Notepad on Life

January 6, 2017

Shut the door on your way out, John Kerry

Filed under: foreign,politics — - @ 9:23 am
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November 1, 2014

After a chicken**** week for the Left, a plea for grown-up politics

Filed under: politics — - @ 10:10 am
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If this is ‘progressive’, you can keep it.

A representative of the President of the United States of America denounces another head of state as “chickenshit” in a public forum (we must admire Team Obama’s consistency, if nothing else) and now a Labour front-bencher this side of the Pond rolls up in the Houses of Parliament wearing a T-shirt that bears the legend This is what a feminist looks like, amid a ridiculous spat over whether the Prime Minister should have worn one for the benefit of the cameras.

Labour, too, has ‘form’ when it comes to dress wholly inappropriate to the occasion. When your outlook on life is of the liberal, anything-goes variety, I suppose it’s inevitable that you see the word ‘standards’ as referring simply to a pile of London newspapers.

When it comes to the tiresome collision between gesture politics and social media, on the other hand, is it too much to ask that supposed grown-ups move beyond it?

“Wear my T-shirt or me and my mates will slag you off on Twitter”. It’s rare that I praise the Prime Minister but his refusal to join in with this tosh is commendable. The man has a country to run, for goodness sake. Judge him by his policies and the execution thereof if you’re concerned about his attitude to women, not by the wearing of some silly T-shirt.

What have things come to when, whatever your hopes as to which party wins the White House or Number Ten next time around, they take second place to prayers that it will consist of adults with a firm grip on the word ‘statesmanlike’ and what it entails?

October 6, 2013

Why I can’t join in with America’s rant against Republicans

Filed under: foreign,politics — - @ 2:06 pm
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No, I don’t think some of the GOP’s frontline representatives have a terribly secure grip on modern reality.

Yes, as a fan of my country’s National Health Service, I am broadly sympathetic to the concept of Obamacare.

But if the seven-year-old quote from one Senator Obama, published at every liberal’s favourite blog, is accurate, then I am not entirely dismayed that attempts to raise America’s debt ceiling are currently on hold…

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, “the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

Exactly. And, his hypocrisy aside, what makes this relevant this side of the Pond is that too many of our own politicians are adept at presenting policies that effectively amount, not to solving problems, but kicking them down the road for the next poor sap to deal with. Or kick even further down the road.

And if something occasionally comes along, even if prompted by political rather than practical motives, to interrupt this mañana mentality and focus one or two minds on actually dealing with a problem instead of just deferring it, I’m afraid my instinctive reaction isn’t to boo.

September 1, 2013

Gove’s their villain but knee-jerk political hacks can’t see it

Filed under: Education,Journalism,politics — - @ 10:52 pm
Tags: ,

Two central players in last week’s Parliamentary debate on Syria.

1) Prime Minister David Cameron wants to take the military option but does what he should and puts the proposal to Parliament, which happens to reject it. A number of his own MPs, who presumably see what Mr Cameron chooses not to when they ponder the fruits of our ‘involvement’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, vote with their conscience.

2) Education Minister Michael Gove, upon learning of their stance, it is claimed, regresses into childhood and would appear to demonstrate that democracy and conscience count as nothing in his eyes against blind loyalty to the Conservative Party. If such claims are true, it is with this glorified lout that we entrust our children’s schooling:

“Michael Gove was so furious with Tory MPs for voting down intervention he had to be restrained by colleagues, it was claimed last night.

The Education Secretary, a staunch backer of military action in Syria, shouted ‘you’re a disgrace’ at those MPs who opposed the Government in the tense vote last night.

Scottish National MP Angus Robertson said Mr Gove carried on yelling ‘disgrace, disgrace, disgrace’ at Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels in stunning scenes in the House of Commons around 11pm last night.” – Daily Mail

Which of the two does the Press focus upon? The Prime Minister. Out are wheeled the tired old clichés about ‘humiliation’, by the same tired old hacks who would have doubtless hammered him for snubbing democratic process, had he decided to avoid debate and simply committed British military support to the USA.

Yet again, I am reminded of the late Robin Cook’s laser accuracy in naming the media as being just as responsible for the lamentable shallowness of modern British politics as the politicians themselves.

Someone was indeed humiliated in the House last week. While I am no fan of our Prime Minister, it most certainly wasn’t him.


And a special mention, while on the subject of Politicians Making Fools of Themselves, of the USA’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, whom just a day after Britain refused to do the ‘special relationship’ waltz with its would-be American masters, pointedly described France as the United States’ “oldest ally”.

Many Brits may have wondered if this snub was just childish petulance. Those who have overheard what the average American actually thinks of the French will know it for a fact.

October 3, 2012

Wake the $%^£”*& up – political debate is going down the toilet

Filed under: politics,TV — - @ 8:57 am
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Is there anything politicians can’t cock up?

Get in touch with your electorate, we urge them: reflect their feelings, their concerns, their hopes and fears.

Their response is to reflect the worst of the society they are supposed to serve. The Andrew Mitchell saga has been done to death in the UK but just as telling on the breakdown of public civility is the tale of Philippe Reines, aide to Hillary Clinton, America’s Secretary of State.

Reine’s puerile treatment of a journalist in an exchange of emails is staggering. That he might feel this heated in private towards a member of a routinely bothersome profession is one thing but to go public in so foul a fashion in the  performance of his duties says a lot.

I’m assuming Reines is no fool, so the only alternative rationale for his conduct is that he is another ‘progressive’ who sees vulgarity as part and parcel of routine communication, even in the interactions of one’s working life. Those of us who don’t share his enlightenment, he presumably feels, need to get out more.

Sadly, puff-pieces like this will only egg him on. He is no “throwback” – that is precisely the point. Political bulldogs of yore at least had the professional self-discipline to keep profanity behind the scenes. There is something all too present-day about the way Reines doesn’t bother to trouble himself with such niceties.

And then there is Samuel L Jackson, enthusiastically playing his part in plonking political discourse in the gutter, albeit at the behest of the Jewish Council for Education and Research (yes, you did read the ‘Education’ part correctly) an organisation which cynically went  for maximum exposure for this pro-Obama ad by targeting Society’s lowest common denominator.

After I have a dream and Ich bin ein Berliner, comes “Wake the **** up…”

Politics was always a dirty business. It is becoming truly squalid.

See also:

Is Samuel L. Jackson More Important to Jews Than Iran?
Soros’ and Silverman’s contempt for Jewish education

April 24, 2012

In re-defining Santorum, Irish Times redefines ‘squalid’

Filed under: Journalism,politics — - @ 12:26 am
Tags: ,

Worried about getting old in the workplace? Become a journalist.

While yesterday’s men in many sectors of the economy must make do with taking more of a back seat in the face of changing technology and wave upon wave of young turks, it looks like the boot may be on the other foot where the print media is concerned.

Journalists born before 1975, see, generally know how to spell. Just look through any written-word media these days and you’ll soon pick up on how much of a dying art that has become.

But there’s another thing that should make veteran hacks more, not less valuable as time goes on. Many ‘old school’ guys also know the meaning of “fit to print”, namely that there’s tittle-tattle and then there’s stuff actually worth writing about.

Now there’s a blurred line for you in 2012. Reading Donald Clarke‘s sarcastic lament as Rick Santorum abandoned his run for the White House, I had to keep checking the masthead to make sure that it really was the Irish Times that was running this piece and had decided that the following amounted to worthy op-ed in a quality newspaper:

“Hats are doffed to the gay activists who managed to make [Santorum’s] surname a neologism for the damp residue that remains after a particular sexual practice has taken place. (Look it up yourself. I can’t be bothered to reply sarcastically to the complaints a fuller definition would trigger.)”

If you missed the gem of wit that gave rise to this tribute, I’m genuinely sorry to have to enlighten you. Particularly if you’re eating. It is important to spell it out, though, just so you are aware of the level of inspired discourse that floats Clarke’s boat.

Someone aparently decided that taking apart Santorum’s politics with reasoned debate and counter-argument was too tame  – what was really needed was for his surname to become a widely-used synonym for the mixture of lubricant and faecal matter that remains following anal sex.

Yep, you heard me right.

There was a time, of course, when puerility as debased as this was confined to the playground, to be mercifully lost in the breeze after a few guffaws among half-wits. Nowadays, alas, the playground is known as the Internet. This stuff gets written down and enjoys a longevity vastly disproportionate to its merit, among people who park their minds in the gutter.

To see this pathetic titbit given fresh life in a paper of the Irish Times status (“hats are doffed”!? Is the man out of his mind?) begs two questions. This Donald Clarke is over the age of 15, I take it? And who among his superiors actually cast an eye over this revolting paragraph and thought, “fit to print”?

March 30, 2011

Glad to be gay; not fussed at being bust

Filed under: foreign,politics — - @ 9:00 am
Tags: , ,
The western front of the United States Capitol...

Image via Wikipedia

It is the most jaw-dropping thing I read last week. Possibly last month.

From the excellent Outstanding Investments financial newsletter (subscription only):

“Let’s get past the military fact that it’s raining steel in Libya. Something else troubles me. The U.S. government doesn’t have a 2011 budget for its Department of Defense – and we’re six months into the fiscal year. This is, at root, courtesy of the last Congress, which failed to pass a defense budget in the waning days of 2010.

No defense budget? Last year, there was political capital for Congress to pass ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation. But for some strange reason, Congress could not pass anything as mundane as a law to fund procurement and operations, let alone to pay the troops.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Congress has authorized no money to fight wars – at least not this one.

Such ludicrous priorities kill off forever the idea that American liberals are much more down-to-earth than their British counterparts.

So a near-bankrupt Uncle Sam is bombing Libya on an open-ended spending spree but at least everyone involved is comfortable with his sexuality. I think I just heard the first cuckoos of spring.

March 1, 2011

Bedford book ban – facts and bluster don’t add up

Filed under: school,sex — - @ 6:52 am
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Water for Elephants

Image via Wikipedia

Having raised an eyebrow at some of the content in books set for my own son’s English course, I’m not surprised to learn that some parents are kicking up a stink in New Hampshire, USA over the reading material being put before their kids.

“A second book has been pulled from the Bedford High School curriculum following complaints about its sexual content by the same parents who started the argument about “Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America,” which was removed from the high school’s personal finance course last month” – from The Nashua Telegraph, brought to my attention via

Nor am I exactly stunned by some of the high-falutin’ outrage of those commenting on the report, with ‘Nazi’, ‘tyrant’, ‘Victorian’, ‘censorship’ et al given a predictable airing.

First, the substance of the complaint – extracts of Water for Elephants can be read here, here and here. My understanding is that it was offered as optional reading (parental consent required) for 13-year-olds.

Second, the protagonist. I might stand shoulder to shoulder with Dennis Taylor in his dismay at what he read but his way of making his case would not be mine. His is but one voice, one opinion and he seems to have lost sight of that fact in the midst of his indignation. I’d also like to know what he has in mind when he talks of people behind the decision to incorporate Water for Elephants, being fired or terminated from the School Board…

This apart, and for all that I accept the argument that it is ultimately for parents to teach their children how to process anything they might read, I too am unhappy with material of this type cropping up in schools.

I believe it’s yet another aspect of a Society that is fixated upon the groin. Sex is a wonderful thing and as much fair game for discussion as any other facet of life but are we so incapable of finding fulfilment elsewhere that we have to keep coming back to it in debate, like fat kids to a sweetshop? The sexualised bombardment we endure from the media seems to have spawned a belief that we can’t engage properly with life, through art or education, unless there is a sexual element to be addressed in there somewhere. I’m afraid I don’t buy it.

Film directors can protest until they are blue in the face but I maintain that you can count on one hand the films that would lose anything whatsoever were their sex scenes hinted at instead of graphically played out. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the latter option being taken occasionally but its absence wouldn’t diminish the film as art. I’m also a little older than 13.

Similarly, there’s an idea out there, it would appear, that unless children are regularly addressing sexuality while at school, their education is incomplete and they will trip out through the school gates at 16, a bunch of naive, vulnerable Pollyannas.

Unfortunately, the full-on, candid approach favoured by some educationalists  is resulting in something as bad, if not worse; a generation of youngsters who reach puberty under the impression that sex is just another commodity, like cigarettes or a loaf of bread.

That they should be left in no doubt as to what it involves and its consequences is not in dispute but I question whether sex education goes much beyond that nowadays, or is it deemed unwarranted interference to teach young people about the emotional context in which sex most comfortably sits?

The fact is, sex needs a little mystique. Not ignorance, I grant you, but a little reverence, magic, call it what you will. It’s a big deal, not least because of the huge physical and psychological backlash that can result when it’s indulged in callously or irresponsibly. You’re most definitely not just buying cigarettes here and merely showing a 12-year-old how condoms function doesn’t come close to ticking the ‘sex education’ box.

When you present books like Water for Elephants to young- or mid-teens and passages involving strippers, erections and tongues sliding around nipples are read out in class, you take another step towards commodifying sex. Once again, it is reduced to the everyday, the humdrum. No big deal; we even talk about in English. I would question whether sex-as-routine is a great mindset for any young person to carry into adult life.

Point is, I don’t think schools lose any credibility if they rise above this and refuse of their own accord to put literature on their programme that incorporates sexual content. In fact, if they did this already, I doubt we’d have heard a whisper of complaint from any quarter, because anyone objecting to a school’s insistence on being an oasis amid 21st century culture knows he or she would get some very odd looks indeed.

And if Water for Elephants and its like are such vital reading for this age group, I’m sure the authors, as creative artists, would consider themselves duty-bound to write an edited version for the younger audience.

Of course teenagers will read the racy stuff out of school hours. I can still remember reading Sven Hassel‘s WWII novels in my teens and being shocked to learn that it wasn’t my generation that invented the f-word. But it’s for parents to monitor that and act as they see fit. And it’s for teachers to know how to guide – not terminate, guide – the ensuing discussion when such extra-curricular reading material is mentioned in class.

We lose nothing if the bar gets raised whenever our children go to school, by a syllabus that keeps minds above the waist and sex confined to biology lessons, where it’s presented as more than just an exercise in mechanics. For just a few hours each day, kids would get to study art, literature, history, philosophy and science and have their minds opened to the possibility that satisfied living revolves around so much more than just the genitals.

If that sounds ‘repressive’, some Nashua Telegraph commenters may be pleasantly surprised by its long-term consequences.

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