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.