Wednesday, April 27, 2005

'christian racists are stupid' shocker

Oh Christians, again. Are they having a laugh or what? Telling the real stuff from the spoof is never easy.

The wondrous Green Fairy blog directed me to the Kingdom Identity Ministries site where they sell a number of curious items.

'Our Speak Softly Spanking Stick teaches children good old-fashioned discipline. Each 16" x 1 1/2" stick is imprinted with Scripture verses.'

Riiiiiiiight. Your child may well be able to read through its arse cheeks, so spank that bible in.

They also sell two items that, taken together, are as nuts as it gets. Stickers discouraging white women from being 'race-mixing sluts'

and a wallchart detailing the heritage of the Anglo-Saxon race.

Why is it so many white supremacists go on about the good pure Anglo-Saxon race? Do these people not understand the function of a hyphen?

That group is a hybrid of Angles (from what's now Denmark) and Saxons (from Saxony, in what's now eastern Germany). It is, by definition, a mixed race.

They got together in what's now England about 1500 years ago. Even if you ignore the oxymoron in the idea of a hybridised group being 'pure', how does anyone claim pure Anglo-Saxon heritage? Who knows if they've had interbreeding with Vikings, Normans, Jews, Irish or any of the other groups who've been coming to this island in the intervening centuries, way before any of us can trace back our family tree.

Or indeed, any of the Roman, Celtic or other peoples who were already here before the Angles packed their cases and got busy with their oars. It's a bit weird to say the invaders of 1500 years ago are the true people of the island, but the ones from 1800 or 1200 years ago aren't.

Merrick, you're bemoaning the lack of sense and consistent logical thought among racist monotheists! Why not complain about the scarcity of unicorn-jockey pixies from Atlantis while you're at it?

Ooops, my bad.

In tribute to the source of this stuff, here's me dressed as a green fairy.

I think my 'dressing up as blogs I link to' thing should be a one-off rather than a theme though. Whilst Chase Me Ladies I'm In The Cavalry and Lost Bands of The New Wave Era would probably be fun, the first idea that comes to mind for Seven Inches of Joy would be over my risque-excess threshold, and what I'd suffer in depicting Kerosene Oyster Hell couldn't possibly be justified by the results.

Monday, April 25, 2005

st george's day - let's get pissed

The fabulous sunny weekend has had me ignoring all election and computerly nonsense, no way was I staying inside and squandering such glorious weather.

There are a variety of traditional things to do outdoors on St George's Day, and I'm glad to report that one of them - the twatting of National Front thugs as they try to hold a march in a multi-ethnic area of London - went off well.

I however picked a more sedate option. St George's Day is traditionally a day for harvesting dandelion flowers for an assortment of uses, and so out I went on to my allotment. It's in the middle of Hyde Park in Leeds, which is a fabulous busy buzz of a place on sunny summer days. The allotment gives some space and something good to do, yet still feels part of the whole park vibe.

I'm not sure why, maybe it's all the meditative time alone on the allotment, but this last couple of days I've had pretty bad Stuck Song Syndrome. Usually such earworms are tracks that are really bad, or at least not the best songs you know. However, this weekend it was the simply gorgeous Sitting In The Park by Georgie Fame (so I've put it up as the new download on my MP3 blog).

But today I saw a spoof Tory billboard poster done by the public service union Unison. It asks how £35bn of spending cuts could improve public services and has the tagline 'What are the Tories thinking of? Use your vote to stop them'.

This set off the bridge - the bit where they sing 'what are you thinking of?' several times - from All Out Of Love by Air Supply, and it's been relentlessly going round my head for 9 hours now. Bastards.

Anyway, today saw the uncultivated first allotment crop of the year. Self-set dandelions are in full flower everywhere at the moment, and they make a brilliant wine; rich, golden, like liquid sunshine, the sort of thing that makes you exclaim after you take a sip. I just had some I made last year and it tastes like alcoholic honey. (Which sounds like a skewed term of endearment).

I don't understand why more people don't make their own alcohol. We give such vast quantities of money to these fuckers like Whitbread who give it to the Tory party, or Coors (Carling and Grolsch) who use it to fund anti-abortionists and other right wing shits in America.

Making your own isn't just ethical for who you don't fund either; the food miles on a bottle of wine is obscene, whereas the food metres on homebrew is hilarious. Transporting things around the world that are 85% water seems very silly indeed.

It's also ludicrously cheap (about 20p for a bottle of wine), not a lot of work, and very difficult to get wrong.

The only real problem is leaving it alone while it matures in the bottle. That minger taste people think of as classic home brew is actually just the taste of young wine. Leave it in the bottle for a year and it usually goes lovely.

So, the allotment's got tons of unwanted dandelions, and I'm about to turn them to my advantage. Finding how to make good home wine is even easier in these days of Google. All you need to do is type in 'Dandelion wine recipe' and poof! there's a shitload of them a click away.

One near the top of the list is this one which is on a Welsh recipes website. Doesn't quite tie in with that St George's Day Englishness thing until you realise that George is also the patron saint of about thirty other nations and peoples, including Germany, lepers and syphilitics.

Remember that last bit next time you deal with any unsavoury English nationalists, it tends to shut them up.

The veneration day was made up out of thin air by the Synod of Oxford in 1222 and doesn't actually mean anything anyway.

He's also patron saint of farmers, which is excuse enough to let anybody make it a day of harvest.

You'll find dandelions growing wild all over the place. Making something lovely to consume from things you harvested yourself satisfies in a way that even a very nice bottle from the offie cannot. Go make some wine this week before dandelions pass their best!

Whilst there are a lot of recipes out there, most have a few bits you don't need. Here's a no frills wine recipe:


1kg sugar
wine yeast
2 citrus fruit, juiced
The flavour thing: (2kg of very ripe fruit is usual. If it's not something with so much natural sugar - such as dandelion flowers - add 1lb of mashed grapes. Oh, and harvest dandelions on a sunny day so they're wide open.)

Heat 6 pints of water with the sugar in. When nearly boiling, pour over the flavour thing (if that's fruit, mash or lightly blend it). Add citrus juice. Leave 24 hours in a container with a snug (but not totally airtight) lid.

Put 1 teaspoon of yeast in a cup with 2 tablespoons of suger and half fill with warm water. Stir, cover, leave. In about 15 mins it should be frothy. Stir it into the mix. Leave covered snugly, stir several times a day.

After about 10 days, the fermentation dies down. Strain, put in a gallon demijohn (add water to make it full), put an airlock on. Leave somewhere that's a stable warm temperature.

A nice thought while you watch it bubble; the yeast turn the sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol in roughly equal amounts. So for every bubble that comes through the airlock the same volume of pure alcohol has just appeared in the wine.

After a couple of months, the wine goes clear, the sediment is at the bottom and no bubbles come through the airlock. Siphon it out into another demijohn, adding 1 crushed campden tablet. Leave a few weeks, siphon again. Bottle it, then do the hard thing; leave it in a cool dark place for at least 6 months, preferably a year. Trust me, the wait is well worth it.

Everything you use should be sterilised. You can get sterilising stuff from any home brew supplies place, the same place that sells you yeast. Demijohns and airlocks can be bought there but you can usually find them in charity shops or in mates lofts and garages cheaper.

This gives you 6 bottles of wine, at least 25 quid's worth, with way less environmental impact and a much greater sense of achievement.

In three weeks time do another load with top leaves of nettles, and three weeks after that elderflowers. Like dandelions, once you start looking you'll easily find enough right by where you live.

Friday, April 22, 2005

take your election and sticker it

A further nudge on the political stickers.

The Tory stickers have been appearing around here, with slogans like 'If you can’t pay for health care then you don’t deserve it', 'Tax evasion costs £25bn a year, 5 times the cost of benefit fraud. But the tax evaders are rich, so we should leave them alone' and 'I mean, nobody wants to live in a place where people aren’t white, do they?'

The folks who did the Tory 'it's time to round up the foreigners' one have done several more, such as;

All are available as nice easy ready to print Microsoft Word files from here.

Another place for excellent designs is who've run quality graphics on numerous worthy themes. I especially love the police recruitment ones. 'Like guns but scared of the army?' made me chortle, and there's also these

And on the ID cards / terrorism laws thing:

Have more of a say than one X on a piece of paper. Let people know they're not alone in seeing through the PR bollocks and the centre-right media monopoly. Go get some stickers.

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Over at they've got a great gallery of subvertised Tory billboards. My favourite is 'the law should protect me, not burglars!', with 'burglars!' deleted and replaced by 'the rich!'. Although sticking the BNP logo over the Conservatives one is mighty clever too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

sack the puppy killer

I'm not that into the tiny details about particular marginal constituencies and all that, but the possibilities for Dorset have caught my eye for several reasons.

They concern a superb standard of inept Tory lying; they may well humiliate a senior front bench puppy-shooting Tory; and it's being co-ordinated by Billy Bragg.

Now I know Bragg is an exceptionally well informed and articulate political thinker, but it still always amuses me that the man who gave popular music not one but two of its finest masturbation references can ever get taken seriously.

They were, incidentally;

With my own hands
When I make love to your memory
It's not the same
I miss the thunder, I miss the rain
- St Swithins Day

and this one that only rhymes when 'trousers' is said in an Essex accent;

All my friends from school
Introduce me to their spouses
While I'm left standing here
With my hands down the front of my trousers
- The Short Answer

That one especially tickles because of the regionality. It's like the kick I get from the name of a Liverpool hair salon. You know the weird tradition of hairdressers names being bad puns ('Curl Up and Dye', etc)? There's a Liverpool one that only works with a scouse accent; Ben Hair.

Still gets me every time, that.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, taking on the tories in Dorset with Billy Bragg, hopefully with his hands outside of his 'trousis'.

Although the three Dorset seats are traditionally all Tory, in 2001 Bragg launched which got people to exchange 'voter valentines'.

The idea is that if you're a Labour voter in a place where the LibDems could beat the tories, the site will pair you with a LibDem in a place where Labour can win. You promise to vote for each other's parties, thus not betraying your principles and still kicking the tories the fuck out.

It worked in two out of the three. In Mid-Dorset the LibDems beat the Tories, in South Dorset Labour scraped in by 153 votes.

This time out, with Bragg's proven (and arguably illegal) device working they're hoping for all three.

That last Tory they're up for unseating is West Dorset's MP and the shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin, a man who shoots puppies for personal pleasure.

As my favourite commentator on the election, Jim Bliss, says

[Letwin] was a bigwig at NM Rothschild financial megaglomerate. But he didn't have a Road to Damascus experience and decide to dedicate his skills to public service. Like fuck did he! In fact, it's only a year and a half ago that the tories were able to convince him to resign his position. Eventually he got the message, it might be a conflict of interest to be running the nation's budget, setting taxation policy, regulating the financial sector, and what have you, whilst still a director of NM Rothschild. Just might be a conflict of interest.

And this is something that more people should be talking about. Most of these tory spending plans that are being bandied about at the moment are the work of a man who was working for NM Rothschild whilst formulating them. It is safe to assume therefore, knowing as I do the workings of corporations at high levels, that these plans are first and foremost the plans of a Rothschild director, and second the plans of a public servant. You just don't exist at that level of a corporation if you're playing for any team but the home one. Feel free to deny this if you choose. You will be wrong though.

A tory vote, therefore, should be cast full in the knowledge that your hopes and dreams need to coincide with those of NM Rothschild if you expect your MP to address them.

Over in South Dorset that 153 Labour majority may look shaky, but they will be helped not only by Bragg's valentines but also because the Tory candidate, Ed Matts, is a classic bumbling lying tory twat.

He has previously campaigned for a Malawian asylum seeker, publicly holding a placard saying 'let them stay'.

But as his party are fighting on an anti asylum and immigration platform, he released a picture of himself next to Anne Widdecombe holding placards saying immigration should be reduced.

Thing is, the anti-immigration picture was Photoshopped out of the 'let them stay' one, changing the words and swapping the asylum seeker for Widdecombe.

Although Howard Flight telling the truth about Tory spending plans was a sacking offence, for some reason this dickhead's Stalinesque changing of a picture to its effective opposite doesn't incur the wrath of Michael Howard.

Howard's avowed determination for consistency and truth in his underlings isn't an issue if they're joining his psychotic revulsion for immigrants. This is, of course, the same Michael Howard who, as Home Secretary, devised the racist Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 which introduced a tactfully named 'white list' of countries, places deemed so safe that any asylum claim from there was assumed to be groundless.

I was at a demonstration in London's Hyde Park against the act, and Jack Straw, then shadow home secretary, passionately declared that no government is infallible so any claim of persecution should be investigated. Each asylum claim must be taken on its merits regardless of the country being fled, and a Labour government would ignore the 'white list', he said.

A few months later Straw was Home Secretary. As is traditional, on becoming Home Secretary he suddenly became a paranoid authoritarian maniac bent on exceeding the repressive achievments of his predecesor.

In 2002 his successor, David Blunkett, continued the tradition in many ways. Among them was the introduction of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill. Blunkett stoutly defended one of the main pillars of the Bill, the addition of new countries - including several central and eastern European nations with well-documented violent persecution of Roma people - to the white list.

Monday, April 18, 2005

are you rethinking?

That Tory poster campaign is just gagging for spoofs. It's so condescending, so stupid, so hypocritical and so thinly covering their rich seam of bigotry.

'It's not racist to impose limits on immigration'

'I mean, how hard can it be to keep a hospital clean?'

Well, as Jim Bliss says, hospitals are probably the most difficult things in the world to keep clean.

as anyone who gave the question 30 seconds of thought knows, the answer is actually: "Pretty damn hard indeed!" Hospitals are filled with the most biohazardous and infectious things imaginable; sick people. And unless you eliminate them, you are never going to have completely clean hospitals. Of course, a quick glance at their spending plans and policies and you begin to suspect that the elimination of sick people is something that will increase dramatically under another tory government.

They allege hospitals would be clean if we 'put matron in charge'.

Ignoring the insultingly simplistic phrasing, yeah, I agree with the basic idea of in-house staff providing more conscientious cleaning because they have a sense of belonging, stay in the job longer, are likely to have better pay and conditions and have a personal relationship with patients and medical staff.

In fact, that's what we used to have. Until someone came along with the idea that all human endeavour should be run as if it were a manufacturing industry in a freemarket economy. They put cleaning contracts out to tender and awarded them to whoever was the cheapest, generally the ones who cut the most corners and had the most unmotivated staff doing the actual work. In doing so, they made keeping hospitals clean a lot harder and a lot more expensive too.

Still, that expense was money paid to the people running the cleaning firms who all had private medical insurance, so nothing to worry about really.

Now, who was it that made all that happen again? Wait, it's coming to me now... you remember, the people in power in the 80s and 90s, had a bloke called Michael Howard in one of the most senior positions...

You can make your own spoof Tory poster thanks to the online Tory poster generator.

Others have already got into full swing in a similar vein, as these stickers are already on the streets of Nottingham.

It's astonishing that the Tories appear to see no contradiction in the pro-hospitals and anti-immigration messages. As anyone who sees the inside of a hospital instantly knows, a disproportionately large number of the staff there are immigrants, from the very best surgeons through the nursing staff to those who cook the food and, yes, keep the place clean. In fact, there's another idea for a spoof tory poster; 'Who do you think keeps the hospitals clean? It's time we wised up about immigration'.

It's very easy to do your own stickers. You can buy packets of blank stickers at any office supply shop, and Microsoft Word has built-in templates for many sizes of sticker-sheets. Go Tools > Envelopes and Labels... > Labels tab > Options... and there's a whole list. Avery J8165 are great, eight stickers to an A4 sheet, ideal for buses, trains, bus stops, etc.

And of course they're not just for these election things, but are a good swift and simple way to stop yourself feeling bombarded by advertising. It gives you a way to reply to ads, make it a dialogue and expose what they're really saying.

For instance, loads of adverts on the London Underground are for products to give you a boost of nutrients or wakefulness, alleviate minor ailments, or some other thing to help you cope with a stressful life. They're all dealt with by a sticker saying 'They make us sick to sell us health: do yourself a favour, phone in well tomorrow'.

The best multipurpose one is a long strip to put along the bottom of an ad like the warning on tobacco; 'WARNING: they're only after your money'. Sounds obvious written here, but set against some image of impossible glamour or incitement to fear it is extremely potent.

In giving responses you not only feel better yourself, and not only get your message to others who see it, but you make it clear that the thing you've stickered is an advert. There is so much advertising around that we become oblivious to it, accepting and susceptible. Subvertising makes people aware that the ads are a drive to manipulate, not merely background scenery. It makes the reader hold that awareness even after the subvertised ad is gone. It is empowering for all who see it.

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By the way, on a non-election spoof thing, be sure to beautify your home with a magnificent Cliff Richard 2005 calendar. Download a pdf of it here.

Friday, April 15, 2005

at least they're not the tories

There are two kinds of Labour billboard at the moment. One is garish warning signs - WARNING The Tories would charge for hospital operations - the other has a Labour and Tory figure to compare (Gordon Brown and Oliver Letwin captioned 'Who Do You Want To Run The Economy?'). All the posters have the utterly vacuous tagline 'Forward Not Back'.

The selling point, then, is not how good they are but 'for fucks sake at least we're not the Tories'.

They make no mention of the LibDems, who are seeming to become a force to be reckoned with. I've spoken to more than one intelligent person who's become enthusiatic about the LibDems. People with a big enough imagination, sense of hope and level of media literacy to criticise the Labour 'at least we're not the tories' campaign. Yet the enthusiasm for the LibDems is precisely that kind of thinking.

A higher top range of income tax and whatnot sounds great, as long as you compare it to the stuff Howard Flight told us about. But the LibDems find it easy to promise things and say they'd be fairer and less beholden to vested interests if they were in power, cos they know they'll never be tested on it.

The LibDems are no different to the other parties, it's just that because they haven't been in government in living memory they can pretend they're cuddlier. The hope for them is like the hope people had for New Labour in 1997.

They're oppotunist professional politicians, same as the others.

They claim to have always been against the war, but go check. They were not against the war, they just wanted a second UN resolution. Kennedy specifically said they were 'not the all out anti-war party'.

On the day the war started he declared opposition to the war should cease, saying 'now is the time for silence'. If my next door neighbour was planning mass murder and I opposed it, once they actually went out and started killing I wouldn't think it was the time to be quiet.

He talked of British forces in Iraq doing it 'for their country', when in fact they're fighting to get someone else's country.

Even now they support the occupation of Iraq, only asking that there should be a parliamentary vote before any more troops are deployed.

They also love to portray themselves as all cuddly and green. Easy for an opposition party to do. Check their environmental record in power.

On the day the government said GM crops might go ahead, LibDems in Westminster were officially opposing it but in Scotland, where they have power and could do something about it, they weren't blocking it, they were unanimously supporting it and merely saying they'd ask farmers not to plant GM!

The infamous Newbury Bypass, a scheme now conceded by the then Tory Roads Minister as utterly unnecessary, was rabidly cheered on by those with local power - the LibDem council and the LibDem MP.

In the case of Manchester Airport's second runway - an equally destructive project taking nearly three times the land of Newbury - in Stockport under the flight path they opposed it but in Manchester, where their power was, they were in favour!

The Kingston Poplars tree protest was for mature trees being felled to improve the view for new luxury flats. The council that gave planning permission? LibDems.

As they ascend in the polls and get closer to power, so they quietly move to become another Big Business party. It's a flipside to the way that as the Tories move away from power they start saying there should be good student grants and in-house hospital cleaning, conveniently forgetting who invented student loans and privatised hospital cleaning in the first place.

Power itself is the problem.

The LibDems 'Alternative Budget' last year was full of privatisation, they've issued a statement saying, and I quote, 'Liberal Democrats start with a bias in favour of market solutions'. They believe that unsustainable economic growth is somehow a self-evidently good thing.

Put them in power and they're the same as the rest, neo-liberalist big business power-loving fuckwits. Bugger them and the tory-lite horse they ride in on.

Yes, it'd be great to have a massive LibDem turnout insofar as it'd make the Tories keel over and die like the dinosaur that they are. It would shift the grounds of national debate away from Tory racism and the like.

But if they're just a slightly fluffier version of Big Business politics, and become more so as they gain greater power, then it's certainly nothing to enthuse about. It's just that, well, at least they're not the Tories.

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Update 16 April 05

There's a new Labour billboard near my house. In another 'we're not like the tories were' thrust, it has a small child with 'I remember the day my dad came home from work and never went back'.

Not like now, as the workers at MG Rover in Longbridge will tell you.

Their bosses, incidentally, bought Rover for £10 five years ago and paid themselves about £10,000,000 each as the company collapsed. As Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary said of those Rover vultures at last year's British Motor Show, 'Company directors who take big risks and achieve big success deserve big rewards'.

Keep this in mind whenever Labour do anything to suggest they still have anything to do with their workers origins.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

blair ditch project

Many people in the UK are wanting to use the forthcoming election to send a clear message to Tony Blair about his privatisation, attacks on civil liberties and, above all, the war in Iraq.

Some folks, like those at Backing Blair, are advocating voting for whoever stands the best chance of beating your Labour candidate. Thing is, for most of us that's the Tories. Protesting against a right wing agenda by voting for an even more right wing agenda makes no sense. It is obviously counter-productive.

The Labour party would not feel they'd lost ground cos of the war and the assaults on education and the NHS, they'd see they'd lost ground to the Tories so they'd ape the Tory agenda. If it succeeds, it would send a message to all parties to go more right wing.

There are others who've come up with a smarter plan. The Blair Ditch Project:

60,000 voters in Sedgefield, County Durham, have the power to decide if Blair still represents their interests and the interests of the country. The rest of us have the power to help them make the right decision.

The plan is that in the weeks running up to Polling Day, people come to Sedgefield from all over Britain to encourage the loyal Labour voters there to remember the terrible cost of the war in lives, resources and liberties lost.

They will argue that removing Tony Blair from office would be good for their constituency, good for the country as a whole, good for the Labour party, and good for the rest of the world under the slogan 'Do Labour a favour - Don't vote for Tony'.

How likely is it? More than you'd think.

There is apparently little love for Tony Blair in Sedgefield. Since his arrival in 1997 the inaccessible and always absent MP has done little to help the people deal with the under-investment, unemployment, drug addiction and hopelessness faced by these one-time mining communities. Because of his lack of socialist roots and his top-down approach to organising, Blair's local network of foot-soldiers is very thin on the ground.

Also, unlike Backing Blair, this campaign isn't asking people to vote for candidates they despise, merely their second choice.

In September 2003, a similar anti-war campaign in the Brent East by-election succeeded in overturning a 13,000 Labour majority. In that instance the votes went to the Liberal Democrats. In Sedgefield the last Labour majority was 17,713, but that was already a 5% swing away from Labour to the Tories and the Lib Dems. At least 20,000 people didn't vote at all, and Blair had lost 7,000 votes since the previous election.

If enough people come and speak to the residents of Sedgefield on their doorsteps, there is a real chance that Teflon Tony's home constituency could turn out to be his Achilles Heel.

The campaign will use a double-decker bus and mobile tannoy, cinema screenings around the constituency, and a series of Public Hearings on the Iraqi War, bringing soldiers' families, Iraqi civilians and expert witnesses to testify in Sedgefield.

If we each give one day of our time to the people of Sedgefield, the pay-off is unimaginable.

There will be a camp-site with a canteen and toilet facilities for people staying overnight, and a meeting point for day visitors. (There could also be limited accommodation with local people).

More info and stuff at the Blair Ditch Project site.

Monday, April 11, 2005

guernsey: the terrorist's friend

Remember when British mercenary Simon Mann was nicked in Zimbabwe en route to attempt a coup in Equatorial Guinea? (If your memory wants refreshing, read this).

He said he was 'only' on his way to run the security at a diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mineral mining there is a brutal military operation, the engine of the biggest war on earth since World War Two.

Mann and cohorts have, in fact, run mercenary military operations to change regimes in a variety of countries in order to take hefty chunks of the mineral resources on the lands under dispute. Whether it be oil in Angola, copper in Bougainville or more oil in Equatorial Guinea, these people are the new colonialists; wealthy Europeans killing people in poor countries in order to take their natural resources.

Mann has business bank accounts at the Royal Bank of Scotland International in Guernsey.

Guernsey has the peculiar status of 'British dependency'. As if the UK wasn't already constiutionally confused enough (why do we play football and rugby as four countries, yet go to the olympics as one team? And why is that team called Team GB when GB is only three of the four nations?).

'Dependency' is the status of several places like the Isle of Man and Guernsey's fellow Channel Islands. It's a closer integration than 'dependent overseas territories' like the assortment of islands around the globe we still have a hand in, but it's still sort of independent. They get to set their own tax laws and the like.

That doesn't affect ordinary people directly, excepting those who've sussed that it's cheaper to buy from Amazon Jersey than But if you're filthy rich, and especially if you're an international terrorist with a respectable facade, such places are essential to make sure your dodgy money is kept out of the usual paper trails.

This week, the Guernsey Court of Appeal has overturned the decision to allow the government of Equatorial Guinea access to Mann's account records and safe deposit boxes. The records are believed to show who financed and organised Mann's attempted coup against them.

Financiers included Jeffrey Archer (who 'denied' it with a solicitor's statement saying he'd never personally met Mann, but didn't address the question of why Mann's account had $134,000 paid in by one JH Archer). Also accused are numerous other British citizens, and indeed it seems the coup was planned here.

In deciding not to allow Equatorial Guinea access to the records, Guernsey's appeal court is effectively saying it's got nothing to do with Equatorial Guinea, that they believe Mann's claim that he was on the way to DRC rather than the coup in Equatorial Guinea.

Which is odd because other people involved in the operation - including 'Sir' Mark Thatcher - were prosecuted in South Africa, and they admitted it was indeed a coup against Equatorial Guinea and were convicted accordingly.

Basically, the court is saying that Mann is one of ours and so we have to help him out, even if we hold the evidence that he is an international terrorist who contravenes the Geneva Convention.

As if to prove they were sticking their fingers in their ears and going la la la, the court said they were unaware of any UK criminal investigation into the affair, despite the widely reported inquiry currently being conducted by the British Anti-Terrorist Branch.

They have to say this because if they were to release Mann's records it would make anyone else taking advantage of Guernsey's financial rules - criticised by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development for lack of transparency and 'harmful' tax practices - get very worried.

If Guernsey loses its appeal to tax exiles and business scammers then it loses the overwhelming majority of its economic life. The financial sector employs 20% of Guernsey's population and is 60% of its GDP.

There's serious talk on those islands of becoming separate independent countries rather than comply with British financial laws.

So instead of scaring its rich residents with the prospect of making them subject to the same laws as the rest of us, Guernsey's establishment lines up behind Simon Mann and they become the newest in the list of people prepared to help mercenary killers for their own financial gain.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

bush anxiety

A little more on the recently deceased cannibal bigot.

I'm not going to talk about the anti-condom thing - others have done it far more powerfully and eloquently than I could - except to ask why people focus on that particular aspect of Vatican rulings on sex. They also proscribe sex outside of heterosexual monogamous marriage. If people obeyed that then the AIDS/condom thing wouldn't really crop up.

It seems to me that in only having condom use as the area under dispute there's a sliver of acceptance of the innate rightness and supremacy of monogamy, heterosexuality and marriage.

Anyway, the thing I really want to mention was the potential for comedy in the seating arrangement's at the funeral.

Initially, the plans were to seat leaders in order of how long they'd been in office. This would've put Bush pretty much at the back, behind Blair, with seats for Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe on the front row.

If only they'd done it, purely from a perspective of how this would've made Bush feel.

Sadly, they dropped that plan and went for ordering them alphabetically according to how their country's name is spelt in French. Much less humiliation for Bush (Etas-Uni), although he still had to sit next to Chirac.

Additional Bush discomfort must've been caused by the Vatican's total gun ban. Not even bodyguards were packing.

One can but imagine the effect of this on Bush - when was the last time there wasn't a travelling ring of armed guards radiating from him in all directions? Imagine how he must've come to psychologically rely on that, what a security blanket it must be, and how uneasy and anxious he must've been without it.

So, something good amongst all the mourning and sycophantic drivel.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

the madness of st helens

I'm not a big fan of mornings, at least not when they're positioned at the start of the waking day.

So today was always going to have to work hard to impress me, as I had to get up at half fuckin six to go and be prosecuted in St Helens (I got nicked at an anti-GM thing a while back).

Stumbling through the station it was still so early that there were people in fleeces by the ticket barrier handing out copies of Metro, a lightweight freebie daily tabloid given away in most major cities in the UK.

If you've been aboard my Badgerwagon for a while, you may remember my post about the one word I know of that is scouse rhyming slang: 'bills', (Bill Grundies = undies).

The word comes up frequently in unwitting comic contexts, but special mention must be made of one so good that it caused me to involuntarily laugh out loud even though I was on my own in a public place at 7.15am on the way to a criminal conviction.

Quite why the Prime Minister's underpants are in peril isn't made clear.

St Helens is a classic industrial town. It has tons of small red brick terraces and not a lot else. There are boarded up shops, disused factories and empty houses. It could almost be a 1980s theme park called Thatcherland. The National Lottery stall in the shopping centre had a queue 14 people long at 11am.

There's loads of these towns in the murky hinterland between Manchester and Liverpool. St Helens is just about in Merseyside, so there are buses to Liverpool Airport. It was renamed two or three years ago, and this morning I saw the new name as the illuminated destination on the front of a number 89 bus, giving me my second proper laugh of the day.

It's now called John Lennon Airport.

Naming the Liverpool airport after the city's most famous smackhead tickles me no end, and their tagline 'above us only sky' is yet one more addition to the list of satire-pummelling actualities.

It's amazing how many rebels become cherished figures beloved in the deepest enclaves of the establishment. James Joyce, a writer so controversial that when he delivered Dubliners to the printers they refused to handle it, ended up on the Irish tenner. Hilariously, Australia put a portrait of convicted forger Francis Greenway on their 10 dollar bill.

By 2025 I fully expect the Thames Barrier to be named in Mick Jagger's honour and to get there by tube on the Ronnie Biggs line.

Anyway, back to today. I arrived at the court. I sat there, unable to help myself earwigging in on coversations. There's a lot of sitting around to do in a court building, and you can't concentrate on anything properly. The legal system is the one thing that keeps you nervously waiting longer than hospitals or even the dole.

A woman came and sat at the far side of the guy beside me, who she clearly knew already. Her opening line was so startling that I wrote it down, and then struggled to keep pace transcribing the entire exchange, as I knew that if I didn't write it down verbatim I'd suspect myself of exaggeration afterward.

Read it in the carefree bright and breezy tone it was spoken in.

SHE: How's Doreen? I heard Pete's dead.

HE: Yeah, about six months ago.

SHE: How'd he die?

HE: Pneumonia.

SHE: Really? He was my cousin, him. How's Doreen?

HE: Mad Doreen?

SHE: Yeah.

HE: I see her in the shop. She purrs doesn't she?

SHE: Purrs?

HE: Yeah

SHE: Why?

HE: I dunno. She's mad.

SHE: Alan's dead in'he? Not Alan, Pete.

HE: Yeah.

After an hour and a frigging half, I was called in for my five minutes before the bench. As is to be expected, the copper's sworn statement is somewhat at variance with the facts of the event, but it wasn't worth making a fuss. I was bound to be convicted so I just got it over with quickly.

£50 fine and another £55 costs. That was the money I'd put aside for a Glastonbury ticket which, in near-identical circumstances to Jim Bliss, I never managed to get.

It makes me grumbly to think I've just done the equivalent of buying the state a Glastonbury ticket, but they'd got me by the short and curlies so there's sod all I can do.

They've even changed the law so you have to cough up rather than not pay and then do a couple of days chokey for non-payment. It's now an offence in itself not to provide them with a statement of your financial situation including your NI number so they can go get your money direct from whoever pays you.

So out on to the mean streets of St Helens. Outside the Town Hall there's the war memorial. It often startles me what these common items really mean. In every town, village and city district across this corner of Europe there is a commemoration of the fact that, two generations running - only four and five generations ago from today - they took all the young men and decimated them.

In St Helens there's a white stone obelisk with marble plaques bearing dozens and dozens of gilded names of men killed in the two world wars. Then, high up on each of the three sides that aren't the front, there's a small marble plaque. One bears a man's name and 'South Atlantic 1982'. One, a single name and 'Borneo 1966'. What the fuck was that? I never knew we went to war there ever, let alone so recently.

Those two plaques were small, just room for the one name. Chillingly, the counterpart for Northern Ireland only bears a single name, but is larger than the other two with blank space for a further two or three names.

When I was growing up in England in the 70s and 80s, we were always told by politicians, teachers, media, the whole lot, that the fighting in Northern Ireland wasn't a 'war' and they'd jump down your throat if you even referred to it using that word, alleging pro-IRA propaganda. Yet here's a dead British soldier's name on a war memorial for being killed in action there.

Had to change railway stations in Manchester, meaning a walk across the city centre. Down Market Street there were blokes selling bootleg MAKE POVERTY HISTORY bracelets and a seemingly more innocent but actually equally shady street stall set up with a gadget and questionaire for 'FREE STRESS TEST'. This is in fact a Scientologist stall.

If you're gonna be religious, at least have the decency to admit your nuttiness and stand outside WH Smith warning of hellfire while nobody listens. I fuckin despise the sneaky stuff Hare Krishnas and Scientologists do in pretending to be something they're not.

The Krishnas stop you and flash some laminated thing at you and say they're collecting for children in poor countries. If you ask them direct, they admit they're Krishnas. Then you can usually haggle with them for some good tat. I've had superb joss sticks, a C60 of people chanting Hare Krishna non-stop (great as source material for Radio Savage Houndy Beasty audio collage soundscapes), and sheets of Gouranga stickers.

Talking of which, big respect for the dedicated way they flypost Gouranga posters on bridges over roads. Every time I see them I imagine a carload of orange-robed baldies going out with a bucket and paste and dangling one of their number upside down 30 foot above the M1. If only they could apply that sort of commitment to something worthwhile.

Anyway, Scientology woman offers me a questionaire. I love it when I get religious fuckers in the street and I'm ready for them. Sometimes I give them the Bill Hicks line,

While I appreciate your quaint traditions and superstitions, I, on the other hand, am an evolved being who deals solely with the source of light which exists in all of us, in our own minds, no middlemen required.

Sometimes I just flash them a heavy metal horns hand gesture, smile broadly and say 'Satan is Lord'. These people really think there is a Satan and he has a lot of followers, so it really unnerves them.

I'd seen this Scientology thing before and so was clear about what bugged me.

'It's religious isn't it?' I asked.

'No' she replied.

'Yes it is. You want me to do that so I'll join your religion, am I right?'.


'You're Scientologists aren't you?'

'This isn't to do with Scientology,' she said, showing me that the questionaire's return address as if that proved it. It was addressed to a place called the Hubbard Centre. I took it off her, and found that at the bottom it had a copyright notice.

© Church of Scientology

'You see this? It says you've just lied to me. Isn't the point of religion to encourage a higher standard of moral behaviour? Shouldn't that include not lying to people?'

'If you're not interested in religion you don't have to take it,' she said and walked off.

Surely if you think you've got a full clear answer to the origin and meaning of all things and you go out into the street to evangelise you shouldn't be so easily put off.

Scientologists, just like Mormons, fall at the first hurdle nine times out of ten. Now Jehovah's Witnesses, they're a different kettle of loony, argue with you for hours they will.

Spent the train ride home going back over the final chapters of Colin Tudge's book So Shall We Reap: How Everyone Who Is Liable to Be Born in the Next Ten Thousand Years Could Eat Very Well Indeed; and Why, in Practice, Our Immediate Descendants Are Likely to Be in Serious Trouble. In days gone by I used to have a good memory, but with time I'm finding if I want information to stick I have to bookmark the Big Points and the Great Phrases and go and re-read them once I've finished the book.

Tudge's book is the most important I've ever read. It's really clear and complete; what farming is, why we do it, how nutrition works, why the great gastronomies of the world are nutritionally superb. And, most importantly, how it could all really be OK if we did the obvious thing and actually geared food produciton to feeding people with an eye to being able to do so in future. Instead, food production is geared to making as much money as possible for the wealthy in the short term and unprecedented starvation may well be the motif of the 21st century.

I don't agree with absolutely everything he says, but then nobody could write 400 pages you totally approve of. But as an education and as a terrifying alarm call I recommend it with maximum urgency.

Of course, it's not that easy to find. Different bookshops stash it different places. Some put it in Food, along with Jamie Oliver books and the criminally insane Dr Atkins.

Some put it in Nature Writing with the ornithology. I've seen it in Politics too (which actually means just grey politics), the graveyard of bookshops. Nobody buys books from that section, and for good reason. (Another book about the internal workings of the present Parliamentary Labour Party? Great, I'll take six).

There should be a section called something like The Really Big Issues That If We Don't Suss Out NOW Then We're All Fucked, And In Fact It May Well Already Be Too Late.

Books like this and this and this and this.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

dust on the stylus

My Badgerly self has been busy elsewhere in cyberspace (is 'cyberspace' an outdated term yet? You really don't see it around as much as you used to).

That posting about Rachel Corrie has been expanded into an article that's been published here.

Also, I've started an MP3 blog. As someone who has spent years in quasi-religious appreciation of records, I've a lot of peculiar little corners in my record collection and, having been getting quite heftily into other MP3 blogs, I've launched out with Dust On The Stylus.

There'll be a new MP3 every few days, could be anything I think is obscure yet worth hearing, mostly stuff from the vinyl era with, I suspect, a bit of leaning towards 1980ish to 1992ish. But we'll see.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

dead cannibal

I really wasn't going to mention the pope karking it. The death of the leader of a bizarre death-cult of bigots who engage in symbolic cannibalistic rituals is not noteworthy in itself for me. But two things have pushed me across the commentary threshold.

Firstly, the curious sadness his followers feel. If they truly believe he's 'gone to a better place' why aren't they celebrating?

The only answer I can come up with is that, as Attila The Stockbroker has pointed out, somewhere inside they don't really believe the eternal bliss stuff. If you take a priest and put a gun to their heads they'd be begging for their lives, the same as the rest of us. No serenity, and certainly no 'yay at last here I go'.

I know pointing out Christian contradiction is something of a fish/barrel/firearms scenario, but the sheer gall of saying you're God's number one rep on earth, a 'man of faith', and then surrounding your vehicle in two inch bulletproof glass!

The outrageous front in being the head of one of the richest organisations on the planet, the biggest tax dodgers in the history of money, and then giving sermons about duty to the poor. His friggin outfit must've cost the price of a Tanzanian hospital wing. And the hush money given to children buggered by priests cost a lot more than that. Given that that's where it goes, it makes me glad I've never put money in their collection plates.

But anyway, the second dead pope thing is one that made me laugh out loud. A truly magnificent headline for an article in the Seattle Times:

Some Catholics surprised by own emotions

Read that again. There's several fabulous comedy angles to take this one from.

I too know some Catholics who are surprised by their own emotions. They'll be there with you, doing something really cool and enjoyable that does nobody any harm, then all of a sudden they get weird. They feel bad, wrong, dirty and/or guilty, often seemingly because what they're doing is causing them personal pleasure without detriment to anyone. They know it's bollocks, yet still they feel it, and so are understandably surprised at their own emotions.

Another reading is to put the emphasis on 'own'. Having spent a lifetime being told by twisted celibates what's right and wrong, many Catholics realise it's a load of vicious repressive twaddle and start to form their own ideas. This too must feel surprising at first.

The only downer is that it does, as the headline says, only apply to some Catholics.