They call him The Terminator. And not unreasonably so – for Terminate is exactly what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done to the Californian economy.
Remember how, not so long ago, the Golden State used to boast that if it split from the rest of the US it would become the world’s fifth biggest economy? Not any more. With unemployment at over 9 per cent (and rising), a business exodus more frenzied than the great wildebeeste migration, and a dollars 41 billion hole in its finances, California is on the verge of becoming the first state in US history to be declared bankrupt.
But hang on just a second. Wasn’t this exactly the kind of economic debacle that was supposed NOT to happen under Arnie’s take-no-prisoners stewardship?
Isn’t this why, in the early days, they called him The Governator: because he was going to “cut up the credit card”, slash red tape, high taxes and anti-competitive business regulations, slim down the bloated public sector and turn California back into the lean mean fighting machine it used to be in the days of Ronnie Reagan?
Well yes. That was the idea certainly – and it was one that persuaded quite a few of us at the time. Sure Arnie had his repellant aspects – not least, as Clive James put it, the fact the he resembles a “condom stuffed with walnuts” – but, at least, we thought, he was our humourless, monosyllabic Austrian SOB and not the enemy’s.
As actors went, we thought, he wasn’t one of those Tim Robbins, George Clooney, or Alec Baldwin types whose first move on taking the governorship would probably be to turn half of California into a giant welfare park for the homeless and released death row prisoners, and the other half into a ginormous ice rink for endangered polar bears. Arnie, we thought – and he was, after all, campaigning on a Republican ticket – would be a proper no-nonsense Conservative.
So where did it all go wrong? The kindest interpretation is that Arnie is but the hapless victim of a state so irredeemably left-wing, union-dominated and bureaucratised, that he couldn’t change its ways even if he wanted.
Like France – which each day it more closely resembles – California is caught in a classic socialistic bind: it can’t afford the welfare state, but it can’t imagine life without it. Having started with the best of intentions, the theory goes, Arnie realised he cared more about being popular than he did about giving his voters the economic cold shower that might have rescued them from their statist stupor.
At best, then, Arnie is a moral coward. He had the political capital early in his governorship to clean out the Augean mess of California’s Jabba-the-Hutt welfare state and, like Tony Blair in Britain, he funked it because he preferred being liked.
At worst, though, Arnie is something much more dangerous than that: a deluded fool with the power to do real harm. Consider his green policies. In 2006 California signed into law the toughest anti-global-warming measures of any state in the US. And perhaps they’re working – certainly the freak snow storms which visited London last month and are now sweeping Washington DC suggest someone somewhere is doing something right to bring on the new ice age – but the effect on California’s economy has been disastrous.
The killer has been the State’s forthcoming “cap and trade” measures, which will cost Californian households around $23 billion in increased electricity bills and impose strict limits on businesses regarding the amount of CO2 they emit (with hefty fines for exceeding it). This is why so many businesses are fleeing California (and why unemployment is so high). The last thing they need in a global depression is to find themselves hamstrung with needless extra costs which their competitors don’t have to pay.
Schwarzenegger’s nimble response to this crisis? To go into indestructible replicant mode and plough on regardless. “I recommend very strongly that we move forward,” he said recently. “You will always have people saying this will lose jobs.”
No, Arnie. Not just people saying you will lose jobs. People ACTUALLY losing jobs. Thousands if not millions of them. Under your governorship. As a result of green regulation that you personally introduced.
And where California leads, unfortunately, the rest of America follows. The tax and spend, eco-fascistic policies which have proved so disastrous in California are about to be applied wholesale across the US by President Obama. Copied in Britain too by David Cameron’s Tories, if the Spectator is to be believed.
Arnie, you great big dumb schmuck, you have a hell of a lot to answer for. And I don’t just mean Last Action Hero and Kindergarten Cop.
Should “Sir” Fred “The Shred” Goodwin be sent by extraordinary rendition to prison in Equatorial Guinea, strung up by his wedding tackle, painted in honey and left to hang there while he is eaten slowly alive by mosquitoes and soldier ants?
You might well think so, but I could not possibly agree. First, we must remember that the estimable RBS chief executive has committed no crime whatsoever under English law. Second, the punishment is far, far too good for him.
When I mention these feelings to my more sophisticated friends, they tell me that I am the victim of a cunning government ploy to deflect attention from the REAL villains of Britain’s economic crisis. No I’m not. I hate and blame Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Lord Myners et al, every bit as much as I did before. I just think it would be an awful shame if we missed the opportunity to give Sir Fred “The Shred” the proper kicking he deserves.
Let’s consider the facts. “Fred the Shred” got his nickname by ruthlessly slashing costs at all the companies he worked in. Did he, you wonder, say to any of his dozens – if not hundreds, if not thousands – of sackees as he handed them their P45s: “Och aye the noo, ah ken ye’re the crappest employee we’ve ever had, that ye’ve cost oor business thousands of poonds and tarnished oor company’s reputation forever. But ah’m not a man to bear grudges. Here. This massive pay off and pension package should guarantee you and your wee bairns a life of luxury to the end of your days….”?
Of course he ruddy didn’t. So why should his employers at RBS have treated him any more generously?
And Sir Fred “The Shred” wasn’t just any old rubbish employee. He is, in fact, the most utterly rubbish employee in British commercial history. No one in Britain has ever cost their business so much money. Even “rogue trader” Nick Leeson only cost his bank Barings £827 million. But RBS, thanks in good part to Sir Fred’s recklessness, has just recorded pre-tax losses of £40 BILLION.
So how, pray, can this appalling loser – the sort of person Sir Fred himself would have viewed with the utter contempt in the days when things were going well for him – now justify accepting from his ruined bank an annual £693,000 pension? How can he live with the shame?
Well Sir Fred might be able to. But I don’t think the rest of us should let him. Ever. I know that never forgiving somebody is not the Christian way. But I’m not sure that Christian forgiveness has any place in modern Britain. It belongs to an age when if people did bad – really bad – things, they had the good grace to feel so awful about it their lives become a living hell. Do you see any evidence of that inner torment on Sir Fred’s grinning features? I don’t.
I take it all back. To Equatorial Guinea with the man, at once. And bring on the honey, the mosquitoes and the army ants!
Anyway, Brandon Flowers’s speech. It was about the day aged 13 when he’d had to make a choice between two singles collections (Mom only gave him enough money for one). Either The Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs or The Pet Shop Boys’ Discography. He chose the Pettoes and I think he was right, don’t you? Sure we love The Smiths, they’re great and all that, but if you had to take just one set of music to a Desert Island, which would it be:
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others; Panic; There Is A Light That Never Goes Out; Stop Me If You’ve Heard This On West End Girls; Go West; Being Boring; It’s A Sin; Can You Forgive Her; Rent; Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money); etc.or
It’s a toughie, but I reckon Pet Shop Boys have the edge. They’re more dancey for one thing (useful if there were any exotic plants on the island you could synthesise into E), they’ve more variety, they’re more sophisticated and a lot more influential.
I mean, apart from The Sundays, who did the Smiths ever really influence musically?
Also Neil Tennant would never have misspelt “cemetery”, would he? Nor would he have ventured into terrain as crap as Morrissey’s PETA-style whinge, Meat Is Murder.
Of course, both The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys write beautiful, moving songs suffused with a rainwashed melancholy that makes you believe as you listen that to be English is at once the most tragic and wonderful thing in the world. And really choosing between them is like having to choose between Bach and Beethoven.
But if you had to be really picky, I think you could say that Morrissey’s moping is a bit one-note and solipsistic, whereas Tennant’s is more nuanced, tender, sympathetic. And Tennant’s miles better at light shows and wearing silly hats.
Why the hell am I blogging about the Brit Awards? Because my wife wouldn’t let me watch Generation Kill! or Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan, that’s why. Just as well we did watch the Brits though, because this year the usual cheese-fest of girl bands and chart singles you’ve never heard of was interspersed with moments of pure brilliance.
First big excitement: our friend Florence Welch from down the road, who used to be our babysitter, getting the prize for best newcomer. Her band Florence And The Machine is great – particularly her Kiss With A Fist single – and she’s going to be deservedly huge. And she’s actually nice with it. Really nice. Go Florence! Go!
Second big excitement: The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. Crikey his speech when he gave the Outstanding Achievement award to the Pet Shop Boys was good. Guess it’s what comes of being a sweet Mormon boy: you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t do caffeine, you never ever pollute your brain with intoxicants or stimulants or fun-ulants of any kind. Result: you’re a pop star who can still string a sentence together.
As my friend Danielle Nay rightly points out, though, he seriously needs to get a new jacket. That military-style one with the feathered epaulettes has had way too many outings. Also, much as I admire – and envy – his drug-free articulacy, I still think there’s something basically wrong with pop stars not taking drugs. Bono especially. I bet he doesn’t take any drugs any more and he really ought to. Incredibly strong ones that prevent him from ever, EVER lecturing us on politics. Or making another pop record. Or doing anything, in fact, except living in a Syd-Barrett-style cupboard in Dublin or Ougadougou or wherever – and minding his own business.
Can I tell you how excited I am by the latest toothbrush heads my wife has got for our electric toothbrush? Well, tough, I’m going to anyway. Rarely has my life been improved so greatly for such a tiny increase in financial outlay. In fact, possibly never: I really am THAT excited. I feel rather as an Allied tanker might have done if in December 1944 he’d gone to look for where his Sherman was parked and found a brand spanking new Tiger there instead.
“So THAT’S what a proper tank looks like,” he’d have gone. “One that doesn’t have armour thinner than a Kit Kat wrapper and has a proper gun and looks really big and scary. And has cool black crosses on the side too!”
Yes, that’s pretty much how I feel about these new toothbrush heads. They’re called the Oral B Pro White and they polish your teeth and grind through your gummy crevices with the precision, vigour and raw mighty power of Kampfgruppe Peiper
thrusting through the Ardennes. “Why did I not have this killer-weapon-in-the-war on plaque at my disposal before?” I wondered. And the answer is that, up till very recently, my wife had been buying the Oral B toothbrush heads for sensitive teeth. They were crap. The worst thing of all was, the brushy bits were not broadly spaced enough to let the tiny food bits escape which meant that all too quickly they started to smell rotten.
Now readers: over to you. Can you name other examples of things which you can buy which aren’t very expensive but which, in your experience, have improved your life immeasurably?
Everyone’s saying that Bolt, the new animated canine adventure romp, is a return to form for Disney. And everyone is right: it’s funny and it’s charming and the 3-D does actually look three-dimensional, with cool glasses you can take home afterwards if you like.
It’s not as good as The Incredibles, though, not least because its politics are all wrong. One of the things that made The Incredibles so bold, and original and special – in the old-fashioned sense of the word, that is: not as in “disabled” or “mentally-retarded” – is that it offered a rare critique of the feel-good, all-shall-have-prizes, progressive ethos so tirelessly promoted by liberal Hollywood. This is why National Review online quite rightly named it one of its top 20 Conservative movies.
The key scene in The Incredibles is, of course, the one where Dash wants to enter the school running race but can’t because his super-powers would give him an unfair advantage. “Dad says our powers make us special” says Dash. “Everyone is special,” says Mom. “Which means nobody is!” spits Dash.
How did such a profanity slip past the Hollywood censors?
No such profound or original thinking with Bolt though. The plot – if you don’t want to know the results, look away now – revolves round the adventures of a Hollywood-action-superstar dog called Bolt (John Travolta) who, like the hero of The Truman Show, is oblivious of the fact that his whole existence is just one massive cinematic construct. He’s not really a superdog with laser eyes and the ability to destroy whole armies with one bark. He’s an ordinary dog, just like you and me. (If we were dogs, that is).
So really the film’s trajectory is kind of anti-The-Incredibles: not about discovering your inner hero, but rather about discovering your inner crapness and being content with it. So long as your owner (Penny) loves you, well that’s all that matters. The pay off is that Penny and Bolt quit their (presumably highly-well-paid) life of Hollywood superstardom and retire to a home somewhere in the Mid-West to live the normal life that a kid and her dog should lead. With the talking New York cat. The talking hamster. And fat-faced, nonentity single Mom.
OK, fine. But a few questions are surely in order:
Where’s the father?
Why is Mom’s face so fat?
Why are we tacitly invited to applaud Penny’s decision to quit her brilliant Hollywood career in favour of a life of small-town mediocrity?
Do the film-makers not know that there’s a Global Depression on?
Are they not aware that, the way the world economy is going, Penny may never get paid employment ever again?
So what kind of example is Penny’s decision setting to the world’s 13-year olds?
Yeah, maybe some of this liberal subtext will go right over the kids’ heads. But some of it, you can bet, will lurk in their psyches, fermenting and bubbling away, until one day it erupts in a pyroclastic flow of spewing loserdom. And there’s nothing their parents will be able to do. Except, maybe wish they hadn’t taken them to see Bolt. Or at least give them a good talking to, first, about its sinister left-liberal subtext.
Badger says:February 18, 2009 at 10:10 amI haven’t seen Bolt yet, but I can tell already that what’s crap about it is the lack of a single word on the billing: Pixar. This is just Disney, as far as I can tell and Pixar don’t just bring the technology, they bring the quirkiness that made the Disney Pixar films great rather than just technically stunning. It’s like Morrissey without Johnny Marr or Genesis without Peter Gabriel. Still good but not great.
Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize and I’m still reeling at the shock. Most of us are, I should think.
Here are my theories as to how it might have come about:
1. Unlike in most of the rest of the world Øbama Køøl Aid (TM) remains Oslo’s most popular beverage.
2. The Norwegian prize committee’s sense of irony is growing ever more sophisticated, as it hinted when it gave the prize in 2002 to comedy ex-president Jimmy Carter, and hinted more strongly when it gave the prize in 2007 to climate-fear-promoting comedy failed-president Al Gore.
3. The other candidates on the shortlist were Robert Mugabe; Osama Bin Laden; Ahmed Jibril; and the late Pol Pot.
“The economic crisis could spark a resurgence in the far Right,” warns a senior British government cabinet minister.
Warns? Well he would warn I suppose this guy – Balls is his name and that’s exactly what he talks – being as he’s so mindlessly, instinctively, incorrigeably left wing he makes Joe Stalin sound like Rush Limbaugh.
But speaking for myself I’d say a little bit more far Right is just what the world could do with right now. Our economies would recover more quickly; our kids would be better educated; our wives (qua Mayor of London Boris Johnson) would have larger breasts (if we so chose, though of course it wouldn’t be compulsory for small-but-perfectly-formed-breast-favourers like me); we’d earn more money and live longer and have all the leisure time we needed to do whatever we wanted, be it hunt foxes or smoke cigarettes or drive our 4 x 4s incredibly fast on no-speed-limit motorways or eat live ortolans in truffle and foie gras sandwiches or take long bracing walks in pristine landscapes unsullied by useless wind turbines or anything else we fancied, pretty much, because we’d be free, free, FREE!
Some of you might be wondering where the death camps fit into all this. And the Swastikas.
And the gay-bashing. And the Jew-murdering.
And my answer is: they don’t.
About the only Nazi/fascist thing I can envisage happening in my far-Right paradise – that and the fact that chic, Hugo-Boss-designed uniforms will be perfectly permissible among those who fancy such things – is that the trains will run on time. But that’s all.
You see when I talk about far Right, I don’t mean the caricature “all Conservatives are closet Nazis” version of supposed extreme right-wingery which appears in leftist propaganda from the likes of Mr Balls.
I just mean something a bit more robust than the limp-wristed conservatism currently espoused by a worryingly large number of US Republican and British Tory politicians. I mean real conservatism not “Compassionate Conservatism”, (which isn’t conservatism at all but diluted liberalism.)
Whenever I try explaining this to people (as I do quite a lot because hey, I’m on A Mission) usually their eyes glaze over or they look at me like I’m mad. “What?” they go. “How can you like cool music and be so heavily into freedom and call yourself right wing?”
My friends – I’m presuming you’re reading this because you want to be my friend and not because you think I’m evil and wrong and are just lurking here to annoy me – my friends, it is time that those of us on the right (and those of us who think we, er, might possibly be on the right, but are too scared to admit it, even to ourselves) came out of the closet and started standing up for ourselves and our cause.
Say it loud, say it proud: “I’m right-wing and I’m good and I’m happy in my skin.”
There. Don’t you feel SO much better?
I know I’ve been feeling a lot better, anyway, ever since I started becoming a fully-fledged, unabashed, practising right-winger.
Just recently, as I never tired of my reminding my long-suffering Facebook friends, I did a publicity tour of the US. Well, maybe a tour is too grand a word for it, given that I only stopped off in New York and DC. But I did do lots of talk radio, maybe thirty stations across the US, and just to ram home (so to speak) that gay analogy one more time, I came away feeling rather as my gay friends must have done when they finally plucked up the courage to tell their parents that, um, if they were expecting grandchildren any time soon then maybe it might not be too good an idea to hold their breath. I felt relieved of a terrible burden: the burden that comes of being right wing and forever having to hedge your views with semi-apologies, and nervous circumlocution, and long-winded explanations as to why is that even though you’re right wing your politics spring from the noblest of motives.
When you do the right-wing US talk shows, none of that is necessary. Au contraire. The more unashamedly right-wing you are, the more they love you for it. They take it as a given that being on the right is the right place to be. Which makes a refreshing change from doing pretty much any talk radio show in Britain, let me tell you. Over here – where most talk shows of note are in the control of the instinctively, unthinkingly left liberal BBC – your job as a right-winger is, at best, to provide freak-show amusement value; at worst, to afford prey for a series of carefully prepared traps with leaves on top and ravening tigers lurking in the pit underneath.
Your interviewer’s aim – this applies on TV as much as radio – will be to hold your opinions up to his audience’s righteous contempt by demonstrating that you are one or more of the following: a xenophobe, a racist, a climate-change denier, a Little Englander, a NIMBY, an elitist, a snob, or just a plain evil selfish bastard who doesn’t give a fig for anyone but himself. The BBC doesn’t do this deliberately. (Well, not often). It genuinely sees itself as a model of balance and reasonableness. Unfortunately, though, because it is staffed almost totally by bien-pensants recruited through the media pages of the left-wing Guardian newspaper, a BBC apparatchik’s idea of the centre ground is actually some way towards the political left.
But I have been sidetracked. There will be plenty of time in future blogs to have a go at BBC bias. My point in this inaugural one is to come up with some kind of statement of intent: who I am, what I stand for.
And what I stand for is a lot of things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with people on the right. Some of the things I value, admittedly, are straight down-the-line conservative. I believe in tradition; I go to church (though not nearly as often as maybe I should); I think foxhunting and staghunting are the coolest, most exciting sports ever invented (with grouse-shooting a close second); I believe that the English public school offers the best education in the world; I worship Johnny Cash; I get a terrible, aching, yearning feeling in my heart when I listen to Vaughan Williams’s English folk song suite; I play bridge; I like long country walks; and I’m utterly obsessed with World War II and am never happier than when talking to veterans – or indeed when hanging out with servicemen generally because yes, I do think meanly of myself for not having been a soldier, and I will always envy and admire those who have faced the ultimate test.
But not all my enthusiams are stereotypically right-wing. I’m liberal on recreational drug use, for example. Very liberal – though as I would prefer to put it “classically liberal” or libertarian. I like dance music. Led Zeppelin. Love. Radiohead. DJ Shadow. No seriously, my taste in music is pretty immaculate though I say it myself. And if you follow my recommendations up right, or go to my archive, I promise you, you’re in for many treats. I’m also a sensitive literary type. (Well, I write novels – the current series being set in World War II – which may not be quite the same thing. They’re full of graphic violence, black jokes and dirty sex, which the more straight-laced conservative type might find a bit near the knuckle). I like South Park. And The Simpsons. And culty, arthouse films like Lilya 4 Ever; Adaptation; Brazil and Being John Malkovich. I like Starship Troopers. The Sopranos. Band Of Brothers. Das Boot. And I’m really into vampire movies, so long as they’re evil vampires like in 30 Days Of Night, Salem’s Lot, From Dusk Till Dawn and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, and not wussy vegetarian ones designed for girls like in that current teen-vampire film whose name I forget.
Oh and having travelled a lot in Africa, I care about the state of that continent and am fascinated by its people (though I don’t think, pace Bob Geldof and Bono, that the solution lies in bombarding them with aid). And I get on well with black people, yellow people, hispanics and Jews. Even Germans and French, sometimes. I don’t think I’m racist. Well, certainly no more than the next human being. And I have so many gay friends, it has been suggested that I might be a closeted gay myself. Or at least that I’m in denial. Heavily in denial presumably, given that I’m happily married with a wife and three kids.
Anyway, look, fuck it – oh yeah, swearing, that’s another thing I do, which I have to be much more careful about in the US where I know casual swearing is much less prevalent among educated people – I’ve told you quite enough to be going on with. Really, all I wanted to do here apart from offer you a gentle introduction to the kind of thing I do, is come back to that point I was trying to make at the beginning about the fact that being right wing is not the same thing as being a Nazi. Or a fascist. Or any of those other nasty slurs that left-wingers like the Balls man and Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky and the rest like to use against us in order to wriggle out of the need to engage us in honest debate.
And if you want an even more detailed explanation of why right wingers, no matter how extreme, are neither fascists nor Nazis, read Jonah Goldberg’s excellent Liberal Fascism. The Nazis were a movement of the left – National Socialists – not the right, and the only reason that today we imagine otherwise is because of a very successful propaganda campaign begun by Joseph Stalin, and continued by his fellow travellers and useful idiots ever since.
Me, I’m a nice guy. I love my family, love nature, like peace and love, and never drown kittens unless it’s strictly necessary. But you know what? Just recently, what with Obamaland and all, I’ve had this wonderful, liberating sense that I no longer need to apologise to my antagonists on the green-tinged liberal-left for who I am and the things for which I stand. There are people, I’ve realised just recently, whom I’m never going to convert through force of argument, no matter how eloquent my delivery nor how indisputable my evidence.
So to all my friends and would-be friends I say: welcome!