Friday, December 31, 2010

Tonight I drink to "honest men and sonsie lassies", and reflect on my patrilineage.
Here are some verdicts on the Scottish character which I've picked up over the years -

Scotus est, piper in naso.
(He is a Scot, pepper in the nose). A medieval warning from continental Europe, where the Scots had a reputation for violent reaction to a word out of turn. In the Middle Ages the term 'Scot' might have identified an Irish person too, but would those continentals have recognised a difference? The Irish didn't appear to: "The Kings of Scotia Minor all trace their blood to our Scotia Major and retain to some degree our language and customs." Thus the Irish king Domhnall Ó Néill to Pope John XXII.
My Old Lady firmly believed that the Scots were really Irish who took a wrong turn at the Reformation.

Fier comme un Ecossais.
(Proud as a Scot) a French simile. I don't know what the Scots had done to the French. Did those Gardes écossais pull rank on their hosts? Was it know-alls like the 'Admirable Crichton' and Thomas Dempster getting up their noses?

... qu'on n'irritast les Ecossois, sachant bien que les Ecossois estaient pauvres mais gens vaillants.
(Loose translation, "Don't upset the Jocks, they're hard as well as hard-up"). A warning from the German Emperor Charles V (1500-58).

Les Ecossais sont bons philosophes.
Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609). Scaliger was a French Protestant, so he may have regarded Scottish thinkers as allies against popery.

Every Scottishman has a pedigree. It is a national prerogative as unalienable as his pride and his poverty.
Sir Walter Scott, a minor novelist.

It is never difficult to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
Stereotyping courtesy of P.G.Wodehouse, "English Literature's performing flea".

Sandy is our national figure - a shy, subtle, disgruntled idiosyncratic individual - very different from John Bull.
Stereotyping courtesy of Hugh MacDiarmid, a disgruntled, idiosyncratic individual.

The Scots, like the Spaniards and the Rajputs, are a race of noblemen.
Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, who held the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms from 1945 to 1969. He was an old reactionary, but he wouldn't let the English heralds ignore Scotland's sovereignty, or her ancient customs.
The basis of his claim (I think) is that all Scottish chiefs and heidsmen are noble, in the continental sense; and all clansmen, being cadets therefore of noble houses, can lay claim to familial noblesse. A bit of a stretch, but a nose-thumbing at the English fiction that there is no possibility of a shared ancestry between the gentry and the commonalty.

Wha's like us, eh?
Rab C. Nesbitt, trying to explain away some drunken escapade as Scottish eccentricity.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

For those of us who divide up our existence by means of the Gregorian Calendar a new year approaches. So I wish any Gregorian passing this way a good and happy New Year.
I speculated last New Year's Day on the likelihood of surviving to the end of the year. I need to hang on for another 27 hours and some minutes to succeed. I grit my teeth.
An explanation of the following list can be found at Lansbury's Lido.

The Battle of Algiers
The Big Lebowski
The Four Hundred Blows
His Kind of Woman
Raging Bull
Hue and Cry
I Soliti Ignoti*
Dr. Strangelove
Confidential Report
Paths of Glory
Mystery Train
Night on Earth
Sunset Boulevard
Godfather 2
M.Hulot's Holiday

I could go on but I've reached the limit.

*Various daft English titles, e.g., "Big Deal on Madonna Street". Hollywood has twice attemted to remake this capolavoro. The Louis Malle version (LOUIS MALLE!) was dire; name of "Crackers", to be avoided at all costs. The second attempt, "Welcome to Collingwood" was better, but the devotees gave it the thumbs-down.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It is now clear that David Cameron systematically lied to the electorate. He said it was "sick" and "frankly disgusting" to say he would end the NHS guarantee for cancer patients to be seen within two weeks – and then scrapped NHS guarantees, so that the number of patients waiting months before their cancer is detected has doubled. He said hospitals were "my No 1 priority" to be "totally protected" – and then slashed 20 per cent from the budget of specialist hospitals across the country. He said he would "protect the poor" from cuts – and then slashed the income of each poor family by £1,000 and began forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

(Johann Hari, The Independent, 24.12.10)
Or we could have had a Labour Government, and be listing their betrayals. Whoever you vote for you get the Global Capitalism Party. Time we weened ourselves off our masochistic addiction to pseudo-democracy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A pretty depressing holiday so far, but this made me laugh -
O Fortuna as Oh Four Tuna

The original lyrics (more in accord with my present mood) are here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This photograph was sent to me by my friend Katriina Etholén of Porvoo, Finland. I think it adds a seasonal touch to these doom-laden pages.
I also share Katriina's Christmas and New Year greeting -
"Hyvää Joulua ja Onnellista Uutta Vuotta"
Mr. Julian Assange is the French daily Le Monde's Man of the Year, but not Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

Newsreaders and commentators always pronounce the name Assange as if it is French, but I can find no evidence of it as a French surname. I wonder what is its origin.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Ed Davey said: "Their housing benefit cuts are going to mean in my view, if they go through, that some people who are on the breadline will be put below the breadline. And that's just deeply unacceptable."

What he didn't say: "I'm not resigning though. The money's good, and people without principles can't resign on a principle."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"And I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."
(Vince Feeble)

Well, you can tell outrageous lies like the above if you are talking to genuine constituents. It makes you look big, and you can always say later that the thick ballot fodder got your words wrong. But when you are talking to journalists who are recording your words then you're in the midden.
No British government will take on the Master of the Universe. When he set out to take over Sky everybody was watching to see what the Tory-Tory coalition would do. Vince and crew could not be seen to nod it through, though the outcome was inevitable. It seems that merely pretending to oppose Murdoch's fiendish plans is anathema. The responsibility for handing Sky to the Dirty Digger has been passed to one Jeremy Hunt, whose name recently entered the rhyming slang dictionary.
Having offended His Satanic Majesty, Vince is on borrowed time. He should last out till after the Christmas recess, but Murdoch will have his head on a plate, and another post-liberal sellout will take his place.
Entrapment? Certainly, but no sympathy for the turncoat who raised tuition fees; who masterminded the overthrow of Charles Kennedy and cleared the way for Clegg.

Friday, December 17, 2010

" ... it's nice not to be cut off in an interview. The way I was going to expand on that point is quite simply to say, as with the Palestinian conflict, the BBC tried to portray the apartheid state of Israel, who are the oppressor and the perpetrator of violence, as the victim of violence, and the Palestinians, who are the oppressed people, in this conflict, as the perpetrator of violence. This is what they are now trying to do with the student demonstrators, to such an extent that they are prepared for eight minutes live on national television to try and suggest that a person with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair brought on himself assault from a member of the Metropolitan Police. They have this time gone so far down the road of insanity that I don't think they have a shred of credibility left as a news broadcaster. But I think the point that I'm also trying to make is that this should not be a surprise to us. That interviewer's line of questioning I don't think should be a shock to anyone, that is standard BBC tactics. They are the state media in this country. Why are we so easy to condemn state media in other countries but somehow expect to describe our own state media as impartial. It's so hypocritical that it makes me feel sick.
(Jody McIntyre)

Ben Brown, your OBE is in the post; some consolation for demonstrating to the world that you are a prick.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I never wound up my recent poetry season, mainly by reason of being increasingly forgetful.
Today I went to pay my respects to a recently deceased friend, comrade in struggle, and drinking crony. His political inclinations were mainly to the achievement of a thirty-two county Workers' Republic of Ireland, by peaceful means of course.
He was steeped in Irish culture, and not averse to a poem or two, though words set to music took precedent. In his memory I post a poem by John Philpot Curran (1750-1815) entitled


If sadly thinking, with spirits sinking,
Could more than drinking my cares compose,
A cure for sorrow from sighs I'd borrow
And hope tomorrow would end my woes.
But as in wailing there's nought availing
And Death unfailing will strike the blow
Then for that reason, and for a season,
Let us be merry before we go.

To joy a stranger, a way-worn ranger,
In every danger my course I've run;
Now hope all ending, and death befriending,
His last aid lending, my cares are done.
No more a rover, or hapless lover,
My griefs are over - my glass runs low;
Then for that reason, and for a season,
Let us be merry before we go.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tony Blair's company 'to make £27m advising Kuwait on how to govern itself'
(Headline in the 'Daily Hate Mail')

Tone's rule no.1 "Lie, lie, lie."
Tone's rule no.2 "Prepare to eat copious amounts of American faeces."
"Julian Assange is not a criminal under the laws of the United States. I was the first one prosecuted for the charges that would be brought against him. I was the first person ever prosecuted for a leak in this country—although there had been a lot of leaks before me. That’s because the First Amendment kept us from having an Official Secrets Act. . . . The founding of this country was based on the principle that the government should not have a say as to what we hear, what we think, and what we read."
. . .
"If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero if mine and I think he did a great service to this country. We’re not in the mess we’re in, in the world, because of too many leaks. . . . I say there should be some secrets. But I also say we invaded Iraq illegally because of a lack of a Bradley Manning at that time."
(Daniel Ellsberg, of the Pentagon Papers)
Well, well!
I have complained a couple of times about some of our citizens' obsession with the poet and misanthrope, Philip Larkin. This has gone to the absurd length of erecting a statue of this son of Coventry in the centre of town.
Now, it seems, a local lass named Ruth Halkon has been perusing a sheaf of letters from Larkin to one of his doxies. In this collection he describes us inhabitants of Hull as "filthy low class swine" who live in the "gaunt streets" of a town that "smells of fish" and is a "dreary dump/East Riding's dirty rump".
Now why wouldn't we erect a statue to this admirer of ours?
Ms. Halkon suggests that the old fascist's problem was not Hull, "but his own shameless indulgence in self-pity."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Richard Holbrooke, diplomat, arms dealer, and friend of Afghan drug lords.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Captain Ska, 'Liar, Liar'

Will it be the Christmas no.1 single? It must be better than anything the 'Karaoke Sauron' (© Marina Hyde) is peddling.
From the current issue of 'Private Eye' -


Julian Assange


That's it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Phone hacking: Andy Coulson will not be charged says DPP
(Guardian headline)
Kettle them
Baton them
Dragoon them

The self-styled 'children of Thatcher' have wasted no time in bringing Thatcher-style confrontation back to the streets. They must have been longing for the good old days of cracked skulls and bloodied heads. Wrestling kids to the ground and kneeling on them, softer targets than miners.
Soon 'Broken Britain' will be fragmented Britain and we'll be forced to listen to endless tirades about 'thuggery'. The BBC will keep its cameras on the fallen coppers, and the evidence of police thuggery will filter out via the internet.
Yesterday the police acted with "commendable restraint", according to the police.

I was consoling myself with the thought that twenty percent of the ruling class's barmy army will find themselves on the dole soon. But obviously they will be recruited into private militias hired to do the same job of making our streets unsafe for kids and the elderly. Still they'll be doing the same dirty work for shit wages, lousy conditions and no job security.

"Off with their heads!" How quaint.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I hear that the Globocop Fan Club, Mastercard, et al., are having a little trouble with their online business. I weep for them.
“There is a delicious irony in the fact that it is now the so-called liberal democracies that are clamouring to shut WikiLeaks down. Consider, for instance, how the views of the US administration have changed in just a year. On 21 January, secretary of state Hillary Clinton made a landmark speech about internet freedom, in Washington DC, which many people welcomed and most interpreted as a rebuke to China for its alleged cyber attack on Google. "Information has never been so free," declared Clinton. "Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable."
She went on to relate how, during his visit to China in November 2009, Barack Obama had "defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity." Given what we now know, that Clinton speech reads like a satirical masterpiece.

The above is from Mick Hall's blog -
ORGANIZED RAGE: Wikileaks: The great Satan strikes back in a vain,...: "When Leon Trotsky, newly appointed Commissar for Foreign Affairs stepped down from the his train at Brest-Litovsk to negotiate with the Kai..."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Come fare bella figura, anche in agitazione. Students in Rome confront riot cops with riot shields of their own, emblazoned with the names of literary works and of their authors.
Some thoughts on the choice of works here.
How embarrassing, how humiliating for those deluded Britons who believe that they are citizens of a sovereign nation. Aneurin Bevan famously said that the Tories were lower than vermin. Who could envisage the possibility that they might willingly abase themselves so far as to make Tony Blair [pause to spit] stand tall? Lower than vermin, lower than Blair, come on 'Children of Thatcher', let's limbo some more.

Liam Fox, now the defence secretary, promised to buy American military equipment, while the current foreign secretary, William Hague, offered the ambassador a "pro-American" government. Hague also said the entire Conservative leadership were, like him, "staunchly Atlanticist" and "children of Thatcher".
Fox met the US ambassador, Louis Susman, a year ago. In a 10 December 2009 cable marked "confidential", Susman recorded: "Liam Fox affirmed his desire to work closely with the US if the Conservative party wins power … adding that 'we (Conservatives) intend to follow a much more pro-American profile in procurement'." He reportedly went on: "Increasing US-UK 'interoperability is the key' since the US and UK will continue to fight together in the future" and "expressed confidence regarding US leadership in Afghanistan and optimism about the way forward".
Hague said he, David Cameron and George Osborne were 'children of Thatcher' and staunch Atlanticists … For his part, said Hague, he has a sister who is American, spends his own vacations in America and, like many similar to him, considers America the 'other country to turn to'.

The British political class's Yankee masters look down indulgently on their grovelling messenger boys, and decide not to stoke up their paranoia about the imagined 'special relationship'. I'm surprised, though, that Hague didn't inform his bosses that the UK will continue to act as the US's fifth column inside the European Union. Maybe that promise has to come from Cameron.

Friday, December 03, 2010

I try to avoid having brand names here, but I just had to give Motorola a plug -
While many of us know this brand for its stylish cellphones, did you know that it also develops and manufactures bomb fuses and missile guidance systems? Motorola components are also used in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or 'drones') and in communications and surveillance systems used in settlements, checkpoints, and along the 490 mile apartheid wall. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has launched the 'Hang Up on Motorola' campaign

Cellphones AND missile guidance systems! It pays to diversify.

Youth Against Normalization: #BDS: All I want for Christmas is an end to aparth...: "While there are many Israeli and multinational companies that benefit from apartheid, we put together this list to highlight ten specific co..."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

"Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a 'virtual mafia state', according to leaked secret diplomatic cables that provide a damning American assessment of its erstwhile rival superpower."

Silly me, I thought it was untrammelled capitalism.
"So Britain has a simple choice: do we persist in believing that a limpet-like allegiance to the Special Relationship will serve our interests? Or do we drop our sentimental attachment to a world which no longer exists, and pursue our own interests by standing tall in our own European backyard? My answer is clear: it's time we repatriate our foreign policy, for the good of Britain." (Nick Clegg, 29th January 2010)

"I made clear to Secretary Clinton that recent WikiLeaks disclosures would not affect our uniquely strong relationship. UK-US co-operation will continue with the same depth and closeness as before." (Nick Clegg, 1st December 2010)

"I'll get my coat." (Nick Clegg, the near future)

Monday, November 29, 2010

... as "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader",
but not as a major criminal, anti-democrat and plastic Mussolini.
"The return of The Savoy after years of closure is seen as a symbolic turning point. Not surprisingly, many of the biggest parties are being held at the grande dame of The Strand.
"One party for 500 in December will have a Twenties theme with a fountain spurting gallons of pure gin while scantily clad waitresses serve gin jellies and molecular cocktails."

Yes Dave-David, we're all in this together.

ORGANIZED RAGE: Bankers party whilst millions worry about how they...: "Below is part of an article from the London Evening Standard, I have reposted it as it highlights just how much we are 'all in this economic..."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I sincerely hope that Mr. Julian Assange has a long, healthy, accident-free life. I just wouldn't like to hazard any of my meagre income on his longevity, God be good to him*.

*I may be agnostic but I'm superstitious, and there are certain formulae that are used when speculating on someone's future.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I bet that's the way it'll play in some parts, old Shuggie a victim of the Whore of Babylon.
I suppose his resignation is intended to stave off calls for an investigation into sectarianism and corruption in the SFA. It could work too. "Time to close the book on this divisive issue", or "get the lid back on the can of worms."

Friday, November 26, 2010

STS Bulletin no.32

"We have been going through a period where we have not seen that sort of violent disorder," Stephenson said. "We had dealt with student organisers before and I think we based it too much on history. If we follow an intelligence-based model that stops you doing that. Obviously you realise the game has changed. Regrettably, the game has changed and we must act."


"Prepare for an orgy of police brutality. The gloves are off."

Student activists should be aware of the possibility of 'intelligence gatherers' at their meetings and actions. Whenever students become politicised these types appear in their midst. Some of them are blackmailed by the cops into informing on their peers. Others ... who knows?

Yesterday I read the following on the 'Bad Old Days' blog -
Pensioners on the rampage
One new development at today's disturbances in London was the emergence of a group of militant pensioners who could be seen urging the youth on to further acts of rebellion. Some of the wrinkled revolutionaries that I spoke to claimed to be members of something called RAMP-AGE, a kind of KING MOB for old people. And there was me thinking that Rampage was a Midwest wrestling promotion.

My appetite whetted I went in search of enlightenment, without success. Then I enquired of fellow Wobblies and got a pointer from a Fellow Worker - Ian Bone's blog, where I copped the above logo.
Thence I was led to this site, where evidence of a genuine European Union - united against the common enemy - is on display.
As one commentator put it, "Young, black, old or white. We all hate the tories, they're all shite..."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

One day the Effendi will have a little Goy to pick his nose for him.

(Image lifted from the Angry Arab's News Service)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today I heard a BBC newsreader refer to a terrorist threat from "right-wing extremist groups". Fortunately he was quoting some high-ranking policeman. On Planet BBC there are NO right-wing extremists, only far-right activists. I'm surprised some editor didn't manage to arrange for a misquote, so as not to offend the sensibilities of "far-right activists".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Youth Against Normalization: #BDS: Open letter from Besieged Gaza to Michel Pla...

Youth Against Normalization: #BDS: Open letter from Besieged Gaza to Michel Pla...: "We are writing as Palestinian footballers, coaches and athletes in the besieged Gaza Strip to commend your statement highlighting the imposs..."
"I detest prejudice and selfishness, bullying and meanness ..."
Lorraine Kelly in next week's edition of the 'Radio Times'.
I wonder how she reconciles these sentiments with being a stinking Tory.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Good point
"As any trade unionist will tell you, you need a postal ballot and to provide seven days’ notice to conduct a legal strike, neither of which Scotland’s referees have done. To add to their miscalculation, their employer, the Scottish Football Association, do not administer league business in Scotland, this is done by the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League, both of whom are free to recruit referees from outside Scotland (as the Polish league did this weekend in less stressful circumstances).
No lying, no sectarian emails and accountability for dishonesty!"
Michał Kamiński, homophobe, anti-semite (but pro-zionist atrocities) leader of the Tories in the EU parliament has left his crypto-fascist party after it became less crypto. Who leads the Tories now? Vacancy for a Fuehrer.
What, by the way, is the position of the Clegg's post-liberals in Strasbourg? Do they vote with the Liberal and Democrat bloc, or with their new allies in the Conservative and racist bloc?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This list of Israeli "war criminals" keeps appearing online and disappearing. Let's see how long this manifestation lasts.
I write "war criminals" within quotation marks because I've no way of knowing how reliable the information is. Certainly there are some well known war criminals on the list, e.g., Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi. The Zionist "Ynet" site admits that much of the information is accurate, and it is believed that the source of the leak is inside the Israeli military.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Hitchiking beyond the Wash or riding on the (then) fabulously cheap British Rail, in each and every town square I always found a first world war monument listing name, rank and unit, followed by shorter lists of the dead from 1939-45. Standing in the rain, gazing at the honor rolls of the Accrington Lads, Leeds Chums and Grimsby Pals – whole towns' full of young men wiped out – a Great War generation, many still rotting in Passchendaele shellholes – I imagined blood rather than water dripping off the granite rifles and helmets and winged angels of the obelisks. Hearts as well as bodies go dead."
"A few blocks from where I live, homeless, dazed Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan vets sleep under the 405 Freeway, a stone's throw from a vast VA military cemetery – the irony lost on no one. Except perhaps on Diane Feinstein, one of my two California senators, whose husband, Richard Blum, owns a controlling interest in two war-related companies, thriving in Iraq and Afghanistan, that directly profit from the invasions Feinstein voted for."
(Clancy Sigal)

I've liked Clancy Sigal's work since I read his pieces in the Guardian in the early 1960s. His novels (romans à clef) -
"A Weekend in Dinlock", a Yank among Nottinghamshire miners (1950s)
"Going Away", the road movie Hollywood will never make
"Zone of the Interior", in which R.D.Laing stars.
Clancy S. also wrote the screenplay for that Frida Kahlo film, but nobody's perfect.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"People ask us: Is this the end for Berlusconi? And we answer: No, it isn’t."

"Wherever you live, watch your arse, because some re-elaborated, partially de-italianized version of 'Berlusconism' is may be awaiting you up the road."

Blepharoplasty - whew! Five syllables; I must see if I can slip it in somewhere.

(Link below)

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Brown must stop sitting on his hands. He must condemn unambiguously Israel's tactics, just as he has rightly condemned Hamas's rocket attacks. Then he must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage in the region to broker peace. The EU is by far Israel's biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza, and apply tough conditions on any long-term assistance to the Palestinian community." (Nick 'Ratfink' Clegg out of power)

"Deputy prime Minister Nick Clegg attempted to open a new chapter in the relationship between the Liberal Democrats and British Jews this week when he emphasised his party’s support for Israel and reiterated the coalition’s pledge to change the law on universal jurisdiction.
"He told a lunch held by Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel that he was aware of past tensions, and was engaged in 'an operation to clarify misunderstandings'."
"However, he did not believe it was right that magistrates should be able to issue 'politically motivated' warrants for visiting politicians and military figures. The issue reached a head last December when an arrest warrant was issued for Israeli Opposition leader Tzipi Livni for her role in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
"'The issuing of such warrants should be a matter for one of central government’s senior law officers, not for local magistrates,' said Mr Clegg." (Same fellow, now in government)
"Millions of hens will have their beaks mutilated; game birds will remain in cages; pigs, sheep and cows in abattoirs will lose crucial protection from abuse; badgers will be culled and lions, tigers and other wild animals will continue to perform in the big top.
"In a series of little-noticed moves, the Coalition has scrapped or stalled Labour initiatives to improve animal welfare some weeks before they were due to come into force.
"The Agriculture minister James Paice, who part-owns a farm in Cambridgeshire, has been behind most of the moves – which have infuriated welfare groups. In the latest of a series of controversial decisions, Mr Paice this week delayed by five years a ban on beak mutilations of laying hens due to come into force in January."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

While my missus was buying curtains this morning I did penance for my sins by entering that bloody bookshop where every nonentity who has appeared on the television in the course of the year has a book for sale. Each book is adorned by a smirking or sneering face on the front cover. Sneering is the preferred look of the REAL MEN who drivel on about cars and manly things.
I made my way to the poetry section and saw, to my surprise, a collection of poems by the immortal Dorothy Parker. I didn't realise she'd written so much verse. That goes on my list of acceptable Christmas presents.
One of the poems I read was called "The Veteran". I've since found it on the net and copied it. Here goes -

(Dorothy Parker)

When I was young and bold and strong,
Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong!
My plume on high, my flag unfurled,
I rode away to right the world.
"Come out, you dogs, and fight!" said I,
And wept there was but once to die.

But I am old; and good and bad
Are woven in a crazy plaid.
I sit and say, "The world is so;
And he is wise who lets it go.
A battle lost, a battle won -
The difference is small, my son."

Inertia rides and riddles me;
The which is called Philosophy

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some time ago an "artist" hired some carpenters to erect shuttering in the form of house walls with openings for doors and windows. Then she hired a concrete gang and ordered up concrete. The concrete was poured and left to set. Then the carpenters stripped off the shuttering, and voilà! A work of art created by this "artist", whose name I forget. I haven't forgotten the names of the creators of this masterpiece because nobody bothered to identify them.

(Bertolt Brecht)

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year's War. Who
Else won it?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man?
Who paid the bill?

So many reports.
So many questions.


Wer baute das siebentorige Theben?
In den Büchern stehen die Namen von Königen.
Haben die Könige die Felsbrocken herbeigeschleppt?
Und das mehrmals zerstörte Babylon –
Wer baute es so viele Male auf? In welchen Häusern
Des goldstrahlenden Lima wohnten die Bauleute?
Wohin gingen an dem Abend, wo die chinesische Mauer fertig war
Die Maurer? Das große Rom
Ist voll von Triumphbögen. Wer errichtete sie? Über wen
Triumphierten die Cäsaren? Hatte das vielbesungene Byzanz
Nur Paläste für seine Bewohner? Selbst in dem sagenhaften Atlantis
Brüllten in der Nacht, wo das Meer es verschlang,
Die Ersaufenden nach ihren Sklaven.

Der junge Alexander eroberte Indien.
Er allein?
Cäsar schlug die Gallier.
Hatte er nicht wenigstens einen Koch bei sich?
Phillip von Spanien weinte, als seine Flotte
Untergegangen war. Weinte sonst niemand?
Friedrich der Zweite siegte im Siebenjährigen Krieg. Wer
Siegte außer ihm?

Jede Seite ein Sieg.
Wer kochte den Siegesschmaus?
Alle zehn Jahre ein großer Mann.
Wer bezahlte die Spesen?

So viele Berichte.
So viele Fragen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise".

"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday that some newly elected members of Congress 'can't read' and don't know what or where China is." (Huffington Post)

Monday, November 08, 2010

"You're never too old to learn", people used say. I suppose the modern-day version would be, "Learning, that's for old gits with time on their hands. I'm too busy making money/binge drinking/trying to get on the telly."
Anyway here's something I learned today, courtesy of one John Feffer -
"The Song of Roland, an eleventh century rendering in verse of an eighth century battle, is a staple of Western Civilization classes at colleges around the country. A “masterpiece of epic drama,” in the words of its renowned translator Dorothy Sayers, it provides a handy preface for students before they delve into readings on the Crusades that began in 1095. More ominously, the poem has schooled generations of Judeo-Christians to view Muslims as perfidious enemies who once threatened the very foundations of Western civilization.
"The problem, however, is that the whole epic is built on a curious falsehood. The army that fell upon Roland and his Frankish soldiers was not Muslim at all. In the real battle of 778, the slayers of the Franks were Christian Basques furious at Charlemagne for pillaging their city of Pamplona. Not epic at all, the battle emerged from a parochial dispute in the complex wars of medieval Spain. Only later, as kings and popes and knights prepared to do battle in the First Crusade, did an anonymous bard repurpose the text to serve the needs of an emerging cross-against-crescent holy war."

Anonymous bard = medieval spin-doctor

Addendum: I had to leave this posting in a hurry, and didn't get the link right; now done. Also, didn't credit 'Pitirre' who posted a link to this article on the Angry Arab's Comment Section.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Forced labour, eh? Japanese blood will out. I reckon Duncan Smith is going to get the unemployed to build a railway while living on rations of a bowl of rice a day. Banzai!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Every time the Israelis insult a British Minister of the Crown the minister feels the need to apologise.

Action Alert: Tell your MP that war criminals should be prosecuted not welcomed!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

"In Flanders field the poppies blow"
And in the BBC News Studio
Not one lapel without its token
The word from above, its rule unbroken.

The mouthpieces who cheered the war,
Who questioned not, who played the whore,
For one short minute stop their lies
But still won't hear the orphans' cries.

Then, back to business, spin the yarn
Assure them we must bomb Iran.

Doggerel will have to do. Seeing those dissembling cowards, twisters of the truth, paying hypocritical tribute to those whose fates they helped to seal continues to rankle year after bloodsoaked year.

Now for a real poet -

(Siegfried Sassoon)

"Good morning; good morning!" the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
"He's a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
. . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A lot of hoo-ha about the likelihood of banged-up offenders getting the vote; as if it was a great honour and not a joke played on a gullible public. I don't know why the Conservatives are up in arms about it (if they really are). Most criminals are natural tories, apart from the sex offenders, who are fascists.

Addendum (4th November); a couple of local Conservative MPs are kicking off about this, saying that the vote is a privilege and not a right. Well, well! I never knew that. I thought that univeral suffrage meant something else.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The party however has sparked a lot of controversy and has received a lot of criticism for its flamboyant display of wealth in a time of economic hardship.
It does redeem itself when it becomes clear that all the proceeds will go to charity. The expected £5 million to £10 million will go to the charity ARK (Absolute Return for Kids), founded by hedge-fund manager Arpad "Arki" Busson, Uma Thurman’s husband.
The hosts include Mr. Busson, entrepreneur Tom Singh, a Pakistani prince, and Stanley Fink, the hedge funder and Tory Party treasurer.
Mr. Fink told the Times of London that such parties are ultimately altruistic.
"Yes, to the average man in the street they do look obscene but they do an incredible amount of good."
(Emphasis added)

I note that the "charity" is called ARK and the bloke running it is called Arki. I wonder who are the kids who will benefit from this festival of ostentatious bad taste.
I learned of this from the Max Keiser Report.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I have copied this from Larry Gambone's blog -

The following was written by economics students at Berkeley CA
a week ago with the intention of launching an international
student movement in oppositionto neoclassical domination.

Kick It Over Manifesto
We, the undersigned, make this accusation: that you, the teachers of neoclassical economics and the students that you graduate, have perpetuated a gigantic fraud upon the world.
You claim to work in a pure science of formula and law, but yours is a social science, with all the fragility and uncertainty that this entails. We accuse you of pretending to be what you are not.
You hide in your offices, protected by your mathematical jargon, while in the real world, forests vanish, species perish and human lives are callously destroyed. We accuse you of gross negligence in the management of our planetary household.
You have known since its inception that one of your measures of economic progress, the Gross Domestic Product, is fundamentally flawed and incomplete, and yet you have allowed it to become a global standard, reported day in, day out in every form of media. We accuse you of recklessly projecting an illusion of progress.
You have done great harm, but your time is coming to a close. Your systems are crumbling, your flaws increasingly laid bare. An economic revolution has begun, as hopeful and determined as any in history. We will have our clash of economic paradigms, we will have our moment of truth, and out of each will come a new economics – open, holistic, human scale.
On campus after campus, we will chase you old goats out of power. Then, in the months and years that follow, we will begin the work of reprogramming your doomsday machine.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poetry, history and sarcasm - the Irish poets of the seventeenth century hated Cromwell, and with good reason. His policy was to exterminate them and destroy all their works. The bards and members of other learned professions were spokespersons for the class the Cromwellian planters were displacing, families such as those whose names are listed here. According to Frank O'Connor the Irish peasantry were better off under the planter landlords who appreciated their capacity for hard work. A common theme of the Gaelic poetry of this period of transition is the Bards' contempt for the landless peasantry as well as for the planters. But it was the same peasant class that kept their poems alive as the Irish language became a spoken language only, when the Catholic Gaels were barred from schools and universities. Educating Catholics became a punishable offense, but Gaelic literature remained alive in the "Hidden Ireland" described by Daniel Corkery, and among exiles in the Catholic nations of continental Europe.

(John Montague)

More power to you, Cromwell,
O king who crowned clodhoppers:
From your visit flowed peace,
The honey and cream of honour.

We pray the neither Kavanagh,
Nolan nor Kinsella.
Burke nor Rice, nor Roche,
Ever hold sod of their fathers.

And that only Cromwell preside,
That noble king of Clan Lout,
Who gave all to the flail wielders
And left the true heirs - nothing.

And may all in this house
Be even healthier and wealthier
A year from today; together
With all whom we like.

The Irish original, which I can't find, was the work of that old misery, Egan O'Rahilly (Aogán Ó Raithile), who was born too late to enjoy the privileges of the bardic order, and never stopped bemoaning his luck.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"None of them grasps that the main reason people don't put money aside for a pension is they don't have any spare. Even then the advice in these money columns would be: 'If your outgoings seem to revolve around food and housing, you could remove this expenditure from your budget by spending a few years living naked in the forest while your children are raised by wolves.'"
(Mark Steel)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Channel 4 has revealed that along with two other Cabinet ministers, George Osborne is avoiding paying tax. He pays accountants to find loopholes which help him dodge £1.6 million."
All in it together, eh? No wonder he's always smirking. (Pay up, George!)

More on Mick Hall's blog, where Cameron and Clegg's nice little earners are aired.

Meanwhile, back at the trough -
"UK boardroom pay leaps 55% in a year"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"No matter how you look at it, it's an embarrassing thing to do for a tenner when you're worth millions."
Cherie has denied the auction took place as a mere money-making scheme, her spokesman explaining that it was a philanthropic gesture.
"Cherie Blair was cross that people were selling Tony Blair's signature when you can get one free," the spokesman said.

Yes you can get one free, but not from Cherie Blair.
(Cherie Blair sells Tony Blair's autograph on eBay for £10)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Europol Report: All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 99.6% that Aren’t

via Arabist

Monday, October 25, 2010

Part of a poem by Nizar Qabbani, entitled-


O you in the atoms of whose cells
Feudalism hatches and nestles,
Of whom the very desert is ashamed
Even to call
When will you understand?
O oil prince
In your pleasure
Like a mop
Wallow in your sins
Yours is the petroleum
Squeeze it then
At the feet of your mistresses
The night-clubs of Paris
Have killed your magnanimity
So you sold Jerusalem
Sold God
Sold the ashes of your dead
As if the lances of Israel
Did not abort your sisters
And destroy our houses
And burn our Qur’ans
As if her flags were not hoisted
Over the shreds of your flag
As if all who were crucified
On trees in Jaffa
In Haifa
And Beersheba
Were not your kin.
Jerusalem sinks in its blood
While you are
A victim of your passion
You sleep
As if the tragedy
Is not part of your tragedy
When will you understand?
When will the human being wake up in your soul?

In spite of the efforts of TGIA the whole poem in English evades us, but this stands on its own for me.
In the course of his search TG found a poem by a young Palestinian named Tamim Barghouthi, called "In Jerusalem", which can be read here -
STS Bulletin no. 31

"As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world."


"Your supply of cheap and disposable labour is assured."
Charlie Brooker on Cleggspeak -
It's only a matter of time before the word "Clegg" enters the dictionary as a noun meaning "agonised, doe-eyed apologist". Or maybe it'll become a verb. Years from now, teachers will ask their pupils to stop "clegging on" about how the dog ate their homework and just bloody hand it in on time.
Next week: Clegg defends his decision to force the Chilean miners back underground, claims 2 Unlimited were better than the Beatles, and explains why the coalition's proposed oxygen-rationing scheme will usher in an age of peace and prosperity for all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I read in yesterday's paper that Brendan Gleeson is to make a film of Flann O'Brien's "At Swim-Two-Birds". Good luck with that, was my first thought.
Now having a look round the net for further information I learn that the project may be shelved because of the recession. Furthermore I learned that an Austrian version of the novel is in existence, made in 1997. My mind went into boggling overdrive. A reviewer declares that it's funny because it's so bad. Still, according to Frank O'Connor the city of Vienna bears the name of Finn MacCool (Wien=Fionn, allegedly), who makes an appearance in the book.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

“the economic crisis is the disaster the Conservatives have been praying for. The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.” (George Monbiot)

No Shock Doctrine
On October 19, the French international TV channel France 24 ran a discussion of the strikes between four non-French observers. The Portuguese woman and the Indian man seemed to be trying, with moderate success, to understand what was going on. In contrast, the two Anglo-Americans (the Paris correspondent of Time magazine and Stephen Clarke, author of 1000 Years of Annoying the French) amused themselves demonstrating self-satisfied inability to understand the country they write about for a living.
Their quick and easy explanation: “The French are always going on strike for fun because they enjoy it.”
A little later in the program the moderator showed a brief interview with a lycée student who offered serious comments on pensions issue. Did that give pause to the Anglo-Saxons?
The response was instantaneous. How sad to see an 18-year-old thinking about pensions when he should be thinking about girls!
So whether they do it for fun, or whether they do it instead of having fun, the French are absurd to Anglo-Americans accustomed to telling the whole world what it should do.
(Diana Johnstone)
"It's one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do – to own up to pledging things I now feel I cannot deliver." (Ratfink Clegg on lying about university tuition fees). But surely not THE most difficult; that must have been posing as a Liberal for over eleven years.
So coalition leaders have used the absurd claim that the country is on the brink of bankruptcy to force through an array of sweeping changes, any one of which would normally be the focus of a prolonged political battle. It is a kind of political coup, and the result has been policymaking chaos, with a 16% cut in the BBC's budget imposed in the middle of the night and a Ministry of Defence deal that promises aircraft carriers without any actual planes.
It is women, families and the sick who, it turns out, will be picking up the bill for the bank-triggered meltdown, along with low-income teenagers and public sector workers in their millions – while Cameron and Osborne are hoping local councils will take the blame for their 30% cut, universities for the 40% bite taken out of higher education funding and local operators for the 20% cut in bus subsidies.
In reality, the ballooning of Britain's budget deficit mirrors the average deficit rise across the 33 most developed countries, from 1% of GDP in 2007 to 9% in 2009, as tax receipts slumped and dole payments mushroomed in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

(Seumas Milne)

Allez, France!
While searching for another poem by Hugh Magauran (Aodh MagShamhráin) I came across this dinky little piece by the Blind Carolan, and had to copy it -

He's a fool who gives over the liquor,
It softens the skinflint at once,
It urges the slow coach on quicker,
Gives spirit and brains to the dunce.

The man who is dumb as a rule
Discovers a great deal to say,
While he who is bashful since Yule
Will talk in an amorous way.

It's drink that uplifts the poltroon
To give battle in France and in Spain,
Now here is an end of my tune-
And fill me that bumper again!

He was fond of the 'water of life' according to this account. I once read that the tune of the national anthem of the United States is from a harp tune by Carolan, but have yet to find confirmation or refutation.
I'm now in search of the Irish original of the above.

Addendum, 23rd October: found it -

Is duine leamh do thréigfeadh an t-ól,
Bheir sé beós do dhuine gan chroidhe,
Eineach don té bhios cruaidh,
Meisneach is stuaim don daoí.

Bheir sé freagra don té bhios mall
An focal i n-am a rádh,
Is an té nár chorruigh a bhaill
ó Nodlaic do chainnt ar mhná.

Bheir sé meisneach don té bhíos fann
Go dtroideadh an Fhrainnc is an Spáinn,
' Nois os mian lion sgur de mo rann
Cuir agam an dram sin lán!

The English version is by an unknown hand.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Seventeen of the 35 chairmen or chief executives who signed yesterday's letter were among the businessmen who endorsed a similar round-robin before the May election backing Tory plans to reverse Labour's proposal to raise national insurance contributions by 1 per cent. Mr Osborne later cancelled it for employers but retained it for employees."

"Prominent Tory donors among business leaders who backed Osborne's cuts"

It's called 'quid pro quo', or as an old conman of my acquaintance used to say, "You've got to speculate to accumulate".

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Poem by Bertolt Brecht, about the workers' uprising in East Germany (GDR) in 1953. I thought I'd posted it before, but can't find it -


After the Uprising on June 17th
The secretary of the Authors' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Which said that the people
Had forfeited the government's confidence
And could only win it back
by recoubled labour. Wouldn't it
Be simpler in that case if the government
Dissolved the people and
Elected another?

(translation, Michael Hamburger)


Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni
Ließ der Sekretär des Schriftstellerverbands
In der Stalinallee Flugblätter verteilen
Auf denen zu lesen war, daß das Volk
Das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe
Und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit
Zurückerobern könne. Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

So Washington has vetoed Osbourne's defence spending cuts. They dictate our foreign policy, they order British troops into illegal wars, it makes sense that they decide the UK's defence expenditure allotment. Poor 'Smirks' hasn't got the hang of it yet. He must pray that Hillary and Petraeus haven't ordered Cameron to sack him.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The government and the press say we are in the grip of a debt crisis caused by the ‘bloated’ public sector. Here, Red Pepper debunks the myths used to push cuts to jobs and public services

MYTH: Government debt is the highest it’s ever been

The UK’s government debt is at around 70 per cent of GDP (the total amount of goods and services produced in one year). That is certainly high, but it is far from unprecedented.
Government debt never fell below 100 per cent of GDP between 1920 and 1960. It is only in the past decade or so that it has become normal to think of government debt being stable at around 40 per cent of GDP.
It is worth noting that government debt reached 250 per cent of GDP around the end of the second world war, as the result of a ‘once in a generation’ economic and political crisis. It is certainly arguable that we are now living through a similarly momentous crisis.

MYTH: The UK’s debt crisis is one of the worst in the world

Just as the current level of government debt is not unprecedented historically, neither is it substantially higher than that of other countries.
IMF data (IMF World Economic Outlook Database, April 2010) shows the UK has the lowest government debt as a proportion of GDP among the G7 countries (the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, Japan, Italy and France).
Much has been made by Cameron and Osborne of Gordon Brown’s ‘imprudent borrowing record’. They say that before the spending to stabilise the financial system, public debt was high.
But again, IMF comparisons of the level of public debt prior to 2007 showed the UK in a much better position than many comparable countries, such as France, Canada, the US and even Germany, the home of fiscal rectitude.

MYTH: Government debt is ‘unsustainable’

The sustainability of government debt is not just dictated by its size, but by its make up. We have already seen that government debt is at a comparable level to other similarly sized economies. Where the UK is in a much stronger position, however, is in the nature of its debt.
While countries such as Greece tend to owe money to external financiers, the vast majority of UK debt – about 70 to 80 per cent – is held within the country.
And the UK’s debt is not so short term. Countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal have average debt maturity rates of between six to eight years, but UK government debt stands out among international comparisons as being much longer term at well over 12 years on average.
This means that the UK has to ask the financial markets to refinance its debts much less frequently, making it less vulnerable to short-term speculative pressures and much more able to continue to finance its debts on a sustainable basis.

MYTH: The government shouldn’t get into debt, just as your own household shouldn’t

This overlooks the fact that, for the past 30 years, governments have positively encouraged households to get into debt.
In fact, it can be prudent for households to take on debt – particularly if they are borrowing to pay for something (a house or educational qualification) that might reasonably be expected to improve the household’s income and well being in the long run.
In just the same way it is often sensible for governments to take on debt to pay for investments (such as housing or transport infrastructure) that will make the economy work better and so pay for themselves over the longer term.
But the public economy is also different from the household economy. What might make sense for a household could, for the government, deepen a recession. When times are hard households tend to tighten their belts – reducing their spending and borrowing. But if everyone does this at the same time, the effect is counterproductive: total demand for goods and services falls, which makes it harder for businesses and individuals to generate an income, and everyone ends up worse off.
This is exactly what is happening now, which is why it is essential for the government to compensate for households’ reluctance to spend and invest.

MYTH: Public spending got ‘out of control’ under Labour

It is true that the Labour government gradually raised public spending in the early part of the decade, but it was from what were historically very low levels.
Levels of public spending are now about the same as they were in the early 1990s, at the time of the last economic crisis. This is because spending always rises during a recession as a result of welfare spending on unemployment.
In fact, levels of public spending as a proportion of GDP were much lower for most of the 2000s than they were than at any point since the 1960s.
Where Labour did spend more in the years after 2000, it was necessary to repair the visible effects of long-term under-investment. Who can forget schools and hospitals with buckets in the corner to catch the leaks, or grim city centre landscapes with crowds of homeless people sleeping rough?
Labour’s increased spending also addressed workforce shortages in schools and the NHS, where more staff were needed to raise educational standards and care for an ageing population.
Rather than cutting such spending, the crisis could be an opportunity to build the infrastructure of a more energy-efficient, green economy. That would prepare us for the longer-term structural barriers to growth presented by climate change and the depletion of natural resources.

MYTH: The UK has a big public sector compared to other countries

Public spending in the UK is lower as a proportion of the economy than in the likes of France, Italy, Austria and Belgium, as well as the Scandinavian countries (OECD World Factbook 2010).
And spending on core areas such as health and education remains comparable or low in relation to other OECD (broadly speaking, ‘rich’) countries.
For example, the UK spent just 8.4 per cent of its GDP on health in 2007, roughly half that spent in the United States (once the large private sector is taken into account) and well behind Germany, France and most other west European nations.
On education, the UK again spends less per pupil than most comparable OECD countries.
The UK is not profligate in public spending and does not have an oversized public sector compared to similar countries.

MYTH: Spending on the public sector is ‘crowding out’ private sector growth

It is argued that public spending comes at the expense of overall growth, because potential investment is being re-directed into taxation to fund an ‘unproductive’ public sector. But in fact investment in public infrastructure and services is essential to private sector productivity, and so is no less critical to future growth than private sector investment.
Furthermore, the UK is not a highly taxed economy. The OECD’s comparative figures on taxation as a proportion of overall economic output show the UK way down the list, only just above the average.
It is sometimes suggested that taxes hit the private sector in such a way as to discourage job growth. Again, though, the data shows the UK to have very low levels of taxation per job: far lower than the OECD average.
The second way in which the public sector might be said to be crowding out private sector growth is by taking workers it needs, but this would only really be the case where the labour market was operating close to full employment.
With the unemployment rate at about 8 per cent, this is clearly not the case. and in many areas of public provision – from child protection, to education and training, to care for the elderly – there is a pressing need for more, not fewer, public service workers.
Finally, some argue that public investment ‘crowds out’ private investment, because government borrowing pushes up interest rates and inflation. But there is no evidence that this is currently a problem – real interest rates are low, and the economy is still operating well below its potential output, which means there is lots of room for non-inflationary public sector expansion.
In fact, in current circumstances, public spending is more likely to stimulate private sector investment by maintaining levels of demand and preventing a deeper collapse of economic activity.

MYTH: Public sector workers are overpaid

It is true that very recently average wages in the public sector have moved marginally above those in the private sector. This is mainly because privatisation has pushed many low-paid jobs out to the private sector.
The trend is not that public sector wages have risen sharply, but that private sector wages have fallen – a characteristic of the economic crisis. If we take a longer view, since the 1990s average public sector pay has not seen significantly more growth than the public sector.
And when private sector wages are split up to consider different sector and occupational patterns, a rather different picture emerges. Wage rates differ widely, with the average pulled down by very low wage sectors such as distribution, retail and hospitality.
What the data shows, therefore, is not that public sector workers are overpaid, but that some private sector workers are severely underpaid.

MYTH: The financial crisis was caused by a lack of money in circulation

This one is true to some extent, but it requires careful explanation. The system of finance capitalism pursued in the UK and US since the 1970s has continuously recycled economic surpluses away from the poor toward the rich. In both countries, the share of economic output taken up by wages (as opposed to profit) has fallen, and inequality has risen. The very affluent have got wealthier, at the expense of the rest of the population. In 2007/08 the richest tenth of the population had more than 30 per cent of total income (‘Income Inequalities’,
In the post-war period, part of the role of the state was to redistribute economic surpluses to the wider population so that they could keep spending on goods and services. This was seen as so important precisely because large inequalities had been identified as one cause of the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent depression.
For a while, the problem that rising inequality presented for growth was overcome by the use of credit and the super-exploitation of workers in the developing world, which allowed consumers to keep buying cheap products. This is one of the factors that fed the debt crisis.
So, yes, there is not enough money in circulation – but this is precisely because it has been captured by the super-rich.

MYTH: Cutting public spending will help us avoid economic disaster

A range of economists, from Larry Elliott of the Guardian to Nobel prize winning professors like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, are warning that making cuts now raises the very real possibility of undermining the fragile economic recovery.
As every first year economics student knows, there are four main components of economic growth: (1) exports; (2) investment; (3) household spending; and (4) government spending.
Over the past two years, governments around the world have stepped in to bridge the gap in the first three by providing debt-financed public sector stimulus packages. There is precious little evidence that the private sector or households are ready or able to step up their activity to fill the gap, or that exports will increase in a world where our major trading partners are also reining in spending.
As such, any austerity programme may prematurely remove the foundations of the recovery and lead to a return to recession – a ‘double dip’. This would be disastrous, not just for growth, but in turn for tax receipts and the capacity of the state to reduce the deficit and government debt.
How will that help to stabilise the world economy? How will it deal with the frequent, persistent and cumulative financial crises that are endemic to it, or overcome the pressing resource and environmental constraints that are so clear for all to see?
The economic crisis was a golden opportunity to move toward a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable national and international economic system. For a while all countries were so concerned about the whole system that there was at least a chance to overcome narrow self-interest and look toward a more co-operative and sustainable future.
We are about to squander a once-in-a-generation opportunity for progressive change – unless, that is, we organise and campaign for an alternative.

MYTH: There is no alternative to cuts

The beginnings of an alternative have already been discussed. For example, Unison’s alternative budget (‘We can afford a fairer society’, Unison Alternative Budget 2010) suggests that almost £4.7 billion could be raised each year from introducing a 50 per cent tax rate on incomes over £100,000.
About £5 billion could be raised every year from a tax on vacant housing; £25 billion a year could be raised by closing tax loopholes; and the IPPR think-tank has estimated that a ‘Robin Hood tax’ on financial transactions could raise another £20 billion a year (T Dolphin, Financial Sector Taxes, IPPR 2010).
All these taxation measures would be ‘progressive’ in the sense that they would divert wealth from the rich to the poor, in contrast to measures such as the government’s VAT increase, which hits the poor hardest.
In addition, some of these ideas might have behavioural advantages: they could work against destabilising speculative financial flows, or lead to fewer empty houses.
Similarly, we could look at spending that really should be cut. For example, while estimates of the true costs of replacing the Trident nuclear weapon system vary widely, they tend always to come in above £80 billion over 25 years.
Getting rid of the cost of the war in Afghanistan, massive consultancy fees on private finance deals and contractors’ profits in privatised public services would also make a difference.
We could also decide to manage the deficit and public spending in a long-term manner, targeting social issues such as inequality, under-investment in education and child poverty, and strongly regulating international financiers, banks, hedge funds and the like.
All of these are political choices.
We don’t have to live in a world where unemployment co-exists with a long-hours culture in which workers are so stressed that mental health problems are on the rise.
We don’t have to live in a world where bankers gamble millions across the world in elaborate financial casinos at the same time as 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.
We don’t have to live in a world where there is no limit to how much of our collective economic output goes to the rich, yet others do not have enough to eat.
It is worth remembering that after the last crisis of this scale and significance, and with public debt something like three and a half times the size it is today, we established the NHS, created the welfare state, put in place comprehensive education and built a vast number of public housing estates.

History tells us that there is more than one way out of an economic crisis.
How to win friends and influence the BBC.
"... if any news stories critical of Israeli policy do surface there are hosts of media watch dog groups that monitor and pressure journalists and media outlets, and most important of which is HonestReporting. There are active pro-Israeli organizations that very effectively monitor (read harass) journalists and their editors and try to make sure that the coverage is objective, by which they mean is pro-Israel. There are even pressure groups to write campaigns and letters to editors and news outlets asking to boycott certain news agencies, demanding the stories to be changed or the reporter to be fired. This becomes so twisted, that the dearth of reporting, the absence of images, lack of analysis, the void of voices of describing the experience of Palestinians under occupation is so vast that the people has no idea that a military occupation is going on."

(via Angry Arab's Comment Section)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

here's a poem written a millenium ago, against war, and against the merchants of death who profit from war. It's the work of a monk named Eugenius Vulgaris -


O sorrowful and ancient days,
Where learned ye to make sepulchres?
Who taught you all the evil ways,
Wherein to wound men's souls in wars?

Woe to that sacrificial priest,
First craftsman of the blacksmith's forge,
Who saw strange shapes within his fire,
And hammered out illgotten swords.

Whoever fashioned first the first the bow,
And flight of arrows, swift, secure,
Launched anger on the air and made
The bitterness of death more sure.

Who tempered spearheads for their work,
He breathed upon the anvil death;
He hammered out the slender blade,
And from the body crushed the breath.

He gave to death a thrusting spear,
Who first drew up his battle-hosts.
Long since hath fared his vaunting soul
To dwell a ghost amid the ghosts.

English version by the poet and medievalist, Helen Waddell. I've tried to find the meaning of the title without success. Parhemiacum?

O tristia secla priora,
que vos docuere sepulcra
animisque parando nociva
belli fabricare pericla?

Heu quis prior ille piator
qui cusor in arte fabrina
variavit in igne figuras,
cudens gladii male formas?

Quis denique Martia primus
arcus volucresque sagittas
ignivit et edidit iras,
mortes stabilivit amaras?

Qui spicula cudit in usus,
conflavit in incude funus;
lamne tenuavit et ictus,
ventris vacuaret ut haustus.

Docuit quoque cuspide mortem
qui duxit in ordine martem;
amiserat et quia mentem
umbre tenuere tumentem

Change of subject; a fellow worker, a retired miner has commented on the media's reporting of the rescue of the Chilean miners. He used the word 'hypocrisy', and quoted a poem of Joe Corrie's from which I lift a snippet -

But a week today all will be forgotten,
And the Member of Parliament,
The coalowner,
The parson,
The Press,
And the public,
Will keep storing up their venom and their hatred,
For the next big miners' strike.
“Only the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member seats would abolish MPs’ meal tickets for life, and we will fight to amend this proposal to give people a real choice for a more significant change.” (Chris Huhne, pre-election Liberal Democrat, post-election Conservative)

Finally, the Liberal Democrats have the chance, in the committee of the whole House, to fight for STV.
Reader, they voted against.
What do the Liberal Democrats stand for now?

Anything that will maintain their illusion of power.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Andrew Marr, one of the BBC's eunuchs, has described bloggers as "socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements".
Somebody has rattled his cage.
I once heard heard Marr say on the television "In the eighties we all got rich." I knew then that he was a 22 carat prat.
In an article about the controller of BBC4 I read, "Klein, a Tory with a pierced ear and a German background, belies the image of the traditional BBC boss". So he's the only BBC boss with a pierced ear and a German background.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The UK Taxpayers' Alliance is in bed with the headbangers of the US Tea party.
The Tea Party is in bed with the racist English Defence League.
Ergo the Taxpayers' Alliance is in an alliance with the English Defence League (though they probably don't inhale).
Syllogism? Maybe I've missed something.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Safer a hostage of the Taliban than rescued by the Americans.
From our Foreign Secretary, "As soon as the Taliban got her she was doomed, so forget it." Well that was then, I believe he's got another version today.

When Cameron came out with the facts at a press conference he was standing in front of TWO Union flags. Are we doing the yankee thing now, the more flags the more patriotic? "How dare you call me a lying shit when I'm wrapped in the Union Jack?"

Addendum: my mistake, Hague's still saying "So what?"
(Alex Comfort)

All night I've heard the sea on Bunduff strand
like a cross child, or a dog shut out by a door.
Today the weed is piled, the children will find
the sky full of the last chips of the storm:
then from their holy hive upon the dunes
come out the gentle piebald nuns.

Every good morning I have seen them
never alone - drifting in grazing knots
over the sand, with Friesians of their own colour
or in full sail along the coastguards' road
planted on earth as though a gale fills them,
each one a walking miracle:
and out of each like a drizzle from a cloud
falls constantly the honeyless buzz of prayer

Their plumage, saint-designed to make them seem
elderly shadows of a living girl,
once plucked, like shag no more than skin and bone -
yet frames in each the sweet face of a doll,
in every mound of clothes a living girl.

I pass them walking. They in Irish voices
gravely with bowed heads take my greeting,
look kindly but not long
in case a man's eyes should pull out their souls
to dance like tinkers at the road's edge,
to dance like tinkers but in less attire.

But I know better than dance with another man's girl,
God is their lover, so I wish him well
and may he treat them as he should.
For that would be the meanest trick of truth
to find in age, for all that has been given
the solitary coffin-bed of Heaven
less tender than the dangerous beds of Earth.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect him is mistaken. There is a silent majority that is accepting this with worrying apathy, as if to say: 'I don’t care what country I live in.' Also anyone who thinks the world will continue to relate to Israel as a democracy after this law doesn’t understand what it is about. It’s another step that seriously harms Israel’s image."
(Gideon Levy)
I heard this for the first time today. I'd never heard of Sara Thomsen before this. It was played on a film on Russia Today about the media's reporting of the Iraq war, what Americans don't see that the rest of the world does.
I also learned that the coffins that carry fallen US service personnel home have been renamed "transfer tubes".

Friday, October 08, 2010

I've no time to copy out a poem of decent length and depth, so here's a one line poem from the Chinese -

I will lay down beneath the apple tree and be a soldier no more.

"Lay down", I'm guessing the translator was American. I bet it looks good written in Chinese characters.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Looking at the Guardian online I learn that today is National Poetry Day. Good timing on my part, though I'm of the opinion that if you have to impose a day of celebration for something on the populace the cause is already lost.
This one's by Robert Graves, who claimed that it's from the Welsh. I wish I could find the original, not that I would be able to read it -


May they stumble, stage by stage
On an endless Pilgrimage,
Dawn and dusk, mile after mile
At each and every step a stile;
At each and every step withal
May they catch their feet and fall;
At each and every fall they take
May a bone within them break,
And may the bone that breaks within
Not be for variations sake
Now rib, now thigh, now arm, now shin
but always, without fail, the NECK.

I do love a good cursing poem, "The Curse of Doneraile" is a good example, although literary folks might look down their noses at it. The curse was laid upon the town by a priest who had his watch stolen there. When the watch was recovered the curse was lifted, again in verse. A similar curse was laid by the poet Ian Duhig on the gouger who nicked his fountain pen.
I also like a dose of invective in verse, useful for expanding one's vocabulary of insults. Apollinaire's Cossacks' reply to the Ottoman Sultan is particularly scabrous -

Poisson pourri de Salonique
Long collier des sommeils affreux
D'yeux arrachés à coup de pique
Ta mère fit un pet foireux
Et tu naquis de sa colique

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Having spewed out the hate-filled verse of P. Larkin I feel the need gargle with the waters of the Pierian Spring. So I'll hazard another poetry season.
In part this decision comes from finding an old notebook of scribbled poems that took my fancy. It's been missing for a while but, searching for some old papers I promised someone, I chanced upon the dog-eared anthology. Some pages have been torn out as poems lost their appeal. Others are clipped out of magazines or photocopied. Nothing against long poems, just don't like copying them.
I'm surprised at how many are in Irish (with translation); Jemmy Hope's Celtic period.

So here goes with a short one of Kurt Vonnegut's. I do like 'em short -


Evolution knows exactly
what it is doing,
and why.
That's how come
we've got giraffes
and the clap.

(Keith Douglas)

He was a reprobate I grant
and always liquored till his money went.

His hair depended on a noose from
a Corona Veneris. His eyes dumb,

like prisoners in their cavernous slots, were
settled in attitudes of despair.

You who God bless you never sunk so low
censure and pray for him that he was so;

and with his failings you regret the verses
the fellow made, probably between curses,

probably in the extremesof moral decay,
but he wrote them in a sincere way:

and appears to have felt a refined pain
to which your virtue cannot attain.

Respect him. For this
He had an excellence which you miss.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Here's a couple of verses by that adopted son of Kingston upon Hull, Mr. Philip Larkin. For some reason they haven't yet made it into any collection of his works -

Prison for the strikers
Bring back the cat*
Kick out the niggers
What about that?
Chorus: niggers, niggers ...(ad nauseam)

Trade with the empire
Ban the obscene,
Lock up the commies -
God save the Queen!
Chorus: commies, commies ... (ad nauseam)

There's more of the same, privately circulated to those who appreciated such sentiments.
Not surprisingly Thatcher wanted to appoint Larkin Poet Laureate.
Somewhat surprisingly someone decided to celebrate Hull's connection to this crypto-fascist rather than disown him. This was done by dotting fibreglass models of toads about the place. I'm not sure how much public identification with Larkin was made by most of our citizens. The toads were very popular, especially with kids. Also with vandals, though no-one thought to paint swastikas on them.

*The cat was a whip used on men convicted of violent crimes, sentencing to which was an addition to prison sentences. I believe it was still in use in my lifetime.
The CamCleggCons have five years in which to -
Dismantle the welfare system
Complete the ongoing privatisation of the National Health Service
Carve up the BBC and hand over the juicy bits to Rupert Murdoch.

Can they do it?
Faites vos jeux, Messieurs, Dames.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Ms. Emma Thompson (lovely lady) has had a go at the way young people talk, something she calls 'slang'.
"Just don't do it ... because it makes you sound stupid ... We have to reinvest, I think, in the idea of articulacy as a form of personal human freedom and power."

I have to agree with the lady. Most 'snotnoses' (J.H. slang for the young) get on my wick when they come out with the same old tired words, 'wicked', 'minging'. 'Bling', like 'cool' is now an essential part of middle class vocabulary, and should be abandoned by any self respecting laicophone*. As the old Readers' Digest used to preach, it pays to increase your wordpower. My ten-year old granddaughter says "wicked", which, to me, means that the word is not slang but baby talk.
Ms. Thompson, it seems, is not referring in the main to slang , but to the inability of some to form a sentence without resorting to the the words 'like' and 'innit'. Robert McCrum seems to be alluding to this lazy terminology when he calls slang "sloppy language". Real slang is no such thing.
G.K. Chesterton claimed that all slang is metaphor and all metaphor is poetry. Far too sweeping a statement. Metaphor has part to play in slang but it's not the whole story.
I don't know when I became interested in the subject of unconventional language, but it must have been at an early age. I remember hearing the word 'palooka' in an American film, liking the sound, wondering what it meant, and how it came into being. I knew instinctively that it wasn't a regular dictionary word.
At school I was introduced to a slang, perhaps the proper term is cant, spoken by some of my schoolmates. It was language that nobody else spoke and for a long time I thought it the monopoly of my particular sub-culture (the poor kids of Hull). After school I found that some adults spoke it. Then, when serving queen and country I learned that it was known, with local variations, in other parts of Yorkshire.
Much of this nameless tongue was a debased version of Romany, words like -

Cushty - 'good' (or general approval)
Chavvy - 'child'
Nash - 'go' (in Romany meaning 'run away'?)
Kenner - 'house'
Peeve ken 'pub'.

Other words that may have been Romany were -
Musker - 'police officer'
Mingra - (same meaning)
Mang - 'speak, talk, say, tell'
Looer - money
Divvy - 'daft', not right in the head (sometimes "divvy in the mundy" [?])

Then there were other words, such as -
Bewer - woman (or girl, but not pre-puberty)
Scran - 'food'
gage - 'pint' (spelt gauge?)
Noggins - 'testicles' ("Kick him in the noggins!")

To this vocabulary, not universally recognised, therefore a true slang, I added other languages over time. Rhyming slang -
Jockeys' whips - 'chips'
Holy ghost - 'toast'
Joe Baksi - 'taxi'
Irish rose - 'nose'
Napper Tandy - 'brandy' (also 'Mahatma Gandhi')

Then there was the army slang, much of it not transferable to Civvy Street; fizzer, monkeys (MPs), jankers. In North Africa, some Arabic and Italian was added to the mix -
Shoofti - 'look' see'
Imshi - 'clear off!'
Floos - money (mafeesh floos, 'no money')
Bint - 'female' (all ages)
Quanta costa? - 'how much? (Italian, recte, quanto)
plus some strange lingua franca from round the Mediterranean and further afield -
Chico - 'child'
Mongheria - 'food'
Klefti-wallah - thief
Queenie-wallah - homosexual.

And many more sources to enrich my vocabulary and add to the unintelligibility for which I'm noted in some circles. This subject fascinates me, if no-one else, and shows that all slang is not stupid or sloppy. I may return to it sometime.

*A word have just coined, which may turn out to be meaningless. It's supposed to mean a speaker of true slang.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Some advice to Alberto Contador -
Go veggie.
(Thinks) I wonder if there is such a thing as a vegetarian road racing cyclist. Come to think of it, are there any vegetarian sportspersons?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have those bloody brothers gone? Can I start watching television news again?

As older brother squeezed the breath out of younger brother and spoke quietly into his ear I was reminded of the scene in "The Godfather II" when Michael Corleone bear-hugs his younger brother and says "I know it was you, Fredo. You've broken my heart."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earlier this month "I described the world according to fleming" (a banished bore). This blogger alleges that the fleming Weltanshauung is not a one person disorder.
(Click on map to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Senior Conservatives are understood to have put pressure on Mark Thompson, the BBC director general and Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust, not to broadcast the programme in the lead-up to the general election."
And what do you know? Thompson and Lyons obeyed orders.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I do have form on this topic - disappearing languages - but it's a great help to find a comment which states the case and marshals the arguments efficiently and without the rancour that marks my outbursts. So I quote -
Aside from literature (most languages do not even have a written form)
the loss of even a single language entails the loss of a wealth of songs rituals and histories -- an entire culture, so to speak. Effects on cultural identity, education and regional and national politics are profound.

Then there's the dissolution of indigenous cultures' store of knowledge about local plant and animal life -- which, especially in the Amazon area and Black Africa are relatively unmined by biology and medical science.

And of course there's the loss to linguistics. Typological studies reveal the vast diversity that exists in the phenomenon of human language, and the often alien-seeming modes of expression and intricacies of grammar and phonetics. A minority of the world's languages has been studied in enough detail to enrich our understanding of how the mind works in organising thoughts and mental constructs into language. Australian Aboriginal languages, Siberian languages and some Native American languages are often cited to illustrate the often fundamental differences with more familiar languages (European languages, Chinese, Japanese), but there are bound to be more fantastic languages out there.

Losing languages is also a severe impediment to tracing the spread of human populations and large-scale migrations, since accounts of these are based on comparing evidence from archeology, history, genetics and linguistics. Charting the spread of languages is key in understanding historical migration patterns; the settlement of the Americas or the Austronesian homeland question are fine examples. While the interrelations between Indo-European languages are generally well understood, the patterns are generally less clear for any other language family out there. Each undocumented language that dies out before it has a chance to be studied means that the number of clues about linguistic kinship is greatly diminished (imagine reconstructing Indo-European without Sanskrit, or Greek).

There are a number of organisations that attempt to document languages and revive them. The most prolific one that I am aware of is Wycliffe, which study small and endangered languages in order to translate the bible into them. I'm not so sure that Wycliffe are doing an altogether laudable job -- from a linguistic point of view, that is. Nonetheless, even with their limited linguistic focus, they're doing invaluable work in preserving at least some of the diversity of human languages that we don't know about yet.
Procter & Gamble – on its Israeli website announces that the corporation gives
“Generous donations to [Israeli] organizations, “especially for disabled children”
* gives donations of “Tens of thousands of product units,” (i.e. Always and Alldays feminine pads), to various Israeli hospitals and schools; funds the awarding a prize for the best clinical research in the field of dermatology in order “to encourage the level of research and to improve the quality of life in Israel”
* gives donations to the Ramat Gan Safari (a zoo) as a way “to support relationships between children and their parents”
* funds educational projects for teenage girls, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, on the subject of sexual maturity
* cooperates with and donates to the Quality Week of the Israel Technical Institution.
(Youth Against Normalization)

I wonder if P&G donates anything to help Palestinian children crippled and maimed by the Israeli Defence (sic) Force, or to the hospitals that try to care for them when not being bombed?
Rhetorical question, I already know the answer. If they support the rogue state they are by default enemies of the Palestinian people.

Friday, September 24, 2010

From the Angry Arab's blog -

Americans are socialists but they don't know it
"The respondents were presented with unlabeled pie charts representing the wealth distributions of the U.S., where the richest 20 percent controlled about 84 percent of wealth, and Sweden, where the top 20 percent only controlled 36 percent of wealth. Without knowing which country they were picking, 92 percent of respondents said they'd rather live in a country with Sweden's wealth distribution.
"As the new Forbes billionaires list, released Wednesday, testifies, the richest Americans are getting richer, even as the country as a whole gets poorer. After 2005 income inequality continued to balloon."

Linking to this article.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Scott Murray didn't write, but did write -


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Algerian street cleaners arrested and detained as terrrorist suspects turned out to be ... street cleaners. The muskers searched their gaffs and their works depot for incriminating evidence and came up empty. So someone's been wasting police time. Will they be charged?
This reminds me of the old anti-Irish Prevention of Terrorism act. Any Irish-born shop steward who was giving his employers a hard time would be lifted and held for questioning. After a week of being held incommunicado he would be be given an exclusion order and deported to the Irish Republic. He would have no opportunity to clear himself of terrorism in the courts, so no smoke without fire.
I wonder if these immigrant workers were making a nuisance of themselves at work, asking for a rise or some other concession. I fully expected them to be deported, but their residence and work papers must be in order. Their employer is the unscrupulous outfit Veolia, who I wouldn't trust to run a flea circus.
Maybe I'm just too suspicious.