Sunday, February 29, 2004

If I Don't Admit it, it Ain't Happening

Matthew Parris, always worth a read.

Where but in Britain does there exist this remarkable capacity to be shocked by what we already know? Rather like those wives who are pretty damned sure their husbands are having an affair, but would prefer not to hear the fact stated, it seems that what affronts us is not the truth, of which we were more or less aware, but a change in the status of the truth.

A mate of mine told me a strange tale that illustrates this curious phenomenon.

A couple of weeks before my mate's stepson's sixteenth birthday, the lad's girlfriend had booked for the two of them to go to London for the weekend as his Christmas present. They'd been going out for 18 months or so, and had started a sexual relationship after about 6 months. My mate and his wife had not been too happy about this at the time, but had talked it through and were somewhat surprised and mollified at the young couple's responsibility. They are both bright, ambitious kids, the last thing they want is a baby and they know all about STDs and the rest.

The boy's biological father, who is also involved in his life, was informed at the time and didn't speak to his son about it at all.

When the idea of a weekend in London was tossed around, the stepdad and mother's worries were all to do with the practicalities of two youngsters being away for the weekend in the smoke - but they reasoned it was all part of growing up and hey, in a couple of weeks the boy was going to be 16 and the girl already was. If they were nearly old enough to get married, earn a living etc, they were surely old enough to spend a weekend away together.

But then the biological father threw in a googly. He objected on the grounds that his son was under the age of sexual consent. But you've known about his sexual relationship for months, was the not unreasonable reply. Surely the time to object was when it first came to light? And okay, then, how about they change the booking for after the boy's 16th birthday? Actually, came the reply, I'd still veto it. Why? Well, I don't approve of this sexual relationship, I don't think my son is sufficiently mature enough to handle it and by giving my consent to him going away for the weekend would mean I condone the relationship. But you've tacitly condoned it for months. You've left any practical difficulties to the mother and stepdad. Now you're wading in at this stage, it doesn't make sense. I'm sorry, that's just the way it is. And that's how it stayed.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

If, dear reader, you are familiar with the work of Tom Sharpe, you will no doubt be aware of the illness besetting the ladies of Piemburg Mental Hospital, namely Black Cock Fever - an obsessive, fearful fascination of that which no decent white South African (this is apartheid South Africa, of course) should ever contemplate. "They wrap them round their thighs, you know," they whisper in awed tones. "They tie rocks to them until they reach their ankles."

The more astute of you will know where I am going with this - someone we all know and love maybe suffering from a related illness. For the rest of you, I will just mention the phrase Father to a pebble and leave it at that.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ralph for President

I have sometimes wondered if certain high profile lefties are really moles in deep cover or just plain bonkers.

Tony Benn for one. For many years now he has tottered on the line between credible, if fanciful leftism and outright barmpotism that makes the right's job just too easy for it to be a coincidence. I mean, that interview with Saddam Hussein. Why, Tony, why?

But then he'll be on the radio again talking with a reasonable approximation of sensibleness and one's inclined to think, Yeah, I can see why he's respected across the political divide. The other day, however, on the Today programme, he was neither sensible, endearingly bonkers, or even working as a right wing fifth columnist. Sad to say he just sounded like a confused old git.

It was a piece on a new book of essays looking at the Labour governments of Wilson and Callaghan. The editor of the book was saying how no one, left or right, had a good word to say about those times, mainly because of their own political axe grinding, and Tony just waded in, arguing and getting irate about stuff that hadn't even been said. The whole discussion ended up as a farce. Shame. Time to hang up microphone, Tone.

Another Rightie fifth columnist has got to be Ralph Nader. He's going to stand for president again. As if winning it for Bush last time wasn't good enough.

Still, the world would be a duller place without the barmpot left and, if I can take issue with what I've just said without straying into the barmpot area myself, Nader may as well go for it. What the hell, has recent history shown any evidence that the Democats are any less vile than Republicans?

Nader for president and pass the straightjacket.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The reality of life in liberated Iraq.
So Ken is not a leftist icon after all.

I kind of agree with Cohen about the congestion charge. It does mean that those forced off the road are the poorest, leaving the roads free for the rich gas guzzlers. If the object was to get traffic off the roads, Livingstone could have followed the Italians. In Florence, if memory serves, they have a system based on car reg numbers, with odd days and even days. The problem with that, of course, is that it doesn't generate revenue, which a cynic might say is the primary purpose of Ken's exercise.

Ken's cosying to big business, talking radical and acting conservative, is what we have come to expect these days. Business rules the world, and the only definition of political success is how well it can live your policies. We are witnessing the slow death of the mainstream left. We can only wait and see what takes it's place.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Fat Bastards Get £71 million per week from the taxpayer, not.

You've got to laugh.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Tories aim tax cuts at poor:

Lord Saatchi spinning like dervish:

"Against this background, he felt confident enough to talk up his passionate belief in the unfairness of taxing the less well-off. Stressing that he was expressing his own views, Lord Saatchi said that the 'chronic injustice' has been caused by the failure of successive chancellors to raise the tax threshold in line with average earnings, a move which would take hundreds of thousands of people out of the tax bracket by raising the threshold to £10,000.

'It is a situation this government probably quite likes. It means that people pay tax first. Then, when they are sufficiently poor, they are means-tested, found to be poor and then they can go cap in hands with a form to the government asking for benefit.'"

Well, I don't know if he's run this one by the front bench, 'cos by my reckoning this would put 1 grand into the pocket of everyone earning over £10K. Multiply that by the 20 million workforce and you get £200 billion. So, this "chronic unfairness" would be best solved by spending 200 billion quid to give those earning 10 grand or less 20 quid a week extra, along with everyone else.

Now, if you targeted that money only at those who are earning less than £10K (around 17% of the workforce according to government stats) they would get about £110 quid a week extra (I think - maths was never my strong suit). The point is, here's a tory trying to dress up general tax cuts as a gift to the poor. As if they give a shit.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The Kid is going off on one again. He is fast becoming a national treasure, he really is.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

So You Want to know About Blogs, Then? II

Part the second of my handy guide to the morass of wordage that is the political bloggieverse.

Tom Watson
The first blogging MP is the Labour member for West Bromwich East. Famous the world over for his biting wit and trenchant comments sailing so close to the wind he risks expulsion from New Labour every time he posts. His razor sharp mind has served him well in blogging jousts with such alumni as Richard Dawkins and... Cut the crap, he will never blogroll you. (ed). All right, then, I lie.
Likely to say: The teens! page is satire, 'kay?
Unlikely to say: I think Tony may be mistaken on this.
Visit: Occasionally.

Oliver Kamm
Unaccountably revered blog of the weighty kind. Rarely posts less than a thousand words and it can seem much, much more. Obsessed with the minutiae of Lib Dem economic and other policies, rivetting is not the word. Really, it's not the word, soporific is. Makes the guys over at Samizdata seem positively jaunty. His one saving grace is that he is very easy to provoke into blog wars. Deletes comments with abandon and is in turn deleted by others.
Likely to say: That was, in the technical sense (hence my reference to the petitio principii fallacy) question-begging.
Unlikely to say: One word when four will do.
Visit: At 3 am when the brandy won't lay you out.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

So You Want to know About Blogs, Then?

The Guardian's political weblog competition is likely to stimulate lots of new interest in the medium. I mean, literally scores of people nominated their favourite blog, so who knows where the explosion will end?

Anyway, as a service to those dozens of newbies out there, mixed up, puzzled and confused with the plethora of opinion in bloggo bloggo land, the Middleaged Curmudgeon has put together a handy guide to political weblogs, so you know who to read and when.

Starting with some of the nominees from the Guardian comp and in no particular order, here's the first installmant.

More medium than message here. Politics as marketing for the 21st century. If your daily vocabulary includes "meme" and "viral" then you will be well at home here.
Likely to say: At four minutes past three, turn to the person next to you and blow them a kiss, then bare your arse to George Bush.
Unlikely to say: Who gives a shit if Tony Blair has an email address?
Visit: Rarely.

Harry's Place
Leftie group blog peopled with liberal hawks, including the Indie wunderkind Johann Hari. Lively comments except when that dunderhead Durkin posts. Laboured for a time, a la Hitchens, C, under the charming delusion that Bush's War heralded a new golden age of enlightened self interest. There are signs that they are coming down to earth a little now. As is mandatory for the Left, the bitterest bile is reserved for those on the same side of the political divide.
Likely to say: Chris B, why don't you get a blog?
Unlikely to say:Pilger, as ever, got it right when he said.....
Visit: Daily.

Conservative Commentary
Exactly what you'd expect from a blog with that title and the strapline The Truth Unvarnished. Written by teenage student William Hague wannabe, you get a healthy dose of free market economics for dummies allied with it woz them sixties what ruined this country social commentary a la Hitchens, P and Melanie Philips.
Likely to say: Just as I cannot be father to a pebble, so free trade is the only trade.
Unlikely to say: Actually, I've not looked at it in quite that way before. I'd make a considered reply, but I'm off to get shitfaced at the Alkaline Trio gig.
Visit: Daily.

Libertarianism of the po-faced kind. Group blog taking their name, I'm sure you won't need reminding, although they assume you do, from the clandestine Soviet Russian press. The originals, of course, risked death and the Gulag for their art, whereas these guys only risk exposure as terminally tedious, self regarding contrarians.
Likely to say: You must cure yourselves of the terrible disease of statism.
Unlikely to say: Say what you like about tax collectors, they perform a vital role for society.
Visit: Weekly.