Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blaming the rich: Don't be an a**hole

I think every one of us has our moments when we are tempted to equate the word "rich" with the word "asshole." Most people with mundane, working lives stress out over their financial situation every now and then, and should the names Bill Gates or Donald Trump cross their ears during the midst of their worries, they're bound to dismiss them with a frustrated, "Ah, what do those rich assholes know about living in the real world?" Face it, we all succumb to this sentiment.
A column in yesterday's Daily Telegraph brought this subject to my mind. In "It's A Bit Rich To Blame The Wealthy," Damian Reece writes: "A wealth-creating economy creates wealthy people—deal with it. But does it create that wealth fairly? Probably not, but not because we tax the wealthy too little but because we tax everyone else too much."
Exactly so. If we're not superstar entertainers or high-flying entrepreneurs, we feel the bite of the taxman. This bite bleeds profusely. Reece continues: "Vast swathes of the population are trapped in a tax and welfare system that deprives them of keeping their hard-earned cash in their pockets, for them to spend, and goes instead to a government whose spending habits are wasteful and inefficient."
It's not just this tax and welfare system depriving us of our hard-earned bread that is the problem. Consider the ever-growing undereducated underclass. Every year, the number of no-hopers, who cannot write or read beyond Basic Remedial levels and cannot do basic math, and who possess no skills other than being able to roll a mean joint, increases. These young people are turned away into a society that has no use for them, unemployable as they are. Reece writes: "Only last week, the Joseph Rowantree Foundation revealed that 147,000 pupils failed toget any GCSEs higher than a grade D last year, including 28,000—almost one in 20—who failed to gain a qualification of any kind. That's the kind of statistic I worry about, not the fact that a few rich people are getting even richer."
How is redistribution of wealth going to help those who cannot write or do basic math properly and who have very scant knowledge of history (or regard for it)? They will still lack self-esteem or a sense of self-worth. Redistribution of wealth only insures that those sitting on their asses all day long will be given more money to continue doing just that. How is that fair to someone like me who earned a Bachelor of Science degree and worked every year of his life during and since leaving school? Shouldn't we worry about providing society's young with a quality education? Education is the key to success, but it has to be a good education.
We also love to pretend that the wealthy don't contribute to society; indeed, we think the rich have rejected society. Not so. Reece explains why: "So poor are governments at solving society's problems that several of the world's richest people have taken matters into their own hands. People such as Bill and Melinda Gates in the US and Sir Tom Hunter here [in the U.K.] have set up enormous foundations that seek direct answers to basic problems in health and education. This level of philanthropy, however, requires us to accept that concepts such as private equity, wealth creation, low taxation and yes, even billionaire status, are positive for society."
You see, we cannot blame the rich. They are not the problem, and it's too easy—and a cop-out—to insist that they are the root cause of an unequal society.
Sure, it's always fun and—I suppose—justified to poke fun at those who simply inherited their millions, but entertainers and successful business people alike earned their money. They worked hard for it. Billy Joel once spoke of the frustration-with-the-wealthy sentiment when he was catching criticism for his song "The Downeaster Alexa." Joel told an interviewer that some critics were chastising him for pretending to know about the troubles of Long Island fishermen and pondering what Joel, as a millionaire, could possibly know about anyone's troubles. "But I worked for that money," Joel countered. "I didn't inherit it. I had to earn it."
Sure, I get very annoyed at people like Bob Gedolf who constantly holler that we're not doing enough for the world's poor, and I think, "Look, jerk-wad, you could feed an entire African nation with your money. So what do you want with mine? Shut the hell up already!" But this is beside the point.
As for the wealthy not living in the real world, it's certainly true that they don't. However, most of them once had to. They had their eyes on the prize and have justly been rewarded for attaining it. Or, they bought a scratch ticket and won the lottery. It's money that they legally won. Good for them.
After all, does anyone seriously think that if I were to strike it rich tomorrow, I wouldn't live in a gated community, away from all the riff-raff, and retire from society, enjoying the wealth that I either earned, invested or won, and live the rest of my days as a happy recluse?
You better believe I would, and I would not feel one bit guilty about it. So I do not blame the rich. I do call them assholes at times because, I admit, I'm jealous of their level of comfort. But I would never in a million years approve of stealing from them through this pernicious ideology known as socialism. That is our real enemy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Judge says: "She asked for it!"

Given the squishy-soft approach to crime here in Britain, it's really no surprise that this land has become of the most dangerous in the Western world. The government and the nation's judiciary alike insist on granting human rights to the exponentially growing population of baggy-panted, ball-scratching apes that make everyone else's life sheer misery. Reading the reports in the papers last night, I came across a real feel-gooder: In a township just three miles away from where we live, a 16-year-old was chased and beaten to death by a 30-strong gang Saturday night. They impaled him on a spiky fence. Isn't that wonderful? And, here's the clincher: I have always considered this township in question one of the safer areas of Greater London. I like this place in question; it gets rowdy on the weekends but name me one place in this country that doesn't. Binge-drinking ought to be declared a sport for the 2012 Olympics here; the British would win this contest by a long shot.
But I digress ... They've caught one of the youths involved in the killing and he's being questioned. He'll probably be given community service.
However, this story defies whatever little remaining shred of faith that I was foolish enough to countenance:
A man in his mid 20s raped a ten-year-old girl—that's right, ten as in "10"—and the judge gave him four months—that's right, four as in "4"—months in jail. The judge, Julian Hall, decided that the girl had "dressed provocatively" in a strappy top and low-rise jeans. He also opined that because the girl looked more like 16, as oppposed to 10, her perceived maturity was a factor.
"Did she look like she was 10? Certainly not. She looked 16, that was a matter that was accepted," Judge Hall said. Hall also stated that this case caused a real dilemma for him. "In my experience, this has been the most difficult sentencing exercise I have ever had to decide on. The circumstances in this case are exceptional. It is quite clear she is a very disturbed child and a very needy child and she is a sexually precocious child. She liked to dress provocatively."
So apparently, what we're to gather from the saintly Judge Hall is that as long as a woman either is or just looks 16 or over and dresses provocatively, then she's fair game. Did you ever think you'd hear a judge of all people defending the drunken Neanderthal argument, "well, she dressed like a slut, she obviously wanted it, she asked for it"?
Only in Britain, folks. Only in Britain.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Further evidence as to why mankind baffles me ...

The more I observe humans, the greater my dilemma in deciding whether to be fascinated or disgusted by them.
Case in point: I boarded the bus into work last night and noticed two young women seated in front of me, both corpulent, talking with their mouths open. What were they eating? McCrap.
The content of their conversation, as much as I could interpret was: "So yeh, I woz pissed off about i'. I mean, that just isn't done, is i'? Like, you just don't do that, yeah? I woz right pissed off, I woz." Imagine bits of Big Mac and fries liberally leaping to and fro in the air around them.
I wonder what pissed the speaker off. Was the McDonald's outlet they were originally thinking of wobbling into closing up shop for the night? Did they actually have to find someway of dragging their posteriors to the McD's on the other side of town?
Why do people do this? I mean, what on earth convinces a 250-pound person that they're going to seem any more attractive by shoving fast food into the crater-like orifice on their face (where most people have mouths) and talking loudly in a slack-jawed voice about how pissed off they are? Are they trying desperately to be satirical or is this some strange form of rebellion, I wonder?
I mean God forbid they work out, discover the pleasure of an endorphin rush, and try to have some pride in themselves and their appearance. Or, scary thought: Were they proud to be what they already were? They certainly didn't seem inhibited in any noticeable way.
I don't know, but I was frightened. Those two "ladies" are going to give me nightmares for weeks to come. But, I'll say this much for them: They're certainly very representative of contemporary humankind.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gracias a toda la gente corta ...

So Americans are now getting shorter. I haven't heard such good news for I don't know how long. For, you see, I am a shorty myself. Thus, I have always resented the stereotypical image of an American "standing tall"—literally.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average height of an American male is 5-foot-9, and for an American woman, it's 5-foot-3. Perfectly acceptable, if you ask me.
Europeans—especially northern Europeans—are now taller than us. The Danish, Norwegians, Swedes and Dutch are, in a literal sense, people to look up to. But so what if the average height for a Dutch man is a remarkable 6 feet? At least the Dutch are friendly and helpful. They don't let their heights go to their heads. Having been to Amsterdam several times, I know this to be true.
What is annoying, however, is that Americans' shorter heights are blamed on junk food and/or pollution. Now I'm as anti-junk food a person as you'll find anywhere—I practically worship Morgan Spurlock for his ground-breaking Super Size Me—and I'm not exactly very fond of pollution either. But I have long suspected that Americans may be getting shorter—this latest report only confirms my suspicions—for a reason that's not very politically correct to state.
For decades, Hispanics have been mixing with the general American population, and increasing our population through mass immigration, so it's no wonder Americans may be shorter on average now than in past decades when northern European blood predominated. Hispanics are short people. I have walked through Hispanic neighborhoods in the Boston area before and have encountered no end of males that were as tall as me or shorter. Sometimes I feel like a giant when standing next to some Hispanic men.
Would I change my height if I could? Sure I would. I think 5-foot-11 is the ideal male height. It's tall enough to look good and be commanding, but short enough to allow for some humility. It's perfect. I'd love it if my legs and back grew another six inches between them and I woke up measuring 5'11" tomorrow. For all of my 37 years, I've had to fight hard for command and am no stranger to humility. But, as they say, there's no use crying over spilt milk—or spilt genes—so I have resolved to do the best I can with the 65 inches I already possess. I guess that's as lofty as you can expect to get when you're half-Paddy, half-Yorkshireman comme moi.
But the good news is, given another decade or two, I may find myself edging closer to average where American heights are concerned.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Salman Rushdie's Satanic knighthood

Well, well—those ever-tolerant practitioners of "the religion of peace" are at it yet again. They're shitting in their cribs to protest Salman Rushdie's knighthood. It is genuinely frightening that anyone could be so devoted to the word of "God" that they have no notion of free will or free speech.
Rather, Muslims apparently believe that if the rest of the world does not bow down and act subservient to them, then anything is fair game. We are but dirty infidels to be eradicated. Pakistan and Iran reckon that they have the right to threaten Britain if Rushdie's knighthood is not rescinded.
Rushdie's great crime, of course, was to pen The Satanic Verses in which, Muslims whine, the prophet Mohammed is blasphemed. Forget that Rushdie grew up as a Muslim and ought to know the tenets of the religion that brainwashed him throughout his youth. Happily, Rushdie outgrew all that and became a devout secularist instead. Rushdie delights in writing fiction in which history is given a twist. But therein lies the problem. Shed a different light on Mohammed, no matter how harmless, and watch the fatwas pile up.
It's all so reminiscent of last year's debacle with the Danish cartoons. The Islamic world thought they had the right to try to bully us around then and they're doing it again now. Pakistan's Religious Affairs Minister—have you ever heard of a scarier title than that?—stated, "If someone commits [a] suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified." Now there's someone totally dedicated to the concept of peace and love, wouldn't you say? I swear, these people make Fred Phelps and his gang look not only human but like members of the Rainbow Coalition.
I must say, Mohammed must have been pretty big on terrorism if this sort of insanity is what results from showing one iota less than complete and total deference to that hallucinating desert wetback's ... er, Prophet's word.
What really chaps my ass about these lunatics is their stultifying arrogance in thinking they can tell other countries what to do and how to live. Well, listen up, Pakistan, Iran and whoever else in Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong Land is offended: Britain will do whatever it pleases, and if Britain wants to confer knighthood on Salman Rushdie, then Britain will do just that! Her Majesty never asked your opinion on this matter and that's as it should be! And if you don't like it, then you can all go shit in your head-rags, you moon-worshipping goat-fuckers!
You want anti-Islamic sentiment? Well, how was that, you bloody crybabies?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Al Gore: Part of the same culture he loathes

In today's The Sun—hardly the most erudite or sophisticated of Britain's newspapers, I grant you—there is a feature article entitled "Why is TV more keen on Paris Hilton than on saving the planet?" Actually, it's not so much an article as a write-up of an interview with none other than Al Gore.
"Al Gore is a man on a mission to save the planet—and is enraged that everyone else seems more interested in saving Paris Hilton," writes reporter Victoria Newton, who had a talk with the former Vice President.
Now, I'm a little tired of Gore's schtick. He is incapable of even trying to consider that there may be perfectly natural forces contributing to climate change, ones that mankind is powerless to act against. "He believes we have just ten years to begin saving the planet before it is too late," writes Newton. I wonder if Gore has considered a resolution to stop solar flares? Only ten years left, worth a shot! Let's all hope China and India will agree to that because they're certainly not about to reduce their carbon footprint anytime soon.
If Gore is really the environmentalist that he cracks himself up to be, why does he constantly harp on solely about global warming? Why does he never attack manufacturers and distributors alike over wasteful packaging? When was the last time you heard Gore even mention recycling? Why, if the environment is his biggest concern, does he never criticize unchecked mass immigration, encouraging more development and more energy usage such as it does? Can you, even in your wildest dreams, imagine Al Gore encouraging population control? Far too politically incorrect, better leave it off the agenda, even if that would prove to be the most environmentally friendly act of all.
Alas, global warming is scary stuff. And power-hungry people love to spook an electorate that cannot think for themselves.
But, you see, that is the very problem. No-one thinks about the big issues. Look at how the media treated the recent G8 conference in Germany as some rock-star event to make it palatable to the average Joe or Jane, because that's all these schmucks understand. Politics must be groovy or else people turn off and live vicariously through celebrities like Paris Hilton because their own lives are so vacuous and their heads so empty. Better to pretend that George Bush, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Nicolas Sarkozy, et al are performers at Live 8 rather than world leaders discussing agendas as the G8.
Immigration bill? Who cares. Global warming? We'll talk about that later. War on Terror? We've got better things to think about. We just want to see Barry Bonds hit another home run, we want to listen to the latest Nelly Furtado album, we want to read about David and Victoria Beckham's adjustment to life in L.A., we want to watch Survivor, The Apprentice, Big Brother or whatever noxious reality-TV show floats your boat, we want to eat KFC and drink Pepsi and pretend that it's good for us (and subsequently blame our 300-pound butts on anyone but ourselves), we want to pray for poor little Britney Spears and most of all, we've got to rescue Paris Hilton from the indignity of jail. These are the things that matter most to your average person. Sad, but true.
So, Mr. Gore, I very much share your frustration with the fairy-tale priorities that the majority of people seem to have. You're well within your rights to be enraged over that. People daydream between the pages of OK! and People far too much and that is a big reason why the world may never change for the better. I don't blame you one bit for hating the reality of this thoughtless, sound bite-addicted, fast-food culture.
But please also realize that the doomsday scenario that you're peddling us might be a fairy tale too. You may very well find that you yourself have become part of this lazy "culture" who'll vote for the Greens if you say it's hip but are too busy stuffing their faces with "food" in polystyrene take-out containers to care what it all really means.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ron Paul and the politics of responsibility

When it comes to Republicans for the 2008 nomination, I have been trying to decide between John McCain or Mitt Romney for my endorsement. However, I've been hearing, through the internet grapevine, about a certain libertarian Republican named Ron Paul, a 10th-term representative from Texas. There is a lot about this surgeon-turned-congressman that I like.
1. He favors abolishing income tax as well as the Internal Revenue Service. He has battled for repeal of the 16th Amendment (which authorized income tax) and the National Taxpayers Union has consistently given him a score of 100% every year that he's been in Congress, the surest sign that Paul has a conservative voting record on how tax dollars were spent.
2. Paul proposed term limits and refused junkets or other Congressional perks. The organization Clean Up Washington reports that Paul is one of the more unlikely members of Congress to accept money from political action committees, lobbyists or donors.
3. Paul opposes any European Union-style integration of North America (a.k.a. the North American Union proposition) and he is an advocate for strong border control. He voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act, opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and supports amending the Constitution to cease the practice of conferring automatic citizenship to babies born to illegal non-citizens.
4. He faithfully adheres to his principles that "Rights belong to individuals, not groups," that "property should be owned by people, not government," and that "government exists to protect liberty, not to redistribute wealth or to grant special privileges." As such, Paul supports true equality in the form of meritocracy, and opposes the welfare state and the culture of victimization. Paul believes that "the lives and actions of people are their own responsibility, not the government's."
5. Paul favors overturning Roe vs. Wade and devolving the issue to the states. He realizes that it is politically impossible to ban abortion or make it illegal on a Federal level, but if the individual states are left to decide the issue for themselves, the tide may turn against the practice of abortion if the majority of states criminalize it. There can be no sea-change of opinion on this matter, it must happen gradually.
Paul opposed the War in Iraq, but that didn't mean he opposed the toppling of Saddam Hussein. He simply wanted a Congressional declaration of war to legitimize that invasion. In this, at least Paul is consistent. He also, along with 17 other members of Congress, filed a lawsuit against Bill Clinton for not obtaining a declaration of war from Congress before launching the War in Kosovo. Although I disagree with his take on the Patriot Act, which he opposed, at least that is consistent with his libertarian beliefs. I believe that if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear from the Patriot Act. But Paul believes it constituted an assault on civil liberties as well as having increased federal expenditure, which I can respect.
In fact, Paul's desire for a non-interventionist foreign policy has, for a while now, appealed to me as well. In this piece, I hypothesized that if there's no love lost between the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, why not simply say, "OK, you're on your own?" I acknoweldge that we cannot win hearts and minds in the War on Terror if we are seen as imperialists. I think Paul brought up a valid point when he said, during the May 15 debate, "I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, yes there was blowback. The reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and we're free, they come and attack us because we're over there." Don't misunderstand me, I have consistently supported the War in Iraq, but I cannot deny the truisms in Paul's speech.
In short, I think it's healthy that Ron Paul is adding a voice of accountability to the presidential candidate debates and I can only hope his beliefs in fiscal and political responsibility rub off on the other candidates.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Though arrogantly produced, The Sopranos will dearly be missed

Although I have only seen the odd episode from Series 5 and 6, I have tried to keep up with The Sopranos as best I could while living here in Britain. Fortunately, the show has enjoyed considerable success in this country—we even have those American Airlines commercials that feature James Gandolfini! I also have the complete Series 1, 3 and 4 on DVD and the first half of Season 2 on video. Needless to say, this show has been one of my favorites for years and I am very sad to see it go.
When The Sopranos debuted in 1999, I steadfastly refused to watch it. "Do we really need yet another story about the Mafia?" I grumbled. "Why the hell would I want to watch a load of goombahs strutting about?" I held that position for about six months until one day when I was over my friend John's house. He was watching an episode of The Sopranos and I decided to give it a chance and watch it with him. My skepticism and cynicism about this "yet another Mafia story" ended that night. I couldn't believe any program, any one episode of one program, could be as good as the one I watched.
(It's worth mentioning here that I also made fun of Friends and refused to watch it during its first four seasons. Sometime during Series 5, I happened upon an episode my sister was watching and had never laughed so hard at a sitcom. It seems I have a history of bad-mouthing shows I haven't even watched only to end up loving them!)
I regularly watched The Sopranos on HBO with my parents—by this time, Series 3 had started—until I moved back out to England for good in late 2000. And, as aforementioned, I tried to watch or tape it whenever they broadcasted it on TV here. Squirrel began to really enjoy the program too and we would often watch it together.
However, for the past couple of years—knowing the show would eventually have to come to a close—I couldn't help but wonder what fate would befall Tony. I have not seen this infamous last episode, but I have heard about it. And I can't blame fans, who invested eight years of religiously watching The Sopranos, for being enraged with how it ended. Creator David Chase had teased us before—by not following up with Dr. Melfi's rape case, by not letting us know whatever happened to Valery, etc.—but this was obviously the biggest blow of all. Maybe Chase meant us to draw our own conclusions about what eventually happens to Tony, I don't know. But despite Chase's denial that he didn't set out to disappoint his fan base, he is going to have to accept the fact that he did.
I don't think I've ever come across a show that toyed with its audience more than The Sopranos did. Still, having said that, I am very much going to miss it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This was long overdue

Ah, it's a good day. The bleeding-heart, America-hating, Islamofanatic-butt kissing George Galloway got his ass kicked the other day.
Galloway, who often fancies himself a tough guy, was recognized on a London to Glasgow flight by a group of six men who began to insult him. While waiting for his luggage at the carousel and already terrified, Galloway was surrounded by the men, kicked to the ground and nearly pushed on to the moving luggage belt.
The Respect—about as oxymoronic a phrase for a political party as you can get—MP insists that it was a sectarian attack. Galloway's native Glasgow, like Belfast, is divided between Protestants and Catholics and is home to two football (soccer) teams whose respective fan bases are either wholly Protestant or wholly Catholic. Galloway claims that, as he is a Celtic fan, the men must have been Protestants and/or Rangers fans and that that was the basis of their attack on him.
However, the group's "ring leader" told Galloway, before launching the physical attack on him, "I don't like your radio talk, I don't like your newspaper talk, I have a religious duty to knock you down." (Galloway has a talk show on the TalkSport radio station and often writes guest columns for the newspapers.) If it was a sectarian attack only, George, then why did the group's leader mention your politics, albeit in an indirect way?
I don't approve of thuggish behavior, but I'm more than willing to turn a blind eye to this. Galloway wasn't seriously hurt, after all. If he had been, it would have been a different story. But seeing as how Galloway only had to dust himself off and calm his nerves, these men deserve medals for doing what should have been done long ago—confronting that vile piece of far-Left crap.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A comedy of errors

My wife has succeeded in elevating her usual unobservancy to an art form: of this, I'm convinced. If the events of approximately 8:36 this morning were written into the script of a sitcom, the show in question would win a Grammy.
Squirrel normally hops the 8:36 train into work, and this is the same train from work that I'm almost always on. A few weeks ago, we agreed to meet each other every morning around the second car to the front of the platform, where I greet her with a kiss and bid her adieu till evening time.
Now, the commuter trains here have two sets of doors each to a car. I saw her on the platform rolling in. She didn't notice me. I saw her board the train through the other set of doors, so I called after her. She didn't hear me.
I walked down to where she was seated and thumped on the window. Nothing. I got on back on the train. "Hon!" I called. Nada. Still talking to her mom on her cell phone, oblivious to the world around her. So I walked over to her seat and was within—I swear—five feet of her when I heard the doors beeping, indicating that the train was ready to leave.
You never saw anyone exit a train car so swiftly. I think I left a puff of smoke at the place where I'd been standing. Thank goodness this dragon is so lithe and quick on his feet!
Now, as if all this wasn't enough to generate an appreciative laugh track, the next thing that happened was pure slapstick brilliance. As soon as my feet hit the ground after leaping off the train, I turned right into the front tire of a cyclist who was endeavoring to board the train. Gonads, meet front tire; front tire, gonads!
I wheezed my apology to the cyclist, saw him board, and watched the train pull away. I looked at Squirrel through the window once more, still oblivious to everything. I felt like Victor Meldrew from "One Foot in the Grave," muttering "I don't be-lieeeve it" as I limped along the platform, clutching my package.
Needless to say, when she called me around 9 a.m., I had quite a story to relate to her. I told her that I could have been dressed in a tu-tu and turning pirouettes and she wouldn't have noticed me. I'm amazed she even saw the train to get on it!
Hon, honestly, start paying attention, would you?! The world can be an interesting place, you know. And I ought to know!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A convenient truth: Blaming wildlife

There's an excellent column in the June 2007 edition of the BBC Wildlife magazine by conservationist Richard Mabey that states, "Wildlife persecution in the UK ought to be a thing of the past. Sadly , age-old ignorance and intolerance are on the rise." I couldn't agree more with the points that Mabey brings up about just how ignorant people can be when animals cross their path.
Mabey quotes the manager of the shoe shop Office, in West London's fashionable Portobello Road, who describes what happened when a red fox wandered into the store in January: "We had lots of people in the middle of trying on shoes who started shrieking and ran out into the street in their socks. We shut the shop because we couldn't tell if the fox would make our customers sick." Mabey himself writes:
This is a less offensive example of a worrying new development: the New Vermin Panic. With a sense of outrage that seems borrowed from the Dark Ages, wildlife is being increasingly demonised for the slightest intrusions into human affairs.

Yeah, bloody animals. What right do they think they have to share this planet with us? It's an outrage! Canada is trying to wipe out the seal population on their Atlantic seaboard not because they overfished their waters (and are seeking fur-trade profits), but because the seals are threatening the fish stocks that their human population has every right to! Floridians aren't to blame for expanding their communities into land where alligators are plentiful, it's the alligators that are encroaching on them!
Mabey provides more examples. House martins, disliked and persecuted "because they spoil the look of pebbledash." Cormorants: "legally killed to keep coarse fishermen happy." Yew trees: Bristol City Council ripped up 100 of the trees surrounding a playground because they supposedly constituted a threat to children, even though any child would have to have no taste at all to be willing to consume enough yew foliage to constitue a poisoning threat; children would stop eating yew leaves due to their nauseating taste long before they poisoned themselves. Mabey states with flair, "[I] have been unable to trace a single case of human poisoning from yew leaves in the past 100 years."
Grey squirrels are disliked in some quarters because they dared to be successful over here. Let's just forget that some madcap Victorian brought some greys, who never asked to be taken away from their native North America, over with him in the mid-19th century. It's just too convenient to make the greys out to be the bad guys simply because they are seen as aggressive (as opposed to simply being assertive) and are "killing off" the reds, even though that is a wildly inaccurate exaggeration.
Red foxes in the UK and raccoons in the US are seen as pests because they take opportunities from the food that we waste on a daily basis. Let's villify them simply for being clever and adaptable! Mabey writes:
Roger Lovegrove's fascinating trawl through the parish records of routine wildlife slaughter, Silent Fields, shows just how deep-rooted the vermin reflex is in our culture. But I was disappointed by his sitting-on-the-fence conclusions. He abhors what he calls 'sentiment' over these issues, and says that conservationists must be prepared to make compromises with 'legitimate human interests.' I disagree. The evidence of history is all too clear about what happens when compromises are made: humans don't make the sacrifices, nature does—or rather, it becomes the sacrifice, a scapegoat."

Mabey is correct to point out, during the last paragraph of his column, that "nuisance, mess, missed targets and minor loss of income [are] not legitimate excuses for wildlife purges," although Mabey does acknowledge that real threats to life and health may sometimes merit it. It's a valid position to take.
It's time people grew out of this fear of "vermin" and accepted nature. It does the human condition no favors to foolishly, routinely and so often wrongly blame nature for our own problems.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Whoa, what's happening to this country?!

Of late, I never thought I'd say that I'd approve of anything Labour or the Home Office has done—considering that all they ever usually do is completely fuck things up and force us to live our lives under the yoke of politically correct inanity—but, on terrorism, they actually appear to get it this time. Home Secretary John Reid has proposed anti-terror legislation that will extend the current 28-day limit on holding terror suspects without charge, allow evidence gained from intercepting telephone calls to be used in court, and give police greater powers to stop-and-quiz suspected terrorists and to enter their homes without need of a warrant if tipped off. Reid has also proposed that every terrorist suspect, if let out of prison due to lack of substantial evidence with which to prosecute them, be forced to sign a register so that anti-terrorism forces can keep track of them.
It's the most sensible, no-holds-barred anti-terror legislation I've yet to hear about. In other words, Britain may finally be getting something approaching its own version of the U.S.' Patriot Act. Reid has even told ministers that Britain should suspend some aspects of the European Convention on Human Rights (re: the Liberal Wishy-Washy Let's-All-Feel-Sorry-For-Disaffected-Muslims Act) in order to seriously toughen British anti-terror legislation.
Tony Blair himself has said, "If he [a foreign national] abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country." Agreed. I hope this quote will translate into instant deportation of any non-national without hesitation. Am I concerned about these miscreants being tortured in the shithole, backward country they originally come from? Absolutely not! I couldn't possibly care less about some Mustafa being tied to the rack in his place of origin if he planned terror against British soldiers or civilians. This is the sort of zero-tolerance action that must be taken if we are to protect our—I repeat, our—democratic, libertarian freedoms, not those of the pro-sharia Islamo-fascists!
Secondly, the government is planning to blacklist deadbeat dads to creditors so that they will not be able to take out a loan or a mortgage, essentially insuring that they cannot effectively manage their own finances or set up a life on their own. Good! Any measure that forces these scumbags to help assume responsibility for the life they brought into the world can only be a good thing.
Imagine that. Not just one, but two very sensible government proposals in the space of one week. Let's hope this sudden onset of common sense continues. Britain is sorely in need of it. Attention all MPs: A zero-tolerance crime law to tackle brainless yobs would not go amiss either, hear me?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The young, the uninspired and the truly deranged

● This is why life in Britain can often be such a comically frustrating experience. Or frustratingly comic. Anyway, you get the point: If you didn't laugh at the comedic side of things, you'd cry—and probably scream as well—from frustration.
Now then, I wasn't nuts about London being awarded the Olympics anyway. I just hope I'm still at my suburban night job in 2012, because I plan to not once step foot in central London the entire time this foul event is being staged. Not that the legacy of the Olympics will ever disappear, mind you, because all the third-worlders coming into the country on sports visas will no doubt be staying and making themselves perfectly at home on my tax money once the Games are long over with.
But I digress ...
The Olympic logo? It cost £400,000 to design. Let me just spell that out: Four hundred thousand pounds (US$796,000). It reminds me of the time Nottinghamshire County Tourism decided to do away with the traditional Robin Hood logo—£125,000 later, and what did the tourist board unveil for their stunning new design? A large block-letter "N." Eat your heart out, Robin Hood. Take a short break in the county and learn your alphabet at the same time. Superb!
I'm actually relieved to note that readers of The Guardian appear opposed to this Olympics design. You'd think that artsy-fartsy Lefty crowd would be mulling over every detail, scratching their chins and musing approvingly, "Yes, yes, quite. Now what do you think, Reginald? More wine and cheese, anyone?" (Perhaps, in the words of the Prez, I misunderestimate them.)
The Olympic logo was "designed to appeal to young people," the AP article says. Mentally challenged young people? If this monstrosity does appeal to young people, then I think that aptly demonstrates all we need to know about generations Y and Z. Time to seriously weep for the future.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said the brand would "inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values." Say what? How the hell can you be inspired by something that looks like the inside of Pete Doherty's brain? You'd need to take five hits of acid to be inspired by that logo.
Not to be outdone in the ridiculous statements category, Olympics minister Tessa Jowell said, "I hope kids will see it is a badge of honour and a badge of ambition." Better hope the constestants in Big Brother start wearing it then, Tessa.
In fact, come to it, the only young people who could possibly like that logo are the ones who avidly watch Big Brother, but look what a hit that is (more on this below). I guess the monosyllabic, seventh-grade-dropout, ten-pints-and-a-kebab-for-dinner crowd have a right to entertainment too, visual or otherwise.
If so, this Olympics logo is the success its hare-brained designers clearly hope it will be. The rest of us, those with maturity and taste, can only cower in embarrassment.
● Speaking of young people and Big Brother, a young female DJ gave up her £15,000-a-year radio job to endlessly watch Big Brother all summer. Hannah Clarkson said, "It is the best programme around ... my career can wait. All my friends think I am incredibly sad." (Here's a UK radio DJ list just so you know I'm not making her up.)
Hannah, sugar, I've got news for you: Your friends aren't the only ones who think that way. Every single person with more than half an active brain cell reading about you thinks you're incredibly sad, if not incredibly deranged.
Hannah's boss at the radio station said, "I do not understand why anyone would give up their career to watch a load of mindless idiots on TV for three months."
I think this letter in yesterday's (London) Metro paper more aptly asked the salient question about Big Brother's target audience: "Is it just me or are the people who watch Big Brother the loneliest people in the world? I just assume that you must not have any friends or an interesting life if you have the time to watch irritating, untalented people every night for three months."
Could not have said it better myself.
But, on the bright side—if there is one—our tragically obsessed heroine found fame the way her heroes did: by being a mindless idiot. And, what's more, she is now a lot more like her fellow Big Brother worshippers—a bone-idle layabout.
● Bear with me, dear reader. One more Big Brother-related item to share with you here, too good to leave out: One of the newspaper agony aunts (an "agony aunt" is the UK equivalent to a "Dear Abbey" advice columnist) responded to a letter by a mother who, I can only assume, is both young and ditzy. She sought advice on how to put her 8- and 10-year-old boys to bed when they insist on staying up to watch Big Brother. (I was not in the least bit suprised to note that there was no mention of their father!) The columnist responded that she is the one in control, not them.
Exactly! Chrissakes, does anyone know what parenting is anymore? I'm so sick of the exponentially increasing population of adults that just roll over for their brats. I wanted to hit this Yankee father I heard in the shop the other day. He said "why, sure thing, little buddy" to his 7-year-old son who demanded—not asked for—demanded a candy bar. If I demanded anything of my father in that tone, at that age, I'd probably only just now be getting out of the hospital! And I write that with no trace of bitterness whatsoever. The dude knew how to bring me up properly and he was well within his rights to do so. 'Nuff said.
You can't get your sons to go to bed because of a moronic TV program? You shut the TV off. You say, "Bed, now!" You frog-march them upstairs if you have to. If they scream and cry, you smack them upside the head and tell them that if they keep it up, they'll get far worse. In other words, you lay down the fucking law and command some respect from them!
Mwahaha. Thank goodness I don't have kids, eh?