Author: Chris Snuggs

Cats and Dogs

As a follow-up to Paul’s post on cats, I found this on the internet, but there was no reference to the author. Whoever it was does, however, deserve the credit rather than me, who am merely a transferer on to a wider public of such gems as I stumble across during my surfing.

If anyone knows who wrote this I would be more than delighted to acknowledge his or her genius.

Peek into a dog’s diary …

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm- Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm – Milkbones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Peek into a cat’s diary …

Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. All though I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe, for now……….

Just chilling out …

Cats in Physics

1 – Law of Cat Inertia: A cat at rest will tend to remain at rest, unless acted upon by some outside force – such as the opening of cat food, or a nearby scurrying mouse.

2 – Law of Cat Motion: A cat will move in a straight line, unless there is a really good reason to change direction.

3 – Law of Cat Magnetism: All blue blazers and black sweaters attract cat hair in direct proportion to the darkness of the fabric.

4 – Law of Cat Thermodynamics: Heat flows from a warmer to a cooler body, except in the case of a cat, in which case all heat flows to the cat.

5 – Law of Cat Stretching: A cat will stretch to a distance proportional to the length of the nap just taken.

6 – Law of Cat Sleeping: All cats must sleep with people whenever possible, in a position as uncomfortable for the people involved as is possible for the cat.

7 – Law of Cat Elongation: A cat can make her body long enough to reach just about any counter top that has anything remotely interesting on it.

8 – Law of Cat Acceleration: A cat will accelerate at a constant rate, until he gets good and ready to stop.

9 – Law of Dinner Table Attendance: Cats must attend all meals when anything good is served.

10 – Law of Rug Configuration: No rug may remain in its naturally flat state for very long.

11 – Law of Obedience Resistance: A cat’s resistance varies in proportion to a human’s desire for her to do something.

12 – First Law of Energy Conservation: Cats know that energy can neither be created nor destroyed and will, therefore, use as little energy as possible.

13 – Second Law of Energy Conservation: Cats also know that energy can only be stored by a lot of napping.

14 – Law of Refrigerator Observation: If a cat watches a refrigerator long enough, someone will come along and take out something good to eat.

15 – Law of Electric Blanket Attraction: Turn on an electric blanket and a cat will jump into bed at the speed of light.

16 – Law of Random Comfort Seeking: A cat will always seek, and usually take over, the most comfortable spot in any given room.

17 – Law of Bag / Box Occupancy: All bags and boxes in a given room must contain a cat within the earliest possible nanosecond.

18 – Law of Cat Embarrassment: A cat’s irritation rises in direct proportion to her embarrassment times the amount of human laughter.

19 – Law of Milk Consumption: A cat will drink his weight in milk, squared, just to show you he can.

20 – Law of Furniture Replacement: A cat’s desire to scratch furniture is directly proportional to the cost of the furniture.

21 – Law of Cat Landing: A cat will always land in the softest place possible.

22 – Law of Fluid Displacement: A cat immersed in milk will displace her own volume, minus the amount of milk consumed.

23 – Law of Cat Disinterest: A cat’s interest level will vary in inverse proportion to the amount of effort a human expends in trying to interest him.

24 – Law of Pill Rejection: Any pill given to a cat has the potential energy to reach escape velocity.

25 – Law of Cat Composition: A cat is composed of Matter + Anti-Matter + It Doesn’t Matter.

26 – Law of cat reading: Cats pretend to be really short sighted and evince the need to read a newspaper by lying on it while you are attempting to read it.

27 – Law of cat antipathy: Any cat will immediately sense a person who doesn’t like cats and go and sit on their lap.

28 – Law of cat confinement: A cat will always have its kittens in the warmest possible place, usually in your bed while you are sleeping.

29 – Law of Sleeping: A cat sleeps every day for 24 hours minus the time it takes to wheedle food out of you and eat it ..

By Chris Snuggs

Global Warming? Not our problem Comrade ….

The Russians are building a load of nuclear power stations to fuel their expansion and landgrab to the North Pole to extract the 75 billion tons of oil and gas thought to be there.

This is sure to outrage not only those against carbon emissions but others who don’t like nuclear fission, thus scoring a double whammy for the Russians. Putin must be pleased.

I can’t really see the point of trying to reduce emissions on a personal level; on a macro scale countries are not taking it seriously and are still extracting oil and gas as fast as they can. I believe only a dramatic breakthrough will actually achieve anything. Why they are not putting up giant mirrors into space or if you like in slowly desertifying Southern Spain is a mystery to me.

It’s all nothing if not ironic. Global warming caused most probably by emissions is opening up the Northeast passage which makes it much easier for the Russians to send MORE oil and gas to China. A perfect vicious circle indeed …..

And if WWIII doesn’t start in the China Sea maybe it’ll be up in the frozen North as nations squabble over “their” territory.

Look on the bright side; when there is no ice left at all it will be even better; ships will be able to go direct by straight line from any country to another. Mind you, when they arrive they’ll have to deliver the oil by submarine. No doubt they’re already working on that.

What does a (I hope) fairly sane private citizen do about all this nonsense? I’d like to save the planet for my children, but I am feeling rather helpless ……

By Chris Snuggs

P.S. One way to do something is to support those organisations that are doing all they can. See:

And recognise that this is something else we can learn from dogs – not to foul one’s own bed.

P.

Dogma, Lies and Truth ….

Humans are often both so funny and tragic at the same time  that one does not know whether to laugh or cry on hearing a particular news item. Thus it was for me when reading about Cuba’s apparent ideological U-turn.

The Cuban dogma of the last 50 years has been “State good; private bad.” This is familiar “Communist” territory, so Cubans have been born, grown up and died while being told that “capitalism” was evil, private ownership was bad and that the state was best suited to running everything.

This then was “the truth” for 50 years. But suddenly, amazingly, it seems that this was NOT the truth after all, since now entrepreneurship is to be encouraged in a bid to breathe life into the dinosauric Cuban economy. So, for 50 years Cuba was living a lie? And if so, will those responsible take the blame for these lies?

Errrrmmmm … the heirs and cronies of the apparent lie of over 50 years are the very same people (apart from the conveniently-sidelined Fidel himself, who can of course take the blame whether explicitly or implicitly) who are now proclaiming a new “truth”. So are they admitting their lie, or to be charitable – since XMAS is approaching – their total wrongness?

This is of course the big problem for those enforcing dogma. If there comes a time when the dogma is so manifestly absurd that it has to be changed then the long-time enforcers of the ridiculous are clearly seen to have been wrong for as long as the dogma has been enforced. And of course, the LONGER the dogma has gone on the MORE wrong the enforcers of same are seen to be. So for the dogma-enforcers there is every incentive to NEVER admit the nonsensicality of the dogma, whatever the evidence. Hence the ossification of dogma, when in the end enforcing the dogma is seen as more important than the actual dogma itself.

This is also one reason for the extraordinary conservatism that Humans are often “guilty” of. “Why do we do it that way?” -> “Errrmmmm … we’ve ALWAYS done it that way …”

Well, some credit has to go to the Cuban regime for admitting – tacitly or otherwise – that the last 50 years’ dogma was wrong. Kind as I am,  I do not use the word “idiotic”, though some would say that would be more appropriate …… Kind? Am I too kind in giving them any credit at all? After all, in a dictatorship, the only true definition of “truth” is “that which the leadership says is true.”

I haven’t worked out yet whether they are using the common ploy of dogma-changers, the only one in fact that gets them off the hook. This is to say: “Yes, we’ve always believed A was good and B was evil and now we believe the opposite. This is because CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE CHANGED.” Has anyone worked that out yet? The problem with the “Circumstances have changed” argument is of course that circumstances are ALWAYS changing and so dogma PER SE would seem to be a ludicrous way to manage our lives.

Well whatever, the latest pronouncements could have been made by the British centre-right Coalition Party rather than the old-style Cuban Communist Party:

“Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities, services and budgeted sectors with bloated payrolls [and] losses that hurt the economy,” said the official Cuban labour federation, which announced the news.

George Osbourne, rightist British Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have been quite proud of that newsbite.

One has to wonder how this redefining of “the truth” will go down with the Cuban people. As has been argued, the main problem with changing the dogma is that you have to admit being wrong before, and often massively and for many years. And the longer-term ticking time-bomb is that once you allow questioning of the dogma then you open a door to the questioning of everything. This is why people who enforce dogma don’t really like any sort of questioning whatsoever. Encouraging it is like opening Pandora’s box; where will it all end? And the most hideous question of all of course is: “Don’t we deserve more say in our own government.” or – in the case of a “world-religion”, “Is the whole basis of our “beliefs” (for which we are prepared to kill people for) plain WRONG? Have we been living a LIE for over 1500 years? ” This question is a terrible one for individuals to face, so terrible that their leaders will do ANYTHING to prevent them ever facing it, including of course kill them if the questioning becomes too loud.

This is the real reason why dictatorships don’t like questioning of any kind; mindless sheep would be their preferred populace. A populace that asks too many questions is – frankly – to be avoided like the plague. They are currently plagued in Iran by sheep with very much a mind of their own, which is why oppression is great and increasing of course.

Anyway, I for one rejoice at the Cuban change of direction, even though one has often seen leaders tempted to open Pandora’s box only to violently slam it shut again when they see what starts to happen.

I always admired the Cuban revolution; chucking out a nauseating “Capitalist” mafiosi-style American-backed regime. The problem has been the extreme ossification of Cuban political and economic thought and development since the day Castro took over. Are better days ahead and will Cuba one day end up as a role-model for South America, much as Scandinavia is for the world in general?

The comic in all this? Listening to previous apologists for the former “lie” having to find linguistic justifications for their previous wrongness. This is marvellous for lovers of language as the arts of spin are brought fully into play justifying the previously unjustifiable.

The tragic? Knowing that the livers of the previous lie suffered both from living a lie and from the practical consequences of it, in Cuba’s case a quite unnecessarily high level of poverty in many areas even if there were some compensating factors. As Cuban apologists often say (said?) “The people may be poor but they are happy.” We might say (I assume): “Better to be much better-off and also happy ….”

PS Is the Pope watching all this (and the Islamic hierarchy come to that?) There is plenty of room for dogma change in the Vatican and Mecca …..

By Chris Snuggs

The Role of Fear

Fear of the Known – thinking aloud about stuff

Jon Lavin wrote a Post on the 13th June, 2010 entitled, “Dealing with the fear of the known.” I’ve been thinking about that in recent weeks including the comment to Jon’s article from Per. Here’s how Jon closed that article:

If more of us got used to coming out of the mind before making an important decision, and simply sat with the question for a while, the answer would probably present itself.

This will probably raise more questions than it answers but that’s not a bad thing.<!–

And here’s the recent comment from Per: Great advice… but how do we remove the fear of what is known?

Presumably Per was implying that we shouldn’t fear the known. However, I beg to differ here; it is actually fear of the UNKNOWN that is rather pointless (I am not afraid of aliens), while fear of the KNOWN is CRUCIAL to our survival.

But like anything else, you can have too little or too much. Too little, and you survive a very short time. Too much, and you sit cowering in your cellar afraid to go out. As with EVERYTHING in life it is a question of BALANCE.

How do we know how much fear to deploy? Instinct, intelligence, knowledge and experience. If any of these are deficient, we may apply an inappropriate fear quotient.

Let’s take “Global Warming”! How afraid of it should I be? What are my marks out of 10 for the four fear-factors above?

Instinct = 8 – I instinctively fear a situation when my environment is getting hotter, as I don’t know what that will imply.
Intelligence = 8 – I am (just) intelligent enough to appreciate the dangers of a rise in temperature.
Knowledge = 4 – I have no real idea exactly what is going on or how far it will go; the messages are mixed and I see no real panic among governments.
Experience = 0

So, a score of just 20 out of 40, which means IGNORANCE and DOUBT and these add up to FEAR ….. so I am quite afraid.

Home grown vegetables

More apparently, than my leaders seem to be, who can’t even ban flying across the Atlantic at a cost of 60,000 tons of CO2 per day. The question is, will this considerable amount of fear push me into actually DOING something about GW? What is my inertia level and what is my tipping point? What would it take to get me to dig up my garden and plant potatoes? To sell my car and buy a horse? Sadly, humans are in general pretty inert …… it is much easier to do nothing or too little until it is (almost) too late.

So, “fear” is absolutely essential to our survival. If you’re a driver who doesn’t fear accidents then please keep out my my way until you very soon die in one.

Fear is also what pushes me to drive very carefully. People who greedily lent money to Madoff had no fear they would lose it, having lost all control of  whatever ration of commonsense and/or logic they might once have had. Perhaps now people will fear rather more about losing their money and therefore invest it more wisely.

To take another topical example, any company in the future (is there one?) drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico will fear the lash of Obama’s tongue and stick and this fear will push them to be a bloody sight more careful and to have an effective contingency plan. Actually, why more people don’t have a lot more fear is a mystery to me.

Right, having dealt with fear, we come to our response to it, which is of course the interesting bit. The world is changing so fast that almost all of us have limited control. Even the US President has limited control. This is not comfortable.

How then can we gain more control and become more comfortable? Jon has pointed the way; we must become more self-reliant. Jon will presumably now have much less fear of starving to death, since he is producing a proportion of his own grub. Anyone installing solar-panelled heating will be much less fearful about their electricity being cut off.

I would go further. Anyone owning a horse will or would have much less fear about running out of fuel and being immobile – or more to the point, of being unable to plough and sow his fields, without which we really are stuck. (Incidentally, I am predicting a big comeback for work horses. They are slower, yes, but you can’t breed a tractor (or indeed talk to it) or produce your own fuel, which is where the horse wins out. We’ll have to move more slowly, but then speed is vastly overrated.)

Now Jon with his chickens is a special case. Is there, I wonder, a small element of “fear” in his decision to keep chickens? Humans are complex …. Another major factor pushing Jon down this road could be (and in his case probably is) social responsibility.

It seems pretty clear that if EVERYONE became more self-reliant then vast, expensive, high-consuming centres  of production would be scaled down. Unfortunately, social responsibility is not exactly fasionable in today’s consumer world (or we wouldn’t use plastic bags for a start, just to take one small example). Like the vegetarians of 30 years ago, Jon might be seen as an exception if not crank; until of course the fear factor becomes higher and then everyone will try to grow their own potatoes.

So, fear of powerlessness drives us to take initiatives that will help to remove at least some of this fear; a circular but inevitable process.  Nothing new about it; the only sad thing is that humans seem to need to travel quite a long way down the path of doom before they really start to react.

This of course is why we did nothing when Hitler invaded the Rheinland in 1936; wait and see seemed easier at the time. It’s also why America totally ignored Jimmy Carter’s ideas of some decades ago about reducing America’s dependence on Arab oil. It was much easier to deride him and do the easy (but totally wrong) thing, especially of course as the oil companies have loads of money and can buy off people who otherwise might see the light.

Well, we’re well past “Wait-and-see” now …… we are now entering the “Do-it-or-else ….” period. And where Jon is of course achieving a double-whammy is that his increasing self-reliance is also GOOD FOR SOCIETY. If everyone were more self-reliant in every way a vast saving in energy and everything else could be achieved. Flying exotic fruits into Britain from South Africa is insane, yet so normal that it seems … errrmmmm … normal.

All this was obvious years if not millennia ago, but the current state of the world has increased the fear factor and is pushing people like Jon down this road. But it is an interesting road. Being self-reliant has multiple advantages, though it will be pretty hard on the rich, who may have to learn how to do things they usually pay underlings to do.

But Jon is in the vanguard of this movement; there is VAST scope for increasing self-reliance. It could and should be an adventure, though it will involve enormous change.  The latter of course can also be stressful, but less so when it is clearly a change for the better, as I believe it will be.

By Chris Snuggs

Sold to the Devil, one Soul

The shame of modern foreign policies.

On 12th May 1997 former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook made a famous speech in which he outlined his intention to give Britain’s foreign policy an “ethical dimension.”

Here is an extract:

Burma

“Our foreign policy must have an ethical dimension and must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves. The Labour Government will put human rights at the heart of our foreign policy and will publish an annual report on our work in promoting human rights abroad.”

In truth this became something of an albatross since it is easier to pledge an “ethical foreign policy” than to actually deliver it, and sadly Robin Cook never lived to  see his brain-child through to maturity. [He died on the 6th August, 2005. Ed.]

However, many were inspired by this speech and felt that a new beginning was being made, one where national interests and economic greed might take second place to “ethics”. However, like many great ideas, it seems to have come to nothing when faced with the cold, hard light of day. And nowhere is the demise of this dream more clear than in the current British Prime Minster’s  recent trade mission to India.

Yes, the PM these days is as much a travelling salesman as moral, spiritual and practical leader ….. unfortunately, he chose to visit India the week after this great country had been graced with a visit from the leader of Burma, General Than Shwe.

This “leader” is of course in reality a gangster dictator who seized power after an election gave victory to the democratic opposition. He now rules over a police state from the middle of the jungle, rumouredly using astrology as one of his principal policy-making guides.

Senior General Than Shwe arrived in India on Sunday (25th July) to sign economic agreements. On the first day of his visit, he travelled to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath, two important pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha.

He also laid a wreath at the the site where the world’s most famous non-violent protester, Mahatma Gandhi was cremated; Rajghat in New Delhi. What Gandhi would of thought of that one can only imagine – two days earlier, the Burmese military wiped out a Christian village in Karen State, eastern Myanmar.

This was no great surprise, since this is one of the nastiest, most corrupt and oppressive regimes on Earth. This from Wikipedia: (This is a long extract from Wikipedia but please read it carefully.)

Human rights in Burma are a long-standing concern for the international community and human rights organisations. There is general consensus that the military regime in Burma is one of the world’s most repressive and abusive regimes.Several human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have reported on human rights abuses by the military government.[95][96] They have claimed that there is no independent judiciary in Burma. The military government restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the material citizens can access on-line.[97][98] Forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour are common.[99] The military is also notorious for rampant use of sexual violence as an instrument of control, including allegations of systematic rapes and taking of sex slaves as porters for the military. A strong women’s pro-democracy movement has formed in exile, largely along the Thai border and in Chiang Mai. There is a growing international movement to defend women’s human rights issues.[100]

The Freedom in the World 2004 report by Freedom House notes that “The junta rules by decree, controls the judiciary, suppresses all basic rights, and commits human rights abuses with impunity. Military officers hold all cabinet positions, and active or retired officers hold all top posts in all ministries. Official corruption is reportedly rampant both at the higher and local levels.”[101]

Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, in a 2004 address described the human rights situation in the country as appalling: “Burma is the textbook example of a police state. Government informants and spies are omnipresent. Average Burmese people are afraid to speak to foreigners except in most superficial of manners for fear of being hauled in later for questioning or worse. There is no freedom of speech, assembly or association.”[102]

Evidence has been gathered suggesting that the Burmese regime has marked certain ethnic minorities such as the Karen for extermination or ‘Burmisation’.[103] This, however, has received little attention from the international community since it has been more subtle and indirect than the mass killings in places like Rwanda.[104]

In April 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified financial and other restrictions that the military government places on international humanitarian assistance. The GAO report, entitled “Assistance Programs Constrained in Burma”, outlined the specific efforts of the government to hinder the humanitarian work of international organisations, including restrictions on the free movement of international staff within the country. The report notes that the regime has tightened its control over assistance work since former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was purged in October 2004. The military junta passed guidelines in February 2006, which formalised these restrictive policies. According to the report, the guidelines require that programs run by humanitarian groups “enhance and safeguard the national interest” and that international organisations coordinate with state agents and select their Burmese staff from government-prepared lists of individuals. United Nations officials have declared these restrictions unacceptable.

Burma’s government spends the least percentage of its GDP on health care of any country in the world, and international donor organisations give less to Burma, per capita, than any other country except India.[105] According to the report named “Preventable Fate”, published by Doctors without Borders, 25,000 Burmese AIDS patients died in 2007, deaths that could largely have been prevented by Anti Retroviral Therapy drugs and proper treatment.[105]

Here’s something very recent:

New Delhi (AsiaNews)Soldiers from the Burmese Army attacked Tha Dah Der, a Christian village in Karen State, eastern Myanmar, on 23 July, burning 50 homes, a school and a church. Over 600 villagers fled in the jungle as the army advanced, joining 300 more from neighbouring villages who had also abandoned their homes in fear.

A Burmese photographer dies ....

Yes, we have got used to nasty regimes, and to states sucking up to their psychopathic gangster leaders, but there are limits, surely?

Why is the British Prime Minister grovelling to India (and by the way grossly insulting Pakistan at the same time) when India is laying out the red carpet for the Burmese murderer?

I don’t think “murderer” is too strong a word. Apart from all the usual and well-documented pogroms against minorities (remind anyone of Hitler?) the Burmese mafia government refused to allow international aid agencies to help after the catastrophic 2008 cyclone, the worst in Burma’s history. This condemned hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens to heartless, needless suffering and certainly cost many lives.

Well, above I asked “why”?

Of course, it’s for selfish national interest. India wants access to Burma’s natural resources, especially oil, while Britain wants industrial contracts with India. Cynics would say Cameron succeeded; a follow-on deal for India to buy British Hawk trainer fighters has just been announced.

But why am I reminded of Goethe’s “Faust”? Is it really worth selling our soul to the Devil (indirectly condoning India’s sickening sycophancy to the Burmese Fuehrer) for the sake of some British jobs? A confirmative answer would seem to suggest that ethics in foreign policy is well and truly dead.

Once again, a vicious dictatorship flourishes by divide and rule. Where is the united international front that might help to put an end to our fellow-humans’ suffering? We managed this unity to help end South African apartheid; have our moral standards declined so much since then?

PS South Africa? Oh weep …. In January 2007, Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council calling on the government of Myanmar to respect human rights and begin a democratic transition. South Africa also voted against the resolution.

Still, they put on a good World Cup, so that’s all right then ……

By Chris Snuggs

The World Food Shortage

“Would you please give your honest opinion about financially-sensible solutions to the food shortages in your country and the rest of the world?”

The headline above was the only question asked in a world-wide survey was conducted by the UN last month.

The survey was a huge failure because of the following:

  • In Eastern Europe they didn’t know what “honest” meant.
  • In Western Europe they didn’t know what “shortage” meant.
  • In Africa they didn’t know what “food” meant.
  • In China they didn’t know what “opinion” meant.
  • In the Middle East they didn’t know what “solution” meant.
  • In South America they didn’t know what “please” meant.
  • In the USA they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.
  • In Britain they hung up as soon as they heard the Indian accent.
  • In Brussels (and in most other European capitals, come to that) they had no idea what “financially-sensible” was.
  • North Korea reported merely that by definition there could be no food shortage in their Communist paradise and that supplies of caviar, truffles and champagne were plentiful. They added that in any case “the rest of the world” could shove their food ….. (They called back later to ask that food aid conveys should nevertheless be continued ….)
  • The Cubans refused to answer, alleging it was “a capitalist plot”, and anyway under Castroan Communism there never had been, wasn’t and never could be any shortage of food – everything else, perhaps, but not food, as the people could always eat fish or grubs ……
  • The Scots replied that as long as they could get their Mars-bars dipped in batter there’d never be a food shortage.

PS For a serious comment on the world food situation check this out …. two pieces in the UK Guardian Newspaper here and here.

Sometimes I am deeply ashamed to be part of the so-called “developed” world. Is it beyond the wit of governments to put a stop to this?

By Chris Snuggs

The Two-sided Coin of the World Cup

Football’s World Cup – a review

It is probably a bit non-PC [PC = politically correct, Ed] to say anything negative about the World Cup, but I sense that the importance of being PC is beginning to wane; not that it ever bothered me anyway.

Let’s look at the positives, since almost everything has some positives somewhere; Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and the North Korean regime being obvious exceptions.

  • They built world-class stadia on time.
  • The foreign visitors who were there generally got to venues on time and the matches all started on time.
  • Inside the stadia (despite the obvious occasional sillinesses for which we can blame FIFA), everything went tickety-boo. According to some pundits, the atmosphere was “the best ever”, despite (or because of?) the hideous vuvuzela.
  • There was no major crime wave, no terrorism, no significant disasters of any kind.
  • The South Africans were reportedly very hospitable.
  • Opposing fans celebrated together; the England fans totally restored their reputations; reports of drunken English mobs were distinguishable by their absence. (they probably couldn’t afford to get there.)
  • South Africa took pride in its ability to put on the World Cup, which many had suspected it incapable of.
  • For a month the nation forgot all its problems; most people had a big party, even if the South African team (and Africa in general) was made to realize the enduring gulf between its standard of football and that of the other continents.

So, all’s well that ends well, then? Unfortunately not ….

  • The country paid around 10 billion rand to put the event on, three times more than original estimates. Where did all the money go?
  • The country is left with giant stadia that may never again be filled, the so-called “white-elephants” typical of almost all these major events. Apparently even the wondrous “Birds-nest” stadium in Beijing used for the opening ceremony of the Olympics has only been used once since 2008.
  • Only half the number of expected foreign tourists came, as the organisers over-priced everything. Organisers claim the extra income generated will pay for the costs, but nobody believes them …..
  • Preparations for the World Cup provided jobs, but those workers are now back on the street. The ordinary people of South Africa benefited little from the event, except in terms of “national pride”.

And there of course is an interesting animal; “national pride”. In a grown-up world, you’d have hoped that national pride would be best achieved through one of the following:

  • the building of suitable housing for the population
  • the setting-up of an affordable and accessible national health system (fat chance, even the USA hasn’t got that!!)
  • the diminution and ending of corruption
  • the creation of a fair society
  • the development of the economy to provide jobs and create wealth to allow ordinary people to live decently and comfortably

Any of these and other things could be seen as deserving of “national pride”, but the ability to put on at vast expense a four-week jamboree that mostly benefited the political elite, other nations, FIFA and the international television networks is a dubious contender for “pride”.

But of course it depends which side of the coin you are looking at. For some, all the expense justifies the “putting of South Africa on the map.” The politicians as usual will have been the most happy; four weeks in the spotlight strutting about on the world stage, loads of media coverage, hundreds of journalists hanging on their every word …

As for the real ethos behind the World Cup, the bits that don’t hit the glitzy headlines, two in particular struck me as symbolic of Man’s capacity for self-delusion; Africa’s attitude to its poor and the obscene power of international non-governmental monopolies such as FIFA.

These have been variously described in excellent articles written by proper journalists. The first example is from Globalpost. I find it pretty depressing.

Green Point Stadium, Cape Town: In Cape Town, Green Point Stadium is covered in a sheath of woven fiberglass so that it glows at night like a floating bowl. But its location on six city blocks in a prime real estate area has also created controversy. In 2006, the city’s government published a study that found the stadium’s location offered the least amount of economic gain to Cape Town’s resident. In fact, repairs to several older stadiums in the surrounding area could have led to savings that could have paid for 250,000 new homes for the city’s poor, according to researchers.

But FIFA wanted a stadium that would sit between South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain and Robben Island, according to reports, causing the football federation’s president, Sepp Blatter, to come under fire.

“I really think that we’re going into Green Point because Sepp Blatter says: ‘I like Green Point,’ not because it is the best thing for South Africans,” Cape Town’s then-mayor, Helen Zille, said in 2006.

Sepp Blatter will take his $2 BILLION profit away with him to some lush office somewhere, while the ordinary residents of Cape Town pick up their lives as before. How long “national pride” will sustain them is a moot point.

Roadside waterseller in Gabon, West Africa

The Marketing Bonanza: If you’ve been to Africa and driven around a bit, you’ll know that there are street traders everywhere. These are desperately poor people who will try to flog you anything and everything. They wander up and down lines of cars carrying their pathetic wares. In the ferocious midday heat women often carry large heavy  buckets full of water bottles on their heads. Many do this all day every day to earn a pittance.

But of course, like beggars in the big city, they don’t really create the right “image” and “ambiance” for a major international event with its glitz and invasion of well-off foreigners. So, as reported in “The Guardian they were simply banned whenever the authorities considered it appropriate. So much for the World Cup “improving the lives of ordinary Africans”.

But not just anyone will be allowed to participate in what President Jacob Zuma calls “the greatest marketing opportunity of our time“. Informal traders – a significant part of the working poor – are subject to a verbatim “exclusion zone” from the bonanza in the fan parks, fan walks and stadiums. For them, the World Cup may as well be happening on another continent.

I have personal experience of something similar in Gabon. When the wife of President Bongo died, the whole country was ordered to do a week’s mourning. Street trading was banned. This of course did not affect the elite, but for many of the rest it meant the difference between eating and going hungry. When a few daring and desperate people dared to try to sell their pitiful produce in some locations the police confiscated it and trashed their stands.

And FIFA? It is reported to have made $2 BILLION in tax-free profits. Who controls this money? Why is it tax-free?  How will it be spent? To whom is FIFA really accountable? Ah, to national Football Associations? You mean like the British one, which pays £6 million per annum to a failed manager, which is three times more than the German Coach gets?

These vast sums swilling about leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Of course, any organisation’s primary concern is usually to its own self-aggrandizement, so nothing new there. Even the European Union refuses to get its accounts signed off properly, so what faith the common man can have in the honesty of these vast international organisations is questionable.

Well, the World Cup has come and gone and it provided much entertainment for those watching the games. The long-term legacy for the ordinary people of South Africa (43% of whom live on less than $2 per day) is another matter, so forgive me if my rejoicing is muted.

PS The Vuvuzuela …. nothing to me more clearly illustrates Man’s stupidity. The sound output of this instrument is 113db, which can apparently become harmful to the hearing after only 90 seconds. Those in the stadia (including the players, by the way – did anyone ask THEM what they felt?) were subject to nearly TWO HOURS of continuous multiple vuvuzuelae. Many of those people will have had their hearing IRREPARABLY DAMAGED. This will only become clearer to them in LATER YEARS.

For me it is a symbol of our stupidity. All the above health risks are clear and known. Did FIFA ban the damned thing? OF COURSE NOT!! That would have diminished the “local colour” so vital for the international media, which gives Blatter his $2 billion profit. Who gives a damn about ordinary people’s hearing? I doubt whether Sepp Blatter exposed himself overmuch to the bloody things, though he seems pretty deaf already. Once again, for a transient thrill or benefit we do ourselves lasting damage, no different from the way we often treat the planet of course.

By Chris Snuggs

The Football World Cup Final

And the best side won!

SPAIN AT LAST - AND DESERVEDLY - WIN THE WORLD CUP!!

Background: People of my generation were doubly spoilt in the 60s to 80s; it was a golden age of both popular music and football. As for the latter, we thrilled at the Brazilian and Argentinian magic, the famous German “efficiency” – and occasional touch of magic of their own – and of course the Dutch sides of 1974 and 1978.  Their “total football” and tremendous skills made them exhilarating to watch. The names still linger in the memory; Cruyff, Krol, Neeskens, Hahn, Rep, Rensenbrinck, van Hanegem, van de Kerkhof …

But they never quite made it to the summit. This was not through any lack of quality, but they didn’t have – for me – that little bit of luck at the right time that you almost always need at this level. Could this latest Dutch team possibly do what the astounding Cruyff team hadn’t quite managed to pull off?

Setting the Scene: Unfortunately, the omens for the final weren’t that great. The Dutch coach had made noises about it “not being pretty” and that he didn’t mind how they won as long as they did. There was in fact to be no romantic looking back to the magic of the Dutch sides of 1974 and 1978; this Dutch side was pragmatic. They were going to make up for the past. They were NOT going to be the third Dutch team to lose in the  final ……

In truth, they had done well to make the final, in particular stunning the much-fancied Brazil; you had to take them seriously after that. But they were efficient rather than slinky-skilled like the Spanish. With only one real star, the mercurial Arjen Robben, they were hard and “pragmatic”, which unfortunately – and as it once again proved in the final – often means “rough and brutal”.

The Spanish had shown great footballing skills, particularly in their mastery of the midfield, where they choked the life-blood out of the Germans in the semi-final. Pundits had agreed that the Germans had shown them “too much respect” and “allowed them to play their own game.” This, however, was one mistake the Dutch were NOT going to repeat. They were unlikely to be able to out-football the Spanish, so another strategy had to be found.

The Referee: What an honour to referee the World Cup Final! What excitement Howard Webb and his team must have felt as the kick-off approached. But it’s a fantastic “one-off”; you can never turn back the clock. Mistakes are fixed in time and unerasable, and there were to be several to scar the memory of his special day; which is a personal tragedy in itself.

The Game: Let’s not beat about the bush; the first half was a disgrace. The Dutch game-plan seemed to be to kick the Spain out of their rhythm and indeed even off the field. Some of the tackling was appalling. Feet were smashing in left, right and centre with no hope of getting the ball. Webb was forced to issue yellow after yellow, yet seemed so stunned by and unprepared for the ferocity of what was going on that  in fact, he was over-lenient despite the  number of bookings (14 yellows and one red, easily a record for the final). The Dutch were lucky to reach the interval with 11 players. Van Bommel could well have gone with a straight red; how de Joong didn’t get a straight red is a total mystery to everyone I’ve talked or listened to.

It was appalling, and not just in terms of what was actually happening, it being quite sickening to see players smashed recklessly to the ground. After all, a single clumsy, violent and of course illegal challenge can end a player’s career. No, the deeper tragedy was in the realization that in their desperation to win, the Dutch had cast aside sportsmanship and in essence betrayed the memories of their magical predecessors.  I have no idea what their coach said before, but the brutality of much of the tackling seemed so widespread that one felt it could only be part of a game plan and not just “World Cup nerves”. After some time, the Spanish (somewhat naturally) began to respond in kind so that the yellow cards began to mount up on both sides, and then, mercifully, came half time.

The second half was a bit better; had the players had a bollocking in the dressing room? Of course, for almost half the Dutch side they now HAD to be more careful, since a second booking meant they were off and their team one man down. As it happens, they survived till extra time before they had a man sent off; how is a mystery, and sadly, the referee has to take the blame. Yes, it is a showpiece. Yes, in one sense a sending-off would “spoil the game”, but the spoiling would have been self-inflicted by the Dutch, not the referee’s fault.

The Result? Non-partisan before the game, I was now rooting for Spain. Despite my nostalgia for Dutch teams of the past, their cynical approach could not prevail, could it? But the Spanish were doing everything possible to gift them the game. They simply could not find the goal, despite their usual domination of the midfield. The funny thing is that despite their being “the best side of the tournament”, they won it by scoring the fewest goals in World Cup history – only EIGHT, and winning ALL the knock-out stages just 1-0. As time went on, it seemed they would never score, with shot after shot whizzing miles over the bar or left or right of an untroubled goalkeeper, while the Dutch lurked and waited and should have won with Robben’s one-on-one with the Spanish goalkeeper after a magnificent through-ball on the counter-attack. Mysteriously – and tragically for the Dutch – Robben could not lift the ball a couple of feet and thus surely over Cepillas’ desperately-sliding legs.

And so we went into extra time, the Dutch seeming to play for a draw until finally their misdeeds caught up with them and Heitinga was sent off. With Dutch legs flagging Spain launched wave after wave of attacks and finally found the target with 10 minutes to go. This spared us the agony of a penalty shoot-out, which I would have backed the pragmatic Dutch to win.

But thank God they didn’t and that their brutality of the first half was not rewarded. I asked myself whether a Dutchman could have been proud of this side. Surely nationalism and pride should not prevail over sportsmanship? I am waiting to see what the great Cruyff has to say about it all. (see below)

Sadly, the Dutch players took the defeat badly, with endless complaints about the refereeing.

Agreed, the ref had a very poor game (though the players must take much of the blame for this.) Apart from all the brutality, he missed an obvious corner to the Dutch just before the latter scored their goal. But had the Dutch won, I suspect there would have been an absolute furore in the media, and a legacy of much bitterness.

But in the end, they had nothing to complain about (which didn’t stop them looking). The better – and MORE IMPORTANTLY – more sporting side won, but the post-mortem will continue.  And the final questions are:

  • Is winning really worth losing your honour? If it is, then I’ll stop watching professional football; it’s already going that way to some extent as we saw on Sunday.
  • Will FIFA one day get its act together and sort out the constant gamesmanship and brutality that scar the game? Video evidence seems essential here, INCLUDING its use AFTER games to retrospectively punish bad and unsporting play, which too many players get away with.
  • Why is FIFA so CONSERVATIVE? Why not as in rugby a SIN-BIN for players booked? Knowing that a yellow card would mean 10 or 15 minutes off the pitch would seriously concentrate the minds one thinks.  I hate punishment on a philosophical level, but if it IS felt necessary then it HAS TO BE EFFECTIVE. It is not for nothing that I have nicknamed the FIFA President  Sepp Blabber, or even Blather – either seems appropriate.

By Chris Snuggs

PS I found out about Cruyff – as I had hoped and suspected he would,  he has severely criticised his own national team, showing the same admirable qualities as a man that he did as a player. His countrymen have to take a long, hard look at themselves after all this, not just at the way the team played but at how some people in Holland have reacted to the defeat.

Another Brick in the Wall

Another ‘take’ on Pink Floyd’s 1979 Release

I happened to be listening to the radio the other day and this Pink Floyd song was played again, as it regularly is. It haunts the mind with its dark, brooding and atmospheric rhythm, which is quite ironic for something supposedly against “thought control”.

It never struck me so clearly before, but I realized this time how very stupid it is and how much I really dislike the message it has given to generations of kids. Let’s have a closer look.

We don’t need no education: Oh yes you do, matey! It is in fact the ONLY THING that will SAVE you from “thought control”. The irony of this is breathtaking. What are you going to do WITHOUT education then? Without it you certainly WILL become just “another brick in the wall”, no ability to exercise any kind of judgement, no decent job = no money = no power of decision ….

As a teacher myself, I am frequently faced with spoilt, fairly mindless, ill brought-up, uninterested children who can’t concentrate for more than two minutes because their minds have been rotted by too much television and video-and computer games, plus of course the prevailing ethos in society of: “The world owes us a living.” and “We have a right to cars, houses, holidays and all the rest without having to work our socks off for them as our parents did.”

And of course, one needs to define “WE”. I suppose in fact you mean “YOU” , since who gave you the right to speak for everyone else? In my experience 95% of kids want to learn (i.e. develop their brains to avoid this dreaded ‘thought control’), whereas the remaining 5% of utter morons utterly muck up the class. Given the nature of your ranting I would place “you” in fact among the 5% of selfish morons.

So, the first line is idiotic. Does it get any better?

We don’t need no thought control: No, you don’t, but you don’t get it from teachers; they are overwhelmingly there to FREE your mind. If they tell you to “Shut up” then it is usually in the best interests of A) you yourself  B) everyone else in the classroom. If you are looking for the best purveyors of “thought control”, why not have a go at politicians, advertisers and the like? Or indeed sections of the the media? (or even your own song – another great irony)

You are not FREE in a classroom to “do your own thing” (another prevailing ethos), since that is not possible in a largish group trying to concentrate on something. Your idiotic chatter and behaviour is extremely anti-social and of course humungously selfish.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom: Teachers are frequently driven to distraction trying to help eager kids learn while a minority of mindless, anti-social morons creates havoc. Teachers may indeed resort to occasional sarcasm in the face of this onslaught of idiocy, but they are overwhelmingly reacting to the tsunami of negativism that sweeps over the class from the utter morons.

Teacher, leave them kids alone: Actually Sonny Jim, it is not the teacher’s JOB to “leave them kids alone”. His duty is to HELP THEM, to DEVELOP THEIR MINDS. “Leaving them alone” is the LAST thing he should do.

Astonishingly enough (and it may not have occurred to you – but then you are of course a moron, so what do you expect) the teacher even tries to HELP the morons who make his life hell. That is his DUTY. That is why he BECAME A TEACHER instead of flogging houses or mortgages and making lots more money.

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall: The bricks in the wall are the mindless, uneducated plebs who live unfulfilled lives, and their lives are NOT unfulfilled because they are not Wayne Rooney or don’t have loads of money but because they have no education, like you presumably.

If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding: Too bloody right. Growing children need protein; you don’t in general get that from pudding, but from meat. But then you don’t know that, do you, because you are an uneducated moron.

Don’t you think the teacher has better things to do than constantly moan at kids to eat a balanced diet? But instead of  slumping in an easy chair in the staffroom at lunchtime he gives up his time and more importantly nervous energy (since he gets a lot of negative crap from you) to HELP you A) get more protein B) avoid getting fat and C) learn something about nutrition so that when (God help us, or more pertinently ‘them’) you yourself have kids you might have some chance of bringing them up in a healthy way.

You may not be aware that an insanely-ludicrous percentage of British kids are clinically OBESE. Yes, VERY FAT (though these days it is probably not at all PC to use the word “fat”.) This means their lives will be much more uncomfortable, they will be very unattractive, will be subject to more illness than the healthy and will no doubt die younger.

So, the teacher who sacrifices his own nerves to try to get kids to eat properly is a HERO.

Sorry, your song is utter rubbish from start to end. Worse than that, it is pernicious and also insulting to teachers, whose overwhelming intention and indeed effect is to improve the present and future lives of their pupils.

The song may indeed refer to a personal experience of bad teachers (no section of society is without its black sheep) but the trouble is that it comes over as a blanket generalisation of negativism against teachers, and it is time someone stood up for them.

By Chris Snuggs