Sunday, 30 December 2007

Morality without Transcendent Authority? We don't think so...

This morning's Guardian is having a bit of a Sixth Form moment, and is unfortunately busy tying itself up in semantic knots trying to oppose Dawkins' latest populist ramblings against the world great thinkers in the field of morality with that tired old A-level question, "Is it possible to be moral without God?" Jeez...

As ever, this argument quickly gets bogged down in semantics.

Let's cut to the chase, and drop all references to "religion", they're just too loaded with obfuscating clutter to make this discussion workable. What we're talking about here is whether human moral codes require an appeal to some transcendent authority to function effectively, and Manuscripts Don't Burn for one believes absolutely that they do.

It doesn't matter whether that transcendent authority is "religious" (ie supernatural) or not: the point is that it is superindividual. Essentially it equates to "ideology". Whether one appeals to "God", or "the State", or "human nature", or "the ideal society", "the world we want to live in", "justice", "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", whatever; the fact is simply that in order to have a functioning (ie shared) moral code you have to appeal to something other than a bunch of rough precepts grasped at by the individual. Indeed, it is precisely because they are superindividual that individuals have to take their tenets "on faith", as it were, and subordinate themselves to what is perceived to be the "greater good", "will of the people", etc. Fundamentally, this act of subordination involves the same act of faith whether it's a religious ideology or not.

The fact that Dawkins, a populist zoologist with a line in provocative aphorisms, sets himself up against Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Sartre, Derrida, not to mention the enormous host of religious writers who've put pen to paper on this subject, should give us pause. The man's clutching at straws in a world where all the evidence points to a blindingly obvious answer.

The nearest ideology we've got to a Dawkins' form of moral authority is capitalism; indeed, after due deliberation and increasing suspicion extending back several years, Manuscripts Don't Burn is now beginning to suspect that the Good Mr. Dawkins is in fact little more than an apologist for a system which is condemning most of the population of the planet to poverty, rather than an innovative moral thinker he'd like to present himself as. Time and again his allegedly profound thinking comes up with the conclusion that we're pretty much doing what we should be doing right now, which, given the state of the world, should give us all pause. In the final analysis, Dawkins' thinking is just as relative as anyone else starting from his basic premises - and it is that weakness in his argumentation that bears the seeds of its own destruction.

Civil Disobedience: Vandalised Speed Cameras

Ok, time for a caveat first: Manuscripts Don't Burn is heavily in favour of penalising people for serious driving offences, people who drive like lunatics, endangering people's lives and killing hundreds if not thousands on our roads annually. People who drive dangerously should be prosecuted, full stop.

Ok, caveat over. Manuscripts Don't Burn also finds it interesting, however, that the UK - usually appallingly sluggish when it comes to active protest - has started to attack speed cameras up and down the country. This web site offers page after page of photographs of selected speed cams, set up on and destroyed by, presumably, either angry motorists, well-organised vandals (?), or people with something to say about the fact that the UK has become the surveillance capital of the world.

Whilst Manuscripts Don't Burn would never condone or encourage crime, it is nevertheless interesting to see the lumbering juggernaut that is the Great British Public finally stirring into action. In comparison with other nations, the UK public is largely inert, and generally demoralised by that pervasive "Daily Mail" hopelessness so beloved of our mass media. It takes a lot to get that passive mass moving.

Naturally this issue seems to be rather absent from the pages and screens of the mainstream media. I guess we mustn't give people ideas.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

The Pakistan Gambit (2): US Troops Going In Already!

Oops... looks like the timescales are shorter than we initially thought! The Washington Post has announced today that US troops are to be deployed in Pakistan early in the New Year "as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units", according to US defense officials. Haw-haw-haw. Sure they are, George...

Interestingly, the Blogosphere is filled with punters who, just like Manuscripts Don't Burn, are not buying the official line on this. Looks like you're gonna have to try harder this time, George...

Cool. Manuscripts Don't Burn is bowled over with the bare-faced brazenness of these folks - the body is barely cold, and already the troops are tooling up.

We'll keep you posted - it looks like this one is going to unfurl quickly. Should be "fun".

The Pakistan Gambit: A Classic Pincer Movement

Manuscripts Don't Burn has been watching Pakistan with interest over the past month or two. The invasion of Iran, which has been on and off constantly for at least two years now, took a body blow earlier in the month with the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate which stated Iran was currently not pursuing nuclear weapons.

Naturally geopolitics doesn't grind to a halt when a strategic problem crops up - it simply seeks to accomplish its goals via a different path. Hence the massive destabilisation of Pakistan over the past half year.

Given that this is all about oil, Pakistan forms a key link in the oil supply chain from Afghanistan and the Caspian Basin. Also, now that an Iranian invasion is off the cards for the time being, it has become vital to isolate Iran as much as possible, and surround it with American troops. Gaining control of Pakistan was always on the cards for the Project for the New American Century , but things have definitely been brought forwards very rapidly with the NIE and the necessary retreat from Iran.

Manuscripts Don't Burn notes that Musharraf himself successfully instituted a state of emergency in early December and managed to change the law to bring direct control of Pakistan's nukes into his hands only - and not into those of any elected prime minister. Given the impending civil war in Pakistan, this seems like an amazingly prophetic move - except of course there are rarely any coincidences in geopolitics. Theoretically at least, no matter how bad the civil war gets, the nuclear arsenal remains in Musharraf's hands; the question now of course is how long before the UN offers Musharraf a peacekeeping force, which of course will be predominantly under American control. Manuscripts Don't Burn expects this within a few weeks at most.

The UK and US media are already painting Bhutto's assassination as linked to - surprise, surprise - Al Qaeda. Doubtless the Taliban will be implicated too. And probably Sauron, Kim Jong Il, Vlad the Impaler, and the Bastard Lovechild of Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, just for good measure. After all, we need to get some knees jerking if this thing is going to work...

Next stop - Pakistan! Let's get those Iranians surrounded, boys!

A Mormon By Any Other Name...

The Guardian this morning has a thinly veiled attempt to portray presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a dangerous wacko, principally because he belongs to the Church of Latter Day Saints, or is, in a word, a Mormon.

Manuscripts Don't Burn finds this interesting. Firstly, to our knowledge Mr. Romney has not yet started any wars, or illegally invaded any countries, or approved of torture or terror activities on foreign soil. No, Mr Romney is being found guilty, ahead of trial, of believing in a different kind of God from the government approved Charlton Heston God, so beloved of the "take my gun out of my cold, dead hands" brigade.

Manuscripts Don't Burn likes this kind of discussion. It's actually touching upon something key, and terribly important and perhaps also fragile, about the American psyche. Something which, if it were to fail, would have terrible consequences for us all...

America is a young nation, with a young culture. Today, under the onslaught of the BushCo corporate fascists, it is experiencing its first attempt at oppressive aristocratic control from above (ie by the corporate government) since the War of Independence, and battle lines are developing.

America has a young, vibrant culture. There are all kinds of wacky, experimental ideas in the mix. Some of them are nonsense. Some of them change the world. America was created on a foundation of religious experimentation and non-conformism, and - Manuscripts Don't Burn agrees - you don't get much more experimental and non-conformist than Joe Smith and his Magic Stones.

Are people allowed to govern if they believe weird shit? That's kinda what democracy's supposed to be about, isn't it? Ahminejad got elected. So did Bush (arguably). And Hitler, Tony Blair, and Abraham Lincoln. So, this great social experiment we all pay lip service to isn't without risk...

We The People have a choice: we can either abdicate our responsibility and our choice of candidate and vote for who the corporate media tells us to (on the tacit understanding that they may still be a complete wacko behind closed doors), and maintain a thin, impoverished facade of "democracy", or we can wise up, stand on our principles, and realise that this is serious shit, fought for and bought in blood and sweat and tears, and vote for who WE think would run the country the best on our behalf.

In the second scenario, Mitt Romney's religion is just one part of his personality - a set of values that he openly subscribes to - that lets us judge. There are of course others - honesty, integrity, decency. Given him or Bush / Cheney, given their track record, Manuscripts Don't Burn knows who it would vote for...

One thing is certain: the world wants and needs America the Vibrant, the Optimistic, the Free in Spirit, the Great Democratic Experiment, and not America the Cynical, the Fascist, the Aggressive, the Paranoid, the Exporter of Death, Terror and Economic Chaos. That's what everyone's voting for this time round, more than ever.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Their Blatant Lies (4): More Cracks Appearing

Something is up. The Times is turning into a conspiracy theorist. After months of The Guardian banging on about the inconsistencies and downright lies of the Bush administration and its Blairite satellite, and, more recently, even The Telegraph starting to bleat, albeit hesitantly, that the lines of spin emerging from the White House aren't really making sense any more, we have a raft of articles in The Times over the past few days about the CIA "torture tapes", and the clear-as-crystal implication that the White House has been deeply complicit in condoning torture and subsequently ordering destruction of tapes which may serve as evidence. In no uncertain terms, the Times is suggesting that Bush and Cheney are guilty of war crimes. This is quite a turn-up.

At the end of the day, Manuscripts Don't Burn likes to try and believe the best of people. That, despite our own muddled, confused, selfish, and often spiteful natures, deep down inside we don't really want to live lives of fear, aggression, and paranoia. That even the greediest of people realise that our fumbling attempts at birthing a decent society are better than anything the Third Reich, Uncle Joe, or Chairman Mao ever came up with.

That's why we are currently eyeing a new tendency in certain parts of the UK media with interest. First, for those of us who spend plenty of time in the Blogosphere, there is the sudden and obvious rise in the number of our American cousins reporting and commenting on the UK media sites - particularly the Grauniad, Times, and Telegraph. Manuscripts Don't Burn acknowledges the possible contribution here of the "Guardian America" initiative, a brave and potentially subversive effort if ever there was one. Many Americans seem to be realising that their own media are censoring information and debate, and are looking elsewhere for their news - and becoming alarmed at what they are finding out.

But The Times? The Telegraph? When the Ministry of Murdoch starts to whinge, a decision has been made somewhere that BushCo is "bad for business". Confucius said you should only ever go to war for economic reasons, not ideological, as ideological can destroy both itself and its foe in pursuit of its goals, whilst the powers of greed will balk at destruction of markets and producers. The current perilous state of the global economy, and more particularly the cavalier disregard shown by BushCo for the economic, political, and societal future of the USA, appears to have reached a tipping point, and Manuscripts Don't Burn is starting to sense a reaction amongst former supporters of the New World Order against its scorched earth politics.

Make no mistake: this is not popular revolution. This is the Establishment attempting to purge itself. But at times like these, when factions begin to fight, the mobilisation of public opinion can be key. At some point, BushCo and the New World Order will demand we all side with them to combat the "enemies of the state"; at the same time, their opponents will need to unite, to articulate a single, unifying cry to rally public opinion to their side too. That will be the critical moment, when the immediate future of our society will be decided. It will probably centre on another "911 / Gulf of Tonkin" style event, and all fingers of propaganda and misinformation will appear to point at Iran.

The key question is whether the Establishment can articulate its opposition to BushCo clearly enough, and accessibly enough, to be effective when that happens. With articles appearing in the Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and filling the Blogosphere with their echoes, some significant cracks in the monolithic edifice of the New World Order are starting to show. But the Blogosphere is long way from the mainstream, and everyone is going to have to make a lot of noise to carry the distance...

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Their Blatant Lies (3): Untouchable Corruption

As the British people feel increasingly unable to do anything about the corrupt and venal corporate cabal running their "government", the Times today is running a fun little number on some of the milder revelations from the Freedom of Information act, which the current government is trying to nail up as quickly as possible.

To be honest, though, what does it matter if we know? After 911 and the Invasion of Iraq, the governments of the Anglo-Saxon Empire have shown ever greater contempt for their publics, indeed hardly bothering to try and hide things these days. After all, what are we going to do? Go to the police? Expose them in the media? Riiiight...

So, just for a bit of festive fun, here are some of Manuscripts Don't Burn's favourite revelations, courtesy of the Times. We especially like the one about Nessie...

  • Countries with poor human rights records and those on the front line in the War on Terror, including Iraq, were targeted by the Ministry of Defence as the most lucrative places for British arms companies to sell weapons
  • Politicians are spending £2.2bn a year of taxpayers’ money on private management consultants
  • Rich landowners top the league of EU farm subsidy payouts
  • Police were instructed to let off offenders with a caution if they commit any one of more than 60 types of crime, ranging from assault to some types of theft, criminal damage and underage sex.
  • Robert Maxwell was being investigated for war crimes and was to be interviewed by police just before he drowned
  • The Thatcher Government concocted a plan to search for the Loch Ness monster using a team of dolphins

Sort of makes you proud, really, doesn't it?

The War on Pubs

The Guardian this morning reports on the perceived "terminal decline" in the affairs of pubs in the UK. Following the body blow of the smoking ban, Britain's once-great pub culture is emptying out, pubs closing down, and people increasingly taking advantage of McTesco's cheap booze to get bladdered at home, where at least it's still legal (for the moment) to light up.

Manuscripts Don't Burn does not believe any of this is accidental. On the contrary, the "class war", to employ a traditional, lovely old phrase of yore, is alive and well and currently hammering down Those Dreadful Oiks and keeping them in their place - hard at work during daylight hours, and locked up tight when it's dark. They've had it far too good, sergeant-major, now it's time to set things right again.

The truth is, the British establishment clearly needs the Great Unwashed to work harder and harder and to get paid less and less, if it's going to continue its plan of redistributing wealth back to the hyper-wealthy and reverse the pernicious post-war egalitarianism which has threatened Our Scept'red Isle - or, as the popular version of it goes, if Britain's going to "pay its way" and "sort out the credit crisis our idle unrealistic poor people have so rashly whacked up by borrowing all that cheap and dodgy money". And we need to keep public services to a minimum - transport, policing, lighting. We've got to keep that upward flow of capital moving...

Far better to have people staggering home late from work, knackered, to spend an hour or so in isolation, watching the propaganda box with a can of something cheap and corporately-produced in their hands. What we definitely DON'T want is people getting together and talking and socialising with one another. That's terrorist talk.

We've put a lot of effort and almost 30 years into pulling British society apart at the seams, and we're not about to stop now, especially as we're so close to finishing. Pubs are for children, now - loud and expensive, full of industrially-produced alcopops and devoid of conversation. Within a year or two, we'll have the working population so knackered, impoverished and paranoid that they'll just sit and put up with the powercuts at home - they won't dare go out. It'll be like a self-imposed curfew - cheap, too! Marvellous.

Now, if we could just persuade people to put CCTV cameras in their homes... There's a challenge...

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Pole Dancing for Little Girls...

The Guardian today is sat with a very po-faced and contemplative look on its face, trying desperately to work out how it could possibly be that Toy'R'Us could have made such a shocking mistake as to put a "Pole Dancing Kit" in the Toy Section for little girls.

Manuscripts Don't Burn says - "Hey, Guardian, leave the Daily Mail alone! What's it ever done to you!"

If our society can't sexualise little girls, how on earth are we going to encourage the paedophiles, who the media can then hound, lock up and write endless sensationalist prurience about to sell more copies of the Daily Mail?

It's just business. And a bloody good business too. So what if it screws up a load of kids whilst doing it - as long as it makes a huge pile of filthy lucre, then it's okay, isn't it? That's what untrammeled, unregulated capitalism's about. As the bloke in the pub said, "It's a free country, innit?"

Fear and loathing sells papers, and allows the increase in security and control measures so beloved of our current establishment. In order to have fear and loathing, you need to have enemies - scapegoats, if you will. And, these days, paedophiles are the perfectly groomed targets of the 21st century baying mob witch-hunts which impoverished and frustrated mobs need to use to blow off steam when it all gets a bit much.

But the really clever bit of mind-f*ck in this entire process, which Goebbels himself would have been over the moon with pride about, is interpellating the sexualisation of young children into mainstream culture. That creates a constant, unresolvable tension - "Paedophiles are terrible criminals and must be killed, yet my seven-year old daughter must look sexy".

No wonder when the Ministry of Murdoch and Extortion want to sell a few extras to "rent-a-mob", people queue up to point fingers at ... well, at almost anyone you tell them too, really. As long as it's not them.

Briliant. Probably one of the best since the old "She's a Slimcea Girl / Go On Spoil Yourself, Real Cream" and "Girl Power / Look Like a Slag for the Guys" attempts to unhinge the female population in the 80s and 90s.

Somebody should instigate a "Joseph Goebbels Award for Marketing Brilliance".

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Even the Daily Telegraph doesn't believe it any more!

It must be serious. Very serious. Even the comments on the Daily Telegraph pages don't believe the War on Terror bollocks any more. This morning, courtesy of gorgeous pouting faux-welshman Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, we have the ludicrous article entitled "Fatwa against the dollar", in which he attempts to claim that the desperate attempts of Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia (with whom we apparently share so many "values", remember...) to free themselves of their Dollar peg before it cripples their economies are not, in fact, due to the fact that the US Dollar is currently a major economic liability, but rather a plot by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to - yup, you guessed it - bring down the United States by engineering a run on the Dollar.

What arrant bollocks. Fortunately, saner and considerably more economic-minded individuals than us here as Manuscripts Don't Burn are in complete agreement with our sentiments, and are currently loudly saying so on the comments section of dear Ambrose's latest barking ramble. We'd just like to offer one such comment from a Mr. Johan de Meulemeester as a token of the increasing impatience the thinking world is showing towards these clumsy attempts to put some life into the limp and flaccid nonsense that was "The War on Terror":

"We don't need to debate this issue; you have opted to believe what FOXNEWS peddles and I have opted to be highly skeptical. I've heard the arguments many times that the government is too incompetent to engage in conspiracies - however history has repeatedly demonstrated that governments do engage in all sorts of evil to justify their wars etc (Reichstag fire, Gulf of Tonkin etc etc).
"Even given the above the fact is that "terror" kills less people than lightning strikes; more people die every year from stingray attacks than do from "terror". So we should all focus our efforts and government budgets on what does kill a lot of people - cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, car accidents, smoking, drinking, old age, hunger.
"The 1/2 trillion U$ budget assigned to the Pentagon every year is just a total waste ; 90% of that bureaucracy and budget should be eliminated - the remaining 10% should be assigned strictly to defending the American homeland."

So, there you have it. If nothing else, one additional consequence of the PNAC insanity is likely to be a new wave of American Isolationism once all this crap has cleared - and that, sadly, is good for no one. For no one at all.

Stitched Up - The New One Party State

Democracy, if it ever existed, is completely dead in this country. Most people vote, if they vote at all, for the most nebulous, unpolitical reasons - the cut of a chap's jib, the greasiness of the other chap, or because their mum and dad voted that way. A precious few think about it first - as Thatcher said, far too few to make any difference.

The only way the Lib Dems will ever be allowed into Number 10 by the establishment is if they abandon their policies and become clones of the Tories, as New Labour have so successfully done. Otherwise, their commitment to PR will, sadly, cut absolutely no mustard with a civil service, bureaucracy, nomenclatura, government media, and armed forces who will never allow such a potentially democratic system into this country. Binary mob politics is so much easier to control - especially when there is no difference between either side.

There is only one hope for democracy in Britain, and that is a coup d'etat in either the Labour or Tory parties, and the replacement of the corrupt corporatists with someone who gives a damn about the rapidly sinking ship that is the UK. Such a coup would probably be easier in the Labour party - the historical precedent is there.

Sadly, Manuscripts Don't Burn doesn't believe it will happen. Instead, we'll lurch uncontrollably into the 2nd decade of the 21st century, which will be one of unrest and economic and social turmoil, and we may well end up with an increasingly extremist government.

In the meantime, the parties will go through their charade of business as usual, electing meaningless identikit leaders with meaningless identikit policies, whilst the real business of managing UK PLC goes on behind very closed doors indeed.

On the plus side, we're heading into uncharted and very "interesting" territory. History will have a field day with our blindness and complacency.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

What Is To Be Done - Redux 2007

I guess on the plus side, people are starting to wise up. But is it already too late? Hopefully, never.

Over the past few weeks, the popular blogosphere has resounded with threads pointing out that:

a.) The West, and the UK in particular, is buggered.
b.) The economy is going pear-shaped.
c.) The corporate feudalists own the government and the media, and they prioritise corporate interests above those of the people.
d.) That our own governments are the bad guys, preemptively attacking other countries to steal their oil.
e.) That we are facing a major resurgence of authoritarianism in the West, and clearly now in the UK, against which an anti-authoritarian, liberal consensus is slowly, agonisingly, coming into being.

So, we've talked about it. But, at the risk of being repetitious, what are we doing about it? Calls to "direct action" are all well and good, but what do they mean?

Manuscripts Don't Burn thinks the time is now ripe for the foundation of some kind of "Liberty Party". Some kind of concerted attempt to resist the corrupt, corporate, authoritarian control-freaks who are attempting to nail down the UK population and remove the hard-won freedoms we've enjoyed. Because the authoritarians are winning.

We don't just need a talking shop (although we need that, too). We need an organisation to resist the Authoritarians on the battlefields where they're currently winning. We need media outlets, spokespeople; we need legal specialists to oppose the endless run of anti-liberty laws which our government is steamrolling through. We need politicians to vote for, who can take on the Authoritarians in parliament and the public eye. We need champions, specialists, propagandists, journalists, TV stations, radio stations, websites, educators, comedians, voters, marchers, protestors, lobbyists, agitators; we need activists.

It's not a left-wing / right-wing thing. Manuscripts Don't Burn sees wide agreement throughout the blogosphere on that point. It's simply a battle between the muddled, confused, often frenetic reality of life in a liberal democracy (or as near as), and the dull, homogenous, strident, heavy, and oppressively calm future our government, media, and corporate system appears to be planning for us.

Time for concerted action. Because, without it, we are all just individual voices moaning obscurely on the internet. And, when they finally come to shut the internet down, they will shut us down just as surely. It's happened before; it can easily happen again. Most people who live in times like these cannot believe it is actually happening; it all seems too mad, too preposterous, to even think about. But the Reichstag has already burned down, and our liberties are being legislated away.

Their very outrageousness is the best weapon the Authoritarians have - unless it is exposed.

Compulsory Voting as a means to Electoral Reform

There was a debate on the Guardian Comment Is Free pages today about the rights and wrongs of compulsory voting. Would it ever be a good idea? Absolutely, as long as, as many people on the Guardian Comment pages clearly said , "NONE OF THE ABOVE" is a viable option and tabulated accordingly.

In the UK's case, if NONE OF THE ABOVE were to win in a given constituency, that constituency would be considered to have effectively voted No Confidence in the candidates; if the number of NONE OF THE ABOVEs returned in the entire country were in the majority, then the population of the country would have voted No Confidence in all of the parties on offer.

In the first case, we have a local crisis, in the second, a national, constitutional crisis. Effectively, the population tells the government: you are not doing a good enough job - go away and come back with something better.

The UK is in dire need of this. After a number of chaotic elections, who knows - we may even come up with something democratic. Which is why of course no party in their right mind in the UK will ever let it happen. Let people decide what's going on? Heaven forbid!

Censorship and the Upcoming Battle for the Internet

Those of us who grew up in the Cold War, or in its immediate aftermath, have an unfeasibly rose-tinted view of our own civilisation. The Great Commie Enemy had an ideology which on paper looked so much better - so much nicer, fairer - than ours, that for one brief blip in our history, our governments were forced to pay more than lip service to keeping their noses clean. Otherwise, how could a system which espoused rapacious and exploitative capitalism hold its own against a philosophy which preached universal brotherhood and justice? Damn, they were making us look bad...

Since the end of the Cold War, that necessity has vanished - again. No longer do we have a dream-land of fairness and solidarity to run away to, except in our minds. No longer do our governments have to pretend. And - lo! - we have a return to pre-war psychology in dealing with the benighted lands beyond the Glorious West - we invade, kill people, and take their stuff. Plus ca change - it's just that this time, it's oil. If there IS a difference, it's that the nasty machiavellianism which governments commit in our names now has the potential to appear in our living rooms and on our laptops, thanks to technology - the need for government control over how we see it has never seemed greater.

So, in a sense, one can hardly blame government - it's in their nature, like a lion tearing the throat out of a gazelle. To make it stop, we'd have to change that nature - which we seem not to have the stomach for, but obsess instead about which particular Lion we want in government, and expect that to make a difference. More fool us.

But the supine media - for that, we can justifiably blame ourselves. The loss of journalistic integrity over the past two decades has been shocking, and a betrayal of what journalism has been supposed to stand for. After decades of struggle to free themselves from attempted government takeovers and censorship attempts, we finally saw a media emerge which - in places at least - had balls enough to go for the jugular when it saw affronts against our civilised values committed by government or corporates alike.

Happy days. But, since then - again, with no ideological jousting partner of any quality - the media have once again gradually become just another branch of government - returned to the fold of pre-war jingoistic prattling and obfuscation. Small wonder they don't tell us what's going on in war zones - they barely report government activity at all, beyond parrotting press releases from the various "parties". Far better the Spice Girls and reality TV - gotta keep the bottom line in view.

But we all know this - there should be no cause for surprise. My only hope for the survival of that briefly flickering light of liberty we treasure lies in the freedom of information on the internet. Alternative media and organisational structures are possible, as we have seen.

Never mind Afghanistan: the real fighting lies ahead, for control of the internet, for active censorship of the communications we make between ourselves. For ten years or more our governments have been able to rely on the "censorship of cacophony" to drown out the occasional voice of truth or reason; now, things are coalescing out of the row of information that is the internet, and battlelines are becoming clearer. Expect the drum-beat of "threats from the internet" to resound ever louder in the mouths of politicians and the prostrate media.

In the end, it all seems to boil down to the same thing: obsessive, authoritarian control-freakery versus personal liberty. Man-in-the-White-Suit, Porter, Monbiot, Tony Benn, and the hordes of us here who will not sit silent - what a motley crowd we are! But perhaps, finally, our very diversity will be our strength.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Strange Bedfellows

It's not that the left wing and the right wing don't exist anymore. It's just that their traditional opposition pales into insignificance beside the threat which faces both of them, and which must be dealt with if both left and right aren't shortly to be effectively outlawed by the new corporate feudalist authoritarianism which we see springing up all around us in these rapidly changing times.

I think the majority of us understand the problem. The government is interfering more and more; we are working harder and harder; the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting very much poorer; and the screws of fear, loathing, and insecurity are squeezing ever tighter.

The question now has to be: what are we going to do about it. I can hardly believe that our only option is to "vote Tory". I mean, those guys are the same suits as the current lot of fraudster stooges, just with different haircuts (though even those are converging...). Voting Lib Dem might conceivably find us an actual politician who actually gives a damn for anything other than his corporate paycheck, but as the corporate feudalist government's de facto Ministry of Media and Disinformation Rupert Murdoch has effectively completely squashed the Lib Dems hopes of being taken seriously for at least a generation, I see little point in that either.

Which brings us back to the million dollar question: what are we going to DO about it?

Agitate, anybody? Whilst it's still legal?

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Because we all miss Rummy...

As things have been getting rather gloomy on the economic and environmental fronts lately, Manuscripts Don't Burn thought it would cast a fond look back at the much-missed Donald Rumsfeld, whose capacity for fun and obfuscation brightened up the preemptive invasion of foreign countries and killing of their citizens for many of us. Ah, happy days...

Friday, 14 December 2007

The Rise Of Corporate Feudalism - Part 1

The world was so simple during the Cold War. We had a paradigm which no one doubted – Western capitalism had created a false and yet easy to understand dialectic between itself on the one hand, and an invented enemy on the other – the Soviet Union. Our ideology, our political structures, our military strategy, and our economy were all based on this assumed opposition – and for over forty years it provided us with a stable and peaceful basis on which to build our society. Never mind that it was a lie – most ideologies are; the fact is, it worked, it provided a concrete philosophy for many millions to live by, and it created jobs, and power. So much power.

The end of the Cold War was a shock to the people wielding that power. Sure, the goal of our Western ideology had been to bring down the Evil Empire of the Soviets, but it was dogma more than strategy; no one believed that it would happen, and certainly not with the speed it did. All the people in power, the economic structures and systems of production and consumption of the tools of war – the arms manufacturers and dealers - which depended absolutely on the perpetuation of this false, ideological dichotomy for their survival, were suddenly struck with fear that their very reason for existence was crumbling about them. They needed to preserve their painstakingly built status quo; they needed to maintain the fiction of their invented enemy. Without it, the future was unclear, unstable, a thing of chaos and unpredictability.

Viewed in hindsight, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy with their plight. They had a system which worked – never mind the fact that it was based on a lie. To step beyond that system required a courage and a capacity for dealing with uncertainty and change which was simply beyond them. They set about finding a new Great Enemy, a new target for their ideology of Fear and Loathing, with a vengeance. Within months of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, American and British forces were in Iraq, and a new enemy was being sold to us.

None of this should have been a surprise to us. The First World War was pretty much a gambit organised by the big arms manufacturers; the “straight-line” mapmakers who drew up the new borders of Africa and the Middle East likewise were careful to build in the seeds of conflict and disaffection with every border they drew, separating family from family, splitting nations down the middle, throwing warring communities together. It was a cynical game, but there was no time for subtlety.

So how have we been sold the New Enemy? How on earth is the tired old Cold War paradigm still alive and well today, with the same hackneyed clich├ęs wheeled out to describe completely different realities with the same alarmingly sloppy brush strokes. How did we swallow this? Could it actually be that we no longer care? After the Cold War, a window of opportunity existed to settle upon a new paradigm for a real New World Order, and we missed it. Perhaps there is still time – but now, as we stand on the brink of social upheavals caused by climate change and economic collapse, it seems likely we no longer have the stomach for brave and responsible choices. How has it come to this?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Disarming the People

If a person wants to kill someone, they can go into the garden, pick up a rock, and bludgeon somebody over the head with it. They don't need a terrorist manual to tell them how, and there is no point in making "possession of a rock" a crime. Murder is the crime - it involves killing people, and no amount of legislation banning pointed sticks, large spoons, bricks, plastic bags, or whatever, will prohibit the determined psycho from acting. Arrest the guilty - don't criminalise the innocent.

Today's announcement that the UK government is about the ban the possession of katana, traditional Samurai swords, is just one more step in the disarmament of the British people and the removal of their ability to defend themselves against oppression and crime, and to make them feel ever more helpless in the face of random violence and injustice. How ever-so-easy it is for the media to find some tragically bereaved mother to rail against the physical object which took her child's life - and to call for it to be banned as a result. And how happy the government are to jump to her aid and valiantly create another criminalised activity.

There are countries in the world where the people's duty to actively resist an oppressive, totalitarian regime is enshrined in their constitutions. The USA is the greatest example, and a country where the population have before taken it upon themselves to throw out, not once, but twice, an oppressive regime which threatened their freedoms. Likely it is about to do so again.

But in England, ever since the Norman conquest, it has been vaguely illegal to own anything more offensive than a pitchfork. And with good reason - the jacqueries of Wat Tyler, William Wallace, et al, have more than once put the fear of God into our otherwise cheery oppressors. God forbid that a population should be able to resist the oppression we decide for them.

Here in France I can go into a shop in any town and buy guns, bows and arrows, suits of armour, swords, crossbows, the whole shebang. And - guess what? - does the population turn into a vast horde of bloodthirsty maniacs? Of course not. The number of guns around here is staggering - and every hunting season some poor little deer or hare or partridge gets it between the eyes. But the level of yobbish violence is nowhere near the level of dear old Blighty, with its legion of anti-violence laws. And the French remain very wary of governments intruding on their personal and private lives - and all too ready to take to the streets when a government forgets its mandate.

Remember: when all behaviour is criminalised, there are no innocents. When a sharp knife is technically illegal, and possession of fertiliser can get you banged up for possessing material likely to be of use to terrorists, remember: there was a time when you were presumed innocent first, and you had to DO something before you were considered a criminal.

Guns don't shoot protestors. Oppressive governments do.

Their Blatant Lies (2): Jack Straw "New Labour is Liberty's Champion"

In a remarkable display of doublespeak on the Guardian website today, "Justice Minister" Jack Straw declared that the New Labour government has done more for human rights and democracy in Britain since we first gained the vote. Seemingly oblivious to the irony, he quotes "the last 10 years will be seen as heralding a 'quiet revolution' in the way in which the UK is governed".

Now, Mr Straw is a bright chap. So, assuming that he hasn't turned into an evil machiavellian genius or lost his marbles on some pre-Christmas shopping spree mental breakdown, what are we to make of these curious and obviously untrue utterances? Because of course they are untrue - obscenely so, in the case of:

- the massive increase in surveillance and infringement of civil liberties
- Indefinite detention without trial
- 42 days pre-charge detention
- Banning of protest within 1 mile of Parliament
- Use of the Terrorism Act to prevent legitimate protest
- National Identity Register
- ID Card
- DNA database
- NHS Spine register
- National Child database
- Kratos Shoot to Kill policy
- Heaviest concentration of CCTV cameras in the world
- Complicity in CIA extraordinary rendition
- Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems

So what is Jack actually trying to say?

Well, the answer seems to be twofold. First, his contention is that all these 3000-odd new laws are not here to circumscribe our liberties, but to describe them. If our behavioural limits are enshrined in law, then they are subsequently protected by those laws - within the limits set, of course. This is a nice legal technicality, of course, and rides on the establishment being competent to apply the law or laws in question. Sadly, however such laws tend to be honoured more in the breach - little sense having all our data on a highly sophisticated universal database, if some spod then leaves all the info in a CD on a bus seat somewhere. Stretched further, the advantage of such laws presupposes a benevolent government; naively, of course, as history throws up countless examples of laws being ruthlessly misapplied or simply ignored or sidestepped when convenient once a less than benevolent government takes power - to whit, the current US administration, South American banana republics, China, Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, East Germany, etc, etc, ad nauseam. Perhaps only a lawyer is able to believe that thousands of new laws are somehow "better" for people...

Secondly, and perhaps more personally, it is possible that Jack Straw, like many other Old Labour MPs who see themselves dragged along by an increasingly authoritarian government and dependent on it for their careers, identities, and livelihoods, Jack Straw is trying to convince himself. There was a time when Labour ideals did not constitute kowtowing to US militarism, to sucking up to property developers, or to making dissent and reasonable protest illegal. All of these things which New Labour does routinely now would have raised howls of outrage amongst Straw and his gang in the early eighties. In truth, the only reasonable action for an MP of conscience in the Labour party now is to split off and form a new party of the old Labour party ideals - equal rights, protection of the population from the inroads of unrestrained capitalism, anti-militarism, international solidarity, freedom and social justice.

But who amongst the New Labour biggies, with their impending knighthoods and vast incomes, is going to shoot himself in the foot for the sake of political principles? Well, there've been a few - Robin Cook, before his mysterious death. Tony Benn. Recent murmurs from Frank Dobson. But by far the vast majority have obediently put away their ideals and donned the party uniform of duckspeak and heads-down passivity whilst their history of liberal opposition is hosed away. Blunkett. Brown. Blair. Mandelson. Yowza.

Manuscripts Don't Burn did think Jack Straw might have been one of the good guys. Perhaps, deep down, he still is, and will surprise us yet. Perhaps, in these grim days of fear, loathing, and control, the person he wants most to convince is - himself.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Just In - TOPOFF3 Terror Drill Fake News Report from 2005

This series of 4 fascinating videos have recently appeared on Youtube, and seem worth posting here just for their chillingly convincing nature. Although the source of the videos have not been officially confirmed, they purport to be from the joint US-UK-Canadian anti-terror drill "TOPOFF3", back in 2005 - and judging by this link, they certainly appear to be.


Manuscripts Don't Burn finds the appearance of these videos interesting. Firstly, for the fact that they clearly show that the US-UK establishments consider it necessary to rehearse the media response to terror incidents - as though news is somehow something that needs "rehearsing" to "get it right". We consider this proposition deeply dubious, unless of course the purpose of "news" is in fact to act as a government mouthpiece and present the "official line" of a story. Secondly, the videos are interesting in that they show just how easy it is to fake news. Can you tell that these videos are of a fake incident? Would you be able to make that call if they appeared in the guise of live news on the TV? Thirdly, how have these videos come to be released, of all places, on Youtube? Is it with official blessing - in which case the timing, coinciding as it does more or less with the NIE, is interesting. If not - well, this has all the hallmarks of a leak.

At the moment Manuscripts Don't Burn considers this a breaking story on the blogosphere, and we'll try and find out more. One thing to bear in mind: on 911, the US military were conducting a drill involving the terrorist hijack of airplanes and attacks on New York and Washington; on 7/7 the UK intelligence services were conducting a drill involving terror attacks on the London underground: neither of these facts are open to doubt, and are a matter of public record. The uncanny coincidence that EXACTLY the same events happened at the same time as the drills should make us all view government-faked terror news reports from "anti-terror drills" with some seriousness.

As a final note, the people in this video are real - it's interesting to Google some of the main players, such as Rear Admiral David Pekoske. The powers that be are putting an awful lot of money into making sure the news agencies "get it right", this time, unlike the howlers we got on 911.

Watch this space.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Ex-Italian President: 911 Was an Inside Job

In an interesting development over the past week which is likely to remain unreported by the corporate media, ex-Italian President Francesco Cossiga gave an interview to Italy's most widely read newspaper, Corriere della Sera, in which he declared "the intelligence services of America and Europe now know full well that the disastrous attack [of 9/11 - ed.] was planned and executed by the American CIA and Mossad with the assistance of the Zionist world in order to point the finger of accusation at Arab countries and induce western powers to take part in [the attacks] on Iraq and Afghanistan".

Cossiga, well known as an outspoken political commentator, first expressed his doubts about 911 as early as 2001, when he declared that the attacks "could not have been accomplished without having infiltrated the radar and flight security personnel".

Cossiga was forced to resign as Italian President in 1992 after revealing the existence of, and his part in setting up, "Operation Gladio" - a rogue intelligence network under NATO auspices that carried out bombings across Europe in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Gladio's specialty was to carry out what they coined "false flag operations", terror attacks that were blamed on their domestic and geopolitical opposition.

Cossiga's revelations contributed to an Italian parliamentary investigation of Gladio in 2000, during which evidence was unearthed that the attacks were being overseen by the U.S. intelligence apparatus. In March 2001, Gladio agent Vincenzo Vinciguerra stated, in sworn testimony, "You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple: to force ... the public to turn to the state to ask for greater security".

Coming from a widely respected former head of state, Cossiga's assertion that the 911 attacks were an inside job and that this is common knowledge amongst global intelligence agencies is highly unlikely to be mentioned by any establishment media outlets, because - like the hundreds of other ex-government, military, and air force professionals who have expressed their doubts and concerns - he can't be sidelined as a crackpot conspiracy theorist.

Latin Lessons Resurface In UK Primary Schools

News is that 20 London primary schools are trying Latin lessons, under the aegis of a "Project Iris", run by teacher Lorna Robinson. Something similar is happening in Oxfordshire, where the language is also being introduced to selected primary schools.

Learning Latin these days has probably never been more fun or easier. You can read Harry Potter in Latin, Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh (all available from Amazon), there are books of naughty words and silly slang, dictionaries of modern words (laptop computer, milk shake, etc, etc!), and even news broadcast over the Internet in Latin (try Nuntii Latini at

The fact is Latin is still highly regarded in many countries worldwide, especially outside the confines of the Anglo-Saxon Empire. There are more books written and available in Latin than many people will read in a lifetime, and plenty of excellent literature, history, philosophy, and drama. To call it a dead language is kind of to miss the point; more people speak it as a second language than speak many small countries' languages as a first, and in countries like Germany it's recently been announced that many employers look very favourably upon qualifications in Latin as they indicate inquiring and disciplined approaches to study.

Vivat lingua Latina! Let's reappropriate the Roman culture which lies at the roots of most of our "Greater European" identities from the dusty classrooms in which it has long been imprisoned! It is our shared heritage, from Iran and the Middle East to Britain and Northern Europen, to North Africa and the Mediterranean. The European Union is the single biggest attempt at political unity in Europe since the Roman Empire - it is only appropriate that we should at least consider our predecessors, and consider how they succeeded, and, most importantly, how they failed.

Oil Wars: A Deafening Silence

This morning there is a total absence in the mainstream press of any mention of the comments of Iran's oil minister, Gholam Hussein Nozari, on Saturday, that henceforth Iran will no longer be accepting payments in US dollars for its oil.

Nozari, declaring that the dollar is "no longer considered a trustworthy currency", has effectively thrown the gauntlet down to Washington in a move which, when tried four years ago by Saddam Hussein, led directly to the USA's preemptive attack and illegal invasion of Iraq.

In a further move which will doubtless up the ante, Iran also signed an oil deal worth an estimated $2bn (current value) with China on Sunday, sending clear signals that those following the USA's policy of sanctions are likely to miss out on significant deals.

Manuscripts Don't Burn considers the time more than ripe for a pretext appearing for a US or Israeli preemptive strike on Iran. This weekend has seen two significant events stepping up the pressure on the US to act - will our media even see fit to report that the Iranian's are no longer trading their oil in US dollars? Are they independent enough to report the actual news, rather than just the official line?

Time will tell.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

It's the Oil, Stupid...

Why do we always go through the silly charade of pretending to ask ourselves "Hmm... Golly, George Bush appears to have lied, I wonder what he's up to?"

Don't we all know by now? Are we just trying to give ourselves due justification for ignoring the crimes of this lying warmonger as he drives through his "program" regardless of democracy, international will, or justice?

The PNAC website, endorsed by Cheney et al, says it clearly: the neocons are going for the oil in the Middle East. The Iraq war said it clearly: we all know there were no WMDs, and no exit strategy, and that it would nearly bankrupt the US, but we went in anyway. And Lo! - Halliburton and the US now control the Iraqi oil.

And then Iran. Drums of war throbbing away in the White House with insinuation after insinuation since 2003/4. Now we have clear intelligence reports which say there's no threat - but the White House lies to us about them and chooses to keep repeating the Big Lie over and over again anyway.

The Neocons want control of the Middle East's oil. It won't stop with Iran, there are several other candidates for takeover there yet. And if it propels the world into war, and kills hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, well, that's okay - they're a long way away from American soil, and - well, we've gotta get control of that oil.

Hmm... golly, George seems like he lied to us about the NIE. Cheney, too. Golly. What could be the reason for that? Maybe they just made an understandable mistake. Hell, they've got our best interests at heart, after all, haven't they?

Cui bono? We don't even have to ask any more - we know what these guys are up to. We're just lying to ourselves if we think we have to wonder.

It's just good ole Imperial power and resource grab. All we have to ask ourselves is: are we happy with our country lying to us and cheating us and attacking foreign countries to line their pockets? We thought it was OK in the 19th century; since WW2 we decided we were better than that. Have we changed our mind?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Their Blatant Lies: CIA "destroys torture tapes"

Do you ever have moments when you think, "I can't believe I'm having this conversation"? This may be one of them.

For the past several months, the media has been debating, with its typical hysterical po-faced solemnity, "gee, do you think the USA should be torturing people to get information?" People have sat on news programs and seriously tried to argue the pros and cons. What's next? "Gee, do you think eating babies is okay?" "Is murdering your spouse ever a good thing?" For heaven's sake, Western Civilisation, what on earth have you come to?

So here's another one today: there's been a "call for a criminal inquiry" as it emerges the CIA has deliberately destroyed tapes of it engaging in torture. I should bloody well hope there'll be an "inquiry". And a prosecution and some hefty imprisonment, too, and maybe a change of government!

What is happening here? Slowly, surreptitiously, the level of barbarity we'll tolerate in our everyday narrative is gradually being increased. It's not too long ago that taking bribes, invading other people's countries, murdering scientists, graft, corruption, theft, torture, and preemptive war were considered WRONG. Period. No debate.

Now, well... and we all make faces and wring our hands... well, maybe, just once, then.... erm...

Moral relativism. Once the bottle is opened, the genie don't ever wanna go back in. Sheeeee-it - don't people ever read history any more?

A Conspiracy of Supermarkets...

Erm... am I missing something? It's been announced that major supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsburys, and a host of others, made an estimated £270m out of an illegal milk pricefixing scam back in 2002, and have been fined £116m. Can someone tell me how this is a punishment?

As far as I can make out that's an overall profit for the supermarkets of £154m - a brilliant success and absolutely no reason why they shouldn't do it all again.

Which of course they are all doing right now. £1.50 for a pack of butter? Come off it...

Time to face up to it: supermarkets have been engaging in anti-competitive activity for years. They inveigled their way onto town councils throughout the country and upped the price of market stalls, to the extent that our town markets are now mostly a sad old memory, they've taken losses aggressively to push small grocers and greengrocers - even newsagents - out of business, just to create a monopoly.

Free market my arse. This is monopoly at its worst - socially divisive, coming down heaviest on the poor and elderly. The fact that it's allowed to go on at all just shows how much in the pockets of their corporate paymasters our supine government and media really are. Fleecing the people, fleecing the producers, and all for what - to give us choice? I'm sorry, I happen to think eating food is a necessity, not a choice, and a 50% rise in the price of staples in one year is not acceptable, no matter how cheap CDs and DVD players are...

Friday, 7 December 2007

Hysterical Consumption Time is Here Again!

Consumption is the opium of the masses.

Behind it sits a bogus economic system which makes us work harder and harder and waste more of our lives working simply in order to continue to consume.

Without this hysterical consumption our populations could work less than 4 hours a day, less than 5 days a week, and have much more time to spend on the "important" things of life.

The fact is that a population with too much time on its hands scares the hell out of the powers that be. People with time to think might start to question the insane mess we're making of the planet and most of its population in the name of "growth". Consequently prices rise, even staple foods now, and we are trapped more deeply within this inhuman machine. The money spent on war and oppression could easily be used to provide us all with free food and accommodation.

Cue howls of protest from those who cream the profit off the misery of billions - of course they wouldn't want things to change.

Individuals can fight this. Consume less; work less. Ignore advertising. Opt out of this slavery whilst it's still voluntary, and live according to values that have a little more meaning. Forget about the latest overpriced gadgets or redecorating again; spend some time with friends and family.

The system tries to convince us we are powerless to change things: we are not. With little steps we can change the world.

The powers that be are doing a miserable job of managing our happiness. We must do better than this.

Customs & Revenue Lose 25 Million People's Details

The British government has become increasingly unfit for purpose over the course of the past 20-odd years, and particularly over the past 10. Its main mandate now is facilitating the operations of its corporate paymasters, and pulling the wool over the electorate's eyes whilst it does so.

For a while, the government's crimes have been sins of omission - not caring enough to sort out education, national health, public transport, etc, etc, and increasingly inconveniencing the public whilst doing so. Now a line is being crossed, where the "government" is actively working counter to the interests of the public who it is supposed to serve - where previously we could just ignore them and hope they'd go away, now they're actively screwing things up for us...

How can you trust the government with your confidential data after this? Even supposing you could before...

I suggest we leave this bunch to continue pandering to the fat cats and corporate merchants and set up an alternative system which actually looks after our own interests rather than lines its own corrupt pockets... We could call it "democracy"...

Global Warming - Go To Sleep Everyone...

Does anyone else have the feeling we're just fiddling as Rome burns?

It's already too late, guys. Those of us debating here on CiF are the tiny, tiny minority of the planetary population who even think this thing is worth talking about. Most people don't give a damn - and half of those that do are so damn terrified they just stick their fingers in their ears and sing LA-LA-LA over and over again.

There is no "solution" which we have an earthly chance of getting in place in time. We can talk about them, but it's all just hot air (pun not intended), and the climate will continue to change as it already is. Food prices are already rocketing in this part of the world from the dismal harvest this year, caused by no winter, no summer, and now - 7 months of almost constant rain and counting. It's 15 degrees C in the middle of winter, the fields are full of weeds and the bugs ain't dying...

Governments are already in crisis management. The other day here in France the national TV station's weather report said the half year rain was great for the planet cos we need loads of water, and we shouldn't worry about the unseasonably warm temperatures cos it means we don't have to use our heating as much - and that is good for the planet. You have to grin - it keeps everybody's spirits up.

The simple fact is, if things continue the global climate is going to change in completely unpredictable ways. It's no good saying "hey, I live in Europe / North America / whatever so it's just going to get warmer / wetter / nicer and I'll be fine". No one knows how individual areas will be affected - it's effectively a complete lottery. The atlantic conveyor could shut down and Europe freeze; rain and sea level rises could turn your home into a swamp; drought and warming could make your country into a desert. We're just going to have to wait and see.

The one thing that appears certain is that we're heading for a period of tremendous uncertainty. That means instability. Which means violence, whether in the form of hugely restrictied civil liberties as governments struggle to cope with famine, disease, flood, whatever; or violence in the form of forced migrations, invasions, wars, the usual shebang.

Eventually, when things settled down again, and millions or billions of people have died, the human race will find those parts of the planet which are conducive to our survival. Who knows where they will be... could be more or less anywhere.

The main problem with all these shenanigans is the speed at which they're going to happen. They've already started, although we in the West have been largely insulated from them in our cosseted free speech zones, up till now at least. And they're going to get significantly worse in our lifetimes. On the plus side, as the effects of climate change kick in, it's likely to impact our ability to cause continued damage - cities will be flooded, countries will dry out or depopulate, populations will die - and our "carbon footprint" will dwindle quite nicely.

On a mathematical level, it's all very neat, really. Things will balance out. It's the human story behind the narrative where it's going to be shocking. At some point, this rather unpredictable game of Russian Roulette is going to require we all put the gun to our heads and see if we win or lose - the best we can do is to keep as aware and adaptable as possible to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Of course I could be talking bollocks. I really hope I am, actually, but having read the evidence, looked around me, and studied human history and our traditional response to large-scale problems, I'm not hopeful. The best response right now is to join the chorus of head-in-the-sand naysayers and scream "it's never gonna happen..."

Who knows, if we all shout loud enough, maybe whatever God is up there will take notice and have mercy... You never know...

Now where did I put that violin? ;-)

The English - Just a Bunch of Criminals?

148 out of 100,000 Brits are currently behind bars in the UK. In France the figure is 93, in Germany 89. We have the highest proportion of people banged away in the whole of Western Europe.

So, either the British have a fundamentally much more criminal mentality than the French and Germans (150% more) and in fact everybody else in Europe, or the British government is locking too many people up.

So which is it? Are we just much more criminal than the rest of the Yurpeans?

This is the Neeeeeeeewwwws!

Disappearing Madeleine? Mohammed's Teddy Bear? Dead Darwin in Panama?

The reason these story's are inflated to fill the obligatory news slots in the media schedules is because they are CHEAP. In the constant drive for efficiency and economy, saving money and resources, real news has now become too expensive to report.

The same thing is happening all across media-land. Rather than make proper TV programs, it's much, much cheaper, and far less difficult for today's clumsily marketing-educated media studies graduate darlings, to stick a bunch of people in a room and film them arguing. Cue the birth of reality TV.

Today's schedule: some unknown woman crying on telly and saying how it's all gone wrong; some program telling you your house is too dirty / clean / large / small / badly decorated and you need to buy product X or be socially embarrassed forever; a bunch of no-hopers eating crap in a field somewhere foreign; and of course sport. And the weather - but not very accurate, cos we can't afford a satellite feed every day. Why bother investigating stuff and being creative when people will just suck up this crap instead?

The media is gradually vanishing up its own bottom. One day there will be a loud shlurping noise, a nasty smell, and an empty page where the news used to be. But it will be CHEAP.

Isn't Pope Benedict Great?

You gotta dig it. Benny's declared he's gonna start dishing out plenary indulgences next.

Now, I'm as much a fan of God as everyone else here...

... but - indulgences?

C'mon, Benny! You're avin a larf!

All together now (get those hunchbacks at the back singing in tune... and The Women Taken In Adultery - a bit more

wailing please):

"When a coin in the coffer riiiiiings,
A soul from purgatory springs."

Man, you gotta feel that Martin Luther vibe. Yeah!

So the Lyrical Terrorist Gets a Suspended Sentence?

Shut up, England. Don't even think. Hold no opinions which are not expressly authorised by government media channels.

All behaviour is now potentially criminalised. Possession of materials useful to criminals is an offence. This includes spoons, spades, garden fertiliser, petrol, matches, money, paper, pencils, printing devices, email accounts, and sharp kitchen implements. A detailed list of prohibited items will NOT be published. Not having committed a crime will not be accepted as absence of intent.

The security you have demanded is now mandatory. This is for your protection.
Shut up. Be content. Consume.

Sports broadcasts will continue as scheduled.