Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gone Writing

I will be taking a sabbatical from blogging, of indeterminate length, in order to concentrate on finishing my book.
OK, OK, OK, I'll admit that to have said 'starting my book' would probably have been more accurate. I've been at it for a year, and have just about the title sorted out. However, I did promise myself that I would give it a go, and now's as good a time as any. Let us hope that I can do it, that someone will want to publish it, and that the public will then want to buy it.
I shall hopefully see you all at some point in 2011. Until then, play nice.


Many Thanks To All Supporters Of This Blog Over The Past Year...

particularly those kind enough to offer private prayers for my boy and his parents.
May God grant you all a peaceful and prosperous 2011.


The Innocents

The BBC reports that (the government's) "expert committee on vaccination for the UK has decided against giving the seasonal flu jab to healthy under fives or children aged five to 15."
When you're a prem baby living in substandard social housing, constructed badly from unsuitable materials, and which is cold on account of the energy companies putting their prices up to the extent that your parents can't afford to heat the place, then the seasonal flu jab might be the difference between life and death.
How sickening it is that in the 21st Century, British children might die on account of the backward, primitive beliefs held by some of those on the right that absolutely everything in this country must be owned by someone, that the British people must not be allowed to anything in common for their own benefit, and that private profit must come before public service.
I have recently finished reading 'The Spirit Level'. Apart from the bit near the end where the authors went off on a frolic of their own about climate change, it made perfect sense to an interested person who rides on public transport in the west of Scotland every day. Indeed, most of it is a statement of the bleedin' obvious. One can see why the feral right, that part of the right that would love to be able to kick the poor to death in the street without fear of penalty, hates it so much. It is a direct challenge to everything they hold dear. In what passes for their minds, they and those they favour must be top dogs, and they will not share, and consider the idea that anyone else is entitled to live a dignified life free from illness, crime, ignorance and want to be an unacceptable restriction on their liberty.
Damn their liberty, and damn them.
Should Providence spare that book's authors for a few years, it would be a sad but interesting exercise for them to revisit the question of the impact of inequality upon influenza-related child mortality. I hope that they don't get the chance, and that God in his infinite mercy will let this potential Biblical plague pass us over. If it does come to that, however, then I imagine the results would indicate that in more unequal societies, more babies die of vaccinatable influenza than in more equal ones - the sort of thing that happens when right-wing nutjobs are allowed to get their hands on the health budget, and prefer bolstering bank balance sheets, and buying (or is it renting?) nuclear weapons, to buying medicines that might save poor children's lives.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hopes For 2011

My biggest politicial hope for 2011 is that the Scottish electorate sends the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government' into the midden of history, hopefully stepping gaily as they go, heel for heel and toe for toe.
The regime of Alexander Salmond, Tartanissimo of Scotland, has been marked with a disregard for law and the rule of law almost unique in these islands. Following as he did on Tony Blair's heels, that's saying something.
They intend to mount the summit of their oppressive lawlessness by abolishing double jeopardy in Scotland. The argument advanced in support of this is the sophistication of modern forensic techniques.
As an admittedly lukewarm and occasional student of legal history, I do not recall ever reading of any such argument being advanced at the turn of the 20th Century, at the time when the Stratton brothers became the first persons to be subjected to capital punishment on the basis of fingerprint evidence (they hanged together). I do not ever recall ever reading of any such arguments being advanced with each new breakthrough in either toxicology or ballistics. But we've now got DNA fingerprinting, a wonderful science, for sure, but one still in its infancy, and one that can be confused by a fleck of spittle in the wrong place. It is on the basis of this magic bullet that 800 years of Scottish law is to be rewritten, with a substantial diminution in the freedom of Scots.
And the ones doing it are supposed to be on our side. You know, I really do wonder about that sometimes.

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Reflections On 2010

Anyone who has seen the Lee Marvin gangster movie 'Point Blank' will recall the scene in which the only action depicted is Walker (Marvin), er, walking briskly along a corridor, the only sound heard that of his footsteps.
I had a similar experience earlier this year, at about five past five one morning, at the emergency entrance of a maternity hospital. I hope that anyone who saw me walking along those corridors would think me some kind of modern day Lee Marvin, all poise and purpose, instead of the jibbering, and quite lost, wreck I really was.
Our son was eight weeks premature when he was born. He breathed by himself from the outset,, giving his doctors great hope for his successful development. For sure, we do a great many things less well now than we have done in the past, but taking care of premature babies is not one of them. There has never been a better time or place for an eight-week premature baby to be born into than the United Kingdom of 2010.
He was in hospital a day shy of four weeks. During this time, one learned any number of new and interesting things; how to administer a tube feed (through the nose), for example, or the fundamentals of neonatal emergency medicine. Most vividly, one learned that no matter how much time and money the NHS spends trying to educate those associating with its some of its most vulnerable patients in the basics of hygiene, there will always be a narcissistic Glaswegian who'll say 'Ahm nae washin' ma hauns'.
They weren't one of Our Town's better ambassadors. But that the effort is sometimes pointless doesn't mean that it shouldn't be made.
However, the overwhelming impression I got from this experience is that having midwives is A Very Good Thing. In consequence, any move to cut the number of midwives working in the NHS must be A Very Bad Thing. Not only is it A Very Bad Thing, it would also be A Very Stupid Thing. British society in the 21st Century is full of what Chesterton might have called not common sense, but uncommon nonsense, and anything that might lead to the death of tiny children capable of surviving with the help of nothing more than a little technology and a great deal of care and attention is to be deplored.
He went on strike on Christmas Day, you know - he was having so much fun that he wouldn't go down for his afternoon nap. That's my boy.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

William Hazlitt On Political Bloggers

"A dearth of general information is almost necessary to the thorough-paced coffee-house politician; in the absence of thought, imagination, sentiment, he is attracted immediately to the nearest common-place, and floats through the chosen regions of noise and empty rumours without difficulty and without distraction. Meet' any six of these men in buckram', and they will accost you with the same question and the same answer: they have seen it somewhere in print, or had it from some city oracle, that morning; and the sooner they vent their opinions the better, for they will not keep. Like tickets of admission to the theatre for a particular evening, they must be used immediately, or they will be worth nothing: and the object is to find auditors for the one and customers for the other, neither of which is difficult; since people who have no ideas of their own are glad to hear what anyone else has to say, as those who have not free admissions to the play will very obligingly take up with an occasional order. It sometimes gives me a melancholy and mixed sensation to see one of the better sort of this class of politicians, not without talents or learning, absorbed for fifty years together in the all-engrossing topic of the day: mounting on it for exercise and recreation of his faculties, like the great horse at a riding-school, and after his short, improgressive, untired career, dismounting just where he got up; flying abroad in continual consternation on the wings of all the newspapers; waving his arm like a pump-handle in sign of constant change, and spouting out torrents of puddled politics from his mouth; dead to all interests but those of the state; seemingly neither older nor wiser for age; unaccountably enthusiastic, stupidly romantic, and actuated by no other motive than the mechanical operations of the spirit of newsmongering" -
The great William Hazlitt, 'On Coffee-House Politicians', from 'Table Talk', published in 1822


Monday, December 27, 2010

'Silent Night'

The Communion hymn at the Mass I attended on Christmas morning was 'Silent Night'.
Unfortunately for the musicality of the piece as Joseph Mohr might have intended it to be played, the organist seemed to possess what some pianists call a 'thumping left', their introduction making me wonder whether I was in fact listening to James Mason in '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' instead; or to Vincent Price in 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes'.
However, during its short course it did manage to make a tear come to my eye; at the thought of all those poor men who died in 1914 and 1940, killing each other as they all sang 'Silent Night'.
And that's no fault of 'Silent Night'.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Daily Telegraph And Democracy

The only observation one can make upon the depressing indiscretions uttered by Vince Cable et al to undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph is that in light of that newspaper's reporting on MP's expenses, one has to ask whether it is now actually seeking to end the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
If that were to be happen, it would achieve the dubious distinction of providing an even more powerful illustration of the United Kingdom's democratic deficit than did the formation of the coalition itself. Just as the balance sheet of the Royal Bank of Scotland was, in the halcyon days of 2007, more valuable than the whole of the British economy, if it were to break the coalition then The Daily Telegraph, a private company, would hold more power than any other institution in the country. While many are unhappy with the coalition, myself included, I am at least in favour of having some government rather than no government at all, the likely outcome of the coalition falling to bits as a result of some very gauche Liberal Democrat beardies voicing their opinions of their Bullingdon Boy colleagues.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

A Happy And Holy Christmas To You All

Peace and love.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Conviction Of Tommy Sheridan

In his last, unfinished and thoroughly marvellous wee book 'The Historian's Craft', the late Marc Bloch, God rest his great French soul, wryly wrote of the horror that a medieval merchant might feel at the idea of his ledgers' privacy being invaded, should they survive long enough to become historical documents.
It is to be hoped that the Human Resources and Operations departments of British Airways have invested in storage facilities which enable them to preserve all their staff's old work rosters. After all, some day some of them might be of great interest to historians.
Today, Tommy Sheridan, certainly the most charismatic Scottish politician of his generation, and also possibly one of the most able, was convicted of perjury. Like Macbeth, his downfall was self-inflicted, his fatal flaw not ambition, although he had plenty of that, but a taste for perverted sex that verged on Caligulan decadence.
There would have been a time, probably not so long ago, when this news would have had me in an ecstasy of schadenfreude, but not today. He has a wife and daughter, and it is for his daughter in particular that I feel sorry. For no reason more grave than that her father couldn't seem to admit that he had a sexual problem, she may be separated from him. Sheridan has received Scottish mercy today, his appointment with Scottish justice deferred, and his bail continued, until after Christmas. Lord Bracadale didn't have to do that. As Sheridan is over 21 and has already been imprisoned, he could have sent him down today, but he didn't, so father and daughter will at least be able to spend Christmas together. I hope that Sheridan has the good grace to thank Lord Bracadale for that when he appears for sentence. It would be a welcome reversal of his previous posture of gross public disrespect to the law of Scotland, and to its institutions.
It may be the case that Sheridan has told his great lie, that he didn't go to Cupids with Katrine Trulle, so often that he now actually believes it. It has been indicated to him that he may go to custody. If it is the case that he still believes himself to be innocent, then, perhaps perversely, a spell in custody might be of some advantage to him. The phenomenon of convicts who believe themselves to be innocent because they've told themselves that lie so often, and who find in prison the space and peace to begin healing themselves by acknowledging the truth of their actions, is quite well-known. If it is the case that he has thus convinced himself of his innocence, and if he is sent down, then, if it helps him come to terms with what he's done, custody might not be an entirely negative experience for him.
On the other hand, the classic definition of chutzpah is of a man who kills his parents and who then begs for the court's mercy because he is an orphan. Given the amount of chutzpah Sheridan has shown over the best part of a decade, if he persists in his belief that he is innocent, then, having sacked his lawyers, I wouldn't put it past him to ask for clemency on the basis of lack of access to counsel. This night, lawyers all over Scotland will be licking their lips at the thought of just how many actions he might bring against the Scottish Executive for breaches of his human rights, should he be sent to custody. The age of Tommy Sheridan, political firebrand, might be over, but the age of Tommy Sheridan, prison reformer, may be about to dawn.
But apart from the Godawful tawdriness of the behaviour that has led to his personal tragedy, it is a public tragedy that Sheridan has managed to get himself into this position at a time when the people he has claimed to speak for and represent need a tribune of his political gifts more than they have ever done before. Libel and defamation trials are fecund breeding grounds for perjury, their toxic potential to both save face in front of the public and make a financial killing at the same time too strong a lure for some fish even bigger than Tommy Sheridan. But as a figure in modern Scottish political history Sheridan has been unique. The typically self-serving braggadocio of the statement read out on his behalf outside court today seemed to dwell heavily on the evils of News International, the bluster of the Glasgow street corner at its worst. I hope he understands, just even privately, that in doing what he's done, he's only managed to make those connected to News International very happy. He wanted his day in court, by any means necessary. He has achieved nothing from it other than to deliver his own head on a plate to Keith Rupert Murdoch, probably with the jaw still moving. That is not the world's greatest political epitaph.
If he does go down, it will be an opportunity for him to display both personal courage and greatness of spirit. If it comes to that, I hope he takes the chance to use his considerable talent and intelligence to help those who come into contact with him. There may be any number of rudderless young men who could benefit from having a mentor like Tommy Sheridan. The behaviours of his which have been attested to in court not once but twice are sickening, but no matter what his sexual partners did or have done, some of them told the truth about it. That's the inescapable fact of this whole appalling episode. Even swingers tell the truth. Even Trotskyists tell the truth. People with well-focussed moral centres, with senses of right and wrong, tell the truth. For almost all of his adult life, Tommy Sheridan was in the business of speaking truth to power, and of working for right over might, and there were times when he did it very well indeed. That phase of his life is over now, and it's never coming back. If nothing else, I hope he at last learns to tell the truth to himself, for he will feel better for it, and Scottish public life without Tommy Sheridan adding his talents to it in any available capacity would be even duller and more limited than it is already.


The Organ Transplant Service And The Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Taking organs from willing donors is one thing, while the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government's affinity for the doctrine of 'presumed consent' is quite another.

However, I can only hope that, in the recent spell of very bad weather that we in Scotland have suffered over the past month, those involved in the transport and transplantation of organ tissue donated by willing donors have been able to go about their business through wind, rain and snow, for they are in the business of saving lives; having worked in 22 different commercial businesses over the past 19 years, absolutely no enterprise the sole aim of which is the generation of financial profit can really compete with that on any scale designed to measure the importance of human endeavour.

But there is one activity that might.

Without fear or favour, I declare myself to be a committed supporter of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (donate now, donate tonight). As someone who can't even drive a car anymore, I have nothing but the utmost admiration for those brave, brave men who will be on call right over Christmas for no thought of gain but who remain determined to help those, for want of a better phrase, in peril on the sea. An RNLI launch is the ultimate boy's toy - like Will Smith in 'Independence Day', my first thought on stepping aboard one in Kinsale harbour in 1997 was 'I just got to get me one of these!' However, by the grace of God such equipment is denied to the frivolous, and instead left in the vastly more responsible hands of those brave Corkmen who man the Courtmacsherry RNLI station, and of their comrades all round the shores of the British Isles.
Our Lady, Star of The Sea, please keep these men in your safe and tender care.


Our Christian Brothers And Sisters In Iraq

One of this blog's glaring omissions of the past year has been my failure to comment on the martyrdom of three reverend clergy, and others of our brothers and sisters, in the hellish attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad nearly two months ago. May God forgive me.
At this time of year, it is my most sincere hope that all Christians in and of the Middle East be permitted a respite from the persecution that drives so many of them away from their own homes every year. A Middle East without Christianity should not be imagined either in terms of Kissingerian guff about geopolitics, or in militaristic terms such as 'defeat'. It should not be so imagined because it is unimaginable.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.


Christmas Eve With Presidents Reagan, Lincoln And Washington...

can be spent here.

One of my better efforts, even if I say so myself.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Acquittal Of Gail Sheridan

By far the most alarming aspect of this farrago thus far has been the Crown's statement that the perjury charges against Gail Sheridan were being dismissed as no longer in the public interest.
Call me old-fashioned, but whan I was training to be a solicitor we were taught that people were prosecuted because there was evidence against them - not because their prosecution was in the public interest.
It is clear that the Crown Office has become an Augean Stables of diffidence, incompetence and lack of regard for law and the rule of law. Either scrap it, or scrap the people who run it.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cardinal O' Brien On The Economy

His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O' Brien has issued a Christmas message in which he says that,
"Perhaps it is at a time of increasing austerity in our country that we might realise that we are being called to a more simple form of lifestyle and that a more simple way of life could even help us should more difficult economic times face us in the years which lie ahead."
Nothing about condoms in it, though.


Cardinal O' Brien On Democracy

Today's 'Scottish Mail on Sunday' carries an opinion piece by His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O' Brien on the subject of the relationship between religion and democracy, in which he refers to the 'Westminster 2010' project.
Nothing about condoms in that one, either.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Suggestion That Assange Might Be Extradited To The United States

It has been startling to see the BBC treat the bailing from Wandsworth Prison of Julian Assange, a more cerebral, thoroughly better class of vagrant than they probably see coming across the door most of the time, but a vagrant nonetheless, as if it were the release of Nelson Mandela.
While one can think what one likes of Assange and what he claims to believe - I wonder how happy he'd be about his solicitor/client confidentiality being compromised, for example - it would be ludicrous for him to be extradited to the United States. There can be no reasonable possibility of him ever having a fair trial there.

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A Short Thought On Willingly Having Electrodes Shoved Into Your Brain (While You're Awake)

While I hope that anyone who elects to put themself through this, er, process gains some relief from whatever ails them, that is one queue I will not be joining. No, Sirree, thank you very much but no thanks. I've got this far with Tourettes, and my brain and I will get by just nicely without surgical interventions.
However, it is interesting to read that the technique, known as 'deep brain stimulation', has 'been used for many years for the treatment of Parkinson's disease'. Those Parkinson's sufferers who feel that the passage of an assisted suicide law is necessary in order for them to be able to maintain their dignity may already therefore have a means of ensuring that it can be preserved without the need to end their own lives.
Unless, of course, they want to take their own lives. Or else they really want someone else to do it for them. Or else they want to be remembered as the person who helped other people take their own lives, a morbid but, in my opinion, not at all unreasonable assessment of some of those in the assisted suicide lobby. That might give a slightly different complexion to any claim that they might make about only being interested in human welfare.

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Jody McIntyre

While I have the greatest sympathy for Mr. McIntyre in his infirmity, it's probably a bit rash to go to a demo, particularly one that's likely to turn nasty, in a wheelchair.
Mr. McIntyre's blog is subtitled 'One man's journey on the path to revolution…' Whether fairly or unfairly, such assertions inevitably remind me of Flaubert's quip that inside every revolutionary, there lurks a gendarme.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

British Banking And The Human Rights Act

With the Royal Bank of Scotland in de facto public ownership, one would have thought that the Financial Services Authority would have had little difficulty in publishing a full report into the failings that led to that institution requiring public assistance.
But that is not the case. That billions of pounds of taxpayer funds were required to shore up the balance sheet of RBS notwithstanding, the FSA does not appear to be under any public interest obligation to publish its findings into that bank.
The ramshackle, rickety way in which British banks became dependent on the state for their survival, but independent of the state regarding their management and control, seems to have been based on act of the purest doublethink; in order to maintain the fictions of capitalism, capitalism itself must be subverted.
If the Department of Trade and Industry had nationalised the banks properly, installing their own managers and taking the institutions fully under state control, two very important pieces of legislation would have applied to them.
The first would have been the Freedom of Information Act. This would have enabled the public to plot the course of the process by which 'Sir' Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin negotiated such an enormous pension pot for himself. Even after he surrendered part of it - presumably because, with one eye on the doctrine of sanctity of contract, he either believed or was persuaded that some parts of his contract were more sacred than others - what was left was still enormous. How it grew to the size that it did could have been laid bare for all to see. And we couldn't be having that.
However, the other law that could have applied to it would have been even more unsettling for our poor, suffering bankers. That law is the Human Rights Act.
If the banks had been brought properly into full state ownership, the public would have had the right to claim that access to credit is a human right, and that removal of credit is a breach of human rights. It would have been open to everyone whose house is threatened with repossession to claim that their human rights were being infringed.
This would have caused even more chaos in our banking system, incapable as it is of getting up in the morning without the sin of usury and the maintenance of Darwinian fictions of survival of the fittest to get it going, than even the bankers themselves had proved capable of inflicting. Accordingly, a Labour government avoided the consequences of its own law by pulling yet another legal fiction out of its hat; one which leaves those who are proclaimed to have rights out of pocket, and with no way of remedying that injustice, while leaving those who proclaim the benefits of capitalism reliant on them for every scrap of food in their bellies and every stitch of clothing on their backs.
It says much for the Labour Party's historic commitment to human rights that they sold out the Human Rights Act, at enormous financial cost, in order to ride to the rescue of the most financially destructive group of incompetents in our country's history. When you sell out your flagship policy in order to maintain the disgusting simulacrum of capitalism that the British banking system had become, you've paid your money and you've made your choice.


All Through The Night

BBC Scotland reports that,
"Scotland's new transport minister has said he plans to work round the clock to help prevent further travel chaos.

With forecasters predicting more heavy snowfall, Keith Brown will spend Wednesday night in Transport Scotland's control room in Glasgow."
This news immediately brought back to mind a story told of Stalin by Khruschev, and recounted (I think) by Sol Shulman in his book 'Kings Of The Kremlin'.
After Stalin died, Khruschev was asked whether the propaganda that Stalin worked all night was true. Snorting, Khruschev replied that it was true, but that it had never mentioned that he slept all day in order to do it.


Judges For Justice

Gratifying to see that Lord Gill has come out against retrospective double jeopardy.

Hopefully his brethren feel likewise.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Horror Of Perpetual War

As I look at my boy sleeping soundly in his cot, I fear for his future in a world such as ours, one in which war seems to have achieved an Orwellian degree of perpetuity.
It is not the role of mothers to stop this. It is instead the role of fathers. It is only fathers who can put a brake on their sons from imperilling themselves in wars which have nothing to do with them, or prevent them from grabbed into the clutches of a warstate which sees them as nothing more than either tools, resources or possible statistics.
In my opinion, the time has now come for all British men of goodwill to discourage enlistment in the British armed forces. This would not be an unpatriotic act, but an act of intense patriotism instead, rising as it would from the belief that elderly men of good character and standing, who have lived full lives in the service of their families and neighbours, are likely to have performed more useful service to the United Kingdom than any which could culminate by being killed in some Afghan hellhole at the age of twenty-three. That view may be unpalatable to some readers, but that's what I think.
We must stop this horrible, senseless, pointless, futile series-cum-cycle of wars in which we seem to be forever engaged. The concept of a nation state called 'Afghanistan' is one barely worth discussing, never mind worth fighting for. The interests of British business are most certainly not worth fighting for; indeed, more often than not they should be fought against with every fibre of one's being. Why does the British state encourage young British men to kill and be killed with such abandon? Is it more in thrall to Moloch than the Carthaginians and Phoenicians?


Monday, December 13, 2010

Cardinal O'Brien On Sudan

After his participation in a quest for a 'legally-binding international climate change agreement', reported on December 2nd, it has been gratifying to read of His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O' Brien's concerns about violence in The Sudan, reported on December 3rd.
Oddly enough, if you type 'Cardinal O'Brien' in to Google alongside the words 'Light Of The World', the title of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's book length interview with Peter Seewald during which he threw the whole question of Catholic teaching on the use of condoms into disarray, or perhaps not, depending on what day of the week it was, but certainly producing confusion and heartbreak in spades, you don't really get much.
Nor do you get much by Googling "cardinal o'brien""condoms". The evidence therefore seems to suggest that Cardinal O'Brien is quite satisfied with the explanations that the Vatican has provided, which have been that the Pope was merely clarifying a long standing, if extremely obscure and difficult, point of Catholic theological teaching, and feels that he has nothing to add on the subject. His position as Scotland's most senior Catholic clergyman notwithstanding, he may feel that in this instance he really does have nothing more to say to the Catholics of Scotland on the matter.
From now on I shall, of course, be blogging every instance I can find of Cardinal O' Brien making an announcement on any initiative, or expressing an opinion on any matter of policy, that does not relate to what I for one now find to be the Catholic Church's confused and confusing teaching on contraception. That which was previously simple to understand but difficult to practice has become both difficult to understand and difficult to practice. This fits no definition of justice I have ever encountered. Justice for the suffering in southern Sudan is very important, but so is clarity for those who may be suffering in Scotland.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Resignation Of Stewart Stevenson

Scottish history turned a corner on Saturday 11th December 2010, and Scotland was a better, healthier place at the end of that day than it had been at its start.
The resignation of Stewart Stevenson from the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government' could just be Scottish civic nationalism's 'Berlin Wall' moment, the point every ideology reaches when it is confronted by events for which it has no solution, and by which it is therefore overcome.
Perhaps state papers of the future will tell us whether or not The Tartanissimo decided that Stevenson should resign; after all, he might just be making every decision at the national level in Scottish public administration at the moment. As a hypothetical, when you're a personality cult that's behind in the polls and feeling the need to maintain the paramount illusion of The Leader's hypercompetence, it would be better to resign rather force The Leader to sack you. A sacking would call The Leader's judgment into question for having appointed you, and would also give cause for concern about their ability to impose their will on the party, and we couldn't be having that. After all, the dark side of having your own personality cult is that you condemn yourself to suffer the gnawing fear of palace coups.
But Stevenson is gone, The Tartanissimo's fat carcass remains ensconced in Bute House - for a while, anyway - and the Scottish political and media village can still keep peddling the myth of 'The Scottish Government' with those well-paid smirks on their faces, while those of us not part of that village can rot in the leper colonies around its edges.
For the moment.

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We Don't Need No Education

The memory of the torrential, almost berserker, rage that their song 'Another Brick In The Wall' provoked in my headmaster father still being remarkably vivid, I have never really been able to enjoy the music of Pink Floyd. On the other hand, I suppose appreciating the music of Pink Floyd, like appreciating the music of any rock band, is one of those activities, like shaving, or indeed blogging, indulgence in which will not make you a penny richer, nor, more importantly, add another moment to your lifespan, so trying to make the effort to do so is pretty pointless.
But it's good to see that some of the song's proceeds have been put to good use. You might not need no education, but we send our sons to Cambridge.


Friday, December 10, 2010


If what Wikileaks has published is correct, and The Tartanissimo indicated to American diplomats that he would make the decision to release Megrahi, then not only has everything that both he and The Copfighter General have said about the matter been a lie, it also provides the final proof of what I have supposed for many years - that the Scottish National Party is nothing but a vehicle for the personality cult of Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond, like so many of his countrymen the possessor of a big mouth, and without very much in the tank to back it up.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Why Bloggers Blog

The fury and the venom which some bloggers direct toward their targets is very often little more than common transference, the targets of their ire merely convenient substitutes for the sources of pain and disturbance in their own lives.
Bloggers sometimes bitch about about how powerless they are, but if they, we, are powerless then there has certainly never been a better time to be powerless in all of human history. There's a guy in Vanuatu who tunes into my own frustration at my powerlessness quite regularly.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Introduction Of Food Rationing In The United Kingdom

Earlier this evening, a friend of mine, like me both mobility impaired and with a very small child in the house, told me of an experience they had had during the course of the day, while out shopping for essentials in the west of Scotland's current wintry spell.
They had made their way, on foot, to the local 24 hour superstore operated by a household name supermarket chain. While there, they attempted to buy four loaves, two brown, two white. They were told by the checkout staff that they were only permitted to buy two loaves, in order to ensure that stock levels could be maintained for other customers while a delivery was awaited. They were advised that if they were unhappy with this, they should contact Customer Services.
This left my friend both bemused and confused. They had only attended the supermarket because their partner required to care for their aforementioned very small child. Their needs as a consumer, on the spot with money in their hand and a willingness to pay for goods, must, in an allegedly amoral market, surely over-ride any ersatz sense of 'corporate social responsibility', which in turn might merely be a mask to hide the supermarket's desire to sell customers other goods by reeling them in on a hook baited with the notion that they had bread in stock. Although it might have seemed selfish of them to seek to buy four loaves in one go, they have absolutely no idea when they'll be able to get out again. Indeed, for all that the supermarket knew, they might have been out buying for someone else.
The episode has left a very bad taste in their mouth, and I can fully understand why. There has been no announcement that the weather has been so severe that food rationing is being introduced; however no term other than food rationing is appropriate to describe the pantomime they found themself in earlier today. For most British city dwellers, supermarkets are the only places where they can not only buy food but which are also likely to be open at times when they can buy it. It is perfectly understandable that some people can be banned from entering them, if, for example, they are habitual shoplifters, or if they have stolen their long dead granny's loyalty card points, or whatever. However, my friend is a citizen in good standing, whose only crime has been spending what to them has been a great deal of money in that shop for some years. They do not expect to be told that they cannot buy something as mundane as two loaves of bread when they turn up at the checkout with them and have the funds to pay for them.
For supermarkets, for any shop owner, to be able to dictate on a whim that shoppers shall not be able to purchase goods which are in stock, and which they can pay for, will no doubt be claimed by the libertarians as a fundamental right of the Kommerzkaste more important than staying in business itself. Yet if a private entity can take to itself the right to ration bread today, what will it seek to ration tomorrow?
The private sector in Britain is too powerful. It needs to reform itself, before people decide to reform it.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Hassling Of John Pilger

Given his lack of such bourgeois appurtenances as a fixed abode, the remission to custody of Julian Assange, founder of Wilileaks - sorry, Wikileaks, finger slipped there - shouldn't really be considered too surprising. However, it was still very irritating to see John Pilger, one of his most prominent supporters, seem to be hassled, as in asked to come back inside a police station to be hectored by three fat plod muppets, live on Sky News.
Don't they know who John Pilger is? Were they trying to get him to do something worth arresting him for, and all on live TV?


Monday, December 06, 2010

The British Way Of Working

And so it has happened again, only, oh, a week after the last time. Snow has fallen, a not unusual event at this time of year, and the country is paralysed.
It would be funny if, firstly, it were not so desperately sad, secondly, it were not so annoying, and, thirdly, if I were not so bloody cold, having managed to get home a full 90 minutes later than usual, and that thanks only to the good grace of a colleague; minus, of course, the ferrule from my mobility aid. I went out to work with a walking stick, and came back with an aluminium tube. I suppose it's not as devastating as being stuck on a motorway for 12 hours, but it's irritating nonetheless.
The reason this narcoleptic paralysis happens year in, year out, in those years when snow falls is because of what can only be described as the fundamentally defective British attitudes towards work and working. British businesses still seem to be in the grip of the admirably early 19th Century notion that if you receive money for doing work, someone has to see you doing it. This should have been a notion that went the way of the dodo round about 1996, when it was realised that you can hook folk up to this thing called 'The Internet' and let them work from home.
But no, that is not our lot. What must be the best part of two years ago, I wrote about how the practice of dragging yourself into your work when you're sick is oddly out of sync with modern attitudes to health and safety, given that exposing other people to the risk of infection, in air-conditioned and centrally heated buildings, is neither healthy nor safe. The word 'presenteeism' is sometimes used to describe this reckless disregard for others' wellbeing in pursuit of your gratification of that part of your ego which takes pride in your work. I could think of many other terms for it.
Yet to feel the need to be seen, and to make others feel that they should be seen, when they could quite easily and comfortably be just as productive while sitting in their pyjamas with a cocoa in their hand and Facebook on another browser, is another facet of the same phenomenon. People will do the daftest things in order to be seen attending their work. They will spend hours on cattle trains, the air inside which must be rank with sweat, fart and bad breath, using what are laughably called 'services', which in turn cannot be run successfully unless the operators receive huge subsidies. The ultimate purpose of these donations from the taxpayer to private businesses is to prove that the private sector is more efficient than the public. This makes no sense. People will attempt to control rear wheel drive cars in blizzard conditions. Why even attempt this? It's madness.
The relentless casualisation of the British labour market, a process known by the anodyne pablum 'flexibility', is another factor, of course. The hard faced old Tory grey wolves crow over this achievement, saying that it has helped reduce unemployment, and that might be true; the number of people I know who work two jobs when before casualisation they would only have needed one is quite incredible, when I think about it. From the standpoint of the Thatcherites, Thatcherism's greatest achievement must surely be considered to be making an entire nation feel that it was in line for the sack. The bosses were the bosses again, and all was well with the world; like I said, an admirably early 19th Century notion.
Neoliberal notions of 'freedom' should always be understood as meaning the freedom of their pet economists' constituencies to behave as they like, without regard for decency and morality. Their freedom is vastly more important to them than yours, and, after all, there's plenty more where you came from. Unfortunately, there have been reports of casualties already this evening; I hope there aren't any more. Photographs of handsome young men blown to pieces in an unnecessary and endless war to teach democratic ideals to a nation culturally disinclined to democracy make excellent poster boys for the idea of 'dying for our freedom', as that idea is currently understood by dingbat think tankers, weirdo journalists and intellectually uncurious politicians. God forbid it from happening, but if anyone freezes to death in their cars trying to get to or from work tonight I hope they're accorded the same dignity and respect, because they'll have died for somebody's freedom, and it won't be their own.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Short Thought On The Career Of PJ O' Rourke

PJ has a new book out, entitled, I kid you not, 'Don't Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards'.
I had intended to write this post as his obituary, should he clock off before me. However, the dictates of good taste, such as the need to adhere to the principle 'de mortuis nil nisi bonum', and also the realisation that he might just not clock off before me make the present a good as time as any to say what I think should be said about the American right's Court Jester.
In his 'Letters to Malcolm', CS Lewis noted that Thomas Cranmer might not have been the world's greatest theologian, but that he was a wonderful prose stylist. While I don't think anyone would ever accuse PJ O' Rourke of possessing one of the great political brains of our times, that he is a wonderful prose stylist is beyond doubt. Yet in 'How The Reformation Happened', Hilaire Belloc took that line of thinking one step further, and suggested that what really animated Cranmer wasn't the theology at all, it was the opportunities to create prose that theology provided him with that got him fired up.
Is PJ more animated by the thought of being able to create wonderful prose about politics than by politics itself? Although my own mind is sort of made up on that question, I will leave it as an open one for readers.
I hope his book sells well, and is better than the last of his efforts I read, his absolutely dreadful book on 'The Wealth of Nations'. I would be minded to throw my copy out, but, weirdly, it does have some sentimental value (I was reading it the day I got married). The only item of value in it, in my opinion, was PJ's inclusions of a whole two pages of material suggesting that Adam Smith had a raving case of Tourette Syndrome; a suitably O' Rourkeian outcome for an exercise in unjustified hagiography.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Gentle Sigh Of Relief (For The Moment)

The sweetest words I've read in a long time must be 'Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill rejected'.
Te Deum Laudamus!
This is the most positive move that the Scottish Parliament has ever made, denying MacDonald the right to increase the chances of the sick and weak being exposed to the risk of medical murder in order, in my opinion, to spare her husband, a totem cum sachem of Scottish civic nationalism, the indignity of being tried for her murder. While one must try to be charitable towards her, and charity is a quality I'm afraid I often lack, as a disabled person, one who would almost certainly have been put at risk by her law at some point, it is difficult to see her effort as having been one founded in anything other than almost monstrous conceit. I am sorry for her personally, whatever I might have written before now - in mitigation, it was written probably out of fear and a powerful sense of helplessness, itself a commentary on the Scottish Parliament's perceived competence - but I am glad she has lost, and I will always be glad if she always loses every round of this battle.
She's been reported as saying that if she's re-elected, she'll be back for another go. As those who love life, we should do everything we can to oppose her. This law obviously means so much to her that she's going to run again for Parliament in her '70's, while suffering from Parkinson's. Her commitment to this law is obviously deep. Our commitment to opposing her should be equally deep.

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