Sunday, January 31, 2010

Au Revoir

Just a quick note to advise that I intend embarking on one of those periodic, and ultimately unsustainable, bouts of radio silence that I indulge in from time to time.
There are lots of things going on at the moment, almost all of which are pleasantly positive - and these will eat into what is already rather heavily rationed blogging time.
So I'll see you all when I see you. May God bless you all, and remember - let's be careful out there.

Tony Blair And The Child Mortality Rate In Iraq

The vulpine twister's comment to the Chilcot Inquiry on just how far the child mortality rate in Iraq has fallen since the invasion reminds one that depleted uranium weapons used in Desert Storm and UN sanctions in its aftermath were among the reasons why it was so high to begin with.
The classic definition of 'chutzpah' is for a man to kill his parents and then plead for mercy because he is an orphan - but being complicit in the deaths of thousands of children through sanctions and then claiming the credit for the child mortality rate going down because you've killed more of them comes pretty close.
Maybe they should have got with the program sooner; but then again, maybe we should have been less inhumane.

John Terry's Future As Captain Of The England Soccer Team

John Terry's future as captain of England may be in doubt, now that it has been revealed he had sex with a team-mate's girlfriend and then paid for her to have an abortion.
If Mr. Terry loses his post because of this course of action, he could always seek to become Mayor of London.

Sir Terry Pratchett Wishes To Be A Test Case For Assisted Suicide

While having some sympathy for that gentleman, a sufferer of Alzheimer's Disease, he's still well enough to be able to give the Richard Dimbleby Lecture; one of those occasions when an Establishment-friendly name is permitted to let the public know what the Establishment wants.
He wants to be a test case for assisted suicide, and will say so in his speech.
Given that such laws would put me directly in the firing line of malicious people for whom 'life' seems to be a four-letter word, indeed elevating my previously low chance of being murdered, I say 'Bugger Sir Terry Pratchett'.
Not so long ago, and perhaps in a change to the advertised schedule, the studio lights finally went out on Ludovic Kennedy, that other great proponent of the 'right to die'; a non sequitur if ever there was one. He was a whopping 89 years old. Ludo was a lifelong atheist, God probably having been too bourgeois for him; his death appears to have been natural - bless. All of these 'right to die' types really should remember that while they may believe they can cheat God of His will, all too often He's the one having the last laugh.
I hope I live to see 89; that is, if those who follow in Pratchett and Kennedy's wake will just leave me alone to get on with it.

Disaster Capitalism In Haiti

In a story which could have come straight from the chapter of 'The Shock Doctrine' entitled 'Blanking the Beach', somebody wants to use the earthquake to improve tourism.
My opinions on economies dependent on tourism can be found here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Orwelliana, 5

The intellectual core of '1984' is the section which expounds 'The Principles of Oligarchical Collectivism'.
The primary principle is endless war, war as end and not means; the philosophy of Napoleon I.
It contains a passage which, when I read it the first time, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I haven't been able to revisit it since - that one of endless war's main strategies is to encircle your opponent with rings of bases. From the perspective of 2009, one could see that this has been precisely the same policy that the USA has adopted towards Russia since 2001, if only by accident; the second Bush Administration seemed incapable of achieving anything by design, save death, destruction, imperialism, incompetence, ideological blindness and maladminstration. Even when those who appear to be aping Orwell seem to be at peace, they are at war.
With his typical arrogance and imperious and imperial self-confidence, that ruthless, vulpine twister Tony Blair gave his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday. I didn't watch it, couldn't listen to it. We may have had many more less competent politicians as Prime Minister, but few more sinister or apparently, and apparently effortlessly, malign. His incredible self-confidence would put the most arrogant ancien regime French Bourbon to shame; like theirs, his is unjustified by any intellectual achievement of consequence and untempered by age or even the appearance of humility's beginnings. He is one of that most dangerous and antisocial breed of men, best kept muzzled in cages by pitiless keepers like the mad dogs they are - those for whom the belief that the world is not enough is not a mark of hubris but an admirable goal. He really does seem to see himself as being different from the rest of us. This should not be surprising - he has absolutely nothing in common with us. To us, he is the incarnation of The Other.
No ordinary British citizen and taxpayer ever voted for a single policy that he was up in front of Chilcot to answer for; not one. The 'threat' that had to be contained by attacking Iraq was a perceived threat to the so called 'global economy'; an effective catch-all euphemism for the control of national finance, infrastructure and assets by international corporations, and its companion evil - the relentless flow of immigrant labour to undercut the worker, robbing labourers of their hire and saying it's good for growth.
And now he's gunning for Iran; the current mantra of those who seek war without end. War for money; war for oil; war for power; all wars are ultimately all the same. People die, while vulpine twisters get rich. His moment of truth might only come when his bodyguards kill a member of the public intent on effecting a citizen's arrest upon him for having committed crimes against peace and crimes against humanity (I'm sure that he's ruthless enough to have issued shoot to kill orders; after all, what's another corpse on the pile?) - a course of action which his time in office would suggest would be entirely meritorious. While in all likelihood the bodyguards would take the rap, and their families be well rewarded for them so doing, I hope the thought of spending the rest of his life in Bolivia with only Cherie and his money for company keeps him awake at night. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis don't seem to.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Equality Bill Has Been Gubbed In The House Of Lords...

These people do not seek equality or reason, but the elimination of religion altogether, old Romans of the worst sort. If the history of Christianity shows nothing else, it's that humanity's pretty useless without it. To paraphrase Dan George, at one time we had the beards and they had the haters. Now they they have the beards and they have the haters.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Miracles Of Port au Prince

So, people are still being pulled out of the rubble nearly two weeks after the earthquake, in a city of shacks.
These survivals are all apparently down to fantastical combinations of physics, psychology and genetics. In the British public square, the idea that God loves his children and spares their lives long after the underwriters would have declined requests for cover cannot be considered, let alone said.
Thank God for religion, because rationalism and rationalists are sometimes so frustratingly irrational that engaging with them is like trying to debate Francis de Sales with Churchill the dog.

The British Capacity For Hatred Of Other British

Lest you think you've seen it all, read the comments.

The Summit Of Libertarian Insanity

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my opinion that libertarianism is nonsense - but to my mind, the suggestion that the armed forces be privatised is indicative that the person making it needs to be sectioned, strapped to a bed, and pumped full of anti-psychotic drugs until they can demonstrate that they present no danger to themself or others.
It is cloud cuckooland gibberish. Nothing these people say should be taken seriously, if only because for all their swagger and arrogance they are fundamentally unserious - many are ignoramuses of the most dangerous sort.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Would You Buy A Roll Of Flock Wallpaper From This Man?

The Naked Rambler - The Movie

This discussion of the voluntary imprisonment currently being undergone by the tediously demented Stephen Gough, not so much a refusenik as a refuseknicks, leads to idle fantasy - such as what a movie of his life story would be like.
It wouldn't be up to much, for the great prison movies, such as 'Papillon', 'Midnight Express' and 'Cool Hand Luke', are about people who are in prison and trying to get out; Gough's movie, on the other hand, would have to be about someone on the outside trying to get in.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The End Of Life (Choices) Scotland Bill



An anthropological note for non-Scottish readers, with apologies for language - the expression worn by the woman on the left can alternatively be described as a 'torn face', 'a greetin' (crying) face', or, alternatively, 'a face like a skelped arse' (a human backside which has been smacked). In the context of historic gender relations in the industrial west, it is the sort of look which would lead to the wearer being described as 'a torn faced (or greetin' faced) bastard', or the sort of woman to whom 'ye widnae want to come hame tae wae a burst poke' - a reference to the alleged improvidence of some working class Glaswegian men who, in the bad old days before wages could be paid by way of interbank transfers, were believed to open their wage packets for whatever nefarious and allegedly improvident purpose grabbed their fancy as soon as they were thrust into their hands. Such behaviours were claimed to lead to many a domestic 'stramash' (voluble disturbance) - situation comedy on the common stairs worthy of any budding Maryhill Moliere.
On the other hand, Margo MacDonald MSP (pictured) is anything but funny. MacDonald is the peroxided old barbarian who's the animating spirit behind The End of Life (Choices) Scotland Bill, which she's now getting the chance to introduce into the Scottish Parliament. She suffers from Parkinson's Disease - as a Christian, one is enjoined to be charitable to the afflicted, even when they're sponsoring laws which put you on the Todkampf's front lines, but MacDonald is a real test of charity. This bill puts my life at risk; if MacDonald is permitted to plead her illness in her desire to be put down like a horse with a broken leg, I hope I'll get a chance to plead mine in my desire to be permitted to die naturally and at my appointed time once her right to die has evolved into a doctor's right to murder me and some snot-nosed, empty-headed, twentysomething hospital administrator decides that I've been a drain on resources for long enough.
MacDonald is a former Scottish Nationalist. Patrick Henry said 'Give me liberty or give me death'. Margo MacDonald says, 'Give me liberty and give me death'. Not a great advert for an independent Scotland.
Cherchez la femme - the type of woman that you wouldn't bring a burst poke home to is a type that you couldn't ever relax around.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Concept Of Socio-Economic Rights, Part I

For a civil libertarian, one of the most interesting of the very many interesting passages in Fernand Braudel's 'A History of Civilisations' is his discussion of the difference between 'liberty' and 'liberties'.
Briefly and from memory, 'liberties' of the type which barons struggled to assert in Magna Carta and The Declaration of Arbroath were restricted rights - droit de seigneur, the right to beat your serfs and extort labour services from them, etc. 'Liberty' is therefore a concept of universal rights which can be very broadly put as being the little guy's right to be free from the consequences of someone else exercising their private liberties; accordingly, universal liberty, of the type from which civil liberties spring, is incompatible with private liberties.
Professor Van Bueren is an academic lawyer at Queen Mary University of London, and so the usual reservations (or, if you prefer, blind prejudices) regarding academic lawyers apply. Of her faculty, a quick scan of its collective skillset reminds one that all those trusted with teaching English lawyers, or perhaps even just in granting degrees in law from English universities, should be expected to be as familiar with the common law of England as a vicar with The Book of Common Prayer (I know the C of E can be inclined to progressive thinking at times, but I'm sure it still applies certain minimum standards to the training of its clerics). I'm quite sure that Professor Van Bueren and her colleagues all are.
In my experience, the nuts and bolts business of lawyering was quite straightforward. There are some basic skills one needs to know; how to buy and sell a house, how to write a valid will, how to complete a Legal Aid application, how to address a court, what the Disciplinary Code and the Accounts Rules actually say and not what you think they say, and so on. The most important skill any law student should ever acquire is knowing how to use a case citator. To know all the law is impossible - to know where to find it is invaluable.
With the greatest respect to all concerned, '(working) extensively with governments and intergovernmental organisations' (Professor Van Bueren), being 'a regular consultant to parliaments, EU institutions and international organisations' (Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas) or '(consulting) to the European Patent Office (EPO) on future patent policy, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) on the creative economy, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) on advanced education in patent law, and (participating) in expert groups on copyright, digital rights management, and human rights and intellectual property' (Professor Johanna Gibson), is not the sort of work that most lawyers ever actually do. It all seems very cosmopolitan, to an extent which seems, to these proudly parochial and provincial eyes, to have been almost completely internationalised. I'm sure that their research specialties are all very interesting, and I don't doubt that this faculty does very good and very important work; however, a less charitable opinion - one which I don't share - is that it seems to be geared towards the production of internationalists, people who think in international terms; a very interesting education, I'm sure, but one which perhaps might not be of much use when confronted with the nuts and bolts, meat and potatoes, work of neighbourhood disputes in The Elephant and Castle.
Professor Van Bueren says of socio-economic rights that,
"...to restore human rights' popularity we need to protect not only freedom of speech, due process and privacy, but also the rights that many regard as important to daily life, particularly in a recession. There is a group of human rights not yet included in British law that would provide everybody, majorities and minorities, women and men, with a much needed safety net during the recession.

The right to the highest attainable standard of healthcare, of access to housing and the right to work are all rights recognised by the British government in international treaty law but not yet brought home. These socio-economic rights would help protect the elderly in care homes and could make it easier to receive life-saving drugs, and ought to be included in a British bill of rights. Many countries have found that they help bolster democracy and widen the appeal of human rights."
Aye, there's the rub. In law, we are not 'many countries'. Multiculturalism might be doing that to us in fact - but not in law. It's interesting to see Professor Van Bueren coming out in favour of privacy. Contrary to popular belief, the dividing line between the right to privacy and disclosure in the public interest has always been a thin one - to my mind, the Wellingtonian approach has always been the best attitude to these issues; after all, we've all done things we're ashamed of, and Rupert Murdoch's got to eat like the rest of us. If memory serves, Mr. Justice Eady has recently said that the extension of privacy rights is a direct consequence of the extension of human rights legislation. Again, if memory serves, in his book 'My Trade' Andrew Marr recounts that one of the things he liked about John Major was his uncensorious attitude towards peoples' private lives; yet for all his faults as a Prime Minister, and history will recount them as having been legion, Major would never have dreamed of passing the Human Rights Act, a law which, don't get me wrong, has its place, but one which was presumably intended to be a scalpel but which has instead been used as a broadsword. Nobody but the legal professions should bear the blame for this. The Human Rights Acts has enabled the concept of 'privacy' to become not an aspect of liberty as it's enjoyed by you, me and Glasgowman. It has instead transformed itself, or been transformed, into one of those 'liberties' of the type decried by Braudel, but which are now enjoyed by an international ubercaste whose members move freely across the world's borders and which can afford to pay good lawyers.
It is always dispiriting to see progression result in reaction. Sometimes, one wonders whether Napoleon ever lived at all.
At which point, folks, I'm going to have to break of for today - but will return to this topic in the next few days. I shall return.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Whole Haiti Thing

Being in the habit of getting a bit steamed up about real or perceived social injustice, the Haiti earthquake has certainly put things into perspective.
The paleoconservative desire to 'cultiver notre jardins' is all well and good. It's a perfectly legitimate point of view. However, when one sees such suffering as seems to be being endured in Haiti, it's very difficult not to be affected by it.
It's at times like this I realise that for all the education I have received, I have very few actual skills. I can't do anything practical to help these poor people; I can't operate on anyone, I can't insert a drip, I can't drive a digger, and I can't get a power station up and running. It seems fatuous to say this, but that's all these folk need right now. Ideological debates over historic rights or wrongs, or the uses and applications of tax revenues, don't matter a tinker's damn in this face of this tragedy.
Criticising the efforts of those who are actually there, and trying to do something, is just toxic. Last night's BBC '10 O' Clock News' showed an apparently well supplied food depot, outside which an angry crowd was gathering. My first thought was that the Americans seemed obviously intent on rerunning the script which made such a spectacular success of Baghdad in 2003; the only difference being that they're looking for a suitably qualified Democrat to run things this time, instead of a suitably qualified Republican. But that's unfair. If I were suffering from the hellish trifecta of having been earthquaked and bereaved and being starving, I'd be gathering outside where I thought food could be found; and getting angry when it wasn't being handed out. By the same token, if I were in charge of the supplies I'd be wanting very clear direction on what it is to happen with them, given that demand will always outstrip supply in these situations. It is a total mess.
The truth that there are always people out there in the world who are worse off than yourself is perhaps one which some Catholics of a certain age and background reflect upon with a measure of ambivalence. Exposure to the very adult concept of disaster too early in life, in the form of emotionally charged appeals for the missions, perhaps had the counterproductive effect of putting a little iron into the soul; I know that it did for me. Perhaps professional experience of dealing with some of the hundreds of thousands of people in the United Kingdom who continue to live in desperate hardship and want rendered one mildly indifferent to suffering and want overseas.
When one sees even heavily edited images of the Haitian poor, the economists' arguments that some British poor live like lords when compared to the poor of many other nations is, of course, shown to be true; it's morally disgusting and animated by having no idea of what it's like to live in poverty in the UK, but the economic arguments are sound. The British poor are a demographic that the elites will always be guaranteed to kick when they're down, or just kick for the sake of kicking; it wouldn't be surprising if the Haitian tragedy so 'empowers' some 'policy entrepreneur' that they'll advocate attacking the rights of the British poor merely because they're better off than the Haitians. That others desperately need our help is no reason for withdrawing that which we already give our own.
As a blogger, just about the only socially useful thing I can do in the public sphere to help these poor people is to post a link to a donate page. Here's SCIAF's Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Really Irritated

Lost a comment I'd been writing for nearly two hours, on this post.

But do please feel free to pile in yourselves.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dead Black People - Causes And Effects

Rare might be the meme capable of uniting Mark Shea and Oliver Kamm; but one has to agree with their mutual assessment that Pat Robertson is a jackass.

Movie Stuff - Prescient Words

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr Beale, and I won’t have it. Is that clear? You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions out of this country and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no Third Worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petrol dollars, electro dollars, multi dollars. Reichsmarks, rins, roubles, pounds and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic... and subatomic and galactic structure of things today. And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And you will atone. Am I getting through to you, Mr Beale? You get up on your little -inch screen...and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T...and DuPont, Dow, Unión Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state? Karl Marx? They get out linear programming charts, statistical decisión theories, and compute price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments like us. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr Beale. The world is a college of corporations...inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr Beale. It has been since Man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr Beale, to see that... perfect world... in which there’s no war or famine, oppressión or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit. In which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquillised, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr Beale,to preach this evangel."
"Why me?"
"Because you’re on televisión, dummy...million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday."
"I have seen the face of God."
"You just might be right, Mr Beale." -
Paddy Chayefsky on Oscar-winning form, 'Network', made in 1976 and last night's main attraction on TCM.
I used to find that scene between Beale (Peter Finch) and Jensen (Ned Beatty) quite funny - pity I now know better.

More Movie Stuff - A Brief Reflection On The Career Of Kevin Costner

While I like 'Dances with Wolves' enormously, as much now as I did 20 years ago, and am pleased to note that it seems to be becoming something of a Christmas fixture on BBC2, it should not really be forgotten that it's an elephantine, and very loving, paean to disease and damnation which could more accurately be titled 'Dances with Ravening Wolves'.
As for Kevin Costner, most recently seen in an advert for a Turkish airline, one supposes there's some irony in suggesting that if that former Robin Hood were to be a soccer team, he'd be Nottingham Forest - briefly scaling the highest heights, but ending up in the lower divisions two decades later.

Friday, January 15, 2010

'Obama's America'

It was always gratifying to see scales falling from the eyes of the apparently deluded.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti

Terrible thing. One can't imagine what it's like.

Poor souls.

Stretching Professional Privilege To Breaking Point

I can see where Rupert Myers is coming from, and there is certainly an element of 'public interest' in divorce proceedings, particularly in regard to issues of personal status and arrangements for the care and maintenance of minor children; but to suggest that legal advisers should be exempt from the consequences of what amounts to the handling of stolen goods, and disrupting the lawful delivery of mail, particularly letters from daughters to their fathers which the Court of Appeal considers to have 'desperately called for a speedy reply', is stretching the concept of privilege a bit too far.

One Of The Great Unanswered Questions Of Our Time...

is - just how much valuable residential property came into the private ownership of politically connected people as a result of the 'right to buy' laws? Whether those to whom they were connected agreed with the policy or not?
One can only wonder. Maybe there was many a wee windfall. Then again, maybe there wasn't.
Righ to buy was a disgrace, pure ideology. To hell with it. In Glasgow, a council house in Broomhill, originally allocated on the basis of need, was always going to be a better potential buy than one in Possil, similarly allocated on the basis of need, on account of its very much higher potential resale value- no disrespect to Possil. The allocation of housing on the basis of nominal need, whether the need was genuine, spurious or perhaps even a contrivance affected in consequence of favourable political connections, could have become a lottery which might have produced significant personal wealth out of nowhere, with the bare minimum of personal risk and subsidised by the taxpayer; a genuine postcode lottery whose winning numbers might just have been G14. The absurd system of discounting that was applied to social housing for sale meant that the taxpayer took a hit on each and every unit that was sold; an unsung Tory addition to the national debt, and one that's never mentioned.
End right to buy. More and better social housing now; all low rise, so that it can be connected to the gas network, and constructed from materials that don't produce condensation dampness in a Scottish January. We have too many asthmatic children and bronchitic pensioners already.

And A Great Big Thank You To The Student..

Now go and find something people like you are good at, such as shooting some poor Tibetan bugger in the back of the head for exceeding his allowance of one eructation per day, and leave the rest of us alone.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This Blog Would Appear To Be Four Years Old Today...

and so far it's been Catholicism, political reaction worthy of The Declaration of Verona, science fiction, fanatical antipathy to the Scottish National Party, Tourettes Syndrome, Scottish law and lawyers, an astonishingly low level of scholarship, cod historical theorising, bitter internecine blogwar and Lady Gaga all in one place.
It's just like reading the newspapers. And although I justify my 100 hits per day with the thought that I write it for myself, I thank you all for reading.

Quote Of The Day

"In his account of the collapse of Enron, Malcolm Gladwell ascribed it to the impact of the consultants McKinsey, and its "talent culture". High flyers, often greedy narcissists in pursuit of bonuses, were identified, promoted and given their head without control. They moved restlessly round the corporation "thinking outside the box". What was good for these stars was assumed to be good for Enron. Eventually so many were outside the box that the box collapsed" -
Sir Simon Jenkins, who doesn't seem to be too far away from the suggestions I made in 'The National Banco Deluxe Royal Lloyds of Halifax'.

'The City Of Z'

Whatever remains there will, or perhaps instead should, only be of interest to archaeologists and universal historians. However, it will no doubt attract its fair share of nutters who go the bottom with monkeys climbing over their boat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Whole Iris Robinson Thing

While one has some sympathy for Peter Robinson in his embarrassment, and Iris Robinson in her ill health, if the Democratic Unionist Party were to go under like the 'Titanic' then perhaps fewer than expected might shed a tear.
The Rt. Hon. Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley seems to have been keeping a judicious silence, something of a lifetime first; for the DUP, which is his baby, is and always be the political wing of hardline anti-Catholic bigotry, and people who live in the kind of glass house that it's been exposed as being can't really throw stones. Born from inter-confessional antipathy, it will wither and die in scandal's flames; for when push comes to shove, all it has to sell is the sash, and that's just cloth. Anything else it says or does is superstructure; intellectual exoskeleton acquired in pursuit of electability.

The Trials Of Marco Pierre White

If he is successful, Chef White will have done more to end the 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' mentality that seems to exist amongst some solicitors than a thousand papers from the Law Commission.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mad Macs

While The Tartanissimo might be willing to believe that all guid Scots will watch out for each other during the current poor weather conditions, events on the ground, so to speak, have proved otherwise.
Further to my post on grit-banditry of January 4th, one can report, with some disappointment but no little surprise, that the gritbin on Dad's street was filled at 01.00 on January 8th, and had been emptied by 09.00. In their pursuit of getting what they want when they want, the middle classes of Glasgow's western marches would appear to have gone feral and vicious; like the motorcycle gangs who scour the Outback for petrol in 'Mad Max', or Dennis Hopper's 'Deacon' roaming the oceans for 'Go juice' in 'Waterworld', perhaps they're cruising the streets all night looking for a full gritbin to gut.
These people will refuse to let anything stand between them and their acquisition of what they want - not your life, not your wife's life, not your mother's life, not your child's life. They have drunk so deeply from the Thatcherite well of 'self-help' that the older ones have forgotten how to behave like good citizens, while the younger ones have never had to learn. Perhaps they've always been feral and vicious (many of the younger ones certainly are); but it's taken only the smallest period of dislocation for their thin veneer of civilisation to be stripped away and the wild animal underneath to be exposed, teeth bared and roaring at the old, the sick and the weak in the struggle for resources. They know nothing but greed, have no goal except acquisition, have no finer feeling except their sense of their own entitlement. If they've behaved in this way over grit today, God knows how they'll behave over something important tomorrow. One shudders to think what they would have done had the recession really started to bite.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Wormhole Has Opened, And We've Moved 200 Years Back In Time - An Intermittent Series

An old chestnut, for sure, but one worth resurrecting nonetheless - if only because the further we move in time from the early 19th Century, the more we seem to be reverting to its attitudes and mores.
Arguments in respect of immigration are pretty futile and, well, rather too early 19th Century when confronted with cases like that of Christelle Pardo. There is a perhaps not insignificant body of opinion in this country that is, and always will be, almost insanely hostile to the welfare state. They would wish to reverse the 1945 social settlement and revert us to the type of society that invented the workhouse and the mantrap.
As I believe I have said elsewhere, we are one of the very few countries in the world ever to have had a counter-revolution without having had a revolution to begin with. Christelle Pardo and her child might have lost their lives at her hand, but one cannot help but wonder whether their deaths could have been prevented had we had a proper welfare system, and not an ersatz one that claims to be there for all, but is constructed in such a way as to make life difficult for those who try to use it - charity as conceived by desperately mean-spirited people possessed by what C.S. Lewis described as 'the Northern vice', love of gold, and who are determined to keep it, full of what he described as 'icy, rageless hatred'; like the dragon he created in 'The Pilgrim's Regress' who loved his wife dearly but who ate her because she was threatening to come between him and his stash.
This horrible mean-spiritedness is also evident in typically psychopathic 'law and order conservatives'. Some make careers bleating for pay about how soft our prisons are, and how lenient our criminal justice system is. They either do not know history, or choose to forget it in pursuit of gold - or fame, for these days that's the next best thing. To say that our prisons are too soft is nonsense. I've been inside every male prison in Scotland bar two, I think, and they are neither cosy nor comfortable. Very, very few people ever want to go there - most that do have psychiatric problems. Some accept imprisonment as an occupational hazard arising from the lifestyle they've chosen from themselves - although such people wreak social havoc, they are remarkably few in number. Nothing will rehabilitate this group. Every society has people who choose to live beyond the law, regardless of the penal code's stringency. Anyone who doesn't understand this doesn't understand human nature. But the vast majority of prisoners are not very bright young men, intrinsically neither good nor bad, who have done stupid things when caught in the wrong circumstances or the wrong company. Many do very stupid and evil things for which they must be punished, for sure - but to try to get a law and order conservative to think that 'there but for the grace of God go I' is a task worthy of The Lord Himself.
Such people also forget that if our criminal justice sytem is now too lenient, it's because it used to be too bloody harsh before. In 19th Century England, juries would acquit rather than convict where the sentence was obviously disproportionate to the crime. In recent years, no less a liberal than Tony Blair himself used to talk about how 'yobs' would be marched to cashlines to pay on the spot fines - so much for due process. That didn't happen, of course, but it reflected something very dark and nasty within the British soul - the desire to see your neighbour tormented and punished.
And the 19th Century's back with a bang in medicine. Some conservatives, many without any apparent training in neurology, appear ready to dismiss the existence of ADHD as a fantasy. To my mind, this is reaction on a scale equivalent to Gregory XVI's banning of vaccination in the Papal States. Bluntly, it is mindless intolerance - but it's just so 19th Century.
(Update, 14/01/10 - a reader has been kind enough to write in the following terms -
"In your most recent post you wrote, "To my mind, this is reaction on a scale equivalent to Gregory XVI's banning of vaccination in the Papal States." While Gregory XVI was certainly a reactionary, the notion that Gregory XVI banned vaccination in the Papal States is an anti-Catholic myth, which is more frequently also falsely attributed to his reactionary predecessor Leo XII.
Regarding Gregory XVI, A History of the Popes: 1830-1914 by Owen Chadwick (the relevant pages are available for free via Google Books) states on p. 57 that, "He was good at charities; he visited hospitals during the cholera epidemic, ordered that unemployment should end (not thinking about the effect of this order on the public finances), defended vaccination, and took Galileo off the index of prohibited books." Lest you think I am quoting a hagiography of Gregory XVI, it also has some other things he did in a less favorable light (like banning the building of a railroad in the Papal States to protect rural industries). "
Many thanks. It would be a pity to think that the pun 'Chemin de fer? Chemin d' infers!' attributed to Gregory was an urban myth. My error has arisen from my own recent misreading of pages 235-237 of Adam Zamoyski's 'Rites of Peace' - principally over dates, Pius VII having been Pope at the time of the Congress of Vienna. On Page 237, footnote 23, Mr. Zamoyski cites M. M. O' Dwyer, 'The Papacy in the Age of Napoleon and the Restoration: Pius VII 1800-1823' in support of the point regarding Papal reaction to vaccination at the time of the Congress).

The SupermarKKKet Ombudsman

Although the bog standard market zealots are providing the usual cabaret in the 'Comments', even including the bog standard expatriate complaining about how difficult buying sesame seeds in Switzerland can be, one has to think that there's a great deal of mileage in the idea that there should be a supermarKKKet ombudsman.
The idea that people use supermarkets because they provide us with what we want is rubbish - where I live, one can buy food virtually nowhere else.
And would these braying donkey market zealots please, please, please stop equating the purchase of foodstuffs with the purchase of consumer electronics? Please? The idea is so stupid, it's infuriating. The idea that the ability to purchase a loaf of bread is somehow the same as the ability to buy a television is so insulting to those billions in the world who don't have enough food to eat that it debases whatever argument is being attempted, or whatever theory is being advanced.
No less a historian than G.M. Trevelyan was willing to admit that the United Kingdom compromised its food security for no reason more substantial than economic zealotry - inspired, no doubt, by the elites' perpetual desire to keep driving wages down, down, down. Whether consciously or not, the supermarkets are playing the same game, and are so zealous that they don't mind seeing food producers go out of business rather than break with the theory.
The major difference beyween the times that Trevelyan was discussing and our own, of course, is that we've abandoned the concept of energy security on account of economic zealotry as well.

Uganda

Apparently the Ugandans are rediscovering the idea that the love of money is the root of all evil - even evil unplugged.
If he had lived, Adam would have been about 14 or 15 by now. His killers have still not been caught.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ice

As ever, there is always much to say when there is never enough time...
A group called 'Balanced Migration' has emerged, with one of its aims apparently being the promotion of Christian immigration. One wishes them well; they must be saying something right, if only because functionaries of the Institute of Public Policy Research are having a go at them.
The issue of skilled immigration is always one which immigrationists use to obfuscate debate. However, the necessity of skilled immigration has recently become clear. A colleague of mine suggested that the current icy weather would seem to indicate the need for certain municipal services to be operated by crack teams of cross-country skiers. The likelihood of this happening is, however, slight - if only because the Poles all seem to have gone home.
One statistic that would be interesting to see is the number of hospital admissions and deaths directly resulting from hypothermia. I might be wrong, but I imagine that they have increased significantly since 17th December. The scale of any such tragedy might be unknowable for months, if not years, allowing serial policy failures to continue without any possibility of blame or recrimination; the British elites will never feel wholly secure in their positions unless they feel that the society they dominate has been atomised to destruction, so the deaths of all the old ladies whose children have emigrated, and with whom they only have irregular contact, all huddled in front of their radiators and petrified to turn on the heating because of the cost, will go unmarked until somebody breaks their doors down in July - when their corpses start to smell.
How the necons laughed at the French when 15,000 old folk died in the heatwave of 2003! We should not be laughing, for we could be undergoing a similar tragedy right now. The old might be dying in their homes, and we have no idea whether or not it's happening.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

'Britain Doesn’t Need A Dose Of Shock Therapy'

says Bill Emmott.

And quite right he is as well - if only because there would be a revolution if it were attempted.

Amelia On Marriage

After Ariane Sherine, Abigail Gliddon, Sandy Ross and Mary 'Sister Mary Elvis' Fitzgerald, one would have thought that the universal truth of the maxim that "...'Comment is Free' seems to exist to provide a certain type of underemployed lassie with something to do..." would require no further proof.
But no. We can add the name of Amelia Gentleman to the list.
It's always unfortunate when a lady named Amelia crashes and burns, but she concludes a rather pointless article on whether David Cameron's pro-marriage policies will reinforce society by writing that "...(the Conservatives) should look beyond marriage as a solution to societal breakdown. If Cameron wants to make society less broken, he should spend whatever money there is on providing good schools, creating job opportunities and training, and on better housing. These are the things that help people feel positive about their lives. Marriage is a secondary issue."
And presumably a society with more married people in it, who know how to live together in unity and love with other people, will not somehow be better than one where social priorities are determined on the basis of which service gets the largest slice of the investment rations. Don't see it myself.
(Update, 11/01/10 - according to Peter McKay, writing as 'Ephrain Hardcastle' in 'The Daily Mail', Amelia Gentleman is Boris Johnson's sister-in-law. All together now - Ahhhhhhh...)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Gone To Rest

Father Gerry Nugent, without whose weakness Peter Tobin might never have been caught, has passed away.
"I have met Fr. Gerry Nugent, the parish priest, only once, and under unusual circumstances - he was seated next to me at the recording of a television show.

However I do know that he is an extremely kind and attentive pastor to his congregation's oldest member, a very close and dear relation, who cannot speak too highly of him."
Sadly, Tobin's crime meant that she could not be buried out of the church in which she had received all of her sacraments, nor by her own parish priest; but in the long run, that doesn't matter, absolutely nothing when compared to bringing a serial killer to justice. Father Nugent might have been a deeply flawed priest; but he was a good pastor to at least one of his parishioners, and that should be counted in his favour just as his flaws and fatal lack of caution might be counted against him.
Hopefully he's now at peace.
Eternal rest grant unto your son Gerard, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace' and may his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Vampire Chic

Not much time to post on this, but it's something I've been meaning to put up for the past few days.
The culture has recently seemed to vomit out a phenomenal number of works on the subjects of vampires and vampirism. This is not good.
Vampires exist only to consume people. My own view is that vampirism is a foul and evil thing which should not be celebrated in any way, shape or form, nor be the subject of any literature, drama or television program, but which should instead be arcane knowledge resting only with those with the training and nerves to be able to handle it.
Vampirism is about the idea of using humans as food. It should not perhaps be surprising that a culture which celebrates consumption for its own sake should eventually turn to taking its entertainment from being frightened at the idea of becoming something's dinner - but there's too much mention of it about now, and somebody, somewhere is bound to get the wrong idea.
But I guess there's still money in it, so we'll all still be exposed to it.

There Will Be No Tesco Law In Scotland!

It's guff. What's next - go to your supermarket for minor surgery? Aisle 1 to get your appendix out, aisle 2 for your piles? I know that if this were ever to be introduced, I'd still rather go without legal services than not go to a solicitor. Good grief, these people seem to think that the practice of law is easy.
This could all be about the partners in a very small number of very large firms seeking to cash out to the highest bidder, and hoping for the type of deal that their traditional buyers can't offer. If that is the case, then one can only think that it must be great to have so much access and so much clout that you can influence a change in the law which will benefit nobody but yourself, and one which tears down centuries of tradition in the process. But we live in a global economy where there's no point in protectionism, blah blah blah blah blah blah BBBLLLLAAAAHHHH!!!!!!

Monday, January 04, 2010

'Theology For Atheists'...

Otherwise known as a group of blindfolded guys in a darkened room crashing into each other while they all fumble about for the light switch with their hands tied behind their backs; in other words, an activity of little practical utility - but one which would make a great gameshow for Channel 5 nevertheless.

Next!

The Day Before Yesterday Meets The Day After Tomorrow

One of the more curious theories involved in the whole global warming thing is that it's supposed to make the climate get colder because it causes oceanic desalination.
Which makes one wonder, where do the salts that the oceans lose actually go? I only ask this because, where I live, it certainly hasn't gone on to the bloody roads.
My dad has told me that his street has suffered from incidents of grit-banditry. GRRRRR...Grit-banditry, the act of removing grit from gritbins in one street for use in another street which has gritbins of its own, is as heinously selfish a form of middle class antisocial behaviour as driving up to a privately hired skip and just dumping your rubbish in it. Those who commit such depredations should be forced to wear signs bearing the words 'I am a grit-bandit' round their necks while being compelled to clear ice from streets whose grit they have stolen, preferably at taserpoint and under the supervision of the most brutal warden in the Russian prison system; before having all the neighbourhood's trash dumped on their lawn. Some people seem to think that the mere act of moving to a sandstone villa somehow causes them to ascend to a plane of existence where their neighbours have no rights, and where the older ones, you know, the most fragile ones, can just break their necks on ungritted pavements, their corpses presumably to be dumped into a skip (not your own, of course) at some later date; but Glasgow's western marches have always produced a slightly better class of ASBO-bait.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Lions In Winter

I have to get this out of my system. It might not be pretty. Above all else, it's fundamentally unserious; but it's so important it has to be said.
When it comes to television drama, I freely admit to being a cyborgs in leotards kind of viewer. This is occasionally the cause of minor domestic strife. My wife, a huge fan of the crinolines and bonnets guff that passes for costume drama, has developed a tic whereby she shouts 'Rubbish!' at the sound of any 'Star Trek' theme tune, while also becoming extremely defensive at suggestions that 'Cranford' could be spiced up by a guest appearance by Yoda, or that 'Pride and Prejudice' is somehow diminished by the absence of, say, cyborgs in leotards declaiming 'I'm varying the shield harmonics, Mr. Darcy! Phasers on stun!'
In short, when it comes to entertainment I want to be entertained in a particularly juvenile and unchallenging manner, and accordingly was rather looking forward to David Tennant's last outing in the role of 'Doctor Who'.
To have done so was a mistake. It was such drivel that one is tempted to echo Ruskin's comment upon Whistler, and say that the makers threw a pot of paint into the face of the public, the only difference being that the modern paint was CGI.
Over the course, David Tennant was quite good in the role. I might have found his performances more enjoyable if I could actually have heard what he was saying. He had the estuary accent down to a tee, of course, but at times the combination of extremely loud sound effects and far, far too much dialogue seemed to render his diction almost unintelligible. The enjoyment of even juvenile entertainment can be greatly enhanced by being able to hear what an actor is saying, rather than merely being able to rejoice that he is saying it.
What I did like about Tennant's involvement in the show was that, with him in it, it did occasionally seem to pay its respects to Christianity. This is, of course, an entirely subjective opinion, one perhaps derived from wishing to see something in it that the writers might not have intended, and I might be completely wrong; but scenes such as the respectful singing of 'Abide with me' at the end of 'Gridlock' and the issuing of forgiveness at the end of 'The Last Of The Time Lords' seemed to this viewer to pay due respect to the culture's founding values. Given the actor's personal background, that might not be too surprising.
However, by 2009 it was clear that the end of whatever creative road the show's makers were travelling down was in sight. 'Planet of The Dead' was just guff, enlivened only by the presence of the very pretty and watchable Michelle Ryan, a young star desperately in need of the right vehicle. 'The Waters of Mars' was, well, watery, and marred by what seemed to this viewer to be two egregious acts of self-reference; dialogue about gay marriage in Russia apparently indicating that the writer might have problems keeping their impulse engines under control, and the sly, momentary reference to Tennant having taken a break from the show to play 'Hamlet'. Blink, so to speak, and you missed it - he picked up an empty helmet and stared at it.
And so to 'The End of Time'; which, by the time it had ended, eventually couldn't come quickly enough.
I did not understand it. This is always an impediment to enjoyment. In fact, it was embarrassing.
For a start, there was the entirely unexplained and apparently inexplicable presence of Claire Bloom. What was she doing in it? More properly, what on Earth was she doing appearing in this? Exactly how did her character drive the story on?
Then there was Timothy Dalton. Mr. Dalton is so capable an actor that he bagged the part of Philip the Fair in the movie version of 'The Lion in Winter' almost straight out of drama school. As well as being a former James Bond - the best, in my opinion, as he best captured the sheer viciousness of Fleming's creation - he is also, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the only actor to have played both Heathcliff and Rochester on film, and was a suitably villainous and nasty Henry Darnley in 'Mary, Queen of Scots'. Yet neither he nor Miss Bloom, once Chaplin's leading lady for goodness' sake, seemed to merit credits above the title. Oh, they both got served up gibberish dialogue to spout through gritted teeth, with Mr. Dalton getting the chance to prance around in a futuristic gown - but one cannot help but think that this was far, far beneath them both.
The script didn't just seem to have holes; they seemed to be wormholes. Knock three times on the ceiling if you want love - knock four times and you're a goner. I can understand John Simm seeming to ham it up - the role of The Master is all ham, even when the show is so bad that it ends up as turkey ham. Yet at the end - where did he go? He seemed to be standing there one minute, and to have disappeared the next. Did I miss something? Did he get zapped with a white point star? Blasted back into the time bubble? Where was he? My own thought was that he'd morphed into Bernard Cribbins, but that didn't seem to be the case.
There now seems to be a tradition on 'Doctor Who' of corralling all past and present stars, and the stars of its spin-offs, for a series-end 'Cheerio' after a spot of casual genocide; which is what sending the Time Lords back to the time bubble seemed to be. If you didn't know who these characters were, you would be at a loss. Before 'The End of Time', this practice was usually justified by the saving grace of having had them involved in the preceding storyline - but the writers have regenerated beyond even that minimum standard, so The Doctor was seen with a bevvy of former assistants and travelling companions, all of them visual non sequiturs who might as well have been attending a convention of former members of the Transdimensional Youth Hostelling Association.
This was a bust, a booby, and a flop. If this show wishes to retain this viewer, it needs to raise its game pretty damn quick.
It was in the desperate search for further entertainment that I tuned into 'The Deer Hunter' on ITV4 later in the evening. This involved two rather strange coincidences. The first is that yesterday was 25 years to the day after it received its British television premiere; if memory serves, it went on at 9 pm on BBC2.
The second is that Christopher Walken played Philip the Fair in the original Broadway production of 'The Lion in Winter'; and it says little for 'Doctor Who' when it is less entertaining than the sight of Mr. Walken pretending to blow his brains out.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Best wishes to all for 2010. As for us, it promises to be a biggy.

And yes, guys - I'll be back.

Leader Of Plutocrats' Trade Union Attacks Education System

Don't these guys see that the education system exists for a purpose other than to help them make money?

The Road Less Travelled

As if one needed any further prompting, the doings of Umar Farouk 'Thunderpants' Abdulmutallab remind one of the virtues of just staying at home.
If I want to be reminded of what a ghastly place the world can be, I can always turn on the BBC News. That's what I pay the licence fee for.

The New Year Honours List

Bald man says 'Make it so' to bearded man named 'Number One'.

Bald man gets knighthood. No word on whether either horse or squire thrown in.