Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Jivin' With the Cosmic Debris, Don't cha waste no precious time on me



The multi-talented Les Visible, has done a concept album called '9/11 was an inside job'. Whilst Deformablemirror does not endorse this product, it has to respect his ability to think outside the box.

Update: I'm probably going to be taking a bit of a rest from blogging about politics. It is a difficult area, there's so much capacity for misunderstanding and offending and getting angry. Overall I think it has a desensitizing effect. Anyone who knows me will, I think, agree I'm a fairly unassuming self-deprecating type, but I find my online alter ego tends to be pompous and aggressive.

Sadly, there are people who wish us harm and wish our government to harm people abroad as well. Being vocal about politics is sadly a kind of duty in Britain, where our media has such a consensus, it can barely be regarded as free.

However, I hope to write more about history, photography and culture. Of the later Oscar Wilde wrote that 'art is useless'; I fear the same is largely true of history: though it is often more surprising than any work of art. I have a photography blog which I hope to work on more.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Misc

I





Came across this guy's website. A Fundamendalist Protestant Latino liberation theologian. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, could Fundamentalist Protestantism come to bring 'left wing' ideas to the mainstream?

The number of Latino Protestants is often overlooked. Furthermore, whilst the Vatican routinely says 'nice things' about the poor and capitalist exploitation, their practical actions have been very strongly opposed to economically progressive movements and decisively acted against liberation theology. Maybe Protestantism, with no central authority, will come to be the Christian force guiding these exploited people?

Personally, as a Christian I feel at home with the left on many issues (caring for the poor, anti-war, anti-death-penalty, anti-censorship, anti-plutocrat) yet I feel these are contained within Christianity rather than using Christianity as a facet.

Still, might be one to watch.

II

I began with Mr De La Torre frankly because I wanted a pic on top and he is more photogenic than Item no.2: Christopher Hitchens.

He's got a new interview out with Michael Totten. If you don't mind adding to Totten's web counter, you can find an interesting irony of the modern world perfectly illustrated. The more you mess up and make idiotic predictions about how bombing people will make them happy, the more likely you are to receive ridiculously OTT compliments.

You know that you've fallen low if you're an ignorant hack with no academic qualifications concerning Iran and you're asked what you'd say if the President asked what you would advise him to do about the country.

You're too muddled to realise how low you've fallen if you reply without irony.

And only Michael Totten will listen with respect if your reply is to be more aggressive towards a country in a different continent.

III

In my earlier post, I quoted from a Graun article which quoted an upcoming speech by David Cameron, the gist of which was that a horrific event involving two young thugs torturing children was entirely the fault of New Labour's few progressive policies. When I looked again, the quotes had been removed. Oddly enough, whilst CIF is dominated by right-wing trolls, in this case almost all of the comments were attacking Cameron. Is Te Graun covering up for Cameron? Did they (unintentionally?) do some market research to test if the Brits are stupid enough to be taken in by something so crass as blaming torture on income support?


IV

Our media is pretty quiet about erstwhile darling of the West, Victor Yushenko being pulped by 'pro-Russian', 'anti-Western' Yanukovitch.

Will the Ukrainians become the new Russians? The 50 million odd citizens seem to be voting for who they want, rather than for who a few plutocrats in the West want. Which as we know is undemocratic.

V

Twice this week, bums have been the top news story on yahoo. First this tabogonist's suit ripped, secondly Venus Williams was playing without knickers. So it's awful when dictatorships repress the truth: they should be like the West which is more interested in backsides than what our politicians are up to. At least tyrants often organise proper bread and circuses, because they know that otherwise they may find themselves hanging from lamp-posts. In an accountable democracy, the powers that be know that won't happen.

And, I don't want to sound like Peter Hitchens here, but isn't it possible that maybe some people might rather not see such things (as in 99.9999% of humanity in MS Williams' case)?

VI
Given that all my hard disk spaces are filling up, I'm planning to put lots of pics on the internet. Will keep you all informed. I've updated 'Gregor's photos' (my other blogger blog) to include a video I took of a snowstorm.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Democracy and its Discontents II




If you imagine the above scene being enacted by 'two numpties from Inverness' (in the words of my sparring partner) you'll get an impression of the fierce debate we had recently on the works and thought of David Icke.

My line of thought was somewhat Platonic: it's not impossible that lizard people are running the world, and it's an interesting thought experiment based on their track record of being complete bastards though it is of course very unlikely that they have done so, and even more unlikely that they'd be rumbled by an erstwhile Sports Presenter . My friend's counter argument was that... well, pretty much the same except with a greater emphasis upon the very unlikely and took a more Aristotelian view of the whole thing.

Still, reading today's Graun actually seemed to give credence to the ideas that our politicians may not be entirely human.

Two sadistic kids tortured two other kids. The victims probably haven't been discharged from hospital yet and already the melon-headed leader of HM Opposition is thinking of how to get some votes from it.

'Cameron will give a string of examples of "the moral failure of Labour's approach".

"When parents are rewarded for splitting up, when professionals are told that it's better to follow rules than do what they think is best, when single parents find they take home less for working more, when young people learn that it pays not to get a job, when the kind-hearted are discouraged from doing good in their community, is it any wonder our society is broken?

"We can't go on like this."

In other words, if you pay people income support because their work applications have been rejected, they will start torturing each other. Being too good to the poor just results in the buggers inflicting GBH on each other. There was no such thing as torture or assault before Atlee's welfare state.

Whereas if the Eton eloi and their chums are left free from progressive taxation and allowed to just get on with it, the proles will turn back to their natural yeoman state, doffing their caps at their betters and living in sun-drenched harmony.

Needless to say, this will be lapped up by many voters.

And this is the system that our politicians think should be spread round the world at gunpoint.

UPDATE: I cut and pasted these quotes from the Guardian article, though they have now been deleted. Does this mean that The Guardian printed inaccurate quotes or that Cameron now knows that it was a bad idea? In which case Te Graun is supporting the Tory leader. What gives?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Democracy and its Discontents




Democracy is a strange one, isn’t it? The idea that the majority of people aren’t too thick to decide who should run the country is pretty odd, isn’t it, given that ‘popular’ basically means vulgar, soul-destroying trash.






My hero Edgar Allan Poe got a bit of flack for saying that ‘democracy is a good system… for sheep’. I entirely agree with Edgar Allan, though I would add the caveat that democracy is a pretty good system for switched on people, like the Ancient Greeks.

But they weren’t that keen on democracy mind. Plato realised that people were basically a bit thick and the ideal system would be to have philosopher kings running everything. Plato had some pretty good ideas. Not all his ideas were good. He wanted to delete the good bits from the Odyssey, and goodness knows what he would have done with my beloved video nasty collection. So I’m no slavish admirer of Plato.

Yet it does seem to me that his Philosopher King idea has been sadly attacked. Ironically enough, this has been attacked by our very ‘philosopher’ class. The only snag is that their work loses revenue by default and are floated by the free market: in other words they are chosen by rich people who have grown rich by feeding the vulgar and subsequently our ‘philosopher class’ are thick as pigdirt.

Not a nice observation, I know, but we have to be realistic, which brings me to Timothy Garton-Ash, the smirking double-barelled creep whose response to Mikhail Saakashvilli’s bombing his own people was to say that Suckers was a top bloke and well worth supporting. Because 'Vladimir Putin' was ‘anti-Democratic’ (and not in charge of Russia at the time, but hey, facts are silly things).

Anyway, why is democracy so wonderful according to Timmy? Because if your leader is crap then someone else can get the top post.

Think about this for a second. David Cameron's top credential for becoming Prime Minister is that he's not been in charge yet. He'd still be the same melon-headed plutocrat who supports New Labour's abysmal human rights record and voted for war in Iraq, but if he had already been in charge we'd improve the country by not voting for him. That's why we're engaged in horrible conflicts and could be engaged in an even more horrible one if Timmy had his way in the Caucuses (not that many Garton-Ash's would be in the firing line), just so that if a politician is crap someone else who hasn't been elected can take charge.

And that indeed seems to be a part of Russophobia: the fact that under Putin the United Russia party actually did things pretty well and got re-elected. That's not democracy: democracy is messing things up and then getting someone else to mess things up. The Russians actually WANT a good opposition party, but unlike our 'wise' journos, they aren't thick enough to support Kasparov the Magnificent's travelling freak show because it claims it will not do the successful things United Russia has just done, but will do the unsuccessful things that United Russia did earlier. Plus ca change.

Yet, if I were to say that democracy is a stupid system because it lets oafs vote for whatever demagogic crooks want to line their own pockets (and who're probably fibbing anyway) rather than letting wise men like me* tell everyone what to do, I'd be attacked as a bit of a maniac who HATES FREEDOM.

This despite the fact that I would instantly legalise guns and cannabis, drop the war on terror, the CCTV state, harassment of photographers, and do lots of other things that our parties with the greatest numbers of voters wouldn't do.

Yet people vote for security, not for freedom. Doesn't stop politicians pretending that they've been elected to make people free and people pretending that's why they've elected politicians.

*Speaking philosophically of course, as my friend's 3 year old daughter says 'Gwegwy, you ah vewy silly'.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Did it rain last Tuesday?




You might be wondering why I’ve put a photo of my most prized possession (Season 1-8 of Columbo) on my politics oriented blog.

The simplest answer is, I love Peter Falk and I love Columbo (in a very butch heterosexual way I should add). The series is IMHO one of the best written shows ever that combines police puzzles with some hilarious writing (as well as beautiful photography).

But of course, without Peter Falk it wouldn’t have been the same. His puppyish enthusiasm that hides a steely interior makes Lt Columbo one of the best-loved characters of all time.

The more complex answer is that Peter Faulk’s success in the 1970s seems to represent a delightful time when you weren’t promoted for being a creep, and gifted, charming, delightful people could really make it in the world. Which brings me to my political topic: Rod Liddle. I just can’t bear to put his ogreish face on my blog.

Anyway, it seems that the poor man’s Jim Davidson is going to be rewarded for being a warmongering, bigoted pillock by being asked to edit The Independent.

I’m no fan of The Independent. It is full of Blairite slime (Rentafool), knuckle-dragging neo-cons (Bruce Anderson) and atheist protestants* (Johann Hari).

Furthermore, like Te Graun, their coverage of Russia is disgraceful.

Putting it like that, it is difficult to see how it can get worse. But if you can’t see how it can get worse, you obviously know very little about Rod Liddle.

The annoying thing is that I actually dislike some aspects of the mainstream left in common with Rod Liddle. I do find that the mainstream left tends to equate Christian with rich-white and Islamic with poor-brown. This is both patronising and sets the scales against rational discussion about secularism and human-rights in the Islamic world.

Very few leftists have shown any regard for the Christians of Cyprus or Anatolia. I’ve found they generally prefer to blame the Pope for AIDS and take credit for other people’s achievements with ludicrous self-aggrandising gestures (like the atheist bus). And of course, in the mainstream left it’s taken for granted that only a misogynist would oppose abortion. There are a lot of things I dislike about the modern left; especially the close-mindedness.

Yet someone who adores the IDF, wants to bomb Iran, cut his honeymoon short to move in with another woman and thinks that a fifteen-year-old work by a sociology professor is evidence that black people are thick is the very last person on earth to open the left to new ideas and to improve it. Far from breathing fresh air into the left, Rod’s nicotine stained slobbery mouth will poison it.

Still, maybe that is a good thing. I do think the left-wing British ‘blogosphere’ has improved a lot in recent months. Maybe the left will be reborn in 2011 after Te Graun and The Independent have been destroyed. When ironically enough they might try exploiting the free market rather than being exploited by it.

Now excuse me, I dislike watching DVDs on my own and in this snow my friends can't visit, but I'm really going to have to watch some Columbo to get the scummy taste of Rod Liddle out of my mouth.

*I use the term ‘atheist Protestant’ because Protestants were predominantly English types who thought their opinions regarding the existence of a non-provable-entity were of great interest to other people and gave them a right to snoop on others and give them earfuls of unwelcome opinions.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Power to the People


Today I did something democratic, which made me feel good. No, I didn't vote for some neo-liberal politician who was allegedly saving us from an allegedly worse neo-liberal politician. I signed a petition to open a new Lidls in 'Tescotown'. Our local politicians always seem to find a taste for green belt aesthetics and reigning in business when anyone but Tesco wants to open a new concrete block in the Sneck.

Whilst I don't like hyperbole, I think it's fair to say that this petition is at least as important as the Treaty of Arbroath and would implore fellow Invernessians to sign it ASAP.

Interestingly enough, I was looking for a discount branch of Lidls that used to exist called 'Bargain Basement'. When I googled 'Lidls bargain basement', I found nothing about this sadly discontinued line of shops, but I found plenty of hilariously insecure Essex man snobbery.

This is a trend I've noticed increasing recently. It used to be that snobs would either be proud descendents of some bloke who killed dragons (though with ancestors who'd more verifiably slaughtered uppity local yokels who wanted some crusts of bread) or else they might be bourgeois snobs who'd criticise state school boys for their poor Greek declensions.

Now it seems to be where you buy your spuds from that defines your place on the social ladder. Not your achievements, or even the achievements of your ancestors, or even the invented achievements of your ancestors, but what type of celery you buy. This creates an intriguing paradox for me: by debasing snobbery are they making it less pleasant and therefore less 'consumable'? Or are they making it more accessible to a larger number of sad gimps and therefore making it more 'consumable'?

I don't know, but Lidls sell the best mechanical pencils of any supermarket, so I'm on their side, whatever negative epithets that earns me. I use their pencils, incidentally, to help me with my 'achievements' such as they are. I see no need to be falsely modest; I am no genius but I am proud at having a skilled job and that I can follow texts in several languages. How these 'achievements' measure against anyone else's doesn't interest me. But I am proud that I at least have greater aspirations than buying tomatoes from Waitrose.

So, whilst not a Germanophile, I'm with the Social Democratic fatherland when consumerism is involved. It's odd that it is so much more varied than our similarly priced free market 'success stories'?

PS: You can see by my photo that even their signs are designed by MC Escher. Can Tescos claim that?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Between Byzantium and Buchan



I've written before about the way photography can produce such wonderful metaphors without having been composed. This is a random photo of my room, which was not composed in any way, and yet which I think says a lot. I love my geological map of North East Scotland and I love my Byzantine flag. I do not see them as opposites, but think they complement each other nicely.

I liked Borges' description of how Eric Lonnrot saw himself 'se creía un puro razonador'; I'd like to think that there is a lot of that in my world view. And I don't think believing in God is unreasonable.

Two of my best friends are atheists/ agnostics, and I have often spoken to them about faith. I enjoy these polite and friendly discussions (superbly summarised by agnostic Jorges Luis Borges 'era librepensador, o, mejor dicho, agnóstico, pero le interesaba la teología, como le interesaban los falaces cubos de Hinton o las bien concertadas pesadillas del joven Wells.' ). Yet I suspect that in our atomised society, personal discussions about faith and its integrity to reason are the exception rather than the rule.

Perhaps this isn't surprising. Britain is a lapsed Protestant society, where the Puritanical nosey-parker spirit is alive and well, though they just don't think they need 'God' to give them permission to poke their snotty noses into other people's business (apologies to wordsmith and judo champion, Vlad Putin).

This is most evident in the celeb status that people like Christopher Hitchens and other nosey parker atheists seem to enjoy in modern Britain. Their view is one that will gain popularity amongst the ignorant, stupid and aggressive everywhere: that believers are childish and stupid and irrational and stopping humanity from achieving great things.

The irony is that Britain is a deeply secular society, yet when I look about I see people mired in depression who take drugs, drink and consume vast amounts of anti-depressants. I do not feel morally superior to these people (maybe quite the opposite) but I do not envy their lifestyle.

That isn't to say that I see myself as an apologist for faith, especially. If a politician says they are a Christian, but generally means that they listen to the voices in their heads rather than reading the words of the Gospel. I am pleased that there is no 'religious right' in Britain, because whilst I share some of their views (that abortion is evil) their bloodthirstiness and hatred of the poor just sets the pro-life cause backwards.

And then there are theological differences even within Christianity. In Orthodoxy we do not believe in God as a legal judge, nor do we believe ourselves to be exalted nor do we believe ourselves to be respectable particularly nor do we believe the Bible to be a literal account of anything (which it couldn't be anyway; if Adam and Eve were literally the first humans, then how could Cain have married someone?)

Yet I do think that things may get difficult for European Christians in the future. The way that the EU crushed democracy in Italy was one example of how things may be changing.

The irony is that many 'new atheists' are themselves very religious, if this means listening to the voices in their heads. Look at Christopher Hitchens and Johann Hari who write dismally inaccurate journalism and get rewarded for it.

As a historian I find this most ironic because I carry out rigorously research and cross-reference fact sources. I could probably technically get away with being less rigorous, there are many semi-myths that are now accepted as facts in history, but I do cross-referencing out of pride. I doubt Johann Hari, the great rationalist, feels such pride:

'Today, every laptop with an internet connection contains more information than the Great Library of Alexandria. At its peak, that library contained 700,000 books, until the Christian Emperor Theodosius I ordered it burned down in 39(12A)D;'

Maybe if you fight monsters you have an excuse to turn into one, but I don't think hating faith is any excuse for creating some porkies to believe in. Even being generous and presuming the date was a typo, there is no evidence that Theodosius burnt down the Alexandrian library. It is a historical fact that later Muslim invaders burnt the library down. But of course, this does not fit in quite so well with Hari's lynch mob world view that bad Christianseses are the enemies of reason.


I don't write this to sound self pitying, but I really think that people who hate religion should try to meet people of faith. I doubt if many would be 'converted', and have never tried converting any of my friends, but I think both can learn a lot from each other.

Of course, in nations that are still predominantly full of believers, efforts to suppress free speech are plain wrong. I hope these Irish atheists are successful.