Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Dog-whistle" Campaign Seems To Succeed

At the moment our leaders are terribly worried that political parties may gain votes by appealing to the worst instincts in voters - those of hatred for some "other", usually of a different ethnic group.

Sadly, these fears aren't completely groundless.

There was also a by election in Redbridge yesterday, which the Liberal Democrats won. Their literature concentrated on Redbridge Council’s foreign policy and used some pretty unpleasant pictures of Gaza. Interestingly they broke a cardinal rule by naming an opponent, just one - the Leader of the Council, Cllr Alan Weinberg.

I am also told from friends campaigning in the ward, that there were people knocking on doors, speaking of Gaza and mentioning what Conservative Cllr Weinberg and the Labour Foreign Secretary have in common - which was why their respective parties were not campaigning on the council’s foreign policy.
The Lib Dems have plenty of previous when it comes to this sort of thing - I remember they campaigned in those bits of Brum with large Muslim populations a few years back using pictures from Abu Ghraib. But to be fair to them, I don't think they're institutionally anti-semitic. They're just giving the voters what they want, as they always try to do.

And what's all this about Redbridge Council having a foreign policy ?

This is another one of those stories that make me think we may in a few years (given time for another million or so new young names on the electoral roll) be in a situation where one community has a veto on on our foreign policy - and particularly on our relationship with Israel.

As I've said before, if it's all a conspiracy, said conspirators are making a pretty poor fist of it. Mr Cock-up is no respecter of ethnic origins - or of intelligence either.

(comments off for the usual reasons)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Spontaneous Working Class Action ...

... and the unions sit on their hands ... not a peep from the guardians of the workers ...

Gordon Brown’s pledge to create “British jobs for British workers” came back to haunt him yesterday when a dispute over foreign labourers sparked a wave of industrial unrest.

Wildcat strikes flared at more than 19 sites across the country in response to claims that British tradesmen were being barred from construction jobs by contractors using cheaper foreign workers.

Mr Brown, in Davos for the World Economic Forum, was caught by surprise when a ten-day-old strike at an oil refinery in Lincolnshire sparked copy-cat action at other energy plants. Unions claim that British workers are being barred from jobs because of a European Union directive which allows companies to bring in foreign labour for less than they would have to pay to Britons.

As the Pub Philosopher puts it :

Most of those protesting against the use of foreign labour in British plants are not racists. They just hold the quaint old view that the nation state should put its citizens first and that companies licensed to operate in this country should be under an obligation to employ British people ...
But Steve, the terms of debate have been changed. The idea that Britain should put its citizens first is racist as far as the Labour Party and the unions are concerned. Lots of foreign workers = "we're not racist". And naturally the capitalist class (aka 'industry') wants to encourage a global labour market - it drives down their costs (aka 'wages').

(Another reason why the social-working classes don't mind globalisation is that their jobs won't be the ones being offshored. The manufacturing and the clerical work can go to China and India but you still have to have teachers, doctors, lawyers (though not legal secretaries), diversity consultants and anti-racist 5-a-day smoking cessation co-ordinators physically present on UK soil. 'Follow the money' as Marx so rightly said.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fly On Home ....

The news of John Martyn's death this afternoon left Laban staring blankly at his workstation for rather longer than the client would appreciate. I knew he'd not been well, but all the same ... how fleeting is the life of a man ! The clear-eyed youth among the chimney-pots on the cover of his first album, where is he ? And where's the clear-eyed youth who bought his music ? I grow old ...

It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Ever since hearing 'Dusty' on the Island sampler "You Can All Join In" a very long time ago I've loved his voice and guitar. Then he became the soundtrack to one strand of the alternative 70s lifestyle after 'Solid Air', playing accoustic through a range of effects boxes and developing a slurred, blurred, stretched way with lyrics which matched his slurred, blurred, splintered audience beautifully (can anyone remember his show around 1977 in the heart of Northern hippiedom, Hebden Bridge ?). By the time of 'One World' his accoustic didn't sound much like an accoustic any more.

When he split up with his wife Beverley he produced three beautiful, aching songs of loss on 'Grace and Danger' - Sweet Little Mystery, Hurt In Your Heart and Baby Please Come Home. Why none of these - especially Hurt In Your Heart - ever got covered and turned into a million-selling smash I'll never know. Some boy band really ought to take a crack at it - if the singer can sing he just can't lose with a song like that.

Beautiful people - John and Beverley Martyn in 1970. From Dutch fan site Big Muff.

I suppose I should be drawing morals about the lifestyle of my youth and the evils of drink and the other accoutrements thereof. But I haven't the heart. Fly on home, John.

Climbed on the train
The window rolled down
So did a tear
And seeing you cry
Was like the very first time, when we parted
In the dews and dusty streets.

There alone I felt the station on my feet
Fly on home
And away on down the line
You'll put your face into the wind
Let your tears fly home.

I trod on my way
Past the silly girlie who looked at my shoes
Climbing the street
The evening shuddered in my coat
And I looked where I had been.

The train, a snake,
A chain of people on the rails
Fly on home
Like a nothing breath of sunshine
The twinkle of the houses
Let your tears fly home
Put your face into the wind
Little girlie, let your tears fly home
Let your tears fly home.

(tributes at Shuggy, Mick Hartley, Tracey Thorn, The Croft, South London Soap Opera, Clive Crook)

Jelly-Bellied Flag-Flappers

Remember when Gordon Brown started wrapping himself in the Union Flag ?

Remember Keith Ajegbo's British Lessons For English Children ?

Looks like implementation time is upon us. A correspondent tells me that this is being rolled out to Year 7s - as part of English, would you believe.

Being British means not talking about it, oh foolish ones. Or, as Prospect Magazine's contributors put it in relation to "British values", when you've got them you don't need to list them, and if you need to list them then you no longer have them.

To quote a great Indian writer :

Their years forbade them even to shape their thoughts clearly to themselves. They felt savagely that they were being outraged by a fat man who considered marbles a game.

And so he worked towards his peroration--which, by the way, he used later with overwhelming success at a meeting of electors--while they sat, flushed and uneasy, in sour disgust. After many, many words, he reached for the cloth-wrapped stick and thrust one hand in his bosom. This--this was the concrete symbol of their land--worthy of all honour and reverence! Let no boy look on this flag who did not purpose to worthily add to its imperishable lustre. He shook it before them--a
large calico Union Jack, staring in all three colors, and waited for the thunder of applause that should crown his effort.

They looked in silence. They had certainly seen the thing before--down at the coastguard station, or through a telescope, half-mast high when a brig went ashore on Braunton Sands; above the roof of the Golf-club, and in Keyte's window, where a certain kind of striped sweetmeat bore it in paper on each box. But the College never displayed it; it was no part of the scheme of their lives; the Head had never alluded to it; their fathers had not declared it unto them. It was a matter shut up, sacred and apart. What, in the name of everything caddish, was he driving at, who waved that horror before their eyes? Happy thought! Perhaps he was drunk.

The Head saved the situation by rising swiftly to propose a vote of thanks, and at his first motion, the school clapped furiously, from a sense of relief ...

They discussed the speech in the dormitories. There was not one dissentient voice. Mr. Raymond Martin, beyond question, was born in a gutter, and bred in a board-school, where they played marbles. He was further (I give the barest handful from great store) a Flopshus Cad, an Outrageous Stinker, a Jelly-bellied Flag-flapper (this was Stalky's contribution), and several other things which it is not seemly to put down.

(from Stalky and Co)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Atkinson Grimshaw Paintings ...


He's At It Again ...

Dr (now apparently Professor) Steven 'Ludi' Simpson (see here and here) is at it again. There's an abstract here.

Race relations in Britain are under threat from a series of ill-informed myths, according to a new book by North West experts. Repeated “falsehoods” about immigration are promoting racial disharmony, the academics behind the research said. Professor Ludi Simpson and Dr Nissa Finney from the University of Manchester said there was “no evidence whatsoever” for the existence of race ghettos in the UK.

Well, as we've seen with the ludicrous one's earlier work, it's all down to the definitions. No one thinks there are ghettos in the original sense of the word - a section of town where one group is forced to live. But if you want statistical demolition of straw men, Simpson's your man. I'm not saying the figures he quotes are wrong - although you can never quite be sure of someone with such an obvious political agenda, I'm presuming he's not actually fiddling the stats. In fact you can pick up some quite useful stuff from his work - this presentation, for example (to a local authority conference) has got one or two interesting things sandwiched among the self-promotion. It's in the definition and interpretation that we'd disagree.

Professor Simpson, a population expert, said: “The truth is that Britain’s so-called ghettos are diverse areas both ethnically and socially where no one ethnic group dominates and that is true of East Lancashire. By propagating myths using bogus and alarmist interpretations of population change, individuals are inadvertently promoting racial segregation.”

Dr Finney added: “The only concentrations which resemble anything like ghettos are of white people. The average white person lives in an area which has more than 94 per cent white people in it. British Pakistanis, for example, live in areas which on average have 26 per cent Pakistani residents.”

Those with high blood pressure are advised to avoid the 'myths according to the study' at the end of the article.

I must say Dr Nissa looks rather a sweetie. I could forgive her any number of dodgy statistical interpretations. But of course where she works that kind of thing does your career no harm at all, in fact is pretty much compulsory, and nobody minds - as long as the "bogus interpretations of population change" serve the correct agenda. Who would you rather told you comforting lies about diversity, Dr Nissa :

or Steven Simpson ?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Uncertainty or good manners ?

Norm takes this remark, by the (female) vicar officiating at John Mortimer's funeral, as signifying uncertainty :

"Sir John called himself an atheist for Christ," the vicar said. "He always came to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. But he emphatically did not believe in life after death. My hope," she added, "is that he has had a wonderful surprise."

What, you mean she isn't sure ?

Given that she was a female CoE vicar, Norm may not be too far from the truth. But there's always another possibility. Maybe she was just being polite. After all, to have added 'but my fear is that he's had a nasty shock' would have been impolite at the least, no matter what her thoughts. Few are those shepherds of Christ's flock who'll front up a funeral with Isaiah 14:9.

Captain Ginjah

As written by F.W. Leigh and sung by George Bastow, a man who with this and 'The Galloping Major' pretty much cornered the Victorian music-hall market in incompetent military lechers. Three generations of my family were bounced on mother's or father's knee to the chorus of 'The Galloping Major' - a rather dubious song about one man's quest for more 'bumpety bumpety bumpety bump'.

Bastow's version of 'Ginjah' is not on Youtube, but Harry Faye's is. A 'masher' was a Victorian dandy, a young man about town, dedicated to the pursuit of young ladies.

A soldier once was I, by jingo much admired,
The army lost a treasure on the day that I retired.
They begged of me to leave, they asked me as a boon;
They said my fiery whiskers made the guns go off too soon
But demmit, ???????, to make it all the same
The ladies, bless 'em, mashin' them has always been my game
Mashed them years ago, when I was in my prime
I'm known as Gingah, Captain Ginjah, Ginjah all the time

Chorus :

Gingah, Ginjah
They all know Captain Ginjah
Jolly old pot
O-T 'ot
Ninety-five in the shade, what what !
I love the ladies
Not one of them would I injure
All the girls are fond of Gin
Gin-gin-gin-gin-Ginjah !

I've been in action twice, and fought while blazing hot
The first was in Japupuland, and wounded there I got,
When I recall it now, it hurts my peace of mind
I stooped to pull my socks up and a spear stuck in behind
But Action Number Two was quite a different sort
To tell the truth, it took place in the breach of promise court
Plaintiff told her tale, when she proved it true
The judge said 'You be thankful that he didn't marry you !'

The soldiers of today, they don't deserve the name
The rough old dogs of my day used to live on smoke and flame
Each time the mighty guns discharged their shot and shell
I used to sniff the gunpowder (??) and demmit what a smell !
But what chance is there now, for men of blood and breed
My heart and soul are all afire to do some daring deed
Some say 'take a wife' - that game's not for me
I might find one more gingery than I know how to be !

(When lefty academics - and there are few other types these days - write about this type of stuff in a political context, they usually get it hopelessly wrong. The worldview seems to be that the songs can only fall into one of two categories :

they're either

a) deliberately manufactured stuff to keep the Empire upright, the soldiers fighting, women chained to the sinks or factory benches and the workers diverted from their own best interests by jingoism and a racist patriotic narrative. The same things we hear about the stories in the Sun and Daily Mail today.

b) the voice (often 'authentic' and 'working-class') of anticapitalist, anti-Imperialist subversion. Remember that 'subversive' is a good thing.

So 'Ginjah' is "a type which allows satire to undermine an upper class which assumes and has bestowed upon it undeserved status and authority". Funny. If ever an upper class deserved status and authority, it was the Victorian one. After all, their country controlled about a third of the world's surface - quite an impressive showing for a small island.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

These Are The People They Starve To Death, Aren't They ?

Sunday Times

Ten years ago, Kate went into a deep coma and was on a ventilator for several weeks. She had suffered severe brain inflammation after contracting a viral infection. When she came out of the coma, she opened her eyes and could breathe naturally, but she was unresponsive to speech and visual stimuli, and appeared to lack all conscious awareness. She was still in this condition four months after falling ill, and was later diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS: in other words, persistently unaware. But the diagnosis was wrong.

Although Kate could not speak, or hear properly, or make any kind of signal, or take in sustenance except through a tube into the stomach, she was sometimes aware of herself and her surroundings. She had a raging thirst that was not alleviated by the ward staff. She was racked with pain. Sometimes she’d cry out, but the ward staff thought it was just a reflex action. Kate suffered so much pain and despair that she tried to take her own life by holding her breath.

A Few Snowdrops From The Curate's Field

(photo by Ozier Muhammad for The New York Times)

A feel-good Obama story - while generally the Obamarama drives me nuts, and I hate the racism and inverse racism that gave him so many votes, you can still see why these guys, who I've blogged about before, would be chuffed.

Now in their 80s and 90s, most were frail and bundled up against the cold in wheelchairs. “All of the things that are wrong can get washed away,” Spann Wilson, 92, a Tuskegee Airman who flew P-51 fighters over North Africa and Europe, said as he listened to the Marine Band playing at the Capitol.

More Labour sleaze. No wonder the bankers aren't going on trial - the precedent would be too uncomfortable.

Baron Truscott of St James’s took a bite of his teacake before explaining to the two lobbyists in front of him just how much it would cost to hire a peer of the realm.

“Rates vary between £1,000 and £5,000 a day,” he said quietly, his voice almost drowned by the chatter in the House of the Lords dining room. It was a question, he agreed, of getting the right person rather than haggling over the money.

Truscott — a former Labour MEP who was a government minister until 18 months ago — made it clear he had exactly the right credentials.

In the course of their short tea-time conversation he agreed to help them amend a government bill that was harmful to their client, in return for cash. He said he had done similar work before. He said he had intervened on the Energy Bill — a piece of legislation he had been responsible for as a minister only months earlier. His fee was seemingly modest by peers’ standards, but probably not for most people outside the house. He charged £2,000 a day, which would have added up to £72,000 for the three-day-a-month one-year contract he later proposed ...

On Thursday, Lord Snape, a former Labour whip, also indicated he would be willing to help the reporters amend the bill for a fee of up to £24,000 a year. “Depending on who is on the Commons committee, if I had a chat I could see if I could get them to table an amendment in committee. It would be better if you could get a government person to do it, purely in political terms.”

He also offered to make representations to Healey. “I can approach him behind the scenes to say, ‘You know this is the purpose behind the amendment, look at it’.”

Lord Moonie, a former defence minister, also offered to assist in return for an annual fee of £30,000. Moonie said he would contact Healey and offered to identify people who could put down an amendment.

Moonie is a social friend of Gordon Brown and was ennobled in 2005. He gave up his parliamentary seat reportedly so that Brown could keep his in a boundary change.

The peer said the rules in the Lords were lax. “The thing with the Lords is that there’s virtually nothing they can do with you, unless you break the law . . . Even if you don’t declare, there’s nothing they can do but jump up and down.”

They're dirty dogs, aren't they ?

More anti-Christian activism - using taxpayer money as a weapon of culture war yet again :

A local authority has withdrawn the grant it gives to provide warden services at a care home because the residents have refused to answer "intrusive" questions about their sexuality. Pensioners living at the home in Brighton are supposed to be questioned regularly about their sexual orientation under the council's "fair access and diversity" policies. But the charity running the home has declined to do so, and nor will it use images of elderly homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in its leaflets. As a consequence, the council has accused the charity of "institutional discrimination" and withdrawn its £13,000 grant.

Did you know that the top police officers lobby group ACPO - the Association of Chief Police Officers - is a limited company ? A limited company that's totally state-funded ?

So is a company I'd never heard of, Solace - which is owned by council chief executives and has a subsidiary which acts as a paid consultancy to local authorities - for headhunting chief execs and setting their salary levels !

No wonder you see senior officers leave in disgrace after some scandal only to pop up somewhere else on a similar salary.

More instances of taxpayer money being used to fund lobby groups - who then lobby for the policies the paymaster wants. They really are a corrupt bunch, aren't they ? Democracy is being hollowed out from the inside.

Earlier this month the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, announced that the display of cigarettes and tobacco in shops would be banned in England and Wales from 2011. He added that people wanting to buy cigarettes from vending machines would in future have to show proof of age to obtain a token to activate the machine, and machines could be banned altogether in the future.
Mr Johnson boasted that the display ban was favoured by an "overwhelming majority" of 96,000 responses to a six-month public consultation on the subject. Yet only a handful of those 96,000 respondents came from individuals submitting their personal views. Almost 70,000 came from those collected by pressure groups entirely funded by the Department for Health. Among the groups submitting block responses were SmokeFree NorthWest, SmokeFree Liverpool and SmokeFree North East, which were all set up by the Government to lobby against the tobacco industry. The finding has prompted critics to accuse the Government of spending taxpayers' money on establishing groups designed merely to back the Government line on public health issues. Ministers have effectively been accused of "astroturfing" - cultivating a fake grassroots movement in order to make a position appear more popular than it really is. The Government also published responses to a consultation on alcohol consumption earlier this month, in advance of a Policing and Crime Bill currently passing through Parliament, which proposes giving the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, sweeping powers to control licensing in pubs and clubs. The consultation attracted 2,336 responses. Almost 2,000 of these came either from a survey by Alcohol Concern, a charity which last year was given almost £400,000 by the Department for Health and raised nothing through fundraising, or postcards distributed by the Department itself, which posed the question: "Fed up with alcohol problems where you live?" Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said the disclosures summed up Labour's "cavalier" approach to consulting the public. Mr Lansley said: "It will come as no surprise to us if the Department of Health has funded organisations that provide the responses to consultations that the Government is looking for".
The Devils Kitchen (parental advisory - toilet-mouthed posts) had a piece on the subject of these fake charities - and there's now a directory of fake charities to which you may add your own examples.

And finally .. that fine police blogger Nightjack is winding the blogging down for a while while he does his exams, leaving us with these thoughts on policing. Go read.

His back pages are well worth a browse too - he has a list of his most visited posts on the sidebar. I liked his take on the so-called "Children's Commissioner" Al Aynsley-Green (Laban's view here - note that Al has now reinvented himself as - cool or what ? He's another one of those tax-funded pressure groups at £3 million pa of our money) - he sees him as The Dad At The Disco.