Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Notes on the Liberal Democrats

A friend of mine has announced his intention of voting Liberal Democrat at the next election. As I respect his take on politics it prompted me to consider how I feel about that party (I haven’t given it any serious thought for years), so I scuttled off to find the Lib Dems’ policies and see what I thought.

The William Gazy Overview of the Liberal Democrat Pocket Manifesto, 2009.

1 – The Bits I Like
2 – The Bad News, the Cant and the Doublethink
3 – Conclusion

1. The Bits I Like.

Though the party is totally committed to the EU, it says it will give British people a referendum on the matter of staying in or leaving. I think this is showboating because it knows by the time it comes to power, if at all, the EU will have bullied everyone into the Lisbon Treaty, Blair will be President of Europe and a referendum will be largely academic.

They plan to cut taxes on low and middle-income families. This is a good idea. The Labour policy of taxing these people to lavish cash on the bureaucratic membrane of the public sector was one of the central – and most disastrous – ideas in Brown’s plans.

They intend to ‘cut red tape from the small businessman’. This, within reason, is also a good idea. They say they will reverse the Thatcho-Blair attack on post offices and the Royal Mail by the Labour Party and reinvigorate it with a huge investment (two billion pounds. Shome mishtake, shurely?). This is a good idea, but, like a lot of the Lib Dems’ proposals, you wonder where this money is going to come from (more on that later).

They promise a no-holds-barred Iraq inquiry. Good, if they can manage it.
They intend to re-link increases in the pension system to increases in people’s earnings, which I think is a good way avoiding what we are heading for at present: millions of future pensioners living in poverty.

They intend to provide more support for people with disabilities. I think this is an excellent and humane idea.

They propose building and sustaining a national railway system. Good, but see section number two.
They intend to help independent pubs with tax relief to fight unfair brewery practices. Good. Ditto affordable housing in rural areas and affordable housing generally (see below).

Council Tax replaced with something closer to the old rates system = big house, pay more. Good.

They intend to stop the shockingly poor management of the armed services’ budgets and provisions that has flourished under Labour.

They have also interesting plans for local democracy: elected boards deciding how money is spent on a range of local issues including policing and health. There is a huge flaw in these plans, see below.

They intend to scrap targets in the NHS. I think this is good. Targets were a prime piece of modern socialist thinking – really flash on the surface, corrupt as a corpse underneath. It is difficult to know where to start on the NHS, because such a noble thing has become a behemoth of corruption, waste and abuse by so many different elements.

2. The Bad News, the Cant and the Doublethink.

The Lib Dems’ propose to ‘give power back to the people’ by having a new constitution. Under the subtitle ‘For the People, By the People’, they go on to say:

We will involve the British people in producing a
written constitution. This would reform and reinvigorate the democratic process,
putting individuals back in control. We will simplify the system for petitioning
Parliament and ensure petitions are considered and acted upon. We will lower the
voting age to 16, establish a fair, proportional voting system or elections to
Westminster and local government, and decentralise decision making. We will
reform the House of Lords, replacing it with an elected second chamber.

This written constitution could only be written within the parameters of EU law, or rather deal with matters outside of the EU’s reach – and there isn’t much that the EU doesn’t touch, so this is doublethink, stupidity, or a lie. Just imagine what Brussels would make of a petition for, say, the reintroduction of the death penality or corporal punishment.
The talk of involving the British people in producing the constitution is interesting and harks back to other similar bones thrown at the public during times of national despair. John Major’s People’s Charter and a many later Blairite charades come to mind.
They claim they wish to ‘decentralise decision making’ while simultaneously planning to create an entire new chamber of elected representatives to sit where the abolished lords once sat doing the same job as MPs (correct me if I am wrong but this will add hundreds of new members to the ranks of the political class, something Mr Cable is appears publicly opposed to). Although they say they will tame the expenses and corruption culture (and with all those new upper house MPs they will have their work cut out), in practice I think this will mean that MPs of both houses will demand and get larger salaries in return for not fiddling their additional cost allowances, or whatever that has been renamed as.
Reducing the voting age to 16 is an empty, eye-catching gesture – they won’t vote and the ones that do will likely vote for stupid and dangerous politicians.
The party also says it will:

Support reform of party political funding with caps
on individual donations and procedures to ensure transparency in party spending.

Unfortunately, this was written just a month before the Lib Dems’ own funding troubles with a dodgy donor emerged in August. However, transparency is good, but the rest of the sentence suggests to me that the party will propose further public funding of political parties to some degree (opposition parties already get money to balance the ruling party’s access to the instruments of government). This would be worse than the current unsatisfactory system, not least because in the near future it will inevitably mean statutory payments for the political activities of the totalitarian organisations of all political and religious persuasions that are emerging.

Talking of which, there are five lines about the policy that has caused and continues to cause huge problems and controversy in British society: mass immigration, or ‘migration’ as the political class has taken to calling it. They are tucked away at the bottom of the page on government and civil liberties:

Firm but fair on immigration and refugees – We will create an integrated border
police force bringing back entry and exit controls to monitor movement in and out
of Britain. By running immigration and asylum services fairly and efficiently, we
will ensure that all migrants pay their way through taxes and we will cut the
number who work illegally.

Firm but fair rather reminds me of the infamous ‘Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime’, from 1997. Note the ‘integrated’ that prefixes the border police. Integrated with what? Europe, of course; the very same EU that will control immigration to Britain from Europe and eventually dictate terms; the very same EU that the Lib Dems want to grow closer to. As there is no mention of any commitment to a reduction of immigrants or a coordinated deportation policy for the huge amount of illegal immigrants (the Europhilia of the party would mitigate against this in any case on account of Mr and Mrs Blair’s Human Rights Act*), the final sentence of the paragraph strongly suggests to me that a migrant amnesty will be unveiled early in any Lib Dem government ‘we will cut the number who work illegally’ suggests they will change the law as opposed to applying it. Like Boris Johnson with his proposed illegal immigrant amnesty, the eye is on the main chance of revenue possibilities and no other considerations, such as social cohesion, impact on the poor, overstretched public services.

One would like to believe the party about transport. They claim they can build an efficient national railway network, with new lines and new stations. This should be a flagship policy. Having kept a close eye on transport stories in the media over the past few years I have to ask, where is the money coming from? The other main parties cannot make this commitment because they know there simply isn’t the money for it in their projections – in the case of Labour it has been diverted and wasted on other things; and the Tories destroyed a huge chance to build up the railways when it sent the Thatcherite asset-strippers in and sold it all off to speculators who effectively embezzled a national asset. The Conservatives will continue that policy when elected.

On the subject of crime the Lib Dems say they intend to put 10,000 policemen on the streets, using the budget of the scrapped ID cards scheme. I’m inclined to think that we don’t need more police we just need them to start doing what they used to do before Labour began their wholesale Marxoid interference in law and order. There is nothing in the Lib Dem manifesto that suggests this will be the case.
On prisons, they talk about a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and ‘drug, alcohol and mental health treatment’. I’m curious to know where the money will come from for this in a country where even this spendthrift government is admitting, albeit largely in code, that the money’s all gone and the cupboards are bare. I also predict that this approach to crime will come to be seen by criminals as one more ‘get out of jail free’ card – ‘yur, I kicked his head till his eye popped out but, well, you know, I need treatment for my alcholism, don’t I, your honour?’ Expect a thousand variations on that, with the taxpayer coughing up for it.
On terrorism, this was interesting:

Tackle terrorism – We will reform our courts to prosecute terror suspects more
effectively. Restrictions imposed on people without trial risks increasing support
or extremists. Our reforms - intercept evidence in court, and questioning a terror
charge – will be effective and fair. We will improve co-operation between UK anti-terror bodies and reach out to young men in Muslim communities.

I don’t see how this reform will be able to take place to any great degree if the Lib Dems also desire deeper EU integration. I’m curious to know what they mean by ‘reaching out to young men in Muslim communities’. It sounds like the high cant of the Blair years. What form would this take? More diversity officers, presumably.

In their Culture and Media section they show strong support towards maintaining the BBC as it is now, without actually naming it. No mention is made of reform.
It pledges to boost the Arts Council budget. This will mean a great deal more of the sort of public art we have seen under Labour: dire, lib/left-wing brit art/social engineering ‘urban art projects’, box-ticking, political correctness, coded misandry etc. The project of Cultural Marxism throughout the British art and cultural scene will be safe in the hands of a Lib Dem government.

On green issues, they reject nuclear power and want wave, tidal and wind power. I have yet to read anything about these forms of power that say that they can provide anything but a fraction of what is needed. Of course, like so many idealistic policies in British history, it will only be after a huge amount of money, time and land is wasted and ruined that common sense will prevail. As matters stand, a Lib Dem vote is a vote for an English landscape smothered with wind propellers and a vast new membrane of green public sector jobs. More domestic green bullying – there is no indication of any rethink on recycling, slop buckets, wheelie bins, rubbish limits etc.

On Defence they have this to say:

Play a leading role in European Defence Cooperation – If Britain is to continue to
have the capability to be a force or good in the world that will require far greater
cooperation and collaboration with NATO and EU partners. Through joint
procurement, sharing of equipment and better competition in defence markets,
Britain can still be a force for good and get better value or the tax payer.

This is the thin end of the wedge for a European Army. This is a bad and dangerous idea as it will destroy the character and nature of the British Army as a highly effective defence institution. This will happen through EU diktats and general interference. Ditto the RAF and the Navy. The Liberal Democrats don’t seem to have grasped that you cannot have free and autonomous institutions within a framework of a heavily intrusive socialist supersate. It sounds good but it won’t actually work.
The sentence about ‘being a force for good in the world’ could be read as coded support for Blair’s vanity wars.
While we are on that subject, the Lib Dems appear to have no policy, at least not in the pocket guide, to the war in Afghanistan; a fact I find extraordinary.

On Education they are going big for the youth vote: free tuition at universities. If we had an excellent education system this would be a noble policy; since we have a huge university system in which intellectual and moral standards are in rapid and precipitous decline I think it will be a huge waste of money and further cultivate and licence the culture of mass ignorance in contemporary society and rubber stamp the death warrant for any chance of retaining a real intellectual elite.

3 – Conclusion.

Since the credit crunch, the Lib Dems have managed to raise their profile as a sort of ‘common sense party’ on economic affairs. Vince Cable even got himself a gig writing about economics for the Daily Mail, quite a coup for a small s socialist. However, notwithstanding Cable’s Phd in Economics, it doesn’t take an economic or moral mastermind to observe that the City was out of control and that the Labour government encouraged them to be out of control because the revenue from City excesses well suited Labour’s spending plans for public sector bureaucracy: raw economics financing fake economics. Everyone in politics should now recognise that credit booms are not the way forward for healthy societies.
City reform is dwarfed by the two biggest obsessions of this party: green politics and further integration into the EU, in other words more New Labour than New Labour, Miliband with knobs on. They say they want to ‘reinvigorate the democratic process’, but this is in total contradiction to their commitment to Europe: they have completely misunderstood the European superstate project if they think it will allow any genuinely independent decision-making power by ordinary, non-political class people. In any important aspects this will always be overridden by EU law (it will drive a coach and horses through their ideas of local people deciding policing policy, for example); I guess the party thinks it can bypass the situation of ideologically unsuitable people being elected by operating the big trick of proportional representation: closed list systems – in other words you control the outcome by controlling the entries – a bit like the handicap rating system of the British Horseracing Authority: supposedly very fair but often wide open to artful tacticians.
Climate change and green initiatives recur heavily in the Lib Dems’ policies. Apart from the green lobbyists in the party and the usual across-party PR strategy that climate change is the surest way to colonise media time, it’s obvious why they are so heavily in favour of these green measures: it will be an open sesame to EU subsidies for non-jobs and environmental schemes, which are a central plank in the Lib Dem vision of how the British economy might function in the lean years ahead. In other words, a further expansion of the public sector ponzi scheme thinking of New Labour.
This, then, is the real objection. The Lib Dems remain pretty much what they have always been, a sort of maiden aunt compromise on Tory greed and the sweaty socialism of the Labour Party:’ seventy-five per cent of the same thinking, with a few modifications based on Labour’s glaring mistakes and incompetence and without the union and public sector blackmail. The proposed abandonment of top-down Islington government is eye-catching, but a futile gesture by a party totally committed to the EU, an organisation whose laws grow from the totalitarian Napoleonic law and not the English common law; an organisation not just committed to big government but monster sized multi big government with all its attendent bullying, arrogance and money burning élan.
There is a tendency among young urban liberals to view those who object to the EU as being 'fogies who can't stand change' or are 'clinging to an England that never was' etc. That may apply to some old colonels and cab drivers but the real point is this: you either believe in self-governance or you don't. Even Tony Benn thinks it undemocratic, and when a man who loves Mao says something is undemocratic, well... The Blairite moonshine that you can have it both ways on Europe has been exposed for what it is in the past ten years. Evidently the Lib Dems still believe it.
I dare say the party's leaders have finally got their economic story straight after years of embarrassment when Charles Kennedy simply had no idea of how the figures added up; but the answer to the hard question of where the money will come from seems to be: the EU. In other words, New Labour in funky new threads.


*There is no mention of any plans to overturn this most destructive law, which has aided Islamic extremists to remain in this country.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

From the Sporting Life website. A poem, don't you think?

Newbury 2.50

Pos 1. Almiqdaad 8-12 R Hills, M A Jarvis, 14/1 held up in mid-division, steady headway from 4f out to lead 2f out, ridden over 1f out, in command final furlong, stayed on well opened 16/1 £5000-£300 (x3)

Well, it made me happy anyway.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Fiona Pilkington Case

Another example of the Clockwork Orange society that 13 years of a social democratic approach to policing in Britain has led to, and clearer than ever proof that our current model of community policing was dreamed up and run by fools who are old enough to know much better. Getting harder by the day for people like David Aaronovitch and other Labour groupies to say this sort of behaviour is rare and those who draw attention to it are exaggerating it to suit their - yawn - right-wing agenda. If this case happened under Thatcher you know what all the worthies on the Left would be saying.

Some Labour Party slogans to keep in mind:

'Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime' = give other people's hard-earned money to violent chavs and let them get away with destroying the community.

'Building a Safe, Just and Tolerant Society' = Police can't help you with yobs making life hell for your family - but look at that big housing estate we just built for all the foreigners who conned their way in and jumped the housing queue! Your mate and his young family might have a 14-year wait* but we're helping people from lands the British Empire exploited and, er, countries the empire never touched as well! Aren't we Fabians bloody lovely! And don't moan because your area is full of burkhas and Albanian gangsters or we'll have the law on you for a Hate Crime. New Britain! Hurray!

Question for your Labour MP, if you have one: Why would the working class ever vote Labour again?

*Actual case of an acquaintance.

Betting Shop Dispatches: Sea The Stars

When I walked in the Londonbet shop there was an argument in full swing about Sea The Stars and whether he will win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Del, short, bins, smartly dressed, cockney, fifties, ruddy with drink and blood pressure, cab-driver outlook and immensely genial, is seated at the one table in the small shop. Next to him is Jack, his equally smartly dressed and cockney sidekick. They are in there frequently, Del holding forth on all subjects and Jack occasionally knocking out hooky designer wear and other bits and bobs.
Del backs horses in the shop and lays them over his mobile. The pair of them know their onions, or appear to, and take racing seriously. Jack isn’t always around, but Del is there every day. Effectively it’s his office.
Behind them sat two other men, scruffy and dirty, one tall with wild eyes; one short, with no teeth. They all knew each other.
The tall one with wild eyes was losing his rag: “I’m telling you, Sea The Stars was on drugs at Leopardstown. Simple as that.”
“Fuck off, Johnny,” said Jack.
“He was drugged and they’ll drug him at the Arc and he’ll win. That’s why I’ve lumped on. I’ve got 15/8 and I’ve lumped on.”
“Different race, the Arc,” observed Del gravely. “French. It ain’t like here.”
“’S a fucking horse race, Del.”
Del’s sanguine cheeks flushed deeper and suddenly he became very animated; he tore off his reading glasses and put on his normal glasses and said: “When they run a Group One here or in Ireland they move the fucking fence, so the horses race on virgin ground, right Jack?”
Jack nodded.
Del, vindicated by what he clearly regarded as supreme knowledge made a serene yet I-told-you-so face, highly reminiscent of Jesus in Guercino's The Incredulity of St Thomas.
“…so they race on the best turf. Turf what ain’t been fucked by previous racing. They don’t do that in Paris. That’s ’cos the French don’t, ’cos they’re fucking awkward cunts like that. Chances of him getting stuck in the ground or in traffic is big. It’s a long season, remember, and he’s at the end of it. I wouldn’t bet till the day. I don’t even think he’ll go to the Arc. I think they’ll fucking back out. You got to have luck as well. Look at Zarkava last year. You got to make it through the traffic there, boy.”
“Sea The Stars will have the Arc,” said Johnny, “don’t you worry about that. They’ll drug him, like at Leopardstown.”
Jack looked round in disgust. We’d been alone in the shop that afternoon when Sea The Stars had displayed superstar quality at Leopardstown. When he got up to win we’d both looked at each other with that head-shaking, awed respect you only see men give to phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime performers in any medium.
“Drug him?' said Jack. "Woss the Arc, a fucking Seller at Brighton? He don’t need drugs. He’s a natural athlete. He’s the best horse we’ve seen for forty years. Be sensible.”
“Whatever; he’ll win. Any ground. He’s an any-ground horse now.”
Del’s voice rose and became imploring. “Any ground that ain’t fucked, you mean. You got to think about the ground, Johnny boy, the state of the fucking turf. Wait till the day comes and see then.”
Del focused on the street outside. A hot blonde walked past. “Fuck me, look at her. Look at that. I’d like a bit o’ that. She could do what she liked, she could. She could p*ss all over me.”
There was laughter. Then the man with the wild eyes spoke again: “Sea The Stars will do it, Del, don’t worry. I’ve lumped on.”
“So have I,” said the short man.
“Oh, Kenny,” said Del almost tenderly. “I hope it wins for you.”
Silence descended. A dog race occurred. Del pulled a five-pound note out of his pocket and regarded it. “I’ll get some beers with this for tonight. A fiver’s worth of kip, that’s what that is.”
Then he kissed the ragged note with his eyes shut.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Betting Shop Dispatches

I know several betting shop managers for the big bookmakers and they all say that middle management in their firms is obsessive about creating a friendly rapport between the cashiers and the mugs, sorry, punters.
So it amused me yesterday to find myself in a betting shop, owned by one of the big three and managed by a man who pushes rudeness, incivility and contempt for customers to the limit.
I was familiar with shop, but if I am in that area of south-west London I usually use a nearby shop, owned by the same company but much smaller, where the manager is friendly and obliging. The friendly manager said to me a few months back: “Dunno what he’s doing round there, but all his custom comes round here now.”
I knew what he was doing, that was why I’d stopped going in there.
Yesterday, caught in the rain, I decided to go in the other shop. It was huge and empty, bar two Albanians playing the roulette machine. Dog racing and the early prices at Yarmouth and Lingfield were up on the screens. The notorious manager sat behind the glass at the far end, feet up on the counter, watching daytime TV. Behind him in the back room I could just see his young female assistant sitting at a table eating something with a spoon. The view almost – almost, I say – had the epic banality and numinous profundity of an Edward Hopper painting. The smell of her lunch had wafted through the shop: a gross admixture of oxtail soup and pot noodle.
I’ve made a little study of the manager before and it struck me that he is the epitome of a certain type that infests betting shops and racecourses. He’s about 50, thin, with the face and eyes of a man who has been smoking, bullshitting, crust-swiping and shit-stirring since he was a small child, in other words a sort of hairless monkey (as opposed to naked ape). His hair is cut like a teenager’s, and is dyed the colour of brown Kiwi boot polish.
There’s nothing he doesn’t know about racing and about ‘having it off’ on the horses. This is, presumably, why he is managing a betting shop for a poor salary at the age of 50. He has total contempt for his customers, excepting the coterie of degenerate gamblers, violent small-time builders and football-obsessed morons that constitute his social circle.
What he really admires isn’t winners – he pays out with a furrowed brow and his attitude suggests that your winnings are coming out of his pocket (I dare say his employers operate some arcane bonus system). I won a 200 quid in there one Sunday afternoon on a mad 16/1 shot and he looked furious. No, it’s big losers he admires. Men like him and his friends reduce absolutely everything in life to a sort of virility test. Betting is no exception. He therefore admires the sort of men who walk in, pissed, after a week’s toil on a building site, and, after staring at the screens for three minutes and breathing heavily through their mouths, stick fifty pounds on a dog or a horse, lose it, swear uncontrollably, and then do it all over again and again until they stagger off home to the wife with a score to last them until next payday, muttering about how ‘that dog had shit in its eyes’.
He admires the sort of jack the lad who lumps two hundred quid on an evens favourite to win. Conservative betting is what he despises. I have come to be a largely conservative bettor, on the grounds of personal experience, current financial woe, and by having American writer and horse racing fanatic Damon Runyon’s famous aphorism never too far from my mind: ‘All horse-players die broke’.
I wrote out a 2.50 double and took it to the counter. Slowly, he took his legs off the counter and dragged his eyes round to meet mine. I pushed the slip under; he picked it up. The manager studied it briefly. He regarded it in the way he would if he discovered he had inadvertently got some faecal material smeared on the palm of his hand.
“Can I have the prices on those, please?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said disagreeably, and knuckled down to the intense hard labour of looking up two prices and writing them on a betting slip. “Not much of a pick-up if they win,” he observed.
“Fifty quid’s fifty quid.”
“Put a cockle on, then you’ve got a proper bet,” he advised with a sort of avuncular contempt. I replied quick as a flash and in an unpleasant tone: “Why would I want to give ten quid to you on a stupid bet like this?”
He seemed to realise that it was time to let the customer be right. He pushed the processed slip back under the glass and said nothing. I looked at him. He grunted by way of thanks.
I walked away, and said, ‘stroll on,’ in the manner of Michael Caine in Get Carter. I looked at the screens for a bit while whistling ‘Hey, Big Spender’, then left the premises.
Both horses in the double came fifth.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Mick Taylor and the Whirligig of Time

It’s a shame about Mick Taylor. The former Rolling Stones guitarist has surfaced in the middle pages of the Mail on Sunday, now aged 61, skint as a tramp, fat as a pork butcher and living in a tiny hovel in rural Suffolk with thirty-five years of smack and coke abuse on his doctor’s notes. An ignominious life for an ex-member of the ‘greatest rock and roll band in the world’.
The Stones have made a billion and a half quid out of their records and tours – and that’s without the tons of cash and publishing rights to their most famous songs that Allen Klein swindled them out of – but they stopped paying Taylor his royalties in 1982, when they changed record companies and a lawyer told them to drop him from the payroll.
Taylor was a great blues guitarist and his joining the Rolling Stones was musically providential for him and them: they were musically limited but possessed of classic chops, attitude, preternatural rhythmic ability and steeped in black American popular music of the last seventy-five years; Taylor was a 20-year-old blues guitar virtuoso whose fluent playing put him in the top league of British guitarists back then. He gave them ‘guitar hero’ credibility and ability in the age of Hendrix and Clapton; they stopped him disappearing up his own arse musically. The results of this alliance can be heard across more than half a dozen LPs from 1969 to 1974, which for me constitute the high water mark of the band’s achievement. Everything before was a brilliant rehearsal of that period; everything after was a soggy cliché. As my friend and fellow blogger Mark Brentano has heard me say too many times in public houses: the Stones finished the day Mick Taylor left them.
It is a well known fact among we amateur Stonesologists that Taylor contributed to the songwriting of this period and that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards kept all the publishing for themselves, probably because they’d been so comprehensively rolled by Klein.
It’s seems clear from Taylor’s comments that he was the archetypal aloof musical protégé who thought that great musical talent was an unanswerable Monopoly card that could be used as a proxy for common sense. I’ve got a pal like that, whom I love dearly, and who is currently drinking himself to death in one of southern England’s more deprived seaside towns.
However, the Stones should cough up some cash for Mick Taylor, it’s as simple as that. The band’s leaders are, as has been noted many times, hard characters that take great exception to resignations. ‘A cross between an English gentlemen’s club and the mafia’, was how an insider described the band’s internal workings back in the day. But 35 years have passed and Taylor’s virtually an old aged pensioner. The band members could all give him half a mill and never know it was gone. Taylor says he’s finally going to the lawyers. It will be interesting for Stones-watchers to see if they settle out of court or go for the gamble.
Mick Taylor's fate is ironic, when you think about it: When he joined the band he was a teetotal, non-smoking vegan, five years younger than the rest of them. He became a long-distance drug addict and now looks ten years older than the rest of them (barring the kippered macacque that is Richards). Looking at Taylor’s picture in the paper I was reminded of Feste at the end of Twelfth Night: ‘And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.’

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Sherlock Holmes Doesn't Smoke Anymore

Email to a pal:

You're quite right about Holmes 'piss-takes' being a graveyard. I had an argument with a friend of mine about this. She's the audience the BBC loves: mid-thirties; an eternal student where taste is concerned; Xfm all day long; stand-up comedians are the legislators of her moral and political world; a 'pacifist' and 'socialist' who loves money and power and refuses to argue her political stance, because that's 'boring';thinks the Foo Fighters are 'rock and roll' (as opposed to being thrashy, tinny white 'rock', like the odious John Cougar Mellencamp played on a higher speed); thinks Dr Who, far from being a children's programme of highly variable quality, is actually the greatest entertainment known to man and Russell T Davies and the actor who plays the Doctor are Shakespeare and Garrick respectively; regards the whole day-glo, noisy, specious, flippant, vainglorious, boring, hypocritical, upspeaking, trashy, 'postmodern' vista of television as her Arcadia and her theological handbook of instruction; her divine trinity is Bill Hicks, Kurt Cobain and Jonathan Ross - with a little bit of Robbie Williams on the side, for those weepy, chocolate scoffing moments.
So we're sitting there half-cut and I mention the stuff about the new BBC Holmes and she says, 'well, that's a good way of updating him. I just think that him having smoking patches is a good way of updating him.'
I said, 'he's been cleaned up for the Blairite age, where tobacco is banned but other street drugs are negotiable and marijuana a naughty treat for kids. He is, in fact, the Labour Party's Sherlock Holmes by dint of his having been worked over by television people and television people are all Luxury Socialists ie the Labour Party of today. Look at that pompous northern cunt who played him before the present one, his press conference was all 'my Dr Who is about meeting aliens and not thinking they're terrible just because they're aliens.' (get the - mid-Atlantic academic's accent - subtext there, John?)
But, when people having been weaned on telly and its values, anything outside of that thinking is shocking to them, like in the Isaac Asimov novel where the planet is a roofed-in, airbrushed ut(dyst)opia where kids have never seen the sky and when they are taken up and shown it they go insane. Never turn the telly off, kids, reality will send you insane.
Funny thing about it is that people such as her were ALWAYS pointing out 'ruling class' propaganda 20 years ago but now their ruling class is doing the Goebbels they fail to see it. I've even heard it said that the BBC was and is 'right-wing', though any consideration of its drama output of the last 45 years will show a marked Loachian aspect.

Ah well, the left will rediscover moral indignation when Cameron takes over the Blairite project next year. Have you heard about this Jack Straw quote, 'the English as a race are not worth saving'? I want to use it but cannot find the source.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Poppy Cock

These days, when things go very bad, very publicly, for any sort of government enterprise you can rely on what I call the sunshine balancer to appear very quickly. The sunshine balancer is positive spin and, after the last week's news about the mortal fiasco surrounding the elections in Afghanistan, I was waiting for the combined spin doctor talent of the British and American governments to produce something. Lo and behold the UN pipe up with some 'good' news about a marginal reduction in the Afghan poppy crop.

Makes you think, doesn't it? It took six years for the allied armed services to beat the combined forces of the Axis powers and eight years for the allied armed services to reduce the poppy crop of Afghanistan by 10 per cent*. At one stage, the war was all about halting the poppy trade, then that all sort of faded out. Now, as the democratizing/throttling the Taleban plan has been shown to be a bloody failure it seems as if we're back on the poppy war again. Hey ho.

*I don't mean to cast aspersions on the armies involved: they are fighting the war according to the tactical and material limitations imposed on them by politicians.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Well, Tony Blair, Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, George Bush, Mark Steyn, Euston Manifestoistas, where are ya? Counting money?


'Widespread and systematic fraud during the Afghan presidential elections has tarnished the legitimacy of any future government and undermined the Nato campaign there, Western and Afghan officials have admitted.

Two more British soldiers were killed yesterday and the commander of the Nato forces in Afghanistan warned President Obama that the eight-year war was in a “serious” state and that big changes were needed if victory was to be achieved.'


'The metaphor chosen by General Stanley McChrystal to describe America's plight in Afghanistan is both graphic and depressing. The commander of US and Nato troops likened his force to a bull charging a matador (the Taliban) and being weakened with every sword thrust. He also warned that the Allied strategy was not working, because areas cleared of insurgents were not then held; meanwhile, the Afghan people were undergoing a "crisis of confidence" because their lives were not being made better after eight years of...'

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Email to a pal: Hitch Minor, Sherlock Holmes, Anthony Powell, and The Germans.

'I read Hitch Minor's latest book recently, The Broken Compass. The flak he's got since his last book has made him sharpen and refine his arguments considerably. The showboating and the baiting of the audience has subsided. If the Labour Party still had its socially conservative/patriotic side then he'd fit right in. The chapters on education and feminism have some knock-out punches for the Blair/Gove/Cameron/Mandelson mindset. I disagree with a load of what he says, but some things are just so spot on you want to clap. He was completely right about Blair from the word go.

I was perhaps rash about the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. I take your point. I'm going back through The Case Book of, and that has its moments. The Sussex Vampire, an old fave when I was a kid, has just about all the Holmes appurtenances - mist, mystery, old house etc - but the plot hangs on the wife refusing to tell the husband that his son is poisoning their baby cos it would break the man's heart. LUDICROUS, even in pulp fiction. Also been buying the Rathbone/Bruce B-Movies. You can get the UCLA-restored ones for three quid at HMV. They are very enjoyable: good 40s Hollywood lines, great 'cheap' art direction that is, with this material, much better than realism. Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw and The Pearl of Death (featuring The Hoxton Creeper) are total rockers. Picked up some new information in one of them: 'Moriarty was a virtuoso on the bassoon'.

Been re-reading Powell. The Military Philosophers and Books Do Furnish a Room. I loved that bit at the end of TMP when he bumps into Jean Duport down a side street off the Embankment and remembers her opening the door to him years before, naked. I sort of waited the whole book for one line and when it arrived I found that I'd underlined it: 'Like so many things that have actually taken place, the incident was now wholly unbelievable.'

Regarding the anniversary of the war. I was in a pub the other night with two pals, Angela and Mick. There were three stools at the high table were drinking at. They went out to have a fag. Meanwhile, eight or ten middle-aged, middle class Germans, all dressed in cheap-looking leather jackets, walked in. It was half-eight at night in the big Wetherspoons in George Street, so seating was scarce. They looked around a bit. Spotted Mick and Ange's chairs and here's what they did. Two of the wives sidled over and stood near Angela's stool. They looked round at it. Then one of the husbands came over and put his pint of lager on our table, at the edge, near Ange's stool. They could see both chairs were in use, by the half-empty pints. A moment or two passed. Then one of the women grabbed the back of the stool and started to turn it round her way, while another of the men grabbed Mick's stool. "OI, OI, OI, IN USE," I said and, feigning surprise, they gave the stools back with crinkly mouths and the man took his beer away. But they hung near. Mick and Ange came back and one of the women leant on the back of the stool. "What happened?' asked Mick. I replied loudly: "I've just seen the political and military history of Europe, 1914-1945, played out in this pub, that's what."
Even Mick, a hippy and socialist, laughed. The Germans scowled and left. When I got home there was something on the telly about the Germans torpedoing the SS City of Benares in 1940 and killing all those children. You've really got to watch those bastards.
And there, as Kipling concludes in the Man Who Would Be King, the matter rests.'

Peston v Murdoch Jnr; plus Murdoch Snr's delusion.

Robert Peston, who during the financial crisis somehow managed to make a legend out of himself by acting like a mad aunt dosed on Ritalin, has been arguing and swearing with James Murdoch in Edinburgh. They’re rowing about the BBC’s expansion and stranglehold on the provision of British news and media. Murdoch wants to deregulate the market and, obviously, the BBC don't like it. Peston, Jana Bennett and other BBC bigwigs are convinced the public trusts only them. If they got out from Primrose Hill and started talking to ordinary people I think they’d get a bit of a surprise. Years ago, when I started pointing out to people the BBC’s bias towards the attitudes and beliefs of young urban liberals* I was met with dismissal. Now, ten years later, the same people point it out to me.
Peston will believe the BBC is a white knight of truth in a world of dingy right-wing American cable TV news values. And he’d be almost right if the beeb hadn’t lost its objectivity and begun, long ago, to rig its media presentation to suit the political and social agendas of its management and its political allies. When the BBC finally meets its political nemesis (who that may be is unclear. It is unlikely to be Cameron) and its obituary is written, this collapse in standards and rigour plus the rise in Birt-ian management-itis will be identified as the corporation’s fatal illness.
Peston and co would argue that even if you think the news is biased the BBC must be valued as a buttress against the crassness of commercial television. That would be a good argument if BBC television hadn’t become so crassly commercial itself. Murdoch's product will be brash and crass, but I'll take that over brash and crass plus pay-us-or-we-prosecute political and social bias. Ultimately, I find all this talk of television as some sort of vital component of civilisation rather ridiculous. I look forward to the day that television is regarded as a bona fide health hazard to society and the individual, like heroin and cocaine.
Another aspect of the argument to consider is Murdoch senior’s beliefs. He is now displaying signs of full-blown senility, by which I mean he believes he can start charging the public for is papers’ online news content. This will never work for two simple reasons that have, as per, completely eluded monster-salaried corporate geniuses: one, the majority will simply not pay for online news under any circumstances, because, and this is point two, new, free sites will emerge to scrape by on advertising and news gathered from the wire services and by pirating paid-for content (newspapers are filled like this now, so what would be different?). These sites will trump any paid-for service. Someone on Facebook will link to some site called freenews.com or something, all her friends will bookmark it and use it and that will be that. What the marketing men call 'viral'. Wailing about high-quality journalism will fall on deaf ears, unfortunately. That’s what happens when you dumb everything down: valuable things are not always recognized.

* Not exactly hard-core socialism but that utterly selfish consumerism mixed with empty platitudes, ‘don’t-know-if-I-really-believe-it-all-but-it-makes-me-look-good’ Guardian comment page views and vague internationalist posturing that constitutes the ‘leftism’ of today’s ‘educated’ youth.