Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not Hunbug

I don't understand Scrooges.

It's not like I'm Cliff Richard - I'm the atheest of atheists.  Christmas to me means loads of time off work, free stuff and beer, in that order.

Others might not wish it so, but I wish it could be Christmas every day.  Today, I woke up next to the woman I love;  Totally fooled her into believing I hadn't got her the present she wanted, before coming up trumps with exactly that; went out for an excellent dinner and returned home in time for the Doctor Who Christmas special on the iPlayer.

All is right with the world, as it should be.  Okay, Inception was loads worse than I thought it would be, but apart from that, what's to complain about?

You humbugging bastards.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Big Tackety Boot Of Nemesis

On Tommy Sheridan, I reckon there's really only two points that need to be made, namely that

1) I can't think of another Scottish politician who would've been kicked as hard up the arse by the boot of the state for committing perjury in the fraudulent pretence that he was innocent of charges that he was in fact guilty of, and

2) That this is largely because I can't think of another Scottish politician who would be stupid enough to try it in the first place.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Oh, Dear God

I hope that everyone enjoyed the irony of a tiny gaggle of angry Christians launching their out-and-proud campaign against the secular assault to whitewash religion, on the same day that Margo MacDonald's End of Life Bill was unceremoniously shot down with no small amount of assistance from...  A tiny gaggle of angry Christians

Unfortunately for Margo, her Bill had no chance of ever passing.  Assisted dying is one of the many issues that requires parliamentarians to engage honestly and calmly with the public on an extremely controversial topic.  Given a choice between facing a well-orchestrated green ink campaign with the hellfire brigade offering bible lessons at successive constituency surgeries, or simply voting No, few would blame MSPs for taking the easy option. 

Had this been an issue that could've been resolved hurling or withholding cash, I imagine that it would've proven less thorny.  Instead, we got lengthy orations on public morality; protests by disability groups who seemed oddly convinced that the Bill represented a steep, slippery slope into the eugenic abyss, and a load of dubious rattle about suicide tourism. 

Well, I don't think we could've expected any better.  I'm no expert on the opinions of the terminally ill, although I will note that MacDonald - who has Parkinson's disease herself - produced opinion polls showing 77% public approval for her Bill.  Even if those polls were based on loaded questions, I'm sure it'll cheer dying people up to know that the religious will be there to hold their hands at the end.  Assuming the flock aren't too busy at the time working their arses off to deny others the choice of an alternative, of course. 

And while I'm on about the Church, it's entertaining to note what their latest pride campaign represents, i.e. yet another ratcheting-up of the Christians' attempt to break into the great game of tiny minority victimhood, in the hope it'll somehow work to their benefit. 

It's good for firing up the troops, I suppose, but given that Christianity is an old codger's game in this country, I can't see it having much effect.  Their principal foe here isn't organised secularism or aggressive atheists, but the irresistable force that is public indifference. 

If Christianity is heading for the dumper in Britain, it's not because it's under attack.  If they're being whitewashed, it's because their message doesn't resonate with potential customers.  Perhaps, rather than lamenting official bias, they'd be better off concentrating on producing a more appealing product.

It's not often I come up with a constructive suggestion, but I have my moments.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Aggravated Bitchery For The Hell Of It

Let me get this out of the way before I start - I'm not an activist or a campaigner.  For various reasons, I'm not a great joiner of campaigns or parties or a signer of petitions.  I'm more than happy to bump my gums about issue x, y or z online, but my net contribution to the UK's political scene is zero.  Thus, I try not to instruct people who actually get off their backsides and do things.

That said, I think we need to have a chat about strategy here.  It seems to me that a lot of time is being wasted complaining about things that simply can't be altered.  Take the recent student protests, for a start - I've now lost count of the number of people I've seen grousing that TV news broadcasters focus too heavily on a minority of troublemakers and ignore the issue that's so animated 50,000 peaceful protesters.

Every time I see this, I can't help but think of In The Loop...

Toby Wright: We called some builders. They didn't turn up when they said they would.


Jamie MacDonald: What did you expect? They're builders! Have you ever seen a film where the hero is a builder? No, no, because they never fuckin' turn up in the nick of time. Bat-builder? Spider-builder? Huh? That's why you never see a superhero with a hod!

Complaining that TV news is sensationalist and reductive is like bitching that the X Factor is rigged.  Is it really?  Get out of here!  It never is!
 
If it bleeds, it leads and there's nothing like a spot of amateur constabulary boxing to give an ITN producer a glorious woody.  Thus, 50,000 protesters get ten seconds, and the rest of the broadcast is devoted to slow-mo replays of airborne fire extinguishers and looted police vans.
 
Seriously, if Trevor MacDonald walks into his office tomorrow to be told to put together a ten minute panel discussion on the pros and cons of education cuts, he'd conclude that his bosses had been tearing shit up all night on an epic cocaine and methylated spirits bender.  Education policy is brutally tedious, he'd say.  Can't we just show more clips of twatty students breaking things?  And lo, they would!
 
Broadcasters may have a duty to present current affairs as faithfully as they can, but that's always superceded by their number one priority, which is ratings.  A five-minute grilling of Michael Gove is advertising death - the public would damn near break their wrists changing the channel.  Hell, I'm a well-informed observer of events, and even I would rather watch the International Wide-Eyed Seal Pup Clubbing Championships than Michael bloody Gove.
 
And while I'm at it, I think we could also do with a good bit less of this kind of thing - tiresome lectures on the acceptability of sick jokes.
 
I watched a recorded episode of ‘Russell Howard’s Good News’ this week – I couldn’t even enjoy the funny bits. The show was fragmented by the host’s jokes about rape and paedophilia. I don’t find them funny. They make me feel sick. They give me nightmares.
 
I can see why this kind of thing upsets people and I sympathise, but really, this is tactically insane.  If you wanted to alienate the public, then what better way to do it than by continually finger-wagging them for their choices in light entertainment? 
 
Given that left wingers generally are so often portrayed as hair-shirted, mung bean chewing, po-faced language commissars, it never ceases to amaze me that so many are keen to play up to the stereotype.  Tut-tutting the electorate for their naughty programmes makes us look humourless and dictatorial; immediately annoys the tut-tuttees and hands opponents a great big stick to beat us with.
 
Can we give this stuff a rest, please?  It reminds me very much of that deranged US Tea Party politician and her Jihad on people jerking off, and may well be one of the least endearing and most counterproductive of all of the modern left's many bugbears.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stupid Songs Contest #3

The rules - the World's Stupidest Song isn't necessarily the world's worst song.  To qualify, the track needs to be a) irredeemably artless; b) thoroughly cretinous and the artist in question must be c) utterly oblivious.

Which brings us to What I Am by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, quite possibly the most vapid song ever to garner popular acclaim.

Stupid comes in many varieties.  Whereas previous candidates were openly moronic, What I Am attempts to slide its vacuity under a veil of fake profundity, hoping that by acting thick, the song's essential stupidity will take on some deeper meaning.  It doesn't work.

I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean
Do ya?

I'm guilty of pulling this gambit on occasion - Hey, I'm a mechanic's son, descended from a long line of working class heroes.  I can't be expected to understand all this complicated stuff!  It's bullshit when I do it, and it's bullshit in the Billboard Chart. 

Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box
Religion is the smile on a dog

I could critique this like an anal retentive, but really, why not just call the song Durrrr, what? 

That's before we get to the chorus with it's hugely annoying and glib lyric What I am is what I am/Are you what you are, or what?  Simple, yet deep and ties in so well to the circular guitar riff! 

Seriously, if you're one of those people who thought Nirvana were terrible because they were angsty and meaningless, I dare you to listen to this song three times.  If you're not punching yourself in the face three seconds into your third attempt, you have no soul.

And a word of advice - in the unlikely event that you ever have spoken-word suckmeister Henry Rollins round for tea, don't put this on.  It'll be like that bit in The Incredible Hulk with the violence.

Stupid Songs Contest #2

The rules - the World's Stupidest Song isn't necessarily the world's worst song.  To qualify, the track needs to be a) irredeemably artless; b) thoroughly cretinous and the artist in question must be c) utterly oblivious.  With that in mind, here's your next contender - Break Stuff, the fourth single from Limp Bizkit's breathtakingly brainless album Significant Other.

It's all about the he said/she said bullshit
I think you better quit
Talkin' that shit
Or you'll be leavin' with a fat lip

All of us have had one of those days.  You know, one of those days when you wake up and think to yourself, How hard could it be to take Rage Against The Machine's output, strip it of whatever limited political and musical merit it ever possessed and turn it into a license to print money?   

Well, when Fred Durst had one of those days, he produced possibly the most cack-handed, ham-fisted slabs of idiocy ever committed to vinyl.  Break Stuff is awe-inspiringly stupid, a Beavis and Butthead skit in musical form.

If the whole purpose of rock music is to depress and piss off teenagers - and it is, more or less - then this is really the zenith of the form.  Totally free of context, a hymn to the adolescent art of being a bit grumpy and being pissed off about nothing... I thank my lucky stars this didn't come out when I was fourteen.

I hope you know I pack a chainsaw
I'll skin your ass raw
And if my day keeps going this way I just might
Break your fuckin' face tonight!
Give me something to break!

Testify, brother!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yer War on Terror Round-Up - Slapstick Edition

Astonishing news from Afghanistan, where talks between the government and Taliban negotiator Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour have run into a small difficulty...

"it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all... United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little...

...“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

To reiterate: some geezer - God knows who - was allowed to repeatedly meet with senior officials including Hamid Karzai, was fed bagfuls of cash and then legged it, because almost ten years into a major war, we still clearly have no idea who we are fighting. 

You do have to wonder - see when the Taliban kept telling the press that they weren't negotiating with the government, did military intelligence just think they were playing an elaborate double bluff?

Elsewhere, a Times leader writer today* pens a column expressing astonishment that Iraq has refused to send a representative to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in honour of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.  After wiping his laptop clean of his own exploded brains, the Times man declares his disappointment that, after thousands of coalition deaths in a trillion-dollar war for Iraqi freedom, the Iraqis have decided to side with the forces of authoritarianism. 

I paraphrase, but the author asks Who would've thought this would happen?   To which I can only respond, Anyone who has watched in alarm as the Iraqi government has more or less openly played up its authoritarian credentials and been denounced for arbitrary detention, torture and various other violations by those awful Commie human rights orgs.

The Times itself has reported on the Iraqi government's behaviour, IIRC, and I can't think of any reason why any clued-up observer would consider their self-interested decision to give the Nobel committee the bodyswerve surprising.  It's notable is that the journo in question isn't merely surprised - this really is a massive, earth-shaking WTF?!!?! moment for him. 

If I hadn't cracked open a newspaper in the last ten years, these stories might give me the impression that neither our military forces nor the national paper of record had a damn clue what was going on with our wars.  Having kept up with it day by day, I've no idea what to make of this.

Anyone know how much lead there is in British tapwater these days?

*(The leader article is behind the paywall and I don't have it to hand, but I'll chuck a couple of choice quotes into the comments section tomorrow, so you can see I'm not exaggerating at all).

In Defence Of Snobbery

That stoopid music post attracted a Tweeted complaint of racism, which is entertaining but misguided.  My primary arsehole behaviour on pop-cultural matters is the much less sinister snobbery.

Mrs. R and various friends have objected continually over the years when I regularly turn my nose up at film (x), album (y) or book (z), but when it comes right down to it, you should have faith in your own gut instinct.  If someone asks you to go see Tomb Raider, it's sending you those Run for your life! signals for a reason.

Seriously, here's how it goes, nine times out of ten:  Hey, Mr. Rodent, fancy going to see 2012?  The special effects look magic.

No thanks, I'll say, that looks like a shite film.

Don't be such a bloody snob, they'll go.  It's just a night at the cinema, what else are you going to do?

The next day, after doing something enjoyable instead, I'll ask How was 2012, then?

Shite, comes the sullen response.  I try not to be rub it in, mind.

I'm the first to admit that this might make me a dickhead, but hey - I'm a dickhead who wasn't bounced into hours of reading The Da Vinci Code, or sitting through Godzilla, so there's an upside.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The World's Stupidest Song Contest

It takes a special talent to record a truly stupid song.  To qualify, a track needs to demonstrate an awesome level of stupidity on a number of levels.

1) Musically, the song must be the most artless, lumbering, chuntering pile of farting drivel imaginable.  The most cretinous song has to sound like it was slung together by a pissed orangutan disinterestedly smashing a synthesiser. 

Songs that make heavy use of samples are generally perfect for this, since an original work always requires a basic act of invention.  Hideous rock bollocks like, say, anything by fuck-awful, comedy-masked shite-merchants Mudvayne, may be astonishingly tone deaf, blundering arse, but they still had to think up some guitar riffs and so on.

2) It's imperative that the lyrics are the most offensively tossed-off ramble of random verbiage, conveying maximum contempt for the listener. Ideally, it should be impossible to divine any point or theme, although songs about liking sex, shooting coppers or just generally being big and tough often qualify. 

Thus, Human by the Killers would qualify for its meaningless, angst-ridden "Are we human/Or are we dancer" lyric, particularly because it led to much debate about its meaning.  Is there something profound we're all missing?  Well, let's end that debate right now - it goes like that because the singer shoved it in as a stopgap in rehearsal, and couldn't be arsed to change the stupid bits later.

3) Finally - and most importantly! - the artist must be completely oblivious to the stupidity of his or her track.  Given that musicians are seldom renowned for their intellectual prowess, this throws the competition wide open across almost all eras and genres, although obviously '80s hair-farming heavy metal has an advantage.

So, without further ado, let's introduce the first contender. 

Bound 4 Da Reload was released in 2000 by Oxide & Neutrino and immediately shot to the top of the UK singles chart.  As perhaps the most brainless and inane release to come out of the mainstreaming of UK garage - itself, one of the most cretinous music scenes ever to emerge in this country - it instantly and proudly announced itself as one of the stupidest songs of the decade, and is a strong contender for The World's Stupidest Song contest.

It's difficult to know where to start - insofar as there's actually something musical going on in there, it's just the theme tune from Casualty with a couple of ripped-off samples from well-known eighties hip hop sticking out of its anus, and some irrelevant dialogue from a Guy Ritchie film wedged in like a Wotsit up a toddler's nostril.  Lyrically...

Bound 4 the bound bound 4 the reload/Bound 4 the bound bound 4 the reload/Bound 4 the bound bound 4 the reload/Bound 4 the bound bound 4 the reload (repeat)

...It's an inspired tour de force of slack-jawed, meaningless gibberish, like your fourteen-year old nephew mumbling over BBC One on a wet Tuesday night.  It's particularly difficult to work out whether the artists created such a hilarious mish-mash of unrelated nonsense intentionally, or because they got bored halfway through recording it and just shoved in whatever was on telly that night. 

To misquote Patches O'Houlihan in Dodgeball, it sounds exactly like a pack of retards trying to fuck a doorknob. 

If I'd been asked to guess at the title, I'd have assumed it was called Like, Some Wicked Beats, And Shit.  If I'd been asked to film the video, I'd definitely have had the band standing in a shitty club, looking bad-ass into the middle distance, which is what they actually did.

Ladies and gents, your first contender for the title of World's Stupidest Song.  If you can find a band taking a song this stupid as seriously as they do, you'll be doing well.

Further nominations to follow between now and Christmas; particularly good suggestions may be considered for entry.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Concern Trolling - A Bluffer's Guide

An entertaining row is blowing up around the al-Awlaki case in the US, one that I think serves as a brilliant introduction to the arcane art of concern trolling.  Examples follow...

A bit of history here: al-Awlaki is a fugitive Al-Qaeda propagandist, cited by numerous fucking idiots as an inspiration towards their own deranged worldviews and for various extremely violent crimes.  The Obama administration has declared that it intends to assassinate him at the first available opportunity.

So what, you might say?  After all, it's not like the US hasn't spent the last decade rubbing out thousands of people across a variety of countries, and if there's a more deserving recipient of a hellfire missile up the jacksie than al-Awlaki, I certainly can't think of one at the moment.

The problem arises because al-Awlaki is a US citizen.  Even though he's declared war on his homeland, his assassination would set a legal precedent that the President can order the extrajudicial murder of American citizens, an idea that would've caused exploding foreheads in Washington from 1774 on, right through the Civil and Cold Wars and right up until the dawn of the deranged era in which we now live. 

Unsurprisingly, this has caused various constitutional law groups to sit up and take notice, particularly the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights.  These have organised a defence of citizens' right not to be exploded... And as if by magic, numerous groups have sprung forth to declare that, while they - of course! - disagree with extrajudicial state murder, they have concerns about the manner of the defence.

Readers will be blown away by shocking news that primary concerns include alleged terrorist-snuggling and accusations of spitting on the struggles of the suffering peoples of the globe. 

First up was ever-reliable bullshit-vacuum Andrew Sulllivan...

"The decision of the ACLU and CCR to represent Anwar al-Awlaki, even as he continues to emit clear death threats to writers and cartoonists, seems to me to cross a line..."

This, friends, is a clear example of how failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  By merely stating that al-Awlaki is an awful human being, Sullivan left himself wide open to the response that it doesn't matter whether the bloke is Satan himself - Americans are legally protected from assassination by their own government by laws that were established for damn good reasons. 

No, painting the rights groups as terrorist sympathisers was going to take more than a bald assertion that terrorists are evil, dude.  Step forward, ex-Amnesty martyr Gita Saghal, to accuse the CCR of sexual relations with Al Qaeda. 

The problem wasn't that the CCR was defending citizens' protections from their own government - oh no, not at all.  The problem was that CCR had consorted with a whiffy Islamic human rights group, thus rendering their behaviour suspect enough to merit a long chin-stroke on the arse-extracted topic of "anti-imperialism".  One opinion from an American law professor later, CCR were suddenly al-Awlaki's "criminal defence lawyers", "representing his interests", committed to "sanitising" his reputation.  Perhaps we'll soon hear that he loves his mum, or something.

Evidence for CCR's fellatial embrace of terror is thin on the ground, but evidence isn't necessary with the power of concernMeredith Tax was on hand to berate the CCR for endangering human rights themselves...

"Is there some reason not to pursue a legal or political strategy explicitly calling for him to be captured and brought to the US to stand trial... rather than just not killed?" she asked, articulating a question that was no doubt uppermost in many US citizens' minds when their government announced that they were rewriting the law to allow the President to kill Americans. 

"By what means will the CCR distance itself from al-Awlaki's opinions while defending his right not to be assassinated?" she continued, raising the prospect that trial lawyers are often suspected of just adoring rape, child abuse and murder.  "Most importantly, if the CCR becomes identified as defenders of al-Awlaki, will women who are victims of salafi-jihadists feel they can trust you with their own cases?" 

Unsurprisingly, these questions went unanswered by CCR, presumably because an eighteen-year-old law student could answer them after five minutes of their compulsory legal ethics course, or even after five minutes in front of an episode of Law & Order. 

Finding her pisspoor ethical gambits falling on stony ground, there was only one thing for it - to join with Gita Saghal in accusing CCR of joyously pissing into the pleading, upturned faces of the victims of terror.  Prominent among the betrayed and outraged were a group of Algerian NGOs, no strangers to the horrors of Islamist terror themselves, who repeated the "Why don't you spend half your defence of your case pointing out what a violent psycho al-Awlaki is" line before adding...

"At no time did CCR indicate its intention to support the innumerable victims of al-Awlaki, with at least as much publicity as the Center now gives to his case.  The double standards you employ in these circumstances are unacceptable to us".

Emotive stuff, but you'll notice that nobody watching the Scopes monkey case accused Clarence Darrow of hypocrisy because he didn't give equal amounts of publicity to the possibility that Adam once wrestled a dinosaur.  Plus, you do have to wonder why, exactly, it's outrageous that a group of Americans might bring a case against the United States Government in an American court to defend the rights of Americans under the laws of the United States of America, without simultaneously issuing a number of press releases reassuring the world that they aren't in favour of blowing up women and kids with nail bombs.

(Tax then goes off on a mad tangent about some lefty who met Ahmadinejad and, like Saghal, starts waffling some bafflingly irrelevant bollocks about anti-Imperialism, but it's such an entirely childish attempt at guilt by non-association that we'll let it lie there).

These arguments are so transparently poor, so clearly mendacious, that I can't avoid accusing the people making them of being bullshitters.  I don't think it's possible to make this many bad faith arguments accidentally.  Nonetheless, they are an excellent lesson in the basics of the art of concern trolling, namely...

1) If you can't disagree with your opponents' position overtly because they're basically correct, cast about for reasons to object to their conduct

2) Express concerns about various unrelated aspects; for instance, Why do lawyers defend murderers?  Is it because they think murderers are cool? Why haven't they issued a series of statements denouncing murder? and so on and so forth.

3) Pretend not to understand key points of the argument; for instance, in a discussion on the rights of Americans, be sure to discuss absolutely any topic except the Constitution and the Bill of Rights;

4) Issue variations on Won't somebody think of the children? and Vote for us, or the kitten gets it! in the form of angry victims and finally, the coup de grace...

5) Diagnose some wide-ranging sociopathy on the part of the political tendency you are pretending to represent, no matter how tenuous your evidence.

Take these simple rules into rhetorical combat and you won't land any punches, but you'll certainly make such an impressive display of flailing ineffectively at your opponent's defence that unwary observers might think you've scored a lot of points.

Update!  Further larks with CCR trustee Karima Bennoune here

Noticeable in her piece - Link to Who the fuck are they, then? mentalist website presented as some kind of evidence for something or other; 

Lots and lots of talk about what CCR don't say;  " “the organisation has been quiet about..."  "CCR risks seeming to side with the extreme right..."  "this is tantamount to representing..."  In short, plenty of We should be very suspicious of the things people do not say. 

Thick implication that taking on this case is identical to giving victims of terrorism the finger and laughing.

Notably not present in her piece - Any fair consideration of why a group called the Center for Constitutional Rights might consider a test case on the Rights of all Americans - not just Islamist psychopaths - to be within their remit; 

Any quotes or links to the supposedly intolerable things that the CCR are supposed to have said;

The words "Constitution"; "Bill of Rights"; "Habeus corpus" and so on;

Unasked: How the United States has managed to survive for centuries, from George Washington to Bush the Second, without the President claiming the right to assassinate citizens; why the Obama admin considers it essential to claim that right now, all of a sudden; why constitutional law groups might consider this a worrying development…

To be fair, this article asks some fairly urgent questions about human rights activists, questions such as – when, exactly, did human rights activists decide it was fine to start pretending that they don’t understand the difference between “human rights” and “the law of the United States”? When did they decide to start pretending that “taking on cases” is identical to “cheerleading for criminals”?

It also makes me wonder how much charity we should grant to people who make terrible arguments, arguments so ridiculously bad that it seems impossible that their uselessness could be accidental.  I'm going for "None at all", and I don't regard the self-applied titles of "feminist" and "human rights defender" as being a viable defence for bullshit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How The Peasantry Took Up Torches And Burned Their Own Houses Down

Good fun as usual with MattTaibbi, documenting the atrocities as the major US banks' intergalactic rip-off moves into the mopping-up phase by crushing homeowners with the club of the state.

It'd be difficult to find a finer example of modern democracy's total inability to control the monster it's created.  On the micro level, here's how the scam worked -

- The major US banks buy politicians with campaign contributions, in exchange for rights to expand into more markets and a reduction in regulations;

- Freed from effective oversight, the banks proceeded to aggressively lend to hundreds of thousands of home-buyers, entirely aware that they were lending to people who couldn't afford repayments;

- The banks then took all those shit mortgages, bundled them up into impenetrable finance packages, and sold them off to pension funds, trade unions etc. as top-notch, ultra-secure investments rather than the near-worthless bags of cowshite they actually were;

- After a few years of making out like bandits, their pockets stuffed with fraudulently-earned cash, the financial crisis finally exposed the scam, causing major financial institutions around the world to explode like staked vampires.  Those that survived did so by robbing taxpayers at gunpoint - give us fifteen bajillion dollars, or we take the entire planet down with us. 

- Engorged with taxpayers' cash, they then refused to lend it back to citizens - theoretically the reason they were given it in the first place - and awarded themselves another round of massive bonuses instead, before enlisting the aid of the state to repossess the very homes they'd used to cause the disaster in the first place.

Result - giganti-bonuses all round at Goldman Sachs; a lifetime of crushing debt and exploding government programmes for you and your offspring.

It'd be funny, if a peasant uprising in the US hadn't just sent a flock of angry retards barking and snarling into Congress and the House to protect the banking aristocracy under the hilarious euphemisms of "smaller government" and "resisting socialism".  It'd be hilarious, if the British government's response to private sector malfeasance wasn't an entirely ideological assault on government spending. 

It's a real laugh riot, in short, that the near-destruction of the western world's economy by Croesus-rich corporate thieves has been deliberately propagandised as an overabundance of social outreach officers - that the total discrediting of modern capitalism is somehow the fault of a non-existent socialism, an ideology that hasn't been a force in world politics for more than twenty years.

That's the micro explanation - on the macro scale, the problem begins in 1979, when a beige cadre of unsmiling Randroid lunatics decided to totally restructure the American and British economies by slicing and dicing the power of labour.

Long story short - the public were sold an appealing picture of personal responsibility and individual freedom.  What they got was an all-out, militarised assault on the working class, on the promise of call centre jobs, wide-screen TVs and a fortnight a year in Greece...  And then the call centre jobs were outsourced to India, and the bailliffs showed up at the door. 

Thus it was that governments that regarded the words "wealth redistribution" as Stalinist oppression proceeded to redistribute wealth to themselves and the class that spawned and sustained them - royalty.  For the great mass of the people, the new restructured economy meant one thing - debt.  Lots of debt.

And here we are in 2010, with a new breed of hairy-palmed Conservative revolutionaries making the world safe for royalty with an entirely ideological crackdown on public spending, pledging to create a bajillion jobs by hurling half a million onto the dole and forcing the unemployed to work for a bowl of rice a day.  Out of the self same wizardry that just hurled all of us into the shitter will be fashioned a brave new world of magical ponies.

Well, I don't think you have to think be Sherlock Holmes to work out why this story hasn't been broadcast from the rooftops, and exactly cui is bonofitting from it.  The British public didn't suddenly decide on its own that the financial crisis was caused by tossing too much government cheese into tower blocks;  the electorate of the United States didn't suddenly come to the conclusion unassisted that this disaster was caused by their dark-skinned neighbours borrowing too much money.

As Keyzer Soze says in The Usual Suspects, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.  Our present situation strains satire, and represents the absolute failure of our democracy to analyse and tackle its most life-threatening problems.  It shows that collectively, we'll swallow anything so long as there's a lazy civil servant or a black homeowner to pay for our sins; that we're delighted to have the privilege of selling our birthright for a car boot full of snazzy electronics bought on the never-never

BERNARD MATTHEWS: Anyone for more Christmas?

TURKEYS:  Yes please!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Motherfuckers Gotta Learn

So, the spending review.  The nation expected a savage round of cuts to public services, but surely few expected to witness a cavalcade of thick-jowled chumps joyfully manhandling themselves to issue while some kind of gangling, pallid android hurled half a million people out of their jobs.

Watching the cavorting mess on the Tory benches was truly a throwback to the early days of parliamentary broadcasts on TV, when the public discovered that what had for decades sounded like a gaggle of half-pissed manchildren belching alcohol fumes across the aisle was, in fact, precisely that.

Anyway, what are the likely effects of today's festivities?  After all, while the backbenches clearly had a lot of fun arsing around like toddlers after too much fizzy pop during the Chancellor's ludicrously poor attempt at feigned regret, there's reality to consider.  Take those in Moray who found out yesterday that the closure of RAF Kinloss is about to frag local business to smithereens - what comfort for these hard working British citizens, tragic victims of straitened times,  in the budget?

Well, like all the other unfortunates bombed out of work in the budget, they've walked right into a crackdown on welfare.  Of course, I can understand why that is.  Sending a government official to half a million doors to tell citizens to Go Fuck Themselves in person would have been expensive.

The news is just as bad for those already made jobless by the financial crisis, of course, who are about to be joined in the queue for MacJobs by hundreds of thousands of experienced and qualified men and women1.  Hopefully none of them fall ill while they're looking for jobs, unless they enjoy state-mandated rectal cavity searches.

Still, the news isn't all bad.  As George Osborne himself has said, cutting government expenditure will create space for several million jobs to be created by the Magical Ponies of Fuckadoodle.  I paraphrase, but the meaning is the same.

I foresee good news on the job creation front, mind.  Demand for debt collection agents and bailliffs is about to go through the roof, while anyone working in the divorce courts will make a mint.  The budget would be a license to print money if you're in marriage or alcohol counselling, were it not for the fact that the government expects such services to be provided by the milk of human kindness.

In the wider world, I see that a series of Britain's most fabulously wealthy businessmen have all publicly popped great, waggly woodies for the coalition's plans.  The country's right wing press are already hard at work convincing the public that this shit is actually Shinola.  You have to wonder why the hard-working Briton's finances remain in such a parlous state, with such powerful allies batting for their interests.

Anyway, all of this is evidence of the great truth of politics - Motherfuckers gotta learn, again and again and again.  No doubt there are large numbers of people who voted Tory or Lib Dem in anticipation of an entirely ideological assault on the public sector, based upon market principles that have just been graphically blasted into space-dust by the financial crisis, an epic explosion of neo-liberal fuckery that left pretty much every major proponent of right-wing political orthodoxy standing in the street with their hairy knackers swinging in the wind.

Those people no doubt believe that, since the institutions they've placed all their faith in have produced such gigantic piles of toxic shit, there must be a radioactive pony in there somewhere.  To everyone else who marked their X next to the local angry, disapproving Tory hausfrau or toothsome Lib Dem closet case, I imagine this might be a bit of an eye-opener.  I mean, survey after survey comes back shouting that the public want the tackety boot of the state to kick everyone else up the arse.  Those that voted for crackdowns on lazy civil servants, mooching immigrants or hoody bairns are about to find that when they voted for death to the undeserving, the undeserving was them.2

The analogue is right there over the pond, where millions of people are about to stream to the polls to vote for a New American Revolution against the nation's Wealthy Elites by voting for... The Republicans.  I'm not making this shit up.  This marks, by my recollection, the third time in thirty years that this has happened. 3

Like I say, Motherfuckers gotta learn.  Education is the key to understanding, and the school bell is ringing. 

1 I predict there may be drastic cuts in staffing at Lib Dem offices throughout the country too, before long.

2 See The Torygraph the day after the restrictions on child benefit was announced.  Hilarious stuff.

3 Newsflash - American states aren't being forced to sell roads and parking meters to sheiks because the President is a Commie.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Anti-Nostradamus

Right, off for a quick swim then it's up to the pub for the football tonight.  Some quick observations, just to show my amazing anti-Nostradamic qualities...

- The decision to drop superduper striker Kenny Miller will either make or break the manager, Craig Levein.  Despite Miller's abysmal, no-goals-for-years-away-from-home record, dropping him has the pundits and fans in uproar.  This is largely due to the Walterian standby of standing on your goal line and smashing every ball into low orbit, in the hope that Miller will pounce on a lazy backpass or something at the other end.  This may work for Walter Smith, but Levein isn't Smith.  I applaud the decision, at this point.

Nobody will call Levein a tactical genius if we win or draw, but the grudging credit he'd earn for the result might give him few matches to build his own team without the Glasgow media sawing off his balls and stuffing them down his neck.  That's exactly what will happen if we lose, and the campaign to sack Levein will start tomorrow.  Prediction - nobody will be able to think of a better replacement than Levein, but that won't stop anyone complaining.

-  By picking only three outfield players from the SPL, the manager is explicitly saying that the SPL is utterly terrible and its players incapable of playing at this level.  He's probably right.

- All-out-defence won't work for Levein.  He's not Walter and Scotland aren't Rangers - neither has to worry about MacManus or Caldwell, primary villains in a number of heavy defeats for club and country.  Still, both have played well in crucial games - against France, would be the most relevant.

- My heart says 2-1 to Scotland, but my head says 2-0 to the Czechs.  Czech Republic may have been shit recently, but their team is still hugely superior to ours in every area of the park.  After losing to Lithuania in comical circumstances, they won't take any crap from us and will probably look to score early.

- That said, one of the enduring qualities of recent Scotland teams is our ability to rise or fall to the occasion.  We can look excellent against Holland and stink the place out against Liechtenstein.  With obvious exceptions, we tend to put in better performances against tougher opposition. 

- Still, you never know.  Nobody likes playing against Scotland, except perhaps Norway.  Let's hope we left the four-goal scuddings behind us when Burley got the bullet.

On with the strip it is - come on, the lads.  I was eighteen the last time we qualified for anything and I hope I'm still young enough to eat solid food and walk unaided by the time we do it again.  If we win, I'll publish an update.  If we get gubbed, I'll probably delete the post and pretend none of this ever happened.

Update! Okay, that was horrible.  The plan - defend like hell, pounce on loose balls and fling the ball up to four guys bombing forward - sounded good in theory, but fell down on one crucial flaw... It requires top class attacking play and good ball retention, and you might as well ask Scotland for the moon on a stick as that.  Simply, we're not good enough.

In the end, it was desperate stuff.  The Czechs were still able to find space in our box even with ten Scots in there, and the game instantly devolved into Scotland belting the ball away to the opponents, and them coming right back at us.  Rozicky aside, the Czechs didn't even look like the type of team you'd need to go strikerless for.  A low point, even for such a low era as this.

I made a point of referring to Smith in the post because Smith's teams are so well-drilled that they can pull off all-out defence, while Levein's clearly aren't.  Back to the drawing board, because the Spaniards will eat that team for breakfast if  we try a repeat performance.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Actually, For Real, Mad As A Box Of Frogs

Yuks and japes with Tony Blair this week, as he explains how the West is losing the Battle Of Ideas to a bunch of terrorist headbangers. 

He's right to bitch, of course - after all, just how crap are our Ideas, if we're losing a Battle to those whose Ideas are Everyone gets killed, including us, then some kind of crazy, ultrareligious empire of death and mutilation?

Naturally, the articles are good for War On Terror-related chuckles, as the former PM bemoans "the paucity of our counter-attack in the name of peaceful co-existence".

Now, I'd quibble over "paucity" (How many trillions of dollars so far?) "counter attack" (Where?) and "peaceful coexistence" (Too Orwell for me) but I can see why he went with these.  With the naked bullshit excised, "The of our in the name of" carries less rhetorical punch.

I could go on and on about the multi-layered insanity on display, but let's get down to brass tacks.  Sure, the West is not responsible for the rise of militant Islamist groups, nor will any of them put down their RPGs and take up knitting if we stop bombing them.  Thousands of headbangers will continue to sign up for bloodcurdling terror missions on the promise of some kind of wank-fantasy Valhalla regardless.

And yet... If you're concerned that nutters are winning because they convince their followers that the West is pursuing a war on Islam, then invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, while also bombing Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Gaza and the West Bank and threatening more or less everyone else looks like a bit of a schoolboy error.

Far from resembling a poverty-stricken humanitarian outreach programme, it does sort of look like a generalised war on lots and lots of Muslims.  While Tony may believe that saying so is tantamount to joyous bumsex with the enemy, I must insist that the actual violence and death is probably a more effective recruiting tool for psychos.

Plus, there's the small issue over how bad it looks when you once more decry cynicism over Western neutrality in the Israel/Palestine conflict while speaking to yet another major Israel advocacy group.  That looks a bit silly.

Anyway, let's end with the now traditional, pro-forma Blair-bashing as I observe for the thousandth time that the problem with the former PM isn't that he's a liar.  The problem is that he believes his own bullshit, which has made him considerably more dangerous to ourselves and to those he intends to help, not to say infinitely useful to people who don't believe a word of it.

I Hired You Guys To Report News, Not To Jump About Like a Buncha Kansas City Faggots

Not so long ago, I was at a public event with a panel of well-known Scottish sports writers.  It's interesting to hear insiders speaking candidly and they were entertaining and informative, but there was one point that the panel all agreed on that still rankles now.

Asked why some Old Firm managers can't deal with the media - think Paul Le Guen, Wee Gordon Strachan, Tony Mowbray - the journos were unanimous in the belief that such people bring their problems on themselves.  By being cagey and snarky with reporters, the managers invited bad headlines and, come the inevitable downturn in form, effectively hand the journos the weapons of their own destruction.

I didn't get a chance to ask about it, but this struck me as an oddly self-serving view.  I recall that Strachan's demeanour changed rapidly after some initial innocuous comments were blown up into a series of OMG CELTIC BOSS URINATES IN TRUSTING FANS' FACES scandals.  He became increasingly bitter with the hacks, not because he's naturally grumpy, but because he knew full well that they'd be pally and jokey to his face, then knife him on the back page the following morning.

One of the journos explicitly said that managers need to be able to play the game with the press.  Speaking as a fan, I'm not much arsed whether the boss plays tonsil-hockey with the papers, preferring to focus on the team's performance. 

It was clear, however, that it will never occur to the hacks themselves to ask whether inflating non-stories into outrages is a reasonable or honourable activity.  This may well be an unfair judgement, but it seemed like they had never considered the idea that journalists could theoretically restrain themselves from grabbing every opportunity to pour buckets of shit over their subjects.  It was almost as if they were entirely blind to their role in their own business.

Glasgow is a poor example for football journalism, of course, for a number of reasons that I won't list.  Generally, atmosphere around football in the EPL seems a lot healthier, in that players and managers can screw up without being instantly trampled to death in the mad scramble for sales... On the pitch, at least.  Get caught in a brothel and you're toast, whoever you are.

Still, a small insight into a world I don't see much of.  Makes me wonder how far, say, Westminster or foreign correspondents would identify with the mindset.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Man Has Only One Look, For Christ's Sake!

A comment on someone else's blog provides an opportunity for chuckles... 

...There is no choice. Don’t pay your council tax and they won’t let your house burn down... But they will put you in prison.

Here we see a prime specimen of the genus Libertarius Ballbagus Toryensis in his natural environment, bewailing the inherent cruelty of liberal democracy.  If you don't pay your taxes, men with guns will go all Charles Bronson on your oppressed ass!  O, cruel fate, why must you mock etc. and so on and so forth.


This argument is floated aloft so often that I'm amazed it doesn't get shot down, riddled with bulletholes and belching thick black smoke, every single time it appears on the horizon.  Am I the only one who sees this?  I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here! 


I mean, even the crankiest right-wingers accept that there are just some things that the state is better at providing.  If I recall correctly, even Hayek - being a man of reason as opposed to a meths-drinking, compulsive public masturbator - thought some state activity, such as basic medical care, was at least acceptable.

Once you admit that the state should provide some services, you accept that it must levy a mandatory tax on those capable of paying for it.  If that's the case, then the idea that taxation backed by coersion represents some frightful, totalitarian affont to liberty is worse than a bad argument.  It's an argument that rides into the conversation on a unicycle, juggling buckets, wearing a big red nose, an orange wig and kicking itself up the arse with a pair of giant shoes. It's barely fit for the Big Top, let alone the internet, because you can only just hear it over the loud whirring of the comedy spinning bow tie. 

Look, if the state can provide healthcare, is that so very different from, say, gender equality laws that the latter constitutes an entirely different and inherently fascistic category?  Are workplace health and safety regs more totalitarian than police search and seizure powers, if both are legitimately used in the public interest?  

If not, then what the fuck are these people talking about, and how come they can open their mouths without being instantly showered in the hot piss of public derision?

I don't know.  Maybe it's just some wibbling political theorists' gag that internet smartarses with blogs don't get.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Newsflash!

In a quite remarkable* piece for CiF, the Henry Jackson Society's Global Security and Terrorism Director** turns a baleful eye to the Middle East peace negotiations, and observes the following, entirely accurate facts...

- That Fatah is incapable of controlling the various mental Palestinian factions and thus can't sign any deal that is based upon guarantees of Israeli security;

-That the Israelis are aware of this, and are insisting on guarantees of security as a prerequisite to any deal nonetheless, and

- That any deal based upon Fatah security guarantees will thus be worthless.

I'd suggest that if both I, a smartmouth office monkey with no expertise in counterinsurgency and the HJS's GS&TD, can reach these conclusions independently of each other, then the Americans have probably spotted them as well.

Predictably, the HJS's GS&TD uses this as a launchpad to pre-emptively exonerate the Israelis of any culpability should the talks fail, which I'm taking as a bad sign.  If partisan observers - even clueless ones - are getting their excuses in this early, I fully expect to hear bangs and the soft flutter of falling white feathers sooner rather than later.

Me, I'd rather see these chinwags drag on for decades until everyone forgets what they were arguing about.  Since that's not going to happen, I'll note that the talks themselves make no sense at all unless they're an ultra-cynical attempt to shore up Fatah's authority and to provide cover for whatever the Israelis already intended to do.  What the Americans get out of it, beyond the hilarious pretence that they're neutral arbiters, is anyone's guess.

Anyone guess?

*Remarkable in that, although the conclusions are horrendous, it does actually contain some facts.

**I wonder what kind of office the Global Security and Terrorism Director at a two-bit thinktank gets?  If there isn't a door that opens into a futuristic ninja-training gym, I'll be disappointed.

Plus, must get out of the habit of using all these footnotes for smartarsed remarks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kick Me Quick

I've really enjoyed watching the Tea Party movement in the USA swell from a tiny gaggle of astroturf shysters into great crowds of semi-hysterical, angry suckers.

Theoretically enraged by the massive and entirely real expansion of government powers in recent decades, the Tea Partiers have instead offered endless entertainment by losing their damn minds in terror of fictional Communist plots.

The last thirty years have seen a gigantic and well-planned heist in which the basis of their economy has been intentionally shifted from production to finance, vastly empowering the nation's royal class and repeatedly kicking the common man in the balls. When the ordinary punters finally decide that enough is enough, they throng together and... Come out, balls bared, shouting please sir, may I have another! in the cause of royalty. Magical.

The most entertaining aspect, of course, is the revolutionary sloganeering, those fruity little tricorner hats and the constant invocation of the founding fathers. Entertaining because Jefferson, for instance, would be horrified by the American economy in its relatively sane 1950s guise, let alone the cannibalistic Darwinism of Obama's US.

It's been a while since my US history classes, but I recall that Jefferson regarded independence as the essence of liberty. In the 1770s, that meant a nation of farmers and tradesmen who owned their own means of production and were beholden to no man - pretty much the antithesis of a system that demands citizens sell their labour for the best price that a remote and inhuman market determines.

The Tea Partiers' free market patter would be barely distinguishable from joyful demands for their own enslavement to the great leaders in whose names they invoke them.

As the great philosopher Blade once said, some motherfuckers are always tryin' to ice-skate uphill. I'm a huge fan of democracy, and one of the running themes of this blog has been that, if people know what they want, then they deserve to get it good and hard.

So, cheer up! Que sera, sera. Okay, so the Tea Party's peasant revolt for the aristocracy is a genuine, bathetic tragedy for Americans. It's still bloody hilarious for the rest of us.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's That, Up In The Sky? Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? No, It's...

Allow me, as Aggressive Atheist Man, to declare the result of this week's all-star Religion v Secularism deathmatch: Bullshit-Spouting Octogenarian Priest 1 Hyperventilating Celebrity Atheists 0.

It's a game the secularists were always fated to lose. A Papal visit is a forensically planned and meticulously crafted advertising bonanza for the church. It's going to draw hundreds of thousands of men, women and children across the country; Catholic schools will empty into the streets to greet the Pontiff and news coverage is going to reflect the joyous blah-blah of the stately waffle-arse.

Cut to a bunch of polysyllabic, placard-waving atheists bumming out everyone's mellow by shouting about child abuse and condoms. That, there, is an own goal in a country like ours - Britain, as a nation, looks on protest as if it were a form of masturbatory public indecency. Politically engaged and passionate activists might as well be rioting Rangers fans as far as the man in the street is concerned.

Anyway, this week's activities have raised far too many issues to avoid bullet points.

- Put simply, I couldn't give a shit whether the Catholic Church refuses to ordain women as priests, and I doubt that many others do either. I don't care because the entire religion, being a religion, is made-up rubbish - made up, woman-hating rubbish at that. Still, I imagine that people will generally agree that Catholics themselves get to decide how they organise their own made-up rubbish, and if the issue animates you, I suggest inventing your own religion instead.

- I mean, why pick a particular issue to be offended by? To me, Catholicism is primarily objectionable horseshit because it's a vehicle for a lot of ultra-conservative closet-cases to expand their influence over a substantial chunk of humanity with mumbo-jumbo and threats. The Church's idea of the perfect society isn't difficult to imagine given, say, the example of the Papal States in pre-unification Italy - a bunch of illiterate farmers adept at listening, doing what they're told and shutting the fuck up.

- Yes, yes! The Church's attitude to gay people and contraception is hateful and deranged. No, this is not going to change any time soon. The Holy See's authority is entirely dependent on the Pope's status as God's spokesman on Earth, thanks to the fact that Popes have been saying more or less exactly the same shit since the office was sort-of conferred on Saint Peter, who was personally touched by the appendage of the not-really son of God*.

Contra Tony Blair, the Pope can't suddenly bless hot, hot, rubber-clad man-love, even if he wanted to. His predecessors have spent centuries condemning this stuff in sulphurous tones, and all of them were a bit constrained by the biblical ramblings of a gaggle of Judean troublemakers from the pre-soap era.

I've actually seen interviewers and pundits on Channel Four News and Newsnight, eyes bulging with gigantic exclamation marks exploding out of the tops of their heads when presented with Catholics saying that yes, they actually believe this stuff. What do they expect to happen when they ask these questions? Are religious types going to fall off their chairs fizzing and sparking, howling Does Not Compute/Does Not Compute/Runtime Error at Leviticus 18:22!?

The idea that Catholicism is going to utterly reconstitute itself into a pseudo-spiritual, virtually God-free feelgood pantomime called Hey Man, So Long As You Don't Hurt Anyoneism is insane. That's what Protestantism is for.

Unless you're a 100% virtuous follower of the one true faith, your lifestyle is utterly condemned and you're cut off from the Lord's infinite love, bound for eternal suffering. This is the message of all of the Abrahamic religions, and protesting it seems to me like protesting sunrise.

- Because, what are protests achieving here? If the aim is to raise awareness of child abuse and intolerence, I imagine they've done reasonably well.

On the other hand, congratulations guys - when the Pope starts waffling a load of disingenuous pish about aggressive secularist Nazis who want to destroy all religion, you've provided the flock with a set of readymade pantomime villains to picture. People generally don't respond well to appeals along the lines of Join us in belligerently condemning your hilarious religion, my none-too-bright, superstitious Timmy brothers!

It can't have escaped anyone's attention that the Christian faithful's response to criticism is exactly the same as that of the various Islamic groups to anti-terrorism police actions or war-happy Israel enthusiasts to the idea that bombing cities isn't nice, i.e. to totally ignore the issues raised and instantly start wailing and rending their garments over this huge upsurge in anti-whatever hatred.

- And here's the crux of my objections to the entire charade this week... Who, exactly, is benefitting from all of this? Surely, the upshot is mere entrenchment - believers and secularists alike more dug into their positions than ever before, bristling with spiky arguments and more convinced of the inherent evil of their foes.

It all strikes me as being a replay of the whole Manhattan mosque fiasco, which was at heart a ginned-up cavalcade of stupidity and belligerence aimed at exploiting people's resentments, in order to divide them along political and religious lines.

Cui's bonofitting there, eh? News orgs, politicians, religious leaders, cranks, fuckwits. I think you'd be hard-pushed to make a case that the Pope's visit has been edifying for anyone, or that it's shed a single ray of light on religion or the lack thereof.

I hate to come off with today's moral lesson like Snarf at the end of an episode of Thundercats, but look - religious people are here to stay, no matter how silly their beliefs are. Us atheists are just going to have to learn to deal with that, and a real ratcheting-down of tensions would probably benefit us more than them.

Because really, is this how it's going to be from now on? Every fortnight, some snake-handling moron from Dogdick, Alabama announces he's going to urinate on a picture of Xenu and half the planet goes up in flames, while the other indulges in lengthy, highly political circlejerks?

Hell, at least the Cold War produced interesting thrillers. This sorry bullshit doesn't even produce amusing cartoons.

*Or something, I forget because I didn't really care in the first place.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Health Kick

I've no idea where the beating-your-children pool is. I've searched in vain for the collecting-at-one-end-and-talking-about-Eastenders pool and drawn a blank on a heavy-petting pool.

One thing's for sure though - when I find them, I'm going to be down there like a shot to annoy the hell out of everyone by swimming slowly up and down.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that, after fifteen years of proud inactivity, alcohol and heavy smoking, I've been taking a bit of exercise. I'm lucky in that I've been able to carry it off without looking obviously unfit, but just this year I've started to resemble a visibly-pregnant bearded lady.

Frankly, shaking the inertia has been like trying to sprint through porridge. Given that I spent a couple of years in my late twenties toying with joining the army*, with the twenty-mile runs and assault courses that would entail, it's mildly alarming to discover that I struggle with the Sysiphean ordeal of a small hill.

Now that I've got the ball rolling, it's not so bad. I'm not seeing any dramatic improvement in the waistline, but that might be connected to my continued beer intake. The internet tells me I should cut out lager and switch to spirits instead to cut calories but I can tell you, I drank nine pints of vodka last night and I don't feel very healthy at all.

*Ha!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I Am Utterly Mystified By This Enigma That I Do In Fact Entirely Understand

Exploding heads at the Daily Mail over the following question...

What turned this middle-class public schoolgirl into Wayne Rooney's £1,200-a-night escort?

I'll spare you polysyllabic snark and just make this observation: it was probably the £1,200 a night.

I mean, let's skip the obvious class snobbery and cut to the bottom line: that sum of cash is more than I earned monthly for eight years of my adult life. It's several times higher than the largest bundles I've ever spent on a single item, a holiday or whatever.

Granted, I'd pass on such a career opportunity myself. Humping potato-faced Premiership prima donnas isn't my thing*; I don't look as good in a mankini as I used to and I doubt that Mrs. R would approve. That said, I can imagine that other people's psych profiles fit a certain... moral flexibility, would be the only way to describe it.

I note this because the reality of prostitution for most seems to be more sex-to-cash-to-dealer-to-crackpipe-to-sex than it is Belle du Jour. If we can accept that some people will do the nasty for pocket change, why is it shocking that our precious Miles, Jemimas and Samanthas would go at it for four figures? Or is this just another sorry chapter in our ongoing, national moral pantomime?

Damn, now I'm answering my own questions.

*That said, I notice Mrs Tiger Woods trousered $500m for a five-year matrimony. Let me go on record saying that I am entirely willing to be Tiger's wife for that kind of cash, and Mrs R will just have to lump it.**

**I also think I deserve credit for not making an off-colour remark about the article's author, Nick Fagge.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Scotland's Shame

After a night of near-catastrophe in which the Scots brought shame upon our ancestors once more, it's time for the nation to admit to a brutal truth about international football that we've long refused to face.

I'm sorry folks, but the national anthems have got to go.

I mean, it's bad enough that the Tartan Army are reduced to booing the anthems of European minnows. Fun as it is to hear the Friendliest Fans In The Worldtm showing ultimate disrespect to a diddy team - an act that probably fires up opponents more effectively than any team-talk - that's not the real problem.

No, we really need to talk about Flower of Scotland.

That it's a dreadful, plodding dirge, squelching along like a four-mile wade through a swimming pool full of pudding, is the least of our woes. Worse, the crowd sing the thing at breakneck speed, stampeding forward and mumbling back in a lurching, blaring cacophony. It sounds like tequila-slammer night in the cranial trauma ward.

To crown the horror, we invite professional singers to lead the crowd. It's usually Ronnie Browne of the Corries that does the honours, inappropriately bellowing Come on! between lines and generally resembling a jaunty, geriatric biscuit tin lid.

The whole sorry scene is a godawful, national cringe. Every time I witness it I die a little inside. Occasionally, I start to wonder how far I could stick my finger into my eyeball before I hit a critical part of my brain.

We should bin it and adopt Donald, Whair's Yer Troosers? instead - it's a far better song, bouncier and more tuneful, and it stirs significantly more patriotic sentiment in my heart.

Either that, or just revert to Scotland the Brave. It's just as terrible as FoS, but at least nobody knows the words.

Update! Oh, and the footballing performance wasn't very good either.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Abe Said Man, You Must Be Puttin' Me On

A conversation with a family member this week about that Richard Dawkins faith schools documentary threw up a point that I haven't made strongly enough, whenever I've mentioned the man.

I mean, sure. I enjoyed The God Delusion and I think he's absolutely correct in almost all of his major points. He's a very eloquent proponent of rationalism and science as an investigative method for arriving at reliable conclusions. Unfortunately, as I've noted before, he's also a po-faced grump with an insufferable habit of rubbing people up the wrong way.

And still, he may be arrogant, yet not quite so arrogant that he claims possession of the singular, absolute revealed truth, nor does he claim that his philosophy is the key to the final salvation of humanity, I think. He believes that his ideas are our best shot at a better future, but - critically - he doesn't suggest that they're a guaranteed pass to an earthly or heavenly paradise.

Note - The good professor is also entirely right on the burka, as it happens. If you have any regard at all for human individuality and autonomy, it's an affront and an offence. The burka is a brutal indictment of the cultures that produced it, and the Dawk's reaction - "visceral revulsion" - is entirely correct.

And yet, he doesn't think it should be banned, out of respect for the same principles that make it such an affront in the first place. When the spokeswoman for the Muslim Association of Britain calls him an Islamaphobe, that tells you everything you need to know about that organisation and its commitment to open discussion.

Double note - How could I talk about this without raising Terry Eagleton? My favourite argument of his is the one about how God must exist, because he is inherently unseen, which raises interesting questions about the daily lives of elves and fairies.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

...Me, Or Your Lyin' Eyes?

Hooray, Tony Blair is back a-questin' for peace in his role as middle east envoy! I wonder how he's furthering the cause of amity and freedom today?

Oh, uh... Right. Okay then.

Well, let's not automatically join in the general hate-harsh on Tony every time he opens his mouth. The good points first - he didn't rollerskate onstage, wearing a Beitar Jerusalem strip and smoking a fat cigar. He didn't don goggles and charge about the room making jet fighter noises and shouting dakka-dakka-dakka! or get down on his knees and lovingly fellate the entire Israeli political and pundit class line-by-line. Well, except metaphorically...

...And it must be said that, when Tony talks about people who won't ever admit that the Israelis have a point on anything, he's not just blowing smoke. There are a lot of these people about, boring the hell out of everyone, although in my experience they tend to be an internet-based phenomenon. Those awful Liberal dinner parties haven't become ubiquitous quite yet.

And he does tell the conference that the Palestinians should be more fairly treated, and with more respect for their dignity, which is nice. Admittedly, he does it while calling Benyamin Netanyahu "an advocate for peace", which is a little like calling Hamas "advocates for synagogues", but I'm sure he means well.

And still, damn, it's some vintage Blair waffle. Let's be charitable here, and see what we can take away.

First and foremost, let's grant that the topic of his speech - "delegitimisation" of Israel - actually represents some kind of vague threat to the state, rather than being a trumped-up pile of alarmist horseshit.

It's a stretch, since the Israelis currently enjoy absolute military supremacy over every feasible enemy and are, as has been repeatedly proven, diplomatically bulletproof from any kind of international attempt to prevent them doing whatever the hell they like. Nonetheless, let's accept that Tony believes that this isn't the case.

Further, when Tony's explanation for international revulsion at the ultraviolent and intentionally destructive 2006 attack on Lebanon is to note that television images of the ultraviolence and intentional destruction "are so shocking that they tend to overhelm debate about how or why the conflict began", we may smell a rat, but let it pass.

Couple that with his only reference to the Mavi Marmara incident, which is that the awful delegitimisers "won't accept that Israel might have a right to search vessels into Gaza" - ORLY? - and his casual fucking-off of the whole Operation Cast Lead debacle, and we could be forgiven for thinking that we're being served up some industrial-strength propaganda here.

Like I say though, we'll grant the lot in the interest of open-mindedness. Here's what we're left with...

"(The problem...) ...Is a disjunction of perception... To those outside, Israel is regularly perceived as arrogant, overbearing and aggressive..."

(Snip)

"...It is our collective duty... to arm ourselves with an argument and a narrative we can defend and with which we can answer the case against Israel, with pride and confidence".

Is that - is that the independent envoy for the quartet, representing the UN, the EU, the US and Russia, telling the Israeli political class that they're entirely in the right and urging them to come up with better lies to feed to the press?

Uh, yes, it is. It's an unusually partial stance for an independent envoy to take, but no doubt he knows what he's doing.

But then, that's Blairism all over - it isn't your actions that count, it's how you present them to the world. Thus was craven headline-chasing turned into an act of high political principle; then, you know, Iraq and so on1; thus does international horror at Israeli jets blowing up bakeries, petrol stations, ports, airports etc. become a problem of perception, rather than an appalling and unnecessary crime.

Publicly telling the entire planet to go fuck itself if it doesn't like it becomes an interesting cultural quirk, with the right branding.

If readers might think that this stuff casts Tony's behaviour in office in a new light - say, his decision to sit on his hands while the Israelis fruitlessly blasted the hell out of Beirut - you'd be right to do so.

I mean, you'd almost think that by employing this man as their envoy, the various powers were indicating that they have no interest in peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and were merely playing out an empty charade designed to give the Israelis space and time to impose their own settlement.

Well, you might just be right about that too.

Ah, Tony Blair. You have to admire his raw honesty.

Update! While I'm at it, there's a classic Blair line in there. Check this out...

"I had an argument with a friend about Israel. I said to them: 'ok let's assume you are charged with a crime you didn't commit and the penalty is 20 years in prison. And you're a critic of the Government. Tell me: under which country's legal system, in this region, would you prefer to be tried?' He struggled for a bit and then said: 'that's not the point.' 'But it is' I replied".

Now, I can see what he's trying to say, and there's a ghost of a good point in there. Sure, I'd prefer to be tried in Israel than, say, Syria. I'd far rather live in the former, if those were the only choices.

Still, Tony's question does rather demand the counter-question Would you rather be locked into an open-air prison with one and a half million of your compatriots and suffer a process of intentional economic strangulation aimed at forcing your compliance by a democracy or a tyranny?

1. One of the many hilarious sights that you'll occasionally see on sites run by Tony's fans is some crazy Israeli partisan demanding to know why the UK and the US are allowed to charge all over the world blowing motherfuckers up left, right and centre, but the Israelis aren't? It's like pouring lager into a MacBook - sparks, whirrs, flashing lights... does not compute, phut-bang!

Monday, August 23, 2010

First As Tragedy, Then As Arse...

"Rival protestors clashed in Manhattan yesterday over plans to build an Islamic centre two blocks from Ground Zero...

Herbert Lon
don, the president of the neoconservative Hudson Institute, said that the centre would represent an Islamic victory at the site where Islamist terrorists killed 2,752 people. "We are engaged in a civilisational struggle. We have to defend America", he said...

John Press, the presi
dent of the Brooklyn Tea Party, said "We are not against Muslims but we know Islam is expansionist and America has got to stan
d up to it... (The centre is) ...a victory memorial for Islam conquering the West".

Report on protests against the so-calle
d "Ground Zero mosque", The Times, 23rd August 2010

------


8th May 1970

"Su
ddenly, from all directions, two hundred construction workers marched in to the cadences of "All the way! USA!" and "We're number one!" and "Love it or leave it!" In their identical brown overalls, carrying American flags of the sort that topped off construction sites, they looked like some sort of stormtrooper battalion.

They starte
d arguing with the police: Why weren't the flags flying in front of Federal Hall like at the Wall Street Banks? Had the hippies stolen them? (The flags, actually, per federal regulations, were not flying due to inclement weather)...

...Some stu
dents tried to shout the workers down. Others, nervous, tried to melt into the lunchtime crowd.

The riot began. Workers single
d out for beating boys with the longest hair. The weapons of choice were their orange and yellow hard hats.

A construction worker recalle
d, "The whole group started singing 'God Bless America' and it damn near put a lump in your throat... You just had a very proud feeling".

A stu
dent recalled, "When I was on the ground, I rolled myself into a ball
just as four or five pairs of construction boots started kicking me..."

A municipal secretary: "I saw one construction worker arm himself with a pair of iron clippers an
d head towards a student already being pummelled by three workers... He yelled at me, 'Let go of my jacket, bitch'; and then he said, 'if you want to be treated like an equal, we'll treat you like one'. Three of them began to punch me in the body. My glasses were broken. I had trouble breathing, and I thought my ribs were cracked".


Construction workers in New York City take exception to protests against the Kent State shootings four days earlier, in which four students were killed by the National Guard and nine wounded, from Nixonland, Perlstein, p.493-4; Excerpt

------

Is an anti-student riot by flag-waving nationalists apt as a comparison to a largely non-violent piece of paranoid, xenophobic, nativist fucknuttery? I think so.

I coul
d offer instead the Philadelphia riots, 1844 (anti-Catholic), Excuse - Nativists intentionally spread bullshit rumours that the Catholics were trying to remove bibles from schools; Or perhaps even the 1834 Ursuline Convent riots (anti-Catholic), Excuse - sectarian hysteria.

... Or the Astor Place riot, 1849 (anti-British), Excuse -
Rival productions of Hamlet, one featuring an English actor and another an American...

...Or the various Know-Nothing riots, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1857 & 58, (anti-immigration, mainly Irish, German); Excuse - ignorant bastar
dry...

...Or the
New York Draft Riots, 1863, which readers may recall from the film The Gangs of New York. Excuse - Anti-Civil War draft, swiftly devolving into a pogrom upon the city's black population.

I could go on - my point is that the various excuses invoked by the anti-"mosque" demonstrators - that some building near the former WTC site is an unforgiveable affront; that the Islamics represent a unique and imminent threat to the Homeland and must be stopped from their underhand attempts at subtle conquest; that it's a genuine, grassroots working class movement; that tha librulz are colluding with the foreign enemy, and so on - are not new or even particularly respectable.

Previous pant-shitting,
doom-crazed movements have spread terror of the Native Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Japanese and god knows how many others, but let's put the "mosque" protestors where they belong - at the heart of a centuries-old American tradition of periodic race-terror freakouts and mobilisations. It's simple white-guy rage venting on this year's mortal, flag-burning enemy... In the middle of perhaps the greatest Wall Street heist ever perpretrated on the American people, no less.

If the Unite
d States' record of intra-communal violence is long, it's certainly not unusual and, given the huge mix of ethnicities, nationalities and religions that the country has absorbed and assimilated into itself, it's also significantly less bloody* than other nations' histories.

Still, I remin
d readers that the protestors aren't the heirs of Jeffersonian democrats. They've got a lot more in common with the Know-Nothings and - fuck it, let's go Godwin - Father Coughlin and his ilk. Their complaints should be heard with this in mind, by their opponents and their boosters.

*Unless you happen to have been Native American, but you don't hear much from them these days.

(Video of August 2010 NY demonstration here)