Friday 23 May 2014

Dr Caligari's Council Cabinet

Very few people – especially those with any truly valid reason for disliking how their local council is run politically (apart from mere party preferences) – seem to have any idea why the 'Cabinet-plus-Scrutiny' model was imposed on councils above a certain size a dozen or so years ago.

The clues were there from the outset (as they usually are, to the more perceptive among us), though I waited for events to play out in order to have solid evidence rather than supposition and logical deduction alone.

The single biggest clue was that it was devised by Whitehall 'mandarins' and implemented ('sold') through a Labour government. Immediately this should get anyone's mental alarm bells ringing. Secondly, the Cabinet agenda everywhere was required to include a number of strategies and plans that were fevised by, and tightly constrained in format and content by – yes, you probably guessed it: Whitehall.

We probably all realise that Civil Service Mandarins' greatest ambition in life is to expand their empires and extend their control over our country, and the only way left by then was to take over local democracy, by proxy in order to preserve the appearance of what is called 'localism'.

Thus a scheme was devised by senior Civil Servants that would be easy to get a Labour government to implement, via the right 'sales pitch', but which in reality meant that a huge amount of the local policy agenda would be dictated far more closely by themselves. That's why, if you look down any Cabinet agenda for any council in the country, this fact will shout out to you after just a few such scans. It is glaringly obvious.
In practice, what all this has meant was that most (all but nine or ten) of a council's elected members immediately lost their policy voting rights on most topics, these now falling under the direct and exclusive control of the Cabinet. Some matters have to go to the Full Council to finally decide, but only after the Cabinet has already had first dibs at debate (a one-party debate at that) and it is their documentation that goes to Council... although the entirely powerless Scrutiny Committees (made up of the non-cabinet councillors) can also make 'recommendations'.

Here in Medway, the only 'local' agenda items for Cabinet are the long-standing Recruitment Freeze (a nod-through every time) and contract awards – which do not need to come to Cabinet. If you're paying a portfolio holder that much, and with a huge officer corps behind that person as well, there is really no need to make those decisions as 'Cabinet acting collectively'. A competent portfolio holder will almost always be able to handle that directly. It's not as if there is even any public interest in those agenda items...

Just like the Cabinet of Dr Caligari, the elected members that form local council cabinets are, in reality, under the control of another: in this case, Whitehall – though I suspect that many of them haven't even now, after all these years, cottoned onto this fact. If they have, they are complicit in the deceit and are not serving their electorate, however much they might try to deceive themselves that they are, because of, er, this and that (I'm sure they could pluck such things out of the air if challenged). Those ones are not fit to hold public office, ever. The others are too gullible to be entrusted with such office either – but all of that is for the electorate to decide, of course, when they come up for re-election.

Thus is was refreshing when the change of national government resulted in Eric Pickles offering councils the opportunity to revert to the former Service Committee structure instead of Cabinet-plus-Scrutiny, but without having to scrap any genuine benefits that the new system had brought (there have been a few, though more minor than they were trumpeted at the time they were introduced).

I asked a 'public question' at our local council (Medway) at the time this was being prepared at national level, asking if Medway would take up this offer once it was made. As I had expected, I received an evasive and (frankly) arrogant response – and the proof of the pudding is that (surprise, surprise!) they have not done so.

This has singularly resulted in an unstoppable trend that I had noticed over the years since the system was introduced in October 2001, continuing and worsening further. That is the disconnect between the public and their elected representatives, as it is portfolio holders who are invariably addressed by public questions, and they really don't handle it very well.

Now, a lot of what goes on is (predictably!) party political manipulation and dominance of the public questions item on the Council agenda – but even so there are glaringly obvious bad practices by most portfolio holders. I find it all acutely embarrassing – not because they are bad people, they really aren't, but because they have drifting further away from the public-at-large for so long that it has become all too easy for their opponents to label them 'out of touch' and gain a huge amount of (undeserved) political capital as a result.

The only way, in the whole of creation, that this trend can be halted and reversed is by scrapping the Cabinet system, and by having brand new committee chairmen who have never been portfolio holders. Frankly, there is no other way; and if the nettle isn't grasped soon it will mean that Whitehall will be able to strike the final few nails into the 'localism' coffin before very much longer, killing off actual local democracy Caligari-style, as has obviously been their intention all along.

Thursday 22 May 2014

Going Completely Gaga

...Or similar wording!

This is the complete Miku set from the Lady Gaga concert in Cleveland, Ohio, roughly mid-way through the tour that is to include sixteen opening performances by Miku. This was taken from within the audience, so technically isless than perfect but generally very good. There is an issue with one of the audience-facing lights causing an apparent loss of the stage image by the camera, though I gather the lights didn't interfere with the audience's view.

So here it is, at last: the full 24-minute opening act for Lady Gaga, no less! Miku's six-number set comprised Glass Wall (in English) 2D Dream Fever, World Is Mine, Story Rider, Yellow, and Tell Your World as a fitting finale.

Despite most of those present really not knowing what this was all about until it happened in front of them, the response was very good once they had warmed to he – somewhere around the middle of the second song, I judge it.

History has been made by these concert openers, and a new chapter of the western world's chronicles starts right here...

Monday 19 May 2014

NicoNico Mega Party 2014

This year's Chokaigi (Mega Party) event was really good much of the time, with some very good and audience-grabbing DJ-ing. It was, though, the Vocaloid concert that was the highlight for many, myself included – and then I forgot to post it here!

Well, thanks to a memory jog a few minutes ago, that is remedied now. This year's concert was just half an hour long, but with so much (thirteen songs) crammed into its almost non-stop format that there is plenty for everyone, including original staging, new band arrangements, and Luka playing the harp (very accurately!)

Lots of vocaloids were featured, as is the norm at this event, including the four Crypton Character Vocals (Miku, Luka, Len and Rin), IA, Gumi, Gakupo, Lily, Teto and more.

This is best viewed full screen, and listened to via headphones if possible...

Thursday 15 May 2014

Bohemian Vocaloid

Now here's something rather special, to which I was guided this evening by one of my sources: Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, performed by every (current) English voicebank there is, from the original Leon, Lola and Miriam right up to Miku and Kaito English versions. It has just gone up on YouTube today, having been carefully put together by a producer known as v3xman2.

Although some of the models in the video might not be to everyone's taste, the whole thing does work really very and has the 'feel' of the story as it unfolds within the song. Give it a try...

Sunday 11 May 2014

Happy Twentieth Birthday, RiscPC!

The Acorn-designed RiscPC computer celebrated its twentieth anniversary since its launch back in May 1994, with a two-slice RiscPC-shape cake that ended up being many more slices (lietrally!) than that, at the annual Wakefield RISC OS Show. Here's a three-minute video of the event, courtesy of Riscository.

The chap in the red shirt is the estimable Andrew Rawnsley of R-Comp – and for all of you who thought that 'Andrew Rawnsley' is a political journalist at The Observer who has a semi-regular slot on the BBC's This Week programme – I counter that for those of us 'in the know', this is and always has been the real Andrew Rawnsley, and of much greater actual value to the world.

I have three working RiscPCs myself, though two have been starting to struggle during the past few months after working more-or-less flawlessly since I first bought a two-slice in August 1995...

For Mothers' Day

This is for all those who still have their mother (I do not) on this special day, and all year round. It's long but you really do need to go through to the end. All will become clear...

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Political Racism

Readers of this might recall that I have recently listed 'The creation of racist offences' as not only among, but the very first of the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism's eleven primary policies for demolishing a nation and its culture. The intention was, all along, to devise a convenient way to easily interpret a wealth of existing material, and much of what was to follow, as being able to be challenged in court – and thus to restrict free speech.

Now, I am not one to encourage atual racist language or behaviour: my history on this stance (though not well known as it wasn't an issue back then) extends a long way into the past, and for complex reasons that would be near-enough impossible for me to explain here. Suffice it to say that I tend to have a better perspective on the real issue(s) than most – and it has nothing to do with legislation.

Since the creation of such offences, though, and other similar-style offences for other specific groups (which, incidentally, shows that they were always devised with the intention to divide us, regardless of how cleverly that was disguised within their wording), they have become very convenient 'tools' for dealing with political groups, specifically those whose underlying emphasis runs counter to that of those (Marxists) promoting this agenda.

Thus we see labels such as 'racist' being applied to those of the political Right and those of indeterminate political placement who are conspicuously opposed to the Left, even if they embrace some of their thinking.

Thus we see the rather too convenient labelling of UKIP as 'a party of racists' (note: not 'a racist party') or something along those lines, based on what a few of its (admittedly often quite prominent) members have betrayed concerning their own views.

In reality, UKIP obviously isn't in and of itself a 'racist' party – but its positioning and public recruitment image are currently bound to attract that type. Picture the scene: if you are one of those who (incessantly!) post comments here, there and everywhere about the so-called 'LibLabCon', equating all those parties as being the same and only the commenter's own (invariably, and blatantly, UKIP) stance being 'different', what does that tell the rest of us?

The only way one can perceive obviously different entities as being 'the same' is to be so far away from them all that they cannot be distinguished one from the other. Yes: you have to be at the extremes. This, though, is what anyone who has been following comment threads on newspaper websites, Guido's site, ConHome or any number of others will have witnessed for a few years now. The back-history of this trend is solidly established, and cannot be denied.

Thus we see that, regardless of intent, UKIP has gathered to itself a horde of extremist activists who give themselves away all the time. I know the (multiple) reasons for this – too lengthy an explanation to go into just now, though I might write a separate post about it sometime – but it isn't directly the fault of the party. I don't know whether there is a lot they could do about it....and for the time being, they probably have little desire to do so anyway.

The bottom line is that UKIP may be many things, most of them undesirable in respect of useful government both nationally and in Europe, but these 'labelled' issues come largely as an unintended side-effect of their posturing (they are essentially a party of posturing, not of action, as their track record clearly shows) rather than as anything they set out to do or to be.

Smearing them with all-too-convenient labels is not helpful – but it is still useful to have a mental 'handle' on from where their members are coming, politically speaking. Learning that lesson can also help calibrate our thinking (as my brother usefully puts it) elsewhere in the political arena as well.

Friday 2 May 2014

IA Rhythm Game

I have been keeping an eye on the emerging rhythm game that is obviously designed to be an alternative (or addition in one's collection) to Project DIVA. In this, we get only the one performer, though that is no less than IA (a.k.a. Aria on the Planetes) – but it looks to be quite good and fairly comprehensive, as the following promotional trailer shows.

It's a bit tough to enter the market when the various Project DIVA games are already so well established, and offer the six Crypton vocaloids as performers, as well as a few guest performers in the latest releases; but I wish IA/VT-Colorful every success. Perhaps others will follow, such as Anon and Kanon, or Lapis and Merli, or even one featuring all the BPlats-marketed vocaloids, one day. It's a thought...

Arnie on Boris and Cameron

This isn't acting. In under two minutes, 'The Governator' enthusiastically gives LBC his views on London Mayor Boris Johnson, and also some words about David Cameron when the question of the Prime Minister-ship arises. It's a delightful little clip, actually, and covers a lot of valid (as anyone who has ever been close to governance will recognise) points...