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November 6th, 2002


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12:16 am - Political posers and pyrotechnics
I'm taking an interest in today's US mid-term elections, and the BBC have an explanation of the US electoral system.

You might be able to explain this most accurately by just pointing me to some slightly more in-depth site, but could someone quickly explain what the difference is between the function of the House of Representatives and that of the Senate? The BBC says "the Senate must approve treaties agreed to by the president. Senators must also approve the appointment of judges and many government officials" - but is there more to it than that? To whom do the members of the House of Representatives represent? When do presidential cabinet members pay attention to the Senate and when do they pay attention to the House of Representatives?

On a related matter, why do Americans use the adjective "liberal" as an insult? (Of course, this happens in the UK from time to time too, but not nearly so often. Is there any more to this than the fact that the consensus of opinion is broadly rather more right-wing in the US than it is in the UK?)

Oh, and for those interested in British/European politics (*looks north-west*) Norman Tebbit yesterday referred to the in-fighting within the Conservative party as having been caused by "right-wing Trotskyites". I don't know much about Russian politics, but surely that's got to be a contradiction in terms. How might such things as "right-wing Trotskyites" exist?

Today was Guy Fawkes' Day here in Britain, inherently political in itself because it celebrates one particularly inept traitor who got caught when to blow up the House of Lords in 1605. The safety of the king was celebrated with the lighting of bonfires and the burning of effigies of Fawkes and company, sometimes including the Pope. Over recent years (we're talking about the last fifty years or so - changes spotted over my Dad's lifetime) the emphasis has shifted; bonfires have rather fallen out of favour and fireworks have taken over in people's affection instead.

Even the fireworks themselves can be controversial, responsible as they are for burns and injuries. There are some initiatives ongoing to restrict the sale of fireworks in the UK; it might well be that fireworks will only be on sale to the public for certain times of the year in the future and/or the fireworks that you and I can buy will be limited to a certain degree of volume. However, this isn't to say that the licensed professional displays won't be allowed to use the biggest and most spectacular fireworks that money can buy.

One of the movers and shakers behind the proposed fireworks legislation is one Dr. Nick Palmer MP. His pet topics are animal rights, European integration (he speaks Danish, which may be unique among MPs), the Internet, identity cards and fireworks. He's an interesting guy; he was one of the most prominent figures in British war games throughout the '70s, even writing a rare mass market book or two on the subject, and remained prominent in postal games until the times when his political ambitions became realities. He technically remains consultant editor of Flagship Magazine which has covered the subject for almost twenty years but has been just a figurehead there since the mid '90s.

I've met him briefly a couple of times, always in a PBM context. He speaks poorly (something unusual with his mouth or the musculature around there) but seems an affable gent. However, he is a good writer; as far as I can tell, he's a fairly committed sort of representative as well. His office maintains a pretty good local politics web site and he has built up a mailing list with something like a thousand members discussing the political issues of the day, both national and local. He writes to it about weekly, with details of his own business and the representation he is making and receiving as MP. There are occasional funnies and sometimes pieces of wider interest. It gets pretty party political at times, but the rest of the time it's an interesting little reader's digest. It seems like very good practice - it's probably about as close to an online journal as a politician is going to get - and I wish more MPs would do it to nearly the same extent. Of course, it's going to be as carefully spun as any other MP's communication and Nick does have a repuation for trying to be "all things to all men", but it's still a very interesting sort of development.

As usual, we went out to see the annual fireworks display put on by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. (Stockton is the next town to Middlesbrough - it's about a five-mile, ten-minute journey away by car.) I don't believe Middlesbrough has fireworks to the same extent; it certainly doesn't have as good a public place for tens of thousands of people to accumulate to watch them as Stockton's Riverside. There is a display at Hemlington Lake which may be council-funded, but doesn't have the same reputation. We had about half an hour's fireworks, which got better and better. Our favourites were the ones which exploded and left a bronze-y shower in mid-air for about ten seconds, but the final fireworks were unusually impressive - they exploded in a Saturn-like pattern, with a central circle of blue lights and a "ring" of white lights "around" it. The absolute climax was the dumping of three and a half pounds of sodium into the River Tees. (I'm joking, of course - I just wanted an excuse to link to Theodore Gray's tales of his sodium lake party. Ne try this pas at home, kids.)

The local twin radio stations, TFM and Magic 1170, had a roadshow playing music at the venue. The former station is principally a Top 40 station, the latter started off being VH-1 to TFM's MTV but has modernised a little bit to approximately BBC Radio 6 music standards. One of the DJs started off the event with a countdown from ten and managed to finish about twenty seconds before the first firework, which raised a chuckle. Songs I remember from the playlist: "Earth Song", Michael Jackson; "Believe", Cher; "The One And Only", Chesney Hawkes. I hadn't heard the latter for a good five years, so a very strange choice.

As Stockton fireworks displays go, not bad. The best fireworks display I ever saw was at the Hartlepool Marina, when the Queen floated by to visit on the Royal Yacht. I think she was also there to formally open the Marina. There were about an hour of fireworks and rather more impressive ones than the Stockton standards at that. The thing I'll always particularly remember was the first firework, to signify "five minutes until the start of the display", which is probably the single loudest noise I have ever heard. Ouch!
Current Mood: puzzled
Current Music: "Wadde hadde dudde da?" - Stefan Raab

(29 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:cygnusfap
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:11 pm (UTC)
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On a related matter, why do Americans use the adjective "liberal" as an insult?

That confuses me too. When I went to America in my gap year, many of them were really surprised that in our political system, 'liberal' is more of a compliment than an insult.


Norman Tebbit yesterday referred to the in-fighting within the Conservative party as having been caused by "right-wing Trotskyites". I don't know much about Russian politics, but surely that's got to be a contradiction in terms. How might such things as "right-wing Trotskyites" exist?

I think the ol' polecat is going senile. Actually, I think he went senile back in the 80s...

About the differences between the House and the Senate. I do know that there are very strict time limits on congressmens' speeches, whereas there are no time limits (I think) on Senators. Also, the congressman (well, his staff actually) deal with local greivances to a greater extent than Senators. That's all I can think of for now.

Oh, and your mention of the 'sodium in the Tees' made me laugh. :D
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:17 pm (UTC)
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Here goes with an explanation of the American political system...

Perhaps an explanation of how the legislative system works would be most helpful. In order for a bill to become a law in the United States, the bill must originate in one house and pass with a simple majority (50% of members present + 1). Then, the other house must approve the bill by a simple majority. After this is done, the bill is sent to the president. The quick version: the President can sign the bill into law or veto it. The president's veto can only be overridden a 2/3 majority of both houses of congress. With a few exceptions noted below, either house can initiate a bill on any issue.

The Senate - This is the upper house of the American legislature. The Senate has the power to approve treaties and confirm federal judges. Each state is represented by two senators, granting equal representation to all states regardless of population. Senators serve six year terms and 1/3 of the Senate is up for election every two years.

The House of Representatives - The House of Representatives is the lower house. It's members serve two year terms and the entire house is up for election every two years. The House has the sole power to initiate revenue bills (read: TAXES). The number of members per state is reapportioned after each new census every ten years. Within each state, the members represent single-member districts which should have approximately the same number of people. Some states have only one member in the House. California has about 50.

Also, a quick note on the cabinet. With a few exceptions, the Cabinet is made up of presidential advisors who are little more than departmental figureheads. The notable exceptions might be the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General. Generally, the Cabinet secretaries have no need or reason to listen to Congress, except via the message sent by the size of the departmental budgets approved by the Congress.

Hope this has helped to clear things up.

Steve
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 07:36 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Steve! (From context and from IP addresses I assume this is irinaauthor's boyfriend Steve, not any other anonymous Steve - for instance, Steve Jessop posts anonymously, but signed Steve, from time to time.)

Is there much incident when the numbers of representatives allocated per state changes? Are there ever accusations of gerrymandering or political influence when redrawing the district boundaries?

The relatively low influence of the cabinet is very interesting, but not a little worrying. Now I understand the references which say that Tony Blair's style is becoming more presidential than that of past Prime Ministers over here.
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From:irinaauthor
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:26 pm (UTC)
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Re: Why liberal is often an insult in the US.

I'm a liberal myself, so I don't get upset when someone tells me so. However, it's often seen as a negative thing, and a word people who are running for office don't want to have leveled at them. This is the best explanation I can give for why. In many minds, "liberal" brings up connotations of being soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on all-American family values, soft on Communism, soft on foreign policy, idealistic rather than realistic.... It basically reminds people of the counterculture of the 1960s, and everything that was wrong with it. Liberal isn't such a bad word among people who weren't alive back then.
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From:calliaume
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:33 pm (UTC)

Let Me Take a Shot

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... and the rest of you can correct me.

1) The House of Representatives is the "lower body" of Congress. All bills have to go through the House and the Senate. The Senate, however, has approval over judges and members of the President's cabinet. (Until the last 20 years or so, those were mostly formalities; they're now split along party lines, which is why there are a ton of unfilled judicial seats.) The House can vote to impeach a sitting President, the Senate can convict and remove him from office.

The House represents smaller districts within a state (whose boundaries change every 10 years when the census is announced, the 435 seats in the House remain a constant number, but to which states they go changes as the population does), the Senate has two seats for every state. This was a sop to the smaller states when the Constitution was written up, so that Delaware could be in one body and have the same pull as, say Virginia.

2) By my reckoning, "liberal" became somewhat of a perjorative term during the Reagan administration (ironic, because Reagan was once a liberal himself), and became more so during the 1988 Presidential campaign, when George H.W. Bush painted challenger Michael Dukakis with a liberal tarbrush to (possibly) frighten voters.

3) Right-wing Trotskyites eat jumbo shrimp!
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From:missingdonut
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:39 pm (UTC)
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On a related matter, why do Americans use the adjective "liberal" as an insult?

Because 99% of Americans are idiots.

I know. I am one.

American -- not idiot.

But seriously, I haven't the foggiest.

To whom do the members of the House of Representatives represent?

Basically, when the thirteen colonies were drafting our political system, smaller states such as Rhode Island wanted equal representation. Of course, larger states like Virginia and Massachusetts (which also included the area now known as Maine) thought that equal representation was a crock, and wanted population-based representation. The House of Representatives represents the population, whereas the Senate represents the states.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 07:43 pm (UTC)
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The House of Representatives represents the population, whereas the Senate represents the states.

Interesting and subtle difference, neatly expressed but hard to understand the difference. For some reason, up until a couple of days ago, I got the impression that the Senate was made up of state governors. Do the state governors ever get together for any reason, or do they restrict themselves to matters of their state only?

Are there formally defined regions in the USA at all, with any forms of government between state level and national level? There are occasional discussions of regional assemblies in the UK, between the county and UK-wide levels. Wales and Scotland have their own assemblies, too, and Northern Ireland has one which is currently suspended due to the ongoing twists and turns in the political process.
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From:missingdonut
Date:November 7th, 2002 12:50 am (UTC)
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Interesting and subtle difference, neatly expressed but hard to understand the difference.

There is really no huge difference between the two. Senators are divided by states, Representatives are divided by population. Sure, Senators have a few more responsibilities and have 6-year terms (unlike the House's 2-year terms) but in all actuality, they're equal parts in the mess we attempt to call government.

For some reason, up until a couple of days ago, I got the impression that the Senate was made up of state governors. Do the state governors ever get together for any reason, or do they restrict themselves to matters of their state only?

Never on purpose. I suppose, you might see two governors attending the same party's political campaign, or when the governor goes on vacation, or what not, but governors are very state-oriented.

Are there formally defined regions in the USA at all, with any forms of government between state level and national level? There are occasional discussions of regional assemblies in the UK, between the county and UK-wide levels. Wales and Scotland have their own assemblies, too, and Northern Ireland has one which is currently suspended due to the ongoing twists and turns in the political process.

Well, the NFC North, AFC East... [chuckles]

Seriously, no, we have no regional assemblies of government. All it seems like it would do is politically separate the country more than necessary. Plus, what could a bunch of midwestern governors do to affect the running of the country? Certainly not much more than to suggest adding a "beer and bratwurst" holiday in October.
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From:flourish
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:41 pm (UTC)
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Well, the only thing people haven't already said is why we have a bicameral legislature in the first place, so I will flex my History Muscles and explain :)

At the Constitutional Convention, large states (I.E. Virginia) wanted the number of representatives to be based on population so that they would have more power. Small states objected and wanted each state to have the same number of representatives. In the Compromise of Something Or Other (I don't remember - I haven't been studying my US history in awhile) they decided to do both.

Hee. Power to the people who have been forced into taking history by their institutions of learning.
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From:black_dog
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:54 pm (UTC)
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I used to be a staffer for a House member, so I can point out some differences off the top of my head, though I can't think offhand of a good summary website. I'll look around and get back to you.

There are some constitutional differences in what the two houses can do, but in practice they have pretty much parallel jurisdiction over legislation -- both must agree on a bill, or on a budget, before it can be sent to the President for signature. The Senate has some unique powers on appointments and treaties -- they are the only chamber that has a vote on those matters, and therefore they have a paricularly important role in limiting the Presiendt's power to appoint the judiciary. The House has a nominally unique power to initiate tax legislation, but the Senate can amend and in effect can consider such bills on its own terms, as long as the forms are respected.

The most important differences are political, resulting from the different ways the chambers are constituted. The House is elected from 435 equal districts, of about 600,000 people apiece. The entire membership is elected every two years. The Senate is elected on the principle of two Senators per state, which means that California, the size of Spain, has two senators, and Wyoming, with half a million people, also has two Senators. Yet the odd distribution of states (including tiny urban states in the Northeast) mitigates the unrepresentative nature of the Senate somewhat, and makes it reasonably mirror the demographics of the country as a whole, with a moderate bias toward rural areas.

House decisions are made by majority vote, and leadership can generally control both the agenda and the outcome. Senate decisions are affected by a rule which requires 60 votes to close debate on an issue, and in effect the Senate can only act with a 60 vote supermajority on many issues. Individual senators also have more power to disrupt and delay debate, and therefore more power as individuals to negotiate over the agenda of the Senate as a whole. By contrast, power in the House tends to be bound closely to holding a leadership office or committee chairmanship, to be more specialized in its coverage, and to be more absolute within that area of coverage. The Chairman of Ways and Means is traditionally by far the most important voice on tax policy in the House, but the Finance Chairman must negotiate harder for similar power in the Senate. Under Republican control, there has been some shift of power from Chairmen, who are now term-limited in their chairmanship, to the central leadership.

Senators are elected for six-year terms, and one-third run for election in every two-year cycle. Ironically, the Senate has proven to be more responsive than the House to shifting political currents, perhaps because statewide districts are more diverse and genuinely competitive in elections. House districts tend to have their borders adjusted, over time, for the convenience of incumbents, and House membership tends to be relatively static and stable. Control of the House may shift between parties once in a generation, as it did in 1994, but the control of the Senate is a battle ground in most elections. Some people consider control of the House to be at stake this year, however, since the Republican majority is very slim.

[Comment too long-winded for post limit -- continued below!]
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From:black_dog
Date:November 5th, 2002 05:55 pm (UTC)
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[continued . . . ]We don't have European-style accountable ministries. Once cabinet officers are confirmed by the Senate, they are no longer directly answerable to it, only to the President. They are also less likely than European cabinet members to be independently significant political actors -- they are staff, in effect, of the President. And the President's political control of the bureaucracy tends to be concentrated in his White House operation, not in the Cabinet members themselves.

The American equivalent of accountable ministries is the oversight function of Congress. Congress is an enormous institution, with over 20,000 staff and specialized agencies for research, budget, audit, oversight, and investigation of the federal bureaucracy. The most intense oversight happens in the House, where Members with more specialized experience and with longer tenure in office preside over committees whose fixed jurisdiction includes careful monitoring of a set of agencies. Control is exercised through budget approval (though this is split between distinct oversight and Appropriations commitees) micromanagement of laws affecting agency jurisdiction, and sometimes other interventions, and is usually a matter of significant controversy between Congress and the President. The Senate has parallel oversight organs but its fewer members have a greater tendency to be generalists.

The big stakes in this election are the implications of control of the House and Senate for Bush's political agenda. Control of a single house permits the D's to block his agenda and force compromise. Control of the Senate, in particular, blocks the appointment of what are perceived by D's to be highly ideological right wing judges. The President's veto and the 60 vote rule in the Senate means that even if the D's capture both Houses, they will be unable to impose their agenda on Bush, but will be able to favorably frame issues for the 2004 election. On the other hand, control of both Houses by the Republicans would dramatically advance Bush's ability to pass his own agenda, with perhaps some last-ditch stands by D's in the Senate using the 60-vote rule.

Hope this is a start. Will happily babble some more if you are curious.




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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 5th, 2002 06:20 pm (UTC)

Thanks!

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A quick word of thanks to you all for your quick responses, before I've taken an in-depth look at them. (Still time for more, though, especially on the Trotskyite issue.) I knew that I could count on you for help and explanations! Now we just listen to the radio (BBC Radio 5 Live) and wait. The current discussion is Ned Flanders getting out the vote. I'm sorry?

Forgot to say the most interesting thing about the fireworks trip: the weather. Relatively mild, probably about 10°C (50°F) or a little more, resolutely dry and not even slightly windy. Ideal, the best for many years. Hurrah!
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From:black_dog
Date:November 5th, 2002 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Oh, what the hell, while I'm on a roll I'll take a shot at the liberal and Trotskyite thing.

"Liberal" as a political term means different things in different countries, yet another example of separation by a common language. It never meant, in the U.S., any kind of free-marketeer in the continental sense. It was a name for the governing political ideology of the U.S. in the late '50s through early 70's, grounded in the Civil Rights movement and the Great Society. It was discredited through a combination of internal splits over the Vietnam War, overreaching on redistributional and racial issues, and Nixon's nefariously brilliant appeal to racist populism, pro-war sentiment, and "law and order." It probably died during the recession of the late 70's and was buried by Reagan.

So the term is kind of a historical caricature of a political type from that era -- someone who thinks all problems can be solved by spending money, and is willing to raise taxes to excruciating levels to do it; someone who favors "nanny state" intervention in too many aspects of ordinary life; someone who takes a therapeutic approach to crime and disorder, stereotypically because he/she is affluent and suburban enough not to have to encounter it directly; someone who has an incoherent position on questions of international relations, based on an exaggerated sense of the power of good in this world.

The definition is already somewhat dated, and maybe the general impression it leaves is of a squishy good-government type, rather pleased with his own virtue, who is quite willing to direct your life and mine, and tax your money and mine, to further his or her ambitious and utopian political schemes.

As for right-wing Trotskyists, well, you must be lucky there in the UK, because over here, most of our NeoCons were ex-Stalinists who gradually made their way rightward starting in the 50's. Basically they got more conservative as society got more "liberal," (see above), sort of taking the position, as ex-Communists, that they had seen the other side and that the counterculture of the 60's had no clue abut the relative virtue of the society it was denouncing. They are a big part of the "second wave" of the American conservative movement, and certainly brought a unique zeal and intellecutal discipline to it. (I'm teasing, I'm teasing, please don't put me up against a wall and shoot me!) There's a good book on this, at least in its American context, by Sidney Blumenthal, called The Rise of the Counter Establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power though it's out of print now. To see how neocons think of themselves, visit www.neoconservatism.com.
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From:bateleur
Date:November 6th, 2002 12:04 am (UTC)

Interesting comment !

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In fact, here in the UK, I'm coming quite close (as a person of left wing sympathies myself) to regarding 'liberal' as an insult. The reason being that the "new liberal" political philosophies which are currently very successful over here have chnaged the meaning of the word enough that it no longer carries the same associations. (Aside: I shall be most amused if the Liberal Democrats are forced to change their name again !)

The Conservatives (note the big 'C' - they're our right wing party) ruled for many consecutive terms throughout the 80s and early 90s. Despite doing some (IMO) extremely nasty things, people took a long time to throw them out. But even then, they had little real impact on the country's left/right balance.

"New Labour" by contrast (the current party in power) have moved the left so far to the right that they've pretty much indisputably moved past the "middle-of-the-road" party, the Liberal Democrats. Worse - it means there is no electable left-wing party, so if as an individual you happen to be against privatisation, low taxation and exploitation of natural resources... bad luck, you've just been disenfranchised !

The Conservatives are now in the process of trying to move left. Pretty soon the general election will just be about voting for which colour rosette you prefer !
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 08:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting comment !

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But even then, they had little real impact on the country's left/right balance.

This does surprise me. I don't consider myself well-enough informed to be able to agree or disagree with it, but it somehow seems counterintuitive.

On the ol' junklist we have spent time discussing the extent to which people and parties are left- or right- wing, authoritarian or libertarian. Perhaps it would be interesting to see some sort of graph showing how British parties' positions on these scales have changed over time. (Perhaps such a site already exists? Not sure how one might find it, though...)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 07:56 pm (UTC)
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Just a word of particular thanks for your extremely detailed answer. Very much to take in and I shall come back to this several times in the future. This was the first time I had encountered the term neoconservative (and, by extension and from a visit to the site you mention, paleoconservative).

To what extent do debates and votes in both houses strictly follow party lines? Our mutli-party system muddies the waters somewhat and there are a fair number of free votes on which allegiances tend to be non-partisan, but the huge Labour majority means that it has been able to push through its agenda very comfortably and conveniently.
From:athena_arena
Date:November 6th, 2002 12:35 am (UTC)
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Amusing tit bit for you...

*sitting happily in a leacture, waiting for it to start, in walsk my mate peter who sits down, takes out his mobile phone, listens to a message and then looks that pissed.*

"What's up?"

"Ah, I wanted to go to the Stockon Fireworks but the only bus I can catch is at 5:15."

*Problem: Lecture finishes at 5:15 and he'll never make it to the Bus station on time. I sigh.*

"If you leave now, do you have enough time to go home, pick up your stuff and catch the bus?"

*looks at watch* "Just about..."

*sighs* "Alright, go on, bugger off. You can copy my notes later. Go on."

Aren't I a nice person?
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 08:12 pm (UTC)

Local transport

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Indeed you are and this is interesting in a whole number of different ways to the rest of the thread. :-)

I knew that the Stockton fireworks bash was reasonably well-regarded, but I'm rather surprised that its reputation had spread as far as Durham. On another matter, I was a bit worried how Peter would get back from Stockton to Durham afterwards, because bus services between Middlesbrough <-> Stockton <-> Durham <-> Newcastle terminate absurdly early, but a quick Google reveals the existence of the X11 service of which I was not previously aware.

Could one contrive three separate journeys, incorporating the X11 for the Durham -> Stockton leg, in order to return from Newcastle to Middlesbrough after the termination of the X1 for the day? (And was the X11 how you got back from Stockton to Durham when you came to see a gig in the Middlesbrough Town Hall t'other week?)

I was rather hoping that you might be able to explain the Trotskyite thing - for some reason I had the feeling that that was the sort of thing that you covered in your politics courses...
From:athena_arena
Date:November 7th, 2002 02:31 am (UTC)

Re: Local transport

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Ah, when I was down your way we ended up catching the train - took us an hour with a change at Darlington but the last train left Middlesborough around 11pm so we got basck to Durham just gone midnight. We would have been later but the connecting train arrived at Darlington early. Sometimes you can forgve the British Transport system, just a little bit. And personally I hadn't heard of the Stockton fireworks, but Peter only comes from up the road at Hartlepool so I supposed it was something he always went to...

And as for the right wing trotskyites, you've got to love Politicians for their sheer ignorance of politics. The boyfriend (who does study the soviet union) says that people like Lenin and Trotsky could be interpretted as not truly communist at all and always intent on installing a more right-wing dictatorship (not wishing to have a true representative element in the party), but in this context I think it's just Norman Tebbit talking out of his arse. By Trotsky he was probably thinking of the various backstabbing and whatnot that went on during the race for the communist party leadership in the late 1920's after Lenin's death, but I think picking Trotsky was actually incorrect in this light - he seemed to be the one who got most used, abused, trampled on and denied in the quarrel, while Stalin was playing all the contenders off each other to eventually emerge as 'superior' to them all. But to be honest, I think it was a far more random comment and more due to political ignorance and misconception than any true ideological meaning.

And blinkin' heck, that was heavy for 10:30 in the morning.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 8th, 2002 10:42 am (UTC)

Re: Local transport

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I see. This also coincides with the top half of Iain's explanation (entry dated Nov 6th) so I now consider myself informed.

Many thanks for the explanation. Sorry for making you think so academically so early in the morning!
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From:ringbark
Date:November 6th, 2002 01:23 am (UTC)

Firework restrictions

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Here in God's own country, rockets that fly into the sky have been banned from public sale for several years now. They were legal in 1993 and illegal by 1999. Fireworks at all are only on sale for a fortnight ending on November 5.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 08:16 pm (UTC)

Re: Firework restrictions

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Sounds like another reason to emigrate. (In your direction, I mean, not from your direction back here!)

Here comes a potentially hot potato of the "not cooked in a bonfire" variety: I do idly wonder whether fireworks are a racial, traditional thing to an extent and whether there are significantly different patterns in firework purchase between the races in our society.
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From:ringbark
Date:November 7th, 2002 02:23 am (UTC)

Re: Firework restrictions

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Now, there's an interesting question. At least in theory, you shouldn't find any Catholics celebrating November 5th, as it was a celebration of the discovery of the plot and Fawkes' subsequent arrest and execution. (Just as none of the crowned heads of Europe attended the Paris exhibition of 1889.) Is this the case? Do any Catholics participate in the festivities? Our Anglican rector in Birmingham said that a bonfire party was not appropriate for a parish trying to work closely with the local Catholics, and that's true, if people understand their heritage.
Yet Wellington is, relatively, a Catholic city but puts on an enormous show for the size of the city. Wh
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 8th, 2002 09:28 am (UTC)

Re: Firework restrictions

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Very interesting point. I wasn't aware of it as an issue so I suspect it can't be all that big an issue. Add Guy Fawkes' Day to another of the long list of traditions that have got away from their roots which are at least partially religious, I suppose.
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From:addedentry
Date:November 6th, 2002 02:52 am (UTC)

Five quarters of the orange

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  1. On the political and public safety issues surrounding Bonfire Night, see yesterday's Guardian satire. The worrying thing is that I often talk like this in earnest.
  2. More satire: even liberals hate liberals.
  3. Music at public events tends towards the naff. Last night's TOTP2 tickled me:

    • Crazy World of Arthur Brown - Fire
    • Sparks - Beat The Clock
    • Bangles - Eternal Flame
    • Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity - This Wheel's On Fire
    • Herbie Hancock - Rocket
    • Smokie - Living Next Door To Alice
    • B.A. Robertson - Bang Bang
    • Siouxsie And The Banshees - Fireworks

  4. I've come across Dr Nick Palmer MP in his role as a patron of the UK Metric Association [no link as I'm in the process of redesigning their site]. A superficially unusual combination of interests, but that's what local representatives have to do: the best illustration of this is the headline from his site IRAQ DEBATE, TRAM ROUTE RESULT.
  5. 'Right-wing Trotskyites' is just a rhetorical device, as calliaume notes. I was hoping that site would have a more exotic name for it than oxymoron.
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From:black_dog
Date:November 6th, 2002 07:26 am (UTC)

Re: Five quarters of the orange

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Re: #2. Oh yes, the Phil Ochs song you link to nails it dead.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 08:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Five quarters of the orange

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1. *whispers quietly* Me too!

4. Ha, a quick Google has subverted your obscurity. :-) Looks like your work will come in handy, not least because the site's two URLs cannot agree in their title tag whether you are the UK Metric Association or the UK Metrication Association. Ooh, it's all gone "Life of Brian"...

I have little love for the km/h and have a nagging feeling that if we're going to go metric, we really ought to adopt the pure m/s as the unit of undirected velocity. (Is there any reliable data on the proportion of British vehicle speedometers which indicate km/h as well as - instead of? - mph?)

Perhaps the public might be more attracted to the km/h if there were a little inflation in the speed limits permitted at any hypothetical changeover point - perhaps something like 30 mph => 50 km/h, 40 mph => 70 km/h, 50 mph => 90 km/h, 60 mph => 110 km/h, 70 mph => 130 km/h. The last of these would represent about a 15% bump on current permissible motorway speeds, but that's an idea which has certainly been mooted in the past as a sop to motorists, not least by the Tories. And just think of the increase in fuel tax revenue from cars driving at a higher, less fuel-efficient speed!

5. It's the sort of oxymoron which sounds like it ought to have some more definite, specific, deliberate meaning than that, though...
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From:addedentry
Date:November 7th, 2002 01:44 am (UTC)

Galloping Trots

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The Life of Brian is it. The hard left is (or used to be when it existed) renowned for its enthusiasm for arguments, animosity and attacks against its fellow travellers. The words 'fissiparous' and 'groupuscules' appear a lot in this context. I took Tebbit's comment as labelling the restive Tories as damaging plotters and schemers.
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From:ieyasu
Date:November 7th, 2002 12:09 pm (UTC)

Why liberal is a perjorative...

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The simple answer: it isn't. Or at least, you've seen plenty of Americans here on Livejournal who don't consider it so.

However, politically it's a word no one has wanted attached to them since about the early 1970s. As some have pointed out, some of this has to do with Nixon, but not all. (For all everyone likes to make Nixon into some right-wing monstrosity, he's probably further to the economic left than any recent President we've had. Clinton failed to get nationalised health care, whilst Nixon instituted (lest we forget) wage and price controls, not exactly the most libertarian of measures.)

'Liberal' as a term acquired most of its negative value during the late 1970s and 1980s, where it essentially was equated with losing. Jimmer Carter got pasted; followed by Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis (who, last I knew, just got pasted this year too) and a host of other left-wing members of the Democratic Party. Blame it on what you will, the liberal wing was virtually unelectable presidentially--and the label became something you posted on your congressional opponents if you wanted to identify them with these national figures.

Bill Clinton turned the tables by failing to be 'liberal': like Blair, he grabbed the most popular parts of conservatism while retaining enough left-wing rhetoric to keep his base. (Remember, Clinton's most enduring legislative legacy is... welfare reform.) Since he eschewed the term, it never really got rehabilitated.

There. One explanation, completely devoid of any item crowing about the wonderful election results. [grin] Thought you should get at least one view from someone not disappointed by the election.

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