Sunday, 26 December 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Thanks to all readers and those who've commented.

A few petitions worth signing:

Save Britain's (especially England's) forests:

And stop Donald Trump from ruining a unique ecosystem:

And get the wealthy to pay their taxes:

I'll be away for a few days, but have a happy festive period everyone.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cheap Shot

I like cheap clothes, so much so that I only buy them in charity shops. But found the J'accuse finger pointing at 'cheap' clothes in today's Observer.

For this Observer lefty, Gap and Topshop are 'cheap fashion'. Flippin eck, I like to think that buying in charity shops is a way of opting out of the system (nothing to do with being Aberdonian, honest), but I probably wouldn't be able to afford 'cheap' clothes as defined by the Metropolitan media.

As is usually the case, in smug atheist sermons, it is always 'we' and 'us' who buy cheap clothes. Meaning of course poor people whom 'we' despise.

But here's an idea: why don't all the metropolitan luvvies start subsidising textile cooperatives or offer to take poor people to the tailor's to get kitted out?

Or is lambasting poor people as slave drivers for buying stuff from rich people really the best you can do?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

White Magic

When I started this blog, I hoped to write more about Eastern Orthodoxy. It is ironic that Brits are bombarded with anti-Christian propaganda focussed largely on fundamentalists in America, when the very liberals who shudder with horror at Palin's support for Intelligent Design or 'The Decider's' Methodist faith, share so many of their basic tenets: that there is little room for beauty or culture, that poor people should fend for themselves, that white people who speak English should enjoy a special place in the world, there is no alternative to liberalism or fundamentalist protestantism, an open horror that Russia's president is surrounded by 'cowled figures' (to quote a certain New Atheist, who presumably thinks 'dog collared figures' would be a lot less offensive).

However, I think it is more difficult to write about being an Orthodox Christian, largely because it is a very complex faith with a strong apophatic tradition. I believe in Christ the Redeemer, the Holy Trinity, His Resurrection. But I have no interest whatsoever in trying to draw lessons in biology or physics from the Old Testament or in feeling superior to other people based on faith.

For me Orthodoxy is something to be experienced, like art or scenery and I expect the same is true for Christians in other Apostolic traditions. Perhaps it is for this reason that I find this story a profound work of Christian art, perhaps as much for what isn't in it, than what is. There is no good v evil plot, no hero, no miracles. I especially love the following exchange:

'Besides, you have no business to be an unbeliever. You ought to stand for all the things these stupid people call superstitions. Come now, don’t you think there’s a lot in those old wives’ tales about luck and charms and so on, silver bullets included? What do you say about them as a Catholic?’

‘I say I’m an agnostic,’ replied Father Brown, smiling.

Another exchange illuminates Chesterton's outlook:

‘Oh, yes,’ replied Father Brown, ‘I believe in the Devil. What I don’t believe in is the Dundee. I mean the Dundee of Covenanting legends, with his nightmare of a horse. John Graham was simply a seventeenth-century professional soldier, rather better than most. If he dragooned them it was because he was a dragoon, but not a dragon. Now my experience is that it’s not that sort of swaggering blade who sells himself to the Devil. The devil-worshippers I’ve known were quite different. Not to mention names, which might cause a social flutter, I’ll take a man in Dundee’s own day. Have you ever heard of Dalrymple of Stair?’

‘No,’ replied the other gruffly.

‘You’ve heard of what he did,’ said Father Brown, ‘and it was worse than anything Dundee ever did; yet he escapes the infamy by oblivion. He was the man who made the Massacre of Glencoe. He was a very learned man and lucid lawyer, a statesman with very serious and enlarged ideas of statesmanship, a quiet man with a very refined and intellectual face. That’s the sort of man who sells himself to the Devil.’

Chesterton's Stuart sympathies weren't popular in Edwardian England, nor would they be popular now. Despite the raw bigotry of the Whigs, the Orangites and Hanoverians, it is the Stuarts who are hated for their lack of regard for Parliament and the Protestant faith. There is no irony that William of Orange was a friend of Parliament and he signed orders to authorise the massacre of an entire village. Human ethics can, and will, justfiy anything. So much for the Glorious Revolution, which militant atheists probably admire as much as any Orangeman.

No matter how much Britain has changed, or tells itself it has changed, Chesterton's Stuart message* has probably never had as hostile an audience as the current neo-liberal media coalition.

Still, maybe the ever more evident bankruptcy of this ideology will lead to British people casting it off forever.

(* It has to be added that Chesterton was far from being an angel and did demonstrate signs of anti-Semitism; but even then, his romanticism and Christian distributism were very interesting ideals).

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Rats on the Sinking Ship

Neo-liberals tend to have a very limited number of historical reference points: Hitler and Stalin are pretty much the only historical figures to cut it, but boy, do they like using these metaphors. Chavez in Venezuela, Ahmedinjad in Iran, Putin in Russia: Hitlerstalins all of them.

The thing is there actually is a bloke in Russia who admires Nazism and Stalinism: his name is Eduard Limonov and Western neo-liberals are surprisingly indulgent towards him. His party's flag is on top of this page. Hardly something you'd imagine the self-righteous Putin-hating Graun to be very indulgent toward.

But just read this piece of drivel about the 'possible future leader of Russia' (who would be lucky to get 5% of the vote).

The interview was carried out by Marc Bennetts. I know very little about Marc Bennetts, but I do know he's the sort of person that makes me embarrassed to be British; a sub-David Mitchell awkward square, albeit one who desperately wants to show his street cred. In just a few paragraphs he writes: 'Limonov may insist that his pogo-ing days are far behind him, but when I ask him if he believes he has a real chance of becoming president there is something distinctly punk rock about his answer' and 'I can't help but point out.' Can't you actually? But don't worry Marc, you is one cool dude, what with your reference to

'Sex Pistol-era Johnny Rotten's use of the swastika to unnerve middle England also springs to mind, but neither musician has yet to enter politics'

Being honest, I actually felt modestly impressed by Limonov's dismissal of his 70s experience of New York popular culture. Perhaps, unlike many middle class squares in Britain, he realises that the days pop culture had any power to shock or rebel are long past. Just look at how his tirade affects a compatriot of The Beatles:

"In Russia, fortunately, the people still have some barbarian spirit. But Europeans and Americans are just dying, sick invalids." He looks across the table at me for a reaction. I sympathise with what he is saying: while life in Russia may not be easy, it is, at least, never dull. But something stops me agreeing with him, and instead I voice an ironic, "Thanks."

This really sets out the Jekyll and Hyde duality of our political class. On one hand, they are feeble and flinching, unable to offer more than weak sarcasm in response to a tirade. On the other hand, they seem to have a weakness for 'barbarians'. Just think of all the public schoolboys who fawned over 'macho' George W Bush because he lived on a farm and declared war on Iraq. By contrast most Russians are happier with their dwarfish lawyer President than with a Nazi-Bolshevik.

Perhaps the saddest thing is how Garry Kasparov's coalition which involves both Limonov and Yeltsin's crew of economy wreckers overshadows real dissent in Russia. According to some reports Anna Politkovskaya (a real heroic dissident) suspected that many of the liberals were actually in league with the Kremlin. If the United Russia party really wanted an ideal strawman, they couldn't do better than Limonov. But then, The Guardian would probably be kinder to the Fascist-Bolshevik strawman than to an authoritarian but popular and patriotic leadership, seeing him as 'Putin's worst enemy' rather than 'Putin's dream opponent'.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Leaking Stupidity

For those who believe Wikileaks to be a massive anti-climax of gossip and hearsay, one completely surprising side-effect is to prove beyond any doubt that Russia is becoming a totalitarian dystopia under the perpetual role of Adolf Hitlerstalin Putin.

On the day in which a website published documents revealing that an American ambassador speculated negatively about the state of Russian politics, the Russian media was deafeningly silent about the news.

"Russia is obviously stepping backwards", Johny Wright-Wynge, a left-wing journalist announced. "I mean, here they have an excellent opportunity to lie in the snow in a flea infested hair shirt and implore people who speak English to flog them for their shortcomings, and then maybe ask for mercy. But they've passed it up! Truly Russia is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

'I mean, hey, I supported the Iraq war. It didn't go right. But really, if you think the sight of daft hicks sicing attack dogs on bare naked Iraqi civilians means that we don't have the upper hand, morally speaking, then you're living on another planet and I can only pity you.

'And, yeah, you know, I'm left wing; I think that Sex and the City is the greatest TV ever and Desperate Housewives is great, and cocaine good, Christianity bad, but you know, the Slav untermensch need to get their shit together, or we leftists'll kick ass. Or send some squaddies to get their arms and legs blown off. That always makes me feel cool about myself.'

Wright's comments were echoed by Fomenko Unkltomovitch who accepted to be interviewed in exchange for a packet of dog biscuits. Fomenko has been banned from working for the Russian media: a failure he attributes to his dislike of Vladimir Putin. Fomenko affirmed the significance of Russia's deafening silence and spoke to a Guardian journalist in flawless broken English and sycophantic platitudes "Yes, Russia is, uh, run by zuh gangster, uh, oligarchs. It is uh, megabig crime, vich ve are very sorry for. Ve can only hope zat ze vestern leaders see zeir senses and, uh, get behind Boris Berezovksy and uh, Mikhail Kho-dorkoh-vsky, uh, to clean up zee Russia and to, as you say, save it from zuh crooked oligarchs who uh doing so much damaging. As Khodorkovsky, ah said, in Russia ve sink British people are very clever, and zere is even folk song on subject, ve very sorry if Britain not like in folksong'.

For managing to struggle with 'Khodorkovsky' despite its being a Russian name, Fomenko was given a chew toy as a bonus prize. In return he offered to dress up as a cossack and sing about how wise British people are, but we feared for his safety in such an event.

Te Graunian, the left-wing newspaper of international influence, which is instrumental in forming American foreign policy informed the world of the need to 'reset American-Russian relations'. President Barack Obama is said to have written immediately to he Garudn to ask specifically what steps to take and immediately called Airforce One to take him to London. The article was cunningly encrypted to read like contradictory, pointless waffle with a touch of sabre-rattling to compensate for FIFA's decision to hold the 2018 world cup anywhere but England. However, this is a mere ruse to throw the NKVD off the scent.

the chief Gaurdin editor and President Obama's chief Russian affairs advisor spoke gravely of the necessity of media freedom.
"When I read the leaked messages, I was dressed up in a white sheet and banging a gong to warn the British people that the time of the beast is at hand: that Rupert Murdoch's filthy right wing paws are going to seize even more of the British media. I mean, the way media freedom works is that we publish alarmist editorials about scary foreigners and they publish alarmist editorials about scary foreigners and we publish editorials about the dangers of big government and they publish editorials about the dangers of big government. We both share the view that people who speak English have the innate moral superiority over those who don't and that nationalisation is bad, but it's important we do it for different reasons'.

(Sorry if this is utter crap, but I really couldn't begin to try and 'debate' te Graun's idiotic treatment of wikileaks. Yes, Russia has its problems and I would much rather see an economically left-wing civil-libertarian leader. but WTF do the current Western governments have to offer Russia aside from oligarchs, unquestioning support for Chechen terrorists and bombs in their parliament?)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Second Sight

The old second sight must be coming back to me, because as soon as I read this article, I guessed that Hitch won the audience because (well, let's be frank) only fanatical atheists would be sad enough to watch a 'debate' between two dopey, half-crazed, war-mongering pseudo-intellectuals.

And blow me down, was I not right:

'Throughout the 90-minute debate Hitchens seemed to have the crowd's sympathy. That might have been to do with his ill appearance due to cancer, but was far more likely to be down to the sharpness of his verbal barbs and the fact that 57% of the audience already agreed with his sceptical position according to a pre-debate poll, while just 22% agreed with Blair's side. The rest were undecided.'

Don't get me wrong. I don't doubt for one second that Hitchens wiped the floor with Blair. But then, who couldn't (aside from Tory party leaders that is)? Surely the most interesting fact is that both men have such astounding arrogance and that belief plays such a large role in both lives: they are twins arguing over shadows.

And this, incidentally, is one of very many reasons I would have no interest in seeing Tony Blair debating. For me to appreciate belief you have to appreciate reason, research and logic.

Then there's also the fact that he sees himself as a paragon of Christian virtue after the 'dodgy' dossier. The thing is, we Christians can afford to be choosy. Given how long Hitchens has been lauded by the humanist fanatics, I wonder if they could say the same?

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Hi Folks
I've not had much time for the old blog recently, due to being away from the internet. But a quick roundup.

New Blog

Regular commenter and friend of this site, John, now has his own blog and very good it appears to be as well. It focuses on economics and cooperatives and is very well researched and full of interesting references.

Animal Rights, Logical Wrongs

You'd normally think that someone who brags about eating at Macdonalds would be someone highly unlikely to take animal welfare seriously. Or for that matter to think that anyone would respect their views on that topic.

But you would be unfamiliar with Johann Hari, who as per usual suffers no doubts that he has both the moral high ground and an unquestioning audience who will gulp down his every word.

I think sadly he is correct on the second one. As it is, I'm against Kosher and Halal slaughtering, and don't need the words of someone who stuffs their face with battery farmed chicken to bring me to this conclusion. But when you are sure of your own rightness as Hari is, the suffering of people is as beside the point as the suffering of animals:

'You can cry that we are "persecuting" you if we stop you committing acts of cruelty if you want.

It's what the religious – Christian, Jew and Muslim alike – did when we stopped you tormenting women and gays and anybody else you could get your hands on. One of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is that the howls you will hear are from the Men of God.'

Really? So glad to hear that Soviet Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia achieved such pinnacles of human kindness. And of course Iraq is no doubt becoming more kind now that Christians are getting massacred, courtesy of an invasion Hari supported. Still, this will be beside the point for the hysterical New Atheists who share so much in common with the American fundamentalists who can turn their eyes from the misdeeds of their televangelist heroes to revel in self-righteousness.

Been so Long

Neo-conservatism has the unlikely advantage that it makes so many gross errors that audiences struggle to keep track of them. Everyone knows Iraq was a disaster, but, uhm, that place in Europe they invaded over a decade ago, guess that must have been a righteous war since we hear so little about it, right? Wrong.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Blog Announcement

I've recently been helping look after an elderly relative in a place with no internet access, and will need to help out for quite a while. Thanks to everyone for commenting; I hope to return to the blogosphere sometime.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Talk to the Hand

As mentioned in my last post, I've gone done been bad and my CiF comments are being monitored: purely because I pointed out what a joke Rusbridger's scare tactics about Rupert Murdoch were. Seems that for all Rusbridger's talk of bouncing ideas around, etc., The Guardian only wanted ideas that flattered their editorial board.

Now I come across this. Johann Hari's twitter feed (largely devoted to flattering other journalists) advises people not to read comments on the Independent website, because they are all written by 'lunatics'. And this is the guy who attacks 'the religious' because they allegedly don't like listening to stuff they don't want to hear.

It seems to me that the mainstream left-wing media are utterly cut off from any kind of feedback and remarkably unintelligent in their inability to adapt to the changing electronic media.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Snowball Effect

Things are looking bleak for Britain according to Alan Rusbridger. Comrade Snowball has his snout in the trough and may soon get even more power and influence in the media, animals be warned!

Uhm, warned of what? That articles attacking 'big government' might be published? That he might publish all sorts of drivel about the United Russia party (or 'Vladimir Putin' to use the shorthand). I wrote on the comments section that as long as the Guardian continues publishing drivel by Julian Glover as one of its chief Op Ed writers, and as long as its Russia affairs are the domain of Luke Harding, then I frankly don't care how much media presence Murdoch has. One economically right wing, foreign policy militant, socially liberal publication barely differs from the other.

And guess what? They deleted my comments and now I'm being moderated. I find that really is quite laughable. Julian Glover has an idealistic view of the free market precisely because his chums are shielding him from consumerist ideas such as customer feedback.

If Te Graun really wants to frighten its readers that Snowball is at large and will crush Social Democracy, they really are going about it the wrong way.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Imagine if this Happened in Russia

If an officer who knew a bit about military affairs bravely spoke the truth about an unpopular war brought about by blundering politicians and Putin said
"We thought for a moment about sacking him, but concluded that that would just make him into a martyr,"

Methinks liberals might not be quite so sycophantic but would deliver plenty of sermons about freedom of speech in Russia.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The wages of sin?

Came across this comment on Youtube:

'Perhaps you are a old barmaid that does know Hitch and can confirm that certain parts of his body are in fact, fat and greasy. A double shot of the Hitch magic ? It all makes sense now 42 D.'

Ugh, how grim is that? The thing is that the cheek-hens think he's a bit crap. But I don't think this will stop a generation of frustrated men from delighting in his musky animal magnetism.

Friday, 1 October 2010

When We Were Social Democrats

Whilst I don't like to idealise any type of society or overstate the influence of an economic system on the psychology of the people, it does strike me as interesting that before we were diverted from the road to serfdom, Britain showed resilience against terrorism that seems astounding to someone who has lived through the hysterical 'war on terror' in neo-liberal privatisation-mad Britain. From Simon Jenkins in The Guardian:

'In the mid-1970s, the Provisional IRA staged some 50 explosions in London, subjecting the city to far greater mayhem than today. Somehow we survived without the gargantuan counter-terror apparatus in place today. The bombing campaign came nowhere near toppling the British government or infringing the liberty of the state.'

Well, some Irish Catholic immigrants might not have felt that the British state was a model of liberty at the time and it would be ridiculous to ignore the very real human rights abuses that the state carried out against many innocent Irish people. However, it does seem to me that the British government overall did handle the IRA terror threat with a certain level-headedness. As a historian, I'm often interested in how Heath and Wilson will be remembered. Those who lived during their time seem to have remarkably low opinions of them (it is notable that Jenkins treats the attitudes of the time as common-sense without praising Heath or Wilson). Perhaps this is bi-fold: firstly social democracy may be more appealing as a dream than as a reality. Secondly, I think that the boomer generation spent so much time hating authority with values, that they would be hard pushed to recognise that we've gone backwards.

Be that as it may, I do think that history will be more generous to the people they fought against and criticised than it will be to those they supported and who are now destroying what their parents struggled for.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Ask Not What Essex Man Can Do For You

I tend to avoid CiF, but got so miffed with Julian Glover's awful articles, I wrote a post today which got 81 recommends, facetious and daft though the post was.

Seems to me that the tide is turning against neo-liberalism.

What really gets me is just how desperate many on the 'neo-liberal left' as it were, are to save far right economic policies. Just look at this. 'Britain's in Love with the coalition' apparently. Ok, maybe a vast percentage of lib dem voters have regretted their decision, and the cuts haven't come into place yet, but lots of metropolitan journos love the coalition, so nuff said.

'One of the biggest reasons for Labour's failure at the last election and for its significant losses in the Midlands and the south-east was its failure to retain the votes of a particular group of voters, termed by companies like Experian as "Happy Families". These families tend to live in new-build housing, many have got young children, have a household annual income of £20,000 to £30,000 and are cash and time poor. They depend heavily on their car and really feel the pinch when petrol prices rise. They are utterly demanding of opportunities for their children and want the very best in terms of service provision. They increasingly expect public services to be tailored to them in the same ways private sector companies like Amazon fit around their needs. While they account for 10% of the total population, in southern marginals like Milton Keynes South, they account for nearly 40% of the electorate.'

The hard electoral arithmetic is that if you don't win with this group, you can't win.'

In other words, try to appeal to the most selfish instincts of lower middle class east Anglians and you'll win? Sounds an ideal policy. After all that's how Atlee got in isn't it? He told a few thousand East Anglians that they'd have some more dough in the kitty if they voted fat boy out? And that's how Harold Wilson won a string of elections?

The truth is that Britain is at an impasse. Neo-liberalism has failed. But what is to come next? I personally believe that Social Democracy is the solution. But will there be a force to articulate this? The money for 'progressive' causes seems all to go towards socially liberal AND economically liberal media sources.

It is mad that our country has such a narrow spectrum of political opinion. Yet I suppose the neo-liberals have something which no tyranny has had: a political and media establishment with a near complete consensus on economic and foreign policy. Given the mood of resentment NOW and Ireland's double dip recession from their slashing spending, I feel certain that some oposition will come up. But I can't guarantee it will be as pretty as social democracy.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

What does it benefit a country if it polices the world and loses its soul

Whilst I think the current Tory party are a sinister bunch of idealogues, and their lib dem lapdogs far more odious (because they immediately betrayed their election pledges), one positive outcome has been that I've noticed a marked decrease in Russophobia in the Brit media and political discourse.

Too little apparently for 'democracy' advocate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, AKA Russia's most unpopular man. This billionaire was sent to the poky for illegal dealings, resulting in his becoming immensely wealthy when other Russians were famished.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad to see Khodorkovsky idealising Britain as a land of 'democracy'. Just look at Nick Clegg's selling out, and The Observer's response:

'But read today's brilliant Observer leading article for an explanation of why Clegg is hugging the Tories close instead. He's not stupid. He's not a Tory in disguise. He's being brave and smart.'

Yes, it was very brave and smart of Clegg to tell voters that he opposed the Tories cuts in the run up to the election then totally support the Tory cuts when he was elected. If you ask me 'brave' isn't an adequately flattering term; he deserves a medal for being so heroic.

Glover later patronises a commentor:

'Oh - and if Tories are Tories and Blair is a Tory and Clegg is also a Tory then you will wait a long time for an election not to be won with a majority by "a Tory".

Labour did it in 1945, 1950, 1966, 1974 (just) - any others recently...? Perhaps it's just that voters like leaders you see as Tories.'

Yes, except that people voted for Labour to keep the Tories out and the coalition only squeezed in because the Lib Dems ran as a party far to the left of their current position.

It just sickens me what a country Britain has turned into. It isn't just that laudatory epithets are heaped upon dishonest plutocrats, but that they are done so with evident sincerity.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Unintended Consequences

I feel very reluctant to write anything about The Pope's state visit to Britain. As a pastoral visit I am pleased and feel supportive for his traditional theology, his courage in fighting against relativism and the encouragement it will probably give to the British Catholics. As a 'state visit' I'm not so sure. This is primarily because there is a lot I don't really get about Catholic culture. For those who're baptised Orthodox, things are pretty simple: you're an Orthodox Christian if you say the creed and receive the sacraments. You're a culturally-Orthodox agnostic if you go to the occasional service to listen to the divine liturgy and meet people but can't recite the creed or receive the sacraments. And you're not Orthodox if you don't go to the services and hate the faith.

Perhaps because there doesn't seem to be such a thing as a 'lapsed Orthodox', I'll never get articles like this. 'I was baptised Catholic, I don't believe in God, couldn't recite the creed or receive the sacraments, but that's not to say it's none of my business. If I did go to church then I might not go to the church because I don't agree with the Pope so I'm entitled to be patronising towards people who do go to church and receive communion because I wouldn't agree with them if I did go to church even though I don't go to church and wouldn't go to church even if they did things the way I want them to'.

And because Benedict XVI is being invited on a state visit as a cultural figure, I don't really know what to make of it given that many people who feel affiliated with his culture don't seem to have much affiliation for the whole religion thing.

It's not entirely surprising that Johann Hari claimed that he got lots of praise from 'Catholics' for his piece of drivel here. Those who remember those 'secular cards' where white atheists use wisdom and rationality might want to read this. Or maybe even Hari's own links, which demonstrate that he's speaking drivel.

Speaking of which, Poly Toynbee tries to outdo him. I'm not sure which one of these intellectual midgets coined the term 'the religious', or indeed if either of them were (ahem) 'clever' enough to do so. But Toynbee plays it for all it's worth. Though she says something oddly illuminating:

'On Friday he meets the Archbishop of Canterbury, who ought to send him off with a flea in his ear for trying to seduce over to Rome Church of England clergy opposed to women bishops. His beatification of Cardinal Newman for converting to Catholicism is an affront, along with his claim that Britain's Equalities Act "violates natural law" for banning discrimination against women and gays.'

In case anyone doesn't get the politics of Anglicanism, I don't either really. But it generally breaks down to this: some Anglicans are Protestants who think that ministers are just people in general; other Anglicans are Apostolic and believe that the Priesthood is a succession carried down from Christ through men. Subsequently, a lot of the Apostolic Anglicans want to leave the Church. So why should that be of interest to Toynbee? Firstly, because the Protestant faith has given Britain a sense of being different and superior to Europe. Secondly, because Anglicans are uncle Toms in new atheist Britain who set a standard that other churches are judged by. Needless to say, it isn't as if they're respected or anything by the atheists (far less small-o orthodox Christians, in the Anglican communion and out of it) but they are a useful tool.

Also Toynbee has a curious obsession with women's bodies in the faith because it seems to me that oddly enough it's secular blokes who consider themselves feminists who really have a weird obsession. Take this article on Lady Gaga's latest stunt. If a bloke said 'I'm afraid of losing my creativity through my willy', would he be regarded as a silver-tongued wit, or maybe just a dysfunctional weirdo? But because a woman says this kind of thing it's clever to the secular feminist blokes.

Having said that, if anyone thinks that Blighty is a land of metrosexual drones, think again. Violence, rudeness and aggression are many-headed hydras that are omnipresent in our streets where pockmarked youths will start harrying anyone seen reading in public. Can we really feel so smug about secularism? Especially as they are outbreeding the (cough) middle class atheists. Yes, they might not have much more time for church than the Rationalist Association's archetypal atheist, but it's pretty clear that the Rationalist Association's ideal of an atheist wouldn't wear burberry and that their (cough) middle class atheist would be on their knees begging the vicar for a lift if he had a car and they were in an inner city region on a Friday night.

Still, back to the Pope's visit. Things are getting stupider by the day. This letter, however, is in its own way interesting for demonstrating how wrong Matthew Arnold was in his Athens/ Jerusalem dichotomy. Look at what a meagre bunch this lot generally are: Steven Fry is a likable and affable chap, but his achievements don't really go much further than being a famous Brit who's more likable than Anne Robinson or Simon Cowell. I was sorry to hear that Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with Alzheimers, but really, is this writer of abysmal, adolescent farce really the best arts figure they can conjure up? And look at their points of condemnation:

'Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.'

What? Not supporting efforts to stop poor people having children and instead supporting the surest method of stopping AIDS? The horror.

'Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.'

I think this really sums up a lot of the creepiness of many 'new atheists'. Are they saying they support abortion for 'the most vulnerable' but they respect the Vatican's view that unborn children shouldn't be disposed of if they are inconvenient? Of course not: they like to keep a foot in the camp of self-righteousness without going against the consumerist status quo about life.

'Promoting segregated education'

This hits home the suburban cosy view that secular schools are morally neutral and that it isn't the case that they will be exposed to values which have been pumped into other kids through the internet and TV. Maybe it's all very well for the Dawkins and Pullmans to send their kids to public schools in the 'burbs. But many working class Catholics might not want the same thing for their kids.

There are some criticisms of the Vatican I would find it difficult to dispute. But it seems to me that the open letter is notable for having two children's writers as its most popular literary figures.

Could it be that as it becomes increasingly obvious that secular Britain is a dangerous kindergarten that Titus Oates style hatred of a certain minority might be less appealing? Of course, it will be appealing to the childish people that our society lionises: but maybe the rest of us can't be bothered getting on our high horses. Furthermore, as a historian I see anti-Catholic predjudice as a great evil in British history that has never been addressed.

Of course, that isn't to say that the Roman Catholic Church is above criticism. But in an atomised and cold society, brutal demagogues find it easy to incite hatred at a close-knit diaspora. It is precisely because fundamentalist Protestantism had failed to unify British society that it found such ugly outlets. I suspect one can say the same thing for fanatical atheism.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

History against Humanism

I reckon that I'm opposed to humanism as a historian rather than as a Christian. Taking our own country especially, with the oldest and proudest history in the world, according to David Cameron, there are some evidently nasty things about human nature. Just read about the 16th-17th Centuries.

But some observations about folks in general:

-There are many people who inwardly find it hard to believe that something can't be their business
-Whenever the state has told people that something is their business when by any ethical standard it isn't, it never lacks its fair share of informants, nosey parkers and spies
-There are many people who like to think they share in other people's achievements, purely by believing/ not believing in something
-There are many people who like to think they are smarter than they are. And no organisation has ever lacked fanatical adherents after telling people that they are pretty sharp cookies by default.
-There are many very stupid people who like to think that they are cleverer than they are because they believe/don't believe in something.
-There are many lonely people who are looking for belonging, and they will owe strong allegiance to a group where they feel they belong.
-There are many selfish people who want to feel good purely by not believing/believing in something
-There are many people who will want to feel self-righteous anger at people who've never met them, wouldn't want to meet them and would have no interest in meeting them. Religion and irreligion can both fulfill this need.

For this reason I find this website really disturbing. Just look at its title 'rationalist association'. Sounds cool, how do I become a member of the rationalist association? An IQ test, or summin? What? Oh, just not believe in God. That's cool, but I was led here by this man. And Hari isn't the only atheist I've seen praising Melanie Phillips, who also stands for everything negative about religious culture. Then there's this cartoon:

Get it, the Pope is oppressing poor, stupid people in the third wor- oh, did I say 'stupid', I meant 'poor helpless victims', or does that sound patronising? Who cares, it's right isn't it. Especially what with him getting them to have kids.

Then there's these cards; clever white atheists and agnostics are beset by stupid darkies apparently. Such is the state of modern Britain. I suppose though, it is good to know that atheists are more exasperated than angry. Hopefully exasperation at the inferiority of other people won't lead to massacre of the faithful like what happened in Mexico, China, the USSR, Communist Poland, Nazi Poland, Viet Nam, Cambodia etc. And so great to know that the group that includes Hitler, Lysenko, Mao, Stalin etc. is so perfectly rational (and obviously I'm not saying that these people are typical atheists but that surely they should stop people from letting their egos expand purely because they don't believe in God; I mean even my benchmark for feeling good about myself is slightly higher).

Perhaps I wouldn't find these things quite so disturbing if I actually genuinely believed Britain to have a robust rationalist movement. I don't. The very success of Johann Hari's illogical, historically illiterate drivel* is evidence of this. And whilst the atheists like to patronise Britain as a land of rationalism due to low church attendance it is also a country that consumes vast amounts of drugs, alcohol, sedatives, depressants, anti-depressants, stimulants, sweeteners, TV, electronic gadgets, and which has a very low regard for reading or education.

Britain is also a country with a largely disenfranchised majority, vast differences of wealth, high unemployment and a high proportion who work in jobs they are overqualified for and immense anger and hatred. To me it seems a country full of people who are desperate for a sense of meaning, and if the economic crisis leads to a depression, then the bread and circuses might come to an end. I don't think Britain will be a pretty country when that happens.

It seems to me that 'humanism' offers an ideal religion for this outcome. It has a strong (though I think very superficial) sense of fellowship, an unembarrassed attitude towards narcissistic self-praise, a belief that rationality can be reduced to a few axioms, a moral code that is seen as equally axiomatic, a surprising degree of compatibility with racist views of Western superiority and (perhaps most of all) a common enemy which provides the cement between dissimilar people.

Of course, some would say that the same thing applies to many religions, and I would entirely agree. However, to say that because religious societies can have some flaws does not mean to say that the same primates in an irreligious society cannot have the same flaws. Surely to say so would be profoundly irrational?

*Hari wrote:
'The smart, questioning and instinctively moral Muslims – the majority – learn to be silent, or are shunned (at best). What would Christianity be like today if George Eliot, Mark Twain and Bertrand Russell had all been pulped? Take the most revolting rural Alabama church, and metastasise it.'

Presumably he means if writing by these authors was pulped, but if it wasn't for Anglo-Saxon writers then churches in non-Anglophone countries would all be in the (as it were) dark ages? Also gotta love Hari's idea that 'smart' and 'moral' Muslims 'learn to be silent'; in terms of being clumsy and patronising he pretty much outdoes Chris Morris's 'who says AIDS guys are puny'

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Oh Tony Boy

You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.

Our dear ex-leader has cancelled a book signing in London:
He added: "I'm really sorry for those - as ever the majority - who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand."

Strange in a Stranger Land

Following on from the Morrisey post and why I find it bizarre that people think immigrants are diluting British culture, I was walking down the street yesterday and I saw someone asking two young soldiers (who looked about 12 and 14 respectively) to pose for a photo.

This gave me mixed feelings. On one hand I was grateful that the guy was making the soldiers feel important and valued. I'd guess most of our soldiers know the two most recent wars we've been involved in are deeply unpopular, and whilst they also hopefully know that we hope for their safety and mourn at their deaths, it really must be psychologically gruelling knowing that you enlisted to defend the country but you could be horrifically maimed or killed for a war that the people don't want, and which has no ultimate goal. For this I thought it was quite touching.

On the other hand I think that it is dangerous to sentimentalise the military. I find that's a path that leads to the demented Fox News world whereby the very people who think no cause is too stupid to send American soldiers out to be killed in are the very ones who claim to be backing the military.

Anyway, as I was pondering this dilemma an astoundingly gormless (but nonetheless very confident) middle class young man started doing wolf whistles at the soldiers and saying 'sexy'.

That really annoyed me more than I expected. Bearing in mind the two soldiers didn't look old enough to shave, I thought that it was exceptionally disrespectful and offensive.

As far as I feel, Britain is a changing country. Thankfully I think overall Scotland has changed less than the rest. But I really don't see what migration has to do with it. Being a bit of a nutter, when reading for friends' children, I keep hoping they'll ask me to read a Dick and Jane book because I love the Britishness of it all (my friends kids are half-Greek by the way). But frankly, I'm sure that few modern Brit kids do read them: they're probably more likely to be shooting cybernetic police men on their playstations. The rudeness of modern culture is quite astounding, but instead of inventing straw men to blame (like immigrants) it's as well to try and make the case against such rudeness and trying to speak up FOR traditional British values.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Ringleader of the Tormentors

It's always difficult when you see a person or a country that you admire being attacked for just reasons.

And this time, it really does seem that Morrisey has said something truly awful.

However, I can't help feeling that Te Graun's coverage is exceedingly poor. A journalist, whose name seems to have been invented by Chris Morris, Alexandra Topping writes:

'But tomorrow he reignites a simmering row about his views on race in an interview in Guardian Weekend magazine, in which he describes Chinese people as a "subspecies" because of their treatment of animals.'

Don't know if you can write in the continuous tense about tomorrow, but then Te Graun didn't get its nickname name for nothing. However, surely if it's so offensive Te Graun can decide not to publish the interview? After all, they are getting on their high horse because Morrisey's trying to attract attention by being offensive. Surely they aren't going to do the same thing whilst adding cowardly disclaimers? If anything that would be even lower. Especially from a paper that published an editorial saying 'Justice and reason have finally prevailed after nine months of mass hysteria on both sides of the Atlantic, hysteria and moralistic prejudices' after a middle class director who raped a thirteen year old avoided being extradited.

And did they have the same banner when Martin Amis called for people to get rough with Muslim kids? Did this receive so many throat clearing condemnations? No, because no one has any idea what Martin Amis 'thinks'. It's just a group hallucination that he is any kind of intellectual. And anyway, he offered the disclaimer that it was a thought experiment, which I'm sure settled a few minds.

By contrast, their coverage of the Morrisey song Bengali in Platforms is also completely idiotic. One of Morrisey's gifts is for ambiguity. Is this song written from the point of view of the Bengali or from the point of view of Morrisey looking at the Bengali or the point of view of someone else looking at the Bengali? It's never stated. That's the beauty of Morrisey's songwriting.

Then there is the same thirty year retrospective of Morrisey's supposed racism. Firstly, I find it amusing that wrapping himself in a Union Jack is so controversial. How many British rockstars wear the Stars and Stripes? In truth despite or because the USA has oppressed so many nations, it is seen as the de facto flag of Britain by many. Secondly, he write another cryptic song called National Front Disco.

Lastly there are his comments on immigration into England, which is far from being a simple issue. I notice that no-one actually tried to refute his view that British identity is diluted by large scale immigration. Personally, I don't care that much, because so many British want to assume an identity that is more American than anything else. Yet I think that it is precisely because it goes without saying to our elite that Britain should be morphing into a little America that they found Morrisey's comments offensive.

Is there also an element of class hatred? This is difficult to tell because Morrisey's comments on the Chinese sadly were very offensive. Yet I can't help feeling rather negatively about other Graun comments:

'And then, let's not forget, there is the rest of a vast catalogue that has nothing to do with race. In the best of it – from There is a Light that Never Goes Out to I Know it's Gonna Happen Someday – the words mix with the music to speak to a human condition that defines people of every race. And that, I am sure, is what will be remembered long after this silly old man has finally got off the stage.'

There is little thought that Morrisey might apologise for his comments, or redeem himself in some way. But then, could this be a thought articulated before Morrisey even opened his big gob on the subject of the Chinese? Could it be that they really don't want a rock star of working class origin to continue on the stage? Maybe there is a paradox in Morrisey's career. On one hand, he could be seen as the ultimate working class boy made good. On the other his career path was so contrary to the simplistic path of neo-liberal dogma, writing his songs when on the dole, writing 'Margaret on the Guillotine' when he was getting rich.

Indeed, whilst the sight of our national flag can bring so many 'leftists' out in hives, the brutality shown towards the industrial poor is one area where they have little dispute with the neo-liberals. Many of the others who showed anger at Thatcher (whose views on privatisation, manufacturing and the industrial regions are pretty centrist by today's status quo) such as Roger Waters are now happier with the Countryside Alliance than any working class movement.

In this day of middle class boring musicians, meaningless music with no social awareness, idiotic lyrics which only use ambiguity for sub Carry On style entendres and abysmal melodies, I think Morrisey's achievements look greater by the day, even as the idea of an intellectual, individualistic rock star whose work thrives on irony and ambiguity is seen as a dated concept. I would be sorry if indeed he did 'leave the stage', though sadly I think if he did he would have to admit it was partially his own fault.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

There you Go Again

Te Graun has been looking into the abyss of Bliar's memoirs and seeing their own reflection:
'We know all we want to know about Brown the grump; Blair says nothing fresh on this. But as to Brown the irredeemable statist, the roadblock to reform, as the Tories used to put it, he is revealing.
Their shared government was riven by an ideological dispute, not just one of personalities, from the start. The disagreement is most explicit at the end: Blair's attack on "state spending dressed up as fiscal stimulus", his mockery of the resurrection of Keynes by people who like big government.'

Yes, Tony the enemy of 'big government': unless that meant invading Serbia, invading Afghanistan, invading Iraq, wanting to extend the period of time someone could be held without trial, blanket CCTV surveillance, helping Israeli planes fuel when they were blowing up Lebanese kids, saying nothing when the Americans were dropping white phosphorus on Fallujah, letting civil liberties collapse, pumping money into the banks, introducing laws that photographers can be imprisoned for ten years without evidence of wrongdoing. Not to mention continuing the neglect of poor areas resulting in an uneducated underclass that will be dependent upon the state.

Of course, Tony was the enemy of 'Big Government' if this means the people owning the means of health, transportation, manufacturing and income. However, frankly, in 21st century Britain this is what the English middle classes seem to fear most. I just wonder how long it will be before Social Democratic Europeans will be the subject of French Revolution era caricatures of mindless, ape-like peasants?

Glover bends his knee to Fettes boy Bliar:
'Yet the impressive thing for such a commanding figure, the only rival to Attlee in Labour history, is that he confesses to an absence of control.'

Yes, Harold Wilson was a tactical and intellectual giant next to Bliar but he was somewhat common wasn't he? Let's focus on how impressive it is to show a lack of control and thought. Yesterday I ate fifteen pies. Isn't that impressive? What? Lack of control isn't impressive if it's in dirty commoners, it's only a madey upey sort of pseudo-compliment for sycophantic 'liberal' journos to give to a rich person who's failed by almost any objective standard? That's interesting. Are there plenty more where that came from?

'There are also standard grumbles, such as a sustained attack on the media – odd from a man who courted Rupert Murdoch and admits to "a grudging respect and even liking for him".

But since that is what he thinks, he is right to say it. The book is redeemed by such truths. Blair has a world view and is unafraid to describe it, bigger and bolder than anyone else. You can say he was mad. You can say he was a flawed genius. But you can't say he didn't matter.'

See it is redeemed because he's honest about liking and respecting a misanthropic Australian market fanatic whom he was allegedly saved to save Britain from? Would someone not from Fettes be 'redeemed' by that?

No, I suspect that the class system is stronger in Britain than it's been since the 1940s. The only problem is that our 'betters' no longer have any social conscience. Come a reborn social democrat movement.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

21st Century Schizoid Man

I'll never forget the day that Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair. Within an hour every tea-cosy, every sugar cube and waste paper basket was nationalised. When I stepped out into the street I thought they'd started shooting the remake of Red Dawn in my own town. Red banners everywhere, soldiers with AKs looking for enemies of the people. It was crazy.

What's that? It sounds like I'm speaking bullshit? Well spotted, I am speaking bullshit. In truth I have no recollection of what day, month or year it was that one plutocratic pro-surveillance, pro-humanitarian intervention, pro-privatisation, pro-banker New Labour type came and when another went.

And what with the absolute nothing of Bliar coming out with his (no doubt ludicrously self-serving memoirs) it seemed that Te Graun had really captured the Zeitgeist:

They even brought out their oily untermensch John Crace to come up with yet another of his sarky pisstakes for anyone who can be bothered.

Ah but what greeted me this morning?

Appears that the article last night was wrong. Mega wrong. Bliar's book is really a fount of wisdom for the young uns. And a careful analysis of how Brown lost the election.

'But his book reveals numerous occasions on which the struggle between the two New Labour titans sapped the strength and direction of the government, leading Blair to delay his handover to his chancellor.'

Just so's you know, when I previously described the Blair/Brown conflict as a clash of the Titans, I was being sarky.

'Blair nails his policy colours to the mast in his memoir by launching a sustained attack on the belief that the financial crisis means that voters want the return of the state as a major economic player.'


"Labour won when it was New Labour," Blair writes in his memoir. "It lost because it stopped being New Labour."


"The problem, I would say error, was in buying a package which combined deficit spending, heavy regulation, identifying banks as the malfeasants and jettisoning the reinvention of government in favour of the rehabilitation of government. The public understands the difference between the state being forced to intervene to stabilise the market and government back in fashion as a major actor in the economy."

Uh, yes. Brown was a notorious enemy of the bankers and savagely attacked them entirely unjustly by blaming them for their mistakes. And even before that Brown disastrously regulated the banks. The Brown in Tony Bliar's head that is. And look at his Reaganesque use of the word 'government' without an article as a commodity rather than as an immensely complicated construction. Couldn't 'government' take over public transport to make it more efficient? Can't 'government' do better at educating people? It's Bliar's very Reaganesque vocabulary after running a supposedly Social Democratic party that demonstrates the paucity of his thought.

Reading Te Graun really makes me feel that the left is pretty irrelevant now. It has never gotten over its yeoman servitude, and the idea that there is any interesting ideological debate between Blair and Brown only makes sense in the light of Britain's class system.

Perhaps the editors did try to feign a lack of interest in Bliar's big book of bullshit, but they just couldn't sustain it. Everyone knows that Bliar was a disaster, but the Fettes boy will still effortlessly gain kneebending reactions in the Metropolitan middle classes.

So I say, bring on a pure form of social democracy, divorced from identity politics and 'humanitarian intervention'.

Of course there is also a need for a civil liberties left, but it says everything that this interesting news piece was shunted out of the limelight by Te Graun in favour of Bliar's book. And in fact Te Graun showed little interest in the Tomlinson case which was primarily brought to light by responsible citizens. Could it be that social democracy can do better whith the Guardian, the Labour party and other neo-liberal sell-outs? Given the financial situation of the Labour Party, Te Graun and The Independent, we could be about to find out.

To its credit The Guardian does produce foreign journalism like this, which is very important, given that the right wing papers tend not to criticise that lovely outpost of progress in the Middle East. But I do think that it is untenable in attempting to uphold a kind of liberalism that is too right wing for social democracy and too socially liberal for the right.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

So Wrong

This Theo Hobson post is plain nuts. I can sort of see where he's coming from. But he's obviously never bothered reading any of the CiF comments, where right wingers will self-righteously tell you that it is only moral to admire Pinochet because the imaginary Chileans who would have been killed if he weren't in charge would be much greater than those he did kill.

And let's not forget (though almost everyone in the media seems to have) the attempts of supporters of the Iraq war to portray opponents as buddies of Saddam. And does anyone remember when our armchair warriors were handing out cybernetic white feathers to the bloody conchies who were saying that we should keep well clear of the tie chewer of Tblisi (where Saakashvilli's tanks machine gunned fleeing civilians: which is moral in their world)?

In fact, the archetypal merry Tory GK Chesterton hated warfare AND the free market. I doubt if the supposedly carefree and unjudgemental modern right would really sway him with their lovable lack of heavy-handed moralising.

Being a somewhat distant relative of Sir Thomas Urquhart, I think that being quite carefree and disliking the preaching tone is quite acceptable for a social democrat. However, given that only a maniac would think there is anything moral about the free-market or warfare, I really don't feel any attraction to the modern right. But even if a tree fell on my head and I did, I think the heavy handed moralising that they use to dress up their self-righteousnes would put me off.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

War on the War on Drugs

I'm hoping that Social Democracy is edging its way towards being a mainstream concept again because I think it is the fairest way to run a society and in so many ways neo-liberalism has been intellectually discredited.

However, I do also wonder if the modern 'left' can either get behind social democracy or become an intellectual force to be reckoned with.

Reading this article by Johann Hari really makes me wonder if the left is regressing. I actually do think most drugs should be legalised. But I realise that this is a complex situation and respect people who disagree. I acknowledge there would be a huge human cost to legalising drugs as well as a high cost to society. However 1) Making drug use an offence has created a vast prison population 2) It often results in unsafe drugs being released 3) It does indeed line the pockets of criminals 4) It's de facto legal in the West anyway if you have enough money and white skin 5) I don't know to what extent the state should be able to control what people consume and 6) The WOD has resulted in vast environmental damage and human cost.

However, Hari's work is just drivel:

'To many people, the “war on drugs” sounds like a metaphor, like the “war on poverty.” It is not. It is being fought with tanks and sub machine guns and hand grenades, funded in part by your taxes, and it has killed 28,000 people under the current Mexican President alone. The death-toll in Tijuana – one of the front-lines of this war – is now higher than in Baghdad. Yesterday, another pile of seventy mutilated corpses was found near San Fernando – an event that no longer shocks the country.'

Uh, no. The 'war on drugs' hasn't killed 28,000 people in Mexico. Most of these people have been massacred by drugs dealers. And leaving aside the poor writing of 'another pile of seventy corpses' does he know that this type of horrific event 'no longer' has the capacity to shock? Really? Did Hari check that out with people who live in Mexico? Or do the Hispanics not mean much to the modern left unless they're unintentionally helping union busters? Well, the opinion of Mexicans about whether drugs should be legalised are certainly of little interest to Hari.

But thankfully Hari demonstrates how we can all be wonderful people:

'To support the right side in the referendum to decriminalize cannabis in California this November - one of the most important moves on drugs in the world at the moment - please donate or volunteer for the campaign here.'

Whilst I have sympathy for this movement, when people speak about being 'on the right side', I do tend to be very, very nervous. The irony is that it is an expression I often see being used by the modern right and which seems very 'religious' in a fundamentalist way. However, I think of it as being profoundly 'unconservative' as it were, not just in its vulgarity and its stupidity but in its forceful rejection of dialectic debate that lies at the root of European culture.

In some regards this rejection of the Ancient Wisdom is a sign of how (as Frank Shaeffer said) the religious right and the new left are two signs of the same coin. They are both far happier with counter-culture narcissism and certainty than with classical thought. Whilst on a personal level I have a lot of time for popular films and music, I do think that people of my generation have to wake up to the fact that it has greatly failed in a greater social context.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Well, I'm very confused Ted

Seems that coalition 'partner' Nick Clegg is angry with the suggestion that the 'progressive coalition' budget is going to lead to widening income disparity:

'Speaking this afternoon, Clegg said: "This IFS analysis is, by definition, partial. It does not include the things we want to do to get people off benefits and into work.'

The poor simpletons, Nick. You should phone the IFS up to explain to them that there are lots of imaginary people in your head who are going to get jobs because you 'want' them to. You can explain that the not-so-imaginary people who are certainly going to be made redundant by the reforms will also find work because you 'want' them to and everyone will be happy and drink lemonade with bunnies in the sunshine because you 'want' that to happen.

That is the state of modern Britain. The idea that the invisible hand won't find work for people seems to be a thought crime.

The Centre Cannot Hold

So, the 'progressive coalition' will hit the poorest members of society hardest according to Te Graun which will be humiliating for the Lib Dems. The Treasury's response is brilliant:

'The Treasury said it did not accept the think-tank's analysis, saying it ignored the effects of people who would come off benefits and go into work.

"It is selective, ignoring the pro-growth and employment effects of Budget measures such as helping households move from benefits into work, and reductions in corporation tax," a spokesman said.'

So slashing jobs will drive people off unemployment benefits? Brilliant thinking lads, can't believe no one ever thought of that before.

At the same time, Labour contender Diane Abbot calls for renationalising railways:

'If Network Rail had to let go of 95 managers then it really is in a mess. Further to this there are allegations of sexual harassment against network Rail’s head of human resources Peter Bennett. All of this would be just about bearable if the railways were genuinely private but they continue to cost the taxpayer billions.

We subsidise train operators to the tune of £1billion a year and subsidise network Rail by £4billion. yet managers continue to pay themselves fat, private-sector salaries and bonuses and the companies continue to squeeze the travellers. That is why I believe it is time to take the railways back into public ownership. It was a mistake to privatise them in the first place as it’s allowed private companies to profiteer without regard to public interest.'

I've got my doubts about Abbot's electability though she is the most progressive amongst the contenders, followed by Ed Miliband (if Ed Balls or David Miliband take up the reigns we can say hello to one party Britain). However she has been the subject of some justified criticism and how tolerant a country Britain is is very much open to doubt.

Aside from that, I do think that the Tories are riding roughshod over their Lib Dem cup holders and progressives will no longer be given the third party option.

It will be curious to see what results.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Take a Chance on Me?

I was reading about New Labour's near bankruptcy with mixed feelings. Being frank, they were abysmal: they failed to renationalise railways whilst splurging on CCTV, war and mass surveillance. However, they managed to get re-elected purely by telling the British people that even if they were the second worst party, they could still save Britain from the worst party.

So goes the two party system. Republican supporters have to pedal drivel about Obama being a Stalinist Islamofascist to hide the fact that Sarah Palin is apparently the brains of the outfit.

If Labour were stable, surely it would just mean that David Miliband would be a neo-liberal neo-con in a 'centre left' cap, just as David Cameron would be a neo-liberal neo-con in a 'centre right' cap and Nick Clegg would be a neo-liberal neo-con in a 'centre' cap.

However, Ed Miliband seems to be making a genuine attempt to change the Labour party. However, this leads to the question 'from what'? The 2010 labour party or the 1997 Labour party?

In fact Blair also ran on a centre-left pro-nationalisation platform. And see where that got to? However, Blair was in charge, when, to quote Maggie 'there was no alternative' from neo-liberalism.

However, the mood is certainly changing. The terms 'left' 'right' and 'centre' are all very stupid and have done a lot to damage modern political thought. Would someone who wanted to massacre half the world's untermensch me a 'centrist' by Nazi Germany's standards? Would someone who wanted to privately manufacture tiddly-winks be a demented mad right winger by Soviet standards?

The terms are intrinsically ridiculous and yet, the Brits have received such a rough time from neo-liberalism, the centre could be the place to watch. Whilst I disagree with him on some things, Ian Dunt who is supposed to be objective is a better critic of neo-liberalism than many Graun writers. And with this yahoo article, I wonder if the 'centrists' are just getting too hacked off with our economic system?

'Well, because the taxpayer now pays higher subsidies to private companies than we paid to state-owned British Rail. A report by Dr Richard Knowles, of Salford University, showed that passenger rail subsidies topped £1.34bn in 2002-2003 compared to £1.07bn in 1993-1994 under BR.
- But rail companies are still ‘profitable', that is, they still make money and pay themselves immense bonuses because the bedraggled taxpayer covers their losses and then pays through the nose for a ticket to ride one of their arthritic trains, before being absolutely wrung dry in the refreshments carriage if they weren't wise enough to stock up in M&S first.'

I think that the British people have long been waiting for an ideological clash of the titans which never happened: of left against right. In fact almost all journalists and politicians morphed into a kind of neo-liberalism: pro-abortion, pro-privatisation, pro-EU, anti-death-penalty but in favour of a large prison population, pro-immigration, pro-pop culture, in favour of 'humanitarian intervention (I.e. people who speak English dropping bombs on people) but against disproportionate violation of national sovereignty (people who talk foreign dropping bombs on people). Whilst I am obviously no fan of neo-liberalism, I don't disagree with all its positions but I think politics needs to have parties who disagree with each other.

Maybe Ed Miliband will bring the Labour party in a new direction. It will be curious to see.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Well, thank you very much

Of all the surreal images left from Tony Blair's premiership, the sight of the Fettes boy in jeans and a donkey jacket at a trade union meeting has to be the maddest. It was so ridiculously insincere it actually contained a sincerity all of its own in its blunt condescension.

However, this moment must be Cameron's equivalent, as he pretends that his is the old fogey's party. Cue Americanised drivel about Britain's history being 'the oldest and proudest'. Some nations that weren't involved in the slave trade, genocidal violence against American and East Indians, rapaciously pillaging other nations, sending children to clean chimneys or starve to death etc might disagree. But then, saying that Britain has 'a complex and chequered history' might not get money to change hands, which is his sole interest in heritage. Aside from that, his party is the party of the old fogeys the way that New Labour was the party of the working classes.

It was the Tories who did the most to destroy British heritage projects. It was the Tories who did the most to support and economical system whereby drivel like Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls enjoy financial hegemony. Is it any wonder that Simon Cowell, the personification of all that's wrong with Britain, endorsed Cameron? After all, Andrew Lloyd Weber, his precursor in conveying vulgar drivel was a longtime Tory supporter.

Now heritage projects are guaranteed near total destruction under Cameron and Osborne because they have little market value.

It is curious that the reactionary Tories are now like the working classes, a major force which gets nothing but empty promises from 'their' party. Perhaps this will lead to a new drive for electoral reform. But I doubt it, given that most reactionaries like to blame 'socialism' for Britain's modern faults.

Anyway, chin up guys. Just as well we don't live in a socialist nightmare society like Venezuela where no doubt the nippers are taught to singe dirges about their great leader and his tractor factories, eh what? Just as well we live in the individualistic West where we have Big Brother, the X-factor and all those other life-affirming symbols of free-market victory.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Help Stop Stupid Swarthy Foreigners From Breeding

Seems to be the gist of this article.

Argentina is a democracy with an elected government. But these backwards people have made a mess of it as usually happens when left to themselves. They need some nice benevolent cough, rich white, hrmph, people to take them in hand and stop producing so many kids:

'international human rights law says that women have a right to make decisions about if, when and how many children they have, says Human Rights Watch. In Argentina, those rights have been "systematically flouted for years", it says.'

Firstly, what is 'international human rights law'? Is this a law based on values that ,cough, splutter, white, rich harumph, people draw up? Can I guess that these countries include the enlightened nations of the USA, Germany, Britain and Belgium for instance?

Let's see what Wikipedia has to say:
'Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, and Washington D.C'

Ok, so except Japan, Russia and South Africa it is solidly white and first world. It includes two countries that have attempted to exterminate entire races, five that have had savage foreign Empires, one which has an appalling history of racism one which unapologetically benefited from Nazi banking and whilst I don't like criticising Russia, let's just say I wouldn't relish being teleported to 90s Grozny either. Pleased to see that poor countries have such benefactors to make sure they have access to contraceptives and sterilisation procedures. Also interesting to note that with the very dubious exception of France there is none with a strong Apostolic Christian presence.

Nor of course, do they have any Latin American countries there, which may explain their far from stellar record in those parts. And their vocab:

'Many become pregnant due to negligent care that deprives them of the right to make independent decisions about their health and lives, such as when the government does not purchase or distribute contraceptive supplies that it has promised to provide, and legal sterilization procedures are arbitrarily denied.'

Get that? The poor and stupid inhabitants (specifically poor and stupid women) from poor nations are deprived of the right to make independent decisions because the government does not buy them contraceptions so they 'become' pregnant and have unwanted offspring.

Some might think it curious that a Guardian columnist can find common cause with an organisation that's turned a Nelson eye to the Honduran Junta. But expect this bond to strengthen in coming years.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Mrs Lucas goes to Scotland

And good for her. Whilst I don't want to overdo the Steven Seagal metaphors, Donald Trump is just like the villain of Fire Down Below, except with even worse hair. Chris Kristofferson's blow-dried wavy mullet just can't trump, as it were, Donnie's hair.

For those who haven't noticed Trump has been getting hot under the collar because a bunch of Jocks don't want him building a gargantuan golf course on an area of ecological importance.
Mr Trump is less concerned with the rare flora and fauna than in creating 'the greatest golf course in the world'.

Now, maybe I've just seen too many bad movies, but that is exactly the thing a mid-80s-mid-90s action movie villain would cackle. And even if someone started cackling that they could build the 'greatest gold course in the world' by merely dynamiting a Tescos supermarket, I'd still be reluctant to let them do it.

Sadly, this is one area where Trekkie patriot Alex Salmond has let himself down. However, could he be having second thoughts?

Whilst Salmond has shown impressive backbone over Megrahi, he is a politician at the end of the day and an unusually clever one. Whether he merely wanted to avoid the 'Blair Effect' of grinning like a loon whilst unquestioningly supporting the world's only superpower waiting for something to happen or whether he was acting out of deep sincerity, I don't know. But his decision to both release Megrahi and not to send Kenny MacAskill to Washington showed leadership that was very popular within Scotland.

Maybe Lucas feels buoyed by this and Scotland will become a testing ground for progressive, grassroots movements. I think if Trump does a volte face on this one, it will help not just Scottish national pride, but British. If it achieves this, then I would feel even more proud to be Scottish. The worst thing that could happen for Scottish nationalism would be to develop and anti-English or anti-American outlook. But letting Trump destoy an ecosystem would not benefit the American people, as forcing Megrahi to die in prison would not benefit any American or English people.

Update: My friend Gareth pointed me to this website:

This was a very moving little video:

Ironically the idea of little people taking on environmentally-unfriendly big business is a staple of Hollywood, from Fire Down Below and On Deadly Ground to that film with Julia Roberts where no-one gets shot and which I didn't bother to see. If they do force Trump's arm, I think people across many nations (including America) would be happy about it.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Thought for the Day


"I think I'm speaking for many, many Scots people when I say we're just getting a bit fed up of being lectured to by the United States of America as to how to administer justice,"

Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah. And he's a pro-life 'conservative' theologian as well. I think that the identity politics left has really failed to tell it like it is to the Neo-Cons who see us as their property. I'm partially hoping that a resurgent theologically conservative Christianity might give us more of a voice.

Of course religion, even a religion such as Apostolic Christianity where self-doubt is integral, can open a different can of worms. People can take too much unwelcome interest in others and with society. In common with the identity politics left they can espouse admirable ideas but then go into the field of litigation and statism.

However, the simple thing is that the people need a voice, need ethos and need certain institutions. Both modern 'left' and 'right' have failed to give these in Britain.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Political Correctness Gone Right

I've never been one for tribal political ideas of 'left' and 'right'. I generally think of myself as being left-wing because I am an anti-war social democrat who supports a large degree of immigration.

However, I do see that in some regards the mainstream left and right are far more similar than either would acknowledge. One way in which this comes out is in what is called 'political correctness': in other words taking the view that minorities should be granted privileges. I say 'what is called' because I don't think anyone describes themselves as 'politically correct'.

Yet, whilst this is generally something that causes whinging on the right, in some ways they are the worst perpetrators.

Take the recent Shimon Peres comment that "There is in England a saying that an antisemite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary." Really? Who said this and where? Could it just be some self-pitying bullshit that he invented?

What gets to me is the apologetic nature of the responses to Peres' comment. Given how much theft and murder is committed by the Israeli state, I'd guess he was in a pretty poor position to lecture other countries about their record of tolerance. And even aside from insulting our culture, isn't this exactly the kind of ghettoising victim mentality that the right are supposed to dislike?

However, where is the right wing furore over this? Where is our Tory leader, who has just been acting Mr Big in South Asia to stick up for British national pride?

And incidentally, a word about some passports...

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Blighty Fury

If the cinema of Steven Seagal is any indicator of the 'special relationship' then it is very special indeed.

For those unaquainted with Flight of Fury, I can only implore you to rush to Asda bargain bin to pick up this deathless masterpiece.

Anyway, this film (in the off-chance you haven't already seen it) starts with the usual cliches: American pilot steals plane, goes to rendevous with terrorists: then it really pulls the carpet from under your feet. 'Are these Serbians'? My friend asked, seeing whitey terrorists in Afghanistan.

Good question. The Slavs in general are a gold mine for Hollywood: foreign enough for the audience to gloat over their being massacred by white people who speak English, white enough to stop the PC crowd from whinging.

But blow me down, as I expected them to start speaking weeth theek accents, did they not turn out to be Cockerneys?

And before they can say to the yankee traitor 'consider yerself one of the far-m-i-ly', have they not asked him to drop toxic weapons on Uncle Sam? No negotiations, no asking for money, no Blofeldian plan to take over: just death to America.

Two things to note. One: as I've already pointed out there are ample white foreigners waiting to be massacred by Americans for Hollywood to keep its pompous, self-righteous colourblind veneer. Yet of all the dodgy, backwards, foreigners that Middle American audiences believe inhabit the commie wasteland between Russia and Portugal, they choose 'our no 1 ally'. No wait, its us who call them that.

Secondly, whether because the script was pulled out of someone else's waste basket and they lost the pages with this cliche or whether they wanted to avoid this cliche or whether thy really think we Brits are the nastiest people on earth, they didn't even have the Brit terrorists blackmailing Uncle Sam. No, they just wanted these germ cannisters dropped on American schools and 'football pitches' (not meaning football at all, but that rugby they play over there).

This made SLIGHTLY more sense after reading the Wikipedia article on the film, which says that the leader is half-Iraqi. I missed this piece of plot exposition, whether they cut it due to it being bullshit or whether Seagal mumbled his lines so badly that it was unintelligible. It's worth noting that the baddie's sidekick, a Brit lass, is also somewhat swarthy. This seems to me that they are making a none-too-subtle point about the dangers of miscegenation on our sceptred isle.

I daresay that the Mark Steyn bullshit has seeped so deeply into American culture that even Seagal is making a hat-tip to the Eurabia theme: that Blighty is populated by grannies, neds, socialists and Islamofascists. And a handful of public schoolboys who will save Britain by spending a fortune getting us into stupid conflicts with countries that haven't harmed us. Except that Seagal and co didn't even have the common courtesy to include an uncle Tom Brit to balance the message. Even that wretched left-behind film I watched had the decency to include a Bill Bailey lookalike as the head of the Brit armed forces. Maybe he lasted two minutes on a computer screen before it went blank (signifying the snuffing out of our nation) but at least they made the gesture.

Flight of Fury doesn't even manage this. In fact the lead goodie (who does all the athletic fighting whilst Seagal spends five minutes waddling like a bear and twatting a bloke on the head with a metal pipe) is actually an Arab.

I have to admit I was chuffed by this. And horrifically sad as it is, I was even more chuffed that he was acted by a Greek actor, which made me nostalgic for that 80s masterpiece 'The Jewel of the Nile' which is set in an Arab country, the prince of which is acted by a Greek, whilst a Jewish actor is the nation's real leader. But really, I do think it's time for Britain to wake up to what this says about the special relationship.