Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Worst Thing, Again

I don't have a lot of sympathy for Gordon Brown. He was at the centre of this government, this intrusive, accusatory government, for ten years before he became PM, and he needs to start taking responsibility for the nastier aspects of Labour's achievements as well as bleating that none of the current crisis is his fault.

I also don't remember Labour being shy getting stuck into John Major, whose demeanour as PM was something like watching a toddler struggle in the shallow end of the pool wearing massive armbands. In fact the media as a whole have been a lot softer on Brown than Major (though the situations are not really comparable: Major's big problems came after that improbable 92 election win). I used to hear a lot from my English teacher (natch) about the "right wing media", which was a real trope of any liberal discussion in the 90s.

it's not something you hear anymore. Instead liberals tend to just whinge about the Daily Mail and the bloggers, while conservatives are gunning for the BBC (with extremely good reason in my view - how anyone can describe Matt Frei and Justin Webb as in any way impartial is beyond me. Webb's bizarre article in the Times on Friday, applauding the US's move towards more euthanasia as somehow making the US "cool" again should, if the BBC really were impartial, result in his sacking). Conservatives also whinge hysterically - if that is possible - about the Guardian. I think is probably due to the way its influence seems undue, given its readership.

I'm not going to get on my high horse about personal attacks. Politics is not only about policies; it is about human nature. If you think someone is truly hideous and awful you're less likely to vote for them, whatever their policies. Hence politicians spend a lot of time persuading you that their opponents are personally ghastly and that they themselves are just nice. Ideologues who do not intend ever to subject themselves to democratic approval act on behalf of those who do. The left do tend to do this more at the moment than the right, and often under the cloak of "analysis"; but that's probably reflective of the fact that the left have been in political and cultural power for ages and are simply trying to shore up the failing defences. They're also a bit shriller in their denunciations. I don't think it tells us anything psychologically, though about ideologues of left or right. Meanwhile the blogosphere is taking all these tendencies to new heights, led traditionally, though not for long, as the left is catching up quickly, by the right. But it is, as the Sarah Palin thing has shown, increasingly indistinguishable from the MSM. There is a crossover of personnel, attitude, themes and memes ("a heartbeat away from the presidency" for example). I don't know for how long we'll be able to talk of the blogosphere as an entity in its own right.

Perhaps it will just evolve again, and areas of it will hive off into a sort of second-MSM, with professionals weaving seamlessly between blog and MSM, or even with their blogs becoming a referenced, influential part of the MSM.

I digress.

I don't have any time for Brown, or for whinges about personal attacks. I've done it myself. I find it increasingly distasteful and horrible, but I'm not going to moan about it.

All I mean is: something is unfolding here in Britain. There is an immensely successful politician, with years of experience at the very top of government, who does not seem to see a way out. He seems literally clueless, whether he is or not. His identity as a politician, one with beliefs and ambitions, is unravelling.

This might create opportunities for British politics, ideological spaces to enable change; but it is crushing a man who devotes his life to this. It is clearly crushing him. More so than Major, who, you felt, simply didn't experience politics as deeply. Much more like Thatcher but more rapid and more complete - Thatcher's fall was partly predicated on the millions of people who never liked her anyway - she didn't enjoy the complete reputation Brown had before last year.

Politics is about human nature. I can't help feeling slightly...odd about the way things are at the moment. I can't help not wanting to join the circus, but to just quietly tell Gordon Brown to go, and go now. I'm not sorry for Brown...but that fall could happen to anyone successful. That's about - the caprice of life. Such sudden, destructive failure does happen, all the time.

Luckily, with my long record of laziness and incompetence, it's unlikely to happen to me.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Words Fail Me

Actually they don't. There is more than enough variety, shade and connotation in this language more than adequately to express opinion, belief, logic. Mathematics is more accurately descriptive of the real physical world but language has been able to help build civilisations and destroy them. The demagogue can do almost as much damage as the tank. It helps if you have both, of course. Language can evade meaning and justify anything you like. When words fail us it is because our thinking fails us. We are struck by rage, sometimes, but more likely sheer incompetence is what prevents us. We blame it on words, but the tools are there. So we stay silent, or we just roar - using some words, a few words, as surrogate screams. Their emotional content, their - shall we say - friction, bluntness,sibilance - their history, renders them less a comunication and more a howl. This is why the wild humans at the end of Will Self's Great Apes cry "fuuuuuck offffff" in the distance. It was the call of the human.

When words fail us we let things happen. Shouting sometimes reinforces the evil: it convinces the demagogue that his (or, increasingly often, her) shouting is just, and that of others proof of reactionary or disturbed tendencies. Words become our own jailors.

Words fail us because the thinking has failed, because we no longer recognise the tools we have and we have forgotten how to use them. The concepts we used to use in those words have been overhauled by something else and we have yet to create a new vocabulary to express what is, in fact, a very very old worldview. The language, somehow, needs to change, or the assault on the citizens will simply intensify. And the reactions we give them will convince them more of their need to act.

Some people of course have the talent required: almost no-one in the MSM: in the blogosphere, Tom Paine, Crushed (although he tends to talk far more personally), DK, and this guy among them. Alas, I'm not one of them. I just sit on the wall and shout. Or cry. That's a more accurate rendering of my use of words.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


It's a fairly dull old day here, and the rain is as usual falling -

oh no hang on, it's stopped!!! It's actually stopped!!!

oh no it hasn't. False alarm.

UPDATE: 5.15pm

Traditionally the start time for Doctor Who, and in the olden days we'd be right at the start of a new season...

And it isn't raining at this precise moment.

Good Lord

Woman fined for fire engine theft

A 45-year-old woman was fined after she admitted stealing a fire engine while its crew dealt with a flood near her home.

Catherine Durant was "irate" when she entered the cab of the fire engine before reversing it, crashing it into a brick wall and a car, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said.

Durant, of Pontypool, admitted aggravated vehicle taking when she appeared before Abergavenny magistrates. She was given community service, fined and banned from driving.

Courtesy of msn.

Call that a recession? Cah.

This is quite a good article until the last, rubbish, bloatedly biased sentence, which I would challenge anyone to prove is the authentic voice of the impartial BBC.

But it does make me laugh, when I read those awful history books about the champions of social justice and fairness, and how awful and uncaring the Tories are:

It was the month the dead went not just unburied, but were left on wards for hours at a time. When hospital managers struggled to find a way of coping with bodies that were starting to decompose. When ambulance drivers refused to answer emergency calls, and pickets on the dockside blocked the unloading of drugs needed for chemotherapy.

You see, this is all ok, for the leaders of the TUC, because they

were provoked by a substantial cuts in their real wages and by what they saw as the government's absolute refusal to recognise the importance of their role in society by paying them a decent wage.

But I thought they were motivated by love of humanity, and the public? And yet they were prepared to kill people, to get higher wages?

Latest Stasi Nonsense?

Today's Torygraph cover tells a familiarly depressing story, and JuliaM does her usual with it.

The interesting thing is the choice of glamorous names for these networks of little spies, such as "Street Scene Champions". Immediately you de-mystify and make ordinary something which is quite extraordinary: children paid to spy by the state.

The key question about it, apart from how the operation of justice works when it is solely the word of a minor against that of an adult (I think I can guess), is whether such initiatives will actually get the fly-tippers and yobs who deface our towns and cities.

Somehow I think I know the types of people who will be caught by all this.

Call it intuition.

This, however, is what Harlow Council has to say on its website:

Street Scene Champions project initially aimed at young people age 11 to 13 years who have shown an interest in taking care of the environment and improving the appearance of local areas. Street Scene Champions are encouraged to report static anti-social behaviour to Contact Harlow and take part in community project days which include things such as pond clearing, coppicing, clearing overgrown areas and planting new shrubs and plants etc. In return for their community spirit and positive citizenship they receive credit’s on a high street gift card which can be exchanged for school equipment, books, DVD’s etc. Participants are also given the opportunity to take part in training days that will equip them with valuable skills such as First Aid, fire and water safety and anti-bullying etc.

Clearly they don't teach them the art of apostrophes. Still, not much to object to there, provided that this is in fact what happens. Normally in this NuLab world things turn out to be a little more "complex" than they appear.

But of course the money shot of the Torygraph article is this:

Many of the town halls said they did not encourage their volunteers to confront offenders or collect evidence, for their own safety.

But Bromley Council in Kent offers up to £500 for information that leads to a conviction.

Crawley Borough Council in West Sussex said its 150 Streetcare Champions were asked to "report on individuals if known". Bolton Council said its Green Inspectors must "note any relevant information such as registration numbers" if they see criminal activity.

Aha. It is rather less innocent than it appears. Conviction by word of mouth: the enactment of vendettas and mischief, the promotion of constant surveillance.

And will the violent, or the dangerous get convicted? Nah.

A commenter on the original Torygraph article writes:

To encourage and assist any child to spy and report on so-called �criminal activity� is in direct contravention of the HASAW Act 1974 as no person under the age of 18 years and 1 day may be placed in a position that may lead to a risk to their heath, safety and welfare, whether for profit or not.

This would apply to the act of spying of course. Not the reporting of "static" problems.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Strange Object Seen In Sky

I could have sworn, a few moments ago, that I saw a large, spherical object, yellowish in colour, in the sky.

Nah, must have been hallucinating.

Just a Cheerful Thought...

I'd advise anyone to buy, as i have now done, all the series of "Old Harry's Game" - the radio 4 comedy written and starring Andy Hamilton. It is absolutely brilliant: in the main, hilarious, and where not hilarious, thought provoking.

There's even a brilliant episode where Satan tells Marx that socialism was a crock of shit. I've never heard any criticism of socialism on any radio 4 comedy so that was really refreshing. Poor old Marx. He ends up fighting with Stalin.

Although the ethics of putting Stalin into a radio comedy programme are a little complicated...

The End of Innocence Again

I've blogged on this before, and here is one of the latest examples at Obnoxio the Clown's place. The key point is that information on false allegations will be held by this database for ten years.

Ten years.

For a false allegation.

Just ponder this: for doing absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever, your job prospects can be screwed over for ten years. This will be rendered obsolete by the national CRB database anyway that will just keep these permanently.

For centuries we worked towards a society founded on justice: now we are building one founded on fear. The fear of these allegations will stalk more and more people. Because that is all it will take. The concept of innocence is irrelevant, totally irrelevant.

You have no possibility of clearing your name.

This, let's be clear, is only the start. Soon it will be extended to all sorts of people, not just those working with children. It will become a plank of the new justice, along with "the need to raise conviction rates" and other non-judicial concepts. The innocent will be caught more and more until no-one will ever know who was guilty and who was not.

This, of course, is the whole idea.

The silence of those who claim to care is deafening. The silence of those interested in rights is shattering.

A society based on fear of the state and fear of others. Informants, non-police enforcers, anyone who might make an allegation, police with weapons: the state constantly arming itself against its people, making it harder and harder for anyone to tell who is good and who is bad.

The state setting us up to destroy the bonds between us.

Day by day we learn more and more of this hate that our rulers, local and regional, have for the citizens of this country. Harsher penalties, more penalties, more rules, more bans. It's what we are used to. We see councils talking of "environmental crimes" - meaning dropping litter or leaving rubbish in the wrong bin, whereas we thought the word "crime" had been replaced by "offence" - no, it was just being saved.

It is silly to say we live in a police state. Of course we don't.

But we are doing our damndest to build one, we really are. And it seems that a lot of us will welcome it. After all, if you've nothing to hide...

which is where this database comes in.

Soldier Refused Room

This story sucks, of course. But what caught my eye was the statement that it had been a "mistake". May I respectfully suggest that what they meant by that was "oh bugger the bastards have gone to the bloody media so we look like a total bunch of cunts".

Just a guess.

500th post

Across both blogs, is over at the other place. Something to do with polynomials, I think. I'd be surprised, if, over these 500 posts, more than a handful are worth anything. I've become seriously, perhaps irrevocably, disillusioned with the blogosphere and its relentless shrieking and abuse. I've come to agree, though for entirely different reasons, and from an opposite perspective, with those who argued that there was too much bullying in cyberspace. This doesn't mean i am going to stop blogging: far from it. I get more out of typing than before, especially with regard to the maths (it is really helping my revision and if it helps anyone else, all the better). Most of my posts have been snippets, shouty and largely irrelevant. I don't think that really matters to be honest; but if you're looking for really quality posts from this blog, you do have to look quite hard actually. It seems a shame to admit it of one's own creative effort, and i never did set out to compete with DK or Dizzy or Timmy, but you do sometimes think, a la Kevin Pietersen, "what's the point if you're not going to be the best you can be?" (paraphrase) There has never been more blather in the world as there is now, opinions and arguments wherever you look. Opinions are good, very good. But after two years of trawling through the comments boxes of blogs both British and international you do begin to wonder how many hours of your life you will never get back reading people calling each other cunts*. Unlike some I actually like reading about blogging itself because I think it needs a dose of self-reflection; I'd like to see more good writing about blogging and where it could go from here.

* yes, yes, this is the Dalek accusing the Cyberman of not having enough respect for other species...