Friday, February 03, 2006

I was pondering doing this myself at some point, and now I don't have to - via European Tribune a handy round-up of what's going on in the run-up to the forthcoming Italian elections, in which Berlusconi is trying every trick in the book to stay in power, including accusing one of the main opposition newspapers of plotting to murder him. Now THERE's an idea for the Daily Mail...

Charlie Brooker has written the most honest newspaper column ever. I know precisely how he feels. Apart from the whole "getting paid" bit, obviously... The bastard.

On unfunny cartoons

I agree with this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and especially this.

In short, this is all more complex than it appears and everyone involved should grow the hell up and stop acting like those fat toddlers you seen rolling around on the floor screaming when Mummy doesn't buy them a sweetie. Most importantly, the cartoonists who sparked the whole thing off should piss off to art school, learn how to draw, and then get a sense of humour from somewhere. If those shoddy, sub-schoolboy efforts had been posted on b3ta does anyone really think they'd get frontpaged? I doubt they'd even be worthy of a "woo", let alone a "woo yay".

But whoops - I'm appealing to reason, and everyone involved is a moron. The newspaper editors who were prepared to pay for and print such cack are morons for being duped into parting with cash. The Muslim nutties who got offended are morons for having so little confidence in their faith that some artless scribbles shake its foundations. The people who have turned this into a free speech issue are morons for being conned into supporting talentless idiots who actually most likely WERE intending to be offensive. Anyone who unreservedly apologises - beyond saying "yes, some of them were offensive, but the most important thing is they were crap and had been seen by hardly anyone until you idiots started kicking up a fuss" - is a moron.

Why does it always seem to be shite that gets more publicity thanks to nutters complaining? Jerry Springer the Opera was rubbish. David Cronenberg's Crash was by far his worst film. I - and undoubtedly a large number of other people - only made the effort of watching them BECAUSE of the fuss kicked up.

Is it really such a hard concept to grasp? Controversy => MORE publicity, you idiots. It's hardly a new idea - in fact, both Jesus and Mohammed used controversial words and actions to get noticed when they were starting out. And both of them were probably better cartoonists than the people responsible for this little spat.

Update: You see, this is funny. Obvious, perhaps, but funny nonetheless. The ones this fuss is over are just plain rubbish.

Update 2: Aaaah! NOW I know why Muslims don't like the Prophet being depicted - it'll reveal his secret identity as Johnny Storm, the Human Torch...

Update 3: Further proof of the Johnny Storm theory - a nutty demonstrator holding a "Fantastic Four on their way" sign. Does that make Jesus Mr Fantastic? Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman,the Holy Ghost? So where does The Thing fit into it all?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Looks like BNP leader Nick Griffin and his fellow fascist lackey Mark Collett have been let off after being charged with incitement to racial hatred.

Which would tend to suggest that whoever brought this case is a raging moron. How the hell is it possible to fail to secure a conviction against a couple of mini-Hitlers? Did they seriously think just going "he's the leader of the BNP, therefore he's a racist" - though perfectly valid and true - was going to be enough to stand up in court? Bumbling fools, the lot of 'em. (Though at least now there's the possibility that the BNP will be lulled into a false sense of security and do/say something REALLY stupid that they CAN be done on...)

The Social Services - bunch of bastards. Yep - separating an 89-year-old war veteran from his wife of 65 years. Genius.
"the system is so rigid and so unforgiving and so lacking in imagination and creativity, to be able to find creative solutions for people like this and it isn't that uncommon"
Does ANYTHING work properly in this country?

As it's the Lib Dems, I've only just noticed - but, considering all their recent sex-based scandals, couldn't they have come up with a slogan for Simon Hughes's campaign that's slightly less open to interpretation as innuendo than Energy, Passion, Experience?

The Home Office - liars or idiots?

Yesterday: the Home Office is told off for dodgy accounting - "It is disappointing that the Home Office had not maintained proper financial books and records"

Today: the self-same Home Office that can't keep tabs on its own accounts announces wildly implausible "identity fraud" figures designed to make ID cards look sensible: "At £35 per person, the estimated annual cost was greater than that of planned compulsory national identity cards, [Home Office Minister Andy Burnham] told BBC Radio 4's Today programme."

Why, precisely, should we pay any attention to any figures the Home Office ever produces?

Update: As if by magic, an analysis of the figures appears

"In fact, the costs to the state of fraudulent identity, where compulsory provision of a card would definitely save money - unpaid fines, police time taken in checking backgrounds, social security fraud etc. runs to a hundred million, maybe two, at best. And plenty of that might be saved if the government tightened its own security procedures, as proven in the tax credit fraud fiasco."
Go read.

Udate 2: DK goes off on one with a number of pertinent points, while the Hamster and the Longrider also lay in with numbers and such. All good stuff.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fistful's European Weblog Awards

Get your nominations in - server problems mean it's been delayed for a bit, but nominations will close and voting start soon.

Oh, and lest I forget - ha ha ha ha ha! Where's your God now, Tony? Not much use really, is he? Or perhaps he's just the version who created, like, free will and stuff...

Oh, and a fun coincidence - the day that parliament re-asserts its authority over the government (which, lest we forget, is its job) was the 400th anniversary of the execution of Guy Fawkes - a man who, much like Blair, wanted to destroy the institution from within... (It was also the 45th anniversary of monkeys in space!)

A quick plug - the new blog from the chap behind the now-defunct Siberian Light - if that was anything to go by, it should be well worth paying attention to.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"The Brussels Broadcasting Corporation"

Ha ha ha ha ha! The heads of Eurosceptics and proponents of the "Biased BBC" meme explode in a shower of "I told you so!"s and rage, as favourite hate-figure of the loonier anti-EU brigade, Margot Wallström (she of increasingly tedious blog fame) suggests an EU-funded TV station to "fill the gaps in reporting". A televised EU-Pravda - yep - that'll win people over...

Oh, and another thing: Margot, if you're reading - the reason the EU is "under-reported" in media continent-wide is thanks to the delights of the market. The problem is simply that NO ONE CARES. By all means set up your TV station - but no one will watch because the subject matter is far, far too dull. (Actually, that's not quite true - obsessive anti-EU fanatics will watch it religiously, merely so they can rant about it in the comments section of your blog and over on EU Referendum.)

Seriously - the EU is mind-numbing. Why else do you think that 90% of this blog's content is now on other stuff, despite being set up to be EU-centred? You want the EU to be reported, you need to spice it up a little - stop obsessing over petty legislation and pointless regulation and give us some genuine excitement. A little bit of showmanship is all that's needed - an EU equivalent of Prime Minister's Questions or something. That's pretty much the only time the House of Commons gets on telly, after all.

Prime Minister's Questions serves precisely no useful purpose other than petty personal/political point-scoring in the full glare of the assembled media. But it nonetheless frequently makes for fun TV and dozens of column inches every week. No one expects Blair to give straight answers to straight questions, because other than in overly idealistic fantasy worlds that's not the point of the thing - and hasn't been since long before they started televising it. It is, basically, a chance for all sides to show off in front of the cameras - propaganda for MPs of whatever shade.

The EU would do well to follow the example of the Mother of Parliaments and descend to "Punch and Judy Politics" a bit more often - it's fun, and it gets people interested. The art of reasoned argument and grand debate of the 19th century - ideal for that era of newspaper reporting - is dead and gone. All we want now is soundbites, because our attention spans are far shorter - you'd think someone in Brussels would have noticed when their behemoth of a constitution was ridiculed for its excessive length. But no, they still seem to think that people enjoy wading through umpteen thousand clauses and sub-clauses, and that reasoned debate will work. Even if the EU's spokesmen weren't all rubbish, it simply doesn't any more. We want soundbite, soundbite, soundbite, or we'll switch to the other side.

(Hell - for another case in point, 95% of people will have stopped reading this post by now, as hardly anyone reads beyone the first couple of paragraphs of anything they see online... Brevity + entertainment => absorbtion of ideas.)

Naturally enough, the "Brussels Broadcasting Corporation" headline thing is based more on pandering to alarmist fears than the actual truth of the (still not finalised) proposals, but that lot in Brussels really do need to learn that the best way of making sure your propaganda has an impact with the people you are targeting is to, erm, not warn them that it's propaganda in advance...

And thus we see once again why all fears of the superstate are unfounded - the people currently in charge of the EU are simply too incompetent to make it work, even if they wanted to. They haven't even twigged the birth of Public Relations politics yet, seventy years after FDR helped usher in the new era with his fireside chats.

Oi, EU - you want people to engage? Make yourselves more engaging. Want them to pay attention? Give them something entertaining. No, it's not big, it's not clever, and it may well be a sorry state of affairs, but the truth is politics itself does not sell. You need a bit of drama to succeed - and all the EU's managed for the last few years has been a bad sitcom.

Missed this yesterday - the always readable, always EU-sceptical Anatole Kaletsky's latest:
"the sudden revival of economic and political self-confidence in Europe, which seemed to be in an almost existential crisis as recently as last autumn, was a genuine surprise... Last January I started my work for 2005 with a very bearish column about the euro and the European economy, and I then got even more pessimistic as the year progressed. For most of 2005 this view, which contrasted sharply with the perennial optimism of politicians and central bankers, turned out to be right.

"So why have Europe’s prospects suddenly brightened?"

"We do not see the least improvement"

An ill-considered piece on The War on Terror and the like from me, over at The Sharpener...

Monday, January 30, 2006

A quick plug - the English language version of AgoraVox, the rather good French blog aggregator type thing, is pretty much up and running after a few months in a password-only beta testing phase. It's still not officially launched, but should be worth checking out. And yes, this humble blogger is indeed a contributor.

The Tesco Value NHS

Another radical new healthcare initiative! Yep, a new drive to create "care campuses" providing medical services in the community - which is, of course, UTTERLY different to the concept of General Practice, isn't it? They're spewing out crap faster than that kid in The Exorcist these days...

Oh, and apparently "The GP market could also be opened to the... voluntary sector to help fill gaps in under-doctored areas" - even though the reason those areas are "under-doctored" (bloody ridiculous term) is largely because no doctors want to work there. Asking them to do it for no money ain't going to solve the problem, chum - doctors all come out of training these days saddled with upwards of £30,000 debt, so is it any wonder the majority try and stick around the major hospitals, where they've got a chance of becoming an over-paid consultant or getting spotted by a private practice, rather than buggering off to the sticks where they get to be moaned to by little old ladies and threatened by teenage thugs in hodded tops, all for far less pay (in real terms) than their forebears were getting three decades ago.

The report also includes the wonderous news that those "health MOTs" (stupid enough anyway) are going to be called "life checks" ("Right, that's OK MRs Prendergast, you ARE still alive after all..."), and that the government hope to have them available in Tesco. Yes, really...

Much like Tesco Value sausages, Labour's latest healthcare wheeze seems to be made of the discarded offal of fifty years of health policy, hastily re-packaged and flogged to the braindead public at a knock-down price.

Because, children, it has to be at a knock-down price. I can exclusively reveal to you today the real problem at the heart of the NHS - it's simply too bloody expensive to provide free healthcare for all at the point of use in a country with 60 million people and a rapidly aging population.

Every politician in Westminster knows this full well. But the NHS is the sacred cow of British politics - we can't slaughter the bastard even when it does start stomping through the back garden, munching on the geraniums, and costing us far more than it's worth. And so, instead, we'll get the same "new ideas" regurgitated every few years as if they're some brilliant cure-all, while the NHS infrastructure continues to creak under the strain and all the best medics defect to the private sector to earn some real money.

You see, the thing in medicine is that there are no magic potions to cure all ills. Sometimes a body is so racked with disease that little can be done - bits may yet be salvagable, but in order to do so, other parts must be amputated, or the body will be wasting precious energy supplying blood to limbs which no longer have any chance of survival.

This is the modern NHS - a lurgy-racked near-cadaver, covered with a liberal dosing of make-up to disguise the scars of the pox that has been ravaging it for decades; still recognisable, but in need of some major surgery if it is to survive. Adding some extra blusher around the endges to try and give the impression of health is no longer going to do the trick.

The NHS is a great idea, but much like swimming the Channel in lead pyjamas it's also insanely impractical. But no one is going to have the guts to take on the inevitable cries of "murder" that are always hollered when the sheer impracticality of such an insanely expensive drain on government resources is raised.

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