Saturday, October 31, 2009
Some anecdotes are so good, they can't be repeated too often.
The journalist turned MP Martin Bell has one about Mikhail Kalashnikov stating that he would preferred to have invented the lawnmower rather than his eponymous rifle that, if memory serves, he repeats it in each of his books 'Through Gates of Fire', and 'The Truth that Sticks'.
Mr. Bell is greatly attached to the works of G. K. Chesterton; 'The Truth that Sticks', in particular the opening section, is peppered with Chesterton quotes, and in his book 'An Accidental MP', he recounts that he even quoted from GKC's poem 'The Secret People' on the night of his election as MP for Tatton; again, if memory serves, he quoted precisely the same lines ('Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget, For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet') on his most recent appearance on 'Question Time'.
Mr. Bell's books display a humanity, an admirably Chestertonian common sense and, one senses, a great deal of personal charm that seems absent in many journalists of later vintage; although hoping for any improvement in the quality of modern mainstream journalism might be the folly of hoping for the triumph of hope over experience, one lives in hope. Mr. Bell is a model most modern journalists could do worse than to emulate. When he repeats his anecdotes, it's because they help reinforce the point he is trying to make. Sadly, the fact that one has recently seen the canard that both Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc were anti-Semites repeated on more than one occasion would seem to indicate that some journalists believe anecdotes are there to be used not to illustrate their argument's point, but its pointlessness.
Nailing Chesterton to the wall as an anti-Semite is a work of literary criticism worthy of a pedant. Let's see (ho, hum); there's this bit in 'The Everlasting Man' -
"It is true, in this sense, that the world owes God to the Jews. It owes that truth to much that is blamed on the Jews, possibly to much that is blameable in the Jews."
Anyone trying to pin anti-Semitism on GKC in consequence of this passage clearly cannot differentiate between the meanings of the words 'on' and 'in'; and their opponents can accordingly disengage themselves from the argument with a meaty 'Over and Out'. Such a lack of comprehension skills indicates a lack of common sense for which one could only recommend, well, a hearty dose of Chesterton. Next!
Ah, yes - the serious one; Chesterton promoted the blood libel, founded on this passage in, again, 'The Everlasting Man', perhaps the only one of Chesterton's works his slanderers have read; presumably like old wives thumbing through dictionaries in the hope of finding swearwords -
"This inverted imagination produces things of which it is better not to speak. Some of them indeed might almost be named without being known; for they are of that extreme evil which seems innocent to the innocent. They are too inhuman even to be indecent. But without dwelling much longer in these dark corners, it may be noted as not irrelevant here that certain anti-human antagonisms seem to recur in this tradition of black magic. There may be suspected as running through it everywhere, for instance, a mystical hatred of the idea of childhood. People would understand better the popular fury against the witches, if they remembered that the malice most commonly attributed to them was preventing the birth of children. The Hebrew prophets were perpetually protesting against the Hebrew race relapsing into an idolatry that involved such a war upon children; and it is probable enough that this abominable apostasy from the God of Israel has occasionally appeared in Israel since, in the form of what is called ritual murder; not of course by any representative of the religion of Judaism, but by individual and irresponsible diabolists who did happen to be Jews. This sense that the forces of evil especially threaten childhood is found again in the enormous popularity of the Child Martyr of the Middle Ages. Chaucer did but give another version of a very national English legend, when he conceived the wickedest of all possible witches as the dark alien woman watching behind her high lattice and hearing, like the babble of a brook down the stony street, the singing of little St. Hugh. "
Unless one is the kind of extreme cynic who would believe that the 20th Century's greatest advocate of common sense wrote this sentence alone and no other he ever wrote throughout his long and incredibly prolific career with his tongue wedged in his cheek, and compounded this lapse by being so sloppy that he failed to punctuate the words 'not of course by' as 'not, of course, by', the phrase 'not of course by any representative of the religion of Judaism' would seem to indicate a searing lack of animus towards Jews qua Jews and Judaism in general. What Chesterton was interested was the truth, or rather The Truth; helping people get towards it was his life's work, and false accusations of an anti-Semitism never did deter him.
It is hard to credit that Gilbert Chesterton remains so hated by Christianity's opponents that they continue to slander his memory over 70 years after his death. These slanders might arise from ignorance; but my own belief is that they arise from what Belloc described as 'hatred of the Faith', because they know what Chesterton stands for, a message that is precisely the opposite of theirs. He was a partisan of hope, they are partisans of despair. He will speak to people for as long as he is read; so I guess slandering him is a good way of discouraging his potential readership from making the effort. What they don't realise about the guy is that he was so cool that if he were alive today, he'd be on every outlet from Fareed Zakaria to Kerrang! Gilbert rocks - the jury is dismissed.
I have things to do today, but will be revisiting accusations of antisemitism against Belloc in early course. And if you don't believe that, you'll believe Chesterton was a fascist sympathiser.
Friday, October 30, 2009
'He first sank to the bottom - like his works,
But soon rose to the surface - like himself;
For all corrupted things are buoy'd, like corks,
By their own rottenness, light as an elf,
Or wisp that flits o'er a morass: he lurks,
It may be, still, like dull books on a shelf,
In his own den, to scrawl some 'Life' or 'Vision',
As Welborn says - "the devil turned precisian" -
But soon rose to the surface - like himself;
For all corrupted things are buoy'd, like corks,
By their own rottenness, light as an elf,
Or wisp that flits o'er a morass: he lurks,
It may be, still, like dull books on a shelf,
In his own den, to scrawl some 'Life' or 'Vision',
As Welborn says - "the devil turned precisian" -
Their Lordships have, pro loco et tempore, euthanised the form of medical murder known as 'assisted suicide' for England and Wales. The right-to-be-put-to-death brigade will, of course, come back for another bite of the cherry (it might even be time to open a book at William Hill's on which of them suggests using the Parliament Act to push it through; if anyone does, stick a fiver each way on Polly Toynbee and Joan Bakewell for me), but it is good to see that for the time being at least, their Lordships have recognised that a possessor's right to the continuation of his own life is a greater good than his legatees' right to his possessions.
Sadly, we in Scotland do not have a revising chamber; so we'll just have to see whether its leaders consider it to be all guid Scots' duty to lie down and take the needle in the arm for no higher purpose than due regard for economy. While that would be inexcusable, that would at least be understandable; but passing it to satisfy the demands of a peroxided old barbarian's ravenous ego would be incomprehensible.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Apologies for the title, but it's the best I could come up with when confronted with The Dawk's most recent outburst against Catholicism.
According to The Dawk, The Blessed Sacrament is a 'cannibal feast'; a line of thinking that could have come straight from the time of Nero. Yet he outdoes himself with his idea that the Church's conception of priesthood as including 'the nastier idea that possession of testicles is an essential qualification to perform the rite'; you know, the whole 'cannibal feast' thang.
It's not very broadminded of me, I know, but literature which involves one chap discussing other chaps' gonads is usually a non-starter in my book, and accordingly that was as far as I got. In following a career as an evolutionary biologist, The Dawk has devoted himself to the principle that we have only reached the stage we're at because about 65million years ago, the sky fell in one day. It is not known whether this event happened on a Saturday night, thus blindsiding groups of large lizards fighting over the remote because they couldn't agree whether to watch 'Strictly Come Prancing' (although her tiny forearms were a bit of a barrier to free expression, Dad liked the hotty diplodocus from 'Dead Enders' doing the samba) or 'The T-Rex Factor'. On the other hand, it could have been the most interesting thing to have happened at teatime on a Tuesday afternoon ever since, oh, Grandpa decided to become a land-dweller.
Some men who are frightened of things falling on their heads usually wear hard hats to cushion the blow. Some of these men are also renowned for their harrassment of innocent passers-by. In terms of his career as an advocacy of atheism, that's the point The Dawk has reached. Assuming that the sky did fall in, it has never been proven to have had anything to do with us; and while one might feel some sympathy for the lizards who never got to see the episodes of 'Walking With Amoeba' that they'd recorded in anticipation of the rainy season, that's as far as it goes.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Given that the enforced abortion 90% of black, South Asian or Jewish children would rightly be considered to be genocide, it is hard to see how the voluntary abortion of 90% of Down's Syndrome children can be described as anything else.
This is the house that social liberalism has built - destroying the safest and most comfortable environment that a person will ever live in and turning it into a charnel house either because the wean will never be able to hack it at Suzuki violin lessons, or because mothers are under subtle, or not so subtle, cultural pressure to expect the infant that pops out to look like a cast member from 'Home and Away'; or because they're under subtle, or not so subtle, official pressure not to bring another unproductive long-term benefit claimant into the world. O 'Land of Hope and Glory', ye could yet beg to sink into the sea; Gomorrah might have easier time of it than you do on that day...
The always interesting and thought-provoking John Harris has pulled out a fantastic quote from Conservative property guru and TV estate agent, the Hon. Kirstie Allsopp - "Communities have to save themselves" .
Indeed. In some parts of the UK, people believe they can do this by voting for the BNP; an act which Allsopp's fellow Conservatives seem to consider to be just about as rude and uncivic as asking why they feel their communities have to be saved in the first place. In most cases, this has absolutely nothing to do with race, but is instead a reaction to the Conservative destruction of industrial communities perpetrated just as lightly and enthusiastically as the consumption of some novelty between the soup and the fish.
Most of the people in it probably don't give a f-f-fig for our lost superpower status - but the Establishment seems petrified of it. What might cause this terror is the thought of losing its capacity to make foreign wars in order to divert scrutiny awat from its domestic misdeeds and maladministration; and becoming a small and uninfluential country means that more scrutiny would be devoted to it - which is just not in the rulebook.
Does this mean he tells it what to do?
If I wished to be the chief of anything, it would be the chief of making all the bloody economists just shut their mouths for five minutes a day; just five minutes. The silence would be deafening, thus improving our collective mental health, the economy would improve as if by magic and we would all lead very much happier and more productive lives.
It is gratifying to see that the Tory MP son, of, er, a Tory MP wishes to end Whitehall's 'jobs for life' culture.
Very well. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; so when can we expect to see Francis Maude (MP 1983-1992, 1997-date) and Kenneth 'Fatty' Clarke (MP 1970 - date) being dumped out of Parliament through term limits? Oh I forgot, that's impossible; Parliament has to attract the best people.
Not often one gets one of those rage attacks where one wishes to rip the laptop in two, Hulk-like, and smash the remnants against the wall; but seeing that members of Scotland's legal professions are going to participate in a debate entitled 'This house believes that trainees are there to be exploited' is enough to trigger one.
Oh, I'm sure that it will be full of dry Edinburgh legal humour, all daft wee gurns, rictus half-smiles and arch put-downs, and jokes about how many groats a printer cartridge refill costs; but even if the motion's proposers don't really believe it, it seems like an incredibly stupid suggestion to put in the public domain in the first place. Do some of these people inhabit the same planet as the rest of us? Have people like Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Shaftesbury and Charles Dickens made no impact on their lives?
Monday, October 26, 2009
George Osborne has suggested that banks pay their bonusses in shares rather than cash. This is entirely wrong.
There are no grounds, have never been any grounds, which can justify the payment of executive compensation in shares. In our absurd system which gives rights to those who have bought shares, things which can never be seen or touched, the common voting share is a symbol of ownership; if Mrs. Fidget up the street owns a hundred RBS, her hundred RBS are a hundred RBS that nobody else owns - they are her property, giving her certain rights to engage in discussions about how RBS is run, and to vote on its direction.
If Henk van der Bankbreaker gets hired as CEO and receives half his compensation in shares, he doesn't just get compensated; he also gets the same voting rights as Mrs Fidget and all the other owners as well. His possession of these rights dilutes the level of authority which the other owners are able to exercise over the company's affairs; in political terms, this is labelled a coup d' etat. In terms of rights of ownership, it's theft of their company by stealth.
Now, the Conservative Party might be in favour of such coups (I cannot recall whether it was GM Young or GM Trevelyan who remarked upon the Tories' desire to play Richard II to everyone elses' Wat Tyler, always in favour of the big boys); but to suggest that diluting the value of property rights should be the answer to a problem you don't have a clue how to fix does rather make a mockery of trumpeting the virtues of shareholder democracy. It's like saying a Tory vote is worth 100 votes for every other party combined.
It is also interesting to note that Osborne's suggestion seems to be founded on the belief that bonusses must always be payable, regardless of whether or not they are earned. It seems that it is now settled practice that bankers be able to pay themselves like pigs at a trough; the only question this seems to raise is with whose property. For the conservative, however, this is strangely gratifying; it is always good to know that some strongholds of tradition continue to stand against modernity's assaults.
The fact that the Lockerbie bomber has abandoned his appeal, never the action of an innocent man (it would be interesting to know whether the organs of the British state would ever have been as willing to show as much compassion to a truly innocent man such as Giuseppe Conlon as they did to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi), should convince even his most overheated and unreasonable supporters of his guilt; and our legal system is at even more risk of descending into engineered ridicule when the Monday morning quarterbacking of shrinks, presumably possessing little or no training in the Scottish law of evidence, is deemed noteworthy.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
If British children are considered to be 'undesirable' because of the likelihood that they will contribute to carbon emissions, thus enraging the green movement's false gods and the foodies whose jetsetting to Cambodia would seem to give them Sasquatch-sized carbon footprints, it will not be long before someone in the British Establishment publicly demands either their forced abortion, or the forced sterilisation of their potential parents. Instead of being furtively sacrificed to one set of false and lying gods on the sterile altars to reason known as operating tables (one would hope that at least one abortion clinic would have the intellectual honesty to decorate their altar with icons of dirty raincoats and wire coathangers, in order to appease the false and lying gods' demand that the ritual's participants believe that it's all for the mother's good), they will instead be sacrificed to another group of false and lying gods; angry demons apparently incapable of being appeased by offerings of sacramental Fairtrade vegan yoghurt and low-energy lightbulbs, presented by bearded priests adorned in vestments of lambswool cardigans and sandals, their ankles adorned with holy bicycle clips.
Why do the British hate children so?
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Nick Griffin cuts a stumbling, unprepossessing figure on television; it is hard to believe that he thinks the British people would, if left to their own devices, ever consider having a corpulent, inarticulate, middle-aged one-eyed man as their Prime Minister.
The BBC's pre-broadcast report on the broadcast on the '10 O'Clock News' was scandalous. It showed a clip of Griffin saying 'I cannot explain' why he had changed his views on the Holocaust without, if memory serves, also including his explanation that this was on account of his fear of the European Arrest Warrant. Although his mention of the possible role of the EAW in British public life might have been as inaccurate and misleading as his fellow panellists claimed, his citation of it should have been included; it indicated a rationale for his actions which the '10 O' Clock News' did not seem to consider worth reporting.
The only person to use foul language was a Conservative peerette, the only people using political violence were the antifa rioters who attempted to storm the studios, and the only person subjected to racial abuse was Griffin himself, when it was suggested that he remove himself to the all-white environment of Antarctica. Quite what Antarctica has done to deserve Griffin is anyone's guess.
Jack Straw's mention of the Indian soldiers buried beside members of the East Lancs. in France was touching, but would have been more meaningful had it been uttered by a member of a government which has not done everything in its power to prevent the Gurkhas from settling in the UK. If having Nepalese soldiers in your war graves is considered to be a good thing, one fails to see how having them as your next-door neighbours could in any way considered to be bad.
Similarly, Straw's outright refusal to answer the very straightforward question put to him about immigration was arrogant and offputting; not the actions of a man who could be considered to be speaking in good faith.
Chris Huhne was both as bland and as opportunistic as one would expect a Liberal Democrat to be, while Baroness Warsi was almost as far out of her depth as Griffin was himself; a state of affairs which, given the appalling mediocrity of all her 'Question Time' appearances, can now perhaps be considered to be a constant. As for the playwright Bonnie Greer, can anyone recall the titles of any of her plays?
This was not political theatre, but a macabre exercise in demonstrating not only how incredibly mediocre the BNP's leader seems to be, but also in throwing light on the evils of the entire British political system. 'Deep Space Nine' would have been infinitely preferable viewing; it might be fantasy, but at least the good guys win. Do we have any good guys left?
Friday, October 23, 2009
Blogger had an outage during writing time; so reflections upon Nick Griffin's appearance on 'Question Time' will have to wait.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
One is not surprised to read reports alleging that attempts to reach a negotiated settlement to the postal dispute may have been sabotaged.
The Establishment wants the Royal Mail to be broken; and the best way to do this is to break its employees. It is ironic that a Labour government should collude in strikebreaking, because that's what the hiring of the 30,000 additional employees actually is. It's not a seasonal employment push; unless they have to go through six week long health and safety inductions, it's far too early in the year for such numbers to be necessary to assist with Christmas postal deliveries. It's strikebreaking, plain and simple, a betrayal of everything the Labour movement has ever stood for, and a disgrace of which Gordon Brown should be ashamed.
Maybe that's one of the reasons why our leaders seem so keen on having a 'flexible labour market'; under such conditions, scabbing and strikebreaking don't really carry quite the same stigmas that they used to.
The Darwinists' dogmatic desire to prove that we are naught but gorillas with oversized brain cavities seems to have taken a bit of a knock. Oh dear, chaps; back to the drawing board, or, in your case, mapping some genomes. The hunt goes on; for these guys, there's always another little quarry just outside Frankfurt which might contain a piece of shale which might contain something that looks like a chimpanzee's toenail which might, on a sunny day and with a following wind, provide irrefutable proof of...The Missing Link! Woo Hoo! Those Christians will really get get one in the eye whose genetic characteristics they share with the bonobo monkey that day! Cheeta rules...OK!
Not quite. Once, it was poor wee Lucy. She proved to be a bummer. Next! Now, it's the Frankfurt lemur which has proved to have more in common with, er, lemurs than with us. Next! Biological reductionism might be comic, but it's the coarse, unpleasant comedy that used to be found on a Friday night at the Glasgow Empire; its critics are a tough crowd to please. Next!
It might be considered bad manners to suggest that that old silverback Sir David Attenborough be suspended from natural history broadcasting for having presented an untruth, in the sense of saying something which he believed to be true when it wasn't, to the public as a fact. When a news journalist does this, it's irresponsible and they run a high and heavy risk of losing their job; when a science journalist does it, it's...what? A surfeit of enthusiasm? A desire to have what you've believed all your life proved correct in the full glare of publicity before you die? The Christian should be aware that unless they happen to be lucky enough to be alive at the time of the Resurrection, the point in history when even the most urbane and sophisticated of the godless might wear expressions like, well, gorillas caught in the headlights, they are never going to have that intellectual satisfaction. The Darwinist and the biological reductionist, always seeking to justify their own behaviour by citing the 'law of the jungle', have no such faith to fall back on; and so the hunt goes on, that hunt which they cannot accept might never find its prey. Instead of reading about faith in a book, they would prefer to dig it out of a quarry. They are certainly free to reject Christianity if they so wish; by doing so while continuing to enjoy its fruits, they make a sight just as ridiculous as a man who orders the froth without the beer. Personally, I find their religious fanaticism quite alarming.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
"Martin Kelly, I should perhaps explain to the few readers who are following this that, while you are always welcome to post here, your contributions are not valued. I've known what they're worth since you assiduously posted comments to various blogs, including this one, calling for the Iraqi interpreters to be barred entry to this country and left to sectarian murder gangs. Your response to the inevitable criticism was not dignified, and I'm afraid that the comment you've just posted, about a depiction of dictatorship as crass and ignorant (though not as literate) as anything Anna Louise Strong might have come up, falls in the same category. "
"Your case is very strong. Let them in. I concede. I'm sick of being labelled a war criminal."
The blogger - just for the sake of the historical record.
Would I have written now what I did then? Who knows, and I'd prefer not to think about it. My original position was wrong, and I do sometimes say some quite moronic things.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
While the privatisation of the Student Loans Company would be only marginally more wicked and evil than the creation of the Student Loans Company in the first place, the suggestion that The Met Office should be included in The Great British Closing Down Sale of 2009 is absolutely absurd.
The Met Office has never existed in anything but public form. The fact that all of us have some kind of stake in the weather, whether we be farmers, ship owners, airline passengers or buyers of umbrellas, should indicate that it's not really the kind of thing that should, or even can, be run for profit. While all the Tamsins and Jontys in the mainstream anti-globalisation movement will no doubt be delighted at the growth in such folk activities as dousing, and sales of weathercocks will bo through the roof, the idea of the weather forecast becoming pay-per-view is somehow unappealing.
The idea of corporate logos appearing on weather charts is downright dangerous. Will all the lines indicating the presence of isobars be sponsored by manufacturers of knicker elastic? And while everyone will be fighting for the premium advertising space on ridges of high pressure, will forecasts of storms be omitted because nobody wants their brand associated with misery and destruction?
All in all, it's a bust of an idea. Better to leave it as it is, rather than having pilots having to stick their fingers out the window to check which way the wind's blowing because their discount airline has ripped out all the radar equipment on account of them being unable to afford the weather subscription, or millions of housewives using their tumble dryers on the hottest days of the year because nobody will sponsor the storm reports.
I've been completely knackered for two days.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Tim Worstall, always a good egg even if one sometimes slightly hardboiled, really says what has to be said about the brouhaha concerning Jan Moir's perhaps untimely column on the death of Stephen Gately.
But the totaligayrian blackshorts are on the warpath, and, no matter what they tell you, dissent is not an option. As Mark Shea would put it - You*Must*Approve.
Friday, October 16, 2009
European Union pressure on the Czech Republic to sign the Lisbon Treaty in no way differs from the Third Reich's aggression towards Czechoslovakia in 1938; Czech independendence is being screwed over all over again as a result of the British Establishment's willingness to placate Continental powers; and its betrayal of the Czechs is just as odious as it was 70 years ago.
Reducing the number of MP's while retaining the whipping system would ensure that each MP gets more time to be disciplined; thus reducing the possibility of backbench revolts. It would be the death of the Parliamentary awkward squad, and our democracy would be poorer for it.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Reports that Lloyds Bank is seeking another five billion pounds of taxpayer funds do not appear to bode well for the prospects of economic recovery.
It would appear that the banking bailouts have answered a question which has no doubt baffled many generations of puzzled borrowers as they sit outside freshly foreclosed dwellings; who does the bank manager go to for a loan? The answer should be clear - unlike the Lottery and its promise that 'It Could Be You', when a bank fails and runs cap in hand to the Treasury, They Know It's You.
The banks were, of course, 'too big to fail'; - a statement which although it's the kind of thing one might expect to hear in a Channel Five documentary on the subject of giantism, is also one which, in a world paid for with fiat money apparently whistled up by bankers out of nowhere, might just possibly be true. Except that the bailouts have shown us that it's not true, and very probably hasn't ever been true. If the taxpayer is the lender of last resort, the one the banks go to when they're in trouble, then the currency in which they pay the tax becomes convertible against the assets of the taxpayers just as surely as it was when you could exchange a one pound note for a volume of gold of equivalent value. It is one of those ironies of history that crop up from time to time that the perennial gales of creative destruction have blown us back to the days when money actually had some real value, and not merely the religious faith that we might be prepared to place in its value. Given the extent of the Inland Revenue's collection powers, it might also have turned the pound sterling into the assignat; but whoda thunk it?
There are a number of steps that could be being taken to ensure that such crises do not happen again once the banks are sent out from underneath our warm and comforting aprons in order to brave the cold, unfriendly world. The first is that the government should be appointing suitably interested independent non-executive directors to the boards of all taxpayer-funded banks in order to ensure that business is conducted to the highest levels of probity and responsibility. If they were minded to accept the appointments, I could suggest Dennis Canavan for the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Arthur Scargill for Lloyds.
Yet as interesting as such appointments might be, the only real way in which the British taxpayer will be able to protect their interests will be by retaining a golden share in supported banks after they return to the market; one which will enable them to close down failing banks immediately, and to sack the boards at will. If banks are not like normal businesses and cannot be allowed to fail, there is absolutely no reason why their share capitals should be structured like those of normal businesses capable of failing any day of the week. The moral hazard to the British public involved in not retaining golden shares and not removing the banks from shareholder democracy, thereby allowing Tarquin, Justin and Freddie to cock it up all over again, is too great. The banks are in public ownership - and it would be good for the souls of those who run them to be reminded that they are custodians.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
One of the government's education advisers is...a grocer.
Beats me. Go figure.
Beats me. Go figure.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Let's celebrate that we're the world's divorce capital for rich people, because there's money in it.
It is a strange day when you find yourself agreeing with Tony Benn.
Oh, the last volume of his diaries are classic - who can forget how a man who was once responsible for national energy policy could swallow a mothball in the mistaken belief that it was a sweetie (what in God's name does he keep in his pockets?), or brush his teeth with a skin cream? Should the Stansgate peerage ever revive its coat of arms, one hopes the crossed pipe and thermos flask will feature prominently. Benn's devotion to his thermos flask is heroic - you'll only take his thermos flask from him out of his cold, dead hands.
They also show quite an unattractive side of Benn - wholesome disagreement with the presence of 'No Smoking' signs in railway carriages does not give one carte blanche to peel them from the windows.
Yet there is one area in which one must give him his due; his criticism of the way in which the media has usurped the role of Parliament. Regardless of how badly its members might have behaved, perhaps itself in some cases a reaction to being sidelined in favour of tight party control intended to present a favourable media image, it is utterly inappropriate for any media outlet to declare that Parliament deserves to burn; this is nothing short of scandalous.
A Parliament run for the benefit of the people is one thing, one run for the benefit of the parties, which is what we've had for far too long, quite another; but one run for the benefit of the media is no kind of Parliament at all, a nonsense Parliament in which the only electorate that counts are media proprietors. Once in a while. it would be very gratifying to see a Minister metaphorically rip Jeremy Paxman's or John Humphreys' heads off their shoulders and berate them for the insolence with which they address the peoples' government; if nothing else, being reminded that they are unelected talking heads who have been given the privilege of addressing the powerful might give a healthy shock to both of those gentlemens' systems.
Reports that NM Rothschild has pitched a plan for the privatisation of the motorway network are certainly a novel spin on the idea of 'laissez faire, laissez passer' - yet they do bring to mind the fact that the Province of Saskatchewan once paid Rothschild 'tens of thousands' of Canadian dollars(.pdf, page 21, comment not favourable) for Oliver Letwin's time and advice on privatisation(.pdf).
And economics is not, of course, a zero-sum game.
Monday, October 12, 2009
There being no crisis of any kind in the public finances but a religious crisis of faith in the value of paper money instead, the direct consequence of cabalist economists having been accepted into the bosom of authority rather than kept away with a bargepole held at arm's length, it is interesting to see just how the same public finances can be, er, 'stabilised' by selling off those government functions with the potential to make money.
A well-known aphorism concerning geese and golden eggs springs to mind.
Despite only ever having worked in the private sector (for 22 years now, a phenomenal waste of writing time for which I pray my God does not hold me to account), its mysteries still elude me. The stuff that's being sold knock-off from the back of a Reliant Robin outside Downing Street are 'assets'; so they must be worth something. They're public assets belonging to you and me; so, what's in it for us? Don't we get a say in how common property should be disposed of? Do we get to sit in on the negotiations, to try to get the best prices for ourselves? When's the cheque for our share from the sales (probably about 32p before tax, but it's still ours) going to come through the door? I don't know, but wouldn't bank on using it as a deposit for a widescreen TV anytime soon.
Of course those who are taxed and upon whom little is spent have little to complain of. The more wackadoo Mitteleuropan hack economic scribblers, scribbling away like inmates of psychiatric institutions scribbling their plans for world domination on the walls of their padded rooms, have fostered the wonderful idea that the root of all freedom is economic freedom. Like a nightmare mutation from the minds of H.P. Lovecraft or H. G. Wells, in practical terms this has mutated into the idea that economic freedom is the only freedom worth having. Once that idea gets hold, spying upon the people, arresting Opposition MP's and extraditing bobble-hatted UFO anoraks to overseas dungeons becomes just a wee bit easier. It also means that you can't really raise any objection to being pillaged of the common property in which you hold a stake, a wonderful intellectual example of what Muhammad Ali called a 'rope-a-dope'. We now seem to have a group of people who actually believe that having to pay tax is a form of slavery - the idea that the payment of tax is just another of those ways in which we express our obligations to each other as members of the human race seems to be beyond them; unless, of course, they have made a unilateral declaration of independence from humanity. Those who do such things sometimes believe themselves to be gods, and end up behaving like beasts; they also sometimes end up in padded rooms.
The sale of these assets is just another form of pillage. In the world of New Labour, New Language, prosperity means poverty, security means oppression - and stability seems to mean handling stolen goods. Expect the stuff to fall out the back of the van to include Ordnance Survey, the Met Office, the Forestry Commission, the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster, the Covent Garden Market Authority, the Royal Mint, the Tote, buildings owned by British Waterways, British Nuclear Fuel's stake in the uranium enrichment company Urenco, and The Oil & Pipeline Agency; in other words, the list that 'The Independent' published in December 2008.
Yet this sale raises questions as disturbing as Anthony Blair's ascension to the office of President of Europe would present to those troublesome constitutional purists who insist that the United Kingdom's Head of State is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; for once a nation sells the ability to produce its own coins, can it really be called a nation at all?
"The writer has long believed that while those who created and executed the New Labour Project were attending anti-apartheid demonstrations in the 1970's and 1980's, they were not doing so in opposition to the South African regime - they were in fact studying its methods. " -
The writer, 5th August 2009.
Further evidence here, if more is required. One is not altogether sure that 'promoting diversity in the UK' is a core BBC value; not having its core values dictated by ministers should be.
Ah, here comes the enclosers of the Internet. Had to come eventually, can't have the people enjoying something for nothing, there's no such thing as a free lunch, ad nauseam ad infinitum.
Those who wish to wrap their fingers around common intellectual property and prise it away from the many for the benefit of the few should consider the following - content on the Internet is not free, and has never been free. To enjoy it at home, you must first buy a PC. You must then have a domestic telephone line, must subscribe to an internet service provider and must pay your electricity bill. These are all costs borne solely by the Internet's users before they start to surf, and those who derive their livelihoods from providing online content really should think long and hard about unilaterally changing the terms of the business they do with people who spend their own money in order to visit their websites.
The only effect that threatening to charge for online content will have will be to drive readers away from chargeable sites, to the detriment of just about everything from their advertising revenue to their intellectual standing. The Friedmanite economic theory behind charging for Internet content is absolutely sound; but this will be one of the few occasions when a public confronted with Friedmanism's realities will get a chance to just say no.
And if Keith Murdoch was too dumb to think of charging for online content before he started 'Times Online', that's his problem. He's in a market, and such behaviours will always create more aggressive and less loyal consumers. After all, there's always 'Comment is Free'.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Gary McKinnon, who if you believe the Pentagon is the world's most dangerous bobble-hatted UFO anorak, has been denied leave to appeal against his extradition to the USA, and now has to go to the European Court of Human Rights. Quite why the American authorities wish to continue persecuting a man who did nothing to them but the biggest favour anyone could do is a mystery the size of Area 51. Can we persecute, to the point of the sword, an Asperger's sufferer who actually left messages saying he'd been in for a wander round the system? Yes We Can!
All British people of goodwill should extend their best wishes to Mr. McKinnon, a British citizen who has been horribly let down by our government, in his continued fight against an unjust fate; getting banged up with Roman Polanski.
The multimillionaire health club owner Duncan Bannatyne has published an editorial in 'The Observer' indicating that he'll 'only be happy when smoking's banned'.
The absolute nature of such sentiments could make one wonder whether Mr. Bannatyne, a former ice-cream salesman from Clydebank, has a bad dose of rich man's fascism. Non-UK readers might not be aware that in recent years he has achieved a measure of fame as a result of his recurring participation in, ahem, a gameshow.
'Dragons' Den' is easily one of the ugliest and most odious programmes that the BBC has ever broadcast. The format of the show is that Mr. Bannatyne and three other rich people offer to give their own money to aspiring entrepreneurs in return for a stake in their businesses. Those desperate to enter the entrepreneurial priesthood have to give their spiels while the judges appear to insult their business plans, and sometimes them personally, before denying them investment. It is not surprising that the format originally hails from Japan, the land that gave the world the classic humiliation gameshow; 'Endurance'.
The moral quandaries that the 'Dragons' Den' format raises are legion. It appears to reinforce the septic idea that the only form of achievement worth striving for is material success. The manner in which some Dragons berate contestants is a form of ritualised, almost operatic humiliation that robs those on the receiving end of their dignity, and thus of their humanity. No doubt those involved in the show would say that it's not just business but showbusiness, and that the humiliation is the showbusiness, and they might even be telling the truth - but it's a desperately unattractive kind of showbusiness, one for people who think that only money talks.
From time to time, you see broadcasts showing how those businesses in which the 'Dragons' have invested are doing. Mr. Bannatyne's backed a few - and this raises another, quite interesting question.
'Dragons' Den' is broadcast on the BBC. You, me, Uncle Tom Cobley and all fund the BBC through the licence fee. One would hope that the BBC is in partnership with the Dragons in the businesses they fund, and getting a share of the profits; because if it's not, then the licence fee could be said to be being used to provide four very wealthy people with introductions to new business opportunities, pretty much on their own terms - and that's not really in the spirit of public service broadcasting.
Cherie Blair's latest outburst against Church teaching, this time her expression of her belief that there is 'a difference between preventing a life and destroying a life', is nothing but a direct attack upon one of the Catholic Church's most central beliefs, the right to life.
I have commented before upon how Mrs. Blair's lack of self-discipline towards the corporate discipline demanded of Catholics is an expression of her own narcissism; yet this most recent statement goes too far. It strays too close to heresy for it to be ignored by the hierarchy.
If Joanne Public in a Birmingham pew were to speak out of turn regarding the Church's teaching on abortion, the authorities would be down on her like a ton of bricks. For the morale of ordinary members of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, it is now incumbent upon the Church authorities, either in these lands or in Rome, to consider publicly rebuking Cherie Blair for her persistent defiance of settled teaching, and directing her to be silent. Just this once, those who lead the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom must bite the bullet and cast aside their apparently pathological historic need to pee-hee and tiptoe around dukes, squires and VIP's. It'll be painful for them - but it will be no more painful for them than it is for common faithful to see Church teaching being persistently questioned and criticised by a person who seems to have mentally cast themselves in the role of Devil's Advocate agin every matter of settled doctrine.
The Church is not a democracy but a hierarchy, and the Church fathers would be entirely within their rights to tell those who feel righteous indignation at Mrs. Blair's defiance to get stuffed; but while legal, it wouldn't really be fair - and if there is no appearance of fairness in the Church, it puts its own cause back.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
After yesterday's turn of the screw in 'The Times', today's 'Daily Telegraph' carries a commentary describing the Royal Mail as an 'industry'; and this sort of stupid, blinkered and ill-informed comment is precisely indicative of the problem the Royal Mail faces.
It is not an industry, but a royal monopoly. It has the protection of the Crown. Dumb bum neoliberal economists might think that it runs on precisely the same lines as a Burger King franchise; but it doesn't. It cannot be privatised, either in whole or in part, until the royal title is removed from its name, and the royal crests removed from all those red boxes. By extension, this could mean that no government ever had any legal right to deregulate the postal delivery sector in the first place, that if that is the case then any other entity which engages in domestic postal delivery services should be considered to be acting illegally in fact and in law, and that any individual, limited liability company or other entity that uses them for their own gain should be considered to be abetting lawbreaking and shunned as bandits and outlaws.
When told that a legal impediment might exist to them doing what they want and doing business in whatever way they like and with whomsoever they like, the more stupid type of libertarian will bang their fists and stamp their feet in displays of petulance which would be unbecoming in a two year old, shouting that nobody will tell them what to do. This sociopathic atomism has only to be met with the reply that they should read both more and more widely than they have done before. It's the law, a very ancient law. Get over it.
Several years ago, an attempt was made to republicanise the Royal Mail and gouge out its royal character by 'rebranding' it under the nonsense, alphabetty spaghetti jumble of letters which was 'Consignia'. The public's reaction to this was that they hated it and wanted the Royal Mail back, one of the few times in our modern history when the mood of the public has actually counted for anything. But like the good Terminators they are, the neoliberals just do not know when to stop, and have continued to chip and chisel at the structure they have not built yet seek to dominate, up to the point of using the Thatcher tactic of provoking strike action, in the full knowledge that the British Establishment's deep hatred of British people organising themselves to better their circumstances, or even just to maintain their way of life, will produce spastic, Pavlovian wolfhowls of rage from the right wing press.
The Telegraph piece reports that "(a) new chairman, Donald Brydon, was recently installed at Royal Mail. A former City fund manager, he comes with a second-to-none reputation for getting things done and extracting value." With all due respect to Mr. Brydon, the ability to 'get things done and extract value' would sit well on another type of job specification; that of pirate on the Spanish Main. It is to be hoped that Mr. Brydon is not just another slash-and-burn costcutter - he leads an organisation which has royal protection, and he wouldn't want to set the wrong type of precedent.
Let's hope that he's not a new Sir Ian McGregor, just another politically motivated and sharp-suited bootboy sent in to provoke a fight with the people and do the Establishment's dirty work for it, not just another, as Sir Ian himself put it, 'hoary old bastard who wants to win'.
And let's hope he's open to creative solutions to the current crisis. Here's a suggestion.
Domestic postal delivery services in the United Kingdom are a royal monopoly in the form of the Royal Mail. No government has any latitude to change this, and any entity performing this service other than the Royal Mail may be acting illegally. Accordingly, the only appropriate way to solve this is for all entities other than the Royal Mail which might be engaged in domestic postal deliveries to be brought within the Royal Mail fold.
That's right - nationalise them all, immediately and without compensation. Compensation is not payable to bandits and outlaws. Or pirates.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Oh, they're really turning the screws now.
News Corporation (prop. K. R. Murdoch, OA, KCSG, PORNO) has thrown down the gauntlet and issued an ultimatum that the Royal Mail must 'modernise or privatise'. The British economy has been thoroughly modernised and privatised over the past 30 years - they've sure modernised and privatised the hell out of us. Let's see where we are.
One would have thought that the areas in which private economic activity is highest is reflected in the madcap freneticism of advertising. If this contention holds true for the modern United Kingdom, then the only things we are doing all day long are buying car insurance and calling telephone directory enquiry services. If I see another smug, self-satisfied mouthbreathing bastard vacantly chanting about the wonderful deal they got through http://www.carinsurancetartsbehavelikesheep.com/, their tongues almost lolling in ecstasy, or another Slavonic sock puppet of a type that who wouldn't have been funny if it had been put beside Basil Brush or Charlie Cairoli on children's TV circa 1978, the controls might go through the TV.
The same goes for those two seedy-looking tracksuited digital puppets whose creators seem to think that the British public are so stupid, so bovine, that we are collectively incapable of performing a function so basic as making a telephone call without their assistance. The growth of the telephone directory enquiry service, a natural monopoly if ever there was one, was the consequence of a European Union directive requiring 'competition' in that sector; and its only visible consequence has been that it now seems impossible to watch British commercial television without being confronted by two characters apparently designed to look like Dutch pimps.
So we await the privatisation and modernisation of Royal Mail with bated breath, to see what wonders our creatives will come up with to lure us to their respective clients' services in the wonderfully privatised and modernised world of, er, domestic postal delivery; a job which will require to be performed by a human being until both language and paper are abolished. Any robot coming to my door will soon receive a lesson in the meaning of the word 'Luddism'.
Word to the wise, chaps - stay away from images of red boxes. That would be a bit close to the knuckle.
Our humble red post boxes are the outbox from which communications should reach the red ministerial inbox. Why both are red, I don't know; yet when one hears the claptrap about how wonderful and efficient and efficient and wonderful DHL (German) and TNT (Dutch) have become since their privatisation, one has to ask whether either of the previous entities had the word 'Royal' in their titles, or had the initials of the monarch reigning at the time they were erected inscribed on them. If one can privatise the Royal Mail, one would have thought it's no great leap to privatise, modernise and thoroughly deregulate the Royal Family; but as Rick Jones used to say at the end of 'Fingerbobs', that's another story...
The real scandal of the Royal Mail is how nobody, absolutely nobody, seems to be focussing on how its pension deficit is the result of a botched Tory law which enabled its management to take a 'contribution holiday', in other words to unilaterally exempt itself from its contractual obligations to its staff, between 1990 and 2003. The 'contribution holiday' was one of those business-friendly botched Tory mechanisms for ensuring that those and such as those do not have to feel that 'we're all in it together'. Whilst encouraging, the Labour conference's motion that the public purse should bail out the deficit is unlikely to make much headway, not if the recent history of the Labour Party is anything to go by. Too many bankers' pensions to pay.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
George Osborne's attempt to turn himself into Barack Osborna would be laughable at the best of times, even if it hadn't come from the same platform from which Kenneth 'Fatty' Clarke made another tired plea about the 'need' to set business free from regulation.
If the track of recent British economic history has shown anything, it is that business must be regulated so tightly that business owners should be on their knees begging for mercy if one of their employees so much as stubs their toe on the photocopier. More broadly, if the past 200 years have shown us anything it is that an unregulated business sector is incompatible with civil society - as such, something's got to give, and if we can't live in a world where we all respect each others' needs as a matter of habit, then if a businessman having to work 27 hours a day on his paperwork is the price that has to be paid to enable the rest of us to have a measure of economic security, then that's what it takes. Nobody starts a business with a gun at their head. They do it because they wish to pursue a vision, or to get rich, or because they can't work with other people. None of these are particularly good reasons for lauding the idea of business per se, or for believing the act of starting a business to be heroism worthy of being recorded in sagas, or for expecting that businesses and businesspeople be exempt from certain, and really quite basic, civil standards.
After all, according to one former Tory leader, there's no such thing as society. This Tory insistence on courting the 'business vote', its naked appeal to business owners' self-interest just a type of the type of racial nationalist politics for which the Tories rightly condemn the BNP, shows that their 'no such thing as society' mindset hasn't changed; and never will.
Let's hear it first for John Mason MP, whose gagging desire to really stick his Highland dancing shoes into the British government has left him looking very, very foolish.
He has defended his indefensible defence of the bogus asylum-seeker and benefit fraudster Fatou Gaye by saying that,
"The real issue here is over the efficiency of the UK Border Agency - that this Whitehall agency went to the expense of deporting Ms Gaye to the wrong country of origin without checking basic facts is just unbelievable."
This is a classic example of the psychological phenomenon known as 'transference'. Being an incompetent and inept fact-checker himself - having defended a bogus anylum-seeker and benefit fraudster on the basis that she was Ivorian when she came from Senegal, how could he be otherwise? - the only response of which he is capable is to lash out at others for the incompetence and ineptitude of their fact-checking; a reaction at once so arrogant and yet so juvenile that his very competence for office should be questioned.
And wouldn't you know it, the profoundly unserious Christina McKelvie, whose only previous contribution to Scottish public life as we know it has been to trivialise the, er, battle for Iwo Jima (strange, but true), has had to backtrack like nobody's business, saying,
"As an elected representative I take on cases in good faith.
"Whilst I am disappointed with the outcome for Fatou, my concern has always been for the wellbeing of four-year-old Arouna and the effect on his health due to multiple detentions. I still believe that we should not detain children in this manner under any circumstances."
In an ideal world, one would of course agree; yet the child in question would not have been in detention had their mother not been engaged in a course of criminal conduct for which she has paid twice - once, by being kept in detention before deportation, and twice, by being imprisoned for her crimes upon being returned to the UK. Nobody has been more responsible for the wee one's detention than their mother.
It cannot be said too often - the Scottish National Party, and by extension its philosophy of Scottish civic nationalism, stews in a culture of lawlessness. Its illegal seizure of the title 'The Scottish Government' to describe its minority Scottish Executive, a title to which it has no right or claim but which it just took anyway, should have been all the warning that the Scottish people needed that the SNP's schoolteachers, lawyers and hack writers considered themselves to be at war with the United Kingdom. These people have no concept either of law or of the rule of law. The SNP will do and say anything to achieve its goals, and applaud and encourage any illegality and lawbreaking if it perceives it to be against the interests of the British government.
They're not fit to govern a gold club, let alone a nation.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
(Since its first publication, I have substantially rewritten this post, for no purpose other than to satisfy the demands of my sometimes timelocked, sometimes deadlocked, sense of Christian charity.)
The Bullingdon Club boor George Osborne has stated his intention to raise the retirement age for men from 65 to 66. What right does this scion of a dynasty of soft furnishings salesmen have to believe he will withhold from me what I have paid for other men when my time comes?
It says much for his unsurprising lack of creativity that he should focus upon those upon whom he feels are too weak to oppose him, rather than practicing what he preaches and removing himself and his own family out of their multigenerational cycle of welfare dependency. A guid Tory to the last - welfare for me, but not for thee.
British governments have historically paid no heed to the will of the people, the most glaring recent example being Parliament proceeding with what turned out out to be the rape of Iraq in the face of enormous public opposition. Osborne voted in favour of that calamity, of course - aren't all those shots from cameras on smartbombs just as they're about to hit their targets so thrilling?- yet one wonders whether that little exercise in wielding absolutely unaccountable power must have gone to his head.
Yet doing physical violence to the citizens of another sovereign state and proposing to do economic violence to the citizens of your own state are two entirely different ball games. There is no crisis in the United Kingdom's public finances, none at all. There is only an atmosphere of crisis concocted to keep the people fearful; for it is better for those who wield power that we be fearful of them rather than that they be fearful of us, even when they have nothing to be fearful of.
Over the past 30 years, heavy manufacturing has been dismantled for no good reason other than that those who worked in it would sometimes flex their muscles. As opponents of oligarchy, they had to go. The coal industry was dismantled - those who worked in it would sometimes flex their muscles, and so they had to go. Trade unionism has been castrated - theories about the importance of having a flexible labour market were more important than the concept of the dignity of labour. Next thing you know, they'll have the cleaners in the public toilets having to set up themselves up as limited companies for the purposes of tax management, and employing Ernst & Young as their auditors.
And now, what Osborne thinks is the coup de grace - an attack on the old age pension. The anticipation of this moment has had them on the point of soiling themselves for years, and now they think their time has arrived.
Well, Sonny Boy, you're on to plums. If you think that you are going to take away from me what I have paid for others when the time comes for it to become payable to me, you will get sent away from the ballot box, if not with a kick up the backside, then certainly with a stiff cuff round the ear. The British Establishment's historic collective fear, rage and nausea at the sight of the British public organising themselves will once again take a grip, days in the political sun being recorded in your, probably unreadable, diaries as The Time of Prozac and Alka-Seltzer. The marches against your reforms will be so large that they will make the antiwar demonstrations of 2003 look like Saga walking tours. You are a lightweight and a pipsqueak. Get over it, deal with it, do as you're told, less of your nonsense and don't ever forget who pays your wages - or, indeed, your own pension, the universal deferment of which for all Members of Parliament until the age of 75 is a measure I'm sure you'll be more than willing to include in your welfare reforms.
Monday, October 05, 2009
The news that David Cameron is apparently considering a 'retreat' from his previously stated commitment to holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty should not come as any surprise - in mainstream British politics, you can vote for any mainstream party you like, but you'll still get European integrationism. God bless wee Dave - everyone one must something in life they can rely on.
Of greater interest is his desire to put the boot into the poor, the sick and the weak in the grand Tory manner by slashing Incapacity Benefit. Given that IB was a Thatcherite confection designed to do nothing but massage the unemployment statistics, it is heartening to see the Tories practicing what they preach and taking some responsibility for clearing up the mess they created. On the other hand, having been an Incapacity Benefit claimant, one can only assume that it's just another Tory attack on society's most vulnerable - the uniquely Tory pathology criticised by GM Young when he described the party's tendency to see itself as King Richard II to everyone else's Wat Tyler.
If it is an 'attack' on the 'workshy', one can only note the irony of it being led by a man whose career has taken him from being a full time party worker to corporate PR to Parliament. It is questionable whether David Cameron would know a good day's work if it kicked him on the backside.
There is, of course, a class of benefit claimants against whom Cameron could direct his ire; a class whose benefit is payable with only the most basic checks on eligibility, and which might cost the public purse far more than those workshy wastrels lolling about uselessly in their wheelchairs all day long, their gasps from their oxygen cylinders nothing but sucks on the public teat. If he was serious about welfare reform, he would propose to remove the payment of Child Benefit from families with incomes over, say, £25,000 a year - taking himself out of the guts of the benefit system in which he may have languished for years.
However, this would require the moral courage to promise taking something away from his own electorate, and this never goes down very well. It would be a bold move, and would test whether or not the 21st Century Tories are not the bunch of screaming welfare queens many believe them to be.
In an article whose apparent purpose is to explain the nature of needing to feel at home somewhere but which, to this reader, gives the impression that the writer is having a hard time coming to terms with getting older, Maudlin Grunting writes,
"We yearn for the authenticity of meat that tastes of the fields where it grew, not of the conveyor belt in a packing shed off the M25. The anonymity and homogeneity generated by globalisation leaves us drifting and disorientated; the organic food movement is, in part, about putting back the geography."
Indeed; but one would have thought that her energies would have been better served questioning just how a country whose elites pine for 'meat that tastes of the fields' where it was raised (and not grown - bloody townies) can also have so many homeless people and eaters of chicken nuggets.
All societies reflect their elites' mores. The British elites' schizophrenic desire to be rootless urbans from Monday to Friday and Lords of the Manor at weekends has inculculated what can only be described as a lust for universal hypermobility. 'You go where the jobs are' is a philosophy with a lot of history in my own family; yet this has also been unhealthy, driven as it has been by the British need to claim our individual places in our pernicious collective social hierarchies on the basis of what we do, as opposed to what we are and where we come from. There is at root no real difference between telling people on one hand that they're free and on the other that they have to move in order to find work, and the forcible resettlement of populations; they're both Stalinism. Stalin's was political, ours is corporate. Indeed, Stalin's version was more honest - if he moved you from the Crimea to Vladivostok, he was telling you to your face that he didn't like you, and he provided the transport.
Freedom of movement is meaningless if you don't have the freedom to stay where you are. It's been the freedom of the starving, in a country whose elites cannot countenance the idea that they possess any civic obligation to any fellow citizen, nor any willingness to treat the country as anything other than an entity to be exploited for their gain or, worse, their entertainment.
It is only really very unrooted people who feel the need to reinvent themselves according to their tastes or circumstances. Just as the human need for sleep is the greatest argument against the existence of anything which might be described as a 24 hour society, the best argument against hypermobility is that the only creatures that never stop moving are sharks.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
There is no crisis in the United Kingdom's public finances.
Talk of a crisis of such magnitude that 'cuts' are required is nothing but scaremongering intended to keep the cattle known as voters in a state of fear and alarm and distress. The way in which the media have altered the course of public debate over the past 12 months, from the thoroughly rotten and usurious character of the banking system to the chiselling of Parliamentary expenses to the state of public finances, has been a snow job designed to divert attention from where it should have been focussed all along. The banking system remains as thoroughly rotten and usurious as ever, and any attempt to suggest otherwise is either misguided or completely mendacious. The necks of a few of the most egregious or arrogant Parliamentary chisellers have been laid out on the block dictated by the court of public opinion. But as ever, the Establishment wants to return to business as usual (in the words of the Establishment shithead Sir Philip Gibbs, 'Back to cheap labour. Back to discipline'), and the best way to do that is to do as they have always done; manufacture an ersatz crisis to keep the people on their toes.
When one hears some of the country's more flatulent right-wing blowhards sing the praises of the Mitteleuropan hack Friedrich von Hayek, and of how only he and the sinister Milton Friedman were the guardians of freedom or other such nonsense, one gets the urge to go and look at the names on our local memorial to the dead of both World Wars. Those names inscribed on stone knew more of freedom than any over-rated, too-big-for-their-own-boots hack economists; parasites feasting on the blood sacrifice of those they considered to be their inferiors. What many of the dead of the Second World War were fighting for was the precise opposite of the hack economists' proscriptions - they were fighting for a country which was going to reverse from its previous path of class antagonism, which was why they voted for the social democratic settlement of 1945 in such overwhelming numbers. They were most certainly not voting for a country in which the concept of freedom could be expropriated and pillaged by the rich and powerful, egged on by house-trained hack economists always willing to act as their apologists, and defined solely in terms of the freedom of the rich and powerful to accrue further riches and to consolidate their hold on power.
The Establishment's refusal to countenance any meaningful definition of 'Britishness' thus makes considerable sense. A Frenchman always know what Frenchness is; but the absence of any sense of Britishness means that it can mean whatever the Establishment wants it to mean at any particular point. In 1914, for example, it was 'Your Country Needs You!' One would have thought that a country in which so many lived and died poor, ignorant and malnourished as a consequence of very ancient policies intended to do nothing but maintain aristocracy and oligarchy would have been entitled to turn round and say, 'So What? We Have Needed Our Country, And It Has Been Nowhere To Be Seen'. But still they volunteered.
Between 1916 and 1918, and between 1939 and 1945, Britishness meant the right to be conscripted, an administrative act which should only ever be considered blood slavery, and placed in harm's way as a consequence of botched high politics in respect which public opinion had never been sought. As far as 1939 is concerned, conscription would probably have been unnecessary, given the ghastliness of the alternative; but their own survival is a matter in which the British Establishment has always played it safe, no matter how unsafe the consequences might have been for anyone else.
The fact that many, too many, lives were lost to ensure the Establishment's survival has perhaps blinded us to the fact that our Establishment, our rich and powerful, are just like the rich and powerful anywhere else in the world - they don't have much time for democracy, preferring to use it as a means to their own ends rather than cherishing it as a good in itself. Trawling through Tony Benn's Pooterish diaries from 1991 to 2001 requires an act of will worthy of Conan the Barbarian (he bought a Dymo labeller once - with a QWERTY keyboard), but the former Viscount Stansgate can only be described as prescient when he remarks that the Soviet Union was a bulwark against capitalist domination of the Third World. Many years later, I reached much the same conclusion myself, except that The Third World is now Us.
The British people have no reason to trust the British Establishment about anything. If it were to tell me the sun was going to shine all day, I'd make sure to carry an umbrella. The freedom of a very small group of people to do what they want, when they want, has trumped the sacrifice of all those names written on stone, of all those men who died horrible deaths, whether in the scorching heat of the Libyan desert or the Burmese jungle or on the floating, icy tombs of the Atlantic convoys. That's what they had us fighting for all along; their right to get rich and party, and to hell with the bodycount.
If it is proposed that cuts be made to public services in your area, just say no. Demonstrate. Agitate. Don't just write to your MP - picket their constituency surgery, making sure you bring along lots of photogenic babies. Make it clear that your campaign is personal, and that their future on the gravy train depends not on what we are willing to do for our country, but for what our country is willing to do for us, and that the blowback that they can expect from the whips is as nothing to what will happen come the next election. If they say to you that it's the only way, tell them that you don't believe the public finances are in crisis, that if they say that to you then they're lying, and that this is their mess and cleaning it up is a matter in respect of which they should feel free to get creative.
For the alternative is too awful to contemplate. When infused with talk of the need to raise taxation, talk of cuts begins to resemble justification for lowering the people to serfdom. Some months ago, I remarked that the backwash from the banking crisis could be for us what The Thirty Years War was to the Germans, an event so ruinous that the elites could use it to reduce the people to serfdom. This is what the aristocratic, oligarchic, anti-democratic British Establishment wants and has always wanted; and it is banking on us believing its lies regarding the condition of the public finances to get us to vote for policies that will result in our enslavement.
It is ironic that the spectre of our serfdom should arise from the road laid down by a Mitteleuropan hack who wrote a book which claimed to warn of 'The Road to Serfdom'. History will show that his book was not a warning, but a road map; and that he was directing the traffic.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
I for one never bought into the idea of Tony Blair as 'Bambi'; his features have always been too vulpine for him to be considered trustworthy, age merely turning a young fox into an old one.
It has again been reported that he will be appointed 'President' of Europe should the Irish ratify the Lisbon Treaty. It is therefore interesting to reflect on some thoughts on the concept of the 'United States of Europe', spoken during the First World War -
"At the end of this war I see Europe re-created, not by the diplomats, but by the proletariat. The Federal Republic of Europe - the United States of Europe - that is what it must be. National autonomy no longer suffices. Economic evolution demands the abolition of national frontiers. If Europe is to remain split into national groups, then Imperialism will recommence its work. Only a Federated Republic of Europe can give peace to the world."
That was Trotsky, speaking to John Reed in Petrograd on the eve of the Bolshevik uprising and quoted by Reed on page 45 of 'Ten Days That Shook The World'. The only difference between Trotsky's vision and that which will come into existence is that the USE will be the creation of diplomats and not the proletariat; we can't be having them muck it all up, the scum.
Later in 'Ten Days', Reed describes Trotsky addressing a meeting, 'his thin, pointed face...positively Mephistophelian in its expression of malicious irony'. As soon as I read that, an old quote came into my head, uttered by another leader with a once thin, pointed face whose career has been characterised by malice and irony - 'I'm a pretty straight kind of guy'.
Why must the British be forced to reflect upon and celebrate the life of a shunnamatic old twister who seemed to hold everything we stand and stood for in contempt? Writing in 1962, VS Naipaul described post-Gandhi India as a nation 'constantly exchanging banalities with itself'. One cannot help but think that our obsession with Gandhi shows we're going the same way.
Friday, October 02, 2009
The Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police apparently believes that there are 'too many marches'.
That's a pity. On the other hand, the precise nature of his contract with Strathclyde's taxpayers is that we don't pay him to think; we pay him well to do a very specific job of work. While one has no truck with the marching culture, if people in the west of Scotland wish to march then it's his job to ensure that there's enough blue-clad warm flesh on the streets to maintain public order when they do. We pay his wages to ensure that crime is kept low (a key performance indicator at which none of his predecessors could be said to have been fully effective), and to keep his warrior-scholar insights to himself. He's a hired hand. The ability to juggle the overtime bill is one of his job's core competences; and if he lacks the competence to do the job he's well-paid to do, we should find someone who can. Nobody is indispensible.
During his campaign for the mayoralty of New York in 1969, Norman Mailer said that 'You will need more and more police to keep more and more bad government in power'. It seems that the quality of police services always seems to diminish in tandem with that of the quality of the governments they serve. You didn't think they serve the public - did you? Mr. House's time and energies would be better spent keeping Chief Superintendent Anne McGuire on the shortest of short leashes; if he can't keep his own house in order, he shouldn't be trusted with ours. Like all good children, our police officers, too often in Glasgow's history little more than badged bootboys, should be seen and not heard.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
And so there's only a day to go until the Irish go the polls to vote on the Lisbon Treaty - again, just another in the long line of examples of the Irish Establishment's contempt for the will of the Irish people. The Irish Establishment seems to believe that it belongs among the world's elites, although the mess they've made of Ireland's economy must make the world's real movers and shakers look at them with the same contempt with which they would survey a bunch of bumpkins just off the bus from Bunacurry. This might be with good reason - in global terms, that's just what they are.
If nothing else, the Irish Establishment's commitment to democracy cannot be faulted. It loves voting - why else would it have the Irish vote on the same subjects again and again?
For reasons best known to themselves, the 'Yes' campaign seeks Ireland's de facto abolition. It has been orchestrated by an Establishment addicted to the type of economy created by the late Charles Haughey, one only capable of being sustained by funny money and the Irish providing cheaper labour than anywhere else. This rush to 'inward investment', and the predictable collapse of the cheap labour economy (had nobody in the Irish Establishment ever heard of the Brigadoon once called 'Silicon Glen'?), has given an interesting twist to one of Irish history's dominant themes, that of emigration - whereas the Irish once took jobs overseas in order to avoid having to stand in dole queues, they now stand in dole queues having watched their jobs go overseas. Haughey was a corrupt fraud - it should come as no surprise that history has proven his economic vision to have been as corrupt and fraudulent as he was.
One would have thought that such sentiments as the abolition of Ireland would be capable of being overcome by sheer weight of numbers - not of votes cast tomorrow, but of the corpses of Irishmen killed by Irishmen in a very nasty civil war over how Ireland should be governed. It's a pity they don't get votes. As an economic philosophy, neoliberalism has proved to be as substantial as belief in the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow. Let us hope that the land of our fathers does not reach its journey's end because Charlie Haughey sold its people a crock. Too many Irish have died violently at the hands of other Irish in the name of Ireland for that to happen just yet.
is not whether Kerrie Wooltorton possessed sufficient mental capacity to be able to make a 'living will' petulantly demanding that she not be resuscitated, but why, having drunk poison nine times in the 12 months before her death, she was out in the community at all. We used to have places for people who exhibited such behaviours. They were called asylums.
The document that she handed to the paramedics and physicians who attended with her on the day she got what she wanted, which when all is said and done was to curl up into a ball and die, was not a 'living will' but a suicide note. If the Mental Capacity Act 2005 does not give physicians the latitude to over-ride the petulance of hysterics with a long history of botched 'suicide' attempts who thrust scraps of paper in their faces just as they're about to try to pump their stomachs, then it is just another botched progressive law; another entry in the United Kingdom's own long series of suicide notes, botched, botched, botched from start to finish.
It's difficult not to have some sympathy for the doctors in such cases. The increasing legalification of all walks of British life means that doctors, like teachers and every other class of responsible professionals, must now make every decision with one eye on how it might look in a court case six years down the line. If the risk to themselves by doing something to help a hysteric is greater than the risk the hysteric runs, then while one might not approve of their consequent inaction, one can certainly understand it. The only solution one can suggest to the bereaved in such situations is they they write to their MP; not to ask them to change the law, but to suggest that they get themselves some first-aid training and start going on 24 hour call. Having enacted such botched laws, they should be the ones on the spot forced to make split-second life or death decisions with the defibrillators in their hands.
Perhaps Wooltorton's mind could have diverted from whatever troubles she believed were ailing her by having been billed for the cost of the treatment she had received as a consequence of her previous attempts on her own life. It would perhaps have given her something to live for other than securing her own death.