Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Usually when I recommend a link, it is because it is full of valuable information (such as this recent piece on Russian demographics).
However, a recent Telegraph article has a ‘car crash fascination’. The 100 most influential leftists in Britain (I decided against linking to it, don't want any of them to get more hits than they deserve). It really means the most famous 100 leftists who are patronised for being steeped in the received wisdom of East-Anglia’s media establishment.
It is interesting though, for demonstrating how hypocritical a lot of our talk on Iran is. Yes, yes. Britain is not Iran. Yet when we say that it is run by Ayatollahs who are totally out of touch with the people,we ignore that our own East-Anglian ‘intelligentsia’ are way out of touch with the rest of Britain.
Over 70% of Brits support renationalising the railways, yet I doubt if 10% on the list would agree; in fact very many of them think that our extortionately priced yet underfunded railways are a privatisation success story. Whilst an overwhelming mjaority of Brits want to leave Afghanistan and think Britain should not have gone to war in Iraq, the majority on the list would probably disagree. But this is not the list of 100 most influential Tories.
Interestingly, I also read that Thatcher did not actually reduce public spending, yet it seems that this myth still persists on both left and right. Many people on both sides of the 'intelligentsia' in Britain believe and circulate the view that she saved Britain.
Still, back to the list. The overwhelming majority come under three categories 1) New Labour loyalists 2) Grief athletes 3) Neo-liberals who keep the insipid stew of received wisdom bubbling.
The first includes people such as John Rentoul, who supports neo-con foreign policy and writes gossip about how wonderful Tony Blair is. Interestingly enough, I once read an article querying if Rentoul was Peter Mandelson. Whilst it was probably a joke, it does demonstrate that even if it was a list of the 99 most influential leftists, the collective IQ and ideas would be in no way diminished (in fact if it was the top 5 leftists, it would not diminish the spectrum of ideas).
The second category includes ignorant whingers like Johann Hari who attack the ‘disastrous nationalised industries of the 1970s' but screech about the Pope’s being responsible for AIDS in Africa. This is just patently dumb (see here for more 'leftist' idiocy). I am not a Roman Catholic: there is much that I oppose in Catholic theology and Church structure. But, really, how dumb do you have to be to think that following the church’s teaching increases your chances of getting AIDS.? Furthermore, why should this be ‘left wing’? It’s just stupid.
Both would roughly fit into the third category, which includes most of the people on the list. There were a few I respected, such as Shami Chakrabarti and George Monbiot. But the overwhelming majority were right-wing dullards.
As for what left wing means, I do not really know. There are ways that I would differ from the left-wing status quo in opposition to abortion and my admiration for Eurocentric authoritarian rulers like Vladimir Putin and Charles De Gaulle (though neither Russia nor France have our oppressive CCTV surveillance or gun-laws). Given my involvement in the Greek community, I cannot believe that largescale Islamic immigration will be a good thing (even though I have personally found Muslims charming people). Yet given the overwhelming victory of neo-liberalism in terms of influence (if not prescience) my social democratic views would definitely make me left wing.
So where are all the leftists? There are many left wingers who are amusing, astute, interesting and many more who are not boring right wing maniacs. Yet none of them are on the list.
Yet do we have a common cause? Would it be better if we gave up on all the cultural debates (where neo-liberals are almost identical) and focus on intellectual arguments for social democracy? Any thoughts?
Friday, 25 September 2009
Thursday, 24 September 2009
When challenged as a ‘limp wristed liberal’, I found it interesting to think about what my political beliefs really are. What really struck me was how ‘politicians’ must be weirdoes: the idea that anyone could write a manifesto as anything but a practical joke to satirise their own pomposity.
Still, I thought I’d list my political opinions, which are extremely weird and will probably have changed by tomorrow.
1) I am a foreign policy isolationist. Unless it’s an ethnic group I like that’s in trouble. I’d intervene for them, mind, but no-one else. I’d tell the Turks that if any ethnic Greeks are harmed in Constantinople, or if any more Greek Cypriots are killed, they’d better find a cure for radiation poisoning by the next day. But aside from that, ‘humanitarian intervention’ is an idiot’s game (as for conflicts between ethnic groups I like, it just makes my head hurt thinking about it).
Instead of a 'war on terror' there would be a war of terror. Meaning that every type of paramilitary organisation would be legal and the professional army would only be allowed to defend a state's borders. For instance the 'muscular secular liberal' paramilitary would automatically draft Christopher Hitchens, Charles Johnson and Roger Simon. They'd be parachuted into Islamabad where they'd promptly be twatted with wooden blocks, dragged through the streets, dowsed with kerosene, set alight and fed to honey badgers. A great tragedy, I'm sure we'll all agree, but a price worth paying for the opportunity to have a practical role in the faith/ reason/ liberalism conflict. Overall, it would be the best thing for muscular secularism since 'Pajamas Media'.
Before I'm accused of hypocrisy, I'd join a Byzantine paramilitary in the blink of an eye, if they took on 5.6 asthmatics.
2) I oppose abortion. Generally I agree with the liberal left, but none of my left/ liberal buddies have yet given me a reason why an unborn child should not be regarded as a human being. Whilst they often claim to be scientific and rational, I notice that their rationality tends to disintegrate at this point. Yes, I know there are many complex issues (rape, incest, birth abnormalities, mother’s life in danger) yet these are a tiny minority of births and dictate people’s attitude to wide laws.
It is interesting that the social democratic revolution in Latin America does not seem to have changed their laws on these issues much.
3) Economically I am a Social Democrat who thinks the Franco-German model makes the most sense and is not as unstable or unjust as the Anglo-American plutocracies. Large industries should be under national ownership, though petit bourgeoisie capitalism should be given minimal taxation and even subsidised.
4) I believe in freedom of speech, though think that social liberalism has become a one way street that protects groups from legal discrimination, which is positive, but also suppresses freedom of speech. ‘Hate speech’ is generally a term used by crypto-fascists who want to take people’s freedom of expression away.
5) I’m for ending the false dichotomy between illegal and legal drugs. Legalise everything, but do not market anything. The war on drugs is a horrific fiasco which could see the collapse of Mexico, Guatamala and Honduras (and which is responsible for their huge homicide rate). There is no debate that these chemicals (unpleasant though they are: and I'm a guy who doesn't even take caffeine after mid afternoon) should be sold by private companies not gangsters.
6) I’m entirely in favour of private gun ownership. Again, this is an issue where I’d disagree with the liberal left, though except for the African-American community, America does not have a very high homicide rate, nor does Germany, France or Switzerland. To avoid being labelled a loonertarian (again), I would have a system whereby no man with a gun should be allowed to watch a romantic comedy or buy albums of love songs. I'm sure that would see the homicide rate flatline.
7) Treatment of the GLBT community should be democratic. If the general public approves of ‘civil unions’, that is their decision. If they do not, that is also their decision. It is not for the state to peep into people’s bedrooms, but it is not for the state to be a killjoy and deprive people of the right to make fun of those who’re different. Especially (incidentally) those Littlejohn/ Peter Hitchens Conservatives who make out that gays are going to come knocking on the door, or that they are victimised by gay propaganda: they're the greatest laughingstocks of the lot. As for the situation in Russia, it seems pretty dumb to want a Gay Pride event when the average Moscow citizen probably feels as much pride at their homicide/ STD rate as they do in their gay community. Still, it is all democratic.
8) I oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design/ creationism, though I also do not think that Darwinism is a perfect scientific theory. The world would adopt my concept of Protagoran materialism.
9) Saying I think banking should be regulated is now like saying I'm for free air, but it is something I’ve long believed in.
10) Job seeker allowance should be changed for a system that gives people an opportunity to work on a government project and use their skills, and meet people.
11) Phone/ internet monitoring and CCTV Surveillance must be abolished.
12) The EU must be replaced by another Euro-phile system based in Athens. This should adopt some of the many good ideas that America has (deregulation of small-scale businesses) whilst keeping European concepts of social justice.
Their first priority would be to create fraternity between the nations. This should encourage travelling and cooperative working, perhaps something similar to the Kibbutz system in Israel.
Their second priority should be to address the demographic catastrophe awaiting Europe.
13) Immigration from Islamic nations with a history of violent extremism (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Algeria) should be restricted. Immigration from outside Europe should be based on skills and the job market.
14) Film censorship should be stopped and age categories should be moved from restrictions to recommendations. Promoting films will be open to censorship (really guys, I support the right to make ‘Saw’, but a sliced up head on the side of a bus?)
Conversely, I would limit TV stations to three hours of broadcasts a day.
15) Rights to insult everyone's religion, philosophy, race, gender, sexual orientation, job, physical appearance, income bracket, physical courage, mode of transport (etc) will be protected by law.
16) National Anthems are used to stir up boneheaded conflicts, so they would be replaced by pop songs, chosen by me. Scotland's National Anthem would be 'Sunshine of your Love', whilst England's would be 'Agadoo'. Unless they stop causing trouble with Russia, the Visegrad nations would be given a selection from 'Queen's Greatest Hits' with Poland getting 'Old Fashioned Lover Boy'.
17) Ancient Greek would become the Lingua Franca for Europe.
18) A fat tax would be put in place (can't think where I got that idea from). Not for those of us afflicted with bad glands, of course, but for fatty foods.
I’m used to being hated by conservatives and neo-liberals, though I shall now probably be unpopular with leftists and libertarians too. If you agree with me on more than half my points the chances are I’ve stolen some of your ideas and you’ll hate me anyway ;-).
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
'President Obama should have Joe Biden, Saakashvili’s pal, phone him up and instruct him thus:
“Mikheil, if you interfere with the sea commerce of Abkhazia, and provoke Russia into a Black Sea war, you fight it yourself. The Sixth Fleet is not going to steam into the Black Sea and pull your chestnuts out of the fire, old buddy. It will be your war, not ours.”'
Patrick J Buchanan
I disagree with 'Pitchfork Pat' on numerous issues (caring for the poor, the war on drugs), though he is spot on when it comes to foreign policy. He is also an excellent writer with good knowledge of history and geography. In an era when most political journalists write with awe about national leader's soundbytes, like 'art critics' gazing at elephant shit sculptures, it is a joy to read a really intelligent and literate author.
See that there is a Buchanan Brigade mailing list. I'd better subscribe to that before my reputation as a 'hand-wringing liberal' starts spreading.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need of them; but flatterers mar the soul of the living, and her eyes they blind.
I realise that different people have different ideas of what constitutes an interesting etymological fact. But it strikes me as interesting that the British word 'sycophant' or flatterer is derived from a Greek word meaning slanderer.
Indeed, slandering someone is in some ways preferable to giving insincere flattery, because a slanderer's slander is only as good as their word. Whilst people can make right tits of themselves if they are drunk on flattery. No slanderer can humiliate them as much as they humiliate themselves.
These were my thoughts on the East/ Central Europeans who have been spitting out their dummies over Obama's cancelling the missile-defence shield. It must have seemed only yesterday that they were Rumsfeld's 'new Europe'. Sadly for them:
'Pentagon officials said the decision to move away from the shield was based on intelligence indicating Iran is focused on developing short and medium-range missiles rather than the long-range intercontinental missiles originally feared.'
Now, I am as shocked and surprised as anyone to discover that Iran does not have 'intercontinental missiles'. But I still find some responses a bit much:
"The Americans only cared about their interests. They used everybody else," said Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and revolutionary leader. "It wasn't that the shield was that important, but it's about the way, the way of treating us."
I love this. The multibillion dollar project wasn't important, but they should have wasted the money anyway because it was a sweet gesture. Whilst I'm no especial fan of Uncle Sam, I can't say I'm with the Solidarity leader on this one.
For more background, this is brilliant.
An open letter about Obama's 'neglect' of Eastern/ Central Europe. The verbose bullying, mumbling tone spiced with saccharine and heavy-handed praise of American values as well as not-so-veiled threats reads like a Steven Segal monologue. In fact if you imagine Steven Segal reading it, it becomes so much better. Especially the bullying, the bullying undertones make it:
'This means that the United States is likely to lose many of its traditional interlocutors in the region'
Get that Mr America? Tremble at the thought that Vilnius might stop answering your phonecalls.
'Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods. At a global level, Russia has become, on most issues, a status-quo power. But at a regional level and vis-à-vis our nations, it increasingly acts as a revisionist one. It challenges our claims to our own historical experiences. It asserts a privileged position in determining our security choices. It uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of central and eastern Europe.'
Get the threat there? If you don't give us support, we may well swing to Russia. How d'ya like that? Imagine one million screaming Estonians on Russia's side, their geriatric elite in Waffen SS uniforms screaming hatred. That would really tip the scales of power and essentially give global hegemony to Russia. Incidentally, one of the 'priorities' which Obama spelt out is to 'Restore American Leadership in Latin America'. They might protest that that is given greater priority than restoring American leadership in Eastern Europe. But they don't seem to have any ethical hangups about the much more savage American imperialism in Latin America.
'Third, the thorniest issue may well be America's planned missile-defence installations. Here too, there are different views in the region, including among our publics which are divided. Regardless of the military merits of this scheme and what Washington eventually decides to do, the issue has nevertheless also become - at least in some countries - a symbol of America's credibility and commitment to the region. How it is handled could have a significant impact on their future transatlantic orientation. The small number of missiles involved cannot be a threat to Russia's strategic capabilities, and the Kremlin knows this. We should decide the future of the programme as allies and based on the strategic plusses and minuses of the different technical and political configurations. The alliance should not allow the issue to be determined by unfounded Russian opposition. Abandoning the programme entirely or involving Russia too deeply in it without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.'
Uh, did I see the word 'Russia' thrice in that paragraph about the missile-defence system that defends them against Iran, which is mentioned 0 times?
'Sixth, we must not neglect the human factor. Our next generations need to get to know each other, too. We have to cherish and protect the multitude of educational, professional, and other networks and friendships that underpin our friendship and alliance. The US visa regime remains an obstacle in this regard. It is absurd that Poland and Romania - arguably the two biggest and most pro-American states in the CEE region, which are making substantial contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan - have not yet been brought into the visa-waiver programme. It is incomprehensible that a critic like the French anti-globalisation activist José Bové does not require a visa for the United States but former Solidarity activist and Nobel peace prizewinner Lech Walesa does. This issue will be resolved only if it is made a political priority by the president of the United States.'
As I said earlier, one of the things that I dislike about politics is the sentimentality. I can just imagine the writer of the previous paragraph with a tear in his eye, daydreaming what would happen when Obama reads this:
'Cancel all my appointments immediately. Did you realise that someone who criticised the United States is allowed into the country? Isn't that disgraceful? Meanwhile the Romanians who lent us 730 soldiers to help in the war I fully supported (even though I voted against it) and the Poles who lent us 2,500 soldiers to help in the war I fully supported (though voted against) are not. I mean, just think if they were not on our side? We might not have gone to war in Iraq at all.'
'But sir, you have a meeting with the French ambassador in half an hour. You don't have time to-'
'Shit man, this is noo Europe we're talking about. I don't have time for those cheese eating surrender monkeys in Old Europe. These are good people who don't criticise the US of A who aren't allowed visas. It's a disgrace maen'.
Yes, I can just see the letter-writer gazing blissfully into space and wiping tears from his cheeks at this lovely fantasy.
I feel great affection for the Romanian people, who I have found to be immensely kind, devout and generous. But they are kidding themselves if they ever thought that the USA saw them as a priority.
America's complicity in the narcotic, fundamentalist, fascist state of Kosovo and their amount of interest in the 400 Churches that have been destroyed there is evidence of just how much they care for the true values of Central-Eastern Europe. Whilst the signatories brag about supporting America in the Balkans, I wonder how many of them will do so as it becomes increasingly plain that the Americans and NATO are complicit in atrocities against the remaining Serbs.
(P.S. The title may seem as lame as the last one, but it is a pun if you think about it)
Please, do not congratulate me for the originality and cleverness of my title. However, I felt very lucky to find this sight; a spider's web on a CCTV sign (click for larger image). It is a brilliant metaphor for how dangerous, yet almost invisible, the British surveillance state is.
Incidentally, I've been reading that the Tories are considering taking actions to plan to take measures to contemplate the partial democratisation and conceivable limiting in potential circumstances if the opportunity shall arise of the surveillance state because it will save money. So that's what it's come to: tax bores offer the best chance of saving us from 1984 because the whole Big Brother thing might burn a hole in our pocket? Who knows, maybe Auntie Ayn was right after all.
Of course, I don't believe a word of it. The Tories were the ones stoking up the 'war on terror' and they are a nest of Russophobe loonies who are obviously desperate for an external enemy so that they can terrorise, sorry, protect, their own people. Too bad the Russians aren't too bothered about expanding their borders.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Some wonderful representative of all that is best in the human race has put Incubus up on youtube.
Horror/fantasy critics can say what they want. But one thing that always struck me about the foolishness of neo-liberalism is that the idea demand creates money which creates pressure for improvement doesn't work, and no-where is this more evident than in sci-fi/ fantasy films.
Just watch one of William Shatner's earliest works. A Richard Matheson penned work of genius called 'The Nick of Time' from 'The Twilight Zone'. It's about a bloke and his bird in a Midwestern town. They find a tin with a rubber head on top which gives ambiguous, yet accurate, answers to their questions. It ends with them leaving, knowing that otherwise they will be enslaved to the device, always in suspense whilst it is better and braver not to know. As they leave a desperate, sweaty, sick couple come in and feed coins to the box.
And its brilliant: William Shatner, a cute bird in a checked dress, a metal box and a rubber head make superb television. Just compare that to modern sci-fi horror. It is all boring, pretentious and full of special effects. Scott Bacula V someone with a plastic face, v a giant octopus v a giant shark v the largest CGI spaceship ever doodled onto a screen by a nerd.
Sadly, this is what the fantasy genre has turned into, and sadly I doubt if Incubus will ever get a new cinematic distribution or be released on DVD.
Incubus is a beautifully shot black and white film, with an equally beautiful and stark script. A devout young soldier and his sister move to a village where there is (on the plus side) a magical well and (on the negative side) an infestation of demons.
I will not give away the story, but it is a very beautiful and imaginative work. The Esperanto language works perfectly, enhancing the dream-like atmosphere.
What is also striking is the use of a Christian narrative by a science-fiction director Leslie Stevens, creator of 'The Outer Limits'. I do not know if Stevens had faith himself, yet the religious message is very beautiful and integral to the plot.
Sadly, I suspect that like many early science fiction/ fantasy directors, he assumed that faith would erode away leaving altruistic and knowledge-seeking rationalists
Perhaps he was right, but given the intellectual hegemony of neo-liberalism in secular Britain, I am not so sure if this is likely. At any rate, this economic system hasn't been kind to the very enlightenment ideals of rationality, freedom and equality that created the societies that consumed it; or which it consumed.
(Hat-tip Anatoly Karlin)
Apparently tie-chewing loon Saakashvilli has been spending a fortune on PR companies.
It was arguably money well spent. Most British newspapers were all too ready to get into Churchill mode to deplore the brave little democracy being savaged by the arboreal Russky apemen. As that great historian John McCain said, they want a return of the Russian Empire. So many newspapers went into full on berserker mode and showed Saakashvilli's civilian strikes with captions stating that they were victims of Russians. Furthermore, Fox News demonstrated how wonderful it is to live in the free world:
However, the British and American print media are both going down the pan, economically speaking. Either 1) People are too clever to keep swallowing neo-liberal lies or 2) They are so stupid that they aren't interested in neo-liberal lies.
At any rate, I find the PR revolution one of the weirdest things, which may leave a dangerous ruin rather than a crater when it collapses. The Brits privatised most of their industries and transport systems (whilst spending a fortune in subsidising the free-market, if that makes sense). However, Britain still has vast public expenditure. And from experience I'd say that much of it is spent on paying condescending/ bullying oafs to tell people why things don't work or to tell people to shut up about why things don't work, rather than on getting stuff to work properly (OK I'm a state employee myself, but it seems to be the status quo Brit neo-liberal opinion that getting the state to do something useful= Nazism, getting the state to do something worthless= OK). Subsequently packaging Britain's limited public services is vastly expensive.
Maybe this whole obsession with getting things to look good rather than to be of good quality explains why I find rubbish so fascinating. it is worthless, yet it once gave increased value to something.
For this reason, I find it astounding that many supporters of America's neo-liberal empire have actually beaten me to finding the best symbol of it: the big mac.
Maybe it is because I don't have a TV, but no amount of plastic clowns or plastic letters would encourage me to eat a fried cow's rectum or whatever filth is in these monstrosities. Yet what a wonderful metaphor for the neo-liberal Empire. The Macedonians spread their language and architecture, The Romans built viaducts and capitols, the Brits made railways. The Americans sell fried entrails that are considered edible because they are smothered in salt and fat and marketed as something delicious.
Yet, you cannot fool all the people all of the time. American power is definitely waning. I half suspect that McCain's deranged comments about the Georgian war contributed to his electoral wipeout. And Suckers is increasingly left isolated and discredited. As are we... but that is another story.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
I am a weirdo, never denied it. Recently I was told that it is not normal to take photos of rubbish and derelict buildings. I never really considered it weird. Still, as Frank Zappa said, 'I didn't set out to be weird'; I just seem to perceive rubbish and dilapidated buildings as the most interesting features of modern British scenery, seeming to burst with metaphors and symbols when consumerism has created a literal hegemony throughout the nation.
Was going to write about the weird farce of Megrahi, but just feel so sickened by the whole thing. He is probably innocent, yet many of our politicians are concerned that if we release a terminally ill man, fewer Americans will come here to buy rubber plesiosaurs and hey jimmy hats. Such is the state of the world...