Wednesday, July 29, 2009
- Johnnie Walker whisky has been produced in Kilmarnock since 1820, and the factory employs seven hundred people in the town. It's consistently produced a healthy profit. This used to be come under the general umbrella term "industry".
- That's not good enough for Diageo though, who intend to close the factory and build luxury flats on the site, or "maximise their earning potential". They'll employ four hundred more people in Fife, but I'll wager they'll demand twice the graft for two thirds of the pay. This is called "increasing productivity".
- Diageo have agreed to hold off on this until they've looked at a government-backed plan to save the site. Basically, if the plan involves the taxpayer paying Diageo several million pounds, they'll be willing to reconsider. This is called "extortion", and it mirrors similar phenomena in America where firms regularly demand payoffs to stop them shipping jobs to China. The jobs are going to China sooner or later, but a megabucks payoff ensures it's later, i.e. after the politicians who agree the deal have left office.
I can't think of a better metaphor for the last thirty years of UK fuckyounomic policy than Diageo sinking their vampire fangs into the town of Kilmarnock, sucking every penny out of the place and then spitting thick wads of hard cash into the bank accounts of people who haven't lifted a finger to earn it. This is what I like to call "a massive transfer of wealth from low-income families to the very, very wealthy", or "cutting-edge business practice".
Now, I can deal with this kind of vicious economic gangsterism, since it's been the norm my entire life. What I can't deal with is the kind of obfuscatory nu-speak bullshit above.
See, if every Prime Minister since Thatcher had been elected on a platform of promises to put a massive percentage of the populace in direct competition for employment with Chinese slaves, I'd respect their democratic right to do so.
I could get with the program if Tom Friedman's leg-humping, panegyric tomes were titled You Just Paid Me To Lie To Your Face! and You're Fucked Because My Wife Needs Another Learjet.
And I could just about cope if the Centre for British Industry restricted itself to calling the people of Kilmarnock and Glasgow peasants, then ordering them to shut their insolent mouths, get on their knees and beg their mighty overlords for leniency. That would be infinitely preferable to their habit of issuing press releases warning threatened workers to keep quiet and take their imminent redundancy like men, lest they scare off the ever-skittish collossi of international investment.
Hell, I came into this world as clueless as I'm going to leave it, and I hold out no hope for the likes of Diageo's execs being whipped through the streets. I'd settle for a little more honesty and just a little less self-serving gibberish designed to disguise vice as virtue.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Baddest Dog on Telly Turns 52
So overused a term is "genius" that, in this era of literary cliche, it should cause the reader to flinch at the inevitability of "troubled" popping up next to it, as if it had sprung from a very, very reliable toaster, probably German-made.
Yet it's near impossible to conjure a less hackneyed phrase that so neatly summarises the life and work of children's entertainer Sweep, although many have tried...
"Sweep (is) ...an artistic giant, blessed with an almost effortless, magisterial brilliance, but tragically cursed with a Herculean appetite for bones, drugs and pussy," was co-star Matthew Corbett's attempt.
"A televisual collossus with one paw upon the Olympian peak of light-entertainment nirvana and another plunged in the fetid sewers of his own personal Hades," was Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson's verdict. Writing in her 1998 work Sweep - The Lost Years, 1984-89, pseudonymous writer "A. Panda" was blunter, referring to the canine thespian as a "...goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus".
Such glowing tributes offer little more than a glimpse into Sweep's long career in slapstick, sexual gymnastics and stolen sausages. They say little of his symbiotic connection with co-star Sooty; a relationship of intense, almost erotic friendship spotted with periodic fistfights and stained by several attempted mutilations.
Little could the public suspect that, only minutes before filming the now-legendary Sweep forgets where he buried his bone sketch - a heart-warming scene ending with the actor buried upside down with only his iconic red wellingtons waggling in the air - the vodka-crazed canine had flown in about his fellow performer with a knife between his teeth and murder in his heart.
And who can explain why even that infamous 1969 incident, in which Sweep was forced to publicly explain why his car was found in a deep river near his family retreat with a very beautiful and very dead stuffed elephant in the back seat, failed to tarnish his reputation?
It says much for the high esteem in which he is held by the public that, after long decades of drama, decadence and dishonour, Sweep is entrusted with the education and entertainment of the nation's children. As did their fathers and their grandfathers, so will a fresh generation grow up to the trill of Sweep's signature squeak.
No, even as he enters his fifty second year at the top of the children's TV tree, it seems that Sweep shall remain an enigma... A complex and vulnerable artist separated from his public by the twin ironies that have bedevilled his career - the fact that only Matthew can understand him, and that he is a glove-puppet.
Sir, I salute you.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
It may be difficult to tell now, but this was a comedy blog when it started - a fine idea thwarted by the fact that while entertaining, witty writing is hard work, complaining about things is easy... Appropriately, a no-brainer.
Which would pretty well summarise my thoughts on blogging in general, after a few years' experience. In terms of public acclaim, it seems to rank somewhere between pigeon-fancying and stealing women's underwear for sexual gratification; the kind of activity that logic dictates should be pursued solely by lurking, sexless freaks and pallid shut-ins with abnormal genitalia.
The form has its upside, allowing snarky, semi-literate smartarses like myself to put buckets on our heads and make like we're miniature Hunter Thompsons until the wife gets home and kicks off mental about the unwashed dishes. At its best, it's a knockabout club for sharp people with a talent for argument. At it's worst, it's a Comment Is Free pissfight about Israel-Palestine - about as edifying as a flock of half-spazzed, one-legged pigeons pecking each other to death over a pile of sick.
This is why stories along the lines of Newspapers in terminal decline tend to fill me with horror. The idea that blogs might become one of the world's primary news sources was popular when I started my own, and the prospect fills me with the same mind-numbing, gibbering dread now as it did then.
Make no mistake - the day that blogs become the primary news source for a plurality of the populace will be a cataclysm at the species level, like Spanish Flu or the Black Death.
If I believed what I read just on British blogs, I'd genuinely believe that the country was simultaneously powerless before a ravening horde of scimitar-wielding foreign invaders and seconds away from marching all minorities into death camps. I'd believe that democracy itself - an electorate voting in favour of public services and the necessary taxation to cover them - is a psychotic tyranny akin to Nazi Germany. I'd never set foot over my door for fear that I'd be instantly raped in the face by a gang of feral crackheads.
Some readers might point to intelligent, well-written blogs run by reasonable individuals, but frankly, pish and tush. British blogs run at roughly 5% sober budget analysis to 95% face-raping crackheads.
Never mind blogs as a primary news source, I'm struggling to think of a handful of bloggers who would merit even the fabled fifteen minutes of fame. That's particularly ironic, since the vast majority of them certainly deserve chemical castration, and that's being charitable.
Iain Dale's running his annual Blog Awards wankathon as we speak - I defy any reader to deny that the world would be a richer, more rewarding and more just place if each of the top ten writers on his final list had been ripped to pieces by enraged mako sharks three seconds after they logged in to their first Blogger accounts.
Paulie Hippie was asking the other day what lefty blogging can achieve, notably to no response. That's because the incoming Cameron administration could have the lot of us flown into the middle of the North Sea in helicopters and flung out at thirty thousand feet, and only our pets would notice. In truth, they too would remain oblivious but for the empty food bowls.
No, good old British blogs are a menace to humanity itself - a playground of vicious, barely-restrained hatred and emboldened, snickering ignorance. You might argue that it's incredibly unlikely that any blog could rival the clout of a daily newspaper, but that's why we should adopt Dick Cheney's one percent doctrine on unlikely threats, and volunteer en masse to be shot into the heart of the sun on rocket ships packed with nuclear warheads. I'd direct operations from Earth, just in case anyone got cold feet at the last minute.
It would be just and fitting, since anything fired into the sun returns to Earth as radiation eight minutes later, casting far more light in a split second than our interminable, rambling diatribes ever did.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Is there nothing these charlatans won't try to pin on the Prime Minister?
And on the BBC, of all places! I'll remember this the next time they try to tell us the Beeb has a left-wing bias, the fiends.
FR: Sure I know he's ill. I've got most of their albums.
ePal: Well, yes, but did you hear that he's really, actually ill? Like, really very ill indeed.
FR: Yes, I know how ill he is. I told you, I like the Beastie Boys.
ePal: No dude. They've found cancer in one of his saliva glands.
FR: (Long Pause) Did they Check His Head?
ePal: You and I can't be friends any more.
(Cheers - Seth C.)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
By Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias
Gentlemen, I really must object to your behaviour in the strongest possible terms.
Some might say that it is impolite to rouse a man from his slumber at such an ungodly hour; others, that enticing him and his family into a chilly basement on false pretences is simple bad manners.
While the Empress consort may have had cause of late to chide the Emperor for his stuffy and old fashioned ways, one feels that one is quite within one's rights to state that your execution of one's servants and one's personal doctor with revolvers is, frankly, downright rude.
I can see that you are somewhat excited. I appreciate that you are acting upon the orders of your superiors, and that any decision on your part to forgo the immediate perforation of the royal party with bullets and bayonets may cause you significant inconvenience.
Nonetheless, we are all gentlemen here. As men of reason, surely we can resolve our differences without anyone's daughters getting stabbed or shot.
Oh - ah, I see. Well, the majority of them, in that case.
Perhaps I can appeal to your better natures. As Emperor of All the Russias, one has on occasion been presented with difficult choices, and one has always attempted to follow the urgings of one's conscience towards leniency and mercy, especially as regards the ever-thorny issue of firing large quantities of hot lead into the offspring of one's political enemies. Why, I recall addressing this very matter with Guchkov of the Oktobrists of the Third Duma -
By God... My good man, I can assure you that there is no need for - well, really.
Why, bless me - it appears that the Grand Duchess's pendant - an especially sturdy and grandiose accoutrement, although I might say somewhat gaudy - has somehow contrived to deflect the murderous projectile, thus saving -
You gentlemen really are a most objectionably impulsive rabble, if you don't mind my saying so...
Sunday, July 19, 2009
FlyingRodent Applauds As Martin Amis Shocks The Literary World Once More With His Highly Controversial "Amin Was a Bastard" Polemic
Idi Amin Was a Right Bastard, by Martin Amis, 306pp, Jonathan Cape, £19.99
"...And though a thousand years may pass like the somnambulant meanderings of the Katonga river, never again shall the suncinerated plain of Afric' suffer the horrorism of another bastard like that proper nasty fucker, Idi Amin".
So ends the introduction to Idi Amin Was a Right Bastard, the latest assault on a little-known and seldom criticised historical figure by the pugnacious Martin Amis. As we might expect from so much of his recent output - Stalin Was a Right Bastard; Saddam Hussein Was a Right Bastard; Mohammed Atta Was a Right Bastard; The Gulag Was a Right Bastard and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Right Bastard - Amis takes aim at an obscure yet much deserving target, then eviscerates him before the scandalised eye of the bien-pensant liberal literati.
Stylistically, Bastard Vol. V differs little from its predecessors, in that Amis has clearly read other writers' work on his subject and then regurgitated it in an emetic torrent of florid 19th century prose, splattered heavily with forced neologisms and masturbatory torture-porn. Indeed, some passages are redolent of a hobnailed, Gestapo Wordsworth shoving a perfumed thesaurus up a puppy's arse then kicking it yelping up and down a burning stairwell, with great effect and mortifying impact.
Yet to focus solely upon the obvious relish with which Amis approaches his material is to do great violence to the delicacy and precision of his attack on the Ugandan dictator - "A great big fat ugly genossassin and an arsehole to boot" - in this work. I fear that Amis's bravery in tackling so beloved a figure as Idi Amin will gain him few friends and likely cost him many more.
Witness the countless thousands who, provoked to incandescent, spluttering rage by Bastard Vols. I-IV, marched in the streets with placards declaring Saddam Hussein Was Just Misunderstood and Once You Get Past The Murders, Stalin Was Merely a Little Ill-Tempered.
Once again Amis has dragged the well-flogged corpse of a bloodsoaked past into the light of day and now sits poking it with a stick and mumbling like a piss-streaked tramp on the Special Brew. Amin Was a Right Bastard is evidence, if evidence were needed, that Amis remains one of the UK's most vibrant, relevant and serious authors.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
People told me I was crazy; that Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing like Vietnam. Vietnam is mostly tropical jungle and rice paddies, they'd say. Iraq and Afhanistan are more your kind of arid desert/mountain kind of deal. This time, bombing and invading countries whose people and politics we don't understand without the slightest clue what victory is going look like will totally work, you'll see
Well I've been proven right at last, because Trisha Goddard - scum-baiting purveyor of Aldi-flavoured scandal to housewives, students and the unemployed - has just said the V-word on the BBC's flagship current affairs debate show, Question Time. And I don't mean Vagina.
No word as yet on whether she favours counterinsurgency or mere overwatch, but I think it's clear from her facial expression that Trisha is acutely aware of the inherent dangers of search-and-destroy missions in canopy jungle. You can tell that hard-bitten pop-cultural gossip merchant knows the face of war from the glint in her eye and the steel in her jaw.
Next week, Fearne Cotton inveighs against the risks of using unsustainable public debt as a reflationary gambit while George Osbourne MP swings a steam iron from his pendulous clackersack and trumpets Colonel Bogey into a bucket.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Is she a villain? It rather depends, doesn't it?
Thus does passive-aggressive society girl Megan McArdle construct an analogy for the current financial disaster, reaching the happy conclusion that, since everyone is to blame for the latest bubble and the most recent crash, no-one is to blame.*
This is in response to accusations that some of Wall Street's most prestigious firms may have deliberately manipulated the crisis to their own advantage and everyone else's great detriment. As noted previously, this implies that the notion of the planet's leading financial whizzkids actually knowing what they are doing is a hilarious, ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Coming as it does on the day that Goldman Sachs announced a $3.44bn net profit for April to June, it's tempting to observe that perhaps they do in fact understand this economic system based upon self-interest stuff rather well. This means that average staff windfall for Goldman employees is $384,000 for the first half of the year, in the middle of the worst recession of our lifetimes.
Still, this Financial-Crisis-As-Horrific-Car-Accident excuse should conjure a rich bounty of automotive imagery, from the financial genius under the car selling the brake fluid for short-term gain, to a metaphorical raft of Clinton-era deregulations that allowed manufacturers to build motors without airbags or seatbelts.
The analogy that should be seared onto our brains for the rest of our lives, however, is this - that seconds before the smash, a multi-billion dollar industry of politicians, pundits, bankers, experts and trustafarian bloggers were crammed into the back seat, commanding the driver to stamp on the accelerator while joyfully screaming, Go right! Go right!
Or I could be wrong - perhaps those self-interest advocates like McArdle, who walked away from the crash without so much as a career-threatening scratch, are merely trying to help those still being cut out of their cars. I'll leave you with this thought, from the same article...
Once you have tens of thousands . . . or tens of millions . . . of people in the dock, you don't have villains. You have a system that has gone badly wrong.
Reader, I put it to you that blaming the system has not aided the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts in America's prisons, but then, it might all be so very different if those same drug addicts were drafting the laws.
*On this "We are all to blame because we were all greedy and stupid" theme - I owe the bank around £600 for a loan I took to buy a new TV when my old one bust; have a £200 overdraft, and I still have four grand to pay off on my student loans after three years of making repayments. Can I be counted out, or is that evidence of the very vices that broke the banks?
Friday, July 10, 2009
In Which The Author Drinks Seven Beers Then Makes Strategic Proposals For Concluding The War In Afghanistan
Britain could have stationed aircraft carriers offshore in order to suport operations in Jugoslavia...
Britain could've stationed Mecha-Godzilla offshore in order to support operations in Yugoslavia, to roughly the same effect, i.e. none whatsoever.
So went the chat at the cheerful Hey, Let's Stage a Complete Renewal Of Progressive Politics Right Here In The Church Hall! website Liberal Conspiracy this week, on the subject of multi-million pound military hardware and its utility in modern warfare.
It's an urgent issue, given the casualties British forces are taking in Afghanistan right now. Newspaper articles I've seen today have called for more helicopters and better armour, especially troop transports.
Well, British squaddies have been getting killed in Afghanistan for seven years now without any noticeable progress or the government taking any serious flak about it, so I think it might be time to make a suggestion of my own.
It's a question of What Could Be Done In Theory versus What Can Actually Be Done In Reality. Why spend a fortune on armoured vehicles when we could use the Earth's natural resources?
From what I can tell, this has been the standard order of battle for British forces in Afghanistan for at least five years, i.e. being airdropped onto a Helmand plain or the side of a mountain to provide the Taliban with something to shoot at.
Well, the problem we have here looks to me like the famous - and probably apocryphal - story of how the Americans tried to solve the problem of writing in space. Remember, pens can only write because gravity pulls ink downwards, and there's no gravity in a vacuum. The urban myth I heard says that the Americans spent a million dollars on a pen that would force ink downwards artificially - the Russians, on the other hand, were alleged to have said Fuck it, we'll use pencils.
We have the same story here. There's a form of armour that would offer British soldiers 100% bullet and blast-proof cover that military strategists have overlooked. I call it "The Curvature Of The Earth," and the secret to protecting our boys is to make sure that there's at least a thousand miles of rock between British soldiers and the enemy. We could do this by staging a tactical withdrawal to, say, Aldershot - very popular with squaddies, in my experience.
By way of demonstration...
Readers might think this is inappropriate and flippant stuff to be posting in a time of war, but I would argue that my idea a) will work and b) will not cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
On that basis, I commend it to the MoD.
Note: This proposal is conditional on several factors, the most important being that I'll go back to the drawing board and start from scratch if the Powers That Be have, at long last, come up with some kind of detailed proposal or set of commands for achieving victory that doesn't involve dropping squaddies into the middle of nowhere and letting the Taliban take potshots at them. I'm no expert, but I believe military strategists call it a "plan".
Note2: The Soviet-Afghan war produced the Russian version of Full Metal Jacket - it's a very dodgy film on several levels, in my opinion, but it provides a primer for taking on potentially-unwinnable conflicts. Let's not talk about The Beast Of War.
Note3: Anybody else notice how the word Vietnam stopped cropping up in the press since President Obama got elected?
Thursday, July 09, 2009
by Bill Fuffkass, Ordinary Hard-Working Blog Commenter
There was a time when the nightly news used to frighten and intimidate me. Every day, I'd sit down in my favourite chair to catch up with domestic and world affairs, only to be presented with an incomprehensible babble of impenetrable jargon, rampant criminality and bloodcurdling atrocity.
None of it made sense - wars, famine, death, plague... It felt like the world was a terrifying vortex of unaccountable power, random chance and purposeless violence. It's only been since I started being as cuntish as possible about absolutely everything that I've realised how simple politics really is.
Take poverty, for instance. It's a hellishly complex issue affected by international and local economics, education, social conditions... any number of factors, in fact, enough to fill a lifetime's painstaking study. Your average person, confronted by an online discussion of the issue, might think hard before pronouncing their opinion on the matter.
If you're a smug, self-satisfied arsehole like me, however, it's a no-brainer - poverty is the inevitable result of benefit dependency created by the socialist nanny state and the feckless indolence of today's bone idle youth. After all, I work hard, and I'm not poor. See?
Or try crime. Some joker at Leftopia.typepad.com was asking what, if any, effect does alcohol and drug dependency have on rates of criminal recidivism? Why, absolutely none whatsoever! There'd be no crime at all if we brought back flogging, castration and hanging, and I bloody well said so.
Of course, they said they had evidence that indicated low correlation between the death penalty and crime rates in first world countries. Well, they would say that - it's touchy-feely do-gooding liberals like them that have turned this once-great country into a Gestapo toilet filled to the brim with filth and horror with their so-called "evidence" and their PC "human rights" and their government-funded Playstations for paedophiles.
Oh, they wanted me to read and respond to their points, of course. Fuck you, I'm right! How's that for a response, dickheads?
And don't get me started on immigration. Trust me, if you were an incurious, self-righteous bigoted cunt like me, you'd find that my kind of inflammatory, racist propaganda practically writes itself!
The police force? Deskbound idiots more concerned with fiddling the murder stats than stopping the blacks from stabbing your kids. Doctors? Blundering incompetents on the make. Social workers? PC stormtroopers, more like! Judges, criminal-coddling scum! Teachers, a bunch of timid woofters too scared to get a real job! "Experts"? Fuck 'em!
Everything's so much simpler when you stop worrying about right-on, modern follies like "reason" or "proportion" and just let the contents of your paranoid id run rampage in a reeking spew of ignorant bile.
Yes, I have to say that being as cuntish as possible about absolutely everything has made me the man I am today, and I'm not afraid to leave an anonymous comment on your web page telling you so.
You make me sick.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
By Diageo Plc.
Hey there, friend. What you up to?
Just distilling a bit of whisky, eh? Johnnie Walker, nice blend, nice little earner.1
Say, this sure is a nice workforce you got here. Highly trained, well paid, productive... Full maternity and sickness pay, I imagine?
Yes, this is some nice, sweet workforce you've got. It'd be such a shame if something happened to it.
What? Oh no, I don't mean nothing by it. It's just, you know, sometimes employees get so tied up spending their high wages, taking advantage of a generous annual leave package, that kind of thing. They forget what their interests are. Forget who their friends are, you know.
Why, one carelessly-worded salary negotiation later, a workforce like this could find themselves booted onto the dole queue, quicker than you can say "knife". Could find some nice luxury flats where your factory once was, eh? Turn 'em into a bit of extra pocket change. 2,3
Well, I'm not saying anything... But you know how it is. Fifers'll be happy to work for three-quarters of the price. 4 Your average Chinese prison slave, now, he'd work day and night for a bowl of rice and a kick up the arse. 5
What's that? You got the government to pay Diageo Plc off £2.6m for "refurbishments" already? 6 Well, sort of. That was just fire and theft, really, cover you for little accidents. Stubbed toes and such. Nice workforce like this needs comprehensive coverage.
Now, don't running your mouth about the government - we've got an arrangement with them. 7 It's a globalised market now, son. A workforce needs to look after itself, or something nasty might happen.
"Fair?" Of course it's not fair, mate, but "fair" never wet anyone's beak now, did it? 8
You're sure? Think about what you're saying here. Diageo Plc will fuck you like Dirk Diggler on a coke and Viagra binge, mark my words.
Right, son. You'll be hearing from us soon enough, and you'll rue the fucking day you crossed Diageo Plc (LSE: DGE; NYSE: DEO). 9
1. The Johnnie Walker brand makes Diageo £1bn per year.
2. Diageo is showing its gratitude by sacking 900 Johnnie Walker workers in Kilmarnock and Glasgow.
3. The Daily Record reports that Diageo has secretly applied for permission to knock down its Kilmarnock factory, then build luxury flats on the site. So far as I know, this wouldn't have become public knowledge unless the Record had reported it.
4. Diageo claims it will hire up to 400 workers in Fife. No news on salaries and conditions for new hires yet, but Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh was paid £3.6m per year for his expertise (Guardian, 2008). If it pays its new workers the same as it pays the ones its sacked, I'll eat this laptop.
5. I've got a tenner here says a major Scotch whisky label will shift production to the People's Republic of China within ten years.
6. The Daily Mail reports today (not online) that the Scottish Executive paid Diageo £2.6m in 2000 for "refurbishments" at its Kilmarnock and Leven facilities. To date, Diageo has not paid any of this money back.
7. The Grauniad reported in 2008 that Diageo pays £43m per annum in corporate taxation - a mere 2% of its profits. (Update - John B in comments reckons this is utter bollocks. Cheers, Guardian writers).
8. Diageo estimates that its downsizing move will save it £120m. Diageo's annual turnover exceeds £7bn.
9. This is what the boss class means by "flexible labour" - it means "Bend over while we convert the jobs you've held for decades into a few grand unearned income for our wealthy investors". The next time you hear some blue-blood ideologue complaining about "wealth redistribution", remember that the last thirty years have been one long redistribution project - just not the kind of redistribution that boils Tory blood.
Well, this is the straw that broke the camel's back. Making sperm is pretty much the only productive activity I'm good at, and a load of dinosaurs battering about eating cars and chasing children around kitchens is not going to make the job any easier.
Whatever will these eggheads think of next? Glow in the dark bollocks? A swarm of psychotic beavers that build nuclear weapons out of logs and shoot napalm out of their arses?
Honestly, I don't know. One minute we're sending men to the moon, and the next thing you know there's a pack of Velociraptors feeding on your entrails. It's madness, I tell you.
Monday, July 06, 2009
A Visitor to Hanoi Inspects Damage Laid to U.S. Raids
President Johnson's announced policy that American targets in North Vietnam are steel and concrete rather than human lives seems to have little connection with the reality of attacks carried out by U.S. planes.
Salisbury ended up publishing twenty-two pieces on the subject that winter. He reported eighty-nine civilian deaths in one town, forty in a second, twenty-four in a third - and that, in this "brushfire war," more bombs had been dropped on Vietnam since 1966 than the entire tonnage dropped on Japan during World War II. In Nam Dinh, North Vietnam's third-largest city, he wrote of "block after block of utter desolation." He said the targeting of civilians was going on "deliberately".
The Pentagon claimed what civilian casualties there were came from the Communists' deliberate emplacement of surface-to-air missiles in populated areas. Or from the necessity of jettisoning bombs when attacked by MiGs. And that the eighty-nine deaths were evidence of "rather precise" bombing. Spokesman Arthur Sylvester - he called Salisbury's paper the "New Hanoi Times" - said if Salisbury doubted them, he should take a gander at the anti-aircraft guns up the street of Nam Dinh, right by the railroad tracks. Salisbury, who'd been covering bombings since the London Blitz, said he'd already been there and had found only a destroyed textile factory.
Lying about Vietnam: it had become a Washington way of life..."
(Nixonland, Perlstein, Simon and Schuster, p.169)
In tribute to Robert McNamara, 1916-2009.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Bernie obviously hasn't got the message - in Britain, famous people who give props to fascists and white supremacists get pages and pages of denunciation as every joker with a newspaper column lines up to put the boot into them for their idiocy.
The way to do it is to be an average nobody like the rest of us, and then vote for the still-living fascists and white supremacists of the BNP. That way, every joker with a newspaper column will line up to stroke their chins, sympathise and justify your idiocy by bleating about multiculturalism.
See, anyone can call Bernie Ecclestone a twat and a dunce, and be lauded for recommending that the public laugh at his stupid opinions. Mind, if there was a mild political benefit to be gained by urging the government to listen to Ecclestone's Very Real Concerns About Immigration And Integration, half the papers in the country would be doing so.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
That was prompted by my certainty that, the longer you arse about online, the higher the chance of stumbling across some joker asserting something like I know it's not politically correct to say you'd like to herd gypsies into camps and gas them like badgers, but...
Well, that one struck me as an exploding, spring-loaded man-trap of a question1, so let's resurrect it in a different form - what's the most obviously true statement you've ever seen dismissed as conspiracy theory?
Bear with me here, because the story begins with Matt Taibbi's long, involved article cursing Goldman Sachs in this month's Rolling Stone. (Link to an unreadable format here - Rolling Stone doesn't like the internet).
Taibbi's thesis is that Goldman deliberately inflates market bubbles, profiteers during crashes, and uses its political influence to insulate itself from the consequences of its misdeeds; that the the planet-fucking, Wall Street banking behemoth is, in short, a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.
To my amateur's eye, it looks like a well-researched, well-argued indictment of cutting-edge high finance, but I'm nobody's economist. Goldman's response?
"[Taibbi's] story is an hysterical compilation of conspiracy theories... Notable ones missing are Goldman Sachs as the third shooter [in John F. Kennedy's assassination] and faking the first lunar landing."
To be clear - Goldman are saying that the suggestion that the world's leading financial whizzkids may actually have known what they were doing when they turned every financial disaster of the last decade into their own non-stop cash bonanza is a conspiracy theory on a par with faking the moonshot.
Well, fine. If you buy that, I think you actually have to buy the idea that every piece of fiscal fuckery from the Dotcom collapse, through Enron and Worldcom then up to the current financial horror movie, were all amazing, unforseeable, once-in-a-lifetime events... A completely unpredictable and barely conceivable bug that just seems to recur every couple of years, rather than an intrinsic feature of the system.
So what else is a wild, unbelievable conspiracy theory?
I notice that anyone who suggests that the CIA or MI6 might have any involvement in recent events in Iran is instantly regarded as a loony. In fairness, the only people I've seen say so are anonymous commenters who sound like they'd blame Mossad lizardmen if they contracted a dose of the squirts, but still - what do people think spies actually do?
Iran is a barking theocracy run by religious throwbacks who have repeatedly threatened to do all kinds of harm to the UK. We've had military bases camped right next door to them for most of the last decade. If MI6 aren't devoting serious time, money and effort to fucking with the Mullahs, then I for one want to know exactly what they're doing to earn their salaries.
David Aaronovitch notably didn't include the Iraq invasion WMD scam in his conspiracy theory study Voodoo Histories2, but he clearly thinks that the Blair lied thesis is one. Plenty would agree. Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but Government launches creative advertising campaign to sell unpopular policy to sceptical public doesn't sound like the wackiest piece of conjecture ever concocted.3
I've always thought that Reaganomics and Thatcherism were hilariously obvious scams designed solely to enrich their proponents and their friends. After all, Advocates for an economic system based on self-interest may tell lies if they believe it is in their interest to do so doesn't strike me as a ridiculous proposition, yet try telling people who work in finance that and they'll look at you like a stonking great pair of gonads just bulged out of your eye-sockets.
And what's this? Why, it's an op-ed in the Financial Times about how almost all of the benefits of a neo-liberal economic system flow to the super-wealthy, while almost everyone else stays where they are or has to spend themselves into crippling debt to keep up. Capitalism's Dirty Little Secret, the author calls it, as if he were revealing some deep insider information.
All of which brings me back to the original question - what's the most obviously true statement you've ever seen dismissed as conspiracy theory?
Note - 9/11 was already a conspiracy, and doesn't need to be loaded up with invisible missiles and thermite explosions to make it more exciting. I'm thinking more polite lies that grease the wheels of profit and policy than I am OJ made Capricorn One to expose NASA's lies.
1. I decided against putting up the political correctness post after a certain pro-war website asked what racist names the horrible leftists that live in their skulls would call President Obama, should he continue his predecessor's idiotic policy of trying to blast, shoot and torture some respect into random foreigners. Cue a gaggle of middle-aged wingnuts throwing gangsta-hands and calling each other "Nigga". Chilling.
2. The Aarowatchers have Moar here, here and here.
3. While we're talking about Decent Dave, let's note the reaction to Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares. It's still never been screened in the US, as far as I'm aware, and has been attacked over there as an anti-American hatefest that implies that George Bush is more evil than Osama Bin Laden.
Curtis made lots of good points, but one of the main ones was that Al-Qaeda isn't SPECTRE. It's a group of headbangers in a cave in Pakistan that has links to a lot of extremists in other countries. It's definitely not a planet-crushing secret cabal with multi-million pound mountain-bases filled with supercomputers, tank-killing lasers and Islamic ninjas. I think time has shown that his analysis was bang on the money.
Note - at no point during the film did Curtis say or imply that Al-Qaeda did not exist, or that they didn't pose any kind of threat.
But fuck me, what's this? Why, it's David Aaronovitch blasting Adam Curtis for saying and implying that Al-Qaeda is a non-existent, imaginary threat - blasting Curtis for being a conspiracy theorist, as it happens.
Curtis's is a one-stop conspiracy theory to stand alongside those fingering the Illuminati, the Bilderberg group and (vide the Da Vinci Code) Opus Dei.
A conspiracy, and one involving the fingering of the Illuminati at that. Lordy, them tinfoil-hatters is everywhere once you start looking.