Facebook and Twitter, WOOP! WOOP!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am announcing Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can all keep up with what’s going on here – as I’m sure you are all wont to do. Whilst there aren’t many of us at the moment why don’t we see if we can’t just get The Politicoid Network grown, ay?

The Twitter account is online and good for the following on @the_politicoid, so show some face if you’re so inclined. Facebook page is under development, but if you really feel the need to join up now, just look for a page named ‘Politicoid’ (shock, horror).

Further updates to come…

Ancient Aliens (History Channel 2008) – Review!

Ancient AliensLet’s have some fun, Ok? First of all, I’m a documentary fan. It’s a particular kind of laziness that you can justify because it’s kind of like learning. I am also a skeptic. So, I come at this History Channel series with an open, though cautious, mind (seems quite likely to be batshit crazy, no?). Now, I’m not going to waste a huge amount of time researching the topic – there’s not much there that needs much effort. But I have to admit, it contained enough  interesting information to keep me mildly stimulated.

Basically, the concept is this: Ancient aliens came to earth thousands of years ago, and interfered in human society, even genetically engineering us (possibly breeding with us; Alright, now we’re talking to each other ;-)). Ultimately, practically everything in any religious texts is evidence of this.
Continue reading

Are we too slow for Electoral Reform? Pt.1

Nick Clegg - UK Deputy PM

"Waaah! It's not fair I want reform"

This one’s been banging around inside my head for some time now. If you are reading this blog post from any country that has ever been colonised by the British (a’right, calm down, we can have that discussion later), including all of North America and India, then the likelihood is that in your most important elections, your nation uses the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system. One notable exception is Australia, whilst other, non-colonised nations also use FPTP. So Read This Post as it is surely relevant to a massive segment of the world’s population.

I figured there was something up with the FPTP system quite some time ago when someone mentioned that it was possible for a government to win an election without gaining the support of the majority of voters. Hmm, I thought, that don’t sound much like the democracy they tell me about at school. So you get an idea how long this has been rattling around in there for.

Shamefully, despite having been politically active for at least a good few years, I never really bothered to get my head around what was going on with the electoral system. Equally shamefully, I suspect that the vast majority of the eligible voting population also has little idea. On the one hand, the premise seems innocuous enough – the guy who gets the most votes wins the election. Seems fair enough. So how does the situation occur that a party can win an election without a majority?

Well, shock horror, it turns out that it ain’t quite so simple. Things get an added layer of complexity when you factor in constituencies. If the whole country went to the polls and voted for one party or t’other without them, then FPTP would work fine. However, we do have constituencies, albeit with varying names and definitions globally.

David Cameron - UK Prime Minister

"No, it's not fair, but in just the right way, HaHaa!"

Imagine a situation like this (or, if you live in the UK, no need to imagine): Each Constituency elects one member of Parliament. The Candidate who polls the most votes (not necessarily a majority – there may be several Parties and Candidates) will win the seat in Parliament for that constituency. Let’s say there are 100 constituencies, and 10,000 voters in each – a total of 1,000,000. Now let’s suppose there are two parties only. Party One wins 5,001 votes in every single constituency (oh, come now, I’m just trying to elucidate the point), whilst Party Two receives 4,999 votes in all constituencies. Right, so clearly according to the rules Party One has won all 100 seats in Parliament. Party Two, however, gets no representation in Parliament whatsoever, despite gaining 49.99% of the votes. If you further the analogy and throw in a third party, then things can become even more skewed and so on.

From this simple, although admittedly extreme, example one can deduce most of what is wrong with FPTP. I will defer to the wisdom of the Electoral Reform Society. The problems are thus:

  1. Representatives can get elected on tiny amounts of public support, especially in poly-party candidacies.
  2. It encourages tactical voting, as voters vote not for the candidate they most prefer, but against the candidate they most dislike.
  3. FPTP in effect wastes huge numbers of votes, as votes cast in a constituency for losing candidates, or for the winning candidate above the level they need to win that seat, count for nothing.
  4. Parties on the winning side are disproportionately over-represented and vice-versa

There are other issues, of course, but these are my pick. Point 1 is understandable – if the vote were split between five popular parties, then its gonna be one helluva task to get an absolute majority. That said if the issue can be solved, then great. And it can. On point 2, this particular form of tactical voting can be prevented, but perhaps not all forms. Points 3 and 4 are the real kickers for me, with point 4 being exemplified earlier. But point 3- well, Wow!

According to ERS, in the UK:

“In 2005, 70 per cent of votes were wasted in this way – that’s over 19 million ballots.”

Boy, 70% of our votes wasted! How come no-one told us about this? I’ll tell you why – one point not mentioned in the list above is that FPTP tends towards a two party system (by way of disproportionate representation in Parliament). Now, if you were one of the two largest parties (I’m looking at you, Labour and the Conservatives), why on earth would you want electoral reform when the current system favours you? Equally, if you were one of the smaller parties, why wouldn’t you want electoral reform? So you see, this reform issue is not, as far as the politicians on all sides are concerned, a matter of differing opinions on fair representation for the people. It is a purely political means to gain/keep a grip on power.

This issue is far too big for one post, but I can assure you that I will be blogging on this topic again, as it is one that really requires that we fight against the established parties. So what do we do? Well, you could tinker about with having multi-member constituencies for example, but it starts to get rather complex and the subtleties are hard to fathom for anyone. Thankfully, most of the hard work there has already been done for us. I shall be back to discuss what we can do to improve the system, and how you can help to push that change forward.

On a final note, I found these principle arguments for FPTP quite amusing. The ERS claim that,

“It’s [FPTP] simple to understand …and doesn’t alienate people who can’t count.”

and that,

“People are often fearful of change and slow to adapt, thus as we’ve got it now, so we may as well keep it.”

Really? Well I’m most glad that Prince Philip and Jordan are able to vote. But for the rest of us, these argument holds no water. People who can’t count? Where are these folk, living in a rock at the bottom of the English Channel (teehee, see the irony, water, channel. How delightful!)? And how about we’re too slow, please don’t change stuff to help us! Drivel, I tell you.

Fare Well, or Fare ye Well, which is it to be for Welfare? Pt.1

"Is this a smile? Kinda looks like Tony's"

Right, so, I’ve got a whole pile of stuff on my mind right now that I’d like to get off my chest. i’m going to try and write up as many as I can as soon as possible because I have the feeling that they are likely to become common themes on this blog. So, the background:

The coalition is proposing welfare reform. Now, I don’t think any reasonable person can deny that we NEED welfare reform. Especially those who are within the welfare and benefits system – they are the ones who can best let us know what is broken about the systems in place. It is sadly (as is always the case) up to the politicians to cook up the proposal. What we all know is that the proposal is known as ‘Universal Credit’, which will replace all the myriad other entitlements presently on offer. Of course, this will save us money, simplify the existing system, will be ‘fairer’ (to whom is unspecified, or just everyone) etc., etc..  Well, we’ll start by looking at Ian Duncan Smith’s speech announcing the policy. Bear in mind this is just a preliminary excursion on the issue, so I’ll hunt down the facts in a later post.

With the usual blah dominating the first section of the speech, with an oddly confusing reference to ‘fighting poverty within government’ (hmm..), he moves on to make a couple of interesting arguments;

Firstly, he notes that despite 16 years of continuous growth and the creation of 4m jobs (hitherto known as megajobs, or MJ for short),

"No, Dunc, that's not right either.."

“…some 4.5 million people remained on out of work benefits before the recession had even started. So inactivity was persistent, despite the unprecedented level of job creation.”

The suggestion, of course, here is that despite the rise in job creation, the unemployment levels have remained the same. Only that’s not what he said. He makes no mention of  the previous numbers of benefit receivers and conflates the issues of unemployed workers with that of out-of-work benefits claimants. which could vary the figures significantly. To deal with the issue of out-of-work benefits claimants, you need a highly multi-pronged approach, as changing the welfare system is going to do little to help the numbers of people who are, for example, in bad health. I’ll look up the numbers and see what the real cause is, or if the statement is even true, but just now remember that these incomplete, suggestive statements are one of the politicians favorite tricks to deceive. They think you are STUPID.

He furthers this to make the second interesting claim:

That is one of the reasons why around 70% of the net rise in employment under the previous Government was accounted for by workers from abroad. Businesses had to bring people in from overseas because our welfare system did not encourage people to work.

Interesting. Could be true, maybe it aint. What’s interesting is the way he tries to bring the issue of immigration into it (which he knows people respond emotionally to). Like I say, the statement may be true, I don’t know where he got the 70% figure from, but if overseas workers accounted from the rise, then surely they are a great benefit to us as hard workers (which would contradict the anti-immigration, Euro-skeptic stance of the Conservatives). Other than that, what the hell has it got to do with your previous argument? Another politician trick, follow a seemingly logical argument with evidence of another point unrelated to the first. They do this particularly when the point they just made is duff, to confuse you so you stop paying attention to, and thus debunking, the phoney argument. If you don’t think they do it, just read transcripts or listen to their public addresses.

OK, so despite the usual political trickery all he really said is that, basically, everything you want from welfare reform will happen, whilst also claiming that it was no panacea. Hundreds of thousands out of poverty, more beneficial for people to move from benefits into work, more folk in work, and those already working low-income jobs will benefit. No-one is to be left behind. Right, well fair play but it doesn’t sound any different to anything else I’ve ever heard.

As per usual, there is nothing here that the listener could possibly glean that would allow them to come to any kind of informed point of view. God, I hate it when they do this (which is ALL the time). Why bother tell us anything? Make a goddam point will you?

Next, the government white paper.

Ahhh…Murdoch-related fun… or not

Face transplants were in their infancy in the early 21st Century...

I shouldn’t need to re-hash the myriad ways in which Rupert Murdoch has been incorporated (hehe... get it?) into a thousand usually, but not always, plausible-sounding conspiracies. Of course they aren’t really conspiracies, as he is the only constant in the lot of them – more of a one-man crusade. The man is generally cast by the left as a media tyrant of oligarchic proportions and by the right as the ultimate champion of free-market libertarianism. Now, in Britain, the possibility of his gaining the part of BSkyB that he doesn’t already own in concert with his alleged (or, rather more honestly, definite) political machinations to achieve that end, have landed him in the sights of online campaigners, such as Avaaz, once again.

Whilst there is little doubt that the guy is on the right of the political spectrum in his personal views, I have to say that – in his actions – he would appear to me to be a completely amoral actor. As long as his interests are taken care of, he really doesnt care who the hell he manipulates, ahem! I mean supports. Whether he’s encouraging the downright LIES of Fox ‘News’, propping up communist censorship and propaganda in China or flip-flopping between Labour and the Conservatives, it’s all pure pragmatism with Murdoch. Perhaps he could be better described as ‘I’-moral.

So how disturbed should we be by the recent developments in Britain. Let’s try and keep it brief (if only to get his shrivelled pus out of my head ASAP): Ofcom, the British media regulator, has made a statement regarding the anti-competitive nature of the buyout, along with a memo from media analyst Claire Enders to Vince Cable (read The Sun‘s response to Ofcom’s report in this excellent Guardian article, noting how similar the LIES are to Fox News-style reporting). Liberal Democrat MP Vince was appointed to decide the case but, following some not-so-sensible comments relating to Vince’s feelings about Murdoch, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had him replaced by one Jonathan Hunt (Oooh, had he only been named Mike…). Mr. Hunt, by contrast, has this to say about the bid:

“Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person”

Hmm…OK, fair enough, not quite as blatant as Vince’s War commentary, but nonetheless blatant enough. Hands up who thinks he will be an impartial judge. Any takers? Oh, right, The Sun, of course. To compound the issue, shortly after a meeting with Murdoch, Cameron announced that he would be reducing Ofcom’s mandate to a practically advisory role. Funny that. Coincidence, to be sure. Or not. As I have said, there’s really no need to re-hash Murdoch’s chequered history here, all you need to do is read his Wikipedia entry to see that this is another extension of the same tactics he has always played. Further, you only have to read The Sun or watch Fox News to get a feel for the great “variety and choice” he has introduced to TV the world over. And if you need me to explain why monopolies aren’t good, well… go look up media plurality test.

Come on folks, let’s nip this while we can. Sign one of the online petitions and let’s spoil this old prunes fun.

And on…. To Universal Domination!!

Hey all… or perhaps just anybody!?

So this is the beginning. Of the beginning or of the end I cannot say, but hey – nothing ventured, nothing gained. The idea here is to have a vent, a rant and, should this attract enough readers, to Change the World!! BUWA-HA-HAAA!!

But seriously, folks, this is to be my introductory foray into political blogging – presently I have Great Plans in mind ranging far beyond this blog. We shall see how it goes, but be prepared to see me increase my online presence massively over the next few months and let’s see if I can’t break my way into the political landscape of the UK, Europe and ultimately The World.

So what’s the deal? Well, that’ll develop with time, but for now… Politicoid 101:

  • I hail from Edinburgh, UK, and thus the posts will mainly be relevant to UK and European politics.
  • European politics is hideously under-represented in the UK. I aim to educate, not to please. Lol. No, seriously 😉
  • Real policy opinion and analysis is largely uninspiring and exclusive of the average citizen, confined as it is to the rather dry broadsheets.
  • Politics is, in reality, really quite interesting and much fun can be had with the lying liars that make up the establishment. Let’s bring on the fun.

I’m going to leave it at that for now, but keep reading and you’ll get the idea. Comments welcome, linkings welcome, challenges welcome.

Ciao from… The Politicoid