Monday, November 30, 2009

Transparency now!

"Extend the Freedom of Information Act to all bodies undertaking public services, including private contractors and Private Finance Initiative providers. Private companies that provide public services receive taxpayers' money and so should be subject to the same scrutiny as public sector bodies. In particular, private contractors should not be able to hide their operations behind 'corporate confidentiality' clauses."
Read the whole thing over at the Other TPA.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hello! Hello! Good to be back! Good to be back!

Forest started the worst nosedive in their history in late 2004 (though it had been in the post for over a year before that) and I started blogging in earnest shortly after (I'd experimented with the idea a few times but never with any conviction).

It was a time when the only thing Forest knew how to do was to make pretty girls cry.

It would be fair to say that a lot of posts here were at least spiced a bit by the fact that I've had a mardy on about football during all of that time.

Blogging has been light here for the last few months though and it gives me great pleasure to show you this image - one that offers a possible explanation:

Quid pro quo: Time to remove restrictions on industrial action.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post elsewhere on, among other things, the social contract and the automatic assumption that we are all included in it - the alternative being Hobbes' notion of the state of nature. Because the alternative to living according to the rule of law is nasty and brutal, we are all deemed to have accepted it - something that should temper any resentment that we may have towards the general concept of law.

A few of the arguments that came out in the threads were that the notion that an action of a state is 'not in my name' is not a sustainable one.

This is the reason why we are right to take an instinctive liberal suspicion with us whenever we encounter the state. If we don't engage fully in elections, our right to moan about governments diminishes - as Steve Earle put it, 'if you don't vote, don't bitch.'

This stood out from yesterday's letters page in The Guardian:
"It is now impossible to live without a bank account, so we have no choice but to put our money in their hands. The fact that they can decide for themselves how much to charge and then to help themselves to it is a scandal. The law must be changed to stop this: not allowing them to take money from our accounts and forcing them to send us a bill first are just two of the changes necessary."
How have we allowed commercial organisations to have the same purchase over us as the organisations that we elect? 'Too big to fail / our grandchildren will be paying for their thieving' isn't the only charge to hold against the banks.

Larry Elliott was right:
“But there is a motley band of discontents for whom business as usual, in whatever form, means that another crisis will erupt before too long. They argue that the exiguous nature of current reform proposals is explained by the institutional capture of governments by the investment banks, the world’s most powerful lobbying groups.”
More than ever, the cornerstone of any liberal concerns we may have must be a determination to neutralise the lobbying power any organisation that is capable of raising a louder voice than any individual. Until that happens, there is no reason that I think of that the right to collectively withdraw labour should be restricted in any way.

I understand the argument that industrial action can often be self interested blackmail. So let's abolish self-interested blackmail across the board? We can start with the most active culprits. By the time we work down to the minor transgressors in the unions, I doubt if organised labour will have any objections?

Updated 17:23, 28/11/09 - redrafted for clarity (!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Watch and learn

Pretty impressive, eh?

I'm not really sure of the provenance of this music - I heard an Oud player in Tunisia once using a few similar moves and techniques, and of course, there's the fabulous Anouar Brahem with a less flamboyant percussive technique, but I don't know as much about arabic music as I'd like and I'm not sure if this even draws anything directly from it. Here's Anouar though - for reference.

I did have a post up here pointing to another bit of percussive guitar playing a while ago and I've just enjoyed the videos again, so if you have a bit of time to kill, do have a look?

Compass Xmas Party

Time to consider Xmas parties again. Being a freelancer, a lot of the invites I used to get working for a company have dried up, and besides an impromptu drinkup that I'll organise using Facebook, the pick of the crop would appear to be something that combines odd music, poetry and a bit of multimedia.

So a German Oompah band explaining the crisis of capitalism, or the words 'Lo-fi ukelele jazz' don't send shivers down your spine, then the Compass Xmas Party on the 18th December could be for you, as it probably will be for me. (You might have seen Tricity Vogue in 'Blow Up - The Credit Crunch Musical at the Edinburgh Festival over the summer?)

It's in Old St, London and the whole shebang is being put together by Philosophy Football (tel: 020 8802 3499) and details are behind that link. Get your finger out, by the way - my snouts tell me it will sell out shortly.

See you there?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy birthday

The Other Tax-Payer's Alliance is one year old today. No expense has been spared in the celebrations (see pic).

There's a handy comparison sheet for you to follow if you want to work out whether the TPA or the OTPA is your preferred source.

If I had more time, I'd love to curate a project whereby every month an award is given to the journalist who uncritically uses one of the TPA's routinely dishonest press releases.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

James, Janes, Jones and Muphry's Law

So The Sun have had to apologise to Mrs Janes about mis-spelling her family name - after putting the PM through the wringer for exactly the same discourtesy.

They have, it seems, violated Muphry's Law.

(It seems that when you write a post about it you put the wrong links in as well! Apologies for that.)

Two posts by people called Davies

1. Will Davies: Digital exuberance in space. The revealed dissatisfaction of people futzing with their iPhone.

2. Tim Davies: The myth of easy engagement - decisions are made by people who turn up.

Both very very good.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Favourite Football Fact

Here is the badge worn by players of Barrow AFC - currently mid-table in the Blue Square Premier.

Note the Bee with an arrow through it. Bee-arrow .... geddit?

Sadly, their near-neighbours, Cockermouth FC haven't followed Barrow's inspiration.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Captain Robert Nairac

Kevin Crilly has been charged with the abduction and murder of Captain Robert Nairac. Nairac's Wikipedia entry is here.

It was a particularly Gothic episode from the troubles in Ireland in the mid-70s that was the subject of Eoin MacNamee's novel The Ultras.

If you like David Peace's Red Riding novels, you'll like this one. 'Like' may not be the right word though....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stopped clock. Twice a day.

I've not said it before and I'll probably never say it again, but George Monbiot is absolutely right here.
It's true that the vacuity and cowardice of the local papers has been exacerbated by consolidation, profit-seeking, the collapse of advertising revenues and a decline in readership. But even if they weren't subject to these pressures, they would still do more harm than good.

Local papers defend the powerful because the powerful own and fund them. I can think of only two local newspapers that consistently hold power to account: the West Highland Free Press and the Salford Star. Are any others worth saving? If so, please let me know. Yes, we need a press that speaks truth to power, that gives voice to the powerless and fights for local democracy. But this ain't it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

White male grievances

He's not saying much hat you won't have read elsewhere (including on this blog) but the freethinking economist does it with a bit of kerpow in this post: Clarkson, Dalrymple and the patriotic urge to leave the country.

He links to this one by Chris about subjective well-being that I missed because it's been frantic here lately.

Should Irish Republicans wear poppies?

I've argued - over on Slugger - that it would be a good idea. Have a look?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Notverygood PR for Goldman Sachs

You'll have probably modified your own view of Goldman Sachs over the last year or so, but whatever it is, whoever does their PR may be thinking about this para from Rolling Stone a few months ago and wondering how it can be dealt with:
"The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Crime statistics

From Counago and Spaves quoting Laurie Taylor:

"....smiling white collar fraudsters who during the course of their everyday jobs steal massive amounts of money from banks, pension funds, corporations, government and private individuals.

According to even the most conservative estimate £20 billion was stolen in 2005 and City accountants believe such fraud figures may treble as a result of the current recession.

And how much of that fraud will be detected? One leading police fraud officer told me that the figure was probably no more than five per cent. Cases of financial crime are complex, but can that really be sufficient explanation for the news that the Financial Services Authority failed to initiate a single prosecution last year?"
A tip of the broadest-tipped titfer to Wilbur the blogless.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Carve his name with pride

I didn't think the roundup would start this quickly. Nosemonkey was the first one to smuggle out news. He even managed this detailed transmission before he breathed his last.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

State-subsidised journalism?

From The Washington Post (hat tip: Damian)
"The value of federal journalism subsidies as a percentage of gross domestic product in the first half of the 19th century ran, by our calculations, to about $30 billion per year in current dollars. It is this sort of commitment, established by Jefferson and Madison, that we must imagine to address the current crisis.

That level of subsidy to journalism is found in Scandinavian nations, which are among the freest and most democratic in the world."
This bit is particularly striking:
For the first time in American history, we are nearing a point where we will no longer have more than minimal resources (relative to the nation's size) dedicated to reporting the news. The prospect that this "information age" could be characterized by unchecked spin and propaganda, where the best-financed voice almost always wins, and cynicism, ignorance and demoralization reach pandemic levels, is real. So, too, is the threat to the American experiment.

Our Constitution is, the Supreme Court reminds us, predicated on the assumption of an informed and participating citizenry. If insufficient news media exist to make that a realistic outcome, the foundation crumbles.
Sorry to repeat this, (it's not in that article, but it's pertinent):
“If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.”
Thomas Jefferson

(Update: the blogger software appears to be dropping hyperlinks for some reason - no idea why. If it does it again, the Washington Post article is here):