Saturday, August 28, 2004

Library cats

Many are the people who view the world-wide web as a dangerous jungle of pornography and hackers. They're probably right. But, occasionally, bursting through this undergrowth, come places you want to visit. Places of reason, such as this blog. Places of quiet stagnation, such as and places of enlightenment, which is what we can class ironfrog's library cats page. This delightful resource tells you which libraries around the world have cats living in them, which used to have cats living in them, and which have statues of cats (or permanent residents, as he puts it) in them, along with a feature to update his library cat list, if you know of one that he doesn't. Go and find out where your nearest library cat is. Now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Kick out the vamps...

I went to a pop concert this evening. The MC5. A fine band. But I do have just the one question.
I saw Brother Wayne Kramer doing his solo thing last year, and he hasn't changed much, but for not wearing glasses in the MC5 gig. However, without said glasses, he bears an unsettling similarity to the demon "Doc" in season 5 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (you know - the chap who tells Dawn how to do a raise-the-dead spell, and later turns out to be a follower of Glory.)
No - seriously, he does,
Anyone who knows what I'm talking about and wants to respond, please do...

And furthermore....

To follow Mark Thatcher requires some talent. Passing 100,000GBP to the Labour Party, just before being awarded a major contract by the government - that's impressive, isn't it? But not half as impressive as passing 500,000GBP to the Labour Party, just before being handed a life peerage, eh?
Fortunately, for those of you not knowing who to congratulate - one and the same man, Paul Drayson - now Lord Drayson - did both. Well done, mate. Nothing like a bit of moolah to grease the palms of government.
And whilst the Labour Party hierarchy can inform everyone that it was all above board, and that, as a very wealthy man, the now Lord Drayson can spend his money how he likes, one does wonder what the old, pre-"New Labour" party might say, about taking bribes from such a man, in order to further not only his personal vanity, but also his business interests. But, it seems, that the "Lobbygate" mentality is the order of the day - rich businessmen can buy themselves whatever they like - up to and including the government. The idea that there's something wrong with people being that rich, never mind the erosion of democracy that occurs when these people buy themselves access to the government, isn't a problem that crosses Mr Tony's mind. Ho hum, eh?

And where we again?

I awoke this morning to news that Sir Mark Thatcher had been arrested, accused of trying to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. "Well, fuck my teeth with a leather brick," I thought, "that's just shocking - when was Thatcher's spawn awarded a knighthood?".
The fact that he'd get involved in some sort of third-world coup plot, if he thought he could make money from it, was believable - but the knighthood - what's he done to deserve that? He's basically a far-right-wing crook and very rich arms dealer. Oh, hang on - that's probably just about enough to be knighted these days...
Particularly when your mother was Prime Minister.
Although, it seems, the real reason was that his father's knighthood was a hereditary baronet, and thus passed to him, after Dennis died. Another argument against the hereditary system?

Monday, August 23, 2004


It's my birthday! So obviously I've had the day off work, and spent it doing something useful. Today, I have mostly been staring into that black pit of desolation, wondering why I bother.
Ho hum. Maybe next year...

Sunday, August 22, 2004

You'll think I'm dead, I'll sail away on a cat of mutilation

Today' film review - Catwoman. Yes, indeed. Halle Berry leaping around in tight leather. But no - put such base thoughts from your mind, as we examine the artistic merits of this piece.
The story is a bit pointless, but it does have some splendid cats in it. And a positive representation of cats in popular media is always to be applauded.
On the downside, however, the movements of Catwoman herself were often too fast. Cats just aren't normally that quick - they can be, but most of the time, they can't be bothered. They're too languid, too cool. They don't rush when it can be helped. The graphics of the frenetically hyperactive Ms Berry resembled more Gollum from Lord Of The Rings (Peter Jackson's 4th best film, after Brain Dead, Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles...) than any cats of my acquaintance. She should purr more and sleep more.
However, the cats were great. And Halle Berry leaping around in tight leather was.... no, we weren't going to mention it, were we?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The first time as tragedy?

I want to make a film. A political farce. I feel it should be called "Kerry on up the Bush".
Unfortunately, I don't have any more ideas for it. But surely a title with a couple of weak puns has to be worth something?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sex and politics

I read on the front of the lurid tabloids that Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has been having an affair. Where's the revelation there - isn't it obvious he's been screwing us all for years?
OK, so the old ones aren't the best. And obviously, he's not been screwing us all - only immigrants (and wanna-be immigrants), the poor, those concerned with basic civil liberties, etc, etc.
Too depressing, really. Sorry I bothered...

Monday, August 16, 2004

And corruption back at home

Things are becoming increasingly rotten in Downing Street. Even John Major's government felt it had to put up an appearance of ridding itself from sleaze, and toughened up the rules ensuring that ministers had to wait months (ohh, a very long time...) before they could take up jobs in the private sector, using their inside knowledge of upcoming policy and contracts that would arise, to lobby for big business, and make ever increasing profits for very rich people.
Even these minor measures, though, this Tory window dressing, is too much for a Blair government that has sold itself to the highest bidder ever since it was first elected. Indeed, the whole "Lobbygate" scandal which arose in 1998, barely a year after Blair had taken office, was simply that the lines between government and big business had been blurred, that men who had access to the ear of ministers, usually either through being ex-ministers themselves, or for having worked for ministers, would sell access to their pet members of the government, to anyone that could afford their huge fees. Which, basically, ruled out you, me and most activist and non-profit groups, but included energy companies such as Enron, who were supplied by one lobbying company with a government policy document long before it was ever published, so they could have their say in molding it to how they liked. Because, after all, who better than Enron to input into Britain's energy policy?
So did they learn anything from Lobbygate? Did they mend their ways? No. They carried on as before, and now they want to increase the influence of business, and, as a result, decrease democracy, since more influence will be pedalled purely to those who can afford it.
Today's Guardian has a list of some of the people who've made the short journey from government office to the private sector. They include former soft-left poster-boy, Robin Cook, who took up a consultancy with "communications" (read lobbying) company College Hill; former Health Secretary Alan Milburn, who got a job with finance company Bridgepoint Capital; and Simon Stephens, a former health advisor, who has now been appointed to a position with United Health - an American company who want to get more involved in the British health "market", as the NHS seems to be called, these days (as an aside, this Orwellian abusing of the language is disturbing enough in its own right).
Obviously, though, since this is a rather important change to the way our elected officials are allowed to behave, it is important that we have no say in it, and, indeed, as little knowledge of it as possible. For this reason, Blair had blocked the plan of Sir Nigel Wickes, the current chair of the commitee on standards in public life, from carrying out a review of the current guidelines and rules in public. The review will now take place in private, behind closed doors, and the evidence and conclusions need not be published. God bless open government and democracy, eh?

Deterring Democracy...

Stealing my title from a Chomsky book, but it does seem appropriate. Today, voters have been going to the polls in Venezuela. Why should you be interested? Because Venezuela is an instructive example on how the great defenders of democracy on our planet act.
Back in June 2002 a demonstration against the democratically elected Hugo Chavez was held. It attracted, according to the mainstream American press, between 100, 000 (San Francisco Chronicle) and 600,000 (New York Times - although that paper had no reporter in Venezuela, and the story took several days to reach it). What was noticeably absent from all coverage was that on the same day there was a demonstration of approximately 500,000 people in support of their president. So what has he done that makes him such a demonic figure to those with power and wealth? He must be a damn Commie, right? Indeed - so much so, that he's implementing policies devised by the Kennedy administration, back in the 1960s (which were meant to be implemented by Venezeula's then dictator, who, unfortunately, failed to do so) - land reform. 77% of Venezuela's farmland is owned by 3% of the population. Unsuprisingly, it is these people who comprise Chavez's main domestic opponents. Even then, though, the plans aren't that radical - only unused, abandoned land is to be redistributed. In actual fact, he's no Marxist at all - his main inspiration is, apparently, Simon Bolivar, the fighter for South American independence, and his economic policies owe more to Keynes than anyone else. But Keynes is leftist enough for many in power, I suppose.
So what, then has he done? Well, unlike the American president, he's won an election, with a majority of the vote. But whilst this might irritate Dubya, it probably isn't enough for him to back firstly a coup, and then various other attempts to remove him from office. The coup-attempt which took place in April 2002 was backed by Bush to the extent that his ambassador was photographed with the coup instigators only hours after the democratically elected president was removed from office, and Chavez apparently has a video tape showing that a high-ranking military attache from the embassy visited the army base at which he was held captive at gunpoint. He was only released, and reinstated, when the coup plotters learned that somewhere approaching one million demonstrators were preparing to converge on them, and demand his release.
No, the American ruling-class hatred for him has more to do with his country's need for money, to fund the "bread and bricks" programme. Over recent years, several hundred thousand people have been converging on Caracas, the capital, and these people need to be fed and housed. This costs money, but Venezuela has one great advantage here - it is the largest oil producer outside the Middle East, and indeed, is one of the major suppliers of oil to the USA. Ah, do things start to click into place? Furthermore, Chavez has passed a law changing the percentage of money from oil that goes to the country, as opposed to the (mostly USA-based) oil companies, from 16% to 30%, to fund his redistribution programme. Bush, often described as an "oilman", although in reality only so to the extent that he is in thrall to the oil companies, cannot stand this. That is why he's backed all efforts to remove Chavez, from the attempted coup, through to donating $53,000 dollars to the organisers of today's "recall election" which was attempting to have him removed. Not merely that, but the company which sold Jeb Bush and the Florida State Government the inaccurate data used to illegally remove tens of thousands of legitimate voters from the electoral roll in Florida - and hand Dubya the presidency - has compiled data files of private information on almost every citizen in various southern and central American countries - Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. Oddly enough all countries which have electoral contests coming up, with populist candidates who are challenging the neo-liberal dogma of Bush, Blair and pals. Imagine if this information got into the hands of Chavez's opponents...
Fortunately, of course, all this seems to have been in vain - once more, Chavez has gained a large majority - approximately 58% of the vote, on a turnout of over 80%, it seems. Will this make him legitimate in the eyes of the Bush government? Well, when has Dubya ever cared about elections?

With acknowledgements to the Greg Palast mailing list for large amounts of the statistics and information put up there (and also the Guardian and the BBC website!)

My birthday approaches, and I'm no longer a Jung man...

However, for those that appreciate "synchronicity", here's one for you. I was travelling back home from The North (where it's always grim), yesterday, when, just south of Wilmslow, the train decided to have a bit of a rest. For an hour or so. Marvellous. I could rant for a long time about paying 50-quid or so for a ticket on a service that doesn't work. However, I'll merely continue with my tail. I had just taken the briefest of brief pauses from reading Stuart Kauffman's "Investigations", mainly because my brain was hurting, and it was a Sunday afternoon, so I took up something a little less taxing. Robert Rankin's "Web Site Story", to be precise. And whilst sat on the motionless train, I read the following paragraph:
"Trains had been a very good idea at the time. A time that lasted for more than one hundred years. But at some period back in the late twentieth century, some unqualified Prime Minister or other had thought it would be a good idea to privatize the system. He'd sold off the railways to various business concerns, run, curiously enough, by fellows who, although very good at business, were totally unqualified to run a railway system."
Although, having said that, I wouldn't want anyone thinking there was anything significant in my reading that on a train that wasn't moving. I've been on plenty of them before, and never read anything about railways. Coincidence, eh? Splendid stuff....

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Things that Maxwell has...

1) Some equations and a demon;
2) A house;
3) A silver hammer;
4) A load of looted pension funds.

He's been a busy boy...

What are the chances of that...?

It's long been noted that many people don't understand chance. Indeed, I've recently been arguing with someone around here who seems to want to conflate coincidence with the supernatural. This is just silly. However, on another level, this ignorance can become disturbing. From reading the papers, yesterday (or rather perusing headlines in the shop - I go for diligent research) it appears that a multiple rapist has won 7million on the lottery. This is, apparently, a "Bad Thing" as he's not worthy. Well, when has the lottery ever been about worthy people winning anything? You buy your ticket, you have a 30,000,000-to-1 chance of picking up the jackpot (I think - that sort of order of magnitude, anyway). What has morality or goodness got to do with anything? If you're going to accept the principle of a lottery, you surely have to accept that the person who wins it is going to be random, and then can't complain that it isn't some sort of saint (or, in the case of the Daily Mail, a white, small-businessman with 2.4 kids, from the Home Counties, as I don't think anyone else would classify as morally worthy in their eyes...)
And anyway, this rapist is going to be in prison for a very long time. What, exactly, is 7million going to do for him, without his liberty? A lot of cigarettes and phone-cards....

Sunday, August 08, 2004

asking God for mercy, and weeping in unholy places...

Ah. Previously, in bleak or difficult times, I would crave oblivion. However, I've since learned, in modern parlance that Oblivion can be:
a) The world's first vertical drop roller-coaster (cf. Alton Towers. Bad.);
b) A bar in Clapham - not intrinsically bad, but seemingly perpetually packed with some of the most self-obsessed, solipsistic wankers Clapham has to offer. And since there's a lot of them there, that's saying something.
In particular option (b) - on an incredibly hot night, why would anybody want to go somewhere that's so rammed you can barely move, only to have to shout over the thumping shite music to have a pointless conversation with someone obnoxious, who barely even notices you're alive, because you're not them? Yet, somehow, it seems popular. I noticed it whilst walking past to a pleasant pub.
But, then again, to return to the question, if not Oblivion, where are we to get our rest? Sleep? But perchance to dream, as some whining Scandanavian once observed. Death? See above (actually, I can't really countenance the "perchance to dream" view here - you're dead, right? But I suppose you never really know....) Non-being is becoming harder to find....

If you can't stand the heat....

And I'm not even in the kitchen. Bloody global warming. Still, at least when the polar ice-caps melt, it'll divert the Gulf Stream, and be more temperate, and...what's that? Sorry? Like Siberia? Gah! Can't win, either way. Still, swings and roundabouts - at least we have cheap electricity...oh, hang on a minute. No, wait. At least my electricity company is making a big profit. There - someone's winning.
Altogether now.... "I see tree of green, red roses too...."

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The voice of reason speaks....

I always wanted to have a column, I could subtitle "The voice of reason". Much like the late Woodrow Wyatt, except without being a babbling, incontinent fuckwit. Thus "What would Puskas do?". And one of the things I've always felt very strongly about - indeed, one of the first rants here, if you care to click on the archive on your right hand side and go skedadling down the pages - is about Gibraltar. Let's come back to this. I've just heard, on radio 5, someone from the Sun saying how they support the rights of the Gibraltarians to commemorate the seizure of Gibraltar from Spain by the British, and how the folks of Gibraltar are proud to be British because they put up Union Jacks.
Well pardon fucking me. But the Sun has consistently opposed immigration into this country, with an often racist line taken against some of the poorest sections of the world who really want to live here, who are fleeing from oppression in their home countries, and who are called "bogus asylum seekers" by the Sun, being attacked the most. Yet a bunch of people who don't actually want to live here, who instead live on some rock by Spain, so they can avoid paying taxes, are known as genuinely British, simply because they fly our flag? So does the Sun support football hooligans who beat the crap out of foreigners, as long as they hold a Union Flag whilst they're doing it?
I've said it before, but it wants to be said again - remove the British citizenship of the people of Gibraltar, and give it to those people who want to live here.
Although, of course, Rupert Murdoch doesn't live here. Mind you, he doesn't pay taxes here, either, as despite his company, News International, making a gross profit of approximately 1.5billion GBP, he's not paid tax for the last 11 years.
Just who are these patriots he loves, again?

Monday, August 02, 2004

Learning from the truly incompetent

Consider two organisations. One has a head who, whilst he himself has been directly implicated in wrong-doing, resigns because of the actions of his underlings, who he takes responsibility for. The other has a head who lies, pockets free-gifts, exchanges influence for wealth and generally behaves in a corrupt fashion, yet carries on, inviting everyone else to resign around him. So we ask - can the government learn anything from the F.A.?
Shame, really - Palios was the first person in ages to see the quagmire modern football was sinking into - previous chief-execs would have buckled under the weight of the players union and Manchester United, and allowed the drugs cheat Rio Ferdinand to play, rather than serve his sentence - he stood up to them. Sadly, he behaved irresponsibly and paid the price.
So when's Mr Tony going to follow suit with honourable behaviour? What's the weather report in hell - any sign of ice, yet?