Friday, July 30, 2004

Where Is Richard Littlejohn ?

He's vanished from the Sun website. He's not answered my email (most unlike him). Has he been kidnapped by an organ of State power ? Is he being questioned in a Home Office basement ? I'll have to ask David Aaronovitch and see if he knows.

Or has he been exposed to some Kryptonite to create the uber-Littlejohn that is Barry Beelzebub ?

I have to thank Mr. Free Market for bringing Barry to my attention as I don't live close enough to Brissle to read the Evening Post.

BB on women in the workplace :

"This column you've just sent through. Have you any idea what it might do to us?"

I vaguely recall dispatching 1,000 words earlier that day musing on the position of women in the workplace. Surely this can't be the reason for the late night call?

Well, apparently it is. In fact, Mr Ed is so panicked by my entirely reasonable views that he's ordered the Evening Post's emergency stock of "skate-boarding dog" stories to be rushed out of storage to fill this space. Even the legendary "newborn baby who looks like Brunel" expose is put on stand-by. Even if he is 27 by now.

"I cannot carry a column arguing that women have no place in the workplace and should stay at home bringing up a family," continues the Buckfast and Vimto-crazed loon.

"We cannot say that they're mere opportunists who get pregnant as soon as they get a job and then leech off the company for years after.

"And if we do, every mercenary female in the building will be accusing me of leering at their baps by the water cooler, of failing to give them a pay rise for turning up on time for five continuous days, and before you know it we'll be up before an industrial tribunal forking out several thousand quid to a mad woman with a bad attitude, twins, women's troubles and bats living in her hair."

At this point, I make a burring noise and replace the receiver.

Just the titles of his other articles are enough :

"Tantric Sex and the Women's FA Cup"

"Should the poor be allowed to breed ?"

"Soap-dodgers, shirt-lifters, shirkers and social workers"

"Why don't Big Issue sellers dress better ?"

I hereby add Mr Beelzebub to the Commentators sidebar. He can just squeeze between Polly and Yasmin. No touching now, girls !

Multicultural News

Way back in May there was rioting over five nights in Peterborough, a story which strangely escaped BBC Radio News. The violence, between Pakistanis and Iraqi asylum seekers, was attributed by the police to 'cultural differences'.

The fair town of Peterborough held its Anand Mela festival last week, to celebrate the diverse cultures of the area.

You know what's coming.

Tales From Outsourcing Country

At the solicitors last year I was intrigued to learn that the letters they send me (each of which they charge £30-odd for) were typed up and formatted in India. The solicitor in Gloucester dictates the letter, an mp3 file is mailed to the processing centre along with a reference for my customer details, and within an hour a neatly laid out Word document is returned ready for printing.

There are now several such companies operating in the UK.

Via Fiskie, a lengthy and fascinating New Yorker piece on outsourcing from a variety of Indian perspectives - good and bad. It's mostly focused on the operations of Office Tiger.

Outsourcing, as I've noted before, is going higher up the corporate food chain.

"Office Tiger recently doubled its staff, to sixteen hundred and fifty workers, and will nearly double in size gain by year’s end, on the strength of “judgment-dependent services": equity analysis, legal research, and accounting jobs that pay an annual salary of up to a hundred thousand dollars in the United States and between ten and twenty per cent of that in Chennai."

Now I'm not a believer in the US being uniquely evil. Human nature (aka 'Original Sin') makes men and their companies greedy, and makes corrupt governments turn blind eyes. The article is mostly upbeat about the amazing transformations of Chennai and Bangalore - and the portrait of Harish Kumar is wonderful.

But I'm amazed I haven't seen this reprinted in the Guardian yet. Coca-Cola and Pepsi would appear to be operating here on the basis of 'what you can get away with'. Chennai, by the way, is the place an Englishman would know as Madras.

In front of the main local reservoir, there is a sign in Tamil that reads “No bathers and washers,” and this spring there were none. Instead, there were men, women, dogs, and Brahma cows walking across the reservoir’s bed, which had become an inter-village shortcut, and upon which wildflowers bloomed. Before Chennai’s hot season had even begun, water reserves were lower than they’d been in fifty years. Harish’s home, like most others, had little or no running water. Inoperative water pumps outside houses and apartments were covered with dust, and were attended by dry troughs for rainwater harvesting—a conservation technique mandated by the government three years ago, just as the drought began. Residents spent hours queuing for emergency water rations that tankers brought in from the hinterlands. In Triplicane pawnshops, fathers sold pieces of their daughters’ dowries to buy bottled water to give those daughters a drink and a wash. In nearby Poonamallee, where a century-old pond evaporated, hundreds of homeless turtles wandered onto a thoroughfare, where their search for an alternative water source ended badly.

The gods’ will, residents said of the drought. But to follow the water tankers out of the city in their search for a place to refill was to glimpse a human factor, too. In Chennai, as in most of India, groundwater is not a public good; it’s a private, barely regulated commodity. Thus, for decades, corporations and individuals have bored deep into fossil water, which is not replenishable—a pell-mell water mining that has left what remains as brackish as the sea. Some could afford to drill deeper than others. Just past a village where the price of watermelon had tripled and sheep had died of dehydration, there emerged the shining signage of two soft-drink bottling plants—Pepsi, first, then the bigger, glossier Coca-Cola, which sits on the greenest plot for miles around.

There is a Tamil proverb, “When someone suffers, offer water first.” Villagers say it with irony now. As the water tankers rattled farther and farther into the hills in search of unspoiled lakes, other trucks were rumbling back toward parched Chennai. Their flatbeds were stacked high with yellow-green bottles of Sprite, shimmering in the midday sun.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Play Vinyl With A Laser

Well there I was, googling for steel needles for the old wind-up gramophone Susan bought me a few years back - it's ages since I've heard 'Daddy Don't Go Down The Mine" or Dame Clara Butt.

When I found a site with a link to this. Wow.

Laser Turntable by ELP Corporation, Japan

But at $13,000 for the 78 rpm version I may have to wait till my birthday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Law And Order

A cautionary tale from The England Project.

Meanwhile, back in the (sur)real world, a bully with plenty of previous gets 12 years for stabbing a 14 year old (Mr Cuthbertson is not amused), while the victim's mother asks why bad boys aren't excluded (we have that nice Mr Blunkett to thank for that) and the teachers ask for X-ray equipment and random weapons checks.

According to the Times, a quarter of boys take knives to school.

So the liberals are right, and society isn't getting more violent.

After all, at my excellent State grammar in the 1960s (now sunk to a dreadful comprehensive in special measures) probably between a third and a half of 5th-form boys (year 11) carried knives. Mostly penkives, but lock and flick-knives were prized. Out of school, Scouts and fishermen would wear a sheath knife on a belt - I still remember my 4-inch blade in its sheath with the Scout logo.

We played a game of 'splits' on the school field in which you'd hurl the knife into the ground near your opponent's feet - he'd have to move his foot to where the knife struck. The object was to get him in a position where he could just about stand but would then lose balance and topple slowly over - so towards the end you'd be throwing close to his foot - an inch or two maybe. He would also be throwing at you - you took turns to throw. Occasionally someone would get hit in the foot or leg, but school shoe leather was tough and the last thing you'd do was report any mishaps.

Though like any school we had our share of bullies and fights, the thought that anyone at school might stab someone never crossed my mind. It was literally unthinkable. Culture, anyone ?

If Mr Cuthbertson doesn't like 12 years for a stabbing, how about the same for slitting a baby's throat while it's strapped into a pushchair ? We have Straw and Blunkett to thank for the murderer being in England at all.

When he was charged the BBC, Guardian and Indie seemed a bit shy of mentioning his nationality or immigration status. Wonder how they'll cover it this time ?

UPDATE - they all seem to have lost their shyness ...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"This Is British Culture"

Sexually transmitted disease is up again. Can't imagine why.

Most of Birmingham is asleep, but here on Broad Street no one will go to bed for hours.

Despite the near-freezing temperature, people are dressed in astonishingly little. Women in mini-skirts, high heels, and halter tops shiver visibly, hugging their sides with cold. A girl staggers down the sidewalk on stiletto heels, bent over and clutching her stomach: She’s about to vomit.Another collapses entirely, and her friends howl with laughter as policemen stare impassively. The crowd, which is multiracial, ranges from white men with shaved heads to Bangladeshis with gold-capped teeth. People eat as they walk, dropping fast-food wrappers on the ground.The noise is unbelievable.

The throng includes the unlikely figure of Anthony Daniels, better known to readers of City Journal, the New Criterion, and the London Spectator by his pen name, Theodore Dalrymple. Stocky and balding, he has a wheezy laugh, a pugnacious mouth, and the devil-may-care smile of the born provocateur.

“If you can have ideological drunkenness, this is ideological drunkenness,” Mr. Daniels says, almost shouting to make himself heard.

“And what is the ideology?”

“The ideology is, ‘I’ve got a right to do whatever I like, and you’re not going to stop me.’”

Mr. Daniels has invited me to look at what’s going on not because it’s unusual, but because it’s commonplace, ordinary, and to be seen every weekend in urban centers all over the country. “This is British culture,” he says. “What you are now seeing is British culture.”

Portrait of the great man by the New York Sun. RTWT.

Marsh Arabs Latest ...

I wondered here and here if the marshes could be restored.

According to the Indie they're to be restored - by the UN. I'm not sure that fills me with confidence.

Link via (who else ?) Mirabilis.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Horror Stories For Children

Rachel Johnson in the Spectator bemoans the appalling children's books her daughters bring home.

"So when are you and Daddy getting divorced?’ is a question that mothers whose daughters are hooked on Jacqueline Wilson have become accustomed to hearing."

Ever since my son was given at school a Jacqueline Wilson featuring the child of separatedmumlivinginsquatwithradicalstreettheatre-runningboyfriend who finds Semtex lying about the place (an everyday story of what his Dad did in the Seventies) I've been suspicious of this woman, produced by mad Edinburgh geneticists (an early failure can be seen here) as a hybrid of Jenni Murray and Muriel Gray.


Scots Media Personality Muriel Gray


The boys stuff is worse. Gone are the days when the end of each chapter left Biggles and Co. facing some cliff-hanger. My eldest cuts straight to the chase with the collected works of Chris Ryan, and his younger brother has gone through the entire Darren Shan cycle, where the dilemma at the end of each chapter is who to kill next.

Now the youngest child, my seven year old daughter, a voracious and precocious reader who has polished off all the Harry Potters, has discovered some of the darkest stories imaginable, tales of hunger, cold, abandonment, death and magic. I have to read two or three to her every night. Even her elder brother listens.

She sat down, and bent her head low over the grave, as if she could see her child through the earth that covered him—her little boy, whose smile was so vividly before her, and the gentle expression of whose eyes, even on his sick-bed, she could not forget. How full of meaning that glance had been, as she leaned over him, holding in hers the pale hand which he had no longer strength to raise! As she had sat by his little cot, so now she sat by his grave; and here she could weep freely, and her tears fell upon it.

“Thou wouldst gladly go down and be with thy child,” said a voice quite close to her,—a voice that sounded so deep and clear, that it went to her heart.

She looked up, and by her side stood a man wrapped in a black cloak, with a hood closely drawn over his face; but her keen glance could distinguish the face under the hood. It was stern, yet awakened confidence, and the eyes beamed with youthful radiance.

“Down to my child,” she repeated; and tones of despair and entreaty sounded in the words.

“Darest thou to follow me?” asked the form. “I am Death.”

She bowed her head in token of assent.

She's discovered Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm in the Victorian original. Have a look in the remainder bookshop and you'll find cheap reprints of the original texts.

Child abuse, domestic violence, even anti-semitism - all the things young children see around them every day. Great stories, totally un-PC but full of wisdom - and written in a style which a Victorian, with a few years of village schooling, could take in her stride but which needs some (not too much) softening for todays State-educated child.

(The quote is from The Child In The Grave, a cheerful tale of bereavement. She seems to like that sort of stuff - The Little Match Girl is another favourite. What was it again about the Victorians idealising childhood ?)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

By The Way, I Forgot To Say ...

Fame (of a sort) at last. Thanks Norm.

Here we go ....

The Observer - "Blair said it was premature to talk about British troops on the ground, but there cannot be a clearer case for humanitarian intervention ...".

The first move of a 'Not In My Name' paper towards troops on the ground in Sudan. We have been here before, of course.

Kevin Myers isn't impressed.

Of course by the time Geoff Hoon has finished we won't have much left to send. Cabarfeidh has all the depressing details (who said "You join the Borderers - you don't join the Army" ?), and also links to this John Keegan piece.

"Schools and hospitals make, however, much less successful communities than regiments. Both are committed to the welfare of individuals, not groups, and both have transient populations. British regiments, by contrast, epitomise the communal idea. They are rooted in their localities, they embrace generations and they succeed in their tasks by inspiring all their members with a common purpose. One is forced to inquire why Mr Blair does not wonder how the regiments that serve his government, when sent to Bosnia or Kosovo or Iraq, achieve what they do.

There are 22,000 schools in Britain, many, by this Government's own reckoning, failures in the business of education. There are only 50 regiments of infantry and armour, "manoeuvre units", as the Americans call them, all of which can be relied on to carry out the tasks they are given. Mr Brown announces that 40,000 civil servants are surplus to requirement, out of a public sector payroll of five and a half million. The infantry and cavalry soldiers of British regiments number only 25,000; and yet, in the seven years of this Government's life, they have rescued Sierra Leone from savagery, reversed ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and stabilised southern Iraq, besides continuing to maintain peace in Northern Ireland. The "added value", that favourite Blairite index of efficiency, of British regiments is incalculable."

The Gangster of Love also has wise words.

UPDATE - new kids on the blog Bend And Break aren't happy either - so unhappy that they've opened hostilities by posting the same item four times ...