Friday, 30 May 2008

Vital Questions Of The Universe

Today's burning question: why the Hell did I find a used condom in front of the cash-machine this morning? If it had been a cash-point in a back alley, I might be able to understand its involuntary witness to seedy street-sex, but since the bank to which it belonged is in the Market Square, there is simply no way one could indulge oneself in a spot of urban dogging without being caught in flagrante delicto by passing taxi drivers.

There are several nearby side-streets that could, perhaps, be considered suitable locations for outdoor inner city trysts, but all of them have adequate bin-coverage, implying that either the contraceptive was defiantly carried past such devices and then deliberately discarded in front of Barclays, or that our mysterious Durex was placed in a pocket for safe-keeping, only to escape confinement as our unidentified felon was fishing for their debit card, hoping to draw out money for reasons mercifully unknown. As bad as the former scenario is, the latter is far worse.

The only other possibility is that our errant johnny was in fact cast aside in triumph down a side street and then transferred by unknown means to right between my goddamn feet as I inspected my bank balance. Given the clement weather of late a freak gust of wind seem unlikely, and whilst school children are notorious for kicking around the various street detritus they find from place to place, surely even today's surly, quasi-feral youths would balk at practicing their dribbling skills with a used prophylactic.

That's as far as my thinking's gotten, at any rate. Any suggestions from you lot as to a plausible scenario?

Smash And Grab

I thought I might take a little time today to expand on the aside I made yesterday about certain aspects of the Republican party bearing a startling resemblance to ram raiders. Not because the analogy is unfair (or if it is, it's unfair to all the money-grabbing petty criminals out there who don't start wars over the course of a job), but because I realised I'd hit upon a potential long-term strategy for ultra-rich libertarians that I hadn't completely understood until now.

Bush and his ilk (by which I don't necessarily mean neoconservatives, which I think is a term much misused at the moment) are potentially unique in the annals of democracy, because they have managed to cobble together a government predominantly made up of people who think government is an obviously dumb idea. Every political party has its own ideas on what is and isn't a government's business, of course (one of several reasons why the sooner people start identifying themselves on the political compass rather than a scale from left to right, the better); much of the flak directed at our own Labour government is due to the surfacing of a far stronger authoritarian streak than most people realised they possessed. But the Bush administration has taken this to new depths. Once you cite moral objections when vetoing bills aimed at keeping sick children alive, you've passed the point at which you're an outlier; you may even be an outlier to the outliers.

The reasons why libertarians in general are so suspicious about government poking its nose in are many and varied. What's crucial to note, though, is the people we're talking about, Bush and his cronies and more importantly those who hold his purse-strings, are not just libertarians, they're libertarians and they're rich as all Hell. Whether or not they have deeper and more complex political philosophies as to the degree of control over the citizenry the federal government should be awarded, there is an inescapably simple equation that each and every one of them is entirely well aware of, keeping the Man in check = more fucking loot for those as has it.

These people might not necessarily be completely selfish with their vast hordes of wealth. Better political commentators than I have pointed out that the Americans frequently prefer the idea of giving their money to charity to having it taken from them in the form of taxes which then fund welfare projects, even if the exact same people end up getting helped in the long run. Maybe it comes back to the hoary old chestnut of "freedom" again (as a country the US seems to have a borderline bat-shit definition of the concept of freedom that I might get round to tackling someday). The point is even the altruistic millionaires frequently want their altruism to be on their terms, and not mandated by the suits inside the Beltway.

What this has inevitably led to is a branch of the Republican party (which is made up of at least three branches, and countless sub-branches, all clumsily soldered together into one coalition in the Reagan era, a coalition now increasingly showing signs of fracturing) for which the goal of their chosen president is just to scale down the government as much as possible, as quickly as possible, with particular attention given to taxes.

So that, I argue, is the motivation. Here's the strategy. Because Bush's fundamental axiom is that big government is a bad idea, the vast majority of blunders (if indeed they are such) made by his administration go towards proving his point. It might not work on those with a sufficient degree of political nous, but for a lot of people, each time the government fucks up, the suggestion that government should just butt out becomes more attractive, not less [1]. The war in Iraq or the destruction of New Orleans is something big enough to make everyone sit up and notice, but in general the media is happy to avoid pointing fingers at those specifically to blame for what's gone wrong, and meanwhile the Republicans can keep banging on about how they always said it shouldn't have been the government's responsibility anyhow.

So if the Bush manages to scale something back, he wins. If he fails to adequately wield what power he has (at least domestically), he wins. The deficit explodes, the rich/poor divide gets ever more ludicrously chasm-esque, more and more millionaires build themselves their Scrooge McDuck style money-bins and breast stroke their way through the horde of treasure. It's all gravy.

Eventually, of course, people begin to smell a rat, and, much as is happening at the moment, the mood of the country begins to turn (note though that it took catastrophes both at home and abroad to potentially oust the GOP, and last time round it happened at least in part because H.W. Bush broke his pledge to not raise taxes, which pissed off the very people I'm describing here). At that point, as described yesterday, the Republicans can just cut and run. If the Democrats do get in, they face the potentially insurmountable challenge of clearing everything up whilst being constantly hammered from the other side of the aisle (and again, I'd point out that this was to some extent what happened to Clinton). If the Republicans do manage to get another term (how this is even being considered as an option is depressing beyond belief), apparently by pretending McCain is totally different to Bush (who himself pretended to be totally different to his father, and by the exact same metrics; enthusiasm for bipartisanship and an increased level of "compassion" for those less fortunate) even when his voting record makes that so transparently false I might use the data in the first question on a Statistics GCSE paper, then that's four more years of grabbing more money, inflicting more damage for the Democrats to patch up, and continuing to poison public opinion against the very concept of government itself.

It is, frankly, a brilliant strategy. The poor, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, the unions and so forth, all flat-out need the Democrats in power in order to have any chance of advancing their agenda (whether it be the right to belong to a union without getting fired, marrying another man, or reducing the number of young black men getting a) addicted to drugs and b) shot); it is a necessary condition (although to the party's eternal shame, a far from sufficient one). The wealthy, on the other hand, don't need any given party in government. They prefer the Republicans, sure, but with the Democratic Party in power, they still have a metric fuck-ton of cash squirreled away, and they still hold a disproportionate amount of sway over the government because of it.

Viewed from this angle, you begin to ask yourself how much of the terrible, terrible mismanagement of the last eight years was short-sighted partisan idiocy, and how much of it was mine-laying designed to hobble a Democratic administration right out of the gate. This may all have the appearance of a governmental conspiracy theory, but such theories almost always require the idea that the government is far, far more efficient and cohesive than we generally take it to be. This theory simply works on the basis that the very inefficiency and lack of cohesion so many believe is there may be partially intentional.

The only real way I can see out of this cycle, short of some of the other tribes within the Reagan coalition wresting control from the Bushoids, is to be more successful at getting the message out to the people regarding Republican screw-ups, and just as importantly, make it abundantly clear that these screw-ups are born from a particular political philosophy, not because the federal government is de facto a bad idea. This won't really help when it comes to conservatives sniping from the sidelines, but we need to frame the debate in terms of Democratic policy vs Republican policy, not governing vs no governing.

Yeah, I know. I'm not holding my breath.

[1] Some may say that I'm being somewhat smug and elitist here (more so than usual), but it's a fairly rare occurrence for anyone to lose money on betting the electorate are idiots. Christ, if they can swallow "lowering taxes increases revenue", and not notice that every time taxes are lowered, not only does it inflate the deficit, but it isn't their taxes that are lower, then there's no hope for them.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Play The Tape To The End

The liberal blogosphere (and man, how I hate that word) has been alive for some time now with a discourse which can be narrowly divided into three parts.

The first part is the most common one, which can be roughly summed up as "Obama FTW". Which, you know, is probably true. The Republicans are horribly divided, painfully aware that what they're doing isn't working, but not actually having any idea as to what to do instead. Various ideas have been floated by some of the party's high-fliers, but all seem to fall into one of two categories: too obviously cosmetic to fool anyone, or too obviously radical to be of interest to the hardliners, who are generally unwilling to entertain the possibility that their current dire straights might actually point to a flawed philosophy, as oppose to a good one that failed to work in practice. Far worse for the Republicans, though, is that they are also low on funds. The recent story about changing locations for a McCain fund-raiser for fear the paying guests would be outnumbered by anti-war protesters was one of the funniest I've read in ages, once the GOP starts being careful as to when and where they get their money, it surely has to be a bad sign for them.

So they have no real idea as to how they'll turn their image around, nor do they necessarily have the funds to do it. All that's being managed at present (as the Democrats continue to pummel the crap out of them at the Congressional level) is some half-hearted attempt to distance McCain from Bush (as though having the latter campaign for the former behind closed doors will help; if there are people in the US who will only support for McCain if Bush is there to hold his hand, surely they're seriously outnumbered by the people for whom watching McCain disappear into a shadowy enclave with Mr 27% is going to be an immediate nay vote). There are many reasons why that's liable to be an impossibly hard sell, but that's another story.

So I agree with the basic sentiment of Group No 1, even if I might quibble over the specifics (and frequently the spelling). The second line of discussion, though, I agree with too. This one can be roughly surmised as "It ain't over 'til it's over." Now, sure, that's obviously true. There's always another potential swift-boating. Certainly the bizarre behaviour of the American media continues to implicitly favour McCain. The most talked-about political events of the last month or so included how bad Obama is at bowling, how he ordered orange juice instead of coffee at a diner, and how he told people his great uncle helped liberate Auschwitz and then said the day after, "Whoops, sorry, it was actually Buchenwald" [1]. The Wright scandal was orders of magnitude greater than McCain's problems with Pastor Hagee , and while I'm not really a fan of Wright for several reasons (and those commentators who tried to play down the fact that he did shout "God damn America!" and suggested the federal government created HIV were, I think, trying too hard to characterise the media reaction as entirely unwarranted when it was really merely hysterical), but since Hagee has suggested Hitler was doing God's work by setting up the board for the Apocalypse, I don't think a greater degree of parity should have been out of the question. So whilst the election is pretty much the Democrat's to lose, they could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After all, nothing falls apart faster than a bunch of liberals who actually get within sniffing distance of winning something.

The third strand is the most complex, and thus the most interesting: this one points out that even if Obama does win in November, it could turn out to backfire on the Democrats spectacularly. Digby over at Hullabaloo is one key voice here, although hers is far from the only one. The basic point here is that the Republicans excel at disruption [2]. The endless filibusters in the most recent session are one example of this, as is the total sinking of Clinton's attempts to reform the health care system (reform that the voters at the time, and right now for that matter, desperately wanted) are just two obvious examples. The theory goes that conservatism is so completely shot to crap right now the best plan is to relinquish the reins for four (or even eight) years. That way you leave a Democratic President in the Oval Office, sat on the floor with a tub of super-glue, staring at the Humpty-Dumpty like mess the US is in right now, wondering how the Hell he (and it will be a he) can possibly put it back together again.

And he won't have the luxury of being able to tackle it one issue at a time. The GOP (and the media) won't let him. There are dozens of messes to sort out, many left behind by Bush but still more that were never cleaned up after Reagan, or even Nixon, and if the President mucks any one of them up, the Republicans will never let it out of their teeth. And the conservatives in congress can make damn sure it does get messed up, what with their endless disrupting and ad hominem screeching and lowest-common-denominator attack ads and working the Blue Dogs etc. etc. etc. If Obama isn't careful he's going to feel like an NQT in his first lesson, with thirty different tasks to balance, all of which have to go right, whilst surrounded by people who are determined to force failure. If the country were doing well the Republicans could get a lot of mileage out of this tactic, with so many problems out there that need to be addressed, the GOP could do incalculable damage to their opponents.

So, here's my question. With so many people convinced Obama will win, and so many people convinced that the Republicans will continue to use their tactics of disruption and character assassination to try and prevent it (aided and abetted by their usual free pass from the media), and so many people convinced out that the Republicans already have an excellent strategy ready to secure the Oval once again by 2016 at the latest, why is there no-one out there that I can see actually talking about coming up with a play-book that a Democratic administration could use to actually fight back?

[1] Incidentally, the RNC responded to that last one with "Obama's frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief", which is interesting not only because they're applying their 2000 tactics all over again, but because this is coming from the party whose presidential candidate keeps repeatedly confusing Shia Muslims with Sunni Muslims when discussing who we're supposed to be shooting at in Iraq. It's also worth noting that, again like in 2000, the statement was not only corrected, but whilst left uncorrected gives no benefit to the candidate. Claiming (as Bush did in 2000) that a tax cut will positively affect"the vast majority" of the lowest-earning tax-payers is a political lie meant to hide the unpalatable truth. Forgetting which concentration camp your relative helped liberate would be a nonsensical lie to tell.

[2] The tactics of the truly vile branch of the Republican party (of whom Bush is certainly one example) are easy to understand once you understand the aim is to get your rich friends as much money as quickly as possible. There seems no evidence over eight years that Bush has a developed political philosophy, beyond "leave me alone". The Bush years can be seen (with disturbing ease) as a limousine ram-raid upon the federal budget. And once you've robbed a liquor store, you don't mind if the police chase you out of it. Just as long as you know there's another store on the block you can rob again in, say, eight years. It's no wonder they might prefer
winning power to retaining it.

Monday, 26 May 2008

The Weekend: Lessons Learned

Five things I learned from the new Indiana Jones film (spoilers ahoy, my peeps):

1) Indiana Jones is now too full of awesome to be affected by the most basic rules of magnetism, gravity, or radioactive decay;
2) Despite his new-found immunity to the laws of physics, Indy still can't get his arse out of trouble without yet another convenient Higher Power arriving to bitch-slap the opposition;
3) You are likely to undercut your point that the Cold War made everyone unnecessarily paranoid about the "Red under the bed" if you have the hero's BFF sell him out to the Russkies twice in the same film;
4) The two most indestructible objects on Earth are snakes and fridges;
5) Even the most fiery of independent women will forgive the man who left her a month before their wedding day whilst pregnant, and do so within hours of meeting him again, and will then proceed to stare at him with pathetic co-dependent puppy dog eyes ad nauseum.

Five things I learned from another visit to the hated South:

1) There are more antiques shops in Hampshire than there are pubs;
2) Hypermobility looks like it really, really hurts (full sympathies to Mr Cleavage, who already had enough to deal with putting me up for the weekend);
3) Car cigarette lighters are not something you want to fool around with (in fairness, Dr B learned this is a significantly more painful way than I did);
4) Flight of the Conchords is awesome. So awesome that I should have kept the DVDs for myself and just given Cleavage a novelty toothbrush, as was at one point tradition between us;
5) No amount of faux-Victorian lampposts and artfully arranged deciduous trees can make up for the fact that paying £7.80 to see a film is a fucking outrage.

Told You So

Looks like Clinton has finally (and in all likelihood accidentally) fessed up to why she's still in the race, there's still the possibility that some calamity will befall Obama and leave her to pick up the pieces.

Which is what I've been saying for a while now. Of course, I assumed that when she was imagining scenarios they were along the lines of Wright-esque political crises, rather than Obama getting all murdered and shit, but then she's running out of hypotheticals at this point.

I also pointed out that this strategy would be even less likely to work once she admitted to it, so she's messed up on several levels here, although at this stage in the game it would be all but impossible to not see what play she's calling anyway.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Statistics Can Be Fun No. 1

One of the longest running arguments I ever had (and am still having) was/is the level of talent displayed by Andrew W.K. The_Accountant is of the impression that he is a witless buffoon. I, on the other hand, consider him someone who is a witless buffoon and a effortless purveyor of brilliantly brainless rock, or at least was for one album, before he became a witless buffoon sans qualifier.

Part of the problem with our long-running discussion (beyond the obvious fact that it's a waste of time even by my standards) is that both of us tend to use the same exhibits as evidence for both prosecution and defence. Take for example what The Onion referred to with atypical understatement as Mr W.K.'s "party-liking stance". The sheer frequency with which the word appears in both the lyrics and on the cover sleeve of I Get Wet is taken by T_A to demonstrate Andy (as his mates call him) lacks the ability to write about any other topic but partying. I, on the other hand, take it as a sign of true genius that a man can base an entire album around saying "I do, in fact, enjoy the process of what we loosely define as "partying", yes indeed, good sir" over, and over, and over, and over; without me getting bored.

The worst/best example is the entirely self-explanatory song "Party Hard". In this song the word "party" is repeated so many times W.K. must have overloaded his spell-checker typing in the lyrics. I eventually decided to quantify just how much AWK (as his ornithological mates call him) enjoys a good shindig by calculating his party per minute (ppm) ratio.

The result is an astonishing 23 ppm. Close to one party every other second. I lack the resources to check, but I'd wager this beats all previous purveyors of party-liking songs, defeating both disturbing sex-dwarf Prince and terrifying bronze man-child Peter Andre.

We can however compare this with James' Crash, which demonstrates a comparatively paltry 7.5 crashes-per-minute; or Taking Back Sunday's Head Club, which manages a faintly recursive count of 3 songs-per-minute.

It's also worth noting that Sufjan Stevens manages a ludicrous 0.027 Illinois-per-minute during Come On Feel The Illinoise, (ignoring the word being mentioned or spelled out by his backing singers on a couple of songs), which given it's a concept album about fucking Illinois is pretty slovenly.

Statistical conclusion: Andrew W.K. likes parties much more than Tim Booth loves car crashes or Needlessly Shouty Bloke likes songs (or possibly his just own songs, which would put him in line with pretty much everyone else's opinion of Tell All Your Friends), and Sufjan Stevens hates the Prairie State, presumably making him a Communist.

Next week on Statistics Can Be Fun, we calculate the exact extent to which you Forgot About Dre.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Teh Interweb


This is exactly what I fear most about blogging, that someone much, much smarter than me will stumble across this page (despite this place having less hits than Deep Blue Something), disagree with something I've said, and then absolutely bitch-slap me across our treasured series of tubes.

I hope that if (when?) it does happen that I show a little grace than Mr Morgan (never trust a blog whose title includes a capitalised adjective, not even I was egotistical enough to think SpaceSquid AWESOME a particularly good idea).

Oddly, I had a very similar conversation to the one above yesterday with Dr L about whether we should be allowing IVF treatments on lesbians who are capable of conceiving naturally. It's worth noting, though, that Dr L was far more lucid in her arguments (which were in no way as bad as this doofus', although she was still wrong), and somewhat less inclined to revert to ad hominem whilst losing (as oppose to ad hominem whilst winning, which remains my exclusive preserve).

Update: Mother-cruncher "moderated" my post out of existance, as well! Just because I pointed out that "I am not a bigot" cannot be entirely reconciled with "I will tolerate you even though you still live with your parents, wearing shitty clothing and unable to get laid". It might not exactly be bigotry, sure, but if you're going to be a dick to an entire group of people you give no indication of knowing anything about, maybe you should keep your damn mouth shut.

Just sayin'...

Who's Been A Good Boy?

I believe in complimenting people when they do well [1]. So, despite the fact that Lawrence Miles is, by and large, wrong about everything (and is stuck up his own arse to a degree even I find terrifying), I thought I'd link to this post here in which he makes an excellent general point about why Doctor Who has sucked at historical stories since its return, and also a more specific point about why the Beatles aren't nearly as good as people think.

[1] Actually, I believe in telling them they did well, then immediately mocking them about something else.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Lesbians And The Tories

Whilst driving home today I listened in to Radio 4's coverage of a discussion in the House of Commons over a bill that would require doctors in IVF clinics to consider the effect of raising a child without a father before signing off procedures upon single women or lesbians (how I‘d love to see how “consider“ is defined). Some of the arguments brought up (at least in the main by the Conservatives, although they have been a Labour MP in there just to prove they can be pricks too) were so shockingly poor, and are so often used by people with no skill at discussion, that I thought I’d while away some time smacking them around a bit.

The Quiet Man (who frankly isn't nearly quiet enough for my tastes: I won't be happy until he becomes known as The Man Who Agreed To Permanently Shut The Fuck Up) kicked off the idiocy by claiming it was "common sense" that a child who grows up without a father is more likely to get into trouble, a view apparently based upon "a huge amount of statistics". Now, I could point out how badly that statement needs to be backed up by some statistically significant studies (which I doubt even exist for children raised by lesbian couples, this being too new and too rare an idea to get together a proper sample and satisfactorily dissect it, I would imagine), but that isn't really my problem here. [1]

My problem is how the phrase "common sense" has crept in here. Common sense is the aggregation of basic knowledge about the world, and the experiences of ourselves and those we meet. Don't put your hand in that fire. Don't walk down a busy street with your umbrella open if it isn't raining. Think twice before placing your genitals inside a lion's jaws. There is some debate to be had as to what does and doesn't qualify as a nugget of common sense, but I would argue that it either has to come someone's experience (not necessarily your own; I've never tried to stop a roundabout with my leg, but I know not to try after Vomiting Mike gave it a go and just *detonated* his limb in the process), or arise from the most simplistic of logical progressions (I want my clothes to dry on the line, it's now raining, objects rained upon will not dry, I shall take the washing in). "Children raised by two mothers will be worse off somehow" isn't anywhere near the same thing. It is neither a common enough occurrence or (far, far more importantly) a simple enough act for common sense to be of any use. If I meet a man who has cut off his own arm with a chainsaw, I can add "don't chop off limbs with whirring blades" to my common sense repository (assuming I didn't have it in there already). If I meet someone who was raised by two women (which I never have, as far as I know, which is another nail in the coffin of IDS's argument), I can't tell how effective their rearing was. Even if they're a heroin-addicted racist bargain-bin-hooker with a sideline in animal cruelty and Islamofascist terrorism, all I can easily conclude is that this person is a) unfortunate, and b) a dick (the exact weighting of those two is liable to be a judgment call). Even if a corollary to the state of their upbringing was possible (and I see know reason to believe it would be, absent some fairly extensive psychological interrogation), it would be that this particular person ended up worse because of having two mothers. Claiming that meeting this person would make it "common sense" that such a family structure is a bad idea, statistically speaking, is a blatant nonsense. In fact, it's far easier to make the case that it genuinely is common sense that reducing a massively complex system to good or bad without any experience or knowledge of other's experience is ridiculous.

All this is an attempt to persuade people that the Tory's position is so self-evident that we really don't need to bother with anything as pointless as evidence (though he still felt the need to mention there was evidence, though not what it was, exactly).

Smith's argument was then "augmented" (in the sense that someone else said something equally breathtakingly stupid along similar lines) by a female MP whose name I didn’t recognise, who told those assembled that this was a vindication of those members of the public that believe that politicians are “out of touch”, because they were sat having an argument that the public already knew where they stood on (a shame this wasn’t mentioned back when everyone was telling them we weren’t all that keen on ruining Iraq’s shit, really). This is another argument that should be consigned to the dustbin as quickly as possible. Everyone who takes public office should be forced to have tattooed on their left eyelid the phrase “The public are idiots” (in fairness the right eyelid should probably say “Idiots are sometimes right”). This is a fairly authoritarian position to take, I know, but I am an authoritarian so deal with it; public opinion alone does not justify anything. Sure, if it’s cheap and harmless, it does no harm to just take the temperature of the public and go along with it. How many years would we have to go back before the public “knew” that sodomy should be a crime? Or they “knew” a black man shouldn’t marry a white woman? Would we even need to get as far as the Nineteenth Century? MP’s have a duty to consider the ramifications of their choices. They need to weigh up how badly the whim of the majority will screw the lives of the minority. And they need to think as to why the majority thinks the way it does.

This last point was demonstrated pretty well by a third supporter of the bill who pointed out with infuriating smugness that in his constituency having a father was “normal”, and asked whether or not the same thing could be said of a child with two mothers.

This is exactly the problem we’re facing here. The conflation, deliberately or otherwise, of “normal” with “right”. If most people grow up with fathers, that makes fathers the best option. I would hesitate to assume that every member of the public convinced they “know” the answer to this question thinks this way (although absent any evidence to support them, I think hanging on desperately to their narrow definition of normality might actually be the most generous motivation to ascribe to them). The general idea can be torn down immediately, before various advancements in medical technology it was normal for haemophiliacs to die very early. I realise that’s some distance from the argument put forward here, my point is that absent some further clarification, the point is vapid. The only way it bites is if you infer what I think you’re meant to infer, that the behaviour of the majority must be superior, by simple dint of it being what the majority does (we’ll leave aside the obvious point that up until very recently it’s not like we had a lot of choice, you might as well claim horses are a better mode of transport than trains are; in fact I wonder how many people did). Never mind that the argument can’t be supported in any rational way, or that pretty much any change to our or any society over the entire course of human history will have been initially embraced only by a minority (the Mitchell and Webb sketch about the Stone Age man less than thrilled by the advent of bronze springs to mind). As long as people have something to look down upon, they’re happier, and if that makes it harder for two people who love each other to raise a family, well maybe they should just start liking cock, right?

So, in short, the Tories haven’t changed their tune at all. It’s still tyranny of the majority (or what their addled minds assume is the majority, if we’re serious about a discussion over who is or isn’t in touch). Cameron’s first term could be a very long one for liberals.

[1] It is a problem, obviously. But I can only fry so many fish at one time.

Update: Just checked out today's Dinosaur Comics, and found it links to this post in a faintly spooky way.

I Really Can't Apologise Enough For How Bad This Joke Is

From McCain's appearance on SNL. And they told me the show wasn't funny no more.

Good evening, my fellow Americans. I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president? Certainly, somebody who is very, very, very old.

But just as important, we will need a leader of courage and principle. Someone who is willing to do what is best for this country. Even when doing so is unpopular. Such as putting an end to runaway government spending and especially, congressional earmarks, those wasteful pork barrel projects sneaked anonymously into bills by members of Congress as a favor to campaign contributors or powerful local interests.

Most of these projects are at best unnecessary, such as $15 million to the US Postal Service for a commemorative stamp honoring Tom Delay’s appellate lawyers. Whose idea was that? Or this bit of pork: $160 million to the Department of Defense for developing a device that can jam gaydar. Now I don’t know if this is anti-gay or pro-gay or if such a device would even work. But I do know this: jamming gaydar is not a federal responsibility. That’s something best left to state and local governments.

All I can say is that I am ashamed to find the idea of jamming gaydar as funny as I do. On the other hand, is finding a method for jamming gaydar necessarily the best use of US military spending? Might it not be more cost effective to instead simply develop a stealth bummer?

I'll get my coat.

In all seriousness, though, I agree with Kevin Drum, it's impossible to believe this was an even remotely good move by McCain. SNL is generally geared towards at least a young-ish audience. Admitting straight off the bat that you would make a very, very, very old president is a reminder to all the twenty-somethings that you might be a good sport, but that you would make a very, very, very old president. How the Hell is that going to help him in the long run? All you've done is remind hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people that you were already walking when Hitler got hold of the Sudetenland. Measured against that, the fact that you know this isn't really an indication of anything beyond the fact that senility hasn't kicked in to the point where you've forgotten your birthday (although telling Shia from Sunni is apparently still something of a stumbling block).

Monday, 19 May 2008

Friends Of SpaceSquid Productions

I'm hoping not to spend too much time cheating by posting the same stuff up on here as I do at OFR. Admittedly I came perilously close today, since nothing seems to be happening that is worthy of comment; no-one needs my help to deconstruct Bush's rescent temper tantrum in front of the Knesset (short version: likening Democrats to the appeasers of Hitler whilst in Israel = total douchebag even by previous standards). In general though I'm trying to kick the habit.

However, this picture that Senior Spielbergo did for us to accompany a post is so unrelentingly awesome that I decided it is worth showing here without the ranting that surrounds it.

Presenting Monopoly: Baltimore Edition.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

In Which I Finally Actually Win Something

Yay! The nice folks at my magazine of choice (well, Big G's choice) are sending me a free book for writing them an awesome e-mail, in which I point out that their news editor writes like an idiot. In a cruel twist of fate, it was the target of my ire that had to write to me to tell me I'd won. Hurrah for irony! It's nice not to be on the crappy end of it for once.

Unless this whole "prize" thing is a ruse, and all that's winging its way to my newly-identified letterbox is a parcel of feces. If so, the man has more intelligence than his imbecilic rant suggested.

Still, assuming this is legit, it's nice to know that my first prize of any kind for four years came from being a total douchebag to someone. It confirms a great deal of my recent thinking.

Perhaps I Drank Too Much Pear Cider

Does anyone with any experience of dream interpretation want to tell me what it means to dream you've gone to a gig only to find the main act is your head of department performing tuneless karaoke to a backing tape? And is the fact he accompanied himself on an acoustic guitar in any way relevant?

Monday, 12 May 2008

I Guess This Is How Voldemort Got Started

I always worried that I had a tendency to go a bit too far with entertaining my pupils. I had deals with some of the more truculent classes (and, in truth, those I was most fond of) that should they complete a given amount of work by five minutes before the end of the lesson, they could have a story (not to toot my horn, or nothing, but I'm pretty good at telling stories to children). It seemed a valid reward strategy to me (although with the benefit of hindsight I'm not sure the one about the Israeli Army's Circumcision Brigade was entirely wise), but there was always that nagging doubt that I should be going through one more simultaneous equation, or lecturing them on time-management, or something.

Now, though, I'm just glad I didn't work in Florida, and that I never tried to wow them with magic tricks. This is the sort of thing that is beyond parody, especially since, as the article mentions, even when the school (allegedly) trumped up reasons for firing this guy (a missing toothpick not generally considered a sacking offence in any job ever, one would presume), they listed them as being additional problems to his wizardry, as oppose to, y'know, the only problems.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

More Reasons Free Speech Is A Bad Idea (Not Really)

This story reminds me of a scuffle we had at the University a few years ago when the Christian Union was threatened with losing it's funding from the University, on the very reasonable grounds that if you're going to take money from everyone in an institution, you are honour-bound not to exclude anyone from that institution. In this case, the society wouldn't allow non-Christians in (as though there was a massive number of atheists with nothing better to do than go to CU meetings and wreck up the place), nor were women allowed to be President, even if they were prepared to sign the rather bizarre and faintly scary documentation swearing you would uphold the principles of the society. Loving your neighbour, homophobia, that sort of thing.

Of course, a society entirely based upon the fact that there is a God that loves everyone equally took one look at their sexist, exclusionary policies and decided not only were they blameless, but that they had the right to practice their ludicrous policies under the ideal of free speech. Legal action was threatened. I never did learn what happened, although since a society never gets anywhere against the University when they do have a legitimate grievance, as oppose to demanding funding for bigotry, I'd assume they didn't get too far.

This ADFS nonsense is pretty much the same thing. I've banged on more than once about this idiotic idea that free speech should somehow translate into the right to say whatever you want to on other people's dime. Free speech does not mean never having the obligation to keep your mouth shut. These people's position amounts to nothing more than demanding they receive goverment funding for the purposes of political wrangling. I wonder whether they'd be happy to take this idea to its logical conclusion, in which no-one can ever be censored in any way for anything they say. I could tell school children I'd like to see the laws against pederasty struck down. I could join the Samaritans and tell people close to suicide that the world is better of without their endless whining, anyhow.

Man, I hate people who dodge responsibility so much I could vomit.

Further Branching

Continuing my grotesque policy of shameless self-plugging, how about y'all haul ass over to The Player and marvel at my salty language and obvious straw men.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

SpaceSquid vs Television No. 2

Haven't had time to post much recently, busy with a course I've been forced to attend in order to receive "payment". In lieu of genuine content I hope you'll be satisfied with my latest vomitous outpouring for OFR.

Following the inexplicable resurrection of lycra-heavy cotton bud-fest Gladiators (will the traditional Murmillo face-offs once again be replaced with bitch-fights within hamster balls, I wonder), we present suggestions for alternative combinations of light-hearted family entertainment and humanity’s blood-stained past.

Rape ‘N’ Pillage

Each week a different scenic village on the East Coast is chosen for the scene of a brutal raid by two teams of cider-addled bikers in animal skins and swaying dangerously atop hastily-constructed longboats. Points will be awarded for bloodshed, volume, and collateral damage to patios and rock fountains. In tonight’s episode one team gets off to an early lead by choosing to pillage on a street-by-street basis, but rape in alphabetical order.

Presented by: An inappropriately exuberant Brian Blessed and a heavily sweating John Leslie.

The Tenth Crusade

In which the current Knights of the British Empire are forced to sing for their supper when the BBC ships them to the Holy Land and films them attempting to sack Arsuf armed only with slippers and flasks of tea, plus OBE’s to use as throwing stars. In the first week Sir Ian McKellen meets a sticky end in a deluge of boiling tar, Sir Ben Kingsley throws a strop over a sub-standard consignment of Greek Fire, and Sir Sean Connery is drawn and quartered by whooping townsfolk.

Presented by: Sir Alan Sugar, spared from front-line duty in favour of decrying the oncoming Saracen horse-archers as “a load of old toot”.

Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Tenko

Take a trip through time to the cheeky days of Japanese forced labour camps. In each episode female members of the Great British public compete in a variety of luridly-coloured games loosely based upon railway construction and the burial of friend’s corpses. Prizes include a thimble of rice, an hour without beatings, and the desperate hope of liberation by the Allies by series’ end.

Presented by: A pair of offensively yellowed-up Geordies, who continually pull their eyes into slits as they bellow “Finish buirding bunker warrs of led foam, or I punish!”

Human Wars

OK, so the inevitable computer take-over of the planet isn’t a historical time period just yet, but if it’s good enough for Primeval, it’s good enough for us. How about we prepare for our ultimate destiny as bar-coded underlings by staging Human Wars, in which Z-list celebrities and unpopular politicians are transformed through cortical stimulation to lobotomised flesh-puppets and forced to fight to the death by a selection of computers, past and present. In the pilot episode, David Cameron and Gordon Ramsay are compelled to assault each other’s genitals with their teeth by WOPR and a Commodore 64.

Presented by: A ZX Spectrum soldered onto the bleeding stump of Chris Charles’ neck, its rubber keys twitching with sinister glee.

Monday, 5 May 2008

A New Low

I popped in on my parents last night to discover my father unconscious following the ingestion of an entire bottle of champagne. When he finally stirrde from his drunken slumber and I asked him what occasion had prompted this debauchery, he pointed out that Boro had staved off relegation that day.

How bad does a team have to get for voiding relegation to be a bubbly-breaking situation?

Also, bonus bleurgh-points for my mother's story about having to remove a partially-digested sock from our dog's anus. This is exactly why I don't want kids. Or, in an ideal world, clothes.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

In Which I Finally Give Up

Seriously, London? Boris fucking Johnson? There are at least five million people in our capital who don't get to complain about the US re-electing Bush any more, since we're apparently A-OK with racist homophobes as long as they have floppy hair and a neat line in one liners. It's been said before that relying on the public's intelligence is a mug's game, but surely there's a limit. A friend of mine asked today if this was one of Nostradamus' conditions for the apocalypse, but frankly I don't believe even he could have forseen so many fucking people being so fucking idiotic at the same fucking time. The people who vote for X Factor exhibit more taste.

I mean, c'mon, London; I get that we're supposed to root for the lovable loser, but the whole fucking point is that the lovable loser loses. Endearing is not the same thing as competent. I love my dog far more than I ever will you pathetic flesh-bags, but I am unlikely to suggest her name for the Mayor of Europe's most populous city. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I know my way around a witty put-down, too. Why not put me in charge? At least I won't call anyone a piccaninny or fuck someone other than my partner. I won't even accuse people of cannibalism or threaten to use Navy Seals against bicycle thieves.

It's something to think about as your chaotically-fringed new leader accidentally loses your entire city down the back of the fucking sofa.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Foiled and Shell-Shocked

I notice that after well over a year Nintendo still can't get their shit together Wii-wise. You can't get hold of Mario Kart for love nor money up here (well, for love nor money under £40, anyway). Seriously, I had this whole bit planned in which I mocked all those people whining that the game was too random, but since I have just about sufficient integrity to play the game first, I can't write it.

I will not soon forgive this impediment to my bilious rampages!