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Gaming HQ / Re: Path of Exile - upcoming F...
Last post by FunkMonk - Today at 02:31:03 PM
Yeah that was funny. It's crazy how much GGG puts into its seasons compared to Diablo 4.

I also wasn't really interested in playing until PoE 2 but this has pulled me back in.
Off the Record / Re: Microsoft Cloud is down- i...
Last post by Iormlund - Today at 01:50:30 PM
I, for one, welcome our new silicon-based overlord.
Gaming HQ / Re: Path of Exile - upcoming F...
Last post by Iormlund - Today at 01:48:30 PM
The announcement was hilarious. It just kept going.

I really didn't plan to play before PoE 2 hit, but I'll definitely play this one.
Off the Record / Re: The Grand Tour
Last post by Savonarola - Today at 01:23:48 PM
I was back in the 313 a couple weeks ago and visited the Detroit Institute of Arts.  They still have the "Your turn" part at the end of the Grand Tour exhibit.  This person has clearly put some planning into his or her ultimate trip of a lifetime:

:o :o :o

Kendama is a ball and cup type game.  I had never heard of it, but it looks like some people take it quite seriously:

Off the Record / Re: Brexit and the waning days...
Last post by Sheilbh - Today at 01:11:39 PM
Always enjoy Patrick Maguire's columns - he's up there with Stephen Bush for me as one of the few commentators who actually seems to have any knowledge/understanding of (or contacts in) Labour. But this struck me as interesting - not least because an awful lot of policy decision in politics is fundamentally about relationships and personnel, so this side of things matters:
QuoteTo decode Starmerism, look to his new hires
Appointment of longstanding confidant Chris Ward to a role at the PM's right hand challenges Blairite mythmaking
Patrick Maguire
Thursday July 18 2024, 9.00pm, The Times

I'd like to tell you about the prime minister's parliamentary private secretary. Over the past fortnight you will have noticed that Sir Keir Starmer has made dozens of appointments to his government: big jobs with big salaries, ministerial cars, seats around the cabinet table and offices on Whitehall. A parliamentary private secretary (PPS), by contrast, is unpaid. They are the bottom-feeders of the ministerial foodchain, bag-carriers and cheerleaders to the cabinet, and it is only this week that Downing Street got round to recruiting them.

The prime minister has appointed two, as has become customary. The first is Liz Twist, who served as a whip in opposition. The second is Chris Ward, the new MP for Brighton Kemptown. They are the family liaison officers of the parliamentary Labour Party: Starmer's eyes and ears among his 410 MPs. If you tune in to prime minister's questions next Wednesday, you will see them sitting behind him. And that is about as familiar as they will become to anyone who does not work in Westminster. For this often gruelling and thankless work they will receive no additional payment.

Why am I telling you this? First, my apologies to Twist: this isn't really about her. The reason the prime minister's choice of PPS is worth noting is because one of them is Ward. His is a name that anyone who wishes to understand Starmer should know. In 2015, Ward was the first person hired to work for Starmer the politician. He knew his boss wanted to lead the Labour Party long before anyone else and was the first person to make plans to that end. In the first year of Starmer's leadership he was deputy chief of staff, writing the leader's speeches and preparing him for PMQs. He has been around long enough to have met Rodney Starmer, the toolmaker of legend. And there is now no job in politics Keir has done without him. Backbencher, shadow immigration minister, shadow Brexit secretary, leader of the opposition, prime minister: no matter his title, Starmer has wanted Ward at his side.

Put like that, it is hardly a shock that Ward has been recalled to the prime minister's inner circle only two weeks after his election to the Commons. But by the standards of recent history it is certainly unusual. The last prime minister to install a newly elected MP as their PPS was Clement Attlee in 1945. More useful analogies are probably to be found in the days of Lord Salisbury, who made his nephew Evelyn Cecil his PPS immediately after he won a by-election in 1898, or William Gladstone, who did the same for his sons Herbert and Willy a few decades earlier. With the exception of Starmer's wife, Victoria, there is nobody working in and around Downing Street who knows the prime minister's mind more intimately than Ward.

So, what's the big deal? It makes perfect sense for a prime minister to have a trusted ally as their PPS. Gordon Brown had the hard-nosed Ian Austin, once his adviser at the Treasury, a man who would have run through walls to defend him. Often, however, prime ministers choose somebody who has something they don't; a distinction of politics, class, or gender. Think of touchy-feely David Cameron and the utterly unreconstructed Desmond Swayne. The other week a Labour MP old enough to remember such things described to me the failsafe measure of a bad week for Tony Blair: he would appear, incongruously, in the Strangers Bar, clutching a half pint of frothy ale as a no-nonsense PPS such as Bruce Grocott or David Hanson acted as his sheepdog.

Starmer can rely on Liz Twist for some of that, but what about Chris Ward? He too knows Labour MPs, having worked among them for a long time in parliament. But really his appointment is about two things: security and continuity. Those two things are particularly important.

Consider the now official history of Starmer's leadership, which goes something like this. He was elected in 2020, naively promising party unity with Corbyn-lite policies. It didn't work and he was walloped at the Hartlepool by-election the following year. At that point he cleared out his office, long-serving aides such as Ward left, and Blairites returned. They junked what remained of the unity project, including the leftish Ten Pledges to Labour members that Ward helped to write, and started to run the show. Only then did Starmer manage to win an election.

In this telling of Labour history there is not really a Starmer project. Often he is described as if he is the non-executive chairman of somebody else's company. Ward himself told Starmer's biographer, Tom Baldwin, earlier this year: "The danger, of course, is that he ultimately ends up trapped by one faction or becomes isolated when the going gets tough. That's always been my biggest fear." If Starmer has wanted for anything since 2021, it is true friends in politics. One of the few, Carolyn Harris, was forced to quit as his PPS just after Hartlepool, amid accusations she had spread rumours about the private lives of shadow cabinet ministers. It is telling that he has now chosen another close confidant to do the job in government.

Ward's appointment is a reminder that for Starmer, politics did not begin in May 2021. He is the prime minister and this is his government. Look at other new recruits: Richard Hermer, the KC who acted as his junior on countless cases, is attorney-general. Sarah Sackman, another barrister friend, became solicitor-general days after her election. Georgia Gould, the former leader of his local council in Camden, was immediately made a minister at the Cabinet Office. Baroness Chapman, whose kitchen was the early HQ for his leadership bid, has a job at the Foreign Office. Stuart Ingham, Starmer's third ever staffer, became head of policy in No 10 despite speculation the job would go to a Whitehall veteran.

These are the true Starmerites. You can call this "jobs for Keir's mates", as one envious Labour MP does, but one could say that of any prime minister. Really these appointments draw the straight line between the politics of 2015, 2020 and 2024 that has since been obscured by Blairite mythmaking. They tell us that in government, Keir may yet feel liberated to govern as the Keir of old: from the soft left, unafraid of economic populism, unburdened by faction. You see that in a King's Speech full of new legislation on workers' rights, nationalised railways and energy, and fiddly reforms to the help the police and judicial system better serve victims of crime. And most of all, you see it in the parliamentary private secretary to the prime minister.

Edit: Oh and also strong reporting in The I that senior Tories and senior Reform figures both expect Braverman to defect now. Apparently of the 5 of the 7 MPs who backed her 2019 leadership pitch are backing other candidates. She's not launched a campaign but it seems very unlikely she'll even have enough support among MPs to get on the ballot.

Additionally those 5 have mainly gone to Robert Jenrick who is pitching to the right. But both Jenrick and Braverman reportedly misjudged the mood by almost immediately jumping into campaign mode - neither have officially launched their campaigns but the day after the election Braverman had her diagnosis in the Telegraph and Jenrick was on the Sunday shows the weekend after. It seems that the Tories are actually planning a longer leadership campaign (the debate is apparently now whether they should have a leader in place at party conference this autumn, or use that as an audition for the final two as in 2005).
Off the Record / Re: The China Thread
Last post by Sheilbh - Today at 01:00:56 PM

Going to be a challenge for the CCP to manage but you can see there a political logic for things like banning the tutoring/education market, the "common prosperity" stuff etc. Because I suspect this is potentially an even bigger challenge for somewhere like China. Also can't help but feel that if it persists they'll look for legitimacy elsewhere - like more confrontation in foreign policy/"re-unifying" China.
Or, did the AI corrupt a CrowdStrike update?  :ph34r:
Off the Record / Re: 2024 US Presidential Elect...
Last post by DGuller - Today at 12:54:25 PM
Quote from: frunk on Today at 12:22:09 PMFortunately Biden isn't the only person in the party, and I assume someone else is actually running his campaign.
It's true, but energy at the top matters a great deal.  It's hard to have a high performing team when the leader barely performs at all.
Off the Record / Re: 2024 US Presidential Elect...
Last post by DGuller - Today at 12:52:29 PM
Quote from: frunk on Today at 12:02:38 PMTo me the problem isn't Biden, it's the rather bland and lackluster campaign that has been run.  Nobody is polling above Biden, so I don't expect the replacement to do any better without serious changes in focus and energy from the Democratic Party.
Could be a function of Biden being on the ticket.  How do you get motivated to really sell the guy who's dying in front of your eyes?  This is why I also don't believe that polling numbers alone should drive the decision on Biden's replacement, the polling numbers in November would reflect the future campaign over the last few months.  We don't know how the strong the campaign would be for any of the replacements, but we know that there would be no energy coming from Joe.
Off the Record / Re: Microsoft Cloud is down- i...
Last post by viper37 - Today at 12:51:08 PM