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By blinds-made-to-measure, Jul 1 2017 02:00PM

“Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number-

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you

Ye are many-they are few.”

Jeremy Corbyn used Shelley’s words at Glastonbury recently. But “the many” mightn’t be so “unvanquishable” in future. People, who enjoy power by their very nature probably have other plans well in advance already.

To understand the psychology of such people maybe we should first acknowledge that there’s a bit of everything that’s human in all of us. It’s a matter of degree, so let’s not get too sanctimonious. I know people (albeit too few these days) who love giving and doing for others. They melt my heart, regardless any any other faults they may have. On the other hand we’re all aware of the greedy and selfish side to humanity in evidence recent decades with sentiment such as, “There’s no such thing as society”. It seems too that some people are happy being controlled. Blithely, they accept the status quo until the corruption and tyranny becomes unbearable. Then they wake from their slumber to join the swell of discontent.

History is littered with uprisings. Shelley’s poem was about the Peterloo massacre. It’s worth while looking it up to keep us on our democratic toes, but, all down the chain of command they needed humans who were ‘just doing their job’.

So, will there ever be a time when Shelley’s “unvanquishable number” becomes vanquished? The answer to that question might be in automation. I don’t just mean control of the “means of production”. That’s already in the bag, but even cheap abusable foreign labour is under the threat of automation. It’s coming on fast and ‘the many’ seem typically in slumber. I went for a pee yesterday and a gated machine barred my way until I coughed up 30p (soon to escalate, no doubt). Then I went to the supermarket and I was invited to put my local potential customers’ jobs under threat by using the automated checkout rather than the humanly operated one. I say potential customers because if they don’t have a job they won’t be able to afford what I have to offer.

Well, what about an automated military? It seems to me that a time will come when they no longer need people to fight wars. Maybe that time is here already. Aren’t drones merely automated soldiers? They might still need humans to operate them (albeit from thousands of miles away in the Nevada Desert, perhaps), but does anyone imagine that that will always be the case? People with power are no different from the rest of us. They don’t like taking the blame for their misdeeds and if they can blame their underlings they will. Better still if they can pass the buck to a computer, which can’t litigate – (even if legal aid were still available).

I call it responsibility dumping. Governments (elected or not) do it at every opportunity. It seems the first thing they learn when they take up their plum positions is how to avoid taking responsibility for their policies.

The maxim, ‘Don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do’ comes to mind and apparently they already have drones/robots that can make arbitrary decisions about who deserves to live or die. We might also question why government would dispense with legal aid. What is the real reason for privatisation? (“Debt incumbent home owners don’t go on strike”, perhaps). Look at the laws they pass that just happen to simultaneously curtail our already diminishing rights. Look at the laws they bring in purportedly to deal with austerity and terrorism. How many people are aware of the ‘bail-in’ laws? We need to distinguish between policy decisions and “the art of the possible”.

When I see the way drones are developing, I think of fragging. Mainstream media and our history books hardly mention it but fragging is US slang for when the rank-and-file assassinated their officers during the Vietnam War. History is littered with mutinies of which we seldom hear. Apparently, the end of WWI was expedited by German seamen striking. French soldiers mutinied too. Ordinary people get sick of bearing the brunt of what might largely have corporate imperialism at its root. War has always been very profitable for the few. Major General Smedley Butler’s essay “War is a Racket” is a very interesting read for anyone interested in hearing it from the horse’s mouth. Often “the many” wake up to what’s really going on and say, ‘enough’, which is no doubt inconvenient for “the few”.

Ah but, with drones, there would be no need for pandering to popular support. What do we do about that? Do we decide it’s too difficult, too dangerous to speak out? Do we leave it for future generations to deal with, along with the sovereign debt, which just happens to hamstring elected governments? Do we Baby Boomers take refuge in the thought that we won’t be around long enough for it to affect us? That’s not only selfish, it’s also dangerously naive.

What does any sentient person imagine that the Health and Social Care Act of 2012, or the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (‘Snoopers Charter’) is about? Acts of Parliament have purpose and despite the impenetrable officialese we need to be vigilant. Do we “question everything”, as Noam Chomsky suggests, or do we blithely trust the authorities do do what’s best for us?

There are many laws and contingencies already in place of which few people are aware. These laws seem to sneak in the back door but they all have purpose and anyone who thinks that draconian change will always be stymied by public opinion should note that drones don’t vote – yet.

The following passages from Jeremy Corbyn’s Glastonbury speech are most interesting to me because he’s essentially admitting that he has no power to effectively represent us without the popular support of Shelley’s lions awakening “after slumber”:

"We have a democracy because people laid down their lives that we might have the right to vote, because women laid down their lives that women would get the right to vote at the time of the First World War.

"That determination of the collective, won us, won us all, the principle of healthcare as a human right for all of us.

"Nothing was given from above, nothing was given from above by the elites and the powerful, it was only ever gained from below by the masses of people demanding something better, demanding their share of the wealth and the cake that's created.

"So it is about bringing those ideas together, it is about the unity that we achieve and we achieve inspiration though lots of things.”

Howard Zinn reminds us of the power the many have over the few: “When people stop obeying, they (the authorities) have no power.”

That’s all very well but machines don’t need sleep. They won’t rise from slumber; they don’t slumber. They neither feel guilt nor do they fear retribution. There will be neither fragging nor mutiny and I suspect there are already contingency plans well in advance to deal with the, perhaps erstwhile “invanquishable, number” if we don’t shake our chains to earth soon.

By blinds-made-to-measure, Jun 4 2017 10:27AM

Our dad told us a joke many years ago, when we were children. It was about a man explaining to his wife how he’d survived being chased by a lion.

I suppose I must’ve had a sort of deja vu experience recently, when that story came to mind. I’d slipped in the bath and I was going about ouching and arghhhing like an old man with sciatica for about a fortnight.

Well, I had to explain to my customers why I was feeling so tender and careful about the way I moved. “I was being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger”, I said to one of my customers. “And I slipped on the ice.”

“Ha!” She said. “Sabre-tooth tigers have been extinct for thousands of years.”

“I know, it would’ve decomposed long ago if the ice hadn’t preserved it.” I replied with my too obviously preprepared riposte.

The thing is, I had to make up some story. There isn’t much kudos in having to admit that at 69 years old I’m still doing daft things like slipping in the bath and having to hobble around people’s homes fitting blinds like an 89 year old.

But, back to the punch line in my dad’s joke: The man was explaining to his wife why he was late back from the pub. (The pub must’ve been somewhere in India or in a zoo, maybe – you can tell kids anything at that age, and my dad often did just that.)

His wife asked how he’d survived the encounter and he said, “The lion slipped on something”.

“That was a lucky escape.” Said his sceptical wife. “It’s a wonder you didn’t poop yourself.”

He said, “I did. What do ya think the lion slipped on?”

My dad was a canny good-hearted man albeit he was a Tory. He was in two World Wars. He marched off to the first one at the tender age of sixteen like thousands of others. Like many others too, he would never talk about what he’d experienced.

The odd thing is, when I tell people that he wouldn’t talk about what happened to him, they immediately ask “What happened to him?” (After I’ve already said he wouldn’t talk about it).

“I don’t know.” I’ll reply. “He wouldn’t talk about it.”

“What battle did you fight in, in the First World War Dad?” We’d ask him.

“The Battle of Pea Soup.” He’d reply with wry inscrutability.

I’ve never yet heard that any such battle happened. Not in any history book, not on TV and now with the internet at my fingertips, I still can’t find any information about The Battle of Pea Soup. It had always seemed a bit suspicious – even to a five year old. I’ve often suspected it had something to do with the old expression for describing impenetrable fog.

That’s the thing about the ‘fog of war’ – and war in general: No one seems to have a clue what’s happening or why it’s happening. If we dig deeply enough we might glean that WWI had something to do with the assassination of an archduke and myriad alliances of which the hoi polloi needn’t concern itself other than to take up arms and defend Queen and country against “the evil ones” – who hate our freedom.

Others have suggested that it’s more to do with an imperial dick measuring contest; a bit like the mob’s inability to countenance disrespect for the eternal might-is-right principle. Then again, others might think that government is the mob. (I couldn’t possibly comment.)

I suspect that those who benefit from war (and I understand that there’s a small clique that does, massively) aren’t overly keen on clarity. To them, fog is good. They like to keep everyone else like mushrooms: in the dark and covered in manure. On the other hand, there’s the saying that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ and far too much of what seriously affects our lives seems connived behind closed doors.

My dad’s contemporaries might seem naive in their lemming-like march to agonising and humiliating oblivion but I wonder if my baby-boomer generation has anything to feel smug about. We dutifully filled our fleetingly held ‘properties’ with chipboard and plastic while they destroyed our trade unions. We watched passively as they shipped our industry out to where labour is cheaper and easier to abuse. We voted for successive governments that privatised our erstwhile commonly owned assets. That seems hardly a compendium of collective resourcefulness. Now, I suspect, they’re coming back for these properties when we need care in our dotage.

“If we do not hang together we shall surely hang separately”, is the famous Benjamin Franklin quote. The world of fast-foods, TV reality shows and soaps seems more akin to the bread and circuses of degenerating Rome than revolutionary America.

Now it seems we’re about to reinstall a government that will most certainly put the last nail in the coffin of the NHS, for which our parents fought so hard. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is already lurking in the wings, ready to rear it’s ugly head once the Tories lock down another five years for themselves and their friends.

I see no politician or mainstream pundit challenging the ‘Money Tree’ canard either, which relentlessly they portray as conventional wisdom. It’s as if we’re to take such nonsense for granted. Nothing else merits discussion, it seems.

An organisation called Positive Money in the UK will explain the shenanigans of the banks, but few people I meet seem alert to it. ‘Insouciance’, is the word Paul Craig Roberts uses to describe this trait in his American compatriots.

Even top bankers have admitted that banks create money (out of fresh air) when they issue loans. In other words we’re living under a Ponzi/pyramid scheme. 97% of money is the digital promissory notes from the world’s most consummate fraudsters – it seems.

Is it true that pyramid schemes always collapse? We’ll see. I doubt if it’ll be a happy experience for the majority who don’t have plush bunkers in which to ensconce themselves when the poop hits the fan.

As I’ve already said, my dad was a Tory. I still can’t imagine why. There seems no logic. But, when he was born, Queen Victoria was still on the throne, albeit not for long. There was still a British Empire. I don’t know whether his generation was more, or less, kept like mushrooms in the dark than our generation and future generations will doubtlessly be when the internet is eventually commandeered by a ‘one world neo-liberal government’ if it achieves its quest for ‘full spectrum dominance’ under the usual pretence of protecting the public – as opposed to protecting itself from an awakening public.

No doubt the lion and the gazelle will eternally evolve and compete for survival, if life on Earth is able to survive a nuclear holocaust. Until then, I’ll still remember my dad fondly and have a chuckle at his joke about the lion – even though he was a Tory.

I still get a twinge when I laugh or sneeze but that’ll be gone in a day or two. I like to work twinges off with a bit of home-made yoga and by generally keeping busy. Without an NHS in future – if the UK public don’t wake up soon – we’re all going to need to work better together or at least be more self reliant because, once these private corporations get their hands on what’s left of the NHS, things are going to change dramatically – I suspect.

But there’s another twinge I get that never goes away. Remembering long lost friends and family is a much more profound sort of twinge, which most humans experience regardless of our views. I still think of my mum when I drive past The Bountrees, where I was brought up, in Jedburgh. They were good honest people who tried to do the right things and teach me likewise. They hadn’t a clue what was really going on in the world. I know that for sure.

I often think too of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Benn and Eric Heffer. I used to listen to Tony Benn’s CDs. They’re a marvellous insight into these human beings we know as politicians. He faithfully kept a diary of his time as an MP and in one entry he described how Margaret Thatcher had turned up at Eric Heffer’s funeral and when Tony Benn thanked her for coming, she wept. (I have to say I get a twinge when I think of Tony Benn too.)

Eric Heffer was the political opposite of Margaret Thatcher. It’s hard to imagine that scene. That’s why I often wonder if she really understood what her policies were enabling and setting in place for our futures.

I’ll never understand the thinking of other people – not even my Dad. That’s not for me. We hear, if we want to, that many of those in high office are very flawed individuals. Although, we should avoid making assertions when we have no proof. I think it was President Johnson who said, “If you’ve got them by the balls, their brains will follow.” Apparently, he was a charming man. (The US seems to get its share of charmers.) Perhaps he was referring to what I call the three Bs: Blackmail, bribery and blacklisting.

Anyway, let’s just try to make each other aware of the dangers of the ‘insouciance’ of which Dr. Paul Craig Roberts’ warns his compatriots. At least let’s try to get young people involved in the democratic process. Let’s also fight to keep the internet in the hands of the many, not the few – regardless of the excuses we’ll see conjured up to lock it down and control the perceptions we have of our world.

By blinds-made-to-measure, May 12 2017 07:13AM

It’s funny how memories just drop into the brain (for what it’s worth). Maybe I’m driving along or I wake up in the morning remembering something my mum used to say. She used to say things like, “A pretty face suits a dishcloth.”

It’s so true. I remember some years back now when one of the top models of the day had worn a pair of wellies in public. I think it was at a pop festival and I think the model’s name was Kate Moss.

Anyway, it was so comical to see all the teenage girls heading down the road for Saturday night entertainment to the pubs and night clubs. It was midsummer, not a cloud in the sky and there they all were clomping down the road in their wellies and make-up. And they looked gorgeous, too.

So, it seems my Mum was right. A pretty face suits dishcloths, wellies and just about anything in its proximity.

I don’t know why I thought of my mother today. It was in May, 17 years ago that she died. Maybe that was the root of the déjà vu. It was the year before 911. Some thoughts just seem to come out of nowhere, – but I suspect there’s no such place as nowhere. It’s akin to Descartes’, "I think, therefore I am". (Was he bragging or complaining, I wonder?) But even though it's only my wee brain -- and the deepest recesses, It must be somewhere or it wouldn't pop out of that somewhere. It's a bit like this internet. Where does all this waffle go? I suspect, one day there's going to be an enormous virtual bonfire. (I hope they put Bill Gates on the top of it.)

It reminded me too of another thing my mum often said: “You’re standing in my light”. I wrote a blog about that some years ago too. I’ll check it out. Ah-ha. It’s still there:

“A pretty face suits a dishcloth”, that’s what Mum used to say,

“So chin up, keep smilin’, ya have some chores ta dae,

Be sure to fill your days, with love, laughter and fun,

Or your face will warp an’ wrinkle like the Ancient Mariner’s bum.

“Nae sulkin’, nae glowerin’, there’s never a need o’ that,

A pretty face suits a dishcloot, no’ a moanin’ wee brat,

Boys-will-be-boys, there’s muck, there’s noise, an’ you’re as bad as they come,

Yar pretty face soots ma dishcloth. Have ya’ had it up the lum?

A pretty face suits a dishcloth. Ah, but I’m no’ sae soft,

Ah never notice ma wrinkly nose, ‘cause ah take ma spectacles off’t,

An’ when ah’m in front o’ the mirror ah dinnae see nae grey,

As long as ah leave the light off and look the other way.

“A pretty face suits a dishcloth”, My mum would often profess,

“For you, it’s serendipitous, ‘cause the rest o’ ye’s sic a mess.

Yer nose is snotty, yer claithes are grotty wi’ skid-marks off the grass,

A pretty face suits a dishcloth, it’s a pity I had nae a lass”.

By blinds-made-to-measure, May 8 2017 06:57AM

The cat was sick again today (that’s her in the photo above – looking down on me, as is her wont). And she reminded me of Jeremy Hunt. Not to look at, she’s a psychopath too but not quite so smarmy. I’m thinking more about the cost of healthcare. (I think it should be called sickcare.) BTW, I always get the impression that the hardest thing Jeremy ever has to do is attempt to look sincere.

Is he still the Health Secretary, I wondered. I haven’t seen that hunt for a while now, I thought. They’ll be keeping him in his box until after the election. Then...

Then, just like magic (black magic) he appeared on the Andrew Marr Show (yesterday now) saying he has a plan. (I’d be less concerned if it were one of Baldrick’s “cunning plans”.)

We should already know what sort of plan he has for the NHS. It was apparently all revealed some time ago in a pamphlet he wrote with a gaggle of his peers – (some of whom I suspect, actually are peers of the realm variety – hereditary even, to make matters more egregious: Direct Democracy: An Agenda For A New Model Party. (Any relation to Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army or Tony Blair’s New Model Labour perchance?)

I haven’t read it because I ignore what politicians write and say; I just watch what they do. So albeit remote, it might herald the second coming for all I know. But I very much doubt it. More likely it’s touting the privatisation, for which the legislation is already in place. i.e. The Health and Social Care Act 2012.

No need to read that either – for obvious reasons. Here’s a poem:

Always read the small print,

And make good sense of it,

If everybody read it,

They’d soon stop printing it.

Ah but they're so clever,

They'd find another way,

To take back what they never

Promised anyway.

So always read the small print,

An' digest all the guff,

If you believe your life ain’t,

Sad and short enough.

©David McBain 2011

Anyway, getting back to the cat: I’ve had her at the vet twice recently. I got one bill for fifty quid and another for forty and I still have a sick cat. Fifty pounds for 5 minutes with an irritable vet and three injections – call me cynical if you like, but there doesn’t seem much incentive in cure when there’s so much profit to be made from sickness.

That’s the problem with US (private) healthcare – the sort that Jeremy and his pals have in the works for us. They don’t care. They don’t care a hoot if you don’t have the loot. And the tactics are obvious. Order out of chaos doesn’t necessarily mean ordering a Jeremy Kyle DVD from Amazon or ordering a dodgy vindaloo (where, vice versa, you order first and the chaos comes later).

Noam Chomsky puts the point in his usual matter-of-fact way. He shrugs and spreads his hands and croaks (he’s well into his eighties now, after all). "That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital."


I suspect that, after this coming election when Jeremy and his pals get his hands on it, human ‘healthcare’ is going to be a lot more painful on the wallet than cat healthcare (albeit dear enough – and the cat’s still barfin’). Experience tells me that, when we’re sick, all we want is to feel better. We’ll cough up our last. On the other hand, from the health industry’s point of view, it only lasts as long as we keep coughing.

By blinds-made-to-measure, May 7 2017 06:51PM

I’ve been looking up Wikipedia today because I noticed something about modern working man – and woman – that doesn’t seem to have changed since I (ancient man) was young. (I’d better admit that I’m ancient or ATOS will send me back to work and hand my pensions over to the Banking Cartel. Or is that already a done deal?)

A French chap by the name of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, (Thank you Wiki): apparently coined the phrase – roughly translated – The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Well, recently we’ve had workmen around the house, fixing the garage door. (It must have come from China. It’s only been up there two years, but we have 1.3 billion of these bods to keep busy, or the whole world economy collapses, allegedly. Maybe that’s a done deal too. But, just like the good old days, there’s never more than one guy actually working at one time, unless operating a mobile phone is classed as working.

Then a couple of guys came from ‘through-by’, as they say here in the Borders when referring to the big city (the erstwhile industrial Central Belt). Let’s face it, local tradesmen aren’t up to the job. Operating a mobile phone is a bit of a stretch in the skills department, I suppose. You’d have to go to uni for ten years, which would set you back about twenty grand with interest payments until your dying day – to be passed on to future generations in perpetuity – for that sort of self-improvement planning these days.

They’re up to something with the electricity transformer just outside my house. Probably sneaking in some surveillance equipment for GCHQ or NSA (same difference) so they can keep a more up-to-date eye on what we, the hoi polloi are up to. (Guilty consciences I’ll say. I bet they’re petrified the sheeple are gonna wake up and rumble them some day).

So, the mobile phone operator says that they’re doing some building work and rough-casting – without me even asking (he’s definitely up to something, otherwise he wouldn’t think it worth a mention).

Well, I thought, rough-casting a wall around an electricity grid must be a much more urgent project than fixing the pot holes in the road. Anyway, if we’re all kept busy buying new tires and getting our tracking and suspension fixed, at least it helps the all important GDP and vat figures without which the entire economy would collapse even sooner. (That reminds me, does anyone vote in these local elections anymore? Someone must do. Otherwise, what would be the point of these irritating Dimblebys?)

Anyway, it used to be that when we saw working men at large, one would be down a hole, up a ladder or whatever and the rest would be standing around smoking and leaning on shovels. We don’t see so much smoking anymore. Maybe they all died off – not necessarily of lung cancer. They probably topped themselves due to their boring, pointless lifestyle. And JCB and their ilk have made man-operated shovels almost obsolete. But never fear the mobile phone has taken up the challenge, keeping auxiliary workers and gaffers’ hands occupied.

I still prefer the man operated shovels, mind you. At least you could have a conversation with a man leaning on a shovel (depending on his demeanor) but try posing a question to a mobile phone wielder and you get the kind of high five that isn’t so genial. The mobile trumps all. Even if you’ve bashed into their brand new Mercedes or are planning to elope with one of their most eligible daughters, you’ll have to wait until after the phone call to discuss it.

What do they talk about I wonder? Are they giving head office a running commentary on how the job’s progressing? Maybe the wife phoned to say bring back a loaf of bread. Mind you, it normally looks much more serious than that. They’re probably putting a bet on or ordering a pizza. (Don’t forget yer mate down t’ hole BTW! – and me! – triple cheese please.) I think they’ve recycled these old shovels for serving up pizzas – judging by the size of the pizzas and the people that eat them these days.

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