Obama’s big success: the “War on terror”

Obama Visits Silicon Valley
Creative Commons License photo credit: jurvetson
With the death of Anwar al Awlaki, it’s clear that, whatever doldrums the US economy dawdles in, President Obama has been a massive success in executing the “War on terror”.

On The Dish, Andrew Sullivan puts this very succinctly:

This administration actually is what the Bush administration claimed to be: a relentless executor of the war in terror, armed with real intelligence and lethally accurate execution.

…The same goes for al Qaeda more generally. Obama has done in two years what Bush failed to do in eight. He has skillfully done all he can to reset relations with the broader Muslim world (despite the machinations of the Israeli government) while ruthlessly wiping out swathes of Jihadist planners, operatives and foot-soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has thereby strengthened us immeasurably both in terms of soft and hard power.

Compare the two presidents. One unleashed a war in Afghanistan he then left to languish, and sparked an unjustified war in Iraq, that became a catastrophe of mass death and chaos. He both maximally antagonized the Arab and Muslim world and didn’t even score a major victory against the enemy. In many ways, Bush gave al Qaeda an opening in Iraq where it never had one before, and allowed its key leadership to escape at Tora Bora. The torture program, meanwhile, fouled up our intelligence while destroying our moral standing in the world.

First clause of Cameron’s British Bill of Rights: the right to a weekly bin collection

Refuse truck
Creative Commons License photo credit: markhillary
Isn’t it reassuring that David Cameron’s British Bill of Human Rights would include (if E.Pickles has his way) the basic human right to have weekly bin collections?

Three cheers,copies of the Daily Mail and heads in the sand all round!

Eric Pickles has found £250 million at the back of his sofa which he is giving to councils to restore “weekly bin collections”.

LibDemVoice has an excellent debate on the pros and cons of this here. And The Periscope Post does an excellent job in summarising the arguments around this.

Eric Pickles has said, by the way:

It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.

I will now need psychotherapy to remove the mental image of Eric Pickles in his shirt and braces, scraping the disgusting remains of his chicken tikka masala into his bin.

Chicken Tikka Masala is the nation’s favourite meal. Why would people, therefore, want to throw it away?

Pickles does not seem to understand his role. Surely being Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government means that you allow local government to govern locally doesn’t it?

OK, there is an argument to say that local people want “weekly bin collections” (notwithstanding the fact that often weekly food waste collections are part of alternate week wheely/green bin collection systems) but surely that should be left to local councils to decide, should it not? If they get it wrong they will be unelected. That’s why we have an expensive electoral system. It’s called democracy.

It really shouldn’t be Eric Pickles’ job to second guess local councils by using scarce money during one of the toughest spending environments in British history.

Yes, I admit that there is likely to be animosity against Eric Pickles which is adding vim to my view here. I am sure he is a nice man, but he comes across as a sanctimonious oaf. That said, I tend to go along with Chris White on LibDemVoice, who ends his article thus:

Yes: there are downsides to fortnightly collections. But to blow a quarter of a billion pounds on what is to most people a minor irritant is, in the middle of the harshest government settlement anyone can remember, the height of irresponsibility.

Worse still: it will send a clear message to many householders that recycling is not so important and that the chuck away society wasn’t really a problem after all.

I also recommend an excellent article by Gareth Epps which includes this superb passage:

Bribing councils to increase their carbon footprint is bonkers and potentially a breach of the Coalition Agreement; localist it certainly isn’t. Decisions on waste collection are up to councils, who are certainly held to account for them, as results in Reading over time have proved.

Why do some German MPs hold their voting cards in the air?

Creative Commons License photo credit: michael pollak
On the lunchtime news, I was watching members of the German Bundestag voting for the bailout fund reform. Lots of MPs were putting their voting cards into a ballot box. But, standing just next to the box were several MPs, who were holding their voting cards in the air, rather ostentatiously.

Does anyone know why that was? You can see a photo of a couple of these vote card wavers here.

The extraordinary crossing of the paths of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina

Creative Commons License photo credit: Carly Fiorina from 南宮博士

I couldn’t find anything on the web about this, so thought I would raise this point.

It does seem quite extraordinary that Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have crossed paths from opposite directions.

In 1999, Carly Fiorina became CEO of Hewlett Packard. Then, in 2010, she ran for the US Senate for the Republicans in California against Barbara Boxer and lost.

In 2010, Meg Whitman ran for office as Californian Governor for the Republicans against Jerry Brown and lost. She then became CEO of Hewlett Packard in September 2011.

This crossing of the paths of these two women is remarkable in two ways:

1. Female CEOs are rarer than hen’s teeth. Only 7 of the companies in the Fortune 100 have female CEOs.

2. Business people running for high political office are fairly rare.

The fact that two women have run the same top company and that both have run for high office on the same day in the same state for the same party, is one heck of a coincidence.

(PS. I did look for other coincidences involving the two ladies. But they came from reasonably different routes. Whitman comes from Long Island, NY and went to Harvard. She brought the Teletubbies to the US. Fiorina was born in Texas and got an MBA in Maryland. She’s an expert in medieval history – and knows all about Machiavelli.)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Meg Whitman from Neon Tommy

Greetings Pop Pickers!

That’s the title of a Radio 2 programme which looks at The Story of Pick of the Pops, which is celebrating it’s fiftieth anniversary this week. It’s a great show, introduced by Sir Tim Rice, and is available here on BBC iPlayer until October 4th.

I was trawling around YouTube last night and found this remarkable little curiosity. It’s Alan Freeman rehearsing what I think was his last (current) Pick of the Pops run down on Radio 1. WARNING: Contains swear words.

What’s the point of Twitter?

That was the subject of a discussion on the BBC Radio Berkshire Andrew Peach breakfast show on Monday morning. It involved all the usual comments about Twitter:

I don’t see the point of telling people what you’re eating


I don’t want to tweet every five minutes

To his credit, Andrew Peach uses Twitter himself, and emphasised that they were not saying that there is no point to it, but he was interested in what local people use it for.

I sent in this email which he read out just after 9am:

It’s been an interesting discussioon about Twitter.
Two myths:
1.People do not tweet about what they are having for lunch (unless it is exceptional)
2. People do not tweet “every five minutes”.
It’s a great way of keeping up with the news developments – although you have to take some rumours with a pinch of salt.
It is a great way of sharing up-to-the-minute photos.
I have tweeted over 5,000 times in the last two years. Only once I have I told people what I am eating – and that was when I cooked a particularly special Jamie Oliver meal.
I tweet and read tweets about political news mainly.
It’s a hobby – just like fish-keeping or model railways. There doesn’t have to be a point to it!
I have since found out that I have actually been on Twitter for three years, not two. And I think I may have tweeted about what I have been eating more than once – because I once tweeted with this Twitpic of a double yolked egg I was frying for breakfast!

Is the Fixed-term parliament change keeping the heat off Ed Miliband?

His nose is just sinking below the water in the polls, but there is no cry to deleader Ed Miliband. Could it be because there are 3.5 years to go before an election? -That’s due to the fixed term parliament change. If the change wasn’t on the cards, then perhaps there would be more panic in Labour circles about Miliband’s lacklustre leadership – after all, in that situation, there could be an election at any moment.

Ed Miliband starts off his conference week with a damp squib

Cross-posted from Liberal Democrat Voice

Many years ago I knew Tom Baldwin when he was a cub reporter on my local newspaper. He is now Ed Miliband’s chief communications guru. He’s a smart cookie, so I am surprised that Baldwin and Ed Miliband have decided to use the traditional opportunity for a trumpet fanfare for their conference week (i.e the front page of The Observer) to announce a distinctly underwhelming policy.

“It’s the economy, stupid” – no more so than at a time like this. So why waste your golden chance for a big media blast by returning, dog-like, to the site of your own oral projectile?

Despite clever attempts to avoid being called to account, university funding (or “tuition fees” in shorthand) is not an area where the Labour party has exactly covered itself in glory. They have managed to avoid the spotlight on their guilt, simply because they had no policy response to the government’s plan, and everyone has been focussed on metaphorically posting waste products through Nick Clegg’s letterbox.

So why now finally announce this policy on the issue? Basically, Miliband is now setting in concrete his acceptance of the Browne report and the government’s policy. But he is trying to convince us that “slashing” the cap on fees from £9,000 to £6,000 will make a difference. Well, it does – but not a good one. Arguably, it helps rich graduates while leaving those on around average incomes untouched. Keir Hardie must be rotating so much in his grave that he is in danger of spinning off into orbit.

So why on earth announce what is, in effect, a humiliating climbdown at the start of conference week?

I can only think that Labour are blinded by the allure of a chance to further push waste products through Nick Clegg’s letterbox. They think they can pull the rug from under the feet of Clegg, after his good conference week, by reminding everyone of his tuition fees episode.

It is puerile politics. It will only work if people don’t look at MoneySavingExpert.com, which clearly shows, as Stephen Tall has demonstrated, that “only those who earn above £38.3k per annum will actually benefit” from Miliband’s plan.