29 September, 2011


The Empire strikes back

After 25 years I thought I had finally settled into a sort of armed truce with the Beast of Redmond. Microsoft has abused its position right from the start, as the monopoly supplier of the operating system while at the same time writing applications to run under it, effectively providing one published standard to third parties while quietly using an undisclosed and more capable set of interfaces for its in-house applications. Of course the undocumented OS calls and all those nifty direct memory pokes and peeks eventually leaked out or were reverse-engineered and became part of an unmanageable de facto industry standard. Three decades of fun and random instability have ensued as a sequence of not entirely backward compatible versions of DOS and Windows have been published and third-party publishers have struggled to reverse-engineer and and adapt.

But Windows is unavoidable and, since Win95, has been quite a decent if flaky GUI. I've never fancied the Mac, which is certainly well swish and reassuringly reliable and devilishly stylish to boot, but comes with the nagging feeling that you need to get Steve Jobs' written permission before executing each mouse click. And as for installing unapproved third-party applications, expect a visit from a couple of heavies from Cupertino who'd like to have a friendly chat. Linux is fun and great for building servers — I must have built and run a couple of hundred of the damned things over the years when I worked for a living — but it remains a constant guerilla war to keep it running as a client laptop in a changing environment. I have a little Linux netbook which I carry with me for logging into public Wifi hotspots. Switch it on in Wetherspoon's and it's up and running and connected to the free Wifi within 20 - 30 seconds, unlike the two to three pints my old Windows Vista laptop (now thankfully stolen) used to take to start. But I'm not planning to use the EeePC for anything more than web browsing using the pre-installed Firefox.

So I've accepted Windows 7 as the OS but seek out competent, no bullshit third-party and preferably freeware apps to run on top of it. VLC to watch DVDs, ImgBurn to burn the occasional CD or DVD, Seamonkey and Firefox to access the Interweb. An old version of Winamp, without the video support and the insistence on managing my media experience® which infests current versions of the program, to play music and other sound recordings. Paintshop Pro v7 for simple picture editing. Icedax under Cygwin for ripping CDs and a command line tool to compress the WAV files to FLAC. To be fair, Microsoft's very own Wordpad suffices for most basic word processing but OpenOffice is there waiting for any fancy bollocks that turns up, and that bloody paperclip can chase itself up its own jacksy.

And then my TV dongle packed up. It came as a bit of a shock, to be honest. We've become so used to these no-moving-parts electronic gizmos being ultra-reliable. You expect it to become obsolete, you resign yourself to the fact that the software is often crap, but the last thing you expect is for the hardware to fail.

Even if you've got a proper telly on the wall, these little Freeview sticks are handy to have, and so I sallied forth to Messrs Maplin's and bought myself a new one. Now these gizmos are jolly clever, a DVB-T2 tuner the size of the top joint of my thumb, no less. But the software is pushing the envelope a bit, particularly in rendering the display. One gets the feeling hardware short cuts are being resorted to. So these things have always been a bit hit and miss. Unfortunately the software bundled with the new gubbins turns out to be just too unreliable to use, on my machine anyway. And so it was that, after 18 months of using this machine, I resorted to the pre-installed Windows Media Center for the first time.

And ye Gods what a patronizing fascist it is! If I want to record, ad hoc and manually, one section of one programme, say an interview on the news programme I am currently viewing, I click on the little red button and what does it do? It starts recording OK, but also goes off and consults the EPG and automatically schedules all future episodes of that programme for recording. Very helpul, chaps, but not quite what I was after. To deal with this I have to chase through various menus to "cancel the new series". This is typical Microsoft. Plus, of course, it records not to an industry standard format, like MPEG2, oh no, it has its own proprietary closed-source disk-filling format, WTV. I hear dark mutterings that this overblown crap incorporates DRM stuff which stops you playing back the recording on a machine other than the one it was recorded on, even if it's an off-air recording for personal use. I hate these bastards.

One typical little example of the gulf between what I expect in software and what the Beast deigns in its condescending wisdom to provide: suppose I mute the sound on my laptop, for example if I am watching a TV programme and the phone rings. Like most laptops, there is an "Fn" key to facilitate this. Media Center detects this change and automatically switches on subtitles. Now that's quite clever and quite a thoughtful little feature. I'm sure people appreciate it. But why is it not offered as an elective option? Why is there no obvious way of switching it off if it is not what I require? And where is that set of pull down options at the top of the Media Center window, in particular that essential Edit|Preferences|Advanced or Tools|Options submenu? (Hmm. A thought suddenly occurs. I'll bet they're there in the inevitable "Pro" version which you have to pony up extra $$$ for. Yep, that'd be the Micro$oft way alright.)

Alright, I admit it. I'm an unreconstructed old fart with a command-line mentality. As soon as I get a new Windows machine the first thing I do is switch it to the Windows Classic interface 'cos the default XP-and-later interface is too much like interacting with a fucking Tonka Toy. The second thing I do is to kill the wallpaper and set the background to plain black and turn off any silly little noises and fatuous animations. Look guys, I know you're just leveraging the baseline experience to meet the dictated aspirations of the 21st century market and, er, sell more product an' stuff, but I'm a 63-year-old bloke who cut his computing teeth on one of these things
at a blistering 10 uppercase characters a second, not a podgy-fingered toddler in nursery school.

Bah humbug! Let the war of attrition recommence.

By golly that's better. I haven't had a good anti-Microsoft rant for, ooh, at least three and a half yonks. Małgorzata, another bottle of cheap Polish lager, prosze! And a quick sniff of your apron, if you'd be so kind.

28 September, 2011


Compliments of the British taxpayer, Sir.

I was listening to the amiable Mrs Elizabeth Heiney's genteel conversation programme, Midweek, on the steam wireless just now. Well, a couple of hours ago, but that's close enough. One of her guests was the Nigerian musician Muyiwa Olarewaju. Apparently he's fairly upper crust in Nigeria and his full name is about a yard and a half long, and he rattled it off for our benefit at Libby's request. You don't frighten me with your long names, matey, I've worked with Tamils. So there.

Anyway, Muyiwa was born in Nigeria and sent to England as a child to "get a decent education", living in London with a series of distant relatives. A fairly common practice; and at least he did better out of it than the unfortunate Victoria Climbié and Damilola Taylor.

But it's never occurred to me before to wonder specifically, who is actually paying for all of this? I suppose he could have been sent to a fee-paying independent school fully funded by his parents back in the old country, but I can't say I'm entirely sanguine about that assumption. There are no checks on eligibility for free state education.

So I guess we're not only providing a free world health service but a free world education service as well. No worries, just get to the UK and they'll look after you.

Hmm. To quote that excellent, if noisy, popular American songster Mr M Loaf, "Life is a lemon and I want my money back".


What is it with bloody Google? After I posted, the Blogger response screen offered me this:

The other day they were trying to find me a nice Muslima to marry. That bastard Hundal's behind this, I tell you. Nurse, quick, the orange pills!

27 September, 2011


No platform..

... for people we don't agree with. 'Cos the normal rules don't apply to them, innit?

From Corporate Watch via Lancaster Unity.

Silverdale Tours has been revealed to be the latest company prepared to profit from transporting the English Defence League (EDL).

Revealed to be? As in having the name Silverdale written in big letters on the side of the coach along with the local EDL's own confirmation that the coach came from Nottingham. Intrepid sleuthing there lads. Award yourself a couple of gold stars.

The EDL had planned a march through Tower Hamlets to the East London Mosque on 3rd September 2011. The planned demonstration was in the vein of loyalist Orange marches in Northern Ireland.

A heavy police presence kept groups separate throughout the day but, at around 6pm, a group of EDL supporters, travelling in a vehicle hired from Silverdale coaches, drove past the East London mosque hurling insults. The coach was pursued and set upon by a crowd who broke windows and hurled street furniture. As the news spread around Whitechapel, hundreds of local people poured onto the streets and confronted police who had moved in to protect the EDL.

Confronted police who moved in to protect the EDL? What, to protect them from a mob of overexcited violent savages who might well have committed murder? Naughty policemen, hindering the righteous revenge of the oppressed like that. As to whether the EDL contingent "hurled insults" from inside their coach, with its sealed tinted windows, I can't say. I wasn't there, was I? (Or should that be, "innit?") At least Corporate Watch refrains from propagating the meme about the EDLers breaking the windows themselves, from inside the coach.

In February 2011 Andrews of Tideswell, another company used by the EDL in Bradford, made a statement that it would not carry the EDL (or other protesters) again after several of its coaches had their tyres slashed by anti-fascists prior to the EDL's Luton demo.

Ah yes, this little incident. Nice!

Silverdale Tours are based in Nottingham at Little Tennis Street South, Nottingham,NG2 4EU.Tel: 0115 912 1000(0115) 912 1000, Fax: (0115) 912 1558, Email: info@silverdaletours.co.uk.

That's very detailed. And what, perchance, are readers expected to do with this information? Send them a Christmas card? Recommend them to the students' union for getting to the next UK Uncut gig?

The article ends with:

Companies that have provided services to the EDL in the past and have not pledged not to do it again include:

[List of coach hire companies follows, with detailed contact info]

You might like to read that sentence again. I certainly missed the double negative first time round. This is a list of companies which have not yet given in to threats from "anti-fascists".

Now it's just possible that a number of irresponsible antifascists might be so enraged that they might pop round and relieve their frustration with a spot of impromptu tyre-slashing. Not that we'd condone such behaviour of course. Heaven forfend. We're just saying, like.

As a friendly warning, if you get my meaning. I mean, nice little business you've got here. Wouldn't want anything to happen to it, would we?

The most depressing thing is that these people don't see the contradiction.

21 September, 2011


Kudos to the Guardian

Now there's a statement you don't read very often round here. In a piece which is actually about the Een Stannat's "Get London Reading" campaign, Nick Cohen's original copy began

On the worst night of London rioting almost every shop in Clapham High Street was ransacked - except one. The bookshop.

and you can still see this version on the numerous sites which have quoted the piece or copied it wholesale. Following comments from readers, this is corrected in the online version to

On the worst night of London rioting almost every shop in Clapham Junction was ransacked - except one. The bookshop.

The correction has been made silently, which makes some of the below-the-line readers' comments a bit confusing. The Guardian, whatever else you might say about it, would have explicitly acknowledged the erratum.


Une petite question

Angelique Chrisafis writes in the Guardian about the impact of the niqab ban in la belle France (via). It is illustrated with this photograph,

"Hind Ahmas", reads the caption, "one of two French [?] women facing a fine for wearing the niqab..."

How do they know it's her? It seems to me there's an opportunity here for our cash-strapped media to save money on photographers' time by using a single stock photograph of "a woman in a niqab". Or perhaps a small range of photos covering women of different skin colours. Ditto burqas.

For what it's worth, I would oppose the introduction of a similar universal ban on the wearing of the burqa or niqab in public places in this country, certainly when simply walking down the street. There's something "un-British" about that; and it also opens up other cans of worms — what about people dressed up in animal costumes in an advertising stunt or as part of some kind of festivity, pour exemple?

Instead I would clarify, through guidelines and if necessary through legislation, that any private or public organization which required actual or potential facial identifiability of people on its premises would be supported by HMG against claims of racial or religious discrimination. For example where a railway season ticket or building pass requires the photographic identification of the named individual, or where a shop or bank requires customers' faces to be visible to staff and security cameras.

Keep it simple: our gaff our rules.

20 September, 2011


Timing is all

An elderly German-sounding gent approaches the checkout in Waterstone's.

"You haff an excellent bookstore," he comments to the assistant — or bookseller as I believe we are now required to call them — as he hands over his intended purchase for scanning.

The assistant, sorry, the bookseller preens, appreciatively accepting the compliment on behalf of his colleagues. A pause of at least 4 or 5 seconds ensues.

"... at Trafalgar Square," finishes the elderly gent. The bookseller slumps visibly.

I'm convinced there was no sarcastic intent. Perhaps he was struggling to remember the place name. Or whatever. The bookseller was of the same opinion when he and I discussed the incident afterwards.

But the natural comic timing was exquisite.


Alle Pässe u. Ausweise, bitte

The young woman finds a seat in the beergarden, carefully skirting round the feral furniture I photographed earlier. The stools have settled down a bit since my last visit and are grouped attentively around their respective parents. Nonetheless there is still a bit of a nervous edge about them, and the woman is wise to give the cluster a respectfully wide berth.

Meanwhile her male companion enters the pub to negotiate the purchase of alcoholic refreshment. Some 30 seconds later he re-emerges and, standing outside the pub, gestures for his lady friend to join him. "I've just lost ten years," he comments glumly as they set off to pursue their quest elsewhere.

Hmm. 18 + 10 = 28. Looks about right. The bloke definitely looked to be in his late twenties to me. And yet he had obviously been challenged for ID by the barmaid.


I hope somebody doesn't take it into their heads to ask me for proof of age. The only photographic "ID" I carry around is my old freeloader's bus and train pass — my "Oyster Pay Never" card as I sometimes call it to wind up the farepaying punters. As of this writing, you have to be at least 61 to qualify for a blue Freedom Pass in London, but I don't think it's on most pubs' list of approved IDs.

19 September, 2011


Quote of the day

Libby Brooks writing at CiF,

Perhaps the Gypsy and Traveller population is so regarded because it is a national vexation out of all proportion to its numbers.

Just a thought.

18 September, 2011


Nurse? The screens!

Private Eye has been published for the past 50 years, and I've been reading it for about 45 of them. And I'm seriously beginning to wonder if it has finally outlived its original purpose. For what point is there in parodying and lampooning politicians and the press when they make such a good job of doing it to themselves?

We have had the Guardian obsessing about Kelisgate. First, Hugh "I is (sort of) a Darkie and I is a victim" Muir and then Barbara "I is an overprivileged White tart and I apologize for everything" Ellen trying to parlay this tedious minor chantoose into some kind of latterday St Stephen Lawrence with which to browbeat what remains of the unbroken indigenous British population.

According to Wikipedia, "Kelis" is pronounced /kəˈliːs/, or for those of you who don't speak IPA, cur-LEASE with the stress on the second syllable. Well Gordon Ben Et, as they say in Israel. It would seem that this attention-seeking bint, who it appears is too thick to remember her own surname and so it is hardly surprising that she has had difficulty understanding which country she is in, has not been getting nuf rispek from the local serfs and so she kicked off with some outrageous cock-and-bollocks story which the Grauniad eagerly laps up to demonstrate how incorrigibly racist the Brits are even after 40 years of exhaustive antiracism indoctrination. Thing is, Hugh and Barbs, we've heard all this before and we don't fucking care.

And, frankly, the only kind of "red-faced Brit" likely to use "slave" as an ethnic slur against an "African-American" would himself be of West African heritage. Contrary to Alex Haley's sanitized portrayal, those who captured and initially enslaved his putative African ancestor Kunta Kinte would have been other native Africans who then sold him on to Europeans. "Real" Africans are quite aware of this and some of them take malicious pleasure in reminding American and Caribbean Blacks of their Loser heritage.

And now to cap it off, we have the fascinating case of the Cherokee and the Freedmen. To the extent that I can get my tiny brain round this, it's a grubby political inter-ethnic conflict revolving around access to federal handouts. Unfortunately the protagonist groups both have victim-status, which is well tricky, innit. The agonizing among the Righteous must have been truly gutwrenching. But don't worry, the White Man is to blame in the end.

I can't cope with any more World of Victimhood (now available for Xbox 360 and PS3) just now, so let's get back to the real world with a wildlife photo I shot on a recent safari in Sarf London. (Sorry about the poor lighting.)

Here we have a nest of semi-feral beergarden furniture spotted in Greenwich. Note how the young, known as "stools", retain some mobility and also have short arms, known as "rests", with which they entrap dog leads and attack passing ankles. The adult form, the "table", is however completely sessile. The arms disappear entirely and the feet fuse into a single pod. Curiously, in this stage of the beast's lifecycle, the original quadrupedal form of the beer table's ancestor, the dinner table, becomes apparent, if only vestigially.

The adult beer table is generally docile and obtains its nutrition mostly from spilt beer and discarded food, as well as the occasional incautious pigeon. The juveniles, however, when particularly hungry, have been known to take babies and small dogs. While beergarden furniture can generally be approached safely, tourists are advised to exercise vigilance.

The group photographed above, it should be added, have quite clearly been badly spooked by something and should not be approached at all.

As the late great Dave Allen was wont to say, Goodnight, thank you and may your God go with you.

16 September, 2011


How (not) to run a blog

In this post by Jai the Prolix at Pickled Politics, we are told (as of this writing) that there are "71 comments". This is not true; there are 53 tweets and retweets linking to the post plus 18 actual comments. I don't really understand why people list incoming tweets like this; there is rarely anything interesting in the text of the tweet itself. OK, Sunny, you want to tell the world how achingly popular your blog is. If you're that desperate, fair enough, but why so disingenuous about it. Others (eg Seymour) at least have the honesty to explicitly separate out the two subtotals.

Below the line, as we apparently now say in blogspeak, we find regular commenter the well-meaning but grumpy Douglas Clark bemoaning the fact that only he and the equally well-meaning and excruciatingly even-handed Sarah Annes Brown are the only ones bothered to comment on Jai's most important post.

Well this sort of stuff doesn't help:

(captured We 2011-09-14 09:45)

(captured Th 2011-09-15 10:47)

Gone, gone, and never called me Mother! Not deleted in the sense of having their contents deleted and replaced with an explanatory message, if only a standard generic one, but removed silently, without explanation. Quietly airbrushed from cyberhistory. (Well, excepting arseholes like me who are given to snapshotting untrustworthy websites.)

I'm not familiar with Just Visiting's posting history at PP but he has been a fairly regular commenter at Liberal Conspiracy where his comments have been cogent and non-abusive. Regrettably they have never toed the party line du jour.

Earlier on in the comment thread we had this exchange,

The opening post had indeed been substantially cut down: as it happens I have a snapshot of the original. If you've read any of Jai's many posts at PP without falling asleep, you'll understand why I usually refer to him as Jai the Prolix. If Jai talks as he writes, I wouldn't want to be depending on him to warn me that I was about to be run over by an approaching train. By the time Jai got to the gist, after a broad history of railways with special reference to the importance of India in their development, I would be long dead and cremated and in all probability the offending train will have reached the end of its working life, been decommissioned and scrapped.

Grudging plaudits to Sunny then for losing patience and cutting the bugger down. But to do so absolutely without notification in the case of a published and "established" post is another matter. No wonder Douglas and Sarah are puzzled. Quietly correcting unremarked typos, spelling mistakes and minor grammatical infelicities is one thing, but this is stealth editing worthy of the Ministry of Truth and is very discourteous.

So there you have it. Artificially inflating comment counts; stealth-editing of the opening post; silently deleting comments which disagree with the site's point of view. A fine example to us all.

12 September, 2011


Bogging off effectively

While we're on the subject of food at Wetherspoon's, here's a bit of a marketing failure.

The pub manager has, as you might expect, some discretion to supplement the standard food menu with special offers, whether to clear an unexpected overstock or simply to keep the punters interested. And of course he gets to price them too.

I think Sean (for it was probably he) has missed a trick here. All the meals are priced at £4.99. Yet the 12oz Angus steak is not only 50% larger, but would probably have been one of those premium offerings — you know the sort of thing, hand reared beast hung to mature for 30 days after slaughter while the farmer's daughter sits by the carcass singing it soothing ballads to improve the tenderness. So a higher price would be expected.

Now I was tempted by the 8oz rump steak, which was entirely sufficient to still my hunger. The 12oz Angus would, as we say oop North, have been overfacing. On the other hand, I felt somehow foolish for not "maximizing my value" and would have felt irrationally embarrassed in ordering the "lower value" selection at the bar.

So in the event I took my stomach elsewhere.

Pricing, especially where special offers, bundles and BOGOFs are in play, is a subtle game. Had Sean differentiated the prices by no more than a pound, I would probably have felt comfortable enough to proceed.

11 September, 2011


Desperate business

First it was Pork & Bombardier sausages, conjuring up terrifying images of the MoD's plans for "managing down" the size of the armed forces.

And now this:

Desperate times in the Church too, it seems.


And they used us...

Laban's piece on the enslavement of vulnerable derelicts by the "travelling community" reminds me of a a programme I heard on the steam wireless a few months ago. Simplest I think to copy the BBC's summary across,

A new series of The Choice begins this week with the story of Mikey Walsh.

He grew up in the closed world of the Romany gypsies.

Rarely at school, he seldom mixed with anyone outside his community with its colourful characters and strict family code. And despite its violence and hardships, it was the life that Mikey loved.

Eventually he was faced with the agonising decision of whether to turn his back on everyone and everything he knew .....and face an alien world with no education and support... knowing he would never be able to return.

Mikey, it turned out, was gay. His father attempted to beat and humiliate this "weakness" out of his son, who eventually ran away with a casual gay lover who soon abandoned him. Mikey eventually found his feet in the outside world and was even eventually reconciled with his father.

Quite a sympathetic story and I found myself wishing the young man well.

But one thing stuck in my mind. Mikey's father made his living by the tarmacking scam. He was apparently entirely sanguine about this, happily cheating and threatening pensioners out of their meagre savings. Even Mikey himself accepted this without demurral.

My experience of the "travelling communities", Romany and Tinker, has been that they regard the "settled community" as stupid prey animals to be exploited. Without mercy.

They hold us in contempt. I have to say that I am inclined to reciprocate the sentiment. Fuck 'em.

Update (12th at 08:00)

The local MP is calling for "us" to be the eyes and ears of the police. Erm, three small points.

1. No member of the settled community is going to get anywhere near enough a criminal pikey encampment of this nature to see anything suspicious.

2. If you are close enough to spot something dodgy and you grass the bastards up, they will find out and your life will be literally over.

3. In any case, have you not noticed that pikeys are a designated victim group? If you grass them up or are otherwise disobliging about their activities, you will probably be done for racism.

10 September, 2011


The identity game

I was groping round for a snappy title there, on the model of "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" or even "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me". But you'll be pleased to learn that I thought better of it. Anyway, onward and upward!

I rarely read Cristina Odone's pieces in the Telegraph — I can get all the aggravation I need from my CiF addiction, ta very much — but this one sucked me in alright,

Muslims feel so British, they're ready to die for this country

Cristina writes,

The riots brought out a nasty streak in thousands of looters – and in thousands of ordinary citizens too. They didn't kick in a shop window or make off with a pair of Nikes. But they gave their xenophobia free rein. While the sikhs, Turks and Poles drew praise for their efforts in defending their neighbourhoods and restoring order, hostile little Englanders gave vent to their paranoia: immigrants can't be patriots, was their mantra – and Muslims above all. (For a taste of these rants, have a look at the responses to my meek and mild article on immigrant patriots).

They'd do well to read the riveting study of Muslims and the Army, "Ties That Bind" which Policy Exchange has just published. Author Shiraz Maher discovers not only that almost 90 per cent of Muslims here feel British, but also that 79 per cent of low-skilled Muslims would consider joining the Army and just under 48 per cent of Muslim women said they would too.

Hmm. Startling numbers there. I'm not sure how they square with other polls of Muslims testing them for primary loyality to the Ummah, Shari'a, the righteousness of 9/11, etc. But I guess he who pays the pollster writes the questions. So let's just pick up the assertion that a significant proportion of UK-based Muslims "feel British" and run with that.

It's all very nice, Cristina, but it's only part of the story, isn't it? Identity is a two-way street. Your tame Union Flag-kissing Muslims can feel as British as they like, but that doesn't automatically mean that others, for example the "indigenous" British — remember us? — will necessarily reciprocate the sentiment.

Despite the best efforts of Bhikhu Parekh and his little posse, British identity is not a property available for vacant possession. There are incumbents. Folk like me. So do we clasp these keen wannabe new Brits to our cultural collective bosom? Maybe. Maybe not.

But hark! I can already hear the approaching hooves of a detachment of the Righteous, bearing their proud motto, "They were born here, so they're British. Or are you some kind of racist, hmm? End of. Innit."

Fraught area, this. I think a little bit of distance is needed to lend perspective.

Sunny Hundal, political blogger, professional angry wog and UK-born son of Punjabi immigrant parents, is always asserting (writings passim) that "you don't have to be White to be British". Indeed, last year Sunny, for some career-driven opportunistic reason or other I haven't fathomed out, spent several months demanding that he was now to be acknowledged as not only British, but English as well.

There are times when a spot of righteous whataboutery is your only man. And this is one of them. Let's consider a counterfactual scenario.

As best as I can guess from known family history and assorted circumstantial evidence, my ethnic background is a mixture of bog trotting Irish, Saxons probing north into the Midlands and Lancashire, and Norwegian Vikings settling in the Wirral and South Lancs. (I propose to ignore Oppenheimer's revisionist theories here: they don't really affect the overall conclusion.) There are persistent family rumours of an exotic minor aristocratic connection through dalliance between a serving wench and the young master at some country house in, er, Cheshire, but that's as exotic as it gets. OK, so I'm a six-foot blue-eyed Viking with dodgy eyesight and a penchant for cheap Polish lager.

Now in real life, my father did his wartime service in the RAF as ground crew; he was one of those jammy bastards who never left Albion's soil for the duration. When the Interval of Unpleasantness came to an end in 1945, he returned to Manchester and married his childhood sweetheart. My parents were raised in literally adjacent streets in Moston, where I was born in 1948 and where I grew up.

No ambiguity about my Britishness there, then.

OK, let's switch to the counterfactual. In this scenario my father, lacking the metalworking skills which landed him in the RAF, is drafted into the Army and posted "out East", where he ends up at the end of the war in the Punjab. He takes a shine to the place and believes he can make a living there in civvy street. His childhood sweetheart comes out to join him and I am born in 1948 in, shall we say, Chandigarh in newly independent India.

I grow up fully bilingual to native standard in both Punjabi and English, with the required smattering of Hindi thrown in. Fully au fait with and comfortable with Punjabi life, though retaining my nominally Christian heritage. Picture me in your mind's eye perhaps 40 years ago, if you will, a six-foot, pallid young man with blue eyes and hair the generic turd brown colour of the North European. Picture me answering back to local racists with a fluent flow of Punjabi profanities that would make Sunny blush, let alone his mother.

So, in that scenario, could I claim to be Indian? Or indeed Punjabi? Would that claim be accepted by the local "indigenous" Indians? And if not, why should I extend the corresponding courtesy to Sunny or to any other South Asian resident in the UK, whether born and raised here or not?

You want me to be inclusive, then rather than screaming "racist" at me, try convincing me that your "all the same colour under the skin" inclusivity is a universal principle.

So let's get back to Sunny's question, "Do you have to be White to be British?" It's a real "Do you still beat your wife?" question, that one. Well it is if you answer yes or no as the questioner wants you to. I am going to answer differently.

Do you have to be White to be British? It helps. The British are a North European ethnic group (or long established amalgam of several such groups if you prefer it that way) with a North European secular Protestant culture. To be accepted as fully integrated British it does help to be able to pass the John Smith test. By this I mean that if Jan Kowalski, the UK-born and raised son of Polish immigrants, changes his name to John Smith, nobody would know that his family had not been here since King Ælfred burnt those bloody cakes. Until you looked it up on Wikipedia, did you know that Denis "Adenoids" McShane was a UK-born Irish Pole. But if the similarly placed Vijay Patel, born in the UK of Gujarati parents, tried the same stunt nobody would believe him.

So yes, being White, and preferably North European White, does help. That's the way the cookie crumbles. But what of the others? I'd say it's a slower process, a process which may not run to completion for all. Intermarriage helps. Cultural assimilation helps. I know a chap of Jamaican parentage born in London, entirely British in his speech and attitudes. His Jamaican heritage is part of his background, not his foreground, just as my known Irish and putative Viking heritages are little more than distant semimythical background to me. In the present I am English and therein lie my cultural, political and tribal loyalties.

But some, even unto the 3rd and 4th generation, may in the end remain alien, or might at best become "country members" of the British club.

Tariq Khan, let us say, may speak English with a native command and a Brummagem accent, but if he speaks Urdu indoors, goes regularly to mosque, spends his evenings watching Pakistani satellite TV, flies "home" to visit the folks in Peshawar or Karachi every year and is negotiating to marry off his daughter to a nephew from "back home", just where do his political, cultural and tribal loyalties lie? You can't just be British only when you're going down the DWP office.

There's more to this than simply where you were born and your entitlement to a British passport. This goes beyond the simplistic yes-no shibboleths of the Righteous.

As for Sunny-ji, I'd conclude that he's not British, he's a Punjabi expat with British citizenship and living in the UK. His loyalties lie with his Desi tribe, not with us palefaces.

Does any of this matter? Potentially, yes, if you need to answer the question: in whose interests is this country ultimately to be run?

Interesting times.


By the Great Spotted Phallus of Samarkand, that confused it. This is the selection of advertisements that Blogger offered me after accepting and posting the above,

The algorithms must have been spinning like an oozlum bird on crack.

07 September, 2011


Slab news

Well, I said that the myth that it was the passengers of the trapped EDL coach in Mile End who broke the coach windows from the inside would rapidly achieve unstoppable memetic status.

And in the readers' comments to an article in yesterday's Een Stannat we have

Of course, you knew that Stephen "Tommy Robinson" Yaxley-Lennon is actually Nick Griffin's love child with Carole Thatcher, didn't you? It's obvious, innit? I mean, I've just said so, on the Internet, so it must be true.

06 September, 2011



So I was looking round the Internong for a picture to illustrate this post and I found this little selection. Look at the second illustration in the top row. There is something deeply disturbing about a purveyor of road signs who cannot tell his left from his right.

Anyway, press on regardless. Whenever I see one of these signs on my travels, hopefully pointing in the correct direction, I find myself wondering whether following the sign will lead to anything at all diverting. I have to say I've always been disappointed so far, so I try my best to ignore the signs now. I am no longer impressed even by the refreshing honesty of the signs which point to a "Pedestrian Diversion".

A seemingly conditioned response that was mildly chuckleworthy the first couple of times but, like the ritual witticisms of a middle-distance relative which you come to dread each Christmas, it has become a bit of a curse.

It's a mindworm. Just as an earworm is a catchy tune that you cannot shake out of your mind's ear, I think of a mindworm as a chain of thought that is predictably and inescapably triggered by some repeated event. A chain of thought that you come to wearily accept rather than delight in.

I seem to have acquired a new one. Around the City of Westminster you will encounter examples of this sign,

This one is at Charing Cross. There are also a number of them at the slightly posher end of Shaftesbury Avenue. One imagines that the streets management division of TfL, for it was indeed they, put them up to warn drivers of double decker buses and other tall vehicles that they might get clipped by the overhanging branches of these rather splendid trees.

Unfortunately a little voice at the back of my head tells me different. "Low", it says, refers not to the height off the ground of the tree's outer limbs, but to to the tree's moral character. These are low trees, trees which pass offensive remarks about our sartorial taste as we pass, trees which delight in extending a stealthy root for the inadvertent tourist to trip over, and then snigger vulgarly when he does so. These are trees which, if they can get away with it, will clip you a blow on the back of the head with a low hanging bough that didn't seem to be there a moment ago. Worst and cruellest of all, these are trees which, when a pair of birds builds a nest in their upper branches, will stealthily withdraw the sap from a key supporting branch, carefully timing the branch's slow starvation so that, as the chicks are beginning to fledge but are not yet quite ready to fly, a gust of wind will snap off the branch, tumbling the wee things to their demise.

Low, evil trees. Trees to give a wide berth to.

Nurse, the blue pills, quickly. No, no. It's withdrawal symptoms. Wetherspoon's have run out of Lech. I'll be alright after a little nap.

05 September, 2011


Meme news - Tower Hamlets edition

It's interesting how memes develop. And how they persist, seemingly indestructible, in the face of any and every counterargument. (Remember the EDL supposedly beating up innocent "Asian" youths at Chadwell Heath, or indeed BNP "thug" Bob Bailey going round randomly abusing "Asian" youths in Barking?)

When I came across this link

Extremist group EDL members breaks coach window from inside
& media blames Muslims

I thought, aha, the paranoid are on the march; this'll be fun. Then I read the more considered than its previous effort but still very slanted piece at the Mail about the attack on the EDL coach in Stepney. A number of the commenters there are also suggesting that the EDL passengers broke the windows of the coach from the inside. Hmm, something more to this. So I finally got round to watching the YouTube footage,

And at roughly 20 seconds in, a window on the coach does appear to shatter outwards. Indeed, one Daily Mail commenter suggests that the window has not only been broken from the inside but that an EDLer throws a "slab" through it at one of the poor "Asian" rioters. Looks quite plausible when you view the video.

Hold on a minute. Let's think this through. You are a group of EDL sitting in a coach in hostile territory. The coach has broken down and is going nowhere fast. A number of "Asian" youth are running about in the street. At least one of them has thrown a projectile at a window of the coach, fortunately without doing any damage. So what do you do? Apparently you break one of the windows and climb through the hole in order to attack the innocent "Asian" lads. Well no, according to the video footage, you break the window and then just sit there. OK, you toss a "slab" which you happen to have handy through the hole where the window was, and then you just sit there. Doesn't work does it?

Well, it doesn't work unless you sign up to the standard trope that the EDL are mindless thick illiterate violent knuckledraggers. Then it's perfectly obvious that a coachload of EDL would respond to a situation like this by punching a window out with bare hands and then just sit there like a group of very puzzled and very dim gorillas, not knowing what to do next and making plaintive ooh-ooh-ooh noises.

Yes, OK then. Let's download the video in as high a definition as possible and take a closer look. I find the Firefox Video Downloadhelper extension handy for this. I'm sure there are plenty of other tools just as good. Then I viewed the relevant section of the video. Repeatedly. And in slow-mo. And in slower mo. And then frame by frame.

At about 17s the young man in the black top throws a projectile at one of the windows towards the rear of the side of the coach. The window survives. He runs forward and at about 20s throws another projectile at a window half way along. Either that or he strikes the window with something. The resolution is not good enough to be sure. Immediately the window seems to flex outwards and a portion of the pane crumbles away and slides downwards. This is the so-called "slab" — a large piece of broken glass detaching itself and dropping. If the window has been broken by someone inside the bus then I can only say that the co-incidence in timing with the youth's action is quite remarkable. Most impressive in fact.

In my earlier post about Searchlight's fascinating gallery of photographs supposedly depicting Tommy's private army brandishing their weapons, I admitted my ignorance of guns and readers were kind enough to fill in the detail for me. Perhaps someone can help me out again, for as a non-driver I have had little incentive to gen up on the detail of the glazing of vehicle windows. But I would guess that what I describe above is how you would expect the sort of safety glass installed in the windows of a coach or bus to behave, namely to break gracefully and preferably away from the passengers.

Dunno. That's my take on it anyway. It makes a damned sight more sense than the other explanation.

One thing I can say with certainty is that reason will make sod all difference. The meme is launched. Years from now Lefties and Muslims will tell the tale of how EDL thugs deliberately punched out the windows of their own coach in order to ... well what? To provoke the innocent Muslims into attacking them, I suppose.


Out of the mouths of babes and branch secretaries

From Socialist Worker's liveblog of Saturday's festivities in Tar Amlets (via GoV).

A number of trade unionists spoke to the protest. John McLoughlin, branch secretary of Tower Hamlets Unison, said, “We got rid of the BNP before and we won’t let the EDL get a foothold in Tower Hamlets.

“There is a lot of anger among working class people at the moment. The EDL want to exploit that and to turn people against each other. But in our union branch the most common name is Begum. Muslims are a key part of the trade union movement.”

(My emphasis)

They really don't understand, do they? Look, if there were a couple of women in your branch with the "surname" Begum, and they were decent folk who obeyed our laws and contributed to our society, then they would be welcome guests in our land, welcome to stay and prosper and even to put down roots. But if the most common "surname" among your members, let alone just among the female members, in your branch is Begum, then that is indicative of a process of colonization, of invasion.

No Sunshine, I'm not impressed and I really am not getting that happy warm vibrant multicultural buzz here. You treat the ongoing process of colonization as an achievement. Wanker.


On a minor point of pedantry

The Righteous appear to be setting great, nay enormous store by the "fact" that the EDL did not penetrate the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets last Saturday. (Richard Seymour, Nick Lowles among others). The symbolism of this seems to be very important to them in epitomizing the "defeat" of the EDL and the vindication of their ¡No pasarán! rallying cry.

Little Nicky Lowles even has a nice piccie of a City of London boundary post to ram the point home. (At a guess, Whitechapel High St at its junction with Mansell St, but don't quote me on that.)

Leaving aside minor incursions by small groups, it is true enough that the mass static demonstration was confined to Aldgate High Street in the City of London. The police line blocking the path of the EDL crowd stretched across the street about 20 metres west of the Tower Hamlets boundary.

So, er, no pasó then, eh, Comrades. Well, not quite. At the end of the demo, the EDL were escorted ... no, as this video and "Esmeralda's photo report clearly indicate ... the EDL marched, chanting, banners aloft, along the Minories, across Tower Bridge and into Tooley Street to board their dispersal buses.

One hates to mention this, but the big road junction at Tower Hill and the Tower Bridge northern approach road across which the massed EDL marched are firmly within the borough of Tower Hamlets. Tower Hamlets is so named because it includes the Tower of London, a royal palace which, as a matter of English political history, cannot be tolerated to be within the bounds of the semi-independent City of London.

So, on a point of pedantry, not wishing to rain on your parade and all that, the EDL not only marched in Tower Hamlets on Saturday, they marched right across it. No skin off my nose, but I expect it may be important to some people.

That is all. Feel free to resume your vital debate about the number of Huguenots that can dance on the tip of a Lascar's penis.

¡No pasarán! my arse. NFSE, more like.

03 September, 2011


Now that's jolly useful

If you live in London you will be familiar with the "countdown" displays at many bus stops, giving the estimated number of minutes until the next bus. When the bus stop displays were first trialled they were pretty hit-or-miss; locating buses with GPS is no great shakes nowadays but accounting for variations in traffic delays is clearly a two-pipe problem. But they must've been honing their algorithms 'cos these days the forecasts seem to be pretty reliable.

The ever-excellent and exhaustive Diamond Geezer alerts us to a new TfL service which puts these displays online.

Now if I can get that one working on my mobile, tharral be a cracker.

Nice to be able to write about something positive for once.

02 September, 2011


They don't speak proper anymore, innit?

A splendidly, quintessentially Daily Mail piece in yesterday's, er, Daily Mail about the decline of English usage,

OMG! These buzzwords, are like, soooo uber irritating!
Why it's suddenly trendy to speak like an idiot

in which, among other things, the incomparable Harry Mount fulminates against the phrase "Can I get..." used in place of "May I have..."

Whenever someone next to me in the queue at the coffee shop says: 'Can I get a decaf latte?', I'm willing the person behind the counter to reply: 'Where do you think you are, Greenwich Village? In Central Perk, waiting for the cast of Friends to arrive?

'No, you can't get a decaf latte. It's my shop — I get the latte. You ask if you may have a latte and I will get it for you.'

All good stuff, though I have to admit that I've resorted to this particular Americanism myself occasionally and it doesn't really bother me that much. Mostly used in "Can I get a glass for that?" when some spotty teenaged bar associate assumes that everybody has succumbed to the tiresome affectation of swigging beer straight from the bottle rather than from a glass in a civilized fashion. Look, Kiddies, if I wanted to neck my beer straight out of the effin' bottle, I'd buy it in the bleedin' offie for half the price and drink it in the street, innit? Awright?

But what really gets up my nose is when the latte in "Can I get a decaf latte?" is pronounced lah-tay.

OK, it's an Italian word and you really really want to demonstrate that you know that it's a foreign word and you're relaxed with it, don't you? Well the Italian pronunciation is something more like latt-teh with a short 'a', but we'll forgive you not attempting the geminated 't' and that short 'e' sound which doesn't normally occur word-finally in English.

Try latty. That's close enough. And a sight less pretentious. Please, pretty pur-leaze. You know it makes sense.

Pedantic rant over. As Ken Dodd used to say, "Ah! That's better. I needed that!"

Off to the pub for a bottle of Lekh, er Leck, er... Oh sod it, that Polish beer in the green bottle. And can I get a glass for that? Pint glass please, I'm not going to sip it like some nancy boy with my little finger sticking out at an angle. Where do you think we are, Old Fucking Compton Street? Gordon Bennett!

01 September, 2011


The woolly mammoth in the room

Sorry, I had to write this post if only for the chance to use that title.

It's important not to go completely overboard over recently published results about the proportion of Neanderthal DNA in modern European (or more precisely non-Subsaharan African) populations. The mainstream media in general — and I don't just mean the Daily Mail — has serious form for picking up on some tentative and circumscribed experimental or analytical result and hyping it up into the breakthrough of the century. If the Mail on Sunday tells you that you can catch cancer off a dinosaur bone, well if I were you I'd seek a second opinion.

One thing I've learned from reading the "news" pages of (the regrettably increasingly sensationalist) New Scientist over the last 50 years or so is that if team A at the University of Scunthorpe reports an experimental result that red-haired men produce the largest average volume of ejaculate per orgasm, then sure as eggs team B from the Peckham Institute will come along in due course with an entirely different and contradictory set of results. And that's measuring something well-defined and physically measurable.

Going off at a slight tangent, I recall — but cannot pin down a reference to — a report of an experimental test of the slur, "all you Darkies look alike to me". Subjects were shown numerous pictures of individual people and asked to remember facts associated with each individual displayed. Subsequently tested, subjects scored better in identifying individuals of their own ethnic group than in distinguishing individuals of a different ethnic groups. The results were similar irrespective of the ethnicity of the subject, ie "all you Honkies look alike to me" too.

The result provides some tentative support for the "common sense" observation that while you need to be able to quickly and reliably distinguish members of your own clan as individuals, outsiders — and in particular those of different ethnicity who are not candidates for inter-clan breeding — need only be identified collectively as "other".

But note the necessarily artificial and constrained nature of the experimental set-up. Much scientific progress is the accumulation of steps like this, steps which are frequently beset with dodgy a priori assumptions too.

Science is a process, a trend line, a series of testable models, not a single yes or no answer on a piece of paper inside a cosmic sealed brown envelope. (And do remember that "42" turned out not to be the correct answer after all.)

Nevertheless there does seem to be an interesting consensus emerging that Homo sapiens sapiens, having left Africa to seek a better life™, interbred with H. s. neanderthalis, so that Africans and Europeans are different in substantive rather than superficial ways.

But hey, this blog is more about racial politics than racial science. So how do the Righteous handle this uncomfortable idea?

The Observer's editorial points the way

Neanderthals: a bit of rough

with the strapline Their input into our gene pool improved our ancestors' lives immensely.

Our ancestors benefited? Er, the Neanderthals are our ancestors. This isn't like catching a dose of the clap off some hairy Dago you met on your Mediterranean holiday and developing improved immunity to subsequent exposure.

It is common to view Neanderthals as ignorant apemen. Yet their input into our gene pool improved our ancestors' lives immensely and meant they were not nearly as nasty, brutish and short as they could have been. We owe our grunting, club-wielding predecessors a short vote of thanks, in other words.

Translation: Immoral Europeans debase their pure African bloodline by having sex with monkeys; fortuitous slight improvement to disease resistance follows.

Below the line the response of the Righteous is try to distract attention with corny jokes, while the Unrighteous poke them gleefully with pointed sticks.

How important any of this turns out to be I have no idea. What the significance of that 1% - 4% genetic input is I don't know. To a layman, the stark difference in the phenotype between Africans and Eurasians suggests it may be quite significant. As do other attributes such as ... well, let's not get into the race realism quagmire just now, eh?

But the dogma that "race" does not exist, that we are "all the same colour under the skin" and that race is a social construct, remains a core belief of the Righteous.

So I'm just going to sit back and enjoy watching them try to defend it, throwing in a "What about the Neanderthals, then?", from time to time.

Good game.


A foreigner in one's own land?

I came across this little news item in the Newham Recorder. Nothing particularly special, just an everyday tale of a visa overstayer screwing the system. But I decided to do a quick dramatis personæ of the people mentioned by name,
Kay Atwal - the reporter - Punjabi?
Elzabeth Addo - the crook - Ghanaian
Judge Chapple - the beak - English?
Unmesh Desai - the councillor - Gujarati?
This, you will recall is the Borough of Newham in London in, er, England?


Andy no like-a yo face

From the archives,

Etaoin Shrdlu would never have stood for this.

Mind you, it does beg the question of what a trade union is doing sponsoring a football team in the first place.

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