Friday, 30 September 2011

Look at Your Life

You Look at Your Life
and you wonder why
it didn't turn out as you had planned
It seems mother nature
must really, really hate ya
since she dealt you such a rotten hand

You say the problem
is that no-one understands you
Well maybe the thing is that they do?

You blow the fuse
make a new excuse
but the sentiment still seems the same
You screamed and cried
the fifth goal was offside
and that's why you lost the game

You say the issue
is you're always misconstrued
and it's just a case of how you're viewed

You look at your life
through puppy dog eyes
cos you know it's all gone wrong again
You neglect the fact
that the way you act
has inflicted so much hurt and pain

You rant and rave at me
then say that I don't know you
Well you've gotta believe me - I do

You rant and rave at me
then say that I don't know you
Well I wish that I didn't - but I do

I wish that I didn't - but I do

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Southwark Drinks - Libertarian meetup

Evenin all - a quick notice on behalf of our friends at Libertarian Home - http://libertarianhome.co.uk/ for anyone based in the South  East who might be interested in exploring Libertarian politics. Simon and the boys are keen to develop something which can generate real activity and eventually become a credible political force after the demise of what was LPUK. Newcomers and anyone who simply wishes to turn up and disagree are especially welcome. The post confirming the time and precise location appear here - http://libertarianhome.co.uk/.

There's football on TV in half an hour, so that's this bunny done until tomorrow - see you then.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tevez and Galactico Culture

That Carlos Tevez has become the first high-profile English League footballer to go on strike Nottingham Forest's since Pierre Van Hooijdonk in the late 1990s comes as a bit of a surprise to this bunny, more than anything because he half-expected fellow Manchester City star and all-round soccer diva Mario Balotelli to beat him to it.

However, in some respects this might just be the next move in the game of chess that has been played out between the Argentinian forward and his employers. Twice he has handed in transfer requests, and on both occasions the player appeared to have been welcomed back into the fold - firstly when offered the rather generous olive branch of captaincy, and again when a proposed transfer to Corinthians for 40 million euros fell through in the summer (then again it is highly doubtful as to whether or not the Brazilian club ever had that kind of currency available to them in the first place).

Some are calling for City to use their wealth to punish Tevez, freezing the player out in the reserves, refusing to sell or release him, thereby depriving the 27-year old of what would constitute a large chunk of his footballing prime. Such a strategy might well have some sort of exemplary effect and be good for the game itself, but is bound to be counter-productive when the individual involved remains around the squad and becomes nothing more than a cancerous influence on it. Roberto Mancini has insisted "if I get my way he's out - he's finished with me" and it might be that a clean break, with contract ripped up, would be the best move for all concerned. Tevez can go play in Argentina/Brazil/Italy (depending on which bit of breaking news you read), while City will be rid of someone who was only going to be bad news for them from now on.

The player himself is something of a paradox and a complicated figure to work out. On the one hand, he is demonstrably high maintenence and in need of much in the way of TLC, even by the standards of a modern top-level footballer. Baggage also appears to have followed Tevez since he arrived at West Ham in August 2006. Though he undeniably made the difference between survival and relegation for his team (scoring the winner against Manchester United on the last day proved decisive), the involvement of a third party of investors, Media Sports Investments with agent Kia Joorabchian suggested that his appearances for the Hammers were against the FA's rules on player eligibility. Sheffield United, who were demoted on that fateful final day as they lost to Wigan Athletic, ultimately won a legal claim for compensation before settling for a sum believed to be in excess of £10 million.

A two-year loan stint at United followed, where having scored 34 goals in 97 appearances and been widely perceived as one of their best performers, it became apparent towards the end of the 2008-09 season that a £25 million permanent deal was not necessarily a formality. Old Trafford supporters who had valued the player's contribution, often linking with Wayne Rooney to produce match-winning performances, clearly saw any failure to take up such an option as a grave error and noticeably increased the volume of their acclaim for Tevez during the tail end of his United career. Signing for rivals City was seen by some as an act of revenge, and the club famously put up a 'Welcome to Manchester' sign in his honour - this of course is a reference to the claim of many City fans that they are the 'real Manc' club, as opposed to United who are most popular with Southerners and overseas, In the context of all this, it might perhaps be expected that further controversy and slices of soap opera would follow Tevez and his career.

However, despite all the complications he may bring off the field, a mentally and physically prepared Carlos Tevez is the sort of proven performer a coach or manager would want in his team, not just for his vision and ability to both make and score goals, but for his energy, drive, teamplay and ability to lift the tempo of his side's attacks. Tevez is a man with the flair and penchant for creating something out of nothing, allied to a constant willingness to endeavour in this fashion when the chips are down. 53 goals in 91 appearances for City over two seasons is a record that confirms his value to the team, along with the many more that he has created for team-mates in the same timeframe. In a starting line-up that often played overly-patient, predictable football, he was perhaps the main reason that City were merely workmanlike as opposed to positively dull.

With Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri entering the Eastlands fold over the summer and Edin Dzeko looking leaner and sharper than he did upon his arrival, one might have thought that a team framework built around more positive, high-tempo approach play would suit Tevez and provide the player with an environment in which he could express and enjoy himself. City have indeed looked more threatening in the final third during the opening weeks of the season, with their defence now something of a weak link, exposed as it is by a line-up looking to attack at every opportunity. This might be the sort of football that represents a creative forward's vision of heaven, but it is not without its share of problems.

City's approach towards acquiring new personnel in the last three seasons has had something of a 'fill the trolley' feel to it. While I appreciate that for supporters it can be exciting to see talented and high-profile players joining your club, there are issues that inevitably arise from both bringing them on board and then fitting these individuals into the established shape. Team sports can be difficult for Libertarians to take in (indeed a disproportionate number of us have little time for football, cricket, rugby, whatever), since what follows in them perhaps runs contrary to our philosophy on everyday life. Though great individuals can of course turn an average team into a very good one, the sense of the collective in making a squad of players stronger than the sum of their component parts (ie the essence of team spirit) is everything.

This is one of the many reasons why Manchester United have had so much success under the guidance of Sir Alex, and it is possible that his decision not to part with £25 million for Tevez was based on the knowledge of something he did not see as compatible with the United ethos - the benefit of hindsight enables us to conclude that his final matches at Old Trafford  saw a footballer playing the club's supporters off against its manager. This bunny is by no means a lover of Sir Alex or his team, but refusing to acknowledge their achievements would be somewhat churlish - the presence of several (not necessarily 'star') players who have been at Old Trafford for several years and become part of the club's fabric has certainly contributed heavily towards this success, and its impact cannot be underestimated.

Of course, none of this is possible when too many 'big names' require more TLC between them than it is possible to give, or some of them only joined the club in the first instance for a salary that could not be matched elsewhere. I once upset some City supporters online by suggesting that there was something soulless about this galactico approach, but this bunny stands by that analysis even now. In my teens, I remember them as a club with fantastic supporters, the Maine Road ground that was invariably full, blessed as it was with an incredible atmosphere, and a team that could only be described as pisspoor, even spending an awkward season in the third tier before scrambling out via an epic play-off. Players like Goater, Dickov, Tiatto, Horlock and Morrison were not a patch in terms of raw ability on what they have now, but to a man they were honest, committed and did not possess a day on strike between them.

Manchester derbies invariably found this bunny willing City to find some means by which they could upset the applecart - in that sense I appreciate that their supporters will sacrifice the goodwill of a few neutrals for what they have now, but I very much doubt I'm alone in having had a great deal more fondness for them back then. When a team largely consists of star names and mercenaries who are more interested in remuneration than achievement, perhaps instances such as the 'Tevez on Strike' saga are an inevitable consequence?

I'll leave you with highlights of that memorable game between City and Gillingham, back when they were pants but neutrals still loved them (of course May 1999 was a solid month for Mancunian comebacks). Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sycophantitis

Sycophantitis is a debilitating virus that has been known to drain the life and soul of thousands of individuals across various social demographics in the Uk. If untreated, it can have widespread effects on the environments of both its sufferers and those around them. The gullible or intellectually challenged are amongst its most likely victims, as are a group who might be referred to as 'the young and stupid', along with those whose personal ambition can be demonstrably shown to exceed any levels of natural ability. All are more likely than average to catch some form of Sycophantitis at some point in their lives.

The most common symptom of Sycophantitis is what would appear to be a voluntary decision on the part of the sufferer to desist from either thinking or speaking for oneself. Communication is reduced to simple nods, or the parroting of/agreement with the last words spoken by an authority figure in the group. These traits, potential signs of Sycophantitis which should be detected early, may be referred to amongst non-sufferers as 'arse-licking', 'brown-nosing' or 'industrial-scale lackeying'. If you hear these terms in an environment with which you are familiar, then there is a strong possibility that one or more of its inhabitants has indeed fallen victim to Sycophantitis.

For obvious reasons, outbreaks of mass Sycophantitis are most common in environments where the inhabitants operate on a rigidly hierarchical structure. This is partly because the presence of another harmful virus, Egotitis, creates the conditions in which Sycophantitis is able to rapidly spread. Egotitis usually occurs in large, jumped up, overblown organisms that are especially fond of hearing the word 'yes' (like a reverse man from Del Monte, if you will). Sycophantitis and Egotitis, are chemically renowned for reacting perfectly with each other, and  have been known to produce a mutant strain called Malignus Lexis Extremis, which you might hear being more commonly referred to as Political/Management Speak or Bollocks.

Malignus Lexis Extremis is of course highly dangerous, and is capable of spreading with sufficient speed to infect the entirety of a large environment overnight, thereby rendering its inhabitants and their interactions with each other utterly useless. Political Parties, State Departments and Corporate Organisations have all been decimated by serious outbreaks of Sycophantitis and Egotitis, with the potentially fatal Malignus Lexis Extremis often the inevitable result (the British Royal Family have been known to simultaneously unleash widespread Sycophantitis on the general population and Malignus Lexis Extremis on broadcasters). Many are still feeling its devastating effects now, in some cases decades after the original outbreak - this is partly a result of these strains developing in such a way so their sufferers have no idea that they are afflicted by them.

None of Sycophantitis, Egotitis or (god forbid) Malignus Lexis Extremis can be cured as such, although a 'charity' (which actually receives around half of its funding from the taxpayer) is by all accounts working diligently to find one. When faced with an environment that has fallen to either Sycophantitis or Egotitis, the best course of action is to isolate all traces of either virus, making sure to dispose of them safely so they do not come into contact with non-sufferers - a small island, where Malignus Lexis Extremis could develop in total isolation, would be most preferable as long as it did not become popular with tourists. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Feminists are to Men what the Ku Klux Klan are to Black People

Before dealing with the main focus of this piece, this bunny should make it clear that he has very little and possibly no interest in pornography or other 'adult' material. The very few such films that I've watched have tended to evoke laughter more than anything else, crystal clear as it is that none of the parties involved are enjoying themselves quite as much as they would like the viewer to believe - all part of the job I suppose. The 'storylines' of these cinematic epics are of course dire in their lack of imagination and perhaps that's why this bunny has never really got into it. I like well-written, creative and challenging television, and porn doesn't really qualify.

However, we are all individuals possessed of our own unique tastes. I've met countless people who, regardless of gender, have some sort of X-rated reference library from which they can withdraw material that will scratch their particular itch (as opposed to this rather boring bunny, who possesses precisely none). This might be violent porn, dominatrix, old people, dwarves, etc - none of my business, so watch whatever floats your boat and just don't get me involved.  Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of keeping their big, intrusive noses out of other people's bedrooms, especially when a political agenda is at stake.

The inaugural XBIZ conference in London was met by angry protests from feminists who had dressed up as butchers and smeared themselves with fake blood (predictably, the Grauniad ran a sympathetic piece on the story - http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/sep/23/pornography-conference-meat-market-protesters?newsfeed=true.) Their complaints were the predictable ones that pornography 'degrades' women and renders them little more than pieces of meat. Maybe so, but then what about the dominatrix stuff where some mangina is beaten half to death, while walked round madam's dungeon on a lead with a snooker ball in his mouth? By their standard, presumably this 'degrades' men and should also be made illegal (of course this would turn the adult entertainment industry, like the drugs trade, over to criminal gangs operating underground and unregulated, but that's for another night), yet I didn't hear the sensible shoes squad becoming all enraged about these 'works of art'.

There is a very clear reason for this - feminists (who should not be confused with women in general by the way) have never been and never will be interested in any notion of genuine equality. They have always fought for increasing female privilege on the basis of a battle between the sexes, and will continue to do so until the dice is loaded firmly in favour of what I've previously referred to as 'the Princess Principle' - namely equality, but only when it suits - the right to be regarded as a princess, backed by a myth that sex is this awful thing men do to women, remains in place. Porn films in which a man gets rough with a woman are 'degrading', but mangina-slave being whipped and lashed until he bleeds is fair game. Lapdancing clubs are pits of debauchery sponsored by Satan himself, but hiring a male stripper for a hen party is absolutely fine.

In  short, it's objectifying women that is the issue - these people have no problem whatsoever with objectifying men, something which most women (and a few men) do with at least some sort of regularity. Mind you, what else should one expect from female chauvinists and supremacists? I appreciate that many readers will have found the title of this piece rather 'near the knuckle', but that is exactly the phenomenon that we're facing here:- militant feminism is nothing more than vicious anti-male sexism, intent on genuinely degrading men to the level of second class citizens while entrenching female privilege. If they really want to promote strong, independent women then having a little faith in their ability to make an informed decsion, even one they might feel 'degrades' them, would be a start.

Some adults of course like to be 'degraded' sexually, or view material in which others are, be they male or female, but so what?  If we all stopped poking our noses where they weren't wanted, namely into the bedrooms and viewing habits of other people, then as a society we might develop a more grown-up attitude towards questions of sex and sexuality. Moreover, man-hating sexist pigs might find themselves marginalised in the discussions that followed, and let's face it that would be no bad thing. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

More Dumb Politicians - Meanwhile, Ed Talks Balls Again...

Most Statist politicians make me laugh with their sheer ineptitude, since this bunny has seen enough of it to have become thoroughly desensitised to the whole thing. Enduring the latest careerist slugfest on TV or the radio is not easy, much akin as it is to following a mind-numbing grapple between two clinically obese and woefully limited heavyweights. These boys and girls may be names by virtue of the parties they belong to, but their grasp of issues is as shallow as ever, and a truly authentic thought on any subject clearly beyond most of them.

I regularly watch Question Time to see the direction in which mainstream debate is moving - most weeks I'm deeply disappointed, and the latest show reminded me again that the levels of basic competence amongst our Parliamentarians has somehow dipped again, below what felt like the nadir of the Blair years. Remember when New Labour's pager specialists dominated and contaminated our political discourse, while the Tory front bench resembled something out of Deep Space Nine? These were utterly demoralising times, especially as I was a lukewarm supporter of the Conservatives back then (something along the lines of 'small c conservative and small l liberal', for shame). Things can only get better, surely?

It would seem this is not the case - anyone who saw 'rising star' of the Conservative Party, Priti 'EQUOP' Patel on Thursday will know what I'm talking about. Not only did she contrive to make Hattie Harperson look moderately intelligent, her attempted defence of capital punishment was one of the most appalling displays of stupidity that I have heard from a public representative in fifteen years of having at least some grasp of politico-speak and what it actually means. Ian Hislop, a seriously bright fella who this bunny would still profoundly disagree with on many issues, tore Priti apart in much the same way as Joe Calzaghe did to Jeff Lacy, while she appeared disturbingly unperturbed at the prospect of killing innocent people. This was just the highlight of what was a woefully pedestrian and uninspired performance - maybe QT should have a substitute panelist who can come on at half time in such cases?

Apparently, this walking, waffling triumph for all-women shortlists is 'the future' of the Tories, which sounds about right. It was not the position she took on what is a contentious issue that bothered me most - after all, the e-petition on the subject has proved immensely popular while this bunny's debate of the subject with James Garry on the Anna Raccoon site was both compelling and well-received. The possession of a view contrary to one's own of course does not disqualify them from being able to push their case in a manner that might convince the undecided - it's just that if you're going to argue for the State having the right to kill its citizens, then be prepared to unload with something that cuts a bit deeper than 'won't somebody please think of the children?'. 

Perhaps singling her out is unfair (I can hear the allegations of racism already), since she is just the latest in an endless line of MPs who are supposed to be seriously sharp cookies and tipped for big things as a result. Some actually make it to ministerial or shadow level, but this is more a reflection on the intellectually bankrupt nature of our politics than their personal aptitude. I don't hate these people, or get  genuinely angry when taking in their 'insight' on television or radio, since our political system is rigged in such a way that attracts tribes of loyal thickos and careerists. As long as there are well-paid positions of power, sycophancy will remain a career path with guaranteed opportunities for progression, while stupidity is no barrier to advancement for those who are 'on message'. This is the case in any walk of life, be it politics, the civil service, banking, retail, whatever.

However, there is a special breed of politician who indeed renders this bunny capable of doing serious damage if only the baseball bat were nearby. These are the guys and girls who think they're a damn sight more talented than they are, fail to recognise their obvious limitations and actually believe that the rest of us have something to learn from them. Until she thankfully left us all alone in 2010, 'Doctor' Patricia Hewitt was the undisputed prima donna of a type of MP that had this bunny looking up the Dignitas clinic online. Her smug, patronising tone and ability to address the general public as if it were a group of kids caught smoking behind the bike sheds told you in no uncertain terms that it was your own lack of intelligence that made you unable to grasp just how wonderful she and her government was.

The Labour Party is what it is, naturally possessed of the unpleasant instinct that they know how to run your life a damn sight better than you ever will. As a result, they are always likely to attract a disproportionate number of politicians who bring this modus operandi to the table with them (although the Tories are having a damn good go at bringing through several of their own). It is this sense of misplaced paternalism, allied to all-round uselessness and an apparent lack of anything resembling understanding of any issue that pushes an MP beyond the 'ignore' category and into one where the principal question is 'who do I want to shoot more right now:- the moron on the TV/radio, or myself?'. Harperson gets a dishonourable mention in this regard, but she still comes a close second to Ed 'talking' Balls.

The man who made his name as the toad of the Son of the Manse has seen the build-up to Labour's annual get-together as a great opportunity to offer some advice on how they can regain economic credibility - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/23/cant-rely-tory-failure-labour. Once you stop laughing  and the scale of Balls' delusion hits home, a solution to the question that he attempts to resolve becomes equally obvious - namely that men like Balls, tainted as they are a previous record of ineptitude and disaster, cannot be part of any solution. The Labour Party will always be wrong on pretty much everything, but what people most remember is the names and faces that were around at a given moment in time when events took a turn for the worse. New Labour, which was nothing new in reality, is a poison brand, and if Red Ed is in possession of a functioning brain (debatable), he'll ditch the Blair-Brown hangers on and decontaminate it once he gets the opportunity to appoint his own people.

Anybody who regards Gordon Brown as their hero is of course worthy of at least a shred of sympathy, regardless of other innate flaws that they might possess. That Balls looked up to and positively arse-licked the man who single-handedly destroyed what was a half-decent economy also goes a long way towards explaining more than a few things. Some Libertarians regard Thatch as essentially 'one of us' and this bunny is not amongst that contingent, but one of the areas in which she was immensely successful was a cultural shift within the Uk economy that remained for several years after her departure from office. Starting and running one's own business, becoming independently wealthy and self-reliant, became something that was perceived as a normal thing to do - moreover, the conditions had been created so that the taxman was not going to be a significant reason for failure.

Reversing this cultural shift would of course take several years of taxing and regulating until the pips squeaked, but this is exactly what Brown managed. With public spending increasing by an average of 4.4% per year in real terms prior to the crash and State snatch of GDP rising from 37% in 1997 to a frightening 46% by the time he was kicked out of office - http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/downchart_ukgs.php?year=1900_2010&state=UK&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=2011&chart=F0-total&bar=0&stack=1&size=1024_587&color=c&title=UK%20Public%20Spending%20As%20Percent%20Of%20GDP&show=, retrograde steps such as these were the inevitable consequence. Nobody has had greater control over the Uk economy in peacetime than Dr Clunkingfist himself, and though apologists like Balls will no doubt attempt to re-write events as a means of selling self-serving memoirs, Brown will probably go on to be regarded by wiser owls as the most disastrous chancellor of the modern era and one of the worst in our history.

Dumb Ed (as opposed to Red Ed) is right about one thing, albeit for the wrong reasons. The coalition are destined to fail - in fact the moment in which they stood most chance of success has already passed. Some may see comparisons between the Uk circa 2010 and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall as extreme, but the lesson of history is a valid one. In the immediate post-Communism period, those liberated economies struggled desperately before finally showing signs of life, many on the polar opposite free market model. Now, if you look at certain parts of the Uk that have received the greatest levels of 'help' from the taxpayer (think the North East, Wales), we're talking about public spending that equates to 60% of regional GDP. This is positively Bulgarian territory, and the only chance we have of making some headway is for this whole sorry Statist project to be undone.

The time to announce one clean swing of the axe across all areas of expenditure was immediately after the election - at least 25%, across the board, with no special cases and therefore nobody being picked on. I appreciate the short-term fallout of this is increased unemployment and considerable pain that one would not wish on real people, but the unfortunate truth is that this 'rock bottom' is an inevitability anyway until such action takes place. In the meantime, debt, delusion and denial reign supreme, with the Statist parties arguing amongst themselves about exactly how long we can delay the day of reckoning for. Of course this is semantics, fag-paper differences presented as some deep ideological battle in the name of tribalism.

If the Tories were as mean and ruthless as the Statist media would have you believe, then real cuts would already have taken place by now. As it is, those which are threatened down the line may well give way to political expediency, with a once in a generation opportunity to reverse decades of taxation and interference from nanny set to be squandered. The cultural shift enabled by Balls' hero is complete and has utterly contaminated the three dud political parties who all continue to deny the existence of any alternative. He may be a bully, liar, control freak and nannyist troll of the highest order, but probably the biggest gripe this bunny has with Balls is that he has nothing whatsoever to worry or complain about. Even though New Labour are out of office, their thinking remains as deeply in power as it ever was when his mentor occupied Downing Street. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Conservative Conservatives - can it ever happen again?

The Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher swept to power with a public, absolutely fed up and disillusioned with collectivism, firmly with the new harder line Conservatives and secure in a knowledge of the truth and reality of their cause. It was a time when it seemed that the Soviet Union was set to take over the world and the popular perception was that: Russia's gonna beat us (and perhaps they should).
This conservative knowledge and certainty survived the batterings of collectivist orientated thinking for (just) 18 years.
The Thatcher Government promoted individual liberty, the values of good house keeping (she is a grocer's daughter) and degrees of sound free market economics. It worked because it undid the bonds of state interference, to the extent that it did, and allowed in a profoundly liberating breath of fresh air. It did not achieve its full potential and it was thwarted and hobbled by enemies of freedom within the Conservative Party itself. However there was a spirit of freedom at work, a genuine desire and intent to liberate people from the three day week, the winter of discontent, bullying tactics of unions (led by figures who are now at the top of the Labour Party), a mindset of dependency, and other attempts at, and results of, stupidity.
The battle lines for freedom were indeed manned and commanded by conservative Conservatives. One of the first front lines was the Grunwick strike, an attempt to close down a film processing laboratory because the management and workers refused to be dominated by the totalitarian collectivist unions. Surrounded by violent pickets who refused to allow goods in or out, and a hostile postal workers union that refused to deliver the processed photographs from the laboratory to the public, the company faced bankruptcy and most folk from all political sides, in the collectivist mindset of the time, simply waited for it to happen. A group of "right-wing conservative libertarians" led by the late John Gouriet, smuggled the backlog of processed film out of the laboratory and distributed it into the postal system all around the country so that it became too dispersed to be identified.
The siege of Grunwick was broken.
Many battles were subsequently fought and won against collectivist, centrally controlled and manipulated labour unions acting simply for political power such as in the mines and ship building industries.
However any movement can be subverted with patience and cleverness.
A movement for freedom was subverted into other somewhat similar but secondary aims first by association and then after 18 years of collectivist attack by complete revision, and the Conservatives were voted out by a bored and complacent public that had come to take the advantages of relative freedom for granted. Again.
Subsequently, over a period of years, the whole movement for liberty was re-written by collectivist hacks as a failure that those who loved freedom should have jumped off before it hit the buffers.
But it was not the drive for freedom that hit the buffers. It was the Conservative Party that had been subverted from within and had simply abandoned the principles of freedom. Once the Great British Public became aware, at that level where all people recognise the truth, they abandoned the Conservative Party that had been deceived back into collectivist policies and voted Labour which had by then re-invented itself and was, in spirit, sounding more conservative that the Conservatives.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday Fun and Games

This bunny's thoughts on the collapse of the LibDem vote and their impending wipeout in 2015 appear on Politics on Toast - http://politicsontoast.com/2011/09/23/libdem-dynamics-an-alternative-take-on-their-collapsing-vote/. This week's conference has been a bit like watching a young person who has been given six months to live planning a non-stop sequence of nights out before they croak - ach well, we're in deep shit now, but let's enjoy it while it lasts. Highly weird, even by their own impressive standards.

Many thanks to the guys over there for running it, and it may be the first of several - who knows...

Like most of you, I like to chill out on a Friday night and regular readers will have noticed something of a trend in regard to when material does or does not go up. All I can say is thanks to JohnB, Malpoet, ManNotNumber and the rest for their own contributions on days when either nothing has interested this bunny, there have been other commitments, or the will to sit at my desk until stupid o'clock at night has simply been lacking. As is the case with nearly all Libertarians, my political activity is very much part-time (although some generously award themselves a full-time salary without the knowledge of those who are paying it). This of course is one of the many ways in which Statists have the dice loaded in their favour.

On a brighter note, here's one of my favourite artists of all time, Lloyd Cole, giving a great performance of one of his strongest numbers, the heartfelt 'Jennifer She Said'. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Strictly Redemption for Audley

Many years ago, I read an interview with Gary Numan in a music magazine where amongst other things, he took the time to thank his fans for sticking by him throughout a career that had seen its share of dizzy highs and prolonged wilderness periods. The one-time synthpop god turned rocker observed that "it's not always been easy being a Gary Numan fan" - as he was somewhat before my time, I never truly got the opportunity to be a committed fan of his work or otherwise, but Numan was very much a new man 'of his time' and this bunny imagines that in subsequent years, as fashion and music moved on, clinging to what was very much a phenomenon of the early 1980s might have become deeply uncool. Anyway, here's my favourite Numan/Tubeway Army number by several miles, 'We Are Glass'.



I thought of this because after hearing that Olympic Gold Medalist and under-achieving pro Audley Harrison had become the latest sportsman to take the Strictly plunge, it struck this bunny that a penny for the thoughts of A-Force on whether or not 'it has always been easy being an Audley Harrison fan' might represent very good value for money. For all his faults - apparent arrogance, bravado and more undelivered promises than Tony Blair, I still find an ability to like the man that defies anything that vaguely resembles logic. That gold medal he won by boxing superbly in Sydney at the 2000 Olympics has of course been the sole reason that he had so many opportunities to revive what could be politely described as a stop-start pro career and retain at least some of the celebrity status he enjoyed when he was very much 'the man' a decade ago. It has also been a weight round his neck, causing every move in that career to be placed under the microscope, judged against elite-level standards.

Of course, some of this is self-inflicted. Nobody forced Harrison, promoting himself under the A-Force moniker, to declare that he would become British champion in just five fights or continue such boasts despite ample evidence that he was not developing as a professional. Moreover, the Beeb themselves should know all about Audley and his tendency to disappoint, since they shelled out a cool million to broadcast his early bouts on terrestrial television. The fights themselves fell into two categories - hopelessly lop-sided mismatches where an over-matched relative midget was squashed in rapid time, and tedious contests that went the distance with Harrison pushed far too close for comfort. The names of Derek McCafferty Mark Krence and Dominic Negus will not be familiar to anyone other than genuine fans of the noble art, but that is entirely the point. All heard the final bell, clearly taking rounds off Audley in the process - hardly the stuff one would expect from the natural heir to Lennox Lewis.

Probably the best fight of the Harrison/BBC partnership did not take place in the ring, but followed A-Force's one-sided win over Matthew Ellis. This was the infamous occasion where talk of a bout between Harrison and a 42-year old Frank Bruno was gathering pace, shortly before the former WBC champion was sectioned under the mental health act. Fellow British heavyweight and all-round loose cannon Herbie Hide clearly feels left out as Audley and Frank pose for the cameras, deciding to take it out on the furniture. These scenes were indeed 'disgraceful' as commentator Jim Neilly put it, but as compelling television were stratospheres above the non-fight that preceded it.


Harrison was 28 when he won Olympic gold and unwisely spent the best part of a year being a 'somebody' before turning professional. In the first (it should be added, unbeaten) chapter of his efforts in the paid ranks, it was quite clear to the viewer that for a fighter looking to win world title fights that may go the distance, Audley possessed a serious issue with stamina and conditioning, fading badly in the latter stages of six or eight-rounders and allowing inferior opponents back into contests they should never have been in. As the calibre of opposition increased, the defeats came - long before the night he shared a ring with David Haye, A-Force had been firmly nailed to the canvas once, and found himself on the wrong end of three decisions by the judges.

The first of these was without doubt the worst 'fight' I have ever seen on television - when a crowd feels the need to chant 'fight, fight, fight' halfway through a contest, they probably deserve to be refunded in full. The 'winner' of this 'contest' was Danny Williams, former slayer of an ancient Mike Tyson and generally well-regarded amongst most boxing fans for his bravery and courage (he once won a fight against Mark Potter by knockout with the use of only one arm). After taking a split decision and the Commonwealth title with it, Williams later claimed that he had 'trained himself', opting not to bother with the services of long-time mentor Jim McDonnell, then prepared for A-Force with a regime that consisted of Pizza, films and Mr Kiplings cakes.

Apparently, he knew that Harrison 'didn't fancy the job' - when one boxer accuses another of essentially lacking the intestinal fortitude to fight, this is a serious business. This bunny has been in boxing gyms, weigh-ins and covered fights from ringside, so knows that as a general rule, fighters are a breed who extend respect to each other. For someone within the fraternity to apply the label of coward to anyone who climbs through the ropes implies that they have no right to be there, that they are cheating both the paying public and themselves. This questioning of fighting heart has, rightly or wrongly, dogged Audley every time a move in his professional career has not gone to plan, although he exacted brutal revenge on Williams nearly a year to the day of their first fight, at the same venue, the Excel Arena - without doubt is the most complete performance Harrison ever put together in the paid ranks.


This is the conventional media wisdom on the man, and it is worth exploring exactly how true this is. What becomes apparent when re-watching some of his amateur fights is that Harrison clearly fell into the category of boxers who were far more proficient in one version of the sport than they could ever be at the other. The sanitised world of the amateur ranks of course offers the protection of headgear, and is pretty much an examination solely of the technical attributes of boxing. It also operates on a computer scoring system that enables a tall southpaw like Audley to 'pick-pocket' points from the outside then escape from danger. This still takes considerable pugilistic skill, and there is no doubt that he excelled at it. In the professional ranks, with long and gruelling bouts calling on a man's character, fighting resolve and ability to 'hang in there', there is no point pretending that Harrison fell short in these areas, at least on occasion. A-Force is certainly more boxer than fighter.

In that sense, the smart thing to do if all other aspects were equal would have been to stay amateur and leave boxing historians to ponder "how would Audley Harrison have fared as a pro?" in much the same way as the sport's scribes do about Teofilo Stevenson. However, money talks and £1 million before taking a punch in anger will scream at absolutely anyone. Of course he had a choice, but the other was one that next to none of us would have made in the circumstances - ultimately, Audley was limited as a professional fighter, but stuck at it, launching several comebacks for considerably reduced purses (including the shoot-out of Prizefighter which is certainly no place for gutless wonders) and trying to make the most of what he had. For years, this bunny has viewed his brash pre-fight talk as an attempt to convince not us mere plebs but himself that he could do it. His nervous in-ring performances would appear to back this thesis up.

Can we talk about Harrison without mentioning that 'fight' against David Haye? I honestly do not know what to make of it - was it a betting sting, a one-sided mauling or an occasion that A-Force simply could not cope with and left him caught in the headlights? What I wanted to know at the time and a part of me still does is - if Audley lands flush on Haye with something resembling his best shot, what happens next? This was the million dollar question that led many (this bunny included - and it's online if you wish to look it up) that Harrison had a serious chance of springing an upset, if he could just park his demons for one night and regard it as a no-lose situation. When you saw him approaching the ring with eyes like saucers, it was natural to fear the worst - and it would be fair to suggest that the worst is what we got.

However, go to anyone lacing up a pair of gloves for the first time and tell them, "you'll be a Commonwealth and Olympic gold medalist, win your first nineteen fights as a pro, avenge two of your losses, claiming the WBF and European titles in the process - oh and  by the way, you'll freeze on the biggest night of your life and get tanked in a world title bout" and an overwhelming majority, probably 90 per cent or more, would bite your hand off. Judged by normal standards, Harrison has had a pretty successful career in boxing despite falling well short of his ultimate goal.

Of course the boasts and bravado have done him no favours, but he has also turned his life around since a mis-spent youth lost to gang culture wound up with a spell in a young offender's institute. Reflecting on his life and working towards a degree in sports studies was one half of his redemption, boxing the other. That ability to acknowledge that a portion of one's life has been screwed up and say 'no more' takes great courage and deserves genuine respect.

So if appearing on Strictly serves as some form of character rehabilitation with the British public, then it is one that he deserves - the scorn that has often been heaped on a boxer who undeniably fell short of our initial hopes has often been more akin to that aimed at a mass-murderer, and some of it has been vindictive and far from humourous stuff. This bunny won't be watching, but sincerely hopes he progresses in the competition - more than anything, it might buy Audley a few months away from the hostility that has followed him for most of the last decade. Perhaps it would be for the best if this were his last performance as a 'somebody' and he retired from boxing immediately afterwards?

I'll leave you with that winning performance in Sydney - take care and I'll catch you soon.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

If we want schools to be safe places for our children, we need the cane

The maxim goes that every generation thinks of its own childhood as being more innocent than the childhoods of the current lot. It is suspected that this is the succour of memory. There may be some truth behind this suspicion, up to a point. But, in my experience, opponents of corporal punishment in schools (especially those on the Left) use this maxim as a weapon against corporal punishment, the logic of which effectively runs like this: Your wistful imagination tells you that young people were better in the past. As they are really no worse than you were, then there is no need to lash them with the birch.

As I said, there may be some truth in this up to a point. That point was probably somewhere in the 1980s. Looking back twenty years ago to the time I was at secondary school (the early '90s) and comparing it with today, I can't assert that my generation was better. It wasn't. I assume that a moral pit was reached in the 1980s because a whole generation had intervened since the 1960s Cultural Revolution and, in that time, Britain's moral foundation had fell away.

Schools - particularly comprehensives - today are as bad as they were twenty years ago: The lack of academic competition between pupils has been replaced by competition for physical dominance. Physical aggression has gone far beyond a bit of fraternal rough-and-tumble. Cannabis is carried in, and sold from, rucksacks. When rucksacks aren't used for porting illegal substances, they are used for smuggling guns and knives. School lavatories are places where precocious teens unburden themselves of their virginities. Playgrounds are incubators of gang culture. Unruly children are as disruptive in class as they please. Unless a teacher has a specially forceful personality, unruly students find it easy to intimidate him. Academically-minded pupils suffer in silence, or give in and join in the chaos.

There is some public clamour for corporal punishment to be reintroduced into schools to combat the terrible decline of standards. I am all in favour of birching. However, the absence of the cane is only part of the explanation why discipline in schools has worsened. To improve discipline in schools there must be a complete remoralisation of society; grammar schools need to be reintroduced; the only type of family that ought to be promoted is the one consisting of a married couple; comprehensive education must be abandoned along with all the concessions made to "pupil centred" learning; teachers should be competent and not a rag-bag of semi-literates, thickos, diffident types and insipid sorts who are just doing the job for the "Golden Hello" and the generous holidays.

Above all we need to withdraw from the European Union because its doctrine of Human Rights makes birching pupils impossible.

If teachers could administer a lash of the birch without fear of reprisals, it would restore the balance of power in favour of the teacher. The concept of behavioural conditioning is not hard to understand: If you do something which is wrong you get beaten. No one likes being beaten so all but the most insensible would elect to stop behaving wrongly, some of the time.

I don't believe that other forms of punishment in schools work. The alternative to corporal punishment is detention. As multiple children are detained at the same time, detention is far from boring. It is treated as a bit of extra time to do some more of the things that got you detained in the first place.

I know in the debate about corporal punishment the character of the sadistic house-master is raised. I don't doubt that a tiny minority teachers would derive wicked pleasure from beating children. But it is not as if removal of corporal punishment also removes perverted teachers from the school. They are still there, free to enact their fantasies in different ways. Why else are their so many teachers in caught cavorting with underaged children or engaging in acts of child abuse?

People who call for the reintroduction of corporal punishment are sometimes accused of being "authoritarian". Well, I believe that teachers should have authority over children. Only the naive could disagree with this. But the word authoritarian has more sinister tones than that. It plumbs the depths of Orwellian darkness. That is why it is used as a smear. The reason I want corporal punishment reintroduced into school is because my concern lies with studious children who want to learn, who don't want to spend their day surrounded by unruly bullies and general disorder. I imagine how traumatic it is for them.

Isn't it better to make the bad suffer than make the innocent suffer? Sociological thinking has been with us for fifty years now. Nasty pupils have often been seen as victims; we are told that they (conveniently) lack some unspecified quantity of mythical self-esteem. They don't. There is no such thing as self-esteem. Or, if there is, they have it in abundance. Bad pupils do bad things because they enjoy it and because weak, indisciplined schools allow them to get away with it.

In the case of corporal punishment as with capital punishment, we must make a choice between the freedom and happiness of the good and the freedom and lust of the bad. The only person who benefits from the absence of corporal punishment is the misbehaving child. This cannot be doubted. Reintroducing birching would create more studious, academic learning environments. Good students would be happier and calmer. They would be more likely to fulfil their academic potential. Bad students would be less bad; some would even learn the errors of their ways. I am sure that some hitherto bad students would carry their conditioned fear of school rules into society at large and refrain from violating the laws of the land.

If your concern is solely for the bad pupils, corporal punishment must be hard to accept. If your concern is to free bad pupils from feeling transitory pain, then you have had what you want for a few decades now. Go into any inner-city comprehensive and see the effects of your concern. It's not pretty. The reintroduction of the cane, among other things, would help to correct the indiscipline of these schools.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Corporal Punishment got a Dishonourable Discharge - and not Without Good Reason

An interesting and perhaps surprising statistic emerged in a poll that was conducted last week regarding discipline in our education system. By a majority of 49% to 45%, those who answered expressed support for some form of corporal punishment to be restored as an option for teachers in Uk schools (presumably the other 6% were undecided). As this throws the issue under a spotlight of sorts, I'm here to argue the case against the restoration of canes, birches and other weapons as forms of discipline. James Garry of Politics on Toast fame -  http://politicsontoast.com/ has kindly agreed to put forward the opposing case on these pages in the near future.

Other results from this poll told me that things were a whole lot worse in the British education system than I first thought. Having left what was a pretty miserable experience behind, my insight into the subject, like that of many, has been through a combination of anecdotes from teachers I have known and reports of classroom episodes that have made their way into the printed, spoken or broadcast media. When tales of students fighting or hurling chairs at their teachers become too frequent to be discarded as a freak occurrence or one-off, the general perception grows that things have undeniably taken a turn for the worse.

However, this bunny always tempered this with a gentle reminder to himself that 'most kids aren't like that - it's just that the vast majority who are generally well-behaved and pass through education in an uneventful fashion are never going to make the newspapers or television'. I still believe this analysis to be fundamentally correct, but there is a statistic from a separate poll on the same subject which suggests that even kids who are possessed of natural mischief without being 'bad' as such have drawn the line.

While 93 per cent of teachers seeking greater powers to impose classroom discipline is an unsurprising figure, the fact that 68 per cent of pupils are calling for exactly the same thing certainly is. My immediate thought was a rather juvenile one - an episode of the Simpsons, where Principal Skinner is sacked from his job at the Elementary school and replaced by cute, cuddly, do-gooding Ned Flanders. The school rapidly disintegrates into mayhem, with Ned explaining to Homer and Marge that his 'kid gloves' approach was a response to the unwelcome 'tough love' of his father. This flashback to the 'harsh discipline' imposed on young Flanders is utterly priceless:-

The serious point is:- Springfield Elementary descends into such unchallenged chaos that even Bart recognises the fun has gone out of it, so he instigates a plan to have Flanders sacked and Skinner re-instated. This bunny can just about recall enough of his childhood to remember that as a general rule, kids are loathe to giving adults greater authority over their lives - so for more than two thirds of them to come out in favour of more power for teachers to impose discipline in schools, something must be dreadfully wrong. A slice of this 68 per cent will of course be those mischief-free students who simply wish to bury their heads in books and get something resembling an education from the whole thing - and good luck to them.

What of the rest? Has it gone too far and become too easy, as Bart ultimately realised? I never thought I'd be referring to the Simpsons in a serious piece of writing, so either a) this bunny is finally going mad or b) our schools really have degenerated into something resembling a cartoon. Or possibly both.

So we're in a mess, the dynamics of which we should probably explore in a separate discussion. It's a quite frequent occurrence that when presented with what might be a complicated set of problems, people are tempted by the presentation of what appears to be a swift and simple solution - in this case, dragging 'the big stick' out of retirement and inflicting it on misbehaving children (I'm not lumping James into this category by the way as I'm sure he would regard this as only one part of any answer). However, there are three main angles from which I seek to explain why support for corporal punishment is deeply misguided - the humane element, assumptions that it makes about 'virtuous' figures of authority and the not insignificant question of whether or not it would have the desired effect in the 21st century.

The banning of corporal punishment in Uk schools was instigated by that most dubious of institutions, the European Court of Human Rights, in 1984. I'm no fan of the ECHR, seeing it as one of several very good reasons in favour of this country withdrawing from the European Union. Of course it would have been a far more satisfactory outcome had this, as with many other changes to our law, been dealt with solely on these shores. As it is, we're left with the view of the ECHR that corporal punishment has no place in schools on the basis that it is 'inhumane' and 'degrading'. My opponents may not have much issue with these words, seeing as the whole thing is supposed to be humiliating/degrading and bloody hurt - hey, it might make the little shit think again next time he's presented with an opportunity to fight, steal or vandalise?

There are, however, several holes in this line of argument. First up, many of us are uncomfortable at the prospect of 'degrading' other people and somewhat squeamish about the thought of canes or birches being used to inflict serious short to mid term pain on them. I'm sure that this bunny is far from alone in not wishing to hear or see anything of the sort, and you're going to come across senior teachers who share that sense of discomfort about the use of force. We're then faced with a choice between either compelling adults to use canes/birches on children against their will, or operating a two-tier system, where corporal punishment operates in some schools but not others. The first scenario sounds nothing less than horrific, while the second would no doubt cause great resentment amongst those kids who 'drew the short straw'.

There are other significant questions, such as - what does corporal punishment teach children on the issue of conflict resolution? Throughout our lives, we are all going to encounter 'difficult' individuals, be they at work, in our day-to-day dealings with people, even on the blogosphere. Most of us understand that resorting to violence is neither a smart move nor an acceptable one, and that anger, frustration or disappointment are not valid excuses for that initiation of force. Wielding a cane or birch and causing physical injury to resolve classroom conflict flies directly in the face of this lesson that we would wish to teach young people, and we need to be very careful about the signals that we are sending as a society.

While corporal punishment has been demonstrated to have some success with 'good kids', several studies have concluded that it can also have a counter-productive effect on those at risk of 'going off the rails' - ie the children that it would in reality be most seeking to 'correct'. When an individual is lacking direction, attempts to physically discipline them may unwittingly sow the seed of 'violence as a solution' in troubled minds. The dreaded law of unintended consequences knows no bounds - after all, it can't be easy for a headteacher to birch seven shades out of a teenager for fighting, then explain to him why violence is so terribly wrong...

The existence of corporal punishment also devalues other, more subtle techniques that could present more lasting consequences to those who misbehave. Belt buckle against flesh was a quite dreadful feeling with which I became familiar when growing up (and deeply resent to this day - does that count as an 'emotional stake' in the issue? I'm genuinely unsure), but the deprivation of privileges such as my allowance and being 'grounded' for a period of time undeniably had a more profound effect on this bunny than any thwacking did as soon as the pain disappeared and/or bruising healed. One of the many problems that comes with the use of force as discipline is that to stand any chance at all of working within a large institution, it must be applied consistently, yet human nature tells us that some individuals respond far better to it than others.

To suggest that 'big adults hitting small children' constitutes a form of bullying might be going too far, but it certainly re-enforces the notion that the bigger, meaner, more intimidating individual is always right, and just with the 'lessons' regarding violence, this is not a sensible message to be sending out to young people. In truth, teachers are just a cross-section of society, and as a breed are no more or less likely to abuse any power given to them, or pursue a personal vendetta against someone they don't like than anyone else. Not every caning in the past was fair, and this bunny is naturally suspicious about granting powers to cause physical harm that work on the assumption that authority is automatically virtuous.

In short, it isn't - in fact like all authority, it attracts some of the worst and most inept people one could imagine. Some teachers, in case one has not already noticed, positively despise children, and should really have not been allowed into the profession. These are precisely the types who would actually quite enjoy the prospect of caning or birching a misguided youth (as many used to, unfortunate as that is), and by definition are the last people one should entrust with the power to do so. Something I noticed during my own time at high school in the 1990s and appears to have continued since is an alarming decline in teaching standards across the board. Without for a second denying that the Uk possesses more than its share of hell-raisers, why when the conversation turns to school discipline does 100% of the focus invariably fall on pupils?

The apparent death of a certain type of guiding hand, who could command a classroom without ranting or becoming hysterical, surely has far more to do with the current state of affairs than has previously been acknowledged? If schools were private companies, paid solely on results, how many teachers would actually keep their jobs? Sometimes it's easy to blame children for everything, but this bunny honestly believes it not to be as simple as that - the presence of too many crap teachers has contributed much to the problems that our schools face, and every time we focus solely on the unruly kids who don't take them seriously, the inept and half-hearted get a free pass. Until we find the stomach to really challenge one of our 'sacred' professions, we will only stand a chance of tackling half of the problem.

Something that supporters of canes/birches may also have neglected to think about is the ripple effect that it would have throughout education and wider society. I remember one teacher at my school who clearly failed to understand that the heyday of brutality against kids was over - one of his favourite tricks was (quite skillfully) spotting a pupil 'illegally' running through a corridor then, as he approached, grabbing the miscreant by the collar and pinning him against the wall - quite how he kept his job is beyond me, but keep it he did. The thought of this kind of 'open house' on physical assaults against pupils is deeply unsettling, yet once you break the taboo that says 'teacher violence is wrong', is allowing this sort of thing not the next logical step?

Schools could become very sombre and intimidating places rather quickly once this taboo is broken, and as somebody who seeks a happy medium between the do-gooder anarchy that dominates at the moment and the opposite extreme, the prospect of 'boot camps that also educate' is one that worries this bunny immensely. Presumably, those favouring the use of corporal punishment as discipline in schools would grant the same privilege to the legal guardians of the child? I ask because, while I wouldn't wish to criminalise the application of a light smack to a child who fails to (for example) look before crossing the road, granting bad parents who take out personal frustrations on their kids the legal use of a weapon like a birch is no more than state-sponsored child abuse.

Would corporal punishment have sufficient deterrent value to make it work? Perhaps were it applied consistently across every school in the Uk it would have a fighting chance of making some kids think twice before misbehaving. However, many senior teachers would simply refuse to operate it as a punishment, which seriously undermines its effect - and that's before we get to the ground I covered earlier regarding the price paid for these dubious benefits. Moreover, never underestimate the creative ability of a hell-raiser to turn a punishment into a badge of honour. Remember how ASBOs became status symbols that served as an indicator that a misguided youth had 'made it?'. What is often forgotten is that the shame and stigma of being caned was probably more important in its previous role as a (fairly successful) punishment in schools than the physical pain itself - you've heard the line that went 'you didn't tell your dad you'd been caned in case he hit you again'.

With the punishment regarded as a badge of honour or rite of passage by those on the receiving end, and neither parent working or generally giving a shit about much, could that shame and stigma be re-created in 21st century Britain? I very much doubt it.

There's so much we can do to get the ineptitude out of our teaching profession, make the curriculum more relevant to pupils and apply punishments to their misdemeanours, then actually follow them through. Assault on a teacher or anyone for that matter is a criminal offence, and kids need to understand that when they pick fights with adults, they run the risk of adult consequences. This bunny firmly believes in the right to defend oneself when presented with a physical threat, be that through retaliation or redress from the courts (if this means changes in the law then no argument from here). The initiation of violence against another human being is always wrong, and teaching this lesson clearly and unequivocally to our young people can only help us as a society - so put that big stick down, it has no business here. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Wanna Cut Tax Evasion? Cut Taxes

By definition, the cost of tax evasion in terms of lost revenue to the Uk Treasury is a figure which can only be the subject of an estimated guess. What appears to be almost certain is that it runs into tens of billions of pounds, and as a result, dwarfs the relatively small-scale issue of benefit fraud, which has historically attracted a much more widespread level of stigma. Statist commentators of course have been making this point for some time, applying a sort of immoral equivalence to the two - coming at the question from a starting position of 'compulsory tax is theft', this bunny is still able to make a distinction between taking something to which one was never entitled and refusing to hand over that which they were forced to by the state.

In short, they are not issues of the same principle, and although the law of the land is what it is, I invariably find a tad more sympathy for those who bob and weave the taxman than will ever be the case for the phoney disabled and what have you. Moreover, if your activities lead you to wind up with that dreary shower of smugness Danny Alexander sermonising from the opposing corner, they would probably have to involve mass-murder for this bunny not to take your side.

The latest brainwave from Sandals and Muesli HQ is for a crack squad of 2,000 tax inspectors to seek out those who have failed to hand over a 'fair share' of their ill-gotten gains in the past, "The impetus on this was not strong enough from the previous government so we've taken a whole lot of additional measures. We'll be taking additional prosecutions against tax evasion where we identify that illegal activity; we'll be investigating when measures are set up that are designed to avoid tax and close loopholes if that is necessary." Some might playfully conjure up images of 'Elliott Ness times two thousand' in their heads. quite valid given their likelihood of success. A 'crackdown' on some of the most intelligent and creative (not to mention, most mobile) in our society will always be infinitely more difficult than catching some scrote pretending to be disabled - and the half-arsed job they've made of that hardly inspires much in the way of confidence.

The occasional Orange Booker aside, 'Liberal' Democrats have always possessed the Statist instinct that economic activity is primarily a means of raising revenue for the government. One of the many slimy characteristics of the New Labour years was the manner in which they egged on the recklessness of the financial sector, thinking first and foremost of the tax windfalls that came from it. Any suggestion that the generation of wealth and jobs are just inherently good things does not enter their vocabulary. On that note, how many jobs in the Uk are facilitated by individuals who manage to slip away from the taxman relatively unscathed, be it through creative accountancy, offshore holdings or whatever else? What are the economic side effects of these people upping sticks and moving elsewhere? And, like the 50p tax band, could this 'crackdown' simply end up being a piece of symbolic gesture politics that actually costs money?

This selective amnesia regarding how incentives drive human behaviour is thoroughly baffling. Statists place bucketloads of blind faith in the ability of green taxes in particular to bring the rest of us into line with the needs of their megalomania, while any suggestion that punitive taxation increases the scope and incentives for evasion or black economic activity simply does not compute. There is of course a very simple way to reduce tax evasion while creating an altogether fairer system - take the least well-off out of tax altogether (that rarest of things, a sound LibDem policy) with a single flat rate above the increased threshold. Naturally, we'd have to find savings to pay for all this in the short term, but laying off half of HMRC would be a start - it might also prove to be the most popular cut of all time. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Economic woes - zero sum game thinking seems to be taking over again

The thinking of theft is profoundly destructive. It tends to corporatism, mercantilism, socialism, all the systems that lead ultimately to poverty and destruction.

It is thinking based on: Any benefit for me has to be at the expense of you, so toughies to you. Or if its the other way around – you rich swine, you have obviously ripped off the poor and now I must steal your wealth away from you and give it back to those from whom you stole.
The cake is finite and for some to have more they must have deprived or must deprive others to get it.

That thinking is terribly sad, because not only is it untrue in all but the very short term, it leads to much of the misery, despair and death with which we live and die.

The libertarian approach is a blessing in that it recognises our ability to achieve and allows the freedom to pursue every course that is not based on the destruction of others.

Unfortunately, because the zero-sum-game mentality has become so embedded in our psyches, it is but a slip of the mind away from taking over, yet again, and depriving all of us of opportunity and achievement.

The businesses that succeed tend to employ the approach of promoting the interests of everyone involved. Those that tend towards failure are more concerned with taking the creativity from and ensuring the minimum return for its employees.

It seems that the fashion is to regard colonialism as an evil curse. This, after all, was the process by which the wealth of say, Africa was ripped from the ground and transported to Europe.
However.
Whether one sees the western, Europe-originated, way of life as a curse or a blessing is an opinion, but certainly, the establishment of the colonies brought massive infrastructure in the lands they colonised and enabled all the western advantages such as roads, telephones, technology, medicine, agricultural cash crops, air transport, the whole modern way of life that continues to exist despite prevalent zero-sum-game attitudes and consequent breakdowns.

Life does not have to be a zero sum game, and is not, when creative people have the freedom to seek their own benefit.

Certainly, what has come from the alternative approach has only ended in death and failure.

I can imagine the response: But what about those who start from a background of deprivation and disadvantage?
I am afraid that is the zero sum game speaking, as it is when an entrepreneur seeks to build any business based on taking wealth from others rather than wealth generation.
It is an approach that is untrue and unhelpful and just needs to get left behind.

The way out of deprivation is through achievement and for there to be achievement there first has to be the freedom to think and to express. And then to do and create without the hinderence of some trying to make sure you do not deprive others by your efforts, and slapping all sorts of regulatory requirements on you.

You cannot legislate creativity.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Last Entry on Total Politics Awards - and I'll Sign That in Something you can Frame!!

During the week, I brought you the news that this site had finished a credible 27th in the Libertarian section of the Total Politics Blog Awards. Yesterday came the Libertarian bloggers results, and this bunny is delighted to have come in at a quite astonishing equal 12th place - http://www.totalpolitics.com/blog/258467/top-50-libertarian-bloggers-2011.thtml. To be considered on roughly equal terms to the author of the Devil's Kitchen and above a few writers who I've actually heard of is indeed an honour. Many thanks to anyone who voted for this bunny - believe me it is very much appreciated.

Also well worthy of a mention is that Malpoet - http://malpoet.wordpress.com/ appears in the top Libertarian bloggers list in 25th place, while his Weblog missed the top 40 by no more than a coat of paint. One of the issues that comes out of these results is the presence of several high-profile blogs in multiple categories. Well-written independents like Malpoet's site are the biggest casualties of this, and if I were to offer a suggestion to the Total Politics guys for next time, it would be:- one category per blog or contributor, so all votes for that site or writer are pooled into the one in which most votes were accrued. This is not a dig at people who have taken the time to bring new material to the attention of others - it's just clear as a bell to me that if OutspokenRabbit belongs in the top 40 (and this bunny believes that it does) then so do Malpoet's Weblog. Trooper Thompson and a few other bona fide Libertarians.

All in all, these are results with which we can be very pleased, so thanks again to all those who made them possible. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Things People Do in the Name of God

I've always thought 'love God, hate organised religion' is a pretty good umbrella under which this bunny and others can define our faith in the man upstairs. I'm fortunate in having met an a multitude of people whose faith played a significant part in their lives, and it would be fair to say that this firm belief in 'something higher' was an overwhelmingly positive influence on the character and outlook of those I have come across.

Of course I'm well aware that this is not always the case - history is littered with individuals whose 'organised religion' was little more than a militia, masquerading under the guise of one set of beliefs or another. Faith has also taken some strange and wholly transparent forms, most notably those cults whose leaders steal the time, money and in some cases the innocence of their (it should be said, rather weak-willed) followers. They say that when someone else has said something better than you ever could, it might be unwise making a futile attempt to out-articulate them, so here's Malpoet on that subject - http://malpoet.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/warren-jeffs-mormon-child-rapist/

The issue of the effect that a misplaced or misinterpreted faith has on their actions resurfaced again this week, after Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott and colleague Danny Kennedy found themselves in hot water after a complaint was made by the Sandy Row lodge of the Orange Order (of whom they are members) against them. The Northern Irish assembly MPs face disciplinary proceedings, with expulsion from the Order presumably an option on the table.

Serious stuff - so what was their crime?

PC Ronan Kerr was killed by a car bomb planted outside his home in Omagh in April. As much as the murder itself was a disturbing throwback to troubled times, the manner in which all sides of the political discussion clearly condemned these actions (for which the Real IRA took credit) at least suggested that if the hatred and bigotry that defined a generation had not completely gone away (and if we're being honest, it probably never will dissipate entirely) such prejudicial sentiments were being distinctly marginalised by those in the public arena. Kerr's funeral saw a unique arrangement where the police and Gaelic Athletic Association gave a joint guard of honour.

Kerr was a Catholic, but the passing of a man who served his community attracted many who wished to pay their respects, regardless of faith or denomination. Elliott and Kennedy, both Protestants and public servants themselves, were among them. Now, according to some half-wit in South Belfast, this constitutes two men who have "sold their principles for political expediency" - and no, I'm not making that up. Contrast that with Elliott's explanation of events that attending  the funeral of a policeman who had been murdered was "right for the entire society of Northern Ireland and, maybe more importantly, right for the Kerr family. We did what we believed was the honourable thing and certainly I, and I know Danny, has no regrets over that. Danny Kennedy and I are leaders in society, what we want to do is ensure we move Northern Ireland forward. I do not believe it was any sin or crime to go to the funeral of a murdered police officer."

I know who is displaying more sense, decency and compassion from where this bunny is sat, but hey, some of you may think differently. To his great credit, Reverend Brian Kennaway expressed unequivocal disappointment at attempts by the lodge to expel the pair, "Multitudes of Orangemen through Ireland either attend marriage ceremonies or funerals. They see it as paying their respects and as their duty. The vast majority of people, including the leadership are embarrassed by this."

In which case, perhaps the smart thing for the Orange Order to do would be to find the individuals who made the complaint and expel them? Just a thought - at least it would put an end to the macabre spectacle of Sinn Fein's assortment of slimeballs and gangsters claiming the moral high ground.

On that note, anyone who watched 'Question Time' on Thursday night would have taken in the er...unique theory of Martina Anderson, a Sinn Fein MP. She agreed with former Bishop of Londonderry, Edward Daly, who suggested that the ban on priests marrying should be lifted - "One of the things that broke my heart most as bishop was some priests came to me and said they could no longer live a life of celibacy, that they had fallen in love with somebody and they decided to get married. Some of them were really good men and I felt it was a dreadful loss to the Church, to the diocese, to the priesthood, and indeed to themselves in many ways". I'm (nominally) a Protestant and not a Catholic, so it's really none of my business, but Daly's analysis would appear difficult to argue with - more than anything, it would surely be beneficial for both priests and their flock if the advice they were giving was based on more substantial real-life experience?

Martina's reasons for agreement are, however, somewhat different. Her suggestion is that had priests been allowed to marry in the past, then the Catholic church may not have experienced the scale of issues with the sexual abuse of children that took place over many decades (further tragic tales from the victims of paedophile priests are coming to light even now), “I think this is one element of it. Getting married would address that, if you allow for access in an institution for people who are, unfortunately, these kind of men. And if you have then the option of being married you could address some of that.”

This is of course a cocktail of terrifying stupidity and revisionist history. First up, the notion that enforced celibacy in a person's activity with adults somehow drives them to interfere with children is, to put it mildly, absurd. A paedophile is sexually inclined towards children, at least as their 'first preference' above adults either male or female - it is their 'orientation' so to speak.

 In reality, there are two reasons why any organisation might have the endemic problems which the Catholic church has both endured itself in terms of collateral damage, and inflicted upon a multitude of undeserving victims. First up, the position of authority and blind trust enjoyed by a priest over altar boys and the like create perfect conditions in which child molestation could thrive. Then, instead of hearing the cries of the abused and calling in the authorities to investigate them. the church conspired on a widespread scale to cover up the activities of paedophile priests, moving them away from the noise to strike again somewhere else, while silencing the victims in many cases. Trails of stolen innocence could be drawn across Ireland and the United States, and most worryingly, the current Pope was an active participant in the conspiracy.

Believe me, this bunny completely understands why so many people are devoutly atheist. Organised religion does itself no favours whatsoever when it preaches hatred against others, carrying with it a rulebook that forbids the extension of decency and compassion to non-believers. When churches become mini-states of their own, they contrive a 'greater good' just as any Statist entity does. Allowing the molestation of kids to continue in the name of something sacred is of course obscene, but that's exactly what happened amongst the hierarchy of the Catholic church. They had decades to 'address' this scandal, and, helped by a borderline above-the-law status with the authorities, made a conscious decision not to.

I know many good people of differing faiths and indeed none at all - one does not have to be a member of any church to possess admirable qualities and (to quote the song) 'If God was One of us', I very much doubt he'd want to join any of them. This bunny will leave you on that musical note - take care and I'll catch you soon.





Friday, 16 September 2011

Caption Competition

Ok - a virtual coconut to the reader who can come up with the smartest caption for this video. It concerns what turned out to be an epic domestic scrap (while it lasted) between two big-punching middleweights, Cello Renda and Paul Samuels. Incredibly, after being decked in the first and clearly the more shaken man by this exchange in the second, Samuels stopped his opponent after 37 seconds of the third session beofore winning an altogether less dramatic rematch on points (then again it had quite a bit to live up to).

Certainly the first time I've seen this happen having watched hundreds of fights on TV and a few from ringside - take care and I'll catch you soon.

You Wanted to Change the World

I despair as I see that face
talking at me from the TV
Soul-destroyed, he knows his place
as he stresses the need for unity
This pompous, pretentious palace
doesn't know why we dislike it so much
Its folk mean neither harm nor malice
It's just their totally out of touch

You wanted to change the world
but instead it went and changed you
These days, gourmet, geld and girls
seem to dictate what you do
You wanted to make things right
correct the wrongs you'd seen
but since status skewed your sight
now you're part of the machine

Have you got something to say?
C'mon baby, get down off those fences
And if there is a price you have to pay
you can always claim it on expenses
This profligate public payroll
displays that greed has become the new lust
But you just can't see that this own-goal
has totally terminated everyone's trust

You wanted to change the world
but instead it went and changed you
These days, gourmet, geld and girls
seem to dictate what you do
You wanted to make things right
correct the wrongs you'd seen
but since status skewed your sight
now you're part of the machine

C'mon through and join the queue
to get five seconds on the news
Just say the word of the day
no - you don't have to mean it
Soundbites, media hype
gutter press trot it out in type
No need to fuckin read since
I've already seen it

Then you talk about trying to reconnect
with the disenfranchised populace
while your own bloated and warped sect
keep your noses in the trough and take the piss
The poisonous, poll-driven pigs
say they're all competing for your love
But in that poll the party that wins it big
is the one that calls itself 'None of the Above'

You wanted to change the world
but instead it went and changed you
These days, gourmet, geld and girls
seem to dictate what you do
You wanted to make things right
correct the wrongs you'd seen
but since status skewed your sight
now you're part of the machine

You wanted to change the world
so why didn't you?
You wanted to change the world
so why didn't you?
Why didn't you?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Public Sector Pensions and the Shadow of Fred Goodwin

First up before I start, I'd like to thank anyone who voted for OutspokenRabbit in the Total Politics Blog Awards - http://www.totalpolitics.com/blog/258217/top-40-libertarian-blogs.thtml. A final placing of 27th in the Libertarian section in an annual poll is something with which we as a site can be proud, given that we've only been in business for some four months. I'm very grateful to anyone who took the time to acknowledge our existence - muchos kudos.

Anyway - Oscar acceptance speech over, back to business. The decision of various trade unions across the Uk to take the gloves off and wage war against the planned reform to public sector pensions of course prompts comparisons with the Winter of Discontent in 1979 and even the 1926 General Strike, probably the most widespread nationwide withdrawal of labour in Britain's history. Dave Prentis (Unison) has told his members to prepare for "the fight of our lives", round one of which would appear to be a "day of action" that has been pencilled in for 30th November. Judging a book by its cover is rarely a wise thing to do, but the thought of Prentis entering the picket line to the theme tune from 'Rocky' made this bunny smile nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the magnificently moronic Mark Serwotka (Public and Commercial Services Union) offered an insight into the situation that is certainly unique "there is no case whatsoever to make any changes to public sector pension schemes". The fact that the privately-employed are paying more into the public sector pot than those actually on the state payroll, with the net result of a £1trillion black hole, clearly do not represent 'a case' as far as Serwotka (£82k salary and £25k pension contribution) is concerned.

I don't blame union members for attempting to look after what they have. Faced as many are with the prospect of paying slightly more for slightly less, then retiring five years later, most of us would put up whatever resistance we could (it should be added that in the largely non-unionised world of the private sector, the box of potential weapons would be comparatively light). Self-interest is a perfectly rational drive and so the action in itself does not antagonise this bunny nearly as much as the likes of Serwotka, whose attempts to dress this up as a 'modern day class war' or 'all about protecting public services' are painfully transparent.

The real question is - does a case exist for those in the private sector subidising the superior pensions of state employees, especially when one considers that the gap in basic salary between the two was wiped out by a decade of New Labour's generosity with other people's money? Then consider that the deal on the table would still leave the public sector with a superior pension scheme across the piece and there is really only one answer - this change, albeit a modest one, cannot come soon enough.

However, this is also a massive challenge for Dave and his government on a number of levels. Firstly, he may come under real pressure from large swathes of the general public to cut some sort of deal - either because they sympathise with the strikers, or due to the visible absence of some frontline services (most worryingly, gravediggers are said to be on the list of potential dissidents). After flip-flopping over NHS reform that were not all that radical to start with, another backward step to a vested interest group is likely to do irreparable damage to ConDem credibility (not that this would necessarily be a bad thing in isolation).

Politically, this could become very difficult. Having allowed and practically encouraged a wide-spread demonisation of public sector employees, then done nothing to counter it, he might be bitten on the proverbial to some extent in opinion polls and the like, though there is some truth in the suggestion that most of those effected were never likely to vote Tory anyway. Many went LibDem last time out though, and the prospect of Nick Clegg turning windsock to prop up their flatlining share of the vote, ratting on his mate and collapsing the ConDems' majority is a more realistic one than some imagine - failing that, around 30 of his MPs following that course of their own accord would have a similar (though less symbolic effect).

Then there is a real problem that is almost certain to resurface - remeber Fred Goodwin and his £703,000 per annum pension (total pot would require £28million of contributions from you or I)? The former RBS bigshot was among the 20 directors of banks bailed out by the taxpayer who pocketed yearly payouts totalling over £6million. All of this was before Dave's time, but one gets the impression that his disgust at this situation was half-hearted and less than completely sincere - like Prentis, Serwotka and co, the fatcat class symbolised by Goodwin sought taxpayers' money that was clearly unmerited. Unlike them, they got it and were ultimately rewarded for clear and demonstrable failure.

This might be the caviar communists' best weapon in terms of winning hearts and minds, so Dave had better have a credible answer - if he's going to attack the undeserving rich, he'd do well to at least sound like he means it this time. Take care and I'll catch you soon.