Friday, May 02, 2008

London bridge is falling down

The big news from Britain is that the Labor Party is being beaten like a drum by just about anyone in the opposition. And although the result still wasn't known at the time of this post, there was speculation that even "Red Ken" Livingstone, the Mayor of London, would not escape the bloodbath.

With results still coming in from elections around England and Wales, Labour’s projected national vote share was put at just 24 per cent, trailing 20 points behind David Cameron’s Conservatives on 44 per cent, and even behind the Liberal Democrats on 25 per cent.

The Telegraph reported that Brown was hoping for the London mayor to hold out before a tidal wave of electoral rejection. Given that the British conservative party is hardly a political powerhouse, the result can be viewed as a rejection of Brown rather than as an endorsement of conservative leader Cameron. Despite the "calls" for Brown to change direction it's unclear what a political establishment that is practically frozen into catatonia can achieve in a substantive way.

One of the disadvantages of progressive politics is that so many pieces of the pie are pre-committed to factions that there is really only room for maneuver at the margins. Brown can pretend to steer the ship of state but the real angle at which the rudder is set is negotiated.

nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it




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27 Comments:

Blogger RWE said...

"Brown can pretend to steer the ship of state but the real angle at which the rudder is set is negotiated."

It's worse than that. We used to compare the Pentagon to a log floating down the Potomac River, responding only to the whims of the current and the winds, with 25,000 ants on board all yelling directions.

5/02/2008 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

"One of the disadvantages of progressive politics is that so many pieces of the pie are pre-committed to factions that there is really only room for maneuver at the margins."

So much so that no progress is possible. Tisk tisk!!!Some mention of extinct flightless birds and roosting seems appropriate.

5/02/2008 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

.One of the disadvantages of progressive politics is that so many pieces of the pie are pre-committed to factions that there is really only room for maneuver at the margins.

This is amplified by the political system in Britain, which is also seen in Israel but not America. People don't vote for personalities, they vote for parties. And parties put together coalitions of smaller parties to stay in power. The result is a nation that is permanently in the same fix that the Democratic Party is in now, a sort of eternal primary season where the sides pander to a patchwork of this and that interest group. In the US, however, eventually even the Democrats get out of this rut and move to the winner-take-all system of the general election.

5/02/2008 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

This is huge--esp combined with the recent Italian (and Rome's city) elections. A European swing to the right--per Wretchard's "Three Conjectures" proof of some movement away from catastrophe!

5/02/2008 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger joe buz said...

Yeah buddy, that pendulum was spending a bit too much time over on the left. Lets all "hope" that folks can dampen the swing and it spends more time in the center.

5/02/2008 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

good point, joe -- no way you can hope for more European nationalism against the jihad, without memory tickling that old fearsome 20th century.

5/02/2008 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger ws1835 said...

Teresita has an interesting point that I had not considered before. As much as I dislike the USA's semi-permanent two party system at times, it has the advantage of forcing coalitions to take shape and declare themselves PRIOR to the general election. Whereas in a parlimentary system the 'ruling' coalition isn't formed until after the election.

This year's nomination fight in each party clearly demonstrates that both parties hvae truly become a loose coalition of sub-interests united only by their dislike for the opposition.

It doesn't guarantee any real progress of course, but it does give the voter a slightly better chance of holding the winning 'coalition' to some of their campaign promises.

5/02/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Brock said...

wsi1835, there's a way to elect leaders that's better than both the USA's system and the European system.

Essentially, you vote for people (not parties) but you can vote for as many people as you like (e.g., "I vote for George HW Bush AND Ross Perot"). Moreover, you rate them (e.g., "I give George an 8 and Ross a 2"). The guy with the highest average score at the end of the election wins.

This is how Amazon rates books and Hot-or-Not rates Hotties. They do this because it works. It's been mathematically shown to produce the best results of any system yet devised.

Check out "Gaming the Vote" by William Poundstone if you want to know more.

5/02/2008 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Theo said...

You can expect some vote rigging in the Labour heartlands in East London.

5/02/2008 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Stargazera5 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/02/2008 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

The British system of government makes these results less significant than they may appear. These elections are about control of local councils, which have little control over their own budgets in the highly centralized UK, and so turnout is always low. Also, the government in power always does poorly between general elections. The impact over the next 2 years will be minimal unless Labour panics and dumps Gordon Brown (and his position is strong precisely because if they were to dump him, as Prime Minister he could force an immediate general election). These are long-standing features of politics in the UK, no matter which party is in power.

The more striking feature of what just happened was David Cameron's on-camera response, in which the first two things he committed to do for the voters were to 'fix the hospitals and fix the schools'.

What's remarkable about this is twofold:

- Labour was elected in 1997 promising to do the exact same two things. At the time no journalist ever pressed them for a coherent account of how they intended to do this. It took the best part of a decade for the British public to realize that Labour politicians including Tony Blair had never had any idea how they were going to deliver either. All they did was meddle incoherently, almost randomly, game various 'targets' and statistics to yield claims they could spin, and throw vast amounts of cash at both problems. Most of the money went on increases in staff pay, additional red tape and enormous failed computerization projects, and very little showed up in either hospital wards or classrooms.

- It's almost superfluous to point out that today's Conservatives in the UK also don't have the least idea how to 'fix hospitals and schools' either. Nor have journalists asked them to spell out in plain English what they mean. Britain appears poised to embark on another decade in which everyone first pretends the state can run huge slices of the economy efficiently, and then shortly afterwards spends several years moaning that they visibly can't. The faces change, but the failures remain the same.

5/02/2008 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Stargazera5 said...

Buddy Larsen said...

This is huge--esp combined with the recent Italian (and Rome's city) elections. A European swing to the right--per Wretchard's "Three Conjectures" proof of some movement away from catastrophe!


Unfortunately I interpret it in the exact opposite way that Buddy does. This swing will make the "Three Conjectures" more likely.

I've long thought that we're in the pre-stage of a global war. Kind of like the early German invasions in WWII or the French lead in Vietnam. There is fighting, but the real fighting hasn't happened yet.

I believe that the trigger for this fighting will be an Islam-wide uproar over some action. The protests over the Mohammad comics, the 'flushed Koran', Pope Benedict's remarks, etc. were trial runs for this. The most likely flash point is in Europe, with the unassimilated Arab populations.

I believe the shifts to the right are a sign of disaffection of the people with the governments caused by a lack of a feeling of safety and that this is pre-sagging a sharp rise in nationalism.

I believe that with the rise of nationalism in Europe, that the new governments will realize that they are risking losing the people and will attempt to run out in front of them to regain control. In the process, there will be severe crack downs on the unassimilated Arabs. This will be the spark to the carefully prepared tinder of the Islamic world.

I hope that I am wrong, but it does seem to be going that way.

5/02/2008 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

stargazer, it seems to me that the Islamic revolutionaries & fellow travelers have benefited greatly from the recession of European nationalism. So to me it follows that a change in the Euro political direction is a change in the prospects of the jihad.

5/02/2008 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger jaaake said...

"Given that the British conservative party is hardly a political powerhouse, the result can be viewed as a rejection of Brown rather than as an endorsement of conservative leader Cameron."

Or perhaps it can be seen as a triumphant, if rather inexplicable, show of support for the inimitable Boris Johnson!

5/02/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/02/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

5/02/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Nomenklatura wrote:

"It's almost superfluous to point out that today's Conservatives in the UK also don't have the least idea how to 'fix hospitals and schools' either. Nor have journalists asked them to spell out in plain English what they mean."

I'm a fan of "Prime Minister's Questions" via C-Span. Tony Blair was masterful in dealing with the hospital and schools issues, as well as police and security issues. His reply to questions from the hapless Conservative leader always ended with the refrain: "The difference between us is that we are putting resources into hospitals (or other item) and the Conservatives want to take funding out!" Hoots, cheers, etc. Great fun.

It's just not the same with Gordon Brown handling the questions. Tony was fun; Gordon is plodding. Maybe the U.K. voters are hoping to get some better elected official entertainment back in their lives. Isn't that entertainment factor (danger, near miss, miraculous escapes) part of what folks liked about Bill Clinton?

I guess there are big issues to think about. But entertainment is important, too.

5/02/2008 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Watcherdownsouth said...

"I believe that with the rise of nationalism in Europe, that the new governments will realize that they are risking losing the people and will attempt to run out in front of them to regain control. In the process, there will be severe crack downs on the unassimilated Arabs. This will be the spark to the carefully prepared tinder of the Islamic world.

Stargazera5, I think you may be right, but as politically incorrect as it sounds, it may be necessary.

As the situation currently stands in regard to the fundamentalist/far right part of the Islamic world, they are a large terroristic threat, a medium political threat, and a relatively small military threat.

If the Western world is going to have to deal with global fight with this hirabah (it is not a "jihad" - look it up), then let's get the party started while we will still win the war relatively quickly and convincingly.

In hindsight, would it not have been better to start the fight with Hitler in 1935-36 rather than later, on his terms?

Or another analogy: if a criminal gang moves into a neighborhood and starts terrorizing and extorting the locals, wouldn't it be better to go after them with overwhelming force once you have identified their behavior and the risk they pose?

5/02/2008 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

Mark said...

"The difference between us is that we are putting resources into hospitals (or other item) and the Conservatives want to take funding out!"

This gets old eventually, even from an accomplished showman like Tony Blair. Before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 the British National Health Service was the second largest employer in Europe (behind the Red Army). Following 1989 it moved into first place. Many billions of taxpayers' pounds later, the well-documented problems are still evident.

Incremental health expenditure in the UK has been captured by the public employee unions, and mostly ends up in their pensions. Cuts are resisted by threatening strikes, by an alliance with the media and by skillful application of the 'Washington Monument' strategy described by Wretchard a couple of days ago (which works even better when kids' health can be put at risk). David Cameron has not even begun to describe a way out of this box. This means his central promises to voters are not just smoke, they are the exact same smoke Tony Blair was blowing to get himself elected in 1997.

5/02/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Except that the NHS is seen as useless and the place for PC games (Muslim doctors setting themselves on fire in Glasgow Airport terminals, yelling Allah Akbar! or setting bombs in London, refusing to wash their hands).

It doesn't provide value. Not for the average person and the Welfare State is sustainable only when there is money to pay for it. Once the pie starts shrinking, well the fight is brutal.

The level of anger present in letters to the editor, in the London Times, is staggering. Native Britons have been told they're useless, to shut up, and get back to the back of the line for everything.

Meanwhile every other group (which are still marginal in terms of size) are fawned over.

When the collapse comes it will be like Mount St. Helens.

5/02/2008 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

From what I've read (and it's not that much, so I hope I'm wrong about this), the difference between Cameron's Tories and mainstream Labor are not that great. This isn't Thatcher's Conservative Party anymore, unfortunately.

5/02/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

"look it up" So I did.

Hirabah
"The term hirabah refers to public terrorism in a war against society and civilization. In legal terminology it is defined as “spreading mischief in the land,” but its precise meaning, as defined by Professor Khalid Abou el Fadl, is “killing by stealth and targeting a defenseless victim in a way intended to cause terror in society.” This is the Islamic definition of terrorism. It is the very opposite of jihad."

Wikipedia
"Hirabah has been suggested as a better description of Islamic terrorism than the often-used jihad. The argument is that jihad means a holy struggle. The meaning is broad, and can include personal, internal struggle to purify oneself as well as external struggle for justice. To a Muslim, jihad can not, by definition, be a bad thing, and a jihadi cannot be anything but a hero. The result is that Westerners, by calling terrorists “jihadis”, are calling them “heroes”, and either displaying their ignorance of Islam or reinforcing the idea that terrorism is a legitimate holy struggle."

5/02/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

ws1835, see also Voting system at Wikipedia.

Brock, no system is perfect.

"It is impossible for one voting system to pass all criteria in common use. Economist Kenneth Arrow proved Arrow's impossibility theorem, which demonstrates that several desirable features of voting systems are mutually contradictory."

5/02/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger StargazerA5 said...

Buddy Larsen said...



stargazer, it seems to me that the Islamic revolutionaries & fellow travelers have benefited greatly from the recession of European nationalism. So to me it follows that a change in the Euro political direction is a change in the prospects of the jihad.



5/02/2008 09:52:00 AM




Buddy, I agree, to an extent. If you look at my comment, I basically said that we can expect some major crack-downs on the Muslim population of Europe. Muslim power in Europe will be broken. The main question in my mind is if it will happen with or without the return of what I call "Old School Europe", or the Europe of the Crusades, the Thirty Year War, and Peninsula Wars. If so, there is a good chance that the whole concept of Human Rights could join the League of Nations in history. Where Europe leads, American liberals tend to follow.



On the other hand, outside of Europe (where the bulk of the billion or so Muslims live), I expect that the Islamofacists have planned for this and will use it to their advantage. I just don't think they comprehend even a fraction of the hell on Earth Europe may well unleash on them, and that will be their undoing.



Stargazera5, I think you may be right, but as politically incorrect as it sounds, it may be necessary.



As the situation currently stands in regard to the fundamentalist/far right part of the Islamic world, they are a large terroristic threat, a medium political threat, and a relatively small military threat.



If the Western world is going to have to deal with global fight with this hirabah (it is not a "jihad" - look it up), then let's get the party started while we will still win the war relatively quickly and convincingly.



In hindsight, would it not have been better to start the fight with Hitler in 1935-36 rather than later, on his terms?



Or another analogy: if a criminal gang moves into a neighborhood and starts terrorizing and extorting the locals, wouldn't it be better to go after them with overwhelming force once you have identified their behavior and the risk they pose? 5/02/2008 12:36:00 PM




The main reason I have supported the War in Iraq from the beginning was so that it could serve as a firebreak; a smaller, controlled, burn which would limit the damage of an uncontrolled wildfire. To bring the analogy further, it has threatened to ignite a true wildfire at times, but it seems to have been kept in control. If we've managed to clear enough dead brush to limit a conflagration, only time will tell.



The key is that if we burn too much too quickly, we could ignite the fire we dread ourselves. I don't think that is in anybodies best interests.



StargazerA5

5/02/2008 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Watcherdownsouth and Larry D.,

thank-you re. "hirabah." Very valuable distinction.

5/02/2008 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

The big news from Britain is that the Labor Party....

==============================
That would be Labour Party. This is Britain, after all.

Good news, nonetheless.

5/03/2008 04:57:00 AM  
Blogger Louise said...

I believe this makes for a centrist/right party/leader in nearly every country in Europe now, doesn't it? (Spain being a notable exception)

Must be fixing to take on Islamofascism. Move aside, lefties. Let us take care of this.

5/03/2008 05:00:00 AM  
Blogger John F said...

teresita and ws1835:
Re. your points on parliamentary politics in the UK: people may if they wish, and probably do, vote more on party lines than for personalities in general elections.

But this is stil based on first past the post, constituency elected representative basis. An especially egregious pol CAN be booted out; and decisive electoral results are favoured.

This is VERY different from the (IMHO appalling) "party list proportional representation" systems common in Continental Europe, which place overwhelming power in the hands of party machines. In efect you cannot do other than vote a party line. Such systems tend also to produce negotiated coalition governments.

There is a coaltion aspect to UK parties, as there is to pretty much any party outside the old Soviet Communists, but you can be pretty sure who will rule and with what broad policies, depending on how the people vote.
Exception could be in event of a hung parliament, which occurred in 1974, 1951, and 1929; usual result is a minority govt. not a coalition, and a resolving election called a few months later.
By contrast in say Italy or Israel, almost every election is "hung" in that no single party has a working majority.

5/06/2008 07:40:00 AM  

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