Two conservative Sir Michaels on the Today programme, spouting the usual pernicious clichéd tosh about the EU and its oppressive bureaucracy, Caine (I’m 82, you know) and former Dark Knight, Howard.
Unfortunately coinciding with French PM Manny Valls warning that the sheer numbers of refugees still pouring over the southern borders are threatening to destroy the European project, and a German political pig demanding that Greece should spend whatever the Prussian bankers have left them on more efficient border controls.
Sometimes it’s best to switch off.
Mornings like this are nudging the opinion polls ever upwards in favour of Brexit. The more moderate Outers are increasingly relying on Schweinsteiger failing to get any really significant agreement on benefit changes and border controls to press their case. The British position is all we care about.
I have long argued that it has been Britain’s refusal to engage fully and co-operatively with the EU that is partly responsible for the current situation. Britain has historically been the balancing force in a revolving triad with France and Germany at the heart of European power, but we seem happy to sacrifice that position and to destabilise the entire continent for totally selfish reasons.
The refugee influx is a genuine crisis affecting the whole of Europe, in which we are stubbornly playing no part. The Eurozone, to which we also refuse to belong, is constantly said to be in crisis, although the value of the Euro has remained remarkably stable throughout the past three years since the ‘crisis’ began, while formerly buoyant Sterling is currently falling sharply against it. Is the pound in crisis? We should be told.
The Out campaign is significantly being driven by an egregious cabal of semi-accountable, power-hungry politicians with allegiances to dodgy, mid-Atlantic foundations, and UKIP empire-loyalists who would prefer to be ‘big fish’ in a very small pond than put up with straight bananas and messy human rights. What they mean by ‘sovereignty’ is their right as a class to govern us in perpetuity. They have the benefit of forty years of relentless anti-European propaganda in the rightwing press to back them up.
When is it ever pointed out to the readers, for instance, that the rubbishy Daily Express and Daily Star, both of which are screaming at us to get out, are owned by former pornographer, Richard Desmond, a major donor to UKIP? While the Sun, the Times are Murdoch papers – he’s anti-Europe because EU competition laws cramp his monopolistic habits; and the Telegraph is owned by the Barclay twins, reclusive billionaires holed up like Bond villains in a fortress on the island of Sark. God knows what they think of Europe in moments of contemplation over their private interests. Only the Mirror and the Guardian have the occasional good word to say about the EU, and few people read the Guardian.
Someone needs to spell it out to the British public: good manners alone ought to dictate that now is not the time to be making selfish and unco-operative demands on the rest of Europe that they should focus on Little Britain and our endless whibbling moans about ‘migrants’ (they are not ‘migrants’, the Treaty of Rome guarantees the right of all EU citizens to live and work anywhere within the EU, that’s the whole point!)
It should occur to someone, surely, that we have the lowest rate of unemployment in the EU, 5.1%, but also the largest pool of job vacancies, at a time when EU workers are here in very big numbers. How do you reconcile that, other than by accepting that far from taking ‘our jobs’, other Europeans are taking up the slack, helping to drive our growing economy?
Agreed, the EU expanded too rapidly, absorbing some not-very nice Eastern European countries who don’t share our values. It has major structural problems it is trying to deal with. There’s an economic gulf between the Catholic south and the Protestant north (in fact, I have a theory that the countries that brought about the Eurozone crisis were all until relatively recently under either political or religious dictatorships, or a combination of the two evils.)
There is some sympathy with the British position, but you sense their impatience. After lecturing everyone else on the need to do something about the refugee crisis, the tiresome and pompous Mr Cameron, for personal and domestic political reasons, driven by fear of further splitting his party, is only making things worse by insisting on pressing an irrelevant agenda in Brussels at this critical time. A vote for Brexit will surely be the final straw: I don’t see how the European project can survive that too. (And what would it mean for the Irish, out on a limb?)
Then where do we go, with neofascism in the ascendant everywhere, a huge and unpopular reserve of unsettled North African and Mid-eastern migrants swilling around, chronic economic stagnation and Russian imperial ambitions on the march once again? Britain will not survive the coming implosion of Europe, any more than it did trying to preserve its isolationist stance in 1914.
Brexit will go down in history as an act of monumental, suicidal stupidity.
“Around £350 million of EU funds are being invested in Wales over the next five years to raise skills and drive productivity in workplaces, enabling more people to progress in their careers and achieve higher earnings.
“This new EU investment will boost the prospects of hundreds of people working in South West Wales, and is excellent news for the region’s business community and another positive example of the benefits of UK membership of the European Union.”
– Welsh finance minister, Jane Hutt. 14 January, 2016
Playing the long game
Two reports have emerged, neither of which’s conclusions is very surprising, giving two very negative impressions of the management of large organisations.
One concerns the Russian State-sponsored murder of British citizen and MI6 intelligence agent, Alexander Litvinenko. The evidence that he was clumsily murdered by two incompetent FSB hitmen toting a mess of radioactive Polonium 210 from Moscow to London, leaving a trail of lethal slime everywhere they went, seems unassailable. The Russians and Mr Lugovoi, now an untouchable member of the Duma, have of course angrily dismissed the inquiry findings, without reading the 390-odd pages, as evidence of the classic British sense of humour. Lying, and lying big, is the Kremlin’s default setting.
Maybe they don’t have closed-circuit TV cameras in Moscow, but we do in London. We watched you, FSB hitmen Lugovoi and Kovtun, entering and leaving the scene of the crime, taking Polonium ‘tea’ with the victim. The teapot was radioactive. Your hotel rooms were radioactive. The football stadium you visited was radioactive. Your aircraft seats were radioactive. You were probably radioactive yourselves. No-one else could have done it. British secret services, whom you accuse of conducting a black op (motive? Thought not), do not have access to Polonium 210, whose specific signature was probably traced to Russian laboratories (much of the evidence was heard in secret). It was a very odd murder weapon to choose, unless the aim was to inflict the maximum suffering.
However… the question of who ordered it is less adroitly handled, in my view (he said weakly), by judge, Sir Robert Owen.
The conclusions of his report have been known and expected for years – this happened in 2006, and the suspects were fingered almost immediately. But to use the word ‘probably’ in relation to his final conclusion, that the murder was ‘probably’ ordered by Putin himself, gives us nothing. Better to have left it out.
Of course it ‘probably’ was, but there is no evidence, only supposition based on the ‘probability’ that so many high-ups in the Kremlin, all Putin cronies and former KGB, would have had to be involved in plotting it, getting hold of a controlled substance, that Putin himself must have known. Putin hated defector Litvinenko, so much that he ordered his face to be put on the targets used by recruits on the firing range. Litvinenko hated former colleague Putin: the Russian President was a paedophile, he said, and a big crook who had stolen his country.
And that leads us to the inevitable question, so what?
Intelligence agencies eliminate their States’ opponents all the time, wherever they are. This was quite likely to have been a Russian Mafia contract, Litvinenko was said to have taken part in MI6 joint ops against them in Spain, but again so what? It’s what they do.
Israel’s Mossad security service notoriously takes out Palestinian opponents abroad. Former PLO man and Palestinian prime minister, Yasser Arafat was also probably killed by Polonium poisoning. France sank the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, in New Zealand with the loss of two crew. Bulgaria assassinated BBC spy, Georgi Markov, with a poison pellet fired from an umbrella on London Bridge. The USA regularly orders lethal drone strikes against individuals suspected of terrorism in Syria, Yemen and Somalia; they executed Osama bin Laden under the noses of Pakistan’s security forces. Britain ‘suicides’ its independent scientists and elderly rose-growers threatening to expose flaws in its intelligence on WMD. South African security assassinated the head of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold, and the Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme. No-one believes Boris Berezovsky, billionaire business rival and vocal opponent of Putin, really hanged himself in his Sunningdale garage because he was depressed, do they?
It’s all allowed, under the rules of the long game.
Lord Saville’s Crime
The official report into disc-jockey, ‘Sir’ Jimmy Saville’s activities at the BBC has yet to be published, but no-one seems surprised that ‘a draft’ has been leaked, as it is taking so long.
Saville’s reprehensible behaviour towards young girls, many of them picked-up while he was hosting Top of the Pops, or slimed over in his campervan during Radio 1 roadshows, appears to have resulted in some 81 reported instances of rape and sexual molestation on BBC premises in the 1960s and 70s, probably the tip of the iceberg. Though the report is now being hurriedly redrafted, Dame Janet Smith may have lamely concluded that no-one in authority knew anything, no-one said anything and no-one is to blame, so overawed was everyone – even Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles – by Jimmy’s Big Celebrity Cigar.
She will get stick for it from the Commons Home Affairs Committee, but in a way she is right.
Saville was notorious in the business. Indeed, his exploits were discussed widely and almost admiringly by colleagues. His ability to ‘pull’ adolescent girls was something the disc jockeys I worked with (I was a radio newsman in the 1970s – I never met Saville, by the way) seemed quite envious of. The word ‘paedophile’ had no currency then: no-one was talking about having sex with actual children, or raping babies, but over a pint in the saloon bar, nubile teenage girls around the official age of consent were considered desirable and fair game. Even so, the BBC was a gentleman’s club, where it would have been considered the height of bad manners to accuse anyone of anything, you know, like that….
I’m willing to bet, too, that there are hundreds of middle-aged women out there who will be prompted to recall that they set out knowingly at a young age from their boring suburban estate homes, away from uncomprehending parents and dreary schools pushing pointless qualifications, to weekend festivals and TV studios to sample a more exotic world of celebrity – who were quite happy to allow themselves to be fucked in the backs of Transit vans by rock musicians they’d seen gyrating on TV, or by smoothly stellar TV presenters now debauched, wrinkled and gaga. Does it still go on? Probably not – the times they have a-changed.
An American girlfriend told me in 1970 that her younger sister had been ‘collecting’ jazz musicians from the age of 13.
Now, okay, it’s illegal and much to be frowned on, though nobody died. But let’s not kid ourselves: there was no age of innocence that we can all be teleported back to. There’s a New Puritanism abroad in the land, that says it’s okay to pretend, to dress-up, even to watch; but not to ask too persistently, or to actually do (or to ever have done) anything… like that, yourself. It’s okay to sexualise children through fashion and pop music and social media confessionals, but not to let them experiment with actual sex.
We live in a schizophrenic age, with 40+ channels of pornography on Sky TV and any variety of exploitative sexual imagery involving literally millions of willing and unwilling participants and victims available online in our living-rooms with two clicks of a mouse. Yet we’ve become curiously prudish, demanding a new kind of morality policing that thinks it’s not only acceptable but obligatory to send twenty officers piling in to spend seven hours searching the retirement apartment of the 91-year-old former head of the British Army and his dying wife for non-existent evidence of decades-old debauchery.
Just as Litvinenko was an unfortunate casualty in a centuries-old clandestine war in which he was a willing participant, so it is difficult in my experience to believe that all of Saville’s crimes weren’t just him playing the game others in his position were also playing at the time, doing it in plain sight for the thrill of getting away with it, testing his male power time after time – not only over his random targets, but over his disbelieving employers and supporters too. What he did was evil and monstrous: the kiddies in hospital, the corpses in the morgue, the self-aggrandising bullying that closed down discussion and made liars of his accusers – he was one sick individual, to be sure.
But I doubt that Dame Janet’s report is going to dare to point out that, however much they may regret it now, celebrity-chasing teenage girls weren’t really all ‘victims’ of sexual abuse; except in the sense that in 2016 we feel we have to protect 14 and 15-year-old girls from their own sexual desires and fantasies, which their elders were in denial of then; encouraging people to make victims of their younger selves, whilst our culture becomes ever more sexualised.
Celebrity itself makes victims of all those deluded people who crave a slice of it and are willing to do anything, however regrettable, to be touched by it; celebrities themselves are flattered and fawned on until some of the weaker ones become narcissistic, self-regarding demigods, liable to test-out their earthly powers in ways mere mortals shouldn’t approve of.
It’s nothing new. You’ll find it all foreshadowed in the mythology of the Greeks.
The answer’s a lemon
Astonishingly, a report has emerged after five years in the stewing, that, in 2011, an eight-year-old child in Wales may have died, apparently from scurvy – the disease caused by vitamin-C deficiency, that sailors used to get before fruit was discovered.
The dangerous fact that he was home-educated has excited the media. Local authorities are being excoriated for failing to monitor these ‘invisible’ forgotten children, tragically falling ‘below the radar’. Politicians are calling for a change in the law to allow social workers to bust home educators and drag their dying children into care.
Bad cases make bad laws. Blaming home-educators in general for the alleged vitamin deficiencies of one dysfunctional family is ludicrous overreaction. But home education has long been a subject of trepidation, in much the same way as home birth is. Surely, all right-minded folk argue with deeply furrowed brows, even though they might not countenance State control of the motor industry or the railways, State institutions are the right, the best, the safest, the only places in which to bear and educate ‘our’ children, no?
Not a lot of local authority monitoring went on at my expensive top-10 public school either. The overcooked scraps and slop they fed us wouldn’t have left a single vitamin alive. There was no fruit in Britain in those days, fruit was for bats. I lived on chips, Coke and Bluebird toffees from the tuckshop until I was covered in boils, but I survived somehow.
In my experience, home-edders in Wild-West Wales are all vegetarian or even vegan, so the kid will have been stuffed with home-grown leeks and lentils, along with the dangerously revolutionary ideas. It seems peculiar then that scurvy, a vanishingly rare and extremely painful condition in which the muscle fibers progressively break-down, was diagnosed at all.
Perhaps it had nothing to do with his education, which has not previously been known to be a health risk? Perhaps it was a straightforward case of parental neglect combined with local authority underfunding? The parents certainly challenge the findings of the report. There might even be genetic disorders with which children can’t process vitamin-C adequately, I don’t know.
It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if there isn’t a rash of cases of rickets in Wales this year. We’ve had only two days of sunshine in the past three months to give us the vitamin-D we all crave. (And look, it’s raining again.)
Besides, if you want a doctor’s appointment here, you now have to make an appointment to phone for an appointment, that will then be a minimum three weeks away. That’s a net a lot of people are likely to slip through. I know I have.
Warts and all
I’ve noticed with fascination that facial warts seem to be overtaking dodgy beards as this year’s fashion accessory. Almost every person who appears on television seems to have at least one. I’ve been counting them.
A prominent wartista is the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg. I’m fixated on the one above her right eyelid, that mars her otherwise flawless High Definition maquillage. Her colleague, newsreader Sophie Rayworth is a great beauty, also mildly disfigured by several inadvertent outgrowths. All the otherwise glamorous women swanning through RAI’s top cop show, Inspector Montalbano, are studded with them – sarcomas sprouting all over too, from the Italian sunshine. Lemmy, the great singer and bass player from Mötörhead, who died at the beginning of the year, had gigantic facial warts that didn’t seem to bother him at all. I found them pretty disturbing, to be honest.
A check on the webinet reveals three important details. One, forty percent of people have facial warts. Two, they are caused by, among other things, the Human Papilloma Virus, which has also been implicated in ovarian cancer. Women especially should avoid licking people’s faces. Other causes are said to include nervous stress, which might explain the media connection.
And three, they are easily removed. If he had not been such a Puritan, Oliver Cromwell could have had a very different history.
Thus disfigured, why wouldn’t you have them removed, then? Possibly out of commitment to diversity? Surely not. Retaining your warts is political correctness gone mad. Get rid of the little buggers now!
According to webthing noskinproblems dot com, the best method is to apply a facemask for 40 minutes twice a day, made with chopped onion, garlic and a little vinegar (avoiding the eyes).
And who needs friends? Huckleberry Finn, I seem to remember, used his own semen.
Speaking of frightful plagues, the latest threat to Humanity following Ebola is the Zika virus.
Found in a common type of mosquito (Aedes aegypti) that inhabits a large swathe right around the globe from approximately the latitude of the Southern Mediterranean down to that of South Africa, the effects of a bite range from none at all, to a mild rash and fever, to the production of babies with deformed brains (although the latter connection is purely conjecture).
Luckily the virus hasn’t yet spread to the whole swathe, being mainly found in South and Central America and the Caribbean, but there’s no cure, no vaccine, and the WHO is worried.
Women in Columbia are being sternly advised not to get pregnant before the end of July, to avoid the mosquito season. Pregnant women are being warned to stay away from the Rio Olympics later this year. It’s quite serious, 4,000 children have been born in Brazil with tiny heads.
And you still think there’s a God.
The Infinite, manqué
Professor Hawking, in his brain-frying 2016 Reith Lectures, advises us that a black hole is a singularity, where the writ of Einsteinian space-time no longer runs and everything, including probably probability, is infinite.
Our universe, of course, was born from just such a singularity.
Professor Brian Cox was discussing so-called ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ this afternoon on his humoresque BBC science show, The Infinite Monkey Cage, with various experts; one of whom mentioned a theory that one day, a black hole could create a new universe.
If so, then this monkey wonders if they aren’t doing it all the time, and whether ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’, that make up the 96% of the observable universe that we can’t see, aren’t just the gravitational effects we detect from those unseen universes? (In which case, my prediction that we shall soon have ‘dark time’ as well looks like something you’d have a flutter on down at Ladbroke’s.)
As long ago as 1976, dark time indeed, I wrote a short SF story in which a character explains that black holes are the air-conditioning units of the universe, sucking up all the messy old gas clouds and dust and spare stars, and ejecting them into other space-time continuums as new universes, or white holes.
(Dark time would ensure that we don’t see them because there is no ‘now’ in dark time for us to see them in; only ‘some other time’.
But it was never published, so I can’t prove what a clever monkey I could have turned out to be, had I persevered beyond my twelve-times table instead of bunking off school for a pint and a smoke.
Not in this universe, anyway.
Stop all the clocks…
“Unilever, the multinational firm behind brands including Magnum and Cornetto, is to make all its ice creams aimed at adults smaller.”
(BBC News quoting The Grocer magazine)
This has got to be the worst news of the week. The month. The millennium.
The hell with Syrian refugees, Trump, Putin, snowstorms and Google’s tax arrangements. This is political correctness, not just gone mad but in a state of genocidal psychotic frenzy.
Oh yes, Unilever (didn’t you use to make soap powder? Is there a connection?), we all love to make ‘healthier choices’, don’t we, you sanctimonious little corporate creeps.
Fuck you and your weaselly PR department. Did you ask us? Huh? Did we say to you, oh, yes please Lord Leverhulme, please give us ‘healthier choices’? You’re not giving us a choice at all, assholes, just pointless little itty-bitty bite-sized ice-creams, where magnificent self-indulgence used to be the sole rationale for making the purchase.
No, we guzzled fucking tons and tons of your wonderfully empowering, chocolatey product every summer, despite the frequent price hikes; we rejoiced at the silliness of Ben & Jerry’s recipes, and now you slap us in the face with this.
But there’s worse, much worse. For our own good…
They’re stopping making… I can scarcely get the words out of my brain, which is flooded with tears.
Suddenly the sun has fallen from the sky. (Probably – it’s overcast again.) Darkness descends on the human race. The barbarians are streaming in triumph through the gates of Rome.
Suddenly I don’t care anymore.
It is finished.