Friday, June 12, 2009

Labour Party Pratts on BBC News

Hazel Blears, the former local government minister, of whom I am no fan, apologised for her conduct today. I don't really sympathize with Blears, or any other Blairite, minister, but the harpies (Lorraine Davidson) who agreed to go on the BBC tonight to condemn here just looked worse.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weed, Booze, Cocaine

Weed, Booze, Cocaine and Other Old School "Medicine" Ads - Pharmacy Technician Schools

Here are some vintage advertisements touting items that we might balk at taking today.

Some over the counter medications available at the moment are just as bad/good as these. In the UK codeine is available OTC with paracetamol and dextromethorphan is widely available as an anti-cough medicine even though taken in sufficiently large doses it is a hallucinogenic.

Via Andrew Sullivan

Something to Make You Happy

Sasquatch music festival 2009 - Guy starts dance party

Via Andrew Sullivan, who even spends time on an analysis.

And They Say Class War is Over

Business groups dare Obama to limit pay for unions bosses - The Back Story - Washington Times

Business groups are daring President Barack Obama to impose pay caps on labor union bosses in light of indications the White House will limit how much corporate executives can be paid.

President Obama has argued “corporate greed” has contributed to the economic crisis and appointed a “compensation czar” to review executive pay for several companies receiving taxpayer bailout money Wednesday. Now White House officials have told the press legislation should be enacted to limit executive pay in private companies through nonbinding shareholders votes.

Some American Trade Union leaders may be paid a lot, but to even suggest that such people have engaged in wholesale theft, in the manner of much of the corporate elite in the banking sector, is hilarious.

Obviously the Chinese Government is Missing out on the Easiest Ways to Deal with the Oversupply of Males

Damming up China's internet | Alice Xin Liu | Comment is free |

...measure made this week by the Chinese government, who ordered that Green Dam Youth Escort – a government-developed software that filters pornographic and violent content from websites – be installed on every mainland manufactured computer after 1 July. Although the software's designers have attempted to reassure observers that the software will only be used to target five categories of content – 'adult/ pornography, extreme adult/pornography, violent games, homosexuality, and illegal activities/drugs'...

So drugs, porn, homosexuality, and violent games are out.

Apparently the Chinese government thinks computer games like chess and Pong will be enough to still the libidos of 32 million extra youths.

Master of the medieval mystery | Bidisha | Comment is free |

Master of the medieval mystery | Bidisha | Comment is free |

Good sirs! Fetch me my lute, that I may compose a plaint for the hand of – okay, sorry, no more of that. I've been set off by the posters for Revelation, the latest medieval murder mystery paperback by CJ Sansom. The Middle Ages are horribly easy to spoof, as demonstrated by the posters, with their yellowed manuscripts, gleaming jewels and tarnished goblets. Sansom is in good company: fun novels by Bernard Cornwell and Kevin Crossley-Holland, the serious fiction of Sharon Kay Penman, Rosalind Miles, Anya Seton, Hella Haase and Shelley Mydans and the research of historians Alison Weir, Frances Pryor and Dan Jones all counteract the notion that the long centuries between the Norman Conquest and the Reformation are the dull 'Dark Ages', to be lumped together and bundled behind the arras.

In so far as the term "Dark Ages" means anything, it refers to a period from say 700 to 1050. Not the period after the Norman Conquest.

Needless to say even for the limited time I indicate there were very active culturally brilliant civilized lives available in Italy, Spain, and Byzantium.

Tragic Day: Cristiano Ronaldo Leaving Manchester United

Well it was nice while it lasted.

[This at the moment is the most visited page on my blog - I urge people to look at the rest of the blog, which is basically the thoughts of a gay Catholic English Socialist!]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Joy of Less

The Joy of Less - Happy Days Blog -

An article by Pico Iyer.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend my life to most people — and my heart goes out to those who have recently been condemned to a simplicity they never needed or wanted. But I’m not sure how much outward details or accomplishments ever really make us happy deep down. The millionaires I know seem desperate to become multimillionaires, and spend more time with their lawyers and their bankers than with their friends (whose motivations they are no longer sure of). And I remember how, in the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

I'm glad Gordon Brown is staying | Nigel Willmott

I'm glad Gordon Brown is staying | Nigel Willmott | Comment is free |

If Brown had been unseated by the actions of these unreconstructed Blairites – many, incidentally, deeply compromised over their expenses – it would have meant that Labour would have been dragged back to the neoliberal agenda that has eviscerated the party and which was firmly rejected along with Blair two years ago. Their triumphalism would have made the crucial repositioning that Labour now needs impossible, leading either to a split or the party imploding.

The democratic issue is perhaps even more serious. What we have seen is a well-planned and executed attempt, using people's quite justifiable anger over MPs' expenses to undermine the government in the lead-up to critical local and national elections. This was not evenhanded, as the Telegraph would like to pretend. It has been carefully packaged and presented to cause maximum damage to Labour – and allow David Cameron (also deeply compromised by his claims, though you wouldn't know it) to get rid of several bits of Tory dead wood.

And who is leading this crusade for transparency and to stop the taxpayer from being ripped off? A newspaper owned by two secretive businessmen; tax exiles who have probably denied the taxpayer 10 times the amount of all the MPs' illegitimate expenses combined.

Some truth here, both on the Blairites and the Daily Telegraph's agenda.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Iran, the US, and Us

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan (I am big fans) writes thus:
We all know the imminent Iranian elections are circumscribed and do not mean a real transition of power. But they are an expression of popular sentiment and thereby have some impact on Iran's government, economy and foreign policy.

I am no fan of Islamist states (and I am especially upset by Iran's anti gay measures), but I do think Iran has a real polity, and I cannot really distinguish how politics in the West are different from politics in Iran, given the above description.

Certainly, there is NO rational reason to support bombing Tehran.

We in the UK seem to simply be avoiding that this might become the story of the year if Obama does not manage to restrain Netanyahu.

PS: I was not going to steal Andrew's YouTube link as well, until i realised it was set to "Meadowland", once my favourite tune!

Uncle Tom? This is Hardly Fair to Shelby Steele

TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect

Is there a sadder soul in America than Shelby Steele? Whatever interesting observations the man was once capable of making are now so banal that they're the stuff of freshman seminars, and so every few months he appears, carrying water for the conservative cause.

Something to Make You Happy

I think I will try to do this regularly.

Please send suggestions for "Make you Happy" to

Saying No to the BNP

Today BBC News and Sky News have show pictures in which variuos left groups have tried to stop Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, and now one my my local MEPs. I think on the whole, these protests have looked silly.

But the people protesting are not silly. Here [thanks Labour List] is a video of Nick Griffin's views.

Best Line of the Day

No leader, no ideas: a party at the gates of Hell | Rachel Sylvester - Times Online

I have realised for some time that Rachel Sylvester is a very acute commentator on British politics, but she floored me with this line.

Lord Mandelson is masterminding the fightback - it is no coincidence that he has a picture of Elizabeth 1 on his office wall.

Politically I disagree with much of Peter Mandelson's apparent agenda, but as a gay man, I am impressed.

Everyone in the UK knows he's gay, but as far as I can see that comes into no-one's estimate of him. He is so supremely smooth as a political operator and interviewee, not to mention as a political tactician, that it is almost a joy to watch him, even when he is lying!

When a CIF Commentator is Better than the Original Article

From a poster called Boonery

I think I am finally reconciled to Ms Toynbee, all criticism forgotten, because her article is one of such despair, all the more potent for being resisted for so long. For month after month, she has returned to the fray, ever optimistic that the situation might turn around, that things would get better, desperate to believe that someone – Blair, Brown, Milband, Johnson – would allow her party will rediscover its soul.

Now she seems to have accepted the simple truth: it wont happen. Its too late. The Labour party – her Labour party – has gone, probably for ever, consumed by the egotism and lust for power of those people who took it over when John Smith died. There are no differences between Blairites and Brownites; they are merely power factions battling it out. There are no ideas for making Britain a better, fairer place; they are irrelevant. If talk about light regulation is needed, it will be spoken. If talk about equality is necessary, then that too will be uttered. But the words have no meaning, beyond their usefulness in gulling the foolish.

The old party – always confused, never really socialist, but on the side of the angels and invariably pointing in more or less the right direction – signed a pact with the devil and gave up its soul to win elections. From then on Blair and Brown gutted it of principles and purpose, and turned it into a machine whose sole purpose was to keep them in place. It has done its job, but we have little of substance to show for it, beyond a surveillance state, a wrecked economy, a political system held in contempt, and an immoral war which has dragged our good name in the mud.

Some in the Labour party – Ms Toynbee amongst them, perhaps, but also those in the Parliamentary party who remain decent, idealistic public servants -- now see how they have been tricked out of their dreams, had their best intentions exploited for cynical ends. They should have everyone's sympathy, even of their opponents, because they hoped, and had those hopes trampled in the mud by crueller, lesser people.

But it is over, and what Blair and Brown between them have done should never be forgiven. They have not only betrayed the ideals of good people who followed them, they have destabilised the entire political system. They have taken a magnificent political tradition which stretched back a century, which embodied the noblest sentiments of fairness and equality, and corrupted it for their own gain. What is left is a name, and a memory. Nothing else.

The magnitude of the tragedy cannot be easily summed up. Even the Conservatives will suffer. There will almost certainly now be a Conservative government with a large majority, and that will doom Cameron as well. For 30 years we have lurched from one huge majority to another, and every time such excessive power has corrupted those who held it, and weakened Parliament and the democratic system. The Conservative party needs a strong Labour party or it will make the same mistakes, every bit as much as Labour was ultimately tempted into arrogance by the implosion of the Conservatives. Cameron will not be strong enough to resist the temptation to use the power Brown will allow him to take. For Browns final gift will be to ensure that Labour has no chance of providing any serious opposition to what comes next.

I hope s/he is wrong.

But it's a depressing day.

Polly Was Wrong But Now She is Right

Dazed, gripped by delusion, the party tonight bottled it | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

What exactly is radical or leftwing about Gordon Brown? There never was a whisker between him and Blair, beyond jealousy. It was a fiction that deceived many, and perhaps he deceived himself in those impatient years of briefings that he would do things differently. His private finance initiative projects, his ill-advised public-private partnership for the tube, abolition of the 10p tax rate to give a tax break to higher earners, 42-day detention without trial, ID cards and springing a Trident replacement with no discussion on future foreign policy?

Quite right. There was no collapse of the left. I voted Labour in the Euro elections, but I would have voted Green if I'd know 1200 more Green votes would have stopped the BNP in the NorthWest.

But taking, Labour, Lib Dem, and Green votes together, this is still a predominantly center-left country.

I accept there is an anti-EU push, and that most UKIP voters will vote Tory in a general election. But I still think there would be an pro-EU majority if that question were put in a referendum.

I also think it's worthwhile noting, however much I dislike his EU policies, that Nigel Farage of UKIP is almost as good a public performer as Vince Cable. Farage seems, much more often that Labour ministers or Tory spokespeople, to call it like it is. Nor does he ever, as far as I can see, give voice to racism. He is an overall plus in the UK political spectrum.

Back to Polly. Gosh, she writes well. But she needs, at least once, to admit she had changed here mind.

9th June, 2009 - First None Crisis Day in the UK for About 3 Month

For those who blog, British Politics in the past three months has been a gripping roller-coaster. Or perhaps a better analogy is like a series of XBOX games.

What with games like "Smeargate", "Spin the Gurkha", "MP's expenses", "Let's get Rid of the Speaker", "How Many Ministers Will Resign Today", "The Evil and the Stupid: Pin Down the BNP, and best of all "Find the Brave Labour MP" this has been as addictive as good crack.

Today BBC News and Sky News actually covered other stories. It turns out there is still a recession going on, but the economy may be on an uptick; Obama has made a good speech in Cairo; and in Iran there is a fairly important general election going on.

Who knew?

But it will take a few days of temazepam for bloggers to come off this high.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Happiest People Ever !

Happiest People Ever !

A great site for depressives.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Jesus and Princess Diana lead poll of dead people we most want to meet

Jesus and Princess Diana lead poll of dead people we most want to meet - Telegraph

The top ten celebrities we would like to bring back from the dead are:

1. Jesus
2. Princess Diana
3. William Shakespeare
4. Albert Einstein
5. Marilyn Monroe
6. Leonardo da Vinci
7. Elvis Presley
8. Roald Dahl
9. Freddie Mercury
10. Martin Luther King

I'm not quite sure how to take this. I mean I'm glad that Jesus is popular and all that, and that he edged out Princess Diana.

But surely Jesus did come back from the dead?

On the other, it's worth nothing that at least three of these people (and no, I am not including Jesus) were gay.

And I can't help thinking that a conversation with Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, or Charles Darwin, among other dead Britons, might be as interesting as Roald Dahl.

Reasons Not to Be Adaptable

Yasmina Siadatan wins The Apprentice - Telegraph

'I've been adaptable my whole life, so I relish the opportunity to work in a digital signage company now,' she said.

What a waste of a life.

Homosexuality - One Solution to China and India's Over Supply of Males

Surplus of Bachelors Spurs Scam in China -

XIN'AN VILLAGE, HANZHONG, China -- With no eligible women in his village, Zhou Pin, 27 years old, thought he was lucky to find a pretty bride whom he met and married within a week, following the custom in rural China.

Ten days later, Cai Niucuo vanished, leaving behind her clothes and identity papers. She did not, however, leave behind her bride price: 38,000 yuan, or about $5,500, which Mr. Zhou and his family had scrimped and borrowed to put together.

When Mr. Zhou reported his missing spouse to authorities, he found his situation wasn't unique. In the first two months of this year, Hanzhong town saw a record number of scams designed to extract high bride prices in a region with an oversupply of bachelors.

Clearly there is a demographic problem, but there may be a social solution. The Chinese and Indian governments need to promote gay relationships for these men.

Gordon the Unlucky - Paul Krugman on the British PM

Op-Ed Columnist - Gordon the Unlucky -

Do Mr. Brown and his party really deserve blame for the crisis here? Yes and no.

Mr. Brown bought fully into the dogma that the market knows best, that less regulation is more. In 2005 he called for “trust in the responsible company, the engaged employee and the educated consumer” and insisted that regulation should have “not just a light touch but a limited touch.” It might as well have been Alan Greenspan speaking.

There’s no question that this zeal for deregulation set Britain up for a fall. Consider the counterexample of Canada — a mostly English-speaking country, every bit as much in the American cultural orbit as Britain, but one where Reagan/Thatcher-type financial deregulation never took hold. Sure enough, Canadian banks have been a pillar of stability in the crisis.

But here’s the thing. While Mr. Brown and his party may deserve to be punished, their political opponents don’t deserve to be rewarded.

An interesting column on the disjunction in UK and US politics.

Being Labour

Reaction to the European Elections

I find a 15% Labour vote on 30% turnout just unbelievable. It means only 1 in 20 people actually voted for the government.

Personally I think the government's economic and foreign policies are right. I am disturbed about civil liberties issues, but I don't think the Tories would be any better. And the Tory excesses in the expenses scandal seem to have been as bad or worse than Labour. And I note that Cameron has hardly had a huge boost from these results.

The overwhelming problem is Gordon Brown and his personality, which for all the talk about "policy" is indeed a political issue. It seems that the Prime Minster got off on a bad foot be initiating election speculation in September 2007, and has never been able to get back in front since

I think Labour will do very badly in the next General Election, fairly or not, if Mr. Brown is still party leader. He just seems not to get it. One minor issue - why on earth does he keep going on about his "Presbyterian conscience"? Is it better than a Catholic, Jewish, or Humanist conscience?

Brown's effective second in command, Lord Mandelson, was a marvel to behold on the Andrew Marr show. But that just left the impression that he rather than the Prime Minister now holds all the cards.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Surprise Wedding Reception - Something that will make you feel happy

Via Andrew Sullivan

Dialects, Accents, and Change

Here's a question.

Dialects clearly change.

Presumably cinema, radio and TV should to some degree stabilise dialects and accents.

Yet with 80 years of taped vocal sources is it clear that in the 20th century, in the US and in England (and I assume other areas), accents, even when constrained by class and area, have changed very very quickly.

I suppose Elizabeth II is one of the most recorded people ever, and she has remained her entire life within very limited class and geographical limits. But as far as one can tell, even though she is very much much retrograde, her accent, along with most of the British aristocracy (cf. The Duchess of Devonshire, one of the Mitford women, and almost as recorded as the Queen), has changed in what seem basic ways in the past 50 years.

East London White Working Class accents (aka Cockney) are very different now from those recorded in the 1940s. [And reading Charles Dicken's renditions of Cockney, in say Bleak House or Martin Chuzzlewitt this change was just as fast in the previous 60 years. When exactly did East Londoners stop saying "wittels" for "food" for example?]

There are similar changes in recorded Mancunian and, to take another case, Dublin, accents.

So here's the question. Do accents change faster now than in the past, or at the same rate? And are accent change rates a measurable quantity?

Up until recently I have always understood that there was some major post-Shakespeare shift in, say, East Midlands, English pronunciation, but that that was a relatively rare event.

What work is there on this?

Are you still going to mass?

I always identify as a Catholic, but sometimes have found it very very hard to go to mass. The local Catholic parish moved into a new church building last week - St. Mary and St. Philip Neri, Radcliffe - last week, so I made an effort to go.

This is a very traditional working class area of England, and the Church used piped organ music, but the priest (a young man to whom I have not yet spoken) is clearly living his life in service of his flock, preached a short but rational sermon (on the Trinity as mystery), and I received communion.

For the first time in months, I felt at home again with God. It's weird, every single time I receive communion I feel a direct soul connection with God that I know many good Catholics seek and yet do not feel at that moment. I always do, and always have. It's as clear a manifestation as grace as I could ask for. Yet still I don't go each week.