31 May 2009

Daily Chat 31/05/09

31 May 1669 was the last diary entry recorded by Samuel Pepys.  On this day in 1859, the clock at Westminster began keeping time* and 2200 people were killed in the Johnstown Flood in 1889.  Celebrating birthdays:  Clint Eastwood, John Prescott (who only wants a toilet seat for his birthday this year), Peter Yarrow, Terry Waite, Sharon Gless, Brooke Shields and Colin Farrell.  It is the Feast of the Pentecost for Christians.

*I'm now thoroughly confused.  I always thought "Big Ben" referred to the bell.  Wikipedia says it's the clock & tower.  I'm sure someone will set me straight.

30 May 2009

Daily Chat 30/05/09

Extremely low-interest day in history today.  In 1431, Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake.  Not much else worth typing.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Colm Meaney, Topper Headon, Wynonna Judd and Steven Gerrard.  It's Mothers' Day in Nicaragua.  Go Toffees.

29 May 2009

Daily Chat 29/05/09

On this day in 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne.  In 1913, Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring debutted in Paris, provoking riots.  In 1953, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mt. Everest.  The Heysel Stadium disaster occurred on this day in 1985.  Celebrating birthdays:  Danny Elfman, Annette Bening, Rupert Everett, Melissa Ethridge, Noel Gallagher (I forget - is he the ½ sane one?), Massimo Ambrosini and Andrei Arshavin.  It's Democracy Day in Nigeria.  It used to be Oak Apple Day in England.

28 May 2009

Who's Next? It's Parliament, Jim, but not as we know it.

We might as well all have a bit of fun while the tumbrels roll majestically and inexorably from Westminster towards Madame La Guillotine, and further to the Tower where heads will be displayed on pikes as in the good old days of the Mother of Parliaments. Here are the challenges for all politically-savvy refugees:

How many MP's will not re-stand for election as a direct result of the current expenses kerfuffle? Any excuses such as 'more time with my family' and 'health problems' will be ruthlessly discounted. If someone has nicked a fiver from the petty cash for some tampons, this will be taken as conclusive evidence of being a thieving bastard and will outweigh all other considerations.

Predict the next casualty before the Torygraph prints his/her own very personal and specific financial indiscretions. (And there are still about 400 MP's to go, so everyone can be a winner! ) Extra points for predicting surreal claims such as horse manure and duck-chalets.

Some distinguished hand-in-the-till casualties so far: Kirkbride, Moran, Steen, Vickers, Hogg, Morley, Chaytor, Chapman, Malik, Martin, MacKay, Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton. I'm sure I've missed a few, but not to worry, there will be many, many more.

Good luck!

Daily Chat 28/05/09

The Bolton Massacre took place on this day in 1644.  Fortunately, Kevin Davies was not born yet and was, therefore, not hurt.  In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act.  In 1952, women in Greece were given the vote and one year ago today, Nepal became a republic.  Celebrating birthdays:  Gladys Knight, John Fogarty, Roland Gift, David Baddiel, Kylie Minogue, and Charles N'Zogbia.  Today is the Downfall of the Derg in Ethiopia.

27 May 2009

Daily Chat 27/05/09

Not too much of note happened on this day in history.  1153, Malcolm IV became King of Scotland.  1849, the Great Hall of Euston station opened in London and in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrian traffic.  Lots of birthdays:  Christopher Lee, Louis Gossett, Jr., Cilla Black, Siouxsie Sioux, Pat Cash, Paul Gascoigne, Joseph Fiennes, Jamie Oliver and a very special "Gratulera på födelsedagen" goes out to one of the most 'watchable' strikers in the Premiership - Johan Elmander.  It's Children's Day in Nigeria.

26 May 2009

Daily Chat 26/05/09

Fairly ho-hum assortment of events on this day.  In 1647, Alse Young is the first person in the American colonies to be executed as a witch.  In 1906, the Vauxhall Bridge opens in London.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Levon Helm, Stevie Nicks, Lenny Kravitz, Helena Bonham-Carter and Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark.  It's National Sorry Day in Australia.

25 May 2009

Daily Chat 25/05/09

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to UK readers.  Here in the US, it's Memorial Day.  The Diet of Worms ended on this day in 1521 and Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.  In 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted of committing gross acts of indecency with other male persons and sentenced to two years in prison.  The Battle of Dunkirk began on this day in 1940 and in 1977 a little sci fi flick called Star Wars was released.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Ian McKellan, Frank Oz, Paul Weller and Mike Myers.

24 May 2009

Daily Chat 24/05/09

On this day in 1626, Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from the Lanape for 60 guilders (about $1000 in today's terms).  In 1738, John Wesley comes over all warm and fuzzy at a Moravian church meeting in Aldersgate, leading to Methodism.  In 1956, the first Eurovision Song Contest is held in Lugano, Switzerland.  Lys Assia takes the title for the host country with the song "Refrain".  Lots of birthdays today:  the pride of Hibbing, Minnesota, Robert Zimmerman; Patti LaBelle, Jim Broadbent; Alfred Molina; Rosanne Cash; Kristin Scott-Thomas; and Eric Cantona.  It's Independence Day in Eritrea.  Here's some of Mr. Zimmerman's work:

23 May 2009

Daily Chat 23/05/09

Another slow day in history.  The Second Defenestration of Prague took place on this day in 1618 and in 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed near Black Lake, Louisiana.  Joan Collins, Luka Bloom, Phil Selway and Jewel are celebrating birthdays today.  It's World Turtle Day.  

22 May 2009

Daily Chat 22/05/09

On this day in 1377, Pope Gregory XI issues 5 papal bulls to denounce the doctrines of John Wycliffe.  In 1906, the Wilbur and Orville Wright were granted a patent for their flying machine.  And in 1980, Namco released PacMan.  Little white dots haven't been safe since then.  Celebrating birthdays today; Charles Aznavour, Jerry Dammers and that poor Katie Price or Jordan or whatever she's calling herself today.

21 May 2009

Daily Chat 21/05/09

Not one of the more exciting days, this.  In 996, Otto III is crowned Holy Roman Emperor.  In 1894, the Manchester Ship Canal is opened.  And in 1904, FIFA was founded.  Celebrating birthdays:  Leo Sayer, Al Franken and Lisa Edelstein.  In Cameroon, they're celebrating the Sheep Festival.

20 May 2009

Daily Chat 20/05/09

On this day in 685, Pictish king Bridei III and his forces crush the Northumbrian invaders led by King Ecgfrith.  In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a patent for copper-riveted trousers made of blue denim.  One hundred years later, trousers made this way would still be looking good on a young Englishman named Roger Daltrey.  And on this day in 1916, 1917 and 1918, the town of Codell, Kansas, was hit by tornadoes.  Celebrating birthdays:  Joe Cocker, Cher, Iker Casillas and Petr Cech.  It is Independence Day in East Timor.

19 May 2009

Daily Chat 19/05/09

On this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn was beheaded.  In 1858, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the Mexican-American War.  As a result, the US took over land which would later become the states of California, Nevada and Utah, as well as parts of 3 others.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Pete Townshend, Grace Jones, Victoria Wood and Manuel Almúnia.  Today is the Commemoration of Atatürk.  Tootsie Roll to the first person who can guess where that happens.

Today, I just can't resist doing this:

18 May 2009

Daily Chat 18/05/09

Happy Victoria Day to our Canadian friends!  On this day in 1152, Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine.  In 1593, a warrant was issued against that nice Kit Marlowe after accusations of heresy by that bastard Thomas Kyd.  And in 1980, Mt. St. Helens in Washington erupted, killing 57 people and causing around $3,000,000,000 in damage.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Miriam Margolyes, Rick Wakeman, Chow Yun Fat, Yannick Noah, Dario Franchitti (or, Mr. Ashley Judd, as he's better known in the US), and Ricardo Carvalho.

17 May 2009

Daily Chat 17/05/09

On this day in 1895, the first Omonoia Station opened in Athens.  In 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal and, therefore, unconstitutional.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Dennis Hopper, Taj Mahal, Enya, Trent Reznor, Busta Rhymes, and my aunt, Jane.  Norway celebrates Syttende Mai, or Constitution Day, today and it is Galician Literature Day.  So get out there and read some Galician literature!

16 May 2009

The Ultimate Contraptions and Contrivances of Spin

There is a nonsense with regard to the MPs' expenses scandal which has started to take hold.

It is an obvious spin, an obvious attempt to deflect attention away from the main story and has the usual Mandelsonian paw-marks all over it. We are supposed to have our eyes diverted to the awful spectacle that journalists and reporters also fiddle their expenses. In fact, their sins are far more egregious than those of poor, overworked politicians, who only keep claiming mortgage allowancews for houses they have already paid for because the poor dears are so overworked and anyway, they are so incompetent and inept with sums, they could not possible be expected to manage their own household accounts.

Except for the fact that newspapers are commercial operations and if they either choose or fall into a lackadaisical accountancy regine, that is their problem. Their shareholders may eventually pull them up over it if they lose too much money this way, but the shareholders can choose not to invest their money in the enterprise and can pull it out when they wish.

MPs have been stealing money from taxpayers who have no say-so in whether their taxes are collected - unless they are rich enough to avoid paying any or all of it, of course.

The attempt here is to make us all, by extension, feel that what MPs are doing is nothing more than when we inadvertently put a company pen in our pocket on the way home or use the company telephone to call for an ambulance when we have just shredded our leg on a piece of unsafe company equipment.

We are supposed to think: "There but for the grace of God go I" except that we never will because we do not have moral shaped holes in our brain and we are not thieving bastard scum like politicians.

Anyway, things are changing before our eyes. There is something in the air.

Love is in the air 
Everywhere I look around 
Love is in the air 
Every sight and every sound 

No, no, no. It's not that at all. It's something more like this:

And I try, oh my God do I try
I try all the time
In this institution
And I pray, oh my God do I pray
I pray every single day
For a revolution

No, there is not quite revolution in the air, but there is an accumulating public anger which may become fury and rage.

Jon Snow on Channel Four News a few days ago basically shouted down Liam Byrne with something like this: "You have already said that three times now and I do not want to hear it again. I want an answer to the question I have put."

The fastidious politeness we are used to seeing when politicians are interviewed will start to go out of the window. Once you cease to trust people, you very soon start treating them with contempt. The veneer of public deference will soon give way to very open humiliation.

On the same programme, Krishnan Guru-Murthy interviewed, among others, Chris "Corby Statesman" Huhne in front of a small public audience. The politician tried to shout down and browbeat a member of the public who dared to question how abstemious and frugal he was with public funds. Immediately, another member of the audience kept saying through a sneering grin: "You don't get it, do you? You just don't get it!"

No, politicians do not get it, but they will.

This is what Al Franken says in his book Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them:

In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her husband and then killed her.

That is class warfare.

Arguing over the optimal marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.

The problem for the commentariat like us is that if the poor do rise up, we may look like just the same rich pickings.

"No, look, it's all on credit - here are the receipts - I'm poor just like you!" may not save our skins.

Perhaps we should resign our chatterati status before we have it thrust down our throats.

The common people may not speak in such lovely sonorous tones and drop their erudtion with such careless insouciance, but they may be the ones who pull these robber barons from power.

Like a dog lying in a corner,
they'll bite you and never warn you.
Look out.
They'll tear your insides out.

'Cause Everybody hates a tourist,
especially one who thinks
it's all such a laugh.
Yeah, and the chip stains' grease
will come out in the bath.
You will never understand
how it feels to live your life
with no meaning or control
and with nowhere left to go.
You're amazed that they exist
and they burn so bright,
while you can only wonder why.

Business As Usual In Parliament

When Caroline Aherne, in the guise of Mrs Merton, interviewed Debbie McGee, her opening question was: "So, what was it which first attracted you to the multimillionaire Paul Daniels?"

Tony Blair, once he saw that he was never going to make even an ersatz imitation of Mick Jagger for the circuit which included schools for children with learning difficulties and shelters for drug-addled derelicts, said that, instead, he 'wanted to serve his country'.

A letter in The Times or Telegraph a few days ago was written by someone who said that when he was leaving The London School of Economics after graduating, he asked a friend who had taken the same course, but had come from an African country in order to do so, what line of business he would be going into. His friend said: "Oh, I'm not going into business. I'm going into politics. That's where the real money is."

Of course, many people commented that Tony Blair's claim to want to serve his country was simply a way of saying he wanted to get behind the till; he wanted to have his fingers, not so much on the levers of power, as on the keys of the cash-register. If the two went hand in hand, so much the better.

We are used to the idea now that New Labour was all about leaving the ordinary people to their fate, while sidling up to and seducing big business. 

New Labour under Tony Blair was the grinning air-head slapper who would jump into bed with anyone who had the money. The stupid little slut who would turn tricks, tears and tantrums or empty grins or anything else, as long as someone was paying for the party.

Gordon Brown was the grumpy old pro. The old whore who had been around so long, people imagined she must have extra special talents, but it turned out to be just the same service, but for those who were more needy and desperate and less discerning.

So, now we know that politicians are simply hookers with the morals to match, what are we going to do about it?

If history is anything to go by, we will, of course, just let them get away with it. We will pretend to be outraged, but not quite enough to really act and they will pretend to be contrite, but not quite enough to kick the habit of a lifetime.

Perhaps it is the fact that politics has adopted the same morals as business which is to blame. There is no social or political process which has not become subordinated to and controlled by business principles, from the career managerialism of politicians themselves to the fact that people are commodities to be sold to whichever enterprise wants to turn a fast buck on them.

In his book The Corporation, Joel Bakan argues that although many people in business at a high level exhibit tendencies towards psychopathy or schizophrenia, the large corporations for which they work are themselves essentially psychopathic in their constitution and operation.

This is a long quote from the book, which tends to spell out exactly where British politics now stands, after the template on which it is based was broken in America years ago.


The corporation itself may not so easily escape the psychopath diagnosis, however. Unlike the human beings who inhabit it, the corporation is singularly self-interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context. Not surprisingly, then, when we asked Dr. Hare to apply his diagnostic checklist of psychopathic traits (italicised below) to the corporation's institutional character, he found there was a close match. The corporation is irresponsible, Dr. Hare said, because "in an attempt to satisfy the corporate goal, everybody else is put at risk." Corporations try to "manipulate everything, including public opinion," and they are grandiose, always insisting that "we're number one, we're the best." A lack of empathy and asocial tendencies are also key charcteristics of the corporation, says Hare - "their behaviour indicates they don't really concern themselves with their victims"; and corporations often refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions and are unable to feel remorse: if [corporations] get caught [breaking the law] , they pay big fines and they...continue doing what they did before anyway. And in fact in many cases the fines and the penalties paid by the organization are trivial compared to the profits that they rake in."

Finally, according to Dr. Hare, corporations relate to others superficially - "their whole goal is to present themselves to the public in a way that is appealing to the public [but] in fact may not be representative of what th[e] organization is really like." Human psychopaths are notorious for their ability to use charm as a mask to hide their dangerously self-obsessed personalities. For corporations, social responsibility may play the same role. Through it they can present themselves as compassionate and concerned about others, when, in fact, they lack the ability to care about anyoine or anything but themselves.

Take the large and well-known energy company that once was a paragon of social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. Each year the company produced a Corporate Responsibility Annual Report; the most recent one, unfortunately its last, vowed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and support multilateral agreements to help stop climate change. The company pledged further to put human rights, the environment, health and safety issues, biodiversity, indigenous rights, and transparency at the core of its business operations, and it created a well-staffed corporate social responsibility task force to monitor and implement its social responsibility programs. The company boasted of its development of alternative energy sources and the fact that it had helped start the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. It apologised for a 29,000-barrel oil spill in South America, promised it would never happen again, and reported that it had formed partnerships with environmental NGOs to help monitor its operations. It described the generous support it had provided communities in the cities where it operated, funding arts organizations, museums, educational institutions, environmental groups, and various causes throughout the world. The company, which was consistenetly ranked as one of the best places to work in America, strongly promoted diversity in the workplace. "We believe", said the report "that corporate leadership should set the example for community service."

Unfortunately, this paragon of corporate and social responsibility, Enron, was unable to continue its good works after it collapsed under the weight of its executives' greed, hubris and criminality. Enron's story shows just how wide a gap can exist between a company's cleverly crafterd do-gooder image and its actual operations and suggests, at a minimum, that skepticism about corporate social responsibility is well warranted.

There is, however, a larger lesson to be drawn from Enron's demise than the importance of being skeptical about corporate social responsibility. Though the company is now notorious for its arrogance and ethically challenged executives, the underlying reasons for its collapse can be traced to characterisitics common to all corporations: obsessions with profits and share prices, greed, lack of concern for others, and a penchant for breaking the legal rules. These traits are, in turn, rooted in an institutional culture, the corporation's, that valorizes self-interest and invalidates moral concern. No doubt Enron took such characteristics to their limits - indeed, to the point of self-destruction - and the company is now notorious for that. It was not, however, unusual for the fact it had those characteristics in the first place. Rather, Enron's collapse is best understood as showing what can happen when the characterisitics we normally accept and take for granted in a corpoartion are pushed to the extreme. It was not, in other words, a "very isolated incident," as Pfizer's Hank McKinnel described it and as many commentators seem to believe, but rather a symptom of the corporation's flawed institutional character.


We now know what it looks like when a government, a Parliament, models itself on the boardroom of a shyster company.

We know Gordon Brown loves all things American; that he holidayed there when he did not have to pretend that he preferred some bed and breakfast in Skegness for PR reasons; that he almost snogged Obama on camera when he met him.

For Tony Blair, of course, America is just another revenue stream for him and his family.

So, now we know that Parliament - or the mother of all parliaments, as we are told to say when feeling patriotic (which now amounts to about never) - is really just another shabby business at best and a cash-machine or ATM for politicians at worst, we really need to work out whether we should continue to prop it up with our patronage, our custom.

Perhaps what we need to do is insist that all MPs are now de-selected by their constituency parties and new candidates found.

It could be that there are some politicians who are hardworking and honest, but we will never know who they are. For now, those not up to their elbows in filched cash and sleaze could simply be the incompetent or lazy ones.

If we are not going to have the opportunity to line them all up and shoot them, we should at least ensure that they are all cleared out to spend more time on their gardens or their home DIY projects or simply counting their money and their lucky stars for being allowed out with their lives and liberty.

Campaign locally hard enough and this could happen.

What is the point of our outrage if all we do is bottle it up and huff and puff and they just get away scot free and laugh over their shoulders at our stupid impotence?

Daily Chat 16/05/09

On this day in 1700, a 14 yr. old Austrian girl married a 15 yr. old French boy.  Her name was Marie Antoinette.  He was Louis-Auguste, Duc de Berry.  In 1929, the first Academy Awards ceremony was held in Hollywood.  All Quiet on the Western Front won Best Picture.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Christian Lacroix, Pierce Brosnan, Olga Korbut, Hazel O'Connor, Krist Novoselic, and Janet Jackson.  It's Middlesex Day.  They'll be partying from Staines to Potter's Bar.

In case you're wondering what gems you missed out on yesterday: 

On 15 May, 1252, Pope Innocent IV issued the papal bull ad extirpanda, authorising torture of heretics.  In 1800, George III survived two assasination attempts and in 1940, the first McDonald's opened in San Bernadino, California.  15 May is the birthday of Brian Eno, Chazz Palminteri, Frank & Ronald deBoer and Patrice Evra.

14 May 2009

A message to Billp

Okay, you win.  Is that what you want to hear?  Well, I'm not afraid to say it.  You've ruined this place and I hope that makes you happy.  Until you popped up, this place had been doing nicely.  But you are an ugly, sick, self-absorbed and probably very dangerous little fuckwit.  You claimed a couple of days ago that you would leave and never come back if I just told you that you are banned.  I said nothing because I thought if we ignored you, you would get bored with us and go away.  My patience is gone.  Well, you're getting your wish, Billp.  I am hereby telling you that you're banned.  I'm begging you to fuck off somewhere else.  Call me a hypocrite, whinge that I'm squelching your right to free speech.  I couldn't care less.


No bang, no whimper: just a stifled yawn

I would like to thank MontanaWildhack for letting me post this here.

It is always relatively easy to maintain a point of view, a position or a perspective. Mostly, all you have to do is ignore or dismiss anything which contradicts what you think and just stick rigidly and thoughtlessly to what is in your own head. When Mrs Thatcher trundled out her friend Tina ("there is no alternative"), it was not because there were no other options but simply because she had closed her mind to anything which did not comply with her decision.

Occasionally, the accumulation of events conspire to send you signals and make you wonder, as The Speaker, Michael Martin, must be doing, whether you have made a blunder and need to change course, perhaps, or simply get the hell out of here.

This slow and sedate, if slightly wobbly and crunching, movement and re-alignment of the celestial bodies which control our lives and signal portents of disasters started with the Damian McBride affair or scanadal or Smeargate or Dolly Gets Slaughtered or whatever it was called. Guido Fawkes was given or acquired the damaging and eventually damning details of how McBride, the figurative monkey at the top of the New Labour propaganda tree, was going to poison the bananas of the New Tory brand republic and feed them to the world. He was going to lie and pretend that he was leaking shameful secrets to a new blog, TheRedRag.

Except that he was found out and, slipping on the banana skins of his own devising, lost his job and dragged down Derek Draper and the whole trembling little pile of wreckage which had once been New Labour's edifice of credibility.

Of course, at around this time, plenty of other things were happening. Jacqui Smith's husband, Richard Timney, hired out a couple of porno films and sent the bill to the taxpayer, illustrating that if you are an MP or anyone connected with a politician, you never have to pay for anything, because the workers always foot the bill. We also had a funny little disjointed series in The Guardian, along with throwaway comments in regular articles about how local and national newspapers were collapsing all over the world and it was, it seemed, the fault of the internet and crummy, crappy bloggers who were mugging the punters of the Murdoch and MSM established business model.

However, these were things that happen all the time. When did we ever think that politicians were honest and did not have their sticky fingers in the till up to the elbow? When did we ever  imagine that newspapers clasped the trusty sword of truth, rather than the swag-bag of loot?

Then we had the case of the CiF Six or whatever name this cause celebre went under. Various people had been banned from commenting at CiF and we were outraged. Effectively, we took over a thread which was supposed to be about what we wanted to see on CiF and turned it into a discussion about how we thought the place should be run.

Well, almost.

What actually happened was that a number of people raised points and issues and concerns about the way CiF is run and Matt Seaton and Georgina Henry threw a few generally sneering and condescending words into the mix and eventually proved who was boss.

This process of discourse between the powerless and those in control, the supplicants and Lord and Lady Bountiful, the common herd of groundlings and the actors strutting and declaiming on the stage above eventually seemed to define the scope and spheres of influence between the chatterati and the glitterati, the movers and shakers and the mere commentators, the Hollywood Dream Factory and the backstreet quickie porn-flick peddler.

It was very much them and us and, in my opinion, the "us" lost. However, more of that in a moment.

We then move on to the big events of the day. Not a big event if you are starving in Africa or being rounded up to be shot in some tin-pot, banana republic dictatorship, of course, but a big event within the roughly drawn closed circles or enclosures or corrals or three-ring circuses which we inhabit. The Telegraph unleashed upon an unsuspecting world the Saga of the MPs' Expenses Scandal.

We were all agog. Nothing had prepared us or equipped us to mentally deal with the notion that politicians were other than upright and honest unremitting toilers on our collective behalf at the coalface of probity and decency.

Yeah, except that we all knew this all along and all we ever lacked were the details of who stole exactly how much of our money to filch and fritter away on what particular fripperies.

We had, after all, been saying this ad nauseam on CiF for years. Had nobody been listening?

Unfortunately, here is the point.

We had been confusing the process of making a noise with the result of being heard. We thought that the two went hand in hand. Like babbling toddlers, we thought that our parents were listening. It never crossed our minds that they had simply tuned us out and were enjoying their own daydreams and fantasies in which we played no part.

The hubbub below the line at CiF had done nothing to break the news of the McBride affair. Guido Fawkes had done that and although it produced a dramatic outcome, the readership of this famous blog at order-order.com actually has a pitifully small readership. Politics, it seems, is not something in which there is any real mainstream interest. It is a minor spectator sport in which all the usual suspects just mill around to create the illusion of a crowd.

The puff-piece by Tony Blair which sparked the debate about commenters being banned was written by someone who has demonstrated that he thinks he is far closer to the proximity of God than he is to the ordinary huddled masses of the world. You can be sure he did not even know what was going on below the line. The people there were simply too small for him to notice. The Guardian had, of course, colluded in the historic and current process of the established media clinging and huddling together with the established figures of power. Nothing had changed above the line.

The Telegraph had shown, in a similar way to the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 London summit and the video evidence handed to The Guardian, that big stories are still fed, inevitably and quite resonably, to those media which have the money, the power and the readership to do something useful with them.

So, what is the use of blogging and commenting to an enclosed clique; to those who are, to paraphrase MrPikeBishop aka Frank Fisher, our imaginary friends; to preach to a congregation of the converted from a flimsy pulpit which looks like it has been made by the local infants' school-children from old carboard boxes and daubed with streaked, thin paint?

At the moment, I do not think there is one.

Plenty of people come and go at CiF under evolving aliases and varying degrees of effective disguise. Perhaps they feel like famous spies on undercover forays into enemy territory, overseen and tracked by those even more shadowy figures in the know, but invisible to the lookouts at CiF Towers.

Is it like that or is it more like the whipped dog returning with downcast eyes and a shiver to the heel of its master?

If you just want a bit of backchat and banter, the low-level caress of occasional adulation or a snapping, snarling dog-fight with no blood, but just the tiny clatter of your keyboard, CiF is probably the place to be. 

Just don't pretend it will change anything.

As an illustration of this, just ponder for a bit whether you think the current MPs' expenses scandal will really change politics dramatically and fundamentally for any amount of time.

Will we, after the next election, get newly-minted, shining, contrite and principled politicians? Will the election clear out the wrigglers and fiddlers or will they all just whistle with their hands in their pockets for a while, as they walk past the till, but make plans to rob the safe in a few years' time?

Even the series in The Telegraph will very soon be yesterday's news. By the time the election comes round, most people will have forgotten that this was any more than the pub landlord shoving a couple of extra quid onto your receipt for lunch.

So, what is the point of writing at all? Even if The Guardian stuffed your pockets with seventy quid to write above the line and there was a sudden flurry of comments to show that you were being heard, does it make any difference, other than a bit of mutual back-slapping and the indistinct, fuzzy glow you feel when you get your credit card out as you sprawl drunk in front of the telly and give something to charity and pretend that you have just saved Africa.

From my point of view, I do not think there is any likely or probable outcome worth the effort. Perhaps we like to pretend that we are all different kinds of Michael Knight or Jack Bauer: one man (or, of course, woman) who can make a difference. Even collectively, we do not seem to manage it.

All these efforts seem to be little more than stumbling ego trips in which we have our eyes on imaginary splendid achievements, but end up flat on our faces with grazed knees and a shiny, clinging mixture of snot and saliva smeared across our faces.

So, I do not think I will be returning to CiF, under my current alter ego or any other ploy or subterfuge. I cannot see the point.

This is Atomboy signing off and signing out.

Go back and enjoy the party.

Daily Chat 14/05/09

Jamestown, the first permanent colony of Europeans in what would become the United States, was founded on this day in 1607.  In 1796, Edward Jenner administered the first smallpox vaccination.  And on this day in 1948, Israel was declared an independent state.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Francesca Annis, David Byrne, Ian Astbury, and Cate Blanchett.  It is National Unification Day in Liberia.

13 May 2009

Daily Chat 13/05/09

On this day in 1787, Captain Arthur Phillip left Portsmouth with a fleet of 11 ships to establish a penal colony in Australia.  In 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was established and in 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II.  Celebrating birthdays:  Zoë Wanamaker, Stevie Wonder, Hootie (aka Darius Rucker) and Stephen Colbert.  It's Rotuma Day in Fiji.

12 May 2009

Daily Chat 12/05/09

On this day in 1890, Yorkshire defeated Gloucestershire by eight wickets to begin the first official County Championship match.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Steve Winwood, Gabriel Byrne, Tony Hawk, and Catherine Tate.  In honour of Florence Nightingale's birth on this date in 1820, today is International Nurses' Day, so best wishes/big thanks to Annetan's daughter and any other nurses out there for doing a tough but important job.

11 May 2009

Daily Chat 11/05/09

On this day in 1985, fire broke out in the main stand at Valley Parade in Bradford, killing 56 and injuring at least 265 people.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Eric Burdon, Jeremy Paxman, Martha Quinn (one of the original US MTV veejays), and Andres Iniesta.

10 May 2009

Daily Chat 10/05/09

It's Mother's Day in North America.  On this day in 1774, Louis XVI became king of France.  In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.  Celebrating birthdays today:  Maureen Lipman, Bono and Dennis Bergkamp.

09 May 2009

Daily Chat 09/05/09

Nearly 3 hours late starting this again.  Oh well.  Twenty-five years ago today, the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened impeachment hearings against Richard M. Nixon. Birthdays today:  Geraldine McEwan, Roger Hargreaves, Albert Finney, Glenda Jackson, Dave Gahan, Paul Heaton, and Paul McGuigan.  And it's Romanian Independence Day.

08 May 2009

Daily Chat 08/05/09

Happy VE Day, everybody.  I could make a snarky comment about us saving your sorry butts from the Germans again, but I wouldn't mean it.  Most of you would realise I didn't mean it.  It would be in poor taste.  And we all know that I'm nothing if not full of taste.

07 May 2009

Daily Chat 07/05/09

Time for a new thread, I think. As always, no particular topic, but I note that both Eva Peron and Gary Cooper have birthdays today. I wonder what sort of movies they could have made together?

06 May 2009

Daily Chat 06/05/09

Here's the place for random conversation and musing...

05 May 2009

Yeah, I know. 4th in 24 hours.

Sorry to start yet another new thread, but I feel like the issue of the format of this place or whether we should move is something that needs to be addressed.  When I started adding others as authors here, I was a bit afraid that chaos might ensue.  But I'm not a control freak and I don't want this to me "my" blog.  That's why I thought maybe a threaded board would be better - anyone who signs up can create new threads and the threads are in a list.  The one that I signed up for as a possible replacement for this place can be seen here.  On the other hand, it does feel kind of cozy here.  Jay had made the suggestion of 2 parallel threads, but I don't see any way to format this place other than the way it currently is -- a column for posts and a column for gadgets.  Threads are listed in the blog archive.  If I move that to the top of the gadget column, would that make it easier for people to keep track of things?  Honestly, if anyone has suggestions or experience with formatting this stuff, let me know, either below here or by e-mail to:


"Setting the tone..."

(From Mendoza - he's having trouble making a new post)

Following on from the mod debate, I'd wouldn't mind knowing what experiences folk on here, have had with what they consider to be 'unacceptable posts'? Was it the the language they found to be unacceptable or anything otherwise? The problem for me is that I've no real experience of feeling intimidated or threatened on the CiF; I've certainly seen Cath, Julie and more get abuse for simply how they look and obv I think that's unacceptable.
However, that's quite cut and dried as a mod issue - what I would like to know is what else helps to qualify an 'unsafe' and 'safe' webspace?"

Who was this poster?

Someone please help me, i have forgotten the name of a hilarious poster and its bugging me somethign chronic. My memory is really awful but he might have been a Yank, he was comically right wing, lots of his posts sounded like wind ups, in the end everyone just laughed at him and seemed to find him good sport, he seemed to post for a little burst of a couple of months, either last summer or early this year, he was the most absurd and humorous right winger i have ever seen on CiF, rather than being particularly nasty he was just completely absurd.

Anyone, anyone at all, remember who im thinking of????

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Yes, today is the day that my neighbours to the south commemorate the victory of the Mexican Army over the forces of Napoleon III.  Feck all to do with anything, but these days it's a good excuse for Americans to drink Mexican beer (Dos Equis for those with taste buds).

It's also the birthday of Roddy 'Radiation' Byers, lead guitarist for The Specials and seemingly all-around nice guy.  ¡Feliz cumpleaños, Roderigo!

(Hey, I'm about ready to go to bed and there are 198 comments on the other thread.  Thought I might as well give you something to wake up to.)

03 May 2009

New Thread

Whoops - we hit that 200 thread, extra mouse-click threshhold.  Here we go:

01 May 2009

Amnesty and Modding Changes

Looking forward, i feel we should start thinking about our other fallen comrades and what can be done regarding a CiF Amnesty, possibly coinciding with the new modding policy and also modding in general. I dont know what is in store with this new modding policy but since its going to be put on the table by the CiF team, it might be an idea for people to try and work up some firm ideas for what we, as one part of the "community", would like.

I wont be able to take part in the modding thread but i think there should be a concerted effort amongst ciffers to try and negotiate some sort of amnesty for the fallen, the untrusted. I dont know if this is possible but it would be a fantastic gesture from CiF and go a long way to rebuilding a harmonious community spirit.

I would also argue for (though im happy to change tack according to majority wishes) a move away from permanent bans to long term bans, 1, 2, 4, 6 months bans, for example, depending on the crime. Not instead of premod, but on top of premod as an additional tool. Permanent banning is the equivalent of capital punishment - i dont think its very civilised. Casual posters will just make new monikers, BNPTroll will become BNPKnuckleScraper, or was it endogame, i dont remember, but it does hurt regulars and it certainly gives a slightly unpleasant and, dare i say, oppressive atmosphere.

I also think something needs to change with the "report abuse" function. I feel some people are using this button to distort and censor in quite a shameless and cowardly way. Maybe limit users to X number of reports a day, or keep a record of how many reports each user is making - the Graun can then spot posters who are perhaps abusing this function, as these people are contributing to a highly oversensitive atmosphere that is at the heart of the problems.

Anyway folks, these are my suggestions and i hope we can try and build some sort of consensus before the modding thread.

(And thanks again to all for your help these last two days)

Should We Reconsider Moving?

Not trying to move discussion away from the news of Jay's banishment, but I'm wondering if it isn't time to reconsider moving to a threaded board?  I know that when we discussed it earlier, we decided that we were at home here.  However, with the rising disaffection with Cif and increasing participation here, a threaded board might make more sense.  To that end, I've started another poll.  Yep - I'm a poll happy fool now!

I've gone ahead and signed up for one here, if you want to see what it would look like before deciding.