Wednesday, September 12, 2007


It's a boring life being an editor, and I don't see why, if I'm to be bored, anyone reading this shouldn't suffer along with me. So here is an ill-informed commentary on today's feed from the Guardian, at least until the boredom finally does me in.

First up, Bush is to follow Petraeus' recommendations, which, given that he wrote them, should not be a surprise. I'm not going to comment on the surge's failure (and it has obviously failed because its aim was not to make a small impact on security in Iraq; remember, those troops were supposed to be sufficient to allow "breathing space" for a political solution -- however, a political solution doesn't need "breathing space", it needs goodwill, which is in short supply; without goodwill, you can suppress violence as much as you like, but there will be no resolution, and without resolution, the bloodshed will simply continue), but I do wonder about Bush. From snippets I've found around the web, he seems to feel that the US is "winning" in Iraq. But can he really be thinking that? That's what I struggle with. Even if he's not particularly smart, he has some smart guys around him, and they see what we see. Which is not victory. As so often with Bush, you're left with the question, is he dumb or pretending? It's connected with a broader question: were the Americans caught on the hop by how Iraq fell out, or did they intend chaos to ensue because they knew they could profit from it? I know that the neocon line was that if they smashed Iraq (or any nation), it would spontaneously reform as a market democracy). But this is so obviously ridiculous that you have to wonder whether smart guys can really believe it. Why is it ridiculous? Because "progress" is defined by your viewpoint. You might think that a market democracy is the pinnacle of human organisation, but that's likely because you benefit from it. If you didn't benefit so much, you might consider another state something to progress to. Islamists do not share the belief that a market democracy is the pinnacle, and some Islamists are ferociously smart (which is half their problem). Furthermore, we did not ourselves spontaneously form market democracies: they are outcomes of processes that took centuries, and they are layered, sophisticated systems, which have grown out of historic compromises and power struggles.

I am not sure which is true: that the Americans were dumb or they are pretending. The pretending would run very deep, which is not like politicians, who are much more likely to be predictably venal and hypocritical. There's a whiff of conspiracy theory about the idea that they pretended to fuck up. But I do think it's possible.

How things are in Iraq is the subject of this excellent reportage. The English press has been way out in front on Iraq, of course, particularly the two centrist papers, the Independent and the Guardian. Gaith Abdul-Ahad is particularly good, and I do recommend reading anything you can find by him: it's not spoonfed bullshit from the US military, which is the bulk of American mainstream reporting.

In the McCann case, the prosecutor is passing the file to a supervising judge (Portugal has a Roman legal system, I believe). It's not clear why, but the indications are that the police believe they have a case against the McCanns. I don't wish them ill, and of course I would like to see the child recovered in one piece, but I delight in the other possibility. If the mother killed Madeleine, in whatever circumstances, and disposed of her body some time later, she is a wonderfully evil character. Imagine the moxie you would need to have killed your child, and then to appear on TV to appeal for her return. Indeed, I think it would make an excellent exercise in thinking about characters for us writers. Which is she? A heartless bitch who murdered her own child and then set up a huge campaign for her return as a smokescreen, or a poor woman who accidentally killed her beloved child, panicked and found herself caught up in a media circus, unable to back out and say, I did it? The second is much more challenging, because she chose a high profile to some extent. On another note, it's a horrible way to become famous, but it should in a small way be a comfort to parents: the abduction of children is rare enough that we know the names of the children taken. In these days of paedophile panic, it's something to bear in mind.

Talking of villainous characters, heeeeeeere's Osama. I haven't watched the video and I'm not likely to. I'm familiar enough with Osama's critique not to bother with it. I share many of his views, but we differ over the best way to fix the world's problems. I'm not keen on "kill everyone who doesn't want to live in 8th century Arabia" and he's not keen on "share and share alike".

Politicians call for murder of civilians in Gaza after rocket attack on Israeli base. Of course, they don't say "we demand that you kill a bunch of children", but they're aware that that will be the outcome. This is how war is. It's disgusting. Unfortunately, Israel is in the strong grip of hawks, and there is no prospect in this generation of peace without a major change of heart on its part and that of the States. Fat chance of that, so the suffering, on both sides (because it is not pleasant for Israeli civilians either), will continue.

I'm not one to judge people by appearances, but check her out. She looks just the type to have a vicious dog. These people are fucktards par excellence. Why on earth would a decent person want a pit bull? They are symbols of a cult of machismo that afflicts chavs. They recognise that life is tough, and their response is to out-tough it. Many of the people in the town I lived in as a late teen were like that. It made Friday nights particularly unpleasant, because you never knew when one of the local hardnuts would decide that you needed punching in the face. In my view, I don't ever need punching in the face. Mild remonstration usually does the trick. YMMV.

It's like the good old days. Unions threaten strikes. Unions? I didn't think we had them any more.



At 1:53 pm, Blogger Father Luke said...

I'm just fucking curious.

At 1:59 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

So bored I forgot to give it a title ;-)

At 2:27 pm, Anonymous theminotaur said...

I actually got to listen to the live feed of the Petraeus testimony at work (some of it, anyway). What never ceases to amaze me is how little is actually said, and how predictable their little questions and answers are. But amidst the whole shebang, which sounded like a readthrough of a really boring script, two things were interesting: one, that whenever anyone attmpted to ask Petraeus of the big picture, for instance, isn't the size of the force in Iraq preventing us to pursue bin Laden and al Quaeda in general, or what will happen if by March we don't see any progress, he responded by basically saying, "Look, I was hired to deal with Iraq and this surge, so what happens outside Iraq, or in a few months time is really not my concern right now." Two, that every time some Republican praised Petraeus and his leaders, several screaming protestors would be escorted out. Too bad I couldn't hear what they were saying, although I have a pretty good idea. There is some hope in that - at least some people are speaking out. Another encouraging bit I heard was that Petraeus strongly opposed any groung operations in Iran: he said that issues can and need to be worked out diplomatically. So the four-star general is not a complete retard. What a relief!

At 2:33 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

It's coming to something when the best you can say about a general is that he may be a lickspittle and a liar but thank goodness he's not a *complete* retard.

I wonder sometimes how it must feel to be someone like Petraeus. He's smart enough to know it's bullshit but he was hired to do a job.

At 8:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am not sure which is true: that the Americans were dumb or they are pretending."

I think a bit of both. There's a story about the Puritans who first invaded North America, they seem to have taken the stance "work or starve". In part it's set the tone.

If you don't want to starve you have to work, if you work you have massive stress (they know you'll put up with it), if you have major stress you have to spend lots of money entertaining yourself and pretending that things are fantastic, if you spend lots of money you have to work more or harder or whatever, and when all's said and done you don't have the time or energy left over for paying attention to what "your" government is doing... as a result the country is governed primarily by the wealthy who don't have to spend their time making the wheel in their cage spin, and they govern for their own benefit.

btw, I recall you said the standard workweek in the UK is 35 hours and in AU it's 37 hours. In the US it's still 40 hours with 2 weeks of holiday per year.

I don't know what the average net worth is in America but I'm pretty sure that it's negative, the only thing that keeps them going is not missing a paycheck and getting a raise once in a while to pay the accumulating interest. Not all prisons have bars.

At 11:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall you said the standard workweek in the UK is 35 hours and in AU it's 37 hours. In the US it's still 40 hours with 2 weeks of holiday per year.

Zen is wrong. The reality is UK working hours are much longer and now average 39.5 hours a week.

According to the ONS, in April 2006, full-time workers averaged 39.5 hours although part-time workers are working longer, averaging 18.4 hours1.

Just over a fifth of people in employment (5.8 million, or 20.1%) work more than 45 hours a week.

Moral of the story don't believe every thing Dave writes. I asked for him to produce evidence of his 35 hour claim! guess why he didnt.

At 12:40 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

I don't have to provide evidence for you, you mincing baldy fucktard. The standard workweek has nothing to do with how many hours people actually work. What a clueless prick you are!

At 3:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The standard work week is your own invention.

The real World definition of a standard work week is the average number of hours worked by those in full time employment. Any other definition is false, but hey you are agenda lead so you pick and choose your definitions on a whim.

It must really irk you to know that i pity you!

At 8:13 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

"The real World definition of a standard work week is the average number of hours worked by those in full time employment."

Maybe roadsweepers don't have contracts, dude, but most of the rest of us do, and the standard workweek is the hours we are contracted to work.

Here's your ragged arse. Try not to hang it out for a spanking again.

At 9:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe road sweepers don't have contracts, dude, but most of the rest of us do, and the standard work week is the hours we are contracted to work.

You don't have a contract, you are freelance so WTF is "We" cos it ain't you, you are hourly paid or is it piece work?

Even a complete retard realises that in the real world contracted hours and actual hours worked bare no relation to each other.

You don't actual know fuck all about the real world do you? being stuck in a celler for your entire working week, that is if you actuall have a weeks work.

At 9:30 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

I wasn't always a freelance, tard. And the point is, as usual, sailing past you. It's of no account that actual hours don't match contracted hours when what you are considering is how you annualise part-time work. That's what we're discussing, remember?

At 9:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's of no account that actual hours don't match contracted hours when what you are considering is how you annualise part-time work. That's what we're discussing, remember?

No that was another post and another set of comments! who's the tard?

This set of comments is in reference to this:

*btw, I recall you said the standard workweek in the UK is 35 hours and in AU it's 37 hours. In the US it's still 40 hours with 2 weeks of holiday per year.*

To anyone but you a standard work week is the average hours worked by a full time employee gedit or shall we just add pedantic ARSEHOLE to your list of faults?

At 9:50 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Oh, I see. It's a lack of reading comprehension!

We are talking about the standard workweek, Gunty, not the week you actually work. The former is an administrative fiction, set out in contracts. It doesn't make any difference that in a given week you work 36 hours, 34 hours because you were late a few times or 54 hours because you are an arsekissing fool who doesn't value his outside life enough.

Now, you're boring me, Gunt, because as usual for you, you're just mouthing without bringing anything to the party. So you can have one more comment, which will go unanswered, and anything else on this subject just gets deleted. Okay?

At 10:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The average hours worked by a full time employee in the UK is actually much longer that 40 hours a week. Most contracts stipulate 35-37.5 hours a week. Very few workers receive any over time payments, so in actual fact work many hours for free, the NHS depends on the dedication and good will of its employees to do this, if they did not every thing would grind to a holt. Many office workers with mundane office jobs do exactly the same because of the target based culture that now pervades UK society. The true number of hours worked is closer to 35-37.5 + 5-10. Real world figures! but what do you say? You say its irrelevant and quote 35hrs the lower end (actually its the French working week) of a scale for a full time employment. I know absolutely no one (and i know a lot of people) who is in full time employment that dosent work from home that only works their contracted hours. I'm sure i keep saying it but you do need to get out and meet real people in the real world, before you loose the ability. Are you Autistic?

At 11:23 am, Blogger Father Luke said...

"I don't have to provide evidence for you, you mincing baldy fucktard."

Another fucking Dr Zen classic.
- -
Father Luke


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