Monday, July 09, 2012

Grey Violence

Is there something going on amongst some over 50's in this country? Are British people now in old age and late middle age more violent than their parents were at the same age? Are these one-offs, or are older people being convicted of violent crime more frequently than they used to be?


Judicial History Could Be Repeating Itself

One of the reasons why so many criminal cases in Scotland are being abandoned could be that too many behaviours have been declared to be crimes.

If prosecutors are believing further action to be 'disproportionate', that is very suggestive of the situation which G. M. Trevelyan recorded in his 'English Social History' as having applied in England and Wales in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Punishments were then so absurdly heavy that juries were unwilling to convict even the obviously guilty if they thought the punishment disproportionate to the crime. It might now be the case that the criminalisation of some behaviours is now recognised to have been so absurd that they are just not being prosecuted at all.

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The Liberal Democrat Fetish For Reform Of The House Of Lords

In his essay on Napoleon, Emerson described not only his great strengths but also indicated that he possessed the deepest flaws of the petit bourgeoisie, specifically their pushiness, mean-spiritedness and unwillingness to share credit. 

Every single demerit of Napoleon's that Emerson listed is being displayed by the Liberal Democrats in their wholly unnecessary fixation with House of Lords reform. Two hundred years after he died, Napoleon still isn't dead.

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Show Me The Monkey!

I do not believe that human beings evolved. I believe that human beings were created by God. Throughout all the centuries for which it has been subjected to examination, the fossil record has produced absolutely no hard evidence to support the presumed theory of human evolution.

Show Me The Monkey!

That may be because none has yet been found. On the other hand, it might be because the evidence isn't there, because human beings didn't evolve. 

Show Me The Monkey!

That  I believe that human beings have been created by God does not make it impossible for me to believe that every other living thing on the face of the Earth might have evolved from something else - I just don't believe we have, and I will continue to hold that belief until hard evidence to the contrary is produced. 

Show Me The Monkey!

Believers in human evolution are so committed to that theory that they actually cannot countenance the existence of any other possibility. Last year, I was fascinated to see the goodly Professor Simon Schama produce precisely the same argument in his book 'Scribble, Scribble, Scribble' that H. G. Wells had used in his 'A Short History Of The World', written over 80 years earlier - that the evidence in support of evolution was such that its existence could not but be considered to be a fact by all reasonable people. That is not an argument based on science, but on faith; albeit faith in the findings of science. No hard evidence which conclusively proves that human evolution is a fact has ever been produced. Until it is, it is absolutely and completely reasonable for me to believe that human beings have been created by God and still remain on the right side of reason. 

Show Me The Monkey! Show Me The Monkey!



Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Broad Range Of Skills

The board consists of three politicians, two solicitors, two businesswomen (one of the politicians qualified as a solicitor while the other solicitor is also listed as a businesswoman, so I have had to count them both twice, hopefully not a predictor of the counting practices envisaged for the referendum), a property developer, a restaurateur, an actress and a pop singer turned writer. 

The group has been described as possessing 'a rich diversity of knowledge, experience and skills'. 


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The Regionalisation Of The BBC

As a now regular if protesting viewer of breakfast television - 'The Koala Brothers' is infinitely superior to 'Baby Jake', and it is a damn disgrace that Frank and Buster were shunted from the 07.00 slot on CBeebies to a slot later on in the day on BBC2 when I can't watch them - the voice that the BBC seems to think will mark it out from the crowd now unvariably bears a Manchester accent. Nothing against Manchester accents, you understand, but the ear still hasn't quite adjusted to the frequency yet. Give it time.

Unless I'm greatly mistaken, the regionalisation of the BBC which has resulted in the breakfast show now being broadcast from Salford was foisted upon it by the last government as part of the charter renewal. The difficulties this has caused have regularly been criticised in 'Private Eye', which might be one reason why BBC Sport's cameras made a point of picking out Ian Hislop, the old satirist and scourge of the Establishment, in his Centre Court seat as he watched the men's tennis final at Wimbledon this afternoon. However, minds of a more paranoid bent than mine might think that given that the last two governments seem to have been extremely close to those who control the BBC's only real broadcast competitor, it is odd that they should be responsible for causing the BBC inconvenience and expense when a consequence of such inconvenience and expense might just be to make that competitor look a little better. 

Funny how the mind works. 

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Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Road Ahead For The Orange Order

Several months ago, a thought occurred to me which lack of Internet access prevented me from sharing, but which might be worthy of consideration. 

The fact that police services have felt it necessary to issue warnings against 'sectarian and anti-social behaviour' at the Orange Order's parades does indicate that these events have been the scenes of such behaviours in the past. This presence of a perfectly legal yet controversial and perhaps divisive type of event in our midst has, in my opinion, a direct comparator in the public life of Spain; the pastime of bullfighting. 

As John Hooper notes in his book 'The New Spaniards', already referred to here, bullfighting remains both very controversial but widely popular. The Spanish have resolved the tensions caused by bullfighting's tendency to polarise their society by treating bullfights not as sport but as culture. Newspaper reports of bullfights are treated as cultural criticism, like movie or theatre reviews, and not as sports journalism.

The little I know of the mindsets of members of the Orange Order has been gained from listening to what they have to say, and they seem to be of one mind in viewing their parades as expressions of their culture. I'm sure Mr. Dunbar, the Order's Grand Master, speaks for all its members when he deplores the hooliganism sometimes exhibited not by marchers but hangers-on. The treatment of parades as bona fide cultural events would not only be showing a proper respect for the attachment felt by the Order's members to its principles as an expression of their culture - in a multicultural society their culture is as valid as any other, and it must not be marginalised for no reason other than it is misunderstood, often wilfully - but might also blunt some of the edge felt by those hangers-on who might feel themselves inclined to hooliganism. When they realise that they are actively detracting from Orange culture by behaving in ways which the Order deplores, they might just melt away, leaving the public in peace to see it express its culture, which is also part of their culture, as it sees fit.


Friday, July 06, 2012

On The End Of The Old Firm, And Other Thoughts

Even if Unrangers, the entity that was yesterday denied admission to the Scottish Premier League, is admitted to the Scottish Football League and makes its way back up to the top, no future match between it and Celtic could be described as an 'Old Firm' game. The entity that is seeking admission to the SFL is not the old Rangers; in fact and in law it is a different entity, best described as Unrangers, in my opinion a zombie entity created in an act of corporate resurrectionism, and a new name will have to be found for those sordid encounters. A plague on both their houses

For the next few years, it will be a relief not to have to remind my Irish wife, at least four times a year, to be careful what she says in public lest a passer-by takes objection to her accent. While the fear might have been irrational, it was a very real one nonetheless.

If fixtures are ever played between Celtic and Unrangers, there will, no doubt, be an avalanche of specious comment to the effect that the Old Firm is back. But it will not be back, for Unrangers is not Rangers but Unrangers; and while those matches might be exciting spectacles of football, as Old Firm games they will always  bear a closer resemblance to the re-enactments of glorious but nonetheless old victories that the ancient Romans enjoyed in the Colosseum than to the victories themselves. They will be like Old Firm games but they will not be Old Firm games; and that is good enough for me.

The pressure which is being placed on the SFL to allow Unrangers to enter at some level or another, either actively by the media by constantly reminding them of the wider consequences for football if they fail to do so or passively by the football authorities in having washed their hands of responsibility for the decision with an insouciance that Pilate could not muster, seems to be disgraceful. This is not fair to those to whom this decision has been left. The old Rangers, guilty of serial delinquency against both the laws and spirit of the game, was not a member of the SFL; yet its members are left to decide whether or not its putative successor Unrangers should form part of Scottish football, leaving them at the mercy of the more vocal, shall we say, elements of the old Rangers support, a group whose kid-gloved handling by the Scottish media and the Scottish football authorities could not unreasonably lead even a neutral observer to believe that they have apparently been one of the most influential and important constituencies in Scottish public life. Now that Rangers doesn't exist any more, some of them might spit the dummy in their ensuing handbags at dawn encounter with reality, as a certain type of Scottish football writer might describe the existential crisis that the death of Rangers and rise of Unrangers will inevitably provoke for some. One can only feel a measure of pity for those thus affliected, and ask 'Where's your Dunkirk spirit?'

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Phase Of Scottish History Is Over

And so the phase of Scottish history in which a football club named 'Rangers' had played continuously in the top division of the Scottish football leagues since their inception is over, gone to join Bonapartism and the Hanseatic League in the list of phases of history that have passed, never to return. 

Oh, some entity named 'Rangers' might return there at some point; but it will not be the same Rangers whose name deserves to be a byeword in this place for arrogance, an overweening sense of entitlement, financial sharp practice up to and including withholding taxes clearly and lawfully due as a negotiating tactic in your dispute with the tax authorities, a lack of sporting spirit, and a lack of sporting behaviour that latterly may even have degenerated into fraud upon the European footballing authorities, for centuries to come. The Roman Empire's day came and went; so also has that of Rangers as a top-flight football club in Scotland. The Holy Alliance's day came and went; so also has that of Rangers as a top-flight football club in Scotland. The Warsaw Pact's day came and went; so also has that of Rangers as a top-flight football club in Scotland, although the process by which that outcome has been reached seems to have been far more protracted than either the fall of East Germany or the Velvet Revolution. Then again, Vaclav Havel wasn't dealing with anything so profound or important as the corporate insolvency of a financial basket case of the type that the old Rangers had become; in a perfect example of what I once called 'the cannibalistic entropy of Anglo-Saxon capitalism', the club seems to have been eaten from within in the pursuit of every last ounce of gain that could be wrung from it. They didn't even pay their newsagent.

And this also means that the gibberish lyrics of the foul 'Famine Song' (very strong language alert; my apologies if, like me, you feel soiled after reading it) will not, or at least should not, be heard in the grounds of Scottish top-flight football clubs for several years to come; and that can only be A Good and Wholesome Thing.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

A Fair Trial For Julian Assange in Sweden

The plight of Julian Massage, founder of Leakiwiks, sorry, Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks should really be treated quite seriously. The chap is obviously very fearful of being subjected to some sort of concocted extradition to the United States, an event which would most certainly not be in his long-term interests, as evidenced by the likely length of the term to which he would be sentenced. 

History might perhaps take some issue with his Swedish lawyer Per Samuelson's analysis of some aspects of the case history. Regardless of what one might think of the fairness of the European Arrest Warrant system, or indeed of its very legitimacy, Sweden was entitled to seek an EAW in respect of Assange; he was wanted in Sweden and wasn't there. The perpetual issue of the vagrant lifestyle that Assange adopted in his apparent quest to become cyberspace's Vagabond King, with, in my opinion, Jemima Khan and John Pilger eventually and perhaps a little foolishly letting their enthusiasm for his cause allow them to be cast as his Maid Marian and Blondel, presented issues with the granting of bail in the UK, and might do the same in Sweden. That extradited suspects be required to wear handcuffs in rarely unusual in most jurisdictions, and in my view shouldn't really be presented as evidence of systemic anti-Assange bias in the Swedish legal system. If, as Samuelson points out, he has not been charged with any crime, a state of affairs which might in no small measure be a result of him not having been in the country in order to be charged, why should he be concerned about preparing his defence? 

As for the conditions in which he might be held on remand, a lack of telephones, broadband and wi-fi is usually a feature of most prisons, and one of the reasons they're prisons. Given his actions since his matters in Sweden came to light, it is difficult to see how the Swedish legal system could treat Mr. Assange as being anything other than a flight risk; given his current location, the story makes 'Three Days Of The Condor' look like a lame duck. 

Mr. Samuelson might perhaps be better advised to recognise and play up the fact that his client still does retain a measure of goodwill among certain sections of the British public  - OK, so perhaps it's only me - but that the root of that sympathy lies in his treatment at the hands of British law, not Swedish. Australia, his own country, doesn't seem to wish to know him. It has been made clear that his current location does not afford him any measure of sanctuary against the enforcement of British law, and that if his application for asylum is successful he may require to be granted Ecuadorean citizenship and appointed to an Ecuadorean diplomatic post in order to enable him to leave the building. The very fact that he is still there suggests either that the Ecuadoreans consider him to be one hell of a headache they'd rather not have or that they are in fact considering his request for asylum seriously. Considering something seriously is not, of course, the same thing as seriously considering it, but if that is the case then it shows that the Ecuadoreans might consider his plea to be not without some merit. That is what both he and his advisers should be focussing on, not saying he won't get a fair trial in one of the fairest societies on the planet. 

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

A Slow News Day In Scotland

You can tell that your contry is in terminal decline, going nowhere and doing nothing, with nothing of any actual importance and consequence happening in it and that it is just breezily coasting downhill into Gibbonian oblivion, when the main item on the news is the roll-out of an aneurysm screening programme.

I first heard of aortic aneurysms through the works of a Scottish doctor named Arthur Conan Doyle, as a result of which I will hopefully never need to be reminded of their existence again. When they are the head item on the news, there can't really be much else happening at all.


Marx And Machines

As his first commentor may have been trying to point out, the always readable Owen Hatherley's piece today on mechanisation's failure to reduce our working hours was anticipated by Marx, in 'Capital'. Marx may have been a totally worthless provider of solutions, but he must receive due credit for having been an intermittently astute observer of events. 

With the proviso that I am quoting from memory, Marx's observation on the issue raised by Hatherley was that if machines are introduced in order to reduce our working hours, it is surprising that we should have to spend more and more time tending them.