Hinterland: projecting the Welsh culture abroad

21 July, 2016

Rhodri Talfan Davies

Director for BBC Wales

 

Dear Mr Talfan Davies

While not disagreeing entirely with your views on the lack of Welsh cultural projection (BBC News website, 21 July), given that you might be responsible for some of it, I should like to make two or so points.

Wales is a far more multicultural place now than it was when I arrived as an ‘economic migrant’ from London, via Gloucestershire, fifteen years ago (today, as it happens!). Sometimes it seems as though there are more natives of Birmingham here than there are of Wales; Polish and other languages are heard on the street, we have a new Bangladeshi community; while cars seem sadly to have replaced sheep as the most multitudinous of the non-human population.

I appreciate therefore the importance of celebrating, preserving and promoting the Welsh dimension through its cultural institutions – although that sounds possibly like a museum curator talking, but perhaps there is more of a need to accept change and celebrate diversity, projecting a more fluid social dynamic?

BBC Drama, especially on Radio 4, seems to go through patches where all the scripts seem to be about the minutiae of life in Pakistani families (corner-shops, honour killings), Irish or Scottish (heroin-related, or someone has come back depressed from Afghan) – and then from time to time Welsh, when one sometimes feels perhaps a little patronised by a certain forced comedic dimension.

Welsh characters are too often caricatured as, well, a bit helpless. I have myself acted the Welshman in several local dramatic productions because not enough Welsh male actors will put themselves forward to join in. We recently had to rewrite the script of a Dylan Thomas bio-drama because the only real Welsh actor we had to play him was six feet tall, whereas the giant of Welsh modern Lit. was only five feet five in his holey socks.

In a sense this mirrors the dilemma of ethnic diversity in drama in general: you want to cast black actors, but where are they? Fortunately there is now a growing pool to draw on, and perhaps the same will be said of Welsh actors the more success the Rhys Ifans’, Michael Sheens’ and so on enjoy internationally. But we have yet to celebrate a black, Chinese or east European Welsh actor, I think!

I feel too there is an element of defensiveness in a lot of what you and others have been saying for many years; and it is perhaps that which is preventing the wider promotion and presentation of Welsh culture, as it is so inbred in its nature. Wales punches indeed significantly above its size in terms of cultural celebrity; but those artists and performers all recognise that their success depends on them becoming, first and foremost, internationalist. Somewhere there needs to be a balance; and, more importantly, relevance in a busy world where so much ‘culture’ is vying for attention

Which brings me to Hinterland….

Apart from the obvious scheduling problems and apparent budget shortage (why can’t Tom have a proper detective car, a vintage Jaguar like Morse or a (Welsh!) TVR, a battered old Mk1 Land-Rover he obviously cherishes, rather than that humdrum Volvo?), I and many of my friends here feel that Hinterland presents a remorselessly negative picture of life (and death) in Ceredigion. Most of us watch it largely because we enjoy the continuity errors!

If you will pardon an anecdote, last year I came across the cast and crew filming around the marina. I stopped and asked Mari when the new series was coming out; she thought ‘maybe’ in the autumn. ‘And will it be as gloomy as the last?’ I asked, jokingly. ‘Probably gloomier’, she replied glumly. It was!

I have to say, despite it winning an international award, I feel Hinterland is derivative, inward-looking and lacking in plot variation, precisely because of its overly Welsh one-dimensionality: the brooding landscape, thinly populated by embittered loners setting fire to one another’s houses over ancient feuds, seems almost satirical. The characters don’t seem fully developed in comparison, say, with The Bridge or other Nordic noir dramas on which the mood and feel of Hinterland are clearly based; they seem emotionally stuck, with what are thinly doled-out (does ‘Lloyd’ even exist, off-set?),  cardboard-cutout back-stories.

The lack of a realistically diverse ethnic and cultural dimension portrayed in this teeming university town and seaside resort does not at all reflect the life we know. (Yes, you did have a couple of Polish girls in one episode, well done! I have yet to identify a single English or Scottish character, who make up fully a third of the population… and where are the endless traffic snarl-ups?) There is so much more richness of history, intrigue and event in Aberystwyth than your writers seem willing to mine for stories. Why not set an episode in our university? It is a real one, at least!

There is of course no reason the show should reflect real life, it is drama after all, but if you are going to complain about the lack of Welsh cultural projection outside Wales, one viewing of Hinterland would be enough to convince most people of its severe limitations.

What is stopping you making more accessible programmes for the outside world? Apart, that is, from Dr Who? I suspect it is in fact the paucity of subjects; the narrowness of the Welsh dimension, that is holding things back.

To be frank, Shetland is a more reliable series; more openly reflective seemingly of its island life, more rooted in its community yet open to the wider world; and is more intricately and densely plotted, better produced and more naturalistically written, with interesting, three-dimensional characters showing vitality and progression.

Hinterland by contrast is an unwelcome study in Welsh claustrophobia; introverted; stuck in its miseries*; under-cast, short on locations, short on plot and character development and trapped in its own narrow country lanes.

A national depression narrative…. How good an ambassador is that for Wales’ diverse culture, I wonder?

 

*’Miseries’ sounds like ‘miniseries’. An odd word you often come across in TV columns. It was honestly years before the penny dropped and I realised that the word meant ‘mini-series’. ‘Miniseries’ sounds ecclesiastical, perhaps from a prayer: ‘Lord, forgive them their miniseries’; a part of the Tridentine mass (Let us now proceed to the miniseries), or a description of some priestly vestments: ‘He appeared at the altar in fetching pink miniseries’….

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The problem of proving a negative

Wot a whopper

So the Appeal Court has ruled that it’s okay to lie on an insurance claim about the circumstances the loss arose out of, so long as the claim is genuine and the lie doesn’t make a difference to the actual amount claimed.

It’s called a ‘collateral lie’.

I can’t comment on the legal side, the case was about some ship’s crew and a cargo loss they blamed on the weather when it was caused by something else not their fault; sometimes it’s easier just to lie than to have to explain.

I once had a claim rejected when the insurers argued that if the radio had not been in the car in the first place, and the car had not been locked, the kids doing drugs would not have had to smash the quarterlight to steal it.

There are lies, ‘collateral lies’, and there are profitable evasions.

But I do wonder if there isn’t a more general application here?

Is it okay in principle, for instance, for a politician ambitious for the highest office to tell people the double-lie, that they are spending £50 million a day on our annual subscription to Brussels, and he would spend the money instead on the health service?

It’s obviously okay to say that, when it’s clear they would have voted anyway to leave the European Union. It’s only a ‘collateral lie’.

Meanwhile, some of the collateral damage of Brexit is already emerging.

You remember we wanted to get our sovereignty back from Brussels? So yesterday, our world-leading semiconductor company, ARM was sold to an indebted ($100m overdrawn) Japanese entrepreneur for a notional £24 billion.

The post-Brexit-vote collapse of the pound against the yen made ARM a bargain. And Mrs May bravely hailed it as another sign of a brighter future for Britain outside the EU.

What, that we can flog-off our sovereignty instead to the highest foreign bidders, so they can profit from controlling our potentially hugely lucrative industrial research and development programmes in the future, that we never seem able to exploit ourselves because we are such a small country?

Already, British research scientists, universities and high-tech SME companies are reporting being frozen out of co-funded European projects, as being too toxic a risk for the investors.

Individual trade deals or not, it’s hard to see Japanese or Australian or US government funding being made available for British research projects in the way it has through the EU, without Britain surrendering control of our own world-beating technologies.

And we have had to give up our turn at the rotating Presidency of the EU next year, so have no chance to influence anything..

But don’t worry, at least Brussels isn’t calling the shots!

Cretins rule, ok?

 

The problem of proving a negative

An open letter to the UK-based, very funny American humorist and compulsive litter-picker, David Sedaris, on the danger of being too public-spirited.

Dear David Sedaris

I read about your litter-picking interview with Clare Balding.

So, I was standing in the queue for the butcher’s, as one did in those days in the People’s Republic of North Harrow, in the 1970s when lamb chops were on ration, watching two children tearing up paper and throwing it on the ground. I said to their grandmother, ‘who do you think is going to pick that up after you’ve gone?’ and she looked embarrassed and told the children to pick up the paper.

A younger version of the grandmother then came flying out of the shop, shouting at the children to put the paper back on the pavement because,‘you don’t know where it’s been!’ The grandmother explained that the man in the queue had complained that the children had dropped the litter. And the woman informed me furiously that if I didn’t piss off and mind my own business, she would fetch her husband to sort me out.

I’ve been a little less public-spirited since. But maybe not enough less.

20170524_125218The people who annoy me most are the ones who thoughtfully pick up their dog mess in a little bag, and then leave the bag lying on the footpath. There’s some kind of cognitive dissonance there. I’ve been guilty of it myself: on a circular route, I planned to pick up the bag on the way back as that’s the direction the village’s only public dog-litter bin lies in, only to be seduced into taking a different way home, forgetting all about the bag and its contents; forgetting where I had left the car parked.

I live on the edge of a seaside town, on a thunderous main road, where the houses shade into a flat, partly wooded heathland along the river valley. It’s littered with industrial buildings, goods yards, railway lines, cycle paths and sports grounds. Dogwalking territory, it’s also a place where people can go to celebrate the nearby supermarket, McDonalds and so on by liberally distributing their wrappers and cut-price cider cans in the undergrowth, smashing up the one park bench so regularly the council gave up repairing it and it’s no longer there.

Another sign of civic pride is the way people like to get exercise and fresh air by carrying whole bags of rubbish into the woods and abandoning them there, to rot and spill their contents among the bluebells.  When you can just put the bags outside your house and the council eventually will collect them, and when there is a public recycling centre a few hundred yards further along the footpath on the industrial estate, it seems perverse.

The river sometimes floods, and the trees growing along the bank are festooned with tattered plastic bags and old clothing washed downstream; there are stains and trails of litter running down the high bank above the river on the opposite side, under the ends of the gardens of the estate houses above.

Every few months, McDonalds or the supermarket holds a sponsored litter-pick, and you find all sorts of people busy filling bags. I always take the trouble to thank them politely, because while it occurs to me that I have nothing better to do on my thrice-daily walks with the dog around the exurban space that passes for our local park, than to pick up the litter myself and just stop being offended by it, somehow my brain fails to recall my good intentions the next time, and we go out unequipped either to pick the litter or to cut back the brambles growing over the footpath behind the sewage works; another pet project for which somebody else might eventually take responsibility.

Yesterday, however, things got more serious. Passing the town cricket club, with its signs asking people please not to walk their dogs in the private grounds, I observed a family: a youngish man in a baseball cap, calf-length shorts and hoodie, his partner, their toddler and a large black dog, larking about behind locked gates on the actual playing surface.

Some protective civic instinct made me raise my cellphone to take a picture for identification purposes, should it be needed. Stupid, really, as I’m not a member of the cricket club and people trespassing in their grounds really is none of my affair. If they don’t want people trespassing they should fix the fence.

But they were too far away to photograph clearly, so I gave up the attempt. As I walked on, I heard commotion behind, a man loudly shouting ‘fucking paedo!’ I didn’t connect, until I got home and within minutes two policemen were on the doorstep, wanting to know why I was going around photographing people’s children, because (while it was not illegal!) there had been complaints, and I had been followed home and was seen photographing children along the way.

Now, a sometime journalist, movie-maker and blogger, perhaps a trifle OCD, I’m an information gannet. I make photographic notes of all kinds of mildly uninteresting things I encounter, for all kinds of purposes. I take pictures of:

…my dog; my cat; the exuberant wildflowers along the river; interesting cloud formations; garish sunsets over the bay; storm-damage; flooded landscapes; unusual rocks and weird jellyfish stranded on the beach; of unidentified insects; my guitar collection, for sales purposes; of my house, ditto – I’ve been trying to sell for nearly four years but nobody is crazy enough to want to live here, and I’m seeing why.

I record my DIY projects and workplaces, essentially other people’s gardens, showing how effective I’ve been at restoring them in case anyone wants to talk about a job. I kept a documentary record of the restoration of a nearby stately home I was paid to look after for seven years; I record, too, the more valuable things I own, mostly guitars, for insurance purposes when I get burgled; important documents; local views: for instance, of my street at night, so I can complain about the harsh lighting keeping me awake.

I also photograph things by accident, like my own eye, as I’m not very good with ‘smart’ technology and didn’t realise for ages that the camera points both ways front and back. Besides, it’s a cheap phone and you can’t see the viewfinder screen in daylight. Some cameras are ‘point and shoot’, mine is more ‘point and hope’. And the buttons are situated just where they can sometimes turn on the camera all by themselves, I find it’s been videoing the inside of my pocket.

So some of my shots are interestingly abstract. I sometimes photograph the washing-up, for documentary interest. I once proposed an exhibition of my colourfully artistic shots of food residues on plates after a party, ketchup and picallilli, custard and cake crumbs…. I took a shot in evidence of my garden hedge the other day, as I feared from the sounds of chainsawing that my neighbour, who is from Birmingham, was attacking the other side and could possibly kill off the whole thing, and I might have to sue him.

I’ve even tried taking selfies, as for some reason people need to know from time to time what I look like; only I don’t look at all like my selfies, which show an elderly, bearded man with receding hair and baggy pouches beneath alcoholically bulging eyes, living alone with his familiars: a dog with strange amber eyes and a magic cat, his guitars; keeping himself to himself, an outsider tragically photographing his own face in a small cottage on a main road in the noise-polluted outskirts of a small town.

Just like a fucking paedo, in fact.

Only, he isn’t! There is absolutely no reason to suppose anything of the sort.

The one thing I never, ever photograph is other people’s children. Or even other people, except maybe sometimes far in the background, for scale (I have a photographic and movie degree. I know about shooting landscapes.) What might strike you most about the several albums of photographs I hold on my computer is how few people are depicted in them at all. I’m not really a people person.

You probably won’t even find pictures of my family, my ex-wife and grownup kids, my ninety-year-old mother. They take countless pictures of each other, their holidays, their dinner parties with friends, their table layouts, their graduation ceremonies, their weddings; they can email me if they want. I’m just trying to make sense of the world around. Collecting evidence.

But when some concerned parent in a baseball cap decides that, no, neither he, nor his partner, nor their large, black dog trespassing on a private cricket square could possibly be the subjects of an elderly weirdo pointing a cellphone at them from a hundred yards away; but concludes instead that he must have been focussing directly (a physical impossibility at that distance) with some sinister intent on their little princess, and calls the police, who turn up on the doorstep the minute he gets in, you lie there at night wondering what on earth proof you can offer, to prove a negative. No, I wasn’t? I didn’t? I don’t? See for yourself?

But someone says you did.

And is there now to be a campaign of vilification, graffiti on my door, my car trashed, petrol through the letterbox, a pitchfork village lynching? Will I be followed around by men in baseball caps, shouting abuse at me? Have I become ‘a person of interest’?

I showed the policeman my cellphone. Look, a picture of my dog. A pie I ate, for some reason. Wildflowers. The river. My car. My newly decorated living-room. No children!

And the policeman said, well, you might have another phone somewhere.

And asked me where I was born.

Advance, Australian Fayre

POKEMON GO-FREE ZONE (NEARLY)

 

…the probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20% for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70% for those most in favour.’

-British Election Study survey (from BBC News, 17 July)

I honestly don’t know how it is that I came to be sitting here, writing this stuff without being paid a penny for it.

Readers of this, muh bogl, won’t need long memories to recall that I made precisely this connection a week ago.

I wrote that MPs could, if they wanted to, have refused to recognise the result of the EU referendum. ‘Remainers’ formed a large majority in the House of Commons, and (whatever the ‘Leavers’ might have said) the British Parliament is still sovereign in its own land.

I pointed out that MPs are well aware that a similar ‘in or out’ referendum on the death penalty would produce a strong vote in favour of restoration. Which is why they won’t go near one, even though they know a large section of the public is baying for it.

I think the next point to make is about that ‘in or out’ question. To what extent were enough voters persuaded to vote ‘Leave’ only because there was no more nuanced choice? The British love a compromise, but if you force them to the sticking post they will always take the John Bull option.

In the case of the death penalty, we still have it for treason; but it won’t ever be used except in time of war. Most voters I suspect would want to bring it back for child murder, or for killing a policeman; for violent sex crimes, or a terrorist attack.

But like the chap I once stopped in the middle of nowhere and gave a lift to, who’d just done a life sentence (in those days 12 years, now more like 30) for a ‘crime of passion’ (he’d come home to find his wife in bed with another bloke), you might get a split vote over degrees of murder.

I expect the judges wouldn’t want it on absolute terms, preferring to make the judgements they’re trained (and paid) to make, free from the straitjacket of atavistic public opinion and with their sentencing options open.

A shame we couldn’t have handled Europe on that basis. Forty-three years is but the blink of an eye in the 900-year history of Parliamentary democracy. We should have given it a chance to work.

 

What’s it worth?

As you kno’, this, my entertaining and informative personal, almost daily, bogl, the BogPo has a policy of not paying contributors.

We find if they’re not busy spending money, we get so many more words out of them.

I have learned, however, that Mr Boris Johnson was being paid £29,000 a month to write his predictably droll column once a week in the Daily Telegraph.

Now he has had to give it up in order to concentrate on offending foreigners directly (perhaps he could hire Mr Cameron’s friend Jeremy Claxon as a consultant?), I shall be proposing the editor of the Boglington Post, Uncle Bogler as the most eminently experienced candidate to take his place.

The fee should suit me very nicely.

E. von-und-zu, etc.

 

Chevening disagreement

I see that Mrs May has a sense of humour after all.

She has set aside the Chancellor’s country retreat, Chevening, as a cosy home for her three leading Brexit negotiations ministers: Johnson, Davis and ‘Dr’ Fox, who will have room to carry out his medical experiments.

I shall send five pounds to the first person who has a situation comedy commissioned about three politicians who hate one another, having to share a house.

It’s a no-brainer.

 

Advance, Australian Fayre

Our new and somewhat enigmatic Prime Minister has had a chat on the phone with Australia’s PM Malcolm Turnbull and has greeted his offer of a trade agreement with Britain as a sign that we can survive Brexit, with what sounded like profound relief.

Surely, though, we already trade with Australia? They sell us billions of litres of their industrially produced wine, that you can hardly find on sale anywhere else in Europe, and we send them our junior doctors.

Turnbull has an honourable history of defiance of Empire, having snubbed Thatcher by successfully defending Peter Wright, the MI6 man who broke  the Official Secrets Act in publishing a memoir about his time as a spy, against her legal champion, Lord Armstrong.

Mr Turnbull too has just scraped through an election – I say ‘too’, but Theresa May is probably the least-elected Prime Minister since Winston Churchill assumed power in 1940, being preferred as a war leader over the wobbly Lord Halifax.

Mrs May has essentially been elected only by the genteel but steely rightwing voters of her agreeable Maidenhead constituency. We do coups differently here.

Turnbull might be less eager to offer Australian support if he realised that his gesture is bound to be spun in Britain as a sign that the Commonwealth is returning to British sovereignty, like a thirty-something having to move back in with their parents because they can’t afford a house.

(Indeed, the Australian economy has been tanking lately and they need all the export markets they can get.)

I doubt, too, that an agreement to sell us more kangaroo-based products will come packaged with the offer of a bungalow with a huge spider in the toilet, passport-free travel and an unfettered right of residence for UK pensioners ejected from Spain.

 

Plus ça change

What has been described as the most important Bronze-age settlement found in Europe and Britain’s ‘Pompeii’, Must Farm in Cambridgeshire gives what archaeologists claim is a unique insight into life in the fenland, two thousand years ago.

In addition to almost intact households revealing that our ancestors built flood-proof homes on stilts, acquired lots of stuff, enjoyed a healthy, varied diet and had separate kitchens, the settlement was ‘at the heart of a vast trading network’ throughout Europe….

Which presumably explains why the site is being filled-in and buried forever later this week.

Can’t have that.

 

Go Po!

Two teenagers were reportedly shot at and almost killed while playing Pokemon Go! late at night in a car outside a nervous man’s house in Florida. Four British kids had to be cave-rescued after straying into an underground complex and getting lost.

A man continued playing after spotting a Pidgey (What that? Ed.) in his wife’s labour ward just as she was giving birth. A boy continued playing after being stabbed by a passing stranger. A man has been dumped by his partner after she tracked a Pokemon back to his ex-girlfriend’s house. Thousands were sent fleeing in terror after a Farage appeared in Hackney…. (Okay, made that one up.)

And lots of people are getting run over by buses and falling off things and into canals, bumping into lampposts, and no doubt being driven mad pursuing little digital creatures around the world.

I don’t understand a word of it. It’s been explained to me several times, but. It’s quite exciting, though, that we seem to have a real global craze developing, of the harmless kind we used to have before the Islamic State.

Yo-yos. Hula-hoops. Bobby-sox. Miniskirts. Chain letters, and the like.

But my son has found something or other lurking under the railway bridge Hunzi and I go through on our walks, and now I don’t feel safe. It’s like going back to a time before the Enlightenment, when a boggart might get you, an elf or a leprechaun.

There be things out there ye know not of.

 

Cautious scepticism

Speaking of which, apparently half the population of the UK refuses to believe dinosaurs really existed; while 38 per cent think the Moon landing was faked.

Should they have been allowed to vote?

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Rondo à la Turque (Integrity unwrapped)

Handing out the lollipops

Since commencing this thread on Thursday the BogPo has been overwhelmed by the onward march (‘frenzied dash’ better, shurely? Ed.) of history.

On the subject of last night’s failed attempt by junior Army officers to overthrow the increasingly erratic Mr Erdogan, who blames all the nation’s misfortunes on a parallel universe ruled over by his Nemesis, the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, I should dare only to say that history teaches us that a fish rots from the head, the immediate precautionary removal of which ought to be the primary objective of any competent coup plotter.

(If it wasn’t, you start to wonder who exactly inspired the plot? And how many of the subsequent six thousand ‘arrests’* are merely opportunistic reductions in the swarm of Mr Erdogan’s imaginary enemies? Who will ‘try’ them, now he has sacked all the judges?)

Letting the President rally his vast horde of low-rent supporters on his iPhone made shutting down all the TV and radio stations a bit of a waste of scarce manpower; and letting him fly back to Istanbul from his holiday at an agreeable villa on the Sea of Marmara was a significant tactical blunder, especially as the plotters had supposedly surrounded the airport and grounded all flights.

The failure too to secure the support of the airforce and any of the ‘opposition’ parties in Parliament sealed the fate of the plotters, whose motives, intentions and the addresses of their friends and relatives are now being extracted from them in no doubt colourful and entertaining ways. Knowing their probable fate, why did they allow themselves to fail so easily?

They should have learned lessons from the fate of the Brexit plotters: you’re never as popular as you think you’re going to be, even when you’re winning. Coups aren’t over until you start handing out the lollipops.

Go, Bo!

And what does our new Foreign Secretary have to say about Turkish affairs in the light of last night’s events? Go to: <http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/19/boris-johnson-wins-most-offensive-erdogan-poem-competition> for some clues.

They say a week can be a long time in politics.

 *Now believed to be in the region of 50 thousand…

(Jazz alert)

Integrity unwrapped

As every reader of this, muh bogl, kno’, I sometimes allude to some of the worse things life can bring in its wake.

Like, when your socks slide down inside your wellies on a wet walk and bunch-up under your feet.

Or when a bunch of credulous baboons decides you’re going to leave the European Union.

I’ve expatiated before, I think, on the subject of cellophane packaging. As a collector of cheap reissues of old jazz albums on CD (see Pages: My Jazz CDs for full details, yawn), I am forever tearing my guitar-pickin’ thumbnail trying to slide it into the CD case around the edge to cut the cellophane seal.

As, in the old days, one unwrapped a pack of cigarettes. Almost.*

Not for nothing have easily corruptible CDs been described as intermediate technology. (Okay, I didn’t get paid for it, but it sounded good.) Cellophane rips, but only once its integrity has been compromised. Compromising its bloody integrity is 99.9 per cent of the battle. Fail to compromise its integrity, and its protective qualities may last a lifetime.

Cigarette packagers had the clever idea of designing-in a pull-strip around the pack, with a coloured tab you could easily get hold of, and tear through the cellophane in one quick motion. Tearing the cellophane was the first satisfying element of the daily (or in my case, twice-daily) ritual of opening a pack and smelling again that sweet air of Old Virginnie.

So you can imagine my delight when, within 24 hours of confirmation of my latest CD order, I discovered there was a pull-strip woven into the cellophane packaging!

Until I started exploring further, when it became evident that, whoever helpfully thought to provide a pull-strip, was almost certainly the same baboon who thoughtfully collects their dogshit in a little bag and then dumps the bag on the footpath across from my house.

No tab.

If you are interested in finding out more about modern jazz of the Bebop era (1945-59 – or for non-purists maybe ’68), I recommend the album as among the best I know: ‘Blowin’ the Blues Away’, by the Horace Silver quintet, on Blue Note 7243.

See, some good can come from the worst of adversity. But you may need a sharp knife.

And if YouTube viewers didn’t keep recommending me tawdry 1970s Italian ‘erotic’ movies about randy dentists dubbed in Russian, I’d suggest you might even look there and avoid the problem of cellophane altogether.

 *A modest proposal. Ban the insertion of the little tear-off cellophane strip around the cigarette pack and you deny the user access to the contents without insulting their intelligence. Result: extra health, and safety.

 

Be careful what you wish for #2

There seems to be a hint of punishment of the Brexiteers about Theresa May’s cabinet appointments.

Gove, for instance, the speccy little swot and crazed plotter, has been dumped altogether. The hapless Boris has been turned into a figure of ridicule on the global stage, being appointed Foreign Secretary; formerly an important job, now little more than a bag-carrier for the US State Department, his appointment has occasioned gales of mirth across the water.

Fallon, the hypocritical Scots bully-boy (see Posts passim), has been sent to Defence to bully us into paying for Son of Trident instead of wasting the money on hospitals. Boris’s bus conductress, Priti Patel has been sent back to India or wherever as International Aid minister. Grayling, he of the curiously shaped head, has been put in charge of making the trains run on time. (Presumably that includes HS2, for which we shall need easily 50,000 more EU migrant workers to build it.)

Ex-SAS man and arch Eurosceptic, David Davis (so good, they misspelled him once) has been given the thankless task of negotiating Brexit, serves him right. But at least he’s had the tough-guy training, which should enable him to yomp around Europe for a while with a backpack full of rocks. But then SAS operatives do like to go native ….

The only Brexiteer who’s in exactly the right job, ‘Dr’ Fox has been put in charge of International Business, which should allow him to pursue his lifelong interest in Britain becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the US defense industry, and will at least keep him and his invisible friend Mr Werritty out of the country for long periods at a time.*

The one I feel sorriest for is Jeremy C… sorry, Hunt. Nobody ever gets that right.  I can imagine how the poor chap has spent the day pleading to be released from the living hell that is the Junior Doctors’ dispute and given anything, even a junior ministry at Work and Pensions. But the ruthless Mrs May was having none of it. ‘Back you go, Jeremy, and sort the NHS out or MI5 will tell The Sun what we know you did behind the bike shed!’

What’s worse, he was a Remainer! But he might be reminded that in 2005 he co-authored a policy document advocating privatising the Health Service. Maybe she intends to take him up on that? So we can spend the £350 million a week instead on keeping Scottish shipbuilders in work?

I vaguely recall a TV mystery show back in the 1950s whose trailer carried the strapline: ‘Anything can happen in the next half-hour’.

So don’t bet money on whatever I say, will you.

*For further information about ‘Dr’ Fox and the weird and dangerous world inside his curiously shaped head, you could try both his Wikipedia entry and the following cut-and-paste link to an alarming article by Nik Cohen.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/07/liam-fox-azerbaijan-relationship-book-publishing

 

Trump vs Frump #3

“I was the one who predicted Brexit” – Donald J Trump

No, Donald, read my bogl Post of 2 May, 2013, and Posts subsequently. Unless you already did.

 

 

Oh, that Shakespeherian Rag

‘But it was already clear that she saw her future as lying in politics’

– BBC News biography of our new PM.

(Couldn’t resist that one! UB)

 

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.” – TS Eliot

With Andrea Leadsom’s corpse now whisked away by the ‘cleaners’ before the blood has dried on the carpet at Tory Central Office, the former EU ‘Remain’ supporter, Home Secretary Theresa May has secured a dawn chorus of tweets broadcasting the absolute fealty, eternal support and thoroughgoing approval of… Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, the deeply sinister Chris Grayling, John Redwood and all the other murderous Brexit plotters, with their strangely shaped heads, who were previously adamantly opposed to her leadership bid.

Mr Duncan Smith is merely looking angry, confused and embarrassed, an extra in the crowd at Mrs Leadsom’s press wake.

Barring her own mysterious demise as the party’s only surviving candidate, Last Woman Standing, Mrs May will be measuring the curtains in Downing Street by nightfall, as the Pickfords vans head off in convoy to the Chilterns. Already, Angela Merkel has welcomed her appointment, describing her admiringly as cold and calculating.

And what fate now befalls Larry, the Downing Street cat?*

But hang on. Wasn’t Cameron also a Remain campaigner? So what’s the point of him going, to be replaced by another Remain campaigner, with a pack of rabid, swivel-eyed Brexiteers savagely fawning at her kitten-heels instead of, as it were, his?

It’s a coup, silly. Read your Animal Farm….

You see… Cameron wanted to stay in Europe, but with a tiny minority in Parliament he was afraid of his own Eurosceptic backbenchers so he promised a referendum a year earlier than he had intended to, leaving no time for, and…. oh, forget it.

The neo-Thatcherites, who wanted, put simply, to turn the clock back to 1979 and start over again without gay marriage, hip-hop and the Working Time Directive, perhaps feel that May, who is 59 and unwell, offers them a better prospect for an early battle for the Margaretan succession.

Or are we to infer that there has been a counter-coup? After all, was not Mrs May in charge of domestic intelligence for six years? You must admit, must you not, that an awful lot of Brexit plotters and political adversaries have screeched unexpectedly to a halt over the past few days in a cloud of burning rubber,  humbly mumbling their praise and appreciation of the new leader – whose only popular mandate, in truth, is that conferred by the voters of Maidenhead; most of whom will have been at Wimbledon the past fortnight and have no idea what is going on.

Indeed, I should personally like to say here, and without equivocation:  Mrs May is clearly the very best unopposed candidate to unite the whole country and lead us forward to the sunlit uplands of a new and splendid future for Britain, as she stands once more green, proud and alone above the White Cli… (Enough, okay? It’s not a tourist publication. Ed.) And have we not just announced that we are to spend £3 billion we haven’t got, on a new long-range reconnaissance aircraft, replacing the no-longer-in-service Nimrod, to be constructed for us by the Boeing Corporation of America?

How many hospitals would that build, Boris? You do the math.

Who knows what they want, they are all giddy with the stench of power, albeit as sharks circling hungrily in one of those polybags you win a goldfish in. A couple of Posts ago, I was predicting an unlikely Leadsom victory, and now this. The wretched humiliation of the Boglington Pundit.

Leadsom, who was a fellow Brexit campaigner, had proposed herself as the Thatcher Mk2 candidate, offering the stronger leadership. Dug up, the reanimated corpses of Thatcher’s old cabinet to a man croaked their deep belief in her as the Risen Margaret. Everyone said what a strong leader she would make compared with Mrs May, a leftie softie who hadn’t managed even to deport one 92-year-old blind woman in six years.

Announcing her withdrawal, however, Mrs Leadsom explained she was stepping out of the ring because it was time for ‘strong leadership’. Er….

I’m not sure any of these people, who are becoming increasingly annoying, has the first idea of what they are talking about. They seem to have no means of explaining themselves any longer, other than with the parrot-phrases of tabloid journalistic cliché. They will say anything, bend everywhich way, to suck up the spittle of a public that despises them, and wishes they would just get on with deporting half the population and hanging the rest.

So treacherous is the Tory party, however, with the help of Murdoch’s Times – once Britain’s foremost journal of record now reduced in stature to what one Leadsom supporter described as ‘the gutter press’ – that Leadsom found herself being royally stitched-up with a well-spun interview in which she appeared to propose herself as the ideal candidate for Prime Minister because she had children and May couldn’t, or wouldn’t, certainly didn’t, and thus she had more of a stake in the country’s future.

With all the dignity she could muster, May got her side to tell the BBC they were sure Leadsom hadn’t meant to say what The Times said she said, and thus with one precision-guided, six-inch Christian Louboutain stiletto-heel between the ribs, the would-be Mother of the Nation expired.

 

*Phew. Larry is to keep his job as Chief Mouser at No 10. It’s just been confirmed, he’s a civil servant, not the Camerons’ private cat. And as they say, in politics you’re never more than six feet away from a rat….

 

The party’s over…

Then there is the equally obscure and rumpled-looking Angela Eagle, ‘Shadow Business Secretary’, pushing herself bravely forward in the wake of the no-confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn as a stalking-horse (a what? How should I know, I only write this stuff!) for the Labour leadership, finding herself now trapped in her own rhetoric, out on a limb as the only candidate bonkers enough to go after the ghastly job of leading the Labour Party to defeat.

Whatever happened to Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, who were so keen to get the job last year? Andy’s gone off to Manchester, where he’s after the mayor’s desk. Getting out of politics for a while is not such a bad idea. But the whole thing has borne out the uncanny prediction of  ‘Labour’ MP, Simon Danczuk:

A plot to oust Jeremy Corbyn will be launched “on day one” if he becomes leader. Mr Danczuk said Labour’s parliamentary group would “not put up” with the “crazy left-wing policies” set out by Mr Corbyn. “Am I going to … traipse through the voting lobby to support him? It’s not going to happen is it? So I would give him about twelve months if he does become leader.”   – Telegraph, 12 August 2015

We recall from earlier Tory premierships, that 12 August is the start of the grouse-shooting season. By nightfall, Angela could be measuring the curtains and fishing furry, half-eaten baked-bean tins out of the sink  in Corbyn’s bachelor pad as he pedals away through the Islington gloom, to kip down on Diane Abbott’s sofa.

As one party explodes, another implodes.

Honestly, it’s Shakespeare’s 450th whatever this year, and if you couldn’t make it up, he did.

Eagle tries to carry off Australian boy

  • BBC News headline, 12 July

So, the smears have started already…

 

Postscriptum

And as of today, Wednesday, another horse has entered the race. Owen Smith is a Welsh MP little known outside Westminster, who does at least have the major advantage of looking and sounding as though he might be the Prime Minister of a small country on the margin of Europe.

Labour hasn’t yet understood that physical appearance is everything in the modern political landscape. Policies count for very little. People refused to vote for Ed Miliband, not because of his policies, but because he would have been an embarrassment on the world stage with his weird Wallace and Gromit eyes, strange hair and geeky teenager’s voice.

Neil Kinnock had the obvious disavantage of being both bald, and ginger. I have long believed he lost to Thatcher purely because of a gag on Spitting Image, the night before the election: ‘Would you vote for a man with ginger pubic hair?’ An image problem indeed.

Mrs Eagle may for all I know be a consummate politician with the right ideas for getting us out of this mess. But no-one in their wildest dreams would imagine she was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland just by looking at, or listening to her. That’s Jeremy’s problem, too. He just doesn’t look or sound like a proper statesman, or even someone pretending to be one.

Probably because he isn’t.

 

The game set

From: BogPo Sport special Correspondent, Sue Bogler. Sue@tennis.net

 

Will I be the last to congratulate Andy Murray on his magnificent progress through SW19? I’m sure I must be.

But what is all this fist-pumping business that is infecting the crowd as well as the players, so that every minor victory on-court has to be greeted with psychotic gestures of mob violence, like a Nuremberg rally on ketamine? Where has it come from, other than the manual of sports psychology?

Why does Murray keep screaming at himself, the crowd and his own player’s box between every point, like some insecure Roman emperor demanding ever-louder and more fervent expressions of love from his adherents, even when he is clearly winning? Why does he constantly bare his ratty little teeth for the cameras, fist-pumping away, his entire body clenched in a rictus of strangled ambition; and what is the matter with his mother?

Is this really what it takes to win a competition? Should we be having competitions in that case, if it drives everyone into this state of mental disorder? After his impressive three-set win over the huge-serving Canadian child-mountain Raonic, with his Mad-magazine, frat-boy freshface you just want to punch (except he’s a lot bigger than you), the Bearer of the Nation’s Pride appeared to suffer a nervous breakdown and was barely able to step up to collect his gong. Is it worth it? (Even the prize money has become worthless thanks to Brexit, which apparently cost the American Serena Williams $400,000.)

But I have other questions for the organisers.

Why are players seemingly accompanied everywhere by members of the East European mafia, filling the players’ boxes with unsavoury, menacing-looking individuals in sunglasses? And why do the commentators always refer to them as ‘physiotherapists’ when they are so obviously hitmen and sports stars’ roughly spoken ‘agents’? Should not MI5 be involved?

Why does the BBC location director keep selecting shots up the skimpy skirts and flouncy peplums of the ‘lady’ players as they bend over to receive service, before cutting away to Sir Cliff lurking suggestively by the scoreboard, or in the dark corridors of the All England club? Is there some message of suppressed eroticism that should be derived from it all?

Why do so many servicemen and women get free passes? The place is stiff with uniforms from every quarter: soldiers, sailors, airmen, military and civil police, men, women, standing to attention, at-ease, bums in, chests out, at every turn; an honour guard on the courts, in the clubhouse, around the players’ entrances. They’re not armed, it’s not about security, it’s about deep deference to a bygone culture of service to Queen and Country.

What is the point of hiring an annoying man as soon as they have finished the business on-court to shove a huge microphone in their faces and ask absolutely every still-perspiring player the same tiresome old scripted question, about what emotions are running through their tousled heads in the wake of that victory/defeat (delete which)?  Do we need this to happen more than once in a fortnight? (You long for one to reply, so I beat that sucker, asshole! Now I can pay my physiotherapist!)

Why does the crowd find it so wildly amusing whenever any tiny thing goes amiss, such as an official being almost hit by a ball? Is the actual tennis that boring, in which case why do they pay £70 a head and more for a seat?* What do they expect will happen from time to time if you place officials behind the baseline? Do they practise tittering in unison or is it a spontaneous middle-class thing?

And who is that dimwit who keeps shouting ‘Come on Andy’ just as his opponent is about to serve, why is he allowed in?

All I can say is, I’m glad they’re not in politics. Life would be unbearable!

Except, of course, for that shiny bloke in the corner of the royal box, whose wife has pointedly stayed away.

What was his name, Cameron? (That’s enough tennis for one year. Ed.)

 

*One ticket tout was reportedly asking £52 thousand for a pair of Centre Court tickets on finals day. No doubt someone will have paid it.

 

Murky business

Quoted above, MP Simon Danczuk’s Wikipedia entry makes interesting reading for scholars of the muddy cesspool that is Westminster.

A vocal critic and opponent of the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Danczuk has apparently several times found himself in hot water over financial irregularities relating to Parliamentary rules, and has been obliged to pay back overclaimed expenses and to apologise for failing to declare income from media sources.

Also a high-profile campaigner on child abuse, having conducted a long-running investigation into Rochdale MP, the late Cyril Smith, nevertheless Danczuk was himself exposed in The Sun, like The Times a Murdoch newspaper, over sexually explicit text messages he sent to a 17-year-old job applicant. He was suspended by the Party. In 2016, police investigated an old rape allegation against him, but apparently found no evidence.

I shan’t go into all the sordid details: it’s not what happened, but when, that may be of interest. You can find the whole story at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Danczuk.

It’s probably enough to say that the allegations emerged in 2015, not too long after Mr Danczuk had loudly accused Establishment figures of a cover-up over historic child abuse allegations. A previously ‘missing, believed destroyed’  Home Office report was suddenly ‘found’, possibly he believed as a result of pressure he was putting on Downing Street; and while he was demanding a public inquiry.

While Danczuk admitted to problems with depression, drink and drugs, and a penchant for nubile young, though technically legal girls (as long as he did not abuse his position of trust, for which the age of consent is higher), and owned-up to the email, it does seem something of a fluke that the Sun should have got hold of those details when they did.

While it might be up for discussion that Mr Danzcuk may in this way have been silenced, which is possibly his opinion (judged by his use of the word ‘malicious’), can one have any sympathy for a politician who then thought it was perfectly fine to cash-in on the story? Again, from Wikipedia (attributions footnoted):

Danczuk later asked the former job applicant, now an 18-year-old, for a meeting to apologise, suggesting she could receive a fee if she allowed a media agency to take photographs of them together; this request was rejected. Danczuk had earlier received a fee of £5,000 from the Sun on Sunday for an interview to discuss the explicit text messages he had sent, and a £1,100 fee from a photo agency

Layer upon layer of sleaze attends this story; as that of so many politicians. Try as they undoubtedly have, what Private Eye magazine dubbed The Street of Shame, the tabloid press, are yet to uncover anything similarly murky in the past of Jeremy Corbyn; who, whatever Danczuk’s inconsiderable opinion of his left-wing policies, anathema to a Socialist party, was elected by 60 per cent of the membership and does not have his constituency hanging by a thread.

The press operates as it does. I have no doubt that competent editors will pay investigators good money to dig for dirt on politicians, especially those who go on crusades claiming the moral high ground. One does not need to speculate on where such stories originate from, they will be found anyway.

Only the most paranoid of conspiracy theorists would envisage malicious collusion going on between politicians, civil servants and the media. Why, it might even be suggested that Mr Danczuk’s prediction (quoted above) that Jeremy Corbyn’s election would immediately result in a revolt by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, might have been coaxed from him by the Conservative-leaning Telegraph in some way to influence the outcome?

Heaven forbid.

 

 

A weapon of mass destruction

“He used WMD on his own people”

My problem with WMD was then, and is now, to get a handle on what on earth Blair meant by ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’? It sounded terrifying, but it was never given any substance; not was it ever explained how it posed a threat to the West: it was merely what the master of the thriller genre, Alfred Hitchcock called ‘the McGuffin’ – a distracting plot device on which everything turns.

What ‘WMD’ might have boiled down to if Blair had ever sought to explain it is that, prior to the first Gulf War, Saddam was on his way to acquiring a nuclear bomb from Pakistan – not to building one himself, but every bit as lethal, possibly, if he had any means to deliver it.

The focus of Blair’s claims was on chemical weapons, although as we have seen in Syria they have very limited effect; and would in any case have been almost impossible to deploy outside Iraq. The idea of ‘WMD’ was surely to reinforce Bush’s wholly erroneous and deceitful claim that Iraq had a hand in 9/11, and to terrify the people of America and Europe into supporting him. In the event, Saddam was persuaded to drop the bomb (yes, jokes already) and concentrate on other things. But would he ever have used the bomb on the streets of London or New York? Of course not.

Why Saddam needed a bomb was because Iran was developing one of their own. The great forgotten, the absolutely enormous ‘elephant in the tent’ in all of this sorry tale, is the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88).

Over a million people were killed in the war, which started when Saddam, alarmed by the Shi’ite revolution in Tehran, used various long-running territorial disputes in the border region to launch an offensive against his larger neighbour. The assault was easily repelled by the Iranians, and (rather like the First World War on the Somme) thereafter became bogged down in a grinding, attritional conflict between conscript armies, in which we start to hear about the role of freelance Shi-ite militias such as the Muhajideen, and the various Kurdish parties in the region.

From the Wikipedia entry:  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_War) :

The conflict has been compared to World War 1 in terms of the tactics used, including large-scale trench warfare with … manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, human-wave attacks … and extensive use of chemical weapons such as sulfur mustard by the Iraqi government against Iranian troops, civilians, and Kurds.

In other words, Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish minority in Iraq took place in the context of a brutal, multipartite conflict lasting eight years, a real, old-fashioned dingdong, and was not just some random, inexplicable act of barbarous repression, as if Downing Street had dropped mustard gas on Tunbridge Wells in a dispute over painting the postboxes green.

While favouring his own tribe and sect, Saddam, a Sunni muslim, nevertheless ran a relatively tolerant regime in terms of the Shi-ite and other religious minorities in Iraq. Provided, that is, everyone remained ‘in their place’. Dissent was greeted with medieval, sadistic brutality. The war with Iran, and the fateful invasion of Kuwait (in which it seems clear he thought the USA would not intervene), that led to the first Gulf War, were essentially about territory and oil: not about religion.

The Kurds have for a very long time been pursuing the objective of a tribal homeland in the oil-rich areas of northern Iraq, north-eastern Syria and southern Turkey. Whatever the justice of their case, they have always been seen as a threat to the internal security of those countries. Even today we find that Turkey is happier persecuting its Kurdish minority than supporting Kurdish militias in the local alliance against the Islamic State; an alliance to which Turkey is bewilderingly also a party.

Suspicion of Iran goes almost the whole way towards explaining Saddam’s thuggishly repressive regime in the years that followed: maintaining internal security was at the root of it, and it would have been Saddam’s belief that the West and its oil interest wanted Iraq to remain secure and a bulwark against Soviet-backed Iranian expansionism that encouraged him in his actions, that would later be turned against him.

He co-operated fully with UN resolutions that brought an end to the war with Iran, recovering lost territory; and after the first Gulf war he seems to have gone along with the full disarmament process, despite the concocted intelligence that suggested he plotted to attack the West. Why would he? It was the West that was propping up his regime! He could not comply with the further demands for disarmament that led to the crippling sanctions regime and the ‘no-fly’ zone imposed by Bush, because he had nothing to comply with.

So there was a proper context for Saddam’s actions, however unacceptable in our morality. He was, in the old-fashioned sense, a tyrant. But he was our tyrant! (There is no accounting for the behaviour of his psychopathic son, Uday). The Iran-Iraq war has for some reason been airbrushed out of Western perceptions of how the multipartite conflicts in the region have since panned-out. Yet it is absolutely essential to understand the part it played in Iraqi policy during the decade between the first and second Gulf wars; the tribal, territorial and sectarian divisions that have produced so many warring militias since, and such a complex dance of death in the region.

It was the failure of the Western allies to understand the complexity of this history that, despite Blair’s stubborn denial of such a simple cause-and-effect, led – in the absence post-war of cohesive national and local government, supported by a trained and disciplined national army – to the breakdown of order in the region.

His culpability comes down to Blair’s colourful presentation of a very few facts and a lot of supposition, supported by his able press supremo Alasdair Campbell. Both fervently deny ‘sexing-up’ the 2002 dossier which Blair presented to Parliament and won a vote to go to war in support of the USA – an action the USA could and would have taken unilaterally. Chilcot lays bare the claim that it was an innocent mistake: the evidence is overwhelming that, despite the caveats of intelligence chiefs, who subsequently failed to question the final wording of the dossier that ignored their previous qualifications, dubious and scanty  intelligence reports were milked to further an undisclosed private pact between Blair and Bush to go to war ‘whatever’.

With WMD ‘ready to attack Britain in 45 minutes’, the non-existent weapons were the casus belli. Only later, when it was finally accepted they had not existed, did Blair change his tune: removing Saddam, the brutal dictator who had ‘used WMD on his own people’, changing the regime, was now the sole purpose of his  botched expedition; as, obviously, it had achieved its objective! Post hoc, propter hoc (and certainly pretty ad hoc), the Iraqi people were now better off, free to choose the democratic path.

Thirteen years later, they are still dying in droves and the region is in flames; just as Blair, the EU’s roving ‘Middle-East peace envoy’, is in denial of his greatest achievement: to have made himself a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.

 

Trump vs Frump, contd.

God knows, I’m no supporter of Hillary Clinton. But the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

Consequently the refusal of Mailgate, or whatever they are calling it, to go away is a worry. It’s pushing down her approval ratings to a dangerous level, and it’s handed her opponent about as many hostages to fortune as the Iranian embassy crisis handed to Ronald Reagan.

Hillary has been untruthful and evasive about her use of a private email account to send official State Department communications. It’s made the situation a lot worse, and last week she was hauled in for questioning by the FBI and grilled for three hours, after which they unhelpfully announced that she had done nothing illegal and would not face prosecution; which only encouraged the public suspicion even more.

It’s said that amid the many thousands of emails exchanged about Chelsea’s baby-shower, whatever, some 100 were of a Classified nature, and some others contained material that might have been regarded as Classified if they had ever been submitted for Classification. It doesn’t sound terribly serious, given the pressures of the job and the complexities of electronic communications. Those of us with more than one email account know we all make mistakes, I get 150 Spam emails in my Yahoo! folder every day, but it does make her seem a touch… out of touch? While, of course, keeping in touch; and attempting to kick the issue into, er, the long grass.

A Presidential candidate, she should have had the balls to say right out, yeah, I did that – and deliberately on purpose. Of course I knew what I was doing, I was the Secretary of State. I was in charge!

See, I don’t understand why Team Hillary don’t simply call as a witness, Mr Edward Snowden, the fugitive National Security Administration whistleblower now exiled in Moscow. Mr Snowden would testify, I feel sure, that Mrs Clinton’s private email server – Yahoo! or AOL or whatever –  is a damned sight more secure than any US Government facility.

 

The redcoats is a comin’

On Thursday after hearing about the extrajudicial killings of two armed but not apparently threatening black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, bringing to an unknown total of many hundreds the number of black ‘suspects’ precipitately shot by unaccountable white policemen in recent times, I imagined that snipers would soon be picking-off cops in retaliation. It had got to that point.

And that’s exactly what happened overnight in Dallas, the home of buried hopes, with five dead and six others wounded policing an otherwise peaceful demonstration.

At one point police put out an APB on a ‘suspect’, only to have to admit after he turned himself in, and was subsequently released without charge, that the innocent party reported by other demonstrators had a perfect legal right to be on the street, peacefully marching, while openly carrying an assault rifle….

Are they crazy?

Maybe if Americans stopped insisting on their cretinous Second Amendment ‘right to bear arms’, a precautionary principle dating from the Colonial days of the C18th, when the militia was likely to be summoned at a moment’s notice, the police wouldn’t assume every black guy and punk on the street is armed and dangerous?

Because if they didn’t before, they sure as Hell will now….

I’ve mentioned it before. With no smugness intended, there is a clear message. UK gun control is pretty well absolute. Population: 64 million. Total fatalities annually, about 34.  Shot by police, between two and four. US gun control is virtually non-existent. Population: 330 million. Total fatalities annually: over 30 thousand. Shot by police: about 1,200 (they don’t even bother counting).

The NRA is being disingenuous: true, a gun in a locked box doesn’t kill people. But unrestricted gun ownership with the right to carry judicially extended even to terrorists and criminals certainly does.

American people: your gun is not your penis. Get over it.

 

Football news

Paternity order

The Wales team has been reprimanded by UEFA, the governing body, because players allowed their children to come onto the pitch while they celebrated their wins over Northern Ireland and Belgium. UEFA said: ‘It is a European championship, not a family party.’

And I thought international footballers were all one big family.

The official reason given: safety, because staff might be operating machinery on the pitch and fans might invade, posing a security risk to children.

Well, staff weren’t operating machinery. Why would they, until the following day? And fans didn’t invade. If they had, if mayhem had ensued at the final whistle, the children would not have been invited onto the pitch, would they?

And who are all those strange children the players have to hold hands with and run with onto the pitch before every match, to stand in front of them, at possible risk of sexual abuse, while the players chew distractedly on their national anthems? Not all their own, I imagine.

Might not those poor children be at risk of having their little feet trodden on, their ankles hacked, being crushed if a player falls over – players are trained to fall over? Or rundown by staff operating last-minute lawnmowers and those wheelie things they rule the white lines with. Or trampled by display people holding out those ridiculous huge shirts? Hit by tracking cameras, afflicted with permanent hearing loss amid the bedlam? Their musical tastes destroyed forever by tedious national anthems?

Clearly, a football pitch is a very dangerous place.

Why are Football Association officials the world over so hopelessly crap at their jobs? Why are they actually paid, and by whom? Is there an intelligence test they have to pass, a test of commonsense rationality and general bonhomie, or can any boring, miseryguts jobsworth join in?

We need to know, and quickly, before Germany beat France again.

Oops. Chilcot. Wales. Back to normal.

The chairman of the UK’s inquiry into the Iraq war says he hopes future military action on such a scale will only be possible with more careful analysis and political judgement.

-BBC News

That’s it? Critical, damning – no-one in government, intelligence or the military escapes getting their piles sectioned by the mild-mannered Sir John, weilding his scalpel with aplomb. Nothing unexpected –  we’ve known most of it for years.

It was all a mistake. Blair’s bumsucking support for Bush’s inchoate post 9/11 warlust; crap intelligence; the ‘dodgy dossier’; supine, credulous ministers and MPs;  the unlawful invasion; the rapid deterioration of the security situation in the aftermath; the unprepared MOD planning and hopelessly inadequate supply;  the humiliating retreat from Basra as the generals tried vaingloriously to open a second front in Helmand; the casualties, the horrific civilian death toll – just waiting seven years for someone official to say it. No whitewash there, then.

So the conclusion of those twelve volumes of measured, if unexpectedly angry-under-the-surface, polite comments?

‘Oops, be more careful next time, chaps’.

And from Cameron? ‘We must learn the lessons’…

What, like we did after the near disaster of 1853/5 in Crimea – another complicated, multi-lateral foreign conflict we got embroiled in for no very good reason without pre-planning and only decided where to land our ill-equipped troops when we got there, after which the War Department famously sent them a consignment consisting entirely of left boots? The British military have been cocking it up for years at the expense of yer average squaddie, they never learn anything.*

God, don’t you love the British Establishment.

And Blair? Of course, he left Iraq and the world better off in the long run. In his view, the report completely exonerates him of any suggestion of deceit. Except that the extensive ‘secret’ memos he sent to Bush show they were plotting the war together three years beforehand and didn’t tell anyone. (Did they pray together? We may never know.) And that Blair gave Bush extensive advice on how to shift public and UN opinion with claims about WMD. And that the total lack of planning and preparation was down to the need to maintain secrecy.

But he’s very sorry about all the dead people.

Nothing remotely deceitful there, then.

Mention however of the word Bush reminds us of who was the true criminal; and his devious neocon cohorts, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove. There’s been so much focus on Blair’s role and the 189 British casualties of this – can we really call it a war? It seemed so one-sided. ‘Trashing of an innocent nation out of an unexpressed demand for an act of revenge by the stupidest, most ignorant people on earth’  might seem more apt.

Where is America in Chilcot? They’re reading it. Do they understand that what they did was a crime against humanity? It’s not enough to say they and the President were driven mad by 9/11, an attack perpetrated not by Iraq, but by Saudi Wahhabists based in Afghanistan. Almost half as many US military and civilian contractors again died in Iraq, than the number of casualties on 9/11. If 9/11 was the pretext, and not that President George W Bush only wanted to show his daddy, President George H Bush, that he was up to the job, then it was a mad pretext; but still not a reason for the tail of the wounded dinosaur to lash out and destroy an entire innocent nation, with perhaps a quarter of a million casualties.

 

*Cameron has this morning (8 July)  ordered an infantry battalion to a permanent posting in Eastern Europe, to ‘deter Russian aggression’. 600 men…. ‘Into the Valley of Death rode the 600’, as Tennyson memorably put it, in poetic reference to the famous Charge of the Light Brigade… during the Crimean war. How prescient is this website, please?

Anyway, 600 against half a million should do it.

 

You read it here first

Lord Lawson, the grotesque, self-regarding  climate-change fraud and former Tory chancellor who led Britain into one of the worst recessions of the late C20th, has risen from his sarcophagus once more, maggots dripping from his eyes, to announce that Brexit gives Britain the chance to complete the work that Thatcher started.

You read it here first, some time ago I believe: Lord Lawson’s comments confirm my theory that  Brexit is a neo-Thatcherite plot devised by Empire-fantasists and fanatical corporatists prepared to tell any lie and shaft any colleague to regain power over the ruling centrist Europhiles in the Conservative party.

I want my citizenship of Europe back, Lawson, you gruesome old relic.

 

Win some, Leadsom

Another mummefied corpse from the Thatcher era, the so-called Chingford Skinhead, Norman, Lord Tebbitt, has been unwrapped on Newsnight to croak his support in the leadership contest for the obscure Andrea Leadsom over the Home Secretary, Theresa May. (Having been in only one very senior Cabinet post for six years, he points out sagely, is a sign that Mrs May is not up to the top job. Besides, she upset the police.)

His reason? Mrs Leadsom, he argues, despite her almost complete lack of experience in Government, is the one who, in many important respects, such as her Christianity and being middle-class, more closely resembles the Blessed Margaret.

What makes these unreconstructed Thatcherites think we all yearn to get back to the start of the 1980s? To try again? To expunge the Blair years from history? To rediscover all those pre-internet, pre-globalisation, pre-gay-marriage certainties we’ve lost along with the Empire?

Could it be that the election to the Labour leadership of Mr Jeremy Corbyn, a dyed-in-the-wool Leftie who many Tories have dismissed as a throwback to the darkest days of the Heath administration, has started an unstoppable nostalgic trend in politics? After all, isn’t the Liberal party so much happier, now they’re back to single figures?

Mrs Leadsom seems to this jaundiced eye to resemble Jeremy more than she does Thatcher; inasmuch as she seems completely out of her depth and bewildered to find that some casual joke she might have made in the Commons tearoom about becoming the leader of the party has turned out to be horribly close to coming true. Everything she says seems to be wildly improvised.

I predict, by the way, that unless Murdoch can dig up some better dirt than that she lied on her CV about her business experience, or Mr Leadsom and the much trumpeted  ‘children’ persuade her over the washing-up not to be so bloody silly, because it’s the worst job in the world, she will win in September.

‘Thatcher Mk 2’ is surely too good for the ageing Tory party to pass-up.

And she’s a Leave campaigner. Although she doesn’t like UKIP and hopes it will disappear. Although Nigel Farage supports her.

Does anyone know just what the hell is going on? Apart from Donald Trump, that is?

 

At last, order is restored!

Yes, after a very weird month on Planet Earth things have started to get back to normal. Wales are finally out of the Euro 16 soccer championship!

Our occasional Football Correspondent and midfield playmaker, Boglinho writes:

It was never thought possible that tiny Wales (pop. 2 million, most of us elderly, and 4 million sheep), whose national sport (for historical reasons I have never bothered to remember) is not Association Football (round one) but Rugby Union (pointy one), would have made it through to the semifinals, beating much-fancied Belgium. Yet here they were, by virtue of some dragon-magic, playing against legendary old Portugal; and with a chance of beating a side that had not played throughout the championship with much spirit, unity or conviction.

Lacking several key players whose accumulated yellow-card offences now kept them boiling on the sideline, with a weakened attack, Wales succeeded in holding their opponents at bay for 89 minutes of the 93 played, but rarely looked like scoring; seeming to have no script for constructing coherent offensives after a tournament in which sticking to the lines written by their new manager, Chris Coleman, had brought them to this historic pass.

Four minutes of positive play, or carelessness, depending on your perspective, early in the second half dismantled the dream: a penalty kick unnecessarily given away, nodded into the net by Portugal’s smirking matinee-idol centre, Ronaldo; followed by Nani darting through the defence with a hastily improvised slash past a disorientated keeper, Hennessy, to net a low cross that should have been cut-out by the defenders, ran counter to an otherwise curiously lacklustre and technically boring match in which neither side seemed to have much luck in hanging on to the ball long enough to score.

The previous tactic of looking to gain corner kicks and set-piece penalty shots in front of their opponents’ goal, from which the very slightly out-of-form but constantly hardworking winger, the world’s most expensive transfer, Bale might once again score with one of his marvellous swooping, swinging big balls, would only pay-off if the opportunities were there; but thanks to some unsung defense work by the Portuguese backs, and the fickle finger of Fate, they weren’t.

And so, with a heroic defeat to bring back to Cardiff, where an ecstatic welcome awaits, Wales have the moral high ground again and the natural order of things is restored.

-© Boglinho, 2016. @gogoalsgalore!