the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Can the police be charged for wasting police time?

Well can they? I’m mean, I’m not so stupid as to try myself, but I’d certainly contribute to a fund to help pay for someone else to launch a private prosecution. I’ve grown up both hearing and believing that no-one is above the law, and if indeed that is the case, then shouldn’t that apply just as much to the police as anyone else? Additionally we’re meant to take some comfort in the assurance that we’re policed by consent, although quite when that consent was ever asked for or given escapes me. And given that the claim is made by both the police and the very people who make the laws the police enforce, it’s not exactly a comforting thought, is it? Well, maybe to you it is.

I was ruminating on this point this morning to try and focus on something other than the noise one of the neighbours was making as he was sweeping up his patio’d garden at 7.30 am. Thankfully, I was already awake. His daughter, who I presume is a toddler based on the fact she utters no sounds that could be interpreted as words, compensates for this by sounding like a very loud and very angry Donald Duck. She began her animated ear bothering at 7.20, her parents having thoughtfully opened their garden doors, clearly unaware that other people might have a tinsy-winsy problem with this. But as she’s be doing it some months now, and no-one has yet succumbed to the temptation to record their daughters dulcet tones and play it back to them at midnight, they must think not.

Anyway, I wasn’t thinking of infanticide. Instead I was thinking about Darren Brady, who was arrested for sharing a meme on social media that had caused someone to feel anxious. Even though it isn’t an offence in England and Wales yet, the police did what they always do – in my experience anyway – when challenged to legally justify something for which there is no legal justification, they simply made something up. So basically, someone had reported this, and instead of the police not saying ‘go away’, they dispatched two officers to visit him twice, the first time to tell him someone had complained, the second to arrest him. Between those two visits you would’ve hoped that sense would prevail, that the police would see the trumpery moonshine for the trumpery moonshine it was.

But no. It was either a slow day or it was nearing the end of the month and someone hadn’t reached their arrest targets, but either way, the police were wasting their own time. It got me thinking of angry Donald. She makes me anxious. If I wake up and if it’s early morning and I can’t hear her, I know it’s a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

One of the ‘whens’ being when I’ll hurl the contents of my chamber pot at her.

Nothing pleasant about ‘The Pleasance Theatre’

The news that The Pleasance Theatre has cancelled Jerry Sadowitz’s Edinburgh Fringe shows because of complaints from staff and customers, would itself be ironic, were it not for the fact that it comes but days after Salman Rushdie was stabbed when appearing at literary festival. I’m sure everyone reading this knows who Salman Rushdie is, why he had to go into hiding and quite possibly why someone thought it acceptable to try and kill him

But while issuing a fatwa and putting a bounty of $3 million on his head is the sort of thing liberals like to criticise to prove exactly how liberal they are, it seems that if you do the same thing that Rushdie did – offend people – but don’t do it in the right way, then all bets are off. Not that getting cancelled is going to harm Mr S. any. I’m sure tickets for any forthcoming shows will sell out faster than Nick Clegg. Or that as a result of getting cancelled he’ll be forced to live a half life, forever being on his guard, never quite feeling safe.

However, The Pleasance’s director, Anthony Alderson, said: “The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material.” No, instead they prevent him from performing the material they don’t censor. Carry on!

“While we acknowledge that Jerry Sadowitz has often been controversial, the material presented at his first show is not acceptable and does not align with our values.” We had no idea when we took the booking what type of comedy he performed and we don’t want our customers and more importantly our sponsors to think we are the sort of venue that tolerates tolerance. Well not that kind, anyway.

“This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.” We won’t host him and we dare anyone else too. They won’t, not unless they want the anger of the Twaterrati unleashed on them, that is. We are the arbiters of what is and isn’t permitted, and we have a duty to protect people from themselves

It’s not like anyone just happened to wander past the venue, wondered what was going on, and decided to check it out on the off-chance. Apparently the posters outside the gig warned of there being material which likely to cause offence, and if people still went in, well then it’s their fault they were offended. Most people, if they know him at all, know him from playing ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ in ‘The Shamen’s’ video for their 1993 No.1 of the same name. Which was also banned from Radio One, incidentally.

Both cases represent the same attitude, one of ‘we don’t like it, we’re offended, and what we feel takes priority over everything else’. Admittedly, one is more extreme than the other, but that is what makes the other so insidious, an example of preventing others from making their own minds up, because yours is made up already. But the same basic instinct, the same faux concern and sadly, the same hypocrisy.

A hypocrite writes….

Yes, I am a hypocrite.

Which rather begs two questions. Firstly, what is it exactly I’m hypocritical about? Well we’ll come to that soon enough. Secondly, is it better to be a hypocrite and know you are, or to be a hypocrite and not know? Or, in the what is hopefully the last century in which our species can wreck whatever havoc it can on the planet before we consume ourselves into extinction, is it better to be a hypocrite and not even care?

For an answer to that last question, we could try to ask some of US oil executives who featured in the recent BBC documentary series ‘Big Oil versus The World’, which shocked exactly no-one by revealing that ‘Big Oil’ knew conclusively that the burning of fossil fuels was causing the planets temperature to rise, with increasing dire ramifications for humanity if unchecked. And how did they know this? Because they funded the very research that proved it. In much the same way that ‘Big Tobacco’ knew of the link between cancer and smoking, “Big Oil’ sought successfully to discredit science that they knew to be true. And got obscenely rich in the the process. $3 billion obscenities. Daily. We could ask them, if it weren’t for the fact that some of them are dead and those that aren’t, are dead inside. Which brings us neatly onto the hot weather we’re experiencing.

‘Experiencing’, not in a gap year students way, but in the same way an innocent man ascends the gallows. So the news that hosepipe bans and wildfires are increasingly this summers attractions isn’t really a shock to anyone, neither should be the news that the UK water industry loses 2.4 billion gallons a day due to leaks. Equally, it will come as a shock to no-one to learn that these loses haven’t affected boss’s pay, with the boss of Thames Water trousering £3.2 million last year. Makes you really grateful for privatisation, doesn’t it?

But increased water consumption only happens because there are more people to consume it, and one constant theme of my blog is that there are far too many people than the planet can support. That not only should there be euthanasia, but that the government should encourage it as a public good. Posts with such titles as ‘We are breeding ourselves into extinction.’, and references to children as ‘vermin’ and ‘locusts’ may have given the game away. But that didn’t stop me from congratulating my niece when she announced she was pregnant. I have no doubt whatsoever that she’ll be a superb mother, showering her child with love and affection, striving to ensure that her child wants for nothing. But therein lays the problem, the inescapable fact that simply by becoming a parent, one consumes more, uses more, ones priorities change, and that by becoming a parent, one is helping to facilitate our eventual extinction. Don’t think you can get a New Baby’ card that says that.

And if there is a sliding scale of hypocrisy, then hopefully I’m at the opposite end of the scale to Boris’s Johnson. But a hypocrite nonetheless.

Glass houses v stones.

A long time ago, when I was at school, the only newspaper allowed in library was “The Guardian”. I never saw anything else, noting else was permitted within its confines and as I think about it now, no-one ever questioned why this was the case, which was in essence censorship. Of opinions that our teachers objected to and to which we therefore never to pollute our fragile minds. Every other newspaper had an owner and were therefore, we were told, subject to following the owners political or business agenda. “The Guardian” was different, because it was owned by the Scott Trust. I’m sure the explanation given as to how this was a surer guarantee of of journalistic freedom must’ve made sense to me at the time, but like most of the maths and all of the classical history they tried to cram into my head, I promptly forgot it.

Still, the irony of a supposedly liberal paper being spared the fate of all the others by an unelected oligarchy only dawned on me years later. The point I’m trying to make is that for years after I left school, I believed that “The Guardian” was what I was always been told it was, a fair minded paper, full of impartial quality journalism and well, the best of a bad lot.

Perhaps the many ways that “The Guardian’ has changed out of all recognition from those more innocent times is why I feel such a sense of disappointment. Yes, things change and I hope that some of my views and beliefs have changed since then, in the same way that the newspaper industry has changed and the values of the society in which it operates have. But the changes “The Guardian” has undergone in the type of stories it covers – and therefore by extension the ones it doesn’t cover – seems to have been increasingly driven by its readerships values, not editorial ones. And given that most people now access “The Guardian” online, and because there is so much competition online, it has aggressively pursued pandering to those people.

Quality has been abandoned, replaced by clickbait journalism. Mind you, “The Guardian” of my schooldays would question exactly whose idea of ‘quality’ it was, and why they were so keen to preserve it. It would do the same now, but it would not only also tell you who they were and why they wanted to preserve it, but they would run endless opinion pieces banging on about how outmoded such notions were.

But in the same way that polite disagreement of differing views to one’s own, a basic acceptance of the fact that were some truths which were both fundamental and inconvertible and the frankly absurd notion that feelings were just that, feelings and that sometimes, they got hurt, those days have long since gone. I’ve had cause many times to reflect on this over recent years, mainly when “The Guardian” has chosen to frame an issue or to take a stance on a story which is so painfully right-on, that you wonder who on earth could possibly agree with it?

Well, if some of the revelations that emerged following the resignation of Guardian Media Groups former C.E.O, Annette Thomas are to be believed, more than 900,000 people do. Enough to pay £5 a month to be told how everything is the fault of someone else, and chief amongst those someones was Boris’s Johnson. But not enough to be told that despite leaving the job after only 15 months, she was given a £795,000 one off payment when she left and that was on top of her £630,000 salary. That’s nearly £1.5 million or to put it another way, what she got for every one of her 15 months, a senior teacher nearly 4 years to earn.

But not to be outdone, the editor-in-chief of “The Guardian”, Kath Viner was rewarded earlier this year with a pay rise of 42% – £150,000 -taking her annual salary to just over £500,000. It’d take a nurse a newly qualified nurse more than 18 years to earn that.

Yes, that would be the same editor-in-chief, who is seemingly at ease with her newspaper regularly running stories bemoaning what it considered what she considers to be derisory pay offers to public sector workers.

These pay deals are but small fry when compared to of the eye watering large salaries and renumeration packages other C.E.O’s are given, yet still for a newspaper that never passes up an opportunity to criticise’s what it deems excessive pay for some while lambasting below inflation pay rises to others, the word hypocritical leaps to mind. But what else did we expect? This, let us not forget, is a newspaper that saw no contraidiction whatsoever for supporting the idea of a second referendum, because the result that the first one produced wasn’t the one they wanted. The newspaper that claims to be ‘the world’s leading liberal voice’. Being liberal isn’t the same thing as being democratic, it seems, but it is about doing exactly what you denounce others for doing.

“They’ve collapsed!”

Yesterday I had my haircut. Dispiriting isn’t the word. Not that any blame for this should be inferred as being the fault of my hairdresser, the frankly wonderful Julie, who is actually my support worker, but handily for me has some hairdressing skills.

No. In fact the blame doesn’t lay with anyone at all, but instead with one of life’s greatest misfortunes, one that is as cruel as it is inevitable. Ageing, getting older with every passing second. The fact that we can do nothing whatsoever to alter that fact only adds to the tragedy. Compounding this is another fact, the folly of youth, which never once gives us cause to consider that we may not always be young. One of the ironies of youth is that even as one is enjoying it, it is being used up, and that that we are too busy using it up to notice it’s passing.

Which is where hair comes in. When I was young there were many follicle follies in my youth. The perm, the wedge, the highlights, to name but three. Granted nothing was bad as the skinheads my mum made told the barber to give us when we were both at primary school, just weeks before there was a spate of tabloid articles denouncing skinheads as the most dangerous of public menaces until the next one. But whatever, I was safe in the knowledge that my hair would grow back, just as thick and plentiful as it always had. Sure, it’d take time, but being young, time wasn’t something I ever thought about. My hair would grow back, the seasons would change, and the sun would set in the west. All was good with the world.

Until, that is, things started to change. Imperceptibly so to begin with, as changes often do, so for a while I didn’t notice that changes were afoot.Then I began to notice what was falling into the cape the hairdresser would wrap me in. Or to be exact what wasn’t falling into the cape. There would always be slightly less and what there was, wasn’t as thick as it was. And it was starting to change colour. Again, imperceptibly at first, but unmistakeable once I began to look for it, bits of grey here and there, but ‘speckled’ is a euphemism for ‘starting to to go grey, and once it starts it doesn’t stop.

Losing one’s hair is one of natures the practical joke that awaits all of us, one that is as as inescapable as it as so blindingly obvious such that no-one ever mentions it. Well, certainly not when you’re young anyway. In the same way that no male relative ever took me to one side and said, “Look, you may not believe this, but one day your testicles will drop. They may like two apples wrapped up tightly in a bag now, but one day the’ll look like the pendulums on a grandfather clock. It will happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.” It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy of silence, an on-going and mean one, whereby no-one ever tells the young that this will happen, a sort of ‘well it happened to me and no-one ever told me about it, so why should I tell you?’ mindset. I confess to being not only amazed and appalled by this sudden turn of events, but also fascinated, so much so that I invite my house-mate to bear witness to this. “They’ve collapsed, look at them!”, I exclaim, just as intrigued by this as I am by her frankly insulting lack of disinterest. I hasten to add we were once more than house-mates a long time ago, almost as long as my elastic gonads are.

And if it’s happening to men, it follows that it must be happening to women. But everyone else is well, other people. I’m me and this is happening to me! Me!

So I wonder what other japes no-one has told me about, what other ‘delights’ getting older has in store for me?

Perhaps my pubic hair will turn grey. Wouldn’t surprise me, way things are going.

Let the Games begin!

The various strikes that have happened over recent weeks, are taking place today and are planned for later this week could easily have been the the latest in example of the worrying modern phenomena of Meism. Meism is the unhealthy delusion afflicting large swathes of the population whereby everything is viewed through the prism of individual self-interest. Of how a particular thing affects me, how I feel about it. No matter how far removed from someone’s actual lived experience – or in fact precisely how far removed it is – the more people appear to want to make it all about them.

It could have, were it not for the fact that millions of working Britons, who depend on tax credits and food banks to survive, are themselves facing the same higher prices and lower wages that the strikers are striking over. They recognise that one day in the near future it might be them, and they won’t want people crossing picket lines. That the strikers are just like them, face the same challenges they face, have to cope with the same privations they do, want the same change they do. But as Basil Fawlty said, “It’s not the despair that kills you, it’s the hope.”

Which brings us neatly on to Stinking Richy and Liz unTrustworthy. During a quick-fire round of questions on the televised debate on Monday, both were asked if they’d ban strikes on ‘essential public services’ Without hesitation they both said “Yes”, so at the very we can expect the definition of ‘essential public services’ to be massively widened to include nanny’s and massage       ’therapists’, to name but two. Why this should come as a shock – although not to massage ‘therapists’ – to anyone who’s been paying attention to governmental introducing legislation to better suit their aims is a mystery.

In 2015, the Conservatives passed a law that for a strike to be legal, not only would 50% of the unions electorate have to have voted, but of those that did, 40%would have had to voted for strike action. Of course, it wasn’t seen as brazen hypocrisy that a government that had only managed to secure the support of 36.9% of those that had voted, were keen to hold others to a higher standard than they had failed to meet. Remember the quote used about Hitler that as relevant to Thatcher? Using the letter of the law to subvert it? No surprise then, when faced with growing unrest amongst public sector workers because of derisory pay offers well below the rate of inflation and a cost of living crisis, the government recently introduced legislation which made it easier for employers to hire scab labour agency staff.

Actually, it isn’t a cost of living crisis. That’s just something that the media have concocted, which newspaper editors and TV bosses can commission earnest and sincere articles and programmes about, safe in the knowledge that their comfortable salary’s will protect them from the reality that their stories unearth. No, it’s a cost of existing nightmare, not a cost of living crisis, because no-one who depends on food banks and goes without meals so their children can eat, buys their clothes from charity shops and can’t afford to pay the bills, is living are they?

So good luck the rail workers that are going on strike. Here’s hoping it causes travel chaos on the railways, resulting in loads of empty seats at the Commonwealth Games, long delays in getting to and from work and generally inconveniences as many people as possible. No-one goes on strike hoping that things will continue as before, that nobody notices. What’d be the point of that? The only people who don’t agree with strikes are those that will never have to go one.

More Bullocks!

In my last post I made the bold claim that most of the ills that beset our country now have their origins in the pursuit of free market economics, not just pursued by Mrs Thatchers Conservative governments, but caught and accelerated past easily. Here, I’ll try and convince of that proposition. Successive governments have, to varying degree’s followed her example, but without her example would they have?

Or, if Thatcher had lost the Falklands War and then the 1983 general election, would Britain have been a less divisive place? Not just rich/poor, but North/South, black/white, a country where everyone felt that they were part of a much larger whole, not merely stuck in a hole that was not only getting deeper but fuller with people just like them.

In his magisterial biography of Hitler, “ Hitler: A Study in Tyranny”, Alan Bullock used a line to describe Hitler, which I’ve never forgotten because it neatly summed up what Thatcher was doing to the unions in the 1980’s. “He used the letter of the law to subvert the law’.  Thatcher changed laws to better suit her political aims, then engineered a situation – the miners strike of 1984 – where she could use them. Anyway, here are but two of the  ills that plague modern Britain, and I’ve used them to illustrate how Thatcherism has lead to this sorry state.

Higher fuel prices? The crushing of the miners, de-regulation of the  energy market under the Conservative chimera of ‘competition’ which lead inexorably to the privatisation of energy companies eventually resulting in foreign ownership, increased bills and ever increasing profits. OK, a war in Ukraine didn’t exactly help matters, but the groundwork, the heavy lifting, had been done under Thatcher decades earlier.

Low wages, zero hour contracts and the gig economy? Using legislation to not only weaken the power of the unions but also strengthen the hand of the employers, using the fear of unemployment to induce workers to accept lower wages, longer hours, and worse conditions. Again, Thatcher.

Are you beginning to spot a pattern here? Change the law – especially labour laws – in favour of business by suggesting that the government is ‘cutting red tape and encouraging innovation’. Or ‘giving businesses the best possible chance to succeed’ Minimise state participation while extending the involvement of the private sector. Proof that Mrs. Thatcher was the worst thing to happen to Britain since the creation of the workhouse.

In my last post I I called Rishi Sunak ‘Richie Sunak’ This was my mistake and I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.

It should, of course, have been Stinking Richy. 

Take me back, take me back!

Here’s one of my problems with both Richie Sunak and Liz unTrsustwothy. I didn’t need to watch the head to head debate last night because was neatly summed up at Penny Merde’s campaign launch, as she sought to win the support of Conservative M.P.”s. 

Essentially, she compared her plans for plans for tax, the economy and the state in general with Paul McCartneys recent headlining set at Glastonbury, where he played loads of newer songs, but what we wanted were the old favourites we new and loved and could sing along to. Those were what the crowd wanted, she said, and if her leadership bid was successful, that’s what she’d give them. Simply by giving her their vote, their support, she’d return  the favour by turning back the clock by giving them the old Conservative greatest hits; reduce taxes and reduce state spending, support the economy by reducing red tape and helping business, tackling inflation…the same old same old.

Yes, there was some lip-service paid to the now, but it was a bit like getting a huge pile of poo, chucking it into a cake mould, before covering it in sprinkles, frosting, hundreds and thousands and vermacelli, and telling people it wasn’t the same load of old crap. But the thing is, much as the Conservative M.P’s she sought to enthuse wished it, we are not in the 1980’s. The highly divisive economic policies that Thatcher pursued, could it be fairly argued, led us to exactly where we are now. 

Indeed, most of the social ills that beset our country now have their origins in her ideological illogicality. A bold claim, you might think, to which I say read my next blog where I try to back that up.

We don’t need a return to what didn’t work for all in our nightmare past. The challenges we face now aren’t going to be solved by a right-wing wet dream. They need fresh innovative thinking to come up with bold and ambitious ideas to solve them. Were Richie Sunak or Liz unTrustworthy in an alternative universe for the last fortnight? One where the climate wasn’t a bit warmer than usual? One where the income disparity between the richest and poorest has never been wider? One where politicians are unwilling to tell the electorate the truth about the challenges of an ageing society. Indeed one in which there was no such thing as society?

Lockdown 2021: Day 19

Hello and good morning from 0438 am. I woke up about an hour ago, lay in bed with nothing but my thoughts for company and one persisted for so long that I was gripped by an overwhelming desire to share it.

Just a quick recap before though. For all of this year, I’ve been averaging roughly 3 hours sleep a night, and when I write roughly, I mean roughly. When I wake up, that’s it, I never go back to sleep, just lay there thinking until I fitfully drowse some time later. For the last few nights, being determined to break the cycle, I’ve forced myself to get up at 10am and tough it out until midnight and then go to bed. Sadly, while the mind may well be willing, the flesh is weak and wakes up at what-the-fuck-o’clock. So now you’re up to speed.

Yesterday I saw a headline on the BBC that was as inevitable as it was indicative of the times in which we live in now.

Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over the nation’s attempt to make the tech giant share royalties with news publishers.

Australia is introducing a world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content.

But the US firms have fought back, warning the law would make them withdraw some of their services.

Tech firms have faced increasing pressure to pay for news content in other countries, including France, where Google struck a landmark deal with media outlets on Thursday.

In Australia, the proposed news code would tie Google and Facebook to mediated negotiations with publishers over the value of news content, if no agreement could be reached first.

The article then goes on to point out blah, blah and blah, with Google bleating on about this that. It occurred to me that google are nothing more than the digital worlds equivalent of tobacco firms; they get people hooked on their product, make money hand over fist, but when lawmakers threaten regulatory action, get all stroppy and threaten to take their ball away.

Google believes in free speech all right, but free as in free to make money from the content that others have paid to generate in the first place. The irony that I’ve copied and pasted from a BBC news article about paying for content that I haven’t, isn’t lost on me.

Lockdown 2021: Day 11

I’m thinking of the ‘Morecambe and Wise’ Christmas Special of 1971. You know, back when Christmas Specials were actually special. Anyway they had Andre Previn on, the world famous conductor, taking time off from his normal bus route to appear on the show. Ostensibly there to conduct an ornestra in a rendition of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, with Morecambe on piano. Previn halts proceedings when he accuses Morecambe of playing all the wrong notes.

To which Morecambe replies ‘I am playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order.’ That’s how my sleep has been over the last few days. The right amount of hours to be sure, but at the wrong time of day. Seven hours of sleep might be what one aims for, but if you start that seven hours at seven in the morning, like I did last night refreshed you are not.

And the worst thing is, that when you do wake up, you feel so knackered, so tired and so utterly butterly, that all you want to do is stay in bed. But you know that if you do that, then you’ll have another late one.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised last year when I heard to original version of this. Until that moment, I had no idea that the version I’d always assumed was the original, wasn’t.