Sweet Sixteen –

October 17, 2019

At sixteen you can’t purchase a knife or cigarettes. You can’t buy alcohol or fireworks. You can’t get a tattoo – without parental consent. You can’t take your driving test for a car, nor can you joint the armed forces without parental consent. If you reside in Wales you can work full-time at sixteen, but in England you must stay in some kind of education or training until the age of 18. You can’t place a bet, and under-18s cannot usually claim benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. Also, many DVDs and Video games can only be sold to persons aged 18 or over.

Oh, yes, you CAN register as a blood donor at sixteen, but you WON’T be called to give blood until you’re 17.

And yet some of our politicians want to give sixteen-year olds the VOTE?

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I’ve no axe to grind regarding sixteen-year-olds. I was one myself once. What concerns me is the huge inconsistencies in what a sixteen-year-old can and can’t do – under UK law.

I feel certain that there are MP’s sitting today who feel ‘democracy’ is a menace – outranked in villainy only by public protest, revolution and coup d’état. A lowering of the voting age would be anathema to such people. They would prefer voting to be scrapped altogether, or at the very least the voting age raised to fifty.

I would ask: why lower the age to sixteen? Why not thirteen? Or Twelve? Eleven, even?

Politicians could then market themselves to the new electorate accordingly.

I would take great delight in seeing eleven-year-olds placing their cross against Dennis the Menace’s name on the ballot paper. Or Roger the Dodger. Or, even better, the Fix-it Twins – can you imagine a general election where Boris the Beetle ran as prime minister?

Wonderful.

There are politicians, of course, whose quest for power within the UK is equal to, if not greater than, Ming the Merciless’, the ruthless tyrant who ruled planet Mongo. This is especially true north of the border. Where Mung the Mirthless grasps continuously at straws, talking the talk but never, NEVER walking the walk!

However, that may change. If the voting age could be lowered to cover all those thousands of potential nationalists in kindergarten. Then things would be different – wouldn’t they?

Alas, most political visions are Unicorns, perfect imaginary creatures we will chase and never find. Yet still we walk on, face lifted toward these remote, inaccessible objectives, these Chimeras, and believe all will be so much different if only we could just touch them…

Rant

September 9, 2019

When Noam Chomsky said, ‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum,’ he could easily have been predicting the Brexit debacle in the UK. For three years the country has gone to hell in a handcart and the only thing up for discussion is Brexit!

Pre the UK referendum on its membership of the EU, polls showed that internally the top six issues important to the UK electorate were:
1. NHS
2. Economy
3. Low Pay
4. Immigration
5. Housing
6. Education

Not a mention of our membership of the EU. It wasn’t very high on anyone’s agenda. Although the fourth important issue to voters, Immigration, was closely tied to EU immigration rules and ‘freedom of movement’.

With the launch of the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ campaigns, Ipsos MORI survey data showed that voters considered sovereignty and migration the most important issues by far, the economic impact of leaving the EU was only important to 27% of those polled.

My own view is that the decision to withdraw from the EU is a nonsense. It’s absurd. However, Parliament okayed a ‘people’s vote’ and the majority of the people voted to leave. It was the largest turnout of voters in the history of the UK.

Since then very little has happened. Cracks in the parliamentary party system have become chasms. Politicians on all sides who once claimed they would ‘Honour the result of the Referendum’ now don’t, and justify their actions with a variety of excuses, usually based around the economy, which is being seriously damaged by continuous uncertainty.

And the people on both sides of the great divide, Leave / Remain are increasingly angry. Everywhere there are angry people and confrontations. The government lacking a majority in Parliament is helpless to legislate to solve the nation’s problems; the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, a man with all the communication skills of a stale piece of bread, has spent the past three years demanding an election, but now doesn’t want one – because he might lose!

Boys & girls, this is the biggest feckin’ cock-up I’ve ever seen. It’s a mess. But worse, much of what’s happened is totally anti-democratic. Britain has stripped itself naked, leaving our economy, our society and our democracy exposed. And whatever happens next, there will be dire consequences in future for the politics of the UK. Just you wait and see.

Rant over.

Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

Big Change…

July 25, 2019

We have a new Prime Minister!

Ce mec c’est un mytho –

Knife crime

February 12, 2019

Knife crime is on the increase in England. Kids carry blades for protection against other kids carrying blades. The police can’t find who’s carrying a knife without ‘stop and search’ – and the ensuing complaints of racism that follow such police activity means they do as little as possible. So what’s the answer?

Easy.

Parliament passes a law to ensure anyone under the age of twenty-five must wear (at all times while away from the home) a skin-tight leotard – no coat or hoodie. Also, any bag carried must be see-through! A knife, then, would stand out like a sore thumb, wouldn’t it?

Simple!

We live in a culture where violence or violent behaviour has become the norm. Violence is widely assumed to be the best way to resolve conflict. We witness it in the actions of government: the UK has engaged in almost one hundred years of conflict since the first world war, small wars with inevitably large casualty lists. Just to mention a few of these more recent military actions: Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1998, the Falklands war, the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan, Iraq, Libya, Sierra Leone, the list is feckin’ endless, boys & girls – and we now have a Minister of Defense preaching confrontation with Russia! Was the Crimean war not lesson enough for these idiots – ?

Remember, kids learn by example. Violence begets violence. Confrontation is met by confrontation. Throw economic insecurity and hopelessness into the mix, then you’ll have kids on the streets carrying knives – so why be surprised?

A toxic mix of racism, austerity, societal deprivation and corporate greed is ultimately to blame for this situation. As a nation we should get ready to purchase and supply “free of charge” several millions of those skin-tight leotards – and thus eradicate the problem of knife crime for good! A fresh tax levied on squillionaires would easily cover all costs; but I suspect that any action engaged in by the government will fall far short of what is required. It’s more likely that Ryan Air will introduce flights across the Andes by green gulper frog than a UK Government will find a solution to this problem of knife crime. No, best the government continues to concentrate all its attention on Brexit – after all we don’t want that to end up in a mess, do we?

becomes a burlesque

March 24, 2018

There are two ways the spirit of a culture may be shrivelled. In the first one – the Orwellian – becomes a prison. In the second – the Huxleyan – culture becomes a burlesque.

Neil Postman
Amusing Ourselves to Death

17th June

Love suffers no natural death. It dies because we take it for granted. It dies of blindness and mistakes and betrayals. It dies of self-inflicted wounds, of exhaustion, of lack of imagination. It dies because we lose sight of its source and importance.

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Does Theresa May(be) have any principals at all, I wonder? A difficult question to answer given her behavior before, during and since the general election campaign. Don’t get me wrong, it’s simply grand to see a woman in the roll of Prime Minister (the US electorate faced with the choice of a female President or a buffoon, elected the buffoon!), but our Mrs May(be) seems totally absorbed by her own personal ambition. As Home Secretary she weathered a string of Passport Office and border control fiascos; she pledged to reduce net migration into the UK by tens of thousands but failed to do so. Close colleagues described her as “very closed, very controlling, very untrusting” when she was Home Secretary. As Prime Minister she hasn’t changed. She is the Tin Woman in search of a heart. Evasive, deliberately vague on the major issues, seemingly lacking in empathy; everything about her is ‘smoke & mirrors’! And Friday’s interview on Newsnight was another exercise in failing to give a single straight answer on the Grenfell Tower disaster.

26th April

Cold night; very chill this morning. So much so I broke my pre-beltane fast by making nettle tea this morning; I really did crave a hot drink.

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There is so much crap nonsense spoken about ‘meat farming’ the livestock industry in this country. For example the spread of Bovine TB in cattle. This, according to government ministers, is the fault of badgers: a cull of badgers is essential to control the disease –

Last year the number of animals slaughtered in England’s badger cull soared to more than 10,000, and while ministers claimed the results a great success, a leading scientist said there was ‘no basis’ for suggesting the cull was effective. Half the badgers killed in 2016 were shot without first being trapped, a method rejected as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association in 2015.

Claire Bass, director of the Humane Society International/UK, said: “Badger culling is a costly distraction from the real solution to TB in cattle. It’s a disease of cattle, primarily spread by cattle, and it’s cattle-focused control measures that will stop it. But the government has sanctioned large-scale ‘badgercide’.”

The National Farmers Union on the other hand claimed the latest cull results a success – although it takes two years for the effects to feed through the system.

According to Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Prof. Christianne Glossop, incidence of bovine TB in Wales have fallen by 28%; the number of infected cattle slaughtered has fallen by 45%; and 94% of Welsh herds are TB free. This achieved without culling a solitary badger!

The largest-ever study conducted to examine whether culling badgers would reduce bovine TB in cattle, a ten-year, £50m study called the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, concluded in 2007 that: “… badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.” See HERE.

I’m so reminded of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. Then mass slaughter was perpetrated by Nick Brown and his Ministry of Agriculture officials, aided and abetted by Sir Ben Gill of the NFU. Between February and September that year 2,030 cases of foot & mouth were confirmed, resulting in the culling and incineration of about 6 million animals – 4,900,000 sheep, 700,00 cattle and 400,000 pigs.

The officials and farmers’ leaders refused to countenance vaccination, as practised effectively elsewhere. All this despite the facts that the disease is very rarely passed to humans, who have to be in close contact with the beasts, and that when it does it’s not serious. The last human case in Britain was in 1967. The mass pyres of carcasses were still more bizarre. The virus is sensitive to stomach acid, and so cannot be passed by eating infected meat. If the meat could have been frozen there was no reason to keep the carcasses from the market.

Of course TB in cattle can be passed along the food chain. But it is the similarity in solution to these problems (all of which are funded by the tax payer) of unnecessary mass slaughter – of livestock on one hand, and badgers on the other that I find disturbing.

“Make America great again!”

A good piece of rhetoric, don’t you think? But meaning what, exactly…?

Obviously, the statement presupposes a diminution of America – specifically in its quality of ‘greatness’. But what is the precise nature of this quality? Do we, for example, believe America has been made smaller, reduced in dimension by circumstances, international or otherwise?

A simple glance at an atlas shows this not to be the case. The USA still comprises fifty states. Russia has not taken back control of Alaska…yet. In addition, the US still holds sovereignty over fourteen other territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. So no changes there, that I can see.

So where does this diminution lay?

The US has military personnel deployed in over 150 countries around the world, more than any other country in our humble biosphere – which includes both Russia and China. So no reduction there, either.

Perhaps, then, we should look to something more difficult to quantify or define: the perception of the US nation by at least some of its citizens.

Ronald Reagen, who was so good in the movie “Tennessee’s Partner” (he played Cowpoke alongside John Payne’s Tennessee), and as the bad guy Browning in ‘The Killers”, was the first US President to use the slogan ‘Make America great again’. He used it in his 1980 Presidential campaign. He, it appears, had in mind the worsening US economy (inflation skyhigh and growth low).

Bill Clinton used the same term in his 1992 Presidential campaign, so it obviously has a certain attraction to politicians and the electorate.

Perhaps then the term is about nostalgia? A craving for the past? In fact Donald Trump not only used the phrase in his chaotic Presidential campaign, he also took out copyright on it! Made it his trademark, no less! Millions of well fed Americans rallied to the cry, convinced, obviously, that the US had ‘lost’ something.

But, of course, it is this vagueness that makes the phrase so successful. It can mean so many different things to so many different people.

In an interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump stated the phrase “Make America Great Again” was a

“ look back…(to) a period of time when we were developing at the turn of the century which was a pretty wild time for this country and pretty wild in terms of building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship.”

Trump also pointed to the “late 1940s and 1950s,” as a time when, he said, “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do…”

So, the phrase harks back to the 50s: a time of high employment and low inflation in the States. The American dream was then still a possibility…

But wait. Hold up there. Trump and his people aren’t after a return to the 1950s. The economic policies of the time meant that top wage earners paid 70% tax. The labour unions were strong and it was this strength that in part fuelled an almost unprecedented period of growth and prosperity in the middleclasses. And the level of employment was so high, simply because the majority of women didn’t work.

I can’t see Donald Trump & Co wishing to pay vastly increased levels of tax, can you? Nor can I see him setting up a Marxist Socialist planned society for the benefit of all!

So what then does it mean? Make America Great Again? Simple answer: NOTHING! Or put another way, it means whatever you want it to mean! It is just empty rhetoric.

In fact President Trump has already ‘trademarked’ his slogan for the next Presidential campaign. It is ‘Keep America Great!’ And the winner of the next Presidential campaign will be, I’m certain, the candidate with the best slogan. Genuine policies seem hardly to matter to anyone anymore…It’s all about pretend!

a-splatter

Diary 23rd February

Rain and wind; more wind and even more rain. The wind a scream, a beating, rising beyond comprehension.

They give these storms such innocuous names, don’t you think? This one, for example, Doris. Surely, Caligula would be more fitting? Or Rasputin? Or even Jack the feckin’ Ripper!

Let us stop, now, giving the names of women to these destructive events! It is sexist and most unfair!

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The labour party is in need of a socialist version of Robert Peel – the man who created the modern conservative party on the ruins of old toryism. There is a need (once again) to reinvent and relaunch the labour brand.

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn has been a great critic of the EU in the past. And, just like Robert Peel over Catholic Emancipation, when faced by strong opposition within his party, he jettisoned previous arguments against the EU, announcing instead support for UK membership. Both sets of arguments make a great deal of sense – but not from the mouth of the same individual.

There, any comparison between Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Robert must end!

I see Jeremy Corbyn in his years as a labour MP as a man alone – leaning so much further to the left of his party than most of his colleagues. He reminded one more of Lenin in exile in Zurich than anything else. True, for a time, Ken Livingston was Kamenev or Lunacharsky to his Lenin. Certainly Jeremy’s arrival on the scene as labour leader was as unexpected as Lenin’s arrival by choo-choo in Russia – and just as devastating.

Probably, no one was more surprised that JC himself by this unexpected promotion!

Certainly most leaders experience trouble with their party (especially in office). Every leader then has to water down the principle that he or she previously professed. JC, basically an honest individual, but greatly out of his depth, accomplishes this with such bad grace – or so it seems. Ultimately, he takes himself and his rhetoric a little too seriously.

JC will be seventy years of age come the next general election. Was it his intention to remain as leader of the labour party indefinitely? Or was his intention to transform the party from within? To change the labour party, forcing it ever leftwards, creating in the process a party to combat capitalism and bring about social revolution. To move it once and for all from Blair’s middle ground. JC’s socialism is preached in moral terms – but it is very much of the 1920s, not the 2020s. Does he understand that? And if he does, does he care?

Labour has become irrelevant to the electorate under JC in my opinion. I predict labour will lose Copeland in today’s byelection, a seat they have retained since 1924. With luck they’ll hang onto Stoke…