The End of the Party ?

I find it frustrating that, in the US, the two party system is so firmly entrenched that other voices are only reluctantly heard and then only every four years. It leads to unholy alliances such as the one between the theocon and neocon and pro-business sections of the Republican party.

It also means that the only way for single issue causes – such as the environmental, pro-life, anti-war, anti-immigration and pro-worker movements – to have influence is to hitch their wagons to one of the only two trains at the station. At least, in the UK, the LibDems, Scottish Nationalists and the Greens theoretically have a chance to influence government – even if it does mean that, occasionally, the British Nationalists win seats (in America, those people would be voting Republican).

Brian Brivati, in platform 3, suggests that the Euston Manifesto represents another step along the road from allegiance to a party to allegiance to a core set of values.

The gradual shift from allegiance to a particular party to allegiance to certain core values that has characterized politics over the last few decades means that the nature of coalitions and the content of alliances that can now emerge may surprise us all.

I would gladly walk that road with him.

The Euston Manifesto

I have been reading through NormBlog’s criticism of the criticism of the Euston Manifesto. In platform one, he points out something that I noticed too. So many of the commentators have missed what seemed to me a central point :

The founding supporters of this statement took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath, and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change.

Many supporters of the manifesto explicitly point to the fact that it is a pro-war document as the reason for signing it. Many commentators on the right snearingly claim that a few leftists are finally starting to realize that it’s better to be pro-war than pro-terrorist as though those were the only two options.

For whatever reason, the MSM and the conservative establishment have found it convenient to pretend that the nonsense spouted by Galloway’s Respect, A.N.S.W.E.R. and other fringe organizations like the SWP represents the majority of anti-war opinion. Perhaps it’s easier to argue against shouting lunatics than to confront the quiet voice of reason and moderation? Perhaps it sells more newspapers ?

Anyway, for whatever reason, a lot of people have bought into this narrative. The Euston Manifesto is important because it provides an opportunity to make it clear that opposition to the war is not anti-american or pro-dictator or anti-democratic or pro-terrorist. It gives us a chance to say what we stand for not just what we oppose. That’s why I signed it.

Sign the Euston Manifesto here

Monty Hall in Squeak

Over at, I wrote about the Monty Hall problem and how I was convinced of the answer by an unused variable in my Java simulation.

Markus wrote a nice simulation in Squeak (dunno what it will do if you don’t have squeak installed but it makes a good excuse for you to go get it).

I am always on the lookout for ideas for a science project for Dylan. For me, the ideal kid’s science project has a hypothesis that

  1. will almost certainly be wrong
  2. can be tested empirically
  3. can be proven mathematically

with extra credit if you can write a computer simulation of it. Dylan’s project last year was “What should you do if draw three cards to an inside straight in poker?”. He said you should raise. I usually beat him at poker 🙂

A War for Oil ?

The meme travelling through blogs from Scott Adam’s to Andrew Sullivan’s this week is that the high cost of oil proves that the war in Iraq was not about oil.

The proof goes something like this

  1. If we (the US) wanted cheaper oil
  2. Invading Iraq was a bad way to go about it because
  3. Oil prices are now higher
  4. QED

That first step is a doozy. I don’t believe that the US invaded Iraq for any single reason and I certainly never believed that the US invaded Iraq to get cheaper oil. But, consider this.

Most people would probably agree that america’s foreign policy is closely tied up with its energy policy (as it should be) and most people would probably agree that both are closely related to america’s relationship with the middle east.

My theory is that the administration thought they could replace an unfriendly dictator with a friendly democracy thus increasing america’s influence in the region and improving america’s future access to the region’s oil. Doesn’t make it a war for oil – doesn’t make it not a war for oil either.

On one point, I do agree with Andrew though :

The high price of gas is the best thing to have happened to the U.S. in a very long time. It alone, given the paralysis of the government, will force a market-driven push into new energy technologies, deter SUVs, and provoke the kind of technological research which will benefit us in the future.

Spoken like a Portuguese

I find the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis – the idea that thought is constrained by language – to be fascinating.

Here’s a variation on it from The Guardian

Take the Portuguese president of the European commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, for example. Barroso has an extraordinary knack: when he speaks English he not only talks but thinks like an Englishman; when he speaks French, he not only talks but thinks like a Frenchman. To hear him alternate from one to the other can be quite disconcerting, almost as if he’s switching between a left and right brain.

Euston Manifesto

It’s a statement of principles drawn up by a group of progressives in London. 15 powerful paragraphs of truth and clarity. I would sign my name to every sentence (even the one about open source).

Here’s its conclusion :

It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of liberal, egalitarian and internationalist outlook should now speak clearly. We must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressive democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic ‘anti-imperialism’ and/or hostility to the current US administration. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda — the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression — are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.

It’s a shame they felt the need to write this because so much of it seems self-evident to me. But I am glad they did because it stands in stark contrast to the caricature of progressive politics that is usually hauled out for criticism in america.

Who is the target audience ?

Aaron is complaining that Nintendo has renamed their forthcoming Revolution to Wii (pronouced “we”). All my game playing buddies are bewailing the same thing.

I asked my son and all his 5th grade buddies and they said :

  • “weeeee!”
  • “Coool!”
  • “Cowabunga”
  • “Can we get one the first day it comes out ?”

Guess which market Nintendo is selling to ?

I keep telling Dylan that as soon as he gets to middle school, he’ll start growing hair under his arms, liking girls and wanting an XBox 360.

A Man for All Seasons

Andrew Sullivan just watched A Man for all Seasons which tells the tale of Thomas More’s struggles with Henry VIII over the relationship between religion, the law and executive power.

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

I have the DVD at home. Need to watch it again.