Friday, April 29, 2005

The Power of Positive Thinking

Just prior to the announcement of the General Election the leaders of a particular political party wrote to me with an interesting question

‘Stef, We’re in a bit of a bind over here at Conservative Central Office. You see we don’t actually want to win the next election. What with the collapsing national infrastructure, the unprecendented levels of personal debt, bubbles in the housing and stock market, involvement in a costly and unpopular overseas war, rising drug addiction and violent crime, a pisspoor education system, a collapse in industry that means we have nothing to left export other than military force, and all the other stuff, we don’t fancy the prospect of taking over very much. The problem is that Tony Blair is such an arse and is responsible for so many rank things we’re not sure that we’ll be able to successfully lose next time. What do you think we should do?’

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I sent them my patented five point Guide to Successfully Betraying Your Country by not Presenting a Credible Opposition and they seem to be following it quite closely.

  1. Avoid all positive campaigning.
  2. Develop punchy slogans covering sensitive issues such as immigration that leave even people who are concerned about those issues feeling like they need a shower after hearing them
  3. Take exactly the same position as Tony Blair on all keys issues that people of conscience disagree with him on.
  4. Concentrate your campaigning on a minority of single issue voters in such a way that you win half of their votes whilst pissing off everyone else
  5. Ensure that all publicity material is illustrated with pictures of local candidates looking as smug, self-satisfied and as oily as possible

It’s working a treat isn’t it.



We had half an hour to kill in Norwich Railway Station last week whilst waiting for a connecting train to Great Yarmouth. We spent most of that time flicking through a display of publicity fliers for various tourist traps. By and large, the fliers consisted of the usual fare; butterfly farms, living history museums, factory shops, the usual tat that desperate holidaying families are driven to visit out of sheer despair and boredom. But one of the fliers stood out from the crowd. Printed in tasteful yellow and purple it cried out to me…

Anglia Llama Trekking

So what? You might ask. Well, straight away, without even reading the flier the thought of llama trekking in Suffolk / Norfolk tickled me. The humour is derived from two key facts:

  1. Llamas come from Peru which is full of tall, crinkly mountains. Norfolk/ Suffolk are specifically renowned for not having any mountains, or hills, crinkly or otherwise, or any topography whatsoever
  2. Llamas are intrinsically funny

The flier did not disappoint.

‘With some small parties there can be one Llama per adult, but on busy days we often amalgamate groups and Llamas are sometimes shared. Be assured though, everyone gets plenty of ‘hands on’ llama walking experience on all treks.


Have Fun! Go Llama Trekking

The service on offer basically consists of walking along flat country paths in the company of llamas, with your picnic lunch strapped to their backs. Treks are available in various strengths, ranging from a short stroll with llamas through to physically demanding, expedition grade llama weekends. On special occasions, you also have to option of packing in some birthday candles with the llamas and eating a celebratory lunch in their company. Salvador Dali would have been favourably impressed

Now my initial reaction to all this was quite caustic. ‘Why a llama’ I asked? What’s the connection with this part of the World? Why not wander round with a crocodile? Or a potato?

Tracy put me straight and pointed out that it was a sweet idea, would probably be a very pleasant way to spend a few hours and a good way to encourage townies to get more involved with the natural world.

She’s right of course.

And this got me thinking. What works in Norwich could work equally well in South London…

Have Fun! Go Lager trekking

Only available from our home base and suitable for families with young children or those people not requiring too arduous a walk. After the single can of lager handling briefing you will go on a short trek along the Walworth Road with your can of lager, swearing at random people on the street, then stop for a lunch at Starburger at the Elephant and Castle. You will then pee in a pedestrian tunnel and trek back down to Kennington Park where you can meet everyone else with their cans of lager and have your photo taken with them.

Corporate Team Building Weekends also available.

Llamas are a winning ingredient and arguably preferable to a half finished can of Special Brew though.

Back in my secondary school days a bit of a llama craze swept through my class for a couple of years. The craze consisted of shouting or whispering the word ‘llama’ at carefully chosen moments in as silly or squeaky a voice as possible, with the view to putting teachers off their stroke. Hiding the word ‘llama’ in a fake cough was also popular.

By contemporary standards this is all very mundane. In comparison with kids today saying ‘You touched my nuts Sir I’m going to get you locked up’ merely saying ‘llama’ when a teacher’s back is turned seems, um, quite tame.

But we were happy with it. It was more subtle, more aesthetically pleasing.

What’s a teacher to do? He could a) ignore it and surrender control to the class that way, or b) stomp around the class saying things like ‘Who said that?! Who said llama?!’ which meant he had lost the game in an altogether more profound manner.

The thing is, I still found myself tempted to deliver a carefully targeted ‘llama’ well into my adult life. I still do. I could have livened up many a pointless and tedious business meeting by saying the magic word of power in a Peruvian accent whenever the chairman’s back was turned. I never did. Largely for fear that the other people would turn me in, in the hope of further advancement. The world of business is like that.

And think about the election coverage filling our media right now. How much more interesting would it be if the interviewers snuck in a quick ‘llama!’ or two whilst Tony Blair was talking and looking the other way?

Who said that?
Said what?
You know what I'm talking about
No I don't. Said what?
I know what you're playing at. I'm not going to say that word
What word?

etc etc

That would help ease the pain of it all so very, very much.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"fear"..., "believe", "could manage"...

Hot Dog

And what a great week for news this has been so far.

My favourite story of the week to date is this one from The Times

Al Qaeda threat to Traflagar Fleet

Yes, highly trained Al-Qaeda operatives are planning, sorry, might be planning to attack the Royal Navy at sea either with waves of suicide speedboats or small armies of frogmen.

A number of Royal Navy vessels now have machineguns mounted on their decks to defend ships against possible “swarm attacks” by terrorists in boats.’

‘The suggestion that Al-Qaeda might attempt swarm attacks using men trained in diving skills is not new. For the past three years, the FBI has been investigating reports of Middle Eastern suspects approaching scuba diving clubs in America and inquiring about training.’

Presumably, our security forces are also investigating the possibility that Al-Qaeda is planning to destabilise the World economy by planting a nuclear weapon in Fort Knox, capturing nuclear submarines in modified oil tankers and nudging the San Andreas Fault into action. And what about baddies on skis and missile equipped hang gliders? Why don’t they get a look in?

What else was there? Oh yes, the CIA has reported that there really were absolutely, definitely no WMDs in Iraq, none were shipped to Syria or anywhere else and that all the people locked up for supposedly managing the Iraqi WMD program should be released.

And there's the news that Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to stand trial in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack actually denies having anything to do with that attack, even though most news reports seem to have him pleading guilty to his involvement.

And then there was retiring Labour MP Brian Sedgemore’s excellent anti–Blair, anti New Labour speech the other day (Very Highly Recommended).

Or the news that Italian investigators were denied access to the car in which Nicola Calipari and Giulia Sgrena were shot by US soldiers last month. Apparently there was no need.

And then there’s the story that the Guardian was forced to pull an article critical of the supposed Wood Green Ricin Conspiracy by the Government. Or the story that, maker of the most excellent Power of Nightmares, Adam Curtis’ acceptance speech at the Bafta’s was cut from the BBC coverage because he was critical of the Government's handling of the supposed War on Terror.

And so on and so on.

Unfortunately most of these stories did not get much coverage in the newspapers and virtually none on television. That’s a shame but I guess you need to save the space to report on Posh and Beck’s domestics, important stuff like that.

White Riot - I wanna riot ...

The Council Tax

It’s not a very fair tax is it?

Based on a notional value of your property, two adjacent households will pay exactly the same tax bill regardless of how much income is coming into each house.

Well-off people love taxes like the Council Tax. Well-off people love any indirect tax.

And the Council Tax keeps rising remorselessly; year after year.

Fair play to the Liberal Democrats. They’re talking about replacing the existing Council Tax with a local income tax. The days of little old ladies having to pay the same tax bills as the professional couples next door would come to an end.

Mmmmmm, a local tax levied on individuals rather than the properties they inhabit. A tax more weighted towards an individual’s ability to pay…

Sounds something like the Poll Tax to me. I wonder if there are going to be any riots.

Yes, I remember the Poll Tax Riots, particularly the one in Trafalgar Square 1990. People seemed to be really rather annoyed.

Looking back on the Poll Tax it’s increasingly difficult to see what all the fuss was about. At the time, the Poll Tax was seen to be a tax on the poor. The reasoning being that more poor people would live in any given house than rich people. The Poll Tax was also seen as being a pernicious tax on your very existence, as if all the other taxes aren’t.

As it happens, most of these objections to the Poll Tax were bollocks. Of course it had its flaws but so what? Most taxes do, particularly indirect taxes. People on low incomes would have received a rebate to cover the Poll Tax and the system that it replaced, and the system that replaced it, were even less connected to an individual's ability to pay. What the Poll Tax did represent was an excuse to demonstrate against a hated government and burn down a few McDonalds at the same time.

I mention it now because the thought of 200,000 people running amok around the West End over any particularly issue seems rather unlikely these days.

This is partly down to the fact that our current, supposedly progressive, government has locked down security pretty tightly; marches and demonstrations are now policed to a ridiculous level, but mostly because most people on the Left of politics are hypocritical and full shit.

And lots of it.

Why am I picking on Left-Wingers? Well, people with more Right wing views don’t pretend to give a stuff about anyone else; Self-Interest is King. Whereas people on the Left are always prattling on about the Human Rights and twaddle like that.

They don’t really mean it though do they?

Forget for a moment the fact that the current government has presided over unprecedented levels of corporatisation and globalisation of this country or that the tax burden on the rich has been held back at the expense of the less rich. How else can you explain the conspicuous lack of any real resistance to the Government’s assault on the right to trial by jury, restriction of the right to protest, imprisonment without trial, the imposition of ID cards and that stupid, frickin’ war…

That’s the sort of stuff that should bring people out on the street to light bonfires and build barricades, not a few quid either way on the rate of property tax.

What little effective resistance there has been to the rise of fascism in this country has come from the likes of the House of Lords and the Judiciary. Both unelected and both despised by the Left.

That past generation of Left Wing protestors and the generation that should have followed them have been well and truly neutered by The Machine. Sure, some of them talk the talk but barely a handful walk the walk. Wankers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Vote for Tescos pt2

Because You Care

Voting for a large supermarket chain instead of a political party may at first seem a ridiculous idea.

But think about it some more.

Government occupies most of its time collecting, then spending, money and an increasing amount of that money is spent through private contractors rather than public servants. From refuse collection through to health care, more and more public services are being delivered by private companies. The reasoning behind this is that the discipline of market forces delivers the best return for tax payers’ money.

There’s a lot to be said for this point of view. Take transport for example...

We took the train to Norfolk last week and the 270-mile round trip for the two of us came to just over £80.

In my kitchen cupboard there’s a 400g tin of Tescos Value Range chopped tomatoes that came all the way from Argentina, about 7,000 miles. It cost me eight pence.

Based on some typical recent journeys we’ve made, the weight-adjusted cost for the two of us to travel one way to Argentina would be something like…

  • London Underground £10,750
  • London Bus £5,600
  • Main Line Train £1,850
  • Private Car £900
  • Ryan Air £500
  • In the form of two very large tins of Tescos Value Range chopped tomatoes £32.51

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this admittedly crude exercise…

  • The more ecologically sensible the mode of transport the more expensive the cost
  • The more political involvement in the mode of transport the more expensive the cost

The problem is that even though companies are becoming more involved in the delivery of public services there is one sector that is closed to them – the overall management of those services. Not only are they held back by being managed by politicians whose only attribute is the ability to bullshit, the companies also have every incentive to steal as much as they can from the State whilst lobbying for and executing their contracts. Neither would be the case if a company were in overall charge.

That’s why we should be able to vote for Tescos.

In particular, I’m just itching to see how corporate management would deal with the issue of crime on Britain’s streets.

I’m a great fan of Robocop.

The quarterly crime figures for Britain were announced last week. These figures have become a regular source of national amusement for a couple of reasons:

  • Two sets of figures from two different sources are released simultaneously. Both sets of figures invariably contradict each other
  • When a particular category of crime shows a rise the government always attributes the rise to improved recording procedures. Any fall in a crime category is described as the result of successful government policy.

Once the figures are announced, Tony Blair always:

  • Congratulates himself on doing such an excellent job
  • Announces some nonsense target. I particularly enjoyed his pledge to ‘cut street crime in half by the end of the year’ a couple of years ago. That was a good one. Last week he pledged ‘a 15% reduction in overall crime by 2008’.

Yes, Tony Blair, the Terminator of Bullshit. He is out there. He can't be bargained with. He doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And he absolutely will not stop. Ever…

Tony seems to believe that he is in possession of some kind of magic formula than enables him to control and predict crime rates. If so, you’ve got to ask why doesn’t he go the whole hog and reduce crime by something like 80%; leaving 20% back so that life doesn’t get too boring.

I’m not really sure that many people believe the government story that crime is falling. I certainly don’t. Most nights in my part of South London it sounds like they’re remaking the chase scene from the Blues Brothers. I’ve no doubt that certain categories of crime are on the wane - heroin now sells at prices comparable to cappuccino which means crackheads have to steal and whore themselves less to sort themselves out and, thanks to the Chinese, most consumer goods; stereos, DVDs, CDs, are so cheap it’s hardly worth bothering to steal them any more. In the same way that armed payroll robberies, highwaymen and horse theft don’t preoccupy many people any more, some crimes just fade away. But is that anything to do with the government?

Anyway, whilst there is some dispute as to whether overall crime in the UK is falling there’s little doubt that nasty, violent crime is on the increase. There’s also no doubt that the number of police has increased in recent years but most of them spend their time raiding bedsits in search of poisoned toothbrushes or protecting empty office buildings from bogus terror threats.

What we need is a truly massive increase in police numbers. We need Tescos Value Range police.

Actually, we sort of already have a Value Range police force. They’re called Community Support Officers. Just like real police only much cheaper and without the training, or the powers, or the equipment, or the credibility. Most of them are also quite short. And, as with the Value Range, people laugh at them openly in public. I saw a group of ten or twelve auxillary constables parked near my house a couple of weeks ago. In keeping with their value for money image they were all mounted on 125cc scooters rather than motorbikes. I vainly tried edging closer to grab a photo of the posse and their hogs but one of them told me to piss off. Clearly there was a significant risk that I was either a) a terrorist planning a terror attack on the Brixton Road or b) a smart arse with a camera looking to ridicule them.

Now if Tescos were in charge of policing they’d offer Luxury, Everyday and Value ranges of law enforcement. As with the food products, residents in more affluent parts of the country would probably choose Luxury Range Police; well mannered, in spiffy uniforms and fully equipped with the latest equipment. Whereas the residents of Lambeth would probably be protected by swarms of cheap police imported from some 3rd World fascist junta; dressed only in sweat stained vests and army surplus trousers and armed with big wooden clubs.

I think the concept is a goer. It would work I tell you.

Also, if we do get round to electing a supermarket to government we could then also think about incorporating the country down the line. In fact, every other country in the world could join in and we could trade shares in each other on an international stock market. Wouldn’t that be fun?

But that’s another post…

Monday, April 25, 2005

Vote for Tescos pt1

value lager

Tescos always used to be a bit of a joke.

When I was a wee lad, Tescos was always a poor second, a very poor second to Sainsburys.

Times have changed. Sainsburys followed the same path as British Airways, decided it only needed Business Class customers and treated the rest of us as pond scum. Meanwhile, Tescos got some decent management in, proceeded to wipe the floor with its rivals and became the largest supermarket chain in the country.

Tescos earned £2bn last year. That’s £5.5m a day.

And even after all that spectacular success and growth, Tescos still cleverly markets itself in a way more suggestive of a cheeky underdog than the 600lb gorilla of the UK supermarket world.

Tescos ads are informal and feature voice-overs from working class celebrities with regional accents, hamming it up to sound just that little bit stupid. Sainsburys occasionally try to mimic that style but invariably cock it up. As with the Conservative Party, Tony Blair or British Airways, it is almost impossible for Sainsburys management to hide its contempt and loathing for normal people, even when they’re trying to sell them things.

And then there’s Marks and Spencers. One day a few years ago, pretty much the entire population of the UK woke up and realised that £2.50 was an awful lot to pay for four potatoes, even if they were ‘specially selected’, ‘hand scrubbed’ and individually wrapped.

M&S’s sales tanked.

M&S is far too proud to follow the Tescos route and is sticking by its premium quality image, and pricing. Their latest attempt at winning back market share consists of filming food adverts in the style of a porn movie; featuring close-ups of moist, sweaty food and a husky female voice-over saying things like:

Oooh, this is not just a normal chicken. It’s a aaaa aaaa aaaa honey roast, totally orga(sm)nic, hand reared (wink wink) Marks and Spencer chicken’

‘This is not just a chocolate pudding. It’s a pant pant Belgian double-dipped (yes please), melt in your mouth (bet I would) Marks and Spencer chocolate pudding. I'm ready now! Take me! Take me!

However, the voice-over neglects to mention that this stuff is produced at the lowest possible cost, by minimum wage casual labour, living in 40 year old caravans in the middle of nowhere; same as all the crap sold by all the other supermarkets.

The big difference is that Tescos would use Ron Jeremy in their adverts.

Yes, it’s difficult to hate Tescos, whilst satisfyingly easy to dislike Marks and Spencer, and Sainsburys, and British Airways.

The single largest piece of evidence that Tescos has not got too big for its own boots is the existence of the Tescos Value Range.

With its distinctive red, white and blue, vaguely French looking packaging the Value Range represents the very pinnacle of low cost food retail. The technologists at Tescos have spared no effort, and no artificial ingredient, in producing a line of products with no redeeming qualities or nutritional merit whatsoever; aside from an absurdly low sale price. Holding a tin from the Tescos Value Range in your hand you can be 100% confident that it contains as few natural ingredients as possible, was very possibly produced by child slave labour and that dolphins did die in its making.

How else could Tescos take the former international benchmark of nasty, cheap food; the 20p ramen noodle packet, and bring it to the shelves at a sale price of 9p?

Forget about Supersize Me and eating nothing but McDonalds for a month. I want to know what people are going to look like after eating nothing but Tesco Value Range food for a couple of years. I think we could be on the brink of the next stage in human evolutionary history here

value range

The Tescos Value Range has rapidly assumed cult status. Zany students and wacky people trying to survive on their Jobseeker’s Allowance or £2/hour cleaning jobs can be seen carrying baskets filled with items selected exclusively from the Value Range. It's quite normal to see Central American couples heaving trolleys filled with their local store’s entire stock of 7p a tin red beans towards the check out. Occasionally I encounter people in my local Tescos clearly anguishing over whether to spoil the Zen-like purity of their weekly shop by buying a branded, non Value Range item. It’s a matter of pride

Anyway, Tescos impressive financial results for the last year and the success of the Value Range got me thinking.

Maybe we should all vote for Tescos at the next election …

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Terror on the Holloway Road pt6 - and out

Originally uploaded by StefZ.

One of the really neat things about living in a police state is the scope it gives you for dealing with troublesome neighbours.

Are YOUR neighbours playing their stereo too late on a Saturday night or leaving their cars in front of your driveway?

Well, denounce them!

Is your wife/ girlfriend/ husband/ sister/ father/ boss/ dry cleaner/ bloke taking up two seats on the bus becoming too demanding?

Well, denounce them too!

Denounce everybody!!!!

Until relatively recently you couldn't have very much fun here in the UK or in the US denouncing people; not much fun at all. Irritating little concepts such as evidence and juries would get in the way. But now the situation is a lot more fun and people can get locked up without trial or being told what they are being locked up for, for three years or more.


The people next door have been really getting on my goat lately.

Of course, the trick is to get them before they get you. After all, what if they get round to denouncing me first?

Just in case my neighbours are thinking what I'€™m thinking I'€™ve just performed a quick, five minute inventory of potentially incriminating items in my flat. Looking for the kind of stuff that could form the basis of a Wood Green style Terror plot.


I would definitely be onto a sticky wicket if the police ever came round. There are instruments of mass death lying all over the place.

Unfortunately I'€™m a gadget freak, though more so in the past than recently. And, on top of that, my flat contains a kitchen, bathroom and a small garden. All rich treasure troves of components for WMDs.

The situation is worsened by the fact that I'€™m also one of those people who likes to know things; movie trivia, David Blaine's secrets of magic, how to improvise poisons, explosives and incendiaries, that sort of stuff.

So, what did I come up with during my five-minute inventory?

  • Assorted GPS units, electrical components, batteries, multipurpose knives, alarm clocks and a first generation Russian army surplus night vision monocular (a lot less effective than you might think. If they had ever invaded Western Europe the first casualties would have been the trees)
  • Several mushrooming field guides, weed killer, fertiliser, a bottle of linseed oil, some rusty iron pipes, a litre of camping stove fuel, a magnesium fire-lighting flint, an aluminium ashtray. All sorts of solvents and glues. Plus, it'€™s a bit early yet, but foxgloves grow in my garden in the Summer.
  • A suspiciously large jar of Vaseline, an equally suspiciously large jar of potassium permanganate, copious mounds of cotton wool, tobacco. I've also just noticed that we have three unopened toothbrushes underneath the bathroom sink. Damn those Two for One offers.
  • A month old sack of potatoes, some almonds left over from Christmas, tinned salmon, various pieces of fruit, raw eggs, sugar, some frozen meat past its sell by date, kitchen knives, a mortar and pestle, a garlic press, a coffee grinder, two sets of scales.
  • Extensive video and photographic surveillance equipment plus videos and pictures taken in numerous high profile locations in Europe and the US. Maps and guides to many Western Capital cities, some of which have famous buildings such as the White House and numerous railway stations and hotels marked out in biro.
  • Internet access. Which means I probably am a paedophile or a terrorist or, worse still, the first of a new breed of Islamo-fundamentalist paedo-terrorists. The ultimate tabloid nightmare - Crazed with unnatural sexual impulses and a belief in the afterlife; a small boy under one arm, the Koran under the other and a tub of poisoned Nivea held somewhere else.

This isn'€™t a complete list. It doesn'€™t need to be. There'€™s already enough stuff here to send me to the chair ten times over. With the materials I've listed I could plan and execute a terrorist attack using botulism, anthrax, digitalis, nicotine, thermite or a variety of grades of explosives.

Shit. This is exactly the kind of trouble you can get yourself into from watching too many episodes of the A Team and McGuyver as a kid.

Personally, the most disturbing item in my flat is a half-used jar of Kashmiri Masala. Formulated for '€˜a richer more rewarding flavour'€™ the label tells me that I can keep it opened in the fridge for '€˜no longer than three months'€™. This means that particular spice paste has a level of potency somewhere between penicillin and plutonium. It'€™s less of a food item, more of a course of chemotherapy and I'™ve never administered more than a single teaspoonful in any seven-day period. I dread to think what a whole jar would do placed in London'€™s water supply. I reckon things would get, um, messy.

Just as well I'm not a Muslim then. Phew.

(Another reason why I'm happy to be of Catholic Italian extraction can be found here... )

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Terror on the Holloway Road pt5

Beware of the Knotweed
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

One of the most popular conspiracy theories on the Internet is the concept of mind control, particularly as practiced by the CIA. Conspiracy theorists have postulated all sorts of mind control technology including the use of drugs, hypnosis, Pavlovian conditioning, electronic implants, repetitive indoctrination, torture and subliminal stimuli.

Nah, far too elaborate and unreliable.

And, as it happens, completely unnecessary.

Effective and reliable mind control is much easier than that. All you have to do is restrict the supply of alternative explanations for things. If people are only equipped with one interpretation of something, your interpretation, they will think your way.

At first sight, this seems to be a fairly mundane insight. It probably is. All the best insights are and it is no less powerful for it.

Think about the Theory of Evolution. Before Darwin, Biblical style creation was the only widespread explanation for the origin of complex life forms. You might have had a problem with Creationism but there was absolutely no other credible way of thinking. Darwin didn'€™t contribute much new data to the world of science, what he did do was to present people with a new way of looking at data they already had. In a very real sense, evolutionary theory made atheism intellectually possible. As it happens, Darwinist Evolution now occupies exactly the same space that Creationism once did and suffers from exactly the same vices, but that'€™s another story.

Organised religion lost control of people'€™s minds purely because an alternative explanation for Life was allowed into the public domain. The obvious lesson being that if you really want to control how a large number of people think then stem the flow of alternative ideas and explanations. No alternatives equals no dissent. There are plenty of examples out there, from the Divine Right of Kings and birth of the French and Soviet revolutions through to the, erm, War on Terror.

Yes, back there again.

A colossal amount of effort has gone into ensuring that only one interpretation of the War on Terror is aired. The one about the ruthless, highly organised network of death-worshipping fundamentalists. Because of the effectiveness of this strategy, every single relevant event that takes place is explained, can only be explained, with reference to this explanatory framework. No matter how lame the supposed terrorist, no matter how thin the evidence, no matter the paucity of convictions when tested by a jury, Tony and George'€™s explanation of what is going on stands firm. It stands firm through the simple virtue of being the ONLY explanation on the table.

I'€™m not saying this is an easy task. It isn'€™t. Particularly when you have such flaky material to work with. Total dominance of the mainstream media helps (shame about the Internet though) plus there are all sorts of other little tricks you can play:

  • Dismiss those that disagree as lunatics (very popular in Stalin'€™s time that one)
  • Accuse dissenters of being disrespectful to the dead. The concept of sacred heroes helps a lot here. That'€™s why the poor policeman who got stabbed in Manchester in pursuit of hand cream and apple pips will very probably receive a medal for bravery and why the firemen who died on 9/11 are portrayed as being somehow more brave than firemen who died on any other day. As a general rule, when our leaders start talking about heroes you can be pretty sure that, somewhere along the way, there's a f*ck up underlying that talk
  • Keep the pot boiling. Maintain a steady level of background hysteria. Make sure that the notion of Terror is never too far away from the public'€™s mind. A lie repeated often enough starts to sound like the truth. Make sure a big story hits the papers every five or six weeks; dirty bombs in backpacks, plans to topple Big Ben, fruit flavoured cyanide on the Underground. It really doesn'€™t matter how silly the stories are. Momentum is the key objective

Above all, our leaders'™ greatest friend is the undoubted truth that something horrible might happen one of these days.

There'€™s always the risk of something isn't there? It could be Al Qaeda, if you believe in such fancies, a lone nutcase, or a national intelligence service

Intelligence services? Well, you'€™ve got to at least acknowledge the possibility of their involvement. After all, we've been told that Bourgass with his ricin toothbrushes and Reid with his non exploding baseball boots were highly trained Al Qaeda operatives. If that'€™s the case then there'€™s absolutely no way that the same Al Qaeda could be the outfit that executed 9/11 or the Madrid bombings. We'€™re talking Keystone Cops versus The Terminator here.

Anyway, you can never say never. One of these days someone or something is going to blow up and those with a vested interest to do so will say that they told us so all along.

The mature response is to weigh the reality of the threat against the severity of the methods advocated to tackle that threat. If you want to live in a free democracy the price of that freedom is eternal vigilance. The grim bottom line is that you might also have to take some casualties along the way. The Russians had terrorism pretty well controlled under their old regime but is that justification for a return to Stalinism and Stalinist security measures?

And then, finally, there's the question of why? If the War on Terror is being exaggerated or even orchestrated by our own leaders why would they do such a thing?

The answer to that one is a lot hazier. Some commentators have suggested that the War on Terror is merely a continuance of a long series of enemies fabricated by America'€™s rulers to support a system that suits them. Others have theorised that our leaders have turned to fear to control us because there have run out of dreams to sell us.

Personally, I suspect that something new is taking place. Outside of wartime, the level of mass manipulation and erosion of freedoms has never been so overt in America or the UK. We'€™re being prepared for something just that little bit special and that something requires a greatly strengthened military and gradual introduction of a full-on, 21st century police state, sometime around the end of this decade. If you twisted my arm I'd say it was something to with, surprise, surprise, competition for global resources and fear of the East; not the Middle East, the East.

Am I sounding a little bit paranoid here? We'€™ll see won't we, and quite soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A radical new look for my blog

Pretentiously Pensive
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

The voices are still compelling me to continue writing about spud guns and terrorism.

However, I have escaped their grip for a few short moments to change my Blogger profile photo. Reasons for doing this include

One: An attempt to convey a more weighty, intellectual look to this blog

Two: The old picture was six years old and a vague accusation that I was doing a Joan Collins was tossed my way a few days ago.

It's too late to apologise now. You know who you are. T*%#!!!

Terror on the Holloway Road pt4

Spud Guns
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

Back in my student days I often went about my daily business packing heat. This was necessary because I was at constant risk of deadly assault from my flat mates.

You see, they were packing heat too and they were more than prepared to use it.

The heat in question consisted of a small, die cast pneumatic spud gun. Sculpted along the lines of a classic Beretta automatic, you could jam it into a potato then squeeze off a pellet in the blink of an eye. To call it a mere gun would be unfair. It was a complete weapons system, capable of use as an impromptu water pistol with the optional nozzle attachment and also detonating small percussion caps.

You never knew when you would need to defend yourself. You could be strolling around campus or watching television in your flat when the gunmen came for you. Quiet Sunday afternoons would burst into explosive bouts of starch-based violence. Uttering curses from our favourite spaghetti westerns we would direct a hail of potato pellets at each other until we got bored or the supply of potatoes ran out. Both of which took a very long time indeed.

Happy days that are unlikely ever to be repeated in my own lifetime. Boo.

I only mention this because I think I might still have a couple of spud guns knocking around in the flat somewhere and probably should think about handing them over to the police next time we have one of our periodic local weapons amnesties. They are, after all, the most perfect terrorist assault weapons. In the wrong hands they would be lethal.

Using the sharpshooting skills I developed as a younger man, I could vector green potato based death with pinpoint accuracy onto anyone within a 15ft range. All they would have to do would be to open their mouth for a fraction of a second, that'€™s all I would need, and they'd be history. If they survived that onslaught I could fix the nozzle attachment, get in closer and finish them off with a few squirts of homebrewed cherry cyanide or, the ultimate horror, fill the chamber with lighter fluid and project a jet of flame five or six inches long, capable of singing the most resistant eyebrows.

Yes OK, as we like to say hereabouts, I am taking the f*cking piss.

But if I'€™m taking the piss what does that say about my government? Surely they'™re taking the piss as well? Only on a much larger scale and, as far as I can tell, not for clumsy comic effect either.

One of the many questions that should be asked in the wake of the Wood Green Ricin story, but hasn't, is

Why didn'€™t these guys get their hands on some proper weapons?

Hard drugs are available at record low prices in the UK, gun crime is on the rise and illegal human trafficking a big business. To describe our borders as porous is an insult to porosity. If, as we are being repeatedly told, there are several hundred trained Islamic terrorists plotting death and destruction in the UK why don't they get their hands of some 'real gear'€™; some AK-47s, a couple RPGs or a few kilos of Czech made plastique? Why do they choose instead to tit around with fruit pips and fermented curries? Why do they appear to be so lame, disorganised and, frankly, not much of a threat at all?

Could it be that they are lame, disorganised and not much of a threat at all?

Let'€™s face it. If you start rounding up a few thousand people inhabiting subcultures on the margins of society you are going to come up with one or two lunatic losers. Actually, I'€™m surprised that we'€™ve found as few as we have. I suspect that if the police had spent the last few years picking on other fringe groups; right wing nationalists, young farmers, Lambeth based bloggers, they would have come up with a much more impressive haul of potentially lethal materials. This is a perfectly predictable result and in no way supports the notion of an organised terror network. Remember, it is the concept of a well-resourced, well-trained network of stone cold killers, which supposedly makes the current terror threat so uniquely deadly.

I'€™m not being entirely accurate here. The other factor that makes the current threat so uniquely deadly is the thought that these terrorists are arming themselves with invisible weapons of mass death rather than boring old guns and bombs. We know what guns and bombs are all about. A few people might get killed by someone so equipped but life carries on as normal immediately afterwards. The general public is familiar with conventional weaponry. The general public wont be scared enough of conventional weaponry to sit by and watch their country gradually turned into a police state.

No, if you really want to scare the crap out of people you really do have to come up with something a little bit special; a nameless, invisible killer. A killer you canno€™t see or sense until it i€™s too late. A killer with the potential to slaughter thousands. You also have to put that killer in the hands of people clever enough and ruthless enough to use it effectively and without pity.

Well, that'€™s the story we're being told isn't it?

And that'€™s how the head of the Metropolitan police can come out with tosh like this without anyone slapping him

"I know my professional intelligence assessments and I know that we are facing a threat more significant than anything we have faced since the Cold War and the Nazi tyranny before it."

In another place, another time, people would laugh in this man'€™s face for saying such things. At the very least they would demand some real proof. Proof that we should believe we are confronted with a threat comparable with five million Nazi soldiers or 10,000 Russian nuclear weapons. Proof that we should allow the Rule of Law to be overturned or that we should hand over dictatorial powers to our politicians and police chiefs. What we get is cherry stones and fairy stories.

So, who'€™s really taking the piss then?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Terror on the Holloway Road pt3

Fun with Photoshop pt23
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

The Holloway Road is not a very nice place.

True connoisseurs of London squalor will undoubtedly agree. It'€™s the kind of place where staff in fast food restaurants get knifed to death during disputes over money-off vouchers for pizzas.

As such, the Holloway Road really isn't up there with the Twin Towers or the Pentagon in the list of locations most likely to be targeted by a ruthless international terror network.

Nobody would notice.

Besides, you would run more than a slight risk of slaughtering more of the Brethren than the Infidel.

So, the news that the Wood Green Ricin Terrorists were planning to bring the fiery Scimitar of Allah to bear on London N7 comes as quite a surprise. In less serious circumstances it would be comical.

No, actually it is comical.

Apparently, the conspirators schemed to bring Christian Capitalism to its knees by smearing ricin on car door handles along the Holloway Road. Actually, the jury at the recent trial decided that there wasn't actually any conspiracy at all and only convicted one man, Kamel Bourgass.

In addition to the fiendish car door handle attack, history's first one man conspiracy also planned to:

  • Infect tooth brushes with ricin, reseal them in their packaging and plant them in chemists
  • Spray people on the Underground with water pistols filled with cyanide made from cherry pips
  • Smear pedestrians with Nivea face cream mixed with nicotine

The handful of shattered, surviving Londoners were then to be finished off with fragmentation bombs made from green potatoes.

For f*cks sake.

Potato bombs. I ask you ...

This whole story is so desperately pathetic I really don'€™t know where to start. I could start with a list of the terrorist materials recovered by the police from the flat in Wood Green. Wood Green, sounds quaint doesn't it? For those not familiar with Wood Green, it too is a pit of place and hasn'€™t seen any wood or green for a long time now. Anyway, highlights from the police'€™s impressive haul include:

  • Three toothbrushes
  • Potatoes
  • Some ciggies
  • Rotten meat
  • Curry Powder
  • Nivea face cream
  • Cherry stones and apple pips
  • Fruit
  • A funnel
  • A mortar and pestle
  • Other, sundry, kitchen utensils
  • A coffee pot containing traces of a suspicious brown powder (later found to be coffee)

In fairness, the police did also find some castor beans, acetone and a recipe for making ricin from said acetone and castor beans.

No one is denying Bourgass didn't toy with the idea of producing something nasty.

But there is a world of difference between a disaffected lunatic, piss-balling around with some useless recipes downloaded off the Internet and a conspiracy of ruthless and highly trained global terrorists.

Ricin is an assassin's poison, not a terrorist's. For ricin to work effectively you have to inject it into your victim. Getting them to eat it is a poor second and smearing it on door handles is just plain daft. Besides, Bourgass hadn't managed to make any ricin. Our government said he did but none was found. The bloke was an idiot and was working to a dodgy recipe provided by the legendary Kurt Saxon; a US based free thinker and all round loon himself (Believe me, I tried some of his recipes years ago, strictly for 'fun and information purposes only'. They don't work. I even half suspect that Kurt isn't a real person at all and is really the front for a cunning FBI operation designed to have lunatics and potential terrorists remove themselves from the gene pool by following 'Kurt's' dodgy instructions but, at this point, I digress).

There's a delightful inversion at work here. When a bona fide lone nutcase is actually caught by the authorities he's identified as being part of a shadowy conspiracy. Yet, when people suspect shadowy conspiracies behind murders, the authorities tell them that they are the work of lone nutcases.

Life is, as they say, complicated.

Conspiracy or not, we've got criminal gangs from just about every corner of the Earth blasting away at each other with Desert Eagles and Tec-9s all over London, yet the government and police are obsessing about a nutcase, or nutcases, armed with Supersquirters and carrier bags full of rotting fruit.

Why would they do that?

Let me explain ... in a bit

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Terror on the Holloway Road pt2

Nuisance Wins
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

Complete this sequence

1, ?, ?, ?, ?

Too tricky? How about ...

1, 2, ?, ?, ?

I am practically giving this away now ...

1, 2, 3, ?, ?

Hold your horses there before you get too confident ...

1, 2, 3, 5, ?

Now, I could finish the sequence with an 8 (3+5), or a 13 (5x3-2) ...

Or the letter X. Or a picture of a fish.

After all, who is the say that this series isnt bound by a rule that states 'Make every fifth item in the sequence a fish icon'?

It is my sequence and I make the rules. In fact, I could continue the sequence with whatever the f*ck I like.

Admittedly, this is all very obvious but, apparently, not that obvious. How else can I account for the credulous widespread acceptance of so many of the fears rammed down our throats every day; from science (no, I'€™m not going there today) through to politics (yes, I am going there today)?

The true test of any explanation is not how well it accounts for events that have already happened. That's easy. No, an explanation or theory only has real power and utility if it can predict events that will happen or direct us to ways of discovering what is, as yet, unknown. This is one of the many reasons why I believe current evolutionary theory to be junk but, as stated earlier, I'€™m not going there today. Today, my mind is preoccupied with much more immediate matters

Yes, The War on Terror. I'm mad for it I am.

Let's put aside the fact that there is a potentially infinite number of explanations for global events since the War on Terror started. Let's just go with the much abused concept of Occam's razor - that all other things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation. Let's just work with the idea that there are essentially two broad, simple explanations for the War on Terror

Explanation 1. We are all at threat from sophisticated global networks of death-worshipping fundamentalist terrorists who want to kill us all because they hate our freedoms


Explanation 2. The War on Terror is bollocks

Actually, very few things in the Affairs of Men are entirely black and white, that'€™s part of the problem. So, because I try to be a reasonable man, I will adjust the second statement slightly

Explanation 2 v2. The War on Terror is (mostly) bollocks. (Some people DO hate our GOVERNMENTS and CORPORATIONS, often with good reason. They're generally not very well organised or resourced. Those few that are well organised and resourced owe much of that to past or present support from our governments and corporations. The threat they pose to us has been greatly exaggerated and their motivations deliberately obscured. The reason for all of this is to further the ends of our ruling class.)

Being a committed advocate of this second explanation of the War on Terror, I appreciate that I have conceded some ground here without a fight, by acknowledging that there are some crazies out there, but reason dictates this.

Anyway, we have two explanations, two models of what is going on in the World. And, like a true objective thinker and Renaissance Man, I'€™ve been comparing the likely outcomes of both models with domestic and global events over the last few years as they happen, to see which one stacks up best.

No surprises as to which explanation is doing best are there?

Take the Holloway Road for example ...

Terror on the Holloway Road pt 1

Sleep Now
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

I have been trying, quite consciously, to empty my head of political thoughts this week.

It has not been easy.

The election campaign is in full swing and the media is full of it. And then there was that story about the Wood Green Terrorists. That got a lot of play.

The Wood Green story has been niggling me in particular. For a couple of reasons. The first reason, obviously enough, is because it is all bollocks. More of that later. The second reason was a tad more subtle and it has taken me a couple for days to put my finger on why the story bothered me so.

My irritation was caused by the Conservative claim that the policeman killed by Kamel Bourgass 'would not have been killed if Bourgass had been deported when his asylum claim had been rejected'. The government was clearly sensitive to this statement, as several ministers have endorsed a public apology that acknowledged some responsibility for the policeman's death.

Now, I am no fan of the government's handling of asylum and immigration, but this particular charge doesn't feel like it rings true. That is because it doesn'™t. It's a hindsight thing.

In the aftermath of any accident or tragedy there is a perfectly human desire to undertake a mental post-mortem of the events leading up to that accident or tragedy. 'If only we had decided to walk to the Pizza Hut rather than take the car', 'They only decided to fly that day at the last minute, woe! Woe!' etc. etc. The flaw with most of these post-mortems is that, usually, they have no direct bearing on the cause of the accident or tragedy and therefore quite irrelevant. Whilst understandable on a personal level, this kind of exercise is ultimately pointless and really should not be undertaken by people seeking to govern our country.

Tragedy post-mortems that conclude with lines like 'It really wasn't a good idea trying to operate heavy machinery whilst pissed' fall into a more causal category of observations and, yes, are productive. But, we havent been given any reason to believe that Bourgass had his asylum application turned down because he was a suspected murderer. So, his asylum status is totally irrelevant isnt it? The Conservatives could just as easily have said the policeman killed by Kamel Bourgass would not have been killed if Bourgass, or the policeman, had never been born at all. Also '€˜true'€™ statements and also just as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Being ticked-off as I am with the Conservatives' abuse of logic does not mean that I'm impressed with the rhetoric coming from the government or the police either. They have stuck with the line 'Only one person is responsible for the murder and that is the murderer Kamel Bourgass' throughout. Also 'true' but also deceitful, and comparable with blaming all air crashes on gravity or the lions for eating the Christians.

Hindsight powered comments such as 'Maybe Bourgass should have been handcuffed when he was arrested, rather than sat down next to a kitchen knife for half an hour' or 'How come police in Manchester on anti-terrorism raids don't wear knife proof vests, yet police in London wear them even when they go out to buy their lunchtime sandwiches?' would be productive but, curiously, haven't had much of an airing in the media.

And that'€™s what really pisses me off about the mental exercise Ive just been through. I thought about this story because I am a little bit more concerned than most other people, am a little bit more thoughful than some people and have a little bit more time on my hands than most people. So, who can those thought and time-deficient people rely on to spot and punish the legions of bullshitters out there? The newspapers? The television?

What an awfully droll idea.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Originally uploaded by StefZ.

PhotoFriday Submission

The Name Game

Originally uploaded by StefZ.

Thank you Noel for sending me this link which plots a graph of the historical popularity of babies' names since 1900:

I think it needs Java to run. I also think it is based on American data, and Anglo Saxon American data at that; given that names like Jesus and Osama don't appear to figure in the results at all.

In addition to being a welcome distraction from the political mania that has overtaken me and my blog (well, it's better than shouting at people on the bus) I have also learned a few things ...

  • Nobody has been christened Mavis since 1960
  • Doreen production ceased in 1980
  • A disturbingly high number of boy childes have been christened Tracy over the last 50 years
  • If you meet someone called Dickie he is at least 45 years old
  • There are no real Jezebels out there (boo!)
By the way Noel, what are you doing surfing baby names pages? Do you have some news you'd like to share? If so, and it's a boy, my vote goes to Cleetus every time.

The F Word pt1

Originally uploaded by StefZ.

It has been a thin week photographically. There wasn't much interesting happening in town last weekend and I have barely left the flat since then. Glancing at my diary of all things London, I have just noticed that the London Marathon is being run this weekend ...

Like, wow. Fantastic.

Yes, I know it is a great day out and a celebration of all things healthy but, photographically, it has become a tiresome cliche. You know exactly what sights you are going to see before you even leave your front door. I suppose I could attend and take pictures of men running in old- fashioned diving suits or on stilts and then, in the Summer, I could go to the Notting Hill Carnival and photograph a policeman dancing with a jovial, fat Jamaican woman ...

But I wont.

Apart from the numbers attending, the Marathon looks tediously similar to the protest marches that criss-cross this city; right down to the novelty costumes. The only real difference is that, during the Marathon, the people at the front are usually moving faster than the people at the back. The protest marches habitually clatter to a clumsy halt every time someone in the vanguard stops to tie up their shoelaces; leading to all sorts of comedy consequences as people continue to come piling in from the rear.

Did I say there was nothing happening in town last week? Strictly speaking, that is not entirely true. There were no less than three marches scheduled last Saturday; an anti-racism demo, a protest against the abolition of the Scots Regiments and a couple of thousand irate commuters protesting about something or other. Commuting probably. I wonder how they got into town?

I had a chat with Ian about maybe attending one or more of these demos on Saturday morning and we eventually agreed that we couldn't be bothered. They are just such dull events these days. Looking at some pictures I took a couple of marches ago, it was all I could do to resist the temptation to Photoshop some blood, machetes and terrified children into the images just to perk them up a bit.

Besides, as well as being dull and predictable, it is not as if all these marches ever change anything is it? As I like to say, If marches made any difference, Tony Blair would ban them and cite national security reasons for doing so.

Well, somebody in the British Anti War Protest group on Flickr pulled me up on this a few days ago. Obviously marches do make a difference, Tony Blair IS trying to ban them for national security reasons.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with:

which received Royal Assent on Monday. Juicy and pertinent highlights include ...

  • It is an offence to organise or take part in a demonstration without authorisation in or around Parliament Square, even if you are on your own.
  • The Designated Area is one kilometre around Parliament: it includes Downing St and Trafalgar Square. Airports, government buildings etc. could also be Designated.
  • Authorisation must be got from the Commissioner of Police at least six days beforehand. He can impose conditions (and change them at will) on a demonstration, dictating place, start and end times, number of people, number and size of banners, and noise levels.
  • Loudspeakers are forbidden under pain of a £5000 fine.
  • A '€œdisruption to the life of the community' or '€œa security risk'€ can be an reason to impose conditions.
  • People are prohibited from 'œpursuing a course of conduct which involves harassment of two or more persons', in order to persuade them '€œnot to do something that they are entitled or required to do'. Giving out leaflets could be considered harassment.

Apparently, this new legislation represents a particularly ham-fisted attempt to kick Brian Haw out of Parliament Square. He has been sitting there, in his eyesore of a shanty town come anti war installation, for almost three years now and Blair wants rid. Personally, I think Brian improves the quality of the neighbourhood significantly.

What makes this new legislation particularly flavoursome is the thought of all those times in recent years that Tony and George have uttered lines like "When I pass protestors every day at Downing Street . . . I may not like what they call me, but I thank God they can. That's called freedom."

So Tony, if you're secretly reading this blog, when you don'€™t pass protestors every day outside Downing Street because you've criminalised them what'€™s that called? What F word would you use to describe that kind of behaviour?

Maybe I should attend some more marches and demonstrations while I can. It'll be something to tell the grandchildren about.

Ian, what are you up to Saturday?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Rent a German

Three Towers
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

OK, enough of the political stuff already

Hands up anyone who's tried this service ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Decisions Decisions pt2

Tired Now
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

I'll warn you now. My fingertips tell me this is going to be one long Bad Mother of a post ...

Until recent times, specifically September 2001, I was not a very politically motivated soul. I grew up surrounded by self-employed immigrants who never bothered to vote. Their basic view was:

  • Vote for the Conservatives and companies take all your money
  • Vote for Labour and the government takes all your money
  • The Liberals are a joke

All politicians were basically the same. One lot was trying to push you down, one lot was trying to drag you down. So why encourage them by voting?

When I got a little older I saw the choice in slightly different terms

  • Vote for the Conservatives and use the money you save to put bars on your windows
  • Vote for Labour and they will spend your money in such a way that you won't have to put bars on your windows
  • The Liberals are a joke

The Labour choice seemed more ethical whilst offering a broadly similar end result.

Now that I am much older and a little wiser I have to admit that, yes, my father's generation did have a point. They are all the bloody same. Having said that, if any of my father's peers did ever bother to vote it was invariably for the Conservatives. So, clearly, politicians were not exactly the same in their eyes.

That's the funny thing about immigrants and the Conservative Party. The Tories expend an awful lot of rhetoric discussing the 'Immigrant Problem' yet, once they stop worrying about being kicked out of the country, a large proportion of immigrants actually represent a natural Tory constituency. Many work hard at their own businesses, most rely on a support network of family and friends rather than social services and a large number have little sympathy with 'The Poor' because, as immigrants, they often started with nothing at all themselves and still managed to make a living.

Yet, even though every migrant benefit scrounger is outnumbered by God knows how many inherently conservative, self-employed immigrants, the Conservative Party perversely seeks to gain electoral advantage through demonising them.

Smart strategic thinking from Tory Central Office there.

A few months ago my brother suggested to me that the economic prospects for the Britain over the next five years were so poor that the lameness of the Conservative opposition was actually deliberate. They took a look at the accounts for UK plc and said 'No thanks, we'll pass on this one'€™. If so, that would be quite sensible and forward thinking. There is a lot of grief in store.

But, no, I've been watching the Conservative election campaign and I actually believe that they really are playing to win. They are not playing very well though. Their campaign is wretched, simplistic, ignorant and crap; largely because they are wretched, simplistic, ignorant and crap. No strategy of subtle and masterful political genius is at work here.

And that is the problem. No matter how awful the sins of Tony Blair, and awful they are, many people could never bring themselves to support the Conservative Party. There wouldnt be enough soap in the World to get their hands clean after returning from the polling station. Labour will win again through the simple virtue of being less loathsome in many peoples eyes than the Conservatives.

This is entirely understandable. All the real bastards I have met in life are Tories. And, having worked in the City, I have met more than a few.

That is not to say every Tory is a bastard, far from it. It'™s a Venn Diagram thing. Some Conservatives voters have simply been duped and others support the Conservatives for exactly the same reason some people support the Labour Party. They detest the opposition.

Admittedly, I have met some bastards who actually support the Labour Party but theyre kidding no one. They should be voting Conservative. I can't help it if they're not being true to themselves.

Yes, the Conservatives. Where is the sense is constantly harping on about benefit cheats and asylum seekers when the Conservatives represent the kind of people who steal billions a year from all of us? In banking, in law, in business. How perverse is it for a shop-keeper who works seven days a week to support the politics of undeserved privilege and unearned wealth?

No, it doesn't make any sense at all.

Our political system makes even less sense now that the Labour Party bends over to Business as much as the Tories ever did, in some cases even more so. The voting equation my parents' generation knew has now been reduced to:

  • Vote for the Conservatives or Labour and companies take all your money. It really doesn't matter what you do, you muppet
  • The Liberals are a joke. We know this because the Tories and Labour tell us so.

Yes, Labour has been wonderful for big business and the wealthy. The rich are richer whilst the some of the poor are kept happy with a redistribution of money taken from the slightly less poor. Both groups are also opiated through access to unprecedented levels of personal debt that, in addition to securing a lifetime of servitude, also keeps the banks and retailers of mass-produced crap happy.

This is entirely reminiscent of the plantation days in the Deep South, where the poor Blacks and the slightly less poor Whites were set against each other, even though they shared common cause, whilst the Big Bosses sat on their verandas, drinking mint juleps and tracking their cotton futures. A little bit of divide and rule, a little bit of misdirection, a few sacks of millet and the occasional Christmas party and it is easy enough to keep people in line, particularly if you make sure their education is lousy.

Labour is on top at the moment. They have created the illusion of a strong economy, enough people think they'€™re doing well out of the government and everybody hates the Conservatives.

But there is that whole illegal war, erosion of civil liberties, lying thing isnt there? Scanning around the web, it seems clear to me that a large number of people, like me, consider that issue to be the most important in this election. We can't endorse what is going on by voting for Labour and we sure as hell aren't voting for a bunch of bastards like the Conservatives. So, who do we vote for?

Our problem is that we do not have a proportional voting system in this country. A vote for anyone but the winner in your constituency is a vote down the toilet. This is wrong. Once upon a time, I saw the merit in our winner takes all system but now that the two major political parties are each, in their own way, as repugnant as the other our voting system needs changing. We really do need smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to have more of a say and influence on how things are done. Given enough time, they too will undoubtedly become as corrupted by vested interests as Labour or the Conservatives but they would mix things up a little over the interim.

Me, I will be voting for the Liberals. To be honest it'€™s a 50:50 call with the Greens. They have very similar policies on the key issues. Issues on which Labour and Tories are largely in total agreement and offer us no real electoral choice. Only the Liberals and Greens are saying:

  • That War was wrong. Never again.
  • ID cards are wrong. Erosion of civil liberties is wrong.
  • The War on Terror has been overplayed and, reduce a whisper, possibly even bogus
  • Higher rates of tax for high earners instead of indirect taxation that punishes low earners.
  • Abolish tuition fees for higher education.
  • and so on ...

and I will have to live with Liberal support for the Euro, ugh nasty. The Greens are nearer the mark on that one. I am only choosing the Liberals because if they can pick up a third of the national vote yet receive only 10% of the MPs it will be an irrefutable demonstration of the fundamental crookedness of our current voting system.

It is quite a sad statement about the political landscape of this country that the Liberal / Green policy agendas can now be labelled 'left wing' by the media. It really is about time we stopped being fobbed off with redundant left wing right v. wing arguments. The real issues facing us are about decency and fairness and doing what we can to prevent us all becoming slaves of The Machine for as long as we can. These days, traditional political allegiances offer less and less guidance on key issues such a globalisation, the environment, the rights of the individual, or provision of decent healthcare and education. It really isn't about Left and Right, it's about Them and Us. The only thing that scares Them, that has ever really scared Them, is that enough of Us will realise this.

Anyway, f*ck Tony Blair, f*ck the Labour party and f*ck the Conservative party. F*ck all of them. It is almost worth becoming an orthodox Christian just so that you could believe in Hell and be comforted by the thought that they will burn there.

If you'€™ve read this far, and I'd be the first to admit this was a long read, I heartily recommend now perusing the fragrant Backingblair web site, if you haven'€™t done so already. They endorse extreme anti Blair tactical voting and also '€˜supporting'€™ Tony in as vocal a way a possible. Kind of like laughing even louder than Billy Connolly does at his own jokes or calling out hear! hear! after every sentence uttered by someone you disagree with vehemently. Personally, I think this is far too subtle for your average swing voter and could backfire horribly. However, the site does feature a few amusing shockwave flash animations, armed with considerably less oblique payloads. I particularly enjoy 'Debate' based as it is on Uncle Fukka by the Southpark Team. I enjoy it because it i€™s a pertinent satire of the current quality of political debate in this country and also because it features extensive use of the F Word and Charles Kennedy being rogered in a bent over position.

Back to shorter less political posts for a while now hopefully

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Decisions Decisions pt1

Local Resident
Originally uploaded by StefZ.

So, there I was shopping for bread and roll ups in my local convenience store on the Brixton Road. I was still shuddering with revulsion at the Conservative Party election broadcast that I had just seen. I walked into the shop entrance and a lively political debate was underway. The shop is run by a pair of young, 2nd generation Indian brothers, ably supported by various uncles and cousins on security detail. One of the brothers was chatting with the bread delivery man, a grizzled sixty year old Jamaican.

Jamaican: ' ... they'€™ve always been the same I tell you. The taxes have gone up. I can't park anywhere. The schools are terrible. The hospitals are filthy. I tell you. I've been here forty years and they'€™ve always been the same'€™
Shopkeeper: '€˜Yeah man, but all politicians are the same aren'™t they'
Jamaican: '€˜When I first arrived in this country forty year ago I was living in this Rackman place. It was a hole. He was terrible man. Who looked after him? The Labour Party'
Me: '€˜Excuse me, but what are you saying. Are you saying we should vote for the Tories? Can you imagine that? (looking at the Jamaican) Who are you going to vote for? (looking at the shopkeeper) Who are you going to vote for?
Shopkeeper (giggling): 'The National Front'
Jamaican: 'I'™m telling you. If they (Labour) get in again the next four years are going to be bad. Really, really bad. Have you seen how many Turks there are around now?'
Me: '€˜I'€™ve seen all sorts of new faces round lately. What are you saying?'
Jamaican (looking at shopkeeper): 'You say your business is doing bad. It'€™s those Turkish and all their friends. They'€™ll put you out of a living'
Shopkeeper: '€˜But that'€™s business man. That'™s nothing to do with the government ...'™

At this point, a clutch of customers started coming into the shop. A couple of them didn'€™t seem to like what was being said. I said good night and edged out.

Why have I gone to the effort of recording this little snippet? Am I trying to show how cool and racially integrated my lifestyle is? No. Am I raising the point that some Black people have concerns over race and migration just the same as some White people? No. The point is that a lot of people are very confused about who to vote for in the coming election. Very confused indeed.

Since I first became eligible to vote, the sitting MP where I grew up was Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat. He i€™s a decent man. Deciding who to vote for was never much of an issue. I was more than happy to support him. I still would. However, I moved out of his constituency a few years ago and am now faced with a sitting Labour MP. She too appears to be a decent person and has taken principled stands against her own government, Tony Blair'€™s government.

But under no circumstances would I vote for her or anyone else in her party.

I'€™m not going to recount the sins of Tony Blair and his government over the last eight years. Lots of other people have done that. The scary thing is just how long a list it is and just how much deceit and corruption has been forgotten. However, deceit and corruption is to be expected form all politicians. It'€™s the nature of the beast. Admittedly, the current government has plumbed new depths that would even make a hardcore Conservative blush but that'€™s not important right now. It'™s the war, stupid.

Actually, it'€™s not just the war, it'€™s the fascism as well. Civil liberties, both major and minor, are being eroded in this country at a rate that leaves me stunned whenever I think about it, which is often. I'€™ve not seen the like of it in my lifetime. I'€™ve only read about this sort of thing in history books. Mostly history books dealing with Europe in the 1930s.

Not voting for the current government is a no brainer. Without civil liberties, without the right of protest and free expression, any other social advances are illusory. On top of that, a government capable of taking it€™s country to war on the basis of blatant lies is capable of anything. Those hundreds of Labour MPs who, against their conscience and natural instincts, have supported this wickedness are beneath contempt. They must be chucked out now, as a lesson to themselves and also to the others. As with George Bush, a re-elected Tony Blair will gleefully exclaim that the British public have endorsed the things he has done. Other politicians will learn that lies and fear and fascism certainly do pay off.

I mentioned Johann Hari's site a few days ago. I was originally put onto that site by someone referencing me to an article about the debate over whether to re-elect Blair or not. Some of the readers comments at the end of the article were interesting. It was worth the visit. The actual piece itself was of more dubious merit. The gist of it was that even if you have a problem over the war and civil liberties issues you should still vote Labour. Otherwise you'€™d be punishing the socially disadvantaged more than Tony Blair. Tax credits for low income families were mentioned as an example of the kind of good work Blair'€™s government is doing. Those would be the tax credits that subsidise organisations that don'™t pay their employees a living wage. Way to go Johann ...


Using that kind of razor sharp logic it would have been perfectly OK to vote for Adolph Hitler, on the basis that he brought full employment and restored national pride to Germany.

On a similar track, a commentator on another blog said we should vote for Blair'™s government because they had lifted over a million children out of poverty. Good God, is there really one person left in this country who still believes Labour Government statistics? Nah, can'€™t be, she must have been working for them.

OK the Labour Party is currently a tool of Evil and needs purged of that Evil before its MPs can look at any of us in the face again. Now we get to the problem that troubles so many people of conscience. Who should they all vote for?