Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Mrs Thatcher became known as TINA, short for 'There Is No Alternative' (to unbridled capitalism). Now George Osborne tells us his budget is unavoidable. I suggest a new slogan OPIUM 'Our Policy is Unavoidable, Mate'.

He even claims his budget is 'progressive', when it is the poorest who will suffer most from the rise in VAT and whose benefits will fail to rise with inflation. It seems rather kind to bankers, too, although the whole problem is how to pay the bill for keeping them afloat.

So think back to 1979, when the first budget of the Thatcher era threw Britain deeper into recession and unemployment. She became so unpopular that an election defeat became likely, until she was boosted by the Falklands War. So shall we get a new war sometime in 2014? Or will that simply be the year that we finally find an excuse to withdraw from Afghanistan?

Saturday, 19 June 2010


There seems to be a new militarism in Britain, fuelled by the regular return of bodies from Afghanistan and the parades and funerals that they engender. Now Mr Cameron tells us we should sing the praises of our military "more loudly and more proudly". He wants a massive display of enthusiasm next Saturday on Armed Forces Day.

And what is this Armed Forces Day? Looking through old diaries - and even this year's diary - I see no mention of it. Veterans Day is first listed in 2008, and it seems to be June 27th. What happened on that date? According to Wikipedia it was the day that America decided to send troops to Korea in 1950, and Yugoslavia invaded Slovenia in 1991 - nothing to do with British veterans. I don't grudge veterans their day, but now we are to have a whole military weekend.

Another sign of the times: my neighbour has booked Oxford Town Hall for a concert in aid of the charity Help for Heroes. Well, of course those wounded in our current war should be helped, but out of public funds. As I understand it, the government is trying to fight this war on the cheap, so it is their responsibilty to compensate the victims - and I would hope that would include Afghan victims. But what the hell are we doing there anyway, apart from continuing G W Bush's "Crusade"? You can't conduct other countries' revolutions for them.

Friday, 11 June 2010


Some of my friends have wonderful e-mail names, for example 'prettypinkpig', 'sultanofsin', 'lucyskywalker', 'tallstraightA'. An extreme example was 'sukitanc'; as I was grappling with an Indian organization called ANC at the time, I thought it was some obscure reference to them, until my friend explained that it meant 'suck it and see' - an invitation that I declined.

I have been trying to get a new one-letter word into the English dictionary: 'to e' meaning to e-mail someone, also to be used in compounds such as 'e-address', 'e-friend'. So far I have not succeeded, but I hope friends will use it so that eventually the dictionary writers will notice.

My other language project is to create an alternative to 'he or she'. I find the use of 'they' or 'one' very clumsy, and still more the arbitrary use of 'he' or 'she' where no gender is implied. My idea is to recruit 'a' as a pronoun; it comes from the word 'one' in any case, so there is a precedent. The possessive 'as' looks odd on paper but is easily accepted by the ear; after all, it sounds rather like 'hers'. If the reader has as doubts a should at least try it.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


This falling out between Israel and Turkey is very interesting. Their strange alliance had the unspoken basis that each wanted for different reasons to maintain that Hitler's mass murder of Jews was without parallel. Zionists want to use the Holocaust to demonstrate that Jews are a unique people, always and everywhere in danger and therefore needing to live in a fortress. Turks want to maintain that Hitler's genocide was a one-off and that there was no comparable Armenian genocide.

Netanyahu has shown himself completely out of touch by suggesting that the violence on the first boat resulted from it being full of Muslims, i.e. "terrorists", while the peaceful seizure of the Rachel Corrie was possible because it was full of reasonable Europeans. His readiness to infuriate Turks, and indeed Egyptians and Jordanians, shows that he does not feel any need for any Middle Eastern friends.

The great irony is that the more extreme the nationalism of Israel, the more it demonstrates that Jews are not a peculiar 'race' but very ordinary human beings, as capable as anybody else of blindness and brutality in a futile cause.

Monday, 7 June 2010


I have often seen George Orwell quoted for his defense of clear language as the key to clear thinking, so I thought I should read The Road to Wigan Pier. The first part is a very moving account of poverty in 1930s Britain, which he explored by staying in doss houses and miners' homes. But the second part is a confused and repetitive account of how he became a socialist in spite of the awfulness of his fellow socialists. Here is a sample of his dislikes: "England was full of half-baked antinomian opinions. Pacifism, internationalism, humanitarianism of all kinds, feminism, free love, divorce-reform, atheism, birth control - things like these were getting a better hearing than they would get in normal times."

He sets up Socialism as the only alternative to Fascism, but he is at a loss to explain. He repeatedly says that the essence of Socialism is "justice and liberty" and seems unaware that there might be any conflict between the two aims. This was in 1937, at the height fo Stalin's purges, so it seems a very serious oversight. It is hard to see how he got from there to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Things have not evolved at all in the way Orwell expected. The battle between socialists and fascists has not taken place. Instead the world has been stealthily taken over by giant corporations, which deliver enough of the goods to enough of the people to keep them quiet. However, pacifism, internationalism, humanitarianism, feminism, divorce, atheism and birth control are flourishing.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Rachel Corrie

The British media hardly said a thing about the seizure by Israel of the Rachel Corrie. There was no violence, so that's all right then?! Much more fun to talk about a freak gun rampage in the Lake District! I have not yet seen any mention of the location where the ship was boarded; presumably either in international waters, which is piracy, or in Gaza's territorial waters, which is abusive occupation.

And it does matter that the ship was not allowed into Gaza. Israel says it will deliver the aid by road, but it will weed out whatever is on its embargo list, including any of the building materials that are so desperately needed. The siege goes on, illegal and immoral though it is, and anybody who does not denounce it is guilty of complicity.

The one piece of good news is that Egypt has been shamed into reopening the Rafah crossing, but for how long? Egyptian and Jordanian collaboration with Israel were bought by American dolllars, but will Obama continue to make aid conditional on acquiescence in policies that most people in Egypt and Jordan abhor?