dc: (Doctor)
The Independent has a way with striking front pages, but today’s was exceptional. Under the headline Middle East: Who backs immediate ceasefire? were two boxes. One, Yes, contains the flags of 189 countries. The other, No, has only three flags surrounded by white space: Israel, USA, and... us.

It is enough to make you weep with rage.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend with whom I do not always agree on political matters. He thinks, for example, that the US Supreme Court’s decision regarding Guantanamo Bay was the wrong decision. He has consistently tended to be more critical of the Palestinians than the Israelis. Even he, though, thinks the behaviour of Israel at the moment is egregious.

Why can’t our government see that? Why does our government think that now, the time when Israel is bombing a country with nothing like the ability to stand up to them, is not an appropriate time to criticise them?

There is, apparently, an anti-war march tomorrow in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. I gather [livejournal.com profile] fjm is planning to go on the London one, and I can certainly understand the impulse...

But what is the point? We have seen enormous numbers on the street protesting against the Iraq invasion, both before and after the assault on Iraq started. It made no difference whatever. Short of Knacker of the Yard arresting him for corruption regarding the honours system, he is secure in power until he chooses to go. While he is secure, he shows no inclination to listen to anyone he does not want to listen to. As the marchers are not rich Americans, media tycoons, etc., why should he pay attention to them? The news reports will underestimate the turnout, if they report it much at all. The only good thing is that people can say: We were not for this. Perhaps that is enough. But aside from that the futility of it all is depressing.

On a different matter: Wyatt Twerp was given a specially made cowboy outfit?

What?

Oh, for satire to be back... or at least Spitting Image.

There is a headline of a story in today’s Independent which caught my eye: Why are fewer students from poor backgrounds going to university?

It seems to me the answer is bloody obvious: the junking of the grant system. The words grant and grants are nowhere to be found in the piece.

Well, if I were at school now, I probably would not be going to university. Educationally, I am a product of a comprehensive school (a good one) and a university which I got to by means of the student grant. Without it, my parents could not have afforded to send me to university (although they might have tried to find the money, I have no doubt). When I was at school, we knew that if we had the intellectual ability, we could get to university. We did not have to think about accrueing thousands of pounds of debt in order to do it.

That was all a bit ranty, sorry.
dc: (Doctor)
There was some stuff I should, probably, have been doing today, but as it is the first day I have felt normal — tired, but normal — since last week, I thought I would take it easy. So, relaxing, doing nothing much, a couple of hours having coffee with [livejournal.com profile] ambersrequiem passed happily, back home to do nothing much for a bit more. Didn’t even watch the news today, I thought, just relax... And of course, today is the day Lord Levy gets arrested! Tony Blair’s bosom buddy, the Labour Party’s Mr. Moneybags, is arrested and released on bail.

I have said for a while that this government could well be written up in history books as one of the most corrupt ever. Oh, David Blunkett has just appeared on TV speaking out in Levy’s defence; well, he is a man of unimpeachable integrity, isn’t he?
dc: (Doctor)
1. Hmm. In some ways, I’m not feeling too bad at the moment, although my sinuses (well, one of them) are still throbbing a bit after that recent URTI. What is much more troublesome is the energy problem just now: I seem to be running on about half my normal available energy most of the time, and, most days recently, it just plummets mid-afternoon. It’s getting so I practically pass out for a couple of hours. Not good, and a bit troubling given that we are just over two weeks away from Eastercon. I’m thinking that it might be a bit stupid to volunteer for anything, which I had been thinking I would like to do. Bugger.

2. My ribs are aching at the moment, but that’s because we have spent the past week catching up with Green Wing, which we unaccountably missed the first time it was shown. Good that C4 are reshowing it before series two starts on Friday; I don’t think it would make a lot of sense if you just dropped into it in the middle (although making sense is not really the first thing that comes to mind in connection with it). It probably should be slightly troubling that it reminds me of hospitals I have worked in, as well as some people I have come across.

3. One thing I have been wondering about is future technology, and how the way SF writers today see it will look in 30 or 40 years’ time. I suspect that it probably won’t look quite so dated as some of the stuff in SF from the 1960s — but who knows, perhaps it will. What prompted this is that two of the books I’ve read recently were written in the 60s: Solaris, by Lem (who died on Monday), and The Long Result by John Brunner.

Both these books are set some time in the future, the Brunner at least two or three hundred years, Solaris possibly further (it’s pretty indeterminate, but the planet itself was discovered something like a century and a half before the book starts, and it is clear there was already an established spacefaring culture then). Despite that, the most sophisticated forms of information storage envisioned by the authors are tapes and microfiche. It doesn’t impede enjoyment of the books, it just seems so… quaint. There is less of the jarring technology in The Long Result, probably because Brunner was actually thinking about the technology; Lem doesn’t seem to have been interested in that, what he was interested in was the encounter with the incomprehensible. For that reason, the occurrence of archaic technology isn’t so distracting as it might have been in another setting. Still, whenever I go back to Solaris, I find I have forgotten that this was published in 1960.

Things like the microfilm libraries, tape recorders, having to wait for the valves to warm up on a transmitter: these are all understandable given 1960s technology. I do sometimes wonder, though, what was in Lem’s mind when he envisioned a future where mankind has starships travelling far from Earth (Solaris being a planet of a binary star system hidden from Earth’s view by an interstellar dust cloud), and has the technology to float a scientific station over Solaris on gravitors, yet the protagonist gets from the starship to the station in a capsule which seems no more advanced than a Mercury or Voshkhod, even descending to the station on parachutes (which is incredible, really). But, as I say, he wasn’t focussed on the technology.

Looking around the stuff being published today, I wonder what will look quaint in 2046?

4. I know this is hardly a unique sentiment, but if I hear one more fuckwit film producer or academic type say of some piece of SF (literary or cinematic) that it isn’t really SF because it isn’t about spaceships and laser pistols or doesn’t involve expensive special effects, I’m inclined to start finding out names and addresses and set about purchasing things like baseball bats.

5. I am very amused that the idiot City Manager (what is that, anyway?) [livejournal.com profile] wibbble spoke of the other day has grasped that he has now been the subject of an article in The Register (I know, he was directly told, by [livejournal.com profile] wibbble if no one else, which I doubt, but even so I would not put money on him understanding that), and that as a result, many, many geeks are emailing him. He doesn’t like it and wants El Reg to make it stop. No, he didn’t say please.

6. Probably just as well I am low on energy at the moment, as it seems those bastard Tories and the Lords have caved on the ID card bill. Now, it would be good if the LibDem leader were to go around making a great ruckus about this and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, to try to get across to the public what exactly this government is up to. Fat chance, I think. I wonder what the SNP will have to say on it.

7. And so to bed.
dc: (Doctor)
I wasn’t at all surprised by the answer [livejournal.com profile] munchkinstein’s MP fobbed him off with regarding the Absolute Powers Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. There may be MPs somewhere in the house who understand concerns about the LRRB, but not many of them are sitting on the Labour benches. If The Glorious Leader said everyone had to have a lobotomy, great swathes of the Labour members wouldn’t need one to start bloviating about how it is a reasonable measure which really helps the brain work better.

David Pannick in The Times gives a survey of the implications of this bill from the QC’s viewpoint. As he says,
It speaks volumes for the ever-increasing arrogance of this Government that it has introduced the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill and does not even understand the opposition to it.
dc: (Doctor)
This, even from the government of one such as His Holiness, is so outrageous I am almost speechless:
The boring title of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill hides an astonishing proposal. It gives ministers power to alter any law passed by Parliament. The only limitations are that new crimes cannot be created if the penalty is greater than two years in prison and that it cannot increase taxation. But any other law can be changed, no matter how important. All ministers will have to do is propose an order, wait a few weeks and, voilà, the law is changed.

From The Times
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
I don’t often read something in the press and entirely agree with it, but an article in The Guardian today by George Monbiot seems to me to sum up perfectly the dangers to democracy in the Government’s approach to terrorism. Citing the decreased choice available at general elections — the main political parties now largely agree on the main areas of policy — he notes that this leaves the public with protest as its only route to express discontent with government policy. However, laws which have been passed with the explicit assurance that they will not be used to suppress legitimate dissent have promptly been used to do precisely that.

We are often told that the passage of laws like this is dangerous because one day it might facilitate the seizure of power by an undemocratic government. But that is to miss the point. Their passage is the seizure of power. Protest is inseparable from democracy: every time it is restricted, the state becomes less democratic. Democracies such as ours will come to an end not with the stamping of boots and the hoisting of flags, but through the slow accretion of a thousand dusty codicils.


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