Friday, 23 December 2011

Didn't See it coming (So soon)

I thought United Russia were doing well, so didn't foresee either the protests or the good showings for the communists and social democrats.

I'm no fan of the communists but it is good that the social democrats are doing so well and that so many Russians want genuine reform. One of the reasons I started blogging was to defend United Russia against the dumber accusations on hitlerstalinism, though I've never disputed their real faults in economic policies and civil liberties. But given how neo-liberal ideologues are trying to leap on the protest bandwagon I just have one question: did any of the parties which have rocketed in success campaign for the release of Mikhael Khodorkovsky and the dropping of criminal charges against Berezovsky?

Thought not.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Caliban's Face in the Mirror

For someone who reveled in Schadenfreude, used utter malice in attacking his enemies and was overall a pretty obnoxious guy, it's interesting how little schadenfreude I've actually detected over the death of Christopher Hitchens.

Of course, death of anyone is always horrible. But Hitchens felt few qualms at joking about Princess Diana's horrific death (young, attractive woman who didn't call for any nation to be bombed and accuse those who didn't of being 'soft').

I'd say there are three main reasons for this:

-Firstly, he died a darling of the modern right. A bizarre ideology that's as emotionally incontinent as it's ethically and philosophically incoherent. For them he was a secularist and lover of freedom. Because he supported the causes they did. He spoke in their favourite paradigms which often overlapped with those of the mainstream 'humanist' movement. This meant two of the most aggressive mainstream ideologies were happy to be respectful.

-Secondly, he was partially right about the modern left and I think this is as evident in some of the fiercest obituaries of his that I've read as it is in the general lack of interest. It makes me feel a bit uneasy that one of the major charges I've seen against him in left obituaries is a pro-life piece Hitchens wrote over two decades ago, as if it is unthinkable that any sane human being should think that an unborn child should be respected on any level at all, far less be regarded as possessing human life. Simultaneously I think it is ironic that many of the same obituaries accuse him of Islamophobia. Hitchens was not Islamophobic, nor was he secular. He pronounced liberal platitudes about the Muslim fanatics in Bosnia and Kosovo when it was fashionable to do so, and which resulted in secular Serbia being bombed and destroyed. He pronounced liberal platitudes about the Islamic fanatics in Chechenya when it was fashionable to do so, and when they were blowing up children. He pronounced liberal platitudes about how the Islamic world was ready for a revolution when it was fashionable to do so, and this led to the war in Iraq.

This was to counter 'Fascism with an Islamist face' as personified by Saddam. 'Fascism with a Islamic face' is a very stupid expression. Fascism was a pyramidical power structure based on nation state and a leader. In as much as it resembles anything, Islamic fanaticism resembled anarchism. Sure, Islamists use horrific and oppressive states when they can (including Kosovo, Bosnia and Algeria), but these metastasize out of popular movements which can themselves outlast states. Just look at how Osama Bin Laden continued to call for bloodshed from Pakistan, protected by numerous sympathisers. The phrase 'Fascism with an Islamic face' (and his wars against this supposed entity) are far from being Islamo-phobic and actually based on far-left extreme liberal ideas of internationalism.

The fact that he was so wrong don't lesson the significance of his pointing out this tension in the left. Even if he did not clarify it.

Lastly, as David Lindsay pointed out, Hitchens left no real political heirs. OK, so there's Nick Cohen (who can't be much younger), who still holds the 'decent' corner with such wisdom as: 'the "leftist" in question was George Galloway, who saluted the "courage" of the secular fascist Saddam Hussein, went on to apologise for the regimes and movements of Sunni and Shia clerical fascism, and – lest we forget – led millions in demonstrations against the war to overthrow Iraqi Ba'athism without the supposedly moderate and respectable voices of liberal England uttering a word of protest against his presence.'

Cohen adds 'In conversation he was the most intellectually generous man I have ever met. More writers than readers like to imagine are fretful and suspicious. They bite their tongues and hide their thoughts in case rival authors "steal their ideas". Hitchens was too much of an enthusiast for life and debate to waste time being pinched and cautious; too engaged in the battle of ideas to worry about others taking his.' Yeah? Maybe that's because he realised anyone who tried parotting his ideas without his gift of the gab would sound a bit of a dick.

Hitchens' lack of intellectual heirs is perhaps reflected in how the fights he fought were lost on the ground. Aggressive secularism is growing in Britain, though this is in itself more akin to the consumerism that itself feeds secularism. Whilst few people disputed Hitchens' position as a 'secularist', he was only so in the narrow sense of being rude to Christians in a secular society. He showed little fraternity to the overwhelmingly secular Russians and Serbs (and never took back his support for Algerian terrorism against the French), and was happy to praise Islamic fundamentalism when aimed at people who don't speak English. Maybe Hitchens would have had a quasi-heir in Johann Hari, had Hari not taken his hero's sloppy and illogical style a bit too far. Yet Hari had pretty much perfected the 'secular' editorial: mention something Muslims have done, attribute it to 'the religious', finish with a pretty platitude about how Islam is sure to turn into the CofE thanks to heroes like, cough cough, us.

Perhaps in the end Hitchens was a figure more to be pitied than hated. I didn't come to this view so much because of his cancer, but because of one of his more balanced articles: a review of Mark Steyn's 'America Alone'. I thought there was something oddly wistful in his telling Steyn: 'He need not pose as if he were the only one with the courage to think in this way', when later on Hitchens supports: 'Unconditional solidarity, backed with force and the relevant UN resolutions, with an independent and multi-confessional Lebanon'. Those who noticed his deafening silence in 2006 might find something excruciating about the dissonance between his ideals and his actions. I suspect he felt this most of all.

Whilst Hitchens comes up with a pompous 10 point plan to fight Islamism, it is mainly based on the feeblest of platitudes. If there is any optimism for Europe, then it must come from the high birth rate of the German and French Catholics and Russia's growing demographic recovery. Far from supporting this, Hitchens warned the faithful:

'How else were we going to reply to the rising menace of Islamic jihad? How were we going to have, for example, to deal with the emergence of probably the most reactionary papacy since the mid-19th century? A very reactionary eastern Orthodox church if it comes to that, as well the eastern Catholic forces now ranged behind the dark and sinister figure of Vladimir Putin? Then one mustn't exempt of course the millennial settlers in Palestine who believe that by bringing in as many fanatics of Jewish origin as they can and forcing out as many Palestinian Arabs as they can they may bring on the Messiah and indeed the apocalypse, and look forward to the destruction of our species with relish.

At this present moment I have to say that I feel very envious of someone who is young and active and starting out in this argument.'

I find it astounding just how ignorant Hitchens is, and how little he expects of his audience. Who are these 'eastern catholic forces now ranged behind the dark and sinister figure of Vladimir Putin'? And who does he expect to fight them and how? How is my church 'very reactionary'? And why should we care what someone thinks who didn't have the moral courage to condemn the use of white phosphorus on civilians?

In truth I think Hitchens and the politically correct left that he maligned were two sides of the same coin. They might have hated him for 'Islamophobia', but that was only because he essentially agreed with them that the Muslim world was very similar to that of the west.

If anything I think that his death could mark a turning point for the European left: that it will be divided between a neo-liberal left and a left that in nations such as France may have to make common causes with social conservatives. It will be interesting to see what happens, but it is unlikely that it will inherit much wisdom from the life and writings of Mr Hitchens.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dis-United Kingdom

Reading this article and the comments under it was a strangely confusing experience for me. Whilst I have been a supporter of the SNP for quite some time, I don't think I've ever felt quite so certain that 'Britain' isn't my country. I've felt distanced from Britain because I think left economic liberals/ foreign policy interventionists and right economic liberals/foreign policy interventionists will always form a plurality and trump democracy. My first thoughts after reading the article were that Blond and Glasman will be forgotten sooner rather than later: meaning that 'Britain' will not exist much longer. But I now think I'm wrong: they may well get stronger when Britain ceases to be.

Could England turn into Poland with an economic right and social right waging war against each other? Judging by the comments I wouldn't be entirely surprised.

Who knows?

I've now officially joined the SNP and the greeting letter showed a very Celtic looking lad waving a St Andrew's flag (here). I felt oddly refreshed by this: I don't hold the view shown by some that self-hatred earns moral superiority. Perhaps this is shown in the hypocrisy of how the neo-con left adopted thewomanwhowasdefeatedbygeorgegallowaywhosenameiveforgotten as their figurehead. As someone whose life has been enriched by people from other nations and who thinks non-ghettoised, non-politicised multi-culturalism is a beautiful thing, I do think that a dominant ethnic group at peace with itself is the key to this.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Save Youcef Nadarckhani

Not much comment. Yes, I'm entirely opposed to any military action against Iran. But many criticisms of Iran do carry weight. Please sign this.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Interrupted Silence

Not much time for blogging lately, but if anyone hasn't already done so, please sign Amnesty's Troy Davis petition.

Capital punishment isn't a topic I like writing about. I feel it is profoundly wrong in principle, and as such I always feel a bit awkard saying 'the form of execution will be excruciating' or 'the prisoner's trial was a farce' when even if there was an easy means of execution and the prisoner's guilt was beyond all doubt, I would still oppose it.

Having said that, I would find it difficult to think of capital punishment (in most cases in the developed world) as murder but Davis's trial was so ridiculous that if he is executed then it really will be akin to murder.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Portrait of no-one Grey

I'm not being chauvinistic in pointing out that Salmond was right: the riots called 'British' by the media were English. Just as the ongoing blood bath in Northern Ireland is an ongoing bloodbath in Northern Ireland.

Maybe it's something to do with Scottish politics. Just saying: a new found sense of national pride and a genuine belief that even if we're obviously not all in it together, the well-off can offer to subsidise education as a social contract means young people aren't so alienated even if we have our fair share of trouble makers.

But guess what? It seems the media's listened to Alex: now I've frequently seen the riots described as 'English'.

Try telling that to the all too aptly named Mr Grey (think Ian Duncan Smith without the charm, charisma or gravitas) who tries playing politics by saying that Salmond's good point is just playing politics and showing a failure of solidarity. I've stopped wondering if Miliband could find a greater political talent for Scotland and started asking if he could find a greater political anti-talent.

It's certainly not about a lack of solidarity with English people, but about a lack of solidarity with a culture where young people are given the option of the dole, wage slavery or extortionate education whilst being demonised by people with vastly more privilige than they could dream of. No, it's not especially sunny for young people in Scotland at the moment, but it would be a lot worse without Salmond.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Only Thing Worse Than Engaging With News International

Is being ignored by them. Seems to be the message from Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dems. I don't know if Murdoch knows who that grey chappie is. Nor do a lot of Scots probably. The SNP victory owes a lot to Tony Bliar turning Britain into a News International protectorate, but don't let that get in the way of some finger-wagging Mr grey.

But it gets better. The head of the Scottish Lib Dems has accused Salmond of 'blatant sycophantic behaviour.' Too bad we don't have Nick 'the iron man' Clegg in charge. Don't know how often Murdoch's met Clegg (never mind whatsisname from the Scots lib dems). Murdoch doesn't really need to meet Clegg: why waste time talking to a lapdog when you can talk to its master?

And the gifts Salmond gave to Murdoch? Tickets to see Black Watch. I don't think Columbo could have done better. As usual, Salmond emerges as the standout talent of Scottish (possibly British) politics.

Anyway, a really nasty virus disabled my computer. Given various difficulties in my life, blogging will be sparse in the immediate future.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Stolypin's neck n neck tie

You know that bloke who's rehabilitated Stalin ? Well, he's just ordered a large memorial built to Peter stolypin, the scourge of communism.

Clever bloke that Putin. He's cunningly making it look like his efforts to 'rehabilitate Stalin' only exist in the minds of our pig-ignorant neo-con commentariat. Sayeth Te Graun:

'Analysts say Putin sees himself as a successful analogue to the former PM who will survive, suppress any protests by foreign-backed wreckers and ensure Russia is the glorious, strong state his mentor.'

Pop psychology? Check
Anonymous 'analysts' quoted? Check
Bad punctuation? Check*
Caricaturing Putin's politics by caricaturing someone else's politics? Check

Later on:

'Stolypin came second after the 13th-century warrior prince Alexander Nevsky in a state-sponsored nationwide poll to find Russia's greatest historical figure in 2008.

The organisers later admitted in private that Joseph Stalin had won, but the results were fixed to avoid the embarrassment of having a dictator in first place.

"I doubt Stolypin would have even come in the top 10 in a real poll," said Belkovsky. "He's not well known outside the elite."'

No source for the Stalin coming first quote? Check

'the organisers' are anonymous and admit stuff in private? Check

'A real poll'? In other words it wasn't a real poll that found Stalin numero uno? Eh?

Well, apparently not. Nothing about Uncle Joe winning the day here. Too bad for Te Graun.

I really won't miss Te Graun much when it finally has the plug pulled. Being a leftist and visiting Te Graun is like ordering haddock, chips and coffee and being handed a semi-raw mackerel (did you know I'm allergic to mackerel?) and a cup of stagnant pond-water. Then being told you can write down any complaints in a log book. Then seeing your complaint being crumpled up and thrown in the bin.

I feel really chuffed that it was the lefty blogosphere that owned Johann Hari: I hope it means we will move away from 'star columnists' and mainstream papers to a more open and democratic system. However, the only problem will be to support a genuinely objective media to report on current affairs. Not 'unbiased' as 'a compromise between left and right journalists'

*Yeah. probably a case of the pot calling the kettle black in my case, but they charge for this stuff.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Why I love my Country

I've never met one person dumb enough or crazy enough to enjoy reading Melanie Phillips.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Need a Heart of Stone Not to Laugh

One reason why I didn't write anything about Johann Hari's hilarious humiliation was because Splintered Sunrise wrote about it far better than I could. Not just about what did happen but what would happen. Thus spake SS:
'I think Hari will be all right in the end. Were he an actual jobbing hack this might kill off his career, but he’s high enough up the food chain to survive. He’ll go to ground for a while, perhaps claiming the criticism is all motivated by homophobia (thanks to Laurie Penny for rolling out that alibi early), then resurface with a tearful interview on Women’s Hour about how sorry he is, but now he’s learned from his mistakes and won’t ever do it again, honest guv. He certainly has a tribe of devoted fans who’ll forgive him anything, and will probably keep some kind of writing gig; but he’ll never live this down. Private Eye will be repeating the story for the rest of his natural life.'

Surely enough, the porky wunderkind (who seems to be morphing into Nick Clegg) has no sooner flagellated himself, than he's started banging on about 'the religious' again.

Afraid I found myself reaching for the cotton wool after five mins (sounds a good cause, if he's not speaking bullshit, but maybe someone less whiney can summarise the supposed document more precisely in a couple of hundred words) but his opening speech is comedy gold. He supports freedom of speech, doncha know. He supports people's rights to criticise him, if you please. My golly gosh, I bet the thought police were just about to round up his critics and feed them to starving rats before he spoke in favour of the right to criticise porky, z-grade Indy journalists.

Or so the people who rapturously applauded his mea culpa must have thought.

The ironic thing is that I regard myself as a humanist and generally a supporter of empiricism. Hari's combination of dishonest journalism and vitriolic hatred towards 'the religious' demonstrates he's neither. If he does survive then The Independent will be devoid of credibility.

Notice, incidentally, that there's no comments section under his self-aggrandising video? Very meaningful in itself.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Bronze Statue, Clay Feet

Interesting article by Ian Dunt. Regular readers of talking politics will know that Dunt is generally attacked for being 'left wing' by the same kind of crowd that turns up on CiF. But I'd say in this instance he's really caught the zeitgeist. A lot better than our neo-con corner. Who are running the country.

In some regards the level of hatred in this comments thread actually makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. As with so much else, friendship with America is harmed rather than helped by our grovelling leaders.

Mystery of the English speaking Weevils

In one columbo episode that din't quite make it into my top 10 there's a scene where he's invited to a podium to speak about being a police officer and admits he often liked the murderers he had to arrest. I think that being interested in politics, it's best to have a Columbo outlook, and not try to totally dehumanise your opponents.

And I am sorry that the Gipper had to go through Alzheimers. I get the impression he would be an affable and charming enough bloke to speak to.

But, really: what on earth is going on here? For Conservative Brits, Reagan was a supporter of the IRA and Argentina. For lefty Brits he was a friend of death squads throughout the American Continent.

He wasn't a friend to either of us. He charmed Mrs T, and through her the British nation.

It's debatable if he was even a friend to the American nation?

The Scottish writer Alasdair Gray wrote that the Scots are 'a nation of arselickers.' Maybe he's not far off, but I do like to think that we've learnt a few things over the centuries, like:
-Don't make out you like it too much
-Don't back the wrong horse
-Try to keep as much self-respect as possible

Of course, that advice would only be applicable to someone with an iota of pride in their own country. Which William Hague self-evidently doesn't feel.
"You may be sure that the people of London will take this statue to their hearts."

Why? did they ask for it or something? What was his full quote:

"On behalf of the British Government on this moving occasion, as a Briton, as a Conservative and as a passionate admirer of America, I am proud that we have made a home here in the centre of our city for President Ronald Reagan. It is a great honour for me personally to take part in a ceremony for a man who changed the political landscape at the time I first became involved in it He joins the ranks of great men and women whose statues adorn our London streets; Nelson, Wellington, Lincoln, Churchill, Roosevelt, Edith Cavell and Nelson Mandela. Statues bring us to face to face with our heroes long after they are gone. Ronald Reagan is without question a great American hero; one of America’s finest sons, and a giant of 20th Century history. You may be sure that the people of London will take his statue to their hearts."

Passionate admirer of what? The poor whites? The African Americans? The blue collar workers in Reagan's native Illinois? The homeless? The elderly? The Hispanic labourers? Herman Melville? Edgar Allan Poe? The large areas of public land?

Or of a political system with entrenched inequality? The ridiculous media? The banks that caused a global economic meltdown? The businesses that give billions to the Chinese dictatorship? The military industrial complex?

My feeling about this isn't outrage, so much as embarrassment. Reagan was a bad president, who should have been impeached over the Iran-Contras affair, who damaged the American economy and who empowered the Mujaheedin in Afghanistan. Yet he gets the fawning adoration of a tiny number of middle aged middle class Brits, most of whom have inherited their position and/or benefited from the post-war consensus. Most of these aging men feel virile by supporting bloodshed in any nation the USA decides to attack, yet are so fat and unfit they know they would never be allowed to serve even if they volunteered (which they wouldn't').

In coming centuries, people may very well walk past the Reagan statue and wonder 'what on earth were they thinking' installing this here.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Camera and Chimera

But which is scarier?

Friday, 24 June 2011

RIP Peter Falk

A really gifted actor and one of my favourite TV icons. I especially loved his episodes of the 70s. My favourite Columbos:
Any Old Port in a Storm
Etude in Black
Now You see Him
Fade in to Murder
Short Fuse
How to Dial a Murder
Double Exposure
Swan Song
By Dawn's Early Light

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

All Bottoms with you Americans

To quote the wisdom of Basil Fawlty when he has to deal with an American tourist. Said American tourist was true to American tourist stereotypes of the time: tall, strong, brash and very, very rich. Not one to take any crap from an 'aging brilliantined stick insect', brown suited pompous Imperialist nostalgist fogey in a post-Imperialist country. We’re the empire now was the pretty implicit subtext.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Americans being portrayed this way in British TV. I suppose that there’s the rather disturbing feeling that we are a post-imperialist country that has shackled ourselves to a failing empire.

But that’s not to deny that I think there’s a lot of good things about the USA. One thing I especially like is the generic fiction, especially horror and sci-fi which I think does create a kind of group culture of a sort that generally isn’t very strong in modern culture in general (I haven’t watched twilight and don’t intend to, just so’s everyone knows).

However, I did have to admit to being somewhat stunned at seeing where American science Fiction is apparently going. In fact Dan Simmons’ latest sounds like a madder version of Red Dawn.

Things I especially loved:

-The protagonist is called ‘Nick Bottom’. The fact that he obviously didn’t expect grown men to snigger at that name says all you need to know about the growing culture gap between
Britain and Middle America
'too many’ young black men adopt the name 'nigger'. Yes, I'm sure it really hurts Dan to type the 'n' word.
-'For all of
Israel's vaunted vigilance, the attack, when it came, was a complete surprise. More than six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens of Israel died in three hours of concentrated nuclear and thermonuclear fire'
A cynic might say he's trying to appeal to the self-pity and paranoia of the Zionist lobby, but of course, they'd be wrong. Hobviously.

-‘The new American economy with its National Identification Card and its billions of near-worthless newbucks replacing real money struggled into existence… Most people -- ex-homicide detective Nick Bottom included -- have found a way to survive in the new not-quite-real-economy. More than a few chose not to. Internet sites showing how to rig explosive suicide vests for best results -- including dipping the hundreds of shrapnel nails and tacks and marbles in rat poison -- received more than a million hits.’

I’d guess at least 75 million. But would anyone actually use them? Or would they just blubber about it like all those Randians at Mat Rodina who said they were going to move to Russia to take advantage of the flat tax, when they probably never even touched a Russian lexicon never mind looked at visa requirements.

-‘There are about 23,000,000 new colonists in the great swath ranging from the border with the Republic of Texas on the east, including all of what had once been New Mexico and Arizona, small swaths of Nevada, and irregular parts of southern California up to Los Angeles, ending at the Pacific Ocean. This is Nuevo Mexico -- pronounced in the proper Spanish-Mexican way -- and while the civil war continues to wage in the south with Hugonista rebels, trained in Argentina, reportedly occupying everything from the former southern border to Veracruz, Nuevo Mexico itself is reported to be calm and self-sufficient. Except for stories of starvation. And for stories of entire cities (such as Las Vegas, formerly of New Mexico) having to be abandoned because of water shortages. And except for Hugonista raids from the south and for Nuevo Mexico's constant border war with the Republic of Texas.’

Can I guess that Simmons gained his knowledge of Hispanic culture from a Cheech and Chong boxset?

- ‘Europe, in our not-so-far-away Flashback future, is -- more than anything else -- old. Evidently it had neither the heart, stomach, energy, or armies for struggle. The E.U., save for the convenience of the euro in parts of the continent, has ceased to exist. Most of the nations of Western Europe -- as nations qua nations -- have similarly ceased to exist. What the hell -- most of them had long since been embarrassed by anything so crass as patriotism or "nationalism". Those ideas belonged to a bloody and dusty past.’

Oy! You stole that from Red dawn. But before any of my Tory compatriots snigger about ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys’

-‘So the Global Caliphate is vital across Western Europe and the U.K.

Thankyou Tony Blair, you really raised Blighty in the esteem of the Americans

-Canada, used to dividing itself into smaller parts to appease ethnic groups, languages, and claims to prior ownership, now divides itself gracefully into parts of the Umma and scores of local Canadian enclaves, many run by First Peoples, others by gangsters and terrorists, some by both groups combined. Ottawa's seat of government has control over Parliament Hill -- on a good day -- but little more. The most common baby name in Canada in the time of Flashback is Mohammed.

Yeah, Muslim Terrorists and First People pagans would obviously join forces, cause they’re all darkies who hate white folks. Sob, poor us.

-‘Medical services in America continued to be provided, of course. When your diagnosed cancer calls for chemotherapy, you get in line. (Unless you're very rich.) The first state-insurance-funded chemotherapy sessions will arrive, on average in post-Die-Ought-If America, in eighteen months or so. No one talks about Death Panels any longer. There are no panels. Everyone is truly treated equal in post-Die-Ought-If America. (Except, of course, for those who can pay in Old Bucks or gold.)’

If we don’t let the feeble die, we’ll kinda like die. Or something.

I find it amusing that such a demented, reactionary fantasy should come from a secular, self-described political centrist and science fiction author. Not that there haven’t been equally right wing ideas before, except that they are usually a lot more optimistic. And this doesn’t even sound like adrenalin pounding dystopia so much as a protracted spitting the dummy out at the lot of the middle class white man in modern America.

The curious thing is, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to some of the themes attacking monotheistic fanaticism and extreme multiculturalism. Yet theses are not apparently themes so much as skewed political points. I think it’s to Canada’s supreme credit that they have treated the native Americans with respect and helped them to preserve their culture. By contrast I think American Democracy and free speech has been greatly damaged by the ridiculously named ‘Anti-defamation league’. Yet who comes out best in Simmons’ middle American tract?

Still, be interesting to see how it is received.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Give the Police a Chance


I heard while back there was going to be a 'slut walk' in Edinburgh. when walking through the streets one warm day I wondered if it had been arranged for that day because the average girl was wearing, uh, not very much actually. Fine by me.

Anyway, turns out it wasn't a 'slut walk': it was just an average day. But the point is that 'slut walking', as well as not being a term that makes any grammatical sense also has to be the most lame and puerile 'demonstration' ever. Even the pro-cuts demonstration at least had a genuinely minority position.

However, Te Graun really outdoes itself:
'The – mainly very young – women went wild with delight. They hate rape and all who protect the rapist, from police to the media.'

'Hate rape'? Eh? The police and the media protect rapists? In recent times the rozzers have hardly covered themselves with glory. They brutally killed Jean Charles de Menezes then told fibs about it. They brutally killed Ian Tomlinson and then told fibs about it. but if Ms James has knowledge of a vast police conspiracy to protect rapists. then it must be the scoop of the decade. Similarly, I'm no great fan of the public-schoolboy heavy neo-liberal skewed media: but is Ms James also onto a great scoop about the entire media protecting rapists?

I don't have any idea about this last one, but my guess re the police is that she is alluding to the conspiracy theory that a vast number of more rational than thou mainstream leftists adhere to: that the quota of alleged to convicted rapes is so low that the only possible explanation is that the entire legal system is rigged to stop men being convicted of rape.

This could well be true. The only problem is that I haven't seen one shred of evidence to support this position. And whilst Johann Hari and Laurie Penny both take this conspiracy theory for granted, they have failed to state what should be done. Furthermore, the heavy handed praise they offer themselves as rationalist free thinkers is utterly undeserved if they can't be open minded about the possibility that many women make unconvincing cases in rape trials. This isn't something I'm arguing; rape cases are very complex. But those who call themselves rationalists rarely actually have a purely scientific mindset, but just take for granted that their findings will support their moral biases.

I take it that the Penny/ Hari left think that if the British Legal System cannot convict a higher number of alleged rapists that a quota system should take over. If they are the faces of the young English left, then role on Scottish independence.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Values and the Price of Union

(I haven't had much time for blogging recently. I hope here to tie in some ideas I wanted to write about. Sorry if this is a bit haphazard)

I: On Scottish Nationalism

Recently I've lost trust in a view I never was aware of having: that politics in the West is basically a smooth process, in which society evolves towards a certain system. Maybe it is the SNP victory that has made me change my views on this.

A few years ago I would probably have scoffed at the idea of voting SNP. I suppose many of my compatriots who voted SNP earlier this year would have been similarly sceptical.

But now that the SNP is a real force, I can't help thinking that maybe it offers a direction out of Britain's current political impasse. And for another thing, raising the question as to whether Scotland is really British has made me ask if I'm really British: perhaps in some rather strange ways.

The traditional narrative of Scots nationalism goes roughly along the lines of Braveheart, with the intellectual crudity expanded over centuries: we were happy savages happily living at peace with the stags and midges until yellow toothed Saxons came along and stole our land, slaughtered us for being Covenanters, slaughtered us for being Jacobites and then starved us to death and stole our land again in the Highland Clearances.

As a historian I have always scoffed at this tale. Yes, Edward I was a dastard of monster proportions. Yes, I feel pride in Bruce and Wallace. But it was largely thanks to the Balliols and the machinations of the Scottish nobility that Edward had anything to do with Scotland. Whilst Bruce (one of the world's greatest politicians of all time) managed to hold the country together for several centuries, the Covenanter and Jacobite wars were largely civil wars. Similarly the Highland Clearances were generally the work of Celtic landowners. And as for Culloden, that cornerstone of Scottish victimhood, the maggots had hardly finished eating the dead before Jacobite Clans were sending their scions to Jamaica, North America and India to prop up the British Empire.

However, modern British history is something else.


The Other Diaspora

In some ways it is thinking about Northern Ireland that makes me support Scottish Independence. If it came to it, would I die for Northern Ireland? No. Would I die for Scotland? Yes. Is this the question that defines nationhood?

I just don't know the answer to that question. I have very little time for either the Irish Republic or Northern Irish Protestantism. And I think this is a huge mis-step. What is sectarianism? Whilst I am generally a libertarian as regards free speech I would like to ban Orange Order marches, and maybe also Celtic and Rangers football clubs. But five year prison terms? That is ridiculous.

At the top of this section I've attached photos of two proud Scots of Irish Catholic ancestry. The first is the comedian Billy Connolly who said 'I used to be a Catholic but I paid a fine and they let me go'. Whilst the other is Peter Mullan who made the film 'The Magdalene Sisters' which depicted the horrific abuse that took place in the Irish Republic (which I would point out to those who fanatically want to disestablish the CofE is officially secular). Is this sectarian? Whilst I would regard myself overall as a friend of the Catholic Church (and even more of the Catholic faithful) the fact is that in Ireland the clergy have been embroiled in some pretty serious scandals. I am myself of partial Irish ancestry and the fact is a large number of diasporan Irish people actually are grateful to live in a country where there is a lot of religious freedom and I feel a degree of pride in how patriotic many Scots of Irish ancestry are. This freedom is something to preserve and it will not be preserved by statist laws.

III: England: Centre or Chasm?

I can't name any young conservatives in England. I'm guessing that Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Phillips will die before anyone more sensible comes along to articulate their positions. And when they do retire or die their successors will probably be equally misanthropic and crazy.

But the rising stars of the English Left really terrify and depress me no end. There is Johann Hari who is still a fan of Christopher Hitchens, used to be a Harry's Place contributor, and wrote that Vladimir Putin killed one third of all Chechens in the 1990s (when Putin wasn't even President, but hey, facts are silly things). He's now a fan of Noam Chomsky and says that the 'Ardship of Cambry supports Sharia law (which he doesn't), which I don't think is so much an intellectual odyssey as a quest for a narcissistic image with wider appeal. See also his genuinely stupid and bigoted articles about Catholicism, which Brendan O'Neill brilliantly skewered.

Then there's Laurie Penny who says 'The notion of taking special exception to one religion over and above any other dodgy cult cobbled together by deranged desert patriarchs should be abhorrent to any secularist who believes in freedom of thought.'

In other words, moral philosophy is too complex a concept for the modern atheists: Jim Jones, Socrates, the Ayatollah, Fydor Dostoyevsky: not a cigarette paper between them. Maybe she should go to Tehran or Islamabad to outline her position on 'deranged desert patriarchs'. Other wise words:

'I now can't help grinning every time I see prim ladies in office suits reading the Millennium books on public transport...

Lisbeth Salander is an immensely powerful character, a misandrist vigilante with a penchant for black fetish wear and ersatz technology, like the terrifying offspring of Batman and Valerie Solanos... Salander is smart, she's brave, she always wins, and she won't let anyone tell her what to do. No wonder so many women secretly want to be her.'

It would at least be nice if the writers paid to represent us could at least spell the names of the sociopaths they admire, but, uh, Valerie Solanas was a maladjusted, mentally ill woman who attempted to murder Andy Warhol (and in the long run probably helped his early death) for no other reason than that he found her terribly boring. And she's good?

I wouldn't even mind these demented ravings if it wasn't for the fact that Hari and Penny so obviously think they are the voices of reason and unwavering moral and intellectual superiority.

Their country certainly isn't my country and their values are certainly not my values.

IV Conclusions

Ideals and views often sneak up quietly before roaring aloud. Ed Miliband might not be an especially idealistic man and he might not have wanted to become Labour leader at this time. But dramatic as it may sound, I think he may be the only chance for saving Britain as a geopolitical entity from corroding by misanthropic left and right. Not by distancing himself from 'liberalism', but by reclaiming a word that has been tarnished by market fanatics and identity politics and in demonstrating how true liberalism should be sceptical of both state and markets. I don't know what to make of his chances given that the 'Left Wing' media has long been denigrating him and is now playing up the most recent (and uninteresting) gossip about him and his brother.

Conversely, despite his ego, I don't know if Salmond even especially wanted such a stunning victory in the recent elections. Scotland now has a leader in the European Christian Democrat mode, which is assertive in its identity without (overall) jettisoning the best features of modern liberalism. Imperfect he may be, but it seems to me that Britain as a nation is undergoing an identity crisis that is difficult to deny.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Quote of the Day

"The rest is soap opera of which I want no part and the public have no interest."

I never would have thought I'd say 'Well said David Miliband', but well said David Miliband.

I'll never tire of pointing out the irony that the 'left wing' Graun is very much on the economic right, yet when it comes to the supply/ demand side of things (which I admit capitalism does excel at) they are worse than any Soviet satellite. Really, does anyone write in to say 'Please sir, we think your newspaper prints too many intelligently written debates on political philosophy and too much in depth foreign affairs reporting. We just want more gossip about the Labour party please. Oh, and we still haven't lost interest in Blair/ Brown. More of that please. I start sweating and getting insomnia if a week goes past without reading at least 10,000 words on how Brown wanted to make Britain communist and Blair wanted to keep liberal democracy going and how they always had daggers at each others throats.'

I've made a resolution that I'm not going to visit The Guardian for another week. Not even to marvel at how stupid its getting.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Return of the Video Nasty

When I was in a charity shop a while back I was quite bemused to look at a DVD horror film about cannibals. The marketing team thought its chief selling point was that a board of people had decided that the world was better not watching 'Cannibal Atrocity' or whatever this work of genius was called.

So it seems that Human Centipede II is being banned, presumably for one of two reasons: 1) Someone might think it sounds like a sweet romantic comedy and go in and be horrified that a movie marketed as being one of the sickest films ever made is actually one of the sickest films ever made and not a film about puppies bounding through fields of dandelions 2) Modern parents know they don't have the spine to risk unpopularity in telling their kids they can't watch something so will secretly be grateful to the state for using censorship to stop it happening.

Frankly if the answer is '2' then as a society we may very well deserve censorship of films. But I'd still fight against it. No, I'm certainly not going to watch it. But I don't want anyone to tell me I can't.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Quote of the Day

'Grayling peddles a Just So version of English history, breathtaking in its crudity and complacency, in which freedom has been on the rise for centuries and has only recently run into trouble. Dawkins touts a simple-minded, off-the-peg version of Enlightenment in which people in the west have all been getting nicer and nicer, and would have ended up as civilised as an Oxford high table were it not for a nasty bunch of religious fundamentalists. Who would pay £18,000 a year to listen to this outdated Victorian rationalism when they could buy themselves a second-hand copy of John Stuart Mill?'

Terry Eagleton on top form
. I'm not sure about Eagleton's Marxism but at least he is an intellectual intellectual as opposed to a secular vicar like Grayling.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Thoughts of Scottish Nationalism and pan-Saxonism

It's almost a decade now since the 9/11 atrocities. Perhaps the SNP victory at the local elections seems to be about as unrelated as any political event could be. Yet in my heart I do not think this is the case.

Maybe a decade is a long time to come up with something as trite as 'only by defending our best values will we prevail'. Yet it's the only moral I can draw from the ten savage years that have intervened. Christopher Hitchens described his response to 9/11 as a mood of exhilaration as everything he loved was pitted against everything he hated. I would disagree with the sentiments, but not the thoughts and certainly not his conclusions as to what course of action to take.

Still, maybe one should respect Hitchens for taking out American citizenship. Britain is if anything the chief political victim of 9/11. Whilst British soldiers are being killed and injured in Afghanistan because a group of Saudis massacred thousands of Americans, just look at what's happening at home.

I personally don't want to defend Britain's presence in Northern Ireland. I could make all sorts of far left arguments for this position, which would be good for self-righteousness but would be fundamentally dishonest. I just have to admit it's because I don't feel British. Whilst I tend to agree with David Lindsay on economics, the unborn and US-English relations, it is somewhat rare for me to agree on Britishness, but he does make an excellent point in saying:

'stretching from high letters and the theatre to football and horse-racing (in all of which fields England has significantly closer links to all parts of Ireland than to any part of Scotland).'

The simple fact is I'd be all for cutting off Scottish ties to Northern Ireland if only because I can't think of a more alien culture in either its Orange Order or Celtic Catholic tendencies. Like many Scots I'm of partial Irish Catholic descent. Like nearly all Scots of Irish Catholic descent I think my ancestors made the right decision in coming over to Scotland. Like many Scots of all denominations and none I think that any Irish immigrants of any denomination who want to take their bigotry with them should be forced to leave Scotland. How many people of any denomination wouldn't prefer to live in a secular Protestant social democracy than either a quasi Francoist Irish Republic or indeed Northern Ireland itself which contained the worst of imperialist bigotry and theocratic backwardness in one?

Some people may well object to my tone in saying this. But I wonder just what they think of our being sued for killing terrorists when spending a fortune on 'fighting terror'?

Furthermore, whilst 'British' identity takes upon itself a degree of responsibility for the thorny politics of Ireland, look also at Britain's relationship with Israel and England's ghettoised Jewish polulation, one of whom wrote about his 'pleasure' that a young peace activist was killed? The delightful editor who published the delightful Mr Alderman's views later attacked the reporter who wrote on the piece and then clarified:

'UPDATE: Ms Sherwood left me a voicemail after seeing my initial post below, complaining that she did not scream. And you know what, listening to the conversation, it's a fair point and I'm happy to change that. It felt like screaming to me as her voice was very loud on my phone. I've edited the post to take that out. I've also changed the post so that it's made up of verbatim quotes, now that I have been able to transcribe the conversation.'

After reading this, I checked The SNP line on Israel-Palestine:

"Things are going from bad to worse in the Middle East, and the EU as a whole continues to send precisely the wrong signals to the increasingly intransigent Israeli government. At least Mr Lieberman does not pretend to have any regard for human rights, where a number of his predecessors have pretended to talk about peace while all the while undermining any chance of a viable Palestinian state at all.
"The EU has to recognise that the Israeli government is not a partner in peace, it is the primary opponent of it. Until we use our collective economic and political power to bring them to the negotiating table we will only continue to watch things go from bad to worse"

Excellently phrased. How many English politicians would have the nerve to say that? How many English parties would have the nerve to post that on their websites?

The ironic thing is that they'd be too scared of the 'right wing media'. Ironic because the right wing media that whinges about a left that supports political correctness, multi-culturalism, ghettoisation, anti-Britishness actually uses these things as tools because they themselves are pretty ghettoised: upper middle class plutocrats who fear and hate the majority of the British population.

I've traditionally regarded myself as anti-nationalist because I find it so silly, that I should be proud that people living here might have worn nice clothes a millenium or so ago, or that I should somehow feel that I deserve some glory for Watt and Maxwell's inventions despite the fact I can hardly erect a clothes horse, or that I'd have kicked ass at Bannockburn despite having severe asthma.

I still do think that kind of nationalism is immensely silly. But I also think I was previously immensely silly to take Scottish values for granted and to assume that they are universal values. They are not values I share with Northern Irish bigots, they are not values that belong to Eire bigots, they are not values shared with any of England's many ghettoised populations, they are not values shared with America's Bible Belt white supremacists and fundamentalist Christians, they are not values shared with East Anglian uncle tom Atlanticists. Whether culture forms values or values form culture, the two are interconnected and subsequently I don't feel much cultural affinity for these people either.

Do I share values and cultures with the English as a people, when their national identity seems influenced by so many competing interest groups?

I really think it is up to them to prove it is the case.

To come back to the twin towers, I do again find it curious that Christopher Hitchens did sum up my feelings to a large extent. The coastal USA did make an invaluable contribution to Anglo-Saxon culture in the 60s-present. Whilst I agree with most left wing arguments about capitalist exploitation, it is the case that media consumerism did help to make African American culture more mainstream and to revolutionise music and culture and attitudes towards race (which were never as pleasant here as many nostalgic Brits like to pretend). It is also the case that the American film industry made many excellent and thought-provoking films. The American print industry provided the modern West with some of the most articulate criticisms of our government's action. And finally, and in some ways most importantly, the internet really revolutionised the modern world and spelled the death of mainstream political writing. It was this America that Bin Laden hated. It's this facet of Anglo-Saxon culture that we should feel obliged to defend.

Yet it is not one that we can defend by either being violent (dropping bombs, turning over civil liberties and human rights) or by bowing to numerous ghettoised populations or interest groups.

The simple fact is we can only defend our values if we use our values for defence. Our values were shaped in Ancient Athens, further refined in Ancient Rome, further refined by Christianity and further refined by modern Democracy.

I think in many ways the SNP does embody these values. Does any mainstream party in England? Does any mainstream party in the USA?

Could the SNP lead the way to more of a fracturing in the Anglo-Saxon world? Could geographical fracturing ironically lead to greater interactions as smaller more culturally homogenous states force themselves to appraise their values?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Rebel, Rebel

Tracey Emin out to prove she's no conservative at London retrospective

Sayeth Te Graun:

'After two decades scaring the horses with her drunkenness on TV and sexually explicit art Tracey Emin now risks becoming part of the establishment by dining with the Tories and opening on Wednesday a mid-career retrospective at one of Britain's most important galleries.

Well, almost.

Telling John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she wanted her epitaph to be "fuck me while I'm sleeping" may mean she's not quite there yet.'

No? But what is 'scaring the horses'? Does that mean being embarrassingly puerile and boring? And as for being 'no conservative', if being boorish, vulgar and self-adoring for having money is in some way opposed to modern conservatism it's news to me.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Eye for an Eye

So, the high court of theocratic Iran has decided that the best way to punish a gruesome thug is to sink to his level and blind him with acid.

Repeat after me brave, western, snug, middle class self described 'opponents of religious tyranny' who use their computers to praise Christopher Hitchens and Johann Hari: all religions are equally bad, all religions are equally stupid, if you read the old testament there's lots of cruelty, it's only thanks to us that the Christians don't do this kind of thing, if we didn't whinge about prayer sessions in council buildings then Britain would be a barbaric theocracy as well, and only racists object to large scale Muslim immigration, and only racists make out that Turkey shouldn't join the EU, only racists and far right groups make out that there's any difference whatsoever between the tenets of Islam and any other monotheism.

Anyway, already we've wasted too much time on the subject when we know we're already right. Back to the important issue. Do you realise how much we pay in subsidies to kids travelling to faith schools?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Celebration Times Come On

Time for a Lib dem victory dance, don't you think? at least this clown that te Graun plucked from someplace thinks it is:
'In Scotland, the people dealt Labour a resounding defeat – because Scotland was a place where, if you didn't like the coalition, you didn't have to vote Labour'

Let's see, compared with the last election:
Labour won 37 seats, down from 44
Conservatives won 15 seats down from 20
Lib Dems won 5 seats, down from 17

The dems are finito. Why can't they just drink up and go home? The funny thing is, they can't even make their own mistakes. Timmo must have read someplace that Scotland was a solidly Labour country, when in fact Labour has a fairly weak presence North of the industrial Central Belt, so he decided that he'd adopt a bit of a swagger.

What really gets to me is how swiftly the dems have morphed into the caricature of itself that New Labour had become in the late noughties.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Mystic Greg

I guess it would sound arrogant and tautologous to say 'I thought I'd be right', but whoa Nelly!

And being smug about being right just wouldn't be fun if it weren't for a certain gent who (to quote Commissioner Dreyfuss in A Shot in the Dark) 'will go down in history as the greatest prophet since Custer said he'd surround those Indians':

"I'm just not seeing the levels of support for the SNP you're seeing in the polls. I'm just not seeing it,"

Thus spake Danny Alexander. And let's look at his boss. A man of genius I'm sure we all agree, who presciently warned his party not to turn left. As the big guy says:

"I totally understand that some of these people are not happy with what the Lib Dems are doing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for leftwing dissatisfaction with Labour. There is no future for that, there never was."

Well done sir, well done.

Seems my predictions held up pretty well. Labour didn't actually do that badly: clinging on to the industrial south. The SNP were snuffed in the Highlands. Their campaign literature helpfully told us who to vote for to get them out. Thanks guys. They tried to get us scared that our local rozzers would be subject to reform under the SNP. For all I know we have one of the best police forces on earth. But given that the Northern Constabulary showed such appalling criminal negligence in the 70s and 80s that they've made it into books on the paranormal, I'm afraid that I couldn't get too excited about the prospect of their being subject to centralised authority.

The Tories have gone from bad to dismal: the times when they could depend upon Morayshire Wing Commanders and Perthshire apothecaries are finito.

As for what's next, I think it's all up in the air. I suspect the urban south will still vote Labour in the General Elections. Central Scotland and the Highlands will have few alternatives but to stick with Alex for the time being.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Alia Iacta Est

So, voted SNP and yes to AV. Here's hoping that I've made the right decisions.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Bohemian Threnody

Royalty, eh? I’ve heard that folks around them have been stoking up bad feelings by speaking of ‘common’ people. I guess I feel bemused both by the sort that use this word and the sort who are offended because such words as ‘commoner’ will never really apply to me. Not because I’m posh, but because I’m such a weirdo and I think that the hatred of the Royals is Caliban seeing his own face in the mirror or something. I can just imagine if for some reason William and Kate decided to pay me a visit just how flippin annoying I’d probably find them. Bet if I asked them what their favourite Byzantine Cathedral was they’d probably be puzzled. Maybe if I asked them what their favourite sedimentary rock is they’d be puzzled. Bet if I asked them whether they think The Rats in the Walls is better than The Call of Cthulhu… well, you get the point. I bet even if I asked them about one of my favourite historical episodes, the White Terror in Jacobin France the ignorant blighters would look blank. There’s me thinking it would be pretty cool prowling like a werewolf and taking out the Masonic republican Jacobins before they can create their cult of the supreme beings, and the Royal so-and-sos would have no idea what I’m on about.

But perhaps because Willo seems like a good natured sort and I feel no animosity to the guy. I am a fairly lukewarm monarchist, though I think they should be taxed far more heavily.

Still, for evidence that you don’t need to be a royal to have a stupid sense of your own self-importance, can I present Martin Amis.

Mart is writing an obitu- eh, tribute, or something, about his friend Hitchens, which is solid gold. He tries to portray Hitch as an existentialist warrior poet, an edgy outsider, a spare tyre Stavrogin, a BO Byron, but really makes him look like that boorish Cockney businessman that Harry Enfield used to act. But try telling that to Amis, whose definition of a rebel will spare you having to read Camus:

'This is the way to spot a rebel: they give no deference or even civility to their SUPPOSED superiors (that goes without saying); they also give no deference or even civility to their DEMONSTRABLE INFERIORS. Thus Christopher, if need be, will be merciless to the prince, the president, and the pontiff; and, if need be, he will be merciless to the cabdriver ("Oh, you're not going our way. Well turn your light off, all right? Because it's fucking sickening the way you guys ply for trade"), to the publican ("You don't give change for the phone? OK, I'm going to report you to the Camden Consumer Council"), and to the waiter ("Service is included, I see. But you're saying it's optional. Which? … What? Listen. If you're so smart, why are you dealing them off the arm in a dump like this?").'

Demonstrable inferiors? Demonstrably inferior to someone who thinks it's clever to write:

"Unkind nature, which could have made a perfectly good butt out of his face, has spoiled the whole effect by taking an asshole and studding it with ill-brushed fangs."

The only way that the people Amis mentions are in any way 'demonstrable inferiors' is that they have less money than he has. It is perhaps bitterly amusing that the self-styled 'bohemians' (i.e. spoilt public schoolboys) of yesterday are the most vulgar plutocrats of today, but it does make me feel there are worse things than royalty.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Now's the Day (well, Thursday will be)

'Anybody I speak to up in Scotland says that he’s done a great job and sometimes I watch him on Scottish TV in Parliament and he wipes the floor with everybody. He’s great on his feet.

Jack Vettriano

Can't say I'm a big fan of his painting but I think he's right. Alan Cumming also made an interesting endorsement, based on Salmond's vision for Scotland. A gay thespian might not seem the most self-evident figure to support a patriotic candidate, yet I think social liberalism is never going to be as screechy and narcissistic as it is in England. We are proud to be a nation and proud to be a tolerant nation.

I notice that few of Alex's celeb fans seem to be especially political, and I would say that as a political talent, speaker and brain, Salmond towers above the shower of his opponents.

His primary opponents in terms of sheer demographics are Labour, mainly in the industrial lowlands. Whilst I have some sympathy for the Labour party, they are a pernicious presence in Scotland: sending Blairites to deprived Glaswegian areas and then boasting that their being elected is a sign of Blair/Mandelson genius. In the general elections, I think this area will still be a Labour stronghold, but when travelling through Scottish cities, St Andrews Cross flags and Stuart Lions are omnipresent: on Thursday, I think this region will probably back SNP.

In more direct competition there are the Lib Dems in the north. Beaker comes from not a million miles away from my constituency, but you're more likely to see a 1930s Soviet photo of Trotsky driking to bruderschaft with Lenin than you are to see Beaker in any local lib dem leaflets. The Dems are pegging all their hopes that voters will be mightily furious with the SNP for making administrative changes to to the running of the northern Scottish police force. Sadly, I think that taking Blighty into a double dip recession will be a more pressing concern, along with the small matter of the Dems knifing their voters in the back. The Lib Dems have always depended on their not being Tories and not being Labour for their popularity. I guess this is correct, given that they don't have the spine of the Tories nor the spine of Labour. Which means anything could happen and the same lack of spine that's led to their supporting Tory cuts could see Clegg telling the population he would vote for everyone to have a microchip implanted in their head if he formed a coalition with John Reid.

Lastly there are the Tories. What to say? Annabel Goldie looking at her prospective demesne like a plantation owner's wife looking at the 'natives' and a message that is utterly out of step with the vast majority of Scots. 'Right Wing' in the sense of wanting to lick American and Israeli arse and believing that John Galt will pull some jobs out of the ground when the state withers away, I don't think the Tories can really compete with the genuine patriotism of the SNP and their understanding that market fanaticism is not beneficial to the Middle Class. Subsequently they will probably get a good hiding in the South/Central Scotland where they were owned by the SNP in the general election.

As for independence, I don't have a clue. As for the Donald Trump golf course, I'm with these guys. But in a day when politics is ruled by various insipid flavours of spineless nonentities, I'm definitely backing Salmond for First Minister.

Oh, and if the celeb endorsements so far aren't enough, Brian Cox has joined the line. This is a clip of him in one of my favourite films, Steven Seagal's demented masterpiece The Glimmer Man (I take the Borgesian view that meaning is a dialogue between viewer and auteur so readily praise the American action movie as one of the most superb schools of satire, no matter what they were trying to do). Say what you like about Seagal's acting talents, Cox is brilliant here. Also a way better Hannibal Lector than Anthony Hopkins.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Prometheus Unbound(ed self congratulation)

A while back I think I made the same point, but I increasingly find that my disagreement with the mainstream vociferous atheists is not so much about faith (except they don't seem to understand the term), or reason (which they often equate with 'the most likely answer') or even history (about which many of them are astoundingly ignorant) but their absolute lack of irony. Seems the case with the Prometheus Publishing House.

For those not acquainted with Aeschylos, Prometheus was a titan chained to a rock for stealing fire and giving it to humanity. At the end of the play a creepy little guy comes up to him and gloats that as punishment Prometheus will have his liver pecked by an eagle every day. To which Prometheus replies 'Know clearly I would not exchange my misfortune for your subservience'.

Pretty powerful stuff. Though I'd guess the nobility of Prometheus might make him one of my favourite characters, but certainly not someone I'd really want to compare myself to, given that I've never had my liver pecked out for the good of mankind and if I'd been told I would, I probably wouldn't be in the mood to feel chuffed that at least I wasn't a snivelling little sycophant. OK, I'd love to think that if I was told I'd have my liver pecked out for the good of mankind I'd feel chuffed with myself for not being a snivelling little sycophant. But the thing is, I might suffer from chronic self-esteem or something but I tend to ask to be judged on how I've actually acted, rather on how I'd love to think I'd act.

Such quibbles are of no interest to Prometheus Books who have 'spread free thought world wide'. No kidding? Presumably they have publishing houses in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan? Or does that just mean they holler to secular/lapsed Prods about the evils of religion and then make out they are freedom loving titans for doing so? Let's have it in their own words:

'It came into being to fulfil what we viewed as a critical need, namely, publishers willing to produce and distribute dissenting books on religion and the paranormal... We selected Prometheus as the name of the press by reference to the mythological Hellenic Titan, because he was the symbol of achievement: he stole fire from the gods and he bequeathed fire and the arts and sciences to humankind, challenging the gods on high. He did so, according to legend, because he loved humankind, and felt that without the arts and sciences, humans would huddle in their caves in fear and ignorance.'

My goodness, dissenting books on the paranormal? Do you mean you could be shot for criticising Yuri Gellar or something? Were people broken on the wheel for saying the spoons weren't really bent? My goodness, we'd be living in caves if we didn't have such dissidents. Anyway, I don't think you've congratulated yourselves enough, Surely there's more?

'were an advocacy press fulfilling a mission: to cultivate reason, science, humanistic values, and free inquiry in all areas of human interest. Some of the first books we published were on Humanism, Atheism, and Biblical criticism – all challenging the reigning ‘sacred cows’ and all going against the grain.'

Going against the grain and the reign of sacred cows must have been awful. But guys, surely you haven't finished congratulating yourselves yet, have you? Oh, you've not finished starting.

'We were like Prometheans, challenging the powers that be and resolving to publish books that we thought ought to appear. I am proud of the dedicated professional staff that we have since developed. I doubt that such a venture would succeed today, as we are confronted with fierce competition from huge publishing and marketing conglomerates.'

You know what I think guys? I think you're being to kind to Prometheus in claiming to be his disciples. After all, what's having your liver pecked out compared to the raw courage of 'challenging the powers that be': in taking on the beardy lay line enthusiasts, the UFO specialists, the prince of spoons and all the other armies of irrational darkness that were enveloping the Anglo-Saxon world. But guys, hrmhrm, whilst the compliments are flying so thick and so fast, any words of praise for the sophisticated geniuses that buy your books?
'Our effort throughout has been to try to bring to the educated public books of high quality on themes not generally covered by the large conglomerates. Our readers are for the most part seriously interested in controversial books, and they are educated and knowledgeable.'

Obviously. If they weren't educated and knowledgeable they would have been looking for the Loch Ness Monster or reading about the Philadelphia Project or something. But anyway, you've spent enough time complimenting other people, surely you should get back to praising yourselves:

'We are gratified that we remain the leading rationalist, humanist, freethought, and sceptical press in the world, offering provocative and controversial viewpoints.'

Leading in the world? And 'offering provocative and controversial viewpoints'. Offering these throughout the world, surely, not still banging on to secular prods about how awful religion is?

'Since we founded Prometheus, the entire publishing industry has been radically transformed. First, most of the finest independent houses ceased operations or have been absorbed by large conglomerates, which now dominate well over three-quarters of the total books published in the United States. Second, the independent bookstores have largely given way to chains, and books are now marketed primarily through wholesalers. Third, with the advent of the worldwide web, books are now sold over the Internet, and there are alternative sources of information beyond traditional book publishing. The fact that we manage to survive in the light of these factors is, in one sense, a publishing ‘miracle’.

We hope, as we move beyond our first third of a century, that readers will continue to welcome our books for themselves, their children, their friends, and their colleagues. For, in the last analysis, satisfying the insatiable interests of educated readers is the best guarantee of our viability. The invention of books, a truly remarkable creation, in our view, still provides the most enduring thought of ages to the public.'


Perhaps the irony is that whilst attacking myths they see a dichotomy in choosing an ancient Greek myth as a metaphor. And yet, whilst I don't see faith as a metaphor, I do think that such tales as Prometheus do give a kind of faith and come from the Ancient Mediterranean that provided the intellectual and verbal tools for discussing Christianity. Whilst the vociferous 'rationalists' like to criticise faith in a confrontational manner, it does seem to me that our classical civilisation is also under threat in a more insidious way. Just look at the barely literate Melanie Phillips being given a Sappho award and Spectator era Boris Johnson raving that he is inspired by Pericles... presumably because 'freedom' means being a surveillance state liberal interventionist tax bore.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Ceci n'est pas une spoof

Well, I'm with Johann Hari: I'm up on my high horse with self-righteous indignation at the Royal Wedding. And at the religious. What a wonderful country Britain would be with no religion and none of the royals. I love my country, sniff, we're such wonderful people, and it just hurts me so much that my compatriots could be so sick as to want to celebrate a young couple being married.

Of course you could say this is really sick and no matter how indifferent you are to a German-Danish bloke who's no right to any throne getting married, you feel that it's not Blighty's no.1 problem. But that wouldn't be hip. And unless you make out that this is just another sign of how bad men are (cause lets face it guys, this is the sort of thing we'd buy our daughters, isn't it? Uh, isn't it?) then you could get into hot water for questioning the PC status quo.