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January, 2011:

Think Tank Wank

Neil O’Brien, in his own words, is the Director of Policy Exchange, an independent think tank working for better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy. He also thinks he knows what makes people tick politically. What do you think?

I’m going to assume that you’ve just  ploughed your way through several paragraphs of risible punditry so that I can move on to his right vs left questionaire.  You are asked to chose between what O’Brien classes as “right” and “left” and he breaks the choices down into four categories.  The choices on the left are what O’Brien classes as conservative.

Traditional Social Structures

1)   Traditional institutions & monarchy v. Republicanism

Lemme see.  The prospect of a royal parasite like King Jug-ears or a political parasite like Blair, Brown or Cameron.  I choose neither option, Neil, so that buggers up your attempt to pigeonhole me right from the get go, doesn’t it.

2)   Traditional British history v. Unbiased view of our colonial past

Well I never!  A loaded question with a distinct leftist slant.  Chose the former and you are a biased Tory.  Chose the “unbiased” socialist option and your kids grow up concentrating on the sins of their great-grandfathers because absolutely nothing positive came out of British colonialism whatsoever, did it.  High time “independent” partisan idiots like you were made history, Neil.  I hope the taxpayers aren’t funding this wank because frankly, that would make me very annoyed.

3)   Pro-family policies v. Neutral view about different types of family

I’m a right-winger who doesn’t possess a polemic view on how people should form relationships and build family units so long as they are happy and harm no one.  That’s another one of your questions I find irrelevant.  How am I scoring so far, Neil?

4)   Patriotism v. Internationalism

I’d vote “No” to the EUSSR in a flash. And do you know what, Neil?  I can tick the “No” box without draping myself in a St George’s flag and chanting moronic slogans with a drunken slur.

5)   Personal responsibility* v. Needs-based welfare, universal and unconditional

Hmmm.  Personal responsibility or the unconditional handing out of other people’s money to feckless types with an outrageous sense of entitlement.  Yes, I’m going to have to think hard about that one…

6)   Opposition to immigration v. Anti-Racism, freedom to migrate

Opposition to mass immigration isn’t racist.  I’m quite happy to accept genuine asylum seekers and people with desired skills or the ability to support themselves.  What I take exception to is people flocking to these shores in the hope of a free ride and then refusing to integrate and dictating how we should behave if we say something they don’t like.  Feel free to migrate any time you like, Neil.  The sooner the better.

Traditional Morality

7)  Anti-gay rights, gay marriage v. Pro

Gay militants do more damage to their cause than any Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells ever could.  As for me, what people do with each other in intimate privacy is no business of mine.  If they want to put their relationships on a legal footing then so what?  I couldn’t give a stuff either way.

8)  Anti-Abortion/Pro-life v. Pro-choice

I stand with the individuals who opt for an abortion on valid medical or social grounds, but not as a means of contraception because they were too lazy to bother before they opened their legs.  So, I’ve got a foot in both camps there, Neil.

9)  Anti-stem cell research v. Pro

FFS!  Anti-science is a full-on right-wing concept is it?  Tell me, Neil, do you work for the BBC or the Grauniad by any chance because you’re coming across like a regular frigging Moonbat.  You seem to be getting the majority of secular conservative voters and religious conservatives seriously (deliberately?) mixed up here.  Why don’t you call us all deniers?  I suspect you want to.  Your leftist bias is beginning to grate, Neil.

10)  Anti-Drugs v. Pro-liberalisation

Er…wasn’t it Alan Johnson who sacked Professor David Nutt for daring to suggest ecstacy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol?  Funny kind of pro-liberalisation, don’t you think, Neil?  Actually, as I work through this specious bullshit questionaire, I’m rapidly reaching the conclusion you might not do much thinking beyonf socialist bias, period.

11)  Anti-Prostitution v.Pro-liberalisation

I’m against sex slaves and enforced prostitution.  Women who take up prostitution as a business opportunity I don’t have a beef with.  Oops!  I fell through the gaping crack again, didn’t I…

12)  Anti-Premarital sex v. Pro

Dunno about you, Neil, but I reckon there’s an awful lot of conservative types who enjoy shagtastic, premarital sex.  Religious conservatives, on the other hand, would rather pretend they don’t indulge.

13)  Anti-Euthanasia v. Pro-choice

I’m all for sufferers who decide upon a swift and dignified exit from life and who make a personal choice to do so.  Doctors (talking about the Liverpool Care Pathway here) dehydrating the elderly and terminally ill to death over a period of time isn’t euthenasia, it’s drawn-out cruelty.  Not doing well, am I?

14)  Coarsening of the culture & swearing, violence and sex on TV v. anti-censorship, free expression

Is it just me or does choice 14 not make any fucking sense whatsoever?

15)  Fear of “political correctness” v. Anti-racism, anti-homophobia

Well you see, Neil, here’s the rub.  I don’t grok the special minority interest thought police crap.  If someone calls me a bad name then so what?  I learned to get over crap like that in primary school.  And what’s this “fear” shite?  I’m not afraid of political correctness.  Every place I see it I’ll treat its nasty fascist arse with the contempt it deserves because I don’t need the State or any kind of groupthink  to tell me how I should think and express myself.  If I want to call a spade a shovel I will.

16)  Pro-faith schools, large role of Christianity in public life v. Secularism

Because all Church schools breed foaming at the mouth religious bigots, right?  Well you’re wrong.  I went to an Anglican school and so did my son.  Both of us are as secular as can be.  Why is this?  Because Church schools actually educate kids and teach them responsibility and how to think for themselves rather than religiously indoctrinate them.  Or at least they used to prior to 1997 and the onset of undiluted Fabian social engineering.  I notice you didn’t mention the “I” word when it comes to faith schools.  How come?

A Strong State

17)  Tough punishment, longer prison sentences v. tackling the social causes of crime (poverty, racism)

Time to kick the blame culture into touch and make people responsible for their own actions, don’t you think?  The “soft” option clearly doesn’t work no matter how hard the State tries to fiddle the statistics and makes excuses for granny-bashers and other nasty malcontents.

18)  Strong armed forces v. de-militarisation, disarmament

Because we’ll never have to fight another war, will we.  Oh wait…

19)  National security, control orders, DNA database v. Civil liberties*, liberal judicial activism

I think you’ve got that one arse about face, Neil.

Freedom From the State (Freedom “From” Rather Than Freedom “To”)

20)  Fox hunting v. Hunt ban

Yes, in order to stick it to traditional conservatives let’s let the poor little foxy-woxies be shot, gassed, poisoned and have their skulls bashed in rather than give them a head start.

21)  Anti-nanny state, anti-“elf ‘n safety” v. Safety at work

Because of course there is no difference whatsoever between an oppressive, precautionary agenda that prevents kids playing football in the playground in case someone skins a knee and safe practices in the work environment that are designed to prevent injury or death.  As much ninny state as nanny state, eh Neil?

22)  Opposition to the smoking ban, anti-drink and cigarette taxes v. Public health

What, exactly, has enjoying a fag and a pint in a pub got to do with public health?  Public health is about environmental matters such as adequate sewerage, safe drinking water and regular waste collection.  It is not about interfering in people’s personal recreational choices.   You really are a biased twerp aren’t you Neil.

23)  Opposition to “political correctness”, quotas, equalities legislation, v. Equality, positive discrimination, anti-racism

All people are supposed to be equal under the law so why the hell should special interest groups have special considerations just because someone called them names and hurt their oh so fragile feelings?  Certain types get off calling people like me a “denier” and that I should be locked up for being a “climate criminal” but I don’t go whining to the police because I feel insulted and threatened.  Quotas restrict the market and force prices up which impacts on the poor.  Maybe you should have a word with deep green lefty Caroline Lucas about energy quotas and why it’s bad that the poor and elderly are at risk of freezing to death in order to save the planet from mythical CAGW.  As for positive discrimination and anti-racism, when I see secular homosexuals teaching militant alternative lifestyle choices in madrassas across the country we’ll talk, okay Neil?  Until then you can stick your divisive discrimination where the sun doesn’t shine because you see, I don’t condone discrimination of any kind, especially political fucking correctness.

“Dark Forces”

I think we have an early contender for arguably the most ludicrous excuse of 2011.

Now we all know the lurid story about former Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray (if true that is sheer class) and Richard Keys and their quite incredibly sexism which frankly would have shamed a ’70s Uzbek sitcom. The simple truth is the two of ‘em had to bite the bullet because… Well, I dunno the figures but in this century anecdotally a very large number of women both watch and take part in football and Gray and Keys are quite simply Cretaceous and embarrassing. It really was that bad. I mean it’s the sort of thing a dodgy uncle says at a wedding after a few too many lagers than are strictly speaking good for him. So on the face of it Gray and Keys heading to the dole office is nothing but a pair of daft twats paying the price of being daft twats who work in the media. I mean if they had said it down the boozer then fine, whatever. Everyone would think them a pair of daft twats but that is hardly against the law otherwise we’d have one hell of a prison over-crowding problem.

Da media is different though because you have to toe the line. Gray was on GBP1.7m and quite frankly for those sponds I would make a plausible case that black was white (unless I was Big Fat Ron, obviously). As a Newcastle fan I think I might even manage it. So they weren’t just sexist (though they were) but completely fucking stupid. I mean you have to be to torch such a job with a rant about how having a womb means you in principle know nowt about footie and base that rant on a female linesman actually getting the call right.

But… Well, lots of people get sacked for being completely fucking stupid. But not Richard Keys… Not that simples (said the meerkat). Richard Keys blamed “Dark Forces” and not simply his own pignorance and idiocy. Dark Forces? All I can say is that fills me with hope. Morgoth, Darth Vader, Satan are now conspiring to get football pundits sacked rather than bring about the downfall of humanity. That’s good, right, because clearly it means the serious bad ‘uns are struggling with the recession same as the rest of us and are having to downsize.

Dark Forces!

Dark Forces? It is truly pathetic. Especially for whatever putative Sauronic power that was allegedly behind this wicked plot. How far indeed have the mighty truly fallen.

The perils of literature…

Tolkien claimed to be genuinely surprised when, in March 1956, he received a letter from one Sam Gamgee, who had heard that his name was in The Lord of the Rings but had not read the book. Tolkien replied on March 18:

“Dear Mr. Gamgee,
It was very kind of you to write. You can imagine my astonishment when I saw your signature! I can only say, for your comfort, I hope, that the ‘Sam Gamgee’ of my story is a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers, even though his origins are rustic. So that perhaps you will not be displeased at the coincidence of the name of this imaginary character of supposedly many centuries ago being the same as yours.”

He sent Gamgee a signed copy of all three volumes of the book [got to be worth a few quid now]. However, the incident sparked a nagging worry in Tolkien’s mind, as he recorded in his journal:

“For some time I lived in fear of receiving a letter signed ‘S. Gollum’. That would have been more difficult to deal with.”

The more Tolkien I read the more I like the man. And yes, I can imagine corresponding with a Mr Gollum would be a trial.

From Wikipedia.

A request concerning Tunisia.

As people may, or may not, remember…..

The present wave of protests in the Arab world started when a man burned himself alive in Tunisia – in protest against the police preventing him selling fruit and veg without a permit (he was an educated man with a university degree, thus showing the folly of the subsidy of higher education if it leads to people thinking they are going to get a “graduate job” at some point, but he was not “even” allowed to sell fruit and veg).

Will someone please find out if whatever regime finally takes over (“ex socialist” like Tunisia was, or social democratic, or back to socialism, or over to Islamist collectivism, or whatever) actually gets rid of this regulation – or whether the Permit Raj continues, regardless of who is in power or what system there is supposed to be.

David Cameron Is Officially A Useless Twat

I was sort of going to do a big long post I’ve been trying to write for years about, well mainly about Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School and stuff, then I read this at the Telegraph’s Egypt live updatey pagey thing-

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has joined Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, in a statement urging Hosni Mubarak to avoid violence “at all costs”, AFP report:

“We call on President Mubarak to avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians, and on the demonstrators to exercise their rights peacefully.
“The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future.

We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections.”

“It is essential that the further political, economic and social reforms President Mubarak has promised are implemented fully and quickly and meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

“There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression and communication, including use of telephones and the Internet, and the right of peaceful assembly.

“We now urge him to show the same moderation in addressing the current situation in Egypt.”

What mealy mouthed twattery. What disgraceful, self-serving bullshit. The Egyptian people are living under a dictator, they are literally giving their lives to get rid of him, and our “leaders” are still trying to prop the cunt up. Why? Well, they think he’s on “our side”. They don’t care about Egyptians. They sure as shit don’t care for liberty. They don’t care that this asshole’s human rights abuses. They want the devil they know, and damn the people who have to live under his jackboots.

There is a strong case for Arabs to hate us in the West. I know that sounds leftie, but sorry, frankly, if I lived there I’d hate us too. We have meddled and interfered and interfered and meddled, half their dictators learned their communism in European countries from European intellectuals, and those who didn’t learned their fascism from Nazi Germany. Perhaps our most egregious meddling was the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, imposing another nasty dictator, the fake Shahanshah Pavlavi, that led to the Iranian revolution and reign of the mullahs.

And now, when the people of Egypt are crying for freedom, what do our useless governments do? Politely suggest that the dictator might want to be a bit nicer.

No sorry David, and Angela, and Nicolas, that’s just not good enough. You are useless. Shut up and go away, please.

The Middle East has been a mess for a long time. A lot of people at the moment seem to be saying that that is never going to change, and the Egyptians should be grateful to have one of the milder dictators. But the fact is, that region is going to have to find a path to the future that is as an equal part of the world community, and that means finding a means of governance that isn’t tinpot dictators or crazy mullahs. It may be the Tunisians and Egyptians can be the start of that. We may be, right now, living through a change as dramatic as the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Before that historic discontinuity I, like many other people, thought the Soviet Bloc would be that way forever. But then, it suddenly and spectacularly crumbled. Let’s hope that the Muslim world has reached a similar discontinuity.

And let’s hope that our own pathetic leaders will remember the adage, “if you can’t say anything useful, say nothing at all”.

Ride to ruin and the world’s ending…

I’d like to talk about the Star Wars prequels… Now I am an IT tech so I know exactly what a fist can do to the screen of a Dell laptop so just don’t, right, OK. Stay with me.

I perhaps had a bigger investment than most because A New Hope was the first ever picture I saw on the big screen. I must have been about four. In many ways it defined my youth but it was a manky film. The dialogue in those movies was atrocious and upon mature reflection the only things that made them watchable were Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Even then not just as actors but… Well, just before Han Solo is frozen in carbonite Leia declares her love for the roguish smuggler. He replies simply, “I know”. This was Ford’s own idea and it works. Lucas had scripted it as, “I love you too” which I’m sure would have clunked. Indeed most of the dialogue clunked. And by “most” I mean “all”. It says something about a script-writer when his best lines are improvised by Harrison Ford* and replied to by a walking piece of shag pile going, “Mwaaah!”.

But it took the prequels to cast Star Wars into it’s proper setting. I recently watched (it was the dead zone of a Sunday afternoon before Antiques Roadshow (that’s my excuse)) Revenge of the Sith. Now I recall that was the best of three dreadful movies but that is damning with the faintest of praise. And the setting is thus: the original Star Wars was shite but it took the utter dreadfulness of the prequels to really show it all for what it was. The, for want of a better word, moral centre was a cockamamie form of New Age drivel called The Schwartz**. Alec Guinness did take a percentage (an innovation at the time) because he thought it was utter ballcocks and he might as well have a punt. And what a punt it turned out to be! It made him a very wealthy man in his retirement and whilst that erased his distinguished cinematic career he was at least handsomely compensated with the kerching.

So, let’s take Star Wars apart. The dialogue is shocking (I’ve said that)** but what really, really fails is that the prequels show in no uncertain terms the paucity of Lucas’ imagination. The original trilogy is frequently compared to The Lord of The Rings and arguably holds a similar place in our collective thought. So we were expecting The Silmarillion right? No, we got Jar-Jar Binks and an Anakin Skywalker that you wanted to throw crockery at. Essentially the digging into the mythos revealed that unlike Tolkien the fantasy was built on sand. OK, high fantasy (it is not SF) can cope with utter evil but Episode I has the Trade Federation. It should have been set in Brussels and not a galaxy a long, long way away. Binks was put in there to be cool with the kids*** because the studio said so. So what is Tom Bombadil for… Well even JRRT was at a loss over that but it worked because Tolkien put his life and (considerable) talent into the back story. Lucas busked the prequels off the back of the original trilolgy and made a dismal Horlicks of it because there was no fire in them. It took the prequels to show me how bad the originals were because the prequels couldn’t be as bad as they were (and they were shockingly bad) if the original legendarium wasn’t shite.

If that is our myth then I thank God for Peter Jackson. Obviously as a Tolkieinista of long standing I have “issues” with Jackson’s version (don’t we all?) but when all is said and done his achievement was magnificent because he was working with a tale that was the life’s work of a man of genius and is a great story and Jackson didn’t cock it up too much. It is arguably the greatest story ever told. Didn’t you ride in the first Éored at dawn? “A Sword Day!” I did. I did in bed aged about ten. My body might have been in Gateshead but my soul was on the fields of Pelennor swinging an axe. And so was yours.

It is of course vital we have such myths but Star Wars is not the one****. The one true myth of the English speaking peoples (and beyond) was told by Tolkien and Peter Jackson (if we ignore his mess that was The Two Towers movie). If I can single out one moment in the Star Wars movies where I lose it it is when Qui-Gon does a blood test on Anakin. I’ll take a broken sword and a piece of elven glass over that any day. Did Lucas not appreciate what he’d done? He’d taken his mystical Force and turned it into something that can be tested like cholesterol. Moreover did he not realise (and he must have been aware of The Lord of the Rings) that the strength of those books is not that Frodo or Sam are special in some medically definable way but that they are ordinary but tough. Well Sam is anyway. Sam is a gardener and odd-job man who yanks Frodo up Mount Doom and never forgets he’s doing it all for his Gaffer’s spuds back home. Now that’s a hero but then Tolkien based the character on his batmen in the trenches of The Somme.

God knows what Lucas based his characters on but perhaps corruption is a test. There is corruption in both legendariums but Tolkien gets it right. The fall of Saruman or Boromir feels right and Smeagol/Gollum is a masterfully tragic character. Anakin just seems a petulant brat and not least because a huge element of his character development (if I dare use such a phrase in the context) is based upon his love for Padmé which is apparently against the rules for a Jedi. It’s things like that that destroy the legendarium. Lucas just made the celibacy thing up to give him a storyline. The first rule of creating myth is not to make stuff up. Jackson almost ballsed it up similarly by having fake tension in the Arwen-Aragorn relationship. Almost but not quite. I think any reasonable reading of the Lord of the Rings regards the Éowyn-Aragorn axis as entirely one-sided. Aragorn has a long-time girlfriend who is an elven princess and is the second-coming of Lúthien Tinúviel… A tough act for any lady to follow. Tolkien does sometimes clunk on the sexual relationships – Faramir and Éowyn for example are merely an exercise in tidying up but he has the good sense to have most of the love-interest largely “off-set” and not an essential plot-driver. Think here of, say Sam and Rosie or indeed Arwen and Aragorn in the books.

The same can not be said for Star Wars and certainly not the prequels which are entirely driven by an utterly ridiculous love story. Message to Mr Lucas… You want a love story – fine – but make the characters likeable. Anakin Skywalker is not likeable. This means his descent into that vague thing that is the “dark side” is not essentially tragic and it needs to be otherwise the whole thing is nonsense. And how is the dark side defined anyway? In terms of pop psychology? That is the most fundamental weakness of the movies. There are more paths to the dark side than exits off the M60. Is it evil to hate? Lucas says yes, I say no. Did Tolkien’s heroes feel a visceral hatred for their enemies? Well, yes. They had to. Their entire world was threatened by reckless hate and they had to act. Tell me how you can wield a sword in anger and not feel hate? The great confrontations in Star Wars lack this understanding. Am I the only one who thinks that when Luke Skywalker sees the Emperor he ought to just have gone the full Bruce Willis and yank a .45 and shoot him. Job done. Instead we have many tedious minutes of psychodrama signifying nothing.

This is not to say that Lord of the Rings doesn’t nuance it’s morality beyond the black hats and the white hats. It does and most notably in the case of Smeagol/Gollum who is portrayed as a victim of the ring and not just a nasty scrote. The moral heart of the story is in the Mines of Moria when Gandalf chats with Frodo about Smeagol/Gollum. That is equivocal and humane but what follows isn’t. “Thou shalt not pass!” on the bridge and the revelation that Gandalf is not just some old duffer who knows pipe weed and fireworks but a servant of the secret fire.

Tolkien understood evil at a level Lucas just can’t. And he understood good. That is why the hobbits are the heroes. They want a smoke and a pie and a pint and to just go home. Sam wants nothing more than to get it all over with and marry his sweetheart. Even Aragorn wants a restored kingdom, not a new one, and to slip between the sheets with an elven princess (who doesn’t want that?). The heroes are not playing for power and to the extent to which sex drives it it primarily drives it in terms of folks having pre-existing relationships and not ones made on the fly to generate plot elements. Tolkien understood very deeply that need to go home after an adventure. It is most obvious with Sam – note the end of the Return of the King where Sam gets back from the Havens and places his daughter, Elanor, on his lap and closes the story by saying to Rosie, “Well, I’m back again”.

There is nothing to compare with that in the Lucas cannon. There is no real understanding of real people and fantasy needs that otherwise it is utterly dreadful.

So that is why I’m a Tolkienista and not a Lucasista.

*It says more perhaps maybe Indiana Jones and the Very Long Title out jumped the shark by nuking the fridge.
**You ought to hear it being dissected in an astrophysics common room.
***OK, “Younglings”. When Anakin finally wigs-out he kills the Jedi including the “younglings”. This ought to be a moment of high drama and tragedy but it isn’t. It is farcical. “Yes, even the younglings” for fuck’s sake! Yoda himself looked to be straining at stool.
****In the doc connected to the movie we had – I wish I was making this up – comments from Nancy Pelosi as to it’s epic and indeed American nature. Perhaps she was shilling for Al’s sequel, “An Inconvenient Ring”.

The Tudors

I have dipped in and out of the BBC’s latest bodice-ripping yarn.

My history is sketchy but to quote my brother it was, “best bollocks”. It promised “scenes of a sexual nature” which if I’m honest is probably why I watched it.

Now about ten, fifteen years ago AA Gill the Sunday Times TV critic predicted that the first MSM outlet to show actual sex would be terrestrial broadcast TV. And he was right. Big Brother on C4 did show perfunctory bonking under a table. I have had more erotic dental appointments.

But in The Tudors the BBC out-did C4 in the Dutch auction. OK, so you see birds with their kit off but one of Henry VIII’s wives performs – I can’t believe I’m going to say this but I saw it – a shadow puppet play for the King which culminates in a female shadow puppet giving a male shadow puppet a blow-job.

It was one of those TV moments when you turn to your wife and give that look that says, “There wasn’t LSD in the risotto was there?”. I mean it was just weird. It managed to be both vaguely obscene but not sexy and risible but not funny.

Yup, shadow puppet oral sex.

Thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded.

The rest of the show was drivel as well. My wife, who knows more of that sort of history than me, thought it was all over the place. The costumes were good though.

Jacqui Smith to make porn show for BBC

Last night she said: ‘As I know from my personal experience, porn fascinates us – media and public alike. But we actually know very little about what it’s like to work in the industry and what porn is doing to our society, our children and our relationships.

‘In making this programme, I’ve been able to challenge my own views and attitudes and I want others to have the chance to join the debate too.’

A very dull debate. Talking about porn is like tap-dancing about architecture. Porn really is the ultimate show don’t tell. You either like it or you don’t and if you don’t like it then Sky TV has many other options. For example I watched Ching do Peking duck on Sky last night. If you do like it then well, you’ll know where to go.

During the hour-long documentary she will also raise questions over the accessibility of porn on the internet.

Now we get to the grist. Jacqui wants it banned. She wants it banned because it ruined her career and because banning porn fits some narrative she believes and because headgirl Ms Harman said so. Also of course it goes without saying that a turbo-munter like Smith is morally outraged that there exist ladies that people will pay to see with their kit off. I mean there might be ugly, obese former Home Secretary* fetishists out there but it’s a niche market at best. But really she wants it banned because like most pols she desires control. So you don’t care for internet porn? They will come for what you care for in time. The salami slicer has no off switch.

The 48-year-old former school teacher said it had been a mistake to submit the bill, which also included two other pay-per-view films.

And herein lies the rub (for want of a better term). We were amused by “porngate” but I don’t think that is what outraged us. What outraged me was that we were paying for Smith’s Sky TV in general. You see she still doesn’t get it. She thinks it was OK for us to pay for her telly as long as it wasn’t porn. And why is that? A charitable answer might be that she thinks porn is “naughty” whereas endless re-runs of Porridge on Watch isn’t but I do not feel charitable towards Ms Smith and I don’t partly because someone on a six figure salary ought to be able to pay Sky TV’s affordable rates. Or get a Freeview box or a puppet theatre or indeed just fuck off. Mainly though I think she means a mistake in the sense of a “politician’s mistake” by which I mean she got caught and it looked not just bad but risible and whilst pols can take a lot of stuff they can’t be laughed at. Apart from Mandelson, obviously, he can take 30mm depleted uranium rounds to the chest. He can take anything.

She will consider whether pornography damages the men and women who make it and watch it.

Now I dunno if porn is harmful. My suspicion is that it isn’t in and of itself. Of course there will be casualties but there are in any job. There are in accountancy. There are in politics. Indeed the only person I can think of who had their career trashed by porn is… Ms Smith. Well, I say trashed but…

Miss Smith has since secured a role as a consultant for KPMG, which won lucrative contracts when she was Home Secretary.

You don’t say!

She has also applied to be a vice chairman of the BBC Trust.

The two-and-a-half-day-a-week job comes with a £77,000 salary – far more than an MP’s with shorter hours.

So… Not content with shafting us her Sky bill she has designs on doing it via the telly tax. Magic. Porn, such is my understanding, involves the shameless display of cuntery. I feel Ms Smith is therefore supremely qualified to make a documentary about it.

PS. I wouldn’t mind the BBC job. I would stet “Larkrise to Candleford” (that’s another fat munter – Dawn French – on the skilly and iffit) and personally shoot the cast of Eastenders. I would get rid of the appalling slew of upper middle-class “comedies” and you know what? I might commission some real comedy and drama and such. I know it’s radical but my principle would be, “Will Dave be showing this twenty years from now?”. If “no” then bugger it.

PPS. One of our commentators (I forget your name, sorry) said that this site is filtered on his work computer as being “pornographic”. Well… I once posted a tasteful full-frontal nude but this post really answers the question. We are not a porn site but porn is mentioned. The ‘bot in question is filtering by text, not imagery.

*It is a truism of British politics that Home Secs are either grossly incompetent or fiercely draconian. Ms Smith broke the mould by being both. Somehow though I can’t quite see her as a dominatrix. Dita von Teese yes, Smith no.

Schadenfreude

Now I make no apologies for saying I hate the Co-op. The Co-op doesn’t even pretend to compete on price or service. It competes on Righteousness. Having said that it is a necessary weevil because where I live there is a butcher, a baker, a deli, a bakery and a newsagent and the Co-op. Now much though I try to push all my passing trade the way of the independents* there is always the Co-op. It would be nice to say it isn’t needed but it is. It would be nice to say I walk on by because they sell over-priced crap with an eternal smugness – they sell “ethical water” for example** – and the staff can’t be arsed.

Now, I have worked in shops and by and large most people in shops in Britain work bloody hard. There are exceptions and the ones that can’t hack telling lies in Curry’s*** wind-up slacking at the Co-op. So… imagine my delight when I overheard this gem…

“Well, Blackpool were 2-0 up against Manchester United so I stuck the last of my wages on Blackpool to win at half-time.”

Manchester United came out after the break (and presumably some uncouth language from Sir Alex) and scored three. End result: 3-2 to The Reds or as far as said Co-op minion is concerned seventy quid he ain’t seeing again (he mentioned the figure). What a twat! I mean (a) Man U are the come-back Kings – you saw ‘em against Bayern Munich in the final of the ’99 European Cup? Two goals in injury time, right? The words “crest fallen” have never applied more correctly to a bunch of lederhosen since the heady summer of ’45. And (b) let’s assume it finished 2-0 to Blackpool then… Well, what dismal odds he must have got. Half-time, two in the back of the opposing onion bag and you bet on a win? Who taught him the subtle art of gambling – Gordon Brown? “Well, if we do achieve 25% annual economic growth because of my ‘investments’ then…” Yeah, right, and if I win the National Mockery then all the Kitty Kounters can have umbrella drinks in Bermuda****. And no one (I promise) will have to dodge a flying Nokia*****. Anyhoo, it warmed the cockles to see this mouth-breather berate his dismal bet not working out.

It amused me. That is all. I am not a follower of Manchester United per se but I do appreciate class when I see it. I’m a Newcastle fan which isn’t so much about the football but about developing a Geordie form of stoicism. There were Greek chaps with long pondering beards who didn’t know as much about that as some fella with a pie in row F of the Jackie Milburn Stand watching yet another goal-less draw against The Baggies.

I know I shouldn’t laugh but, once out of the shop, I guffawed. There is always someone less fortunate than me and I had Northern Rock shares!

*With the arguable exception of Sayeed’s Newsagent – he stocks Dr Who magazines and is not backward in coming forward about it. I am married to a lovely woman but she’s also a Whovian and Sayeed knows this…
**Presumably this water not only quenches thirst but writes 2000 words on Spinoza.
***They really have zilch product knowledge but pretend otherwise. It’s profound, “It goes up to 11, it’s 1 louder” territory.
****Worth it just to see Paul Marks in a Hawaiian shirt!
*****Ed Balls is now shadow chancellor. Ed Balls first surfaced – am I wrong? – as Brown’s economics advisor. There is a reason I’m not a political novelist – I couldn’t make shit like that up.

Holy Flamin’ **** Batman!

I have heard this song a lot (in various re-mixes) and I liked it or rather it dug into me – same thing. Popular music is rarely Johnnie Cash though is it?

Apart from the obvious fact that I would rather puke on the Shroud of Turin and then neatly fold it than poke anything intimate into Mrs Russell Brand’s missus with my Nissan posidrive (thanks dad for the ‘drivers). The firework doesn’t quite take off does it? Then there’s the, “Moon, moon” dismal repetition (I know it mainly from covers) and the video isn’t cool. It simply looks like she set her tits on fire in Las Vegas. Well we’ve all done that so what is the point?

And quite simply it looks like her tits are on fire.

Perhaps that is “in” and I am just wrong and my desire to look like a homesick vampire with a desire for a coat that has a swish. Before we layer the guitars too much, of course.

Barack Obama and the State of the Union speech.

According to Barack Obama government spending is “investment” – indeed such “investment” is vital in the areas of government education (“like Korea” accept that the Republic of Korea spends vastly LESS than the United States on government schools and the teachers are nonunion whereas Barack DEPENDS on the government sector unions, especially the Bill Ayers “social justice teacher training text” trained teachers), and on repairing government roads and bridges and ….., and (of course) on “green jobs” and “green energy”.

In short on all the things that Barack Obama was given more than a TRILLION Dollars for two years ago. What happened to that money, did he lose it down the back of the couch?

Now he wants still more money – which he pretends will not add to a deficit that is already at ONE AND HALF TRILLION DOLLARS for this year.

No further comment is needed on this absurd man – no great examination of whether he is a Marxist or an American Progressive (although if he is the latter – what happened to the racism and ultra nationalism that were the defining features of American Progressivism).

Barack Obama should just be told to resign and go off and GET A JOB.

Perhaps he could be a real lawyer – rather than just doing political work for ACORN (and other such) spending the rest of the time with his feet on the desk (no I am not making this up) writing “Dreams From My Father” about his Marxist dad (and the writing style of that book seems more Bill Ayers than Barack Obama anyway).

All his life stuff has been given to Barack – a nice school in Hawaii paid for by his bank director grandmother (the person he smeared in the campaign as a “racist”, “but I love her”, in order to distract attention from his 20 years as the crony of the Marxist antiAmerican Rev. J. Wright), a place in Harvard (thanks to Percy Sutton, Malcolm X’s attorney, and Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour – pal of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party, and of Louis Farrakhan).

Then a job at the University of Chicago (without publishing any academic articles there,  just one abortion article whilst at Harvard,  – try getting an academic job and keeping it without publishing), and a private law job – where (as pointed out above) he could just doss about all day, while other people did the work.

No wonder Barack thinks government spending is “investment” and no wonder he forgets about a TRILLION Dollars (as if it was nothing) and just asks for more.

Barack Obama has been detached from reality his whole life – even his drug abuse (and lack of work) at Occidental did not harm him (on the contrary, he was welcomed into Columbia and overseas trips were given to him as well). Remember he “organized” poor communities, he was not part of them – he lived over in Hyde Park (the Chicago area one) with the other rich leftists.

Basically if Barack Obama were a character in a novel it would be sent back to the author with the request that he be made less of a sterotype. However, as this is real life he is praised as a wonderful, great man – both by the “mainstream” media, and by the education system of both universities and schools.

The Prime Minister of Australia is a scumbag.

One reaction I might get to the title of this post is “how dare you use such language about a women – and you are not even Australian”.

As for not being Australian – Australians have never been exactly shy about commenting upon politicians in other countries (and there is no reason they should be shy about it). And as for not using crude language about a women – Australian leftists have always used crude language about female politicians they do not like (from M. Thatcher to Pauline Hanson), so let us cut the nonsense about “do not use crude language” – after all the lady claims to be a feminist, so no convenient transformation into a sweet little flower whenever it suits her, PLEASE.

I repeat – the Prime Minister of Australia is a scumbag, the evidence is plain enough.

Think about it – you are watching the worst floods for many years, people are being KILLED, and your thoughts are “GOOD, I can use this as an excuse to increase taxes on the rich”.

If that is how someone thinks (and acts) then, man or women, they are a SCUMBAG.

The ALP government in Australia has not been shy about borrowing money – it took a balanced budget from Prime Minister Howard and decided to borrow and spend, not to counter some economic crises in Australia (there was no crises to counter), but simply to imitate the United States and Britain (where governments were borrowing and spending) – talk about a “cultural cringe”, if daddy jumps over a cliff then baby jumps over a cliff. Is that it?

Now the Prime Minister says that “we” must repair the damage caused by the floods – but it turns out that “we” just means people earning over 50,000 Dollars a year. In short it is “do not worry Labour welfare roll voters [i.e. the legion of the workshy who make up the backbone of the ALP at election time] – the rich are going to pay the bill” (and look how low down “rich” is now defined to be).

Yet the media will not pull up the Prime Minister on this – any more than they pull her up for working for a Marxist group only a few years ago (“it was the only job she could get” – pull the other one, it has got bells on, ditto anyone who claims this tax will be “temporary”, there will, of course, be a “change in circumstances” next year meaning the new tax “has to be” kept…..).

No, the Prime Minister of Australia is a scumbag – it really is that simple.

Taking Things Seriously. Lesson One: Stay off the telly.

You may have noticed that all-round top bloke and man of good taste James Dellingpole was done up like a kipper by the BBC’s Horizon programme the other night. Dr. North posts at length on the subject.

The question he was asked – “If you were suffering from cancer, would you rather be treated by the consensus scientific opinion, or some crackpot?” – is both leading and actually pretty easy for a sceptic to answer given the time to think rather than being ambushed in the middle of a three-hour interview set up precisely to capture that moment when you “um” or “ah” and look a bit shifty if they light it properly. Or even better, say something you don’t mean.

Quite simply, I’d want to be treated by something that works. The consensus scientific opinion on cancer treatment does work. Not as well as we’d all like, and maybe something better will come along (which, given the historic treatment of scientific rengades, may well be dismissed as “crackpot” if it’s too different to what’s gone before), but it makes reliable predictions. Consensus climate science doesn’t work: its predictions for temperature and humidity in the upper atmosphere completely contradict the observed measurements. The oceans are stubbornly refusing to rise any faster than they have since the last ice age. The consensus mob told us that the observed warming over the 20th Century (which may have been within the margin of error that they never told us) was far too great to be explained by natural variation, then the complete reversal over the last decade was dismissed as exactly that. If I was undergoing treatment for cancer and was told that I’d lose all my hair, my extremities would go numb, and the tumour would gradually shrink, only to find after six months that I’d turned into a hypersensitive gorilla with a tumour as big as ever, I’d start asking questions. The mystery isn’t why some people are sceptical of received climate science; it’s why so many aren’t.

The thing is though, I wonder why anyone’s surprised. Television is a medium of lies. Nothing you see there is real. Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but if you start with that premise you won’t go far wrong. Everything is done for the camera, for effect, and as North shows from his experiences making programmes, TV people will go to extraordinary lengths to get the effect they want. Remember the furore a while back when some people who, amazingly, didn’t appear to know already discovered that interviews are often done with one camera and the “cutaways” of the interviewer nodding pensively or laughing at a joke are put in later? Sure, those people were somewhat naïve, but the fact that you’re supposed to know you’re being lied to doesn’t alter the fact that you are.

The trouble is that TV is showbiz, not journalism. Print journalists can bend the truth with the best of them, and photojournalists can crop their pictures to omit things inconvenient to their premise, but neither is making a show, using the powerful audience-fooling techniques of theatre and film. Those media deliberately and openly set out to bamboozle the audience into thinking it’s seeing something it isn’t – the good old suspension of disbelief – and television, largely for historical reasons, follows in that tradition, even in its factual productions, only it isn’t always open about it. TV made in any other way would look strangely amateurish and long-winded to us (although, as Paul pointed out the other day, when factual programming was less theatrical than it is now it was much more popular).

The result is that for all the portentious presentation – and, let’s be fair, no doubt the best will of the journalists – the actual content of TV news and documentary is much closer to the tabloids than it is to what used to be the broadsheets (especially compared with what the broadsheets used to be when they were actually broad). The most serious-minded, rigourous journalist is at the mercy of his technical crew who “know what makes good TV”, and, simply, the faster pace and visually-oriented nature of the medium itself. I remember years ago the Sunday Times TV critic AA Gill saying something along those lines, and I’m sure there was a Yes, Minister episode about exactly what happened to Dellers: a few words cherrypicked from a three-hour interview to fit the programme-makers’ agenda, which the interviewee would never have said out of context. It’s nothing new: it’s more or less inherent to the medium.

Television is the modern(ish) equivalent of the music halls. Leave it to the comedians and entertainers. Like Snow and Paxo.

This kind of thing

One of the problems I’ve found in coming up with stuff to post here is that whenever I read something that I think would be worth linking to or commenting on, I realise that it’s on Samizdata, or EURef, or somewhere else that I know most of this blog’s readers will be familiar with themselves. Combine that with the frustration of persuading the cats in the server to do anything at all, and I usually don’t bother.

But (although you all should) I don’t know how many Kitty Kounters read the Libertarian Alliance blog regularly, so this article, “Where Calvin meets Mao” is probably worth pointing out. It reminded me of IanB’s idea that Political Correctness is just the modern manifestation of Calvinism, methodism, and other forms of hair-shirt Christianity. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with that because I was brought up in the Church of Scotland, which unquestionably has its origins, via Knox, in Calvin’s thinking, and I’ve found most Kirk folk to be pretty down-to-earth and strongly un-PC (certainly there is a more direct link with methodism). Although Scotland is even more plagued with the modern political scourge than most places, it’s not, in general, coming from those people. It really isn’t. On the other hand, there can be no question that PC is strongest in historically protestant countries and you can even see that phenomenon within the United Kingdom, with, as I say, the Scottish political class being more enthusiastic about it than in other parts of Britain.

So this lit a little bulb above my head:

I actually grew up in part as a Calvinist fundamentalist myself during the 1970s … During the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a left-wing Chomskyite and it was during this time that I first began to personally encounter PC. Observing the psychology of PC and its behavioral manifestations up close and in an unadulterated form gave me a sense of déjà vu: “Where I have seen this kind of thing before?”

“This kind of thing”. PC isn’t Calvinism, but it’s the same kind of thing. The phenomenon in its present form undoubtedly stems from the Frankfurt School, and Marxism is about as far from Christianity as you can get, but – and this is the important bit – there seems to be a way of thinking, a mindset, common in Northern European countries that’s conducive to “this kind of thing”. The Jock PC-wallahs aren’t (necessarily) the same people as the Kirk-goers, but 500 years ago they would have been in the front pew lapping up Knox’s sermons (and I imagine today’s Kirk folk would be as dismissive of pure, raw, early Calvinism as they are of PC, since they clearly don’t think that way – in fact I’m sure of it: otherwise they’d join the Free Presbyterians).

In a sense, it’s another example of people who cease to believe in God believing in anything: that controlling, self-hating instinct has to find an outlet, and once the Kirk lost its power it manifested itself in politics. Ironically, for the Politically Correct, it should also be a lesson in the imperfectibility of Man. We have to play the hand we’re dealt, and shuffling the cards won’t change it: get rid of a powerful, oppressive, controlling church, and people who like power, oppressing and controlling others, will simply find another way to do it. And they have.

Domodedovo

I hate to say I was proved right here but I was.

Lets us for a moment assume that screening for those boarding aircraft is 100% perfect and that no bomb ever gets on a plane. Well

It also occurs to me that security opera is bad for safety. Let’s assume that these vicious measures prevent bombs on planes (which they won’t). They will only do so by making areas around departure gates epically crowded and utterly chaotic. You say “Allahu Akbar!” and set-off your rucksack nail bomb at the checkpoint you will kill plenty.

So the Domodedovo bomb wasn’t at a departure gate but in arrivals but the same principle applies. You don’t need to get on the plane to cause carnage. Essentially the sort of screening we have now is the equivalent to fitting your front door with a tedious collection of bolts and deadlocks whilst leaving the back door wide open. It is that simple and obviously the terrorists have clocked that fact. It was only a matter of time.

Medvedev has of course made all the usual noises about “improved” airport security which I guess means a few more blokes wandering land-side of airports with AK-47s. I say “usual” because if this had happened at Gatwick or Frankfurt then Cameron or Merkel would say and do exactly the same – only this time the blokes would have Heckler & Kochs. I doubt this would act as more than a mild deterrent to “rational” terrorists and would be none whatsoever to suicide ones.

The question has to be asked as to where security resources are allocated. I would be happier if they let us fly in peace rather than go through the unpleasantness of the security opera and instead re-allocated resources to intelligence led operations to disrupt and catch terrorists. From a strategic point of view this is a widening of the defensive perimeter. It will never be a perfect perimeter – no perimeter ever can be – but I suspect it would be at least as effective without putting the rest of us through hell.

Psychologically this would have two linked effects. The first is that surely the only people who enjoy watching the security opera are the Jihadi overlords*? It must warm the cockles of their cold dark hearts to see what their actions have “forced” us to inflict upon ourselves. The measure of the success of a terrorist campaign is by definition not in terms of body bags but in terms of fear. Secondly it is an offensive, proactive move and not a defensive, reactive one and that should make the terrorists afraid. Not least because whilst there might be a certain deranged glory in being thwarted at the target there is no glory in being yanked out of bed at 4am by the rozzers in you underpants. That certainly makes Ahmed look more a pussy cat of Jihad than a lion does it not? Because then it’s not so much a glorious failure as an inglorious almost tried. Ultimately it’s the psychology of offence versus defence. In footballing terms it’s called, “keeping them under the cosh”. Keep the pressure up and keep the ball in their half as much as possible. That is much more dispiriting for a team than sticking most of your players in your own six-yard box.

Essentially it comes down to who feels under attack. That’s a psychological game changer.

*And certain demented control freaks who conduct such operas.

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