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October, 2011:

“Alas, this is Europe, so there is no capitalism”

I imagine Paul Marks probably has a faily good handle on it all, but if, like me, you’re struggling to keep up with the recent financial shenanigans in the EU, Detlev Schlichter has an excellent, brilliantly clear, summation of the “solution” on the Cobden Centre blog.

Summary of the summary? It’s not good. Not good at all. One thing that’s been bothering me with all this talk of recapitalization is how you can recapitalize anything when you don’t have any capital either. As Schlichter explains, you can’t.

Anyone who has any savings stored in the euro-area should be extremely concerned about what is going on here, and in particular about the tone of the debate. When the mainstream speaks of ‘unlimited’ resources of the ECB, they do in fact mean unlimited. The creation of new euro-currency units will be without ANY LIMIT. And the remaining inflation will also be without limit.

They’re just making it up. So much – as hinted by the quote I’ve used for the title here – for “capitalism”.

Indeed, I’ve been thinking a bit lately – prompted in part by other Cobden Centre posts (they’re very good over there) – about Keynesianism’s contempt for savings. Savings, say the Keynesians, are money that isn’t being spent – “idle” money – conveniently ignoring the fact that they’re being lent out by banks and invested in stuff; ie, being spent.

But here’s the thing: savings are capital, right? I mean, not all of the capital that exists is savings – there’s bricks and mortar, machines, and whatnot – but at the root of it all, you need actual wealth that’s been stored up so you can buy the sort of hardware-capital that Marx famously characterized as “the means of production” in the first place.

So – and here’s where I risk making a fool of myself even among Austrians – isn’t Keynesianism, in a very literal (if only partial) sense, actually anti-capitalist? In other words, it may be pro-market (for a certain value of “market”), but it’s not a capitalist market that it favours. Normally, I hate being proved wrong, but I can’t help feeling I’m missing something here. Keynes was wrong, but surely he wasn’t that wrong?

Be afraid, be very fuckin afraid…

So how’s your German? Don’t speak it? Better get your finger out then, it’s going to be compulsory soon.

If you prefer the English version

H/T Daniel Hannan.

Pearls of Wisdom

Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.

William F. Buckley, Jr

Reports from the Northern Wastes

POLICE have launched an investigation after a woman was raped in a tent at an anti-capitalism protest camp in Glasgow.

The woman was attacked late on Tuesday night by two men who had joined demonstrators at the Occupy Glasgow camp opposite the City Chambers in George Square.

From the (Glasgow) Herald. My initial reaction was to post this in a “you never got that at the Yanks’ Tea Parties” vein, but I’m in generous mood and will give them the benefit of the doubt when they say it wasn’t a member of their protest.

The Glasgow camp has become a magnet for the homeless and other people on the streets, and protesters have been giving them food and clothing and offering them shelter.

See? The Kirk’s been doing that in George Square for years. I’m sure it happens all the time to them.

Not sure why they’re protesting there, though. Arthur Andersen used to have offices on the north side before it went tits-up, but it’s mainly local government stuff now. There’s a big law firm, but nothing financial; that’s all in Anderston these days. Oh well, I expect they know what they’re doing. Hem-hem.

I found this amusing, though:

The encampment is made up of about 20 tents and has been home to a core of around two dozen protesters, with many others coming and going.

The population of The City of Glasgow is officially around 700,000, but estimates of the larger conurbation go as high as 2m (a lot of the outlying areas don’t want a Glasgow address; dreadfully common, that – no, no, we’re East Dunbartonshire). And they’ve managed to attract a couple of dozen. I guess they’re the 0.0012%.

In other Jockular news,

SCOTRAIL should be brought back into public ownership to bring down the costs of running the rail network and improve services for passengers, Labour’s leadership candidate Ken Macintosh has claimed.

Yes, ‘cos that’s what happened last time. Costs came down and nobody ever complained about BR’s service, did they? Noooo, it was a veritable byword for efficiency, cleanliness, punctuality, and politeness, was BR.

The Eastwood MSP attacked rail privatisation, which was set in motion in 1993, as “one of the most ill-conceived, ineffective and impractical decisions of the Conservative administration of the 1980s”

Heh. He has the usual Lefty’s iron grip of the facts there, I see. He also parrots the usual line about “fragmentation”… except, as evidenced by his own demand, Scotrail isn’t fragmented. Aside from the mainline services to Down South*, there’s only one TOC up here.

There’s a lot more going on – several bald Tories fighting over a comb, Alec building a new £10m palace for himself because Bute House makes him sneeze – but it’s all too depressing to contemplate.

*That’s what we call you lot when you aren’t listening.

Hung like a….

A Zimbabwean man has told a court that he hired a prostitute who during the night transformed into a donkey, and that he is now “seriously in love” with the animal, according to state media.

60%-90% drivel

The UK could be primarily powered by a secure and inexhaustible supply of renewable energy by 2030 without the need for new nuclear power plants, according to a report commissioned by WWF.

And if you have a cow you don’t need I have some magic beans…

Between 60% and 90% of the nation’s electricity could come from wind, solar, tidal and other sustainable sources, with the rest supplied via an international supergrid and gas power stations.

OK. Firstly, “Between 60% and 90%” is a hell of a margin of error. If it’s 90% then fair does but if it’s 60% then that is the dark ages. Secondly the international supergrid idea and gas stations. Neither are secure. If the French Prez decided to pull the plug then it’s back to the bloody stone-age. If the Russian Prez decided to close the pipeline then gas is not an option. Or we could buy it from Nigeria or Saudi Arabia both nations noted for their stability and adherence to Western values of fair play and not in the slightest corrupt. We could (and do) buy coal from Poland and Australia which are countries we are on excellent terms with and have loads of the stuff but coal is evil. Well, isn’t gas a bit evil too by the same CO2 token?

This report is inspiring, but also entirely realistic. It shows that a clean, renewable energy future really is within our grasp,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. “Failure to commit to a high-renewables future would leave us facing the prospect of dangerous levels of climate change and high energy prices.”

Is he taking the Michael? No. I think he’s doing something worse. He is costing wind-power including subsidies. Like almost every Green economic comment I ever heard it is nonsense. It reminds me of some plane-sense wonk a few years back who claimed the government subsidised aviation fuel. What he actually meant was they didn’t tax it. Now why do you think they don’t tax it? Why indeed do they instead have air-passenger duty? Is it not because air-transportation is intrinsically international? You wouldn’t drive the motor to France for a tank of gas but your motor wasn’t built by Boeing and “fill her up!” doesn’t mean over two hundred thousand litres.

The report states backing renewables would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and new economic growth. “Investing in clean energy offers us a means to tackle the two most crucial market failures that now confront the world: the financial crisis and climate change,” said Nussbaum. “The only question that remains is, are we bold enough to take it?”

No, it wouldn’t. I have no idea why people believe this rot but they do. The greatest ever expansion in economic growth was the industrial revolution. This was not caused by folks “Up Norf” abandoning the Ravelling Nancy for hand tools. It was due to a reduction in jobs which of course enabled productivity to rise per worker. It is not rocket science though of course it led to it. Or put it another way we could have full employment if we ditched tractors, pesticides and the Haber process and had 90% of the populace living as subsistence farmers for a mess of potage. I mean do they have unemployment in North Korea?

The report was welcomed by a host of businesses, including one the UK’s “big six” energy suppliers, SSE. “It’s a useful addition to the debate,” said Keith MacLean, SSE’s policy and research director. “Sufficient certainty that renewables will be a long term part of the energy system, well beyond the current 2020 cliff edge, is needed in order to allow the industry to mature and put renewables on a path of cost reduction that will steadily reduce and eliminate the need for support.“.

And if you believe that I’ve just put the Brooklyn Bridge on eBay!

WWF’s Positive Energy report differs from previous analyses by including a continuation of renewable energy building after 2020, as well as big increases in energy efficiency. The energy scenarios at the core of the report were developed by GL Garrad Hassan, the world’s largest renewable energy consultancy and part of the GL Group, which also works in the oil and gas industries.

So GL absolutely don’t have a dog in this fight?

The electricity not generated from renewables in the report’s scenarios comes instead from gas power. In the most ambitious 90% scenarios, the carbon emissions from those gas plants do not need to be captured and stored underground in order to meet the UK’s climate change targets, but in the less ambitious 60% scenarios, about one-third of the gas plants would require carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to be fitted. There are no coal plants of any sort in the scenarios, or nuclear plants.

I was wrong! GL have two dogs in the fight.

The warning that a new “dash for gas” could lock in high carbon emissions is echoed in another report published on Tuesday, from MPs on the Commons select committee on energy and climate change. The MPs state the current proposals for electricity market reform put too much emphasis on building new gas plants to fill the gap left by the closure of about 19GW of nuclear, oil-fired and coal-fired plants by 2020, and not enough on decarbonising the power sector over the course of the 2020s in which gas without CCS will have “only a very limited role”. The climate and energy secretary, Chris Huhne, told the Guardian last month that the government “will not consent so much gas plant so as to endanger our carbon dioxide goals”.

I agree. A “gas dash” is an epically bad idea. It will happen. It will happen because the real argument contra nuclear is NIMBYS and the luddites already are saying the whole of Japan is a nuclear wasteland with mutants eating brains. Despite the fact that unlike Japan we’re very geologically stable. A further point is that CCS is just an idea. It’s not an extant technology. It is almost certainly do-able but the costs are a complete unknown. Also that is fairly clear that Chris Huhne clearly puts the war on CO2 way above keeping the lights on and that is scary. It used to be said every country is three meals from revolution. These days I think it’s fairer to say we’re two power-cuts from anarchy. If this nonsense brown-outs Birmingham for a weekend there will be hell to pay.

The MPs’ report also echoes WWF’s call for more action on energy efficiency. “The government could be doing a lot more to reduce unnecessary energy wastage,” said Tim Yeo MP, the Conservative chairman of the committee. “It needs to look at how it can use building regulations and energy efficiency standards for electrical appliances to cut waste and save cash on people’s energy bills.

That is wishful thinking. Everything involves the use of energy. It’s basic thermodynamics. Do these people honestly believe that better insulated homes will not require more energy to build or that wind-farms are built by bunny rabbits?

The committee’s report additionally calls for much more gas storage capacity in the UK, to minimise the damage from supply interruptions or price spikes. The UK’s current storage capacity is just 14 days’ worth of gas, states the report, “a dangerously low level compared with France which has 87 days’ worth of gas storage, Germany 69 and Italy 59.”

Now why do the French have the best gas supply? They don’t have any. What they do have is a massive nuclear industry so almost all their electricity is nuclear so they’re not burning gas so they use less gas… D’oh!

In conclusion I have never read so much drivel in my life.

Why I can’t stick Facebook.

“Poor Stuart can’t believe ur life ended in such a horrific way xx a young man who always had a smile on his face & put a smile on everybody elses face too xx I’m sure ur’s will be the brightest star in the sky xx R.I.P ma lovely.”

That is a facebook “tribute” to this man who was badly beaten, tied to a lamp post and set on fire. It’s entirely possible this was merely because he was gay but that’s by the way and I tend to adopt a policy of not commenting on live police investigations*. My point here is that that “tribute” is a travesty. I mean if he really was as nice a guy as all that what’s with the “ur”? I mean your friend has just been horrifically murdered and you can’t be flashed to type “your”?

*Hey can I be a tabloid journalist? I mean I absolutely wouldn’t have done what they disgracefully did in the Jo Yeates case which was to basically convict her landlord on the basis that he had access to the property and was “funny looking”. You know that sort of stuff has repercussions. Just ask Barry George who was sent to jail for murdering Jill Dando because he was “the local weirdo” too. That of course was a double-miscarriage of justice in that the real murderer is still at large.

Sir Alex’s “Worst Day”

I saw it on “Match of the Day” last night. I still don’t quite believe it. City beat United 6-1 yesterday at Old Trafford. Not that long ago that was a definite 3 points for the Reds. Hell, not that long ago my wife was temping in an office in Manchester and one of her colleagues had a City mug with the instructions to use in alternate seasons (i.e. when they’re in the Premiership) because Man City pretty much defined the Premiership/Football League yo-yo.

Now, I’m a Newcastle fan (and bizarrely they’re doing good) but I have a soft-spot for Man City. Perhaps living in Manc-land all these years has done it our kid. And perhaps I rather rate the manager Roberto Mancini. I rate him because he told the reprehensible Carlos Gary Lineker in a manner not deployed from this country against an Argentinian since Operation Corporate in ’82. And that’s the point. Mancini loses his top player (because Tévez is an arse) yet still guides his team to top of the table with an epochally brilliant victory over their top rivals. And all without Tévez whose buttocks are polishing a bench somewhere for GBP 150,000 a week (it might be more – I ‘ve heard rumours into the 200,000s). So good on Mancini and Tévez must feel a grand-standing fool*. One of the most perverse elements of English professional football is that managers are paid way less than the players they boss. I have always thought that bizarre because the manager is the most important cog in the machine. Well not if it was Sven-Goran Ulrikashagger. She actually stated, and I quote, “In real life he’s much better looking – he looks like Kevin Costner” (a statement either brilliant or dismal – I mean that could be the ultimate “damning with faint praise”). It also came-out that she thought him “intellectual” because he read Tibetan poetry (which despite it’s literary merits has never bulged the onion bag). They were introduced by Alistair Campbell (he is on record as saying that was his greatest mistake – and the fucking rest Alistair, please). Sven was on GBP 4.5 million a year to make a global laughing-stock of English football.

He wasn’t quite as bad as Graham Taylor but that’s a bit like saying Herpes isn’t exactly HIV. I saw that game when we crashed-out of the group-stage of the Europeans and he said “Did I not like that!”. What a fuckeration that truly was. We needed to score and he takes off Gary Lineker (a veritable goal monster looking at Bobby Charlton’s record) and subs-on Carlton Palmer “because we need to hold the ball up more in midfield”. That moment broke fifty million hearts. Carlton-fucking-Palmer and “holding the ball up in midfield”. At that point we knew we were conclusively fucked.

But this was the Taylor who fielded the unforgettable and unforgiveable midfield trio of Fatty, Batty and Platty. Fatty was Paul Gascoigne (who was grotesquely overweight for a professional sportsman), David Batty was a player of such utter ordinariness that… And David Platt was… Platty. The dullest man I ever did see on telly. Apart from Graham Taylor, obviously.

*Tévez in case you forgot refused to get off the bench for a European Champions League game against Bayern Munich. He didn’t get it. Sometimes the kids from this street have a kick-around in my garden. They can only dream of being an international football star but every one of them would love to play in the European Champions League. And would do it for free. Hell! I would. Run out against Bayern Munich. That’s like taking on Richard Feynman in an algebra contest! It’s epically cool. That’s why people pay to watch it. D’oh!

The Six Worst Movies of All Time*

I’ve just read this and it reminded me of something. Way back when I posted a list of the most annoying movies. By annoying I meant films that had good features but were fatally flawed. “The Thin Red Line” I think I singled-out for particular opprobrium. But I never quite got round to the real stinkers with no redeeming features.

Here goes. There will be spoilers but really don’t ever watch any of these.

6. “That Thing you Do”. Now this almost (perhaps it did) make it onto the “annoying list”. It’s a well-crafted movie (director Tom Hanks) and a beautifully shot period piece about America in the late ’50s and some kids starting a band but it is a movie almost devoid of any real plot or real dramatic tension. The band has a hit (it’s also the movie title) and they then break-up and that is it. I think one of them has a bit of a scare because his girlfriend thinks she’s pregnant. I’m not sure about that. I’m just filling in the blanks with a standard plot-device from all teen-movies because that was what this film was. Imagine something a bit like “Porkies” but with no laughs and incredibly clean-cut teen characters and you’re almost there. I suspect Hanks fell in love too strongly with his creation to put it through the ringer hence the complete lack of any drama. It was his directorial debut and a “very personal project”. I saw it on a ‘plane.

5. “Jack”. Arguably Francis Ford Coppola’s nadir. Coppola now spends much of his time making wine. I hope his wines age better than Robin Williams. Now Robin Williams is cinematic poison at the best of times but in this he’s Sarin. He is a boy trapped in a rapidly ageing body. So by the time he’s graduating high-school he looks about 75. Of course there is a demented attempt to make this a “feel good spectacle” showing how Jack’s classmates are originally not-sure about this weirdo but then inevitably pal-up with him. I seem to recall the breakthrough (and possibly follow-through) momnent there – the living, beating heart of the movie – is a farting competition in a tree-house that Jack’s middle-aged bowels easily win against his teen competitors. That is how bad it is. Robin Williams farting in a tree-house. It doesn’t get much worse than that. I also saw this on a plane.

4. “Batman and Robin”. Well Joel Schumacher really pissed a presumably enormous sum of monies up the wall on that one! It has no redeeming features. You might have expected more from the maker of “The Lost Boys” but nope. It is dreadful. George Clooney looks bored and Uma Thurman looks frumpy and the whole thing has the air of a gay pride parade gatecrashing a clown convention, badly.

3. “Twin Town”. This was made in ’97 and was like any number of a crop of dreadful movies made in the UK around that time purely because the government was offering tax-breaks so generous that absolutely anything dreadful was being put on celluloid. I’m actually quite glad I saw it in a way because it crystallized something in my mind about story-telling. “Twin Town” sort of tries to be a Welsh “Trainspotting” but fails utterly because it is impossible to have any sympathy whatsoever with any character. The two leads (the eponymous twins) are utter moral vacuums and total scumbags. It’s basically a revenge story which involves inter alia the beheading of a pet dog in what could arguably be said to be a homage to The “Godfather” movies. Even more arguably it could be seen as taking the piss and morally vile – this is the action of the alleged heroes of the piece afterall. Actually talking of the “Godfather” reminds me of my central point here. Sort of. It reminds me of “Apocalypse Now” and calling in a massive napalm strike on all of them.

2. “The Two Towers”. Aragorn gets knocked off his horse and wanders around dazed and confused. I’ve got to hand it to Peter Jackson because that is a striking metaphor for this movie. It is by far the weakest of the three despite being based on the strongest book in the trilogy (my opinion). I await “The Hobbit” (in two parts!) with trepidation. Oh, I’m being unfair perhaps because it really ought to be on the “annoying” rather than “utter stinker” list but Hell’s teeth Jackson you got a literary classic here – don’t “re-imagine it”. Just tell it straight and lose the skate-boarding elves. And Bernard Hill’s soliloquy before leading the charge out of Helm’s Deep does go on.

1. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”. Yes, a second entry for Francis Ford Coppola. I saw this at the cinema with my brother. The roughly 15-20 minute journey home by car involved the two of us leaving that utter shit-festival with nowt but it’s eyes to weep with. Where do I start? The title. It absolutely wasn’t Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It totally missed her key points. Now I mentioned the “Two Towers” monkeying with Toller’s plot but this eviscerated the entire spirit of the thing. Robert De Niro as the monster was abysmal. Ken Branagh clearly had no idea what he was doing and the crowning moment of dreadfulness was the bizarre inclusion of John Cleese as the Professor Branagh’s Victor Frankenstein steals the idea from. This utterly violates the conception of the novel and the fundamental point about a genius so wrapped-up in his work he forgets morality. It has to be Frankenstein’s baby and not something he just rips off from Basil Fawlty.

That is the entire point. That is why Mary Shelley’s myth has it’s power to this day. This was a movie adaption which utterly missed what the first great myth of the scientific era was saying. As I said about Tolkien, if you are making a movie based on a literary classic then don’t monkey with it because the story is just there already and if you really think you can do better then write your own! If a story is good (and Frankenstein is) there is a reason it lasts. I might just give it a bye but not very long before this monster lumbered onto our screens there was a TV-movie version (directed by David Wickes and starring Patrick Bergin as Victor Frankenstein) which was very faithful to the original. That aired a mere 18 months before Coppola’s train-wreck. Hell, it even had Sir John Mills as the blind wood-cutter (and not Richard Briers who has scenes with De Niro that are utter excruciation). It is mere hubris that hates HBO (I think it was them). I really got into them with Brian Cox (the real Hannibal Lecter – not the Manc physicist) playing Hermann Göring in “Nuremberg”. That was good but then he’s a damn fine actor who could do charm and evil equally brilliantly.

A Baldwin (I forget which – there are a number) who played a US chief prosecutor did it for me. He defined evil as “a complete lack of empathy”. Now I don’t entirely buy that but it’s not a bad go at an exceptionally difficult question. I guess I’m trying to say that whilst the Frankenstein movie had nothing to say the HBO one made a good and brave attempt at saying something (basically what Mary Shelley was saying) at least.

*That I have seen entire.

Gay Marriage

As far as I know none of the nine Republican candidates for President have produced any campaign adds (or made any campaign speeches) about “gay marriage”. The media have asked them “gotcha” questions about this (and other such topics) but that is about it.

Sorry Paul, but you have provoked a rant here.

Now, I beg to disagree on several points here. Either my eyes deceived me or I saw on my 32″ HD Samsung a Republican shindig with a banner behind some of the candidates stating the bizarre arithmetic that “Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman”. Michelle Bachmann’s husband (who doesn’t exactly look a straight arrow to me anyway) runs clinics specialising in the absolute snake-oil of “Praying away the Gay”. The amazing thing about such “treatments” is that they do sort of work. In the ’60s and ’70s they did similar with a Rube Goldberg type contraption that measured erections when the subject was shown images of naked chicks and lads and delivered a shock if tumescence was prompted by the “wrong” gender. It worked – for about a month. I don’t know whether they played Beethoven’s ninth in the background but they might as well have done. So God knows about the new form but it would appear that certain portions of US society have advanced from Heath-Robinson style “science” to good old hellfire. A positive I feel.

And herein lies the rub. “Certain portions”. The most zealous anti-gay (well he’s basically anti-everything else) American is the reprehensible Fred Phelps who is absolutely completely nucking futz and his “church” is only really attended by his family (the vast majority of “ordinary” Americans are vastly more homopilic than you might think – I have spent quite a lot of time over the pond you know). I first heard of Phelps many years ago. So bizarred was I by his “godhatesfags.com” website I emailed the local paper in Topeka, KS. I received a very nice reply that Fred Phelps was alas very real – I thought it a spoof. This was before Phelps got the wonderous URL “godhatesamerica.com” which I have only now discovered is superseded by “godhatestheworld.com”. Talk about winning friends and influencing people!

This is what Phelps has to say about my country. Charming isn’t it? Especially in its complete inability to use an apostrophe or understand the UK constitution. By Phelp’s metric a “fag-enabler” is pretty much anyone who isn’t rolling the cattle-trucks or making pink triangles.

I’m not comparing Paul’s comment to utter Phelpsian insanity but…

Over my life-time (and I do know the USA quite well having spent several months in total there and having had a long-term relationship with an American) both here and in the USA probably the most remarkable transformation of social attitudes I have witnessed is that towards homosexuality. Being anti-gay is just not an electoral asset. Indeed of the folks who might support something like the FDMA you will alienate vastly more over the fact it is deeply unconstitutional. Americans are married under state law, not federal law. I suspect a lot of US right-wingers who might be expected to care about such a matters will draw their horns in over the constitutional issue. Frankly on the “morals” front the likes of Bachmann Perry Overdrive are preaching to a mythical “middle America” that probably never even existed in 1955. It certainly doesn’t in 2011.

And it’s not the BBC, or the Washington Post or the schools and universities “brainwashing” or some such – it’s just life’s rich tapestry. I’ve got to say this to you Paul. Got to. Every time you go on about brainwashing I feel stupidly belittled. It reminds me every single time of a quote from Bertrand Russell. Russell stated that he’d rather have his philosophical opinions reported by his “Worst enemy in philosophy” than by someone ignorant of the discipline. I agree. I can filter as much as that old goat could. It is a disservice to suppose otherwise. And perhaps as much to the point I was never indoctrinated. I learned electromagnetism and quantum mechanics and general relativity and stuff. If I’d wanted to learn sociology I could have traded my Nikes for a pair of socks and sandals, grown a pondering beard and given-up any hope of sexual congress – like ever.

But Paul, I haven’t even come to my major point.

Anyway what is there to “argue” about on this matter? What ceremonies groups of homosexuals conduct on their own property is no one’s business but their own – as long as no is forced to “recognise” such “marriages” by “anti discrimination laws” and so on.

God knows about the use of scare quotes but there is a lot to argue (or “argue”) here. The whole point and conception of marriage (at least in English law – and I doubt US laws are much different) is that it is intrinsically public – when they liberalised the civil marriage laws here to include hotels and such public access was and remains an issue. Indeed in the USA which of course has different marriage laws across the states because it is a state issue and not a federal one there is a long-standing “gentleman’s agreement” to recognise out of state marriages. Marriage means nothing if it is not generally accepted. It is essentially a contract between two people which has to be recognised by the wider community in order to mean anything.

So essentially secret homosexual trysts up in the hills (assuming they own them) don’t really cover it. The entire move towards gay marriage has not been about setting-up a secret society of “supergay-friends” but towards the union being generally recognised.

And I shall re-iterate my point. There are a number of religious organisations in this country who are currently conducting “sham” gay marriages. They are doing it because their theology has no problem with homosexuality and would like to marry gay couples on the same basis (and on land they own) in the same way they do straight couples. These are essentially (there may be others) the Quakers, some Jewish organisations and the Methodists. Why the sham (and then there has to be some sort of “civil partnership” ‘do’ as well to make it legal)? Why? Don’t get me wrong here. I have no problem with the various other religious groups who don’t want to conduct same sex marriages. The entire thing is for whatever faith to decide by whatever means. Fine m- their perogative. But the current law means the religious building I am warden of cannot celebrate homosexual marriages (though it is one that can do heterosexual – I know because I clean the place good and proper for the dealie – I mean it’s their big day right?) But no gay marriages despite (a) this religion has no issue contra homosexuality and (b) a number of our regulars are in homosexual relationships. How is that fair?

If as a libertarian then surely you must allow faith groups who have no issue contra homosexuality to be allowed to conduct marriages as they see fit. Surely Paul! That is the issue. I know a lesbian couple quite well who cannot legally be married here despite the fact that this religious organisation doesn’t actually see their relationship as wrong in any sense whatsoever. In a very real sense this is not even about gay rights (I would personally regard it as about fundamental human rights) but religious rights. Now, fine for assorted religious sorts to be anti-gay or lesbian. They can knock themselves out on it. They don’t force anyone to worship there do they? No they don’t so fine. But why extend that ban to other faith groups that don’t think the same? C’mon Paul, you’re a libertarian so you believe in freedom and freedom of religion has to be be way up there. You might not like what the Quakers, the Methodists and Reformed Judaism wants but nobody beats you into a meeting house, a chapel or synagogue.

This is exactly the same point that whilst some Muslim women might cover their hair it’s not a general legal requirement in this country (it’s debatable whether it’s even a Qu’ranic requirement). It is in Iran (but the Ayatollahs are fucking mental) and they also hang gays in Iran don’t they? If we’re not way better than Iran then I pity us. But we are. And we ought to be proud of this. Because quite simply this is what seperates us from goat-buggery.

You might not like gay marriage (why does it matter to you?) and fair play to you but if it is going to happen it (like any other marriage) has to be generally recognized otherwise it is utterly meaningless. Yet it isn’t is it? It is clearly very meaningful to the primary parties involved. Or let’s put it another way. I got married (to a woman) five years ago without any plans for offspring so what is so fundamentally different? Is my marriage wrong too?

Or yet another way. One of the drives for gay marriage happens in ICU. You may have lived with and loved someone for 40 years but you still don’t have the legal right to turn-off the life-support. Marriage (gay, straight or whatever) is pretty much the only chance anyone has to choose their designated driver. I personally think that matters and I personally think that matters more than the genital configuration of the other party to the deal. Allegedly under Iranian law it is legal to fuck a goat if you subsequently slaughter and sell it in a different village to where you gave it the full 7″s. I have been to many places on roughly three continents but that is just dark-age fucking barbarism.

I’m OK with even ugly people having sex but goats – Jeebus of Nazareth that is where I draw the line. I mean if you have to lift a tail to enter into congress then I draw a line in the sand that must never be crossed. Oh, I don’t know! OK, I guess (as long as no animal cruelty is involved) but don’t expect me at the stag night. Well, not if it involves fucking one up the Arras.

And on that bizarre point I’ll leave it. Except I don’t honestly see why Paul is contra gay marriage. Let me go fully 20mm Hispano-Suiza on it. For me to believe Paul has a point here he would have to sincerely believe (and convince me) my marriage (he doesn’t have one and I’ve just had my fifth marriage anniversary) is as utterly worthless as a gay or lesbian one. This I don’t believe. I have done questionable things. Sometimes against city walls. I also got married to the person I love. That was my call and hers and it had nothing to do with being straight. Anyway who said we were both straight? I never did. We did some moderately interesting things as well.

Well, why not?

More fun than being a Republican. Apart from Gary Johnson.

Modern Music is Rubbish

It is though isn’t it. Full disclosure: I was born in ’73. So naturally I tend towards thinking the ’80s and ’90s as a golden age for tunes except I also think I’m right and not just biased. So what we got now? X-Factor with that complete loon Louis Walsh (and he is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic). And if I see another boyband vocal harmony group I shall scream until Louis gives me a gold-plated contract (well, I’ll be screaming whilst holding his head down a dunny).

I mean the thing about X-Factor is it’s all cover versions. Now covers are a funny thing. There are some rather famous ones which are rightly more famous than the original but there remains the bear-trap of pointlessness. So, say, Bruce Springsteen does “Born to Run” and you’re going to do better than the Boss. (I saw Springsteen on the telly at Glastonbury a bit back and that was a cracking set – he was well belting them out and in a kinetic manner that belied his age). It just reminds you what a true star is and how dreadfully mediocre the stars of X-Factor are. So right now I’m listening to this…

Now Blondie had it and still do. It’s a shame Destri and Infante bailed but whilst Harry, Stein and Burke are playing there is still hope. When I first saw them at Manchester Apollo it was like an impossible dream (they hadn’t long been back together). And at this point I have to add something here. It was brilliant. I was down in the mosh-pit (very good-natured – Blondie fans are a very mixed bunch and very nice) there were dads with kids on their shoulders and drag queens and spotty teenagers (excellent!) and all sorts. And me with a pint balanced in the other hand by a fag. Next time I saw a gig at the Apollo it was no smoking, no drinking (apart from in the bar) and everyone had to remain seated at all times. It was like going to the fucking opera or something. I couldn’t help reflect on stuff I’d read about Blondie’s early days at CBGBs in New York and quite how different that was from the home-life of our own dear royal family. I mean it was suppossed to be rock and roll and not a bloody Methodist tea-dance. It wasn’t the band’s fault. It was Apollo house rules as dictated no doubt by the Methodist tea-dancers of the Labour party. Miserablist cunts the lot of ‘em.

An aside: in North Wales recently I saw a “Calvinistic Methodist Church” – that must be a fucking hilarity to worship at. “You can have no fun whatsoever”. “Will that get me to Heaven?” “Nah, it’s all pre-determined anyway”. So supremely fuck it.

All our few lonely impulses of delight stymmied by puritans. Fuck ‘em. These are the same fuckers who thought rave culture was the End of Days. Hell these are the same people who thought Mary Whitehouse had a point or that teddy boys or punks or whatever were also the End of Days. They ought to move to Iran where they’d fit right in. That’s why in my salad days we had goths and now you’ve got emos. Can you even begin to imagine any modern record label signing a band like Blondie considering songs like “X-Offender” or “Suzy and Jeffrey”!

But it’s all got to be nice now. Like Blandplay. I mean really is this rock and roll? I saw an interview with one of the smarter of our current rappers and when asked about his “violent” lyrics he said he grew-up listening to his Mom’s Johnnie Cash records. He quoted, “‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ – I couldn’t write anything as badass as that!” Quite.

Recently this was voted the best song of the last decade…

What a load of epic wank! I mean Lou Reed set the twilight reeling and Snow Patrol set the TIVO for “Masterchef”. That is epically dismal. It’s not a bad tune. I like the layered guitar thing but it’s not really rock and roll. It’s not badass. It’s something your mum would like and that is the very antithesis. I mean I’ve always wanted music my elders and betters have thought vile and nasty just so I could point out what their lyrics from the ’50s were really about…

And before anyone pipes up and says but Nick you’re in your late 30s so you ought to listen to pipes and slippers music on the BBC Light Programme – well fuck that. Debbie Harry doesn’t and she’s in her sixties and I will guarantee she’ll still be absolutely filthier in bed than any of these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed X-Factor hopefuls (I was doing it for me mum who needs a new kidney… ). For a start she wouldn’t get past the first round because she can’t dance (she really can’t) and has a very limited vocal range but God almighty does she use what she has well – she sounds like the apocalypse. These things wouldn’t please Louis but bugger his Leprechaunish shittery. I was once a mere 2m from Debbie Harry and it sounded like God Himself was declaiming from a burning bush. That was good. It was frigging incredible. And that was just “Atomic”. The rest of the set… Well you ought to have been there. I was and it was utterly magnificent.

What form of theatrical gayness is that? He might as well have merely puked into DVD-RW. That is utterly fucking chronic. That’s an X-Factor winner. “I’m not who you think I am”. Too true Matthew. You’re a “star” wanking himself raw on his own toilet. That’s what you are. I have seen more musical talent staring at me with glassy eyes on slabs in fishmongers. And this is the same Matt Cardle who had a go at X-Factor recently over having to sing Katy Perry’s “Firework” which I tend to think isn’t a bad pop song. I’m not saying it’s “Paperback Writer” but it’s better than that tossery because Sir Paul McCartney’s “Frog Chorus” knocks that epic wankery into a cocked hat. I mean Jesus, Mary mother of God and all the Saints Matt what the fucking fuck where you thinking of? That is pantage Matt. That is unrivalled pantaroonie. It isn’t even Wayne fucking Rooney kicking a Montenegran – that’s how bad it is. There are Ayatollahs in Iran (and Russians in Afghanistan) who can write better pop-songs. It’s that shi’ite. It’s fucking dreadful Matt. It’s bloody awful.

This is “Firework”…

The video is a bit weird. Primarily because at one point Katy Perry’s tits explode and she keeps on singing – what a trouper! But Hell’s teeth it’s at least danceable.

I shall leave you with this (that in my territory at least) had an ad for Susan Boyle’s rendition of “Unchained Melody”. Oh joy unlimited!

There is no danger any more. No nothing. It’s the difference between art and wallpaper.

And wallpaper bores me.

I suspect this post might prompt RAB into his annecdotage. He once played support for Bill Haley & His Comets you know ;-)

When Technology Gets Worse

This is nothing to do with libertarianism, or only a bit. More, railing against How The World Is, that kind of thing.

My life has been in slow-motion-disaster mode for some time now, and that’s getting a bit tiresome, but a couple weeks ago the icing on the cake happened. My last CRT monitor stopped working; a gorgeous Compaq P1220 22″ monster. I was cooking dinner, decided to watch the second episode of Terra Nova, switched resolutions down to 1280×960 (my normal resolution is a whopping 1920×1440) and bang. Or rather, sort of, sizzle; the new resolution held for a couple of seconds, then started fizzing, then the screen went black.

So, I had a few minutes of, it’s just a glitch, something simple, maybe the cable, hoping against hope, but no, dead as a dodo. Nothing but a sadly blinking amber LED under the lifeless void.

(more…)

Fishy Business

I have meant to post this for some time.

I don’t know what it’s like where you are but in England there is a deranged craze for having fish nibbling your feet.

Full disclosure here: I am a fish-fancier. I don’t have any at the moment (possibly because I now have a cat and he’d go mental – “free-range!”) so I find the idea obscene.

Let me explain why. I first saw this reprehensible practise (I am given to understand that one of the more depraved Roman Emperors (as you can imagine that’s against some pretty stiff opposition) got sexual kicks from being nibbled by fish) in the MetroCentre in Gateshead but that’s not really my point. We have a covenant with the animals and I utterly fail to see how this is part of it.

Let’s put it bluntly. I thought they had tanks of fish as a promo-thingie in much the same way the John Lewis perfume counters in Newcastle had marine tropicals (very well kept – it has to be said – beautiful fish) then reality dawned. I couldn’t have a fag in the MetroCentre but I could have my feet nibbled by Garra rufa. I do sometimes wonder if I’m actually cut out for the C21st.

Anyway, it comes down to this. Invariably the fish are kept in bare tanks for at least their “working time”. So what when the mall or salon (and these are everywhere – I saw one in Keswick fairly recently – next to a shop selling boots for climbing mountains) closes? These tanks don’t have any of the impedimenta I would regard as vital for fish keeping. Oddly enough I tend to regard things like a filtration system more important to fish health than some manky old moo’s plates of meat (get a pumice stone you vile trolloping slag!). So if they are permanently kept in such conditions then that is bad. As indeed if they were, on end of business, moved to a veritable fish wonderland of a tank then that’s bad too. Anyone who has ever kept fish will know the cardinal rule of not stressing them by not shifting their environment more than absolutely necessary.

But they’re only fish! Right. Tell that to me. Tell that to someone who with infinite care kept his fish until their natural puff (slurp – I guess) was up. Tell that to the me that carried a (very heavy) tank half-way across the city of Nottingham or who perfected the art of moving them via a net and a pint pot when I had to move. My last act as an undergraduate at Nottingham University was to release my beautiful comet, Streak into the Engineering Faculty pond. “Swim well, little fish!”. It was really quite emotional. I wasn’t sure about taking him back to Gateshead and then down to London but moreover I wanted to leave something meaningful at my Alma Mater and it was a nice pond with no signs of heronicity so maybe, just maybe (they can live a long time) Streak is still there being fed Doritos by the morons that pass for this century’s undergraduates. I hope so. Not really so very different from last century’s undergrads. At least those in engineering… Physics grad snark there, sorry!

Anyway, enough of that. I saw Streak swim out of the little travelling tank like a good ‘un and that’s enough for me.

But every aspect of fish pedicures repulses me. No, let’s get this right. I’m not squeamish about it (though I think it foul). My fundamental objection is the abuse of animals. And it is abusing animals by any standard candle.

Almost exactly five years ago I wasn’t in a shed in Cheshire typing tripe but in the the Caribbean Sea snorkelling over the third largest reef on the planet and a 14′ nurse shark ambles past. I didn’t know this was normal so I alerted the dive captain who (I assume to avoid panic) didn’t use the “S” word but the euphemism “a very big fish”. I wasn’t scared – I just thought I ought to point it out because I’m not used to what you might see in such waters. To be honest I was more, “Wow… it’s like being at an airshow except underwater!” Anyway I felt the need to point it out.

I love fish. They’re good for the eating (apart from Vietnamese river cobbler from TESCO which is bland beyond any human comprehension of blandness) and for the looking at and in at least one case (off the coast of Florida) being awed by them. I mean I was paddling about like the hapless terrestrial primate I am and then this shark goes right by me (well about 1.5m below me – nurses tend to be bottom feeders) and I’m too awestruck by the sheer casual elegance of it to think of the teeth. It was kinda like your dad traded the motor and came out with an F-16 (and not as my dad did a diesel Skoda Octavia – but as he never tires of pointing out it’s comfortable, reliable and gets good mpg and unlike the F-16 fits on his drive). Nothing against that Czech/German motor but it’s like “Dad, nice car” but not a shark (or an F-16) level of awe. I mean obviously. I also got close-up to a barracuda. Now that was something else in the teeth department. I got real close but then if I have a camera (and I did) all bets are off. One day the coroner will conclude “misadventure” and that with a DSLR clutched in my rigid hands.

So I hate it. Or to put it another way my “shark experience” was off the shores of Key West (if you haven’t been then sell your children’s kidneys – they only really need one…). That’s fish like they’re supposed to be. Not chewing on fat bird’s ankles.

I am seriously on the warpath over this. I abhor any cruelty to animals. Most people think that just means cats and dogs and donkeys. I extend the courtesy to fish. Perhaps because I’ve kept them (and shall again) and perhaps because I’m just me. But if you are vile to any critter your name is on my (ever-expanding) list of enemies. And there shall be a reckoning. Possibly involving your genitals meeting and greeting a Breville sandwich toaster.

(I didn’t for legal reasons actually say that but I bloody well meant it).

I put so much time, money and effort into keeping my fish as happy as I could and this outrages me so.

There is an old saw that cruelty to animals implies the further potential of cruelty to humans. I never bought that. Oh, there is a truth to it but surely isn’t being cruel to animals a wrong in itself?

And this is wrong. Every fish-fancying bone in my body calls it from the highest parapet.

Elephant in the Room

Whilst the Republicans argue the toss over gay marriage and such and such there is a far bigger threat to American families. And no, to misquote Dolly Parton, it ain’t D.I.V.O.R.C.E but D.E.B.T.

The Great Flow of US Debt
Created by: MBA Online

How the fuck do you run up an overdraft of 14.3 trillion dollars. I am by training an astrophysicist and 1013 is getting to be an astronomical sum. I mean there is only of the order 100 billion stars in the galaxy (OK, probs it’s 400 billion, whatever – I mean what’s a few hundred billion between pals?). Now assume (and this is a big leap) that corresponds to say 100 billion habitable planets and by habitable I don’t mean you or me would like to be there but it’s probably swell for the crab-people of Zarquon-B or whatever. And even sweller when they get their cut because by my rough and ready ‘rithmetic if the USA had taken out it’s loan (secured on what – the entire Mid West?) with the Pan-Galactic Bank Zarquon-B and every other planet in the Galaxy (and it’s a big place) would be owed $143. On some planets that might buy an octopodal life-form a jet-pack.

I mean it’s beyond a joke. I loved the way Douglas Adams characterised the vastness of space and lampooned popular science, “Consider a walnut in Reading and a tangerine in Johannesburg”. If I was in charge of the Fed – God knows. I mean this is verging towards a financial singularity. This is a supreme cluster-fuck of ultra-bollockation. And that’s wearing my astro-economics hat. The only other hat to wear is a silly one whilst playing the kazoo and painting your own buttocks purple with a toothbrush. Well, why not? It is so far beyond fucked it’s out the other end.

And despite the fact that every American – man, woman and child (don’t tell me they’re amortising across foetuses now – I shouldn’t give ‘em ideas – glints in a prospective father’s eye, the dead, the great grandchildren your cousin might have…). Anyway every extant ex-utero American owes the UK the charming sum of $1,111. The next time I see an American child I’m having his or her lollypop. Christ almighty! They’re each $475 in hock to the fucking Russians. And those bastards don’t just take lollypops – they take your thumbs. Australia is only owed $39 per American. But I reckon that means the US personally owes Cats roughly $585 which ought to go a long way towards buying a new server. At least that would be monies spent to a porpoise. (Never do anything without a porpoise).

I appreciate we’re not much better in the UK but bejesus and begorrah as my Irish (the US owes the Irish a mere $107 per American) great grandma might have said. I mean this true state of utter fuckedness requires the big canvas to see it in it’s true glory. It’s like Picasso’s Guernica. You need to see the big picture. Not just the postcard.

Sometimes there is just one thing in the room worth discussing. And sometimes it’s so monstrous there is no longer any point. I mean the time to talk about elephantine corralling is when it enters the room and not when it’s on the sofa pouring itself a second whisky and soda and lighting a cigar and asking about nibbles is it? The moment has passed. I have no children. I pity those who do. I hate to type that as I have friends with small children but it’s true. That’s terrible. I mean a torrential downpour on those bright sunlit uplands and all.

We are fucked beyond any form human comprehension apart from astrophysics. That’s more fucked than Charlotte the Harlot when the England Rugby team are in town. It is fucked supreme.

These are the end of days. Get yourself a “technical” with a brace of 50 cals mounted on the flat-bed and a pair of leather chaps (and, perhaps, some trousers) and call yourself “The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla”.

H/T Sarah Et Cetera

Inflation

The CPI is now above 5% – officially. (CPI 5.2% – up 0.7% in a month! and RPI is 5.6%)

Magic!

Now I don’t know how accurate (by which I mean “meaningful” these figures are) so I am going to wilfully stray into what I suspect (with my limited knowledge of the “reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits”) is the mine field of deep historical economics.

Last weekend I was in North Wales. Amongst other things I went round Conwy Castle:

(I have better photos I took myself but I’m in my shed and my camera is “upstairs” and it is raining like Gaia needs TENA Lady.)

Now Conwy Castle (and according to most accounts) the still largely extant city walls cost Edward I the princely sum of GBP 15,000 to build (in a mere four years – Wikipedia says longer but I think that’s small piecemeal extensions and not the meat and two veg of it). And that in hostile territory which is of course why he was building a castle in the first place and not a stately pleasure dome or a WalMart or whatever. That castle is a hell of a thing (and I originate from near the great castles of Northumberland). I’d like to take any of the engineers or brickies or whatever from Barratt Homes round it and say, “Now that’s how you build something to last”.

Everyone agrees that in the late C13th- early C14th Conwy Castle was Edward’s most expensive castle in his Welsh castle building spree (it must keep the irascible old fuck awake in his grave that ultimately his constructions to keep the Welsh down are now a major source of tourist sponds for the self-same). At the castle the figure of GBP 15,000 is translated into GBP 45,000,000 in modern monies. Wikipedia puts it at GBP 9,000,000. Who knows? It is almost impossible to translate costs over such a period and I would suggest impossible to translate value.

Anyway. GBP 45 million (top end) is not really a lot of money for a lot of castle (and walls). About ten years ago I learned that the absolute minimum cost for an underground tube station (not including line) was GBP 25 million. This was based on the previous decade’s Jubilee line extension. So it’s probably fair to say Conwy Castle (and walls) cost in “real terms” (I appreciate the difficulties in terms of mathematics, history and economics here) much the same as a single station on that line.

Or to put it another way. The top-end estimate (adjusted for the 2011 quid) for Conwy Castle (and town walls) is somewhat less than one tenth the cost of the stadium they have built in East London for the Olympics next year. I believe that to be a fair comparison because construction methods and materials are of course very different. You have to take that into account because to build a C13th castle the C13th way would be a billionaire’s perversion these days.

I shall skim over the fact that whilst I reckon there is a damn good chance Conwy Castle will be with us (well not us exactly) in 2711 I very much doubt the new West Ham (or is it Spurs?) stadium will last that long.

I have just one question. Why? I mean over the years almost everything you can compare seems to have got cheaper. The average joe on an average wage works for much less time to buy a loaf of bread than his medieval ancestor. What makes building so special as to so spectacularly buck that trend? Now I appreciate Edward I was paying his workers a pittance (by modern standards – though I’m given to understand skilled stone-masons and carpenters and such earned top-dollar then as now) but surely technology, machinery and all the rest should have made a huge difference? They have in every other field of human endeavour.

So, why?

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