April 9th, 2006

Teddy of Borg

Market Forces

Halfway through Richard Morgan's "Market Forces", and so far it's impressively repellent.  I keep having to put it down for a few seconds in-between chapters, to give myself some breathing room from its unimitgated nastiness.  Not nasty in the sense of American Psycho (although it's raison d'etre crosses over with that book a certain amount), but in the world that it's set in, and the brutal callousness of pretty much every character we're introduced to.  He's clearly making points about everything from Thatcherism/Reagonomics to Neo-liberalism/globalisation and it's obvious which side he's lying on. 

And if I'd come for a likeable character I'd be woefully disappointed, because there's only been one so far, and he's into that likeable (or, indeed, in it very much).  The only thing that stops the protagonist from being as unlikeable as the rest of the scum he's surrounded by is that he feels bad about the things he does (but can't see a way out).

I can see exactly where the book's going, as well.  Long downhill slide in the second act (which I'm in at the moment), a moment of recognition near the end and then a slight redemption.  I can't see there being major redemption because I don't think Morgan believes in it.

My main problem with this kind of book is that I _know_ that large chunks of the world are fucked up, that people do terrible things because of deprivation, greed, fear and ignorance, and that given half a chance authoritarians will repress the hell out of anyone they can.  What I want is solutions - even suggestions for them - rather than to be told how terrible it is.  I felt much the same way reading what I got through of No Logo.  The Corporation managed to mix together both problems and solutions, but that seems unusual in a book.

Anyway - I wouldn't say I was precisely enjoying it so far, but it's good enough to keep me going until the end.  At this point it's pulled me down, I might as well hang around for a glimmer of light at the end.

Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

This is inspired by a post elsewhere that's sadly locked (and contains a very good explanation of what this bill is intended to be used for).

Basically, there's been a big fuss about this bill because it gives the government the ability to pass (pretty-much) any piece of legislation they like without it going through full debate in the Houses of Commons and Lords.

Which, you know, sounds pretty terrible.  Letting the government pass any bill they like without going through the process of democracy sounds like pure dictatorship.  And has caused a vast amount of argument and anger amongst people who think that Tony Blair is Stealing Their Country.

What, in all the fuss, seems to have been missed through all of this is a simple clause which I tracked down in about 30 seconds (what with the text of all bills being online):

The Minister may make an order in the terms of the draft order unless within the 40-day period either House of Parliament resolves that an order may not be so made.

So, in fact, democracy still has final say.  If the government raises a bill to say "All black people should be sent home at once." then it just takes a majority in the Lords or Commons to stop that bill dead in its tracks - at which point it'll have to go for proper debate.  And if neither House can raise a majority against the bill in the first place then it would have gone through no matter what.

What this basically does is change the way some bills go through from negative (the bill will not become law without both Houses voting in favour) to positive (the bill will become law unless either House votes against).  As this is already effectively the way that most minor bills go through, without much question or comment, just taking up pointless chamber time, it seems reasonable to streamline the situation and say that Parliament can debate anything it wants to, but doesn't have to debate things that aren't controversial.

Personally, I'd be happy to have the safeguards improved so that, say, only a 30% share of either House had to register a problem with a bill for it to receive full debate (to deal with those situations where debate actually changes people's minds - I hear that happens about once every 5 years), but the basic idea seems perfectly sound to me.
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The Hair!


Right, that's about 50 cardboard boxes opened and emptied, various shelves, mirrors, and coat-hooks and other miscellaneous bits and pieces attached to walls, and large amounts of sweeping, wiping and washing done.

Hugh and Meredith still have to put up bookshelves in their hall, move their kitchen from its current (illegal) position and get double glazing fitted, but frankly that's largely _their_ problem.  It's been an exhausting weekend and I'm bloody glad it's over and I can go to bed.

Oh, and I got a couple of pictures of Mum helping out with the plastering:

and the cleaning:

and Meredith putting tools into the new tool cupboard (after me and Hugh had put in strips of wood to hang everything from)