Thursday, September 11, 2003

They're Getting It - But They'll Get It Too Late

Jackie Ashley (Mrs Andrew Marr) looks at some uncomfortable truths - then shies away.

"We live in a new world and there is a new politics, bleakly confronting everyone who grew up through the liberal revolution of the 60s. Ministers who have been talking to voters during the summer, looking for what the people really care about, are coming up again and again with the same word. "Security"".

Good - she's got that.

"The politics of security is fundamentally reactionary. It is the politics of fear - fear of the outsider, fear of losing your job, fear of the people at the mosque down the road, fear of youths on the corner, fear of the European superstate, and fear of change."

Oh no she hasn't.

"Any government which simply brushes fear aside as a force in politics is foolish. Fear is probably the strongest political force of all, even stronger than hope."


"But go very far in appeasing or reassuring fearful voters, and you become a reactionary government."


"We should acknowledge that "security" neatly matches one strand in old Labour, too often ignored by the nostalgists. How many party members - or trade unionists - wanted both a high-spending, security-providing welfare state, and were also anti-immigrant and vehemently rightwing on crime, even including support for the death penalty?"

Has (memo to Jackie and Andy - these people were once the backbone of the working class, in the days when it HAD a backbone. You read about them, or people just like them, in your E.P. Thompson books at Uni. You idolised them - from a distance.)

"So long as people think their government has a bit of a grip on things, everything can be held in check, and progressive politics moves forward."

Hasn't. Progressive politics = keeping people in check ? I don't remember that in "the liberal revolution of the 60s".

"The danger starts when people feel their own state is powerless or out of touch."

Oh yes she has.

"Trevor Phillips, the new boss of the commission for racial equality, hits a good note when he reminds audiences of just how much the NHS they rely on for a sense of security is propped up by Indian and Pakistani doctors, Somali cleaners and Caribbean nurses."


You see, Jackie, the trouble is that people aren't going to take any notice of Trevor Phillips. Or Ian Duncan Smith, or their head teacher, their priest, counsellor, social worker, or Jackie Ashley. Polly Toynbee last week pointed out "the left, which purports to believe in government, should be wary of joining the same all-governments-are-rubbish camp. This anarcho-individualism is a very British mindset - and it is not compatible with social democracy." But it's not just governments, Polly, it's every-institution-is-rubbish.

The Guardian yesterday celebrated the death of deference in the UK in an editorial, congratulating those Brits who made fun of David Blaine. That 'fun' consists of throwing missiles and shining laser pens at him - he now has a police guard.

"Perhaps all of us, reflecting on a rancorous, cynical period in politics, should think again about the need to work with progressive politicians instead of always carping from the sidelines. Effective parliamentary democracy - not troops, not spooks - is our only long-term defence."

But effective parliamentary democracy is just what we HAVEN'T got. After all, doesn't progressive government consist of "keeping everything in check" ?

The philosopher Hannah Arendt argued that the origins of totalitarianism lay 'in one great unorganised mass of furious individuals" who had nothing in common except their apprehension that the most respected and representative articulators of the existing culture were fools, and the elected holders of public office were fraudulent.

That sounds a pretty good description of England to me. Interesting times are coming.
Does the BBC think British soldiers are Nazis ?

John Pienaar on BBC Radio Five was interviewing Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax this morning. Pax described how when the Allies were bombing, he and his friends would hide in the basement with drinks and sweets.

"Just like Anne Frank, then", said Pienaar.

UPDATE 14/09/03

Natalie Solent at Biased-BBC writes

"To be fair, if Pienaar really has read Anne Frank, he might have intended a more subtle and accurate comparison. I haven't a copy to hand, but in her diary Anne Frank several times expresses her support and admiration for the Allied bomber crews - even though she was at risk of being bombed herself. So Pienaar might have meant to equate the citizens of Baghdad hiding in cellars from American planes dropping bombs, all the while praying for the bombers to be victorious so that the tyrant Saddam will be overthrown, to the citizens of Amsterdam hiding in cellars (or attics in Anne Frank's case) from American planes dropping bombs, all the while praying for the bombers to be victorious so that the tyrant Hitler will be overthrown. "

She may be right - although I find the comparison somewhat inappropriate. Anne Frank, unlike Salam Pax, had nowhere to go (26/7/43) when the Allies bombed Amsterdam.

But if this is what Pienaar meant, it must be the first recorded instance on the BBC of a commentator comparing Saddam to Hitler, the citizens of Baghdad to the Jews of Europe, and the armed forces of Bush and Blair to those of Roosevelt and Churchill.

I know little of John Pienaar's politics. He wrote on "urban crime, domestic violence, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll" at the South London Press, before moving to the Independent then the BBC. Does that give us a clue ? With his name, fearsome moustache and barn-door build, he looks like a Guardian reader's caricature of an Afrikaaner farmer - but he doesn't seem to have the attitudes of one. When he was reporting in August 2002 from the UN conference on racism and colonialism (you remember - the one which turned into an anti-Semitic hate fest, the one where Ghaddafi and Mugabe were given standing ovations), Esther Rantzen on R5 rang him to ask the question 'Poverty - Do we owe the Third World ?'.

John's reply showed all the neutrality traditionally associated with the BBC.

‘Well, as a neutral I can only say yes’

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Self Hating White Liberals Part 126 - AL Kennedy

She's a grown woman (38 next birthday) and a writer of some repute - though God knows why if this is anything to go by :

"So, the lean and noble figure of Alastair Campbell jogs away from No 10, a whole new selection of profitable marathons opening up, and the luscious and reliable figure of Mandy slips back in. Doesn't it all impregnate you with confidence and pride? "

Uh ? Campbell lean and hungry maybe ... Mandy ? luscious ? reliable ? Why not stick to the tried and tested cliches if you can't find a striking adjective - Mephistopholean is always reliable - unlike Mandy. Sounds as if she's composing an ad for a gay contact mag. And as for being 'impregnated' with confidence and pride - come on, lecturer in creative writing - 'marinaded' would surely do as well if you're just chucking any old words in there. Or think your favourite restaurant and try 'drizzled'.

Surely the day she put this Guardian piece together she was suffering from the ailments described by Christina Patterson in an Independent interview.

"Almost her first words are to request that the harsh office lights be turned off. She speaks in a voice that's barely a whisper and sips water frantically as if trying to quench some terrible thirst."

Sounds like the mother of all hangovers to me, but I may be being unfair - she suffers with a twisted spine.

Here we go - her problem is the blood on Tony Blair's hands.

"I am willing to ignore the blood spilled as a result of Blair's transport policies, Blair's health policies and Blair's decisions relating to arms sales and the escalating bloodbath that is Afghanistan. This leaves me with only Iraq." Cheers, AL. Decent of you to ignore the blood spilled by his increases in NHS spending. Let's stick with Iraq, then.

We won't count the Iraqi servicemen killed "because the ones the CIA couldn't buy off beforehand were, therefore, Evil and deserved to die" - thank the Lord that some noble Iraqis resisted the CIA dollar and fought on ! Didn't Saddam put Republican Guards behind front-line troops to shoot any deserters ? The CIA must have spent a lot, as the vast majority of the Iraqi army survived and have melted back into civilian life. A proportion of them are attacking and killing our soldiers.

There follows some pleasant counting of the possible number of pints of civilian blood spilled during the war - "estimates of the completely dead vary between 37,137 and the much more comfortable 6,118". For 'comfortable' read 'accurate' - there is almost no upper limit to the civilian toll you can find on the sort of websites where Michael Meacher does his research.

Now we come to the bit that makes this Caucasian's blood boil - all eight pints of it.

"Now one wouldn't want to be racist about this, but Iraqi blood does seem to matter a good deal less than more civilised, more Christian, more Caucasian blood. "

How true. How very, bloody, true. Damn right it does, to a self-loathing liberal.

As long as white people aren't spilling it, ANY amount of Iraqi blood can be spilled and you won't give a damn, let alone pick up a pen to write about it.

No one knows how many people died in Saddam's prisons, tortured and without trial. Most estimates are around 200,000. New mass graves, sometimes containing small children, are being uncovered.

Sorry. You don't count. You see, we're really more interested in whether 'the West' killed you. And they didn't.

Sure, it's sad you're dead, but we're campaigning for truth and justice here - got to stay focused on the important things. We're the good people - we care. And our campaign isn’t about you – it’s about us.

‘Not in My Name !’ In Saddam’s name – fair enough. Suddenly we don’t want to count bodies anymore.

The wrong people killed you. Maybe we can say the Americans or British sold Saddam the weapons used - give you a bit of recognition. That's what we did with the million dead in the Iran-Iraq war - focused on some technology sales and a few photos of Rumsfeld with Saddam. So they didn't die in vain. Got several Guardian articles from them. But get real – one Iraqi child with his legs blown off by a Raytheon missile is worth more to us than any number heaving out their last breaths, lying in their own blood, vomit and faeces in one of Saddam’s torture chambers. You see, that won’t have been done ‘in my name’.

She’s not an isolated case of course. Her ideas are those of her class – Warwick Uni, “Community Arts Worker”, “Writer in Residence for Hamilton & East Kilbride Social Work Department” (could you make it up ?), and now a college lecturer. Her gums have been clamped firmly round the nipple of the despised state all her life.

Forty years ago Kennedy would have been writing about Sharpeville while ignoring the atrocities in the Congo. In 1947 she’d have written about Amritsar while half a million died in the Punjab.

And today we can be sure that she won’t tell us about Congo massacres, Nigerian conflict, violence in the Philippines, Indonesia, or any other ‘non-Caucasian’ deaths. Unless, of course, she can use those bodies as weapons in her own – and the Guardian’s - dirty little war.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Gone ....

Leni Riefenstahl dies at 101. She was rather gorgeous ...

... but had some very dodgy friends ....

"Alright, Leni - it IS a Heinkel" "Told you so - thats 100 Reichmarks you owe me"

Leni was probably one of the last people on earth who can remember when being on the far right rather than the far left was cool - hip - trendy - whatever. First the Futurists in Italy then the Nazis in Germany had the same appeal as, say, the hippies of 1967 or the punks of 1976 - the appeal of youth and energy, of a total disregard for bourgeois convention.

"We intend to glorify the love of danger, the custom of energy, the strength of daring.
The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity, and revolt."

"There is no more beauty except in struggle. No masterpiece without the stamp of aggressiveness. Poetry should be a violent assault against unknown forces"

The far left has been the cool place to be ever since 1945. And that today is probably a very good thing indeed. We have an increasingly ill-educated and intolerant population, inhabiting a moral and cultural wasteland - what a good thing that hatred and ignorance mostly gravitates towards the left. It would be scary indeed if it became hip to be far-right, and people with the mentality of Seattle or May Day protesters were smashing foreign-owned shops - like MacDonalds ....
The Towering Genius That Is Richard Littlejohn .....

Gives Patricia Hewitt a good shoeing.

And no worthier target could he find. This public-school diplomat's daughter commented during the 1981 Brixton riots how tragic it was that the rioters were destroying their own poor area of London. When the interviewer asked her if she'd prefer them to be burning her own privileged area she fell silent. She is the archetype, the exemplar, of the guilt-stricken white liberal, and a massive hypocrite to boot, as she heads off in a private jet to solve the problems of world poverty from a five-star hotel suite.

He then moves on to New Labour, the party once of miners, engineers and railwaymen, now of lawyers and polytechnocrats :

"Once Labour revered the dignity of manual work. The party was built on it.

These days they look down their noses at anyone who gets their hands dirty.

They sneer as much at self-employed plumbers and brickies as they do at those they see as chinless wonders.

In an ideal Labour world, everyone would pass seamlessly from school, through the students’ union into a life spent researching, lobbying, consulting and litigating.

They never pause to think where the money is coming from.

It doesn’t all come from the so-called “rich”. Hardly any of it does, in percentage terms.

It comes from taxes paid by plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plasterers and everyone else who goes out into the world and creates wealth, earns an honest living instead of spongeing off the state.

Who the hell does Hewitt think is picking up the £50,000 bill for her and her delegation to swan around the Caribbean, flitting from seminar to spa bath, from buffet lunch to Jacuzzi in the name of fighting poverty?"

Tell it like it is, brother !

Monday, September 08, 2003

Aren't these wonderful ?

A plume of steam rises from an Antarctic Ice Tower , which have joined the Dry Valleys and the Black Smokers in the catalogue of strange places supporting life.
Funny ....

Why can't I find this story - that Andrew Gilligan lied to the Foreign Affairs Commitee - on the BBC ?

"The BBC reporter has already been criticised by corporation executives after he e-mailed two members of the foreign affairs select committee (FAC) revealing that Dr David Kelly was the source of a report by the BBC Newsnight journalist Susan Watts.

It has since emerged that three days after sending the e-mail, Mr Gilligan told the committee he had no knowledge of the MoD scientists’ dealings with other journalists, including Ms Watts.

The contradictory statements have infuriated Labour MPs on the committee and will raise further doubts about the credibility of Mr Gilligan as Lord Hutton prepares for the second stage of his inquiry.

Committee member and Labour MP Gisela Stuart said she would be asking her colleagues to consider referring Mr Gilligan to the appropriate Commons authority for his alleged contempt of Parliament. "
Prison Works (Part 41)

Thomas Sowell on crime and punishment.

"The purpose of a criminal justice system is not to be fair. Its purpose is to protect law-abiding people from criminals. There is no need to be unfair but, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "It is desirable that the burden of all should be equal, but it is still more desirable to put an end to robbery and murder.""

Wrong again .....

Gary Younge on Blunkett, citizenship and asylum.

"When racism rears its head, Blunkett blames not the perpetrators but the victims. Following Jean-Marie Le Pen's entry to the second round of the French presidential elections, he said the way to confront fascism was to be tough on asylum. The results speak for themselves. At the time, the rightwing British National party had no councillors in Britain; with its victory in Thurrock last week, it now has 18. "

Er ... I think the problem is not that Blunkett is tough on asylum but that he's weak and is widely perceived as such.

But for once I find myself agreeing with him (GY) when he speaks of "the historical, political and cultural illiteracy that infects every part" of Blunkett and Crick's citizenship tests.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

I Was Going To Ignore This ...

But can't let it pass - the Observer article 'Marriage Is Made In Hell" by- Chicago (Northwestern) professor Laura Kipnis.

Ms Kipnis, of whom I'd previously never heard, is a "cultural theorist/critic and former video artist" (a.k.a. 'media studies airhead' ?) whose works include " Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy", and "Marx - The Video".

It's a piece of stunning ignorance and stupidity.

Her thesis is straight from the 1970s - that marriage is "low-level misery and soul-deadening tedium", "emotional stagnation and deadened desires" - all afflictions that can be solved by simply walking away, or better, never marrying at all.

And the things marriage does to people !

"Consider, for instance, the endless regulations and interdictions that provide the texture of domestic coupledom. Is there any area of married life that is not crisscrossed by rules and strictures about everything from how you load the dishwasher, to what you can say at dinner parties, to what you do on your day off, to how you drive - along with what you eat, drink, wear, make jokes about, spend your discretionary income on?

What is it about marriage that turns nice-enough people into petty dictators and household tyrants, for whom criticising another person's habits or foibles becomes a conversational staple, the default setting of domestic communication? Or whose favourite marital recreational activity is mate behaviour modification? Anyone can play - and everyone does. What is it about modern coupledom that makes policing another person's behaviour a synonym for intimacy? (Or is it something about the conditions of modern life itself: is domesticity a venue for control because most of us have so little of it elsewhere?) "

Now I've got news for Ms Kipnis. All of the above can, and does, apply to cohabitees as much as to married couples - certainly those who are living together rather than merely sleeping with each other. It's not marriage that causes control and conflict - it's people and relationships - or 'coupledom' as she says herself. You don't need no piece of paper from the City Hall to play those emotional games. Maybe the author of 'Bound and Gagged' needs to notice more everyday and less explicit examples of power and control.

So what then ? How do we get happiness and satisfaction ? By "changing the things that needed changing to attain it" - presumably the unatisfactory partner. Yet serial monogamy is "for those who can't face up to the bad news - yes, keep on trying until you get it right". Ms Kipnis isn't specific, but you can't but wonder if she feels the ideal sexual model for Europe and America isn't some sort of liberated student existence - perhaps the kind of existence which would suit a young and not unattractive media studies professor.

Fluid relationships and a range of partners to choose from, plenty of variety to stave off possible staleness or boredom - the radical student ideal is also replicated in another social environment - the underclass in Britain and America's large cities. There it is associated with child abuse of all kinds.

The most offensive aspect of her writing is her ignorance of the damage caused to children by the decline of marriage which she celebrates. Children get precisely two mentions - coupledom features "childrearing convenience" but it's "rather shocking" for couples to stay together "for the sake of the children".

Thirty or forty years ago, in the first flush of the sexual revolution, such ignorance would be forgivable. But the evidence is now overwhelming that children are harmed by parental breakup.

The Observer, which claims to care about child protection, has helped and is helping to create the cultural setting within which abuse can flourish.

Ms Kipnis finishes with a couple of paragraphs suggesting that the world would be a much better place if we only paid more attention to our own needs and desires (and by implication less attention to others). From Rabelais to Aleister Crowley, 'do what thou wilt' has always been an appealing slogan. Ms Kipnis, whether she knows it or not, is calling for the death of altruism.

"What if we all worked less and expected more - not only from our marriages or in private life, but in all senses - from our jobs, our politicians, our governments? What if wanting happiness and satisfaction - and changing the things that needed changing to attain it - wasn't regarded as 'selfish' or 'unrealistic' (and do we expect so much from our mates these days because we get so little back everywhere else?). What if the real political questions were what should we be able to expect from society and its institutions? And, if other social contracts and vows beside marriage were also up for re-examination, what other ossified social institutions might be next on the hit list?"

What might be next ? If we pay more attention to our needs ? Well, let's make a start and forego caring for the sick, elderly and vulnerable. That'll free up valuable leisure time.

And from there anything is possible.
Youth Crime Not A Problem

As more and more chief constables are fast-tracked sociology grads who can speak the language of social work, and fewer and fewer rise from beat officer, we can expect more like this ....

"Mr Strang’s remarks were made even though it was revealed at the conference that youth crime is spiralling. It emerged the number of children referred to the youth system for one offence rose by 20 per cent.

A report also revealed that minor offending was "fairly widespread" among young people, and most of those surveyed had admitted to offending last year.

Bill Aitken, a Conservative MSP, attacked Mr Strang’s comments. He said: "I have to ask what separate universe Mr Strang operates in. "
It Never Rains But It Pours ...

"TONY Blair was sworn at, booed by the crowd and snubbed by a 12-year-old girl in a day of disasters at the Braemar Gathering yesterday.

In a tumultuous day, the Prime Minister arrived to a chorus of disapproval from a section of the 20,000 crowd sitting near the Royal Enclosure at the Highland games.

The noise was only drowned out by clapping from the rest of the audience when the Queen and Prince Philip emerged from their car.

Police then had to intervene after a member of the crowd ran towards Blair "shouting and swearing" as he sat in the Royal Enclosure. A man was arrested.

Blair’s day went from bad to worse when 12-year-old Erin MacAlpine, who was chosen to present flowers to the Queen, refused to smile at the Prime Minister and described him as a "nasty man". "

Thanks to Freedom And Whisky

And Bill Jamieson at Scotland On Sunday comments on the public sector jobs boom.
British Understatement Not Dead Shock

After a 20-foot cabin cruiser carrying 16 passengers capsized, killing one.

"Police have not ruled out the possibility that the boat may have been overloaded. "
Miss HIV 2003

Is this the world's first beauty contest for HIV-positive women ?

Another pathetic-or-noble story ? Got to be noble I think.