Monthly Archives: December 2010

Assange costs you Five!

OK: your starter for ten.

Where are Pooh, Tigger, Kanga, Piglet and Eeyore?

Not on the page, cretin! In actuality?

They are in the clutches of the New York Public Library. And Jennifer Finney Boylan [“Crazy name! Crazy gal!” © Glenda Slagg @] will tell you the whys and wherefors on the New York Times site.

Let us move swiftly on.

Or rather back some years in time: these things are relative. As is this anecdote.

The Lady in his Life and Malcolm were in New York. They went to view MoMA; and enjoyed almost every MoMent. They were accompanied by the (much younger than she is today) Pert Young Piece. Said Pert Young Piece was just about up to recognising a few of the better-advertised art-works; but was clearly not exactly enthused by the whole operation.

Ice-cream was promised to assuage the problem.

Malcolm (in possession of the guide-book), however, called an intermission.

A swift crossing of West 53rd St brought the entourage to the Donnell Library Centre, a branch of the New York Public Library — and now, sadly, closed these last couple of years. There there was a childrens’ library. Which held a glass prison, in which were detained said suspects: Pooh, Tigga, Kanga, Piglet and Eyeore.

Alas! To the considerable distress of pre-Pert Young Piece, no Baby Roo. But that self-empathy is another story, best beloved.

Let us visit the visitor’s book!

The New York Public Library must retain such things.

There the proto-Pert Young Piece inscribed her name and London address, adding the protest:

Repatriate the Hundred Acre Wood Five!

And Malcolm was proud of her for it.

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Filed under Law, Literature, New York City, New York Times, reading

The World Turned Upside Down

It’s the name of several decent (and the odd indecent) pubs around the country. The one down the Old Kent Road closed some time back; but Malcolm fondly believes its namesake in Reading continues.

Some say the name came about because of the discovery of Australia, the predicted “southern continent”. Perhaps another, better explanation is the earlier 1646 ballad lamenting the changes, especially the abolition of Christmas traditions, imposed by the extreme puritanism of the English Revolution:

Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d.
Old Christmas is kickt out of Town.
Yet let’s be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn’d upside down.

… a golden Chain …

For a start, for the metaphor of turning the world “upsidedown” to work, the image of a globe needs to be established. Which in itself raises a question: when did common culture accept the Copernican universe? Milton, a precise contemporary of that ballad, at least for the purposes of his poetry, preferred the Pythagorean notion. In Book II of Paradise Lost, the entire created universe still hangs from Heaven by a golden chain:

Farr off th’ Empyreal Heav’n, extended wide
In circuit, undetermind square or round,
With Opal Towrs and Battlements adorn’d
Of living Saphire, once his native Seat;
And fast by hanging in a golden Chain
This pendant world, in bigness as a Starr
Of smallest Magnitude close by the Moon.

Of course neither Milton nor his audience were so unsophisticated and lacking in scientific knowledge to accept that. Therefore, at the start of Book VIII, Milton’s Adam presses the Archangel Raphael for clarification about:

… this Earth a spot, a graine,
An Atom, with the Firmament compar’d
And all her numberd Starrs, that seem to rowle
Spaces incomprehensible (for such
Thir distance argues and thir swift return
Diurnal) meerly to officiate light
Round this opacous Earth, this punctual spot …

Opacous [OED: not shining, dull, dark]: what would Milton (or any other poet or seer) make of those iconic images of Earth seen from space?

… by revolution lowering …

At the beginning of Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare has Antony in Egypt  (Act I, scene ii) receiving a series of reports, all contrary, concluding with the death of his wife Fulvia. This determines him to return to Rome:

Thus did I desire it:
What our contempt doth often hurl from us,
We wish it ours again; the present pleasure,
By revolution lowering, does become
The opposite of itself: she’s good, being gone;
The hand could pluck her back that shoved her on.
I must from this enchanting queen break off:
Ten thousand harms, more than the ills I know,
My idleness doth hatch.

With this simple phrase, Shakespeare provides the “foreshadowing” of the whole subsequent drama. At one level it is simply the diurnal “revolution” of the earth, as surely as night follows day. At another it implies the nature of fickle Fortuna.

Rota Fortunae

On doesn’t get far in early literature without hitting on the Greek deity Tychē, or her Roman equivalent Fortuna. Poor old Ovid, exiled up the Black Sea for drawing attention to the affairs going on in the Imperial family, writes home lamenting his luck and the malevolent Fortuna who landed him so far away:

quid facis, a! demens? cur, si Fortuna recedat,
naufragio lacrimis eripis ipse tuo?
haec dea non stabili, quam sit levis, orbe fatetur,
quae summum dubio sub pede semper habet.

Which translates something like:

Ah, why do this, madman? Why, in case Fortune should leave you, do you rob your own shipwreck of tears? She is a goddess who shows her own fickleness by her unstable wheel; she always has his high point under her unsteady foot.


That only makes sense if an image is already established, of the goddess standing on the Wheel of Fortune, a wheel that inevitably will turn, lift up the mighty, then throw them down again.

Around AD524  Boethius considered the working of Fate  in The Consolation of Philosophy. Christianity may have denied Fortuna her deity, and forced her into an abstraction, “casus”. She’s still there, with her wheel. She is in the tesselated pavement of the Duomo of Siena, no less (as right).

Chaucer translates and repeatedly refers to Boethius, and so the student of English literature has to tackle it as it as a standard text. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, then, Chaucer is taking the image of Fortune’s Wheel, and using the word “revolution” in a changed sense, so an important English metaphor is developing:

It is of Love, as of Fortune,
That chaungeth oft, and nill contune,
Which whylome woll of folke smile,
And glombe on hem another while …
A foole is he that woll her trust,
For it is I that am come down
Through change and revolutioun.

“Only a fool trusts her, for I am brought down through change and revolution.”


Anybody knows one phrase from Hamlet, Act V, scene i. The gravedigger passes Hamlet a skull, saying it is that of Yorick, the former king’s jester. Prince Hamlet comments:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

A few lines earlier Hamlet is regarding another skull, tossed out of the exhumation:

This might be my lord such-a-one, that prais’d my lord such-a-one’s horse, when he meant to beg it; might it not? … Why, e’en so; and now my Lady Worm’s; chapless, and knock’d about the mazzard [head] with a sexton’s spade. Here’s fine revolution, if we had the trick to see’t. Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggats [sticks] with’em? Mine ache to think on ’t.


We are nearly arrived at the modern, political sense of “revolution”. By the later seventeenth century it has arrived. John Evelyn, the diarist, says of the flight of King James II in 1688:

The Popists in offices lay down their Commissions & flie: ‥.  it lookes like a Revolution.

That term, always with its capital letter, is soon the normal description for the Williamite take-over (presumably it made the English think better of themselves than the reality of a Dutch occupation). Clarendon is at it in 1704:

Many of these excluded Members [those excluded by the Restoration of Charles II] ‥. forbore coming any more to the House for many years; some, not before the Revolution.

Small “r”

Somewhere in all that the world was indeed turned politically upsidedown, by the Civil War, by the Restoration, by 1688 … then by the recognition that the Americans were being revolting: there is a prescient comment by a columnist in the Gentleman’s and London Magazine of November 1766, that

I doubt they [the American colonies] border on open rebellion; and ‥. I fear they will lose that name to take that of revolution.

Somewhere in this “great chain”, the notion of revolution as a great personal, social and political change becomes embedded in the fibre of the language and thinking of the English. No surprise, then, that they put the image on pub-signs.

When comes the next one?

Alex Glasgow had the idea in Close the Coalhouse Door:

We’ll shoot the aristocracy,
And confiscate their brass.
Create our own democracy,
Thats truly workin’ class

As soon as this Pub closes,
As soon as this Pub closes,
As soon as this Pub Closes,
We’ll raise the banner high.

Pubs are closing across the country at a rate of six, seven or eight every day. The next revolution must be about due.


Filed under broken society, culture, folk music, History, leftist politics., Literature, politics, pubs, Quotations, reading, Shakespeare, underclass

A cheat called Dave

Then and now —

6 December 2005:

Admirable and high-minded:

And we need to change, and we will change, the way we behave. I’m fed up with the Punch and Judy politics of Westminster, the name calling, backbiting, point scoring, finger pointing.

15 December 2010:

Deplorable and personal:

As for the one liners, Miliband had suggested that Cameron was “good at the broad brush and the airbrush” to which Cameron hit back: “There are moments when I think I’m up against Basil Brush“, to roars of laughter fro[m] his own side.

In passing —

The Sun [19 March 2010] previously outed Basil Brush as a Labour Fifth Columnist:

There’s clearly something about David Cameron and glove puppets that deserves further investigation.


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Filed under BBC, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, smut peddlers, Tories.

The worm turns

Excellent little essay by Antony Wells at his site.

His starting point is the same British Social Attitudes survey that provided Polly Toynbee’s morning meat.

Be clear, however, that study interprets figures from 2009. That was then: this is now; and the shift of attitude is already palpable (particularly if one is a LibDem supporter).

What Wells does is a nice summary. He doubles back to Nicholas Allen and John Bartle in their study of the 2010 Election:

John Bartle has aggregated together all the suitable tracker questions from polls since 1938 (a total of 4,236 questions) and coded responses as being left wing or right wing. This produces an average left-right position for the public each year, expressed on a scale from 0 (very right wing) to 100 (very left wing).

That generates this graphic representation of shifting opinion (here with a superimposed colour-coded control of Westminster):

Wells pertinently observes:

Above is how this political centre has shifted around since 1950. As is self-evident, public opinion gradually moved rightwards during the 1960s and 1970s, then switched and moved steadily leftward throughout the Thatcher-Major government, before moving to the right again under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. For the last two governments the correlation is pretty much perfect – under a government of the left the public react by moving to the right, under a government of the right the public react by moving to the left. It doesn’t seem to work quite so well pre-1979.

Well, among other dubious assumptions that ignores the Butskellism that prevailed before the ’70s, and that Blair/Brown was a government of the left; but let’s press on.

Now comes the trick: compare that, by inverting the right/left tracking, with government spending. This is the quite-remarkable result:

Again, Wells’s comment is as good as it gets:

The match isn’t so perfect as spending as a % of GDP jumps about a lot in response to recessions and booms, but there is still a clear relationship – as public spending rises, people react by becoming more right wing, as it falls people become more left wing. Underlying public opinion essentially operates like a thermostat … as public spending rises, more and more people switch to thinking that the state taxes and does too much. As it falls, more and more people think the government should be re-distributing more, spending more on public services and so on (of course, most people don’t have a clue how much the country actually spends as a percentage of GDP. What changes opinions on an individual scale will be people’s own personal experiences.)

What we have then (to mix metaphors) is a “hidden hand”, a self-correcting pendulum-swing of opinion.

Now Malcolm has, for decades, maintained there is a Newtonian Third Law at work in public opinion. Each action has its inevitable reaction. Perhaps it is simply the cussedness of the British electorate.

The test of the thesis is whether the next reaction is already under way, with a swing to the left. Since the ConDem “Brokeback Coation” is hell-bent on a neoliberal agenda, we might easily assume that the reaction will be as violent and as extreme.

The future’s bright. The future’s not orange.

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Filed under Conservative Party policy., Guardian, History, Labour Party, leftist politics., Lib Dems, polls, Tories., ukpollingreport

Royalism: the last resort of some scoundrels

Groucho Marx sent the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills a telegram:

Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.

Old Jolyon of Galsworthy’s The Man of Property had the same inclination:

He was too old to be a Liberal, had long ceased to believe in the political doctrines of his Club, had even been known to allude to them as ‘wretched stuff,’ and it afforded him pleasure to continue a member in the teeth of principles so opposed to his own. He had always had a contempt for the place, having joined it many years ago when they refused to have him at the ‘Hotch Potch’ owing to his being ‘in trade.’ As if he were not as good as any of them! He naturally despised the Club that did take him. The members were a poor lot, many of them in the City—stockbrokers, solicitors, auctioneers—what not! Like most men of strong character but not too much originality, old Jolyon set small store by the class to which he belonged. Faithfully he followed their customs, social and otherwise, and secretly he thought them ‘a common lot.’

So we come to another ‘wretched stuff’ Liberal and his club.

Bob Russell, the LibDem MP for Colchester, has engineered his way into the public prints with this:

Obviously Russell is in favour of bread-and-circuses and anything that distracts attention from ConDem incompetence (who provoked those street protests and why?). Russell may well find that more than a few of the “nation” ruefully eye the costs of this little extravagance.

Guilt by association

Then we discover that Russell is a member of a very select club: the Constitutional Monarchy Association. Its very web-address breathes over-inflation: So, let’s look in the round and totality at its distinguished patrons:

  • H D Dickie Bird MBE (retired cricket umpire and jobbing “character”);
  • Sir Cliff Richard OBE (say no more);
  • The Viscount Exmouth (otherwise undistinguished scion of the great frigate captain, prototype for Horation Hornblower, Sir Edward Pellew;
  • Lord Jones of Cheltenham (PR man and former LibDem MP);
  • The Baroness Knight of Collingtree DBE (the very right-wing and fruity former Tory MP, Jill Knight);
  • The Viscount & Viscountess Massereene & Ferrard (he is a.k.a. John David Clotworthy Whyte-Melville Foster Skeffington, stockbroker and another Monday Club right-winger, with strong family connections to Ulster Unionism and the Orange Order);
  • The Lord Northbrook (of the Barings Bank dynasty, a Tory spokesman in the House of Lords, and a London clubman);
  • Hon Sir Jonathon Porritt CBE (doesn’t publicise his baronetcy, an ecologist with a hot line to the heir to the throne);
  • The Viscount Simon (a Labour peer, grandson of Sir John Simon, “the slime of hypocrisy” [Lloyd George], “a toad and a worm” [Harold Nicholson] who slithered from being a Liberal to pre-War Tory appeaser);
  • David Atkinson; (car salesman and former Tory MP);
  • Greg Barker MP (fellow Tory husky hugger with David Cameron; a close associate of Russian plutocrats including Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich);
  • Roy Beggs (very right-wing Ulster Unionist and Orangeman, advocate of corporal punishment);
  • Henry Bellingham MP (barrister and farmer; loyalist and reputed nice-but-dim Tory MP and now junior minister);
  • Sir Sydney Chapman RIBA FRTPI (architect and former retreaded MP, “The dullest Tory candidate” [London Evening Standard] in 2001);
  • Sir Patrick Cormack FSA (former Tory MP and about to become a life peer: if one must be a Tory, he is as decent as they come);
  • Nirj Deva DL MEP (Sri Lankan born former Tory MP, Bow Grouper but with links to the Reaganite Heritage Foundation of the Republican Party);
  • Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA; (former acolyte of Enoch Powell, Orangeman, UUP defector to the DUP, widely despised in Northern Ireland for upward mobility);
  • Peter Duncan (presumably the Scottish Tory, rather than the Blue Peter presenter?);
  • Michael Fabricant MP (another Tory: this one a political joke, mainly for his suspiciously-farmed hair);
  • Cheryl Gillan MP (former Tory Whip, now Welsh Secretary who previously opposed devolution; ran into trouble over her dog-food and second-home expenses claims);
  • Gerald Howarth MP (Tory Monday Clubber, who had to be swiftly shuffled at the Defence Ministry because of his over-close ties to arms-dealers);
  • Edward Leigh MP (about as right-wing and unreconstructed as any Tory can get);
  • Peter Luff MP (was Ted Heath’s officer manager, but has redeemed himself among straight Tories by hard committee work and an interest in fox-hunting);
  • Patrick Mercer OBE MP (a decent Tory back-bencher , ex-soldier, sacked from front bench by Cameron because of “racist” remarks about ethnic minorities in the forces);
  • Andrew Rosindell MP (Romford born-and-bred right-wing hang ’em, Monday Club Tory, expenses diddler);
  • Bob Russell MP (the hero of this post);
  • Lord Spicer, the erstwhile Sir Michael Spicer (former assiduous and knowledgeable economist on the Commons Treasury Select Committee; ran into trouble over expenses for his helipad);
  • Sir Teddy Taylor (former right-wing Thatcherite Tory MP, hanger-and-flogger, Europhobe, and leading light of the Monday Club);
  • Sir Nicholas Winterton DL (and a final right-wing Tory, Monday Clubber, Europhobe, expenses fiddler, bum-pincher and snob).

All of which underlines that Groucho and Galsworthy had it spot on.

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Filed under bigotry, Britain, broken society, Conservative family values, cricket, David Cameron, Devolution, DUP, Lib Dems, prejudice, sleaze., social class, Tories.

Pickled cuts 1

Today Eric Pickles announced the cuts that he has ordained for local authorities.

Malcolm has been able only to review those for London. All but two of the Boroughs with the “easiest” settlement are ConDem councils. The worst-hit eight are all Labour. This, colour-coded for political control, is how they look in order of severity:

Richmond upon Thames -0.61%
Havering -1.71%
Harrow -1.90%
Bromley -2.46%
Kingston upon Thames -2.57%
Barnet -2.60%
Redbridge -2.61%
Enfield -2.78%
Bexley -2.79%
Sutton -2.80%
GLA – all functions -2.85%
Hillingdon -3.11%
Merton -3.84%
Hounslow -4.69%
Ealing -4.87%
Croydon -5.04%
Waltham Forest -5.22%
Kensington and Chelsea -5.26%
Brent -5.85%
Barking and Dagenham -5.95%
Wandsworth -6.45%
City of London -6.48%
Lewisham -6.49%
Camden -6.54%
Hammersmith and Fulham -6.56%
Westminster -7.22%
Lambeth -7.70%
Greenwich -7.72%
Haringey -7.90%
Southwark -8.44%
Islington -8.78%
Hackney -8.90%
Tower Hamlets -8.90%
Newham -8.90%

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Filed under Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Lib Dems, London, politics, Tories.

Nice, naice … or just naff?

That’s the trouble with LibDems: superficially and individually almost harmless. Then someone gets an idea; it all goes ballistic and we end up with the Brokeback Coalition.

But how does one “unveil” Christmas tree? As here:

If you join the campaign this weekend, on Sunday you can join us for Christmas Dinner and the unveiling of our campaign Christmas Tree. Bring a decoration and help us to get the campaign in the Christmas spirit!

To Malcolm’s mind, there’s generally something a bit fishy once the exclamation marks are deployed.

Sure enough, here one comes again with today’s exciting instalment:

It’s two weekends before Christmas and I’m writing this from the Campaign HQ in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

There’s a really good atmosphere here – the place is buzzing with people, and I’ve just unveiled the official campaign Christmas tree!

Eleven further sentences in that piece, and — sure enough — two more screamers!

In passing, the betting at William Hill,  at the time of posting, was Labour 1/7 on, LibDems 7/1 against.

So, let’s view this magnificent and well-dressed specimen (Malcolm assumes it’s the one in the middle):

Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, we're goin' to get a tanning.

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