Saturday 28 June 2008

Another great metaphor.

I'm currently reading Terry Pratchett's Making Money because it's just out in paperback and I'm too cheap to buy hardbacks. Generally brilliant, of course — the man just keeps getting better. Well, apart from his health, of course, poor guy.

Anyway, specifically, further to his previous "gayer than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide" and Achewood's superb "straighter than John Wayne voting for Reagan on a horse" (for which, incidentally, I am now the top Google result, which surely makes me A Man), Pratchett has now set the metaphor bar to a new high with

the girl could flounce better than a fat turkey on a trampoline.


Doing the job.

There's been much discussion about whether Boris Johnson was right or wrong to sack James McGrath over his alleged racism — and I must say that the "It absolutely definitely unequivocally wasn't racist but I'd better sack him for alleged racism anyway" approach doesn't exactly send the sanest of messages. I would just like to chip in and say that this affair makes it clear that Boris Johnson is unfit for office.

Not because he was wrong to sack McGrath — though I think he was.

Not because he's a closet racist — I doubt he is, but, really, why would it even matter if he was? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that he doesn't like black people. So what's he going to do? Deport them? Lock them all up in special camps? Make it illegal to employ them? Even if he did have such private views, he's simply not in a position to make them into any sort of policy, and anyone seriously worrying about the truly terrible things that could befall black Londoners if a racist were to become Mayor is, frankly, insane.

No, it's because of the rationale for the sacking:

'We both agree that he could not stay on as my political adviser without providing ammunition for those who wish to deliberately misrepresent our clear and unambiguous opposition to any racist tendencies.'

Politics is, if nothing else, about understanding people's behaviour. Boris is correct that those who are determined to paint him as a racist would have continued to bring this up ad infinitum had McGrath stayed on his staff, but appears to be under the impression that, with him gone, they won't. This is such a fundamental and major failure to understand his political enemies that you have to wonder how he ever managed to win an election in the first place.

Yes, yes, I know: it wasn't Boris's decision, it was David "Bloody" Cameron's. But, look, I know he's only been in the job a couple of weeks, but he should be standing up for himself — and for his office. He needs to understand that, in London, he's actually more important than Cameron, party politics be damned. He's supposed to be running one of the world's largest cities, while Cameron, on the other hand, party leader though he may be, has the far less important job of asking the Government questions on behalf of the people of just one constituency. Boris has been elected to a position of wielding power; Cameron has been elected to a position of criticising it. For Boris to obey orders from Cameron is akin to Schwarzenegger running California according to instructions from John McCain. And his failure to understand that is not a point in his defense, but merely another reason why he's not fit for the post.

But you never know. Maybe he'll figure it out.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Poverty and progress.

There's a superb piece here by Tim Worstall:

It was found that at the bottom end of Primark’s supply chain were some child labourers. This was considered an outrage.


No, it’s not what I want for myself, not I would want for any child I know, not even what I want for Mantheesh herself: except that, of the available options that sewing is the best one there is.

Is her life going to be made better by hysterics insisting that she should have no work and thus no income? Or should we continue to do the best we can for the poor? Something which, as we all know, means buying the produce of poor people living in poor countries?

Yes, we can also do more than that, but it does seem very strange to start the process of making the world better for such children by denying them the best of the limited range of alternatives that they already have.

We know how we got to our current comfortable lifestyles, because our ancestors helpfully wrote it all down. We know how to get on top of infant mortality and have an industrial revolution and create such massive amounts of wealth that luxurious civil rights become viable and end up working puny eight-hour days and eating foreign food three nights a week in our multi-bedroomed houses. It took about two hundred years, and it took our recent ancestors a lot of bloody hard graft; it killed a lot of them. I for one am grateful to them that they worked their arses off and lived through appalling crap so that I wouldn't have to.

Now, two hundred years is a long time. Having had quite a few societies find their way down the painful road from getting up at five to milk the goat to staying up till five playing Tomb Raider, I'd hope that by now some people out there had some decent ideas of how to get that time reduced. Maybe we could get it down to a hundred years of sweatshops — that'd be cutting it in half, which is really pretty damn good. Or maybe even fifty years, which would surely be an astounding achievement.

Instead, I notice that we as a society have decided not to tolerate even twenty minutes of some bloody foreign poor people trying to do for their descendants what our ancestors did for us. And we don't wade in and stop the hard work because we've got a new magical off-the-peg just-add-water industrial revolution for them to try out for free. No. We just wade in and stop the hard work. We replace it with absolutely nothing. And then we pat ourselves on the backs about how fucking compassionate we are.

We're pulling up the ladders 'cause we don't like the rungs. But it's really, really nice up here.

The BBC.

A lot of people get very upset about the BBC's bias — although they disagree about exactly what that bias is, even after the BBC have finally sort-of admitted it. But, annoying though that is, it doesn't piss me off half as much as the sheer crapitude of their news coverage. I mean, if this headline had appeared in one of the red-tops —

Prison had 'criminal subculture'

— we'd at least know that it was meant to be funny. From the BBC, it's just more of the dreary soulless formulaic cut-and-paste shite that typifies the "reporting" on their Website. When this happens, we know we're laughing at them, not with them.

But, at or with, on a per-laugh basis, it ain't cheap.