Friday, 26 September 2008
I rather think it's time that we all went out and waved banners and demanded to actually be heard outside Parliament at the beginning of October (with lunch/fag breaks, of course; might as well do the thing properly). The Government's latest snoop bill is outrageous; see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/25/interception_modernisation_bill for further details. Of course, if you don't mind having your emails, phone, text and browsing history stored and data-mined, carry on regardless. Yet another nail in the coffin of liberty.
Despite the sycophantic eulogising by journalists, with her Loathsomeness Polly Toynbee at the head of the column this week at the Labour Party Conference, Brown's speech was anything but special. It consisted mainly of 'we hate the Tories', 'we've done a really good job over the past ten years' (the proof of which assertion was conspicuously absent) and 'fairness-fairness-fairness'. Brown's obviously been brushing up on his advertising techniques; alliteration and repetition certainly do hammer home a message into the gullible electorates' heads, or perhaps he's been refreshing his memory on salient points from Bernays' "Propaganda". Then, like the admirable veteran but appalling Presidential candidate, John McCain, he wheeled in a woman; and the platitudes started rolling in.
Mr and Mrs Brown spent far too much time talking about their personal life. I, for one, could not give a damn. I don't care what kind of a husband he is. I have no interest in what he does in his spare time. He could be the most repugnant being on the planet and it would not matter: what matters is what he does and the kind of leader he is. What must concern us beyond all cost is whether any of his claims are true. Has he done a good job? Well, we're the most surveilled country in Western Europe and one of the most spied upon nations in the world. Our councils are allowed to wiretap our emails and phones under poorly-worded legislation. We have the highest level of child unhappiness, one of the highest levels of child poverty, and the highest number of abortions in Europe. Our railways, roads and airports are crumbling. Our cost of living is one of the most expensive in Europe. We were persuaded that living on credit was something to which we should aspire, rather than being careful. (Yes, yes, that idea started under Norman Lamont, but Brown was supposed to be the 'no more boom and bust' Chancellor.) ID cards for foreign nationals will cause ever greater discrimination. ID cards in themselves are both wicked and pernicious, a cash cow for the government who've sold off the contracts in part to IBM, the friendly company that developed Jew-tracking programs for the Third Reich. Drug addiction is on the increase; ditto binge-drinking. Violence is evermore rife and our teens - usually the black ones, who are hardly mentioned in the press, and the white ones who get pages and days of coverage - are dying. The government thinks it's a good idea to detain people without charge for a minimum of 42 days, thus completely suspending habeas corpus. We're in an illegal war in Iraq which is costing us - and them - a fortune in terms of life and equipment, and we got into this war through lies. A quarter of 11 year olds can't read: indeed, we'd rather engage with invisible enemies in Afghanistan than tackle real-life problem individuals at home. We treat our homeless like scum and our jobseekers as subhuman. We've come to equate moral virtue with an income bracket; the higher it is, the more pure the individual.
Now, our money's gone. And I can't help but think that our society's become very much like that of the 1750s. Back then, you'd had the South Sea Bubble which, when burst, represented a hell of a lot of financial ruin. You had a very unequally divided population, a great deal of violence and drunkenness, and mob rule; a despotic government and king who only listened to what the population had to say if they revolted (at which point he'd send the militia in, in any case), rampant promiscuity and sexualization, with accompanying diseases, rising food prices and poor relations with other nations. I think it was in one of Borges' stories that he says 'I think that I am growing old... one unmistakable sign is the fact that I find novelty neither interesting nor surprising, perhaps because I see nothing essentially new in it - it's little more than timid variations on what's already been.'
So no, Mr Brown, you're not doing a good job. Any good that's been done in the past has been eroded; now, we're returning to the kind of lawlessness that characterised the C18th in part due to your incessant meddling in the private and personal lives of each and every person in this country. When are you going to realise that your government was elected to office and that it is your job to listen to those who elected you? But no: we will be given, yet again, another weary soundbite, another shot of Mrs Brown showing her teeth and standing by her man. Using a woman to boost popularity is working all too well both here and in the States (would you really want Sarah Palin, whose knowledge of non-US geography, let alone foreign policy is decidedly shaky, with her finger on a nuclear trigger?) whilst day by day we swallow all this PR nonsense and ever-more meet criteria for a Failed State.
Or maybe just Miranda, a prophetess of doom. I predicted that the financial institutions of the world would come tumbling unmerrily down and they are. Doesn't seem to be stopping McCain from turning our impending penury into a political sideshow, though, or this morning's announcement in the Washington Post: that a bill which contains a heck of a lot of fiscal issues, from lending money to the automative industry to saving up for the 2010 census, has also set aside: '$630 billion for Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs. Those measures devote $487.7 billion to defense, $39.98 billion for homeland security, and $72.9 billion for military base construction and veterans' health care.'
At the same time, Bush has managed to push through some very, very worrying pieces of legislation on to the statute books. The moratorium on oil drilling off US coasts has been allowed to expire - because of the threat of a presidential veto. Not only this, but US foreign policy, it seems, is not only running amok: it's being contracted out. Contractors are now permitted to interrogate suspects. Baghdad's lost its power (what power, we may ask?) to authorise what US troops can or can't do in Iraq. One can only surmise that if there's another slew of torture allegations, the US DoD will be able to bury them for years under 'investigations' (shorthand for 'go away and stop bothering us so that we can write a report at the last minute, three years from now, when everyones' forgotten about it'). Terrifying stuff. Not quite as terrifying for me, though, as the fact that Bush was trying to get Congress to agree a $14 billion cut in welfare, healthcare, education and cancer research - yet is now telling America that it, the taxpayer, has no option but to lend the top 1% richest in the country 50 times that amount.