Sunday, July 20, 2014

That "Don't Kill" Rule Was a Commandment, Not a Suggestion

I used to have a rule at this here blog that I'd never get into Israel's barney with the Palestinians, not least because 1) People who want that kind of thing can probably get it better and angrier elsewhere, 2) There are already far too many blogs going on and on about it from both sides and 3) About 80% of those who comment on the issue are just bloody awful human beings.

This rule inevitably fell foul of my own manias, since most of my output is basically me getting all pouty and annoyed by people who bullshit for political purposes.  Given the quantity of hilarious bullshit flying around right now, I feel like I don't have much choice but to go with one last bleat, and I'll not raise the topic again for a while.

So, the official IDF Spokesperson Twitter account is illuminating in all kinds of unexpected ways, isn't it?

Whichever PR team it is that are running it* appear to believe that they're landing blow after blow on the enemy in a series of astounding propaganda coups, and who knows?  Maybe they are, and it certainly never hurts to remind people that Hamas really are a bunch of godawful shits.

To me though, almost everything the IDF's PR team says just underscores the sheer lunacy of the entire situation.  When the IDF Spokesperson announces that they've killed some Hamas men who tunnelled out of Gaza, it reminds me that Hamas are basically incapable of mounting any kind of resistence of consequence.  It shows that Hamas's crack troops can literally spend months digging a damn tunnel out of Gaza, only to be immediately vapourised by insanely expensive weapons that might as well be fired from outer space the instant they poke their heads out of the other end.

The same goes for captured arms or photos of rockets being fired off, which only serve to remind the world that these theoretically frightening terrorists are hilariously outgunned and utterly incapable of inflicting any kind of disastrous cost upon their enemies, unless the IDF madly decide to put soldiers inside Gaza and have them wander around for snipers to take potshots at.

Similarly, when the spokesperson shows us neat infographics of rockets hidden in houses, mosques and hospitals, it merely emphasises that the IDF are bombing houses, mosques and hospitals.  When they tell everyone that they're very moral because they warn people to get out of houses that they're going to bomb, it announces clearly that they believe - inaccurately - that there's some kind of legal duty on civilians to get out of the way of their missiles, and that they can swerve culpability with a phone call or a dud rocket.  

In short, the laser-like focus on claims that Hamas is responsible for the deaths of all the civilians that the IDF is killing just reinforces the fact that, you know, the IDF is killing civilians.  And while that may annoy the thousands of Melanie Phillips types buzzing around the internet like angry wasps, I think any reasonable person is going to come away from the spokesperson's account with an impression that the IDF may not, in fact, be "the most moral army in the world"**, and that most of its problems stem directly from its habit of intentionally incarcerating and immiserating 1.7 million people...  And that this is, shall we say, not solely Hamas's fault.

Which makes me wonder what the purpose of the Spokesperson account actually is.  It's surely not aimed at winning over Israel's critics - the stridently lunatic tone and continual references to rubbing out civvies are huge, honking schoolboy errors, if it is.

In the end, I can only imagine that it exists in order to keep the thousands of Mel P/angry wasp social media types furious and on-message; to provide them with neat infographics and cool photos. I'm not certain that this achieves any concrete purpose at all, beyond making people who were already extremely pissed off even more so.

I know that Irn-Bru advertisers have an easier sales job but really, you have to ask if this is the best that the IDF can do, because if it is, they'd probably have made a better case by just keeping quiet and letting the right-wing press handle the apologia operation.  The Times, for instance, has managed to pull off almost exactly the same propaganda wheezes every day for two weeks without looking half as maniacal.

*I've no idea whether the IDF hires PR consultants or promotes from within the ranks, but I reckon the sheer ineptitude seems to indicate that it's the latter.

**Who does have "the the most moral army in the world"?  The Swiss one, perhaps - it seldom kills anyone.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Rat.pngThe Rat

Very sad ally mccoist.jpg
“They were mean to us” sobs sad, snottery Ally

“Boo hoo hoo hoo” - McCoist
See back page
Friday 18 July 2014

Bibi.jpg Guffawing Netanyahu fucks row of doughnuts

“Naughty, dirty Tulisa” whispers ferociously masturbating editor

Pederasts for independence.png

Tory reshuffle inspires hopes for future of equal-opportunity malice

David Cameron has completed his boldest-ever reshuffle as he promoted a “fresh team” of horrible female nutters to his cabinet in what is being seen as the opening shots of the 2015 General Election.

Speaking after the reshuffle was announced, Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped the appointments would “inspire godawful shits of all creeds and colours to new heights of cruelty”.

“The Conservatives are the party of opportunity, and we are committed to building a Britain in which everyone has the chance to be beaten by a female police officer, hurled out of their home by a gay bailiff or fired by their transgender boss”.

Cameron has received criticism for replacing several experienced, hateful male ministers with seven comparably mean-as-fuck female economic Darwinists, but rejected charges of tokenism.

“I believe in appointing the right people to do the job, whether that job is Secretary of State for Education or trainee burger-monkey in a zero-hours fast food chain”, Cameron said. “The workplace is the perfect avenue for rewarding everyone’s psychotic urge to stomp like stormtroopers upon their fellow human beings”.
Culture: Fresh Tarttdonna_tartt.jpg
Extract from novelist’s new work threatens 800-page descriptive monologue on faded grandeur of bohemian upstate New York residence of academic family fallen upon hard times.  Page Nine

Now arrogant Germans won’t even let us spy on them
The Rat says: They’re first out with the beach towels at your hotel, and now the Germans think they’re so superior that they deserve some kind of exemption from the Americans' Orwellian surveillance system. They aren't.
Putin bites chunk out of underling’s face to promote traditional values

Wildcat.jpgExcuses to run photos of Scottish wildcats “headed for extinction”

Better molesting together.JPG

Today in history: Palo Alto, 1993
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates vows to create a new “Discrimination Superhighway”.

“By the year 2006, everyone will be able to hurl filthy abuse each other online from the comfort of their own homes with ear-bleeding intensity and eyeball-scorching ferocity”, Mr Gates announced today.

“The Discrimination Superhighway will bring humanity together, then cause us all to recoil in horror from each other at our mutual, resentment-fuelled repellence”.

A spokesperson for Apple issued the following statement via email: “Who cares what that speccy twat Gates think? He’s one of those  bloody Catholics, isn’t he”.

Deranged lunatics converge on BBC for protest about something
By Jingo Horatio

2,000 deranged, dribbling idiots descended on BBC HQ last night to protest some mental shit that they have a bee in their bonnets about.

The protesters carried banners denouncing bias in the BBC’s coverage of some issue or other, most likely Palestine or climate change or a football club going bust, or some other tiresome nonsense that is basically far beyond the broadcaster’s control.

“We’re all very angry”, said one whacking great bell-end of a human being, between loud outbursts of incoherent, bovine bellowing.  “We pay for the BBC, and we expect it to mindlessly repeat whatever mad fucking bullshit we’re upset about on any particular day of the week”.

A general chant of “Stop being so biased about the things” went up as the evening cleaning shift tried to make its way through the placard-waving throng of angry, clueless morons to just get a day’s damn work done without having to put up with this type of thing.

“I have no idea what they’re on about now”, said one employee. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another and frankly, these protests are so common and so incoherent that I personally couldn’t give a shit whether they even have a point or not”.  
IDF: Israel “hitting Palestinians because it loves them”

A spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Force has responded to criticism of its assault on the Gaza Strip by saying that it deeply loves the Palestinian people, but just wishes they wouldn’t get it all angry and wound-up by nagging and annoying it when it’s trying to watch TV.

“We take the greatest care not to harm civilians while we’re dropping high explosives on them”, a spokesperson said, “And we just wish that the Palestinians would stop talking all that shit all the goddamn time”.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Week In Decency, Part MMMDCCLXVI

This post, motivated as usual by the contents of my Twitter feed, which is - for reasons I won't go into here - partially populated by a lot of very belligerent partisans.

This week, those people's burning question appears to be - how come lots of internet fannies immediately call bullshit on the Israelis when they start rubbing out civvies, but don't spend long hours debunking the nonsense of the Syrian regime?  

It's a reasonable question and it deserves an answer, so here it is: by and large, it's just not necessary for internet fannies like me to debunk the Syrian regime's propaganda.

Does this seem like an odd assertion?  Well, here are two reasons why it's accurate:

1) We already have a vast, intricate system that painstakingly assails every deceit that sneaks out of Damascus, and we call it the mainstream broadcast and print media.  These organisations beam a whacking deluge of content into every home in the land daily, and most of them have expended huge amounts of energy on - correctly - attacking the Syrian government.

2) When the Syrian government makes grand, bullshitty claims about its own virtue and the villainy of the civilians it kills, you very rarely see the nation's intellectuals, pundits, public figures and bloggers leaping to their feet to angrily repeat its loopy propaganda*.  

To pick one relevant example: Let's say that Bashar al-Assad announces tomorrow that, if he informs the people that he's about to bomb that they should immediately relocate or die, then any civilians that end up getting killed because they didn't heed his warning are wholly responsible for their own destruction.

What would happen?  Well, many people who follow current affairs would be outraged at the suggestion.  The papers would denounce Bashar at great length and you wouldn't have to go far to find a seething hive of sulphorous condemnation on social media, with links.

If Al-Assad further announced that actually, people who don't get out of the way of his bombs are not only to blame for their own deaths, but that they're also actually engaged in despicable acts of terrorism aimed at blackening his name, out of malice...

Well, people would just laugh, wouldn't they?  They'd laugh, because it would be ludicrously obvious and insane propaganda, barely meriting refutation.

People aren't obliged to get out of the way of your missiles and mortars, you madman, folk would say.  It's your responsibility to not deliberately kill them.  And those folk would be correct.

And yet, if you re-read this example while replacing the name Bashar Al-Assad with Benjamin Netanyahu, you wind up with the kind of thing I've seen vast amounts of this week - many otherwise sensible people coming to exactly the opposite conclusion, very angrily and insistently so.

And this is just one extreme example, for illustrative purposes.  If we dial it back down to merely accepting as factual a lot of extremely dubious propositions advanced from Tel Aviv, well, you can find endless repetition of that from the most powerful media conglomerates on Earth... 

...But you'll very rarely see  e.g. News Corp or the BBC repeating pronouncements from Damascus as if they were facts, and you won't often hear them echoed and reinforced by public figures and pundits elsewhere.

So let me finish with another short but obvious point - there's an even more pertinent reason why it's not really necessary for me to get up on my high-horse every time the Assads barrel-bomb a neighbourhood, and it's this:

I'd like to think that people would have the basic decency to just assume that I disapprove of barrel-bombing crowded urban areas, rather than seeking proof of it.

And you have to admit that it's damn odd, that it's necessary to point this out.

*Some idiot somewhere will but then, you can always guarantee that whatever the loony proposition, some idiot somewhere will be making it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Centrist Foreign Policy Manifesto

A short treatise upon the policy and practice of diplomacy, statesmanship and war, as aggregated by the author from the collected wisdom of sensible, centrist British pundits and politicians of the modern era

1. War

a) In times of great military need, we all are resolved and agreed - laws of war are quite loose; with a so-so excuse, UK allies can do as they please. 

b) If an enemy force is concealed - in a home, or a shop or a field - hidden amongst millions of inconvenient civilians, some laws are now hereby repealed, to whit:

(1) Phone non-combatants and say, Why, hello to you sir, and good day; we're quite sorry but, we're going to blow up your hut.  Now, they're required to get out of your way, or

(2) They'll be treated as "human shields", which a mere moment's thought should reveal means i.e. blasted to pieces with a bomb that releases not more than a forty-ton yield.

(3) If you warn them before your assault with a drone strike and then call a halt, this means you can kill them or just fry them and grill them, then announce it was all their own fault.  

c) We find in respect of those who object, they should refer to the terms of clause a). 

2.  Human Rights 

a) States shall agree to maintain basic standards as they are germane; provide water and light and respect human rights;

(1) Although not in the east of Ukraine.

b) On public assembly, it's written - whether violent disorder or sit-in - that all humans are blessed with the right to protest, if their rulers aren't allies of Britain.

c) These rights shall possess such dominion as approved via public opinion; self-defence and free speech are rights that may not be breached (see [1]);

[1] Not applicable to Palestinians.

3.  International disputes

a) Wars cannot be legal transgressions if they're designed to relieve cruel oppression.  States may launch invasions:

(1) If they're largely Caucasian and 

(2) Speak English.  Otherwise, it's aggression.

b) There are several schools of thought on how and why wars may be fought.  As a general rule:

(1) If we do it, it's cool,

(2) But if they do, it's probably not. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chekov's Gatling Gun

It's a grand irony that in the UK, Armed Forces Day coincides with the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The murder of a whiskery Austrian princeling is commonly held to have been the proximate cause of World War I, and the New York Times today asks what would've happened if Ferdinand had lived.  To which the answer is surely - they would've found another excuse to have a massive war, probably within months, because the odds on a bunch of extremely belligerent militarist empire-builders playing nice with their massive armed forces were somewhere around zero.

Homer* had this one nailed in circa 800 BC - "The blade itself incites to violence", ya dig?  That is, the mere existence of the weapon is usually enough to ensure that some use will be found for it... And there sure were a shitload of weapons lying around Europe in the age of empire, and plenty of men with heads full of creative excuses for using them on each other.

That's how it's gone, right through history until the present day, from the shores of Troy to the streets of Kabul.  In all these fun marches and shiny buttons and fancy epaullettes, I hear Madeleine Albright asking - what's the point in paying for this massive military, if you can't use it? 

Well, what indeed, Maddy?

So it's probably apt to hold Armed Forces Day on the twenty-eighth of June, of all days.  With one weepy turn of the page, we flip from the fateful shots in Sarajevo to the unanimous valorisation of soldiery, perfectly encapsulating the reason why we seem to barely understand our own species' most terrible errors or why we're doomed to repeat them indefinitely.

Because really, affairs like this are bizarre historical outliers.  Crack open a military history book or two and read between the lines, and it should be obvious that events like Armed Forces Day are vanishingly rare over the millennia.  From Peru to Persepolis, people have seldom greeted the approach of several hundred soldiers with cheers or flags.  In fact, for the majority of humanity, the arrival of an army on their doorstep almost certainly heralded an imminent beating, looting and/or raping for them, their family and their friends, if they were lucky.

That's how it used to go and how it often still does, in some parts of the planet.  It's notable that roughly half the time throughout history that people have showed up to cheer and shower soldiers with praise and gifts, it was likely because they were marching the fuck away from their city, to go and stab some misery into the tribe in the next valley.

And you might say, well, surely not our army, but I say to you - yes, our army, and everyone else's too.  In these post-Hitler days, in most of the world's nations, it's become fashionable to join in a general pretence that armed forces exist for "defence", when even a cursory glance at the last few decades neatly demonstrates that for real, the purpose of those armed forces is almost always conquest. 

It's usually when I'm making this point that a throat is cleared, a finger wags and some roaster delivers a stentorian lesson in how Some things are worth fighting for.  And indeed, that's true - some things are worth fighting for.  And yet, I notice that this point is most commonly made to me by people who at heart believe that pretty much anything and everything is worth fighting for, and quite often by folk who seem to believe that fighting is worth it in itself, even if only for the fighting alone.

You might say Well Mr Rodent, this is a rather childish worldview that you have here.  And I like to think that it is - children have a simple, black-and-white moral outlook and are considerably less inclined towards inventing and refining convuluted excuses for cruel deeds.

Put it this way - a child knows immediately that it's wrong for Linda to hit Susan, and is capable of maintaining that belief even if they're also aware that Susan had called Linda a bad name first.

You can guarantee that this child won't tell you that e.g. Linda was morally compelled to hit Susan in order to reassure the rest of Primary Four that Linda is committed to their struggle against an outbreak of Susanic profanity, and to demonstrate in no uncertain terms to Billy and Morag her willingness to fight for her beliefs and interests.

For that kind of logic to prevail, we need the assistance of adults.

So anyway, on a less tut-tut note, I'll confess that I'm deliberately over-egging all this to make a point. I guess we can all agree on the armed forces as a necessary evil, and even I'd admit that the odd event full of deep-throating patrio-bollocks isn't exactly Red Square on Victory Day.  And I suppose that it's probably pretty difficult to find a single day of the year that doesn't clash with some huge army or other rampaging its way across some country, somewhere.

But for as long as I'm extolling the virtues of children's morality, I'd offer this take on Sarajevo's International Excuse To Have a Big War Day - that at brass tacks, it would've been really quite difficult for Europe to fall into a continent-crushing disaster after the murder of an Austrian aristocrat if the concerned nations weren't already heavily-armed and highly aggressive.

An obvious point, perhaps, but probably the most important one to bear in mind.

*No, not that Homer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away

I guess the thing I've enjoyed most about the Tony Blair "We didn't cause Iraq crisis" row is the scope.  I mean, sure, there's been at least a vague reckoning with the 2003 invasion and occupation and their terrible consequences, but even that vast, idiotic catastrophe isn't really the whole story, is it?

The fact is, the US and the UK, with sundry hangers-on, have been bombing Iraq on and off since 1991.

Can I put this in perspective?  I'm 36 years old, so I was 13 when we first started blatting Iraq with missiles.  When the first new drone strike hits Iraq, we'll have been attacking the place for almost two-thirds of my lifetime.

When our long war on Iraq began, Queen were still releasing records featuring a Freddie Mercury who was actually alive at the time.  Nobody had yet heard that hideous Brian Adams song.  Norman Lamont had just been made Chancellor.  People were eagerly anticipating Ghost being released on VHS, and a sequel to The Terminator at the cinema.  

Or to put it another way - when we started bombing Iraq, the very oldest player at the current World Cup had only just moved up to high school and around half of all the players you've seen so far were either toddlers, babies or unborn.  Czechoslovakia were still playing internationals and would for another two years.

I mean, perhaps it's a coincidence that Iraqi society is in a state of utter collapse after 24 years of foreign bombing, sanctioning, invasion, occupation, market experimentation and partition.

Or, you know, maybe there's a link.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oor Referendum, A Continuing Series

The last time I wrote anything about the referendum, some took it as sympathy for the Nationalists, so let's now redress the balance.

First, the good stuff about the Nats.  Their recent fortunes aren't well understood outside Scotland, but let's start by noting that the SNP has profited in a big way from the New Labour government's mis-steps, successfuly riding a wave of resentment against Tony's mob and squeaking the narrowest of wins in the 2007 election. 

They then followed that by pulling off one of the toughest tasks in government, running the country quietly and effectively with no grand plans, a couple of populist moves, and only the one major controversy that I can recall.

And the sky didn't fall; the crops did not wither on the vine and the lion did not lie down with the lamb.  The electorate noticed that things pretty much just ticked over inoffensively, broadly approved of it, and thus the Nats duly hoovered up a lot of votes that would otherwise have gone to Labour, the Lib Dems or the diddy parties, landing an astounding, thumping victory

But the key to understanding the upcoming referendum is that despite that triumph, most Scots aren't Nationalists or, indeed, even nationalists.  The SNP's current success was born of New Labour's many failures and while they've seized their opportunity with admirable skill and precision, their 2011 win won't automatically translate into an Indy Ref rout.

(And indeed, the referendum almost never happened, as it was a very late addition to their 2007 manifesto.  They even pushed it back past the 2011 election, hoping that they'd be able to change the lie of the land in the intervening period and unexpectedly, they've pulled it off).

In 2007, the idea of Scottish independence was still really only properly popular with the Nats themselves.  Their tireless plugging and continued success has now pushed what was a fringe idea into the mainstream, mainly by repeatedly asking the question -

Well, why shouldn't Scotland be independent?

And indeed, that's resonated with a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise have been much bothered either way.  Scotland's a country much like any other, so why couldn't it govern itself?

The Nats deserve a lot of credit for their success here, from a purely political standpoint.  Bringing a once-lunatic idea into common consideration isn't easy, and it's a huge achievement for their movement.

That's their good points.  Now, for the bad stuff. 

More so than most other major political forces in the UK, Scottish nationalism is an almost entirely faith-based operation.  Sure, the movement's leaders make the odd economic-sounding noise here and there but at heart, it's pure Caledonian Lysenkoism.  Like Don Rumsfeld casting about for weapons intelligence, they're only interested in the data that tells them exactly what they want to hear.

If you showed Alex Salmond some kind of Piketty-esque report that categorically proved beyond dispute that an independent Scotland would be a lot worse off than it is now, he'd still favour independence. Because that's just how he is - that's how they all are.  The policy comes first, and the supporting evidence will be found thereafter, although it's only needed to help rope the rest of us in.

Because Scottish nationalism may be less malignant than other nationalisms, but it still holds only a passing acquaintance with empiricism.  If an independent Scotland will be poorer, then surely the natural zest and industry of self-rule will spur us to make up the deficit and leap forward to a bright, new dawn.

And sure, you can throw that allegation at the unionist parties as well - God knows, their hysterical, trouser-browning displays of fake terror have been a sight to behold, this last year, and they all have similar glaring ideological flaws - but the bottom line is this... 

Will Scotland be better or worse off, on its own?  Alex Salmond doesn't know, and he doesn't much care*.  He believes it will be better, and thus it must be, and so it is with almost all of the SNP's supporters.

Ultimately, it's really a question of faith.  I think it'd be fine for the Nats to say well, we can't predict what's going to happen post-independence, but self-rule is its own reward, so why not just go for it?   

That is the question people are going be voting on, come September.  I think a majority of Scots have the savvy to spot that this is so, and will take that assessment with them into the polling station and que sera, sera.

But it's hardly a surprise that a movement that's so strongly rooted in heart and spirit rather than rationality goes absolutely fucking bananas when, for example, the writer JK Rowling chucks a few quid at the No campaign and announces that she's all for the union.

All Scottish politics is parochial**, and the Nats are more petty and suspicious than most, more even than our cranky local Labourites.  For a movement with almost eight years of government behind it, they're still incredibly paranoid, with an unshakeable conviction that the nation's institutions and its movers-and-shakers are all instinctively against them and their cause.  Thus, they habitually perceive slight and bias in every issue and article.

And sometimes they're right, but more often, they're embarrassingly wrong.

Scottish nationalism generally seems to be far more benign than most of its European equivalents - more tolerant, more welcoming of immigration and difference, more positive.  The SNP mean it when they say that they're multiculturalists, welcoming anyone who wants to help contribute to oor rich tapestry... But it's still nationalism, with all of nationalism's manias and quirks, and when you cut nationalism in any form, it bleeds defiance and resentment.

Which is why we so often wind up with, for example, lots of otherwise sensible people hurling insults at a children's author... Because dissent from the great project can't be rational or well-meant, and must instead be something else, be it bad faith, or malice, or - whisper it - treason.

And that sucks from a Nationalist perspective because, when you find that you've been reduced to hurling insults at Harry Potter...  Well, you've probably already lost the argument.

(For more on this topic, also see Shuggy on what happens when left wing movements yoke themselves to nationalist causes).


A note here, to fend off some of the more obvious complaints - I'm neither a nationalist nor a unionist.  I'm mainly a smartarse, one who concocted a nice, touchy feely global Benetton advert We Are The World mentality, which means that I'm pretty much required to dish out scorn to all nationalism everywhere, insofar as it manifests itself beyond putting on a Scotland strip during our many fruitless qualifying campaigns.

*Neither does e.g. Alasdair Darling or any other No campaigner, for that matter, but they at least have a functioning example to point to. 

**Most British politics usually is too, but that's a post for another day.