Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The lessons today...

What have the kids learned from their encounters with the Establishment?

Peaceful demonstrations (1-2 million people marching against the Iraq invasion, 400,000 Countryside Alliance protestors) change nothing. Violent protest (Poll Tax Riots) get rid of Prime Ministers and change things.

Do the Met want to put their words about facilitating peaceful protest into action? The Anti-capitalist and G20 demos indicate not. They would rather go out and show who's boss - as the reaction to the Countryside Alliance march, G20 demonstrations (Ian Tomlinson died, remember) and student demos Part 2 (not Thursday 10 December 2010) showed. Kettling does not seem to be a tactic of last resort; it is the go-to tactic. And there are some in the police force who would like to go further - see the responses in the Inspector Gadget blog: http://inspectorgadget.wordpre.../

Hugh Orde said that there is a problem if the police are seen as enforcing the government's will, against popular (as in, of the people) protest. He knows whereof he speaks - he was formally head of the Police service in Northern Ireland. If the Met thinks dealing with a few cheesed-off kids is difficult, try the Falls Road in the 1980s/90s. Those guys had guns.

And so we get to the next stage of fear. The police have overplayed the kettling hand, the kids know how to deal wtith it - split up and leave, at maximum knots. If kettled, fight back early and hard, and strong. Those who follow Police instructions or are left behind when others scatter or confront know no better - they are the compliant ones. This time.

So - the police now talk of water cannon and heavier tactics. The demonstrators will work out their way around that. How many steps to, in effect, low-intensity, sporadic civil war? At what point does the police force stop being civilians in uniform, facilitating democratic protest and securing society, and become The Enemy, the domestic arm of the government's will, which Hugh Orde warned against?

Do the readers of the Telegraph and other papers of similar persuasion stand up for that famous female, Laura Norder? That will probably be the knee-jerk reaction but wait - our children are having their heads whacked. Our nieces and nephews are telling tales of cavalry charges out of nowhere, baton charges, kettling (containment) and friends injured, brain--damaged - and, at what point, dead?

The public support may begin to waver.

When it does, Society is in big trouble. There are those, like me, who argue for reform - an improved system, one that is genuinely responsive to popular concerns. I argue for reform of the Parliamentary system. If that argument fails, if politicians carry on regardless, ignoring protest and the will of the people - as they did with the Iraq demonstration, most notably - where do we go? If the lesson that the children take from these events, compared especially with the Poll Tax riots, which did achieve something, is that democracy doesn't work, that peaceful protest is pointless, into whose arms do they fall?

British society has been very effective at defusing militancy by sharing, by including the alienated into the benefits of stability. Ignoring, confronting or beating the living crap out of our children is not a good idea - the reality feeds back to the mainstream.

"The most dangerous moment for bad government is when it sets about reform" - Alexis de Tocqueville, 'Reflections on the French Revolution'.

Bankers get off scot-free. Young people have the cost of their university access escalated. Taxes stay high. Local services are cut. It sounds like a recipe for middle-class alientation - and if the middle classes are alienated, God help us.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Fantasy of Viscount Monckton

The regular pin-up boy of the climate denialists is a gentleman named Christopher Monckton, perhaps better known as Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. There are many people whose scepticism of climate change - its extent and drivers - are respectable, well qualified and whose science and scientific background is impeccable.

Lord Monckton could not be counted among them.

His qualifications - a degree in Classics from Oxford and a Diploma in Journalism from Cardiff - impressive as they may be, are not in the right area. That doesn't stop the more swivel-eyed deniers, the ones who see climate change as a political battleground rather than a process that simply doesn't care whether you're Left, right or Monster Raving Loony, from claiming him as a champion and nominating him to be their leading spokesperson.

Perhaps paradoxically, I sincerely hope they succeed because this self-aggrandising buffoon, who has misrepresented his legislative status in public, even to the US Senate, discredits the denialist camp with every public appearance. The more closely his pronouncements - which remind one of Toad of Toad Hall on a particularly puffed-up day - are examined, the more they fall apart.

I came across an excellent couple of posts on other sites that I simply have to share. It would be shameful and selfish of me to fail to do so.

First, Lord Monckton's claim to be a member of the House of Lords - a claim that he made to a US Senate Committee, for goodness' sake. He inherited his title in 2006, on the death of his father. That was seven years after the House of Lords was reformed to exclude all but 92 hereditary peers. Lord Monckton stood for election to the Lords but lost. He got the same number of votes that I did - NONE. And I didn't even stand.

Lord Monckton is not, was not and never has been a member of the House of Lords. Not even a 'non-sitting, non-voting' member, as he has often claimed. He uses a representation very similar to the Portcullis symbol of the UK's Parliament in many of his presentations, as he continues to seek to give the impression that he is a member of the UK's Upper House. The House of Lords is now, at last, taking some kind of action, it would appear. A group called 'Friends of Gin & Tonic' has received a response that indicates they are taking this seriously. See here:

And there's more. For a long time, Lord Monckton was regarded as a bit of a clown on the outer circle of debate about climate change. It must be conceded that, with sheer bravado, chutzpah and more front than Brighton, he has managed to get himself air time and a little closer in - thus the swivel-eyed championing him as a spokesman. That may change, as people start taking his polemical impact seriously. I am delighted to introduce you to 'Lord Monckton's Rap Sheet', which is a list of his misdemeanours, misrepresentations, mendacity and misleading cases - a list that grows daily. Originated by Barry Bickmore, a geochemistry professor at Brigham Young University and an active Republican (so can't be accused of being a Left-wing plottist!), it systematically takes apart Lord Monckton's claims and exposes his misunderstandings (if one is kind - he is a Classics grad, not science) in a digestible way. It is here: lord-moncktons-rap-sheet.

A summary of some of the charges listed:

Shady business dealings
Inflating his Resume (a slam-dunk, I think)
Misrepresenting Scientific Literature
Making up Data (goes with the territory)
Abusing Scientific Equations (to be fair, this could be simply because he doesn't understand them)
Threatening Those who Disagree with him (libel threats fly about like confetti; not all are pursued. In fact, very few are)
"Being a Snake-oil salesman who actually sells snake-oil!"

There is other stuff, too. Big thanks to Barry Bickmore and to the others who contributed to that blog.

It's a jolly start to understanding the nonsense spouted by the denialists generally and the Noble Lord in particular. It even exposes the hollowness of his claim to have invented a cure for a range of diseases, including flu,
Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, food poisoning, and HIV. All out of one bottle! Sadly, it would appear that he has let the patent application lapse. Could be just an oversight but we may never know.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Of flameboys and moral fibre

An interesting 24 hours.

Between banging out articles, I got involved in a slanging match with the bunch of sycophantic mole rats who follow a certain James Delingpole, who writes a blog for the Telegraph's website.

I don't recommend visiting it - in fact, I recommend against. As has been pointed out to me, the number of visitors to a site is a reflection of how 'big' it is in the Internet playground. As even I hadn't visited this for a few years - I'd completely forgotten about it - it doesn't register as 'successful'. So don't encourage the powers-that-be at the Telegraph to think that this particular columnist is worth what they're paying him by ratcheting up the click-count.

Delingpole has been described as being "Like...a pickled deformed foetus...both repulsive and fascinating"; someone who seems to have "...virtually no interest in science, despite putting himself forward as some kind of 'expert' on global warming and climate change..."; and, in short, a rabble-rouser. His blogs are bombastic, pugnacious and aggressive. There was an unpleasant episode earlier this year, in which he published the name and address of someone who had the temerity to ask a Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate (ppc) a list of questions suggested by some 'green' organisation or another. Outcome: some of his 'boot boys' (as they have been described) disseminated the information and engaged in a campaign of intimidation. He then had the sense to pull the piece and apologise for the upsetting experience the questioner had been subjected to. Well, he apologised after a fashion and prompted one observer to question "...which is worse: Delingpole's lies, hypocrisy, horrible bullying or rabid invasion of an innocent person's privacy?"

(How he, his Tory ppc pal, the person who 'leaked' the original e-mail to him, and the mole rat boot-boys escaped prosecution under the Data Protection Act remains a mystery to me.)

The discussion threads are dominated by a small group of fanboys, who appear to have an obsession with bodily functions - bed-wetting in particular, it seems. The number is certainly less than 10 and seems to be about 6 or 7 - but what a mess a determined handful can achieve! They don't have a monopoly in destructive behaviour - it's a technique favoured by people from the Nazis through the trade unions of the 1970s to football hooligans - and now the Delingpole mole rats.

What they do is completely prevent reasoned debate with a stream of invective and insults, launched in an apparently co-ordinated way (but maybe just unplanned co-operation) against anyone who shows the slightest disagreement with the position of their beloved leader. Or maybe slightly fails to wholeheartedly endorse him.

Once all reasoned debate has been smothered, the column reduces to a cross between an Internet dating chatroom and a boring CB conversation from the 1970s/80s.

Delingpole makes no attempt to encourage open debate or to restrain his fawning pack - rather the opposite. Maybe he likes the adoration, even from such a poor sample of humanity as his mole rats.

Anyway, I occupied some of my time calling them out. In particular, I made it clear that I was more than willing to meet them in person to carry the discussion further. I have provided one of them with my proper name and full address (indeed, I insisted on it) and invited him down. Over a cup of tea (and maybe some biscuits, if I can restrain myself from stuffing the lot in my own face!) we could maybe bridge our differences and resolve our disagreements. Yes, honestly we could!

Is he coming down? Well, it would appear not. Why? No reason given. I'd be more than happy to pay his bus fare, if that's the problem. Alternatively, I could save him the inconvenience of a long trip and go to see him. Will he reciprocate and provide me - in confidence, he has my e-mail address - with his home address? No. Not so far. If he changes his mind, I will let it be known.

But cut back to the obsession with bed-wetting. I've been careful with my choice of words, in order to avoid accusations of intimidation. But still, he accuses me of "...physical threats...". Hope he didn't engage in his obsession so much as to make his clothes unrecoverable!

There is an expression that goes back to the early days of the Internet and e-mail: 'flameboy'. It was attached to people who engaged in big talk from the keyboard but who never backed anything up. The sort of people who would adopt a big, muscular avatar for online gaming - or maybe a feminine persona - in order to compensate for their personal inadequacies or to give expression to their deep-seated, secret fears and fantasies. Whenever I've met a flameboy in person, they've always been rather pathetic.

What the experience of the last 24 hours or so shows is the continuing truth of the 'flameboy' reputation. Big on line but can't hack it in the real world. It shows also, I think, that certain members of today's society simply don't have moral fibre, the personal integrity to stand up, in public, for themselves. What a pathetic bunch of self-abusers. The trouble with the Internet is, it puts these sad cases in touch with each other and leads them to think they're normal

Still, I mustn't complain - the visitor numbers here continue to rise and rise. Carry on like this and I'll be more popular than Delingpole - so long as the unwary take my advice and don't visit the mouthy prat's site.

Update, June 1/2: For the information of any who may be interested, I have taken my own most excellent advice and no longer visit James Delingpole's blog, either as myself or as anyone else, and haven't done since May 28. Any subsequent posts purporting to be from me are shameless impersonations - or, more likely, the deranged after-drippings of an unhinged imagination.

Be careful what you wish for...

The scribbler previously referred to put this up on his blog, directed to one of his acolytes.

"When I am God Emperor, please will you become my Sir Francis Walsingham?"

He should be careful. Walsingham had a reputation for killing his homosexual partners right at the very moment of peak intensity.

Unless, of course, he desires the sort of death previously associated with right-wing Tory MPs and Australian rock stars?

Visitor numbers shoot upwards

What joy! The visitor figures for this blog - which I haven't posted anything to for years and had forgotten about, in fact - have spiked upwards. How can this be? A sudden burst of enthusiasm for the more obsure and less-publicised bits of Adam Smith's writings?

No - far from it!

There is a 'journalist' (I think 'teenage scribbler' was the phrase Nigel Lawson used) who has a blog on one of the UK's broadsheet newspapers. He uses it to disseminate his own particular brand of mendacity, distortions and even untruths about global warming, climate change, etc, etc. He makes a habit of being 'aggressive and provocative', someone said - puerile and rude is more accurate.

He has got himself a little gaggle of fanboys, who hang on his every word like lovestruck teenagers with their first homerotic crush on a wimpy teacher. Do they debate? Heck, no - anyone who suggests anything that dissents from their rather peculiar view of the world by so much as a nanometre becomes the subject of the sort of slagging-off one associates with a bunch of dirty-minded 5th formers after their first encounter with cider.

Anyway, as Corporal Jones said, 'they don't like it up 'em'. I gave up the idea of actually seeking to engage in meaningful debate with the potty-mouthed puppies and tried a bit of their own medicine on them. Strangely, they all seemed to melt away. This could be for a variety of reasons, some of which we maybe shouldn't go into.

But the sun came up this morning and out the little mole rats came, with their courage doubtless reinforced by their mutual-aid (or mental masturbation) society. Having had several hours to consider their responses and maybe come up with some co-ordinated cutting-edge put-downs, they manged to...revert to their potty-mouthed, limited imagination personas.

But they have been busy nonetheless and one of them found this site!

How kind of them to remind me, how kind to visit. I haven't posted anything for two years because I have, of course, been busy. Interacting with other real people in the real world, mostly.

Now that they have publicised this, I expect a dramatic rise in visitor numbers. Indeed, I look forward to it!