Thursday, February 04, 2016 

The search is over.


Update: This guy only beat me to it by 12 hours or so. Using the exact same Sooty photo no less. Memes and originality, eh?

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Saturday, January 09, 2016 

Quote of the millennium.

When asked about the Sun payment, Danczuk said: “I am not talking to the press.”

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Monday, January 04, 2016 

Please let it be Rebel Ringo.

Yes, it's the game currently being played in newspaper offices across the country, it's the what do we call the apparent replacement for Jihadi John jamboree!  Now you too can join in, so long as you have no qualms whatsoever with coming up with an alliterative title for a masked killer who is merely a propaganda tool and has no wider significance within Islamic State whatsoever!  

Will his moniker be:

Rebel Ringo?
Genocidal George?
Plundering Paul?
Fundie Fred?
Militant Maurice?
Terrorist Terrence?
Attacker Arnold?
Salafist Samuel?
Evil Ernie?
Killer Karl?
Islamist Ian?
Balaclava Bill?
Decapitating Donald?
Headlopping Harold?
Neckcutting Nicholas?
The White Widower?
Continuity Corbyn?
Jihadi John (again)?
Hanoi Jane?
Benedict Arnold?

(That's enough silly names. Ed.)

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Saturday, January 02, 2016 

A shorter Towards a Realignment of the Left.

Me and my two other mates think other people on the Left are at best idiots, and at worst, active enablers of genocidal Stalinist Islamofascist scum.  We accept the responsibility to protect, believe in war all the time, all of the time, so long as it's not me or my mates having to do the fighting, and we read such seminal essays as Why Jeremy Corbyn is Worse Than Hitler by Dan Hodges.

However.

Some of us *also* think all the other stuff the Left thinks.

Moreover.

Some of us think both of these things at the same time.  Inspired by democratic socialist thinkers such as that dead bloke what wrote a blog, Hal David, Larry David and Groucho Marx, we are committed to new ways of thinking about critical theory and solidarity.

We intend to establish a 'little magazine', entitled Pompous Leftists With High Opinions of Themselves for War, an open online journal of ideas, mainly how right we are about everything ever, but where others of like mind can also contribute.

Without wanting to seem grandiose, knowing that we stand in the rubble of past Historic Projects of the Left, seeing our tradition stretching as far back as when The Prized Three plotted insurrection against Ethelred the Unready, only for Peter Turnip to turn on his two comrades and betray them to the Paganists, our aim is to reimagine everything - except our devotion to military action planned and executed by people who despise everything we stand for.

If you find yourself in agreement with this statement, for goodness sake keep it to yourself.

James Bloodworth Martyn Hudson Alan Johnson

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Thursday, December 31, 2015 

New old proverbs.



"You live by the Sun, you die by the Sun."

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015 

Basic: journalism in 2015.

On the evening of Sunday 7 June, an easyJet flight from Bodrum, Turkey landing at Luton airport was met by police who escorted passenger Kate Moss from the plane for disruptive behaviour. The internet discussed little else for days, for this was a story with many talking points.

What were the police wearing when they arrested her?  Did Kate's dress match the plane?  Were those Schindler's Rungleforeskin sunglasses she was wearing?  Exactly how much Shatner's Bassoon fragrance did the police use as a makeshift alternative to CS spray to bring the raging model under control?

But all of that was by the by.  The detail of this story, one that literally changed the entire course of 2015, was the insult Kate threw at the pilot of the plane as she was escorted, kicking, screaming, clawing and foaming from the flight.  She called her a basic bitch, and overnight a hitherto, underground term of abuse hit the mainstream.

How we all roared with laughter at the crushing humiliation the "basic" pilot went through after being tongue lashed by this spoilt, overgrown 41-year-old millionaire brat.  What better way to make clear to such a pleb that the the normal rules clearly don't apply when it comes to a superstar model?

Because Kate is nothing like basic.  Kate is the very opposite of basic.  She smokes, she drinks, she snorts cocaine, she looks increasingly like a 65-year-old who has spent her entire life doing those things, but still all us fashion journalists love her as she is the ultimate get out.  When in doubt, write about Kate.  It's just so very basic.

Basic though has an extremely long heritage.  While difficult to pin down precisely when it was first used as an insult, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's bag-handler, is recorded as describing Catherine of Aragon, the King's first wife, as "being so basic she no doubt still enjoys Chaucer".  Oscar Wilde is believed to be the ultimate progenitor, explaining to a Reading gaol screw on admittance that "I have nothing to declare except my not being basic".  Most famously, rapper Big Dick Dwayne on his track Niggas, Bitches and Being Basic, proclaimed "Basic bitches on my dick / Basic bitches on my dick / Basic bitches on my dick / Basic bitches on my dick / All you niggas basic too".  More poignantly, Sylvia Plath's final journal entry before she stuck her head in the oven reads simply "Turns out I'm basic after all."

Basic works because it can mean whatever you want it to mean.  Sure, it's mainly used by vacuous, hateful fuckbubbles who imagine themselves better than everyone else because of what they've just bought when compared to what your mum just did, and anyone using it can be effectively written off as even shallower, even snobbier and even more empty a person than whoever it's being directed at, but it can also be thrown at an arrogant, vain man, and then it's perfectly acceptable.  Face it, we all live on a rock where life at best is random, if not completely meaningless, and if we journalists can't encourage our readers to also be self-regarding consumer slaves, then what can we fill space up with?

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Monday, December 14, 2015 

The vicious circle of twatitude.

Hey, you there.  You're a twat.  Yeah, you heard me.  Now, wait a second, I didn't mean you're a twat in the sense that you, singularly, are a twat.  Far from it.  What I meant was, we're all pretty much twats.  I'm a twat.  You're a twat.  The people gathering around us anticipating you smashing me in the face with your clenched fist are twats.  That twat there with the beard and man bun with the smartphone filming all this, he's really a twat.  And all the people that had some sort of role in the production of that phone, whether it be the designer, the programmers that coded the apps, the poor sods in China that put it together while getting poisoned in the process, the people that marketed it, they're all twats.  Most of all, the people that will then share the video of you twatting me, the journalists who will write clickbait articles on it, all the people on Twitter that will laugh about it, they especially are twats.  Life isn't a bowl of cherries.  It's a neverending parade of twats, twatting about, twatting each other and shoving their twats in our faces.  Do you get me?

It won't have escaped your attention that a good section of the commentariat appears to have declared the general public to be twats.  Of course, they aren't talking about the general public at all.  The actual general public are completely indifferent to what the commentariat thinks about anything.  A good percentage of the general public never watches the news, listens to the news when it comes on the radio, reads a newspaper, or so much as visits a news site unless a huge, earth-shattering story like man bites dog breaks.  The real general public, if they are on social media, use it to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances and talk about everything other than politics or the news.  The commentariat are really talking about the people who don't agree with them.

And now, especially following the Syria vote, MPs too have decided that the general public, i.e., anyone who contacts them, are for the most part twats.  They're a bit more discreet than most hacks, but former MP Tom Harris rather lets the cat out of the bag.  Think Hugh Abbott in the have you ever had to clean up your own mother's piss episode of The Thick of It, only without agreeing with him that the public are another fucking species as it's impossible not to like him.

Harris, bless him, thinks just as how the way someone treats a waiter tells you a lot about their character, the same should be the case with how MPs get treated.  Leave aside just for a moment how there are plenty of waiters out there who could do a darned sight better job than a good number of the MPs we currently have, and just focus on the thought process behind that.  Waiters, MPs, what's the difference, apart from the power they have, the wage they get, the people they serve, the clothes they wear, the having to deal with incontinent brats barely past shaving whining about how their steak isn't precisely medium rare?  I'm stumped.

Just for good measure, Harris brings up Jess Phillips MP telling Diane Abbott MP to "fuck off".  Harris and all the people cheering on Phillips don't like Abbott.  Abbott just happened on this occasion to be right, in telling Phillips to stop being so sanctimonious about women not getting top roles in the shadow cabinet when there were more women overall than ever before, but that doesn't matter.  Phillips is to put it mildly, another of those MPs who believes the world revolves around them and if their name isn't in the press on any particular day they have failed.  They adopt a faux of-the-people persona, write comment pieces about how hard it is being an MP while at the same time not suggesting for a moment that they want or deserve sympathy, and then carry on stirring the pot for all it's worth.  The media as a result love them, regardless of how idiotic, repetitive, narcissistic or publicity seeking their comments and reactions are.  Simon Danczuk and John Mann have made great careers out of being loudmouth blowhards jumping on every passing bandwagon, with only the former ever held anything approaching to account.  Phillips will apparently stab Jeremy Corbyn in the front if it comes to it, thinks the public wanted to hear from Corbo that terrorists with AKs and bombs strapped to them will be shot in the head 10 times on sight, just like that Brazilian jihadist was, and the party needs to stop going on about Trident.  Because you haven't been able to move for the Labour party obsessing over Trident of late, rather than about itself thanks to say twats like Phillips not knowing when to shut the fuck up.

Which brings us to the media as a whole.  They love twats even as they denounce them.  They couldn't exist without twats.  While the commentariat denounce petition writing twats and complain about free speech being eroded, the hack at the screen opposite them writes up the latest piece about whichever petition some idiot on Twitter has just started, and how many people a second are signing it.  The editor demands yet another piece on what Trump just said, and another to go with it on what it all means, and then a thinkpiece by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett or someone of that ilk on why Trump has a dodgy hairpiece and herpes.  Of the brain.  Look at what this twat is wearing!  Look at what this twat thinks!  Look at how this twat looks tired!

It doesn't seem to occur that you can only go on regarding everyone as a twat for so long.  This is being borne out by, you guessed it, Trump.  The media in America might be slanted to the right to a ridiculous extent, but Trump supporters still don't believe a word they write.  And why should they?  They think the media are twats, and the people behind the media think they're twats.  It's a vicious circle of twatitude.  The same is the case here.  We saw it in the Labour leadership election, where the "modernisers", the "moderates", whatever you want to call them, exasperated the grassroots to the very limit.  The result was Jeremy.  You see it with the SNP and their supporters, who are convinced the media is biased against them, which it is, and that it matters, which it apparently doesn't considering the election results.  Look at this opening line from a Wings Over Scotland post, and try not to see either projection, or an irony so overwhelming that it should by rights knock you off your feet:


A strange phenomenon we’ve remarked upon numerous times since the independence referendum is the inexplicable undying rage of a certain subset of Unionist voters.

We heard lots about how the internet was supposed to be this great democratic force, how it will transform everything, how nothing will ever be the same ever again, the end of history, and so on.  In fact what it seems to be doing is quite the opposite: we've never been exposed to so many different views, and yet at the same time we've never been so prepared to dismiss them when they don't fit with our prejudices.  Like the old Marx (Groucho) joke about those are my principles, and if you don't like them I have others, if we don't like the fare offered by the lamestream media, there are a whole host of new and improved alternative news sources that will tell it just like it is.  Their content might be unbelievably narrow in scope and subject, but when they think the same people are twats that you do, what does it matter?

Naturally, you can discount all of this as I'm a twat.  Indeed, I'm an even bigger twat than most, as I'm a twat pointing at twats being twats while being a twat myself.   If there's a coda to all this, beyond how we so often mistake those we disagree with as being twats or being the majority when the majority is never very interested in anything you're doing, it's that disagree on how serious what this group or this person or that petition writer is currently doing, there are some individuals who would rather we were less human, and they're not necessarily the Trumps of this world.  For example, see the conclusion of this otherwise fairly reasonable Laura Bates piece:


The feminist endgame is not to publicly punish everybody who makes a rape joke, or ban every advert that uses rape as a titillating way to sell products. It is to create a society in which it would never occur to anybody to do either in the first place.

That's a world I for one would not want to live in.  A society where we cannot make jokes about anything, to anyone, where the very human spirit of finding humour in the bleakest aspects of our nature is denied, even if that means Dapper Laughs or Jimmy Carr still existing?  Count me out.  I'll take my chances with all my fellow twats.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2015 

The petitioners and the Fury.

As another miserable year draws to a close, it does so with an air of deja vu.  The year began with demands that Ched Evans be denied employment with any football league club after being released on licence from his jail term for rape.  It ends with demands for Tyson Fury, not convicted of anything but with a whole array of obnoxious opinions, to be denied so much as a place on the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year.

Sports Personality of the Year has always been a misnomer; some might go so far as say an oxymoron.  Rare has the public vote ever been about personality as opposed to achievement, with it only coming into play when there is something resembling a choice on offer, as opposed to the usual one or two with the main claim to being the outstanding performer of the year.  And let's face it: when Zara Phillips can win (worth noting is that the infinitely more deserving Beth Tweddle came third that year), despite having no discernible personality beyond being a minor Royal and on the basis of being quite good on top of a horse trained to do something you can't so much as gamble on, there has in the past been something rotten at the heart of Dodge.

Fury everyone agrees does have a personality.  He is as Barney Ronay puts it in an excellent profile a more complex figure than merely a boxer with a sideline in expressing his unpalatable religiously influenced views on homosexuality, women and the fast approaching apocalypse.  Not many pugilists will during their careers admit to any sort of weakness, let alone as Fury has talk about depression and suicide.  Not many "dickheads" with boneheaded, antediluvian views will be able to outfight and outthink an opponent like Wladimir Klitschko, proving the experts wrong.  Not many from Fury's background will have a moment in the sun beyond getting the chance to appear on a Channel 4 documentary, to be gawped at, laughed about and feared all at the same time.

Fury in short breaks all the agreed upon rules of being a sportsperson in 2015.  No, you can't be a completely blank canvas and succeed, but nor can you be any more divisive than say, Andy Murray is, criticised in the past for coming across as grumpy and morose.  The vast majority will shrink from making any sort of comment on politics whatsoever, not least because it's often written into their contracts and is bound to come into consideration when sponsors make their decisions on whom to fund.  Only once you've achieved the success of someone like Murray can you then start to make your views known on a topic as controversial as Scottish independence and get away with it, personally and financially.

We are then back in the parallel universe where some truly believe the aura of a sportsperson can be so overwhelming, it can subvert every norm and value inculcated in an individual since birth.  Ched Evans, the argument went, could not just waltz back into his former position at Sheffield United as he was a role model.  It would send the message that you could commit a crime as terrible as rape and be welcomed back afterwards as though nothing had happened.  With Evans there were the further extenuating circumstances that he continued to claim his innocence (his case has since been referred back to the Court of Appeal), that he was out on licence rather than having completed his sentence, and that his victim had been repeatedly named and abused on social media by supporters of Evans, connected with him or not.  The campaign as it was succeeded, and failing the quashing of his conviction it seems Evans will not play professional football again.  To me at the time it seemed a punishment out of all proportion with the offence, however grave; others felt strongly the other way.

With Fury there are no such extenuating circumstances.  Nothing he has said is or should be illegal, as Peter Tatchell for one has set out while condemning his views.  The absurdity of not so much as wanting the wider public to be allowed to reject him in a vote is made clear by the petition itself, which says


The BBC clearly do not understand that by nominating Fury, who has on a number of occasions expressed homophobic views and compared homosexuality to paedophilia, they are putting him up as a role model to young people all over the UK and the world.

In this strange view of how things work, it's not Fury's achievement of winning the world heavyweight championship that makes him a role model, it's the BBC's recognising of his success.  Leave aside that you can look up to someone's sporting prowess while at same time despising them in every other respect, as you can with the man Fury was named after, or as will become the case with Oscar Pistorius, and you're left with the impression the petition starter truly believes if only the media were to ignore or ostracise people who make their unpleasant views known in public, the remaining barriers to LBGT participation in sport would fall away.

Scott Cuthbertson presumably doesn't believe that, as discrimination is far more insidious and embedded in both sport and society as a whole than encapsulated by the brash statements of a throwback, and yet both he and 130,000 others seemingly don't want to chance the British public deciding otherwise.  While it can often seem as though the great British value of tolerance isn't all it's cracked up to be, do the signatories truly believe someone who says a woman's place is either in the kitchen or "on her the back" and speaks in the same breath about homosexuality and paedophilia can win such a major award, rather than Jessica Ennis-Hill, whom Fury insulted?  Wouldn't those who signed it better serve their cause if they campaigned for Greg Rutherford, who has made clear his unhappiness about Fury's inclusion but decided not to withdraw?  Indeed, wouldn't this country be a better place if the ridiculous pretence was dropped that a person's talent, or when it comes to "reality" stars complete lack of, means they should be judged and treated more harshly?

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015 

The left is to blame for Donald Trump adopting Douglas Murray's old ideas.

"The left is to blame for Trump" trills Douglas Murray over at the Spectator, as though the rise of the Donald could have been put down to anything other than the worldwide ranks of radical Islam deniers.  At the very head of those responsible argues Murray is President Obama for not letting that phrase pass his lips.  Most would probably take it as read that Obama has a low opinion of Islamic extremists; he has after all authorised more drone strikes on the leaders of various jihadist groups in more countries than his predecessor ever did.  Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, you name 'em, he's turned a "radical Islamist" into ground beef in one of them.

Murray's great disagreement with Obama isn't on any of this, naturally.  It's rather that in his view the President "refuses to name Islamist terrorism or identify where it comes from".  Considering virtually no politician anywhere points out it originates from Wahhabist thinking, and is still being spread by our great ally Saudi Arabia, Murray is right on that score, just not in the way he imagines.

Some people might reflect the wars and targeted strikes of the past 14 years don't seem to have had much effect, all told.  They would be wrong of course, as the reason why there hasn't been much effect is we haven't been fighting the wars properly.  We've been acting like a bunch of pussies, goes the Trump critique; we should be "bombing the hell out of them".  It doesn't expand much beyond that, like pretty much all of Trump's policies.  That Obama has been fighting about the smartest war possible (read: it's not very smart at all, but we're talking relatively), following on in many ways from where Bush left off after the clear out of the ideologues in the latter half of his second term is precisely what they so object to.  Counter-insurgency tactics, getting American troops out where and when it was politically possible, half-heartedly going along with arming jihadists to overthrow secular dictators (see Syria passim ad nauseum), even teaming up with al-Qaida to fight Islamic State, all the good stuff, these were all complex and difficult decisions as opposed to simple ones.

Murray agrees this is a complex problem that doesn't have easy answers, except obviously if only the president and the left were to admit Islam isn't a religion of peace then Trump would never have been able to get to a position where he could make the strongest possible signal of his intent.  If only the left hadn't for years "made the cost of entering this discussion too high, so too few people were left willing to discuss the finer points of immigration, asylum or counter-terrorism policy", then now they wouldn't be listening to a demagogue saying keep them all out.  Perhaps more than anything Murray is pissed that they didn't listen to the person back in 2006 who said "It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop."  Now that someone with the gravitas of Trump has adopted his stance, Murray disowns it.

To step back for just a moment from the snarkiness, there is a very small kernel of truth to the idea that Trump is in some way a reaction to political correctness.  It is incredibly tempting to look at how controlled the terms of political debate appear to have become, with both left and right intent on policing what is and isn't permissible in seemingly any discussion, and extrapolate that Mr and Mrs American Voter aren't interested in pleasantries, safe spaces or whichever practice is deemed to be getting shamed at this precise moment.  They just want someone to mean what they say, and when a figure like the Donald turns up and says something incredibly stupid while making clear how not stupid what he's saying is and how smart he and his audience in fact are, why should we think otherwise?

Except the truth is Trump is just the latest in a long line of Republicans who got where they are by giving their audiences precisely what they want, which is simple, moral lessons borne out of long-held values expressed with conviction, certainty, and strength.  Ronald Reagan was the master of this, but he was only following on from Nixon, and Nixon had adapted his strategy somewhat after Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy.  Trump might well be this strain of the GOP in its purest, more virulent form, possible only in 2015 where the abuse of anyone that either stands in your way or criticises you is no longer a barrier as it's precisely what a subset of Republicans have come to expect.  It also helps immensely that Trump's campaign is to an extent self-funded.  Make no mistake though: Trump owes his origins entirely to the American right post-Goldwater, merely given a new gloss of saying whatever "outrageous" thing comes into his head next, knowing that the coverage given to the resulting outrage seems only to work in his favour.

Trump is also different in that there isn't anyone behind the throne.  Much the same figures behind Reagan, given their first positions under Nixon, then came back to the fore under Bush Jnr.  Trump by contrast is his own man, another of the reasons why the Republican establishment is in such despair over the inability of his challengers to do him almost any damage whatsoever.  While there are a number of reasons to think it's extremely unlikely Trump could become president (assuming he manages to win the Republican nomination), not least demographics and his turning off of everyone other than the true believers, it's worth considering what's happened in the past when the Republican candidate hasn't faced a charismatic Democrat alternative.  Reagan beat a wounded Jimmy Carter and then Walter Mondale; Bush Snr beat Michael Dukakis, before losing to Bill Clinton.  Bush Jnr beat Al Gore and then John Kerry, before John McCain lost to Barack Obama.

Trump's all but certain challenger, Hillary Clinton, is the American equivalent of a Blairite, only without the charm of the man himself and lumbered with the political wisdom of Tristram Hunt.  There's no guaranteeing she can reach the same people Obama did, demographics in the Democrats' favour or not.  And as other commentators have been quick to note, once the previously unthinkable becomes thinkable, political discourse as a whole quickly changes.  That might be the real threat posed by Trump, but anyone betting on it remaining the only one is a far more optimistic person than me.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015 

That police advice on what to do if caught up in a terrorist gun attack in full.

Developing dynamic lockdown procedures

What is dynamic lockdown?

Dynamic lockdown is the ability to quickly restrict access and egress to a site or building in response to a threat, either external or internal.  Of course, if the terrorist has got inside, then locking it down so either they can't get out or the police can't get in might not be the best idea.  Some sites due to their nature may also not be able to achieve lockdown.  In which cause you're pretty much screwed and you can probably disregard most of the rest of this note.

Why develop dynamic lockdown?

You've heard of the illusion of safety, right?

How to achieve dynamic lockdown
  • Identify all access and egress points
  • Identify how to quickly and physically secure these points.  Because your staff obviously won't be panicking and running for cover when dozens of AK-47 bullets are whizzing at them
  • Staff must be trained to act effectively and made aware of their responsibilities.  Anyone who does something stupid like play dead in the event of an attack should be fired immediately, even if they died as a result
 How to let people know what's happening
  • Public address system.  The operator should try to remain calm and not alert staff to the fact they may all be about to die
  • Dedicated "Lockdown" alarm tone.  Preferably similar to the "all clear" and "fallout" tones that would have sounded after a nuclear attack, and were practically identical.  
Training your staff
  • Train all staff using principles of "Stay Safe" (see below)
  • Resist the temptation to test staff by asking Muslim employees to grow their beards and raid the premises using toy rifles one wet day in January
How to Stay Safe
 
Run

  • Seriously, fucking run.  Use some common sense though; don't run towards the men with guns
  • Insist others leave with you.  If they're gibbering at the prospect of potentially dying, try and slap them out of it.  Drag them if you have to.  You can always use them as a shield if you get spotted
  • Leave belongings behind.  That means your iPhone, your man bag and your skinny latte.  Smashing the phone of any halfwit attempting to film the proceedings is not only highly advised, it should be considered mandatory
Hide
  • If you can't RUN, as you're morbidly obese or pissing yourself at what's happening, then HIDE
  • Outside of the line of sight of the gunmen, obviously.  If you can see them, they can probably see your worthless hide
  • Be aware of your exits.  As if you and everyone around you wasn't already
  • Try not to get trapped
  • Lock / barricade yourself in.  Yes, this contradicts the above if the gunmen shoot out the lock or break down the barricade, but at least you tried, eh?
Tell
  • Everyone on social media what's happening.  Then the BBC, ITV, the press, etc
  • Phone 999.  Just to be on the safe side
Armed Police Response
  • Remain calm.  Don't worry that all your friends and colleagues may be bleeding to death, you're safe now
  • Avoid sudden movements.  The police will be just as jittery as you, only they'll be as heavily armed as the actual attackers
Officers May
  • Point guns at you
  • Grab hold of you
  • Shoot you multiple times in the head without warning.  If you're wearing a light denim jacket or are a wookie
  • Then ask you questions
You must STAY SAFE
  • What are your plans if there were an incident?  Don't think you're safe just because you live somewhere like Cockermouth, either.  Forewarned is forearmed
  • What are the local plans in the event of a tactical nuclear weapon strike?  Are you aware of the location of the local mass grave?
  • Finally, if all else fails
  • DUCK and COVER

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Friday, October 16, 2015 

Corbyn's shit and you can't take it!

It's over lads.  Time to go home.  Rob Marchant on Labour Uncut has spoken:

It is now taken as accepted everywhere in British politics, with the exception of some parts of the Labour Party’s rank and file, that Labour cannot win an election with Corbyn at the helm.

Yes.  We cannot possibly wait for as long as say next May, and see whether there is any sort of uptick in Labour's fortunes in Scotland or in the local elections.  Barely two months into Corbyn's leadership, it's accepted everywhere that he cannot win an election.  Why, he's been denounced by everyone other than the Corbynistas, who will Corbsplain to you precisely why it is he will take 100% of the vote in 2020 and lead us all to the promised land of facial hair and teetotalism.  He will wipe away every fear of austerity from our minds, and there will be no more Cameron, or Farage or Sturgeon or Kendall anymore, for the former things will have passed away.

Everything, you see, is either Corbyn or McDonnell's fault.  No one can deny that  Monday's u-turn on the fiscal charter reflected extremely badly on the leadership, suggesting that McDonnell had not so much as read the document itself.  Yet, rather than vote with the new leadership once they had made the right decision, 21 MPs abstained for reasons of pure spite.  If only, some ought to reflect, there had been a similar near riot akin to the one at Monday's meeting of the parliamentary Labour party after Harriet Harman's fuckwitted we cannot oppose the welfare bill epiphany, Corbyn might not be leader now.

Besides, I realise we all have ten second memories, but I do recall that Miliband's first choice as shadow chancellor was only half joking when he said the first thing he needed to do was get an economics for beginners primer.  I'd rather have someone who admits his mistake, embarrassing as it was, than someone who doesn't have a clue.

Worth recalling also is what the Labour whips thought of Corbyn and McDonnell's own rebellions.  Corbyn was a "lost cause", while McDonnell was a "shit".  At the moment, Corbyn's opponents for opposition's sake are acting like the latter.  It isn't a good look.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015 

Can you direct me to the nearest designated mass grave?

"In the long run," Keynes said, "we are all dead."  When it comes to any exchange of nuclear weapons, you can reverse his maxim.  Verily, in the very short term we will all be dead.  Or, if extraordinarily unlucky, still alive in a world where the living will envy the dead.

In what has already been a remarkably stupid last few weeks, the whole why-won't-that-bastard-Corbyn-incinerate-everyone-out-of-spite-if-we're-all-going-to-die-anyway debate has truly taken the cake.  Last night's Newsnight was utterly surreal: Evan Davis and Lord Falconer considering hypothetical after hypothetical, Falconer making clear that he would indeed if prime minister keep the option open of taking part in unprecedented slaughter, as that is clearly what the British people would expect.  The reaction of members of the shadow cabinet team to Jeremy Corbyn replying to a straight question with a straight answer they must have known he would give, that he cannot conceive of any circumstances in which he would ever launch nukes, has been bizarre and disloyal.  Andy Burnham, Maria Eagle and all the others are apparently perfectly happy to join in with the end of the world, so long as someone else starts it first.

As Dan Davies pointed out, Corbyn was asked entirely the wrong question.  The question should not be would you break out the nukes, as it is almost inconceivable we would ever use them without the support of the people who help to make our "independent" deterrent.  The question rather should be whether a prime minister would use them without US approval, and secondly what they think would happen if they did.  It's all but impossible to think of any scenario where potential nuclear war was imminent that would not involve a square off between the US and either Russia/China, the only other nuclear armed states that have the potential to destroy each other and much of the rest of the planet if they so wished.

In such circumstances, the NATO doctrine of an attack on one is an attack on all would come into play; there would be little effective choice in the matter unless the PM decided the whole Threads look wasn't a good one.  If nuclear holocaust happens, we're going to die.  Simple as.  If the prime minister of the day then is such an utter shitbag that his letter to the commander of the Vanguard sub says yes, please spray more nuclear megadeath around for the sheer sake of it, it's not going to make a blind bit of difference to us.  It might well to other countries without insane defence/war policies, but to a nation where Radio 4 has stopped broadcasting?  Nope.  Of course, the commander himself might in such circumstances decline to follow those orders, as who's going to know or rebuke him.  You wouldn't however put your mortgage on such a hope.

The oh, you can't say definitively you would never use nukes because you always have to make the potential enemy think you might argument is therefore bunk.  It's not about making the Russians/Chinese think twice, it's wholly about the ridiculous, yes I'm so dedicated to the security of my country that I will happily see it annihilated in a nuclear fire, my bollocks are bigger than yours political game.  It wouldn't matter as much if there was on the horizon the merest suggestion that we might be returning to a Cold War frame of mind, but there isn't.  On the contrary, the Russian intervention in Syria and the relative lack of reaction to it makes clear that the wear your mushroom with pride days are not about to make a comeback.  The Russian intervention in Afghanistan in the 80s seemed of a piece with the rise in belligerence by both sides.  Today, there is no such desire to restart the waving of ICBMs.

This doesn't mean it can't happen.  It could, not least if leaders more volatile than Obama or Putin come to power, or if China decides to further step up its militarisation of the South China Sea.  The smart money though remains on either a continued terrorist threat, as far as there is one, against which anything other than conventional forces are useless, or small scale actions like the ones in Ukraine, where irregular forces and militias are used, and so ditto.  As Diane Abbott rightly points out, some of the most respected retired generals previously made clear their opposition to Trident replacement, wanting the money to be spent instead on conventional weaponry.

The biggest obstacles to getting rid of Trident if we so wished are not so much those considerations, as politicians know full well nukes are useless militarily, but rather the "loss of standing" disarming would have. Allied with how the military-industrial complex must go on being fed, a view supported by the unions, with GMB leader Sir Paul Kenny (knighted by Cameron, natch) saying Corbyn would have to resign if he became prime minister and didn't change his stance, it's far easier to just accept that our weapons are both "independent" and a "deterrent", must be replaced, and be on the brink of being launched at all times.  Anything less is to give in to the "nirvana fallacy", to be unrealistic, to go against the accepted rules of politics.  Whether such thinking stands up in a world that moves ever further away from 1989, where the public mood is one of wanting to stop meddling as a direct result of the foreign policy failures of recent times, remains to be seen.

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Monday, September 28, 2015 

If you go down to the Fuck Parade...

Cereal Killer cafe is not the cause of gentrification, nor can it instigate the solution.  Seriously, we just sell breakfast cereal.  Not your Aldi own brand rip-offs of Frosties or Shreddies either, we're talking the real deal, imported from all over the world.  Pure 100% grade A Strawberry Smiggles, Reese's Type 2 Diabetes Puffs, Hello Kitty Bukkake from Japan, Chairman Mao's Wheat Strips from China, you name it, we can get it.  Then we'll lovingly pour it in a porcelain dish with your choice from one of over 20 different varieties of liquid, dozens of toppings, and all at the low, low price of double a whole box of the stuff.

We can't then understand why anyone could possibly object to our little cafe.  Cereal selling boutique outlet we may be, but we are also far more than that.  We offer an experience you simply can't get anywhere else: breakfast in our eyes is not just the first meal of the day, it's a way of life.  Come down to Brick Lane and be transported back to your childhood, where a bowl of heavily processed sugar and chemicals was the be all and end all of existence.  The cafe is decorated with cereal memorabilia; what others might call the detritus of marketing past we view as a social history, the story of us, as experienced through the eyes of the Honey Monster.  We are extremely serious about breakfast cereal, and we know that many of our customers are as well.  We take much influence from the grandfather of breakfast cereals, John Harvey Kellogg, who believed that Corn Flakes could help the fight against masturbation.  We credit his thinking for my brother and I's beards, as without the distraction provided by our mission to serve only the finest of the world's maize offerings we would have realised how stupid we look long ago.

Our business is in essence a love letter to the commodifcation of childhood as being a halcyon period of wonder and happiness, as well as our failure to adjust to adulthood beyond the embracing of capitalism at its most decadent.  When then a protest terms itself the "Fuck Parade", and yet we did not see any sort of love on display, let alone the promised fucking, only sneering, visceral hate and bullying, we ourselves must object.  Those on the protests may have some valid points to make, not that we heard any or would recognise them as such if put to us, but frightening our customers and vandalising our cafe is not the way to go about doing so.  Frankly, they're 10 years late in any case: the gentrification boat in Shoreditch has long since sailed.  Why don't the organisers move just a little further north and smash the glass of businesses in Hackney itself?

I mean, why us?  What is it about two hirsute blokes selling infantile food to other similarly inclined middle class individuals and urban ironists that some middle class people find so terrible?  We don't take business from anyone else, as no one before us had quite such a horrific idea, and we in fact bring tourists and rubberneckers into Brick Lane who wouldn't have come otherwise.  £4 for a bowl of cereal isn't that bad compared to the price you'll pay for a pint, and we have the same overheads as everyone else.  We can't charge someone who doesn't look like our usual clientèle less purely on that basis, on the off chance they might ordinarily get their cereal from a food bank.  Why sneer at us when plenty of our critics think nothing of paying £10.00 for a falafel sandwich from Pret a Manger swilled down with the bottled tears of a Syrian child, or £500.00 for a pair of Versace Y-fronts?  Why didn't Class War target those conglomerates rather than a small business like ours?  It's snobbery, that's what it is.

My brother and I know poverty, having been brought up in Belfast.  Our parents scrimped and scraped to buy us Lucky Charms, instilling in us the virtues of hard work and sacrifice.  That's what Cereal Killers is about: working hard, playing hard, making life better for everyone.  It saddens us that others are too immature, too selfish, too blinded by an ideology motivated by theft and envy to see us for what we really are.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015 

Long may she reign.

Tributes were paid today to a woman who has spent the past 63 years on the toilet.

The lady, Bessie Warhammer the IIIrd, 96, from Cleethorpes, was diagnosed with Hopkins' dysentery, an especially virulent and incurable form of the infection in 1952.  Although it is not known at precisely what time Warhammer took to the brick shithouse in her back garden, it is believed her lengthy reign on the porcelain telephone has now broken the record previously set by Lady Victoria Price, who famously suffered so badly from incontinence that she walked around with a convenience strapped to her at all times.

Leading the messages of encouragement was prime minister David Cameron.  Speaking in the Commons, he described Warhammer's long battle with the sewage system as "truly humbling".  "Bessie has such a sense of selfless service that she thought today should just be an ordinary day.  When so much else has changed, that one woman could have made the sacrifices she has, not seeing her children grow up, witnessing her house burn down and being unable to do anything about it as she was indisposed, refusing to lower the Warhammer standard when Princess Diana died, things we can hardly begin to imagine, on today of all days her honour must be recognised.  Truly, her smallest room struggle has been the brown thread running through three post-war generations."

In one of her final acts as interim Labour leader, Harriet Harman added that it was "no exaggeration" to say Warhammer was "admired by dozens around the world".  "Many of those people are still having to poo in a hole in the ground, and Bessie's story reminds them that they too can aspire to live in a toilet of their very own.  The Labour party will do everything it can to help them achieve those dreams."

Speaking from the specially constructed bathroom in the nursing home where she now lives, Warhammer maintained the understated air she has become known for.  "This was not a title to which I have ever aspired, but I thank everyone for their touching messages of great kindness.  Now will someone please put me out of my fucking misery?"

In other news:

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Friday, August 28, 2015 

House of Lords number crunching.

8 - Number of Lib Dems voters saw fit to return to parliament after five years of coalition with the Conservatives

11 - Number of Lib Dems nominated to the House of Lords for services to the Conservative party

2 - Number of former Lib Dem MPs knighted for their help in getting the Conservatives their first majority in 23 years

4 - Number of honours handed out to various people for services to Nick Clegg

3 - Number of Downing Street staff given the resurrected British Empire Medal, a bauble recognising something that no longer exists, to honour years of service to politicians regardless of stripe

1 - Person bewildered by politicians' continuing insistence on making the public despise them, i.e. me

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Thursday, August 20, 2015 

New victim of Labour purge identified.

There was consternation today after it emerged Ed Miliband's incipient beard has been denied a vote in the Labour leadership election.  The new facial appendage was informed via email, in what has been dubbed the "great Labour purge", that it does not support the "aims and values" of the party.

"It's an outrageous decision," said Keith Flett, chief executive of the Beard Liberation Front.  "The idea that beards are anything but rooted in Labour values is absurd.  From Marx and Engels to Keir Hardie, from Ramsay MacDonald to that apology for a moustache that once took up space below Ken Livingstone's nose, from Peter Mandelson to Robin Cook, facial hair and the Labour party have always gone together.  To deny this is to deny history.  The Milibeard must have its vote restored forthwith."

A spokesman for the Labour party, who refused to comment on whether he too had decided to forgo using a razor for a couple of weeks, denied that the decision had been made in error.  "We have reason to believe that the Milibeard is an unconscious attempt on the part of Ed to indicate support for Jeremy Corbyn.  As all former leaders are required to either keep shtum or endorse Yvette Cooper, we had no option but to remove his vote."

It as yet unclear whether Ed plans to add to his new hipster image by getting a sleeve tattoo and opening a breakfast cereal pop-up eatery in Shoreditch.

In other news:

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015 

Membership of Conservative party 'may be sign of extremism'

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has defended the government ahead of tomorrow's introduction of a legal requirement on schools to prevent extremism.

Morgan, who still looks visibly surprised to be in a position of any authority whatsoever, was combative.  "What our critics have to understand is this puts us under the same level of scrutiny as everyone else.  And let's be honest here, the Conservative party could until recently have fallen foul of our definition of what extremism is.  The mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs? I should coco."

"Individual liberty is all well and good, but if it leads to someone saying things we now declare to be extremism of the non-violent variety then obviously we have to step in," Morgan continued.  "As for the rule of law, the law is whatever we declare it to be, and if we don't like the interpretation of one judge, well, we can always get that of another.  Nor are we safe when it comes to democracy, as we have no problem whatsoever with palling up with some of the most unpleasant governments on the face of the planet, like our good friends the Saudis, who respond to demands for freedom of thought with the sword and the whip.  Did you see there was another attack today in Yemen claimed by Isil on the Houthis?  We're hoping no one notices that we are on the same side as IS there, not to forget allied with al-Qaida's affiliate the Nusra front in Syria."

Asked whether it was the height of hypocrisy for Morgan to claim that homophobia might be a sign of extremism when she and many other Conservatives opposed gay marriage, Morgan gave a remarkably straight answer.  "Well, obviously.  But we either can't or won't do anything real that might help tackle extremism, so we decided making life even more miserable for some of the people least likely to vote for us was as good a way of any of showing we're doing something."


In other news:
Fifteen-year-old threatened with TPIM for describing teacher as "well gay"
Parents of latest IS runaway blame teachers, police, government, social media, Basil Brush, Charlotte Church, and Buzz Aldrin for her disappearance
Counter-terrorism exercise held in London, officers trained to shoot for head of nearest Brazilian
Labour party abandons policy of social democracy, as "issue is gone"

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Thursday, March 05, 2015 

Still mass debating the debates.

It really can't be stated enough just how much of a blinder David Cameron has played from a position of weakness on the debates, or increasingly likely non-debates, and what a spectacularly craven one the broadcasters have from a position of strength.  For months before the first proposal sources made clear Cameron would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of what he and his advisers felt was a debacle last time round, when Clegg seized the advantage they felt was rightfully theirs.

Rather than adapt their bids accordingly, they walked straight into Craig Oliver's trap.  Dave debate with Nige? Not without Natalie there to snipe at Ed and Nick from their blind sides.  Instead of saying OK and calling his bluff, they came up with the completely ridiculous and unwieldy idea of also inviting Plaid Cymru and the SNP, and to two rather than just one of the showdowns.  Why then not invite the DUP as well, or Sinn Fein, the Natural Law party, the Pirates, the Real Elvis continuity wing?  There didn't seem to have been the slightest thought put into how a 7-leader debate could possibly work, presumably because they were expecting Miliband and Clegg to now say hang on, this is becoming a joke.

Only they didn't, apparently believing the pressure on Cameron to take part would become too much.  It hasn't, as was predictable considering there isn't as much demand for the debates as the broadcasters, heady from the belief the debates were the campaign last time, and the other parties have convinced themselves.  Then you also have to factor in the lack of pressure from the press, both as they have an interest in not helping out the broadcasters and as most have already dismissed Miliband as only slightly less weird than Arnold Layne, making anything that could prove them wrong extremely unwelcome.  If it was Miliband refusing to be involved you can imagine the uproar, the jibes, taunts, the multiple interns in chicken suits that would be following him around everywhere.  As it's Cameron he'll raise the ire only of the Daily Mirror, and their stock isn't exactly high at the moment.

Now we have Oliver and Cameron's "final" offer, and it's playing the broadcasters at their own game.  You wanted 7 leaders, you've got it, but we're only doing one and before the campaign proper gets under way.  As contemptible as this is for all the reasons the other politicians have spent the day outlining, you also can't help but admire the way it's been done.  It's been Campbell-esque in its evil genius, which is no doubt why it's annoyed the man himself so much.  Having a debate before the Conservative manifesto has been published is all but pointless, as Paddy Ashdown pointed out, as is one when the very presence of at least two of the leaders is completely irrelevant to most of those watching as they can't vote for the SNP or Plaid Cymru whether they like the sound of their policies or not.  Even if answers to questions were limited to two minutes, that's nearly quarter of an hour that's going to be spent on just each leader's opening gambit.  No wonder Cameron thinks he'd escape completely unscathed from such an encounter.

And so we are once again left with the broadcasters threatening to "empty chair" Cameron.  Only because of the impartiality rules the Conservative policy would have to be outlined regardless, quite possibly by a journalist, making the spectacle even more ludicrous, and leaving the one-on-one debate with Miliband presumably transformed into either a long-form interview with Paxman or a town hall style non-event.  The question is who comes out of such silliness looking worse, and Cameron will quite happily take a few negatives headlines rather than risk Miliband appearing prime ministerial a week before voting.  Channel 4 and Sky offering to move that debate forward yesterday was all the encouragement Cameron and Oliver needed to make a final mockery of the "negotiations".  What a mess, and for all the cowardice, cynicism and calculation of the Conservatives, the incompetence of the broadcasters has been just as remarkable.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015 

Mass debating the debates.

Is there anything more thrilling, more guaranteed to get the pulses racing than a debate about having debates?  Does parliament get any more electrifying than when the back and forth is effectively the equivalent of two eight-year-olds saying I know you are but what am I?  Could the public, supposedly completely engaged and at one with the leaders demanding the debates take place, in fact be any less interested by this cavalcade of nonsense, from both the political parties and the broadcasters?  Is that enough rhetorical questions for an opening paragraph?  (Yes. Ed.)

Christ alive.  If anything, what I find most perplexing about this entire farrago is the insistence, best expressed by Roger Mosey, that "In a short time, television debates have become a vital part of our democracy".  To which I say: bollocks.  What they most certainly have become is very lucrative indeed for the broadcasters, especially when budgets have been slashed for news gathering in general.  Why bother to follow the party leaders around the country on the campaign trail when you can let a skeleton crew do that and instead concentrate on those heavyweight clashes between the big three, or indeed four, or even five?  David Cameron is of course prevaricating over the inclusion of the Greens when he just doesn't want to take part as there is no possible way he could gain from the debates unless Farage shoots Clegg and Miliband dead while a bodyguard takes the bullet intended for him, but all he's really doing is reverting back to practice before 2010.

What's more, there's a decent case to be made for having no debates at all, or just the one between Cameron and Miliband.  Everything about our political system makes the presidentialising (or infantilising, if you prefer) of party leaders problematic.  Just look at the outcome in 2010: "Cleggmania" led to the Lib Dems increasing their share of the vote, only for the way those ballots were spread across the country to mean the party in fact lost seats.  However you try to dress it up, come May we'll be casting votes not for a party leader, but a party's local candidate.  Only those lucky enough to live in Witney, Doncaster North or Sheffield Hallam will have the chance to personally support one of the big three. 

For all the uncertainties over the election outcome, there's also no doubt the prime minister will either be from the Conservatives or Labour.  Unlike in presidential systems, our party leaders also do regularly go up against one another, although the quality of their tete a tete's are not always as high as they could be.  True, they rarely face questions direct from the public, but it's also not as if they won't have answered the ones set to be posed dozens of times before.  There's something to be said for taking a leader out of their comfort zone and seeing if they get agitated or crumble under studio lights, and they clearly serve a purpose for all those smart enough not to follow politics or the news in any great depth, but otherwise they are supremely overrated and over analysed events.

Whether they suck the life out of the campaign as a whole though, as Cameron is felt to believe the debates did in 2010 is more open to question.  Also different this year is the campaigns have already effectively started; most people won't be taking any notice till around the start of April, it's true, but can anyone really say they're looking forward to Cameron then repeating for the umpteenth time it's a choice between competence or chaos?

Besides, this isn't for once a mess of the big three's making.  The broadcasters must have known the second they started making plans for Nigel every other smaller party would demand they get a hearing too.  Invite him and you surely have to invite the Greens; invite the Greens and you may as well get the SNP and Plaid Cymru in too, as otherwise they'll start whinging despite not standing candidates outside of Scotland or Wales.  As to whether this makes the entire thing even more ridiculous, or impossible to contain to 90 minutes, let's worry about that nearer the date.  Oh, except this provided Cameron with his excuse to back out.

Only now comes the call for the broadcasters to go ahead without Cameron should he continue to refuse to attend.  Really?  This isn't HIGNFY where Roy Hattersley can be replaced by a tub of lard with hilarious consequences, it would render the entire spectacle completely pointless, a bit like those wonderful debates between Clegg and Farage last year that no one watched.  If the incumbent doesn't go along with it, it snookers the entire process,  and would surely also be unfair to Clegg, who'll be left having to defend the coalition at the same time as he'd like to be distancing himself from it.  For all the half serious half snide remarks about how without Natalie Bennett the debate would be one between four men on the centre-right, it would also result in Clegg and Miliband ganging up on Farage, which if they sat back and thought it through is unlikely to help them much either.

Surely the best solution is as the Graun suggests, for ITV to call Cameron's bluff and invite Bennett regardless of what Ofcom's final decision is.  If they won't, and the wider media really is sincere about this being what the public expect now and the very essence of democracy and so on, they should step into the breach themselves.  Otherwise, is it really unimaginable for there to be a campaign which doesn't revolve around the leaders and instead is about, horror of horrors, policy?  Would it be possible for the manifestos to be somewhat gone over and compared with each other, for instance, or even a series of films on what the issues are in different constituencies across the four nations?  Are we back asking rhetorical questions again?  (Yes. Ed.)

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Thursday, December 18, 2014 

An open letter to Alex Willcock, CEO of VisualDNA.

As a digital stick in the mud, one of those people who enjoys the benefits of the internet but doesn't feel the need to share his every waking moment and feeling with a bunch of strangers, it falls to me to state that the wankery expressed in your Graun advert is even by the usual standards of the guff produced by marketers and advertising agencies quite something to behold.

It's also an extraordinarily pretentious way of saying that you're going to continue sucking up people's data regardless of whether you have permission to do so or not, as your company does currently, boasting of how you can tell your customers of the "Demographics Interests Intent and Personality (DIIP) data of almost 450m people worldwide" (sic).  This is obviously a load of utter crap, but then what else is the point of businesses like yours?

Hopefully this response to your attempt to spark "discussion and debate" reaches you well. Now do everyone a favour and poke your "understanding economy" up your arse.

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