Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Responses To Tragedy - Then And Now

George Gibbs, who has just died aged 86, came home on leave from the Merchant Navy in 1942 to find his wife had ben killed in an air-raid. After the war he took to the road, and walked rural Wales for over 30 years, carrying all his possessions in a pram.

22 year old Paul Davies' girlfriend and baby died in a car accident. He took to heroin, burglary and shoplifting, even stealing from his brother and grandmother.

One harmed no-one but himself, and died mourned by many. The other betrays and damages even those who raised him. How Welsh culture - and our culture - has changed.
Two Sensible Guardian Articles In One Day Shock Horror

Polly, Maddie, Moonbat and co. must all be on hols ...

Martin Kettle on the responsibilities of power.

"It is all very well complaining that the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, is making life more dangerous in the air. In some ways, he may be. Yet if a suicide hijack succeeds, killing hundreds of people, the first question that will be asked is why stronger measures were not taken to protect the victims.

Questions of this kind mark the difference between the lives that ministers and the rest of us live. Most people give these risks only occasional and passing attention. To us, the thought that we may all be murdered in our beds is remote. To hapless ministers, it is a serious possibility for which they must try to prepare, and for which they will be held accountable when it occurs.

In 2004, there is a greater likelihood than at any time since 1945 that large numbers of civilians will be the victims of an act of pitiless aggression. Most of us deal with this fear by ignoring it. For a Blair or a Darling, there is no such luxury. Just occasionally, perhaps, we should have the humility to see the awfulness of the world that they inhabit, and which they strive so unavailingly to control."

And the great Aaronovitch on Iran, with a wee side-dig at the Monbiots of this world.

"Iran is still being ruled by a useless, incompetent semi-theocracy, which is fatalistic, complacent, unresponsive and often brutal. And such a system does not deliver to its citizens one fraction of what the Great Satan, for all its manifest faults, manages to guarantee to ordinary Americans.

Following the fall of the Berlin wall there was, as the philosopher John Gray put it, a "false dawn" of the New Age of Liberal Democracy, in which all problems everywhere could be expected to be solved by a free market and free elections. But this triumphalism has been replaced, in some quarters at least, by the equally vacuous tropes of the anti-globalisation movement and its demonisation of liberal capitalism.

What, I wonder, has Arundhati Roy to say now about the superiority of traditional building methods over globalised ones? Some Iranians might think that it's a shame there wasn't a McDonald's in Bam. It would have been the safest place in town. "

Links via Normblog.
Wouldn't It Be Nice ...

If the Times archives were free, as they were until a couple of years ago. Then I could scan Simon Jenkins' old columns for disastrous Iraq forecasts as Mark Steyn has done.

"Baghdad Will Prove Impossible To Conquer". Simon Jenkins, The Times, March 29.

"The coalition forces confront a city apparently determined on resistance. They should remember Napoleon in Moscow, Hitler in Stalingrad, the Russians at Grozny"

"I Predict The Pundits Will Carry On Getting It Wrong", April 2nd

"Prepare for Beirut, the West Bank or Stalingrad". Our boys will be "trapped far from home and in hostile territory, like the Russians in Chechnya."

And in May, the 'looting' of the National Museum was "the destruction of the greatest treasure from the oldest age of Western civilisation, the greatest heritage catastrophe since the Second World War". As Steyn says, the story was "2003's Jenin Massacre".

But as Norman Geras among others has pointed out, "The real story of this past year is not Saddam, but something deeper, symbolised by the bizarre persistence of the "anti-war" movement even after the war was over. For a significant chunk of the British establishment and for most of the governing class on the Continent, if it's a choice between an America-led West or no West at all they'll take the latter. That's the trend to watch in the year ahead."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Todays Papers ...

Deadly dull, mostly. Robin Cook thinks the government has lost trust (since he left it) .. yawn ... Gary Younge thinks the Democrats need to win a few seats in the South ... zzzzz .... only Katie Grant and Lord Rees-Mogg awake me from my overfed somnolence.

Katie sees the Brideshead inhabitant Hooper as a portent of the horrors to come, in words that Dalrymple himself could have written.

"Hooper, you may remember, was a perfectly nice chap, but one who had "not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side". He did not weep for "Henry’s speech on St Crispin’s Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae". The names Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevalles and Marathon meant nothing to him. He never learnt to salute properly. After all, why salute, when you can just say okey-dokey?

Hooper was Tony Blair’s forefather. His education was filled not with the exploits of heroes to lift him up and set him aglow, but consisted of "a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change", the prime objective being to equip him for a career dedicated to making things "safe for the travelling salesman".

Now we see the result. Hooper’s Britain is Blair’s "young country", a place without a soul, brilliantly characterised in all its mundane, hideous, plodding inanity by EastEnders and Ricky Gervais in The Office.

Hooper/Blair’s contribution to civilisation is the Turner Prize, speed bumps, equality officers, Holyrood, Big Brother and Pop Idol. Britain’s Bridesheads are only acceptable if blanded down by the National Trust, just as history is only acceptable if delivered in politically correct sound-bites. If this is progress, give me less of it.

In 1959, Waugh famously thought Brideshead Revisited "a panegyric preached over an empty coffin" because the cult of the country house had not yet been utterly destroyed, as he thought it would be, by the war. But the coffin was not empty. It was already filling up with all the things that Hooper felt superfluous to his world: religion, chivalry, standards, patriotism, manners, self-discipline and deference. Now the coffin is so full (only fox hunting to go) we can barely get the lid down. It’s taken him half a century, but finally Hooper is triumphant. "

Rees-Mogg tells us "One forecast for the coming year can be made with some certainty. 2004 will be a bumper year for immigration into the United Kingdom, legal and illegal. Another forecast can be made with equal confidence. The Government will be taken by surprise."

I think he's probably right - and I think it likely that it will also be the year the BNP go mainstream, although the main influx of migrants (from 'New Europe' aka the former Warsaw Pact nations) will take place after the June elections.

"A large-scale immigration, such as we are experiencing, is almost always an economic advantage. The new people are younger than the host population, more highly motivated, and will have developed particular skills. "

He may well be correct. There's no doubt that migration to America and Australia raised the GNP of those nations. I'm just not sure the natives appreciated the favour we were doing them.

"There is a common fear that a national culture will be destroyed, or weakened, by the intrusion of a new culture. This might be true if all the newcomers came from the same culture as each other, or had the same religion. But that has been relatively rare in human history, except in cases of invasion or conquest.

It is certainly not the case in the modern immigration to Britain. The British culture does itself change over time, but it has nothing to fear from coexistence with small minority cultures, none of which have the scale to challenge the host, and few of which have much appeal for each other."

Again he makes a good point. A self-confident national culture should have no difficulty in absorbing quite large numbers of migrants, especially if they are from varying cultures.

The problem is, we don't have a self-confident national culture. A nation whose charity shops hide the Christmas cribs, and whose hospitals refuse to hand out charity CDs because Jesus gets a mention, is in trouble. As David Farrer and Private Frazer rightly point out, 'a culture or a religion that does not stand up for its own values is doomed.'

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Aaro vs Riddell

Over 8 rounds, protective gear to be worn, our hero and Mary ('Some of my best friends are Americans but ..') Riddell battle over Iraq. Well worth a read - I'll just pick up on one point, because it was on my mind when blogging about potential attacks on churches.

"On the war against terror I fear a descent into arbitrary government, and I also fear the popular consequences were a large-scale terrorist outrage to happen here in Britain. Do you remember how the David Copeland bombs a few years back provoked Ken Livingstone to call for the banning of far-right political parties? Can you imagine what a lorry-load of explosives in a London cinema, driven there by a Muslim from Derby, would lead to?

This means that I am torn on the question of how far civil liberties may be compromised in the battle against terror."

Aaro, like all right-minded middle class people, is worried about the BNP. I think what he's getting at here is that it might only take one outrage to give them a boost which would be reflected in next year's council and Euro elections. And that therefore it is in the interests of decent people to ensure this does not happen, even at the risk of compromising some people's civil liberty. (I also like to think he'd be against terror even if it didn't help the BNP, but feel that's probably top of his agenda.)

Some people on the liberal left, like Rasputin, just don't get this point. The Telegraph gives the Mad Monk a richly deserved shoeing.

"On Christmas Day the Pope appealed to God to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism. The Archbishop of Canterbury, on the other hand, reserved his clearest condemnation for the West's counter-terrorism campaign. Imprisoning terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh prison, he complained, "sends out the wrong message" to Muslim societies. Those of the Christian faith, he said, should show themselves to be "on the side of humanity" by "making sacrifices for the sake of justice".

The "sacrifices" to which Dr Williams refers presumably involve risking another terrorist attack on the scale of September 11. So far, the counter-terrorist campaign has been remarkably successful in preventing al-Qaeda attacks in Europe and America, in spite of that organisation's strikes elsewhere in the world. Moreover, this has been achieved without any curtailment of the rights of ordinary Muslims in Britain and America, who are free to practise their faith with a degree of freedom of which Christians in many parts of the Islamic world can only dream."

Whether or not all of Blunkett's arrests and detentions have been justified, they have been successful thus far. There's no doubt that some bad people would like to commit terrorist acts, and that some of those people in the past have been British. We have had no atrocities as yet. That is not victory over world terror, but it's a good start.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Much More Idiocy

Jonah Goldberg with the easiest prediction for 2004.

"More dumb things will be said by more educated people about the trial of Saddam Hussein than all dumb things about all other major subjects combined. "

Our New Religion II

Occasional posts on the parallels between our secular liberal pieties and the doctrines of Christianity and Judaism.

Over the holiday I had time to read Lord Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" - the book of the TV series which was all the rage in the early 70s. I doubt if the BBC would now commission a series under that name which is wholly focused upon Western Europe. A good read, though any catalogue of culture over three millennia will inevitable miss out personal favourites - where Hildegarde of Bingen and her glorious erotic imagery ? Where Perotin ?

His chapters 'The Smile Of Reason' and 'The Worship Of Nature' examine rationalists like Voltaire and the decline in religious faith among the eighteenth-century intellectual elite. It is of course exactly at this time that Rousseau's ideas became influential.

"Rousseau first argued that civilization had corrupted human beings in his essay, Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences in 1750. This corruption was largely a moral corruption - everything that civilized people have regarded as 'progress' - urbanization, technology, science, and so on, has resulted in the moral degradation of humanity. For Rousseau, the natural moral state of human beings is to be compassionate; civilization has made us cruel, selfish, and bloodthirsty".

Here we can see again fallen man, who has eaten of the tree of knowledge and lost his primeval, compassionate Eden.

Not everyone was so keen on the noble savage myth. Clark quotes a letter from de
Sade to Rousseau (I paraphrase) "Nature averse to crime ? On the contrary, she yearns for it and lusts for it". And Voltaire famously wrote to him "Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours."

But Rousseau is the spiritual begetter of our new enviro-religion. He also had a pernicious influence on education which is alive and well today, thanks to his novel Emile. "Both European and American educational ideas were greatly influenced by this work; the American public school system, established in the first part of the nineteenth century, drew heavily from Rousseau's educational ideas." As Melanie Phillips has pointed out, the great educator had five bastard children, all of whom he put in an orphanage as soon as they were weaned. But hey, whoever said that the personal was political ?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Victorian Christmas To All ....

Another glass of gluhwein to take away the vision of all the children's presents yet to be wrapped. And to try and lessen the bile-count induced by Madeleine Bunting's idiotic Guardian piece. Not worthy of a full fisk, but her take on the Victorians deserves a shoeing.

"The blame lies first of all with the Victorians. They pretty much invented Christmas - trees, Santa Claus, puddings, turkeys, decorations, cards, presents, family togetherness - ingeniously turning what had become a sober religious feast into a great festival requiring months of preparation. If women were to be kept at home, they had to have something to do."

It's true that many of the accoutrements of the modern Christmas have Victorian origins - indeed Christmas cards only became common in the 20th century. But families gathering to eat well (or as well as they could) together, such presents for the children as could be afforded - the heart of the secular Christmas - has been with us for much longer. "It was Christmas Eve, with its loads of holly and mistletoe ..." wrote Hardy in Tess of the D'Urvbervilles. His short story 'The Grave By The Hand-Post' is about a son returning to see his father for Christmas. And hasn't Ms Bunting read 'A Christmas Carol' ?

"But the crucial point about the Victorian Christmas, which always gets overlooked, is that it was only the middle classes who had one ..."- see above. There's a good reason why it always gets overlooked - because it isn't true.

"The Victorian rebranding was a response to industrialisation: the family was no longer the wealth-producing unit; people were swapping work at home for factories and offices; and urbanisation was disrupting the old domestic structures. Social relations needed strengthening, so the home was relaunched with rituals such as regular family meals and the Sunday lunch. Home was idealised as a sanctuary from competitive market capitalism - a place where vulnerability, innocence, and sentiment could be safely expressed. At the same time, childhood was idealised as a life-stage free of responsibility, a time of imagination, magic and enchantment. All of this came neatly together in the rituals the Victorians developed for Christmas. "

Ah yes. Victorian culture as 'rebranding', as some small group of people kicking ideas around, followed by the Victorian equivalents of posters, advertisements, handouts in schools and doctors surgeries, interviews on the Today programme. Such a metaphor betrays a complete lack of understanding, of empathy, with Victorian culture. Or she could just be pig-ignorant.

The home was 'relaunched', was it, with regular family meals ? Just where the hell do you imagine families ate in Georgian times - McDonalds ?

And the last liberal myth, continually regurgitated in true bulimic style, that "childhood was idealised as a life-stage free of responsibility, a time of imagination, magic and enchantment". I'm sorry, your forebears must have lived in a parallel universe to mine. Is this the Victorian age of the Little Match Girl ? Of Tom and Mr Grimes ? Of Shaftesbury and Barnardo ? Of a hundred weepy parlour ballads about orphans, disasters and death ? Of "Father's a Drunkard and Mother Is Dead" ?

But there's one thing we have in common with the Victorians. Our old people are still dying of cold.

Happy Christmas. And check out those old people over the road.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Comradely Solidarity

Fascinating stuff in Weekly Worker on the proposed 2004 European Social Forum. It appears the comrades of the UK Left would have trouble arranging a drinks party in a Majestic warehouse.

"During the lunch break, comrades from the autonomist tradition (the tradition formerly known as 'anarchist' - LT) unilaterally decided to turn all 200 chairs to face the middle - apparently in order to “facilitate consensus decision-making”, and because it is “anti-hierarchical”. That might well be true for meetings where participants have some common ground. In our case, it helped to turn an already tense situation into a snake pit. Emotions ran high, with people generally communicating by shouting and jumping to the front to snatch the mike from the chair."

There are problems with money, timetabling and the structure of the proposed Forum.

"Not a few left on Sunday afternoon still unsure if the ESF in Britain will actually become a reality. Besides the absence of hard cash there is certainly not enough trust between the different groups and viewpoints to ensure smooth and effective planning. And a deadline of March 1, by which we have to find a “substantial amount of money”, is looming large.

It all started so well ... "

Democracy was an issue. "Speaker after speaker expressed the desire for our ESF in Britain to be more democratic ..." The trouble is, how does a left-wing faction implement democracy ? Whose democracy ? If enough people join, you may find they democratically disagree with you. At which point you expel their leaders or leave yourself and found another splinter group. If everyone who voted in the last General Election joined the SWP tomorrow, and the SWP was democratic (which of these two is the most unlikely ?) the leadership might find they were being outvoted by 10 million people who wanted a conservative SWP, 12 million who wanted a Labour SWP and 7 million who preferred a Lib-Dem flavour. Which is why the SWP (which controls among other things the Stop The War Campaign) isn't democratic. They would like your money and support - but you don't really want that 'bourgeois' democracy, do you ?

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Open Targets

The Archbishop of Canterbury might be better employed worrying about the physical security of his flock this Christmas than in assuaging what he perceives to be Muslim sensitivities. Church attacks are a favoured tactic of Islamic militants in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent. The authorities seem convinced that some form of outrage is planned for the UK, churches offer the softest targets – and what could be more richly symbolic than a Christmas Eve bomb at, say, Canterbury or St. Paul’s ? The very diversity of the congregations at London churches means that any form of profiling would be pointless, and the entire congregation would have to be searched on entrance to provide meaningful security.

I attend Easter Mass each year at a Catholic church (in a part of London with a large ethnic minority population, gangs of whose young people stalk the High Street each Sunday. The ethnic minority in question being Korean, the gangs are usually playing guitars, singing hymns, and inviting passers-by to find Jesus at a local church. But I digress.) The congregation is incredibly mixed – English, Irish, Polish, Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Italian, African, Brazilian (yet the Mass unites every race in a shared culture. What was that about ‘Westerners’, Archbishop ?). No way could door security play ‘spot the terrorist’.

I’m not saying it’s likely, let alone a certainty. But it’s easy to do and has, from an Al-Quaeda perspective, great symbolic value. I hope the leaders of all Churches, and our security forces, haven’t overlooked this possibility.

He's At It Again

Rasputin warns of the inevitable alienation of Muslims by David Blunkett's racist, Islamophobic strategy of arresting Muslims in reponse to a campaign of terrorism explicitly carried out in the name of Allah.

“If we want to persuade moderate Muslims to sign up to toleration and pluralism of the right kind, anything that gives the impression that we are targeting Muslims is problematic. We have a lot of ground to make up.”

Of course, the Archbishop is quite right. Only about 6% of the population of Britain are Muslim. Most, including the Archbishop, are nominal Christians. It therefore follows that the majority of arrests made under anti-terrorist legislation should be Christian, and that the resources of MI5 and Special Branch should be mainly targeted on extremist religious groupings such as the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Quakers. Anything else would be 'profiling' of the most racist and bigoted kind.

Acording to the Sunday Times, Williams also believes that "westerners find it difficult to grasp that for a Muslim, being religious is not something that is done in addition to everything else: “It just is the fabric. For the Muslim everything is seen through that lens.” "

You know, Archbishop, once upon a time, even some Christians were like that - their religion was the core of their being. Obviously you were never one of those, though. And British Muslims are "Westerners" - or is that a code word ? I wonder what it could mean ?

But it looks as if religious faith, like culture, is becoming another one of those things which is OK for 'them' to have, but not for 'us'. Minette Marrin makes this point in the Sunday Times. She also quotes Mathew Arnold's 'Dover Beach', and I can't resist it either. Poets are prophets.

"The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world. "

UPDATE 27/12/2003 - The Magna Mater Melanie also gives Rasputin a good telling-off.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Guide To Glasgow Gang Websites

By Stewart Kirkpatrick in today's Scotsman is one of the most entertaining articles about the Web I've seen for a fair while. Read it and smile. In fact his series 'The Lazy Guide to Net Culture' all seem to be worth a read - loved his link to the Victorian Web.

Imagine if the unpleasant fourteen year olds hanging around the Tesco car park at all hours had a home page ? In Glasgow they have, and Kirkpatrick takes us on a tour of the sites of the Young Toryglen Toi, the Young Posso Fleeto, the Duke Street Firm and the Young Rutherglen Scheme Team ('Scheme' = housing estate).

I think we can safely say that these sites won't win many awards, but they do have a certain rude charm. How about the apology from the Young Toryglen webmaster ?

"anno this is pish the noo but ave just f*in started so bear wae me. wanst anno how tae dae s*** on this hing it will be f*n dynamite."

Which I translate as 'apologies for the current poor design as I'm only a beginner, but once I get going it'll be much better".

Do You Sincerely Want To Kill Children ?

Without that awful judgemental media coverage ?

Move to the West Bank and become a militant, or at worst a gunman.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Monday, December 15, 2003

Our New Religion

One of my recurring themes is that as we become less religious, and doctrines like the Fall and Original Sin become ever less relevant and more ludicrous to us, so we find these concepts turning up in the most unexpected places.

We are no longer all sinners against God, naturally inclined to evil - instead (as I blogged last week) "we are natural racists, polluters, misogynists, homophobes. We have sinned against our fellow man and our planet."

I missed this essay by Michael Crichton a month or three back.

"Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die ... "

Link via the great John Daly.

Of course, there were tensions in Christianity between the hellfire preaching strands and the more optimistic soul-savers, and these have their parallels on the modern Left.

A fifteen-year old car thief on a sink estate, terrorising his neighbours, tends to attract the soul-savers, those who see good in everyone. With a few anger-management classes, driving lessons and trips to theme parks, he can be saved - maybe to become a social worker himself.

The 'holy fool' Bob Holman is such a one - and he's also a Christian (though I note he's finally getting out of Easterhouse as he reaches pensionable age).

On the other hand, the middle-class white guy in the BMW, with wife, kids and newly built 4-bed exec detached, attracts the hellfire mob. His inbred racism, sexism and homophobia must be carefully monitored - and they must be always ready to challenge it. And as for the self-employed carpet fitter who aspires to the Beemer and house - there's almost no evil to which he might not be tempted.
Bush Bashing Corporation

The capture of Saddam has to be one of those bits of news that's wholly good.

But the BBC managed in its coverage, and with its selection of impartial commentators, to find more downsides than I would have believed.

The video of the medical was 'humiliating' and would enrage macho Arab males.

WE made Saddam (obviously I don't mean good liberals like us, I mean those evil white, Christian men like Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice).

"The US will be worried about an open trial and what Saddam will say about the days when he was supported by the West" (John Simpson on R5)

"Don't forget the US supported Saddam for 25 years. Some of his associates are neing held in conditions that are too lenient - or inhumane" (Anas Al-Tikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain, unable to make his mind up on R5.)

If he's handed over to the Iraqis he'll be executed - so he should face an international court with Human Rights standards (which will mean he can't be executed).

If he's handed over to an international court it'll show that the US don't want Iraqis running their own affairs.

Are the US in breach of the Geneva conventions ?

The only item missing was on how the expense of keeping him might damage 'the already fragile US economy'. Maybe today.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Rejoice ! Rejoice !

England carve out a draw in Sri Lanka - and a nation breathes again.

Oh, and some bloke with a remarkable resemblance to Alexander Solzhenitsyn has been captured in Tikrit.

Exclusive Victorian-style photograph of Saddam Hussein seconds before he was brought before a military barber. Taken by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

Already BBC Radio have found the downside. A commentator on R5 thought the use of the words 'We Got Him !' would offend people throughout Britain, not to mention the fabled Arab Street, in a state of permanent fury after Afghanistan, Iraq, Jenin, Gloucester and other imperialist atrocities, but seemingly as hard to find as the Mi-Go of the Himalayas.

BBC correspondents raised fears about the fairness of a possible trial, and worried about photographs and the Geneva Convention. Was Saddam in uniform ?

I believe its possible for a trial to be fair and yet the verdict to be known in advance.

The children weren't so concerned. My small daughter, who's been studying the sad fate of Guy Fawkes at her Catholic primary, wanted to know if he would be racked or have his fingernails removed. The eleven year old listened to the R5 correspondent and asked 'why don't they just shoot him ?'. I think he meant Saddam.

Over the last year we have heard a mighty chorus of voices urging that Iraq be run by the Iraqi people with no outside interference. Just watch those same people urge that Saddam not be handed over to the Iraqis.

We Want Diversity Of Everything Except Opinion ....

From the Sunday Times.

"THE government is to be challenged over its “cosy” relations with The Guardian after research revealed that almost two-thirds of public sector job advertisements are placed with the newspaper.
Most of the advertisements are run in the paper’s Society section. Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, former special adviser to Peter Mandelson, is in charge of the supplement.

Between January and September this year The Guardian was given 26,175 of the 42,914 public sector jobs advertised in national newspapers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

The number of public sector adverts in The Guardian dwarfs those in other newspapers. The second highest recipient is the Sunday Herald in Scotland with 7,586 and third is The Voice, an ethnic minority paper, with 2,719. The Times is fourth with 1,269 adverts, The Times Educational Supplement fifth with 1,255, and The Sunday Times seventh with 802. "

The 'quality' newspaper market in the UK is split as follows - Telegraph 36% (circulation 1m), Times (700K) 25%, FT (475K) 17%, Guardian (400K) 14%, Indie (225K) 8%. The Sunday Herald has a circulation of 59,000 - and gets more adverts than the Times.

And the Voice ? Dunno mate - they don't subject their sales figures to audit, as the Guardian explains. But we do get a teensy flavourette of the reason why they get more than 6% of Government advertising.

"The Voice's early sales were poor, but it was buoyed by job adverts from the newly aware London boroughs, which were willing to pour in money to satisfy their consciences, regardless of the response. "

Saturday, December 13, 2003

An Eye For An Eye ...

Though I believe that justice should have an element of retribution, I'm not sure about this ....

UPDATE 29/12/2003 - Barbara Amiel is less squeamish ...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Don't Mention the C-word

The mighty Littlejohn on Tessa Jowell's new PC 'Seasonal' card, with its mosques, Hindu dancers and total absence of baby in manger.

"She certainly doesn’t give a stuff about offending devout Christians by sending them Muslim and Hindu symbols on a card to mark a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.

You don’t have to be a born-again Godbotherer to find that “inappropriate.”

Would she send out an Eid card with a cross on the front and “Seasons Greetings” inside?

No, she’d probably turn up at her local mosque in a burka as a mark of respect, just as the Wicked Witch gets herself togged up like Mrs Gandhi whenever Blair goes rattling the collection tin around the wealthy Asian business community."

Even in India they're raising eyebrows - New Kerala News asks "Can you send a Christmas greeting card without mentioning the word 'Christmas'? In these politically correct times in Britain, this is possible.

Cards sent by the department of culture feature Hindu dancers, drawings of mosques and the word 'Goal' but there is no sign whatsoever of Jesus, Mary or even Santa Claus."

Monday, December 08, 2003

Left Wing Anti-Semitism II

Well, we've had the child-eating Jew courtesy of the Independent, the Jesus-killing Jew from the Episcopalians of Edinburgh - now may I present the Jew as Satan, courtesy of the American 'anti-war' movement.

Reported by Frontpage.

The cloven feet are hidden, but the horns are well in view. We really are revisiting those mediaeval glories. How long before we hear about poisoning the water ? And where are the flagellants ?

Saturday, December 06, 2003

They Haven't Gone Away, You Know

This seems as good a time as any to blog about the BNP. They've lost a few council seats and have pretty much fallen off the political radar since they gained 17 (or thereabouts) council seats in May, accompanied by many Guardian articles and much soul-searching by decent sorts like Harry.

But no-one in the media commented upon July's staggering revelation that the BNP site had risen in eighteen months from pretty much nowhere to become the most popular site of any UK political party, according to Alexa.

I knew little about Alexa at the time. It's an Amazon subsidiary offering a free browser toolbar which blocks popups and also gives information about the site you're browsing. Of course to get the info, it has to tell Alexa which sites you're visiting, giving the company a tremendous analytical tool. Several million people have downloaded the toolbar so they have a fair sample of Web users, thugh probably US and Euro-biased.

Using the information, Alexa can rank the website and can extrapolate (comparing the number of toolbar users online with the total number of Web users online) to give a rough idea of what they call the reach - the number of people per million surfers who will visit the site in a given day.

The BNP site was ranked at 40,000-odd in August, compared to Labour's 80,000 and the BBC's 25th, Guardian 350th, Telegraph 750th, Spectator 15,000th. So it's the 40,000th most popular site among Alexa users.

The last 3 months have been quiet ones with little media coverage. Yet the site has risen by 10,000 places and is now ranked at 30,000 over the last 3 months. That doesn't sound like a party that's peaked. 'Reach' is 50 people per million. I tried to translate this into visits, using as a template a site I ran for a couple of years which had a reach of 0.15. This equates to about 20,000 unique sessions a year from the site's stats. Scale up for a reach of 50 (approx 300 times 0.15) and you're looking at maybe 600,000 hits a year. That's not a small number.

This doesn't mean that we should be manning the barricades yet. The BNP will only become a credible political force when self-proclaimed nationalist bands are in the charts and the hippest rebels in school identify with them. I see no signs at all of such a culture change (and think it likely that such a change would not be pleasant).

But it does mean that the sky is darkening and occasional clucking is audible as a few more liberal chickens come home to roost. Interesting times.

UPDATE 14/12/03 - Great maths - 300 times 20,000 equates to 6 million hits per year, not 600,000. That does sound improbable I admit ... but the site has since risen another couple of thousand places ... and a Calderdale councillor has defected from the Tories. Mind you, the Socialist Party won a council seat a week or two back - but that doesn't get the publicity that a BNP win does. The BBC and Guardian devote attention to the BNP for the same reason people watch horror films or read crime novels - that little liberal frisson of vicarious contact with unknown evil. They'll live to regret it, I tell you ...

Friday, December 05, 2003

Targeted Recruitment ?

London's police are worried about black gun crime.

Advert for the MOD Police in The Voice, 'Britain's Best Black Newpaper'.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Just The Thing For Christmas

Hat-tip to strategypage, the site for all armchair generals.

What Is It

With Welsh Labour MPs ? First Ron 'Badger' Davies, now this. "I will not myself be distracted from standing up for the people of the Rhondda." Could you rephrase that ?

Are such incidents the real reason why red-blooded Paul Marsden left Labour for the party of Lloyd George - a Welshman who knew one end of a woman from the other ?

At least George Thomas was discreet.

Left-Wing Anti-Semitism

The suppressed EU Report on anti-semitism is now available online, and it contains a couple of fascinating asides in the section devoted to the UK. Apparently "assaults on Jews since October 2000 “have often been sustained beating leading to hospitalisation, compared with the `roughing up` by neo-Nazis that more typically occurred before. The data of the CST show that an increasing number of incidents are “caused by Muslims or Palestinian sympathisers, whether or not they are Muslims”"

I certainly hadn't heard before about the Edinburgh Church with the mural depicting Roman and Israeli soldiers around the dead Christ. They killed Jesus ! Along with the Independent cartoon featuring a baby-eating Sharon, it looks as if the arguments against Jewry which were so convincing to our 12th-century forebears are back.

"Many British Jews are of the opinion that the press reporting on Israeli policy is spiced with a tone of animosity, “as to smell of anti-Semitism” as The Economist put it. In their opinion this is above all the case with the two quality papers, the Guardian and the Independent. "

"The Economist spoke of a “steady shift of sympathy away from Israel, especially on the left”."

Why, Oh Why ? I'm old enough to remember when a few months on a kibbutz was almost compulsory for a young leftie. And during the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars the jokes in England were, fairly or not, all at the expense of the Arabs ('five reverse gears and one forward in case of attack from behind'). What's happened ?

Now what follows is painted with a pretty broad brush, and takes no account of the many valid criticisms that can be made of the State of Israel. I'm looking not so much at the rights and wrongs as at motivations - and motivations differ. Once, some wanted to build strong unions and help their comrades - others - on the same political side - wanted to despoil plutocrats. Some wanted to build socialism - some wanted to kick fascists. Some love animals - others hate fox-hunters. Some support the rights of the Afghans and Iraqis to sovereignty, be that sovereignty manifested in a theocracy or dictatorship - others (a lot more) simply hate George Bush.

Those who hate the existing order will find allies where they can, and if those who personify the existing order dislike your new allies, so much more do you have in common.

Way back in homogenous 20s and 30s England, when the exotic (but relatively tiny) immigrant quarters of London, with their Jews, Russians, Letts and seafaring communities provided colour for a generation of crime and adventure writers, from Dorothy L Sayers to Dornford Yates, the Jews were about the most exotic 'other' that existed. And there was a fair amount of anti-semitism in the ruling class. It was natural for those opposed to the existing order to make common cause with them - and of course at that time Israel was only a dream. The Jews of Germany had literally nowhere to go - Baldwin's refugee appeal poster 'Get Them Out Before It Is Too Late' was tragically prophetic. Nigel Balchin's middlebrow novel 'The Fall Of the Sparrow' gives a picture of middle-class anti-Fascist action on the streets of 30s London.

A few things have happened since those days.

The Jews, for the first time in millennia, have a homeland.

White liberal guilt and self-loathing, belief in political Original Sin, has increased in inverse relation to belief in religious Original Sin. We are natural racists, polluters, misogynists, homophobes. We have sinned against our fellow man and our planet. And the greatest sinners are straight white males, subject to inspection and criticism of a sort which would be intolerable if applied to any other minority. The obverse of this is that members of other races are cut a good deal more slack than Whitey is. I chanted outside South Africa House with 25,000 others eighteen years ago. Where are the mobs waiting to sack the Zimbabwe Embassy ?

And now England has much more interesting 'others' - like the British Muslims. For those who hate 'stupid white men', use phrases like 'hideously white' to describe an organisation, or complain, as a recent Guardian piece did, that Poland is an unbelievably dull place due to its all-white population, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses few dilemmas.

On one side, dark-skinned people with a strange religion, who blow things up and are very angry. On the other, white-skinned (they don't know what a Sephardic Jew is, never mind a Falasha), educated, Westernised people who read the Bible and have the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. No argument, really, is it ?

For what passes for the Left in the post-Soviet world, the Jews have outlived their usefulness.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

I Have A Vision Of The Future, Chum

It used to be said that California was our future - that whatever was hot there would inevitably come to pass in our own land. This has been pretty accurate as far as the last half-century's concerned - from sex/drugs/r'n'r to counselling, fitness centres and the rise of the me generation, California led the way.

I like to think though that Scotland is a model of England's future. The politics of the country is dominated by the Central Belt from Glasgow to Edinburgh, where the majority of the population live. Labour have controlled things for a century, with the usual mix of idealism alongside corruption.

But of course, despite having its own legal and education system, arguably both superior to the English one. the country was part of the UK, subject to the laws of Westminster. No more (in many though of course not all areas), since the Scottish Parliament came into existence.

Now the left in Scotland is in a most happy situation. Total control of the legislative body, a massive budget to spend, a host of quangos to subsidise and appoint your friends to - and the whole thing heavily subsidised by the oppressor across the Border !

So we can expect to see in Scotland the agenda which the left would like to see in England.

Massively increased NHS spending, up to European averages. Done. Oh dear - Scotland has the worst health in the UK.

Abolish hunting. Done.

Republicanism, anti-Americanism and integration into an EU superstate. Can't be done. Such constitutional matters haven't been devolved. Otherwise Blair would have had to fight Iraq without Scottish regiments, Britain's submarines would have left Faslane, Lossiemouth and Kinloss would be empty of aircraft. And what would happen to the 'secret' US base in Kintyre ?

Make it illegal for a parent to smack their child. Half way. When French tourists are banged up for disciplining their child in a restaurant, or a teacher is sacked for smacking a daughter who plays up in the dentist's waiting room, the message gets useful reinforcement. Thank God we spend our holidays in the (socially conservative though politically radical) Highlands and Islands (Though children rarely seem to misbehave carving down ski-slopes or wandering Arran's beaches).

Of course, once you've completed this, you're well on the way to the nationalisation of children, to that happy state described by Polly Toynbee where the state is 'the best possible nanny to all babies'.

Strange that as this progressive movement increases its influence, so increases the background noise from teachers and others bemoaning the rise in badly-behaved children.

But it's the (relatively) smaller politically correct things that make a culture. Fancy a job on this quango ?

"Transsexuals will be given new birth certificates and will have the right to marry if they can satisfy a gender recognition panel that they have changed sex."

What a job. Coming soon, the gender recognition consultant ? Professor of Gender Recognition at the University of South-West Scotland, formerly Annan Working Men's Club ? The Institute Of Gender Recognition ? And just imagine the appeal procedures.

Or the NHS hospital that amputates the legs of otherwise healthy people with "Body Dysmorphic Disorder" - a condition in which people are dissatisfied with their bodies as they are, and wish they were different. Which means 95% of the population and 100% of women suffer from it.

You couldn't make up the fact that the amputee 'now feels like a complete person' or surgeon Robert Smith's remark that for the patient, having both legs was a 'quite seriously disabling condition'.

Friday, November 28, 2003

English Rugby - A Heartfelt Tribute

(Despite the above, we'll be at Kingsholm tomorrow to welcome Vickery, Woodman and Gomersall).

Thursday, November 27, 2003


George W Bush's Thanksgiving trip to Iraq was a coup de theatre, from the troops' unscripted roar of approval to the President's unscripted emotion. He appeared genuinely taken aback at the warmth of his reception.

BBC televison news inevitably spun the whole thing as a well-managed election stunt ("this will go down well back at home"), but that's a pretty risky way to spend Thanksgiving in exchange for a few news clips. Rather ruins the old campaign if an RPG takes you out of the sky - and the propaganda coup of killing him would have been a major defeat for the West - well, that part of it that doesn't read the Guardian, anyway.

Maybe Bush is conscious of the troops he's sending out to be shot at. His hero Churchill put it like this.

"A man who has to play an effective part in taking, with the highest responsibility, grave and terrible decisons of war may need the refreshment of adventure. He may need also the comfort that when sending so many others to their death he may share in a small way their risks. I rely on my own judgement, invoked in many serious matters, as to what are the proper limits of risk which a person who discharges my duties is entitled to run."

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Shame, The Shame

As England celebrates its modest, whiter-than-white rugby heroes (alright, we'll ignore the Dallaglio tape), footballers continue their own unique PR campaign for the beautiful game.

From further instances, alleged and proven, of 'non-consensual roasting', to this. It's never a nice feeling knowing police are looking for your side's centre-forward.

Jeff Astle wouldn't have behaved like that.

That Wasn't So Bad, Now, Was It ?

He came, he saw, he spoke, no-one changed their mind. But the riots didn't materialise, due to a huge police presence - and perhaps an awareness, as the news of the Istanbul atrocities broke, that tomorrows front pages were already filled.

And perhaps, just, among a few, a shameful feeling that declaring Bush to be the real terrorist while people were being dismembered in Turkey was somehow wrong. No evidence for that, mind you. But as Churchill said "If it is not true, it ought to be".

Harry has a couple of magnificent posts on this contradiction and the fact that the STWC couldn't bring themselves to make any reference to events in Istanbul. So has Norman Geras.

The Maxim Gun of Rugby

Little to say about events in Sydney yesterday, save that Jon Wilkinson was again the difference between the sides, just as in the Wales and France matches. But the chances England missed ! The game should have been sewn up at half time, though the Aussies hung on magnificently.

Unlike some of my fellow Wales supporters, I was cheering England on.

One notable feature has been the number of UK press articles by ladies getting all hot and bothered over manly hunks in ripped shirts. Is this the end of the New Man ? Can't see anyone asking Johnno or Phil Vickery about emotional literacy, can you ?

Sue Mott is the cheerleader, but here's a typical sample from the improbably named Tiffanie Darke. Wasn't she in Diamonds Are Forever ?

And here's a funny thing - the final has inspired the great Aaronovitch to wrap himself in the flag of St. George. Must admit I had him down as a rootless-cosmopolitan-the-world-is-my-country Englishman, like that great English patriot Billy Bragg.

But in a rambling essay ranging from Regents Park mosque to Patrick O'Brien via Agincourt (where I must point out the bowmen were Welsh, actually), he proudly asserts that despite our arrogant imperialism, our child-beating, our pavement vomiting, "we can be a bloody good lot".

Cry God for Arro, England and Saint George !

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Prospect Magazine

Prospect Magazine

It's three quid an issue (or two quid an article online. Yikes !). But if the free articles each month are any guide I'm tempted to subscribe.

This months has a fascinating (for politics junkies) journal by Horace Busby, a close aide to LBJ, describing the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath, and also incidentally showing what an innocent, gentle place early 60s America was (for a white politician at any rate), compared to England in 2003.

"One night during this period, I came home to find my wife reading the Dallas Morning News. Mary V handed me the front page. "Read this," she said. "Someone has lost his mind."

It was a story announcing that on his visit to Dallas, Kennedy would ride in an open car motorcade from Love Field to the site of his luncheon address. "I can't imagine your friends in the secret service letting the president do that," she said. I agreed with her. The thought of serious danger to the president did not occur. Our memories were still fresh, though, of 1960 when the vice-president and Mrs Johnson were mobbed in a Dallas hotel lobby. An ugliness had crept into Dallas politics that perplexed many Texans. In October, there had been a nasty attack on Ambassador Adlai Stevenson when he spoke there. An open car motorcade was an invitation for more episodes - ugly signs, jeering chants or, perhaps, an egg tossed at the presidential limousine.

An egg thrown, 'ugly signs', 'jeering chants'. These were considered unusual, ugly and nasty. What would they have made of an open car drive through London last week ?

'What's wrong with nursing ?' is a critical look at the new NHS culture which has replaced the old-fashioned nurse with a medically qualified, grievance-filled sociology student. I blogged a while back on the PC claptrap which fills the set texts that Susan is studying - now Julia Magnet describes the effect at the sharp end.

"The endless bilge of status and power relations filters out of the university and into bedside manner and clinical practice. Bad ideas create bad practice, and Project 2000 nurses have been trained to think that certain types of care demean them. This is illustrated by my pillow story. It all started when my vein was "tissued" - my IV tube slipped out of the vein and the medicine was pumped into the tissue by mistake. It hurts like blazes, and the whole hand swells up like a Porky Pig cartoon. All you can do, a lovely older nurse told me, is keep it elevated and wait for the fluid to drain out. She brought me some pillows and arranged my hand on a little pyramid. Unfortunately a few days later, when I was in the bath, my room was cleaned - a rare occurrence - and the pillows were removed. Later that day, another nurse tissued another vein. So I went to the nurses' station to display my Porky Pig hand and ask for some extra pillows. "No, the wards only give out one per patient." I explained that it was for my swollen hand, politely refraining from mentioning that it was their fellow nurses who had necessitated the elusive pillow. "Well, you'll have to ask your nurse." Who was my nurse? "She's gone home." I went back later, when my swelling was worse, to ask again. "We don't deal with pillows." I asked to speak to whomever did; she was gone. Then I asked another nurse: "Sorry, the ward is out of pillows." Could she borrow one? "The wards are very jealous of their pillows," was her answer. Could the ward manager help me? "She doesn't deal with pillows." Well, could this nurse just look for a spare pillow? (By now my hand was blueish.) She rolled her eyes, "I won't promise anything." Forty-five minutes later I went to look for her; my hand was numb. She had gone home. This time I said I would call my doctors if that's what it took - I got my pillow. "

I would imagine that this hospital, like most in the NHS, had a mission statement for on each ward describing the care and respect to which each patient was entitled.

UPDATE - a shortened version of this article is in the Sunday Times.

Self-Hating White Booker Judges ?

Prospect also has a review by Michael Lind of Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre's Booker-prize winning novel. Well more of a hatchet job really.

Lind is no conservative - he opens by describing GWB as "the president of the country, the talentless son of a former president, (who) has killed perhaps as many as 10,000 Iraqi civilians in a war to eliminate weapons of mass destruction which probably never existed."

His thesis is that Pierre's book is a caricature of Texas life - and a very bad one at that. Taking apart Pierre's descriptions a detail at a time, he concludes "it's as though, in a scene set in the Irish countryside near Dublin, Pierre has described men in tartan kilts taking part in the Highland Games while snakes croak loudly under the coconut trees", and asks "are the British literati so ignorant of the US that they can think this is a competent parody? "

The modern stereotype is of the insular American, knowing nothing and caring less about the outside world. Yet it seems the Booker judges (DJ Taylor, the fragrant Francine Stock, Rebecca Stephens, John Carey and AC Grayling) know of Texas only through cliche and stereotype.

"According to the press release, "Through the character of Vernon, DBC Pierre has given a voice to a generation that mainstream America would rather ignore..." Oh, please. What could be politically safer or more commercially successful today, in Britain or the metropolitan US, than to make fun of ignorant, patriotic, God-fearing white Americans?

Far from showing courage as a satirist, Pierre is a conformist who avoids challenging the sensibilities of the snobbish, transatlantic liberal left. Nowadays it is politically incorrect to portray blacks as idiots who love watermelon and fear ghosts, east Asians as buck-toothed people with glasses who say "Ah, so" and the Irish as sub-humans who exclaim "Faith and begorrah!" Yet, university-educated people as much as anyone else have a psychological need for an untouchable caste to give them a pharisaical sense of superiority. Today that psychological need is fulfilled by exempting middle-class and working-class whites, in the US or Europe, from the ban against ethnic stereotyping. This exemption permits all of the stereotypes of yesterday's racist humour to be attached to those dreadful white Americans or Brits who have the poor taste to live in the US south or midwest, or the English suburbs.

At the moment in the US, there is a controversy over a nasty game called Ghettopoly, a parody of Monopoly set in a black inner-city neighbourhood, with crack houses instead of hotels, and so on. Many enlightened people from LA to London who would be shocked by Ghettopoly feel free to laugh at the moronic white American hinterlanders portrayed in movies like Fargo and Bowling for Columbine in the way that generations of audiences in American minstrel shows and British music halls laughed at caricatures of blacks. Whiteface - as the success of Vernon God Little proves - is the new blackface. If you doubt me, open a page of Vernon God Little at random, and make this simple substitution: all of the characters are black instead of white. At one point Pierre's cartoon Texas sheriff says: "How many offices does a girl have that you can get more'n one finger into?" The comic malapropisms of pompous black characters were a staple of racist minstrel-show humour of the Amos 'n' Andy kind. If Pierre, purporting to unveil the reality of black America, had depicted a leering, sex-obsessed African-American police officer unable to distinguish the words "office" and "orifice," would jury members like AC Grayling - a distinguished philosopher whose work I have long admired - have voted to award such bigoted trash the Booker prize?

But I don't want to be too hard on the Booker jury. They've democratised literature by proving that a book doesn't have to be any good to win a prize, so long as it exploits socially acceptable national and ethnic stereotypes. I've taken heart and begun work on my own courageous exposé of contemporary British life, entitled The Isle of Cretins. Depicting Britain as a land of football hooligans, oversexed royals, fox-hunting toffs, secret agents and transvestite comedians, The Isle of Cretins will be based not on my limited personal knowledge of British society but rather on British media images that have made it across the Atlantic: Benny Hill, James Bond, Monty Python and so on. Maybe I'll win the Booker."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Give The Guardian It's Due ...

It hasn't shied away from making its main story the (doubtless unwelcome) poll findings - that a majority of both Labour and Tory voters welcome the President's visit today. If you only listened to the BBC you'd be convinced the opposite was the case.

Only Lib-Dem voters are negative and this makes complete sense, given the party's leader and policies. Just as over Iraq the great chieftain of the pudding race supported our troops while sayiing they were wrong to be there, so he's managed to both welcome the President while hoping millions protest against him. I hope GWB has been briefed for the Kennedy 'one-to-one'.

The poll is interesting, showing among other things a north-south split in views, and the scary facts that a third of 18-24 year olds, and 20% of C1s, see the US as a force for evil. Do the Black Eyed Peas have a lot to answer for ?

But I still think there's going to be big trouble from 'rioters for peace'. As far as they are concerned, success means being the main news item, and they correctly figure only a good-sized riot or some spectacular breach of security will achieve that. Plus it's fun. Demo (not bad places to pull, actually), riot, party afterwards where you can all get smashed and moan about police brutality.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Canaan Banana - first president of Zimbabwe

Even to someone as PC as I was in 1981, the name raised a smile. at last, a genuine banana republic in Africa ! Another government minister was the delighfully named Ndabaningi Sithole.

But his obituary isn't really very funny. He seems to have a touch of the Lavrenti Berias. If you were hitching and he stopped his limousine, woe unto you

"Out of the public eye, however, Banana was a serial homosexual abuser and rapist who used his enormous authority to threaten and cajole young male aides — whom as ceremonial commander of the Armed Forces he selected to serve him — as well as domestic servants and passers-by, into having sex with him. "

Not sure about this passage, though.

"Tragedy dogged the Banana family. One son, Michael, was named by witnesses as the assailant in a fatal shooting of the partner of a former boyfriend. The incident was covered up by police and investigations much later produced nothing. Another son, Martin, was convicted of armed robbery after he held up a Harare jewellery store with an AK 47 automatic rifle. It is not known if he served a sentence. "

It sounds more as if tragedy dogged those who came into contact with the Banana family.

His ex-wife claimed asylum and lives in England. Bananas split, as samizdata remarked.

Reflections On The Game Against France

Like Arsenal, England possess the ability to play off form and still get the result. Wales could have been 17-3 up at half time had Robert Jones kicked as he did against New Zealand. He missed, and the Wilkinson boot, after an early failure, slowly ground Wales down.

England will be worried by the 3-1 try count to Wales. It was only a couple of months ago that an England second fifteen cruised past Wales by a four-try margin. NZ put 8 tries past the Welsh just the week before.

Nonetheless I still take England to beat France. The French backs are exciting as ever, yet England will face no better handling and running than resulted in Robert Jones' try, created by Shane Williams' great run and pass. The forward battle will be hard, but there's no danger of England being surprised by that. In recent years their dominance over Wales has been such that they were genuinely surprised, not by the Welsh fire, but by their ability to sustain it beyond the first fifteen minutes.

But as long as Wilkinson is upright and unclogged England will be my favourites to win. By his standards he had a poor game on Sunday. Would that Wales had such a poor player - 23 points on an off-day.

"Whatever happens, we have got
Jon Wilkinson, and they have not"
Defend The Firle Seven !

Schoolboy tortured to death, sixteen year old kills two, woman found murdered, more HIV charges - oh, and the Soham trial continues. Another day's BBC news.

And political correctness reaches a new and dangerous phase as seven are arrested for the hideous crime of burning effigies.

Can Guy Fawkes' descendants sue ?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Why I Love Urban75

Urban75 is a bulletin board for London's radical squatterati and as such is one of the funniest sites on the Web. A typical thread might go :

"God I Can't Stand The Tories."

"Me too. They're so full of hate and bitterness".

"Can't wait till Thatcher dies".

"Nor me. I'm keeping some champagne in the fridge".

"What a party we'll have"

(But sprinkled liberally with (often misspelled) obscenity. Why do they find the female genitals so offensive ?)

Trawling it earlier this evening for evidence of the 'Rioters For Peace' tendency, I came upon this classic.

"20th November 2003 is the 11th Annual Community Police Officer of the Year Awards and Probationer of the Year Awards in the city of london, with the Home Secretary David Blunkett MP - Home Secretary as VIP guest.

At exactly the same time, Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London will officiate over a sex majik ritual on at Buckingham Palace, where George VV Bush, psychically charged by genocide will have sex with the dead queen mother. The US leader and mass murderer will have to
undergo sensory deprivation and fasting before 27th of Ramzaan, Shabbe Qadr (Night of Power). He will stay up the whole night reciting Quran Shareef and completing it, offering special prayers and reading Nafils after which he will "ascend to heaven" on a "winged donkey with human head". This is code for demonic possesion of Elizabeth's grandfather, George V. It is significant that this is to be the queen's mother and not Diana (mother of William, the sun-king in waiting).

While the Queen acts as the titular head of the anglican church, she and her progeny are secretly active in an ancient pagan cult which incorporates islamic cum protestant and catholic teachings to synthesize a particularly sick form of aristo-paedo- fascism and compete alongside other royal and elite families in Amerikkka and Saudia to perpetuate an endless war on the proletariat.

All police and the armed forces who have previously sided with the Windsor gang and other sick leaders are urged to join the proletariat masses in open revolution against the elitist racists oppressors ...."

It appears that after the long dry summer the magic mushrooms are out !
Gulf War II

OK, it's been around for a year and I just found it.

It gives the 'if we do anything all the Muslims will hate us' worldview.

It celebrates mindless destruction.

It slanders Bush, Ashcroft, Powell, Rummy and the lovely Condoleeza.

But it still made me laugh.
An Excellent Site

The Indie wheeled out Bea Campbell on the weekend to rehash her theories about Diana and the royal family (" ... the nature of knowledge and power ... the most powerful people in the land ... sex and corruption... "). Not to mention (ahem) 'Diana's inlaid mahogany box'. How exotic.

Bea has been big on conspiracy theories ever since she and social worker Judith Jones wrote a series of New Statesman articles on "satanic abuse" in the early 1990s. By this time Judith Jones, then known as Judith Dawson, had already played a leading role in the Nottinghamshire abuse scandal, in which social workers created an increasingly unlikely and elaborate fantasy world of ritual abuse.

Judith Jones then went on to a starring role in the demonisation (aided and abetted by a cast of thousands including the Sun, Esther Rantzen, Childline and even Hillary Clinton, Jack Straw and Cherie Blair) of Newcastle nursery workers Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie.

And it was this story that led me to the site of Richard Webster. I confess I downloaded the whole site and have been reading it offline - still plenty more to go. Fine writing - and his stories of increasing numbers of miscarriages of justice (brought about by police 'trawling' for evidence) are compelling.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Handcarts again ..

In the Black Country a 12 year old girl is critically ill after being shot with an air rifle ....

In Northampton two disabled men are kicked and beaten in an unprovoked attack ....

But in Cheshire the Chief Constable has his priorities right ....

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Hell In A Handcart Bloggers ?

Behold, a miracle. Marcus at Harry's Place wonders if every day, in every way, we're getting better and better. Doesn't come to any firm conclusions, but it's so rare to find anyone on the Left, apart from Norman Dennis and Independent Working Class Action, who believe that crime and anti-social behaviour are anything but figments of a Daily Mail reader's imagination.

In the comments he characterises me, not unfairly, as a 'hell in a handbasket' merchant. I wondered who else could fall into that category - Dalrymple, certainly, Melanie Phillips, Peter Hitchens, the grandaddy of them all - Richard Littlejohn, but not too many 'blog-only' writers - perhaps Mr Cuthbertson - maybe even the usually optimistic Jackie, perhaps David Farrer - any more ?

Melanie was exercised by the recent case of the disabled Gloucester man who suffered a campaign of harassment by local youths. The police did nothing about it until he, in desperation, took direct action. Then they were interested - in him.

"He became so desperate that on one occasion he grabbed his airgun and fired a shot above their heads, only to find himself in trouble with police. Four days after officers visited him to say he had to attend an official interview, he hanged himself in his shed on August 20."

I live in a leafy rural area not so very far from the town which Dalrymple described as "a small cathedral city of about 100,000, where the city council has conclusively demonstrated that with the right combination of 1960s urban planning and an undiscriminating welfare policy, the degraded inner city conditions of much larger conurbations may be successfully reproduced in small country towns."

This week the local paper, the Gloucester Citizen, sent reporters to the area where people are driven to the edge of suicide before being pushed over by Gloucestershire Police. No one would be interviewed except on conditions of anonymity, lest the fate of Martin James become theirs also. The only people who would give their names were teenagers and a local youth worker, who blamed Mr James' death on youths with 'nowhere to go'. "Mr Stapleton said this would remain a problem until more funding was given to voluntary groups like the White City Adventure Playground and Community Counts."

As somebody said about the Anna Climbie murder, it's amazing what can be turned into a call for more funding.

With more funding, more documents like this sad specimen could be produced.

The youth worker was employed by the White City Community Project, which has been in the area for twenty-four years, spent millions, and which describes itself as "an independent democratic charity open to all residents working to generate sustainable neighbourhood empowerment and development through the combination of community led services and local statutory and business interests. The Project works to empower all residents and through their individual and collective activities create a strong, healthy and viable neighbourhood."

The local paper desribes the area thus - "Drug-taking, vandalism, anti-social behaviour. All that is familiar to residents of White City as youths run unchecked through its streets."

The White City project has been described as "successful". I'm presuming success is measured by the amount of funding a project attracts and the number of staff it employs.

Just one other story from the Citizen - a pensioner was assaulted while sitting in his car during an attempted robbery. His alleged assailant, whose fingerprints were found on the roof of the victim's car, walked free after testifying that as a habitual car thief, his fingerprints could be found on many cars in the city. Could you make it up ?

Saturday, November 08, 2003

ITV - Pathetic

Having woken up (along with three boys) to watch South Africa vs New Zealand, surely the outstanding game of the RWC so far, we discover ITV are not showing it on terrestrial TV. Instead we can see "Diggin It", a programme specially for children with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Also credit to Lloyds TSB for their handy World Cup guide which shows the game incorrectly as ITV1.

What a cretinous decision. A chance for ITV to do it properly, the way the BBC have done for years, and they've blown it. Indeed it could be argued that the BBC, in 40 years of showing the Five Nations, helped create the modern game, now busy selling itself to the highest bidder. Do ITV deserve the World Cup ?

I miss the 10 minutes of analysis you'd get on BBC at half time. Now you get 7 minutes of adverts and 3 of analysis.

Still, the coverage has been sold, home England games are sold to Sky - what further purpose does the BBC have ?

Wimbledon I suppose. Imagine adverts while they change ends or get new balls.

So tomorrow and tomorrow ... mixed feelings. I don't think my beloved Wales can do it. If they beat England they won't beat NZ, whereas England are capable of winning the trophy. Certainly don't want the Offside Aussies to do it.

At least we can cheer on Ireland wholeheartedly.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Those Rumours

I would just like to make plain the following :

1/ I completely deny them, whatever they are

2/ No corgis were hurt in any way.

3/ The African dance troupe involved have returned home and will not be pressing charges.

4/ All the industrial equipment has been returned, undamaged, to the hire shop.

5/ The members of the Farmers Bloodhounds were unanimous in their view that the experience had been a most enjoyable one, despite the horse that sadly had to be destroyed.

I hope this statement will finally lay the rumours to rest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Today's Spam

After the Barclays, Halifax and Lloyds Bank scams, I'm suddenly being bombarded with what appear to be 'email undeliverable' messages, as if I'd sent mail that couldn't get through. Viewing the mail source it appears to be a 'post one dollar to the following' type pyramid. Ho hum.

Better news is that Lovecraft's best fantasy novel, 'The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath' is being made into an animated film.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Monbiot - a new Jeremy Sandford ?

George Monbiot is horrified at racism towards gypsies, as shown by the burning of "pikey" effigies at a Sussex bonfire. What would he think about the following incident ?

It was giro day, and the Price travelling family, or their menfolk, had arrived at the DSS office in the High Street to collect the child benefit and social security. A group of men from my village were waiting for them in vans, armed with iron bars and baseball bats. The Prices fought back but were outnumbered and badly beaten in front of horrified shoppers. Several were hospitalised, some for months.

But no outraged editorials were penned in the Guardian or Independent. The Gypsy Council didn't get an interview on the Today programme. The incident slipped under national news radar. Why ? The perpetrators were another branch of the same travelling family, the branch who lived on a site at the edge of my village. No-one in the village seemed particularly fussed - the general view was of a rather spectacular and large-scale 'domestic'.

Police eventually arrested the culprits, several of whom, including the patriarch, served prison sentences.

Monbiot worries about racism, I'm more worried about the enduring hostility to lower-middle class people like the "good burghers of Firle" from upper-class snobs who romanticise travellers. Though to give him his due, he managed to avoid the usual net curtains and privet hedge cliches used by those who think true evil comes with a neat lawn and a second-hand Mondeo.

His logic defies belief. After giving chapter and verse on the sufferings of gypsies ("Throughout eastern Europe, the Roma are still denied employment, herded into ghettoes and beaten to death by skinheads." What, all of them ? How about 'throughout Britain, old people are still denied employment, herded into nursing homes and beaten to death by muggers." ? ) he wonders "why, despite so much evidence of persecution, are expressions of hatred towards Gypsies still acceptable in public discourse" ?

Well, if gypsies are the subject of State and private persecution in the UK, then surely you can see that the likelihood of people saying bad things about them is greater than if they were a cosseted and lauded group ? Though I would query how public a discourse Firle Bonfire Society's parade might have been, were it not for the BBC and people who write Guardian articles.

But he knows why we do the evil that we do. "Envy lies at the root of racism. Racists associate Jews with money and black people with sexual power, but our hatred of Gypsies may arise from a still deeper grievance, the envy of a people whose instinct for continual movement is frustrated by the constraints of the humdrum settled life."

Now there's a grain of truth in that last part. Anyone who's witnessed a suburban cricket or rugby side on tour, or young Brits on holiday, knows the wild, liberating power of (temporary) rootlessness, manifested though it may be in drunken vandalism or sexual misbehaviour. But the first part is surely as wrong as wrong can be. Did the poor people of Poland and the Ukraine really associate the (equally poor) Jews with money ? Did they envy them ? Did the slave-owners of America and Jamaica, or the British imperialists of Africa, associate black people with sexual power ? Did they envy them ? To ask the question is to answer it.

Surely these are more modern concepts. Perhaps they tell us more about George Monbiot than about racism. Projection, anyone ?

Anyway, the good news for George Monbiot is that those few Roma who escape being herded and beaten by skinheads will be starting to arrive here next May, when the Eastern European countries join the EU. The existing European nations, fearing a sudden influx of Eastern Europeans, have imposed a seven year restriction period on immigration from the East.

Only one major EU nation will allow unrestricted immigration immediately. Guess which one.

Currently the British Government maintain representatives at Prague Airport whose job it is to stop illegal immigrants, mostly 'Roma' gypsies, from boarding flights to the UK. From May next year all the citizens of Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, including the 1.6 million Roma, will be free to reside, work or claim benefit in the UK.

The Government are relaxed about this prospect, Migrationwatch are not.

"The really wild card is the Roma question. A UN study last year found that 80% were unemployed and one in five were permanently hungry. The governments of Eastern Europe have been urged to pass laws to outlaw discrimination. It is, however, hard to say what impact this will have on the lives of the Roma and how they will perceive the alternative of migrating to Western Europe, particularly Britain.

Any forecasts are highly questionable for such changed circumstances. However, the Home Office upper estimate of 13,000 is both highly theoretical and divorced from the realities of the new situation after accession. It is almost worthless. A more realistic “back of the envelope calculation” suggests 40,000 a year. A major factor will be the reaction of the 1.6 million Roma in the candidate countries to the new opportunities which they will enjoy."

George Monbiot's romantic view of travellers is reminiscent of the late Jeremy Sandford, playwright, travellers advocate, and author of "Gypsies" (quotes when I find my copy), another upper-class enviro-hippy with a dislike of straight suburban types. A hilarious Telegraph obituary here - I particularly like Sandford's portrait of his second wife.

"Sometimes she spends part of the night roaming the woods," wrote Sandford. "And at times she has refined her spirit through gazing at a candle. I return to find her composing a song with the help of her autoharp while concocting a flower remedy by distilling the essence of rare flowers."

Very Spinal Tap.

"Throughout his life Sandford continued to dislike the middle class. Either side of that bracket lay an aristocracy, whether of the dispossessed or the rich. He was a snob in both areas."

Peter Briffa also takes aim at 'Moonbat'.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Scottish Republican Terrorism ?

A seventeen year old was last week jailed for sending threatening letters to various public figures, and aromatherapy oil laced with caustic soda to others.

"Edgar Prais QC, defending, said his client had been ordered to send the packages by the head of an anti-English Scottish terrorist organisation, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

This stirred a memory. Every February half-term we visit Scotland, often staying in the Glencoe area. A couple of years ago I noticed several police cars in Glencoe village car park, and a couple of coaches arriving. My next door neighbour apologised for them, told me they were Scottish Republicans, not to let them hear my English accent, and to get the children indoors.

So naturally I went to take a look at them. They were marching, ostensibly, to commemorate the Glencoe massacre. They were youngish - twenty and thirtysomethings. And most strikingly, half of them were wearing black berets and dark glasses. 'These people want to be the IRA' I thought.

And here are the IRA, in Republican Sinn Fein guise, speaking at the 2003 Glencoe rally. Brought to you by those good, freedom-loving people at Indymedia UK.

Scottish Republican sites seem pretty diverse, from the Celtic Twilight (with a bit of Yeats or Crowley - where do the Knights Templar come into it ?) through the earnest to the frankly creepy.

And how exactly does this site fit in ?