The Tories want a sock-puppet bishop

In February, the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, noted that “it was unequivocally true that the Russian Orthodox Church had encouraged Putin in his campaign …[and that there was] … collusion and corruption between the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Patriarch Kirill, a former KGB agent, has described Putin’s reign (and I use the word advisedly) as a “miracle“.

Regrettably, the current Brexiter British government give every impression that they too would prefer to have senior clergy with all the agency of ventriloquist’s dummies:

The British government is currently finalising a deal with Rwanda, whereby immigarnts to Britain will be shipped off to Rwanda for “processing”. The Brexiter government freely admits that there are human rights abuses in Rwanda, but the relevant Minister is unperturbed by that:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the British government’s new deportation / offshore processing scheme, and he bas been roundly attacked by British government figures. Ben Bradley, the Tory MP for Mansfield, said that “commenting on government policy is not Justin Welby’s job”.

Obviously, I’m comfortable with politicians disagreeing with the Archbishop. No Western democracy should be a theocracy.

However, a balance needs to be struck.

I’m concerned by the obvious cancel culture now so evident in Tory party thinking: “commenting on government policy is not Justin Welby’s job”.

Why is it not part of the Archbishop’s job then?

This only makes sense if you consider that government policy is above ethics or morality. In a supposedly free country, the Archbishop surely can comment on whatever he likes, regardless of whose policy it is.

The idea that “government policy” should be above comment is worryingly autocratic.

Though it of course aligns very well with the Brexiter idea that no scrutiny or rules should apply to the Brexiter Executive and that they can do what they “jolly well like”, regardless of parliament, judges (aka “enemies of the people”) – or bishops.

Disagree with Welby, of course, as is your right in a democracy – but no democrat should be straying into censorship of opinions.

Within the law, Welby can say what he wants, as can the wittering Rees Mogg; and to assert otherwise is deeply troubling.

Rationality-fatigue

We live in a post-rational age.

Oh sure, all the trappings of reasons still persist; but they persist in the way Christian churches still stand in England, and, increasingly, in Ireland, or the way courts are in a dictatorship – they look solid, but they’re hollowed-out theme parks for a vanished mental scaffolding – nobody takes them seriously any more. 

Thus it is with reason.  Intelligent people still deploy the conceptual tools of reason.  The sentences still are polished.  The assured, slightly-condescending delivery, the reassuringly bloodless middle class euphemisms, the whole misleading façade of rationality is as evident as ever. 

Such tools used to be spades with which one dug for facts, prior to the application of a considered principle.  Not any more though – instead, we’ve hung them over our balls, as a fig leaf to conceal the lack of objectivity that otherwise would be all too evident. 

If an intelligent man is hot to trot for an ideology, and is even at risk of onanistic lapses in obeisance to said ideology, then, in 2022, it’s fig leaves that are required, not spade-work. 

In a previous post, I noted how thinking was in steep cultural decline:

Thinking does not require too much intelligence. Thinking is a skill, like wood-carving; it can be learned. Humility, patience, honesty, a sense of humour; all those are far more important aids to the craft of thinking than masses of grey matter. No brain, however large, can smuggle thoughts past the wall of a brittle ego.

The basis of thinking is an ability to embrace inner conflict.  If you wish seriously to think about anything, you have to dismantle your own comfortable ideas, and argue against yourself. 

That’s the basis of an adversarial legal system; both sides in a case slug it out and try to make dirt of each other’s position.  And, obviously, swap the lawyers, and they will easily tomorrow argue against their own position yesterday.

That seeming cynicism and amorality leads to lawyers being culturally derided as unprincipled by the hoi polloi.

However, it also points up how principle itself is an impediment to thinking.

If you’re truly thinking, there can be no sacred cows.

If the principle is a good one, it will survive being beaten up. 

But this ability to hold opposing ideas in suspense, and to attack your own position, is beyond many people nowadays.  It’s not that people have suddenly became more stupid since e.g., the 1970s, but we do now live in a culture of cookie-cutter secular commandments.  It is the age of bug-eyed, derivate, sloganeering certainties.  Everyone “believes!”; everyone falls in line with their group; everyone derives their personal identity from their group mantra; everybody has a slogan; nobody thinks any more.

Post <here>.

I thought of this when I read a recent article in the Spectator by a professor of law at Swansea University.

Ostensibly about the EU’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the article instead was a thinly-disguised pro-Brexit screed. 

To my mind, a humanitarian / statesmanlike view of the horrors in Ukraine would seek to park such petty rivalries and insecurities, and, at least in the short to medium term, to accentuate the positive – to make common cause with democratic European allies, and not to do or to say anything petty which could sow division in the anti-Russian camp, and thereby, in however minor a way, give succour to the insecure little Rumpelstiltskin in the Kremlin.

But if one’s moral compass is already so broken that using an horrific war as a political football to score some tabloid points over one’s democratic neighbours is somehow deemed an ethically-acceptable way of arranging one’s discursive priorities, then, at the very least, one would expect that, even in such an ethically-trivialised endeavour, a professor of law would be capable of demonstrating a basic level of impartiality.   

Of course, as has been often noted, Brexit is akin to a cult, and its adherents can’t really help themselves – even faced with a potential nuclear war, a Brexiter still will view everything through a Brexit prism.  Such narrowness of vision may not be a species of mental disorder, but it strays uncomfortably close into such territory.        

Legal reasoning is a peculiarly bloodless pursuit.  It eschews passion.  First, you establish the facts.  This is hard work.  As a former corporate litigator in London, one of the first things I learned was that my clients habitually lied to me.  In many cases, they were barely aware of doing so.  To rehabilitate their self-esteem, people in sticky situations tend to spin a self-serving narrative to themselves,  Over time, like Brexiters, and like Putin, they start to believe their own bullshit. 

A key part of a corporate litigator’s job is to be alert to the lies your client will tell you – the omissions, the half-truths, the distortions – and to nail them on this.  A courtroom is no place to be torpedoed by an unexpected fact that your self-blinkered client has “forgotten” to tell you about.

Facts are difficult.  The human tendency is to inhabit a narrative that makes you feel good about yourself, or about your tribe, or about your country, or about your ideology.

Facts, and a respect for facts, are of course critical.  You cannot omit salient facts.  Even the soundest principle produces inequitable or unreliable or unprincipled outcomes if half the factual jigsaw (whether through bias or laziness) is missing.    

The professor’s article is <here>.

His article has three broad themes:

1. The EU’s response to the invasion has been poor; and

2. The EU has failed to deliver on its promise of a European army; and

3. A concluding hope that the Ukraine experience will weaken and greatly diminish the EU.

You can read it for yourself here; you do not need me to point out in detail how nakedly partisan it is.

But just to isolate some representative extracts:

The professor says:

Since the Ukraine conflict erupted, the EU has had a great deal to say about its sympathy for Ukraine as a brother European state. But if you look closely it has not actually done a great deal to derail Vladimir Putin’s war machine.”

What he failed to say:

A fair-minded commentator would have acknowledged that both Britain and the EU were doing quite a good job; but that both could do better.  Specifically, German dependence on Russian gas and oil presents the EU with a difficult problem, in that turning off the taps completely could – potentially – usher in some pro-Russian populist former East German quisling who might prosper politically by hawking the simplistic message that “supporting Ukraine should not be at the expense of wrecking the German economy”.  Of course, the Germans want to do more, but there needs to be an adult acknowledgment of the bind they’re in, and the pace at which they can extricate themselves from their current dependence.      

Similarly, like the Germans, the Brits are doing good work militarily, by supplying some pretty handy tank-busting weapons.

Unfortunately, in terms of tackling the dirty money, laundered in London, which is funding Putin’s war, Britain has been feeble.  It’s dragging its feet, and hoping nobody notices.  See article <here>.  

Britain has also been slow to take in immigrants.  Little Ireland, a country with nothing like the UK’s wealth or resources, already has taken in about 10 times as many as Britain.

Of course, this level of practical xenophobia and dissuasion of Johnny Foreigner is just how a Brexit administration, one that was swept to power on a wave of anti-immigrant fervour, always will behave.  Embarrassed Brexiters, unable to face the facts about the Brexit ideology, are railing against “incompetent bureaucracy”, but they are (perhaps deliberately) missing the point.  For all those simple-minded and lightly-travelled people I spoke to in 2016 who were worried sick about being “invaded by millions of Turks”, Brexit is working well, and Britain’s begrudging response to war refugees is entirely intentional.  A Brexiter government temperamentally will always be unable to think its way to a position of generosity on immigration.  You might as well expect a Mormon government to open a string of late-night pubs.  

If one was marking the UK’s and the EU’s score-cards, one might give them each a C+.  Not bad, but could do better. 

However, to attack the EU’s failings and entirely to ignore the UK’s is the kind of cherry-picked bias you expect in a tabloid.  Any law professor worthy of the name should perhaps aim a little higher.   

The professor says:

This may have important long term implications. Having officially incorporated it into the EU treaties in 1997 as a fundamental part of the EU constitution, the EU has constantly boasted of its common foreign and security policy. It sees it as a key component of its mission to become a major political, as well as an economic, world player. Repeated proposals from Brussels for at least something in the way of a European army, or at least a strike force, are clearly built on its foundations. But if this is the best the EU can do for Ukraine, outsiders as well as Europeans will begin to see just how hollow these boasts are.

What he failed to say:

Unfortunately, this may be a mea culpa moment!  For years, Brexiters, people like me, have been railing against the prosect of a common European army.  Now, having spent decades working hard to ensure that the EU would never have a common army, I  now find myself in the rather uncomfortable position of now berating the EU for not having a common army.  Oops  …

Regrettably, the professor seems altogether blind to the fundamental inconsistency in his position.  He sees nothing wrong with fulminating about you doing x, and then attacking you for not doing x.  Remarkable. 

The professor says:

Whether the EU likes it or not, we may be seeing the high-water mark of the EU in its political form. In its place will come a gradual return to what it was when it started: an economic bloc and free-trade area.

What he failed to say:

Putin’s antics may also have serious implications for the Brexit project.  Simply, the global conditions on which Brexit depended no longer exist.  As Paul Mason’s article notes:

Brexit, in its original form, is dead: killed by the new geopolitical realities created by the war in Ukraine. I doubt that the UK will re-join the EU anytime soon, but its whole attitude to Europe will have to change – on defence, on energy and even on trade itself.

To understand why, consider the delusional text written by Boris Johnson introducing the Integrated Review, a comprehensive foreign and security strategy issued by Downing Street last March. Brexit, he said, had set Britain free: “free to tread our own path, blessed with a global network of friends and partners, and with the opportunity to forge new and deeper relationships.” The UK would be the buccaneering free agent, ducking and diving across Asia, the Americas and the Pacific, promoting free trade in place of the established trading blocks, and moving its armed forces into the “Indo-Pacific”.

Where is that freedom now? It has vanished, for four reasons.

First, China and Russia have forged a strategic economic alliance. The declaration co-signed in Beijing on 4 February effectively declared an end to the “rules-based global order” designed in 1945. In its place, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have inaugurated an era of systemic conflict, where trade, information flows and access to raw materials will move along paths determined by an alliance of militarised dictatorships. 

Second, because proximity suddenly matters. Western sanctions on Russia are reshaping the world economy. Though Russia represents only 3 per cent of global GDP, the impact of removing everything from civilian aviation, to credit cards and McDonalds will be felt worldwide. You need only watch how urgently America is scrambling to appease oil-producing Venezuela to understand the importance of geographic nearness.

Thirdly, we have entered an energy war that will last until the end of the carbon age. The US is self-sufficient in fossil fuels. Europe is not. If Putin switches the lights off in Italy and Germany, the two biggest guzzlers of Siberian gas, then no matter how quickly the UK government builds wind farms and nuclear power stations, we’ll still be part of a continental energy crisis, requiring continental solutions.

Fourth, in this new situation the European Union either becomes a global power, co-equal to Russia, China and the US, or it becomes the chessboard across which the others fight. Hard Brexit was always premised on the break-up and decline of the EU. If that were to happen now, it would be a catastrophe for Britain and a victory for Putin. The emergence of systemic conflict mandates that Britain re-engage with Europe, on defence projects, in space, and even at the basic level of getting humanitarian goods out of Dover into Calais.

The EU knows it must achieve strategic autonomy – the ability to defend itself, regulate its information space, and heat the homes of 500 million people without reliance on Russian gas – much faster than it had imagined. Once it does so, the UK will become its satellite. 

By choosing hard Brexit, Johnson deliberately walked away from 70 years of British leadership in Europe. Who benefited? Ultimately, Vladimir Putin. The next government is going to have to rebuild trade, energy, space, internet and defence collaboration with the EU, which means common standards and, ultimately, a common market.

Article here:

Of course, we all enjoy a bit of shit-stirring.  And, in the teeth of many pro-faced prevailing sacred cow orthodoxies, who can resist a little bit of baiting and mischievously-rhetorical countervailance?  

However, this is in the context of a bloody invasion which could lead to WW3.  And the good Prof is not using a nom de plume.  In fact, he’s using his official job title to lend gravitas to his group-think articles.

All I can say is, good luck to his students.  One suspects they’ll need to carry several pinches of salt into his lectures.   

When an intro tune alters your DNA

In 2015, Scientists at the University of Helsinki discovered that listening to music can alter how your genes function. Scientists took blood samples from study participants before and after listening to Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216. They found that the music directly affected human RNA. Link to research <here>.

Growing up, I listened religiously to 2 pop music radio shows:

Dave Fanning’s Rock Show on RTÉ Radio 2; and

The John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1.

Initially, Dave Fanning’s show ran from midnight to near 2am. When I should have been asleep, I listened, using a cheap plastic ear-bud headphone. Dave was unwittingly responsible for some bleary-eyed starts as I caught the 7.30am school bus past our rural laneway. Later, as his show increased in popularity, his new slot was 8pm to 10pm. This dovetailed nicely with Peel’s show, which ran from 10pm to midnight:

Of course, given that there was so much music to listen to between the hours of 8pm to midnight, it often meant that my homework was shot entirely to hell – or subject to frequent home-taping interruptions. It’s a minor miracle that I ever passed any exams lol.

Fanning’s intro theme tune initially was (up to) the first 48 seconds of “Another Girl, Another Planet“, the 1978 New Wave classic by The Only Ones. Later, he used (up to) the first 43 seconds of “Oh Well“, by Fleetwood Mac. Peely, by contrast, always used the same tune – (up to) the first minute of “Pickin’ the Blues“, by Grinderswitch. (Peel discovered the band in the early ’60s, when he was a DJ in Dallas, Texas.)

If ever music altered anyone’s DNA, my DNA has been forever shaped by each of those intro tracks. Here they are – theme tunes do not get any better than these:

An old crackly 78 from 100 years ago

I heard this the other night on Dandelion Radio.

It’s an old shellac 78; pre-vinyl, so pre-WWII at least.

It’s by an choral group called Ukrainian Chorus, and the song is called Ukraine We Will Free.

The tone is exemplary – no sentimentality, no posturing.

Just dignified, spiritual, and resolute. There is something of the devotional quality of JS Bach’s Mass in B minor in this, and something of the dignity of Paul Robeson.

It really is exceptional.

I couldn’t track it down, but the DJ on Dandelion very kindly sent me the download link; and I’ve uploaded the MP3 here:

The Ukrainians have been dealing with Russian imperialism for centuries. Taras Shevchenko was writing about murderous Russian imperialism in Ukraine over <170 years ago>; and we all know, or ought to know, about Stalin’s Holodomor.

The Ukrainians need money, long-life food and medicines. They also need more ammo, but let’s just send them what we can.

Is the penny starting to drop about Russia?

About 15 years years ago, I remember having a brief chat with a Latvian of Russian parentage in a ski lift. He was young, rich, materialistic (his ski gear cost more than my holiday lol), shallowly-Western, and, of course, optimistic.

But did he feel Latvian, or Russian, I wondered.

He ducked the question.

I persisted. I asked him what side he would be on if the Russians sent their tanks over the border.

His eyebrows shot up; and he scoffed at the idea; insisting that we were “all friends now“, and intimated that I might be living in the past.

I’ve worked with Russian business-people.  They have a particular culture, and it is not Western.  Putin’s approach – a mix of secrecy, strategic lying, self-pity, and macho inflexibility – is not just a trait peculiar to him, it’s not uncommon in Russian business culture – see my post about the time a Russian businessman asked me to draft an assassination clause:

https://ayenaw.com/2022/03/10/drafting-an-assassination-clause/

Westerners, nice bourgeois well-meaning Westerners who abhor violence and who pay their parking tickets, don’t really get Russia. It’s well-intentioned, but it is an innocent form of cultural arrogance, or, at least, a form of stupidity – to assume that a bloke with the same refrigerator as you thinks the same as you do.

People need to read more books. Proper books, ffs. You learn nothing reading woke modern navel-gazing fluff about “my journey“. The West has been in a wishful-thinking / naivety bubble.

Perhaps it’s because they never read enough Russian literature?  

Never overlook the insights that a careful reading of great literature can give you into the mindset of a nation.  Reading the Russians is no hardship, of course; Russian writers have been some of the finest that ever put pen to paper.  You could read a Chekhov story ten times in a row and still enjoy it. I love them; ditto their great composers – complex, intense, wonderful. Of course, even when we do read them, we still may only see that which we wish to see.  The West loved Solzhenitsyn’s anti-Communism of course, but chose to gloss over his less-palatable flip-side, namely his deep-seated convictions re the impossibility of Russia ever being like the West:

https://unherd.com/2022/03/what-we-get-wrong-about-solzhenitsyn/


In a previous post, the most pertinent quote is the one in the article by Françoise Thom, lecturer at the Sorbonne:

Reading the Western press, one is under the impression that nothing is happening. Westerners do not seem to understand what is at stake. They think that only the fate of Ukraine is being decided ...”

https://ayenaw.com/2022/01/24/russia-1-west-0/

As Russia now openly bombs children and as some of its more unhinged MPs now openly call for nuclear strikes on the US and call for mass-hangings of Ukrainian civilians, one wonders if the penny slowly is starting to drop among well-meaning and somewhat gullible Westerners?  Perhaps now they may accept that deliberate Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians might be a disproportionate response to the existence of NATO …  Too many Westerners fail to understand that, regardless of NATO, Putin struggles to cope with the mere idea of a prosperous democracy on his doorstep. Not only does Russia have no soft power (and Putin knows that), but Putin is contemptuous of the very idea of soft power in any event. Russia cannot entice, and will not entice. Binary. If it isn’t invading you, it’s feeling threatened by you. Westerners, especially younger Westerners, generally miss that. All that talking to Putin before the invasion lol.

My view of Russia is as it always has been – Russia will out. It’s in its nature. It’s been an imperial power for centuries. Culturally, its elites have always been contemptuous of democracy; and, culturally, many of its citizens expect no better.

Nevertheless, if there is a half-sane ending to all this, with some sort of stability for Ukraine, and someone less-egotistical than Putin in charge in Russia, the West needs to: (1) have a plan to avoid the mistakes made at Versailles in 1919, and start to rehabilitate Russia; and (2) accept that Russia will always do some things differently, and to be realistic about where it can go politically. 

Ugly fact alert: Western countries forget that China and Russia have vast, and variegated territories, and democracy may not always be the best way of keeping a lid on such sprawling places. It’s barely working in the US these days, ffs.  Never make the mistake that people in other places think like you do, or that structures and approaches which work in your country can be transplanted into a different country.

It also points up the utter futility and self-indulgence of our various whining oppression Olympians (identity politicians of all hues, anti-vaccine freedom fighters, Brexiters) – when you see what real aggression and real tyranny looks like, pretentious onanistic bullshit about “micro-aggressions“, or “vaccine tyranny” or “tyranny of the EU” is more than ever indicative of a collective mental disorder.    

Markov does Pag!

Sometime in the early 90s I came back in from somewhere to my parents’ house. It was late and I was tired. I flicked on the news and channel-hopped, and, purely by chance, came across this young guy, unaccompanied, no conductor, no notes – playing all 24 of Paganini’s
Caprices, on Channel 4.

It was like watching a musical performance directed by Beckett (though Sam’s fav piece apparently was Schubert’s Winterreise) – a bare stage and one bloke and no frills.

Transfixed, I watched to the end, all tiredness forgotten.

The world’s full of ‘classical music fans’. Sadly, some of them have but a shallow, social interest in music. So-called classical music is seen as an instant passport into echt middle class-ness. So many will trot along to hear lush, un-demanding, full orchestra renderings of the usual works. Few care much for string quartets. Fewer still for a solo violinist. Fewer again when it’s an unaccompanied violinist. And fewest of all when the composer is Paganini.

Generally, Paganini’s work is seen as dry and impossibly technical. In one sense, it is. For the guts of a century, some of his stuff was considered to be technically unplayable.

But like all the best stuff, from beer to literature to post-Swordfishtrombones Tom Waits and old-style Donegal fiddling, you learn to love the initially-inaccessible stuff best. Paganini’s stuff makes so much other classical fiddle music seem banal.  (OK, I’ll get my coat!)

The fiddle player was the Russian, Alexander Markov. The film of his playing was by Bruno Monsaingeon. As Monsaingeon later remarked:

As any violinist knows, there is no work in the violin repertoire in which the ratio of difficulty versus effect on the public is so low.

The non-violinist will obviously realise that this is a highly strenuous exercise, but cannot suspect the dreadful inner ordeal suffered by the virtuoso. Only the performing violinist can know the real physical torture inflicted by certain Caprices, whereas those which inevitably draw ovations from the audience are nearly always the most accessible, within the reach of any technically competent violinist (the well-known 24th Caprice for instance, the last item in the collection.”

He’s right – a few pizzicatos and the hoi polloi are swooning lol. In my view, unless you’ve made a stab at the fiddle, and are a bit of a fiddle obsessive, you may be unlikely fully to appreciate the enormity of this man’s achievement here. Being able to play Pag on a different instrument misses the point – the violin is a physically stilted and operationally-limiting instrument. Paganini is at his most challenging on the fiddle. This is intense stuff, physically, intellectually and emotionally draining. You’re on a technical tightrope from the off. To do that, at that sustained level, unaccompanied, piece after piece, is god-like.

I used to scrape at the fiddle. I could attempt most ordinary pieces. Badly, of course, but at least you could make some sort of half-assed shape at it. But Paganini? I bought the book of his caprices when I lived in London and looked at it a few times, laughing. It was a genuine WTF moment:

Here they all are – you can scroll through them, for the crack, using the scroll-bar at the right:

For most of us, it’s damn near impossible. After all, one’s fingers are cursed with bones …

A violin imposes considerable restrictions. You only have 4 strings, and they’re not level with each other like a guitar or banjo. You’re not really meant to play 4 strings at a time. This was, frankly, crazy sh1t. Download the above and browse through it to see what I mean.

Anyway, here is the full 24 caprices on utube. While Kreisler is the boss when it comes to pure tone, I rate Markov as the best all-round classical fiddler I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen and listened to most of them, most in recording, but some live. His technical ability is
well-nigh absolute. Some of the stuff is a pure joy to watch (mere nod-the-head listening is never enough to appreciate a dude of this calibre). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone who does ‘up-bow ricochets’(!) like the way he does. To attempt stuff like that in public is ballsy. You could so easily mess it up. On the other hand, there’s an almost-folky, Slavic wistfulness in his transitions and a surreal ability to lose himself in the performance – after all, this is Paganini and most fiddlers would be trying to keep the musical car on the bloody road, not doing the violin-equivalent of high-speed handbrake turns for the crack …

After god knows how long, in 2014, I watched the lot again with our then 3 year old (‘He’s a great man!’ she exclaimed, repeatedly, and sat enthralled for the full show – so no excuses folks!) with all the speakers on and yep, it gets no better than this.

Sometime when you’ve a spare couple of hours, get your headphones or plug it into your TV and pour yourself a glass of whatever and settle back:

You can also buy it <here>, which is obviously the best way to go

My kinda country:

I love all types of music – original late ’70s punk, traditional Irish fiddle music, string quartet, jazz (esp Ethiopian), classical, disco, metal, hip hop, rap, grime, trash, ska, industrial, electronic, opera, etc. To me, there is good and bad in all types of music.

Country usually gets a bad rap though. This is largely down to how teeth-grindingly schmaltzy and kitsch many popular country singers are.

Daniel O’Donnell had a big row years ago with English country music charts when the country fans in England tried to stop him being listed on country charts on the basis that he was a boring dinner jacketed crooner, not a real country singer.

The new wave of cheesy so-called country is even more misleading.  It has little to do with authentic country, either in its ethos or its delivery. Very revealing that when the massively popular Nathan Carter was asked who his biggest musical influence was, he said Michael Bublé.  Where do you go after a statement like that? Michael Bubble!  No harm to Mr. Bubble, but he is to country music what I am to financial planning.

In reality, these new country pretty boys are just cleancut pop crooners wearing big hats to market themselves to an essentially pop market.

But dig deeper into country, and its stuffed full of gems.

Here are a few of my favourites – in some cases (Waits, Stones), the performers are only dabbling in country, but they do it well:

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs – Orange Blossom Special (Instrumental):

The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company:

Clarence Ashley – Cuckoo Bird:

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues:

Tom Waits – Looks Like I’m Up Shit Creek Again:

Tom Waits – Cold Water (Sample lyrics: “Well, the polis at the station, and they don’t look friendly … I’m reading the bible by a 40-watt bulb“):

Rolling Stones – Country Honk:

Rolling Stones – Faraway Eyes (Jagger’s spoken intro is a treat – walks a fine line between taking the outright piss and authenticity, but the music, and the harmonies, are 100% proper country – nice slide-guitar work from Ron Wood):

Mean Mary – Blazing (Instrumental):

Bruce Molsky – I Get My Whiskey From Rockingham (Live @Pickathon 2012):

The Hillbilly Gypsies, live:

Lawyer wanted, aged 24 – 29

Racial and sexual discrimination are difficult to get away with in the legal profession; and that’s as it should be.

Interestingly though, this widespread equality culture has 2 vast blind spots.

I’ve written previously about the acceptability of class discrimination, in my blog post entitled “<The bias that nice people will never admit to>”. However, whilst still inexcusable, in the corporate legal world, due to the wine-drinking, golfist nature of corporate lawyers, this is at least explicable by often being largely an unconscious bias. If you spend your entire life “liaising with” middle-class bankers, middle class accountants, and middle-class financiers, and being surrounded by people whose moralism conflates syntactical transgressions with the Geneva Convention, it’s unsurprising if you fail to realise how socially narrow you are.

The other blind spot is age discrimination. It’s everywhere in the legal profession; and, unlike class discrimination, there’s nothing unconscious or thoughtless about it – age discrimination in the legal profession is deliberate, and explicit. Here’s a typical job ad from March 2022:

Look at the number 1 criterion that the successful candidate must possess – “1 – 5 years PQE“. (“PQE” stands for “post-qualification experience”.)

Obviously, where the role calls for someone who can take lead responsibility, a minimum amount of years of PQE is essential. Say, 0 – 3 years PQE for a junior, supporting role, and a minimum 5 years PQE for someone who does not need their hand held. You need a certain amount of experience. When the other side’s lawyer attempts to adjust the wording in a particular way, you need to be able to see through her or his bullshit and think “I know what you’re up to, you slimy bastard!“. You don’t get that kind of experience from reading textbooks; it only comes with experience.

Accordingly, it’s often necessary to stipulate a minimum PQE.

However, there is never any need also to stipulate a maximum PQE. After all, if we wish to go all reductio ad absurdum on this, if the employer in the above ad recruits someone with 5 years’ PQE, does it mean that they must sack them after one year? By that stage, they would have 6 years’ PQE, and therefore fall outside the stipulated requirements lol …

Everyone knows what’s going on here. Everyone knows that the vast majority of law graduates are not mature students. Typically, you start a law degree at 18. You finish it at 21 or 22. You do a year’s professional legal course. You do a year or so of training. By the time you have 1 year’s PQE, you will be 24 or 25. By the time you have 5 years’ PQE, you will be 29 or 30.

The job ad might as well just state its lead criterion as: “must be aged between 24 and 29“.

In theory, pursuant to the UK’s Equality Act 2010, this sort of discrimination is illegal:

And if the foregoing wasn’t simple enough to understand, there is readily-available clear guidance – here’s Age UK’s guidance:

Despite the straightfoward nature of the foregoing legislation, and despite such readily-available clear guidance, it is nonetheless routinely ignored and un-enforced; and, ironically, it’s law firms who are the worst transgressors .

Experienced, old and working class? On your bike, mate!