Saturday, March 28, 2015

SNP conference opens to rapturous applause 
BBC News, 28 March 2015

Nicola Sturgeon wowed an enraptured Glasgow crowd at the SNP's annual conference today by re-announcing all of the party's policy.

"I believe that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country", the First Minister told delegates "And further, I believe that people who disagree with me are bawbags".

The crowd greeted the announcement with cheers and chants of "We believe things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country" and "People who disagree with us are bawbags".

"Some of our fellow Scots don't believe that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country", Sturgeon said. "To those people, I say - things would be a lot better if Scotland were an independent country, because they would".  

The First Minister's speech to the conference ended a day of surprise policy announcements after  Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Health vowed to shore up the nation's elderly care provisions by enacting a new Belief In The Betterment Of Things If Scotland Were Independent Bill.

Delegates welcomed the party's new strategy on encouraging inward investment by believing that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country, and applauded repeated declarations that people who disagree are bawbags.

Speaking after Nicola Sturgeon's speech, SNP member Morag, 23, of Inverness said "I believe that things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country".

"People might say that things wouldn't be lots better if Scotland were an independent country but I think we've proven that we really believe that things would be lots better". 

"And that people who disagree with us are bawbags".

Her sentiments appeared to reflect the views of her fellow delegates.  "Things would be better if Scotland were an independent country" said Duncan, 37, of Glasgow.  "Things would be lots better".

The conference concludes tomorrow with a reading of the traditional poem "Things would be lots better if Scotland were an independent country" and a rendition of the folk song "People who disagree with us are bawbags". 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate

Now, you can consider me generally indifferent to any news involving

- Celebrity couples
- Who's headlining this year's Glastonbury, or
- That gosh-darned racket of a hippy-hop music with all the fucking cursing that y'all young 'uns are into these days

...But you know, it's not exactly a shock to discover that either old hippies or young-ish hipsters can often be, beneath their own distinctive veneers of radicalism, really very conservative indeed

My favourite versions of this old satirical stick are Viz's Modern Parents and the Critics but seriously, nothing about this is news, particularly not if you traded in your ridiculous ripped jeans for cheap suits and hard cash many years ago, as I did.  Haters gonna hate, yo.

I haven't got much interest in Kanye West either, but I will observe this - if you're married to Kim Kardashian, and lots of people feel sorry for her because you are embarrassingly vapid and self-involved, then you've probably fucked up somewhere along the line. 

I realise that this point won't go down well with some folk but I offer the following as consolation: if Mr West is especially grief-stricken about his unpopularity with a shower of Home Counties crusties, he can always commit suicide by jumping off his wallet.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Consequences

"Until now, Washington has always acted as Israel’s diplomatic protector, blocking hostile resolutions at the UN and the like. Now the White House, still smarting over Netanyahu's Republican address to a Republican Congress, wants to remind Netanyahu that such support is not unconditional. The core message, and it should not be delivered by the US alone, would be simple. It would say, of course the world has to respect the decision of the Israeli electorate. But if this is the path Israel is taking, there will be consequences".

- Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian, 21 March

I've always liked Jonathan, who seems nice and genuine in a very "Hey gang, let's stage a complete reinvigoration of social democracy right here in the church hall!" kind of way but really, I suspect that even he knows how wishful this kind of thinking is.  

Look, Washington's support simply is "unconditional", and barely even disapproving to boot.  For all the grumpy, unattributed grouching from Pennsylvania Avenue, you'll notice that money talks, and that the flow of cash and weapons hasn't so much as stalled for a second during any of the terrible events in the region, this last few decades.

The hard truth here is that when the Israelis turn up the violence and start blowing shit up, the US leaps immediately into action and mails them more missiles, just in case they run out.  That's been the situation for my entire life and I assure you that it's not going to change just because the Prime Minister rashly said exactly what he thinks, and has clearly always thought, in public.

Where Jonathan says "we cannot go back to mouthing the same old platitudes about two states", I respond - of course we can.  It was obvious a week ago that talk of two states amounted to platitudes, and "we" had no trouble pretending that it was otherwise then.  It's no different today and although the Obama administration is making sad faces and harrumphing noises, you'll notice that there's no talk of turning off the cash taps.

The only "consequence" that will ensue from Netanyahu plainly stating his goals will be this - it will now be a bit more difficult for people who generally back the Israeli government when it stomps on the Palestinians to pretend that it has some passing interest in not stomping the Palestinians.  Somehow, I imagine that those people will manage to overcome that particular obstacle.

I think that Jonathan's difficulty in grasping the reality of the situation here stems from a basic misunderstanding of his own role in this particular pantomime.  He seems to see himself as a reasonable, if critical, observer whose job it is to speak unpalatable truths to powerful people.  Bluntly, it is not so.

The role of western liberals in the continuing immiseration of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is to observe how very unpleasant it all is; to tut and cluck as required, and to rein in their more excitable comrades if they get a bit too uppity, by denouncing them as if they were Nazis.

And that's it. Nothing more required, thank you.

Jonathan and other earnest types who, I'd say, want nothing but the best for everyone involved in this ongoing travesty can continue to make as many boo-hoo noises as they like about it, and the only concrete "consequence" that they'll see for their painfully sensible and measured arguments will be the  avalanche of shitty, accusatory comments under their articles.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Confusion

Okay, so I don't understand how it can be possible to suborn public servants legally.

Perhaps this is some English thing that I've missed and to be fair, I live in Scotland, so the law could well be different.

The situation as it stands seems to be that if I, for instance, passed certain privileged information to a Sun journalist in exchange for a vast cash payment, I would be jailable for several years.

And yet, the journalist who arranged that vast cash payment specifically to entice me into committing what is most definitely a crime would not be, for some unfathomable reason that's clearly far beyond my comprehension, jailable.

I'm very confused here.  As far as I can tell, today's judgement - taken with previous ones - seems to indicate that it's illegal to take a massive bribe, but that it's perfectly legal to proffer one, so long as you work for a tabloid newspaper. 

I don't understand.  How can it be legal to deliberately pay another person very large sums of money to break the law?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feline-Containment Fail

Yes, yes, shameful 11th hour demagoguery, blah blah blah.

As has long been the case, the most painfully revealing outcome of any fresh bout of lunacy in the  interminable piss-fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians occurs not in the Middle East, but in the newsrooms of the United States.

Today, loud ululations resound.  Garments are rent and teeth are gnashed as the American pundit class awakes to the astounding revelation that Benjamin Netanyahu isn't at all interested in playing nice and making friends with his rowdy, rocket-hurling neighbours and, moreover, is popular precisely because he says so while flipping the finger to the planet generally and to the United States in particular. 

The American press dust off their deadliest descriptors - why, Mr Netanyahu is so "shrill"!  He's "cynical and calculating"!  He's "raised questions about his ability to heal Israel's internal wounds" and his desire to "better its standing in the world"!

Goodness, what a terrible shock to the system this must all be for those poor little darlings who so earnestly believed that nasty Mr Netanyahu was a true man of peace.

And yet out in the world beyond Washington, there can be barely a flicker of surprise.  God knows there are many accusations that you can hurl at Bibi but for real, "Constructing a convincing facade of genuine peace-desiring" has never been one of them.

I think we're long past the point where we can pretend that we're witnessing anything other than a bit of half-hearted choreography here.  Consider Netanyahu's varying yet thoroughly transparent stances on the peace process over the years:

He used to say that he was dead against a Palestinian state.
 
And then the US leaned on him to say that he wasn't against it, so he said that he was in favour of a Palestinian state that was no state at all, with practically none of the traits or powers that any modern state would take for granted.

And now when push has come to shove, he says again that he's dead against a Palestinian state, and is cheered to the rafters for it.

This, we are to understand, represents some terrible chicanery and duplicity on Netanyahu's part, going by the theatrical swoons of horror over his allegedly unexpected rejection of moderation and his supposedly sudden swerve towards racism and neverending militarism.

But to anyone who's been paying even the slightest bit of attention, it's so obvious that nothing at all has changed and that the situation is now as it has ever been, that it's simply comical.  Israelis themselves observe the contrived uproar and rightly ask - why the sudden outrage at facts that have been obvious to anyone who cared to look, for decades?

And the answer is - an Israeli leader openly stating that he won't accept a Palestinian state isn't a shock at all, but it is a terrible breach of decorum.

It makes it difficult for the US to continue the pretence of impartial arbitration.  It makes it more difficult for the New York Times to issue weepy editorials about how the entire situation is such a tragedy, with everyone and no-one to blame*.

This is the only reason why the American press are up in arms - not because Netanyahu is the same old vicious crank that he always was, but because he's a vicious crank and a low-class boor whose behaviour makes people who actually matter look bad.

He's rude and inconsiderate, in short. 

It's not so much that Netanyahu has let the cat out of the bag, as that he's on TV telling the world that there never was a bag in the first place...  Just a great big feral cat, hissing and pissing in the pot plants.

That being so, it's hardly surprising that America's feline-containment PR experts are a tad displeased. 

The tutting and clucking in the US press amounts to nothing more than demonstrative disapproval of Bibi's bad manners.  Nonetheless, I do kind of admire the giant, gleaming brass balls it takes to play out such a preposterous performance in public.


*Difficult but not impossible of course, as the coming months will most certainly prove.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Moment For Us To Say Thank You

A short post here, since it doesn't take long to summarise the issue.

When the nation hauls its ruling class into church to pretend that our dead soldiers from the Afghan War gave their lives for any reasons other than political expediency and the deranged idiocy of our lunatic former Prime Minister, we're not honouring anyone or anything.  What we're doing is lying to ourselves - imbuing our most terrible errors with a nobility that they absolutely do not merit and validating all future repeats of the same awful mistakes.

The urge to recognise great sacrifice is an understandable impulse and I'm fully in favour of people who have lost relatives commemorating their loved ones privately, however seems best to them.  Huge state memorials full of pomp and circumstance are another matter, however.  They have wider and less laudible aims.

We can honour our dead and wounded but as a nation, it's vital to our ability to come to terms with the reality around us that any public event relating to the occupation of Afghanistan prominently recognises that the entire operation was utterly needless and doomed before a single squaddie so much as set foot in the region.  The armed forces didn't protect the people of this nation from any threat in this enterprise, not because they failed, but because there was no serious threat in Afghanistan to protect us from, and no serious prospect that any action on their part could have made the world a noticeably safer place.

The men and women that we lost in Afghanistan were killed because we elected Tony Blair, a vainglorious fool who wrongly believed that he could impose the force of his own towering morality upon the world.  We owe these people a debt not because they defended us from danger, but because we hired a fantasist to command them.

I realise that some might feel that it's more complicated than that, but it is not more complicated than that.

I fully understand why people generally and the relatives of the dead in particular would like to think that it was otherwise, but it isn't and no stately pretence is going to make it so.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

When His Salary Depends Upon His Not Understanding It

"Neil Kinnock's momentary soaking on Brighton beach in 1983 was used against him for a decade to demonstrate his haplessness.  Boris suspended, close up, from a zip-wire, his legs dangling helplessly, for a full five minutes, on the contrary represents what could happen to any of us.  He's a sport.  He's the hero of the age of the ice-bucket challenge".
- David Aaronovitch, Boris is winning over even old sceptics like me, The Times, 12 March

(Reproduced in comments below, as the Times is paywalled).
I owe our Dave a debt of gratitude for his column today, since it allows me to once again go over some of the themes I've been discussing recently and to chainsaw them into something resembling a point.

I'll shorterise Dave, who is astonished to discover that not only do people generally quite like Boris Johnson, to the point where BJ might even end up Prime Minister, but Dave really quite likes him too.

Amazing!

This, Dave concludes, is because Boris is very charismatic - such a really, jolly nice bloke that few of us can help but think well of him, unlike that Kinnock geezer who was so roundly mocked.  Which is an interesting theory, I suppose, but it's not quite as revealing as it is to note the possibilities that don't occur to Dave.

An example - is it perhaps possible that Boris gets off with his public buffooneries whereas e.g. Kinnock didn't, not merely because Boris is such a bang-on, stand-up guy but also - at least in part - because Boris is mates with half the newspaper editors, owners and media figures in the land?

Which is to say, is it possible that a lot of people who wield a fair bit of influence in the UK believe that Boris would serve their interests, were he to ever gain a position of real power, and that those people go out of their way to ensure that he's perceived in a good light?

I know how crazily unlikely it sounds, but I throw this out as a suggestion.  While I'm sure that Boris would comfortably survive the kind of merciless daily arse-pounding press coverage that, say, Nick Clegg has endured for the last five years and still come up smiling, it's surely worth considering the possibility that he might not

Or to make a more direct comparison, I note that Boris's zip-line larks were depicted across the following day's papers as a bit of jolly good fun by an all-round good egg of a proper nice geezer. 

Meanwhile, e.g. Ed Miliband can't so much as eat a sandwich without being instantly castrated and paraded dickless and ball-less on TV, as flashing headlines holler "Ridiculous Risible Retard Red Ed Can't Even Fucking Eat" at the populace for the next fortnight.

And we might say Yes, but Ed does seem to be a bit weird, doesn't he?

And while that's undoubtedly true, it's also fairly apparent that on nine out of ten UK high streets, Boris would barely be able to pull off a convincing pretence of being a human being, let alone a statesman.

From Tain to Torquay, Boris comes off like a bizarre HBO alien sporting a set of enormous flourescent genitals waggling on his forehead, and that's before he so much as opens his mouth to emit his usual chirrups and hoots.  Any serious attempt to install him in Number 10 would be taken up here not as a sign that it was time to secede from the Union, so much as one that it was time to erect a coast-to-coast steel barrier covered in barbed wire and machine-guns, just to keep the lunatics the fuck out.  

And the same could be said for much of the rest of the Tory party.  Being charitable, I'd say that it's obvious to all that George Osborne has the dead, soulless eyes of a man who keeps a locked room in his house full of sinisterly pristine china dolls, and that he personally possesses all the warmth and charisma of a serial sex offender in a Chelsea strip.

Hell, Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose grandest achievement this week was bewailing the possibility that MPs might have to suffer cutlery made from non-precious metals, looks like a teenage poisoner with intense, incestuous obsessions, but you seldom hear it mentioned.

And this works for the opposition, too - Tony Blair's rampaging egomania and aggressive mentalism were never difficult to discern and yet seem somehow to have passed by the pundit class until the point where New Labour's intramural squabbles became a liability.  His replacement's glowering persona was popularly portrayed as a positive, until the very moment it became clear that he possessed all the electoral appeal of oral herpes at a finger-buffet. 

Which leads me to conclude that contrary to Dave's belief, Boris might be "charismatic" not so much due to his personal qualities, but more because a lot of people, including Dave's boss, have decreed that it is so.

At least until it's necessary for him not to be, that is. 

And what of Dave himself, who unwisely rounds off his column by comparing Boris Johnson to Cincinnatus, as opposed to the Roman political figure that he more closely resembles?*

Why is Dave astonished to discover that he himself likes Boris so much?  

Well, if a Guardian columnist suddenly declared that he was just mystified by the full extent of his love for Ed Miliband, he'd be immediately deafened by shouts of "It's because you work for the Guardian, you dick.  Your salary depends upon it". 

Call me cynical, but you have to suspect that if Dave was the kind of guy likely to raise serious objections to posh dickheads who have the backing of the nation's political and media elite then he wouldn't be working for the Times, but would instead be cranking out columns about intersectionality at a fiver a throw for Comment Is Free. 


*This joke copyright Joe McNally.