Stokes Croft Riots

May 26, 2011

A small branch of the supermarket Tesco opened in Stokes Croft, a neighbourhood in Bristol in April. This was not a giant hypermarket, it was a Tesco Express, something like Apu’s Quik-E-Mart in The Simpsons.

Riot damaged Tesco Express


Some residents in the area were horrified. They claimed that the new store would destroy existing small businesses, and that “big capitalism” was being imposed on them. Their opinions were not taken seriously, and the opening of the new store went ahead.

Those opposed to the store have this to say:

Within a week of Tesco opening its doors Stokes Croft has found itself the focal point of serious violence and confrontation. Over the last few years our beloved community has undergone an amazing home grown resurgence. We are therefore devastated that Tesco’s refusal to listen to what the majority of local people want has resulted in our vibrant, peaceful community being subject to such a sad state of affairs.

This “majority” decided that violence was the best method of enforcing their wishes, so they took to the streets. Their website goes on:

We are also deeply saddened to witness the reality that we live in society in which young people feel the only way to see justice done is to throw rocks. The reality is the government / corporations / media have created this society and are now trying to blame young people for the mess they have created. What future can we hope for if corporations are allowed to continue to dictate governments? If their insatiable appetite for profit is allowed to reign supreme?

Clashes between protesters and police left many injured and extensive damage to property, including to the disputed store.

What bothers me about this is that the protesters are either lying about their motives or they show an almost unbelievable ignorance of economic forces.

If they are truly in the majority, they could easily close the store down simply by not shopping there. The store would lose money, and Tesco, with its “insatiable appetite for profit” would close its doors and try again elsewhere.

But I suspect that they are not in any sort of majority and they wish to impose their political agenda on everyone else through the use of force. There may well be a silent majority of residents in the area who would appreciate the convenience of being able to buy reasonably priced goods at the new store, and the protesters are well aware of this fact.

This is morally indefensible and I hope the Avon and Somerset constabulary stand firm in their commitment to uphold the law.

What future can we hope for if a few malcontents are allowed to dictate, by violence and coercion, to corporations and governments?

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Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License

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Rapture II

May 23, 2011

So, here we are (still). Unraptured, unsubjected to the tortures of hell on Earth we were promised by the grade A, Crackpot First Class Harold Camping. The papers are full of sob stories about the morons who bought into this nonsense and now have to face the consequences.

Last Judgement


Last week I expressed some sympathy for the likes of the Martinez family, but this week, after reading the bleatings of the faithful, I’ve changed my mind.

There are a crowd who rented 50 rooms in an expensive hotel to await Jesus, believing they would never be presented with the bill. How stupid can you get and still go about on your hind legs? These bloody fools deserve nothing but contempt and ridicule, and the more of that that is heaped upon them, the less likely will it be that others will believe the next Camping, or even this self same Camping when he amends his ridiculous calculations again.

Last week I mentioned the fact that yelling “fire!” in crowded auditorium is not protected speech under any sane constitution, and likened Camping’s absurd statements to just that situation. I sincerely hope someone in the US brings a prosecution against him, and a jury finds him responsible for some of the harm he has done.

Then he can finish his days in a lunatic asylum, where he should have been confined a long time ago.

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Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License


Rapture Rubbish

May 10, 2011

There have always been a few mentally fragile individuals going about wearing sandwich boards proclaiming the imminence of the end. But they are seldom as specific about it as the latest batch of ditzy doom mongers who say that the rapture will occur at 1800 local time on the 21st May.


Why are they so sure? Well, because it’s exactly 7000 years since the start of the great flood (you know, the one that happened when the only person with a boat was Noah), that’s why. How do they know the exact date of the flood? I don’t know and they aren’t telling, apart from a somewhat cryptic assertion that it is encoded in the Bible. The man who started all this is the well-known crackpot Harold Camping, the founder of a Christian media network called Family Radio. He predicted the day of judgement would come on September the 6th 1994, and when it didn’t his excuse was that he hadn’t actually read the whole thing: “For example, I at that time had not gone through the Book of Jeremiah which is a big book in the Bible that has a whole lot to say about the end of the world.”

Harold Camping

This is all very entertaining, but his nonsense has an adverse effect on the lives of those who are too weak or psychotic to think for themselves. For example: Adrienne Martinez and her husband Joel lived and worked in New York. Adrienne had plans to attend medical school, but when they fell under the spell of Camping, their plans changed. “Knowing the date of the end of the world changes all your future plans. My mentality was, why are we going to work for more money? It just seemed kind of greedy to me. And unnecessary.” So they quit their jobs and moved to Florida. “We budgeted everything so that, on May 21, we won’t have anything left.” The really sad part of this is that they have a two-year-old daughter and another child on the way, who will be going hungry come the the 22nd because of their parents’ idiocy.

Their story is not unique; there plenty of people who have given up careers to wait apathetically for “the rapture”. On the 22nd of May they are going to be both disappointed and broke.

It’s said that yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire is not protected by any constitutional free speech provisions because the potentially disastrous consequences of panic trump the constitutional free speech clause. Is there not a case to made that Camping is doing the same thing? Even if he actually believes his own bullshit, the feeble-minded dupes who follow him risk destitution as a result of it. I’m not looking forward to the sob stories that will abound as the gullible realize that they have been gulled, but there is no going back to repair the damage.

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Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License


Potty Training

May 6, 2011

Contrary to the popular opinion that the flush toilet was invented by Thomas Crapper in the late 19th century, it actually first appeared in the Indus valley over 4000 years ago.

Flush toilet

One would think that by now human beings would have learnt to use it properly, but, judging from the filthy appearance and revolting aromas permeating public conveniences everywhere, this is clearly not the case. I therefore offer this short user manual which you may freely print out and attach prominently to the wall or door of your favourite privy.

1. Preparation.

1.1. Examine carefully the bowl of the toilet. There are design differences which, when it comes to defecating technique are critical. Pay special attention to the position of the pond: in order to avoid leaving “skid marks” it is important that you position your outlet valve directly over the water.

1.2. Put down paper before you commence discharge. A yard or two of paper is sufficient, and it should be allowed to settle lightly onto the surface of the water. The paper forestalls the distressing phenomenon of splash-back and also provides some protection to the walls of the bowl near the pond should your adherence to the rule contained in paragraph 1.1. not be of the highest accuracy.

2. Execution.

2.1. Seat yourself in accordance with the instructions given in paragraph 1.1.

2.2. Let the sphincter open fully, allowing discharge to occur with minimal impedance. Should difficulties arise at this point you may need to adjust your intake of fibre, but dietary advice is beyond the scope of this document.

2.3. DO NOT read books or magazines, solve crossword or soduku puzzles, make telephone calls, or engage in other activity that may have the effect of lengthening your stay. Haemorrhoids are the punishment for this form of sloth, and they are not pleasant.

3. Cleanup.

3.1. Thoroughly wipe the sphincter and neighbouring areas with toilet paper. Newspaper, corncobs and the like are not adequate substitutes.

3.2. Rise and adjust your clothing, paying particular attention to the fly if you are a boy, and making sure the back of your skirt isn’t jammed into the top of your knickers if you are a girl.

3.3. Flush.

3.4. Examine the bowl to see that no trace of your visit remains. If you detect such traces, then scrub them off with a toilet brush and repeat 3.3. and 3.4.

3.5. DO NOT spray so-called “air fresheners” into the air. These are invariably carcinogenic and smell worse than crap.

3.6. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

3.6. You may now leave with your head held high, smug in the knowledge that you are a good citizen and everyone else should be proud to use the facility you have just vacated.

Have a great weekend.

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Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License