Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unholier Than Thou

If he were a science fiction character, Richard Dawkins wouldn't be 'Doctor Who', he'd be 'Doctor If', or even 'Doctor Perhaps' - the title of 'Doctor No' having already been taken. On the other hand, he could be 'Doctor Not'.
It appears that the supreme rationalist has been having a spot of bovver with some other exceedingly aggrieved rationalists - who have, of course, maintained the highest standards of reasonableness, and remained impeccably rational, throughout the course of the dispute.

Challenging Rupert Murdoch

Henry Porter does a fine job.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Blight Of The Dirty-Minded

The backlash against sexualisation of children seems to be beginning. Not before time. For having sold sexualised images of children, many in the fashion industry should have been indicted on charges of promoting paedophilia years ago.
I saw somewhere yesterday that there may be a proposal on the table to ban the sale of 'lads mags' to under-16's. Note how the priorities are ordered; while it might be considered inappropriate for under-16's to be able to buy them, it will still be acceptable for over-16's to do so. Instead of being the preserve of both dirty old men and dirty young men, lads mags will instead revert to being the preserve of dirty old men. No actual step will be taken to suppress this filth; after all, boys will be boys, girls will be raped, and we'll all live happily ever after, or at least until the next stats on incest and teenage pregnancy are published - a typically British, typically nonsensical solution.
Publishers of filth often say that they are merely catering to a market need. This kind of comment appeals to a very old strain in British liberal thought, that which claims that everything should be allowed unless it is specifically banned. Mixed with leftism, secularism and the fact that the UK seems to possess a larger than average number of dirty-minded people, this has helped produce our culture of teenage pregnancy and adultery. What is not said of filth-publishers is that they should perhaps be considered to be dirty-minded bastards. They are not brave or heroic seekers of truth and speakers of truth to power, but exploiters of young women. Creating a culture in which many young women, regardless of background or intelligence, seem to have no problem with being exploited has been one of The Enemy's greatest achivements. Filth-publishers do nothing but gratify their own dirty-mindedness in public. If they did it in parks or public toilets, they'd be subject to the full power of the law. Nobody produces dirt unless they are dirty-minded; and if filth-publishers are dirty-minded bastards, then their readers and advertisers are dirty-minded bastards as well, and anyone who apologises for them is either weak-kneed or just another dirty-minded bastard.
Ed Balls's Abolition of Roman Catholicism Act, Law Number 2,715 of Year 13 or whatever the hell it's called, passed into law last week, the one that mandates that abortion and contraception be taught in faith schools. I have difficulties with faith-based education; however, the way one reads of it being done in areas other than the west of Scotland means that the problems it causes here might have little to do with faith-based education per se, and are more likely to do with the west of Scotland. In other words, it's not the schools that are the problem; we're the problem. However, it was fascinating to see any 'Question Time' panellist last Thursday evening fail to produce any reply to the question from the floor suggesting that the best place for these matters to be taught is in the home. Of course it is; I wouldn't ever want any possible dirty-minded bastard, male or female, encroaching into what would be my space as a parent to ensure that my child received instruction on what would be the most important matters in their life in a manner I think appropriate and to my satisfaction. The level of teenage pregnancy perhaps says less about general British attitudes to sex than might at first be thought; it could, however, provide a telling commentary upon the calibre of British sex education and the calibre of British teachers. The unwarranted apotheosis of 'the teacher' has made many teachers arrogant, believing that they are not 'in loco parentis' but 'parens patriae' instead. This attitude needs to be smashed. No other professionals are more accomplished moaners, whingers and special interest-pleaders than teachers; a short spell working in outbound telesales at near enough to minimum wage as makes no odds would do many of them no end of good. Some seem to find it impossible to relate to other adults on anything other than teacherly terms, an attitude capable of enduring only for so long as others are prepared to suffer it. It is gratifying to see that Glasgow City Council has offered early retirement packages to many older ones. For some of those who have hit this once in a lifetime jackpot, it will merely make de jure a state of affairs which has no doubt been de facto for many years.
However, just as the Child Support Act 1992 nationalised paternity, the Abolition of Roman Catholicism Act nationalises the parental right to guide a child in the manner the parent sees fit. If he were intent in living up to his name, Balls would just go ahead and nationalise sex altogether. After all, the Child Support Act ensured that all fathers have the same rights in determining what is an appropriate level of support for their child upon the break-up of their marriage; none. The Abolition of Roman Catholicism Act ensures that all parents have the same rights to provide guidance to their child and to regulate what they are taught; none. The complete nationalisation of sex, the state taking to itself the right to determine who people have sex with, is the logical next step. What's he waiting for? '1984', come on down! Eric Blair, where are you now?
Ever since Jeremy Bentham started pumping out his poison, the British elites have had a hell of a problem with sex. This has bred an incipient dirty-mindedness in them all. It is this dirty-mindedness, this sexual incontinence, this lack of moral fortitude, which is the root of all our problems with teenage pregnancy and broken marriages. They wish to behave like pigs stewing in stys (and I appreciate that that comment probably does grave dis-service to pigs), or have read so much evolutionary biology that they think that human beings should be considered to be little more than a better type of bonobo monkey. Such people should have bananas thrown at them, and be cuddled into like David Attenborough posturing with a troupe of great apes; if they think they're monkeys, they should be treated like monkeys, if only because it's what they would logically seem to want. I should perhaps be more charitable to such people; after all, they tend to believe that we're only here because the sky fell in one day. As my 10 year old niece would say - Hello? However, it is only when they pull up their socks, or indeed put them on again, that this problem will ever be solved.
God help us. And that's a prayer.

Appeasing Argentina

Any commentary seeking to open the debate on sovereignty of the Falklands, whether it be penned by gadfly former MP's, distinguished former newspaper editors or a certain type of underemployed lassie with nothing better to do, should be treated as appeasement.
And in particular, distinguished former newspaper editors and gadfly former MP's should be very, very wary of comparing the situations of Hong Kong and the Falklands. Hong Kong was only ever held on long-lease, and certainly my understanding of the situation is that it would eventually have to be handed back to the Chinese regardless of any other factor; the Falklands are not. As horrifyingly populist as the thought might be, its lease is written in blood, and all that.
If the oil of the North Sea is not Scotland's oil, any oil around the Falklands is not Argentina's. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. There is a deep strain of authoritarian populism in Argentine political history; anyone seeking to comment upon Argentine political culture should read VS Naipaul's Argentine essay in his compilation 'The Writer And The World'. It is unpleasant but illuminating; in Christina Kirchner, we see a modern, ultra-chic, infra-dig, Davos-friendly version of Tango Man seeking to dominate his companeros with his stiletto. Kirchner's behaviour is not sabre-rattling; it is mascara-brush rattling. Those who call for appeasement of Argentina should perhaps be calling out La Braggadocia instead, for rousing the basest, most unedifying elements in Argentine culture in a grossly undiplomatic manner.
For if Farage's behaviour in the European Parliament has been unstatesmanlike, so also has been Kirchner's. If British elitists decry populism at home, they must decry it abroad. There is no question of discussing Argentina's rights; in the Falklands, Argentina has no rights. And all British Unionists must take the greatest interest in what is happening and may happen in the South Atlantic; for if the elitists and internationalists are allowed to sell out the Falklanders like pawns on a chess board today, they won't bat an eyelid at selling us all out tomorrow.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Whole Gordon Brown Bullying Allegations Thing (And Other Stuff)

I have had the misfortune to work for two real workplace bullies, one now dead, the other probably still teetering on the brink of insanity somewhere, as usual, and for two other wannabes, so the issue is a personally distasteful one. The enquiry should proceed unhindered and, if proved guilty, Gordon Brown should go.
What many people do not understand about Gordon Brown is that he is a particular product of Scottish culture, a 'son of the manse', and for that reason has possibly been over-edified all his life, pushed to the front and told that his views on life, the universe and everything perhaps carry a greater weight than those of other mere mortals. Some such people might eventually develop the unreasonable expectation that they be obeyed as a matter of routine, other people really little more than items that move in front of the traffic. Combine this with conviction and a smattering of intellectualism and the results might be explosive.
On the other hand, of course, the behaviour of Christine Pratt of the National Bullying Helpine has been reprehensible. Her disclosures make a mockery of confidentiality. As a law student, one imbibes the concept of confidentiality along with mother's milk and professorial polemics about how bad and naughty some people really are for asking 'Is it because I'm on Legal Aid that I've got to take a lassie?' (I have long since discarded the copy of 'Paterson & Bates' from which that quotation came). I once had a non-lawyer employer who was very jealous of 'commercial confidentiality', as if the doings of tailors and fishmongers were somehow as important, as serious, and as private as the discussions of lawyer and client. While one would never actually do so, it would be very gratifying to obtain such a person's client lists and plaster them onto lamp-posts as punishment for the sheer insolence of their neoliberalism.
Yet the relationship of counsellor and counselled is, or should be, one of the strictest confidence. The appositely yclept Pratt has exposed every single person working within Downing Street to the third degree. If they weren't being bullied before, they are sure going to be bullied now. I don't know the extent to which art imitates life or life imitates art - personally, I sometimes find myself strangely drawn to the idea of beamed out of Glasgow all the way to Deep Space Nine - but one has to wonder whether those who work in Downing Street might imagine themselves to be characters in that most unappealing and unfunny television series 'The Thick of It', taking their lead on real-world behaviour from shadows dancing on a glass screen. Of course, the show could be an accurate depiction of what goes in on government, serving no purpose other than to reinforce any number of prejudices regarding the calibre of those involved in government.
If this is the way that government is run, then it is an Augean Stable begging to be cleaned. It was illuminating to watch Nigel Farage say on last night's 'Question Time' that he didn't want a nice person in charge. I've never mentioned this before, but Farage is the reason I let my membership of UKIP lapse; his performance on a previous edition of 'Question Time', if memory serves either during or after the snowfalls of February 2009, was one without the slightest hint of human empathy, and the second I saw it I realised that I was watching The Last Thatcherite in action, a person for whom business will always take priority over family and home; his business over your family and home, that is. UKIP has a number of good ideas, and those members in Scotland with whom I had dealings always conducted themselves in a friendly and gentlemanly manner; but I do hope that they understand the type of people who seem to lead or who have led UKIP, because when push comes to shove I'm afraid that they might find they don't have much in common. At best, Farage's performance in the European Parliament this week was boorish and ill-mannered. But it wasn't its best, it was far worse than that; it was unstatesmanlike. It was a disgrace, and Farage doesn't seem to have the wit to see that he has scored an epic own goal which may have done UKIP's worthy cause no end of harm.
There is, however, another aspect to this bullying saga, and it's one that I'm as ever indebted to Laban Tall for helping to bring to the front of the mind. Laban published a piece a week ago entitled 'Education and Self-Esteem'; in the light of the developments in education which have led to such articles being necessary, one has to wonder whether perhaps conceptions of what bullying actually is might have changed over the course of time. Without in any way condoning bullying, could it be the case that a generation of people now exists that thinks not getting what they want constitutes bullying? Or that having their ideas considered and disregarded is bullying? Or that being expected to consistently perform to a high standard is bullying? Or that being corrected is bullying?
If any of these is at all a factor in these allegations, there would be no satisfaction in it, but there would be a measure of what I suppose I could say was justice - that as the British Left has worked so hard to elevate childrens' confidence while diminishing their sense of others' needs, it would only be appropriate if they turned round and bit it on the backside. Ah, sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child!

Establishment Figures In Favour Of Culling The Herd

The way we find a way out of the ethical mess that is assisted suicide is to jail all self-described 'mercy killers' for life without possibility of parole. Build bigger and darker prisons for them all.

Congratulations To The Scottish Law Agents Society

SLAS, a very different beast to the Law Society of Scotland, isn't taking MacTesco Law lying down.
And neither it should. One neither sees nor hears of policies ordering that the accountants, surveyors and dentists must open their doors to non-professional ownership of their practices - why do the solicitors stand alone among the professions in having this thrust upon them?
The soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government' hates the idea that there can be anything in Scotland which is outwith its control. If the nation must have radical lawyers, then the only permissible ones will be their radical lawyers. This law is a direct assault not upon the liberties of an elite, but upon those of the nation itself. Private law practices are already run for profit - why do they need outside ownership?
Do they need corporate bully boys on the team to ensure that they don't do anything that might upset investors? Or 'The Scottish Government'? After all, they're the real big cheeses now, the real big shots that they've always wanted to be, not the vocal but puny ranters they've always been. In an independent Scotland, a disproportionate amount of time is going to have to be spent keeping 'Alex' and 'Nicola' happy. Can't have anyone rocking the boat; after all, this is Scotland, and we're a' guid Scots the gither (unless, of course, you refuse to get with the program, in which case you'll be a bad Scot, regardless of whether or not you were born in Scotland and have lived here all your life).
Or is this a more sinister move? Perhaps the vanguard of an assault on Legal Aid, outside ownership providing the means by which Scottish civic nationalism can claim that Legal Aid is no longer necessary because solicitors now have access to outside investment? That one really wouldn't surprise me - many Scottish civic nationalists don't know many poor people, regarding the poor, the sick and the weak as bad Scots on account of their poor exercise of their bad options.
The naked aggression, the air of barely suppressed violence, with which The Tartanissimo addresses the loons, circus clowns, pseuds, no-hopers and dead-enders gathered in that birthpace of bad laws known as 'The Scottish Parliament' is entirely symptomatic of Scottish civic nationalism's mental malaise, the desire not to govern but to dominate; he is the leader of a party of badly maladjusted primary school teachers clapping their hands for order in class. Never has the word 'party' been used more appropriately of a political gang than in description of the Scottish National Party; the party started the moment that Alex Salmond took that bastard title of 'Scottish Government' for his minority Scottish Executive, and it's been going on ever since. The Scotland Act 1999 granted him no power to do this - but he did it anyway. What he was not given, he took. It was gangster government. It should have put the Scots on notice that they had a gangster government operating beyond the law, one with no regard for law or the rule of law. Every Unionist in that Parliament was duty-bound to bring that Executive down. They have had the power to do so in their hands for three years, and have failed to strike. I have met old women with greater fortitude and stronger bowels than the Unionists in the Scottish Parliament. My own view is that this failure is a result of them seeking their own narrow political advantage; see 'no-hopers', above. Every journalist in Scotland was duty-bound to point out that the error of what Salmond did. Instead, that incredibly ambitious coterie of smirkers and winkers in BBC Scotland couldn't wait to have their expensive accents enunciate the words 'The Scottish Government' quickly enough, mugging to camera like there's no tomorrow. BBC High Command in London should have purged the Scottish news department with the ruthlessness of Stalin for that error; but hey, what are Establishment figures supposed to do but support the Establishment?
It is no accident that Scotland has been historically adept at producing bullying policemen, slave overseers and prison officers. The Tartanissimo is the very face of our inner darkness. He is not the First Minister of Scotland. He is Scotland.
The sooner that the Scottish Parliament is razed to the ground, and the site upon which it stands sown with salt, the better. It is a disgrace, an embarrassment; O Lord, please let me sit at the controls of the wrecking ball. In my opinion, a culture geared to the swelling of the pocket book regardless of the consequences to others, in the words of one Scot, dedicated to 'getting on, not getting by', has bred a sociopathic national character. Only a government of sociopathic tyrants seeks to interfere with its lawyers; who, when all is said and done, are the group within society most likely to know when a government is acting beyond its powers. Logically, one can only conclude that the current minority Scottish Executive is a government of tyrants; and a tyrant is a tyrant regardless of how lustily he sings that awful dirge 'Flower of Scotland', or how winsomely he dances the eightsome reel.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1,001 Ways To Irritate A Cripple

Make them paint a room for three days. Up the ladders, down the ladders, uuupppp the laaaaddeeeeers, doooownnnn the laaaaaddeeeeers, uuuuuppppp ttthhheee lllaaaaadddddeeeeerrrrrsssss, dddddoooowwwwwnnnnn ttttthhhhheeeee lllllaaaaadddddeeeeerrrrrsssss, surefooted as a mountain goat...
My right leg feels as if it has a spike of hot steel inserted into it, one running all the way from my buttock to my heel. I'm having to write this with that innocent and most grievously abused limb sitting outstretched at an angle of 45 degreees to my pelvis. This is not a comfortable writing position. I tried doing some basic floor exercises last night, after the work had been done; SAVAK would be incapable of devising torture more hideous.
And it's not just the physical discomfort involved that was unsettling; all the while, all I could hear going through my head was the theme music from 'The Godfather'. Three bloody days this went on, without respite. I have had no Internet access, and only have it now thanks to the care taken to avoid either painting over or standing on the business end of the modem cable. I stink of paint and cheap white spirit. Before this task was finished, I even had to travel to East Kilbride and back in a blizzard. But worst of all, my wife's beloved cream carpet, once complete and whole, seems to be dissolving in front of my eyes. It is bubbling, in a way that carpet shouldn't really do. Watching those little buboes rise is one of those horrible epiphanies you have in life, like getting the pH of a solution wrong in chemistry classes and realising you've created a substance more corrosive than 'Alien's' blood, or having a client go into the box and admit everything they've assured you for months has been false.
Folks, I hate to say this, but I'm not sure I fancy my chances when she gets in. It was nice...no, I'll not say it...to Hell with the handkerchief...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Government Of The Virtuous, By The Virtuous, For The Virtuous

I recently had a bash at defining secularism as 'a non-violent process of de-Christianisation through abuse of reason intended to cement power in the hands of political, economic and media elites, achieved by indoctrination, harrassment of religion and the religious and the encouragement of scorn'.
It's a bit unwieldy, but seems to fit the bill.
The blogger on whose site it was posted seems to be an incorrigible atheist - fair do's, it's a point of view, I suppose. They have posted the following comment today, in relation to some of the attitudes apparently held by advisers to the Conservative Party -
"...modern secularism is in my view an axiom of a free society, and when I read about the wielding of power linked to virtue, I think of the recent histories of Iran and Afghanistan."
I have added the following comment -
"Or the government of France c.1793-94".
Upon reflection, the correction was unnecessary, because the original comment is wrong to begin with. The concept of 'virtue' used by the Tories is much more Jacobin than any reactionary Islamic theocracy is capable of being; and in using such examples for the purpose of to having a go at the idea of religion in the public square, the blogger does nothing but trip himself up.
He links to this essay by the Tory advisers, in which they write,
"...common sense tells us that inherited inequality is in part the result of economic injustice and in part the result of disparities of intelligence, skill and application. Currently the left tends to admit the latter truth for future practice, but to deny it in their theoretical account of the past.

It can escape this contradiction by embracing the "old Tory" view that privilege is not just reward for success, but also a way of providing the appropriate resources for the wielding of power linked to virtue. By virtue we mean here a combination of talent, fitness for a specific social role, and a moral exercise of that role for the benefit of wider society."
These poeple are suggesting that our government do precisely what Robespierre did; take for itself the mantle of virtue's ultimate arbiter. That means that if they don't think you're virtuous, you're out of the loop. Don't vote Tory; indeed, as my friend Martin Meenagh has recently and brilliantly put it, but with apparently greater equanimity and less disgust than I feel for the whole thing, you're hard pushed to vote for anyone at all.

Folk Liturgy

The concept of 'folk liturgy' seems to have been designed to be church music for people who never got over Dylan going electric at Newport in 1965.
I attended such a liturgy yesterday - after one piece which sounded incredibly like the theme tune from 'Cheers', there came another that was a dead ringer for the chase music from 'Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid'; not quite a Bach Mass, more like a Bacharach Mass.
Och, well, if it helps people pray.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tom Conti

On Thursday's 'Question Time', broadcast from Middlesbrough, the actor Tom Conti asked why the steelworkers of Redcar weren't going out to seek orders for their plant.
I'm sure that he didn't mean to be patronising - but for a steelworker to have replied that for them to do so would constitute a grave breach of industrial discipline likely to result in their dismissal, with loss of their imminent redundancy, would have made electrifying television.
Such is the way of things in the world beyond the footlights; sadly, it's not like it is in the movies.

The Thoughts Of Nicholas Winterton Get Up One's Nose

Sir Nicholas Winterton has made an ass of himself again by complaining about MP's having to travel in standard rather than first-class; he thinks he would find it difficult to work in such conditions.
Having read a largish number of books, including 'The History of The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire' and 'The Letters of Abelard and Heloise' while using the giant rolling first contact situation which is the west of Scotland's bus network, the only advice one can give Winterton is that he requires to develop the mental discipline necessary to exclude what is going on around him and focus on the task in hand. Last night, the stresses placed on my own discipline were extreme - we had a farter on the bus.
And not just your normal type of surreptitious farter either. The noxious miscreant emitted multiple low, rasping farts of weapons grade strength, rendering the atmosphere stale with the scent of whisky, tar - I think - and cannabis. It is at such times that one suffers dopamine-fuelled fantasies of having the power to pick up a length of rubber piping and hose down one's fellow traveller in the manner one sees in dramatisations of the quelling of American prison riots. It is at such times that one dreams of the existence of specially deputised fart cops, capable of being deployed at short notice and abseiling through the windows, hooded, armed and dressed from head to toe in black, to remove the guilty farty like the more robust elements of the Russian tax police. When they alighted, it was with relief that a blast of cold, fresh, Glasgow night air blew in; and one was also relieved that they had alighted before setting the rest of us alight. It had been starting to resemble 'The Wages of Fear' in there.
Winterton thinks he's got problems?

Some Thoughts On The Career Of Martin Amis

I have not, and never will, read any novel written by Martin Amis.

The reason for this is that, at the age of 10, I saw the movie 'Saturn 3'.

Friday, February 19, 2010

King And Country

(This post may alarm and offend some readers. That is not my intention; but the itch to say it has been present for many months, and I don't feel like scratching it any more)
Churchill re-assumed power in 1951 under the slogan 'Set The People Free'. It would have been helpful if he could have clarified which particular set of people he was talking about.
He wasn't talking about people like me, or perhaps even you, but people like himself. His manifesto said that '“Our finances have been brought into grave disorder. No British Government in peace time has ever had the power or spent the money in the vast extent and reckless manner of our current rulers... no community living in a world of competing nations can possibly afford such frantic extravagances...' and that '(t)he production of new wealth must precede common wealth, otherwise there will only be common poverty...' All that such quotations seem to prove is that the Tories have been spouting the same garbage for longer than anyone thought; however there is value to be gained from analysing the 'values' they consistently adhere to.
The 'frantic extravagances' he referred to were the appurtenances of the welfare state, including the National Health Service. To his eyes, it was better for the nation to be strong than for the old, the sick and the weak to receive medical attention. This is indicative of Churchill's violent and unpleasant nature; in her book 'A Very British Strike', Anne Perkins records his enthusiasm for the doing of violence to non-violent strikers. He is hailed as a war hero; objective analysis of his war record shows that the restraint that the generals were able to place on him saved us from disaster.
During the fighting of wars, it is often good to find out what people are actually fighting for. The whole 'King and Country' thing is a load of tommyrot. I have recently rediscovered a photocopy of a Mass card given to my grandmother in 1917, after my great-grandfather was posted missing in France, entitled 'The Great Sacrifice'. It depicts Christ Crucified over a fallen Tommy, inviting him into Heaven, and carries two phrases from Scripture - 'Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends', and 'I am the Resurrection and the Life'. Grandmother was aged 10 at the time. While the thoughts it expresses, the comfort of wives and children, are universal and timeless, the distance of history has removed none of its visual impact. Yet one cannot help but think that Great-Grandfather didn't really go to war for King and Country - he probably went because he was ordered to do so by people very much more powerful than himself (he survived).
While admirably orthodox, the image lacks one thing to give it completeness; given that nearly a century of scholarship and social progress has passed since its printing, it's perhaps unfair to think it should. To make it complete, it really needs some indication as to why Tommy is lying in a ditch with Our Lord inviting him to his eternal reward; such as proclaiming that his death was the result of a bitchfight between two sets of cousins named Hohenzollern and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha that was nothing to do with him and in which he possibly had not the slightest interest.
After the war, of course, it was back to business as usual; in the words of that most disgusting of Establishment shitheads Sir Philip Gibbs, 'Back to cheap labour. Back to discipline'. Gibbs, of course, considered himself to be part of the caste which disciplines, not that which is disciplined; as did Churchill. Now, they couldn't get away with business as usual after the Second War; coming as it did at the end of a Great Depression caused by having gone back to business as usual, that war had involved the home front too closely, death from the air bringing warfare into the parlour, for business as usual to be an option at that point. Trying to determine the role of mass bombing in shaping social attitudes would be an interesting study; after all, once the air raid siren goes off everyone becomes a stakeholder in achieving victory.
But in the spastic manner of his caste, as soon as the coast was clear Churchill was back to calling for thrift, and making demands that people like him be set free from the demands of considering the needs of others. They have done nothing else ever since. It is in this light that the hypocrisy of fanatically Thatcherite aristocrats such as Nicholas Ridley must be viewed; they speak of freedom, when what they mean is their freedom to live as they have always done. If such a person wishes to be free, then they should scorn land, titles and wages from the public purse, and start a business. Practice what you preach. The fanatical hostility of elements within British society to the 1945 settlement, hostility derived from it having been imposed upon them by others and thus an infringement upon what they perceive to be their liberties, has never gone away - indeed, it's still gaining steam all the time.
I have never before been afraid to be British; but I am now. It's not the jihadists that scare me; they're just bog-standard headbangers. No, it's what's going to be seen of the armed forces in the next few years that scares me.
We are currently engaged in at least one pointless war. The hostile elements within British society are all for it, because it involves the chance of seeing human being being blown to shreds like video game characters for their own amusement and because seeing these things and knowing they can make them happen makes them feel empowered. This pointless war has been pursued at a time when economic policy has been conducted for the hostile element's sole benefit, with the result that whatever economy we have is in shreds. This is going to lead to disorder.
A British soldier is trained on a regimental system. My fear is that once troops have been called onto the streets, British soldiers loyal to Queen, Country, regiment and mates will show far less compunction in firing into crowds of their brothers, neighbours and friends than their French or American counterparts might; and will do so because their natural loyalties have been distorted by a training regime based on that most ancient of doctrines known as 'divide et impera'. If this is how we train young men and women to fight, and what we train them to fight for, we have to question whether it conducive to the greater good for us to maintain an army at all.

The All Seeing Eye

The only time I can recall one of my less appealing historic workplace supervisors, a thin-lipped corporate Borg, ever showing any animation was his expression of joy at having discovered a computer terminal with a camera inside the monitor; this would enable him to watch everything his staff were doing, all day long.
One of Auster's commentors remarks that such things are not dis-similar to Bentham's 'panopticon'. They are correct; and I hope the school district is bankrupted by the litigation it has brought upon itself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Whole Ray Gosling Thing

The arrest of Ray Gosling is the one of the weirdest bits of policework I can recall seeing.
There is no body. Accordingly, there is no identification. A precise cause of death has not been established. Accordingly, there is no forensic evidence to help establish cause of death. A date and time of death have not been established. All that's happened is that someone has said 'I killed someone once' on TV; even by the apparently slipping standards of English criminal law, as it stands this statement has all the evidential value of a nutter walking into their local police station and claiming to be the bastard son of Countess Bathory and Lee Harvey Oswald. Until he is prepared to identify his 'victim', questioning Ray Gosling is an abject waste of resources, and he should be treated as a sideshow in the great and deadly game that is the advance of assisted suicide.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Disappearance Of The Census

I originally thought that this piece by one Tanya Gold was just another bog-standard 'certain type of underemployed lassie' offering from Comment is Free; and for the most part, that's just what it is. However, it does have one nugget in it.
Gold writes,
"Last weekend, a photograph of a witch appeared next to a newspaper story about the 2011 census. This census is reportedly in jeopardy because of "prank responses to questions": 400,000 people listed their religion as "Jedi" in 2001, "in addition to 7,000 people who said they were witches". I paused. Why are witches bunged together with Jedi in the mock-me-I'm-a-twit corner? Why are they being fingered for the disappearance of the census, an institution so boring that, if it were a sport, no one would watch it?"
In the absence of embarkation controls and ID cards, then, short of insisting that the population be chipped like their household animals, the census is the one means the State has of determining who might be in the country at any one time. The current British elites have a very powerful policy motive for its abolition; they believe in 'One World', and a census has no place in a world without borders.

Media Sanctimony

And if it does, of course, then, in a certain type of light and from a certain point of view, it might, just, could, perhaps, be believed that a person close to the leadership of the Conservative Party might, just, could, perhaps owe it an enormous favour.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bad Romance

Baroness Warnock, aka Lady Gaga, writes the following -
"When Parliament prays every day that it may conduct its business "in true Christian love and charity one towards another" it is hard to keep a straight face, as when the Christian church, especially the Church of England, is tearing itself apart with internal loathing and prejudice, apparently obsessed with questions of gender and sexual orientation, under a thin doctrinal veil."
Given that her status as a Baroness is entirely dependent upon the belief that the monarch by whose authority her title was granted is the anointed of God, and their authority to grant titles flows from that status, she might care to reconsider her position.
Ditto for all MP's who call themselves atheists.
The thrust of her piece is that English has only one word for love. Many years ago, a guy called CS Lewis wrote a book called 'The Four Loves'.

The Form Of Baroness Tonge

Baroness Tonge's outburst that the Israelis are cruising Haiti in the hope of harvesting organs, like Vidiians with a particularly bad attitude in 'Star Trek - Voyager', reminds me that this woman seems to have a very big chip on her shoulder about Israel. Whatever put it there is anyone's guess; may it be knocked off and stay off.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Type Of People Scotland's Scottish Nationalist Deputy First Minister Writes References For

"The family (of benefit fraudster Abdul Rauf, for whom Nicola Sturgeon wrote a letter for presentation to the court when he appeared for sentence after stealing £140,000 from the taxpayer) live in a sprawling bungalow on the Southside (sic) of Glasgow...
Yesterday, a woman in the house refused to come outside, but said from behind the front door that Rauf did not know Miss Sturgeon, and didn't walk to talk about the case.
But soon after, two men appeared in the street and approached members of the press threatening to return with 'machetes and baseball bats' if they did not leave' -
Sarah Bruce, 'The life and crimes of a fraudster', 'Scottish Daily Mail', 11th February 2010, Page 5.
These threats would obviously be very frightening to anyone on the receiving end; if confronted with the same aggression, I hope I would have the presence of mind to effect a citizen's arrest for what, by any reasonable standard, can only be considered a breach of the peace; and I would not like to come up against the Pollokshields Special Patrol Group in all its glory.
I might hurt them.
One could theorise about the dynamics of Rauf's relationship with Sturgeon until the cows come home; or, in Rauf's case, until lights out. If they don't know each other, fine. On the other hand, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rauf was one of the late crapbag Bashir Ahmad's homeboys; and anyone who was in thick with the old Mass desecrater would probably be OK in the SNP's books.

While I Am Usually Partial To The Writings of Naomi Klein...

Cancellation of its foreign debt is never going to be on the cards when its own rulers have been held to have looted the country of $504,000,000.
And 'climate debt'? For one person to sue another because of whatever 'impact' they may or may not have made on the climate is like suing the Earth for being round. If there's one thing that the climate does, it's change. It is the fault of nobody but Haitians that they didn't seem to have a satisfactory building code; a lapse in good government with catastrophic consequences.
It would have been better if she had concentrated on those events taking place in Haiti which could have come straight from the pages of 'The Shock Doctrine'; such as the plans suggested by James Dobbins.

'The Gas Weapon'

It is interesting to note that during our worst winter in 30 years, the Russians have not deployed what the distinguished beardy and professional Europhile describes today as the 'gas weapon' on us.
Not once.
Funny, that. It might make you wonder whether the British newspapers' screams of how the Russians will leave us freezing is just Russophobic hysteria. And Tymoshenko is not a 'princess', but a particularly ruthless and unsavoury oligarch; albeit one a damn sight better looking than Boris Berezovsky.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Torture, Secrecy And The Modern British State

I cannout understand the furore concerning the censorship of the judgment which stated that Binyam Mohammed was tortured.
At the moment, the entire purpose of government in Britain is to ensure the maintenance of the 'globalisation in one country' policy; to keep globalising and globalising, through active and passive policy tools such as encouraging immigration and failing to prevent infrastructure falling into foreign ownership, until entropy is achieved and we resemble a chaotic and easily oppressed society such as India or Nigeria. At that point the gap between rich and poor will be so vast that it will ossify, social mobility will wither, hope of achieving social mobility will become desperate and we will see such regressive behaviours as the growth of kidnapping for ransom, a crime of gain endemic in grossly unequal societies where life, as the saying goes, is cheap.
It should thus come as no surprise that the British Establishment's historic fetish for deeds done in dark corners, its habit of committing state violence and chafing at having to explain itself, should extend to the covering up of torture committed in black prisons on the other side of the world; and this reveals a truth about the advancing, though protested, removal of civil liberties from the British people, one which should perhaps give some pause for thought to market fundamentalists who recognise that we are not as free as we used to be.
Those who run us seem to believe that markets should be free. Perhaps they also believe that in order for markets to be free, the people must be incapable of opposing them; and so they've gone about dismantling the means by which opposition can be expressed.

The Collapse Of The SNP

First, there was Lunchgate. No rules for those who make the rules, eh?
Now there is Referencegate. I, for one, would be very interested to know whether the convicted fraudster for whom a reference has been provided is either a member of the SNP or has donated to it.
As I have written before, the Scottish National Party holds the law and the rule of law in contempt. The only definition of law it understands is one which advances its purposes. It is not fit for office and deserves to be thrown out into the street at the next election.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Expenses And Procedure

Just as the phrase that one 'might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb' derives from folk memory of punitive British property laws, so too does the phrase 'possession is nine tenths of the law'.
The practice of 'lawfare' - slash and burn litigation - is abetted by civil procedures allowing for the recovery of costs; or expenses, as they're known in Scotland. When I was a trainee solicitor, the Sheriff Court Rules Council introduced new rules that seemed to do little more than ramp up the expense of going to law. Fees became payable for lodging motions where none had been payable before. While one is sure this was not the case, a cynic might believe that this could have been motivated by a desire to prevent litigation by making it prohibitively expensive; if that were the case, it would be tantamount to seeking to restrict access to justice. Party litigants can be inarticulate, verbose narcissists who just want their day in court and, worst of all, they don't know the rules of the game; but then again, the Scottish judiciary has to listen to them, and nobody applies to become a member of the Scottish judiciary, and receive a six figure salary and gold plated pension, with a gun at their head.
And if it were intended to restrict access to justice, it would have been unlikely ever to have worked; given that much civil litigation in the Sheriff Court relates to family law matters, that Legal Aid is granted for most of such family litigation and that expenses recoveries in family litigation tend to be the exception rather than the rule, then any potential savings in court time would more than likely have been wiped out by repayments made to solicitors of monies they had disbursed on behalf of assisted clients, which they wouldn't have had to disburse under the old rules.
I know little of the rules of civil procedure in other jurisdictions, but in my day Scotland's were marked by an overdue regard for 'relevance' and 'specification' in written pleadings. At that time, the Scottish law of evidence dictated that in civil matters over a certain value, only potential civil evidence mentioned in a document called a 'closed record' (pronounced re-CORD, not RE-cord) could be led orally at a hearing on evidence, known as a 'proof'. This had led to the fetishisation of civil pleadings, with litigators seeking to outwit each other in trying to have pleadings struck out in a kind of game in which the pursuit of justice often seemed to take second place to intellectual one-upmanship. When he quoted the missionary in Africa who remarked that fetishism was a great tradition on the wane but never a great religion, Fernand Braudel might as well have been talking about the practice of civil law in the Scottish Sheriff Courts c. 1993; except that our fetishism wasn't on the wane, but going from strength to strength. One has to say that one thinks that the number of people who have been denied justice over the centuries as a result of this fetish for form over content might be quite high; if so, it's not a record that Scotland can be proud of.
Once solicitors are prepared to work under Conditional Fee Agreements and all the 'no-win no-fee' stuff, a very big part of the rationale for being able to recover costs disappears like straw in the wind. Better for the courts to be packed with inarticulate and verbose party litigants keeping a judge off the golf course than for a single one of them to feel that they are denied access to the courts - not some Mickey Mouse arbitration procedure, but a proper, full boona court, presided over by an authority figure in a wig sitting underneath a crest bearing the legend 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit'. That would amount to social progress of a far more substantial and wholesome kind than any assisted sucide law.
And after that's done, we can start rewriting the law on civil pleadings.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The 4,000th Post

When one hits blog milestones, the urge to write something respectable and literate, rather than the usual mad screams in the dark, kicks in. Having suffered from something of a gravitas bypass of late, the Glasgow Irish in me has, hopefully only temporarily, gained something of the upper hand over the essayist I would like to be.
So let's get grave, baby, and cast O' Id into outer darkness for a moment; there would seem to be much to be grave about.
The suggestion that those who report alleged benefit cheats could be given what amount to bounties from sums recovered would seem to be the extension of public choice economics to its natural conclusion. It would not be difficult to imagine some people giving themselves daily, weekly and monthly targets of neighbours to inform upon, in the expectation that by doing so they will qualify for a bonus from recoveries. Being a New Labour initiative, the suggestion is, of course, authoritarian and mean-spirited - yet it is also a remarkably stupid one, given that its success would depend on reliable snitches not moving from areas with large numbers of benefit claimants. The locals who amuse themselves with a spot of casual drug dealing and illegal money lending will be very curious as to why those who do not seem to have gained similar means of support suddenly have more money to spend. Sad as it is say, this is one policy which, if implemented, will inevitably result in avoidable murder.
But I'm sure the economics faculty at George Mason University will heartily approve, as might an Old Etonian former editor of the 'Daily Telegraph', who concludes a polemic in favour of inequality with the words 'Worklessness subsidised by welfare is what really keeps people down'; as if he would know. This is the voice of the 19th Century, not the 21st. The author of those words may not be in this category, but there seem to be a very large number of people in the United Kingdom who are insanely opposed to the welfare settlement of 1945, perceiving its demands as an encroachment on their freedoms. The Conservative Party is a body whose record shows that it cannot be trusted with the welfare state; it remains too much in thrall to an overweening and authoritarian private sector. It is of not merely historical interest but of the utmost importance to understanding the mind of the modern Conservative Party that some of the most avid Thatcherites, such as the late Nicholas Ridley, came from the aristocracy's highest ranks; the freedom they refer to in their rhetoric is their freedom to do as they please as they have always done, entirely without regard to whatever consequences you might suffer. In hard times, as ever, that's when we're all in it together - in good times, poor man, you can go hang.
Accordingly, I will not be voting Conservative later this year. I would rather abstain completely than vote for it.
In other matters, the conviction of Ali Dizaei perhaps reveals only the tip of the iceberg of British police corruption. Dizaei seems to have been caught because he was stupid enouugh to have tried to inflict injuries upon himself; one wonders just how many 18 year olds were convicted across the land yesterday because they made the mistake of gobbing off at cops who then told bare-faced lies to authoritarian and power-worshipping magistrates.
It does go on, you know.

Monday, February 08, 2010

'The War Of The World'

"Tell me, where now are all those great doctors and masters with whom you were well acquainted while they were alive and immersed in learning? Now others fill their places, and I know not whether they ever think of them. In their lifetime they seemed to be someone, and now they are not spoken of" -
Yesterday' 'Mail on Sunday' reported that Professor Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and self-described 'fully paid-up member of the neo-imperialist gang', is currently engaged in writing a biography of Henry Kissinger.
I have perhaps been a little uncharitable towards Professor Ferguson in the past. In my defence, this was motivated by what seemed, to my eyes, to be an incredibly arrogant commentary that he published in the 'Sunday Telegraph' on 1st January 2006, in which he called for Scotland to be privatised in its entirety. To say the least, this did not make him many friends.
However, one must give credit where it's due. Not having read 'The Ascent of Money' and having no intention of paying to read about Kissinger, 'The War of The World' is by far the best of the three of Professor Ferguson's books that I have read.
It is an extremely clever book, packed with wee nuggets that put his topic into perspective - three-fifths of SS Einsatzgruppenfuhrers in Russia had doctoral level degrees; the German railway system charged reduced fares for transporting children to the death camps; and so on. I have quoted from memory.
In short, it is the sort of work which Professor Ferguson could have laid his pen down after writing. Having hit what even a very critical reader like me considers might be the very high top of his game, there would seem to be nowhere to go but down. I may be wrong - perhaps he'll surprise us.
However, I do have one wee quibble about 'The War of The World'; and it's to do with the post-production phase.
I may have got entirely the wrong end of the stick, in which case I apologise in advance and completely without reservation; however, the paperback copy of 'The War of The World' held by South Lanarkshire Council library services indicates that the original book had 2,000 footnotes, a list of which would be published on Professor Ferguson's website at a later date. Try as I might, I can't find them there.
This could be entirely the result of my own stupidity and ineptitude; in which case, as I've said, I apologise in advance and completely without reservation. Can anyone else have a wee look and see if they can find them?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Te Deum Laudamus!

While one might support the Holy Father's views on faith schools on principle, sadly nearly a century of experience shows them to have been anything but 'a powerful force for social cohesion' in the west of Scotland; a home truth the expression of which will forever render me persona non grata with any mainstream Catholic media.
However, it is delightful to see that he has confirmed his intention to visit Scotland later in the year. One can almost smell the Holyrood Establishment's fear already.

Friday, February 05, 2010

I'm Almost Done, Honest - Assisted Suicide: A Multitude Of Sins, Part II

(I have removed a significant portion of the post which I originally wrote this morning. Usually, I'm a believer in it being my blog,' what I have written, I have written', etc. - but I wasn't really feeling my best, due to a chest infection and stomach bug; the nearest thing that there is to a binary biological weapon in the South Lanarkshire Council area. However, some parts of it were over the score regardless of how crapulous I was, and indeed am, feeling - so apologies for any hurt I might have caused. I do wish the timelock would come off the awareness of the importance of charity some time before 13.00 hours).
The well of self-pity is one which the slip into can be easy for the afflicted, making the climb out of arduous. And all of the self-euthanisers, from Margo McDonald, Midlothian's Lady Macbeth, to that prattling prat Pratchett, all beard and no fedora, are rank with self-pity. Just as no perfume of Arabia could wash the blood from Lady Macbeth's hand, no amount of spiritual fabric conditioner is going to wash the self-pity out of Margo McDonald.
What they want is not death - it is astonishing just how little interest self-euthanists seem to have in actually dying - but control. I've dealt with the question of control in another forum - I'm not going to link it because of that forum's inherent juvenility, but the point can be encapsulated thus.
OK, we have an assisted suicide law. Grampa's got a nice big detached house with no mortgage, a really meaty stock portfolio, and is also inconveniently flitting in and out of lucidity due to Alzheimer's. He's compos mentis at breakfast, but just might be gaga by lunchtime.
Now, a venal and corrupt heir prompts him to say 'I can't stand this any more', etc. In the UK, of course, landing helicopters on rooftops, abseiling down the sides of buildings, smashing through the windows and despatching anyone they might come across inside has been the historic province of the SAS. Under the assisted suicide law, might we have ASS (Assisted Suicide Squads) doing the same thing before the tomato soup and soft rolls get passed around and Grampa can't reiterate his consent?
In that situation, the only thing more likely to be liquidated faster than Grampa's assets is likely to be Grampa himself.
Pratchett and McDonald want to be able to sit down with a big bevvy and just slip away. The problem is, of course, what happens if they change their mind - and can't express it?
One hears of how self-euthanists heard loved ones moaning during agonisingly painful deaths, and how difficult it was to watch. The thought that their loved ones might have been fighting desperately to live a while longer doesn't seem to occur to them.
Their self-pity at somebody's else's unsightly and unhygienic death having kept them off the golf course might just be the ruin of us all.

Getting More Out Of The Workforce

"Another path to reform is to get more out of the workforce. Simple changes have tremendous results. If public-sector workers took the same amount of sick leave as those in the private sector, that would save 3 per cent of their wage bill, which adds up to £6 billion per year. If they worked the same number of hours per week as in the private sector, that would save a further 10 per cent, or £20 billion per year. The same saving would result if the average public- and private-sector employee were paid equivalent wages"
-
To my mind, those figures indicate that private sector workers don't take enough sick leave, and that a radical equalisation of private sector wages upwards to match those currently paid in the public sector is a matter of the utmost urgency.
Maybe the reason they take sick leave is that...they're sick.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I'm Almost Done, Honest - Assisted Suicide: A Multitude Of Sins

Re-reading the text of the Richard Dimbleby Lecture on assisted suicide made one realise just how much the cuddly, fluffy and so, so reasonable desire to just slip away to the strains of Thomas Tallis after downing a hellfire brew of drugs and alcohol - the only spirits that self-euthanists seem to believe in are those which have been heavily distilled - covers a multitude of sins.
Let's start with pride, the oldest and worst of them all, and its stablemate vanity. Nobody wants to think of themself as being unable to hold their bowels at any stage of their life. In a world which determines your relative worth by your ability to control other people, the thought of being unable to control your own bodily functions is unconscionable; as is the thought that after a lifetime of browbeating your wife, terrorising your children, and dominating your subordinates, that someone will one day have to tell you which end of the spoon goes into your mouth -not once, but again and again.
Then there's despair. If you don't believe in God, your life must always be without hope; what's the point in having hopes, when you don't believe in anything that can fulfill them? You are the very acme of a hopeless case. Calculating creatures of the intellect are usually rather bad at estimating their own worth - their lack of humility is a natural consequence of failing to believe in any entity greater than themselves. On one level, they're only as good as their IQ's; however, if history teaches us just one lesson concerning the botches of the gifted, it's that smart people with the best credentials become remarkably unsmart when confronted with situations that haven't been covered on the reading list. And items that you don't ever get on the reading list include how to be humble in the face of the inevitable, and that there really is something out there that's bigger than you.
I am so looking forward to Benedict XVI coming to Glasgow in September, just as Margo McDonald's piece of trash assisted suicide bill goes to Committee. And he will preach against it - it remains to be seen whether the sight of 300,000 Catholics cheering him on will have the desired effect. Very possibly not; the thought of the contortions that the BBC, 'The Guardian' and the 'Sunday Herald' will go through in reporting his sermons is already making me chuckle.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I'm Nearly Out Of Here, I Promise - The Embuggerance That Is Sir Terry Pratchett

Beard and fedora, eh? Is this man actually trying to stoke reactionary prejudice?

Wouldn't you know it, 'The Guardian' has praised the desire of Sir Terry Pratchett (pictured) to turn himself into a test case for assisted suicide. At least the 'embuggerance' (his word) that Sir Terry Pratchett is making of himself for every British person with an incurable, untreatable illness who doesn't want to take assisted suicide lying down so that Poppy/Jacinta/Fatima/Abdullah/Tristram/Benedict can feel good about themself over their copy of 'The Guardian' doesn't seem to have equated his 'struggle' with climate change or population control. That will be the task of some future Farringdon fascist. I give it three months.

I have never read any of Pratchett's books - being allergic to beardies in fedoras, I sure ain't going to start now.

Quick Last Thought On The Way Out - The Pope And Patrick Harvie

As much as I look forward to seeing him when he comes to Glasgow this year, and to hearing him preach on the spot where St. John Ogilvie was martyred, one hopes that the Holy Father's security is good.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Last Thought For The Road - A Little Bit More Disaster Capitalism In Haiti

"James Dobbins, a special envoy to Haiti under President Clinton and director of the International Security and Defence Policy Centre at the Rand Corporation, saw other possibilities. "This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms," he argued. The reforms included "breaking up or at least reorganising the government-controlled telephone monopoly", and restructuring the ports. In other words, privatising what little is left of the country's state enterprises."
This is precisely what Naomi Klein describes as 'disaster capitalism' in 'The Shock Doctrine' - death, pain, famine, flood and violence being used to effect permanent economic change; perhaps itself merely a euphemism for the pillaging of the world's poor by its rich.
After all, as Rahm Emanuel put it - you can't let a good crisis go to waste.