Monthly Archives: October 2010

More neo-con fuckwittery

I am sure we were all aware that the neo-con world-view was not something you would want your best friend to start espousing over a drink at the end of a long working day, for fear you would have to wear out your elbows on their ribs.  Still, it is nice to have it confirmed that they really are a bunch of unmitigated dickheads.

You have to wonder about the state of an intellect which can consider leaking documents which reveal a program of state-sponsored murders to be more serious a crime than the murders themselves.  It is certainly a higher level of doublethink than I can muster.  Especially since I always thought that the neo-cons were such avid Bible readers and yet I know the place where it says ‘thou shalt not kill’ but I would struggle to point to the verse that tells us ‘thou shalt not leak’.

The story is not about the founder of Wikileaks, or about the men and women who must have battled with their consciences about whether to reveal information that they had a duty to protect, while knowing that it deserved to be widely disseminated in pursuit of a greater good.  The story is that America and Britain stomped into Iraq on trumped-up grounds and treated that country as a personal fiefdom while attempting to remain aloof from the unintended but entirely forseeable consequences that erupted following the invasion.

The truth is that while the blood spilled by the Iraq War remains on so many hands, it is premature to declare its end and place it beyond the bounds of further investigation.  Against such a backdrop it should be clear to all that the guilty parties are not those who point out the stain.

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The art of surprise

The only surprise is that people seem to be surprised.

This is probably the third time in living memory, after all, that the Conservative Party has effectively told the poorer parts of the UK to fuck off and die, preferably quietly and out of sight, yet still some of you seem to be holding on to a belief that it wasn’t meant to be this way and that so-called ‘compassionate Conservatism’ can be brought to bear instead.

Unfortunately not.  Because you may think that you are nicely middle class, with your Ocado deliveries and eco-friendly holidays in Cornwall sans 4×4, but to our Tory overlords, you are as much of a dirt-eating peasant as the be-tracksuited hordes.  The battle-lines are being drawn and if your sole source of income is selling your labour, to them that makes you working class, regardless of whether you swing a hammer or pound a keyboard all day.

And anyone, yes Guardian lead writers I am looking at you, who thinks that the “Labour” Party has an opposing world view to offer clearly can’t have been paying very close attention for the last thirteen years.

Yet the problem doesn’t lie with the political parties, since they are just doing what they have to do in order to suck up to the people who really matter in a democracy: the people with the cash.  The problem is ours, for once again falling for the sweet nothings that they pour into our ears in order to get the necessary (or thereabouts) number of ‘X’s in the box.  When the Tories spoke of tax cuts for hard-working families, you might have thought they meant you, but actually they were referring to their poorer old school pals struggling by on just a few million.

If you re-read or read ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, you will see that there is a reason why ordinary people like us got together to fight for our rights against the party of the bosses: not to create some idle dinner party chit-chat, but as an essential means of survival. So here we go again, as if reading from the script of the Thirties and the Eighties, they attack the weakest and we fight back, having also read that script and knowing that together we cannot be defeated.

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A song for Roy

There comes a time when you have to let the music do the talking for you:

You have tried your best to please everyone
But it just isn’t happening
No, it just isn’t happening
And it’s fucked up, fucked up

Thom Yorke putting it better and more succinctly than I ever could.

New owners, the Derby – the ‘pinnacle of English football rivalry’ as one slightly hyperbolic Fanzone commentator called it – and still Liverpool’s lack of motivation was the only thing that shone through.  We barely made it into the opposition half, for which I don’t apportion any blame to Fernando Torres, making his way back from injury and not, the last time I checked, capable of performing miracles single-handed.

Tactically we were all at sea from the start, content to let Everton take their shots and sitting back in the vain hope of a counter-attack which never materialised.  A team frustratedly reduced to banging long balls in the general direction of our lone striker must surely be in danger of receiving a right royal bollocking from the man in charge, though, you would at least hope.  Or not, if you had read Well Red’s comments on the match, including quotes from Hodgson’s post-match interview, here:

The second half was as good as I have seen Liverpool play under my management. It was a sterling effort from the players to produce that second-half performance

Of course the ‘under my management’ is a telling phrase when you are defending a run as dire as Roy’s: against a backdrop of one win, three draws and four defeats, perhaps another 2-0 thumping can be shrugged off as not the worst performance the team has managed this season.

But to anyone with even a passing acquaintance of Liverpool Football Club, capitulating so feebly against our Stanley Park neighbours must be seen as being in effect a resignation letter.  To head to Goodison Park leading a team so unprepared to put up a fight, with new players apparently unaware of what the game means to both sets of supporters, to be happy to share a joke with David Moyes as the final whistle blows, is such a serious misstep, it goes so completely against everything we demand.  It can only be the actions of a man who doesn’t want or expect to be in the job for too much longer.

Luckily, some of the players had been there before and knew what was expected of them:

For whoever wins, it will be so important for the fans and for the optimism of the club. We have to win

- Jose Reina

See, Pepe gets it.  If only our back four and his manager could have shared this desire.  Then our season would be looking, in the words of Thom Yorke, a little less fucked up.

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How tabloids work

Anton Vowl nails it here.

Almost sounds to me like he has bugged one of their editorial meetings, except that of course, no reputable media source would get involved in that kind of behaviour, would they?

There must be some other explanation.

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Sugar and spice

Once again, Grace Dent has written the kind of column that should have all intelligent people running around the room cheering and air-punching. I had only made it as far as this paragraph:

Sotomayor spent 2010 transforming judicial thought on the “right to remain silent”, while Gaga was probably dancing about a stadium – nips out and wearing backless chaps made of tampons – hooting: “Woo! Leetle monsterz. Female empowerment!” This sort of irony is par for the course in list-land

before I was madly in love with every comma and pledging to call my first born daughter Grace in her honour.  Then she got me with this:

Oh pipe down, you female transorbital neuroendoscopy specialists at the back, Coleen has a children’s book deal and will almost certainly help choose the colour of the cover

and I realised that I must start petitioning someone for statues of Ms Dent to be placed as warning beacons where teenage girls congregate, such as outside Top Shop changing rooms and near bus stations when the local boys’ schools are chucking out.  I feel like I have been banging on about this since those far-off days when Posh took back Beckham after the Rebecca Loos ‘episode’, but what the hell are we teaching girls by our examples, that it really doesn’t matter how much your other half disrespects you by chasing other women so long as he keeps buying you nice things to compensate?

And should it follow that Hillary Clinton is less powerful now that her name is on the desk in her own right, than she was in the days when she had unlimited access over the pillows to the guy in the top job?  I would love to see someone suggest that to her face, as I think I would probably enjoy watching her tear that person a new one – therefore aren’t I lucky that just this exact scenario already went down:

Good on her, too.  We have reached a pretty poor pass when women are prepared to forego a place at the table in lieu of a position or three between the sheets.  Nor should any good men be made to feel unsettled by such rhetoric as lads, it is just as much in your interest to declare yourself a feminist if you have a mother, sister, daughter or wife whose horizons are being narrowed by this bullshit.

The problems of the world cannot be resolved simply by one side winning the battle of the sexes.  They require a balance between the hunter-gatherer stuff you do so well and the empathy and intuition that we bring to the table.  Any society which leaves the serious business to the men, while the women stand pouting on the sidelines is soon going to fall apart at the seams, because, as a great philosopher once wrote, it may be a man’s, man’s, man’s, world but it sure as hell wouldn’t be nothing without a woman.  Isn’t that the truth.

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Hicks and Gillett, do one!

Almost three months to the day since we gathered at St George’s Hall to declare our independence from the owners of Liverpool Football Club, it looks as if the gig is finally up for these two particularly septic tanks.  As the Liverpool Echo reports that Gillett’s role at the club is now unclear following a default on a £75 million loan, and while Hicks desperately scours the globe for refinancing that seems unlikely to appear, although it may still be premature to crack open all the champagne no doubt being kept on ice by Liverpool fans, it looks as if the financial obituaries for the dastardly duo can at last be written.

Not bad for a fan’s campaign that some said was doomed to failure.

Supporters from all around the world have joined in, with direct action on match days, Hollywood producer Mike Jeffries’ YouTube film and Spirit of Shankly’s ‘Not Welcome Anywhere‘ message.  As events have unfolded, it has become clear exactly how far from the Liverpool Way as Shankly would have recognised it we have come, when stories of undignified boardroom struggles such as these appear in the media:

Broughton, Purslow and Ayre gathered for the meeting at the City of London offices of Liverpool’s solicitors, Slaughter & May, beginning at 3:30pm. Just 15 minutes before that, they received a faxed notification from Hicks and Gillett that they were sacking Purslow and Ayre and replacing them with Hicks’s son Mack and Mack’s assistant, Lori Kay McCutcheon. When Hicks had said on buying Liverpool in February 2007 that his was a “multi-generational family commitment”, nobody envisaged the appointment of another son in a last-minute cling to power.

This has led to a high court hearing to determine if the directors have the power to sell the club out from under the two Americans.  The Echo is also reporting on fans’ determination to make their voices heard as the relationship begun with such hopeful PR statements on the Anfield pitch comes to an unmourned end on London’s Strand.  While the campaign to get Hicks and Gillett out is one all fans should back, on whichever front you prefer – as listed here on Well Red’s website – we will do well to keep in mind as Spirit of Shankly reminds us, that it will not end with them gone.

Liverpool fans will never return to the naivety or innocence of financial wheeler-dealing that we displayed in 2007.  Never again will we allow ourselves to be bought off with a few pictures of grey men in suits from thousands of miles away waving scarves and shirts at us and promising a new dawn.  From now on, it all changes.  A real say in the future of our club, with fan ownership the ultimate goal, is the very minimum we will accept as we seek to create a new Liverpool Way.  One that links the strong traditions our club’s success was founded on together with the campaigning zeal and knowledge of intricate financial instruments which we have had to develop over recent years.  We are more qualified than anyone to act as custodians of our football club.  Whoever buys the club in the coming weeks will need to be aware of the millions of us looking over their shoulders, paying particular attention to the balance sheets.

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No half measures

Julia's desk, Tokyo, today

ten minutes hate is not often given to dishing out advice for living, preferring to let people get on with messing things up in their own unique way without unasked-for interference.

Predictably, perhaps, a birthday sees a departure from that path, in order to offer up the following admonition:

Accept no half measures.

Let your glass always be brimful, savour every sip and make sure to drain every last drop with panache and with gusto.  In life, in your work, in friendships and romance, try to ensure you are getting the equivalent of an aged 21-year single malt, or whatever else is your particular tipple of choice.

Kampai!

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Sweat

You can reach a point where you almost stop noticing or caring that you are bathed in sweat and have been ever since you reluctantly got dressed into ‘smart business wear’ at 11 o’clock that morning. From the last possible moment before you leave the house, when the air conditioning absolutely must, no question, be switched off, until the blissful one when the train doors glide open, it is simply a given that you will be drenched by every movement made. This is life at 37 degrees and humidity of 70%.

In such unaccustomed conditions, it is remarkable how little fuss the Northern European body makes towards its owner. You find yourself less troubled by thirst than you would be on a warm day at the beach back home, despite an over 10 degree temperature advantage. If not occupied with other pursuits, the mind may wander towards ice-cold showers or busy itself trying to recall the last time your fingers were so cold you had to blow on them for warmth, but since it is no good trying, as it is impossible to recall in this heat, physically it is stunning how quickly you adjust. So far, no fainting, heat stroke or anything so exotic has transpired.

Of course, one advantage we have over a warm day in England is utterly sensational air conditioning. Every home is equipped and the trains are like motorised refrigerators, similar to the ones that transport milk up the motorways, if equipped for passenger use. Workplaces used to be kept so cool that in 2005 the government introduced the concept of ‘Cool Biz’, to encourage Japanese businesspeople to remove a tie, jacket or jumper and turn the thermostat up a couple of notches, in the name of saving polar bears.

Yet you come to rely on this Frigidaire approach to living that the second it is threatened it brings home how reliant you have become on modern life and its advances. Arriving at work last month to discover that the air con was out-of-order and likely to remain so for some time, I was at first nonplussed but not overly alarmed. Seven hours later, with all essential moisture and a few 1,000 unessential-but-enjoyable toxins sweated out, leaving me feeling about as fragrant as an old sock and with a glow that was less ‘dewy’ and more ‘traffic-light red’, I was ready to call for an immediate canonisation, international festival day and lifelong pension rights for the descendants of the creator of air cooling devices. Oh so true that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, as sang Joni Mitchell!

Another difference between my old hemisphere and the new one is that where most of you are a warm day wouldn’t necessarily linger once the sun had gone down. As soon as it was safely over the yardarm you could expect a cooling breeze to put in an appearance. Here there is no such soothing guarantee. The nights are as warm, often until long past 10 o’clock. It is a beautiful thing to wander home from the train after a late finish, sans coat or pullover, feeling the warm breeze over the arms, as wispy white clouds roll overhead like longboats heading out to sea. The cicadas sing so loud they can be heard over the music playing on your MP3 player and it seems incredible to hear the tales from the old hands of winter days where you awake to the sight of your own breath in the uninsulated bedrooms’ frozen atmosphere. Could they ever be true? It seems fantastic, more so to believe that they will be real in just a couple of months’ time. I hope that when they do arrive, I will be able to remember this feeling of blood boiling, in order to keep the extremities provisioned.

Thankfully, since I wrote this the temperature has dropped to an almost-chilly 22 degrees. Although Japan is now more like Widnes than Ouagadougou, I thought I would post it to remind me when my toes are dropping off in the cold

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