31 May 2009
30 May 2009
29 May 2009
28 May 2009
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.
27 May 2009
26 May 2009
25 May 2009
24 May 2009
23 May 2009
22 May 2009
21 May 2009
20 May 2009
19 May 2009
18 May 2009
17 May 2009
16 May 2009
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.
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.
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?
14 May 2009
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.
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.
13 May 2009
12 May 2009
11 May 2009
10 May 2009
09 May 2009
08 May 2009
07 May 2009
06 May 2009
05 May 2009
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?"
Anyone, anyone at all, remember who im thinking of????
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).
03 May 2009
01 May 2009
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)