Sunday, 30 December 2012

Front line reporting from the War on Wowsers

The excellent Chris Snowdon has posted a 2012 review of neo-puritan nonsense over on his blog. It should be compulsory reading for any fool who believes that the governments of liberal democracies still regard the citizens who employ them as grown-ups.
As Chris concludes: “If there was ever any doubt that the campaign against smoking was a dress rehearsal for a wider crusade of puritanism and prohibition, those doubts were surely put to bed in 2012. The question for 2013 and, I fear, for many years to come, is how much more taxing, banning, lying and demonising will society permit before a line is drawn.”
Go to and read it NOW, or you’ll go to bed without any treats.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Should aid be used as a political tool to encourage change?

A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d lend a hand to (or at least try and interest Isle of Man Freethinkers in) the local arm of a major campaign which will kick off in 2013.
Though I and others involved have some doubts, unfortunately, by the terms of the invitation, I cannot yet say more than it is another attempt by one powerful interest group to consolidate both their stake in (and the terms of debate for) foreign aid. This is possibly before another powerful interest group can beat them to it: though actually I suspect the boat set sail months ago with that other interest group navigating it. For now, I can only say that the campaign is due to launch in the UK around 17th January, so possibly also in the Isle of Man.
Thankfully, others seem to share my worry that what is wrong in this debate is the attempt by two fixed though opposing interests to rig it so that the general taxpaying public think we are involved, contributing and being listened to while, in actuality, we are jerked around by equally abhorrent puppet masters who think it is our job to simply shut up, pay up and, in general, leave it to the experts.
The sick joke being that neither pseudo-side in this potential pseudo-debate has yet demonstrated the ability to organise a chimps’ tea party – never mind a full blown domestic policy – in a former colony.
Think of the worst, most petty-minded Manx public body you can and their disastrous attempts to, say, fix a hole in the road or organise a bin collection. Then think of the same bunch of blow-hards, malingerers and pocket-lining plonkers being let loose on a large impoverished country.
Worrying, isn’t it?
So, before the ‘official’ local debate between the official (if somewhat calcified) parties begins, why not join an honest attempt to discuss this knotty problem?
On Sunday, 13th January, 2.30 PM at Douglas Yacht Club, Andrew Dixon (Chairman of the Freethinkers) and Phil Craine (Chairman of the One World Centre and local Christian Aid worker) ask ‘Should aid be used as a political tool to encourage change?’
Both are personal friends, and both people I’ve worked with on ‘good causes’, so, though their views on this topic will differ astronomically, I am sure both speak with honest and humane intent. So I also have no hesitation in urging the real Manx public to get along and get the debate going - before it is taken out of our hands.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas spirit? What Christmas spirit? (Service? What service?)

I write this while under house arrest. More exactly, while waiting to see if whatever random skunkhead some cowboy courier service employs can be bothered to turn up with our friends’ Xmas presents. We don’t “do” extravagant Yuletide nonsense in this house, but we do like to give those we like a bit of something exotic to nibble on, just to say thanks for another year of moral support against the growing tide of Manx general ignorance.
“Ah, serves you right for not shopping local”, you say.
“Oh, sod that for a game of soldiers, you sad Calvinist half-lives”, says I, though it’s not as if we haven’t tried. The problem is, they don’t stock anything edible – or even anything you’d feed to a freeloading relative you don’t want back, if it comes to that.
Until last Christmas it was simple enough. The fabulous Moughtin Brothers ran a great little deli just five minute’s walk away where quality mattered, the customer was royalty and nothing was too much trouble. For years they have been trying to bow out gracefully and hand over to some enterprising young grocer. The trouble is, there aren’t any.
Sure, there are any number of pretentious little upstarts who want to regurgitate slop they saw on some ex-Etonian’s culinary TV show. What there are not are straightforward small town shopkeepers willing to provide honest food which originated from animals which led relatively happy (if short )lives on something we would recognise as a farm or things resembling fruit and vegetables which grew on actual trees and bushes, the above ingredients lovingly assembled and processed by people with a modicum of culinary expertise (whether acquired from relatives or apprenticeship in something resembling a restaurant or hotel kitchen).
Is this really too much to ask?
On the Isle of Man the answer is “Yes, really”.
So we were reduced to ordering online from what advertises itself as a Lake District emporium of traditional foodstuffs - which we now suspect is run by an anonymous corporation maintaining a head office, on paper, at a desirable rural mail-forwarding address, with the actual call centre and packing carried out by desperate Mancunians and Scousers who can no longer avoid the DSS on some identikit industrial estate – probably in Runcorn or somewhere equally dreadful. The order was placed on 10th December and, according to the blurb, picked up and delivery promised within 48 hours. On 18th December a mysterious e-mail arrived thanking us for an order received just that day and promised, more vaguely, within five working days. When we replied, trying to establish who would deliver and so who to chase if it didn’t turn up it emerged that said emporium, rather than an identifiable courier service, give delivery contracts via a murky intermediary to any John Wayne with a 20 year old Transit (or even Nova) who can be enticed away from the local skunk dealer for 20 minutes.
Oh well, Merry Christmas.
And if you are a dear friend, hope you enjoyed this, because thanks to the general indolence and incompetence of the 21st century retail industry it may be all you get from us this festering season.