Cityscapes – 21 January, 2014


Paddington Station, London.


Semi-Partisan Sam’s inaugural summary of new events and commentary that are worth a read today.


The Obama and Romney campaigns paused their respective election campaigns in response to the tragic cinema shootings in Colorado, which have left at least twelve people dead. This did not stop some people from trying to make political hay out of the tragedy, though they were roundly chastised by Slate Magazine.

The Daily Mash takes a sardonic look at the new Batman movie which just received its London premiere. Mocking pundits from left and right alike, who have attempted to find a relevant political statement in the subtext of the movie, they report that “Director Christopher Nolan’s latest epic has prompted intense speculation from critics searching for socio-political meaning behind the images of a man in a costume hitting people and running away from explosions.”



Robert Halfon MP writes an opinion piece for ConservativeHome, arguing that the Conservative Party needs to work harder to win the respect and votes of trades union members, where necessary reaching over the heads of their ideological, self-serving union leadership. I couldn’t agree more. The average RMT worker has no more in common with the fat, bloated Bob Crow than I have with Matthew McConnaughey, and it is ludicrous that Crow should claim to speak for his entire membership and not be called out for doing so. A point well worth remembering as leaders of the Public Services Union call a strike in the run-up to the Olympic Games, based on a ballot where turnout was less than 20% of members.

Nick Cohen at The Spectator has an excellent piece exposing the cravenness of the British government in handing the Olympic organisers and their favoured partners so much control not just over the Olympic brand, but over the ability to market goods and to exercise free speech itself. In fact, the Olympic organisers are the beneficiaries of a special, bespoke law (the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006) which gives them special and criminally enforceable legal rights that no other private individual, company or organisation enjoys. This article is a must-read.

An expectant couple were shocked to find a ghostly image of Margaret Thatcher’s head in the ultrasound scan picture of their unborn baby, as Guido Fawkes reports. I really have nothing to add to this one.

Tony Blair would be more at home in America than Britain, or at least would receive a warmer welcome, writes Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome.

A worrying new “grassroots” campaign has appeared, on Facebook and elsewhere, calling for the renationalisation of Britain’s rail network. Going by the name “Bring Back British Rail”, they long for a return to the days of swift, courteous, efficient transport service and a customer-oriented ethos that used to exist prior to…oh wait. Well, the government should just own everything, right? It’s simple! ADDENDUM – I refined my views slightly after a discussion with a respected friend on the Bring Back British Rail group’s Facebook wall.



Andrew Sullivan gets there first and does a better job of analysing Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, which has sparked so much Conservative gloating/fuming. I must admit that when I first heard it, I thought that this was another facepalm moment, akin to Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” faux-pas, but Sullivan clears things up and demonstrates quite clearly that the “that” Obama is referring to were the roads and bridges and infrastructure which he was discussing immediately before – and which were conveniently left out of the quote. You can still argue that Obama attributes too much success to the collective aspects of American society – the infrastructure, the regulations, and so on – but I think it is pretty ridiculous to argue that the president really believes that entrepreneurs are not responsible for their own success.

Michele Bachmann, the fire-breathing congresswoman from Minnesota, finally stepped over the line with her letter calling into question the character and patriotism of a senior State Department aide who happens to be Muslim. This was too much even for the likes of John Boehner, who was one of several senior Republicans to disassociate himself from Bachmann’s ‘McCarthy-like’ witch hunt.

The General Services Administration (GSA) appear to have failed to learn from the furore that followed their Las Vegas blowout in 2010, or at least decided that blowing taxpayer money on lavish events was a feat to be encouraged and repeated. Which they duly did in November of that year, allegedly spending $268,732 on a venue, drinks and canapés, entertainment and party gifts at a “performance reward ceremony”.

Highlighting an often-overlooked point, Lori Montgomery, writing in The Washington Post, reminds us that Americans actually pay the lowest taxes to the federal government in 30 years. If today’s GOP cared much for the truth, or understood the concept of an objective fact, perhaps they might stop whining about Obama the tax-raising president. But I think we all know that won’t happen.

This controversial piece by Tom Junod caused quite a stir when it was published just over a week ago. Analysing the secret drone strike programme operated by the Obama administration (though its existence is officially denied, apart from a series of fortuitous leaks to let the American people know how successful it is), it should make any right thinking person question the new powers over life and death, due process and standards of accountability that are being claimed by the federal government. It should also make anyone who voted for Obama hoping to put an end to the criminal excesses of the Bush administration feel betrayed and angry about what is still taking place in your name.

Fortunately, the ACLU is now getting involved and suing the Obama administration over these grotesque constitutional overreaches, as Adam Serwer reports at MotherJones.