With thanks to David Icke…

June 27, 2008 at 7:42 am | Posted in British Politics, Misc. | 3 Comments
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…because in a period of national gloom and grumpiness, we really need this kind of light entertainment.

For those who aren’t aware of our new civil liberties spokesperson - or those who just fancy a good laugh reacquainting themselves with The Truth about our lizard-human rulers – allow Jon Ronson to relate his rise to infamy:

Wogan. The blue comedian Jim Davidson was top of the bill that night (this was primetime BBC1, in the autumn of 1991), but most of the viewers had tuned in to see Terry Wogan’s first guest. There had been rumours in the tabloids all week that something unexpected had happened to David Icke, the popular BBC sports personality, once a professional football player, now the host of Grandstand and a household name. The tabloids said that David Icke had started wearing only turquoise, that he was predicting cataclysmic flooding and earthquakes – and that he was claiming to be the Son of God.

I had watched a videotape of this broadcast before leaving London for Vancouver. It was startling to see how David Icke looked, how haggard and exhausted and terribly nervous – so unlike the genial BBC soccer and snooker correspondent whom the British public had come to feel so comfortable with – and dressed from head to toe in a turquoise shellsuit (turquoise being a conduit of positive energy) as he stepped out on to the stage.

“Why you?” asked Wogan with an incredulity that reflected the mood of the land. “Why have you been chosen?”

“People would have said the same thing to Jesus,” David Icke replied. “Who the heck are you? You’re a carpenter’s son.”

“When might we expect tidal waves, eruptions and earthquakes?” asked Wogan.

“They will certainly happen this year,” said David.

This conversation took place amid howls of laughter from the studio audience.

“Why should we believe you?” said Wogan.

“I’m saying that these things are going to happen this year,” said David, “so we’ll see, won’t we?”

“And what will happen to you if they don’t happen?” asked Wogan.

“They will happen,” said David.

He said this with such ferocity, such conviction, that the audience stopped laughing for a moment. However wise and modern we are, this kind of thing can still shake us up. You could feel it sweep across the television studio, sweep across the land, a stirring of some primordial paranoia. Could David Icke actually be a soothsayer? At that moment, I think the nation looked to Terry Wogan for guidance. How would he respond? Which way would this go?

“The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous, Terry,” said David. “So I’m glad that there’s been so much laughter in the audience tonight.” There was a small silence.

“But they’re laughing at you,” said Wogan. “They’re not laughing with you.”

More here. His book on similar avante-garde philosophers crackpots is also worth a read.

C.S. Lewis made easy

June 26, 2008 at 9:05 am | Posted in Music, Art, Etcetera | Leave a comment

With a hat-tip to my friend The Other Neil, a cheat’s guide to The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe:

C.S. LEWIS: Finally, a utopia ruled by children and populated by talking animals.

THE WITCH: Hi, I’m a sexually mature woman of power and confidence.

C.S. LEWIS: Ah! Kill it, lion Jesus!

More here

Dilemma of the week

June 25, 2008 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Misc. | Leave a comment

Like Smoking, Atheism is a Health Hazard

So which do I give up first: smoking or atheism?

It’s a tough one. On the one hand, it’s a shorter walk to my Church than it is to the nearest convenience store. On the other, my town’s ‘Stop Smoking Drop-In Centre’ is open five days a week, whilst my local church is only open once – and even then it’s open so ridiculously early that someone who spent the previous night enjoying wine & cigarettes won’t even try to make the service.

Tell you what, since I’ll be out of a job in a couple of days and will soon start to see my bank account dwindling, if an angel came bearing free cigarettes, I’d be willing to re-enlist.

Angel Gabriel, if you’re up there, I smoke Golden Virginia….

Mandela: in frailty and loyalty

June 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Posted in International | Leave a comment
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I doubt I’m the only one who’s been depressed by Nelson Mandela’s silence on the inhumane carnage being visited on Zimbabwe by Mugabe and his trained thugs; nor will I be the only one gladdened by his decision to finally speak out against the violence. To put this into some context, here are two posts eminently worth your time. The first is by Christopher Hitchens, imploring the ‘old lion’ to cement his commitment to freedom & democracy by calling this mad villain out for what he is:

By his silence about what is happening in Zimbabwe, Mandela is making himself complicit in the pillage and murder of an entire nation, as well as the strangulation of an important African democracy. I recently had the chance to speak to George Bizos, the heroic South African attorney who was Mandela’s lawyer in the bad old days and who more recently has also represented Morgan Tsvangirai, the much-persecuted leader of the Zimbabwean opposition. Why, I asked him, was his old comrade apparently toeing the scandalous line taken by President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress? Bizos gave me one answer that made me wince—that Mandela is now a very old man—and another that made me wince again: that his doctors have advised him to avoid anything stressful. One has a bit more respect for the old lion than to imagine that he doesn’t know what’s happening in next-door Zimbabwe or to believe that he doesn’t understand what a huge difference the smallest word from him would make. It will be something of a tragedy if he ends his career on a note of such squalid compromise.

The second is from Ordovicius, which details the – arguably misplaced – loyalty Mandela has shown to those who stood by him in the fight against Apartheid – Mugabe included.

But more importantly in the context of Zimbabwe’s current woes, he has demonstrated an unflinching loyalty to those who helped the struggle to end Apartheid, even when they through their own actions have gone beyond the pale.

Mandela never once condemned the military rule of Suharto in Indonesia or the more dubious activities of the Libyan leader, Colonel Ghadafi. Both countries aided the ANC in its fight against white supremist rule in South Africa.

Another of Mandela’s old allies is a certain Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

From the moment Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, Robert Mugabe – one of the most admired nationalist leaders in Africa – converted his young republic into a safe shelter for the ANC, and a training ground for its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sirwe (the Nation’s Spear).

Mandela and Mugabe belong to the same generation of anti-colonialist leaders who in their moment – and together with Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba – desired to forge a grand pan-African movement to liberate the continent. It was never to be.

Regardless of the lateness of his intervention and irrespective of whatever form it might take, it’s still quite something for a 90-year-old man whose fight for freedom took so much energy and perseverance to once more dip his toes into the bearpit of international politics, even at the risk of making an enemy of an old friend. I reckon he’s earned a little leniency.

Got hope?

June 24, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Idiot Hall of Fame, U.S. Politics | Leave a comment
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We have the answer:

Setting outrage aside for a moment - when an ex-lobbyist who’s previously worked for dictators remarks that a terrorist attack might be really good for the guy he wants to be president, you really do wonder whether we’re now living in an extended episode of 24.

Update: Matthew Yglesias:

Charlie Black’s statement that “certainly it would be a big advantage to” John McCain for American civilians to be slaughtered by international terrorists helps bring to the surface the central paradox of our times. How reasonable is it to trust that a political movement will bring safety to the country when they themselves believe that doing so would ill-serve their interests? Insofar as representative democracy works as a system of government, the general idea is that politicians expect to be rewarded for good stuff happening and punished for bad stuff happening, and thus make some effort to try to see that good stuff rather than bad stuff happens. The post-9/11 GOP upends that relationship, and you repeatedly see instances of conservatives openly yearning for disaster to strike on the theory that that’ll show the liberals or boost Republican electoral fortunes.

More here

Breaking the status quo on crime

June 24, 2008 at 11:53 am | Posted in British Politics, New Labour, Prison Reform | Leave a comment
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It’s rare when I find myself nodding enthusiastically to a George Monbiot column, but today’s piece on our bloody awful prisons policy is certainly one of ‘em, restating the lunacy in our fetish for incarceration that I’ve been annoying people with for a while. But for all that’s agreeable in the article, it still retains those now-familiar flaws of making liberal arguments to a liberal audience without pausing to consider the response of the other side. Here’s the paragraph where this is most obvious:

So why, when the number of crimes – especially serious violent crimes – is falling, are both the government and the courts imposing longer sentences? Why does the UK consistently rank in the top two places for imprisonment in western Europe? Why, as this country becomes more peaceable, does it become more punitive?

Well, I’m no mind reader, but I suppose the answer the ‘hang em & flog em’ brigade would give is that our country is more peaceable because it is more punitive. They’d argue that those convicted of violent crime are locked up for longer than ever, and anyone who even thinks about committing violence might bear in mind the long sentence that awaits them. Therefore the sentences are prohibitive and our prisons are simply full of people who would do us harm. No great loss.

This line of argument is effective because those making it can maintain they are in the right no matter what the circumstances. If any kind of crime is on the rise, they can demand a crackdown, tougher sentences, more vigilant policing. If crime is declining they can argue that the status quo must be maintained or else risk anarchy. With the nation’s best-selling newspapers at their disposal, their ability to stick to the same argument whatever the facts – and often regardless of the facts – has been influential in maintaining this rotten status quo that has us incarcerating more than anyone else in Europe.

So whilst it’s fine for Monbiot to talk about how those with the greatest wealth have the greatest say in determining sentencing, this isn’t necessarily going to change anyone’s mind. Rather than speaking to us in our own special language, it would’ve been more effective to conclude that we need to break the consensus that crime is best solved by incarceration and repeat the belief that our current system won’t make us much safer in the long term. Unless we manage to disprove the arguments upon which the status quo is formed, we wouldn’t be surprised if this rotten policy endures for many governments to come.

The political significance of Big Brother

June 24, 2008 at 5:58 am | Posted in Misc. | Leave a comment

Not an oxymoron, it turns out. Johann Hari watches it so you don’t have to:

If you were told the biographies of Big Brother contestants Mohamed Mohamed and Alex De-Gale, you wouldn’t find it hard to guess which one is the fundamentalist. Mohamed was born in Somalia in 1985. When he was five years old, he saw his mother being held at gunpoint, and thought she was going to die. Since then, he has spent most of his life fleeing from one civil war to another – until, finally, he was granted asylum in Britain. De-Gale was born in the same year in south London, to black British parents. She is now a lithe accounts executive with high cheekbones, short skirts, a BMW, and a seven-year old daughter she brings up on her own.

You guessed wrong. They wouldn’t use these terms, but Mohamed became a convinced secularist on the run from Somalia, while Alex learned a Wahhabbi interpretation of Islam on the streets of Tottenham. This emerged, as everything does on Big Brother, through a thicket of trivia. Mohamed’s birthday fell a week into his stay in the Big Brother house, so the producers threw him a party, and let him pick the theme. Remembering a fun night he’d had at university, he said he wanted the male housemates to dress as women, and vice versa. Everyone cheered and howled for alcohol.

Except Alex. “First and foremost,” she said, “I am a Muslim.” And that meant the idea of a man dressing as a woman “made me feel sick”. Jabbing her finger and shouting, she said to Mohamed: “Tell it to Allah [that] it’s all in the name of fun. It’s bad enough that we drink and smoke … You’re supposed to be a Muslim man, someone I can look up to for guidance. You will have my friends and family in uproar. I am disgraced by you … 85 per cent of the people I know are Muslims. And trust me – the sheer horror they would have experienced … [You have] disgraced Islam.”

More here

Ignorance isn’t bliss

June 23, 2008 at 10:40 pm | Posted in British Politics, Conservative Party | 1 Comment
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Since I only heard the name yesterday, I’m happy to recuse myself from the argument over whether James McGrath is a racist. Regarding the comment he made, it’s true that there’s an unfortunate similarity with the kind of sewerage spewed by the far-right, but it’s still a bit of a stretch to ascribe a real racial malice to what he said. Rather, what the comment does reveal – which is perhaps even more damaging to Mayor Johnson – is a flippant dismissal of the serious concerns behind the question he was asked. It’s probably useful at this point to put his words in context:

I brought along to the meeting copies of the Black community Voice and New Nation weekly newspapers covering the fortnight since Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London, and pointed out that Johnson was getting a bad press in these publications. I put this down to a ‘problem of perception’.

McGrath was far from politically correct, David-Cameron-new- cuddly-Conservative Party, when I pointed out to him a critical comment of Voice columnist Darcus Howe that the election of “Boris Johnson, a right-wing Conservative, might just trigger off a mass exodus of older Caribbean migrants back to our homelands”.

He retorted: “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.” McGrath dismissed influential race commentator Howe as ‘shrill’.

He scoffed at the New Nation front page “Stabbings or stop and search? The choice is yours. Will new tough policing really stop the tragic murders or simply take community-police relations back 30 years?”

McGrath might well have said that City Hall’s new administration is not into this politically correct race relations stuff. He stated firmly: “Boris’s main priority is fighting crime.”

So the entire point behind the interviewer’s questioning was to make McGrath address the fear within minority communities that Mayor Johson has cloth ears when it comes to their concerns and only a half-hearted commitment to diversity, community and equality that his predecessor claimed to strive for. But instead of addressing this issue, McGrath just bulldozed over it with an insensitivity that’s hardly a positive attribute in an advisor to the Mayor of such a diverse city.

As much as his defenders on the right might hate that this is so, the man who reintroduced the word ‘picaninny‘ into political discourse has to take greater care than anyone to be seen as championing diversity and addressing minority issues. With that in mind, stopping the Rise festival from being branded as ‘anti-racist’ probably wasn’t a great idea, and with McGrath’s belligerent ‘we’re going to do what we want and don’t much  care what anyone else thinks’, a narrative is forming around Boris that could be electorally disastrous.

If he wants to get re-elected in four years time, Mayor Johnson simply cannot risk alienating ethnic minority groups, and in his apparent ignorance of their concerns, sacking McGrath was just about the only action Boris could’ve taken.

Link refectory

June 23, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Posted in Misc. | Leave a comment

Image borrowed from Post Secret

Since it’s been scientifically proven that Monday afternoons are the worst possible time to indulge in Serious!, Weighty! and Substantive! Blogging, it’s probably in your interests that I present the best light-headed ephemera the internet has to offer. 3, 2, 1, Go!

  • “Liberal bloggers have made their first arrest”. No, really.
  • So how did the pro-Hillary holdouts at No Quarter respond to the news that one of their delusional smear-merchants had been cruelly incapacitated? With an explosion of CAPS LOCK:

WE ARE THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! WE WILL NOT ALLOW WHAT HAPPENED TO GERMANY HAPPEN TO US! WE SAID “NEVER AGAIN” AND WE MEANT IT! IT IS YOUR DUTY, EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU, TO PASS THE WORD, INFORM YOUR FAMILY, YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR NEIGHBORS, YOUR CHURCH FAMILY, YOUR BOWLING GROUP, EVERYONE. WE MUST AND WE WILL STOP THE GESTAPO ATTACKS ON OUR CITIZENS. WE ARE NOT RACISTS! WE ARE AMERICANS! FIGHT BACK NOW! WE MAY NOT GET ANOTHER CHANCE!

  • YES, WE MUST NEVER RELIQUISH OUR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO SMEAR A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AS A CRACK-SMOKING HOMOSEXUAL! IT’S WHAT LINCOLN WOULD’VE WANTED!! Sorry, I don’t know what came over me.
  • So if he’s not really a crack-smoking homosexual, there must be some crap things about Barack Obama, right? Absolutely. His bowling skills, for one. And his bizarre love of ethanol. Go here for reasons why it’s one of the biggest scams in American politics.
  • Since it’s not very often that a global megablog goes out of its way to praise the many virtues of the late, great Fred Dibnah, I feel a duty to inform everyone whenever it happens. Like now. Who knows, next week they might start posting clips from Last of the Summer Wine. We can but hope.
  • From the same people who brought us “Anna Kournikova is attractive and therefore the greatest tennis player of all time”, an important announcement: “Men! Scantily-clad young women are wearing revealing outfits, grunting and sweating just for your benefit!
  • For those of you care about the actual tennis, the Beeb is streaming all the games live. Thank God for the license fee.
  • Rafid Ahmed ‘Curveball’ Alwan, an ‘intelligence’ source behind the greatest military blunder in modern history, spends an entire interview trying to clear his name and in the process reveals himself to be a fantasist. Not his greatest PR moment, really.
  • Ezra Klein points out the awesome silliness of having political debates via Twitter.
  • In memory of the comedian George Carlin, Vanity Fair links to an hour-long HBO special that’ll stay online until someone discovers it & takes it down for copyright infringement.

And finally….

  • Possibly the best ever love song to be set during the American Civil War:

Confused?

June 23, 2008 at 9:51 am | Posted in Misc. | Leave a comment
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So… we’re not convinced that global warming is a man-made phenomenon, we’re cynical about the government’s attempts to do something about it through tax or regulation and we’re not willing to make either major or minor lifestyle changes to reduce our burden on the planet… but we still think the government isn’t doing enough to combat it.

When this is the collective logic of the British people, you really do start to worry.

From the department of brutal criticism

June 23, 2008 at 9:16 am | Posted in Misc. | Leave a comment

An endless parade of unfunny catchprases: A.O. Scott has some harsh words for the new Mike Myers film

Party on, Garth! Touch my monkey! Groovy, baby, groovy! I’ve got shpilkes in my geneckteckessoink! He had a million of them, or at least a half dozen. But to judge from “The Love Guru,” a new feature film directed by Marco Schnabel, Mr. Myers, a writer and producer as well as the star, seems to have lost his touch. The movie’s takeaway catchphrase is “Mariska Hargitay,” which is used by the title character as a fake-Hindi spiritual greeting. This is almost hilarious the first 11 or so times he does it, but by the time Guru Pitka (Mr. Myers) says “Mariska Hargitay” to Ms. Hargitay herself, it’s somehow less amusing than it should be.

Which might sum up “The Love Guru” in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie’s awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

Ouch.

Housekeeping

June 22, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Posted in Misc. | 7 Comments

This won’t matter much to anyone, but the following webshites have been deleted from the blogroll. And that.

This is just one of the many reasons why:

I heard that Sunny Hundal is in fact a child fucker.

Someone told me that he likes giving cock action to children because the koran, the bible, the Guru Granth Sahib all say it’s ok to fuck kiddies – a bit like the genocide deniers of spiked online in other words.

Vile people. They should be locked up. And killed — preferably in an industrial fashion — like what they would inflict on others.

Obviously, it’s not a good idea to link to sociopaths people who sometimes write mean things…

Edited: Because as Will reminds us, it’s not cool to be nasty.

Sunday Spoonfeeding

June 22, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Distractions | Leave a comment

With added trumpets

Spoon

Breaking the black ceiling

June 22, 2008 at 10:09 pm | Posted in Misc. | 10 Comments
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Quite soon after Mark Hughes left Blackburn Rovers for Manchester City, the press began its usual desperate speculation over who was going to replace him and placed Alan Shearer and Paul Ince among the top candidates. When looking at their CVs as players, it’s difficult to tell them apart; both had enjoyed successful playing careers, captained two of the country’s top clubs (Ince with Liverpool, Shearer with Newcastle), captained England and played at the highest level for over a decade.

But when it comes to their managerial experience, the gulf is vast. Ince had performed a miracle at lowly Macclesfield before moving to MK Dons and achieving promotion at the first time of asking; Shearer is a contributor to Match of the Day and has never even held a coaching position, let alone been a manager. Yet right up until the moment he pulled out of contention, it was Shearer, not Ince, who was considered the favourite.

So Paul Ince could be forgiven for wondering why Shearer, who has never managed in his life, has been linked with management roles at England, Newcastle and Blackburn respectively, whilst he has had to work his way up from the very bottom. It doesn’t make him paranoid to wonder whether his race has anything to do with it.

I think it does, but not in a straightforward way. Most football fans certainly don’t think about race when it comes to appointments & transfers: when your entire week can either be made/ruined by victory/defeat, the only criterea you seek in a player/manager is ability, and those who have it are feted beyond measure. But at the same time, football suffers from an unhealthy fetish with the past: every promising new Argentinian is the new Maradona, every new Manchester United winger is the new George Best, Mark Hughes & Roy Keane get compared to Alex Ferguson and Alan Shearer to Kevin Keegan.

Because of the absence of successful black British managers, Paul Ince has lacked a predecessor who shares his skin colour, and that is probably one reason why Shearer gets tipped for the top jobs whilst Ince had to pay his dues on the sodden training grounds of Macclesfield.

But through his own prodigious success, Ince has broken through the black ceiling and become a trailblazer, giving hope to every other black footballer that with determination, hard work and excellence, they could follow in his footsteps and become a manager at the top table of British football. Though I have no real affection for the man (us Liverpool fans never warmed to him), I hope he succeeds in a new role and becomes a model for black British footballers to follow.

Cambridge University & Sexist Fight Club

June 22, 2008 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Feminisms, Idiot Hall of Fame | Leave a comment
Tags:

I know it doesn’t reflect well on me, but every once in a while I come across a story and think “oh, just pass me a musket and let me put ‘em out of their misery’.* Of what injustice do I speak? Follow the link. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Now, there could be any number of reasons why Ms Witkowski went on a violent rampage punched a fellow student in the face, but it’s not unreasonable to interpret that she might’ve been pissed at seeing her more slender, more conventionally attractive opponent being crowned the winner despite having been – to use the appropriate jargon – roundly whooped. At this stage we could easily reach into our directory of feminisms and condemn this boorish, male-heavy crowd for judging women on their attractiveness rather than their prowess at jelly-based wrestling.

Sure, we could say that, and we’d probably be right. But a little context is always handy:

Last Sunday’s jelly wrestling was part of a garden party organised by the Wyverns, an all-male Magdalene College drinking society, and part of a bigger tradition known as Suicide Sunday.

This year there was a blazers and bikini theme (that’s men in blazers, women in bikinis) and a jelly-filled paddling pool.

So if you’re going to attend an event organised by an all-boys club where the dress code is designed solely for these well-fed, leacherous little creeps to leer at bikini-clad undergrads, you’re not really in any position to feign outrage when the all-girl wrestling contest is judged on the basis of which competitor most successfully stirs their loins.

Sure, this might not have been the reason for Ms Witkowski’s punch-fest, but that’s beside the point. The point is that a ‘blazers and bikinis’ party which culminates in an all-girl wrestling competition epitomises the kind of cringeworthy sexism that’s still widespread at one of the ‘best universities in the world’ and that everyone who organised it, everyone who attended it and everyone who wanted to attend is a retrograde imbecile who should be barred from ever holding a position of power.

Of course, in 30 years time one of these tossers will probably become a Cabinet Minister, and give us many more reasons to want to reach for the musket.

*Disclaimer: The Bleeding Heart Show is a strictly non-violent blog and condemns the use of violence, particularly when using an inefficient rifle that became obselete in the late 19th century.

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