Monday, July 30, 2007

It made me smile.

In the Hood, In the Hood, He's the Wizard in the Hood, He uses Magic Powers for the Forces of Good...

Hat-tip, and thanks, to: Barcharters Anonymous

Iain Dale's Diary is Doomed

I'm sorry, it's my fault.

I've had links to three proper Tory blogs:

Martine Martin's Lebwog - it was beautifully put together, she's intelligent and strongly dislikes Bush. But she's stopped writing.

Prague Tory -interesting stuff, though I often didn't agree with him. But he's just stopped writing.

That leaves Iain Dale's Diary. I'm sorry, I'm clearly a jinx, it's doomed.

Lib Dem Policy On Job Centres?

Last week Lib Dem Voice reported on our new party strategy to lift 5 million people out of poverty. A big, wide-ranging document that covers everything from benefits claims to affordable housing.

So it was odd that there were precisely zero comments left about it at Lib Dem Voice - compared with 35 on the stripagram, and 37 on the myth of classical liberalism.

Now, I also help run another, local blog for our local district. We didn't mention the policy document on our local site. But one of our regular readers there was so concerned about the apparent policy to transfer the 'jobfinding' part of jobcentres to the private and voluntary sector that she left a comment there anyway, and there's a thread with 5 comments now.

Does anybody care to go there and explain our new policy better than I can?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dean Friedman and Milton Friedman

There's been a lot of comment in the last few days over a certain Lib Dem councillor who works as a stripper. As a result three other Lib Dems have switched to being independents. They were quoted as saying:

" We believe our integrity and principles will be compromised if we stay. Myrna just doesn't believe that she is the inheritor of Locke, Smith, Ricardo and the Mills. And we were shocked, shocked to find she hadn't read “Anarchy, State and Utopia” of Robert Nozick, “Persons, Rights and the Moral Community” of Loren E. Lomasky or “Principles for a Free Society” by Richard A. Epstein."

OK, I made the last bit up. They were concerned about her work as a stripper, not her economic knowledge. But maybe some people do get a little pre-occupied with all the stuff about our party's historical roots and associated economic theories. I've got to confess that I haven't read any of those books either. Nor do I know much about Locke, Smith, Ricardo and the Mills. And I know more about Dean Friedman the singer-songwriter than I do about Milton Friedman the economist.

One of the good things about reading Lib Dem bloggery is that you are exposed to all sorts of material. This week I've enjoyed the item at Lib Dem Voice on "The Greatest British Liberal" - my choice would be William Beveridge:

And tonight I've struggled through the comments on John Dixon's interesting article, also at Lib Dem Voice, on classical liberalism.

Now, I generally let other Lib Dems debate the finer points of what 'Liberalism' actually means - I'm happier to get on with being a councillor and focussing on day-to-day matters. But I have felt I've learned a little reading through the article and the comments below it.

However I must respond to a comment below John Dixon's article which said:
A century of welfarism has surely shown us that that policy has not only not delivered in terms of poverty reduction and opportunity growth, but that it is costing ever huger amounts of money to perform it as a government function

And that's where I disagree. Strongly. Looking back at my own family experience , my father had to leave school in 1914 - at the age of 13- because although he had won a scholarship to Bristol Grammar School, his family were so poor he had to go to work. Four or five decades later, thanks to the likes of Lloyd George and Beveridge, there was a sufficent welfare state for me to get a good education (though not in economics!) - and a sufficent NHS to give me adequate health care when I needed it. It certainly gave me opportunity growth.

I'm content for other people to discuss the party's historical roots. But let's avoid worshipping capitalism. Let's remember that the pace of technological and climatic change over the next 20 or 30 years will probably affect the world more than the scholars of 200 years ago. And also remember that in Milton Friedman's last interview, he said that the greatest threat to the world economy was "Islamofascism, with terrorism as its weapon." He might even be right on that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

60 Days Extra In Jail....

From the Miami Herald

A Broward prisoner accused of committing a sex act while he was alone in his jail cell was found guilty Tuesday of indecent exposure.

Hat-Tip - Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Not Bad

Mingle2 Free Online Dating - Science Quiz

Hat-Tip: Millennium Elephant

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Hat-Tip: Niles

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Seventh and Best

I began reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows outside Borders at Lakeside at 5:00 pm, and I've just finished it....

What do I think? I think that JK saved the best till last....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

If clicks were votes, Obama wins...

More information here.

I lose - secretly

So we had a secret ballot tonight to elect the vice-chairman of the West Area Committee. I lost the vote 10-5 , with voting purely on party lines....

Never mind, it was quite a good meeting overall...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Do you have secret ballots on your council?

I'm going be a tiny bit excited at about 7.30 on Wednesday night. We have the first ever meeting of our district's West Area Committee.....

(For Rochford exiles like Trevor Powell, I should explain that we now have a cabinet system with 3 area committees to hopefully enhance local democracy. The 5 Lib Dems on Rochford DC all represent Rayleigh wards, so we are all on the West committee, with 11 Tories.)

Now all the area committee chairs were elected at annual council - by secret ballot , a process I've not seen at council meetings before. One of the first items of business on Wednesday will be the election of a vice-chairman, and bless my soul, one of my colleagues wanted to nominate me. So now I'm in a secret ballot against an interesting and slightly untypical Conservative Councillor Simon Smith .

If voting goes on party lines I'm sure to lose 11-5....

But I've never heard of secret ballots at other council chambers to elect chairs- or to decide anything else. Do you have them in your area?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I wasn't going to even mention Harry Potter and then I read this

“But Dad…”

“No, listen. If we went to watch the new Harry Potter film and Harry and Ron had enormous breasts, but nothing about it was ever mentioned, explained or alluded to, how easily would you be able to suspend your disbelief?”


“All the way through you would just be thinking ‘this is soooo wrong.’”

Confused? Read on here.

Why this week won't change my view of Ming at all.

I've not been able to go over to Ealing because of work commitments, which has made me reluctant to blog about the by-elections this week. However I've been annoyed by those bloggers and other commentators who are trying to build the next few days into a make-or-break time for Ming. I don't want to see any more blog posts for a while about leadership contests, nor to get emails about currently inactive MPs websites. It's time to let off a little steam....

Essentially , I'm not convinced that these by-elections are any kind of reflection on Ming's ability as leader. Last year we managed to win Dunfermline without any leader at all. This time we have a , a , a - let's call it a pantomine - in Ealing with the Lib Dems at least keeping their dignity and honesty, and another by-election in a seat that was just held by a 10-year prime minister.

I don't think you can judge Ming's ability by the result of either by-election. They are both unusual constituencies.

Ming wasn't my first choice as leader. He doesn't attract the floating voting the way that Charles Kennedy did. Not one resident mentioned him to me in the local elections in May (and this was in wards where we did very well). On the other hand, Cameron was mentioned only once - when a resident compared him to a double glazing salesman. And no mention is better than a negative mention...

The situation seems now to be that the Tories are lagging behind in the polls, and Cameron's party may soon experience the horrific nightmare of losing again. Remember all the talk of LiberalsForCameron, all those defectors he was going to get ? Those blue dreams are starting to fade. It may be that Ming will outlast Cameron....

Gosh, I hope we have a good day on Thursday. But whether we win or lose, It won't change my view of Ming, or my belief that this isn't the time to think about leadership challenges.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wasps Are Coming To Our Bedroom To Die

I don't want to talk about the current state of politics tonight, so here's a little personal problem instead....

Every morning we seem to find about seven dead wasps in our bedroom chez Black. And there's one or two weak and dying ones there as well. It's been going on for about ten days. Is there a wasp nest nearby that has been treated by an exterminator, and some of these wasps are just coming to us for a quiet and peaceful death?

Or is the wet weather killing off wasps on a national scale?

Any wasp experts out there?

The last weeks of the Mugabe regime?

Paul Walter has written here about his local Newbury's MPs call for an uprising in Zimbabwe to overthrow the Mugabe regime.

Things are going from dire to even more dire in that country. To quote from This Is Zimbabwe on July 5th:

It’s hard, sometimes, not to feel complete despair at what happens in our country. And I hit a low this morning when I read this via VOANEWS:

Members of Zimbabwe’s cabinet grappling with runaway inflation summoned business managers from across all sectors of the economy late Wednesday for an emergency meeting to discuss Harare’s ongoing offensive against rising prices.

National Chamber of Commerce President Marah Hativagone told VOA that business representatives intended to tell the cabinet task force on price stability that Harare has to make more foreign currency available so businesses can continue operating.

However, government sources said officials including Minister Without Portfolio Elliot Manyika, acting task force chair in the absence of Industry Minister Obert Mpofu, were to tell business leaders there is no turning back and that all businesses that close or reduce production will be nationalized and operated by the government.

Zanu PF managed to buy themselves time by stealing the farms and allocating them to a handful of Zanu PF elite who used the opportunity to either let the farms languish into nothing or asset stripped them, selling machinery and irrigation equipment for a quick smelly dollar. People forget, but just before Mugabe did this he’d just lost a referendum, the writing was on the wall for Zanu PF, and taking the farms was literally about political survival more than anything. Some people have become very very rich indeed, thanks to Robert Mugabe’s policies, and in return they prop him up.

I’m sure that unscrupulous greedy sods who already have a couple of farms in their back pockets are salivating at the chance to get their incompetent grubby hands on a few businesses that they can asset-strip, convert their ill-gotten gains to forex at the extra special Zanu PF exchange rates, and then funnel the cash out the country to secret bank accounts in despot havens. There is simply no way they can run these businesses with lower prices - raw materials cost what raw materials cost. Fuel is imported.

The country will be broken, all chance of economic recovery destroyed, because which businessperson, struggling to survive now, can start again when their equipment and tills are gone and they have to re-stock from scratch with no money because they’ve been forced into a deficit by the flat 50% reduction in cost.

It just seems so bizarre; to get the farms Mugabe whipped up nationalistic sentiment and cultivated and nurtured hate between Zimbabwean people. He paid the so-called war veterans (some were about 19 years old) to invade the farms and seize them before unceremoniously evicting the war-vets and handing farms to the elite.

This time he has manufactured a situation where he is literally going to destroy businesses and then blame the owner and seize their livelihoods, futures, pensions. Not war vets this time, its the ‘inflation police’ and their friends. The farm seizures were rationalised to the world as necessary re-distribution of land to the landless majority. Some people actually bought that - too naive and idealistic to see that Mugabe is not a liberator, he is a self-serving despot!

How is he going to dress this up for the world, and who the hell is going to believe a thing he says when Zimbabweans are dying like flies!? Oh yes, I forget, no one will know we’re dying because he’s made sure the press aren’t allowed in and he murders the ones in our country who dare tell the truth. Out of sight, out of mind.

Because, with the businesses, Mugabe will take the food and jobs and leave the nation destitute and starving. Not just the poor; everyone. When the shops are bare, not even the middle classes or the rich can buy food. Everyone. Everyone. Everyone - except the Zanu PF elite.

Funny how he is out the country when all this takes place, a nice little ‘hedge your bets’ approach. If it goes all wrong (in other words, not according to HIS plan - it is already so wrong for all of us) and he realises he has to backtrack, he will no doubt come back roaring and make someone a scape goat.

You know, the world uses a lot of words to describe Mugabe - evil, violent, autocratic, dictator etc. I would like to add a word: “thief”.

He is a thief.

I hope I am wrong, I really do, but its hard not to read it this way. I just want to weep: I’m so tired of what he’s doing to all of us.

I tend to agree with Daniel Drezner that Zimbabwe could well slide into anarchy and lawlessness.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Degree of Doubt?

I see that Ian Pearson , MP for Dudley has just been appointed as Science Minister. Well, good luck to him.

But I notice that his qualifications are a BA Hons. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Oxford University, an MA in Industrial Relations , and a Ph.D in Industrial and Business Studies,

And I can't help feeling surprised that the country hasn't got a science minister with a science degree ...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Here's another curious blog to visit : Paleo-Future - a look at how the past imagined the future to be. For example:

Author and critic Henry L. Mencken makes some pretty bold predictions in the February 12, 1923 article, "Thinking Men and Women Predict Problems of World Century Hence," published in the Bridgeport Telegram (Bridgeport, Connecticut).

A hundred years hence the United States will be a British colony, its chief function will be to supply imbeciles to read the current English novels and docile cannon fodder for the British Army.

I believe that Prohibition will be overthrown and restored several times before 2022. There will be periods of Prohibition and wholesale drunkeness, as now, and periods of license and moderation. Just how the wave will be running in 2022 I hesitate to predict.

The American who will be most agreeably discussed by Anglo-American historians in 2022 will be Woodrow Wilson, the first Premier of the United American Colonies.

The greatest living American author is Dr. Frank Crane. He will be remembered long after Walt Whitman is forgotten.

Hat-tip: Strange Maps

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Strange Maps, Startling Map

Am I the first Lib Dem Blogger to mention Strange Maps?. It's a site that has, well , lots of unusual maps, and is well worth a look. The most recent one is about Bruce Springsteen. But perhaps the most startling is this one here, that predicts what our climate will be like in 2071:

So the prediction is here is that London will have a climate similar to that in northern Portugal now.... and Berlin will be even hotter.

The phrase 'sustainable water supply' is echoing through my head at the moment...
Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

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