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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

180. Gladiator Garrulous...

...performs Vigilante Verbals!

Haven’t tried it? You should.

It’s word blood sport where the commentator is also the combatant. It’s for those who don’t get off on mindless cruelty. In fact if you agree with Winston Churchill (in words spoken years after WWII) ‘To jaw jaw’ is always better than to ‘war, war’ then this is for you.

Internet analysts have been preaching the extinction of the ‘comments’ sections of online publications for years. And yes – the remaining ones are often swamps of badly written, ungrammatical vitriol. But sometimes they are not. Those sites which attract the former seem to do so deliberately and often allow complete anonymity to encourage the most bigoted the ‘freedom’ (lack of responsibility) to display their bile.

Recently – and you know what a Luddite I am by now dear bleader (if not - see blog 53 I suffer from PANTS do you) I joined an online site up here in bonny Scotland. Thing is – like anyone else who has ever done it – I’m on a site with folk who are broadly like-minded. That is what people do.  So far so good. The extreme opposite would be those pundits who deliberately target sites promoted by groups they already know they don’t like. So, for example, homophobes spewing acid and hatred on gay sites.

Is it not a little self-indulgent only being on sites where the greatest disagreement you’re going to have is whether the revolution should be on a Monday or a Wednesday?  So I signed onto a site for a publication I would normally have nothing to do with. Not with the intention of trolling but with the aim of vigilante verbals, batman banter, mixin’ it up Maximus style.

Maybe you already did this. I am slow.

So I’ve dabbled on a few occasions. I am polite but clear, I write thought-through comments. OK. No. The bigots and the nasties didn’t immediately throw down their nail studded word clubs and go home to eat grubs. Farage and Trump and the like have led them to believe its fine to be bigoted and stupid and loud.  But let’s give this a chance.

The phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is tired and anyhow few of us regularly use pens. Even Shakespeare’s eloquent version in Hamlet, “many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills and dare scarce come thither…” seems thin in the modern mess.

But I am a big fan of words, written or typed, spoken or sung. And when the words stop, you can be sure the swords / guns / clusterbombs will start.

The ones we need to engage with domestically are not those who already agree with us. Often online commentators are a colosseum mob. The lower grade ‘news’ sites are the spoilt emperors throwing them piles of rancid meat to keep them belly aching and distracted. Enter Gladiator Garrulous Maximus.

One recent distasteful online article I challenged concerned a young woman who had first been impregnated at the age of 13. She now has – at the age of 23 – six children. In the UK they run these ‘feckless poor’ and ‘benefit scrounger’ stories regularly as a side dish to anti-immigrant stories when the plebeians are getting bored. There was a photo of the young woman smiling into the camera with un-pixelated shots of her children. Then there was another picture of the same woman holding a large pet rabbit. The predictable ‘breeding like a rabbit’ sniper remarks were rolled out under the picture as the baying crowd responded to the obvious inducement. The young lass probably agreed to the article because she liked the attention and didn’t realise she was mob bait. Shame on the paper. At a time when the teen mum birth rate is at an all-time low in the UK it’s an obvious non-story but a great distraction from rich people not paying their taxes. And shame shame on the photographer who knew exactly what they were doing when they took that shot with the rabbit. So the woman was not just abused by the bloke who got her pregnant when she was a child but also by the paper and by the rent-a-mob commentators – who, in effect – were also being conned.

But you see where I am going. Here is meat. Here is bread.

Remember that scene in Gladiator where Maximus is in the arena. Pretend the Emperor is the national online rag journal. The mob are the potential commentators, howling for blood. If we are going to spend precious time commenting shouldn’t we be like the gladiator who steps into the arena and does/says something a wee bit different? With style and good grammar?

Well ok – but you have to be prepared to get into the colosseum. Choose one arena and never mind the lions they’re just CGI. Don’t stay in your enclosed Villa. Strap on those sandals and that leather skirt and come on in with me.

You will be entertained.

Unrestrained violence is in vogue. It’s all the rage you might say. Open bigotry has become not just acceptable but highly fashionable. Let’s see what we can do with verbal dexterity, humour, satire, wit. Let’s challenge the crap people say/think. Let’s do it clearly and cleverly and on their home ground.

Leave your comfort zone and come do some vigilante verbals. Apart from anything we should know how people who have been granted the right to vote in our own countries think and challenge the damaging, bigoted, xenophobic, racist, anti-working class, misogynistic things people say. ALWAYS.

And if you want to play – perhaps sign your comments S&H
Strength & Honour J


NB. Maybe I’m not a Pigeon is on special offer for about 48 hours from time of posting this blog.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

179. No Bravehearts here.

Scottish land reform shame and why we need the EU (or maybe Mugabe?)

Up here in the land of blue faces, sporrans and men who wear skirts, land reform has been a big deal for a long time (I mean 100s of years). Sadly, the Scottish parliament turn out not to be Bravehearts.

A Green Party proposal to outlaw offshore ‘ownership’ (estimates suggest that around 750,000 acres of Scotland are ‘owned’ in offshore accounts) has just been rejected by a Scottish National Party majority in Holyrood. And if they cannot be radical during their honeymoon period, history tells us they may never.

The aristos are being mean and the peasants are revolting, the leaders are dithering. Where is Mel Gibson when you need him? Oh yeah – he’s in rehab from being a misogynistic, anti-Semitic git.

Right thinking Scots feel they’ve taken a Claymore in the gullet as Holyrood side-stepped this chance to take a long overdue move towards land equality.

My dear bleaders (blog readers) may do a double take. Lairds getting their own nasty way? The masses cowering? You may ask yourself, ‘am I reading Browngirls’ blog or have I stumbled on a manuscript from ye 1600s written on sheep guts by yon scribe?’

Of course not being one of the aristocracy (or male) I would not be writing at all. I would perhaps be talking to a kindly clergyman who is writing this down by light of a stinky tallow candle while ye olde rats chew our toe nails in exchange for me washing his undies on a rock down at the river’s edge hoping not to get ravaged by marauding white walkers – (oh no that’s Game of Thrones sorry) while my husband picks tics out of the sheep with his cousin’s second-hand wooden teeth.

Having been victim of the droit de seigneur (which I don’t think every actually got to Scotland apart form in Braveheart) my eldest boy looks a wee bit like the duke and is also a total bastard. But my other bairns – with their deformities and nits and rickets and plague boils are real sweethearts and catch rabbits and collect dry grass for the fire in our hovel – apart from the one that was hung for steeling dung….

I mean bloody hell.

If like me your geography is a bit crap – let me tell you The Cayman Islands (there are three) where the duke keeps his chunk of Scotland, are situated a bit south of Cuba and a bit North West of Jamaica. They don’t wear tartan in The Caymans but obviously have a nasty history with slavery. Maybe that is why tax-evading Scottish feudal lords feel at home there?

Basically, faced with the proposition that they put an end to this fiscal farce and centuries of exploitation of ill-gotten gains, the Scottish Parliament DIDN’T. Maybe Uncle Bobby Mugabe should have a word with Nicola? I don’t mean the starving your own people, political repression and using public funds to buy yourself a millions dollar birthday party yada yda yada – just the getting rid of the nasty greedy land thieves thing.

When the bogey man of ‘legal challenge’ was dangled, the politicians in power (!) turned and ran with their yellow bellies showing (actually that doesn’t work as an analogy because you would see their bums if they were running – but you get me). The particular selfish bastard (I use the term bastard advisedly in relation to the Duke Beccleuth) has approximately 240,000 acres of Scotland registered in the Caribbean. Even I know that Scotland ain’t in the Caribbean.

And this is a global problem. Maybe it’s not fair to expect Scotland to start the ball rolling on something that requires major untangling. Many of these havens have their own registered banks and Oxfam – for one – reckons these banks hold TRILLIONS of dollars of individuals’ wealth, much of it accumulated from tax avoidance and other gross behaviour (that's a tax joke by the way).

Ask yourself this, with the world in the state it’s in – what kind of person uses a tax haven because they have more money than they know what to do with and don’t want ANY of it going to fund hospitals, roads, schools, provision for the elderly or disabled, in the country THEY LIVE IN? 

And back to the current Euro sideshow - we need a body the size of Europe to tackle this pandemic cancer, eating away at the planet’s resources. Is it too crazy to suggest that UK property must be registered in the UK, French property in France, German property in Germany and so on and so forth?

Sentient Scots hoped that early legislation would pave the way to substantially fairer land policy. However, last Wednesday 16th March, the day Osborne delivered his latest Viagra budget (I’m no good at this but I’m all pumped up so I will just keep on and on and on…) the Scottish Parliament rejected proposals which would have made this particular type of massive tax evasion and humongous Scottish CON illegal. What a sad day for ordinary people – another one…


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

178. Children of the Damned.

Why does government hate young people?

For eye watering student debt -thanks Clegg.

For PFI in the NHS allowing public health funds to be channelled into private bank accounts undermining the service for future generations - thanks Blair – oh and for global instability as well.

For weak financial regulation which helped bring about financial collapse, the repercussions of which we won’t see the end of any time soon - thanks every administration since 1979.

And for the growth of zero hours contracts, the unceasing attacks on the welfare state, effectual abandonment of the idea of a secure pension plus the ever disappearing retirement age etc. - thanks Osborne.

[Watch Osborne’s latest budget tomorrow. I absolutely guarantee there will be more pulling-up-the-ladder leaving the under 35s flailing in a land of unaffordable rents, Neverland mortgages, debt, poor job security and a flimsier welfare system while the comfortably off stay – comfortably off.]

In fact you’d be hard pushed to find social legislation of any significance since Thatcher that doesn’t damage the prospects of upcoming generation.

House ownership is at an all-time low and those lucky enough to get a foothold are juggling student debt as well as mortgage debt. It’s a wonder the increasingly high suicide rate is not higher. Certainly the numbers of young homeless, homeless families and homeless ex-servicemen is a barely hidden scandal and personal debt has gone nuclear.

‘Build more houses’ goes up the eternal cry – usually from those with a home (or homes) of their own. Where? The easy line, we-don’t-have-enough-houses, is only partly true. Yes, as part of the on-going UK jumble sale, social housing has been obliterated. However, in the same way that we hear, innovate-to-create-higher-crop-yield, as a solution to world hunger, these false prophets neatly step over the obvious hurdle which is unfair distribution – or GREED to put it in easy biblical terms. There is currently enough food on the planet to feed everyone. It is imbalanced distribution, waste and corruption that fails us. Equally with some imagination and a lot less greed we could house many more people. Those with huge properties or more than one home get off lightly as things like the infamous council tax favour the wealthy as do the very low interest rates. Unfortunate, poor and disabled tenants who have more space than the government decrees they require, are maliciously penalised with the notorious bedroom tax or left at the mercy of Rachman landlords.

From Pharaoh and Herod to Blair and Cameron there seems to be a non-too subtle grinding down of the following generation. Not their own kids obviously – just everyone else’s.

Just what is it that turns those who’ve had every advantage of a post WWII West into the mean, spiteful, youth-averse, gits who rule? Thatcher may have been famous for taking free school milk from the mouths of primary school children “Thatcher, Thatcher - milk snatcher” but subsequent leaders also seem intent on obliterating the future for those below them.

It makes the government seem like the child snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it really is pretty shitty.

Ok – I know young people are self-obsessed and smell and listen to awful music and think it’s time well spent posting online pictures of what they had for breakfast but this is not fair.

Is it because some adults forget they were young? Maybe they had disturbed childhoods and don’t see why others should be happy (the current crop of boarding school brats?)

It’s morally wrong (yes I am banging on about morals again – how old fashioned am I?)

If government fails year on year to tackle tax loopholes that let their pals off paying their dues in the country they derive so much benefit from thus degrading the economy, public services, education , health, infrastructure - that government is morally in debt to the ones who will be left in the fiscal wasteland.

If the food industries are not tackled when they fill their produce with crap for profit so we have record numbers of obese children with diabetes, is the government not culpable?

Then the elite (and the media) non-too-subtly pick the easy fall guys – ooh look – it’s the scary migrants. And a handful of morons pick up that baton and run with it. (See this week’s cartoon – click on the orange Amanda Baker top right)

I was lucky enough to grow up in Britain’s socially responsible age when if you were bright enough you could do a degree without incurring life obliterating debt. The health service was reliable and you didn’t have to spend half your free time online to privatised utility companies trying to work out which one was ripping you off the most.

This shower of bastards – and their predecessors –systematically dismantled the post war dream. The shame is that the majority of them benefited from what was bequeathed to us by a generation stripped of their pride by the experience of world war.

Maybe the Child Snatcher is too kind an analogy. These leaders are more like the blind voracious monster from Pan’s Labyrinth.

Thanks for reading and yes – copy and pass around the cartoon if you like.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

177. What would Attila the Hun do?

Heaven help the Jewish migrants fleeing Nazi Germany if Cameron and his crew had been in charge of Britain in the 1940s. ‘No – we’re not going to take in and protect those who managed to survive the horrific flight from hell - we’ll go hand pick the ones we prefer’.

 Really? After nearly five years of conflict?

‘Can you all just live like cattle in fields (worse because cattle can eat the grass) while we do some backroom deals with Turkey – an unstable regime’.

‘Keep those men women and children in a freight hold in Kent while we get our act together’ and so on…

Whatever happened to humanity and what is the modern measure?

If, for example, you are having difficulty working out whether it’s wrong or right to have embarked on an unnecessary, diversionary  EU referendum while men  and women and children are suffering fear and inhuman agonies on our borders try asking yourself this, What would Attila the Hun have done? If you fall this side of the answer you are a member of the human race. Well done.

Though to be honest even Mr The-Hun (I’m sure he would have been double barrelled) might have balked at creating more misery for people who were fleeing… well … misery. He may have approved of tear-gassing children already traumatised by war but as he didn’t have any tear-gas we can’t know. But historical conjecture has it that, despite his barbarism (let’s face it he coined the term), those who sought his protection were well treated - relatively.

So forget am I left wing / right wing. In order to join up the socio political dots – ask yourself the pertinent question. If you ask the wrong question you will get a useless answer as I found to my detriment last Thursday. My dentist insisted on excavating two deep old fillings despite my protestations that I had a parent’s evening to attend. I asked when the anaesthetic would wear off. By 4pm he said. And he was right. What I should have asked was ‘How much pain am I likely to be in when the injection wears off?’ If I had asked the pertinent question I may not have found myself almost puking with pain, shivering and woozy on the bus heading home.

In fact – get yourself one of those silly rubber wrist bands and draw on it in marker pen WHAT WOULD ATILLA DO?

Once you have that mental moral demarcation (morals – remember them?) apparent dilemmas become simple. It becomes obvious that – for example – if we can afford to let bankers off for wrecking the global economy and let uber wealthy companies and individuals off their taxes we can afford to help people fleeing the terror of war and social collapse. In other words if we can afford tax havens we can afford safe havens.

Would AtH be ok with a tiny elite hoarding the majority of the earth’s resources while others are homeless and starving? Well as long as the tiny elite were him, probably yes, he couldn’t even share with his brother. So it’s wrong.

Would AtH prefer Viagra to a cure for Malaria? Yes. (see blog 97 Viagra – Yes. Effective Cure for Malaria – No!). Though he’d also probably be keen on a cure for nosebleeds.

Would he be all for spending on wars in preference to children’s education? Yes. So it’s mad.

Other things too suddenly become very simple.
Slavery is out obviously. AtH was a fan. So - those who want people’s labour to make a profit owe them pay and basic security. There - you don’t have to worry your head about whether zero hours contracts are fair. They aren’t.

It just gets easier and easier and more straightforward.

Sycophancy tax? Yes.

Privatisation of public resources? No.

If you think that building walls 1000 miles long is the answer to social dysfunction and human misery and that punching political opponents is acceptable you should be euthanased – for your own sake - even Attila wouldn’t want you. You’re too stupid.

Try it for yourself – it really works. Forget party allegiance. This simple test establishes whether you are a human being.

Use the What would Attila do? test and see if you can work this one out;
Should we build a better future for all our children or wreck the planet with fracking and pollutants while selling arms to unstable and undemocratic regimes?

How did you do?

And if this post hasn’t got you wanting to give Tuesday a miss, have a root through the archives – try blog 158 Global Danse Macabre.
Or try anti fracking for kids with my surfmen @

I’ve been told it’s quite soothing…

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

176. Bad Hair / Nasty Blair & Merkel’s Mercy

At the start of the 90s (1990s not 1790s) when I first encountered Tony Blair he had bad hair. It was hair that said ambition, ambition, ambition but only because I’m too posh to be a rock star. Add to that the image-is-more-important-than-testicles trousers and well... But there was always something not right about the hair. Years later in that thin interview with Andrew Marr Sept 2010 Tony was cleaner cropped. Maybe someone told him that would appear more honest but he squirmed in his chair, physically dodging truth and reality; negating the trim. By 2015 when he thought (didn’t we all) that we’d soon have the loooong awaited Chilcot report – the hair was back, dangerously close to a mullet, along with his version of an apolo-xcuse.

More recently I was again unwillingly mesmerised by an image of the oozing-out-of-a-sewer Trump face with the orange birds’ nest topping, in an online news piece. At the same time more Savile horrors were on the radio and I had one of my road to Damascus moments. (No I don’t mean I was an innocent civilian getting slaughtered in Syria). I realised that a lot of bad bad men have give-away hair. We should take notice.

Savile, with his thin straggling white strands, had the hair Voldemort might have had before he went bald. Trump has – as we all know – the unhinged I’ve-been-tango’d / whipped floss arrangement that just shouts out LOCK ME UP when it can get a word in (unless you’re a rabid right wing American).

Gadhafi and Rasputin both had terrible hair.

It doesn’t work for women. Lots of dreadful women have good hair (Sarah Palin, Katie Hopkins have ok hair. Cersei Lannister has fab hair.) Merkel on the other hand has unremarkable hair and is turning out to be the angel of Europe and the conscience of the West. But from cruel and evil men to the merely smug and self-interested and many in between, bad blokes all seem to have hirsute horrors.

UK Chancellor my-family-firm-doesn’t-pay-taxes Osborne is obviously wearing the ill-fitting scalp of a zombie doll he keeps in a basement.

Sepp Blatter and Putin try with the comb-over and Kim Jong un has a Father Ted Elvis on top with a neo-Nazi shave at the sides.

As we are globally engulfed by the carnage resulting from out-of-control political testosterone, it is the female German première singularly providing humane leadership.  Yesterday we saw footage of properly documented migrants, including children, fleeing Syrian and Iraqi terror being tear-gassed on the Macedonian border by European guards. Yet again it was Merkel saying what must be said, trying to do what must be done in the name of decency.

Nelson Mandela had great hair when I met him in 1994 in Glasgow. (Yes I am name-dropping like a shallow celebrity columnist this week). My dad had good hair and my partner has no hair and he’s lovely, ditto Ghandi. So- you see?

Boris me me me me Johnson has that over-combed miscellaneous animal skin rug thing crammed down onto his pate making everything bulge out at the bottom. With that fleshy mouth, jowly jaw and pudgy fists he’s like a very ugly baby slug in a bonnet that’s gone all wrong.

And it seems to be any hair above the chin not necessarily on the head. Hitler had the worst facial hair ever.

Aha – I hear you cry – Bashar al-Assad is a murdering bastard but his head hair is not too bad. Yet here is one with a special place reserved in hell because like other full-on psycho types he likes to kill his own people but he has reasonable hair. You think you have disproved my theory. Wrong. The top 1/3 of BaA’s head belongs to one man and the bottom 2/3, including those low low low down ears, different colour moustache (with Hilteresque echoes), tape-worm mouth and no- chin chin quite clearly belong to another – the devil’s nephew.

Suffice to say, where men are concerned - BEWARE THE HAIR.