UKIP if you want to, this lad’s not for sleeping

Britain his morning woke up to the news that in council elections held in many parts the country, UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) did rather well, the Conservatives did rather badly, and Labour and the Liberal Democrats also did rather badly, but not as badly as the Tories. As, thank goodness, I am not only not a paid-up supporter of any of the three parties or UKIP – worth pointing out in the circumstances – but dislike the idea of being a full-time supporter and ‘my party right or wrong’, I like to think I can attempt to take an objective view of what has gone on. And that view could be summed up as ‘not very much, dear, now do hurry up or we shall be late for matins’.

Mid-term local elections are traditionally seen as an opportunity for the voters to let off steam and nothing much else. Turnout is usually not very good, far lower than at a general election, and we can assume that those who could be bothered to spend the ten minutes it takes to get their arse down to the polling station, vote for the pizza of their choice, then get their arse back home back to the sofa and the telly are not particularly representative of the electorate as a whole (which on such occasions can’t be arsed full stop). That is to say the drawing conclusions form the results of a series of local elections about what the outcome of a general election might be is a tad dodgy.

So when UKIP comes second in the South Shields by-election to Labour, the Conservatives come third and the Lib Dems, fluffy pink pussy cats and all, come seventh after an independent candidate, and independent socialist party candidate and the sodding British

UkipNational Party and furthermore polls twice as many votes as the Tories, it would still be unsafe to predict what will happen in the 2015 general election. UKIP’s treasurer Stuart Wheeler claims his party could have 10 MPs in Parliament after that election, but given the UK’s electoral system, I think that’s pretty unlikely (although a Green MP was returned a few years ago, admittedly in swinging Brighton, so there could be a surprise).

The Tories were the undoubted losers in polls where UKIP were the gainers, but there’s more than a suspicion that voters who usually cheer along Labour and the Lib Dems have also opted for UKIP. And that reinforces the suggestion that UKIP’s success was more a bellow of frustration with all politicians than any seismic shift in political sentiment.

I also suspect that were you to ask voters what the specific policies were of the party why have just supported, you would invariably get an embarrassed silence. Political support, for better or worse, is still largely a tribal reflex reaction rather than the result of a period of intellectual consideration. So were you to ask a UKIP voter what the party stands for, it would most likely be a variation on ‘get Britain out of the EU’. A few might, as I have heard them say, demand that Parliament should re-introduce the right for drinkers to smoke in pubs, but if allowing us all to smoke in pubs again is the Holy Grail of a political party, I do think something has gone badly amiss.
What is UKIP policy on transport? On education? On agriculture? What is its foreign policy, apart from telling Brussels to stick itself where the sun don’t shine? What are its health and benefits policies (apart from ‘getting rid of the benefit cheats’)? And apart from Nigel Farage, UKIP’s entertaining and quite witty leader, who are its other high-profile figures? If I remember, Farage called it a day after leading UKIP for a few years and others took over, notably – or, better not at all notably – Robert Kilroy-Silk (not a toff, despite the double-barrel name) and Lord Pearson of Rannoch (a toff, despite the title, and an idiot to boot). And those others made a total pig’s ear of everything, so Farage had to come back. The same happened with the Scotland’s SNP and Alex Salmond. What will happen when Farage goes?

If I might drop the ‘trying to be objective’ pose for a moment, I have always regarded UKIP as first cousin with manners, clean underpants and a slightly better command of English to the British National Party. And I have never regarded them as being anything more than a protest party. It is telling that the winner of one council seat UKIP won in Hampshire was so convinced he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of victory, he didn’t even bother turning up for the count. But in view of their success in yesterday’s elections, all three parties – or would that now be all two-and-a-half parties? – would be well-advised to take that protest into account.

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Wanted: 10 dead bankers (to make way for another 10). Or how we’ll debunk everyone else’s bullshit except our own

My nemesis over at The Slog is banging on again about what a set of two-faced bastard cunts politicians and bankers are. This time he has one Mario Draghi in his sights, the chap who now runs the European Central Bank (ECB) and – now there’s a surprise! – Draghi doesn’t actually come out of it smelling of rose. The piece is larded with the usual ‘my reliable source in Madrid’ cobblers which always add a spurious authoritative tone to John Ward’s ramblings (though given how often they have been wrong in the past, he should, perhaps, treat their winks and nudges with a little more caution. I’m surprised a man as paranoid as Ward isn’t just a little more sceptical of the information they are putting his way) but apart from being a general rant about Draghi, it doesn’t take us very far.

It strikes an odd note when we read how very little is known about Draghi, but then goes on to give a reasonable biography – Draghi was ‘born in Rome 66 years ago, went to university there, moved to America to take a further degree at MIT, and graduated in 1977.’ So far, so shocking. ‘He was director general of the Italian Treasury from 1991-2001, after which he spent three years in a senior post at Goldman Sachs International, London. He was appointed head of Bank of Italy, in December 2005, and then boss of the ECB in November 2011. However, beyond the fact that he has been married to his wife forever and has two adult children, details about his private and early life are extremely sparse.’ The ‘extremely sparse’ sounds quite damning, doesn’t it? But ask yourself just how much you know of the ‘private and early life’ of any number of figures in the public eye: Ed Miliband, Len McCluskey, Mervyn King, me or even Mr Ward himself – details of his ‘private and early life’ are extremely sparse, too. Hinting that maybe – just maybe – Draghi has got something to hide is up there with a common technique used in my industry: newspapers will write ‘So-and-so refused to answers questions’ and ‘so-and-so denied’, which are broad hints that all is not quite right – nudge, nudge – and leave the reader with the impression that we should keep an eye on so an so.

But although I have recently discovered the sheer pleasure of pointing out that John ‘The Slog’ Ward is essentially just another bar room bore with a laptop and access to the internet and a rather well-developed sense of his own importance and influence, that is not the point of this entry. (He firmly believes that ‘they’ are keeping tabs on him because of the information he is eliciting – like the much-heralded Grexit two years ago which wasn’t – and that I might well be employed by ‘them’ to discredit him and – get this! – the fact that I mention it so brazenly is just a double-bluff to throw anyone reading this off the scent. And the fact that I have now highlighted what might is most certainly a double-bluff is, in fact, double, double bluff (etc ad nauseam or until EastEnders is on the telly).

His piece on Draghi (and I have no doubt whatsoever that Draghi is ‘ruthless’ – show me anyone, man or woman, in whatever field, who is at that the top of their game who isn’t) reminded me of another piece of cack: I recently heard someone on the radio the other day demanding that ‘we should get rid of all politicians’. And we also hear calls that ‘we should get rid of all bankers’. Well, it’s not a sentiment I necessarily disagree with, but I must point out that – being a liberal I’m obliged to add ‘in my view’ (but I don’t actually mean

banker

The people arrest another bastard banker. Could it be Draghi? No mate, wrong century,

it) – people who make such demands are really not playing with a full deck. Who do they think will fill the positions of all those politicians once they have been ‘got rid of’, quite apart from who will be doing the ‘getting rid of’? The last time it happened, a chap called Robespierre did all the getting rid of (at a time which went down in history as ‘The Terror’), and before that a nice man from Cambridgeshire called Oliver Cromwell tried something similar (with the help of other politicians, it has to be said). More recently, a gang of thugs led by a certain Josef Stalin ‘got rid of all the politicians’ – and many who weren’t – in Thirties Russia, and even more recently Cambodia managed to ‘get rid of all its politicians’ (and anyone wearing glasses).

Who, exactly, will take the place of all those politicians we have got rid of? Why, other politicians, although they won’t, of course, be politicians for the month or two it takes for the power, influence and perks of their position to seep into their souls. But sooner or later – sooner rather than later – they will be politicians.

As for ‘getting rid of bankers’, one must ask oneself who will perform the functions they perform once they are all six feet under. I can’t imagine they will go willingly, so ‘lining them up against a wall and shooting the bastards’ (©Your Local Bar Room Bore) will be the only effective way of doing the ‘getting rid of’? I repeat – I must repeat – that I am not breaking a lance for politicians, bankers, or anyone else of that ilk. I am merely trying to point out how daft such calls are.

It is not the politicians, bankers and the rest who are at fault, but their behaviour. And it would be naïve to insist (as folk like John Ward do) they are all on the take. There have been, are and always will be a number of politicians who are not driven by ego and the perks their position brings them. And I am prepared to believe (because life is not as black

stalin

Stalin didn’t like bankers, either

and white as folk like John Ward would have you believe) that there have been, are and always will be bankers who are not out-and-out greedy bastards. Admittedly, it is the kind of industry that, given what it deals in, probably attracts more than its fair share of crooks and skimmers – it would probably be a fair bet that there are more criminally inclined bankers than butchers or plumbers – but cleaning up an industry like banking needs a little more thought and determination than simply ‘getting rid of all the bankers’.

They say that each man gets the wife he deserves (and undoubtedly each woman gets the husband she deserves). OK, so that’s just another broadbrush saying that could also come straight from the taproom, but there is more than a kernel of truth in it. And when it comes to politicians and bankers, it is only fair to point out that while times were good – or, at least, while they seemed to be good – we were quite happy with the politicians and especially the bankers we had. In fact, when in power Labour, the ‘working man’s party’, went out of its way to suck the dicks of bankers at every possible opportunity. We are only getting into a lather about them now that the bill has arrived for the previous 15 years of good times. That strikes me as essentially dishonest. And on a final note: would the world’s debunker of bollocks care to explain how he was in a position to ‘sell his gold’ when the price was right, as he admitted a few weeks ago? For the record I have no gold ‘to sell’, never have and probably never will (though fingers crossed, eh?)

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Germany’s ditch-the-euro Afd more popular than God! Scores 113pc in global survey! Watch out Angela! And the Government finally takes action on the growing epidemic of self-importance

The trouble with surveys is that at one and the same time they can be enormously misleading, highly informative, hugely subjective and generally a jack-of-all trades in that their results can be used in all kinds of ways. If I conducted a survey and found that of 1,000 people who responded a massive 76 per cent of them were in favour of toast being available on the NHS, I might well go ahead and claim: ‘More than three-quarters of all Brits want your GP to make you breakfast’. That would most certainly strike us all as complete nonsense, although, interestingly, if there were a faint – very, very faint, about one in a trillion trillion trillion – chance of that statement, in fact, being true, basing that claim on the results of my survey would still be bollocks, for a great many reasons. The only legitimate conclusion one can draw from the results of my survey is that of 1,000 people questioned by me, 760 were in favour of toast being available, which tells you nothing very much except of any interest.

Faced with such a bizarre statistic (‘Never in the history of surveys has toast been more popular. World In Action finds out why’) sceptics would most certainly ask all sorts of questions: how were those surveyed chosen? Do they have a vested interest in the making of toast (father’s a baker/mother sells toasters)? Were they drunk at the time? Were they all Brits? How many people approached over and beyond the 1,000 who responded told me (who was conducting the survey) to fuck off and stop wasting their time? There are endless questions, and if you really are interested in the science, practice and protocol of when, where, how and why to conduct surveys, what different kind of surveys can be conducted, for what purpose and what can be done with results thus obtained this blog really isn’t for you.

I’ve been rattling on about surveys and what a load of cack their results can be if we don’t handle them with extreme care because I’ve come across a survey conducted in Germany which makes interesting reading (if you are interested in the things that interest me, that is – when, at work, we get letters from readers who begin by telling us ‘Reading about so and so, I was reminded of an amusing incident that happened…’ you can be absolutely bloody certain that there is nothing at all in what follows that will tickle the funny bone of any reasonably sane man or women in the slightest). It appeared in the Bild, usually trailed as ‘Germany’s Sun’, but, in fact, modeled by its original publisher Axel Springer on what was then the Daily Mirror long before the Sun started up. But calling it ‘Germany’s Sun’ will give you a fair idea of who its readership are. (And Bild is a broadsheet, by the way, not a tabloid, and oddly it works rather well.)

What Bild did was to mimic a general election – one is due in Germany this September – in view of the founding of a new ‘political party’ (though I like to think of it – and, whatever they say, UKIP – as pressure groups). That party is Alternative Für Deutschland, which, afd1

Bloody hell! Now look at the kind of things that’s appearing from nowhere!

broadly, wants an end Bloody hell! Now look at the kind of thing that’s appearing from nowhere! put to all the German taxpayer-funded bailouts for the Med countries (they have started calling them Rotweinländer – red wine countries) and for Germany to return to the D Mark. It is still, however, in favour of Germany remaining in the EU and would even countenance a small eurozone made up of ‘more responsible’ countries. Phonelines were opened at 8am and closed at 6pm and readers were asked to phone in an register who they would vote for if there were a general election. Here are the results:

Union (CDU/CSU): 42pc

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD): 19pc

SPD: 17pc

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen: 7pc

FDP: 6pc (Incidentally, the FDP – more or less the Lib Dems in trendier specs – almost always – like the Lib Dems – do badly both in surveys and at elections and it is always touch and go as to whether they will cross the 5pc threshold. They always do, of course, because the Germans can be quite kind and like to help a man when he’s down)

Die Linke: 5pc (generally communists who can’t or don’t want to call themselves communists/spotty students who can’t get a shag)

Eine andere Partei (Sonstige): 2pc (any other party – Ostfriesenwitz Gemeinschaft/Freibier Gesellen/Lübecker Klo Partei, that kind of thing)

Piratenpartei: 2pc (The previous disaffected lot, now superseded by the Afd)

A previous survey had established the the AfD was likely cross the 5pc threshold necessary to win seats in parliament, but Bild’s 19pc for the party – 2pc more than for the SPD, broadly Germany’s Labour Party, is of a different order entirely.

So my first caveats: that 19pc is strictly of all those Bild readers who could be bothered to ring in to take part. So, for example, it does not include those who might have thought the whole exercise something of a gimmick and so did not take part (an obvious point, of course, but still worth explicitly making).

Then it would be worth knowing the political and cultural views of those who responded, which, of course, we can’t and don’t. That, too, is relevant. If in a survey of Wogs Out! members a whopping 89pc were in favour of everyone who was not of the purest white skin tones being kicked out of Britain, we wouldn’t be at all surprised and the only worthwhile question to ask is: why were 11pc not in favour? But the survey would tell us absolutely nothing about the general attitude in Britain to immigration over the past 100 years. I don’t mean to get hoity-toity about Bild, but you are unlikely to find its readers discussing the finer points of psephology of a night in the pub. Is there anything Bild’s survey can tell us. Well, to state the bleeding obvious, more of those readers to took part (see above) say they would vote for the ‘let’s leave the euro’ Afd than would vote for the ‘let’s keep the euro’ Opposition SPD. One might venture to suggest that a head of steam is most certainly building up in Germany over the taxpayer funded bailing out of the red wine countries, but, well, it really is difficult to quantify.

The only sensible observation is the one our politicians always make when they do badly in an opinion poll: ‘Look, as far as I’m concerned the only poll that matters is the one of our electorate on polling day’. Afd is thought to draw its support from across the board, and it is fair to assume that all three main parties – actually, in Germany, it should now be all four as Die Grünen do quite well these days – would see some of their supporters deserting them and expressing their anti-euro frustrations.

If more established pollsters come up with results suggesting that AfD support is growing, the most likely effect would be for the CDU/CSU, the SDP and the FDP to consider amending their euro policies accordingly. Whether they would do so, of course, is another matter entirely. Because for all their efficiency, the Germans do have the occasional blind spot.

. . .

The Home Office was in touch late last night and has asked me to perform a public service. And I agreed. It seems there has been some concern in recent months that one John Ward aka The Slog and a self-styled debunker of more or less everything which takes his fancy is in danger of becoming far too self-important.

JW‘Self-importance’ (which doctors know as loquens bolloccitis) is not, in itself, dangerous and is quite a common affliction. Extreme cases, however, can cause concern and might need treatment. Symptoms of this condition include a puffed-up chest, a bigger head than normal, a degree of paranoia (which can vary in intensity) and a pronounced choleric temperament, although sufferers are not usually violent. Those afflicted also tend to surround themselves with mirrors and also talk a lot about ‘their sources’, which research has shown are largely delusional.

Knowing my slight acquaintance with Mr Ward and that of late I have had dealings with him, and that I regularly publish a blog on the net, the Home Office has asked me whether I would, on its behalf, agree to carry regular bulletins on the state of Mr Ward’s condition and his blog. I am, of course, only to glad to do so, and if there’s a knighthood in it for me at the end of the day, so much the better. So I shall do my best to keep an eye on Mr Ward and his witterings on his blog and keep you all posted.

. . .

In view of a comment I have had to this entry, I think I should add the following. I have so far been running two blog in parallel. The first is here and covers more or less anything which catches my fancy. So far this second, a WordPress production, has more or less – more rather than less – mirrored the other, Google-facilitated – blog. But after reading a recent comment left here by someone who has read this blog, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to distinguish between the two, making this more of a political – ‘political’ – blog than the other at.
I do hope, however, that I shan’t take myself quite as seriously as some – Mr Ward! – and that anyone who happens upon these ramblings will realise they are no less and, crucially, no more ‘relevant’ or ‘important’ (as an ‘important’ new Radio 4 drama) than anyone other blog from any other crud. It so happens that, coincidentally, I have had a look around at other blogs. Most seem to consist of a patchwork of the latest photos of the kids, or are an expression of someone’s unresolved ego (as mine could well be). But too many of them are as dull as ditchwater, so I have decided on a Rule No One Re Blogs:
However much you, your prejudices/interests/sexual orientation or personal life are to the fore in your blog, make sure that your guest, our blog visitor, your reader are catered for first and foremost.

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Thin-skinned or what? Yours truly is banned by The Slog for not joining in the cheering loudly enough

It is odd how thin-skinned those folk are who like to set themselves up as our conscience but do not necessarily get the universal acclaim to which they think themselves entitled. They get rather uncomfortable when they realise we are not all cheering and that some of us have taken to booing. On such is John Ward, aka The Slog whose blog you can find here and who is a self-styled ‘deconstructor of bollocks’. He is, though, not quite as keen on such deconstruction when his own bollocks is at risk.

I’ve written about him before and there doesn’t seem a great deal of sense in repeating what I said. This entry is just to record a reply I’ve given to a comment Mr Ward left on my most recent comment. I am posting it here because he has now banned me from leaving comments, so you – and anyone else going there – won’t find it on his site. He accuses me of having ‘multiple IP addresses’ (which sounds vaguely sinister though I can’t think why) and of being ‘a troll’. This was my reply:

If I have multiple IP addresses it will because I go on the net from here (home, when I am here), work (when I am at work), my stepmother’s down the road (when I am at my stepmother’s) and my brother’s (when I am at my brother’s. At each location I use a different laptop/desktop.
I am not ‘a troll’ and nor do I see the enemy around every corner (it was once ‘reds under the beds’).

I don’t think one could get a ciggy paper between my views on the worth of the euro and the EU (although I believe on Britain retaining membership for the simple reason that we have a better chance of influencing the direction it takes in rather than out) and Mr Ward’s, but on a great many other matters – what might constitute ‘wit’, his take on Johnny Foreigner and just who seriously we take ourselves (all those ‘sources’ – I really can’t compete – we are poles apart. For one thing I hope to God I don’t have quite as high opinion of myself and am not quite as self-important as Mr Ward.

I wasn’t so much ‘banned’ yesterday as my markedly inoffensive comments removed without explanation. It seems that like a dog up our street Mr Ward likes to dish it out, but he can’t take it.

As for my blog, I have two. One here on the WordPress site which I revived after visitors here clicked on my name to see who I was; and my main blog at http://pfgpowell-1.blogspot.co.uk/ which has been running for more than three years and has attracted one or two comments, though not from the usual round of fawning acolytes as here – around ten at the last count, and they don’t vary in their rather juvenile appreciation of what appears here. Whether or not it contains anything of interest is not for me to say. Judge for yourselves.

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Does Germany now really have an alternative to the standard euro bollocks? Who knows? But a fanfare, please . . .

Well, the die has been cast and it now only remains to be seen whether the much-trailed Alternative fur Deutschland will become a political force to be reckoned with or just another nine-day wonder. The party is demanding – the Germans tend to ‘demand (‘Wir fordern…’) where we rather more diffident Brits might ‘suggest a change in policy’ – that afd Germany withdraws from the euro and re-introduces the D Mark. There are related demands but they are all more or less centred on the euro, growing dissatisfaction with handling of the euro crisis and a related unease with the EU. The new party’s website list number of supporters – an impressive list if you are impressed by academic qualifications and academia generally – but they do seem to be almost all men. I counted only three women. Here is a potted list if the party’s demands taken from its website with my translation:

 Wir fordern eine geordnete Auflösung des Euro-Währungsgebietes. Deutschland braucht den Euro nicht. Anderen Ländern schadet der Euro. (We demand an ordered dissolution of the eurozone. Germany doesn’t need the euro and it is damaging other countries.)

Wir fordern die Wiedereinführung nationaler Währungen oder die Schaffung kleinerer und stabilerer Währungsverbünde. Die Wiedereinführung der DM darf kein Tabu sein. (We demand the reintroduction of national currencies or the creation of a smaller, more stable currency union. The reintroduction of the D Mark should not be a taboo subkect.)

Wir fordern eine Änderung der Europäischen Verträge, um jedem Staat ein Ausscheiden aus dem Euro zu ermöglichen. Jedes Volk muss demokratisch über seine Währung entscheiden dürfen. (We demand the European treaties are amended to make it possible for every member state to leave the euro. Every nation must be able to make a democratic decision on what its currency should be.)

Wir fordern dass Deutschland dieses Austrittsrecht aus dem Euro erzwingt, indem es weitere Hilfskredite des ESM mit seinem Veto blockiert. (We demand that Germany forces the introduction of the right to leave the euro by blocking further contributions to the European Stability Mechanism.)

Wir fordern dass die Kosten der sogenannten Rettungspolitik nicht vom Steuerzahler getragen werden. Banken, Hedge-Fonds und private Großanleger sind die Nutznießer dieser Politik. Sie müssen zuerst dafür geradestehen. (We demand that the costs of the so-called bailouts are not carried by the taxpayer. Banks, hedge funds and big investors are the beneficiaries and they should be first in line to carry the costs.)

When I last mentioned AfD, I pointed out that in my view it is essentially a rather different organisation to Britain’s own UKIP, but it does pose the same threat to the established parties many of whose traditional supporters might be disenchanted with Germany’s self-imposed role of trying to sort out the euro crisis. And that might well mean protest votes come September when the countries goes to the polls.

Certainly, all three parties (who are all staunchly behind Angela Merkel’s policies on solving the euro crisis, one of AfD’s major gripes – what representation do those who don’t agree with Merkel have in parliament? they ask pertinently) do not seem to be underestimating the potential threat posed by Afd.

Patrick Döring the general secretary of Germany’s third party, the FDP, is quoted as saying: ‘I even find it disturbing that a body can be formed which is able to give the impression that Germany could change its currency without damaging the savings and wealth of her citizens just like that. It’s a little more complex.’

One of the CDU’s head honchos in Hesse, Christean Wagner, has said: ‘Leaving the euro, which the AfD is demanding, would be a leap back into the previous millennium. To make leaving the euro the central tenet of your manifesto demonstrates: these are yesterday’s people.’

Döring makes a reasonably good point, but Wagner sounds a little desperate. Even more weaker is this from he SDP’s president of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, who notes that he doesn’t believe the AfD’s stance is ‘very promisng’ and that ‘most people’ knew ‘what Europe and the European Union offered them’.

Elsewhere others have warned that the new party will be a refuge for dissidents from both the extreme Right and extreme Left, but AfD seems to be aware of this danger and has insisted that former members of the NDP, the Nationaldemokratishe Partei Deutschlands who would call themselves national socialists if it were not a criminal offence in Germany, will not be allowed to join. To which I can only say: good luck. That pledge is more PR than anything else as rooting out former (or even current) Nazi sympathisers would be a full-time job. As, of course, would be rooting out left extremists if they thought joining up would in some way prove useful to the cause.

The AfD has announced it will put up candidates for September’s election so we can expect a great many dirty tricks as the other three play it safe and resort to skulduggery to neutralise them,  whether or not they pose real threat. I predict that at least two of the AfD’s candidates will step down because their opponents have revealed tax irregularities; one will have his past as a rent boy exposed, will brazen it out, but will eventually give in to party pressure to throw in the towel; and one will be exposed by the Spiegel as a BND plant. Or was he? Yes, it will be that kind of murky shenanigans: however much I love them, rather like their national football side, the Germans turn dirty remarkably quickly when the going gets rough.

Another, to my mind relevant, criticism of the Afd – and one which can also be levelled at UKIP – is that its other policies, on transports, say, or health, education, welfare and the rest, don’t seem just ill-defined but non-existent. Getting Germany out of the euro seems to be the alpha and omega of its existence, and in that sense it and UKIP are pressure groups rather than political parties.

As you all know only to well, I am just another internet loudmouth and have absolutely no special knowledge on these matters. Bear that in mind when I say that however much I might applaud the sentiments of AfD, I am sadly inclined to predict that it this time next year it will be a minor footnote in history. But the very existence of the party might lead all three of Germany’s parties to rethink their policies a little if in opinion polls leading up to September’s vote AfD gives a reasonable account of itself. And if that does lead them to treat the whole euro mess with a little more thought and humanity, at least the AfD will have achieved something.

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In which your host tries to explain why he has become rather disenchanted with ‘The Slog’, ‘John Ward’, ‘Mr Ward’, ‘Ron L. Hubbard’ or whatever he chooses to call himself

I seem to have blotted my copybook a little with the various blimps who patronise a blog called The Slog, and one has complained that no one ever visits this ‘ere blog. So in case one or two of them do find their way here to find out for themselves who it might be with the gall to diss the great man, I shall do my best to make it more interesting for them, although I can’t claim to be able to match the high humour and sophisticated wit of  The Slog.

I came across The Slog several years ago when I was googling around for info about the then unfolding euro crisis. It was, I think, I late 2010, but most certainly as the euro crisis in Greece began to take shape and I wanted to know more. It is written by a retired advertising executive called John Ward who, at first, seem to me to have an inside track on what was going on courtesy of what he calls his sources. These were folk working here there and everywhere in Berlin, Frankfurt, London and Washington who were only too happy to give him a heads up and the latest developments.

Around February and March, Ward began confidently to predict that over the Easter weekend (I think) a plan cobbled together between Washington, Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels would see Greece turfed out of the euro. Each of the plotters had signed up for their own reasons, but Ward insisted it would happen and that everything would be set off by close of business in Washington on the Friday.

He had me convinced. Despite my background in newspapers (where my tasks currently include ensuring the correct puzzles appear and the chief sub remains unaware of my latest cock-up) I must – now rather shamefacedly – confess that overall I was rather impressed with Ward and his several ‘sources’. He also seemed to put in a great deal of work, ringing so-and-so here, phoning thinga-me-jig there, and could up with enough arcane data to baffle most anyone not in the banking game. (I understand his work in advertising was on the financial, deal-making side, which would explain a certain facility with figures.)

From the start I was rather put off with a certain fourth-form humour – rather forced and unfunny nicknames for various protagonists in the euro crisis, usually the Germans were a regular feature – which I felt sat rather oddly with the otherwise apparent authoritative tone he struck. I carried on tuning in, though, it has to be said, with rather less zeal than before the Greek defenestration failed to take place (they’re silly Eurozone members, by the way), and in time I rather lost patience with Ward.

Gradually I thought I began to detect a certain self-importance. I was also rather taken aback by the nature of the comments tacked on to his entries. Rather too many sounded as though they came from the UKIP Book of Phrases, rather too many resorted to using capital letters, and rather too many did not actually respond or elucidate the entry to which they were attached, but simply used the comment facility for a short rant. And I’ve always felt uneasy in the company of ranters.

I hadn’t been back for a while until a week or two ago, and when I did return I found – to my surprise – that my mood had changed rather more than I thought. I now thought I began to detect in The Slog’s pronouncements a certain repressed hysteria: don’t trust the bastards, look what they’ve done now. Then a few critical comments I left elicited the kind of response you might expect had you shared with a committed Scientologist your suspicion that Ron L. Hubbard was something of a nine-bob note.

So there you have it, ‘Sloggers’ as Ward likes to call them. If  you do click on my name and come across this blog, above I have outlined why increasingly I am tending to the views that, though not a Ron L. Hubbard, your Mr Ward is not quite – not quite –t he full deck.

This is not my main blog – you can find that here.

. . .

One rather odd criticism was that ‘at least John Ward makes predictions. You don’t, do you’. Well, no I don’t as it happens, mainly because making predictions is a mug’s game, something which does not yet seem to have occurred to Mr Ward. Actually, there is one prediction I can make but it will be so vague I’m on safe ground: the euro will go boom in a quite spectacular way, though whether that is this year, next year or the year after – or even a week next Tuesday – I’m not daft enough to say. Predictions are like that: the vaguer you keep them, the firmer is the ground you’ll find yourself on.

As for ‘analysis’, well it really is a question of ‘you pays your money and you makes your choice’. One man’s detailed analysis is another man’s crock of shit writ large. Furthermore, at the end of the day there is no such thing as a ‘fact’. For many it’s a ‘fact’ that Tony Blair was a war criminal, that Mrs Thatcher destroyed Britain or that Manchester City are a better club than Manchester United. So much for facts, and a great deal of ‘analysis’ is based on any number of ‘facts’ – Ward’s latest fact is that the central banks have got together to manipulate the price of gold. Perhaps, perhaps not, but there’ll never be a definitive yea or nay for several decades or even a century and even then it will all be debatable (for good money, of course).

That doesn’t mean all analysis is rubbish, of course, but when you are dealing with a contentious issue, be very prepared to find your analysis ripped to shreds by those who don’t like your conclusion. As a rule the only analysis we will credit as being intelligent and honest is analysis which confirms that we were right all along, whether you think the euro is the best thing since Duracell started making batteries or Moon is made of Camembert.

Posted in Bollocks and bullshit | 3 Comments

It’s true is it? It’s a fact is it? How do you know? Read it on the web, did you? Well, must be true then, eh? Whales can sing Dixie through their bottoms? Who’d have thought it? On the web was it? Funny what you find out.

I read somewhere recently that when the printing press was invented, those who called the shots were extremely worried that the end of the world was nigh. This was bad news. Their reasoning was that information, disinformation and outright rubbish could now be circulated far more easily and their authority would come under attack.

Well, they are right about the far wider circulation of information, disinformation and outright rubbish, but when and where their authority came under attack cannot simply be put down to the invention of the printing press and the good work done by Mr Gutenburg in Germany and Mr Caxton here in Britain (who, by the way, was not a printer by trade at all but an astute businessman formerly based in Flanders who had his finger in many pies and, broadly, invested in the future of the printing press).

That he is now widely credited with ‘inventing’ printing might well demonstrate that the fears of those who thought the invention could possibly lead to the public being misled by disinformation and outright untruths were not necessarily Establishment paranoia). They were worried, of course, because the feudal way of doing things meant that they, a minority, called the shots and everyone else was merely required to ask what most recent shots had been called.

The Church was a major part of the Establishment, as powerful as, and in some ways arguably even more powerful than, the Court. One reason why they were so much against the Bible being translated from Latin into vulgar tongues was because they were keen to preserve their role as the exclusive interpreter of ‘God’s word’. Making ‘God’s word’ more accessible to ordinary folk was, of course, why the various translators set about their work.

In fact, as almost all sociology bores will confirm – at great length if you give them half a chance, so watch your step – was that the invention of printing as a Good Thing overall. For one thing it made literacy and education possible that were the undoubted prerequisite for  the growth of democracy (defined by many as exploitation of the people by the people). That it also made possible such literary gems as Mein Kampf and the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion is also true, but to mention them is simple adolescent mischief.

That was then and this is now. The world and its prejudices have lived with printing for the best part of 800 years, and it was about time for a change. And that change came along around 15 years ago with the development of the internet. In those heady pioneering days it was still referred to as the ‘information superhighway’, though anyone using that phrase today would be mocked so much he or she would dare not show their face in public for at least a year.

But heady days being heady days and all kinds of nerds and geeks getting overexcited at the prospect of ‘worldwide communication’ – why didn’t they make that claim for radio? – the internet was trailed for a few short years as the key to freedom: there would be no stopping democracy, it was predicted, as information and news would spread across the planet at the speed of light (or electricity, I can’t remember: aren’t they essentially both the same? Something like that) and there would be no stopping it. Tyrants everywhere, the message went out, your days are numbered!

Well, call me an old cynic (or even a handsome cynic, if you like) but it didn’t pan out that way. Repressive states weren’t born yesterday, and governments who are not as keen as some on their folk being able to access everything available on the net are more than able to block access whenever they choose. They have also quickly become adept at monitoring web traffic and utilise algorithms to spot keywords and phrases which might merit a site being scrutinised a more closely.

So if, for example, I were to write something like ‘that Al Qaeda, now there’s man who knows how to put on a show. His last went like a bomb and he’s become something of an underground sensation’, the chances are that some bright herbert in GCHQ in Cheltenham will have a little red light blinking furiously on his desk and the message ‘potential terrorist alert, check out, check out!) flashing on his screen. CCHQ software will have picked up on ‘al qaeda’, ‘bomb’, ‘underground’ and ‘GCHQ’ all in the same sentence and decided to take a closer look (or not. I’m not that conceited, but I think you get my drift). And in the grand scheme of things, I’m rather glad they are on the ball. So much for the spread of information enabling democracy to spread.

But what the ‘information superhighway’ is also doing very successfully – apart from making rich pornographers even richer and helping crooks come up with ever more ways of parting fools and their money – is spreading disinformation and outright rubbish. So where before it cost me an arm and a leg to publish and have printed a book outlining my the ‘facts’ that house mice are, in fact, alien beings come to spy on us and prepare the ground for an invasion of super rodents, these days I can publicise that belief at a fraction of the cost merely by posting a website.

Furthermore, it won’t be long before someone else who has long suspected that that is exactly what mice are up to by lacked the proof for his suspicion comes across my website and tells himself – it is, sadly, usually ‘himself’ as most women are to busy buying shoes and chocolate to bother much with the net – ‘ah ha! I knew it! Finally the proof! I knew they were up so something and now someone has shown us exactly what’s going on!’ He might then even copy and paste the text and images on your website to a website he has created, so that now there is not just one website ‘proving’ the existence of evil, subversive alien mice but two! And if two more bods do the same, soon there will be four, then 16 and on it will go until every alien mice conspiracy theorist worldwide will point to the number of websites backing up his suspicion – all carrying the same ‘facts’, of course – and tell his friends: ‘Look, they can’t all be wrong, can they?’

The same thing could – and can – happen with books, of course, and still does, but given that the net demands less of us in the way of paying attention than your average book, and, furthermore, is accessible almost anywhere, it is proving more successful. But the moral is the same: whether it’s something someone has told you, something your read in a newspaper or book, or something you found on the net, use your judgment. If you have no way of knowing just how true it is and how reliable the sources are, withhold judgment. Complete rubbish can also travel at the speed of light.

. . .

All this occurred to me when I was chasing up info about the nation’s favourite paedophile Jimmy Savile and claims he was linked to a paedophile ring which also involved prominent politicians, civil servants, judges and the rest and that they had all closed ranks and were protecting one another (as you would, of course – if one goes, they will all go). I was particularly interested in claims now doing the rounds that Ted Heath as was, one of Britain’s least successful Prime Ministers was also into little boys and associated with Savile.

Other prominent names, many mentioned in connection with a gay brothel in Elm House, Rocks Lane, Barnes, include Conservative MP and Thatcher confidant Peter Morrison (now dead), bloody awful pop star, self-styled Christian and ageing Peter Pan Cliff Richard (not yet dead) and former Tory minister and EC commissioner Leon Brittan (not yet dead). Now, I have no way of knowing whether what is claimed about those gentlemen is true, although there now seems little doubt the Morrison was a wrong ‘un.

The point is that all three names, as well as several others are prominently mentioned on any number of website, and anyone visiting such a site might well go away with the firm impression that everything is true beyond any doubt. But of course it isn’t. A few months ago, the BBC got itself into a terrible mess by publicly announcing that one Lord McAlpine, a Conservative politician, had been named by one victim of paedophilia as his abuser. Twenty-four hours later came the retraction: Awfully sorry, chaps, we got that one wrong. It wasn’t Lord McAlpine, but his cousin. Yet the damaged had been done, and to this day someone somewhere searching the net for references to Tory paedophiles will come across the reference to Lord McAlpine and believe it to be fact.

What is equally worrying is that once you’ve looked up and read through several of these website, all purporting to be chasing down ‘the truth’, it dawns on you that a widespread practice is simply to copy and paste what is in one website into your own. Thus the number of ‘sources’ for a ‘fact’ are doubled, quadrupled, multiplied eightfold, then sixteenfold, then on and on. So much for research (and, I’ll add so-called ‘citizen journalism’).

A given ‘fact’ might well be true. There again it might be complete bollocks, but to the anti-paedophile zealot (which to my ears sounds just as phoney as an ‘anti-death zealot’ – is anyone, except paedophiles, actually in favour of paedophilia?) that is not the point: it has appeared on someone’s website as ‘fact’, this guy is on the side of the angels (‘he’s against fucking cunt paedophiles, innit, so he’s got to be right, innit?’) so it’s all done and dusted. The giveaway is that it is almost always word-for-word.

Try it yourself: google, say, “jimmy savile” “paedophile ring” “cabinet minister” and you’ll come across any number of blogs about the subject all cross-referencing to each other and many carrying word for word the same content. You’ll also find many pointing you to the blog published by Nutter-in-Chief David Icke, who, in my view, gives fruitcakes a bad name.

All this is, of course, a long way off discussing what went on at Elm House, various children’s homes in North Wales and the Jersey, Jimmy Savile, a long list of paedophiles and alleged paedophiles and the rest. And as I’ve got nothing new to add, I shan’t discuss it. I also suspect that, in view of some developments – coppers being taken off the case, files going missing, odd inquest verdicts and the like – there is a widespread cover-up, but I have no proof whatsoever. I should make that clear. The point of this entry is to repeat what is all-too-often forgotten: there’s a lot of crap out there on the net and be very careful what you decided to believe.

. . .

Here’s an example of how what is on the net can very often be top-dollar 24-carat bollocks: copy this (from the start of the double inverted commas to the end of the second set) “andrew marr” “tearound tessa”, then paste it into Google (other search engines are available ©BBC) and see what you come up with. You should come up with 3,630 results explaining that ‘Tearound Tessa’ was ‘jocular nickname’ Andrew Marr earned himself when he was working at the Economist ‘because of his enthusiasm for trips to the canteen on behalf of his colleagues.’

Websites giving that explanation include The Tatler (which writes of ‘his keenness to trot back and forth from the canteen’), Blurb Wire (‘Current news and events for high maintenance minds’ – their own rather self-regarding description, I’m so glad I don’t have a high maintenance mind), Topic Hawk and Scoop Web (ooh, ‘scoop’ eh, sounds good!)

Unfortunately, it’s complete crap. Marr never earned himself that nickname, never told anyone he did and, as far as I know, never used to ‘trot back and forth’ to the canteen to get cups of tea for his workmates. How do I know? I know because I made it up. I did so several years ago and added it – mischievously rather than maliciously – to Marr’s Wikipedia entry. And every other website which refers to that particular ‘fact’ merely cribbed it off Wikipedia – ALL of them.

The ‘fact’ that Marr was once nicknamed ‘Tearound Tessa’ will undoubtedly appear in years to come in many an authoritative biography of the man or at least his obit and appreciations by colleagues once he pops his clogs. But its bollocks. I made it up. And

jail1while I’m in confessional mood, don’t ever believe the ‘fact’ that the great and good Simon Heffer ‘once had a brief flirtation with the hard left in his teenage years’. That’s what his Wikipedia entry proclaims as now do also any number of potted biographies of the man. Trouble is it’s not true. I made that one up, too. Ah, there’s the knock at the door. It’s the Wiki police. Farewell, my good readers, and if they allow me the use of a laptop and access to the net in chokey, I pledge to carry on writing this blog. If they don’t – love, peace and kisses to you all.

Posted in Bollocks and bullshit | 2 Comments