity like that, it's not surprising how fast the Los Angeles region expanded.

In the wider context, someone, somewhere needs to do a deep appreciation of how catastrophic events (the Second World War, Korea, Kennedy in Dallas, Vietnam, 9.11) impact on the lives, loves and culture of the (allegedly always) "apolitical" upcoming generation. It simply ain't like that, y'know: these things leave scars.

There are all kinds of significances in popular culture. Malcolm's six decades have given him one thing: perspective. We need to rescue this stuff from the wordy, woolly, woozy sociologists, and re-assert some sense of social history. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 15, 2007

Malcolm repays a small debt

A while back (9th January), Malcolm grabbed the wrong end of the stick over the sources for Cathal O'Shannon's RTÉ programme on Ireland's Nazis. A further lesson in the dangers of taking journos on trust.

The up-side was a correspondence with Dan Leach, who had been sweating blood on a PhD thesis at the University of Melbourne. Leach has now scored with an article in the new (May/June) issue of History Ireland:
Irish post-war asylum:Nazi sympathy, pan-Celticism or raisons d'etat?
Daniel Leach takes issue with some of the conclusions of Ireland’s Nazis, the two-part documentary broadcast on RTÉ 1 in January 2007 and reviewed in the March/April issue of History Ireland.

Sphere: Related Content

The 30m high club

Some kudos is due, thinks Malcolm, to the unnamed couple who made it to and at the top of the crane:

Sex romp in crane cab halted by cop

Police went to the construction site to investigate Saturday night after bystanders spotted the couple climbing into the cab of the crane. An officer's command to come down was followed by a naked foot popping over the railing, police said.

The officer noted the couple then got dressed and climbed down.

The man, who worked at the site and had keys to the crane, told police officers he was photographing the city skyline.

Thanks to the Miami Herald (home base of the marvellously-inventive Carl Hiaasen) for that, and for suggesting that, even amid the lunacy that is southern Florida, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Sphere: Related Content

The Pied Piper
the cute wee hoor

There is nothing that chills the blood of the average politico, of any nation, level or age more than fear of electors in a snit:
At last the people in a body
To the town hall came flocking:
"'Tis clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation—shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin! ...
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"
That comes round in the UK on something like a quarter-century-long cycle. It may well be the mood in the US, too, come November 2008. It was, to the surprise of some gurus, not the mood in Ireland in 2007. Irish voters were, on the whole, complaisant in their lot, didn't ask very much except the recipe as before; but, even so, got a lot less than they asked for with the accession of the Green Party into the coalition government.

It would appear that the Greens rolled over, had their bellies rubbed, got up, trooped off to Áras an Uachtaráin, collected their seals of office, and discarded every principle on which they had stood at the election.

Every party now, with the exception of Sinn Féin (and even they not for want of trying and offering), has had a seat on the coalition roundabout

Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering.
So Malcolm now ticks off those broken Green pledges. Others, whose mileage may vary, might prefer to undertake a similar exercise: the Green manifesto is still on line. Here's the Irish Times (as doing a run-down of the FF-Green corcordat for government:
  • Iraq-bound United States military flights will continue to use Shannon airport. Dáil approval will be required before any non-United Nations mandated military flight will be allowed to land, but this will not interfere with the Americans' current use of the airport, since they now operate on a UN mandate.
  • All new roads planned by the outgoing Government will go ahead.
  • Harney offered Foreign Affairs, but refused, and will continue as Health Minster.
  • M3 to go ahead.
  • No concessions on corporate donations.
  • Carbon tax to be introduced over the next five years.
  • Proposed FF tax cuts to go ahead.
  • Extra €50 million to be spent on education.
  • Greens have demanded two senior cabinet posts, but have been offered one cabinet ministry, one minister of state and one 'super junior'.
  • Greens have asked for Transport and Environment, but these portfolios have yet to be assigned.
Malcolm now attempts to pick a few bones out of that dog's dinner. The first item looks significantly different to the Green manifesto pledge:
  • end the use of Shannon Airport by US military forces involved in the war in Iraq;
  • insist that any aircraft suspected of involvement in illegal movements of prisoners must be searched.
The guarantee that existing road plans will be pursued is a double blow. First there is the Green manifesto commitment straight into the bin:
The Green Party will ... respect existing road contracts but, where there is concern about potential damage to communities, environment or heritage, will investigate how this can be minimised within the scope of the contract or through renegotiation.
Second, the road programme notoriously provides a conveyor belt of contracts to the commercial supporters of Fianna Fáil. This was, after all, the unspoken rationale behind the Greens' "ethics" pledge:
Action is badly needed to restore public confidence in a political system that is widely seen to be operating on the basis of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.
The Green Party will ... ban corporate, institutional or foreign-based donations.
Add in the curious case of the bitch that barked in the night. Mary Harney ought to have been the ultimate stumbling block, for the Greens had made her an explicit target:
In government, the Green Party will ensure that Mary Harney's plans for the building of private hospitals on public land are scrapped. By halting the slow privatisation of our health service and through targeted investment in our public health system, we will deliver a health system which is more efficient, more equitable, and with better outcomes for patients.
Bertie Ahern needed those two PD votes, and because he has power, he has magic powers of attraction:
He advanced to the council-table:
And, "Please your honours,'' said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!"
The charm he offered Harney was a move to the foreign affairs brief. She stood firm. She kept her health post "to complete unpopular, unfinished business" (as today's Irish Times leader puts it). Ms Harney/Mrs Geoghegan is some tough cookie. The Greens, with less backbone, simply folded.

But surely it is better to have half-a-loaf than none? Well, let's see what that means in education. The Green manifesto pledge was:
Invest €1 billion in additional current and capital funding for education for the first year of the next Government’s term of office, to front-load educational priorities.
Provide 2,400 extra teachers at primary and secondary levels.
Now let's check that: no, not €1B: come, sir, let's call it €50M:
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!
Not so much half-a-loaf, more a pathetic crumb.

And then there's Tara, otherwise known as the M3 stitch-up. If there was one issue on which the Greens came closest to the public mood, this was it. If Bertie's flutings were to be double-stopped, it surely would be at the Hill of Tara, particularly when excavations threw up new treasures:
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop
And we shall see our children stop!

When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed...
And what happened?

Well, Bertie gave the Greens the two Ministries they wanted: Environment, Heritage and Local Government (for John Gormley) and Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (for Eamon Ryan). But the cute wee hoor had already got there and put in the fix: Gormley discovered that one of Dick Roche's last signatures, as outgoing Environment Minister, had been to approve the line of the M3 past Tara. So that leaves only the Shell terminal, at Rossport in the County Mayo, to be sorted. Any bets on whether principle wins out out capitalism?

The Greens have been piped up the slippery slopes of Mount Bertie, and are now in the belly of the beast:
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
The fate of the Greens is in the pattern established by the elimination of the PDs. FF, under the present piper or the coming-man, Brian Cowan, have the Greens muzzled, and on a short leash: or is it a choke-chain?

One day, perhaps the next election, after the economic down-turn, when the balance of trade has shifted, the Irish electorate may suffer their snit. Then will not be the time to be in government, or to be remembered as being complicit therein, for the reaction will be violent:
"Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"
Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, June 2, 2007

More! MORE!

A cast of dozens (some even sane).

Thank all that's marvellous for The Folks on the Hill.

Fourteen minutes of sheer delight.
Every Friday.
BBC Northern Ireland.
Cracking up guaranteed.
Sphere: Related Content
Public appearances

An objection comes by Email to Redfellow Hovel, from Our American Cousin [the estimable OAC], complaining about recent changes in the public face of Malcolm Redfellow revivus. By the way, OAC's mention of how Labor Day came about is worth the effort, and was previously unknown to Malcolm.

Yes, Malcolm has been messing with the decor: for one who was previously a major purchaser of Dulux Magnolia emulsion, this is not a good sign. The trouble is that, since the ousting of the elves, there has been minimal techno-nous around the Hovel. So, he is trying again.

The Obama delusion (and clean hands)

In passing, Malcolm also noted OAC's rubbishing of the liberal hope lavished on Obama. Malcolm does not want to intrude on a domestic quarrel, but accepts the point. Neither of the Democratic Party front-runners, big-hitters and wallet-clutchers has the making for a radical change in direction. Now, Malcolm is too old in the tooth to expect a popular revolution, or even a Roosevelt-liberalism. It would be nice, though, to see a new President capable and honest enough to break with the cronyism and cartel-politics of the past. Malcolm suspects (hopes, begs, even prays) that the Big Issues of this minute (Iraq, especially) could well be warmed-over pizza by Labor Day, 2008.

The Economist this week (free access this weekend, if one suffers the pop-up ad) takes a rake along the same row of weeds, specifically on the topic of Democrats and health care:

How do you devise a health-care plan that is sensible and centrist, yet also stands out from the rest? That is the question faced by all the Democratic candidates for the presidency. Health care is second only to the war in Iraq among voters' concerns, so everyone with an eye on the White House wants a winning answer.

The three front-runners—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards—have all promised to control costs and provide coverage for the 47m Americans without health insurance. All three have eschewed radical change. Instead, they are jostling over the centre ground: how to tweak America's predominantly private health-care system.

The Economist evaluation seems to put

  • John Edwards first:
Not unlike reforms already under way in Massachusetts and California, Mr Edwards's scheme promises an overhaul of insurance markets, subsidies to help poorer people pay their premiums and a legal requirement that everyone should buy health insurance.
  • Hills in second place:
Mrs Clinton offers a litany of well-known, but sensible, savings, such as shifting to electronic records, concentrating more on preventive medicine, improving the management of chronic diseases, and creating a “best practices institute” to set guidelines for optimal care. In all, she claims, $120 billion a year could be wrung out of the health system, money that could be used to pay for broader coverage.
  • but Obama playing catch-up:

The Obama path to universal coverage is a paler version of Mr Edwards's. It promises insurance-market reform, including the creation of a National Health Insurance Exchange...

Like Mr Edwards's, the Obama plan would levy a tax on firms that do not provide health cover. It would also demand an infusion of federal cash, to be paid for, yes, by rolling back some of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Mr Obama's aides claim the price tag would be around $65 billion a year, though other health experts think it would be higher.

The big difference is that Mr Obama, unlike Mr Edwards, would not force people to buy health insurance. Only children would have to be covered. That soft-pedalling may please the unions, some of which dislike the idea of compelling workers to buy insurance. But it makes his plan both less efficient and less effective.

Beyond assuring decent health-care for its citizens (surely a baseline requirement of any democratic government), it ought to be a major campaign issue to clean up government. Which is why Malcolm is wondering whether such a change can come from the Democrats. The main item in this week's Economist American coverage is an appraisal of John McCain. It is, in the main, a negation of McCain's chances of being nominated, but it provides this provocative thought:
Mr McCain's last big problem is his long-standing record as a reformer. The only thing that this pugnacious man likes attacking more than Democratic vested interests is Republican vested interests. Mr McCain has used his prominent position, as a perpetual presidential candidate and chairman of three Senate committees, to savage big chunks of the Republican establishment: conservative influence-peddlers such as the televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (whom he has labelled evil); Republican interest-groups such as big defence companies; and a campaign-finance system skewed to benefit incumbents, many of them Republicans.
The article points out that McCain was instrumental in the deserved humiliation of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay.

In short, McCain has been as effective an opposition as anyone. His pro-war politics and conservatism may stick in the craw, but at least on one issue his instincts are commendable. When the mark of a coming saviour is the size of his or her war-chest, can we expect such frankness from the Democrats?

The shortest honeymoon on record?
Martyn Turner illustrates that today's Irish Times has obviously decided its urinary position is not from under canvas. Apart from almost a whole broadsheet page profiling Conor Maguire, the Senior Counsel representing the people's Bertie at the Mahon tribunal (and so spot-lighting that little local difficulty), there is a handful of articles all pouring something onto the Ahern "victory".

Kathy Sheridan gets pride of place on the front of the Review section: "The people have spoken ... but what have they said?" A lot of the froth is derived from Ivan Yates's focus-group politics:
It was Yates who pinpointed Breakfast Roll Man as the election winner, the one who turned to Fianna Fáil when the chips were down. Breakfast Roll Man, according to Yates, is aged 20-45, a blue-collar worker in a factory or a building site, "a self-employed electrician or Del Boy ... and the one thing he has learned is to look after himself. He likes Sky Sports, likes to drink — and now drinks pints and wine at home, likes that his wife/mot/partner can go shopping and not wreck his head if she spends too much. And he wants the kids to do better than him."
The bush has been well and truly beaten about before Sheridan gets to the point, based in part on the Times own exit poll:
Health was by far the dominant issue at 45 per cent, crime next at 25 per cent, and managing the economy at 23 per cent. Bush-fire issues such as the cost-of-living (18 per cent), education (15 per cent), environment (13 per cent) and housing (10 per cent) played second fiddle.
If that's the major premise in this syllogism, the minor is lurking unease, with a surprising synthesis:
Nearly 300,000 people work in the construction sector, about 12 per cent of the workforce. About eight days before polling, says Yates, an independent construction consultant, Jerome Casey, forecast a house price drop of 5 per cent this year and 10 per cent in 2008. Breakfast Roll Man saw it coming with his own eyes...
For the record, Yates is predicting a "landslide" for Fine Gael in 2011 or 2012.
Reinforcement comes from the (non-subscription) front page's lead:
Leading bank says growth will drop to 3%
Rising interest rates and debt cited as factors.
Redundancies are up by 8%, year on year: more are due as Dell (the second largest employer in the Republic, and representing 4% of all exports) slims down, as does Eircom and the food sector.

And the Times hasn't finished there. On the Opinion&Analysis page, Michael Casey, "former chief economist of the Central Bank and board member of the International Monetary Fund" is wheeled out to announce:
When it came to economics and fiscal matters, the electorate was sold a pup.
It was ever thus.

Nor should we neglect the benighted English in this traipsing round the political dung-hill.

And a reptilian crap-merchant

The Tories have not had a good week (heh, heh). The grammar schools thing will not go away (it's not a Clause Four moment, but will it be Cameron's EEC issue?):
senior Conservatives warned that the row was making the party look chaotic and potentially elitist and was damaging relations with activists. Even Mr Cameron's staunchest supporters are baffled by the way an apparently uncontroversial speech on a long-standing Tory policy could spark a 17-day row, infighting and a frontbench resignation.
And now there's a new director of communications (or some similar big-sounding title).
Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, ... was an appointment which took both Westminster and Fleet Street by surprise. And it was quickly hailed as being an inspired move, or a high-risk appointment, in almost equal measure.

Max Clifford, who has not spoken to Coulson since a much-publicised spat several years ago, said that he would find the move from newspaper journalism to public relations to be an enormous challenge, requiring skills which even the best tabloid editors may not possess. "Winning friends and influencing people is going to be harder than he thinks," predicted Clifford. "Especially as he will be working for Cameron, who is a PR man desperately trying to re-invent himself as a politician."

Lest we forget: Coulson left the News of the World in the wake of the royal-bugger [mobile phone messages, dearie, not what you're thinking] business, in which one journalist was jugged for four months, and all the rest knew nuffin'.

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