Thursday, July 30, 2009

Distant relative

Just been told that this bloke is some kind of second cousin or something.

Never met him. Sounds alright though, doesn't he? A touch of the Ryan Adams about him....

Let the people decide!

About Lisbon. But not about electoral reform.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Being human

If you ever get asked why politicians can't just be a bit more human - a bit more like the rest of us, go and read about what happened when Bob tried it.

Destroyer of time

You should know that Spotify has an almost bottomless pit of karaoke backing tracks.

I've lost my voice. About half-way through Kids In America.

I've never suspected that I might be gay before, but now I'm starting to wonder....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Go and see Cathi

Here's her site.

Reconfiguring journalism and political discourse

Here's Charlie Beckett:
"...the US obsession with the political blogosphere distracted people from the much richer opportunities online. US pol blogs thrives because the American mainstream political media is so boring and so editorially narrow, be it Fox News or the New York Times. Here in the UK we have much more vibrant newspaper-based political journalism as well as the vast edifice of the BBC and other public service broadcasters.

So it is not so surprising that our political blogosphere is less high profile than in America. The next UK election will NOT be an Internet election and very few contests or issues will be impacted by what happens online. But away from the overtly political websites the Internet is reconfiguring journalism and political discourse. Political journalism in the UK is already significantly networked. The blogs feed into the mainstream which itself is now widely connected online to the public. Social networks as well as specific interest websites are now framing the conversation alongside traditional media."

Read the whole thing if you can? It's actually a book review, but I think he's got a good post of his own in there as well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Notts County - have they got Sven or Derek?

Is it really Sven at Meadow Lane?

More right-wing as you get older?

I was talking to a few people the other night about how we're all supposed to get more right-wing as we get older.

I'm not completely convinced that the left-right spectrum is the only one that's relevant anyway, but as I went away, I had to conclude that - in a world ...
  • where, I'm told that most people earn a good deal less than I spend on bus fares each day and this inequality is getting more pronounced
  • where - I'm told - about one-in-six people don't even have enough to eat with millions dying of starvation while we throw food away by the trailer-load
  • where capitalism - particularly the monopolistic variety that has grown even stronger during my lifetime - has exacerbated this chasm between the rich and the poor
  • where - in the past twelve months - the vast majority of us (and not just the billions that go to bed every night with an empty stomach) have been the victims of one of the most massive thefts ever witnessed
... I'd say that I'd have to have been looking at the world through very funny glasses to see anything that would convince me that most of the arguments used by the political right had a shred of respectability left.

I'd say that there are only two honest positions you can take about this situation. You can ....
  1. want to see a fundamental change to the relations of production distribution and exchange to stop the waste and the exploitation
  2. tell everybody that you really don't give two fucks about this and that if everything stayed the same, that would be fine
There is a third position I suppose. You could pretend to yourself that monopoly capitalism has the potential to solve these problems. There is probably a planet where you could reach that conclusion, but I've not heard of it.

No. I think I'm a bit more of a lefty now than I was when I was a teenager. When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ill Communications

Bet you've forgotten what a good LP Ill Communications is, haven't you? Have another listen.

On a different matter, the new-ish LP by John Frusciante – The Empyrean has survived a first-listen in higher esteem than I thought it would.

And lastly, again on a totally different direction, Townes Van Zandt – Flyin' Shoes would justify a first visit if you've never heard it. You don't need to be a massive country fan to get something out of it either.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What can lefty blogging achieve?

The right-wing blogosphere has had a fairly good year so far. The anti-politics ultras have been able to team up very effectively with the mainstream media to damage elected politicians in general, but Labour ones moreso.

The disproportionate damage Labour has sustained can be explained in the following ways
  • In government during a recession for which they are partially responsible (the idea that the Tories would have handled the banks any differently is a hard one to make)
  • Expectations; Voters have a higher expectation of the behavior of Labour MPs - it may be the case that a Tory vote is often for 'a bastard, but OUR bastard' whereas Labour voters expect more
  • Been in power for a long time anyway - 'time for a change' and everything that accrues to that sentiment (there's a post of its own in that one)
  • Because Labour has a higher percentage of MPs, any 'they've all got their hands in the til' scandal will hit them harder
All of that said, I suspect that - as they step closer to government, the 'anti-politics' rhetoric will be less welcome in Tory central office. We're already seeing the Red Tory offensive, and it's noticeable that people like Jeremy Hunt and Kenneth Clarke are more visible a lot of the time than George Osborne.

Like Labour in the mid-1990s, there's plenty of evidence that the tories are quietly reaching out to assure various interest groups that a change of government will not be accompanied by any kind of Armageddon.

They know that a fear of change can provoke resistance, and their version of Labour's 'Safety First' approach means that there will be less encouragement for the kind of nihilistic attack that is coming from the blogosphere.

There may also shortly be an appeal for a 'period of reflection' of some sort? A call for a 'dialogue' in which all of the tarnished institutions - MPs, banks, the BBC, and to a lesser extent, the media, can express a suitable bit of humility before picking up where they left off.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for the left-blogosphere. There are plenty of potential targets such as Lord Ashcroft and Ashcroft-financed Tory PPCs.

In the way that the right have been able to manufacture attacks on MPs and the BBC in collusion with the MSM, perhaps it's possible for bloggers to sustain an attack on the more obnoxious elements of the MSM?

From the little acorn of an 11,000-strong petition to not let the Express off the hook or it's treatment of Dunlaine survivors.

Tim over at Bloggerheads and a few others have made a good start in targeting right-wing newspapers, but there doesn't seem to be any real co-ordination yet around an attempt to crowdsource harassment of these newspapers and the vile shitheads that write for them.

It really does beg the question - is the MSM as 'finished' as some people say that it is? I'd argue that it's healthier than it seems, and that little by way of sustained campaigning can happen without the collusion of these newspapers.

The right-wing blogosphere is far more instinctively co-ordinated than the left. A comparison between ConservativeHome - really a not-bad group blog as far as the Conservatives are concerned and Labour's equivalents says something.

Perhaps this will only come together in opposition?

Uncounted chickens

OK. What bizarre twist will England exploit to avoid victory here? Just asking....

Friday, July 17, 2009

Labour - the party of small business?

Every credible study I've seen of British politics confirms the irrelevance of a lot of policy debate when it comes to explaining why people vote the way they do. Completing the late Chris Lightfoot's survey confirms this - you can answer honestly, plot your political position and find yourself surrounded by people who voted the opposite way to you.

For me, one question illustrates this nicely: Why isn't Labour the party of small business?

Sure - there's a quick fire answer to do with the tribalism and cultural semiotics that seep out of the parties. The Rotary Club is always going to be a sticky wicket for any candidate who sold copies of Militant when they were at the Poly back in the early 1980s.

But surely a centre-left party in the UK should be able to appeal to these people - and it should be prepared to position itself in deeper opposition to monopoly capitalism than it is prepared to do?

Take your local shops. In the town I grew up in, there were a number of local butchers, a few bakers and every kind of local outlet. All gone, supplanted by giant chainstores, there by the grace of anti-competitive practices and dedicated to chewing up and ripping off their supply chain.

We've all been victims of larceny on a scale that we wouldn't have imagined possible at the hands of our 'too-big-to-fail' banks in the last year or so. The ones that ate local building societies alive a decade or two earlier.

Wanting to bid for public sector work? Unless your business' name begins in a 'C' and rhymes with Crapita, forget it. The amount of compliance and paperwork that you need in order to win a contract and then simply fuck the whole project up with impunity is huge.

Labour could position itself as the friend of small contracters, local retailers, farmers, food suppliers and mutuals instead of being the party that is so lenient on monopolies and tolerant of the autonomous public sector. Instead, it's strategist are quite happy to admit, in private, that small businesses are useful insofar as they tap into over-optimism in order to drive prices and wages down. The medium-term success rates of small businesses are just pitiful (and I can't find the figures off hand, but when I last saw them, they were pretty shocking).

At the risk of sounding like a slightly simplistic Spartist student, the reason it isn't prepared to do this, I suspect, reveals more about where power truly resides in this country.

Etta James

I love this pic - I first saw it on the back of a not-bad 'Best of' Etta compilation - it's funny that it's not the standard one that her publicists use from the 1960s because it says so much about her. It was quite hard to track down online.

I'd love a whole-wall-sized painting of that shot.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Help me find?

I really can't remember where I read it now, but I recently saw a great post that covered the whole News of the World phone tapping question, along with the nasty smearing job that the Express did on Dunblane survivors. I've done all of the searches I can think of but can't find it.

It wasn't this one either - good though it is. It outlined the way that the Express story - like the Coulson one - was rapidly shuffled off the front pages, and it illustrated the degree to which the print media seem be be able to collude to make instances of their own shitheadedness disappear.

If you think you know the one I mean, stick a link up in the comments here willya?

Update: Linda on Facebook has found the one - Charlie Brooker - I was thinking of - Will pointed to it (by email) and I forgot where I'd read it. Ta Linda/Will.

Libertarianism explained

By Kevin

(via Will)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day

Another idea nicked from Slugger: Today's Bastille Day.

BBC impartiality - shortcomings

Mick's got a good post up showing a co-ordinated bit of citizen-journalism covering 'the Twelfth' throughout Northern Ireland.

In particular, he highlights the problem - a more serious one than most people think, I would venture - of the BBC's model of neutrality and impartiality:
"....the media coverage, on the BBC at least, was possessed of a bizarrely split personality: juddering between tourist board schmalz and an utter distaste for the whole thing. If I were to venture a guess I would say it was less a case of being conflicted than the modern BBC utterly loathing the whole thing within their very hearts and souls. I’ve nothing against Walter Love, but he retired from the BBC years ago as a working journalist. Mark Carruthers’ series of tough questions on Evening Extra last night were all sharp and relevant, and Drew Nelson, one of the ablest men to hold his post of Grand Secretary in modern times, was able to field them with some alacrity.

But you are left with the feeling that at the very least there is a huge emotional vacuum within the BBC. It gave the impression that no one of any ability or talent inside the modern BBC wants to do the job of publicly being nice to the Orange Order. To return to JP’s accute analysis, the Orange Order exists almost entirely as a negative valence in BBCNI’s inner emotional life.

Because the BBC holds a public service broadcasting remit, it has to cover things that perhaps its producers and journalists feel at best ambivalent about, and worst find inimical. It is, to follow Heath, incongruous for the BBC to cover an Orange parade which is not responsible for all the trouble it attracts. And if it does not attract trouble, like the parade in Dromore where demonstrators took their pints in three nationalist owned pubs bedecked with Tyrone flags, it is not news."
The BBC needs to think about this. Pluralism, not impartiality, is what they need. At the moment, even the BEEB's loudest advocates find it hard to argue that the corporation hasn't boiled down into a slightly sloppy liberal mush.

I say 'the BBC needs to think about this...' but all of the signs seem to be that Auntie has allowed itself to become structured in a way that no-one actually cares about it's long-term prospects.

There's one thing I'm fairly certain of: The DG - Mark Thompson - will be being paid far more than he is now by one of the BBC's commercial rivals in five years time.

Like the useless Sir Michael Lyons and his puny BBC Trust, the BBC's staff are no longer prepared to take the kind of decisions that will safeguard the future of the corporation.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Don Paskini with a lose-lose-lose situation.
Worried about Tory populism? You should be!

The twelfth

Slugger is liveblogging the Orangefest proceedings and there's a #slugger12th tag on Twitter.

The 12th being on a Sunday means that - this year - the 12th is on the 13th.

Unlucky for some.

Here's Conall talking about what the 12th means to him. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

No news

No news to report here.

Anyone who doubts the ability of newspaper proprietors to entirely dictate the pace of public discourse will surely be revising their views today with the contrast between Coulston / NoTW hacking 1,000s of mobile phones (yesterday's news!) and long sagas of Damian McBride talking about the possibility of a bit of political black-baggery / BBC having to deal with a bit of over-the-phone rudeness to an ageing actor.

Kinda makes the previous post here look a trifle optimistic, dunnit?

So, instead, here's a link to The Boomtown Rats' 'Someone Looking At You.' They were actually a not-bad band towards the end. The whole Mondo Bongo LP is very good, and quite overlooked perhaps because it's bookended by the bigger selling earlier hits and Geldof's post-Rats big noise.

Hurts Hurts is standout from that one. 

Thursday, July 09, 2009


On of the upsides of the way that the Tories targeted Damian McBride earlier this year (getting Iain Dale sued in the Mail in the process) is that Andy Coulson is now fair game following #murdochgate (and if you're thinking of trying Twitter to see what it's for, now is a good time to start just to post things with '#murdochgate' in them).

Full story here. Let's hope that the Tories take a while to read the writing on the wall.

If they want to play the kind of war-of-attrition that they've started this year off with, they can start to see that it cuts both ways.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

About a month to go

I'll be off to Belmullet for the usual holiday (regulars here may recall this is always the destination these days).

They've had particularly good news in town lately (via Slugger)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Anti-politics = pro-community?

This post has two virtues.

1. It uses the word 'politics' in a way that will annoy Shuggy (and the result is always worth a read)

2. It's quite good.

I'm a bit too busy to think it through at the moment, but my instant response is that it's a mistake to mix up the current stalemate for 'politics'. 

Meet the master race

Here (ta Warren)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Should probably find something more serious to be annoyed about

I've been annoyed every time I've watched the news today at the way they cover the tennis.

Why do they show clips of players and their families (in the crowd) celebrating winning a point - in slow motion?

They do this with football as well. Slo mo is supposed to be there to highlight the skill - it says so much about what sport on TV is for.

As I said, this really annoys me.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Lottery numbers

On the subject of Rab C Nesbitt....

Soil & Pimp - get your free live album here!

If you like a bit of exuberant soul-jazz then you're probably already aware of the Soil & Pimp sessions. Here's a YouTube taster:

And if you go here, there's what is, in effect, a free live S&P album taken from their Bush Hall and Roundhouse gigs last year - I missed both of them and I've been kicking myself ever since. I don't want to overdo it, but it a great recording and full of good surprises.

I'm probably going to the Hop Farm festival tomorrow to see Mr Weller (among others) so if you're there, tweet me baby!

Garlic comedy

My friend Torcuil has co-written a sitcom, and it's been aired on the BBC Alba Channel. It's in Garlic which is the language that the sweaties are supposed to speak... it's probably in poor taste to lapse into any comments about Rab C Nesbitt (which for some reason, most of the English can't make head-nor-tail of - I've not spent long in Scoland, but I always have to translate it for people here) and it's available on BBC Alba's i-player for a limited time.
The premise for the drama is an everyday administrative disaster scenario:

The government has decided to send ALL the rival Gaelic language development agencies to ONE office, in an ACTUAL Gaelic speaking area on the Isle of Skye. When they're not fighting each other to leave, the professional Gaels are barricading the door against the Gaelic community. It's job dispersal gone mad. It's Broadford or Bust!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The glorious day cometh....

Now where did I put those blindfolds and cigarettes?