Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not that anyone's listening, but.....

On the off chance that anyone ever comes here from time to time or still has an RSS feed or whatever, I'd like it to be known that I have a new blog called Mind Trumpet so if you'd like to head over that way, it would be just splendid.

http://mindtrumpet.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Endtroducing...

As previously intimated, I think this blog has come to a natural conclusion. Alas and alack. It's all been tremendous fun but I think it's time to wind the old girl down. Yes, heart wrenching though it is, it's time to say goodbye to Liberal Elite.

But, whenever a door is closed, somewhere else a window opens.

Indeed, I've set up a new blog over at WordPress. It's simply called Citizen Sane. I thought I'd have another crack at writing on a (semi) regular basis. So far, so good.

Please, click on the link below. Come join me and my new cyber-witterings. Bookmark it, pop by whenever you can and be sure to say hello. For there is still much to talk about!

http://citizensane.wordpress.com/

Speak later!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's the nothingness. The whiteness. The endless...ness. Stretching on beyond the human imagination. Desolation of the soul.

Two months! Two long months without so much as a whisper. Well, the intention has been there I promise you, just not the time.

I'm not even going to attempt to recap any issues from the last couple of months. I can barely remember anything anyway. On a personal note, my biggest news is that I am going to make an honest woman of Citizeness Sane. Yes, I finally proposed upon our return from a long weekend in Bordeaux over the August bank holiday weekend. (I recognise that a proposal would have been better actually in Bordeaux but, well... that's just the way it worked out.) We will get hitched on October 25th 2008.

With regards to this blog, I've been thinking about putting the old girl out to pasture for a long time now. It's been fun, but I think it might be time to move on to something else. I still plan to blog, but maybe in not the same way that I have over the last couple of years. It could be time to pop up again with something slightly different (and yet the same). I've loved writing this thing but it no longer feels right to be doing so under the Liberal Elite banner - the name just seems too restrictive and I want to just write about anything that takes my fancy.

I'm tinkering away on something at the moment and, if I decide to proceed with it, you can be sure that I will advertise the fact here. After all, I would hate to lose my five readers.....

Watch this space.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back again, alas....

I've been away for the last week with Lady Sane, taking some well earned rest in Ireland away from the noise, crowds and general irritation of London. I didn't have access to the interweb during this time, but I did write up a couple of posts which I've posted below under their original dates.

Samuel Johnson famously stated that "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life." He was wrong, as anyone who has woken up to the below view for the last week would also testify.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Reefer madness

It appears to be fashionable once more for senior government members to disclose whether or not they smoked cannabis in their youth. Leading the way was new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith – now in charge of reviewing the 2004 declassification of cannabis from a Class B to Class C drug - who made her admission on GMTV yesterday. It was a stock politician answer: it was 25 years ago, I did it once or twice, I didn’t really enjoy it, I haven’t done it since, etc. What a big yawn. Harriet Harman did the same thing on the same programme this morning. It was a bland, forthright statement of fact. Even the interviewer John Stapleton couldn’t be bothered to probe much below the surface, his own indifference nearly equal to my own. A student? Smoking a joint? At university? I refuse to believe it! Next you’ll be telling me that students miss lectures, drink cheap beer, listen to indie music and have sex occasionally. The debauched animals!

Of course, the whole point of Smith, Harman, Darling, Kelly, etc, coming out of the cannabis closet is to once again put the spotlight on David Cameron and reopen the whole issue of whether or not he took drugs in his youth too. Cameron still refuses to play the game and increasingly one suspects that this is because his dalliances with illegal substances were perhaps a tad more extreme than the occasional toke of a joint at a student house party. Perhaps – and I’m trembling with trepidation at the mere suggestion of this – he smoked cannabis… regularly! And enjoyed it! Can you imagine? That is, after all, my own experience and, come to think of it, that of virtually everyone in my social network. So come on Dave, don’t be shy. Tell us about that good shit you smoked.

The whole affair underlines the rank hypocrisy and absurdity of the law surrounding the use of cannabis. Millions use or have used it on a regular basis, causing no harm to anyone but themselves, but become criminals in the process. And yet our own Home Secretary took it herself as did, it appears, a substantial number of the Cabinet. Of course, they all bleat now about the “folly of youth” and how they “regret it enormously” and all kinds of other platitudes that they feel duty bound to say, even though nobody outside of the offices of the Daily Mail or the Telegraph is in the least bit bothered by the revelations. (Speaking of the Telegraph, check out this reactionary rant by the deranged Simon Heffer.) The only real problem here is the fact that known ex-users of the substance will now decide the severity of the “crime” of future users as they redefine whether it is a Class C or Class B substance. They are determining how future users will be treated by the law even though it is patently obvious that the only sensible action is to decriminalise or even legalise the substance. When it’s legal it’s regulated, its supply is not determined by organised crime gangs, mobsters or terrorist organisations but, instead, licensed businesses. The strength and purity of the substance can be controlled, as can its availability. And, even better, it can be taxed and become a major source of income. At the present time and under the current legislation, none of the above is true. Instead we spend billions of pounds losing a war against a plant that grows naturally. The THC content is manipulated by the growers to dangerous levels, the content is mixed with other products, anyone of any age can buy the stuff pretty much anywhere. If they are caught in possession they risk a jail sentence and a criminal record for the crime of exercising their own choice over which poison they wish to consume. And it is about choice. Want to drink yourself to death? Go ahead - the choice and availability has never been greater. Want to smoke cigarettes? Oh, it might be forbidden in all public places now, but if you're over sixteen you can still take your pick from the various suppliers of the most addictive killer drug on the planet. Want to smoke a little weed and do no harm to anyone but yourself? Oh no, you deserve a criminal record or a custodial sentence.

Forget the ‘War on Drugs’, how about a war on nonsensical and downright hypocritical laws?

The cash for honours farce

After sixteen months of investigation at a cost of nearly £1million yielded no convictions whatsoever in the ‘cash for honours’ claims, only two things appear plain to me. Firstly, the long overdue abolition of the entire honours system is now more necessary than ever. An embarrassing colonial throwback, it is entirely inconsistent with our claims to be a modern democracy. What possible reason could there be to ordain somebody with the title ‘Sir’ in this day and age? MBEs and OBEs are even more of an anachronism: the United Kingdom is barely a cohesive entity at the moment, never mind titles referring to the age of Empire! Let’s ditch these silly little ceremonies right away. The other outcome should be a serious overhaul of the party funding system. As I’ve argued elsewhere, we should look at introducing state funding of major political parties. While this does cut across my own liberal principles (I generally favour less state involvement), I find it less offensive than parties auctioning their policy formulation to wealthy private donors, big business, professional lobby groups and trade unions. Although nobody has been prosecuted, the whole affair reeks of the sewer and the stench now hangs, rightly or wrongly, over the entire political system, thus reinforcing the level of mistrust and apathy that the British public routinely feel for their political system. This is a tragedy because, despite what many might tell you, we actually have one of the best democracies on the planet. Indeed, one could mount a case that the very fact that the police were investigating the issue at all, even interviewing the prime minister in the process (as a witness, not a subject) is testament to that fact. That said, it is not hard to see how the lack of any real outcome to proceedings has been very damaging. I rarely find myself agreeing with Sir (there we go again) Menzies Campbell, but he is correct when he says:

“This whole affair has diminished politics and politicians in the eyes of the public. Never again must there be any question of any link between preferment and financial support.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You didn't think I'd let this one slip by did you?

As you can imagine, I was bitterly disappointed to learn that George Galloway might be facing an 18 day suspension from Parliament for "damaging the reputation of the house" with his comments following the inquiry into his Mariam Appeal charity. You see, I originally misread the story and thought the standards watchdog had recommended that he be barred for 18 months. So I was deeply saddened to learn the harsh reality. George Galloway not attending the House of Commons for 18 days? Who would notice? He's barely there anyway, busy as he is promoting his spoken word tours, hosting a radio talk show, appearing on trash television or praising suicide bombers.

He defended himself with the usual old bluster, highlighting the 'irony' that a 'pro-war' Parliament had attacked the leader of the 'anti-war' party. Except, of course (and we should never forget this) Galloway and the other contemptible clowns that make up the Socialist Worker's Party Stop The War Coalition are not anti-war at all. They are in fact very pro-war. They just happen to prefer the jihadist murderers that make up the other side.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What we really really don't want

Meanwhile, the world needs a Spice Girls reunion like it needs an outbreak of scrofula. This is almost as bad as The Police reforming. Almost.
"For us it's about celebrating the past, enjoying each other and it's about our fans. It was kind of now or never." - Geri Halliwell, today.
Hmmm, never would have been preferable.

Shirley, you can't be serious?

Gordon has only been PM for five minutes and already he's doing weird things. Like asking Shirley Williams to advise on the issue of nuclear proliferation. This is the same Shirley Williams who was a complete embarrassment on Question Time last week, especially on the question about Salman Rushdie's knighthood. In short, she depicted herself as a liberal who isn't prepared to defend the notion of free speech if it upsets a certain faction of Muslims. A pathetic, feeble response, characteristic of the Liberal Democrats who are wetter than a turbot's water tank. Why would we care what her views are on nuclear proliferation? I think we can probably guess anyway.

Big shoes to fill

I can’t believe you’ve gone. After all the rumours, the hearsay, the “will you, won’t you go?” conversations, we now have to get used to you not being around. The country is a different and, I would argue, poorer place for you moving on. I suppose we took your excellence for granted, grew blasé about having you around, thought you would always be there. But it was not to be. You’ve moved on now, never to return and we just have to get used to it. You’ve get a big job to do in foreign lands and, although we wish you every success, we will also miss you enormously. Oh, your place will be filled, for sure, but how does one replace the irreplaceable? You were a one off, a preternaturally gifted individual, a once in a generation phenomenon. We will probably never see your like again.

Thierry Henry, we will never forget you.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hell is 177,499 other people in a muddy field.

I was just trying to think of something worse than paying £145 for the pleasure of spending a whole weekend camping in a bog in Somerset surrounded by thousands of people caked in mud and who knows what else.

But I couldn't, so I stopped.
Why would anyone do this?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sometimes the BBC is worth every penny of the licence fee.

The BBC has many critics. And deservedly so at times. But every now and then it comes up with something that more than justifies the price of the licence fee, and tonight's Question Time could well be such an occasion. Just look at this panel and tell me it's not going to be priceless: both of the Hitchens brothers in one place on national television. Should be lots of fun. Oh, and Boris Johnson is usually good value, too.

UPDATE:
Anyone who missed the show but wants to see it can watch the whole thing here on the BBC website (although it will only be up for a few days). Otherwise the entire show is on YouTube in seven parts. Below is part 1, parts 2-7 are linked underneath.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm not condoning sectarian violence, BUT....

It wasn't me. I promise.

But what savagery. He was kicked, you know. In both ankles.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It was forty years ago today, etc, etc, etc, etc.

As everywhere seems to be reminding us, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles is 40 this weekend. Cue a barrage of nostalgic reverence and weepy eyed baby-boomer self-congratulation about "their" music and "their" era. It was the same ten years ago at the 30th anniversary and fifteen years ago at the 25th anniversary and twenty years ago at the... you get my point.

Let's be clear: I love The Beatles, and it would be absurd to deny the relevance of Sgt. Pepper in the canon of popular music's history. The iconic cover, the musical experimentation, the spirit of the age, the Summer of Love, flowers in your hair, make love not war, blah, blah, blah, etcetera, etcetera, yes, yes, yes. The fact is, for all the praise and significance heaped upon it, it really isn't a very strong album, either by general standards or The Beatles' own. They themselves bettered it before (Revolver) and after (The White Album, Abbey Road) and there have been hundreds of better albums made since, too, so I've never understood why Pepper continues to be showered with accolades and spoken about in such worshipful tones, much like that other incredibly over-rated album from the era, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.

To my mind, there is only one gold standard Beatles number on the album: A Day In The Life. And that only came about by fortunate accident, given that it was one unfinished Lennon piece intercut with an unfinished McCartney piece and spliced together by producer George Martin. What else do we have? The hideous music hall whimsy that is When I'm Sixty Four (McCartney at his most twee). The cod-Eastern sitar dirge of Within You Without You (light the joss sticks, maaaan). With A Little Help From My Friends: another relentlessly chirpy McCartney composition, thrown over to Ringo Starr much like one throws scraps of old meat to the family dog. Lovely Rita: Macca again with a another oompah-oompah music hall tune and a eulogy to a fucking traffic warden. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds sounds like Lennon knocked it out in about two minutes, ditto Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! - the lyrics to which were pinched from a Victorian-era carnival poster, as was the tune, which is largely circus music. Well, sorry, but circuses only make me think of one thing: gypsies.

Sgt. Pepper was The Beatles at their most indulgent. Yes, they were pushing boundaries for popular music by breaking away from the traditional guitar-drums-bass formula and yes, the production and recording techniques employed were revolutionary in their time. For this, Pepper deserves recognition. But the songs simply weren't up to much in the first place; it really sounds like they were just going through the motions.

I'll be celebrating the album's 40th anniversary by listening to Abbey Road instead.

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's goodbye from him....

Oh, the fun we had in the early hours of May 2nd 1997. 22 years old, just a year out of university, still aglow with the enthusiasm/naivete of youth, staying up all night at a friend's house watching the hated Tories get booted out of power. How we laughed when David Mellor was defeated, how we cheered as Malcolm Rifkind and Norman Lamont succumbed, how we howled with uncontrollable glee when Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo lost his seat in Enfield Southgate. Happy times, great memories. It honestly felt like a huge cloud had lifted from the country, that some sort of re-birth was underway. But now it doesn't so much feel like a decade ago as an entirely different universe altogether.

So now Tony Blair has finally stopped prevaricating and has declared an official leaving date, I'm not really sure what I feel. Insouciance, mostly. Which is what I've experienced for much of his ten years in office anyway, so it's just business as usual. Wasn't that the whole point of New Labour anyway? The stage managed, on-message, self publicising machine that existed only to make Labour electable in the first place? Everything else was kind of tacked on as an afterthought and as far as I and many others were concerned, it was good enough that they simply Weren't The Tories.

Tony Blair's problem was that the expectation was too high and his government did too little in the first term, preoccupied as it was with ensuring a second term and having spent such a long time thinking about getting into power, they had few tangible policies to set into motion once they did. They inherited a buoyant economy - a first for a Labour administration who had previously inherited only mess, which they then proceeded to make worse - requiring little more than 'lights on' maintenance. It would have taken spectacular incompetence on an unprecedented scale to have thrown that away. Handing control of interest rates to the Bank of England was a shrewd move, single-handedly demonstrating to the City and to the left that they were not intending to deviate from monetarist policy. And it is pretty clear to even the harshest of critics that the last ten years have witnessed uninterrupted economic growth, low unemployment, stable inflation and historically low interest rates. Yet with that has come a barrage of stealth taxes and a swollen, inefficient public sector. I'm staggered at the amount of money that has been poured into the NHS and education, yielding only negligible improvements. Gordon Brown will now have the dubious honour of overseeing what happens next in the social arena and I suspect he will be weighed down by the baggage of being a key decision maker in an administration that has pumped billions of pounds into dilapidated infrastructure for next to no return.

Blair will undoubtedly be remembered most for his foreign policy decisions, the most divisive of which was the involvement in the Iraq war and the close partnership he forged with America, inviting critics to describe him as Bush's 'poodle'. An inaccurate criticism given that, with British involvement in Kosovo in 1999 and Sierra Leone in 2000, British forces had already been dispatched to halt genocide and topple vile regimes while Bush was still an isolationist governor of Texas. Blair and Bill Clinton had also ordered air strikes against Iraq in December 1998 when it was clear that Saddam Hussein was continuing to resist compliance with UN weapons inspections. An interventionist foreign policy was already a reality under this prime minister. Meanwhile, September 11th 2001 changed everything. Blair was one of the first to recognise this fact and the immediate decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US was without question the right thing to do - Republican president or not. Some battles trump ideological differences and the threat - actual and, more crucially, potentially - from Islamist terrorism is one such example.

A mixed bag for Tony Blair then. Disappointing to non-effectual on the domestic front, but a huge legacy in the realm of foreign policy, it's too early to say how he will be remembered. The peace process (hopefully) finally being settled in Northern Ireland also looks like another late victory that can stand as a genuine achievement, but will it be overshadowed by the allegations of sleaze and nepotism that also tarnished the Blair years?

What Tony Blair really demonstrated was that a gifted politician with something of the people's touch could forge a presidential style of leadership that encouraged the electorate to give less consideration to the party as a whole and vote instead for a populist individual. Something that the Conservative Party have finally twigged and whose current tactic of keeping quiet about policy and instead stressing their own reinvention is finally making them look electable again. Their entire strategy has been torn from the New Labour Guidebook To Electoral Success (1994-97).

As Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, put it: "Tony Blair's legacy? It comes down to two words: David Cameron."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged

I am still here. Quite an extended absence – the longest, I believe, since the blog’s inception – but I have had neither the time nor the inclination to write anything of late. Put it down to starting a new job. A new job where, unlike the last one, I’m actually expected to work quite hard for my money, usually finishing at around 7pm every day and where I cannot even access Blogger as such sites are restricted by the company’s web filtering software. (This is actually quite a good thing for my job security.)

I don’t know whether to be pleased or perturbed at the fact that, despite having not written a thing for three and a half weeks, I still average more site visitors a day than I did six months ago. Most curious. Not that I think many of them are regular readers, I must add, mostly people looking for something else and finding this place. The most common referring link is still people looking for the lyrics to I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor because of this post. I don’t think they stick around for long. Other frequent links are ‘cripple jokes’, that famous quote by Voltaire, ‘atheism is wrong’, ‘Cyprus Tavern Manchester’, loads of image searches for Agent Smith from The Matrix and, probably my favourite of late: ‘Elite Satan’.

Will try and write some bits of pieces over the long weekend….

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Leaving New York, never easy

So, we’re back from New York. Did I miss anything? Keeping up with real news is very difficult in the US. They covered the sailors being released, but since then their media seems to have been obsessed with this story. Why? Perhaps any American readers can elucidate? I’m only barely aware of who Don Imus is, why is this such big news? For the last two days of our stay CNN seemed to cover nothing else. For British readers who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, cast your mind back to the fuss a few years ago when Robert Kilroy-Silk caused a stink with his ignorant comments about “Arabs” and his programme was taken off air. Now imagine that the mainstream media at the time talked about nothing else for days on end and you get the picture. Baffling.

Banal news coverage aside, we had an excellent time. Freezing cold weather all weekend didn’t help, but never mind. Being taken to hospital in an ambulance early on Monday morning wasn’t exactly in the itinerary, either. I was awoken at 6am with unbearable pain in my stomach, chest and back and had difficulty breathing. A further, more extreme, episode approximately one hour later resulted in Lady Sane calling 911. I didn’t know what was going on, but it felt rather like what I expect a heart attack would feel like. So fifteen minutes later we’re in an ambulance and headed for St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center on West 12th Street. And here I stayed for the next twelve hours in their emergency room. A series of further bursts of agony occurred between 11am and midday, which was good in a way because up until that point I was beginning to think they didn’t believe me, seeing as I had exhibited no symptoms whatsoever since arriving. I have never been in so much pain in my entire life – it was kind of like all the muscles in my upper body had turned to concrete, rendering me immobile and on the verge of hyperventilation. Each attack would last two or three minutes but would feel like several hours. A couple of shots of morphine later and I was feeling much, much better. I was given a litre of red liquid to drink and was told that I was going for a CAT scan. Lady Sane was there with me throughout, a pillar of strength as always (although worried sick).

To cut a long story short, the CAT scan showed nothing sinister and they believe the episodes were caused by a viral infection in the bowel and an inflamed colon going into spasm. I was prescribed antacids and finally discharged at 8pm. Not exactly how I’d planned to spend our penultimate day in New York, but I was so relieved that there was nothing seriously wrong with me I didn’t care. Knowing now that it was something trivial, it seems rather silly to have spent the whole day in ER. But at the time, when I had no idea what was wrong, I was scared shitless. As was Lady Sane, her sister (also in NYC for the weekend) and my family back home.

It struck me how we take our health for granted and that you cannot appreciate the joy of not being in crippling pain until you’ve experienced a dose of it. Thankfully, mine was short-lived, but it’s certainly made me less complacent and thankful I am generally in good working order. The medical staff that treated me were brilliant (although the nurses in ER are a bit scary – I suppose they have to be) and it was interesting to contrast the experience with British hospitals. It seems to me that, regardless of whether the hospital is privately or state funded, it will be understaffed, over-stretched and its patients subjected to long delays. Still, I did enjoy that morphine….

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I wanna wake up in a city that never sleeps...

Busy times. Today was my last day in my current job, and I start a new one on April 16th. In between, Lady Sane and I are off to New York over Easter, just like we did last year. Oh yes, we do like it out there. Last year we stayed in a hotel right by Times Square, which was interesting, but not something we would care to repeat. So this year we're staying at a more sedate location in the heart of Chelsea village. Should be great fun.

So, expect the blog to be pretty quiet in the interim (and just as I was starting to get on a roll, too). Then again, there's free WiFi where we're staying, and I might take the laptop, so you never know, perhaps there will be a post from the Big Apple.

Back next Wednesday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

He's not a satirist, he's a very naughty boy

Check out this piece by Terry Jones (he of Monty Python fame). It's a piss poor slice of satire about the situation with the kidnapped British sailors currently being illegally held by the deranged state of Iran for their own egregious propaganda purposes. Jones applies a particularly pernicious brand of moral equivalence that seeks to draw a parallel with the treatment of the sailors by the Iranian regime with some of the methods employed against terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

It's a shame, because I'm a huge fan of Python but I now have no other option than to consider Mr Jones a tosser of the highest order. If you feel like further lowering your opinion of certain members of human society, read some of the comments underneath wherein large numbers of the self-hating left lap up his poorly considered bilge like thirsty goats.

For the record, the abduction of the sailors is an act of piracy, pure and simple. They were operating in Iraqi waters, under the auspices of the United Nations, on behalf of the government of Iraq. Iran's kidnapping and public parading of their hostages serves no purpose other than to stick up two fingers to Britain and the west and to try and buy some sort of bargaining chip in the ongoing row over Iran's intention to enrich uranium. The only conclusion we can draw is that Iran remains a menace to the region, we cannot believe a single word they say about anything and we should double our efforts to ensure that this crackpot Islamic dictatorship never gets its hands on any nuclear material, no matter how innocent they claim their intentions to be.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

An assault on freedom of expression

The chocolate Jesus exhibit has been cancelled following an orchestrated campaign by the Catholic League, who called the piece an "assault on Christianity". The league, which boasts some 330,000 members, bombarded the hotel due to host the event with complaints, calls for a boycott and, inevitably, death threats. As I commented in yesterday's post, the exhibit looks poor: boring and devoid of meaning. It's not something I would choose to see, but the fact that it has been pulled in response to thug tactics is sickening.

The scary thing is the way such a response was so quickly generated, like some sort of SWAT team for religious sensibilities. From The Guardian:
On Thursday the league sent emails to 500 other religious groups - including Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist with a combined reach of millions - calling on them to boycott the Roger Smith hotel in which the gallery, the Lab, is based. Within 24 hours the hotel was so inundated with calls and visiting protesters that it pulled the exhibit.
I've written to the hotel myself, threatening to boycott them unless they put the exhibit back on. Alas, no response. One man cannot make a difference. Not unless he's Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, who went on to say, in something of a veiled threat:
"All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don't react the way extremist Muslims do when they're offended."
Perhaps, but the net result has been the same. A piece of art (bad art, in my opinion, but that is not the point) has been withdrawn to protect the feelings of a minority. Another smack in the mouth for freedom of expression from the proponents of fairy tales. It's like the Danish cartoons all over again. There may not have been riots, flag burning or calls for jihad, but it's still religious zealots playing the offence card to get their way; it's still setting a hideous precedent.

"We're delighted with the outcome," said Kiera McCaffrey, a spokeswoman for the League. Yes, I bet you are. It's a delightful small victory for you. But the question now is: where's next?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sweet Jesus!

An art gallery in New York City has stirred up controversy with its latest exhibit: a naked Jesus made entirely of milk chocolate. Predictably, some Christian groups are outraged by this stunt - conveniently happening over the Easter period - and have called for a boycott.

Why is it always Jesus? I’d say that’s a subject pretty well covered by the arts over the last couple of thousand years wouldn’t you? Not that I would consider this to be ‘art’, incidentally: more a hackneyed stunt designed to ‘provoke’. Well, it’s certainly provoked a response from me: an overpowering yawn. The ‘artist’, Cosimo Cavallaro, is known for making use of food in his work, and once famously decorated a hotel room with mozzarella cheese. What creativity! Da Vinci would be jealous. What is the likelihood that Cavallaro will also be depicting Mohammed using Halal meats during Ramadan? That would certainly push a few boundaries and create a stir. Highly unlikely though. Because while Christian groups are likely to complain and be offended, they’re not very likely to kill him for his art, are they? They’re generally a much softer target.

Lady Sane and myself are going to be in New York City over the Easter period ourselves…. I think we’ll give this one a miss though.

Oh, the Devil will make work for idle hands to do...

Allow me to introduce you to Theo Hobson, an occasional contributor to the pigsty that is Comment Is Free. Theo announced in a post a couple of days ago, without a trace of irony, that he “believes in Satan”. How quaint.

I’ve never really understood the whole Satan thing. I suppose if you must believe in the existence of fictional characters then he’s as worthwhile as any other (up there with Zeus, Thor and, I don’t know, Champion The Wonder Horse). But how do Christians reconcile the existence of Satan with their belief in an omniscient, omnipotent God? The very existence of Satan contradicts the concept of an ‘almighty’ doesn’t it?

The medieval philosopher St .Anselm set out to prove the existence of God with his ontological argument. It’s rubbish: a question of semantics rather than anything demonstrative. Basically speaking, he posited that if you can conceive of (i.e. agree to the theoretical existence, but not the actual) some being “than which nothing greater can be conceived” and accept that such a being would be ‘God’, then nothing can be imagined that is greater than God. But if God does not exist, then you can imagine something that is greater than God – namely, a God that does exist. Ergo, God exists. Like I said: a rubbish argument. Couldn’t we perform the same mental exercise with anything? Sausage rolls, teapots, leopards, rocking chairs…

I wonder if Mr Hobson followed this reductio ad absurdum to come to the same conclusion about Satan? “I am capable of conceiving a being (or a beast!) so vile, so vicious, so dripping in pure undiluted evil. What could possibly be worse than that? Why, such a thing that exhibits all the same qualities but really does exist. Therefore, Satan is real! Eeek! Lock up your chickens! Hide the Black Sabbath albums!”

To quote from the article:
Christian faith, in my experience, is all about engaging with Satan, arguing with him, and, above all, trusting that God has defeated him, crushed him. Faith is knowing that, thanks to Jesus Christ, Satan is finished. He might be strong in the short term, but in reality, he is a spent force. Through faith, one can defy him.
Erm. So Christian faith is about engaging with somebody that has already been destroyed by the power of your faith? That can’t be easy. If Satan has been defeated and crushed, what is there to engage with? If, thanks to Jesus, Satan is finished, who are you arguing with? And if your faith is so very powerful, why did Satan ever exist in the first place? For Hobson, belief in evil is intrinsically linked to a belief in Satan – the personification of evil. Again, an argument without legs. I believe in the existence of ‘sleep’ – that crusty build up that forms in your eyes overnight. Am I therefore compelled to believe that the Sandman put it there? What a truckload of gibberish.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"It just works".... Mmm, I just wish I understood how

So I've bought a Mac. A 20" Intel iMac to be precise. I'm not totally sure what made me decide to take the plunge. Maybe it was the adverts (although I really don't think so). It certainly wasn't this article by Charlie Brooker. No, it was just finally losing my patience with PCs. I've had my fair share of them and it seems that for every hour of use you get from a PC, you spend another hour tinkering with the damn thing to get it to work: scanning for viruses or spyware, or defragging the hard drive, or downloading yet another ton load of Windows security updates, or restarting it for the third time in an hour because somebody walked past it and sneezed, or trying to get your wireless router to talk to it until, eventually, there's just a weird clicking noise coming from inside and it stops working altogether. Enough! So, needing a new desktop computer and not fancying more of the same, I thought I'd see what these Apple devotees have been going on about.

Well, it looks great, and I'm really enjoying using it but by Christ it's confusing. Having been reared on Microsoft and knowing my way around the Windows environment as well as most people, suddenly making the change to an entirely different operating system has proven to be a bit daunting. No right click on the mouse? No CTRL short cuts? No Start bar menu system? Where is everything? What's the short cut to copy and paste, or italicise or make something bold? Confusing. All of a sudden I feel like an old woman using a computer for the first time, terrified that if I touch anything an air-raid siren is going to go off and the whole machine will just melt in front of my eyes. Even blogging proved a challenge: usually I write in Word, then past it all into Blogger. Obviously cannot do that. Then it turns out that Blogger doesn't work properly on Safari (the default browser on a Mac) either, so I've gone scurrying back to Firefox (having first downloaded the PC version in error, of course).

This is going to keep me busy for a while....

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Tale of Three Piggies and other horror stories

It's encouraging to know that common sense still, occasionally, prevails in this country.

Honley Junior school in West Yorkshire are due to stage a performance of Roald Dahl's adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. However, the committee responsible for the production decided that the swine should be replaced with puppies instead, in case the depiction of pigs ‘offends Muslims’.

Utterly ridiculous of course. And, once again, the only really offensive thing here is the idea of someone second guessing what might cause ‘offence’ to one particular group of society, as if some people are so sensitive they require constant protection from anything that might fire them into a tailspin of sheer outrage, then altering it to ‘protect’ them. Deeply patronising and inverted racism to boot: “Well, we’d better drop any references to pigs – it might offend, you know, that lot.”

Thankfully, the local council stepped in and reversed the nonsensical decision. In the words of the education spokesman Jim Dodds: “There is something barmy going on here.” Quite, quite. Reports that the sale of sausage rolls in the interval will also be banned in consideration of the Muslim community, the Jewish community and the vegetarian community could not be confirmed.

Meanwhile, at Leeds University, a lecture on ‘Islamic anti-Semitism’ by Dr Matthias Köntzel was cancelled at short notice on ‘security grounds’. A somewhat spurious decision considering that the talk, clearly a controversial subject, was planned sometime in advance. More likely, it seems that the university capitulated to a vocal minority of Muslim students who complained about the nature of the discussion. As Dr Köntzel himself remarked:

“I have lectured in lots of countries on this subject. I gave the same talk at Yale University recently, and this is the first time I have been invited to lecture in the UK. Nothing like this has ever happened before – this is censorship.”

It’s difficult to disagree. How dispiriting that a university of all places suppresses debate and discussion within the confines of its own buildings on the grounds of a subject being deemed too controversial to be offered for public dissection. This was meant to be a conversation about the extremes of Islamism and the origin of its inherent anti-Semitism, but at the first whiff of dissent and ‘offence’ the whole workshop is scrapped. Could there be a better way of doing extreme Islam’s work for it, when it is not even possible to identify and comment on the nature of its philosophy at the extreme end? Depressing in the extreme.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It was 750 days ago today.... the Liberal Elite biennial


Can it really be a year ago that Liberal Elite celebrated its first anniversary? This can only mean one thing: today is the blog’s second birthday. Happy birthday to Liberal Elite, happy birthday to Liberal Elite, happy birthday dear Liberal Elite… and so on.

Reading back over the old posts makes me misty eyed. Ah, them were the days, when The Realist and myself could happily churn out a few posts each every week, when the pressures and demands of work and life allowed the time for such indulgence. When we were a bit younger and a bit more feisty. When the comments sections were alive (at least, by relative standards) with debate and disagreement.

Happy times, happy times.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Hot Jiminy! Two weeks without a post! Empires have risen and fallen in less time. Some have even fallen then risen again. While others still have risen, fallen, risen a bit then fallen again before finally rising back to their former glory. It’s a long time. Fourteen days. A fortnight. Half a lunar month (give or take). A goddamm eternity in blogging terms.

It used to be customary on this blog to fill the vacuum created by a lengthy absence with a catch-up post, consisting of bullet points on various events that have occurred in the interim. Here then, in recognition of said custom, are some of the news nuggets of late, plus whatever else happens to be on my mind today.

  • Firstly, happy new year to you all. As you may be aware, I do not recognise January and February as components of the calendar. Instead, after December 31st, we descend into a two month period of ghastliness known as ‘Helluary’. This period has finally passed. We are now in March, the days are getting longer and the year can finally begin. Rejoice.
  • The official population of London is approximately seven and a half million people. Am I the only one convinced that it must have risen to ten million in the last year with an extra 2.5 million brought in to try and thrust free newspapers into my hand? You can’t walk more than about two metres in this city without someone shouting “London Lite!” or “London Paper!” into your ear. Here’s an experiment: walk out onto any street in central London with a brick in your hand. Close your eyes, spin around for thirty seconds to lose all sense of direction, then chuck the brick anywhere you choose. I guarantee it will hit somebody handing out a free paper. They’re everywhere! I often find myself taking one of the damn things just to roll it up and use it as a baton to keep the others at bay. Walking to Cannon Street station after work is like doing a news vendor slalom. Fuck off!
  • In breaking news today, Mohammed Al Fayed has been successful in his efforts to have the inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed be presented to a jury. If this is what it takes to put this whole tedious saga to bed once and for all, then let’s have it. But what a waste of taxpayer’s money and court time. And why, when the man is convinced that it was all a conspiracy by the ‘Establishment’, does he think that putting the case through one of the machines of said ‘Establishment’ is going to produce an outcome more to his satisfaction? Surely the jury would be handpicked by Prince Phillip and made up of agents from MI5, MI6, Mossad, CIA, The Elders of Zion, CI5, ITV, MTV plus perhaps Agent Smith from The Matrix? Deluded fantasist.
  • Speaking of deluded fantasists, did anyone else read these pieces by George Monbiot on Comment is Free taking on the pea brained, conspiracy peddling fuckwits who refuse to accept the actual version of events concerning 9/11? I don’t usually much care for Monbiot’s opinion pieces, but on this subject he is so obviously correct it’s barely worth listing the arguments. If you want to depress yourself, read through some of the comments. Whilst there are plenty of sane people amongst them, the number of commenters who actually believe all, some or even any of the ludicrous accusations is genuinely alarming. I’d put 9/11 conspiracy theorists in the same category as creationists who deny evolutionary theory: daydreamers who think that wheeling out a couple of contrarian ‘experts’ lends some validity to their specious and deluded fantasies. My favourites are the ones who list dozens and dozens of ‘sources’, as if the sheer volume of their reference points makes their case more convincing. Kind of like living in a palace made of poo, then adding a new poo tower and thinking that it makes the place more habitable when, in fact, it’s just adding to the sheer amount of poo that you’ve constructed.
  • Speaking of poo and Comment Is Free, our old friend George Galloway is currently generating the most comments with this piece about how everyone’s being so nasty to his good friend Hugo Chávez, the ‘president’ of Venezuela. The biggest section in Galloway’s address book must be under the heading of ‘Despots, Tyrants and Ideologues’. Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Bashar al-Assad, Chávez: do you think the day will ever come when George prostrates himself before a national leader who was, I don’t know, actually democratically elected? Neither do I. A plague on his house.

That is all.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Some might say that's rich coming from you

Heavyweight cultural and political commentator Noel Gallagher has lashed out at the Prime Minister in an interview with Newsnight. Pulling no punches, the pugnacious Oasis leader was critical of Tony Blair's 'presidential' leadership and the Iraq war, both of which, the guitarist claims, have tarnished the Labour Party forever. There were no kind words for the leader of the opposition, either. David Cameron is "no different" and is "like a songwriter who's eternally ripping off someone else's song," said the songwriter who gave us tunes such as Cigarettes & Alchohol (basically a rewrite of T-Rex's Get It On [Bang A Gong]), Don't Look Back In Anger (which steals the piano riff from John Lennon's Imagine, before turning into Watching The Wheels - again by John Lennon), Hello (the ending of which is so similar to Gary Glitter's Hello, Hello, I'm Back Again he got a co-writing credit), Step Out (the chorus of which is so similar to Stevie Wonder's Uptight [Everything's Alright] he also got a co-writing credit), Shakermaker (essentially the same tune as I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing by the New Seekers), Fade Away (the first verse of which bears an uncanny resemblance to Freedom by Wham!), Wonderwall (the title of which was originally a George Harrison album) not to mention innumerable lazy references to Beatles lyrics, songs and albums scattered throughout the band's output. So it's easy to see where he got the analogy from.

Still, one has to admire his....chutzpah.

I haven't really paid any attention to Oasis since (eerily enough, in a spooky New Labour parallel) 1997, so seeing their performance at The Brits last night was something of a shock. They were horrendous, a grotesque parody of themselves. Liam stood with the posture of on orangutan. An orangutan with rickets. And his vocal 'delivery' was excruciating. It sounded like the rock and roll lifestyle has not so much caught up with him, but sped up behind him in a truck, run him down, reversed back over him again to make sure, then climbed out and twatted him with hammers.

You can see a clip of it for yourself here. Although I wouldn't recommend it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Death, where is thy Sting?

Ronald Reagan once postulated that the scariest words in the English language are: “Hello, we’re from the government, and we’re here to help.” But he was wrong, because the scariest words in the English language were in fact uttered last night by Sting at The Grammy Awards: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are The Police, and we’re back!” And not just as a one off horror show either, but (and we didn’t see this coming) a world tour and everything.

Bong! Hear the clanging chimes of doom! The end is upon us. The dead will rise up from their graves and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will start greasing their saddles as Sting and his merry cohorts haul their sorry arses around the globe playing their hideous brand of reggae tinged rock/pop. It’s all described in the Book of Revelation. We are officially living in the end of days. Global warming? Meteoric impact? Nuclear Armageddon? Pah. They are all nothing compared to the resurgence of the beast Gordon Sumner belting out Roxanne yet again (because, apparently, she doesn’t have to put on the red light, put on the red light, put on the red light).

Oh, the humanity.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Media try to drag up 'shady' drugs past. Entire nation yawns.

Quick poll. Does anyone, anywhere, give a honking bum trumpet whether David Cameron smoked cannabis in his schooldays or not? Certain sections of the media seem unhealthily obsessed with this 'story', for reasons that I cannot fathom. If he didn’t smoke jazz cigarettes a quarter of a century ago, then there is no story. Whereas if he did smoke jazz cigarettes a quarter of a century ago... then there is still no story. None. Whatsoever. In the meantime I have yet to hear a single person respond with anything other than yawns – not even the Home Secretary is bothering to make political capital out of this. Even Norman Tebbit recommends that Dave simply make an official announcement to clarify the matter once and for all. That’s right: Norman Tebbit.

I wrote about this subject when it first came up during the Conservative Party’s leadership contest in October 2005. If only Dave had followed my advice, he probably wouldn’t have had to interrupt his Sunday schedule yesterday. As I said at the time:
It's a shame that he can't just release a statement along the lines of "In my youth, like many people in this country, I used some drugs on a recreational basis. Whilst it was fun at the time, it was a long time ago and bears no relevance to my life anymore. Now that we've got that cleared up, please can we move onto the real issues at stake here?" Just release that and kill the issue cold. Perhaps then we could finally engage in an intelligent conversation and free debate about drugs that doesn't immediately degenerate into a cacophony of hypocritical bluster at the very mention of the word.
And it is hypocritical, of course. Journalists whipping up a story about someone’s predilection for illegal substances is like a troupe of clowns starting a campaign to punish the wearing of big shoes and white face make up. Media folk everywhere: give it up, nobody cares. This must be the first recorded instance of lots of fire, but no smoke. In the meantime, Cameron should clarify one way or the other. "Yes, I did smoke cannabis. What of it?" or "No, I didn't smoke cannabis. What of it?" Either way, outside of tabloid press editorial meetings, nobody is remotely interested.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Daily Mail chief displays poor understanding of political ideology

Catching up on old news, did anyone else see our old friend Paul Dacre’s bizarre rant last week about the BBC and the ‘assault’ on British values? (Dacre is, for anyone unaware, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail. He usually keeps a very low profile, rarely giving interviews. He’s like the Willy Wonka of the British newspaper industry, although more sinister.) Most curious of all was his comment that the BBC is “exercising a kind of cultural Marxism”. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, really. I suppose what he really means is that there is a leftist slant in the BBC’s news coverage (although I have always thought that such a charge is overstated a lot of the time – considering the sheer volume of news that the BBC covers, it remains neutral for the most part in my opinion). Norm has counter-argued this point better than I could, but to describe the Beeb as ‘Marxist’ is intellectually incoherent. There is no textbook definition for the term ‘Marxist’ anyway, but the defining characteristic would be an economic interpretation of history, with particular emphasis on who controls the means of production and the subsequent inherent contradictions of capitalism. Now, I can’t claim to consume all of the BBC’s daily output, but I don’t think they do this very often. By all means, accuse the BBC of having a left-wing bias, but please, if you’re going to brandish the term ‘Marxist’ at least demonstrate a basic understanding of what that means. I suggest, Mr Dacre, that you sign up for a course covering basic political philosophy.