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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Watching Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll! With James Murphy

James Murphy, guest from episode 1, returns to the show for our second episode, in which we pay tribute to the true king of rock n roll, the recently departed but ever-present Chuck Berry, via the medium of a podcast commentary track for 1987 documentary and concert movie Hail! Hail! Rock N Roll!

Two music geeks are in hog heaven on this one, so relax and enjoy an outpouring of love for a singular talent. in particular, look out for:

  • Me rhapsodising about Chuck on vinyl
  • Logo nostalgia
  • Kieth's dirty looks inducing hysteria in your humble hosts
  • Digressions on Little Richard, Bruce Springsteen, and Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Us not knowing guest artists
  • The sheer oddness of the Julian Lennon apearence
  • Our stated certianly that this move 'could only be made in 1980 (actual filming year 1987)
  • Repeated rhaspodising about the film making
  • Lapses into silence as we absorb the majesty of the music

 

And so much more. Enjoy, and thanks as ever for your support.

Why Robocop is the greatest movie ever made.

Pex Lives and City of the Dead podcasts can both be found here:

Wrong With Authority can be found here:

Murphy and Powers Listening Post can be found here:

Theme tune provided by The Disciples of Gonzo, from their track Superhero. Listen to more from them here:

If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to contribute financially to the monthly production costs, in exchange for early access to both this show and my written work, please see my Patreon here:

 

 

 



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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Why 'a bad deal is worse than no deal' is meaningless nonsense

So 'a bad deal is worse than no deal' has gotten a lot of traction with people, who see it instinctively as both an obvious statement, and a good, strong opening negotiating stance. I totally understand why, too - it certainly feels logical, even obvious - kind of a 'duh' statement - and also, it lets our counterpoints in Europe know we've not going to sit still for a punishment beating, by golly - we're prepared to walk away from a bad deal.

If that's you, please give me just a few minutes to explain why, despite that surface appeal, it's not merely nonsense, but actively counterproductive, and possibly even dangerous, to British interests.

It's nonsense for two reasons. One, it doesn't define a 'bad deal'. As such, it's an empty phrase, into which the reader pours their own meaning. Political slogans are clever like this - a good political slogan (like, say, 'Take back control', one of the great slogans of the last 25 years) evoke incredibly strong feelings and resonance, by allowing us to project our hopes and/or fears straight on to them. We take words that mean nothing devoid of context (control of what? From whom?) and project our own hopes, fears, and feelings into them. It allows people with disparate, even competing values and views, to feel like a point of view is 'on their side'. By gesturing towards substance while actually being content free, it creates an illusion of unity, whilst also allowing the party doing the sloganeering to entirely sidestep actual substantial policy commitments or positions.

In this specific case, we also need to unpack what 'no deal' means. And what that means, to be clear, is moving over to WTO tariffs for the purposes of EU trading. I can tell you now without hyperbole, that would be somewhere between an economic body blow and a total catastrophe.Typical analysis suggests a permanent downsizing of the UK economy by 10%.

So, tell me what, exactly, a bad deal looks like, next to that?

Yeah, exactly.

And that leads us to the second reason it's nonsense: that's not going to happen. It's not going to happen because it would bury us economically, and it would also hurt the EU considerably.

The EU and UK are major trading partners. The relationship is not equal, of course - UK going to WTO tariffs will merely hurt the EU, whereas it'll cripple the UK - but it'll hurt them enough for them to need to strike a deal. Also, the UK is the world's 5th largest economy, and a hit like that will have global ramifications. 'No deal' is in literally nobodies economic interests.

This is why Corbyn's position is the only sensible one. When he says 'there will be a deal' this is what he means. and he's right. Whoever wins, it's in the EU's economic interests to work something out.

And everybody knows this. May seems to think this is some kind of poker game, where bluff and bluster can play a part in negotiating. and that terrifies me, because it's at best disingenuous and at worse dangerously incompetent. Poker relies on hidden information, and there isn't any hidden info here.  They know we need a deal, and we know they need one too.

There will be a deal, and it will be better than no deal.

Everyone knows this - all parties in the UK and in Europe. There will be haggling over details, but there will be a deal.

Corbyn knows this, and he's acting like a grown up. He tells you straight - there will be a deal, and it will include protection for EU and UK nationals living abroad, an end to freedom of movement, and tariff free access to the EU market.

This is how grownups in the real world actually negotiate. Here's what we want. Let's talk about how we get it.

And here's the kicker - May wants exactly the same things. And the EU knows it.

There's no hidden information. This isn't a poker game. It's a chess game.

And only one of the candidates for PM seems to know that.

May's 'tough on Europe' stance isn't merely pointless posturing - it's actually a liability, a danger to our interests. Based on these arguments (and the strength of the Labour Brexit team vs the Tories - Keir Starmer Vs. Boris Johnson, for heaven's sake) it's very clear to me that only Labour are in a position to negotiate a Brexit that will actually deliver for the people of the UK, as opposed to our richest citizens.

Don't send a poker player to a chess match.

You deserve better.

Vote for better.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

5 practical ways to help beat the Tories on June 8th (and 1 hint for staying sane)



We're coming down to it now, thankfully. Only one week of campaigning to go, then it's x in the box and retire for the exit poll and count. We are nearly there. Enjoy that moment, seriously. Savour the relief that is to come.

Done it? Good.

Now, dig in.

There's a bunch of polls out there, and at least one polling group is going to be looking very red faced come the day itself. No, I don't know which one, and I don't much care right now. Here are the only two things that should matter from a progressive position right now;


  • Labour are still gaining on the Tories
  • Labour are still behind

And what that means is, it's time for all hands on deck. I now believe, for the first time this entire campaign, that the Tories are actually beatable. If you're feeling that too, and you are wondering how you can best spend your time between now and then to help make that happen, here's five practical steps you can take, this week, to make a difference.

NOTE: Yes, I am a member of the Labour party. None of this comes from the party, or talking points, nor does it in any way represent an official party line - not least because I will, under certain circumstances, be advocating voting for a party other than Labour. I am proud to be a member of the Labour party, but I am, at core, anti-Tory first and foremost. The following reflects that approach.





  1. Vote tactically.

    I know, not too sexy. But this is hugely important, and the single simplest mistake I see people making when they're newly fired up by politics. If you're all fired up by JC, that's awesome - BUT - look first at where you live, and find out who can actually beat the Tory candidate. Yeah, that might mean voting Lib Dem, or even Green, when you don't want to. Suck it up and do it anyway. I've always had misgivings about the Lib Dems, and I will never forgive them for sacrificing economic sanity to prop up a Tory government. But I would still vote Lib Dem this time in  Lib Dem/Tory marginal. I'd have to. Every seat that can be denied the Tories is vital. Protest votes guarantee irrelevance. Don't fall into that trap. Use your vote intelligently to do some damage.

    Finding out who is best placed to do that damage is dead easy - go here - http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/newseatlookup.html - chuck in your postcode, and look at who won, and who came second. If someone other than a Tory won, that's the party to vote for. If the Tory won, look at number two. That's your party to vote for.* Simple as that, and utterly vital. If every anti-Tory voter did this, the Tories would lose. So do it, then tell all your anti Tory friends locally to do the same. Explain why. Good luck.

    *one exception - never, ever vote UKIP. If they are number 2, look at number 3. Obviously.
  2. Campaign tactically

    Following on from the above, use this knowledge to campaign. Find out where that party is based locally. Phone them up. Ask how you can help. They'll bite your bloody hand off. You can leaflet, you can phone poll, you can canvas - there's a ton of jobs out there, they all need doing yesterday, and you'll get to feel like you really got stuck in. You do not have to join the party in order to help. And this is JUST as important where there's a non-Tory incumbent as where there' a Tory you're trying to beat. Seats saved matter as much as seats won. Even if your margin looks healthy, get stuck in. This is a crucial election, and if the polls are close to right, a deeply volatile electorate. Take nothing for granted, either way.

    And if you really, really care about a specific party that can't win where you live, by all means make a financial donation to their national campaign, knowing they'll spend it where it's most needed and where they can win. Again, they'll bite your bloody hands off - the Tories are collecting 10 times as much per donation as Labour - because the big money badly wants a Tory victory.

    And if you're Labour and passionate about helping them campaign, you can find your nearest marginal (as well as locate campaigning events and materials) here: https://mynearestmarginal.com/

  3. Talk to your (grand)parents

    Older people vote. They vote in record numbers and the overwhelming majority vote Tory. So why should you talk to them?

    Because the Tories have taken them for granted, and with the dementia tax, the Tories are taking the piss. So talk to them about it. Explain how it's going to gut their inheritance - money they have earned and paid taxes on already over a lifetime - in order to fund more tax breaks for the well off. Tell them the truth - the Tories are going to do this and Labour are not.

    You may not win them over. But you may. And you may make them think twice. And they should. They know this isn't right. Remind them that it can only happen if people - people like them - vote for it.
  4. Talk to your kids

    You know those polls I mentioned earlier? Want to know the difference between Labour being 3 points behind and 12 points? It's how likely the pollsters think it is that the youth vote will turn up. Really. That's it. If this is even going to be close, the youth vote has to turn up in far greater numbers than they ever have in previous elections.

    They are telling the pollsters they will. And I'm seeing a lot of energy. But still; talk to your kids. Talk to any teenagers you know who are registered to vote for the first time. Tell them about this. Tell them that they really can/will/must make a difference, this time.

    Then tell them to go and badger their friends and become a politics bore for a week.

    It matters. It's actually make or break for the result.

    Have the conversation.
  5. Push back - hard - on the 'strong leader' line
    This is key, because while Corbyn has gained ground, May has what is from my perspective an entirely unearned poll lead on leadership. Why does that matter? Because the only opinion poll that correctly picked the result in 2015 - God ,was it really only 2 years ago? -  including the margin of victory - was the one that asked 'who do you want to be prime minister?' Cameron never lost that poll, and he got the result on the day. May is currently in the same place. BUT the difference is these figures are still moving. The more people see May, the less they like her - the more people see Corbyn, the more they like him. But with seven days to go, there's still a gap for Corbyn to close, and it's crucial.

    And May is weak. She called an election that wasn't needed, and has run down a huge poll lead whilst spouting meaningless platitudes and threats. She's destroying her credibility as a leader, and as a negotiator of any kind, tough or otherwise. Don't let her get away with it. Remind people how weak this campaign has exposed her as being, and remind them too of the strength of Corbyn - a leader with a long track record of standing up to powerful vested interests in order to represent his electorate.

    Corbyn consistently shows up, while May increasingly ducks out - first from the leaders debate, now from Women's Hour, for crying out loud.  That's cowardice. Call it out. My preferred hashtag for this is #runningscared - but whatever works for you.
  6. Employ shameless self careYou're no good to anyone if you burn out. Don't burn out. Do what you gotta do. Win, lose, or draw, the fight doesn't end on the 8th. It begins. This is a sprint, these last few days - but the wider struggle is a marathon. Get and stay fit and healthy, and take care of yourselves.

Me, I'm heading off to a 3 day music festival on 9th, and my plan is to do it with no wifi at all. Reconnect with metal, the wellspring of life and joy. That'll be my self care, my recharge.

Don't forget yours.

Good luck. Fight.

Talk soon.

Friday, 26 May 2017

UK General Election 2 - Dementia tax, U-Turns, and leadership

We may just have passed a turning point, here. I mean, I still think the Tories are going to win, and increase their majority. But I think, after this weekend, the electoral oblivion that threatened Labour may just have receded. A bit.

It’s kind of hard to overstate just how awful this entire dementia tax debacle has been, and continues to be, for the Tories as a whole and May in particular. It’s a failure and error on just about every level. Let’s take it one strand at a time.


  1. It’s bad policy. Let’s start there. Whacking dementia sufferers who have the good fortune to own a house worth over £100,000 with a bill that will wipe out the remainder of the inheritance they’d hope to leave their children, while their neighbour who dies of cancer loses not a single penny is obviously grotesquely unfair. Worse, by highlighting this, the Tories have highlighted the policy nonsense that is separating ‘social care’ from the rest of the NHS budget, ringfencing one while plundering and ravaging the other. This has always been a nonsense - but suddenly, through such a brazenly unfair policy, that nonsense is on clear display even to people for whom this would normally seem to be abstract policy discussion.

    It’s really kind of amazing. By creating such an obviously insane and gross policy, the entire lunacy of pretending social care is somehow not a vital service has been thrown into sharp relief. The Tories have managed to do something Labour haven’t been able to do in a generation - put the notion that social care should fall under NHS jurisdiction back on the table. If Labour are smart, they’ll jump on this in the next week or so. It’s natural Labour ground, and it’s lock step with foundational Labour principles.
  2. Amazingly, the U-Turn makes the policy even worse.

    Sidebar: Yes, it is a bloody U-Turn. The manifesto makes no mention of a cap, and on Sunday Hunt was out there on the morning programs explicitly ruling out a cap. Saying today that there will be a cap is not clarifying - it’s a change of policy. Words mean things. This is a U-Turn, and to U-Turn on a manifesto commitment within a few days of issuing it is, actually, unprecedented. We’ll come back to that.

    Why is the cap worse than no cap? Because a cap represents, effectively, a tax break for those who could most afford to pay more.

    Let’s illustrate why with a thought experiment. We’ll use round numbers for ease of calculation. Obviously we don’t know what the cap will be, because it’s only just been wished into existence by May and she hasn’t made that bit up yet, so I feel fairly guiltless making it up myself instead. The point is not the exact numbers, but the principle they demonstrate.

    So, pensioner A - we’ll call him Jeremy - owns a house worth £200,000,and has no savings. He gets dementia, but is assessed and can get in home care. That home care will cost (say) a capped figure of £50,000 a year (the care itself costs £70,000, with the gap made up by the taxpayer). Under this policy, within two years of home care, he will be leaving only half the value of his home to his kids, with the rest eaten up by his care.

    Pensioner B - we’ll call her Teresa - has done very well for herself. She’s sitting on a stately pile worth £1,000,000, and has another £750,000 in savings. She is also diagnosed with dementia and given home care. With the annual cap, she’ll have to live for 25 years before her kids are disinherited by the same amount as Jeremy’s kids. Additionally, with the cap, she’s also being subsidised for her care, even though she’s rolling in it.

    Meanwhile, pensioner C - we’ll call him Tim - is diagnosed with cancer of the policy, and pays not a single penny for his unsuccessful treatments under the NHS. His kids get every penny of his £300,000 house and whatever.

    See? It’s bonkers. May has pulled of the seemingly impossible - she’s made a bad policy worse while executing a U-Turn, while denying she’s U-Turned. Which leads us to…
  3. This election has been branded as being all about leadership. There’s a reason May is answering every question with the words ‘strong and stable’ - it’s what the pollsters tell her people want to hear. And it’s easy to see why. Even ardent Brexiteers are going to be feeling a little apprehensive as to how that process is going to play out, and for the 48%, it’s bloody terrifying. Strong and stable? Blimey, that’d be nice, could do with a spot of that right now.

    But U-Turning on a manifesto pledge within four days of announcing it? Do you know how often that’s happened? I’ll give you a clue, it’s happened NEVER. Literally, never. So that would be ‘strong and stable’ in the sense of ‘shits the bed at the first sign of trouble’, then.

    But hang on, it gets worse. Because what's behind the ‘strong and stable’ pitch is this: Only a May led Conservative government can be trusted to deliver a favourable Brexit for Britain.

    How credible does that pitch look now, when she’s made a massive U-Turn on a manifesto commitment after 4 days? What does it tell the European leaders she’ll have to negotiate with about her ability to really stick to her guns when the negotiations get tough?

    Especially when - and I can hardly believe I’m typing this - her opponent is Jeremy Corbyn.

    Because, say what you like about JC - I’ve said a fair bit of it myself over the last few years - but the one charge you can never level at him is a lack of conviction. This is a man who has won two landslide victories for leadership in the last two years, and in the process stood up to basically the entire parliamentary Labour party. And why? Out of a commitment to the voters who put him in change, and the changes they wanted to see.

    Just think about that for a second. Think about the guts and strength of character that takes. And then to put up with week after week after week of shitty polling data and endless tabloid smears about every aspect of his character and how he was going to bury Labour for a generation, and to look at all of that and say ‘this is what I believe, and this is what the people who voted for me want me to do’, and just stand tall.

    How does a man like that approach a challenge like Brexit? Who do you really think has the better chance of securing a good deal - the Tory who is clearly on the side of the wealthy and against the poor, whose response to dropping to a mere 9 point lead is to actually U-Turn on a manifesto commitment - or a man who has always stood foursquare by his beliefs in a fairer and more just society for all?

    Because, look, Brexit is going to happen. I don’t like saying it, and you probably don’t like reading it, but it is. Remain lost, and that’s it. And both of the main parties are committed to implementing Brexit. Given that, leavers have no reason to shun Labour, and to my fellow remainders, I say: given that reality, the question of who leads us out is absolutely crucial.

    Because I agree with the Tories about one thing - this election is about leadership. It’s about who will lead this nation through its most dramatic political upheaval in more than a generation. This is not a job for those who panic at the first sign of political difficulties, who are swayed by minute to minute polls to abandon principle and make ill thought out policy U-Turns.

    It’s a job for a leader of principle who knows right from wrong, and will be guided by that principle. A leader who can stand up to powerful vested interests, including from within their own party if needs me, in order to serve the democratic will of the people.
    .
    Strong. Stable. Principled. On the side of the workers, the strivers, the just-getting-by. I’d say we’ve found that leader, in this campaign.

    By their works shall ye know them.

Friday, 12 May 2017

UK General Election '17 - Part 1 - Policy

So it seems like I dust this place off mainly when I have something political to talk about, these days. This is the first of a couple of posts I want to make talking about the UK 2017 general election. If that's not your bag, well, I saved you some time. Go check out my Patreon :)

 Let's start with some context. Here's what I posted on Facebook, shortly after the snap election was called:

 "Okay. So. I'm a member of the Labour party. I will be campaigning for them in the forthcoming general election. That campaign will largely be local and involve leaflets and letterboxes, but it will also, probably, be a bit online. If that bothers you, maybe unfollow me until after. I won't be offended. My wall won't turn red overnight, but there will, unavoidably, be more politics for a while.

I'll be honest - I've never felt less like doing this in my life. Not out of any disillusionment with the party itself, or it's leadership (no, honestly) but because of the electoral reality. We're facing -20% points in the hole, on latest polling, with a likely win for May and her Tories that will be (wrongly) interpreted as support for hard Brexit. JC clearly doesn't connect with the electorate. Many of his policies do, of course - but it's clear that the modern political reality requires salesmen, far more than policy, and it's equally clear that JC has not sold Labour to... well, anyone, really. My operating assumption and belief is that Labour will lose this election, and that, having lost, JC will step down as leader. I think both those things are all but inevitable (and I say that as someone who saw the unthinkable happen a humbling number of times in 2016).

That said, I will campaign for Labour anyway. I will do so because I bitterly oppose the Tories, what they stand for, and the damage their reelection will do to the country, from gutting and privatizing the NHS, to brutal assaults on our poorest while providing tax dodges and relief to the white collar criminals that so nearly tanked the economy just a few short years ago, to hard Brexit.

I know not all my friends are leftie or progressive, but I know most of you are. And to you, I want to say this: In this election, there are really only two sides - The Tories, and their UKIP allies, and everyone else. Our electoral system is grossly undemocratic, and for the majority of people who cast a vote in this election, your vote won't count at all in any meaningful way. Sorry, but that's the truth. That said, find out if where you live is remotely marginal (and given the possible size of the swing here, that's gonna be more places than usual). And if you are, for the love of all that's cool and groovy and not evil, vote for whoever will beat the Tory/UKIP.

Seriously.

Yeah, that might mean voting Green, or Lib Dem, or Labour when you don't really want to. I get it. But please face up to the reality - this is going to be a nightmare election result for anyone who believes in progressive political ideas. So do yourself this favor: Know on that night, as the results roll in, that you didn't give into the impulse to posture or protest vote. Know that YOU did what you could to oppose the Tories.

And then, roll up your bloody sleeves, because it's going to be a long, horrible five years.

Here endeth the pep talk.

#isitoveryet?"

 And then, yesterday, as a sort-of follow up, I posted this:

 "Lunchtime Rant (UK politics edition): I'll say this - I appreciate the Labour party is a broad church, and I respect that there are differences of opinions within party membership about direction and policy. I firmly believe part of our strength is that diversity of opinion and experience.

But we're in THIS fight, and we're in it NOW, with the leadership we have and the manifesto that group has drawn up. If the polls are even close to right, there's going to be plenty of time for postmortems and recriminations. Later. Right now, this is the fight, and this is the ground. I'm fed up to the back teeth with the leaks, and the grumbling from those whose chosen faction is not, currently, in the ascendancy.

If you're Labour, be Labour. Go out and fight for what you believe in, and leave the sniping to the Tories and their press. This fight is tough enough without us beating ourselves.

/endrant

EDIT and PS: And thank you to the many comrades who get all of this just fine, and are as fed up as I am. See you on the trail. Stay strong, and stay positive."

And I stand by both positions. With that said. I want to explore some of these issues in a bit more depth, because I'm honestly perplexed as to why people vote as they do, given what they know. As the big news recently was the leak of Labour's draft manifesto, let's start with talking about policy.

Here's an important place to start: these policies are very popular with voters. Raising income tax on the top 5%, re-nationalizing the railways, guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, nationalizing energy, banning zero hours contract... ah, see for yourself.

It's worth noting these polices are even popular with Tory voters. Let that sink in for a second. A majority of Tory voters like Labour's policies. Wouldn't know that from the coverage, would you? Screaming headlines about 'back to the 70's' and scaremongering about 'putting the unions back in charge' and on and on and on - and yet, when stripped of hyperbole and looked at on their merits, majorities on both sides of the political divide nod and say 'yup, sounds reasonable'.

Hold on to that, because it's important. It means something. It means, on policy - on the facts, on what people in this country actually want - Labour has it right. Labour policies reflect the things people say they want to see happen.

And what follows from that positive observation is a very depressing one, which is this: if the polls are within a million miles of right, millions of people are going to vote against their own preferred polices on June 8th.

There's reasons for that, which I'll get into in subsequent posts. For now, though, I just want to close out this initial post with an observation - Labour has the right of this election in terms of policies. Labour people - hang on to that fact, and bloody talk about it, every chance you get. Because if we can make this election about actual policies, rather than slogans and fear, we can - we should - be competitive.

And at the end of the day, isn't that how elections should be decided?

More soon.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Watching Robocop with Kit Power - Episode 9

Welcome to Episode 9! It's an episode of firsts - our first somewhat anonymous guest, our first episode since episode 8, and also our first live-and-in-person recording. And what fun we had! Listen out for:

 

  • Rich taking over a movie podcast to talk about football and give podcasting advice
  • The brilliance of Jane Campbell (Episode 3 guest)
  • Digressions about metrics
  • The unreality of Trump
  • Numerous Patreon plugs
  • The popularity of the ‘crime is cancer’ theory
  • ED209 and the AT-ST
  • Bladerunner
  • Score vs. music
  • The devastating state of the political left in the UK
  • Interrogating the logic of Robocop’s gun and use of force
  • The military industrial complex
  • Breaking the 3rd wall
  • The predictive nature of this movie
  • Rogue One spoilers and TFA discussion
  • I am the medium, not the message
  • Cosplay adjacent
  • Learn what the show was almost called
  • Cross examining the murder victim
  • Many Dick jokes
  • Is DIck Jones a Sith?
  • Me getting defensive about ED209 as robot chicken
  • The London riots
  • Two white guys solve feminism
  • Spoiler alerts
  • Missing the ending
  • Watching Robocop - the franchise

 

Enjoy, and thanks as ever for your support.

Why Robocop is the greatest movie ever made.

Theme tune provided by The Disciples of Gonzo, from their track Superhero. Listen to more from them here:

If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to contribute financially to the monthly production costs, in exchange for early access to both this show and my written work, please see my Patreon here:



My latest podcast release!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017