Monday, March 30, 2009

A parable

Solidarity in action: Watch it all.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Man of Mystery

Some On-U sounds for you. Not - I'm almost certain, yer actual Augustus Pablo, this is Dr Pablo.

A mind so open that my brains may be falling out

I've just had my 'don't know what I think until I read what I've written' line tested successfully. I read an article in a newspaper, got a bit annoyed about it, and started writing a post about why the author was wrong to say what he did.

In constructing my arguments, I couldn't articulate anything better than the offending article. OK, I don't think he would have argued his case (the one that I now agree with) in the same way that I do, but I'm forced to admit that he was right all along. OK - he should have been a good deal more dismissive of the very idea of group rights, and he should have explained why the encouragement of anti-democratic violence elsewhere is not compatible with liberal democracy here.

But, as I say, he was broadly right to say what he did. And that I've just wasted best part of an hour.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bill Laswell

I had my copy of Sacred System: Chapter Two 'borrowed' about seven years ago. Now I can hear it again on Spotify. I haven't half missed it.

Oooh! It's only about £3 on Amazon now as a download.

Career prospects

A sophisticate like you would probably be bored rigid by an article like this one - about the career prospects of journeymen footballers - but I thought it was really interesting.

There y'go. This is probably because Eamon Dunphy's The Diary of a Professional Footballer is one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. It's even better that Tony Cascarino's ghosted autobiog - and that's saying something.

See? Not totally obsessed with H.I.M.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

From the archives and elsewhere

Looking at John Healey and Ivan Lewis' latest in The Independent, I think that the idea of recasting the whole rights / responsibilities debate into one that asks the question of how public service can be promoted and achieved effectively is one that is long overdue.

I wrote about this a while ago with two long tedious posts, and I've tried to summarise it in a slightly shorter one over at Common Endeavour.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting the communications strategy right

"’s not intelligent politics to attempt to head off an emergent mob with a cost-benefit analysis."

This is really worth a read (via Mick)

Advance auction of stolen goods

I don't have time to google it now, but I think it was DeTocqueville who described elections as an 'advance auction of stolen goods' - a quote that is certainly enjoyed to this day by classical liberals.

I wonder what he'd have made of the Public-Private Investment Programme, eh?

Privatised profit and socialised debt.....

Wall St bail-out? What about Grub St?

Here's an interesting run through the arguments around a bail-out of journalism - an idea this time coming from the US.

I'd read the whole thing if I were you - well worth it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Spotify

I like the fact I can now link to almost any track I can think of from here through Spotify.

Join if you're not in already and dig Elan Mehler's lovely Christina's Song (if you want to get your heart-rate down, that is). Then try the slightly overlooked 80s act, The Woodentops 'So Good Today' and follow it with a spot of downbeat house from A Guy Called Gerald - Humanity.

Then nip over to some early Human League - Black Hit of Space and - in a similar vein, Kraftwerk's Pocket Calculator.

All a bit anti-septic so far? Then how about Thee Milkshakes 'You Got Me Girl' and Lou Reed's Romeo Had Juliet from his not-bad New York comeback LP. Then switch over to some country from Dwight Yoakam - It Won't Hurt and Emmylou with Luxury Liner. Then demand some justice along with Johnny Cash singing The Man in Black ('till things get brighter) or Bruce's Johnny 99. Then there's Martin Stephenson & the Daintees Running Water and Damian Dempsey's St Patrick's Day and Mary Coughlan's Double Cross.

But that's enough soul-free time. Here's Roy Ayers 'We Live in Brooklyn Baby' and Red Black and Green and then some sleazy Ohio Players Sweet Sticky Thing followed by Dr John's What Goes Around Comes Around.

Finish off with beats from Nuyorican Soul Habriendo El Dominate, Positive Vibration by Bob Marley and finally, The Only Woman DJ With Degree from the great Sister Nancy (for some reason, her version of Bam Bam isn't online).

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day

There's nothing much wrong with this Daily Mail article about Forest.
"Why is it that out of all the clubs in the Midlands, there has been one in particular that continually seems to be fighting against unseen forces that drag it down?"
Via Through the Seasons Before Us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Something very basic about politics

I saw this post over at S&M a few days ago, but for some reason, I didn't post anything here about it.

I should have done, because it's something that everybody in the Labour Party should read and understand. 

If - as seems a slight possibility - Labour don't win an outright majority at the next election, there may be some post-mortems. 

This is item one on that agenda (with a failure to politicise the civil service as item two):

"It is not just the case that electorates choose governments. Governments also choose electorates, by building or facilitating the growth of client groups - people who believe that their self-interest lies in voting for the government, or failing that, people who are grateful for what government has given them.

This - rather than any bull about creating a free market economy - was Thatcher’s success: in selling council houses, she created a new clientele supportive of a Conservative government and its policies that fuelled house price inflation.

And it’s New Labour’s failure. Where are its client groups? Not in the public sector, whose workers, whilst better paid, are alienated by managerialism and job insecurity. Nor among benefit claimants, who are incessantly harassed and stigmatized.

Herein lies a point under-rated by all the talk about the future of the left. A key part of the task for the post-New Labour party must be to reshape the electorate, creating client groups loyal to it."

Why John Cruddas thinks it's all a matter of communiations and tone is beyond me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Conor Gearty again

Conor Gearty on a large slice of the civil liberties lobby:

"The idea that the state is an unwarranted assault on individual freedom is not a progressive one. This kind of libertarianism works to protect privilege by cloaking the advantages of the rich in the garb of personal autonomy, individual freedom and the “human right” to privacy.

It is not at all surprising that the Convention on Modern Liberty is attracting strong support from those on the right of politics, politicians who hanker after a golden age of rights for the rich and responsibilities for everyone else.

But the left, or at least those parts of it that believe in the progressive power of the state, need to be more careful about defining exactly where they stand when they join in this chorus of dissent."

I'm glad he's written this. As an 'umble blogger, I've found myself (like most of us) thrown back on subjectivity in answering the question: Police state - getting closer or further away? 

It seems to me very clear that - leaving aside some bloody horrible examples of bureaucrats using a badly drafted bit of law to solve a problem that it wasn't intended to address, that the general direction we are heading in is a positive one. And bureaucrats feeling able to exercise more discretionary power than they used to .... in what sort of circumstances does that happen, eh?

The Triumph of the Banking Classes

Deserves a post of it's own, this one:

My previous post referenced Michael White's latest. This para deserves repeating:

"Yesterday a smart 250-page paperback landed on my desk and only served to deepen my gloom. Modestly entitled The End of the Party, it set out what's wrong with British politics – from alienation to falling turnout and funding problems. It is thus not encouraging to see my old friend, Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail, getting five indexed references.

Peter has the quaint notion that we are witnessing what one of his books calls "The Triumph of the Political Class", whereas we are actually seeing it run ragged by the media and a disengaged (not the same as alienated) electorate. In his haste ex-stockbroker Pete forgot to write a book about the triumph of the banking classes, the ones who got away with the loot."

Demagogic simplification: Examples

I've used the term 'demagogic simplification' on this blog more than I probably should have done. I nicked it from the late Pierre Bourdieu some years ago, (see here and here) and I like it a lot.

If you want an example of it, have a look at this piece by Michael White. Read down until you get to Andreas Whittam Smith and Martin Bell.

The men in the white suits. Even their shit doesn't smell.

Hating politics

This post is cross-posted at Common Endeavour

This post, in which Steve Goodrich asks 'why do we hate politics' over on the Compass website is a bit of a classic of it's kind.

It starts off identifying a fairly well-fleshed out thesis - that the consumerisation of politics has resulted in an increasing disillusionment and disengagement.

It then offers a thin denunciation of this line - but one that doesn't address any of the reasons why the problem - as he's sketched it out - exists, apart from asserting that politicans haven't done everything that Steve wishes they would do:

"The problem lies not within our demand for politics per se but in the failure of politics, or to be more specific politicians, to supply us with reasons to give them our support.

This is not surprising considering the government's current performance. Their attempt to stabilize the banking system has provided mixed results, yet more fundamentally it has done nothing to reassure us that they are working in our interest. Promises made for job creation look fanciful and far-off, whilst staggeringly high amounts of money are pumped into the black hole of our decrepit financial system. Workers are laid off in their thousands whilst at best their plight is met with unconvincing, rehearsed showings of empathy and understanding by ministers and opposition alike.

To top it all off the common line throughout the past six months has been that matters are out of their hands. ‘The economic crisis is a world crisis' does not instil trust in their ability to tackle the problems at hand. What makes it worse is that there is little substantive difference between the parties as to how this can all be resolved with minimal harm to us, the victims."

It all sounds very consumerist to me. THEY haven't managed to come up with the right product for US. And for a post that is so fixed on identifying the problem with politicians (THEY haven't adopted Steve Goodrich's particular prescriptions, it seems), there seems to be no defence of politics, no outline of how it can be done properly, and no questioning of how far the quality of democracy can provide a cause for these problems.

David Aaronovich doesn't make the same mistake in this excellent article in The Times:

"...if you don't have a liberal democracy, everything else goes to hell. And it does strike me that, right now, we are in a nasty phase of attacking democratic politics and its inevitable representatives, the politicians, for their deficiencies and taking refuge either in populism, legalism or magical thinking.

Any of these are dangerous, but doubly so in a time of potential depression. The populism is expressed in the casual, jokey bracketing of politicians with fraudsters, the influence of potty-mouthed right-wing bloggers on some political journalism and an impatience with foreign workers and other minorities. The legalism is evident in the suggestion that politicians should hive off their responsibilities to technocratic bodies, such as an “independent” NHS. The magical thinking comes in imagining wheezes that would somehow save us from the messy business of having, joining, organising, funding or voting for political parties.

It always amazes me - and it shouldn't - how clever adults seem to believe, against the evidence of their own experience, that the governing classes in our democracy inevitably mess everything up." 

Aaronovich concludes:

"So how depressing it is that there are Grand Conventions in defence of liberty and none in defence of politics; that we count cameras but won't join parties; that we obsess about biometrics and databases and refuse our support to the democratic politics that is the real safeguard against authoritarianism or chaos."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Try the Tory Logo generator.

The PM's DVD Challenge

Sadie has tagged me with Tom Harris MP's meme.

Apparently President Obama gave Gordon Brown some DVDs (as if he'll ever watch them!). The rule is, if you own the DVD and you've watched it, you get two points, you get one for either having only watched it or for owning but not having yet watched it.

Here's my list:

Own: Star Wars Episode IV (my son has it), The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, Chinatown, The Graduate

Seen: Schindler's List, Vertigo, Wizard of Oz, On the Waterfront, ET - the Extra Terrestrial, Sunset Boulevard, Casablanca,Psycho.

Never seen: It's a Wonderful Life, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, The Searchers, 2001 - a Space Odyssey, Some Like it Hot, Gone with the Wind, City Lights, The General, The Grapes of Wrath.

Twenty points out of a possible fifty which makes me a better person than Sadie, but not as good as Tom Harris MP. Being a rampant libertarian, I'm not going to coerce anyone into doing this but if you feel like it, why not?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Young Ned of the Hill (Dub)

I've wanted to link to Young Ned (Dub) here for ages. Now I can. And to A Pistol For Paddy Garcia and to London You're a Lady as well.

The Stars of Heaven

OK. I'm really impressed with Spotify. And I've found that they have some Stars of Heaven stuff. The SoH were one of my favourite acts of the 1980s - I used to try and get small venues to book them, I liked them that much and they were a nearly-but-not-quite act in indie commercial terms. The NME (I think) called them 'Country Rock with a PhD' which probably didn't help them much.

John Peel loved them, but they lacked the thing (whatever it was) that you needed to make the breakthrough. I think that there's something a bit problematic about making jangly country-ish rock sell too much - REM seemed to monopolise that particular sphere with the Go-Betweens being another slightly under-rated player in this field.

Here's Sacred Heart Hotel and here's Two O'Clock Waltz. And Moonstruck is worth a listen if you've got time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Trying out Spotify

Just trying the Spotify hyperlinks. Can you hear The Louvin Brothers singing 'My Baby's Gone' from this link? Or Fourth World's Step Seven (live at Ronnie Scotts)? Or Aaron Jerome's Late Night Mission (The Bump)? Or the under-rated Shuggie Otis blues, Oxford Gray? Maybe try GSH's Gun? Or the ska cover of I Spy for the FBI by The Untouchables? Or Terry Callier's gorgeous African Violet (live)? Or on a Brit-boys-with-guitars theme, Shack's Streets of Kenny? Or The Enemy - We'll live and die in these towns. Maybe sample Soil & Pimp sessions Darkside?

(Good, innit? If you listen to one of those, try The Bump - it's a nice slightly funny surprise)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Discretion being the better part of valour

Over on Slugger, Brian Walker is urging everyone to give Sinn Féin the space it needs at the moment. 

Irish republicanism has always sought to conflate legitimate grievances - inequality, discrimination, harrasment - with the national cause.

Their great successes - 1916, the 1918 election, the subsequent collapse of British rule in most of Ireland with Black & Tan mayhem as a backdrop, through to the NICRA-era in the late 1960s leading to Bloody Sunday and internment, and then the Hunger Strikes of the 1980s - riling the Brit dog - have all led to entrenchment in a longer and longer death march. 

The lack of even the legitmate grievances of the past should put paid to the current outrages. I think Brian is right.

Update: David Aaronovitch has quite a different view.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Policeman murdered in Craigavon

It's not all over yet then....

Update: apparently all political parties were straight on TV, united in condemning it.

Full disclosure

We couldn't really have this kind of data in the UK because (unlike a detailed timetable of my MP's bowel movements) it doesn't exist.

Kinnock on the miners' strike

“My huge mistake, of course, was not, at a very, very early stage, to resolve the dilemma by saying: ‘If these decent people are going to even fight a draw, let alone win, they’re going to have to do it on the basis of a democratic vote.’ The greatest regret of my whole life is that I didn’t make that view public from the very earliest stage.”

(Quote from a TV programme on at the moment)

Credit where it's due

I've not always been the greatest fan of Sinn Féin, but Martin McGuinness really deserves full credit for saying this:

"I will stand for all democrats against their attempts to plunge us back into conflict; to see soldiers on the streets; to see more checkpoints; to see houses being raided and to see people being dragged back to interrogation centres. Those days are over. They can never come back again."

It is a step-change for Irish Republicans to take and it's not something that I think they could have been reasonably expected to say straight-off-the-bat.

Sinn Féin have come under a fair amount of criticism for not having said this sooner than they did after Saturday nights' murders. I'd suggest that this is unfair.

To be as unequivocal as Sinn Féin leaders have been would have involved a degree of consultation - a squaring of a few circles. Once again, it shows that the demand for a reflexive statement can often result in a poorer outcome.

It's early days, but the politicians in Northern Ireland look like they are responding well to this situation. For once, the focus has been on the undeserving victims - not the yesbuttery that often characterises debate - even on Slugger's heavily moderated comment threads.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Paramilitarism and home ownership

Less a post than a question: Has anyone seen anything written about how rising property prices and economic prosperity have underpinned Northern Ireland's peace process - and how policy-makers should address the changing situation?

Northern Ireland has a disproportionately large public sector - and it's not clear to me that the public sector are (yet) bearing the brunt of the current downturn.

They will do in the end though....

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Fat thieving bastards

You can learn everything you need to know about the delightful Taxpayers' Alliance from this story.

What a vile shower of shitheads these people are. More detail here.

A question

I don't know anybody who isn't a senior figure at the BBC or an ... er .... apologist for NuLab who thinks that policies should pass the Daily Mail test before they are adopted.

Why do you think this is?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Not here. There.

I'm re-running a long-cherished argument that I've tried out a few times here - but doing it over at Common Endeavour.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Friendly Pressure:

Not new anymore, but lovely stuff:

Will write something here soon once I catch up. Stay tuned...