Rather heartening

Looking back on the since 9-11 it is interesting to see how the political atmosphere in the States has been transformed.

There was a time when it was considered “un-American” to criticise the Bush government. The TV networks tip-toed around anything which might be seen to compromise the “War on Turrur“.

Now, of course, times have changed. George Bush’s ratings in the US are only slightly higher than Osama Bin Laden’s. There is an alleged “new Dawn” and it is OK to lay into the Bush regime.

So it is fascinating to see the start of Dan Rather’s lawsuit against his former employers, CBS. The lawsuit is born out of that previous period of awed respect towards Bush. Rather (right) was allegedly sacked for reporting on some documents which were said to prove that George Bush barely turned up for basic duty when he was in the National Guard, avoiding the Vietnam draft. Also within the lawsuit is an allegation that CBS unreasonably suppressed the story about abuse at the Abu Graib prison.

One hilarious aspect of the lawsuit is that Rather alleges that the panel set up by CBS to investigate his report was stacked with right wingers. It included Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, two extreme right wing broadcasters. You begin to wonder how CBS had the cheek to do that. But as I say, such was the prevailing mood in the US at the time.

Tory tax U turn

For months the Tories have criticised Gordon Brown for the odd so-called tax cut to allegedly help to “bump start” the economy. They have seemed to have very little alternative to offer except “do nothing”.

Well now it seems they are about to a complete U turn and offer tax cuts after all.

Confused? I think they are.

Woolies: they’re flogging the fixtures and fittings now

I wasn’t intending to visit Woolworths this month. It seemed a bit of a ghoulish thing to do.

However, we had a bit of an emergency. We were going through some old note books on Chritsmas Day (as you do) and found a Woolworths gift voucher! Could we still cash it in? How much longer did we have? Would they be open tomorrow? Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring!

Anyway, after wiping away the film of nervous sweat from one’s brows, we successfully entered Woolworths Newbury first thing on Boxing Day. The gift voucher was still valid and, given the ‘up to 60% sale’, we were able to buy a very nice half price CD, which pleased us. There seemed to be lots of good bargains still there. The staff were mainly very young and all smiling, which is brave of them – bless them.

I was very taken by the sort of “fire sale” feel of the place, lent particularly by this display of Woolworths’ own fixtures, furniture and equipment for sale at bargain basement prices:

Safe £300

Cage £50

Warehouse racking £15

Staff lockers £30

Warehouse shelving £20

Step ladders £20

Trolley £30

Filing Cabinet £20

Office swivel chair £10

Office chair £10

Has the ethnicity of London changed at a faster rate than Ann Leslie can cope with?

Dame Ann Leslie (for it is her) made an interesting comment on BBC News 24 this morning. Referring to this (I think) photo she said that it had not been noticed that the shoppers queueing at the sales were mostly “foreigners”. In keeping with the renowned impartiality and fairness of the BBC, the presenter pointed out that “they could be British”. Leslie ploughed on saying that Britain’s “ethnic population” is about 7% and that there were far more than 7% of “ethnic minorities” in the picture. (the figure is actually 7.9%)

Indeed, the Sun reports that many people have flown in specially to take advantage of the favourable exchange rates and the sales:

Sun reporters even came across shoppers who flew in especially from South Africa, Jordan and Ireland, aiming to fill empty suitcases.

However, I think Ann Leslie should bear in mind that the photo concerned was taken at Selfridges in London. London has a far higher proportion of people of “ethnic origin” than the UK average of 7.9% (it’s actually 30.65%), as Ann Leslie should know, as I suspect she lives there.

Undaunted Leslie pointed out “Taiwanese” and “Indian” people in the photo, implying that they must be “foreigners”.

Ahem. There are 1.6 million – British – people in this country who are of Indian or Chinese “ethnic origin”. 600,000 of them live in London.

So 999 years of journalistic experience must have given Ann Leslie insight unknown to the rest of us which allows her to tell whether someone is a “foreigner” just by looking at them. Has she got X-ray eyes that allows her to see their passport neatly positioned in their inside breast pocket?

Red carpet treatment

In 24 years of living in the Newbury district I have never had occasion to visit the main council offices as a “punter”. This morning came the first occasion as I had to enquire about a council tax matter.

Consider my surprise when I was greeted by the Chief Executive of West Berkshire Council, Mr Nick Carter, who was seated at the receptionist desk, acting as receptionist, and who handed me my “cheese counter” numerical ticket and invited me to take a seat.

If I knew this was the sort of red carpet treatment that enquirers to the council offices get, I would have gone down there earlier in my 24 years here!

Dr Jan van Strabismus Whom God Preserve of Utrecht and other curiosities

My cultural education is benefitting from avoiding the Steve Wright programme, on the way home from work, from 4.45pm to 5pm by switching to Radio Four.

I have an in-built aversion to Radio Four too – thinking it is generally as dry as a dry thing.

But I am gradually warming to the intelligent programmes of which I get a little burst while in Wright exile.

Last night there was a fascinating discussion chaired by Matthew Parris on his generally most fascinating Great Lives series. The programme was about Beachcomber (aka J.B.Morton). The blurb states:

Raymond Briggs chooses Beachcomber, the Daily Express columnist who inspired both Spike Milligan and Private Eye. Richard Ingrams and the current Beachcomber, William Hartston, join Matthew Parris for a lunatic half hour’s celebration of Dr Smart-Allick, Mr Justice Cocklecarrot, and Dr Jan van Strabismus Whom God Preserve of Utrecht.

It really is worth listening to this discussion.

Benedictus Benedicat

That’s what used to be said before we ate at school (with “Benedicto Benedicarto” said afterwards). We used to translate it as “They’re under starters orders and they’re off”.

I mention this only because I was pushed for an interesting title for a post about Pope Benedict.

I thoroughly reconmmend and endorse the spirit and much of the letter of Iain Dale’s post about this.

The BBC have a handy page showing the actual words of the Pope. As usual he has been reported as saying something very clear. But (and he has this habit in common with dear old Rowan Williams) when you read what he said you are left with some confusion about what he was exactly getting at.

For example, his words about the Rain Forests have been summarised as “The Pope considers homosexuality as “damaging to the future of the world as the destruction of the rain forests” “. That is something of an editorial paraphrase. What he actually said is really quite baffling:

What is often expressed and signified with the word ‘gender’ leads to the human auto-emancipation from creation and from the Creator. The human being wants to make himself on his own and to decide always and exclusively by himself about what concerns him.
But, in so doing, the human being lives against the truth and against the Spirit creator. Rain forests deserve, yes, our protection but the human being – as a creature which contains a message that is not in contradiction with his freedom but is the condition of his freedom – does not deserve it less.

I’ll leave Alex Wilcock to get on the case and explain in twenty easy-to-read paragraphs what that actually means.

What the dear El Papa’s words seem to boil down to is contained within this easy-to-chant paragraph:

We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way. The Church speaks of human nature as ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and asks that this order is respected.
This is not out-of-date metaphysics. It comes from the faith in the Creator and from listening to the language of creation, despising which would mean self-destruction for humans and therefore a destruction of the work itself of God.

OK. So the (Roman Catholic) Church speaks of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and “asks that this order is respected”.

But does God?

I maintain that God created people in many different shapes and sizes. It is the “church’s” attempt to shoe-horn everyone into two distinct categories that creates all the problems.

Something to gladden the heart of every LibDem blogger…

I don’t regularly stumble onto Iain Dale’s Diary. If he links to me, I do. And when I finally stop disappearing up my own exhaust pipe at work I will no doubt have an extravagance of time sufficient to read it occasionally again.

So many thanks to A Lanson Boy for flagging up a priceless moment from the life in the political twilight zone that is the life of the great Dalester.

He (the Dalester) was being interviewed in Tunbridge Wells.

I recently visited Tunbridge Wells for a very enjoyable mini-break. Marvellous place. But I would have thought that the idea of being interviewed there in the open air is only slightly more ridiculous than being interviewed in the bar of the Clocktower pub in Newbury at 10.55pm on a Friday (think of your worst nightmare…..).

Anyway, this interview in the middle of Tunbridge Wells rapidly descended into something approaching chaos as various grouplets of variously aged teenagers zeroed in on the Dalester and his BBC interviewer. THIS NEEDS TO GET ONTO YOU TUBE QUICKLY! (It’s not yet – I’ve checked)

There was a sort of burping competition to which the BBC interviewer responded somewhat stupidly by demanding the names of the burpers. This was met with an escalation into a swearing contest.

But never fear! Our intrepid Dalester knew how to extract himself from this imbroglio:


(Or to quote properly from Iain: “Only when I turned to the ringleader and told him he looked ridiculous in his white tracksuit and that “it looked a bit gay”…”)

Collapse of stout party.

Oh how we laughed!

Those teenagers aren’t very good at repartee in Tunbridge Wells. Burping. Yes – tick. Swearing. Yes – tick. Repartee – No – cross.

Update: Iain has left a comment on Alex (A Lanson Boy)’s post. I think a point may have been missed. Specifically that, yes, on the Chris Moyles Show and elswhere “gay” sometimes means cr*p (particularly when someone is trying to wriggle out of complaints to Ofcom), but more widely “gay” still primarily means homosexual. At the least, there is a danger of confusion which, as Alex suggests, would preclude its use to 13 year olds by someone wanting to be taken seriously in political circles. But then again, we’re talking about the Dalester here so that doesn’t apply. Meoww Meoww Scratch Scratch

The wonderful Irishness of the Late Late Show

I posted the video below yesterday without watching it (due to a “no add-ons enabled” tedium with which I need not detain you). I’ve now watched it. It’s “There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama” performed on Irish Television RTE’s Late Late Show.

This is more an institution than a television programme. For 37 years it was presented by Gay Byrne, who, during his tenure, took on the sort of mantle of the Irish Queen Mother (no subtext intended, although if there was it would be reasonably funny) in terms of love and admiration from the populace. Anyway, after removing the raw plugs with which he was fixed to the studio floor, he was transported off in a bath chair in 1999 to be Chairman of the Irish Road Safety Authority – a very needed cause in Ireland given the alarming level of road deaths (which is just as alarming as in the UK by the way). So the show is now hosted by Pat Kenny who has done very well to survive 9 years in the role.

Any road down, the reason for mentioning all this nonsense, is that the “No one as Irish as” clip from the L2 Show is very typical. It sorts of imbues the Corrigan Brothers and the song with the collective blessing of the Irish nation because the audience clap and swing along to it (try getting a British audience to do that). And what an audience. There are several members of the Dublin Home for the Bewildered there. There is a sort of Boyzone debut feel to the whole thing. And then there’s the Corrigan brothers. Let me just say that I suspect that they have spent most of their professional lives performing above the din, smoke and Guinness burps in pubs across Tipperary and Limerick. Subtlety is not in their kit bag. “Belt it out, man!” seems to be their motto.