Tuesday, 25 September 2012

HMRC's Dave Hartnett given award for helping tax avoidance

HMRC's Dave Hartnett being given Golden Handshake award at a fat cat dinner before the hosts threaten to "set the dogs" on the interlopers. Amazingly, the Daily Mail has a very good report.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Steampunk Opium Wars in St Ives Part 2

Part 1 here.

St Ives Steampunk Opium Wars and Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge Part 1

Here's the first half of The Steampunk Opium Wars which we took down to the St Ives Arts Festival to play to a packed house at the Arts Theatre on Tuesday 18th September.

We did it as a new concept — the unrehearsed reading — as six of our original company couldn't get down to Cornwall due to logistics and health issues. However, we were lucky enough to have Bob Devereux and Buffalo Bill Smith step in as Lord Palmerston and Captain Ironside, while Charles Shaar Murray read radical Mr Cobstone, and I narrated and played all 1.4 billion Chinese with the aid of a hat.

Paul Anderson and Louise Whittle were magnificent in their second outing in their roles as Sir Jardine-Matheson and Queen Victoria.

It was a joy to play in a proper theatre. The Arts Club has a rich history that goes back to the 19th century and I wonder how many of the early patrons would have been using opium to aid their creative endeavours. It was also liberating to have a proper stage upon which to frolic and which looked suitably dramatic due to the lighting and sound efforts of Simon the St Ives Busker. Make sure you chuck money into this man's guitar case if you ever see him playing in town. How many times have I struggled with that desk, usually forgetting where the power switch is hidden?

I was fighting off bronchitis so I sound a bit like the irritating woman who voices the automated Virgin Media telephone instructions thingy who keeps you waiting for years and then cuts you off.

Missed you John Crow, Neil Hornick, Hugo Trebels, John Paul O'Neill and Marc Jefferies. Wished Deborah Evans-Stickland was there to be Britannia singing "Money". Thanks to Rachel Smith for shooting the video on my TZ20.

The second half of the evening was great — an assortment of our talented friends in town for the festival. More to come.

The Steampunk Opium Wars in St Ives Part 2 here.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

That rapey matter ... Galloway, the left and Assange

There's a storm going on in the left, less over what really happened between Julian Assange and his two temp lovers, and more about what constitutes rape in this case — of which we only know stuff from what we've read as we weren't there and no-one had the foresight to make a sex-tape.

Everyone else has had their twopennyworth, so here's mine.

The objection for some is what Respect MP George Galloway didn't say in that now notorious podcast (above). He argued the case with no reference to what is alleged: not that Assange just woke up with a morning glory and maybe misread the situation, but that (i) he didn't use protection when the woman had asked for condoms to be used and (b) that when she said no repeatedly, he ignored her and carried on, using his physical strength. (Yes, my numbering is inconsistent, but so is the left.) If that's proven, then that is indeed rape, as it is sex against the express wishes of the woman.

In omitting this stage of the "insertion" as per the allegation (which is, after all, what he was discussing), GG distorted the case.

It's unfortunate that GG's loaded description of the complainants as "two rather free and liberal women" make him sound like the Witchfinder General warming up to a blistering condemnation of Hussies. "Even taken at its worst, the allegations made against him by the two women ... [insert smear against them here] if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 percent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don't constitute rape."

That's pretty clear. GG is then at pains to make it clearer, even.

"Woman A ... claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again, something which can happen, you know."

Yes, within a loving or horny relationship where the rules of "the sex game" (as he charmingly calls it) have been established — not necessarily in specific words that issue from one's gob, but in all sorts of body language signals that the more loutish among us may not be fully equipped to pick up, although no-one is demanding superhero spider-senses. Just a bit of sensitivity and respect will do.

"It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, 'Do you mind if I do it again?' It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning."

So much for mutual pleasuring.

GG is entitled to disbelieve the women — this situation is, after all, a timely gift to the US. But we don't know whether the gift actually came courtesy of Assange himself in a spectacular own goal, drunk on his newly-acquired rock-god status, rather than via a complex stitch-up. Sometimes the mundane explanation is the true one. We just don't know right now.

GG's definition of rape is what's disturbing, reflecting what a swathe of the left (mostly men) are saying. He did state afterwards that "No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. There's no doubt about it and that has always been my position." But then he went and spoilt it by adding, "What occurred is not rape as most people understand it."

Fair criticism of GG does not make one a supporter of US imperialism — we can think and chew gum at the same time. My belief is that, until Sweden guarantees no extradition to the US, Assange shouldn't go, but we shouldn't dismiss the seriousness of the allegations, which will have to be proven (or disproven) in a court of law.

The left has to face up to the fact that this is not a Manichean tussle between absolutes, or a football match where you cheer on one side regardless. It is a genuinely challenging and intriguing conundrum. Here we have someone who did a power of good with Wikileaks, who is then almost immediately revealed to have some deep character flaws. Sometimes this process of revelation takes years.

My frustration re the powerlessness of the left and the ascent of the right has been so great that when Assange came along I was delighted to find that we seemed to have an effective champion. My first response when the allegations surfaced was that the Forces of Evuhl were 'avin' a larf. But as the picture has taken its shaky shape, it's looking murky — on BOTH sides. Was the women's failure to kick up immediately a delayed shock reaction? Desire to be with the cool guy? Or something more sinister? Assange has, after all, consistently denied their claims. As I and others have said, all parties need to have their day in a court of law, because we are only the court of public opinion right now and whaddo we know?

None of this diminishes the importance of Assange's Wikileaks work (let us not forget Bradley Manning) and the very real threat to his freedom and perhaps his life should he be sent to the US (there have been calls for his assassination as well as prosecution by politicians and in the media), but it is a useful lesson in not elevating human beings to the status of deities, because then you are stuck with that position no matter what and it begins to look ridiculous. Especially when someone pokes a cucumber up your bum and there's nothing you can do except shout.

Read the transcripts of the police interviews here. Thanks to Mark Anthony France for the tip.

Monday, 3 September 2012

George Osborne booed at the Paralympics: Caligula wishes we all had one neck

George Osborne completed his transformation into Caligula today when he was booed by the 80,000 spectators at the London Paralympics as he was about to award the gold medals in the men's 400 metres T38 category.

I bet the evil little squit wishes we all had one neck.