Friday, 9 December 2011

Cameron and the EU

So today, David Cameron has vetoed an agreement in the EU, and is being accused of having "blocked the treaty". In short, my view is that  he did exactly what he had to.

His enemies now scent blood, however. Nick Robinson, of the scrupulously impartial BBC (twas a joke, people) conducted an interview that was simply an attack on the Prime Minister - an attempt to imply that he has shafted the country.

Robinson will perhaps repeat some guff about this being a very serious issue, and needing to grill the prime minister. In actual fact, this has often been the excuse used by him and his colleagues. The BBC need to remember that they are not the party of opposition. Their impartiality credo, if they believe it at all, means standing aloof from party politics and giving both views - once again they are only giving one view. Anyone can see the difference in attitude in their interviews with the PM and the leader of the opposition.

But it is not just party politics the Beeb are playing. Their agenda has been pro-euro, pro-EU for as long as I can remember. Peter Oborne thinks it was true in the 70s for the referendum and decisions that were being made then. It is certainly true now.

Of course Ed Milliband is saying the prime minister got it all wrong. I do understand - believe me - that the opposition exists to provide criticism. But it should be a valid criticism - and I am not sure I know what Milliband would have done differently - does anybody? What would he have done? In essence Milliband is exactly like Cameron was in opposition - an opportunist making the right noises. But it's annoying at such a difficult time for the country - this is rather like joining in another country's aggressive diplomacy against the UK to score political points.

We shall see what Mr Johnson and IDS do next. Cameron must explain clearly (not his strong point I know) what the problems were with the Merkozy proposals

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Nick Cohen, the "women monsterers", and the story of Neil Lyndon

Journalist Nick Cohen has written a blog post entitled "A regiment of women monsterers" on the the Spectator magazine website. Now I find this title to be appalling (and rather disturbing) written English, on the whole, but that's not my main point here.

The "woman monsterers" he is talking about are the commenters and journalists who, he says, hurl verbal abuse at female journalists online and in print.

The example recipients of this behaviour that he lists include Polly Toynbee, Melanie Philips, and Laurie Penny. (I could add that Jan Moir has received some abuse online, which does provide another example)

Now I have seen some criticism of Toynbee, mainly calling her a "champagne socialist" for talking about socialist issues when she has a villa in Tuscany, and there is some dislike of Philips, mainly as an outspoken writer for the Daily Mail, a paper vilified by the liberal left in the UK.

Laurie Penny has certainly been on the wrong end of a lot of criticism, and many jibes of immaturity and self-absorbtion. On the other hand she is someone who gets very excited about revolution, calls Conservatives "hordes of drooling poshos", and can be rather sharp tongued about the male of the species.

Cohen's article does echo what some feminist writers said a month or so ago. My view then has not changed, online debate is very tough on everyone, there is no conspiracy to "silence women" as some implied back then. We'd need to look a bit more carefully into the evidence before jumping to that conclusion. This is one of the difficulties with any debate involving gender at the moment. People with a political agenda one way or another will state their conclusions as established fact before doing any sober analysis, then attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with them.

If you are in doubt about whether we do need to look again at evidence for Cohen's conclusions, indeed if you have read his article at all, I would strongly suggest you read the story of Neil Lyndon (here and on wiki)

Lyndon wrote a piece in the Sunday Times 20 years ago, mildly criticising feminism. Efforts were apparently made by female journalists to block publication of his piece. The response in the next week's paper was revealing (quoting from the Guardian link above):

"Looking back at the cuttings, there was not much discussion of the content of his writings, rather it was the size of penis, his ability to attract women and the fragrance of his breath that were called into question. One adjective was so routinely applied to him, you began to wonder if it was part of his name: the Inadequate Neil Lyndon"

The abuse didn't stop there, including physical attacks, further insults and work drying up for him, when he wrote a book on the subject. Lyndon must have been very tough to come through what happened next..

Cohen concludes his tirade literary tour-de-force with the following:

"The cases of Penny, Toynbee and Phillips show the hollow-eyed masturbators on the comment threads are not alone. Journalists are more than willing to encourage them."

Now some people might be a touch surprised to find our heroic defender against "vicious denunciations" ( a quote from the article) going on to describe the denunciators as "hollow-eyed masturbators on the comment threads", but I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation.

Please, if you have read Nick Cohen's piece in the Spectator, read the above links too...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Schoolteachers and society

Recently, I read with great sadness in the local newspaper that a teacher (who I remembered from my schooldays about 100 years ago) had passed away. Let's call him S.

Often we don't have time to think about small events like this and all the thought and feelings they evoke. But I like to think, to flesh out exactly what I feel about matters at this point in time. In this respect alone, perhaps, I am very much a writer. I photocopied the meagre obituary and it has been sitting on my desk since then, and when I see it, then I realise there are some interesting thoughts there that would stand examination.

There were rumours going about that S "watched boys going in and out of the showers", and he certainly insisted that we all take showers after games. He also very assiduously did up 13 yr-old boys' ties if they were slightly misaligned. I think some teachers knew about this and it rankled with them, without ever becoming a serious problem. Another teacher once lectured us to bring both coloured jerseys to a rugby game, otherwise a "certain person" would pick up on the fact (meaning that the miscreant boy might find himself playing without any jersey at all)

The joys of attending a 20th century English school! I'm very near the point of saying "It never did me any harm". And in actual fact in my case I can say it didn't. There were 2 other teachers of mine (in a different school) who had to leave their posts because of alleged approaches to, and 'friendships' with, boys in their care. Rumours were legion. I had one-to-one lessons with one of the teachers, and evening sessions of 4 pupils with the other. I never saw any hint  of impropriety, though I'm sure it eventually did happen with others. One of the two actually lived for a time with an ex-pupil, after both had left the school, I've heard.

Conversations with others of my age show similar stories from different schools. As a parent now, of course, I would be very wary, on my child's behalf of entrusting them to the care of such a person. But I've always wondered how life would be if my (ordinary heterosexual) feelings for women were illegal, condemned in hushed tones, and created such anger as even the mild behaviour that these teachers mostly repressed. You get an idea of it, occasionally, when a woman calls a man a "pervert" for looking at her "in a particular way". But I don't have to keep my feelings a secret from everybody, I don't have to exercise such care, or be aware of quite the same risks*

I should say I never heard of any such stories concerning S, though again I think there was at least a little substance to the rumours.  There he would stand there in his warm coat, scarf, looking very comfortable in the freezing weather, and he'd have a line of freezing schoolboys repeating after him that pain was "good for the soul!", telling us enthusiastically that even better was 'agony'..  It was one way of dealing with the list of complaints and cries of "It's not fair, sir", that largely make up a teacher's life, I suppose. He earned the nickname "Sadist", which didn't find it's way onto his obituary.

* oddly, as soon as I write that, it strikes me as obvious that single straight people DO often exercise great caution in their decisions, DO often worry a great deal about what everyone will think, and DO sometimes find their sexual behaviour angrily criticised. But not to the same degree, I would think.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Johann Hari's wiki-eidts

For future readers, Hari has very recently handed back his Orwell prize and put an apology in the Independent, which publication rather controversially refuses to relieve him of his employ there. I don't particularly want to make this guy's life even more of a misery, but this is his fault, and more needs to be made clear before we're done with this.

He has, among other things, owned up to making a lot of edits to Wikipedia pretending to be someone else - someone he was at university with. The sheer number of edits is breathtaking, though I suppose we are talking about a decent period of time here.

Wikipedia is meant to be an encyclopaedia. When people try to misuse it to push their own agendas they are basically trying to rewrite history. Almost all of Hari's edits (you can see them listed here) are on Wiki articles relating to either friends or enemies of Hari. There is a preponderance of  edits to Richard Littlejohn's wiki entry and associated talk-page. Other pages include Melanie Philips, Polly Toynbee, Tania Gold, Julie Bindel, Francis Wheen, Rob Blackhurst, Mark Steyn ("It is very important to have a criticisms section. This should not have been removed" is  Hari's description of one edit). Most prominent of all is Hari's own wiki entry and discussion page (which makes for fascinating reading after his recent admission). No doubt he would like to give his own side of the story, but not doing so under his own name was a mistake.

It is terribly easy to compare versions of pages on wiki to see what edits a user has made. I've done just one so far, but will do more comparisons I imagine, if I have time. Click here to see the page on Niall Fergusson before and after Hari's edits. You will find reams of stuff about his own attacks on Fergusson, and some responses. The entry on historian Andrew Roberts that he edited also seems to contain comments about Hari's criticisms of him. Somebody has rather mischievously added:
"Roberts has vigorously denied Hari's assertions, responding that Hari "must have a secret crush" on him and notes that Hari was stripped of his Orwell Prize for Journalism in July 2011 for unethical journalistic practices"

More edits to this page may follow, one senses.

By all accounts Hari has mis-used wikipedia to speak well of his friends and attack his enemies. He's not the only person doing this with Wiki. Nor the only one trying to write history as he would like to see it (more on this later). But that doesn't mean it is ok. And, again, all under a false name.

By the looks of some of the discussion pages, some people correctly guessed the identity of this wiki account. I wonder if they then tracked down other posts by him and endeavoured to correct his travesties. Rather hard work, considering the number of edits to go through. But I guess quite a few people will have been aware of something like this going on with regard to individual Wiki-pages. Without some pressure from them I wonder if he would have owned up to this.

Read more on his wiki-editing here.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

BBC bias

Even the BBC themselves have reported this story.

David Amess has made (ahem) amess of this by complaining about female newsreaders "smiling" when reporting serious issues. This is hardly going to help his argument, as much will be made of him being rather out-of-date etc.

It needs to be said again, however that he is absolutely right about the everything else he says. The BBC is part of a group that (whilst most of them are probably not anti-semitic) talks as though Israel is a fascist or apartheid state. This is nonsense. To understand Israel it is simply necessary to imagine the level of security you'd need trying to run a small democracy in the middle of about 10 countries sworn to destroy you*. The BBC should report this in a more balanced fashion.

The BBC also takes a strong line on gender politics, which is very nicey-nice of them, very much the moral high-ground amongst some people. It is however a matter of politics, not of fact, and BBC employees with their customary cynicism about politicians would do well to realise that most feminist writers and activists are in the same game, just on a different side. They use the same methods of propaganda, and have the same cavalier treatment of facts and research, using them only when they assist the cause.

The BBC is consistantly critical of the Conservatives, in or out of government. BBC members are disgustingly unperturbed about this. They really do seem to think they are balanced, even when it is clear that their main criticisms of Labour come when they seem to be moving to the centre (or right). They make a great claim to impartiality, but in practice they have given up even trying to be impartial - they have a strong line on most things. Look at the public spending "cuts", the recent riots in London. They really thing parroting the Guardian is a 'balanced' view...

A huge number of people listen t the BBC, and I fear too many believe that it gives 'the balanced view'. Not true. The bias is clear in their news AND in their drama (which was once the envy of the world - now it's worth nothing). They are misusing taxpayers money. It is entirely right that attention should be paid to their vaunted impartiality, and whether they are fullfilling that promise.

* see this artcle on Archbishop Cranmer's blog

Sunday, 14 August 2011

more pontificating on the riots

I'm so enamoured of yet another of my comments (in a debate with another commenter in a thread on David Starkey's remarks) that I'm going to quote myself a third time. Here it is:

people have been trying to make much of links between the looting and banks, MPs expenses etc. I have to say this link is extremely tenuous.
Bankers didn't just become selfish in the last 30 years. Capitalism is a kind of outlet for people's need for advancement/aspiration, which Guardian readers will classify as pure greed. It's always been there.
I think the mindset and the actions of looters smashing windows, and rioters confronting police, burning down businesses and homes, running over people who got in their way etc, is wholly different
And I'm sorry, but if women were anywhere NEAR 50% of those causing trouble, I'll be very surprised indeed. And we will see, shan't we, who the largest group of rioters were..
We still need to find out more about who all these criminals were (and hasn't everyone been quick to explain this with their pet political theory before we knew who was rioting?). But I still believe we need to address gang culture and the way boys are brought to maturity in this country.
The liberal left avoid this issue every time it comes up. They are so obsessed with their very dubious ideas world that they are in danger of letting down a whole generation of young men who are becoming more criminal, more suicidal, less successful in education etcetc
I do think that our collective opinions of politicians, the rich, and journalists has taken a battering. It could well be part of the attitude towards authority that led to this. But only part. People who want to say it is the whole problem are just too enamoured of their Guardian-inspired theories and not trying hard enough to look at things objectively.
re: The Apprentice - it does seem a rather different style of TV to the Generation game, I grant you! You need to stop oversimplifying things. The "selfishness" is part of changes to society that have come a long way since we did things "for King and country", and aren't easily undone. It will be a complex business trying to give this country a soul again, I wouldn't look for the answers in the Guardian or Mail or any other paper if I were you..."

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Why we should at least listen to David Starkey...

An expanded version of my comment on the biassedBbC website about David Starkey's comments on Newsnight yesterday (12th August 2011)

"David Starkey did phrase his comments in a slightly inflammatory way - he focused on one type of "Black Culture", and I guess he could have said Gang culture or referred to HipHop music without saying Black. He was trying to provoke debate, I guess.

He also was saying something that we don't face up to. Young boys in this country apparently don't see someone like Richard Branson as a role model, or Stephen Hawking or Andrew Wiles. Many seem to look to this gang/drugs/fighting culture as the only way of being a man. This culture celebrates the criminal. It is negative, violent, anti-education, anti-authority, and anti-British.

At the same time the Beeb, Guardian, and others have been so exercised trying to highlight how girls and women are achieving more and more that they have inadvertently sidelined boys and their future. I think it's uncontroversial that perceptions of gender roles have changed. By all means celebrate the successes of women, but I wonder if we've lost track of what we think masculinity should be.

Being a 'man' seems to have too many negative connotations to people these days. Yet all the men haven't gone away. They feel powerless and angry. I believe that this is one (just one!) cause of the riots and looting. We have let down a generation of boys, who have turned to violence. On both the left and the right people are angrily trying to blame the other side for the cultural mess that is behind the riots.

Starkey was interrupted at every sentence he tried to say. The interviewer didn't like what he was saying and didn't give him a chance to speak. Both the other interviewees seemed to be there to give different shades of views the Guardian might find acceptable."

Friday, 12 August 2011

Peter Oborne in the Telegraph - expenses misuse and rioting ?

Peter Oborne has written a passionate piece about the looters and saying, amongst other things, that he can find little ethical difference between the looters and the MPs implicated in the expense 'scandal'. I wrote the following comment which has been lost in 3000 others.

The article has attracted great popularity in Twitter, which is something of a leftist stronghold these days. Guardian readers have popped by to register their astonished delight. It's a good piece of work, but I don't really agree with it. Here is my comment:

"I don't agree at all that there is no ethical difference between rioters/looters, and the expenses fiasco. Guardian readers and tweeters love this piece - I don't

I think there was a feeling of "bending the rules" and "everyone's at it" for the MPs. Whereas the looters' and rioters actions contained a good deal of anarchic and personal malice, also disrespect for property, law, and the right to do business, disrespect for peace and order, and joyfully creating fear.

Also the mindset of the looters was quite different, this has all got to count for something.

I do agree that the atmosphere of sleaze and corruption with which the public now view politicians and journalists, due to many stories, and partly the expenses row, has led to some of the disrespect for the law, authority, and the 'establishment' that led to this criminality.

But many other things did too, the lack of good male role models (not just fathers, who have been legally discriminated against, but we havent given boys a way forward), knowledge that they wouldn't go to prison etcetc"

Monday, 8 August 2011

The fertilizer has hit the ventilation system...

Not the best day (or indeed year) in British history.Today was another day of riots in London, now spreading to Birmingham.

There's not much new to say, yet we all have to say something. We cannot stay quiet. It becomes fairly obvious that this isn't protest, it's stealing, and a failure of law and order.

See this stunning video, the man fearlessly out on the streets asking looters if they are proud, and the woman replying saying she's "getting her taxes back" (apparently our checks go to Currys, not HMRC)

It's impossible to sleep. I'm distraught at seeing what this country has become, from what I thought it could be. We used to have a culture, many of us believed in a particular way of life. But all that is being destroyed in front of our eyes, and for what?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A celebrity interviewer on celebrity interviewing

There was a wonderful piece in the Times newspaper on the 21st of July. It's reprinted here, and I thought was worthy of some note.

The article is more a controlled shout of rage than any sort of essay. It's written by someone who evidently made and still makes their crust conducting these types of interview, who needs an outlet to vent some job-dissatisfaction, under the pseudonym Victoria Smith. 

She is, it seems, sick and tired of the lack of spontanaeity and autonomy that her job has come to entail, one that either used to be more fun, or to which she looked forward to with intense excitement. 

That excitement has worn off, leaving a bleak viewpoint on stars and their world. 

"In a world of boundless PR power, where small, screechy women in Tinseltown office blocks decide exactly what will be written about their clients in UK newspapers, the star interview is .. a meaningless joke."

In movies like Notting Hill we get a view of what these interviews are like, but..

They don’t mention that personal publicists, direct from LA, often sit in on interviews, just behind your shoulder and in their client’s eye-line, waiting to pounce on any inappropriate question (ie, one that doesn’t begin with “So tell me Angelina, what was it like working with . . .”)

That reminds me of the stupifying boredom of watching the extra features in a DVD. Precious wasted hours of interviews with even the most talented of actors - mindful of keeping their career alive - saying how great it was to work with [insert famous director's first name]. This is what made the suggestion so entertaining that Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford did the most ordinary thing for two strong personalities to do - not get on very well, supposedly - when making the scifi masterpiece Blade Runner. 

When himself asked this (in an interview that didn't fit the stereotype given by last weeks Times article) Ford answered tactfully and with some common-sense that in any job you run into difficult working relationships. 

All true, and celebrities will be told by their publicists that they must show their 'best side'*, but they truly seem to be hiding their personalities in the process, hiding - you would think - the best and only thing they have in the world. But the film industry doesn't seem to work like that.

* see this gruesome news item and interview with Paris Hilton for a celebrity's worst nightmare, with some journos apparently out to get her.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Capital Punishment

(expanded version of a comment on Guido Fawkes' blog)

After the IRA pub bombings (in fact after every outrage of this sort in, or even nowhere near, the UK) there are repeated calls for the death penalty to be restored. The Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4 would have been dead long before the problems with their convictions were brought to light (if that ever would have happened)

a) How many miscarriages of justice does it take before you realise that Capital punishment isn't such a good idea?

b) it's revenge. That is not a reason for killing someone, though some people seem to think so. They need to show us why the death penalty is the correct response for murder or whatever. The burden of proof is with them and they can't do it.

c) We KNOW it doesn't work as a deterrant,

d) the drawn out appeals process in the US. People (usually blacks or people with low IQs or poor education) spend years on Death Row with the prospect of a gruesome death hanging over their heads. Lethal injection is definitely an improvement on gas chambersr and electric chairs*

Please don't tell me there are cut and dried cases. The concept of proof in the law is much much much more fragile than anyone realises. We're talking about "beyond reasonable doubt" which is NOT the same thing as proof.

Half of what we think we know is wrong anyway, or we have nowhere near enough evidence for. And for every case like this, where there is a confession (and maybe in some cases clear footage) there are hundreds where it's one person's word against another's.

Still convinced about the death penalty? Let me know, and I'll tell you why you're wrong

*for Christ's sake, who dreamt that up? I don't think Edison directly, but I think he was involved in discussions

Friday, 29 July 2011

This is supposed to not be about me....

...but I've transgressed that rule already. This blog is an unthemed mess, and noone really reads it :)

I seem to be a different person every few weeks, which makes planning for the future a little difficult. Actually it just goes round in circles between 3 or more personalities. It can be very uncomfortable, especially when I go through days, possibly weeks, feeling as though I am emotionally dead. But I know that it all goes in circles, a sine-curve, and sometimes I play music on stage and there's an audible sigh after I've finished before the applause starts, and I feel the way I do (or used to) when a beautiful woman shows unmistakeable strong interest , or more.

For some reason, Born Slippy seems to express this mood quite well, especially the euphoric slow chords between the manic madness.

I hope to be coming out of the malaise soon...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Sharon Osbourne: "I do think it’s quite fabulous"

What does Sharon Osbourne reportedly think is fabulous?

It's the story of a  "California woman accused of cutting of her husband’s private part and disposing of it in a particularly gruesome way after he asked for a divorce"

Fabulous eh? If you say so. And if a man mutilated a woman in some way would that be fabulous too? Is someone going to convolutedly argue that while (for example) rape is an evil crime,  mutilating a man's sexual organs is just fine!

The audience apparently shared the joke

Thursday, 21 July 2011

BBC on the Murdoch story

The BBC have been focusing on this story since it broke, to the exclusion of all else in the news. I feel tired of saying this - but it has to be said again:

a) The BBC's claims to 'impartiality' are a joke,
b) All news sources make decisions about what to print or broadcast. These will necessarily be a kind of bias, but what we have here is a battle between news giants, being conducted at the expense of bringing the public news about Libya, Greece, problems with the Euro etc.

Here is one of many excellent posts on the biased-BBC blog showing how this story of questionable importance is attracting several times as much space and time fro the BBC as all other issues put together. And over and over, BBC journalists are using the story to try and put the Prime Minister's judgement into doubt, because of their own political leanings

This is irresponsible reporting and editing. People believe the BBC is impartial (including some who work for the organisation, bizarrely), as it has a written obligation to try to be.

In fact exactly the opposite is the case, and its entire news agenda has been dominated by a a story fuelled by inter-journalistic rivalry and schadenfreude.

The Murdoch papers are running scared - the Telegraph is also run by anti-Murdoch elements (by being successful and ruthless, he's just made too many enemies) and are not doing enough - apart from an excellent piece by Janet Daley

Spread the word. Everyone needs to understand this.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Will Self attracting amusement again

A ludicrous piece of writing appeared in the Guardian very recently written by Mr Will Self. It is his commentary on the closure of the News of the World and one of such pretentiousness that I almost achieved Nirvana reading it. At least I was aware of being on quite a different level of consciousness after reading it, to the one I started off with before I was unsuspectingly drawn to this abomination.

The subtitle of the piece will give you a clue:

"We are in a strange interregnum of titillation between cultural hegemonies, before familiar hierarchies appear online"

Now I quote the late, great George Carlin here: "that is what is known as being STUNNINGLY, EMBARASSINGLY full of s**t". There's plenty of it, too :) Here is some more

"key to an understanding of how this interregnum is eating holes in the British social fabric"

Which led the way for my personal favourite from the 100s of bewildered comments. This from someone calling himself DannyKen:

"Blimey, Will. You don't so much mix your metaphors as put them in a blender"

I too commented on the images this put in my head. Someone is having a laugh here, surely?

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Poor old Johann Hari it seems to me. Guido Fawkes has really got stuck in - as is his wont*. He's not the only one. British journalism does not seem to be replete with the milk of human kindness...**

I suppose we look back with rose-tinted spectacles at the greatness of George Orwell. Maybe when our descendants look back at this era with the telescopic view of 100 years in the future, another figure will seem equally great to them. Nevertheless, I doubt any of the recipients of the prize named after him will be that figure (Polly Toynbee is one who comes to mind, how did she get the prize? She and Laurie Penny came to Hari's defence yesterday. Not a roll-call of my favourite journalists, I'm afraid)

There's a good quote here, from Splintered Sunrise, on the whole business:
Which is not to say (and I’m trying to be scrupulously fair here) that Toni Negri or Malalai Joya might not have said something to Hari similar to what he quoted – he’d simply lifted his quotes from elsewhere because they evidently read better than what he had on tape. Which, as it happens, is the explanation given by Hari himself in his remarkably pompous blog post (“intellectual portraiture”, forsooth) owning up to this sharp practice
It's a decent, and I think balanced, post to read about the whole business

*though I do look at Guido's blog fairly regularly to er..keep an eye on things

**I'm not sure about the quality of writing there :S

Monday, 13 June 2011

Thoughts for the day

Themed blogs are not conducive to rational discussion. Exactly the opposite is the case: they seem to allow people free rein to their prejudices. Over and over I see a voice that slightly deviates from the line taken in a blog construed as "trollish". I myself have just been accused of "wanting to start a fight" because I sounded a note of mild context-giving to a particular debate on a BBC-bias blog.

It was the same behaviour I've seen before, and it is anti-debate, anti-rational. People will simply become yet more entrenched in their lopsided views as a result. There's no doubt a blog or site for every misguided world-view around, so you can agree with like-minded people instead of having your views challenged and in the realest sense possible 'rationalised'

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


I am not alone! Why did it take me so long to find these people....

So I've been going on about the BBC left-wing bias for a while now, feeling as though
a)  I was micturating into the wind, and
b) no one else thought the same way.

Well I was wrong, and my web-searches were inadequate. There is Biased BBC, and also see the comments in David Thompson's blog post here.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Thoughts on Frank Abagnale, pt 2

Perhaps this post should more properly be entitled "Thoughts on self-improvement, inspired by Frank Abagnale's story"

In my previous post, written after reading "Catch me if you can", I started to think aloud about how to try and develop the skills that made Abagnale so effective as a con-artist and (what I think of as a) social engineer. He displayed an extraordiary chameleon-like ability, also an ease of conversation and using it to get information he needed without arousing suspicion. He also was very observant, and something of a fantasist (or liar, you might call it)

One of the reasons he was so good at being a con-man, at an age when I wouldn't have been able to do anything of the sort, is because of the way he lived his life. He was hugely social, became good at interacting wittily (but on a shallow level) with almost anyone. He turned the problem-solving part of his brain to how he could employ his people skills and intellect to the problem of making enough money for the lifestyle (read respect, trust, and women) he wanted.

When I was in my teens, I had plenty of problem solving ability - I just confined it to Mathematical problems and study, and reading too much philosophy. I thought about everything in a different way, was a hell of a lot more cautious, and less worldly-wise. The way you approach problems, and the attitude with which you face them, are often rather unique to you. A people person will be good at thinking of people-solutions to everything, a logician will try and work everything out from solid principles. An artist will try to imagine the solution.

We all have our own style of thinking, and when we try to approach, for example, a people problem with mathematical formulae, or a legal problem with emotional thinking, then we're at our weakest. Another reason why it is good to learn different approaches to life, and get inside the head of someone who thinks at a tangent to the way we do. So yes, I'm now trying to think with the same initiative and imagination as the young Mr Abagnale, if for more legal ends and means!

 *              *                  *

I'd like to write a lot more on how Abagnale became the man he did. It is well worth looking into, inasmuch as a teenager making fools of airlines and banks worldwide, hospitals and universities is quite simply amazing

How did he do it? You can't explain his 'achievements' by saying it was his remarkable mix of social skills, intellect, and cheek. You have to look at his story. He lived with his father when his parents divorced, and came into contact with perhaps a rather seedy, bar-room society. This made him cagey, streetwise, and perhaps rather unscrupulous too. He discovered girls - and by the sounds of it went almost temporarily insane in his pursuit of them.

It didn't occur to him that a few dollars cleverly stolen from a big company constituted much of a moral wrongdoing, and with the thrill of success, and more women, his schemes became more daring. He conceived the crazy scheme of pretending to be a pilot - he could cash bad cheques all over America/the world that way and not be caught (so he reasoned) - and began to plan a deception of such cheek that people didn't see it for what it was.

"He's my boyfriend, I can hit him if I want to"

The quote in the title is from this story, in the Guardian of all places.

No one working for that newspaper is going to question where the attitudes of this girl come from (prevalent attitudes towards men, differences in perception of violence towards men and women), though many lines of print are written there on which attitudes towards women lead to violence.

I'd like to ask anyone reading this to think about why this was said - why the girl thought it was ok to say this. Here are some guesses:

a) the knowledge that she will probably escape a prison sentence (now where oh where did I read that someone wanted to empty women's prisons because they are too nasty? Do let me know)

b) common representations of men as more expendable in the media.How many times have we heard on the news that "women and children" were amongst those hurt" in some disaster, natural or otherwise. Hurting a man is represented as more or less ok, and frequently justified, if you watch BBC dramas.

The fact that we are (probably) hard-wired to have a little more sympathy for women and children doesn't mean we can pretend violence towards men is morally any different. Or we can, only if you are ready to disregard everything that is said about gender equality being for the greater good. You will also have to ignore anyone who claims that attitudes of 'men' towards 'women' are the cause of rape/violence. Some examples of this from our favourite rag:

I wonder at how easy it was for me to come up with those examples...

Yet if you say this to feminists, they look mystified. They simply cannot see how, if "attitudes towards women" cause violence, there can be any such phenomenon involving blatantly obvious attitudes towards men, and the fact that it is men who are sent off to die for their country, commit suicide more often than women, are treated unequally by the law etcetc.

It's slightly annoying :(

Friday, 3 June 2011


There are suggestions that the word 'chav' is an attack on the working class. I'm delighted to say that Polly Toynbee is one of those who have said this, and that once again I totally disagree with everything she said.

The simple fact is that being a "chav" is nothing to do with how much money you have, or were born into. It does, however, have everything to do with attitudes and behaviour that many working-class people would be ashamed of.

Perhaps this is where Toynbee loses the plot. What she calls "poisonous bile" could actually be described as social forces that help regulate behaviour. We condemn thuggish actions and threatening behaviour. We condemn the videos of kids showing off their knives on YouTube. It's part of what holds society together. Yet according to Polly Toynbee we can't say anything nasty about chavs because, she says, they are working class. 

Think about the logic of that for a second. We don't want to do down the working class, so we can't say anything nasty about a criminal if s(he) happens to be working class.

Toynbee has dragged the word 'class' into it for a reason - to obfuscate the argument and delude people into thinking we need to read Marx again to understand the issue. Shall we substitute the word "poor" for working-class? (it seems fair enough)  We are now saying: We don't want to do down the poor people for being poor, so we can't say anything nasty about a particular criminal if s(he) happens to be poor.

Happy with that? Because that is what I think she is saying.

The obvious problem is that some of us have started to use the term "chav" fairly derisively. Perhaps Toynbee doesn't like this aspect of things? It's perhaps an ugly part of the social forces I alluded to above, but I wonder whether she has ever said "men" in the same tone of voice we use to talk about chavs? Not even once or twice?

I could argue with every sentence she spills forth. For example:

"Aspiration and social mobility are the useful mirage, laying blame squarely with individuals who should try harder to escape their families and friends, instead of seeking great fairness for all."

No. People should try harder to not stab other people, not give someone a kicking because they are bored. It's not hard, you don't need a rich Mummy and Daddy to make that decision.

There seems to be an assumption in there that if only governments eliminated inequalities tomorrow then all this crime would disappear overnight. It's an old, tired argument, and it's not going to happen any time soon, so we won't get to find out whether it's true or not. One of the problems with "social mobility" is not one Toynbee will be happy with - the fact is we only need so many Doctors, CEOs, and Lawyers. So I'm fascinated to know what sort of world she thinks we will live in when inequality is finally defeated. 

As usual with Marxists, they are not at all concerned with the details of a crime, and looking at what might actually have caused it. They start off with the explanation. They are sure it is right - though they don't have the evidence - and over and over again they deny the concept of responsibility for ones actions (apart from rich white men, who are held personally responsible for what other people do). It's the intoxicating, addictive quality that some people seem to find in Marxist ideas - suddenly they have the answer to everything! If only people would listen...

It reminds me of religious sects or cults where "missionaries" are trained in how to answer every question or rebuttal they might encounter. In fact, I think we'd be a lot safer and more rational if we lumped Guardian readers with the Moonies and Waco cult members and just got on with trying to understand difficult problems of the causes of crime without the hysterical know-alls in that paper.

Here endeth the lesson

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Thoughts on Frank Abagnale, pt 1

So I read "Catch me if you can" recently and was totally hooked. Usually after reading a book of this kind I find my thinking very affected by the book and the personality of the writer (though this book is actually ghost written so it's my interepretation of the ghost writer's interpretation of Abagnale's thought processes)

He was such a sharp observer of people around him, seeing what people might be impressed by, and like any confidence trickster probably telling a lot about people very quickly from their gait/body language/voice etc. He also clearly had quite an imagination - if only to dream up these schemes and ways of getting information from people.

I imagine him formulating a new plan quickly, and thinking "I must start talking to that girl/an airline official/or whoever". Almost immediately, a scenario would come to his mind where someone had a quite legitimate query or occasion to start a conversation - and he would become that role, like an improvising actor. Such adrenaline-rush-fuelled skills may also explain his apparent success-rate with women - I'm sure Neil Strauss and the other pick-up artists would be interested in his approach if the haven't studied that sort of thing already. (He is what they would call a "natural", I believe)

He must also be good at approaching a conversation indirectly, mentioning a topic so the other person starts talking about it, and all of a sudden they are discussing exactly the kind of thing he wants to know about. Sometimes he will tease someone ("no way have you got an A-grade average...I need to see proof!") and that's a pretty well known technique I guess.

These are not skills I've been displaying in abundance in the last year or two of my life ;) Neither is the initiative that all that (in his case misdirected) industry takes. So now I'm setting myself exercises using time on the bus as body-language reading time (there is plenty of raw material, plenty of bodys, all speaking loudly!). It's also worth working on the improvisation-like skills I've mentioned. Anything you could be better at...

This is part of a self-improvement streak that I have to own up to. I've mentioned Neil Strauss above - one thing he has said is to do with working on "inner-game" ( perhaps another word for a kind of confidence), posture, and appearance. He said something in a seminar, along the lines of:

"You guys have no idea how hard I worked on this stuff, drilling it into myself every day"

And I do wonder what the best study/improvement method is, given that time is limited. Really I want to learn new ways of thinking, and 10 minutes of practice every day is really not good enough. And knowing me I'm in danger of my enthusiasm waning after a short while.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

How easy it is being a male....

Here you'll find an article on a man who was treated in a particular way by British Airways on the assumption that since he was a man he was, according to them, a risk to children he might be seated next to.

His pregnant wife wished to swap seats with him, so he obliged and found himself next to a child travelling on his own. The man was asked to change back to his seat on the grounds that he became a risk to the child's security.

Now this seems wrong-headed to me, for a number of reasons. Firstly let's not beat about the bush here - it's gender discrimination - precisely what we have been told for years is one of the worst evils in this land. It's sexism but against men so it doesn't make the news. No one will lose their job over this.

BA eventually said that they were at fault because they didn't realise he was with his wife. That too is slightly disgustingly wrong. They are admitting a minor fault, but not retracting their implicit sexism. It's one of the most insulting apologies I've ever seen (and there are many contenders).

Here is a quote from the excellent piece linked to above:

"When you think about it, even though Mr Fischer is quite right to label the policy sex discrimination, he was better off having swapped seats with his wife. Such is the fear and hysteria around child abuse, he might have been at greater risk than any fear-hyped child. Imagine if, having dropped his pen, and feeling for it on the floor, he accidentally brushed his fingers against the child’s leg. The kid screams, “Don’t touch me!” Three hundred eyes swivel his way, the cabin crew come rushing over, the pilot alerts the destination security, the poor sap is hauled off the plane protesting his innocence to no avail, and his life is ruined."

This comes a couple of days after I came out of my OWN HOUSE (which is next to a footpath) and a mother passed calling her 2/3 yr old daughter who behaved slightly shyly. Aforementioned mother then talked to the wife out of our neighbours saying her daughter was being slow because she had seen "a man" - and I think plenty of men would recognize the tone of voice that was said in. 

Not only do you get her bad attitude towards men. But the fact that the lady who lives next door - someone I thought I liked - is extremely unlikely to say anything to her friend, possibly (nay probably) on grounds of solidarity. Try and imagine that, ladies - I mean really try imagining living with those entrenched attitudes - and you might have a bit of a eureka moment about why the man in your life is the way he is.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Sometimes there's good news

So from time to time we go on holiday to Wales - often to the same place. Why to the same place, given that I'm a restless sort? Simply because the owners of the B&B and cottages are some of the nicest people I have ever met. We first stayed there 4 years ago when I was going through a stressful time at work. In a few days the holiday turned my mood around. One time, I overheard them talking about us. Usually you don't want that to happen, don't want to hear what other people say about you - but these people seemed to like us as much as we liked them. They gave me the best example I've ever seen of how family life should be - just happy and unworried.

They spoke so calmly - the hostess had a lovely smile and I must admit I was very charmed by her - but the husband too is an unusually happy, positive soul, and wonderful company. We talked about the walks round the area and took their dog on her favourite walk. She charged up and down steep, icy hills and we feared we might lose our host's dog for them but she always reappeared, ready for more mad dashes up and down the hills..

We didn't stay with them this time - but we were passing, so paid this family a visit. Their kindness goes far beyond that of someone trying to keep their guests on-side. Children from around the town came to visit and play on the trampoline. S and I drove back through the road with the most beautiful views I know - alone for miles and miles but for a few sheep and some deserted-looking former pubs - with a man in fatigues wondering between them (the area is used by the military). One of Norah Jones' lovelier albums added to the inner calm I felt. The sun shone over that landscape. My self-worth - whatever that really means - had returned, though I hadn't realised its absence.

It was a wonderful day. Every time I see our friends, I'm reminded how things should be, and how I ought to live. Too much of my life my day-to-day moments seem to have been plagued with nagging worry and discontent - I can still feel that old tension in my shoulders now. But happiness seems such an obvious thing in those Welsh hills. I guess I need that fresh air to breathe. I need to always remember that place inside me.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Osama Bin Laden

I can hardly say I am sorry that Osama Bin Laden was shot dead very recently. The manner of the shooting can only convince us, unfortunately, that the Americans a) are a law unto themselves, and b) talk and think as though they are living in a hollywood heroic movie scenario. Or at least canny politicians are aware that if they present things in this way, the US public are more likely to accept it.

Its quite possible that those politicians are as unable to distinguish between Hollywood "right and wrong" and the real world as the public they pitch their propaganda to. That seems to always be the question with them - did Mrs Thatcher firmly believe that we had to go to war (in the Falklands and then in the 1st Iraq war) or how motivated was she by the probable electoral boost that a war win would give her and her government? It's the same as what we were saying about Argentina's General Galtieri at the time..

It is chilling to think that politicians could write away young people's lives for such a reason. Tony Blair's motives were continually in question in his time in No.10, and I wish we could know the full story of why decisions to go to war were made the way they were.

But Bin Laden was unarmed and I have a feeling that he should have been brought to trial. Were the US afraid of tortuous legal proceedings? Did this persuade them that they should quietly advise the soldiers to  shoot to kill? I'm making this up as I go along, I know, but the fact remains he was unarmed when shot, and the scenario given to the press was flimsy from the start. were they truly afraid he would blow himself and the soldiers up in a suicide attack when cornered? This doesn't have the ring of truth for me - he wasn't a suicide bomber himself - he provided money and a figurehead for such people - but showed no wish to give up his life any time soon, even for his 'jihad'.

And now the steady slew of "revelations" being fed to the press telling us that, for instance, Bin Laden was planning another 9/11 style attack on the US (yeah right! in a stoned haze he might have said something of the kind). Such reports are there to scare us into thinking that "we got there just in time" - as Reagan famously said (was it about Panama?)

Now we learn that Bin Laden "was in active control of the terror network from his compound in northern Pakistan" when doubts have been raised as to whether al Qaeda had anything but the loosest of command structures - and may have been more a network than a military style organisation.

It all sounds like government-generated BS to me, to be honest.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

A new Guardian hack for me to complain about

Simon Garfield

Here are some gems. Firstly from his (awful) piece on Sir Clive Sinclair:

"Sinclair, who is not an especially tall man, has always been a great one for the smallness of things."

"..colour games such as Jet Set Willy became the second major activity in teenage bedrooms"

Then he gives us a quoted snippet of the conversation - it doesn't seem to be going too well. In fact it appears Sir Clive wishes the meeting would come to a speedy conclusion. And I can't imagine why!

The lack of substance in the article would suggest that the encounter was indeed short :) Though that impression may be due to the general inadequacy of the work that went into the piece, I couldn't say.

Here's a quote from  his review of a book called "Listening to Britain", an account of some Government snooping on it's own people to get an idea of national morale.

"How genuine was the daily fear of invasion, how imaginative our fantasies, and how widespread our bigoted views of foreigners"

I don't know how well Garfield knows his history, about the camps specifically set up to torture and exterminate mind-boggling numbers of human beings, the nauseating experiments and brutality that we know went on in them. I wonder how imaginative our fantasies were, then, before we became the enlightened 21st century anti-patriots we are now.

Laudable though his distrust of spying governments is, Garfield wants - for his own reasons - to portray Britain's wartime spirit as "a rather tremulous and febrile blethering, more Dad's Army stumbling than unwavering Churchillian resolve". Now I rather like stories of Churchillian resolve, so I admit to being initially biased, but Garfield only sees proof of what he wants to see, and rather self-confidently - Guardian style.

He gives very few actual examples of xenophobia. I don't dispute them. Such attitudes were in abundance in advance of WW1 as well, and Niall Fergusson argues, I believe*, that the actual German threat (in terms of plans to invade) to Britain was negligible at that time. 

So similar attitudes were to be found in 1940 (but more threat of invasion). But I wonder what our journalist-hero expects to find, in a time of extreme fear and distrust. Imaginations run wild - and yet Garfield thinks one or two stories of fears of parachuting nuns are proof of our national xenophobia, at a time when whole populations were being wiped out; a few years after the Nanjing massacre**; not long after a long and bloody war with Germany, watching their military machine rise again...Surprisingly, some xenophobic comments emerged. To a certain type of journalist this is big news.

Such writers constantly harp on about British "xenophobia" - wherever they can find it - ignoring everything else. They love stories of arrogant British toffs, feckless decision makers, military operations that went wrong etcetc. In short, they are learning nothing, just linking everything they read to a story they have already outlined in their heads - a sure way to mental stagnation.  

* I'm getting facts from Wikipedia on this occasion :)

** I mention this to put stories of our own prejudice at the time into context

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen

I was pretty happy earlier today. A beautiful day all round. Now I'm just watching the Twitter feed as the news of Elisabeth Sladen's death seems to be the main news of the night. I'm listening to Tori Amos' "Winter" ( a video of a live performance on YT) and crying surprising floods of tears.

As well as starring in my favourite boyhood TV show, she appeared to be an utterly delightful, charming person. The perfect companion...

Monday, 11 April 2011

BBC feminist clique on the website....again

A week or two ago I started noticing this trend in the BBC website again and blogged about it. The front page had a feature on "Women in business: linking to a page packed with rather gender-politically biased headlines.

Today's example is again on the homepage and is a feature called "Women War Artists", with the subtitle
"The Imperial War Museum London is celebrating their remarkable experiences and achievements"

I'm sorry to harp on about this - I really have no problem with women achieving a much as men do. I just take exception to the political and social pressure to constantly "celebrate" it when a woman does anything at all, however minor. There is an implication here - perhaps not clear even to those writing this stuff but there nonetheless - of a certain inequality, which is exactly what feminists claim they hate the most.

The thinking sometimes hear is that women's achievements have to be 'celebrated' (I hate that word, it is rather PC-speak, don't you think?) because they have been under-represented in the past....This is a kind of orthodoxy and there is considerable pressure in some places to accept and affirm it. .Would I be right in thinking the BBC was just such a workplace?

The problem with this orthodoxy are twofold:
a) we don't know if it's bloody true or not! It's just stated and restated by feminists
b) even if it WERE true, the solution that would be most equal would be not to mention the sex/colour/"race" of who is achieving things in the first place

The problem  is that the BBC think that it is important to keep saying that women are doing great things and we need to know why they think that. It does rather look as if they wish to speak negatively about men and always in the most glowing terms about women.

Still doubt me? Do a google search on "women" on the BBC website as a whole, or just in the news section. And you'll see how anxious the BBC are to divide people up into men and women, and assign values and victim status one way or another. Some headlines, in case you miss them:

Women 'cope better with stress'
Men 'out-performed at university'
Are women better negotiators?
If... Women Ruled The World
Monkeys learn more from females
Women drivers 'more law abiding'
Women top men as share tipsters
Women 'to be richer sex by 2025'
Macho culture 'putting off women' in construction
Business | Women could be the way forward
Male managers 'should copy women'
Women better drivers, says watchdog
Women 'better at holding drink'
"Women nose ahead in smell tests"
"Men 'drink far more than women'"
'Don't tell women how to give birth'
Bedside manner 'gives women edge' (in medical exams)
Women 'better investors than men'
Latvian women 'dealing with capitalism better ...
"Hormones make women safer drivers"

The BBC have carefully selected pieces of research that they think are 'interesting', which may mean they fit into a particular slant on gender politics. We need to escape this "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" reflex that is so prevalent - it is NOT the way forward to fairness

Saturday, 9 April 2011

BBC left wing slant

I've mentioned my feelings on this subject once or twice before, but cannot believe the scarcity of comment on the web about it. So I've decided to entertain you once more on the theme.

Peter Sissons is not a person I ever had much time for before. Indeed, I often thought he was complicit in the political bias of Auntie Beeb. However I've belatedly come across something of his written in the Daily Mail of all places (not my usual reading matter, I must say) that made me a very happy bunny indeed.

All through Margaret Thatcher's premiership (I was a slip of a lad), my mother would listen to PM at 5pm, the radio 4 news program. Every day a chap who I strongly suspect was Brian Perkins would dole out the bad news in a way that made you lose your will to live another moment longer. I do believe my mother's happiness (and my own) suffered as a result. Unemployment figures, inflation, etcetc were reeled off at us in deadly tones. His tone of voice told us emphatically that "things are getting worse"

BBC newsreaders do a lot with tone of voice, the editors choose their subjects wisely, and give highly partial write-ups and readings to those in any debate. They use the word "Tory" freely. The bias is especially noticeable throughout the BBC website. One commenter on the Sissons story said the following:

The BBC on line form you can fill in to do with their committment to delivering their equality and diversity agenda is loaded with socially engineered wording that is simply sickly and leaves no doubt as to where the company leads towards. It explains much bias consistently churned out led my feminist secular humanist types.

Now I can relate to this having read through a BBC online form asking what I thought of their representation of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals. The questions were all very carefully worded, and there was included a little lecture on why it was right to represent groups in a certain way - just in case you were still undecided.

So when BBC employees furiously defend the coorporation's commitment to impartiality I get particularly annoyed. If you have a strong political bias, have the courage to say it. If their job is to be impartial, I think that certain people are not doing their jobs. And being paid our money. The organisation needs a reshuffle. Sissons talks about the whole mindset of the BBC,  Rod Liddle spoke of the the Big Bother feeling (my words) in the seminars and workshops there.

But nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care....The BBC has a big effect on the way many people see the world and I can't see that its reporting is conducted responsibly.

Sissons' essay is superb, extremely honest, and is saying something that should have been said ages ago, and acted on. I urge you to read it, not because I want you to vote for fools like Cameron, but because you should care about standards of journalism and the ideas we are being given to believe.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The power of nightmares - Iran and Egypt

I've been re-watching Adam Curtis' documentary from 2005, "The power of nightmares". It really is superb stuff. I just want to jot down some observations, and am not giving them any structure to speak of.

It's interesting how both Iran and Egypt during the late 70s had "modernising" leaders (Sadat and the last Shah) who had strong links to the West, were considered corrupt by many of their people. They were great friends. One was deposed in 1979, then died. The other (Sadat) was of course shot, in 1981.

Their situations were slightly different, of course. The Shah didn't have enough support from the Shi'a clergy in his country, which became an Islamist state. He introduced women's suffrage in Iran - and look where things are now in that regard.

Adam Curtis focuses much on Ayman al-Zawahiri a good deal. al-Zawahiri was an Islamist who hoped to replicate the same revolution in his own country, he was part of the movement containing the cell that assassinated Sadat.

Sadat had moved first and imprisoned many from the movement before his death. The revolution al-Zawahiri was hoping for didn't happen, the streets stayed calm and the regime stayed in place. Sadat's right hand man Hosni Mubarak took charge and ruled from 1981 till a few weeks ago. On the other hand, no one Egyptian really turned up to Sadat's funeral either (plenty of ex-US presidents and other western leaders showed up, by contrast)

Al-Zawahiri, it seems used to follow the logic that if a muslim didn't follow his views, they were not proper muslims, and could therefore justifiably be killed. The documentary states that, indeed, he thought this killing would be a noble one. In his later Al-Qaeda days he claimed did not kill "innocents" though of course what his definition of "innocents" might have been could be open to subtle changes...

I read recently (can't remember the source, sorry - so a pinch of salt needed with this) that in this new Arab Spring, it would be bad for the West if Egypt and Iran were friends and allies now, but apparently that is far from being the case.

BBC Gender Politics bias

K sooner or later someone is going to tell me I'm imagining the BBC's anti-male gender politics bias. I invite them to look at todays BBC website main page and it's link to the business page. The main page has a feature on two only slightly related topics: "Why do men cat-call" and "Women in the workplace" (oh also a link to a page on "second-wave feminism")

I know there are some people who will seriously contend that these 2 topics are directly related, indeed many people think they have been abducted by little green men in flying saucers who conducted 10 year experiments on them. However, speeding swiftly back to planet earth (on our faster-than-light UFO) and reality I'd like to list some of the topics on the BBC Business News "Women in the workplace" sub-page today.

To their scant credit, the website editors have included the

Gender 'irrelevant in business'

story. This is so they can claim they have added an opposing point of view when in fact their world view is horribly skewed. Here are some of the other stories

I once started making a list of biassed BBC website pages, with dates, but i got bored of the depressing job. They seemed to leap on every bit of research they could find that made women look morally and intellectually superior to men, credulously swallowing every word. "Women better than men in business", "Women smarter decision makers" etcetc

The problem with people wanting to encourage women in business is that they need to be aware of the possibility that they are creating an imbalance the other way around, whereas in fact they aren't aware of anything (except their perceived cause)

The fact that this feature exists at all is in my view evidence of the strong but very questionable political bias in the news section of the BBC website - I don't know if it comes from the same editorial team as the Today programme on Radio 4, or if the website follows their lead.

UPDATE: By 12:30 the same day these pressing gender issues have been replaced on the BBC front page by the super-vacuous Anna Chapman 

I believe the correct thing to say here is ROFL. Maybe the feminists are balanced out by the lads in the BBC after all :)

Sunday, 27 March 2011


I was going to be rude about Laurie Penny and 98% of all journos, but I want to instead focus on Radio 4 and the hard time I often give them, and say some nice things about them for a change.

I won't go as far as to call the channel a "national treasure" as I believe they recently called themselves rather self-congratulatingly. My problems with the channel stem from the preponderance of the following programs

  • "Today"
  • PM at bloody 5pm (all the news coverage really: every hour, on the hour, and full of the sweet and smelly stuff)
  • Woman's Hour (sorry but I can't listen to any more of Jenni Murray or any of her guests*)
  • "Thinking allowed" (ffs)
  • one or two others
But I have to sing the praises of some of the drama they present: A superb radio adaptation of I Claudius - rivalling the 1976 TV version starring Derek Jacobi, it really was that good - many of the things that end up on Radio 7, the Professor Challenger stories now being aired, and this wonderful program on unsung Inventors called "Genius Unrecognised"

Beautiful stuff :) have a listen!

* there was a good program a year or two back with the mandolin player Alison Stephens (who has since sadly died). Which was so good I was tempted to start listening a few more times, arrghh.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Winston Churchill

There's a rather wonderful program on Radio 4 (the radio channel I usually complain about the most :)) called "Churchill's other lives", showing the different enthusiasms of Churchill's life: Painting, Films, Horses (?), Money etcetc.

We all know about his role as a war leader. He was unapologetically proud of Britain's imperial history and (I imagine) must have believed in the rightness of our culture, as he saw it. Not a good start for UK lefty-liberals in 2011, whose creed starts with the wrongness of Empire and seems to proceed all the way to saying that the English are therefore more evil than anyone else. 

I'll write separately on that, except to point out firstly that people can persuade themselves of the moral virtues of anything (look at Empire-builders or lefty liberals), but also something that seems to stand out about the man. His humanity.

For all his naivety and Conservatism, he had more than his fair share of personal courage, believing himself destined by fate for great things. He seemed assured that bullets (in the hail of battle) were unlikely to bring him such a prosaic death before he had done his life's work. The lucky chance that kept him alive must have strengthened his self-belief all the more in this regard. I think this sense of destiny - and the vision he had of a "Great" Britain, must have been at the core of him (he doesn't seem to have been deeply religious)

I've heard criticisms, & negative views. These generally came from various lefty friends who wanted to denigrate him for reasons of their own political alignment, and have always been rather petty. I don't think I've yet heard anything about him that fundamentally soured my opinion of the man. I don't share his world view, but I still think that as a national hero (for the second half of the last century) he wasn't at all a bad choice.

Stories are very important to us. They are nearly always oversimplified (and sometimes purely fantastic or fictitious) versions of events. As historical scholarship perhaps they will not do. So if that discipline were done properly it might kill heroes and myths forever. But the power of stories to motivate people, the power of myth to give people belief, can't be forgotten. Exactly that belief is what makes us capable of amazing things.