Fool on the Hill is a ranting anarchist blog which attacks the lies and dissembling of all kinds and exposes the environmental destruction that threatens life on Earth

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September 26 2007

Value for money

There seems a general trend towards products available to buy being less robust and hard wearing than previously was the case. This isn't just a case of the China syndrome with more and more of products available in our shops being Chinese made, it's been going on for years. Often, if you possess something made in the fifties or previously, it's likely to be so robust it will never break or become unusable. While modern products appear to have shortening lives, often breaking down before the obligatory year's guarantee has expired. And this despite the urgency of cutting down on waste.

One product I'm really impressed with is a simple bowl made from what appears to be some kind of leaf, perhaps palm. These are plaited together and glued in the shape of a bowl. The picture below is of one of the three we still possess, and have possessed since the sixties, when they were second hand even then! The dogs eat their breakfast from them and they get washed every day.

They are totally indestructible [well, I haven't tried to burn them] appear to have been made with a low-tech method from organic recyclable materials, and they used to be around in large numbers, and presumably still are if ours is a common experience. All manner of glass, pottery, melamine, nylon and wooden bowls have come and gone in the meantime, wood being the longest lasting of them, but these things just refuse to break, don't absorb water, and just go on from one year to the next. As they were bought, I think I remember, from a Scout jumble sale initially, for a few pence, this has to be the most outstanding bargain and value for money in the history of civilization or at least of kitchen ware. I would love to find out how and where they are made, and if they are still available. We only have three left; there used to be four but one got lost over the decades with a number of house moves, and I'd love to get more to make up a set. In an age of cheap tat with nothing lasting very long at all, these are an outstanding example of what can be achieved, clearly a technology worth preserving in this age of instant trash. Or maybe the y saturated the market and went out of business, with no one needing replacements it's a bit anticapitalist before its time.

Comment


September 25 2007

The death of democracy

The Labour Party used to have lively conferences full of dissent, high emotions, argument and debate. Blair and his co-conspirators killed all that, and now Brown with his anal-retentive determination to control everything has shown where he's coming from, and the neqLabour conference, currently winding its way to a close has none of the exchange of ideas which once made the party a lively, ethical powerhouse of committed people. It is now a tightly controlled bunch of conscienceless suits with no other motive than to stay in power and keep their overpaid jobs, with a smattering of dumb acolytes clapping like trained seals whenever key words are uttered. Talk about Pavlov's dog.

Of course the invasion of Iraq sorted out any with a conscence, and half the party left, never to return, leaving just a few like Walter Wolfgang hanging on in the optimistic belief that the party they love would somehow one day change back. It won't. It's rejected socialism, and that word never passes the lips of this new breed of cold, calculating Scots. There is no debate, no controversial resolutions, no heated fringe meetings, just supine flattery of the main players, rubber stamping of what Brown wants, platitudes and sales of memorabilia. The only difference with the Tories is that the latter don't pretend to be 'the people's protector' or any other hypocritical bollox. So the UK has no choice any more, except between groups of vision-less managers with a different colour for their posters [this also seems to be changing, Brown has chosen a pale blue background, surely a semiotic for tory voters], and democracy is just a word to wave at foreigners with a different political system when they want to bomb them.

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September 21 2007

You can fool some of the people some of the time...

The McCanns must be getting desperate to convince everyone they are not implicated in the disappearance of their daughter, now they are saying they will take a lie detector test, perhaps they read it here on The Fool! That isn't to say they have nothing to hide however; it could be a bluff to silence criticism, or they may think they could pass one by using the various methods touted for fooling a lie detector. With the Portuguese police saying they were ready to disclose all the evidence they have against them as required under Portuguese law, including all the phone taps on them and their friends, they had to come up with something to take the media's mind off why they wouldn't want that to happen.

The UK media have been very partial in the matter, with the assumption that they were innocent of any wrong doing from the start, including no criticism of leaving their children unattended all evening after leaving them in the creche all day, apparently, according to Portuguese sources, they were left there every day, hardly the 'family holiday' we were told they were on. Now I hear that staff at the crech say that Kate McCann was aggressive towards Madeleine, and that Madeleine was 'difficult' - children who are not bonded with their parents often are described as difficult due to emotional problems. I also understand that a Portuguese woman who was invited to share their table that evening says that no one left the table all evening, contrary to tales we have heard of the dedicated parents checking on the children every half hour. None of this has been reported in the UK media, but has been in the Portuguese press. No one can possibly have missed the fact that neither parent behaved as normal parents do on their child disappearing, both have appeared emotionless and cold, playing a role but not feeling it.

Usually in a case like this there is no question that the parents are distraught and beyond suspicion. They are usually desperate and pleading, they don't have 'spokepersons' or PR campaigns, they don't go on world tours or get to meet the pope, they don't initiate campaigns with ribbons, wristbands, balloons, posters and a website. They don't set up a limited company and ask for donations, now totalling more than a million and still growing, to fund a jetsetter lifestyle where money is no object and work and earning a living in what was once a normal life is cast aside for a high profile media campaign where the press were informed every time they go for a walk. People are naturally growing more and more suspicious of it all, none of it is normal behaviour. People know instinctively that something is not right. No amount of professional PR spin can counteract that sense of unease about it, nor resolve all the questions this behaviour raises. No amount of money.

Of course the UK media all along have been biased in their favour; a middle class family, three pretty blond children, respected doctors, it might have been a different matter if it had been a single parent leaving her children alone for hours in a strange resort, or black working class parents without the communication skills who would have been judged lacking and irresponsible. But even the crassest of tabloid journos now seems to have sussed something's not quite right, which is presumably why they have now announced their willingness to undergo lie detectors, although I'll be surprised if this is anything but another PR stunt to get everyone to forget about the evidence which can only be made public if they request it, something an entirely innocent person would be keen to do. Something in the woodpile smells bad.

Comment


September 20 2007

Flying round the world

Always a fan of flight simulators, I was excited when I learned that Google Earth has a hidden and unpublicised flight simulator which you access with ctrl+alt+A (or command+option+A on a Mac) or, if that doesn't work try ctrl+A. Having used Google Earth to fly over terrain by just setting it off spinning slowly, I was ready for this as you get controls too. Apart from searching the mountains of Torra Bora for Ussama and looking at your own house from 100 feet up, there's a world out there to be explored and this way your carbon footprint remains a cool zero. The Moody Blues sang back in the sixties 'Thinking is the best way to travel' and they were so right! This way Google does the thinking for you and you just enjoy. An alternative where you don't have to learn the basic flight controls is Goggles, which uses Google Earth mapping but is much simpler, with control being in the arrow keys.

Comment


September 18 2007

If you have nothing to hide, why hire PR professionals and a legal team?

Clarence Mitchell has been hired by Kate and Gerry McCann as their new official spokesman. He is the former Foreign Office spin doctor who helped the couple before and yesterday announced he was giving up his government job to act as their full-time advisor. PR experts have figured massively in the McCann story since Madeleine went missing in Praia da Luz on May 3 according to The First Post.

First to arrive in Portugal was a former Mirror journalist and long-term government spokesperson called Sheree Dodd. But Dodd was swiftly replaced by the more senior and bombastic figure of Clarence Mitchell, who took a pro-active role, orchestrating a visit to meet the Pope and a tour which took in Spain, Germany and Morocco.

My take on the story is thus: A group of doctor friends/colleagues went on holiday together to a child friendly resort. To have uninterrupted evenings free from kids they were in the habit of giving them a little something to help them sleep [the Portuguese were suspicious from the start, no children are going to sleep at 7.30 with all the excitement of the holiday and with it still light]. On the night Madeleine 'disappeared' another child in the group was vomiting, but this didn't delay the parent's speedy return to the restaurant, apparently passing Gerry McCann on the way. They got the dose wrong, and Madeleine probably choked on her own vomit while sedated. Since then it's been a damage limitation exercise, although they failed to manage the look of distraught parents which is usually the case when a child is abducted; the mother can usually barely speak, anguish is written all over their faces, they blurt out something because they have been told by the police it might help. This pair have had none of that, they seemed to swing into the campaign fully charged, no room for emotion when protecting your very livelihood [they would be struck off] and freedom. The friends would have helped in the campaign because otherwise it could come out that they too had been drugging their children, with obvious consequences for them.

Evidence: No emotions displayed by the parents. The mother washed the cuddly toy immediately after the disappearance which she'd been clutching as a prop in all public appearances, didn't want it to smell of her daughter then, or was it vomit stained? The father looks like a nasty piece of work, his face often contorted in an angry sneer. Not once has he mellowed to display a human emotion one would expect, perhaps he doesn't know how.

Bottom line is; if they are so keen to prove their innocence why not take a lie detector test? Much cheaper than a firm of PR consultant and a £40,000 PR campaign. Lots of money left to spend, and, judging from the letters of support on the website they are all from religious fantasists who 'know' she is still alive, who 'know' the McCanns had nothing to do with her disappearance, and who 'trust in god' she will come home. So no incisive, rational analysis there then.

Comment


September 17 2007

If you got nuthin you got nuthin to lose

Even those who resisted the urge initially are now queueing at Northern Rock shops all over to get their cash, fueled by the media who, like pyromaniacs at a forest fire, are busy fanning the flames of panic while pretending to be reporting on it. Those queueing all appear to be white haired, and are probably the same people who, having spent their entire lives saving money for their pensions rather than having a life, now drive aimlessly about the country in mobile homes replete with satellite dish and all mod cons, pretending to be footloose and fancy free like those travellers of their generation who did it when young. When this old, there's a limit to what you can get up to other than worrying about everything, and mostly they seem to drive from one supermarket to another, getting supplies for the long trek, which is never further than to the next beauty spot or must see tourist attraction.

Having absolutely no money either as savings or pension, I don't have any problems with financial institutions getting shaky, and can observe the action with a certain detachment. Hope I die before I get old.

Comment


September 16 2007

Don't panic!

The inevitable dip of capitalism begins with a loss of confidence. And despite the Bank of England guaranteeing Northern Rock, this is enough to scare the little people with all their wealth invested with them, and the sight of queues outside branches has been enough to fuel the panic as they all withdraw their savings, guaranteeing that the company gets even shakier. An opportunity for muggers and burglars I should think; hang around outside your local branch of Northern Rock and follow one of the [usually elderly] people as they walk away with their little Northern Rock plastic bag full of their life's savings, doubtless due to be hidden under the bed at least for a night, which is where the burglars come in. That's when they find out the money was actually safer left where it was, guaranteed by the Bank of England, the same organisation which issued the paper money they still have more confidence in.

Northern Rock, a new kind of financial institution, having started out in life as a mortgage lender, changed from building society to bank at some point and expanded hugely, borrowing massive sums from other banks, including US ones. This is where they came unstuck, as the US lending industry has been going insane for years, lending money to people who had no chance of ever repaying. Now the US banks are unwilling to risk their money anywhere, having got a severe shock, and Northern Rock, it's CEO sounding more like someone running a bargain basement warehouse than the largest mortgage lender in the UK, suffers. So caught up in the rises in house prices and the 'profits' being made, greed took over and all involved thought it could go on forever. It can't. Now house prices will drop and drop, many will suddenly find they have a house which is worth half what they owe on it and they can't sell because they would have to find the shortfall. Those who still have profit to show, will have gained it from those who have lost out, and repossessions will start up soon as people fail to keep up payments on overpriced mortgages which were based on false prices. That's capitalism for you, there are always losers.

Comment


September 14 2007

All the shots worth printing

My very latest photograph, well, it's not really, but I just rediscovered it and was gobsmacked at how beautiful it is, having taken it last autumn in an avenue of Beech trees at Croft Castle near where I live.

A large selection of my work is here and some more here with a slideshow.

I'm trawling through my archives dating from the sixties and starting with my very first photographs. Of course the quality of the early ones isn't much, a Mamiaflex twin lens reflex was all I could afford then, but I soon moved onto Leica, Hassesblad and Pentax until I came to Canon. I'm now in the same position again with digital, wanting a Canon SLR but only having a Kodak Easyshare. But photography is more about the 'eye' than the equipment, and I've learned to use whatever tool I have. I have shots of folk singers Joan Baez, Donovan and Carolyn Hester, sit downs in Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, marches and vigils, crowd scenes and lots of children as we were making babies not war. My new scanner [a Canon, what else] can scan film strips, either positive or negative, and with some fiddling I can even get one of the 35mm slides into the holder and scan to digital. Everything from four decades in two cardboard boxes is thus accessible to the digital age, but I fear I shall only manage a fraction, in my usual haphazard way. Perhaps a historian of the future will discover it and investigate, that's if there's enough time for it to move into history. The Greenland ice sheet threatens to consign it all to homo sapiens' past.

Comment


September 11 2007

The truth may come out eventually

So, the McCann case is with the public prosecutor and we shall see what they make of it all. There a a number of facts about the case which are rather odd, and if I were a policeman I would have been very interested in them. It appears that the McCanns were part of a group of medical people, either friends or colleagues, all with children, and all in the habit of leaving their children in the evening to go out for a meal. It was during such a group meal that Madeleine 'disappeared'. In the UK it is illegal to leave small children on their own without a responsible adult, and as the leisure complex in Portugal had babysitters, it is strange none of these doctors availed themselves of the service. They occasionally popped back to check on the children, a bit like doing 'obs' in a hospital. It was during one of these visits that a child was said to have been vomiting, which didn't delay the parent too long before they returned to the restaurant. This was on the evening of the 'disappearance' of Madeleine, so at least one other child was potentially at risk.

If these medical professionals were in the habit of dosing their children with sedatives to ensure they had a trouble free evening, there is the possibility that not only would this explain the vomiting [no mention has been made about food poisoning] but might also fit a scenario where Madeleine choked on vomit and died. At which point, what to do? Do they own up to the police, at which point they would all be investigated, would almost certainly lose custody of all their children and face prosecution, or cover up, close ranks and build a story about her abduction? They have certainly been amazingly adept at manipulating the media; with regular press conferences, alerts when the 'grieving parents' were about to take a walk on the beach, a constant drip of information, which, in the absence of anything from the police who could not under Portuguese law say anything, was all the media had to run with, and run they did. The campaign really took off and the McCanns became celebrities, did a European tour, met the Pope, and created a website at which Jerry writes a daily blog in which he further reiterates the official line. And all along they have not seemed like parents who have lost their child to an abductor with all that could mean. No hint of the hysteria and glazed pain of other parents in this situation, just poised, serious faces with a hint from Jerry of anger. The 'official bring Madeleine home' campaign has so far raised in excess of a million pounds and shows no signs of slowing down. A committee runs it and none of them will entertain any suggestion the McCanns could be implicated. True believers one and all.

We now find out that they have been under suspicion almost from the start and were aware of this, which could explain why they have been conducting a virtual exercise in public relations to establish their innocence. I wonder if they realised that their mobile phones were being tapped and emails monitored. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Comment


September 3 2007

Words

When is a withdrawal not a withdrawal? When it's a controlled withdrawal, apparently, although I'd rather call it a defeat. Having failed to make any progress in Basra, the British Army has decided to remove itself as a target and withdraw to the airport to make leaving Iraq that much easier and quicker. And on the same day (coincidence?), Bush decides to visit 'his boys' for a mutual gay cuddle (one of the shaven-headed ponces got carried away and nuzzled his neck on camera, I bet he had a hard on at the time) then a short speech for the 'folks back home' and a quick dash to the plane before any Iraqis got wind of him (not difficult, bet he was farting hamburger out of fear all the way). Contrary to any sane expectation, the US troops seem to love him, quite unlike the population at home, despite his being responsible for their buddies' deaths and them all being in the hell hole and target practice for every Islamist who wants a fight. Still, being of the diminished intelligence variety of hominid, it's to be expected they won't have put that together yet. Cue a few years time when they join the Vietnam vets whining about their problems and bad dreams. Well suckers, you didn't have to join the army, so who you gonna blame?

Morons who join armies are just as responsible as the gutless politicians for wars, after all, if no one joined, how would the jumped up inadequates like Bush and Blair ever get anyone to fight their wars? The answer to aggression is for the whole population to be armed in an emergency like being invaded, just like the ancient Celts who proved such a bother to the Romans, the original white men. Standing armies are just a bunch of psychos waiting to be let loose, no wonder politicians with delusions of greatness jump at the chance. He's the universal soldier, and he really is to blame.

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The scenes from this war will create thousands maybe even millions of militants intent on inflicting damage on the only superpower. The war will be waged across America and in any American outpost and embassy. It will be brutal and messy and will continue for decades. Bush doesn't know what he has unleashed.
Fool on the hill March 2003

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