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From Arse To Elbow
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Bear in mind that some of the stronget advocates of the BBC promoting "the best that has been thought and said" are those (e.g. Murdoch pere et fils) who would like it to become an elitist and relatively unpopular broadcaster, leave the airwaves free to more partisan and "entertaining" channels.
Toggle Commented yesterday on The BBC problem at Stumbling and Mumbling
On the question of WTF happened in Sunderland ... Across the 3 parliamentary consituencies grouped in the referendum as Sunderland, Labour got 62,655 votes in the 2015 General Election. Assuming the national opinion poll splits were representative, e.g. Labour votes broke 60% for Remain while Tories broke 65% for Leave, this would predict a total Remain vote of 51,598. The actual vote was 51,930. The projected Leave figure on the same basis was 65,901. The actual vote was 82,727. The difference is essentially turnout, up from 56% in 2015 to 65% in the referendum (the combined pop is 209k so 9% is 19k). The reasons Leave won in Sunderland are that a) the opinion poll "undecideds" appear to have broken largely for Leave, and b) the increased turnout overwhelmingly benefited Leave in net terms. In other words, Labour successfully got out its core vote. The real "Sunderland problem" (replicated nationwide) is that Labour's vote across the 3 constituencies dropped from 85,187 in 1997 to 63,234 in 2001, reflecting a decline in turnout from 60% to 49%. This 22k appears to have initially abstained and then gradually drifted to the Tories and UKIP over the 00s (the non-Labour vote grew from 35k in 1997 to 55k in 2015). Even without the benefit of a higher turnout skewed to Leave, the Sunderland area was due to deliver an "out" vote. To pin the blame for this on Jeremy Corbyn is bizarre, particularly when the claim is that he failed to energise "core voters". The evidence is that Labour's post-2000 core held firm and that the defeat was due to voters disillusioned after 1997 who headed elsewhere or who abstained until the referendum.
Toggle Commented yesterday on In defence of Corbyn at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Guy, Nobody is old enough to care about what happened in 1688/9, but we in Britain still make a fetish of Parliamentary sovereignty. I agree that "the Brexit referendum is the wrong question at the wrong level", both in the sense that it won't change immigration policy (or existing numbers of immigrants) in the way that many Brexiteers believe, and in the sense that amendments to the free movement of labour (or capital) would be better decided by the EU people as a whole. My original point wasn't about Switzerland (that was just responding to endrew), but about how referenda tend to divide society and thereby weaken the very concept of popular sovereignty. When this happens, you either have an authoritarian turn in which one side suppresses the other to restore national unity, or you have to double-down on direct democracy and allow referenda for trivial matters, which devalues the mechanism but thereby avoids compromising sovereignty. The latter can work in a federal system (such as Switzerland or the US), where the structure of devolution exists, but it becomes problematic in states that are highly centralised and protective of legislative sovereignty. The UK has managed to accommodate devolution in Scotland, Wales and NI, but it has singularly failed to do so in England. This is why the EU referendum on Thursday is proving so socially divisive.
Toggle Commented 7 days ago on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Endrew, "Was there a point in there somewhere?" Yes, but you presumably missed it. The Swiss employ referenda as a constraint on the federal government. There is an irony here if you consider the history of the EU since 1992 and its attitude towards referenda on treaty acceptance. The Swiss model of locating sovereignty with the cantons (i.e. states) rather than the people is precisely what we have in the EU (this is otherwise known as "the democratic deficit"). In other words, Switzerland is an appropriate parallel for the EU, but not for the UK.
Toggle Commented Jun 18, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Endrew, The Swiss fondness for referendums is a product of their history, specifically the evolution of the federal system of 1848 following the short civil war between the Protestant and Catholic cantons. Even in its modern incarnation (1999), the Swiss constitution does not locate sovereignty with the people but with the cantons (article 3). To put this into US terms, which are probably easier to understand, it's as if the South won the Civil War (i.e. the primacy of states' rights was affirmed). The reliance on referendums (many of which address trivial issues due to the bar for citizen initiatives being 100k signatures) is, to use a later coinage, a form of Mexican Standoff - i.e. a way of preventing progress, not a principled commitment to direct democracy. While we in the rest of the world get to hear about votes on banning minarets or introducing a basic income, the important votes (and typically the ones that stand a chance of being approved) concern federal government initiatives, e.g. the reconstruction of the Gotthard Road Tunnel.
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
@SpinningHugo, The reason why we should prefer democracy is not that it secures popular acceptance, let alone that it is efficient or effective, but that is legitimate, assuming you accept that "the people" are ultimately sovereign. The one thing we can say with confidence about next week's result is that it will not "achieve acceptance from the population so that civil society can continue". Whoever loses will be bereft and unlikley to concede gracefully. With regard to football, most teams (being amateurs involved in kickabouts) do make decisions democratically. Of course, they might make better decisions if they had a dictator/manager, but if the purpose is to enjoy yourself, rather than winning at all costs, then democracy fits the bill. Democracy is about collective utility maximisation, while dictatorship is about sacrificing personal interests to a "higher good" (the team, the nation etc). Referendums are usually a bad idea (unless there is a binary choice, with agreed consequences, that cannot be resolved otherwise) because they hold out the illusion of popular dictatorship. In fact, all they do is undermine popular sovereignty. It's worth noting the number of times a plebiscite has preceded the institution of an executive dictatorship.
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2016 on Against this referendum at Stumbling and Mumbling
I imagine what Blair really means is that the Labour leadership aren't asking the right questions, which shows that his intellectual straitjacket remains as tightly-buckled as ever. One of Blair's defining characteristics is his narrow-mindedness. If after resigning he had decided to become a pig farmer or learn the bagpipes, rather than continue as a para-statesman, I think his views would command a lot more respect today.
Toggle Commented May 28, 2016 on Labour's economic answers at Stumbling and Mumbling
Re the US, the key demographic bias in the support of Sanders is towards the young. Clinton's support among minorities is skewed to older cohorts - i.e. those with something to lose economically as much as in terms of rights. Trump's support (as 2slugbaits notes) is largely mainstream Republicans defending their gains rather than grieving over losses. It is reasonable to expect the young to have a larger appetite for risk than the old, but what also appears to be at work in the Sanders surge is their self-consciousness as losers not only in the present (because of student debt) but in the future too (because of growing inequality and possible automation of whitecollar jobs). Re the UK, it is a commonplace that those who resent immigration are typically those who have been impacted by it the least. Nostalgia isn't a satisfactory explanation as many are living in small towns that have little-changed in decades. One way of explaining this paradox is that they anticipate greater future losses precisely because of the growing gap between their immediate environment and that there London.
Toggle Commented May 25, 2016 on Prospect theory & populism at Stumbling and Mumbling
Is there any evidence that supporters of Brexit, or Trump, see their preference as risky? (This isn't rhetorical - I genuinely don't know). In other words, are they consciously willing to gamble on the possibility of a large downside because they envisage significant upsides? My unrepresentative anecdata suggests many leavers are determinedly uncalculating. They see this as a free hit rather than a throw of the dice.
Toggle Commented May 24, 2016 on Prospect theory & populism at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, 1. What qualifies one to be a Tory is a matter of circumstance, affection or feeling (Burke) more than reasoning (Oakeshott). Marxism by definition requires an act of intellectual will. You can be born a Tory but you can't be born a Marxist. 2. You concede amelioration but are sceptical of the possibility of an alternative. In other words, you demand that the critics of capitalism provide what you have already ruled unlikely if not impossible. 3. "Asking what changes would increase the real freedom of working people" is only radical (i.e. unconventional relative to the times) if it offends a centrist (i.e. the conventional). For example, a minimum wage is not radical, but a basic income is (you may not be as much of a centrist as you suppose).
@Luis, 1. You don't need a certificate of authentication to be a Marxist. 2. Making capitalism better is not an alternative to capitalism. 3. A radical centrist is a category error.
Frederic Jameson (a Marxist) famously said "it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism". His sardonic point was that ideology denies the possibility of systemic change, not that alternatives are literally unimaginable or that capitalism isn't vulnerable to criticism. One way this ideology operates is by insisting on a higher threshold of credibility for a utopia than a dystopia. This is now a commonplace of politics. You can see it in the derision of Leave's "vision" (or lack of) and the tolerance accorded Remain's "project fear". This allows for incremental (and decremental) change, but denies the possibility of a fundamental reordering. Ironically, scepticism about utopias owes much to Marxism, which helped replace the linear idea of progress with the dialectical mode of thought. Marxism treats capitalism as a utopia by analysing the gap between what it promises and what it delivers, but concludes that it is potentially dystopian because of its inherent contradictions. Most Marxists are pragmatic rather than prescriptive when it comes to the future, which means their utopias are often banal (see Chris's comment above). Far from rendering their position "not very strong", this actually makes it both feasible and attractive, which is why liberal critiques of Marxism tend to characterise it as a form of mad religion as much as they harp on about Stalin and Mao. The heart of Marxism is scepticism, which is why it is furiously denied.
Someone who struggles to control his emotions tends to see emotional responses everywhere. Similarly, those who believe that the world is "inevitably tragic", as opposed to arbitrary and absurd, tend to be oblivious to comedy. The subject under discussion is the "Nigella Lawson of economics", not a nineteenth century German philosopher.
Tyler Cowen made some interesting observations along the same lines today. "Look at it this way: there is no general case for being the first rat to leave a sinking ship ... Since 'wait and see' is an option, leaving has to be much better than staying, given the mathematics of the expected value of irreversible decisions".
The BBC has a pro-newspaper bias, which has led it to give undue prominence to strongly-voiced opinion relative to facts. This has been exacerbated by social media, which the BBC treats as a form of opinion poll and therefore inherently "balanced", even though much of it is sculpted by newspapers. This bias has two major causes. The politicisation of the structural antagonism between print and screen since the 80s has caused the Beeb to be cautious in criticising newspapers. Compare and contrast its hesitancy over phone-hacking (waiting till others broke the story) with the papers' hounding of the Corporation over Savile. The second cause was the Birt reforms of the 90s, which led to an increase in personnel crossovers from print to screen and back again. BBC "lifers" are almost extinct, hence the reverence for David Attenborough, while TV journalists know that their career prospects require them to maintain friendly relations with newspapers (and other media). I'd suggest that there is a degree of conscious (if reluctant) bias in the Beeb's approach, and not just institutional stupidity.
Toggle Commented May 17, 2016 on Regulation, & BBC bias at Stumbling and Mumbling
There is a wider issue here. Since the 80s, coverage has narrowed in many areas, and not just on the BBC. Industrial correspondents have disappeared, business news is predominantly City news, and the coverage of housing (as news) has largely been reduced to prices and mortgages. Journalistic expertise has narrowed in many more areas than politics. This is both ideological and structural, e.g. the disempowerment of local government has reduced national coverage of regional politics (the North of England has been particularly obscured), while devolution has ironically allowed English audiences to be under-served on Scottish and Welsh politics, with consequences that were only too apparent last year. Much of the difficulty that the Remain campaign currently faces is the result of decades of treating EU news as a matter of elite negotiation. What we're witnessing today is not just the neoliberal emptying of politics and its substitution with gossip and PR, but the product of decades of increasing centralisation and the incapacity of the Commons to act as an effective check on the executive.
Re "Westminster-based political reporting encourages closed hierarchical politics rather than more open egalitarian ones". Hence those whose careers are dependent on insider dealing have cause to resist the "new politics" for reasons other than partisan bias. In other words, the criticism of Kuenssberg should not be that she's a closet Tory but that her "expertise" is too narrow. The reason she is so disappointed that a coup against Corbyn hasn't been launched yet is that she has no real contacts in his camp. This means she becomes less relevant from the perspective of her bosses at the Beeb (who do care about "balance") with every passing week. What will get her the sack is not a petition but Corbyn sticking around. Her frustration is positively Shakespearean.
The problem with the sharp distinction between “what do you think?” and “what do you know?” is that the value of the latter is prioritised and its interpretation easily detached. In other words, "experts" (often white male PPE grads) decide they are better equipped to translate the data of the oppressed into meaningful action. This is the same elitist delusion that lies behind the concept of "Big Data": there is a truth that is accessible only to those able to stand outside the dataset (one thing "windy feminist theory" has going for it is that it is often written by women). As JRG noted above, this will entail other biases.
@Igor, all clubs have the same size squad of 25 (8 of whom must be "homegrown"), though there's no limit on the number of U21 players they can select in addition. The advantage the big clubs have is squad depth, in the sense of more proven quality on the bench. However, the issue with injuries is largely about the balance of the team - i.e. not having to chop and change and try to fit square pegs into round holes. Rotation can be counter-productive. You may recall a fella they named "Tinkerman" at Chelsea a few years back.
Toggle Commented May 3, 2016 on Nobody knows anything at Stumbling and Mumbling
@Luis, Not so much. Many sage heads were predicting at Xmas that Leicester would struggle in the 2nd half of the season because everyone had already played them once and wouldn't be surprised again, but their results remained consistent. There's nothing particularly unusual about their style: defend in depth, break at speed. Stats-wise, they scored fewer than Spurs and Man City and conceded more than Spurs and Man Utd. This suggests efficiency in the sense of not "wasting" goals in big wins, but it also suggests that they got lucky, as they did with injuries.
Toggle Commented May 3, 2016 on Nobody knows anything at Stumbling and Mumbling
One notable thing about Leicester is that they had the oldest squad in the league. Of course, this doesn't in itself mean anything - Spurs had the youngest - but you can see the angle for "the story". I'm sure Golman would have appreciated it: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Some Other Blokes
Toggle Commented May 3, 2016 on Nobody knows anything at Stumbling and Mumbling
I'm pleased to see that the debate has moved on from Hitler to the Enlightenment, which is surely progress. Perhaps we can call it William Godwin's Law.
@smoth, MM said "Labour", without any qualification. Let's be charitable and assume he meant "lefties" (a famously homogeneous group with uniform opinions). My question remains: how did the lefties allow Blair to become a party member, be nominated as an MP and then selected as party leader? The only rational answer, which you hint at in your "anymore", is that the sensibles were gradually supplanted by the lefties. Given that these are different people (otherwise it's a lot of the same people and they've been "radicalised" to a remarkable degree), this would suggest that the party has been subject to an entryist coup on a scale that dwarfs anything in British political history. This theory was debunked by The Guardian (no friend of the left), which found little evidence of far left infilitration but a lot of returnees who had been disillusioned by Iraq and Blair (i.e. people who had been members during Blair's rise to prominence and may well have voted for him). The narrative of entryism explains why "Labour's antisemitism problem" is cast as endemic, when the available evidence suggests it is trivial (see the Stern-Weiner link in the post). Insisting that Labour has been "swamped" or "infected" by an antisemitic left is a way of denying that ordinary party members rejected Blairism. It's evidence of the instrumentalism of a technocratic elite and their denial of agency to party members.
There is certainly truth in your suggestion that the urge to be transgressive has contributed to the use of stupid language on the left, but we should recognise that transgression is relative and can arise through the shifting of boundaries as much as by stepping over them. The interpretation of any criticism of the Israeli state as anti-Zionism, and the conflation of that with anti-semitism, is a political strategy of linguistic manipulation that Orwell would have recognised, even if his self-declared heirs struggle to spot this amidst the darkness. @Matt Moore, "As long as you are a socialist, atheist, anti-imperialist, and anti-Israel then you are accepted". So how did Tony Blair ever become a member?
@Passing By, The original post did not confuse the dismantling of the coal industry with the destruction of mining communities because it only mentioned the latter, not the former. If you mention apples but not organges, you can't be confusing one with the other. "Those mines were grossly uneconomic and closure was long overdue". Had the UK closed all of its mines in the 1950s and 60s, as economic "logic" would have dictated, shifting to reliance on cheaper coal imports and the use of oil and gas, the effects of the oil crisis in 1973 would have been truly catastrophic (many countries shifted demand from oil to coal at the same time, increasing international prices, but most industrial nations had the advantage of domestic coal production to fall back on). Odd though it might seem, the "lights out" of the 3-day week in 1974 was actually a sign of the UK's strategic strength - i.e. its ability to rely on domestic coal. The "weakness" that this entailed was that it gave the NUM enormous leverage, which was the Torie's beef. Of course, it's worth remembering that the NUM had been anything but militant in its history. There were no national strikes between 1945 and 1972, and only 3 in total (1972, 1974, 1984-5). The decision to accelerate the decline of the UK coal industry was political, not economic (see the Ridley Plan of 1977). Privatisation of electricity could not proceed if that industry was tied to coal, and therefore limited in its ability to increase margins through supply abritrage, not to mention potentially at risk of industrial action. Destroying the NUM, which inevitably meant destroying or at least undermining coal-mining communities, was central to this. "First, the preceding Labor governments did not close the mines when they should have done". Not so. Mines were closed under all postwar governments. This was a cross-party policy. The idea that 1984-5 was somehow the fault of Labour is akin to blaming the 2008 financial crash, the subsequent recession and the resulting spike in government debt on Gordon Brown (go on, you know you want to). "Second, the miners themselves, through their union (NUM), did not use the considerable economic and political strength they had to negotiate transition packages for unneeded miners". Again, not so. The NUM cooperated in the strategy of managed decline from 1945 on. The strikes in '72 and '74 were over wages (which had fallen in real terms relative to other workers due to inflation), not pit closures or redundancies.