David Herson: Elect in haste; repent at leisure

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 03:26 am
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by David Herdson

pic

Straight after defeat is not the best time to elect a new leader

Michael Howard did the Conservatives two great favours as leader: the manner of his arrival and the manner of his departure. After the hapless two years under Duncan Smith, he (and David Davis, by standing aside), created a much-needed sense of unity and with it, the first signs of the determination and hunger necessary to regain office. Perhaps even more importantly, after he led his party to a relatively honourable defeat in 2005, he didn’t resign straight away but allowed the Tories time to relax, think and reassess the previous four years before starting the election to succeed him. Had he not done so, it is far less likely that David Cameron would have become leader.

    Not that having thinking space guarantees it will be used wisely – Labour waited until 1980 before picking Michael Foot, for example – but to pitch battle-tired MPs and activists alike into an internal contest within weeks or even days of a general election is asking a lot of their judgement.

It’s also asking a lot of the candidates and such a short timescale inevitably favours front-runners: politicians already at the top or with powerful connections. This matters particularly for Labour where there’s a very high threshold for nominations but applies to all parties simply because name recognition matters even for MPs (how many of those new to Labour’s benches hadn’t even met Burnham or Cooper before this week?). As such, there’s a stronger chance of a continuity candidate, particularly following a defeat. Hague and IDS’s pro-Thatcherite credentials were crucial in winning, as, in a not dissimilar way, was Ed Miliband’s union backing. It is a hard task for any candidate to immediately and credibly disassociate him- or herself from the policies they’ve just fought under. By contrast, some of the clearest turns to the centre, such as the elections of Major, Blair or Clegg, happened mid-term.

It’s even less necessary to pick quickly now with the FTPA in place. Labour could be forgiven for wanting a new leader installed by September 2010 when there was no guarantee the first peacetime coalition government since the 1930s would last the winter never mind five years. There is no such pressure this time. Cameron has a working majority will almost certainly see him through until the EU referendum: there’ll be no general election before October 2017 at the very earliest, and then only if there’s a massive Tory revolt.

So why do it? In some ways, that’s the wrong question. Clearly much depends on whether the sitting leader being willing to stay on or whether it’s possible for a deputy to lead an extended interregnum. Both scenarios depend on the mood of the party in question, both in the House and in the country.

The problem lies in the dual nature of the job, particularly for parties in opposition, which is where most changes occur. It’s all very well picking someone to lead through the next parliament and hold the government to account; that has to be done now. On the other hand, to select someone to fight the next election nearly five years before it happens might be considered a bit previous. If all goes according to the three parties’ respective plans, the Conservatives will select their next PM-candidate more than four years after Labour and the Lib Dems. That carries its own risks but will allow people to make their way through during the parliament. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Tory leader isn’t currently in the cabinet.

The real question is more about goings than comings. If parties have to have leaders all the way through, which they do, then it’s essential that there’s an effective ejection method. That doesn’t have to be a formal mechanism – the Lib Dems replaced Kennedy and Campbell without any such need – but it’s certainly better if it is, not least because such a means stands as a credible threat to an underperforming leader, to be utilized if they refuse to jump. Getting it right, however, is a tricky balance; you want something usable that’s not destabilizing.

But that’s about more than just systems. The Conservatives didn’t materially change their leadership election process between 1975 and 1999 and yet the two halves of that period could not have been more dissimilar: until 1987, not only was Margaret Thatcher not challenged but there was practically no talk of it; by contrast, from thereon, whoever was Tory leader was almost always under threat. What changed was not the process but the mentality of the party (and, it has to be said, its electoral success – or not – at the polls). And getting the right cultural attitude towards leader replacement is as fine a balance as the powers in the rules: too passive and you drift to a foreseeable and perhaps preventable defeat; too aggressive and you become a discredited unruly mob.

Of course, it’s best not to need to change leader at all but if events do plunge a party into an early leadership contest before candidates or electorate are ready, the last thing you want is to be stuck with the wrong person for five years with no effective way out.

David Herdson

Challenge #553: makeover

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 07:06 pm
primsong: (bessie)
[personal profile] primsong posting in [community profile] dw100
Welcome to [community profile] dw100. Challenges are posted approximately once a week.

Challenge #553 is makeover.

The rules:
  • All stories must be 100 words long.
  • Please place your story behind a cut if it contains spoilers for the current season.
  • Remember, you don't have to use the challenge word or phrase in your story; it's just there for inspiration.
  • Please include the challenge word or phrase in the subject line of your post.
  • Please use the challenge tag 553: makeover on any story posted to this challenge.
Happy drabbling!
[syndicated profile] feministlawprofessor_feed

Posted by vmerton

Bill Would Bar US Entry For Some Foreign Pregnant Women

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That’s the title of this article from Law 360.

Meanwhile, foreign men are free to come here and impregnate as many women as they like, obtaining exactly the same benefit supposedly attributable to US citizen offspring: i.e., in 21 years, should a child wish, s/he could sponsor an alien parent for lawful status (if the parent met all other qualifications).  (No one born in the USA now can trigger the potential Deferred Prosecution non-status for parents of US citizens that Obama has been trying to implement; that window closed the day his policy was announced, in November 2014.)

-Vanessa Merton

Feminist Law Professors

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

  • I had a culture column at WIRED. And then I didn’t. Here’s what happened. | monica byrne (May 19): “I’ve talked with other writers who’ve had experiences with Wired. My experience is not unique. So as far as I can tell, they don’t cover the future. They produce a white male fantasy of the future. Which isn’t surprising.”
  • The Dehumanizing Myth of the Meritocracy by Coraline Ada Ehmke | Model View Culture (May 19): “We hide behind the motto of “love the art, hate the artist” to justify our preferences despite the faint voice of conscience, persistent in telling us that something is amiss. It seems that ignoring the worst of our heroes is easy, but should the opposite also hold true? Should we ignore the positive, community-oriented contributions of others as quickly as we dismiss some people’s negative attributes? Are the contributions of bad actors really superior to those who bring humane, non-code contributions to our corner of the world?”
  • #girlswithtoys: women remind Twitter they are scientists too | Wired UK (May 18): “Female scientists from all over the world have taken to Twitter to post pictures of themselves with tools and equipment from their workplaces alongside the hashtag #girlswithtoys.”
  • Furiosa (5) | Be Less Amazing (May 18): “I’ve seen a few internet pundits that they “don’t see the feminist content” of this film. Dudes. It’s about the lone powerful woman in a male-dominated society who helps a group of sex slaves escape under the premise that “[they] are not things.” That’s about as feminist as it gets, and that’s just one of the many amazing equality messages going on this movie. “
  • The programming talent myth | LWN.net (April 28): “When we see someone who does not look like one of those three men, we assume they are not a real programmer, he said. Almost all of the women he knows in the industry have a story about someone assuming they aren’t a programmer. He talked to multiple women attending PyCon 2015 who were asked which guy they are there with—the only reason they would come is because their partner, the man, is the programmer. “If you’re a dude, has anyone ever asked you that?” On the other hand, when he got up on stage, he did look like those guys. “So you probably assumed I was a real programmer.” These sorts of assumptions contribute to the attrition of marginalized people in tech, he said.”
  • We Will No Longer Be Promoting HBO’s Game of Thrones | The Mary Sue (May 18): “After the episode ended, I was gutted. I felt sick to my stomach. And then I was angry. My next thought was, “I’m going to have to spend part of the next six months explaining why this was a bad move over and over.””
  • Reasons Why It’s Hard to Find Senior Women Engineers | Accidentally in Code (May 14): “People ask me about this topic sometimes, especially as I’m no longer close to being a “new grad” but at the point where I look for bigger opportunities. I’m collecting it here for reference – reasons and observations from my own experience, of why it’s so much harder to find senior women engineers.”
  • How Social Media is Failing Creative Women | Ink, Bits, & Pixels (May 17): “Real Name policies endanger women. Until these companies understand WHY that is, it’s not possible for the policy to be crafted in a way that reduces the danger.”

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On that Ryan Coetzee Article

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 11:29 pm
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Ryan Coetzee has written an article in the Grauniad in which he details why he thinks we did so badly in the elections. Perhaps unsurprisingly his answer isn't "hanging on the every word of an overpaid soothsayer who sold us a pup of a slogan". You will be likewise be unsurprised I have some disagreements with his conclusions.
About four weeks from election day it became clear that The Fear was hurting us. We tried everything we could to counter it: fear of a Tory minority government in hock to its own right wing, Ukip and the DUP; fear of Tory cuts to welfare, schools and other unprotected departments; ruling out participation in any government that relied on SNP support; offering ourselves as the only guarantors of a stable coalition. All of it was trumped by The Fear, and on a scale we didn’t see coming.
Yes, we tried every other form of fear we could think of. But we didn't try hope.
We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters...
No we bloody didn't because you told us not to. We were the rizla trying to slip between the tories and labour, and those who wanted the "tory" value of strong economy voted tory, and those who wanted the "labour" value of fair society voted labour.
...offering both a strong economy and a fair society.
SEFS is and always was a total bag of arse. It fails the standard test (who would campaign for a weaker economy and a less fair society?) and it's meaningless bollocks. Ask the average voter what they thought of it and they'll shrug and go "it's all right". It's not distinctively liberal. It's Rizla-slipping in slogan form.
My tentative conclusion is that it is probably not possible to succeed electorally in coalition government under first-past-the-post while remaining equidistant from the two big parties. If we can’t win the fight for proportional representation, it may be that we have either to stay in opposition or pick a side.
We are NEVER going to succeed by aligning ourselves ANYWHERE on the left right axis because it's already crowded. We need to persuade people that the axis that matters is the Liberal authortarian axis because we bloody own it.
There are three options for the party now: remain in opposition unless we can change the electoral system, even if a coalition opportunity presents itself again, allowing us to be whichever version of our liberal selves we like; seek once more to reunite the left by merging or aligning with Labour, thereby creating a path to power for liberal ideas; or rebuild, take the next chance to be in government, and do it differently in the hope of a different outcome.
Does it have to be us that changes the electoral system? I don't care who does it, as long as it gets done, and there's a LOT of pressure for it now. And once that happens, all bets are off.

Look, clearly Ryan wins the argument from authority here, because the party pays him an awful lot of money to do what he does, and the party doesn't pay me anything anymore because I got made redundant, there being no funding left for my job now we have been massacred. So you can dismiss this as bitterness if you like. But I think people will vote Liberal Democrat if we give people a reason to vote FOR US. And "we're a bit less profligate than Labour, and a bit less heartless than the tories" isn't a reason to vote for us, it's entirely negative. Until some overpaid soothsayer comes up with something the voters can latch onto that's distinctly us, we're screwed.

Of course, up until 2010 we had "you can trust them to do what they say", and look how well THAT'S going now...

On Writing Head Of State, Part 1

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 09:19 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_hickey_feed

Posted by Andrew Hickey

Sorry for my absence for a few days. This has been an incredibly busy and stressful few weeks — since the election I’ve had a severe illness in my family, spent a couple of evenings with a friend over from California, and had various other bits that needed doing.

One of those things, that’s occupied a big chunk of my spare time recently, is putting together the final edits for my novel Faction Paradox: Head of State, which will be out in the summer. So I thought I’d talk a little about it, without spoiling too much, because I think the process of writing it is of some interest.

It started, as a matter of fact, as a space opera. I was trying to come up with a Faction Paradox novel idea, because my friends Simon Bucher-Jones and Lawrence Burton, both of whom have written their own very good novels in the series, said I’d be good at it, and my original thought was to use a space opera idea I’d posted here, about first contact with a planet that was exactly like Earth in every way.

The idea was a good one, and I may well come back to it, but I hit a few snags. There were things I wanted to include, things that I had a hazy idea of, that just didn’t fit — I wanted to include a book that held some great significance, I wanted to talk about power, and I wanted to include a plot point hinted at in The Book of the War which I still think is one of the best ideas in the Faction Paradox series. And none of this really seemed to fit the space opera storyline.

Then, I had two other ideas. I can tell you precisely where I was — I was walking through Piccadilly train station, and I could show you the precise spot where I was when these ideas came to me, they were that vivid. The first idea was to have the Thousand and Second Night, as told by the decapitated head of Scheharazade. The second was a scene which comes right at the end of the book, so I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s set in 21st century America. But the thing is, I *knew* those two scenes, totally disconnected as they are, were part of the same book.

I also realised that the Thousand And Second Night could be the important book that I wanted to write about, so now all I had to do was connect the two images.

The first, obvious, thing was that Sir Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian explorer, was a translator of the Arabian Nights, and also appears as a character in The Book Of the War, so I decided to use him as a character, and model the version of the Nights in my book on his translation. Making the book the motivating factor behind a character in the last scene could tie the threads together.

But that’s still only five ideas (1002nd night, Richard Burton, ending, book, motivation). At a rough approximation, you can get about 1000 words out of an idea. So I needed seventy-something more ideas to write a novel. I’ll talk about how I pulled those together next time…


Tagged: faction paradox, my books, writing process

Reading Friday is running late

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 10:38 pm
rmc28: (books2010)
[personal profile] rmc28
 What I've read
[more than usual in the last fortnight I have been sticking to light, predictable reads that I find comforting and escapist]

Much Ado About You
by Eloisa James
A new series of farcical historical romances, this time featuring four sisters (rather than the previous series, which was four friends).  I do like the friendships in these books probably at least as much as the romances.  I also like that the library has them all; they're definitely single-serving books for me.

Archangel's Blood
by Nalini Singh
Second in the "Guild-Hunter" series about a vampire hunter and angels.  This was definitely a bit gorier and getting close to my personal tolerance for that; also to my tolerance for dominant asshole romance "heroes".  I still like the concept and the characters a lot though, and the library has the rest of the series.

Justice Calling
by Annie Bellet
This is a pretty short read (150 pages, but a couple of chapters of the next one are included, so it's rather less than that).  It's a fun urban fantasy: there's shapeshifters and a witch with a secret, and a big tough law enforcer, and peril and plot, and a bit of romance worked in.  It was more or less exactly what I wanted to read right now and I enjoyed it very much.  There are four more books in the series, and a sixth coming out next month; I'm restraining myself from buying the lot right now, but I will be getting them as I clear more of my ebook backlog.

A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell
This was a library book; I have about 2/3 of Jill Mansell's output on my shelves: contemporary romcoms with interesting people, complicated plots and happy endings, many of which are set in and around Bath, near where I grew up.  I haven't read one I disliked, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.   [I am still migrating my to-read pile into my room, and there are two more by her in it, so I have physically pulled them out to read shortly.]

What I'm reading
I'm part way through rereading Ancillary Sword, and then "T Kingfisher" (Ursula Vernon) released another fairy tale retelling this week, so I am also part way through Bryony and Roses and enjoying it very much.

What I'm reading next
I was sufficiently impressed by G Willow Wilson's defence of A-Force to buy the first issue digitally.  (Though ouch, individual comics on release week is an expensive way to do this hobby.)  I also want to carry on with Daredevil vol 1.
That pair of Jill Mansell books I just found.
Younger by Suzanne Munshower is next up in my ebook list

"Monkey on the car"

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 09:19 pm
[syndicated profile] liberal_england_feed
I had intended to write a post this evening laying out how the Liberal Democrats can recover their fortunes.

Instead I have posted this...

miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
So of course all the actual goths are hiding. They wouldn't want to be associated with something so mainstream as World Goth Day.

I (who, of course, am not a goth in the slightest) am working my way through my Hugo packet*. I am now decided how I am going to vote in 13 of 17 categories. The Graphic novels this year have some really, REALLY awesome stuff in - two of the four I've read have made me want to engage with anything else in the series. I need to read the rest of the novels to see if anything can beat Ann Leckie. And I've committed a heresy against my Whovian religion by deciding that the Orphan Black episode nominated is better than the Doctor Who episode nominated (I really didn't like Listen).

Who all else here is Hugo Voting? What have you really loved (or really hated) so far in what you've read/seen?



a million thank yous to Mary Robinette Kowal, without whom I would not have a Hugos packet. I will totally buy at least one of your books and read it as soon as I have a job again.

A visit to Antalya

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 09:00 pm
nanila: (kusanagi: aww)
[personal profile] nanila
Disclaimer: I must emphasise that I didn’t take any of the photos in this post. They were all taken by [livejournal.com profile] melissa_maples, who kindly rescued us from our magical ability to get lost even when given very specific directions, and led us to cake and culture in Kaleici. Not only is she a great tour guide, she is also a fantastic photographer and regular blogger and is pretty much directly responsible for our location choice for this holiday. I’m over the moon that we have her photos to remember this trip into Antalya (we were staying at a resort in Kemer, about an hour away by bus) and that there are several lovely ones of all of us together.

First stop, Güneş
Once Melissa had found us, we determined that the first order of business should be cake. We stopped at Güneş to eat tiramisu. The Turkish formula for tiramisu seems to be as follows:
  1. Remove alcohol, substitute additional chocolate
  2. Make cream filling as light and fluffy as possible
  3. Serve pieces nearly as large as baby’s head
  4. Profit

I can confirm that we cleaned our plates.

+lots of words & photos )

Overlooking the old city
Tourist family shot overlooking Kaleiçi.

Everybody together
Everybody smiling in Kaleiçi, except for Keiki who was pretty adamant about looking the other way.

Having admired the bay from several angles, we decided to start the hour and a half journey back to Kemer. We’d had a grand time and we figured it was best not to push Humuhumu too hard. She conked out almost immediately, clinging to the bloke like a baby koala, so we’re pretty certain that was the right decision.

It was terrific to spend facetime with an LJ friend I’ve known online for over ten years, and to be treated to such a tour of their city. I’ll treasure the memory of this day out. I’m so grateful to have these pictures to remind me of everything we did (and ate, yay fooood). [livejournal.com profile] melissa_maples: <333333333!

49 remixes in four minutes

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 07:10 pm
andrewducker: (wikipedia)
[personal profile] andrewducker
49 University of Newcastle Australia animation students were each given 52 frames of Taylor Swift's Shake it Off music video, and together they produced 2767 frames of lovingly hand-drawn rotoscoped animation footage:



(Thanks [livejournal.com profile] alasdair)
[syndicated profile] improbable_research_feed

Posted by Marc Abrahams

Conscientiousness and aggreeableness are key to whether women are able to keep up a relationship with a mate, if fellatio is involved, suggests this new study:

selaWomen’s mate retention behaviors, personality traits, and fellatio,” Yael Sela [pictured here, above], Todd K. Shackelford [pictured here, below], Michael N. Pham, Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 85, October 2015, pp. 187–191. The authors, at Oakland University, Rochester, Minnesota, in report:

“Women perform oral sex on their male partner (i.e., fellatio) as part of a Benefit-Provisioning mate retention strategy, and women’s personality predicts their interest in, and time spent, performing fellatio. We explored whether women’s mate retention behavior mediates the relationship between their personality traits and their performance of fellatio in a long-term romantic relationship.shackleford Women (n = 401) reported their personality traits, the frequency with which they performed mate retention behaviors during the past month, and their interest in and the time they spent performing fellatio on their partner during their most recent sexual encounter. The results indicate that women higher in Conscientiousness spend more time performing fellatio on their partner, and this relationship is mediated by their Benefit-Provisioning mate retention. Women higher in Agreeableness report greater interest in performing fellatio on their partner…. The current research is the first to investigate the relationship between women’s personality traits and oral sex behaviors…”

Here’s further, graphic detail from the study:

fell-study

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

    Keiran Pedley assesses the importance of a recent poll of LabourList readers that shows Andy Burnham the clear front-runner for the Labour leadership but with Liz Kendall in a stronger position than you might think.

As the Labour Party leadership campaign gathers pace, we are gradually building a picture of what the contest will look like. Right now, it seems that there are three serious candidates that can win, with a maximum of four likely to take part. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper seem certain to make the contest, Liz Kendall looks likely too but there are some question marks over whether or not Mary Creagh will make the ballot.

Given that the polling industry has collectively gone to sit in a corner and think about what it has done there is not much polling out there on the candidates so far (yet). However, LabourList has released the results from a survey of 2,274 of its readers today. The findings are interesting.

As LabourList sensibly acknowledge in their write-up, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about this poll. It is an online, self-selecting sample of LabourList readers and therefore almost certainly not representative of those that will vote in the eventual leadership contest. We should always be very cautious with such polls. Who can forget, for example, the survey of Sun Readers that showed UKIP in second place nationally that was presented by some as a proper nationally representative voting intention poll? Put simply therefore, these are not poll results you can ‘take to the bank’ (of course the unkind among you may ask what are these days!).

In fact, I suspect that we are going to have to be cautious about any poll produced on the subject of the Labour leadership race. The ballot itself will be conducted among Labour Party members and affiliates. It is highly doubtful that nationally representative surveys conducted by pollsters are going to be able to adequately sample this audience. A simple Labour voter cross-break in a standard voting intention poll is not going to cut it. This does not mean that surveys produced tell us nothing but it does mean we should be careful in how much significance that we place on them. Perhaps then, polls such as this one produced by LabourList are as good as any we can use to understand what is happening.

With such caveats in mind, what does this survey tell us? Well, it confirms what we already knew, which is that Andy Burnham is most definitely the front runner. This will no doubt help the Burnham campaign reinforce such a perception among MPs as they consider who to support. Of course, the front-runner position is not always a comfortable place to be (just ask David Miliband) but Burnham supporters will be heartened at such a convincing lead in this survey nonetheless.

However, this survey should also give significant heart to the Kendall campaign too. To be second, at this early stage, ahead of Yvette Cooper, is a great place to be for a relative newcomer to frontline Labour politics. Other than just being second place with a long way to go there are other aspects of the survey results that should boost the Kendall campaign too. Importantly, this survey does not ask respondents to rank their preferred candidates in order, a likely crucial factor in the result of the leadership contest. We do not know where Yvette Cooper’s support in the above example would go. Also, a large number of respondents chose ‘other’ (22%) when asked which candidate they prefer. In some respects, this does not reflect well on any of the current crop of candidates. However, one of them has to win and this group selecting ‘other’ represent a large group of potential untapped support for each candidate to win over. Of course, there is no evidence that Liz Kendall should disproportionally benefit from 2nd preferences or ‘others’ being reallocated but the point is merely that there are votes out there to be won. Andy Burnham’s position is not unassailable.

Of course, Liz Kendall’s candidature has its own limitations too. For a start, she will have to make sure she gets on the ballot in the first place and Labour members are entitled to wonder whether backing a candidate that cannot command large amounts of support in the PLP is wise. Furthermore, she will need to be careful that she does not run too far to the right of the party. A common refrain from some of the Labour Left on twitter is ‘what difference is there between her and the Tories?’ There is a delicate balancing act to be struck here between (rightly) taking Labour out of its comfort zone but also in ensuring that the party is willing to come with you. With this in mind, I expect her to start attacking the Conservatives with gusto in the coming weeks.

So overall, at this early stage, the contest is up for grabs. Given sample considerations and the fact that this poll recorded so many preferences for ‘other’ whilst not asking respondents to rank their choices, there are enough unknowns to suggest that each of the leading candidates has a chance. Burnham is of course favourite. He is clearly ahead among MPs and party members and if he takes enough second preferences and ‘others’ he will be the next Labour Leader. Also, it is likely that the above poll skews London so his current position could be stronger than even this 11 point lead suggests. Nevertheless, he is not inevitable. If Liz Kendall can make the ballot, this poll gives enough encouragement to her supporters that she can compete and win. The idea of a ‘fresh start’ is likely to be a potent message to Labour members. Finally, let’s not forget, it could also be that Yvette Cooper, relatively quiet until now, emerges as something of a ‘consensus candidate’ between the Labour ‘Left’ and ‘Right’. The fascinating aspect of this race we cannot call yet is who makes the final two and where do second preferences go. The final outcome is not yet clear, there is a long way to go yet.

Keiran Pedley is an Associate Director at GfK NOP and presenter of the podcast ‘Polling Matters’. He tweets about politics and polling at @keiranpedley.

Eurovision myths

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 03:38 pm
[syndicated profile] anders_hanson_feed

Posted by Anders Hanson

Every year I get frustrated by comments made about the Eurovision Song Contest and so I thought I’d collect a few together and dispel some myths:

They’re neighbouring countries so of course they vote for each other: Neighbouring countries are as likely to dislike each other as they are to vote for each other, after all, who are they most likely to have invaded over the years?  For many years Greece and Turkey would have never voted for each other (although that is less common now), Armenia and Turkey have hardly been best friends, and Georgia and Russia both being ex-Soviet countries doesn’t mean very much.  It’s more complicated than geography, which I’ll come on to.

Everyone hates the UK:  If they did, why does our music sell so well throughout Europe?  Also, we won in 1997 which is a hell of lot more recent than most countries.  There are 33 countries competing to be in the Eurovision final and we won 18 years ago, which if think that some have won more than once is actually not bad going.  Russia isn’t exactly flavour of the month but they also seem to do OK.

It’s our placing in the contest:  In 2012 we were placed first in the running order and we said it was too early and everyone had forgotten about us by the end.  Last year we were the last to perform and we said, well the problem was that we were too late and everyone had made up their minds and the Netherlands who came shortly before us were so good we looked rubbish in comparison.  You can’t blame the position.  Yes, later songs have generally done better, but an outstanding song trumpets all of that.

So here are some more plausible reasons:

It’s about airplay: Outside of the UK, many countries go round promoting their songs in the run-up to Eurovision, and so by the time they get to the contest itself they’ve heard other country’s songs over and over again.  It also perhaps helps that most countries have to go through the semi-finals as it means that much of Europe has already heard their song and seen it performed on the big stage.  The UK however just doesn’t seem to do its promotion, and the last time I specifically remember us talking about promoting our song it was Katrina and the Waves, and they won!

Many countries share language: This has a bit of a link to the last comment, but when a country shares a language they often listen to each other’s music.  The Scandinavian countries understand each other’s languages so they often hear music from each other’s countries on radio and they also share some TV programmes.  German speaking countries understand each other’s songs, as do French speaking countries and so on.  In fact, the UK can’t criticise this as they have a tendency to vote for Ireland and vice versa for the same reason.  Even these days when most countries sing in English, the tradition of listening to music from countries that share your language, or have a language you understand continues.

Look at minorities:  Neighbouring countries might not vote for each other, but residents of a country whose family hail from another country or who come from a minority group within another might.  After all, I still feel a loyalty to Sweden despite having grown up in the UK (although I’ve been pretty lucky in that Sweden does generally enter good songs) but a good example is how much Germany votes for Turkey, which presumably has a connection with the large Turkish minority in the country.  Whilst I’ve dismissed the “neighbouring countries vote for each other argument” this is actually partly true when it comes to national minorities but it’s far more significant than simple proximity.

We enter rubbish songs: Generally, our entries have been pretty rubbish.  If you enter crap songs, what do you expect to happen?  We’ve assumed that mediocrity with a good singer will do, but actually one big shift in recent years is that most entrants can sing well (it’s very rare you hear a poor singer these days) and so you need more than that to win.  There is definitely a Eurovision type song, but all sorts of things do win, and so whilst some songs that do well commercially may not stand a chance at Eurovision, many songs would.  Perhaps we need a Swedish-style five-week long televised competition as they seem to do pretty well out of it and we like shows like X Factor or The Voice.

Our best writers are going abroad:  Have you noticed how many Eurovision entries are clearly written by British composers? Just look at the captions that appear.  So we can write Eurovision entries that are credible, but we just give them to other countries, perhaps because they take it more seriously and so care more about having someone good to write entries.  In some cases there is a long tradition of British pop or dance writers working abroad, but it’s not as many as there are entries.  Why do we not entice some back home?

We’re all so liberal here in Western Europe:  We like to think we’re all liberal in the UK and some other countries aren’t.  But whilst the UK voted for Conchita Wurst last year, the phone vote went for the writhing sexually provocative female Polish entry, and with Austria third.  It was the jury that tipped the UK in to voting for Austria.  Russia however, that was supposed to be all buttoned up and anti LGBT rights had a public vote that also placed Austria third, it was their jury that stopped them voting for Austria in the end.

But to be honest, whatever happens, do we really enter this to win?  No, we enter because it’s fun, it feels neighbourly and the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most popular TV programmes in the UK, in Europe and the world as a result. Yes, I’d love us to win some time soon but more than anything (and certainly more than the Olympics) it is the taking part not the winning that counts.


[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by brainwane

This is the second of a two-part post about feminism and the philosophies and vocabularies of “open stuff” (fandom, open source, etc.). Part I is at Crooked Timber, here, and I suggest you read that first.

Recently I was thinking about abstractions we open source software folks might borrow from fandom, particularly the online world of fan fiction and fanvids. I mean, I am already a rather fannish sort of open sourcer — witness when I started a love meme, a.k.a. an appreciation thread, on the MediaWiki developers’ mailing list. But I hadn’t, until recently, taken a systematic look at what models we might be able to translate into the FLOSS world. And sometimes we can more clearly see our own skeletons, and our muscles and weaknesses, by comparison.

Affirmational and transformational

While arguing in December that the adjectives “fan” and “political” don’t contradict each other, I said:

I think calling them fanwork/fanvids is a reasonable way to honor fandom’s both transformative and affirmational heritage

I got that phrasing (“affirmational/transformational”) from RaceFail, which is a word for many interconnected conversations about racism, cultural appropriation, discourse, and fandom that happened in early 2009. (In “Feminist Point of View: A Geek Feminism Retrospective”, Skud discussed how RaceFail influenced the DNA of Geek Feminism (see slide 15).) RaceFail included several discussions that X-rayed fandom and developed new models for understanding it. (And I do mean “discussions” — in many of the Dreamwidth links I’m about to mention, the bulk of thought happens in the comments.)

obsession_inc, in a RaceFail discussion, articulated the difference between “affirmational” and “transformational” fandom. Do you bask in canon, relaxing in the security of a hierarchy, or do you use it, without a clear answer about Who’s In Charge?

When we use these terms we’re talking about different modes: different approaches to source texts, to communities, to the Web, to the mass media industries, and to each other. It’s not just about whether you’re into pages of words or audio/video, and it’s not necessarily generational either:

So when I see the assertion that as a group, print-oriented old time fans don’t know how to deal with extensive cross-linked multi-threaded fast-paced discussion, all I can do is cough and mutter “bullshit”.

We have a long-standing heritage of transformational fandom — sometimes it surprises fans to know just how long we’ve been making fanvids, for instance. (What other heritages do I have that I don’t know enough about?)

And I’m mulling over what bits of FLOSS culture feel affirmational to me (e.g., deference to celebrities like Linus Torvalds) or transformational (e.g., the Open Source Bridge session selection process, where everyone can see each other’s proposals and favstar what they like). I’d love to hear more thoughts in the comments.

Expectations around socializing and bug reports

I reread the post and the hundreds of comments at oliviacirce’s “Admitting Impediments: Post-WisCon Posts, Part I, or, That Post I Never Made About RaceFail ’09”, where people talked about questions of power and discourse and expectations. For instance, one assessment of a particular sector of fandom: “non-critical, isolated, and valuing individual competition over hypertext fluency and social interaction.” This struck me as a truth about a divide within open source communities, and between different open source projects.

Jumping off of that came dysprositos’s question, “what expectations do we … have of each other that are not related to fandom but that are not expectations we would have for humanity at large?” (“Inessential weirdness” might be a useful bit of vocabulary here.) In this conversation, vehemently distinguishes between fans who possess “the willingness to be much more openly confrontational of a fannish object’s social defects” vs. those who tend to be “resigned or ironic in their observations of same. I don’t think that’s a difference in analysis, however, but a difference in audiencing, tactics, and intent among the analyzers.” When I saw this I thought of the longtime whisper network among women in open source, women warning each other of sexual abusers, and of the newer willingness to publicly name names. And I thought of how we learn, through explicit teaching and through the models we see in our environment, how to write, read, and respond to bug reports. Are you writing to help someone else understand what needs fixing so they can fix it, or are you primarily concerned with warning other users so they don’t get hurt? Do you care about the author’s feelings when you write a report that she’ll probably read?

Optimizing versus plurality

In fanfic and fanvids, we want more. There is no one true best fic or vid and we celebrate a diverse subjectivity and an ever-growing body of art for everyone to enjoy. We keep making and sharing stuff, delighting in making intricate gifts for each other. In the tech world I have praised !!Con for a similar ethos:

In the best fannish traditions, we see the Other as someone whose fandom we don’t know yet but may soon join. We would rather encourage vulnerability, enthusiasm and play than disrespect anyone; we take very seriously the sin of harshing someone else’s squee.

Sometimes we make new vocabulary to solve problems (“Dead Dove: Do Not Eat”) but sometimes we say it’s okay if the answer to a problem is to have quite a lot of person-to-person conversations. It’s okay if we solve things without focusing first on optimizing, on scaling. And I think the FLOSS world could learn from that. As I said in “Good And Bad Signs For Community Change, And Some Leadership Styles”, in the face of a problem, some people reflexively reach more for “make a process that scales” and some for “have a conversation with ____”. We need both, of course – scale and empathy.

Many of us are in open stuff (fanfic, FLOSS, and all the other nooks and crannies) because we like to make each other happy. And not just in an abstract altrustic way, but because sometimes we get to see someone accomplish something they couldn’t have before, or we get comments full of happy squee when we make a vid that makes someone feel understood. It feels really good when someone notices that I’ve entered a room, remembers that they value me and what I’ve contributed, and greets me with genuine enthusiasm. We could do a lot better in FLOSS if we recognized the value of social grooming and praise — in our practices and in time-consuming conversations, not just in new technical features like a friction-free Thanks button. A Yuletide Treasure gift exchange for code review, testing, and other contributions to underappreciated software projects would succeed best if it went beyond the mere “here’s a site” level, and grew a joyous community of practice around the festival.

What else?

I’m only familiar with my corners of fandom and FLOSS, and I would love to hear your thoughts on what models, values, practices, and intellectual frameworks we in open source ought to borrow from fandom. I’m particularly interested in places where pragmatism trumps ideology, in bits of etiquette, and in negotiating the balance between desires for privacy and for publicity.

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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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