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 The stylish witticisms of the Profumo affair have been replaced by crude insults.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?”

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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.
A LESSON IN HISTORY
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.

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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.

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