Oborne the Brave

Do we remember when Nick Cohen had a druken pop at two conservative columnists who were shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, he questioned their journalistic braveness (against his Martin Bright standard, who took his right wing ideas to the Statesman – like a man), Peter Hitchens for playing it safe in the Mail, and Oborne for much the same reason. Well I wonder if they took heed, I recently saw Hitchens write a reply to an article mentioning him in the staggers, and today Oborne today wrote a kind of introduction to his new book in favour of the Human Rights Act in the Guardian.

Oborne noted;

Myths abound about the act. These start out as newspaper reports. Soon they enter popular discourse. It is not long before they are used in the speeches of politicians. And yet almost invariably they are fabrications, or sometimes even outright lies. In our book we provide numerous examples. It is widely reported that hardcore pornography is available in prison thanks to the act, that the police cannot put up “wanted” posters thanks to it, and that it prevented Britain deporting Learco Chindamo, the killer of headteacher Philip Lawrence. All these stories – and many others – have distorted and poisoned public discourse on the Human Rights Act. They are false.

These myths (and/or major criticisms) about Human rights, I wondered, in which newspapers would they be likely to appear in, remembering for a moment who Oborne’s employers are? Perhaps this Metro report can help us. Of course the Metro are owned by Associated Newspapers (as are the Daily Mail). Does Oborne despair over this, perhaps not enough, causing one interested blogger to ask ‘why Obore didn’t write that in his Mail column?!’

This article by Afua Hirsch also details other examples where the Mail were responsible for erroneous reportage on Human rights, in particular the story headlined “The war criminals we cannot deport because of their human rights” which “suggested the Human Rights Act, and not – as is actually the case – a loophole in the UK’s implementation of international law, was to blame for genocide suspects living with impunity in the UK.”

She mentions in her article the case of Denis Nilsen who the press went crazy for when it noted he was allowed to view hardcore pornography as part of his human rights. Oborne himself mentions this in today’s article, as can be seen in the given quote above.

No prizes for guessing which organ of the press also had fun with this story. For those who can’t guess, see here!

David What a Mess

The story that made me the happiest today was news that David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, told staff at Heathrow Airport that Osama Bin Laden had packed his bags for his Virgin Atlantic flight, shortly before throwing up in front of them, and then writing a letter of complaint to them.

Apparently he wasn’t even pissed up, which is lucky since this would constitute irresponsible drinking, an apparent hot potato for our favourite anti-abortion, friend of Israel.

But what, if not booze, made him throw up? Perhaps too much Cake? Video evidence for his dubious paranoia over the subject can be seen here (skip until 02.50).

Here is a picture of Amess in a cake shop in Leigh-on-Sea (via here)


David Amess with Juliette, proprietor of  Leigh cake shop Fancy Nancy

Need I say more?

Celebrity Paedophiles, the republican pricetag?

I just finished reading Nick Cohen’s very good piece in the Observer today, about Roman Polanski, and decided to comment on it myself (scroll down on this link to see), which I will re-post here.

Cohen says

Tories claim that Britain has a “liberal judiciary” but in two respects our judges are reactionaries. They will not stand up for freedom of expression, and they will not defend the rights of women or, as the Polanski case shows, the rights of girls either.

To which I replied was an admirable twist, it’s on the reactionaries’ watch that Britain is, to utilise this minging turn of phrase, “soft-touch”.

Cohen previously explained that poor old France

destroys the feudal order in the Revolution only to replace an aristocracy of nobles with an aristocracy of celebrities. The notion that Polanski – an artist! – could be arrested for molesting 13-year old Samantha Gailey turned the brain of its foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, as soft as Camembert.

It should be reminded that Sartre filled that space too at one point, lovely Johnny Paul, so maybe there is a further set of hegemonic criteria for the celebrity-filled void in France, perhaps this is all spelt out in Chinatown.

Incidentally I should like it known that I’m soft-touch myself, I’m not boycotting any of Polanki’s movies, they’re brilliant! Paedophile or not, his films are timeless classics, but the era of celebrity, as Cohen rightly suggests, should not spell the era of a new class of people, replacing nobels, and are just as free from the law. This renders republicanism a price not worth paying for. But as Sartre was bracketed as a celebrity in his day, perhaps we should choose those nobelmen and women replacements a little better, no?

What I think of Self-Service Checkouts

Want your shopping trip to feeld empowering? Want it to take more time than it’s worth? Don’t like looking at people? Use the self-service checkouts at your local supermarket.

There’s this snazzy term banging around the scene of useless academic pursuits known as posthumanism, basically describing a possible dystopian period where everything that defines a human – free will, thinking, social animal etc – will come to an end by way of technoloigcal, pharmaceutical enhancement. To correct a common misconception, rather than describing what the world will be like post human, or after human, this part of the biosciences/philosophy actually aims to work out what life for humans will be like post humanism, or after humanism, the loss of humanist values.

Well we do still wonder exactly whether we have all of those ‘humanist’ elements anyway, for example how much of our ethical compass’ are determined not by free will but by ones environs. Perhaps posthuman society already exists, albeit post. Donna Haraway’s classic example of the cyborg, mediated by technology, that disavowals its Edenic origins, her notion is that as soon as tools replace flesh, the cyborg is coming into being. So her theory delves deeper into the philosophical appropriateness of humanism than the posthumanists such as Nick Bostrom. In other words the hardwiring of the brain (David Chalmers), the ability to download a completed version of the human body onto a computer (N. Katharine Hayles), and the transcendence of the human (Robert Pepperill) are all late, possibly non-existent stages in the end of humanism, but the cyborg denotes that even the replacement of the Rousseauian utopia with industrial villiages, corporate gardens and robotic landscapes are examples of the absence of humanism.

In enterprise, it is clear how they might utilise properties of the posthuman, hypertechnological to increase growth. Cutting out labour value by employing automata to do the legwork (trade unionism has ensured that, though unemployment is a necessary characteristic of the capitalist economy functioning perfectly, a nation’s workforce are not reduced to automata) not only secures growth, it potentially eleviates the value of labour based on labour time used.

Is this not the case with self-service checkouts? For a row of 6 of these “capitalist inconveniences” takes only 1 overlooking worker, a loss of 5 forces of labour power, thereby slashing labour costs. A large supermarket – lets say the one next to central middlesex hospital in North West London, the name of which we shall call SADA for purposes of anonymity – can have up to 12 of these, reducing labour power from 12 to just 2, a saving of £57.30 an hour, based on minimum wages of £5.73. That’s a saving of around £458 a day based on an 8-hour shift, £3,206 a week, £12,824 a month, and £153,888 a year. If the supermarket had any backbone, they’d destroy the self-service checkout and replace it with jobs, for the technology might be exciting, but full employment must not be sidelined, and since our, and other countries, have chosen this lot to secure employment, useless measures such as this, that serve little more than to make shopping slower, and reduce employment possibilities, should be scrapped, detroyed, binned, put to sleep, shelved, bye-bye.

The self-service checkout stands as a kind of microcosm of capitalist economics anyway, the brutal pursuit of profit and growth that disregards full employment, reduces the remit of trade unions (since robots are not yet unionised, and the AITUC is a distant fantasy) and is a smack in the face to the kind of economic plan Clem Attlee had for keeping employment and public services afloat in times of desparate economic misery. Furthmore, it is at once a game of techno-fascist muscle, and a concerted effort to make redundant an entire workforce, namely the McJob workers, or unskilled labourers.

Supermarkets don’t create jobs, they reduce jobs, they replace technology with the workforce, they hold automata in higher regard than a loyal human workforce, and they view growth as labour-saving, and unlike Thatcher, who also tried to reduce the industrial workforce without ever giving them any other employment options (though arguably this was the genesis of the McJob, that took from a share of the newly unemployed skilled worker, and the unskilled worker fit for the McJob) these most unphilanthropic of managers remain faceless, invisable, unaccountable.

Other anarchist and leftist blogs request a boycott of the self-service checkout. I say go further, steal one, organise twenty of your mates, and mates’ mates, and go in to an SADA and steal one, take it to a nearby marshland, douse it in petrol and set fire to it.


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