The Paddle and the Greasy Pole

Life’s Little Ironies thought that a little bit of light entertainment was in order to help digest the sticky-toffee pudding of political discourse we have been having recently. So here are two clips from Yes, Minister and The Thick of It, which both show the obsessive insanity of politics.   In the 1980’s the enemy was the Civil Service, whose role was thwart any initiative adopted by the Government. Hacker’s adversary is his Private Secretary. Notice how their engrained suspicions of each are conducted through a thick veil of politeness and centuries old convention. This is a battle of wit and words that would not disgrace a French Restoration comedy.

Twenty-five years later the Mandarins have been emasculated by political appointees and now the enemy is your own party. Policy is driven from the Cabinet Office and enforcers in the shape of Communication Directors keep Ministers on message and not vice-versa. Iannucci’s Spin Doctor Malcolm Tucker is like a modern day Rake’s Progress but instead of Rakewell’s obsession with prostitution and gambling, Campbell’s Tucker’s obsession is disinformation and manipulation of people and news. His episode by episode implosion towards a mental breakdown, as observed in the clip, aptly shows that ‘What the Gods wish to destroy they first make insane”. But Tucker is not giving up. “I’m getting my paddle, Teri. I’m getting my paddle”

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Osama Bin Laden – My Part in his Downfall

Little did Life’s Little Ironies know when pontificating on how the US Lost its Mojo (March 13th) that Obama was about to wrestle it back. It seems that the US figured out last August where FBI’s Most Wanted was hiding and was diligently planning his capture ever since. It’s just possible, as Obama scanned the blog, it galvanized him into action. Otherwise, why now? Since last summer military and security personnel have poured over all the intelligence with thinnest of fine toothcombs and every scenario, stratagem and scene contrived by the military was trialed, tested and performed with opening night at the Palladium precision. Assorted military Bigwigs, Policy Wonks, Political confidents, coffee-stained spies, eye-strained mathematical analysts and West Point’s finest gathered in dusty window-bereft rooms that were shadier than the spies that bestrode their gun-metal grey corridors. They labored over every detail. Some believed the fortress would be heavily armed with a small militia tucked away in the labyrinth of the compound. Even anti-aircraft guns were a possibility. Was that a cupola atop the building or a gun turret perhaps? In the lecture halls and brain-storming sessions civil engineers nodded sagely when briefed that Bin Laden would have built a panic-room which he would slip into every time the local academy’s officer cadets knocked on the door dressed in pantomime apparel and green wigs holding out an outstretched bucket on Fresher’s Week. It barely required mentioning, though many did repeatedly, that Osama’s henchmen would have constructed escape tunnels and no sooner than the sound of propellers and hob-nailed boots was heard thumping down the driveway, he would disappear down his tunnel quicker than goat stew the day after Ramadan only to emerge in a crowded sweat-sodden souk and escape to freedom once more. Physicians and psychologists regaled the assembly with tales of Bin Laden’s appearance, which had probably been radically altered. Obviously, no longer bearded, his hair would be more neatly trimmed than a Torah-reciting thirteen year old at his bar mitzvah. Doppelgangers would have been recruited and there was a bizarre possibility that one would meet a brood of Bin Laden’s on that fateful sundown. In fact the lucky Bin Laden who escaped the hail of ballistic bullets might go on to joke with his attacker by stealing a line from his favorite movie “right idea Mr Bond. But wrong pussy”

Right idea, Mr Obama. But wrong action movie

On the first moonless eventide of May the stage was set fair for the operation, officially known as Geronimo, others knew it more affectionately as Operation: Get Me Back My Mojo. Every spy satellite in the northern hemisphere tracked around and trained their zoom lenses on the non-descript shabby sand-blasted compound. Considerately, the media team attached mini-movie cameras to the Navy Seal’s helmets and Obama’s team gathered in the Situation Room, surfeit with popcorn and Soda, kicked off their sandals and settled down for the Main Feature.

Of course the actual take-down was a theatrical anti-climax. It’s like one of those trailers for expensive action flicks. In the clips and promo’s it hints at fire-fights, suicide bombing, AK-47 wielding psychopathic clerics charging hysterically around the domicile screaming ‘Death to America’ and ‘Allah is Great’. Even better, your hero takes a bullet to the shoulder as the rifle goes cartwheeling across the room. Then, just as he is about to meet his Allah he rolls across the floor and retrieves it and shoots his assailant in the temple in one superfluid movement. “Cut! That’s a wrap” Someone intones off set.

Hilary thinks there might be something better on a different channel

Unfortunately, if those scenes existed they were lost on the cutting room floor of Bin Laden’s boudoir. As we all know now it’s as just as plausible that the local Abbottabad Constabulary could have been dispatched to the Bin Laden residence and greeted Osama with the words “We’d like a few words with you down at the station, if you don’t mind” at which he may have duly obliged. What’s the takeaway here? Does Obama have Ridley Scott direct the next operation or Peter Greenaway? We will soon know in the sequel starring Ayman al-Zawahiri.

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OK, I’ve seen the birth certificate, but what about the grocery bill?

Life’s Little Ironies has taken the extraordinary step of releasing, today, its grocery bill. This has long been a controversial topic in the bloggosphere. Some had questioned whether LLI’s had shopped at down market Big Lots or up market Whole Foods. Others speculated whether I was closet bargain hunter at the supposedly uber liberal-huggin’ Trader Joe’s. More extreme conspiracy theorists postulated that there was no grocery bill at all. Others even went as far as to suggest that I had shopped in a foreign country; possibly, even, Marks and Spencer, Oxford Street London. I had not helped my plight when an open mic picked up a private conversation with President Snarkozy where I professed my preference for  calling the said premises Supermarket instead of the more American sounding , Grocery Store.

Of course, I had tried to take the wind out of the grocery-bill deniers by publishing the credit card stub for the purchase but this only fueled the conspiracy theorists further. Latterly, gingerbread-house tycoon, Donnie Combover had taken up the baguette and run with the story all the way down the grocery aisle  to the fresh produce section.  No one was quite sure whether Donnie was totally serious in his professed quest to get to the bottom of the missing till receipt as it was thought he was drumming up publicity for his anticipated run for Shopping Mall custodian next year.

Alas, the publication of the long-form till receipt did not put the rumors to rest. After examining the bill, the founder of the loony-leaning Perforated Till Roll , railed that the document raises more questions than it answered. Why for instance didn’t I take advantage of the 2 for 1 special on Wheaties that was on offer. The receipt clearly shows a preference for pate, courgettes and Perrier over jerky, squash and Dr Pepper. Finally there were references to some especially foreign-sounding brussel sprouts, french fries and english muffins. And what’s more, in an apparent snub to Tea Party supporters, no Liptons, party ballons or streamers could be found on the list.

A spokeman for the Perforated Till Receipt added that the range of food items on the roll could be cooked up to make some very unsavourly victuals. “I would say, without a doubt, that there are enough ingredients here to prepare cordon blur haut cusine that would keep a gastronome sated for a week and that is just plain un-American!”

The lost long-form Grocery Bill Receipt is published here for the first time!

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Cameron Gaffe Watch

Life’s Little Ironies is getting a sense that David Cameron is more gaffe-prone than his recent predecessors. Going back in history, Margaret Thatcher was always so well prepared and on top of the facts that a ‘mis-statement’, rarely if ever stumbled from her lips. I do not think anyone can remember if John Major ever said anything memorable, gaffe-laden or otherwise, but I doubt it, so let’s move on to Tony Blair. Tone used to talk so expansively that he was forever flirtingly dangerously, either side of truth and pork-pie. Nonetheless, I would not consider him gaffe-prone insofar as he never accidentally mis-spoke. He deliberately mis-spoke and when caught would wriggle out by saying that really his promises, aims, targets objectives,etc were but aspirations rather than anything you could take to the bank so to (mis)-speak. Alternatively, he would reach for his metaphoric dog-collar, incline his neck to the side and piously gaze in to the eyes of his audience and emote that he was a ‘straight sort of guy’. That was in his early days as Prime Minister. In later years he would resort to the “Look” Pause with pursed lips, narrowed eyes and a slightly frustrated furrowed brow. Raise hands up, 10 inches apart as if measuring an uncoiled cumberland sausage. Then tilt hands to same incline as neck, jab them to towards audience in unison with the words “Yer know, it’s really time to move on” Keep lips slightly apart, showing white of teeth and curl lips to form a knowing yet slightly mocking-come-arrogant grin. All this in four seconds, remarkable!

Look, ur um when I said Saddam had chemical weapons that could be activated in 45 minutes. It was really more of er, um, an aspiration

Let’s not dwell on Gordon. For the rest of our lives we will remember where we were when we heard him deliver his bigot-gaffe and watched as it was replayed to him, seemingly imprisioned in some mauve-decorated torture-room unable to move for ludicrously big ear-phones and microphones. Then we watched him recoiling back in his chair, as if shot by a Magnum 45, as his political spirit departed his husk-like carcass. Ok, sorry, I think I dwelt on that too much after all.   

The moment when Gordon Brown's spirit leaves his body

Let’s get back to David. His are a different kind of gaffe. They are not the double-speak gaffes of Gordon, who said and had one face for the electorate and another for his staff. Nor the vacuous, imprecise phrases uttered by Tony. They are gaffes of a well-meaning lad who has half-read or half-heard some fact and then re-tells it to the next person he bumps into without ever pausing to think through the veracity of the statement. Here are some examples:

Battle of Britain Gaffelette #1. Britain was the “junior partner (to the US) in 1940 when we were fighting the Nazis”. In fact the US was trying it’s darndest to keep out of the War. I suspect the US was torn between wanting Hitler to be a vanguard against Communism and pre-occupying the Brits so much that they would be forced to come cap in hand to the Yanks for a handout in exchange for leaving Pacific basin to them; and not wanting the Nazi’s to be so successful that they would threaten their ascendancy. That strategy bombed, as it were, on Dec 7th 1941 but I digress.

Worse still, Cameron rows back from the comment and says that Britain indeed stood alone with the help of a few Poles .”There were a few Polish pilots, there were a few French pilots but on the whole it was Britain standing completely alone against Nazi Germany” Unfortunately the 180-remark was also misleading. It’s true that the mythology grew up around the brave, Few British fligher pilots but nearly 20% of the pilots came from other countries. In fact Polsh fighters were pilot for pilot more likely to down a German plane and less likely to take a hit themselves.

Nuclear Gaffelette #2 “Like the fact that Iran has got a nuclear weapon” There is no sugar-coating that gaffe when you stress “fact” in your answer. It is so obviously wrong and not open to mis-interpretation or mis-statement that it is almost turette-like in its naive delivery. You could imagine an aide choking on his chocolate Hob-knob at the back of the room when he heard that one.

Second Rate NHS Gaffelette #3. ‘I don’t think we should put up with second rate”  If you want to win friends for your flag-ship domestic policy don’t call them second-rate. He immediately qualified his characterization but let’s not forget that he was a trained PR man who talked faultlessly and without notes to woo the faithful at many a party conference or election debate so slips of the tongue are less forgiveable. 

No Blacks at Oxford Gaffelette #4 “I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful. We have got to do better than that.” If I read that somewhere, I’d smell a pungent, putrifying, half-mummified rat in a heatware. Apparently not our David. In fact it was one black student from the Carribean. That’s a bit like being astonished that there in only one white student called Tarquin enrolled at Bridgetown Polytechnic. We might regret the absence of university-enrolled, over-privileged, cardie-wearing, middle-class mummies-boys in the wilds of Barbados but its hardly going to set the pulse racing either. More worryingly, you could not see where Cameron was going with this. Was he saying that Oxford should use colour rather than grades to select students? In fact get your slide-rule out and you find that black representation at Oxford is more or less in line with the proportion of black people in the UK population at large despite coming from a predominatly less well educated ethnic minority.

At the moment Cameron’s gaffes are tolerable, through regrettable, given the magnitude of the Herculean task he has set himself as PM but he’ll do well to dwell on the old addage “there’s many a slip ‘tween cup and lip”

"It's a fact that the Iran stood by us in 1940 to oppose second-rate black Carribean countries in possession of nuclear weapons. er I think?

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US Government Shutdown. Why it does not add up!

Lloyd George to Churchill. "To think in a 100 years people will laugh at the very idea that there could be a government shutdown!"

Life’s Little Ironies has been thinking that with another looming US Government Shutdown it is worth asking why the UK does not have the threat of Government Shutdown’s when its finances are arguably worse that the US? Firstly, the threat of US government shutdowns is part of the political landscape. It is part showmanship, bravado and political theatre that is designed to show the country who the strong men of American politics are. Real concern about fiscal stability is secondary in reality because if this were an American company, it would not deliberately lurch to the brink of bankruptcy every few years just to pass a financial budget. The lenders and investors would have fired the directors by now, the customers would have vanished and suppliers would give it a wide berth rather than trade with a company that might not pay them for their goods.

Of course, Governments are different from companies. They play by different rules. The rules say that you have to get a majority in both houses to get a budget approved. As for the White House, it does not prepare a budget but could theoretically veto one that did not command at least a two-thirds majority in the Senate. That is an awful lot of horse trading down on the farm this time of year. If we take a step back for an instant, as far as budgets are concerned, we see that the American Constitution has been deliberately designed ‘to fail’. That’s like an engineer building a submarine without an escape hatch, or an oil well without a working blow-out preventer or a nuclear power station not designed to shut down the core in case of an accident. OK, maybe I should stop with the similes.

Ironically the British figured out a solution exactly 100 years ago when they passed the Parliament Act. Amongst its many measures was one that prohibited the House of Lords from delaying a budget bill for more than 30 days. The catalyst for the legislation was when the Tory-dominated House of Lords tried to block the People’s Budget of 1909 which laid the groundwork for much of the welfare systems we all depend on today. Ultimately, stalemate led to the collapse of the government and re-election of a minority government, which fell almost immediately and replaced with a slightly more stable government at the end of 1910. What was clear when the dust settled was that Britain did not want to go through the international embarrassment of not been able to add up. I do not think over the 100 years since this legislation was introduced that anyone has suggested that this has ruined the British finances any more than they would have been if the Lords had been able to block finance bills. On the contrary the passage of the annual finance bill seems to create few ripples after the politicians have grandstanded on Budget day.

One wonders if it will take the US another take another 100 years to figure how to pass a budget without threatening people’s livelihoods

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A modest proposal #1 – Libraries

Apparently novelist Zadie Smith has taken to the airwaves berating the government for instituting a round of library closings. Of course the Government cannot actually close libraries as they are funded by local councils. But if central Government funding is cut, it is likely the local councils will seek to make savings in their most expensive services that they offer.

Zadie wants people to read her books in the library

On the face of it, it’s right to feel outraged. Libraries (or, as some have inelegantly been renamed Learning Resource Centres) have been the staple of local council services as long as anyone can recall, least of all me. I remember my Saturday morning visits to the local library with the hushed voices, rustled newspapers and that slightly sweet, musty smell of decaying wood pulp and warm plastic dust covers. Sometimes my library was co-opted for other forms of nefarious entertainment. There is even a picture of me aged 5 pressganged in to entering a fancy dress competition wearing a bear suit. “He even looks like a bear” is one comment I heard as I strolled towards the temporary raised dais. I didn’t win.

I digress. Once the romantic nostalgia is removed from the debate, what do we have? Most agree that access to fiction and non-fiction literature is a service public bodies should provide. We can go further and add news, magazines and local history archival material should also be available at will. However, pimply put; if bookstores and record shops have gone digital, why shouldn’t libraries? In fact would not the digital access to this smorgasbord of video, gaming, audio and the written word actually serve to increase access?

Such a radical change in the delivery of these services is likely to raise issues. Do the poor or elderly have the means and skills to access books in this way? Rebates and grants, means tested if necessary could be provided to connect, purchase and teach our challenged populus how to download data. Public Lending Rights could be revised to allow for the digital download of their works which would expire after a defined period much like the BBC iPlayer does today or not all in some cases. (How’s that for increased access!)

This does not even need to lead to the extinction of libraries entirely. Many of the best and well attended could remain open while the smaller traditional library, with their contents, could be incorporated within Adult Education Centers, colleges, schools and local government offices with increased access by the local residents who still hanker for the warm seat and the feel of paper between their fingers. The vacant libraries could be repurposed or sold commercially.

It does not make the same cost cutting impact of locking up libraries. Nor are we indulged with video vignettes of whispering librarians marching down our High Streets in their twin-sets and warm tights, placards in hand that exalt “Our voice must be heard!” But this must be the future, surely?  This may not be seized upon by young, hip, cutting edge novelists like Zadie but you would imagine a satirist like Swift would take a more accommodating stance. And it does not even require eating babies.

Some libraries are so barely used Osama himself could go browsing undetected

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The US Does have a socialist Welfare State. It’s called ……

When trying to understand the global recession you invariably wander over to the ponderous economics text books looking for some clue that better explains the current situation than the mad-barking noises made by various politicians and Fox News contributors.

One basic economic tenant says that when it comes to recessions, some countries have spending stabilizers. That is, if unemployment rises then more benefit checks get cut. This stimulates the economy causing employment to rise and ipsofacto  fewer benefit checks get mailed. As night follows day, therefore, government spending rises during recessions and falls during booms.

Of course, it does not work like that. During the boom, tax receipts rise, tax rates get cut and politicians yank up expenditure to keep the electorate happy and burst the bubble. When the recession hits, they scramble when tax receipts collapse and the government tells us that we need to tighten our belts because they loosened theirs so much their trousers fell down. That’s not a pretty site when Gordon Brown goes commando. What makes it worse is that because the automatic stabilizers have kicked in, spending is on the rise so the cuts in other government services become comparatively deeper. This is exactly what is happening in the UK where the deficit is projected to continue to increase in the face of massive spending cuts.

This cannot happen in the US, right?  It does not have a socialist Welfare State like Western Europe. Wrong! The US has developed it’s own Welfare State as ingrained and intrenched as any welfare system in the world  and no more ferociously defended (Glaswegian shop-floor conveners coming a close second). It is called the Department of Defense.

What other government spending initiative could take otherwise unemployable young men and women and pay them to knock down sand castles in some Allah-foresaken desert or some dire razor-wired encampment on the edge of town, whilst saving the populas from the  general nuisance they cause. Better still, their wages go straight back in the economy benefitting us all. Of course you have got to convince these folks that stepping on landmines has some passing fascination, temporary though it maybe. And being locked up in a camp is something  that one would elect to do by choice. It is not difficult as it may seem. Raise the Red, White and Blue and blow in a bugle and inevitably you’ll get a stampede thronging at your door. Call your internment base Camp Justice, Hope, Freedom, Vanquish, etc. and you’ll find the crowd is now so deep and encircled that it makes a pilgramage to Mecca during Ramadan look like a slow day at the pork market in Jerusalem. (Note to self. Call Department of Corrections and suggest changing name of San Quentin to Camp Enduring Incarceration)

By now everyone is cheering and patting themselves on the back thinking what a great ruse this is. But it just gets better and better. Locate a weapons factory in every state and employ the whole town to make buckets and spades to knock down the sand castles and dig for landmines. Your electorate will be eternally grateful for you will have created the biggest welfare state under everyone’s nose and have every tea-bagger cheering you on from the rafters.

Join the army. From Welfare to Warfare

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When did the US lose its Mojo?

In 1997 Life’s Little Ironies lived in the center of the Universe. OK that sounds like typical American hyperbole. I actually resided at 1640 Vista Club Circle Santa Clara. But in the pre-Y2k, pre 9/11 world it might as well have been the center of the Universe. I lived and worked in the beating heart of Silicon Valley. “Sun Systems and Oracle to the left of me, Intel to my right. Here I am slap bang in the middle of technology new” to paraphrase a song redolent of the time. It’s where everything seemed to happen at a lightning pace except the freeway commute. The Valley had no barriers. All cultures and creeds mingled freely, all united in a single pursuit of computerized Valhalla. At the time silicon gods argued that this was a new paradigm. Exponential productivity gains were the new norm. There was no need to brake the economy because IT had broken the traditional constraints on productivity gains. There would be no more ‘boom and bust’. Just venture capital, prosperity and share options for all. “Hallelujah brother!” Just for a while we were living in Arcadia. The rest of the US basked in Silicon Valley’s glow. Americans want to be winners and they want to be associated with winners. And why not? Wages increased far ahead of inflation. House prices similarly. Bonuses and stock options gave the ordinary, workaday employees a chance to share in the capital gains only slick, savvy investors previously enjoyed. Day Traders kidded themselves they could gainsay the stock market to make millions. In Clinton’s America we were all entrepreneurs now. On July 5th 1999 the bubble began to burst. The previous night’s fireworks signaled the final excessive exuberance of the IT tech boom. On July 4th with the impending Millennium everything was possible. In reality the apogee was reached and after the fizzle of the last roman candle the US started to lose its Mojo. In time stock markets fell and Day Traders evaporated as inevitably as heavy dew on an early summer’s day.

Ok, it took more than just one hangover to signal the end the party and there were some party poopers ringing the cops complaining of the noise across the street. One such nosey neighbor was a crotchety bearded cleric who holed the USS Cole below the waterline. It was a bad event to be sure but we shook it off not knowing we would be hearing more from him later in 2001 when he sent his winged avengers to rain down terror on some unsuspecting office workers on a clear blue bright warm September morn. To be honest it led to a colossal loss of self-confidence despite what we told ourselves at the time. Very soon we would be stripping off in airports, shorn of every liquid, assuming the position and x-rayed more explicitly than the raunchiest pages of Readers Wives. Did this make us feel safer? Maybe it did. Above all it made us more grumpy. America took its eye off the pursuit of innovation and self-enrichment. From now on it was pay-back time and George Bush appointed himself Payback-in-Chief.

What happened next? Well the analogy goes like this. You’re walking along the street when bang! Someone hits you from behind leaving you sprawled embarrassingly on the floor with a bleeding head. The perpetrator has long since vanished around the corner with your wallet and cell phone. Ignominiously you drag yourself to your feet and see a mustachioed bystander laughing to himself down the street. Furiously you accuse him of being part of the gang. He’s laughing so loud that he doesn’t bother to deny it. Beyond rage you rush up and push him in front of a metro bus speeding down the city street pinning him under the wheels. As the last gasps of breath vacate his body he utters some declaration to Allah. Looking on you congratulate yourself. “Mission accomplished” you murmur under your breath. Arriving home that evening the phone rings. The caller-id says it’s you. Confused, you pick it up. It’s the mugger “It voz me who hit you, you Klutz!” he sniggers down the phone. “D’ you know vhat? You von’t find me, but I’ll be watching you and your mispocha” he says myseriously.

So that’s the story of the last ten years. Americans have been afraid of their own shadow. They see the mugger in every unfamiliar face they encounter on the street. Many won’t walk outside their neighborhood in case they meet him unprepared. The mugger still lives all the way across town and often picks up phone and mockingly declares “I’m still vatching you, you nebbish”.

The future is unclear but one thing seems increasingly apparent. The Pay-back-in-Chief is not the hopeless President the commentators nominated him as. He might be the most successful. He may have a lasting legacy casting Americans in his myopic, downcast, suspicious image with no Mojo. Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!

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How the Republicans view the deficit: A family parable

Imagine for one moment if you will that the fiscal deficit was a family crisis. Living with the Party family over the past few years I have observed the children run riot with family’s finances and their behavior has been thoroughly boorish. The parents, Dem and Rep Party have patently failed to get a grip. Each blames each other. For a while Dem was the disciplinarian while her husband worked mostly away. Now he is back and he wants to stamp his authority.

Sitting in his office he beckons to his first son, Dod to his room. Dod is an all american boy and star Quarterback on the high school team. Rep is always showing off his son to the neighbors even though lately the team has suffered some surprise defeats. Dod is a spendthift, wasting money on all kinds of unneeded new toys. Rep sits him down and mouths some words but with no audible sound is made. His eyes start to glisten before he eventually says. “I’m proud of you, son” while simultaneously reaching for two beers and offering one to the outstreched hand of his son . This is followed by the lighting of two enormous stogies and they disappear in a cloud of smoke. After some little time Rep says “Here, take this twenty and buy some Jack and we’ll watch the game tonight” Dod rises, walks by me and smirks and then disappears behind the door.

The next son in to the room is Med. He hopes to be a doctor one day but like his brother he is too lazy, wastes money and just wants to party. Rep wants to take him to task but Med is popular and can often be seen taking out various neighbors’ trash, mowing the Young’s lawns and plowing old Gerry Hatrick’s driveway in winter. Rep wrings his hands. He is not sure how to tackle Med but he recently heard that Med has been seen helping out at the poor neighborhood across town and not even accepting a tip. As Rep recalls this memory he colors and threatens to cut his allowance if he does that again. Sheepishly agreeing, Med scurries out of the room.

Next in is Soc. A big brute of a fella as you have ever seen ambles past me. He is the eldest son and visible aging, overweight and unfit. His closely cropped hair adds to the menace especially with the deep scar lining his face. The ensemble is complete with the biggest, baddest tattoo  covering his upper arm. As he sits down, his tattoo comes into focus with the words “I love my Gran” embroidered with two snakes entwined round a red heart. In fact Soc is not the bad lad that his appearance suggests. Stories are legion around the neighborhood about him bailing out Dod and Med after one of their benders. Nonetheless his looming figures casts a huge shadow over the room and Rep seems just a little afraid in his presence and decides not to reprimand him. After all who is going to look after Rep and Dem when they are old?

As Soc leaves, Rep is visibly frustrated. He paces frantically up and down and breaks the pencil that he has been toying with during the course of the evening. “I have to show who the boss is, who the Decider is!” He yanks the door of the office open and screams “Where is Doe and Epa?. Get them down here immediately”. Doe and Epa are his youngest daughters. Doe is upstairs completing a homework assignment and hoping for yet another straight A. Her sister Epa is cleaning up the kitchen as normal. Just one of the many chores she undertakes even though, like her sister, her allowance is meagre.

The sisters enter the room, quietly sit down, legs together and slightly at an angle “Yes, Father?” they proffer. By now Rep has worked himself up in to a rage. He chokes out the words. “You two are useless” Looking at Doe he says mockingly “So what’s a education gonna do for us debts, eh? You need to get out more. Be like Dod and Med”. With equal scorn he looks witheringly at Epa and spits out “When  yer gonna stop stinking up the house with all those damn flowers?” As a rejoinder he chokes  out the words “You disgust me” Doe and Epa look down at their clasped hands resting on their laps maintaining their composure. Rep’s face is now red with fury. His bulging eyes make him look slightly manic. He is in full flow now. “And you know what?” he says rising from his buttoned leather chair “I’m going to teach you two a lesson” finishing the sentence with a curled lip as he realizes he’s made an unintentional pun. “Stand up and bend over” he commands. My eyes scan the room quickly for a cane. I see none. Rep reaches for the clasp on his belt and starts to unloosen it. I hear myself muttering some excuse and make a hasty exit to the door. As I close it behind me one of the daughter winces followed by a sharp intake of breath. The other girl pleads somewhat imcomprehensively”Oh  father, please!, not that again!”

It's not who's to blame for the deficit. It's what's to blame for the deficit

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‘Ello, ello, ello, what’s all this then?

(  is a new website that records crime maps in the UK. It is an easily navigatable site that visually displays crime down to the street level. Crimes are classified under 5 categories from anti-social behaviour through to violent crime.
There is plenty of the information on the site but ultimately it’s disappointing. Yes, it’s true that the quantitative data is mixed with some qualitative data but its limited to this ‘neighbourhood is high or low area’ non-sequiturs.
What Life’s Little Ironies really wanted to know whether crime is rising or falling. Whether the crimes were solved or unsolved. Whether the crimes were committed by a small group of criminals or more widespread, etc, etc. The police have also missed an opportunity to crowd-source the population by helping them solve and deter crime. In addition may be some background to the crimes might engage the web-viewer. The backstory of some of the crimes and how they were solved and how justice was served. Basically, show that fighting crime makes a difference.
There is still time to make this a useful site rather than a bland PR initiative. G’Night all

Crime detection wasn't high tech in Jack's day

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