Wednesday, September 30, 2015

War Is Good/Bad - An Update On The Rules

Using my special sarcasto-blogger sense, I've concluded that Vladimir Putin's retarded and deranged Syria intervention is about to have an interesting and immediate effect upon our own political and media establishment.

It's not going to change their basic view of airstrikes and bombing campaigns of course, since their opinion on wars is generally comparable to a teenage boy's attitude towards free pornography.  Nonetheless, I think the Russians' idiotic actions are going to lead the UK war party generally to announce a few major ideological tweaks to our national morality on military hijinks, at least insofar as they're perpetrated by countries that aren't us or our allies.

Firstly, I suspect we're about to discover that nations engaging in warfare sometimes employ the language of security and humanitarianism to cover up their shady ulterior motives. 

This type of deceitful propaganda is bad, because governments should always be honest about their motivations for attacking and/or occupying other nations.  Governments definitely shouldn't ever make up any excuses that aren't true to justify their military adventures.  Also, people who repeat the lies that these governments tell will now be regarded as thoroughly despicable human beings.

We'll also learn that attacking the territory of a foreign nation without explicit authorisation from the United Nations is now very bad and illegal again.   Attacking other nations in this manner is now a very serious crime that should be unhesitatingly denounced by all, and punished with economic sanctions and severe criminal penalties

Attacking other nations will stay very bad until the next time that Britain wants to bomb some dipshit Brummie jihadist near Raqqah, at which point it will revert to being perfectly legal and reasonable

Such attacks on other nations will remain perfectly legal and reasonable until the Russian Air Force blows up a different shower of crazy jihadists, at which point they will once more become very bad and illegal.

Russia attacking Syria is also very bad because it's making things worse, in a way that arming random factions to the fucking teeth is not, and in a way that hurling missiles at violently-inclined fuckwits definitely isn't. 

We're also about to discover that so called "surgical" weapons aren't quite as precise as we might previously have been led to believe and that if anything, they're actually pretty destructive over wide areas and hazardous to nearby civilians.

It's true that any civilian deaths resulting from these "surgical strikes" were once entirely accidental and unforeseeable, and thus immaterial.  Now, it's going to turn out that actually, everybody knows that firing massive payloads of high explosives into heavily-populated urban areas is incredibly risky, and is almost certain to result in civilian deaths.

Any civilian deaths occurring in Syria as a result of Russian military action will thus be an unacceptable outrage and a travesty, in just the same way that all those incinerated Afghan wedding parties were regrettable accidents that couldn't ever have been foreseen by anyone, and for which nobody is really to blame.

Some of you may have been under the impression that there are no laws of war, or that violent attacks on other nations are perfectly acceptable, provided that they seem reasonable to the Prime Minister and to the editorial staff of the Times.

You may, for example, have believed that any paramilitary force that conceals itself in heavily-populated urban areas is using the civilian populace as human shields; that this is in itself a war crime, and that any military force attacking such paramilitaries isn't responsible for any resulting deaths.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Belligerent parties are now required to take steps to avoid needless civilian casualties, and they will be right up until the next time the IDF bombards Gaza City, at which point this rule will become utterly invalid to the point of hilarity. 

Finally, readers are instructed to immediately assemble for a now-admirable anti-war protest outside the Russian Embassy, where they definitely will not be joined by the legions of hacks who have spent the day complaining smarmily about a lack of anti-war protests.

Thank you. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Officer Class

If you'd asked me at the start of the week how the pig-fucking revelations would affect the Prime Minister's personal approval ratings, I'd have said Not a jot.

Now that the results are in unchanged, I'm actually surprised that he hasn't seen a bit of an improvement.

To the various analysts, this non-reaction seems to confirm that the public aren't interested in "gossip and tittle-tattle".  I mean, necrophilia and bestiality aren't quite like rumours of secret drinking or secretary-fondling, but that appears to be the consensus.

And let's not mess about - I imagine that most of the Tory voters of Britain actually believe, like I do, that Dave really did fuck that pig.  What are we supposed to think, when Dave's own friends go on TV to downplay accusations of corpse molestation, rather than to deny them?

The strenuous effort this week to rehabilitate farmyard frolics as a bit of adolescent fun, that tells me that the PM's own supporters believe that it's perfectly possible that he did it, and if not the pig-sex specifically, then something similar.

Anyway, my take on Dave's unaffected approval ratings is a bit different.  I think Dave's supporters voted for him at least suspecting that he was the type of guy who would gladly fuck a pig's severed head for personal gain.  The only thing that's changed this week is that now, they know it for sure.

I'd say the interesting thing here is that Dave has not only survived both the pig-diddling and the cronyism, in a way that few other politicians could, but that he's almost entirely untouched by them.

Never mind the cozy cash-grubbing.  Can you see e.g. Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg getting away with having beasted a dead animal in exchange for access to influential circles?  Would John Major or William Hague have laughed it off, if they'd bummed a badger or fingered a flamingo?

Not a chance.  Any one of those guys would've been summarily executed, politically speaking.  Yet it's not so for all British politicians, because for quite a few, the expected standards are somewhat lower.

Now, I'm not saying that Boris, for example, would have to strangle two prostitutes before he'd get into serious trouble... But I am saying that I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was able to shrug off one.  So long as he could convincingly claim that he'd killed her in a bumbling, accidental manner, of course.

But an Ed Miliband or a Charlie Kennedy?  They'd have been flayed and crucified if they'd appeared on television while a bit tipsy and cheerful, or had eaten a bacon sandwich in a socially-disapproved fashion. 

I think we need to be quite clear about where this disparity springs from.  It's due to the fact that David Cameron is officer class*, and we Britons are nothing if not understanding towards posh berks.

If you or I snorted a load of cocaine and staggered pissed about the streets calling pedestrians oiks and scumbags, pissing on tramps, everyone in earshot would break their wrists dialling 999.  The same rules do not apply to the Bullingdon boys.

Partly, this is down to the fact that most of the major professions are led by members of the same royal class, and it's certainly never hurt either Dave or Boris, that their mates own most of the papers.

Mainly though, it's because we're spiteful people, and our spite is easily tweaked.

I've been coming out with variations on this theme for a long time, but this week has given us the perfect illustration.  Collectively, we prefer to be ruled by a vicious pigfucker who hates the poor, than to countenance being lectured about being a bit nicer to each other.

We didn't wind up with a government of super-wealthy arseholes hammering the needy and a TV schedule full of poverty-baiting, without being at least fairly spiteful.  I'd say that it doesn't reflect well on us as a nation, that we cut people more slack, the wealthier and more privileged they are.

I don't know how far this is a humanity-wide thing, rather than a specifically British one.  I suspect that the presidents of France or America could probably bum a goat live on national television without suffering a serious electoral setback, so long as they did it while saluting the flag, singing the national anthem and promising to crack down on immigrants.

Sadly, it's not the Americans or the French that have a pig-podgering, flag-saluting Prime Minister - it's us.  And looking at the way things have been going this last few years, you'd have to say that we probably deserve it.

*"Officer class" in a way that, ironically, Paddy Ashdown or Iain Duncan Smith are not officer class. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Virtue and Virtuer

So the new boo-phrase for our whinier opinion hacks seems to be "Virtue Signalling".  Particularly in a social media context, this appears to mean that

- Saying that bad things are bad or  
- Saying that good things are good

...is really only a way of saying that  

- You personally are good.

This terrible behaviour makes you an insufferable prick, although whaddayaknow?  It apparently doesn't tell us anything at all about opinion hacks who spend half their lives condemning things and people on social media*.

So this one seems to have originated from a particularly dull bout of blah at the Spectator (again!) and, as tends to happen with such things, it's now been approximated by every right-wing opinion hack with an axe to grind against people who annoy them on Twitter, i.e. quite a lot of them.

Anyway, the emergence of "Virtue Signalling" as terrible, condemnable behaviour has a direct application to the themes that I've been harping on about here for many long years.  As applied generally to foreign policy, it now means that:

- If you do say that the idea of hurling troops, guns and bombs into other nations is idiotic and counterproductive, you're a despicable apologist for tyrants;

- If you don't regularly state that what's going on in Godforsaken Warzone (x) is terrible, and that the people responsible for it are terrible, then you are shamefully silent about the suffering of the people of Godforsaken Warzone (x), and

- Now, apparently, if you do regularly state that what's going on in Godforsaken Warzone (x) is terrible, you're an insufferable prick, doing nothing more than signalling your immense and throbbing personal virtue.

That's quite an extensive list of forbidden behaviours, and if it ever catches on with anyone apart from highly belligerent opinion columnists and rubbish politicians, it's likely to leave most of the populace in a state of what I can only call original sin.   If we can't approve, disapprove or ignore it, what the hell are we meant to do?

Well, that's a good question in the context of conflicts, because I notice that the only option this would leave us for extirpating our sin would be... Furious demands for lots of wars, followed by fervent prayers for victory.

Here, I think we begin to see why the idea of "Virtue Signalling" as a terrible moral flaw is going great guns with certain opinion hacks**, especially those who have long received former left-wingers' confessions, conversions and epiphanies with loud hosannas, as if they were so many miracles.  It's certainly popular with those whose eyes have been sharpest in the search for blasphemy or heresy, and who are most enthusiastic about excommunication.

All of which ecumenical behaviour is quite surprising to behold, when you consider that so many of them (though maybe not all) would probably describe themselves as secularists.

But to return to a theme that I've been arsing on about recently: let's note that all of this is yet another example of what happens when opinion journalism collides with the public in an age of instant global communication - most often, mutual fear and loathing.

And this is understandable to a certain extent, since a good chunk of the public has little to say to the hacks except fuck you and I hope you die in these graphically-described terms, and quite a few of the hacks are only marginally less offensive.

Still though, it's worth noting that most of the hacks manage to retain a sense of proportion about the many things that people say on the internet, even in the face of extreme provocation, not least because maintaining a sense of proportion is one of the basic requirements of professionalism.

Others, though...


*This one does strike me as particularly odd, since it seems especially targeted at people who - for good or ill - are at least trying to do something decent.  Quite a lot of people don't even bother with that. 

**Also because this applies to e.g. Austerity, or telling refugees to sling their hook.  Oooh, look at you, feeling sympathy for suffering human beings, you horrible little arse, you.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Squeal

So while the Spectator continues to publish endless howls and hoots about the supposed insanity of the left, it's worth noting that the magazine has, in the last few years

- Been censured by the PCC for publishing racist hysterics (Rod Liddle)

- Pled guilty to publishing prejudicial information during the Stephen Lawrence murder trial (Liddle, again)

- Printed an article attempting to rehabilitate the Greek Nazi Golden Dawn party (Taki) and has

- Published a column by a convicted child molester, in which it permitted him to make snotty comments about the "sex abuse allegations industry" (Jonathan King).

To these fine displays of professionalism, we can now add Brendan O'Neill coming out in favour of pig-fucking.

I raise this issue, merely so that the next time one of the Spectator hacks complains about moral relativism at the Guardian, or about outbreaks of social media zoomerism and so on, somebody might point out that e.g. necrophilic bestiality isn't exactly democratic centrism.

We live in hope.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Police Riot

"Prepare yourselves, comrades, for a tsunami of cockamamie hyperbole and hysteria".

 - Alex Massie, Intolerant Corbynistas are just like creepy CyberNats

So says Oor Alex today, describing the allegedly infinite over-excitement of Jeremy Corbyn's fans.

Presumably, Alex entirely missed e.g. the articles by his fellow Times opinionistae in which - as previously noted - they loudly evaluated the new Labour leader alongside Stalin; Mao; Castro; Ho Chi Minh; Pol Pot; Osama Bin Laden and Oswald Mosley, amongst a whole host of similarly beloved public figures.

Really, what Alex is doing here is indulging in a trend that has become gratingly common since the Scottish independence referendum - that is, deliberately poking idiots on Twitter with a stick, then wailing about their rudeness and converting their snarls and yelps into column inches.

There's certainly a time and place for observing that Corbyn's social media set contains a fair crowd of raging zoomers, and that place was mainly in all of the broadsheets and on your social media accounts, every day for the last three bloody months.

And we also should note the one-eyed nature of such outrages.  You seldom see the Spectator, to pick just one example, clutching its handbag in terror because a mob of baying shitheads spent the day calling Owen Jones a homo on Facebook, or because a bunch of screeching cellar-dwellers send sinister, rapey tweets to Laurie Penny.  And yet, both of these are every bit as common occurrances.

Would Alex regard such events as symptomatic of some dark psychotic monster lurking deep within the ever-resentful psyche of Tory Britain?

Reader, he would not.   Sooner or later, we're going to have to face the fact that social media is us; that we are social media, and that social media is horrible because it's full of people like us.  If we seem angrier or nastier or significantly more racist, it's most likely because we can now all send each other instant messages displaying our personal faults, where we previously couldn't. 

Further, let's note that as Godawful as social media is, Alex has probably picked the wrong week to accuse its dumber denizens of "hyperbole and hysteria", while the nation's paper of record broods over the Hitlerian symbolism of a white poppy which even the author admits that the Labour leader probably won't even wear.

It's hard to credit complaints about the public's "sneering moral superiority" or "contempt" for their fellow citizens for taking "a different view" when hacks are loudly declaring that the entire political left is infested with terrorist-love, in the pages of Alex's own magazine.

It's also perhaps the wrong time to wonder aloud why Corbyn and his supporters are so very paranoid about pointed questions, when the nation's political press have spent the week with their palms slapped to their cheeks, screaming in terror in unconvincing and overblown Macaulay Culkin impersonations.

There's no need to go in-depth into the furore over supposedly-sexist cabinet appointments, or the pearl-clutching outrage at the "Minister for Jews" that never was and never could've been, or even the Sun's hilarious, almost simultaneous attacks on JC for his republican views and his betrayal thereof.

If I had to summarise the behaviour of the UK's political press this week, it'd be as the hack equivalent of what we used to call a police riot.  Helmets on, billyclubs out, hippy heads broken all over the place.

And you know, that's worrying, but it's ultimately to be expected.  The British press may be in large parts verminous and hysterical, but I'll take that any day of the week over the soulless, corporate slurry that is its American equivalent.

Anyway, the point here is that it's surely long since past time that we gave up on Waah-Waah, People were mean to me on the internet as an awe-inspiring political gotcha. 

If it isn't - if Alex and others are so wedded to I met a dickhead on Twitter as an incredibly representative demonstration of a truly despicable national horror - then I'd say that this then brings the hilarious behaviour of our journalists directly on-topic.

If we're opting for the latter, then let's not have any of the traditional but-we're-just-asking-questions, why-is-everyone-so-defensive nonsense, eh? 

One Long, Boring Year On

Christ, are we all doing The Referendum - One Year On pieces, are we?

Well, let me pitch in with this: I really can't be doing with flags or anthems at the best of times, or in fact ostentatious patriotism of any stripe - Scottish, British, Russian, Burkina Fasan.  In my experience, the only people in any given nation who ever make a great song and dance over patriotic colours and the nation's wondrous character are sport fans, boring idiots and outright frauds.

So as you can imagine, the IndyRef was a horrible experience - a great, roaring tidal wave of ludicrous horseshit of every conceivable flavour.  Whether you preferred your lachrymose hymns to national unity sung with a blue and white background, or with a dash of red chucked in, you couldn't so much as turn on a radio without hearing some pious twerp arsing on and on about the wonderful spirit of amity and cameraderie that you encounter on the streets of... wherever.

The great question of the day was, would Scotland be better or worse off as an independent nation?  Nobody had a clue what the answer was, but that didn't stop anyone pulling grand pronouncements about our impending profits or losses out of their arses and waving them for all to see.

Loads of people are still at it, chuntering on and on and on, just today.  All in all, it makes me want to push a pen into my ear, just to see how far it'll go.

So, what was the legacy of the IndyRef?  I'll tell you right now.  Its sole contribution to Scottish life is that it's made it even less sufferable.  It's poured yet another thick layer of lunacy on top of our already deranged political culture, meaning that any particular political question now has to be fought through still another round of bickering before anything can get done.

If it's enlivened debate, it's done so in the manner that a crate of whisky and kilo of cocaine perks up a house party - you'll have a more interesting night alright, but will awaken to discover you did nothing but talk embarrassing bollocks until the fight broke out and everybody got arrested.

The IndyRef was an enormous waste of time, money and political energy.  Don't let anybody tell you different.  It encouraged everyone to run their mouths at incredible length without communicating so much as a second's worth of valuable information.  Political campaigns are infamous for their deceitful nature but this was the first one I've encountered in which I could say honestly, hand on heart, that absolutely everyone involved was lying like a rug.

The IndyRef is now mercifully in the past, but the inevitable re-run awaits.  I can't tell you what the outcome will be but I can tell you this, not as a prediction but as a cast-iron fact - it will be punishingly long, painfully stupid and poisonously horrific throughout.

My only hope now is that they'll save it for around the year 2060 or so, when I will almost certainly be mercifully dead.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Sad, Sad Tale of McGregor

Having spent years going on and on about Nick's long struggle with reality, it's some relief to see that it's now come to a messy and petulant end.

Frankly, I cannot be arsed to mark the occasion with anything more than snark, but I'm aware that a few of you will be disappointed, so I'll leave you with an old, old joke.  Please consider this a free thread for commenters to point and laugh, as is our usual charming habit.

Anyway - the root cause, I think, of all of Nick's complaints about the left has always been his horror that people were extremely rude to him for nothing more than his ostentatious support for insane wars and his constant, angry denunciations of those who vocally disagreed as traitors and dictator-fellators.

Nick seems to feel that all this has left him with an unmerited reputation as a mendacious war-monger, while he still sees himself as the proud torch-bearer for a long and storied tradition of Labour universalism, or whatever.

This reminds me of the old joke about McGregor, who is asked how he acquired his very unusual nickname.

McGregor sighs and says, You see that wall over there?  I lugged the stone for miles, dug out the clay and built that wall with my bare hands.  

Do they call me "McGregor the Wall-Builder"?  

No, they don't. 

You see that vegetable patch?  I tended the soil, sowed the seed, watered the shoots and grew the finest, plumpest vegetables for miles around.  

Do they call me "McGregor the Gardener?"

No, they don't call me "McGregor the Gardener". 

You see that barn?  I cut down the trees, chopped the wood, sanded the boards, erected the walls and nailed down the roof.  

Do they call me "McGregor the Wood-Cutter?".  Do they call me "McGregor the Barn-Builder?". 

No, no, they do not. 

But you fuck one sheep...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Great Stomping Stegosaurus of Rampant Communist Destruction

So the Corbyn camp's new press strategy - namely, there is no press strategy - is going down quite badly with the press.

This isn't so surprising and I suspect that it's going to be due a rethink sooner rather than later, but it's worth asking - why is it that the new Labour leadership think they're better off barely speaking to the press at all?

Well, perhaps this column by Danny Finkelstein in today's Times will give us an insight.

The general topic is Corbyn's personal political philosophy.   In considering the Labour leader's outlook, Danny names Kruschev; the Black Panthers; Huey Newton; Stalin; Mao; Castro; Che Guevara; Ho Chi Minh; Pol Pot; Hezbollah; Hamas; Osama Bin Laden; Iraqi insurgents; Isis; Sinn Fein; the IRA; al Qaeda; Hugo Chavez; "homophobes, beheaders and anti-semites".

Not to be outdone, the opposite page features fellow opinion creature Oliver Kamm dragging the Nazis into his febrile thoughts upon a rumour that Corbyn may wear a white poppy to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day.

Kamm isn't talking about any cast-iron statement that this will happen, you understand.  He's talking about a mere rumour, one that even he concedes is likely false.

Nonetheless, the mere existence of a rumour that Corbyn might wear a white poppy is all that Kamm requires to consider him in close proximity to various World War II pacifists; the armed forces of Nazi Germany; the British Union of Fascists; Oswald Mosley; actively pro-Nazi organisations and "the ferociously anti-semitic Marquess of Tavistock". 

Which, taken together with Danny's burblings, may or may not leave Times readers with the impression that Jeremy Corbyn himself is a giant, genocidal Nazi Communist.

And remember - these guys aren't rent-a-denunciation hacks, dragged in to condemn this or that in fiery tones as the situation demands.  This isn't the Sun, putting Corbyn in a bikini and boo-hissing him in a style that's accessible to eight-year-olds.

Finkelstein is an associate editor of the Times, a veritable pillar of respectable British journalism.  Kamm, tool though he is, is the paper's lead editorial writer.  Together, they sit smack-bang in the middle of the amorphous blob of pompous stodge that is centre-right British opinion, in the pages of the nation's paper of record.

But let's be clear - these musings about Mao and Hitler haven't been prompted by any actual news events, other than the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of the Labour Party.  There's no pretense that these pieces are responses to any particular action or statement, and none that any new event justifies their hysterical tone.  They exist, just because of who Corbyn is.

Now, we might say that this is all Labour's fault for electing the chair of Stop the War as leader, and we might well have a point.  Even so, I think it'd take a bit of a hard fucking neck for e.g. Danny to claim that circumstances have forced him beyond his will to ramble on about Pol Pot's proper place in Corbyn's political thought.  Anyone pulling this kind of cavalcade of cartoonish evil out of their backside in a political discussion knows exactly what he's doing, and only insults your intelligence by claiming otherwise.  

Still though, this is probably why the Corbyn team have decided to avoid the press wherever possible.  Papers like the Times, led by determinedly ridiculous hacks like this pair, managed to portray Ed Miliband - a timorous-looking politics-bot with a particular gift for vacuity and blandness - as some kind of great, stomping stegosaurus of rampant communist destruction.

The new Labour leadership seem to have looked at that, and then at these havering tools, and thought - what's the point in even speaking to them, if all they can do is call you names and compare you to war criminals?  And the Labour leaders may even be right.

They probably aren't, of course, but it never hurts to see things in their proper context.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An Endorsement

So I have to do something that I don't think I've ever done in almost ten years at this blog - endorse a political party.  It's always easier to be a smart-arse if you never say that you're in favour of anything, and if there's one thing that I've done consistently, it's be a smart-arse.   

Nonetheless, over the last few days, I've realised that after everything I've said here, I don't really have any choice other than to support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party and to wish them all the best.

Corbyn's opinions on most of the big issues of the last few years - austerity and the financial crisis in particular - are closer to mine than any other recent high-profile politician's have been.  I was highly scathing on Labour's past refusals to fight their corner on issues that were once their bread and butter, such as welfare and human rights, but especially about their half-arsed efforts at resisting theTories' intentional vandalism of public services.

And now we have a senior politician who will actually fight, even if he'll probably lose.  I'd be a terrible hypocrite to complain about that, after years of calling for exactly this.

Corbyn's opinion on the use of military whizzbang is nearer mine than I'll get from any other party leader I'm likely to see in my lifetime.  He's pretty much the only one since I reached adulthood who even bothers to ask whether bombing campaign (x) has achieveable aims.  I rarely shut up about how my opinion on any given war is - as a last resort, when the only other option is disaster.  The choices available for that are Corbyn, or nobody. 

I've spent years asking for politicians to say what they think, rather than what they think other people want to hear.  I've whinged and wailed about how modern political speech amounts to windy ways of saying nothing at all, or saying the opposite of what you appear to be saying.  I've called a thousand times for the political class to stop pretending to be frightened by non-stories or outraged by not-scandals, and called for them to focus on just getting shit done, whether that was governing the country or opposing the headbangers that are currently running the place.

On every one of these points, Corbyn is hilariously better than any number of Blairs, Browns, Milibands or Camerons.

I'm well aware that he'll probably never be Prime Minister.  In fact, his leadership may well be a disaster.  I think that by the time Murdoch is done with Corbyn's Labour Party, they're going to look like they've been gangbanged by a herd of elephants.  I think the days when a geezer who looks and acts like a grumpy socialist geography teacher could run the country are long behind us.  

Even if everything goes right for the new leadership - and it's going to have to - the violent pushback they'll get will probably end in defeat, whether of the hard-fought or the self-inflicted type.  All told, it could even be pretty disastrous, and lots worse than electing one of the sexless New Labour politics droids. 

Given the ideal situation, I'd have preferred Corbyn's cabinet to have fewer rough edges and fewer skeletons clattering about in the closet.  Nonetheless, I'm only too well aware that it was the desire for politicians who have neither genitals nor body odour that gave us Tony Blair and David Cameron.

So who knows how it'll all turn out?  For now, I'll just note that I'd long since given up hope of any major political party ever espousing anything that looked very much like my politics.  And now, there is one.

This is a good and hopeful event from my perspective, and although there'll be a billion ways I'll disagree with them, I greatly approve.

Fingers crossed, eh?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How Easy It Is

This time last week, David Cameron had a significant problem on his hands.  To much of the country, he stood accused of cold indifference to the suffering of tens of thousands of human beings at best, and of having assisted in the deaths of thousands of men, women and children at worst.

People all over the country were shocked by photographs of crowds of mistreated, desperate refugees and migrants.  People from all walks of life remembered the nation's summer-long immigration hysteria with shame and collectively, they called upon the Prime Minister to act.

A pretty thorny situation for a politician to tackle, particularly for a man that's spent years enthusiastically trawling through the nation's babbling undercurrent of spite, resentment and mad racist crankery.

What to do?

Neither you nor I would immediately think of responding to a humanitarian catastrophe by launching into an epic dick-measuring contest, but maybe that's why neither of us is Prime Minister, and David Cameron is.

And so it went.  When it came time for Cameron to address the great swell of miserable humanity in need of shelter, he took to his feet and announced that he'd had a couple of ISIS militiamen blown up with missiles, a few months back.  Look, he said, just look - gaze in wonder upon my throbbing war-boner for truly, it is enormous.

Which may seem like a non-sequitur to you and to me, but not to the nation's political or media class, who immediately launched into an impressively stupid series of semi-hysterical shrieks and screams.

In one of the nation's more incredible displays of dick-waving and chimpanzoid chest-thumping, public figures have spent most of the week falling over themselves to see who can proclaim the most loudly that

- the Government has an unlimited right to kill fuck out of any citizen who runs off to join a murderous militia, and that

- anyone who says otherwise is a traitor, and probably a Communist.

And that was pretty much that.  Note here that the throngs of needy people didn't suddenly go away, and that Cameron's previous ISIS-killing exploits have lessened the crisis not one jot...

...But the political problem really has gone away, unless something exponentially worse happens, and it probably won't return even if a thousand Kurdish kids wash up on foreign shores.  It will, after all, be old news by then.

Thus, was normal service resumed.  Just today, the Times felt so confident in its own boundless dickishness that it wheeled out Melanie Phillips* to bang her shoe on her lectern and swear that Britain can't take in all these ghastly Muslims no matter how bad a time they're having, because they'll jihad up Britain with their awfulness...  And that anyone who disagrees, is either showing off their personal virtue, or actively seeking to destroy Britain.

Yet the complete turnaround in this story, while astounding to behold and superficially simple, took a lot of people working in concert to achieve.

I think we have to acknowledge here that none of this could've been achieved without some truly awful human beings working very, very hard, showing the grit, guts and determination required to utterly dick off a disaster of this magnitude.  Those people - and I'm sure that they know who they are - can give themselves a pat on their scaly, reptilian backs for a tough job well done. 

But for everyone else, I don't think I'm doing much violence to this sequence of events if I summarise it thusly:

Ordinary people with basic humanity: Prime Minister, can you not find it in your heart to give shelter to some of these stateless, miserable human beings?

Cameron:  Hey yo, yo!  I totally blew up a terrorist on the other side of the world a few weeks back!  It was, like, well legal and shit.  Boom, motherfuckers!

Cavalcade of hooting idiots:  Awesome!  The Prime Minister's throbbing war-boner is truly magnificent!  All must now declare that blowing up terrorists is righteous and just, in precisely the terms that we demand, or stand exposed for all time as hated unBritish swine of suspect loyalty!

Ordinary people with basic humanity(Sad faces) 


And really, that's how easy it is. 


*For some reason, the Times decided not to go with Melanie's chosen wording of "The migrant crisis is where confused, demoralised Europe seals its fate".  

I suspect that they're a bit edgy about peering too closely at what's at the bottom of the pool that they're fishing in.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Just... Any Kind Of Sign

So there's a lot in the much-bandied-about Taylor Parkes column that rings true about Jeremy Corbyn's numerous demerits as a candidate, even if you have to take a spade with you to get through all the screechy wibble about Hezbollah and so forth.  You can read all about it there, if you like.

The thing that I noticed today was that the overwhelming majority of people bringing Parkes' piece to my attention were precisely the kind of horrible New Labour twunts that have made Corbyn's victory possible, and perhaps even inevitable.

I imagine that you know the type of person I'm talking about - grudgingly admits the war on terror was "badly-handled" and "poorly-planned", but can't understand why some people won't just move on;  quick to flourish the Big Waggy Finger at idiots acting up on social media, but rarely seems arsed to complain about the government's spending cuts, and so on and on.

Anyway, the really ironic thing is this: If most of the people who have been RTing and Facebooking Parkes' column today and wailing in terror had spent at least some of the last decade shutting the fuck up and listening a little instead...

...There would probably be no need for Parkes to have written the article in the first place.

Because it's difficult to adequately convey how bizarre this situation is.  Seriously, just try to imagine the scene back in 2006, if you'd told anyone with an interest in politics that the chair of Stop The War would lead the Labour Party by 2015.  Martians would've heard the shrieks of laughter.

And yet, here we are.

In football terms, this is like East Fife beating Celtic 13-0 at Parkhead - one of those things that should just never, ever happen.

To stretch the analogy, I can tell you now that if a bottom-tier team dealt out that kind of drubbing to the richest club in the country, nobody would put it down to East Fife's sudden samba football.  The headlines wouldn't read "Fifers Fantastic".

They'd say - "Woeful Celtic hammered", "Shambolic Celts stuffed" and, most importantly, "Fans demand immediate resignation and suicide of everyone associated with this mortifying catastrophe".

But there's been surprisingly little of this kind of criticism in the Labour election campaign.

Sure, I've seen lots of New Labour politicians and pundits turning purple and screeching and drumming their little heels, but I don't know that I've seen a single one write an article titled:  "We're losing to the comedy candidate because we've utterly ignored our core constituency for years"*.

I've seen plenty of people call Corbyn names or claim that all of his supporters are lunatics, but I'm not sure that I've heard any MPs say: "This humiliating rejection tells us that our own members think we are terrible at our own jobs.  Here's how we plan to be less terrible". 

Isn't that a bit revealing?  It certainly shows a certain... self-confidence, I think, a certain blunt fuck-you-I'm-right-ness, expressed surprisingly strongly for people who are professionally and politically dependent upon mass support from the very folk that they're calling names.

And remember, the Labour election was launched amid a grand fanfare about listening to hard truths and learning difficult lessons, and so on and so forth.  If the party was really going for clear-eyed self-analysis, it's a bit odd that so few of its Blairite-leaning senior members and supporters have noticed that the loud-and-clear answer has been:

"We think you're shit at your jobs, get better at it or sod off". 

It's all very strange.  I've been trying to think of a suitable comparison for this attitude for a long time, and I've finally hit on that scene in The Man With Two Brains where Steve Martin tells the portrait of his dead wife about his plans to remarry:

Dr Hfuhruhurr: Becca... If there's anything wrong with my feelings for Dolores, just give me a sign.

(Room shakes; ornaments topple, portrait begins to spin madly) 

Wailing shade of dead wife: Noooooo! Nooooooo! Nooooooooooooooo!  

(Room returns to normal) 

Dr Hfuhruhurr:  Just... any kind of sign.

--

Oh well.  As I said back when Corbyn first started to gather support, the party's leading lights are ever-prepared to countenance almost any kind of heresy, except for the type that suggests that the problem might be them.


*I know Tony Blair did that "I know you may not like me, but" piece.  I'm thinking of something more along the lines of "You may not like me, and you're correct not to like me, because I am an appalling shit of a man, and here's how I intend to stop being one".   

**The most ludicrous part in all this is that it all comes after Scotland - Labour's heartland since time immemorial - switched en masse to the SNP, formerly a comedy party, who won lots of support mainly by 

a) sounding vaguely left-wing and 

b) not being Labour.  

The party's response?  A mass outpouring of grief at its own socialist crimes, followed by commands to shift to the right.

Good luck north of the Border with that angle, if it eventually wins out.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Progress

"The BBC is today responding to concerns about its own status by proposing to collaborate with local news providers... The Times has a direct interest in ensuring that the corporation does not exploit its position in order to crowd out rival services, but we are far from alone.  Local news providers are at particular risk of being squeezed out of business by the BBC's 58 local news websites.  
- Broadcast Behemoth, The Times, 7 September
I'm reminded here of an advert that I saw on TV in America, way back in the mid-2000s.  In it, a bunch of surprisingly tanned, attractive and healthy young people claimed to be cinema workers, and proceeded to list all the ways in which net-based movie piracy was taking food out of their mouths and clothes off their backs.

All very sad, I'm sure you'll agree, until you realised that this was America in 2004, not Jarrow in 1936.

Put bluntly, if it was the average American popcorn-juggler or ticket-puncher that was bearing the brunt of film piracy's depredations, there would've been no advert in the first place.

With that in mind, I'd advise that you receive the Times' pretence of giving a flying fuck about the plight of local newspeople in a similar manner.  It's maybe also worth recalling the treatment that the paper's owner has previously meted out to rivals and to employees, before coming to any solid conclusions.

Still though, there are some real howlers in here.  My particular favourite is the following:
"...It is against the ethos of an informed democracy that a single organisation should be entrusted with such a commanding market share (as the BBC enjoys)".  

Yes reader, I'm quite sure that you, like me, are somewhat less than receptive to lectures upon informed democratic accountability that emanate from the Murdoch camp, but let's just stop to marvel at the giant, nuclear-powered titanium testicles it takes a Times employee to come out with that kind of thing.

Also...
"As the chequered history of nationalised industries shows, corporations operating in a protected market have an inherent tendency to laziness and bureacracy.  The BBC... increasingly exhibits (in the phrase of George Osborne) imperial ambitions".  
Imperial ambitions!  Thank goodness we have plucky little underdogs like News Corp to fight our corner for us.

Mind you, I do know a fair bit about empires, and how they've behaved throughout history.  One thing that I recall is that whenever a local hegemon makes a series of increasingly unmeetable demands, and isn't satisfied by any number of concessions, he's probably getting ready to invade your territory, steal all your stuff and burn down all your farms and windmills.  

Anyway, I must dash - the football internationals are about to start on the radio. I used to pay a bloody fortune to watch them on Sky, but it broke down and stopped working so often that watching TV became a trial of endurance...  And whenever I asked Sky to repair it, they told me that it wasn't their problem, and that I should pay a private contractor to sort it out.

Fifteen years ago, the game would have been free to watch on what we then quaintly called "terrestrial TV", but I guess we've made progress since then, haven't we.


*In fairness, I suspect I'm remembering this from the computer game Rome: Total War rather than anything written by Gibbon, but the point still stands. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Qualification

So, a few points to take away from that Georgia v Scotland match...

1)  Strachan is a lucky manager, but everyone's luck runs out eventually.

Scotland's recent performances have been reminiscent of some of Celtic's good fortune in Champions League games under Gordon Strachan.  In particular, I'm reminded of MacDonald and Donati's last-gasp winners against Milan and Donetsk, and Saha's inexplicable one-on-one balls-up versus Boruc for Manchester United, and his subsequent penalty miss.

Throughout Strachan's reign, Scotland have benefitted from our opponents' spectacular profligacy in front of goal - Croatia missed a barrel-load of sitters in our previous campaign, while Ireland, Poland and Georgia have all spooned late chances to equalise or to win outright.

We might say that we were a bit unlucky against Germany, but not that much.  Ultimately, Friday's game is the type of match that we might have taken a point from due to a lucky deflection, this time last year.  Unfortunately, there were few opportunities for Lady Luck to help out because

2)  Scotland didn't put a single shot on target

Fletcher's shot that hit the post was offside, and that was the best chance we created.  Which is criminal, when playing against a team that had only taken three points from six games, and those were picked up against Gibraltar.

Straight after Georgia scored, I turned to my friend and said - We're going to be standing here on 88 minutes praying for an equaliser that will never come, aren't we?  And so it proved to be.

Simply, we didn't even pressure Georgia, let alone panic them.  We could make excuses about Georgia's mainly defensive play but ultimately, we're the team with the multi-million-pound Premiership striker, and they're not.

What stands out is that Scotland didn't look fit enough, sharp enough, creative enough or determined enough to even nick a goal, and that may be because

3) Far too many of these players aren't getting a game just now, or are playing badly.

Hutton isn't playing regularly.  Nor is Fletcher, and Naismith is generally a late substitution, if he plays at all.

Maloney, our best player in this campaign, has been fannying around in America all summer.  Mulgrew, Brown, Forrest and Griffiths were all notably guilty of attempting to stroll through Celtic's atrocious recent defeat to Malmo, as if they'd win simply because they're so very, very awesome.  It's hard to avoid laying particular culpability upon Scotland's Celtic contingent, most of whom are at present a lot better at running their mouths than they are at winning big games against committed opposition.   

Unfortunately for us, too many of these players are the Ikechi Anya type - nothing too dazzling week-by-week, but capable of pulling out great performances if the game suits them.  And that may yet be enough to see us past Germany and Poland, but let's be honest:

4) We've been here before.

How many times have Scotland fans shown up for games knowing that all we have to do to qualify is to beat Holland; to beat Italy, to beat England?

Every time the group fixtures are announced, you just know that it's all going to come down to the big box office game against the top seeds.  And this time, we don't only need to beat the world champions - we probably need to beat Poland, as well.  To put it mildly, that's unlikely to happen.

We might say - well, Scotland are at home, so their fiery commitment and stubbornness may just see them through.  To which I would say, they were just beaten on commitment, stubbornness, grit and determination by a team with no stars, that had absolutely nothing to play for.

All of this is the product of years of crapness, of course. We might have had a much easier time if we'd been drawn out of the second pot instead of Poland, and it's notable that all its taken to put us on the brink of non-qualification is one bad performance in one away game.

But the sad truth here is that

5) Scotland probably aren't good enough to qualify

We may not even finish third ahead of Ireland, in fact.  This, at a time when Wales and Northern Ireland are good enough to qualify, with only one proper superstar player between them.

And remember, this is probably the best-organised, most positive, most committed Scotland team for years.  A depressing thought, that. 

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The Very Pinnacle Of Common Sense



Apologies for continuing to bang on about the fallout from the Labour election campaign, but it really is throwing up some fairly embarrassing examples of the British political class's fucked assumptions.

Here, for instance, we witness an entirely humdrum example of that great British character - Homo Politicus Centralis, with military camo patterning - throwing up his hands in terror to emit variations upon the following argument:

The desire to prevent British military forces bombing, invading and occupying other countries, is a frightful and shameful ideological flaw.  

Now, this is the part where I generally point out that any person who claims to be speaking in favour of Britain "engaging with the world" is usually arguing for British warplanes to drop high explosives on large tracts of it.

But let's now take a step further and imagine an alternate dimension, in which the British Government took no part in any of our 21st century conflicts.  No involvement at all, not so much as a loaned-out pistol.

How would history have unfolded?  What, if anything, would be different?

My by-no-means-exhaustive analysis is that

1) Parts of Sierra Leone might be far less pleasant places to live than they currently are;
2) Lots more American soldiers, and far fewer British ones, would now be dead or injured;
3) Opinion columnists would've written quite a lot of think-pieces about how cowardly and treacherous we are, and
4) The French would've had to bomb Gadaffi's thugs into submission on their own.

We can debate the merits of this one way or the other, but the most obvious conclusion that I draw from this flight of fancy is this: pretty much everything, from Afghanistan to Syria, would've unfolded in almost exactly the same manner that it actually did, and most of the planet would look more or less the same as it does now.

I can see no compelling reason to imagine that a world in which e.g. the Americans occupied Iraq without our assistance would be materially worse for anyone apart from the Americans themselves, and the US military is quite big enough to look after its own interests. 

This being the case, the appropriate question for McTernan to ask is not "Why is Jeremy Corbyn such a war-disliking bastard?".

The question is, "Why are constant military hijinks seen as the very pinnacle of common sense in British politics, despite their appallingly poor success-to-failure rate?". 

We would not, after all, tolerate hospitals or transport networks that operate with the same success rate as our military adventures.  If our schools were regularly exploding and collapsing around the ears of their pupils, few political and media types would step forth to denounce anyone who dared to suggest that we should instead build flame-retardant schools.

And yet, chuck in a few missiles and rifles, and the very idea that we not use our armed forces for deranged military escapades on foreign shores is actively radical, far outwith the mainstream of modern British politics.

In fairness, I do have to acknowledge here that McTernan is something of an outsider these days himself; a dead-ender clinging to the certainties of a more innocent age, or whatever.

Nonetheless, I'd say that his invincible stupidities are far closer to the current government's way of thinking than my own are, and that this is a very, very odd state of affairs to find ourselves in.

A Comment, Elevated to the Status of an Actual Post

So given the events of the last month, it's probably worth noting a jarring difference in the way that we deal with notional problems, and how we deal with actual real problems.

August is the silly season for press coverage and I think it certainly lived up to the billing, given it's mostly consisted of a rampant Jeremy Corbynzilla smashing through buildings and pissing radioactive whizz onto the nation's cornflakes.  

To reiterate: there's been a lot of focus on Jeremy Corbyn's long history of speaking to very unsavoury characters.  I think the debate about that is fine, generally - there's lots of room to criticise and ask questions of Corbyn for the various headbangers that he's hung about with in the past.

Most of his previous behaviour, I'm willing to put down to the old desire to speak at the opening of a can of lager tendency - basically, being happy to speak anywhere they'll have you - but that's not really a very good excuse.  Who knows, maybe Corbyn wants Hamas to run inner-city schools?  I have no idea, but I suspect not.

Still, it's fine to do the whole "Oh, we're not saying he's a racist, but questions must be asked" routine, to a certain extent. 

It is very notable though that while we've now had three weeks-worth of "asking questions" about Jeremy Corbyn's supposed insensitivity to racism, often in the most spectacularly overblown terms, the current government's policies on asylum and immigration are literally contributing to thousands of needless deaths.

That's to say, the government's deliberate decision to cut rescue operations in the Med is actually helping to immiserate and/or kill large numbers of men, women and children right now and in large part, this is the direct consequence of the dominant racist and spiteful bile in Parliament and the press over a period of around twenty years.  This is the product of years-worth of angry Question Time debates and Daily Mail front pages and office rammies.

Meanwhile, the actual, real-world effect of Corbyn's supposed racism-tolerance is that some racist nutters - people who were mainly racist nutters before the Labour election and will continue to be so afterwards - have sent some foul tweets to Hugo Rifkind and Stephen Pollard.

Let me point out here that while both of these situations are terrible, one is considerably more costly in terms of human lives, and that the general hatred of immigrants has grown with the complicity of mainstream politicians, commentators and members of the public in exactly the way that the anti-Corbyn camp claim to be very alarmed about.

Again, people absolutely shouldn't send racist tweets to journalists, or harbour racist conspiracy theories, or just generally be horrible racist shits. Fuck those people, I say, get 'em into the dock and let them face justice for their crimes.

But it's really, really obvious that as a nation, we've spent most of the month freaking out like idiots about the supposedly terrifying racism of a man that even his accusers don't claim is racist, while an actual humanitarian catastrophe has emerged directly out of the very mainstream of British politics.

And that reflects quite badly upon us all.