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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DEFENDING THE TORTURERS, OFFENDING THE TORTURED

President Obama’s decision to name the names of those in the Bush administration who sanctioned the use of torture, including possibly Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and ex-President George W Bush, and authorise the release of hundreds of photos of Guantanamo Bay inmates in various stages of abuse, have generally been greeted with glee by the Obama camp and Obamamites worldwide. Bush was loathed, the war in Iraq generally hated and 2001’s Twin Towers attack is beginning to fade into history so the Democrats' decision to ram home their recent election victory by damning the already wounded and discredited Republian party probably seems like a good idea.

Who cares if the CIA is weakened in the process, or that US and, by extension, the West’s national security is compromised, or that the US government is now so driven by partisan interests that it will endanger its own operatives in pursuit of some Republican scalps? Of course torture is abhorrent, and yes of course the US Government in an ideal world shouldn’t be sanctioning its use. But this is not an ideal world and the US and the West is effectively at war with an ideologically-driven enemy whose long term aim is the total destruction of the West’s way of life, its religions, its beliefs, its democracies and who is prepared to use any means, including nuclear, biological and extreme terrorist acts to achieve them.

No doubt President Obama’s new happy-clappy style of global diplomacy plays well with his supporters, raised at they have been on media driven, West Wing style faux politics in which nicey replaces nasty and a few Kennedy style sound-bites will get Iran, the Taliban, North Korea and the world’s assorted US haters to put flowers in their hair and shout hallelujah. Maybe they will and the world will enter a new golden age of peace and prosperity where torturers and terrorists are just bogey men parents conjure up to frighten naughty children and disputes are settled over tea and biscuits and no one gets hurt anymore. Sounds possible.

Seventy years ago, the world was so fearful of war that appeasement, the condoning and tolerating of national aggression by the likes of Hitler’s Germany, Musslini’s Italy and a resurgent nationalist Japan and a revolutionary Russia, became the new peace corps buzz word; better, in fact, craven servility at any price than war. No doubt Obama’s recent declaration of love for Iran’s loony Presindent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his limp response to North Korea’s resumption of long-range missile tests are pointers to Obama’s new post-Bush, post-torture paradise but, personally, I think that they are seriously na├»ve miscalculations of very dangerous and cunning enemies.

In a world in which strength and power ultimately rule the Bush administration’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan may be viewed more kindly by history than they are now. Equally the US’s use of torture techniques to extract information, whilst unpleasant, may also be seen as the lesser of two evils; the greater evil being a successful terrorist attack on US or European soil. If, in the next four years of the Obama administration, there is a successful terrorist attack on US soil, and I believe that there is a strong chance of this, then Obama’s more conciliatory approach to world diplomacy will be partly to blame, if only for encouraging its enemies into thinking that the US is becoming a soft target again.

I personally doubt if torture has any valid use, but then I’m not a soldier, nor am I at the cutting edge of the fight against Al Quieda, but equally I am well aware that things happen in war and in the quasi-legal world of counter-terrorism which are not nice and which, were I a crusading human rights lawyer, might also breach several statutes. However, if it keeps me and the West safe and if that means looking the other way because someone has spat on the Koran or smacked a possible suicide bomber in the face then so be it. For all Bush’s faults it is important to remember that there has been no terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11, will Obama be able to say that after eight torture-free years in office?

It may be that if, in the future, Obama has to stand amidst the ruins of some much loved part of America, as Bush did after 9/11, and address the nation following a successful terrorist attack, that he and the Democrats may yet rue the day that they brought the world of human rights and political correctness into the shadowy world of counter-terrorism where it has no place and no role.

General Sherman over a hundred years ago pretty well summed it up:

‘You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out; I know I had no hand in making this war; and I know I will make more sacrifices today than any of you to secure peace”


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE UK’S DEATH BY A THOUSAND LAWS

The Chinese have many skills, amongst them is a greatness for intricate and delicate work, often creating incredibly fine and minute sculptures and carvings. However, in the past the Chinese also utilized their skills in other ways, among them being killing a man by a 1000 cuts and pumping him full of opium so that as he was slowly cut and sliced to death, his mind sent him into raptures of ecstasy making victims exhibit ghastly smiles and euphoric grins even as their executioners cut off limbs and removed organs. Such was the executioners skill that they could literally prolong the agony until exactly the requisite 1000 cuts had been administered.

New Labour seems to have acquired similar skills, though rather than cuts they are killing us with new laws. Since 1997, when they were elected, Labour have passed over 1000 new pieces of legislation that can send a UK citizen to prison and, with each passing month, further laws are added. Yet there are no protests, just resignation or blithe acceptance, in most cases. A few weeks ago, legislation was sanctioned that makes homophobia a hate crime, now even telling a homosexually-themed joke will fall within the laws remit.

A few comedians protested but generally no one really cared, for many this was a good thing and, after all, hating people for their sexuality is wrong as is hating people for their religion, their disabilities, their race, their lack of achievement, their physical appearance or their age. In fact, hating anyone is ghastly and should be legislated against and, as it happens, just what we seem to want and what the Labour government seems happy to oblige us in providing.

Yet protest we should, because these laws and our feeble acceptance of them are building up governmental and state control in ways unthinkable a decade ago. Not only are they a major attack on our freedoms but they enable the State to conceive and foster a climate where State legislation on virtually every aspect of our lives is expected and condoned. So, when in December 2008, the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham (why do all politicians now shorten their names to the matey version: Tony, Dave, Andy, Steve – all ghastly), proposed a ratings system for ALL English language websites worldwide and was seeking agreement from the incoming Obama administration no one said or did anything. After all, isn’t it a good think if it bans all those nasty racist sites and controls pornography? Who cares if in March the UK Government announced plans under the prevention of terrorism legislation that any UK citizen, including fishermen and pilots, planning to leave the country, even if only for a few hours, get government approval first. The new law will also allow for the confiscating of passports for people owing council tax, TV license fees and all manner of misdemeanors, including maybe telling off-colour jokes about black, disabled, Muslim homosexuals. Of course no one cares.

Maybe they will care that the Government is to legislate, again under new terrorist laws, for the total monitoring and policing of ALL UK users of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Twitter on the spurious grounds that potential and active terrorists may set up a Facebook page! Again no one cares. Perhaps the fact that the Government proudly admitted last year that they record and store every text message and email sent in the UK, but that they would only access an individual's personal data if he or she were suspected of terrorist connections or perhaps had told an offensive joke or wasn’t recycling their rubbish correctly. But again, no one seemed to mind.

Now the UK Government is pushing to access its citizens Google and other, search engine records on the grounds that someone who tapped in ‘bomb’ might be a ‘terrorist’ in the same way as someone who tapped in ‘schoolgirl’ might be a paedophile.

And does anyone care now? Of course not for we’re either too busy watching Jade Goody’s funeral, drinking or worrying about paying for all the easy credit that Gordon Brown pumped into our collective bank accounts over the last decade. In fact, I doubt anyone cares who's looking at our text messages or emails just as long as they’re not ours. And that’s the problem we’re now so selfish and have become so dependent on the state that we really don’t care about anything until it smacks us in the face, by which time it's too late. Luckily the Labour Party’s opium has run out.

The Labour Party’s opium was money, and the drug lord and administrator of the opium was Gordon Brown who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer for the last ten years, controlled the UK’s money supply. Now that money has run out and slowly the people of this crowded island are beginning to feel the pain as the opium wears off.

Brown is now desperate; desperate to spread the guilt for his actions by blaming all of our financial misfortunes on ‘international’ events, and desperate to borrow as much money (opium) as he can so that he can sedate the populous again before they fully wake up. Not for nothing did Marx cite religion as an opiate for the masses.

The UK is bankrupt, inflation is looming (forget deflation) and unemployment will pass three million within twelve months, and nothing said or agreed at the sham G20 summit will change anything. So what is left but to subdue, distract and control the population before that population gets roused enough to hang the Browns of this world from the nearest lamp post.

However, looking at our feeble attempts at protest last week as several hundred public school boys and girls, mingled with thousands of journalists, the deputy editor or Vogue was there, models, a splattering of Class War anarchists left over from the poll tax days and a motley collection of Greenpeace types intent of saving the planet, I think Brown is pretty safe.

Whilst our protesters only managed to break three windows in an undefended branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland and spray paint a few walls, the protesters against Nato who took to the streets of France’s Strasbourg a few days later showed us how these things should be done. Barely reported in the UK, ‘black bloc’ anarchist groups from France and Germany caused so much mayhem in the City that Michelle Obama had to cancel her ‘walkabouts’. The riot police, France’s paramilitary and pretty scary CRS, lost control and had to abandon large sways of Strasbourg to the protesters, who in turn blocked roads to the airport, burned down whole streets and a branch of the Hotel Ibis chain, which for any one who has stayed in one, is no bad thing.

Had Brown and his G20 cronies encountered similar events in London, with clouds of smoke blocking out Brown’s smug grin, then for the first time in years the UK population might have shown it cares enough to do something instead of just seeking more credit or agreeing placidly to yet another Labour law that can send us to prison.

Personally, instead of allowing Brown to slowly wean us off his financial opium, I think that its time to go cold turkey and break something a bit more serious than a few windows. Maybe we should do something really dangerous and tell a few jokes…

Save the World from Gordon Brown - Shoot Him!

6th March 2009


Now that I am in my dotage and fast approaching the age when I will probably forget my name, dribble, have hairy ear lobes and, if I am lucky enough to get my hands on some curvaceous beauty, need to take about twenty pills before I can do anything about it, it is rare that I get myself worked up enough to feel like attacking someone or something; Gordon Brown's speech on the 4th March to the US Congress caused both.

There have been umpteen analogies with the 1920s and 1930s since the world started sliding into recession about a year ago and with them have come dire warnings about a rise in fascism, violence, collapses of governments, hyper Weimar Republic style inflation, civil disorder with armageddon and the four horsemen of the apocalypse waiting in the wings. If I was then to look for a modern day Neville Chamberlain in all this I would look no further than the UK's ghastly Prime Minister Gordon Brown. For his appalling tenure as Chancellor for the last ten years saddled the UK with terrifyingly high levels of debt during a time of plenty, and whose ludicrous ego and desire to be seen as a Churchill-like figure unifying and saving the world is truly horrendous. His "peace in our time" moment can only be a matter of time now.

Brown's desperate bid to fend off economic disaster by reducing interest rates to virtually zero, bailing out the banks, authorising the Bank of England to print £175 billion and promising to spend billions more on our public services is nothing short of imbecilic and shows that Brown will sacrifice the UKs future for short term gain. Brown, like the newly elected Barrack Obama, who he was so desperate to impress this week, sees increased state spending as the means of ending this current crisis. They see pouring millions into everything from road building, the health service and welfare as a way of reviving the economy. But the public sector sucks in money and spews out waste, in effect it produces nothing and costs a fortune, yet this is where all hope is vested at the moment, that, and getting the banks to lend us money again. To, in effect, re-inflate the very credit bubble that caused this current crisis in the first place and at the same time empower a state sector that sucks the life blood out of the private sector, the sector that creates wealth.

A kind of bizarre example of this is the newly announced campaign by some UK councils to be given the power to take over empty shops in order to prevent UK city centres becoming ghost towns during the current recession. The irony here is that it is these same councils, whose relentless pursuit of money through ever increasing business rates, that have forced many of these shops to close in the first place. The campaign waxed lyrical about how these empty shops could be turned into 'community' art centres, playgroups, youth centres and as places where people could go for advise on housing, community, race and gender issues. All marvellous no doubt and all needing grants and subsidies to be paid for either by the few people left in work or by some of Gordon Brown's newly printed millions.

So in Brown's all inclusive, gender friendly and ethnocentric utopia we will be able to spend our enforced leisure time wondering from one community 'art gallery' to the next. The value of this 'art' will be the highest ever, given that a business was driven into bankruptcy in order for the gallery to exist and, secondly, huge subsidies will have been needed in order to staff them. The art will also be dire for in Brown's new egalitarian society, political correctness will deem all 'art' good, unless it offends of course and therefore, if some fat black lesbian decides to smear herself in oils and roll across a canvas it will be 'good' because she is female, black and a lesbian. Likewise if a disabled person in a wheelchair decides to get creative and try out finger painting then the local council will no doubt find an empty shop to requisition and turn it into an 'art' gallery in order to hang the work. We are in fact spending money on crap; crap art, crap ideas, crap people, crap economics and creating a crap society.

In the 1920s and 1930s, many people did turn to political extremes as a solution and maybe they will again, but whatever they do it'll be preferable to the crap ideology and faux statesmanship of Gordon Brown and his ilk whose ideas will, I believe, create the chaos that will in turn create the political extremism so many fear. For me, I hope that if an extreme political force does take over, that its modeled on Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, whose first act on seizing power was to round up the civil servants and bureaucrats, march them out to the countryside and kill them. Only then will we be saved from Gordon Brown's people's art and state subsidised craptopia.

Snow, Darwin and the Survival of the Weakest

The last two weeks have been tiring for me, as Redemption enters its 16th year so the constant battle to survive and grow a business has to vie with my own creative desires and sometimes one doesn't necessarily equate with the other. So for the last week or so my thoughts and mood has meandered from a sort of foggy optimism to a form of semi melancholy to frustration at the sometimes ridiculousness of life. All of which had left me weary, a bit out of sorts with the world and, unusually for me, a bit down...and then it snowed!

I had just finished watching the film, The Station Master, which is excellent by the way in a kind of soft Hal Hartley style, and was getting ready to take Eddie, the very posh long coat Chihauhau of my girlfriends, out for his last walk of the day, when I glanced out the window to be confronted by a sea of whiteness and falling snow. Now only a city dweller can appreciate the truly magical calm that snow brings in its wake, for there was silence, absolute silence. No people, no cars, no sirens, nothing but the muffled non-noise that heavy snow makes as it falls. The empty streets also meant that Eddie was able to race around the snow like a gorgeous mad chihauhau, which is in fact exactly what he is.

There is something about the way that newly fallen snow, especially when no one else has walked on it, that is just beautiful and can, almost magically, transformed even the most mundane or ugliest of places into something wonderful or otherworldly and which instantly lifts your spirits and so it was for me. Or was until the following morning when I was confronted by a world that was seemingly made totally spastic by snow!

Never can there have been anything more ridiculous than the parade of poe-faced council health and safety 'executives' and other public officials who forbid buses, trains, tubes, planes, schools and it seems any human activity that might bring people into contract with 'extreme' weather, and by 'extreme' we are taking about two to eight inches of snow. Not two feet, or blizzards, just two to eight inches of snow in February, which is surprisingly a winter month... Normally though the diktats of England's legions of bureaucratic oiks pass me by but a sense of disbelief enveloped me when London's Camden Council closed its parks in case people slipped on the paths. Over the following days the UK then descended into a sort of snow hysteria where fear of the white stuff was fueled by an equally rabid media intend on presenting a few days of wintry weather as a sort of battle of the elements where people 'struggled' and 'heroes' walked miles to get to work while, inept council officials dithered on the sidelines. The overriding message though is that people have to be protected not only from the weather but from themselves, we can in fact no longer be expected to survive without the State stepping in, and worse, most of us expect it to step in and complain when it doesn't.

Even a few years ago the thought that almost the entire country's schools would be closed just in case a child fell over in the playground or got cold walking to school would have been unthinkable. Nor would a fifth of the working population have just stayed at home because it was too 'dangerous' outside and certainly in London the entire transport would not have just stopped. Yet stay at home people did and will continue to so no doubt as the 'extreme' weather continues its assault and the British people continue to demonstrate just why, had Charles Darwin, written his evolutionary study, Origin of the Species, now rather than in the 19th century that his survival of the fittest theory would have been retitled survival of the weakest.

For weakness and meekness are the new aspirations that we must aim for. Our leaders rejoice in mediocrity and loath elitism, failure is embraced and competition scorned, all races are equal, all sexes and sexuality's important, disabilities are championed and illness and weakness cosseted. No species is superior and all religions of value, no ones beliefs or faiths can be offended and everyone is 'someone' so the adverts tell us. We are all people, we are all wonderful regardless of our colour, race, religion, physicality, sexuality or intelligence. In fact Birmingham City Council has recently decided that the correct use of apostrophes in their street signs was too difficult for some of their ethnically diverse citizens and so have decided that rather than persevering and trying to teach people how to use them that they will simply abolish them. They will in effect, give up and dumb down lest some of us feel left out.

Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection demonstrated that through a process of evolution species evolved and by a process of the survival of the fittest the strongest and most adaptable animals and plants survived and developed as a species. In our new politically correct utopia, of course, such thinking is an anathema as it is the weak and infirm that must not only survive but whose needs must be championed above those of the able bodied and strong. Now we have a process of natural regression where our species is to stop evolving and instead, in the interest of diversity and equality, mutate eventually into some spongy, hermaphrodite with withered limbs and flesh the colour of puke with, no doubt, a varied belief system and an irrational fear of snow.

9th February 2009

This creature, the love-child of Karl Marx, the chattering classes and John Lennon, will probably begin to emerge during the summer when the hated 'extreme' weather has passed. For a few months it will be deemed safe for this new generation, 'the weakest links', to play outside while the rest of us look on and marvel at our new future.

Our obsession with equality, diversity and inclusivity means that we are constantly rewarding failure. Failure is now equal to success, the disabled akin to the abled, the stupid are on a par with the intelligent and the sexual deviant protected and championed by the state. Now our evolution and sense of achievement must be tempered lest the weakest be offended, better born deformed and stupid than born still able to progress and evolve or, heaven forbid, survive without state help in the snow. The same snow in fact that has highlighted our new enfeebled-ness and may, if it continues, actually make some of us think and act for ourselves again. At the same time 'extreme' cold in the wild often kills off a lot of weaker animals and its possible that the councils 'oik' population maybe reduced as well and that can only be a good thing.