A Better Class of Scandal.

One of the things highlighted by the Ipswich murders late last year was how dangerously divided our society is becoming. While liberals here on Machiavelli blog and elsewhere commented on the fact that mainsteam media (i.e. papers owned by Murdoch and other pornographers) could not see past the fact that the women were prostitutes as if that made them less human, the more liberal minded saw a horrendous crime against human beings.
Perhaps the sneering attitude of The Sun helped its editorial team deal with the guilt they felt at working for a paper that carries column upon column of ads for “personal services”.
Society was not always so pejorative. Back in the early sixties (when “Please Please Me was number one” to quote the Pet Shop boys, good time girls, as the News of the World coyly called them, were epitomised by the ethereally beautiful Christine Keeler and the cheeky cutie Mandy Rice – Davies who stood in the dock of the Old Bailey and gave us one of the great catchphrases of the decade.
The whole nation took a prurient delight in the doings of Christine and Mandy and their hapless lovers. The whole scandal had the air of a Carry On film about it.
Present day society is less innocent, less articulate and more likely to gang up on people who do stuff that might affect property values. The stylish witticisms of the Profumo affair have been replaced by crude insults. And in the mania to join the mob it is forgotten that “prostitute” is a word with several shades of meaning.
I’ll give you an example, forget the crack hos for a moment and consider this; have our leaders not prostituted their office and the honours system through their “cash for titles” activities? And are they not further dishonouring themselves through their inept attempts to engineer (or more accurately bodge together) a cover up.
And is a teensy bit suspect that, just as the investigation seems to have cut through all the official obfuscation to get some hard evidence, Labour MP Tony Wright, chair of the Commons Public Administration Committee publicly calls for the investigation to be ended as “it is getting nowhere.”
The “nowhere” it is getting is of course perilously close to the truth.
So no wonder Wright’s outburst brought to my mind the words spoken by Mandy Rice – Davis when she was told another witness had contradicted her evidence.
“He would say that wouldn’t he?”

History Lesson for Christians

There have been a lot of people recently who felt the need to go into print to tell us that Christianity has been a force for good in the last sixteen hundred years, one of the latest being humanist journo. Madeline Bunting.
Now I understand where Ms. Bunting is coming from, we all have Christian friends and understand they don’t really want to be constantly reminded what a bloodthirsty gang of thugs their predecessors were but historian A.C. Grayling felt the need to put his colleague right on a few points.
Pity he dod not have time to mention what the buggers did to Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria. I mean, Roz and Jenni are a couple of sweeties and my friend Janet is a drink on a stick, but that still does not excuse the fact that Christians dragged poor Hypatia, the most learned woman in the world, out of her office in the Library and flayed her with oyster shells while the library itself, which held the largest collection of texts in the ancient world, was burned.
And their excuse? True wisdom can only come from God through the church so everything not approved by the church (for the simple reason it had not been invented) was the work of the devil!
Those events took place around 405 AD but examine the logic and you will see many parrallels with the American fubdamentalist thinking that is dragging us towards WW3.

“Reserve your right to think for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all. To teach superstition as truth is a most evil thing” :- Hypatia of Alexandria.

Birth – Giving Machines

After two weeks in which racism has dominated the national debate comes a story of sexism that must make us wonder why out leaders are so outraged at the rantings of “fick,” porcine – featured chavs and yet are always so keen to suck up to culturally unsound western powers such as Japan. For almost thirty years, successive Prime Ministers have been telling us we should be “more like the Japanese.” Do they mean we should turn into a nation of woman haters?
It is a few years since a Japanese Prime Minister was forced to resign after adverse reaction in the west to his publicly stated belief that “a man is not really a man until he has raped a woman.”
Disrespect to women is still a rather disturbing cultural reality in the Land of The Rising Sun though. Last weekend Japan’s current health minister, in an attempt to shore up the declining birth rate, called upon the nation’s “baby making machines” to up their productivity rate.
Japan of course does have a big problem with its declining birth-rate but instead of demeaning Japanese women Yanagisawa – san should look for the root of the problem, which like so many other problems that beset the world, lies in the obsession with globalisation of economics.
Like all other trading nations Japan’s economy relies on constantly accelerating economic growth. The expansion of trade that fuels this growth is underwritten by ever increasing property prices. This in turn means the cost of housing imposes an unsustainable burden on the joint income of couples. There is no way a single income can support two people let alone allow them to take on the added expenses of bringing up children. This is where Japan’s problem lies.
If a newly united couple plan to raise a family, adequate living space is a necessity. If you though the price of a decent sized house or flat in London was obscene just look at similar properties in Tokyo.
But as usual the politicians and businessmen cannot possibly be at fault so blame must fall on the ordinary punters, and in Japan’s sexist culture who better to blame than women.

Mozart Myth Exposed – classical music does not make brighter babies

Summary Justice on the Streets

In the week when the Prison Service was finally forced to ask the courts not to send any more prisoners a news story from The Accrington Observer deserves national attention because it reveals the true nature of the government’s witch hunt justice. You may be aware that in the eighteenth century women were accused of being guilty and found guilty of being accused.
A young man in Accrington will fight an on the spot fine for littering and is prepared to go to prison before he pays up.
The “on-the-spot fine” was handed out by one of the town’s community wardens. Under the summary justice system these clipboard wielding bureaucrats who are not police officers and have no powers of arrest, can hand out fines and demand immediate payment, backing up the demand with warnings that “if you choose to go to court the fine could be a lot bigger.”
Well I had no idea that the Sheriff of effing Nottingham was running the justice system but when I reveal the circumstances surrounding the case it is even more appalling.
The lad had been walking along the main shopping street drinking fruit juice from a carton when his mobile phone rang. Stepping towards the buildings so as not to obstruct people he put his drink down on the pavement while he fiddled with the phone. As he was answering the call, the warden stepped up and handed him the ticket. There was no request to pick up the carton and no warning that he might be about to commit an offence. He was still standing next to the carton so he had not actually committed an offence, it is not illegal (yet) to put one’s property down on the pavement and he had not moved away from his drink. The young man said he had no intention of leaving the carton, in fact after the incident he picked up the drink and finished it.
So where is the offence except in the eyes of a single minded bureaucrat whose only though is to hit a government imposed target for funds raised through arbitrary fines.
Yet the bureaucracy is so implacable that nobody has had the common sense to say “let’s quietly drop this one.”

If that is justice in Blair’s Britain, no wonder there is no respect for the law.

When Dubya Turns Green Be Afraid.

I’m rather concerned about something in President Bush’s State Of The Union speech. Dubya is turning green.
When Dr. David Banner starts to turn green its the bad guys who need to be afraid because the arrival of the Incredible Hulk is imminent. But when America’s neo-con President announces he is turning green we should all be very afraid… Because it means the religious right are up to something.
If you missed the news item the President announced that as part of his plan to reduce America’s carbon emissions by 20% he would be sponsoring an initiative to encourage the agricultural sector of the economy to get into the petroleum business by growing Corn (Maize) and Soya crops from which ethanol can be produced. The biofuel is then added to oil based petroleum thus reducing the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere.
On the face of it the idea sounds rather crackpot, so what is it really about?
The first thing to spring to mind is that it is nothing but a cynical ploy by the Republicans to secure votes for Dubya’s would be successor in the 2008 Presidential Election. Certainly the mid – west is Republican heartland where support has been eroded most by the military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. A big boost to the farming communities by inventing a new market for cash crops that the USA currently have far too much capacity to produce would be a sound political move.
The second possibility is that the move is purely political and aimed at reducing America’s dependency on politically unstable or possibly hostile nations such as Russia, Venezuela or Iran for the means to supply the greedy economy’s oil habit.
In either case the proposal does not make economic or scientific sense.
Growing the biofuel crops is hardly a job for small, environmentally aware farming operations. The production units would have to be vast, highly mechanised farms capable of growing maize or soya by the square mile rather than by the acre. Farming would have to be intense, with only two crops to rotate and margins so tight as to remove the opportunities for leaving areas fallow, the policy would create perfect conditions for a repeat of the 1930s dustbowl social disaster.
The farms would have no option but to dump huge quantities of chemical fertilizers on the land thus polluting the water table and affecting wildlife and human population.
Then we get to the bottom line. The President says he plans to set in train a process that will eventually reduce emissions by 20%. Ethanol only reduces carbon emissions by 13% against oil; based fuels. And that is without counting the carbon released during the manufacture of fertilizer, the agricultural tasks from ploughing to transporting the harvested crop and the huge, energy hungry processing plants needed to convert the crops first to sugar and then to alcohol. Without doing the maths in fine detail it becomes clear that the great green initiative could actually result in pumping more greenhouse gases and chemical pollutants into the atmosphere per gallon of fuel in your tank.
As I said the economics do not make any sort of sense

So really the only logic behind this bizarre announcement would appear to be that the neo – cons plan to make America independent of the wider world in oil because that would free up a future right wing government to run around nuking without compunction any nation that does not comply with orders from the White House.

When Dubya turns green be afraid, be very afraid.

Update 20 December 2009:
And to show us all what he really meant by “change you can believe in,” Obama follows ?Bush down the Biofuel dead end
Obama buys the biofuel hype

How Do Civil Servants Earn Their Salary?

Iain Dale yesterday brought us this intriguing item, a Parliamentary Question from David Ruffley.

David Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform’s blog has cost to administer in each month since its inception; what the budget for the blog is for 2007-08; and how many unique visitors to the blog there have been since May.

Jim Murphy: The Welfare Reform and Child Poverty blog was launched on the DWP internet site on 16 October 2006. Costs to develop and administer the blog were met from existing resources, and current staffing levels. Ongoing maintenance equates to half the time of one member of staff. From October to date this has cost £1,487 per month.At present no funding decisions have been made about the financial year 2007-08.Since it was launched it has attracted 1,987 unique visitors resulting in 4,731 hits

Iain commented:

Now, if this blog has been up for three months, and is costing £1,487 per month, this means that the blog is costing over £2 per visitor. And the subject of the blog… Child Poverty! As Mr Littlejohn would say, ‘you couldn’t make it up’. If you look at the blog, in the last months, there have been just 4 posts (which read like press releases…). And they are paying half a member of staff to maintain it ?

I cannot add anything to Iain Dale’s comment except to say its nice from an ego polishing pov to know that a government funded and maintained website dealing with a very important topic gets as many hits in three months as Boggart Blog gets in a week but as a taxpayer it makes me puke.

The Politics of Fear and Panic

The Government’s penchant for spreading fear and panic has been a staple of both Machiavelli and Boggart Blog. But now it is official, their is a policy of fear and panic.
The Director of Public Prosecutions no less has spoken out, accusing the Government and in particular John Reid and Tony Blair of using the dissemination of rumours calculated to cause fear and panic as a means of diverting attention from their failures in most areas.
Sir Ken McDonald has thrown down the gauntlet by suggesting in a speech that the “war on terror” is just a smokescreen to cover up a systematic attack on civil liberties.
Sir Ken went on to say that a fear driven and inappropriate response to the perceived terrorist threat could lead us as a nation to abandon or respect for justice and commitment to basic human rights such as fair trials.

Which is more or less what we liberal bloggers have been saying for the past few years.

Al Qaeda Threaten Terrorist Attacks On Britain If Hate Preacher Abu Qatada Is Deported

Is Britain Really Racist?

Last week I posted an item on the ?Big Brother racism row in which I suggested that what we were seeing, while unpleasant was not racism but simply bullying rooted in ignorance and stupidity. It attracted some comments but not very many, to get the hundreds of comments I can draw on U.S. blog sites here at blog.co.uk I would have to post on how unfair it is of my mum to make me tidy my room.
Still, it was gratifying to read in today’s Guardian an article by philosopher Julian Braggini backing up my view.

Braggini spent some time in Rotherham S. Yorks, studying working class culture in the Britain that lies outside the M25. He admits he was at first shocked by what he though was casual racism, then he realised the language being used was not racist as there was no hatred behind it. All that was going on was rough speech.

But don’t take my word for it, read for yourselves, and be warned Britain does not see itself as London sees Britain. I have been saying for years the view from Highgate Hill is very different to the view from Pendle Hill.

Interesting Times

“May you live in Interesting Times” goes the old Chinese curse.
We do, we do.
In the past few months the American government has been negotiating with the right – leaning regimes in new EU member nations Poland and The Czech Republic with the intention of putting “Son of Star Wars” Missile Defence Shields in those countries. In both nations public opinion polls consistently show two thirds of the population are against their nation’s involvement in America’s world domination plans.
Despite that and despite Russia’s warnings that if there is to be an American presence in bordering states it will have to “review its defence strategy” both governments are eager to go ahead. Since the break up of the Soviet Union the EU has benefitted from improving relations with Russia.
America also has plans to put “SoSW” bases in friendly Pacific Rim countries.
Only last week China tested a missile powerful enough to use as a “battering ram” that could take out spy satellites without having to carry a warhead.

In the Middle East a build up of U.S. troops and military hardware puts pressure on Iran but at the same time brings Iran (and Syria and Egypt) closer to China and Russia. Which way India and Pakistan will go is anybody’s guess, but you gan bet they will go in opposite directions.

You just have to join up the dots to see the big picture.

Ice Strom Deniers hit Machiavelli Blog

A couple of days ago the blog featured a story on the Ice Storm in America’s midwest.
Predictably I had a comment from an American claiming I had my facts wrong, there was no big problem just a litte local inconvenience, not “millions over a large area of the mid-west” without power for days but 36,000 in the town of St. Louis.
America is truly a country in denial. They can’t admit anything bad happens there. In a comment Vortigern pointed out that New Orleans refugees are still housed in a barbed wire enclosure. Now if I posted that on an American site I would be getting death threats again. Nothing bad happens in America, there is no poverty in America, there is no racism in America. GOD LOVES AMERICA!
Since the post I have learned from my more liberal friends across the pond that far from overstating the problem Machiavelli had grossly understated it. From Amanda at PandangonI learned that in her hometown, Austin, Texas, they had been at a virtual standstill for three days; from Candy at buzzle I found out that over a third of the California citrus crop has been ruined by extreme cold, while Greg at gatherconfirmed that the whole state of Missouri, the surroundiung states and all points west to the coast had been affected.
That’sd one hell of a local inconvenience, but as I said to America’s right wing there can never be any admission of a problem or failing, that is a sign of weakness.
Don’t know about you but to me that sounds a lot like fascism.

Big Brother racist – never?

The Political Correctness police always do it. Time and again they fall for the trick and give a massive boost to the people they are trying to criticise.
This series of (not) Celebity Big Brother was seriously failing. Nobody was watching and the not Celebs were not obliging enough to make exhibitions of themselves. But the producers had planned for that. Hands up who has not thought how convenient it was that the ongoing row that has followed the introduction of Jade Goody just happens to centre on the most emotive word in the language.
The failing of the PC police is that they interpret that which is not racist (unpleasant yes, insensitive yes, disgusting yes, but not racist) as racism. The PC Police are of course incorrigibly middle class. Not only do they not understand the working class mind, they have no intention of trying, instead they simply try to impose their morals and values on everybody. We should remember that racism is the belief that people of a different ethnicicy are somehow inferior, their humanity has less value. To be racist requires a certain intellectual subtlety, to be racialist (to mistrust those who are different) just requires stupidity. The Working Class are not by any means all stupid, nor are the middle class all sensitive and inclusive. Let’s look closely at what is going on.
I have managed teams in which the way people of African and Asian origin were spoken to made me cringe. But such behaviour is motivated not by malice but by ignorance and stupidity.
Jade Goody remember, redefined the scale of stupid. In fact she has made a career out of stupidity and being totally beyond embarrassment. Her cohorts in the Big Brother debacle are not much brighter however, even if they are better looking.
The victim of the bullying, Bollywood magastar Shilpa Shetty, is not only a bigger celebrity in global terms than the rest put together but she is beautiful, intelligent, gracious, cultured and articulate – and speaks better, much better, English than her abusers (and yes, I do have a thing about Indian women.)
So what has gone on in that studio is not racism but plain, old-fashioned class envy. Shilpa is upper middle class, her tormentors are low end of the working class. We pretend the class system is dead but that is not so. Also we must not forget that the Big Brother programme makers will edit the footage to make it look as sensational as possible.
It is more than thirty years since I moved to East Lancashire but even now when I am introduced into a group of people who all know each other the usual response is “you’re not from round here are you.” This is not as bad as I used toget in London where the routine question was “do you still keep coal in the bath?”
“Do they eat with their fingers in India?” is from the same batch of stupidity.
There then follows a process of testing, usually in the form of derogatory remarks about he place one hails from. Deal with this good humouredly and you are accepted; show any sign of offence and you have committed the very worst sin in the eyes of the working class: that of “thinking you are somebody.”

To fall for the line that the baiting of Shipla is racist is to allow ourselves to be manipulated by these televisual freakshow operators. Its time we all rose above that and gacve the thumbs down to their pathetic, sensationalist television.

Having Your Cake And Eating It- the Nanny State way

A poll commissioned by the Labour party has revealed that the British public has a mixed attitude to Government. While we demand better public and cheaper services but less Government intervention in our lives.
Is it unreasonable to try to obtain more for less a.k.a. better value for money when our taxes are involved? After all The current Government are dealing with the debt crisis by telling us to tighten our belts and shop around for better value. So are the senior civil servants who received the poll results right to be miffed at our ingratitude? And are we right in thinking that of all European nations we are the most hassled by our government.
Having worked in several European countries I do feel that though most, principally Germany, France, Sweden and Holland have extensive social welfare programmes, the way these are run is less heavy handed and intrusive.

Can it be that the Dutch, Germans, French, Swedes and other only need telling once that smoking is bad for them, that binge drinking is not big and its not clever and that taking drugs is just self destructive. Can it really be that only the British are not capable of thinking for themselves and need a bureaucrat supervising every breath.
I think the problem is a throwback to the class system. The lower end of the middle classes were usually not better off than the more affluent working class families (those where the breadwinner was a craftsman or similar) so they adopted an attitude of moral superiority. There wags an idea of “the undeserving poor,” those people so ignorant and irresponsible they had to be saved from their own stupidity.

I suspect in the minds of middle ranking civil servants the idea of the undeserving poor and the need of the self-righteous middle class to wag admonishing fingers at them still exists. It shows itself in the regular appearance of ideas like withholding hospital treatment from drinkers, smokers and overweight people.

Now we can’t really blame either party for the Nanny state, they have both contributed to the huge increase in Government snoopers at the expense of professions like nurses, teachers, bus and train drivers, ambulance crews and police and fire officers.

But the lesson that needs to be learned by Nanny is one I had to teach middle managers many times in my career as a management consultant: if you treat people like children they tend to behave like children.

US Ice Storm is a Shakespearean tragedy

A contact at gather.com told me yesterday there is a big ice storm going on in America’s mid west. Millions of people in the area around St. Louis, Missouri have been without electricity for nearly a week after ice and snow brought down overhead power lines. So far 36 people have died because of the freak weather. Government officials say it will be several more says before power can be restored even if temperatures rise. READ STORY on Yahoo news

Meanwhile climate change deniers crank up the volume and the airlines tell us to keep on flying.

And George W. Bush announces an escalation of the war in the Middle East.

Perhaps the President needs a lesson in literature. Let’s start with Shakespeare; Henry 1V part 2 (Act 4) where somebody asks the King:

“be it thy course to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels?”

Yeah well, quite.


Brace Yourselves For The Invasion of Iran.

Sometime early last year Little Nicky made one of Machiavelli blogs famous predictions. (Not all my predictions come true, I just don’t mention the ones that don’t.) In posting here and at Salon.com, Guardian News Blog, Gather.com and other venues I said that with public opinion in the U.S. turning against him, George Bush would delay the war with Iran until after the mid term elections which would go against the republicans. He would then start banging the wardrums and launch the attack in late 2007 or early 2008, providing an excuse to declare a national emergency and suspend the Presidential elections. Well I exaggerated about the last bit to boost readership, its more likely the attack on Iran will be a last desperate gamble to swing America behind the war and ensure a republican succession.
But most of it I stand by.
There follows the opening paragraph of an article written by Dan Plesch, an expert on Middle Eastern politics. It appeared in today’s newspaper.
“The evidence is building up that President Bush plans to add war in Iran to his triumphs in Iraq and Afghanistan – and there is every sign, to judge by his warmongering speech in Plymouth last Friday that Tony Blair would be keen to join in if he were still in a position to commit British forces to the field.”


And another point of view
Double brace yourselves folks because I now predict that Blair will now delay his resignation until after the invasion of Iran in order to gamble on being asked to stay on rather than “destabilise the government in a time of crisis.” After all a change of leadership in such circumstances would be bad for morale. Wouldn’t it?

Power is a very seductive mistress, especially to those with a messianic self image.

A Case Of Liberal Fascism

One does not expect The English National Ballet to feature in Machiavelli Blog very often but here they are in the middle of a controversy involving the ultra right BNP and the Anti Nazi League.
The British National Party is not the natural home of prancing terpsichorean we imagine, or imagined until ENB lead ballerina Simone Clarke was outed as a member.
In response to this news a protest was organised and fifty shaven headed thugs paraded outside the theatre where Ms Clarke was due to perform. No, not BNP minders but anti fascist protesters. Fair enough, they have a right to protest. What was not acceptable was that when the performance began a group of anti – nazi protesters who had got inside the theatre tried to disrupt the performance.
The thing I dislike about the anti – fascist movement is their readiness to adopt fascist tactics to achieve their aims. A fascist BTW is someone who believes in power through strength, or might is right, so lets have none of that wussy, politically correct business of “if you call someone a fascist that means you’re a fascist.” which always comes up when I use the term. That kind of response is really at the level of kindergarten kids saying “if you say someone stinks that means you stink, nyhr.” We aim at a higher level of debate on Machiavelli.
In trying to prevent a dancer from practising her profession not only are the protesters deploying the same tactics as were used to marginalise Jews from the late Roman era to the end of World War 2, they are also denying the other dancers, the musicians and the theatre staff the right to earn their living. On top of that the audience who have paid to see a ballet are being deprived of their rights. All because of the political views of one performer.
My personal opinion of the BNP is that their racist views are repugnant. Having said that, on a number of issues they are quite left wing on some issues. All that aside, if we claim to be a liberal democracy we must protect their right to contest elections and publish their literature so long as it stays within the law. The best way to strengthen an organisation like the BNP is to exclude it from the democratic process. If you doubt me, read up on Hitler’s rise to power.
The Anti Nazi League and their supporters made two mistakes here, firstly they have made a personal attack on an individual. In a free society and individuals politics and religion are their own business. Even if the organisations they belong offend our sensibilities, individuals must be free within the law. That freedom only ceases when extremist organisations try to impose their view or try to silence alternative opinions.
Secondly, they assumed that people in the arts are uniformly left of centre. Most creative and performance artists are left leaning, but the one issue that will align them all behind Simone Clarke is the attempt to curtail her right to free expression.
I wholly support the aims of the anti nazi league and understand that one of their tactics is to oppose fascism as stridently as extreme right groups oppose liberalism, but this time they missed the target and shot themselves in the foot.

A Hotch Potch From Across The Pond

Little Nicky is becoming a global force in blogging so I get around many interesting blogs.

One subject that is dominating a lot of discussions across the pond at the moment is religious fundamentalism.

Here’s a gimpse of how rough it can get as the Liberals who have got tired of trying to be reasonable start to stand up to the rabid religious right:

Pam Spauling, Pandangon blogger, on the religious right’s attacks on the new democratically elected Democrat leaders of Congress for her support for gay rights.
Radical Gay Eggs and Ham – Pam Spaulding

A story by Pandangon’s Amanda on how the religious right are only willing to debate issues when they can control the agenda.
Massachusetts Marriage Bigots call For Positive Dialogue

From Salon.com an article on the Christian right’s infiltration of America’s social support agencies, education system and Government. This piece is wrtitten by a Christian conservative who is alert to what is happening.
War On America

And a few words from Pandangon again on the topic of hetrosexual anal sex which we freethinkers reckon should stir the fundies up as much as homosexuality.
Hetrosexual Anal Sex

Well that’s just a few to be going on with. People who think my attacks on fundamentalism should take a look at the stories and comments. You weill see that the liberal views are always rational and justifiable. RR rebuttals of those views contain threats, the vilest kind of verbal abuse relating to gender and sexual orientation.

So if you think I am a bit brutal at times be glad we’re all British. Because in America its not the liberals or us limey pinko faggots who get the worst abuse from the Religious Right. Its people who support them but are not extreme enough!

Could the Cof E Step In Where The NHS Has Failed.

OK, that headline will be a shock to some as I have always made it clear I am emphatically not Christian. I did tell my frien Jenny (ViEiRa) not long ago however that I had some fond memories of the village church in Shropshire where I was brought up. Not of services or anything, my family were never churchgoers, but of an aspect of the British church we seem to have almost lost.
Without the Church and the pub (an unholy alliance?) there would have been no social life, the Midsummer Fete, Harvest Festival, Bonfire Night, the Chistmas Panto which as represented in the Vicar of Dibley, was just an excuse for everyone to do their party piece and a couple of activities around Easter and Whitsun that I now know were very pagan in origin.
But there was another aspect of the Church that I was barely aware of as a child but was reminded of when I read a dire warning that the National Health Service cannot keep up with the demand for domestic care for the elderly. In the village the WI volunteers made sure old people were visited, taken meals where necessary, had somebody to talk to a couple of times a week at least, received help keeping their gardens tidy and their homes in good repair, (I was drafted into digging, weeding, whitewashing and painting teams several times) and that the right people were alerted if a crisis was looming. I guess it was care in the community by the community.
Twenty – five years of Thatcherism later, people are not so generous with their time of course. And forty years of bureaucratic interference later I’m not sure it could still be done even if people were willing.
From a heated debate at The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog following an attack on the anti-homosexuality torchlit protest outside Parliament earlier in the week I detected something rather unpleasant and very American seems to be creeping into our society. We all know that Evangelical Chistianity with all the bigotry and misrepresentation that involves has infiltrated the dear old C of E and the protest was made by an affiliation of Swivel -Eyed Fundamentalist Jews, Muslims and Christians. While posting and commenting at American web mags I see many quite irrational arguments often descending into pure hatred over what is the right way to worship Jesus. Religion seems to have become a monster that is tearing the nation apart. We must not allow the fanatics to divide our society in the same way.
Now although my personal view is that the world can never begin to solve its problems until all organised religion is banned, I would defend passionately the right of people to practice their chosen religion. That right however should not extend to telling the rest of us we will be damned to perdition (love that phrase!) if we do not fall into line with their looney prejudices. In other words I expect the same tolerance to be extended to me and my fellow non – believers as most of us are prepared to extend to religionists.
And so I ask the question of religious readers, would it not be more Christian to bury the differences, form joint Anglican, Catholic, Mehodist (and Muslim where appropriate though I know in areas with large Muslim communities there is a support structure,) community support groups and work with the agencies of state? A bit less Jesus loves you and a lot practical action is was the first British Christian Church was about. (Did you know that Chistianity in Britain dates back to about a century before the date given for Jesus’ birth? Fascinating stuff, ancient history.)
Such an initiative would get mainstream churches back into the community, relieve some of the burden on overstretched resources and distance the acceptable face of Christianity from the Homophobic, Racist, Woman Hating varieties of that belief system.
I know some Chistians read Machiavelli so why not refine this idea with people of your faith, get some media coverage, challenge the Government to get involved or…
here’s a biggie…
ask Prince Charles for his support, he complains about people thinking he’s irrelevant.

Go on, I dare you. You don’t have to tell anyone you got the idea from an unrepentant old pagan.

BTW sorry if this seems incomplete. It probably needs a longer article than I have been able to give it today.

Bed and Breakfast Bible Society

Top your carrots or top yourself.

Machiavelli Scandals Inc. in conjunction with DEFRA the people who brought you BSE, Foot and Mouth, Salmonella Flavoured Eggs, An Epidemic of Boy Boobs*, Dawn of the Dioxins and The Organophosphate Trilogy (you’re supposed to read all that in a booming “voiceoverman” voice) bring you the The Great Organic Food Racket.
David Milliband, the minister in charge of the Department for Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs has attacked the Organic food industry claiming that organically produced food is neither tastier nor healthier.
In saying organic is simply a lifestyle choice he reveals that he has completely failed to understand his brief. But what should we expect from a man who left University with a degree in politics to work for the Labour Party, then became an MP and then a minister.
It is not an impressive CV for a job that requires an in depth understanding of agriculture and the countryside.
The real issues around the Organic debate relate to a battle between the long term wellbeing of our environment versus the short term financial interests of big business.
So for anyone except an accountant or a career arse-licker it has to be a no brainer:

Organic is sustainable, it does not poison the land,

Organic does not put dioxins or organophosphates into the food chain where they concentrate in leaves and skin of edible vegetables.

Organic is more labour intensive thus boosting rural economies.

Organic is often local thus clocking up less air miles on its way to our plates.

Factory farmed produce by contrast is prettier and more profitable. But organic is more than a lifestyle choice, it is a matter of life or death for our grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Think it through Milliband you dickhead.

*In the last thirty years mens boobs have got bigger (and their nipples more sensitive) due to the addition of feminine hormones to animal feeds in order to make factory farmed animals fatten up more quickly.

Where is America Going

It’s painful to watch what is going on in America. In the last few months there seems to have been a realisation by the non – religious people and the mainstream Christians of the danger posed by a fanatical few who are skilfully manipulating a vary large constituency of uninformed people towards some rather unpleasant goals.
Now although I get rather irritated when these people tell me “Jesus loves you Ian,” or “we can only prevent climate change by giving our lives to God,” I am sure the people who believe such stuff are genuine. (I’m rather less well disposed towards the ones who tell me I am an immoral person because morality can only come from faith in the God of the Fundamentalists…)
It is the evil bastards who fill their heads with such nonsense that pose the threat to western civilisation because they preach that there is only one acceptable religious philosophy and that America must use its military might to impose that religion on the world.
This article at Salon is a very good read. It is written by a Chistian who is very worried about where Christianity in his country is going.

The Belfast Bed and Breakfast Bible Society.

This is yesterday’s post really.
Sunday is a good day for posts relating to religion and spirituality. Its also a good day for having a day off sometimes, so here is a Sunday post a day late.
The main religious story of the week was of course the Northern Ireland B & B proprietor run by a member of the D.U.P. (Defend Ulster from Poufs) party. If you did not catch the story, a storm in a teacup has blown up over a lesbian couple being turned away from the B & B because the owner is a “Christian” and did not want that kin of thing going on in the house. (sorry, we’re in Northern Ireland, I mean “hoyse.” i.e. Oy do nort warnt thot koynd of thing goying orn in the hoyse.”)
My first reaction on hearing tyhe news item on radio was “oh well, that’s fair enough, people have a right to decide who they will or will not allow into their home.” But it goes a bit deeper than that.
There seems to be a double standard in operation among the Paisley pattern duvet covers. What are a gay or lesbian couple likely to get up to that a mixed gender couple could not be doing?
Now my understanding of this area may be a little vague so let’s work though it.
Say a man and woman turn up and ask for a room or roym. Now the proprietor can ask are you married?
And the couple can truthfully say “yes we are,” without actually mentioning that its no to each other. On the scale of Biblical abominations I think adultery scores just as highly as homosexuality, probably higher.
And then what could this married but not to each other couple get up to that might offend against Presbyterian principles? A bit of crack smoking, anal sex, erotic asphyxiation, S&M.
The next question must be is it fair to assume that if a same sex couple take a room “that sort of thing” is going on hammer and tongs for the duration of the stay? What if they just like to sit in hotel rooms and read Agatha Christie novels. And what is a same sex couple? What if two guys working on a contract want a twin room to keep expenses down?
I would not like to stay in a hotel where the owner takes a prurient interest in what is happening in my room, even if I was alone.
Is it smart for someone with such a rigid (oops, pardon!) attitude to open a B&B. People get up to all sorts in hotels in fact the classier the hotel the weirder the clientele. Staff are trained to be blind deaf and dumb where guests antics are concerned.
Perhaps if the proprietor involved in the incident indicated it was a Christian B&B it might be enough of a hint. But to advertise “no same sex couples” would be acceptable, as bad in fact as advertising (as B&Bs in London still did in the early sixties when I first went there alone) “No Blacks or Irish.”
Mixing business with pleasure is dangerous, mixing business with moral prejudice is a minefield.