the brilliantly leaping gazelle

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MC Hammer meets Victor Hugo.

Well, I’d been planning this for some time, ever since it was speculated that if she became Prime Minister she would appoint Modo as her Chancellor, therefore I’d have to rename her Esme. Basically, she made me do it and it seems somehow fitting that in these tumultuous times we now find ourselves, Esme seeks to reassure us all by pursing the traditional Conservative values we’ve come to know and loathe. Cutting things like taxes, public services and business regulations.

I don’t know exactly what the specifics will be, but I’m old enough to make an informed guess that the poorer one is, the greater the pain will be. That’s how it has always been under Conservative rule and will be again.

Two bits of news did make me wish that there was such a thing as the irony police and if there was, I’d have been calling 999.

The first was a No.10 spokesperson suggesting that the new Cabinet indicated ‘the breadth of talent’ that existed in the Conservative Party. I only read that and didn’t see them say it, so was unable to glimpse how straight they managed to keep their face as they said it it. ‘Breadth of talent’? Really? Appointing Chloe Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary just proves the very opposite of it. Who can forget her legendary ‘Newsnight’ interview with Paxman? She starts digging at 6.20 in but be warned, if you thought you could never feel sorry for a Conservative Minister, this might change your mind. It’s full on Paxman, withering condescension and clearly visible exasperation. ‘Dearth of talent’ morelike

The second 999 call I’d make was to report Mad Vlad, for his laughably absurd claim that electing Esme as PM was ‘far from democratic’. Yes it was, but for him of all people to say it, him who has been President of Russia since 2000, bans opposition parties from taking part in elections and arrests their leaders is taking the piss. Yes, someone else was notionally President between 2008-12, but they had been anointed by Mad Vlad, who kept him on a very short leash indeed.

No doubt more 999 calls will follow.

Extinction Rebellion meets ‘Father Ted’.

Yesterday some people from Extinction Rebellion, managed to breach security at the House of Commons and glued themselves to the speakers chair. Some of them had posters and photo’s were taken to record the protest for posterity.

It may be only me, but the posters they were holding demanding that someone somewhere institute a ‘Citizens assembly now’ to ‘Let the people decide’ reminded me of ‘Father Ted’. The one where Ted and Dougal are half-heartedly protesting outside a cinema showing what their bishop considers a blasphemous film, with placards screaming ‘Down with this sort of thing’ and Careful now’

Just me then.

MC Hammer meets her inner child.

MC Hammer is remarkable. Not, I hasten to add, in a good way, but rather she is promising to be a worthy successor to Boris’s Johnson. More specifically, his belief that if he puts his fingers in his ears and hands over his eyes so he can’t see or hear something, then it doesn’t exist. Which is fine if you happen to be eight years old, less so if you’re the PM, or soon to inherit it the job. For the purposes of this post I did a bit of research into Boris’s Johnson and found this on wikipedia, a page that documents all of the scandals, bad behaviours and general caddishness that have characterised his three years at No.10. Reading through it I was amazed at just how much of it he managed to cram in, although not having a vigorous legislative agenda to get in his way must’ve helped.

But out with the old and in with the new, as they say, except for the fact that MC Hammer shows every sign of picking up where he left office. The Guardian reported yesterday that at the final hustings event for the candidates to make a pitch to Conservative party members, she ruled out the possibility of energy rationing in the coming months to help mitigate the worst effects of the energy crisis, and instead promised, well not much. This despite the fact that government officials believe that without energy rationing, the UK could experience blackouts for several days in January if cold weather combines with gas shortages to leave the country short of power.

If one were a very callous individual, one might speculate that pitch that effectively causes power cuts made to some of the very people who are most at risk of health problems exacerbated by the cold is nothing more than deathly ironic. But then I was forgetting that the Conservative party membership is full of ‘Er’s’, precisely the sort of people who are insulated from having to make a choice between heating or eating, being older, richer and a likely to be southerner.

So it was imprudent of the i to print a story which points out that her campaign is under mounting pressure to unveil details of a package of support to help prevent the impending energy crisis but is unable to do so until “she has been able to look at all the information and data available”. It goes on to add that the reason MC Hammer hasn’t looked at the data is because she hasn’t had any meetings with the very officials drawing up the data.

Fingers in ears!

Grant Shats meets Lord Butler

Grant Shats, who when I write this is the Transport Secretary, but when you read this may not, given the increasingly strange and fluid nature of politics now. One where reality is an increasingly ephemeral notion, part of the current political orthodoxy whereby everything is soon forgettable – ‘a good day to bury bad news” as a spin doctor said on 911 -, opinions are both transitory and transactional and where hot air replaces cold fact. We are so used to politician saying one thing, but trying to convince us didn’t mean what we thought it meant but something else entirely different, that we take it as a given.

‘Clarification’ they call it, a delightful euphemism that treats language as something malleable, something open to interpretation and therefore negotiable. Shats is by no means the first to do this, because as we all know, politicians do this in the same instinctive way the rest of us draw breath, and he certainly won’t be the last, but he did tweet something a few days ago that makes me think he wants to be the Minister of Truth.

In response to the ongoing strike by members of the RMT union, Shats, never one to pour water on a fire when there’s some petrol handy, tweeted:

“We’ve announced an extra £130 million to protect vital bus services across the country. At a time when people are worried about rising costs, it’s crucial we save bus routes people rely on for everyday journeys.” Technically, this is true, as indeed an extra £130 million will help protect vital bus services, but will it offset the ceasation of around £2 billion emergency funding given during the pandemic? You know, the pandemic where older people were told to avoid public transport to protect their health. but against a setting where about 35% of people on a low income don’t have a car?

And as for saving bus routes? One thinks of the quote by an American major in Vietnam who said ‘In order to save the village we had to destroy it” Despite the end of emergency funding, the government is in the process of awarding more than £1.1bn to selected authorities under its bus service improvement plan (BSIP). All 79 local transport authorities rose to the challenge, which in effect meant they had to plead their case and prove they more worthy than others. So a typically Conservative strategy, as divisive as it is ideological. But in the end, only two in five of them received any of this funding at all, and even they received less than a quarter of what they asked for. The controversial competition eventually saw fewer than half of applicants receive BSIP funding, which cannot be used to sustain existing route networks.

So yes, what he tweeted was technically true, inasmuch as he didn’t outright lie because he was choosing his words very carefully, but we really do deserve better or do we get the politicians we deserve?

‘Half the picture can still be accurate‘, indeed.

ISIS meets the Earth Goddess.

I was going to title this post ‘ISIS comes to Cornwall, which might’ve been seen as a slight exaggeration, some might say a massive one but wanting to change or ultimately have removed a statue on the wholly fatuous grounds of it causing religious offence, is something ISIS would do. Granted, they wouldn’t write a letter to the council about it to complain about it, they’d just go right ahead and blow it up, but to me just because they are at the opposite end of a spectrum, doesn’t mean that one is right but the other is wrong.

They both are. And the recent attack on Salman Rushdie proves this. Sure, Rushdie was attacked by a nutter who thought that because Rushdie had written a book that was less than worshipping of his imaginary man in the sky, that he had somehow bought this on himself, but him doing so provided us with a stark reminder of exactly where this lunacy ends. It ends somewhere very dark indeed, but it also starts quite innocently.

The ‘Earth Goddess’ statue in St Austell town centre has garnered publicity for reasons wholly unrelated to its artistic merits because several religious leaders have written to the council to complain about it. The letter, ‘The Guardian’ reports that letter:

“Expressed concern that a statue of an “earth goddess” risked dividing the town and was “offensive to God”. One might imagine that issues such as the the cost of living crisis, which take place in in the real world be a tad more divisive than offending something with less evidential validity than either the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. But hey, that’s only my opinion.

It goes on: “The choice to erect a statue of an ‘earth goddess’ means that as the leaders of the town you are actively, though likely unknowingly, choosing to reject God and instead to bring the town under the spiritual influence of an ‘earth goddess’. Really? Are people suddenly in danger of going full ‘Wicker Man’ under some imagined spiritual influence? Or maybe its the wrong type of spiritual influence, not the fictitious nonsense of the bible where water becomes wine and Jesus not only created a zombie – Lazarus – but becomes one himself?

And there’s more: “However, as Christians we believe there is a spiritual reality to our world and so this is not an insignificant choice and has the potential to impact on the town in negative ways.” Anyone can believe anything they want, but believing in something doesn’t make it true. Delusional, yes. How the idea that having a belief system so utterly bereft of reason, logic, and evidence inexplicably gives people the right to act as moral guardians is both absurdly preposterous and hypocritical in the extreme. Have they read the old testament? God is fine with Adam and Eve populating the world by incest on a truly biblical scale, then wipes it all out, starts again with Noah, his wife, their sons and yet more incest, and eventually visits plagues, famine and bloodshed.

And they call it ‘The Good Book? How is any of that good? They either believe everything in the bible or they don’t. They can’t conveniently forget bits that don’t fit with a newer, more 21st Century interpretation of not just it, but of them. Just because you believe in something that was written thousands of years ago, that relies only on faith to make it true, doesn’t make you right. It makes you a fool and a dangerous fool, who if they sign a letter claiming a statue causes offence really needs to ask themselves some urgent questions about their life.

People are of course free to believe whatever they want to believe and my blog champions the right of people to exercise that freedom, but at the same time they should realise that only a minority share their belief and therefore it doesn’t give them some kind of moral authority.

Because if they do, then they’re no better than ISIS.

I meet a First World Problem.

I know that we in what is almost certainly the most terrifying, confusing and anxious time for any human to be alive. There are more things wrong in this world than at any other time in its history, and if the past is anything to go by, future generations will look back and on this time with incredulity and ask, “You only had climate change, droughts, floods heatwaves, famine, and wars to worry about? Was that all?”

But the thing that annoys me most is the never ending noise. I don’t mean noise in some allegorical or figurative sense, but in the literal sense. I know its a first world problem but a first world problem is still a problem and one that seems all the more problematic because there’s nothing I can do about it.

As recounted previously in this blog, about two years ago the landlords of my old house decided they wanted to take back possession of it, with predictable consequences for me. Fortunately, my good friend Nosferatu lives in a house with enough space and invited me to share. Fandabbidosy. The only downside to this offer was that she lives in a row of terraced houses in a part of North London, where it seems everyone either wants a loft conversion or an extension. And when they’re finished, sell it only for the new buyers to gut the entire property and start again. It’s like a game of endless domino’s. A loft conversion is started and within a couple of weeks of it being finished an extension will be started at someone else’s house and when that’s finished, another couple of weeks will pass before work starts repairing someone’s roof and well, you get the idea.

According to Nosreatu, to whom I have mentioned this problem repeatedly and at some length, part of the problem is that I haven’t lived in a terraced house for over 30 years. When she wants to wind me up she calls me ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ on account of the fact that, as she says ‘You’ve always lived in Victorian hunting lodges and now you’re slumming it’, which I is unfair, given only one my previous abodes had a servants entrance.

But having gotten really quite used to the idea of peace and quiet, it is something of a rude awakening – literally – to be woken up by scaffolders noisy drilling their erections together. And that annoys me, why is it only in the morning they seem to work? Come afternoon they are nowhere to be heard. I know that every council has different regulations as to what time work can start but do they also have rules as to when it stops.

In the hot weather, sleeping with the window open is essential but I have to endure the bothering of my ears caused by the neighbours noisy vermin every morning. Early, and by early I mean 6.30 am early. Saturdays too, their shouting and screaming remaining unfettered by any notion of parental responsibility because one mustn’t curtail their freedom of expression. I’ve suggested to Nosferatu that I find a recording of screaming children, looping it so it lasts for hours, and playing it through a speaker that I’ve hung out of my bedroom window. A call to go back to bed.

But that, I’m told, is anti-social. As I wrote earlier, I know my problem with noise is a first world problem but a first world problem is still a problem and one that seems all the more problematic because there’s nothing I can do about it

Harvey Wienstein meets the court of public opinion.

The news that Harvey Weinstein has been granted an appeal of his 2020 conviction of rape and other sexual assaults should gladden the heart of anyone who believes in justice. It probably won’t but it should. The decision to grant his appeal isn’t an opportunity for him to protest his innocence, but more one that is based on his defence teams claim that he didn’t get a fair trial. The New York Sate of Appeals clearly decided that enough evidence was presented to them to warrant closer scrutiny of their assertion that he didn’t get a fair trial. Thats it.

The right to a far trial, together with a presumption of innocence, is rather like free speech. It either applies to everyone, regardless of what they are alleged to have done, or it applies to no-one. Its that simple. And the right to a fair trial should be a cornerstone of the judicial system of a state country that isn’t shy about admonishing other countries for their somewhat flexible interpretation of those principles.

But, as the song said ‘Times they are a changing’, and the times are indeed troubling. Now, one has to be merely alleged to have done something and if enough people believe it to be true, or if enough of the right people can whip up a social media outcry that makes others believe the allegation true, then that presumption of innocence is worthless as the hot air of those who proclaim guilt. Allegations are just that, allegations. Some have more credibility than others certainly but they are not in and of themselves evidence of anything. Does anyone remember Carl Beech?

It’s always baffled me when a judge instructs a jury to put out of their mind everything they seen or heard about the trial they are to give a verdict on, not to discuss the evidence with anyone and to ignore any coverage of it. To me that is as likely to happen as when a judge instructs a jury to disregard something a witness has just said, or when witnesses swear to tell the truth. What is truth, when everyone is now entitled to claim their own version of it.

My point is that a jury is aware that some trials are more controversial than others. How could they not be? They are members of the same society and subject to the same prevailing cultural orthodoxies that hold sway in the society in which the trial is taking place. Likewise, they will be aware of the impact both on them and wider society of their verdict If the trial is controversial enough and inflames passions sufficiently, that there’ll be protesters angrily demanding this or that, claiming that the verdict proves this or that. Certainly in America and therefore, soon enough, here.

So it’s foolish in the extreme to imagine that jurors are unaware of this, that it plays no part in their determination of innocence or guilt. That they can ignore the sounds of an angry mobs outside the court building and the police needed to separate them? Remain blissfully unaware of what people are saying on social media and which conventional media then reports on? I know I couldn’t.

I’m not saying that I think Harvey Weinstein is innocent. I don’t know if he he is or isn’t, and more importantly, neither does anyone else. Of greater importance is not only that he gets a fair trial, but that he’s seen to get one. He, like every other American is entitled to a fair trial. Whether he’ll get one second time around is another matter.

Mark Zuckerberg meets Andrew Tate.

Until yesterday I never knew why Andrew Tate was suddenly in the news. Sadly, now I do and my life is none the better for it it. I read an article about him in spiked, and wished I hadn’t. If you wish to, be my guest but be aware that he combines the charm of a snarling Rottweiler with the wokeness of Bernard Manning. As far as I’m concerned, not to the sort of bloke who embodies qualities, attitudes and values that a man should have in this, let alone day and age.

But maybe I’m wrong, maybe now is exactly the time for hateful misogyny, maybe there is an audience for unique blend of violent and crass consumerism and ridiculous posturing. After all, Last month, there were more Google searches for Andrew Tate than for Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian combined. As of last week, he had 4.7million followers on Instagram – a huge jump from the one million he had in June. And on TikTok, videos tagged with Tate’s name had been watched an astonishing 12 billion times up until last week. Clearly, he appeals to some. Quite why this so baffles me, but that isn’t the point.

What is the point is that Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and now You Tube have all banned him. But this isn’t borne out of some moral repugnance or some other high-minded virtue. No, all of them have equivocated and claimed their rules weren’t broken when allowing other, more extreme, more hateful and more offensive materials to remain on their platforms. Rather, it seems to me, that He has committed the grievous sin of using their business model, which monetarizes the content its users generate, makes him and them money, and in so doing, has shown what truly matters to them. Not so much profit before principles but profits being principal.

In an attention economy, the one in which they operate, causing offence can be like hyper-inflation. And offence is a bit like pornography, difficult to define but we know it when we see it. Whats offensive to one may not be to another, so it’s a bit hypocritical for these huge corporations to suddenly develop a moral line in the sand, as it would be for Richard Desmond to suddenly become outraged of Tunbridge Wells.

A few years ago, shortly after the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo by Islamic terrorists who thought that an appropriate way to object to some cartoons they didn’t like was to shoot dead some of their staff, I wrote the following; “Free speech is easy to defend when you agree with what the person is saying or writing, but less so when you find what they’re expressing offensive. That is the dichotomy of free speech. If you believe in it you have to believe that it applies to everyone or else it applies to no one. As Voltaire said “I may not agree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”.

Yes, I find Andrew Tates opinions as reported offensive, but the more offensive something is, the greater the obligation to defend the principal of free speech. I haven’t seen myself what has been banned but I chose not to see it, the decision was mine and mine alone and free speech means extending that choice to everyone, regardless of how they exercise it. Censorship is worse than the thing being censored but in this new digital world of ours, some speech is freer than others, especially when profits are involved.

Ted Verity meets Joseph Stalin.

I know that ‘The Daily Mail’ has a lot of detractors, from those who complain about it’s right-wing stance, to those whom object to its online version being so ready to stand in judgement against those who flout their own hypocritical moral code. I get that, I really do, and there’s a lot more not to like about it, but one thing one can never accuse it of is not being consistent. I mean it’s consistent in much the same way that the British weather, your favourite football team and visit to a hairdresser you’ve never been to before is, consistent in that one is never quite sure what to expect. Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s very bad, very rarely it’s good, but even rarer still is it both really good and really bad at the same time. Occasionally, it’s Schrodinger’s newspaper!

Yesterday evening I happened to browse ‘The Daily Mail’ webshite, because there’s only so much doom and gloom elsewhere in the news and occasionally I like to switch off and look at an adult comic. I was left speechless by their top story, the one that greeted the viewers eye’s before anything else, and one that was uncharacteristically critical of Baldie and the Parasites.

“How many more homes can the ‘slimmed-down’ royals justify? At a time of an exploding cost-of-living crisis affecting working families up and down the country, the use of additional properties looks clumsily insensitive, writes RICHARD KAY”

The article couched it’s criticism in the mildest of tones, but there was no mistaking the seething anger behind it. An example was contained in this telling excerpt;

“Naturally, it is only fair to point out that Prince William and Kate are meeting the cost of renting Adelaide Cottage themselves and that, because of its location within Windsor Home Park, it needs, we are told, no extra taxpayer-funded security nor a costly refurbishment.” The unspoken thought, that immediately popped in to every readers head was ‘WTF’.

How is it that a married couple with three young children and no jobs, can afford three houses, send their children to public school without taxpayer support. We, the taxpayer, pay for everything they do. ‘Extra taxpayer funded’ is rubbing it in because it means that it’s just the normal amount of taxpayer support they’re getting. Their sole source of income is the taxpayer. And the houses. Their houses are houses in the same way that a tiger is cat, Concorde was plane or Boris’s Johnson is faithful.

Normally, “The Daily Mail’ is nothing but fawningly differential to the whole criminal enterprise, except of course for Harried and Dan, who have jacked the whole thing in and turned their back on wealth and privilege here by deciding to try and attain more wealth elsewhere and to do that by re-inventing themselves as leaders in the battle for virtue.

Anyway, the article had vanished from the front page of the online edition this morning. If one were suspicious, one might think that Baldie’s media team had intervened, had a few words with 4th Viscount Rothermere, the ‘Mails owner and had the story pulled. Indeed, so too were two other stories pulled about Baldie and his move, his children going to a public school, although none was as critical – meekly, it has to be said – as the one described. That a deal had been done, whereby in return for removing the story, Mail hacks would be given special access to them on their next foreign jolly or something.

Aren’t you glad that you live in a land with a free and fair press!

MC Hammer meets Peter Mandleson.

One thing that unites all Conservative politicians is their belief in the free market and that the freer they can make the market by reducing regulation and thereby incentivising greed, resulting in a necessarily beneficial effect on their profits. Without profits, so the thinking is, the less taxation can be accused by the state, and the less tax revenues the state has to spend so reductions in public services will be a regrettable consequence. This, of course is, is bollocks. But the Tories think that they all say this often enough, eventually people will believe it and forget about changes to tax law that favour business coupled with staff cuts in HMRC investigation units.

This was proved once again by MC Hammer, who at a Conservative Party hustings in Cheltenham a few weeks ago said’ I absolutely don’t support a windfall tax (on the energy companies) because it’s a Labour idea and it’s all about bashing business. It sends the wrong message to international investors and the public.” This says a lot about her and none of it is good.

Firstly, just because you didn’t come up with the idea doesn’t in and of itself make it a bad idea. On the contrary, it makes you look petty, as if any idea that doesn’t match ones own ideologically rigid dogma can be easily dismissed. Secondly, what message is opposition to a one-off windfall tax sending out?Well to international investors it’s essentially saying ‘Fill your boots, because if I become PM, nothing will change, it’ll be business as usual.”

And to the public it says “We really don’t care and why indeed would we? Do we use the NHS? Send our children to state schools? When was the last time any of us used public transport? We don’t live where you do, so crime isn’t a worry for us. Nor do we have to concern ourselves with social services. I mean as far as we’re concerned are social services are things like Glynebourne, grouse shooting and dominatrix’s but apart from that, not so much. Care for the elderly? You’re joking, aren’t you? They’re a revenue burden whilst doing nothing but complain while coffin dodging. Housing? Farming? The environment? Inequality? Now you’re just taking the piss.”

So perhaps today wasn’t the best day for a study to report that that average pay for FTSE 100 chiefs had risen by 39% since 2020, meaning that their average salary was £3.4 million or 109 times more than the average working person. And their bonuses increased too, from £828,000 in 2020, to £1.4 million.

Carry on filling your boots because it’s business as usual!