UN PRAISES THE SRI LANKAN MASSACRE OF CIVILIANS
In the Times:
Sri Lanka claimed a propaganda victory last night after the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution praising its defeat of the Tamil Tigers and condemning the rebels for using civilians as human shields.
China, India, Egypt and Cuba were among the 29 developing countries that backed a Sri Lankan-proposed resolution describing the conflict as a “domestic matter that doesn’t warrant outside interference”. The resolution also supported Colombo’s insistence on allowing aid group access to 270,000 civilians detained in camps only “as may be appropriate”.
The Sri Lanka Ambassador in Geneva said that European nations had failed with their “punitive and mean-spirited agenda” against his country. “This was a lesson that a handful of countries which depict themselves as the international community do not really constitute the majority,” Dayan Jayatilleka said. “The vast mass of humanity are in support of Sri Lanka.”
Western diplomats and human rights officials were shocked by the outcome at the end of an acrimonious two-day special session to examine the humanitarian and human rights situation in Sri Lanka after the blitzkrieg of the final military offensive that wiped out the Tiger force.
The vote is extremely disappointing and is a low point for the Human Rights Council. It abandons hundreds of thousands of people in Sri Lanka to cynical political considerations,” Amnesty International said.
Sri Lanka, unable to stop the Human Rights Council taking up its case, rushed its own motion to the floor in time to beat a more censorious resolution tabled by Switzerland.
The Spar shop is closed.
Drawbridge up-portcullis down.
An aproned granny smirks through the glass
as she labours the bolt into its round case.
A rifle bullet of finitude
condemning me to a
milkless, breadless existence.
I curse country life
under my breadless, milkless breath.
A youth observes me warily.
The grannie and I in rictus.
A frieze of unmet needs
in the dark hunching
of Milnthorpe Square.
Then, suddenly, Death walks past-
blood on his scythe.
As if on his way to a party-
he is clearly jaunty.
‘I’ve been looking for you’ I shout,
while wondering how to bundle him in
to the boot of the car.
Then four little witches
hubble bubble giggle and trouble past.
Lovely little witches.
And I feel sad for me.
No vampire outfits.
and my dry and dusty books.
Writing down the bones
Photo by Matthew Emmott
The 63 year old leader of the Burmese opposition is now being held in Insein (or should that be insane?) jail in Rangoon. It is said to be a rat-infested hell-hole and her health is fragile given that she has spent 11 out of the last 19 years in jail. Who are the scumbags who have turned this beautiful country into an Orwellian nightmare? General Than Shwe is the hardline leader of the Junta but maybe on his way out with stomach cancer but waiting in the wings is the truly monstrous Maung Aye, linked to drug lords and said to be an alcoholic. They hate Suu Kyi because she has a legitimacy as the leader of the National League for Democracy they can never have, and like the murdering bandits they are, they fear her.
The American who swam across the lake to her house, John Yettaw, may just have given the bandits the excuse they need to get Suu Kyi out of the way before they hold what are laughingly going to be called 'elections' later in the year.
Fact is that it is only an International Criminal Court that promises action and redress against these monsters that they will fear. Curses upon the strutting creeps. Blessings and honour to Ms Suu Kyi.
At the voices which are heard about the streets,
The ministers of fraud can scarce dissemble
The lies of their own heart;..."
The Revolt of Islam 1817 Percy Bysshe Shelley
It's true what they say about literature and history-what goes around comes around. Politics in the gutter is no new thing then. But what results from this current national disenchantment with the pillars of the establishment? First the bankers and now the politicians. A golden opportunity is what. And also a great risk. They are the two sides of the same coin. Shall we have a workable and representative democracy? Essentially a pluralist fudge admittedly but, famously, the least worst of all the others. Or how about a bit of British fascism with all its attendant dressing up in sexually charged uniforms and marching and lots of bonfires and high jinks? Unfortunately this will also include beatings, torture, institutionalised racism and a sharp and enduring drop in serotonin levels across the nation but hey, it could be worse.
I suggest the X Factor for potential politicos. Or we could call it "Britain's got Leaders!" They can present their ideas before a panel of judges to include Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry and David Attenborough. (Simon Cowell? You can fuck right off now! And don't get me on that despicable and repellent toad Piers!)
They will be given opportunities to present ideas and respond to a series of challenges and possibly spend some time in 'The House' for a continually televised residential experience along Big Brother lines. Many challenges will be of a DIY nature to encourage them to repair and decorate their own houses without cost to the tax payer. The country will cast a series of votes to diminish the field of candidates one by one. We could enlist Sir Alan to the cause too. "Gordon Brann you're useless and incompetent, you're fucking fired mate!" Ah, sweet music.
Watched Persepolis last night. What a great movie as well as a brilliant graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi who co-directed the film with Vincent Paronnaud. This just shows how animated films can educate as well as present great dramatic opportunities. And the story? The triumph of the bearded joy-killing imams and the devolution of Islam back to its medieval tribal roots. It is a triumph of illiteracy over education, of the tribe over the global commons, of women's oppression over women's liberation, of islands of dogma over the ocean of faith. When will we see that the etymology of the word religion is from the Latin religere-to bind? Religion is the curse that binds us to the horror of the past. The bearded imams are simply the other face of the child-abusing Irish priests identified in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which reported this week that the Catholic Church in Ireland has left a legacy of neglect, fear and endemic sexual abuse in its institutions. Also that these same institutions have energetically sought to protect the abusers and cover up their crimes. And reader, there can be few worse crimes than the sexual abuse of children. It is the murder of childhood itself. These hypocrites are peddlers of hate and filth all. It has been our fate to watch them grow in strength since the seventies but you know, I really believe their time is coming to a close. There's something new in the wind, and it just might blow that tribe of God-worshipping, torturing, censoring, woman-hating, child-abusing lickspittles away with their beards and their black robes and their relentless bullshit. The breath of the new Aeon. It's a new dawn. It's a new day. It might just be on its way! Love and Will in Balance!
Last night I watched 'The Unloved' on Channel 4; a first film directed by the rather wonderful actress Samantha Morton about an eleven year old girl, played beautifully by Molly Windsor, living in a care home. It was heartbreaking to watch because it so accurately portrayed the emotional frost that seems an inevitable fact of life in a residential institution. That absence of love that leaves everything in black and white, a mere photocopy of reality. Love is the sunlight that grows children and unfortunately it seems, it cannot be manufactured outside the structure of the family.
In my late twenties I decided finally that it looked like my long term ambitions to be a freelancing astronaut would not bear fruit in this life and so I needed to decide on some sort of career. I wanted to do something that would not be routine and would be valuable so I decided to become a social worker in Children's Services.
I can honestly say I've never particularly regretted that decision but I can also say that most of my professional life has been spent fighting to protect children in the looked after system from the worst excesses of what is now called Corporate Parenting-an oxymoron if ever there was one!
I don't know what attracts the stony hearted, burnt out cases, and stupidly ambitious pole climbers into social work, I guess these people are in every profession. But I have a really simple-minded view of services for looked after children and it's this-Is this good enough for my kids? If so then it's good enough for looked after children. If not, then it bloody well isn't Mr Balls!
Last night the madness stole my soul.
Wove blood red mists before my eyes.
Drove me to the door axe-handed.
Thoughts garbled to the carrion crow.
Blood curdled in the pits.
Garotte for finger, stone for fist.
A knife and spear for hand and eye.
Till it seemed a child came, bathed in light
and held the space between with grace
till anger froze into shame.
To the parent of this rage: Blind grief .
We say: ‘Come in! Come in to the Heartspace!
Let us speak awhile to hear what
breeds your dark pain. Tell us tales
of sorrow long into the night. Let's
drive this demon from your door.’
What is it about Italo Calvino that makes him so compulsive a writer. I love him so much I named one of my sons after him! That would be Jack Anthony Italo Dougan-Quite a name.
THE WILD INVENTIONS OF ITALO CALVINO
Jeanette Winterson on Italo Calvino in the Times:
At the end of Italo Calvino's novella The Baron in the Trees, Cosimo, who travels only from tree to tree and never comes down from the world that he prefers to the world that presses its claims, finds himself near death. A host of noisome courtiers and curious peasants swarm under the canopy of the forest, waiting for him to submit to gravity's insistence. At the final moment, when all seems done and he must fall, an air balloon flies over the forest, trailing a rope. Guido makes one last leap. He catches the rope and disappears.
Calvino was a writer who preferred to disappear. He did not enjoy talking about himself, finding that the facts of life were a kind of Medusa's stare, as he puts it in his essay Lightness, published in 1985.
He used his fiction to escape himself, and the weight of the world. This was not by any means escapism; it was his answer to the eternal question: What is reality?
Calvino began as a political writer and journalist. He was born in San Remo in 1923 and published his first novel in 1947. The Path to the Nest of Spiders is socio-realism - the one and only book of that kind that he wrote - and the only work of his that he regretted. When a writer regrets something that he or she has written, if it is fiction, it is always, paradoxically, because the piece of work feels untrue.
I can not be the only one who wants Joanna to lead us the promised land! Bless her and the brave Gurkhas. A curse upon the weasels who pollute our government. Shame! Shame!
I don't think I can better the always excellent Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer on the filching hypocrites who crawl around the corridors of our parliament. Do you remember? It's that one that's the Mother of Parliaments!
The Heart of the New Labour Party appears to be riddled with disease and corruption. Let us flail them with our whips as they run naked through the streets the greedy sponging bastards. Let us lash without restraint and...oh sorry got carried away there but really if anyone, anywhere was more deserving of er...correction. Ah thank you for joining us Miss Lumley, my word those thigh length boots are so becoming. Yes Gordo is about to be prodded down the street, let me get you your monogrammed cat o' nine tails, it shall be my pleasure. (Author hands bloodied whip while making indistinct slurping noises at back of throat!)
'Lash away Ms Lumley, lash away. do not spare the lash though it pains our hearts to see Gordie's so cruelly bloodied bottom'...etc...etc
The Observer, Sunday 10 May 2009
Under John Major, it was cash for questions. Under Tony Blair, it was cash for coronets. Under Gordon Brown, we reach the suitably bathetic nadir of cash for cleaners. And cash for lavatories. And cash for carpets. And cash for saunas. And cash for swimming pools. And cash for gardeners. And cash for barbecues. And cash for dog food. And cash for cushions. Silk ones, naturally, 17 of them in all to ease the repose of Keith Vaz. In the case of a Conservative MP with a constituency in the shires, it is cash for horse manure. One MP wants cash for Kit Kats. A Scottish Labour MP confirms the stereotype of his race by claiming 5p for a carrier bag. Well, he probably needed somewhere to stuff all his receipts. A Lib Dem takes cash for cosmetics. One male MP claims cash for tampons.
I would truly like to hear how buying tampons is an expense wholly, necessarily and exclusively related to the parliamentary duties of a male MP. The explanation must be fiendishly ingenious.
Over 26 months, the taxpayer parted with £6,577 to pay for the char who cleaned up after Gordon Brown. I guess the prime minister must generate a lot of dirty laundry. His expenses are pine fresh compared with the way in which some of his colleagues have been dipping into the taxpayers' pockets. John Prescott, scourge of the bankers' bonuses, champion of the workin' man, sticks his hand into the public purse for three faux Tudor beams for his castle in Hull. He also claimed for two broken lavatory seats. It was two Jags, then it was two shags, now it is two bogs Prescott.
Shaun Woodward, who is probably wealthier than the rest of the cabinet put together, husband of a Sainsbury heiress, owner of seven properties, a man so loaded that he can afford to employ a butler, takes the taxpayer for almost £100,000 in mortgage interest. Hazel Blears, the minister responsible for housing, certainly knows her way around the property expenses game. Hazel is a little whizz at Commons Monopoly. She sped round the board, claiming on three different properties in a single year and each time passing Go. We bought Hazel two new TVs and two new beds in the space of just 12 months. It was only last week, in the pages of this paper, that Ms Blears was mocking Gordon Brown for his lamentable presentational skills with her witty line: "YouTube if you want to." When you are such an avid collector of television sets as Hazel, I suppose you fancy yourself an expert on the media.
While most of her colleagues have gone into hiding, Harriet Harman has been shoved before the cameras to try to defend the indefensible. She bleats that it was "all within the rules" as if the rules were not of Parliament's own invention, but had been handed down by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. All her exposed colleagues have likewise protested that everything they did was "within the rules" as if they were powerless to resist an invisible hand that forced them to sign the claim forms. Not every MP felt compelled to scoff at the trough. Hilary Benn, Ed Miliband and Alan Johnson emerge as acmes of frugality who make modest and entirely reasonable claims for performing their duties. The unblemished MPs should be furious with the avarice of their grasping colleagues who have tarred the whole political class with a reputation for being seedy and greedy.
"It was all within the rules," they go on pleading. Oh no, Hattie, it wasn't. The rules were generous in their elasticity and even then MPs stretched them so far that they snapped. It is against the rules to claim money that you haven't actually spent. The prime minister accidentally submitted a £150 plumbing bill twice. Oh well, we know Mr Brown hasn't got much of a head for figures.
Jack Straw claimed for council tax he had never paid, luckily discovering his mistake and repaying the £1,500 only after the High Court ruled that all expenses claims had to be published. He accompanied a cheque for repayment with an oh-silly-me note pleading: "Accountancy does not appear to be my strongest suit." Thank goodness that the justice secretary is not in charge of a large government department responsible for many billions of the public's money. When he was angling to become chancellor, Mr Straw was keen for everyone to know that he was such a wizard at maths that he was a fellow of the Royal Society of Statisticians. At the very least they should strike him off.
I despair. One of the least edifying traits of Tony Blair's years was his toleration of sleaze and wilful refusal to see how it was poisoning the relationship between government and governed. I hoped for better under Gordon Brown. Despite the many sleaze eruptions, I have clung to the increasingly unfashionable view that most MPs are not venal graspers motivated entirely by the pursuit of their own interests. It is becoming harder to sustain that faith. If politicians do not arrive at the Commons corrupt, there is clearly a culture in Parliament that is corrupting. Disgraceful scams for milking the taxpayer have become encoded in the DNA of many parliamentarians. One reason is cowardice. MPs have long nursed a resentment about the monetary compensation for being in a high stress occupation with low job security. We discover Andy Burnham wheedling money from the Fees Office on the grounds that if they don't cough up: "I might be in line for a divorce!!"
MPs look enviously at consultants, lawyers, company executives, those they consider to be their peer group. They feel underpaid in comparison. I might have sympathised if they had ever had the guts to make the case for higher parliamentary salaries to the public. They instead exploited the slackly constructed and sloppily policed expenses regime and used it as a clandestine scheme for giving themselves tax-free top-ups to their salaries. Sheer greed then kicked in as the most opportunistic and rapacious of their number stretched the rules to the limit and sometimes well beyond it. The second home and additional costs allowances have been manipulated to the point where you need a very powerful microscope to distinguish some of the scams from fraud. The most outrageously lucrative racket has been to flip the address which they claim to be their "second home" from one location to another to fund the refurbishment of a succession of properties that can then be sold on at a tax-free profit.
No wonder Parliament put up such a protracted and bitter struggle to try to keep all this hidden from the voters. They should stop whingeing about the Daily Telegraph's drip feed of revelations from a leaked disc. MPs themselves created the black market in the information about their claims by trying to conceal what they had been doing for so long.
This will hurt the reputation of all politicians, but the damage is likeliest to be greatest to Labour at the next election. The government will be defending the most seats. Any incumbent MP with dodgy claims will be scourged by his or her challenger. It is a Labour government that failed to act in time to clean up this corrupted culture.
Politicians are further stripped of any moral authority to guide the country. How can they now talk about the disgraceful behaviour of bankers or demand sacrifices from voters to cope with the recession? We won't want to hear any more from John Prescott about the motes in the eyes of others when he has a Tudor beam sticking out of his own.
This week, I have learnt, Gordon Brown plans to convene a "political cabinet" when the civil servants will be sent out of the room so that ministers can talk privately about the mire into which the government has sunk. Several members of the cabinet are hoping to force the prime minister to let them debate the serial debacles which have engulfed Number 10 over the past month. These senior ministers grasp that there needs to be an urgent and comprehensive rethink about how Labour is conducting itself. There is certainly a lot to address: from the failure of the government to convey a strategic message to repeated bungling of the handling of day-to-day events. It will be in character if Gordon Brown tries to reassure his colleagues that the expenses furore is a passing froth, an essentially trivial story in the grand sweep of things. He will tell them that the next election will be decided on the big issues such as the economy. They like to think that the McBride Affair, the Gurkhas and parliamentary expenses don't really matter. They will be mere footnotes in the history books.
That may be correct. Yet sometimes it is the superficially trivial that conveys a significant truth about political decay. Full exposure of the expenses racket has illustrated the alarming extent to which so many politicians have lost touch with any ethical bearings, with any feel for what it is tolerable to the public, and even with any sense of self-preservation. The scams are bad enough. Worse is the total absence of any repentance. They have had weeks to consider how they would answer public revulsion when they were caught with their hands in the voters' pockets. What was required was a display of contrition. Yet the collective response has been to try to brazen it out.
Lord Mandelson, ever a man to think attack is the best form of defence, lashes out at the media, as if the disgrace was the exposé rather than that exposed. From most of the rest of the government there has been either skulking silence or a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that there has been any wrongdoing.
Caught in flagrante, they do not bow their heads in shame. Their answer to public disgust is to thrust two fingers at the voters. Everyone hates them; they don't care.
The MP who claimed for horse manure? Well, why not when so many other parliamentarians simply don't give a shit.
MAY 09, 2009
A SCANNER DARKLY
There are a lot of shocking things about Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, a novel about the destruction of the European Jews that is narrated by a matricidal SS officer named Max Aue, whose greatest joy is having anal sex with his twin sister; but the one that shocks deepest, and longest, is how easily the novel draws you in. I read the book in French (Littell was born in America in 1967, but grew up in France; he wrote The Kindly Ones in French) a couple of years ago and again this winter in Charlotte Mandell’s adroit English translation. Both times, I found myself looking forward to the moment when I was done with other business and could get back to reading about Max Aue and his grisly travels. I am not the only one: the book has sold well over a million copies in Europe, and won the Prix Goncourt, France’s biggest literary prize. As I write this essay, it’s too soon to say if The Kindly Ones will be a big seller in the United States, but some omens are good. When the English translation was published in March of this year, Michael Korda wrote in the Daily Beast, “I guarantee you, if you read this book to the end, and if you have any kind of taste at all, you won’t be able to put it down for a moment—lay in snacks and drinks!” Yes, by all means, if you can keep them down. Reading The Kindly Ones isn’t a comfortable experience, or an ennobling one, but it’s certainly compelling, at least for some readers. The question I want to ask is, why?more from The Believer here.
And they will be happy! And we know that happy workers make New New Shiny New Labour very happy indeed!
Am I dripping with that lowest form of wit dear reader? Indeed, for I hear that Deirdre the agony aunt from 'The Sun' is to take her place on that hallowed and august body. Er yes...you heard that right. Here's a good response from the Fighting Monsters Website which I include in full.
1 May 2009 (4 days ago)
from Fighting Monsters by cb
I suppose you are making an effort with your survey on the Sun website asking readers to tell you all that is wrong with social work.
Personally though, I find it insulting that you were given a place on the Social Work Taskforce that is to report on changes and improvements to be made to Social Work. Although apparently more front line workers are being included, unfortunately, Deirdre remains. And no, justifying her position because of a Sun petition is not a defence, it is even more of an insult. Let’s put this simply - I say this for the following reasons:-
The Sun organised a campaign which included false reporting of social work – victimised individual social workers and questioned the mental health of a social worker. Now, they are claiming ‘victory’ in successfully causing the dismissal of a social worker and social work managers. Fine with the managers, but honestly if I live and work in a country where red top journalism and over-hyped dishonest media campaigns can lead to dismissal rather than incompetence in the workplace then it isn’t doing very much for morale – don’t you think?
What experience do you have of social work? Seriously. What knowledge beyond what your colleagues report? Where has there been any will to engage - I see you pulled out of the Community Care Live event? Can’t take the heat, eh, Deirdre?
Fine, if the taskforce wants a media representative – there are many worthy journalists from Community Care or The Guardian who have consistently shown a knowledge and appreciation of the wider issues within social work but AN AGONY AUNT FROM THE SUN??? Who on earth is going to take Social Work seriously if they think that newspaper agony columns offer some kind of expertise in social work?
I don’t want to be trialled and judged by media – I want to do my job well and effectively and be supported by professional organisations and relevant government departments – not held up to some kind of media trial that you seem to be creating by surveys.
If the task force was REALLY interested in views it would have made the meetings for social workers actually more accessible rather than bunching them in with a few days notice and filling up within hours. I desperately wanted to attend one of the feed back days but my only possibility in London was about a week after I found out that they existed because the other date filled up within a day. Hardly feasible for the front-line workers who, you know, have work to do..
Well, I’ve made my views clear but lets try and get to Deirdre’s ‘survey’ and give her some of the opinions she so obviously wants from Sun readers.
For the record, Deirdre, your first question on that survey, you know where you get one answer and have to say if you have ever had contact with a social worker or you are a social worker.. you know, sweets, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
I am a social worker. My foster child has a social worker, myself and my partner have a supervising social worker, my father who is, himself, elderly (sorry Dad, I know you are reading this!) has a social worker. So what on earth made you think that no social worker can possibly actually USE the services of social workers for your oh-so-helpful survey.
Bleh. Oh well, I guess it makes a change not to see the pressing issues of infidelities or what to do if you’ve impregnated your next door neighbour’s daughter on your problem page (although I suspect that’s only in the online edition).
gene hunt at Flickr
Go and fill it out though, guys, and let her know exactly what we think.
Oh and Deirdre, if you do ever find your way here, I’d love to hear your defence.
Wow, I sometimes have grumps but don’t often have a full-on rant. Sometimes it feels quite good.
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LADY’S SLIPPER ORCHID
I recall Dion Fortune’s phrase somewhere:
That orchids nurse hatred for people
But I feel,
staring at your fabulously
That nothing so hilarious
Could nurse hatreds and contempts.
That in your full-booted truth
You are just as you need to be.
Though extinction be your neighbour
Along with yew and limestone,
A miracle by this footpath,
In the sun and rain.
Cypripedium calceolus I salute you!