Thursday, 28 June 2012

Very small, hexagonal, terror cells

David Anderson, who holds the post of “Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation”, has noticed this:
  • this century, on average, five people per year have died in the UK as a result of terrorist attacks
  • in 2010, five people in England and Wales died as a result of being attacked by bees, wasps or hornets
The official threat level has been reduced from "Amber" to "Yellow With Black Stripes."*

* yes, I know they’ve dropped colour coding in favour of some equally meaningless measure, but I couldn’t resist that one…

Are you a victim of mis-selling?

Have unscrupulous salespeople pressured you into signing up to an unsuitable single currency? Has this left you suffering from any of the following:
  • high unemployment?
  • education cuts?
  • health cuts?
  • welfare cuts?
  • whopping taxes?
  • unaffordable credit?
  • loss of your employment rights?
  • loss of your pension rights?
  • loss of your economic sovereignty?
  • social unrest? 
  • loss of your democracy?
If any of these things have happened to you, then you may be a victim of mis-selling and you could be owed ££££££ €€€€€€!!!!!

But don’t worry - it may not be too late to claim compensation from the people who got you into this mess!

Only joking. Sorry, Europe, you’re screwed.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Evan Davis does topical standup

It's interesting to hear that the bizarre Olympic brand policing operation now attracts open mockery even from the studiedly impartial BBC Radio 4 newsroom. Commenting on today's newspaper reports about plans to fast track the criminal justice system for Olympics-related crimes, I heard that Evan Davis wondering aloud what would constitute an Olympics-related offence - 'drinking Pepsi or using a MasterCard within five miles of the venue?'

No quite up to the standard of my all-time favourite word bite on the topic ('...the London Olympics brand exclusion zone, perhaps the only advertising project to include its own anti-ballistic missile system'), but not at all bad for a quick aside. Evan just might be able to give up the day job.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Photoshop jihad FAIL

This is from the web site of Al-Manar, a Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese TV station.

Purely on the basis of the graphic, I'm guessing that these guys aren't drawing on an extensive pool of talent. Most parish newsletters in the UK can muster somebody with better Photoshop skills than this.

I love the way they illustrate 'anti-aircraft guns' with a stock picture of some rockets (what the heck, nobody'll notice) and one downed F4 with an image of two F16s with their landing gear down, amateurishly cut'n pasted onto a background snap of some houses on a hillside (to dramatise the story of a jet shot down over the sea), all slapped together with the finesse you'd expect from a primary school child's first attempt to make a birthday card on the school computer.

Click here to embiggen the original image.

If this illustrates the general level of competence among Hezbollah's followers, it would explain why so many of them see blowing themselves up as a viable career option.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

All Greek to me

When that Greek Fascist, Ilias Kasidiaris, slapped a left-wing female politician, after chucking water over another, in front of the TV cameras I wasn't that disturbed. It was an ugly, unprovoked attack by a violent idiot but I thought he'd end up in the dock looking foolish. End of. Instead:

Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris is due to appear in court on Monday but not for punching a Communist Party (KKE) candidate during a TV talk show last week, as police failed to arrest him within the 48-period allowed by the warrant...

... Authorities only had 48 hours to arrest Kasidiaris so he could be fast-tracked through the courts. Instead, the neo-Nazi party spokesman is due to go on trial on Monday in relation to an incident in 2007, when he allegedly drove a car carrying several people who attacked a student. He denies the charges.

I know squat about Greek law, but is this really the best they can do? Accused slaps somebody about in front of a room full of witnesses, not to mention the world + dog watching on telly and the Internet. Cops fail to nab the suspect who is apparently entitled to a Get Out Of Jail Free card, so long as he can elude them for more than two days, which he duly does.

Kasidiaris going apeshit wasn't shocking; he's a Fascist, that's how they roll. The fact that he apparently can do it with impunity is the scary bit.

It's almost as if the police weren't trying very hard:

More than half of all police officers in Greece voted for the far-right ultra-nationalist party Golden Dawn – described by many as neo-Nazi - in the elections on May 6. This gave them a record 7 per cent of the vote, securing 21 seats in parliament.

­The analysis published by the country’s To Vima (The Tribune) newspaper reveals much of the contribution came from the country’s police officers.


Being attacked by Fascist thugs is bad enough, but when it starts to look as if the police are rooting for the Fascists, it's time to check your passport. After a bit more suffering and chaos, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Greek cops (not to mention a few colonels) welcoming a Freikorps-style militia, made up of those Golden Dawn activists too thuggish or stupid to have made it into the police force, as useful allies in the struggle to impose "order".

Not only does Kasidiaris seem to be above the law, but this sorry excuse for a man is now so full of hubris that he's even got time to submit frivolous and vexatious lawsuits against his victims and the television station, alleging 'unprovoked defamation' and 'illegal detention'.

Bonus factiod - we now use the Greek term hubris to describe excessive pride or self-confidence, or in the context of Greek tragedy, defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis. From Mr Wikipedia, I find out that:

Hubris, though not specifically defined, was a legal term and was considered a crime in classical Athens ...Violations of the law against hubris included what might today be termed assault and battery.

 How topical.

Friday, 15 June 2012

All in this together (Icelandic remix)

In a crisis, the Icelandic government can plausibly claim that everyone's in this together:
"We cut the budget but we preserved as much as possible in education, health, social security and infrastructure like law enforcement," Sigurdardottir said. "In the years leading up to the crisis, the gap between the richest and the poorest in society widened and our measures in the crisis focused on diminishing this gap, with more equality."

The relief boosted consumption, lifting growth to 4.5 percent year-on-year in the first quarter this year, in sharp contrast to stagnation or recession in much of the euro zone.


Here in the UK, George Osborne's 'we're all in this together' sound bite never sounded quite so convincing and his expression of solidarity only makes sense when applied to the individuals who were really 'in this together' - a tiny group of insiders in the political-media complex who were, in David Cameron's own words 'pushing the same political agenda'.

On a day when the UK is timidly thinking about getting round to introducing a diluted version of cautious reforms intended to address a problem that's been urgent since 2008 whilst trying to keep 'business as usual' going by throwing money at problem banks and driving ordinary families back into poverty, it's worth remembering that there are alternatives.



Afterthought: Iceland scores a creditable sixth place in the current Press Freedom Index rankings. The UK got to 28th place (beaten by, among others, Cyprus, Slovakia and Mali). Demonstrating, perhaps, that a free press isn't precisely the same thing as an embedded press, sharing and pushing the political elite's agenda and bound together by an incestuous web of favours, networking and unattributable briefings.

Could this axis of agenda-setting media interest and media-savvy insiders have anything to do with the comparative disconnect between the UK's governing elite and the rest of us, along with the fact that the economic pain is being disproportionately heaped on the shoulders of those outside the charmed circle? Given that the outgroup who've drawn the short straw constitutes most of the UK's population, it's a question worth asking. Maybe the Leveson inquiry is more than Westminster village gossip.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

My big mouth

I will just try and give my vision, try and give little in-roads, try and get some of the big players who I know, try and use my big mouth, try and use my contacts, I’ll try and use everything ... So we either let the cameras in with me, or I go back on the train and some other town gets it.

Bloody Mary Portas, telling the people of Margate what they should do if they know what's good for them.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman confirmed: “Our main aim in establishing the Portas Pilots is to trial the recommendations in Mary Portas’ High Street Review to Government and this is entirely independent of any television programmes that may be in the pipeline.
“We are clear that it is up to Portas Pilots themselves whether to take part in any programmes following their progress and that their status as Portas Pilots is absolutely not dependent on their participation in any show"

An official clarification, as reported in Kent News, today.

I'll bet she wishes she'd kept it shut. I'm no Machiavelli, but even I can work out that if you want to intimidate people, but keep the intimidation deniable, you don't make your threats in a public meeting.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bloody Mary

So Margate near me is one of the most deprived towns in the UK with one of the highest level of empty shops (34%). Everyone in the town was very excited to have been chosen as the beneficiary of £100,000 of government funding for regeneration together with Mary Portas' advice on regenerating the town.

 But now it turns out there is a massive catch - unless the retailers agree to appear on a reality show, they won't get the money and Portas will choose a different town.

urban 75, UK politics current affairs and news forum

I will just try and give my vision, try and give little in-roads, try and get some of the big players who I know, try and use my big mouth, try and use my contacts, I’ll try and use everything, but one thing I will not do is: I won’t trip you up, and believe that from me. So we either let the cameras in with me, or I go back on the train and some other town gets it.

Mary Portas (link to YouTube recording of her speech here)

If we help to rebuild your community, we own you, so dance for us, peasants!

In times gone by, the comfortably-off could entertain themselves by being let into the Bedlam asylum to giggle at the antics of the mentally ill, or gawp at the hilarious specatacle of desperate Thames mudlarks scrambling after a tossed coin. We've now progressed to the stage where we can enjoy the spectacle of desperate small business people being forced to participate in some trashy reality TV show without even having to move our bottoms off the sofa.

Shopworkers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your dignity!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Crying wolf

This whole gay marriage thing is only a 'crisis' for the clergy and the most pious of lay people. Which gives this small subset of the population a problem, namely whipping up sufficient fear of the coming gay apocalypse among everybody else in an increasingly socially liberal nation with a long list of other really important problems to worry about.

The Bishop of Leicester had a game try at involving the rest of us in his church's internal crisis. Interviewed on the radio this morning, he slipped in a throwaway line intended to make his worries relevant to the rest of us. In among the narrow religious points about what the deity meant by marriage, and what any change would mean for the relationship between the established church and the state, he tossed out something for the rest of us to fret about.

Marriages, he said, were under a lot of pressure these days, with many failing. Add in another factor, a change in the definition of marriage, and things could get even worse. I was waiting for him to develop this point, but that seems to have been about it. Well, he's a busy man, so maybe he didn't get time to develop his idea. Let's think this one through for him.

Marriages under pressure? Yes, I'm with the Bish. up to this point. Marriage isn't as popular as it once was and there's a general upward trend in the number of divorces (even when the divorce rate occasionally ticks down a bit, as it did either side of the Millennium, it's still a hefty proportion of a steadily declining overall number of marriages).

Will introducing gay marriage make things worse for already strained marriages? This is where I'm struggling. How on earth would this seemingly unrelated factor be the final straw for any tottering marriage?

I can comprehend a lot of the other pressures that break up marriages. Embarking on the whole thing with unrealistic expectations, money worries, not being able to have kids, having kids and finding that one or more parent can't cope, infidelity, jealousy, arguments over who's doing a fair share of the chores and who's freeloading, finding you can't stand your spouse's family or friends, working too long hours, not being in work, having to spend too much time apart, being too stiflingly close together, finding that your spouse has changed and isn't the person you thought you'd married, finding that they've stayed the same and grown boringly predictable, arguments over major family decisions that went wrong, relations with stepchildren, arguments about fundamental values, personality clashes, the strain of looking after a sick child, or one with special needs, or an elderly relative, bringing your workplace stresses home, or being at home with the stress of not having work, mental illness, looking after a sick spouse, etc, etc... There are any number of credible reasons why a couple might not stay together.

But it's really beyond my imaginative capacity to come up with a plausible scenario in which you'd find yourself staring at the ceiling at three o'clock in the morning, wondering miserably where it all went so wrong, then having a light bulb moment when you realise 'Of course! It all started falling apart when they let those gays get married. If it wasn't for them, we'd still be together now - it's so obvious, when you think about it!'

Would any sane couple wistfully look at the wedding photos and conclude sadly that they no longer meant anything, that the happiness of their special day had been irretrievably tainted and ruined by the fact that gay people were now free to marry? I think not.

If this is the best the traditionalist clergy can come up with, when trying to engage with the wider population, then I think that, deep down, they know they've already lost the battle.

Stonewall 1, Church of England 0

Monday, 11 June 2012

Mr Pickles to the rescue

Problem families are destroying their own lives and those of their children, Eric Pickles said as he welcomed an expansion of a government scheme to help troubled families.

And just in the nick of time for over-stretched families like the Camerons, who would otherwise have to face an agonising choice between worrying that they might have absent-mindedly mislaid their offspring after a chillaxing pub session* or paying for a nanny out of their own pocket.

*I know exactly how they feel - small children are so unobtrusive that we have great difficulty remembering that ours actually exists.

Death to intelligence! Long live death!

... But there's a big difference between running up a debt to fight a world war and running up a debt as a result of mainly welfare, as opposed to warfare. And that's, I think, another big difference. There was a sacrifice made there. People recognised that the debt at the end of 1918 was a part of that sacrifice and they sought not to inflate it away, nor to default on it. Our debt is different.

Said that Niall Ferguson on the radio this morning, tut-tutting about the immorality of governments spending money they don't have. After the First World War, he acknowledged, Britain was servicing an proportionally larger burden of debt than we are today. However, he was cool with that crippling level of spending, because at least we'd spent it on something useful, like the First World War, as opposed to frittering it away on social welfare.

Setting aside the argument about why we're in the mess we're in (too much public spending Vs the scarcely trivial sums spent on bank bailouts and the Eurozone omnishambles), this was an interesting little peek into the unspoken assumptions of a "post ideological" neoliberal cheerleader. Let's just say it out loud again:

  • Money spent on killing and maiming millions in a massive, grinding war of attrition was money well spent or, at the very least, a necessary evil.
  • Spending on health, education, housing and on sparing the elderly, the disabled and victims of unemployment from humiliation, destitution and hunger is money squandered to no good purpose.

If only we could just knuckle down and revel in the glorious sacrifice! Never mind rationality, this whole austerity thing makes a whole lot more sense when it's explained as a sacrificial offering being made by our high priests to appease the angry god, Mammon. History may not be repeating itself, but some of its dodgier slogans refuse to lie down and die:

¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!

Friday, 8 June 2012

That's entertainment

I'm just back from a brief, but relaxing, honeymoon in the Wye valley, so here's a couple of views of the Wye, seen winding away into the distance and disappearing into the evening mist, along with a fish sculpture seen in in Ross-on-Wye.

I missed a lot of of the Jubilee hype, although I did get an intriguing glimpse into the weird parallel universe of the royal fashion expert when I caught somebody on breakfast TV deducing, based purely on the enormous size of her hat, that the Duchess of Cornwall would one day become queen.Very odd, but mostly harmless, although the headline BoingBoing gave to a piece seen in the Guardian lifted the veil on the dark side of this uncritical celebration of hierarchy. For every gilded winner, there's a downtrodden loser:

Austerity Jubilee: unemployed workers tricked into being Jubilee stewards, denied toilets, left to camp in the rain 

Speaking of entertainment, we make our own round these parts. I've just staged a re-run of the epic Dinosaur Vs Mammal struggle of the Mesozoic era, with the aid of a dead mouse from the mouse trap and our chickens. Toss the limp, furry body over the fence to a flock of hungry chickens and you get a pretty good idea what it must have been like to watch a pack of velociraptors tussling over the fresh remains of one of our distant ancestors (deep within the brain stem of every chicken lurks a spark of ancestral, saurian blood lust). It's like a low budget remake of Jurassic Park.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Wham, bam, thank you ma'am

I couldn't pay much attention to the ongoing royal grovel-fest, even if I was so inclined (I'll be too busy getting married tomorrow). The rest of you loyal subjects can entertain yourselves with Cassetteboy vs The Diamond Queen, (assuming those spoilsports at the BBC don't get YouTube to take the video down again). _______________________________________

 Censorship update

In a miserable attempt to suck every last morsel of fun and spontaneity out of the Jubilee weekend, the BBC had this vid pulled from YouTube. It was allegedly due to copyright issues but, for some reason, these don't seem to be an issue when it comes to Cassetteboy vs The Bloody Apprentice, for example.  Very fishy, but I'm pleased to say it subsequently reappeared on YouTube - enjoy it while you can!