Monday, October 25, 2004


I've just been idly perusing old posts, when I realised I hadn't responded to a really rather reasonable response from Nebuchadnezzar, asking, if I was critical of Blair, who would I rather have? A very good question, and one I don't have a very good answer to. I would suggest that I don't have to have answers, I can criticise faults without proposing anything better, and I see nothing wrong with that. Ideally, I would like to see a government which rules on behalf of the people of the country, and not a few rich individuals who can afford its services. I'm sure that things approaching to this have happened before - the 1945 government, for example. And, around the world, the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, Salvadore Allende's government in Chile. And so on. Is it really so unreasonable to want something vaguely approximating democracy?
In practical terms, given what's likely to be on offer at the next election, and who is likely to win, possibly the best outcome would be a hung-parliament, with a Liberal-Labour majority, which might shame the Labour Party's back-benchers into being a bit more radical. Although, given the hundred-thousand or so they trouser in expense claims, on top of their salaries, possibly this lot are shameless...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The good, the badgers and the ugly...

So. Badgers as the latest political hot potato. Who'd have though it?
Let's have a look why, shall we?
There is an organisation which calls itself "The Countryside Alliance". Largely modelling itself on the stereotype "Farmer Palmer" character in Viz, one could almost believe it's slogan was "Get orff my laand..."
But it isn't. As far as I know.
I any event, whilst pretending to represent the interests of the countryside, it in fact represents the interests of what is best termed "Agri-business" - large farms owned by large corporations, dedicated to mass-production farming. Amongst the benefits that this style of farming has brought are such delights as BSE - caused by feeding cows to other cows - and the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, when there is a perfectly good vaccine that would prevent it.
It has also seen the decline in rural wages and loss of employment. One might think, first and foremost, if the self-styled "Countryside Alliance" had any interest in representing the countryside, such things might be high on their list of priorities. But no. Primarily they seem concerned with satisfying some perverse blood-lust by slaughtering animals. Whatever. But they have also declared war on badgers. Badger-baiting has always been popular with the fox-hunting fraternity (presumably inspired by the same perverse desire to kill something they have no intention of eating), and certain hunts have been known to either block up badger setts, or dig up and kill the badgers (both illegal). However, they have also been propagating the bizarre and unsubstantiated claim that there is a connexion between badgers and bovine TB. Let's look at some facts here - badgers have only ever been shown to infect cows with TB in extreme, artificial conditions. In the wild, in all known cases, the likelihood is, rather, that badgers with bovine TB have been infected by cows. Also, during the foot and mouth epidemic, a couple of years back, TB was found to be spreading far more, from cow to cow, than anything that has been hypothesised involving badgers. Unsanitary conditions, anyone? Unsanitary conditions created by mass farming techniques, which in turn make a small number of rich landowners and large corporations richer, and which are therefore of interest to the Countryside Alliance in so far as they don't want people looking at them too much - it might hurt the profits...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Joke du jour....

What's the difference between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher?
About 6 months, hopefully...

And relax.....

Well, it's OK, everyone, because Mr Tony and his government have retracted their claim that Iraq could launch WMDs at the UK in 45. Well, phew, because I don't know about you, but I was living each three-quarters of an hour as though it were my last. Still no apology from Blair, though - indeed a statement that he had nothing to apologise for, since destroying a the infrastructure of a third world country, killing thousands of its inhabitants, and overseeing the deaths of numerous British soldiers isn't really worth apologising for, is it?
Fun, fun, fun, eh? Just what living's for...
I'll try to bring badger comment soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Nutters in Wimbledon...

And I was singing that to myself, all the way back, on the bus, this afternoon (to the tune, if you're interested, of Inner City Unit's "Skinheads in Leningrad". If that helps...) There are some splendid examples of loonies there at the moment (well, seeing as it's about 1 in the morning, probably not right now, but, anyway...) - Christians, I think, who stand there with flip-charts, and shout a lot. Ian Paisley, style. But American. And not shouting "No!!" so much. But, anyway, having a few minutes to kill before the next bus, I listened to one, for a while - he was hilarious and infuriating in equal measure. Hilarious because he was talking obvious rubbish. Infuriating because he knew so much of it was rubbish, and was just lying a lot. For instance, he gave some clearly fictional anecdote about meeting a Russian physicist, and asking him what people in Russia believed, and after being told that they believed that the universe sprang into being from the Big Bang, asked him (allegedly) if he'd ever heard of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. This was meant to be his big put-down. Unfortunately, the second law states that the entropy of a closed system either increases or stays constant (more or less...) - not really anything to do with the creation of new systems. Presumably, he meant the first law - the one stating that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Which is all well and good, but surely a Russian physicist would have noticed his error? And surely, also, the physicist would have pointed out that the 1st Law can't really be applied under the singularity conditions, when all laws of physics break down? However, apparently not, this top physicist acquiesced, and simply said that, in reality, people knew it was all down to god, and only communism, evil, bad communism, kept them from saying it. Then he went on to point out that science is all wrong, and that it's only god who can explain the universe. A point he underlined nicely with his use of the phrase "Hitler was right" (OK, I quote him somewhat out of context - I think his full quote was "Hitler was right - people will believe anything if you repeat it to them long enough". But still, an odd choice of person to be quoting for a self-declared Christian - surely someone else has said this, too?)
Well, I don't know if there is a god or not. I can point out bits of the bible which are clearly untrue, bits which don't cohere with other bits, and various points of some religious beliefs that can be refuted. However, if people want to claim that god
was the initial spark which set off the universe, that's up to them. It doesn't really imply any reason for believing that this god had any intelligence or design, though, does it? Much less, any moral purpose. Indeed, we look at the state of the world, if anything, it seems the reverse if true - either that god had no purpose, or that it wasn't a particularly pleasant one (shades of the Manichean heresy rearing their heads in Puskas's blog. Aren't we all grateful?) And if the best this all-powerful, all-loving god can do is some half-wit American nutter shouting on a cold Sunday afternoon, on a street corner in Wimbledon, one really does wonder as to the evidence for it all.

Mr Empire sits as high as a bird, and old Mr Rockefeller never says a word

Americans are mad. It's easy to say that, from a distance, watching their antics on tv. It gets brought home to you when you're sat in a bar in Hell's Kitchen at 4 in the morning, with the bar owner on some bizarre, right-wing rant concerning how he's going to vote for Bush, to keep the country safe, and his mate, an ex-hack who's taken hard-bitten cynicism to the point of being a stereotype, is giving his monologue on why all Americans are dangerous bigots, that they didn't view the 11th September murders as an attack on America (apparently they view New York as a town full of "Jews and Europeans", and not proper America at all), and that if anywhere in "Real America" were ever attacked, there would be demands for nuclear vengeance. Marvellous. But, Mr Radical Republican and your misanthropic mate, if G.W. were to get back in, it would hardly safeguard your image of what America should be. After all, these were the same people who told us that New York became more boring after Giulliani's clampdowns on petty crime, that it was safer but less interesting, and then proceeded to apologise for no longer knowing anywhere we could go for after-hours drinking. At 4 O'Clock on a Monday morning. God Bless America! These people aren't Bush supporters in their hearts, and they know it. Indeed, the more furious the insults and name calling becomes between the Republicrats and the Democans, the less difference there seems to be in their politics. Which isn't to say it isn't worth getting rid of Bush, but simply to be aware that Kerry isn't a great replacement - I think the journalist Greg Pallast said it best when he remarked that Kerry was better than Bush in the way that being punched in the face was better than being beaten around the head with a brick.
On the other hand, getting back is less fun. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to see Robyn Hitchcock playing at the Purcell Rooms on the South Bank, the evening of the day I got home. He was, as usual, fantastic, but he did finish off with Airscape - my favourite song by him, but one which always gets me thinking of break-ups, and then I had to walk back along the South Bank, which I have recently been enjoying doing with a woman I mistakenly believed liked me. So I became vaguely maudlin. Which isn't what anybody wants to read, as my life is inherently dull, and there are far more important things to talk about.
Such as why Bush shouldn't be President any more (can't you Americans see - it's just wrong. Plain wrong...) Or Mr Tony's continual betrayal of this country for personal gain. And indeed, the new advert from AXA PPP, for its private health care scheme, involving a woman saying "I hate NHS queues, but I don't like paying for private health care". Here's a better one for you - "I don't like NHS queues, and I think paying for private health care is morally wrong, and that people should be treated according to the severity of their need, not according how much they can afford". To which the nice, sensible AXA PPP respondent could reply, "Well how about a properly funded NHS, then? Rather than spunking millions on wars with third world countries, tax cuts for the rich, and ridiculous anti-immigration measures." That'd be nice, wouldn't it? Hey-ho, onwards and upwards. As it were...

Friday, October 01, 2004

Fan fiction (2)

In the steamy heat of the tropics, the lead-thick air was gulped desperately into her lungs. She lay on the bench, sweat dripping from her lithe form, and fanned herself with the fabric provided for the purpose.
I could go on. I won't go on.

Fan Fiction (1)

The Story So Far:
The year is 2112. The decadent Galactic Empire has fallen - collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions, and the growing rebellions from the younger races of the cosmos, with their ideals of freedom, fraternity and equality. The human race has all but disappeared - its support for the corrupt Empire has led it to doom, the technologies employed by the empire to ensure uniformity have led to almost the whole of humanity becoming indistinguishable from the back-drop of space, and fading into the darkness - the heat death of the species. Only one small vestige survives - the Starcruiser, "The Agent of Entropy" which was once the proud flag-ship of the galactic battle-fleet, now limping across the cosmos, its commander, Captain Kornelius Kristos, the famed butcher of a thousand wars, trying to restrain his crew, who have descended into degradation, their lives an incessant orgy of cannibalism and despair. The nadir is hit on the eve of the Saint Swithins Day dance, when it is discovered that the ship's band have been killed and eaten. Fortunately, salvation seems at hand when a passing space-pod, picked up by The Agent Of Entropy's graviton beams, contains Puskas Cat and Her Amazing Animal Band, who perform the traditional St Swithin's Day Ball - their music is as the music of the spheres, restoring to the crew the last vestiges of their humanity, and inspiring them to support the newly formed Commonwealth of Planets, and build a better life for all. We join our heroes as orange-eyed Puskas-Athene is locked in debate with Captain Kornelius Kristos, her eyes staring into the hollows of his skull-face, and deciding what flavour milk-shake she should take as payment for her band's work. What do you think she'll pick? Here's what the animals said:
"I think she'll have...strawberry," said the Eurasian Badger (meles meles).
"We think she'll have...banana," said the American Badgers (taxidea taxus).
"We think she'll have...chocolate," said the Honey Badgers (mellivora capensis).
"I think she'll have...vanilla," said the lonsesome Indonesian Stink Badger (mydaus javanensis).
Puskas licked her lips, and purred, "I think I'll have... a pint of absinthe."
The tree-shrews (tupaia glis) were right - were you?