Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gallows humour

I like to think of myself as a democrat who is liberal minded. This would suggest, therefore, that I'm a good fit for the Liberal Democrats. I know, however, that liberalism is kinda boring, so I try to take a side if I can, to the left in the main. Inside, though, I know I'm a bit boring; I don't climb mountains, grow giant mangoes or go seagull racing at the weekends. This is OK, not being very interesting allows me to exist within my own comfort zone.

Then the cuddly boring Liberal Democrats disintegrate in a storm of alcoholism, rent boys and secret bisexual-ess-ness. This is just not my brand of boring; this is not the dull uneventful middling life I signed up to. None of it adds up, how do you find the time to watch low impact reality TV and find Tesco Self-Scan exciting when you're buggering rent boys in an alcohol soaked stupor?

Then, just when I thought my belief system was more aligned to Leigh Bowry than, ahem, Lea-fy Buckinghamshire; George Galloway erupted in the Big Brother house and it all became clear to me. I spent the last couple of weeks trying to spot what was so distasteful about Galloway. I hadn't read that much about him, so my thoughts weren't coloured by the press. He was against the war and spoke a common man rhetoric that was easy to subscribe to. He pissed off the Americans, which didn't seem a crime. He just seemed like a intelligent, thoughtful, slightly conservative middle-aged man. Not a million miles from where I'll end up, I think. But he's friends with Pete Burns and Saddam Hussain, am I really more aligned to these people than cuddly Charles Kennedy and his merry band of terribly sensible people? It seems, perhaps, my naiveté lulled me into a false sense of security becuase when Galloway opened up it was quite evident that he wasn't really interested in the substance of the debate; he was simply interested in his role in it. It's not a question of whether his argument is stronger, its more that if he's in control then he's winning.

That's when it dawned on me that Galloway isn't like me; we may claim to stand for similar values, but our motives are different. Whereas he chooses to ride on these values for his own self aggrandisement, my motives are rather more simple. I think these values are right because its better to be good to people than to be bad, because life is better that way. Perhaps this is one of life's great failings, the argument is too simple. You can't work into a passionate tirade about going about your normal business, not bothering too many people and generally being nice, polite and straight forward. Instead people who have something else to promote; themselves, for example, can use this liberal minded language as a screen for another, more sinister, agenda. Galloway uses it to promote himself and people like me are seduced into being supportive because they're not otherwise represented in the circuses of the mainstream media and politics. Who is more the fool, eh?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Maybe baby

I haven't really talked much about the baby and its impending arrival in April. I remember reading that Norman Cook asked his label boss to drop him should he produce an album of peans to his son and I'm acutely aware I could fall into the same trap. I'm paranoid of talking incessantly about 'precious gifts' and 'special times'. In truth, six months in, the whole pregnancy has been rather uneventful. Emma is slowly changing shape (though still in her own clothes she'd want me to point out), and I have sung more songs to her belly than anyone else's (December: Christmas carols, January: Beatles, February: I'm thinking Yardie ragga). Otherwise, you tell people, then you wait a bit, then the baby turns up.

Sort of. As the year turns, our thoughts are becoming crystalised on getting ready. Once you enter the baby economy, you realise the baby business is big business. Put 'baby' in front of a product name and you can mark it up by about 10 times. Take this baby bath from Bloomin' Marvellous. According to the blurb, it puts the baby into a position that simulates the baby in the womb thus providing a sense of safety and blah. In essence it's a bucket; 99p from B&Q, £18.99 from Blooming Marvellous.

We're also booked onto ante-natal classes; albeit several months late. We're going with the National Childbirth Trust classes rather than NHS. This was recommended by the mid-wife who viewed our uber-middle class house as a sign that we shouldn't be pitched in with the teenage mothers on the NHS class (lesson one: how to tell your headmaster you'll be missing next Tuesday's double French). Apparently you should be booked on after three months, we left it until 6 months so now we're on an overflow class at the end of March. I'd like to go in with no pre-conceptions; but try as I might I can't.

Most recently we had a tour around the hospital. Well, nearly. We went last week with Vicki (due March), arriving at 6pm and then waiting nearly an hour to be told that the hospital had sent out leaflets all over the county saying that the tour was every Thursday (it's actually Wednesday). An hour in a maternity ward gave us ample opportunity to observe the many freaks and dweebs who are populating the country (says the man who, from an outsiders point of view, looked to have fathered two children with two women without any apparent problem to either party). Watching the enormously pregnant fourteen year old waddle out the door to have a cigarette makes you realise how lucky you are. Still, this is not as surprising as hearing from one of the people complaining to the big boss of the maternity ward about the tour mix-up that "It's disgusting, there are heavily pregnant women here".

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

All seeing Ruffles

Things I've noticed about Big Brother...

  • Celebs smoke strangely; Pete Burns smokes out of the corner of his mouth, probably for good reason, Sam Preston puffs like a spiv, holding his fag like a dart, presumably to enhance his Mod credo,

  • Though it pains me, George Galloway, comes over as quite a rounded individual. Although Ihis assertion that Sadam Hussain was loved by the Iraqi people, does at least give me one hook to hang my hat of hate on,

  • You Spin Me Round is a TUNE! (so is King's Love and Pride, jesus, how easy is iTunes?)

  • It is secrectly reassuring to find out that d-list celebs like Jodi Marsh are exactly how you want them to be: perma-tanned big titted gobshite on the outside, broken human being on the in,

  • When people talk to Dennis Rodman they talk like Dennis Rodman, for this read: Jodi Marsh talking about 'lickin' hot pussy', and Fariah Alam going on about "fucking a Paki bitch"

  • Pete Burns; who looks like a cgi character from a Playstation Game, and Barrymore who looks like every other fifty something on the planet, are essentially the same person and if either ever realised this they would explode.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hunka hunka burning mouse

OK, so you come out of your little house, looking for some cheese. Without warning some bastard picks you up and slings you out the window. You know you're doomed, your life is slowly slipping away... what do you do?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ghost wars - Steve Coll

This is a superb book charting the history of the CIA's involvement in the Middle East from the Afghan war through to September 10th 2001. The narrative is a chronological look at how the US covertly supported the Mujhaden , via Pakistan's secret service, when the Soviets moved in to support Afghanistan's faltering government. The mujahaden was made up of a pathwork of warlords fighting in the area. The US, sensing a Soviet march to oil in the middle east, supplied political, humanitarian and eventually, military aid to the resistance. They chose not to back an Afghan nationalist warlord, General Ahmed Massoud, because he did deals with the Russians. Instead they chose to back the General Hekmatyar; an Islamic radical and a ruthless idealogue.

By supporting Hekmatyar the US failed to recognise how the increasing surge in political Islam could grow to threaten all non-Islamic nations, including the US. When the Soviet Union withdrew so did the Americans, allowing the civil war to continue. Political Islamists; Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban built a foundation from which al Qaeda could build its strength. What's more they were able to spread their influence through Pakistan, the Islamic world and through terrorist networks - employing tactics which attracted a high media profile and using modern technology to spread the word.

The Afghan war jihadists came from all over the region, including Saudi Arabia, partly attracted by the concept of religious war against the Soviet infidels, and also disillusioned by the increasing westernisation of traditional Muslim nations, modernisation which arose from the oil wealth in the region. Afghanistan, its chaos and poverty, represented an opportunity for a fundamentalist version of Islam to be built; the birth of the Umma - the community of Islam. with the fall of the Soviet Union, American interest in the region was limited to speculative commercial opportunities such as tapping the gas fields of Uzbekistan. Even when concerns were released reactions were stymied by relations with Islamic states including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, a poor understanding of the region or political islam, and their residual commercial interests in the region (a lot of time was spent trying to do commercial deals with the resolutely pious Taliban).

Having let al Qaeda's influence fester for years, when the US government finally decided that Osama bin Laden was a serious threat to the US, Bill Clinton, paralysed by the Monica Lewinsky impeachment, got the yips when it came to an assasination. Several opportunities were missed. By September 10th 2001, President Bush had become tired of 'swatting flies' when it came to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and decided it was time to take affirmative action. As the wheels began turning to provide arms to Massoud's Northern Alliance; Massoud was assassinated by al Qaeda suicide bombers and the 9/11 mission was commencing...

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