Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tips on going vegetarian

Laura Barton has a few tips here.

I have three of my own:

1) Don't go anywhere near tofu. 'Tis the cock-cheese of the devil and humans have no business consuming it.

2) Quorn is made from the scrotal tissue of elves and is also to be avoided.

3) Either do it or don't. But spare us this, "I'm a vegetarian but I sometimes eat fish" shit. Because a fish is not a vegetable! This shouldn't need pointing out - but it does. Frequently.

BNP meets Glasgow

'Ra beeb:
"BNP leader Nick Griffin was also campaigning in Glasgow. The party has said it would would turn back asylum seekers trying to enter the UK country if they had passed other "safe countries" on their way to Britain."
OH no he wasn't. I have amusing update:
"BRITISH National Party leader Nick Griffin faced angry protests today as he appeared on a local radio phone-in.

A group of around 40 demonstrators heckled the politician and threw eggs as he arrived at the headquarters of L107 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, station bosses said.

Mr Griffin was taking part in a morning phone-in on the commercial station less than a week after his controversial appearance on the BBC's Question Time.

He later dropped plans to campaign in the Glasgow North-East by election, instead choosing to visit the FEBA Veterans' Centre in Hamilton."
He was planning to visit Springburn shopping centre, apparently - but thought better of it. Because he had heard that the people of Springburn have no dairy products to throw, only bottles and stuff.


No hats. Because there's been an outbreak of vicious hat-wearing in our place recently. Woolly hats, baseball hats, top hats, bowler hats, fedoras... Unless you nip these things in the bud, you'll have Lord of the Flies with hats on before you know it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eighties revivals that are a bad idea #1

There's been a lot of rather distressing developments in the world of fashion and popular culture that have to do with evil people trying to inflict - reinflict - some of the most revolting trends from the eighties.

The Killers, for example, having produced a rock classic in the form of When You Were Young are now inflicting this shite on us. "And I'm on my knees looking for the answer - are we human, or are we dancers?" Why pray when you can realise these aren't mutually exclusive? But the nonsensical nature of the lyrics shouldn't distract us from the fact that this little ditty has been set to a distinctly evil eighties-sounding tune.

More on this later but for now surely we should treat the return of one of the eightes most egregious fashion-statements - the mullet - with a mixture of incomprehension, rage and disgust? I couldn't find an appropriate photo but not only can I confirm that growing numbers of adolescent boys are choosing this absurd hair-styling option - in some cases they have compounded the outrage by dyeing it a different colour!

When I rule the world, the body-count will be significantly higher than it is now - but it will be a more aesthetically pleasing place in which to live.

Homework annoyances

One of the many facets of this job that I hate is the evil that are parents' nights. You rarely see the ones you need to see. Instead all you get is a smattering of extremely tense parents who are in a perpetual state of panic whenever the barrage of pointless tasks that we like to call homework lets up for a couple of days. Tis time for the silent majority - those of us, parents and teachers alike, who think the whole enterprise is a goddamn waste of human energy - to make a stand and demand an end to the sending home of crappy worksheets that have to be completed under duress.

If that isn't bad enough, parents are sent homework too. For instance, I got a sheet about the school development plan and was to provide feedback on various topics and suggest what the school might do about them. The first on the list was the Curriculum for Excellence programme. One can resist anything but temptation: I suggested someone might set to work on an English translation.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mainstreaming extremism #2

You all must be more or less Griffined-out by now so I'll be brief.

The BBC claimed it was their commitment to balance and impartiality that was behind their invitation to Griffin on Question Time - but since the format of the show clearly demonstrated that this isn't a commitment that they take very seriously, one was left wondering what the point of inviting him in the first place was?

I have to say I'm surprised at the number of commentators saying that Thursday's Question Time either allayed their worst fears or even changed their minds from a position of opposition to his appearance. This isn't a feeling I share. Richard Seymour makes two arguments I agree with very neatly here; Dai is even more succinct and to the point here. I've just a couple of things to add:

1) Everyone's going on about how uncomfortable Griffin looked. I don't agree. How uncomfortable did he really look? Uncomfortable the way a leader of a racist criminal gang should look? I don't think so. People have remarked, for example, that the issue of his Holocaust denial was 'raised'. Not good enough. Paxman received plaudits for pressing a question on the then Home Secretary Michael Howard something like eighteen times. But something eminently more serious and malevolent than whether a Minister of the Crown threatened to overrule a civil servant doesn't justify a similar persistence?

2) He looked shifty, uncomfortable and evasive, according to most accounts. So he did. So what? Why are people effectively arguing that making a tit of yourself on national television is in some way politically decisive? I saw the then Governor of Texas George W Bush being interviewed and making a fool of himself because he couldn't name the ruler of Pakistan. You'll recall he then went on to become President of the United States. Making a tit of yourself on the television is a fairly routine experience for politicians. That Griffin also did isn't particularly significant; it doesn't do anything much to 'expose the BNP for what they are' - in the long-run it serves only to normalise them.

Some of us argued this from the outset. While we might well be proved wrong about this, the most recent evidence would suggest that our concerns were not misplaced.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SNP stuff

Nicola Sturgeon announced that the 'right to buy' policy has 'had its day'.

Have to say I'm broadly supportive. The problem with this policy, introduced under Thatcher, is that it was one example amongst many under her reign where local government powers were emasculated. It doesn't matter if you think it was a good idea or not - the point is under this scheme local government was compelled to offer its housing stock up for sale by central government and this can't be supported by anyone that believes in decentralisation.

Alex Salmond reveals his evil plan:
"Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Salmond said his preferred option would be for a straight "yes or no" question on Scottish independence.

But he added: "I have also indicated that if it was necessary to obtain the parliamentary majority in the Scottish parliament to have a third defined option on the ballot paper, which could be done by a couple of questions or by preference voting, then I would be prepared to discuss that and probably be prepared to concede it, so long as independence for Scotland is on the ballot paper."
I'm in a minority of one on this, as far as I know but - and I'm repeating myself - I reckon this, far from being something Salmond is reluctant to concede, is what he actively wants: being not entirely stupid he knows perfectly well that actual independence, with a separate border, foreign policy, army and currency, is never going to happen. But he's happy to have that presented on a 'multi-option' referendum, knowing full well that people will recoil from this but find in contrast option three (whatever that might be - fiscal autonomy etc.) more palatable. The opposition could and should call his bluff but they're too dim and too timid to do so, I reckon.

The SNP have also been arguing about the Euro, apparently. Swinney was arguing with a certain MEP who is living in the past and seems to think that the UK Bank Rate is higher than the ECB rate. But the question was over whether to have a referendum over Scotland's membership of a European monetary policy. On this, MEP Alyn Smith had the following to say:
"Making the argument to remove the referendum proviso, Mr Smith said: "I think we can be too conditional about what we want an independent Scotland to look like, too conditional about public opinion, too conditional about what sort of orientated economy we want to see."

"We are a Nordic, European country, currently part of a debt-laden sub-prime toxic assent currency we don't want to be part of and which is not serving our interests well.""
Nordic country? We'll park that one for now. It's the thing about being part of a "debt-laden sub-prime toxic assent currency" that got me. Four words: Royal Bank of Scotland. Anyone needing any argument beyond that simply hasn't been paying attention.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Postmodern theology"

In my experience Christians pretend to be opposed to postmodernism but really they love it because it gives them a) a convoluted form of prose much to their liking, b) the epistemological relativism gives them shadows in which to hide. Enter the queen of obfuscation, Karen Armstrong:
"The earliest Christian theology was apophatic. Apophatic theology -- the theology of the original, Greek-speaking Christian church -- was "naysaying" theology, a kind of religious language whose difficult task it was to acknowledge in human language the very inadequacy of human language. Whatever it said, apophatic theology immediately took back, and then it took back the taking back. Ordinary language -- the language of evidence and inference, of instance and generalization -- was fine for ordinary matters. But to confess the universal human experience of a final failure in this language is to take back the confession. It is to lose the game before it begins."
This is her position being described by someone else, one should say. One should also say it is complete bollocks. "Apophatic" theology has to do with the process of defining God in terms of what cannot be said about Him. We needn't detain you too long with the details of this essentially mystical branch of theology because it is simply false to pretend that the early church thought or spoke in this way. Here's St Paul, whose claim to be a theologian of original Christianity is at least as good as anyone's, one would have thought:
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
That was Paul having a day off from the apophatic style of theologising. He had quite a few of these, as his letters show. I've said it before but I think Karen Armstrong knows this perfectly well and is trying it on with an audience that is not postmodern but simply post-Christian and who don't, therefore, have the resources to call her out on this sort of thing. The thing is, Dietrich Bonhoeffer identified - and dismissed - the type of argument that Karen Armstrong is trying to pretend is a discovery of the old. He said if you try to preserve a space for God in what cannot be explained - or as Armstrong would have it here, even described - you're left with the problem that the spirit of scientific discovery is making this space increasingly small. Bonhoeffer's solution was ethical engagement with the world, which is why he was executed by the Nazis; Armstrong's is to retreat into mysticism. Her fate will surely involve having her books favourably reviewed by liberal journals dismayed by the stridency of the 'New Atheists'. Poor thing.

Via: Norm

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Tories, new danger: the mainstreaming of extremism

People can be incredibly stupid about the stupid party. Here's someone, for example, going on about the 'pinks turning blue' and asking: what has changed about the Tories? I think we're seriously being invited to believe that the apparent phenomenon of gay voters switching to Cameron's New Model Conservatives is evidence that they really are quite nice now.

This is just idiotic. What's changed about the Tories? Absolutely nothing. Everyone with any understanding of the history of British Conservatism knows that one of the ingredients of their electoral success in the 20th century was a hunger for power combined with enough pragmatism to adjust to contemporary reality - when contemporary reality absolutely insisted on it. For instance, the view amongst most social historians is that the 'postwar consensus' was a bit of a myth - with the Tories only accepting the existence of the NHS, for example, when they were confronted with the fact that it was actually quite popular and politically impossible to dismantle. The Cameronian acceptance of homosexuality is merely an example of this.

It's also a fairly trivial example since it doesn't fundamentally touch on the Tory view of economy and society, which remains really rather, um, conservative. This shouldn't be that surprising - the name of the party is a bit of a give away here. But if that isn't enough, there's two positions they've taken - both fundamentally related - that rather give the game away.

One is their position on Europe. I don't really want to get into the ding-dong about the nature of Cameron's unsavoury allies in Europe, partly because I don't know enough about them but also because it can distract from the wider point: even if there was no firm evidence of the Tories' new friends being homophobes and/or anti-Semites, the position he has taken with regards to the EPP is itself something that puts him and his party out of the mainstream of European democratic political parties. I appreciate this is a contestable point and I would acknowledge that it is intellectually feasible to be a reasonable centrist and also be Eurosceptic or even be in favour of complete withrawl. But the reality of the situation is that the overwhelming majority of those who take this position belong to either the hard left or the hard right. Put simply, the former think the EU is too 'neoliberal'; for the latter it isn't nearly neoliberal enough, as well as being by definition not nationalist enough.

And after the Tory conference, no-one can be in any doubt anymore that this is where Cameron is coming from. Martin Kettle is right to describe the Cameron speech as a 'revelatory moment' because his remarks about the role of government in relation to the bank crisis were absolutely astonishing:
""It is more government that got us into this mess," Cameron said. "Why is our economy broken? Not just because Labour wrongly thought they'd abolished boom and bust. But because government got too big, did too much and doubled the national debt." When Britain was in recovery, he said in his peroration, it would not be because of government or ministers, but because "you made it happen"."
The piece goes on to question whether there's anyone else in the economically developed world that believes the credit crunch was caused by government that was too big, too involved? It's rhetorical, obviously - one would hope not because it is so patently absurd. I'm a little surprised that more hasn't been made of this. I'm also a bit worried. There's been a few to choose from but with this remark alone, Cameron vacated the centre ground and reality simultaneously. Yet apart from in the pages of the Guardian, there's been little made of it in the MSM. Plus the aforementioned well-known serious leftwing paper carries this sort of comment - but alongside the unserious musings of a political ignoramus who thinks the Tories have changed simply because they've realised it isn't electorally expedient to be quite so mean to gays and single-parents. Kettle adds:
"Cameron and Osborne seem to think they are confronted with another 1979 when they should be more concerned with a repeat of 1929."
He's right although I'll be a little pedantic with the dates: the Wall Street Crash was in 1929 but after this, the US economy recovered for a while; most (all?) economic historians would date the Great Depression proper from 1931. I doubt we would see anything on this scale but I have absolutely no doubt that a rush to slash public spending would turn a 'double-dip' recession from a possibility to a probability. Osbourne deserves absolutely no credit at all for being 'honest about the public finances'. It's not just that honesty is of limited value in politics when you're completely wrong, it's that I doubt this is honesty at all: assuming he isn't a complete ignoramus (debatable, I realise), he must know perfectly well that the measures he has already announced are really just tinkering at the margins. What I'm concerned about is that they are the tip of an iceberg that reveals underlying determination to embark on a Nozickean vandalisation of public services, using the state of the public finances as an excuse to do so.

I've argued on this space more than once that Cameron's skills as a political strategist have been consistently underestimated. Now I'm worried I was more right than I knew. He has positioned his party on ground that the original Thatcherites feared to tread - and has done so with hardly anyone noticing.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

People losing their damn minds #26

This could go to anyone involved in this horrible idea to have a US style pre-election TV debate amongst the UK party leaders. Why Brown would agree to such nonsense is beyond me. My objection to these are two-fold:

1) We don't live in a goddamn presidential system. When I cast my vote, I'm not voting for a Prime Minister but an MP. Parliament elects the Prime Minister.

2) Even in a presidential system, they're pretty awful. I can't remember seeing an American one that didn't make me feel like retching. There was Clinton feeling people's pain, which was fairly nauseating. But the outstanding one for me was the Bush vs Gore one. Hanging chads and accusations of corruption in Florida notwithstanding, I think I could make a case for this losing Gore the election. I read somewhere that Naomi Wolf advised him to get in touch with his 'inner sexual panther' or something equally bizarre. Dunno if this is true but the net result of whatever advice he received was that he looked completely barking. Democracy is not well served by these puke-fests, in my view.

Anyway, the damn mind certificate in this case is to be awarded to Alex Salmond. Given that he spends most of his time looking like a malevolent host on some really fucked up colosseum TV game show, I find it completely unsurprising that he's apparently miffed about being left out of this latest televisual foray into the darker regions of plebian populism:
"[T]he SNP has threatened to seek to block the screening in Scotland of any debate which did not include Scottish First Minister Mr Salmond.

Mr Swinney told BBC Scotland's Politics show the SNP was the party of government at Holyrood, adding that the UK debates would discuss issues of importance to Scotland, such as the future of nuclear submarines on the Clyde.

Mr Swinney said the SNP was prepared to be flexible, saying of the current arrangements: "It deprives the voters in Scotland of hearing the breadth of political choice that quite clearly exists here in Scotland about the input of Scotland into the UK General Election."

Um, Alex Salmond doesn't lead a British party and doesn't aspire to be the Prime Minister of Britain so the basis on which he should be invited on this frightening 'debate' would be fairly non-existent, I would have thought. Yet we are told the SNP are seriously considering legal action? Lunatics. The notion that we are here in Scotland deprived of some information we didn't already know is absurd. The SNP's preferred choice for Prime Minister is David Cameron. Everyone knows this. Actually, scrub the previous objection: if this horrible debate has to go ahead, I'd quite like to watch Salmond come on and try to pretend this isn't so.

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