Trumbo and the Dumbfucks: Allelujah! – a win to celebrate, if ever there was one

“There’s intellectual and economic elitism, and then there’s the elitism that grows out of the barrel of an AR-15.”

From: Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Facebook in Washington, Uncle Bogler in Boglington-on-Sea. ©2016 @laurasweeplace

I’m wondering if I’ve ever been a fan of anyone’s?

This morning I found myself thanking the Lord I don’t believe in for receiving unto His Simply Enormous bosom overnight, the Canadian poet and droner, Leonard Cohen, 82.

I know Cohen is a figure of profound significance to anyone who was at college in the 1970s whose boyfriend dumped them before they discovered they were probably gay and started to self-harm, but somehow he never got through to me – anymore than did the protean David Bowie, who also managed to rush out a gravelly farewell album this year before departing for that mystery island where foregone celebrities postgather.

I’d guess my life at that time was pretty well cotton-woolled with marriage, at which I wasn’t very good; career, at which I was (except the politics) and alcohol, which I have always consumed at what seems to me to be a frightening rate; a trail of wine bottles bobbing away to the horizon. Sadly there was a 45-year-long hiatus in my musical career, that I am only now struggling to make up for by performing whenever I can afford to pay anyone to come and listen.

I wished Cohen no ill, of course. His songs have been covered by artists as disparate as Madeleine Peyroux, Willie Nelson, Nirvana and – a completely outrageous and wonderful soul-punk version of the Suzanne dirge – Liane Carroll, and they have made decent music out of them. ‘Allelujah!’ is one of the most re-recorded songs in history, for some reason.

The world needs poets, however mournful, and to lose one is like some nasty kid somewhere has said: ‘I don’t believe in fairies’, and another one drops down dead.

Cohen seems to have had a pretty decent time of it, shacked up on his Greek island with a procession of beauties. His career trajectory followed the standard showbiz path out of Odyssean mythology, complete with years wandering in the wilderness and the great comeback tour. We can celebrate the life well-lived.

No, it’s rather that he has at least momentarily diverted the attention of the world away from the monstrous Trump and his shit-kicking win in the US presidential election – an outcome I was dreading having to find something original to write about, hence the delay of several days before rushing into print on the coattails of a bunch of bleating-heart Guardian writers desperately trying to make sense of a rapidly expanding Universe.

I’m struggling to find the Post I wrote a couple of months back, where I argued we should all find good things to say about him, just in case. It seemed to me that the angrier, more sneery and more fearful we, the Liberal establishment, got about Trumbo and the Dumbfucks*, the more likely he was to get the sympathy vote. We seemed to have forgotten that he was at one time a gun-control Liberal Democrat and friend of the Clintons.

And while people are agonising over why the polls and the media got it so wrong, again, I’m sorry to say that’s precisely WHY I’ve been going around looking worried and telling people he was going to get in. It wasn’t rocket science, you didn’t need to be Nostradamus to see that too many people wanted to ‘send a message’ without any thought for the likely consequences, the impact on the unknown world beyond Muncie, Indiana.

The one thing you can’t call them is The Silent Majority. We’re never likely to hear the last of them. But I’m sensing that this has, literally, trumped the divisive bitterness and depression engendered by Brexit. No longer weeping openly and rending our garments, people where I live – surrounded by UKIPpers, we voted solidly here to Remain – are going around meekly with dazed smiles on our faces, being nicer to one another than we’ve felt in a long while. Even the weather’s been sort of okay, too.

Personally, were I keen to smack a politician and overthrow the smug neoliberal postwar globalised consumer-capitalist corporatist babyboomer elite, etc. consensus, which of course I am, so that decent, honest working-class folk facing social and economic oblivion can have more 50-inch TVs and sofas and bottles of Chardonnay and day trips to New York, I still wouldn’t prefer to live in a small area of the country ruled by the toughest alpha-male off the local housing estate, his vicious Malamut-Husky crossbreed dogs, his drug connections and his bullyboy mates.

That’s unfortunately what you get when you throw all your toys out of the pram at the same time, rather than working for change through the existing flawed systems. I think I could manage more easily to live through another eight years of Blair, or even ten years of Thatcher, than have to survive head-down under some opportunistic, dead-eyed warlord; God forbid, one with a bad case of religion.

There’s intellectual and economic elitism, and then there’s the elitism that grows out of the barrel of an AR-15.

The triumph of Trumbo is in that sense to be celebrated: it teaches that there are indeed worse things in life than the prospect of a long, slow slide into insular obscurity, trapped on a small rocky outcrop with nothing to entertain us but the endless yarping of the ghastly saloon-bar bore, Farage. (Did he really say what he’s reported to have said on Talk Radio, that he had better be there to protect Theresa May in case Trump made a grab for her? Did he really say that? Is there any prospect of God receiving this radioactive sludge unto His Enormous etc. anyday soon? Like a more sympathetic planecrash than the last one he bounced out of, hopefully?).

You can push your parents only so far, before they stop your pocket money.

*I’m entirely uncertain, though, what to make of the 26% of Latina women who voted for this Mexic-cleansing, pussy-grabbing, three-times married, non-Catholic, billionaire orange slug. Maybe he just reminds them of their husbands?

Who’s in charge?

“Brexit and Trump promised political control to people who felt their lives had little of it, who were furious at the gulf between their political rulers and the governed and mourned the social cohesion of the past, and whose voices were not heard much in the media.” – Ben Wright, BBC Political Correspondent

To be honest, I’m getting a bit tired of liberal metropolitan elitists wringing their hands and pretending it was all their fault for not listening to the Great Unwashed British and American People sooner.

When exactly was this era of equality with the rich, and ‘social cohesion’ they all want to get back to? How many TV channels were there? Could you go shopping or watch sport on a Sunday?

By ‘political control’, what does Wright mean? Put these people in control and all you’ve got is mob rule, they have no idea what they want (more 50-inch TVs! More sofas! More free stuff!) or how to go about getting it. This is 2016, not 1790. It’s ve-ry com-pli-ca-ted. And, in fact, they’ve been voting for more of the same: only with added nasty. There’ll always be politicians, it doesn’t happen any other way.

Their ‘voices were not heard much in the media’? Which media, for fuck’s sake, have the LMEs been listening to and reading?

From Fox shock jocks and Farage’s phucking phone-in on LBC to grisly opportunistic chauvinist shitbrains like Dacre of the Mail, Cavanagh of the Sun, whichever escapee from Broadmoor edits the Express – the Hopkins creature, Limbaugh, Kyle, TOWIE  – the media is absolutely seething with the maggots of phoney patriotic working-class revolt and dumpster values, while pretending to be as dumbed-down as it’s possible to get and still be allowed to operate machinery.

All this, and only 29.9% credit? What more does the working class want? Politics is so over! Everyone now has fuller, faster representation direct to the providers, courtesy of Twitter, Instagram and Big Data – the new predictive text of human demand.

The truth is, the massive wobbling arse that is the new post-truth, anti-liberal politics today has nothing to do with metropolitan elites and Brussels and immigrants, they’re just handy shorthand for: ‘We’re bored, we want another war’.

 

Prophesy Corner

“The gullible and poorly informed British are almost certain to vote in 2017 to leave the European Union, in the mad belief that the country will do better without “interference from Brussels”. I can’t be certain what effect there will be on the economy, but the motives of the right-wing corporatists who are plotting this schism are clear: they do not want the kind of fairer society Europe stands for. The UK, by virtue of its imperial mythology and insular mentality, is fair game to start the break-up.”

The Boglington Post, 28 May, 2013

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Would you vote for me, America, if…?

“I assume she also knew that the State Department’s internet is almost certainly compromised, by the NSA if not by the Russians and the Chinese; if not by them, then by some Asperger’s kid in a bedroom somewhere in England.”

 

Not guilty

I know that most Americans are hardworking, painstaking, inventive, sometimes painfully honest, serious, hospitable and decent folks.

But you’ve got a problem.

To declare an interest, my paternal grandmother was American, from the now somewhat financially dubious state of Delaware. She put me through private schools – my parents were indigent actors and soon separated – and set me on the road to property ownership, in a tiny Victorian labourer’s cottage in suburban West London.

After that, much to my regret as my own life took over she somewhat fades from view.

Although she died in 1979, I have continued throughout my life – I’m 67, and once again living in a tiny Victorian labourer’s cottage (not in London, they’re over £1 million now!) – to sense that somehow, she sits on the Committee of Discarnate Entities that I fancy continues to guide my affairs; partly because, somewhere in the background, is a Trust account in the USA that has from time to time made it possible for me and my family to survive when all else failed. She was a great believer in the power of capital.

So I’m hoping you will understand if I invite myself to express my alarm and despondency over the current political situation in the USA. Because I’m nobody, really, and it’s none of my business; except that I might be more aware of how people on this side of the Atlantic are thinking, if you’re interested; and I hope a little more seriously perhaps than the smug Saturday Night Live crowd.

We don’t quite get the nub of the problem Mrs Clinton has with emails, and why you think it’s so bad?

It doesn’t sound all that serious. We’ve all mixed our work email up with our private email from time to time. You’re sitting at your desk, the computer is on, you’ve spotted something you’d like to buy online, maybe you have a personal relationship with a work colleague elsewhere and want to set up a meet for a drink in a bar that isn’t strictly work related; you have to send someone an urgent message, a quick Amazon voucher will do for a late birthday present, or there’s a juicy job opening, and before you know it, you’ve hit the Send key.

I know, I’ve been fired for doing it! Only it was the other way around, I sent an email from my home computer relating to my miseries about my work, it went wrong, you know how it is, you complain to someone that you’re the worst paid whatever in the whole country and before you know it, it’s in print and you’re being hung out to dry. One British Brexit politician recently was in a meeting when an assistant he’d been having an affair with walked in, he sent her a covert text under the table, only to wonder why the entire room was laughing – he’d accidentally sent it to the workgroup list. It can happen to anyone.

Mrs Clinton held the highest office of State after the President. If she wanted to use her private server to send work emails, rather than the State Department’s internal server, surely that’s her privilege? She was the boss! She’s definitely not stupid, I assume she had her reasons (what business did the FBI have to tut-tut about carelessness? Did she work for them, or was it the other way around?) and I assume she also knew that the State Department’s internet is almost certainly compromised, by the NSA if not by the Russians and the Chinese; if not by them, then by some Asperger’s kid in a bedroom somewhere in England.

In fact, it is highly likely that Yahoo! is the more secure environment. You should ask Edward Snowden.

And you don’t know, do you, how ‘Top Secret’ those files really were. All kinds of stuff gets Classified in that closed culture of intense suspicion and paranoid crazy security. Between the arrangements for Chelsea’s baby shower, it could have been the stationery manifest, internal staff assessments or the budget for consultants. Because it’s Classified, no-one is going to tell you how serious it really was.

It does seem unlikely though that she would have been deliberately emailing vital military secrets to North Korea. No-one has accused her of that, although it’s what Trump would love you to think.

To claim, as Donald Trump has done, that her fulfilment of her duties as Secretary was actually ‘criminal’ is just a gross calumny, crude propaganda and unworthy of consideration. How would he know what the rules are, has he ever been employed in the State Department? Or in any Government office? (Has he ever been employed, full stop?) He knows nothing about it! Worse than Watergate? Come on! The hacking of the DPC was the digital equivalent of Watergate, an electronic break-in to steal information, and who instigated that, we wonder? Donald’s friend Mr P?

It certainly isn’t worse than stealing money from your own tax-exempt charity foundation to cover tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of personal expenses while you’re paying no tax on your actual income, is it? I mean, that could get you two years. The Canadian millionaire press baron, Conrad (‘Lord’!) Black went down for something similar. How come the FBI is on Hillary’s case, but only the Attorney General of New York is taking any notice of Trump’s possibly actual criminal activity?

I doubt there’s a State or a Federal law against using your private email to send business files. At worst, it’s a matter of company policy. There are however, laws against mixing-up your private and company money; even for a genius who ‘knows more about complicated tax than anyone’ else (except the creative accountants he employs, the big liar). It seems at least worth considering that FBI director Comey has a personal, political and financial agenda to explain his tendentious letter to the Congressional committee chairs, and that there is, indeed, smoke without fire.

Is it okay to con people out of $000s to send them worthless bits of paper awarding them phoney and uncertified degrees in Real Estate management? Is it okay to make a $25,000 ‘donation’ out of charity funds, apparently to buy off an investigation by the Attorney General of Florida, into your ‘University’ scam? No, not when the donation was made to a self-declared political organisation it’s not. That’s illegal; worse, indeed, than the crimes of Ted Bundy and Charles Manson rolled into one orgy of hideous violence. (Well, we’re in the business of overblown comparisons, no?)

And has Hillary talked a lot of horse manure about Muslims and Mexicans? In order to fund Trump’s wacko policies on immigration it is going to need at least double the amount of Federal budgeting to pay for interference by Government employees, somewhat at odds with his compelling claim to want to shrink the State.

Nothing this man has said in ten months appears to have been seriously questioned, yet to us outside America – and I confess, I’m not one of the Disappointed Ones who dreams of returning to a happier time when I could work down a mine and be free to contract silicosis, or in a steelworks and end my days cheerfully falling into a blast furnace, with no compensation for the wife and kids while my employers laugh all the way to Panama – to us, it seems inexplicable that anyone could take this solipsistic, ignorant, overbearing jerk seriously as the potential Commander-in-Chief of an army he did so much to avoid serving in.

The reason Trump’s policies and principles are not being more closely examined by the party that adopted him, like a monstrous cuckoo in their nest, is, of course, because he hasn’t really thought about them himself. As Sam Harris, your public intellectual, has shrewdly pointed out, if Trump genuinely had any depth, empathy or intelligence, even if he didn’t want anyone to know it he would surely have let something slip by now. But he hasn’t. What a player!

Do you reckon, if I got up on stage and lied loudly enough that I was the most successful businessman in the history of ever, and claimed that I could make America ‘great again’, whatever that means; if I threatened that if Hillary Clinton gets elected:

a) I will not accept the result and will take everyone involved to court, because:

b) the election was rigged

c) she will start World War Three,

d) take away your guns, and

e) America will be destroyed…. (something a lot of you seem to be looking forward to with rapture – you need to know, He’s not coming back)

…if I said I could instantly:

…solve the IS problem in the Middle East, end all that terrorism we so rarely experience; unpick all those unfair free trade deals overnight;  stop the drug trafficking; defy progress to find a job for every unemployable blue-collar worker (okay, true, we are going to need 120,000 extra security people to round up 12 million Mexicans, and 200,000 more bus drivers, but that’s only short-term work); build a 2,000-mile-long wall five metres high and force another sovereign state to pay for it; abrogate the US’s commitment to the Paris accord on climate change targets; walk away from our allies in NATO unless they pay us to defend the free world; do deals with Kim Jong-un and my fellow kleptocrat Vladimir Putin; impose trade barriers and sanctions on the Chinese, expand the army (while reducing our overseas commitments and the deficit)….

…and a hundred-and-one other crazy egoistical self-contradicting nonsenses, such as that I can fuck any woman I want (although he had to buy his migrant wives off the shelf)….

…that I could persuade enough people to vote for me?

What, although it’s perfectly obvious that even a complete Washington outsider still has to work with the existing machinery of government to run a big, complex, multifaceted enterprise like the entire USA and its global responsibilities? That even the great entrepreneur can’t do that on his own, just by turning red in the face and shouting at people that they’re fired? After commenting loudly on their hot rack?

So, the Bundy Brothers/Malheur Wildlife Refuge fantasy of enjoying well-armed freedom from Big Government and the run of the wide open spaces actually can’t and won’t happen even under Trump. Not possible. You do know that, don’t you? That somebody has to pay for and run the schools, the transportation networks, the National Guard, the CIA, the regulatory environment – healthcare?

And what if I were also recorded as fantasising about raping women with dear, lovely Billy Bush? Nasty, nasty women who’d tell horrible, horrible lies about me afterwards? And what if I claimed that President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim who created the IS – but I couldn’t produce an actual certificate stating that I am not clinically insane; just the fleeting impression that I might be?

Assuming I’d been born in the USA, which I wasn’t, sadly, and after 70 years on earth was still just one giant, spoiled, incontinent infant, would you still vote for me?

So that’s the problem. I don’t envy you your choices, but we all over here fervently hope you’ll realise in good time that whatever you think of her, Mrs Clinton has at least read the instructions on the pack. Or if you really have to vote Trump, you’ll put all the Democrats back in Congress.

We’re counting on you. Seriously, America, the world is counting on you.

Please don’t do stupid just because you are angry. We’re all angry, we’re just not suicidal yet.

 

Quote of the Week: the editor of a rightwing Republican newspaper in New Hampshire, who once interviewed Trump: ‘He sucks the air right out of the room’.

 

Brexwatch

Bought in Morrison’s, Boglington-on-Sea, Sunday 30 October

  • 1 x box of 12 moist catfood sachets
  • 1 x 540g pack of  ox-heart (dogfood)
  • 1 x 310g pack of smoked haddock
  • 2 x Kit-kat chocolate wafer bars
  • 1 x 5p carrier bag

= £11.42 (USD $13.92)

(The Bank of England has warned that inflation could rise to 4% in 2017.)

 

Thin-skinned impressions

Poor Joni Mitchell, who isn’t well, is having to suffer the indignity of being blackrolled as some kind of racist misappropriator of wounded minority culture.

It seems she dared to go to a fancy-dress music-biz party in LA sometime back in the nineteenth century, disguised as a pimp. A black pimp. In blackface, complete with shiny suit, Afro wig, sunglasses, fedora hat and 1970s droopy moustache. She got away with it for two hours, before someone asked her if she’d been invited?

The joke was adjudged a great success. The pallid Canadian blonde singer-songwriter had many black friends, musicians; admired black American music; took to singing jazz. Few found the personation offensive – then.

It was a joke everyone could share. Unkind to pimps?

And only now, it seems, has a photograph surfaced, to promote somebody or other’s book.

And black people are muttering darkly.

This is nowadays the kind of thing you daren’t even hint might have been humorous at the time. It could be humorous today, but you’re not allowed to try it out for size.  So, where does ‘cultural appropriation’ stop – is the colour of your skin a cultural statement, or an accidental medical one brought about by parallel evolution and a dose of melanin?

The ‘pimp’ character was based on a real-life observation of a man she saw in the street. She christened him ‘Art Nouveau’, and ‘he’  featured on one of her album covers. No-one guessed he was a she. So he was a fictional creation based on real life: satire, and tribute. He was already, if you’ll forgive me saying, a stereotype: the sharp-suited, sharp-talking, streetwise runner of prostitutes; a literary creation out of Damon Runyon.

So, I’m in this pantomime, and I’m going to be dressed in C19th garb as a pirate. No pirates need Comment here on the misappropriation of their cultural identity, even though I’m not Somali – I won’t be blacking-up; I already grew the beard. I might adopt a mode of dress more appropriate for another culture: I could wear espadrilles in public, a poncho or a Homburg hat.

Meanwhile all over the country people are pretending to be what they’re not. Actors are appearing on stage pretending to be other people. Mimics on TV are impersonating politicians and stereotypical characters (only of their own colour, naturally). Men are dressing as women, women as men. People are giving themselves aliases on their social networking sites; grown men pretending to be teenagers. Is that policeman really a policeman? You can’t tell by the uniform, she might be a strippagram.

Why is it okay to humorously take the piss out of one type of person but not another?* What’s so special about you, that no-one outside your own tribe has a right to observe you critically, to make an interpretation, however innocently?

That man who sometimes nearly runs me over on his mobility scooter in the park – I’ve seen him walking around; just like the drivers of cars with disabled badges can be seen hopping in and out of their Range Rovers in car parks. Are you married? Then you’ll know how it is, sometimes having to pretend to be someone your spouse wants you to be, but you’re really not that person at all.

Who are we? Increasingly, it seems, we are whoever we want to be. Other than anyone with a massive inferiority complex, who objects to ‘us’ being possibly mistaken for ‘them’; who finds even our curiosity patronising.

Don’t you find us funny? Probably not. I wouldn’t mind if you did, but that’s because I’m essentially superior. I can afford it.

It seems the only thing you’re not allowed to pretend to be, for whatever reason you might want or need to, is a person of a different ‘race’ or ‘religion’ – because of their long-held victim status, in which they have vested all their personal power.

Forgive me if I find this attitude somewhat offensive, patronising and idiotic.

Of course, there is no reason or excuse for taking a white actor and blacking him or her up, to play the part of a black man in a play, when there are black actors who should take the role. Unless there is a reason: maybe, it’s a white character who needs to black up for disguise, maybe it’s crucial to the plot.  Could Hollywood ever reprise the Al Jolson Story? Would he have to be a Jewish actor to start with? Would they have to substitute Forest Whitaker for the blackface scenes? Didn’t Dick Gregory once have to white-up in a movie? Did we whiteys cry Freedom?

Is banning anyone from ever knowing about Jolson again not some kind of cultural misprision? And where are we left with Othello, the Moor of Venice? Can we never again admire Olivier’s mesmerising performance? Why is making your face up black in order to represent someone you’re not  so much more terrible than putting on a false nose, a mustache and glasses? A Guy Fawkes, or a clown mask? How about Gerard Depardieu’s nose in Cyrano de Bergerac? On behalf of all people suffering discrimination with big noses, I object!

Nor is some kind of cruel impersonation of a human being as inferior or backward for supposedly ‘comic’ effect a good idea, any more than is imposing hard boundaries on cultural miscegenation for discredited racialist reasons. (I exempt Donald Trump from any pity.) Although we might not have had Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man to judge whether it’s worthwhile having someone pretend to be autistic to make a point in favour of autistic people everywhere.

But so often these wounded accusations of cultural ‘misappropriation’ come close to caricature themselves. Can white men sing the blues? Where are the lines to be drawn between safe cross-cultural borrowing and non-valid misappropriation? Why does fancy-dress have limits; the point of carnival being that it shouldn’t, it’s a time for transgression? Why were only black people ever ‘slaves’?

Do black people own the colour black? It’s bad enough that you misappropriate elements of ‘our’ language and culture! Surely, those are ‘my’ European clothes you’re dressed in? That’s ‘my’ car you’re driving! You’re watching ‘my’ TV, flying on ‘my’ planes, living in ‘my’ brick house, reading ‘my’ newspaper, going to ‘my’ office! Those are all the white man’s things, you didn’t invent them!

No, you must see how idiotically self-defeating this idea of ownership of cultural identity can become.

Do you own, for instance, a musical genre you can conceivably define as ‘black’, rather than universally ‘human’? (In which case, you may detect echoes of West African rhythms in modern Delta blues and wonder if black Americans aren’t in some sense exploiting black Africans.) Should black musicians be banned from playing Beethoven, should Richie Havens have been producing his magnificent covers of the Beatles’ songs?

Or are there not perhaps many shades inbetween? It’s all rather sad, to a Humanist.

How ironic, that in an increasingly confrontational, binary world, the best-selling book of the last 10 years has been ’50 Shades of Grey’!

 

*No, this is the living end! US actress Hilary Duff  (Who she? Ed.) and her friend have been forced to grovel and apologise for going to a fancy dress party, she as a Puritan ‘Pilgrim Father’ in fishnets below the waist (quite a good joke, actually), he as a red indian in a war bonnet.

How dare they misappropriate whoever, whatever in this disgraceful, culturally shocking fancy-dress way?

I’m deeply offended. No, really. It’s Halloween. And if any kid turns up trick-or-treating on my doorstep tonight culturally misappropriating my identity as a self-proclaimed persecuted wizard, I’ll smash its hopeful little painted face with my big, offended fist.

Fancy dress must be banned forthwith. Actors, too. I’m writing Trump, tell him put it on the list.

 

Erasing bias from history

Americans have a peculiarly robust, not to say forceful, approach to life, consumer choice and everything, don’t they? You can include how Microsft will hijack your computer from time to time to forcibly install its damaging software without even asking; and how the Guantanamo prisoners are treated without benefit of the Geneva conventions or judicial process.

Take the following notice I’ve just had from sofa-surfin’ website, Airbnb (don’t ask, btw, I didn’t complete the application to join):

“Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

“You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgement or bias.

“What if I decline the commitment?

“If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is cancelled, future booked trips will be cancelled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.”

That’s tellin’ em! And no fuckin’ fancy dress or you’re a dead couple.

 

Boomtime

Okay, I made a joke in a whileago Post about terrorists not being stupid enough to take a hand-grenade on board the Eurostar – this after seeing a large sign at Lille station showing pictures of things you weren’t supposed to take on board the train, including the said exploding device, with a red line ruled through it to indicate the official displeasure you might easily assume would be shown towards you if you tried.

And this morning, two Eurostar services have been held up at Paris’ Gare du Nord while bomb disposal experts dealt with a WW2 artillery shell someone tried to bring back as a souvenir of France.

I know, I have trouble understanding those wordless pictograms you get with your flatpack furniture kits myself.

 

 

Boris is an honourable man, and other thoughts on inequality

The problem of unconscious bias

To be charitable to Boris Johnson, and why not?, the horrible, horrible Moaning re-twerk in The Sunday Times of an article he wrote just two days before he declared for the Leave camp, apparently rejected for publication, advocating that Britain should remain in the EU, is a ‘so what?’ moment.

Have I ever tried to deceive you, gentle Spammers, Likers, Followers and Those No Longer Reading This, Muh Bogl, about the true intentions of the Leave tendency? That the referendum had less to do with Europe than with the political ambitions of a small but determined bunch of neo-Thatcherite crazies? Did I ever try to persuade you that Mr Johnson was an honourable man – like jolly old Brutus?

I don’t think so.

And what is his response? After consulting Donald Trump’s special explanations unit, Mr Johnson replies that he was just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein before finally making up the golden glow that passes for his Classically trained mind.

I understand the Daily Telegraph was paying £29,000 a month to Mr Johnson to work through a few unpublishable ideas for them once a week. It’s enough to turn anyone’s gloriously straw-textured head.

Elsewhere in Brexitville, I’ve had two annoyingly sarcastic earworms buzzing around my elderly brain all morning: The Bachelors’ ‘Bremoaner – They’re wringing-out our song of love’; and the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Breleaver – I couldn’t leave her if I tried.’

I’m also trying to imagine what happens to the global economy if the Dumbfucks prevail, and we wake up on 9 November to a Trump presidency, with Hillary eating minge for 20 years in Sing-sing?

The minor perturbation in the Earth’s orbit caused by Brexit might look more like the proverbial North Korean nuclear test in that event.

What happens when, in the wake of a rash plebiscite, one currency, let’s call it the Pound, slides dramatically in world markets to a historic 180-year low against another currency, we’ll call it the Dollar; only for the Dollar in turn to slide dramatically to a historic, 180-year low against all the other currencies?

I’ve only got Economics A-level, guys, I don’t know. But I’ve instructed my broker to switch my entire offshore Trust out of Panama into the Azerbaijani Manat.

Best be on the safe side.

Tick where applicable

This questionnaire culture is getting out of hand.

Agree strongly… Agree a bit… Can’t agree… Total rubbish!

A company in the USA, where else, Compas has developed a secret algorithm that uses a ten-point questionnaire to decide instead of a judge, how long ya goin down for. It’s being adopted, it seems, particularly by state jurisdictions that have been subject to criticism in the past for alleged biases in sentencing.

The idea is that answers to questions like: How law-abiding/generally black are you and what further risk do you represent to America? can be used to decide the most appropriate sentences in any criminal case.

Because Compas refuses to release details of how the computer makes its decisions, based on the standard questionnaire, this approach has led to accusations of hidden bias. For instance, ‘how many people in your family have ever been arrested?’ could well bias for race, as black people are seven times more likely to be arrested in parts of the country as whites or hispanics.

And because no-one can argue with a computer, the sentences it prescribes cannot be appealed. (I seem to remember at one time Americans developed a naive enthusiasm for ‘scientifically unshakeable’ lie-detector tests, that have subsequently been utterly discredited.)

Personally, I regard all forms of standardisation of all forms of judgements in all situations, depending on responses to a set list of questions, as manifestations of the modern tendency to monumental, self-regarding stupidity.

As we lose faith in our established institutions, so a kind of mumbo-jumbo ‘expert systems’ mentality is taking over, that leads to such idiocies as the belief being hawked around the police forces of the world by  ‘Dr’ Joe Sullivan of Texas, that you can identify paedophiles by the sort of clothes they wear. We are voluntarily surrendering our hegemony to robots, way in advance of their capacity to out-think us.

Would any sane society base its immigration policy on a reader poll in the Daily Mail? Could answers to a questionnaire in Cosmopolitan determine the outcome of a rape trial? Would you instantly abandon 43 years of complex treaty obligations to other countries on the basis of an in-out popular referendum (don’t answer that…)?

In a moment of wild enthusiasm – I’m addicted to filling-in forms – I signed up to a website promising me money and goodies if I was happy to answer a few questions every so often about my consumer preferences. It seemed harmless enough and, identifying as a retired person with time on my hands, a way of passing it.

It was only after ploughing my way through many pages of preliminary questions about my age, income group and awareness of different TV distribution channels that I began to realise I am no longer a member of the human race. Nine times out of ten, the algorithm was deciding that I’m not a fit person to be consulted on any matters of opinion concerning modern media, and closing me down.

Not only were the questionnaires all biased in favour of a subject I know or care little about – something that was not vouchsafed to me at the beginning – but they were biased against me on sociological criteria, without telling me which questions I had ‘got wrong’. I do have an opinion, but it was not apparently the ‘right’ opinion.

That hasn’t stopped the promoters from emailing me twenty times a day to ask with tender concern if perhaps I am not completing enough questionnaires because I fear I may not earn enough money if I do? The automatic bias here being that most people are only interested in money.

Frustratingly, the questioner has not thought to ask if I am not completing questionnaires because the fucking algorithms won’t let me? That’s simply an answer you can’t give.

Many of us will be familiar with the banking sector’s ‘security questions’ nightmare, a Catch-22 of simply cretinous proportions, where you cannot be told which question you got wrong because you got one of the questions wrong. (I should know the date of my own birthday, but apparently the computer knew different.)

Another point of extreme annoyance with online questionnaires, that you choose to complete out of the goodness of your heart, is the compulsory follow-up question you can’t answer, because you have previously given the answer ‘None’. This generally arises when you have wasted the previous ten minutes answering inane questions about social media to the best of your ability.

Then, of course, there are those ‘please review our performance so we can improve our service’ questionnaires that appear to have been compiled by the client browbeating the PR agency into biassing the questions so that it’s impossible for the customer to breathe a word of criticism.

And the ones with the dropdown menus that don’t give you a ‘don’t know’ or ‘other’ option; the ones with a menu of places that doesn’t list the place where you actually are… that haven’t heard your administrative county changed its name thirty years ago…. The one that spat out my address as ‘gibberish’ because it’s got Welsh words in it (‘We’re sorry if you feel you were discriminated against…’).

There’s also the problem of self-incrimination, a form of bias that comes from a hidden desire – inculcated in schools from an early age – to please the question-setter. I scored very highly in the online Baron-Cohen: ‘Where are you on the autism spectrum?’ test, principally because I felt a profound obligation to identify as autistic in sympathy with other, rather odd, people like myself.

Often the questions appear so tendentious that the intention behind them is clear; although you may find they’ve done that deliberately to fool you. The exercise then becomes a game, not exactly what you want when your answers could get you thirty years in Leavenworth.

Humans construct algorithms, so the obvious question to Compas is, for how many decades or centuries does your programmer think people should be vengefully caged-up in a brutal correctional facility for stealing food when they’re starving, or for hacking the Pentagon for fun from their bedroom in North London?

Was your question-setter just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein?

Let’s just admit it

“The death of a baby boy mauled by a family dog is “unlikely” to be treated as a criminal investigation, police said.  Archie Darby, aged four months, died after being attacked in Colchester, Essex, on Thursday afternoon. The owner of the dog – the children’s aunt – has been named as a serving police officer … 31-year-old PC Clare Ferdinand.” – BBC News

Now, look.

As a dog owner, the thought of my gentle and lovely Hunzi mauling a baby to death and maiming his brother for life is not one I can readily contemplate. But it’s not a risk I would ever take, to leave a baby alone with a dog in the room – any dog.

Hunzi is a Border collie. He was given to me by a farmer who couldn’t persuade him to herd sheep. Bless. The farmer would otherwise have had him killed, but I have never regretted saying okay, why not? The dog in the report is – or perhaps by now was – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I like Staffies a lot, but the clue’s in the name. They were bred for baiting bulls for sport. Bulls are very large and dangerous 1800-lb animals armed with hoofs and horns and general meanness.

Staffies are  not on the banned Dangerous Dogs list but their cousins, the pitbulls, are. I’m not one who believes certain breeds are more likely to attack a human than others, it depends on their training – but also on their breed temperament and their physical capacity to inflict devastating injury. The ‘2nd Amendment’ NRA argument, that it’s people who kill, not guns, should not be allowed to cloud the fact that every year in Britain, dog attacks are on the increase as dogs bred for fighting have become more popular – both as status symbols and as weapons of defence.

And as ‘family pets’….

Many people trust their dogs to care for their children, possibly influenced by Nana, the nursemaid golden retriever of Peter Pan fame, I don’t know. According to the expat website UKandSpain, “Each year, approximately 28,000 facial dog bites are reported in the UK, with just over 19,000 of them requiring serious plastic surgery.”

And each year too, a number of people – I can’t find out exactly how many but it’s probably about a dozen – go to jail for keeping a dangerous dog after it has killed a child, or even a vulnerable adult.

So there’s another, wider issue lurking here, isn’t there.

“There were 718 cases brought against dog owners or handlers in magistrate courts from June to December last year, compared with 444 during the previous six months (up by 62% over the previous year). Over the same period, the number of successful prosecutions increased by 71 per cent, with lawyers securing 553 convictions compared with 325.” – Mail Online, June 2015

In other words, if your dog attacks someone, resulting in death or serious injury, you’re almost certain to face prosecution. I wonder, how many of those 718 dog owners coincidentally weren’t serving police officers?

And that’s my point.

The more newspapers like the Daily Mail like to talk-up the terrifying increase in danger on our streets (not borne out by any statistics) from immigrants, Muslims, terrorists, schizophrenics, feral clowns and other people who would have been safely locked up if Social Workers were only doing their job, the more they have to try to persuade us concomitantly to acknowledge the special role in society played by the security forces; whose casualties are infinitesimal compared with those of ordinary citizens.

Perhaps that’s what makes them a special case.

I’ve blogged before about the inequitable difference in treatment between the minuscule number of cases where police officers have died while trying to apprehend car criminals,  resulting in a murder charge; and the much larger number where car criminals (and innocent passers-by) have died while being pursued by police and no charges have resulted.

There is currently a campaign in the tabloid press to have the law changed relating to serving members of the armed forces, so that they cannot under any circumstances be investigated for possible breaches of the Geneva Conventions and international laws against war crimes, to which Britain is a longtime signatory. It has been reported, possibly accurately, that Theresa May is considering the idea seriously.

“An SAS hero is facing murder charges after the Ministry of Defence launched an investigation into his ‘mercy killing’ of Iraqi soldiers 13 years ago. Sergeant Colin McLachlan, who starred in the Channel 4 series Who Dares Wins, could be jailed…”

This front-page lead story in the Mail on Sunday (16 October) was headlined: ‘Despicable betrayal of an SAS hero’. It reveals a curious attitude to the potential commission of war crimes, and a bundle of fairly awful prejudices growing out of the popular resurgence of British exceptionalism.

Sgt McLachlan had recently admitted in a book to the ‘mercy killing’ of wounded enemy combatants, but without reading the details the newspaper story makes a number of completely unwarranted assumptions, principally that he ‘faces murder charges’ when he has not been charged at all; while refusing to consider that what he himself claims he did is, in law both international and British military, a criminal offence; and it is the statutory duty of the MoD to investigate.

It’s an appalling piece of journalism; in fact, not journalism at all, but a travesty: egregious propaganda. A TV show, a book… Sgt McLachlan seems to want to make the most of that ‘hero’ tag. He may indeed have performed heroically, we shall never know as SAS operations are official secrets and anything written in popular books by ex-SAS men is therefore thinly disguised fiction, that has to be cleared by the war office.

Lock ’em up!

A Storyville documentary aired on BBC 4 TV last night featured a lengthy interview with Moazzem Begg, one of four British Guantanamo detainees released without charge in 2012.

Begg is an elusive character. Apparently just an ordinary citizen, yet wherever there’s trouble anywhere in the world involving Muslim insurgents he keeps popping up in the role of concerned ‘witness’, and finds himself being arrested – or sometimes kidnapped in the middle of the night and rendered to places you, I and the editor of the Mail on Sunday would probably rather not go.

Yet there’s no evidence whatever of his involvement with Islamic terrorism, which he insists he does not support. He has only ever once been charged in a court of law (with helping to supply a generator to a Syrian medical charity – maximum sentence 15 years), and was acquitted only after spending seven months in Belmarsh, our own special detention centre for top-security terror suspects – many of whom under the Blair regime were detained indefinitely without trial. He is not in any sense a ‘radical preacher’, that demon of popular headlines; nor any sort of agitator, as far as we can see. An intelligent man, he avoids hate speech; indeed, he seems to harbour no ill-will. It’s hard to say what he is, other than a voice of conscience.

Regardless of what motivates him – and he appears sincere in his claim to want to persuade fellow Muslims to rise above the violence – when it comes to the hysterical, near insane behaviour of US and British forces towards Muslim detainees snatched off the streets seemingly at random, institutionalised bullying to the nth degree, his testimony is shocking in the extreme; and entirely believable.

Begg’s refusal to act as an MI5 informer also ensures that his family life has been dogged by police and anonymised security agents, one of whom – ‘Andrew’ – crops up everywhere he goes like a waking nightmare, even in the illicit interrogation rooms of the CIA.

Perhaps it’s time we just give up the rule of law altogether, and admit that ‘there’s one law for them, another for the rest of us’.

There’s a war on, you know! (Several, actually. Nothing to do with me.)

 

End Times

Two consecutive headlines on the BBC News website today:

‘Why the battle for breakfast is hotting up’

‘Battle to retake Mosul from IS begins’

The first battle, as you would expect, is higher up the Views list, concerned as it is with our trendy cafes replacing egg-and-sausage with foreign granola, as opposed to worrying about the actual slaughter of women, children and doctors on what promises to be a grand scale.

It’s nice to know we British, who helped to create the fuck-up in Iraq, have got our priorities straight.

Food and its preparation seems to have become the number one obsession of the British middle class; almost akin to a new religion, the food cult dominates the colour sections of the weekend media. Millions are glued to TV shows celebrating culinary mastery and excess.

Salutary to think, therefore, of the fourfold increase in reported cases of malnutrition and associated medical conditions, the existence of ‘breakfast clubs’ for hungry schoolkids, the over one million people reliant on food banks, owing to the actions of one man, Mr Iain Duncan Smith.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the last coalition government, in order to maintain a low tax environment for the wealthy Smith imposed a brutal regime of benefit sanctions on claimants failing to abide by petty bureaucratic regulations designed to trip them up.

Mr Smith in my view should be detained, taken to The Hague forthwith and charged with a crime against humanity.

And if his gaolers forget to feed the little tortoise-headed bastard, so be it.

With a dagger between his teeth: Faith in the pulpits of inanity and other stories

Keep calm and carry on Moaning

From our Business Editor, ©2016 Sterling Pound @longliquidlunch

“Voting for sovereignty was all very well, but the question is: at what price? What if there is a 5%, or even 10%, or a not inconceivable 20% drop in living standards? Then sovereignty doesn’t look so great.” – ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, former Bank of England economist, on news that the pound was trading at $1.21, 33c lower than on 22 June.

As I have been bogling until I am tuppence-coloured, we have less sovereignty now than before 23 June.

No more sovereignty, albeit shared, over European affairs; no sovereignty in Parliament – that’s been usurped in the St Theresa’s Day coup – and less sovereignty, as Blanchflower points out, over our daily lives as we ride on the coattails of fleeing global markets down towards Sterling’s inevitable parity with the Azerbaijani New Manat.

That’s patriotism for you.

I’m not sure even ‘demented fuckwits’ begins to summarise my view of the deluded millions of embittered early-onset Alzheimers who voted without an inkling of the arguments and the possible consequences of their poorly considered decision, yet who now defensively insult better informed critics like myself as ‘Bremoaners’, traitors who can’t bear the idea of Britain’s greatness rising once more in racial purity above the waves. Stupid word.

We did notice, ‘Breleavers’ had a nasty habit before the referendum of simply howling down anyone who spoke in favour of commonsense policy;  now they’re at it again. You haven’t got an argument, you haven’t done the research, you don’t understand the issues, but you’re vindicated by your emotional responses, so just challenge our right to speak better sense with a helpful cry of ‘Moaner!’.

That’s the democratic way: ‘cut off her mic!’

And actually, I cannot be a ‘Bremoaner’ by definition, because I have said and written nothing since the referendum that I was not saying or writing at least three years before (see Post, 11 May 2013, for instance). I said you were an ill-assorted bunch of curtain-twitching xenophobes, disappointed working-class Tories and delusional Empire loyalists led astray by neo-Thatcherite plotters, certifiable loonies like Peter Bone and Redwood, J. I said it then, and I’m still saying it now. Although I did concede you could win.

Another disqualifying factor, highlighted by Mr Paul Dacre’s revolting and hypocritical display of meatheaded jerkoff British exceptionalism in today’s Mail leader, is that I’m not a member of the metropolitan elite, a Jew or a homosexual. I’m a retired domestic caretaker living provincially on the State pension, about one eightieth of sneering Paulie’s filthy lucre. But I can still recognise the historic disaster of Britain’s disgraceful copout betrayal of our treaty partners in Europe and the reckless gamble we’re taking on trade, post Brexit, when there was no need for it.

Because the real ‘Bremoaners’ have been the semi-educated, bought-and-sold, op-ed slave writers of the toilet press, a heap of groaning media baboons who Moaned endlessly on for decades about the evils of Europe, lying through bloody spittle-flecked pointy dentures stained brown with the excrement of their tax-brexiled paymasters, until they got their way: no more repressive business legislation interfering with their plans to steal our minds.

The internet will eventually destroy them. In the meantime, we must just keep Moaning.

Trumbo parachutes in

The Australian Parliament (where else?) has passed without comment, a motion in which Donald Trump is described as ‘a revolting slug’.

I’m actually worried about that.

So powerful and widespread is the animus building against Trump that one fears he may soon start to attract the sympathy vote. Pollsters who put Clinton 4 points ahead are nervously fingering their rosaries over the possibility that there is a hidden army of Trump supporters they haven’t yet found. The media is constantly turning up his adherents in the most unlikely quarters: grown women with PhDs, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims….

Yet other women are bravely coming forward to attest that he groped them ‘like an octopus’. Witnesses state that he openly speculates about women’s tits while interviewing candidates for his tawdry secondhand Apprentice TV show. Trump apologists are wearing themselves thin, denying that he did any such thing (were they there?). Donny meanwhile complains these women are all liars. They’re bullying him. It’s a conspiracy. Horrible, horrible womans.

The House Speaker, senior Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, formerly an endorser, finds his righteous scrotal sac is not as empty as they thought, retracts his support: Trump sneers and mocks him, making paranoid accusations about sinister deals with the Clinton camp behind his back; complains of the greatest smear campaign in US history. (It would have to be the greatest. Greater even than his own smear campaign against Hillary Clinton.)

Horrible, horrible Paulie!

And still they love him unconditionally, the dumbfucks.

Personally, I’m less concerned about Trump’s squamous habits, his bullying and bragging about his amazing sexual attraction for helpless females overawed by his sheer charisma, his bullshit. Those are basically admissions of his deep insecurity, engendered by his domineering mother.

My real fear centres on the problem that he claims to know how to do anything, anything on earth, and he so clearly doesn’t.

Harvard Business School many years ago identified what they called ‘Entrepreneur Syndrome’, where someone who has founded one successful business goes on to persuade themselves that the next business they start up must be equally successful, as they so obviously have the Midas touch. But of course it won’t, necessarily, because they don’t. They’re ignoring the role of luck: early business ventures succeed, mainly because they are timely – not because the founder is omnipotent.

Trump’s more terrifying pronouncements relate, I believe, to his infantile comic-book fantasies about military strategy.

We’re gonna defeat ’em

_91500718_5eef05b4-b6a1-43f4-b63b-f5afc1fb19d7At a recent rally, the angry mole-rat started riffing on the subject of Iraq and the impending reconquest of Mosul, the country’s second city, that he originally thought was in Syria, that has been in the grip of the IS for two years. It is, in the world according to Donald, all the Muslim traitor Obama’s fault that the IS has been tipped off that the Americans are going to retake the city, and when the attack is to be launched.

This treachery, he believes, has given the IS leaders the opportunity to slip away undetected. He, Trump, will ensure when he becomes Commander-in-Chief that all American forces operations are henceforth to be carried out in secret, to ensure the element of surprise. That’s the way to deal with IS, surprise ’em!

You can imagine, can’t you, the Trump crowd nodding approvingly. Yeah, what does Crooked Hillary know about running the Army? She murdered the Ambassador to Libya, she used the wrong email, she should be in jail! Trump will defeat the Muslims with surprise!

So, for a start American forces are not going to retake Mosul. That honour has been left to the Iraqi army, supported by Kurdish and moderate Sunni militias. Coalition air power will be deployed in support, Special Forces may be in action – the US has Special Forces in action covertly in over 60 countries – the US has been training and arming the Iraqis, whose army command Bush foolishly dismantled after the 2003 invasion.

But the US Army is not directly involved in combat operations. There’s a reason – the American public got sick of paying for foreign wars, sick of kids coming back in bodybags. Is Field-Marshal Trump going to go against that?

Secondly, it takes only a moment’s contemplation of the size of the task to imagine that even dumb old terrorists might possibly notice the build-up of coalition forces retaking towns beyond the city limits. Of course, IS has its informers in the Iraqi army, in the militias; it would be idiotic to imagine they are so stupid as to not know an attack was being prepared weeks in advance, even if the media had not been banging on about it.

Stealth and surprise were simply not an option. But anything to try to make Hillary look more like a bungling criminal, and Donny to look like the Saviour of Mankind (he has even said America is certain to be destroyed if he is not elected, and that Hillary will start World War Three (doesn’t he know we’re already on to WW4?) … Surely someone must realise he is certifiably insane?).

In addition, since the Iraqi army has already retaken a number of strategic towns, you might think that IS would know there was a war going on and that they were under attack, that someone on the other side eventually would come up with the idea of trying to retake Mosul; and imagine that IS defenders would deploy their own forces and leadership accordingly?

It has possibly also not occurred to the candidate from Queens that by such a visible display of firepower building up, the IS might possibly be persuaded to abandon Mosul leaving a token defence force and a lot of booby-traps, and concentrate their forces instead on their hometown of Raqqa, to prepare for The Final Battle, Armaggedon. Thus incidentally sparing civilian lives.

That’s what’s known as strategy. But no, we just have to defeat them, it’ll be great, and then they’ll be defeated and we can all go to lunch.

Does he imagine IS leaders don’t hope to achieve martyrdom? Or that military defeat in Syria/Iraq won’t bring more of IS’s warped ideology to the streets of US and European cities? Solipsism is in a way like autism: it refuses to allow the sufferer to have empathy, to get inside another person’s mind. The only reality that exists is your own. Trump is crippled by solipsism.

Trump says he plans to expel all the illegal Mexicans and others from the USA. Great idea, but does he actually understand that there are possibly 12 million of them, and what that operation will take by way of resources and logistics that do not presently exist? Illegal immigrants aren’t by definition registered: to deport them you first have to find them. At 100 cases each, that’ll  require an army of 120,000 extra security people, on what, $600 a week?… Then you’d need secure camps to hold them while you process the extradition orders. About 2,400 camps could hold 5,000 illegals each. Legal challenges might take up a few decades. Then you’d need enough buses… (a quarter of a million buses at 50 deportees each…)

Equally, Mosul is a city of around two million people, almost the size of Houston, Texas. It’s not Koresh’s compound at Waco. Exactly how big a secret army and how much secret materièl does Trump imagine can be kept hidden in the desert for weeks when planning an operation to take back a large city from a well dug-in enemy numbering ten thousand battle-hardened fanatics?

Does he even know how many troops, tanks and drones, rockets and shells, how much ammunition and fuel it’s going to take, how to supply the attackers and reinforce them on the ground; the communications protocols between all the different groups;  where are the access points, the key targets; what are the Medevac procedures, the mechanical support requirements; what to do with 1 million fleeing civilians and what’s the Plan B if the first assault doesn’t work?

In point of fact, he hasn’t a fucking clue what he’s talking about, when he talks about retaking Mosul. He is delusional, imagining some tough guys can just go in and take it.

But the Dumbfucks go on believing his horseshit.

Trump has never been in or even near the military, he seems happier just to insult people who have. Trump managed to dodge service in Vietnam – passed originally A1, perfectly fit, nevertheless he was able to obtain four successive annual deferments to study in college and when he finally had no choice but to graduate the draft board decided he wasn’t fit to serve because of a doctor’s note about a probably operable bone-spur in his foot – Trump no longer remembers the exact medical details or which foot. (Washington Post, July 2015).

(My ex-airforce grandfather, who served through two world wars, used to joke: ‘I can’t do that, I’ve got a bone in my foot…’ I gather it was a stock military excuse, not always respected by those in authority – like my grandmother.)

I feel sure though that if he had been drafted, Trump would have defeated the Vietcong in a matter of days. What did they know about business, the little gooks? Send ’em back to Russia!

Seriously, Trump has no experience or qualification as a strategist, either military or political. He’s an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs make policy on the hoof. They exploit opportunities, do deals, hire and fire people; they don’t plan ahead too far. They’re not team players. They’re tacticians, not strategists; often micromanagers.

For all his vainglorious boasting about his business skills, Trump has never had to organise or co-ordinate any large-scale operation of this nature, and so is free to fantasise about how he would personally defeat IS: parachuting into Mosul, assuming he can find it, with a dagger clenched between his teeth, Trumbo would slay ’em all. His fluctuating ‘team’ of hack advisors certainly don’t dare to contradict this elementary-schoolboy version of the world.

Trump’s attitude to military matters and much else besides echoes his ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ strategy for wooing the fair sex. We’ll defeat IS, simply by defeating them. They’ll be defeated, you’ll see, don’t ever doubt it, when I defeat the evil Muslims with muh special… defeat deal. Make you real proudame, Mama.

Nothing, it seems: no fact of life, no reasoned argument, nor any commonsensical approach to the verbal diarrhoeia that dribbles contingently from his Cabbage Patch brain will deter the Trump fan club from clinging to their boundless admiration for their hero: they don’t know or care how, they don’t even know or care if he knows how, but he’s gonna put that money back in their pockets, make Murca great agin – when the sad truth is, he’s already made it a great deal  smaller.

But let’s be careful here: the rising tide of insults and derision from politicians and commenters around the world just might come back to bite us.

Kyrie eleison! (And there was Light, but not a lot, lol)

By our Science correspondent ©2016 Kirsty Quark, @infinityandbeyond.

indexScientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the world is a virtual reality experience created in a computer program.

It’s known as Simulation Theory.

Uncannily reflecting the fictional plot of The Matrix, they base this subversive idea on the behaviour of the fundamental particles in quantum mechanics. If the world is indeed made up of tiny electrical impulses, they argue, infinitesimally small packets of energy coming and going, whizzing about hither and yon, giving every appearance of solid matter, then there is no difference between our ‘reality’ and what goes on inside the central processor of a computer.

(or indeed, the socket on your bedroom wall…)

Now, logicians might not be quaking in their boots just yet. There are an awful lot of leaps and bounds of the imagination, more than in any Tchaikovsky ballet, to get from one crude interpretation of quantum physics to the notion of a celestial teenager on a beanbag making up fourteen billion years of Universal history; juggling the fates of a hundred billion galaxies, a septillion star systems in a multi-level computer game.

It’s like saying, wow!, the hard drive storage on your laptop maps memory in precisely the same way as the human brain, because it feels to us like the way we remember and occasionally forget where we remembered things. Well, duh, humans invented it… so it might look a bit like our own mental processes, mightn’t it? As the courtier Polonius struggles to agree with Prince Hamlet’s metaphysical musings on cloud formations: ‘Methinks ’tis backed like a whale…’

Madly, when more seemingly logical propositions are put to the proponents of Simulation Theory – mostly, one imagines, overgrown boys who’ve been playing these sorts of ‘build your own Universe’ games alone in their bedrooms for years, between visits to Pornhub – the extension they’ve had to come up with, rather than explaining exactly where this giant supercomputer might be located in the here and now, who built it and who is operating it, is that it must exist sometime  ‘in the future’, and is post-rationalising its own history.

Pshaw. Stuff and nonsense!

No, what is worrying is that, just as the Intelligent Design theory of Life, the Universe and Everything is finally beginning to go away under intelligent assault from rational thinkers in the school of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Chomsky, comes this new ‘scientific’ theory that has to presuppose someone or something is Up There, pulling strings, punching keys, making stuff happen, fulfilling the prophecies.

There just has to be an Intelligence, doesn’t there, a Higher Power that creates all this stuff, in whose Image we are made – a being not unlike us only bigger, who loves us especially (out of all the myriad flamed-out civilizations in the cosmos, out of all the millions of species that have gone extinct before us) and who numbers the hairs on our heads.

Indeed, it’s almost impossible for many people to imagine that there isn’t a Supreme Being, to accept that this is just how it is. I mean, look, it’s got rules! (Well, duh, humans are thinking this stuff, humans have rules too… Maybe we’re superimposing our own limiting structures onto our theory of manipulative deism? Maybe a little?)

The idea of God, in whatever form best adapts itself to contemporary human culture, is pernicious. It simply refuses to go away. The well armed fanatics and Bible bashers, who want you to know that if you refuse to believe in their invisible friend – no, not that one, this one – you’ll burn in agony for all eternity, even if you’re only a baby, so much do Jedoof and his heavenly Father love you, won’t ever let it go away.

For years, Christians have been moving further away from the Abrahamic notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful (all-punishing!) humanoid god. In the 1930s, a Jesuit priest and palaeontologist working on the discovery of early hominids, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, reflecting the Jungian concept of the ‘collective unconscious’, advanced the concept of the ‘noosphere’ – a Universal mind, towards union with which he thought Humanity was evolving. This was very far from the God of the Old Testament.

In the 1960s, Bishop John Robinson published his best-seller, Honest to God!, in which the Anglican Church finally threw out the idea of a Supreme Being in the face of increasing scientific knowledge concerning the real age and scale of the Universe and the etiology of the species. He proposed instead (after Paul Tillich) an ‘immanent’ God, a God not external to humanity, but contained within us as an essential spiritual element of faith in human goodness and progress.

This adaptation of Freud’s superego was a masterly evasion, an adroit sidestepping of the fundamental problem of the irrationality of externalised religious belief, especially in the One True God – one out of so many in history, who have fallen by the wayside. It meant that, like a cancer, we had to carry around something alien inside our minds and bodies, that we could never rid ourselves of, whose Mind we did not need to know as it worked in us as an autonomic reflex, like breathing.

Many people were deeply upset however when, a few years later, the Bishop of Durham, the late David Jenkins, confessed that the story of Jesus was only a fable, a founding mythology we didn’t need to take too seriously provided we went along with the moral precepts in the Gospels, turned up in church once a year at Christmas and put a fiver in the plate.

For many believers, this was a heresy too far: evangelism, creationism, belief in the literal truth of the Bible and the theory of Intelligent Design began to gain ground in an attempt to push back against the Satanic beliefs that seemed to have led the church astray; dangerous beliefs in scientific rationality, Darwinism, denial of the virgin birth,  the resurrection and so on….

There is equally another good reason to undermine Simulation Theory before it really gets going as a new foundation myth for Generation Z:

In a collection of short stories published in 1959 as Nine Tomorrows, written a quarter of a century before you or I had even an IBM PC on our desktop, Isaac Asimov postulated the fictional computer Omnivac, that evolves through successive iterations of AI to overtake the human race and become a self-determining entity. Ultimately, long after Mankind has vanished from history, the computer has processed and stored all the data in the Universe (I believe that’s also Sergei Brin’s secret plan behind Google!).

Finally, entropy is complete: the last stars are snuffed out. Omnivac has become the Singularity. He sits alone in the darkness of the void for a few million years, pondering things weightily, until at last He intones: Let there be light!

And round we go again.

So you see, there’s nothing original in the idea of Simulation Theory as a reimagining of the universal creation myth as a computer program.  Through Asimov’s brilliant insight*, Science Fiction got there years before you, even when there was only the slenderest evidence at the time of where cybernetics was heading.

Before you start to hear it preached about in the pulpits of inanity, please realise ST is just another silly quasi-religious nostrum along the path towards Enlightenment!

*Think about that. Not only did Asimov realise years before anyone else the ontological problem with AI, that it has the potential to displace humans at the top of the tree; he also understood the nature of matter as information: data.

Politics: a curious affair

The wife of the new president of Nigeria, Muhammudu Buhari, has publicly rebuked him for, as it were, being asleep on the job. Aisha Buhari says her husband ‘does not know’ who most of his government appointments are, having never even met them; despite having been married to him for 27 years, she says, neither has she. They are all placemen (and maybe a few women?) put there by corrupt civil servants.

“I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.” – she told the BBC.

Her commendable attitude* echoes that of the Athenian women in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, who refused to have any more dutiful sex with their husbands until they put an end to the Pelopponesian war. What, I thought, would be the effect of today’s political wives and husbands doing the same, putting an end to the tedious bickering over hard or soft Brexit?

It occurs to me, however, that they probably don’t have sex, at least not with each other. Quite a few are not even married, so dedicated are they to their careers.

I was wondering only yesterday, as it happens, about the very odd cabinet appointments made by Britain’s unelected Prime Minister, Theresa May, during her first days in office.

Are any of them qualified to be in charge of departments responsible for areas of public and private expenditure in which they have never previously been known to take a passing interest? It’s like Theresa’s little joke.

Briefly though, in the light of the Nigerian experience, we must first ask the question: has the Prime Minister’s husband Philip ever met any of these people?

I expect as PM Consort, he must have done. After all, was not the Arthur Askey lookalike (for generations X through Z, Askey was a variety artist in the 1950s, whose catchphrase ‘Hello Playmates!’ has taken on a certain resonance in these more austere times) being paraded as PM arm candy at the Tory party conference in Birmingham only days ago?

He might not have met any members of the elected government, as they all stayed away. Cameron, Ozzie Osborne, swotty li’l Gove…. they’ve all given it up as a bad job.

But what of, say, Amber Rudd, the former investment manager now in charge of homeland security? Philip would get on great with her, he’s an investment manager too. They could talk about securities, investments.

It’s often said most politicians have never known a proper job. Surely, advising ordinary people on where to safely put their now-worthless pounds, Panama or the Virgin Islands, is one of the most socially useful professions imaginable?

And Chris Grayling, of the curiously shaped head (he looks like a very tall, Art Deco standard lamp, with no shade – just a large bulb). Battling away over the Southern Rail dispute, I expect, the former Justice Minister was probably too busy being introduced to the concept of commuter travel to have much time for social niceties.

The comprehensive school-educated Justine Greening, former Transport secretary, has been put in charge of St Theresa’s programme of introducing lots of new selective grammar schools, of which she thoroughly disapproves. So she’s squirming.

While the new lady Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the former think-tank wonk and junior education minister, Liz Truss, has no legal qualifications or work experience whatsoever but is no doubt well on top of her predecessor Speccy Gove’s rational and relatively humane proposals to overhaul the broken prison system.

Wife and mother, the bizarre Andrea Leadsom was given the brief at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, and promptly ordered to close down the Climate Change unit, presumably before it overheats.

Then there’s the Brexit triumvirate: David Davis, a former Shadow, in the wholly new role of Secretary of State for Exciting the European Union, or something; ‘Dr’ Fox – would you let him operate on your sister? –  Business thingy in charge of beefing up British boomerang sales to Australia, whose first public effort was to abuse British business owners as golf-addicted slackers – while Boris, the shambolic albino bear-man, who has dedicated his life to insulting foreign leaders in Latin, now touring the world as Foreign Secretary, likes to remind other countries of how we used to commit atrocities on their soil, so they’d better give us their business or else.

Only poor, swivel-eyed Bremainer Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary currently presiding over the virtual collapse of the NHS, had any previous form in the job; in his case, not the best form – you wouldn’t bet on there being many doctors left in 2017, and not just because they’ve all been repatriated. To rub salt in the wound, the only antibiotic still available, Mrs May has told him there’s no more money – he’ll just have to kill more patients.

So while our senior political leaders are no doubt in and out of one anothers’ kitchens all the time, the best of neighbours, we must hope they’re on more than nodding acquaintance with their briefs and hoping to retain some small measure of autonomy while Mrs May makes all the policy and budgeting decisions for them.

It seems to me they’ve all been given the kinds of jobs more familiar to the ancient Greeks, as divine punishment for their hubris.

*His presidential response: at a meeting with Angela Merkel he told the press conference ‘She belongs to my kitchen’.

Maybe there’s a job for the Donald in Lagos next month?

Passing through the Cloud of Improbability, and other tales of the unexpected

 “When I go into the Map Room of Palmerston I cannot help remembering that this country over the last two centuries has directed the invasion or conquest of 178 countries.” – Boris Johnson describing his new offices (The Guardian, 11 October)

I react to this statement with the same frisson of horror at the depths to which self-aggrandising, sexually incontinent Alpha madmen like Johnson and Donald Trump can sink when they disengage from their essential humanity as anyone might to the allegations against Trump.

Actually, that’s almost all I can think to say about it. This is our new Foreign Secretary, the face of Britain abroad, who has been charged with the task of cementing new trading relations with other countries around the world, to replace the pointless void that is about to be created by the graceless abrogation of our treaty commitments to our 500 million neighbours in the European Union, gloating over Britain’s long-lost military ‘greatness’.

Just as well to remind Johnny Foreigner in advance, who’s the boss.

 

The young today, I don’t know

Dreadful dirge though our British national anthem may be, after the Rio Olympics you would imagine most people in the world are now pretty sick of hearing it.

I was astounded then when, on being asked to sing only the first two lines for dramatic purposes, not one member of a chorus of seven young people at my drama group, six of them in their early 20s, one perhaps excusably still a minor, had any idea either of the words or the tune.

‘God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen.’

The tune, if you can call it that, is lost in the mists of time. The dismal words hail from a 1745 ‘catch’ song by one Thomas Arne, the ensemble becoming the national anthem only 150 years later. They go on to ask God’s help in confounding the knavish tricks of our enemies, which Johnson would approve of; but wind up in verse 5 piously hoping for universal peace and brotherhood – a verse politicians no longer sing.

Of course, in 1745 we had a German king on the throne, George 11; also, a Scottish Jacobite Catholic rebellion going on, to reinsert (with French help, that was not entirely forthcoming) Bonnie Prince Charlie into the line of the British monarchy, that had been diverted away from the Catholic succession with the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

(You will often hear blimpish British dimwits asseverating pompously that we have not been conquered since 1066. 1688 saw the deposition of James 11 in favour of a Dutch prince, William of Orange, who landed at Gravesend with 20,000 troops and was immediately elevated to the throne. His legacy sadly was the plantation of protestant Scottish farmers in Ulster that led inexorably to sectarian division and the Troubles.)

Charles Stuart was the presumed heir of James 11. His army came close to seizing London, but on receiving false information that a second English army was approaching, they stupidly retreated.

The King’s younger brother, the Duke of – later known as ‘Butcher’ – Cumberland, then massacred the Scots at Culloden; the defeat was absolute and led to the Highland clearances and fierce laws proscribing Catholicism in British institutions, including the monarchy.

Of the seven execrable dwarfs, two may be excused, possibly, although Wales is part of the United Kingdom, on the grounds that they are of slightly differing ethnic groups: one Welsh, the other Irish. Both claimed in their defence to know the words and tune of their respective local dirges; which, admittedly, I don’t, entirely.

Even so.

 

Passing through the Cloud of Improbability

We all hate computers, I know. Even writing those words causes my brain to turn to the stuff you find in the filter of your tumble dryer, without the 20p coin.

Yet I cannot help throwing out this plea for a lifeline, since my ‘teenager’ (okay, so he’s 23. I’m only 29, so it’s impossible) toodled off to do his MSc.

Y0u see, something beyond normal happened and I have to tell someone, even if it’s only you.

Yesterday I left my desktop PC running while I took Hunzi for his morning excursion around the exurban space that passes for our local park, and when we got back I found the computer had detached itself from the internet by the simple expedient of losing not only its connection (wired) with the router, but also the router itself, which was no longer to be found on the list of available hubs.*

The router itself was still showing the steady blue light that says it has a good connection with the broadband service. After ‘switching it off and on again’ several times, at both ends, and having checked all the connections, I tried the desperate alternative of hooking up this, muh li’l laptop thing, that I haven’t used for two months. And lo, it spaketh immediately to the internet even without benefit of the LAN cable, by dint of magical wirelessness; as does my new tabloid, to which I managed to download 1,300 transposable jazz chord charts in a matter of seconds.

So here I am, typing the usual weekly garbage into WordPress on my laptop once again; happily aware that the old version of WordPress is still running here, while on my PC it has become something unbearably stupid, just for the sake of the new (none of the actual annoying things users complain of has been fixed in the process).

But that’s not the end of it, oh no.  (My cursor just disappeared, by the way. It’s cursed.)

Probably the worst effect of the now notorious Microsoft birthday  ‘upgrade’ of Windows 10 was to render all the music files on my PC unopenable. It says it has encountered a ‘problem’, but won’t say what.  I tried three media players before concluding that I might not be able to play all muh jazz rec’ds on the computer ever again without benefit of a teenager.

Joy, the files having been transferred over in bulk from the laptop when we installed the PC, they were still held in the old disk memory of the laptop. Having not used it since before the devastating upgrade, I found all the old settings still intact and seemingly free from the dead hand of Gates’ beanbags.

So I opened up the Media Player and selected a fav’rit track.

Now… no sleight of hand, nothing up my sleeve, and please understand: the laptop is not by any means connected to the PC, which by now I have powered down in despair. (Drum roll)

As I played the music tracks stored on the laptop, one by one the tracks in the list that were not playing started to shut down, all by themselves. Little red flags were appearing next to the track listings in my libraries, four or five at a time, until the entire playlist became inaccessible; and so on to the next one, and the next, until there was not a single file left that would open.

Do you believe in the supernatural? Yes, that’s what I thought. But I don’t.

I just don’t understand what the fuck is happening? How can that happen all by itself to licensed files I have been playing for months and years, taken off paid-for CDs, on a machine that has no connection to the faulty one?

I am getting the notion that, as the sun orbits the galaxy, the Earth passes periodically through a region of space, a Cloud of Improbability, that turns natural order on its head. Absolutely nothing is making sense right now

*Yes, I know, I can try reconnecting the hub to the network, can’t I. That’s if I can get on the internet…. d’oh!

 

There’s no business like big-business

Why am I not surprised that Donald Trump can’t manage to present himself as anything other than a repulsive, bullying, self-absorbed narcissist, an overweight racist sex-pest with bad hair, a tasteless dumbfuck who pays no tax but makes free with his companies’ finances and boasts vaingloriously about his $billions, that others have made for him?

Principally because I spent fifteen years of my life working in or freelancing for advertising agencies.

During that time, I counted that I had worked on creative and strategic consultancy projects for some 200 different companies and NGOs.

As represented by the bulk of their management teams, in my experience that’s an awful lot of repulsive, bullying, swaggering, self-aggrandising sexists and racists with bad hair, bad breath and bad suits I’ve unfortunately met in my lifetime.

I’ve bogld before about M., the agency MD who diverted the entire staff bonus pool into buying himself a yacht? That was after we’d hit our revenue targets for the year twice-over by December. Our reward was a Christmas card and a £10 shopping voucher.

M. – forgive the stereotyping, but he was both Jewish and Welsh, resulting in a combination of personality traits unfortunate except in one so obsessed with value for money – used to invite selected staff up to his house to watch pornography via his massive satellite dish, that could get Danish programmes. He seemed unconcerned that his wife and 13-year-old daughter were both sleeping with the same employee, who rented a room above the offices.

And the purpose of the yacht was twofold: one, so that he could produce made-up invoices claiming he had chartered the boat to clients, thus reclaiming VAT on non-existent transactions; and two, so he could ship suitcases full of cash over to Jersey, where he had an offshore account. There was, it must be said, the occasional waterside champagne junket for staff during Cowes Week: he had to keep us quiet somehow.

Of course, allegedly.  None of it can be proved – it was over 30 years ago.

Then there was B. A psychopath with almost no education, the MD of a backwoods PR agency I worked for, B. was so dysfunctional that he employed several PAs to try to manage his diary. It was never enough, he was always double-booking his own appointments and instead of simply rescheduling, would manufacture operatic lies to get around the problem.

On one occasion, he told a client he could not make a meeting because his wife was gravely ill in hospital. The poor man, a devout Christian, spent many hours on his knees praying for her recovery. Turning up to the rearranged meeting two days later, he was somewhat startled when she walked into the room unannounced, miraculously saved by Jesus.

Driving with me to a large client many miles away, B. was in a state of panic as he realised he’d agreed to meet several separate divisional managers simultaneously. Would I take one of the meetings? Only, it was essential that I screwed a budget of £5k out of the marketing manager for a proposed video project. He went obsessively on and on about it for miles – it was no problem for me, I had a lot more experience than he did – until finally he promised me £200 as a bonus if I achieved the target.

Back in the car, he asked nervously how it had gone. Fine, I said, I got the £10k out of him…. B. travelled back in silence. Of course, I never saw the £200.

B. also had a nasty habit of delegating shit jobs to juniors, for instance ordering them to get on the phone and beat-down suppliers on their invoices after the work had been signed-off. He would stand behind them, screaming hysterically and quite audibly to the hapless victim on the other end: ‘Tell ‘im ‘e’s a fuckin’ cunt and I’ll destroy his fuckin’ business if he doesn’t do it!’

I have honestly never been happier to be called into an MD’s office to be fired – the reason being, he said, because he needed my salary to hire another PA. I’m hoping by now someone will have stuck a paperknife in his eye, because of all the  bog-stupid trash in business I’ve ever met, B. most deserved it.

I tried to avoid corporate nights out, but sometimes attendance was unavoidable. So I have my own private views about foul-mouthed racist and sexist comedians, minor ‘as-seens’ earning extortionate fees for being embarrassingly unfunny in a roomful of inebriated cheap suits, all boasting about their sexual fantasies and being experts on football.

The worst example of sexual harrassment I ever heard of – happily I wasn’t there, but my ex-wife was – occurred at one such event in 1986, a leaving do for a female marketing manager, I forget her name, let’s call her K.

K. was a rather plump, plain, ginger-haired Irish catholic girl, with bad skin and a somewhat frumpish personality to match; but reasonably good at her job. The marketing director, a noisy, balding oaf, got up onstage and, after a witty speech (some of which I wrote, in Shakespearian blank verse), presented her with her leaving gift: an inflatable male rubber sex doll with an erect penis. The room, almost entirely unmarriageable men with bad breath and dandruff, exploded in raucous laughter.

You may know the company, UniBond. They make overpriced, niche-marketed gloop for DIY enthusiasts. It’s a waste of money, don’t buy it.

D. was the ‘editor’ of an appalling weekly freesheet newspaper with a small circulation in a town near Oxford, on which out of desperation I’d obtained a day’s work a week as a freelance subeditor – a job for which I had no experience of actually making up newspaper pages, as I’d only worked on corporate magazines and in radio and TV newsrooms. It paid fairly well – £96 a day – but involved a 100-mile round trip from my home; and a bit of a learning curve.

Another psychopath, D. would sit for hours, brooding in his darkened glass fishtank, from where he could monitor all our input. From time to time he would erupt like a Disney octopus, oozing out into the filthy, disordered, rubbish-strewn newsroom with its burned-out monitor screens and demoralised journalists, to scream at the top of his voice, over some minute typographical error: ‘I pays you fuckin’ Fleet Street rates an’ I ‘as to do all the fuckin’ work meself!’

He fancied himself as a newspaperman, but I learned from one leaving employee – the staff turnover was rapid – that he had formerly been employed only as a typesetter in the printroom of, I think it was, The Sun.

One day, a fresh young journalist arrived to take up his first job in the murky business. He’d given notice at his flat 200 miles away in Yorkshire before travelling down, and taken a rented room in town. D. instructed him: ‘There was a fight in ‘x’ pub last night, I want you to take a photographer and go and interview the landlord and bring back twenty photo opps.’

We all looked at one another sidelong. Photograph what? There was no story! A drunk had been ejected after aiming a punch at the publican, nothing more.

An hour later, the young journalist returned with only five shots showing the exterior of the pub, and the landlord. ‘Right’, screamed D., ‘You’re fuckin’ useless. You’re fired!’

And he was, in tears.

At the end of my shift, I informed D. that I couldn’t afford the travelling and would not be coming in the following week. He looked at me, crestfallen. ‘Was it something I said?’ he asked, pathetically.

Business is overrun with these dismal, underqualified, insecure bullying cretins and madmen. They’re endemic to the culture. It may explain why our economy has been tanking at least since the Second World War. In my view, directors should be forced to take a business driving test showing their fitness to employ people, before being registered and allowed to practise.

Or see a good psychiatrist.

I suspect Trump might fail on either count.

 

The return of God

We all thought the old sod was dead, and good riddance, but seemingly not.

In the next episode of this, muh Bogl, our Nobel prizewinning  Science correspondent, Kirsty Quark (@infinityandbeyond) investigates the ‘Simulation Theory’ of Creation.

Is God alive and well and sitting on a beanbag in Silicon Valley?

You need to know….

 

 

The towering intellect of Donald J Trump

 

You’re never alone with schizophrenia

Sometimes I ask myself, are you lonely?

And the answer comes back, no, not really. Not with all these multiple, disjunctive personalities bickering together, snoring, itching, offering sage or misleading counsel in my head.

There’s the Paranoid One. He goes to bed in the dark and keeps the curtains closed, so no-one will know he exists. Sometimes I hear him bantering nastily with the Guilty One, whose fingernails are bitten to the bone waiting for the knock on the door. He is responsible for everything bad in the world.

Then there’s the Satirical One, who drives me to work at the computer every morning; and the Alcoholic One. Whatever resolutions the Sensible One may have made during the day, come six o’clock the Alcoholic One always remembers he’s forgotten to buy dogfood and returns with a bottle of wine and a sheepish grin.

The Calculating One then reminds us both that at £7 a bottle we are spending two-and-a-half thousand pounds a year on this stuff we can’t afford, just to try and shut the others up.

The Forgetful One spends hours Googling stuff he knows he knows, but can’t recall. Names, dates, the roots and outcomes of historical events – the meanings of common nouns and adjectives. Meanwhile, that offputting personality, the Fearful Procrastinator is working out how long we’ve got before the hospital reminds us we haven’t made that appointment to have a camera shoved up our cancerous old colon, and if we don’t hurry up we’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Ambitious One is constantly hovering in the wings, muttering darkly that time is running out. He’s a mate of the Still-Young-And-Handsome One, who’s worrying that Size 36” seems to be shrinking and you haven’t showered, shaved or changed your socks for three weeks.

Advice to get a life usually seems to hinge on joining some activity group. So that’s fine for the one evening a week in term-time when you can exercise or go singing and meet up briefly afterwards for a drink and a chat. Although you can never be certain which one of you is doing the talking? It only intensifies the darkness when you get home afterwards and yesterday’s washing-up is waiting in the sink.

And it’s fine for the one week a year when we can all pack our T-shirts and shorts and head off together to France to study with real musicians, who don’t exist the other 51 weeks of the year. Until the Failed Sinatra personality follows me to bed at three a.m. unkindly pointing out where I started on the wrong beat, sang out of key, missed several crucial high notes and was pathetic at directing the band.

Couples get invited out. In my previous working world of domestic support services, couples get offered very well-paid residential jobs as… couples. Couples can go on holiday and do things together, or apart – couples have those choices. Couples can sometimes delegate responsibility for things they individually find difficult or irksome, knowing the other will probably help. Couples can rely on one another to say when you are being a twat. Couples might even care for one another in old age.

The Unbearable One is resolutely opposed to the idea of becoming a couple again. He points out with some justification that, with all that going on in your head, with no money and smelly socks, impotent and increasingly housebound, you are hardly a catch.

So no, a schizophrenic is never lonely.

 

A matter of course

Lest anyone imagine I cannot crack a smile, if they have not been watching the Olympic golf they will not understand the reason for my great amusement currently, but it is to do with golf-course etiquette.

In situations where congratulations or thanks are in order during a round, or where a golfer has holed in one or something, I have noticed that men golfers tend to fist-bump and high-five one another a lot.

At the end of the round there are manly hugs to distribute among the caddies, match officials, colleagues and rival players in the three-ball, and these can be quite close, muscular, emotional affairs that one might describe as ‘bear-hugs’.

Between the ladies, however, their opponents and (mostly male) caddies, there are embraces, and these are ritually distant; just a brush with one hand going behind the back and a sort of crane-like dip towards one another, gaze averted, the aim being to achieve absolutely minimal contact.

Is it to avoid transmitting Zika? Humans are funny.

BTW… If your daughter is white, blonde and wears her hair in a ponytail, why not enter her in the Olympics? She might do well!

 

The towering intellect of Donald J Trump

“…Libya was stable; Syria was under control; Egypt was ruled by a secular ally of the United States. Iraq was experiencing a reduction of violence and Iran was being choked off by economic sanctions.”

In an astonishing attack on Barack Obama’s foreign policy, in the apparent belief that voters are so ignorant they will accept any lie so long as it is sufficiently American, Donald Trump has claimed that before 2009, Libya was a stable nation, as was Syria; Iraq was on the mend, a peaceful country, while Egypt was safely in the hands of a secular ally of America and Iran was safely contained by sanctions. Obama, he says, destroyed all that through his evil policy of ‘nation building’ and appeasement and Crooked Hillary will only continue on the same reckless course to the detriment of America’s greatness.

Of course, al-Quaeda did not exist before Obama was elected… Hezbollah did not exist, Iran was not building a bomb, Iraq was not in a civil war between rival militias. If he truly believes this claptrap, he is a very much more dangerous threat to world peace than anyone in history I can think of. (I’m not saying more than Adolf you-know-who, right? Am I right about that? Yeah, you better believe it. Anyway….)

The facts are somewhat at variance with his simple analysis.

Before 2009, Libya was the principal sponsor of state-backed terrorism in the Middle East and beyond, supplying weapons and explosives to the IRA in Northern Ireland, responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 101; tens of thousands of Libyans opposed to the regime or suspected of being so were rotting in gaol, torture and extrajudicial executions were rife. A rapist and murderer, Gaddafi could only be persuaded to stop trying to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan in exchange for the most lucrative oil deal in history and a kiss on both cheeks from Tony Blair.

(I can forgive Blair for some things, but never for that nauseating, nationally humiliating display of Christian forgiveness of a deranged monster who, one sincerely hopes, is for all Eternity slowly and agonisingly turning on the Devil’s toasting fork.)

Presumably Trump thoroughly approves of Colonel Gaddafi and his peaceful methods of bringing stability to Libya.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was a corrupt authoritarian dictator, his rotten regime and Swiss bank balance propped up by tens of billions of dollars of US aid, including massive amounts of advanced weaponry to maintain his army in its firm grip of Egypt’s fragile democratic institutions in exchange for a pledge not to use it on Israel, and compliance with a policy of bare religious tolerance.

The army ran, effectively, a second state, its economy virtually independent from that of the mainstream. Following the wobble of Tahrir Square and a brief interregnum of the not-too extreme Muslim Brotherhood, elected on a democratic vote, the military mounted a coup and the country is now safely back in the hands of another authoritarian dictator, General al-Sisi, who has sought to rehabilitate Mubarak; while thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters rot in gaol, many on death row.

That’s the way to do it. Like we interned the Japs in the war. Muslims, right? Know what I’m saying? Am I right?

Mr Trump has accused President Obama, whom he takes care to refer to as ‘Barack HUSSEIN Obama’, of being a secret Muslim, and of supporting the Islamic State in its ambition to restore the Abbassid caliphate. Mr Trump sincerely believes that Obama was born, not in the 50th US state of Hawaii, as it says on his birth certificate, but in his father’s home country, Kenya, and is therefore illegally in occupation of the White House.

Mr Trump indeed believes all sorts of things; anything he can convert into another ‘know what I mean?’ subtle innuendo, that will gain him votes from the crazy community; the paranoid ‘future-phobes’: survivalists, revolutionaries and millennarians, the legions of the disappointed and the conservative-leaning blue-collar anti-managerialists who make up his enraged lower-middle-class constituency; many of whom live in the hope that he is The Messiah who will bring about The Rapture, having first removed any non-Europeans beyond The Wall; ignoring the point that, of all the managerial elite, their hero is the most managerial and in financial terms, among the most elitist of them all.

Mr Trump seems to have forgotten too, how the current situation in Iraq came about, through the ‘nation building’ not of Barack Obama, but of Republican president George W Bush, his friend Tony Blair and their friends the Wahhabist dynasty, the House of Saud, egged on by corporatist neocons in the Washington cocoon. Iraq was previously a stable country all right, thanks to a regime of extreme domestic terror, while thousands of his political opponents rotted in gaol under threat of public execution and Saddam’s Ba’ath party placemen enjoyed the economic and political limelight.

Way to go, Donald.

Another of Mr Trump’s election-winning beliefs (who knows what he believes?) is that climate change is not happening, right? I mean, it’s just not happening, know what I’m saying? It’s a Chinese conspiracy. Meanwhile, Jerry Brown, the governor of California,  a climate-change believer, has had to declare another state of emergency as brushfires rage out of control in San Bernadino County, after years of economically devastating drought; while Louisiana is experiencing the worst flooding ever recorded in the Mississippi basin.

These are no longer random events, they are happening on a global scale with increasing severity and frequency – entirely as predicted in the climate science. Science being a dirty word for half of Americans who believe, with Donald J Trump, who can personally vouch for it, in the literal truth of the Bible; and who welcome the prospect of the End Times. A dirty word too for the fossil fuel barons, whom Trump is winning over with speeches extolling the virtues of coal and oil as the clean fuels of tomorrow.

It’s all fine, Donald can fix the weather, you’ll see. He’ll do a deal with God, am I right or what? Is the Pope a Communist? No, just kidding. No smoke without fire.

It might be asked, which problem is it that Mr Obama has brought about, since you cannot blame on the one hand his interventionist ‘nation building’, and on the other hand, his appeasement and a desire to reset relations with the rest of the world. It’s an implausible dichotomy, frankly. And we are wondering, aren’t we, on what evidence Trump believes he needs to increase the size and power of the already hugely expensive US Army, the most powerful in the world, when he is so opposed to foreign interventions; and what he means exactly by making America ‘great’ again – when was it ever not ‘great’? Does he just mean ‘white’? Meanwhile the economy is growing, unemployment falling, wages rising….

Mr Trump concludes, not without relish, that we are living in an Age of Terror, that only he can bring to an end. He will build a wall to keep terror out.

So, which is the greater threat to the security of the USA, I wonder? Terrorism, on the very minor scale at which America has been experiencing it since 9/11 – that’s America, whose own well-armed population of gung-ho paranoiacs and drug gangs is responsible for thirty thousand gun killings a year – or the most profound, irresponsible ignorance and brute stupidity any candidate for the Presidency with only self-contradictory, rhetorical platitudes and no policies to offer his adoring fans can ever have demonstrated in US political history?

Unless he’s only kidding, of course.

 

Hearts, minds and so forth

Is anyone else waking up with a feeling of unease that, after much air-punching and devout wishes that the man will rot forever in Belmarsh or be extradited by the CIA to Cuba for some extreme vetting, or be dropped into Aleppo by parachute to see what his slimy utterances are really making of the comfortable world he inhabits, the radical preacher Anjem Choudary has been found guilty of, essentially, exercising only what we in Britain used to refer to naively as his freedom of speech?

The security forces, it is said, have been trying to ‘get’ Choudary for the past twenty years for his radicalising Jihadist rhetoric; the problem being, he never himself apparently engaged in any skulduggery, or overstepped the increasingly tricky line between polemic and hate-speech. Only when his supporters – who may have included planted agitators  – became a threat to his pre-eminence, demanding more extreme support for Jihad, did he slip up in briefly praising the efforts of the so-called Islamic State.

So the story goes; there’s that unexplained gap of three weeks between the jury verdict and the media announcement, in which anything could have been cooked-up.

Speech supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation that operates with extreme, nihilistic brutality under a wafer-thin veneer of religious respectability, even against its own co-religionists, is a criminal offence, not just bad judgement; and so he will go to gaol, probably for a long time. And good riddance; by all accounts the man was a slippery, manipulative, controlling egotist, a cult leader by whose poisonous words a number of fairly tragic young men and women were persuaded to engage in acts of terrorism and flights to Syria to join the IS – actions for which, while approving them,  Choudary considered himself not personally responsible.

Gross hypocrisy is, of course, not the sole prerogative of religious Imams, as someone like Mr Farage is demonstrating, continuing to draw his fat salary and expenses from the very institution he has been seeking for sixteen years to bring down – by perfectly legal means, it must be said. His powerful, radicalising rhetoric has persuaded thousands of ordinary men and women to vote for his fundamentalist views against their own best interests, and those of their country. His speech sometimes puts him in the camp, if not inside the tent, of bullying, extremist proto-fascist parties that instigate violence against minorities. Yet we accord him the freedom of the media.

Because the leadership of IS has essentially declared war on the West, and instructed its followers to carry out atrocities in Europe and elsewhere, wherever in fact there are large Muslim populations whose disaffected young men and women can be persuaded of the historic importance of such acts in the divinely sanctioned mission to reinstate the worldwide caliphate under Sharia, it seems right and proper that we should counter their campaign with all means at our disposal.

But look. Surely the suppression of rabble-rousing speakers has a poor history of success in halting religious and political movements for revolutionary change? One thinks of Thomas Paine, author of the tract ‘The Rights of Man’, imprisoned and driven into exile, whose subversive ideas subsequently fuelled both the American and French revolutions;  of the Chartist, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt; of Karl Marx, who found refuge in C19th England, and whose academic analysis of capitalism led within a century to the murders and starvation of tens of millions in failed ideological experiments of a most inhuman kind.

I feel certain that during the twenty years the security forces had been hoping to ‘get’ Choudary, he will have had his uses to them. And I still think it must surely be better to let the people speak, however unpalatably and provocatively, than to amplify the importance of their ideas through the suppression of speech; far more productive to contain their actions, than to stifle their words; which we should all be allowed to hear.

What we are not hearing is any credible message of counter-radicalisation; any persuasive defence, backed by outward acts of integration and advancement for our struggling minorities, of a way of life which a minority of incomers seem to find so hard to accept. Is it racist to ask why anyone would deliberately choose to remain in a part of the world where they find the prevailing culture so inimical to the sacred beliefs and traditions of their place of origin that they can be so easily diverted by crude fundamentalists?

In reality, it is difficult to see how such a complex set of customs and practices as ‘Britain’ has evolved over the centuries can be explained in terms of simple, attractive, easily grasped images that might appeal to religious conservatives. Is that ‘Britain’ not what attracted them to move here in the first place? Perhaps Mr Farage could be persuaded to turn his considerable oratorical talents to the presentation of an alternative paradigm for Britain’s disaffected young Muslim population?

In the battle for ‘hearts and minds’, it is not helpful to marginalise the very people you are hoping to win over.