The Critical Aye

Raising political and topical questions for discussion. From the sublime to the ridiculous.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lebanese thoughts...

This is my response to a Message Board debate on the situation. I wrote it and though, should stick it on the blog, so here it is.....

Lebanon is a democracy. Hezbollah are a political party. They often deliver better healthcare and education than the Lebanese state. They want an Islamic state in Lebanon but are prepared to try and acheive it at the ballot box in a free society. They don't disguise this. It irks me that the even a free democracy is not protected by the US after all the bleating over Iraqi freedom. Not too mention Hamas's stake in Palestinian democracy.
The language of freedom, democracy and terror has been hypocritically warped.

The lebanese state will not fight back but the people will.Hezbollah are also an aggressive military organisation. They have no right to attack Israel and Israel does have a right to defend itself. However the manner in which they are choosing to do so is very over the top. There is no excuse for the shelling of UN bases. Israel may have issues warnings to leave but then proceeded to blow up the vehicles leaving if they were big enough to conceal rockets.

Hezbollahs grievances, like those of Palestine, come from the fact that Israel is in control of land it should not be. Israel has continually flouted UN resolutions in both Lebanon and Palestine. At the conference in Rome only three out of scores of countries blocked a move to call for an unconditional ceasefire.

The idea of not calling for a ceasfire until a plan is in place to uphold it is rubbish. No satisfactory conclusion will be reached until the powers that be start recognising genuine greivances and bully all parties concerned. All the bloodshed that will continue with our permission is pointless if we are so hellbent on finding a solution.

I think it is very likely that Iran will become involved. It is only a matter of time before Iranian oil ( which we are very happy to buy from them to fund their nuclear programs) is not traded in dollars. Causing a fall in dollar demand and a few problems with the delicate global finance system. In short such a move by Iran would be an attack on American interests, proviking war. It was what lead to the Iraq war.

As for conspriacies, I am sure that there are powerplays at work. Not sure if its anything to do with North Korea though. Speculation is enjoyable but not too productive.

The UN can't do anything. Like the League of Nations before it. The set up of the security council with permanent member veto ensures its pointless at times of crises, although still important for mopping up. Unless we work towards a global democratic structure of government the most powerful states will always ride roughshod.

I realise I am getting into ranting territory. No doubt this thread will get deleted soon anyway! I accept everyone will have a different opinion on the matter.I just wish that there was a genuine desire to see a peaceful and prosperous middle east whose economies were not almost solely dependant on finite resources.

For this to happen I believe we need to see our governments prepared to admit that we have behaved openly and covertly in a way which has caused genuine greivance amongst people of many religions and ethnicitys. There is no absolutely no excuse for terrorism and although some people will always find one we should endeavour to limit theit options in anyway we can.

Getting back to the original point, this means taking a consistently firm stance with Israel. Which seems pretty unliekly sadly. The barrel of a gun does not discrimate between a terrorist and an israeli soldier and not do the cries of a mother.

Just a point for the cynics. It can never be this easy. Once power and money come into the equation the real world takes hold. You can but dream though....

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cash for honours rumbles on....

Just on my lunch break during my last ever shift at the library so this will have to be a quick one.... I have only got halfway through the almight rumpus created by the ever controversial Polly Toynbee on Comment is free.

She argues, as I have done ( see 'an honous that should be earnt not bought), that some state funding of elections is the lesser of the available evils. Although I would not want to see the money go to the parties but towards 'democratic platforms'.

We should get our problems into perspective. The current scandal is hardly evidence of endemic corruption within the Labour Party. All the parties have been doing it, since, well, like ever.

The problem is that running elections is so expensive. With all the media costs and such an increasingly presedential style, campaigning is less about doorbells and more about dollars. political parties simply cannot raise the funds to fight this type of election by traditional means.

Introducing a capped donation system would hugely benefit the tories as they have no shortage of potential 50k donors. The British electoral system is, as Toynbee points out, full of bias which swings both ways.

It would be good to see a recognition that we need to take electioneering down a peg or two. Success on the streets should be built from the bottom up. To do this would mean that substance might regain its rightful place over style. More importantly though it woule require political parties increasingly severed from their local lifeblood to renengage the grassroots. Encouraging a new focus on providing a party of the people, with a desire to see change for the better would reinvigorate Labour.

Again these are not drafted comments but more off the cuff outbursts, opinions, comments and questions as ever, appreciated.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dear Anonymous....

An anonymous poster provoked a muddled rant from me last night. I have decided to use the consequent outburst as today's post. Hopefully it may provoke some opinion.

Anonymous wrote:


Don't the media just sell what everyone WANTS to buy - factually inaccurate though it may be? Everyone knows that 'you shouldn't beleive everything you read', just as everyone knows 'you shouldn't trust a politician'.

The problem then seems to be:What's in the Sun is easier to talk about (and act on generally) during your lunch break, than what's on newsnight."

I want to thank anonymous for this question, although I could have written for hours. Following a conversation with my youngest brother I also have an inkling you might not be all that anonymous?

Anyway, here is my reply....
Thanks for your comment.
There is a fractious relationship between what the media sell and what people want.Where on one hand the Sun's 'white van man' might want tits and football he ends up with more than that. Even the Sun's 'funnies' usually have a clever slant of cynicism or dogma.

Whilst the selling point of tabloids may not be their political framework it inevitably impacts on the reader. Although you are right that everyone knows not to beleive what they read in the paper, the fact reamins that to some extent everyone does. They just believe different papers!

This does not change the fact that media can never truly represent political processes. For example see my post about ' the paedofinder general' and the politics behind that story.

Also there are more philosophical questions about what shapes wants. No time for that here but it seems safe to say that celebrity gossip on paper leads, to celebrity gossip on your lunch break, lunch breaks being social occassions no one wants to be out of the loop so they buy a paper for the gossip. The paper adds more celebrity gossip to increase readership and so continues the cycle - driven by the free market nature of our media.

If the media sells what everyone wants to buy then looking at the print media in the UK everyone wants fairly different things. Despite this the media as one , still frame and shape our understanding of events such as 7/7. I would not think people want '7/7' but such is the way the modern terror threat has been built in the media 7/7 is what they get, not 'the london bombings'. Above all, and this reveals my side of right/left divide, i feel that on issues of national and political importance we need a stronger code of editorial democratic responsibility. People cannot want what is not available. Do people really talk about the collapse of a mothers life thansk to al qaeida over coffee? I'm not advocating censorship , just a more subtle understanding of the role the media, in pursuance of profit, play in developing the politics of terror.

Moving on to the idea that everyone knows ' you shouldn't trust a politician'. I get the feeling you are trying to play devils advocate!Politicians would find things much easier if there was a cross party admission that you cannot please all of the people all of the time! Democracy is not a science.

The way that changes in media technology have led to us seeing politicians (via tv/internet) more often than our best friends has meant that politicans have had to personalise themselves. Gone is the distant voice of churchill, portraying wisdom and bravery over the airwaves.

Instead we have the now cliched chumminess of Blair and the everydayness of Cameron. In a political environment increasingly led by presidential style candidates, this personal approach to the electorate can backfire. I feel this has given rise to the politics of scandal, where a PM can get away with a breach of international law no problem but if he shagged his secretary that would be the end of his career.

Again though, my youth still shows in that I believe the media as businesses reliant on corporate sponsors (BBC excepted) would rather criticise government than corporate failings. To scruntise the corporate sector ( over for example environmental issues) would risk advertising revenue.Really though, politicians should not promise wha they cannot deliver. Only a cross party consensus acknowledging the harm done by elaborate promises can pave the way for this.

Finally to the idea of the Sun and lunch breaks.I agree the red top content makes better small talk. I don't think you need to read a red top to be able to hold your own over lunch, a general awareness does this. Buying a newspaper remains a market choice, much of the internet for example is free. People will always want to talk shite. God knows I do (see last few paragraphs). The time for putting the political world to rights is not on your lunch break and nor should it be.

I read the Mirror (only red top provided) on my breaks because I don't have the time or desire to get involved in complex comment.

In general though I think you are saying that people would rather not deal with the tougher questions facing our society.I fear this will always be the case. There is no hidden plethora of Athenian citizens waiting to be awoken. However people do have opinions on more that just Big Brother and the World Cup, they just don't think their opinion is listened to by anyone who can act on it.

Changing this attitude requires more than Editorial democratic responsibility or politicians bleating on the telly about how hard it is to deliver, although both might help.

There is a need to work towards creating a democracy which is accessible, where what people think matters and what people want counts. This requires constant scrutiny,commitment and campaigning and almost evangelism from those of us fortunate enough to be engaged and aware of the political fabric of our society.

Then people might still talk tabloid at lunch, but they might choose to spend their evenings more wisely.

Apologies for the lengthy and muddled answer and thanks again for your question, I hope that made some sense! A real answer would be far longer than my dissertation, although I would rather answer that question than my dissertation question!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An opportunist tory step too far?

Did David Davis REALLY call identity cards a 'plastic poll tax'? The tories may be trying to rebrand but surely they can't try and turn that historical bone of contention into political capital? I dare you to disagree!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The aye's parliamentary sojourn...

Well, the aye has spent the last fortnight working in Westminster.

It has been fantastic and the aye is certainly refocused.

Something of a blog renewal will be undergone with the aye becoming more clearly a Labour Party supporter. This will not stop criticism and the aye will still speak its mind. I hope to be able to start working on my links to other bloggers and to come under the labour bloggers banner. I also wish to draw your attention to Labour Friends of Iraq , in the hope that something good can come out of Iraq. I will discuss the Euston Manifesto too at some point soon.

During my time in the corridors of power I have seen a few news stories evolve. The biggest of which has been the ongoing Prescott saga. Firstly the news breaks of his further extra marital misdemeanours, news which was broken by another (Tory) blogger. Then the news about about the weekend on Anschutz's cattle ranch broke. It was the evening after this that I met Prescott and it was strange to spend time wondering what knot he had used on his tie, then seeing the very same tie on the front of all the next mornings papers.

The current call for Prescotts head though, as we all know could have serious repurcussions. There is no doubt it would be a boon for Cameron's mob. It seems he may have survived for now now but it is safe to assume that if anything goes wrong whilst Blair is on holiday we may see the creation of a rather large, pugnacious scapegoat. I hope Prescott can survive for now because I think it would do real damage to rush into any sort of leadership election. The Labour MP'S considering running in a contest need time to work out amongst the PLP who stands the best chance and their own platforms so as to avoid unnecessary internal bickering.

Now may be an untimely ocassion to choose to do so but I would like to express my concern at the way in which the anniversary of the July bombings has been dealt with. There has long been a debate about the symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media. I feel the media needs to look at how it can weaken this trend and make terrorist acts, less and not more of a political issue. The suffering and devastation caused to everyday people through terrorism is a large part of its terroristic makeup. The perpetual focus seen in the media does nothing to alleviate this fear.

I also dislike the way in which the London bombings have become'7/7' during previous terror campaigns waged on the capital this was never the case. It seems the new threat of fundamentalist terror is being painted with a new brushstroke. If the media examined their role in this then maybe there would be less room for terrorist ideology and fear to be peddled.

I have much more to write about including the West Lothian Question and extremism in the coming days. Although it will not all be serious political rantings. I will also aim to keep Cameron watch updated though perhaps more sporadically then this site. For now though I am off to watch the World Cup final.....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The lazy aye opens.....

Hello ether,

I have not blogged for a while but I do intend to get back on it soon. I see things daily I would like to humourously infrom you of.

Tonight whilst researching my penultimate ever essay I found this quote by an American called Walter Lippman, writing about public opinion in 1923:-

It is not enough to say that our side is more right than the enemy's, that our victory will help democracy more than his. One must insist that our victory will end war forever, and make the world safe for democracy. And when the war is over, though we have thwarted a greater evil than those which still afflict us, the relativity of the result fades out, the absoluteness of the present evil overcomes our spirit, and we feel that we are helpless because we have not been irresistible. Between omnipotence and impotence the pendulum swings."

Not bad I thought. I know we all like to forget about Iraq but what with Iran looking increasingly likely....

back soon, I promise!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Animal folk....

Following Labours portrayal of Dave the Chameleon I thought it might be a laugh to think of more famous folk who could be animals....

I'll stick some on here tonight after a full days presentation creation at the uni library.

Please add your own...
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