The Judge RANTS!
A Grand Grimoire Of Gripes
My time has been taken - in much the same way as an okapi on the riverbank is 'taken' by a crocodile - by the Big Project I referred to at the start of the month. Indeed, it is there that I wish to start this gallimaufry of grouches. Otherwise, what follows constitutes another list of TINPO (Things In No Particular Order). So, please join me in diving headlong into this English river, won't you? Or at least go through the motions:
- Item: I have reached the conclusion that all word-processing and document-producing software for the domestic market has been written under strict instructions from an international cabal of commercial publishers to make it as difficult as possible for someone sitting in the comfort of their own garret infused with the desire to self-publish to produce anything which looks genuinely professional. There may be programmes out there which operate strictly on the 'WYSIWYG' principle, in that things will go where you want them and how you want them to look simply by doing it, but I've yet to find them.
(What I have said here may give a clue to what it is I'm doing at the moment, but there will be no further revelations at present, and the only two people on the planet I've told have issued self-denying ordinances not to spill the beans. All will become apparent if I ever get this bloody thing done.)
- Item: Meanwhile, in what passes for The Real World, things continue to go merrily and irreversibly to shit.
The whateveryoucallit in Ukraine continues largely unabated, the first anniversary having just been marked ("Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, arms dealers, happy birthday to...BANG!!"). Indeed, for all the onion-induced-tear-stained reportage - or what passes for same - we've been subjected to for the past year, the use of the word 'celebration' to describe the last few days' coverage might be seen as tasteless but more or less accurate. Zelenskiy has been touring his latest routine round the comedy clubs of the West ("Hello, Westminster!""Hi, New York!"), playing to enthusiastic and adoring audiences, both of politicians who know that a distant war is always good for business, and of general populations rendered to a point of stunned acquiescence by the most thorough and all-encompassing campaign of 'message control' - what used to be called 'propaganda' - of any war in whose times I have lived. The all-spectrum censorship - less by State fiat than by means of that sinister nexus between politics, technological commerce and official media which I described at the outset of the 'operation' - has been so effective that, when darling Volodymir says, in effect, "Give us the fools, and we will finish the world", the result is an outbreak of performative nodding such as might be observed from toy dogs on the parcel shelves of a fleet of Ford Foci being driven around Silverstone at 120mph+.
Adjacent to all of this - and something which demonstrates both the bogusness of 'the cause' and the extent to which states and media corporations are eager to go to bamboozle the populace - is the furore which was generated just a few months ago by the blowing up of the Nordstream pipeline under the Baltic Sea. There was, of course, immediate denunciation of the Rotten Russkies for an 'act of terrorism'. But soon, it became clear that the version of events promoted in the West was largely untenable.
For consider: why would the Russians destroy a pipeline which had cost them huge amounts in financial, practical and political terms when - if the intent was to starve western Europe of energy - they could simply have gone to a field somewhere just outside of Pskov and, y'know, turned the tap off?
Once this incongruity became apparent to all but those determined to be wilfully ignorant (at least in public), and once it was taken into account that Blinken (and Winken and Nod, aka Victoria Nuland and Grampa Joe himself) had stated even before the invasion that they would destroy the pipeline, then the NATO (c'est a dire the US) story was - as it were - exploded and sunk.
Hence the sudden lack of interest in the matter by state and media outlets into enquiring into what had actually happened. The Swedish government conducted what they termed an 'investigation', but have refused to release any information about what it found even to NATO allies which share a Baltic coastline with them. The story died. Or was it simply killed?
Either way, when the journalist Seymour Hersh found evidence from internal sources suggesting strongly that Nordstream was indeed sabotaged by the US (with help from Norway), the reaction from official sources was either to deny it completely or - and here's the giveaway - by impugning the motives, integrity and sanity of one of the greatest investigative journalists of the post-war period, before burying the story in an unmarked grave for the second time. When you can't literally shoot the messenger, you resort to seeking to discredit him in the eyes of all those who - in spite of the ever-increasing bundles of evidence to the contrary - still tend to believe what they are told by state and corporate sources. Especially when those sources are still peddling emotive guff mixed with vaunting bollocks such as, "When will Putin realise he has lost?".
In short: we have been lied to, we are being lied to, and we will continue to be lied to, because every and all possible nuance has been shorn from the public realm and every voice which wishes to tell us that things are not as they have been related in the official communiqués has been silenced as far as ninety-five per cent of the people of the West are concerned.
- Item: Speaking of large amounts of needless death about which those in power seem to be unable or unwilling to do anything brings me to the latest mass shooting in the US (or perhaps not the latest; by the time I have finished writing this, another three or four will inevitably have occurred).
I've stated previously that the tendency of the American male (and these massacres are almost invariably committed by males) to try to resolve their 'issues' by indiscriminate use of firearms speaks of an internalised fear that they don't, so to speak, measure up in a society where Big Is Beautiful, down to (and including) the size of their weaponry, if you see what I mean. I amend that view in the light of the necessity to recognise that the US as a whole is an inherently violent society and always has been; that, after all, is how they got the place in the first instance.
But there are other forms of violence buried deep in the substrata of the way that the country functions, not least of which is the way in which the Ordinary Joes are screwed over at every turn by the irredeemable assholes and sociopaths who run everything, be they employers or politicians. But because it is not in the interests of either of those categories of fink to address the underlying causes of the mass anomie which pervades the social constructs over which they rule (or, in the case of the pols, which they are well remunerated for ruling over by, let us say for example, the weapons manufacturers; and here there's an analogue with what I was talking about in re. Ukraine), nothing beyond the cosmetic can ever be done.
Except of course for them to send - every time someone has gone beyond enduring his situation any more and has taken an automatic fusillade of pops at the blameless - their "thoughts and prayers". The faux piety of the Official American is rebarbative at the best of times, but is particularly emetic in seeking to put a veneer of fuck-giving over their otherwise firmly studied indifference; a phenomenon which the great Roy Zimmerman illustrates in this song which, although from the middle of the last decade, has a sadly perpetual relevance, and highlights the violent rhetoric contained within the everyday parlance of US society:
But satire - however toothsome - doesn't change anything, as Peter Cook - one of its greatest modern practitioners - was quick to remind us. So a more direct approach is needed, and here I salute Michigan State Representative Ranjeev Puri, whose formal response to the slaughter at Michigan State University was to begin his official statement with the words, "Fuck your thoughts and prayers" (the Tweet of his statement is here at present, but may not be for long given the responses he's had from his Gahd-fearing and gun-toting compatriots).
- Item: I admit to having being gulled by Nicola Sturgeon. I had thought of her as a leader of some stature, who would surely take her country to its rightful liberation from colonial rule.
Disquiet began to set in after the Brexit referendum of 2016 when, instead of taking the result - Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will - as being the 'material change of circumstances' which she said would be the starting gun for a second vote on independence, she tried to prevent the people of England (plus its oldest colony) from getting what they had voted for.
Having been gifted mandate after mandate before and since that time, she - and a party which was increasingly shaped around her and her loyalists - instead spent her and her government's time and energy on marginal interests around (but not confined to) identity politics, and a series of major mis-steps around trans rights, drinks bottle return schemes, road upgrades and the selling of Scotland's wind energy prospects on the cheap to outside corporations trashed the SNP's reputation for competent government, a reputation hard-earned by her predecessor Alex Salmond, a man she seemed determined to have imprisoned under a bogus pretext (see the blogs of Stu Campbell and Craig Murray for further details on this point).
But how could a party which had built so solid a reputation be destroyed by the monomaniacal pursuit of policies which had no relationship to independence, the gradual eradication of internal party democracy (leading to the inevitable corruption scandals which are only now coming to prominence in the public eye) and the cult-like support of most of the SNP's parliamentary representatives in Edinburgh and London?
There are a number of potential explanations, some of them overlapping: that Sturgeon is an agent of the English colonial state; that the 'security forces' have planted such agents in key places within the party; that their political opponents have provided a fifth column of anti-independence candidates and MPs/MSPs; or that St. Nicola is just a weak leader who feels the need for total control.
Some of these are unlikely to greater or lesser degree, some of them may be more certain; but of those reasons I have just listed, one stands out as being most likely, but which has received comparatively little analysis.
Consider if you will the following scenario:
Say that you were a Scottish person ambitious for a long and lucrative political career. Which party would you join to maximise your potential seat on the gravy train? Up to the early years of this century, you would almost certainly have chosen the Scotland Branch of the British Nationalist Labour Party. After all, they had controlled Scotland's politics - nationally and locally - since the mid-1950s and - given the skewed electoral system devised for Scotland's new parliament - they looked unlikely ever to lose that dominance.
But then came 2007, and the sight of Labour actually losing power and facing a minority SNP administration. If that was a surprise, what followed four years later was a total shock to the system, as the SNP won an overall majority under a system specifically designed to prevent such an outcome. And not only were the dreaded Nats in power, the scale of their victory meant that they had become the 'natural party of government' in Scotland, whose incumbency would be very difficult to shift.
So, if you were an ambitious political operative faced with such a prospect, which party would you join? I mean, forget about policy or principles, this is politics we're talking about here.
Yes, the SNP has been taken over by New Labour Blairite types. It's all there; the control-freakery, the deliberate sidelining of the central idea upon which the party's existence was founded; the putting down or hounding out of those deemed by a cabal around the leader to be 'off message'; and the hollowing out of internal democratic norms. It's all there. Which is why the SNP's current crop of elected figures include pro-NATO Atlanticists, free-market ideologues, outright devolutionists and similar con-artists.
Sturgeon has now left the scene (although may well still be doing some back-seat driving in the months ahead), and has left behind a total mess; the gender ID stuff has been stamped on by London, the bottle return scheme has run into the buffers before it has come into effect, the Hate Crime Act (with another resonance with NuLab, in that it criminalise people's expression of their views even in the privacy of their own living-rooms) has had its implementation delayed because the Polis can't work out what the fuck they are supposed to do with it.
The three candidates to succeed her include one of her most loyal and most incompetent ministers (responsible for the aforementioned crime against freedom of expression, amongst other screw-ups). He describes himself as the 'unity candidate', but the only 'unity' he has provided so far has been - unprecedently - to have united the Catholic Church and the 'Wee Frees' against him. The other two candidates are the current finance minister, widely regarded for her abilities, but who is a member of said Presbyterian sect, who has come under heavy and absolutely disgusting criticism for what she has said about her attitude to marriage equality and abortion...
(and if you wonder why I as an atheist of forty-five years standing regard the flak being thrown at her as being revolting, it's a matter of freedom of conscience. Kate Forbes may hold whatever beliefs she chooses, so long as that doesn't lead to policies which disrespect everyone else's freedom to act in accordance with their own consciences within the constraints of a civilised society. There is no indication that she would do that)
...and the third candidate is someone who, as a matter of principle, resigned from Sturgeon's cabinet rather than be forced to vote for a Gender Recognition Reform Bill which effectively removed all protection and safeguarding from women and girls.
(For another time my views on that whole subject).
If Humza Yousuf wins (he's the Continuity Sturgeonite candidate, and therefore has a form of incumbent's advantage, especially given that the party's chief executive is effectively running the election process despite his being Sturgeon's partner and under criminal investigation for alleged fraud), then the independence movement in Scotland is dead for years ahead. If Forbes wins, there is at least a chance that the campaign will pick up again. If Ash Regan wins (and it's a bit against the odds given the enormous media attention her opponents are getting), then the campaign may - after nearly a decade of enforced stagnation - be re-ignited (which is another reason why the 'British' establishment and its hangers-on in Scottish politics and the media are trying to blot her out of the coverage). It's a make-or-break moment in modern Scottish politics.
- Item: Speaking of control-freakery, corruption and outrught mendacity in politics brings me naturally to Sir Keir Starmer KC, MP.
That he lied to be elected leader of the the British Nationalist Pinkish Flag-fucking Party is beyond doubt; his toadies were telling the media at the time that he was making those infamous 'Ten Pledges' that he had no intention of keeping to them, as indeed he proved within weeks of landing the job. Now we have his 'Five Missions', which as per usual contain no details, merely a vague pile of 'aspirational' waffles. And we are expected to believe him this time; the Guardian says we must.
He also claims to have rid the party of anti-semitism, and yet more Jews have been expelled on his watch than by all of his predecessors combined. Ah, but they weren't real Jews, you see; they - being concerned about such trifles as the rights of the Palestinians living under Zionist apartheid - wouldn't genuflect before the graven image of Bibi the Yahoo which all right-thinking Labourites are now required to carry around with them. Still, the Board of Deputies is elated (I typed 'fellated' there initially; it is getting near midnight though), and Luciana Berger - one of the most active back-stabbers in the time of the anti-semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn - has now floated back to the party from the ineffective centre-right grouplets who had given her a sofa to surf on when she was homeless.
Others who have floated back now include Milord Sainsbury, who has just handed Starmer a cheque for a couple of million, without any promises of advantageous policies coming his way in the future, oh dearie me, no. The revivification of the Labour Party as the natural home of multi-millionaires and sociopathic middle-managers can now be deemed complete, and who cares about the tens of millions of non-entities who need radical change in their lives, and need it now, in the face of price-gouging by energy and water companies and the onward march to the sunlit uplands of Brexit which has led - uniquely in Europe, despite the impression you get from the media - to shortages of fruit and vegetables?
But of course we have choice, don't we boys and girls? Except, as the late George Carlin pointed out, we don't have a choice in politics, reduced as we are to doing 'eeny-meeny' with groups which are in fact merely wings of the same (neo-liberal, neo-conservative, flag-shagging, crackdown-loving) party, and the only 'choice' we have in the world is that we can get several different types of bagel. If we can afford them, of course.
- Item: Which brings me back to domestic matters, and the New Year's present from my gas and electricity supplier. This consisted of a bill which - even taking into the discount provided by that nice Mr. Sunk - was nearly twice what it had been for the same period last year, and this despite the fact that gas prices on the world market had already retreated to the levels seen prior to Vladimir Vladimirovich's little adventure. I'm comparatively lucky, in that I can afford to pay the increase at the moment, but if nothing is done to curb the energy cartel's rapacious behaviour then many more people are going to struggle mightily than are on the verge of going under already.
In the same way that we are being lied to, we have been ripped off, we are being ripped off, and we will continue to be ripped off, because those with Power know that the populace at large is so gulled by misinformation, so dulled by the pabulum dished out by the state and corporate media, and so bullshat by politicians that they will literally take anything lying down.
- Item: And finally...ye gods, is that the time? It was about 1430 on Sunday when I started writing this; it's now Monday.
Finally, as I say, the Guardian - after nearly a month and a half - has published an obituary of Les Barker.
Even so, it was written by one of his friends - his agent, in fact - rather than an actual hack. This is undoubtedly because Les wasn't an obscure Slovenian sociologist, a minor north London trade union activist, or someone who once appeared in a hard-hitting drama about three transvestites who find themselves in prison in South Africa in the Good Old Days, which played to eight people in the upstairs room of a pub in Dalston Junction. No, Les was just one of us, one of the real people. And that's why he was special.