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What about the pictures?

Read the screenshot below and do so carefully.

headline reads: £250 reward offered after giant Ironbridge duck is thrown in river - with pictures

After reading the actual story, I found no mention of pictures being thrown into the River Severn in Ironbridge by vandals.

Did it actually happen? Or did the dread ambiguity that plagues so much modern journalism strike again?

When I was learning/being taught to write so many decades ago, we were always advised to steer clear of anything that could be misconstrued.

That concept is now obviously regarded as old-fashioned and no longer worthwhile by those who write today’s media (sometimes with the digital equivalent of a crayon. Ed. 😉 )

The thoughts of Michael Gove

Today’s Graunaid reports on the establishment of a new Tory think tank, erroneously called “Onward“.

However, it is firmly denied that this anodyne moniker is meant in any way to be an echo of “En Marche!“, the movement that propelled the right-of-centre Emmanuel Macron to power in France (and Andorra; he’s also the ex-officio co-prince of the Pyrenean principality. Ed.).

Michael Gove's official Defra photoThose at the centre of the launch in the Gruaniad’s eyes are Scottish Tory leader Ruth “tractor quotas” Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, and Michael Gove, the man with the most punchable face in British politics and alleged to be the UK’s current Secretary of State For Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Leaving aside the sordid details of the think tank’s launch, which were given far too much attention for my mind by the Gruaniad, what struck your ‘umble scribe was the following phrase relating to the boy Michael:

Gove, the environment secretary, who has long been one of the party’s most influential thinkers,…

The plain truth is that thinking doesn’t come naturally to Michael. In a previous incarnation as Secretary of State for Education, he’s on record as not understanding what an average is or how it works in this oral reply to the House of Commons Education Committee in 2012:

…we expect schools not only to be judged on the level of raw attainment but also in terms of making sure that children are on track and are not falling back-and, indeed, do better than the average.

Meanwhile in his present post, he has in the past had difficulty in remembering which country he’s in, singing the praises of Welsh lamb in a press release for a visit to Northern Ireland (posts passim).

Furthermore, there are also times when Michael Gove doesn’t think at all. He didn’t think of his son when he and his wife thought it acceptable to leave the 11 year-old at a hotel to go to a party.

Thinking is a skill that can be taught and acquired, but your correspondent has yet to see that Gove has gained sufficient quantities thereof in his education at public school and thereafter at Oxford University.

Then again, lack of talent has never been an obstacle to achieving high office for the Blue Team…

The GOP and the English language*

On Saturday, a certain Melania Trump was discharged from hospital following surgery for a kidney problem.

Needless to say her husband. one Donald John Trump, who occasionally resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. in between golfing trips, was delighted.

So delighted he sent the tweet below to his followers.

tweet reads: Great to have our incredible First Lady back home in the White House. Melanie is feeling and doing really well. Thank you for all of your prayers and best wishes!

The reason why The Donald should misspell his wife’s name is unknown. Perhaps he had that pesky predictive text active on his tweeting device.

However, the 45th President of the United States is not the first Republican Party occupant of that office of state to experience problems with the use of the English language.

The 41st occupant of that office, one George Herbert Walker Bush, once quipped in an interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS: “They used to say English was my second language.”

George H.W.’s son, George W., who was affectionately known as “Dubya” and inaugurated as the USA’s 43rd president, was so inept with his alleged mother tongue that a term – Bushisms – was coined to denote his ability to engage both tongue and brain when speaking in public. Bushisms are defined as Dubya’s unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms and semantic or linguistic errors in public speaking. Besides malapropisms, Bushism’s other common characteristics included the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and grammatically incorrect subject–verb agreement.

To conclude this brief excursion into members of the Grand Old Party’s difficulties with English, who can forget former Vice-President James Danforth Quayle’s erroneous correction of a school student’s correct rendition of “potato“? 😀

* = Apologies to the late George Orwell for the title.

More thoughts on monarchy and the royal family by Keir Hardie

Jame Keir Hardie photographed in 1905Today, 19th May 2018, uncelebrated blues artiste Mumblin’ Harry Wales (posts passim) weds US actor Meghan Markle in Windsor.

Whilst I have no particular axe to grind against anyone wishing to get married and wish Mr Wales and Ms Markle every happiness, I do have objections to the undemocratic nature monarchy and the idea that the heads of state of this country should come down the birth canals of one particular family and one family only.

Then there’s the whole concept of the so-called royal family being somehow special or better than the rest of humanity.

In these objections I’m in fine company.

One of those who share my republican ideals was James Keir Hardie (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915), socialist, politician and trade unionist, who rose to become the first leader of the Labour Party.

In “Keir Hardie: His Writings and Speeches” edited by Emrys Hughes and published by Forward Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, Glasgow in 1928, Hardie is credited with writing the following on the occasion of Victoria von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha’s diamond jubilee in 1897. However, his remarks are still relevant today and reveal how far ahead Hardie was of the conventional establishment thinking of his time.

Even under a representative system of government it is possible to paralyse a nation by maintaining the fiction that a reigning family is a necessity of good government. Now, one of two things must be – either the British people are fit to govern themselves or they are not. If they are, an hereditary ruler who in legislation has more power than the whole nation is an insult. Despotism and monarchy are compatible; democracy and monarchy are an unthinkable connection.
If we are for the Queen we are not for her subjects. The throne represents the power of caste – class rule. Round the throne gather the unwholesome parasites who cling to the system which lends itself to their disordered condition. The toady who crawls through the mire of self-abasement to enable him to bask in the smile of royalty is the victim of a diseased organism. No healthy, well-developed people could for one moment tolerate an institution which belongs to the childhood of the race, and which in these latter days is the centre, if not the source, of the corrupting influences which constitute Society.
The great mind, the strong heart, the detestation of wrong, the love of truth whether in cot or palace will always command my respect. But to worship an empty form, to make pretence to believe a gilded mediocrity indispensable to the well-being of the nation – where is the man who will so far forget what is due to his manhood?
In this country loyalty to the Queen is used by the profit-mongers to blind the eyes of the people. We can have but one feeling in the matter – contempt for thrones and for all who bolster them up.

Leveson 2: why the government is reluctant

In the last 2 weeks there have been several attempts to block implementation of part 2 of the Leveson inquiry, judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal.

Part 2 of the Leveson inquiry (aka Leveson 2. Ed.) would investigate “the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other media organisations or other organisations. It will also consider the extent to which any relevant police force investigated allegations relating to News International, and whether the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in misconduct.”

The Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto stated that Leveson 2 would be dropped entirely, a fact confirmed by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock on 1st March 2018.

However, the proponents of Leveson 2 have not given up. Yesterday the House of Lords voted in favour voted by 252 to 213 on Monday evening to back an amendment to the Data Protection Bill that called for Leveson 2 to be put back on the agenda, i.e. a full investigation into unlawful conduct by newspapers, misuse of data by social media companies and relations between the press and the police.

This overturns a decision made by MPs last week and has set up another showdown with the government.

At this point you may be wondering why the government is so keen to halt an inquiry into corporate criminality.

This is best answered in pictorial form, with no further comment being necessary.

Rupert Murdoch, Theresa May's puppeteer

Lookalikes – a politics & sci-fi double bill

Prime Minister Theresa May has the inhuman touch, an inability to relate to people that has led some unkind people to refer to her as the “Maybot“. Indeed, the Financial Times (the sporting pink for the casino economy. Ed.) even came up with a definition for his noun last December, i.e.:

A prime minister so lacking in human qualities that she soon requires a system reboot.

Ouch!

However, I wonder if our mainstream media have ever noticed the striking similarity between Theresa May and Twiki, the robot assistant of the eponymous hero of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century?

Theresa May and Twiki

Twiki was mainly voiced by the late, great Mel Blanc, who provided the voices for the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, the Tasmanian Devil and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons stables. If, in addition to these vocal talents, he could be brought back from the grave to speak well and lie badly, the Maybot might sound less like an automaton.

We of a certain vintage remember our reading included following Dan Dare’s adventures in space against his arch-enemy, The Mekon, who with his shaven pate, does a remarkable impression of Sajid Javid, the current Home Secretary, who has recently been ushered into 2 Marsham Street, London SW1 with his dustpan and new broom to clear up the mess the Home Office has created in recent years in relation to the so-called “Windrush generation“.

The British Home Secretary and The Mekon

Incidentally, Javid is not the first Conservative Cabinet Minister to be compared to The Mekon. One of his partisan predecessors, the late Angus Maude, who was Paymaster General in the government of Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1981, was nicknamed The Mekon.

Royal birth – a comment from the past

Yesterday a woman whose duty it is to produce occupants of the British throne gave birth to her third child and the right-leaning part of the British press has gone into overdrive churning out sycophantic drivel to mark the occasion, with several producing supplements.

While all this pap is being fawned over by the more gullible members of the public, there are no doubt civil servants, government ministers, local government officers and others in the establishment busy using a good day to bury bad news.

Jame Keir Hardie photographed in 1905In June 1894 a previous royal birth occurred, prompting as it did then – and still does – the House of Commons to debate an address of congratulation to the monarch, in this case Queen Victoria. However, on the day the birth occurred there had been a terrible mine explo­sion at Pontypridd and 251 working class men and boys had lost their lives. The Government gave no sign of expressing any sympathy for the stricken town and the mourning relatives, and socialist MP James Keir Hardie sought to repair the omission by adding to the congratulation to the Queen an assurance of sympathy with the sufferers from the disaster.

His motion was out of order, but he had the right to speak and he declared in a House tumultuous with anger that the tragedy in South Wales demanded far more of the attention of the House than the birth of any baby.

Perhaps the most famous part of Hardie’s performance in the House of Commons that day is quoted below.

“From his childhood onwards this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score – [cries of “Oh!,oh!] – and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation [cries of “Oh,oh!]. A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over. …and the end of it all will be that the country will be called upon to pay the bill. [Cries of Divide!]”

The royal grandson to whom Keir Hardie was referring grew up to be an unimpressive and irresponsible man with extreme right wing sympathies, notoriously visiting Hitler in 1937. In January 1936 he became Edward VIII. In December 1936 he abdicated before his coronation over his relationship with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson and during the Second World War was kept well away from Messrs Hitler and Mussolini by being appointed governor of the Bahamas in 1940.

Local rag now employing greengrocers*

Changes are taking place at the increasingly downmarket Local World group of regional newspaper titles owned by Trinity Mirror.

These changes are also being implemented at the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of (warped) record, whose online version now masquerades under the misleading title of BristolLive, as any signs of sentience have yet to be medically confirmed.

As circulation has declined, so have standards to the point where it appears that greengrocers (or should that be greengrocer’s? Ed.) are cheaper to employ than what passes nowadays for journalists – or even journalist’s. This desperate move is amply illustrated by the screenshot below for the latest story lifted from scanning social media.

headline reads Bristol's s**t cycling infrastructure now has it's own Twitter account

In the meantime, locals can expect more news from Homophone Corner (that’s a site to be seen. Ed. 😉 ) and hard-hitting stories of the “Hartcliffe man stubs toe on Bristol Bridge” variety and barely concealed advertisements masquerading as restaurant reviews, mostly for places whose obituaries subsequently describe them as “popular” when they inevitably close down less than a year later.

* Or should that be greengrocer’s? 😉

English translation required?

Although it’s not one of his regular local media reads, your ‘umble scribe might just start visiting the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer website more to keep up to date with dynamic, one could even say groundbreaking, developments in use of the English language, if the headline of the report shown below is in any way typical of modern journalism.

headline reads NFU president Minette Batters calls on police to not countryside be soft target

The same piece, by the same author, also appears in yesterday’s Whitchurch Herald, where similar sub-editing skills are in evidence.

Over £4K – the cost of dropping 6 cigarette ends in Bristol

Six litter louts have been ordered by magistrates to pay a total of £671.84 each for dropping cigarette ends in central Bristol, making a grand total of £4,031.04, yesterday’s Bristol Post reports.

The individual total of £671.84 is broken down as follows: £440 fine, £187.84 in prosecution costs and a £44 victim surcharge.

All the defendants have been given 28 days to pay.

Cigarette ends are litter too. Disposing of them properly will avoid the risk of a fine.

They were all originally caught littering on 9th and 10th November last year by civil enforcement officers working for Bristol City Council (the so-called litter police. Ed.) and were issued with £75 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for their filthiness. Had the penalties been paid within 10 days, the culprits would only have had to pay £50 each.

As it is, they repeatedly ignored correspondence from Bristol City Council, as well as their summonses to Bristol Magistrates Court, as none of the defendants could be bothered to appear in person.

On average, more than 1,000 people have been issued with FPNs for environmental crimes such as littering and dog fouling each month since the ‘litter police’ started their work.

Bristol Clean Streets logoIt’s good to see the City Council taking a tough line on litter. However, far more ‘litter police’ are needed to cover the rest of the city in addition to the centre. They have made the odd foray into a council-owned public park or two and an occasional jolly to Stapleton Road, but far more rigorous action is going to be needed by the local authority if it is to have any hope of meeting the objectives of Mayor Marvin Rees’ Bristol Clean Streets initiative, i.e. that Bristol will be measurably cleaner by 2020 in terms of litter, fly-tipping, fly-posting, graffiti, dog fouling, chewing gum and weeds (especially as the latter were only being eradicated last year if residents made enough of a fuss! Ed.).

The simple fact is that there would less strain on the public purse and less work for the council in keeping the streets and parks clean if people didn’t drop litter, allow their dogs to foul all over the place, dump fly-tipping and commit other environmental crimes.

Nevertheless, it is good to see that Bristol City Council and local magistrates are sending out a clear message to litter louts to keep Bristol tidy – or its centre at any rate.

Finally, in an opinion piece in the Bristol Post, Tristan Cork takes filthy Bristolians to task for the deplorable state residents leave the city’s parks in every time the weather gets warm. Meanwhile the council has warned people who leave rubbish in parks next to overflowing bins that they will be fined £100 if caught and that the “litter police” are now patrolling parks and have been instructed to issue fixed penalty notices for rubbish deposited around bins, as well as anything left on the grass.

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