Friday, December 31, 2010

today : pre-decadial tension

I thought of you
When they closed down the school
And the hospital too...

Monday, December 27, 2010

today : My Xmas message to the world

It's time to stop looking backwards. It's time we woke up. Nothing ever gets better when people cling onto old ways, old habits, old advantages. Some people will never change. They'll never learn from history and keep repeating the same old errors. They are too scared to jump out of their cosy little lives and actually try to effect change for the better. Or worse, they don't care about better at all. They don't care about the future as long as they're cocooned inside their accrued wealth and power.

So my Christmas message to the world is to keep the pressure on. Don't let them get away with their lazy, selfish small-mindedness. If you have to get out on the streets then why not do it? If you have to stand up and say you disagree, then why not do it? If you can change some slight thing in your own life and those of people around you then why not?

You don't have to take this crap. But you also don't have to sit back and relax.

If you live in a places where voting works, then vote old, backward-staring people out. Stand for office yourself even. If you don't have a vote, or it changes nothing then you might have to be a bit braver. But why not do it? Who else will try and make things better for the next generations.

If we do nothing they and we will be worse off, more oppressed and less free. The opposite of progress.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

today : Merry Christmas, your arse!

This year it took me until 9th December to hear Fairytale of New York. Which is quite a feat, as to only really encounter Christmas in December is rare these days. Hearing it played around is the unofficial start of the Season of Peace and goodwill to men. Needless to say it was in the supermarket, and then on Dec 10th I heard it played on the radio. Avoiding it for so long maybe had something to do with the recent snow, that kept me indoors for more than a week, and also the fact that I haven't really visited any shops. All my Xmas shopping has been done online this year and is already completed. How convenient.

As I say year on year, it's a brilliant song and is in some ways too good for endless Christmas repetition. You wouldn't really want to hear the Lachrymosa from Mozart's Requiem every day for two months in the supermarket, in the local shop, on the radio or at the mall would you, or Strange Fruit, or Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, or Supper's Ready or The Drunkship of Lanterns, or anything else for that matter.

And just in time for the season of goodwill to all men, there are more presents from our friend Gideon the Baronet, and his elves.

Gift number one
Hacking away at council services. The biggest cuts 'in a generation' i.e. since the last time the Tories were in charge.

Gift number two
'Efficiency' savings in the NHS - which in reality is reversing all of the recent infusions of cash into our most beloved public service. Something that hasn't happened in 'a generation' i.e. the last time the Tories were in charge.

Gift number three

Abolishing EMA.

Gift number four

Abolishing the individual living fund for severely disabled people. We're all in this together, it seems.

and more help for the disabled

Merry Christmas, your arse, I pray God it's our last

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

today the snow came

This photo was borrowed from here, a nice blog about where I live.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

today : spirit of 68

I've enjoyed seeing students on the march in the past few weeks. I don't like individual police getting hurt, but smashing windows can make a difference. If it didn't then the establishment wouldn't make such an effort to condemn when a brick gets thrown, or someone spray paints slogans on a police van.

I don't know the motivation of every protestor but it is clear that the ConDems don't get it. The issue is deeper than simply the workings of whatever loan scheme. Youngsters rightly are angry that their parents' and grandparents' generations got it so wrong. Peoples' parents came out of University and were afforded the opportunity to build a stable and comfortable life. Now, many graduates are facing the possibility of never being able to put down roots. Housing costs and restrictive mortgages mean that house ownership seems like a faraway dream. Graduate salaries are flattening out, and they're constantly being told that they can't rely on a lifelong career. They look around the world where there are opportunities but even then they were let down by a system invented and run by their forebears. Whilst everyone in Europe and the Far East was learning English there was no focus on languages in British schools. This makes the EU labour market unbalanced. You were never prepared for a world where your job might be in Germany or Macedonia or China. They told you your Sats results were crucial, then your GCSEs, then your various A levels and finally your degree. You work hard, you believe them and you follow the path. Finally it spews you out into a world where there are no jobs, no mortgages and all you have is a big pile of debt.

When you're 18 or 19 you know that the nearest you can start actually living like an adult is somewhere way past 30. I remember being 18, and 35 is literally a lifetime away.

And whatever they might say, the Libdems lied. They made a solemn pledge about tuition fees but went back on it almost immediately. Why shouldn't intelligent young people feel angry and dissatisfied? Their elders, betters and leaders duped them again. What kind of an example is that?

I never understood political pledges as an election tool. Firstly, nobody ever believes them in the first place and, as the Dems have discovered, circumstance means that sometimes you are squeezed into breaking them. You end up looking hollow and unprincipled.

Monday, November 29, 2010

today : I give out some plaudits

Hurrah for George Osborne. We know we can trust Gideon the Baronet to be 'fair' and look after our interests. That's why, after running on an election promise of dealing with the amoral, greedy rich, he's put the brakes on regulating bank bonuses under the guise of needing to do things Europe-wide. Pretty generous of someone who has long been a declared Euro-sceptic. Oh, and the heir to an Irish baronetcy has also given the Irish 7 billion of the quid he's slashed from our public services and welfare.

Hurrah also for Eric Pickles, who has told councils that they must celebrate Christmas as a Christian festival. Yet another declaration that isn't needed but so kind of him to make Daily Mail readers feel good about themselves. So Birmingham has a Winterval event that encompasses Xmas, Eid, Divali and Hanukkah. Does that mean that the politically correct police go around fining people for going to a Christian Church and singing carols? No, it means that the council only has to put up one set of lights and can never be accused of ignoring or marginalising any group in it's huge and diverse population that has a religious festival around December (that's most religions, btw)

But the biggest hurrah is for Michael Gove. Not only has he proved that you can get to the top of politics, despite being half-man, half Atlantic Cod, but he has finally solved all the problems in the education system by the simple measure of making everyone do what he and his cronies did at school. That's a great relief for the poor and educationally disadvantaged. They'll now be able to finally learn all the Latin and Greek they've been hankering after for years, and be tested on Thomas Hardy novels only by yet more proper fashioned exams, instead of that annoyingly inclusive namby-pamby broad-based teacher-led assessment. To help with the Greek and Latin lessons Gove has also made sure that they will be conducted in broken down, semi-derelict and ruined buildings, just for authenticity. Oh, and he's going to solve all disciplinary problems by turning a few soldiers into teachers. That'll sort everything out in about 6 months and everything will be okay. What a relief.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

today : two brains (no) good

Hurrah for David Willetts, the Universities minister, whose considered first response to the recent student protests was to demonstrate how supportive and in-touch he is with his minsterial constituents.

His opinion? Not even to acknowledge the validity of the protest or to argue the case for raising fees, but merely the suggestion that most of the students and school pupils protesting the tripling of fees were confused and didn't understand the policy change. Such confidence in the young people of the nation is exactly what a Universities minister needs. Surely they can sleep safe in their halls knowing that the man in charge of their educational futures is such a sympathetic, understanding and respectful character. Willets (who went to a private school and then Christ Church Oxford) , is clearly down wiv the kids.

He does understand the concept of confusion, though. Perhaps it was confusion that led him to lie to a select committee in 1996 and having to resign from government.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

today : I apportion blame

Again we have a complex economic story. Who truly understands it? Not the newspapers and their £300 per person they reckon we are going to give to the Irish. Not even the economics reporters. Maybe they do understand it but can't really explain all the nuances in a 2 minute report. Certainly not any of the people who are vox-popped on the street and asked about a situation that could keep economics professors awake at night.

Perhaps not even the Irish government.

But one thing is for sure. Follow the trail back to its source and you get to the banks again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

today : who are the Royal Watchers?

9 hours into the royal engagement story and everything is as you would expect. There is only one fact to report and the news people are doing their best to spin it out as much as they can. One question intrigues me. Just who are these people who brand themselves 'Royal Watchers'?

When I was a mere teenager, I had a pal whose mother was obsessed with the royals. It was around the time of the Charles and Diana wedding and she'd been completely overcome with it. I, a staunch republican, was once more or less frogmarched from their house for suggesting that the tyranny of the monrachy should be overthrown. Apparently, my standpoint had caused actual tears. Things were never quite the same.
Nowadays I am still a republican but am more sanguine towards the actual people. Then, asking why we should fete and look up to Diana, possessor of precisely no O levels, at a time when the rest of us were desperately caught up in the scramble for exam grades, was one of the things that set my friend's mother off. Of course, I'd simply driven a wedge into the faultline of the poor woman's hypocrisy, but on reflection I could have kept my counsel, realising that her obsession was beyond logic. These days I possess no particular liking of the royals. But neither do I harbour any malice towards them as people.

What continues to baffle me are the snoots who appear out of the woodwork each time there is a Royal story.

They teemed across my TV screen today. Hour after hour I was assailed by women in twin sets with double barrelled names and ski-holiday tans; and men with comb-overs, tweed jackets and dubious dental hygeine.

There must be a specific path set out for them. If you attend a minor public school and are just not quite characterful enough, or well-bred enough, or pretty enough, or clever enough, to become barristers or editors or PR people, then I imagine the careers advice is to become a Royal Watcher.
Except none of them actually brought any insight or knowledge to the role.

They are (along with much of the current Cabinet) the best example of how a private education can go a long way. Teach people that they are superior beings and it doesn't matter how thick/useless/lazy they are; they will breeze through life with a brash unself-awareness, somehow convincing everyone that they are worth something when, if you scratch one billimetre beneath the surface, they pretty much aren't.

It is these people who have infested my TV and radio for the last 9 hours, telling me that Kate Middleton is a naturally beautiful woman with lovely teeth (always a measure used by the upper classes - without shame they assess their women as bloodstock). It was one of these people who commented that it would be controversial that Kate is a 'commoner' marrying into a blueblood dynasty - the inference that she might contaminte the bloodline with dangerous mediocrity. When was the last time you heard someone referred to as a 'commoner'? Somewhere around 1788, perhaps.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

today : that's the sound of the men working on the chain gang

Nothing wrong with helping the long-term unemployed gain work experience and the confidence to re-enter the job market. It's quite easy to get a caught up in a whirlpool of low self-esteem while the waterfall flows over you.

But, as always, the Tories give themselves away with their rhetoric. In the past six months it has been a relentless barrage of negativity fired at the most vulnerable. It's a blatant attempt to create an orthodoxy of division and blame in order to justify their all-out attack on the poor. Anytime anyone points out that the rich seem to be getting richer they jump up and bleat on about class warfare. The real class warfare is in slashing investment, hacking away at the poorest in society, wilfully destroying jobs in vulnerable areas and continually attacking the poor for being poor.

And now the unemployed are to be put to work picking up litter and cleaning graffiti for their £65 a week.
This appeared in the press. A Coalition source said: ‘We cannot go on allowing tens of thousands of people to wilfully avoid getting a job. Some go to great lengths to sabotage all efforts to help them find work. That is partly why the welfare bill has gone up so much and it is why hard-working taxpayers get so angry. ‘Some have been out of work for so long that they are literally incapable of obtaining or holding down a job. They have lost the discipline and all sense of work ethic. ‘This programme is designed to address that. It is not intended to apply to people who have genuinely tried to find work or who genuinely cannot work. Some people have simply got out of the habit of working. Hopefully this scheme will help them get back into a nine-to-five routine. ‘But is it meant as a sanction? Yes – and we are convinced it will have an effect. ‘All research shows that when sanctions are applied to those who can work but try to avoid it, they soon get the message and get off their backsides.’

The first thing that is worth pointing out here is that something like these measures already exist. Long term unemployed people are compelled to attend job-seekers training courses. I know, because I taught a bunch of them basic skills (and in the process managed to help a few get a job). If they fail to attend the training then their benefits are compromised.
So all that's changed is that instead of endeavouring to help people, the Coalition has decided to declare this kind of thing as a sanction. The inference here is that people should be punished for being poor. An orange jump-suit and a shackle away from a chain-gang.

As with the relentless drive to demonise the disabled. At best this is merely a way of justifying what is really an easy choice for amoral politicians. It's easy to demonise the poor and voiceless as you attack them, just as it's easy to kick someone while they're down. At worst it is an expression of their hatred and contempt for the poor, disabled and voiceless. All evidence from the past suggests that they really do despise the poor and relish the opportunity to attack and undermine them. Remember that these are the people whose ranks include George Young (current Tory leader of the house) who described the homeless as the people you step over on the way to the opera.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

today : and the Mail on Sunday duly delivers

text quoted from here

The feckless unemployed will be forced to take part in a punishing U.S.-style ‘workfare’ scheme involving gardening, clearing litter and other menial tasks for just £1 an hour in a new crackdown on scroungers.

And if they fail to turn up on time or work hard they will be stripped of their dole for three months.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will tomorrow unveil ‘compulsory community placements’ in an attempt to stop people living on benefits for years without bothering to look for work.

The ‘Workfare UK’ project will be targeted at tens of thousands of people suspected of sabotaging attempts to make them work.

The measure is a key part of David Cameron’s drive to slash Britain’s annual £192 billion welfare budget.

But Labour MPs condemned the scheme. One said: ‘This sounds like slave labour.’

The scheme is also likely to run into fierce opposition from some Liberal Democrat MPs.

Under Mr Duncan Smith’s anti-scroungers blueprint, employment office chiefs will be given the power to order the long-term jobless to take part in four-week mandatory work schemes.

Instead of receiving their usual £65-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance for sitting at home doing nothing, they will get substantially less – and will have to clock on and off on time and work flat out.

The Government has not decided how much people on ‘community placements’ will be paid but it is understood the figure will be between £30 and £40 a week – the equivalent to £1 an hour, one sixth of the minimum wage.

They will also be expected to look for a ‘proper job’ for when they complete the scheme. Each participant will be expected to spend at least 30 hours a week on their specified ‘work activity placement’.

If the unemployed fail to turn up on time or work hard they will be stripped of their dole for three months

A Coalition source said: ‘We cannot go on allowing tens of thousands of people to wilfully avoid getting a job. Some go to great lengths to sabotage all efforts to help them find work. That is partly why the welfare bill has gone up so much and it is why hard-working taxpayers get so angry.

‘Some have been out of work for so long that they are literally incapable of obtaining or holding down a job. They have lost the discipline and all sense of work ethic.

‘This programme is designed to address that. It is not intended
to apply to people who have genuinely tried to find work or who genuinely cannot work.

Some people have simply got out of the habit of working. Hopefully this scheme will help them get back into a nine-to-five routine.

‘But is it meant as a sanction? Yes – and we are convinced it will have an effect.

‘All research shows that when sanctions are applied to those who can work but try to avoid it, they soon get the message and get off their backsides.’

The projects will involve all kinds of work, from gardening to clearing litter, repairing vandalised bus stops and buildings and street cleaning.

There are an estimated five million people stuck on various kinds of out-of-work benefits in the UK. Britain now has one of the highest rates of workless households in Europe, with 1.9 million children living in homes where no one has a job.

The proposals are part of a Government White Paper on welfare reform which will herald a bonfire of dozens of complex benefits, to be replaced by a more straightforward single Universal Credit.

Read more:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

today : I continue to be a lazy scrounger

It already started when the coalition was installed. The chipping away, the cynical stories relentlessly in the lap-dog Tory media, the repeated statements made in an attempt to coin an orthodoxy of opinion, the unfiltered, unbalanced think-tank reports.

But it will get worse. At least once a week there will be a planted story in the media, a minister making some statement or even better, the single news reports focusing on individuals.

The uncomfortable truth is that there is a section of people who exploit benefits. Mainly, these are people who commit straight up fraud - the people who claim to be unemployed but work cash in hand, or those who put on an elaborate charade of disability in order to get DLA and a car. But for the vast majority, benefits are a port of last resort. Almost everybody who claims welfare has to grit their teeth and put aside their personal pride in order to do so. Go to the Jobcentre and just hang out. You can feel it in the air - a sense of bitterness and reluctant defeatedness that just hangs there.

Yes, there are some who get trapped into it, and can see no way out. Children of parents who have been brought up feeling keenly their place at the bottom of the pile. There are also some who end up marginalised and caught in the habit. Quite a few are trapped by the system itself - the fact that going back to work will actually make them poorer.

And lets not get mixed up here. People who live on government benefits don't live but survive. When I worked with the unemployed many of the people walked to and from my literacy classroom to save a few pennies on bus fares. The ones who are (and will be) trumpeted in the Express and the Mail are a tiny minority. Even then, I would defy any tutting Mail or Express reader to swap lives or incomes with them. The amount of people making themselves rich from defrauding the system is absolutely tiny.

At the moment, I'm one of the ones who has to survive on benefits. I'm one of those ill/disabled people who you might think, if you saw me, was perfectly capable of working but is just lazy. I'm not - I have ongoing chronic pain issues that you can't see. I don't screech all day or go around with my operation scars on display. I've seen it from all sides. Not only have I had well paid employment, but have also worked closely with the unemployed and disabled. I'm honest and try and make my way. I've paid a stack into the system and now have to draw on it.

I'll be swept up in the broad attacks built from little stories. I claim housing benefit, but I'll be lumped in with the very very few who live in central London and claim against extortionate rents (why not fix the whole London rents issue by doing what New York does and have a rent control policy?). Consequently nobody will stand up for me. When the cuts bite I'll actually be about £90 per month worse off. That's about three weeks food shopping per month. That's about half my utility bills I won't be able to cover. But I will be branded some kind of scrounger.

I claim DLA too - a double whammy. I get ESA - a triple whammy (this will be slashed along with most other things). The DLA claimants who run marathons or dance the tango are always front page news, but the subtext is always the same: disabled people are scroungers. Unemployed people are scroungers. Ill people are scroungers. Why should we pay for their laziness?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

today : blame Canada

Now the Tories are in, and doing the same old things, there is a temptation to will the economy to tank, to wish them to screw up so I can not only see them tipped out of power again, but to enjoy it. A bit like the extra relish you get from a four nil victory, that's not just a victory, but leads to the opposition manager being sacked.

But I also know plenty of people who are teetering financially, and if Osborne's gamble fails, will take a pretty nasty hit. Because to will failure on Tory policy is to will people out of work and to will people into living on the streets. So I really want everything to be okay.

Except it won't be. I talked before about the intellectual basis of Osborne's cuts and I am reminded of Thatcher. She, of course, had many qualities. I cannot but admire the way she went back to work the day after the IRA tried, and almost succeeded, in blowing her up. It takes a strong and wilful person to carry on in such a situation. Likewise her willingness to be disliked and apparently not care. But, of course, she was wrong on almost all policy issues, morally suspect in consorting with likes of Pinochet and heartless in face of the suffering of her own people. The same qualities that I could admire, unfortunately sprang not from a Churchillian resolve and vision, but from being blinkered and, frankly, a bit thick.

She, of course, was seduced by the Monetarist vision poured into her ear by Keith Joseph (shamefully, he was my MP). And I am always extremely suspect of anyone who proffers an evangelistic position on anything. There is certainty of vision, and then there is a kind of swivel-eyed adherence to ideology that appears to ignore doubt. I have never known an intelligent person who didn't question or moderate their opinions by reflection and engaging in a dialectical process with alternative viewpoints. I have, conversely, known many, many very stupid people who are absolutely certain of their own correctness.

Osborne and his people seem to have been seduced by what happened in Canada in the 1990s. A massive deficit reduction programme, with a goal of balancing the books within a few short years not only got Canada out of a financial hole, but counter-intuitively, the economy grew at the same time.

As with all situations, Canada's economy at the time was subject to very specific conditions. To extrapolate a template from what happened is risky at best and folly at worst. But isn't this what all ideologues do? They constantly try to find a magic solution, a simple set of rules that solves or explains everything. Always, it ends in tears. Whether it's Stalin bolting his own notions onto Marx and coming up with the Soviet nightmare, or a free market, light-touch regulation of financial institutions leading to a collapse of the banking system.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

today 80s music fest continued

there's a good argument that this song was the first ever goth song.

this is possibly my favourite song of the 80s. How I adored ice queen Susanne Freytag. I saw them play live and she never cracked a smile the whole time.

today : feels like the 80s again

tonight I switched on the TV. Newsnight was going on about the Tories slashing public services and then Heaven 17 were on Jools Holland's show.

It was like the 90s and 00s had never happened. So I decided to have a small 80s music fest.

Starting with these gems:

Friday, October 22, 2010

today: The laughing gnomes

There are many things I could write about the 'cuts' that happened this week. I'll quickly list them.
1. The Tories sudden antipathy towards the IFS - long used by them as the analysts of choice and tool to beat Labour with, but now peddlers of nonsense.
2. The utter lack of an intellectual justification for their actions. Osborne : "We have to do this.", Questioner: "Why?", Osborne : "Because it must be done"
3. The obvious fact that the speech itself was full of obfuscation and structured like all budget speeches with the clear and coherent parts all about handouts and the detailed and long-winded parts all about the bad stuff. 4. The lack of detail.
5 The fact that the lack of detailed plans left the teams of journalists and correspondents floundering. At one point in Osborne's speech Nick Robinson posted insightfully: "7 Billion in cuts is the same as £10000 less for 7 million people." Perhaps they could have got Rachel Riley in instead.
6. The way the TV companies all produced logos and graphics on the 'budget day' model for something that was not a budget, and looked a bit daft. Thursday morning: Louise Minchin sent to talk to 'poor' people at Dickensian market in East London. The best she could come up with was a fruit stall holder who told her that people spend about £3 a week on fruit and after the cuts might only spend £1 a week. A point Louise reiterated at least three times.

But the thing I noticed most was something that Alan Johnson pointed out in his rebuttal speech, but didn't hit hard enough on. It was the sight and sound of Tory MPs and Minsters cheering job cuts, cheering slashes in public services, cheering austerity and poverty, cheering benefit cuts.

It gave them away. At no point was there a single note of regret. No notion of 'we have to do this but it gives us no pleasure to throw half a million dedicated public servants out of work'. No mention that some people will be badly affected but it is a painful but necessary choice.

They enjoyed it. They revelled in it. They celebrated it. Whilst telling us all we must take the pain, Gideon Osborne - future 18th Baronet of Ballintaylor (worth 4 1/2 million), Cameron (worth 4 million - set to inherit up to 30 million) and Clegg (worth a couple of million with family wealth of several million more) were, and remain, gung-ho.

It was if the whole party had been waiting desperately for the last 13 years, swelling up with the pressure that builds and builds when you are constantly denied the chance to kick the poor in their pasty, subservient, worthless faces. And they couldn't help letting it all out in a smug tsunami of arrogance and guffawing cruel stupidity. Like bullies pissing on a cripple and sticking the video on youtube.

It not only shows the Tories in a poor light, and, as Johnson pointed out, caught up more in their ideology than any notion of patriotism or reality, but also does politics itself no good. We have MPs who have apparently cleaned house on their own scams and fraudulent behaviour, happily laughing in the face of the ruin of millions. The fact that nobody in their own ranks thought to brief them about how such behaviour would look says an awful lot about how remote and ideologically driven these children of Thatcher really are.

today : "The Bonnie Lassie" says 'Awa an bile yer heid, Auldjin!"

Today's guest blogger is "The Bonnie Lassie" who relates an unusual blue-badge parking incident.

I also have had some hassle so to speak from members of the public sticking their noses places its not wanted! I parked in a disabled bay and put my badge on the dash and after locking my car realised there was this elderly man watching me from beside his car (also in a disabled bay). While I was walking past him he mentioned that did I know I was parked in a disabled bay to which I replied 'Of course I do and my badge is on the dash'.....tried to continue on my way and he stopped me again and said 'And you do know young lady,you are not meant to use someone else's badge to park there'.
'It's not someone elses badge it's my badge'.
'And whats wrong with you that gives you a right to have a blue badge?' he asked!!! 'What would you do if I called the police on you?'
To which I replied 'Laugh at you for making a fool of yourself!'

This got my back up and I told him in no uncertain terms that he was neither my consultant nor my GP and I didn't need to justify myself to HIM why I was entitled to a blue badge, but if he must know I suffer from Severe Bilataeral Talipes with Pes Cavus, and I've had it since birth!! I then added that he was just a bitter old man, whom, just because time wasn't on his side doesn't have the right to question anyone else about their disabilities and he should wind his neck in and mind his own business!!!

When I got home to my mum I was so distressed that I wanted to hand my badge back there and then! My mum being my mum called the police as I had noted the mans reg number and they came and took a statement from me and paid the old man a visit! He was still protesting to the police that I am not disabled and I shouldn't have been parked there as I was young and fit!! To which the police replied 'Have you never heard of someone being born with a disability,which this young lady was and she suffers from quite a painful deformity of her feet'......The old man never replied after being told that and to keep his opinions to himself as I could have had him charged with breach of the peace for putting me in an unnecessary state of alarm!!

Happy Days haha!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

today : my life is shit and I need someone to blame

It increasingly looks like the American Democrats will suffer a bloodbath in the upcoming midterms. I guess this is to be expected. Everywhere people are frightened about being poor.

But what happens in America always interests and amuses me. Their politics is so messed up that they really cannot see that they are consistently undermining themselves as a power. It seems that Americans are like Liverpool fans. Once, a long time ago they ruled the roost and perennially expect that they should continue to do so by default. But the world has changed since they were on top. Okay, so Liverpool have done well in the Champions league in the past decade, but that's a cup competition. Any team or country can shine in a cup competition, or in an individual area of business.

The story of the the midterms is that a mature Internet has fragmented the narratives of politics. This has always been the case to some extent in the USA because it is such a huge, geographically, culturally and economically diverse country. But the less people get their news and information from central sources, the more localised things seemingly have become. Localised to the point of reconfiguring communities outside of geography - meaning that people with similar opinions can form together and campaign more easily. Shazam! The Tea Party, connecting together confused, disappointed, bitter people everywhere with other confused disappointed and bitter people. It looks to me like the Tea Party (although much more complex than I'm portraying, and with some agenda driven people behind it) could easily be renamed the 'My Life Turned Out Shit and I Need Someone To Blame Party' - a party whose membership are almost entirely campaigning against stuff rather than for it.

This does diminish the power of the Metropolitan opinion formers and media. They grow ever more irrelevant to the discourse. Even when that discourse is riddled with prejudice, inaccuracy and selfish short-sightedness.

American politics has also suffered from the lack of balanced voice. One warning Brits can take from watching the USA is that to destroy the BBC would leave us open to anti-democratic Fox News-style broadcasters; 'news' channels that exploit freedom of speech to relentlessly and cynically push the agenda of their owners. In Fox's case, of course, this is Murdoch, whose only interest is in creating more wealth and power for himself and his companies. A 'News' channel is just one of his any means necessary.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

today : I become a murderer

I am a murderer. I am not proud of it. But I was provoked. A single fly decided to inhabit my house. It was okay at first. I saw it crawling across the ceiling, or sitting on the wall near the phone and it troubled me not. As long as it wasn't causing any harm or irritation. I did consider that the spider that lives in the living room light might even enjoy having a fly to catch. This is the spider that miraculously lowers itself the ten feet or so from the ceiling and hangs there, a small dot in my eye-line, visible against the light from the TV. I amused myself in thinking that maybe it just wanted to watch World News America. But after hanging there awhile, it gets bored and continues the perilous precarious descent, until it lands on the coffee table. Once or twice it has aborted the mission and climbed back up - the kind of rope ascent that would defeat the average human, but to the spider is as easy as pie.

The fly became bolder. It started to circle. It landed on the coffee table at the far side from where I was sitting. I tried to creep up on it and waft it away. I tried leaving the back door open for a few minutes, hoping it would escape. But it probably didn't fancy going out in the cold and the rain, so stayed stubbornly inside.

Then, the day before yesterday, it landed on my arm. I was watching Horizon and felt a slight itch. I looked down and there it was. This time the fly had crossed the line. It was, your honour. provocation. It invaded my personal space. I held my other hand still and then swiftly brought it down on my forearm. Slap! But the fly saw it coming and made a swift escape and found safe-haven on the ceiling, where it stared down at me mockingly.

I was reminded of the time some years ago when my beloved Dalmatian - Millie- had swatted a fly. Millie was laying in front of the fire on her side, apparently, asleep. The family were sitting around watching TV. A rogue fly appeared in the room and began buzzing around. We all tried to swat it. When it landed on furniture we all tried to bash it with magazines or cushions. It even survived one of us creeping up on it and standing over it, hands, apart, ready to clap them together. This is a 100% guaranteed way to eliminate a fly, and scientifically proven. It's said that flies cannot look upwards and also can only take off vertically. The waft created by clapping hands shocks the fly into trying to evade the attack it can feel but cannot see. It tries to buzz away from danger, but on take-off only succeeds in flying vertically, directly into the path of the clapping hands and its
inevitable demise by squishing.

Maybe we didn't clap hard enough. We all shrugged as it sat on high on the wall looking down. But then it took off again and buzzed circles around the room. Millie, snoring contentedly in front of the fire had been apparently oblivious to people vs fly contest that was taking place. The fly flew by her nose. She did not stir. But then it made a return journey. As it went past she momentarily awoke. A paw shot into the air - lightning fast - and batted it right out of the sky. Stone dead.

But Millie had grown old and died many years ago. This time I had no secret weapon. It was a one-on-one situation which was about to escalate.

Because yesterday it landed on my head, then danced contemptuously along the coffee table, just out of reach from where I lay prone watching Season 4 Episode 1 of Chuck.

Then this morning it went too far. I was about to set out on a trip to the fine city of Liverpool, 60 miles away from home. In preparation for the trip I was noshing a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. I brought the small plate of eggs on toast into living room and placed it on the table. Remembering that I'd forgotten to get a knife, I returned to the kitchen. When I got back, some 10 seconds later, there it was. It was sitting on the edge of the plate. It saw me and buzzed away. I sat down, risking the contaminated plate.

It was not content. The damn thing then landed right on the rim of my coffee cup. I wafted my knife at it and again it took off and made an escape.

The provocation was unacceptable. I could not now look the other way. This meant war.

I had a simple plan. When I went out I would spray the room with fly-killer. After all, the instructions advised to spray the room, then seal it for 30 minutes to an hour, rather than use the spray as a gun and expel a direct hit of fly killer onto the target.

So, before leaving on my trip, I loaded the room with enough of the stuff to kill Jeff Goldblum.

On my way back, I didn't even think about the fly. Like George W Bush on the deck of an aircraft carrier, I had already declared victory. With my superior fire-power, I just assumed that I'd won.

After grabbing something to eat, I settled down to catch up the news. Everything was fine and relaxed. But then the fly nonchalantly landed on the coffee table and began to strut around as if it had received lessons from Miss J.

I was stuck, entrenched in a war that was beginning to look, if not unwinnable, at least attritional. My exit strategy had failed. All that was left was shock and awe.

I got the spray from the kitchen and sat, like an SAS man in his foxhole, waiting for my moment. I didn't have to wait too long. The fly came back. This time it landed directly in the line of fire. I unleashed a barrage of fly spray, enough to drench the surface of the coffee table. The fly buzzed away but surely this was the end. No living thing could have survived such disproportionate use of chemical weapons. I knew this because I began to taste the bitter chemicals, and soon was reduced to a coughing fit as the poison infiltrated my system.

I went to the door to get some fresh air, and then retired upstairs to read Michael Connelly's latest Mickey Haller thriller which I'd bought on my trip. After an hour, my eyes were tired and I figured that the poison levels would have returned to within safe limits. so I went back downstairs. Salman Rushdie was being interviewed on HardTalk and I wanted to see what he had to say.

Re-entering the living room I was shocked into swearing out-loud. Not only was the fly perched casually on the coffee table, but it was close to ground zero, where I had saturated the table top with spray. What's more it looked in rude health, a fact which it proved by buzzing away as soon as I approached it with a rolled up copy of the Radio Times. Rasputin was easier to dispatch. A highlander was positively fragile compared to this fly.

I gave up. Sitting back on the sofa I switched on the TV to watch a relaxed and well-fed looking Salman Rushdie discuss his latest novel and various related topics.

Just as Rushdie was answering in the inevitable questions about The Satanic Verses, I felt a movement in the air near my ear. The fly had re-appeared and was manically circling my head, as if attempting to re-enact the sad demise of Rhandy Rhodes. I tried batting at it with my hands I couldn't get near it.

I decided to give up. To surrender. I was sure that flies don't live that long. If I just let it go then the thing would die of natural causes or be caught by the ceiling spider.

It was painful and politically damaging to admit defeat, but I had to respect any adversary that survived using wiles and an apparent immunity to Raid.

Salman had now finished his interview and a weatherman appeared. As I picked up the remote to channel surf the fly came buzzing round again. I decided to try and ignore its taunts. It flew in front of the TV three or four times. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz one way and then Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz the other. But then, just as I settle on the Jools Holland show, it buzzed into view again. Bzzzzzzzz...then silence. half way through its pass across my field of vision it simply stopped, like a WW1 biplane suffering an engine stall, and fell dead directly into the ashtray that was sitting on the coffee table. It landed upside down, feet in the air, in the classic pose.

I was a murderer. But I'd won.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

today : same old same old

I was talking to a long-time friend the other day. She said that she had a reunion with some people from her Uni days and everyone (now in their early 40s) was having some kind of mid-life crisis.
"None of them were happy," she said.

I would include myself in that category. My 'crisis' has been inspired my medical issues : suddenly not being able to walk has made me have to resign myself to the things I'll never do and regret many of the chances I didn't take. For example, disability travel, while not impossible, is much more daunting and expensive than able-bodied travel. Disabled employment is problematic and restricted. My ambit of my choices has been narrowed somewhat.

So for me it is not really a crisis of 'mid-life' as such. The timing is a kind of coincidence. But qualitatively, the effects are the same. Someone who has reached a stage of career boredom, feels stuck in a marriage and bound by children. someone who counts the grey in their hair. They feel trapped by circumstance. The fact that the circumstance is solely the result of choices they made when younger doesn't really make a difference.

I am wondering if some of it is triggered by the nostalgia of living under a Tory government. I became politicised in the 80s when we had to suffer what felt like a hundred years of Thatcher. In many ways Britain really was an unpleasant, divided and pretty dour place to be during those years. People forget.

I've noticed a similar feeling hanging around recently. It gets stronger and stronger. Every time I hear a Tory minister bluster out the same old Tory nonsense, I feel a mixture of annoyance and despair that reminds me of when I was younger and just getting to grips with the complexity and unfairness of the world.

In those days it was the knowledge that people were being punished for being poor and working class. Nowadays it is the fact that...erm...people are being punished for being poor and working class. It might not seem that way on the surface, but cuts never affect the rich, because they are rich. Taxes affect the rich, which is why the Tories are so against taxes.

I am a little confused as to the basis of the 2010 Tory economic vision. I suspect that they have embraced Canadian style balanced book ideas, whereas before it was all about Friedman. But as any Canadian who is about to suffer the collapse of their property bubble will tell you, balancing the budget was not the answer.

But then again, it also looks like the deficit is an excellent excuse to continue prosecuting the same old free-market ideology that has proved so successful at making the rich richer and the poor poorer over the past 30 years. Under the guise of essential deficit reductions they are poised to make 25% cuts over four years. I don't really think the average voter has any idea how much of our economy relies on the collective and what this will do. Sitting in a castle, the average old-money rich person will see little difference. They don't use public health, education, social support etc, so for them it won't matter. For the rest of us things are going to be quite different.

In one way I was wrong about the Cameron Tories. I thought they might be a little more easy going than the Thatcherites. But no. From day one there seems to be a determination to roll back everything that Labour did in the last 13 years, whether it is good or bad, useful or not. A 'market' in the health service, check, returning higher education into the hands of the wealthy, check. Constantly attacking vulnerable groups like the elderly and the disabled. Check.

The nub of how they haven't changed can be seen in their PR. The recession, that everyone in the world knows was caused by irresponsibility in the global banking system, was 'Brown and Darling's recession' in the lead up to the election. Not unexpectedly they conflated the meanings of recession in the UK economy caused by mismanagement in the UK system, as in Brown wishing to abolish boom and bust, with the meaning of global recession caused by global issues and actually sparked by Bush spending on 2 wars, tax breaks for the rich and lowering interest rates to 1% to create a false boom in property. It all became the same thing in order to sell a simple narrative to the electorate. But since getting in they have carried this on. It is their way of avoiding any blame for what might happen in the economy and a nice convenient cover for their unnecessary and ideologically driven public spending cuts.

A side effect is that the banks no longer caused any problems. It was all Brown and Darling. So no need to reign in their friends in the City.

It's the same old simpletons' view of the world. Stuck in an ideological rut.

Next week we'll get the cuts. They won't be quite as savage as we've been led to believe. There'll be some sweeteners. Something like Winter fuel payments or social care will be spared to make them look cuddly.

But they are the same moronic selfish bastards that they always were.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

today : I help people but get treated like crap

Even though I say it myself, I am a pretty altruistic person. Well, I try to be. But I always get it wrong. I always misjudge the line between helping others and feeling used and disrespected.

Let me give you an example. You give someone a lift to work or wherever each day. After a while you arrive at the specified time but have to wait around because they are tardy getting ready. This is okay but once in a while you want to be at work sharp on time for some reason and you start to resent the fact that, instead of being able to get there to do what you wanted first thing, you sit in the car wasting ten minutes.

Then, for some reason you are late in picking the person up. Now the tables are turned. They complain about you being late. It's messed up their schedule. So what do you do? My instinct is to tip them out of the car and let them walk. Maybe present them with a bill for all the petrol they drifted into not paying for. But that makes you as selfish and petty as them.

When I was younger I used to have a friend who would happily accept lifts all over the place, but would complain like a small child if he didn't like the music I was playing. One of those people who has a different 'cool' fashionable taste each week, so whatever you're playing is generally not what he wanted to hear. In hindsight I should have kicked him from the car when he complained, but didn't.

And even today. I did a favour for someone. It's not the first favour I've done them recently and I did it despite being quite ill. To be honest they'd got in a position where they needed help. But it wasn't just expected that I would do one favour, they had planned for me to give up my entire weekend to help them - thinking that rather than tell me this, they would get me at their house and then reveal the extent of their problems. But I was ill and they knew that. Having done exactly what I'd promised to help, turned around and came home.

An hour later I got a nasty text, everything I'd done already was wrong and useless and I was an unpleasant and selfish person.

What do you do? Carry on driving or throw them out and make them walk 20 miles?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

today : the poverty line

Hilarious. Ear splitting howls of protest from people over child-beneft cuts for high earners. Poor them. There was a woman on the news who admitted that her family would be punished. That it is unfair.
"I don't know where we can make any more savings," she said.

On what planet is the belief that £44,000 (about $70,000 - when the famous stat is that half the world live on less than $730 per year) is a level at which you cannot make savings? How many holidays do you take a year? How many times do you eat out a month? How many pairs of shoes do you have?

I have no objection to people earning and spending as much as they can. But nobody is automatically entitled to a luxury lifestyle. We are talking roughly double the average UK income here. How mollycoddled, financially cavalier and caught up in a feeling of entitlement is someone if they cannot take a 2% cut from £44000? A little less wine and skiing would do it.

Whilst the recent financial troubles in the rich nations have certainly caused problems for people, there are very few who have been left destitute, homeless or starving. A bit of belt tightening is all most people have or will suffered. Maybe a bit of worry or a period of unemployment.

In about 60% of the world's nations the financial crisis had had little real effect. That's the nations that don't have an economy to suffer a downturn or an uptick. That's where people scrape by, subsisting in agrarian communities. No TV, no Wii, no holidays, no pensions, no prescriptions (also no anorexia, no prozac and no mid-life crises).

Whilst rightly arguing the various corners of political policies we could all do with taking a reality check.

Having said that, it's interesting to note that the Tories first hack at welfare is a universal benefit. Tories hate universal benefits because they are clearly 3/4 of the way to Communism. Watch out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

today : tell them to shut up

People don't often say this, but right wing people are almost entirely stupid. I'm not using it in a general insult kind of way - saying, "Oh, people who disagree with me, they must be idiots." What I'm saying is that they actually are stupid, as in feeble minded, unintelligent and shallow of thought.

They are also liars. Maybe their lying springs from the fact that because they are stupid they get confused over things like logic, so they lie accidentally. But it's still lies. Here's a right wing economic lie: "The government should be small and taxes should be lower."
What they mean is, the government shouldn't do anything for anyone apart from me, and taxes should be lower for me.

Did I mention that right wing people are invariably totally selfish?

Here's another lie that right wing people trot out. Immigration is bad. What they mean (in England and America anyway), is that black and brown people are bad. No Daily Mail articles about all those nasty American actors and academics, aussie barmaids or South African Cricketers. It's foreigners who are bad. People who look different, or talk a different language. Which is a childish way of sorting out the world. People who look and talk like me - good: people who look different and talk different - bad.

Right wing people are invariably childish in their view of the world.

This is because they either haven't realised, or can't cope with the idea that things are complex and difficult. Right wingers are always desperate to reduce things to a simple binary level. Often they lie to make the world fit into their simple-minded perceptions. Invariably they are selfish in the way they simplify the world. It always ends up as me/you, us/them.

And most of all they are cowards. Scared to death of change, complexity, difference and reality.

In order to justify their fear they will adopt extreme standpoints that are illogical and dangerous. Yet it never crosses their minds that, for example, you cannot be a Christian and hate everyone else in the world. It says so in the Bible. Perhaps they are too stupid to read it.

Right wingers don't do ideology (the people who exploit them do do ideology - this is a whole new category. Not Right Wing but just evil). Ideology is about 3 syllables too long for right wingers to cope with. In fact they don't even do ideas.

Left thinking people don't point these obvious truths out enough. Left thinkers give right wing people too much credit. We sympathise with them. We imagine they are as intelligent, insightful and sensitive as we are. We defend their right to spout whatever moronic crap they are thinking, in their small, stupid, childish, selfish frightened little minds.

We really should just tell them to shut up.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

today : bad people who do good things

Ok, so Phil Spector is not a nice man. But Be My Baby is possibly the greatest record of all time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

today : Dade in flame

Okay, I know Gainesville ain't Miami but the pun was irresistable
Although all the criticism of Pastor John is totally justified, in that he is clearly one of those egotisical and not overly bright semi-charlatans who need to set up their own church in order to feel important, let us not forget that he only threatened to burn a few books.
What is really stupid is that the very idea of burning some paper ( or drawing a picture, or writing down some words) can be so inflamatory to some people that they will potentially kill innocent bystanders who would no more burn a Qu'ran than eat their own shoes in a sandwich with sliced domestic guinea pig and picallili. So while everyone continues to condemn this silly man in Florida, let's not just accept insane extremism as a given, but point it out and stand up against it.