Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Failure Of The British Coalition Government's Economic Policy

The news that the economy has either shrunk or is shrinking should come as no surprise to the casual student of British economic history, and I am as casual a student of that discipline as they come.
The feral, backward, primitive economic ideology now held by the British Conservative Party declared that if public services were slashed, the private sector would immediately jumpstart itself in a blue fit of spontaneous order, the beer would be warm again, the lion would lie down with the lamb and the leopard with the kid, and, pretty soon thereafter, while there might not be a chicken in every pot we'd certainly be off the chicken nuggets.
Problem is, it hasn't happened; for the simple bloody reason that it has never happened. Anywhere.
I can think of two previous examples of this policy's failure right off the top of my head. The first was recounted by Professor Eric Richards in his wonderful book 'Patrick Sellar And The Highland Clearances'. The Sutherlands and the agents did a wonderful job of getting the people out of the glens and down to the coast, but Sellar's obsessive faith in 'The Wealth of Nations' led him to believe that the relocated would gain prosperity merely by dividing their labour. It didn't happen, because it can't happen.
The second instance is more much more recent, yet no less tragic. In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the shower of ideologically brainwashed wallies who were running Iraq policy at the State Department seemed to have much the same very limited understanding of what you have to do to grow an economy as early 19th Century Anglo-Scottish aristocrats and their agents. As drunk as power as many of them were, I do not do them the discourtesy of thinking they were out to pillage the country. They weren't bright enough for that. Instead, they decided to let the market work its magic. Nearly eight years later, the Iraqis are still suffering suicide bombings, and everyone is petrified of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Moqtada al-Sadr.
In ancient times, and in recent times, the policy of 'let's allow the market to do its thing' hasn't worked. There may be a time and a place where it can work, but it hasn't worked then, and it's not working now. We all face what to me is the terrifying prospect of the effect of interest rate rises on low and stagnant private sector incomes, particularly when the cause of inflation is some juju called 'globalisation', and its impact on commodity prices (we now know that the soundtrack to the end of our civilisation will not be Patrick Allen announcing the four minute warning, but it still might be the voice of a goombah economist, raving in the ruins that globalisation makes us all richer). Globalisation and our coalition government share one overwhelmingly important characteristic. Nobody has ever voted for either of them to come into existence. While I await the advent of all those new energy sources that the economists declare will suddenly come into being as soon it becomes economically viable for them to be developed, I sometimes ponder which is the more fruitless pastime; standing on top of a hillock waiting for the end of the world, or believing that economics is not a zero sum game. Both require more faith in the belief than I can muster.
And all the while wage restraint has been so restrained it might as well have been bound, gagged and drugged.
So let's see how it all turns out. What we can guess is that it's very probably going to turn out badly. How badly should not be guessed. We should all pray that it doesn't. If it should come to it, I, for one, will go down singing 'Nearer My God To Thee'. Somehow, it seems appropriate for the occasion.

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Sheridan And Murdoch

While Tommy Sheridan's three year sentence for perjury might very well make one wonder whether the man could win the National Lottery every week if he put his mind to it, it is gratifying to see the BBC report the announcement of his intention to "launch a legal action in relation to the phone hacking controversy surrounding the News of the World".
One could hardly imagine Keith Rupert Murdoch ever availing himself of the services of Victim Support, yet he would have been among the victims of Sheridan's crime. It is deliciously ironic that on the very day that Pollok Pot The Tartan Trot was sent down for trying to pick Keith's pocket, Keith and his minions should be sweating at the prospect of a further, and hopefully thorough, police enquiry into their own activities, as well as facing legal action at the instance of a proven perjurer.
The mental image all of this generates is of Sheridan swirling down a plughole; but just as he is to be forever lost to the plumbing, he reaches up with one hand and pulls Keith down with him, and they swirl away together. They deserve each other.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

A Short Thought On Tony Blair Making A Complaint To The Police

Would he satisfy the good character test that the meanest pauper must pass in order to receive criminal injuries compensation? Your guess is as good as mine.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Tell you what, they can't pin this one on trade unions and excessive, above inflationary pay demands.
Maybe we should have a few of those. Stir up the dust a bit, make our presence felt. Put all those self-satisfied bastards, all of them primitives and barbarians mired in the barbarism of the early 19th Century, on the back foot for a change. Want to make economies in public spending? No junkets to Davos by any member of the British government in any capacity. We are a poor, indebted nation, or so we're told, so it's only appropriate for its leaders to behave accordingly.
For some reason, the guiding principle of British politics is that the poor and weak must always be considerate towards the rich and strong. At the moment, I am not particularly well disposed to the needs of anyone who earns more than I do, which isn't much, and, if I had my way, would contribute to a punitive tax system which would so hound and harry tax-avoiding bastards that they would feel the personal loss of every penny they have cheated the rest of us out of as if it were flesh being ripped from their backs by the cat.
We could be doing with a bit of that in this country, instead of government after government of government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Judgement Of Gail Sheridan

Unless I'm greatly mistaken, the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection)(Scotland) Act 1981 applies to the type of transfer of property 'in consideration of love, favour and affection' between spouses effected by the convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan in favour of his wife Gail immediately prior to his perjured action for defamation against News International (the words 'love, favour and affection' render the relevant disposition Stamp Duty exempt). The operation of the 1981 Act means that the consent of both spouses is required before the transfer can proceed.
Gail Sheridan is now standing as a candidate for the Scottish Parliament. If she consented to a course of action presumably intended to frustrate her husband's potential creditors, in this case News International, should he lose the action, then one is entitled not only to question her initial confidence in her husband's chances of success. One can also question her judgement in being party to a transaction designed to defend the family home against people her husband was suing on the basis that they were lying and he was telling the truth. After all, if you're telling the truth, who needs to use Scottish conveyancing's weaselly formulae to protect themself from liars?

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Undercover Cops

The collapse of a trial involving PC Mark Kennedy makes one wonder how many other undercover policemen there might be floating about, and what challenges they might face in their given situations.
For example, if the Metropolitan Police had grave suspicions about illegal drug-taking at the highest levels of government, one would imagine it would be extremely difficult for them to get an undercover cop into the Cabinet Office.


The More Things Change, Etc, Part I

"The calico printers' case evinced much righteous indignation. The leading coton manufacturer, Sir Robert Peel sen., rose from a sickbed to make his only contribution of the parliamentary session deprecating the pretensions of journeymen attempting 'to give the law to the masters'. He even affected to believe that master manufacturers were considering emigration 'to some country where their property would be better protected, and their trade be nore free from restriction" -
Eric J. Evans, 'The Forging Of The Modern State', p. 47.
The year was, ahem, 1807. Sir Robert Peel sen. did not emigrate, of course, and that the fact that he did not is a good one to throw in the face of any banker or bankers' apologist who threatens that the bankers will take their ball and go home if they don't get the laws they want.


The More Things Change, Etc, Part II

"It is upwards of 30 years since I first went to work at the tailoring trade in London...I belonged to the Society held at the Old White Hart. I continued working for the honourable trade and belonging to the Society for about 15 years. My weekly earnings then averaged £1 16s. a week while I was at work, and for several years I was seldom out of work... no one could have been happier than I was...I had my silver watch and chain...But then, with my sight defective...I could get no employment at the honourable trade, and so I had to take a seat at a shop in one of the cheap houses, in the city, and that was the ruin of me entirely; for working there, of course, I got 'scratched' from the trade society, and so lost all hope of being provided for by them in my helplessness. The workshop...was about seven foot square, and so low, that as you sot (sic) on the floor you could touch the ceiling with the tip of your finger. In this place seven of us worked. (The master) paid little more than half the regular wages, and employed such men as myself - only those who couldn't get anything better to do...I don't think my wages there averaged above 12s. a week...I am convinced I lost my eyesight my working in that cheap shop...It is by the ruin of such men as me that these masters are enabled to undersell the better shops...That's the way, sir, the cheap clothes is produced, by making blind beggars of the workmen, like myself, and throwing us on the parish on our old age" -
An old, blind pauper of a tailor, interviewed by Henry Mayhew and quoted in 'The Forging of The Modern State', p. 134.
I almost envy the bloodlessness of those economists who claim that the poverty of the Third World forms part of its residents' 'comparative advantage', enabling them to attract low wage industries like clothes manufacturing as it does.
Oh, the libertarians will argue until they're blue in the face about the role played by his guild in this man's impoverishment, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, two thoughts about it jump right to the front of the mind.
The first is that what was once tolerated in the United Kingdom as being a routine part of the process of financial enrichment, but is now considered intolerable here, is not only tolerated but actively encouraged by us day in, day out, if we don't ask who makes the clothes we wear, and demand employment protections for them.
The second is that anyone who wishes to restrict the scope of the welfare state must be asked, and hopefully made to deny, that they do not wish to see the return of the type of conditions mentioned above. My own belief is that many of them do.


The Attack On Sam Poling

Reading this report, it is very hard to exercise the spirit of Christian charity and not feel that anyone who attacks an investigative journalist, and a female one at that, and whose pal then attempts to attack her colleagues with a pole for the ultimate crime of trying to inform the public, is not a human being, but a wild animal that should be in a cage.
The west of Scotland is full of such characters, their small brain cavities full of thoughts of their bellies, their groins and their pockets, and nothing more. Like so many of us, they hold the concepts of honesty and respectability in contempt. It is our standing disgrace that we have not ourselves stood up to those amongst us who flaunt the laws on drug dealing, counterfeiting, false trading, or any number of other crimes against property. They have their elite apologists, of course, such as those who call for the legalisation of drugs. They are also abetted by the particularly west of Scotland bad attitude that actively prefers to buy the poor quality, pirated copy of a movie rather than wait for the genuine DVD to come out, or that prefers to see its wives' and hoors' fat arses shrouded in fake, crappy, knock-off jeans that might be utterly worthless, but which have still got a brand name on them, albeit one the wearer is not entitled to on account of their crimes against intellectual property. Sillitoe killed the razor gangs in this town, and maybe now we need another Sillitoe to get rid of those who attack responsible, and in Ms Poling's case very competent, journalists doing their jobs by holding them to account for their crimes against value.
I'm all for free speech, and all that, but perhaps it's also time to make calling for the legalisation of drugs a criminal offence. If the Misuse of Drugs Acts encourage the trade in narcotics, so too does debate upon them. Have a think about that. Can't fault the logic myself.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

David Cameron On Strikes

One could almost imagine those words emanating from the mouth of Wojciech Jaruzelski. He was wrong, and so is Cameron. So patronising, so rooted in own his lifelong freedom from the need to sell his own labour, are Cameron's comments that they are almost an incitement to strike.
If anyone going on strike achieves nothing other than making David Cameron's life a little bit more difficult for a while, that outcome alone would be worth the effort. He's just another Tory clown, just another sharp-suited wild animal.
Hmm, his daughter was premature. I wonder if she got the flu jab. None of our business, of course, but it would be nice to know.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

'The Incredible Hulk'

My apologies for taking a sabbatical from my sabbatical, but I'm angry; and as those who know me know all too well, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
Like so many men in my now over-40 age group (aarrggh!!), I grew up with Marvel comics. Not Marvel movies, a thoroughly different beast, but Marvel comics, those wonderful effusions from the mind of Stan Lee, the 20th Century's most under-rated writer of serious fiction. Why Lee has never been considered as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature is beyond me. All of his stories are built upon the twin bulwarks of plot and character, indeed are nothing but plot and character, and they're still selling after 60 years. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created three great serial characters, Sherlock Holmes, Brigadier Gerard, and Professor Challenger. Stan Lee has created The X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, The Silver Surfer, et al, et al, et cetera, et cetera. What higher credentials does the Nobel committee need?
Oh, but the guy writes books that have pictures in them! If that were the sole criterion of his output's merit, it would also rule another serial writer, a bloke called, er, Charles Dickens, out of the running. See how silly intellectual snobbery can be?
Yet sometime about the year 2000, something happened to Marvel. I'm not suggesting it was Lee's fault. Marvel without Stan Lee is unthinkable. However, at some point, probably about the time that Hollywood's imagination began to run out, finally petering into the dust with the casting of Jack Black as Lemuel Gulliver, the suits turned to Things They Knew And Things They Knew Would Sell -and what would sell better, and be more likely to get both fathers and sons chomping at the bit to go to the movies, than movies based on Marvel comics superheroes?
These must have been fabulously easy movies to sell to the suits - after all, the suits knew the characters and the stories! We are not talking Balzac or Turgenev here. We're talking serious literature, for sure, but we're also talking The X-Men.
And so the Marvel movies have rolled on for a decade now. At this point, I must claim a preference.
For what should be rather obvious reasons, The Hulk is my favourite Marvel character. Bruce Banner struggles with something within himself that he didn't ask for, and, more importantly, can't control. Despite its grossly undeserved bad press (and if it were so bad, why would ITV2 show it so frequently?), Ang Lee's 2003 movie 'Hulk' has easily been the best of the Marvel adaptations.
While many big-budget action directors might hold the conceit that they would like to direct small, intimate stories, Ang, a hugely accomplished director of small, intimate stories, was clearly bursting to do a successful big-budget action movie, and with 'Hulk' he achieved this ambition with bells ringing and whistles blowing. However, in doing so he made one critical mistake.
Whistler once sued Ruskin for suggesting that, with one of his paintings, he had thrown a pot of paint in the public's face. With 'Hulk', Ang Lee threw art in the public's face, overestimating its intelligence and taste, and the movie going public, forever prey to word of mouth, turned round and spat art out. They preferred to listen to deadhead critics and guys who squash beer cans on their foreheads rather than look at, or listen to, the damn movie.
Everything about that movie was perfect. The casting, in particular of that marvellous everyman Eric Bana as Banner and of Nick Nolte as The Old Crazy, was perfect, the script was perfect, the colours were perfect, even the acting of Sam Elliott's best supporting eyebrows was perfect; but it still didn't wash with the public. If the experience of 'Hulk' put Ang Lee off the idea of doing another big-budget action movie, that would be an enormous pity; because I think that deep down, and like me, Ang likes The Hulk, and perhaps would prefer to make Hulk movies rather than love stories about gay cowboys.
However, if Ang Lee's mistake was to treat The Tragedy Of Bruce Banner with a measure of intelligence and finesse, the suits' mistake was to try to do their own remake in their own image and likeness.
At 17.00 hours on 2nd January 2011, the ITV network broadcast the premiere of 'The Incredible Hulk'. In my opinion, this was a disgraceful act.
We can cavil about the movie as much as we like, so we shall. Casting Edward Norton in the role of Bruce Banner was, with all due respect to that gentleman, as about as artistically credible as casting Stan Laurel in the role of Clark Kent (OK, so I know he's DC Comics, yadda, yadda, yadda). Let us merely say that it was an act of miscasting not dissimilar to putting John Wayne into the part of Genghis Khan in 'The Conqueror'. In my opinion, the mere act of casting Norton as Banner is only marginally more daft than expecting him to provide a credible male lead in a movie whose romantic interest is played by Liv Tyler. One has to wonder whether the suits were doing the casting by either Ecstasy or tombola.
Oh, there were plenty of opportunities for cameos by Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno, with the big guy even getting a few lines of dialogue this time. In a gesture of respect for the dead which the producers of 'The Incredible Hulk' didn't seem to see fit to emulate, unless I'm greatly mistaken Ang Lee didn't really feel it necessary to include a clip of the late Bill Bixby in his movie; but in this trashy remake, Mr. Bixby's image was on screen within the first 10 minutes. His appearance was as out-of-context as the casting of Edward Norton, a strange comment to make about the performance of an actor who's been dead for nearly 20 years.
What really marks 'The Incredible Hulk' as being a vastly lower calibre work from 'Hulk', and which made the fact of its broadcast, not merely at the time it was shown but for it to be shown at all, is the appalling level of the violence it depicted.
That might seem to be a strange observation to make about a movie based upon a character whose raison d'etre is to get angry and smash things up. For sure, Ang Lee's Hulk destroys assorted pieces of vastly expensive military hardware, obliterates millions-of-years-old rock formations, and cuts a dashing swathe through the San Francisco traffic; but it is always comic like. It's a Hulk movie, and that's what you expect The Hulk to do. You never have to avert your eyes while you're watching it, because you know it's not real.
The final sections of 'The Incredible Hulk' depict The Hulk going at it hammer and tongs with another Hulklike character in New York City. Ang Lee's Hulk almost always does his thing in daylight, his green skin offset by other bright, vivid colours around him. The remake's final sequence depicts urban carnage perpetrated in the dark. You cannot see The Hulk. It was terrifying, not a comic book movie but a horror movie. That it's a load of badly made, badly written crap, a pot of CGI-generated paint thrown into the public's face, notwithstanding, it was far, far too violent for pre-watershed viewing. The Hulk is a character from comic books written for children. The Hulk should not scare children. Movies in which The Hulk appears should not scare children. I watched Ang Lee's movie, and wasn't scared. I was petrified by this, and not in a wholesome way. God only knows what effect this movie had on children watching it, because at the age of 40 it was like seeing the execution scene at the start of 'The Dirty Dozen', or the guillotining scene in 'Papillon', as a child all over again. On the other hand, the nippers might all be desensitised mini serial killers by now, their minds overloaded with 'Medal of Honor' and 'Assassin's Creed', but somehow I doubt it. I can't believe that, refuse to believe that, and won't accept any attempt to treat them as if they are, which is more than I can say for anyone involved in the making of 'The Incredible Hulk'.
If this is what movies are like now, thank God I don't go any more, and if this is what comic book movies are like, thank God I stopped reading comics years ago. And if this is what the ITV network needs to show to keep its ratings up, I guess they need Simon Cowell even more than they might imagine.