Thursday, December 09, 2010

Winter miscellany

Sorry for dearth of posts. Been suffering from a) seasonal bout of crippling self-doubt, b) inhumanly cold fucking weather.

Schools were closed for children for three days but teachers were instructed to attend our nearest school. We were informed that failure to do otherwise would result in our pay being docked. Being unable to absorb any further loss of income, I attended our local primary school. The one with no children in it.

Mentally filed under: what's the fucking point?

Anyway... There's been a run on petrol stations here because people are worried that they'll run out of petrol. Then they do. Who would've have thunk? Honestly!

I have no sympathy for the SNP but I'm an old man and I have never, ever, seen such a large amount of snow fall out of the sky so fast at this time of year - yet there's people who are convinced that this is somehow someone's fault and heads must roll? They might want to consider the possibility that something completely out of the ordinary that is difficult to cope with might just happen to them, if and when they come to power...

WikiLeaks: Don't quite know what to make of this, to be honest. The issue has been overshadowed by the arrest and incarceration of Assange. On this, there's been a rather depressing cyber-spat that I won't link to between feminists who, despite protestations to the contrary, seem to take the traditional view that all men are potential rapists against fans of the conspiracy theory of history. Given that both of these take default positions that are essentially impervious to evidence, the 'debate' has been as unedifying as one might expect.

Refreshingly, Johann Hari suggests a combination that all reasonable people should at least be prepared to accept is logically possible; just because you think WikiLeaks is a good thing, it does not follow that Assange is personally innocent of what he's been accused of. Johann does think the latest WikiLeaks revelations are a good thing on the grounds that they make us safer. How he can possibly know this isn't something he explains - although maybe I'm missing something.

I really don't know what to make of them. They're the sort of things that a historian is very interested in when the usual statute of limitations on secrecy runs out so it seems churlish of me to turn my nose up at them now just because they're an early release, as it were. But I'm not sure. Everyone keeps going on about how they expose 'hypocrisy' - that politicians and diplomats say one thing in public and another in private.

But normal social intercourse, never mind diplomacy, requires this kind of 'hypocrisy' to function. There's a trade-off here: yes, information exposed allows governments to be held accountable - but on the other hand, the fact of the matter is that liberty also requires a little privacy because people need to be able to reveal themselves selectively - and I'm by no means convinced that this shouldn't apply to state officials as well as private citizens. Or to put it another way, one outcome of this might be that representatives of states will be less frank in their private dealings as well as in public. I don't know what the implications of this might be but at this stage I'd just want to record my scepticism that this is necessarily a positive development. It is surely at least possible that more freedom of information now may very well mean less in the future?

Student tuition fees: Another thing I should have strong opinions about, I dare say - but I don't. I am interested in the political implications for the Lib Dems, though - given the way they nailed their 'no tuition fees' to the electoral mast to gain support prior to the election. Over a third of Lib Dem MPs rebelled. I've seen it suggested that such a tight vote early on is indicative of a fractured coalition that is unlikely to last the five years. I'm not so sure. This was the divisive issue, yet the government won the day. If a majority of the Liberal Democrats can accommodate such a screeching U-turn as this, what further humiliation could they not endure?

I'm thinking it depends on how masochistic they actually are? All the available evidence suggests they are very masochistic - but it might not last if they get nothing in return. Certainly the electorate is unlikely to reward them, with successive opinion polls showing they, rather than the Tories, are taking the hit for all this austerity. Why this is shouldn't be a mystery. Historically people have voted Tory, not because they think they are nice people who support communities and cherish the NHS. They think, know, that the Tories are pretty much bastards but that they're bastards who at least know to run the economy. Liberal voters, on the other hand, didn't sign up for this - thinking as they did that the Lib Dems were really rather cuddly. How much shit they're going to take is an open question - as is how much shit the Liberals themselves are willing to endure. Time will tell. Meanwhile, here's one from the archives...

Significantly more embarrassing than the Who singing, "I hope I die before I get old", I reckon...

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