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Could a woman have done this…? Men are back on the map…!

6 Jun

In a video clip that cannot fail to stir emotions, two men become immediate icons for their gender and define manhood to the world. Men are back on the map.

Modern scientific research increasingly shows us men to be pretty crap at most things when compared to women doing the same tasks.

Contemporary media frequently depicts males as being listless goofs who are only there to carry shopping bags and occasionally hit someone for being an irritant.

Using nothing more than an electric drill and without writing a Risk Management document to share with a department, two men do what their sex is most famous for: they destroy something that is bad and avoid getting killed during the process.

Here, in a selfless show of astonishing bravery, two unknown men put ‘manhood’ right back on the map in a single act of stunning beauty.

I write with tears in my eyes as I herald a new dawn for anyone who habitually walks around with the plumbing on the outside of their body and who can’t remember their kid’s birthday.

Watch and learn…

(Note: at the very end of the video you will see other men appearing from their hiding places. These men are from the ancient tribes of Eesamateofmine and Letsburnsomethingnext. )
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Ukraine: Western leaders consider snub to Putin

7 Mar

fist love hate

Roadwax’s Elena Handcart has just sent this report from the Crimean peninsula:

As the RAF Chinook helicopter from Odiham in Hampshire dives through the darkness of the night towards Razdolne, Captain Sandy “Toxvig” Thompson’s tense voice rings out in my headphones.

‘Remember, Elena…not a word about this being an MI6 job and no names. Don’t mention how you got here or who you met. Right?’

I nod in agreement as the muscular physique of Chaz “Minty” Mintoe looms towards me, un-buckles my harness and drags me towards the open hatch.

“Who dares, wins…!” he says and hurls me into the darkness while the Chinook is still thirty feet above sea level. I smile and wave goodbye to one of the most handsome and brave lovers I have ever known. So sad, then, that he could never sustain an erection.

I land roughly on the waves and my unconscious body is dragged towards the shore by the savage riptide.

I awake to find myself lying on a clean yet overpriced bed in the 2-Star Radzolne Holidaya Inska. Smiling back at me from the compact yet modern bathroom area is a face I do not recognise.

‘You do not recognise my face, do you?’ The man smiles and laughs.

I get dressed and leave him. His army clothes – all insignia removed – lie scattered around the room. There is no doubt though, from the way he rubs toothpaste into his genitals, that he is actually elite Russian forces.

The hotel concierge refuses to accept my credit card and instead leads me through the maze of coridoors to the back of the hotel and freedom.

‘ My name is Dmitri and I am pro-Ukraine. Not everyone loves Putin here. Do not mention me or I will be killed.’

I nod my head and thank him.

‘Take the footpath over the mountains and you will arrive in Yalta. It is hard climb. God be with you!’

I walk round the side of the building to the main entrance and get in a taxi.

‘Yalta.’ I say. The ancient Mercedes moves off and I settle back in my seat and watch the tired faces of the tired women as they catch fish with tired faces.

Within minutes, we arrive at a checkpoint and I am arrested.

"Well...THAT was a complete bloody waste of a war."

“Well…THAT was a complete bloody waste of a war.”

UK In Floods Of Tears

17 Feb

DSC00027 (2)

Frustration

Sadness

Loss

Despair

Release

Relief

That is the Official List of British Tears and the order in which they must be presented to the TV News crews.

Already, the national news here in WaterWorld is skewing slightly to highlight a traditional and typically British attitude: cynicism towards our own government and armed forces. Damp locals huddle in chilly pubs and draw diagrams of Kevin Costner’s boating equipment from memory. If you approach too close to them, they close ranks while one of them swallows the plans.

And in this next clip, Prince Charles is seen talking with a selection of pre-selected and security vetted locals. Prince Charles sticks it to Prime Minister David Cameron by openly voicing his doubts on the very matters where David has been pretending all is good.

So, Cameron responds by saying everything that can be done will be done…and that includes what he describes in pure political euphemism as “an end to the pause in dredging on the Somerset Levels”

An end to the pause in dredging? Do you now see why we Brits get cynical?

So, if I decide one day that I shall not to pay my taxes, when I am dragged in front of the judge months later, I can simply explain to him that I was pausing. I shall now ‘end the pause in my paying taxes’. I am sure the judge will understand.

Today, Cameron has announced that he is bringing the Army in to check the flood defences. They (the British Army) will achieve within five weeks what normally takes two years when left to the Environment Agency. They will work at 20.8 times the speed of an expert agency.

Why are we Brits so cynical?

Have you ever seen the British Army in action? They are remarkably effective at what they excel in which is essentially beating the crap out of non-UK passport holders. You don’t even have to come to them – they are quite happy to visit you in your own country. But the last time a Prime Minister was stupid enough to let them loose among British taxpayers was during the General Strike of 1926.

Briefly, in the 1980’s they were ordered to drive ambulances. It went badly. The Army only stopped when patients finally demanded to be driven to hospital instead by a local fourteen year old in a stolen Vauxhall Astra. Survival was more likely than being driven through busy London streets at high speed in a dark green and camouflaged ambulance by an enthusiastic eighteen year old from Manchester.

It was a PR disaster in 1926 and it was a hugely covered-up tragedy during the ambulance strike in the 1980’s. From then on, every British Prime Minister wrote in pen on the inside of their hand: “Don’t let Army near UK’s hard-working taxpayers. V. Important! Doesn’t work!”

Now Cameron is about to break this rule.

And we will now have thousands of well paid soldiers grabbing away the work from the specialist civilian workers in the Environment Agency who are paid much less and are facing redundancy anyway?

Oh, well done, Prime Minister!

And the Army, who are not in the least bit knowledgeable at a local level of Britains flood water defences will be working at 20.8 times the speed of these Environment Agency specialists who are being swept aside and made redundant?

Oh, well done, Prime Minister! What could possibly go wrong…?

The photo at the beginning of this article shows the author after having been coated from head to toe in raw faeces during a storm on a waste treatment site. I am shown smiling through my tears. (advanced students only).

Do you see that brown line around the tank on the right?

That is not caused by rust…

 

Trolling: Understanding what it is and also why it happens.

24 Sep

Introduction

The topic of ‘Trolling’ is being discussed in great detail on the internet and in the media these days.

Or is it…?

To celebrate yet another confused and inaccurate article being launched on the BBC’s internet site, Roadwax feels that the time is right to encourage proper debate on the topic. One should never encourage a troll but one needs to know what food they like to eat.

This post is a stripped-down “How-to” guide for those of us who do not have much time right now but need to understand more about trolling. It is intended to inform and also to encourage a clearer understanding of what ‘trolling’ actually is.

By necessity, this article also discusses internet bullying. However a separate Roadwax article deals with this topic in more detail.

If anyone wants to read the full, unabridged articles then please email loopwithers@live.co.uk and ask for a copy. Don’t all rush at once. Oh – there aren’t any pictures in this post. Trolls do not really go for pictures. It is all about words. Bring on the trolls.

The current situation: where we are right now

A quick search through the world’s top English-language internet news sites reveals that the word ‘trolling’ is being frequently used but never properly explained. A longer and more refined search will just make you want to weep. It soon becomes clear that the word is being thrown around without a clear understanding of its meaning. After more than thirty years of trolling on the internet across the world, we rarely find a definition of exactly what a ‘troll’ is.

Is ‘internet trolling’ actually being discussed and described or is it simply being mentioned, like a fashionable buzz-word…?

Now is a good time to clear up some frequent misunderstandings that are beginning to creep in to the current debate. If we do not agree a clear understanding of what trolling is then we cannot effectively deal with the topic.

A brief history of the troll

Trolling has been around for centuries. Every culture with a well-established language has always had trolls. Trolling particularly appears at times when there is war and conflict. Diplomatic statements and war-time propaganda messages are often good examples of simple trolling. Over the last couple of decades, ‘internet trolls’ have appeared. We owe them a debt of thanks. If the internet community had not labelled them as ‘Trolls’ for the first time, we would never have realised that they existed.

The differences between a troll and bully

Trolls are not necessarily bullies…but bullies can be trolls.

Think of it like this: A house can be a home but a home is not necessarily a house.

The current focus in the media is to describe trolls as bullies. This is a dangerously incorrect assumption because it masks what is really going on and…is quite possibly a form of trolling itself!

It is very important that we separate out ‘trolling behaviour’ from ‘bullying behaviour’ to understand what is going on when we look at our screens.

Here is a short list explaining why we should make a distinction:

1) Bullies get given elevated status in society if described as trolls – a label which they do not deserve.

2) Bullying is a form of psychological or physical pressure used to unreasonably coerce people. Trolling isn’t.

3) Trolls and bullies both cause disruption but in different ways. They operate similarly but differently.

4) Trolls wreak destruction and disorder but bullying causes distress and depression.

5) Knowing the difference can keep us protected both on and offline and it can even save lives.

How to spot an online bully:

Online bullying can only take place on websites that allow people to ‘comment’ – write and upload statements that other people can read. Think hard on this point. Notice how many websites do not allow the posting of comments or else ‘suspend’ the writing of comments for a while. Often this denial of the ‘comment’ facility is being carried out to stop bullying or trolling being possible.

So, online bullying takes place most often in ‘forums’ – where a topic can be discussed openly by anyone who want s to have their say. YouTube videos, News Website articles, Enthusiast Forums, Bebo, Askfm…the list of places who offer forums or the opportunity to comment is almost endless. This is where trolling and bullying takes place.

An online bully will always make a personal attack or a particular threat to writers in the forum. Always.

Here is an imaginary ‘thread’ on an imaginary forum:

Bob123:          ‘I think this video is great. I love cats! Cats are so cool!’

Fishman:        ‘Check out 1’24” when the cat goes nuts! LOL!!!’

ZZZmonkey:   ‘You think video footage is real? You are so stupid.’

Bob123:           ‘F**k you, a**hole, you are just a sad piece of sh*t. Go play with yourself.’

ZZZMonkey:   ‘Video is not real! If you think cat actually jump then you are nuts.’

Fishman:         ‘In English please? Are you another crazy Russian who eats cats?’

Bob123:           ‘You f***ing piece of commie sh*t. F**k you.’

ZZZMonkey:   ‘Video is fake. I am not commie. You know nothing.’

There is only one bully in this example. It is Bob123. ZZZMonkey is holding a different opinion about the video and tries to persuade others that they are watching fake footage and believing it is real. ZZZMonkey is straightforward and also rude but he doesn’t bully. Bob123 immediately responds by attacking him personally and then Fishman adds what is possibly a racist slant in his reply which has nothing to do with the points being made by either side.

Now, read the thread again and imagine that:

Bob123 is aged 11 years, female, goes to school.

Fishman is aged 33 years, male, works in telesales.

ZZZMonkey is aged 42 years, transgender, CCTV operator.

Notice how the internet removes so much information that can help us make sense of what appears to be a pointless conflict situation. Bullying often seems more horrifying precisely because it often appears to be so personally vindictive yet it is conducted by apparent strangers.

Bullying is often carried out by people who are struggling to understand what is going on around them. They feel insecure and threatened and so they lash out. They will continue to do this until they are forced to stop. It becomes an exciting new power and the thrill of hurting people is – as adults eventually learn – addictive. If bullying is allowed to go on, then that is exactly what it does. It goes on, and on…and on.

How to spot an online troll:

Trolling is the opposite of bullying. It is often carried out by people who are confident and assured about the world they see. They feel excited by the chances to mess around with the comfort level of less confident or less well informed online guests. They get their fun from wrecking, derailing, destroying and challenging the view of others. They don’t get their thrill from attacking people but instead from manipulating what people think.

Trolls love the power they get from controlling proceedings, dictating what the debate is actually about. Trolls might also bully but then – if they do, they have failed as trolls and should be desribed as bullies. Trolling has nothing to do with bullying.

Trolling is all about power and manipulation. Bullying is all about hatred and aggression.

Let’s run the same scenario again. Remember – we know nothing about the three people who are commenting.

WigWax: ‘I think this video is great. I love cats! Cats are sooo coooool!’

108566M: ‘check out 1′ 24″ when the cat goes nuts! LOL!!!’

Nobby:  ‘My dog could eat that cat. Dogs rule. sorry but thats the way it is.’

108566M ‘Dogs spread disease and suck up to their owners. You sad moron.’

Nobby: ‘Grow up. Cats spread more disease than dogs. Fact. Is a cat gonna save you in a robbery?’

WigWax: ‘Great. A drug dealer wants to lecture me about how great his dog is. Sad.’

Nobby: ‘Maybe I sell your mother all the crack she takes just to put up with you. What’s wrong with that?’

WigWax: ‘Why don’t you get a real job and stop wrecking people’s lives? You scum.’

108566M: ‘I feel sorry for you. You will rot in Hell. God will punish you.’

Nobby: ‘My dog just ate your God. And your cat.’

Nobby is an internet troll. Nobby just derailed this thread and turned the conversation from the love of cats to the morality of drug-taking and religious concepts. Nobby did this without using threats or bullying. Nobby relied on WigWax and 108566M to respond with anger and abuse and Nobby is now firmly in control of this thread. You can use your own imagination to work out how much fun Nobby has over the next few hours…

Notice also – and this is so important – how this thread would simply stop if nobody responds to Nobby’s last comment. The troll cannot continue to dominate unless others allow that to happen by posting replies. The troll can only

a) have the last word in the thread

b) kill the thread by killing off the orginal discussion

c) encourage a Moderator to delete the thread because it is now wrecked

If someone now posts:

Girlfriday: “Nice trolling. Anyway – back to the thread. Cats ARE cool…!”

…then there is still a good chance that Nobby will dive back in and continue. Remember – Trolling is about control and manipulation. Do not feed the trolls.

Trolling on world News Sites:

All news sites – ABC, NBC, BBC, Reuters…every news site in the world – are trolled every day. The trolling takes place in the section of the site where people can leave their comments. Some trolling is done for the sheer twisted fun of it but some trolling is done for a darker reason – to stifle proper debate and to crush dissent.

I could put a link in here to a real-life example that is happening now. Unfortunately, by the time you click on it, the debate will either have moved on or else the comments will have been removed.

Instead, I encourage you to click on your favourite national news site and find a breaking news item which also has a comments thread – and watch it evolve. See if you can spot the point at which an internet troll begins to change the topic under discussion.

Is it a story about a car crash that suddenly changes to a discussion on banning older drivers? Is it a news item on a new hospital brain scanning procedure and the comment thread changes into an argument about abortion?

Hopefully, (to prove my point here) as soon as you see this happening, a Moderator for the site will ‘close’ the comments so that no more posts are allowed.

The comments thread will disappear from view if you revisit the site.

The troll will have successfully stopped open debate and discussion.

The troll will have won.

Trolling on ‘SIF – Sites’ (single interest fanatics) – and YouTube

YouTube provides a fascinating and vibrant introduction for anyone who wishes to study trolling, bullying or any aspect of mass culture. If you watch YouTube, you will see examples of trolling easily and quickly. They are identical to those you may find on the thousands of sif-sites around the world.

YouTube is the most influential and powerful internet media site in the world of 2013. Facebook simply pales into insignificance by comparison, even if one takes their already mathematically corrupted viewing and membership figures…and doubles them.

YouTube allows anyone to upload any piece of film and audio footage for the world to see. It is a place where all you have to do is type in any ‘search’ word and you will find a list of uploaded film relating to that topic. It is hugely influential, whereas other sites are not.

Precisely because of its universal accessibility and worldwide reach, it becomes far more valuable than any single news channel. Notice how, when a new story breaks on a world news channel, one can frequently discover related footage existed a few hours sooner on YouTube.

YouTube allows users to ‘comment’ on footage uploaded by other users.

Think of a popular topic that interests you personally. Go onto YouTube and search for films and videos on that topic. Read the YouTube ‘comments’ and you will see trolling and bullying laid bare. You may also find supreme examples of ‘Moderating’ – where potential trolls and bullies are put in their place by third parties – other visitors to the site.

However – for the sake of clarity – remember that YouTube’s own Moderators use a firm but light touch. YouTube – like Twitter – is a citadel of free speech and expression and therefore it aims to censor as little as possible. YouTube singlehandedly defines the complex struggles involved in maintaining a world concept of ‘free speech’ by simply allowing it.

To many new viewers, this is quite a shocking and revelatory experience. YouTube allows us to see, experience and come face to face with the often shocking world of free speech. Free speech can easily be controlled by bullies and trolls and those who are spectacularly ignorant.

It should be borne in mind that a vast proportion of the most extreme comments on sif-sites and YouTube as well are left by children aged 12 – 18 years. Whether this consideration makes you feel better or worse probably depends a lot upon how you value the power of education.

Trolling as a means of stifling dissent.

As we see in the example of News websites, a troll can stop debate taking place by encouraging the Moderator to close the thread down because it has got out of hand. It has collapsed into a vicious fight between overheated commentators who are now verbally abusing each other.

Most news sites used to try to keep trolls out and keep any debate going but this proved to be a thankless and exhausting task. Now, newsgroups simply ‘pull’ the thread. It is safer and cheaper. Discussion forums – where enthusiasts go to talk with each other – still allow trolls. They cannot really close the forum just because a troll has moved in. Instead, they warn them against trolling – either by an online message for all to see – or privately and more discretely.

A wise troll will move on once their actions are identified. There used to be a saying: “Please do not feed the trolls”. Some web forums still use it but, in truth, that request is usually lost on the very people who should heed it. Trolls have plenty to feed on.

Professional Trolling

But suppose that the troll is employed by a political party? Suppose the news item on the news site or the article in a discussion forum is about a piece of legislation being proposed by The Gorilla Party (hey – I’m just making up a name to keep things simple) and The Ostrich Party doesn’t want that piece of news to give attention to their competitor?

Suppose the Gorilla Party announces support for “free day-care for all children of working single mothers. Vote for the Gorillas and get free day care!”

The Ostrich Party are pretty sure that this legislation will never get passed because it is too expensive. They have worked out the costing figures and they are certain that the Gorilla Party have too. But they are annoyed because the Gorilla Party is bringing to people’s attention the fact that the Ostrich Party do not have their own solution on offer. It makes them look un-caring by comparison.

Do you really believe that the Ostrich Party will keep clear of the ‘comments’ section on that news item? Of course not! They will get a troll in there as soon as possible, to wreck the debate and hopefully get the comments page closed down as quickly as possible.

Stifle debate.

Unintentional trolls

Especially when it comes to news sites, people sometimes become trolls without realising it. They add comments without understanding that they have derailed the discussion.

If a news item is about an accidental house fire where a baby has tragically died, the comments may be mostly from people who wish to express their sadness and support. This is normal and well meant. It goes on all the time. Feelings are intense and people want to express their grief or sympathy.

Now is a bad time for someone to point out the fact that the parents were recent immigrants to the country and they had trouble calling the emergency services because they could not speak the same language.

This comment might have actually been intended as a helpful explanation. It might be a very significant factor that needs to be addressed by the local fire department.

The comment has the opposite effect on the thread. It appears sudden and insensitive and detracts from the emotional integrity of the other comments. The comment thread collapses into accusations of racism, xenophobia, bitter personal abuse and the moderator has to close it down since meaningful debate is now long gone and no postive advantages exist to keeping it open.

This imaginary example shows us how trolls can sometimes be innocent commentators who merely make a badly-timed or poorly-judged observation but meant no actual harm. It illustrates how we can all unintentionally appear as trolls if we mis-judge the mood on a forum or a comment thread.

We might be intending to make a postive or constructive comment – to encourage the debate to broaden out and not simply dwell on the tragedy but instead the cause – but we get it wrong. Suddenly, we have appeared as a troll in the eyes of our peers.

Part-time Trolling

Anyone can be a part-time troll. If we understand anything about trolling then we realise the power that trolling can give us. If we take the power of the troll and turn it to good use, is that not a good thing?

So, suppose you saw a bully attacking someone on a website. Would you ‘troll’ them as a way of stopping them carrying on? Would you try and draw them off their poor target by a display of intelligent trolling without becoming a bully yourself? I reckon that you might. A lot of people do.

Maybe, you would never dream of trolling but then you accidentally stumble across a comment thread where one writer is abusing another simply because of their ethnic background and not for their views. Would you do something to stop it? Of course, the choice always rests with you.

Although trolling is almost always carried out to stifle or subvert debate, it can be seen how trolling can sometimes be used as a weapon against hatred or bullying.

Basic Trolling

At its most basic, trolling is just a means of subverting or suppressing debate. Basic trolling is seen when an internet  discussion suddenly gets ‘hit’ by someone who types: “Buy viagra. Meet beautiful girls and get love pills for free when you click on this address: www.khfskfh.com Best tablets guaranteed.”

They upload this message five or six times in a row on the thread. Let’s be honest, they have probably killed any conversation stone dead. Still want to discuss how mortgage interest relief can be used as a social tool? Nah…nor me.

Sophisticated Trolling

Some trolling is outstandingly sophisticated. It is carried out to undermine or discredit people who are – in the eyes of the troller – deserving to be trolled. People who make overtly political statements, politicians of all levels, are frequently trolled by their adversaries. After all, politics is a dirty game. Trolls silently read the comments left by a particular person over months or even years until they find the right moment. Note – the troll never breaks cover by joining the debate. They just sit and wait and bide their time.

Then, when their ‘target’ – frequently a politician, media professional or social advocate – appears to be gaining fame and popular support, the trolling starts.

‘Great speech. Funny how you support free childcare now but stood against it last year. click this link to your earlier comments: www.abvkdzz.com

Off we go. The trolling has started. The debate is being diverted away from the wishes of the speech-maker.

Governments and politically-charged departments are the most sophisiticated trollers of all. Who can forget the British Government’s encouragement of the belief among the world’s people that Adolf Hitler only possessed one out of a possible maximum of two testicles?

Serious questions raised in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 quickly focussed on asking how the terrible catastrophe had happened in the first place. Go look at the threads now. 99.9% of the arguments are buried under tons of trolled nonsense. The aeroplanes were holograms and the whole thing never happened. It was the Illumnati. It was little green men.

It is now almost impossible for anyone find out how the events on 9/11 actually managed to happen. Sophisticated Trolling at its finest.

Conclusion:

Trolling is an integral part of modern internet communication. it is the art of subverting or suppressing debate. But there is a great reluctance within the world’s government and media to discuss in detail what it is and how it works.

Now, isn’t that strange?

Here’s a picture of a kitten:

"He told you there would be no pictures. He lied to you. And I'm not a kitten.."

“He told you there would be no pictures. He lied to you. And I’m not a kitten..”

TB-infected beef sold back into UK food chain by DeFRA

30 Jun

cow2JPGAccording to the Sunday Times today, DeFRA – The UK government’s Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – has been selling diseased cattle meat to caterers who supply hospitals, schools and the armed forces.

They have bought the carcasses of cattle infected with bovine tuberculosis and sold them back into the food chain.

Despite concerns by several agencies, Defra sees no wrong in its actions.

“We are the UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues. Our priorities are to grow the rural economy, improve the environment and safeguard animal and plant health.”

The above quote is from their website.

DeFRA recently charred its already dirty reputation with most Brits by shrugging off the scandal of horse meat appearing in beef products. When the news broke in Europe, DeFRA’s head of public affairs legged it over to France for an ‘important meeting’ and laid low. As the full extent of corruption in the food chain was revealed over following weeks, DeFRA seemed curiously detached from the situation.

Is it not puzzling that a Ministerial Department responsible for regulating and monitoring the food supply chain in the UK should

*decline to take leadership in a contamination crisis?

*generate approximately $14m revenue by purchasing and selling diseased cattle meat into the human food chain?

*not mention anything in its mission statement (above) about human welfare – any duty to citizens and consumers?

012burger1a

Perhaps, their point is that their priority is to maintain the wealth and prosperity of those who own the fields and the cows. That they are not concerned with any consequential issues. Not concerned with issues relating to health and the possible spread of disease – however small.

But in a political era where the UK government has fostered exaggerated fears of terrorism, economic uncertainty, financial insecurity and invasion of privacy among its citizens, is it not strange that one of its own departments intentionally sells tens of thousands of tons of meat from diseased cattle into its own country’s food chain?

It does not take a conspiracy theorist to notice that DeFRA have again expressed not one single concern at their wildly indefensible actions while the Press and public are again outraged. Once more, actions that are highly likely to cause distress and concern among the public have come from…a government department. 

Can DeFRA’s actions really have been the result of ignorance and innocence as to the risks being taken with the public’s health and wellbeing?

The Sunday Times quotes DeFRA’s chief scientist Ian Boyd warning that bTB (bovine Tuberculosis) could “spill over” to pets and “potentially to humans”.

M bovis, the bacterium that causes bTB can survive cooking up to 60C. – source: Sunday Times, 30th June 2013

cows4cows5

Margaret Thatcher. No flowers, please.

17 Apr

In a few hours time, Margaret Thatcher will exist only in the history books. To help ensure that she is indexed correctly, I am proud to hand over Roadwax to acclaimed author, newspaper columnist and feature writer  C J Stone

The Empire of Things:

In Memory of Margaret Thatcher

Seventeenth Century English protest rhyme

It was Margaret Thatcher who said there was no such thing as society. “There are individual men and women, and there are families… It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then… to look after our neighbour,” she said. “People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

She said this in an interview with Women’s Own magazine published in October 1987. Six years before that, in 1981, riots had ripped through Britain’s inner cities. There were riots in Brixton in London, in Toxteth in Liverpool, in Handsworth in Birmingham and Chapeltown in Leeds. There were further riots throughout the 80s, including Broadwater Farm in 1985, and Peckham that same year.

On coming to power in 1979, on the steps of Downing Street, Margaret Thatcher had quoted from St Francis of Assisi: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”

Never have a set of words proved to be less appropriate, or more vain, or less honest, or more ignorant of the truth.

The central idea behind Thatcherite policy was an economic theory known as  Monetarism. The aim of Monetarism was to break the post war consensus which had given working people unprecedented wealth – a welfare state, a national health service, free education, participatory democracy – and to redistribute that wealth to where its proponents believed it should go: back to the very rich. It did this by deregulating the banks, by breaking the trade unions, by selling off public assets, and by a form of social engineering in which traditional Labour voters were lured into property ownership by selling their council houses to them at drastically reduced rates, and in this way, getting them into debt. Debt became the driving force of the new economy.

Within one year of this we had the first riot: in St Pauls in Bristol.

The Enemy Within

In 1984 Thatcher took on and defeated the Miners. She called the Miners “The Enemy Within”. They were the bastion of working class solidarity in the United Kingdom, fiercely socialist in their outlook. This came directly from their work. Mining is a dangerous job. People who work underground have to watch each other’s backs. This creates a form of solidarity which they then bring back to the surface with them, into the over ground world.*

It is out of adversity that socialism arises. It is out of love. Solidarity is another word for love.

The National Union of Mineworkerswas an organisation of love. You listen to any old Miner talking about their union, and you will hear it. You will hear it in the tone of their voice and in the words they use. It was their organisation, forged out of their solidarity, out of the bonds created in the terrible conditions they encountered in their work, out of their history of struggle, out of loyalty to their class and their fierce independence. The NUM actively stood against the kind of world that Thatcher was promoting. It had to be destroyed.

We had love, and they had greed, and greed won. The defeat of the Miners lead directly to the kind of world we live in now.

There was an irony here. Thatcher appealed to a form of cod patriotism. She promoted patriotic values, waving her rhetorical flag for the assembled audience. And yet she helped destroy this most British of institutions, the National Union of Mineworkers, and to undermine trade unionism as a whole – a British invention – while encouraging an invasion of international corporations in the service industry, such as McDonalds, in which trade unionism was actively banned.

Waving the patriotic flag while inviting a foreign invasion. There’s a word we normally use for this. Under other circumstances we would call it “treason”.

McWages

If the young are not initiated into the village,
they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.

African proverb.

Roll on 30 years, to a new Tory government, to a new Monetarism, to a new austerity, a new Thatcherism.

And don’t be in any doubt that this is exactly what it is. When George Osborne told MPs that his deficit-cutting plan had made Britain a “safe haven in the global debt storm”, what he meant was that the financial institutions, to which he is obligated, have approved of his policies. They don’t have to loot the British economy, because Osborne is already handing the loot to them.

It’s a form of protection racket. The world has already seen what a financial mugging looks like. They’ve already broken the backs of governments in Ireland and Portugal and Greece. Give us your wealth, they say, or this is the fate that lies in store for you too. Give us your public property. Privatise, privatise, privatise, and no institution – not even the Health Service – is sacred.

That is what deficit reduction means. It means privatisation: not by the back door, but by the front door. Financial looting. It means taking British capital, currently held by the British state, and handing it over to financial institutions at a reduced rate. “Waving the patriotic flag while inviting a foreign invasion” again.

We are in the midst of an age of unprecedented structural change in our world, a return to feudalism. Feudalism arose out of the collapse of the Roman Empire. It involved a robber class living off the back of a servant class, using rent as its means. The new Feudal Lords use financial rent – indebtedness – in the same way. What we are watching is the collapse of the New Roman Empire into a new Dark Age of institutionalised plunder, a takeover by the banks.

The austerity measures are already being implemented, and it is the young who are being targeted. So tuition fees are going up to £9,000 a year, while theEducation Maintenance Allowance for 16-19 year old has been scrapped. Inflation is rampant, while real wages are declining. There is no future for the young. No jobs, no education, no skills, no apprenticeships. These were mostly scrapped by Thatcher 30 years ago. A nation built on skill has been reduced to a service economy, to McJobs and McWages in a McSociety.

You can call it “muck” if you like.

As Above So Below

“When your most elite, most powerful members of society adopt a strategy of plundering…. they will develop a morality that doesn’t simply permit plundering, but valorises it. When that happens the moral structures of a society will inevitably deteriorate. In the upper classes that leads to polite looting. In the underclass it leads to street looting.”

Bill Black on the Keiser Report, 16/08/2008

The illusion that’s been created is that we are separate beings. We are not. We are social beings. Margaret Thatcher was entirely wrong when she said there was no such thing as society. Society is the very essence of who we are. We are tied together by bonds of language, by bonds of morality, by bonds of loyalty, by bonds of family, by bonds of society, by bonds of love. You break those bonds and the social world begins to fall apart.

Society is the individual writ large. The individual is society in microcosm. As above, so below. The unconscious is not underneath us, it is around us. It is not inside of us, it is outside of us. The unconscious is that part of ourselves that lies in other people. It is in the obligations we owe to the people around us, in our human interactions, only barely recognised, as we negotiate our way around our social world.

In the individual personality, rampant, out-of-control egotism is a form of mental illness. Commonly called psychopathy, it is a mental state in which the individual only concerns himself with his own gratification. So if a psychopath gets pleasure from murder, then he will murder, free from conscience, because personal gratification is his only concern. Not every psychopath is a murderer, though. There are psychopaths all around us, and everyone is capable of psychopathic behaviour. Everyone who seeks personal gratification at the expense of his fellow creatures is a psychopath to some degree.

In the social sphere, the financial sector is a kind of collective psychopath, destroying the health of the economy for its private gratification. We honour the psychopath in our current world. It is the world of private gratification through private power. We give power to the psychopath, while denuding and deriding thecommon good that arises from our common world.

All private wealth is won at the expense of the commons. What we are witnessing right now are the new enclosure acts, the new clearances. We are beings born of the commons and not only our economic, but also our mental and emotional health, is measured by how much we bring to the common good.

Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a sixgun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.”

Pretty Boy Floyd by Woody Guthrie.

Democracy

“If you don’t find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further.” Gandhi.

I saw a BBC reporter interviewing a community activist in one of the riot areas. The activist compared what was happening to the Arab Spring. “But this is a democracy,” the reporter said, in a slightly defensive tone.

Is it though?

There are four pillars to a functioning democracy. We need an effective police force, a free press, rational political institutions and an efficient financial system. All of them must be regulated and free from corruption. What we have instead is a corrupt police force in hock to a corrupt press, with corrupt politicians serving the interests of a corrupt financial elite. Corruption from top to bottom. Corruption in every avenue of our public life. Top policemen taking bribes, politicians on the make, an intrusive and bullying press, distracting us with trivia and gossip, while covering up its own illegal practices, and a City of London which is entirely out of regulatory control, and which is plundering the nation’s resources for its own private gain.

And you wonder why the young riot? The kids are looting the shops. The banks are looting the nation.

Then we have the Labour Party – the Party created by the working class in the early part of the last century to institute socialist policies through democratic means – being seduced by high finance, and taking part in the financial rape of this country. Tony Blair amassing a personal fortune by taking us to war. Gordon Brown bailing out the banks and indebting the nation, borrowing money from the banks to give to the banks, imposing dangerous levels of debt on future generations. Peter Mandelson declaring: “We are all Thatcherites now.” What hope for us when even our own party stands against us?

The Empire of Things

“These people are living in a financial prison, and this is a prison riot.”

Max Keiser on the Keiser Report, 16/08/2008

We’ve had over 30 years of rampant individualism, of consumerism, of me-ism and the devil take the hindmost; 30 years of mortgaging our future to pay for our present consumption; 30 years of selling off our birthright for a mess of consumerist pottage; 30 years of corruption and greed, of the worship of Things. It is an Empire of Things. So we have our technology and our consumer durables, our computers and our mobile phones, our technical baubles. Well some of us have. Many of us don’t have these Things. The young in particular, don’t have these Things. The young from the sink estates, the second and third generation underclass.

So we’ve set these Things up in place of our values. We’ve substituted them for the social ties that used to bind us together, and we’ve told the young who can’t afford these Things, that they are the only measure of value, that you don’t count unless you can flaunt these Things in the faces of your peers. That only Things count. And then society starts to break down under the pressure of the new Feudal arrangements, in which we are becoming economic vassals paying homage to debt, and the kids take to the streets in a blind fury of acquisitive excitement. And what do they do? They steal. They loot. They plunder. They obey the rules laid down on them by the Empire of Things. They collect the very Things we told them to, declaring fealty to the Things that are our Lords in the new fiefdom of debt.

They do what we tell them to do and then we punish them for it.

The bankers have plundered the economy, and they have been rewarded. The politicians have plundered their expenses, and they still sit in Parliament. The Murdoch Press has corrupted our values, and yet they are still allowed to own newspapers. The police have taken bribes, and yet they talk brazenly of the criminality of the streets.

Young people are put in gaol for the theft of a bottle of water, while bankers are given bonuses for the plunder of nations. People are losing their homes because their children are suspected of rioting, while politicians, who claimed for multiple homes on their expenses, are allowed to bleat on about rioters and looters from their privileged position in the House of Commons.

It’s at this point that I would like to agree with Margaret Thatcher. As she said: “People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

To whom do we owe the obligation? To society, of course.

*Anyone who doubts this should consider the Chilean Miners. During their first 17 days underground – before they were contacted, when they were nearly starving, and fearful that the probes might not find them – they had instituted a form of democracy, a form of socialism, which many of them say saved them from a descent into barbarity.

This article originally appeared on C J Stone’s website and is reproduced here with his permission.

Millions of new cars remain unsold. Join the dots…

8 Feb

DSC00283roadwax

As more than 10 MILLION brand new cars join the ever increasing backlog of unsold stock across the World – four million cars in Europe alone – factory closures are now to become a reality.

Well-hidden and secure compounds across Europe, Asia and America are the usual first home for newly-born cars awaiting shipping to dealers. But these are now so full that dealers themselves are having to store cars in their already-packed yards.

The backlog of stored new cars in Europe now runs to four million. US sources point to a similar figure for America and things are so bad in China that Mercedes Benz are offering as much as 30% discount on some new models (S-Class, anyone?) as an attempt to shift stock.

No matter how politicians of all persuasions in all car-making countries try to dress it up, the fact is that production lines and whole factories now stand to be closed as a means of reducing output to match the drop in demand.

As Jorn Madslien’s BBC article here points out, the 7 – 10% annual drop in European demand since the Banking crisis of 2008 is set to continue through 2013 according to industry analysts.

There is no evidence to suggest that this trending reduction in demand will halt. Unemployment, static wages and financial insecurity continue to keep potential customers away from showrooms.021roadwax

What many ordinary people have overlooked in the last three years is the part that national politicians have played in this unfolding catastrophe.

Anxious to deflect criticism of themselves from voters already outraged at the corruption within the financial industry that has wrecked economic prospects, many political leaders have persuaded car giants to keep production at a steady level to avoid redundancies.

In the last three years, American car-making states have seen the quite shocking sight of trains loaded with brand new cars leaving the factories bound for the deserts – where the cars are simply off-loaded and parked up – as an alternative to laying off workers or reducing pay-packets.

Now, this temporary vote-buying strategy has resulted in such high levels of surplus vehicles that the need to close whole factories has replaced the idea of cutting the odd work shift. There is now no other option left.

Discounting of new car prices at dealership level is now rising into thousands of dollars. Some makes and models are almost dead in the water, effectively having so few interested potential buyers that they may as well not be offered.

Chrysler, for example, has more than six months worth of 2013 Dodge Darts parked up right now, as the Wall Street Journal’s article here reveals.

Six months worth of Dodge Darts. At what point does a ‘new’ car technically become an ‘old’ new car? Can a car that has sat out in the open for most of a year still be described as ‘new’? One can easily imagine the challenges that car manufacturers now face.

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But showroom price discounting – especially up to amounts like 30% – can wreak havoc with the residual value of that car’s marque. The prices of ‘nearly-new’ second-hand versions plummet at auction and fleet clients and Hire Purchase customers can become saddled with a kind of negative equity on their own vehicles. Fleet News made this point six months ago in their article here.

Some commercial vehicle manufacturers have been hit really hard as savvy fleet operators have held onto their trucks for an extra year or two to avoid this depreciation risk. One major truck maker sold zero units of its product in the UK in 2011 as regular clients simply sat tight.

General Motors has only now struggled back into profit in the US after years in the red with an unloved product range. Desperate for small cars it didn’t have, it hastily re-badged Asian Daewoo products, slapping a ‘Chevrolet’ badge on them and shipping them into America.

Now, it is watching as its twin European badges – Vauxhall and Opel – fight a desperate war to survive. It is abundantly clear that 7-10% over-capacity plus some ageing and inefficiently designed production facilities cannot be propped up at all cost.

roadwaxJeep 101

In this situation, the cost will be production line workers. There are no deserts in Europe to hide millions of unwanted cars.

The emerging giant economy of China fueled the revival of hopes in 2009 for top marques like BMW, Cadillac and Rolls Royce. Dying on their feet as Europe and America struggled with a banking collapse, these big names spearheaded a rush to satisfy Chinese auto sales volume growth of 46% in that year.

But by 2010 that figure had dropped to 32% and in early 2011 it slumped to 2.5%.

We are not supposed to use the word ‘problem’. The fashionable and politically correct word today is ‘challenge’.

The ‘problem’ is over-production of depreciating consumer goods.

The ‘challenge’ for today’s politicians is to find unemployed workers jobs that can generate their family a surplus income. Enough to buy yet more depreciating consumer goods and certainly more than enough to live on.

If today’s politicians actually have a solution to this challenge, then they are keeping very quiet about it.

 

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