It’s a news roundup! (24/4/13)

Obligatory apology for not writing, yes, that’s become rather lazy…

Anti-Margaret Thatcher badge

Levity in the face of death

As  I live in Britain, the biggest piece of news is Margaret Thatcher’s death! Few figures have been considered both some sort of world-saving superwoman while at the same time a industry-bashing uber-mega-destructo-bitch. In the wake of Baroness Thatcher‘s demise on April 8th, a singular adjective came riding over the hill as she tripped over its crest into decrepit oblivion: divisive. From the moment she died there were tributes from stalwart men and women of her sort. Meanwhile, in the  North of England and Scotland the sentiment expressed was less sombre and more like when St George returned with the dragon’s head…at times it was perhaps a bit too much like Mardis Gras. There was even a campaign to see a Judy Garland number reach the top spot in the charts – driven largely by sneering teens with very little idea of who the woman was.

Maggie dethroned swollen unions whose strike actions plunged this country into misery, defended a territory of this country from an aggressor, and instigated an economic recovery after a catastrophic plunge. However, she carved the heart out of British industry, failed to push down inflation in the way she wanted to, sold off state assets and under-invested in the remnants, and helped to develop a system which would later go running over the cliff and land us where we are now: to name but a few of the issues of her premiership. A more comprehensive assessment for economic buffs is available here.

I’m a social democrat so was almost obliged to make wise cracks about the funeral, painting a Gothic tableau. Every Bond villain since Dr No composing a phalanx-like choir belting out “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera and Tories weeping like babes on the pews; Darth Vader, Dracula, Rupert Murdoch and Ming the Merciless as pallbearers while Voldemort, Sauron and Dick Cheney gave readings from an inverted bible…none of this happened, much to my disappointment. What actually took place was a fabulously pompous and grand, almost imperial, funeral (definitely not a state funeral) which filled me with an even greater respect for a political enemy. There will never be another Maggie Thatcher.

Kim Jong-Un clapping

Kim Jong-un looking tougher than Rambo

North Korea has been waving its nuclear phallus at the world for weeks but recently the noise has died down. Since the start of April, American and South Korean intelligence sources have  been worried about the North possibly testing mid-range missiles. So what sparked the latest quarrel on the Korean peninsula? The answer: no one really knows. A familiar pattern to observers of the region is the fiery military grandstanding and heedlessness of North Korea to South Korea-U.S. relations, resulting in a diplomatic process which the South and the States walk away from because of absurd Northern demands, e.g. no more criticism of North Korea.

The resulting diplomatic process is about to happen since North Korea has paused in its constant “we will destroy you blah blah blah” rhetoric for the time being as the most recent South Korea-U.S. joint drills come to an end. The walking away hasn’t happened this time yet, but it will, as the requests we heard for talks to start on April 16th were these: the lifting of U.N. sanctions, the end of the U.S.-South Korea military drills, the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear strike capabilities from the region, a halt to criticism of North Korea, and an apology for offending Kim Jong-un from the South.

Reasons suggested for the North’s newest round of posturing: boredom, to make Kim Jong-un look like a big boy, boredom, to create a sense of unity among its people to boost Kim Number 3’s standing, boredom…No one thinks it is really the first steps to war or closing off the promise of further talks. In short, most analysts (myself included) just see a newly ascended dictator stuck in his father and grandfather’s shadows wanting to establish himself in that time-honoured tradition of threatening casual genocide.

Police Converge Mass

The younger Tsarnaev brother

No shred of humour can be dragged from the Boston Marathon Bombing itself, so one should not try but from the resulting furore there is rich ground for lampooning of a public mood. I expressed disbelief when I first heard, unable to understand why bombing a marathon in Boston would send any kind of message? I hoped the families of those affected found peace. Then I wondered who could have done this? As Wahhabist Jihadi groups cannot clamber over one another fast enough to claim responsibility. I thought maybe it was an American terrorist cell like in the right-wing Oklahoma City bombing; though there are examples of Christian, Anarchist, Leftist and White supremacist terrorism on U.S. soil – all without brown people. I hoped against hope that it wasn’t Muslims or failing that they weren’t brown – I myself am a brown person (Afro-Caribbean) and do my best to defend Islam from ignorance (though I am not a Muslim) but goddamnit mujahideen make it really hard to have a reasonable conversation.

The right-wing in America lost its motherfucking mind in the wake of the attacks, searching for any lone brown person in the crowd that day to suggest a link to the bombing. Quite literally captioning images with the words “ALONE” and “BROWN” – there’s not even any need to satirise these people anymore. Fox News and its contributors obviously went into overdrive, unpacking its paranoid conspiracy theories with the giddy rapaciousness of a child let loose in a sweet shop.

Glenn Beck latched onto reports of a Saudi man being taken in for questioning regarding the bombings, convinced of a wider Al Qaeda plot. Then the news showed us what I had cynically prayed for – white people looking shifty as shit on the day of the bombings. Well, Chechnyans, but they’re Caucasian so it was proof for the right wing that white people can still do awful things…but they were Muslim. Shit. However, the Brothers Tsarnaev were working from their own jilted standpoint and not alongside a big international group. The elder was killed in a shootout after gunning down a cop, and the younger hid in a boat before accidentally shooting himself in the tongue – at which point he was apprehended.

Beck was not satisfied, even after reports to the contrary, he is convinced the U.S. government is trying to cover up a Saudi-led terrorist plot. Yes, that makes perfect sense. The U.S. government going out of its way to help an Islamist group? Fair enough, not at all batshit crazy. Not like Glenn Beck  has ever said something so boggling in its insanity that everything he said since isn’t worth a squirt of piss. The poor man he keeps accusing of being some kind of Jihad fixer is Abdulrahman Ali Al-Harbi (deliciously satisfying alliteration). Abdulrahman has been described by his roommate as “sweet and kind and a good person”, but Beck called him “a very bad, bad, bad man”. Beck presumably got his assessment from a Facebook picture of Al-Harbi holding a water pistol and doing a little smile. Clearly evil. Probably filled the water pistol with battery acid so he can squirt puppies in the face and blind them. A puppy at Disney World, Al-Harbi really enjoyed his trip to Disney World – clearly an Islamist.

Oh, by the way, first ever openly gay athlete in the big four U.S. sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) came out this week. More power to you, Jason Collins, bring sports kicking and screaming out of the 70s. Disco is dead, let us see homophobia go the same way.

I wonder what else is happening in the rest of the world…?


4 thoughts on “It’s a news roundup! (24/4/13)

  1. Pingback: Pyongyang vs. Gangnam: Korean History, and How to Live Through It | Holistic History

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