Category Archives: Politics

A Short Story. About Genies and the Police

I had been rubbing for hours. Just rubbing, rubbing, rubbing away. I’d like to claim it was some higher purpose that let me to rub so furiously, but if I’m really honest it was mostly just boredom. But my rubbing paid off. After about four and a half hours, the lamp I’d been going at puffed up a huge amount of smoke.
The smoke was cloying, and choking. It blinded me. But as my eyes adjusted, I saw before me a giant man, all in blue. He was wearing a silly little hat, and definitely looked a little portly. His blue skin didn’t really help hide his jowls, but it gave him an otherworldly air – as if he didn’t really understand regular human beings, or care. His legs weren’t even there – they trailed away into smoke and he just floated in the air.
“Ho there,” said the man, as the smoke dissipated. His voice reminded me of Robin Williams, for a reason that escapes me to this day. “My name is Genie, and I am here to grant wishes. You have released me from my prison. I am eternally grateful, and we genies are here to serve and protect the gentle citizens of this realm. We believe in the right of all citizens to exercise their freedom to wish.”
It was a bit bureaucratic, I thought, but I put it out of my mind at the prospect of wishes. The feeling that whoever named this genie was rather unimaginative proved much harder to shake.
“How many wishes do I receive?” I asked.
“Two wishes, sir!” He replied.
“TWO?” I was a bit weirded out. “One wish makes sense, I guess, and three’s a bit more traditional. But why two?”
“Look, mate. The person who’s writing this bit only needs two wishes to make his point, so that’s all you’re bloody getting. How many wishes did you have an hour ago?” I conceded the point.
I thought for a bit about what I’d wish for. There were so many things wrong with the world. Conflict in Afghanistan, in Palestine or in Syria; the abusive culture of rape in Western society, resulting in horrific oppression of women on our own doorstep; BT. All in all, I decided I’d go for where I could do the most good.
“In that case,” I said, “I would like to wish for world peace and goodwill for all.”
“WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!” The genie screamed at me, crossing his hands wildly in front of him in the internationally-recognised gesture for Slow the fuck down, mate. “You can’t open your mouth and just wish for stuff. There are procedures to follow, processes to stick to. Forms to fill out. First you need to submit a formal request of your intent to make a wish. Then the wish-granting council will assess your request, perhaps make some changes to the parameters and get back to you. If all goes to plan you can have your wish granted on the agreed date.”
Right. Well, my initial worries about the genie’s bureaucracy were well-founded. But what could I do? I couldn’t get a wish granted without the genies, so I guess I had to play by their rules. I told the genie I understood, and inquired as to how long I should expect to wait, before going on my merry way.
Several servings of goulash later, I found myself one more dealing with the genie.
“Do you have an answer for me?” I asked.
“I do, sir, and it’s great news. Your wish application for world peace has been granted. There have been some changes, though. Firstly, the wish as you wrote it will involve considerable disruption to people’s day, so we’re going to have to scale back the scope of the wish to a static wish.”
“Okay”, I said, “what’s a static wish?”
“A static wish is one which is confined to a single specific location,” said the genie. “What that means is that we can guarantee peace only in Sloane Square between 12pm and 4pm on the 18th. So outside of there we can’t guarantee that there won’t be violence or trouble.”
“That’s it? Are you kidding me? That’s not going to solve anything or fix anything! That’s just as good as not wishing for world peace at all.” I was incensed. What was the point of this so-called right to wish if the wishes I made were rendered completely toothless?
“Look, mate,” said the genie, “You’re the one who wanted world peace, not me. And I’m telling you that world peace will cause people to get in to work late. And we can’t be having that. It’s just too disruptive. If you don’t like, don’t wish for stuff.”
Okay then, I thought, I’ll just have to swallow this pill. My plans had been foiled a bit – it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but it was something at least. But, maybe I could do something more if I had some power to change things. If I had the power to actually make a difference, I might not need wishes to help make the world become a better place.
“For my second wish, Genie, I should like to become Prime Minister.”
“No.”
“No?” I asked. “Just a flat no to that one?”
“Absolutely. We don’t allow any wishes within 100m of political figures. It’s for security reasons. There’s absolutely no negotiating on that.”
I was utterly shocked. How can wishes actually change the world if they’re not allowed, in any way, to interact with politicians or the politics of the day?
“Look, Genie, why won’t you grant my wishes? I thought you said when we first got together that you supported my right to wish!”
“I do,” said the genie. “Look, if I had my way, I’d let you wish for whatever you like, wherever you like. But we’ve got to make sure that we don’t let undesirables run roughshod over other people’s rights. There are people out there who just want to get to work in the morning and we’ve got to protect them too.
“Besides, we’ve let plenty of people wish for things over the last few years, it happens all the time. Don’t say that we don’t let people wish for things – we absolutely do. But you can’t just wish for anything and expect us to grant it.”
This was getting stressful. I was finding it harder and harder to deal with this infuriating creature. Either I had a right to wish, or I didn’t – surely there can’t be such massive caveats as this on something that’s considered a universal right.
“Well then,” I asked with a sigh, just wanting this ordeal to be over, “what can I wish for?”
“Right,” said the genie, looking forward to showing how helpful he can be, “we’ve granted loads of wishes to people. Just a few weeks ago, a bloke called Tommy asked if he could throw missiles at foreigners, and we were more than happy to grant that one. He also wanted anyone who didn’t look like him to leave the country, and we’re trying to work out a way to grant that one too.”
“Wait, what?” I was flabbergasted. “You’re happy to grant those wishes, but world peace is just too disruptive? Those things sound pretty disruptive too.” The genie got angry at that.
“HOW DARE YOU STIFLE TOMMY’S FREEDOM TO WISH?” he thundered, “That man may not be very palatable to you, but he has as much a right to wish for stuff as you do.”
“He’s got more right, apparently.” I countered.
Then he hit me with his truncheon, shrunk me down to the size of a borrower, and put me in a kettle.

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Filed under Policing, Politics

Bankers XI vs. Footballers XI

Oh, the mercurial captain. He’s been a difficult one to pin down this season. This guy was unbelievable for three or four years. His performance had been breaking records left, right and centre. So he moved on to a bigger institution where he could really play in the big leagues. Maybe even Europe.

Obviously his salary had to take a massive hike – he’s a star in his field, and that means he needs to receive a star’s pay. So he’s offered a weekly salary of thousands and thousands, and waits for his new employers to pay the massive release fee in his contract to the old employers.

But in his new digs, in this season, he just hasn’t performed. Nothing’s going to plan and his new owners are struggling. The problem really is that no-one has yet conclusively preoven that paying these massive wages to people truly improves a team’s performance. Worse, talk of his talent is almost entirely anecdotal – what statistics there are aren’t conclusive because the game he plays is too complex to be easily represented in numbers. There will be no Moneyball revolution here for some time.

Obviously, he clearly a very talented man. But talented enough to single-handedly turn around a struggling institution? it seems not. But there are other factor’s the media will blame, long before they suggest that buying in top talent is a poor solution to institutional problems. “He doesn’t get on with his managerial staff,” they say. Or, “He’s working with an unfamiliar system.”. Perhaps they’ll blame it on “problems with European competition” or something similar. Either way, there’s no fixing this system.

His opposing captain is in a different situation. He’s been struggling for 4 or 5 years now, and he’s looking to move on. His salary is massive, inflated during that period in 06/07 when he was the best in the world. And when he moves he’ll expect another huge pay hike.

Why? Because he’s still a star. His poor performance isn’t his fault. The people around him don’t know how to use him properly, and whoever he ends up working for will believe that he’s the right man for their system. They’ll hope that by taking him on, even on unfathomable wages, he’ll be able to slot right in and improve their chances over the next couple of years.

Plus, maybe he’ll bring people in with him – young hopefuls might join the team hoping for a chance to work with the old hero. More talent can only be a good thing, right?

Meanwhile, the people at the bottom – the loyal football fans, the banking customers – are getting a raw deal they face ticket price hikes, a squeeze on incomes, a ruined economy. These problems are the same problem – the unrelenting focus on paying over the odds for “top talent” and the bloated avarice of both football and banking has ruined them. Things have to change, and the only way to do so is to look at the root causes – unregulated, unmonitored capitalist greed.

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Filed under Banks, Politics, Sport

It’s Time We Banned This Violent and Voracious Religion

There is a religion out there. It’s one of the largest in the world, and it has a disgusting and violent history. And, quite frankly, I think Britain has had enough. And it’s about time we finally banned it. This is a religion which believes in taking over the world. It consumes cultures and will not stop until everyone is converted. It is so violent that so-called ‘warriors’ are sent to other nations ot punish people who do not live by their rules. It believes it has the right to police the morality of the globe.

This is a religion with so many fanatics, so many blind faithful that entire regions of the world have become hotbeds of sectarian violence for decades – violent troubles which have blighted neighboring nations, sometimes on only the smallest semantic differences between faiths.

This is a religion which lets the rape of young children go unpunished, a religion which has disgusting attitudes towards women in general, and a religion which tries to curb the rights of everyday people in the name of “modesty”. This is a religion with music that calls its “soldiers” to war, to fight and defend its relentless march into world domination.

The religion I am talking about is, of course, Christianity.

Okay, quick confession. I actually don’t think we need to be banning any religion. But I’m beginning to get really tired of the Muslim-bashing coming from some quarters of western society these days. Yes, Islam has some extrmely violent devotees but the people launching drone strike in Pakistan are Christian. Yes, there have been a couple of stories in the papers recently about “Muslim rape gangs”, but the vast majority of rape  is committed by someone of the same race as the victim. Which means the religion young British white girls should isn’t Islam, but Anglicanism. And I’m not even going to mention the Catholic pedophilia scandal.

Yes, the Middle East is currently experiencing serious sectarian violence but Britain has no right to comment on sectarian violence for as long as there are still riots in Northern Ireland. And while Islam does have tenets about spreading the faith, let’s not forget that evangelising is a fundamentally Christian concept and missions of old have completely destroyed indigenous cultures and religions in South America, the Pacific Isles and huge swathes of Asia.

This isn’t superior “hurrr, I’m an atheist, aren’t I clever” posturing: some of the worst proponents of this sort of Islamophobic rubbish are other atheists (Dawkins, Maher, I’m talking to you). Ultimately, these guys aren’t motivated by anti-religionist sentiment but by purebred racism. They are afraid of this “other” religion and somehow willing to maintain that it is somehow qualitatively more violent or hateful than their Western society. I’m getting really bored of it, quite frankly.

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Filed under Islamophobia, Politics, Religion

Methinks the Met Doth Protest Too Much

The Metropolitan Police released a statement today about a series of dawn raids that took place this morning in a crackdown on burglars. While I obviously think it is important that we make efforts to find stolen goods and to prosecute burglars, some of the language used in the statement gets my back up. It’s almost as if the Met are worried people might thik that this wasn’t a stellar use of 1000 officers and they’re trying to get thier defence in before any shit comes their way [emphasis mine]:

Supported by Tower Hamlets Council the meticulously-executed operation resulted in the seizure of a significant haul of electrical goods, including smart phones and laptops, all believed to be stolen from addresses across London.

All of those arrested are currently in custody in various police stations pending further enquiries.

Detective Chief Inspector Des McHugh, who led today’s operation, said:

“These arrests follow a lengthy intelligence-led operation designed to combat criminal networks within Tower Hamlets and the surrounding boroughs.”

I want to reiterate that I don’t have a problem with the Metropolitan Police targeting criminals (in fact I think that’s their job). But when I hear the words “Metropolitan Police” and “dawn raid” in the same sentence the cynical part of me wonders how much of this was the targeted and necessary use of (let me say again) over 1000 officers, and how much was a bunch of men who wanted to put on their bullet-proof vests and feel like they’re in Homeland.

Congratulations to the Metropolitan police for effecting 80 arrests this morning. However, whether it really needed 10-12 officers per suspect is another matter altogether – it speaks broadly to our increasingly militarised and belligerent MPS.

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Filed under Law, Politics

Wayne La Pierre’s Ice Cream Fantasy

Mother Jones had an article recently about Wayne La Pierre’s fantasy: quitting the NRA to open an ice cream shop. And they helpfully provided some Ben & Jerry’s style ice cream flavours they might try releasing. Here’s a selection of my favourites:

Mmmmmm-16

License to Chill

Glocky Road

I’d also like to Walther Pecan-K and AK-Fudgy-7 in there.

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Filed under Politics, Republicanism

Let the Greens into the Political Mainstream

I’ve posted once or twice about the Greens in recent months. Full disclosure: I am not a Green party supporter. However, I do believe they offer a better hope for Britain than any of the main three parties or any of the new challengers coming in from the right, such as UKIP.

The Green Party of England and Wales (there is a separate affiliated Scottish party) has an MP, two MEPs and 141 councillors across England and Wales. They polled third in the most recent London mayoral elections. While on the national popular vote they often poll a little lower, they are by representation the fourth largest non-geographical party in the UK and are the only loud voice of progressive politics left in traditional politics.

The Young Greens have opened an e-petition asking for the Greens to have a seat at the table. They want the Green party to be included in future Prime Ministerial debates, and I for one believe this will do real good. Nick Clegg’s performance at the first Prime Ministerial brought the Tories towards the centre, and I believe that including the Green’s can help pull the narrative of politics back into the world of social justice.

I am not alone in thinking this. Polls suggest that over half of Britons feel much the same way. Show your support for democracy by allowing one of the UK’s major parties to enter the political mainstream:

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Filed under Environmentalism, Politics

What is the Party of Social Justice in the UK?

Is it Labour? No. Since Blair, Labour are no longer a real party for labour interests in the UK. They still take donations from the unions, but that doesn’t make them “for” labour interests. Or even “for” social justice.

The LibDems? Never were. And that’s before they got into bed with the Tories.

Nope. If you want a party which has a commitment to social justice written into its constitution, you need the Green party. So: for social justice, you need to be supporting the party which polled 7th in the popular vote at the last general election – a number skewed rather high as the Greens fields nearly 10 times as many candidates than any of the 8th through 12th largest parties.

This is our representative for social justice in mainstream politics. And people wonder why we young people lose faith in mainstream politics.

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In Which I Wonder What Some Men Think Women Think After They’ve Been Harassed

I’ve been wondering about this for a while. What’s kicked me off into actually getting off my arse and sitting down to write about it is the Lord Rennard/Lib Dem Cover-Up story (link here to an early story summary if you’ve missed it).

I don’t wonder what men think when they see a story like the Lord Rennard story. I wonder what men think the victims are thinking immediately after the harassment. I know that’s like a third-order consciousness or something, but bear with me.

The reason I wonder what some men think goes through a woman’s mind after being sexually harassed is this: There are so many men out there who seem to think women view sexual harassment as an opportunity to enact revenge in the medium-to-long-term future. Revenge for what? Whatever the man in question happens to dream up: that’s what.

For instance, Michael White, in the Guardian had to wonder why the claims against Lord Rennard are surfacing now. But here’s what I don’t get: does Mr. White believe that the women involved, who were touched inappropriately, or invited to inappropriate places, or worse; does he really believe that their first thought afterwards was “Hmm. I think I’ll hold on to this to save up for a by-election when I can really do some collateral damage”?

This kind of thinking really frustrates me. We saw it in the Julian Assange debacle, where hordes of men decided en masse that the women must have been exaggerating to bring down the Chosen One. And we’re seeing it now, where a bunch of self-righteous (mostly) male keepers of truth have all openly wondered why the women are only coming forward now and why there were not more specific allegations made at the time.

I’ve never been raped, but I have been the victim of a serious incident of sexual harassment from another man – a man older and more senior than myself, in much the same way as Lord Rennard was to these women. I did one thing and one thing only at the time: I fled the fuck away as quickly as I possibly could. It was only later that afternoon that I was able to return and report the offence to someone who could do something about it. I was promised things would be handled and things were quietly swept under the carpet. I don’t believe there was any real punishment for the offender involved, although he may have had a quiet talking to, I suppose.

After that, I felt impotent, which I suppose I should feel a sense of irony over. Ultimately the incident wasn’t enough to see this man dealt with in any way. And it doesn’t feel like there is anything else I can do – all power feels like it has taken away from me. But if in 10 years I see his face in the paper with similar allegations, you can bet your life I’m calling the paper up and adding my experience into the story. Because sometimes that’s the only way these people see justice for their behaviour.

My experience is just one person’s experience. And it’s not even a woman’s experience. I’m not going to pretend to truly understand what other people go through when they are raped, abused or harassed. I’m explicitly telling you not to generalise from what I’ve written and apply it to other people.

Instead, the message needs to be that second-guessing people’s motives for publicly coming forward with rape or sexual abuse allegations is damaging to the women coming forward and to all other women who may have to face coming forward with their own story in the future. This creates a culture of hostility towards victims and makes no ones lives any better.

There are many reasons why people don’t come forward with accusations of rape or sexual harassment for years at a time, and it is not our place to second-guess those reasons. Our job is to support victims as best we can and try, bit by bit, to change our world into one where sex is consensual and women are treated as equals instead of meat.

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Filed under Feminism, Journalism, Politics

A Tale of Two Letters

Since I’ve been walking to walk for the last month, I’ve unsurprisingly stopped reading the Evening Standard. And a good thing that is too, being as it is the printed minutes of Boris Johnson’s campaign headquarters. But on Monday I did pick up a copy – a shitty journey back from Guildford left me feeling like catching the fastest tube back home rather than bothering to walk.

A couple of “opinions” on the letters page caught my eye. Why am I only writing about these now? Only the voices in my head know why. And they won’t tell me.

Here they are [emphasis mine]:

Light entertainment at the BBC in the Eighties was a very different place from today – with a culture centred on the bar, full of characters and an almost anarchic sense of fun, with the producers themselves often larking about. 

I recall the rumours about Savile but they also flew around about lots of other people, including BBC executives. Isn’t there the risk of everyone with an axe to grind now jumping on the bandwagon? A well-known actor threw a bacon roll at me once: should I launch into print and say in hindsight it was an assault? And how can George Entwistle, a director-general who has been in post five minutes, chair an enquiry on the issue?

The BBC has been showing us how Britain fed itself during the war. I can only assume this is government propaganda bracing us for the shortage of land caused by its reckless immigration policy.

I play a game called “Two a Day” with the Metro and the Standard. Every single day there are two letters (or texts) which are so far to the right they’re off the lunatic fringe. And Monday was no exception. But it was special in how hard these two people had to work to get their absurd ideas out.

Jeanette Eccles from N7 had to compare child molestation to having a bacon sandwich thrown at her in order to dismiss the possibility of investigating the Saville affair. And Vanessa of no permanent address had to spend the last few years ignoring the fact that net immigration is negative (that is: more people are leaving than coming in) just in order to hold on to her opinion for this long. Then she had to come up with one of the most awesome non sequiturs I’ve seen in the Standard since they had Theresa May write an opinion piece about terrorists.

Congratulations Jeanette and Vanessa. Your prize for today’s piece of gibbering, frothy-mouthed hatred is my ire. Go wallow in it.

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Filed under Journalism, Politics, Racism

British Transport Police miss the point

This BBC article is currently kicking around in the ‘Most Read’ section of the website. I, for one, fully support these little acts of resistance: they’re witty, non-violent and hopefully make people think. All the things low-level subversion should be.

They are also marrying my two somewhat-contradictory thoughts on the Tube: Love public transport, can’t stand TfL and how they manage the Tube. They’re like any good parody: they mock their subject matter while making their affections for it clear.

Take the following examples:

 

“No eye contact. Penalty £200.”
“We apologise for any incontinence caused during these engineering works.”
“Peak hours may necessitate you let other people sit on your lap.”

But, as always, the plod miss the point. And the fun:

BTP said graffiti was “unwanted vandalism that causes criminal damage” and “will not be tolerated”.
“It is a blight on our society and becomes an eyesore for many residents who overlook the railway,” a BTP spokesman added.

Wait, what? Putting stickers inside tube carriages and tube stations “becomes an eyesore for many residents who overlook the railway”. It’s almost like there is another kind of graffiti which basically everyone agrees should stop: spray paint on buildings by railways. If the police pretend all graffiti is the specific kind of graffiti it’s easy to oppose then, why, they don’t need to think about criminality with any kind of nuance or critical thinking at all.

Graffiti: bad. Always. Even if it’s not an eyesore for anyone who overlooks a railway.

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Filed under Law, Politics, Travel