Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Beyond the Big Three Parties

There are many people who dislike (or worse) the three traditionally classed as main national political parties in mainland Britain, and the predictable outcome is that they are switching support to the smaller, minority parties or not voting at all next time. The other side of the latter coin is that previous non-voters are now considering supporting one or another of those smaller parties.

This is, in general terms, a healthy thing – and should also result in the Big Three sharpening-up their own acts, so is to be welcomed in that context. It is, therefore, disappointing that, even after many years of existence, none of them has knocked itself into a professional shape that has genuine credibility – though a relatively small proportion of the electorate will no doubt be misled nonetheless.

Let's look at the best known players alphabetically...

The British National Party (BNP) seems now to be a spent force; and in this case, this is almost certainly a Good Thing as most people would agree. They are still around, and make a little noise here and there, but hardly anyone ever hears anything from them nowadays. Attempts to de-toxify the party's public image have completely failed, despite considerable efforts over a number of years, and for all practical purposes they are now just about completely 'out of it'.

The Greens are still going nowhere; and even their only Member of Parliament looks to have a real battle on her hands to retain that seat at the next General Election (and those pundits who have published their opinions on this seem to concede the point). At council level their presence remains small overall, and it is thought by some is likely to fall, possibly even losing control of the odd council they currently run.

Again, they are not presenting a professional image, and are often (correctly!) seen as posturers and meddlers, more concerned with their ideology than being beneficial to society. Their posturing nature is frequently glaringly obvious. For example, earlier today they posted a photograph to social media of nineteen party activists (I don't know how many were actual candidates) in Bristol – all of then white ethnic Brits with zrto 'diversity', despite the party's claims and (for that matter) its policy demands in that respect. I'd post the image here, but I do not know of its copyright status – but it can be seen here. It's a typical Lefty 'do as I say, not what I do' stance in their policy...

The English Democrats were once a party for whom I had some regard and respect. After all, their basic point was and is essentially valid: when the other parts of the UK have their own devolved governments, at least in some (varying) parts of their governance, why shouldn't England have the same? Sadly, over the years, their position has become more extreme, to the point where the only matters on which they post tend to be about 'England' as the be-all and end-all.

Yes, they have some tick-box policies (probably knocked together in an evening at the pub', just for the sake of having something) but what proportion of their writings, in any forum, discusses any actual policy? Perhaps two percent, if I am being generous, probably less in reality. They are now true 'little Englanders' and are frankly embarrassing. It is small wonder that their former candidates have left the party wholesale – two became Conservtives within a year or so of each other, here in Medway alone, and a third (a former blogger) seems to have gone completely silent in recent years. They are another dead end.

The Socialist Workers Party could one day be a replacement for Labour, and the Communist Union leaders are well aware of this. To date, they have been bubbling away below most people's perceptions – but if the Unions decide to switch their financial and political support to the SWP that could change in a big way. For now, though, they are doing little regarding cultivating a public image, so need just a weather eye kept on them until and unless the situation changes.

Trades Unions and Socialists Coalition (TUSC), the extreme Left outfit that has made no impact whatsoever, is till around but continues to have this blinkered attitude that Brits like their kind of politics. I have known a couple of their candidates, and there is nothing they like better than to devise new schemes where they get to set whole rafts of rules to impose on others. As always with Lefties, they are by nature the totalitarian types who (quite rightly) frighten off voters with their personal attitude, and again with their collective policy stance. Perhaps they'd fare better in North Korea, except that's a one-party State...

Finally, we hve the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP or Ukip). This remains a cult of personality; and just like the others (Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas, and George Galloway's Respect) who can name any other public figure from any of these? UKIP is riding high at the moment, thanks to huge pushes from certain influential quarters that I could name and some clever posturing – but, as Alex Massie points out, it's phoney.

Many people won't realise this until they have made the mistake of supporting UKIP – but they will learn the lesson better for that, just as many are now doing in the case of Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner. Thus whatever happens in the next year or two will almost certainly be be end of a slightly prolonged flas-in-the-pan phenomenon.

They have a 'front' that makes them look something like a 'real' political party, including (again) a set of tick-box policies – a list of policy topics (probably taken from another party's manifesto) with, in effect, a 'for' or 'against' attached to each, dressed up with a few words. It is not a coherent policy platform, but of course they hope that no-one will challenge them intelligently to show up the flaws. The Alex Massie piece, though, does put some meat on those bones: he isn't being fooled any more than I ever have (as long-term readers of this 'blog will well remember).

The bottom line is that, as matters stand, there is no realistic form of challenge from any of the lesser parties, despite the current UKIP flurry. This is a genuine shame, and needs to be tackled. Sadly, none of the present contenders is fit to do so, though the English Democrats were once, not so many years ago, as I know from my own dealings with their members and activists whom I'd meet occasionally in the course of my own political activity at the time.

One day the situation might well change, but at present I cannot even see it on the horizon, and British politics is thus less than it ought to be in terms of proper and competent variety and choice.

Monday, 28 April 2014

New Rochester Station

The new railway station for Rochester is already under construction, as the short time-lapse video below shows. This illustrates how the new underpass was assembled on the site, the gap prepared for it, and then the whole thing was slid into place on a cushion of compressed nitrogen gas.

The new site, in Corporation Street, will serve both the existing community and also connect to the new Rochester Riverside development that is also being constructed right now, and which is starting to look very promising at the Doust Way end which is partly complete. I had a little wander around there recently, as well as a look at the rail station work from the top deck of a No. 141 'bus on my way back from a Strood South walkabout (yes, another on!)

It is at times like this that I can really 'feel the future' even without my abilities as a Sensitive – though I have done so in years gone by and felt it back then too. As with other instances I have mentioned before, here and elsewhere, it has been quite a powerful feeling to re-live, in real time, experiences I previously only felt as yet-to-happen.

As with those others, it is a very good sense indeed that I have of the transformation of old, tatty areas that had been there since before I moved into the area in 1997, into high quality, modern townscapes and riverscapes. There is a sense of new life, what some might call 'green shoots' growing out of the old now-dead landscapes of yesteryear.

The old Rochester station is, bluntly, a ghastly place, especially from the street coming up to the platforms, and is now in the wrong place. This new station will be such an improvement, and it too has started to happen...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Reading the Signs No. 3 – The Grasshopper Party

Although of necessity all serious political parties need to have a broad base of policies, covering every aspect of (especially national) government, the practice of jumping around between unconnected and disparate policies is in itself a useful sign for the alert among us.

The obvious example here is Labour – although it becomes even more apparent at local level than nationally – whose succession of completely disconnected policy initiatives shows not only a lack of a coherent and consistent policy manifesto, but betrays its true motives if one is watching all that they are doing and not just (say) the one item in which one has a particular interest.

The advantage of local government is that it exists many times over, so one can spot themes that are popping up all around the country: these turn out to be mostly Union-driven. They are dressed up to look local, such as "there are X Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in (for example) Medway" and "Medway has Y problem gamblers" – but if you look around, you'll find that exactly the same is happening elsewhere, with the place name and figures substituted to suit those places. The same happens time and again.

So, what is the common ingredient, the one and only common factor shared by all these 'policies'? It is purely and simply that they can all be used for party political advantage by Labour. The immediate clue is that they always but always end up as a way to 'bash the Tories'. Thus one can readily understand why these particular (often oddball, out of left field) matters have been chosen. They also need to be able to be 'sold' to the (largely compliant) local and – ideally – national media, for maximum impact. Labour are usually portrayed as 'the people's champions' against the 'wicked Tories'. It works as an easy sales-pitch, even though a lot of folk realise it isn't exactly being straight!

If there is no party political advantage for Labour in an issue, they will ignore it. If the reality reflects badly on their own previous record, they will sideline it and even attempt to re-write history, falling back on the oft-heard/read line "Isn't it time that old line were laid to rest?" or similar wording. Evasion is the last refuge of the guilty, as Mayor Salvor Hardin might have put it...

The important 'bottom line' here is that the clues are all there (as usual) for anyone paying proper attention; and the perpetrators of all the evasion, denial, manipulation and political maneuvering count on the (sad) fact that most people don't bother, and are content to be fed plausible-sounding lines from 'comfortable' sources such as The Guardian and the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

I have spent years, here and elsewhere, getting people to think that bit more for themselves, so that they are at least a lot less likely to fall for the trickery It has been broadly successful; but recent developments affecting issues in which I was quite deeply involved, have shown how volatile it all is when some well-orchestrated scaremongering is perpetrated upon local residents.

In my days on the Council, the local folk would have been kept fully up to speed and given facts, not scare stories, things they could check for themselves, independently of me. now they have turned completely around and are being conned. The consequences of that will almost certainly be felt in next year's local council elections as they impact my former ward (incidentally, as I hinted at during the candidate selection some four years ago – but that is another story) and I don't think anyone is complacent about that outcome any longer.

This evening's Council meeting should reinforce that...

So: watching for the signs is the best way to be alert to what is really going on – but the vote of each of the ignorant is worth just as much as the vote of anyone who does have a real clue – and they are many more in the former category than there are in the latter.

No wonder a self-serving party like Labour specialises in their techniques: they know they will work for them. They wouldn't bother with them otherwise, and that is perhaps the biggest clue of all. As soon as you spot one of their manipulations or whatever, from then on the switch has been flipped and you know – for all time!

Acute, Extreme, Perfect

This is a video of actual game-play from the rhythm game Project Diva Arcade F2. The song is Acute, the setting is Extreme, and the score is Perfect(!)

On top of all that, lucky Kaito gets to perform this with both Miku and Luka, the latter again showing her sheer stage 'presence' which is unequalled. The motion is as close to perfection as current technology permits; and if (more likely 'when') the play-only version of this without the game-play appears, there is no doubt in my mind that it will become one of the top Vocaloid demo pieces, raising the bar yet again...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Reading The Signs No. 2 – The Slanted Poll

Ever since Yes, [Prime] Minister we have all learned just how easy it is to structure and present an opinion poll that is likely to deliver the answer that is wanted, and not necessarily the answer that is true...

There are many techniques involved in slanting poll results, though I am not going to explore them in detail here. Just an example or two should suffice. Actually, just one, as the 'Mittens Romney' poll (don't ask!) I also had lined-up for this turns out to be full of so many holes that, on deeper research, it has been difficult to explain just how that one seems to have come about. However, the mere fact that someone commissioned such a poll is in itself indicative of a specific intent.

Anyway, moving on...

Just recently, a local newspaper in my home county ran an online click-on embedded poll on one of its news pages regarding the forthcoming Euro elections. For which party would you vote? was the single question, and one simply clicked on the preferred choice from a bullet list and then clicked Submit. All standard stuff for this kind of thing; and they had taken basic precautions to prevent multiple voting (I always test this in cases such as this).

So, what was the problem? It was that the article talked almost exclusively about UKIP, and the full-width photographs were of the UKIP leader. No other party was thus featured, merely mentioned in passing. You can of course guess the outcome of the poll: a 'resounding' victory for UKIP.

I saw it coming; but cast my own vote anyway, so as not to be able to be accused of 'allowing' that result but not foing anything to help prevent it. Incidentally, the psychology behind this particular slanting, and in particular why it works, is a little more subtle than most. With a little thought, and by realising the somewhat obvious nature of the local rag's readership, it becomes obvious, but isn't so immediately.

The bottom line is that it has no value, and it also shows up the newspaper for its bias – and I for one have learned that lesson and will never trust them with anything again. That trust has been destroyed for ever – and it is entirely their own fault.

For all reading this, the message is stark and clear: be careful and don't be taken in, no matter how authoritatively something is presented and from which source. In reality there are very few of us without a hidden agenda and who always 'play it straight'. ou know one such already (if you've been paying close enough attention over these years I have been blogging!) and I am being pulled toward the conclusion that I might have to do more in the field yet again – though I'd rather not have to, as I now have other, equally engrossing, interests.

It's all enough to drive one up the 'poll'!

Reading The Signs No. 1 – Do Policies Drive Elections?

This is the first in a short series, looking at how we read the various signs and indicators that abound in the political arena. I have covered some of the ground before, so do not intend to go over the same ground in that kind of detail, more to just mention as necessary.

Two columns this past week have prompted this particular post, as they both come from informed sources yet come to completely opposite conclusions. Dan Hodges believes that Ed[ward] Miliband's policy vacuum and mostly lacklustre personal performance mean that Labour cannot realistically win next year's General Election. He has a point – in fact, several very good points. In a sensible world, based on merit, he'd be right.

Sadly for him (and us) the reality is more likely to be what David Herdson – for whom I have considerable regard – carefully explains as the political landscape on which that election will be contested. Idealism gives way to realism, as it so often does in this flawed world,  and David is, no doubt unfortunately, likely to be closer to the truth that May 2015 will reveal.

As we now know, the supposedly 'acceptable face of Conservatism' presided over by Tony Blair turned out in reality to be nothing more than a superficial cover for the eleven-point plan devised by the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism designed expressly for the purpose of destroying a nation and its culture – yet he won three elections in a row with hardly anyone realising 'New' Labour's true agenda. Presentation, rather than the actual policies, secured those election wins; and it is a lesson worth learning and never forgetting!

However, I think that neither view should be taken in isolation, and there is still time to go, so nothing is set in stone. Personally, I have a feeling that the UKIP bubble is about to burst, and that in itself will not only return a number of former Conservative voters back to their roots, but also some of the other now-UKIP supporters might well turn rightward, as a result of having been immersed in an ostensibly tight-wing agenda and finding that they supported it after all, despite where they had been politically before making that switch. It happens to people...

Whether Labour get back into Downing Street next year or not is thus far from a certainty either way. I have made my own plans for either outcome, and for several 'hung' and other variations (no surprise there!) so am as ready as it is possible to be for whatever result transpires.

The one and only advantage of a Labour government, if that should be what we get, is that current generations will learn what that truly means – from personal experience. It is sometimes better to go through all of that just so that people won't make the same mistake again for at least a generation. I wonder whether that will be the real legacy that next year's election will leave?

Meanwhile, keep watching the signs, but with intelligence...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Miku Goes Gaga

The big Vocaloid news yesterday was the announcement that Miku is to be the opening act at sixteen of Lady Gaga's upcoming tour events. Although that is only a quarter of the 67 programmed, it is still a significant turning point in the western world's live music scene.

Of course, it isn't as one-dimensional as it might at first appear. Here is what I wrote on Facebook a few hours ago...

While I have inevitable reservations about this, it was likely (I think almost certain) to happen sooner or later.
For the organisers, promoters and performers, it is probably being seen primarily as a gimmick, to 'up the ante' relative to others' concert tours – but there will be at least some percolation of Miku's performance and general 'aura' into the audience's consciousnesses.
This will have little immediate effect, as those attending will be there for Lady Gaga, first and foremost; but the idea of 'sowing seeds' is a useful one, and during the weeks that follow will, I think, start to pay dividends – especially if one or more complete concerts end up for sale and/or on-line.
I have been saying for a while now that it is my belief that 2014 is going to be the turning point in Vocaloid going global: this series of events looks like being perhaps the single biggest part of that (much broader) transformation.
There are those (and I am aware of at least two, probably three) who will say that this 'going mainstream' will mean the end of life as we know it – or words to that effect. I know that this will not be the case. At this stage, I have no idea what Miku will do: some of her usual material, in Japanese, some new material in English, or one or more Gaga items.

Perhaps there will even be a duet at the end of her (presumably quite short) set, which would make an excellent handover from the support act to the main feature. It would be almost a world first – though SeeU has done this with GLAM several times, and there have been others. The novelty factor with thiese audiences, though, would be quite something, if this were attempted.

Whatever comes out of this, I remain convinced that it will help the Vocaloid concept and sheer quality to seep into the western collective consciousness. The real global future in the genre starts here...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sing and Smile

It's about time I posted another nice video with good motion, so here's something new: Sing and Smile by Re:nG, featuring an 'all-star' cast of the six Cryptonloids (including the Sakine version of Meiko) along with Teto, Haku Yowane and Neru Akita, all of whom appear in Project DIVA Arcade future tone, from which this derives.

The motion is really good, and Rin's outfit in her initial appearance in the video – starting at 1 minute in – though simple in design is particularly appealing, I thought.

By the way: I have been spending so much time on social media and domestic matters that I haven't been able to keep up with other matters (in case anyone was wondering) – though I have been monitoring a lot of things going on, especially in the local and national political spheres. I shall no doubt comment on at least one or two of those in due course, but for now let's stay with the lighter and more enjoyable world of Vocaloid/Utau...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

New Lapis Song

Heart Shooter (nothing to do with Black Rock Shooter!) has just been uploaded to YouTube today, obviously as part of the fairy's second anniversary celebrations. It's quite good, and suits her distinctive voice fairly well, though it isn't outstanding.

Despite a lack (so far) of an English translation of the lyrics, and the video comprising essentially just a still image (though a very appealing one) with ocasional 'pop-ins' of a second Lapis, it is certainly worth giving this one a listen, I feel...

Fairy Anniversary

Yes, today is fairy Lapis Aoki's second anniversary, having been released on 6 April 2012. Here is a nice song and an alternating-slides video to go with it, to help us celebrate...

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Motes and Beams

Something the 'dodgier' political types frequently do, I have noticed, is to gloss over their own (often huge) shortcomings in a particular area of work, typically ignoring them altogether, and using what more often than not turn out to be relatively minor instances of the same thing by their political opponents as a diversionary tactic as well as a stick with which to beat them. I suppose this is quite normal in some politicians' eyes, though anathema to me, as one might expect.

Many of these are Trades Union driven, via local Labour councillors and (where they have them) MPs, so suddenly the same supposedly 'local' issue crops up everywhere in the country – or, at least, everywhere with a non Labour-run council. Thus my tendency to focus on Medway Labour might be being a little unkind, as they usually turn out to be just one of many such Labour groups doing precisely the same thing, so it isn't really their fault at all: they are merely complicit.

Anyway, the latest Labour 'initiative' here in Medway is (don't laugh) 'fixing our streets'. All of a sudden they have developed an apparent interest in having our roads repaired. Of course, as always with Labour, it will turn out to be almost entirely a party political rant against 'the Tory-run council' – which is the only reason it has suddenly, after many years of not even being on Labour's radar, become one of the issues du jour. Anyone who decides to keep a weather eye on how it plays out will, I have not the slightest doubt, find that this is exactly what will unfold – just as it does with every other t'new' opic they periodically highlight.

The irony is (as long-term readers of this 'blog will already be well aware) that Medway Labour have never been all that interested in having roads fixed even in their own wards. I have in the past highlighted my own findings, using personal observation on my walkabouts, Google Maps and Street View (which are all dated) and such facilities as the one-time ELGIN to check whether a particular location was scheduled for such work.

Those readers will recall what I reported about Eastcourt Road in Twydall – in an unchanged bad state in several places for quite a few years. There have been others that I haven't covered here, but naturally have complete records as proof.

Those readers will also recall the work I had done here in Chatham central, from having a trip hazard at a busy road just outside a primary school repaired to a number of other street scene hazards and other matters. I posted before-and-after photographs, as some here might recall, showing that I was doing more in just a year or so than all three elected Labour members had done between them in half a decade.

I might have concentrated on the area near my home, but I was also aware of how the rest of the ward was faring – especially as I had had the opportunity to inspect it all during a leafleting exercise throughout most of the ward shortly before I moved here.

Thus we can see that Medway Labour's apparent initiative is yet another of their sham activities, serving only themselves and their political prospects, with any peripheral benefit to the community being merely coincidental. No change there, then.

In reality, Medway's roads are in a better state overall than those of just about any other council area in Kent, and have been for years. We have a good record on repairs, though imperfect, and even places one might expect to be in a bad state tend not to be. Google Maps and Street View are useful here, for anyone with some time to kill and who'd like to take a look – but keep an eye on those diaplayed dates, as some parts of Medway are (currently) dated May 2012 and others are dated 2014 but appeared last December.

As always, it pays to be informed of the reality, rather than feel an idiot upon realising that one has fallen for the Goebbels-like propaganda of Labour. Believe me, it feels so much better to be in the know and immune to their con-tricks!

UPDATE: As expected, this and every other topic local Labour is covering at the moment is in reality nothing more than an anti-Conservative purely party political manouevre (see their new Rochester East newsletter) – well, apart from promoting their own parliamentary candidate, anyway!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Gotta Google 'Em All!

I am assuming this is not an April Fools' joke...

Happy Teto Day

The first day of April is known as 'Teto Day' to fans of the 'joke' UTAU who became so popular that the lady is now a permanent member of the female Vocaloid/UTAUloid sisterhood.

I don't tend to play April Fools' jokes, and prefer instead to find something more positive if I can. Here, then, is Teto with the powerful but sad Yoshiwara Lament in a very classy performance from last year's NicoNico Mega-Party, complete with English subtitles...